Money Saving Tip: Microwavable Lunches

Work lunches are probably one of the biggest money suckers out there for professional millennials.  It’s definitely my biggest expense after major necessities (rent, gas, phone, etc.).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for spending money on delicious food and the occasional fine dining experience.  But work lunches aren’t something we really take the time to enjoy, especially if we’re just scarfing it down while multitasking at our desk.  We tend to grab something that’s quick and easy without giving it much thought.  But at $8-$12 a meal, before you know it, you’ve mindlessly spent $50+ a week just on work lunches!

I’ve tried to remedy this in the past by bringing lunch from home but I was never able to keep it up consistently.  I didn’t always have the time to cook the night before and bringing something simple (like a cold sandwich) wasn’t very appealing.  I realized that after a morning of work, I tend to crave something hot and hearty.

The best solution I’ve found so far is microwavable lunches.  In particular, Lean Cuisines.  They’re quick, easy AND affordable.  My local grocery store sells them for $2.50 on sale.  I don’t eat them every day.  But for those days I’m not craving anything in particular (which is most days), they’re perfect.  And since my work has a freezer, I always keep 2 or 3 of them in stock.

If you’ve been spending more than you’d like on work lunches, why not give this method a shot?  I’ve already convinced a few of my colleagues to follow suit ;).


“Cups”

My roommate recently got a promotion and a raise (congrats again, roomie!).  And over brunch this past weekend, she asked me for advice on what to do with her new monthly surplus.  The first thing I suggested was that she should put an X amount of dollars into her savings account every paycheck.  Saving money is always the easiest when you first get a raise or any type of windfall because you’re already used to living without that extra cash.

Our conversation eventually turned into talking about the three different “cups” we could put our money in.  I literally used 3 different cups on our table to explain.

The Savings Cup

The first cup is the savings cup, which is your savings account.  This is the first cup you should consider putting any extra money in because everyone needs an emergency fund.  Emergency funds should typically cover 3-6 months worth of expenses.

The Retirement Cup

The next cup is the retirement cup.  This is your 401ks and IRAs.  The reason why this cup is second most important is because of all the tax benefits it offers.  All the dividends you receive from your investments in these cups are going to be tax deferred (aka you don’t pay taxes until later when you take the money out during retirement).  And if you’re using a Roth 401k or Roth IRA, you have the added bonus of not having to pay any taxes when you withdrawal from the account.

The Investment Cup

The third and final cup is the investment cup, which is your personal investment account at Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, etc.  You often hear people say they put their “play money” in here.  It’s not because the “account” is inherently more risky (a common misconception).  It’s because people like to try their luck in finding the next “Apple stock” with this account.  But you could technically do the same thing in your 401k and IRA because they’re all just accounts; they hold your money and YOU decide what to invest in.  So why is this the 3rd cup if it’s almost like a retirement account?  It’s because it offers the least amount of tax benefits.  When your investments pay you dividends each year, you have to report it on your tax return, increasing the amount of taxes you’ll have to pay.


Good Personal Finance Reads

Stimulate the Economy Like a Minimalist (The Minimalists) – The Minimalists debunk a popular consumption (or lack thereof) myth.

7 Business Mistakes that Almost Sank Me (Wealth Pilgrim) – Good advice for anyone who is thinking about starting their own business.

Money Saving Tip: Ask Your Internet Provider for a Promotional Rate

Thanks to my roommate wanting to switch us over to a different internet provider (they were offering lower rates), I was prompted to give our current provider a call.  I wanted to see if they’d be willing to match their competitor’s rate since it’s a bit of a hassle to cancel your current service and set-up a new one.  Time off work and waiting around all morning/afternoon for a technician is usually involved.

The result?  Our current provider gave us a promotional rate they had going on, lowering our bill by over $30 a month!  That’s over $360 a year – $120 each of us could’ve saved each year these the last two years.  I wanted to kick myself for not making this call sooner.  Turns out, internet service providers always have a “promotion” going on, especially for new customers.  When my first promotional rate ended, it never occurred to me to ask them to give me another one, which probably what they were hoping for.  I specifically remember calling them when I saw the bill spike asking them why my bill was suddenly so much higher.  They casually said “your 1 year promotional rate is up so now you’re paying the regular rate.”  Of course they didn’t bother telling me that had other promotions I could use so I just quietly paid the increased amount like I thought I was supposed to.  But now I know better.  And I hope anyone reading this will learn from my naivety.

On the off chance that they don’t give you a promotional rate, the worst thing that could happen is that you do end up switching providers.

