8 Creative Ways to Enjoy Summer That Don’t Cost a Fortune

Ferris wheelIs everyone playing while you’re working? We get it: It can feel painful to sit at your desk when the weather warms. But there’s no reason to forfeit fun in the sun.

Here are eight ways to enjoy summer, without going into debt on a pricey vacation.

At work

1. Eat lunch al fresco: There’s nothing like an hour in the sun to recharge your batteries. But don’t waste money on an overpriced salad at the local café. Brown bag it to a park or even just a nearby bench, then take a stroll after you’ve eaten. At least one study has connected a lunchtime walk with increased enthusiasm and less fatigue and stress when workers returned to the office.

2. Ask about flexible hours: Something about a sunny summer morning makes you want to get out of bed with the birds (or the birds might just be waking you!). Some people prefer to get their day started and head straight into the office, then leave earlier to enjoy an extended late afternoon. See if your HR department will allow you to flex your hours at least part of the week and then take advantage of an early departure to enjoy an afternoon hike or a spin on the Ferris wheel at the local carnival when it’s less crowded. You can even finish your work at home later that evening if you need to.

3. Take the meeting outside: Everyone is feeling the same summer fever so be the hero and move from your boring conference room to an outdoor location. Even claiming a far corner of the parking lot can feel like a respite when you feel the sun on your face.

4. Take days off strategically: If you’re not able to plan an extended getaway, see if you can create your own mini trips. The trick is to take Fridays off so that you have three uninterrupted days to play. Plan short getaways to nearby towns, go camping or just be a tourist in your own town on a staycation. (Trust us: There’s nothing like taking in a matinee to really feel indulgent!) Try taking every other Friday off in July and August and see how much summer fun you can cram in without dealing with crowds and overpriced lodging and travel costs.

After work/ on the weekends

5. Find a festival: Art. Music. Food. Doesn’t matter. Nothing says summer like a festival. Beware of some that can be budget busters, especially if rides are involved, but many even allow you to browse for free or a nominal fee. Find samples to graze on or bring your own snacks. But do enjoy that elephant ear if you’ve been craving one!

6. Grow your own produce: A summer vegetable garden will get you outside and also help you eat healthier — while saving a bundle on weekly produce. If you’re not one for a green thumb or don’t have ample space, a farmer’s market is a great alternative to once again — be outside.

7. Streamline your errands: It can be brutal to spend a lovely afternoon running errands, but we all need to grocery shop and get the dry cleaning. Or, do we? Sometimes ordering online can actually save you money, even despite the nominal service or shipping fee, since you won’t be tempted to impulse buy, a habit that costs Americans a whopping $5,400 annually If you must do some errands in person, plan them efficiently, which not only saves time, but gas, as you avoid backtracking.

8. Use “nature’s gym:” Summer mornings are glorious times to go for a walk or bike ride, and even if you work full time, there’s still plenty of light to do the same in the afternoon — maybe even hit a nearby hiking trail or play an active game of tag with the kids. Bonus: You can probably put your health club membership on hold to save some cash. Many gyms allow a “freeze,” until it’s, well, freezing.




9 Ways to Save Money on Fruits & Vegetables

Bowl of vegetables on a wooden table.Are you one of those people who buys fruits and vegetables only to let them spoil? Your intentions may be good but your actions waste nutritious food and your hard-earned money.

Here are nine sure-fire ways to save money on fruits and vegetables.

1. Plan a weekly menu

If you go to the grocery store without a plan for how you’ll use your purchases, chances are you’ll buy things you may not need and miss ingredients that could have completed a meal idea. Save time and money by putting together a menu plan, with at least your daily dinners for the week thought through. Plan to use ingredients that ripen quickly early in the week and longer-lived produce later and you’ll avoid a lot of potential waste.

2. Know how to properly store your produce

Tomatoes in the refrigerator? No way. Herbs on the counter? Definitely not. Knowing the proper way to store your fruits and vegetables can make a huge difference in how long they last.

3. Don’t always buy organic

Studies have shown that pesticides used on non-organic produce can build up in the human body. But not all fruits and vegetables have the same amounts of residual pesticides. This list from the Environmental Working Group shows you some of the conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables that are perfectly fine to buy.

4. Buy what’s in season

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are frequently less expensive than those that are out of season and must be shipped from warmer climates. They also typically taste better. Don’t know what’s in season? Ask your grocer or check the Department of Agriculture Seasonal Produce Guide.

