Why Financial Productivity Begins with a Positive Mindset

The following is a guest post by Orion Talmay, of Orion’s Method.

Dealing with finances can be stressful and leave you feeling overwhelmed. It’s all too easy to ignore mounting debts or believe you’ll never save up a significant amount of money. But taking control of your life and changing the way you think can make a huge difference. We take a look at why financial productivity begins with a positive mindset. 

The Impact of a Positive Mindset on Financial Productivity 

Whether you want to work your way out of debt or save up to buy a house, with the right mindset and some hard work, those financial goals are possible. However, you have to start by getting out of a negative thought cycle—if you believe there’s no point trying, then you’ll never achieve them. Therefore, you might be tempted to make choices that make your financial position worse.  

Even with a positive mindset, you won’t achieve your goals overnight. But it’ll put you on the right track to take more control over your finances. 

How to Achieve a Positive Mindset 

Achieving a positive mindset can be difficult, but you can adopt some proven techniques that’ll help you:

  • Take care of yourself
  • Know where you stand
  • Set achievable goals
  • Make small changes
  • Try to see the positive

Take Care of Yourself 

If you’re struggling with a negative mindset, you might slip into bad habits throughout your life, not just when dealing with your finances. Learn to take care of yourself and prioritize your own well-being. 

Start with the basics—make sure you’re exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. These might seem obvious, but a bad routine leaves you tired, stressed, and unhealthy, which all have a big impact on your mind. 

Treat yourself well, and get into a good routine that helps you stay in control. You’ll see an improvement in your physical and mental health, which puts you in a better position to make informed financial decisions. 

Know Where You Stand 

It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand when it comes to finances. However, not knowing exactly where you stand will add to your stress.

Open those bills and credit card statements you’ve been ignoring. Check your bank balance, work out your incoming and outgoings. Get a clear picture of your current financial situation and understand what bills and repayments you need to make and when they’re due. 

It might be hard to start with but it’ll improve your mindset and put you in a better position to get on top of your money. 

Set Yourself Achievable Goals 

It’s easy to feel negative if you can’t see a way out of your current situation. So, once you know exactly where you are, come up with some realistic targets that you can achieve within a certain time frame. 

For example, if you want to save up for something, set a savings goal and decide how much you can realistically put aside each month, and how long it’ll take to reach your target. 

The important thing with your goals is to make sure you’re sticking to them. If you put money towards debt or savings but you don’t have enough left to cover the rest of your bills, you’ll be tempted to borrow money from somewhere else. 

Make Small Changes 

Don’t try to overhaul everything in your life all at once. Make small, manageable changes that you’ll actually stick to and that will help you feel more positive. There are some really simple money moves that’ll make a noticeable difference. Start by looking at all your subscriptions and recurring payments—consider canceling the ones that you don’t use or can live without. 

If you buy your lunch during work every day, get into the habit of making it at home. Make small switches to your grocery choices, and try to stop buying things that you end up throwing out. Cut down on impulse buys—for nonessential purchases, make yourself wait a couple of weeks to consider whether you really want or need it. 

Try to make one or two small changes each week that you can follow through on. It’ll improve your mindset if you can stick with these habits long-term, rather than trying to do everything at once and feeling like you’ve failed when you slip up. 

Try to See the Positive

Often easier said than done, but try to get out of the cycle of negative thoughts. Revisit your goals each day to remind yourself what you’re trying to achieve and what you should be focusing on. 

When you have a negative thought, where something seems impossible or too difficult, stop and think about ways around it. Don’t get stuck on things that can’t or won’t happen and focus on solutions, workarounds, or breaking it down into smaller steps to get through it. If you struggle to focus on the positives, meditation can help you to manage your thoughts and give you more perspective.  

Why a Positive Mindset Matters

Everyone feels unmotivated and disenfranchised from time to time. It happens to the best of us. However, if you really dig deep and find what’s causing your low energy, you’ll be better equipped to find the root and weed it out. Try to channel your energy into more productive outlets, and make changes whenever they take a toll on your mental state. That’s the key that’ll enable your long-term success. 

Having a positive mindset is the foundation for taking control of your money and becoming more financially stable. Setting yourself goals, addressing bad habits, and learning how to get a handle on your thought processes will help you to manage your finances and put you in a better position with all aspects of your life. 

Source: credit.com

How Cosigning On a Student Loan Could Impact Your Finances

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While college students can get their own federal student loans without a cosigner in most cases, there are some situations where a cosigner is required. Federal Direct Parent PLUS loans, for example, can actually be taken out on behalf of dependents to help pay for higher education. Students can also apply for private student loans to pay for college. These loans tend to have high credit requirements that make it difficult for young people to qualify on their own.

But should you really cosign on student loans for your child? And should you cosign on any loans they can’t qualify for on their own? You can certainly consider it, but it helps to enter the situation with eyes wide open and understand all the pros and cons. 

