What to Do When the Stock Market Crashes

Stock market crashes have happened several times throughout history, and crashes in the future are all but guaranteed. These sharp declines in share prices are a scary concept for most investors.

The good news is that although market downturns can be painful, thoughtful planning and execution of investments — even during these times — can yield positive results.

What Is a Stock Market Crash?

Market crashes and market corrections are often viewed as the same thing, but in reality, they’re very different, and that difference is important to understand when planning your moves. Market corrections are periods of downward movement of 10% or greater that happen over a series of days, weeks, months, or even longer.

Market crashes, on the other hand, are rapid, widespread declines in stock prices, marked by high volatility. While there is no official percentage decline that defines a crash, the declines are painful and dramatic — often 30% or more.

Market crashes generally take place when signs of a bear market are on the horizon, there’s a general feeling of overvaluation in equities, and economic conditions are questionable or in all-out financial crises. At these points, panic selling hits the market, and major indexes like the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average take dives.

Crashes were seen during the Great Depression and the bursting of the real estate bubble, but that’s in the general sense. Market crashes can also come out of nowhere, as was the case on Black Monday, October 19, 1987, when the U.S. market took the biggest single-day hit in history, and it happened out of nowhere.


What to Do if the Stock Market Crashes

While there’s no way to accurately time when the next stock market crash will be, there are some troubling warning signs for 2021 or 2022.

What should you do the next time Wall Street seems to go into an all-out panic? Follow the eight steps below:

1. Keep Your Cool

The first thing to remember when the floor falls out of the stock market is that it’s important to keep your cool. Emotion is the enemy of the investor, and emotional decisions can lead to significant losses far beyond what you should have to accept.

History tells us that market crashes are, for the most part, short-term movements that happen over the course of days, weeks, or months — or in severe crashes, maybe a year. Once the market reaches what investors perceive to be the bottom, stock prices begin to rebound, often leading to a long, drawn-out recovery filled with opportunity.

Some of the best examples of this are:

  • COVID-19 Crash. The coronavirus pandemic led to sharp declines from February through March of 2020, but by the end of March, prices were already beginning to rebound. Investors who stayed the course enjoyed a swift, V-shaped recovery, and the S&P 500 began recording all-time highs again by August 2020.
  • The Great Recession. The Great Recession was one of the worst market crashes in history. However, even during this drawn-out stock market crash, prices only declined for about six months, from August 2008 to March 2009. The bottom in 2009 was followed by the longest bull market in history, which spanned more than a decade.
  • Black Monday. The Black Monday stock market crash led to the worst single-day losses in U.S. stock market history, but stock prices reached the bottom in less than a month.

The fact of the matter is that the market is known for upward and downward fluctuations, and some are better or worse than others. Seasoned long-term investors have learned to ignore these fluctuations because longer periods of bull market activity more than make up for the declines in the vast majority of cases.

That means a market crash isn’t a time to panic — it’s a time to think strategically.

2. Don’t Run From Opportunity

It may seem counterintuitive, but a market crash is one of the best times to find long-term opportunities in the market. Stock market declines will happen, but as the great value investor Warren Buffett would point out to you, it’s best to buy when the market is fearful and sell when the market is greedy. That’s the basis of Buffett’s favorite investment strategy, value investing.

There are tons of investment strategies to use during bear markets. Rather than turning and running from the market, pay close attention to what’s going on within it. When opportunity comes knocking, be ready to answer the door.

3. Assess Your Asset Allocation Strategy

One of the reasons long-term investors don’t fret about a market crash is because when they put their portfolios together, they do so following an asset allocation strategy based on their risk tolerance.

Asset allocation strategies outline how much of your investment portfolio should be invested in asset classes like stocks, mutual funds, index funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and how much of your portfolio value should be nested in safer assets like bonds and other fixed-income securities.

When the market is crashing, it’s the perfect time to assess your allocation strategy and determine whether it falls in line with your risk tolerance. If your portfolio isn’t quite as protected as you thought it was, it’s time to mix it up and bring more fixed-income investments into the picture. On the other hand, if your portfolio is too conservative, consider looking for opportunities to add undervalued stocks to your portfolio.

If you haven’t paid attention to asset allocation at all, it’s time to start. A great way to adjust your allocation for the first time is to use your age as a guide.

