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Honeydue App Review: A Way to Help Couples With Their Finances?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Honeydue is an app intended to help with one of the most common sources of conflict in relationships: money.

According to a study by SunTrust bank, finances are a major point of stress and conflict in relationships. The study goes on to say that couples with different money personalities — spender versus saver, for instance — must grapple with even more stress, but communication can lessen the impact of the differences.

Eugene Park, co-creator of the money management app, found that managing finances with his fiancee after she moved in was painful. The pair were using totally different tools to track and manage their finances from day to day. Eugene’s co-founder, Thien Tran, was going through the exact same thing at the same time with his fiancee.

That’s when the idea for Honeydue was born. It officially launched in August for 2017, and the user base has been growing every since.

Through Honeydue, couples can share information like bank accounts and bills to limit confusion and miscommunication around their finances. The app aggregates information like bill payments and transactions via bank feeds to help couples get a true picture of their combined (or separate) finances in real time.

It’s true that there are a lot of financial apps out there that offer similar services — Mint, YNAB and Personal Capital, to name a few. But Eugene insists that Honeydue isn’t just a financial app.

“We think of ourselves as a collaborative tool first and a financial tool second,” he says. “The goal is to create a collaborative environment for couples to develop both financial habits and literacy together.”

The creators of the app noticed that there’s asymmetry among couples when it comes to money. Usually only one partner manages the finances. When this happens, the other partner may feel as if he or she lacks of firm grasp of where their earnings are going, setting the stage for conflict.

For this review, MagnifyMoney decided to put Honeydue through a true stress test — my husband and I used the app for two weeks straight to see if actually helped us manage our money better.

What I liked about the Honeydue app

After having used the app for some time, what stands out most is the convenience of having all bills and accounts in one place.

If you are the kind of person who likes to stay on top of your entire financial situation at a glance, this app does the job. To me, it’s like having a financial health assistant that scans all your accounts and gives you updates like these:

If you’re a busy person and want to stay on top of your finances, but can’t check every account daily, then Honeydue works. Indeed, it works even for the person not managing money with a significant other.

But once you do add a partner, things get interesting. You both can see everything that’s happening in the world of money that affects you as a couple.

For example, I was able to add a brokerage account that my husband can now see updated daily. Once he sees it, it’s a constant reminder that investing is a worthwhile activity with real returns. It’s more motivation to curb our spending and attempt to save and invest more when the numbers are there, at our disposal and updated in real time.

I also like the idea that we both can see all bank account balances and transactions. If I know that my husband will see my financial life and potentially question my spending or account balances, I’m more apt to “behave” and think a little more about my spending choices. The extra layer of accountability is a welcome change for me.

The alerts, notifications and email updates from the app serve as prompts to help us discuss finances with some regularity. There are many times I want to talk about finances and financial decisions with my husband, but it simply slips my mind. Honeydue reminders help make money discussions happen more frequently.

To me, the app sets the stage for a healthy financial relationship for couples struggling with money: Transparency, collaboration and communication are all improved with use.

What I didn’t like about Honeydue

The concept of the app itself is amazing. The execution is pretty top-notch, too. The app didn’t seem to be buggy or prone to inexplicable crashes.

Still, I noticed a few things.

The first issue: how the app interacts with institutions that use two-factor authentication. Many bank protocols ask different security questions or require you to re-authenticate with security codes if a connection needs to be refreshed.

However, I’ve used other apps with the same issue. So I am not sure there is a way around this. It’s a safety measure that I welcome to keep my data secure. However, it’s usually barely noticeable and just takes a few moments to correct.

Further, the transaction history for all accounts only goes back a couple of months. Again, not a super big deal, but something I did notice.

Finally, the budget categories are not that extensive and you could potentially spend a lot of time recategorizing transactions it does assign. That is to say, right now the budget categories are not “smart.” They don’t “learn” from the updates you make to transactions like most financial softwares and apps. Eugene says that the development road map does include plans to make the budget categories more automatic once you edit them.

The Complete Magnifymoney Honeydue App Review

What is Honeydue?

Honeydue allows couples to share financial information, but the partners can select what that information is and the level of detail that is included. So if one person has a bank account he or she doesn’t want visible to a partner through the app, it’s possible to choose not to share those banking details or give a limited view of them (“balance only”).

Here are some additional capabilities of the app:

Track balances

Couples can see all bank balances in one place in the app. They can track both credit card and bank balances, along with individual transactions related to each account. Transactions and balances are updated in real time so there’s always a complete, accurate snapshot of where these accounts stand.

The nice thing about this feature: that ability to choose which accounts your partner can see and at what level of detail. Eugene says many partners feel like it isn’t necessary to share at the transaction level. In his words, “trust doesn’t always mean transparency.” According to a 2014 poll in the magazine Money, surveying more than 1,000 married adults, 55 percent of respondents said finance arguments in their relationships were over purchases. This is exactly why Honeydue built these privacy features into the app.

Categorized spending

This feature allows a couple to see how all of their money is spent. As transactions are completed and updated in the app, Honeydue gives them a category: cash & checks; family & pets; getting around; gifts & charity; miscellaneous; personal & wellness; home & utilities; food & drink; trips & occasions; shopping & fun. If the app assigns a category incorrectly for a transaction, it can be fixed with a quick edit.

Secure banking

Honeydue uses military-grade encryption.

Share expenses

You can share expenses with your partner using Honeydue. Once a transaction appears in your bank feed, you can mark it for sharing and add comments. The app will send the share notification to the partner, as well as periodic reminders to settle up a balance owed with his/her mate.

Bill reminders

You can enter bill due dates and amounts with Honeydue. It will keep a running log of coming bills, so they are not lost in the shuffle of life. In the Settings areas of the app, you can create push notifications for bills as well.

How do you sign up for Honeydue?

The sign-up process is extremely simple. After downloading the Honeydue app for iOS or Android devices, you’ll open the app and enter information it will use for your account settings. Then, you’ll enter your partner’s information so he/she can receive an invite to join the app and view all of your combined financial information.

The rest of the process involves connecting your bank account and setting up bill reminders. The app connects with most major banks. You can even include a PayPal account in your bank feed.

Honeydue fees

At the moment Honeydue is totally free to use for both partners.

There is an “offers” tab in the app where you can apply for credit cards and explore bank new accounts. The app also allows you to look for deals on things like Hulu, Starbucks and Gobble. All the categories in the offers tab include bank accounts, credit cards, loans & insurance, savings and investments and money savers.

According to Park, this monetization model will remain in place to keep the app free to use.

Who should consider using Honeydue?

As my husband and I found, Honeydue gives couples a springboard for constant discussions about money. It gives them practice with communicating, negotiating and saving in money conversations they may not otherwise have.

Final words

Honeydue is another app in the sea of fintech innovation. There are so many tools out there that it might be difficult to add another to the mix for couples already overwhelmed with financial issues.

However, the branding and features that cater to couples can’t be underestimated. When was the last time you were able to stamp bank transactions with a smiley face or a comment for your partner to see? Honeydue let’s you do just that. For the price (free), I think it’s at least worth a try.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Life Events

What To Do If You Inherit A Home

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The thought of inheriting a home might at first put images of dollar signs in your head. But if you have inherited property from a loved one, it’s not as simple as passing over a set of keys. There are all sorts of legal and tax hoops to jump through if you want to make the most of your new asset.

If you are in a situation where you stand to inherit property or have already done so,  you’ll need all the facts to make the best decisions concerning your new asset. This guide will explore some topics you’ll want to explore further to make the most of your inherited home .

Get a lawyer

As soon as you are aware of a potential inheritance, seek legal help from an experienced estate planning lawyer who’s also familiar with real estate law. A lawyer will navigate court proceedings and help you make strategic, informed decisions that can have an impact on the final value of your inheritance. Since laws governing inheritance and probate vary from state to state, it’s crucial to find an expert with knowledge about the laws in your state for specific recommendations.

Check for any liabilities

It’s entirely possible to inherit property with encumbrances or interests attached to it. The existence of additional heirs, even estranged ones, could mean that the property actually belongs to a number of people. These interests must be figured out and settled in order for one or more people to take ownership of the property as an inherited asset.

Also, there could be liabilities like back taxes, unpaid utility bills or child support expenses that result in liens against the property. There could even be additional mortgages or reverse mortgages against the home. If you inherit a home with a mortgage(s), that debt must be paid off before you can take legal possession.

If there are multiple heirs involved, along with tons of outstanding debt against a property, you may decide not to pursue claiming it based on the value of the home. The trouble of probating the will and acquiring the property could outweigh what you stand to gain based on appraised value.

