6 Reasons to Avoid Black Friday

Ah, the great American tradition of Black Friday shopping. Leaving your boring home and family early to spend time with those who really matter: the herds of anxious strangers elbowing one another in the mouth to score that off-brand flatscreen. Truly, it’s a noble American tradition. Just like Norman Rockwell envisioned it. 

Just kidding. Black Friday is terrible. Between waking up at the crack of dawn to rush to the mall, dealing with the stampeding crowds, and maybe, just maybe, getting to take home one piece of electronics that you don’t really need, Black Friday can be a waste of time, money and energy.

That’s why we at OppLoans recommend that you and yours spend time with family and save your money. Here are the top six reasons why we recommend you avoid Black Friday.

1. It’s not a holiday.

The first “Black Friday” didn’t have anything to do with giving thanks. Quite the opposite. The first use of the term “Black Friday” referred to September 24, 1869–a particularly infamous day in financial history: A gold buying conspiracy unraveled and sent the stock market into a tailspin. Fun stuff.

Over the years, the story behind the retail tradition has evolved. There are some pleasant, but inaccurate, versions of the story involving the first day of the year in which a retailer finally turns a profit and some really dark versions involving slavery, shoplifting and near-riotous conditions at city retailers in Philadelphia.

Whichever Black Friday origin story you chose to believe, in its current form Black Friday is a modern marketing event designed to separate you from your money and your family.

2. It’s not great for the employees.

Black Friday used to start in the very morning hours of, well, Black Friday. But sometime around 2009, retailers began to open their doors earlier and earlier, and today, most Black “Friday” sales actually start around dinnertime on Thanksgiving Day. That means if you want to get the doorbuster deals listed on all those exciting Black Friday circulars, you’re going to have to skip out on your annual wine-fueled political fight with Uncle Joe and head right to the mall instead. But what about the employees? They get even less Uncle Joe time.

All kidding aside, the demands on employees’ time (not to mention the apocalyptic in-store conditions) aren’t anything to celebrate. And the public agrees! 63 percent of respondents to a Deloitte survey said they were against stores being open on Thanksgiving. Retailers are recognizing this; there are nearly 60 big box companies who won’t be open at all on Thanksgiving. Cheers, @PetSmart!

3. The “doorbusters” are a scam.

Those in-store-only doorbusters aren’t usually worth it. When it comes to electronics—the super-discounted items you’ll need to wait in a physical line to buy aren’t exactly top quality.

Often they’re from a little-known or no-name brand (called ‘Derivatives‘), which are hard to find solid customer reviews on—and on top of the quality issue, most stores will only have a limited amount in stock.

This means you can stand in line for hours and still come away empty-handed, which is a colossal waste of your time.

4. It’s irresponsible.

Phuong Vuong, of Empower Finance, gave us her opinion on Black Friday and we couldn’t agree more.

Black Friday creates a herd mentality that encourages people to buy things that they don’t want or don’t even love that much because of the perceived scarcity of the deals. We’re not against deals because it is savings if you truly derive value from the purchase. We suggest a better way to do Black Friday is to cozy up at home with your loved ones and scour deals on editorial sites.”

While we’re at it, remember that avoiding Black Friday is one financially responsible action you can take this year, but don’t forget the rest of the calendar.

Phong adds, “Set a shopping budget for a month in our app and we will remind you every week or 2 weeks, how you are tracking against it, so you can course-correct. Our users love the tracker as a way to gradually over time learn about their shopping habits and the minimum required changes that need to be made.”

(For more personal finance apps that might bring you value, be sure to check out our OppLoans App Directory for reviews and developer interviews!)

5. It’s easy to get scammed online too.

Nick Johns of ConsumerSafety.org reminds us that whether you’re shopping online or in-store, Black Friday is ripe with scams, rip-offs, and spoofers looking to take advantage of shoppers. “Black Friday really does seem to get treated as its own holiday, and hype can certainly get out of control. With injuries or deaths reported almost every year, shopping in brick and mortar stores during peak deal hours can be a dangerous affair. Online shoppers may run into the lion’s share of scams, with digital trickery evolving every year.

  • Don’t shop on public WiFi (or better yet, stop using it altogether). These open networks are accessible by anyone, and as a result, any information you access can potentially be collected by someone else on the network. Reduce risk by using your phone as a private mobile hotspot or wait until you get home before transmitting any sensitive data.

  • Keep an eye on the news for new reports – criminals are inventing new forms of scams every day.”

6. You can shop smarter and just feel better.

Anxiety. Overspending. In-store injuries???

You just straight up don’t need this faux-holiday to save real money.

Let’s be honest. No matter what your financial situation, there are simply better, smarter, safer and more enjoyable ways to spend your time and money this holiday weekend. Skip the commercial nightmare and you’ll likely have much more to be thankful for–like money saved and more time with Uncle Joe (you know you love him).

Check out other OppLoans blogs for related info like:

What’s your favorite alternative to shopping on Black Friday? We want to know! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Nick Johns brings years of experience informing consumers about technology trends and security risks to his role as Technology and Digital Safety Investigator for ConsumerSafety.org (@ConsumerSafetyO). An avid believer in proactive cybersecurity, Nick provides actionable advice about improving digital safety and protecting your most sensitive information.
Phuong Vuong leads Marketing and Growth at SF-based Empower Finance (@empowermeapp), a consumer finance app company that combines the most sophisticated technology with fiercely independent financial advice. She came from a rich financial services background that includes sales and business development and asset management. Phuong holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

How Much Do These Common Football Injuries Cost Without Insurance?

Star players going down with common football injuries has been one of the defining factors of the 2017-18 NFL season.

For instance, the Green Bay Packers started 3-1 but have done 1-3 after Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone. And after JJ Watt was placed on injured reserve with a tibial plateau fracture in his left knee, the Houston Texans learned to feel hopeful again behind rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson’s electrifying play … only for him to tear his ACL in practice, ending his season immediately. Plus there’s Carson Palmer, James Winston, Odell Beckham Jr., the list goes on….

And these injuries aren’t rare. Torn ACLs, broken legs, concussions, ankle sprains, and turf toe are all common ways for a football player to get hurt. Of course, when it comes to medical care, NFL players do have it better than the average person, at least in the short-term. The cost of their medical care is fully covered.

But how much would these common football injuries cost without insurance? The price tags might not phase professional players making an NFL salary, but, for regular folks, the cost of these common injuries could turn a medical emergency into a life-changing financial disaster.

Let’s go to the tape…

cost of common football injuries

Without insurance to cover the bill, here’s how much these common football injuries would cost…

  • Concussion: $4,646
  • Neck stinger or burner: $7,522
  • A dislocated shoulder: $1,465
  • AC joint injury: $6,434
  • Broken finger: $4,779
  • Hamstring tear: $5,041
  • Herniated disc: $15,707
  • Knee ligament tear (ACL, PCL, MCL): $15,376
  • Meniscus tear: $19,844
  • High ankle sprain: $3,520
  • Turf toe: $1,900

In 2016, the median annual income in America was a record high $59,039. Without insurance, the injuries listed above would take up anywhere from 3.2 percent to 33.6 percent of that amount. Imagine spending over one-third of your yearly salary to repair a knee injury!

For players in the NFL, the numbers look a little different. In 2017, the minimum salary for an NFL player is $465,000. So even without insurance, these injuries would eat up a much smaller percentage of that player’s paycheck compared to your average American.

Plus, the year’s biggest injuries have hit players who make a lot more than the league minimum…

  • Aaron Rodgers has a broken collarbone, which would cost $28,826 without insurance, or .22 percent of his total salary.
  • JJ Watt has a tibial plateau fracture, which would cost $35,764 without insurance, or .34 percent of his total salary.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. has a fractured ankle, which would cost $9,730 without insurance, or 3.8 percent of his total salary.
  • Deshaun Watson has a torn ACL, which would cost $15,376 without insurance, or .07 percent of his total salary.
  • Carson Palmer has a broken arm, which would cost $11,406 without insurance, or one percent of his total salary.
  • Jameis Winston has an AC joint sprain, which would cost $6,434 without insurance, or .22 percent of his total salary.

Nobody likes to see their favorite NFL player get carted off the field, but at least these players don’t have to pay their own medical bills. In most cases, those costs are covered as a part of their contracts, and they’ll still get paid while rehabbing from the injury. And even if a player gets released because of an injury, their team still has to pay for the weeks they would have spent on the roster before being medically cleared to pay. While an injury can affect their ability to get paid in the future, the immediate effect on their finances isn’t that huge.

