How to Save Big Bucks by Brown-Bagging Your Lunch

Did you know that choosing to bring your own lunch to work each day can save up to $3,000 a year? Each takeout lunch can easily cost $12 more than a homemade meal. If you’d put that money into an index fund and contribute to it for 25 years, you can save $500,000! 

Unfortunately, too many people end up buying out each workday because they don’t realize how much it costs them, or they simply fail to plan ahead. Others may think it would be too much of a hassle to shop for, prep and bring along lunch from home.

You can use this handy calculator to determine how much you can personally save each year just by brown-bagging it to work each day. And, if you find the idea of prepping lunch five days a week a bit overwhelming, you can choose to bring lunch from home on specific days of the week. 

Here are some hacks for brown-bagging it to work with all the savings and none of the hassle. 

Plan your menu and shop for it early

Don’t get stuck staring at the contents of your fridge and wondering what to take to work seven minutes before you need to leave in the morning.  Plan your lunch menu early in the week and add whatever you’ll need to your grocery list. To save even more, shop the sales and the seasons, and then base your lunch menu around those items. 

Marathon-prep at the beginning of the week

The thought of prepping lunch at the end of a long workday when all you want to do is veg out on the couch can be daunting. Instead, hold a marathon session at the beginning of the week to do as much labor-intensive lunch prep as you can. Slice and dice all your veggies for the week, split dressing into small containers, cook your pastas, wash fruit and tackle any other prep that can be done in advance. This way, you’ll only need to grab what you need each day from the fridge instead of facing an entire meal to prep and package. 

Partner up

It’s never easy to be the odd one out, and if you set yourself up to be the only one pulling out a homemade lunch while the rest of the office packs out to pick up lunch or orders in, you can end up giving up and joining the crowd. Try to find a like-minded partner to brown-bag it with you on the days you choose to bring lunch from home. Eat your lunches together; the companionship will make it easier for both of you to stick to your convictions.

Love your leftovers

Save even more money, and make lunch prep easier, by bringing dinner leftovers with you for lunch. You can repurpose a leftover protein to serve as a salad-topper or sandwich-stuffer, bring along a container of soup to warm up in the office microwave, or beef up your work lunch with some leftover rice, quinoa or another side dish. 

Brown-bagging it to work when everyone else is ordering takeout isn’t easy, but by using the tips outlined here, you can save a boatload of money on work lunch without the hassle. 

Your Turn: Do you bring lunch to work each day? Share your tips with us in the comments. 

Have it All: The Roadmap to Becoming a Self-Made Millionaire

Title: Have it All: The Roadmap to Becoming a Self-Made Millionaire

Author: Kris Krohn

Print length: 316 pages

Kindle file size: ‎ 4709 KB

Publisher: Uplife Press

Publishing date: Dec. 9, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone looking to change the way they relate to money. 
  • Anyone looking for practical investment advice.

What’s inside this book?

  • Actionable tips for improving your financial reality.
  • A step-by-step guide for financial success. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to outsmart the old money rules and follow the new ones. 
  2. How to achieve true financial freedom. 
  3. How to create active, passive and positive asymmetric risk.
  4. How to find profitable Returns on Investment (ROIs).

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I unlearn all that society has taught me about money management? 
  2. What do I need to know to be a savvy investor?
  3. Can I really enjoy my life despite having limited financial opportunities?
  4. Can I improve my finances without a large windfall?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Kris goes into depth on different topics to cover everything from real estate to stocks and how to start building a financial portfolio and live a better life!”
  • “Insightful, motivational and really inspiring!”
  • “This book gave me the hope and encouragement I needed, that yes, I can have it all. I love how Mr. Kris Krohn tells us exactly how we need to break those limiting beliefs and allow ourselves to enjoy life to the fullest. This book is so relatable and inspiring.”
  • “If you’re trying to figure out how to become financially free and where to start, then this is the book for you. This is the book that will set you on the next level of your life and get you ready for financial freedom in three to five years!”

Your Turn: What did you think of Have it All? Share your opinion in the comments. 

My Money My Way: Taking Back Control of Your Financial Life

Title: My Money My Way: Taking Back Control of Your Financial Life

Author: Kumiko Love

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Portfolio

Publishing date: Feb. 1, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Single women looking for tips on managing finances on their own. 
  • Anyone who’s ever battled feelings of guilt, shame, doubt and/or deprivation in relation to money. 
  • Individuals looking to live a financially emancipated life. 

What’s inside this book?