Get an appraisal and estimate your tax liability

Taxes go hand in hand with inheritances, especially when inheritances involve property. The amount of these taxes will depend on the value of the real estate. That’s another reason why getting an appraisal of the inherited property is recommended.

An appraisal of the inherited home can be useful for determining inheritance, estate or capital gains taxes. Each state is different and may impose only an inheritance tax or an estate tax or both.

If you sell the home, you’ll only need to report your inheritance on your tax return for the year you sell the home. You’ll report this activity on Schedule D of your tax return. The date-of-death valuation (i.e. stepped-up basis) is what is used to determine the value of the estate to be taxed.

There is an exception to taxes on a sale: if you move into and live in the home. In this case, it’s considered your personal residence and not an investment property. For the most part, personal residences that are sold do not need to be reported on a tax return if the owner has lived there for two years or more.

If you decide to keep the home and rent it out, you’ll have to report your rental income and expenses on Schedule E of your Form 1040  for tax filings. Once you sell it, you’ll use your stepped-up basis to pay taxes on the profit of the sale as mentioned above.

A home appraisal gives property a value in dollars based on the home’s characteristics and nearby homes with comparable features. You’ll want to determine the value of the home as soon as you can. Why? As mentioned, the value of your inheritance could be affected by a number of variables: taxes, the presence of multiple heirs, even outstanding debts against the property.

You’ll want to get an appraisal as close to your relative’s date of death as you can, to determine the tax situation. Your “initial investment” amount is set at this date and will be the basis for calculating taxes due (should you profit from the sale of the home).

For example, if Grandpa Joe purchased a home for $60,000 in 1965 and died in 1995, you’ll want to know the value of the property in 1995 to understand how much the home has grown in value. If the home appreciated to $135,000 by 1995 and you sell it for $140,000 any time after this, you’ll owe taxes on that $5,000 profit. This amount would be much less than taxes based on profits made from the 1965 purchase amount.

If you decide you don’t want to pay the capital gains taxes on the inherited home, you’d have to live in the property for at least two years.  Once you sell the property, $250,000 of the profit will not be taxed ($500,000 for married couples.) There are many other ways to further shelter profits that exceed this amount, but this is a good starting point.

Estates with property  worth several million dollars or more will have to pay an estate tax. This tax is on your right to transfer property at death. Currently, estates worth almost  $5.5 million will owe up to 40 percent in estate taxes.

An appraisal will help you make strategic moves with your inherited property. So, the sooner you obtain one, the sooner you can make make decisions to move forward (or not) with the property.

Set yourself up for a smooth transfer

There are many ways that real estate can be transferred from the deceased (decedent) to an heir. With a few exceptions, as soon as someone dies, any assets titled in the decedent’s name transfer to his or her estate.

Once the court determines that you are a rightful heir to the estate, you’ll obtain a court order that grants you rights to possess the property. From here, you’ll want to make sure the title and deed to the property are in order for a proper transfer.

An experienced real estate lawyer should be able to handle all the research related to the property to make sure you don’t run into problems with either the initial transfer or a sale down the road.  John W. Graziano, an attorney based in Lee, Mass.,suggests heirs obtain a title search and insurance to ensure their rights to occupy, rent or sell the property they’ve inherited.

The state you live in (or own property in) creates this estate entity.  In the probate process, the state will attempt to distribute estate assets to all heirs on record.

Real estate, unless previously directed by the decedent, will also pass into an estate for distribution. The complexity of the probate process and timeline depend greatly on the type of estate your relative had and whether there was a will, a living trust or some other circumstance. All such variables factor into the manner in which you receive your real estate inheritance.

For each situation, you’ll need to know your options and what to expect from the transfer process.

Case #1: My relative had a will

In this case, your relative has expressed the desire to give you the property.  In somes states, a will can help expedite the probate process because the wishes of the decedent are plainly stated. You’ll need to file a copy of the will with the local county court to begin the probate process so that assets, including real estate, can be distributed.

Case #2: My relative did not have a will

If there was no will, the decedent’s assets will enter into a “intestate” probate proceeding.  In this case, you can still start the probate process at your local county courthouse. A judge will decide how to divvy up assets since your loved one did not leave any instructions for disposition of assets.

For those who die without a will, the courts will distribute assets according to the state inheritance laws. These laws, known as intestate inheritance laws, will dictate who gets what in probate proceedings. The most likely heirs of an estate’s property are spouses, children and siblings, but the court will have the final say.

Even if your relative did not have a will, an experienced probate attorney knows how to handle the process of opening the estate. The lawyer will present evidence to the court, informing it of the existence and whereabouts of living heirs for estate asset distribution.

Case #3: My relative had a living trust

Sometimes a person may transfer ownership of property to an entity called a living trust. A trust is a legal document that tells a trustee, chosen by the creator of the trust, how assets should be handled in the event of death or incapacitation.

Unlike with probate, which is handled by public courts, the distribution of assets in a trust can be handled privately, quickly and with less expense. Assets in a trust do not have to go through probate. That’s why many people choose trusts instead of, or alongside, a will.

If your relative had a trust that owned the real estate you are due to inherit, then the trustee will transfer ownership of this asset to you via deed, title or both.

Case #4: I am a joint owner of the property

If you are a joint owner or joint tenant of a real estate asset, there is no need for probate, in most cases. With joint tenancy, the ownership of the deceased’s property passes to survivors in the joint tenancy.

Though joint tenancy can be in place for many reasons, this is most common when a married couple own property together. When a spouse passes away, the transfer can be as simple as providing a death certificate to the title company. The company can easily update the title with this information. If this applies to your situation, you’ll still want to consult your CPA and/or attorney for next steps regarding this arrangement.

Case #5: My relative had a small estate

In some states, there is a “small estate” process that allows you to skip probate altogether. In many cases, you can claim real estate and other minor assets via affidavits or briefer court proceedings.

Each state, however, has its own threshold for the dollar amount that would classify an estate as “small.” In some states, there are also expedited proceedings for estates that only contain real estate. If you can receive your property inheritance without the longer, more extensive process of probate, a small estate proceeding is ideal.

Make a plan to sell, refinance or keep the home

There are different options available to people who inherit a home. Depending on your goals you can choose to sell it, rent it out or live in it.

Selling the home you’ve inherited

In this case, you’ll want to make sure that you care for the home until the sale is complete. Make sure all expenses are paid, like the mortgage, property taxes and utilities. Keep the properly well maintained and in livable condition so that there are no problems when it comes to selling the house. When the sale is complete and the balance of the mortgage or any other debt in the estate paid off, the sale proceeds can be divided among heirs.

A home with a mortgage usually has a due-on-sale clause to require full payment when the borrower dies. However, this clause is suspended in two cases:

  • Because of the death of a joint tenant
  • Property is transferred to a relative resulting from the death of a borrower.

This means that the heir can keep making payments on the property under the existing terms of the mortgage. However, if there are other plans to sell the property or transfer interest from one or more heirs to another, you will have to pay off the existing mortgage.

Keeping the home to rent it out

If you are looking to become a landlord and rent the home, you can take ownership of the property. There may be additional steps to take if a mortgage still exists on the property or if there are are additional heirs involved. You should know, too, that there are tax implications to receiving rental income (discussed below), but it could still be a viable way to get more cash from your inherited property

Keeping the home and live in it

Finally, you could keep the home and use it as your primary residence. Again, with a mortgage and multiple heirs involved, there will be more steps to that you can have official ownership.

Refinancing the mortgage

If one or more of the heirs decide to keep the inherited property as an rental income property or a primary residence, the mortgage on the home may have to be paid off before taking ownership (except in the cases mentioned above).

Though a mortgage cannot be issued to an estate, lenders will typically work with the estate’s attorney for a solution that satisfies the mortgage debt. This may include selling the home or allowing an heir to refinance the balance of the mortgage due on the home.

If there’s more than one heir to the estate and one decides to take sole ownership of the home, this heir could arrange a refinance and purchase transaction. In this type of transaction, the proceeds of the refinance can be used to purchase the other heirs’ interest in the home.

Final thoughts

Inheriting a home can be silver lining when grappling with the death of a loved one. However, if you don’t take all the steps required to obtain rightful ownership, the property could be another source of hassle and a monumental time-suck.

