As a result of the economic difficulties during the COVID pandemic, many Americans received government stimulus checks. These payments were designed to minimize or avoid financial difficulties.
Recipients of the first two stimulus checks used the majority of funds for daily living expenses with food and utilities as the top items. Those who received the third check had some significant changes in their use of the money. An increased portion was used to pay off debt and for savings, including money set aside for an emergency fund. This trend indicated that many households experienced improved financial stability. However, among lower-income groups the third stimulus check was still needed for monthly bills and day-to-day essentials.
People continue to be in need of a cash cushion. Financial advisors recommend using money from stimulus checks or tax refunds to pay off high-interest debt and for an increased savings account. While many households have are better off than they’ve ever been and improving further, millions of others face ongoing financial hardship.
For additional information on stimulus check use, click here.
- Have students talk to those who received stimulus checks to obtain information how the money was used.
- Have students describe a research system that might be used to determine the spending, saving, investing, and credit use habits of various groups of consumers.
- What are reasons people are unable or unwilling to practice wise money management?
- Describe actions that might be taken to prepare for unexpected financial difficulties.
While keeping a close eye on spending is vital for financial security, few people enjoy doing so. Several creative approaches for effective budgeting and money management are available.
- The 70% Rule is percentage-based with 70 percent of income for necessary expenses. Followed by 20 percent going into savings by using automated direct deposit. The other 10 percent is for retirement and investing for future financial security. The 70% Rule is useful for those with saving as a priority, and want a simple budgeting method.
- The 50/30/20 Rule is a variation of the 70% Rule, with three categories. First, 50 percent of your income goes toward necessities. Then, 20 percent is for financial goals, such retirement or paying off debt. The remaining 30 percent can be spent as desired. This approach may not work for many people, but can be a good starting point for successful money management.
- Budget by Paycheck uses a calendar to track income and expenses. Color code your paycheck, expenses, and extra money to assign a bill payment to a paycheck on a calendar. Any “extra” money should be given a “job,” such as savings, debt repayment, or fun. This approach is useful if you desire structure and like having a visual tool.
- Envelope Budgeting is a traditional method with labeled envelopes to identify expense categories. Cash for the budgeted amount is put into each envelope. You only spend the amount in an envelope, which provides strong control of your spending. Instead of cash, you may use a card or envelope to record the amount spent for each category to stay within your limit. Several budgeting apps are also available with visual envelopes to monitor spending.
- Gift-card Budgeting manages your money by dividing your spending into categories and loading the amount onto a phone gift card. This system is similar to traditional envelope budgeting. Determine the amounts for various spending and saving categories. Then, buy gift cards for each category, such as a food store card for groceries, which will limit your spending for each budget item. With gift cards on your phone, you will always have them with you and will know the balances. Buying gift cards at moola.com can result in special deals and bonuses.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a software system and app featuring partner budgeting, goal tracking, personal support, and secure data. YNAB emphasizes these principles: every dollar is assigned a category; large expense items are broken into manageable amounts; budget flexibility when situations change; and planning for the future, without scrambling for today. The personalized support and online YNAB community discussions, included in the cost of the software, prepare you for successful budgeting on your own.
- Kakeibo, pronounced “kah-keh-boh” and translates as “household financial ledger,” is used in Japan to manage personal finances. This method emphasizes recording financial activities with physical writing (no apps or computer), and uses four categories: (1) needs, (2) wants, (3) culture, such as books and museum visits, and (4) unexpected, for medical expenses or car repairs. Then, you reflect on these questions: How much do I have available? How much would I like to save? How much am I spending? How can I improve? Kakeibo may not control your spending but it can make you more mindful of how you spend money.
- Zero-based Budgeting gives every dollar a specific task for spending, saving, or investing. This method encourages you to create a revised budget each month based on changes in income or expenses, which provides financial flexibility. This system may not be useful for people with irregular incomes.
- Value-based Budgeting involves allocating income based on importance (value) to you rather than budget categories. While some items need to be paid (housing, food), how much you spend on these items depends on how much you value them. If eating out is a priority, your food budget will be higher than for someone who eats mainly at home. This approach can help you stay within your budget since you created the spending plan based on personal preferences. Beware that saving for a goal might be a low priority but should probably receive stronger recognition.
- Pay Yourself First Budget is simple and emphasizes your financial future. Based on the amount earned, determine how much you want to save. The remaining amount is divided among necessary expenses and other spending. The process can be awkward when a conflict exists between income available and a desire to save a large amount. Many people combine this method with other budget systems to ensure coverage of needed living costs.
