Are You Itching for an Earlier-Than-Expected Retirement?

If you’re like many people, the pandemic has had a profound impact on your worldview. The tragedy and social isolation we’ve experienced have put into sharp focus what’s most important. It’s no surprise, then, that a survey conducted by Ameriprise Financial in January found that 70% of people said the pandemic has increased their desire to enjoy life.

And this desire to live life to the fullest is leading people to accelerate their retirement plans. In fact, nearly one in five (18%) of those surveyed who had a retirement date said they are speeding up their plans to exit the workforce. In most cases, it wasn’t because they were pushed out of jobs or couldn’t find work during the pandemic. In fact, 83% said the decision to retire earlier than anticipated was their choice.

If you’re fortunate to be in the position to accelerate your plans for retirement, you may be looking forward to an exciting new chapter in life when you have more time to do the things you enjoy most. After more than a year of social distancing, perhaps you’re looking forward to traveling and reuniting with friends and family. Unburdened by the demands of work, you may finally have time to tackle projects around the house or pursue your passion for activities like writing, volunteering and exercising.

Whatever your dream retirement looks like, it’s critical you have a plan to pay for it. Before you walk away from your career and the paychecks that come with it, be sure you’ve thought through these fundamental questions about your future spending needs and available sources of income.

Expenses

As a first step, try to estimate what your living costs will look like in retirement by considering the following:

What will your typical monthly expenses be?

Some people assume, often mistakenly, that living costs will be lower in retirement. They often overlook things, such as hobbies and experiences, that can bring fulfillment to your days as a retiree but also come with a price. To avoid this miscalculation, add up your current monthly expenses today (rent or mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, other necessities, taxes and discretionary spending, such as travel) and determine what those expenses will look like when retirement begins.

Some costs – like commuting – may go down, while others – like dining out – may increase.

What new expenses might be added when you have more free time?

You may be planning extensive travel or a major purchase (i.e., vacation home or recreational vehicle). These could add to your retirement expenses.

How will you pay for medical insurance?

If you are leaving an employer, your health care costs could become a bigger factor, particularly if you’re younger than 65 and aren’t yet eligible for Medicare. Longer term, you may need to budget for Medicare’s monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Sources of income

It’s no secret that you need enough money from various sources to meet expenses over the course of your retirement, especially one that could last decades, given today’s life expectancies. If you’re planning to start your retirement earlier than expected, it’s especially important to determine whether your funds will last.

The following questions can help you determine whether your nest egg can sufficiently cover your planned retirement:

Where are your retirement savings invested, what have you accumulated, and what is your withdrawal strategy?

Inventory all of your accounts, including any “orphaned” retirement plans that still reside with previous employers. IRAs and other accounts held at various asset management firms should also be documented and potentially consolidated to simplify the process of taking distributions. Be realistic about how much you can afford to withdraw and not run out of money (no more than 4% of your savings each year is a general rule of thumb to consider).

If you’re unsure of how much you will need, working with a financial adviser can help you to determine how much to withdraw, which accounts to take money from, and when and how to do so to potentially minimize taxes.

When will you begin collecting Social Security?

The earlier you begin, the lower your monthly benefit will be compared to its value if you wait until you reach your full retirement age, which depends on your date of birth. The benefit is reduced for each month before full retirement age. 

As an example, if someone turns 62 (the earliest age for qualification) this year and starts collecting Social Security, their benefit would be about 30% lower than it would be at their full retirement age, which in this case would be 66 years and 10 months.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you delay receiving Social Security benefits until after your full retirement age, your monthly benefit continues to increase until you reach 70. For instance, if the same person from the previous example turns 62 this year and holds off on collecting Social Security benefits until reaching age 70, their full retirement benefit would be a little over 25% larger than the amount they’d receive at their full retirement age. However, waiting may not be the right choice for everyone.

A financial adviser can help you determine an approach that reflects your options and your personal situation.

Decisions you make today have long-term consequences

Starting off on the right foot in retirement, no matter the timing, is critical to your long-term financial security and quality of life. Don’t be hasty in finalizing your decision to retire or choosing to tap retirement income sources like Social Security. Answering these fundamental questions can help you assess whether you have a plan that will support your retirement lifestyle — not just for the initial years of retirement, but also for the long run.

Ameriprise Financial Inc. does not offer tax or legal advice. Consult with a tax adviser or attorney. Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser. Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. Member FINRA and SIPC.

