Amazon Prime Day 2021: How to Get the Best Deals

In typical years, Amazon Prime Day falls in mid-July, perfectly placed to interrupt the midsummer retail doldrums.

But 2021 is not a typical year.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt global supply chains in an echo of 2020 when Amazon temporarily refocused its energies on essential business lines like food and personal care products. Prime Day 2020 didn’t happen until October, ahead of a nasty second wave of the pandemic that upended global trade again.

To complicate things further, the arrival of reliable vaccines in early 2021 spurred millions of Americans to make ambitious summer plans. Many people who’d normally jump at the opportunity to capture once-a-year deals in July might not be anywhere near a computer at that time.

That could be why Amazon has decided to move Prime Day 2021 to June.

When Is Amazon Prime Day 2021?

Amazon Prime Day 2021 will take place on Monday, June 21 and Tuesday, June 22.

Be forewarned that Prime Day deals aren’t guaranteed to last the entire 48-hour span. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Despite its new position on the calendar, Prime Day 2021 is shaping up to be no different from past Prime Days in at least one crucial respect: offering a vast array of attractive deals and discounts on sought-after consumer goods, household products, and small-business essentials.

In the past, Prime Day shoppers have enjoyed discounts of 50% or more on high-demand products. According to Amazon, Prime Day shoppers collectively saved about $1.4 billion in 2020, equivalent to 700 million pairs of socks.

This year, they’ll get in on the action early. Amazon has already announced a slew of pre-Prime Day sales that could be gone before the main event begins.

Best Amazon Prime Day Deals for 2021

What can shoppers expect from Amazon Prime Day 2021? Its Prime Day 2021 flyer offers some tantalizing clues.

The retail giant has already instituted some stealth price drops on popular items like the Fitbit Sense, Instant Pot multicooker, Apple products like iPads and AirPods, and Amazon-branded daily essentials like multivitamins and nonperishable food staples.

It’s also promoted specific early deals on the Amazon Halo wellness band ($69.99, down from $99.99) and the controller for Amazon’s all-new Luna gaming device ($48.99, down from $69.99).

Other early Prime Day 2021 deals include:

And on Prime Day 2021 itself? Prime members can look forward to a host of category- and product-specific deals like:

A general word of advice: Don’t wait to jump on specific Prime Day deals. Once inventory runs out, the deal is gone for good.

Tips to Prepare for Amazon Prime Day & Maximize Your Savings

Want to save as much as possible on Amazon Prime Day without impulse-buying items that you don’t really need? Careful preparation is key to a successful, budget-friendly Prime Day shopping experience.

That means becoming an Amazon Prime member (if you’re not one already), making and sticking to a concise shopping list, and using the proper payment method.

1. Join Amazon Prime

Prime Day deals are only for Amazon Prime members.

That means becoming a Prime member is an essential prerequisite for anyone with big Amazon Prime Day shopping plans — and anyone interested in taking advantage of the $119-per-year subscription’s considerable benefits during the rest of the year.

These benefits include:

  • Free two-day shipping on all eligible Amazon purchases
  • Free one-day or two-hour delivery on eligible purchases in select areas
  • Free no-rush shipping with bonus reward credits against eligible future Amazon purchases
  • Free grocery delivery through Amazon Fresh in select areas
  • Access to Amazon Prime Video’s library of thousands of movies and shows, including exclusive features and series not available anywhere else
  • Unlimited e-books through Kindle Unlimited
  • Unlimited access to more than 2 million digital songs through Amazon Music
  • Free games, in-game content, and subscription to Twitch.tv through Amazon Gaming
  • Exclusive savings (and delivery in select cities) from Whole Foods Market
  • Deals and discounts up to 20% on select products (such as diapers) through Amazon Family

If you’re a first-time Amazon Prime subscriber, opt into the 30-day free trial right before Prime Day. If you’re not satisfied with the service, you can always cancel after Prime Day and before the trial expires, paying nothing for the trouble.

That said, Prime membership is definitely worth the cost for frequent Amazon shoppers able to take advantage of its content and delivery perks.

For additional savings, read up on more tips to save shopping on Amazon.

2. Familiarize Yourself With Last Year’s Deals

Use actual examples from last year to familiarize yourself with the sorts of deals Amazon is likely to offer on the big day.

For example, CNET highlighted a slew of deals on electronics and home goods, some of which remain available (albeit at different price points) in 2021:

Prior-year availability won’t predict with 100% accuracy what Amazon has up its sleeve this year, especially in light of the ongoing pandemic-related supply chain disruptions that delayed Prime Day 2020. But it can and should form the basis of informed guesswork.

