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In the last couple of months, we’ve witnessed one natural disaster after another. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding—you name it. The truth is that these things aren’t a matter of if; they are a matter of when.

 

I personally went through Hurricane Irma in South Florida. Thankfully, my area didn’t get the worst of it, but it was still enough to throw the entire state for a loop. There was no power for days, cell service was down, debris was everywhere, and the internet didn’t work for at least a week.

 

Natural disasters can also really throw a wrench in your finances. And as hurricane season is still upon us, I wanted to highlight some things you can do to prepare financially for a natural disaster—whether you’re expecting one or not.

 

Stock Up On Emergency Savings

 

I technically have two emergency funds. One is a regular savings account where I can withdraw the cash quickly. Another is extra cash I have invested outside of my retirement accounts so that my money makes more money.

 

I have my contributions to these accounts set on autopilot so that I can set it and forget it. If I have a month where I make more money than usual from my business, most of it goes into one of these two accounts.

 

Because of Irma, I was out of work for a little bit. When that happens for a week or more, your income can take a dip. Had it not been for my emergency savings, I may not have been able to pay rent that month.

 

Pay Bills Early

 

With natural disasters you know are coming (like hurricanes), you need to pay your bills before the disaster strikes. The reason is because you don’t know how long you’re going to be without power or phone service.

 

In my case, I ended up paying my quarterly taxes several days in advance. It turns out that if I’d waited, I would have missed the deadline due to not having power or internet. I also set my other bills to be automatically paid in case I was without power for longer than expected.

 

Some bills (like federal student loans) will postpone your payments if you’re affected by a natural disaster. But if you don’t need to pause payments—and maybe pay extra interest as a result—don’t bother.

 

Know What Your Insurance Covers

 

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you need to know what your specific policy covers before a disaster hits. I witnessed several friends have a rude awakening when they found out their insurance didn’t cover flooding or wind damage.

 

Take Out Cash

 

The final step in financially preparing for a natural disaster is to take out cash. If the power goes out, you will have no access to ATMs. No power also means that the limited number of stores that may be open won’t be able to run credit cards.

 

Sure enough, a couple of days after Irma hit, one grocery chain opened. Their point-of-sale systems were down, so everything had to be paid for with cash. Thankfully, I didn’t have to use the cash I took out on supplies. Now, it is sitting in a safe place in case there is another big emergency where I should need it.

 

Have you ever dealt with a natural disaster? How did you prepare your finances? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your experiences.

Folks, it’s the time of year to break out the candy corn, the spooky decorations, and the costumes. Well, actually, let’s think twice about that last bit.

 

I’ve written about this before, but I’m vehemently against spending lots of money and time on Halloween. You have better things to do than freak out over a holiday that lasts all of 24 hours. I also can guarantee that as your costume idea gets scarier and more extravagant, so does your credit card statement.

 

My past advice has focused on making a costume work without paying through the nose. Today, I want to give some different advice. Rather than shift your ideas to fit your budget, I think you can shift your mindset around the holiday instead. Here’s how.

 

1. Recognize That Nobody Will Care About Your Costume

 

Picture this: You’re at a crowded, dimly lit party where everyone around you is costumed. What do you think are the chances that people stop thinking about their own look for 0.5 seconds, pay attention to your costume, and fall in love with it enough to give you a compliment?

 

I’d bet pretty slim, unless you really went all out with an idea. And if you did, you probably spent a ton of time and money on it. Was a stranger’s compliment really worth all the effort?

 

Halloween is an attention trap because you’re not really donning the costume for everyone else, you’re doing it for yourself. With everyone worrying about their own looks, there’s actually very little time spent admiring others.

 

2. Wear What Makes You Happy

 

Once you’ve accepted that nobody cares about your costume, it’s a lot easier to just do what you want. If that involves donning an extravagant costume, all the power to you. To some, it might mean not dressing up at all or going for the drug store witch hat with an all-black outfit.

 

This is a great state of mind to be in because it allows you to make decisions solely on your budget, not the expectations of others. If you really don’t have the money to pour into a costume, then don’t. Put on an old jersey and be a “sports player,” Better yet, just go unapologetically as yourself.

 

3. Enjoy The Night

 

When you’re dressed up in a way that works for you, and you’ve stopped caring about what other people think about your look, you’re in position to have a great night, completely free of costume mishaps!