Senior Vice President, Financial Advice Strategy and Marketing, Ameriprise Financial

Marcy Keckler is the Senior Vice President, Financial Advice Strategy and Marketing at Ameriprise Financial. She also oversees the Confident Retirement program. Marcy has been with Ameriprise Financial (formerly American Express Financial Advisors) for 21 years in a variety of positions in financial planning, marketing and interactive development.

Source: kiplinger.com

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I’d Change)

Dave Ramsey has helped thousands of people around the world through the 7 Baby Steps for financial peace and freedom.

The process works.

His book titled the Total Money Makeover has had some impressive sales numbers. The book has sold over 5 million copies and has been on the Wall Street Journal Best-Selling list for over 500 weeks. (That data is from August 2017, over 4 years ago, so it’s sold more by now.)

So, we know that the 7 Baby Steps work. There’s a lot to love above the process, and we will address 4 of those attributes here. We will also cover 4 things that we think could be updated this year (as it has been almost 30 years since the Baby Steps were created).

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7 Baby Steps really do work. There are three great reasons why the plan actual works:

a. The Baby Steps Force You To Get Gazelle Intense When It Comes To Paying Off Debt

I’ll mention this later, but I really appreciate that Dave Ramsey keeps the emergency fund smaller to force you to be gazelle intense. Having such a small emergency fund of $1000 really does force you to get out of debt faster because having too much money in the bank can cause you to stagnate. 

b. Dave Strongly Encourages Your Behavior Modification

Too many financial gurus don’t give it to you straight. They may tell you that you need to invest in real estate or cryptocurrency.  It often feels like a lie that you can achieve financial freedom without putting in a lot of work.

Dave Ramsey comes off as blunt many times, but he forces people to confront that the debt is often our fault (with some exceptions). His bluntness, along with the Baby Steps, forces you to self-reflect.

c. The Plan Is Simple And Shows How You Need To Focus On One Step At A Time

I’ll mention this more below, but it’s evident that his focused intensity on the Baby Steps plan helps you stay focused on the task. You complete the first 3 steps consecutively and the following 4 steps concurrently in a prioritized order. 

You don’t have to multitask. Also, you don’t need to think about another step. You just need to focus on the step at hand.

2) Dave Ramsey Is Right That You Need A Plan

Dave Ramsey has many helpful quotes. One of my favorite of Dave Ramsey’s quotes is, “You must plan your work and then work your plan”. 

Too often we go through life without a plan, but we expect that everything is going to work out just fine. I remember the first time I budgeted.  I thought that I spent a certain amount of money on eating out each month, only to realize that number was much higher.

We need plans. It could be a debt payoff plan to stay on top of your debt. It could also be a budget to understand your income and expenses. Or it could be a plan to pay off your home early as per Baby Step 6.

Dave Ramsey understood that which is why the Baby Steps plan is so useful. You stick to the plan and you get out of debt. Voila.

3) The Baby Steps Get Progressively More Challenging

One thing I noticed early was that the Baby Steps seems to get progressively more challenging. This helps build momentum. It is much easier to save $1000 than to pay off your house early. By starting and taking baby steps, the baby steps themselves actually don’t feel very babyish. 

Paying off your home early per Baby Step 6 feels much more like a big kid step, but it’s still just a Baby Step like the others. It’s impressive how Dave structured these baby steps.

4) The Community Around Dave Ramsey Baby Steps Is Incredible

You don’t have to look far to realize that the community around Dave Ramsey is incredible. You can take a Financial Peace University class at your local church. These classes are excellent to encourage you and help keep you accountable while you eliminate debt. You’ll learn the baby steps inside and out with others in your community. 

You can also be a part of a vibrant Dave Ramsey Facebook Community. Personally, I am a part of many of these communities where I receive a ton of encouragement when sharing wins and losses in the process of debt elimination.

There’s a lot to love about the Dave Ramsey Baby Step method.

Now, let’s cover a few things that could use a refresh.

1) Can Creating A Budget Be Baby Step #1?

I am a budget fanatic. I would love to see a Baby Step dedicated to budgeting. Why? Because budgeting helps you understand where every dollar goes. I used “every dollar” like that on purpose because Dave Ramsey himself created a budget app called EveryDollar for that very purpose.

What better way to understand how much money you have to put towards your emergency fund than starting with a budget.

I am not sure why Dave doesn’t start with a budget, but I would be keen to start the Baby Steps with creating one.

2) Dave Ramsey’s Emergency Fund May Need A Refresh

Dave Ramsey’s emergency fund calls you to save $1,000 in Baby Step 1. Is $1,000 enough? It really depends. 

First, adjusted for inflation, $1,000 in 1990 is now worth $2,043.26 per the US Inflation Calculator.

