Less than $2,500 More than $2,500
Always Never Sometimes
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One of the best ways to keep credit card payments as low as possible is to use a credit card with a low interest rate. In many cases, new credit card customers can get an interest rate of 0 percent for as many as 18 months after signing up. Those who have a large balance on a current credit card account may wish to transfer that balance and save money on their monthly payments. What are some situations when making a credit card balance transfer makes sense?

You Don’t Like Your Current Credit Card

If you think that you deserve a higher credit line, would like to take advantage of cash back rewards or simply don’t like your credit card anymore, it could be a good excuse to make a transfer. In the event that your new credit card comes with a higher balance, it could help your credit score as you are not using as much of your available credit.

Additionally, you could increase your credit score if your new credit line reduces your current debt balance to less than 30 percent of your total credit. For instance, if you owed $5,000 on a $5,500 credit line, you would have a credit card utilization rate of almost 100 percent. However, if you had a credit limit of $15,000, you would be closer to the 30 percent threshold that credit bureaus love when calculating your credit score.

When you switch to a new credit card, the company that you switch to may have better customer service. This can be important if you have to dispute a debt or accidentally make a late payment. In some cases, you will be hit with a large interest rate increase and late charge for making a payment even a few minutes late. However, other credit card companies may allow you to make one payment late without incurring any type of penalty. This can help your wallet now and your credit in the future by switching to a credit card company that allows for a late payment every so often.

The Promotional Period on Your Current Card is Almost Up

If the promotional period on your current credit card is almost up, it may be time to look for a new card that you can put that balance on. As long as you have good credit and a history of making timely payments, you should be able to roll your credit balances almost indefinitely. However, you may want to consider making a payment plan that you can stick to at some point as your debt may continue to rise over time. Credit card companies often increase the amount of credit available to those who make their payments on time, which could cause you to overextend yourself if you don’t budget properly.

You May Wish to Transfer All of Your Balances to One Card

Those who are thinking about consolidating their debt may wish to put all of their balances onto one card with a low interest rate. This can make it easier to keep track of your credit card debt as well as make only one monthly payment. When you only have to make one payment, it is a lot harder to forget to make that payment. It can also show you exactly how much debt you have to pay off. Seeing that you have $10,000 in total debt may make paying off that debt a higher priority as opposed to having $1,000 on one card, $1,400 on another and so on.

If you do consolidate all of your debt onto one card, do not cancel your existing cards. All this will do is hurt the average age of your credit, which could lower your score and ability to get additional credit in the future. For the most part, you can continue to keep those cards open with a $0 balance without running the risk of having your account closed. Anyone who is worried that they may use the money in the future may wish to cut up their credit cards or reduce the balance on those cards.

Make a Transfer Whenever it Helps Your Finances

There is never a bad time to make a balance transfer if it fits into your financial profile. Lowering your interest rate and lowering your credit card payment is never a bad decision even if you don’t necessarily need to do it. If you find a card that offers perks that you can use now such as cash back on gas or groceries, it can put even more savings into your pocket. During the holiday season, it may not be a bad idea to get a card that offers 5 percent cash back on purchases that you were planning to make anyway. You should also consider transferring to a credit card that provides you with your FICO credit score. Doing so can help you track your credit while you get a better handle on your overall spending.

A credit card balance transfer can be a great way to keep your spending in check while helping you get a better handle on your debt. Additionally, most cards come with cash back or other perks that can further help you save money on the things that you buy each day. Therefore, there is never a bad time to search for and switch to any tool that helps you remain financially secure and financially independent.

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After the financial crisis of 2008, it became almost impossible to buy a home, forcing would-be home buyers into the renters’ market and driving up the prices of apartments around the country. Some of the cities to take the largest hits in rising rent prices are also some of the most well-known cities in the country; however, some might surprise you. Nabbing an apartment in one of these cities can be extremely competitive due to low vacancy percentages so having stellar credit is a must to be considered for an apartment.

1. New York City, NY
The Big Apple is notorious for having some of the highest rents in the country. Not only is the rent in Manhattan as high as its skyscrapers, but rents in Brooklyn and Queens are rising upward. With rent prices so high in Manhattan, residents have little choice but to cross the river. The average price for a small one bedroom in Manhattan is around $3,000. Considering back in 2009, the average price was around $2,000, the cost of living has substantially grown in the past six years alone.

2. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities for renters, but it turns out, the areas around the city proper are also pricey. Apartments within a 10-mile radius of the city by the bay average at around $3,000 a month for a one bedroom. In 2009, these prices were significantly lower—only $1,400 for a one bedroom. Large companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have imported employees in the past six years, causing rents to climb as high as New York’s.

3. Los Angeles, CA
Though Los Angeles is known as a wealthy city, the average price of an apartment is not as expensive as its neighbor to the north. The average price of a one bedroom in LA costs around $1,800 a month. In 2009, the average cost was only around $1,300, which means the cost of living has only increased by $500 a month in the past six years—a significantly smaller percentage the San Francisco or New York. Rents get pricier in neighborhoods like Century City and South Park, where neighborhoods like Hollywood and North Arroyo are on the lower end.

4. Seattle, WA
While Seattle hasn’t been known for outrageous rent prices in the past, in 2014, the rainy city saw over an eight percent spike in rent thanks to Amazon’s new campus. The online company brought in over 10,000 employees in 2014 and plans on importing at least twice that amount in 2015. The average rent for an apartment jumped from $1,000 to $1,400 in less than six months. Trendy neighborhoods like Bellevue saw the greatest increase with apartments rising to $1,654. The neighborhood of Ballard saw the largest percentage spike as its rents were raised almost 13 percent in a one-year time period.