The main advantage of cosigning is the fact that you’re helping your child (or dependent) pay for higher education when they may not be able to otherwise. However, it can also be a huge risk. Here’s everything you need to know before you sign on the dotted line.

You’re obligated to repay the debt no matter what

Whether you take on a Parent PLUS loan or you cosign with your child for a private student loan, the first thing you have to understand is that, no matter what, you’re obligated to pay that debt back. If your child stops making payments, you’ll be required to make them. If your child flat-out refuses to get a job and completely defaults on their responsibilities, you will need to repay that loan.

Cosigning on a student loan is similar to buying a house with someone or cosigning on a car loan. You’re both jointly responsible for repayment regardless of what the other person does. That can be a huge problem if your child doesn’t take their bills very seriously, but it may not be an issue if they treat their credit with care and stay on top of their bills.

Student loans are almost never discharged in bankruptcy

Another detail to understand is the fact that student loans are rarely ever discharged in bankruptcy. For the most part, they’ll stick around forever unless the borrower dies or you can prove you have some inescapable hardship. 

As a parent, you’re probably trying to save for retirement and reach other financial goals, so it’s important to understand that the student loans you cosign for will never go away until you pay them off — once and for all.

There’s no going back

When you cosign on a student loan, you can’t just change your mind and back out of the deal. Your child may be able to refinance their student loans in their name, but only if their credit score is good enough to qualify for student loan refinancing on their own. And if that was the case, they wouldn’t have needed a cosigner in the first place.

Your finances may be perfectly fine right now, but you should think through how they may be in five or 10 years. If you’re nearing retirement, you may not want to put yourself in a situation where you’ll be stuck paying off a child’s student loans. Plus, you never know how your health will be or the status of your career several years from now. Cosigning for student loans leaves you on the hook no matter what, and it’s hard to change that after the fact. 

Cosigning on a loan could affect your credit score

When you cosign on a student loan, you have to remember that you’re jointly accepting responsibility for the debt and any consequences that arise out of late payments or delinquency. So you should only cosign if you know your child or dependent is dedicated to paying their bills on time and avoiding default at all costs.

If you’re not paying attention, you could easily take a huge hit to your credit score without even knowing. Since payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO score, it’s easy to see how even one late payment could cause major damage. Just think of what could happen if the student loans you cosigned for were paid late month after month. If you’re not also receiving a bill in the mail, you may not find out until the damage is already done.

The bottom line

There are situations where it can make sense to cosign on a student loan, but this decision should never be taken lightly. You may be helping your child earn their degree, but you’re taking a significant risk. (See also: Should You Co-Sign a Loan?)

You may want to assess the career field they plan to enter into and figure out how much they might earn upon graduation before you cosign. Some fields have plenty of promise right now, while others offer almost none, and you should know either way before you make any type of financial commitment. Maybe your college student could even spend time improving their credit score so they can qualify for student loans on their own. 

Cosigning on student loans should be a last resort for parents, not an easy fix for students who don’t take time to consider all their options. 

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Cosigning on a student loan can be a huge risk. Here’s everything you need to know how cosigning on your students college loan can impact your personal finances. | #finances #personalfinance #studentdebt

Source: wisebread.com

Stimulus Checks 2021: What You Need to Know

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With two stimulus checks under our belts, planning is currently underway for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. If passed, it would supply Americans with a third round of stimulus checks.  

A quick recap—the first stimulus checks made the rounds in April 2020. Individuals with an income of up to $75,000 received $1,200. Meanwhile, married couples who made up to $150,000 received $2,400, along with $500 per child. The second wave of stimulus checks, coming in at only $600, arrived in December 2020 and January 2021. Married couples received $1,200, with an additional $600 per child.

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With almost a full year between the last stimulus check over $1,000 and now, people’s finances are suffering. In a poll published by NPR in September 2020, 63% of those polled in Houston, TX faced serious financial issues due to the pandemic. Additionally, 57% of those polled reported that someone in their household either lost their job, were furloughed or had their hours or wages reduced since the pandemic started.  

Needless to say, people need financial relief. And while it looks like a stimulus relief package will probably pass, there are a few details still on the table. The biggest points up for debate? Who should get a stimulus check in 2021—and how much they’ll get. 

Who Will Get a Stimulus Check?

President Biden has been adamant that the households that qualify should receive a $1,400 stimulus check. Based on the most recent proposal under consideration, households earning $75,000 or lower would receive $1,400 checks. Meanwhile, married couples who earn $150,000 or less would receive $2,800, along with $1,400 per child. 

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While it looks like this plan will stick, it’s worth noting that a group of Republicans have created a plan that’ll send $1,000 checks to individuals earning $40,000 or less and couples earning up to $80,000. This relief package targets lower-income households while leaving out a lot more people than President Biden’s plan.

