Tag: Fees

Save money (and stay connected) with the best budget smartphones

The post Save money (and stay connected) with the best budget smartphones appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

I remember my first cell phone. It was a Nokia 3360.

Back then, it was all the rage, and coming from battery-draining car phones, it was a step up.

A lot has changed since my indoctrination into the world of mobile devices. Cell phones are no longer just phones.

Today’s smartphones are handheld computers that can connect you to information and people around the world in mere seconds.

But, with the development of its supercomputer functionalities, mobile phones have also exponentially increased in price.

Though my Nokia 3360 now sells for a mere $25 on eBay and can probably be listed as a historical artifact, today’s most popular smartphones start in the hundreds of dollars.

In fact, you’ll find most prices quoted as a monthly payment so as not to deter consumers from the actual price tag that they’ll be financing.

Regardless, owning a smartphone doesn’t have to break the bank. There are budget options available that can save you money while still allowing you to stay connected.

It’s possible to buy a budget smartphone and save yourself some expense. Since most people finance their phone through their cell phone bill, buying a budget smartphone — like an iPhone SE or an older model like an iPhone 6s — can lower your monthly phone bill. It’s also possible to buy a budget phone — whether it be an Apple phone or an Android Phone — that still has advanced features like extended battery life and a fingerprint sensor.

Here are 3 budget smartphones that you can purchase to save money.

Motorola Moto e6

The Motorola phones rank high among tech reviews for economical smartphones. The Moto e6, in particular, is one of the brand’s most affordable phones.

Motorola describes it as having all of your standard smartphone features, but at an unbelievably low price.

This particular phone starts at only $99.

Nokia Android Phones

If you’re looking for a tried and true mobile phone brand, Nokia has definitely stood the test of time.

These Android phones have the same standard features and overall sleek look as their more costly counterparts.

Nokia offers its smartphones starting at just $50.

Samsung Galaxy A0

This popular Android makes the list of budget-friendly smartphones as well, starting at $99.

The Samsung Galaxy is one of the most popular Android phones — repeatedly making tech lists for best Android phones.

Though much cheaper than its most popular models, the A0 can be a great alternative.

If your budget is a bit higher than $100, then you may consider other options from these brands as well.

A higher, yet still reasonable budget can also afford you an older model iPhone. Walmart offers Apple’s popular iPhone 7 as a prepaid option for just $199.

What to consider when budgeting for a smartphone

The amount of money that you budget for your phone should be based on how you plan on using it.

What you use your cell phone for will determine which features you will need on your phone. And, as expected, the features will impact the overall cost.

For instance, if you want to use your phone solely for talking, then the camera capabilities won’t matter as much.

Similarly, if you’re purchasing a phone for a child who just wants to play games and use it for emergencies, then speed and storage space should be the factors that are important to you.

For a child, an old phone may work just fine. Kids don’t need to store a credit card on their phone or have face ID. You can avoid getting a flagship phone and do less damage to your checking account by buying budget Android phones. Set a financial goal and be willing to sacrifice features like a front camera or wireless charging in order to to get them.

A cheap Android device or older iPhone can still access mobile data, make calls, and send texts. You can keep your fixed expense low with a cheap phone. It may be short on internal storage, lack a fingerprint scanner, only have a rear camera, and still have a headphone jack (a positive that newer phones lack) but it should be able to do most, if not all, of the things you need it to do.

Where to find budget smartphones

You can always find budget-friendly smartphones online.

To ensure that you’re actually getting what you’re paying for, I suggest going directly to the manufacturer’s website and not a third-party site.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a better deal and the ability to negotiate with the seller, consider purchasing from sites like eBay.

Cell phone carriers like Verizon, T-mobile, and Sprint also carry less expensive smartphones within their stores. So, if you want to try one out before you purchase it, just visit a local store.

Weigh all of the costs when purchasing a smartphone

The cost of a smartphone doesn’t just stop with the purchase price.

There are other factors that will need to be taken into account when you’re trying to budget for a cell phone.

Here are some things to consider:

Service fees

Unless you plan to use a prepaid cell phone, you’ll need to plan for monthly service fees from a cell phone carrier.

This will include the cost of cellular data usages, activation fees, taxes, and more.

Accessories

Though smartphones come with the basic accessories to operate, like a charger, you’ll have to purchase other items separately.

Accessories such as a case, screen protector, earphones, and an additional charger are items that you’ll need to consider in your budget for your phone.

These items can be purchased from third parties to save on costs.

Repairs

I’ve dropped enough smartphones to know that damage is unavoidable. Even with the best protection, you may still need to repair your phone.

Mainstream phone carriers will offer insurance coverage options that can add to the overall cost of your phone. Although, in many cases, you will still have to pay for a portion of your repair costs even though you’re covered.