 

Recently, I had to dress up as an angel for a non-Halloween related party (it’s a long story). I put time and money into the costume, only to realize that my wings were too big: I was smacking everyone in the face with them as I walked through a crowded dance floor. As you can imagine, people were not happy.

 

To avoid being thrown out of the place, I performed some hacky angelic amputation that involved me ripping the wings out of the costume on the spot. It ruined my look, but I no longer was bumping into people. Nobody cared that I had a ruined costume, and once I stopped caring too, I actually had a great night.

 

What’s your attitude on Halloween? Are you flagrantly pro, or against like me? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments.

I swear I see an article about the latest “life hack” at least once a week. Sometimes, these hacks are fun and useful: I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about cooking from BuzzFeed’s culinary arm, Tasty.

 

Other times, though, I’m a bit worried they’re preaching easy ways out of long-term problems. “Money hacks” in particular stick out to me as problematic. Here’s why.

 

1. Sometimes, They Aren’t Really “Hacks”

 

One common financial hack is to join the “gig economy.” Sure, having a side hustle can put a few extra dollars in your pocket every month, but often they don’t simplify your life like a “hack” should. I know this from firsthand experience.

 

When I graduated college, I was on an entry-level salary and confronting the full burden of my student loans. While my financial situation was never dire, things were definitely tight month-to-month. So, I decided to moonlight as a résumé writer in addition to working at my day job. Folks would submit their résumé and cover letter to the online service I contracted for, the service would route the work to me, and I’d have a few days to turn around a sparkly clean résumé and potentially a cover letter too.

 

It got overwhelming fast. My inbox was clogged with requests within days. It got so bad that I started having to work on weekends and even during my day job to fill my quota. I lasted about a month before I dropped the gig.

 

2. Hacks Distract You From The Actual Problem

 

In my story above, I essentially gave away my time to perform dead-end work. It seemed like the right thing to do because it paid, but it was actually counter-productive.

 

It was counter-productive because it didn’t solve the actual problem: I was having money problems because I was in an entry-level position and had a salary that didn’t match my debt load. To fix that problem, I was going to have to either (A) pay down my debt or (B) build the skills to get promoted or to find a new job.

 

Option “A” wasn’t going to happen for a while, but if I had focused on “B” instead, I could’ve used my time to learn new skills, drive an extra project at my day job (also my “real” job!), network with people in the office, and much more.

 

Even though there was no tangible, monetary benefit to those activities, they would have been better for me in the long term. Case and point, when I started focusing more at my real job, I eventually nabbed a 10% raise after my first year. It didn’t make my money problems go away entirely, but it helped a lot more than getting short money to write hundreds of résumés did. This brings me to my last point.

 

3. Real Money Hacks Consider The Long Term

 

Not all money hacks are evil. A bunch of great ones are floating around out there related to investments, insurance, and more.

 

But unlike cooking, money is tough to “hack” instantly—the lottery being maybe the only exception. The most helpful hacks are little things you can do repetitively that add up to have big benefits, like starting a 401(k) and contributing a little bit (seriously, any amount is good) each month to take advantage of pretax savings, compound interest, and an employer match.

 

Any good money hacks to share? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments.

I have a love-hate relationship with my cellphone provider. I love my phone, and I love the access to new phones I get from my plan, the service, and the unlimited data. But I absolutely hate how expensive my phone bill is.

 

Because I’m on an individual cellphone plan, my rates are high. It’s not like on a family plan, where it’s two lines for $50 apiece and you can share costs. For one line, I pay about $115 a month by myself—and the bulk of that is because of my data plan.

 

That’s about to change, though. Thanks to a tip from my old roomie, I’m going to slash my bill in half this school year. Here’s how.

 

Ditch The Data

 

This school year, I’m getting rid of my unlimited data plan. Now, why would I do that? Well, my roommate showed me that instead of paying for data at all, she uses a prepaid, pay-as-you-go plan and relies on our school’s Wi-Fi for all her data needs.

 

Honestly, I couldn’t believe how simple an idea this was—and how big my savings would be. I have my phone on the school's Wi-Fi at all times anyway, so why should I shell out an extra $55 for unlimited data? I reviewed my actual data usage to see how much I really need. As a result, I’m not going to part with all my data, but I do plan to reduce it significantly.

 

Will This Work For You?

 

Reducing my data would pretty much halve my bill. It’d be great to worry less about paying such a hefty bill each month, especially since I’m paying more for other school-related costs this semester. As an added bonus, I’m almost done paying off my iPhone. Pretty soon, I’ll just pay for my little bit of data and the service—so my phone bill should be dirt cheap in no time.

