This post is brought to you by CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Affiliate Service. While this was a sponsored opportunity from CIT Bank, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.
That weekend getaway, shiny new laptop, robust emergency fund, or buying your first home. No matter how large or small your money goals are, saving for them is super hard. We get it. If you’re met with “spare” cash, and given the choice whether to save or spend it, chances are you’d blow it on something right then and there.
You know that in order to sync your money goals (what you want to spend your money on), with your habits (with what you actually do with your cash) can feel like a huge task. But it doesn’t have to be. By getting in the right mindset and trying a few new things, you’ll be able to get closer to reaching your savings goals.
To help you get started making headway, we’ve rounded up the 8 best saving motivators:
It’s far more easy to set-it-and-forget-it than to be tasked with the decision every month of whether you should save or not. Willpower behaves like a muscle: You only have so much discipline each day before it starts to wane. Putting your savings goals on autopilot will help you stay on task, without any additional mental effort.
While many banks allow you to automatically divert money into a savings account, CIT Bank has a product that gives you even more incentive to save. With CIT Bank’s new Savings Builder account, you can earn big if you deposit $100 into your account each month. Savings Builder is a tiered saving account that offers higher-than-average annual percentage yields (APY).
The cool thing is that while the 2.15% APY is normally only available if you have $25,000 or more in your account, you can enjoy that same high rate by getting into the habit of saving at least $100 or more monthly.
Even if you don’t have a $25,000 balance and you can’t save $100 a month, you’ll still qualify for the lower tier. The rate for the lower tier is 1.14%, which is still a very competitive savings rate. Keep in mind that in order to take advantage of the 1.14% APY, you need to make sure the account is opened on the 15th day of the month and no qualifying deposits of $100 are made following account opening. The actual APY may be greater or less depending on the date the account is opened.
Yes, that’s right. That 2.15% is so much more than the average APY of most banks — we’re veering into CD territory here. And the more you save into your Savings Builder account, the more you earn. It’s pretty great. See site for details and disclosures.
You know that saying,”How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” While saving $5,000 for that epic family vacation or $20,000 for a down payment on a house seems overwhelming, start small. Let’s say you start with $25 a week. In a year’s time you’ll have $1,300 saved for whatever you please. Up the amount to $40 a week, and you’ll have squirreled away a cool $2,080. Not too shabby.
I’ll have enough to save when I make X money, when I get that promotion, or when my cash flow evens out. Sound familiar? Many of us feel like we don’t have the wherewithal to save.
But that line of thinking will only prevent you from forming good, money-saving habits. You need to kill it. You have enough to save something, right here, right now. It may not be as ambitious as you may have hoped, but the important thing is that you prioritize saving.
And guess what? When do you land that huge raise or snag that high-paying job, you’ll have the savings accounts and habits in place to sock more money away on the regular.
To get you amped up to save, consider slashing your expenses. When you see how much you can save by cutting back here and there, you’ll feel empowered to save those beans! Go through your spending and look for areas where you can slash your expenses.
Big wins are those you save on your three major spending categories — housing, transportation, or food. If you can cut back on say, how much you pay for gas each month, or on your grocery bill, that could net larger savings over time.
Easy wins are recurring expenses, such as Internet, streaming subscription services, cell phone service, and so forth. These are considered easy wins because if you can find a less expensive option, or negotiate for a lower rate, that’s something you only have to do once. Whatever money you save each month, you can transfer into a savings account.
While you can only slash your expenses so much until you find yourself living in a van, your earning potential is limitless. See if you can rake in extra money by way of a side hustle — get paid to take surveys, pet sit, tutor someone, or become a secret shopper or a rideshare driver.
Pro tip: These are some of our favorite ways to earn a side hustle.
There’s no shortage of ways to make an extra buck. Just remember: Whatever money you make on the side, make sure it goes toward your savings. Otherwise, you’ll be back at square one with your savings goals. When you start to earn some of that extra money and see it going straight to your goals, it’s like “This is awesome! I’m making serious headway!”