  • Kumiko’s story of how she went from a newly divorced mom pulling in just $24,000 a year and facing $77,000 in debt to living completely debt-free in a home she bought with cash. 
  • Stories of moms, like Kumiko, who successfully navigated divorce and the financial challenge of making it alone.
  • Practical tools and tips for letting go of shame and deprivation for living a financially secure and fulfilling life. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to harness your emotions to your financial benefit, instead of letting them control you and drive your money choices. 
  2. How to create a budget based on your actual life, not a life of self-deprivation.
  3. How to create a debt payoff plan that can work.
  4. How to build a positive relationship with money. 

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I reverse negative thinking patterns that I’ve grown accustomed to?
  2. How can I align my emotional health with my financial health? 
  3. Can I take control of my finances with a low income and high credit card debt?
  4. Do I need to live with constant deprivation to have a financially secure life?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “It’s no surprise that millions of people flock to Kumiko Love for her financial advice. She’s able to do the impossible: teach others about money in a non-judgmental, down-to-earth way while also making concepts, like budgeting and debt-repayment, exciting and fun.” – Jessica Moorhouse
  • “No shame. No condescension. Just real, practical money talk from a woman who lives it. Kumiko reminds us that our money struggles and mistakes are not a reflection of who we are or what we can achieve. And her tools and strategies offer an easy-to-follow framework for using money to build a lifestyle you love.” – Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez
  • “If you’re ready to break free from a dysfunctional relationship with money and build wealth from a place of strength, Kumiko’s book is a must-read.” – Marie Forleo
  • “It’s so wonderful to see more voices join the movement that money shouldn’t be rigid or restrictive. Kumiko Love and her money management style will help you feel seen and capable instead of shamed and distressed — no matter the money mistakes in your past.” – Erin Lowry

 Your Turn: What did you think of My Money My Way? Share your opinion in the comments. 

What are the Tax Benefits of Owning a Home

Q: I’m in the market for my first home, and I’m trying to get a complete picture of how owning a home will affect my finances. What are the tax benefits of owning a home?  

A: Owning a home can provide you with significant tax benefits. It’s important to learn how home ownership can impact your taxes so you know which home-related expenses to claim on your returns for maximizing your savings potential. 

Before we explore the specifics, let’s review how an income tax deduction works. A deduction reduces your taxable income by a percentage, which depends on your tax bracket. You can choose to take the standard deduction ($12,550 for individuals filing as single taxpayers, or $25,100 for married couples filing jointly) or to itemize your deductions, which involves listing each eligible deduction separately. After adding up the total of your itemized deductions, you’ll multiply that amount by your tax bracket for your total deduction. 

With this understanding, let’s take a deeper look at the tax benefits of owning a home. 

Tax benefits of buying a home

Purchasing a home offers the buyer several tax benefits. 

First, with the exception of very large loans, you can generally deduct the cost of the points you paid when securing your mortgage. If you’ve refinanced your original mortgage and paid points when taking out your new loan, the cost of these points can be deducted as well. 

Second, if you are an active-duty member of the armed services, you may be able to deduct your moving expenses from your taxable income. However, this tax perk is limited to active servicepeople who need to move because of a permanent change of station due to a military order. 

Tax benefits of owning a home  

There are multiple ongoing tax benefits to owning a home:

  • Mortgage interest deduction. Most homeowners can deduct the interest payments they make on their mortgage from their taxable income. There may be limits on how much you can deduct, which is dependent on how large your loan is. 
  • Real estate taxes. The money you pay in property taxes is deductible from your taxable income. If you pay through a lender escrow account, you’ll find the tax amount on your 1098 form. If you pay your taxes directly to your municipality, use your personal records, such as a copy of a check or automatic transfer, as proof. 
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI). If you took out a loan that was equal to less than 20% of the home’s value, you may be able to deduct your PMI payments from your taxable income. This deduction depends on your adjusted gross income (AGI): If you’re single and your AGI is less than $50,000, you’re eligible for the PMI deduction. For married couples filing jointly, the threshold is $100,000. Once you’ve reached the max income allowed for the PMI deduction, the amount you can deduct begins to phase out.  
  • Home equity debt. If you’ve taken out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit against your home, the interest payments on these loans can be deducted from your taxable income, as long as the loan is used, in the words of the IRS, “to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.”
  • Home office expenses. If you use a part of your home exclusively for work purposes, you may be able to deduct related expenses.

Are there any tax credits available for homeowners? 

Unlike a tax deduction, a tax credit directly lowers your tax bill, dollar for dollar. You may be eligible for a mortgage credit if you were issued a qualified Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) by a state or local governmental unit or agency under a qualified MCC program. In addition, depending on your home state, you may be able to claim a credit for a percentage of the costs of buying and installing items that help your home harness renewable energy, such as solar panels or geothermal heat pumps. 