5. Austin, TX
Though the state of Texas isn’t known for pricey apartments, the city of Austin has the highest rent in the state. The typical minimum wage employee would need to work a 111-hour workweek in Austin just to afford a two-bedroom apartment. In Austin, the minimum price for a two-bedroom apartment is just over $1,250 where the rest of Texas boasts prices under $900 a month. The most expensive neighborhood in Austin is Old West Austin that sees prices at around $1,800 a month. The cheapest neighborhood in the city is Rosedale that has two bedrooms for $1,200.

6. New Haven, CT
With New York City residents fleeing Manhattan and the other boroughs’ spike in rent prices, New Haven, Connecticut has received much of the overflow. Just over an hour train ride to the city, New Haven is slowly becoming a commuter enclave. The average rent in New Haven was around $1,300 in 2014. For a city that’s considered one of the worst cities to live in? Not great prices. In 2014, New Haven made it to number three on the most violent cities in America to live in. Connecticut also has some of the highest taxes in the country, making New Haven even more expensive.

7. Boston, MA
Boston tops the most expensive cities, hovering around New York and San Francisco rents. The average rent in Boston is around $2,900 a month. With the average household income at just over $53,000, this figure seems practically impossible. Vacancy rates are only just under six percent, making apartment hunting that much harder. Many residents, like in New York City, are heading outside the city proper for better deals and more vacancies. Rents in the neighborhood of East Cambridge were at the top of the spectrum while Mid-Cambridge apartments were a little more affordable.

8. Washington, D.C.
It’s no wonder so many rich politicians live in cushy digs in D.C. The rents in the city have only grown by about $300 in the past six years but remain high nonetheless. The average one bedroom in the capital city is around $1,700 a month and the average two bedroom is around $2,400 a month. This is quite high compared to the city of Baltimore, which has average one bedrooms at around $1,000 a month. Though the crime in Baltimore is much higher, many federal workers choose to live here and take the 45-minute train ride into the city and forgoing the steep Washington prices.

9. Santa Ana, CA
Though not a major metropolitan city like San Francisco or Los Angeles, Santa Ana is one of the most expensive cities in the country for renters. The average price for a rental in this city is around $2,000 a month. When you consider the city is located just 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, it’s surprising that the city’s apartment prices are actually more expensive than that of a major metropolitan area. The population of Santa Ana is only just under 330,000 residents. The apartment prices are expected to grow by four percent each year.

10. Minneapolis, MN
Renters might expect the town to cap the Midwest’s most expensive rentals would be the windy city, but Minneapolis is actually topping the chart on this one. This once economical city broke the $1,000 mark in 2014 and is expected to see some more raises in rent. Perhaps it has something to do with Minneapolis and St. Paul becoming the insurance capitals of America (taking the title from Hartford, Connecticut) and bringing in new employees. The insurance companies originally moved to Minnesota for the cheap rents. Will they set a new rent level?

Whether or not you’re planning on moving to one of the below cities, maintaining good credit is the key to getting your dream apartment—wherever you may live.a

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If you’ve obtained a credit card in the past few years, it’s likely that the associated credit card company has attempted to sell you additional services that they offer. Identity theft coverage. Debt consolidation. Credit score tracking. These are all services that credit card companies urge customers to purchase. They sound logical and enticing at the time of the company rep’s pitch, but are they really worth it? Each person has a unique financial situation. However, the universal answer to this question is a resounding, “NO.”

These are six examples of supplemental services offered by credit card companies that you ultimately do not, and will never need.

Identity Theft Coverage/Insurance

Identity theft coverage/insurance is a “convenient” service offered by many credit card companies that promises financial protection in the event that a customer falls victim to fraudulent charges on their cards. While the the idea makes sense in theory, many customers aren’t aware that they are already protected by default (and for free) from identity theft. The Truth in Lending Act protects cardholders from being responsible for more than $50 in fraudulent charges if they report the illicit activity as soon as possible.

This is why it’s pointless from all angles to purchase identity theft coverage/insurance. Some card companies will also warn you that this type of coverage is useful in dire situations where other cards, or even your Social Security number, have been compromised. Even if you’re looking to avoid these scenarios, your money is better spent on a paper shredder. It simply doesn’t ever make sense to purchase identity theft coverage/insurance.

Missed Payment Coverage/Insurance

This type of protection has become more popularly offered by credit card companies as of late. Many sales reps will attempt to sell this coverage by explaining that your payments can be placed on hold for literally years if you ever find yourself in a financial catastrophe. Card companies will generally charge around 5% of the total outstanding balance in fees for this service. While it sounds useful at face value, this one takes a bit of contemplation to understand how pointless it is.

Consider the fact that the odds are slim to none of you being in a financial catastrophe for years on end. If you are a responsible card holder, it’s likely that you rarely carry a balance from month to month. In this case, this coverage has no real purpose. Missed payment coverage could be useful for a cardholder who carries large balances, but even then, it’s risky in general to carry hefty balances at any time. A savings account that you casually manage would be more useful for a missed payment safety net than this phony service.

Credit Score Tracking

To the average person, their credit score means quite a lot. However, credit score tracking provides 24/7, ongoing access to it. In the grand scheme of things, this is virtually never necessary. This is especially true if you’re going to be charged for it. While you might be able to think of semi-reasonable scenarios in which this service would help, you could probably realistically live without it.

