All parents must contend with the cost of childcare, education, housing, and food. But there are some unexpected expenses that can blindside you if you’re not prepared for them. Here are some hidden costs that every parent should anticipate in advance!
When your baby first arrives home from the hospital (yay!), expect your utility bills to seriously increase. Chances are, your newest family member will require a cozy temperature all day to maintain their mood and sleep schedule. Plus, you’ll probably run a few extra loads of laundry and dishes every week! Before your child comes home, budget in some extra cash specifically for utility bills.
Nobody loves birthday parties more than preschoolers. If you’re not careful, you may end up paying far more than you ever expected on decorations, party favors, and gifts.
Come up with a budget-friendly gift giving strategy for your family early and stick with it. That might be placing a cost limit on what you give, or developing creative and heartfelt ways to make gifts from scratch.
Until your kids are old enough to look after themselves, you’ll need to hire a babysitter before you go on a date night.
There are responsible ways to save money on this often unexpected expense. If possible, have a family member look after your kids while you enjoy your romantic dinner. Also, consider swapping babysitting duties with a friend—you look after their kids on their date nights, they look after your kids on your date nights!
Music lessons, sports teams, and driver’s ed are sometimes far more expensive than parents realize. In addition to the upfront costs, you’ll also need to buy instruments, cleats, jerseys, and more to empower your kids to enjoy their favorite hobbies.
Create an extracurricular activities fund and start building it now. Then, decide how much you can pay each month for lessons and coaching.
What’s a parenting expense that caught you by surprise? I’d love to hear what it was and how you overcame it!
By now, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot that goes into caring for your newest family member. Between the diaper changes, sleepless nights, and feedings, take a few moments to make these critical financial moves. They may bring you the peace of mind and financial security your family needs!
Once your child is born, you have between 30 and 60 days to enroll your newborn in your health insurance plan.¹ Fortunately, it’s not a difficult task. Have your child’s birth certificate and social security number handy, and then call your health insurance provider. Share the good news that you’ve had a child and would like to add them to your plan. If your health insurance plan is through work, you’ll need to contact your HR department and go through the same process.
Childcare can be pricey, with over half of American families spend over $10,000 annually.² If both you and your spouse work, you’ll need to find a way to budget in this significant expense.
Review the costs of local daycare centers. Nannies are worth investigating, but can be more expensive than other forms of childcare. Consider asking your stay-at-home friends or family if they can tend to your children while you’re away from home. You might land a sweetheart deal that builds relationships and saves you money!
There is no better time to consider life insurance than after the birth of your child. Raising a kid is expensive! Food, education, and clothing can require significant financial resources. The right life insurance policy can protect your family’s financial stability even if you pass away or if you get sick or injured and can no longer earn an income. Now’s the time to provide the financial security that your loved ones may need in the future.
The first few months of a baby’s life are crazy—they depend on you for everything! Just be sure to take some time between caring for their physical and developmental needs to tend to your financial concerns. It’s one of the greatest services you can offer them!
¹ “How do I sign my new baby up for health insurance?,” Nikki Davis, Bernard Benefits, Sept 2, 2020, https://blog.bernardbenefits.com/how-do-i-sign-my-new-baby-up-for-health-insurance
² “This is how much child care costs in 2022,” Care.com, Jun 15, 2022, https://www.care.com/c/how-much-does-child-care-cost/
As you’re probably aware by now, growing a baby comes with serious financial responsibility. Here are a few expenses to anticipate and start planning for as soon as possible!
Keeping both the mother and baby healthy throughout the pregnancy is a top priority. That means regular checkups and ultrasounds to make sure everything is progressing safely and normally.
Investigate what’s covered and what you’re expected to pay for beforehand. Health insurance policies will often cover prenatal care, but it’s best to find out what your expenses will be ahead of time.
Pregnancy requires a wardrobe overhaul for women that, on average, costs about $500.¹ Fortunately, there are commonsense strategies to cut back on this expense. Check local thrift stores for maternity options, and even consider buying flowy dresses or tops that are a size–or three–larger than your normal size. Also, ask family members if you can borrow their spare maternity clothes. Try to avoid designer maternity clothes which can come with a hefty price tag.
The cost of giving birth varies greatly—hospital costs can reach $15,000 depending on your state and health insurance coverage.² Again, it’s critical to consult with your healthcare and insurance providers to see what you’ll be expected to cover. The earlier you discover this information, the better—it gives you time to start saving for the hospital bill!
Budgeting for doctor visits, the delivery, and the hospital stay positions you to cover those expenses without having to borrow money. And that means you can provide your child a financially stable environment in which to grow, without the stress caused by unexpected medical expenses.