But the same isn’t true for a regular person who doesn’t carry medical insurance. For them, the cost of these common injuries would have a much bigger—and scarier—impact on their finances.

Want to learn more?

Read about how Loss of Value insurance allows elite college and professional athletes to protect their financial futures.

Medical debt is one of the primary reasons that Americans file for bankruptcy. Check out this OppLoans ebook to learn the best way to finance a medical emergency.

Like this infographic? After you share it with your friends on social media, take a peek at our Stranger Things infographic that compares the cost of life in Hawkins, IN in 1983 compared to today!

Let us know what you think of this post! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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How Student Athlete Insurance Protects Financial Futures

How Student Athlete Insurance Protects Financial Futures

With specialized insurance policies like loss of value coverage, a drop on draft day could end up paying these athletes millions.

Here on the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog, much of what we write is about helping people protect their financial futures. That’s why we regularly blog about building your savings, earning extra income from a side hustle, repairing your bad credit, and steering clear of predatory no credit check loans. A good deal of the advice we give is true no matter who you are.

But some people have financial futures that are far, far different than ours. And that means the way they protect their money is unique as well!

One of the groups that this applies to is high-level college athletes, especially in men’s sports. These guys stand to potentially make millions (and millions!) once they go pro. But at the same time, one wrong move on the field or an awkward fall on the court could make those millions disappear in a flash!

(Imagine if Deshaun Watson had torn his ACL last season instead of after he was drafted. It could have changed his entire career trajectory. One thing that wouldn’t have changed? The Texans would still be stuck starting Tom Savage.)

That’s where insurance comes in. And, sure, lots of us have insurance coverage, but we don’t have coverage quite like the kind that’s offered to these high-level athletes—in both college and the pros.

Let’s find out some more about it, shall we?

Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance

In 1990, the NCAA (the body that governs college athletics) started a program that sponsored disability insurance for “exceptional” student-athletes. Originally, the program only covered football and men’s basketball, but by 1998 it had expanded to include all men’s and women’s sports.

The policy offered through the program is called Permanent Total Disability Insurance or PTD. Simply put, if the athlete suffers an injury that forces them to give up a career in pro sports, the policy will pay them out a large sum to cover the potential earnings that they’ve lost. The policies have a maximum coverage of $10 million for football and men’s basketball, $5 million for baseball, $3 million for men’s ice hockey, and $250,000 for women’s basketball.

The program allows players to take out a loan to cover the cost of the insurance premiums—which often cost tens of thousands of dollars. Once a player receives their pro contract, they can simply pay the loan off and be on their merry way.

In the decades since these policies were first offered, the market for them has grown at a phenomenal rate. And players don’t have to get their contracts through the NCAA’s program either. Many players now secure policies on their own—although the contracts must still be submitted to their school’s compliance office for approval.

Here’s the rub. These policies only go into effect if you’re injured and can never play your sport again. If you get hurt and fall from a top ten draft pick to a late fourth rounder but still end up having a pro career, this policy isn’t going to cover you. In 2016, NCAA director of travel and insurance, Juanita Sheely told a reporter from CBS Sports that “More than two and less than a dozen” of these policies have ever been paid out.

That’s where insurers started getting creative.

Enter Loss-of-Value Insurance

These are riders (also known as LOV’s) that can be attached to PTD policies and they cover exactly the kind of scenario that we mentioned above: an athlete with top pick potential who gets injured and drops far in the draft.

With all the major sports, the potential contract that an athlete can sign gets smaller and smaller the lower their draft position. For instance, Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft has a contract valued at over $30 million, whereas Ryan Ramcyzk, the 32nd overall pick—and the last player picked in the first round—has a contract valued at just below $9 million.

Slipping in the draft could cost a player millions in guaranteed dollars. When a player takes out a PTD policy, they can also get a Loss of Value rider added to protect against that loss.

The first NFL player to collect on his LOV rider was running back Silas Redd, who suffered a knee injury during his final year at USC and ended up going entirely undrafted in 2014—although he did eventually play professionally for Washington D.C. The second player to collect—and the first do so with some fanfare—was University of Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, whose knee injury in 2014 right before the Rose Bowl caused him to drop from (very likely) the first round to the seventh.

There are two factors that have contributed to this increase in popularity for LOV riders. The first is that student-athletes can now take out loans secured against their future earnings in order to pay the expensive premiums. The second is that the NCAA also allows schools to pay those premiums themselves with money from the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund. In fact, Ekpre-Olomu was one of four University of Oregon athletes, including then-quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had his premiums covered by the school for the 2014 season.

Eric Chenowith is a former NBA player and insurance producer at Parq Advisors, where he specializes in disability insurance for college. and professional athletes. He says that he has seen the market for LOV coverage grow “drastically” over the past five years:

“Originally, the only part that was available was Permanent Total Disability and, honestly, the chances of collecting on that are, honestly, probably less than one percent. And so a lot of guys just didn’t want to secure it. Loss of Value was around about ten years ago and then it went away and then it came back about 5 years ago and so it’s a sexier product in that it’s a lower hanging fruit to collect on”

“You can buy your Permanent Total Disability policy if your career ends, and then you can add a Loss of Value rider to cushion your loss in case you get hurt but you can still go and play,” says Chenowith. “Most athletes like the Loss of Value product in that you can have your cake and eat it too, in that you can collect your benefits and tax-free and still go play your prospective sport.”

How are these policies created?

Insurance policies are not exactly known for being simple, and these athlete disability contracts are no exception. With both PTD and LOV policies, the insurance companies underwriting the policy have to figure out what a player is likely to get on their next contract.

For pro athletes, this can mean figuring out what they’ll be offered on the free market. For college athletes, it means figuring out where they’ll be drafted.

“Loss of value coverage has something called a threshold amount,”  says ReedSmith LLP (@reedsmithllp) attorney Richard Giller who specializes in athlete disability and loss of value coverage. “What happens is a broker or underwriters for the insurance company, or a combination of the two, try to determine the value of the athlete’s first pro contract or his or her next professional contract.”

“For college athletes, most of the drafts have slotted contract positions so it’s really kind of a determination of where they think you might be drafted. So if you’re a top ten draft pick in the NFL, you know exactly what the contract values are for those first ten picks. And so insurance companies will usually offer anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of that value as an insured threshold amount. If you get injured that policy year,” says Giller, “and you end up signing a contract for less than that threshold amount, theoretically the insurance is supposed to cover the difference.”

Why do these companies set a threshold at 60 to 70 percent instead of the full value? Well, because doing so might, shall we say, incentivize athletes to collect on the policy over trying to stay healthy and maximize their earnings.

According to Chenowith, the universities themselves are also very involved in the process, if not in the actual underwriting of the policies themselves.

“The university does play a big role,” says Chenowith. “I’ve never called a kid or a parent directly, ever, I’ve only gone through compliance officers, head coaches, assistant coaches. I’m going through the front door, and the reason why is because the school’s involvement is so great.

“If a student-athlete on campus wants disability insurance, the first person they’re going to talk to is a compliance officer. So I’m calling compliance officers and letting them know about the products we have. The school’s are actively involved in the process. They help schedule the exams with physicians to get the applications completed. And if the university is going to be using the Student Assistance Fund to pay the premiums, the compliance office is going to be involved too.”

As Giller mentioned, underwriting loss of value coverage for a college athlete is all about figuring out where they’re going to be drafted and then basing their threshold on the salary for that draft slot. And as any draft expert can tell you, figuring out a player’s draft position is no simple feat.

Here’s how one group determines draft position

Chenowith explains how he and his colleagues estimate a player’s draft slot and use that to craft a policy:

“We don’t use websites, We don’t use any of that stuff online. I think Mel Kiper does a great job, but if you look at his top 10 picks the last couple years, he’s only getting two or three right.

“Number one, we rank them by position, and we look at trends in the draft to see what positions are most valued in the draft. You notice that quarterbacks, left tackles, and cornerbacks are all really high-value positions in the draft. Offensive guard, running backs, and linebackers—those aren’t necessarily going to be the most valued picks in the draft. So we try to find the best players that are at the best positions that have the most value in the draft and then we rank them there.

“It’s a hybrid of information. It’s three things. We go off the history of the draft over the last three years. And then we rank them by position, number two. And then number three, there’s a report called The National, which most all NFL teams subscribe to. It’s a scouting service. We take that data as well, and whatever the NFL is telling us where they’re projected will help us with where we’re going to project them in the draft.

