11 Ways to Avoid a Financial Midlife Crisis

Midlife crises are expensive.

From flashy cars to trendy clothes and accessories to artificially trying to look younger with Botox or surgeries, midlife crises cost you both money and stress.

It’s not easy parting with the vigor, fitness, and attractiveness of youth. Nor is it easy to accept our own mortality on a visceral rather than conceptual level. As you navigate the middle years of your adulthood, try the strategies below to stop the emotional and financial bleeding, and inject some fresh vitality into your life.

What Is a Midlife Crisis?

The idea of a “midlife crisis” was first popularized by Freudian psychologists like Carl Jung in the early and mid-20th century. Because there’s no official diagnosis or definition for a midlife crisis, and it expresses itself in many different ways, it’s difficult to study scientifically.

Consider two different models for midlife crises. In the classic model, it takes the form of an acute emotional crisis, often triggered by a single event during adulthood such as a death, divorce, or job loss.

The American Psychological Association explains that emotional crises are usually marked by a “clear and abrupt change in behavior” and can manifest through depression, trauma, eating disorders, alcohol or substance abuse, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. Sadly, the suicide rate among middle-aged adults is distinctly higher than other age groups, per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Middle-aged white men see particularly high suicide rates, with men nearly four times as likely to die by suicide than women.

The other model for midlife crises is more protracted, expressed as a period of lower happiness or slow-burning depression. Studies such as a 2020 paper by Dartmouth’s David G. Blanchflower demonstrate a “happiness U-curve” over the course of adulthood, with happiness declining through our young adult and early middle years before bottoming out in middle age. Happiness levels then start to rise again, with older adults reporting greater satisfaction and well-being.

During midlife crises, adults tend to contrast the goals and dreams of their youth against their current life — and find it wanting. That can lead to thoughts like “I’ve wasted my youth,” or “What have I done with my life?”

It’s hard to imagine a worse feeling.

Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis

In response to these feelings, adults often start flailing for a lifeline — anything to make them feel young, successful, attractive, energized, or in control of their lives and destinies again.

Although a midlife crisis feels immensely personal while you’re experiencing it, you’re not alone. Over one-quarter of adults admit to experiencing a midlife crisis, according to the Midlife in the United States studies. Just imagine how many more people experience one and don’t talk about it.

The common signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing a midlife crisis can take a variety of forms. Some are physiological and psychological, including depression, changes in sleep patterns, and an uptick in substance use. This can produce effects ranging from trouble getting out of bed in the morning to maddening insomnia to abusing drugs or alcohol. (If you notice any of these symptoms, consider seeking the counsel of a doctor or therapist.)

A midlife crisis can also lead to changes in one’s attitudes and behaviors, such as a sudden obsession with physical appearance, an increased interest in status symbols, or infidelity. It often accompanies feelings of resentment or blame that can wreak havoc on personal and professional relationships, and may be characterized by feeling restless, apathetic, or unfulfilled.


Financial Impact of a Midlife Crisis

Midlife crises can ruin you financially.

Before letting yourself drift into a midlife crisis, think twice about the destruction you could sow. You can literally lose everything you own and hold dear.

Therapists are cheap by comparison.

Risk of Divorce

Few events in life are as traumatic — or expensive — as divorce. The divorce process itself can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars between attorney fees, home sale costs, and other expenses from separating all your legal assets. Which says nothing of ongoing costs like alimony or child support.

Everything you own goes under the microscope to be parsed and parceled. Anyone who tells you they came out ahead in a divorce clearly didn’t fight fair, because divorces inherently drain assets rather than build them. Only lawyers get rich off divorces.

As painful as life may feel in a midlife crisis, it can get worse. And often, “worse” looks like divorce.

Risk of Job Loss and Career Derailment

Those feelings of apathy and restlessness could cost you your job in addition to your marriage.

It’s common sense: depressed people who feel unfulfilled by their job simply won’t produce quality work. That means they won’t earn promotions, won’t secure glowing references to help them get a new job, and won’t be first on any friends’ or colleagues’ list to recommend when new opportunities arise.

That’s assuming they don’t get fired, of course. Or worse, flamboyantly quit and “go out in a blaze of glory.”