3. Set a Reasonable Shopping Budget

Next, set a reasonable Prime Day shopping budget. It’s essential you do so before compiling your shopping list. Otherwise, the temptation to overspend on things you desperately want but don’t need becomes too powerful to resist.

As you likely know from budgeting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, your retail holiday budget — in this case, your Prime Day budget — should fit neatly into your larger discretionary budget. Avoid the temptation to use Prime Day as an excuse to expand it.

For example, if you typically earmark $500 per month to spend on luxuries or nice-to-haves like restaurant meals and electronics, don’t spend $700 on Prime Day.

In fact, unless you’re willing to go without any other luxuries that month, you need to spend considerably less — perhaps $250 or $300 in this example.

4. Make & Stick to a Needs-Based Shopping List

Making a list is a vital step to take ahead of planned shopping events of any significance, not just Prime Day. The objective is clear: avoiding impulsive purchases you don’t need and could regret in hindsight.

Using clues gleaned from prior Amazon Prime Day deals, your list should include everything you both plan to buy before the end of the year (or, if you prefer and your shopping budget allows, within the next six months) and those reasonably likely to be discounted on Prime Day.

On Prime Day, stay disciplined and condition your purchases on value. If a particular item on your list isn’t discounted for Prime Day, don’t buy it. You’ll likely find better deals later in the year.

5. Use a Browser Extension to Find a Better Deal

Before Amazon Prime Day 2021, add Capital One Shopping, a free browser extension that automatically searches competing merchants’ inventories for a better price when you shop Amazon.

If Capital One Shopping can’t find a better price elsewhere, simply complete your Prime Day purchase as planned. If another retailer has a better price, shop with them instead.

Capital One Shopping isn’t the only browser extension that can save you money on online purchases you’d make anyway. It’s one of the best around, but legitimate and potentially lucrative alternatives abound.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

6. Ask Alexa for the Best Deals

Fair warning: This is an easy way to blow through your Prime Day budget. But it’s also incredibly convenient.

If you have an Alexa-enabled device like the Echo Show 5, wake up early on June 21, 2021, and pop the question: “Alexa, what are my Prime Day deals?” Just resist the temptation to purchase them all in one go.

7. Shop Early

Amazon makes no guarantees that any given Prime Day merchandise will remain available for the event’s duration. Quantities are always finite, and unexpectedly high demand for specific products could cause certain deals to sell out sooner than expected.

Your best bet is to shop early, logging on right away on Prime Day morning and getting as much of your shopping list out of the way as possible before the day begins.

You can always return later to complete your list or take advantage of last-minute deals (known as lightning deals) as your budget allows.

8. Look for Prime Day Badges

If you happen to be browsing Amazon anyway during the Prime Day period, look for the little blue badges denoting Prime Day deals. These highlight limited-time opportunities that aren’t likely to remain after June 22.

9. Download the Amazon App for Mobile Purchases

Amazon’s main website works just fine on desktop and mobile devices, but don’t overlook its user-friendly app.

The app is especially useful for shoppers stuck at work during Prime Day’s peak hours, as many employers frown on workers shopping (or conducting any personal business at all) on work-issued devices.

Beyond the obvious perks of a crisper shopping experience in a smaller package, Amazon’s mobile app offers:

  • Voice-assisted shopping using the Amazon Alexa assistant
  • Real-time order tracking and notifications
  • Direct chat support from Amazon’s customer assistance team
  • Single-tap shopping with your smartphone camera

10. Use a Rewards Credit Card (Preferably the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card)

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card is the best cash-back credit card for frequent Amazon patrons, period. Its three-tier cash-back program earns:

  • 5% cash back on qualifying Amazon and Whole Foods purchases with an eligible Prime membership
  • 2% cash back on eligible purchases at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases

If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, the otherwise identical Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card earns 3% cash back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases.

Of course, Prime Day sales are for Prime members only, so you must become a Prime member before the big event. But if you already have the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card, you don’t need to reapply for the Prime Rewards card — the upgrade is automatic and immediate.

But if you have no interest in applying for an Amazon card or don’t qualify, use one or more of these Prime Day-friendly credit cards if you can:

Final Word

Amazon and Whole Foods aren’t the only retailers worth patronizing on Prime Day. Many big-name sellers — Walmart and Target among them — slash prices to compete with Prime Day deals and offer price-match guarantees that may cover Amazon Prime Day deals (though be sure to read the fine print on these policies carefully).

If you play your cards right, your Prime Day shopfest could turn into a multi-retailer blowout that saves you hundreds on purchases you planned to make anyway while supporting your favorite non-Amazon merchants. Talk about a great way to get everything you need for less.

You can make your purchases count by joining the Amazon Smile program before the big day. Shop through the Amazon Smile site — not Amazon’s main site — to ensure Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice.