A cheaper alternative is cell phone repair shops or kiosks that can handle quick repairs, like a broken screen.

Tips for saving money on your smartphone

Still need some help with saving money on your phone? Here are my final tips.

Don’t purchase the latest model

If you’re trying to keep costs at a minimum, avoid purchasing the latest model of any smartphone.

Technology is ever-evolving and changing at a rapid pace. So even if you own the newest release, by the next day it’s already old technology.

This means that you might as well save your money and purchase a model that is a bit older.

As long as it functions and does what you need it to do, an older model will suffice.

Shop during the holidays

It’s no secret that the best deals happen during the holiday season.

If you’re in the market for purchasing a new phone, consider waiting until Black Friday or the day after Christmas to see some real discounts.

Also, consider shopping on sites like Woot to take advantage of flash sales and deep discounts on electronics.

Use wifi

This tip is one that will help you once you’ve purchased your smartphone.

To avoid unnecessary fees with your carries, be sure to leverage wifi as much as possible.

This means that instead of using your cellular data to search the internet or to use apps on your phone, you connect to wifi instead.

This is quite simple to do, as most public establishments have free wifi options for patrons. Use it to your advantage to save some extra money.

You can save money

Be smart about spending your money on smartphones. There are reliable, yet budget-friendly phones that can meet your needs.

Use these tips to find one that’s right for you!

–By Fo Alexander

 

The post Save money (and stay connected) with the best budget smartphones appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

What Is Budget Billing and Is It Right for You?

Your utility bills likely make up a significant part of your monthly budget, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them. But while your rent or mortgage stays the same month to month, your utilities don’t.

Sweltering summer days and icy winter nights can lead to budget-blowing spikes in your utility bills, and no matter how hard you try to budget and plan, you can’t predict the total each month. Or can you?

Budget billing may offer the consistency you crave. Here, personal finance experts describe how budget billing works and explain who may benefit from it, empowering you to answer this question for yourself: Does budget billing save money?

What is budget billing? It's a service that averages your monthly utility charges to determine a set amount to pay each month.

What is budget billing and how does it work?

As you consider this option, your first question might be: What is budget billing? Budget billing is a service offered by some utility companies that provides a set monthly bill for services like gas or electricity.

How does budget billing work? To calculate your monthly budget billing amount, a utility company will look at your past usage, typically over the last year, and average it to determine your monthly charge, says Sara Rathner, financial author and credit cards expert at NerdWallet. This will give you a predictable bill to pay each month, rather than one that fluctuates.

Keep in mind that if you recently moved into your home, the charges used to calculate your budget billing amount may be based on the previous owners’ or renters’ usage, says Rathner. Your actual usage may end up being more or less than theirs.

Another point to remember on how budget billing works: While budget billing gives you a steady amount to pay each month, this amount can, and likely will, change over time. Some providers update bill amounts quarterly, some annually. There’s no universal timeline for these updates, so be sure to ask your utility provider about its specific process, says Lance Cothern, CPA and founder of personal finance blog Money Manifesto.

How does budget billing work? Utility companies determine the monthly charge by averaging your usage over the past year.

These changes are made to capture your actual usage, whether that usage has decreased (a mild summer allowed you to keep the AC off more often) or increased (a brutally cold winter forced you to blast the heat). Typically, you will be notified in advance of the change.

Now that you know how budget billing works, you may be wondering: Could it save me cash?

Does budget billing save money?

Not exactly.

“Budget billing won’t save you money; it just evens your bill out over time,” Cothern says.

How does budget billing work if you end up using less energy and overpay? You may be reimbursed for the amount you paid above your actual energy usage, or the amount overpaid will be applied to next year.

.block-quote_20front { background-image: url(https://865cd2fc18498405a75a-f8cbe8cb758c89f0cd738fe08520ecb9.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/online-banking/banking-topics/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/20front-730×500.jpg); } @media (min-width: 730px) { .block-quote_20front { background-image: url(https://865cd2fc18498405a75a-f8cbe8cb758c89f0cd738fe08520ecb9.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/online-banking/banking-topics/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/20front-1600×600.jpg); } }

“Anyone who sticks to a strict, detailed monthly budget may prefer the predictability of budget billing.”

– Sara Rathner, credit cards expert at NerdWallet

How does budget billing work if you underpay? You’ll have to pay the extra amount to make up the difference. These payments or credits happen in addition to any adjustments your provider makes to your monthly bill if your usage changes over time, Cothern says.

What are the benefits of budget billing?

Overall, there’s a fairly straightforward answer to what budget billing is, and the benefits are clear, too. While it doesn’t save you money per se, it may allow you to more easily manage your monthly budget.

For example, if you know your monthly electricity bill will be $100, you can account for this expense in your budget and more precisely allocate funds into other expenses or savings.