All of these outcomes can make it extremely hard to find a new job, especially a better job.

The Direct Cost of Splurges

Even people who don’t lose their jobs or spouses can still end up blowing absurd amounts of money on midlife crisis splurges.

Take your pick: sports and luxury cars, boats and yachts, motorcycles, flashy and expensive hobbies, outrageous vacations, vacation homes, cosmetic surgeries, overpriced designer clothes and accessories. The staples of midlife crises cost money, and a lot of it.

That’s money you could put toward building real wealth, toward your long-term financial goals that you’ve actually thought through rationally with your partner or financial advisor. Goals like, say, saving a down payment for your dream home, saving for retirement, or helping your children with their college costs.


Strategies for Preventing or Escaping a Midlife Crisis

Yes, every midlife crisis looks different. One person might take up with their much-younger secretary, while another goes down the rabbit hole of serial cosmetic surgeries.

But they all cost you, and usually in more ways than one.

The following strategies can all help you retain (or regain) control over your life, your happiness, and your personal finances. You’re not alone, no matter how it feels in the moment. Bring your life back into alignment with intentionality, and a focus on improving your personal relationships and progress toward long-term goals.

1. Talk Through It With Loved Ones and Professionals

Your spouse, family, friends, and other loved ones don’t know what you’re going through if you don’t tell them. Even if they suspect you’re falling into a midlife crisis, they don’t understand your perspective without you explaining it.

Try them. Be patient with them, just as you want them to be patient with you. They probably won’t fully understand it the first time you broach the topic, but that doesn’t mean you should never discuss it with them.

To meaningfully change your life, you need to bring the people who share that life with you on board with any changes. But it also helps to simply unload, to unburden yourself to a disinterested third party.

Talk to a counselor or other professional, not for advice per se — although they may offer sound ideas — but simply to get your grief and anxiety off your chest and out into the open. Left swirling inside of you, these emotions can build up pressure until they burst.

2. Retake Control With Lifestyle Design

Far too many people drift with the tides of life, falling into their jobs, their relationships, even the city where they live. It’s no wonder so many wake up one day and realize they’re living a life they don’t actually like.

Sit down and write out a description of your ideal life, starting with where you live, the kind of work you do, your family life, your social life, your hobbies, and every other detail you can put to paper. No holds barred, nothing off-limits — simply outline your perfect life.

Once you’ve written out the what, you can then start brainstorming the how. The process is called lifestyle design. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by steadily working toward a life you actually want to live, you’ll find fresh meaning and purpose.

3. Reevaluate Your Long-Term Goals

Similarly, your life should align with your long-term goals. When they no longer align, you start drifting in a direction you don’t truly want to go.

For example, my top financial goal is to reach financial independence within the next few years by building enough passive income to cover my living expenses. At that point, working becomes optional. I pursue passive income by budgeting a high savings rate (more on that momentarily) and funneling as much money as possible into investments. And despite feeling the occasional midlife pang, I can still sleep each night knowing that I ended the day closer to my goal than when I woke up that morning.

Whether you aim to buy a new home, retire early, help your kids with college, take dream vacations, or maybe even buy that dream sports car, take a second look at your long-term goals — then form a financial plan to reach them faster. And if you need some expert advice, don’t be afraid to reach out to a financial advisor or other financial professional.

4. Increase Your Savings Rate

Money can’t solve every problem — but it can solve many. And even when it can’t solve a problem entirely, it can usually help. For example, anyone can get sick or injured, but the more money you have, the better your health insurance and medical outcomes tend to be.

To paraphrase author Robert Kiyosaki: I’ve been happy and rich, I’ve been happy and broke, I’ve been unhappy and rich, and I’ve been unhappy and broke; and I can assure you that being unhappy and rich is still a lot better than being unhappy and broke.

So how do you build wealth faster? By growing the gap between what you earn and what you spend: your savings rate.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know that more wealth will better prepare me and my family for it. And I can also tell you firsthand that when I feel those midlife pangs, such as thoughts like “My old college roommates earn more than I do,” I find some comfort in my frugal but high-savings lifestyle.

