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Looking to improve your financial life but confused or overwhelmed on how exactly to do that? I totally get it. I can’t tell you how many blog posts and articles I’ve read about people becoming financially successful, yet I could not relate at all to their tactics. Many of them absolutely oozed with privilege. I mean, good for you for paying off $65k in 8 months, but most folks in this country don’t even come close to making that in a year. 

As a direct result of these annoying articles, I wrote up this list of 30 things that may help you improve your financial life. My goal is that at least one of these items will make your life better. Most of us will never get rich, but I think being free of major financial stress is a great accomplishment. Hopefully these 30 ideas help you to get to that point. 

Check Your Credit

If you are suffering from low or even no credit, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit score.  Not only will this allow you to see your progress, it can also help you catch any errors or inconsistencies.

While you are entitled to a free credit report from each credit reporting company (ExperianTransUnion, and Equifax), Credit Sesame is my preferred monitoring program. Not only is it free, but you can check your credit report and score as often as you like. Pretty sweet, don’t you think?

Use Apps

There are currently hundreds of different apps and online programs that promise users major benefits. I’ve even written about some in the past. But as of February 2019, my two favorites are Trim and Sift. Using these programs to simplify and optimize your spending habits is a great way to save without breaking a sweat!

Pay Down Credit Card Debt

Paying off debt may seem like a no-brainer, but being debt-free is key to a successful financial life. I personally like the snowball method. You pay your account with the smallest balance first, while paying the minimum on the larger balances. It “snowballs” from there. I recommend the king of debt destruction, Dave Ramsey, in helping you learn more.

Open a New Savings Account

If you use a big bank, with brick and mortar locations, it’s unlikely that you are earning as much interest on your funds as possible. Solve that problem by opening a Capital One 360 savings (or checking) account. They don’t have any physical locations to maintain, so you get a higher yield interest rate. But don’t worry, they have a huge network of ATMs and offer mobile deposit. This allows you to get most of the benefits of a typical bank with less fees and a higher rate on your savings. Plus, their customer service is top-notch.

Swagbucks

Swagbucks is an easy way to earn gift cards. Swagbucks offer the typical surveys, but they also reward you for watching videos, shopping online, and more. It’s totally free and you can redeem your points earned for pretty much any gift card out there, including MasterCard.

Ebates

When you shop online, did you know you can earn cash-back on many of the purchases you make? You can if you use Ebates! They also advertise exclusive deals and coupons for most of their merchants. Best of all, get a $10 bonus when signing up now.

Use Promo Codes

Do you search for coupon codes when shopping online? If not, you could be wasting hundreds of dollars per year. My favorite places to check for promotional codes are Ebates and Dealspotr. If I have no luck there, I will try searching Google. It’s amazing how many coupons I find this way!

Groupon and LivingSocial

Groupon and LivingSocial give you the chance to buy products, services, and credit towards local companies at a significant discount. As an example, LivingSocial currently is offering tickets to my local aquarium for 50% off. I also use them all the time to get some great discounts on eating out. I love these guys!

Build Your Budget

It’s hard to improve your financial life when you don’t even know how much you’re spending. That’s why building a budget is so important. My favorite experts on budgets are Holly and Greg Johnson, the authors of Zero Down Your Debt. This book will teach you everything you need to know about making and sticking to a budget. Trust me, it’s awesome. Alternatively, check out my Budgeting section for additional budgeting tips.

Invest

Investing is a tough topic to cover in just one article. That’s why I have a round-up of ten blog posts about the subject for you to check out by my fellow financial bloggers. When done correctly, investing can be an amazing way to improve your finances.

Lower Your Interest Rates

If you have any kind of debt, like credit card, mortgage, student loans, and car loans, you accrue interest until you’ve paid off the loan. It’s therefore not a bad idea to speak to the company about lowering your interest rate, refinancing, or debt consolidation. You never know until you try.

Send a Good-Will Letter

If you are struggling with raising your credit score, a good-will letter may make a difference. In a nutshell, it is a letter you write to previous creditors or collection agencies, asking them to revise a negative item on your report. My pals over at Credit Card Reviews go over the ins-and-outs of the good-will letter.

Drive for Uber and/or Lyft

Taxis are so last decade. Instead, peer-to-peer ridesharing is the name of the game. The leaders in the industry, Uber and Lyft, offer an excellent money-earning opportunity for folks looking to make some extra cash. You work as much or as little as you wish and create your own hours. Cha-ching!

Hire a Financial Advisor

Sometimes, you just need someone to help you get and keep your finances straight. A financial advisor is a professional who can assist you with anything from creating a budget to managing investments. For many people, the benefits of using an advisor greatly outweigh the cost of hiring one.

Embrace Frugality

Adding just a couple new frugal habits to your life can make a difference to your finances in the long-term. No one is saying you have to use cloth toilet paper or never turn on your a/c. But what if you cut out one lunch per week and brown-bagged it? Or bought the generic equivalent of foods you buy often at the grocery store? Every little bit helps improve your financial life.

Pet Sit

My dogs are my babies. They are absolutely precious to me and I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way. People are spending significantly more on their pets, including how they’re cared for when they’re out of town. If you’re an animal lover, you might want to consider pet sitting as a way to make money. I personally prefer Rover because much of the work of locating clients is done for you. Of course, you could try advertising on places like Craigslist and Facebook.

Read Frugality and Financial Blogs

I’m not the only frugality blog out there! Unfortunately, they’re not all created equal. The below are ones that I’ve *actually* learned a thing or two from:

Shop Amazon

Amazon is not just about convenience, although for many, that’s a huge part. When you join Amazon Prime, you receive:

  • Prime Video
  • FREE Two-Day shipping
  • Unlimited music streaming
  • Unlimited photo storage
  • Unlimited reading

You can give Prime a try when you sign-up for their free 30-day trial. You can cancel anytime, but you will still receive the full 30-days free.

Buy Used

When you buy pre-owned, whether it be for cars, clothes, or furnishings, you can save a huge percentage off what you would usually pay for the same items new. My favorite places to find used goodies are thrift stores, Craigslist, consignment shops, garage sales, and Facebook buy and sell groups. If you want to take this one step further, try taking the difference between what you paid and how much the item is new, and save the difference. Or you could apply it to debt you’re trying to rid yourself of.