To most, saving isn’t inherently fun. Here’s the thing: Financial fitness is not numbers and math. It’s really about living your best life. It’s about lining up your spending with your values. So if you’re having a weak moment and struggling to see the point of saving, think about what it would be like to have enough money to put a sizable down payment on a car or house, or to have that awesome new computer.
I like to think about what’s important to me — free time, volunteering, personal projects, friendship, creative endeavors — and how money can help me spend more of my time on the things I enjoy most.
Once you’ve set up separate savings accounts for each of your goals, labeling them will give you an added boost. (Online banks will allow you to give specific names to differentiate your savings buckets.) It’s far more exciting and sexy to save for Bora Bora 2019 than to put away money into “Savings Account #1234,” right?
There’s something almost magical that happens when you label goals. When you tack on a specific goal to a savings account, you get pumped. And it’s worth it to sock away that extra bit of money — that you most likely won’t even miss.
Every time you hit a checkpoint on your savings goals, treat yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big to-do, just enough to give you a proper hit.
For instance, for every $200 you sock away toward goal X, enjoy a night out at your favorite taqueria. Or indulge in a scoop — or two — at the nearby gourmet ice cream shop.
*Savings rate is subject to change
If you’re just starting out as a business owner, you’re most likely anxious about surviving, let alone thriving, in your first year of being self-employed. While there are so many plates to spin, it’s essential that you stay on top of your finances when you work for yourself.
“You absolutely have to create a routine to check in with your money,” says Carrie Smith Nicholson, an online business manager and co-founder of the Brilliance and Badassery Conference. “Even if you’re not making a lot of money in the beginning, it’s still important to have a plan and goal for where you want to be in the future.”
So what tools can a newbie solopreneur use to manage their business finances? To make your life easier, we’ve rounded up the top nine apps to help you grow your business in the first year.
No doubt you’ll need to keep careful tabs on your cash flow — your income and expenses. “Small business owners need to have a good idea of what’s happening and how to avoid any big financial pitfalls before the bills come due at the beginning of the next month,” says Smith Nicholson.
“Many of these great bookkeeping apps designed to keep your information organized are easy to update, and have built-in reports that let you look at your business from different angles,” adds Lisa Zamparo, CPA and founder of the Wellth Company.
Here are a few of our favorites:
QuickBooks Self-Employed enables you to track your mileage, record expenses, log receipts, create reports, send invoices, and review your income and expenses on the regular. Come tax time, you’ll be prepared to export data to file your taxes.
I personally love how QBSE is a one-stop shop for easily separating your business and personal expenses. It has a nifty feature to divvy up a single transaction into both categories.
Pricing: $10 a month for QBSE; $17 a month for the bundle with TurboTax. There are fees for credit card payments (2.9% +$0.25), but ACH payments are free.
A popular bookkeeping app, FreshBooks is primarily for service-based small businesses — think freelancing creatives, legal, tech, medical and educational experts that are paid for their time and expertise.
Besides the usual features that are part of standard bookkeeping software, you can also track billable hours on projects and create a basic project proposal. You can also send recurring invoices and accept online payments.
One thing: I’ve found the reports feature leaves a bit to be desired. My expenses and the proper categories they should go under were a bit muddled.
Pricing: Anywhere from $15 to $50 a month. You can sign up for a free trial. There are credit card fees (generally 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction).
While commonly stacked against FreshBooks as a competitor, Wave is actually free. If you’re just starting out and operating on a lean budget, you might want to give Wave a whirl. Wave offers the same features as any great bookkeeping software, and you can sign up for a free trial.
Pricing: Free, but there are fees for credit card payments (2.9% + $0.30 per transaction) and ACH (1% per transaction).
It’s best practice to separate your personal and business finances, so you’ll need a separate checking account for your business. Look no further than Radius Bank’s Tailored Checking Account.
As a small business owner you’ll enjoy unlimited free transactions and free ATM transactions worldwide (that’s right, you don’t have to pay ATM fees no matter where you’re traveling).
Other neat features are free bill pay and no monthly maintenance fee for accounts with balances over $10,000. (Otherwise, it’s $15 a month). Any money you don’t have to pay a bank means money that can be reinvested into your business.