For example, if you’re 25 years old, consider investing 25% of your portfolio in low-risk fixed income securities and the remaining 75% in stocks and similar vehicles. As you age, more of your portfolio should be allocated to safer investments because you have more time to wait out and recover from declines should they happen when you’re younger.

4. Assess Your Diversification Strategy

You likely grew up hearing the old adage, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This adage is an important one to remember in various aspects of life, including investing. In fact, diversification is key in any long-term investment portfolio.

To diversify means to spread your investing dollars over a variety of investment opportunities. That way if one or more investments falter, gains among other investments in your portfolio limit the impact of the blow.

When the stock market crashes, it’s a great time to assess whether your diversification strategy is working in your favor or against you. When looking at your portfolio, ask yourself the following questions:

Am I Investing Too Much Money Into a Single Asset?

Properly diversified portfolios have 20 or more separate investments, with no more than 5% in any single asset and no more than 5% total in the entire group of high-risk assets like penny stocks and Bitcoin.

If more than 5% of your asset value is invested in any single stock, it’s best to divest your holdings until the 5% cap is reached. You can use the money you gain from the divestment to invest in other opportunities.

Am I Investing Across Sectors?

Investors tend to invest in sectors they’re comfortable with. This is especially true for beginner investors.

However, if all of your investments are in the tech sector, and that sector crashes, you’ll be left with significant losses. A well diversified portfolio includes investments across various sectors, especially those that are not highly correlated with one another.

Am I Mixing In Safe Assets?

Growth stocks tend to be the biggest gainers in bull markets and the biggest losers in market crashes. On the other hand, income investments generate slow, steady growth and tend to hold their ground in bear markets.

Assess your portfolio to see whether your money is diversified between different styles of assets to protect you during rough times.

5. Look for Undervalued Opportunities

During a stock market crash, prices fall dramatically — that’s a given. But, as mentioned above, value investors like Warren Buffett will tell you that it’s best to buy when the market is fearful and sell when the market is greedy, and for good reason.

When buying during or shortly after a crash, you’ll enjoy lower prices than you would when the bulls are running on Wall Street. Considering that investing, at its core, is about buying low and selling high, a crash is the best time to buy, but it’s important not to go crazy and start buying everything you see.

Instead, make a calculated effort to find the stocks that are enjoying the largest undervaluations, as they will become the stocks with the biggest potential for gains when the crash is over.

Finding undervalued stocks is as simple as paying close attention to value metrics like the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio or the price-to-book-value ratio.

Pro tip: Before you add any stocks to your portfolio, make sure you’re choosing the best possible companies. Stock screeners like Stock Rover can help you narrow down the choices to companies that meet your individual requirements. Learn more about our favorite stock screeners.

6. Practice Dollar-Cost Averaging

Dollar-cost averaging is the process of spreading large investments out equally over a period of time. For example, if you wanted to buy $5,000 worth of ABC stock, you could decide to make five investments of $1,000 in ABC every day, week, or month.

Spacing out your investments following a crash protects you from sharp declines should the crash not yet be over.

Let’s say you decided to make five $1,000 weekly investments in ABC, which traded at $20 per share on week one, $15 per share on week two, $17.50 per share on week three, $20 per share on week four, and $15 per share on week five.

In this case, your $1,000 each week would purchase 50 shares, 66 shares, 57 shares, 50 shares, and 66 shares on weeks one through five, respectively. At the end of the five week run, you would end up with 289 shares of ABC stock.

If you had invested all $5,000 in ABC shares on the first week, you would have purchased 250 shares. By dollar-cost-averaging, you ended up with 39 additional shares for your money.

Looking at this example from a gain/loss perspective, either investment would have declined because ABC stock dropped from $20 per share at the beginning to $15 per share at the end. But the $5,000 one-time investment would be worth $3,750 at the end of the five-week period, while the separate investments would be worth $4,335, giving you less ground to make up when the market starts to rebound.

7. Rebalance When the Storm Passes

Volatility is commonplace during crashes. Wide fluctuations in value will ultimately throw your portfolio’s balance out of whack as some asset prices change more than others. Once prices start to rebound, it’s time to rebalance your portfolio and make sure it still aligns with your investment strategy.

Rebalancing a portfolio is a relatively simple process. Start by making a note of what percentage of your investment dollars are invested in stocks and similar assets and what percentage of your portfolio is invested in fixed-income investments. Doing so will let you know if your allocation is still in line.

