In the financial sector, there is a term that you have likely heard before. That term is Float. I’ll try to define it as it pertains to this article.
Float – To use known time delays in processing of financial transactions to allow for extended time to cover cost of transaction.
Much like any other financial term, there are some good and bad ways to use float. One bad way, is actually illegal in some places. That’s the “check float”. In a “check float” a person writes a check to themselves from an account they have at one institution and deposits it in an account they have at another institution in order to inflate the balance at the second institution and cover any outgoing transactions that would have otherwise been returned. They then write a check from the second institution to themselves and deposit it in the first institution a day or so later to cover the first check. It’s usually illegal because the person is technically writing bad checks. Eventually, it will catch up to them, and they’ll get caught. It should also be noted that with recent Check 21 regulations, checks process much quicker than they used to and have cut back on this practice.
There are less criminal ways to take advantage of float, however. For instance, at my institution, I know that there is a delay between when I tell the bill pay service to send a payment and when it actually is deducted from my account. Because I know that, I can sometimes send a payment a day or two before I am paid in order to make sure the payment gets where it’s going on time. People who get paid on the 1st and the 15th will sometimes get paid earlier when the payday lands on a weekend. That’s a kind of float as well. In some ways, a payday loan is a type of float (legal, but should be criminal in my opinion). People go to a payday loan institution and get a short term loan (float) to gain access to funds before they are paid. When they are paid, they pay off the balance of the loan along with some high-interest and fees.
Using float can be a very slippery slope. In some cases, it’s just illegal and should be avoided. In others, like payday loans, it should be illegal, or heavily reformed. Other uses, like my bill pay example, are more innocent. But, all of them can lead to trouble if the user isn’t careful. Using float once in a while can be fairly safe, but repeated use can often find you in a hole that you dug for yourself. In almost all cases, the necessity of float can often mean your spending has outstripped your earning. Use float sparingly, and legally, and you can avoid the slippery slope.
photo credit: marktristan
Having kids is not cheap. There are many expenses that are associated with small children that are hard to get around no matter how frugal you are. For instance, if you are a dual income family, you must pay for daycare and disposable diapers as most daycare centers will not accept cloth diapers. In our area, daycare for an infant can run a family $1000 a month. You may rejoice when your child enters preschool because you will find an extra $1000 a month in your pocket. Instead of just absorbing that money back into your budget, why not earmark it for something else?
Imagine if you took that $1000 a month and invested it? That is $12,000 a year! You could continue to pay it to yourself, perhaps setting up a college fund for your child with the money you used to pay in daycare. In five years, you would have $60,000. After that, just let it sit and earn interest for the next eight years, and your child’s college education would be largely paid for.
What if one of the parents decides to stay home to care for the children, in part to avoid expensive daycare? They may not have the $1000 a month to put away. While this is true, there are still plenty of other expenses associated with young children that you eventually won’t have to pay. For instance, we are paying roughly $75 a month to diaper our two girls, and I anticipate within the next 6 to 8 months, both girls will be out of diapers. It would be very easy to just absorb that $75 back into the budget, but that isn’t what I plan to do. Instead, I plan to set up a college education fund for my kids and invest that $75 a month. Yes, $75 a month will not add up very quickly, and it certainly won’t put even one of my children through college. But it is a start, and it is more than we are putting away right now.
Likewise, if you have a monthly car payment, when the car is paid off, use that money to pay yourself a car payment so you can pay for your next car in cash. If you bought a car 7 years ago, and had a monthly payment of $475, and you paid off the loan in four years and continued to make that monthly payment, you would now have $17,100 set aside for a new car, which would be enough to buy a nice, one to two year old car for cash.
You may argue that the car payment or the daycare payment was a hardship and that now that you no longer need to pay those payments, you need the money to pay for other things. This might be true, but if your child was still younger than preschool age, you would find a way to make the payments because you would have to. Or, if you now have other expenses for your child such as after school care for $300 a month, deduct that from the $1000 you used to pay for daycare and save the remainder. If you can maintain that mindset, you will find yourself reaching your financial goals quicker than you imagined, simply by not seeing that money as “free money” to now spend as you will but rather as money to continue to invest in your and your child’s future.
photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography
Swagbucks is having another sign-up bonus week as well as a referral promotion that will last through the end of the year. When you sign up a new account with Swagbucks, and use the code 5for5, you will get an additional 70 Swagbucks added onto the normal 30 you get when you sign up for a total of 100 at sign-up. It only takes 450 to get a $5 Amazon card (my favorite way to use my points), so you’ll already be almost 1/4 of the way to your first reward.
Once you’ve signed up, you can refer other people. During this promotion, you have to get 5 or more new referrals that aren’t related or living at the same address. Once you’ve done that, and each of them gets their first 50 earned (not sign-up bonus) Swagbucks, you’ll get a bonus 500 for referring them.
So, if you’ve been putting off signing up for Swagbucks, this week might be the week to do it. The 5for5 sign-up code is only good through 12 PM Pacific on Monday the 17th of October 2011. The referral bonus is live through the end of the year.
My take on Swagbucks is this: You aren’t going to get rich by using it, but I average one $5 amazon card every two months. If nothing else, it’s a free e-book every other month. Or, two free hardcovers every year. With very little extra work by me. I just use their search when I have to search for something online.
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