Other actions that can make budgeting fun include:
- Money Nicknames. By naming your bank accounts and budget categories with creative names can create a fun attitude and personalized connection for money management activities. Also, use a Sharpie to label your debit and credit cards with a name or a specific use, such as “Hey, bills only!” or “Treat yourself today.”
- Bae Day involves setting aside a specific time, usually on payday, to review your budget and plan your spending. Bae, which stands for “before anything else,” involves a self-appointment to take action before anything else happens to your money. You can make Bae Day fun by dressing up for this self-care occasion, going to a special location, or playing favorite music.
- Money Mate Date helps achieve accountability related to finances. Your Money Mate will keep you in line for financial activities. The relation can involve a quick call to make sure that monthly bills are paid, or an emergency text to avoid impulse buying.
- Arts and Crafts. Create, or locate online, a poster to visually view progress on savings or debt reduction. Color in the poster little by little as you save or pay down student loans. Also consider using photos to represent budget categories or financial goals for more motivating money management activities.
For additional information on creative budgeting ideas, here are some links to click on:
- Have students talk to others for information about budgeting actions that have been successful.
- Have students create a video, poster, or other visual with ideas for creative budgeting activities.
- What are reasons people are unable or unwilling to practice successful budgeting?
- Describe the actions a person might take for effective budgeting.
- Nearly half of U.S. adults have reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
- A new NFCC survey finds situations that immensely exacerbate financial worries include not having enough savings, losing a job and the inability to pay debts.
- Many large health insurance companies as well as Medicare have increased their capacity and coverage for telehealth visits with mental health providers.
Here are some tips from the mental health and financial experts on how best to cope with these common money stressors.
1. Not enough savings
If you find yourself struggling financially and have a limited emergency fund — or none at all — focus instead on what you can control. “First, carefully examine your expenses and reprioritize your spending. Cut out everything but the essentials , such as, mortgage or rent, food, utilities and insurance,” said author and certified financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, who is also president of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “If you’re unable to pay a bill, contact your creditors right away. They may be willing to negotiate a payment schedule or waive late fees.
2. Job loss
If you haven’t already, file for unemployment benefits immediately through your state’s program. There will likely be a lag time until you receive your first check.
- Make sure you still have health insurance. You could switch to COBRA to receive the same coverage you had under your employer for the next 18 months, but you have to pay for it yourself at a considerably higher cost than you were paying as an employee. “Do some comparison-shopping.”
- Consider other jobs that you may be able to pursue. Use your down time to learn a new skill or start that side-hustle. Education, health care, and technology companies are among some of the industries hiring remote workers right now.
3. Inability to pay your debts
Nearly half of U.S. adults currently have credit card debt and 13% of them are not paying anything at all or don’t have a plan on how to pay, according to a report by CreditCards.com.
Consider temporarily paying only the minimum on mortgage/rent, car loans and student loans as well, said Schwab-Pomerantz, whose Schwab MoneyWise website has a list of resources to help during the Covid-19 crisis. More help could be available. You may be able to lower or suspend your mortgage payments for up to one year in some cases. Contact your lender. If you’re having trouble paying your rent, talk to your landlord about your situation and your options. Some states and municipalities are providing eviction restrictions for impacted individuals. Many utilities and phone companies have stopped cutting off services for nonpayment. Call them.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students how the corona virus has affected them, their relatives, or friends. What steps have they taken to minimize the effects of the corona virus?
- List the steps to take if you don’t have enough emergency funds to get through this financial difficult period.
- How are millions of Americans coping with stress and anxiety as they deal with the fear and reality of death and disease due to the corona virus pandemic?
- Discuss the economic and emotional worries that are keeping American awake at night.
Kids are no longer using a piggy bank to obtain financial responsibility. Instead, digital tools, such as debit cards and apps, are the basis for learning smart spending and wise money management. Many of these products are prepaid cards that help kids track their spending, and also include customizable oversight features for parents. Some available products include:
- FamZoo (famzoo.com) makes use of parent-paid interest to encourage saving. Common users of the app are preteen and young teenagers, but may also be used for kids from preschool to college.
- Greenlight (greenlightcard.com) allows parents to control the stores at which the debit card can be used. Greenlight plans to introduce an investing feature to move users to a higher level of financial literacy.