Next, look at each individual investment and determine what percentage of your overall portfolio value is invested in each one. If those percentages are higher than you’d like them to be, divest the assets until your allocation has reached a comfortable level. Use the money you’ve divested from these investments to buy other assets that are underallocated according to your strategy.

8. Consider Hiring a Financial Advisor

Most people have a drive to do what they can for themselves, avoiding costs associated with hiring professionals. However, showing up to the stock market during a market crash without knowledge of the inner workings of the system or without a financial expert is like showing up to court without an attorney.

There’s no harm in seeking professional help when you’re not sure about something, especially when that something is your hard-earned money. If you’re still nervous about investing during a crash after reading this guide, it’s wise to seek the assistance of an expert. SmartAsset has a service that helps you locate fiduciary advisors in your area or you could use a service like Vanguard Personal Adviser Services.


Final Word

Stock market crashes will happen from time to time; it’s the nature of the beast. However, by keeping your cool, adjusting your allocation and diversification strategies, and making wise decisions, these market declines can prove to be major opportunities.

As is always the case, whether the bulls or bears are running, it’s important to do your research and get a thorough understanding of what you’re investing in prior to making any investment decisions.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Reasons Many People Stay in Debt

Why People Stay in DebtWhy People Stay in DebtDebts are sometimes inevitable in life. For most people, it would be next to impossible to own a home, a car, pay bills or even get an education without credit. Federal Bank of New York released a report that put household debt and credit at $13.29 trillion in the second quarter of 2018.

Do people end up repaying all these debts? Unfortunately no; many people are up to their necks in debt and quite a large number of them are doing nothing towards repayment. There are numerous reasons why many people stay in debt. Here are several:

Living Beyond Means

This simply means that you are spending more than you are bringing in. If what you are earning cannot comfortably cater for house and car payments, insurance, other fixed costs and house expenses, then you cannot afford that kind of a lifestyle. It is even worse if you freely use your credit cards to pay for what your income cannot support. What happens is that debts start accumulating and accruing interest month after month and before you know it, you are swimming in debt with no way to escape.

Spending Without a Budget

According to a recent study, only 41% Americans use a budget. This means that most people cannot track their spending habits leave alone plan for the future. Without a budget and with several credit cards at your disposal, it is easy to spend your money uncontrollably and end up depending on credit as you wait for the next pay. The repeated cycle leads to failed repayments which consequently increases the outstanding debts.

Job Loss or Reduced Income

Having a job gives you the confidence to use credit knowing that your income is able to cover the repayments. Should you unexpectedly lose the job, it becomes impossible to make your repayments which may also attract additional interests and penalty fees. Even if you end-up getting another job, it is possible that your credit card debts will have soared to levels that you may no longer sustain. Similarly, a pay-cut or reduced income may also make you lag behind on your repayments leading to accrued debts.

Unwillingness to Sacrifice

If you are deep in debt and you still fight to maintain the same life style, chances are that you will never repay your debts or worse still, they will keep increasing. The ability or inability to save for debt repayments may depend on your willingness to forego a few things like holidays, cable, birthday gifts, a big house and a luxurious car among others. The question is; are you willing to make the sacrifice?

Struggling to Keep up Appearances

It is just human nature to want to fit into certain statuses set by the society, family, friends etc. In an effort to fit, you may end up spending beyond what you can sustain with your income. Unfortunately, the demands may keep going higher and higher and unless you can tell yourself to stop, you will be up to your neck in debt within no time. The fact that you are keeping up appearances means that things are not good financially in the first place so unless you win a lottery or come into some huge cash, you will stay in debt for a long time.

Financial Illiteracy

In a quest to understand how financially literate the world is, people were asked 4 simple questions regarding risk, inflation and interest. Out of 150,000 adults from over 140 countries, only a third could answer 3 out of the 4 questions correctly. If you have no idea of how credit works, you keep on making mistakes that will increase your debts in the long run. Such include; late repayments, carelessly requesting for credit top-ups, and falling for the wrong lines of credit among others. This also comes with the inability to manage the credit hence leading to heaps upon heaps of debts.

Final Take

While it is normal for people to find themselves in debt at some point or another, not all of them end up paying. The reasons why many people stay in debt range from genuine ones to outright selfish ones. Debt accumulates little by little and before you know it, you are too debt ridden to do anything about it. On the other hand, with proper planning, a little sacrifice and commitment, it is possible to disentangle yourself from the debt cycle one step at a time.