You can also purchase actual products to give to thousands of registered Amazon Smile charities using the Charity Lists feature. It lets you buy frequently needed products, such as paper towels and cleaning supplies, preselected by participating charities, which are then shipped directly to them, putting your dollars to work right where charities need them most.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I’d Change)

Dave Ramsey has helped thousands of people around the world through the 7 Baby Steps for financial peace and freedom.

The process works.

His book titled the Total Money Makeover has had some impressive sales numbers. The book has sold over 5 million copies and has been on the Wall Street Journal Best-Selling list for over 500 weeks. (That data is from August 2017, over 4 years ago, so it’s sold more by now.)

So, we know that the 7 Baby Steps work. There’s a lot to love above the process, and we will address 4 of those attributes here. We will also cover 4 things that we think could be updated this year (as it has been almost 30 years since the Baby Steps were created).

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7 Baby Steps really do work. There are three great reasons why the plan actual works:

a. The Baby Steps Force You To Get Gazelle Intense When It Comes To Paying Off Debt

I’ll mention this later, but I really appreciate that Dave Ramsey keeps the emergency fund smaller to force you to be gazelle intense. Having such a small emergency fund of $1000 really does force you to get out of debt faster because having too much money in the bank can cause you to stagnate. 

b. Dave Strongly Encourages Your Behavior Modification

Too many financial gurus don’t give it to you straight. They may tell you that you need to invest in real estate or cryptocurrency.  It often feels like a lie that you can achieve financial freedom without putting in a lot of work.

Dave Ramsey comes off as blunt many times, but he forces people to confront that the debt is often our fault (with some exceptions). His bluntness, along with the Baby Steps, forces you to self-reflect.

c. The Plan Is Simple And Shows How You Need To Focus On One Step At A Time

I’ll mention this more below, but it’s evident that his focused intensity on the Baby Steps plan helps you stay focused on the task. You complete the first 3 steps consecutively and the following 4 steps concurrently in a prioritized order. 

You don’t have to multitask. Also, you don’t need to think about another step. You just need to focus on the step at hand.

2) Dave Ramsey Is Right That You Need A Plan

Dave Ramsey has many helpful quotes. One of my favorite of Dave Ramsey’s quotes is, “You must plan your work and then work your plan”. 

Too often we go through life without a plan, but we expect that everything is going to work out just fine. I remember the first time I budgeted.  I thought that I spent a certain amount of money on eating out each month, only to realize that number was much higher.

We need plans. It could be a debt payoff plan to stay on top of your debt. It could also be a budget to understand your income and expenses. Or it could be a plan to pay off your home early as per Baby Step 6.

Dave Ramsey understood that which is why the Baby Steps plan is so useful. You stick to the plan and you get out of debt. Voila.

3) The Baby Steps Get Progressively More Challenging

One thing I noticed early was that the Baby Steps seems to get progressively more challenging. This helps build momentum. It is much easier to save $1000 than to pay off your house early. By starting and taking baby steps, the baby steps themselves actually don’t feel very babyish. 

Paying off your home early per Baby Step 6 feels much more like a big kid step, but it’s still just a Baby Step like the others. It’s impressive how Dave structured these baby steps.

4) The Community Around Dave Ramsey Baby Steps Is Incredible

You don’t have to look far to realize that the community around Dave Ramsey is incredible. You can take a Financial Peace University class at your local church. These classes are excellent to encourage you and help keep you accountable while you eliminate debt. You’ll learn the baby steps inside and out with others in your community. 

You can also be a part of a vibrant Dave Ramsey Facebook Community. Personally, I am a part of many of these communities where I receive a ton of encouragement when sharing wins and losses in the process of debt elimination.

There’s a lot to love about the Dave Ramsey Baby Step method.

Now, let’s cover a few things that could use a refresh.

1) Can Creating A Budget Be Baby Step #1?

I am a budget fanatic. I would love to see a Baby Step dedicated to budgeting. Why? Because budgeting helps you understand where every dollar goes. I used “every dollar” like that on purpose because Dave Ramsey himself created a budget app called EveryDollar for that very purpose.

What better way to understand how much money you have to put towards your emergency fund than starting with a budget.

I am not sure why Dave doesn’t start with a budget, but I would be keen to start the Baby Steps with creating one.

2) Dave Ramsey’s Emergency Fund May Need A Refresh

Dave Ramsey’s emergency fund calls you to save $1,000 in Baby Step 1. Is $1,000 enough? It really depends. 

First, adjusted for inflation, $1,000 in 1990 is now worth $2,043.26 per the US Inflation Calculator.