5. Become Debt-Free

While you don’t necessarily have to pay off your home loan or even your car loan in full, you should definitely not carry any unsecured debts by the time you reach middle age.

First and foremost, that includes paying off your credit cards in full every month. But beyond credit card debt, it also includes student loans, personal loans, and any other unsecured loans.

Stop paying high interest rates on consumer debt. It’s awfully hard to achieve financial stability and build an emergency fund — much less build retirement savings in your IRA or 401(k) — when you have high-interest debt repayments hanging around your neck each month.

When you become debt-free, you suddenly start thinking offensively instead of defensively. It frees you to focus on building wealth, passive income streams, and perhaps even replacing your full-time salary with investment income. You gain a welcome feeling of control over your finances and your future, which does wonders in fending off midlife crises.

6. Consider a Career Change (Carefully)

Quitting in a blaze of glory might look great in movies, but it won’t do your career any favors. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stay in that unfulfilling job either.

As part of your foray into lifestyle design, spend some time brainstorming careers that better fit your passions, strengths, and long-term goals. Bear in mind that the jobs you grow up hearing about — teacher, cop, accountant, and so forth — make up a minority of the actual jobs available today. Many of the jobs in today’s workforce didn’t exist five years ago, and you may never have heard of them.

Consider meeting with a career counselor to take a career aptitude test and discuss options. Although often not cheap, you walk out with a slew of ideas that had never previously occurred to you — ideas that could well fit you better than your current job.

And, of course, they might also offer a higher salary or better benefits.

In my post-college life, I’ve been a mortgage loan officer, a real estate investor, an Internet marketer, an e-commerce executive, a founder of an online startup, and a freelance writer. Twenty years ago, I would have raised an eyebrow if you’d told me I’d end up doing any one of those jobs.

For fun, explore alternatives like jobs that provide free housing and jobs that let you live anywhere. If you need a dash of adventure, becoming a digital nomad can certainly do the trick.

Just don’t lose your spouse in the process. Talk through major career or lifestyle changes with your partner before charging forward without their knowledge or support.

7. Consider a Side Hustle

Not everyone going through a midlife crisis is ready to change careers just yet. But they may still want something more from their working life, both financially and emotionally.

In that case, consider starting a side hustle while you figure out what you want to do with your career. You can turn a hobby of yours into a business and keep it fun if you like.

Starting a business doesn’t have to mean selling off all your assets and pouring it all into inventory and a commercial lease. To keep your startup costs low and build cash flow quickly, consider starting an online business.

All the while, you can keep working your day job while you decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.

8. Find a Mentor or Coach

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on your own. Ask for guidance from people who have done what you want to do, and who can show you all the shortcuts.

Beyond helping you skip costly mistakes and detours, mentors and coaches can also help you ask the right questions. They have the benefit of both experience and outside perspective, and can see angles that you can’t while in the thick of your day-to-day struggles. “I know you think you want X, but from what you’ve told me, it sounds like Y would actually be a better fit for you.”

Mentors and coaches also help you feel less alone. They can take you by the hand and guide you back to the path you actually want to walk through this life.

9. Embrace Adventure — Constructively

My wife and I may not earn enormous salaries like some of our friends do, but we lead a life of adventure, travel, and endless opportunities.

We spend 10 months per year overseas. It took some work to move abroad, between my wife finding a job as an international school counselor and me establishing income streams I can earn from anywhere. But we did it because we didn’t want to follow the same trajectory of white picket fences and overpriced mortgages that we saw our friends following.

It was one of the best decisions we ever made. We live in a country with a low cost of living, enjoy free housing and outstanding health care, and get to visit an average of 10 countries each year.

But we did it together, and we planned it carefully. We put in the work, rather than one of us just running off one day in the throes of a full-blown personal crisis.

You don’t need to go as far as moving abroad to inject some adventure into your life. Start smaller if you like, and if you’re worried about money, explore these ways to travel the world for free.

10. Take Care of Yourself Physically

Once when I was going through a depressive period, my father told me to do three things: get eight hours of sleep every night, eat healthier, and work out every day. “Go through the motions of being healthy, and one of these days you’ll wake up and realize you feel better both physically and emotionally.” As usual, he was right.