“Anyone who sticks to a strict, detailed monthly budget may prefer the predictability of budget billing,” Rathner says. “You know exactly how much your utility bill will be each month and can plan your other spending around it.”

Combine budget billing with autopay and you can set and forget your utility bills, ensuring they’re paid on time and in full, making money management a lot simpler. This could also help you deal with financial stress.

.post__breaker–10505 { background-image: url(https://865cd2fc18498405a75a-f8cbe8cb758c89f0cd738fe08520ecb9.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/online-banking/banking-topics/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/What-Is-Budget-Billing-and-Is-it-Right-for-You-4-FULL-450×200.jpg);}@media (min-width: 450px) { .post__breaker–10505 { background-image: url(https://865cd2fc18498405a75a-f8cbe8cb758c89f0cd738fe08520ecb9.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/online-banking/banking-topics/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/What-Is-Budget-Billing-and-Is-it-Right-for-You-4-FULL-730×215.jpg);} }@media (min-width: 730px) { .post__breaker–10505 { background-image: url(https://865cd2fc18498405a75a-f8cbe8cb758c89f0cd738fe08520ecb9.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/online-banking/banking-topics/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/What-Is-Budget-Billing-and-Is-it-Right-for-You-4-FULL-992×400.jpg);} }@media (min-width: 992px) { .post__breaker–10505 { background-image: url(https://865cd2fc18498405a75a-f8cbe8cb758c89f0cd738fe08520ecb9.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/online-banking/banking-topics/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/What-Is-Budget-Billing-and-Is-it-Right-for-You-4-FULL-1200×400.jpg);} }@media (min-width: 1200px) { .post__breaker–10505 { background-image: url(https://865cd2fc18498405a75a-f8cbe8cb758c89f0cd738fe08520ecb9.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/online-banking/banking-topics/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/What-Is-Budget-Billing-and-Is-it-Right-for-You-4-FULL-1600×400.jpg);} }

What are the downsides of budget billing?

While budget billing has its pros, it also comes with cons. Does budget billing save you money? To help answer that question, consider the following:

  • You may face extra fees. Some utility companies charge a fee for budget billing. In Cothern’s view, this negates the benefit since there’s no reason to pay tacked-on fees for this service. It’s important to find out whether there are fees before signing up when you’re researching how budget billing works.
  • You may ignore your utility usage. Budget billing puts your monthly utility charges, as well as your actual usage, out of sight and out of mind. Without the threat of a higher bill or the reward of a lower one based on your energy habits, some people get complacent, Rathner says. They leave lights on or turn up the heat instead of grabbing a blanket. If this sounds like you, budget billing may actually cost you money in the long run.

“Always keep an eye on your monthly bill even though you pay a level amount for months at a time,” Cothern says. Most utility companies provide your usage information right on your bill.

If you're wondering "Does budget billing save money?" remember that you may be charged extra fees for the service.

If you can financially handle the seasonal swings of each bill, budget billing may not be much of a benefit for you, Cothern says. Paying the full amount also means you’re paying attention to the full amount, he says, which may motivate you to reduce your energy consumption. And that’s where the real opportunity to save money lies.

By considering potential fees and the impact on your energy usage, you’ll have a good sense of whether budget billing saves you money in the long run.

Make the most of how budget billing works with this hack

After scrutinizing how budget billing works, the potential downsides have led some financial pros, Cothern among them, to develop a new hack for paying utility bills.

You earned it.
Now earn more with it.

Online savings with no minimum balance.

Start Saving

Online
Savings

Discover Bank, Member FDIC

Instead of signing up for budget billing, open a savings account online specifically for utilities, Cothern suggests. You’ll also want to sign up for a rewards credit card, if you don’t have one already.

Next, grab your last 12 months of utility bills, total them up and divide by 12 to get your monthly average. You’ll then want to set up an automatic transfer of that amount from your checking account into the utility savings account each month.

When the utility bill comes, pay it with your rewards credit card and then pay that bill with the money in your savings. You reap the benefits of maintaining a consistent amount coming out of your budget, as well as credit card rewards and any interest earned on that money from your savings account.

Do your homework before signing up for budget billing

After weighing your options and considering your personal budgeting style, you may decide that budget billing is right for you.

Still asking, "How does budget billing work?" Read your utility company's program rules in detail to help answer any questions.

If that’s the case, it’s important to read your utility’s program rules in detail. Yes, that means digging into the fine print to understand how budget billing works at the specific company, Cothern says, because budget billing is a general term for a wide variety of utility company programs. Budget billing may be called something else, like flat billing or balanced billing, and it may carry different nuances and terms.

Before signing up for budget billing, Rathner suggests calling your provider and asking the following questions:

  • Are there startup or maintenance fees?
  • How is the monthly amount calculated? How often is it updated?
  • What happens if you overpay or underpay?
  • What happens when you move or end service?