Dave Ramsey's emergency fund needs to be larger due to inflation

There’s a plethora of questions you can ask yourself when considering whether the emergency fund is big enough, such as:

  1. How much debt do you have to pay off?
  2. Do you own a home?
  3. How old is your car?
  4. How many kids do you have?
  5. Do you have insurance?

Another question I like to ask is, “where do you live?”. Personally, my family and I live in the Bay Area, California where the cost of living tends to be quite high. $1,000 wouldn’t get us very far.

3) Is The Snowball Method The Best Way To Pay Off Debt?

As a refresh, the debt snowball method means that you line up your debts from smallest to largest and pay your monthly extra to your smallest debt first then snowball into higher debts. The debt avalanche method is where you line up your debts from the highest interest rate and use your monthly extra to pay off the highest interest first. The savvy debt method is where you pay off 1-2 of your smallest balances first via snowball before reverting to the avalanche method to save the most in interest.

Dave Ramsey loves the debt snowball method. It has worked for many people, so why wouldn’t he? He feels the opposite for the debt avalanche where he mentions that it doesn’t work.

The challenge is that you could lose thousands in interest if your smallest debts also have the smallest interest rates. This can be possible because higher debt amounts carry a higher risk to the lenders, meaning potentially higher interest rates.

You can see how much the snowball method loses in comparison through this debt payoff calculator which compares interest paid from snowball to savvy methods. For reference, we are comparing 4 debts: $23,000 at 22%, $18,000 at 19%, $12,000 at 9% and $8,000 at 7% interest rate. The monthly payment is $1,825.00

debt snowball versus other debt payoff methods

In this example, you would lose over $3,500 in interest by choosing the snowball method.

Does that mean that the snowball method is always worse? Absolutely not. The snowball method may provide the psychological benefit that you need to exterminate your debt.

You choose the debt payoff app and debt payoff method that is best for you.

4) Should You Follow Dave Ramsey’s Advice And Pay Off Your House Early Or Invest?

Dave Ramsey loves mutual funds and paying off your home early. My question is what if your mutual funds are making so much more in interest than paying off your home would save you?

Wouldn’t the prudent thing be to continue to pay off your home and then get the higher interest from investing in mutual funds?  It’s not a one size fits all solution, but it is something to consider.

There are also often benefits of not paying off your home early such as interest paid being tax-deductible. That said, you would really need to determine whether you would make more money from mutual funds than saving from interest payments to determine what’s best for you.

What Do You Think About The Baby Steps?

The Dave Ramsey Baby Steps have helped thousands around the globe. What do you like about the Baby Steps? Do you agree or disagree with what we would change in 2021?

4 things I love about Dave Ramsey's baby steps and 4 things I'd change

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I'd Change)

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Which Bills to Pay Off First (or Cancel) When Money Runs Tight

Whether it’s from job loss due to a recession, a drop in income, or an unexpected major expense, there may come a time when you struggle to pay your bills. What can you do when your income and expenses don’t match up?

It’s essential you prioritize your bill payments and what you owe, paying the most important bills first.

Bills to Prioritize When You’re Low on Money

The most important bills are those that cover the necessities: shelter, food, water, and heat, for example.

The next most important are bills that cover things that make it possible for you to get where you need to go, such as your vehicle expenses.

Last on the list are bills that can ding your credit history, but not much else, if you fall behind on them.

Although you can make some adjustments to the order you pay bills based on your circumstances, it’s usually best to focus on paying your housing bills first, then paying what you can with the money you have remaining.

1. Mortgage or Rent

If you fall behind on mortgage payments, you risk having the lender foreclose on your home. If you fall behind on rent, your landlord can evict you.

Even though the foreclosure or eviction process can take months, it’s not something you want to risk happening. Keeping up with your housing payments is a must if you want to stay in your home.

When money is really tight and you’re not sure you can pull together enough to make a payment one month, the best thing to do is talk to your landlord or lender.

Many mortgage lenders have programs in place to help homeowners who are facing financial hardship. Your lender can review your options, such as forbearance or loan modification, with you.

During forbearance, you stop making payments on your loan, but interest continues to accrue. If a lender agrees to modify your loan, they adjust your interest rate or otherwise make changes to lower your monthly payment.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also has programs available to homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments. You can contact HUD to connect with an approved counseling agency. The counselor can work with you to create a plan to help you avoid foreclosure.

If you’re a renter, talk to your landlord as soon as you know you’ll have difficulty paying rent. Explain the situation to them in detail, including whether you think you’ll be late with payment, won’t be able to pay all your monthly rent, or won’t be able to pay at all.

Many landlords are willing to work with you to come up with a solution. You can help the situation by suggesting solutions.

For example, if you’re going to pay late, tell the landlord when you plan to make the payment. If you can’t pay the full amount this month, tell the landlord how you’ll make up the difference. For example, you can add an extra $100 or so to subsequent payments until you pay off the balance.

