Frugal Find Friday: Digit (The New Way to Save)

Medium-term savings goals: frankly, these should be all the rage right now for millennials. We constantly hear reporters and financial gurus harping about retirement, emergency funds and paying down student loans. All valid topics to be harping on, but the intense focus on these are to the detriment of other life milestones: buying a home, paying for a wedding, having children, traveling.

Two of my favorite personal finance blogging ladies (Stefanie and Shannon) recently started the conversation about medium-term financial goals and it got me thinking about my own goals.

In order to reach my rather lofty goals (which I’ll share at a later date), I’ve been looking for every opportunity to save money. Well, let’s rephrase that. I’ve been looking for ways to increase how I save. I still indulge in travel (I’ve been to Texas, North Carolina, and upstate New York in February alone and heading to California and Hawaii in March). I’ve gone to the movies (and actually paid full price * gasp*). You know what, I’ll just confess it all: I’ve even bought my lunch instead of brown bagging, purchased a few lattes and gone out to dinner (more than once!).

The theatrics aside, I legitimately have been figuring out ways to trim the fat in my budget and put more money towards my medium-term goals.

The easiest way to scale back how much you spend is by simply reducing the amount of accessible money. The out of sight out of mind mentality is great when it comes to saving (as long as you do check ups on your investments). I put my money in savings or investments and then put a mental block on spending it. The only money I’m allowed to spend is the money in my checking account.

Courtesy of J. Money, I recently discovered a new way to put my money out of sight: Digit.

digit-logo-branded.f49fc955Digit is your free robotic financial advisor. You link Digit to your checking account, it analyzes your spending and then begins pulling out small amounts of money to put into savings. In my experience, Digit takes small sums of money out. It’s like having a budget leak that works for you instead of against you.

Digit functions as a savings account and holds your money until you request to have it transferred back into your bank (or credit union) account. In my opinion, Digit is really is more of a checking account because you don’t earn any interest on your funds and there are unlimited transfers – savings accounts are subjected to a maximum of six transfers a month. Regardless, it’s a great way for you to be saving without really noticing you’re saving.

IMG_1492COMMUNICATING WITH DIGIT

You can access your Digit account online, but I personally love how it communicates via texts. I receive a daily update with the amount in my checking account, which will mention if Digit saved any money that day and occasionally how much I have saved total. You can also cash out, pause transfers and ask about updates all via text message.

HOW MUCH DOES DIGIT TAKE?

My largest transfer was for $6.44. Of the eight transfers Digit has performed since I opened my account in late January, only three have been above a dollar. The average amount I’ve had transferred is $2.28.

I’ve had Digit for three weeks and it’s saved $18.25 for me. This doesn’t sound like much, but even just pulling $250 a year I likely wouldn’t have saved can fund a flight, help pay for the upkeep of this blog or get me closer to my medium-savings goals.

This will obviously vary between people. I don’t keep a bunch of money in checking, so Digit’s analysis of my income and how I spend isn’t totally accurate. Digit will have a better analysis if you tend to keep more in checking and make most of your transactions with a debit card linked to the account.

Note: Digit can link to over 2,500 banks and credit unions and it’s currently only US-based.

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HOW DO I KNOW IT’S SAFE?

Digit uses the same type of encrypted security measures your bank does. It also is FDIC insured up to $250,000.

I’m completely paranoid about giving anyone or anything access to my financial life – and I trust Digit.

HOW IS DIGIT POSSIBLY FREE?

Well, they don’t offer you any interest on your savings. Digit is pocketing the interest being earned on your money.

WAIT, THEY DON’T GIVE ME INTEREST?

If that makes you made – then don’t use it. But be realistic. If you’re using any of the big four banks (Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Citi) to hold your savings – you earn a whopping 0.01% interest rate on savings. That’s $1 for $10,000 in savings. I’m willing to bet Digit would save you more than that in a year.

WHAT IF I WANT MY MONEY BACK?