The PayPal app is a great tool if you need to transfer funds to and from your checking account, purchase something for your business, or get paid on the go.
“I like being able to log in and transfer funds back and forth to my bank account, or buy a product online when it’s on sale, without sitting at my computer,” says Smith Nicholson.“The PayPal mobile app also makes it easy to send invoices so I get paid quickly.”
I personally use the PayPal app to pay for both products and services for my business (e.g., transcription services, brand consulting and WordPress maintenance), and to transfer payments from clients to my business account.
Pricing: Fees vary, but for sales, it’s 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
If you have employees (including yourself), consider looking to Gusto for your payroll needs.
Gusto is not only one of the best payroll services around, but it can also help with some basic human resources capabilities, such as HR management and benefits administration. And you can create a separate payroll for contractors.
This comes in particularly handy if you have a seasonal business and hire part-time help during peak times.
Pricing: There are three main pricing plans starting at $45/month to $161/month.
Do you use your car a lot for your business? If you want an a la carte app that only tracks mileage, check out Everlance. Its Automatic Detection feature will automatically track your mileage. You just need to turn on this feature, “set it and forget it,” and it does the work for you.
You can also categorize which trips are for work and which are personal based on your schedule; then you can shoot out PDF reports for tax and bookkeeping purposes.
Pricing: Free for Basic; $5 for Premium.
While a lot of other apps offer time tracking, I’ve found that Toggl is a great way to track time spent on projects. You can track your time based on specific tasks, which helps you not only track billable hours, but also how much you spend on specific projects. Toggl’s free version also enables you to create reports based on different parameters: by client, project, or a specific time period.
Pricing: Free for Basic; paid packages range from $9 to $49 a month.
Recommended by Wellth Company’s Zamparo, HubDoc is a document collection and management software that acts like a virtual bookkeeper for expenses. You snap a picture of a receipt or forward it to the app by email. It then uses optical character recognition to automatically export that data into your bookkeeping software. “I started using it in my business about a year ago and it saves me hours of data entry each month,” says Zamparo. “My clients love it, too.”
Of course, these are all just tools. Making sure you keep your financial housekeeping top of mind requires discipline and regular monitoring. Smith Nicholson recommends doing budget check-ins twice a month.
For her own business, she’ll review how much money is in her business bank account, how much she’s spent, and what upcoming projects she has. She’ll also estimate what she plans to earn and spend in the next two weeks, and then brainstorm ideas for closing the gap between what she’s currently earning and what she wants to be earning.
Sure, it’s a bit more work and time, but by focusing on managing money matters throughout the year, your small business — and its cash flow — will thank you.
If you’re a freelancer, you’re well aware of the awesome perks of solopreneurship—working in your PJs, freedom and flexibility over your schedule, and the potential to earn more. Conversely, self-employment also comes with downsides. Primarily, the extra financial housekeeping that’s involved. Sending and managing invoices, saving for self-employed taxes, and budgeting on fluctuating income can all make you want to tear your hair out.
These days there are plenty of tools to help you manage your finances. And if you’ve just started your freelance business, or are operating on a tight budget, you may not want to spend too much at first. We’ve rounded up the top money tools for freelance survival. Not only do they have great features to help you with your finances, but they’re free!
Here are our top picks for the 8 best free money tools for freelancers::
When I took the leap to full-time freelancing, I walked into the branch of my main bank to inquire about small business accounts. To my dismay, I’d be charged fees for a small business account. For obvious reasons, I walked out in search of better options.
To minimize fees, look for a free small business checking account. For instance, Radius Bank’s Tailored Checking offers unlimited transactions, free bill pay, and no ATM fees worldwide. And if you keep a minimum balance of $10,000, there’s no monthly fee and you’ll enjoy an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) of .75%.
Remember: Money you save from not having to pay bank fees is money you can invest back into your business.
You know those pesky self-employed taxes that you owe to Uncle Sam each quarter? We all know what a pain in the rear it is to have to sock away a portion from each paycheck. The easiest way to save for self-employed taxes is to “set it and forget it.”
