"I'm living so far beyond my income," wrote e.e. cummings, "that we may almost be said to be living apart."
If you find yourself in a similar financial predicament, it's likely time to stop making poetic quips and take a hard look at your financial reality. Is it time to ask for help? Asking for money from friends and family can be a dicey proposition, but if it's the difference between you and the poorhouse, it's time to put your pride aside and ask for help. How do you do it? Take our best advice.
Step 1: Get Real
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"You can't ask for help when you're still going out on weekends and blowing a couple hundred bucks on cocktails and breakfast," writes Puckermob. "You have to go through your expenses with a fine tooth comb and see where you can really be saving and what's just nonsense."
Weekend warrior fun might be the tip of the iceberg. Are you spending $9.99 per month on apps you don't use? Do you subscribe to magazines that hit the recycling bin before your bedside table? When's the last time you actually went to the gym that costs $89 a month?
A site like Mint can help you see trends in your spending, where you're overspending, and where to cut back. It can be tempting to stick your head in the sand, but when it comes to finances, knowledge is power; being more aware can help you set a budget you can stick to.
Financial responsibility is not just about slashing costs. Can you make more money by driving Lyft after work or asking for a raise?
"Before you ask for a loan, make sure you've already taken positive steps towards improving your finances," advises Consumerism Commentary. "You aren't ready to take the responsibility of a loan from a friend or relative before improving your financial situation."
Step 2: If You Need Help, Don't Wait
"It is easier to admit that you need help than it is to deal with the consequences of being too prideful and allowing a situation to get too far out of hand," writes Eric Nisall. "The worst time to accept the fact that you need assistance is when it is too late."
Don't wait until the bank has started foreclosure proceedings and your bank accounts are so empty that they're incurring overdraft fees upon overdraft fees.
Step 3: Ask the Right Person
Ask someone who has money to give and isn't in a financially perilous position themselves. If they're retired and on a fixed budget, out of a job, or dealing with stacks of their own bills to contend with, your request may seem inconsiderate and tone deaf.
Step 4: Come Prepared
Create a document that shows how exactly how much money you need and what it will go toward. Not only will this demonstrate your competence and responsibility, it will help give the person you're asking a clear vision of what this money is for.
Step 5: Come Up With the Terms for Repayment
If you were to approach a bank or financial institution for a loan, terms of repayment would be outlined out the outset. Give your friend or family member the same clear-cut vision for how they'll get their money back. How long will it take you to pay back the loan? How often will you send them payments? Even small payments, made regularly, will establish trust.
Step 6: Pay Interest
This offer demonstrates that you're not just casually hitting someone up for cash because you can. By offering to pay interest, you're not only showing your responsibility, you're also expressing a form of respect. "Hey," your offer says. "I know you could be racking up compound interest on this money, but you're helping me out instead. Thanks." Insist on paying interest at the minimum rate they'd be able to earn from a high-yield savings account, about 2 percent.
Step 7: Put It All In Writing
Promissory note templates designed specifically for loaning money to family and friends are available online. Putting the agreement in writing is another way to make the loan official and not just some loosey goosey handshake agreement.
Step 8: Pay the Loan Off Early
If your financial situation improves sooner than anticipated, pay the loan off early. "It will be a nice surprise, and on the personal relationship side, it might win you back 'points' you may have lost," says Consumerism Commentary. "At the very least it shows that you are not only a man or woman of your word, but you make extraordinary efforts not only to meet your obligations but outperform."
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.