Tag: Purchase

The No-Cash Envelope System That Works

The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

I am a strong believer in the cash envelope system. It works great for our family. But I also know that is not the case for everyone.  You may not want to use cash but love the envelope system concept.  Fortunately, there is a program you can use that marries your desire to use plastic with the discipline of a cash envelope budget.

When it comes to managing your money, spending and trying to get out of debt, there are many programs and apps out there. But, not all of them can do everything.  That means one app for your budget, another for trying to get out of debt and then yet another for managing your spending.

ProActive does it all.  You can manage your money, spending, budgeting, and debt payoff – all from one simple to manage app! But, before you jump in and download it, make sure you read this honest review.  That way, you’ll know what to expect!

What is ProActive?

ProActive combines the beauty of shopping with plastic and the discipline of cash envelopes.  The system ensures that you never overspend – ever!  Just like with cash, when the envelope is empty, you are done shopping!

 

What is the cash envelope budget?

A cash envelope budget is what it sounds like. Rather than using plastic to shop you get cash and place the budgeted amounts into envelopes.  For example, if your budget for food is $200 a paycheck, then you get cash and place $200 in an envelope earmarked for groceries.

When you grocery shop, you use only the cash in the envelope. That is all you have available to spend. It is impossible to overspend.  If there is only $20 left then that means you can’t spend $22.  There is not enough money there.

It is a system that works very well for people who want to better manage and control spending.

 

How does it work?

Once you sign up and create your account, you will get a ProActive branded debit card.  When you are ready to spend, you use the ProActive card.  But, before you can swipe, you have to let the app know which envelope the money needs to come from.  That way, you always stay on budget and don’t spend more than you should.

 

Add funds to your account

When you get paid, review your budget.  Pay the bills that are due.  What you have left over is what you have left to spend on everything else on your budget.  It will include items such as clothing, household items, personal care and beauty, groceries, entertainment, dues, etc.

You will go into the app and click the “+” icon.  That starts the transfer from your bank account to your ProActive debit card.

 

Allocate the money to your virtual envelopes

Once the funds are deposited, you have to assign an amount to each category (a.k.a. envelope).  Review the budget to see what you have available to spend.

 

Shop as usual (but pay with the ProActive card)

You can’t swipe your card until you have told the card which category (or envelope) the money should come from.  Simply open the app and click the spend category.  Then you can swipe.

If there is not enough money left in the category to cover your purchase, it will be declined.  That makes it impossible to overspend.

 

The smart way to use ProActive

As parents, we teach our kids.  They need to know how to take care of themselves, cook, clean and do other things around the house.  But, it seems that financial responsibility is one that gets overlooked.

One thing that ProActive allows is for you to add your kids and teach them how to manage their own money.  You can put funds on their account and they too can set up categories.  And, just like mom and dad, they have to select the category before they spend so they are not spending more than they should either.

ProActive not only teaches your kids how to use a debit card, but also the financial responsibilities that go along with it.  And, it is in an environment that both mom and dad can see (and control).

 

Who is ProActive a fit for?

Just like with every other app or budget system there is never a one-size-fits-all system. That means this may not work for you.  If you love your credit card for the rewards then this will not work for you.  You can’t attach a credit card and use this program.

But, if you struggle to try to manage your money and spending then you really need to get this app. It makes it impossible to overspend and helps you learn how to think about every purchase you make.  You may not need to use it forever as you will become disciplined.

 

What does it cost?

When you sign up, ProActive will give you a 15-day trial.  They want to make sure it is a fit for you before they make you pay.  Then, if you love it, you continue at $5.75 a month (paid annually, so $69).  You can add a second user for $29 a year and even add your kids for just $24 each.

 

What happens if I forget my phone?

It happens.  We leave our phones behind. In that case, it is important that you always have an alternative payment method handy, such as your bank debit card, credit card or cash.

If your goal is to get out of debt, you have to first start with your budget and spending. If you don’t do that, you will never achieve your goals.  ProActive is one tool that helps you every step of the way.

The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buying a house is a big decision, but it can feel especially overwhelming to place an offer on a home less than 24 hours after seeing it for the first time. Plus you’re under pressure to outbid several other buyers — or risk losing the house.

While these circumstances might sound extraordinary, they’re not. With housing inventory nationwide at an all time-low — down 22% from last year according to the National Association of Realtors — it’s no wonder buyers are competing for the same few houses.

I was in this exact position last fall. Here are seven key takeaways from my experience buying in a seller’s market.

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

In order to be competitive in a hot seller’s market, you will need to line up your financing in advance.

Besides all the usual suspects, like saving up for a down payment and improving your credit score, you’ll also want to get a pre-approval letter from your bank. It states that a bank would approve you for a mortgage of a certain amount, and acts as a guarantee to the seller that you can actually afford to buy their house.

This is where it helps to know your budget up front.

“It’s important to understand that the strength of financing is a key consideration a seller takes into account when selecting an offer,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel.

No seller wants to risk accepting an offer that might fall through. Aand since pre-approval letters can take some time to get, have one ready before you find your dream house.

Be Friendly With Neighbors

This might sound crazy, but making a good impression on your new neighbors can actually make a difference when it comes time for a seller to review offers.

Since you’ll likely be visiting the home at least once before making an offer, be prepared to talk to any neighbors you might run into. In close-knit neighborhoods, or ones where people share resources (like an HOA), sellers might care a bit more about the type of person they sell the house to.

If you happen to meet a neighbor when visiting the home, introduce yourself and make a good impression. You never know how much their opinion of you might factor into any final decisions.

Submit an Offer Quickly

After you’ve seen a house, and decided you love it, be prepared to submit an offer quickly— as in, ASAP.

Work with your real estate agent to determine how many other offers the seller already has (or expects to get) and then be prepared to draft something up that day. In our case, we toured our home for the very first time at 11 a.m. on a Monday — it came on the market the evening before — and made an offer by 4 p.m. that same day.