Qapital’s Freelancer Rule enables you to save a percentage of every deposit that’s over $100 into a designated account. That money can be used to sock away toward self-employed taxes or other business-related expenses. Come quarterly tax time, you won’t come short, and have to pay penalties.
Because a freelancer’s income can shift wildly from month to month, you’ll need a robust savings account. While the typical recommended amount is anywhere from three to six months of living expenses, it certainly couldn’t hurt to save more when you work for yourself. If you can, aim to auto-save a portion of your income each month. Look no further than Radius Bank’s High-Yield Savings.
While the average Annual Percentage Yield (APY) for savings accounts in the U.S. is a measly 0.08%, with the Radius High-Yield Savings, you’ll enjoy 1.50% APY on balances of $2,500 to $24,999.99, and a generous 1.86% on balances of $25,000 and up. Plus there are no monthly service fees, no minimum balance after the initial $100.00 to open, and best of all, no fluff!
Yup, the IRS has jumped on the app bandwagon. Through its official app, IRS2Go, you can check your tax refund status, make a payment, and look for free tax prep services. While it’s probably an app you’ll only tap into a few times of the year, anything that makes paying taxes easier get a gold star in my book.
I love budgeting—said no one, ever. If you are someone who needs a budget to stay on track, look no further than Toshl. With Toshl Finance you’re able to monitor what goes in and comes out. What’s neat and different about Toshl is that you can get very specific with your savings goals.
Features include setting specific amounts for each spending category, such as for health insurance, and business expenses. You’ll get a “nudge” once you near your spending limits.
We, freelancers, know how bills can creep up on us, especially when we’re waiting on client payments to come in. Toshl will ping you with reminders for when your bills are due.
If you’re looking to send out invoices to your clients, look no further than AND Co. I haven’t run into any problems using AND Co; the only downside is that there’s no ACH option. So your clients will need to pay you by check or credit card (fees apply).
Acquired by Fiverr, AND Co is a simple, no-frills way to send invoices to your clients, and track payments. Other features a simple project management feature, where you can track time and send invoices per project, and a basic template for proposals. You can also track your expenses by linking different accounts.
While there are a slew of financial management tools for expense tracking, if you want an a la carte app solely to track expenses, Expensify does the trick. The free version lets you log in your expenses, and scan up to five receipts or invoices per month.
I personally track all my work-related tasks, even if I’m not billing by the hour, but if you want a simple way to track your tasks and projects, I highly recommend Toggl. The basic version is free, and you get reports based on project, client, or within a time period.
While a lot of other tools do offer time tracking, Toggl remains my go-to because it’s easy to use. It also has an aesthetically pleasing interface and the reports help you gain insights on the time you’re actually spending on tasks.
Managing your finances as a freelancer is a tough thing to tackle. Taking advantage of all the neat existing tools out there can help you avoid headaches, time, and money.
Have I missed any? What are your favorite tools?
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Lexington Law
In January 2017, Brian Shell returned to his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to discover it had been burglarized. To his horror, the safe where he stored his valuables were stolen.
In the safe was a Macy’s credit card. That same evening, the trio of thieves had put a glut of purchases on his Macy’s card while enjoying a shopping spree at the nearby mall.
Shell immediately canceled the card, but the damage had already been done. The over $1,000 in debt the thieves ran up on his card contributed to his credit score to dip from 800 to 700.
Shell had also recently left a regular source of income behind and because of that, he resorted to credit cards to get through his bills each month. This is what may have also contributed to the drop in his score. But the increased debt load from being a victim of identity theft made things worse.
Unfortunately, Shell’s experience isn’t a unique one. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), credit card fraud is the most common form of identity theft. And of the more than 1.1 million people who reported fraud, 21 percent lost more than $905 million. It certainly is a jaw-dropping statistic.
As you can see, credit card fraud can do serious damage to your credit. In this post, we discuss how credit card fraud can affect your credit, how to rebuild your credit, and what steps you can take to protect yourself once you’ve been a victim.
