Groupon buys rival LivingSocial for a heavy discount

— NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Groupon just scored a great deal buying its competitor.

Groupon announced Wednesday it has agreed to buy LivingSocial, its onetime rival in the daily deals market, for a price low enough to be considered “not material.”

The acquisition marks the end of a remarkable comedown for LivingSocial, which was once said to be valued as high as $4.5 billion on the private market.

“This brings together the two pioneering companies in the local space to help merchants grow their business and consumers get great value on local services and activities,” LivingSocial said in a statement on its website.

The two companies were founded nearly a decade ago and put a new spin on coupons. Groupon and LivingSocial blasted customers with daily deals by e-mail for restaurants, retailers and other activities in various cities.

In time, some businesses complained about losing money and failing to gain regular customers out of the offers. Many customers also appeared to experience daily deal fatigue.

Groupon managed to go public in late 2011 with a market value of more than $12 billion. Today it is worth about $4 billion.

Along the way, Groupon fired its CEO, went through multiple rounds of layoffs and tried to pivot away from e-mail deals. Instead, customers can visit the site and search for deals there.

LivingSocial suffered a similar fate. In recent years, it replaced its CEO, cut more than half its workforce and tried to focus more on offering customers fun “experiences,” regardless of whether they’re 50% off.

The LivingSocial brand will continue to exist, at least for now, according to the company. The acquisition is expected to close next month.

‘Pretty in Pink’ Parade Illuminates Loch Raven Drive

— The entire student body of Cardinal Shehan School was “pretty in pink” last week for the school’s second annual Pink Parade, bringing attention the fight against breast cancer.

Close to 400 students, parents, teachers, friends and alumni/ae gathered in front of the school and marched through the Loch Raven community to champion breast cancer, memorialize instructors and loved ones who succumbed to the disease and raise funds for innovations to transform the lives of breast cancer survivors.

Principal Fametta Jackson led the charge for the school and walked with her students through the community.

“Breast cancer is something near and dear to our hearts. We recently lost a loved one at the school, Ms. Mahallack; and two years ago we lost another member of the Shehan community, Ms. Byrd,” said Jackson. “We all have been touched directly or indirectly by breast cancer. We just wanted to paint the area pink and encourage both our school community and the broader neighborhood.”

For eighth grader Laura Leek, the Pink Parade was a personal way to remember a family member who suffered from the disease. “My grandmother, Laura Leek, passed away from breast cancer, so today’s walk meant a lot to me,” Leek said.

Tracey Johnson, parent volunteer and secretary for the Cardinal Shehan Home School Association, has faith that there’s a cure on the horizon.

“We’re raising money for the breast cancer cause. A lot of us have family members and friends who have lost loved ones to breast cancer. With God’s prayer, we’ll find the cure soon and I hope that maybe even one of our Cardinal Shehan students will be part of finding that cure,” Johnson said.

Lisa Taylor, an art teacher and librarian at the school is the founder of the Pink Parade initiative.

“Our vision was to create an event that would honor our two teachers who passed from breast cancer. We wanted to make it fun and lively. We wanted to encourage our students to help their families to get check-ups,” Taylor said. “This is our second year of donating to the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel cancer Center. This year the school will make a $1000 donation.”

The school got off to a good start the first year with a $700 donation, said Taylor.

Several fathers came out to support their daughters at Cardinal Shehan to let them know that men wear pink and are concerned about breast cancer, too.

“My daughter’s mother is a breast cancer survivor. So, it’s important for the kids to understand what’s going on,” said Anthony Oliver, a parent with two children enrolled at Cardinal Shehan.

Another student’s father, Simon Benjamin, was dressed head-to-toe in pink.

“It’s important to be here with my dad today because we’re family,” said Benjamin. Her father Simon said it’s his responsibility as a father to make sure Sydney is equipped with the knowledge to make healthy decision about her lifestyle as she becomes a young woman.

“I have a young lady, so I have to [make] her aware and keep her on top of things.”