Graziano urges heirs to work with a lawyer on all aspects so they understand the inheritance process. In this way, they can get the most value from their inherited assets, with the the least amount of hassle and the fewest surprises.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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How to Raise a Kid You Won’t Have to Cut Off in 20 Years

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Today’s young people are more likely than previous generations to live with their parents, according to a 2017 analysis from the Pew Research Center. In 2016, 15 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds lived in their parents’ home, compared to 10 percent of Gen Xers in 2000.

Even when kids move out, it’s not uncommon for them to receive financial support from their parents. In fact, 62 percent of Americans age 50 and older gave a relative money in the last five years, with the largest sums often going to adult children, according to a 2017 Merrill Lynch retirement study.

Parents may not find those statistics encouraging, but the good news is there are ways to teach kids how to be financially responsible, and it involves raising the bar by asking kids to do more in the way of financial responsibilities. Studies have shown that when more is expected of a child (or anyone), they actually perform to that level of expectation. The same can be said of how they deal with money.

Don Roork, a Certified Financial Planner at AssetDynamics Wealth Management, has noticed a pattern with kids, adults and money. “Kids learn good money habits from just watching and being around their parents,” says Roork.

Roork also points out that money lessons aren’t always explicit verbal lectures on finance. “Kids watch mom and dad making good financial decisions, and voilà — the kids’ money behavior matches their parents’,” says Roork.

So when it comes to raising financially independent adults, it becomes clear that it’s important to start when they are kids. Here are some ways personal finance experts recommend easing your children — gently and kindly — into financial adulthood by weaning them from the family wallet.

Set expectations

As soon as your child begins asking for things like toys, restaurant meals or trips to the movie theater, they are ready to learn about the money it takes to support these wants. When a child expresses a desire for something beyond the basics, start the conversation then and there about how they’ll soon be responsible for these “luxury items.”

Of course, you don’t have to start charging them rent (not a bad idea, though), but you will want to follow up your expectations with actions.

For example, if your family goes out to eat, your child can pay for their meal or contribute to a portion of the bill. These expenses can be age appropriate and should increase over time as your child earns more money. They can start with things like snacks at the movies and move up to cellphone bills and car insurance.

Financial adviser Jamie Pomeroy of Financial Gusto says this should all start with communication: “Sitting down with your child and having a clear and frank conversation about who’s paying for what, can pay huge dividends.”

Another good exercise would be to show them prices on things they’ll need as adults, like a home or a car. Molding their expectations around what it takes to live will only help them down the road.

To drive this point home, Pomeroy suggests laying out a real plan designed to increase financial responsibility. “Make sure that you and your child are on the same page about what expenses they are responsible for, what you’ll continue to pay for (for now), and then introduce them to a budget to help them manage those expenses,” he says.

Create a reward system

Get-out-of-debt guru Dave Ramsey warns against giving kids an allowance and instead recommends that money given to a child should be tied to actions, like completing chores or other household projects. The idea is to get kids ready for the real world by emulating it with a system of compensation tied to work.

CFP Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents says, “One of the first steps in teaching your kids financial independence is giving them responsibilities around the home that are both paid and unpaid.”

Ramsey is also a proponent of giving children the opportunity to earn more money in “commissions” when they find extra things to do or take initiative in solving problems around the house.

Teach them personal finance

Many kids are shocked when they get into the real world and finally begin grasping the finite nature of money. Mom and Dad spring for everything, so why would money ever run out?

Clint Haynes, CFP of NextGen Wealth, says there’s a fix for this. “Make it a point to sit down with your kids and show them what your budget looks like, how it works, and why it truly is the foundation to personal finance,” he says.

When your child asks for candy at the store, don’t deflect them with, “We don’t have the money.” Instead, let them know that the money you have available isn’t earmarked for candy, showing them how a budget works in real life.

Other lessons you can teach early on include those around saving, compound interest and even giving.

Brian Hanks, a CFP out of Idaho, has an experiment he urges his clients to conduct with their children once they are high school seniors. He suggests parents hand over their checkbook and have their kid cover all the family’s expenses for the entire school year.

“Paying a family’s bills is eye-opening, and your teen starts to develop new money habits,” Hanks says.

Let them earn real money

You can start by giving your kids an allowance that is tied to performance: completing chores, excelling in school, and having a good attitude can factor into their “compensation.” Be sure to enforce the association between what they do and how they are compensated. Once they can work legally, you can taper off their allowance.

Ed Snyder, CFP at Oaktree Financial Advisors, says children who have jobs will be more thoughtful about their spending and better with money in general. “Working will help them think through their spending and hopefully be more responsible,” he says.

Keep in mind kids don’t always have to wait until they are 16 to get a job. They can start a business or participate in gigs that allow kids under 16 to work with a permit, like modeling or acting.

Challenge them

Not only should your kids be responsible for expenses and make their own money, Eric Jansen of AspenCross Wealth Management says kids should be challenged in their money habits.

“Set up 90-day savings and spending challenges as a fun way to help them better understand and manage the trade-offs between spending money on what they want and what they need,” Jansen says.

No-spend or savings challenges are great ways to teach lessons about money while showing your child what they are capable of if they focus on their goals.

You can even create competitions among siblings, like seeing who can save the most money.

Trust the process

Sound like a lot of work? It is! Financial independence doesn’t happen overnight.

“Some of these [money] lessons may click sooner in some kids than in others — even within the same family,” says Snyder. “Don’t give up hope. … Just keep showing them good examples and teaching them good old-fashioned financial lessons.”

Be patient, be kind, and be confident that the lessons you are teaching them will serve them well into adulthood.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Featured, Strategies to Save

What Your Teen Should Do With Their Summer Earnings

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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According to a 2017 survey released by the National Financial Educators Council, 54% of respondents (all 18 years and older) said a course in money management in high school would benefit their lives. Another survey — the most recent from the Program for International Student Assessment — reports that only about 10% of U.S. 15-year-olds are proficient in personal finance matters, falling in the middle among the 15 countries studied. The message is clear: Young Americans need to learn more about money and managing it wisely. One way to start them off is giving them hands-on experience with their own money. Enter the summer job.

Having a summer job can be a good introduction to adulthood for many reasons: The discipline, submission to management, team work, and a regular paycheck are just a few of the things a teenager will get used to with their first summer job.

It’s also a good way to introduce kids to the real world of money. Though the money your teen earns is technically theirs, as a parent, you should use summer job earnings as an opportunity to help your kids form good habits with money. There’s no better time to show them the value of money than in the crucial years before they’ll be saddled with obligations like student loans, car notes, and mortgages.

Here are a few ways to make sure your teen will get the most out of their money-making experience that will keep them money savvy for years to come.

Pay their fair share

Once your teen begins making money, you’ll to want consider how they can begin to cover certain expenses. You’ll be tempted, no doubt, to let your teen keep their hard-earned money for themselves. Trust this process. If the goal is to raise money-smart kids who become even savvier adults, there will have to be simulations of the real world that include actually paying for things

If your teen uses the car, consider having them cover a portion or all of their car insurance bill. Another option is to have them contribute to their cellphone bill or even some of the Wi-Fi they use.

Having expenses is a real part of life, so it’s better to help them understand that now rather than later when ignorance isn’t so blissful.

If the thought of making your child pay for expenses bothers you, consider a different approach: Teach them about the costs of everyday life by asking them to cover their portion of a bill, but take that money and put it away for them. You can save up all that money and, as a nice gesture, give it to them when they need it most, like when they go away to college or finally leave the nest to launch out into the real world.

Open bank accounts

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While many families do not have access to or elect not to participate in the traditional banking system — it’s estimated that 27% of U.S. households are unbanked or underbanked — you’d ideally want to get your teen familiar with banks and how they work. Though check use has been on the decline since the mid-1990s, it’s still important for teens to learn how to write a check, along with keeping a checkbook register. Sure, this practice probably won’t last long, as electronic payments and money management apps continue to grow, but this approach gives your kids the gist of how to keep track of their cash flow.

While your teen has a bank account, you’ll also get them used to understanding how a debit card works. They’ll get familiar with how easy it is to swipe for things they want, yet how difficult it can be to replenish their account with the money they’re making at their job.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your teen opens a savings account. In most states, a person can open a bank account when they become 18. For younger teens, many banks have special teen or kid accounts that a child can share with their parents. Co-owned checking accounts can be opened as young as 13, while custodial savings accounts can be opened at any age.

Developing good habits around saving and managing money takes time and some getting used to. So using their summer earnings would be a perfect opportunity to get into the groove of budgeting for expenses and managing money through a bank account.

Set money goals

Once money starts to flow into your kid’s hands, seize the moment and get them to see the bigger picture. Summer money is great, but paying for life will take much more than what your teen earns from a few hours of work in a bike shop. Begin to show them the cost of things like college, cars, homes, and luxuries like vacations or hobbies.