Your body and mind form a feedback loop. One of the easiest ways to jumpstart an emotionally healthier loop is to force yourself into a physically healthier routine.

It doesn’t have to cost you more money. You can eat healthy on a budget, and work out at home with no expensive equipment or gym memberships. Neither do you need expensive or habit-forming sleep aids, with all the natural sleep remedies available.

Finally, consider quitting drinking. Alcohol is expensive, both in terms of your wallet and your health. Worst of all, it correlates strongly with depression: everything in your life looks worse after you’ve been drinking.

As a byproduct of living healthier, you might just find you feel younger, too.

11. Volunteer More

How many hours do you volunteer each month?

Countless studies show that volunteering improves personal happiness levels, lowers rates of depression, and generally boosts our sense of well-being — see this study from BMC Public Health for an example.

That says nothing of all the unselfish reasons to volunteer like, say, giving back to the world.

There are plenty of ways to volunteer locally, but if you want to combine volunteering with travel, try out these ideas to volunteer abroad for free travel.


Final Word

Less than a year ago, I was clinking giant steins at Oktoberfest. Today I have a baby and have crossed into my 40s. I’ve spent more than a few nights wondering what happened to the excitement of my younger days.

Middle-aged adults can find comfort in research from the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition demonstrating a silver lining to midlife crises. Most people who experience them come out the other side with a greater sense of curiosity about the world around them — and where they fit into it. Armed with a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world, middle-aged adults emerge more thoughtful, worldly, and compassionate than their younger selves.

As fun as it is to be young and fit and glamorous, growing wiser and wealthier with age comes with its own rewards. If the price you pay for them is letting go of the trappings of youth, just remember you’re going to lose them regardless. You might as well relinquish them gracefully, and embrace the perks of more mature adulthood.

Source: moneycrashers.com

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

7 Tips for Retirement Saving After 40

That’s a lot of money, of course, but when it comes to retirement savings it might be less than it seems. With million, you’ll still have to live frugally in retirement. On the other hand, with a good chunk of capital like this, you’ll continue to see significant returns long into your retirement.
This is a particular problem for women, because according to the U.S. Department of Labor, women are likely to work part-time jobs that don’t offer a retirement plan of some kind. And even if they are working full time, women tend to invest more conservatively than men. And unlike men, they tend to have about twenty years of retirement.
By the time you turn 40, you are more than aware of the importance of saving for retirement.
In this guide, we’ll take you through a seven-point plan to start working toward a comfortable retirement, from setting your goals to structuring your accounts. This can lead to a vicious cycle, in which (slightly) older people feel guilty for not planning sooner for retirement, and end up ignoring the issue.

7-Point Plan for Over-40 Retirement Saving

Many people forget about insurance when they are planning for retirement, but this is a big mistake. Most bankruptcies are caused by unexpected accidents or illnesses, and a disaster of this type can wreck the most carefully planned retirement plans.

1. Don’t Lose Hope

Paying the maximum amount into a 401(k) might, of course, be easier said than done. Ultimately, your ability to save for retirement depends on the amount you can save each month during your working years. Increase this amount, even by a little a month, and you’ll see a big difference in your eventual retirement savings.
Today, there are plenty of online platforms that will allow you to explore freelance, remote work that can fit around your other commitments, and research shows that 75% of people working remotely make just as much money freelancing as they did when they were working full time. Taking on a second job, and pouring all of your earnings into a retirement fund, can be a neat and effective way of saving.
The truth, however, is that there are plenty of people who only start saving in their 40s, and go on to have a comfortable retirement. And, while you may have to make up for a little lost time by boosting your retirement savings, as long as you understand how to save for retirement it’s never too late to start planning for it.

2. Planning to Save

Assume that you are 40 years old, and have no savings. At this age, in 2021, you can save up to ,500 in a 401(k) plan, and this increases to ,000 once you turn 50. If you are able to invest the maximum in this account, and get a (more than reasonable) 7% rate of return, by the time you are 63 you will have million.
Roth IRAs are just one option at this point, though, and you should make sure you explore all the options available to you. You can use a retirement calculator to work out how much you will need in retirement, and how much you will need to save to realize this.
That’s not to say that you can’t get creative. Online trading can be relatively safe as long as you don’t put your entire retirement fund into high-risk stocks. An acceptable risk level when it comes to investing in stocks is to subtract your age from 120, with the resulting figure being the percentage of your portfolio that you invest into the stock market.

