Category: Spend + Save

We Found A Green Account That Pays You 200% More Than The Big Banks

Free ATMs Worldwide. Zero Fees. Unlimited Cash Back. 2.00% APY interest ? Aspiration?s New Spend & Save Account Really Gives

  • No fees, ever.
  • Free ATMS anywhere in the world.
  • Unlimited Cash Back on Every Debit Card Transaction.
  • Additional Cash Back Rewards for Socially Conscious Spending.
  • Earns up to 2.00% APY Interest ? up to 200 times more than ?Big Banks.?
  • Fossil Fuel free. Your deposits are never used to make loans to oil & gas. Ever.

Aspiration is really upping their game. While they?ve always been on a solid mission to help customers make money and make a difference at the same time, their new Spend & Save account makes it even easier and more profitable for everyone. Here?s how:

How does Aspiration help customers save money on banking services?

  • No fees, ever! No Bank Fees. No ATM fees.

Most Americans today pay hundreds of dollars in fees every year on their ?Big Bank? checking and savings accounts while earning practically nothing in interest payments. Between monthly fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees, check deposit fees, and debit card usage fees, most of us are used to getting gouged here, but we don?t have to be.

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How does Aspiration help customers make money?

Aspiration?s new Spend & Save account is now offering up to 2.00% APY interest on deposits. Yes, you read that right. That?s up to 200 times more than the interest traditional banks offer. Compare that to what the big banks are currently offering:

  • Wells Fargo 0.01%
  • Chase 0.01%
  • Bank of America 0.03%
The average APY interest rate for checking accounts in 2018 was 0.07% ? Bankrate
Unlimited Cash Back Rewards with Your Debit Card

Cash Back rewards are generally unheard of for debit card customers. Only wealthier credit card holders can take advantage of them these days. Aspiration?s Spend & Save account is not only making cash back rewards available to everyone, they?re also giving customers a chance to earn even more by spending sustainably.

  • .5% cash back on all purchases made with your debit card. Yes, that means everything you buy with your debit card generates cash back.

How Does Aspiration help customers make a difference (?and then pay them for it?)

Additional Cash Back Rewards for Spending Sustainably
  • An additional ?.5% cash back bonus reward for all spending at socially-conscious businesses. Aspiration offers a 1% reward when you shop businesses that have the best sustainability practices and most employee-friendly policies.
An App That Gives You Your Own Personal People and Planet Scores

How can you know if you are spending your money at a sustainable, employee-friendly business?

Aspiration?s Impact Measurement app (AIM), a new feature of the Aspiration Spend account, lets you see your own Sustainability Score ? the impact you?re making on People and the Planet based on where you?re shopping and spending every day. Now you can track the power of your money, and get paid for supporting good business.

How does Aspiration strive to help people beyond its customer base?

Aspiration?s ?Dimes Worth of Difference? donates one dime for every dollar its customers agree to pay to charitable activities that enhance economic opportunity.Aspiration partners with networks like Accion which provide micro-loans to empower low-to-moderate income business owners through access to capital and financial education. They want to help struggling Americans transform their lives.

How does Aspiration strive to help the planet heal and thrive?

Traditional banks generally have horrible track records funding destructive environmental and social enterprises. Unlike the big banks, Aspiration will never invest your deposits to make loans to oil and gas companies. They use their revenue for good.

Unlike big banks, Aspiration does not use its customers deposits to fund oil pipelines or campaign contributions.
By comparison:

Aspiration are divested from oil and gas, and they put your deposits in places you can feel good about.

If you think this sounds too good to be true, we think Aspiration deserves your attention. Here?s a quick review of the features of Aspiration?s Spend and Save account:

  • Pays you up to 2.00% APY interest ? Seriously, that?s like 200x more than the big banks offer.
  • Unlimited cash back rewards with every dollar spent
  • Extra cash back rewards for spending sustainably
  • Low minimum deposit ? You can open an account with just $10.
  • No minimum balance ? No minimum balance required, ever.
  • No service fees ? Aspiration?s ?Pay What is Fair? fee means you pick your fee, even if it?s zero. And you can change it anytime you want
  • No ATM fees ? Free access to your money at every ATM in the world.
  • FDIC insured on deposits ? Deposits in your Spend & Save are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 per depositor
  • Certified B Corp ?Aspiration is B-Corp certified. B-Corps must have a beneficial impact on society, employees, the community, the environment and profit as legally to retain their status.
  • Aspiration Gives ? Commits to donating 10% of its earnings to charities.
  • 100% fossil fuel free deposits.
  • An app that gives you your own personal People and Planet score so that you can both track your footprint and monitor your finances!
  • Industry Standard Encryption ? Multi-Factor Authentication and 256-bit encryption.
  • Cell phone protection insurance
  • Identity fraud expense reimbursement

The traditional systems that separate capitalism and philanthropy is crumbling quickly, and Aspiration is leading the way with their new Spend and Save Account. These guys are competitive (and they?re green.) Check them out!


