money·6 min read

Skimm Money: Interesting Fed Talk, Last-Minute Gifts, theSkimm on Crypto

how to be charitable when money is tight
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Dec 17, 2021

Hey you.

This is your last regular Skimm Money newsletter of the year. We'll be OOO next week, getting ready for Santa. If you're planning some Christmas treats, make it not a cheesecake, and you could collect $20. We’ll be back in your inbox on December 31 with economic predictions and money tips for 2022. Till then, ya filthy animals.

Headlines, Skimm'd

  • PIVOT! On Wednesday, the Fed announced a big policy shift — from focusing on measures that help boost the economy to ones that cool things off and curb inflation. On the agenda: speed up plans to “taper” its bond-buying program. And raise interest rates at least three times next year. Here's how that affects your debt, savings, and home buying plans.

  • Raise it up. Congress approved a measure this week* to raise the debt ceiling — aka the max amount of money the US can borrow (by issuing bonds) to pay its bills — by $2.5 trillion. This avoids a historic (and catastrophic) default and allows the gov to cover its debt until 2023. Expect to hear more in next year's midterm elections.

  • Congress takes a stand. This week, lawmakers (almost) unanimously voted ‘yea’ to a bill that bans imports* from China’s Xinjiang region unless businesses can prove no forced labor was used to make them. Since 2017, the Chinese gov has been accused of crimes against humanity, specifically targeting Uyghur Muslims in the area. That includes forced sterilizations and labor camps, genocide, and other human rights violations. Some US corporations are against the bill since the region is a major production area for cotton and materials used in solar panels, so a ban could make supply chain issues worse.

*PS: Not a Washington Post subscriber? Check out their exclusive offer just for Skimm’rs.

News to Wallet

What a Strong US Dollar Means for Your Wallet

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The greenback's been riding high lately. The US dollar index is still hovering around the 16-month high it hit in November. Meaning it's gaining in value compared with foreign currencies. That’s thanks (mostly) to inflation and the US’s speedy economic recovery, relative to the rest of the world. Whether this is good or bad news for your finances depends on how you’re spending and what you're invested in. Pay attention, crypto investors. Read up on how the US dollar's flex could hit your wallet.

Make Good Money Choices

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If you want to lend a helping hand…

Give what you can. The second year of the pandemic and plenty of other crises — from winter storms in Texas to last weekend’s devastating tornadoes — have meant tough times for many. Donating to causes you support (and charities you vet first) is one way to help. But not the only way. Learn how to be charitable even when money’s tight.

If you're tight on time and low on gifts…

Don’t panic. Whether your order is stuck in transit or you forgot to buy something for your brother-in-law, we got you. These 20 creative gifts include ideas that can help your giftee learn something new or have an unforgettable experience. Most importantly, they ship fast. Shop our last-minute gifts and save Christmas.

If you didn't get a raise this year…

Give yourself one. If you got a big tax refund this year, adjusting your withholding so your employer takes out less money in taxes now means a bigger check every payday. Just fill out a new W-4 form and turn it in to your HR department. If you want an income boost later, invest. If your job offers a 401(k) match, try to contribute enough to claim the full amount. It’s free money. Thanks to compounding returns, that could add up to a lot by retirement. We Skimm’d more ways to get that ‘found-money’ feeling.

Crypto, Decoded

Crypto isn’t going anywhere. And we don’t want millennial women to fall behind. 65% of you said you understand crypto only a little bit or not well at all. This new section will make sure you’re up to date and can speak decentralized finance with the best of them.

Let’s start at the very beginning: Cryptocurrency is encrypted digital money that you can buy, spend, sell, and trade. Unlike real-world currencies, they're not backed by any gov or central authority. Instead, most are blockchain-based. More on what that means here.

The players: Ether, Tether, Dogecoin, and of course Bitcoin. And a steady stream of new kids on the block(chain). Like Shiba Inu coin, aka the "dogecoin killer." But warning: not all coins are for real. Squid token — based on Netflix's "Squid Game" — quickly rose to $2,856 per coin in early November before crashing to nearly $0 after the scammers walked away with a few million dollars.

Why people are into it: It’s typical during uncertain times (and periods of high inflation) that people look for alternative ways to invest. Add to that some bandwagon bias — thanks in part to hype on social media and celebs — and relative ease for amateur investors to get into the game.

Why people are against it: It’s risky, it’s unregulated, and the energy needed to "mine" Bitcoin is bad for the environment. 

Here’s your primer on why everyone’s obsessed with crypto.

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