Once you compare the costs with their summer job earnings, it should help them come to conclusions about how money works: The more you have, the more you can do. The idea is to inspire them to increase their earning potential with tools like education or savings to invest in income-producing assets.

Another result of these conversations could be your teen realizing they’ll want to start saving up for life sooner than later. They may decide to put away money for the purpose of paying for school or their first condo.

Ron Lieber, New York Times financial columnist and author of the book The Opposite of Spoiled, says parents should prompt their kids with an immediate goal like having a college fund. “The best thing to do is to use any earnings to begin a conversation with parents about college, if your teen plans on going,” Lieber says.

Lieber suggests questions to guide the conversation:

  • How much of your college expenses will be covered by parents versus the child?
  • How much have the parents saved for the child’s college expenses?
  • How much are kids/parents willing to borrow or spend out of their current income?

According to Lieber, “The answers to these questions may cause a teen to save everything, if they think it will help them avoid debt in their effort to attend their dream college.”

No matter how temporary their summer job is, you’d do well to use it as a springboard for more conversations about money. Whatever their long-term money goals are, it’s never a bad idea to start working toward them early on.

Learn compound interest

While your teen is making all of those big money goals, you could drive the point home with a lesson in compound interest. Using a compound interest calculator, you can show your teenager many scenarios where interest can either work for or against them.

Run scenarios around savings for big-ticket items versus financing them. The math will speak volumes:

*Example APRs are used. APR will vary on factors like individual credit score, loan amount, and bank requirements.

In the above scenario, you’d end up paying a total of $226,815 in interest. That same amount ($226,815) invested for 30 years with a moderate 3.5% return yields over $636,000!

Seeing these numbers in action should motivate your teen to start a savings habit that they will maintain throughout adulthood.

If they are really excited about the prospects of compound interest working on their behalf, encourage them to open their own IRA to begin investing themselves. This way, they’ll not only understand the theory of investing but also get hands-on experience with it. After all, the time value of money works even better when you’ve got more time. Investing as a teen could set the stage for copious returns later on in life.

Create a budget

Making money can be the fun, somewhat easy part of a summer job. Figuring out how to spend it can be difficult. Make your teen prioritize needs and wants by learning to create a budget. A good practice would be to have your teen make a list of things they’ll spend money on versus how much money they will bring in. You could also introduce them to a money-management app — here are some of the best ones.

This will help them understand the finite nature of money and how their current cash flow stacks up against their current earnings.

Have fun

According to Brian Hanks, a certified financial planner in Salt Lake City, “Don’t be concerned if your teen ‘blows’ a portion of their earnings on things you consider to be worthless.” Hanks goes on to say that it’s better to make money mistakes as a youngster: “Everyone needs to learn tough money lessons in life, and learning them as a teen when the consequences are relatively small can save bigger heartache down the road.”

A summer job should be fun and low-stress, but it can also be used as a learning experience that prepares your teen for the real world. If your teen turns out to be a terrible budgeter or extreme spendthrift, give them more than a summer to learn better ways. Remember, they’ll have the rest of their lives to continue grasping and mastering money concepts.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Bargains and Deals, Strategies to Save

15+ Apps That Help You Make Money

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Need extra money? Your mobile device could actually unlock a world of additional income for you. There are many ways to earn money online, and they are now conveniently available on smartphones and tablet devices. Add an internet connection, and you’re set. Pursuing a side hustle can be time consuming, but if you’ve got a financial goal like getting out of debt or saving up for a down payment on a home, these apps could be a good start to boosting to your income. All the apps here are free to use via web browser and/or mobile device.

Surveys

Swagbucks

Devices: Android, iOS

The Swagbucks iOS app. Source: iTunes.

Swagbucks is a popular survey website with a couple of app counterparts (discussed below), including Swagbucks Local and SB Answers. By taking surveys, you accumulate points called Swagbucks, not actual money. These surveys usually ask about your demographics, preferences, and behaviors on topics like cereal you eat, places you shop, TV shows you watch, and other lifestyle choices. Plan to spend 15-30 minutes on each survey, though there are occasionally seven- to 10-minute surveys.

In terms of how the conversions work, one Swagbuck is about 1 cent, and you can redeem them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, and popular retailers like Walmart and Target. You even have the option to donate your Swagbucks to more than 10 charities featured on the site.

So, how good are the payouts? A three-minute survey could offer you five Swagbucks or approximately 5 cents. A 20-minute survey pays out 80 cents on average. However, many people earn much more with the Swagbucks referral program: 500 Swagbucks (worth $5) per person once the referral is active. Plus, you’ll get 10% of your referrals’ point earnings over the lifetime of their account.

You have a few options to earn Swagbucks on your mobile device:

Surveys On The Go

Devices: Android, iOS

The Surveys On The Go iOS app. Source: iTunes

Surveys On The Go allows users to take various surveys with pretty decent payouts: You’ll get surveys for between 25 cents and $1. However, be prepared to spend time on these surveys. You can spend 15-20 minutes completing them (or more).

There also aren’t always a lot of surveys available. I’ve logged in a few times and found there were no surveys for me. The survey availability will depend on your demographic and even location. Sometimes, there are high-paying surveys ($15-$20), but it’s hard to tell when and where that will happen.

There’s no way to know how often there will be surveys available, but you can choose to receive app notifications when there is a new survey you qualify for.

Unlike Swagbucks, these surveys offer you actual money. You’ll need to earn $10 before you get a payment via PayPal. A nice thing about this app is that you get a consolation compensation of 10 cents if you start a survey and are not qualified to complete it.

InboxDollars

Devices: Android, iOS

InboxDollars iOS app. Source: iTunes

Much like Surveys On The Go, InboxDollars offers cash rewards. The app also offers “sweep” points, which allow you enter sweepstakes for more sweeps, money, or other prizes.

This app usually has plenty of surveys to take, though they are not all optimized for mobile viewing. At times, the interface can be a little wonky and a tad clunky to navigate.

You should also know that you can get deep into a survey (say, 5-15 minutes) only to be disqualified because of your answers. Your hourly “wage” comes out to be pretty low considering you make anywhere from 20-25 cents per 20-30 minutes spent answering questions. You cannot request a payout from the app until you’ve reached the $30 minimum. A $3 processing fee applies to every payment request. Your payment options include a check, gift card from Target or Kohl’s, or a prepaid Visa card (the latter two options available to Gold members only.)

Other survey apps to explore include Panel App, QuickThoughts, and SurveyMini. Overall, if you are looking to make a living wage from taking surveys, you likely won’t come close. With payouts that amount to just a few cents an hour, you’re better off with other ways to produce extra income (unless there’s absolutely nothing else you can do to earn).

Fitness

What’s better than losing unwanted inches? Getting paid for it. There are a few apps that allow you to convert your fitness activity into financial benefits. As always, you’ll want to consult your physician before starting any fitness program.

DietBet

Devices: Android, iOS

DietBet iOS app. Source: iTunes

DietBet allows you to turn your fitness goals into money. In order to enter a bet, you have to put money up front in a game that pools the money of other people with weight-loss goals. Those who make their goals win the bet and split up the pot (minus DietBet’s 10%-25% fee) that is paid out by those who don’t make their goals. WayBetter, the company behind DietBet, also has a StepBet app that offers similar games where you put down money when you set activity goals and win the bet if you meet them.

On DietBet, you can participate in a short, four-week challenge called a Kickstarter or a six-month game called a Transformer. You can be in multiple bets at a time to maximize your earnings. The company says Kickstarter winners get back an average of 1.5-two times their bet, while the average Transformer winner takes home $325 for winning all six rounds, or $175 for winning just the final round.

DietBet and StepBet have a No Lose Guarantee, which states that if you win, you will not lose money. They’ll forfeit their cut of the pot to make this happen. Of course, if you don’t win, you don’t get anything, so there’s potential to lose money here. The average Kickstarter bet size is $30, and Transformer costs $25 a month (or $125 up front).

Sweatcoin

Devices: Android, iOS

Sweatcoin iOS app. Source: iTunes

The Sweatcoin app converts your outdoor steps into currency called Sweatcoins (SWCs), which you can redeem for products like watches, fitness apparel, and gift cards. Currently, you’ll earn .95 SWCs for every 1,000 steps you complete. The exact conversion of these coins seems to change depending on the reward: Past promotions include a $12 smoothie gift card for 150 SWCs, a $120 Actofit watch for 1,600 SWCs, and a $88 VICI Life gift card for 250 SWCs.