Switching to Aspiration could mean saving up to $545 per year, or over $45 per month, based on $329/year average fees reported in Bank Fee Finder Report, April 2017; $54/year cash back on $10,857 average debit card spend from the 2018 Debit Issuer Study; and $162/year in interest from the difference in earnings on a $8,100 median bank balance between 2.00% APY and 0.01% APY. APYs are based on a comparison of Aspiration?s Spend & Save cash management account 2.00% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) to the following savings account APYs reported by Bankrate for 12/28/18: Wells Fargo (0.01% APY), Chase Bank (0.01% APY) and Bank of America (0.03% APY). The US median combined savings & checking account bank balances of $8,100 was reported Nov 2018 by Smart Asset based on the Federal Reserve?s Survey of Consumer Finances.

The Aspiration Spend & Save account is a cash management account. Interest rate and Annual Percentage Yield (APY) comparisons are based on a comparison of Aspiration?s Spend & Save cash management account 2.00% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) to the following savings account APYs reported by Bankrate for 12/28/18: Wells Fargo (0.01% APY), Chase Bank (0.01% APY) and Bank of America (0.03% APY). Note that cash management accounts and savings accounts may each offer different features and protections. Neither Aspiration Partners, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries is a Bank.

Aspiration Partners, Inc. and its affiliates are committed to ?All Extra Services Provided at Cost,? meaning that we?ll only charge you what it costs us to provide the extra service (such as a wire transfer), and not a penny more. Besides these at-cost service charges, the only account fee you pay is the fee you choose, even if it?s $0, which is why we call it Pay What Is Fair.

Banking on Climate Change: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2018, by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club, Oil Change International, Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth.

The special insurance program descriptions herein are summaries only. Such summaries do not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the Overview of Benefits, Identity Fraud Protection and Cellphone Protection for complete details of coverage and exclusions.

All ATM withdrawal fees will be waived for your Aspiration Spend & Save Account. In addition, your account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using an Aspiration Debit Card linked to your account at any ATM. The reimbursement will be credited to the account within 2 business days of the ATM fee debit. Please note, there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account.

Deposits are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 per depositor by being swept to FDIC Member institutions. For details, see their FAQ and visit

The Annual Percentage Yield (?APY?) associated with the Aspiration Spend & Save Account is variable and accurate as of 2/23/19. Rates may be changed from time to time without notice. To earn 2.00% APY on Save account balances in any calendar month, a deposit of at least $1 in that calendar month into any Aspiration banking or investment account, or a single end of day Aspiration Save balance of $10,000 or more during the calendar month is required. Minimum deposit required to open a Save Account is $10.00.

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“I Can’t Afford It:” Why It’s Ok to Just Say “No” to Your Friends With Money

Why It’s Ok to Just Say “No” to Your Friends With Money

There’s a Friends episode that took me about 15 years to get. In it, Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe struggle to make ends meet while Ross, Chandler, and Monica bask in the affluence of their successes. The richer pals don’t understand the struggle of their poorer ones, and instead of coming to any sort of compromise, the episode simply ends with Monica getting fired, effectively humbling her.

Which is almost as offensive as Ross, Chandler, and Monica expecting to split a six-person dinner bill while three of their friends consumed only sides and water. It shouldn’t take a job loss to understand that money issues can make socializing feel bleak and terrible, especially when you’re expected to spend money or risk being deemed “a bad friend.” The lesson shouldn’t be, “Well when something bad happens to one of your rich friends, they’ll finally understand.” The lesson should be, “Don’t expect your friends to be able to shell out for your gargantuan karaoke birthday party tab — what’s wrong with you?”

In actual life, most friends wouldn’t ask their social circle to cough up dollars to celebrate a success.