Looking for a second job to pad your retirement savings? Here is The Penny Hoarder list of the 25 best side hustles for 2021.

3. Open a Roth IRA

Don’t be tempted to take on extra risk because you feel that time is running out. Most retirement funds will pay about 7% in annual returns, and in your 40s this is an acceptable rate. Younger people can go for riskier options, because they have more time left in which to recover from the inevitable losses, but you really don’t want a stock crash just before your retirement date.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

4. Make Sure You’re Insured

Last but definitely not least, be honest about what your retirement savings are for. Don’t be tempted to use them to send your kids to college, for instance, because ultimately your kids have more opportunities, and more time to save for their own retirement, than you do. You should, in other words, be a little selfish. When you’ve worked hard for your retirement savings, you should be able to enjoy them.
Ready to stop worrying about money?

5. Plan Your Risk

First and foremost, let’s get one thing out of the way. At 40, or even at 50, it is not too late to start saving for retirement, no matter what some pension products will claim. To see why, it’s worth running the numbers.
New York contributor Kiara Taylor specializes in financial literacy and financial technology subjects. She is a corporate financial analyst who also leads a group affiliated with the University of Cincinnati that teaches financial literacy to Black students and helps them secure employment and internships.

6. Pay Down Debt

Increasing the amount you save can be done in several ways. It might be cutting out an expensive indulgence, shopping in a supermarket that offers better value, or even getting an additional job.
In your 50s, it might be too late for whole life insurance to make financial sense. However, you can still reduce your financial risk by making sure you have the best health and disability insurance you can afford. You can also look at term life insurance, which will provide for your dependents should the worse happen.

7. Set Your Priorities

If you are in a position where you can save more than the maximum allowed amount in your 401(k), the next logical step is to take out a Roth IRA. These funds allow you to put extra money toward your retirement each year, and come with significant tax breaks. In fact, your contributions to a Roth IRA will grow tax-free, and you can withdraw a certain amount each year tax-free as well.
In fact, it might seem like every magazine and personal finance website, and even chats with friends raise the issue. The problem is that some of the advice out there is less than helpful, and sometimes downright depressing, because it will tell you that you should have started saving in your 20s. <!–

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10 Ways to Save Money on School Uniforms for Kids

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 public schools required students to wear uniforms as of the 2017-18 school year. These can be anything from identical outfits marked with the school’s name or logo to a basic color scheme, such as plain white shirts and tan pants.

According to 2011 research from the University of Nevada, Reno College of Education, a school uniform policy can have many benefits for students. It can make it easier to get ready for school, boost self-esteem, reduce bullying, and improve classroom discipline. But it has one big downside for parents: the cost. According to CostHelper, a school wardrobe of four or five uniforms can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000.

One reason uniforms often cost more than regular clothes is that parents have less choice about where to buy them. If you can only get your kids’ school wardrobes from the official school store, you must pay whatever that store charges. However, you can get around this problem with the right shopping strategies. The first tip to try: shopping secondhand.

Ways to Save With Secondhand School Uniforms

Clothes are one thing it nearly always pays to buy secondhand if you can. With school uniforms, that’s doubly true.

Since young children grow so fast, their outgrown uniforms can still have lots of life left in them. Naturally, these previously worn uniforms don’t look brand-new, but neither do most school clothes after a few weeks of wear. Secondhand school uniforms cost much less than new ones, and in some cases, they’re free.

1. Try Uniform Swaps

If you have two children attending the same school, the younger kid can wear the older one’s hand-me-downs. But if you have only one child or your kids go to different schools, you can end up with clothes in good condition and no one to hand them down to.

A uniform swap is a way to expand your hand-me-down family. By pooling resources with other parents, you can pass on your child’s outgrown uniforms to younger students at your school and receive uniforms from older students in turn.