A common form of identity theft is a compromised existing account, explains John Heath, Directing Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. This can be a credit card, debit number or your banking information.
The thieves could get a hold of your credit card information by digging through a trash can and finding your credit card info on an old bill. Or they might be stealthy internet hackers, who obtain your information through an online security breach.
“If a thief gets hold of your credit card information, they could easily run up your debt and harm your credit utilization, which accounts for 30 percent of your credit score,” says Heath.
What exactly is credit utilization? Credit utilization is the total balance on your cards against the max on all your cards total. It’s expressed as a percentage. And the higher your credit utilization ratio, the more harm to your score. In other words, the lower your credit utilization, the better your credit.
And if a thief steals your credit card information and runs a hefty balance on it, your credit could be affected severely.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that fraudulent credit activities must be removed from your credit history, explains Heath. “First, you should check your credit report as soon as you can to immediately dispute any fraudulent activities,” he says.
While you can dispute fraudulent charges to the credit card company, it may take some for the charges to be taken off your account and your money refunded. And that high balance, while not something you were responsible for, stays on your credit history until the charges are removed.
To prevent future instances of identity theft, put a credit freeze on your account. Doing so will prevent anyone from opening bank, credit card account, or applying for a loan in your name.
To put a freeze on your credit, contact each of the three major consumer credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Depending on where you live, there is a fee from each bureau for the freeze. But if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, this fee can be waived.
Don’t forget about the general best practices for boosting your credit. While you wait for fraudulent charges to be resolved, be sure to make on-time payments, and don’t run up your debt load with unnecessary purchases.
Also, be consistent in paying off your balances.
“Consistency is what rebuilds a credit score,” says Shell, author of PassionHero.com. “It builds economic trust.”
You can also order a credit report. You’re eligible to get one free each year through each of the three major credit bureaus.
If your credit has sustained serious damage from identity theft, or you’re concerned about doing all you can to rebuild your credit, contact the team at Lexington Law. They can provide legal advice to help you fix your credit in the wake of identity theft.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft or suspect that you have, take action to protect yourself:
You should never carry your Social Security card with you. Nor have it written down anywhere where an untrustworthy person may have access to it. And if you need to submit attach a form over email that includes your Social Security number, encrypt the document with a password.
This includes changing your passwords not only for your credit cards, but for your bank accounts, online retail accounts, and so forth.
Make sure your passwords are strong. You’ll want to use a combination of numbers, letters that are both upper- and lowercase, and symbols. It’s a good idea to update your passwords regularly, regardless of whether or not you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
Although credit monitoring cannot protect you from identity theft, it can provide real-time alerts of suspicious activity. For instance, someone attempting to open an account in your name.
Additionally, you may want to consider a paid credit report repair service. This service can provide continuous fraud alerts to protect your credit health.
While being a victim of credit card fraud is scary and overwhelming, you can reduce the damage done to your credit by taking the right steps. All it takes is a bit of knowledge and action. Over time, you’ll recover, and be in a better place to protect your personal information and financial accounts.
What are the best ways you protect your identity?
When it comes to managing our finances, there are hardcore nerds, who spend their free time reading up on personal finance hacks. Then there are the rest of us. We might avoid thinking about money altogether. Or put in as little effort as possible.
Penelope O’Toole falls into this second camp.
“I don’t particularly like money,” laughs O’Toole, who is 39 and the marketing director for a small company that manufactures high-quality woodworking tools. “I just wanted to find ways to handle my finances so I could spend less time thinking about this hated topic.”
However, working for a small business in rural, midcoast Maine came with some quirky, old-school accounting processes. In turn, it made it hard to simplify her money management.
For instance, automatic payroll wasn’t available through her employer. (Yes, we know this is 2018, but it happens.) O’Toole would have to make the drive to the one bank in town to deposit her checks.
After enduring eight years of this, she started looking for banking alternatives—but was afraid to take the leap.
