Top Personal Finance Tips of the Year

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In Reddit’s r/personalfinance community, users share tips on all things personal finance.

Other users upvote or downvote the posts which can cover a wide range of topics including saving money, managing debt, investing strategies, and planning for retirement.

Banks.org has compiled the top 10 personal finance tips of the year below, starting at number ten.

10. Quick Tip to Save Money on Prescriptions

This Reddit post gives a short, but very useful, tip on how to reduce the cost of expensive medications.

Bristol Myers just gave me a copay card that changed my monthly medication from $500 a month to $10. It lasts 2 years and they will renew it then with one phone call. Sorry if this is a repost, but this was a literal lifesaver for me.

EDIT: In my case income level was never asked. Also, the company benefits by hoping people with max out their maximum-out-of-pocket. This discount only applies to what the insurance company won’t pay.

From “If you have an expensive prescription, contact the manufacturer and tell them you can’t afford it.” by chainsawx72.

 

9. Dual Income Households Should Budget Based off One Income.

We were both blindsided by today. We’re both pretty young, early on in our careers, he had only been there a year and was performing. It was a huge shock. We don’t practice every best habit of the sub but we’re grateful we picked up doing your best to live off one income.

We just bought our house in August and insisted on going through the pre-approval process off my income alone. Our lights will stay on because our bills are effectively scaled to one income as well. We held off on car payments and continued to drive our beaters because the numbers for new used cars didn’t make sense with one income.

My only regret is not building up our emergency fund more (one month saved but we should’ve had at least three), so if you’re reading this, definitely do that.

Anyways, thanks to the sub for the constant advice on living below your means and always being prepared. I came to thank you all, not lecture. And encourage people who are following this thought process and are using a second income for the “extra stuff” – you’re doing great. Today sucked but it could’ve been so much worse.

We’re counting our blessings and the job search begins tomorrow.

EDIT: Thanks everyone for the encouragement and well-wishes. This obviously isn’t the only thing going on in our lives, so the messages to keep going were greatly appreciated.

For those of you who are in HCOL areas or other situations where living off one income isn’t possible, I totally understand – the intent of this post wasn’t to shame anyone into anything. We live in a MCOL city in the South and are in the tech sector so it was doable for us. We’re also not beacons of perfection of this sub and are still working on breaking bad financial habits every day.

For those of you who took this as a self pat-on-the-back post, I can see that. The intent really was to see the silver lining of things and encourage others who are perhaps considering this type of budgeting method. But I understand how fast this sub gets into circle-jerking and self-congratulating and didn’t mean to purpose this thread for that. Just hoping to reduce the amount of “We’re in deep shit from one event that could’ve had a much lower impact” posts by showing anything can happen at any time and that even then, we weren’t as prepared as we should’ve been.

From “My fiancé just got unexpectedly fired today and we’re both now reminded why r/personalfinance is always insisting on trying to live off one income.” by Blueyucca.

 

8. Reasons NOT to Buy a New Car

There are 4 basic reasons people came in to purchase a car.

Current car is messy: I sold a ton of cars to people who’s current car they hated simply because it was dirty. Some elbow grease or paying for a good detail could have saved them $20k.

Wanted new technology: I sold $50k cars weekly because of Bluetooth capabilities. No matter how old your car is, you can add this to any existing car for around $200. Cheaper if your DIY.

Wanted it as a status symbol: Cars always look amazing at a dealership where they are waxed, clean, and smothered in Armor All and tire shine. In two weeks the difference between your old car and your new car will probably be negligible. The whole status symbol thing really only lasts a few weeks. Most of your peers don’t know the difference between a new and much older models if they are both dirty.

Mechanical problems: This is the only reason I would advise anyone to purchase a car. Eventually the repairs get to the point where its more expensive to keep it than to move on. If you are buying a car for anyother reason than this… don’t!

EDIT: Reading the comments, I figured I should address some general thoughts.

Safety isn’t something I meantioned before, but probably should have. Regardless of how reliable a car is, if you are driving something with a rusted frame and 20 year old safety features its time to upgrade (assuming you can afford it). My wife and kids drive in a 5 star crash rating car with every modern safety feature. We have chose to be stingy in other places in our finances so we can afford to have a car with these types of features. Its worth a little bit of money to us to know our family is safe and to be able to see when backing out of the driveway.

That moment when repairs out way the cost of upgrading is tricky. I have been burned several times by spending money on repairs that I thought were a good investment only to have more and more repairs pile up. I wish I knew some perfect rule for this. I don’t. I have repaired cars I shouldn’t have and I have gotten rid of cars that probably would have been great with minor investments.

From “As a former car salesman, these are the common fallacies that people used to justify purchasing a new car.” by Cravati.

 

7. The Best Cash-Back Credit Cards

This post provides a table with detailed data on over 20 of the most popular cashback credit cards and gives advice on which ones are the best. The verdict? Citi DoubleCash & US Bank Cash+.

Best of the Best

Obviously, these are my personal opinions. This is not financial advice for your situation and you should do your own research before applying for any cards

Best All Categories Cash Back
If spending < $1,000 / mo.