When You Can Expect Your Check

In order to speed up President Biden’s stimulus relief package, Democrats are using a budget reconciliation process. In a nutshell, this would allow Democrats to approve the stimulus package without Republican votes. While the stimulus package is being sped up, a few more details have to be ironed out before the package is drafted and voted on.

All that to say—it could take several weeks for you to get your $1,400 stimulus check. Even when the package is passed, it still has to be signed by President Biden and sent out by the IRS. So be on the lookout, but know that you’ll likely have to wait at least a few more weeks. It is worth noting, however, the House is planning to get the stimulus package approved in the next two weeks.

How Should You Spend Your Stimulus Check?

Ultimately, how you should spend your check is up to you. Everyone is in a different financial situation, so you might spend your check differently than others. But if you’re wondering how to spend your third check, you have a few options:

  • Use it to cover the basics. If you’ve been struggling to pay for your basic needs, like groceries and rent, you can use your stimulus check to cover the bills. 
  • Pay down debt. The past year has taken a toll on a lot of our finances. If you’ve racked up debt in 2020, you could use your stimulus check to help pay down some debt. 
  • Put it in savings. It never hurts to save some money for a rainy day. You can put some or all of your stimulus check in a high-yield savings account until you need it.
  • Donate it. If you’re doing pretty well financially, you might want to consider donating your stimulus check to a good cause or to support small businesses.

Again, you should take a serious look at your finances and your needs before you decide exactly how to put your stimulus check to use.

The Next Round of Stimulus Checks Will Probably Happen

As of right now, things are looking pretty good for the third round of stimulus checks. But who qualifies and who doesn’t could still be on the table. In the meantime, if you need some financial guidance, take a look at our COVID financial resource guide.

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Source: credit.com

Explained: The Adrenaline-Driven Rise to GameStop Stock

January 28, 2021 &• 8 min read by Credit.com Comments 0 Comments

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GameStop, a dying video game retailer, has blown past epic proportions to the point of hitting all-time highs in the stock market.

A few weeks ago, the company (stock trading as ticker: GME) traded around lows of ~$19. As of January 27th, 2021, the GameStop stock has reached an all-time high of $350. That’s a ~1700 percent increase! Currently, GameStop’s market capitalization is $24 billion, previously $500-$700 million.

Before its euphoric rise, GameStop was on a slow demise to bankruptcy, as it faced significant challenges to its business model from the internet. Similar to BlockBuster, people stopped buying video games in-person at retail stores. “Downloads became a thing, and GameStop’s business declined,” says Michael Pachter to BusinessInsider, who covers the video game industry.

Alongside GameStop’s faltering business model, GameStop also ran into issues with its poor business decisions. They embarked on new initiatives, including the acquisition of Spring Mobile in 2013. The company had bet on making money by buying smartphone stores. By 2016, GameStop had owned and operated approximately 1,500 mobile-phone stores under the Spring Mobile name, and in 2018, had sold the whole mobile-phone business.

So how did GameStop rise from the ashes?

Well, A Trading Euphoria Caused By …

An army of traders from the Reddit r/WallStreetBets has been at the center of the GameStop saga. WallStreetBets (WSB), a community of Millennial and GenZ traders, have helped drive a to-the-moon surge of GameStock’s stock price while halting trading multiple times, crashing Reddit, and even forcing the subreddit to go private. With 3.5 million traders following the subreddit, WSB users are known for purchasing extremely risky products, including leveraged ETFs, financial call and put options, as well as shorting equities.

These Reddit users have blown everyone’s expectations out of proportion. No one expected a group of online traders would have a massive effect on the stock market.

Most notably is perhaps the loser of this David and Goliath saga – Citron Research and Melvin Capital. Both of these investment firms took huge bearish bets against the GameStop stock, and even Citron had announced on Twitter that “GameStop buyers at these levels are the suckers at this poker game.” For those of you unfamiliar with stock trading, the two firms had shorted the GameStop stock by borrowing the stock to sell at a given price, with the idea that they will purchase back the stock later.

In this case, assume an individual sells short one share of GME at $19 in their margin account. What happens is they receive $19 from selling the share on the stock market, but they still owe their broker one share of GME. So, in this individual’s ideal scenario, they will want to buy back GME at a lower price to profit on the trade.

But in this trading saga, Reddit users had driven up the price by buying so much. Hence, increasing GME’s stock price. So, the individual holding the short position would have to purchase the stock back at a much higher stock price on the settlement date; thus, losing money.

The Squeeze

Due to the rampant rise in GME’s stock price, Citron Research and Melvin Capital had been taking on significant losses, and with due time, they would eventually have to close their position. Closing their position would squeeze them out of their position. For a short squeeze to happen, the firms’ losses have to be so high that the broker requires more capital to keep the position open. As of January 27th, both firms have closed their positions. Since then, hedge funds Citadel and Point72 have invested $2.75 billion into Melvin Capital.