If that sounds fast, it is. But by the time we submitted our offer, the seller already had three others. This is where it helps to have a great real estate agent on your side.

“Having a realtor who can get your offer submitted quickly is crucial,” said Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers. “You want to get your offer in front of the seller first, and make it strong. Purchase price is the obvious factor and in a competitive market, houses often go for over asking price. However, a strong offer has several factors and it depends on what’s most important to the seller.”

Work with your real estate agent to find out what matters most to the seller — is it money, closing quickly, something else entirely? Then make sure your offer addresses their needs.

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

Another way to win over your seller (and prevail in any bidding wars) is by keeping your contingencies to a minimum.

Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. Unsurprisingly, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with. Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs, getting a home inspection, or even the fact that you’ll need to sell your old house before being able to buy the new one.

“In a really aggressive seller’s market, a home buyer who has to sell a current property should do so before placing an offer on another home,” said Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “Don’t always assume that the seller will take the highest price. Other conveniences can play a factor in gaining the seller’s attention, especially things like faster closing times and less restrictions.”

While my partner and I didn’t make the highest offer on our house, we did have the fewest contingencies — mainly, we didn’t ask too much of our seller in the way of repairs, or have another house to sell in order to afford the new one.

All that said, there are certain contingencies you should never forgo, and a home inspection is one of them. Getting your home inspected is hugely important, since inspectors will often find things even the sellers weren’t aware of. No matter how much you love a house, don’t be afraid of exercising your right to an inspection.

According to buyer protection laws in most states, sellers are required to report any findings in home inspections to subsequent buyers. In other words, if an inspector finds something wrong with the house, the seller will have to deal with it one way or another— either with you, or the next buyer should you choose to drop out of the deal.

FROM THE HOME BUYING FORUM
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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

When trying to woo your seller in a competitive market, it helps to make a generous earnest money deposit. An earnest money deposit is a good-faith deposit requested by the seller when you enter into a contract to buy the house and typically run anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.

When deciding how much of an earnest money deposit to include in your offer, keep in mind that whatever amount you give comes off the price of the home (and is returned to you if the deal falls through). In other words, there’s no reason to be cheap. If you can, go slightly above the seller’s requested deposit amount. Even if it’s just a little more than what they’re asking, that gesture of good faith might just be what gets you the house.

A row of houses on a cul de sac in a suburban neighborhood.

Offer Above Asking Price

Wait. Why would anyone make an offer that’s above asking price? Because the competition did it first, and in a hot seller’s market, offering above asking price is often what it takes to even be considered.

Upping your offer may not break the bank as much as you’re fearing. “With interest rates so low these days, offering more than what the seller is asking may not make a drastic difference in your overall monthly payments,” real estate agent Pavel Khaykin of Pavel Buys Houses said.

Let’s say the listing price on your dream home is $320,000 and you’re able to put down a 6% down payment. That leaves you with a mortgage of roughly $301,000. For a 30-year fixed mortgage at an interest rate of 3%, that translates into $1,269 monthly payments. Now let’s say you decide to bid a little higher on the home and offer $10,000 over asking price. This would only bump up your monthly payment (assuming you qualify for that low interest rate) by $42.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

In a hot seller’s market, you’ve got to be ready to move fast. Often this is more of a change in mindset than anything else. When my partner and I first started looking at homes, we considered ourselves casual buyers — that is, until our dream home came on the market late one Sunday night. From there, things moved quickly. We saw the home, made an offer, were under contract by morning, and spent the next month and a half going through the process of closing on the house.

If you’re serious about finding your dream home in the next few months, the best thing you can do is know what you want from the outset, and get your ducks in a row to make a compelling offer when you find it. Maybe this means making a list of your must-haves in a house, and working to improve your credit score. It might also mean reaching out to a real estate agent before you need one, and getting that pre-approval letter in place.

Although inventory is low, new houses come on the market all the time.

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards

On the surface, reward cards are a great way to make a few extra dollars or grab some air miles without increasing your spending or your debt. If you spend a lot of money at a particular shop, store cards will seem like an equally beneficial prospect. But these cards exist for a reason—they’re there to make more money for the providers and the retailers, not you.

Sure, reward/store cards have other benefits if you use them properly, but there are a host of disadvantages and hidden terms that you need to be aware of before signing on the dotted line. 

What are Store Cards?

Store cards are tied to specific stores and offered by chains of retailers. These cards work just like traditional cards and are often branded by networks like Visa and MasterCard. The difference is that they can only be used in the issuing stores and their rewards are tied to those stores.

In essence, they are store loyalty cards that come with a lien of credit attached. 

What are Reward Cards?

Reward cards are also tied to credit card networks, including American Express and Discover, as well as Visa and MasterCard. They award points every time they’re used for qualifying purchases and these points can then be swapped for air travel and other benefits. 

Some reward schemes award a specific amount of cash back, often fixed to 1% or 2% of purchases made on specific items, such as groceries or utility bills.

How Can Providers Offer These Rewards?

If a provider offers you cash back every time you spend money on your credit card, someone has to foot the bill. Many consumers assume that the credit card network covers the cost, and to an extent, they do. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Every time you use your credit card to make a purchase, the retailer is charged a fee, often between 1% and 3% of the purchase. This is the network’s charge. With reward cards, this fee increases, and the extra money is used to fund the rewards program.

As a result, retailers are not exactly happy with these programs as they drive their costs up and reduce their profits. The only way around this, is to increase the cost of the product or, more likely, to reward customers who pay with cash/debit. Retailers are not allowed to add a surcharge for credit card use, but there’s nothing stopping them from choosing which cards they do and don’t accept.

Your local Mom & Pop enterprise isn’t being antiquated and old-fashioned by refusing credit cards. They just can’t cover the costs. 5% may not sound like a big deal, but for retailers with minimal buying power and the massive overheads of running a brick-and-mortar store, 5% can be a deal breaker.