5. Buy what’s on sale

Planning your weekly menu around the fruits and vegetables your local market has on sale can result in significant savings over time. Plus, you’re more likely to use those products since you have a plan for them.

6. Stock up on frozen foods …

Of course, the items you need on a regular basis aren’t necessarily going to be on sale when you want them. That’s why it’s good to stock up on the frozen version of these items when they’re on sale. Frozen corn, green beans and other staples last for months in the freezer, and those without any sauces or seasoning are particularly versatile.

7. … & canned goods

The same goes for canned items like crushed tomatoes, pineapple and beans. Buying several cans when they’re on sale means you’ll always have them when you need them.

8. Grow your own

Even if it’s just some herbs in a window box, growing your own produce can save serious money, especially if you cook a lot. You’ll spend pennies on the dollar compared to buying at your local grocer or farmers market.

9. Join a CSA

If you want the freshest vegetables and fruits delivered throughout the growing season, Community Supported Agriculture can be a great and frugal option. CSA groups are all over the country, especially metropolitan areas where access to farms may be limited. A word of caution, though: You may end up with large quantities of fruits and vegetables, so you’ll need a plan for sharing, cooking or preserving them.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius. The Council for Disability Awareness is an affiliate partner of Policygenius. 




How to Build an Emergency Fund

Life preserver in the ocean.If you had to pay an unexpected $400 bill today, would you be able to without reaching for a credit card or asking for a loan? If your answer is no, you’re not alone. And you need to keep reading this blog.

A large proportion of working Americans are in the same boat, lacking liquidity or cash reserves, amid an overall feeling that they’re drowning in bills.

The fifth edition of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Household Economics & Decision Making (SHED) was released last week. Once again it asked whether people would be able to pay for an unexpected $400 expense in cash or the equivalent of cash. Forty percent said they wouldn’t have enough. This was a slightly improvement from the 49 percent in 2013. 

According to a LendingTree report in 2017, four in five Americans are in the red—and a quarter of those in debt do not have a plan to pay it off.

An emergency fund is your essential starting point. There are many reasons why this is so highly recommended by financial experts: If an unexpected medical bill, car repair, or appliance disaster arises, you’re able to pay for that cost without adding further to your debt. This will help you then shore up even more helpful forms of income protection, such as disability insurance.

Here’s how to build your emergency fund: 

1. Set a goal

Goals are incredibly important in financial planning. A vague wish won’t get you anywhere. You need to make yourself accountable. Finance expert Dave Ramsey advises that people set the goal of saving a $1,000 emergency fund as soon as possible. You can also work out what three to six months of living expenses would be and aim to put that away. 

2. Plan a place for the fund

You don’t want it hanging out murkily in the midst of your active checking account.

A high yield savings account is a great place to store the money. You need to be able to access it should an emergency arise, but not have it mixing in with your regular money. At the very least, put it in a savings account.

3. Build a budget

In order to make this work, you need transparency into your daily habits, and where you may be losing money without realizing it. By building a budget (and there are a whole host of apps to help you do that) you can track your expenses in razor detail. Spend some time with your budget, and study your income and outgoings. 

4. Lower your expenses

  • Cut back on unnecessary items: Do you need to eat out at restaurants? Could you take a packed lunch to work more regularly? Do you really need your cable TV subscription? Go through your budget and identify areas you could cut back on costs. Everything counts. Even if it seems like a tiny action, those will add up over time.
  • Renegotiate your bills: Have you asked your various providers if they can provide you with better rates? It’s definitely worth the time to ask. From your internet bill to credit card interest rates, there are a whole host of items you can try to negotiate, so pick up the phone and have a conversation.
  • Add all of these savings into your emergency fund: Make a regular habit of shifting those extra dollars into your savings account.

5. Increase your income

In addition to cutting things back, how can you expand your income? 

  • Save the raise: If you get a raise, don’t just expand your lifestyle and indulge in more treats for yourself. Act as if nothing happened. Stick to your previous budget and siphon all that extra cash into your fund. By doing this, you’ll really be able to build up that nest egg quickly.
  • Sell something: Do you have a guitar lying in your basement that’s gathering dust? Throw it up on eBay. Do an inventory of your possessions that others may like, and sell off what you don’t need.
  • Use that tax refund: If you get a tax refund or a gift, rather than immediately splurging it, apply your inner-strength and shift it into your savings.
  • Find a side hustle: You may already be working full time, but is there another job you could take on to help bring in some extra resources? Maybe it’s walking dogs, working as a tutor, or even starting a blog that has money-making potential.