Set Goals

We all have goals. But when’s the last time you sat down and wrote them down, specifically related to your finances? Studies have actually shown that people who do this are much more likely to reach their goals. I really like this Forbes article on why goal-writing is so important and why it works.

Limit Eating Out

When things are stressful – be it money, work, your home life – it’s so incredibly tempting to pick up some takeout or head out to dinner at your favorite restaurant. I get it. Believe me. But think about how much money you spend for just one meal. Even cutting down on one or two of these per month offers a significant savings.

Research Prices on Large Ticket Items

Is your washer on its last leg? In need of a new car? Do your due diligence to make sure you’re scoring the best deal! If you’re financing, research multiple banks or credit cards. Look for sales, coupons, price-matching, and free upgrades. I also recommend checking out Consumer Reports and other review sites to make sure that your big purchase will last for the long haul.

Hire a Tax Account

For many, doing their own taxes is a no-brainer. With the programs available to us these days, it can be a relatively easy and inexpensive process. But what if you have a boat load of investments? Or perhaps you run your own business? Times like these are when you might want to consider hiring a professional accountant to complete your taxes. It is a potentially a money-saving decision because these pros know the ins-and-outs behind the new laws and codes. You’re much less likely to have an error this way, too.

Become an Airbnb Host

If you’ve been following Frugal Beautiful for awhile now, you know how being an Airbnb host is my favorite side hustle. Whether you have an entire empty home or just a couch to rent out, you can make some easy money offering lodging to those looking to save a buck. I talk all about my experience in my post How I Cut My Mortgage Payment In Half With Airbnb.

Read Books on Budgeting and Finance

As simple as it sounds, some of the best advice and information I’ve gotten on finances came from books. Whether you’re an audiobook fan, prefer to read on a device, or enjoy the feel of paper between your fingers, I highly recommend the following budgeting and finance publications:

Freelance or Consider a Part-Time Job

Earning some extra bucks is a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to improving your finances. If you find you have more extra time than money, consider freelancing or taking on a part-time job. Even just a few hours a week is money in the bank. For example, I write blog posts for other websites in my free time.

Shop Budget Grocery Stores

Have you ever heard of ALDI? ALDI is a budget grocery store chain with ultra low prices. Most major metropolitan areas have these awesome little stores. If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, I recommend giving them a try. I can get an overflowing cart full of groceries for less than $120.

If you are more on the granola specturm, visit your local Trader Joe’s. TJs specializes in natural foods and household products for budget prices. Think of them as the ALDI of organics.

Mason Jar Money Method

One of my most popular posts is the Mason Jar Money Method. If you prefer saving using cash, this is for you. All you need is a giant mason jar and $1. Each week your savings grow and by the end of the year you will have saved $1300.

Reconsider How You Gift

For so many of us, the holidays are overshadowed by the enormous amount of money we spend on gifts. According to Gallup, 1/3 of Americans spent at least $1000 on gifts this past Christmas. Something has got to give!

I’ve actually written several posts on this subject, the most informative being:

Do a Fiscal Fast

A Fiscal Fast is similar to my 30 Day No-Spend Challenge. In a nutshell, a Fiscal Fast requires you to not only stop shopping, but to use up what you have for 30 days. If it isn’t essential health or food items, you don’t buy it. Check out my post How to Do a Fiscal Fast for all the details.

Did we miss a way to improve your financial life? Do you have a tactic that especially works for you? Let us know in the comments!

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How I miss the days of college, when every few weeks you’d get time off for Fall Break, Winter Break and of course, Spring Break. Even though it’s still a wintry tundra in many parts of the country, ads for bathing suits have made me realize it’ll be Spring Break time soon.

If you can’t afford to hit the beach, here are ways to have a tropical vacation right in your own backyard for spring break or any type of staycation!

DIY Cocktails

Nothing puts me in a more tropical mood than fancy daiquiris and margaritas. If you invite your friends, each of you can bring some ingredients so no one is spending too much money individually.

Fresh fruit, homemade whipped cream and local rum are my favorite ingredients for tropical cocktails. Pair that with a movie like Mean Girls and you’ve got yourself a classic sleepover scenario.

Enjoy a Staycation

If you can’t afford to travel anywhere, take in the sights where you live. There’s probably at least one tourist attraction you’ve always wanted to try. In the spirit of spring break, make it an amusement park or wacky museum. Bonus points if you have to take a mini-road trip to get there.

Pick somewhere you’d take visiting relatives and friends if they came to town. Read up new local attractions to see what spots have opened up.

Read more:  100 Frugal Date Ideas For Any Season

Take a Spa Day

What’s more relaxing and extravagant than a spa? For a percentage of the cost of a plane ticket to Florida, you can enjoy a full spa day getting pampered to your heart’s delight. While it won’t be as frugal as getting treatments done at home, it will feel more like a vacation and less like doing your nails in your bathroom.

Bring a girlfriend or two, a bottle of champagne and voila! You have the makings of a girls’ day out.  You can find an array of options for spas- such as outdoor day spas (where you rent a cabana, sunbathe and hit up a mud pit), or you can stay at a hotel with a good deal for a day away.

Alternatively, pick up a few inexpensive goodies and have yourself a home pampering session. Amazon, my absolute favorite for just about anything, offers a huge selection of items for your hair down to your toes. And if you’re feeling crafty, you can try making some of your own body products!

Rose Gold Cocktail SetCharcoal Face MaskHot Oil Hair Treatment

Bath BombsNail Health 

Visit a Nearby Resort

A local resort can be an adult’s version of Disney World. You can get spa treatments, room service and lounge at the pool. If you can find a place within driving distance, you’ll also save on travel costs compared to a traditional spring break trip.

Often, many resorts will offer discounts if you keep an eye out for a sale. Since you’re local, you often can snatch up their off-season deals to be used anytime.

In Texas, we were browsing local resorts and found around Christmas they were offering 30-50% off certain spa services to be used anytime.  You can also take a day of work mid-week to take advantage of some spa “happy hours” for some pretty decent mid-week discounts.

Keep It Frugal With A Plan

Just because you’re staying home doesn’t mean you’ll automatically save less money. Hotel fees can add up quickly and spa treatments can run $100 or more. Use sites like Groupon, Expedia or Travelocity to find good deals and consider taking a few weekdays off so you can score better deals.

