How to Have a Baby Shower on a Budget

How to Have a Baby Shower on a Budget

It’s an honor to be asked to throw a friend or family member a baby shower. But along with that honor, often comes a hefty price tag. Between the food, flowers, decor, and favors, the cost of these soirees can add up quickly.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend a fortune to throw a fun and memorable celebration for soon-to-be parents and their loved ones. From scoring a cheap (or free) venue to DIYing the centerpieces, there are a number of ways to cut baby shower costs without looking like you cut any corners.

Tips for Throwing a Great Baby Shower on a Budget

These inexpensive baby shower ideas can help you throw a memorable celebration for a mom-to-be and help her become better financially prepared for a baby.

Coming up with a Baby Shower Budget

Before you begin the planning process, it can help to determine the total you can spend on the event and then create a budget. You may also want to find out if family members from either side are willing to chip in financially or by offering to help make something for the party. When setting up your baby shower budget, you’ll likely want to include: the venue, invitations, decorations, food and drinks, entertainment and/or games, prizes and party favors.

Finding a Free (or Low-Cost) Venue

A baby shower doesn’t have to be at a fancy restaurant, hotel, or banquet hall to be festive. It could take place at your, or someone else’s, home. If you’re hosting a baby shower in warm weather. You might consider having it outdoors, such as in your backyard. You could even host a more casual shower with an outdoor barbeque or even a poolside party.

Other low-cost locales options include: a nearby park, the clubhouse of your (or someone else’s) apartment complex, or the meeting room at someone’s place of business.

Limiting the Baby Shower Guest List

Generally, the more people you invite to the shower, the more money you will spend. To keep costs in check, you may want to consider limiting the invite list to the parent-to-be’s closest family and friends. A smaller group not only cuts down on costs, but can also help to create a more intimate gathering that allows the guest of honor to spend time with each guest. It can be a good idea, however, to run the invite list by the expectant mom to be sure that you don’t exclude any important people.

Going Digital With Invitations

You can save money on baby shower invitations by using a digital service, such as Evite, MyPunchbowl, or Paperless Post. These sites and apps typically allow you to choose from a range of free baby shower invitation templates or, for a small fee, upgrade to a more elaborate design. These sites also make it easy to keep track of responses. And, guests will likely appreciate the ability to RSVP with the click of a button. You may, however, want to send paper invites to older guests, particularly if they don’t use an email address often.

Ditching the Caterer

Feeding guests typically takes up the biggest portion of a baby shower budget. One way to help keep the cost of food down is to forgo the caterer and head to your local warehouse club (like Costco or Sam’s Club). You’ll likely be able to create a delicious spread of appetizers, finger foods, and desserts for a lot less than ordering trays from a catering company or restaurant.

Timing it Right

You can also cut down on food costs by not holding the shower right at lunch or dinner time. That way, guests won’t arrive expecting a full meal, and you’ll be able to serve a lighter menu that includes simple appetizers and snacks. A late-morning party can be particularly wallet-friendly–you might simply offer coffee, juice, fruit, and pastries. Or, you might opt for an afternoon tea and serve sweets and finger sandwiches.

Keeping the Cake Simple

A gourmet bakery cake can look beautiful, but it could easily bust your budget. According to CostHelper , an average bakery cake runs around $3 to $4 a slice. To cut costs without sacrificing on taste, you might consider ordering a cake at your local grocery store’s bakery or the bakery at a wholesale club, then having it personalized (which the store will often do free of charge).

DIYing Centerpieces

Fresh flowers look lovely, but they can get expensive if you order arrangements from a professional florist. Instead, you may want to head to your local farmers market, grocery store, or warehouse club to find flowers at reasonable prices that fit your color scheme, then make your own centerpieces. A simple way to get great results is to use flowers in the same color family (like shades of pink or all white). You can pick up vases at the dollar store, or go with Mason jars, which look trendy and can be used for other purposes after the shower is over.

Printing Decor and Games for Free

Instead of racking up a big bill at the party store, you may want to comb the web for free baby shower printables. You can likely find food signs, games (like baby shower bingo), decorations, and favor tags that you can simply print right from your computer.