The items available for purchase with Sweatcoins are limited and change often based on availability and the company’s promotional schedule. This app requires access to your GPS data and location in order to verify that your steps are taken outside.

Shopping

There are many apps that reward you for doing something you’d do anyway — shop. Here’s how most of these apps work: If you purchase a product, the app developer usually gets commissions on purchases you make at their suggestion, which they split with you. In this way, they can provide you with rewards that literally pay you for shopping.

Ibotta

Devices: Android, iOS

Ibotta iOS app. Source: iTunes

Ibotta offers rebates for buying certain products in nearby stores. Once you let it access your geodata, you’ll find deals on items at retailers like Walmart, Whole Foods, Costco, and more.

Sometimes the deals are super product-specific, and other times you can see generic items like milk or eggs offered with a chance to get 25 cents back. In order to get your rewards, you’ll have to scan the item’s barcode with your phone’s camera and snap a picture of the receipt. You’ll then submit these through the app.

This can be somewhat time consuming. For example, the receipt can be long, requiring a few pictures, or you could accidentally throw away the packaging (which I’ve done on a few occasions).

This is another app with a generous referral bonus: You get $5, while your referral gets $10. You accrue referral bonuses and rebates in your Ibotta account and can request payouts via PayPal, Venmo, or a featured gift card once you meet the $20 threshold.

Ebates

Devices: Android, iOS

Ebates iOS app. Source: iTunes

Similar to Ibotta, Ebates gives you rewards for shopping through their portal and purchasing featured items, but Ebates also offers discounts. There are popular stores like Loft, Tom’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, and more. You’ll get your earnings via PayPal every three months (unless you’ve accrued less than $5.01.)

Ebates also has a great referral program. The payouts change from time to time, so you’ll need to check their referral program page for current payouts. At the moment, when you refer one friend who makes a minimum $25 purchase, you’ll get a $5 bonus, while your friend gets $10 added to their account balance after their first purchase.

Shopkick

Devices: Android, iOS

Shopkick iOS app. Source: iTunes

Shopkick pays its users points called Kicks for a variety of shopping activities.

When you open the app, it detects your location and shows you a list of nearby retailers and products that can help you earn Kicks. If you allow the app to access your GPS data, you’ll hear a cha-ching sound when you get close to a participating retailer.

Shopkick is set up to show you the best deals and popular products from retailers like Best Buy, American Eagle, Yankee Candle, and many more.

Kicks can be redeemed for gift cards to places like Best Buy, Starbucks, and Target. The referral program offers 250 Kicks for each friend who signs up and completes their first in-store action.

In terms of the conversion rate, 250 Kicks equals $1 for most rewards. You’ll need to check the rewards section of the app for conversions on specific items.

Gig economy

If you’ve got time and a certain skill set, you can make money helping someone nearby. The apps below are variations of the Uber-like work arrangement we are all getting more familiar with. Given the higher earning potential these opportunities offer, they also require more commitment: Before you can start earning money through these kinds of apps, you may have to submit an application and agree to a background check.

TaskRabbit

Devices: Android, iOS

TaskRabbit iOS app. Source: iTunes

TaskRabbit allows you to complete small tasks like errands, cleaning, or handyman work for people nearby. As a “tasker” you can choose the types of tasks you’ll complete, your rates, and your own schedule. There’s no minimum to the amount of work you can do; however, the site explains that you cannot invoice for jobs that are under one hour. TaskRabbit takes 30% of your earnings and is available in 39 U.S. metro areas.

The application process is straightforward but stringent. In addition to your general demographics, you’ll need to verify your account with official identification like a driver’s license. You will also need to complete a background check. The TaskRabbit website explains that the company receives a large amount of registrations and cannot give you a timeline on when you’ll be approved.

Fortunately, once you get going, it’s pretty easy to see tasks available, accept them, and even invoice your clients. Although earnings for individual taskers vary due to a number of factors, a report by Priceonomics puts the average monthly earnings are around $380.

GoShare

Devices: Android, iOS

GoShare iOS app. Source: iTunes

GoShare is an app for people who need moving and delivery help. You can earn money with this app if you have a vehicle for large deliveries and can lift heavy items. However, GoShare is only available in nine cities among three states: California, Georgia, and New Jersey.

GoShare users can also work with large retailers to help unload shipments and deliver items to customers. For example, someone who ordered a refrigerator from Home Depot could request a GoShare driver to deliver it.

If you live in one of the areas GoShare serves, you can apply to be a driver. Potential earnings vary by vehicle type: The website says someone who drives a small pickup truck could earn up to $47.52 an hour, while someone with a cargo van can earn up to $61.92 an hour.

Uber/Lyft

Devices: Android, iOS

Left: Uber iOS app. Right: Lyft iOs app. Source: iTunes

Probably the most popular of the bunch, Uber and Lyft offer people the opportunity to use their own car to drive people around and get paid for it. Rates are typically set by the company and depend on your location, time of day, type of car you have, whether or not a passenger will share a ride with other passengers, and a few other factors. Uber is in more than 630 cities around the world, and Lyft is in more than 550 U.S. cities.

Chime

Devices: iOS

Chime iOS app. Source: iTunes

Chime is a division of the popular child care site, Sittercity. Chime is a mobile app designed for people who need quick connections for child care. Again, the premise is: I’m available, you need help, let’s connect with this app. Chime is available in Boston, Chicago, New York City, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

According to Chime, all sitters are thoroughly vetted and have completed a background check as well as undergone ID verification. The hourly rate is set according to your local market starting from around $15-$18 per hour.

Rover

Devices: Android, iOS

Rover iOS app. Source: iTunes

The Rover app is like Chime but allows users to look for and offer house-sitting and pet care services. Once you apply to be a sitter, your profile, if accepted, takes about five days to be approve. (Note: You can opt to complete a background check through a third party, but it’s not necessary.) You should also know that you get to set your own rates for services.

Once you agree upon a price with your client and complete a job, your client pays through the Rover app. Those funds are released to you within 48 hours, less the 15% transaction fee Rover deducts. Your payments stay in your Rover account until you withdraw them.

A community forum thread on the Rover website puts part-time earnings at $500-$1,000 per month.

GreenPal

Devices: Android, iOS

GreenPal iOS app. Source: iTunes

There are a few Uber-like apps for lawn care, and GreenPal is just one of them. The only issue is that some of these apps don’t have enough users to make it worthwhile for either service seekers or gig workers (GreenPal currently serves 12 U.S. cities).

As a vendor, you’ll apply through the company’s website. Part of the vetting process is passing a criminal background check, providing client references, and confirming that you have proper lawn care equipment.

Once you are approved as a lawn care provider, you’ll get notifications of nearby jobs. You are able to upload photos of your finished work (kind of like a lawn care portfolio), and then your client will rate you.

Depending on your location and market, expect to bid anywhere from $25-$45 per job. GreenPal takes a 3% transaction fee when your client pays you.

If you have a financial goal in mind and need more earning options, apps like these can certainly help. Just remember to weigh the value of your time against the potential of earning more money before you commit to chasing income this way.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Pay Down My Debt, Strategies to Save

Create a Budget Designed Just for Dumping Debt

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Even if you hate spreadsheets and numbers, coming up with a debt-destroying budget can be simple with a single rule: always apply excess funds to debt.

This rule can work with two of the most common debt repayment methods: the debt snowball or the debt avalanche.

The debt snowball method attacks smaller debts first, regardless of interest rate. The goal is to motivate you with small victories in order to go on and gain confidence to pay off larger debts. The debt avalanche method focuses on paying down debt with the highest interest rate until you pay off the balance with the lowest interest rate.

How Much Can I Throw Toward My Debt?

The math for your budgeting process is super-simple: Monthly income minus monthly expenses equals the amount of extra money you can apply toward your debt each month. The emphasis is on extra money because you’ll still want to pay your minimum debt obligations to avoid getting behind on your payments.

Note: If you still need help with the math because you’ve got to actually figure out how much you spend each month, you can use an app that connects with your bank to add up all your expenses. Check out services like Mint.com, YNAB, or Personal Capital to help you get quick figures around your income and spending along with categories for each.

Though the math is not too complicated, the harder part could be increasing the gap between your income and expenses to actually have a surplus in your budget.

Unless you’ve got little to no wiggle room in your budget, you don’t have to start cutting expenses quite yet. However, there are some expenses that are discretionary and should be omitted from your equation until you’ve tamed your debt load.

