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By Maggie Jenkins
Since I began working at Alliant in September, I’ve been stepping up my smart money game. I’ll let you in on my secret: I read this blog. Seriously.
Want to learn more about traveling on a budget? Fraud protection? Retirement options? It’s all here.
To help spread the wealth (pun totally intended), I’m highlighting eight of the best smart money tips I’ve picked up on The Money Mentor Blog in 2016.
1. Use your Roth IRA as an emergency fund.
Fun fact: All of the money you contribute to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn with no penalty, which makes a Roth IRA account a natural secondary emergency fund. Easy!
2. Skip the added rental car insurance.
I never think about rental car insurance until I’m physically at the counter and the agent is getting ready to hand me the keys. It turns out that in most cases, I don’t need to pay extra for collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage if I pay for the rental with my Alliant Visa credit card. Why? It’s already included.
3. All-inclusive vacation? Read the fine print.
Winter is coming, and an all-inclusive beach getaway sounds heavenly right about now. But, while many vacation packages are a great deal with luxurious experiences, “all-inclusive” doesn’t necessarily mean “everything is included.” You still might have to whip out your wallet for things like a la carte activities AKA “excursions,” beachfront rooms, premium alcohol, airport transfers, room service, Wi-Fi … the list goes on. So, after reading all that fine print, you might find that a DIY vacation actually is a better bet cost-wise.
4. Watch out for ATM skimming devices.
I’d heard of ATM skimming devices, but I didn’t know exactly how they worked or how to spot them. And with ATM skimming on the rise – FICO Card Alert Service reported an enormous jump in recent years – it’s even more important to be in the know. Alliant compiled resources that show the most common types of skimmers and what they do so it’ll be easier to recognize them.
5. Use technology in creative ways to save money.
Newish technology can help save time and effort – and also make it easier to achieve financial goals. Check out these creative ways to “automate your savings,” like using technology to help cut energy costs or avoid late fees.
6. Home improvement projects that pay off.
I’ve been in my place for three years, so I’m starting to get the itch to take on a home improvement project or two. But how do I choose between high-end, mid-range, or on-the-cheap remodels? This blog post is chock full of ideas and resources to help you (and me) make the right choice.
7. Make filing your taxes simpler.
It seems like every year, I forget what a pain filing taxes can be. Armed with this blog post’s handy checklist – with tips about things like new healthcare reporting requirements, HSA/IRA contributions, income and sales tax deductions – my 2016 tax filing should be a breeze.
8. "Think small” to achieve big financial goals.
It’s time to start thinking about my 2017 goals. Big financial goals can feel overwhelming, but I found a couple of smart money tips to help ease that anxiety. First, think in small dollar amounts. Rather than focusing on the end goal amount – say, contributing $15,000 to your 401(k) – break it into smaller amounts by month or week or even day. That’s much easier to digest. Second, don’t try to achieve all of your financial goals at once. Cross one off your list, celebrate, then go to the next one.
Maggie Jenkins is the PR and Social Media Specialist at Alliant. She began her career as a sports journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is a six-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.