 

This tactic isn’t for everyone. But I highly suggest checking out this option if you (1) pay your own cellphone bill, (2) live on a campus that offers Wi-Fi, and (3) don’t use that much data. Odds are, you already pay for the school’s data via the tech fee in your bill anyways. The way I see it, why pay that fee and a separate data fee when one can knock out the other?

 

Does anyone else have any tips for saving money on a cellphone bill? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know down below!

According to recent data released by Pew Research Center, 15% of 25- to 35-year-old millennials live at home with their parents. What’s more interesting, though, is that this isn’t because of a lack of work. In fact, most of them are employed. Many of them actually choose to stay there.

 

I was one of those millennials until relatively recently. I lived at home for 7 years after graduating college for various reasons. From unemployment to starting a business to helping care for a family member, I didn’t leave home until I was 29.

 

That being said, there will come a time when most people move out. But how will you know the right time has arrived? Here are some signs it may be time to leave the nest.

 

You Can Afford It Without Sacrificing Important Financial Goals

 

One of the reasons it took me so long to leave home was because I wanted to be able to afford rent, food, and retirement contributions. For a while there, I would have had to sacrifice saving for my future in the name of independence in the present.

 

For many, staying home is a good idea while they pay down student loans, save money, and build a foundation for their finances. Some also decide to build businesses like I did. Once the foundation is built, you can consider leaving.

 

You Have An Emergency Fund

 

I would not have moved out if I didn’t already have several months’ worth of living expenses in the bank.

 

In hindsight, that money came in handy because a couple of months after moving to downtown Miami, I had to deal with a hurricane. This means I lost a week’s worth of billable work. Had I not had savings, I might have been in a lot of trouble.

 

Experts say you should have anywhere from 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. Financial gurus like Dave Ramsey suggest starting off with saving $1000 and building from there. Use this calculator to see if you’re financially prepared.

 

An Opportunity Falls Into Your Lap

 

I had been looking for my own place for months before I found the apartment I live in now. All my efforts were futile due to soaring rents.

 

And then, out of the blue, an opportunity fell into my lap. A friend I’d met through a blogging event needed a roommate. She lived in a great apartment in an awesome neighborhood and the price was right. I moved in right away.

 

Sometimes, when we’re ready, opportunity comes knocking without us having to look for it. If this is the case, take it as a good sign that it’s time to move.

 

Do you still live at home? What are you waiting for to make the leap? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments.

I make an effort to check my retirement accounts quarterly. I find it to be a strangely enjoyable experience because it’s nice seeing cash add up from monthly contributions, employer matches, and more. It makes me forget that I’m dealing with a massive amount of student debt for a second!

 

And then, a voice whispers in the back of my head: “What if you took some of this money out early and used it to pay off some student loans? Imagine how much easier life would be.”

 

I admit it’s a tempting offer. But thankfully, I always manage to log out before I can start acting on it.

 

It can be really tempting to liquidate a long-term investment or savings account for something you want in the short term. Here’s why that may not be such a good idea, and how you can resist the urge to act on it.

 

With Money, You Have To Think In Terms Of Decades

 

This isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s arguably an impossible thing to do. How could you know what your financial needs will be 10, 20, 30 years from now, when you have no idea what your life will even look like then?

 

My thought is, you really can’t. But what you can know is that your financial needs will likely only increase as you get older. It makes sense, right? You might be renting an apartment in a major city now, but you may own a house one day. You might be feeding just yourself for now, but what if you have a few kids down the road? And, the sad reality is that as we get older, our bodies probably need a lot more health care than when we’re young and spry.

 

Step 1 to not touching those investments is the realization that future you, whoever that is, will likely need the money you’re building up a lot more than you need it now.

 

Also, keep in mind that if you’re thinking of pulling money out of a retirement account, what you see there won’t be what actually ends up in your bank account. If you’re younger than 59-and-a-half, the IRS automatically smacks your wrist with a 10% penalty on early withdrawals. Plus, you’ll obviously have to pay the taxes on any pre-tax contributions you put in!

 

Consider The Impact Of Your Choice

 

The thing that makes me click away from the withdrawal button every time is pretty sobering. I go to a retirement calculator, and project what my account balance would be if I kept contributing what I contribute and kept my current balance. Then, I calculate the same thing, but with no balance (as if I took out everything I’ve saved.)