Citi DoubleCash 2% interest with no annual fee and no restrictions makes this my current catch-all card.

If spending > $1,000 / mo.

Alliant CU Signature Visa if you plan to spend more than $11,800 / yr on this card then 2.5% cash back more than covers the $59 annual fee, especially in the first year when all purchases receive 3% cash back.

Categories
You Choose

US Bank Cash+ Select 2 categories of your choice and receive 5% cash back up to $2,000 / qtr is just about the best I found anywhere. Pretty much the only way I found to beat this is with a small army of cards dedicated to separate categories.

Dedicated

Costco and Amazon Amazon nets 5% and Costco nets 4% back total on purchases with those retailers if you have a membership. So if you already have a membership and frequently shop at Costco / Amazon both of those cards seem like pretty good deals as well.

Promos
By %

Chase Freedom Unlimited, US Bank Cash+, & Bank of America Cash Rewards all offer $150 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months which is an astounding 30% back!

By $

Despite the annual fee Capital One Savor offers a $500 promo if you think you are going to spend more than $3,000 in the first 3 months. Personally I am not a fan of the annual fee associated with this card, but if you are just about those promo offers, $500 is nothing to scoff at.

Summary

Selfishly, I made this list for myself as I was deciding which cards to apply for. I already have strong credit, but I wanted to find cards that I could keep open long term to build my credit as my lifestyle changes, so my #1 rule was “No Annual Fees.” Without an annual fee there is no penalty to keeping the account open by purchasing a snickers once / qtr so my average account age can grow. While there are a few cards with annual fees that have nice benefits, I personally didn’t find that they wound up outweighing the chance that my lifestyle would change or a better card would come along and I would need to close the account.

Personally, I wound up applying for the Citi DoubleCash & US Bank Cash+. If I find that I am spending more than $1,000 on the Citi DoubleCash I will probably apply for the Alliant Signature Visa since I will be over the breakeven point. As for the US Bank Cash+, I really like this card because I can see keeping it open for quite a long time due to it’s great rewards and flexibility to adapt to life changes.

Please let me know if I made any mistakes or if you have a better card that should be on this list!

Edit:

I can’t keep up with all the comments so I am just going to list suggestions here without all the details

  • Uber Visa -$0 fee – 4% Restaurants \ 3% Travel \ 2% Online purchases \ 1% everything else
  • PayPal – $0 fee – 2.0% back
  • Alliant Platinum Rewards – $0 fee – 2% back
  • Capital One SavorOne – $0 fee – Dining & Entertainment

From “I researched Cash-Back credit cards so you don’t have to [Effort Post]” by jakfrist.

 

6. Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Lowered

https://www.credible.com/blog/data-insights/us-cut-student-loan-rates/

Quote from article

The new rates on federal student loans, effective from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020, will be:

Undergraduates: 4.53% (down 10% from the 5.05% rate in effect during 2018-19)

Graduate students: 6.08% (down 8% from the old rate of 6.6%)

Grad and parent PLUS loans: 7.08% (down 7% from the previous rate of 7.6%)

Article also states this could mean a total of 2.9billion saved by undergraduates.

From “U.S. to Cut Rates on Student Loans for First Time in 3 Years” by teeje21.

 

5. Consider the Total Price You Pay for Something, Not the Monthly Payments

This happens everywhere I go. Car dealership, “So what do you want your monthly payment to be?” Insurance agent, “Great so your downpayment is $XX and your quarterly payments are $XX” etc..

Um, I want to know what the final out the door price would be?

“Well tell me what you can afford and I’ll see if we can make this work for you. So how much are you looking to pay a month?”

Why is this bad? Because you cannot compare apples to apples with just a monthly payment. Sure they can make your monthly payment super low and just extend your term to forever so they make more money. Or for insurance purposes you cannot compare that policy vs another one.

Also you should know the true cost of the items you are buying. Sure those $150 airpods at 5 bucks a month on your credit card is easy to afford. But once you factor in that 22% interest rate over how long it takes to pay it off were they REALLY worth the $180+ you just paid?

I feel like majority of uninformed consumers should be considering the true cost of items vs they I can afford that monthly payment mindset. No wonder people live paycheck to paycheck thinking they cannot afford to have an emergency savings because all of their money is going towards those monthly payments.

Wait emergency savings? I don’t need that, I have available credit on my credit cards!

From “Never look at monthly payments. Negotiate on the final price.” by modestmeans.

 

4. Submit Your Equifax Data Breach Class Action Lawsuit Settlement Claim

Settlement website

Eligibility checker

FTC.gov press release

You can receive a minimum of $125, more if you had to spend time freezing your credit or suffered financial losses. Claims are open until January.

Edit: there seems to be some confusion on being eligible for the cash settlement if you “don’t have credit monitoring”. I assume most readers here have something like Credit Karma, which is free and does indeed provide credit monitoring.

From “Claims are now being accepted for the 2017 Equifax breach – you could receive $125 or more.” by mmomjian​.