Source: creditabsolute.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 Maintain a Good Credit Score in College

College life brings a host of new and exciting experiences in the various aspects of your life. Financial independence and responsibility also come to play. While your achievements are important in putting you in your right career path, a good credit score is paramount in bettering the deals you will get when renting or buying a home, purchasing a car, getting a cellphone plan, applying for a student loan or in some instances, getting employment.

This calls on your effort to not only build but also maintain a good credit. It may sound complicated and intimidating especially when you don’t know how to go about it. Below, is all you need to know on how to maintain a good credit score in college.

Good Credit in CollegeGood Credit in College

Taking Advantage of your Parent’s Good Credit

This is commonly referred to as ‘piggybacking’. It allows people with bad or no credit to enjoy a spillover of other people’s good credit. It is a great way of establishing and maintaining your credit especially if you need a little help in managing your budget. For you to qualify for this, you have to become an authorized user of your parents’ accounts.

This comes in handy especially if you can’t get your own credit card; according to Oct 1st 2013 Credit Act report, students and other persons below 21 years of age cannot get their own credit cards without proof of income or at least a co-signer. Apart from the credit boost you get from your parent’s account, your credit card use is forwarded to credit bureaus in your name.

Get the Most Suitable Credit Card

Your ability to qualify for a credit card opens you to the opportunity to choose from a variety of cards. You should research and shop around to find out what these cards have to offer before making your choice. Some of the benefits to look out for include low interest rate, no annual fees, convenient credit limits and other competitive incentives.

Better still, you can opt for student credit cards. These come with incentives such as cashback rewards, limited credit history requirement, no annual fees and 0% introductory APR among other benefits. Your own credit card comes with sole responsibility. This means that it’s up to you to stay on top of your billing statements so as to improve and maintain a good credit

Always Pay your Credit Balance

Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit. Good credit of course depends on timely and full payment of your balance. Inability to pay or late payment may attract additional interest, accrue more debt and negatively affect your credit.

This can take a long time to repair. Besides this, it is also a sign that you are living beyond your means. Ideally, your credit balance should be about 30% of your credit limit or below.

Tip: The higher your credit balance in relation to your limit is, the worse your credit becomes.

Pay your Bills on Time

Late or failed payment of rent, utility bills, parking tickets, library or school fees and other payments can harm your credit; especially is if they are sent to collection agencies and reported to credit bureaus. Ways of beating this include setting up payment reminders and electronic billing. You can also organize for auto payments with your bank to ensure that timely payments are done.

If you live in an apartment, you might get credit for full and timely payments. You can take advantage of eRentPayment which transfers your payment reports to the three major credit bureaus; Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This consequently improves your credit. However, your landlord needs to be registered and the lease needs to be in your name.

Limit Applications and Inquiries for New accounts

Numerous credit inquiries negatively impact your credit score. In the event that you need to make new credit applications that warrant hard inquiries, concentrate them into period of 14 days in which they will factor as one inquiry.

Once you decide to get a credit account, get all the facts right to avoid the urge to close and open others every now and then. Short credit histories with several new accounts are seen as riskier compared to a few accounts with long credit histories. When you close a credit card, you not only lower your available credit but also shorten your credit history both of which can reduce your score.

In a Nut Shell

Maintaining a good credit score in college is important if you are going to get any good deals in personal credit in the future. This requires vigilance on your part to ensure that you do not do anything that can have negative impact on it. When all is said and done, it all comes down to personal financial responsibility.

Source: creditabsolute.com

How to Save Money on Wedding Photographers & Videographers

According to The Knot, the average cost of an American wedding was about $28,000 in 2019. Wedding photography and videography account for $2,400 and $1,800, respectively, or about 15% of the total.

Professional-grade wedding memories are expensive. If you’re fretting about how you’re going to pay for them, use these tips for getting cheap (or at least cheaper) professional wedding photography and videography to help save money on your wedding.

How to Save on Wedding Photographers and Videographers

Use these tips and tricks to reduce the cost of a professional wedding photographer or videographer without sacrificing the quality of the finished product.

1. Set Up a Photography and Videography Registry or Fund

You’ve heard of a wedding gift registry. Why not open a separate wedding media registry through which guests and apologetic no-shows can chip in toward your photography and videography costs? Some high-end photography and videography studios offer this service directly, or you can go the DIY route and launch a crowdfunding campaign on a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe.