Dave Ramsey's emergency fund needs to be larger due to inflation

There’s a plethora of questions you can ask yourself when considering whether the emergency fund is big enough, such as:

  1. How much debt do you have to pay off?
  2. Do you own a home?
  3. How old is your car?
  4. How many kids do you have?
  5. Do you have insurance?

Another question I like to ask is, “where do you live?”. Personally, my family and I live in the Bay Area, California where the cost of living tends to be quite high. $1,000 wouldn’t get us very far.

3) Is The Snowball Method The Best Way To Pay Off Debt?

As a refresh, the debt snowball method means that you line up your debts from smallest to largest and pay your monthly extra to your smallest debt first then snowball into higher debts. The debt avalanche method is where you line up your debts from the highest interest rate and use your monthly extra to pay off the highest interest first. The savvy debt method is where you pay off 1-2 of your smallest balances first via snowball before reverting to the avalanche method to save the most in interest.

Dave Ramsey loves the debt snowball method. It has worked for many people, so why wouldn’t he? He feels the opposite for the debt avalanche where he mentions that it doesn’t work.

The challenge is that you could lose thousands in interest if your smallest debts also have the smallest interest rates. This can be possible because higher debt amounts carry a higher risk to the lenders, meaning potentially higher interest rates.

You can see how much the snowball method loses in comparison through this debt payoff calculator which compares interest paid from snowball to savvy methods. For reference, we are comparing 4 debts: $23,000 at 22%, $18,000 at 19%, $12,000 at 9% and $8,000 at 7% interest rate. The monthly payment is $1,825.00

debt snowball versus other debt payoff methods

In this example, you would lose over $3,500 in interest by choosing the snowball method.

Does that mean that the snowball method is always worse? Absolutely not. The snowball method may provide the psychological benefit that you need to exterminate your debt.

You choose the debt payoff app and debt payoff method that is best for you.

4) Should You Follow Dave Ramsey’s Advice And Pay Off Your House Early Or Invest?

Dave Ramsey loves mutual funds and paying off your home early. My question is what if your mutual funds are making so much more in interest than paying off your home would save you?

Wouldn’t the prudent thing be to continue to pay off your home and then get the higher interest from investing in mutual funds?  It’s not a one size fits all solution, but it is something to consider.

There are also often benefits of not paying off your home early such as interest paid being tax-deductible. That said, you would really need to determine whether you would make more money from mutual funds than saving from interest payments to determine what’s best for you.

What Do You Think About The Baby Steps?

The Dave Ramsey Baby Steps have helped thousands around the globe. What do you like about the Baby Steps? Do you agree or disagree with what we would change in 2021?

4 things I love about Dave Ramsey's baby steps and 4 things I'd change

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I'd Change)

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

15 Ways to Save Money Landscaping Your Yard

If you have a yard, you’ve probably daydreamed about what you want it to look like someday. But landscaping costs keep many homeowners from breaking ground.

Whether you want to improve your curb appeal, make your yard more functional, or plant your own botanical oasis, landscaping doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity and forethought, you can have the outdoor space you’ve always wanted without emptying your wallet.

Landscaping Tips to Save Money on Outdoor Living

You don’t need to hire a professional landscaper to have a beautiful backyard. You just have to get your hands dirty. From planting perennials to making your own compost, homeowners have many options when it comes to saving on landscaping costs.

1. Choose a Purpose for Your Space

How you plan to use your outdoor space determines how you landscape it. Decide whether you want to tailor your landscape design to:

  • A play area for kids or pets
  • An outdoor dining and lounging area for yourself and guests
  • A productive herb or vegetable garden
  • A butterfly or bee garden

You can choose more than one, budget and space permitting.

But knowing how you plan to use your yard allows you to make a budget and avoid overspending on unnecessary purchases. It also helps you determine where you can cut costs and what your most significant expenses will be, such as putting in sod or building a ground-level deck.

2. Work With Your Yard

Work with the yard you have instead of trying to create something completely different. For example, if you have large, naturally occurring rocks and boulders in your yard, having them moved costs a lot of money. Rather than paying for removal, work around them by turning them into a rock garden or using flowers and mulch to create an attractive feature piece.

The more you need to change your yard, the more costly landscaping becomes. Uprooting trees, leveling terrain, and relocating rocks are all expensive endeavors. Instead of making your yard into something it isn’t, work with what you have.

3. Salvage Existing Wooden Fencing or Decking

Fences, decks, and patios are crucial components of many yards. And without proper maintenance, they can fall into a state of disrepair. But just because your outdoor wooden structures are looking a little worse for wear doesn’t mean you can’t salvage them for your new landscaping project.