6. Automate everything

Make sure all your bills get paid on time by automating everything. If your budget allows you to shift a certain amount of money into your savings each month, automate this too. You can even think about setting up a separate “Bill Pay” account, and automatically move that money over as soon as each paycheck comes in (more on how to do that here.)

Once you put these steps into place, you’ll be moving in the right direction. The wonderful thing about saving money is that once you start to actually do it and see that nest egg start to form, you’ll become inspired and spurred on by your success. This activates a virtuous cycle of change. 




What to Do Now to Prepare for a Smooth Maternity Leave

Mother with her newborn baby.

Has the latest mommy blog replaced the Wall Street Journal as your go-to online reading? Congratulations! There’s no more exciting time than when you’re expecting a baby. But, along with the anticipation comes some worry — about your baby’s health of course, but also smaller things, like will you ever learn how that car seat works (yes); will you ever get a shower again (yes); and…how can you prepare for a smooth maternity leave? We can’t really help you with the first two, except to assure you that you’ll be fine, but here are some pointers to help with the third.

Check on your insurance coverage.

Now’s the time to find out exactly what your benefits are, from confirming what hospitals and services are covered to making sure baby is added to your policy.

Check your company’s maternity leave policy to see what coverage you have, which could fall under paid or unpaid family leave or short-term disability coverage. Yes, believe it or not, pregnancy is included as a disability — in fact, it’s the No. 1 cause of short-term disability claims.

Short-term plans typically cover you from the date your physician tells you to stop working before delivery (this can vary based on your particular situation) until six to eight weeks after delivery, depending on plan specifics. And there usually will be a short “elimination period” before benefits are payable. In the event you have pre- or post-partum complications and your doctor determines it’s best for you to be out of work longer, your short-term plan will usually cover the additional time — up to what’s called the “maximum payable period” or MPP for the plan (usually six months, although it can be as short as three months). Anything beyond the MPP would have to be covered by your long-term plan — if you have one.

To get short- or long-term disability coverage through your employer, you may have to sign up for it either when you first become eligible for benefits or during the annual open enrollment period. Keep in mind that you need to sign up for it before you become pregnant. And once you’ve got it, remember that other, unexpected, health events could keep you from working in the future, so it’s to your advantage to maintain continuous coverage (more on that here.)

Line up daycare.

In some areas, it can seem as tricky to get into a top-flight daycare center as to get into the college of your choice. The time to get on the waiting list is the minute you know you need to

Of course, there are numerous childcare options, from nannies to nanny shares to family members, so take the time to talk through the pros and cons and find the one that best suits your familial and financial situation. In addition to giving you peace of mind, having your daycare situation handled presents the solid message to your workplace that you are indeed intending to return. 

Tell your boss before social media.

Even if you’re not “friends” with your boss, social media news travels incredibly fast and your manager might not appreciate finding out your exciting news after your Twitter followers and Facebook friends do. 

Of course you’re going to break the news to family and IRL friends, but offer your boss the courtesy of letting her or him know before you post to the wider world online. Hopefully they will be happy for you, but remember, this might cause your manager some anxiety, too, so don’t be offended if the first reaction isn’t what you’d hoped for. 

Develop a plan.

You might use the first meeting to assure them that you’ve got your leave handled, but press for a separate meeting to go over the details. You’ll want to give them a chance to get over their shock and get some questions ready. 

Create a plan that includes as many details as you can about your planned leave and return, such as important upcoming events like client reviews or sales meetings, along with a preliminary idea of how you see those duties being handled. Naturally you can’t anticipate everything that might arise, but an initial plan will give your manager the added confidence that nothing is going to fall through the cracks. 

Document everything.

When you think about it, a lot of what we do every day is just second nature. Reports go to this client this day. That client prefers invoices in this format. You always give an end-of-week sales update to this person.

As you prep for your leave, look at the cadence of your days, weeks, and even months and figure out what types of details you can leave that will make the break seamless for your clients and your “replacement,” whether that’s one person or several dividing up duties. 

Then develop a “cheat sheet” that shows what dates each day or month certain activities should happen, and include a template, if possible, for agendas, reports, proposals and the like. The more your team knows, the smoother your leave — and your eventual return — will be. 

Don’t commit to too much availability until you know.