“From there, we put them in slots. If someone’s projected in the top five of the NFL draft this year’s gonna sign for anywhere between 35 million to 28 million dollars over four years. From there, what Lloyd’s of London does, is that they cut it in half. From that half-point, they assign what’s called a ‘threshold.’

“So if you’re the fifth pick, your threshold point would probably be somewhere around pick twelve to fifteen. If you have an injury that’s permanent deterioration—not permanent disability but permanent deterioration—that makes you fall past your threshold of 12, 13, 14, whatever number it is, that’s when you start collecting. So after pick 15 is where you’d be in the money.

“Depending on how far you fall—if you fall into the second, third, fourth, fifth round—wherever you fall is your stop-loss point, and that’s what your Loss of Value benefit is going to be.”

How much you get, and how much you pay, can depend on what sport you play

If you were going to take a bet on a shortstop or a running back suffering a knee injury, which one would you choose? You’d probably choose the running back, since football is a much more violent sport and the risk of injury is much higher.

These same principles hold true for PTD and LOV coverage. The cost of the policy isn’t only determined by their draft slot, but also the sport, and even the position, that they play.

And surprisingly, football is not the sport that carries the highest risk position!

“Actually, baseball amateur pitchers are the highest risk class just because amateur baseball pitchers are having Tommy John surgery left and right,” says Chenowith. “The numbers of amateur baseball pitchers having Tommy John or any kind of arm surgery are really staggering.

“If you were to rate it from the top down, for amateur sports, it would be college baseball pitchers, number one; college football, number two; college baseball position players, number three; college basketball, number four; college hockey, number five.”

The reason that LOV policies exist is to protect athletes from injuries. But just because an athlete takes out an LOV rider and then suffers an injury, that doesn’t mean that the money from that policy is just theirs to collect.

Payout isn’t guaranteed

When an athlete gets injured and drops in the draft, they still have to submit a claim in order to collect. And oftentimes, the insurer will be looking for a reason that the injury isn’t actually covered.

Giller explains:

“This leads to one of those misunderstandings with insurance companies. If you ask a Division 1 college football player if he’s ever been injured, his answer will depend on whether he’s missed any games because of an injury. Because the vast majority of starters in Division 1 football have been hurt at some point in terms of they twisted an ankle or they rolled an ankle. But they don’t miss playing time because of it, because it’s a bump or a bruise or a minor incident for them.

“And so, on the application process for these policies, there are some questions like, ‘Have you ever been injured in the past 24 months?’ And if they don’t list every single time they might have rolled their ankle or twisted their knee that didn’t require medical attention, an insurance company might use that as an example of not being 100 percent truthful on an application. These policy applications ask questions like, ‘Have you taken any over the counter anti-inflammatory medication in the last two years?’ And for a college football player that could be, ‘Yes, daily.’ So filling out the app is a critically important step and being forthcoming as possible on that application.”

In order to avoid paying out a claim, many  insurance companies will engage in what Giller has dubbed “post-claim underwriting.”

“When you underwrite a policy, you’re supposed to look into the athlete’s injury history and most of these applications demand and require a HIPAA release and most of them indicate that we’re going to look into your background to determine your eligibility for coverage. And then most of the insurance companies, in my experience, do absolutely nothing. They don’t investigate a thing,” says Giller.

“An athlete may list several knee sprains or a shoulder subluxation or something that’s fairly common for the sport and the insurance companies make no effort to investigate. And then when a claim comes up they ask for every medical record for past ten years, and when they find an MRI that has something on it that could be interpreted as a bigger strain in the shoulder or knee than was first reported, they believe that they have grounds to potentially deny coverage.”

Lots of people have stories about fighting to get their insurance policies honored after filing a claim. In that sense, these elite athletes aren’t so different from the rest of us after all.

Do you want to learn more about how different groups or professionals protect their financial future? Send us your questions! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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ThisDudeEric Chenowith is an insurance producer at Parq Advisors, where he joined following eight years as a professional basketball player and an additional three years of coaching and teaching at his alma mater, Villa Park High School. Eric works directly with university athletic directors at most all College Football Playoff (CFP) institutions for their student-athlete disability insurance needs. Currently, Eric is a member of the Board Development Task Force at the Orange County Ronald McDonald House in Orange, California. He has also been featured sports topics on The Russillo and Kanell Show along with Outside The Lines with Bob Ley. Eric also served as a featured guest on NBATV with Rick Kamla.
ThatDudeRichard Giller is partner in the Los Angeles Office of ReedSmith LLP (@reedsmithllp). He is one of a handful of attorneys in the country who represents collegiate and professional athletes (and counsels professional sports teams) regarding their disability, loss-of-value and workers’ compensation insurance claims.  He was recently recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of five finalists for the 2017 Entertainment and Sports Law Attorney of the Year award.

Is It Time to Break Up With Your Bank?

Break Up With Your Bank

As with any bad relationship, there will be tons of warning signs if you and your bank are a couple that’s beyond repair.

When you first met your bank, it was a romance like no other. You would spend days together at a time, eating at restaurants, going on weekend trips, or even just staying in, ordering stuff off of Amazon.

But now things have cooled a bit. They don’t seem to be offering you the same rewards they used to. Their customer service representatives used to talk on the phone with you for hours, but now they seem to be rushing you to wrap it up. They also used to keep their ATM kiosk sparkling clean if they thought there was even a chance you’d be coming over, but now it seems to be constantly covered in mustard.

(Specifically mustard. No other condiment. Just mustard.)

Is it time for you to break up with your bank? It just might be. But don’t worry, honey, because Auntie OppLoans Financial Sense Blog is here to help you make that decision.

The fee’s knees.

You’ll probably never find a bank with no fees at all. That’s just hoping for too much.

But if it seems like your bank is offering more fees than usual, it can be worth looking around and seeing what other banks are offering. Overdraft fees may be standard—and they may be preferable fees for bad credit loans—but it’s not wrong to take a look at banks that offer some form of overdraft protection. You deserve to be with a bank that tries to minimize the fees you pay, rather than squeeze you for every cent you’re worth.

After all, squeezing should be something you do to your loved one’s hand as you both watch a sunset together, not a way for bank executives to get rich at your expense.

Oh and make sure you’re paying attention to their interest rates too, especially the rates on their personal loans. If you’re not getting rewarded for being a loyal customer, then it might be time to teach them a lesson by walking out the door. That’ll show them to take you for granted!

You’ve grown distant.

People change. Maybe your bank worked for you when you were younger, but your life may have changed. You could have moved to a place that doesn’t have as many locations for your bank if it has any at all.

Maybe you were still a student when you started this account and now they’re trying to stick you with an “old person” penalty. Or you could have lost a job or gotten a new one and the specific rules and incentives this bank offer simply don’t mesh well with your new financial reality.

People and banks grow apart sometimes. It might not be anyone’s fault, but it could mean it’s time for a split.

It might just be time for a change.

There might not be any specific thing or things wrong, but it’s worth taking a look at your relationship with your bank every so often.

“I think it is good to stop and review every 6 months or every year and look at the interest rates you are receiving and the perks,” advises nationally recognized credit expert Jeanne Kelly (@creditscoop). “Sometimes you can go years as a loyal customer and that is great, but still when you sit down and take the time to review what other banks might offer for rewards, they might fit your lifestyle better for today.”

Getting back on the scene.

So you decided you might want to break up with your bank. But it’s been so long since you’ve been out there! How do people even find new banks these days? Is there some sort of app where banks post pictures and information about themselves and you can swipe left or right accordingly? How about a variation on that app where only potential customers are allowed to send the first message so you don’t get inundated with messages from banks?

Not really! But the internet is still a great resource for finding which new bank is best for your needs. Many banks also offer special rewards for starting a new account, possibly even straight up cash. But make sure you’re looking at all the terms you have to sign on to. Don’t let flashy rewards right now trap you into whole new bad bank relationship.

And speaking of the internet, different banks will offer different services in their apps and online. Take a look at each of those and consider them as one part of your decision.

Also, make totally sure that your bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)! That’s how you can make certain that the funds you deposit are safe. Never, ever open an account with an uninsured bank, or you could risk losing everything in your account. If you aren’t sure if the bank is FDIC insured, you can check on the FDIC site.

Staying single isn’t recommended.

When it comes to banking, being single isn’t so great.