Smaller retailers are fighting back against reward cards while bigger ones are embracing them by adopting their own store cards. With a store card, they have more say, more control, and they know that those small losses will be offset by the increased purchases.

Issues with Store Credit Cards

Store cards carry a big risk and have far few benefits than reward cards. The advantages of these cards are obvious: If you shop a lot in a particular place, you can save money via the cash back schemes. 

They can also help with emergency purchases, providing you clear the balance in full. But, while the benefits are obvious, the same can’t be said about the disadvantages.

Con 1: They Have High Interest Rates

The average credit card interest rate in the United States is around 16%. The average rate for store cards is over 20%. That 4% may not seem like much, but if you don’t repay your balance every month that interest will compound, grow, and cost you a small fortune. 

At 16% with a $10,000 balance and a 60-month repayment term, you’ll pay $243 a month and over $4,000 in total interest.

Increase that rate to 20% and your monthly payment grows by $20 while your total interest increases by nearly $1,500. The longer you leave it and the smaller your monthly payments are, the greater that difference will be.

For example, if you repay just $200 a month on that balance, the difference between 16% and 20% is 26 extra months and close to $5,000. Of course, store cards rarely offer such high limits, but this is just as example to show you how much of a difference even the slightest percentage increase can cause.

It’s worth keeping this in mind if you ever apply for a traditional rewards card. Getting rewards in return for a higher APR is great if you repay your balance in full every month and terrible if you don’t.

Con 2: They Have High Penalty Rates

If you miss a payment on your store credit card you could be hit with a penalty APR as high as 29.99%, as well as a late payment fee of $39. The rates are high to begin with, but these penalty rates are astronomical and will make a bad situation worse.

That’s not all, as some providers are known to be very unforgiven when it comes to missed and late payments. In some cases, your account will default even if you underpay just once and just by a few dollars. 

Con 3: They Have Low Credit Limits

Retailers are not lenders. They don’t have the time, funds or patience to chase debts and deal with collection agencies. As a result, they don’t offer high credit limits and generally you’ll get a fraction of what an unsecured credit card might provide you with.

This might not seem like much of an issue. After all, a smaller credit limit means you’re less likely to accumulate large amounts of debts. However, this has a massively negative impact on your credit score that few borrowers consider.

30% of your credit score is based on something known as a credit utilization ratio. This looks at the total available credit and compares it to the debt that you have accumulated. If you have several cards with a combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, then your ratio is 50%, which is considered to be quite high.

If a store card is your only account and you spend $450 on a $500 limit, then you have a credit utilization ratio of 90%, which will reduce your score. Your credit report is also negatively affected by maxed-out credit cards, a feat that’s much easier to achieve when you have a low credit limit.

Con 4: There Are Better Options

It’s better to have one good reward card than multiple store cards. The former will provide you with far better interest rates and terms, while the latter will hit your credit report with several hard inquiries and new accounts. 

A rewards card will still benefit you when shopping at those stores and will also provide you with a wealth of other benefits.

Con 5: You May Spend More

Store cards are not designed to make your life easier and give you a few freebies. Regardless of what the store tells you, they’re not made to reward loyalty, they’re made to encourage spending. 

This doesn’t always work, and research suggests that many individuals use reward cards just like they would normal cards. But for a small minority, the idea of acquiring points is enough to convince them to spend more than they usually would.

Some good can be good debt, such as when it’s used to acquire an asset or something that won’t depreciate. But very rarely do we use credit cards for this purpose and generally, if you’re spending more on a store card it means you’re wasting more money on things you don’t need.

Con 6: You Can’t Use Them Anywhere Else

A store card can only be used in that particular store. This renders it redundant as an emergency card and also means you’re encouraged to shop in that one place. You don’t have a chance to shop around and find the cheapest price; you may spend more just to use your card and get the benefits, with those benefits rarely covering the additional money you spend.

What About Reward Cards?

Some reward cards have very high rates as these rates are used to offset the rewards program. However, this isn’t always the case, because, as discussed above, networks often charge retailers more to offset these purchases and therefore don’t always need to cover the costs themselves.

Some credit cards, such as the Discover It, offer solid reward schemes and would also be included on any list of the best non-reward credit cards. It’s a solid all-rounder and it’s not alone. However, many reward cards charge high annual fees and penalty rates, just like you’ll find with a store card.

It’s important to study the small print and make sure the card is viable. If you’re going to clear the balance every month, a slightly higher interest rate won’t hurt, especially if it comes with some generous rewards. But if there is any doubt and even the slightest chance that you won’t clear the balance, it’s always best to focus on a low-interest rate first.

Even the most generous 5% cash back reward card will not offset the losses occurred by paying a few more percentage points of interest.

Will Reward/Store Cards Affect my Credit Score?

Credit cards trigger hard inquiries, which can reduce your credit score by up to 5 points. This is true for every credit card that you apply for. Rate shopping can combine multiple inquiries into one if they are for the same type of credit, but this doesn’t apply to credit cards.

A new account will also impact your score. This impact is often minimal and if you keep up with your repayments then it will vanish in time. However, if you miss a payment, max-out your card or increase your credit utilization score, it could have a detrimental effect on your score and your finances.

Keep store cards to a minimum and only sign up if you’re 100% sure you’re getting a good deal that will benefit you in the short-term and the long-term.

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What You Need to Know About the New Apple Credit Card

Man in light green shirt shopping on a tablet with his apple credit card

UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned here.

The Apple credit card launches this summer, and it pairs the high-tech, app-based culture of the brand with some favorite credit card user perks. Before you join the flock likely to flood Apple with credit card applications, do your homework to make sure this card will meet your needs. Check out the details about the Apple credit card below, as well as some alternative credit cards you might apply for.

What’s the Apple Credit Card?

The Apple credit card is a payment card offered by Apple and issued by Goldman Sachs. Despite the Apple name on the card, whether or not a consumer is approved and the day-to-day financial management of accounts is handled by Goldman Sachs.