You might think you’ll be totally into a Monday morning sales call, until you spend all Sunday night soothing a fussy newborn. Beware of biting off more than you can (or want!) to chew and give the office some very loose guidelines, such as that you’ll check email once a week and respond to anything crucial, or if someone texts you with an urgent manner, you’ll respond as soon as you are able. 

Make sure your email and voicemail messages steer correspondents to other resources to avoid too many questions or issues, and then plan to play it by ear to determine what works best for you and baby. You may find that it’s a nice respite from “Goodnight Moon” to talk marketing, or you might want nothing to do with the office update. 

But above all else, enjoy every minute with your newborn. All too soon you’ll be back at the office and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at how little has changed (except you!) 




Disability Insurance Can Be An Important Part of a Pregnancy—But It’s Much More

Pregnant woman holding a baby

Disability insurance — also known as income protection coverage — is one of the most important and overlooked pillars of financial planning.

Think about it. The average person is so dependent on their ability to earn a living, they couldn’t continue their lifestyle if they missed even a single paycheck.

The Federal Reserve asked adults in 2016 how they would pay for a hypothetical emergency expense that would cost $400. This amount is approximately the cost of an unexpected car repair, appliance replacement, or medical bill. Forty-four percent of people said this kind of bill would be hard to handle, and that they either could not pay the expense or would borrow or sell something to do so.

When people buy insurance, most choose some form of health, life, car, and homeowners’ or renters’ insurance. All of these purchases have one common denominator; the premiums are paid with your income. When you think about it, it seems foolish to forget to insure the one thing that lets you pay for everything else — your paycheck.

The connection between pregnancy and short-term disability

There are many types of accidents and illnesses that prevent people from working for a period of time: back pain, depression, heart disease, cancer, auto accidents, and so on. Yet many people don’t think of having a baby when they think of “disability.” Yet pregnancy is the most common cause of short-term disability claims.

Women are typically paid eight to 10 weeks of disability benefits when they take time off to have their child (two weeks before their due date and six weeks afterward). The duration can vary based on cesarean-section deliveries or other conditions that may require the claimant to limit work activities or work exposure.

One of the major differences between pregnancy and other types of disability claims is predictability. The timing of pregnancy for many can be the result of planning. For a healthy woman, purchasing coverage through their workplace in anticipation of a planned pregnancy can be a fairly easy transaction. The key is that you buy coverage before you become pregnant. This way there is little risk of underwriting issues or denial of your claim due to a pre-existing condition limitation.

Pregnancy and long-term disability insurance

Most long-term disability insurance offered through your workplace will also pay benefits for pregnancy-related complications if you can’t work for more than 90 days.

If you purchase individual disability coverage through a broker or agent, most insurance carriers will cover complications of pregnancy if your policy has a waiting period of longer than 90 days. (The waiting period — also called the elimination period — is how long you have to wait to receive benefits after you become disabled from work.)

The advantages of continuous coverage

Some consumers will purchase disability insurance in anticipation of a pregnancy and cancel the coverage after delivery. It’s also not uncommon to see ex-participants re-apply while planning a subsequent pregnancy. While this purchasing pattern is not illegal or unethical, it’s a risky approach to insuring your income, and it’s certainly not a pattern that disability insurance coverage was designed to endure.

So, what is a win/win for the carrier and policyholder? Maintaining continuous coverage.

It’s important to remember that disability insurance is designed to protect you against the unexpected loss of your work capabilities due to an accident or illness. While pregnancy is a common reason to file a claim, you always have additional risk for many unexpected events.

It’s also important to remember that voluntary coverage that you buy at work is often subject to underwriting guidelines. Your ability to obtain coverage could change at any time if you have an accident or develop a newly-diagnosed health condition. Trying to time when you have disability coverage is similar to trying to time when you invest in the stock market, and could easily leave you uncovered at an inopportune time.

None of us are immune to accidents or illnesses. They can strike at any time. It’s important to make sure that you’re covered. And once you’re covered, it’s important that you stay covered, regardless of the original reason you applied for your disability insurance. Get it, keep it, and rest easy knowing that you planned ahead.




The Spring Cleaning Task You Likely Forgot

Daffodils in the sunshine

It’s that time of the year where the sunlight has returned with vigor and vitality (here in New England at least) and you find yourself in spring cleaning mode. Those magazines that have been piling up – recycled. The junk mail you needed to attend to – filed. Your tax documents – complete.