Rather than spending a fortune on replacing an old fence or deck, fix it yourself by:

  • Repairing or replacing damaged and broken boards
  • Pressure-washing aged wood and chipping paint
  • Giving everything a good scrub
  • Applying paint or stain and waterproof sealant
  • Maintaining it each year

A quick trip to a home improvement store like Home Depot to rent a pressure-washer or buy some sealant is bound to cost a lot less than paying a contractor to rebuild your outdoor structure.

4. Choose Fence and Deck Materials Based on Climate and Need

Sometimes, salvaging your wooden fence or deck isn’t practical in the long run. If you need to replace or rebuild a fence, deck, or patio, save some money down the road by choosing materials suited to your climate.

For example, in areas where it’s either particularly hot or humid, wooden structures often need to be maintained and replaced more frequently since they’re constantly exposed to harsh elements like the sun or rain, which can damage and destroy them.

Instead, explore options with a longer lifespan, like brick, concrete, composite, vinyl, or metal. Do a cost-benefit analysis to determine how much you could save in the future for maintenance and replacement costs by choosing an alternative to wood.

5. Use Natural Elements

Found natural elements like rocks and stones are inexpensive alternatives to store-bought pavers and edging. You can also use tree stumps as stools or tables and natural mulch like grass clippings, shredded leaves, or pine needles in your flower beds.

These elements add a rustic and natural appeal to your yard and come at little to no cost. Pick up free rocks in new housing developments or by browsing online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Repurpose dead trees by turning them into furniture. And simply empty your lawn mower bag for free mulch.

6. Create a Lush Lawn

If you have sparse grass coverage or weeds have overtaken your yard, you need to put in some work to grow a healthy lawn. But you don’t need to hire an expensive landscaper to bring your grass back to life. You can take care of weeds by pulling them by hand or using a lawn-friendly weed killer.

For dead or thin grass, try reseeding your lawn to bring it back to life. You can also promote its growth using a high-quality fertilizer, which can also help kill weeds.

Just ensure it’s a match for your soil type and United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone, a measure of a region’s climatic conditions (such as heat and humidity) that helps gardeners determine the likelihood of a plant’s growth and survival.

Local home improvement stores and garden centers only carry plants and materials suited to your zone, so if you buy locally instead of online, you can find products suited to your zone without much effort. And you can always ask a store employee for assistance with choosing materials for your soil type.

If your lawn is too far gone, you may have to plant new grass, which takes a lot of time and effort. It involves stripping your old grass, laying down landscaping fabric and topsoil, and seeding or putting in squares or strips of pre-grown grass, which is called sod.

You can hire a landscaper to install it for you, but doing it yourself can potentially save a lot of money. According to Angi (formerly Angie’s List), it costs between $0.35 to $0.85 per square foot on average to buy sod, depending on what type of grass you get and prices in your area. You also may need to purchase fertilizer, landscaping fabric, and topsoil and rent equipment to grade the lawn.

Hiring a landscaper costs between $1 and $2 per square foot. So doing it yourself could potentially save you several hundred dollars. But it may not be worth it.

Angi also notes that it takes around 40 hours of work, though Home Depot says it only takes two to four hours. Either way, cutting corners could prevent your grass from taking root, costing you more money in the long run. So if you aren’t confident in your abilities, it may save you money to have a pro do it. Get some estimates from professionals and compare the costs of DIY.

Regardless of the state of your lawn, getting it back into tip-top shape is key to having a front yard with curb appeal or a backyard oasis.

But keep maintaining it after you complete your landscaping project. Just like most front yard and backyard landscaping, slacking on lawn care only costs more money in the long run. If you don’t stay on top of grass and weed issues each year, your lawn only gets worse with each season. Remember to weed, seed, fertilize, and water your grass to keep yourself from having to pay for extensive and expensive renovations in the future.

7. Landscape With Native Plants

Native plants are the plants that grow naturally in your hardiness zone. Native plants tend to thrive in your climate and soil, which means they’re low-maintenance and easy to grow, unlike potentially finicky nonnative plants.

Because native gardening often requires less maintenance, it helps save on costs for things like fertilizers, pesticides, and water while still growing healthy and strong. It’s particularly useful for novice gardeners since it can prevent you from wasting money on plants that aren’t suited to your soil or zone or take a lot of extra effort to grow.

As a bonus, they also attract birds, bees, butterflies, and wildlife since they provide familiar shelter and natural diets to various creatures in your region.