The Question Still Remains – Why Did r/WallStreetBets Target Melvin Capital and Citron Research?

Greed has been present on Wall Street since the inception of the securities market. During the 2008 financial crisis downturn, banks were giving loans to anyone to make more and more money while selling mortgages to poor credit individuals. Their greed eventually reached a point where many homeowners could not make their mortgage payments causing foreclosures, and eventually, a recession. In the end, the banks received a bailout, and similarly, Melvin Capital received a bailout from other hedge funds.

In this ordeal, the two hedge funds shorting GME had become too greedy as they had driven GME’s share price from $20 to $10 and to $4. There was no means to an end for their greed and their hope for GameStop to go bankrupt. In part, short selling wipes out businesses. Elon Musk has also laid criticism to short-sellers, tweeting “short-sellers are jerks who want us to die.”

So, how does greed tie together with shorting a stock, hedge funds, Reddit users, and a video-game selling retailer?

Well, someone on WallStreetBets had noticed these hedge funds had sold short 140% of all shares available. The rule to short-selling is that ALL the shares they borrow MUST be paid back. Realizing these hedge funds had shorted GME by a ridiculous amount, these retail investors on Reddit (ordinary people like you and me) bought every share they could get their hands on. Thus, driving the price up like crazy and perhaps creating an arbitrage opportunity.

>> Learn more about investing in stocks with our investment guide for beginners.

Why?

These hedge funds would eventually HAVE to buy back these shares at whatever price they could purchase. They don’t have a choice. So, these Redditors bought all the GME shares they could buy and drove the prices up to ridiculous prices. Buying back these shares of GME would cost these hedge funds an arm and a leg.

Fast forward to today, January 27th, 2021, WallStreetBets users are creating memes, as well as notable people, including Elon Musk and Chamath Palihapitiya, who have influenced more people to buy GME stock. Hence, destroying these greedy hedge funds in the process.

Additionally, many Redditors felt crude sentiment towards these financial institutions as numerous Reddit posts complained about these institutions’ predatory actions. Even AOC tweeted, “Gotta admit it’s really something to see Wall Streeters with a long history of treating our economy as a casino complain about a message board of posters also treating the market as a casino.”

Notable People’s Influence Behind The GameStop Stock Rally

As it’s been interesting to watch GameStop’s stock rally, there have been notable individuals placing their own opinion. Michael Burry, best known from “The Big Short” as one of the investors who had made money from the 2008 financial crisis, had been holding onto GameStop since 2019. Although he has a 2.4 percent stake in GameStop as of Sept 30, 2020, he has stated, “there should be legal and regulatory repercussions. This is unnatural, insane, and dangerous”.

Contrarian Chamath Palihapitiya has also played a part, as he tweeted his purchase of $125,000 out of the money call options on GameStop.

For those unfamiliar with call options, call options are a financial derivative used to make speculative bets on the rise or fall of stock prices. In this case, Palihapitiya made a speculative bet for the increase of GameStop stock.

Elon Musk, well-known for the tweeting habits that have gotten him in trouble with the SEC, has also taken part in the GameStop rally by tweeting a subtle “Gamestonk!!”

How Does Reddit Feel About This?

Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets have broken all-time traffic records this week as millions of visitors flocked to the subreddit. According to Mashable, r/WallStreetBets received approximately 74 million page views in the past 24 hours. Note, Reddit had 52 million daily active users in October 2020.

One WallStreetBet moderator felt compelled to address the backlash with the narrative that the forum “is disorderly and reckless” and is involved in manipulation. He wrote, “What I think is happening is that you guys are making such an impact that these fat cats are worried that they have to get up and put in work to earn a living.”

Can Regulatory Bodies Do Anything?

The trading activity on GME reminds me of the old pump and dumps that ultimately harmed many traders.  The stock gets hyped up way out of proportion to its actual intrinsic value and essentially benefits the ones who are hyping it.  Will the stock really retain its value over the long haul?  If not, then the people who heard the hype and came late to buy it could suffer. – Eric founder of Mindful Trader

As the trading volatility ensues, regulators are becoming increasingly worried about all the signals this volatility is sending to traders, like TD Ameritrade and Schwab. Both brokerages have restricted certain kinds of trades in GameStop and AMC. TD Ameritrade said there was “an abundance of caution amid unprecedented market conditions and other factors.”

Regulators have been mindful of the action, as William Galvin, Massachusetts secretary of the commonwealth, told Barron’s that he was watching the story play out.

Regulators do monitor trading for any signs of market manipulation and what people say about stocks in public forums, according to Amy Lynch, a former SEC regulator. However, merely announcing to people that you are buying a specific stock and telling people they should as well have no legal repercussions.

The End of the GameStop Saga?