As you survey your office, there’s one place you probably forgot, and that’s your desktop. No, not that desktop, the one where you have neatly color-coded pens and tablets lined up. The other desktop. The majority of our clutter today resides on our computers. All that clutter can lead to stress and a spiraling sense of being out of control. Here are tips on how to perform a digital, springtime detox:

Email

We’ll start with email because, well, it just keeps arriving doesn’t it? In fact, almost 270 billion emails are sent each day. And sometimes it feels like they are all coming to your account.

There are two types of people in this world: inbox zero folks and digital hoarders. Neither one is necessarily better than the other. It’s all in what works for your personal style. Nevertheless, there’s no harm in cutting down on email clutter. Here are three tips to help manage the madness.

  1. Do a mass deletion.

Don’t worry; we’re not asking you to delete stuff you might later need. We’re going to give you the gift of clearing out tons of clutter, one big swath at a time. The secret? Go to your inbox and/or your “deleted files,” and pick someone who sends you emails every single day. It might be the local newspaper or retail store. It might even be Aunt Martha who loves a great cat joke.

Change your email view to sort by sender. Then, take that particular sender, highlight every email they’ve sent you and delete. Pick another one and do it again. Doesn’t that feel good? Guaranteed you have wiped out thousands of emails with this one trick.

  1. Deal with email as it arrives.

Staying on top of email is easier if you create a system. Most productivity experts recommend setting aside a couple of times a day that you can process email, rather than reacting the second it comes in, which will distract you from your current task. Take three actions with each email:

  • Read and delete – ideal.
  • Take action immediately – best for things that just take five minutes or less.
  • Save for later – but not in your inbox, lest it become a “dysfunctional to-do list.” Rather, put the note in an appropriate file, then add it to your actual to-do list or save it to a reading folder for when you have some down time.
  1. Keep email from coming.

One word: Unsubscribe. Yes, it seems simple to just delete the daily email from the photo-sharing site where you purchased holiday cards three years ago, but really… it’s not. Resolve to click “unsubscribe” every single time an email comes in from a merchant or news provider that you don’t need to see.

Too worried you might miss something important? Try Unrollme.com, a tool that allows you to keep your subscriptions available, but out of your inbox, as it catches them in a neat “Rollup” you can access when you have time. With this handy tool, you’ll no longer have to dodge the latest BOGO missive when looking for your boss’ update.

Computer Files

Your physical filing cabinet might be relatively well organized, but your digital files are probably overflowing. With the massive storage available in today’s computers, it’s easy enough to just leave everything where it is. But there’s a better way to handle the voluminous computer files that likely keep proliferating.

  1. Categorize the folders.

For projects that are complete, as in, you need to save the files but don’t need to refer to them currently, create one big folder and send all appropriate documents there. Then if you do need something, it will be easy enough to sort.

For projects that are ongoing, nest folders within folders. For example, give the main folder the client name, then create separate files for reports, sales data, invoices, etc.….whatever makes sense given the scope of your work. Then when you open a working folder, you won’t have to scroll incessantly to find a certain document.

  1. Name files strategically.

To make it easier to find the appropriate document, choose a naming structure that makes sense, whether it’s client name, followed by weekly report, followed by date…or whatever works for you. If you are consistent going forward, you’ll realize it’s far easier to find what you need without having to open every file searching for something.

Then when a project is complete, it will be that much easier to send all related documents to another part of your computer so they aren’t cluttering up the main screen.

  1. Have a backup plan.

Make sure you have working back-up storage, whether it’s a cloud-based system that automatically backs up each evening, or an external hard drive – or ideally, both.

Spending time spring cleaning your computer will pay untold dividends in productivity for the months to come. By having a desktop that is clean, well-organized and full of potential (rather than about to crash), you might even get to those essential tasks like building or refining your budget and organizing your finances for the year to come.




Everything You Need to Know About Your Credit Score

Person checking their credit score on a phone.Have you checked your credit score lately? Nearly half of Americans haven’t looked in the past six months, and one in seven respondents to a recent survey never have. It could be costing you. For example, you might not be getting the best rates available on everything from cell phone service to car insurance to a mortgage.

Not sure what your credit score is or how to improve it? Here are the top three questions that will help you know the score.

What is a credit score anyway?

