5 Ways to Avoid Overdraft Fees

What?!?

How did this happen to you…again?

You were certain you had enough money in your checking account to make that purchase. Unfortunately, you forgot about that automatic car insurance payment that came through yesterday and brought your available balance down lower than you thought.

Now, you’re stuck with yet another overdraft fee — not something you appreciate much when you’re already having a hard time making ends meet.

Only a kind-hearted customer service rep at the bank can save you now from that fee. However, there are many ways that you can avoid more of these fees in the future.

Check out these 5 ways to avoid overdraft fees.

1. Decline Overdraft Protection

This might sound backwards, but you read that right. Overdraft protection programs allow you to swipe your debit card for a purchase that will overdraw your account. So if you have $25 in your account and buy something for $50, the bank will loan you the extra $25 — and slap you with an overdraft fee in the ballpark of $35. Average overdraft fees in 2020 were $33.47 according to Bankrate.

What’s more, you might not even know that you overdrew your account. Plus, you can rack up multiple overdraft fees if you make multiple purchases before you realize what has happened.

So, overdraft protection saves you the embarrassment of not having money at the checkout counter, but the cost may not be worth it.

2. Set a Low-Balance Alert

You can set up alerts with your bank, so you’ll receive an email or text when certain things happen. For example, you can be notified when your account balance drops below a certain dollar amount.

3. Monitor Your Account

Even with a low-balance alert set up, you should still keep an eye on your account. It’s still possible to overdraw, particularly when making a large purchase. For example, you might have arranged to be notified when your account balance drops below $200. But if you buy something for $250 and have $225 in the bank, you’ll still overdraw.

Additionally, you might not have noticed when the alert came through. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your account regularly, particularly before making a large purchase.

4. Use a Credit Card

Another way to avoid overdraft fees is to not use your debit card for purchases. You can use a credit card instead. As a bonus, you can make money in rewards for each purchase if you choose a card with these benefits.

However, we mention this strategy with a caveat. Monitor your purchases and ensure that you can pay off your entire credit card balance each month. This allows you to enjoy the rewards of using a credit card without being saddled with a bunch of unneeded credit card debt.

5. Find a Bank That Doesn’t Charge Overdraft Fees

Newer competition is in the market and there are some banks that don’t charge overdraft fees. These tend to be online banks that have a smaller overhead and don’t have to charge their customers as many fees to make money. Additionally, the interest they pay on savings accounts may be higher — another benefit.

Another possibility to check out is your local credit union. Some are restrictive about who can join, but many pay higher interest and charge fewer fees. All it takes is a bit of research.

Stay Free from Overdraft Fees

Nobody wants to find out they’ll have to pay a hefty fee for a small oversight. Thankfully, by following these 5 tips to avoiding overdraft fees, you can stay overdraft fee-free and enjoy keeping your money where it belongs — in your bank account.

How to Market Your Business While Maintaining Your Budget

Marketing a business

Marketing your business can be difficult to say the least. With 2020 posing challenges for many small businesses, it may be time to consider ways to market to a wider audience while also saving money. From business closures due to the pandemic to paying your employees, it may seem like you can never catch a break.Thankfully, due to the digital era, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the internet to market your business successfully. 

Need some great ideas to help you make marketing a priority? We’re here to give you a list of inspiration!

1. Social Media

With Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn becoming popular social media platforms, it is an excellent move to make a business account on these platforms. There are also exclusive features for businesses on these sites. Start by building an audience and following other local businesses or loyal customers you are in touch with. You can potentially partner with other businesses and ask them for a shoutout or to tag you on a post. 

After you’ve built an audience you can work to keep them engaged by creating fun content. For instance, Instagram has a story feature where you can post for 24 hours until it expires. Stories appear at the top of a users page– meaning they are more likely to see it over a post. On the other hand, LinkedIn is great for networking and making business connections. If you are able to manage your time correctly, you can use as many social media sites as you’d like for free.

2. Google My Business 

Google My Business (GMB) offers small businesses a free account– essentially Google wants your business to succeed and be able to compete with larger businesses. When you create a GMB account, you have access to enter all the necessary information your business needs like the address, phone number, and name. You can connect with customers through Google search or maps and create a great first impression. With Google being the largest search engine in the world, creating a business page will most definitely get your name out there in your local area. 

Make sure to fill out all the necessary information on Google My Business. Additionally, optimize your business page by using keywords you want your business to show up for. For example, if you are a yoga studio you may want to include “hot yoga” “yoga membership” or “ vinyasa yoga”. That way, when users are searching for any of these terms, your business listing will show up!