Ultimately, the GameStop saga has not run its full course, as trading is still occurring for the crazy stock. But, the two hedge funds that started all of this? They are entirely out. One hedge fund has wholly gone bankrupt, and other hedge funds have funded the other hedge fund. Will we be seeing this hedge fund enact vengeance on these Reddit users? Most likely not.

The takeaway we can all get from this whole ordeal is don’t mess with Reddit users, and perhaps the next generation of Millenials and Gen Z have more impact than we imagined?

This post originally appeared on Your Money Geek 


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Black Friday Shopping During Coronavirus: Tips for Success

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Advertiser Disclosure

Disclaimer

Many people choose to do their shopping on Black Friday to get great deals for the holiday season. It’s one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and consumers make Black Friday purchases both in-store and online. According to research compiled by Adobe Analytics, shoppers spent $7.4 billion on online purchases alone on Black Friday in 2019.

But many people might be wondering if Black Friday will happen in 2020. Read on to find out how COVID-19 might affect this holiday shopping day.

Black Friday Shopping Is Not Canceled: Great Deals Will Be Available Online

You might be wondering if Black Friday will be happening as usual this year. Though it’s not canceled, expect some changes to your typical Black Friday shopping experience.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers’ shopping and spending habits are changing. For 2020, it’s recommended that consumers take advantage of online Black Friday deals to avoid visiting crowded stores for safety and health reasons.

The CDC recently issued guidance for Thanksgiving-related holidays. It notes that shopping in-person around the holidays is a higher-risk activity. But don’t worry–it’s pretty likely that your favorite stores are making online accommodations for Black Friday shoppers.

Yahoo! Finance notes that the more traditional Black Friday shopping experience won’t likely happen in 2020. Consumers can expect online sales to begin weeks before Black Friday to be more spread out over time.

As Black Friday approaches, you can also start thinking about how to save and spend when planning your Black Friday shopping. This year, Black Friday weekend will happen on November 27 and will be followed by Cyber Monday on November 30. You’ll be able to take advantage of a number of Black Friday deals both days.

Tips for Smart Black Friday Spending

Even if money is tight because of coronavirus budget cuts and layoffs, you probably still hope to do some shopping during the holidays. Planning carefully can help you save even more money and keep your holiday spending within your means, even during the excitement of Black Friday. Follow some of the following tips for smart Black Friday shopping.

Set a Budget

Having a budget in place helps ensure you spend only what you can afford. Look at your finances and savings to determine how much you can afford to spend on Black Friday deals.

Not sure where to begin? These budgeting tips can help you set and stick to a realistic budget.

Make a Shopping List

When you don’t work from a list when shopping, it can be easy to make mistakes and forget to buy what you need. Take some time to outline a list of your must-have Black Friday shopping items.

Don’t forget to include gifts for the holidays and essentials you’ve wanted to buy, such as kitchen appliances and electronics. That way, you get everything you need and you maximize your spending.

Don’t Stray From Your List

You made a shopping list for a reason. Be sure to stick to it while you shop. It’s also a smart idea to tally up the purchase amounts of your list to make sure the total fits your budget. Refer to your list while you shop.

Compare Sales

Some retailers might offer better deals on products than others, so do your research before Black Friday. This makes it easier to shop at the stores with the best deals and maximize your Black Friday savings. Check your favorite stores to see what Black Friday discounts they’re offering. You can even view Black Friday sales for major retailers on their websites or on sites such as Slickdeals and TechRadar.

If you plan to do your shopping online because of COVID-19, don’t forget to take a look at each retailer’s shipping costs. Ensure the total purchase price, including taxes and shipping costs, fits within your budget.

Use Your Rewards Card Responsibly and Strategically

It’s never a good idea to go into debt over shopping habits. This is true during Black Friday shopping too. When using credit cards to shop, use them responsibly. Don’t spend more than you can afford, and stay within your credit limit.

You might also want to use your credit cards strategically. Choosing to use the right credit cards when buying can help you rack up more rewards points and miles or earn more cash back. Be sure to take a look at the cards in your wallet well before Black Friday, and check each card’s terms and policies before you shop.

Look Into Store Credit Card Options

Another option is to take out a store credit card. Many retailers offer this option, sometimes with a special 0% interest promotion. That means you can make credit purchases on Black Friday without paying interest on them as long as you pay off the total within the introductory period.

Montgomery Ward Credit Card

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on Montgomery Ward’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:

Ongoing Apr:
5.75% – 25.99% Variable

Balance Transfer:

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Buy Now, Pay Later on 1000s of items with Wards Credit
  • Get payments as low as $10 a month.
  • No annual fees
  • Quick approval
  • Secure & confidential online account management
  • Buy now, pay later on a huge selection of furniture, electronics, appliances, shoes and more.