DIY registries or funds offer more control over contributions. For instance, you can expand them to include general wedding and post-wedding expenses. They’re a straightforward option if an affordable honeymoon is a top priority.

Plus, if guests contribute to your media registry or fund in lieu of gifts, you don’t have to devote as much energy to regifting, returning, or selling unwanted gifts online after the big day.

2. Tap Your Personal Network

If you want your official wedding photos and videos to look truly amazing, you don’t want to give the job to a random guest whose top qualification is an above-average Instagram account. But you may know or know someone who knows professional or qualified amateur photographers and videographers capable of producing professional-grade material.

Depending on the strength of your connection, you may be able to secure a friend or family discount for those services, even if they’re already established as professionals in your area. The depth of this discount is sure to vary, but in my experience, 5% or even 10% off full price isn’t unreasonable. For instance, we worked with my wife’s former classmate, who’d recently established a professional photography business with her husband. They gave us a small discount and didn’t charge for travel to and from the reception site, as was apparently customary for other jobs in their rural hometown.

Qualified nonprofessionals or rising professionals, such as recent film or visual arts school graduates without practices of their own, may be willing to work for even less, especially if they’re able to build their profile or meet new prospects as a result. Just make sure they have adequate equipment, enough help, and enough prior experience to pull off a big job. As with anyone you hire, check out their previous work first.

3. Get Multiple Quotes to Compare Pricing and Service

When buying a car, you don’t jump at the first offer you see. You compare multiple offers for comparable vehicles, weighing the relative pros and cons until you arrive at an informed decision you’re reasonably confident you won’t regret.

The scale of your wedding media investment might be smaller, but your decision’s consequences echo even further into the future. Spend as long as it takes thoroughly researching photographers in your area and requesting quotes (if they don’t provide pricing upfront) from all who seem in line with your general tastes and budget.

You can jump-start the research process by attending a wedding fair near the area you plan to get married. They typically occur before the wedding season begins and can attract hundreds of service providers (including photographers and videographers) from miles around.

4. Check References

Once you’ve narrowed your choices to a few finalists, thoroughly check them out, just as you’d run a Carfax report on a used car before buying it from a random person (or a sketchy dealership, for that matter). Read online reviews, evaluate their posted work, and connect with people who’ve recently used their services. And don’t be afraid to ask them directly for references.

Though checking references can’t reduce the final cost of your wedding photography and videography, it can increase the chances of satisfaction. You can’t do your wedding over. Paying a bit more for wedding media you love is an investment in the fond memory of what’s hopefully one of the happiest days of your life.

5. Get a Personal Use Release

Your wedding photographer and videographer is almost certain to keep the copyright to your media, meaning you can’t use your wedding photos or videos for your own commercial purposes. But most photographers and videographers readily agree to personal use releases that allow clients to reproduce photos and videos for personal use, sharing among friends, and posting on social media.

If your provider’s contract doesn’t explicitly spell that out, ask them to add it. And think twice about working with any provider who says no. A personal use release removes any doubt about your ability to order reprints or copies in the future, ideally from a discount merchant (such as a drugstore) that charges much less than your photography or videography studio.

6. Stick to a Lower-Priced Package

Most wedding photographers and videographers offer basic packages like ceremony coverage plus pre-reception wedding party shots. These packages include fewer add-ons and frills, such as gratuitous shots of the bride in their wedding dress and personal shoots for bridesmaids. In some cases, their standard arrangement covers just the shoot itself plus an online gallery or image DVD.

By providing just the bare essentials and giving you the flexibility to choose how (and whether) to order additional products, such as bound albums or wall prints, the basic package gives you greater control over your total photography and videography costs. It also allows you to spread your investment over a longer period.

And if you choose to order additional products later, you can likely do so at a lower cost online or at a brick-and-mortar photo shop provided you have a personal use release.

Photography and videography package costs vary tremendously by factors such as provider quality and reputation and geography. Louisiana’s Love Photography is an excellent example of the often vast discrepancy between basic and deluxe photography packages. Its basic package costs $999. The next-highest package costs $1,320, and the most expensive package costs $2,945.

7. Look for Professional (but Less Established) Independents

If your wedding media’s quality is even a remote concern, resist the temptation to source an unvetted amateur from Craigslist or your wedding guest list, no matter how tight your budget. You’re more likely to be disappointed with the results.