The design of the card and all its cash-back credit card perks, however, are courtesy of Apple and include:

  • Integration with Apple Pay and Apple Wallet
  • Integration with your iPhone or another iOS mobile device to support phone-based payments and access to accounts
  • Apple’s customary security and privacy levels
  • Cash back offers that are especially useful to Apple fans

Basic facts to know about the new Apple credit card include:

  • It comes with a 49% to 23.49% variable APR (as of 12/19/2019) depending on your creditworthiness.
  • You earn 1 to 3% cash back on purchases.
  • The Apple credit card doesn’t come with any fees—that includes no annual fee, late payment fees, foreign transaction fee and over-limit fees.
  • Though you do receive a physical card whose number you can use in Google Wallet, the Apple credit card also comes as a virtual card number designed to live in your Apple Wallet.

The wide range APRs suggest so some that the card may be available to people with a fair credit score.1 No one will know until the card actually launches though.

Benefits and Perks of the Apple Credit Card

While interest rates and credit limits are important, most consumers also choose a card based on the perks its rewards program affords them. Intelligent use of perk-related cards, such as travel rewards cards, can help you save money or earn extra pennies on cash you already plan to spend. Here’s a look at how Apple credit card perks stack up for users.

Expense and Spending Organization in One Place

Apple is making a big deal out of the user experience element of this credit card, which involves heavy integration with iPhones. The card itself is housed in the Apple Wallet app on your iOS device. Since you can only use the digital version of the card where Apple Pay is accepted, you also get a unique physical card that’s as sleek and high-tech as any Apple device.

The card’s digital component offers specific benefits:

  • You can apply for the card and, if approved, it’s immediately in your Wallet app. You can start using it the same day without waiting for a card to arrive in the mail.
  • Without using a physical card, you don’t have a card number or other elements that can be stolen, which increases the security of your account.

Apple also provides an app that lets you manage your spending and account in a single location. You can view charges based on a map to figure out where money was spent, get a color-coded breakdown of your expenses to help you budget and view visual and numeric information about how various payment amounts impact the total owed. Log in to the app when you’re ready to make a payment on your account, and you’re also provided with estimates on how much interest you’ll be charged and can see how much interest you’ll pay if you pay your card off sooner than later and vice versa.

Cash Back and Daily Cash Back with Some Purchases

The card gives account holders the chance to earn cash-back rewards too. And you get even more cash back rewards when you spend with Apple.

  • You get 3% cash back on all purchases from Apple. That includes purchases at apple.com, Apple stores, iTunes and the Apple app store. You earn cash back on the game, app and in-app purchases, including music, storage plans and books.
  • You get 2% cash back on anything else you purchase and pay with using Apple Pay.
  • If you have to break out the physical Apple Card to make a payment, you still earn 1% cash back.

Cash back is always a great perk for a credit card, but it’s especially nice when the card doesn’t have an annual fee. The Apple credit card makes cash back even more of a perk by awarding it to you the day after you spend rather than waiting for the statement cycle to close.

To make use of cash back the next day, you do have to have an Apple Cash card, which is how Apple transmits rewards to you. If you don’t have an Apple Cash card, then the cash back rewards are applied as a statement credit on your Apple credit card account.

Who Benefits Most from This Credit Card?

Because of its heavy integration with iOS technology and the Apple Wallet, the Apple credit card is more likely to be useful to Apple customers. Individuals who carry Android or other devices won’t be able to access many of the features available with this card. And if you’re not shopping with Apple or using Apple Pay, you miss the top tier cash-back rewards.

You might benefit from this card if:

  • You have an iPhone, especially if you’re prone to or like the idea of handling your finances via a single app on your device.
  • You’re an avid user of Apple technology and have already adopted Apple Pay and Apple Wallet.
  • You make a lot of purchases at Apple’s stores or using Apple subscriptions or the Apple app stores.

Alternatives to the Apple Credit Card

The Apple credit card is obviously not right for everyone. If you don’t have an iPhone, prefer Android or aren’t interested in using any or much technology for your financial management, you may want to opt for a different kind of credit card account.

For those who don’t fit the target audience for the Apple credit card, plenty of other rewards cards are available. Here are a few you might consider.

  • The Chase Freedom® Unlimited card comes with 3% cash back on your first $20,000 in purchases your first year as a cardholder. After that, you can earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase.The extra cash back your first year makes this card ideal in order to maximize your rewards. And the 1.5% after that is nothing is nothing to sneeze at.
  • The American Express® Gold card, which does require decent credit but offers some spectacular perks for those who love a fine dining experience or are always chasing the next fun foodie adventure. This card is also known as a great travel rewards card.
  • The Capital One® Quicksilver® card, which offers unlimited 1.5% cash back without limits. That makes this card an ideal daily swiper. And an APR of 0% intro on purchases for 15 months lets you double your rewards by making a large purchase and paying it off without interest in the first year or so.
  • The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards is a rewards card option for people with bad, poor or fair credit. It lets cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase (some terms apply).

Apple isn’t the only—or first—company to enter the market of branded credit cards. If you like the idea of rewards that are brand-based, but you don’t use an iPhone or spend a lot at the Apple store, consider some of the options below.

  • The Montgomery Ward credit card that lets you buy now and pay later for hundreds of brands at Montgomery Ward.
  • The Kroger REWARDS Prepaid Visa® card that lets you earn rewards to use for free groceries and to save on gas.
  • The Official NASCAR® Credit card from Credit One Bank® that pays you double cash back on items purchased from the NASCAR.com Superstore (terms apply) and 1% cashback on all other purchases too.

Ultimately, there’s a credit card option for almost any spending or financial goal. Browse the selection of offers on Credit.com to find a card that works for your needs and preferences, including:

  • Cards for building or repairing credit, which usually start with lower limits that grow as you handle the account responsibly.
  • Balance transfer cards, which let you move balances from higher-interest accounts and pay them down faster to save money.
  • Rewards cards, which let you earn money on expenses you would be paying anyway, including travel, utilities, food and clothing.
  • Cards with no annual fee that let you avoid paying the card issuer to use your credit card.