Credit scores change with time, and while everyone would like to keep closer tabs on their particular performance, it’s just not necessary. If you’re doing everything you can to positively impact your score, there’s absolutely no sense in paying fees just to watch those magical numbers change on a computer monitor. It’s much more sensible to grab a yearly report from AnnualCreditReport.com at the start of each year. Even the major credit bureaus such as TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian offer users extended access for a price. This type of privilege is almost never necessary when it all boils down.

Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation is a service seen more commonly offered by businesses rather than card companies. These businesses are incredibly good at making debt consolidation out to be a catch-all solution. However, it is nowhere near being what it’s cracked up to be. Debt consolidation businesses attract their customers by advertising low and manageable monthly payments. What they don’t spend too much time talking about is the fact that debt consolidation greatly increases how long a person stays in debt. Likewise, the person in debt will end up paying much more in the end than they originally owed.

Try to think about it like this: no creditor would ever actively restructure a person’s debt if they weren’t after some sort of cut. With that in mind, it’s quite obvious that debt consolidation never lowers debt or makes it easier to manage. Debt consolidation companies are in the business to merely move your debt around so that it’s temporarily more easy for you to manage it. That’s it. You should always avoid these types of services if at all possible.

Credit Score Repair

Because the world is largely in debt, credit card companies notoriously offer credit score repair services to their customers. This offer tends to work on those who are not familiar with how credit scores work and are also under the impression that a magic wand can be waived in order to alleviate credit score woes.

When broken down, credit scores are not mysteries to be intensely explored. A credit score quite literally boils down to five counterparts. These are the length of the credit history, payment history, amounts owed / outstanding balances, new credit lines, and credit types used.

That’s it. Credit repair services cannot be manipulated with special services or tricks. When you purchase a credit repair service, you are essentially paying for things that you could already do without help. This includes steadily minimizing outstanding balances, paying bills on time, monitoring how often you open credit cards, and so on.

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Top Tax Season Tips

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The tax season begins in mid-January, giving filers three months to gather all their information and prepare to file. For filers expecting a refund, tax season might be something to look forward to. It’s almost like a savings plan, receiving untouched money in a lump sum.

On the other hand, those who make too much, or do not have enough deductions, or simply did not withhold as much, tax season becomes a thing of dread as they expect to pay the IRS. Furthermore, for those with complex returns with all the itemized deductions, credits and so on, tax season is immediately stressful. Three months might seem like far too little time to track down all the receipts and other necessary items.

Depending on a filer’s situation, tax season can be a welcome thing or it can be a season of dread. However, no matter how complicated or simple a filer’s situation is, tax season does not have to be full of stress. Planning for tax season the other nine months of the year and following these tips can help make the season easier.

File Online

Filers with easy returns and even those with semi-complex returns should consider filing their taxes online. There are many places to file online, from the IRS site to one of the most prominent tax programs of all time, Turbo Tax. Many online tax programs have affordable fees and some do not charge for simply using their software. You can also use an online site to fill out the return, then file manually through the mail.

Simple returns up to semi-complicated ones are the best type of taxes to file online. It saves money on using an accountant or patronizing a tax agency. Online filing sites typically offer plenty of guidance for those who are not used to doing their own taxes. Sometimes the sites even eschew using a model of IRS forms, but instead ask pertinent questions that fill out the forms. Online services also do a good job of presenting every option to make sure filers are getting all the credits they qualify for.

Online filing services typically let the filer know during the return and how much money they are due for a refund, or conversely, how much money they owe.

Understanding All Available Tax Credits

It is extremely important to understand tax credits and which ones are available for which situations. This is something that online filers especially will want to be aware of. Understanding tax credits can give filers a heads up on whether they might get a refund or whether they can feel comfortable about filing taxes individually instead of with an agency or accountant.

Most people are unaware of at least a few different tax credits that are available to them. Tax credits exist for renters, student loans, dependents, job-hunters and work related expenses. Filers should check guidelines carefully for credits that might apply to them.

Another reason to investigate credits ahead of time is that it helps gauge whether filing online will be easy or more complicated. If several credits or deductions are available to one filer, it might be easier to let a tax agency take care of it.

Debt Consolidation

Tax season is ultimately about finances. When filers are investigating their finances for credits or information, it might also be a good time to determine if there is also debt to be dealt with. Upon looking through expenses, a person might discover that the interest on their credit card bills is extensive and minimum payments are not moving the balance. If that happens to be the case, consider looking for a zero percent APR credit card with balance transfer options.

There are many options out there for new cards and quite a few of them offer a zero percent intro rate for balance transfers. The time limit on the rate can even be up to 18 months, just as an incentive to get people to switch cards. Take advantage of this type of offer and work on consolidating debt for next tax season.

Spending Cuts

For filers that know they will end up paying, the pressure to find money elsewhere can be overwhelming. One solution is to implement temporary spending cuts. Start setting aside money from paychecks early to prepare for a potential IRS expense. Putting the set aside money in an account with interest can be a way to make the money work while it’s being set aside.

One clue as to whether a filer can expect to pay in any particular year is how much money was removed from their check during the year. If a person does not pay much in taxes from each check, they should expect to more than likely owe money to the IRS next tax season. If the money is substantial, they may be put on a payment plan, which is an additional monthly bill.