You can withdraw whenever you want, as frequently as you want. This does make it different than a standard savings account, which limits you to six transactions per month.

Just text ‘Withdraw’ to Digit and your money will be in your checking account the next business day.

DIGIT MADE ME GO OVERDRAFT!

NOOO! Overdraft is the worst, especially if you bank with one of the Big Four and you get charged over $30 or $12 for overdraft “protection.” But don’t worry Digit has a no overdraft policy. If you end up going overdraft due to a transaction Digit made, it’ll pay the overdraft fee.

I CAN’T AFFORD TO SAVE THIS MONTH

Some months are tighter than others. That’s okay. You don’t have to deactivate Digit just because every penny makes a difference in your budget. You can just text ‘Pause’ or go online and hit ‘Pause Saving’ on your dashboard. Digit won’t take out money until you activate it again.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

It takes about 4 minutes to set Digit up*. Try it for a month and see how much it saves you. Maybe it’ll help kick start a fund to take a trip or pull together money to make an extra debt repayment. I know the money Digit saves me is going into my “Wedding Fund.” No – not mine. I’m 25 and averaging 4 weddings a year. Those suckers are expensive to attend – not to mention be in!

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*Yes, if you click through my link to Digit, I’ll get a $5 referral fee. But then you can refer someone and make $5! We both win.

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: ,

Higher Schoolers Can Get Paid for Learning How to Budget

A PSA to All High School Teachers and Parents of High Schoolers Looking to Unearth Money for College

Despite the name of this site, I’ve never actually been “broke” a day in my life. A fortunate fact I can directly correlate to my parents taking the time to educate me about finances and teach me the almighty lesson of how to budget. They taught me by making me use my own money for purchases at a young age (we’re talking like 7 years old). Nothing makes you start to evaluate the ROI of a toy quite like your own money being on the line.

While I think most young men and women should learn how to budget with their own money, I do love the concept of the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Why? Because while high school students are playing with fictional money, real money is on the line.

HRB Budget Challenge Logo Horizontal w No Box

Simulating Grown-up Life with A Big Cash Out

The Budget Challenge is open to high school students and only teachers can register students to participate (helicopter parents everywhere are writhing in pain).

Teachers sign up their classes (sounds like a great built in lesson plan to me) and then each student is given a fictional job and salary and then set up accounts with the same vendors you would in real life – like cell phone companies, internet and cable providers. It’s sort of like when you had to carry around a flour baby to simulate being a parent a health class, except now students are handling monthly income, paying bills, and 401(k) contributions.

H&R Block scores students based on the amount in a student’s 401(k), the ability to pay bills on time and results on short finance quizzes sent out every few days. It almost sounds like a budget version of credit scoring.

Winner, Winner…Scholarship Money Instead of Chicken Dinner

The top 20 students in the simulation (across all schools) will receive $20,000 in scholarships for high education and the top five classrooms will win up to $5,000 in grants. Then one lucky girl or boy with the highest score will be deemed valedictorian of the entire budget challenge (which kicked off in October 2014) and receive $100,000 in scholarships for $120,000 total.

The simulation lasts approximately two months from February 13 – April 16, 2015

How Teachers Can Sign Up

Teachers have until February 6, 2015 (so Friday) to register their classes. It may not be part of the Common Core (even though I think it should be), but this lesson can pay off financially for both you and your students. Teachers can win up to $5,000 in grant money for their classroom. Plus, you’re provided with lesson plans, educational videos and additional resources you may need.

You can register by going to http://www.hrblockdollarsandsense.com/.

How Parents Can Encourage Teachers to Sign up

Parents can send emails, snail mail, tweets or Facebook message to their high schooler’s teacher to encourage him or her to sign the class up. Well, maybe just email would be the best approach. I’d just encourage you not to be too annoying about it. Teachers are really overworked and drastically underpaid. Play up that grant money!

 

 What are you waiting for? Go make it rain with you budgeting skills. 