 

The difference is usually hundreds of thousands of dollars! The power of compound interest is no joke.

 

Student debt sucks, but is taking out a huge chunk of it now worth not having hundreds of thousands of dollars more when I’m older? I don’t think so.

 

Should Everyone Leave Their Savings Alone?

 

As I’ve said before, everyone’s situation is different. While in my case, I think not withdrawing from my retirement savings makes sense, that might not be true for everyone.

 

For example, there might be some folks out there who have really toxic debt: the kind with double-digit interest rates that just seems to grow, and never shrink.

 

Now, I am not a financial adviser, and you should probably speak to one before considering anything like the following. However, if you find that you have debt with an interest rate that’s outpacing the rate of return of your investments (usually estimated to be around 7%), then it may make sense to throw everything you have at that debt to get rid of it—even if it means paying the IRS’s early withdrawal penalty.

 

As long as you know the facts about your money and debt, you can begin making a plan that makes sense for you to maximize your financial happiness.

 

Have you ever withdrawn from a long-term investment before? Was it the right move for you, or do you regret having done so now? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments!

“Hey, bro, open up. I know you can hear me. I need the electric bill money. I can’t deal with your excuses anymore. If you have money to party, then I know you have money for the electric bill.”

 

The conversation went something like that in the early morning hours 4 years ago. One of my roommates was collecting money for the electric bill. He’d just about had it with a couple of my other roommates—and so had I.

 

These guys played video games with their friends until 5 a.m. on weekdays. They also ate food that was not theirs, let random people sleep in our shared living room, and yes, did not pay their part of the electric bill on time.

 

I’ve had good and bad experiences with roommates, but nothing was worse than the year of **** I had with those two. But what choices do you have when you’re saddled with a deadbeat roommate? 

 

Set Ground Rules

 

The best way to deal with obnoxious roommates is don’t live with them. (Easier said than done, I know.) If you can’t afford to pay rent yourself—which is probably the case if you want to live in a major city—then set rules with your roommates from the very beginning.

 

For instance pay utility bill on time, no loud noises after 11pm on weekdays and no robbing off food. Put these rules in writing for a “roommate agreement,” and require everyone to sign it. That way, if the obnoxiousness continues, you should be able to leave the apartment (if possible) or kick out the bad roommate. I wish I did this. Instead, I endured a “year of ****.”

 

Keep Bills Separate

 

In almost all my living situations, I’ve been fortunate enough to have contracts where every individual was responsible for their own part of the rent. The exception? One management company that made all the tenants pay the electric bill apart from rent.

 

The splitting of that bill became an issue that left the account holder knocking on my roommate's door at the beginning of every month. If your management company doesn’t let you keep bills separate, do it on your own—and outline how this works in your roommate agreement.

 

You might pay the electric bill yourself each month, while your roommate covers the cable bill. Decide how often you’ll “settle up” (monthly, quarterly, etc.) because the amounts aren’t likely to be equal, but this beats having to hunt down your roommate for money each month. 

 

In this instance, I decided that as soon as my contract was up I would live on my own—even if I lived in a small apartment. There comes a point where sanity and peace beat saving money.

 

How have you dealt with bad roommates in the past? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post your tips in the comments.

Fall semester hasn’t started yet, but shopping for fall semester definitely has. I like to think of myself as a mindful, money savvy student. Therefore, I’m always making sure to get the biggest bang for my buck.

 

I’ve gotten really into couponing, and as an avid shopper (online and in person), I’m always looking for places that give out discounts for being a student. Here are a few of my favorites that require only a university email or student ID.

 

Just remember—even though these service providers offer discounts, they still may not offer you the best deal overall. Consider these added bonuses for items you were planning to buy anyway (and can already afford!).

 

Computers

 

Every college student needs a computer to survive, but really good ones, like Macs, can be really expensive (I know from experience). If you plan to invest in a Mac, Apple offers a program in which you’ll receive a free pair of Beats headphones with a Macbook—plus $200 off your purchase.

 

Microsoft offers one of my favorite student discounts. Microsoft Office, which includes student essentials such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, can cost you over anywhere from $60 to $300. Isn’t that outrageous? Anyways, if you’re a college student, Microsoft lets you download a full package of these items for up to 4 years. You just need to select your school and type in your your email. This was so helpful to me, as I mainly use Word for all papers I write and PowerPoint for most presentations.

