Sometimes life is too busy to save money.
Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Kids, appointments, work, errands. When you’re exhausted, hungry, and busy, you just can’t bring yourself to think about finances.
Instead of looking for that cheaper option at the grocery store, so you grab the brand. You could probably find free parking, but you’re busy, so you pay a garage.
We all do it. But saving those nickels and dimes can make a huge difference in the long run.
That’s where these nifty phone apps come in handy. They’re free, easy to use, and help save those extra dollars when life is too busy.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Mint (Save Money by Budgeting)
Mint is a budgeting app that puts all of your finances into one location. It links all of your accounts – banks, credit cards, loans, etc – and displays them in one place.
It displays all of your financial information in an easy-to-understand graph. This format helps you see the big picture of your money – where you’re spending too much, how much money is left in your budget, etc.
Check out this screenshot:
Mint is available on Apple products and Android. And Mint has device carryover, which means you can view the same information on your desktop computer, laptop, or tablet.
If you update the information on your phone, you can look at your laptop and see the same information update.
Mint sends alerts through email or SMS (Short Message Service) to let you know when a bill is due. Super helpful when life is crazy and you forgot your credit card bill was due.
Mint also sends out weekly summary emails to let you know what happened in the past week with your finances.
It’s like a personal secretary for your finances in your pocket.
2. Ibotta (Save Money Grocery Shopping)
Ibotta is a phone app that enables you to earn cash back when you spend money in-store and online. It’s fantastic for saving money when buying groceries.
Here’s how it works:
• Down the free app, and create an account.
• Before going to the store, check out Ibotta to see which items will give you cash back.
• After your shopping trip, take a photo of the receipt, and scan the barcode of the product.
• Cash is deposited to your Ibotta account.
Yup. It’s that easy!
Once you accumulate $20.00 in your Ibotta account, you can withdraw it with PayPal or Venmo. You can also exchange your balance for gift cards.
Sometimes the gift cards are offered at a discount. For example, you may only need to give $10 from your Ibotta account for a $15 gift card.
And it’s more than just groceries. Get in the habit of checking your Ibotta app before shopping anywhere, because Ibotta can also get cash back on:
• Convenient stores
• And more
It may take one or two tries before you the hang of it, but it gets easier to use over time. Signing up is easy and the app is user-friendly.
Depending on how much you use the app, you can save anywhere from a couple of dollars a month to $100 a month.
Ibotta is like the modern-day couponing.
3. Ebates (Save Money Shopping)
Some hardcore couponers spend hours scouring the web for good deals. Ebates makes this process a lot easier by putting them in one place and organizing them.
Ebates offers coupons at select stores. You also get cash back from Ebates.
It’s great for online shopping and in-store shopping.
How it works online:
• Create an account, then go to the App (or ebates.com).
• Search for the store you want to shop at.
• Click “Shop Now” and browse the store as you normally would.
• After making a purchase, a percentage appears up in your Ebates account.
Note: it can take up to 7 days after purchase for the cashback to show up in your Ebate account.
For example, let’s say Ebates offers 5% off for shopping at Best Buy, so you purchase a $1000 TV. After buying it, you get $50 back within 7 days.
How it works in-store:
Any time you’re about to check out somewhere, pull up your Ebates app and see if there are any coupons or deals. This will save money on your purchases.
Plus you might find a good deal on an item in-store that you didn’t pick up. Turn your cart around and snag it!
Before leaving home to go shopping, take some time to browse Ebates. You’ll spot some great deals, and that it can help guide you on which stores to shop at.
Essentially, you’re saving money while just doing your routine, every-day shopping.
4. Raise (Save Money with Gift Cards)
Raise is a genius phone app that buys and sells gift cards. When people don’t want their gift cards or want extra money, they sell their gift cards to Raise.
In turn, Raise will sell these gift cards at prices lower than the card’s worth. For example, you might be able to buy a $25 gift card to Applebee’s for $20 dollars.
Raise commonly has gift cards to a variety of locations, such as:
• T.J. Maxx
Their selection of gift cards fluctuates, but at any given time there’s a decent variety and number of gift cards to choose from.
The app is very easy to navigate. Its displays prices clearly, so there isn’t a lot of tapping and investigating. You can check if a place has a gift card on this app within a minute.
Raise offers buyers a guarantee that all gift cards are good for at least 1 year. This means the gift cards won’t be inactive, expired, or have less money on them than presented.