Posted in Budgeting Tagged with: , ,

Is Overdraft Protection Real? A Look at the Big 4 Banks

IMG_3167Overdraft fees originated as a way for wealthy bank clients facing a liquidity problem to borrow money from the bank as a line of credit and pay it back with some interest. Today, overdraft fees often target those on the low end of the socioeconomic ladder, while wealthy bank clients can easily get overdraft fees waived or aren’t charged for overdraft protection. It’s easy for personal finance experts to flippantly say, “Don’t buy what you can’t afford.” But for those on the bottom of the totem pole, basic necessities need to be met, and sometimes that means overdrawing an account and in turn being hit with a fee from the bank.

What does overdraft mean?

Overdraft or non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees are charged when a customer overdraws on an account, causing it to become negative. Bank fees and thresholds for overdraft vary, but the Big 4 Banks – Bank of America, Citibank, Chase and Wells Fargo – all charge above $30. Bank of America and Chase also charge extended overdraft fees for customers who cannot get accounts out of the red within five consecutive business days. As a safeguard, each bank also offers overdraft protection.

Get a deep dive into the overdraft policies of the Big 4 Banks on US News & World Report.

Posted in US News' My Money Blog Tagged with: , ,

Broke Millennial Turns Two

10371386_10152602888021137_4816257953668449161_nOn Saturday, Broke Millennial turned two. While I still feel like a bit of a novice, blogging years are somewhat like dog years and making it to two is about the equivalent of a sweet 16. I spent my real-life sweet 16 going to prom, so this version is much cheaper.

I founded this blog to answer questions I heard my peers asking about money and to improve my own knowledge. About eight months into blogging I interviewed for a job with a public relations agency who works for Bank of America. During one of the seven interviews I went through, an interviewer asked me, “Why did you start writing your site? I find people often begin side projects when they’re feeling unfulfilled at work.”

Frankly, I’d never thought about a lack of creativity and enjoyment at my then-job to be an impetus for me starting this site. But it was. I missed writing (I studied journalism in college) and I felt I could be doing something productive with my downtime. I had never read another personal finance blog. I had never heard of the term “side hustle”. I never thought this could turn into a money maker or more importantly, completely change my career.

Luckily, I didn’t take the job staying in PR with Bank of America as a client. In fact, I turned it down because when they offered me the job, I was informed I’d have to deactivate Broke Millennial and cease all freelance writing.

Many readers have probably seen a drastic drop off of in posts in the last six months. In large part it’s because I’m more satisfied at work and do a lot of writing and editing during the day. However, in year three of Broke Millennial, I’d like to focus back on building this site and expanding my freelance work.

Now, let’s give me a moment to #humblebrag about some of my favorite moments from 2014.

Highlights from this year

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FinCon gals

  • Got nominated for and had a great time losing at the Plutus Awards

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Favorite Posts

Post I Was Embarrassed To Publish

Top Two Most-Viewed Posts

Most Importantly…

THANK YOU so much to you, you person reading this right now,  for reading/subscribing/following/commenting/emailing/making this site become a community and afford me a platform to discuss the importance of millennials understanding money. 

Posted in About Broke Millennial Tagged with: ,

A Credit Card Reward for the Environmentally Conscious

St. James ParkEnvironmentally conscious Americans routinely look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. They carry water bottles to avoid buying one-time plastic receptacles. Some bike or take public transit to reduce emissions from a car (or simply to save money). Others compost. And some make the more radical decision to protest fracking or drilling for oil.

Those who prefer a slightly more passive approach to being environmentally friendly now can reduce their carbon footprints with credit card rewards.

Rewarded with Carbon Offsets

Sustain:Green, the rewards program creator, launched a biodegradable MasterCard offering carbon reduction rewards; the credit card is issued by Missouri-based Commerce Bank.

Carbon offset programs allow environmentally conscious individuals to fund the planting of trees, building renewable energy alternatives or other sustainability projects. Carbon offsets through Sustain:Green will go towards Mata no Peito, an initiative to protect and replant forests in Brazil and combat deforestation, which accounts for 60 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Value of Carbon Offsets in Cash-Back Terms

Read on at DailyFinance to find out the value in cash-back terms and if it’s really a good deal.

