Building Your Emergency Kit

This past year and a half have taught us the importance of preparedness, especially when it comes to having supplies on hand. Remember The Great Toilet Paper Rush of 2020? Yeah… As the world slowly begins to recover and reopen, it may be time to restock on vitals and reevaluate what an emergency kit means for your and your family.

The Necessities

Anyone versed in even the bare minimum of emergency preparedness will know that you need a minimum of 3 days supplies for each family member, pets included. This means having food, water, clothing, and medications rationed for 3 days prepped in your car. In the case of the global pandemic, 3 days was a drop in the bucket. Some experts would advise having 2 weeks of supplies set aside, others would caution that 3-6 months is the bare minimum. The same goes for your finances and savings. If you struggle to save, having supplies on hand can be easier than having cash readily available to make purchases. Stock up slowly, by adding just a few extra cans of food and a bag of meat for the freezer to your weekly shopping trip can mean the world when times get lean. For medications, you can ask your provider for an extra emergency prescription, so you won’t need to cut back on your daily meds to save up. Your provider may write for one month or for 3, depending on the type of medication and its shelf life.

Cash

If you have elderly parents or grandparents, they may have told you stories of their parents hiding money and valuables in the mattress after The Great Depression or after WW2. These habits stem from living through desperate times. This last year greatly mirrors the desperation of a hundred years ago. It would be wise of us to learn from our ancestors and begin squirrelling away money for those rainy days, so that we are not caught off-guard should the worst happen. Job loss, injury, accident, Act of God, any of those things can happen at any time. By having savings, both in cash and in the bank, you can breathe a bit easier knowing you can pull through at least for a while.

The Plan

Having a plan for emergencies is key to making it out safely. This is true for natural disasters, accidents, and financial situations! Having backups, making copies of your important information, ensuring your spouse knows the important passwords for accounts, are all part of having a plan. How involved your plan gets is up to you. If you’re the organized type, create a family emergency binder with all the important stuff in one place. If you’re techy, compile a spreadsheet and let your partner know where to locate it on your computer.

No matter your socio-economic status, having an emergency kit can be key to living comfortably when life throws you a curve ball. Start taking steps today to make sure your family can get by just a little more comfortable!

Join us next week for more great ideas and information!

Best Personal Finance Podcasts for 2021

There is no shortage of resources available to aid in personal finance fluency, but not all resources are created equally. Today we will explore the best personal finance podcasts that can help you rebuild post-pandemic.

ChooseFI-Financial Independence Podcast

Co-hosts Brad and Jonathan cover important topics from basic budgeting to pensions, mortgages, investment and so much more. Their delivery leaves you feeling empowered and able to manage your own finances and grow your wealth. Each episode is around 60 minutes, with over 300 episodes available.

Millennial Investing

Hosted by Robert Leonard, this podcast brings a conversational approach to investment education. Leonard speaks with successful entrepreneurs, business leaders and investors to help you improve your investment literacy. Episodes range from 30 minutes to over an hour, with over 150 episodes available.

DIY Money

Co-hosts Quint Tatro and Daniel Czulno offer 15-minute breakdowns of important personal finance news and information, from tax implications to merging finances with a spouse, to managing debt and vetting financial advisors. DIY Money delivers straight-forward information in a conversational manner with meaningful takeaways.

Radical Personal Finance

Joshua Sheats hosts this dynamic podcast, sharing his financial philosophies and strategies to help you gain financial independence in under 10 years.

The Side Hustle Show

If you long to escape the rat-race, this is the podcast for you! Host Nick Loper gives practical advice on how to tap into your inner entrepreneur and build that side-hustle in a way that will break you out of the standard 9-5. These 30-minute episodes are inspiring, and the conversations leave you feeling like you can do it too!

Smart Passive Income (SPI)

If you’re looking to start your side-hustle online, this podcast will help get your started. Host Pat Flynn has been in the game since 2008. He shares his own methods and strategies as well as those of his guests with interesting interviews and advice. Episodes range from 15 minutes to over an hour, with nearly 500 episodes already available online. You won’t want to miss this podcast!