Home ownership comes with many advantages, some of which include tax benefits. Keep that in mind as you explore your options, and as with all tax advice, please remember to consult a tax professional for the most current and accurate laws.

Your Turn: How has home ownership benefitted your taxes? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Baby Steps Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—and How You Can Too

Title: Baby Steps Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—and How You Can Too

Author: Dave Ramsey

Hardcover: 224 pages

Publisher: Ramsey Press

Publishing date: Jan. 11, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone looking for straightforward and practical advice on building wealth. 

What’s inside this book?

  • An inside look at how Dave invests and builds wealth. 
  • True stories of people just like you who’ve dug themselves out of deep debt and built wealth. 
  • An extensive look at Dave’s own Baby Step 4 toward becoming a millionaire.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to take baby steps, immediately, toward becoming a millionaire. 
  2. How to break barriers that are holding you back from building true wealth. 
  3. Basic financial concepts written in simple terms. 
  4. Simple steps for getting out of debt. 

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I become a millionaire?
  2. Is there any easy way to build wealth? 
  3. Are financial concepts reserved for the elite?
  4. What can I do — RIGHT NOW — to start getting rid of debt? 

Your Turn: What did you think of Baby Steps Millionaires? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Should I Buy or Lease a Car Now?

Q: It’s no secret that the semiconductor chip shortage is driving up the price of both new and used cars, but I do need a new set of wheels. Am I better off buying or leasing a car now? 

A: The chip shortage and other factors relating to the pandemic and inflation have created a tight auto loan market, the likes of which haven’t been seen in years. 

As a result, finding a new or used car that meets your criteria is challenging in today’s market. Unfortunately, though, leases have also risen in price and there is limited availability among many models. 

If you need a new car right now, what’s your best choice? 

Let’s take a deeper look at buying and leasing a car, paying particular attention to factors that are unique to today’s market, to help you determine which option makes the most sense for you. 

Buying a car in 2021

If you choose to buy a new or used car, you’re looking at inflated prices and a supply shortage that’s been ongoing for months. Expect to pay approximately $40,000 for a new car and $23,000 for a used car, according to Edmunds.com. You’re also unlikely to get the service you may be used to getting at a dealership since salespeople likely have more customers than they can serve at present. This can translate into reluctance to move on the sticker price and in a delayed processing of a car purchase. 

Leasing a car in 2021

The leasing market has not been spared the after-effects of the chip shortage and resultant lag in supply of new vehicles. Many lease companies are struggling to service customers while facing a shortage in available cars. The rising prices have hit this market, too. 

If you’re nearing the end of a lease, you may be in luck. Auto dealerships are in desperate need of cars to sell, and they may offer to buy out your lease at an inflated price, leaving you with extra cash to finance your next car. The dealer pays the leasing company what you owe, and gives you a check for the remaining equity. Of course, you’ll also be facing high prices, but it may be worth getting a head-start on your purchase. 

Buying VS. leasing

In every market, there are some drivers who are better suited toward owning a car and others who benefit more from leasing. Here are some important factors to consider when making this decision: 

  • How long do you hold onto your cars? If you like to swap in your cars for a newer model every few years, a lease may be a better fit for your lifestyle. On the flip side, if you tend to hold onto your cars for many years, consider buying a car instead. 
  • Insurance costs. Leases require full insurance coverage, which can be pricey. When you own your vehicle, though, the amount of insurance coverage beyond what is required by law is your decision. If you like having full protection, including GAP insurance, which pays the difference between what you owe on a car and its true value if it’s totaled in an accident or stolen, a lease may be a better choice for you. If, however, you tend to purchase just minimum coverage, you may be better off purchasing your vehicle. 
  • Mileage. If you usually put more than 10,000 miles on your car each year (the standard amount allowed by most leasing companies before charging extra), you may be better off buying a car. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll still need to pay for those miles in depreciation costs of the car. 
  • Maintenance costs. When you lease a car, most maintenance costs are on the leasing company. You’ll need to spring for anything related to wear and tear of the vehicle, but most other repairs will be covered. You’ll also have the option to pay extra for tire protection, and dent and scratch insurance. 

When you own your car, you’ll be footing the bill for all these costs, plus any maintenance needs. To minimize these costs, don’t finalize a car purchase without first ensuring it’s in good working order. You can do this by using its VIN (vehicle identification number) to look up its history and by having it professionally inspected by a mechanic.