But it is possible to find professional-grade work at nonprofessional prices. Up-and-coming photography and videography professionals are often willing to work for less than what more established professionals charge. They’re frequently just out of school or ready to move up from assistant roles and launch their own independent businesses. The best place to find them and verify their credentials is on reputable job boards like Indeed and freelance job websites like Upwork.

8. Book Early

Not all wedding photographers and videographers offer early-bird discounts, but it never hurts to ask. Just be realistic about what early means in the world of wedding planning, which is probably no later than six months before the big day. Make a point to reserve your wedding photography and videography around the same time you book your wedding venue if you’re not arranging them through the same vendor.

9 Ask for an Off-Peak Discount

Many people get married on Saturdays. If you’re willing to buck the crowd and organize a weekday (Monday through Thursday) wedding, ask photographer and videographer candidates for an off-peak discount. Depending on local customs and the providers’ whims, it’s not unreasonable to expect a 10% or 15% discount off the final bill for a midweek shindig. For example, our engagement photographer, who also did weddings, cut 15% off her bill for Monday-through-Thursday weddings.

The same principle applies to off-season weddings in regions with sharply defined wedding seasons. If you’re scheduling a February wedding in Boston or Chicago, it never hurts to ask for a discount. But winter weddings are increasingly popular, so don’t be surprised by a refusal. There are other potential financial benefits to weekday and off-season weddings too, such as venue and catering discounts.

10. Ask for Referral Discounts or Credits

Don’t be shy about asking your photographer or videographer for referral discounts or credits. Many professionals readily offer kickbacks, either as a discount to the final service bill or credits for future orders, to current or prior customers who refer new business.

You don’t have to shill for them at your wedding, but if you know anyone who’s planning their wedding, you can suggest your photographer or videographer.

It works in the other direction too. If friends refer you to their wedding media provider, you may qualify for a discount. Discounts and credits vary by factors such as vendor and location, but $25, $50, or even $100 isn’t outside the realm of possibility. For example, our engagement photographer offered $50 off for referrals who purchased photography packages.

11. Look for Custom Packages

In the rush to get ready for the big day, it’s easy to surrender to the simplicity of preset photo or video packages, which tell you precisely what you’re getting and how much it’s going to cost. However, preset packages often include unnecessary services or add-ons, and providers aren’t always willing to customize on the spot.

To avoid paying more than you should, look for providers that offer custom packages. These packages typically have minimal conditions. For example, you can choose how many hours the provider works on your wedding day, and you get all your images in electronic format. But beyond that, the services rendered and deliverables (such as albums) are up to you.

Larger custom packages sometimes qualify for discounts. For instance, Atlanta-based Amanda Summerlin Photography, a high-end photography studio, knocks 5% off custom packages of $3,900 or more, 10% off custom packages of $4,600 or more, and 15% off custom packages of $5,700 or more.

12. Book Photography and Videography With the Same Provider

Not all photography studios offer videography services, nor vice versa. But if you choose a provider capable of shooting professional-grade photo and video, look into combined photography and videography packages, which can cost hundreds of dollars less than separate photography and videography jobs.

13. Avoid Nonlocal Photographers and Videographers

Unless you’re having a destination wedding in a remote area, avoid working with nonlocal providers. Out-of-area photographers and videographers often add mileage or airfare to the cost of their services, potentially raising the final bill by hundreds of dollars.

Even if your provider doesn’t explicitly add travel costs to your final bill, they’re likely built into its margins, and your total cost is therefore likely to be higher than what a comparable local provider would charge.

14. Work With Venue-Preferred and Recommended Providers

If you’re planning your nuptials at a wedding venue that’s accustomed to hosting weddings, inquire about preferred or recommended photographers and videographers.

Some venues have a de facto referral system. The venue drives business to favored vendors, who then offer discounted services or special packages. Some larger venues even have staff photographers and videographers that work closely with onsite wedding planners and build their fees into the total cost of the event. Further, such providers are likely familiar with the specific venue and already know the best sites for shots.

15. Limit Your Photographer’s and Videographer’s Hours

Some photographer and videographer packages include a specific number of hours of coverage, usually four to seven. Before hiring your provider and choosing your package, determine how long you need them to be present.

You probably want to capture high points like the walk down the aisle, exchange of vows, post-ceremony procession, and cake cutting, but do you really need professional shots of the rehearsal dinner, the bride getting ready, distant family members, or the later stages of your reception party?