You can find native plants by perusing the Native Plant Database or talking to someone at your local plant nursery.

8. Plant Perennials

Unlike annuals, which only bloom for one season, perennial plants come up each year. For example, bulbs like crocuses, daffodils, and irises are typically perennials and sprout each spring. Perennials can also be herbs, ground cover plants, fruit bushes, and vegetables.

Because you only have to plant perennials once, you don’t have to purchase new flowers or plants each year. And they tend to multiply, so over time, you can separate the plants and bulbs and use them in other parts of your garden or trade them with others.

9. Plant From Seed

If you’re growing a garden or flowers, planting from seed rather than buying established plants and sprouts is a lot cheaper, although it requires more work on your part. For example, a packet of basil seeds typically costs between $1 and $3 compared to a single basil plant, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $15, depending on the variety. However, seeds can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to sprout.

You can either sow seeds directly into the ground or start them indoors based on their growing season and germination period.

If you choose to grow indoors, you must purchase some supplies upfront, like starter trays, a grow light, and a growing medium. But you can reuse many of these tools each year, saving you from buying it again each season.

If you plant them outdoors, you just need a garden bed or planter and some soil.

10. Build Your Own Garden Beds

Flower beds and veggie gardens are simple DIY landscaping projects. Putting in a new garden doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can use flower beds or planters around trees or features as natural edging or start a simple herb or vegetable bed in an unused corner of your yard. Some popular options include raised planting beds and container gardens.

Depending on lumber costs and whether you can make one from found wood or old containers you already own, DIY planting beds can be much more cost-effective than buying prefabricated beds. And they’re definitely cheaper than hiring someone to build them for you. That’s especially true if all you want is something simple to house your veggies or keep flowers from spreading.

For more information on using found containers or repurposed materials as plant beds, read our article on saving money on gardening.

11. Join (or Start) a Plant Swap

Plants are probably part of your landscaping plan, whether you’re planting ornamental grasses, succulents, flowers, herbs, or veggies. Unfortunately, plants come with price tags — unless you join or start a local plant swap or seed exchange.

In a plant swap, local gardeners and plant enthusiasts trade their extra seeds or propagated plants. They give you a chance to diversify your garden for free as long as you have sprouts, seeds, or established plants of your own to barter with. Seed exchanges are also sometimes offered as part of the non-book-related free services at public libraries.

You’ll also meet fellow green thumbs who can offer tips and landscaping ideas that may help you to save money and have a more successful garden.

12. Buy Trees Late in the Season

Depending on what type you want and how common they are in your area, trees can come with hefty price tags, especially during peak gardening and landscaping season.

But unlike many flowers, herbs, and vegetables, you don’t have to plant trees early in the growing season. And if you wait, you can save big.

Many garden centers and nurseries offer discounts as the season progresses, with the most significant being in the late summer and early fall. And as long as you get your tree in the ground with enough time to establish roots before winter, waiting a month or two to buy and plant it doesn’t do any harm.

13. Make Your Own Compost

Compost does wonders for your garden. It helps improve your soil structure and fertility and provides beneficial nutrients.

Instead of spending money buying compost to boost your garden beds’ productivity and health, save money, reduce your waste, and help the environment all at once by making your own in a compost heap in your yard or composting container by using discarded organics like kitchen waste and grass clippings.

14. Build a Fire Pit

Fire pits are a popular garden idea that adds to the atmosphere and usability of your yard. They’re perfect for enjoying cool summer evenings and roasting marshmallows. But when purchased from a retailer, they can cost a lot of money.

Instead of buying a fire pit, build your own using rocks, bricks, concrete, or metal. Depending on the materials you use and the size of your fire pit, it could cost you less than $100 to build.

Just ensure you’re legally allowed to have one and that it meets your city’s rules and regulations. For example, most fire pits have to be a certain distance from buildings and permanent structures like fences and sheds.

15. Buy in Bulk

One of the best landscaping tips is buying in bulk to reduce your costs for supplies like soil, mulch, sand, river stones, and crushed rock. If you’re planning a large-scale yard renovation or soil amendment, calculate how much material like soil, rock, and mulch you need and put in a large order instead of making multiple one-off trips to the garden center.

Save even more by asking your neighbors if they need anything and split delivery costs on the order.


Final Word

Landscaping your yard can improve your home’s outdoor living experience and motivate you to spend more time outside. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. You can have a beautiful and inviting yard while keeping costs low.

To keep enjoying your yard year after year, continue maintaining it regularly by seeding, fertilizing, and weeding the lawn; tending to plants and trees; and repairing and sealing fixtures like fences and decks. That will keep you from having to take out a personal loan just to cover landscaping costs in the future.

