Personal charitable foundation

If you were lucky to acquire some wealth — and let’s be honest, this is mostly luck — a sensible way to pay it forward is by funding some needed non-profits. Let’s say you scored a bonus, an IPO, a bitcoin sale, early tech stock, or an inheritance. A donor-advised fund (DAF) is an easy way to gain the advantages of a personal foundation, without the hassles or expense of a personal foundation. A DAF is basically a mutual fund investment that you contribute to with cash or by transferring existing stock, with immediate tax benefits, and all the financial growth over time from that investment are completely tax free. But everything in the account, including gains, must be given to certified non-profits of your choice. You can start small. Fund aggregators like Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard offer them. I recommend the Fidelity Charitable DAF which I have been using for several decades. Very clean, quick online interface. — KK

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Candid money talk

For me, this article on Lifehacker was less about how to make more money and more about how other people are budgeting their income. Five different people share their spending, goals, plans and advice about finances. It’s really refreshing to have a candid conversation about money, even if I wasn’t the one participating in it. Another article about money I found interesting this week was this one in Fast Company. — CD

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Hire a negotiator to lower your bills

Trim is an online service that negotiates with your phone, cable TV, and Internet providers to reduce your monthly bill by asking for a discount. Sure, I could do this myself, but I’m happy to pay someone else a 33% commission on the money they save me. So far they’ve successfully reduced my annual bills by $543.24. — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Bitcoin for the Befuddled

I’ve taken a deep dive into Bitcoin and blockchains for the last couple of years and have read about a dozen books on the subject. Bitcoin for the Befuddled is the book I recommend to anyone who asks me where to start. It does a great job of explaining how Bitcoin works, going into detail without being overly complex. — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Equipping students

Few things in life are as satisfying as getting handwritten thank-you notes from school kids for helping them learn. DonorsChoose is a non-profit that features thousands of public school teachers seeking basic school supplies, or extra gear for special projects (rocket kits for science!). The teachers post their pitch. You choose a project. When it gets fully funded they post verification pictures of the kids using the resource which your funds provided, and later they’ll send you a fistful of amazingly detailed (and endearing) letters from the students themselves. You’ll want to do this. — KK 

MoneyClaudia Dawson
High leverage philanthropy

I’ve been making micro-loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world via Kiva for 10 years. I loan small amounts (less than $100) to say, women in Africa hoping to buy a sewing machine to start their own sewing business, or herders in Bolivia needing some equipment to make cheese, and soon enough they will repay the loan, so I can re-loan the money again to someone else. I’ve gone through 4 cycles of loans for my first money, and there is less than 0.1% delinquency — a rate any bank would die for. 100% of my money goes to helping the individuals I select; Kiva’s operating costs are funded separately. The money keeps going around. It’s one of the best bargains in the world. — KK

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Money management

I’m liking the new Mint much more than before. Now that it’s merged with Mint Bills, I can manage both bills and accounts in one place, and it was a lot easier to connect to all my accounts than before. Also, being able to view all my transactions in one place and categorize them permanently makes budgeting painless. — CD

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Online piggy bank

I’ve been using Smarty Pig for years. It’s a website where you create a savings goal by specifying a date and an amount of money that you want to have saved by that time. Smarty Pig will transfer funds from your bank each month so that you meet your savings goal. I’ve used it for vacations, computers, insurance premiums, and holiday shopping. — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
US and World debt clocks

This website is a dashboard view of national debt, student loan debt, budget items, tax revenue, jobs, and dozens of other rapidly rising numbers. It also has a page of debt numbers for other countries. It’s alarming to watch the numbers rise before your eyes. What can be done about it? — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Cryptocurrency podcast for newbies

Created by a couple of self-deprecating podcaster/journalist/crypto investors — Aaron Lammer (Longform) and Jay Caspian Kang (HBO’s Vice News Tonight/NYT Magazine) — Coin Talk looks at all the crazy happenings in the cryptocurrency sphere with a high-level, jargon-free approach. Lammer and Kang are intelligent, funny, and skeptical. — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Interested in Bitcoin? You need a hardware wallet

I wrote a story for Wired about forgetting my password on a small USB device that stored my bitcoin keys and how I hired a hacker to help me unlock it. Despite my experience, I’m still using the same hardware wallet (the manufacturer updated the firmware to address the exploit) because it’s still the best way to keep hackers away from your cryptocurrency. It’s called a Trezor and it costs about $85. If you have more the $1000 in bitcoin, ether, bitcoin cash, or other cryptocurrency, I recommend getting one. — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Shop with Bitcoin on Amazon

I have a small amount of money in the form of bitcoin. I discovered Purse, which lets me buy things on Amazon using bitcoin at a 15% discount. So far I’ve purchased two items over $100 each, and it has worked without a hitch. — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Grocery shopping tips

Living in SF and lack of parking makes me avoid grocery shopping. I buy in bulk and use grocery delivery services when I can, but there are minimum purchases for free delivery and sometimes the prices are marked up. Greatist has research-backed tips for more efficient in-store shopping. Planning the week’s dinners and committing to a list has helped me minimize unnecessary trips. Listening to music and avoiding all other aisles are helpful too. — CD

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Best credit card for Amazon

I’m a very happy Amazon Prime customer. The free shipping and other benefits make the $119 annual fee well worth it. I also have the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, which I use to make all my purchases on Amazon, because you get 5% on every purchase you make on the site. Amazon is offering a $70 Amazon.com Gift Card instantly upon credit card approval when you apply for a card. — MF

MoneyClaudia Dawson
Best travel credit card

My first choice for getting money when traveling overseas is to use a credit card with no foreign exchange transaction fees. Credit cards give me the best exchange rates, and it reduces how much cash I carry. (If a card is not accepted, my second choice is local cash issued from an ATM, using a debit card without transaction costs. I don’t bother with Travelers Checks; they are unusable these days. And traditional money exchanges have unfavorable rates.) For a credit card without foreign transaction fees, I use a Chase Sapphire Reserve which has lots of other perks, but a high annual fee. Another good option is the Capital One Venture for $60 per year, but less perks. For the current lowdown on the best travel cards and their perks see ThePointsGuy, a free blog full of travel advice. — KK

MoneyClaudia Dawson