Whether or not you’re approved for the Apple credit card or any of these other card offers depends on your creditworthiness. Review the information about each credit card carefully, ensuring you understand the offers, fees and rewards structures. Then, check your credit score—for free—and apply for a credit card on Credit.com.

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/26/apple-credit-card-read-the-fine-print.html

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post What You Need to Know About the New Apple Credit Card appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Best startup business credit cards

If you want to start a business, you’re going to need a business credit card. While many entrepreneurs fund the initial phases of their small business out of pocket, taking out a business credit card proves that you mean business – literally.

But which business credit card is right for your growing startup? We’ve got a list of the best startup business credit cards that meet a variety of business needs – whether you’re looking for a travel card to help make business trips a little more comfortable or a corporate card to issue to your new employees. We’ve also got tips on how to choose the best business card for your startup, how to increase your odds of getting accepted for a business credit card and how to make the most of your new card once you’ve got it.

Best credit cards for startups

  • No personal guarantee: Brex Corporate Card for Startups
  • Fair credit: Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
  • Financing a startup: American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
  • Cash back: Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
  • Travel rewards: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Brex Corporate Card for Startups

Brex 30 Card

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Score required: Excellent
Type of card: Corporate travel
Spending categories: Rideshares, travel, restaurants, software subscriptions

Read full review

  • 8X points on rideshares, 5X on travel, 4X on restaurants, 3X on eligible Apple purchases and 3X on software subscriptions when you make daily card payments. Those rewards are 7X points on rideshares, 4X on travel, 3X on restaurants, 3X on Apple purchases and 2X on software subscriptions with 30-day card payments
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 30,000 bonus points upon sign up and waived card fees for life (equal to $300+ value)
  • $5,000 credit for Amazon Web Services and 20% discount on annual Zoom subscription, along with other software discounts in your first year
  • $0 annual fee

Our take: With an application process that makes qualifying faster and easier than usual and a unique rewards program that offers up to 8X points on ride-sharing, the Brex Corporate Card is well-attuned to the needs of startup companies.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card with no personal guarantee

If your startup is at the point where you have a significant revenue stream and an office full of employees, you might be ready for a corporate card. Unlike your typical business credit card, which can be used by small business owners of any size (including solopreneurs and freelancers), corporate cards are designed to meet the needs of growing corporations.

In this case, that means no-cap rewards on four major spending categories – 8X Brex Rewards points on rideshares, 5X on travel, 4X on restaurants and 3X on software subscriptions depending on whether you make your card payments every 30 days or on a daily basis with Brex cash – as well as 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Your startup will also be eligible for discounts on popular services, such as Amazon Web Services, Zoom and Dropbox, as well as a 30,000-point sign-up bonus.

Plus, it only takes a few minutes to get approved for the Brex Corporate Card. All you need to do is provide basic information about your business and link your corporate account. There’s no personal guarantee required, though you do need a minimum of $100,000 in your corporate bank account to be eligible for this card. The Brex Corporate Card has no annual fee and you’ll get five employee cards at no cost, but it’ll cost you $5 per month for each additional employee card beyond that.

As you use your Brex Corporate Card, your credit activity and payments will be reported to Experian and Dun & Bradstreet, both of which will help your business build its credit history.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Our rating: 2.6 out of 5
Score required: Fair to good
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

Read full review

  • 1% cash back on every purchase
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • $0 annual fee

Our take: The Spark Classic card doesn’t offer the lowest APR or juiciest rewards; but it does help cardholders with damaged credit build a better credit score and earn a modest amount of cash back, so they can qualify for more generous cards over time.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for fair credit

Your credit score shouldn’t hold you back from small business success – so don’t let your less-than-perfect credit prevent you from taking advantage of all the benefits a small business credit card can provide. Use the Capital One Spark Classic for Business credit card to help you build your business and your credit at the same time.

When you use the Spark Classic for Business, you’ll earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase. That’s a little lower than what you might earn with the top business credit cards, but if you practice responsible credit habits like making on-time payments and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, your score should improve month-over-month – which means you might be eligible for an even better business credit card before you know it.

The Spark Classic for Business has no annual fee, which is one more reason why it’s a great card for people who want to get their business – and their credit – off the ground.

American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card

American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card

Our rating: 3.9 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

Read full review

  • 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • 1% cash back on all purchases after that
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases for the first 12 months (13.24-19.24% variable thereafter)
  • Spend over your credit limit with no penalty (as long as you stay within the over-the-limit amount)
  • Apply for 30-, 60- or 90-day Working Capital terms after first 6 months of membership
  • $0 annual fee

Our take: The Blue Business Cash card is a great option for small business owners seeking to create cash flow for a new or expanding business, thanks to its flexible credit limit and working capital terms.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for large purchases

Startups often come with startup costs – which means you’re going to want a credit card that rewards big spending. The American Express Blue Business Cash Card is one of the top business cash back cards on the market, offering 2 percent cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year and 1 percent cash back on all additional purchases.

This isn’t the only reason why you’ll want to use the Blue Business Cash Card to help you finance your startup costs. You’ll also get access to a flexible credit limit, making it possible to fund extra purchases during those months when you really need to invest in your business. (Be aware that you’ll need to cover both your minimum payment and your above-limit spending at the end of your billing cycle.) Plus, once you’ve had your Blue Business Cash Card for six months, you’ll be able to apply for working capital terms, a feature in which Amex will pay your vendors up front, and you’ll pay off the costs in 30, 60 or 90 days.