 

3. Sign up for a Bank Account in Your Own Name Once You Turn 18.

For minors, it’s generally required for a parent to co-sign their bank accounts. Once you turn 18, it’s best to establish an account in your name ONLY, so you have sole control of it. It would even be better if you can establish the account at a different bank/credit union than the one the minor account was in, to avoid any inadvertent connections between the previous and new account.

There are a couple reasons for this. It doesn’t take too long to find stories of people who are still using the accounts they had when they were minors who are shocked when their money is suddenly taken away for reasons beyond their control. The parents could have financial problems and either use the money to pay off their debts or the money is seized by the institutions that they owe. There could be disagreements between parents and their kids, so they take the money away as a punishment. Or, it could just be old fashioned greed and the parents decide to just take the money. It doesn’t matter who earned the money that’s in the account. If two people are on it, the money belongs to both parties and the bank isn’t going to stop someone on the account from withdrawing the cash.

Keep in mind also, having your own account does not mean that your parents can’t send you money if you need it. All they need is your account and routing number (the same information that would be on a check) to deposit money into the account. In addition, there are any number of banking apps today they could use to send money to you if you’re still being supported by them. Other excuses may have good intentions at heart, but from a safety and security standpoint, it’s best to establish an independent banking account.

From “To all the graduating high school seniors and those turning 18 – Get a bank account that’s only in your name.” by justathoughtfromme.

 

2. Tip About Accidental Disclosure of Personal Finance Data

My wife and I were at Panera eating breakfast and we noticed a lady be hind us talking on the phone very loudly. We couldn’t help over hearing her talk about a bill not being paid. We were a little annoyed but not a big deal because it was a public restaurant. We were not trying to listen but were shocked when she announced that she was about to read her card number. She then gave the card’s expiration date, security code, and her zip code. We clearly heard and if we were planning on stealing it she gave us plenty of notice to get a pen.

Don’t read your personal information in public like this. You never know who is listening and who is writing stuff down.

From “Be careful what you say in public” by Bonsacked.

 

1. Free Budgeting Spreadsheet

In the most upvoted r/personalfinance post of the year, a user shares a free Google Doc spreadsheet to use when managing your budget.

Hey guys! I’m back six months later with a new version of the budgeting spreadsheet I made. Earlier this year I posted the spreadsheet I made for myself and it really resonated with people. As I got more and more feedback I found places where I could improve and develop the sheet into something easier to use but still useful.

You can find pictures of it HERE

A bit of background on me and why I made this- and also why it’s made the way it is. I grew up poor and was never taught about HOW to handle money. If we had money it was already needed for other things. Food, Bills, all of the money we had already had a place. This made me get a mentality that if I had money I needed to spend it before something came up and the money would go. It’s unhealthy, but it was the only thing I knew until I moved out. I was taught that money would disappear if I didn’t use it, so I just USED it. Even now I still feel anxiety about money and can spend recklessly if I’m not careful.

Another problem I faced is that I have ADHD, so impulse control can be hard, and it can also be hard to keep track of every purchase and focus on a bunch of aspects of a budget. This spreadsheet is made so you only focus on ONE number.

I have made this sheet- and previous versions of it- with three goals in mind:

  • That it be easy to use
  • that I can focus on one daily number while supporting my long term goals
  • that it be a good starting place for people who have never had another budget

The sheet is divided into a few different tools.

Budget:

  • Select your pay schedule, add any extra income/tips that you get monthly and select the percentage of that income that you want to save.
  • the credit card section allows you to input up to five cards and adds your monthly car payments to your expenses
  • The expenses area is where you’ll add all of your itemized expenses. You can also select when your bill is due during the month- allowing you to see if early on in the month your spendable is different from later on in the month.

Your budget summary at the top is the breakdown of all the information below. YES I know pie charts aren’t useful for everything- but that is useful to visually digest information. Look and see where your money is going, see if you spend more than you earn, and finally- see how much money you can spend.

This sheet focuses on giving you ONE number to remember. Daily Spendable. If you want to spend money throughout the day you just have to make sure you DONT go over that number and you will always have enough to cover any other expenses.

I don’t work well with a lot of budgets because I have issues imagining the big picture. By giving myself a daily/weekly/monthly budget I can make sure that on any given day I haven’t spent more than I’m allowed to- and if I do i can see where I’m borrowing from or where that money is supposed to come from.

There are a few extra features too- a large purchase calculator that lets you figure how long youd have to save to buy a larger purchase. It includes a monthly tracker that lets you see what youre spending realistically vs what you’ve budgeted for and finally a daily tracker for further breakdown.

Finally LINK THREE

Changes: Added a bi weekly option so you stop asking me to redo math, please yall, its an open spreadsheet you can edit it but i did this one for you. Also NOTE: Yall i wont make an excel version. Some of the functions/graphs break, and the whole point of this is that i made it for myself and i want to share it freely, what means not a paid program- i’m sorry!

From “I made a spreadsheet for people who dont know how to budget! Ver. 2.0” by Celesmeh.