“Digital banks seemed like a scary, unknown thing,” says O’Toole, who shuddered to think her personal information could be exposed to scammers and internet hackers. And after spending a lot of time reading scads of bank reviews on financial sites, one online bank, in particular, caught her eye: Radius Bank.
The Radius Hybrid Checking account features a 0.85% Annual Percentage Yield (APY), no monthly fees, and unlimited ATM fees reimbursement.
While the average APY of a savings account at 0.06%, and most banks only offer 0.01%, that 0.85% looked pretty sweet. And while you do need a minimum balance of $2,500 to earn that interest, Radius Bank’s required minimum is lower than that of most banks.
Before deciding to take the plunge and signing up, O’Toole read everything she could find about the people and philosophy behind Radius Bank. And digging a little deeper, O’Toole learned that it was founded in 1987, and has been around longer than most online banks.
And to boot, Radius is headquartered in Boston, which was O’Toole’s old stomping grounds when she was a student at MIT and Harvard.
After doing her homework, O’Toole started warming up to the idea. “It made me feel more and more confident,” she says. “I figured it’s stupid for me not to try it. With online banking, it’s a lot of data on the Internet. But when you think about it, it’s all out there as it is.”
Plus, she loved its clean, simple online interface. There was no overly-snazzy and cutesy advertising, which further appealed to O’Toole. All signs pointed toward “yes.”
Since she opened an account this past January, O’Toole has had no regrets. “Radius has delivered what it promised—and then some,” she says. For starters, she’s been able to skip weekly trips to the one bank in town to deposit her paychecks. She can now conveniently photograph her paycheck and deposit it using her smartphone.
Plus, she’s been able to take advantage of some of the tools Radius Bank offers its customers to help understand their spending and saving habits. For instance, through its PFM, or personal financial management platform, O’Toole has linked to external accounts to all her debit and credit cards, retirement and investment accounts and any debt.
She’s been able to track her spending, calculate her net worth, pay off any debt and analyze trends over time. Radius Bank’s PFM also features handy ways to visualize her net worth, and spending and saving habits.
What she’s discovered has been eye-opening. To her delight, she found that two-thirds of her money was in savings accounts! Because her money was spread out in different places, she didn’t realize just how much she had saved up.
What’s more, O’Toole had purchased a subscription to personal budgeting software. And now that she can see all her different accounts at a glance, she’ll no longer need to spend money on unnecessary tools to manage her finances. “Because Radius has so many robust features, such as providing analytical views of my habits, I realized maybe this is all I need,” says O’Toole.
Because O’Toole has holistic picture of her money situation, she’s able to see where she can consolidate her accounts from her local bank, online bank, and retirement. That means less time spent managing her money.
“It’s important for me to live and work in a way that’s in step with my core values,” says O’Toole. For instance, her employer, which creates jobs for the local economy, and is committed to making heirloom quality tools to artisans to create long-lasting works they can be proud of, is a microcosm of her core values.
So when it came to her finances, she wanted to study herself more to be in greater alignment with what was important to her. “I wanted to see if my spending reflected my values,” says O’Toole.
While she and her husband don’t have any kids, and live within their means, O’Toole admits they aren’t as disciplined as they could be on how much they spend on groceries and entertainment. “While we don’t suffer from compulsive shopping, it’s the little everyday things—a coffee here, eating out too much—that could add up,” she says.
By using Radius Bank’s personal finances management platform, she was able to better predict her budget. Plus, she receives useful tips to help improve her spending and saving habits.
While she’s just started her journey to simplify her finances and align her spending with her values, she knows that Radius Bank will help gain insights to achieve this. “Great follow-through, perks—everything else has been a lovely surprise,” says O’Toole.
To calm her fears of online security, Radius Bank offers two-factor authentication. “They’re quick to alert you of any new activity,” she says, as she gets alerts of recent logins from computer or smartphone. Plus, she loves how Radius has never thrown third-party offers at her, either.
As a recent newcomer to the world of digital banking, O’Toole encourages other newcomers to give it a shot and see what happens. “For those who are wary of online banks, you can try it and be pleasantly surprised about the process,” says O’Toole.”There might even be a shred of delight!”