Whether you’re paying back student loans or trying to get a mortgage, lenders will check your credit score to see if you’re a smart risk to lend money to. Credit scores range from 300 to 850. The higher your number, the better — it means that in the past you have responsibly paid your debts, which means new lenders are more likely to give you favorable rates. Anything above 700 is likely to qualify you for the best rates.

Credit scores are developed by the three main credit bureaus — Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. Each one of them figures out your score usually a slightly different algorithm but for the most part your results will be similar among the three bureaus.

How do I build my credit?

What many people don’t realize is that your credit starts at zero and you have to build it up over time. Here are the ways that you can responsibly build your credit:

  • Pay your bills on time. Every single time. Believe it or not, even one late or missed payment can cause a negative effect on your credit score. In fact, this relatively easy task is thought to be the No. 1 element that impacts your credit score. FICO (which is a score generated from the three credit bureaus) estimates that your on-time payment history accounts for as much as 35 percent of your credit score. It’s worth also taking steps to protect your income through forms of insurance like disability insurance, which helps you pay your bills if you need to miss work for an illness, injury, or pregnancy.
  • Don’t take out too many credit cards. It can be tempting to say yes to the eager cashier who’s offering you a discount if you sign up for a store card, but having too many cards can make a lender leery. After all, you theoretically could charge them all up at once.
  • Don’t run your card up. If your limit is $2,500, it seems reasonable that you should be able to charge $2,400, especially if you plan to pay it all off at the end of the month (which you should every month). But credit bureaus don’t look at it that way. When considering your “credit utilization,” they prefer you keep it right around 30 percent. That means you should only charge about $650 on that $2,500 card. If you feel like you can responsibly pay off more than that each month, consider getting a second no-fee card, and spread your spend out evenly.
  • Keep your cards open. This seems to contradict the earlier advice, but stick with us: Part of your credit score is based on how long you’ve had credit so you want to pick a card and stick with it. If you find a card that offers better terms and it makes sense for your lifestyle, you can take it out, but don’t automatically close the first card. Consider putting one routine bill on it, like your utilities, or use it only for groceries so that you’re still using it occasionally but not running up a balance that might surprise you at the end of the month.
  • Don’t keep a balance. It’s a common fallacy that you build credit by keeping a balance on your cards, but that is simply not true. One of the smartest financial practices you can learn is to pay your credit card bill in full every single month so you don’t rack up interest charges.

How can I check my credit score?

Checking your score is smart, not only because you want to know how your efforts are paying off, but because errors are relatively common. In fact, a study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that one in five consumers discovered an error when checking their reports.

The good news is that it’s possible to check your credit for free. Many credit cards now offer this as a service, or you can visit Annualcreditreport.com which lets you check your score on each of the credit bureaus once a year for free. To keep frequent tabs, check just one bureau at a time, which will allow you to see where you stand on one of your reports every four months. While the bureaus’ numbers differ slightly, it lets you watch for anything that might be alarming.




Your Learning Style Affects the Way You Manage Your Money. Here’s How.

People learn differently — and these learning styles can carry over to how people interact with their finances, too. You may not have thought about this before, but tailoring the way you learn about money based on your preferred learning style means you’re more likely to excel at managing your finances.

Not sure what your learning style is? You can take an online quiz or simply do a self-assessment. Here are the most common types.

  • Visual: You learn best by looking at graphs, charts and maps. Information for visual learners is more easily processed when it can be drawn or visually categorized, like with infographics.
  • Auditory: You learn best by hearing and speaking. Auditory learners perform best when they can listen to the information, process it and then speak about it.
  • Verbal: Similar to auditory learners, verbal learners learn best when they can discuss or speak about a topic. However, unlike the auditory learners, verbal learners also learn through writing.
  • Physical: You learn best by doing instead of listening or speaking. Physical learners thrive when their entire body is involved in learning — like if they’re dancing, walking or practicing.
  • Logical: Logical, or mathematical, learners learn best when they classify or group information and establish patterns. Logical learners prefer when there are clear systems.

Once you know your type, you can tailor your money education and management.

Finances for Visual Learners

Seeing as these folks love charts and graphs, and the financial world is full of these visual aides, they’ve got the best tools right at their fingertips.

You can learn more about money management by watching YouTube videos or digesting information displayed on infographics. And when it comes time to put together a budget, apps that help you track your spending, savings and investments in chart or graph form are perfect for you.

Finances for Auditory Learners

If you’re looking to learn about a new financial topics or expand your money expertise, podcasts are the ideal way to do so. Luckily, there are a lot of high-quality money podcasts to choose from. If you’re unsure where to start, check out these nine money podcasts to improve your finances.