If you’re renting and your landlord can’t or won’t be flexible about payments, you might have more wiggle room than a homeowner.

Depending on how much time you have left on the lease, you can simply wait it out, then look for a less expensive place to live. Another option is to try to find someone to take over your lease so you can move somewhere that costs less.

2. Utilities

After your mortgage or rent payment, the next most important bills are your utility bills: gas, water and sewage, and electricity. Although some people count TV and the Internet as utilities, those services aren’t essential for everyone.

Fortunately, many programs exist to help people who need emergency financial assistance paying bills. The first place to look is your local utility provider. Many utility companies have programs to help people pay their bills.

Another option is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program that provides financial assistance to help people pay energy bills. LIHEAP has specific income requirements and is grant-funded, meaning only a set amount of money is available each year.

If you think you qualify for LIHEAP, the sooner you apply for it, the better your chances of receiving aid.

3. Insurance Premiums

Having insurance is always a good idea, as it provides financial protection against the worst things life can throw your way, such as illness, fire, or accidents. Paying your insurance premiums even when money is tight is a smart move. Without insurance, medical bills can easily add up.

If you’re struggling to afford your premiums, you do have some options, particularly when it comes to health insurance.

If you purchased a plan from the Healthcare.gov marketplace, you qualify for a special enrollment period if you’ve recently lost your job and associated coverage, if you’ve had a change in income, if you’ve gotten divorced, and for a few other reasons.

During the special enrollment period, you can apply for Medicaid or CHIP if your income is below the threshold or a credit on your insurance premiums based on your income. Doing so can lower the cost of your health insurance considerably.

4. Food & Household Necessities

Food, soap, and paper products are up there with shelter, heat, and hot water on the list of essentials.

Luckily, you have more wiggle room when it comes to adapting your food and household supply costs compared to your mortgage or rent payments and utility bills.

When money’s tight, there are many ways you can trim your food and supplies bill:

  • Limit Shopping Trips. Plan your meals for the week, make a list of the ingredients you need, and go to the store once. The more you go to the store, the more likely you are to buy things you don’t need.
  • Buy Store-Brand Items. Store-brand products usually taste the same as or similar to their brand-name counterparts, but they cost a lot less. If you typically purchase branded foods and supplies, try switching to the store brand. It’s likely the only place you’ll notice a difference is in your wallet.
  • Limit Packaged Products. Packaged foods, such as grated cheese, bagged salads, and prechopped vegetables are convenient, but that convenience comes at a cost. You can save a lot if you buy whole, unprocessed foods and prepare them at home.
  • Skip Bottled Water. If you live in the U.S., it’s highly likely your tap water is safe to drink. According to the CDC, the U.S.’s water supply is among the safest in the world. Bottled water is expensive and terrible for the environment and is often little more than repackaged municipal water.
  • Buy In-Season Produce. Pay attention to seasons when shopping for fresh produce. Fruits like strawberries and blueberries are usually in season and inexpensive during the summer but cost more in the winter. You can cut your grocery costs if you buy what’s in season.
  • Grow Your Own. Another way to cut your food bill is to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Herbs and green vegetables are usually the most cost-effective edible plants to grow, as you can get an entire plant for the price of a handful of herbs or greens at the grocery store. You don’t need a ton of outdoor space to start a garden. You can grow plants in containers on a small balcony or patio.
  • Use Your Freezer. Frozen vegetables and fruit often cost less than fresh, so it pays to purchase those when money is tight. You can also prep double batches of meals to freeze for later. That way, if you run out of money before the end of the month, you have a supply of ready-to-eat meals waiting for you.

Note too that depending on your income, you can qualify for financial assistance with groceries. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps, helps to cover the cost of groceries for people with income below certain thresholds.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re saving as much money as possible on your grocery trip. Apps like Fetch Rewards and Ibotta allow you to save money on purchases by simply scanning and uploading your receipts.

5. Car Loan & Other Expenses

Your car gets you to and from work and other important places, such as your kids’ school, the grocery store, and the doctor. If you have a monthly car payment, it’s crucial to find a way to pay it.

Just as you can call your mortgage company to work out a deal, you can call the lender behind your car loan to see if you can come to an agreement. Like mortgage companies, these lenders can also offer you loan modifications, refinancing, or forbearance.

Loan modification or refinance can lower the amount of your monthly payments, making it easier for you to afford the car. Forbearance means you don’t make payments for a set period.

Another option is to sell your current vehicle, use the proceeds to pay off the loan, then purchase a less expensive model. If you decide to sell, look for a replacement car that has a low cost of ownership to keep your expenses low. Some vehicles are more reliable than others, meaning you don’t have to worry about expensive repair or maintenance bills.