There are actually tons of folks out there who can’t even get a bank account. According to a  2015 survey by the FDIC, as many as nine million U.S. households are entirely frozen out from banking. These folks are known as “the unbanked.” They have to rely on check cashing services that charge hefty fees just so people can access the money in their paychecks.’

(If you’re worried that a bad credit score could prevent you from opening a bank account, then you’ve come to the right place. We have a blog post for that.)

Without a bank account, you could find yourself falling prey to predatory payday loans or title loans. These are a kind of no credit check loan, and they come with incredibly high interest rates and can trap borrowers into a cycle of debt.

Unless you like the feeling sleeping on top of money stuffed into your mattress, you should always maintain a bank account. We really can’t recommend the alternative.

At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you. As much as you want to avoid any awkward conversations or hurt feelings—if you let a bad relationship with your bank fester, you’ll both just end up miserable.

Are you thinking of breaking up with your bank? We want to hear from you! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Jeanne KellyJeanne Kelly (@CreditScoop) After being turned down for a mortgage 15 years ago, Jeanne Kelly realized she needed to get her credit in order. Not only was she able to fix her bad credit, but she took the skills and knowledge she gained and decided to share it with the world. Now she’s a nationally regarded credit coach and expert, with multiple books and television appearances. Follow her on Twitter and check out JeaneKelly.net to get the credit help you need!

20 Tips for an Amazing Thanksgiving on a Budget

Thanksgiving On a Budget

Being generous at Thanksgiving is good. But spending way more than you need to? Not so much.

Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on what you’re grateful for, spending time with family, and wondering how you’ll possibly afford this meal and all of your holiday shopping without squeezing your budget and dipping into your savings fund!

You have a lot to be thankful for, but that doesn’t mean you have a bank account the size of a massive turkey leg. It might look more like a chicken leg. Or even a pheasant.

But never fear! It’s possible to have an incredible, unforgettable Thanksgiving without spending all of your gravy.

Is gravy normally used as slang for money? Who cares? It’s Thanksgiving! The holiday where gravy can be used as slang for whatever you want!

Read on to get all the gravy on how you can make your Thanksgiving into a Thanksaving!

1) Buy in season.

As great as it would be to have a literal cornucopia on your table overflowing with every kind of vegetable you can imagine, you’re better off sticking to what’s in season. Sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin should be more affordable, and they’re pretty much as autumn as you can get. Brussel sprouts should also be in season, and despite what cartoons told you, they can actually be quite good.

2) Don’t be afraid to think inside the can.

Fresh sounds better, but it can be much more expensive. And when it comes to something like pumpkin pie, how many people will really be able to tell whether the filling originally came from a fresh pumpkin? You can even get the cranberry sauce from a can. We won’t tell. Just make sure you smush it up so it isn’t still shaped like the can before you bring it to the table.

3) Also don’t be afraid of frozen vegetables.

Pretty much everything we just said, but for frozen vegetables. Most of them are flash frozen shortly after they’re picked, so it’s cheaper and likely holds up much better than if you had purchased them fresh and frozen them yourself.

4) Collect those deals.

Why shop harder when you can shop smarter?

“My number one recommendation for a more affordable Thanksgiving is to shop strategically by collecting or looking up online all of the Thanksgiving grocery store circulars the week before Thanksgiving,” Katie Moseman, food blogger at Recipe For Perfection (@RecipeForPerfec), advised us.  “You’ll be able to compare prices between stores on all the items you need, then make a shopping plan to pick up everything at the most affordable price.

5) Get your phone in on the action.

There’s something to be said for the lost of art of manually clipping out coupons from those pamphlets that get left on your front stoop. But we also have technology your grandmother’s coupon drawer could only dream of, and there’s nothing wrong with using it. In fact, we have a whole section of our app directory just for finding the best deals. Consider checking them out so you can get the best savings on all of you Turkey Day provisions.

6) Recipe for success.

No doubt you already have a whole collection of classic Thanksgiving recipes, but it doesn’t hurt to learn some more. There are many budget-friendly recipes online just waiting to be found. Moseman even shared two that she created that shouldn’t hurt your Thanksgiving bank too badly: Southern Style Squash Casserole and Foolproof Boneless Turkey Breast. Try them out and tell us how much the whole family like them!

7) Don’t be afraid to get potlucky.

You’re hosting the dinner and presumably preparing most of the food. There’s nothing wrong with asking the guests to do their part.

In fact, Andrea Correale (@AndreaCorreale), founder and CEO of Elegant Affairs Catering, suggested just that very thing: “Delegate, delegate and delegate. Ask your guests to contribute to the feast! Let them know what it is you have covered and ask them to bring the rest. Make a list of who is bringing what so you can be sure each person who contributes is bringing something different. Again, it is all about sharing in a delicious meal, the less you have to make yourself the more time you will have time to chat, laugh, and make memories!!”

You’ll save money too!

8) Skip unnecessary serving stuff.

If you’re having more people than you’ve had in your home before, you may think you’ll need to invest in lots of additional serving utensils.

But according to Correale, that may not be the case!

“It’s fun to present the food in an ‘oven to table’ fashion and serve the food right from the vessels they were cooked in and eliminate the mess and space it takes to transfer the food into decorative bowls. I like to place little blackboard menu signs that I purchase at the craft store next to each dish to add a special touch.

9) Sometimes, more is too much.

There’s a tendency to go overboard on the food when it comes to Thanksgiving. But making too many different dishes can not only cut into the budget, it may lessen the enjoyment of the later dishes. Here’s what Correale had to say: “Don’t overstuff your guests with a lot of appetizers. Not only do they take up room in your tiny space, but in your guests’ stomachs as well. We want them nice and hungry for dinner so they enjoy the fruits of our labor.

10) Take good stock of what you already have.

Got any old cans in the back of your cabinet that you totally forgot were there? What about frozen vegetables way in the back of your freezer? Before you get started on your shopping, see what you can make with what you’ve already got lying around. Unless you have a spare turkey you forgot about, you’ll probably still have to do quite a bit of shopping, but may as well cut out expenses where you can.

11) Buy in bulk.

Not only will you be making a lot of food for Thanksgiving, but you’ll probably be planning to eat again someday. Buying in bulk saves money, and we’re sure you’ll find a way to use any leftover ingredients.

12) If you’re traveling, make travel plans way, way, way in advance.

Seriously, everyone tries to travel for Thanksgiving, so the price of any kind of ticket goes way, way up. Unless you’re driving, you want to book as early as you possibly can. It can be difficult to know whether you’ll be able to get time off for Thanksgiving, so look into which airline or bus tickets will let you get a full refund, just in case. We wrote a whole blog post on how to travel for less, so check it out to see which tips might be applicable for your Thanksgiving travel situation.

13) If you’re serving alcohol, keep the options limited.

It might impress your guests to have a fully stocked bar, but if there’s something they really want, they can bring it themselves. If you’re serving the hard stuff, don’t be afraid to go for the cheap option and just get some bottles of juice or soda to mix it with. A few hours in, who’s really going to be noticing anyway?

14) Figure out your turkey needs and do a little math.

Does it make sense to buy a whole bird, or could you settle for some breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks? Those will also be a lot faster to cook. Or… maybe… just maybe… you don’t need a turkey. We know, we know, that’s bordering on blasphemy, but if you have family or friends who prefer chicken anyway, it could be the cheaper option.

15) Make your own stale bread.

You’re not going to buy stale bread, or as they try to call it, “croutons,” from the store, are you? That’s a sucker’s game! Just save up your bread for a week or so before Thanksgiving and use that for the stuffing. Just make sure it doesn’t get moldy! Store it in the fridge if you have to.

16) Change up recipes as need be.

We already mentioned looking for budget recipes, but you can also turn most recipes into budget recipes. It might take some experimentation, but since most recipes aren’t necessarily written for the budget conscious, there are likely all sorts of ways you can cut corners and costs. Just find the cheaper substitutions.

17) Minimize the meat.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, this was probably a given, but meat can be expensive. You might not be able to get away with skipping the turkey, but there are more than enough appetizers and sides you can make without spending extra money on meat.

18) Go for dried beans.

We already mentioned that canned can be cheaper than fresh, but when it comes to beans, dried is usually cheaper than canned. Soak ‘em up or use a slow cooker if you’ve got one. Beans are cheap and filling, and you can have them as a side dish or add them to rice or stuffing.

19) Make your own condiments.

Thousand Island dressing? We know you know that’s ketchup and mayo. You can easily make your own Italian dressing too. Don’t get trapped under the heel of Big Condiment!