Taylor is already thinking ahead to next year and ways to reach out to neighborhood churches and other community institutions that have responded to the excitement of this year’s Pink Parade. She was especially grateful that several Cardinal Shehan alumni/ae returned to support the event.

“Our students are really more aware of breast cancer than we realize,” Taylor said.

Principal Jackson is proud that the Pink Parade enables her students to demonstrate peacemaking to the entire community.

“Unfortunately we have people who don’t practice peacemaking as much as we would like. So, we the role models and examples of peace,” Jackson said.

Despite incomes, black families still denied access to home loans

— In recent weeks, a spate of news coverage has referred to America’s “inner cities.” Some may even interpret it as a new code word for minorities, usually referring to blacks and Latinos. Yet today, according to Richard Rothstein, a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute, the inner city experience does not encompass all of black America. More blacks now live in the suburbs than in urban ghettos, and approximately one-third of black Americans have incomes higher than that of the respective median earnings.

So why is access to homeownership still so out of reach for consumers of color? Why do so many blacks and Latinos continue to suffer disproportionate denials for mortgage loans?

A recent analysis of the 2015 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) sheds further light on the fact that even years after a national recovery from the housing collapse, the American Dream remains elusive for much of Black America.

“The HMDA data has shown a persistent difference in denial rates by race and ethnicity and this year is no exception,” wrote CRL. “20.8 percent of African-American applicants were denied a loan in 2015 compared to 16.1 percent of Hispanic applicants and 10 percent of non-Hispanic white applicants.”

Last year, more than six million home purchase mortgages were made, but only 51,202 or 2.7 percent were conventional loans to black home buyers. By comparison, non-Hispanic Whites received 1,361,564 conventional loans, and Latinos received 96,975 of these loans. Conventional loans are the most widely available and often the most cost-effective and sustainable mortgages available.

The vast majority of loans to black consumers in 2015 continued a trend that has grown stronger year to year since the housing meltdown: government-backed loans like FHA or VA account for the overwhelming majority of loans made to black consumers— 120,618, more than double that for conventional loans. Latino consumers received more with 162,317 loans, but far less compared to 765,880 for whites. Government-secured mortgage loans are an important source of credit and also tend to be more costly than other home loans.

Now contrast those dismal numbers with those from the Census Bureau that found black Americans are more than 13 percent of the nation’s population, and 1.8 million blacks, ages 25 and older, hold advanced degrees. So, how is it that when black college graduation rates are growing and many are living in the suburbs with higher earnings, why are conventional mortgage loans so rare for black borrowers?

One reason could be that the average credit score needed to get a loan has risen substantially. In 2015 the average credit score for all new loan originations neared 750, a near 50-point increase from the average used in 2001.

“Although the nation’s banks have largely recovered from the financial crisis,” continued CRL, “the 2015 HMDA data illustrate that they are not using their rebuilt capital to create homeownership opportunities, particularly not for borrowers of color and low-income families.”

“Before the Great Recession,” added Rothstein, “half of all African-Americans owned their own homes. By 2013, it had fallen to 44 percent. Before the Great Recession, the net worth of African-American homeowners averaged $144,000. By 2013, it had fallen to $80,000. This was not a natural calamity that befell the black middle class but one precipitated in part by unlawful banking and governmental practices.”

When it comes to homeownership, the facts are clear. The real question for black America is, ‘what do we intend to do about it?’ Economic inclusion— not exclusion—would offer a real chance to build more black economic security.

Charlene Crowell is a communications deputy director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at

Maryland Students invited to submit best problem solving app ideas

— Baltimore— The Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge— the no-coding-skills-needed contest that gives middle and high school students a chance to bring their problem-solving app ideas to life— is now accepting new app ideas for the 2016-2017 competition.

Winning student teams will be chosen from each state, earning a $5,000 grant for their school or organization and free tablets for each team member. Then the Best in State teams will compete for the ultimate prizes: an additional $15,000 for their respective organizations, and the chance to turn their app ideas into real, working smartphone apps that will be made available for download.