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Our rating: 4.1 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

Read full review

  • 2% cash back on every purchase
  • $500 cash back if you spend $4,500 in first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee (waived first year)

Our take: If you want a simple business credit card with a superb cash-back rate, you will love the Spark Cash card.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for cash back

If you want to earn as much cash back on your purchases as possible, consider the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card. Like the Blue Business Cash Card, the Spark Cash for Business offers 2% cash back – but unlike the Blue Business Cash Card, those cash back rewards don’t end once you spend $50K in a calendar year. Instead, you get an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase.

You also get a welcome bonus – if you spend $4,500 in your first three months as a cardholder, you’ll earn a one-time $500 cash bonus. Just think about how you could use that money to grow your business (or to pay off your credit card balance).

The Spark Cash for Business credit card does include a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year – and don’t forget that business credit card fees are tax-deductible.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Score required: Excellent
Type of card: Travel
Spending categories: Flights, hotels

Read full review

  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • 2X points on travel purchases on amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 50% more points (1.5 points per dollar) on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million bonus points per year)
  • 85,000 points if you spend $15,000 in first 3 months
  • Get 35% points back on a designated airline each year (up to 500,000 bonus points per year) when you pay with points and book your flight on amextravel.com
  • $595 annual fee

Our take: The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers generous bonus points and great travel perks – including the best lounge access around – for frequent business travelers.

Why it’s the best startup business credit card for travel

If your startup requires you to spend a lot of time working out of hotel rooms, you’re going to want a credit card that rewards travel spending. The Business Platinum Card for American Express is ready to help get you where you need to go.

Earn 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar when you purchase flights and prepaid hotel rooms through amextravel.com, 2X points on additional travel purchases made through amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases – unless you make a purchase of $5,000 or more, at which point you’ll earn 1.5 points per dollar. You’ll also be able to access an incredible welcome bonus in your first three months of membership: 85,000 points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases.

Want to maximize those Membership Rewards points after you’ve earned them? We’ve got a guide to help you get started, but here’s one tip: Use Membership Rewards Pay with Points to book a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35 percent of your points back (for up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year).

The Business Platinum credit card also gets you access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, a year of complimentary Platinum Global Access from WeWork (for cardholders who enroll between Feb. 15 and Dec. 31, 2019) and a $200 airline fee credit, among other perks. Be prepared to pay a $595 annual fee for the privilege of using this card – but if you travel often enough, it’ll be more than worth it.

Compare top startup business credit cards

Rewards Annual fee
Brex 30 Card
  • 7X points on rideshares, 4x on travel, 3x on restaurants and 2x on software subscriptions
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 30,000 bonus points upon sign up
$0
Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
  • 1% cash back on every purchase
$0
American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
  • 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • 1% cash back on all purchases after that
$0
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
  • 2% cash back on every purchase
  • $500 cash back if you spend $4,500 in first 3 months
$95 (waived first year)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • 2X points on travel purchases on amextravel.com
  • 1.5X points on eligible purchases over $5,000
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 85,000 points if you spend $15,000 in first 3 months
$595

How to choose a business credit card

Ask these questions before choosing which business credit card might be best for your growing startup:

How will you use the card?

If you’re going to use your business credit card to finance a large purchase, look for a card with a long 0% introductory APR period. That way, you can maximize the time you have to pay off your purchase without paying anything extra in interest. 

If you’re just going to use it for day-to-day expenses, think about what those expenses are. Look for a card that will reward your everyday purchases – like travel, office supplies or utilities – at a boosted rate.

Lastly, think about who will be using the card. If you want your employees to be authorized users, look for a card that offers free employee cards or custom spending limits. 

What kind of rewards do you want?

Are you hoping to earn some cash back on your everyday purchases, or are you shooting for rewards-funded travel? If you’re searching for a travel rewards card, it’s important to consider additional perks and benefits, like rental car insurance and airport lounge access.

What is your credit score?

Your personal credit will probably be pulled when you apply for a business credit card. If your score isn’t great, apply for a card that’s within your range. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to work on building your credit before you apply. 

Getting a line of credit in your business’s name can also be useful if you’re going to take out a business loan in the near future. Your business has a credit score too, and a positive borrowing history can contribute to a good business credit score, giving you a lower interest rate when you apply for business loans. If that’s important to you, make sure that the card you’re applying for reports to at least one – or all three – of the dominant business credit bureaus. 

How to apply and get approved for a business credit card

Applying for a business credit card is a lot like applying for a personal credit card. You’ll need to provide basic personal information, such as your name, address and income. You’ll also need to provide basic business information, such as your business’s name, address and revenue. Once you’ve filled out the application, expect a hard pull on your credit as the credit card issuer determines whether you are eligible for the card.

If you want to increase your odds of getting approved, here are a few tips:

  • Check your credit score to learn where you stand. If you don’t already have access to your credit score, use a free service to learn whether your credit is fair, good, excellent or needs work – and then use that information to find credit cards designed for people with your credit score.
  • Build your personal credit score before applying for a business credit card. Lenders check your personal credit history before issuing business credit cards, so consider doing some basic maintenance on your credit score before applying. Disputing errors on your credit report, paying off revolving balances and requesting credit limit increases can all improve your score and make you eligible for more business credit cards.
  • Use our CardMatch service to quickly identify which credit cards might be right for you. There’s no impact on your credit score, and you might receive special offers and pre-qualified matches.

Pros and cons of using a credit card for your startup

There are a lot of advantages (as well as some disadvantages) to using a credit card to help fund your startup:

Pros

  • Credit card financing is easily obtainable if you already have good credit and credit cards in your name.
  • You can cover business expenses during periods of low cash flow or finance a large purchase that will help you attract more customers and grow your revenue.
  • You can also use earn rewards on everyday expenses or earn points that you can put towards business travel – both of which can save your business money in the long run.
  • With timely payments, you can use a business credit card to build a credit history for your new business.
  • You can use credit card purchase and travel protections to insure purchases for your business.
  • Many business cards offer valuable perks for small business owners, such as airport lounge access, discounts on business purchases or credits toward commonly purchased items.
  • Credit cards can make expense tracking easier – many cards allow you and your employees to upload and track your receipts from your mobile phone and to download your expenses to Quickbooks and other accounting software.
  • You can automate repeating purchases, such as software licenses.