20) It’s about friends and family.

Remember that whether you’re having a big turkey or a series of small turkey sandwiches, Thanksgiving is about being with friends and family and appreciating them. And that’s priceless.

With these tips, you’ll turn your Turkey Day, into a Turkey Yay! Happy Thanksgiving, from us to you!

What tricks or methods do you and your family use to save on Thanksgiving? We want to know!You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Andrea Correale CroppedAndrea Correale (@AndreaCorreale) is the founder and CEO of Elegant Affairs based in Glen Cove, serving NYC, the Hamptons and the Gold Coast of Long Island. Andrea has catered for some of the most discerning A-List taste buds including Brooke Shields, Mariah Carey, Russell Simmons, P. Diddy, Jimmy Fallon and Liam Neeson – to name a few!
Katie Moseman - Writer, Photographer, Recipe DeveloperKatie Moseman is a freelance writer, photographer, and recipe developer whose work can be found on her blogs, Recipe for Perfection (@RecipeForPerfec) and Magnolia Days, as well as in numerous national publications. She lives in Florida with her family.

Meet Our Latest OppU Achiever: Salih Zainulabdeen!


Name: Salih Zainulabdeen
College: University of Rochester
Expected Major/Concentration: Computer Science
Expected Degree: Bachelor of Science
Expected Graduation Date: 2020
Congratulations to Salih Zainulabdeen, a sophomore at the University of Rochester and the latest recipient of the $2,500 OppU Achievers Scholarship!

Salih was seven years old when American forces toppled the Hussein regime in his home city of Baghdad. In subsequent years, he braved a war zone to pursue his education and tragically lost a loved one to the violence.

Nonetheless, he persevered.

Salih went on to help found Fikra Space (@Fikraspace), the first tech-focused maker space in Iraq. He also developed Iraq’s first recipe app, which he optimized for revenue generation in the entrepreneurship program at the Watson Institute (@Watson_Inst) in Boulder, Colorado.

Currently, Salih is studying computer science with plans to continue combining entrepreneurship with his love of technology. You can read his thoughts about war, bravery, and big dreams below.

How did the Iraq War impact you? Personally? Academically?

People see war as a completely destructive and damaging experience. And that is absolutely true. Wars impact every single aspect of life, and they can turn human beings into primitive creatures that chase nothing but survival. But as damaging as wars are, people can emerge from them with incredible strength.

In 2003, it was difficult to get good bread, and obtaining an education was even harder. But the war taught me to be committed to a larger purpose than survival. Certainly, most people can survive, but what is the point of survival if it is not taken advantage of? The war eliminated my fears. It showed me that we are closer to death than we can ever imagine, so what would hold us back from trying new things? The war taught me to be brave enough to take risks because, at the end of the day, life is not about survival, but about taking the journeys that make our lives worth living.

Tell us about Fikra Space. What is it? How did you get involved?

I co-founded Fikra Space in 2012 along with some amazing developers. It was the first maker space in Iraq, and it was created not to be a physical place, but rather to be a strongly connected community that shares knowledge and builds what matters. I got involved because I was looking for something to do after leaving the team at TEDxYouth@Baghdad (@TEDxYouthBaghda). I found a crowdfunding campaign that was raising money to start Fikra Space, and I contacted the campaign creator, Bilal Ghalib, and asked to join the team.

Bilal liked the idea, and the next thing I knew I was walking into a café to reserve an entire floor for Fikra Space’s first meeting. It was an unforgettable experience, and the café owner was shocked to see a 16-year-old kid requesting the reservation.

Although Fikra Space has never had its own physical place and has instead collaborated with other NGOs, its impact on the Iraqi tech community is significant. It created the spark that led to many other initiatives including Startup Weekend Baghdad (@SWBaghdad), The Week (a week-long web coding boot camp), and CodeLab (a week-long app development boot camp).

What attracted you to the entrepreneurship program at the Watson Institute? What did you learn there?

Back in May 2015, my team and I started Sha6bu5, the first recipe app in Iraq. It was growing incredibly fast and we wanted to take it to the next level and create revenue. Watson was offering an entrepreneurship program that focused on practical skills rather than theory, and what attracted me to the program was that it offered the right toolbox for entrepreneurs. They taught three main principles: learn directly from the experts who had previous success stories, prototype your idea to validate it, and then execute, learn, improve, and repeat.

Watson provided me with a network of mentors who improved my app dramatically. They made me question every single aspect of my business model, and they taught me how to make it flexible and responsive. By the time I finished my program, I had put together four powerful ways to drive revenue from Sha6bu5. None of that would have been possible without Watson.

What are you studying at the University of Rochester and why? What do you hope to accomplish after you graduate?

Although I started college as a business major, I transferred to the University of Rochester (@UofR) with the intention of switching my major to computer science. What I’m most passionate about when it comes to computer science is writing code. The right code can make our lives way easier, it can solve a lot of our problems, and it can allow us to achieve quickly what would otherwise take years.

Of course, my passion alone does not explain why I want to pursue a major in computer science, but I think that programming is one of the hard skills that I would like to have as I know for sure that when I graduate, I am going to work in the tech industry since I have a strong desire for building websites and apps.

However, my focus is not just about building apps—in fact, pretty much anyone can learn how to do that. Rather, my goal is to connect sciences like economics or cognitive science with computer science through creating a model of learning that makes education smarter than ever before. Learning should be about understanding concepts rather than memorization because, at the end of the day, we can find facts on Google within seconds, but we can’t understand any concept within a second. I hope to create a system that revolutionizes the way we learn, and I’m still on my journey to figure that out.

Congrats, Salih! You are truly an Achiever, and we know the best is yet to come!

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Are Cheap Tires Safe Enough to be Worth the Savings?

Are Cheap Tires Safe

Cheap tires can be a great way to save money, but you’ll need to be extra careful.

A smart blog once said “cars need tires.” And you know what? They were right! A car without tires is just a tiny toilet-less house. But having tires is a trade-off. Sure, they make your car not be useless, but they can also get expensive to repair and replace.

You’re going to want to find cheap tires, but how can you be certain they’re safe? Other than the brakes, the tires are probably the part of the car you’d least like to have fail on you.

That’s why we talked to the experts to make sure you can safely burn rubber without burning too much cash.

Are your tires tired?

Before we get into how you should replace your tires, it’s important to know when you should replace your tires. Obviously, you’ll need to replace or repair any tires that get a flat or a blowout, but they’ll also need to be replaced after enough regular wear and tear.

The experts at RepairPal (@RepairPal) came up with a handy guide to tell you when you should replace your tires:

“Tires are considered legally worn out when the tread depth reaches 2/32 of an inch. Sure, you can purchase an inexpensive tread depth gauge to help you measure your tires, but there are also two easy ways to inspect your tread depth.

“First, most tires have ‘wear bars’ on them. These bars are spaced periodically into the grooves of the tire. They are raised to 2/32″ so that when the bars become level with the remaining tread, you know it’s time to replace your tires.

“Second, you can use a regular United States penny to get an idea of how much tread you have left. First, take a penny and pinch Lincoln’s body between your fingers. Find a spot on the tire where the tread seems the lowest and put Lincoln’s head down into the groove. If any part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, you’re okay. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s hair, or where it says ‘In God We Trust,’ it’s time for you to get new tires.”

Additionally, they suggested a time-based consideration: “You should also replace tires when they approach five years old. As tires age, they become susceptible to dry rot and cracking, which increases their risk for failure.”

Safety dance

Now that you know when to replace your tires, can you get safe tires on the cheap? Well, as Richard Reina, product training director at CARiD.com (@CARiD_com), explained, first, you have to specify exactly what safe means:

“What is a ‘safe’ tire? If we are analyzing new tire choices for your car or truck, it might be easier to first define what is an ‘unsafe’ tire. An unsafe tire is NOT properly sized or rated to adequately support your vehicle for the loads and speeds of which it is capable. Buying smaller tires to save money is never recommended.

“Tires must be able to support a vehicle’s gross weight, defined as the weight of the vehicle itself plus the maximum weight of its cargo capacity. A two-seat convertible with a small trunk has a much smaller carrying capacity than a seven-passenger minivan with room for three suitcases in its storage area. All vehicle manufacturers specify the minimum load that each tire must be rated to carry.

“So, at a minimum, a ‘safe’ tire is the same size as the original factory tire and meets the same load and speed requirements. Where does the owner find this information? It is molded into the sidewall of the tire. The size is a series of alpha-numeric characters, like this example: 215/50R17.