You should also try to budget ahead of time. Do research on what you’d like to see, how much it costs and how much you have set aside for vacation money. It won’t feel like a real vacation if you’re worrying about your credit card bill afterwards.

If you think your friends are also strapped for cash, ask them to join you on your staycation- and have everyone chip in for “feels-luxe-but-not-pricey” snacks and drinks like olives, meat, cheese and a baguette for a charcuterie board and a few bottles of rose for the day- all under $30.

It’ll be more fun saving money if you can do it with your tightest clique. Plus, it’s often more cost effective to split expenses with a group of people than doing it by yourself!

Did you know? You can sign up for a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime? There are so many benefits of this great service, but my favorite is the free 2-day shipping. Cancel anytime!

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Valentine’s Day can be expensive, and in an odd way- it can make such a romantic holiday feel really cheap with the rampant commercialism and the cliché marketing geared to make us want to spend.  Celebrating Valentine’s Day on a budget may seem unromantic, but it can be sweet without having to stress about your credit bill later. 

If you’re not looking for gift guides and instead want ideas that can inspire moments, not overpriced things from the store- read on!

Reclaim the romantic season by finding inexpensive and special gifts for the special person in your life. Read below for our tips on frugal – and fun – gifts.

Give A Practical Gift With A Twist

Chances are, if you’re on a budget this Valentine’s Day, affording a gift that doesn’t have the most utility possible can be a struggle.  While it may seem totally unromantic to give a set of textbooks, snacks for the house or new underwear- there are ways to make it funny, sexy or sweet with how it’s presented.

If you’re giving something practical, wrap it up in a unique way that make it extra thoughtful.  Putting a pun or a cheeky note with the gift is twofold- it’s not only incredibly thoughtful, but totally a good use of your budget. 

New shoes or scrubs for work may not seem sexy, but it can be done in a fun way.

 I loved this idea from EssentiallyMom.com (and there are plenty more there!) that illustrates how a practical gift that’s needed can still be fun and playful for Valentine’s Day. So, what does your significant other need?  

With a quick Pinterest search you can find creative ways to make even a gift of new socks a bit more romantic.  

It’s Ok to Get Artsy

While many of us have not used our creativity since high school art class, but giving a homemade gift is a great idea if you’re looking to do Valentine’s Day on a budget.

Learning to make a leather wallet, build a bookshelf or create a personalized photo book can be some of the most treasured gifts that don’t have to cost much.

If your idea of drawing is more of the stick figure variety, try making a photo collage of your adventures as a couple. Find images from magazines relevant to your boo’s hobbies and passions. You can make it a vision board, something that will inspire them every day.

Give the Gift of Convenience

If you’re really broke, the best thing  you can give is your time dedicated towards solving a problem. Give them coupons to do the laundry, fix dinner, take their car to get an oil change, do the accounting or whatever has been causing friction in your lives.  “Acts of service” is a love language for a reason!

Make a list of the tasks you’re willing to do and give it to them as a coupon book to pull whenever they like. 

If you have been going through a tough time, or have been too busy with school or work- you know how awesome it is when your partner surprises you by finishing the laundry or finally taking that tail light to get fixed.  Those little annoyances when done as a favor are the things you remember most!  

As adults, many of us can’t afford to outsource our dry cleaning pick up or car detailing. Having someone else do that can be the difference between a Saturday running errands or a weekend of relaxation.

Buy a Membership

Chances are, there’s something your partner passionately cares about and has mentioned in passing to you.  If they’ve been dying for some personal time, guess what? Buy them a membership to a Crossfit or a local yoga studio. 

Often these gyms might feel like a splurge to buy themselves, so if they’ve mentioned it, treat them to a few passes if you can’t afford a full membership.

For someone with a passion for the arts, history or culture you can often find annual memberships to local museums and institutes for around $50-$75.  Investing in a membership can be a thoughtful membership, but also can provide for some fabulous date nights later on.  

Feed the Stomach – and the Soul

It’s one thing to cook Valentine’s Day dinner for your partner, but it’s quite another to make them a full week of frozen meals that they can defrost easily. You can also pack together ingredients that they can throw in a crock pot in easy mason jar meal ideas. You can make them their favorite meal or the best thing you know how to do.

For extra goodies, throw in a box or two of brownie or cookie mix. You’ll never know when they’ll be too tired to cook dinner or too sick to meal plan.

 

It may sound cliche, but the thought really does count when it comes to gifts. Instead of just buying something that will take up space, use the same amount of cash to put together a gift that will keep them feeling loved throughout the year and helps ease stress or can be used for date nights throughout the year.  

Take some time to think about your person and what they would love the most, and your Valentine’s Day may be on a budget, but you won’t have to feel cheap when you exchange gifts.

 

Also, feel free to check out 100 Frugal Date Ideas For Any Season!

 

 

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With 2019 just around the corner, you may have a resolution to fix your finances. If 2018 left you in debt, stressed out, maxed out, freaked out or just ready for a change, read on.

You would be AMAZED at what you can change in a year. The person you are today, does NOT need to be the person you are 12 months from now.

There are so many ways to go about doing this: loans, refinancing, a second job, starting a blog or becoming a freelance writer, transferring credit card balances, seeing a financial counselor, etc., etc., ETC.! But those aren’t particularly easy and they certainly are not a way to get quick cash.

That’s why I’ve created this list of 7 stupid easy ways to change your finances. Each option is a simple and fast way to start on the path to financial health.

Survey Says- Make Some Extra Cash

You can pinch pennies aplenty, but if you’re not making a lot to begin with, you’ll find it’s challenging to get ahead.  If you can squeeze in some extra time in nights and weekends, earning a few extra bucks can be a game changer.  Enter, the survey side hustle.

Online surveys are an easy and convenient way to earn a few bucks from the comfort of your couch. Keep in mind, though, that they do require you to pay attention and actually read each and every question. The company can tell if you just fibbed your way through the survey and will not pay you for it. They may even remove you from their program.