- gohenry (gohenry.com) is an app for kids (ages 8 to 18), but may be used by younger children. The emphasis is on building money management confidence in a safe setting while learning to spend and save.
- Current (current.com) is a custodial bank account aimed at teenagers. Parents may also open accounts for younger children.
These products allow parents to channel digital funds to their children to pay weekly allowances. Also, kids may divide their money into accounts for saving, spending, and donating to charity. Most apps have a monthly fee, ranging from $3 to $5.
When using prepaid debit cards with children, consider the following:
- Spend time talking about why the kids want to buy various items, and why certain household tasks earn money and others do not. Expand the Connect the discussion to talk about total family finances as well as money attitudes and values.
- Allow freedom to make spending decisions to give kids experience at managing money, and to make mistakes from which they will learn.
- Ask older kids to buy household items, even though they might be reimbursed. Buying shampoo, toothpaste, and snacks will prepare them for when they are on their own. Also consider billing them for monthly expenses, such as the cost of their cell phone.
For additional information on prepaid debit cards for kids, click here.
- Have students conduct online research to evaluate apps that might be used by parents to teach their children smart spending and wise money management.
- Have students talk to parents to obtain suggestions that might be used to teach wise money management to children.
- What are the financial, social, and relational benefits of children learning smart spending and wise money management early in life?
- Describe some possible money management learning activities for children that do not involve the use of technology.
With growing numbers of video streaming services and product box programs, these subscriptions are becoming the newest budget buster. These seemingly small monthly charges add up, lowering a person’s ability to save along with a potential for increased debt. These ongoing financial commitments leave people with a lower percentage of free cash flow, or unencumbered income.
Subscription service spending is often overlooked especially when the payments are on auto pilot. A $4 or $8 monthly fee may not seem like much. However, research indicates that subscription services are an increasing financial burden as most people underestimate the amount. In one study, 84 percent of respondents estimated monthly spending on these services at about $80; the actual amount was over $110. In addition to video steaming services, people sign up for automatic monthly shipments of beer, wine, contact lenses, cosmetics, meal kits, pet food, razors, vitamins, and other products.
For additional information on subscription services, click here.
- Have students survey several people to determine the types and amounts of subscription services being used.
- Have students create a financial analysis for amounts saved over several years by reducing or eliminating subscription services.
- What factors influence a person’s decision to use a subscription service?
- Describe suggested actions that a person might take to reduce or eliminate subscription services.
Did you know that in 2018:
- 19% of households spent more than their income?
- 46% of individuals lacked an emergency fund?
- 35% of credit card holders paid only the minimum on their credit cards?
In September 2019, the FINRA Foundation released data from its latest Financial Capability Study—one of the largest and most comprehensive financial capability studies in the United States. Among the findings, younger Americans, those with lower incomes, African-Americans and those without a college degree face the toughest financial struggles. More than 27,000 respondents participated in the nationwide study. Conducted every three years beginning in 2009, it measures key indicators of financial capability and evaluates how these indicators vary with underlying demographic, behavioral, attitudinal and financial literacy characteristics—both nationwide and state-by-state.
For more information, click here
- Ask students if they spend more than their income in a given year.
- Ask students if they have a rainy day fund. If not, why?
- Ask students if they pay in full when the credit card bill arrives. If not, why?
- What might be some reasons why almost one in five households spends more than their income?
- Why is it important to have a rainy day fund? Why almost half of Americans lack such a fund?
- Why is it vital to pay credit card bills in full? What are the costs of paying a minimum balance?
The joy of the holiday season can be overpowered with shopping stress and financial difficulties. To avoid this situation, consider this approach:
- In mid-to-late November, create a spreadsheet to manage your holiday spending. Categories might include gifts for family and friends, donations to charity, holiday meals along with other items such as shipping, wrapping paper, decorations, parties, and travel.
- Enter realistic amounts that you are able to spend for the various people on your gift list and for the other categories.
- Monitor your actual spending, attempting to stay within your budget.
- Based on this year’s experiences, adjust categories and amounts for the 2019 holiday season.
The spreadsheet might include columns for name/item, budgeted amount, actual amount, difference, and notes for future reference. Starting earlier in the year, consider setting aside holiday money to avoid taking away funds from your normal budget. You might also consider using credit card and other reward points for gifts.
For additional information on a holiday spending spreadsheet, click here.
- Have students create a spreadsheet that might be used to monitor holiday spending.
- Have students talk to others to obtain ideas for not overspending during the holiday season.
- How would you make use of a spreadsheet for holiday spending?