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with: , ,

Practical Tips How I Save (and You Should Too)

This post is part of the TaxACT How I Save blog tour, which teaches you ways to keep more money in your pocket. Last year, TaxACT saved America over $240 million on tax preparation. How much can you save? To learn more about tips and strategies on saving, click here

Tin CanI grew up as a saver. I’m not sure if it’s coded in my DNA (my parents are both savers) – but from a young age I started hoarded money away in a candy tin hidden in the back of my closet. Later I upgraded to a checking account and way later a savings account.

My early years were spent earning money through odd jobs like building a pet-sitting empire and recording voices for video games in Japan. It wasn’t until I repatriated to the United States and went to college that I got something resembling a “real” job.

My Strange way of automating savings

In college I spent three years working as a resident assistant. Lots of residence life programs pay their employees in free room and board, but ours gave you the choice of applying income towards tuition or into your bank account. With my college degree already covered between scholarships and the generosity of my parents, I opted for the bank account.

The job paid in six $1,000 stipends over the school year, three per semester. By my sophomore year in college I knew I wanted to move to New York City after college and decided I need to have a sizable nest egg saved up by graduation. This goal motivated me to tuck away 50 percent of my paycheck each time I got paid.

My method, however, was a bit strange. I would actually have my Dad transfer $500 per paycheck into his bank account. We kept a running tally of how much he was holding for me, but this way I had a checks and balance in place. Before I could splurge, I needed to ask my Dad to transfer back some money. He never refused to send me my own money, but it did give me pause before I could make a rash decision.

Today, nearly four years out of college, I continue to automatically tuck away a portion of each paycheck (unfortunately I can’t afford 50 percent anymore). Except now it goes into my savings account and not to the Bank of Dad.

In order to stay within a budget and save money each month, I created a few routine habits.

Practical Ways I Pinch Pennies

Cooking in bulk

IMG_2889I don’t love cooking. If my wallet and waistline could afford for me to eat out at every meal I would. Unfortunately, neither of those things will accommodate my desire. Instead, I save time and money by cooking in bulk on the weekends. Sometimes it’s a crockpot meal, other times it’s a bit more time intensive, but most weekends I take a few hours to make two meals. I freeze some for future weeks and the rest are consumed as lunches and dinners during the week.

No, it doesn’t bug me to have a rather monotonous meal plan. I also do easy dishes like scrambled eggs loaded with veggies on nights I don’t feel like eating one of my bulk meals.

Avoiding the common New Yorker trap of only having restaurant menus in my kitchen saves me a couple hundred bucks a month.

Ebates, Mr. Rebates and RetailMeNot

My feelings towards shopping are about as warm and fuzzy as my feelings towards cooking. It’s something I have to do when an item of clothing or a pair of shoes wear out, or I need more bath products or when birthdays and Christmas rolls around.

On the occasions I do shop, I do two simple things.

  1. Check cash back portals like Ebates and Rebates* to see if I can get money back for a purchase I need to make.
  2. See if there are coupon codes or other discounts on sites like RetailMeNot.

The extra three minutes of time it takes to check out these sites can save (or earn) a couple of bucks or sometimes even closer to $10 or $15, especially if I can stack cash back.

Recently, I bought a pair of TOMS shoes online. They were already on sale and Ebates was offering 10% cash back plus free shipping by clicking through their portal. I got the shoes for $60, free shipping and earned $6 cash back (so I paid $54).

Now, here is where this can really save you money. When cash back portals pay out, put the money in savings! And if you save money from a RetailMeNot coupon, PUT THE MONEY IN SAVINGS! Otherwise, you’re not really saving it, are you?

Secondary income

Like most other bloggers, I do freelance writing on the side to earn extra income. Every penny I earn from freelancing goes directly into my savings account. Part of the reason is due to taxes. I don’t want to be caught with my pants around my ankles when Uncle Sam comes calling. The other reasons are because it pads my emergency fund and gives me extra money to invest.