¹ “Dressing for Two,” Stephie Grob Plante, Vox, Jan 30, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/1/30/16928328/maternity-clothes-pregnancy-miscarriage
² “What It Costs to Have a Baby,” Heather Hatfield, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/baby/features/cost-of-having-a-baby#1
Here’s how that works. Items are typically cheaper in thrift stores and flea markets than they are online. That means there’s potential to make a handsome profit if you buy something at a thrift store and then sell it on a digital marketplace.
Let’s look at an example…
You notice an item at your local thrift store that you’re certain sells online for about $60. You check the price tag—it’s only $5. You buy it and make a listing on your favorite digital marketplace. It sells! Let’s say shipping costs and selling fees are also $5 each. Your net profit is $45. You’ve made back triple the cost of your initial investment and business expenses.
It’s a simple, elegant, and fun business model that can potentially generate extra cash flow.
If you decide to start a thrifting business, consider these tips to maximize your profits!
Before you send something to a landfill or thrift store, search for it on an online marketplace. You might be surprised how much of your “trash” is actually treasure! Make no mistake—some items aren’t worth your time salvaging and selling. But if you have clothes, toys, and books that are in good condition, consider listing them online and see what happens!
Whenever possible, shop at thrift stores in wealthier neighborhoods. They’ll typically have higher-end products that fetch better prices. Also, consider using an app like Nextdoor to monitor local garage and estate sales—those are where you’ll find the real treasures at potentially deep discounts.
Not all resale items are created equal. Books, textbooks, picture frames, and designer clothes tend to have strong returns. But always check the price of an item on eBay or another online marketplace before you buy it.
Before you buy anything from a second-hand vendor, check it for damage or blemishes, but don’t be put off by surface-level issues. You might be surprised at how many items are simple to repair, fix, or clean. Putting in a little elbow grease may substantially boost the selling price.
Remember to have fun while you’re thrifting. The beauty of the reselling business is that it allows you to make money and enjoy a hobby at the same time. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t walk out with an incredible find. Embrace the process, see what’s out there, and make some extra cash while you’re at it!
A recent set of studies demonstrated that enjoying experiences created more anticipation, in-the-moment excitement, and longer-term satisfaction than purchasing items.¹ The results held true regardless of how much money was spent.
Why? Because an experience creates memories that last a lifetime. Possessions, however, can quickly become boring.
What does that mean for your budget?
Try shifting your discretionary spending from items to experiences for a month. Instead of spending your weekend at the mall, take your family on a day trip. Cut back on visiting designer stores and opt to walk through the park with a friend. Spend your time online planning exciting vacations instead of scrolling through store websites.
Then, take stock of how you feel. Has your quality of life–and cash flow–improved? Let me know how this simple shift makes a difference for your family and your budget!
¹ “Spending on experiences rather than things is associated with greater immediate happiness, study finds,” Susan Perry, MinnPost, Mar 12, 2020, https://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2020/03/spending-on-experiences-rather-than-things-is-associated-with-greater-immediate-happiness-study-finds/#:~:text=coverage%3B%20learn%20why.-,Spending%20on%20experiences%20rather%20than%20things%20is,greater%20immediate%20happiness%2C%20study%20finds&text=Plenty%20of%20recent%20research%20has,such%20as%20clothing%20and%20gadgets
A recent survey revealed that 83% of respondents underestimated their subscription spending by a wide margin.¹ On average, they thought subscriptions only cost them $80 per month. In reality, it was over $230.
That was back in 2018. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic started in 2020, that number has dramatically increased. A 2020 survey discovered that, on average, consumers added $192 in new subscriptions after lock downs started.² And digital ecommerce subscriptions were expected to grow from $72.91 billion in 2021 to $120.04 billion in 2022.³
The takeaway? Subscriptions might be consuming more of your cash flow than you realize.
Scroll through the apps on your phone. Are there streaming, dating, or wellness subscriptions that you pay for but never use? Unsubscribe and uninstall them!
If you and your family regularly use a streaming service, consider cancelling your cable subscription. They’re expensive, and your streaming services probably carry your favorite shows as it is.
It’s also worth investigating the value of any subscription boxes you receive. Is a monthly shipment of makeup or comic books significantly improving your life? Or do most of the items go unused? If the latter is true, consider cancelling your subscription.
Once you’ve cleared out unnecessary subscriptions, you might be surprised by how much cash flow you’ve freed up for reducing debt or building wealth.
¹ “You probably spend more on subscriptions than you realize,” Angela Moscaritolo, Mashable, Feb 20, 2019, https://mashable.com/article/you-probably-spend-more-on-subscriptions-that-you-realize/
² “Americans More Than Tripled Subscription Service Spending Amid Social Distancing,” David Dykes, Greenville Business Magazine, May 14, 2020, http://www.greenvillebusinessmag.com/2020/05/14/308970/americans-more-than-tripled-subscription-service-spending-amid-social-distancing
³ “The Growth Of Subscription Commerce,” Jia Wertz, Forbes, Jul 15, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jiawertz/2022/07/15/the-growth-of-subscription-commerce/?sh=24153283b572
It might feel like every salesperson is pulling the wool over your eyes to take as much money from you as possible while delivering the least value.