Cons

  • For financing a business, a small business loan might offer lower interest rates than a business credit card.
  • Likewise, using crowdfunding to get seed money (and customer buy-in) before launching a new product might be a better option than putting all your expenses on credit.
  • If the card requires a personal guarantee, your business credit card could affect your personal credit score.
  • Credit cards have high interest rates. Unless your business card comes with a 0 percent offer for new purchases, it can be very expensive to carry a balance on it.
  • Credit cards can foster sloppy financial habits if you’re not disciplined about paying off your balance each month.
  • Overall, since they’re usually linked to your personal credit history and charge high interest, credit cards can be a very risky means of funding a startup.

See related: Should you fund your startup business with a credit card?

Final thoughts

Getting a business credit card is an important part of growing a small business. For many small business owners, it’s one of the first big steps in separating your personal finances from your business finances. When it’s time to apply for a business card for your startup, think about which problems you’d like your business credit card to solve – and then look for cards that provide the solution you’re looking for. Think of it like writing a job description and finding the candidate that’s the best fit.

As your startup continues to grow, start thinking beyond business credit cards. The next step might be a small business loan, a crowdfunding project or a group of investors. Business credit cards are excellent tools to help you cover day-to-day expenses while earning rewards, but they aren’t the only way to finance a startup – and you’ll know when it’s time to start exploring other options.

Source: creditcards.com

Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re looking to repair your credit, you may have come across websites that advertise a credit privacy number, credit protection number or CPN. These numbers are nine digits like a Social Security number (SSN), and sellers claim that you can use them instead of your SSN. However, these CPNs are often actual SSNs lifted from real people, reportedly children, prison inmates and the deceased – and you can never legally buy a new SSN. In other words, a CPN is no solution to your credit rating problem. Under no circumstances should you try to buy a CPN.

Why a CPN is No Credit Fix

Websites have sprung up all over the internet, offering CPNs to people with bad credit or low credit scores. They advertise that this number can serve as a “get out of jail free” card for your bad credit. In theory, you can use a CPN instead of your SSN on credit applications to hide the poor credit associated with your personal SSN. If you have bad credit but still need a credit card or loan, this can seem like the solution, assuming you can pay anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

That price might seem worth it for a chance to wipe the slate clean. However, these offers are essentially a big scam. The CPNs you can buy online are not legally assigned credit protection numbers. Instead, they are usually stolen Social Security numbers, taken from children, the deceased or inmates.

Also, using a purchased CPN puts you in some hot water, too. Credit agencies can easily spot discrepancies if you try to use a CPN on an application instead of your SSN. Not only will this fail to help your credit, but it’s also committing fraud which is punishable by jail time.

How to Avoid CPN Scams 

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re dealing with some bad credit, don’t turn to a CPN. Only scammers sell CPNs, and they in turn may cheat you out of your personal information as well as hundreds or thousands of dollars. Using a purchased CPN can also put you in jail, even if you didn’t know the number was fraudulent. This is why it’s important to be aware of this popular scam.

If you really need a CPN or new SSN, it will be free. The process will go through the Social Security Administration Office, since a new number would be tied to your old SSN. That said, it is very hard to qualify to receive a new number. Having bad credit is never a qualifying reason.

How to Get a Legal CPN

With so many fraudulent websites and companies trying to sell you a way to reset your credit, it’s hard to know how to get a legal CPN. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some experts say that you can speak with an attorney to obtain a legal CPN. The attorney can then contact the Social Security Administration Office on your behalf. However, others maintain that all CPNs are illegal.

Generally, it seems that you cannot get a legal CPN unless you actually need one. These situations include celebrities, government officials and people under witness protection. You can also apply in other specific instances, like if you’re a victim of abuse, stalking or identity theft. A real CPN would be attached to your SSN, so it’s still not an escape from the credit tied to your SSN.

You may also stumble upon offers to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. The IRS does issue EINs, but only businesses can use them for business costs. This means that you cannot legally obtain an EIN as an individual looking to improve your credit. You also cannot make up a home business, apply for an EIN and use that new number for a credit reset. It is a federal crime to obtain an EIN under false pretenses. In any case, the credit profile for your EIN is still tied to your SSN.

Bottom Line

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

You shouldn’t ever, under any circumstances, try to purchase a CPN. These offers are fraudulent and don’t provide any credit repair or relief. At the very least, buying a CPN wastes money you should put towards repaying your loans in the first place. At worst, you could go to jail for fraud. There are better, more constructive ways to repair your credit. If you’re truly in a situation that calls for a CPN, contact your lawyer for assistance.

Tips on Rebuilding Your Credit 

  • Of course, the best way to legally clean up your credit is to pay back your debts and improve your credit practices. A good place to start is to pay off your credit card debt with the highest interest.
  • Sometimes you’ll just have to wait for your bad history to fall off your record. Generally, negative info stays on your credit report for seven years. If you can’t get a debt collection removed from your credit report, for example, it’ll stay there for seven years. However, as time goes on, the toll it takes on your report lessens.
  • Don’t go it alone. If you have a good income, but you’re just bad at managing your money, a financial advisor can help. With guidance, you can make smarter choices – and even start growing your wealth. To find an advisor, use our free, no-obligation matching tool. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/becon, Â©iStock.com/Xesai, Â©iStock.com/Kerkez

The post Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping

The post How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

INSIDE: Christmas shopping can easily get out of hand. Learn how to set a Christmas budget so you can make it a great one without doing into debt.

You need a budget, especially at Christmas. Here’s how to set a Christmas budget for your family that works!

To set a Christmas budget, decide what you can afford to spend this Christmas

Knowing how to set a Christmas budget comes down to what you can comfortably afford. How much money do you make per month? Now subtract all your expenses? How much is left over? How much of the leftovers do you feel comfortable putting towards gifts? 