Now in its fifth year, thousands of students across the U.S. have participated in the app challenge— gathering teams, dreaming up ideas, and creating concepts for mobile apps that could solve problems in their schools and communities.

Past winners have been featured at the White House Science Fair and even gone on to sell their completed apps for cash.

Students can submit ideas until November 18, 2016, and the winners will be named in January and February 2017.

Last year’s Best in State winner from Maryland was a group of students from Montgomery County. They created the AutBuddy app, which helps children with autism manage tasks and helps their parents and teachers communicate. AutBuddy is available for free download in Google Play.

For more information about how to register for the Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge or to download the completed apps, visit Follow us on Twitter (@VerizonGiving and Facebook (

The app challenge, part of Verizon Innovative Learning, was developed to give all students, regardless of their technology experience or access to technology, a chance to make a difference, and to help spark their interest in STEM subjects and careers.

Over the past 10 years, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than other jobs. STEM jobs are expected to grow by one million by 2022 to a total of more than nine million jobs.

The app challenge provides hands-on, experiential learning that can equip students with the in-demand skills of the future and empower them to envision brighter futures for themselves as business owners, app inventors, coders, technology professionals and more.

Teams of students currently in grades 6 through 12, who are affiliated with schools and nonprofit groups or clubs can enter the contest. All teams must have a faculty advisor.

BrightStar’s Caregiver of the Year keeps on giving

— Kathy Carter demonstrates again and again why her clients and co-workers alike at BrightStar Care of Baltimore consider her a national treasure. The recent winner of the company’s national 2016 Caregiver of the Year competition lives her life by giving generously not only to her clients, but to her co-workers as well.

Ada Sanchez, one of Carter’s co-workers got quite a surprise on Thursday,

October 20, 2016, when she learned that Carter decided to give the $5000 scholarship prize that came with the Caregiver of the Year award to her. Sanchez is currently enrolled at Baltimore City Community College with the dream of becoming a Registered Nurse.

Sanchez has been working with Carter at BrightStar Care for just a little over a year. She works two jobs and supports a grieving mother after the death of her father just two months ago. Like Carter, Sanchez gets energy from connecting with the senior adults she takes care of at BrightStar Care.

“They surprised me. It’s still like a dream right now. My dad was like my support. This feels like one of the blessings that my dad left. Right now, it’s just me and my mother here, we don’t have any other family here,” Sanchez said.

Lynn Berberich, owner of the Lutherville-based BrightStar facility where Carter has worked for the past six years, shared the astonishment felt by the entire staff upon hearing the news of Carter’s generosity.

“This is an incredibly unusual occurrence. First, the fact that Kathy was the national caregiver of the year [was] nominated by two clients. Kathy is just so generous,” said Berberich. “She’s really doing what she loves, but to see that there’s somebody else that she can help and it’s one of her co-workers. You don’t see that kind of generosity very often.”

Sanchez, who met Carter through a mutual friend, will use the prize money to pay tuition for her second year at BCCC, to help with books, uniforms, equipment and the many non-tuition expenses of a nursing program.

“I was inspired that she’s holding down two jobs. She’s going back to school, she’s had the recent loss of her father, and through it all, she rises.

“When I won the national [award], one of the ladies came up to me and asked what was I going to do with the scholarship. I said ‘I’m going to give it to Ada— I knew it immediately,” Carter said. “We’re a team. I couldn’t do the job that I do without my team behind me.”

Berberich said that the best thing about Carter being named National Caregiver of the Year was that it came with a gift that has already multiplied.

“After she won the national caregiver award of the year at this big banquet with all the owners from all over the country. Somebody asked her, ‘what’s your dream job’ and she said, ‘I’m doing it.’” Berberich said.

The fact that Carter wants to use her gift to make another staff member’s dream come true reveals the spirit of what the caregiver’s award is all about, according to Berberich.

Both women demonstrate a love for their clients when they’re together. They can’t stop talking.

“There’s so much that you want to give to them. You want to give them life,” said Sanchez. “I love what I do.”

“I love just what I’m doing too,” said Carter, smiling.