3.  Create a Blog 

Blogs are great opportunities to extend your digital marketing strategy by implementing keywords and building your SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization and with more keywords, you could rank higher amongst other businesses. A blog is a great way to build your SEO and get more potential customers to visit your website– meaning more future sales.

4.  Build Reviews 

Reviews are a driving force behind consumer decisions. A positive online reputation is so important these days. Yet, with so many review sites out there, it can be difficult to keep up. Most review sites offer free business profiles. Everyone has heard of Yelp reviews; they seem to run supreme as one of the biggest review platforms in the US. Yelp cannot be overlooked as the company made over $900 million in revenue in 2019 alone. Additionally, sites like Google and Facebook also offer customers to write reviews for your business– meaning you will reach a wider audience. 

5. Create Ads

Once you feel you’ve built an audience on social media and the internet, you can begin making ads. There are many different types of ads that are available to your business. Facebook and Google are your best bets to target the customers you truly want. The best part is you can put a small amount of money towards your ad spending in order to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.  

If you’re feeling intimidated or confused by ads you can hire a digital marketing agency to help you get started. For instance, if you are a law firm that handles DUIs, you can invest in DUI lawyer marketing to get the ball rolling. You can also work with someone to get a low rate!

6. Offer discounts and create great customer service

Lastly, customers love discounts, so try to offer an incentive to get them to start business with you. Anything that gets customers talking about your business and the great deals they’re getting! Additionally, once a customer decides to do business with you, ensure that they are pleased with their service. There is nothing worse than having a first-time customer leave a bad review on something that could have easily been avoided. 

5 Ways to Save Money on Home Repairs

Doing home repairs

Believe it or not, home repairs don’t have to be incredibly expensive. There are plenty of ways that you can save money on essential fixes.

1. Set a Budget and Keep to It

First, set up a dollar amount that you’re comfortable with spending. Next, contact your contractor and see how much a repair will take. If it ends up going over your budget, see if the repair can be done with cheaper materials while ensuring that more affordable doesn’t mean shoddier. If it’s an essential repair that you can’t live without, like a burst pipe or broken furnace, then see if your contractor will set up a payment plan that fits your needs and wallet.

2. Have Repairs Done During the Offseason

Demand for certain home improvement services goes up and down throughout the year. Because of this, homeowners can save money by opting for services in the offseason. Take repair services for heating and cooling in Santa Rosa, for example. If you need AC repairs, try having them done when temperatures are cooler. If you need furnace repairs, late spring or summer is a good time for them. Insulating your plumbing can be done in the summer before frozen pipes become an issue. This way, you’re more likely to get a good deal for the job since these are in lower demand.

3. Perform DIY Repairs Whenever Possible

Simple fixes, like snaking your drain or repainting peeled paint, can be done without the need of an expensive professional. Even replacing window panes can be done by yourself with little difficulty. All you need to do is keep your skills and limits in mind. If you don’t know how to do something safely or can’t learn too easily, then a professional may be a better option. If you can learn quickly, however, you can look up simple fixes on YouTube videos or a whole host of websites.

4. Keep Preventative Maintenance a Priority

DIY preventative maintenance can cost money, but it costs a lot less than a massive repair job down the line. Cleaning gutters and sealing cracks can prevent roof leaks and basement flooding. Taking care of pests can keep you from repairing structural damage caused by termites or carpenter ants. Fixing pipe leaks can keep you from having to undertake expensive plumbing replacements. Changing an AC filter every month can also keep unnecessary repairs away while cutting down energy costs.

5. Prioritize Your Repair Needs

Not all repairs have to be done right away. Before you contact a professional, think about whether or not the issue at hand will lead to more significant problems down the road or if it’s just an inconvenience that you can live with. Is the issue an immediate safety hazard? Can it cause bigger issues if left unaddressed? If any of these can happen, then contact a professional right away. If not, leave it until you can save enough money to have it done without breaking your bank.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll not only save a lot of money on repairs, but you’ll prevent a lot of repairs from happening in the first place. You’ll also gain the skills necessary to undertake simple repairs yourself and save hundreds of dollars by not calling a professional contractor.

Best Apps for Managing your Finances?

In this day and age, there is an app available that can help you manage every aspect of your life, whether it be exercising, eating right, your travel, or keeping notes. One of the most important things that you should constantly keep an eye on though, are your finances.

