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Preparing for a financial emergency

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5 tips for building (or rebuilding) your emergency savings

(Family Features) The new year provides an opportunity to re-evaluate different aspects of your life, and that includes your budget and savings habits. Planning for emergencies by building – or rebuilding if the COVID-19 pandemic required making a withdrawal – a savings account to withstand the unforeseen can increase confidence in your overall financial health and reduce worry that a significant life event will negatively impact your finances.

“Our research shows having emergency savings is the foundation for long-term financial health,” said Chandni Ohri, program lead in savings and financial health with BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative. “The start of a new year is a good time to make a savings plan, which can consist of putting a little bit of money away regularly.”

Even before the pandemic began, 4 out of 10 Americans had a hard time finding even $400 to cover an emergency, according to a report from the United States Federal Reserve. However, if you don’t think you have money to save, consider the majority of people who were able to save for an emergency for the first time in 2020 earned less than $60,000, according to research from BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative, a group of nonprofit experts, corporate partners, and providers. Changes in spending due to the pandemic plus government stimulus packages helped many individuals create much-needed cash buffers.

Consider these tips to build your emergency savings account and create a buffer of cash for when emergency strikes.

Start a Savings Habit

While it’s less important to have a specific dollar amount in mind, getting into the habit of putting some money in savings with each paycheck can help protect you should an emergency arise. While one good rule of thumb is to set aside enough to cover roughly six weeks of living expenses – housing, food, transportation – take a look at what it would cost to cover unexpected issues with your car, a trip to the hospital, a leak in your home or the replacement of a major appliance and start there.

Even a small amount, such as $50 in your savings account when it’s the day before payday and you’re running on fumes, can save you from an overdraft fee, having to resort to using a credit card, borrowing from a loved one or taking out a loan. However, research from the AARP Public Policy Institute found having a cash buffer of approximately $2,500 can help prevent financial hardship over the longer term. If you lose your job, for example, your emergency account could help pay for necessities while you find a new position, or the funds could supplement any unemployment benefits you may receive.

Automate Your Savings

Because an emergency can strike at any time, it’s important to have easy access to your funds. However, the account should also be separate from your checking account so you’re not tempted to dip into your reserves. Pick a free savings account with no minimum balance requirements and link it to your everyday account to quickly move money over if you need it.

Look for ways you can automatically save such as enabling roundups from your checking account to be transferred to your savings with each purchase or having your employer split your paycheck and automatically deposit a portion into savings each payday.

If you’re planning to stash funds away for months or years that can serve as both an emergency fund and long-term savings, consider a high-yield savings account.

Look for Ways to Cut Back

While you may have already made changes to your spending habits amid the pandemic, periodically shopping for competitive rates of recurring bills, such as cable and internet, cell phones insurance policies and other utilities, can be a simple way to save some money each month. Start by asking your current providers about any special rates and promotions that may be available to loyal customers then check with alternative providers to see if they can provide the same or better offerings at a reduced cost. Sometimes returning to your current provider with a more competitive rate from elsewhere can be extra incentive to work out a deal to keep a longtime customer.

Also look at any subscription services you use, or potentially don’t but still pay for, and see if they offer a cheaper plan that still meets your needs or if you’re able to cancel subscriptions you no longer use frequently. Other expenses such as dining out or buying new clothing and accessories could also be scaled back if you find you’re splurging too much. Avoid completely cutting spending for leisure activities from your budget but look for reasonable tweaks that can allow you to set more money aside for unforeseen expenses.

Take Advantage of One-Time Opportunities to Save

Assuming you expect to receive a tax refund, this provides an easy way to boost your emergency fund if circumstances allow you to save all or a portion of the return. If you’re able, consider having your refund directly deposited in your emergency account. The same strategies can be applied to any government aid checks you may receive, such as a second round of stimulus money that could be distributed to eligible citizens in 2021 to help reinvigorate the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

There may also be other times throughout the year when you receive one or more cash gifts, like your birthday or holidays, that can help provide a nice cushion to your emergency fund if you can avoid the temptation to spend it.

Replenish What You Use

Remember to review and adjust your savings plan as needed, whether you’re able to contribute over a longer period of time without dipping into the account or if an expensive life event pops up that requires using all or a portion of the funds.

Should you need to dip into the savings, do your best to make replenishing the account to a level you’re comfortable with a primary goal in case any additional unexpected expenses arise. Alternatively, if your saving is going well, consider increasing the amount you’re saving each paycheck so you’re better protected against any major life changes or able to finance a large-scale purchase down the road.