It’s the genuine care for the clients who depend on them, which makes them both champions, Berberich said.

A Survivor’s Story: The Cost of Surviving Cancer

— Kimberly Curtis has battled and overcome breast cancer.

Despite having what she says is excellent health insurance, the local resident has also had to reach deep into her pocketbook to pay for the costs associated with the illness.

Curtis, a registered nurse, said co-pays for doctor visits and examinations, as well as medications the change in diet that most survivors experience can leave many breast cancer patients broke.

“I am a grateful survivor. I am very grateful for the services I received,” she said. “[However], a couple of things that are very concerning include the frequent visits, meal plan changes and the financial expenses that I’ve incurred after I was diagnosed.”

After her initial diagnosis three years ago, which was followed by surgery and other planned treatments, Curtis, like most cancer patients, had to schedule visits with several oncologists including surgical, radiation and chemotherapy and medical. Such visits often occur every three months during the first year and, if treatments prove to be going well, the patient can then visit oncology doctors once every six months.

“However, if one decides to be on medication treatment, that person must see the medical oncologist every three months for five years,” Curtis said.

It’s also suggested that patients consult with a nutritionist.

“I decided to eat healthier to lose weight and to do all that I could to not have the cancer come back,” Curtis said. “With these frequent follow-up visits comes a very expensive medical bill. I am blessed to have insurance and yet there are still bills that are constantly coming in. To be honest, I am not even sure if all my original bills are fully paid. It’s saddening at times.”

Reportedly, insurance companies, patients and government health plans are paying $1 billion per year just for a routine test to confirm a diagnosis and billions more for treatment.

Dr. Sharon Giordano at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, says patients often get stuck with thousands of dollars in bills that can take years to pay off.

Giordano and a team of doctors recently went through insurance claims filed by more than 14,000 breast cancer patients between 2008 and 2012 and found expenses across a single class of drugs varied by as much as $46,000.

“There were big variations in the cost of treatments we could prescribe,” Giordano told NBC News. “What I think was more concerning was that the top 10 percent of patients are getting really hefty bills costing them $10,000 or more.”

Those with so-called catastrophic health insurance plans, which charge low premiums but which also don’t reimburse for much, paid the most out of pocket. “Expenditures for cancer care have grown from $72 billion in 2004 to $125 billion in 2010 and are estimated to reach $158 billion by 2020,” Giordano’s team wrote.

“The costs of cancer care are increasing at an unsustainable rate— two to three times faster than other health care costs. Patients’ out-of-pocket costs have also been rapidly increasing,” Giordano said.

Roxanne Martinez, a six-year survivor, received a dual blow when she was diagnosed in 2010. Pregnant at the time of her diagnosis, Martinez was terminated from her airport job because of the time she was forced to call in sick, she said.

“That left me in a huge bind, having to pay COBRA insurance premiums of about $600 to $700 per month, on top of co-pays, deductibles and other costs. I ended up cashing out my entire savings and retirement accounts— about $30,000— to help fund my cancer treatment and health premiums,” Martinez said.

With help from family and friends, Martinez raised an additional $20,000 to help pay for medical and living expenses.

“After I exhausted my COBRA benefits, I was uninsured for several months due to having a pre-existing condition, of course that was before Obamacare,” Martinez said. “I had to navigate the healthcare system without insurance and negotiate a cash payment with my surgeon for a reconstruction surgery.”

Martinez ultimately filed for bankruptcy.

“I am now in remission and happy to be alive,” she said. “Breast cancer may have taken my breasts, my hair, my job, my retirement and savings, but it will never take my faith or hope.”

New President and CEO hired at Visit Baltimore

— Baltimore— After an extensive national search John Frisch, chairman of the Baltimore Convention and Tourism Board of Directors, announced the hiring of Al Hutchinson, 57, as Visit Baltimore’s new president and CEO. Hutchinson assumes the position on November 14, 2016.