There’s no magic number for exactly how much you should spend on Christmas. Each family has a different budget and different circumstances. But, be reasonable. Don’t go into debt in order to buy gifts.  

Once you’ve come up with a number that is right for you, write it down and stick to it. If you want to buy a family member something special but it’s over budget, then either wait for it to go on sale or come up with a new plan. And don’t be so hard on yourself.

Avoid falling for the “perfect Christmas myth.” Your kids will be okay if they don’t get every single thing on their list. Don’t go over budget because you’re trying to make the holidays perfect. And it’s never a bad idea to teach your kids about a holiday budget.

  • Pro tip: You can still have a magical Christmas on a budget — get our tips on How to Do Christmas on a Budget.

If your budget is lower than you want it to be, consider ways you can make more money for Christmas.

Our best tips for staying on budget this Christmas

In order to set a Christmas budget and stick with it, try these tips…

Keep gift-giving simple 

When it comes to my extended family we’ve been doing Secret Santa style gift swaps for years. Not only does this reduce the amount of money that you need to spend, but it also reduces the stress of trying to come up with a thoughtful gift for every uncle and cousin that you only see twice a year. 

Make a list and stick to it

Once you’ve decided on a gift-giving strategy then you’ll know exactly who to need to buy gifts for. Create a list of names and determine how much you can budget for each person. Based on your list you can start brainstorming gifts that align with your budget. 

Give experiences, not things 

If you’re having trouble deciding what to give people for Christmas remember, give experiences, not things. Experiences are more meaningful then things and the memories you create from a good experience can truly last a lifetime. Passes to a museum, amusement park, or a gift card to a fantastic restaurant are great gift ideas. 

How to save money on Christmas gifts to stay on budget 

Between gift-giving and holiday entertaining, Christmas can get expensive. That’s why you set a Christmas budget to begin with. But, in addition, here are some gift-giving tips to help you stay on budget:

Follow the four gift rule

When it comes to the act of gift-giving, keep it simple. There are a ton of super fun gift-giving strategies that allow you to celebrate the tradition of giving without spending a fortune. My kids are still young but we’ve started practicing the four gift rule which is: 

  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something you’ll wear
  • Something you’ll read

This is a great strategy to help keep you on budget while shopping for Christmas gifts. 

Give a gift card

Yes, you can argue that a gift card doesn’t qualify as a super thoughtful or meaningful gift. All I know is that I would prefer a gift card over an ugly sweater or smelly candle. Also, gift cards are a great way to stay on budget. All you have to do is pick an amount, or assign an amount that fits your budget. No waiting for a sale and no overspending necessary. 

Give a homemade gift for Christmas

Are you super artistic, an excellent baker, or a woodworking genius? Then consider giving a homemade gift to help you save money and stick to your Christmas budget.

There’s a reason why online marketplaces like Etsy are so popular. It’s because there’s a demand for beautiful homemade products. However, if the extent of your creativity involves a glue stick, macaroni, and glitter then perhaps this is not the budget-saving tip for you!

Advantages of shopping for Christmas all year 

If you’re a planner, this strategy could work for you. Although it’s strange to start to think about Christmas shopping in March or April, there are a lot of advantages when it comes to Christmas shopping all year, as opposed to saving it all for November or December. So, start celebrating Christmas in July and reap some of the financial and emotional benefits.

If you can wrap your head around the idea of shopping for Christmas gifts all year long then there are quite a few major advantages to doing it this way: 

It’s easier to stick to your Christmas budget

Can you even imagine the Christmas holidays without last-minute panic shopping? Even if you set a Christmas budget, it can easily get blown away when that happens.

When you break up your Christmas shopping over several months or even an entire year, you can make a plan. You can shop for items when you know they’re on sale, and you can take some time to save for things before making a purchase. This can help you avoid going into a ton of debt at Christmas time. 

According to a report by Statista titled, “U.S. Christmas Season,” the average American expects to spend $846 on Christmas gifts. If this seems accurate for you, then divide this by twelve months and you can set a ballpark budget of $70.50 per month. 

Early shopping means you can avoid the crowds 

While 64% of U.S. consumers purchase gifts online, many of us also find ourselves in a mall during the holidays. And, in my personal opinion, there is nothing worse than a crowded mall at Christmas. Everyone seems to be grumpy, in a rush, and deplete of holiday cheer. No thank you. 

It can result in more thoughtful Christmas gifts 

When you have a list of people you need to buy gifts for and months to do it you can take the time to come up with more thoughtful gifts. This is opposed to the regular last-minute shopping sprees where you are trying to think of something, anything that would make a decent present for your nephew or second cousin. 

It can make the holidays less stressful 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some time to relax around the holidays? How would it feel to sit down with a warm coffee or a nice glass of wine on December 23rd instead of searching for last-minute Christmas gifts in a crowded store?

When you shop for Christmas all year round, you don’t need to be at the mall searching for a parking spot with everyone else. You can take some time to relax and really get into the holiday spirit. 

You can go into the new year on a financial high note

It’s all fun and games in December but January can be a real bummer if you overspend during the holidays. When you shop for Christmas gifts all year, you can start January on a high note and focus on achieving all of your New Year’s resolutions rather than waiting for your scary holiday credit card bill.  

Don’t forget to budget for each family member’s Christmas gift 

If you like the idea of shopping for Christmas gifts throughout the year, then it’s a good idea to still set a Christmas budget. Just as you can overspend during the last-minute Christmas rush, you can also overspend on Christmas when you’re shopping throughout the year if you don’t have a plan.  

Remember what Christmas is really about

This Christmas give yourself the gift of more time, less stress, and less debt by shopping for holiday gifts all year long! This strategy will give you the ability to focus on the things that really make the holidays special — the people, the traditions, and the memories! 

And that brings us to Christmas dinner! Discover how to create a budget for Christmas dinner too!

–By Jessica Martel 

The post How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

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