Not to worry! Here are a few car buying insights that can help you get a ride that meets your transportation needs without sacrificing your financial stability.
Chances are, you’ll buy your first car with limited financial resources. You most likely just need a vehicle that reliably gets you around town without breaking the bank.
In terms of price, used cars beat new cars almost every time. And reliability is decreasingly an issue–used cars sometimes travel 100,000 before they need a major repair.¹
As a rule of thumb, look for used cars that are three years old or more. They often can have the same features as newer models, still have many miles left before they break down, and can cost a fraction of a brand new car.
If you decide to buy used, ask for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of each car you consider. A VIN gives you access to the full history of your car, including…
Once you have the VIN, check it out on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. They have digital resources that allow you to search VINs and discover the history of the vehicles you’re considering.
Don’t sweat it if you find a not-so-great car at a good price. It’s perfectly fine to walk away and keep searching. 40 million used cars were sold in 2019.² You’ll find the car you want at a price you love soon enough!
Above all, do your research. Buying a first car is a serious financial commitment. The last thing you want to do is drive off with a car that costs too much or will need constant repairs and maintenance. Check out sites like Kelley Bluebook and Consumer Reports to find information on car prices and reliability. Then, start asking around. You might be surprised by how many people in your circles are trying to unload a reliable used car!
¹ “How Many Miles is Too Many on a Used Car?,” Autolist, June 27, 2017, https://www.autolist.com/guides/how-many-miles-is-too-many-used-car
² “New and used light vehicle sales in the United States from 2010 to 2019,” I. Wagner, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/183713/value-of-us-passenger-cas-sales-and-leases-since-1990/#:~:text=U.S.%20new%20and%20used%20car%20sales%202010%2D2019&text=Sales%20of%20used%20light%20vehicles,and%20automobiles%20were%20sold%20here.
Whether you’re a highschool student working a cash register or a fresh-out-of-college graduate who just landed a cubicle, a first job often comes with a steep learning curve. But don’t let that weigh you down! This is your once in a lifetime opportunity to start your financial journey strong and develop skills that will last you throughout your career.
Here are two simple steps you can take to make the most of your first job.
Start saving. A first paycheck is a magical thing. It makes you feel like the hard work has finally paid off and you’re a real adult. You might just become unstoppable now that you’ve got a regular income!
But that empowerment will be fleeting if you spend everything you earn.
It’s absolutely critical that you begin saving money the moment your first paycheck arrives. This practice will go far in establishing healthy money habits that can last a lifetime. Plus, the sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow via compound interest. What seems like a pittance today can grow into the foundation of your future wealth if you steward it properly!
Evaluate your performance. There’s much that you can learn about yourself by studying your job performance. You’ll get an idea of strengths that you can leverage and weaknesses that you need to work on.
But most importantly, you might discover moments when you’re “in the zone”. You’ll know what that means when you feel it. Time slows down (or speeds up), you’re totally focused on the task at hand, and you’re having fun.
That feeling is like a compass. It helps point you in the direction of what you’re supposed to do with your life. Do you get in the zone when you’re working on a certain task? With a group of people? Helping others succeed? Pay close attention to when you’re feeling energized at work and delivering quality results… and when you’re not!
Above all, keep an open mind. Your first job might introduce a passion you’ll pursue for the rest of your life… or it might not. And that’s okay! Whatever it is and wherever it leads, be sure to save as much as you can and to pay attention to what you like. You’ll be better positioned both financially and personally to pursue your dreams when the time comes to make your next move!
Before they might know what a 401(k) or mortgage even are, their financial future is already starting to take shape. It’s never too early to teach your kids the wisdom of budgeting, limiting their spending, and paying themselves first. So the sooner you can instill those lessons, the deeper they’ll sink in!
Fortunately, teaching your kids about saving is quite simple. Here are two common-sense strategies that can help you instill financial wisdom in your children from the moment they can tell a dollar from a dime!
The easiest way for your child to learn how money works is actually for them to have money. If it’s within your budget, set up a system for your child to earn an allowance. The more closely it relates to their work, the better. Set up a list of family chores that are mandatory, and then come up with some jobs and projects around the house that pay different amounts.
What does this have to do with saving? The simple fact is that spending money you receive as a gift can feel totally different than spending money that you earn. Teaching your children the connection between work and money instills a sense of the value of their time and that spending isn’t something to be taken lightly!
Budgeting is one of the most essential life skills your child will ever learn. And there’s no better time for them to start learning the difference between saving and spending than now! The same study that revealed children solidify their spending habits at age 7 also suggested they can grasp basic financial concepts by age 3!