Check back next week for mor great resources, information, and education!

Super Savings Summer!

Summer is here in full swing and that usually means it is time for a vacation! But this year, so many families are still recovering from the financial stresses of 2020. So, this year, we propose a challenge! Super Savings Summer 2021 can be a way to get the whole family excited for savings, or just a way to get yourself back on financial track. Read on for some great tips and ideas to help you save this summer!

Trade in that vacation for a staycation!

Turn your backyard (or the backyard of a friend or relative) into vacation oasis! Break out the kiddie pool, set up a tent and pack the cooler with all your favorite treats! Roast marshmallows around the firepit, fire up the grill and have a water balloon fight! You do not need to break the bank to have some wholesome family fun!

Clipping Coupons

This one seems like a no-brainer, but if you have never dipped into the coupon world, this summer is the perfect time to start! Get the kids in on the game so you can double or triple your clippings and savings! Check out The Krazy Coupon Lady online to get a real schooling on how to coupon for big savings!

Culinary Changes

Save big on your electricity bill by cooking outdoors or skip cooking altogether and try a raw diet this summer! Cooking heats up your home enough that your air conditioner must work overtime to keep up. By cutting out the use of your oven, you can save significantly. Also, raw diets can often help you save significantly on your grocery bill!

Cut The Cord

Challenge your family to cut out those entertainment extras that can easily cost $100/ month. Cut down on the streaming services and take advantage of the longer summer daylight hours by getting outside after dinner for a family walk, play some flag football or go for a leisurely bike ride!

Skip the theme park, hit up the national park!

Theme parks are a family favorite, but for a family of 4, it can easily cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars! Instead, plan an epic camping trip to a national park! The America the Beautiful Park Pass gives you access to all national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management sites, Bureau of Reclamation sites and U.S Army Corps of Engineers sites, all for $80/ year. The pass offers unlimited entrance for the pass owner and all passengers in a single non-commercial vehicle at sites that charge a per-vehicle fee, or valid for the owner and up to three adults at sites that charge per person. Children under 15 are free. You may still have to pay campsite fees.

Come on back next week for greater budget and savings tips!

Evaluating Your Emergency Fund

As Americans begin to recover from the daze and haze that was 2020, one of the biggest things that come to mind is the importance of emergency funds. So many people lost jobs, had hours cut, or were furloughed, and as a result, hundreds of thousands were displaced and struggled to make their rent or lost their housing all together. Others struggled to keep food on the table and relied on food banks and charities, as well as food programs or food stamps to ensure their families were fed. For many, life was a struggle, and their savings accounts were completely exhausted and emptied so that they could stay afloat. Even if you weren’t impacted by the pandemic, having savings set aside for the next big churn may still be weighing heavily on your mind. Let’s explore the practical issues surrounding creating and maintaining a healthy emergency fund!

Finding room in the budget

If you live paycheck-to-paycheck, it may seem near impossible to find room in the budget to save in any meaningful way. That mindset can lead to ignoring the problem completely. Even if you are only able to save $10 per paycheck, it’s still a start! Cut back on fast food, cut down on streaming services, or pick up a low-stress side-hustle to help pad that savings even just a little bit to get you going. Every dollar count, so count every dollar! Buy in bulk or off-brand at the grocery store and see how the savings add up over time.

How much should you have saved?

Before 2020, the standard advice was to have 3-6 months of monthly expenses set aside. In the post-pandemic world? You’d be better off saving about a year’s worth of expenses, or at the very least, a year’s worth of rent or mortgage payments set aside so that you can maintain a roof over your head while figuring out the rest.  That may seem like an insurmountable task, but by starting now, today, you begin the process of securing your own safety and security. And savings doesn’t just pertain to money… As we all saw last year in The Toilet Paper Rush, having a store of household goods, shelf-stable and frozen foods can be a boon when times are tough. Start thinking long-term sustainability and comfort. By picking up a few extra cans of vegetables each grocery trip, you can stock up for those leaner times.