While there are numerous survey sites you could try, they’re not all created equal. Some rarely have surveys for you to take or make it extremely difficult to cash out. Luckily for you, we’ve sifted through all the survey companies and have come up with a list of programs where you can *actually* earn some money. They include:

Examine Your Credit

If you are suffering from low or even no credit, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit score. Not only will this allow you to see your progress, it can also help you catch any errors or inconsistencies.

While you are entitled to a free credit report from each credit reporting company (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), Credit Sesame is my preferred monitoring program. Not only is it free, but you can check your credit report and score as often as you like. Pretty snazzy, ey?

It be totally scary to look at your credit score, I get it.  But knowing what’s negatively impacting you NOW can help you in a year’s time when you go to make a big purchase.  Follow these steps to earn some money and trim expenses, but also make sure you understand your score and how to improve it!

Trim and Sift It

Money-saving apps and programs are a dime a dozen these days. I’ve even written about some in the past. But as of December of 2018, my two favorites are Trim and Sift.  Using apps on your phone to simplify and optimize your spending habits is a great way to save without breaking a sweat!

Trim

Trim is an online, desktop based program that automates ways to save you money. After you securely connect your accounts, Trim will inspect each one to determine if there are any potential money saving options. Specifically, Trim excels at examining and notifying you of your recurring subscriptions, discovers if you can save money on your cable, and allows you to automate your savings. You can even request account alerts via text for things like overdrafts, low-funds, or large purchases. Best of all, it is free.

Trim takes security very seriously and therefore they have implemented 256-bit SSL encryption, two-factor authentication, and read-only access. Your account info is not stored of their servers. To learn more about Trim or to sign up, pop on over here.

Sift

Sift is an app that focuses on your credit cards and their purchases. Named as one of Google Play’s Best Apps of 2018, it maximizes your cashback and rewards, while tracking all the benefits available for each of your cards. It will automatically update you on any perks that may be available to you due to using a specific card. For example, theft and damage and warranties, time left to return, and price protection. The latter is my favorite perk, as it will help you save money on previous purchases if you used certain cards when buying an item that has decreased in price.

As for Sift’s security, information is transmitted securely via SSL (TLS 1.2) bank grade encryption. All of their servers and databases have very strict access control and all data transmitted and stored is anonymized. To give Sift a try, check it out here.

Save and Earn

When was the last time you evaluated your savings accounts? Do you know what kind of interest you are earning on your funds? If you use a big bank, with lots of brick and mortar locations, it is likely you aren’t getting as much as you could. Solve that problem by considering an online bank. My favorite is Capital One 360. Not only will you receive up to a $100 bonus when you open an account, but because they don’t have any physical locations, you get a higher yield interest rate. They have a large network of ATMs and offer mobile deposit, allowing you to get most of the benefits of a typical bank with less fees and a higher rate on your savings.

Surf’s Up

As mentioned above, online surveys are a nice way to change your finances by earning some quick cash. But the internet has more to offer than that. For example, Swagbucks is an easy way to earn gift cards. Swagbucks offer the typical surveys, but they also reward you for watching videos, shopping online, and more. It’s totally free and you can redeem your points earned for pretty much any gift card out there, including MasterCard.

If you want to earn some major cashback on your online purchases, you’ve got to give Ebates a try. Depending on which merchant you buy from, you can get up to 50% back. As a good example, when I switched from AT&T to Verizon for my mobile service, I got $75 cashback just for shopping through Ebates. That was a pretty outstanding month, but I typically reel in at least $20 a month just for shopping at online stores I already planned to buy from using Ebates.

(Re)Build Your Budget

You can’t change your finances for the better if you aren’t sticking to a healthy budget. I talk a lot about budgeting here at Frugal Beautiful, but my post How to Fall in Love with Your Budget is particularly useful.

Alternatively, there are several books on the subject that have helped me, and others like me, to create a budget and not deviate from that plan. A few of my favorite include:

Once you’ve read up on the subject, consider an online budgeting software like Mint or Personal Capital. It is easier than using pen and paper, especially on the go.

I use both of these apps.  I love that Mint has a little doughnut chart that shows me how much I’m spending in each category (sometimes it’s horrifying!) and that Personal Capital shows me the overall picture of how I’m doing to track my net worth.  It’s super motivating!

Hustle Hard

My personal favorite way to improve one’s personal finances is to find a side hustle. I’ve written extensively on my most profitable side hustle: Airbnb. Seriously, without the money I make hosting travelers on Airbnb, I’d be in a world of hurt. Owning a home has been a much more expensive endeavor than expected, specifically due to a major increase in taxes and numerous repairs not found before closing. Airbnb has helped me stay on track with my budgeting and retirement goals.

As of this writing in late 2018, I’m earning over $750 a month just renting out my spare room with minimal work as an Airbnb host

Another quick and easy option is to drive for Uber or Lyft. It’s simple and fast to get started with either company and can bring in some significant cash quickly. Cha-ching!

Start Saving With Just $1

One of my most popular posts is the Mason Jar Money Method .  If you’re a fan of the envelope system from Dave Ramsey or have cash on hand, this is for you.  You start with a giant mason jar, and start with $1.

Each week your savings grow from there and you begin to build better habits to make those bigger weeks work- you have about $1300 by year’s end.  What could you do with $1300 more dollars in the bank?  Maybe put it towards next year’s Christmas gifts and travel? New tires?  A vacation? You will be $1300 ahead by this time next year.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s never too late to get a handle on your financial life. Hop to it, friend, and best of luck!

Additional Reading:

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This post is sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are my own.

Did you know that Allstate just released 2018 America’s Best Drivers Report?   It was a fascinating peek to see who ranks up there as the safest cities to drive in, but no matter where your hometown ranks- all of us could drive more safely. It’s obvious that being safe and strategic with our driving can help us save money and lead happier lives in general, so it’s a win-win, right?

But of course, the holidays are here and while we’re thinking about all the time we will be spending at shopping malls or rushing around getting everything done before family arrives, it’s also one of the busiest times of year for our roads as well. 

Chances are, you’ll be spending a sizable chunk of your time preparing for the holiday season on the road- whether you’re trying to get all your errands done, driving around to find that perfect holiday dress, or the miles you clock to visit loved ones and squeeze in some much-needed family time, your odometer will be spinning this holiday season!

Usually, in our rush to get things done, it’s tempting to make up for lost time on the road, but this is one part of your holiday routines you want to be exceptionally mindful of.