“Rather than define each of those characters, we will again emphasize: the new tires should be exactly the same size. Do not let the tire store salesperson tell you that he has ‘205/50R17’ in stock, and that size is ‘close enough.’ It’s not.”

Let’s hit the road!

So now that we know what it means to have a safe tire, we can finally determine whether you can get them for a discount.

Reina believes you can make some price comparisons as long as you’re keeping an eye on the specs: “If the goal is to purchase the least-expensive tires without sacrificing safety, then as long as the size, load, and speed ratings meet factory specs, you can shop based on price. Also, remember that a cheaper tire may not last as long, so the buying decision should also consider how long you plan to keep the car.

“If you drive 12,000 miles/year, and you purchase a ‘cheap’ set of 4 tires for $400, which wear out in 20,000 miles, those tires cost you 2 cents per mile and will need replacing in 1 2/3 years. If you purchase a ‘less cheap’ set for $600, and they last for 40,000 miles, they cost you 1.5 cents per mile (25% better), and you will drive on them for 3 1/3 years (twice as long). Do the math before you buy.”

Other experts were even more cautious about going the cheap route. “If you do not have money to buy good quality car tires, and you have no choice to go cheap, then go cheap, but I guarantee you will regret your decision after a short time,” warned Jill Trotta (@RepairPal_Jill), director of the automotive group at RepairPal.

“Cheaper tires are made with more inexpensive materials that can affect the braking distance, the handling, and the overall longevity. Tires are the one thing that you shouldn’t skimp on; they are the cushion between you and the road. Do your research and know what you are buying before you install it on your vehicle. There are some off brands that will come at a lesser cost than the major brands but overall investing money in your tires is something you won’t regret.”

Comparing tires

Car Coach Lauren Fix (@laurenfix) offered some tips to help you comparison shop: “ Look for deals online. There are incentives for buying 4 tires. Online sellers like tirerack.com can ship tires to your mechanic or to certified shops. Compare prices and make a deal for the proper size, load rating and type of tire.”

Like our other experts, however, she warned against being too reckless: “Each tire type offers a grading on the sidewall. The Uniform Tire Quality Grading, commonly abbreviated as UTQG, is the term encompassing a set of standards for passenger car tires that measures a tire’s treadwear, temperature resistance, and traction. Buying cheaper tires is not a wise idea. You get what you pay for. There are ONLY four things that touch the ground no matter what vehicle you drive – that’s your tires! This is NOT an area to cut corners.”

As long as you’re careful and have the time, you can try and compare your options when it comes to tires. But at the end of the day, the cheapest tires right now may end up more expensive in the long run, especially if they increase your risk of an accident.

Do you have any tricks you use while shopping for tires? We want to hear! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter

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Lauren_newLauren Fix (@laurenfix) lives life in the fast lane–literally. When this automotive expert, author, spokesperson, keynote speaker, TV personality, ASE certified technician, race car driver, wife, and mother of two roars past, head’s turn. Lauren Fix is an award-winning author of three automotive books, was the National Automotive Correspondent for Time Warner Cable and has appeared on Oprah, TODAY, 20/20, Regis & Kelly, The View, CNBC, CNN, FOX News, HLN and MSNBC, to name a few. Whether she’s perfecting her new line of automotive products, sharing her CAR SMARTS®, reporting live from one of the world’s top auto shows, test driving the latest hot ride, or debating an industry crisis in front of multiple cameras, Lauren Fix is never finished reinventing the wheel.
CparksRichard Reina is the Product Training Director at CARiD.com (@CARiD_com) and a life-long car enthusiast.
john pic hpJill Trotta (@RepairPal_Jill) is an automotive professional with over 25 years of professional experience. ASE Certified technician and consultant. She is currently working on the Automotive Professional Team at RepairPal. They do the hard work of identifying technically qualified, customer friendly auto shops and presenting them to consumers. They are working to develop transparency in the Automotive Industry. They also have a very accurate automotive repair price estimator that is available to shops and consumers.

Financial Issues in a Marriage: How to Overcome Them

Financial Issues in a Marriage

L, is for the way you look at me. O, is for overcoming financial issues in a marriage.

Making a marriage last can take effort even if both spouses are millionaires. Add in money problems, and things can get difficult fast. We’ve talked before about how one spouse’s credit could lead to problems, but that’s just one way finances can throw a wrench into a relationship.

That’s why it’s important to be aware of the kind of problems that can arise, and the methods you can use, as a couple, to overcome them. We spoke to the experts to find out why couples fight over finances, the kind of struggles that come up, and how you can beat them and make sure that love prevails in the end with these money and marriage tips.

Values, in all senses of the word.

It’s important to understand where financial struggles in marriage come from so you can try and head them off before they ever come up, or at least have a head start on addressing them.

“Most financial issues in marriage come down to one main factor: both partners have different core values about money,” certified counselor and creator of The Popular Man (@The_Popular_Man) Jonathan Bennett explained. “And, many of these financial values developed very early and are difficult to change. For example, one partner might have been raised to value saving and investing. The other partner might have been taught to indulge his or her whims even if it means living paycheck to paycheck.

“It’s very difficult for partners who view money, saving, and spending in fundamentally conflicting ways to manage household finances successfully as a team.”

Writer and speaker Frederick Towles (@mrtowles) agreed about this foundational concern: “Financial issues can most certainly affect a marriage negatively. One of the biggest financial issues that can negatively impact a marriage is how each spouse handles and views money.  Each spouse may have different views of money, one spouse may primarily seek to save money for a rainy day and another could have a spending fetish. This type of conflict will typically raise trust issues in the relationship. The difference in philosophies in money can spill over into other areas of the relationship if both spouses aren’t careful.”

Couples may even have differing ideas about who the money they have belongs to. “Some spouses freely pool their money and treat it as a joint asset,” Steven Yoda, a partner with the divorce firm Walzer Melcher (@LAfamlaw), told us. “Other spouses, rightly or wrongly, consider their earnings ‘their’ money and split expenses down the middle. Some spouses are comfortable with debt, while others are averse to it.

“Oftentimes, these issues are not fully discussed before marriage or even after marriage. This can lead to years of misunderstanding, which reach a boiling point during a divorce. It is easy to see how, in the absence of communication, one spouse may believe that the marital finances are perfectly fine, while the other may be stewing in resentment.”

Taking credit (into account).

As we mentioned above, credit can also be a source of strife. But we’ll let Yoda explain it thoroughly:

“A very practical and important issue to probe is credit. Ideally, this issue should be discussed before marriage. It can be an awkward subject to raise, but it is valuable information. First, knowing your partner’s credit score provides some insight into your partner’s past financial decisions. As indicated, money is a common source of stress in a marriage, so it is helpful to know how your partner has handled money in the past.

“Second, and perhaps more importantly, although your partner’s credit score will not affect your personal credit score per se, it still may affect access to credit after marriage. If your credit score is great but your spouse’s credit score is poor, the act of marriage will have no impact on them.

“If, however, after marriage, you two jointly apply for a credit card or a loan to purchase a house or car, the lender will consider both credit scores and, chances are, the poor credit score will result in higher interest rates and fees than if both credit scores were high. This is a tangible, real-world expense that may come as a shock to the spouse with good credit. It is easy to see how resentment might build. The best approach is to openly discuss these issues upfront so everyone knows what to expect.”

So how can you reconcile these financial issues in your marriage?

Skip the blame game.

Pride can often cause trouble in relationships. When money is involved, “losing” an argument feels like a blow to your wallet as well as your pride.

“Many partners, rather than working together, start to place blame on the other person,” warned Bennett. “This creates discord and resentment in the relationship. But, even if both partners try to work together, financial strain can create additional stress. Worries over bill payments, collectors, and repossessions/evictions overshadow positive aspects of a married life together.”

Avoiding the blame game won’t instantly fix all of your problems, but it’ll be impossible to fix anything if you’re at each other’s throats.

Start early… way early.

As Yoda made clear, the best way to deal with financial issues is to try and head them off before they even come up. And he isn’t the only one who told us that.

“While counseling and compromise can certainly help couples solve existing money problems, the best solution is to focus more on money matters before marriage,” advised Bennett. “Financial compatibility is rarely discussed before a couple makes a long-term commitment. However, given the statistics about money issues in a marriage and divorce, determining financial compatibility should play a much more important role, perhaps even in premarital counseling and preparation.”