Think Sustainable

In a world filled with disposables, think sustainable. You may spend a bit more upfront for goods but buying better quality products can save you big money in the long run. If you’ve got a product that you find yourself buying repeatedly due to wear and tear, it may be time to think of upgrading to something that will last longer and made sturdier. Those re-purchases can really add up over time! This applies to services too. If you’re spending $100/ month on yard maintenance, it’s time to re-evaluate if you’d be better served doing the yard work yourself. Same goes for pool services, laundry services and even your yearly extermination spraying. If it’s a service that you use out of convenience, weigh out whether your time is more precious than your money.

By trimming the fat and evaluating your current circumstances, you may find there are indeed places where you can trim the fat and save some cash.

Come back next week for more great discussion on finances, savings, and budgeting!

Keeping Kids Busy on A Budget

School is out for summer!! This means kids will underfoot and aching for something to do. Here’s our list of budget-friendly ways to keep your kids entertained and out of trouble all summer long!

Create Your Own Camp

No matter what your kids are passionate about, you can create a summer camp experience for them! If they want to explore cooking, check out some budget-friendly meal programs that come with ingredients and recipes. You’ll nurture your little chef’s kitchen escapades and save on the grocery bill and waste too! Let the kids pick what meals they’d like to prepare and explore different cuisines through culinary exploration while adding in some cultural education too! If you’ve got a STEM kid on your hands, check out Pinterest for some great, cheap science experiments to try out at home! A lot of the material you’ll already have under your sink or in the pantry! Have kids explore the scientific method and create a science journal so they can record their experiments, observations, and results!

Book Club

If you’ve got a bookworm on your hands, or want to create one, find a local or online book club! www.getepic.com is a great resource that will give your child access to thousands of titles, fun games and quizzes and an award system to help them track their progress for less than $3.50/ month or check out your local library for their summer reading lists!

Workshops

Home Depot, Michaels and other hobby and DIY companies often offer weekly kid’s workshops or even creativity camps where they can paint tiles, make flowerpots, and create cement garden plaques. Check out what’s available near you!

Geocaching!

Whether you want to explore your own neighborhood or take a little road trip, geocaching can make an adventure out of any outing! Geocaching lets you find and leave treasures for new explorers, learn about geography and mapping, and lets you get in touch with nature too! Learn more about geocaching here!

Local Nature Preserve

If you live in suburbia, it may be a little difficult to find ways to get some fresh air and get into nature. Check to see if your city or any neighboring cities have a riparian preserve. You’ll get a chance to stroll in nature, see new animals and birds and often, preserves will have guided hikes or children’s education programs!

Volunteer

For older kids, check out www.volunteermatch.org to find great ways to give back to the community and spend time making new friends!

There’s no shortage of ways to keep kids entertained on a budget, you just need a little inspiration and creativity! Help kids stay on a schedule, even while having a fun-filled summer!

Lumber and The Housing Market

There is no denying that it is a seller’s market. If you are a homeowner, you are likely fielding cold calls from companies offering cash for your home at least once a week, and if you are searching for a home to buy, you know that even the humblest of homes are being sold sometimes within hours of being placed on the market.

Due to how competitive the market is this year; potential buyers are turning to new construction in record numbers. But due to the lumber shortage, those buyers are looking at an average of $36,000 extra cost for a single-family home and an added $13,000 to the market value of a new multifamily home. About 1 in 4 homes for sale are newly build, the highest share on record. Historically, new homes make up around 1 in 10 of houses on the market. Lumber prices are setting new records daily, up 340% from a year ago according to wood products industry tracking firms.