While individual circumstances vary, in general, you can expect the cost of purchasing and leasing a vehicle to break even at the three-year mark. While a lease may offer you cheaper monthly payments, you’ll likely earn back two-thirds of the price you paid on a car if you sell it after three years. 

Today’s auto loan market makes every decision challenging. If you’re choosing between buying or leasing a car, be sure to weigh all variables carefully before making your decision. 

Your Turn: Do you buy or lease your cars? Which factors drive that decision? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Your Complete Year-End Financial Checklist

As 2021 draws to a close and we prepare to usher in 2022, take a moment to go through this year-end financial checklist for ensuring your finances are in order before the start of the New Year.

  1. Review your budget

Is your monthly budget still working well for you? Are you stretching some spending categories or finishing each month in the red? Take some time to review your budget and make any necessary changes.

  1. Top off your retirement plan

If you have a 401(k), check to see that you are taking full advantage of your employer’s matching contributions. If you haven’t contributed as much as you can, you have until the end of the year (Dec. 31, 2021) to catch up; to a limit of $19,500. If you turned 50 this year, you are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500. If you anticipate getting a holiday bonus, consider putting this money toward your debt. 

Likewise, if you have an IRA, you have until April 15 to scrape together the maximum contribution of  $6,000, with an additional $1,000 if you are age 50 years or older. 

  1. Check your progress on paying down debt

 Give your debt an annual checkup by reviewing your outstanding debts from one year ago and holding up the amounts against what you now owe. Have you shed debt from one year ago, or is your debt growing? If you’ve made no progress, or your debt has grown, consider taking bigger steps toward paying it down in 2022, such as consolidating your debt with a [personal/unsecured] loan from Advantage One Credit Union.  

  1. Get a free copy of your annual credit report

The end of the year is a great time for an annual credit checkup. It’s a good idea to review your statements each month to check for fraudulent charges, but you can also request a free copy of your credit report from all three credit agencies once a year. Get your free annual credit reports here, and take a close look at each report. Look for accurate, updated information and any errors, like charges you don’t remember making, or other signs of possible identity theft. If you find any wrongful charges, be sure to dispute them immediately.  

  1. Review your investments and asset allocation

Take some time at year’s end to rebalance your portfolio and to see if your asset allocation is still serving you well. You may need to make some changes to your mix of stocks, bonds, cash and other investments to better reflect the current state of the market.  

  1. Review your beneficiaries

Has your family situation changed in the past year? If it has, be sure to switch the beneficiaries on your accounts and life insurance policies to accommodate these changes. 

  1. Complete open enrollment and select your employer benefits

The end of the year coincides with open enrollment for health insurance policies. This is your chance to select the employer benefits you want for the coming year. If you miss this window, you will be stuck with the benefits you chose last year or with no benefits at all. 

  1. Review your tax withholdings

It’s a good idea to review your W-4 annually and see if the amount of tax being withheld from each paycheck needs to be adjusted. If you’re not a numbers person, ask your accountant for help. Changing up the numbers just a bit can make a significant difference in your tax bill at the end of the year. Or, if you usually get a large refund, adjusting the amount withheld can mean enjoying a larger paycheck throughout the year instead of giving the government an interest-free loan to be paid back in one lump sum at year’s end.  

The doors are closing on 2021 and it’s time to give your finances a full checkup. Use this checklist to make sure your money matters are in order before the start of 2022.

Your Turn: What’s on your financial checklist for the end of the year? Tell us about it in the comments.

Single Women and Money: How to Live Well on Your Income

Title: Single Women and Money: How to Live Well on Your Income

Author: Margaret Price, Jill Gianola

Hardcover: 216 pages

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Publishing date: Nov. 11, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Single women who are struggling to live a financially secure and successful life on a single salary, which is typically less than what men earn.
  • Soon-to-be single women looking for concrete advice on managing while on one income stream. 

What’s inside this book?

  • Practical tools to help single women achieve and maintain financial independence. 
  • Financial advice from experts on issues specific to divorcees, widows and single moms.
  • Real-life stories of single women who are financially secure and the steps they took to get there. 
  • Resources for single women experiencing financial difficulties.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  1. How to save and spend wisely on a single salary.
  2. How to get rid of debt when you’re living alone.
  3. How to find investments that align with your values.
  4. How to plan for a solo retirement.

 4 questions this book will answer for you: 

 How can I support my children and give them a financially secure childhood when I’m living single?

  1. Is it possible to reenter the workforce at age 55?
  2. How can I protect my financial assets and leave a legacy as a single woman?
  3. How can society help single women through financial difficulties? 