Crowds on the roadways are not the only thing you’ll need to think about this winter- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a wetter-than-average winter, and with warmer conditions generally predicted- you may not want to drive on auto-pilot for your winter driving routine.

 

So, whether you’re in the coldest regions of the nation or are down south where it usually doesn’t dip to freezing, you’ll want to be aware that precipitation is in the seasonal forecast!

Here are some safety tips for driving in rainy and snowy conditions this holiday season:

• Do Car Maintenance Before It Gets Busy:  Have you checked your headlights, tail lights and the condition of your tires? Check your tread for wear and tire pressure. Also, make sure your winter gear is packed in the trunk.

• Plan for Extra Time:  Holiday congestion plus wintery conditions means you’ll want to plan for when you need to prepare your car to leave and when you get on the road.  Rushing your defrosting or tailgating when you’re in a rush can be dangerous.  Be sure you plan ahead for visibility issues due to weather!

• While in Park, Plan:  Before you put your car in reverse- have you cleared your mirrors and windows fully?  Have you loaded your navigation?  Is your playlist queued up?  Did you send that last text to let them know you’re on the way? Trying to multitask on slick roads is risky- your car can’t stop as quickly on icy or wet roads, so don’t risk it.

• Stock Up On Supplies:  Windshield scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, gloves and a snow shovel are winter car necessities you should have ready.  If you don’t have tools to get out of the snow, avoid driving without them- you never know when you may get stuck!

• Have a Plan B, Don’t Panic:  If you encounter standing water in the roadway, don’t risk it- find an alternative route.  In icier conditions, if you begin to lose traction and spin, don’t slam on the brakes.  Release the accelerator, and gently steer in the direction you want to go.

 

When sharing the road with other cars, be courteous- everyone’s a bit more stressed this holiday season, so spread a little holiday cheer by driving kindly.  (This is why extra time is key- not everyone will be this prepared!) 

The holiday season also means you may be seeing more semi-trucks on the road, especially if you’re driving to see loved ones with long distances on the highway.  Remember, if you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, they can’t see you- and they often need more time to turn, brake and merge.

 

Final point- driving in the winter takes practice and lots of patience.  The holidays are the busiest time of year for many of us, but they also have some of the worst months to drive safely- with crowded roads, low visibility and slick conditions.   

To top that, for those of us in the snowy states, that extra time spent clearing the car of snow and digging out your parking spot can mean you end up rushed and a bit frantic, so take a deep breath and realize it’s better to get to where you’re going alive, rather than stressing along the way trying to cut corners.  People will understand and want you to be safe, so slow down and enjoy the ride.

As a California girl myself, my first few winters in Chicago were fraught with panic and white knuckles from about December through March.  It took a lot of practice, guidance and yes- a few kind dig-outs from experienced Midwesteners to get the hang of it- but with the right tools and some practice, you’ll be a winter pro in no time.

If you’re new to winter driving or aren’t confident in your skills to make it from point A to point B this winter, there’s an app for that!  Drivewise®* from Allstate is completely free and can help you learn more about your safe driving habits so you can make improvements that will give you the confidence and insights to help you drive more safely.

Drivewise® collects your driving behavior and provides rewards for safe driving. So how does it work? Well, it’s actually really simple. It measures your hard-breaking speeding and time of day and provides personalized driving feedback to help you improve your weak spots and ensures that you drive with safety in mind this season and all year long. This winter you can make safe driving a win-win with Drivewise!

 

* Drivewise is optional. Subject to terms, conditions and availability. Smartphone required. Savings based on driving behavior and may vary by state. Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. 2775 Sanders Rd, Northbrook, IL 60062. (C) 2018 Allstate Insurance Company This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.
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Now that the Halloween decorations have been stowed away and the turkey has been eaten, it’s time to think about Christmas (or Solstice or Krampus – whatever).

For those of us who are going to have a very frugal Christmas this year, it may mean that you’re making your gifts, creating experiences instead of “stuff,” or sneaking in with the stealth of a ninja to snag some deals before the crowds are wise to it- which requires planning.

Ironically, I’ve recently become committed to a minimalist lifestyle (see my video series on the subject), so a frugal Christmas is definitely on the books for me. Here’s how I am planning on doing it.

Start Planning Your Holiday Crafts

Mason jars, ribbon, and pretty much everything you’ll want to find on Pinterest can be bought ahead of time to avoid the pinch later. Creating pinboards of holiday crafts and using Amazon to bulk order for free shipping will save you a lot of time and hassle, and keep you from running store to store. (You can get a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime here. This will get you through the holidays and if you decide to not continue with a paid subscription, you can cancel anytime.)

Here are some of my favorite holiday craft pinboards that are constantly being updated with new ideas:

You can make the holidays more meaningful and less consumerist (I don’t know about you, but I avoided Black Friday lines!) by scheduling time in for crafts.

Yes, it can get pricey, but if you batch your crafts and buy in bulk, you can avoid things being “Pinterest perfect” and really, just have fun with it. A mason jar cookie mix doesn’t have to be embellished with expensive stickers or in fancy containers- have fun and don’t worry about matching what you see in magazines this year! And if you’re looking to up your game from some simple cookie mixes, check out our DIY Cocktail Mason Jar Ideas.

Set A Holiday Budget To Set Money Aside NOW

Yes, this is the un-fun time you get to count up all of the Christmas parties you typically attend and figure out what the costs will actually be.  Come to the table ahead of time with money saving ideas that gets everyone on board with frugality before you’re the odd (wo)man out-  perhaps exchange names instead of buying for everyone, or do a cookie exchange instead of a gift exchange.

If those aren’t an option, guesstimate how many parties you attend and what each could cost, and set aside the cash throughout the year.  In July (I know, I know!) I set aside an automatic transfer each week of about $12 a week, so I will have almost $250 by the time St. Nick comes down my chimney. 

Additionally, if you know you’ll need to come with a gift in hand, you can buy those now- stocking up on wine, candles, soaps and coffee beans that aren’t “holiday,” can mean you snag really good deals in the clearance section.  I usually grab a few bottles of wine- red, white and some sparkling, for a quick hostess gift…plus, they don’t always need to be bagged, just adorn them with leftover tinsel or twine.