Making Edible Favors

Sweets can make great baby shower favors, and you can easily bake them yourself without spending a lot. You may also find that there is a family member who would be delighted to take on this task. Edible favors can be as simple as iced sugar cookies (in your color scheme) or as elaborate as cake pops that look like baby rattles.

Considering a Virtual Baby Shower

If the guest of honor’s family and friends are spread out all over the country, having a virtual baby shower is one way to include everyone that’s important, and also keep costs down. You can set a celebratory mood by choosing a Zoom background that fits the theme of your shower, and also include a link so guests can download the background as well. Friends and family can watch the mom-to-be open gifts that were sent to her ahead of time. You can also organize games throughout the virtual baby shower and create a digital guest book that attendees can sign and share their words of wisdom for the expecting parents.

The Takeaway

You can plan a memorable baby shower even on a limited budget. And, spending less doesn’t mean the event will be any less special.

Some easy ways to trim the cost of having a baby shower include: hosting the shower in your home or backyard, heading to your local warehouse club (for food, flowers, and even the cake), using free printables for decor and games, and giving homemade sweets as favors.

You can also make a baby shower more affordable by setting a budget and saving up enough money to cover it in advance (so you don’t end up relying on credit cards).

Looking for a good place to build your party fund? A SoFi Money® cash management account can be a good option. With SoFi Money’s “vaults” feature, you can separate your savings from your spending while earning competitive interest on all of your money. You can even set up separate vaults for separate savings goals.

Start saving for your next milestone celebration with SoFi Money.

Photo credit: iStock/vejaa


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Can You Use Food Stamps Online?

Can You Use Food Stamps Online?

The food stamp program in the U.S. has made it possible for millions of Americans dealing with economic hardship to feed their families each day.

While food stamps, now officially called SNAP benefits, can help families save money on food, it hasn’t always been the most convenient way to shop for groceries. In the past, food stamp recipients needed to physically go into a store to shop for and pay for their groceries using a special (EBT) payment card.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded an online purchasing pilot program that allows SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online then arrange for pickup or delivery. The program is now available at certain retailers in most states.

Read on to learn where and how you can use food stamps to buy groceries online.

What Are Food Stamps?

“Food stamps” is an older, but still commonly used term to describe SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP is designed to provide nutritional assistance to low-income families, as well as the elderly, disabled, and people who have filed for unemployment. SNAP is a federal program administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which has a network of local offices.

While SNAP doesn’t cover all the items you might pick up at the supermarket, it can significantly cut your grocery bill.

You can use food stamps to purchase meat, poultry, and fish; vegetables and fruit; bread and cereal; dairy products; snack food; and seeds and plants that produce food. However, you can’t use them to purchase tobacco, wine, beer, liquor, vitamins, prepared food, and nonfood items like cosmetics, hygiene items, and cleaning supplies.

Everyone on food stamps has a bank card called an EBT card, backed by the government. The program allows for customers to pay in-store–and increasingly, online–using their EBT just like a debit or credit card.

The maximum monthly food-stamp assistance you can get varies by where you live and how many people are in your household. A family of four living in the U.S. can now receive around $780 a month.

Who Qualifies for Food Stamps?

A household is eligible for Food Stamps, or SNAP, when it meets specific criteria. Each state has an income limit that SNAP households must stay under. Additionally, they may factor in your finances and savings to determine your eligibility.

To apply for food stamp benefits, or to get information about the SNAP program in your area, you can contact your local SNAP office. You can find local offices and each State’s application on the USDA national map .

Each state has its own application form. If your state’s form is not on the web yet, you can contact your local SNAP office to request a paper form.

What Stores Accept Food Stamps Online?

Thanks to the expedited expansion of an online purchasing pilot program run by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, households receiving SNAP benefits in any of the 47 participating states (along with the District of Columbia) can now use EBT to pay for groceries online from select retailers.

Alaska, Louisiana, and Montana are not currently enrolled in the pilot. And, not every retailer in participating states supports EBT payments.

If a retailer is enrolled in SNAP’s online program, people on food stamps can select foods eligible for EBT benefits online and then arrange for in-store or curbside pickup. In some cases, it may be possible to have your groceries delivered. If the retailer charges a delivery fee, however, you cannot use your benefits to cover that fee.