 

Decorations

 

No matter how you and your roomie split the move-in responsibilities, you’ll want some personal items to make your dorm feel homey. One site I like for this is UNiDAYS. This is literally just website you can sign up on, and it gets you instant access to discounts for being a student. They have major home goods retailers, as well as for clothing and electronics. Ones I frequent (like Hollister) give me an added 10% off my total purchase as well.

 

If you love art like I do, and want to hang up some of your own work, then JOANN fabric and craft store is a great place for you to check out. They offer 10% off with their student discount program. I usually buy my canvases in bulk, and this really helps out when I do.

 

Other Favorites

 

Amazon offers its Prime service, which includes 2-day shipping, free to students for 6 months. After that, it’s $45 for the year, which is about half off the cost of a regular Amazon Prize membership.

 

H&M is another very popular store that offers student discounts. They’ll give you 15% off just for flashing your student ID in stores. They have great business casual/professional wear!

 

These are just some of the most relevant places I use. As I find more, I will let you all know. Sign up or log in with your Salt account to comment below and let me know of any other places that gives freebies for student!

 

Salt has no relationship, financial or otherwise, with the products or services mentioned above. We encourage you to read their privacy policy and terms of use to decide if you want to use them.

 

With the exception of college, I’ve lived in a major city all my life. Because of this, I can’t really ever picture myself not living in a city. I live for the street life, culture, and events. I even feel weird if I don’t hear traffic.

 

Because I live in a city (Miami), I often get asked how to afford it. Cities are not cheap, and cost of living keeps going up in cities all over the country.

 

In total transparency, since I always assumed I’d be living in a major city, I also always assumed I’d have to find ways to earn a lot of money. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t find ways to make it more affordable.

 

The reality is it is doable to live in a city and still save a lot of money. Here are four things I do to make this happen.

 

1. Find A Roommate

 

While some people groan about having roommates, I would argue you can get more bang for your buck.

 

I live in a condo in a great neighborhood near downtown right next to the ocean. My portion of the rent (which includes all utilities and association fees) is actually slightly less than what I would pay for a small one-bedroom apartment more inland. I even pay less than my brother—who lives about an hour north of the city.

 

By the way, moving to a condo also allowed me to give up my gym membership because I have access to a 24/7 gym, a pool, and a basketball/tennis court.

 

2. Give Up Your Car

 

The great thing about cities is they usually have public transportation or other methods of getting around. Granted, not all cities are created equal in this department, but if you can get rid of your car, then you’re saving a significant amount of money.

 

For example, as soon as I walk out of my building, I have access to two bus lines and a free trolley. I can also walk to my office and most places where I need to run errands. If I’m going further out, I can just use a ride-sharing app (which by the way costs me less than owning a car—I’ve done the math).

 

3. Shop At Thrift Stores

 

When you live in a city, you often have a lot of access to thrift stores. You can get anything from clothing to kitchen appliances at dirt-cheap prices there. Everything in my kitchen is secondhand. Same goes for my furniture.

 

4. Enjoy Free Entertainment

 

Perhaps the best part about living in a city is all the access to free entertainment. There is always something going on, and it rarely has to cost a lot of money. In the last few weeks, I’ve been to fashion shows, a brunch, and a marketing event—and they all cost me nothing.

 

Is rent more expensive in a city? You bet. But you’re pretty much paying for the convenience of not having to spend money on other things like transportation and entertainment. And, if you play your cards right, you could possibly end up saving more by living in a city.

 

Do you live in a major city? What do you do to reduce your cost of living? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post your tips in the comments!

"Sir, don’t worry. Everything will be OK. I just need your bank account or credit card information. Please sir, take your time.”

 

Those words finally made me realize it: I was caught in a consumer fraud hostage situation. How did I get here? All I did was click on a software download link. Right after that, an Apple icon appeared with a message saying my computer was locked and I needed to call this number to unlock it.

 

I immediately panicked and called the number. When the person picked up and talked in a fast-paced “I got you” voice, I knew something was wrong. When I heard “please sir, take you time,” I hung up and unplugged the computer. I took it to a repair store, and the worker said they couldn’t do much except hope that unplugging my computer would do away with the ransom.

 

Miraculously, my computer was no longer under ransom when I re-plugged it in. Still, I was upset that I let it happen to myself—but more angry because consumer fraud is so open and rapid that these tricksters come up with sleazy ways to get your money.

 

What Is Consumer Fraud?

 

Consumer fraud includes any transactions that seem to be legal but are actually deceptive practices meant to obtain your financial or personal information. Consumer fraud can happen in person, over the phone, and on the internet.