So when your kid earns that first 5 dollar bill for working in the yard, help them figure out what to do with it! Encourage them to set aside a portion of what they earn in a place where it will grow via compound interest. Explain that the longer their money compounds, the more potential it has to grow! If they’re natural spenders, help them determine how long it will take them to save up enough to buy the new toy or game they want and that it’s worth the wait.
Remember this–the most important lessons you teach your children are unconscious. Your kids are smart. They watch everything you do. Relentlessly enforce spending limits on your kids but splurge on a vacation or new car? They’ll notice. That’s why one of the most critical means of teaching your kids how to save is to establish a savings strategy yourself. When you make and review your monthly budget, invite the kids to join! When they ask why you haven’t gone on vacation abroad for a while, calmly inform them that it’s not in the family budget right now. Model wise financial decision making, and your children will be far more receptive to learning how money works for themselves!
The time to start teaching your kids how to save is today. Whether they’re 2, 8, or 18, offer them opportunities to work so they can earn some money and give them the knowledge and resources they need to use it wisely. And the sooner your kids discover concepts like the power of compound interest and the time value of money, the more potential they have to transform what they earn into a foundation for future wealth.
“The 5 Most Important Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids,” Laura Shin, Forbes, Oct 15, 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2013/10/15/the-5-most-important-money-lessons-to-teach-your-kids/?sh=2c01a4956826
It makes sense. Life is hectic. Schedules are full. Sometimes, you feel like you hardly have a second to brush your teeth, much less have time to sit down and enjoy a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend. And so important decisions get pushed further and further into the future.
That’s fine in some cases. Do you need to decide how to organize your garage right now, at this very moment? No, probably not.
But with something like your finances, procrastination can cause disaster. Why? Because time is the secret ingredient for building wealth. The sooner you start saving, the greater your money’s growth potential. Likewise, the sooner you get your debt under control, the more manageable it becomes.
And with your money, the stakes couldn’t be higher. After all, it’s your future prosperity and well-being that could be at risk. Procrastination is downright dangerous.
That urgency, however, doesn’t make it easier to start saving. In fact, you may have noticed that finances suffer more from procrastination than anything else.
There’s a very good reason for that. Procrastination is driven, above all else, by perfectionism. Failing feels awful, especially when you know the stakes are high. Your brain sees the discomfort of trying to master your finances and failing, and decides that it would feel safer to not try at all.
It’s a critical miscalculation. Making an attempt to master your finances can at least help move you closer to your goals. Procrastinating never does.
Think of it like this—50% success is better than 0% success.
The key to beating procrastinating, then, is to conquer the perfectionist mindset and fear of failure. It’s no small feat. Those habits of mind are often deeply ingrained. They won’t vanish overnight. But there are some simple steps you can take, like…
Break big goals down into small steps. This relieves the overwhelm that many feel when facing important tasks. As you knock out those small steps, you’ll feel empowered to keep moving forward.
Don’t go it alone. Procrastination thrives in isolation. Seek out a friend, loved one, or co-worker to help hold you accountable and share the load—even if it’s just a weekly check-in to see how each other are doing.
Work in short, uninterrupted bursts. Set a timer. Put down the phone. Work. After about 15 minutes, you’ll notice something strange happening. Time starts to either speed up or slow down. Distracting thoughts vanish. The lines between you, your focus, and the task at hand start to evaporate. You feel awesome. This is called a flow state, and it’s the key to productivity. Make it your friend, and you’ll probably notice that procrastination becomes rarer and rarer.
Now that you know the cause of procrastination, try these tips for yourself. Set a 30 minute timer. Then, break your finances into tiny action steps like checking your bank account, automating saving, and budgeting. Work on each item in a quick burst until you’ve made some progress. Then, talk to a friend about your results!
Just like that, you’ve made serious headway towards beating procrastination and building wealth. Look at you go!
Whether you’re new to the world of budgets or you just want some help, this article will get you started on the right foot. There’s no one way that works for everyone, but these different methods can give you an idea of where to begin.
First, write down your total monthly take home pay. Next, break down your monthly spending into categories and write down how much you spend on each. Add those numbers together. Then, subtract that number from your take home pay.
The advantage of this method is that it’s rewarding. You get to see your budget grow from the ground up. It connects you to your money like few other projects will.
It can, however, be frustrating. You’ll run into snags, miscalculations, and old fashioned human error. And that can nip your budget in the bud.
This is an easy way to create a customized budget. There are countless templates from Google Drive, Microsoft Office, the Federal Trade Commission, Nerdwallet, and more!
Unfortunately, they still require some legwork. You may need to customize your budget to your specific needs. And they don’t sync with your bank account, meaning you’ll need to manually input your monthly spending.
They come in a variety of different flavors, but they all serve a common purpose—make budgeting as simple as possible.
Typically, these apps handle the categorizing and all the math. You simply enter your monthly income, log your spending into categories, and let the app work its magic.
Not all budgeting apps are the same. Some require you to manually enter your spending, while others sync with your bank accounts. Some are free. Some cost money.