Source: moneycrashers.com

9 Tips for Working Two Jobs and Keeping Your Sanity

The number of Americans working two jobs — or more — is higher than it has ever been.

Recent data from the Census Bureau reveals that an estimated 7.8% of U.S. workers work more than one job, up from 6.8% in 1996.

The necessity of holding a full-time job plus one or two part-time jobs has become such a prominent part of our culture and economy, that several candidates in the most recent presidential election included it in their platform.

It continues to be a frequent talking point among economists and activists alike. Politics aside, public opinion and basic math prove that the more jobs you have, the more stress comes into your life. It is important (and very doable!) to practice self care to avoid burnout.

Tales from the Second Job Front

Zach Brandner, a recent college graduate in Washington, D.C., works in guest services at a museum during the day and his second job is as a server at a restaurant in the evenings.

“Of course in a dream world, I would be able to make ends meet with just one job,” he says. “But that’s not the case right now, so I’m just rolling with it.”

Brandner says he’s learned the hard way that juggling two jobs can’t push out self-care.

Statistically, women are more likely than men to work multiple part-time jobs. Summer Tuverson of Santa Monica, California, is in a similar situation as Brandner. She works at a doggie day care center and nannying.

“There are a decent amount of similarities between taking care of dogs and children,” she says.  “Especially the cleaning up poop part.”

9 Tips on Working Multiple Jobs

With the help of Zach, Summer, and some experts, here are nine tips for maintaining self-care while working more than a single job.

1. Make Friends at All Your Jobs

Avoid the temptation to punch in, do your job, punch out and repeat.

Brandner: “I was pretty surprised to learn that there are actually a few hidden perks to having more than one place of work. The major one is having more than one new circle of friends. Obviously you’re not going to be best friends with everyone, but making an effort to develop and maintain friendships is a good idea. If you feel you have a support system, or at least someone you can laugh with, your shifts seem shorter and more enjoyable.”

2. Location is Everything

When you look for a full-time job, one of the first things you keep in mind is proximity to your home. Of course, if you have a work from home job, you are always close to your work space.

Depending on your schedule and if you are working outside the home, your second job should  be physically near your first job. (Two work from home jobs? You’ve got this covered.)

If you bust your gas budget because you’re driving all around town, your second income becomes pointless. If you are in a city where you use public transit, make a point to check if the job you have in mind is on your same bus or train route.

3. Let Your Employers Know About One Another

Brandner: “When I first got my second job I felt awkward telling both my managers that I was also working somewhere else. I felt like they would feel like I wasn’t able to give them both 100%. For a while it almost felt like I was cheating on both of them. When I eventually did let them know, they both actually admired my hustle, and ended up being much more receptive and understanding when I had to make slight schedule changes.”

4. When You’re Sick, Do NOT Power Through It

While this tip applies to people with one job, it is especially important for people who deal with twice the same amount of interaction.

If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it is that we need to stay the hell away from other people when we are sick. In the long run, it will not be worth ignoring your symptoms in exchange for that day’s wages, when you are risking exacerbating your own health as well as others’.

If you are working two jobs, you are putting in twice the amount of energy, which will wear you down even more. Be honest with your employers, and they will probably be grateful. Remember, it is illegal for someone to fire you for calling in sick.

5. Normalize Power Napping

Tuverson: “I copied this from the kids I look after. If they get home from school at 1:15 and we need to leave the house for swim lessons at 2:10, it is crucial that they get some rest or lest they be grumpy and lethargic for their poor teacher.

“Sometimes I have similar amounts of time before I need to get going for my next job. I used to think that this only allowed me to scroll through my phone and watch half of a ‘Law and Order’ episode. When I still couldn’t stop yawning, I Googled some tips and started power napping between shifts. It’s been a game changer.”

Tuverson says the key is napping between 10 and 20 minutes. She swears by a little caffeine before the nap which will kick in after you wake up, providing you stick to the short nap.

6. Plan and Prep Your Meals

If you are in your car several times throughout the day, rushing to make it to your next job and then also rushing to finally get home, there is the inevitable temptation to pull over for fast food.

While this is okay once in a while, the initial comfort and convenience of not having to cook will soon backfire, making you (and your wallet) feel worse. Set aside time to prep and prepare meals (and snacks for those 15 minute breaks!) that are easy, cheap, and delicious.

Planning meals is crucial to staying healthy but this task is easily overlooked when you get busy. Learn how to start a meal plan and stick to it. 