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Review Your Purchases Before You Check Out

Before you check out, it’s smart to review your purchases. Ensure you know exactly how much you’re spending and that you’re staying within your budget. This can help you avoid last-minute and unnecessary purchases. Remember not to ignore shipping costs when you’re buying online.

Pay Off Your Credit Card Statements in Full

Carrying a balance results in interest charges if you don’t have a 0% APR offer. Credit card interest can be very costly, especially over long periods of time. It can also add up, making it easy for you to find yourself in a difficult financial situation.

Instead, consider paying your credit card statements in full every month. After you do your Black Friday shopping, pay off the cards you use. This helps keep your finances on track and set you up for continued success. If you struggle with carrying a credit card balance, other tips can help you use your credit cards more responsibly.

Be Smart When Shopping Black Friday Deals

If you’re ready to get some major deals this Black Friday, get ready to do a ton of online shopping. Following the above tips can help you reduce overspending risks and save money on Black Friday shopping. Familiarize yourself with your current financial situation and credit score before making purchases.

You can monitor your credit scores and keep track of your credit history by using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card tool. If COVID-19 has affected your finances, there are financial resources available. If you plan to apply for a new rewards credit card, Credit.com can help you choose the right one.


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What Is Phone Insurance?

What Is Phone Insurance? – SmartAsset

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Most adults in the U.S. consider a cell phone to be one of life’s essentials. We’re so reliant on our phones that losing or accidentally damaging a cell phone would constitute a major crisis. And because cell phones can be expensive, many Americans couldn’t afford to replace a cell phone right away. That’s why phone insurance can seem like an appealing option. Here’s what to know about phone insurance. 

Find out now: Is it better to rent or buy? 

Phone Insurance Basics

Like other forms of insurance such as life insurance, phone insurance is a hedge against risk. Specifically, phone insurance provides some protection against the loss, theft or destruction of your phone. Phone insurance may be offered to you when you buy your phone through your provider. Alternatively, you can buy a separate phone insurance policy.

Many phone plans and phone purchases come with basic phone insurance, through the phone manufacturer, the phone service provider or both. Generally, these built-in forms of insurance cover things that are the manufacturer’s fault. If your phone simply stops working, you’ll probably be able to get a new one at no cost.

But what about phone-related misfortune that isn’t the result of a manufacturing default? If you drop your phone in the bath tub, leave it at a restaurant or discover that someone has stolen your phone, what do you do? In most cases, your phone plan doesn’t come with built-in protection against these eventualities. You won’t be able to walk into, say, Verizon and ask for a new, free phone because you dropped yours on the sidewalk. But if you purchased additional phone insurance, whether through your provider or from another company, you would be covered against loss, theft and damage. Your phone would be repaired or replaced with a refurbished phone.

Find out now: How much life insurance do I need? 

Is phone insurance worth it? 

Phone insurance can add a significant expense to your budget. Like health insurance, phone insurance generally comes with both monthly premiums and a deductible. Phone insurance deductibles are usually around $200. The deductible is the amount you must pay before the insurance kicks in. Phone insurance plans generally limit the number of replacement phones you can get – so if you’re a chronic phone-loser, your policy might cut you off.

So is it worth it? Well, you may already have some coverage for your phone. Some phone plans come with built-in phone insurance, so before you evaluate whether to buy an add-on policy, take a look at your current plan to see whether you’re already covered. It’s also worth taking a look at the terms of your credit card, which may offer an extended warranty on your phone if you used the card to purchase the phone. And if you have homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance, take a look at those policies, too. Your phone might be covered through your homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance policy.

If you don’t have phone insurance, deciding whether to buy an add-on policy is largely a question of your comfort with risk and your budget. If you pay for phone insurance and nothing happens to your phone, you will have lost the money you spent on premiums. On the other hand, if you opt out of phone insurance and your phone is stolen, you’ll have to come up with the money to replace your phone. You won’t automatically get a refurbished phone, as you would if you had phone insurance coverage.

Check out our budget calculator. 

Bottom Line

If your phone is lost, stolen or damaged, you might want to dip into your savings to get a new, used or refurbished phone as a replacement. If you have some liquidity in your budget in the form of cash savings, opting out of phone insurance and buying a replacement phone could turn out to be a cheaper option. Before you decide, consider your budget and the likelihood that something might happen to your phone. If you do opt for phone insurance, look for an affordable option with a short (or non-existing) waiting period. Policies with waiting periods leave consumers out of luck if their phone is lost, stolen or damaged before the policy kicks in.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/MilosStankovic, ©iStock.com/xavierarnau, ©iStock.com/Portra

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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Support Small Businesses with Small Business Saturday Shopping

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A lot has changed during the coronavirus pandemic. Large in-person gatherings are a thing of the past, the economy has been affected, and some businesses have even shut down. There are many small businesses that are still open, but they’re struggling. It’s up to everyday people to continue to support them.