Here are a few of the most popular budgeting apps to investigate…
Mint - most popular
YNAB (You Need a Budget) - syncs with accounts, costs $84/year
PocketGuard - designed for overspenders
Honeydue - designed for couples
There’s not one particular way to begin budgeting. It all depends on your personal needs and what you’re comfortable with.
With so many options, you should be able to find the perfect method for you.
What do you think? Do you have a simple budget? How did you start it?
And it’s true. Knowledge is power because it shows you how to act. The more informed your actions, the more likely they are to be fruitful and effective.
Here’s another quote you’ve probably heard a few times—“Know thyself.”
Why? Because there’s no greater power than power over yourself. The more you know yourself, the more capable you’ll be to shape your actions, your habits, and your destiny.
This couldn’t be more relevant than when it comes to money matters. The more you know about your financial habits and tendencies, the better equipped you’ll be to control your financial future.
Here are some ways to know thy financial self.
Like any other part of your life, emotions can affect money. They’re especially important to be aware of because they can cause you to act in ways that are counterproductive financially.
For example, have you ever felt anxious about checking your bank account?
Or felt a craving to blow some money to de-stress?
Or swelled with pride when you see how much you’ve saved?
Those are all emotions, and they’re all related to money.
So the next time you’re spending money, or checking your bank account, or pinching pennies, take a moment. Breathe. Notice how you’re feeling. Those emotions can give you valuable information that can help you make better financial decisions in the future.
Feelings almost always lead to thoughts. For instance, anxiety about looking at your bank account could lead to an internal conversation like this…
“Can I afford that? Oh, I bet I can’t. I WAY overspent the other day at… whatever, I never have enough money. I keep meaning to spend less, but I just can’t stop myself. Why do I even bother?”
See what happened? A feeling of anxiety led to a negative thought—that you can’t control your finances.
So what do you think about money? And that doesn’t mean your “opinions” about the economy, your take on billionaires going into space, or the NFTs are the fine art of the future] you share when you’re chatting with friends. It means the thoughts that flow through your mind whenever you encounter money in daily life.
Take a few moments right now and notice those thoughts. Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they neutral?
Just like a feeling almost always leads to a thought, so does a thought almost always lead to an action.
Those actions might be to ignore, or repress, or give in. But one way or another, thoughts will result in actions.
This is where budgeting helps. It’s like creating a journal of your actions, which are a window into your thoughts, your feelings, and who you are.
Notice lots of new shoes, designer handbags, or suddenly having more blingy watches than days of the week? These can reveal a facet of your financial self—maybe you think that taking advantage of every sale at the mall (i.e., buying things you don’t really need) will relieve feelings of anxiety.
Or maybe you’re penny-pinching so much that you’re surviving on peanut butter sandwiches and hating every bite. That could reveal either a hearty resourcefulness in lean times, or an unfounded worry about going without.
Or maybe you’re mindlessly wasting your dollars with nothing to show for it. Think hundreds spent on games on your phone, getting food delivered every night, or joining that fancy wine club all your friends are in. Perhaps this reveals that you are actually afraid of your finances, so afraid, in fact, that you can’t face reality.
The more you know about your financial self, the better equipped you’ll be to control your finances. You’ll see habits that you need to curb, and habits you need to cultivate.
Simple advice, but it goes a long way. Knowledge is power!
If you want to maintain a budget and save money, then you need a plan. The first step is understanding the basics—what is a budget? How does it work? What are the benefits of having one?
To effectively manage your monthly budget, you must take certain steps from day one. This article will provide some helpful tips and tricks on how to get started and keep going strong until payday rolls around!
A budget is a plan. It helps you set limits for your spending, so that you can track your income and expenses. Maintaining a budget keeps you aware of when you are spending too much or if there are areas where your money could be saved.
It can also help you understand your spending habits as well as identify problems, such as giving in to too many sales or buying expensive lattes every day. With a clear understanding of how you spend money every month, you may be able to reduce expenses and even start saving for luxuries or emergencies. You can’t have a goal of saving for your next summer vacation if you don’t know how much money you’re spending now.
The first step is to set goals for yourself for income and spending. When it comes to income, you need to consider all the ways you get paid. What is your salary—after taxes and any other contributions you make, like to a 401(k)? Is your employer cutting back your hours? Do you have another source of income such as a side job or freelance work?
Be completely honest with yourself about how much money you have coming in. Once this figure is known, you can assess your spending and determine how much of your income goes towards them every month.
Next, make a list of all fixed monthly bills, such as rent or loan repayments. Then make a list of variable expenses, such as groceries or gas. Lastly, make a list of all your monthly discretionary spending, or ‘fun money’.
If you struggle with this last step, look at your bank statements. It’s the easiest way to find a complete record of your spending. This will help you pinpoint the areas that you could cut down on or even eliminate.