Some schools hold official uniform exchanges. For example, at St. Catharine School in Ohio, you can trade in gently used school uniforms for larger sizes or pick up other people’s trade-ins at significantly reduced prices. Other schools, like St. Stephen’s Academy in Oregon, give parents points for their trade-ins, which they can use for purchases or donate.

If your child’s school doesn’t have an official uniform exchange, hold a clothing swap party of your own. Invite other parents over, lay out all your outgrown uniform items, and see who can use them.

If you don’t have the space to meet and exchange clothes in person, start a social media group where parents can post photos and descriptions of their kids’ outgrown clothes. When you find someone who has the size your child needs or needs the size you have to give, you can contact each other to arrange a pickup.

2. Shop at Thrift Stores

If you live in or near a large city with a large student population, there’s a good chance you can find outgrown school uniforms at local thrift stores. Check the stores closest to your child’s school to maximize your chances of finding them.

Even in smaller cities and towns, thrift stores are an excellent place to look for basic pieces that are often part of a school uniform. Dress shirts, solid-color polo shirts, and chino pants are likely to show up on their racks. You can’t count on finding the pieces you need in your child’s size, but if you do, they’ll be significantly cheaper than new clothes.

To find thrift stores in your area, do an Internet search on “thrift stores” or “thrift shops” with your town’s name or zip code. Also, check the websites of the largest store chains — such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village — to find their nearest locations.

3. Find Sellers Online

If you can’t find suitable secondhand clothes for your child’s uniform at local stores, try looking online. Start consulting your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace groups in early July, and look for new listings every other day or so. That gives you roughly two months to find all the pieces you need to build a complete school wardrobe for your child. Just be sure to contact sellers quickly when you find something you need so someone doesn’t beat you to it.

Another reliable source for secondhand uniforms online is eBay. You can create saved searches for each specific garment your child needs, such as “navy shorts size 8,” and receive daily emails of all new listings for your saved search. You can pick up pieces one at a time or — if you’re lucky — find a lot of uniform clothing all in the same size.


Ways to Save on New School Uniforms

The biggest downside of secondhand shopping is that you can’t be sure of finding what you need. If the start of the school year is approaching and you still don’t have a complete school wardrobe for your child, don’t panic. There are ways to buy new uniform-appropriate clothes and still keep costs down.

4. Buy the Minimum

For starters, don’t buy more of any component than you really need. Your child may need a clean shirt for school every day, but kids can usually get away with wearing the same skirt, pants, or sweater several days in a row. Jackets and ties can go even longer between cleanings.

How many pieces your child needs depends on how often you intend to do laundry. Mothers discussing their kids’ school wardrobes on Mumsnet generally say they include:

  • Five to 10 shirts
  • Two to five sweaters
  • Two to five skirts or pairs of pants or shorts

On top of that, you can add one or two school blazers and one or two dresses or jumpers if your uniform includes these pieces. And your child also needs at least one pair of school shoes and enough socks and underwear to last the week.

If you shop smart, you can put together this minimalist kids’ wardrobe for less than the $240 average parents reported spending on back-to-school clothes in a 2019 National Retail Federation survey. CostHelper says it’s possible to find pants and skirts for as little as $5 each, tops for as little as $3, and shoes starting at $15. That’s less than $100 for the whole wardrobe.

5. Visit Cheaper Stores

If your school’s uniform consists of basics like solid-color tops and pants, there’s no need to buy them at the official school store. Many major retail chains sell uniform-appropriate clothes for kids at quite reasonable prices. In fact, several retailers offer lines of kids’ clothes designed explicitly for this purpose, such as:

6. Shop Online

If stores in your area don’t carry the school uniform pieces you need at prices you like, try shopping online. Some online retailers specialize in school uniforms, and others have sections devoted to them. Good places to shop online include:

  • Amazon. The e-tail giant has an entire section called The School Uniform Shop. It provides links to uniform-appropriate garments from many popular brands, including Nautica, Izod, and Dockers. Alternatively, you can search for “school uniforms” to find apparel for girls and boys. Check out these Amazon savings tips for more ways to save.
  • French Toast. Online retailer French Toast deals in school uniforms for all ages, which you can search by school or gender. The site also offers two- and three-packs of identical shirts or pants for a discounted price per piece.
  • Lands’ End. The school uniform shop at Lands’ End offers sturdy clothing in all sizes, from toddler to adult. Clothes are covered by the brand’s unconditional lifetime guarantee. There’s even a selection of adaptive garments for kids with disabilities. This apparel combines easy-to-use magnetic closures with decorative buttons for a uniform look.
  • Lee Uniforms. For teens and young adults, the Lee Uniforms store on Amazon offers school- and work-friendly pieces. The selection is limited, but the prices are excellent.
  • SchoolUniforms.com. As its name implies, SchoolUniforms.com specializes in uniform basics, from blazers to plaid pleated skirts. Garments come in a range of sizes to fit children ages 3 and up, including plus sizes.

When shopping for uniforms online, you can save still more by using a mobile coupon app like Rakuten or Ibotta. If you prefer to shop from a computer, install a money-saving browser extension like Capital One Shopping to help you find great prices and available coupon codes.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

7. Wait for Sales

If your school has an official uniform store, call that store and see when it plans to offer discounts or promotions. In many cases, uniforms go on sale in October, after most parents have already bought their kids’ clothes for the year. You can save money on school uniforms by buying just enough pieces to get through September and waiting until October to stock up.

If the school uniform is a generic outfit available from many stores, keep an eye out for sales at all the stores in your area. Consider signing up for emails from your favorite local stores to let you know when uniform clothing goes on sale. Sometimes, these emails also provide coupons, which can boost your savings still more.

Timing your purchases can help at department stores too. Clothes often go on sale at the end of the season — for example, summer clothes in September or winter coats in March. If you plan ahead, you can save by buying school uniforms for next year during these end-of-season sales.

If you’re unsure when and where school uniforms are most likely to go on sale in your area, create a Google Alert for the term “school uniform sale” with your location or zip code. Whenever a new sale pops up, you’ll receive an email about it. You can also use the term “school uniform clearance” to learn about end-of-season clearance sales.

8. Check Out Clearance

Even when a department store isn’t having a sale, there’s usually a clearance rack you can check for marked-down clothing. Since school uniforms tend to be plain clothes without a lot of eye appeal, there are often at least a few pieces that don’t sell and end up on the clearance rack.

For example, the frugal-living bloggers at Life Your Way and Joyfully Thriving both report finding uniform pieces for less than $5 on the clearance racks at stores like Gap and Macy’s.

9. Buy Bigger Sizes

If your child is still growing, there’s a good chance the uniforms you buy now won’t fit by the end of the year. However, you can make them last as long as possible by sizing up.

Choosing clothes with an extra inch to spare in the legs and sleeves gives your kid room to grow into them. Some uniform pants and skirts come with adjustable waistbands, so they’ll accommodate your child’s growth in width as well as height.

And if you find a great price on a particular piece your child needs, you can buy next year’s sizes now. Assuming they plan to attend the same school for the foreseeable future, you know they’ll need the same uniform next year, so buying multiple sizes at once lets you get them all at the best possible price.

10. Buy to Last

If your child has stopped growing but still has a few more years of school to go, you can save money by choosing quality clothing that will last. These well-made pieces may cost more upfront than cheaper brands, but they pay off in the long run. A $50 blazer that wears out after one year costs $50 per year, but a $100 blazer that lasts for four years costs only $25 per year.

For example, clothes from Lands’ End come with a lifetime guarantee. If they don’t last your child until graduation (or they outgrow them), you can return them for a full refund. Clothing from Dickies, available at Walmart, is also guaranteed for its “expected life,” though they don’t define the term. Clothes from Target’s Cat & Jack line come with a one-year guarantee.

Another way to make school uniforms last as long as possible is to choose the darkest colors allowed. On light-colored clothes, minor spots or stains show up more vividly, making them unfit for school wear. Darker-colored clothing, such as maroon, navy, or forest green, hides these minor flaws.