Auditory learners further process the information they hear by speaking about it. So after listening to a podcast, you’ll need an opportunity to discuss what you learned so you get the most out of it. Get a group of people together on a weekly or monthly basis to discuss a specific topic or podcast you listened to. This will help you (and others in the group) with your financial journey.

Finances for Verbal Learners

Talking with a friend or family member about your finances can really help you learn and grow. Want to talk your finances out with a professional? Perhaps a financial advisor could be the way to go. Choosing a financial advisor can feel intimidating, but the first step is simple: Determine the type of advisor that is best for you.

When it comes to learning about finances through writing, starting a blog is a great solution. Whether you decide to blog publicly or simply want to write privately to track your progress, the important part is that you are writing about your money experiences because, as a verbal learner, that means you’re also learning.

Genius tip: For money management, it might be helpful to track your net worth each month and reflect on your expenses. The process of writing about your expenses (and talking about it with your family or spouse) will help lead to change.

Finances for Physical Learners

When it comes to learning and managing money, the key for you is making it a tactical experience. Start by tracking your spending using pen and paper. The process of putting pen to paper and physically engaging with tracking the money you spent, will help you connect with your purchasing habits and determine whether or not they serve you.

From there, try the envelope budgeting system. In a financial world that is predominantly digital, the envelope budgeting system brings it back to the basics of cash you hold in your hand. Determine your monthly budget and divide it into specific categories — things like food, restaurants, clothes and household items. Once you’ve determined your categories, create and label an envelope for each. Stuff the envelope with the allotted cash budget. Once the envelope is empty, you’re done with that type of spending for the month. It’s as simple (and difficult) as that.

Finances for Logical Learners

As a logical learner, you like systems that make sense. So when it comes to money management, you’re in luck because tracking money, creating budgets and setting goals are all clearly defined (and easy to track) endeavors.

If you’re a logical learner who prefers to do-it-yourself, Excel spreadsheets (or an equivalent) will be your go-to money tool. Spreadsheets allow you to create money systems, track your progress and steadily work toward your goal. Need a starting point? Check out this budget template.

If you prefer the tracking is autmated, apps like Mint or Personal Capital would be good for you. Not only will Mint track and categorize your spending, but it will also create monthly reports with graphs and charts — a logical learner’s dream. Personal Capital, on the other hand, allows you to see a snapshot of all of your accounts—retirement, credit cards, banking and investments — all in one place.

Genius tip: Try experimenting with online financial calculators. There are calculators that will calculate your potential retirement date, potential investment returns and even hypothetical withdrawal rates. It’s yet another way to categorize and systematize your money.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius. The Council for Disability Awareness is an affiliate partner of Policygenius. 




7 Ways to Make Tax Time Easier

Couple working on their paperwork at a table.The countdown is on for Tax Day. Cue the groans. But you can enter April with a spring in your step — and extra money in your wallet — by using these seven tips to make tax time easier.

1. Figure out all the tax deductions or credits you might qualify for.

The first step is to make sure you’re not leaving any money on the table — which you might be if you don’t itemize. Tax payers who itemized claimed $1.2 trillion in savings due to tax deductions, while those who took the standard deduction only claimed about half that at $747 billion. It could well be that those who stuck with the standard figure shortchanged themselves.

Here are some categories you might not have thought of:

2. But don’t take any tax deductions you can’t prove.

Yes, you need a “paper trail,” which means receipts for business lunches and other expenses that you are trying to write off. And be especially careful about the home office deduction — setting up your laptop at the kitchen counter doesn’t cut it. The IRS specifically states the office must be for “regular and exclusive” use to qualify for the deduction.

3. Get your paperwork in order.

If you’re paying someone to do your taxes, it pays (literally!) to have your information at the ready: A survey from the National Society of Accountants found that three-quarters of tax preparers charged an average of $117 for disorganized or incomplete paperwork.

Here are some examples of the backup you should pull together to support your tax return:

  • W2s
  • Receipts for healthcare or dental work, plus prescription costs not covered by your health insurance
  • Details on your investment contributions, including debts if you intend to write them off as losses
  • Letters that prove your charitable donations in excess of $250
  • Receipts that support all your write offs, as mentioned in No. 1, such as childcare costs, moving expenses, and energy-efficient home improvements
  • Other paperwork as applicable to your situation

If all this paperwork seems arduous, take heart that this could be the last year you’ll pore over your deductions so carefully. That’s because the standard deduction for Tax Year 2018 is roughly doubled from $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for couples.