Everyone wants and needs money available for their bills or any surprise payments. Maybe you are saving for a holiday? Or you’re a big sports fan and you want to place a bet on your team that’s made it to the final. Either way, you need money available.

You need your finances in check to do just about anything, but keeping a close eye on them can be difficult considering not everyone is going to sit down at the computer and trudge through their statements and expenses every single night. This is where a handy app comes in.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital is one of the most popular money management apps out there. Not only does it give you a complete overview of your finances, but it has your budgets, allows you to manage your investments, and is generally easy to use and view.

Personal Capital may not have all the features you would need for your financial management, but what sets it apart is the fact that it includes your investments in the equation which gives you a much more holistic view of your finances with nothing be left out or overlooked. 

Mint

Mint is another app that is similar to Personal Capital. Even though it has tools to handle your investments, it is definitely more of a budgeting app. There are many different budgeting options, from a simple, single budget, to multiple, more extensive ones.

You are able to create as many budgets as you want, as well as categorize transactions whenever you want. Mint also automatically takes all the transactions from your account and credit cards, and puts them all in one place.

Mint also analyzes your spending habits, and then gives you feedback on where you can improve and save. Another feature that is very convenient, is the fact that the app will tell you when your bills are due, as well as allowing you to pay them directly from the app. 

Acorns 


Acorns is a rather unusual app that does something quite different with your money. Instead of keeping your change in your account, Acorns invests the difference. It really is quite simple too, you just set it up, and Acorns does the rest.

You can also use Acorns to round up all your transactions which gives you more money to invest. You are also able to do once-off payments to boost your account. Acorns also partners with some brands, and when you shop with them, you will get a small investment into your Acorns account. 

Prism

Prism is the go to app if you need help staying on top of your bills. There are 111,000 “billers” that have partnered with Prism, including utilities, allowing you to keep track of every one of your bills.

Prism will automatically track all of your bills and send you reminders as to when they are due. You are also able to schedule payments all from the app, meaning you can set it and forget it, and not worry about missing any payments. 

Spendee

A lot of financial apps focus solely on an individual’s finance. Spendee is designed to help you and your family and friends manage your combined finances. This is a brilliant solution for people who share a household.

Spendee allows you to gather all of your bills and expenditure from multiple people onto one platform. You are also able to keep shared budgets, as well as keep track of your bills and receive reminders for when they are due. 

Dollarbird

Dollarbird is an app for those individuals who want to budget, but are then too nervous to spend money because they think they won’t have enough for their monthly bills. Knowing how much you’re spending is great, but knowing how much you’ll have at the end of the month allows you to safely splurge a little. 

Dollarbird puts your expenses into a calendar format, allowing you to see when you need to pay for certain things, as well as constantly updating your projected balance so you know how much money you will have at the end of the month.

Mvelopes

Mvelopes is the modern day version of the classic budgeting strategy of placing your money in an envelope, and then just spending that on food, entertainment, or whatever else you spend your money for that month. 

You are able to create multiple envelopes, and this ensures that you never dip into money that you are saving for a car payment, a bill, or an emergency expense. You can also create a budget for even more control.

These apps cover almost everyone’s needs when it comes to tracking your finances. Whether you just need a simple budget, keep an eye on your investments, or need a reminder to pay your bills, one of these apps is perfect for you.

How to Get Money Quickly for Personal or Business Reasons

Do you have a financial emergency and you need cash fast? Well, a lot of people find themselves cash-strapped and lack enough money to cater to their personal needs or to expand or launch their own online business. Luckily, there are plenty of ways that one can get money quickly to finance their pending projects. Below are helpful tips to help you raise money quickly to expand your business or meet your personal needs.

1. Use Credit Card

A quick and easy way to get money for your business or personal needs is by using your credit card. When used appropriately, credit cards can help you get funds as well as extend the period for your accounts payable.

However, if you plan to use credit cards, it’s important to know that they carry very high-interest rates for unpaid balances at the end of the month. It is, therefore, advisable to ensure that you achieve the minimum payment requirement in time. Also, opt for credit cards with low introductory annual interest rate, especially if you are borrowing the money for just 18 months or less.

2. Consider Family and Friends

A good place to start when you need money for personal or business reasons is asking your family or friends. Unlike banks and other money lending institutions, friends and family friends are very easy to persuade. You just need to make them understand why you need the money and how you are planning to repay them if it’s a loan.

This is a popular option especially for small businesses that want financing without high-interest rates. In fact, a study done by Bankrate found that out of the 62% of individuals who had a financial emergency, 28% were willing to use credit cards or borrow from family members or friends.