6. Unsecured Debts

Although you should make every effort to repay your debts, when money is tight, unsecured debt, such as credit card debt and personal loans, should move to the back burner. While these debts typically have the highest interest rates, they also have the lowest impact on your daily life.

You don’t go hungry if you miss a credit card payment, nor can your credit card company take your home or car if you pay late.

That said, it’s still best to pay what you can toward unsecured debts, such as the minimum due on a credit card. If even that is too much for you right now, contact the card company or lender. Sometimes, credit card companies are willing to work with you to create a debt repayment plan or let you temporarily pause payments.

7. Student Loans

While you should make every effort to pay your student loans when money’s tight, the loans often have the most flexibility when it comes to repayment, particularly federal loans.

If you have federal student loans and you’re struggling to keep up with payments, you have multiple options. You can request a deferment or forbearance from your loan servicer, or you can switch to an income-driven repayment plan, which adjusts the amount you pay each month based on your income.

The situation with private student loans is a bit different, as they don’t have the same protections as the federal student loan program.

If you’re having trouble affording private student loan payments, your best option is to contact the lender to see if it offers forbearance, repayment plans, or loan modification.


What to Cancel When Money Is Tight

While some monthly bills are essential, others are considerably less so. Budgeting often involves deciding what you need to spend money on and what you can live without.

When it’s a struggle to make ends meet, here’s what you can consider cutting:

Subscription Services

Netflix, print or digital newspapers, and meal kits are all things that can go. In many cases, you can find free alternatives to the subscriptions you were paying for. For example, some local libraries give you access to streaming movies and local or national newspapers for free.

Make sure you don’t miss any subscriptions that you might have forgotten about. Services like Truebill will find subscriptions and either cancel them or negotiate lower rates for you.

Cable and Internet Service

You may not want to disconnect your Internet completely, but see if you can switch to a slower, less expensive plan.

If you have data on your phone, some providers, like Xfinity Mobile, let you use your phone as a hotspot to get online. In this case, you wouldn’t need a separate home Internet plan.

Phone Service

While you do need your phone to stay connected, you most likely don’t need both a landline and a cellphone. You probably don’t need the most expensive cellphone plan, either.

Shop around with companies like Mint Mobile or Ting to see if you can get a better deal.

Gym Memberships and Wellness Services

Maintaining your well-being is important, especially when money is tight. But if you’re worried about having enough money to pay your most important bills, you shouldn’t have to worry about paying for a monthly gym membership or studio pass.

There are plenty of ways to work out for free from the comfort of your home. For example, you can find workouts available for free on YouTube.


Final Word

When money is tight, it’s vital you focus on paying for the things that can help you sustain your life and well-being, such as food and shelter, when times are tight.

While a missed payment can affect your credit history, in desperate situations, your health and safety are more important than your credit score.

Along with prioritizing your monthly bills, talk to your lenders and service providers. Many companies have programs in place to keep you from sinking deeper into debt and to help you avoid repossession of your home or vehicle. Keep the lines of communication open, and remember you’ll get through it.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Determine What You Can Afford for a Car

How much can you afford for a carHow much can you afford for a carYour dream car and the car that you can realistically afford can be two totally different things. If you are paying cash, then your car choice may not be a complicated one. However, if financing is your only option then how to determine what you can afford for a car becomes a crucial undertaking.

Ideally, you should go for a car whose monthly payments do not exceed what your income can handle. Your calculations also have to factor in the extra costs that go into buying a car as well as the operational expenses that you will encounter on a daily basis.

What’s an affordable car? How do you go about the calculations? Let’s find out.

Breaking Down your Car Budget

Apart from the price listed on a car, there are other costs that you should consider. These are expenses that you find out on your own and plan for; the car salesman won’t reveal them to you!

Up-sells and Cross-sells: The dealer will try to increase the displayed price, a strategy known as upselling. You will be enticed with features like extra body kits, chrome wheels, warranties, etc. Another common trick is being led to buy a different and more expensive brand or model; cross-selling. Avoid these extra costs by sticking to your first choice.

Dealership Fees: There will be registration fees, sales tax, and documentation fees. These are for you to bargain with the dealership. Such fees can drive the price up by around 10%.

Ownership Expenses: Once you own the car, other expenses start: insurance, maintenance, repairs, annual registration fees, depreciation and the like.

Gas is another major ownership expense that most people neglect to factor when making a purchase. Let’s use a Toyota Prius, a favorite for first-time owners as an example; it goes for around $20k plus a possible 5k to cover the other costs.

The car consumes about 44 miles per gallon. Data from Federal Highway Administration show that on average a driver covers 13,476 miles per year. This translates to around $907 per year at $2.96 per gallon (13,476 miles x $2.96 / 44 mpg).

