Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Scaling back spending yields unexpected benefits. Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on charitable donations and new baby expenses, a travel expert shares his tips for traveling during a pandemic, and who needs to request a Coronavirus relief payment before October 15th.

Scaling Back Spending Yields Unexpected Benefits
Look for the silver lining.

SmartMoney Podcast: Make Your Donations Go Further; Plan for New Baby Expenses
Giving strategically.

Ask a Points Nerd: How Can I Travel This Summer?
An expert shares his tips after traveling up the West Coast.

Here’s Who Needs to Request a Coronavirus Relief Payment Before October 15
See if you’re on the list.

Q&A: Planning philanthropy

Dear Liz: You recently explained to a reader why it was better to make one donation of $1,000 rather than 10 donations of $100. I understand why you gave the response you did and you made some good points, especially about the importance of researching charities before you give. You also mentioned the costs each organization would incur in processing the smaller donations. As a longtime nonprofit executive, I think the social capital enjoyed by those organizations outweighs the costs. It often is helpful to the organization to be able to count that donor among their ranks to demonstrate that they have widespread support, for example, or to include that donor in future efforts to serve the community. My experience is that it’s not always just about the dollars and cents.

Answer: Thanks for adding your perspective. It’s understandable that a charity would prefer a small donation to no donation. The charity still gets some money, even after processing fees, and the opportunity to add another donor to their mailing lists.

Savvy givers, however, want as much of their money to benefit their favorite causes as possible. Giving larger donations to fewer charities is a good way to do that, since that approach minimizes processing costs as well as the volume of appeals for more donations. Also, adequately researching and monitoring 10 different charities is a tall order for most busy people. Winnowing the choices can help ensure we’re rewarding the best-run charities, rather than those that spend the bulk of their donations on fundraising and overhead.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Changes are coming to the 2014 mortgage market. Also in the news: The privacy of your credit score, financial predictions for 2014, and how to avoid charitable giving tax mishaps. credit

What You Need to Know About the 2014 Mortgage Market
Seven possible changes to next year’s mortgage market.

How Private Is Your Credit Score?
The amount of people who know your credit score might surprise you.

10 Personal Finance Predictions for 2014
NerdWallet reads the financial tea leaves.

Giving to Charity? Watch Out for These Tax Traps
Your generosity could come with a hefty price tag.

Will Banks Ever Pay Savers More?
Why banks hate people who save their money.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Hidden taxes that can bust your budget. Also in the news: how to job hunt during the holidays, the fastest growing jobs in America, and how to make the most out of your year end charitable giving.

Hidden Taxes That Can Bust Your Budget
How to avoid being caught by surprise.

3 Holiday Job Hunting Tips
Turn a holiday party into a networking event.

7 fastest-growing jobs in America
Find out which jobs are in demand.

Make the most of charitable giving and tax breaks
Do your homework before donating.

6 ways to avoid a holiday spending hangover
3 key components: a plan, a budget, and some discipline.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Figuring out what car repairs really cost. Also in the news: Protecting your children’s credit, tips on smart charitable donations, and how to prepare for Black Friday.

How to Figure Out What Your Car Repair Really Costs
How not to be at the mercy of the repair shop.

Protecting Your Children’s Credit
Even children are at risk for identity theft.

6 tips to donate to charity the smart way
Getting the most out of your generosity.

Top 10 Black Friday shopping tips
Practice, practice, practice.

The ‘4 Boxes’ Approach To Helping Elderly Parents
Inventorying your parents’ possessions could make important financial decisions easier.

Help your local food bank

eating breakfastFood stamp benefits to 47 million people were cut Nov. 1–and further cuts may lie ahead.

Food banks already depleted by the lousy economy are now bracing for an influx of new patrons. So if you’re not among the one in seven Americans currently receiving food stamps, please consider a donation to your local food bank to help meet this growing need.

The best donation is cash (or checks, or payment by credit card). Food banks have relationships with food makers and distributors that allow them to get much better deals on bulk purchases than what you can get at the retail level. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which my family supports with a monthly donation, can provide four meals for every $1 donated.

If what you can offer is food, though, or your skills in organizing a food drive–that’s good, too.

You can find your local food bank through the Feeding America site.

How to make charitable giving part of your financial plan

Dear Liz: What are your thoughts on charitable giving? I hear about tithing (giving 10% of income) but would have real problems trying to maintain that commitment. That said, I’d like to become a regular donor to a reputable charity.

Answer: Most U.S. households give to charity, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, but the average contribution rate for those who give is closer to 3% than 10%.

If you want to step up your charitable giving, take the time to plan and prioritize as you would any other part of your financial life.

Making larger donations to a few charities is typically better than scattershot donations to a bunch of causes, said Ken Berger, the president and chief executive of nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator. Charities spend money to process donations, and those costs tend to eat up more of small donations, he said. A $100 donation to a single charity might incur $2 in processing costs, leaving $98 for good works, Berger noted. The same $100, spread among 10 charities, would require each to spend $2 for processing — leaving just $80.

Because smaller donations don’t benefit charities as much, some are tempted to increase their “yield” by selling your information to other charities or repeatedly hitting you up for additional contributions, Berger said. Giving more allows you more leverage to ask that your information not be sold and that the charity limit its appeals.

You can research charities at websites such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar to make sure you understand their finances and how effective they are in reaching their goals.

Finally, consider setting up automatic donations rather than rushing to make contributions at year’s end. Some companies have payroll deductions for charities, or you can set up a recurring charge on a credit or debit card. Making your contributions automatic helps ensure you can achieve your charitable giving goals. It’s like saving or “paying yourself first” — when you don’t have to constantly remind yourself to do it, it’s more likely to get done.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Chevy VoltPreparing for rising interest rates, making your charitable donations go further, and why having extra liability coverage is essential.

Extra liability coverage is cheap, cheap, cheap
Buying as much car insurance as humanly possible is essential.

5 Steps to Take Control of Your Personal Finances
Simple things you can do to take control.

Charitable Donation Tips for Boomers
Establishing a charitable plan can make your donations go further.

Top 10 fastest-growing jobs in the U.S.
Thinking of changing careers? Try one of these.

How to Prepare for Rising Interest Rates
After years of record lows, the party is almost over.