Nevertheless, it comes with its own risks and challenges, as this can jeopardize relationships if you don’t repay the loan according to the agreed terms. To avoid this, clearly state the terms of the loan including the amount to be borrowed, time or repayment, and interest rate if it has one. You may also want to let them know upfront on the risks involved, and let them know that there is a probability that their money will get lost.

3. Crowdfunding

With the rise of technology, businesses have a ready platform to market and sell their products as well as get financing. Crowdfunding platforms provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to potential investors for money.

The entrepreneur also shares the potential growth for their business model. If the crowd funders on the platform like the idea, they will pledge to support the business model and provide the funding needed. As the business progresses, there is a high chance that it will attract venture capital investment.

One way to be successful in crowdfunding is to ensure that you come up with a solid business pitch, especially if there are other entrepreneurs pitching a similar business idea. Otherwise, your competitors will win, and your idea will get rejected.

4. Get a Loan

This is a traditional way of getting money to fund your personal or business operations. Small business loans from Clopton Capital are especially a great choice since they have favorable terms and rates. In order to get this loan, you need to have a good credit score of about 640+, be in business for more than 2 years and have solid annual revenues.

You will also need to present various loan documents like bank statements, tax statements, profits and loss statements, and balance sheets. Most importantly, compare the interest rates and terms of different lending institutions before you make your final decision.

5. Secure a Microloan

If you can’t meet the requirements for getting a loan through banks, consider applying for a microloan. Microloans are given through non-profit lending organizations to help entrepreneurs finance inventory, supplies, or equipment. Typically, they lend to entrepreneurs, and these start-ups loans start from $25 to $5000.

There are numerous microlenders in the U.S that offer small loans with minimum documentation compared to banks. Their underwriting criteria is also very flexible; hence, you can get the money as soon as possible even if you have a weak credit score. You should, however, keep in mind that their interest rates are slightly higher compared to that of banks.

6. Sell Used Electronics

Do you have an old phone, gaming system, or any other electronic that you don’t use? Well, you could make some quick cash by selling them on sites like Craigslist and eBay. There is a vast market for used electronics where you can sell and resell any model of used tech.

7. Angel Investors

If you still can’t raise enough cash to finance your business through the various options, you can look for angel investors. These are investors that have done well in a particular industry and are willing to invest in promising startup ventures in the same industry. Angel investors will typically invest anywhere from $10,000.

Not only will they finance your business, but they will also offer guidance and mentorship in exchange for an equity stake in the business. In order to secure yourself an angel investor, make sure that you create a solid business plan that will capture their attention. Make a great pitch and extensively explain your company’s situation and its future potential.

To find angel investors to fund your start-up, check out sites like AngelList and Angel Capital Association. With these networks, it will be easier for you to find potential angels.

8. Sell Personal Assets

If you own assets like real estate, bonds, and stocks, consider selling them to get quick cash. This is a quick way of selling those things that have a high financial value that you don’t need them anymore.

Conclusion

Whether you want financing for your business or for personal reasons, employ these strategies to help you raise money fast. These strategies will help you settle your financial emergency without exterminating your finances. Once you are back on your feet, consider starting up an emergency fund to help you in the future.

Ways To Make Money From Your Couch

Life is hard and money always seems to be at the root of it. Everyone is always looking for ways to make more money. Sometimes, you do all the work you need to…you do well in school and get the appropriate degrees, you get a good job, and it still isn’t cutting it. Did you know the real median household income in the united states was 63,179 in 2018. For a single person this may seem good but with a family, it doesn’t leave you with much. So what can you do to earn more for your family? There are simple and easy ways to earn a few dollars right from the convenience from home. Even better, from your couch at night while you are watching tv.

Investment

The obvious way to earn money is to invest it and watch it grow. You can do this by putting any extra money you have in stocks or mutual funds. Do some research online and you will find that there are some ways you can make some easy money. You can also invest in things like real estate or business ventures. You may be surprised by the potential they have. The only downfall to this method is that you need to have extra funds to begin with. Money that you have sitting around.

Online Casino Games

You can also download online casino games on your phone or computer. Right from your couch or even work desk you can play for cash. There are many different types of games for you to have access to so you can choose what you enjoy most. This method is great because not only could you be earning some money but you can be enjoying yourself as well. Who doesn’t like to play games?