But in actual life, most friends wouldn’t ask their social circle to cough up dollars to celebrate a success — especially since most of us spend our twenties trying to navigate the ins and outs of rent, bills, entry-level jobs, and any other sources of money-defined stresses. The majority of us aren’t living like Helen in Bridesmaids or like characters in any Nancy Meyers movies. We’re not Chandler, Ross, or Monica (pre-dismissal). Which means that if we’re asked to live excessively, we can simply opt out. Nobody here owes anybody money that they don’t have.

This feels like a much bigger issue when it’s happening. During a friend’s wedding about five years ago, I was struggling to pay for groceries around the same time we were paying for bridesmaid dresses. (And any/all other wedding-oriented details.) And while I felt like a huge buzzkill eventually shutting down plans for a Vegas trip, it turned out that nobody really cared. First, because I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t afford it, and also because asking anyone to spend more than $20 on anything is actually a big deal.

We forget that when we’re the ones saying “I can’t.” Mainly because passing on events and gifts makes us feel like we’ve failed; like had we lived differently or made other, more responsible choices, we’d be able to participate alongside the masses. For me, saying “I can’t afford it” felt on par with standing on a table in a restaurant and yelling “I’m a fuck up!” And it didn’t help that I had friends who could throw down their credit cards like a $15 dinner bill was no big deal.

Most friends will just be happy to hang out. And if they’re not, those aren’t real friends.

But that’s when this becomes an issue more about friendship and less about money. Especially since most humans worth knowing are aware that to project their financial circumstances onto another person is unrealistic and offensive. Real friends won’t throw tantrums if you can’t afford their spa bachelorette weekend in Ojai, nor will they cry if you suggest having them over for dinner instead of joining them on a birthday bar night. Most friends will just be happy to hang out. And if they’re not, those aren’t real friends.

Which is why saying “I can’t afford it” is a reasonable response to being asked to travel for an event, attend a wedding, or go in on any party out of your price range. It’s unreasonable to ask a person to dip into money they don’t (or may not) have for the sake of social norms. Especially since those norms serve only to benefit people who can afford to abide by them. The rest of us have to work, to save, to pay off debt, and to juggle everything from familial responsibilities to student loans. “Spending money” is a lovely idea, but for a good portion of our generation, it’s not realistic right now. And if friends are human beings with hearts and with brains, they will more than understand that.

After all, for all the times I’ve said I can’t afford something, I’ve had friends come back and tell me the same. And at no point has there been conflict or strife or underlying resentment. (Duh.) Instead, despite how anxious I’ve felt or they’ve felt or how many apologies we’ve served alongside our regrets, there’s been an understanding. There’s been a compromise. There’s been an alternative suggestion or an offer to cover a cost or the mutual agreement to skip whatever expensive thing we’ve been asked to do and go for a walk instead. The norm is not a case for frivolity. The norm is saying, “Oh man, I’ve been there.” The norm is Joey, Rachel, and Phoebe.

Despite your guilt, you’re not a bad friend for not being able to afford something. The only bad friend is the one who demands you do anyway.

Anne T. Donahue?writes for MTV News, Refinery29, The Guardian, The Flare and other outlets. She is also the host of the Podcast ?Nobody Cares (Except Me).? Her book?Nobody Cares?was released September 2018. She is in a loving and committed relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, even though he is not aware of that.

Photo by rawpixel

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6 Reasons Why You Should Support Local Business

Why You Should Support Local Business

The Power of the Consumer

Being a consumer puts you in a position of power. Each purchase you make throughout the day is, in effect, a vote for what you deem the best. When voting with your dollar, you are supporting a business, whether good or bad. A conscientious consumer thinks about the social and environmental aspects of any product or service before they choose to use it.?A wise consumer supports businesses that are doing more than just making a profit. This takes a bit more thought than pulling into Walmart or a few clicks on Amazon, but it’s well worth your time. Here are 6 reasons why you should support local business.

Related:? The Power of the Purse

Small and Local Businesses

1 – Better Customer Service

A local business owner is more likely to remember you and the products or services you purchase on a regular basis. This means that you get more personalized service. He or she is also more likely to have direct contact with all employees and a thorough knowledge of all products. Should any problems arise, you won’t have to stay on hold on some 800 number waiting for a faceless name to listen to your concerns.