The good news is that most people can find plenty of little ways to cut spending. It might mean not going out to eat as much, or not driving as far, or it might mean cutting back on entertainment, such as trips to the movie theater or a concert. Work on categorizing unavailable income and disposable income. Unavailable income should include bills as well as the amount decided upon for a future IRS payment. Disposable income is essentially the amount left over from this.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid being in the red when tax season rolls around is to restructure paychecks to make sure more taxes are being paid rather than less. That makes it more likely that a refund will be owed the following year. For those who do not like the idea of the IRS holding onto their money for a year, consider taking the amount out that the IRS would take and then putting it into an interest-bearing account. That way, the money is still counted as unavailable, but will be making money in the meantime.

With a little extra planning, every filer can take some of the burden and stress out of tax season.

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Everyone envisions retirement as the golden years where you live a lavish life off your substantial nest egg. The sad reality is that most retirees find themselves having to get a second job to maintain their standard of living. Everybody should be rich at retirement. All it takes is the proper long-term planning throughout one’s career. Three of the most important keys to retiring rich are sound investment strategies, smart spending habits, and setting financial goals. Let’s look at these three areas in more detail.

Sound Investment Strategies

The biggest difference between retiring rich and having to work a part-time job is sound investment strategies. Research has shown that those with a solid knowledge of investment strategy earn an average of 1.3% more annually than their peers. That amounts to over 25% more in their retirement fund over the span of a 30 year career. So what do these people understand that others don’t?

There are 3 basic principles to a good investment strategy. The first principle is understanding interest rates. Most savings accounts earn an annual interest. For example, you’d accrue $1 in interest on a savings account that has $100 and 1% interest. The problem with savings accounts as a long-term wealth building strategy is the inflation rate; which is the second principle. If you have a 1% interest rate but the inflation rate is 2%, then the value of your money will decrease 1%. Over the long-term your best option is to invest in a money mutual fund. Money mutual funds often let you draw from it as if it was a savings account, and offers an interest rate that is generally higher than the rate of inflation.

The third and most important principle is risk. Managing risk is the difference between the millionaires and the investors who go broke. Beware of the shady stockbroker who will sell you the financial equivalent of snake oil just because it pays a higher commission. Your safest option is to always understand an investment enough to make an educated decision independent of anyone else’s influence. You have to fully understand the level of risk you are comfortable with, and as long as you don’t cross that line you will see sustained return on investment over the long term. One of the less risky investment options is a stock mutual fund, which diversifies your investments into several companies instead of a single stock in one company. This is like hedging your bets at the roulette table.

The final piece of investment advice is to understand the difference between investing in stock and investing in bonds. Basically, you should always opt for stocks over bonds if you’re in it for the long-term. Stocks may be more volatile short-term but they pay exponentially more over the long-term.

Smart Spending Habits

Next to investment strategies, smart spending habits are the most important factor for being rich in retirement. The spending habits regarding your cash is way less important than your credit spending habits. No matter how bad you are with cash, you can’t spend cash you don’t have. The biggest danger of being bad with cash is it forces you to rely on credit more than you should. This starts a downward spiral that makes saving for retirement virtually impossible.

The biggest killer of retirement dreams is debt. Millions of people bury themselves in debt by using credit to spend money they don’t have. This leads to bad credit, which in turn leads to more expensive payments for things like mortgages and car payments.

The best way to use credit is to treat it like a debit card. For example, if you make a $200 purchase you should have that $200 by the end of the month; otherwise, you should not make the purchase. If you stick to this strategy religiously you will never spend money you don’t have.

This purchasing strategy of paying off all purchases at the end of the month lets you avoid interest charges on most cards. It also builds great credit, which saves you money in the long-term through low interest rates.

Be smart when choosing a credit card. There are several options that offer all types of rewards, from cash back to flight points. Do your homework and select the best card that fits your spending style.

Setting Financial Goals

The third and final component of being able to retire rich is setting financial goals. One of the most popular financial goals is the “100 rule”. This rule states that to determine which percentage of your assets should be in stock, you subtract your age from 100. Some experts say this should be 110 minus your age.

The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as too young to think about saving for retirement. All you have to do is make sound investments from the first year of your career and by the time you retire those stocks will be able to fund a retirement lifestyle fit for the rich and famous.

The other aspect of setting financial goals is a healthy mix of long-term and short-term savings goals. For example, say you have 20 years until retirement and you want a million dollars to live on. You can break down that long term goal as a $50,000 increase on the return on investment of $50,000 each year. This helps make your lofty goals become concrete and obtainable.

When it is all said and done, retiring rich comes down to how much you commit to that goal. Retirement is something most people envision as a right, and they are sorely disappointed when they realize they need to pick up a part-time job to support their lifestyle. The reality is a high quality retirement comes from committing to an investment strategy from day one. Knowing the basics of things like interest rate, inflation rate, and risk is essential. If you can manage your credit well and spend within your means, your investments will flourish over the long-term and by the time you’re ready to retire you will have enough of a nest egg to live the high life.

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Couples sometimes wait until they are married to have important talks related to finances, but these types of discussions need to be had at an earlier stage in a relationship. Marriages can fail because of financial difficulties and disagreements about money, so it is important to talk about these things before a relationship gets too serious. Without open and honest discussions related to finances, couples can damage their relationships due to differences in the ways each individual handles money, their different attitudes toward spending and saving, and their general financial habits. The following topics need to be discussed in relationships. The sooner couples have this talk, the better their chances of working out differences that relate to money management before it is too late.