I personally am a fan of Capital One 360 checking and savings accounts. They’re totally online, meaning there are less fees than a typical bank. Not to mention you will earn up to $100 just for signing up and using their services. Check out Capital One 360 here for more details on all of the accounts they currently offer, as well as their sign-up bonuses.

Now that you’ve set a budget and set money aside, you can follow these tips to stay under budget this holiday season!

Stay Safe To Save Money

Christmas is awesome, and for me, winter, well, not so much.  Save money by winter-proofing your home to save on electricity costs. Some of my favorite winterizing products that can make a huge difference, especially if you have an older home, are:

Before the storms hit, be sure you’ve winterized your car and have ice equipment and a shovel on hand.  Even if you’re not snowed in, a neighbor might be- and the easiest way to get on Santa’s “good” list is to help one another and be prepared with extra salt, shovels, ice scrapers, and blankets in case someone is in need (and so you don’t get stuck in the snow when driving around for winter errands).

Additionally, with trees, lights and ice- your home can become a dangerous place.  Follow these home safety tips for the holidays as you prepare and decorate for Christmas.  

If you have pets in your home, it’s key to be aware what special and alluring dangers are pretty for you, but deadly for your pet.  Pet safety is something to consider this time of year as you decide what plants and lights to bring into your home after Thanksgiving.

Being prepared will save you time and money- and mostly, the stress that can come with the holidays.

Additional Reading

We have a lot of great content on saving for the holidays. We know it’s a tough time for a lot of people, so we have dedicated a significant amount of time to the subject:

This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.

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Paying off debt is hard enough on a normal day. Forcing yourself to continue living frugally during the holidays can be downright depressing. But don’t despair quite yet, my dears. There are plenty of ways to have a joyful, fun-filled holiday season while sticking to your debt-repaying guns.

Save, Save, Save

If you are determined to maintain your normal holiday traditions, consider opening a savings account specifically for holiday expenses. Add a small amount every paycheck throughout the year and before you know it, you will have a nice bit of cash to spend on gifts, food, and activities. Not sure which bank to choose for your holiday account? I highly recommend Capital One 360.

Hustle Up

While it may be a bit too late to start saving now for the holidays (Christmas is less than a month away, people!), you have plenty of time to take on a few side hustles. Consider offering pet or child-sitting, fall lawn cleanup, or driving for Uber or Lyft. You could also take on some freelance work if you are a writer or artist. Alternatively, sell off some of your unwanted items that are just laying around the house. I personally have had great luck doing this on local swap and shop Facebook pages. But my personal favorite side hustle is renting my extra room on Airbnb.

Additionally, you can offer your services in lieu of a gift.  Not only can you earn cash doing pet sitting during the holidays, you can give your loved ones a voucher to offer them the same- a double whammy.  As we get older, some people are weird about asking for help with a move, repainting a room or helping with a big house project- if you’re handy or crafty it can be a way to earn AND save money.

Potluck It

Gifts aren’t the only holiday expense to consider. Food, especially when cooking for a large group, adds up so stinkin’ fast. If you are in charge of hosting a holiday get-together, consider making it a potluck. Trust me, people won’t mind at all; folks realize that hosting in itself is a a huge undertaking. I do recommend assigning each person a specific course, though, so you don’t end up with 10 pies and no entree. (Mmmm, pie.)

Helpful Hint: If you have yet to jump on the Instant Pot bandwagon, I highly recommend it for both saving money AND time. Seriously, it’s magic, and perfect for potlucks.

Get Crafty

As you know, I love myself some crafts, so I’m a big proponent for making your own gifts. And don’t worry, you don’t have to possess a lot of skills to do this.  You can make something as simple as an infinity scarf for the women in your life or some natural branch coasters for the guys. Alternatively, a handmade coupon gifting your loved one a homemade meal, babysitting hours, or a ride to the airport would absolutely be appreciated by all. Of course, you could always cater to their sweet tooth and make them some of their favorite treats. Gifts don’t have to be store-bought to be special.

If you are lacking some inspiration, our Crafting & DIY section is chock-full of tutorials, ideas, and links to awesome projects and homemade gifts. (A couple of my personal favorites are Top Ten Hostess Gifts and 20 DIY Cocktail Mason Jar Gift Ideas.) Alternatively, head on over to our Pinterest for even more mind-blowing crafts.

Pick a Name

Something my family does every Christmas is we pick names. Everyone’s name goes in the hat and we each pick one. We are then responsible for giving a gift to that one person. Not only does this save big money, but it also reduces the stress of trying to find a perfect gift for every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Helpful Hint: I actually found an awesome website that helps take the hassle out of picking a name (and also eliminates the possibility of someone getting themselves). It is called Secret Santa Generator and it is fan-tab-u-lous.

Finally though – remember, debt is not forever. If I had any real piece of advice that has helped me through lean times, it is to look ahead. Right now, you’re juggling debt repayment with holiday spending and it can be a tough balancing act – but luckily, it’s not forever.

If you’re feeling really heavy that you’ve ruined Christmas, don’t despair, your work to pay down your debts will pay off in a few months or a year. Imagine how much freer you will feel next Christmas when the burden of debt has lessened or is gone completely. Trust me, one year without sending photo cards to your entire network won’t be the end of holiday cheer as we know it – there’s always next year.

See, folks? All is not lost! Remember, the holidays are first and foremost about spending time with those you love. But if you are bound and determined to go big this holiday season, be sure to use these tips to balance debt repayment with your gift-giving so you don’t lose your momentum.

Additional Recommended Reading Books: Articles:
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Now that Halloween has come and gone, it’s totally acceptable to start thinking about the holidays. Sure, Thanksgiving is a big deal, but we all know that Christmas is what people are really talking about when they refer to “the holidays.” Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you actually celebrate the religious part or not; Christmas is just a BIG deal here in the states.

For some, this means mistletoe, Elf on the Shelf, and delicious food. For others, though, the thought of Christmas brings with it mind-melting anxiety. This may be because you have to deal with family drama, packed airports, or stir-crazy kiddos. Or, you may just be seriously stressing out on how you are going to possibly afford gifts for your family and loved ones.