The skyrocketing prices can be blames on various factors beyond simple high demand. Lumber tariffs caused the prices to rise over a year ago, but with the pandemic shutdowns, production came to a halt as well. Just as what has happened in the chip manufacturing industry, the wood industry saw extreme missteps in projected needs. The expectation was that the housing demand would remain at a stand-still for a long time. In fact, the reverse occurred. After a very brief pause in home purchases, demand came back with a boom. Homebuilders and lumber producers were caught off guard and the catch-up game has been challenged by the tariffs and lack of domestic supply. Until the industry can reach its full production potential, the shortage will persist and the difficulty in finding a home to buy will continue for the foreseeable future.

Summer Side Hustles

Summer is the perfect time start making some extra cash. People are vacationing and demand is high for all things recreational! Here’s some quick, easy ways to turn an easy profit!

Offer Tours

If you live someplace beautiful with hidden gems, offer to be a tour guide to travelers! You set your own schedule and your own hourly pay!

Rent Out Your Pool

Depending on where you live, your pool could make you up to $150 an hour. Sign up for Swimply today! Pools that offer guests use of a restroom always go for higher. Swimply also covers up to $1 million in insurance for owners.

Rent Out Your Recreational Toys!

If you have got a boat, a few jet skis, an ATV, or any other recreational vehicle, put it up for rent on GetMyBoat. You can even add a surcharge for vehicles returned without gas.

Rent Your Home for The Weekend

If you have plans to travel, make some of that money back by listing your home on Airbnb. You can easily cover your trip expenses! If you don’t plan to travel, ask a friend if you can crash for the weekend and list your pad anyways! You’ll can make some extra cash, spend time with loved ones, and splurge on dinner for everyone!

Delivery!

Sign up for Instacart, Lyft, Uber, or any other local delivery service in your free time. People spend more money for the convenience when it’s sweltering out, so take advantage!

Lifeguard

If you dream of spending the summer by the pool, why not make money while you’re at it? Lifeguards get paid anywhere from $15-$60 per hour!

Online Tutoring

There is always a need for tutors, and not just in those same old school subjects! You can make $20 an hour easily by teaching the elderly how to use the internet, Zoom and other social media sites. Drop a few flyers at your local senior center!

Think outside the box and find a need that you can fill while filling up your bank account!

Join us next week for more great information and personal finance tips!

Summer Savings: Cheap and Fun Staycation Ideas

If you’re still recovering from the economic stresses of 2020, you may be dreaming of a tropical paradise on a pauper’s budget. Never fear, we have got some solid, thrifty, and fun ideas to help you enjoy your time off!

Camp Out

If you’re up for a road trip, pack up the car and head to cooler climes for a weekend of camping! Rent, borrow or buy your camping gear for a low-cost vacation that will help you recharge and reconnect with nature!

Bucket List Your City

If you live in or near a metropolitan area, chances are you haven’t seen even a quarter of the wonders your city has to offer. Create a bucket list of museums, galleries, restaurants, and sights you always wanted to check out and start checking off some of those boxes! Use travel sites to help you find hidden gems you never even knew you had right down the road!

Wine Tasting or Beer Gardens

Depending on where you live, chances are your state has a few famous brews or vino choices you’ve yet to explore. Make a night of it and ask a few friends to each bring their favorite local beverage. Set out some candles on the patio and enjoy a night of flavor!

Rent local

If you can’t afford a luxury vacation, check out the prices of AirBnb or hotels near you. Try for non-peak days to save extra cash and avoid the rush too! Getting out of your own space and into something a little different can help you break out of that funk!

Bring the Spa Home

Create a spa experience in your own home and pamper yourself and a few close pals! Don your coziest robes or pajamas, give each other mani-pedis and facials, pop some champagne and enjoy a luxurious day in the comfort of your own home!

Music in the Park

Spend the evening on a blanket with a loved one, listening to music and enjoying the weather at a Music in the Park event. Check your local event pages to find one near you! Pack a picnic for added romance!

Rent A Hot Rod

Rent a Hot Rod or a convertible for the night and drive around in style! You’ll get a thrill out of the experience and it won’t break the bank!