4. Don’t overlook your side hustle income.

Got a burgeoning business as an Etsy crafter, dog walker, or Task Rabbit? Believe it or not, the IRS wants a piece of that income too, even though you won’t be issued a 1099 or W2 documentation to prove it.

Any income you earn from a side gig should be reported on a Schedule C form. The good news is that you can also deduct any expenses — leashes and dog treats included!

5. Decide if you’re going DIY or using a paid tax preparer.

Even among taxpayers making less than $50,000, one in three hired someone to do their taxes, such as an accountant or tax prep company. However, many might qualify for IRS Free File Software, available to taxpayers earning $66,000 or less. The IRS estimates that 51.1 million free federal tax returns have been filed since the software was first introduced in 2002.

Of course, if your tax returns are complicated, a tax preparer can save you time, and possibly even money if they are able to identify credits or deductions you didn’t know you were eligible for.

6. Vow to do better next year.

If your March is going out like a lion because you’re ripping through your house looking for tax backup, pledge to do better starting today. Whether you file receipts in a shoebox or use an app like Shoeboxed, there’s no time like the present to get in order for 2018 to avoid being an April fool yet again.

7. Take a breath — you have more time than you thought.

We saved the best for last. Traditionally April 15 is the last day you have to file your taxes, but in 2018 you get two extra days — until April 17, thanks to April 15 landing on a Sunday and Washington D.C.’s “Emancipation Day” hitting April 16. And as always, consult a CPA or tax advisor to answer questions unique to your situation.




6 Tips for Paying Off Large Medical Bills

Person at a laptop using their phone

If you’re trying to pay off a hefty medical bill, you are not alone. Medical bills are a leading cause of debt in the U.S. Many working Americans don’t have enough savings in place, yet they are facing high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. 

A report published in 2017 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed that medical bills were the most common type of past-due bill or payment for which consumers reported being contacted by collections agencies. More than half (59 percent) reported medical costs as the leading reason for being contacted. 

Here are six tips on how to deal with a looming bill in a way that is positive and proactive:

Don’t Ignore It

It’s tempting to stick your head in the sand, but this will not make the problem go away. Don’t leave the bills under a pile of papers but address the issue head-on. Establish contact with the medical provider to let them know you are working out the best way to make the payments. Once the bill goes to collections, it will be that much harder to negotiate.

Closely Check the Bill

Spend time reading your bill very closely. It could include mistakes. If you’re unclear about what the costs are describing or think you may have been overcharged, ask for an itemized bill from your provider. If you have health insurance, carefully compare the hospital bill against the summary of benefits from your health insurance company to make sure everything matches up.

Explore a Payment Plan

Most providers offer payment plans, sometimes these include interest and at other times they are interest-free. First work out what you can pay each month. Consult your budget and find out your realistic bandwidth for making monthly payments. When you call the provider, be aware that you can try to negotiate and ask, for example, whether the plan can be interest-free or if you qualify for any discounts. If you organize a payment plan with the provider over the phone, ask for them to send you the confirmed plan in writing. Then once you confirm the details, stick to the plan over the long-term.

Ask About Charity Programs

Many hospitals and medical providers include programs for those whose income is low or who may be moving through very difficult circumstances. Don’t be afraid to ask about whether they offer such a service. The provider will often mail you the application materials for this type of program to see if you qualify. You can also reach out to your state or local government, to find out whether they have assistance programs that may help offset the costs.

Build Up Emergency Savings

Your best defense against these kinds of bills is to have a stellar offense. Create an emergency savings fund to dip into when illness or accidents arise. You will ideally keep this fund in a separate account to the one you use for your daily living costs. Make sure you will be able to access it if you need it. Also be sure to actively replenish the money if you ever dip into it.

Insure Your Income

Those who have experienced an accident or illness that takes them out of work for weeks or months on end, will know the stress of losing your income during this time. Take steps to make sure that if you have an illness or injury, you will be able to earn an income during these times. This is what disability insurance is —it’s insurance for your income and allows a portion of your salary to be paid, while you recover. 

It’s no fun to have a large bill you need to pay. However, once you actively resolve the situation and work out an action plan you’ll feel a great deal of relief. That peace of mind will have a big impact on your overall recovery.