2 – Increased Employment

Local and small businesses employ over 50% of the private sector workforce. Since the end of the Recession, small businesses are responsible 66% of all net jobs created. Local and small businesses are also more likely to hire locally increasing the employment base in your community. Keeping workers local decreases commutes and the environmental hazards that go with them.

3 – Improved Local Economy

Local businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to national chains or franchises. This is referred to as the “multiplier effect.” An average of 48% of the revenue from local businesses is recirculated into the local economy compared to only 14% from national chains.? Put simply, local businesses are more likely to purchase from other local businesses and use other local services. When you shop locally, you are actually investing in your community.

4 – Better, Healthier Products?

A marketplace of small businesses breeds competition. You are more likely to be able to acquire better quality products and services at local businesses. Local businesses have an element of transparency that faceless corporations don’t which holds them accountable to the quality of their products or services. In addition, purchasing from local farmers gives you access to healthier foods without the mass chemical spraying and preservatives required of corporate chains that have to mass produce and transport their produce over a long range.?Buying fresh, local and traceable foods is not only being a responsible consumer, but a healthy one.

5 – Property Value and Quality of Life

Local businesses give your community character. The uniqueness of a variety of local businesses is far superior to the bland monotony of ubiquitous national chains littering a cityscape. Because the businesses in your community make up a large part of its character, they also play a large part in both quality of life and property values. By supporting your community’s unique character rather than giving your money to national chains, you help to preserve its value.

6 – Socially and Environmentally Conscious Businesses

Local businesses are far more likely to be socially and environmentally conscious than big corps, especially when it comes to food. To begin with, local businesses reduce the carbon miles required from transport and may use local information to choose between suppliers. Local clothing stores are far less likely to purchase from mass fast fashion overseas suppliers. Due to consumer demand, small farm-to-table restaurants, regional banks, and small businesses are turning greener every day. In addition, because local businesses are invested in their community, they tend to take responsibility for their actions beyond simply bringing in revenue.

Related:? How This Social Start-Up is Changing the Way We Shop

The Bottom Line

There are always knock-on effects to every product or service that you buy. Those effects begin with where you spend your dollar and what you spend your dollar on. While it may not seem evident on the surface, if you take a peak under the lid, you’ll understand both the direct and indirect impacts that each of your purchases has. Knowing where a product comes from is crucial to shopping sustainably. If there is a local option, choose it. Shop in season and don?t buy fruit that has more flyer miles than you do. Ask local shops where they buy their supplies from when it is not obvious.

When you buy products that are produced locally and sold by local businesses, there is a positive effect on the local economy. By contrast, when you buy food and clothing that is shipped in from thousands of miles away by a national retail chain, more often than not it is produced by workers who are exploited in a factory that has no environmental policy, and sold by a corporation that is not acting in a sustainable manner. This not only has a negative effect on local economies, but also on the world at large. Every purchase counts. Every purchase has an impact, whether we like or not. As the world is simply a collection of individuals, it’s up to each individual to make sure that their dollar 1) does no harm, 2) makes their community, and the world, a better place.

Related:? Six Conscious Companies that Help You Make and Save Money


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There’s Only One Response To The Trucks Blocking Tesla Superchargers

There’s Only One Response To The Trucks Blocking Tesla Superchargers

An image came across my newsfeed this week. A group of trucks were blocking the Tesla superchargers in South Carolina, their owners chanting ?F**k Tesla!? I was confused by this behavior and here is why.

Whatever you may think of Elon Musk and Tesla, the facts are these:

  1. Tesla cars are American made and support our economy.
  2. Tesla employs 45,000 people in the U.S.
  3. Tesla cars don?t pollute our air, they are 100% electric.
  4. Tesla has now come out with a lower cost vehicle.

As one friend pointed out, the articles?were not much help in explaining why someone would block Tesla chargers. So, I took the question to my friends on social media. These are friends who are politically red, blue, and independent.

Why Would Anyone Block Tesla Superchargers?