There are tons of great ways to spend your staycation without feeling like you missed out. Get creative, save some major cash, and enjoy the world around you!

Come back next week for more great tips and info!

Getting in On the Card Game

If you haven’t heard, sports cards are back in vogue and in astronomical demand! Yes, sports cards, like MBA and NFL collectable cards from your childhood. In fact, the demand is so high that PSA Authentication and Grading Services, the gold standard in sports collectibles grading, has shut down several services due to overwhelming demand. They simply could no longer keep up with the boom.

This has left the industry in a tight spot. The backlog at PSA has reached over one million cards! But the shutdown of these services has not affected the massive rush that occurs with card drops. Card releases, or card “drops”, are scheduled release dates for card packs, boxes, and special edition trading cards. And the trend is on the rise.

In fact, Target has recently had to discontinue carrying cards in store out of an “abundance of caution” after a parking lot brawl that resulted in a man pulling a gun on 4 men who were attacking him over the collectibles. This news has resulted in much anticipation on Discord servers dedicated to card buying and selling. Target will continue to sell cards online, which means the ante is up for buyer’s savvy enough to use retail bots that can procure purchases in milliseconds after a card drop.

Why the hype?

One good buying day can result in resales with a profit of hundreds or thousands of dollars, and a few cards can even go for millions of dollars. The resurgence in popularity of the pastime can be chalked up to the pandemic. People had a lot of time on their hands to discover or rediscover a passion for trading cards. For some, it’s about being a part of the fandom. For others, it’s purely profit. For serious collectors, there are collectible funds formed for the purpose of buying and sitting on valuable cards. It is almost like a hedge fund for trading cards.

Will the trend continue?

There have been spikes in popularity of trading cards in nearly every decade since the 1950s. Manufactured scarcity by producers can keep the game going for years, driving up prices for cards. Many collectors hold out hope of finding their white whale that will sell for life-changing money. And for the lucky few, it does happen. Just last year a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in nearly perfect condition sold for $5.2 million.

The Bottom Line

Perhaps it’s time to go digging through the attic for your card binder or hit up your grandparents for theirs. You may just find your golden ticket.

Join us next week for more great information and education!

Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loan forgiveness has been a highlight in the news lately, and with the looming end of the student loan forbearance coming up in just a few months (September 30th, 2021) there’s no wonder why. America holds over $1.7 trillion in student debt. President Biden has expressed support of $10,000 forgiveness per person, though Democrats are pushing for a higher $50,000 forgiveness.

It seems that President Biden has swayed in his opinion on forgiveness, as on April 1st he asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona whether it was within the president’s power to cancel $50k in student loan debt. The Department of Education has not yet released its findings. Until the findings are released, we likely won’t see any major moves made. Biden might be able to sign an executive order to cancel some student loan debt per person, or Congress may have to pass a bill if cancellation is outside of Biden’s purview.

As it stands, there are currently a few forgiveness options for those who qualify.

  • If you have a disability, you may qualify for forgiveness and discharge of your student loans.
  • The Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a program that forgives federal direct student loans for borrowers that hold a government or non-profit job, after 120 qualifying on-time payments in an income-driven repayment plan. In recent years there has been some significant issues with this forgiveness program. Since 2007, when the program began, nearly 99% of applicants have not been approved. In 2020 it was found that the Office of Federal Student Aid had been mischaracterizing employers, causing qualified applicants to be labeled as ineligible.
  • Borrowers on an income-driven repayment plan, where the monthly payments are no more than 10% of the borrower’s discretionary income, can have their loan balance forgiven after 20 years for undergrads or 25 years for grad students.

The Wrap Up

Though we won’t know for sure whether student loan forgiveness is on the table yet, there is reason to be hopeful. Over 1 million Americans have signed petitions for forgiveness, and with mounting pressure from the democratic party to pursue student debt, we may see some relief sooner rather than later.

For more information you can visit www.studentaid.gov