True Cost of Owning a Car

After you have calculated the expected cost of the car you are looking for (plus the extra costs), your budget starts to take shape. Using the above example, you are looking at around $25,000 for a new car with a 5-year (60months) car loan. However, for the true cost of owning you need to factor gas expenses for the loan duration;

True cost of owning = Purchase + Other costs + Gas = $20,000 + $5000 + ($907 x 5) = $29,535

Can your Income Sustain the Monthly Payments?

With car financing, you will be repaying the loan on a monthly basis. So what’s the optimal percent of your monthly income that should go to the car? There is no specific answer to this since budgeting depends on your priorities.

Most experts, however, recommend that transportation should cost 10-15% of your net pay. This follows a 50/30/20 rule where 50% of your income goes to living needs, 30% to flexible spending and 20% to investments and other long-term financial goals. Your car is included in the ‘living needs’ category with the remainder of the 50% going to mortgage and utilities.

It’s upon you to ensure that your car loan repayments fall within the 10-15% range. For the Prius, the monthly cost will be around $493 (the total cost of owning/ 60 months). Hence your take-home pay should be at least $3290 for you to afford this car.

Monthly income= $493 x 100/15 = $3290 (assuming 15% of your pay is the car budget)    

Final Thought

Before you walk into a car dealership, do your homework on all the costs that will go into owning a car: Make use of free online calculators to get a rough idea of which car you can afford and understand all costs that may come with other deals like trade-ins. Lastly, negotiate your car loan for cheap rates, keep in mind that a longer loan term could mean a lower resale value by the time you have paid off the loan due to depreciation.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Holiday Spending Causes Spike in Household Debt

Saving Money on Holiday ShoppingSaving Money on Holiday ShoppingIt’s no secret that Americans spend a lot during the winter holidays. In fact, the average American expects to spend $633 on Christmas in 2018. This is partly due to all the holiday specials and sales and partly due to the fact that more happiness comes from giving than receiving or even earning something. Gift giving is great; however, the sales and holiday spirit can oftentimes entice us to overspend.

In the U.S. households add over $900 in debt on average during the holidays and most people will take over 5 months to pay it off. In a report by lendedu.com, 22% of respondents are expecting to take on debt due to Christmas shopping; over $500 worth of debt.

Buying gifts for friends and loved ones is great, until it leads to financial problems, resulting in terrible credit. One of the easiest ways to damage your credit is by overspending or maxing out credit cards.

How Credit Card Debt Can Impact Your Credit Score

It’s not uncommon, while shopping for Black Friday deals or Christmas shopping, that consumers tend to use credit cards. Many of us will reason with ourselves that it’s worth it because we’re getting such a great deal and, by extension, saving a lot of money. So we max out our credit cards on purchases we can’t afford because if we don’t we’ll lose out on these great deals which only come once a year.

Unfortunately, credit cards can have a major impact on our credit scores, causing financial distress down the road. Since credit cards aren’t tied to any assets, they usually come with high interest rates, fees, overage charges and more. This can lead to unexpected problems later in the year and could also make them difficult to pay off. This can lead to any of the following:

  • Maxed out cards
  • Late payments
  • Delinquencies
  • High debt to limit ratio
  • And poor credit history

All of these things can seriously damage your credit score, causing it to drop over 100 points. They can also lead to higher interest rates which just make it even harder to get out of that debt. Once your credit score drops, any loans, mortgages, credit cards or other lines of credit you open later on will have a much higher interest rate, assuming you are even approved.

Watching Your Spending During the Holidays

As mentioned previously, giving gifts is great and we don’t all have the talents needed to craft our own gifts from scratch, so we have to spend money to purchase them. Ideally, though, you’ll want to make sure that you just don’t overspend and hurt your credit. One of the best ways to do this is by simply budgeting out how much you can afford to spend and only bring cash with you when shopping. This can help prevent you from spending more than you expected due to impulse buys.

If you do use a credit card for your holiday shopping, make sure that you maintain a safe debt to limit ratio. Debt to credit limit ratio is the amount that you owe on your credit card compared to what your credit limit is. For instance, if your credit limit is $1,000 and your balance is at $500, then you are at a 50% ratio. The ideal ratio to have for improved credit is 30%, however, you can usually get up to 50% without negatively impacting your credit score.

For more financial help and information, please visit our financial resource center by clicking here.

If you are in need of credit counseling or want to improve your credit score, contact us today by calling (480) 478-4304

Source: creditabsolute.com

What is debt-to-income ratio?

woman using a laptop

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is a personal finance metric that represents an individual’s debt payment to his or her overall income, expressed as a percentage.