 

There are numerous well-known consumer fraud scams, such as the Nigerian prince who has millions of dollars waiting for you—all he needs is your financial account information. Others take it a step further, for instance by posing as victims of natural disasters asking for donations.

 

The last one I got was a call from the IRS saying they were suing me. The only thing was that the number in the ID was not from Washington, D.C. and I had not received a letter from the IRS about this. Yup, it was another common scam. (Another community member actually experienced this as well; read more here.)

 

What To Do If You’re A Victim

 

When my computer was held hostage, I was clueless on what to do. I had read about this happening to other people’s computers, but I never thought it would happen to me. I was lucky that everything turned out OK—and I learned a few important lessons.

 

Do not click on catchy, eye-popping links that you feel are suspicious. If you fall victim to an online scam, unplug the computer right away and disconnect the internet wires. Wait at least an hour before turning everything back on.

 

If you’re on the phone with a scammer, do not let the person intimidate you with threats and try to avoid their traps. Don’t provide your financial info; it will only give them the opportunity to take your money. If this has already happened, contact your bank or credit card company immediately to make them aware of what had just happened.

 

If you feel you are being scammed or question the legitimacy of a website, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here’s some more info on what to do if you think you’ve been a victim of consumer fraud.

 

Protect yourself at all times. Always be wary of people asking you for your information. Remember, if it is too good to be true, it usually is.

 

Have you been the victim of a consumer fraud scam? Share your story in the comments to help other community members avoid falling into the same traps. Sign up or log in with your Salt account now.

These last few years, I’ve moved around—a lot. From hauling my stuff across the Atlantic to attend Oxford to driving a car down Manhattan to get to Brooklyn from Boston to, most recently, doing the cross-country jaunt to San Francisco, I thought I had seen it all.

 

And then, a friend asked if I’d like to move in with him next year. While I’m still considering the offer, it dawned on me that I’ve never actually moved within the same city before.

 

Here’s how I’m thinking about approaching my potential move in a cost-friendly way. I’d love thoughts and ideas from folks that have made an intercity move before!

 

1. Relying On Friends As Movers

 

Movers are, somewhat surprisingly, costly. I was looking at quotes of around a few hundred dollars to move an entire studio apartment a small distance.

 

Thankfully, I have two (marginally) strong arms and a lot of time to kill on the weekends! I also have plenty of friends in the same boat. I’m hoping they like me enough to be my movers for a day. And that they’ll take beer or wine as payment.

 

I figure between boxing my own stuff, relying on friends as movers, and calling a few Ubers, I should be able to move most of my apartment on my own. While I may still need movers for bigger items (cramming a bed frame into an Uber might hurt my passenger rating), I’m hoping I can really drive down cost by handling the smaller stuff on my own.

 

2. Stealing Boxes From Work

 

Another surprising expense: boxes. I never thought a piece of cardboard could possibly cost around $20, until I started looking into buying a bunch of moving boxes.

 

Thankfully, one of the non-obvious benefits of working somewhere with a dedicated culinary department is that they go through a ton of boxes on a daily basis. Those boxes often stack up outside the cafeterias and have bleak futures, destined for the recycling bin.

 

I plan to ask the chefs if I can steal a few of those boxes for my move. Cardboard reuse for the win.

 

3. Making Sure My Current Apartment Is **** And Span

 

If I go forward with the move, I want at least a week to make sure my apartment is clean and damage free. While that’s partially because I like my landlord and want to make sure I respect his space, it’s also because I’d like to get my full security deposit back.

 

It’s too easy to get docked a few hundred dollars for not patching picture frame holes or leaving the place a mess when I move out. While I won’t get to hold that security deposit money for too long (it’ll likely just go directly to my new landlord), I do want it back in full. It’s hard to envision losing money you’ve already considered out of sight and out of mind, but it’s a very real possibility!

 

How else have you minimized costs during an intercity move? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments!

In life, they say that we can only be certain about two things: death and taxes. Everything else is a mystery. And yet, I’ve never thought to care much about estate planning for my death.

 

I was always under the impression that estate planning was for the rich—not a 20-something like me who barely has an “estate” to begin with. But after taking an estate-planning course, I realized how necessary this is for everyone, regardless of wealth.

 

Let me explain why.

 

What Is Estate Planning

 

Estate planning is the process of planning for your inevitable death and the legal transfer of your wealth. Among other factors, estate planning takes into account legal, tax, and personal objectives related to your passing.