Here were some of the theories that came up:

  1. Parking: perhaps people are upset that Tesla chargers are taking up parking spots. Turns out, in every single one of the protest pictures we found, there were plenty of open spots. Plus, Tesla pays to lease the parking spots.
  2. Annoyance with the Tesla brand because they won?t let users fix their own cars. You have to bring the car to a Tesla shop. Maybe Tesla doesn’t let you repair your own car because it?s pretty complex (computerized everything). It’s also part of risk management. So even though some folks do rebuild their own Tesla, as friend said, “You don’t want Joe mechanic poking and prodding around that type of amperage. It would kill him with one wrong move.”
  3. Cultural bundling: People will side with their team, even if they don?t necessarily agree with the action. It?s a survival mechanism. As a friend pointed out,??If you feel like your way of life is under attack by a certain type of person, and then you see an indicator that you believe shows that someone is the type of person who you feel is attacking your way of life, then fighting back isn’t all that surprising.?
  4. Jealousy: – Disdain for those with perceived wealth. Except that, as another friend pointed out,??The Tesla Model 3 is supposed to retail at $35,000. A 2019 Chevy Silverado 2500HD retails at around $50,000.?

There’s No Stopping What’s Next

But it was the following comment that gave me an Aha moment. My friend Kyle is conservative and owns several diesel trucks. He?s even done his share of rolling coal. His explanation is below:

?I own several diesel trucks, I?ve had my fun rolling coal. And I am generally seen as a conservative … But, never would I do this.
It?s ironic, honestly. Mechanically speaking the torque these electric motors can push out is mind boggling. Makes it a perfect platform from everything to your standard F-350 to a class 8 semi.?…Don?t be surprised if you see these kids driving around electric pickups in the next 5-10 years.
Just a blip on the radar. Really nothing is going to stop the economy. If it makes sense to go electric, it will happen.? ~?Kyle Burroughs Kraakevik, Colorado Springs

There’s Only One Response: Keep Building Better Products.

What I realized is this: ?to make the world a better place, we must build better products. Products that people actually want.

  • The reason GM is failing is because the market (that’s us, the people)?no longer wants that product. The market wants Tesla. While it?s no secret that GM has seen trouble since the recession, GM dropped the ball by not chasing fundamental market shifts. Simply put, GM has been closing U.S. plants and?consumers haven?t been flocking to buy GM?s hybrid Chevy Volt.
  • The reason why conservative towns in Texas are installing wind farms is because it makes economic sense. Texas?s wind industry boasts more than 12,000 turbines and generates up to 23,000 megawatts of power?more than all but five other countries.
  • The reason why there is a run on solar roof tiles is because they are cheaper over the long term versus regular roof tiles. They also last longer. (Tesla?s tiles come with a warranty for infinity, can?t get one much longer than that!) Not to mention that they collect FREE energy for your house.

It?s really that simple. There is no stopping market economics. So why try? If you want to stay in business, you need to build better products.?And this applies to all industries. EVERYTHING. Including Financial Products.

It is my personal goal to find the products that:

  1. outperform the status quo and
  2. improve our world.

If we get #1 right, it won?t matter if people care about #2.

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3 Mental Hacks to Save your Christmas Budget

3 Mental Hacks to Save your Christmas Budget

You’re in the store. You’re pressed for time. You find the perfect gift for your mother, but it’s over your Christmas budget. You waiver a bit before pulling out your credit card… Stop!

Sure, it’s the season of giving, but not at your own expense. It really doesn’t take much more time to shop with compassion for yourself. It just takes a bit more focus. It’s hard to put the brakes when you?re caught up in the Christmas spirit. But if you just pause for a minute before giving into the card, you can use some mental hacks to save your Christmas budget.?And there are actually published studies that explain why.

Our Economic Brains Have Bugs

Neuroeconomics is a an area of neuroscience that investigates the brain mechanisms involved in economic decision-making. It tries to understand consumer behavior, especially behavior that a consumer continues even when they know damn well it will hurt later. And that is exactly the point – it hurts later. To put it simply, because the pain of spending cash on purchases hurts more in the moment than the pain of using a credit card, it?s so much easier for us to spend with a card than with cash. This can result in not only spending beyond our budget, but also spending money we don?t actually have.?

Credit cards effectively anesthetize the pain of paying. George Loewenstein, Carnegie Mellon professor of social and decision sciences (SDS)

In addition, spending with a card does not seem as ?real? as spending cash. Neuroeconomics explains that we are wired from ancient times to avoid risk and seek reward in the moment. It’s a survival mechanism. While somewhere in our analytical brain we know that spending with a card is risk, our emotional brain, which seeks the reward now, drowns it out. Thus, our emotional brain both abstracts the credit card from the actual cash it represents and is not affected by the pain of the sale in the moment. In short, we just don’t feel the true economical impact when we use credit cards.?