7. Remember the Reason for Working a Second Job

Tuverson: “Even with two jobs, it’s not exactly like I’m living in the lap of luxury. But, I am now able to afford a mini-vacation that I would not have been able to otherwise. When I’m on the bus for the third time that day and I have spit up on my blouse (and I’ve forgotten if it’s from a human or animal), I open my wallet and see some pictures I’ve printed out of things I’ll experience on my trip.”

She says that her coworkers look at photos of apartments, cars, even engagement rings to keep their eyes on the prize. The aspirational photos are a good pick-me-up, she says, that reminds them why they are working a second job.

8. Commit to Something That Brings You Joy

Even when you have one job, it may seem like all you have the energy to do after work is eat and go to sleep. On a good day, you could summon the chutzpah to grab a drink or some dinner, but even this can seem like a stretch sometimes.

Still, it is important to have other consistent things in your schedule besides just working.

For example, you could join a book group dedicated to your favorite genre. Read on your lunch breaks and on your transit commute, then spend an hour a month chatting with new friends about your thoughts.

Not only does this increase your social circle and offer an escape, but it also exercises your brain. The Penny Hoarder actually has our own book club, and you can find dozens of others online or in person through your Meetup.com, Goodreads, or your local independent bookstores and libraries.

9. Don’t Get Discouraged

It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get in the groove of working two jobs with differing protocols, expectations and managerial styles.

Any half-decent supervisor will cut you some slack when you start. If you find that you are still having trouble adjusting to a new routine after a couple months or so, let Human Resources know and they can give you some more specific tips.

Olivia Smith is a writer based in Washington, D.C., who has experience in public and political advocacy work. She is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

10 Cheap School Lunch Ideas That Are Kid-Approved

Sandwiches are great… until they get soggy in a lunchbox, or worse — crushed by a piece of fruit or a book.

If you or your little ones are dreading the thought of heading back to class this fall with simple sandwiches, it’s time to free yourself from old lunch-making habits.

No, we’re not going to recommend buying lunch every day, unless your school has a tasty (and also inexpensive) lunch program. It’s possible to make a delicious, relatively nutritious lunch for just a few dollars a day.

Try these 10 cheap lunch recipes — they each come in at around $5 a serving, and they offer enough variety to satisfy even the picky eaters in your house.

10 Cheap School Lunch Ideas

Get ready: These lunch ideas are going to make you hungry.

ham and cheese skewers
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1. Lunchbox Kebabs

Christina Hitchcock’s lunchbox kebabs are the perfect alternative to tired sandwiches, and the recipe she shares on her blog It’s a Keeper is super simple.

Choose your tiny scholar’s favorite sandwich fixings, like meat, cheese and veggies, and stick ‘em on short skewers inside a plastic container. The components will stay fresh, and you can include a small container of a dip — mustard would be my choice — for mealtime.

What You Need

  • Black Forest Ham
  • Cheddar Cheese Slices
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Skewers
  • Yellow Mustard

2. Cool Apple Quesadillas

For the kid who can’t get enough cheese, but honestly needs a few more food groups in their day, these grilled-then-chilled quesadillas from Laura Fuentes of Momables are perfect.

They take a few minutes of prep, but they’re worth it. Although designed for a cold lunch, you do cook the quesadilla on the stove like you would at dinnertime. Gotta congeal that cheese.

Fuentes layers on thin-sliced apples and cheese slices, and grills them between eight-inch tortillas. There’s a ton of wiggle room here for ingredients — consider switching to a whole-wheat tortilla or switch up the cheese selection for a new flavor combo.

What You Need

  • Flour Tortillas
  • Cheese Slices
  • Granny Smith Apple

3. Polka-Dot Pizza Dippers

Your resident pizza fiend will ask for this easy, cheap lunch day after day. And that’s totally doable, because you can prep a whole batch in advance and freeze them until it’s time to pack a few pizza dippers.

Simply divide refrigerated biscuit dough as described in the recipe on Coupons.com’s The Good Stuff blog, and top with a dab of sauce and a slice of pepperoni. They bake up flaky, and you can season to taste.

What You Need

  • Refrigerated Biscuit Dough
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Pepperoni
banana and strawberry burritos
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4. No-Bake Banana Burritos

Here’s a wholesome lunch that requires zero cooking. Promise!

It’s a sweet twist on the typical PB&J: a PB&J banana burrito.

Smear peanut butter and jelly on a tortilla, roll up a (peeled, of course) banana in the center, and send it off to school. Banana burritos!