Now that you have your budget, you can take action. You can save money by leveraging your budget to meet your monthly goals.
The first way is to leverage your income. If you have a job, talk to your employer about working extra hours, or ask for a raise. This will give you more money right out of the gate.
Beyond the extra income from a job, there are many other ways to add to your budget.
You can start small and pick up some side work—babysitting, dog walking, delivering pizzas, etc. If you can turn your free time into money, go for it! This all depends on your financial situation and what you feel comfortable with, so take the time to plan accordingly.
You can also think about reducing your expenses. Cutting back on luxury items can save money every month without having to work an extra job. Just think of all the things you could do with the money that’s currently going towards cable TV or eating out every day for lunch!
Don’t forget to have some fun every once in a while. Just find creative ways to have it on a budget. Plan more outings with friends like playing tennis or frisbee in the park, rather than going to the club every evening. Your community is bound to have some free local events going on, especially in warmer weather.
A budget is a way for you to track your expenses and income each month. You can leverage your budget in a number of ways, by increasing income or decreasing expenses—or both! With this knowledge, you’ll be able to save more and plan for the future.
You’re done with the 9-to-5, and ready to transition from employee to entrepreneur.
But there’s one last hurdle—how will you pay for it?
Starting a business requires resources. Whether it’s a laptop, store front, circular saw, or musical instrument, you’ll need tools to ply your trade. You’ll also need to consider the cost of hiring employees as your business grows!
There are three common strategies entrepreneurs leverage to raise money for starting a business…
1. Raise capital. Trade ownership of your business for money.
2. Borrow money. Pay interest for money.
3. Self-fund. Cover business expenses yourself.
There’s no right way to fund your business. But there are clear pros and cons to each approach. Let’s explore them further so you can have a better idea of which may be best for you!
1. Raise capital. This strategy involves scouting out wealthy individuals and institutions to give you money to fund your business. But it’s no free lunch. In exchange for funding, investors want a slice of your company. As your business grows, so does their profit.
That gives them a powerful say in the management of your business. If you raise capital this way, you may find these stakeholders calling the shots and pulling the strings instead of you.
Plus, raising capital simply is out of reach for most entrepreneurs. Unless you’re disrupting a major industry and have extensive experience, the risk-reward situation may not make sense for potential investors.
2. Borrow money. It’s straightforward—you ask a lending institution or friend for money that you’ll pay back with interest. Both parties take a calculated risk that your business will increase its value enough to repay the loan. It’s a simple, time-tested strategy for funding a new business.
The advantage of getting a business loan is that it keeps you in full control of your business. No board of directors or controlling shareholders!
But business loans require planning to manage. Your business will need to consistently make payments, meaning you’ll need to consistently earn profit. That’s rarely a surefire proposition when you’re first starting out.
So while debt can help your business expand and hire new talent, it’s typically wise to hold off on borrowing until later.
3. Self-fund. This is far and away the most realistic strategy for most entrepreneurs. It’s exactly what it sounds like—pay the upfront costs of starting a business yourself.
No debt. No working for someone else. You’re completely free to run your business. You’re also completely financially responsible for the outcome.
Will you be able to buy a storefront outright? Or start a competitive car manufacturer? Probably not. But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities that require far less capital.
Look around. You may have the tools you need to start a business at your fingertips! In fact, if you’re reading this article on a laptop or desktop, you’re positioned to start an online business right now. All you need is a service to provide clients.
The takeaway? The funding your business needs will depend on your situation. Challenging an established industry with a revolutionary approach? Then you may need outside funding. But if you’re like many, you have all the tools and resources you need to start your business.
In the years when there was an abundance of crops, it was wise to store up as much as possible in preparation for the years of famine. However, if instead of saving you ate it all up during the 7 years of abundance, the result would be starvation for you and your family during the 7 lean years. This might be an extreme example in our modern, First World society, but are you “eating it all up” now and not storing enough away for your retirement?
The definition of retirement we’ll be using is: “An indefinite period in which one is no longer actively producing income but rather relies on income generated from pensions and/or personal savings.”
According to this definition, the “years of plenty” would be the years that you are still working and generating income. While you still have regular income, you can set aside a portion of it to save for retirement. This amount is called the “Personal Savings Rate.”
According to the latest statistics, the monthly personal savings rate for Americans has plummeted to 2.4% of their income.¹ For much of the past decade it’s hovered around 7% to 8%, briefly spiking during the first months of the COVID-19 Pandemic to over 30%.
Suppose you’re looking to retire for at least 10 years (e.g., from 65 years old to 75 years old). Even if you’re planning to live on only half of the income that you were making prior to retirement, you would need to save up 5 years worth of income to last for the 10 years of your retirement. Just raw saving at average rate without the power of interest would take years before it became the wealth most people need to retire.