Otherwise, you get your money back.
You can request physical cards (it takes 3-14 days), but I suggest redeeming gift cards online, right from the app. This is much more convenient and quick.
The trick is to always check the app before paying anywhere. If you’re eating a restaurant, look at your Raise app before paying for the meal. There might be a good gift card.
This will knock your bills down a couple of dollars for many purchases.
5. Drop (Save Money by Earning Rewards)
Drop is an app that gives you reward points when you shop at your favorite stores.
After you accumulate enough rewards, you can redeem those rewards for a gift card at those stores.
Here’s how to get started:
• Download the app at Google Play or iTunes. Or, you can go to the Drop website. Click on ‘Get the app.’ Enter your phone number and they’ll text you a link where you can download the app.
• Create a profile, then link a credit or debit card.
• Select your favorite brands.
• Shop at those stores with your linked card.
• Start spending the points you accumulate.
Once you earn 5,000 points, you can redeem them for gift cards. 5,000 points equal out to $5 across the board. You can spend in multiples. For example, 25,000 points can give you a $25 gift card to Amazon.
This app works best for your regular purchases. If you buy coffee from Starbucks a lot or do all of your shopping at Walmart, go for those brands.
It can take up to 24 hours before the app registers your purchase and gives you points.
You don’t need to change your habits. Just continue to live life like you normally do, and make money while doing it.
Then, when the time comes, redeem those points for a killer gift card.
Practice Using these Apps and Start Saving
It might take some time to get used to a phone app, but it’s worth it. Saving extra dollars at a restaurant or at a retailer adds up over time.
That’s more money for bills, paying off debt, and saving for those big goals – like a car, college, or house.
If you don’t understand the app right away, give it some time. You’ll get the hang of it.
If you’re stumped, check out a YouTube tutorial to guide you. For example, here is a tutorial for the app Mint.
Any question can be answered by the internet in a few minutes.
Pull out your phone, head over the app store, download the suggested apps, and get busy saving.
After Worst Trading Day Since 2008, Stocks Rocket Higher As Trump Teases Tax Cuts
In a surprise announcement late Monday evening, President Trump said he is working on an economic relief package intended to help those who have been hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump briefly mentioned a possible payroll tax cut, before saying the relief would be “substantial” and “a really big number.”
Trump said he is meeting today with Republicans in the House and Senate to discuss the possibility of suspending payroll taxes, which is paid by both employers and employees to fund Social Security.
Suspending the tax would boost the size of worker’s paychecks, something Trump has suggested before as a way to boost the economy.
Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin says if the payroll tax is suspended, it will be a temporary move intended to last only a few months until the coronavirus has passed.
“The economy will be in very good shape a year from now. This is about providing proper tools of liquidity to go through the next few months.”
As part of Trump’s plan that we should learn more about this afternoon, the President also mentioned “working on loans for small businesses” and working to help the airlines, cruise lines and hotel industries as they have been hit hard by the coronavirus fears.
He added “We’re going to be working with companies, small companies, large companies, so that they don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault. It’s not our country’s fault. This is something that we were thrown into.”
The news comes on the same day the stock market had its worst trading session since 2008 and it’s 19th worst day ever, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging more than 2,000 points to close down 7.79% on coronavirus fears and plummeting oil prices.
Trump has consistently focused on the stock market as a barometer for his success as a president, so announcing this relief plan after a historically bad day for the markets doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
At the close of the market Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 19% from the all-time high of 29,551 on February 12, less than one month ago. The bull market that started on March 9, 2009 would officially come to an end if the markets drop 20% from their all-time high.
Trump’s announcement sent futures higher, indicating the markets should open trading this morning 1,000 points higher than Monday’s close.
Even if Trump can get a relief plan passed, it’s uncertain if it will be enough to convince buyers to step back into a bull market that is on shaky ground entering its 11th year.
The coronavirus outbreak is widely expected to worsen over the coming weeks and months, and the energy market is reeling from last weekend’s fallout between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
And according to JPMorgan, historically “a market sell-off of this magnitude typically implies a 65% to 75% chance of recession in the next 12 months.”
4 Quick Ways to Get a Bigger Tax Refund
As we get closer to the April 15th filing deadline, it’s important that you take advantage of every opportunity available to lower your taxes.
Last year the IRS issued almost 122 million refunds, and here are a few tax tips you can use to make sure Uncle Sam sends you the largest refund check possible.
