We've seen the statistics: 1 in 8 Americans live below the poverty line. 71 million have accrued debt in collections. 55 million of us don't have anything saved in an emergency fund. An estimated 40 percent struggle to cover basic needs like food and housing costs.
We know money struggles are widespread, but the culture of shame surrounding financial instability prevents us from talking about it on a personal level. And that makes it especially hard to ask for help when we need it most.
One recent study found that we're almost twice as likely to disclose problems in our relationship rather than share details of our credit card debt. But financial problems don't just take a toll on our bank accounts, they can impact our mental health as well.
"Financial impotence casts a pall of misery. It keeps you up at night and makes you not want to get up in the morning. It forces you to recede from the world," writes The Atlantic's Neal Gabler, in an essay about his firsthand experiences with financial hardship. "It eats at your sense of self-worth, your confidence, your energy, and, worst of all, your hope."
Researchers have linked mounting debt with anxiety and depression which can take a toll on all aspects of your life from relationships to career ambitions and even self-esteem.
"It's easier to feel extra guilt and extra pain when you assume it's just you," Michelle Waymire, founder of the financial advice site Young + Scrappy, tells GirlBoss. "You assume it's a character flaw. There are a lot of forces working against you, and those are not necessarily your fault."
But the more shame you feel about your money struggles, the more likely you are to deny the root problem. So how do you know when it's time to ask for help? According to Debt.org, there are some red flags that signal you're in over your head and it's time to reach out for assistance. In addition fear, panic, anger and depression over a lack of financial control—all of which can lead to more binge-spending to temporarily relieve the discomfort—there are some everyday, denial-based responses to watch out for, including:
— Underestimating how much you owe.
— Not answering the phone when you suspect a collection agency is calling.
— Leaving bills unopened or just stuffing them in a drawer.
— Opening a new credit card when your old one is maxed out.
Remember: The Average American household is over $130,000 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve, which means you're not alone. But that fact also doesn't make the problem go away. If you're in a desperate financial situation that's impacting your everyday life, it's time to seek financial help. So what are your options?
Reach out to Friends or Family Members
There's no shame in asking for help from loved ones, but you want to be prepared emotionally and practically. If you're approaching a friend or family member about money, be clear about what your needs are—whether it's a loan or just plain guidance on how to move forward. Either way, it's important to have a game plan and a drive for solutions.
"Start by mentioning your goals and how you've been focused on improving your finances yourself, which shows you've been thinking of your future and are solutions-driven," advises Mint's Farnoosh Torabi. "Next, bring up how you've been working towards these goals."
That may mean coming to the table with a draft of your budget and intentions to cut down on your expenses. If you're asking for advice, come prepared with questions about paying off debt as well as career-related ideas you can bounce off your advisor. If you're asking for money, Torabi suggests providing a plan of action for the money you'd be borrowing, and a self-created document that outlines a payback plan. "Create a simple agreement that includes the amount of the loan and terms like interest and payment dates," he writes. "Sign and date it." This will not only make your loved one feel more comfortable with the terms, but will give you a sense of control and structure with respect to returning the money you've borrowed.
Talk to an expert
Not everyone has the luxury of asking for financial support from loved ones—and even if you do, you might not be comfortable with making the ask. The good news is that there are some resources you might not even know exist.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling provides credit and debt counseling services for very low fees. The non-profit organization matches you with a specialist who will help you understand your options—from basic budgeting to student loan payment options and creating a debt-management plan. The Foundation for Financial Planning is another resource that pairs pro bono financial advisors with those in need of immediate help.
Do Your Research
With a little internet research, you might be able to get your finances on the right path. There are government programs designed to help individuals cover their household bills—from energy costs to telephone services. By contacting your state human services agency or local health center you can find a specialist who can help guide you through the application process.
Depending on what state you live in, you may qualify for financial support in other areas like daycare (New York City, for example, offers city-funded childcare) and grants to keep your small business afloat.
The most important thing to remember is that you're not alone, and there's no shame in asking for help. You've got this.
- Money Talk: How and When to Ask for Financial Help - PayPath ›
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.