With the answers to these questions, you’ll have a better idea of how budget billing works for your provider. Armed with that info, you can determine whether budget billing saves you money and make the call on whether enrolling is right for you.

Whether you opt for budget billing or not, small adjustments to your home can result in major savings on your energy bills. For starters, check out these four ways to save energy by going green.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post What Is Budget Billing and Is It Right for You? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

3 Reasons to Set Up a Donor-Advised Fund to Maximize Your Charitable Tax Deductions

Using donor-advised funds is a more advanced tax strategy that has gotten more popular recently with the introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in February 2020. The TCJA nearly doubled the amount of the standard deduction, which makes it less advantageous to itemize deductions such as charitable contributions. For people with a lot of charitable contributions, donor-advised funds are one option to still get a deduction for charitable contributions.

What is a donor-advised fund?

A donor-advised fund (DAF) is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization that accepts contributions and generally funds other charitable organizations. While the concept of a donor-advised fund has been around for nearly 100 years, they were typically only used by the ultra-wealthy. And while it is true that donor-advised funds are still not going to be useful for the vast majority of people, recent tax law changes have made their use more prevalent.

You can set up a donor-advised fund with most brokerages, including Fidelity, Vanguard, and Bank of America. You can donate cash, securities, or other types of assets to the DAF. The exact list of assets eligible for donation depends on the brokerage. After you have contributed, you can then make charitable contributions from the balance of your account.

You can maximize your charitable tax deductions in one year

One common reason that people set up donor-advised funds is to maximize their charitable tax deductions in a particular tax year. To show why this can be beneficial, I’ll use an example:

Our example family files their taxes married filing jointly and has regular charitable contributions of $20,000 per year. The standard deduction in 2020 for married filing jointly is $24,800. Because their amount of charitable deductions is less than the standard deduction, they may not see any tax benefit from their charitable contributions (depending on their amount of other itemized deductions). In 2021 they again plan to contribute $20,000 to charitable organizations and again are unlikely to see any tax benefit from doing so.

Now consider this same family now decides to set up a donor-advised fund in 2020. They have extra money sitting around in low-interest savings or checking account or in a taxable investment account. So they set up a donor-advised fund in 2020 and fund it with $40,000 in cash, stocks, or other assets. They are eligible to take the full $40,000 as an itemized deduction, even if they only use $20,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. Then in 2021, they can donate the remaining $20,000 to their preferred charity. They will not be able to deduct any charitable contributions in 2021 but can instead take the raised standard deduction amount.

You may be able to deduct the full value of stocks or other investments

Another reason you might want to set up a donor-advised fund is that you may be able to deduct the full value of stocks or other investments. Again, I’ll use an example to help illustrate the point.

Let’s say that you have shares that you purchased for $20,000 that are now worth $50,000. Many charities, especially smaller organizations, are not set up to accept donations of stocks or other investments. So if you want to donate that $50,000 to charity, you may have to liquidate your shares. This will mean that you will have to pay tax on the proceeds.

With a donor-advised fund, you can donate the shares to your fund and deduct the full fair market value of your shares. Then the fund can make the contribution to the charity of your choice.

Donate a wide range of assets

Another benefit to setting up a donor-advised fund is the ability to donate a wide range of different classes of assets. As we mentioned earlier, many charities are not set up in such a way to be able to accept non-cash donations. While the exact list of assets that a donor-advised fund can accept varies by the firm running the fund, it generally will include more types of assets than a typical charity.

Why you might not want to set up a donor-advised fund

While there are plenty of advantages to setting up a donor-advised fund, there are a few things that you might want to watch out for.

  • It’s definitely more complicated than just making charitable contributions on your own. You may find that the tax savings are not worth the extra hassle.
  • On top of the added layer of complexity, most firms with DAFs charge administrative fees that can cut into your rate of return.
  • You may be limited on the charities that you can donate to. Each donor-advised fund typically will have a list of eligible charities. So you may find that a charity that you want to donate to is not available.
  • You also lose control over the funds that you donate – the donation to the fund is irrevocable, meaning once you’ve donated to the fund you cannot get the donation back. While most advisors state that they will donate the money as you direct, they are not legally required to do so.
  • The money in a DAF is invested, so it may lose value. That means that the amount you were hoping to donate may be less than you were anticipating. You also typically have a limited range of investments available for your investment, and those funds also often come with fees.

It’s also important to keep in mind, the annual income tax deduction limits for gifts to donor-advised funds, are 60% of Adjusted Gross Income for contributions of cash, 30% of AGI for contributions of property that would qualify for capital gains tax treatment; 50% of AGI for blended contributions of cash and non-cash assets.

The post 3 Reasons to Set Up a Donor-Advised Fund to Maximize Your Charitable Tax Deductions appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com