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Short-Term Saving Tips for Summer Vacation

With summer drawing closer, your vacation may arrive before you've got the money to pay for it. But there are some quick changes you can make now to save or raise money for your trip. Preparing for your summer vacation with these seven tactics can help ease the stress of funding all your travel expenses. This way you can stay in control of your finances and have no financial baggage when you return.

Consider these tips:

Open a designated savings account

After estimating the overall cost of your vacation, set up a savings account just for the trip. This will help separate that money from your regular savings and make it easier to track progress toward your goal.

Contribute weekly

Look at last month's account statements from your financial institution to see what you spend in a given week. Then determine how much you can contribute to your vacation fund each week and make that part of your budget. Putting the money away weekly instead of monthly will make this more of a priority in your life.

Track spending with a budgeting app

To pinpoint what's going out of your account, let a budgeting app be your guide. Many popular apps let you categorize transactions and see overviews of your daily spending in a few taps or clicks.

Create an automatic savings plan

If you still find it difficult to save regularly, set up an automatic transfer from your checking balance to a savings account. This way you can allocate a percentage of your income and remove the temptation to spend money that should be going into vacation savings.

Reduce leisure spending

If vacation is the time to splurge, make the weeks before you go more restrained in your lifestyle. Minimize your trips to coffee shops, restaurants and movie theaters. Instead, brew your own coffee, cook more meals and watch films in your living room.

Get a side job

If you find yourself with extra time in your week, consider taking on a part-time job. See if you can watch any neighbors' pets or homes while they're away, or baby-sit. If you're an avid writer or an academic, look into freelance writing or tutoring. Even a few hours of paid work a week can add up.

Sell unwanted belongings

To raise money more quickly than through a job, go through your home and collect anything you don't need, from old books to furniture. Then sell your stuff online or in a yard sale.

Financial Tips for Recent Grads Entering the Workforce

College is in your rearview mirror, and you're about to enter the working world. Although snagging a job certainly calls for a celebration or two, it is also time to start tackling the various financial responsibilities that await you, like saving for retirement and improving your credit score.

Here's an overview of where to get started, including several best practices to help you along the way.

Keep credit card debt to a minimum

In 2014, households with unpaid credit card balances owed an average of about $15,000 on those cards, which can damage credit scores and make it difficult to qualify for low interest rates on auto loans and mortgages.

Once those first paychecks arrive, it may be tempting to max out your plastic for some new shoes or that must-have gaming console. Do everything in your power to resist that initial urge. While it's OK to splurge from time to time, it's important to keep debt as low as possible, especially if your credit card carries a high interest rate.

Contribute to a retirement account

Stashing away cash for retirement starting at an early age is one of the best money moves you can make. Your savings will have decades to multiply thanks to the wonders of compound returns, which lets you earn money on what your money earns.

If your employer offers a 401(k) retirement plan, be sure to take advantage of it. Start by contributing at least 10% of your monthly income and try to gradually work your way up to 20%. Individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, can also provide investment vehicles in which most people can put up to $5,500 each year. Both 401(k) and IRA contributions may reduce your taxes, too. The best way to get going with this kind of saving and investing is to build a budget for yourself.

Build an emergency fund

Gone are the days in which you could call up your parents for a quick injection of cash. Once you begin earning a steady salary, set some money aside for unexpected expenses. An emergency fund should consist of three to six months' worth of living expenses. Because you'll never know when you might need that money, keep it somewhere safe but within easy reach, like your savings account.

Keep an eye on your credit score

Although it might be hard to believe, it's likely that eventually you'll want to settle down and buy a house. To do that, you're probably going to need to apply for a mortgage. The better your credit score, the lower your interest rates will be, which could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a 30-year mortgage.

To improve your credit score, pay your bills on time and restrain your card use to 30% of your credit limit. Regularly practicing this kind of responsible behavior should give your score a substantial boost over the years.

The bottom line

Although it'll take some effort, making smart money moves at a young age doesn't have to be a huge hassle. Just remember to pay attention to your retirement savings and make sure that your spending habits don't result in massive amounts of debt. Before you know it, you'll be able to toast to a secure financial future.

How to Give Your Finances a Spring Cleaning

Ah, spring! It's the season of renewal, when we can count on longer and brighter days, the return of baseball and the urge to get the house in order. That goes for many people's financial houses as well. Spring is a good time to comb through your personal finances and ensure that you're managing your budget, credit cards, investments and insurance in the best possible way.

Here's how to get started.

Reassess your household budget

Take stock of your budget, including any major changes in income or spending. Did you or a family member receive a raise, get laid off, take some unpaid leave or adopt a pet? These and other changes should determine how you allocate your money.

Similarly, if you know a major expense is coming down the pipeline — such as a child starting college, an operation or a vacation — you can cut spending now in order to boost your financial cushion.

Get a grip on your credit

Financially speaking, there is perhaps nothing more important than your credit score. It's a measure of how trustworthy you are as a borrower, and it affects your ability to get approved for and receive low interest rates on credit cards and loans. Resolve to improve your credit habits and bolster your score: Pay your bills on time, don't take on too much new debt, and create a plan for settling any outstanding balances.

Even if you have good credit, you should re-evaluate your credit situation. Review your interest payments and consider transferring your balance to a card with a lower rate. If you took out a mortgage or auto loan a while back, ask your lender if you could save by refinancing.

Everyone can monitor his or her credit easily — and for free. You're entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once a year. These reports reflect your borrowing and payment history and help determine your credit score. Occasionally, they contain mistakes that could lower your score, so keep an eye out for errors, and ask the bureau to correct any you find.

Re-balance your investment portfolio

When you set up your retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), you likely selected investments based how much growth you wanted to achieve — and how much risk you were willing to accept.

But as you near retirement, you may want to take on less risk — or you may find that your proportion of stocks and bonds has drifted from your target. That's why it's a good idea to revisit, and perhaps rebalance, your portfolio each year. This could entail moving gains from your “winning” holdings and reinvesting the profits elsewhere.

Check your insurance policies

Home, life, auto — make sure you have the coverage you need and that your beneficiaries are correct.

It's also worth asking your carrier if you're eligible for any discounts. For example, if you've been accident- and ticket-free for several years, you might qualify for a good driver discount. And if you've been with the same company for a while, you may want to shop around for quotes for comparable coverage.

Organize your important records

Spring cleaning usually means throwing things away, but you should retain copies of important financial statements. Don't want to keep the paper version? It doesn't take long to download and copy records to your computer, or store them in a secure cloud service. Just as preparing the soil in spring helps produce a healthy crop, tending your financial fields can set you up for financial success. There's no better time to begin.


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