…the fact that we don?t feel the physical properties of money contributes to changes in our economic behavior ? e.g. we spend more in credit cards than in bills. – Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde Professor of economics and cognitive science; University Paris 2 – Lemma, Institut Jean-Nicod

Christmas is an emotional time. We are swept up in the romanticism of the holiday. It is the most vulnerable situation we can be in economically when weighing emotions against logic around spending. This isn?t to say that emotions are bad. Neuroeconomics doesn?t tell us to totally squash emotions, merely to put a rein on them. But this can be particularly difficult amidst the celebratory spirit of the holidays.?And guess what? You aren’t weak if you struggle with this. Studies even show that people who are normally ?tightwads? with a high sensitivity to the pain of overspending will overspend when forced to use a card. So it?s really not you, it?s your brain with a card.?

Christmas is an emotional time. We are swept up in the romanticism of the holiday. It is the most vulnerable situation we can be in economically when weighing emotions against logic around spending.

You have to get ahead of your brain if you want to win. Once you are in a store with Christmas all around you and carols being pumped through the speakers, you will struggle negotiating with the emotional brain when you have a card in your pocket. But now you know that we have this malware in our heads, so you can trick your own brain for the win! Here are 3 mental hacks you can use to get in front of your head and save your Christmas budget.?

Related:? Give the Planet a Break this Christmas:? How to Wrap Sustainably

1)? Feel the Pain of Overspending Now

Imagine opening your credit card statement in January. See that high balance from overspending. Feel the regret of overspending now vs later and really let it hurt. Think about your future financial goals and how this fat bill will change things for you. Feel now what you know you would feel later. Make it real by creating a connection between your present mind and your future mind. Then, replay this scene whenever you?re thinking about your Christmas shopping. Replay it on your way to the store. Replay it in the store while your shopping. Know that it’s real. ‘Cause, come January, you will be opening that bill, one way or another. So, pay it forward, to yourself.

2) Play the Cash Game

If you don?t trust yourself with mental imagery, another way to protect yourself is to simply leave your card at home. Set your spending limit and withdraw that amount of cash. Just use the cash. If you run out of cash, you run out of Christmas shopping potential, period. This alone will force you to spend more conservatively on each gift. (I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times, right? Well, if you feel an immediate aversion to this idea, see the next hack.)

3) How to Win When You Don?t Get Paid ‘Till January

But what if you don?t have the cash now, but you will have it later, and you have to use the card to get your shopping done before Christmas? Easy. Use your credit card to buy a prepaid Visa or Mastercard gift card. Set your limit and charge only that amount to your card. Then leave your regular credit card at home and use the gift card for Christmas shopping. This will force you to budget your purchases. This hack is also helpful for Christmas shopping online where it is even easier to abstract clicks from actual cash.?

Related:? What’s the Best Gift for Yourself this Christmas?

Practice Self-Compassion this Holiday

Look, it may sound silly to you now that you might have to play games with your mind around Christmas spending, but it?s actually a serious problem in our country. And it seems to me that if I’ve held your attention this far, you know what I’m talking about. The tsunami of holiday fever makes controlled spending a lot harder for everyone. Remember that you are up against a plethora of highly specialized advertising and subliminal messages coming at you from all media platforms telling you that you need to outdo yourself every year in order to show your love. These messages are bullshit!?Don’t fall victim to them. Fight back.

You already know that an increase in the price of your gift will not directly increase how much your family and friends love you. In fact, it is exactly because they love you that they would not want you to do anything to put yourself in financial jeopardy. Proving your love by hurting yourself is not what this season is all about. A lot of us get this twisted. The truth is, protecting yourself against overspending is not selfish, it is an act of self-compassion. And you are just as important as anyone on your Christmas list.

?You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.? ?Buddha

Related:? Put Your Credit Card Down!

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Create a Budget by Asking Yourself Three Questions

I hate budgeting. It forces me to look at my money, realize that I don?t have any, and then limit my spending. (Post-grad life is a blast so far.) But for all of the complaining I do about it off the page, budgeting is one of the most important financial management things I do.

Why should you create a budget?

Running out of money is a lot worse than sitting down and planning out your spending. It lets you figure out how much your lifestyle costs and how much it would cost to change it. Budgets keep you organized and making one doesn?t have to be a headache. It?s as easy as asking yourself three questions:

  1. How much money do you make?
  2. How much money do you get to keep?
  3. How much money can you spend on stuff you want?

How much money do you make?