Your Savings Doesn’t Exist

Ultimately, the best piece of advice I could share is to create a mentality that your savings isn’t there. I know sometimes Peach or my friends get annoyed when I say, “sorry, I don’t have enough money to do [insert activity] this week.” Yes, technically I do. I could pull money out of savings. But instead, I focus on what’s left in my budget/checking account. If an activity would overextend me I pretend my savings doesn’t exist. It’s there for emergencies. It’s there for buying a car. It’s there for a down payment on a house. It’s there for retirement. It’s not there because I want to see Cabaret this weekend and then go to Le Cirque.

Readers – Save some money and make your tax preparation this season easy by getting the software for free. TaxACT is giving away 10 copies of TaxACT Deluxe 2014. Sign up here:a Rafflecopter giveaway!

*Ebates and Mr. Rebates links are referral codes. If you sign up, I will receive a kick back (which I’ll of course save).

Posted in Saving money Tagged with: ,

ChexSystems: You May Not Know Them, But They Know You

Rejected - Ally Savings Large copyMany Americans possess an elementary understanding of both credit reports and credit scores and how each plays a significant role in a person’s financial life. A bad credit report can prevent you from getting a job. A low credit score can drastically increase how much you’ll pay for a loan or result in a rejection for a credit card. But fewer Americans understand the importance of another consumer reporting agency: ChexSystems.

ChexSystems operates as the credit bureau of the banking world. Your banking behavior is reported to the organization, which keeps a file on you and can send a report to a bank when you apply for an account.

So, if you left Bank A without repaying outstanding overdraft fees and attempted to open up an account with Bank B, the latter would see your negligence reflected on your ChexSystems report and likely reject you.

Some banks -– like Capital One –- are moving away from focusing on ChexSytems to determine whether or not to approve a new customer with a history of bounced checks or overdrafts. So one derogatory mark on a report may no longer prevent you from opening a new checking or savings account.

When Do You Get a ChexSystems Report?

Read the rest over on DailyFinance.

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with: ,

My Big Issue With The Teen Rumored to Have Made $72 Million in the Stock Market

IMG_2514Between when I penned this on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, the New York Observer already debunked Mohammed Islam’s fiction. However, the point of my post goes beyond my great skepticism of his initial claim, so I’ve decided to publish it as is.

Unless you’re one of those people who avoid the news – yeah, yeah it’s depressing – and swore off social media you’ve probably heard about Mohammed “Mo” Islam. The media is already going bonkers calling him everything from the investment wunderkind to Wolf of Wall St Jr. (not a moniker I’d want). In case you’re unfamiliar with Mo, he’s a 17-year-old student in New York City who is rumored to have made $72 million trading. Now, Mo has denied the $72 million figure, but confirmed his net worth is in the high eight figures*.

If Mo’s story is true – which I sincerely doubt – then he’ll be the greatest investor of all time. Yes, beating out the almighty Buffet.

The sensational story of Mo broke in New York Magazine earlier this week and spawned a ton of articles proving journalists were merely regurgitating tidbits from New York Mag instead of doing their due-diligence. Both Yahoo! Finance and Business Insider stepped up to be something of a voice of reason. Yahoo! Finance reporter Jeff Macke wrote, “What Islam is claiming lies somewhere along the lines of Charles Ponzi’s scheme and stories of Paul Bunyon forming Minnesota’s 10,000 Lakes with his massive footsteps.”

But the poor reporting and the ridiculous rumor aren’t what bother me. If Mo did indeed build even a million dollars playing the market all by himself at the age of 17, without seed money from his parents, then good for him.

No, what bothers me is that Mo is a boy.

Story, after story, after story of remarkable investors, entrepreneurs and financial wunderkinds focus on men. A fact I’ve already grown remarkably sensitive to as of late, was further reinforced when I started doing some digging on Mo.