While Amazon and Walmart are among the best known retailers for online EBT shopping, the number of stores accepting EBT card payment online is continuing to expand, and now even includes some “specialty” stores like Trader Joe’s.

FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery service, now delivers for free to SNAP participants in some zip codes in the New York metropolitan area.

And, Instacart, a grocery delivery service, is currently partnering with many local stores in the U.S. to offer SNAP EBT benefits. The latest version of the Instacart app should display whether your local store offers EBT SNAP.

Which retailers (and which specific locations) participate in the online SNAP program will vary from one state to another, so it’s a wise idea to check which options are available in your area.

Here are some of the retailers that are now accepting food stamps for online shopping (for either delivery or pickup):

• Walmart

• Amazon

• Aldi

• Food Lion

• Publix

• FreshDirect

• BJ’S Wholesale Club

• Kroger

• ShopRite

• Fred Meyer

• Safeway

• Albertsons

• Vons

• Hy-Vee

How to Use Food Stamps to Buy Groceries Online

The rules for using food stamps online will vary by retailer. For example, when shopping on Amazon, you can add your SNAP EBT card, shop for groceries, and when you check out, you enter your EBT PIN to pay for eligible purchases.

For Walmart, you can order groceries online or through the store’s grocery mobile app. You first need to sign into your Pickup & Delivery account and then select Payment Methods.

If your local store accepts EBT Online, you’ll see an option to add your EBT card to your account and can then add your card. During checkout, you select EBT as your payment method. You can then enter your PIN and complete your order.

At ShopRite, you can order groceries online at Shoprite.com or via the store’s mobile app. During checkout, you can select Pay Online and then click the Place Order button. You can then choose the EBT Snap Card as the payment method to complete checkout.

At some retailers, you can also include non-SNAP items in the same order, but you’d need to pay for them separately with a debit or credit card. If the store charges a delivery fee, that charge would also need to be paid via a separate payment card since service fees are not included in SNAP benefits.

If you don’t find EBT SNAP as a payment option when attempting to order from your preferred grocery store, you may want to keep checking back — the coverage areas and list of participating stores continue to expand.

The Takeaway

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)–better known as food stamps–provides assistance to low-income people in the form of an EBT card that can be used to purchase certain types of food.

Many national retailers and supermarket chains now allow SNAP recipients to order eligible groceries online and then go into the store to pick them up, either in-store or curbside, or have them delivered.

Ordering groceries online using the SNAP program is usually as simple as selecting EBT SNAP as your payment method and then inputting your PIN. Some retailers may also want to scan your card in person when you pick up your order or at the time of delivery.

Looking to keep better tabs on your grocery (and other) spending? SoFi Money® may be able to help.

With a SoFi Money cash management account, you can track your weekly food spending right in the dashboard of the app. You can also earn competitive interest on your money, and won’t pay any account or monthly fees.

Learn how SoFi Money can help you manage your spending and saving today.

Photo credit: iStock/Yana Tatevosian


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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How to Make End of Year Donations

How to Make End-of-Year Donations

Making a charitable donation at the end of the year–or any time of year–can be a win-win-win.

The organization you give your money to benefits. You get to enjoy the good feeling that comes with supporting a project or cause that you believe in. And, you may also be able to lower your tax bill.

This year, the rewards for giving may be especially sweet. Two new tax changes for 2021 can boost donors’ tax deductions for charitable giving, meaning they may be able to give more to charity at a lower net cost.

Here are some things you may want to consider when planning and making your end-of-year charitable donations.

What Qualifies as Charitable Giving?

In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a charitable donation is a gift of money, property, or other asset that you give to a qualifying organization, known as a 501(c)(3). To find out if an organization you’d like to support is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, you can search for it on the IRS’s database .

You may want to keep in mind that money or assets given to political campaigns or political parties do not qualify as tax-deductible donations. In fact, no organization that qualifies as a 501(c)(3) can participate in political campaigns or activities.

Organizations that engage in political activities without bias, however, can still sometimes qualify. So, a group can educate about the electoral process and remain within guidelines. They just have to go about it in a nonpartisan way.

It’s also possible for the IRS to implement measures that can affect charitable donating. For example, there was a tax relief provision passed in the form of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Under it, tax deduction limits shifted for both those individually and jointly filing. So, it’s essential to stay updated on current tax laws and provisions that may affect your charitable donations’ taxation.