Hutchinson brings more than 24 years of experience in the hospitality and destination marketing industry to Baltimore, most recently serving as president and CEO of Visit Mobile, where he was recognized as the 2016 Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance’s ‘Tourism Promoter of the Year.’ Under Hutchinson’s leadership, Visit Mobile launched a new brand campaign, ‘Born to Celebrate;’ saw record visitor attendance; a large increase in visitor inquiries; and an increase in the city’s hotel occupancy rate and revenue collection.

As president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, Hutchinson will be responsible for leading the growth of the convention and tourism industry in Baltimore, overseeing the day-to-day management of all sales and marketing programs and serving as the hospitality industry’s liaison to the business, civic and local community, while demonstrating the impact of tourism on the City and State.

“Visit Baltimore is a strong bureau well positioned for growth and I have great confidence that Al is the right leader to build upon recent successes of the organization,” said Frisch. “From hosting a record 30 citywide conventions in 2015 coupled with multiple years of record visitation numbers, to the creation of a separate Visit Baltimore Education & Training Foundation, he is taking over the helm of a very strong organization. I know that the organization, and in turn the City, the region and the State, will benefit from his sales and marketing experience and strong reputation as a collaborative, transparent leader and effective communicator.”

Prior to joining Visit Mobile, Hutchinson served as the vice president of convention sales and services at the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau where, for more than 11 years, he led the convention sales and service team, directed the advertising agency and worked closely with community leaders, industry decision makers, elected officials and tourism partners. Hutchinson has spent a good portion of his professional career in the hospitality industry also serving in leadership positions with the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Charlotte Convention Center, the Park Hotel in Charlotte and the Richmond Metropolitan CVB.

“I look forward to leading Baltimore’s tourism efforts and to working with the Visit Baltimore team, Convention and Tourism Board of Directors, the city’s elected officials and the citizens of Baltimore to lead the City to new heights,” said Hutchinson. “I’m excited by the opportunity to take the helm of such a strong organization.”

“Al is well-respected within the industry,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “We are lucky to have him and I am confident that he will serve as a strong advocate for tourism in Baltimore while also working to build relationships and partnerships within the community. I was impressed by his passion and perspective on how tourism can further advance Baltimore’s economy.”

Press Room: U.S. Black Chambers named distinguished advocate of the year


USBC honored by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency 2016 National Minority Development Week

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Black Chambers, the only national advocacy organization working solely to advance Black businesses and building economic power in the Black community, was named Distinguished Advocate of the Year. The award, given by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency was announced as part of the 2016 National Minority Enterprise Development Week Award winners. This is the first year USBC has earned this award.

Each year MBDA honors “Champions of Minority Business Development” through its National MED Week. The initiative recognizes the achievements of minority entrepreneurs, along with those individuals and organizations that have demonstrated leadership and commitment in advancing global minority business enterprise.

“Each year the U.S. Black Chambers’ commitment to building the economic power of the Black community is strengthened. Whether talking to officials in the federal administration, or working with larger corporations, advocacy on behalf of small business and economic empowerment is a cornerstone of our work,” said Ron Busby, Sr., the president and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers. “USBC’s partnerships are key to our success, and to the success of the Black community. We’re proud to be honored by the Minority Business Development Agency, and look forward to our continued collaborative work.”


The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC) provides committed, visionary leadership and advocacy in the realization of economic empowerment. Through the creation of resources and initiatives, we support African American Chambers of Commerce and business organizations in their work of developing and growing Black enterprises. The USBC is an association of more than 100 self-sustaining viable Black Chambers and small business associations nationwide and serves close to 250,000 small businesses. More information can be found at

Autism study shows benefits when parents get involved

— For millions of families around the world, autism poses daily challenges. Some parents find it difficult or even impossible to communicate with their own children or understand how they perceive the world around them. This mental condition can also affect their child’s ability to interact socially or show emotion, and often create a desire for repetitive behaviors.

But a new study published Tuesday in the Lancet has showed that parents of children with autism may be able to work with them from a young age to help reduce the severity of their symptoms and improve their ability to communicate.