Well, have no fear, as Auntie Shannyn is here to relieve those worries, once and for all. If there is one thing I know, it’s how to buy quality with very little quantity (eh-hem, read: MONEY). So, without further ado, here are 6 easy ways to save money on holiday gifts…….

First- Set a Budget!

No matter what you can or cannot spend, you won’t hit your mark without a plan.  SunTrust OnUp provides an easy to follow Budget Worksheet that will help you start your season off right! You can also plan out the entire season with their Holiday Guide to plan out a creative and meaningful holiday season- no matter what amount you’ve set in your budget.

You’ll want to take into account all the expenses you’ll encur-  from air travel, pet boarding, office parties, ugly sweater parties, new holiday decorations, charitable gifts, not just gifts.  Knowing all the small expenses that sneak up on you can help you better set a realistic amount for gifts, without getting stressed as the month rolls by.

Shop Amazon

If you aren’t shopping Amazon on a regular basis, you are missing out. Amazon carries everything, and by everything I mean EV-ERY-THING. Plus, their deals are amazing and are usually the best on the web. Not to mention, their Amazon Prime membership gives you free 2-day shipping, as well as a variety of other snazzy benefits. (Not a member? Get a free 30-day trial here.)

When looking for the best deal on Amazon for specific items on a loved one’s wishlist, I like to utilize CamelCamelCamel (or C³, as I prefer to call it). C³ allows you to create price alerts on Amazon items and will notify you when it reaches your preferred price. I can’t tell you how many great deals I’ve scored thanks to good ol’ C³!

Buy Pre-Owned

No one ever said your gifts have to be brand spankin’ new. The age old adage what they don’t know won’t kill them certainly applies here. So go out and rummage through thrift stores, garage sales, and antique shops! And feel ok buying off of eBay, Craigslist, or a Facebook swap and shop group. Seriously, y’all, they’ll never know! Plus, buying used is good for the environment, so consider it a nice gift for Mother Earth, too.

Make It!

Making your own gifts is a fantastic way to save money, and you really don’t need to be Martha Stewart to be successful. My biggest recommendation when going this route is to utilize your strengths. If you are a skilled photographer, frame a special print for them. If you are a killer cook, bake them some treats or give them a coupon for one homemade meal per month. A scrapbook is always super appreciated, as is a crocheted scarf or knitted hat. Or, offer to pet or baby sit for them. Of course, if you are still lacking inspiration, hop on over to Pinterest for about a million more ideas. Literally.

Keep it Simple with the Kids

Let’s be honest: Even the best kids go a little crazy at Christmas. Frugality and giving are both learned behaviors, so if you have kiddos, consider reigning in the “me me me’s!” by using the 5 Gift Christmas Challenge. Every year, your kiddos get one of the following:

Not only does this teach your kids about the more important things in life, but it can drastically cut down on your spending. This is especially true if you utilize some of the other tips I listed above.

Something to Read

In my opinion, “Something they Read” is the most important of the 5 types of gifts. We’ve put together a little list of books we think every child should have:

Using Money Wisely and Finance Kids Books

Social Justice & Empowering Kids Books:

Pick Names

If you have a large family or group of friends, picking names is always a thrifty way to handle gift-giving. In a nutshell, everyone puts their name in a hat and then each person picks a name. You are then in charge of getting a gift for that person and that person only.

If you decide to pick names, be sure that everyone agrees on a budget. Take it from me, it is a little embarrassing when one person spends $20 and the other $200. Sticking to a budget makes the experience special for everyone.

Well, my dears, I’m hopeful that these six tips on how to save money on holiday gifts helps relieve some of the anxiety you’re feeling. Remember, Christmas is really about love and friendship. Try to remember that if things start to feel overwhelming. It helps, I promise.

Helpful Links

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If you’re on a tight food budget, you’re probably scrambling on how to plan a frugal Thanksgiving meal without busting your budget.  While Thanksgiving has a reputation for causing our bellies to swell (pass the stretchy pants please!) it doesn’t have to swell your budget!

Here are some easy tips to help you stay frugal Thanksgiving:

Have Guests Chip In

I’m type A, and I love to do everything by myself- it is just easier that way, or is it?  If someone offers to bring something, LET THEM.  If they can help out with a bottle of wine, a casserole or some fresh baked bread, you never know what amazing yumminess they can quite literally, bring to the table.  If folks aren’t able to cook, let them bring the centerpieces or plan the dessert.

It can cost more to invite people to your party, but if done right, it can help.  Split the work and the cost.  If every person brings two items (whether a main dish plus cute paper napkins or a bottle of wine), it’s an easy way to curb costs.

Prep In Advance & DIY Decorations

There is something to say about pretty dishes that makes food look better and cheap wine taste better.   If you’re on a tight budget, you can make even a cheap meal look nicer by busting out the finery.  You may not have expensive wine, but it will look better (and taste better) aerating in a pitcher.  You can prep dessert in advance and re-plate it on your best dishes.

Name tags look fancy, but you can easily make them on the computer, or decorate for nearly free with some Thanksgiving printables put in a picture frame.  Napkins can be adorned with bakers twine or whatever ribbon you have on hand- it doesn’t cost much, but little touches just take some preparations.  You don’t have to hit up the expensive decorations at Target to make it special- you can find some easy inexpensive centerpiece ideas that will be sure to spice up your table for cheap.

Buy In Bulk & Double Batch

You’ll find some deals on seasonal items to create Thanksgiving day dishes- condensed milk, pie crusts, onion soup, canned vegetables.    Stock up for later, and while you’re busy cooking, why not do a double batch of green bean casserole and save some for later?  Cook more turkey than you need, and freeze the rest for soup later when your palate isn’t as tired of turkey early next year.

Additionally, you can buy in bulk for items that can contribute to your DIY Christmas gifts-  flour, chocolate chips, shortening and other baking items like canned fruits are excellent for making edible gifts, or also, a great deal for food drives.

Skip The Turkey

Blasphemy!  I know, I know. Honestly though, how many of us in our late 20’s really want to make a turkey if it’s just a few of us eating together or you have a tiny kitchen and an even smaller budget!  Turkey may not be that expensive for someone who is cooking for a dozen or more people or who snagged a good deal, but if you’re like me and you’re not cooking a giant meal, it’s much easier to have a frugal Thanksgiving meal by skipping the turkey entirely- it can be expensive and wasteful to get all the necessary supplies, a cooking pan and baster if you’re not sold on the idea of cooking a giant bird in a 1 bedroom apartment.