Choose your package accordingly, and don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. For example, if you don’t need reception photos or videos at all, your provider may be willing to bail right after the customary post-ceremony wedding party shots.

16. Limit Your Photography and Videography Staff Size at Smaller Weddings

It isn’t always possible with larger or logistically complex weddings with multiple shooting sites or challenging conditions. But if you expect fewer than 75 guests at your wedding and plan a relatively traditional ceremony and reception, your provider may be willing to send only a lead photographer or videographer, forgoing the assistants and interns who often help with setup, shooting, and equipment-ferrying at larger events. Depending on the provider, that could reduce your service bill by a few hundred dollars.

17. Order Fewer, Smaller Finished Photos

Because they’re easier to frame and look better on display, larger wedding pictures typically cost a lot more than wallet-size or small frame-size (4-inch-by-6-inch or 5-inch-by-7-inch).

If you place a finished photo order with your photography studio, stick to the smaller sizes or purchase only a few larger photos for display in your home. Resist the temptation to send a large framed photo to every member of your wedding party or aunt and uncle who made it to the ceremony.

If you do want larger photos down the line, you can use your online proofs to place an order with a discounted service or buy from your provider when your budget has recovered from the trauma of the wedding.

18. Lose the Leather Binding and Hard Pages

Wedding photo albums are pricey — really pricey. When purchased a la carte, high-end wedding albums (think bound leather albums with rigid pages) can cost up to $1,000, according to Zola. Larger sizes are especially pricey.

While it’s nice to have a weighty tome of wedding memories to pull out for your houseguests and future kids, it’s possible to achieve similar results at a lower cost. Opt for a simpler magazine-style album with glossy, flexible pages. The quality of the quality is similar, as is the durability of the paper, which is critical if you plan to share your wedding memories with your children and grandchildren.

19. Don’t Order a Proof Book

Many photographers offer proof books, which allow you to review the photos they’ve taken and select your favorites before ordering your final prints.

The catch is that you often pay for the proof book too. Our wedding photographer advised us we’d pay an extra $100 if we wanted a proof book. We told her to skip it and send us a selection of digital files to review (for free). Unless you wish to keep the book in lieu of a bound album, you can do the same.

20. Crowdsource Photos and Videos From Your Guests to Create an Album or Folio

If you want a professional-grade memento of your big day, cutting out the photographer or videographer altogether isn’t a viable option. But you can still pair a less extravagant professional wedding package and fewer pro photos with a free or low-cost crowdsourced photo campaign.

Before the ceremony, either on your invitations or in your wedding program, invite your guests to snap photos or take videos with their smartphones and post them to social media or an online space.

Brides magazine has a comprehensive list of useful wedding photo-sharing apps, some more expensive than others. If you tell your guests to post photos to social media, give them a unique wedding hashtag to make it easy to find the photos. It’s usually some variation on the wedding couple’s names plus the year.

Make it clear they can be as creative as they please as long as they don’t disrupt the service. Or let the pros handle the wedding and invite the guests to get artistic at the reception.

If you worry about phones or photos getting lost in the shuffle, place disposable cameras on each table and ask patrons to place them in a designated box or bowl when the festivities are over. The results won’t win any awards, but they’re sure to be entertaining — and as time goes on, even poignant.

21. Pay With a Cash-Back or Rewards Credit Card

No matter what your final wedding media bill comes to, you can marginally reduce the sticker shock (and budgetary carnage) by paying with a cash-back credit card. Though wedding photography and videography rarely fall into favored spending categories, such as grocery store or gas purchases, they’re still good for the baseline earning rate.

For example, by paying your photographer and videographer with Chase Freedom Unlimited (unlimited 1.5% cash back on most purchases, including wedding photography and videography) or Citi Double Cash (unlimited 2% cash back) card, you can knock the final cost of a $2,000 bill down to $1,970 and $1,960, respectively.


Final Word

Professional photo and video services aren’t cheap. The Knot’s survey showed the average American couple spends more than $4,000 to document their special day when they opt for both.

Fortunately, your wedding day is probably going to be the high point of your professional media-buying career. Even if you and your spouse spring for newborn baby photos, periodic family portraits, and high school graduation photos for your kids, you won’t ever spend as much on photo and video as you do on your wedding day.

Source: moneycrashers.com