Find more information and tips for building your savings at savingsproject.org.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
Financial Health Network

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Take on spring road trips

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5 tips to keep vehicles running smoothly

(Family Features) With the windows down and nothing but open road visible through the windshield, spring days often bring out the best driving conditions. When it’s time to hit the pavement, make sure your ride is in tip-top shape following a winter of snow, salt and sand.

Give a Thorough Clean
All that winter buildup can lead to grime both inside and outside your vehicle. A deep clean including the undercarriage, engine bay and obvious areas like doors and windows can help eliminate salt buildup. Give the interior a scrub as well to get rid of trash, dirt, debris and unnecessary items that may be weighing down your car and hurting its fuel efficiency. Plus, that clean look and smell can make road trips that much more enjoyable.

Check (or Change) the Tires
Changing air temperatures can lead to fluctuations in tire pressure. As the weather warms, be sure to check tire pressure frequently to avoid overinflation that leads to wear. It’s also an opportunity to check tread depth as it may be time for new tires altogether.

Change the Oil
While most experts recommend oil changes every 5,000 miles or so, depending on the age of your vehicle, a spring auto checklist isn’t complete without checking (and possibly changing) the oil. Fresh oil keeps engines running as intended, and by changing oil in the spring, you can help ensure you’re ready to hit the road for most – or all – of spring and summer.

Test the Wiper Blades
In many parts of the country, spring means rain. Ensuring wiper blades are ready to take on weather ranging from sprinkles to downpours is practical for maximizing safety on the road. Cold weather and ice can cause cracking on worn out wipers, which makes spring a perfect time to assess winter’s damage.

Consider a Professional Inspection
If it’s been a while since your vehicle was properly inspected, now may be a good time to have a professional take a look under the hood. Wiper blades and tire pressure are easy for many car owners to handle, but alignment, suspension, brakes and other key elements of vehicle safety and efficiency are often best left to those with trained eyes. Letting a certified mechanic assess your ride is a perfect way to ensure you’re ready for the open road.

Find more auto maintenance tips at eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


SOURCE:
eLivingtoday.com

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Why wild bird lovers should choose top-of-the-crop natural feed

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(Joan Casanova) Have you ever wondered what’s in your favorite packaged foods, grabbed a box from your pantry, read the ingredients and realized you still didn’t know what you’re eating? The ingredients in some processed foods can read like a chemist’s shopping list. Now imagine if backyard birds could read. What would they say about the ingredients in the food you feed them?

A growing number of Americans are choosing natural foods for their pets; nearly one-third say they prefer natural products, according to PetFoodIndustry.com. People who feed wild birds also want to know they’re feeding the most natural and nutritious options. It’s hard to be confident when reading the mystifying ingredient list on feed bags makes you feel like a bird brain.

With an abundance of options, ranging from commercial bird feeds to small-batch varieties, understanding the differences can help bird lovers make informed choices to meet wild birds’ nutritional needs while considering factors like sustainability and quality.

The wild bird experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products, Co. offer these tips to ensure you’re feeding your feathered friends a healthy, natural diet.

While commercial bird feeds aim to provide basic nutrition for birds, the quality and nutritional content can vary. Some mixes contain a high proportion of less desirable seeds and fillers, offering limited nutritional value.

Small batch bird feeds prioritize nutritional content, using premium ingredients rich in essential nutrients, fats and proteins. This can provide birds with a more balanced diet, promoting overall health and vitality.

Avoid commercial bird feeds that are full of cheap fillers, such as red milo, millet, cracked corn, oats and wheat. Fillers lack nutritional value and birds will kick them right out of the feeder.

Instead, select small batch, natural feed comprised of top-of-the-crop seeds which contain no chemicals or mineral oil like Cole’s and bypass seed coated with them. Some commercial bird feeds are coated with mineral oil and mixed with crushed rock to add “vitamins.” Current regulations allow manufacturers to list nutritional components of mineral oil (iron, zinc) and crushed rock (vitamin A, calcium carbonate) separately, which can make the ingredients look more impressive. Mineral oil makes birdseed shiny and helps hide dirt and dust, and crushed rock adds weight to the product.

Take note of ingredients you can’t read; often it’s an indication the ingredient is synthetic or lab engineered. Ingredients like menadione sodium bisulfite complex and thiamine mononitrate aren’t found in natural foods; they’re man-made versions of vitamins. The rule of thumb for buying all-natural is “If you can’t read it, don’t feed it.”  

Focus on serving feed with an ingredient list you can read and understand. For instance, Cole’s Sunflower Meats contains nothing but shelled sunflower seeds and White Millet contains 100% white millet. Super simple, right?