This isn’t the first time Mo earned media attention. In November of 2013, Business Insider published The 20 Under 20: Meet The Teen Traders Trying to Take Over the Finance World. Mo made this list, along with 19 male peers. Not a single girl or young woman in 2013 counted as a teen trader to watch. Where are all the women in finance?

Take a poll of most articles in finance highlighting the movers and shakers. It’s rare to read about a woman and even when you do, it’s more rare to read about one with investing chops.

Now, there are notably successful women in business who’ve received a decent amount of press: Sophia Amoruso, Sara Blakely, and Sheryl Sandberg to name a few. But it irks me that the financial world – especially investing – remains largely a boys club. (Seriously, try Googling “best investors in the world” and see who pops up).

Even when you take a quick poll of personal finance blogs, women (myself included) tend to stick to more emotional, less hard-hitting subjects. Instead of dishing out investment advice, we write about how to budget for a family, or handle gift giving or pinchpennies to help pay down debt. (Yes, I’m painting with a broad brush for the sake of argument.)

Why is that?

Personally, I don’t feel qualified to give investment advice. I don’t have a degree in finance. I haven’t taken a Series 65 or Series 6 or Series 7 nor Series 63 exam. I’m neither a CFA nor a CFP. Simply put, all I know of investing is what I’ve read and done myself. I also prefer to keep my net worth and specific investment decisions off the worldwide web.

But perhaps this is where gender roles and stereotypes come into play.

I’ve noticed plenty of male bloggers who don’t have any qualifications other than investing their own money still write about how to invest. And lots of women bloggers who have experience in the field still relegated themselves to the “softer” subjects.

Is it that women don’t feel confident enough to give advice unless we’ve passed a series of tests and certifications while men don’t wrestle with such thoughts? Sexist as though that statement may be, I’m curious why those of us with a double-X chromosome seem less likely to really do a deep dive into a investing and why so few women seem keen on joining the ranks of stock brokers or hedge fund managers?

We push STEM fields now and promote toys, games, stories and educational courses to encourage girls and young women to enter male-dominated fields. Why aren’t we doing this with finance? Why not encourage young girls and women to play in the stock market, become stockbrokers, analysts, or overall mavens of industry?

So, I implore parents to encourage their daughters to consider finance and economics. I implore men to recognize their sexism and encourage women to join their ranks in investing. I request other women writing on financial issues to consider taking on heftier topics. And I hope journalists also start featuring women in articles other than those offering budget tips, or debt repayment strategies or how to afford vacation for a family of four.

And if anyone brings Janet Yellen into this as an argument, that’s the same as saying racism is over because Obama is the president.

*Then back tracked and came clean about earning $0.

Posted in Women in Finance Tagged with: ,

Buyer’s Guide: Your Store Strategy for Holiday Shopping

“Whether you’re battling the crowds on Black Friday or squeezing your shopping in a few days before the holidays, you have to get your mind, body and most importantly — wallet — ready for the challenge.”

I’m on video!

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[You try getting a good still of of yourself talking!]

Click over to DailyFinance to check out the video I filmed for AOL!

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with:

Are You Really Saving Your Money?

Tin CanOn Black Friday, I mentally high-fived myself when I used cash-back rewards money to buy several pieces of clothing I needed for my winter wardrobe. I thought to myself, “I just saved $100.” But really, I didn’t. While $100 didn’t leave my checking account, it didn’t go into my savings account, either.

We all routinely brag about a way we saved money. You’ll hear people wax poetic about cutting the cord and no longer paying for cable, or couponing to save a few bucks on groceries, or using credit card bonuses to pay for a vacation. But here’s the big question: are they really saving?

While we claim to be saving, is that extra $40 a month from cutting cable actually going into savings or just being reallocated to justify eating out or going to the movies?

A Penny Really Saved

Abigail Perry, founder of I Pick Up Pennies, realized her mistaken assumption about saving and decided to make a simple change.

Read the rest on DailyFinance.

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with:

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Broke Millennial

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

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