So unless you’ve found the elixir of everlasting life, we’re going to need to do some serious “saving” of the personal savings rate. Is there a solution to this dilemma? Yes. If you’re looking for possible ways to store up and prepare for your retirement, I’d be happy to have that conversation with you today.
¹ “Personal Saving Rate,” U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Dec 23, 2022, http://bit.ly/2qSGrR3.
For example, how much would you spend on a meal at a restaurant before it moves into lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous territory? $100? $50? $20? To some, enjoying a daily made-to-order burrito might be par for the course, but to others, spending $10 every day on a tortilla, a scoop of chicken, and a dollop of guacamole might seem extravagant. Chances are, there may be some areas where you’re more in line with the average person and some areas where you’re atypical – but don’t let that worry you!
In case you were wondering, the top three things that Americans spend their income on in a year are housing (33.8%), transportation (16.4%), and food (12.4%).¹
Those top three expenses might very well be about the same as your top 3, but everything else after that is a mixed bag. Your lifestyle and the unique things that make you, well you, greatly influence where you spend your money and how you should budget.
For example, let’s say the average expenditure on a pet is $600 annually, but that may lump in hamsters, guinea pigs, all the way to Siberian Huskies. As you can imagine, each could come with a very different yearly cost associated with keeping that type of pet healthy. So although the average might be $600, your actual cost could be well above $3,000 for the husky! That definitely wouldn’t be seen as ‘normal’ by any means. And that’s okay!
What are we getting at here? It’s perfectly fine to be ‘abnormal’ in some areas of your spending. You don’t need to make your budget look exactly like other people’s budgets. What matters to them might not be the same as what matters to you.
So go ahead and buy that organic, gluten-free, grass-fed kibble for Fido – he deserves it (if he didn’t pee on the carpet while you were away, that is)! If Fido’s happiness makes you happy, then more power to you. Just make sure that at the end of the day, Fido’s food bill won’t bust your budget.
¹ “Consumer Expenditures – 2021 ” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sep 8, 2022, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cesan.pdf
But not all goals are created equal. Planning to win the lottery is a foolish objective that won’t help you fulfill your dreams. Spending hours clipping coupons worth a few dollars is probably a waste of time.
Fortunately, establishing proper goals is actually incredibly straightforward. You want to pursue objectives that are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Formulating these types of goals can radically focus your energy and increase your ability to get things done. Let’s start with the first criteria!
The more specific your goal, the more clearly you’ll understand exactly what you need to do to achieve it. It’s the difference between a vague daydream and a solid plan.
When writing out your financial goals, be crystal clear on exactly what you want to accomplish and why. Outline the steps and people needed to bring about your vision. Something like “I want to make more money” becomes “I want to earn a raise at work by taking on more responsibility.”
How will you know if you’ve accomplished, exceeded, or failed your goal? Including a clear metric gives you insight into how close or far you are from completing your objective.
Decide on a clear numeric goal you can shoot for. Take a vague notion like “I want to save more money” and transform it into “I want to save 15% of my income this year for retirement.” You’ll have a clearer idea of what steps you need to take to meet that benchmark and feel a deep sense of reward once you hit the target.
Trying to attain an ill-defined, pie-in-the-sky goal will only lead to crazy behavior, incredible discouragement, or both. If you’re aiming for something huge (which is admirable), break it down into mini goals and focus on one at a time. Achieving a goal like “I want to start a multi-million dollar business” takes careful planning, a lot of research, and loads of help, but there are many, many people in the world who have done just that. How do you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time!)
Are your goals appropriate? That seems like an obvious question, but it’s a critical one to ask when establishing objectives. For instance, saving up $1,000 so you can buy your new niece a Swarovski crystal, gold-plated baby rattle (yes, that’s a real thing) might be really memorable, but do you have an emergency fund in place? Make sure you’re meeting those practical, basic financial goals before you start aiming for the non-essential ones.
Knowing that the clock is ticking is one of the most powerful motivators on the planet. You’ll want to establish a realistic time-frame, but deciding that you want to buy a house in two years or be debt free in six months can increase your intensity, narrow your focus, and inspire you to start working on your goals as soon as possible!
Do your financial goals meet these criteria? If not, don’t sweat it! Spend 15 minutes reviewing your objectives and work in specific details or break down some of your more ambitious targets. Remember, I’m here to help if you hit a financial goal roadblock and need some professional insight and clarity!
Research has shown that people who write down their goals are 33% more successful in accomplishing them than those who don’t.¹ That data seems to verify what we instinctively know. Is there anything worse than working on a project that has no clear objective or outcome defined?
But here’s the million dollar question: Have you written down your financial goals?
It’s one of those simple things that we tell ourselves we’re going to do or that we’ll get around to later, but we tend to leave undone. And that results in our earning, saving, and spending money aimlessly, without purpose. No wonder 50% of women and 47% of men approaching retirement have nothing saved for retirement!²
In case you still need convincing, here are three reasons why you should write down your financial goals the second you’re done reading this article!