The findings were the outcome of the Pre-school Autism Communication Trial, which was designed to “work with parents to help improve parent-child communication at home,” according to Jonathan Green, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Manchester, who co-led the trial.

“(Autism) is a devastating diagnosis to most families,” he added. “Then there is a big question mark above what happens next.”

The benefit of parental intervention

Autism is thought to affect one in 68 children in the United States and one in 100 children in the UK, with half estimated to have intellectual disabilities and about 10% never learning to speak, according to the researchers. It is a spectrum disorder, with children experiencing a range of symptoms and severity. The causes are not fully understood, and there is currently no pharmaceutical treatment or cure.

Previous studies and therapies have involved having children work directly with therapists to improve their communication skills and reduce symptoms, such as repetition. By contrast, the new trial “is a parent-mediated intervention,” said Green, who believes this enables a 24/7 therapeutic space for children with autism in their own homes.

During the trial, children with severe, core symptoms of autism were divided into two groups: one in which children and parents received standard treatment and one in which parents worked with therapists to better understand how they can communicate with their children effectively, as well as pick up on their child’s cues for interaction.

The immediate outcome of this trial was reported in a previous study in 2010, soon after it ended. It found that parents showed improvement in their ability to interact with their children, improvement in children communicating back with their parents and reduced severity of symptoms among children whose parents received this training.

“When we change the parental interactive behavior … that leads to child initiation with the parent, and that change in child initiation with the parent is related to the child changing symptoms,” Green said.

The new study analyzed the long-term impact on children and their parents more than six years later. Although the parents’ synchrony — how much they were attuned to and responsive with their child’s communication — had fallen to equal that of the control group, the researchers saw sustained improvement in children’s communication with their parents as well as a greater reduction in the severity of symptoms among children whose parents had received training.

“That difference had persisted,” said Andrew Pickles, professor of biostatistics and psychological methods at Kings College London, who co-led the research. “Getting in early when there is more chance of general change.”

The researchers described three severity levels associated with autism: mild, moderate and severe. Severe means the child is unaware of people around them, may move their arms vigorously and ignores their parents when they call their name. In contrast, moderate symptoms would involve a child seeming younger than their age and making requests in a loud voice, while mild symptoms may be undetectable.

More than six years after the trial, 46% of the children whose parents had received training were considered to have severe symptoms, but 63% of children whose parents had received standard care were considered to have severe symptoms.

The team stresses that it’s a potential treatment, not a cure.

“(This) clearly doesn’t cure autism,” Green said, but he pointed out that it does have a “sustained decrease in severity.”

Some symptoms did not differ between the two groups, including measures of child anxiety, challenging behaviors and language scores.

Learning to communicate

The original trial involved 152 children with autism, between 2 and 4 years old, and their parents. During the followup, 121 children remained, 59 of whom received the Pre-school Autism Communication Trial intervention.

As part of the therapy, parents had two sessions with a therapist each month for six months, combined with homework to interact with their child for 30 minutes per day. For the next six months, the sessions were reduced to monthly, but the homework remained.

During the therapy sessions, parents watched videos of themselves interacting with their child to learn how they could improve and learn to spot when, and how, their child is interacting with them. The aim was “to help adults self-learn and become self-aware,” Green said.

The video feedback was also used to show parents what actions get better responses from their child, “to make the parent more confident in how they respond back,” said Catherine Aldred, a consultant speech and language therapist with Stockport NHS Trust and the University of Manchester in the UK, who led this part of the trial. The aim was also to “draw the child into becoming an active communicator,” she said.

Having seen such promising results, the team now hopes to take this approach into schools in hope of running parallel sessions, alongside the training of parents, to get “parents and schools talking to each other better,” Green said. This would also “get the child functioning in their everyday world.”

They also hope to further investigate why this intervention had the effect it did. “We want to look at the mechanism for this sustained effect,” Green said. “We could estimate that if it worked with a severe group, it might also work with a mild group.”

But the researchers highlighted that the intervention was done soon after diagnosis, between the ages of 2 and 5 years, and that their intervention may not be effective in older children. “Early after diagnosis, when families are ready, that’s the time to start,” said Green.