 

Estate planning is about being financially prepared for both the expected and the unexpected. It considers a person’s well wishes, in addition to their goals of their wealth. And yet, people avoid estate planning for a number of reasons.

 

First, it’s complicated (again, I had to take a whole course on the topic to appreciate its value). Second, no one likes to confront his or her mortality head-on—I bet just reading “your inevitable death” a couple paragraphs back unsettled you a bit, right? 

 

Goals Of Estate Planning

 

Depending on where you are in your life, estate planning can encompass a number of things. Some common goals include:

 

  • Documenting a particular individual(s) or institution(s) to receive your property or other estate holdings.
  • Minimizing the taxes on all of your estate’s items, including property, income, gift, and inheritance.
  • Minimizing costs such as attorney fees, document recording, accountants, etc.

 

But for me, the most important goal is to assure that there is sufficient liquidity to pay for everything associated with a person’s death, including funeral costs, medical bills, and taxes. A bad estate plan will leave a family covering these out of their own pockets.

 

Should I Establish An Estate Plan?

 

The simple answer is yes. You need a plan to address your health, property, and your wishes as to how to disperse your wealth—whether you have $2,500 or $250,000.

 

Just imagine you leave that wealth with no estate plan. Without a documented plan, the bulk of that money will likely go to paying taxes, transfer costs, and court costs trying to figure out who should receive it (or whatever’s left of it after those expenses).

 

If you decide to move forward with estate planning, get in contact with an estate planner. Before you do, make sure you have all your financial statements gathered along with your family and charitable objectives.

 

No one can predict their death, and it’s no fun planning what will happen to your wealth once you die. But planning will help your loved ones financially and help them avoid dealing with additional tax and court costs. Plan today for tomorrow’s problems.

 

Do you have an estate plan? If not, why not? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your experience in the comments.

Since I’m stepping it up and taking control of my financial future this semester, I’m starting to wonder if I’m with the right bank. My current bank is the only one I’ve ever used, so it holds a special place in my heart. I was 15 or 16 when I opened up my checking account and around 17 when I opened my savings.

 

Some things I like about my bank are:

 

  • Mobile-friendly: I use the mobile banking app the most to handle my money. I rarely go to a teller. If there's ever any discrepancy in my account, I just call them.
  • Fraud protection: In two instances, my bank thought my card may have been compromised so they shut it off. At first, this was frustrating, but I was very grateful for it—especially because the second time it was compromised for real!
  • Fast processing: They process checks as fast as 1 business day, and you can simply take a picture of your check to deposit it.
  • Overdraft protection: If you ever overdraft from your checking account, they simply transfer the overdraft amount from your savings instead of charging you an overdraft fee.
  • No crazy fees: In addition to overdraft fees, I’ve never been charged a minimum balance fee; a lot of my friends always complain about these charges with their banks.
  • Good customer service: I always have pleasant conversations with whoever handles my inquiries and concerns. They offer some of the best customer service I’ve come across.


I honestly do think it’s a great bank, but they lack some things as well:

  • Perks: Other than $25 when I first signed up, I have never gotten any type of perk for being a customer of my bank (for over 7 years now!). It would be nice to have some type of additional benefit. I know some banks will reward you for having good banking habits or give credits for certain purchases.
  • ATMs: Though they have a few ATMs, most of the ones for my bank are not within a good distance of where I live. There's not very many of them overall within my area either.
  • Credit cards: My bank was the first company I tried to get a credit card from, and they denied me for having no credit history—even though I’ve been a loyal customer and handled my accounts well with them.

 

I don’t think my dislikes are enough to make me switch banks. I actually really like my bank and  will likely  try to get another credit card from them in the future when I’m older and have more credit built up.

 

What about you, Salt Community? Do you guys like your bank? Should I think about other features I need when it comes to a bank? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know below!

When I first graduated from college, I used to think saving money was a pretty straightforward task. You get a paycheck direct deposited into your checking account, and you stick a portion of it into your savings account. What was so hard about that?

 

A few years later, and after conversations with various family members, friends, colleagues, and even a financial adviser, I now know what was so flawed with that line of thinking. It was well-intentioned, but it wasn’t strategic.

 

Here’s what I learned.

 

You Need Higher Return Potential

 

While it’s admirable to save money by putting it into a savings account, you deny yourself the chance to build serious wealth if that’s all you do. It should be a part of the plan, but not the only part.