For now, just get a baseline of what you should have left over at the end of each month once all your bills and expenses are accounted for. If it’s $15, great. Start there. If it’s more, even better.

Once you get this number, use it to pay more on your debt than is required. So if your minimum payment is normally $50, pay $65 with your $15 surplus. It can be the smallest debt or the account with the highest interest rate. What matters now is that you do something to get into the habit of making extra payments on debt and accounting for it in your monthly budget.

How to Apply This Rule in Various Scenarios

If you budget with a goal in mind, the purpose of your money becomes clearer. Any kind of money that turns out to be extra should be applied to debt to reduce your balances. But the key is being mindful of extra money, even when it doesn’t seem to be extra.

For example, getting a raise is a reason for some people to increase their standard of living. They might move to a place with a view or buy that lavish SUV they’ve been eyeing for a while. If you’ve committed extra funds to a purpose (paying off debt), the decision is made for you far in advance of you actually getting the money.

The same goes for your income tax refund check. You might bank on this money every time income tax filing season comes around. While many people are planning spring break trips and shopping sprees with this money, you’ve got to make up your mind that this money is already earmarked for debt repayment.

Finally, there’s always that unexpected windfall: an inheritance, a settlement, or any type of money you never saw coming. This might be one of the most difficult chunks of money to part with for the sake of paying off debt. After all, you didn’t know it was coming, and maybe you didn’t have to work too hard for it.

In this case, it’s pretty tempting to want to splurge and blow it all on something you think you deserve. Things can get complicated at this point. But if you keep following “the rule,” this money is technically already allocated, and your debt repayment budget suddenly becomes easier to stick with.

Keep Widening the Gap Between Income and Expenses

This is the fun part. Why? You get to be creative and have more control over your debt repayment timeline. Want to get out of debt fast? Then you’ll have to figure out how to make your income outpace your expenses. It could mean adding a side hustle to the mix or getting more aggressive with cutting out or decreasing expenses.

Adjusting Your Tax Withholdings

If you pocket a large tax refund each year, ask yourself why. It is likely because you are paying too much in income taxes throughout the year. If that’s the case, you can change your tax withholdings through your payroll department to keep more money in your pocket throughout the year. It will mean a smaller tax refund come tax time, but you’ll have more cash on hand to put toward your debt with each paycheck.

Use this IRS withholding calculator to estimate your withholdings.

Decrease Your Income Tax Liability

There are more than a few ways to decrease your income tax liability. From IRA contributions to tax tips for entrepreneurial endeavors and other tax credits and deductions, there should be one or more things you can do to owe less on your tax bill.

Cut Expenses Where You Can

There are so many ways to save money on so many things. You can start small with things like eating out and having cable and work up to saving money on housing costs or refinancing student loans.

Then there are the diehards who go full monty and go through full-on spending freezes on things like takeout and travel. The list of cost-cutting measures can get pretty long, but you get the point: Go through your spending with a fine-tooth comb and find out where you can save and what you could cut.

Increase Your Income

Creating another stream of income sounds gimmicky, but there are ways to do it without getting caught up in scams. You can find a part-time job, provide consulting services on the side, or even start a mini-business like dog walking or car washing. It shouldn’t be anything that will cost you tons up front to start, and it shouldn’t hinder your ability to keep your full-time job.

You may find that you have to try a few things before you come up with the perfect combination of low overhead, quick to start, and profitable. That’s OK. Just keep plugging away until something clicks. It’ll be more than worth it to add that extra income to the budget for paying off more debt even faster.

Remember the Golden Rule: Excess Cash Goes to Debt

It all comes down to committing your cash to a purpose ahead of time. No matter how your financial circumstance changes, you’ll know what to do when you’ve got a surplus of money.

You’ll have to come up with a list of things you are willing to do to increase your cash reserves, but if you keep the goal in mind of continually applying extra funds toward debt, you’ll save on interest and also pay down your debt faster.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Strategies to Save

Clever Ways to Make Homeownership More Affordable

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

We all know that aiming to live well below your means will help you save more money, get out of debt, and get ahead financially overall. To supercharge this process, you may want to consider attacking your largest expense: housing.

Just being able to save $200, $500, or more each month on housing could put a large dent in your debt repayment or help you seriously pad your savings. Reducing or eliminating your housing expenses might sound difficult, but there are so many different strategies, at least one could work for you.

What’s more is that these options don’t have to be permanent. You can always go back to a more traditional housing situation once you feel like the arrangement has run its course.

See if one of these ways of cutting your housing costs might work for you.

Be Energy Efficient

The eco-revolution is here, and as a result, there are so many ways to save on utilities. A bonus is that some energy-efficient modifications and products can help you earn federal tax credits.

The list of things you can do is long and can get expensive, but there’s some low-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing your energy consumption:

  • Stop air leaks with caulk, insulation, or weatherstripping
  • Swap out incandescent lights for LED lights
  • Turn down your water heater and get a jacket for it
  • Plug your devices into powerstrips that minimize idle current usage (or unplug devices altogether)
  • Use rainwater barrels for your outdoor water needs
  • Air-dry your clothing
  • Choose light colors on flooring and walls to minimize artificial light use during daylight hours
  • Program your thermostat
  • Get alerts for higher priced kilowatt rates during certain hours of the day

You get the point. The more you can minimize your energy use, obviously the more money you’ll save on these costs. Pick a few that work for you, then use the money saved to get ahead in your finances.

Put Your Bills on Autopay

Not only will this small gesture save your sanity, it could potentially save you fees and penalties connected with late payments. You can set up automatic payments to be deducted from your bank account or a credit card account. If you choose the latter, be sure to avoid carrying a balance from month to month and pay your credit card bill on time as well. Otherwise, the interest and late fees from missing your credit card payment could cancel out the benefits of your autopay setup.

Appeal Your Property Taxes

If you’ve ever gotten those solicitations in the mail from companies that claim to reduce your property tax bill, don’t put it in the junk pile quite yet. According to the National Taxpayers Union, up to 60% of U.S. properties are over-assessed. This means that 60% of Americans could be paying inflated property tax bills.

Many property owners don’t even know that they can get their property tax bill reduced via an appeal process. Because of this, it’s very possible that you are paying too much for your property taxes.

The appeal process to get your taxes can seem daunting, but it’s usually a string of paperwork and deadlines. Of course, you’ll be dealing with government entities so that could add a layer of complexity to the whole ordeal, but it’s not insurmountable.

If you have the time and ambition, it’s a process you could easily undertake yourself. If not, it may be worth hiring help to file and follow up through the property-tax appeal process. If the appeal is successful and your property taxes are reduced, you’d fork over a portion of the savings to the firm or person you hire.

Shop Around for Insurance

If you’ve got home insurance, you are likely to have other policies for vehicles, and perhaps you also have coverage for health and life insurance benefits, too. If you’ve got insurance needs that require multiple policies, you can leverage your buying power to shop around for better rates.

Shopping around for insurance can seem straightforward, but be ready to use your brain to the utmost in this endeavor. Not only will you need to compare prices, but you’ll also want to compare things like coverage amounts, premiums, deductibles, and available riders at the quoted prices.

Fortunately, there are comparison sites and independent insurance agents that can make this task a little easier. Either way you do it, it’s a good idea to check around every once in awhile to make sure your current insurance provider is being competitive and offering you the best rate.

Become a DIYer

One of the most costly expenses of owning a home can be maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. Save money by learning to do some things around the house yourself. There are many resources to help you with anything you don’t know much about, from books, to websites, to YouTube. Though it can take more time, you might come out ahead by cutting your own grass or installing your own kitchen backsplash.

If you’ve got complicated jobs that require special expertise and equipment, consider a partial DIY approach. For example, if you’re redoing your bathroom, you might ask the contractor about things you can do yourself to shave the bill down some. Demolition and cleanup of existing fixtures might be the type of work you can handle.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, but definitely be wise about the projects you decide to take on yourself. Finding the right balance between hiring and DIYing can save you time, money, and headaches as a homeowner.

Rethink Your Home Purchase Plan

Getting a conventional mortgage with vanilla terms that include a 10%-20% down payment and a 30-year loan period are all too familiar to the home-buying public. But if you really want to save on the single largest expense in your life, you might have to be a little more flexible than the standard terms accepted on most home loans.

Larger Down Payment

One approach to consider is putting down at least 20% on your home purchase. This will allow you to skip private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can amount to thousands of dollars over the life of your home loan. PMI can eventually go away over the life of the loan when certain criteria are met, but you can save more money by dumping it sooner than later.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Many people refinance their homes in hopes of getting a lower monthly payment or locking in a lower interest rate. Adjusting these numbers downward can definitely save money for some homeowners over the long run.