Discuss each person’s financial histories

Asking a partner about his or her financial history can be a difficult subject to casually bring up in conversation, but having the discussion despite that discomfort can solve many future problems. Having lots of credit card debt or a low credit score can help couples understand the financial position they would find themselves in if they were to get married. It is much better to have this information in advance. Debts can be paid off, and credit scores can improve over time. However, the strain financial problems can put on a relationship can do irreparable damage.

Be open and honest

Each person needs to be honest about debts, credit scores, and general philosophies regarding saving and spending. These discussions should also include information about future financial plans and goals. Based on these types of talks, a couple is more prepared for the financial realities they are likely to face in the future. A couple can also use these conversations to create a plan for joint spending and to prepare for upcoming expenses like weddings or mortgages.

Clearly define financial goals

Talking about financial goals early on gives couples time to plan the best strategies for achieving their goals. If credit scores need to be improved, if debts need to be paid down, or if more credit is needed to build a solid rating, those things can be addressed. Waiting too long can mean having to put off purchases like homes, cars or other things that can greatly affect a couple’s quality of life. If one person in a relationship has a very different idea about how money should be spent, these discussions can lead to compromise. Alternatively, they can also help a couple understand where their philosophies differ, and alert them to potential deal-breakers early on.

Look at each individual’s credit scores

When people get married, they suddenly begin to share lots of things they did not previously share. A credit score is not one of those things. Each person in a union still has a personal credit score, and each of those scores matter. After marriage, joint accounts may help the person with the lowest score obtain credit that the person would not have qualified for on their own. Joint accounts, however, must be handled carefully to avoid damaging both partners’ credit scores. When joint accounts are opened, that is reflected on each individual’s credit score, but missed or late payments will also appear on each person’s credit report. These types of oversights can then damage both individual credit scores. Sitting down together and looking at credit reports might not sound like a romantic evening, but this information can help a couple determine a long-term strategy for handling finances.

Disclose Debt

People sometimes think that hiding debt from a significant other is a good idea. However, this can be damaging to not only a relationship, but also to both partners’ financial future. Because credit-to-debt ratios are factored in when determining a person’s overall credit score, secret debt can damage both individuals’ credit. If a partner takes on debt without having an accurate idea of the overall amount already owed by the other person, this can push the debt-to-credit ratio high enough to increase interest rates or cause credit to be denied. Situations like this can be avoided by being open and honest about debt. That individual will not be nearly as disappointed to hear that information coming from a significant other as they would be if they had to learn it from a banker while applying for a loan and being denied.

Talk about buying a home

When couples apply for loans, lenders check each person’s score and use the lowest one. This means that planning for a home purchase needs to be discussed early on in a relationship so that both individuals can work toward financial health. Wise homeowners put as much down as they can in order to get a lower interest rate. They also wait until they can afford home improvements and furniture. Put down at least 20% on a house in order to avoid private mortgage insurance, and wait until each person has at least a credit score of 720 before applying for loans.

Create a financial plan together

A couple that begins planning early for big expenses like homes and weddings can save lots of money in the long run by saving up for these things in advance. This can mean paying little or no interest on large purchases, and it can mean getting practice working together financially to achieve goals. Having a financial plan is important, and it is especially important for couples. They need to be able to work together to achieve financial goals if they plan to save up for retirement together. If one person is not good at sticking to a spending plan, this is good information to know early on in a relationship. It may not be the end for the couple, but it could prevent one person from being tasked with financial responsibility that individual can’t handle.

Joint bank accounts versus individual bank accounts

Be sure to also talk about bank accounts. Not all couples opt to have a single joint bank account. Many couples choose to have a joint account that covers shared expenses, but also main separate accounts for individual spending. This helps both individuals maintain solid credit ratings, while also allowing them to easily share the costs of certain expenses they are both responsible for paying.

Talking about finances is important in a relationship. Couples who learn how to discuss these topics openly and honestly fare better than couples who make money talks off-limits before marriage. Finances affect lots of other aspects of life, and couples who plan their financial strategies early can avoid certain money-related relationship problems in the future. This often neglected conversation is one that all couples need to have.

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Valentine’s Day is there for you to show your lover how much you treasure him or her. In line with tradition, you need to do some things that will show your partner that you love them. However, you don’t have to break the bank to put a smile on that special someone. Here are various ways you can make the day great, and save money in the process.

Make a Romantic Dinner Together

Do you know that in most households the practice of cooking dinner is a one-sided affair? It is always left to the woman of the house to make the meals. Why can’t you change this trend and show your woman that you have the skills by making dinner together? The purpose here is to create a connection between the two of you in a place that isn’t the dining room or the bedroom.

Working together and having fun in the kitchen will allow you to connect at a new level, at a low cost – something that befits such a day.

Rent a Romantic Movie

It doesn’t take a lot to get something to do with your partner on valentine’s day. Why not rent a romantic movie and watch it together? Go to the local movie store, rent a DVD or two of your choice, and enjoy the movie in the comfort of your home. You can snuggle up close and watch the movie as you enjoy a bowl of popcorn.

Relive Your First Date

There are several milestones that you might have gone through as a couple. One of the most important milestones is the day you had your first kiss. That day might have special memories that you can relate to. When Valentine’s Day comes, you can relive your first date. It is most likely that the venue of your first kiss was inexpensive. Go ahead, head to this venue, and relive your memories.