But consumers have also been affected—many people have lost their jobs, making it more difficult to support small businesses. Small Business Saturday offers a way for consumers to support local businesses, while also offering you some much-needed deals for your holiday shopping.

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What and When Is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year, that’s November 28. The day was developed in 2010 by American Express to encourage more people to do their holiday shopping at small businesses. The Senate even passed a resolution to officially recognize the day in 2011.

Tucked between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a big shopping day, and it continues to grow in popularity each year. In 2019, US consumers spent $19.6 billion on purchases that day.

Small Business Saturday may look different this year, but it isn’t canceled. You don’t have to avoid shopping altogether out of coronavirus fears. Instead, you can take steps to shop smart and support your favorite small businesses.

As long as you take the right steps, you can support small businesses while reducing worries about your finances, as well as health and safety. Here are some tips you can follow.

Check to See Which Stores Are Celebrating the Shopping Day        

Take time to research your favorite shops to see if they’re participating in Small Business Saturday. Many post special promotions on their social media pages. This can help you decide where to shop in order to save money.

Plan in Advance to Avoid Overspending

No matter what shopping day you choose to participate in this year, it’s important to spend only what you can afford. Overspending can lead to debt and other financial problems.

Sticking to a budget is especially important if you’re struggling financially because of COVID-19. Don’t feel like you have to take part in this shopping day—but if you do, stay within your budget.

ExtraCredit Five Features

If you’re not good at creating or sticking to a budget, now might be a great time to start practicing. Learn how to budget better to make smart financial choices when shopping.

Use Credit Cards to Your Advantage

If you plan to use credit cards instead of cash or debit when doing your Small Business Saturday shopping, use them to your advantage. Check to see which rewards credit cards you already have in your wallet, and verify the perks they offer.

[There’s still time to apply for a new credit card to take advantage of Small Business Saturday spending perks. Check out RewardIt from ExtraCredit to get personalized offers.]

Maximize your earning potential by using the right credit cards for the right purchases. Many cards will allow you to earn more points, miles, or cash back if you spend in a specific category, for example.

American Express often offers cashback rewards when you spend a certain amount at qualified small businesses. You will need to sign up for the program, so check your cards’ eligibility and sign up before Small Business Saturday arrives.

Debit transactions often cost merchants aflat fee plus a percentage of the transaction, while credit cards charge only a percentage and can cost merchants less for smaller transactions. If you can, consider using credit cards to help keep costs down for your local small business.

Consider Getting a New Card

If you’ve been eyeing a new rewards or cash-back credit card, now might be a good time to apply. You can use your holiday shopping to meet spending requirements for a bonus while you earn rewards points or miles.

For example, the TD Cash Credit Card might be a good option for individuals looking for a credit card with some perks but no annual fee. Earn $150 cash back when you spend $500 within the first 90 days after account opening. Though its cash-back earning potential isn’t as high as some other cards, it could be a good beginner rewards card.

TD Cash Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:
0% Introductory APR for 6 months on purchases

Ongoing Apr:
12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% (Variable)

Balance Transfer:
0% Introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn $150 Cash Back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening
  • Earn 3% Cash Back on dining
  • Earn 2% Cash Back at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all other eligible purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Visa Zero Liability
  • Instant credit card replacement
  • Digital Wallet
  • Contactless Payments

Card Details +

Do Your Shopping Online

If you want to support small businesses but don’t want to risk in-person shopping, consider placing orders online for delivery. Many small businesses will waive shipping fees if you spend a certain amount of money, and your purchases will arrive right at your doorstep.

Order Ahead and Pick Up Your Order

If you don’t want to deal with crowded stores on Small Business Saturday but don’t want to deal with shipping, simply place an order online and then pick it up yourself. Many small businesses have begun offering this service since the onset of coronavirus. You may also be able to arrange to pick up items after the weekend, when the store might be less crowded.

Wear a Mask and Time Your Visit

If you prefer to visit your favorite small businesses in person, take precautions. Be sure to wear a mask and keep your distance when you see other shoppers in the store. If possible, plan when to shop to avoid the busiest times of the day. For example, shopping soon after a store opens might be your best bet.

Yes, it’s possible to shop safely at your favorite locally owned stores this Small Business Saturday. Be sure to act smart, keep the pandemic in mind, and plan your shopping to avoid debt and earn more credit card rewards.

If you’re in need of a rewards credit card, take some time now to compare card options. If you’ve struggled with credit and debt and want to keep better track of your financial health, ExtraCredit offers access to 28 of your FICO® scores and other opportunities for staying on top of and protecting your credit.


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Save on a Gym Membership With At-Home Workouts

Save on a Gym Membership with At-Home Workouts – SmartAsset

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Somewhat unsurprisingly, search traffic for “gym membership” peaks between January 3 and January 9, according to Google Trends. If you already belong to a gym you’ve probably noticed that things get pretty crowded every January. But if you want to save money this year, consider some of these free or inexpensive alternatives to a gym membership. 