However, refinancing your home loan is not a silver-bullet solution that will work in every scenario. In some cases, it makes perfect sense to refinance, and in others, it wouldn’t be a good idea. The best thing to do is run the refinance numbers and make a decision. After doing the math, you might actually find that fees and extended loan terms could cause you to lose money rather than save it.

Make sure you fully understand the terms of your refinanced mortgage along with the potential impact on your entire financial outlook. Most definitely, confirm your assumptions about this move with math. If you need help running the numbers, check out this refinance calculator from myFICO.

Pay Cash for Your Home

While not an option for the average American, paying cash for your home is not unheard of. Paying cash for a home would eliminate tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest, mortgage fees, and PMI. If you think you’d like to go for the gusto and pay cash for a home, consider ways to make this feat possible:

Make Some Lifestyle Changes

Though these options aren’t for everyone, they are still worth a mention. These suggestions are for those who might be willing to change their lifestyle in order to garner the most savings possible when it comes to housing.

Get a Roommate (or Two)

The home-sharing revolution has caught on, and everyone from young professionals to empty nesters are finding boarders on places like Craigslist and Airbnb. If it works out, it can truly be a good solution to help lower your housing costs. Plus, having a roommate can be temporary or longer term, based on your living preferences.

Again, this option is not for the faint of heart. Adding a roommate to your living equation could be utterly disastrous or surprisingly pleasant, so choose your housemates wisely.

Buy a Multifamily Unit, Rent One Unit Out

Depending on the location and property type in these situations, homeowners can often cover their entire mortgage amount with their renters’ payments. It can definitely have its benefits, but don’t buy that two-flat just yet.

Remember, with this arrangement, you’ll be swimming deep in the waters of landlordship. How it all pans out can be based on so many variables: the landlord, tenant, property, location, and a host of other factors can make this arrangement easy income or a nightmarish headache.

If things go wrong with your property, your tenant doesn’t share the burden of fixing things though they live there just the same. There can be costs associated with maintenance and repairs that go well beyond the monthly income your rented unit brings in. You’ll want to have a comfortable cash cushion for incidentals before starting your homeownership journey as a landlord.

Downsize

You don’t have to join the tiny home revolution to downsize (though it’s not a terrible idea). Downsizing can look different for different people. Downsizing for one person might be moving from the lake-view two-bedroom apartment to a studio in a less ritzy location. You’ll have to decide what downsizing looks like for you and if it will be worth the effort.

While you might not be game for all of these suggestions, you can probably adopt a few that could change your financial situation significantly. Whatever measures you choose to save or eliminate your housing costs, make sure you are ready to deal with the consequences. These consequences can be both beneficial and somewhat inconvenient for your quality of life and your financial health. In the end, you’ll have to determine if it’s worth it.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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How to Save on Your Next Family Vacation

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

With spring and summer breaks imminent, many families are already planning their vacations. A 2013 report by American Express puts the average cost of vacation for a family of four at $4,580.

But for most, that’s not an affordable family vacation. With many Americans in large amounts of debt, barely saving for retirement, and unable to cover a $400 emergency, spending $4,000 on a vacation is simply not an option.

That doesn’t mean you should give up on family vacations altogether.

Vacations are a great way for families to bond and spend time with one another. On top of bonding, it’s been noted that people who take time off from work are more productive and enjoy a greater sense of health and wellness overall.

There’s pretty compelling evidence that a family vacation is worth the money, but unless you can get around the hefty price tag, it might be a luxury families will have to forgo. If your family is looking for a budget-friendly trip that won’t require a vacation loan, you might want to consider some of these affordable family vacation options.

National and State Parks

National and state parks are perhaps some of the most under-recognized destinations in the country. Though a Caribbean vacation might seem more luxurious, a visit to a national or state park can compete on so many levels.

Each park varies on pricing, but day passes can start at $20 per person while campsite rentals can be as low as $15 per night.

When it comes to bang-for-buck, these picturesque park sites have so many options for activities that you’ll end up having to choose. Hiking, camping, rafting, and sightseeing are just a few of the low-cost, family-friendly things you’ll find to do.

The draw of national and state parks is in the wide variety and flexibility of the grounds. You will find parks with a variety of climates, landscapes, natural features, and accommodations. If you want something super-rustic, you’ll probably save more money sleeping outside in tents and cooking your own food over a campfire. If you prefer “glamping” or glamorous camping, there are parks with luxury-type cabins and lodges as well.

The key is finding a location that suits your family size, interest, and personality. A little research can help you find the perfect combination of affordability, proximity, and fun.

Stick Close to Home

No matter where you live, chances are you’re close to some place worth visiting by car, train, or bus. If you can’t spring for $350-per-person plane tickets, then driving four to five hours to a destination might be more palatable — and affordable.

What you save on airline tickets could be used toward experiences, meals, and nicer accommodations. Depending on where you live, you might find a nearby farm, amusement or water park, bed and breakfast, or beach that could be just as satisfying as that $4,000 vacation.

You could also stay hyper-local and explore your hometown or neighboring communities. Check with your city or county visitors’ bureau to learn more about local attractions and activities. There are also sites like TripAdvisor, Groupon, and Airbnb experiences that help local visitors find activities and tours according to interests. You’ll find specially curated experiences for small groups, large groups, or families, or arranged around activities like cycling, gastronomy, sightseeing, or crafting.

With the rise in these “microtour” offerings, your family may even be introduced to your very own neighborhood in a different way. More than likely, there are tons of things you haven’t yet explored right in your own backyard. You could stay at home for your local experience or in a nearby hotel for a true “getaway” feel.

Visit with Relatives

Haven’t seen Grandma and Grandpa in a while? Make it a vacation! Visiting with relatives like grandparents can mean intergenerational quality time plus savings on things like food, entertainment, and lodging. Even if your aunts and uncles live in the middle of nowhere, you can plan activities centered around family meals, outings, and games.

A family game night out in the country under the stars can be just as exciting as an all-inclusive cruise or resort stay. Movie night with cousins can be fun with snacks while catching up on old times. With a little creativity, you can make a visit with your kinfolk into an epic family vacation that won’t break the bank.

And the real perk? You can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by crashing with family versus staying at pricey hotels.

Volunteer + Vacation

Family volunteer vacations are increasing in popularity as people want to engage in purpose-centered travel. Many families desire to give their children a sense of perspective via traveling so they can interact with people of different backgrounds, races, income levels, and types of upbringing. A volunteer vacation can be the perfect way to give back, enjoy family time, and save a little money at the same time.

The types of volunteer vacations will vary in focus, pricing, activities, and accommodations. Some programs will provide free or extremely low-cost lodging in exchange for service, but will not necessarily cover travel costs.

If your family is open to working with people or nature, there are some volunteer opportunities that might appeal to you. Farming, in particular, seems to have many opportunities for 1-2 week commitments, but there may be age restrictions for younger members of your family.

Working Weekends on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a network of organic farming sites with over 160 worldwide locations and volunteering opportunities. You’ll have to choose a site and arrangement that would work for your family. You’ll explore listings to find hosts that can accommodate your lodging entirely or at a deep discount.

Websites like Workaway can easily connect you to host families abroad needing help for specific tasks and time periods. Each listing for housing and help will describe the volunteer commitment along with the types of accommodations available in exchange for that work.

Though prepackaged volunteer vacations and networking websites are a good place to start when researching options, don’t be afraid to arrange your own service outing. If you have the time to make phone calls and send emails, it might be worth the effort to create a unique experience designed to serve others that your entire family can take part in.

Go Where the U.S. Dollar Is Strongest

Lastly, you might consider traveling to places where the cost of living is relatively inexpensive. A favorable exchange rate plus a low cost-of-living index could help you vacation like royalty in some places.

The only caveat to this approach is that travel to some places can get very expensive. However, if you are strategic, you can use credit cards that offer travel reward points and miles or cash back to use toward travel to help offset some of the travel costs for your family.

Traveling to an affordable destination would be ideal if you plan to have a longer stay or take a deep dive into local food, activities, or amenities. If your family of four can vacation well on $50-$100 a day or less, it might be worth the plane ticket to get there.

For example, going to a country in South or Central America or the Caribbean could save you tons. Low exchange rates and low-priced accommodations could give you plenty of wiggle room to dine well and participate in varied experiences that would be more expensive elsewhere.