It can mean you going to the Chinese restaurant that led to the kiss, or taking a walk down the beach that you first kissed on. At the end of the day, you will have showed your spouse that you love them and that you cherish every moment you have shared with them before. You do all this at a low cost.

Don’t limit yourself to the place you had your first kiss though, go ahead and celebrate other milestones such as the place that you proposed.

Create a Mixtape

Obviously, your partner has a favorite list of songs that she sings along to or listens to repeatedly. Why not download the videos of these songs and create a playlist just for her? You can upload the playlist to her smartphone or iPod so that she can carry it everywhere. You can add in some of your favorite songs to make the experience much better.

You can do this alone or sit up all night compiling the songs with your partner. You can get a bowl of popcorn and listen to the music as you compile them.

Create a Personalized Gift Basket

At times, you don’t have to let someone else think for you. This concept applies to a Valentine’s Day gift basket. Understand what your date likes and fill the basket with these items. However, make sure the basket is interesting otherwise, you won’t get the desired effect.

A personalized gift basket will mean more than a generic basket. You will also save money on this day.

Give a Massage

Massaging can add a touch of intimacy and romance. If you have had a homemade dinner, get out the massage oil and light some candles for some relaxing fun.

Go for a Picnic

The outdoors are fun, and will provide an ideal setting for a romantic getaway. You don’t need much to plan and execute a successful picnic. All you need is to identify a suitable site, make some sandwiches, and get a bottle of wine and you are good to go.

Design Your Own Cards

There are some DIY projects that you can undertake to save money on Valentine’s Day. One such project is the DIY Valentine’s Day cards. All you need is a bunch of heart-shaped pieces of paper you can write on. You can customize these heart-shaped papers with some images to make everything personal. If you don’t have pre-cut papers, you can use a pair of scissors to do the trick.

Write a Romantic Letter

With the advent of mobile phones and the internet, people don’t write letters anymore. This is your chance to be unique by writing a love letter to your partner. You can add some photos or memorabilia to make it more personal. Hand deliver the letter to her workplace so that you make it a surprise.

Skip the Roses

Valentine’s Day is associated with rose flowers. At this time, everyone will be aiming for the roses and scrambling for them. Florists understand that everyone is after roses and will increase the price due to the high demand. To avoid extra costs, opt for other types of flowers such as tulips or daisies. They can still do the trick without sacrificing on style.

Search for Deals

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many dealers provide deals for their customers. Most of these deals come in the form of coupons that reduce the cost of an item. Check out the sites offering deals such as free shipping on flowers or chocolates. Make use of these daily deals so that you pay less than what you would normally pay for an item.

Make it a DIY Project

There are various ways you can make this Valentine’s Day a DIY project. After you buy the individual rose stems, you can go ahead and create a bouquet by yourself. You can also buy a vase at the dollar store instead of getting one from the florist, which can be more expensive.

You can also deliver the flowers by yourself especially if your spouse is within the locality. You will end up saving money on various tasks that would have otherwise made it costly.

Final Thoughts

Valentine’s Day is essential for a relationship to flourish. However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make it memorable. All you need to do is make sure you understand what your partner likes, and the opportunities available in your region.

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When it comes to finance, you need your information to be in real time. The markets today move quickly and you need a way to keep up with them. There is no more convenient way to do so than through text alerts.

What about my finances should I be monitoring in real time?

There are many things about your finances that need up to the minute reporting. If you have any plans to make a big asset purchase in the future, then the time to get your money together is now, not later. Your credit score is one of the most important aspects of your personal life.

With the prevalence of ID theft today, you can lose your ability to make a house or a car purchase in a matter of seconds. If you find out that your credit information has been stolen months later, it may be too late to make a change to your record – you will be stuck with the results of something that someone else did to you!

It is much easier to reverse the negative effects of ID theft if you catch it earlier. You can receive information about suspicious credit activity in real time if you receive text alerts. Imagine being fully protected from ID theft under your own power without having to pay hundreds of dollars for a credit protection services that may not even inform you in time!

You should also be able to keep up to date with the many financial announcements that directly affect your personal well being. With text alerts, you will understand the financial markets much better because you will be able to see the news as it happens.

- Monitoring Your Personal Accounts

Have you ever been in a store waiting to make a purchase unsure about the amount of money that you had in your account? There is usually no way that you can check your balance in a timely fashion: You either have to risk making the purchase and incurring late fees or incur the embarrassment that comes with stepping out of line and being unsure about your personal finances.

With text alerts, this becomes a nonfactor. You will immediately be able to view your personal accounts and determine whether you have enough cash or credit to make the purchase at hand.

- Denied Transactions

If you have ever been through the embarrassment of a “transaction denied” interaction while trying to make a purchase, odds are that part of the embarrassment comes from not knowing exactly why your credit cards are not working at that time. If you receive text alerts, then you will be able to rectify the situation immediately. You may be able to correct a mistake that did not have any business happening in the first place. This is also how many people find out about identification theft and suspicious credit transactions that are on their record.

– Keeping Up with Bills

In the course of day-to-day life, it can be quite difficult to keep up with all of the bills that you have to pay. In many cases, people will only become aware of an overdue bill when the lights or electricity go off. If you are taking text alerts, then you do not have to worry about these large inconveniences because of a small bill.

Text alerts can keep you aware of bills that you have to pay well ahead of time. This way, you will also avoid the penalties and late fees that come with overdue bills, saving yourself a great deal of money at no cost to you.