Final Word

Saving on school uniforms doesn’t end when you’ve made your purchases for the year. If your kid’s uniforms become unwearable due to rips, stains, or lost buttons, you’ll have to replace them in a hurry — possibly at full price. To avoid this problem, handle school uniforms with care to make them last as long as possible.

Always follow the washing instructions and line dry or dry flat when possible to avoid wear and tear from the dryer. Treat stains promptly, repair rips, and replace buttons.

If your sewing skills are up to it, you can even get another year or two of life out of garments by letting down the cuffs or adjusting the waistband to fit your child’s larger size. Following all these steps reduces waste, so you can also pat yourself on the back for being green.

One final tip: Label all your kids’ school clothing with their names. When all the students in a school wear the same outfit, it’s easy for them to grab someone else’s sweater or jacket by mistake. Sewing in a name tag or writing on the care tag with a permanent marker increases the chances misplaced clothes will find their way home again.

Source: moneycrashers.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

5 steps to take if you lose your wallet on the road – The Points Guy


What to do if you lose your wallet away from home — The Points Guy


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Source: thepointsguy.com

7 Social Security Spousal Benefit Rules Every Couple Should Know

There’s also an exception to the remarriage rule for surviving spouses: Widowed and ex-spouses who qualify for survivor benefits can remarry at 60 (or 50 if disabled) and continue to receive their late spouse’s benefits.
If you were married for at least 10 years and you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can claim your ex’s Social Security. The same spousal rules apply: Your maximum benefit will be 50% of their primary amount. You’ll receive a lower amount if you claim early, and you won’t earn delayed retirement credits for waiting past your full retirement age.

7 Social Security Rules Every Married Couple Should Know

You can only claim Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you’ve paid into Social Security yourself and have a qualifying medical condition. You can’t take disability on someone else’s record, including a spouse’s.
When you take Social Security on your own record, you’ll get the maximum benefit at age 70. That’s because for every year you delay Social Security, you boost your checks by 8% for life thanks to delayed retirement credits.

1. You can get up to 50% of your spouse’s full benefit.

But the rules for marriage and Social Security get complicated. Here are seven things married couples can’t afford not to know.

Once you remarry, you’re not allowed to claim your ex’s Social Security. But once you’ve been married a year, you can qualify for benefits on your current spouse’s record. If you’ve had more than one marriage that lasted 10 years or more and ended in divorce, Social Security will look at everyone’s record — yours and each ex-spouse’s — and give you the biggest benefit.

2. You don’t get to claim both benefits.

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If you take benefits before your own retirement age, you’ll get less than 50%. For example, if you start your benefits at 62 — the earliest age you can take Social Security — you’d receive just 32.5% of their primary amount.

3. There’s no extra credit for waiting past full retirement age for spouses.

But if you’re taking spousal benefits, you can’t earn delayed retirement benefits. Your benefits will max out once you reach full retirement age.
The maximum spousal benefit is 50% of your spouse’s primary insurance amount. That’s the benefit they’ll qualify for once they’re full retirement age, which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

4. You can’t claim a spouse’s Social Security disability.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

5. Divorcing? You may still be able to get their benefits.

If your spouse dies before you, you can qualify for up to 100% of their Social Security through survivor benefits if you wait until your full retirement age. You can start survivor benefits as early as 60 (or 50 if you’re disabled), but you’ll receive a reduced amount. These rules apply to ex-spouses as well, provided that the marriage lasted for 10 years. As with spousal benefits, you’ll get whichever is bigger: your own benefit or the survivor benefit, but not both.
Sorry, but the perks of marriage don’t include double-dipping. Social Security will give you whichever is higher: your own benefit or your spouse’s benefit, but not both.

6. If you’ve remarried, you can’t claim your ex’s benefits.

But if your work history is limited and you marry someone who earns significantly more money than you do, you may get more Social Security by claiming spousal benefits. Here’s how it works.

7. Survivor’s benefits are up to 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefit.

You don’t automatically get more Social Security benefits just because you’re married. Many, if not most, people will get the biggest benefit by claiming on their own record.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]
If you qualify for some benefits based on your earnings history, technically Social Security will use your own record first. Then they’ll use your spouse’s record to get you the maximum benefit. <!–

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Ready to stop worrying about money?

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