But what if you’re already married?

Communication, communication … communication.

Communication is one of the most important parts of any relationship and communication about money is one of the most important kinds of communication, even if it might be one of the most awkward.

“Yes, absolutely money issues add stress to your marriage,” Maggie Reyes, marriage mentor and life coach at ModernMarried.com (@ModernMarried), told us. “To minimize and prevent those issues from becoming bigger problems in your relationship it is important to start with the simple act of having conversations about money. Understanding each other’s priorities and how and why you spend before major expenses are made can help you plan for them as a team instead of being on opposing sides of a money argument.”

Reyes offered us a list of good questions to ask, both when you want to break the ice on a conversation about finances, and when you’re getting down to business:

“If money is already a stressful topic in your relationship, it is sometimes easier to start with the fun side of money, here are some conversation starters you can use:

  • If I could do anything with my money, I would….
  • If money were no object I would…..
  • If I could use money to do something fabulous for my partner, I would…
  • If I could splurge on one thing, I would…
  • My biggest dream is….

“Once you have identified some money wishes, you can take a look at your current money reality – what is happening right now?

“And ask questions such as;

  • Am I keeping track of my money? Do I know how much I have in my wallet right now? In my bank account?
  • Do I know how much I owe? The total, for real of anything outstanding (house, credit card, car?)
  • Do I know how our joint funds are handled? Why or why not?
  • Do I know our bank account numbers and have access to all of our accounts?
  • What do I need to know today to be able to fully manage my money?
  • If I could change one thing about the way I handle money,  it would be….

“Having regular conversations about money and making plans on how to use it and manage it helps you avoid having big arguments about money by allowing you to bring up ideas and plans before they are critical. Understanding that you and your partner are likely to have different ideas on how to approach anything, including money, and then making that okay before an argument arises, takes the emotional punch out of the disagreement.”

Cherie Lowe (@Thequeenoffree), author of Slaying the Debt Dragon and blogger at Queen of Free, also emphasized the importance of good communication: “The short answer is that money problems rank among the top reasons why married couples call it quits. In particular, we’ve focused in on how financial issues in a marriage lead to problems with intimacy in our next book. Ever have a hot steamy night of passion after your last money fight with your spouse? Um, no. The problems feed each other and eventually cause a lack of togetherness and paralyze relationships.

“To overcome or prevent financial fights couples need to focus in on effective communication when it comes to money, shared vision for goals, a well-delineated division of labor within in the home, and keeping their finances well organized.”

Many couples find it difficult to talk about money, but if you don’t, there’ll only be more troubles down the line. Better to speak early and often, and enjoy the priceless treasure that is your marriage.

How have you and your spouse handled financial issues in your marriage? We want to hear your stories! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter

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JBJonathan Bennett (@The_Popular_Man) is an internationally recognized dating, relationship, and life coach based out of the Columbus, Ohio metro area, where he consults, speaks, and offers classes. With a background in counseling and education, his coaching method emphasizes scientifically backed skills to take charge of your life to find personal freedom and success in all relationships. He is the author of 7 books and is frequently quoted in print and other media.
C_LoweCherie Lowe is a personal finance blogger at Queen of Free (@Thequeenoffree) and author of the book Slaying the Debt Dragon, her story of paying off over $127K in debt. She loves nothing more than helping people find freedom in their finances, save money, and live life to its fullest. Her and her husband Brian are finishing the final round of edits on our their book: Your Money, Your Marriage: The Secrets to Smart Finance, Spicy Romance, and their Intimate Connection due out September 2018 from Zondervan (Harper Collins Christian).
Maggie Reyes picMaggie Reyes is A Life Coach, Writer and the feisty voice behind ModernMarried.com (@ModernMarried).
Fred's Pic (1)Frederick Towles (@mrtowles) is an entrepreneur, author and professional coach on personal finance, recognizing, seizing and leveraging opportunities of all kinds. Frederick founded The Towles Group Inc. to address issues that relate to small businesses and individuals – accounting, taxation, asset protection, financial compliance, wealth creation, debt management and business management. He also founded Unlimited Expectations Inc. which provides tools for individuals to assist them in the areas of opportunity recognition, leadership, and personal finance. Through the tools and services offered by these companies, people are positioned to operate their lives and their businesses at optimal capacity.
S_YodaSteven Yoda is a partner with the Los Angeles divorce law firm Walzer Melcher (@LAfamlaw).


What did Life Cost in Hawkins, Indiana in 1983 vs Today?

Time to tune up that Huffy bike, tie on your Rambo-bandana, and charge up your walkie-talkies. It’s almost time for the next round of monster hunting, eighties nostalgia and exploring the Upside Down. Netflix‘s (@Netflix) Stranger Things season 2 is just around the bend… and, come on, the kid in you couldn’t be more excited.

But that kid lives inside a grown up now. And while you’re obviously always going to have a special place in your heart for scary movies, Star Wars action figures, and those sweet, sweet frozen breakfast foods—you also have adult concerns now, like what that magical childhood costs.

So we asked… How much did life cost in 1983 Hawkins, Indiana of Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) versus now? Well, point your childlike sense of wonder to what we’ve uncovered!

(By the way, Hawkins, Indiana doesn’t… actually… exist. So we used Fort Wayne, Indiana as a stand in. We’re sure they’re cool too. Go Mastodons!)


As you can see, prices have, um, risen. The total rate of inflation between 1983 and 2017 is 149%. That means that one hard-earned dollar in 1983 had the same buying power as $2.44 today.[1]

So let’s look at some “stranger things” to see how costs compare:

Item1983 price2017 price
Millennium Falcon toy$18$150
Christmas Lights$10.51$25.65
1,500 lbs of Salt$349.89$862.50
Blonde Wig$6.39$15.76
Walkie Talkie Set$32.77$79.99
Comic Book$0.60$2.99
Dungeons and Dragons Set$11$26.84
Fast Food Meal$2.74$6.75
Star Wars Action Figures$2.99$7.99
Atari System$28.47$69.49

And let’s also look at some broader items:

Item1983 price2017 price
Typical Home Price$68,700$201,155
Average Household Income$25,862$63,121
Basic Monthly Utilities$73.03$180.02
Average Monthly Salary$1,132.33$2,791.25
Can’t get enough Stranger Things? Neither can we! Check out our other favorite artifacts from the Upside Down!

Want more financial breakdowns of your favorite pop culture shows, movies and music? Let us know, we’ll deliver! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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[1] “Inflation Calculator”  Calculator.net. Accessed Oct, 18, 2017 from http://www.calculator.net/inflation-calculator.html.

The ABC’s of Saving


26 alphabetical tips for cutting your costs and building up your savings! 

Building up your savings isn’t always easy, especially if you’ve never tried to do it before. But it’s very important, as it might be the only way to build up your credit and protect yourself from the worst consequences of a surprise financial emergency, like predatory no credit check loans.

That’s why we spoke to the experts to create 26 saving tips, one for each letter of the English alphabet. We considered a tip for every character in the Mandarin dictionary, but we ran out of Internet.

A is for Apps

Living in the future means we don’t have to rely on abacuses or bark with numbers written on it to manage our savings anymore. We have apps and computers with numbers written on them!

“One of my favorite savings tools is Digit.co, which analyzes your bank account and spending patterns,” Chad Parks, CEO of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings (@ubiquitysavings) told us. “The software looks at your daily checking account balance, learns your spending habits and automatically moves small funds to your Digit account to increase savings. The amounts vary depending on your checking balance and spending habits for that day/week/month. I notice they tend to pull smaller amounts between $5 and 10.”

In fact, Digit is one of the apps included in our ever-expanding app database. We’ve got a whole category of apps just for building your savings, so you should really give that a look.

B is for Budget

Before you start saving money, it’s important to figure out how much you’re actually spending and where it’s going.

“Top advice I give for new savers is knowledge,” advised John Savin (@savinwealth), owner of Savin Wealth Management. “The simple concept of money in vs. money out will give monetary clarity. A budget listing where you spend will expose the holes in your finances, so you can lean up, and put more money back in your pocket. Cable, happy hours, dining out, throwing out groceries, shopping sprees, pet outfits, etc are all areas to give a hard look at and trim back. You’d be shocked at how many thousands a year you can free up to save.”

Lucky for you, we’ve also got a section for budgeting apps in our database.