This is a pretty easy question to start out with. You probably get a paycheck or maybe you?re still getting some help from home (I sure am, no judgement here). It?s an important starting point because it sets up the boundaries of your budget. It also determines how much you pay in taxes. Since a chunk of your money will go to paying taxes, you need to know how much money you make after taxes.

Don?t make the mistake of thinking you get to spend $50,000 because you made $50,000. Get a rough idea of the percentage of your gross income you will owe the government, start socking it away and don’t touch it. You might even consider opening a special savings account to dump this tax money into. This way, you aren’t caught with your pants down when March rolls around.

Related: How to Save Slowly:? A Beginner’s Guide

Don?t make the mistake of thinking you get to spend $50,000 because you made $50,000.

How much money do you get to keep?

Now that you?ve paid your taxes, you know what your disposable income is. However, there are other things you have to spend money on too. You probably also want to do things like eat food and live in a house, so you?ll have to pay for those, too. Figure out what you absolutely have to pay for after taxes:? rent, utilities, insurance, food, transportation, student loan payments, etc.

Knowing how much money you must spend on essentials will also help you figure out how much it costs to live the way that you want to live. This lets you plan your present and your future all at once. It also gives you an inside view on any expenses that you might be able to lower or cut out altogether.

Related:? 7 Ways to Make your Home a Sustainable Source of Income

Knowing how much money you must spend on essentials will also help you figure out how much it costs to live the way that you want to live.

How much money can you spend on stuff you want?

Now that you?ve paid your taxes and bought your food, you can look at what your discretionary income. Discretionary income is money that’s fair game for spending. Whether it?s a nice dinner or a trip to Barnes and Noble (my treat to myself), this is the pool of money that will pay for it.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend all of it if just because you have it left over. Whatever disposable income you have leftover can be put into an emergency savings fund, used to pay off credit card debt, attack your student loan balance, or invested. This will give you even more wiggle room for future budgeting cycles.?Remember, the goal of budgeting is to make sure you don’t run out of money, today or tomorrow.

Related:? Emergency Savings – Is It For me?

This all seems like a lot to keep track of!

It is. But you don?t have to look at your whole year all at once. You can look at one month at a time and go week by week to understand how much you spend. If your spending is consistent, then you can just multiply one month by 12 to see what your full year will look like. For example, if you know you spend $1,600 per month, then you’ll spend around $19,200 during the year.

Breaking everything down by shorter time frames makes everything much more manageable. Once you set up a system that works for you, it just takes a bit of maintenance to keep it going. You’re much better off knowing where you stand each month than flying blind with your wallet in your hand, hoping you make it till next pay day.

Related:? Start Impact Investing for as Little as 50$

You’re much better off knowing where you stand each month than flying blind with your wallet in your hand, hoping you make it till next pay day.

So how do you make the budget?

Now that you can break your money down into three categories, how do you actually create a budget? There are plenty of free apps available on the App Store or Google Play that will automatically track your spending and help you create a budget from there. Do a bit of research and pick the free app that appeals to you. Your bank probably also has some sort of tool that helps with budgeting too. My bank has an online dashboard that shows me how much I spend compared to how much a deposit into my account, so I can keep an eye on it that way.

My personal favorite tool is Microsoft Excel. Using a spreadsheet, I can see where my money comes from, where it goes, and how it can grow over time. If I make $60,000 a year instead of $50,000, my spreadsheet will tell me how much money I will have to spend. There are templates available, but if you know how to use Excel, you can prepare a bunch of different scenarios with your money. This also allows you flexibility as your financial needs change in the future.

Your Budget Can Make a Difference, Too

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference with your money.?While you’re saving and planning your money, you can also use your money to invest in companies with positive social and environmental impacts. Budgeting doesn’t have to prevent you from creating positive change with your dollars. If you can incorporate sustainable investing into your budgeting practices, you can grow your money while doing good for the planet and people.

Related:? 4 Ways to Make Real Money with Sustainable Investing

However you decide to budget your money, you should strongly consider doing it. It will give you a clear picture of how much your lifestyle costs today, how much your desired lifestyle will cost tomorrow, and set you up for success as you continue managing your finances. Budgeting is tedious, but it?s worth it to understand how you can get the most out of your money. And if you are just stating out, like me, don’t worry about feeling like you don’t know what you are doing. We will have to budget the rest of our lives. Might as well get started now.


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