Recommended: IRA Tax Deduction Rules

Can I Deduct My Year-End Charitable Donation?

In the past, charitable donations could only be deducted by tax filers who itemized their deductions. That means that rather than take the standard deduction, they chose the more complicated path of listing all of their eligible expenses.

However, the IRS has a special new provision that will allow individuals to easily deduct up to $300, and joint filers to deduct up to $600, in donations to qualifying charities in 2021, even if they don’t itemize.

This is basically an enhancement of the one-year tax break Congress put in for 2020 under the (CARES) Act that allowed a tax deduction for cash gifts to charity up to $300.

The difference is that for 2020, the deduction was limited to $300 per tax return. The new provision allows a married couple filing jointly to deduct up to $600 in cash gifts to charity for 2021.

The rules have changed for people who itemize as well. If you are itemizing on your return, the IRS has increased the limit for charitable tax deductions from 60% to 100% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). And, if you want to give more than that 100 percent threshold, the excess can be carried over into the next tax year.

Whether you’re looking to give $50 to your favorite local organization, or you’re considering a much larger charitable donation, these tax changes make it a particularly good time to do so.

Tips for Making End-of-Year Donations

To make the most of a charitable donation, here are some strategies you may want to keep in mind:

Making a Timely Donation

The deadline for charitable donations is December 31st. If you’re looking to deduct the donation in the current tax year, you will want to make sure your charity has ownership of whatever asset you are donating by the closing of business on the 31st. You may also want to make sure that your preferred payment method is accepted by the charity so it doesn’t get kicked back and cause delays.

Taking Advantage of Company Matching Programs

Your place of employment might have a matching program for charitable giving. They might, for example, match your donation amount dollar for dollar up to a certain amount. If so, it could significantly bump up the amount you could otherwise afford to give.

If you’re unsure about whether your company has a program, it can be worth reaching out to your HR department for further information.

Giving Rewards on Your Credit Card

If you are giving on a budget, you might consider donating rewards you earn on your credit cards, such as hotel points or airline miles. This can be a great way to use points or other rewards that would otherwise just expire. Many credit card companies, hotels, and airlines will make it easy to give your rewards to nonprofit organizations.

Recommended: Credit Card Rewards 101: Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Card

Donating Assets from your Brokerage Account

If you’re looking to lower your capital gains tax, you may want to consider donating assets from your brokerage account to a nonprofit. This may take some time and planning, but the benefits of donating an over-allocated position that’s outperforming can be worth it.

You may be able to receive tax advantages and rebalance your portfolio, while also helping an organization increase its assets.

Setting up a Recurring Donation

You can get a headstart on next year by creating a recurring contribution now. Many organizations allow you to donate monthly through their websites using a credit card, so you might be able to earn rewards at the same time. By establishing your donation plans now, you won’t have to even think about end-of-the-year giving next year.

Keeping Good Records

If you want to deduct your donation on your taxes, you’ll want to make sure you have the right receipts to back up the transaction.

For cash donations under $250, you’ll either need a bank record (like a canceled check or bank statement) or a written acknowledgment from the charity which includes the date and amount of your contribution.

For cash donations over $250, a bank record isn’t insufficient. Instead, you’ll need something in writing from the charity which includes the date and amount of your donation.

Noncash donations from $250 to $500 in value require a receipt that includes the charity’s name, address, date, donation location and description of items donated. If the noncash donation exceeds $500 in value, you’ll also need a record of how and when the items were acquired and their adjusted basis.

If the donation exceeds $5,000 in value, you’ll need to get a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser.

Speaking with a Professional

An accountant can help answer any questions you may have about how the new tax laws will impact your tax contribution, as well as help you make the most strategic and efficient charitable donation.

The Takeaway

Giving can be a good idea for a number of reasons, especially in 2021. In addition to helping a nonprofit organization meet its operating costs for the year, you can feel good about what you are doing with your money, and you may also benefit from special tax deductions.

Giving can also help you get the new year started on the right foot. If you’re looking for other ways to get your financial life in order (now, or any time of year), you may also want to consider signing up for SoFi Money®.