“I can see why these researchers are excited,” said Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the trial. “The initial results in their previous report were a bit ambiguous, but these results at follow-up are pretty consistent in showing the benefit of this early intervention for autism across a range of measures. … For parents of children with autism, even a modest reduction would be worthwhile.”

“It is a remarkably positive story, because the intervention itself was neither intensive nor invasive,” said Uta Frith, emeritus professor of cognitive development at University College London, who also highlights that more work needs to be done. “There were improvements on a range of measures, but the effects were not dramatic, and they were very variable across the group. We are still a long way from individualized programs that might produce lasting behavioral improvements in all autistic children.”

Nearly 3 in 5 Americans are making this huge financial mistake

— NEW YORK — Americans on a whole just aren’t great savers, to the point where almost 70% of us don’t even have $1,000 in the bank. Furthermore, almost half of Americans claim that to cover a $400 emergency, they’d need to borrow the money or sell something quickly to round up the cash.

And though some of us can legitimately point to low earnings as a reason for not saving, for many of us, it’s a matter of poor money management — namely, failing to create and follow a budget.

According to a recent study by U.S. Bank, only 41% of Americans use a budget even though it’s one of the most effective ways to keep track of our finances. This data is only a slight improvement over a 2013 Gallup poll, which showed that just 32% of U.S. households maintain budgets.

But there is some good news here. If not having a budget is the reason you’re not saving, it’s a relatively easy problem to fix.

What can your budget do for you?

You may be wondering why you need a budget to save money, and the truth is, technically you don’t. If you’re earning so much money and spending so little of it that saving a chunk of cash each month becomes a given, then maybe you’re among the lucky few who don’t need a budget to manage their expenses.

But for the rest of us, keeping tabs on our spending can be far more challenging, especially if we’re living reasonably, but not aggressively, below our means.

Think about all the things you spend money on each month. There’s housing, transportation, health care, utilities, entertainment, and food — and those are just the big ones. Some of us have several dozen spending categories to account for each month, from gym memberships to magazine subscriptions, and even those smaller expenses can really add up.

That’s why having a budget is crucial. Without one, you won’t know how much you’re spending, and you’ll have an even tougher time identifying opportunities to cut back. On the other hand, if you list all of your expenses out line by line and total them up, the numbers won’t lie. You’ll see exactly where your money is going, and from there, you can find ways to free up cash to increase your savings.

Getting started with budgeting

While the idea of creating a budget may seem daunting, it’s actually a fairly simple thing to do. There are a number of free programs, like and, that can help you track your expenses, or you can use this handy budget calculator to see how much life tends to cost you.

Once you’ve identified your various expenses, start tracking them month after month to see how much you’re spending in each category on average. While some line items, like your rent payment or cable bill, might stay the same, others, like food, entertainment, and electricity, are subject to change. It’s important to establish a precise average for these categories so that your budget is as accurate as possible.

Also, review your old bank and credit card statements to check for annual expenses you might need to pay for up-front. For example, if you pay your homeowners’ insurance once a year and it costs $600, you’ll need to budget $50 a month for that expense. Failing to do so could otherwise throw you for a loop when the time comes to write out a $600 check.

Finally, make sure your budget includes a line item for savings. Ideally, you should aim to save at least 10% of every paycheck, and the more you can sock away, the better. If you’re truly struggling financially and don’t see a way to hit that 10% goal, start small and work your way up. Saving 1% of your paycheck is better than saving nothing at all.

Don’t just set it and forget it

One more thing to remember about budgeting is that it’s an ongoing process. Your expenses might go up (or down) over time, so don’t assume that the budget you create today is the same exact one you should follow a year from now. Say you commute by rail and the cost of your monthly pass increases by $40. If you don’t adjust your budget to reflect that change, you risk falling short on your savings goals.

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Following a budget does require some discipline. The payoff? You’ll have a stronger handle on your money, which will ultimately help you save more of it. And the more you save, the more financially secure you’ll be in the short term as well as the future.