RSS
Personal finance tips: Purchases that turn into savings, and more
Three top piece of financial advice — from building a college fund to protecting yourself from cybercrime
 
Love your caffeine? Splurging on the fancy espresso machine now will mean big savings later.
Love your caffeine? Splurging on the fancy espresso machine now will mean big savings later. (Thinkstock)

Purchases that turn into savings
Sometimes you have to spend money to make money, says Meg Favreau at U.S. News & World Report. While frugal shoppers might fret over purchases, some can actually save money in the long run. If you live in an area where it's feasible to forgo a car, buying a bike or transit pass will save thousands in car expenses each year. And with monthly cable bills averaging around $123, a one-time investment in a TV-streaming device like Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire can add up to thousands in annual savings. For caffeine addicts, an espresso machine is a smart buy. While one "can cost anywhere between $100 and $1,200," the initial investment will pay off down the road. Just think: "If you buy a $4 latte 250 days of the year, that's $1,000," and you still won't have coffee on weekends.

How to build a college fund
If you're planning to send a child to college some day, start saving now, says Dan Caplinger at Daily Finance. One of the best tools for building a college fund is a tax-advantaged 529 plan, which allows you to put away cash "on a tax-deferred basis, meaning that even if the investments you select pay interest, dividends, or other forms of income, you won't have an immediate tax bill." And if the money pays for educational expenses — tuition, fees, or housing — even the withdrawals are tax-exempt. Contribution limits vary from state to state, but most 529 plans have caps of between $235,000 and $400,000. That's enough to "give most families all the flexibility they need to save for their children's college education."

Protect yourself from cybercrime
Your PIN isn't the only number you need to keep safe, says Adam Levin at Credit.com. These days, data breaches are a "certainty in life." But credit card numbers, email addresses, and passwords aren't the only things hackers are "gunning for." Phone numbers, significant dates — like birthdays and graduation dates — Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and even IP addresses can all be exploited by identity thieves. The best defense is to avoid posting sensitive data online whenever possible. But as cybercrime becomes a fact of life, "the smartest thing you can do is assume the worst" and be vigilant about monitoring your accounts, bank statements, and credit reports for signs of fraud.

 
Sergio Hernandez is business editor of The Week's print edition. He has previously worked for The DailyProPublica, the Village Voice, and Gawker.

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week