– Posting Payments

You may not have a problem with keeping up with your bills. However, this does not mean that all of your creditors keep records as stringently as you do. Getting text alerts about payments that have been posted is a great way to automatically keep a record of bills and debts that you have paid.

If a creditor sends you a bill twice for the same debt, you may have a great deal of trouble getting your money back if you pay twice. If you have the ability to receive notification of payments that are posted on your behalf with the text alert, then you will always have a record on hand of things that you have paid off. This will help you avoid a great deal of trouble if you ever have to go to court against the creditor. It can also help to avoid litigation, as many unscrupulous creditors will be sufficiently warded off after they see that you have a consistent and accurate record keeping operation.

– International Transactions

If you travel overseas with any frequency, then you should receive text alerts for your convenience. Many foreign countries do not have the same safeguards over your money that your home country may have. If you do not have a credit card that is compatible with the country that you are traveling to, you may also run into some financial situations that can slow down your productivity overseas.

Keeping up with international regulations as well as your own records through text alerts will ensure that you do not have any sticky situations overseas. You will know exactly how to pay for things no matter where you are in the world. You will also have the ability to record all payments so that you can show records to your credit card companies if there is some unscrupulous activity while you are across the border.

– Overdrawing an Account

One of the best reasons to have text alerts on hand is to keep you informed of when you have overdrawn account. Most banking institutions have severe penalties for overdrawing accounts; however, there is usually a grace period before they assess these penalties. If you are notified of the overdraft before the grace period ends, you can rectify the situation before the penalties are assessed and you lose money for no good reason at all.

– Investments

Your investment portfolio should be something that you keep up with on a day-to-day basis. However, if you are constantly on the move, it can be difficult to receive all this information on a mobile phone. Text alerts are the best way to keep up with all the action in your accounts without having to look over complicated graphics or sign into your banking institution every time you want to look at a transaction.

These are only a few of the reasons that you should sign up for text alerts. With the ability to save you all kinds of money and make your life more convenient, why would you do anything else?

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We live in an exceedingly consumer-oriented culture. Everywhere you go, there are products and services to buy, from a simple cup of coffee to a new car. Morning until night, we are surrounded by advertising. It appears on TV, in magazines, online, and on the streets. The modern world is a non-stop barrage of temptations to spend and promises that each new purchase will improve your life and make you a happier, more fulfilled person.

Victims of Advertising?

It’s no surprise, then, that overspending and excessive shopping are common, virtually ubiquitous problems of contemporary life. They are so common, in fact, that many people hardly even recognize them. After all, we all buy things we don’t need. At what point does spending money on non-essential items go from normal to problematic?

It’s also probably unfair to place the blame for our fixation on shopping solely at the feet of advertisers. They are just giving people what they want. If we didn’t respond so effectively to ads, they’d quickly disappear. While it can be appealing to cast ourselves as the hapless victims of heartless, money-hungry corporations that virtually “force” us to overspend with manipulative ploys and calculated deceptions, that’s surely a bit simplistic.

A Primal Instinct

While it’s true that advertisers are experts at manufacturing desire, we also need to take responsibility for our own role in the situation. The fact is, acquiring goods is an ingrained survival mechanism inherent to human psychology. Amassing more stuff than you need will help you weather harsh times in an uncertain and chaotic world. Acquiring flashy and unnecessary objects is an evergreen way of signalling social status and attracting romantic attention. For better or worse, we’re “hard-wired” to be always buying things, given the opportunity.

When Shopping Goes Too Far

So, while having a healthy desire to buy things is natural and largely unavoidable, when we give that impulse too much power it can have disastrous results. Excessive debt, maxed out credit cards, and a home cluttered with unused, unnecessary products are all common outcomes. Things that seemed so exciting initially soon end up just taking up space.

In order to get out of the pattern of constantly buying things, it is important to identify what triggers and motivates this habit. While each case is unique, there are a few specific behavioral and emotional factors that underscore most people’s tendency to spend excessively.

The Unquenchable Desire for the New and Exciting

We all know the feeling. You see that shiny new flat screen TV, designer handbag, video game console, pair of shoes, or other flashy consumer good. Suddenly, you are overcome by an enormous desire to own something that, just a moment before, you hardly knew existed. Does this make any sense? After all, before you knew about this new prize, life seemed okay. Are things really going to change just because of a new purchase?

It’s easy to see that they probably won’t if you step back and analyze the situation logically. What’s occurring in this common scenario has little to do with logic, though — it’s a purely emotional response. Our natural attraction to novelty is being aggressively stimulated.

People have an inherent drive to try new things and have new experiences. Most experts believe this plays an essential role in helping us to learn about he world and figure out the how to survive and be successful. Buying something new is an easy, accessible, and risk-free way to scratch the novelty “itch.”

Many people don’t have much novelty in their everyday lives. Each day its the same thing: make the same commute, work at the same boring job, talk to the same coworkers, watch the same TV shows at night, and slip into bed at the same time. Buying something new is a quick and easy cure to the lack of novelty that this sort of routine entails.

Keeping Up With the Joneses

Competition and jealousy are also common triggers that lead to excessive and unnecessary spending. When we see someone else has something new, we often begin to want that thing for ourselves. Especially among those we view as our peers, we have a strong aversion to appearing less successful. Of course, one of the clearest ways most people view success is by the quality and amount of our possessions. This accounts for the perennial popularity of “status symbols.” Whether they take the form of a Mercedes-Benz sedan, a shiny gold Rolex, or a pair of Louis Vuitton heels, these sorts of goods are valued for the status boost they imbue upon their owner, perhaps more so than for what they actually are.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a bit competitive. It’s only natural that we judge ourselves in relation to our peers. While psychologists and self-help gurus alike may argue that we should only be in competition with ourselves, this is an ideal that few will realistically ever achieve. The key for most people will be managing the impulse, rather than trying to stamp it out completely.