One final tip: do you research before you make the call.  Find out what rates their competitors are offering so they know you’re not bluffing!


Vesting Schedules (i.e. when do you get your 401k match?)

Most people know about the employer match for 401ks.  What most people don’t know is that you are not entitled to that money right away.  You have to work for a certain amount of time before you get to take your employer match with you when you leave.  So when you put money into your 401k and your employer gives you a match, imagine them being put into separate accounts.  (I say “imagine” because they’re not actually in separate accounts.  But imagining that they are makes the concept a little easier to digest.)  The account that has just your money in it is 100% yours to take with you anytime you leave.  The account that has just your employer’s money in it has what’s called a vesting schedule – a schedule that tells you when you are entitled to that money.  Your employer’s vesting schedule is most likely either 2-6 year graded or 3 year cliff.

If it’s 2-6 year graded…

After you work there for:

2 years, you get 20% of the money in your “employer’s account”

3 years, you get 40%

4 years, you get 60%

5 years, you get 80 %

6 years, you get 100%

If it’s 3 year cliff…

You don’t get any of your employer’s money until you’ve worked there for 3 years.  But once you hit the 3 year mark, you get 100%.

Where can you find your company’s vesting schedule, you ask?  In the Summary Plan Description provided by your HR department.  Knowing this information is important because lets say you were thinking about quitting your job after being there for 5 and a half years.  If your company has a 2-6 year vesting schedule, you can get 100% of your employer match just by waiting 6 more months before you quit.


Renter’s Insurance

I’ve never considered getting renter’s insurance until recently, when I had to find a new roommate for my apartment for the 4th time.  I’ve been living with roommates (most of them being total strangers) since my first year of college and it never dawned on me that I could have my stuff damaged or stolen until now; probably because of all the horror stories I heard in CFP classes.  Ignorance is definitely bliss!  Plus, now that I’ve been working full-time for several years, I actually own a few valuables worth stealing.  Not so much the case in undergrad.

After reading this article, I decided to shoot my insurance agent an email to get her thoughts on the matter.  Long story short, if my parent’s home is considered my “primary residence” I would be covered for damaged or stolen property up to a couple thousand dollars (after the deductible, of course).  A couple thousand dollars would certainly cover all my “valuables” in the apartment.  However (and this is a BIG however), I wouldn’t have any liability coverage.  No liability coverage is a huge problem because if someone got hurt in my apartment, my roommates and I could potentially get sued for an indefinite amount of money.

So then getting renter’s insurance for the liability coverage is a no-brainer, right?  Not necessarily.  If you want to be extra cautious and you don’t like being susceptible to any risk, then yes, renter’s insurance is a must.  But it’s still a trade-off.

Most of my friends don’t have renter’s insurance because it probably never crossed their minds.  But some people simply don’t need that coverage as badly as others.  For instance, if you live alone and hardly have guests over, you’re not really at risk for getting sued by an injured visitor.  So paying the insurance company an X amount of dollars every month for that protection may not seem worth it.  But if you or your roommates have people over all the time, especially people you don’t know very well or people who like to bring their young children, then you should definitely considering getting it.  Same thing if you have an aggressive dog that might attack a visitor or neighbor.

As for me, I think I’ll get a quote and see how my roommates feel.  If it’s inexpensive and they’re willing to split the cost with me, might as well.


Do Millennials Need Life Insurance?

As usual, it depends.

When you hear the word “insurance,” think protection.  You have auto and homeowners insurance to protect yourself from major damages to those assets.  You have liability insurance to protect yourself from getting sued.  So what is life insurance protecting you from?  Dying?  Of course not, since all of us will die eventually.

The purpose of life insurance is to protect your family from being financially burdened if you were to die all of a sudden.  Here are some examples of when you might need life insurance:

  • If you bought a house with someone and the mortgage payment is heavily dependent on BOTH your incomes.  If one of you were to die unexpectedly, the other person would most likely have to sell the house because they wouldn’t be able to make the payments on their own.
  • If you have dependents (young children, parents who you support financially, etc.).
  • If you have any debts you want to have paid off when you die so you don’t burden anyone else with it.

If you’re in one of the situations listed above and decide you need life insurance, there are several different types of life insurance policies you can buy ranging from Term Life (the cheapest) to Whole Life (the most expensive).  All of them have pros and cons so it’s important do your research and select the best policy for your specific situation{Beware!  Most life insurance agents will try to push Whole Life policies on you because they get the biggest commission from it!}


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