Study birds visiting your feeders and research feed they prefer or buy feed from a reputable company that’s done that work for you. For example, Cole’s offers select natural seed choices developed and based on research about what birds actually eat. Feed is specifically formulated to attract certain species of birds as well as the largest number of birds. No cheap filler seeds are used and seed is cleaned to ensure quality – no sticks and dirt. When you know and serve what backyard birds prefer, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Supplement seed with natural foods you have at home. For example, woodpeckers love raw peanuts, mockingbirds love fruit and chickadees savor suet. Soak raisins and currants in water overnight then serve or purchase blends with a dried fruit and nut mixture, like Nutberry suet. To attract orioles, skewer halved oranges on a spike near feeders.

Buy feed from companies specializing in wild bird food. Some offer bird feed as a side product of pet products or grass seed producers. Conversely, Cole’s exclusively produces and sells products for feeding backyard birds. Seeds are packaged like human food in “Harvest Fresh Lock” packaging so seeds don’t lose nutritional content or dry out and spoil.

To learn more about all-natural feed options with ingredients even birds could understand, visit coleswildbird.com.

Photos courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Products


SOURCE:
Cole’s Wild Bird Seed

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Handy ways to jump start productivity in your workspace

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(Family Features) Designing a project workspace can take your creativity to new heights. Whether you’re into woodworking, metalworking, building models or repairing bikes or tools like chainsaws, having the right space allows you to focus on creating and enjoying each project to the fullest.

Completing a job to your satisfaction requires the right tools, equipment and resources to get the job done. Set up a workspace that lets you explore your passion with these tips from the DIY pros at Work IQ Tools:

Identify your needs. Every project comes with a unique set of tools and requirements for success. Make a list so you can ensure you account for every detail.

  • Determine if a large, flat workspace is required or floor space is better suited.
  • Balance comfort and craftsmanship by choosing a stable chair or rolling chair or decide if working on your feet is more practical.
  • Decide exactly how much space you realistically need.
  • Assess your access to adequate power sources.
  • If you’re using paints and varnish or other odorous substances, ensure there’s proper ventilation.

Invest in the right equipment. Having the right tools allows you to work faster, easier and smarter. Incorporating a solution like the IQ Vise System is like having a built-in problem solver with smart features that improve functionality and capability. The vise features a ball and socket design that allows articulation and 360-degree rotation at any angle for optimal work positioning while complementing task-specific jaws are crafted to create the perfect grip for an extensive range of shapes and materials.

Plan for storage. Keeping all your parts and pieces neatly organized means they remain in good condition until you need them, and you can find what you’re looking for easily. When you’re planning your storage needs, think about the space you need at every stage, including how you’ll protect a project that is in progress when you step away from your workspace.

Light it up. A well-lit workspace gives you the visibility you need to complete each project to your satisfaction. Overhead lights rarely do the trick for hands-on work, so plan to add task lamps to your work area. Look for models with features that match your hobby needs, such as dimming capabilities and goose necks that allow you to position the lights just right.

Remember safety. Different projects require distinct protective gear, but virtually all DIYers can benefit from some basic safety precautions. At the least, keep a first aid kit handy for nicks and cuts, but also consider safety glasses, gloves, ear protection and other gear that can help protect you while you work.

Find more useful tools to create a functional project workspace at workiqtools.com.

Workshop Assistants to Get the Job Done

No matter your craft or hobby, you can find plenty of tools and accessories that make it easier to navigate the intricate details of each project you tackle. Consider these IQ Connect plug-and-play workshop accessories that provide hands-free assistance where and when needed on the IQ Vise and around your work area via three additional mounting options.

Work Light: Task lighting helps illuminate dark or shadowed areas so you can see the tiniest details. A hands-free, 180-lumen work light that mounts in a magnetic holder, bench mount or clamp mount can add extra versatility. Rechargeable and featuring multiple light settings, it’s always ready and adaptable to your needs.

Magnifying Glass: Many hobby projects require intricately detailed work that’s difficult to see with the naked eye, whether it’s a minute piece of your project or the fine print on a tool. Look for a magnifying glass that’s at least 5 inches in diameter with at least two levels of magnification and an adjustable frame so you can get the angle just right.

Cell Phone Holder: A smartphone is often a hobbyist’s most valuable tool since you can use it to look up information, scan for design inspiration, record your process or add entertainment to your work session. An adjustable hands-free holder lets you get the positioning just right while giving you the freedom to tackle the tasks at hand.



SOURCE:
WorkIQ

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