Find out now: How much house can I afford?

Try At-Home Yoga

There are plenty of options for anyone who wants to save money by canceling their gym membership or skipping out on the usual early-January gym membership purchase. One option is at-home yoga. You can buy an inexpensive yoga mat, or just use a towel or the floor if you don’t want to commit to buying a mat. An internet search will turn up sample yoga routines or you can head to your local library for a book on yoga. If you know how to do a basic sun salutation, you can start off with that – and repeat until you feel like you’ve gotten a good workout. The cost? $0.

Related Article: The Best 3 Gyms for Your Wallet

Use YouTube

YouTube is a great resource if you want to try working out at home but you’re not sure which type of exercise is the best fit for you. You can find short videos and long videos, videos for beginners and for advanced users. There are videos with Pilates routines, body weight exercises, Zumba classes and more.

You can try one-off routines to get a feel for a particular style of exercise, a particular YouTube channel or a particular vlogger. But you can also commit to a series or program that, through the aid of YouTube videos, will take you on a multi-week fitness journey. The cost to you? $0.

Related Article: How to Cancel Your Gym Membership

Go Old-School

If taking up yoga or learning something like Pilates or Zumba through YouTube doesn’t sound like your speed, you can always go old-school with classic body weight exercises performed free of charge, in the comfort of your own home. That means push-ups, squats, lunges and other exercises that require no equipment.

There’s a lively online community devoted to helping people achieve their strength and fitness goals through body weight alone, without using free weights or any gym accoutrements. If you think you need to pay for a pricey gym membership to get the results you want, take a look at the information that’s out there on body weight training – you might be surprised by what’s possible.

Head Outside

OK, so this one isn’t technically “at home” but you can always hit the streets, head to a local park or set up in your backyard to get your exercise. Running and walking are popular forms of exercise, but you can also do the body weight training mentioned above. At first, you might feel a little self-conscious doing walking lunges in your yard or in the park, but the (free) fitness gains should help you overcome any initial embarrassment.

Bottom Line

Every January, gym owners count on consumers to buy pricey gym memberships and then never use them. They oversell gyms the way airline owners oversell flights, counting on a high number of no-shows. This year, why not prove them wrong and opt for an at-home workout regimen?

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Squaredpixels, ©iStock.com/Squaredpixels, ©iStock.com/ilbusca

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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Recover From a Holiday Binge With a Spending Freeze

Recover From a Holiday Binge With a Spending Freeze – SmartAsset

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The holiday parties may be over but the financial hangover is just setting in. Holiday sales for 2016 were estimated to top $655 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. If you blew your holiday budget, don’t panic. A January spending freeze may be just what you need to get back on track. If you’ve never done a spending freeze before, here’s what to expect.

See the average budget for someone in your neighborhood.

How Does a Spending Freeze Work?

During a spending freeze, you avoid making nonessential purchases. For example, if you buy fast food two to three times per week or movie tickets once a month, you’d cut those expenses out temporarily. A spending freeze gives you the chance to rein in your spending and evaluate your budget. The money you would’ve spent on fun and entertainment can then go toward paying off the debt you racked up during the holidays.

Getting Started

Before starting your spending freeze, you may need to mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. Getting rid of bad spending habits can be tricky. But with the right mindset, you may be able to cut costs and achieve some of your financial goals.

The key to making your spending freeze work is being able to separate your needs from your wants. You’ll need to be able to pay for essential costs like rent, mortgage payments and debt payments. But you’ll need to recognize that other expenses – like the cost of a daily latte or a pair of new shoes – can be removed from your budget if necessary.

If you’re having trouble curbing your spending, agreeing to splurge on just one item during the month of January may make sticking with your freeze a bit easier.

Related Article: How to Recover From a Holiday Shopping Spree

Put the Money You’re Saving to Work

Once you begin your spending freeze, you’ll need to figure out what to do with the extra money in your bank account. Paying off your credit card bills should be a top priority since credit card debt tends to have a bigger impact on your credit score than installment debt. Specifically, you may want to focus on paying off your store credit cards since they often carry high interest rates.

Which credit card should you pay off first? You may want to begin by paying off the card with the highest APR since that’ll reduce what you’re paying in interest. Or you could pay off the card with the lowest balance. That may give you the momentum you need to knock out the rest of your credit card debt.

Related Article: How to Stop Spending Money Carelessly

Get a Partner Onboard

Implementing a spending freeze can be difficult if you’ve never done one before. Having someone else along for the ride may help you fight your urge to splurge.

If you’re married, for example, you could ask your spouse to jump on the spending freeze bandwagon with you. Singles can find a friend or family member who’s willing to join in. Just remember that when you’re choosing a partner, it’s best to pick someone who’s going to encourage you to stick with your freeze and make good financial decisions.

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Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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