It’s easy to swap PB for another type of spread, like sunbutter, if your kids go to a peanut-free school.

Feeling pooped from a long day of parenting? Even smaller students can prepare this lunch on their own.

What You Need

  • Yellow Bananas
  • Peanut Butter
  • Strawberry Preserves
  • Flour Tortillas

5. The Ultimate Bento Box

If your kid is more of a grazer, stop worrying about packing a meal so much as packing a bunch of snacks they’ll be excited to eat at lunchtime. Choose a reusable container with sections to pack four to six different bite-size treats.

It’s also a great way to compromise with a kid who has a major sweet tooth but isn’t so much into vegetables: pack a sweet treat, sure, but surround it with enough healthier options that it’ll all even out.

What You Need

Nike, who runs the blog Choose to Thrive, likes to make her kids’ bento boxes look like Lunchables. But here’s what I’d put in my ideal box:

  • Cracker Rounds
  • Cheddar Cheese Slices
  • Green Pepper
  • Grape Tomatoes

The fresh ingredients for this box are more expensive, but remember this is one of the more customizable lunch options. You can substitute other components like a clementine, pretzel sticks, apple slices, a handful of almonds, a hard-boiled egg or even a few cookies.

It’s also easy to adjust portion sizes based on your student’s appetite.

6. Waffle Sandwiches

Land O Lakes offers this cool recipe that asks you to put sandwich components inside a waffle maker to griddle up some goodness. I say: Let’s not work that hard.

To make an easier version of a waffle sandwich, toast up a frozen waffle, cut it in half, and layer on ham and cheese. Then, either microwave these magical sandwich sticks or grill in a pan for a few minutes.

If you’re a nice parent, add a small cup of maple syrup for dipping. If you don’t care about your child’s happiness (and want to stay on the school custodial staff’s good side), skip it. The frozen waffles are sweet enough on their own.

You can make a batch of these and freeze them so they’ll defrost for junior by lunchtime.

What You Need

  • Frozen Waffles
  • Maple Syrup
  • Black Forest Ham
  • Cheddar Cheese Slices
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7. Yogurt Parfait

If a yogurt parfait seems like a treat best saved for a summer day, it’s time to rethink your school-lunch ways. You can whip together this nutritious combo of yogurt, fruit and granola in minutes, and you can prep a few at a time for several days worth of lunches.

What You Need

  • Vanilla Yogurt
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Almond Butter Granola 

8. Easy Mac and Cheese Bites

Kids love macaroni and cheese, but this hot dish doesn’t keep well in a lunch box. Instead, bake up some mac and cheese bites that you can store in the freezer for a grab-and-go solution.

Pinterest is filled to the brim with “homemade” mac and cheese recipes for these bites, but let’s get real. This isn’t Sunday dinner. This is a Monday morning when you are bleary-eyed and someone is screaming like a banshee because she can’t find her other shoe.

So here’s a super simple recipe to try:

To make these zesty bites, simply prepare your favorite boxed mac and cheese as instructed. When you’re done, add some extras of your choice to the pot: finely chopped broccoli or spinach sneaks into this lunch pretty easily.

Mix well, pour it all into a mini muffin tin (you may want to grease the pan first), top with parmesan cheese, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Adjust for your desired crispiness.

Freeze the batch and pull out a few at a time. Send a small container of ketchup to school for dipping.

This recipe makes about 12 in a mini-muffin pan — but you might have some left over for a snack!

What You Need

  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • 2% Milk
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Frozen Broccoli
  • Ketchup
ants on a log celery snack
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9. Ants on a Log

It’s time for some early-’90s nostalgia, because you probably forgot all about ants on a log, huh? It’s a severely underrated snack, but if you eat enough of them, it totally counts as lunch.

There are many variations on the traditional combo of celery, peanut butter and raisins, so use what your kids are most likely to chow down. Craisins! Cream Cheese! Go crazy.

What You Need

  • Celery
  • Peanut Butter
  • Raisins

10. Corn Dog Muffins

If you have a child who only ever wants to eat hot dogs, here’s a way to send them to school without lobbying the PTA to get a grill for the cafeteria.

Whip up some cornbread muffin mix, pour into that handy mini-muffin pan, plop a slice of hot dog into the center of each, and bake according to this simple recipe from One Sassy Momma. Freeze a zip bag of the fruits of your labor and grab a few for lunchbox duty.

If you’re feeling extra nice, include a small container of ketchup or mustard for dipping.

What You Need

  • Corn Muffin Mix
  • Hot Dogs
  • 2% Milk
  • Brown Eggs

Lisa Rowan is a former writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com