Why Not Go Cultural?

Casseroles are a great alternative to cooking a giant bird, but could you consider a Mexican themed frugal Thanksgiving day meal?  Dabble in turkey enchiladas or tamales, maybe even some tacos!  If there’s a cultural whose food you always wanted to learn how to make- maybe Pad Thai, why not use this day off to really delve into a cultural dish you’ve always enjoyed but not taken the time to learn to cook, it could be cheaper than the super-sized expectations of your traditional Thanksgiving day spread!

CrockPot It Baby….Then Cheers

Lord knows I love my Crockpot.  I frequently make chicken tortilla soup in it and there are tons of easy slowcooker recipes on Pinterest.  In the time you save making a slow cooker meal in your Crockpot, you can find the time to make some of the other components from scratch to save money- like an amazing pumpkin pie or a big batch of holiday carmel apple sangria or mulled wine (worried people will be judgey about your frugal wines? Making big batch cocktails means you don’t know how much the wine cost!)

Do Something New Entirely

What’s the best way to save on Thanksgiving?  Skip it entirely.  There is no better way to have a frugal Thanksgiving meal or day than to share it with others by doing it with others!  Volunteer instead at a local soup kitchen and bring any canned food you won’t be using up before the expiration date and any toiletries you saved from hotels.  The best way to give thanks is sometimes simply to share your time with people who are less fortunate.

If you find you’re getting stuck in the stress of the season, taking a step back means you can break bread with your fellow man (and wo-man) and simply be grateful for the blessings we do have.  Plus, usually, if you volunteer, that means that the bulk of the work is shared, and all the volunteers and patrons can dine together- making it a truly memorable way to dine this Thanksgiving.

P.S.  Don’t limit your volunteering to homeless shelters or food pantries- is your local animal rescue or hospital looking for holiday volunteers?  Is there an elderly care center that could use some visitors?  Maybe scoop kibble at a local kennel or bring cheer to a children’s hospital.  Check out VolunteerMatch.Org for listings on how you can help.

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Whether you and your significant other have chosen to move in together or you’ve decided to go all the way and get hitched, a conversation is in order if you have chosen to combine finances with your partner. Too many couples continue with the status quo by neglecting this important talk, causing issues later on. In fact, according to a new survey by Ramsey Solutions, money disagreements are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity.

Eliminate this chance of heartache and frustration by sitting down with your partner and coming to an agreement about all things finances. Not sure where to start? No worries! I teamed up with Allstate to put together the following points that are all important issues that I recommend you consider when combining finances with your partner.

Joint or Separate Accounts?

Joint or Separate Accounts?

A good place to start on how to best manage your finances as a couple is to decide how you will be handling your cash accounts. There are three main groups of thought here. Allstate has a very thorough article on just whether to combine or separate your accounts, which I highly recommend checking out, but here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Pool All of Your Resources: This is truly the what’s yours is mine and mine is yours option. All deposits will go into your joint account, with no keeping track of who contributed what. This also applies to debt, bills, and other withdrawals.
  2. Joint And Separate: The second option is where you would maintain both a joint account, as well as separate account for each partner. You and your significant other would decide on how much each person would contribute to the combined account. You would also need to come to an agreement on which bills are to come from the joint account and which ones, if any, would come from your individual accounts.
  3. Separate: The last option is where you keep completely separate accounts. You will need to decide who pays what and how individual and household debts are handled.
Come to an Agreement on Goals

You have obviously come to the decision to combine finances with your partner because you love them and want to spend your life together. So, you might find to your surprise that your financial goals don’t quite mesh up. Don’t worry, that’s not at all abnormal. But it makes it just that much more important that you come to an agreement on these goals.  The top three money questions you will want to discuss are:

  1. Major Financial Goals: These include real estate, dream vacations, children and any money you may want to stow away for them, and things like hobbies and vehicles.
  2. Debt: If you and/or your partner have student loans, car loans, credit card debt, judgments, or past due utility bills, you will want to come up with a concrete plan to deal with these.
  3. Retirement: Talk to your significant other about your 401ks, as well as any additional accounts you have set up for your retirement.
Insurance

As you can imagine, there are a lot of different insurance policies that may need to be combined.  If you’ve had auto, home owners or renter’s insurance separately- combining insurance when moving in together with your partner could be a logical next step. Since there are all types of insurance, there’s a ton to consider.

Home Policies

Whether you will be renting or owning your home, some sort of policy is in order. If you both were renters and combine households and continue to rent, you will want to drop one of your policies. The other person will automatically be covered by that policy.

Alternatively, if one of you owns a home and the other moves in, they’ll again be covered there. Whether you rent or own, you may want to consider upping your personal property coverage, since your significant other will likely be bringing additional valuables into the home.

If you just purchased a big ol’ engagement ring, it isn’t a bad idea to add an additional rider to your home policy to protect your investment.

Life Insurance

In my opinion, you don’t have to be in a relationship to buy life insurance, especially if it is offered through your place of employment. But if you are getting married, it is a necessity. Life is unpredictable and while we all would like to think that we will live to a ripe ol’ age, there is no guarantee. Giving your spouse the peace of mind that life insurance offers could truly end up being a life changer for them if something were to happen to you.

While many of us have the option to purchase policies through our work, it is a good idea to get a second policy through somewhere like Allstate. This protects you should you change jobs or decide to work for yourself.

Lastly, don’t forget to make sure that your partner/spouse is listed as the beneficiary under your policies!

Health Insurance

If you are getting married, you will have the option to carry your spouse under your work health insurance or vice versa. This is often a big money saver, or it can offer you or your partner insurance that you may not have had before getting married.

Marriage is one of the Qualifying Life Events that allows you to change your health insurance outside of the enrollment period. Others include birth/adoption, death, losing coverage through another policy, and more.

Just make sure it makes good financial sense. It would be a waste of money, for example, if you went from separate to joint policies if you already met your individual deductibles under those policies.

 

While there is a lot to consider when combining finances with your partner, having the conversation right away will lead to a happier, conflict life together.

This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.

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