What the experts say
The price of Christmas cheer
It’s outdoor holiday lighting time again, and “homeowners now have options besides climbing a ladder in the cold to hang decorations,” said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Hiring professionals to put up your sparkling outdoor display has become more popular with those “willing to pay to avoid the headache of untangling strings of lights and running extension cords.” Basic décor, like lights along your single family home’s roof and door can cost about $500. The average is $1,650, though more elaborate displays can cost much more. Many installers will also remove the lights and store them for you. Staying safe is another reason to hire professionals—in 2016 there were 14,700 holiday decorating–related injuries, most from falls. To save money, join with neighbors to negotiate a group rate.
Three expense-tracking apps
“Need an assist to track your spending?” asked Kevin Dupzyk in PopularMechanics.com. If so, it’s time to try a budgeting app. For “fully appraising your financial health,” there’s Mint, a free app that lets you sync and monitor your checking, savings, credit cards, investment accounts, and even assets such as car and home values. You Need a Budget, an app that costs $6.99 a month, is very focused on your budgeting strategy. It “helps you give every dollar you earn a ‘job,’ even if the job is ‘be used to go to the movies.’” If you’re looking for a very easy-to-use choice, there’s Wally, which doesn’t sync with bank accounts, but lets you pair expenses with notes and scanned receipts.
An online bank with a social mission
There’s a new online banking platform that will let you use part of your fees to improve the world, said Eillie Anzilotti in FastCompany.com. Good Money will offer financial perks similar to other online banks, such as no ATM or overdraft fees. “But 50 percent of the profits it makes it funnels toward the planet through impact investments and charitable donations.” While there are many ways to pull your money out of a bank that you don’t like, there are few methods to influence a bank to actually do good. “Good Money wants to fill that void.” Clients will get a small ownership stake—the founder says that may eventually go as high as 70 percent—and will get to vote “on where Good Money will invest its profits,” with a choice of sustainable investments such as clean energy or reforestation efforts.