SoFi Money is a cash management account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save all in one place. And, since you won’t pay any account fees or other monthly fees, you can focus on putting your money towards more important things.

Start saving for the things in life that matter to you with SoFi Money.

Photo credit: iStock/ThitareeSarmkasat


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Understanding Funds Availability Rules

Understanding Funds Availability Rules

When you deposit money into your bank account, those funds are not always immediately available for use. Your bank or credit union may place a hold on the deposit, and you may notice that your “available” balance is lower than the total balance of your account.

Each bank has its own policy about how long deposits take to become available. There are also federal regulations about how long banks can hold on to funds before making them available to their customers.

It can be a good idea to understand your bank’s policies on holding deposits in order to make sure you don’t accidentally overdraw your account.

Below are some key things you may want to keep in mind to make sure you have access to cash when you need it.

Why Do Banks Put a Hold on Deposits?

Banks hold deposits to protect themselves, as well as their customers, from losing money. If a check you deposit bounces or some other complication arises, the bank will have an opportunity to fix the problem before you have the opportunity to spend the funds.

While a delay in being able to access your own money may seem like a nuisance, holds can actually help protect you from fraud and fees.

If your bank allows you to spend funds from a check that later bounces, you would have to repay the bank the amount that they gave you, and likely also get hit with a hefty overdraft fee. This is the case regardless of who is at fault.

How Long Can a Bank Hold a Deposit?

The amount of time it takes for funds to become available can depend on a number of factors, including how long you’ve held your account, your financial history, the type of deposit (e.g., cash, check, direct deposit), and the amount of the deposit.

Generally, a bank or credit union has until at least the next business day (a business day is a weekday that is not a holiday) to make most deposits available.

Electronic deposits are typically available on the same day. So, one way to make sure your paycheck is available to you quickly is to sign up for direct deposit.

The longest a bank can hold funds is usually five business days for money deposited at an ATM of a different bank.
While each bank or credit union has its own rules as to when it will let you access the money you deposit, federal law establishes the maximum length of time a bank or credit union can make you wait.

Recommended: How Long Does a Direct Deposit Take?

Below are the rules set by the Federal Reserve .

• Direct Deposit: Day of Deposit

• Wire Transfer: Next Business Day

• First $200 of any non-”next-day” check deposited: Next Business Day

• Cash*: Next Business Day

• U.S. Treasury Check: Next Business Day

• U.S. Postal Service Money Order*: Next Business Day

• State or Local Government Check*: Next Business Day

• Casher’s, Certified, or Teller’s Check*: Next Business Day

• Checks and Money Orders Drawn on Another Account at the Same Financial Institution: Next Business Day

• Federal Reserve Bank and Federal Home Loan Bank Checks*: Next Business Day

• Any Other Checks or Non-U.S. Postal Service Money Orders: Second Business Day After the Day of Deposit

• Deposits of Items Noted by “*” at an ATM Owned by the Customer’s Financial Institutions: Second Business Day After the Day of Deposit

• Deposits Made at an ATM Not Owned by the Customer’s Financial Institution: Fifth Business Day After the Day of Deposit

* Deposited in person

You may want to keep in mind that the hold times listed above are the maximum allowed. It’s possible that your funds will be available sooner.

You can typically find specifics about your bank’s funds availability policy in the account agreement you received when you opened your account, or you can ask the bank for a copy of their holding policies.

Understanding Cut-Off Times

When you deposit a check, you may think you did it “today.” However, you may have missed the cut-off for starting the deposit process on that calendar day.

If you make a deposit after the cut-off time, your financial institution can treat your deposit as if it was made on the next business day. If the deposit was made late in the day on a Friday, it could actually take three or more days for the money to show up in your account.

By law, a bank or credit union’s cut-off time for receiving deposits can be no earlier than 2:00 p.m. at physical locations and no earlier than noon at an ATM or elsewhere. Sometimes banks have later deposit times for mobile deposits (made via the bank’s phone app), such as 5 pm.

Deposits That May Take Longer to Become Available

There are certain circumstances under which banks are allowed to hold deposited funds for longer than the times listed above.

When these exceptions apply, there isn’t always a clearly defined limit to the amount of time the bank can hold funds. The bank can generally hold funds for a “reasonable” amount of time.