Boredom, Depression, and Other Emotional Issues

For many, constant buying functions as a sort of “band aid” for an existing area of dissatisfaction. Perhaps an individual is stuck in an unhappy, loveless relationship or in a dreary, dead-end job. The distracting rush of shopping is an easy, immediate, and reliable way to enjoy a temporary escape from ongoing problems. Ironically, though, excess spending (and the accumulating debt that goes along with it) can make many problems worse, including job and relationship ones. It soon becomes a vicious circle, where a person spends to feel better but the negative effects of spending only add to the original problem that motivated the spending in the first place.

Escaping the Overspending Trap

While constantly buying things is an easy habit to get into, there are things you can do to prevent falling into this negative pattern — and to pull yourself out if you’re already in trouble. One simple but effective strategy is develop a habit of stopping and asking yourself a series of pre-planned questions before making any non-budgeted purchase. These should be things like:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Is it reasonable to suspect I’ll regret this decision later?
  • What am I really going to use this product for?
  • Is this something I can wait to purchase until a later date?
  • What are some other (potentially more important) things I could use this money for?

If you’ve already amassed a decent amount of credit card debt, it may also be useful to use one of the many available online debt calculators to see just how much you will end up spending in interest payments before your existing purchases are payed off. When you realize how much money you’re giving up unnecessarily to cover interest charges, you will likely be more careful about acquiring additional debt.

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If you have a child, you are familiar with how expensive it can be to raise a son or daughter from birth to adulthood. However, your son or daughter may incur debt related to going to school, using a credit card to pay for living expenses or buying a home. If your child has significant debt, should you feel obligated to pay off that debt?

Can You Afford It?

The first question that you need to ask is whether or not you can afford to pay off your son or daughter’s outstanding debt. Unless you have maxed out your 401k or other retirement accounts, it may be more beneficial to put your money to work for you. You should also avoid paying your child’s debts if you do not have an emergency fund in case you lost your job or incurred a large debt.

What Will Your Child Do After the Debt Is Repaid?

Another important question that you need to ask yourself is whether or not your child is going to incur more debt after he or she has existing debt paid off. The last thing that you want to do is pay off your child’s credit card debt only to find out that he or she has gone out and charged another $10,000. Therefore, you should limit the type of debt that you are willing to pay off if you are able to do so at all. Paying off a secured debt such as a car or mortgage leaves your child with an asset that at least can be leveraged in the future if your child runs into future financial difficulty.

What Options Do Your Children Have to Repay Their Own Debts?

There are many different options that your children will have when it comes to repaying loans or keeping up with debt during times of financial issues. For instance, your son could ask for a student loan forbearance or for a modified repayment plan on his mortgage. Your daughter could refinance her credit card debt or transfer the balance to a 0 percent interest credit card. Doing so may allow your child to take care of his or her own problems and learn what it means to be financially independent.

Did You Cosign for Your Child’s Loans?

If you decided to cosign on your child’s loan, you may be on the hook if he or she stops making payments. For example, if you cosigned for your son’s student loans, you essentially agree to pay that money back if your son doesn’t. That also means that your credit could be damaged or other actions taken against you if you don’t make the payments even though it isn’t your loan. For some, it may be easier to simply pay the debt off now if possible instead of worrying that a $10,000 auto debt or credit card debt could impact how you spend your retirement years.

What Do You Get From Paying the Loan?

It may be a good idea to repay your child’s loans if you are going to get something out of it. For instance, your daughter may decide to have you pay off the original loan and then pay you back over a period of several years. The benefit to your daughter is that she may not have to pay as much interest over the repayment period. To ensure that payments are made, you may wish to sign a contract that provide consequences for failure to repay on time. For instance, you could place a lien on certain property or give yourself the right to go to court just like any other creditor.

Take Equity In Your Child’s Business

If you are asked to pay off a business related debt or loan, you may wish to ask for an equity stake in the company. What this does is makes you a part owner of the company in exchange for the funds. This could turn into a long-term arrangement that helps your child now and helps you out as the company becomes more successful.

Are Your Children Entitled to an Inheritance?

Instead of waiting until you pass on to give your child his or her inheritance, it may be better to give your child his or her inheritance now. Doing so may help your child get out of debt and move on with his or her life. If your children are working and otherwise financially stable, eliminating a student loan or mortgage debt could help provide for your grandchildren. Money that would go toward a mortgage payment can now go toward paying for braces or saving for their college funds. In the event that money is being taken out of an inheritance, make sure to communicate this to your children. Otherwise, it could create tension later on.

Have Your Children Done the Same for You in the Past?

Paying off a credit card debt or making a student loan payment may be a nice thank you for financial assistance that you have received in the past. While you should still only do so if you can afford it, there is nothing wrong with helping those who have helped you when you needed it. If this money is meant as a gift and a thank you, make sure to stress that you are not expecting the money to be repaid.

There is nothing worse than being saddled with debt at a young age. However, it doesn’t mean that you are obligated to help your children overcome their own mistakes or circumstances in life. While it may be difficult to tell your kids no, only spend as much as you can afford as you don’t want to become financially vulnerable yourself helping your kids.

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