In layman’s terms, debt-to-income ratio is a single number that predicts your ability to pay back the money you’ve borrowed. Lenders often use your debt-to-income ratio as a qualifier for taking out loans like a mortgage. But it’s also a useful way to check in on your own financial situation, as a high debt-to-income ratio may be a warning sign that you need to take a closer look at your finances.

In order to get a better understanding of what debt-to-income ratio represents and how it’s used, it’s best to first learn how it’s calculated.

Types of debt-to-income ratios

There are two different types of debt-to-income ratios — back-end and front-end.

Back-end debt-to-income ratio — or more commonly known simply as debt-to-income ratio, defined above — gives a wider look at where you sit financially compared to the state of your debt.

Front-end debt-to-income ratio is a version of DTI that calculates how much of a person’s gross income is going toward housing costs. If someone has a mortgage, the front-end DTI ratio is calculated as housing expenses (mortgage payments, mortgage insurance, etc.) divided by gross income.

What factors make up debt-to-income ratio?

As the name suggests, one of the most important things you need to know in order to understand debt-to-income ratio is how much debt you have. Your total debt includes things like:

  • Mortgages
  • Auto loans
  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Alimony, child support and other financial judgments
  • Minimum credit card payments

how to calculate your monthly debt payments

How to calculate debt-to-income ratio

equation for debt to income ratio

Whether you have debt or not, everyone has a debt-to-income ratio. Fortunately, as complex as it may sound, if you learned to divide in elementary school, you’ll be able to understand this simple concept! In fact, you probably already think about it to some extent every month when you plan out your budget.

The first step to budgeting — and calculating your debt-to-income ratio — is to figure out how much money will be coming in each month after taxes. That will be your gross monthly income. Then consider how much you will spend each month on debt payments.

Here’s a basic formula you can follow to calculate your debt-to-income ratio:

DTI = TOTAL MONTHLY DEBT PAYMENTS / GROSS MONTHLY INCOME

debt to income ratio example

What is a good debt-to-income ratio?

debt to income ratio

It’s hard to know what’s considered “good,” so knowing how to calculate your debt to income ratio doesn’t mean much until you have some context. Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better, because it means you’re not spending a large portion of your income paying off debt. While it can be subjective on a lender by lender basis, a good debt-to-income ratio is typically anything smaller than 36 percent. If your debt-to-income ratio is more than 50 percent, you have too much debt and you’re spending at least half of your monthly income to pay for it.

Debt-to-income ratio for a mortgage

debt to income ratio home

If you’re looking to buy a house in the near future, you should calculate your debt-to-income ratio, because the maximum ratio that a prospective homebuyer can have is 43 percent. Anything above 43 is a sign to the lender that you may not make your payments and as a result are too risky to lend money to. There are some exceptions on either end, of course.

While 43 is the maximum, some conventional lenders would prefer to see a debt-to-income ratio closer to 36 percent. This would be a benefit to the prospective homebuyer as well because they may be able to get better loan terms as a result. Conversely, for Federal Housing Administration loans, lenders may be able to accept a DTI ratio as high as 50%.

Does debt-to-income ratio affect credit scores?

Your debt-to-income ratio does not directly affect your credit score. Credit agencies don’t have access to your income, meaning they have no way to know your debt-to-income ratio. They do, however, look at your credit utilization which is another metric of your overall financial health.

How to improve debt-to-income ratio

Maybe you’ve had some trouble buying a car or maybe you’d like to start thinking about buying a house in the near future. If you’re not satisfied with your debt-to-income ratio, there are two ways to improve it.

Option 1: Increase your income.

This may be easier said than done, but consider whether it’s feasible for you to take on some overtime, ask for a raise or maybe start a side hustle based on a hobby you have. Ideally, some form of passive income would be the best way to boost your monthly income without having to spend all of your free time working.

Option 2: Pay off your debt.

Your debt-to-income ratio is variable based on how much you’re paying toward debt each month. While you should be paying at least the minimum payment, you can pay more to pay the debt off faster. Your debt-to-income ratio may be higher in the short-term, but will eventually get back to an acceptable level once you’ve paid your debts. Consider options like debt consolidation if you’re having trouble managing your payments.

Consumer debt is growing at an alarming rate, meaning a high debt-to-income ratio, unfortunately, isn’t all too uncommon. Coming to terms with your debt is never easy, but continuing to recklessly accrue debt only makes it harder on you down the line. It’s never too late to improve your financial habits and turn your situation around. If you feel that you’re in need of credit repair or other financial services, contact credit advocates to start making a change.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

How points and miles helped me get serious about personal finance – The Points Guy


How points and miles helped me get serious about personal finance — The Points Guy



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Source: thepointsguy.com