Exceptions to standard holding times include:

Large Deposits

If a customer deposits more than $5,000, the bank will typically need to make the first $5,000 of the funds available within one business day, but they are allowed to put a longer hold on the remaining amount.

Redeposited Checks

If a check bounces and then is redeposited, banks may hold the funds for longer than one business day. (You may want to be cautious about accepting future checks from a person or business that has already bounced a check.)

Accounts That Have Been Repeatedly Overdrawn

If a customer has a history of overdrawing their account, the bank may hold funds for more time before making them available for use.

Repeatedly overdrawn means that the account has had a negative balance on at least six business days within the past six months, or the account was $5,000 overdrawn more than twice within the past six months.

Reasonable Doubt

If a customer deposits a check that seems suspicious, the bank may hold funds for a longer period of time. A check may seem suspicious if it’s postdated or it’s more than 60 days old.

New Bank Accounts

If your account is less than 30 days old, you may experience hold times of up to nine days. Official checks and electronic payments, however, may be partially available the next day.

Emergency Conditions

If there is a communications outage, a natural disaster, or another circumstance that impedes normal bank functions, banks can hold funds until they are able to provide the funds.

The Takeaway

When you deposit a check, you naturally expect the money to show up in your bank account. But there may be a delay between the time you deposit money and the time that those funds are actually available for you to spend.

Banks generally make funds available on the business day after you make a deposit, but there are exceptions.

Direct deposits are typically available sooner, and some checks, such as those larger than $5,000 or older than 60 days, can take longer than a day to clear. If your account is brand new, it may take up to nine days for a deposited check to become available.

Knowing your financial institution’s policies about holding times can help ensure that you’re able to pay your bills on time, have access to cash when you need it, and don’t get hit with overdraft fees.

Looking for Something Different?

If you’re looking for an easy way to access and manage your money, you may want to consider signing up for SoFi Money®.

SoFi Money is a mobile-first cash management account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save–all in one place. And, it’s simple to add your SoFI Money account as an option for your direct deposit.

Sign up for SoFi Money, then set up direct deposit into your new cash management account.

Photo credit: iStock/solidcolours


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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5 Common Financial Challenges

5 Common Financial Challenges

Few people go through life without experiencing any financial challenges. In fact, many of us face similar money struggles as we work towards building financial security and navigate through major life events.

Whether your financial concerns are temporary or more long-term, the good news is that the situation is not likely to be permanent. Many financial challenges can be solved simply by making an honest assessment of the situation, learning some personal finance basics, and making gradual changes in your spending and saving habits. Small actions can not only help you feel better (and more in control) right away, but can also snowball into big changes over time.

Below are five financial challenges people commonly face, and some simple strategies that can help you overcome them.

1. Monthly Spending Exceeds Income

Many people struggle with the fact that their monthly outflow (or spending) outpaces their monthly inflow (or take-home income). The imbalance can cause you to rely on credit cards, and make it nearly impossible to save for the future, or even for a rainy day.

To help get your cash flow into balance, you may want to set up a basic budget. While a budget may sound restrictive, it can actually simplify your finances and make it easier to make everyday spending decisions.

A good way to start is to go through the last few months of financial statements and receipts, then tally up your average monthly income (after taxes) and average monthly spending. You may also want to break down expenses by categories, and then group categories into necessary and unnecessary spending.

It can also be helpful to actually ​track your spending for a month, taking note of every latte and lunch out (or by using an app that tracks expenses). Although you may think you know where your money is going, when people tally up all their purchases for a month, they are often surprised to notice that their spending doesn’t always match up with what they thought their priorities were.

Once you see where your money is really going each month, you can then look at your budget critically and search for areas where you can cut back. For example, you might decide you’ll eat out less often, pack your lunch a few days a week, get rid of a streaming service you rarely watch or find a cheaper cell phone provider.

You may also want to think about ways you may be able to grow your income, such as negotiating a higher salary, looking for a new (higher-paying) job, taking on a side gig, or freelancing.

Recommended: 25 Ways to Make Money Outside Your Day Job

2. Not Having a Financial Cushion

Life can be unpredictable, and unforeseen events, like a loss of income, car breakdown, or visit to the ER, can quickly put you into a hole if you don’t have any emergency savings at your disposal.