Direct Sales

A popular form of income these days, especially for stay at home moms, is direct sales. There are many companies out there that offer products to be sold online. You sign on to be a consultant or marketing expert for the company and sell products for them. Many use social media to drive their business and get the word out to others or some may even have parties to expose their products. Anywhere from accessories, makeup, home cleaning to beauty, there are companies to choose from that interest you. Sell, make money and even earn free products!

Surveys

There are some online companies who offer to compensate you for your time taking surveys. All you have to do is sit on your computer or phone and answer questions for them. The compensation may not be large but if you do a bunch of them in the evening while relaxing that it could add up to a pretty penny.

Save

Sometimes it isn’t about making more, but spending less. If you save money by not spending as much, then the money you earn can get you further. You can do this by saving money on your bills like electric, phones or cable. You can even try to save money with your credit cards. If you have credit card balances built up than it may be best to consolidate to save money on interest. You can also save money by not wasting it on entertainment. Less cups of coffee could really add up to some savings.

Overall, there are many options for you to earn a few extra dollars even if you have a full time job. You can do all of these things right from the convenience of your home during off hours if need be.

6 Reasons Why You Should Bank with a Credit Union

Source: Pixabay.com

You’ve likely walked or driven past a credit union office but perhaps have never paid much attention to what services they provide. After all, why would you go to a ‘second tier’ financial services institution when you can bank with a top tier one?

Unfortunately, credit unions have grappled with this perception problem for years. Yet, these perceptions are driven by ignorance of what credit unions are and what they do. Credit unions like Dane Country Credit Union provide the same core services that big banks do including accepting deposits and issuing loans.

Nevertheless, there are a number of advantages that should inspire you to switch from your bank to a credit union.

1.Nonprofit Mission

Banks have gained notoriety over the centuries for their relentless and untamed pursuit of profit above all else. We see the average bank manager as a steely, ruthless and rigid individual who cares about nothing else except the bank’s interest. It’s all about maximizing shareholder value by delivering ever higher profit each year.

On the other hand, the mission of a credit union means it has a more humane and empathetic approach to financial services. As a nonprofit whose primary purpose is to serve its members, profits are a secondary goal.

2. You are Part-Owner

Credit unions are cooperatives owned by their members. Once you make a deposit, you will automatically be given voting rights. You’ll also receive dividends from any surplus the credit union makes. In effect, you not only benefit from the banking services but also receive a dividend that somewhat blunts the charges and fees you incurred.

Credit unions don’t have the geographical reach of big banks and will partner with other organizations to give their customers access to services when they are outside their home area. Some credit unions will even reimburse you for ATM fees you incur when you use a third party ATM machine. These benefits are virtually unheard of for most big bank customers.

3. Lower Fees

Credit unions exist for their members. They, therefore, have lower fees. For example, many credit unions have a free checking account that isn’t subject to minimum balance requirements. There are often no fees for overdraft protection whenever a transaction exceeds the available balance in your account.

With the big retail banks, you may have to pay a penalty whenever your account drops below the minimum allowed balance. There are also hefty fees if a transaction requires overdraft protection.

4. Better Loan Rates

In keeping with their nonprofit philosophy, credit unions offer better loan rates than the big retail banks. One study found that the average credit union’s interest rate on a 4-year new car loan was nearly half the rate at major retail banks.

Credit unions are largely looking to cover their cost of operations and deliver a modest return to members. Big banks are continuously pushing the envelope on profitability which is why their interest rates are rarely competitive.

5. Easier Access to Loans

Attractive interest rates are already enough reason to make the switch from big bank to credit union. But the cherry on top are the less stringent terms of a loan application. The conditions are more flexible than the rigidity characteristic of major retail banks.

If you are already a member in good standing, a credit union will bend over backward to accommodate your circumstances. Self-employed persons will especially find credit unions a lifesaver, unlike big banks that are fixated with salaried workers.

6. Personalized Customer Service

Banking today is a great example of the rise of the machines. The drive toward automation has seen numerous processes including customer-facing ones replaced by bots and self-service apps. Credit unions are more local and have, therefore, not been as eager to automate the bulk of their customer support.

Whereas automation can lead to efficiency, there’s just something about calling your financial service provider and speaking to an actual human being. Since they don’t have the enormous customer base of banks, credit union customer service agents often know their customers by name.

Credit unions are arguably one of the best kept secrets of the financial services industry. Unable to match the advertising muscle of big banks, their advantages don’t get as much publicity as they deserve. Visit your nearest credit union and find out how you can move your account from your current banker.