C is for Cutting back

Once you’ve made your budget, it’s time to figure out where you can start shrinking it. One of the most obvious places to look is food, but we’ll cover that when we get to F and L. Coffee is another big place you can cut back. Obviously making your own is better than buying, but if you don’t have time to make your own, you can still be a smart saver at the coffee shop. You might like your latte, but getting a black coffee and adding the sugar and milk yourself can save you a few bucks each day which will add up quick. And it turns out a screen saver isn’t just something that appears on your computer screen. It’s also something you can be!

“Cut the cord on your streaming sites’ bill,” advised Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com (@MyCorporation). “You probably don’t need (or have enough time to watch) Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO GO, and Hulu every month.”

D is for Deals

“Look for sales, deals, and coupons,” suggested Amber Westover, digital marketing strategist for BestCompany.com, (@BestCompanyUSA). “Then, contribute the money you saved to your savings account.”

And when it comes to finding deals, there’s an app (category in our directory) for that!

E is for Earn rewards (from properly using credit cards)

A lot of people think that credit cards keep you from properly building your savings. But if used correctly, credit cards can help build up your credit score as well as your savings. One way is by building up your rewards. Many credit cards earn you points every time you use them, and then you can use those points to purchase things you would have had to spend money on otherwise. Of course, you should still be paying your entire bill on time each month and you shouldn’t make purchases just to earn points. But if it’s something you were going to purchase anyway, the points will let you save in the future.

Bestselling author Pamela Yellen (@PamelaYellen) offered some outside-the-box advice on how to use your credit cards wisely: “Some financial advisors tell you to leave your cards at home to avoid temptation…I prefer to wrap my cards in my goals. Every time I take a card out, I see a picture or some words that represent a goal that’s important to me. I get the opportunity to stop and decide whether what I’m about to purchase is more important than that goal.”

F is for Food

Eating out may be delicious, but it adds up fast. As Sweeney told us, “Do not go out to eat for lunch. Instead, plan your lunch in advance using weekly meal prep plans or by putting aside a little extra dinner for lunch the night before.”

We’ve even got an post on meal planning to help you get started.

G is for Growth

Growing your savings takes time and dedication, but the rewards will be worth it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about making the right choices, over and over again, day after day, month after month, year after year. But the more you do it, the more your savings will grow, and the more you’ll grow as a saver.

Yellen gave us an example of how learning about your own spending habits can keep you making the right choices going forward: “Do you feel driven to buy extravagant gifts? When you have a rough day at work, do you crave some retail therapy to feel better? Are you triggered to overspend in a bookstore, hardware store, or swap meet? ‘Know thyself’ – and especially know your spending triggers so you can outwit them.”

H is for “Happies”

Spending makes you happy in the short term. But proper saving can make you happy in the long term.

“The Big Happy for most of us is having memorable experiences and being with the people we love,” Yellen advised. “That other stuff we chase? That’s usually Little Happy – fleeting and not very fulfilling.”

I is for Interest

The interest you get from savings accounts may not be much, but every bit counts. And you’ll want to keep an eye on your credit score, because if it’s too low and you end up with a financial emergency, the interest from the loan you take out may wipe out whatever savings you had started building (if the emergency hasn’t done it already).

J is for Joint account

Do you and your significant other share an account? You’re going to have to both be on board or else the saving plan won’t work. Talking to your loved one about finances can be awkward, but thankfully we’ve covered the subject before, so you can read up before you talk it over.

K is for Keep up with your bills

“Pay your bills on time,” Sweeney warned. “By doing this, you can avoid penalties and interest — all of which accumulate if you don’t pay on time or don’t pay in full.”

And paying your bills on time consistently will also help your credit score, which, as we mentioned above, will keep your savings from being totally wiped out by interest if you ever need a loan.

L is for Learn to cook

We already mentioned meal planning, but if you don’t know how to cook, you’ll probably need to work on that.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what Sweeney said: “Learn to cook! Start making meals at home with the help of budget-friendly food blogs to help save money on eating out each week.

M is for Making comparisons

Sometimes putting in a little more legwork can lead to more savings, especially when it comes to bigger purchases. “Rather than falling for some marketer’s value comparison, how about setting up your own?” suggested Yellen. “Put a price tag on some things you really enjoy and value.”

N is for Needs

Saving money means sometimes you can only purchase what you really need. As Yellen told us: “What do we really need? Stop and think about it and get clarity for yourself. And if you have children, teaching them the difference between needs and wants will empower them for life.”

O is for Open multiple accounts

One way to keep yourself from dipping into your savings account too soon is to make it harder to dip into.

“Use a different financial institution for your checking and savings accounts,” advised Westover. “If your savings account is more difficult to access (you have to wait a few business days for money to transfer to your checking account) you are less likely to make lavish impulse purchases. A built-in wait period will help you make premeditated financial choices. In addition, the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle will help you build savings. Make all regular purchases from your checking account and keep your savings account off limits.

P is for Picking your purchases

We’ve already said this a few different ways, but it’s important enough to be said again: you’ll have to put some thought into your purchases. Small, mindless purchases can start to add up quickly, so it’s important you think carefully about everything you’re spending money on.

Q is for Quotes

Have a repair you know you’ll need to have made on your house or car? Be sure to get multiple quotes so you can compare and find the best one. Obviously, if it’s an emergency you may not have much time, but if you can afford the time to find the more affordable option, your savings will thank you.

R is for Recurring expenses

Stuff like rent, electricity, gas, train fees, and any other regular, non-negotiable expense can be a real dig into your savings. That’s why it’s always a good idea to find ways you can save on these sorts of expenses, whether it’s shopping around for a cheaper electricity provider, or changing your internet package.

S is for Saving

It’s what this whole list is about!

T is for Transfer

Setting up an automatic transfer into your savings account each month is a great way to guarantee money is getting put in there.

“Pay yourself first and set-up an automatic transfer between your bank account to a separate savings account or investment account to save before you even have time to spend that money,” advised the couple behind OurFinancialPath.com (@myFinancialPath). “You can start small and gradually increase your savings rate. The important part is to start.”

Westover also suggested an automatic transfer and used her own experience as an example: “The secret to saving is automation. Making the saving process easy and simple is the best way to be successful long-term. Schedule recurring automatic transfers, many banks include this feature. You can schedule transfers weekly, monthly, or even on a specific day of the month. I schedule savings transfers for the day after I receive my paycheck. Once the money is gone there is less temptation to spend it.”

U is for Unexpected expenses

Unexpected expenses will always come up. But if you have your savings built up, you’ll have a cushion you can work with when the worst happens. Ideally, you could have an emergency fund in addition to your savings fund so you don’t have to dip into your savings if something bad happens, but we know for many people building up any savings at all can be difficult.

V is for Vacation

A vacation is one of the many possible rewards diligent saving can reap.

W is for Wants

As we mentioned earlier, you have to separate your purchases into wants and needs. No one reasonable would expect you to give up all of your “wants,” but cutting them down can be a great step for raising your savings and can make the “wants” you still do get all the sweeter.

X is for Xylophone

Unless you’re a professional xylophone player, a xylophone is likely a want, rather than a need, so keep that in mind.

Y is for Years

Build up your saving habits over many years. Your future self will thank you for it.

Z is for Zoos

Many zoos are either free or have free or discount days. It could be a good activity to do without negatively affecting your savings!
With all of these tips and your own dedication, we know you’ll become a savings master in no time!

What are some ways you’ve cut spending and made saving easier? We want to know! You can email us or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Google+

Our Financial PathThe husband and wife behind OurFinancialPath.com (@myFinancialPath) write about life, finances, and investments. They most enjoy helping young professionals start off on the right path financially.
CparksChad Parks is CEO and founder of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings (@ubiquitysavings), a flat-fee 401(k) provider that’s helped savers contribute over $2 billion towards their retirement since 1999. Chad started as a broker at Piper Jaffray. Driven by a desire to phase out the traditional and antiquated broker model, Chad left the company to obtain his CFP designation and launch his independent financial planning practice.
john pic hpJohn Savin (@savinwealth), is the owner of Savin Wealth Management  in Boca Raton, FL.
Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney) is the CEO ofCEO of MyCorporation.com (@MyCorporation). MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter.
Amber WestoverAmber Westover is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Debt Specialist for BestCompany.com, (@BestCompanyUSA). She is passionate about learning and researching. Amber enjoys studying personal finances and sharing strategies to overcome debt.
Pamela YellenPamela Yellen (@PamelaYellen) is a financial investigator and the author of two New York Times best-selling books, including her latest,”The Bank on Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future.”