 

Long-term wealth building is all about finding sound investments. Buying bonds, investing in the stock market, putting money into real estate, and more are all ways to magnify the effects of your money—“making it work for you,” as they say.

 

Of course, spending money—and potentially losing that money—to increase your savings can feel a bit counter-intuitive. For instance, let’s say you buy stock in a company that you hope to sell at a much higher price. If your bet on the company is right, you’ll make more than what you paid for that stock.

 

If your bet is wrong, you may not make a profit. But consider this: If you put that money in a savings account instead, you wouldn’t lose anything —but you also wouldn’t really grow your savings either. You’d just have roughly the same amount (maybe a little more) a few years later. No risk, no reward.

 

Not interested in learning about the stock market? You don’t have to; financial advisers and brokerages can help there. For a small fee, I have a financial adviser manage the day-to-day happenings of my investments. She reports the headline results back to me every quarter, and we make big money decisions together.

 

She also helps manage my retirement savings, which is another huge investment component.

 

With Retirement, Time Is On Your Side

 

Retirement accounts, like company-sponsored 401(k)s or Roth IRAs, are basically investment accounts that you shouldn’t touch until you retire.

 

When you contribute to these plans, you’re not actually stashing money into a safe that you get to open when you’re 65. What you’re really doing is putting money into investments optimized to grow over long periods. It’s totally different than a regular savings account.

 

Again, this may be unsettling to some folks because with investments come risks. If your retirement funds all hinge on investments, what happens if those investments tank? Initially, I was worried I could be penniless for my retirement. Thankfully, economics and time don’t quite work that way.

 

You could have an investment tank and see the value of your retirement portfolio go down. In fact, in times of financial crisis, many people see exactly that. However, markets are cyclical and tend to normalize with time. If your investments tank, chances are that if you leave everything how it is, you’ll see them come back to a net positive amount at some point in the future.

 

As a young person, time is on your side. You have 50+ years of market ups and downs to go through before you need your retirement funds. If you’re contributing money regularly, and you don’t take it out early, most experts tend to forecast a 7% return rate from retirement investments that are stock heavy. That’s way better than what you’d see in a static savings account!

 

Any other investment advice to share? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments!

I remember the exact moment that I realized inexpensive fast food could hurt my wallet and my health.

 

I was living in Oklahoma City and preparing to move. I was spending a lot of money on the move, but getting everything ready left me short on time and energy to cook (packing my kitchen stuff didn’t help either). So, I ate nothing but fast food for ten consecutive days. Big mistake.

 

By the end of the second week, my stomach was in pain, my acne was going crazy, and the grease on my forehead was out of control. I had to buy multiple treatments for these fast food-fueled problems—and that’s on top of the money I spent for lunch and dinner each day. In total, this food and medicine cost me about $400.

 

So much for cheap meals!

 

Short-Term Costs

 

For many, eating pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried food is the norm—or at least it was for me. These foods are all readily available, and buying them easily fits within a student’s/20-something’s budget. And, of course, they taste delicious, too!

 

Look, I can’t tell you to stop eating these foods completely. I still get fast food sometimes but not for consecutive days. But you need to pay attention to what you spend on them. Losing track of this led to me spending $400 in just 2 weeks—that was almost close to my month’s rent for me. That can seriously hurt your budget.

 

Long-Term Costs

 

I learned a bigger lesson from that fast food splurge, too: You need to be aware of what you put in your body. Because while unhealthy eating can hurt your wallet now, it can lead to even more severe—and costly—future consequences, including diabetes, heart attacks, and obesity.

 

The link between fast food and health issues is real, and doctor co-pays, lost wages from time off, and medications add up. These costs don’t even include something major like a trip to the ER, in which the ambulance ride alone can cost more than $500.

 

Eat Healthy

 

Now that summer has started, barbecues, rib fests, and ice cream are here to tempt us as well. But Instead of spending money on these and fast food, make healthy choices. Fruits and vegetables are not astronomically expensive. Instead of buying a party size of chips I buy a bag of apples, which cost almost the same depending on the brand of chips and apples.

 

Buying healthy food may cost a few dollars more than fast food—but at least I save money on stomach medicine and acne treatments. Because while you may think that eating from the dollar menu saves you money, it won’t if you order too often. Those cheeseburgers and fries won’t be so cheap in the long run!

 

Have you cut fast food out of your diet? How did affect your health and your budget? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your experiences!