Ideally, an emergency fund will have enough cash to cover three- to six months’ worth of living expenses, but even a reserve of $1,000 can save you from having to rely on credit cards or take out a personal loan to handle an unexpected expense.

To start building a buffer, you may want to consider dedicating part of your monthly budget to emergency savings. It can be a good idea to keep this fund in an account that earns more interest than a standard savings account, but still allows you easy access to your money, such as a high-yield savings account, money market account, online savings account, or a cash management account.

Even contributions of $50 a month can add up quickly, creating a cushion that can come in handy when a rainy day hits.

3. Carrying a Credit Card Balance Every Month

Credit cards can be both a useful financial tool and an incredibly slippery slope. Americans currently carry an average credit card balance of $5,897, according to Experian . High-interest rates make the price of the charged items significantly more expensive. And, depending on credit makes it more likely that you’ll spend more than you earn.

As you re-evaluate your budget and work to reduce expenses, you may also want to find a way to pay more than the minimum on your credit card balances. If you have multiple cards, you might try the avalanche method of paying off debt. This involves paying the minimum on all your balances, but putting extra towards the balance with the highest interest rate. Once that’s paid off, you put your extra money towards the debt with the next highest balance, and so on.

Another approach is the snowball method. Here, you pay the minimum on all your debts, but put extra money towards the smallest balance. Once, that’s paid off, you put your extra money towards the next-highest balance, and so on.

Alternatively, you may want to consider consolidating your credit card debt by paying off all your balances with a personal loan. You would then only have one balance to keep up with, ideally with a lower interest rate.

4. Being Weighed Down by Student Loan Debt

Having a large amount of student debt can demand payments that limit your ability to buy a home or increase your savings. While it can be tempting to put off payment, that only results in paying more interest over time.

Instead, you may want to consider paying more each month in order to get out from under student debt faster. Whether it’s paying $20 or $100 more each month, every bit over the minimum payment helps to make a dent in your debt.

You may also want to put any lump sum of cash you receive, such as a tax refund or bonus, towards your student loan debt. When you make extra payments, however, it’s a good idea to make sure that you select the option for the funds to be applied toward your loan principal (otherwise it may go towards interest).

Another option you may want to consider is refinancing your student loans. This means trading in your current loan(s) for one brand new loan through a private lender. The goal with refinancing is to get a lower interest rate while also having the ability to change your loan term (such as cutting the timeline in half). This can be a good option if you have good credit and are currently paying a high interest rate on your student loans.

Recommended: 6 Strategies to Pay off Student Loans Quickly

5. Not Saving Enough for Retirement

Retirement saving can be critical if you want to have financial freedom in your future. And even if retirement seems like a long way off, it can be much easier to amass a comfortable nest egg when you start saving and investing early.

Thanks to the magic of compounding interest (when the interest you earn also earns interest), even putting a little bit of money into a retirement fund each month can help you build wealth over time.

If you aren’t maximizing contributions to a 401k, you may want to consider putting as much tax-deferred money as possible into these accounts. If your employer offers matching funds, it can be a good idea to take full advantage of this perk (which is essentially free money).

If you don’t have access to a 401k, or you are able to put any additional money aside to secure your retirement, you may want to consider opening an IRA (keeping in mind that there are annual limits to retirement contributions).

Taking advantage of these savings vehicles can lower your tax burden this year and earn interest for your golden years.

The Takeaway

Dealing with financial challenges is never fun. But many of us have to do it at one time or another during our lives.

Whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck and can’t ever seem to save, or you’re trying to bounce back after a financial mistake, there is typically a way to resolve the problem.

It may be as simple as tracking your expenses for a month and setting up a monthly budget. Or, you may need to set up a manageable debt repayment plan to regain control of your finances. And, it’s perfectly fine if your first steps are small.

One small, simple step that may help you keep better track of your finances is to sign up for a SoFi Money® cash management account.

With SoFi Money, you can earn competitive interest, spend, and save–all in one place. And, you can easily track your weekly spending right in the dashboard of the SoFi app.

Check out how SoFi Money can help you keep better track of your finances.

Photo credit: iStock/iamnoonmai


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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