 What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Whether widowed, divorced, or never partnered, single women all too often face greater financial challenges than do single men and married couples. This book contains sound advice and valuable resources for women of all ages seeking financial security and peace of mind on their own.” – George Manne
  • “Single women face enormous financial problems. This canny guide to personal finance, geared toward a large (66 million) share of the U.S. population, spells out smart strategies to surmount the obstacles. How to handle retirement planning, debt, taxes, single motherhood, landing a job after age 55—all these vital questions get answered, and well, by the intrepid team of Margaret Price and Jill Gianola.” – Janet Marks
  • Single Women and Money delivers clear, concise, hands-on information. It’s the breakthrough guide to financial security that America’s millions of single women can use.” – Larry Light

 Your Turn: What did you think of Single Women and Money? Share your opinion in the comments. 

We Should All Be Millionaires

We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power

Title: We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power

Author: Rachel Rodgers

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins Leadership

Publishing date: May 4, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Women, people of color, and anyone who is part of a systematically marginalized group and wants to learn how to become a millionaire.

What’s inside this book?

  • A fascinating history lesson on how women and people of color have been prevented from building wealth for centuries.
  • Financial lessons that self-made millionaire, Rachel Rodgers, has learned on her journey to wealth. 
  • A step-by-step guide on how to overcome obstacles and build wealth.
  • An explanation why much of the financial advice you may have heard in the past is patriarchal nonsense. 
  • A complete overview of Rodgers’ $10K in 10 Days Challenge.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  1. Why earning more money is not selfish or greedy.
  2. How to stop making destructive decisions and start making million-dollar decisions instead. 
  3. How to let go of financial shame.
  4. Strategies to earn more money and fatten your financial accounts. 

4 questions this book will answer for you: 

  1. Why are only 10% of the world’s millionaires women? 
  2. How can I overcome shaky confidence and imposter syndrome to build wealth? 
  3. How can I gain more peace, prosperity and joy? 
  4. How can I set and enforce “Million Dollar Boundaries” in every aspect of my life?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • We Should All be Millionaires” is a must-read, not only to help you become more financially abundant and empowered, but also so that you can become a much-needed agent of change, equality, and equity that our world needs.” –Mastin Kipp
  • “This book is an honest, realistic, and inspiring look at what it really takes to become an extremely high-earning woman. Rachel Rodgers will give you a million dollar attitude with a bank account to match.” –Sophia Amoru
  • “As a Black women, we are accustomed to the story that we are required to struggle in order to find financial stability or success. This book needs to be read by every woman who is ready for a blueprint for being joyful, finding ease, and growing wealth while standing up for causes that need our voices and attention.” –Rachel Cargle

Your Turn: What did you think of We Should All be Millionaires? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Real Life Money: An Honest Guide to Taking Control of Your Finances

Title: Real Life Money: An Honest Guide to Taking Control of Your Finances 

Author: Clare Seal

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Headline

Publishing date: August 24, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Readers trying to get rid of debt 
  • Anyone interested in an honest, insightful memoir of a young woman’s journey to financial wellness 
  • Late teenagers looking for advice on avoiding the debt trap as they transition into adulthood

What’s inside this book?

  • Seal’s personal journey from the queen of debt to money master 
  • A straightforward introduction to budgeting, debt repayment, and the psychology of finance 
  • Tips and strategies for managing money while under challenging circumstances

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  1. How to negotiate repayment terms. 
  2. How to set realistic budgets. 
  3. How to create an actionable plan for paying down debt. 
  4. How to stop defining yourself by your financial situation.

4 questions this book will answer for you: 

  1. Is money anxiety an inevitable part of life?
  2. How do I have the “money talk” with my partner without jeopardizing our relationship?
  3. How does a person’s mental health affect their finances and how do I overcome the guilt/shame I feel about my debt?
  4. How do social media and influencer culture impact our spending choices?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Her voice [is] refreshing in a world where finance and investment still feels so male-dominated.” ―Grazia
  • “This book is going to be a gift to the lives of many. It’s packed with encouragement, support and wisdom that will dismantle shame, and equip people in finding balance both financially and in the way they emotionally approach money.” ―Anna Mathur
  • “Want to finally get a grip on your cash? This is the book for you.” ―Cosmopolitan
  • “Whether you have debt, are a bit too trigger happy with contactless payments, or just can’t bear checking your bank account in the middle of the month, Seal’s non-judgmental book is unmissable… this is an essential and kind book that everyone could benefit from reading.” ―Stylist

Your Turn: What did you think of Real Life Money? Share your opinion in the comments.