- Describe actions that might be taken to monitor and control holiday spending.
“Sometimes the hardest thing about saving money is just getting started.”
This Bank of America article provides a step-by-step guide for simple ways to save money–money that can then be used to pursue your financial goals. To learn more, check out the 8 steps below.
- Record your expenses. Ideally, you can account for every penny you spend for the big items like mortgages, credit cards, and even small items like a coffee and snacks.
- Make a budget. Once you know how you spend, you can compare your income to your expenses and make changes, if necessary.
- Plan on saving money. Your budget should contain a savings category. Ideally, savings should account for 10 to 15 percent of your income.
- Choose something to save for. One of the best ways to save money is to set a goal. Possible goals include saving for a vacation, the down payment for a house, retirement, or anything important to you.
- Decide on your priorities. Prioritizing goals can give you a clear idea of what is most important and helps to remind you why you are saving money.
- Pick the right tools. There are many saving options and the choice often depends on the amount of time before you need the money. Often, money for short-term goals is placed in savings accounts. Money for long-term goals may involve stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.
- Make saving automatic. Banks offer automated transfers between checking and savings accounts. Automated transfers are great because you don’t have to make a decision to save or invest; it just happens.
- Watch your savings grow. Checking your progress every month helps you stick to your personal savings plan.
For more information, click here.
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to
- Discuss the relationship between income, expenses, and establishing a systematic savings program.
- Help students understand how saving small amounts over time can help obtain goals that can change their lives.
- At the end of the month, many people wonder where their money went! Why is it important to determine how you spend your money?
- How can a budget help you find the money needed to establish a savings program built on the goals you want to achieve?
Youngsters learn money management attitudes and behaviors by watching family members and others. To help guide their financial literacy development, involve children in the shopping process using these steps:
- Have children help in the creation of the shopping list. Sit down together with paper or an app to list what you need. Talk through your list with your kids noting items that are low on in the household as well as things bought regularly. Have children check cabinets and refrigerator to determine things they use.
- While making your list, talk about a budget. Explain the need to keep track of how much is spent on groceries so there is enough money for household expenses. Make clear that a grocery list helps make sure you don’t overspend.
- Talk while shopping to explain brands you prefer and how sale prices or coupons might affect purchases. Also communicate why you choose certain stores for your shopping. As you select items explain why you’re buying that one instead of a similar item. Older children can be asked to comparison shop among different brands.
- While shopping, refer back to your budget. This will help you decide to buy an item now or wait until a later time.
- Provide explanations of buying choices. To avoid surprises, estimate your total before going to the cash register. Also explain different payment methods, such as a debit card, which subtracts money from your bank account right away.
Discussion of various decision-making elements will help kids learn shopping and money management skills they will need. Thinking out loud can clarify what you’re doing and why when in the store, paying bills, or shopping online.
For additional information on teaching money skills to children, go to:
Grocery Shopping Tips
Money skills, by age.
- Have students visit stores and explain to friends why they buy certain items and brands.
- Have students create a visual presentation (using computer software or a poster) to communicate learning experiences for teaching wise buying to others.
- What experiences did you have growing up that helped you learn financial literacy and wise money management skills?
- Describe other methods that might be used to teach shopping and money management skills to young people and others who might lack these abilities.
Can you imagine getting paid each day that you work? That’s the idea behind Instant Financial’s app, which puts cash in the hands of workers on the same day they work. This program attempts to reduce absenteeism and employee turnover for restaurant chains.
At the end of each workday, employees may take 50 per cent of their pay for that day and transfer it to an instant account; the other half is paid at the end of the regular pay period. Funds in the Instant account may be accessed with a debit card or transferred to a bank account.
The app can reduce the use of payday loans, with exorbitant borrowing rates, as workers have access to funds between pay periods. Instant Financial makes money from fees charged employers and merchants when debit cards are used; although employees may pay ATM fees.
A major concern of the app is that it might discourage long-term financial planning. Poor budgeting habits could result in increased use of debt due to a lack of funds at the end of the month. Employees who use the app are encouraged to practice wise money management, including creating and building an emergency fund and other savings.
For additional information on instant pay, click here.
- Have students talk with others about the benefits and drawbacks of an instant account.
- Have students describe two situations: (1) a person who used the instant account wisely, and (2) someone who mismanaged their money as a result of using the instant account.
- What factors might be considered when deciding whether or not to use an instant account?
- Describe how an instant account might result in improved money management and in weakened money management activities.