In Cuba, there are fairly nice accommodations that could start as little as $25 per night for an entire apartment rental. Though the convertible peso is pegged to the dollar, the national money is at a ratio of 25 to 1 USD. At this exchange rate, you can get upscale dining options for less than $5 per person.

There are many low-cost activities like walking tours or people watching in one of the many town squares in Old Havana. The museums are plentiful, educational, and interesting. It’s not uncommon to find live music in restaurants or at popular gathering places. Plus, nearby beaches are beautiful with many inexpensive options for dining and snacks.

Costa Rica is becoming a popular destination because it’s easy and affordable to reach from the U.S. One of the most biodiverse places on the planet, it has almost unlimited options for cheap, family-friendly excursions. The national parks are accessible by inexpensive bus rides and can be explored for little to nothing in terms of self-guided or guided tours. A search for lodging on a site like Expedia or Airbnb will produce many results for under $100 per night that can accommodate families of up to 4-5 people.

The whole point of the family vacation is to spend time together, bond, and create lasting memories. If you are flexible and creative, you’ll find that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make that happen.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Featured, Strategies to Save

Clever Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Housing Costs

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

We all know that aiming to live well below your means will help you save more money, get out of debt, and get ahead financially overall. To supercharge this process, you may want to consider attacking your largest expense: housing.

Just being able to save $200, $500, or more each month on housing could put a large dent in your debt repayment or help you seriously pad your savings. Reducing or eliminating your housing expenses might sound difficult, but there are so many different strategies, at least one could work for you.

What’s more is that these options don’t have to be permanent. You can always go back to a more traditional housing situation once you feel like the arrangement has run its course.

See if one of these ways of cutting your housing costs might work for you.

Be Energy Efficient

The eco-revolution is here, and as a result, there are so many ways to save on utilities. A bonus is that some energy-efficient modifications and products can help you earn federal tax credits.

The list of things you can do is long and can get expensive, but there’s some low-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing your energy consumption:

  • Stop air leaks with caulk, insulation, or weatherstripping
  • Swap out incandescent lights for LED lights
  • Turn down your water heater and get a jacket for it
  • Plug your devices into powerstrips that minimize idle current usage (or unplug devices altogether)
  • Use rainwater barrels for your outdoor water needs
  • Air-dry your clothing
  • Choose light colors on flooring and walls to minimize artificial light use during daylight hours
  • Program your thermostat
  • Get alerts for higher priced kilowatt rates during certain hours of the day

You get the point. The more you can minimize your energy use, obviously the more money you’ll save on these costs. Pick a few that work for you, then use the money saved to get ahead in your finances.

Put Your Bills on Autopay

Not only will this small gesture save your sanity, it could potentially save you fees and penalties connected with late payments. You can set up automatic payments to be deducted from your bank account or a credit card account. If you choose the latter, be sure to avoid carrying a balance from month to month and pay your credit card bill on time as well. Otherwise, the interest and late fees from missing your credit card payment could cancel out the benefits of your autopay set-up.

Appeal Your Property Taxes

If you’ve ever gotten those solicitations in the mail from companies that claim to reduce your property tax bill, don’t put it in the junk pile quite yet. According to the National Taxpayers Union, up to 60% of U.S. properties are over-assessed. This means that 60% of Americans could be paying inflated property tax bills.

Many property owners don’t even know that they can get their property tax bill reduced via an appeal process. Because of this, it’s very possible that you are paying too much for your property taxes.

The appeal process to get your taxes can seem daunting, but it’s usually a string of paperwork and deadlines. Of course, you’ll be dealing with government entities so that could add a layer of complexity to the whole ordeal, but it’s not insurmountable.

If you have the time and ambition, it’s a process you could easily undertake yourself. If not, it may be worth hiring help to file and follow up through the property-tax appeal process. If the appeal is successful and your property taxes are reduced, you’d fork over a portion of the savings to the firm or person you hire.

Shop Around for Insurance

If you’ve got home insurance, you are likely to have other policies for vehicles, and perhaps you also have coverage for health and life insurance benefits, too. If you’ve got insurance needs that require multiple policies, you can leverage your buying power to shop around for better rates.

Shopping around for insurance can seem straightforward, but be ready to use your brain to the utmost in this endeavor. Not only will you need to compare prices, but you’ll also want to compare things like coverage amounts, premiums, deductibles, and available riders at the quoted prices.

Fortunately, there are comparison sites and independent insurance agents that can make this task a little easier. Either way you do it, it’s a good idea to check around every once in a while to make sure your current insurance provider is being competitive and offering you the best rate.

Become a DIYer

One of the most costly expenses of owning a home can be maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. Save money by learning to do some things around the house yourself. There are many resources to help you with anything you don’t know much about, from books, to websites, to YouTube. Though it can take more time, you might come out ahead by cutting your own grass or installing your own kitchen backsplash.

If you’ve got complicated jobs that require special expertise and equipment, consider a partial DIY approach. For example, if you’re redoing your bathroom, you might ask the contractor about things you can do yourself to shave the bill down some. Demolition and cleanup of existing fixtures might be the type of work you can handle.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, but definitely be wise about the projects you decide to take on yourself. Finding the right balance between hiring and DIYing can save you time, money, and headaches as a homeowner.

Rethink Your Home Purchase Plan

Getting a conventional mortgage with vanilla terms that include a 10%-20% down payment and a 30-year loan period are all too familiar to the home-buying public. But if you really want to save on the single largest expense in your life, you might have to be a little more flexible than the standard terms accepted on most home loans.

Larger Down Payment

One approach to consider is putting down at least 20% on your home purchase. This will allow you to skip private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can amount to thousands of dollars over the life of your home loan. PMI can eventually go away over the life of the loan when certain criteria is met, but you can save more money by dumping it sooner than later.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Many people refinance their homes in hopes of getting a lower monthly payment or locking in a lower interest rate. Adjusting these numbers downward can definitely save money for some homeowners over the long run.

However, refinancing your home loan is not a silver-bullet solution that will work in every scenario. In some cases, it makes perfect sense to refinance, and in others, it wouldn’t be a good idea. The best thing to do is run the refinance numbers and make a decision. After doing the math, you might actually find that fees and extended loan terms could cause you to lose money rather than save it.

Make sure you fully understand the terms of your refinanced mortgage along with the potential impact on your entire financial outlook. Most definitely, confirm your assumptions about this move with math. If you need help running the numbers, check out this refinance calculator from myFICO.

Pay Cash for Your Home

While not an option for the average American, paying cash for your home is not unheard of. Paying cash for a home would eliminate tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest, mortgage fees, and PMI. If you think you’d like to go for the gusto and pay cash for a home, consider ways to make this feat possible:

Drastically Change Your Lifestyle

Though these options aren’t for everyone, they are still worth a mention. These suggestions are for those who might be willing to change their lifestyle in order to garner the most savings possible when it comes to housing.

Get a Roommate (or Two)

The home-sharing revolution has caught on, and everyone from young professionals to empty nesters are finding boarders on places like Craigslist and Airbnb. If it works out, it can truly be a good solution to help lower your housing costs. Plus, having a roommate can be temporary or longer term, based on your living preferences.

Again, this option is not for the faint of heart. Adding a roommate to your living equation could be utterly disastrous or surprisingly pleasant, so choose your housemates wisely.

Buy a Multifamily Unit, Rent One Unit Out

Depending on the location and property type in these situations, homeowners can often cover their entire mortgage amount with their renters’ payments. It can definitely have its benefits, but don’t buy that two-flat just yet.

Remember, with this arrangement, you’ll be swimming deep in the waters of landlordship. How it all pans out can be based on so many variables: the landlord, tenant, property, location, and a host of other factors can make this arrangement easy income or a nightmarish headache.

If things go wrong with your property, your tenant doesn’t share the burden of fixing things though they live there just the same. There can be costs associated with maintenance and repairs that go well beyond the monthly income your rented unit brings in. You’ll want to have a comfortable cash cushion for incidentals before starting your homeownership journey as a landlord.

Downsize

You don’t have to join the tiny home revolution to downsize (though it’s not a terrible idea). Downsizing can look different for different people. Downsizing for one person might be moving from the lake-view two-bedroom apartment to a studio in a less ritzy location. You’ll have to decide what downsizing looks like for you and if it will be worth the effort.

While you might not be game for all of these suggestions, you can probably adopt a few that could change your financial situation significantly. Whatever measures you choose to save or eliminate your housing costs, make sure you are ready to deal with the consequences. These consequences can be both beneficial and somewhat inconvenient for your quality of life and your financial health. In the end, you’ll have to determine if it’s worth it.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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