Increase Your Retirement Contributions
One of the fastest and easiest ways to lower your taxes is by contributing as much as you can towards your retirement accounts.
For most of us, this means adding money to an IRA (individual retirement account). The benefit is that when you contribute to your IRA, your taxable income is reduced by the same amount.
With a traditional IRA the maximum you can contribute for the 2019 tax year is $6,000. If you are over the age of 50, you can contribute an additional $1,000.
The great news is that you can contribute up to this year’s tax deadline and still claim the deduction against last year’s (2019) taxes.
If you are self-employed and contributing to a SEP-IRA (Simplified Employee Pension IRA) you can contribute 25% of your net earnings, up to a maximum of $57,000.
Start a Health Savings Account (HSA)
With an HSA, you are setting aside money to pay for future medical bills like doctor visits, prescriptions and dental care.
Like an IRA, your contributions are pre-tax, helping to lower your overall tax bill. You can contribute up to $3,500 if you are single or up to $7,000 if the coverage is for a family, and if you are over 55 you can add an extra $1,000.
An additional benefit of HSA’s is that any unused money can roll over from year-to-year, so over time you can build up a nice nest egg that can be invested. And because the contributions are pre-tax, any gains are tax-deferred.
Deduct Investment Losses
If you lost money on some of your investments, you can turn that loss into a win by using it to offset some of your capital gains.
For example, let’s say you sold a few stocks that went up in value and you now have a capital gain of $6,000. If you also took a loss of $2,000 on a few bad stock picks, you can use this loss to offset your capital gains.
Instead of paying a capital gains tax on the $6,000 profit, you can deduct the $2,000 loss from your profit to reduce your capital gain down to $4,000. So you only pay capital gains tax on the net gain of $4,000.
The maximum you can deduct each calendar year is $3,000. Any losses above that can be carried forward to the next tax year.
Itemized vs. Standard Deduction
For single filers the standard deduction for the 2019 tax year is $12,200 and for married couples filing together its $24,400.
Most taxpayers simply elect to take the standard deduction. It’s quicker and easier, but for some taxpayers, it pays to itemize.
If your deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, personal property taxes, etc. are more than the standard deduction, go ahead and itemize to reduce your overall taxable income.
Nobody likes doing their taxes, but don’t be afraid to spend a few minutes looking them over to make sure you are taking advantage of as many tax breaks as you can to reduce your tax bill.
As always, if you have any questions please meet with a tax professional.
UTC Leads Dow Losers as Wall Street Rout over Coronavirus Continues
United Technologies Corp. had the worst performance Thursday among the 30 industrial components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as investors dumped stocks on renewed worries over the spread of the coronavirus.
Shares of the aviation, aerospace and building systems manufacturer closed the day at $126.44, down more than 9%.
Boeing Co., which has been reeling following the grounding of the 737 Max after two fatal crashes, was down 8%, at $260.37.
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. was the only company on the index that ended the day up, closing at $48.78, advancing by 9 cents.
The Dow lost about 970 points, or 3.6%, erasing most of the gains on Wednesday.
U.S. stocks tumbled and bond yields dropped to new lows, continuing market turbulence as investors around the world remain jittery about the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Since the outbreak of the respiratory illness in China in late January, travel and tourism have been particularly hard hit as events and other gatherings have been canceled. UTC has doubled down on aviation since 2012 when it paid $18 billion for Goodrich Corp., a manufacturer of aerospace parts and components.
In 2018, UTC paid $30 billion for Rockwell Collins Inc., an Iowa manufacturer of cockpit, cabin, navigation and airport equipment and components. Last year, it merged with defense giant Raytheon Co. and is set to rebrand itself as Raytheon Technologies Corp. and move to the Boston area in April.
UTC is spinning off its two building systems businesses — Otis Elevator and the Carrier heating and cooling manufacturing business — as it focuses on aviation and aerospace. Its big bet in aviation is paying off as it has consistently posted quarterly double-digit increases in revenue.
Aviation is now taking a hit from the virus and fears of its global spread. The International Air Transport Association on Thursday said it expects losses deepening due to the coronavirus. The industry group increased its projected 2020 global revenue losses for the passenger business to between $63 billion and $113 billion from a Feb. 20 projection of $29.3 billion in lost revenue.
The virus has since spread to more than 80 countries and “forward bookings have been severely impacted on routes beyond China,” the industry group said.
Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected].
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