Imagine trying to build a house without a blueprint. Where would you start? Would you know what supplies you’d need? What color paint you’d want? Would you end up with a basement? Who knows?
Your finances are the same way. Until you have a clear financial goal for your lifestyle and retirement, you’ll never truly know what to do with your money and how it can help you. Once you’re locked in on a vision of your future, you can start exploring the actions necessary to make your dreams become realities.
Discovering the steps you need to take to achieve your goals cuts away distractions. You’re no longer as susceptible to distractions and temptations because you’re laser-focused on creating an outcome. You can focus all of your mental and financial energy on bringing your vision to life. Clarity leads to focus. Focus creates intensity. Intensity accomplishes goals.
There are few better feelings than the one that comes after a day of hard, productive work. That’s because your brain knows that you accomplished what you set out to do.
Your finances are no different.
Setting goals for your money gives you the opportunity to feel that deep sense of reward and accomplishment. It provides your life with a source of gratification that isn’t shallow and instantaneous.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a piece of paper or pull up your note taking app and write down a few financial goals! Be realistic and hyper specific. Let’s talk about what comes to your mind and what it would take to bring that vision of your life into reality!
¹ “Goal-Setting Is Linked to Higher Achievement,” Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D., Psychology Today, Mar 14, 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-moment-youth/201803/goal-setting-is-linked-higher-achievement
² “Those Who Married Once More Likely Than Others to Have Retirement Savings,” Brittany King, United States Census Bureau, Jan 13, 2022, https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/01/women-more-likely-than-men-to-have-no-retirement-savings.html
It can be enlightening to see how rates are applied. Hopefully, it motivates you to pay off those cards as quickly as possible!
What is APR? At the core of understanding how finance charges are calculated is the APR, short for Annual Percentage Rate. Most credit cards now use a variable rate, which means the interest rate can adjust with the prime rate, which is the lowest interest rate available (for any entity that is not a bank) to borrow money. Banks use the prime rate for their best customers to provide funds for mortgages, loans, and credit cards.¹ Credit card companies charge a higher rate than prime, but their rate often moves in tandem with the prime rate. As of the second quarter of 2020, the average credit card interest rate on existing accounts was 14.58%.²
While the Annual Percentage Rate is a yearly rate, as its name suggests, the interest on credit card balances is calculated monthly based on an average daily balance. You may also have multiple APRs on the same account, with a separate APR for balance transfers, cash advances, and late balances.
Periodic Interest Rate. The APR is used to calculate the Periodic Interest Rate, which is a daily rate. 15% divided by 365 days in a year = 0.00041095 (the periodic rate), for example.
Average Daily Balance. If you use your credit card regularly, the balance will change with each purchase. So if credit card companies charged interest based on the balance on a given date, it would be easy to minimize the interest charges by timing your payment. This isn’t the case, however—unless you pay in full—because the interest will be based on the average daily balance for the entire billing cycle.
Let’s look at some round numbers and a 30-day billing cycle as an example.
Day 1: Balance $1,000 Day 10: Purchase $500, Balance $1,500 Day 20: Purchase $200, Balance $1,700 Day 28: Payment $700, Balance $1,000
To calculate the average daily balance, you would need to determine how many days you had at each balance.
$1,000 x 9 days $1,500 x 10 days $1,700 x 8 days $1,000 x 3 days
Some of the multiplied numbers below might look alarming, but after we divide by the number of days in the billing cycle (30), we’ll have the average daily balance. ($9,000 + $15,000 + $13,600 + $3,000)/30 = $1,353.33 (the average daily balance)
Here’s an eye-opener: If the $1,000 ending balance isn’t paid in full, interest is charged on the $1353.33, not $1,000.
We’ll also assume an interest rate of 15%, which gives a periodic (daily) rate of 0.00041095.
$1,353.33 x (0.00041095 x 30) = $16.68 finance charge
$16.68 may not sound like a lot of money, but this example is a small fraction of the average household credit card debt, which is $8,645 for households that carry balances as of 2019.³ At 15% interest, average households with balances are paying $1,297 per year in interest. Wow! What could you do with that $1,297 that could have been saved?
That was a lot of math, but it’s important to know why you’re paying what you might be paying in interest charges. Hopefully this knowledge will help you minimize future interest buildup!
Did you know?
When you make a payment, the payment is applied to interest first, with any remainder applied to the balance. This is why it can take so long to pay down a credit card, particularly a high-interest credit card. In effect, you can end up paying for the same purchase several times over due to how little is applied to the balance if you are just making minimum payments.
¹ “Prime Rate Definition,” James Chen, Investopedia, Sep 25, 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/primerate.asp
² “What Is the Average Credit Card Interest Rate?,” Adam McCann, WalletHub, Nov 29, 2022, https://wallethub.com/edu/average-credit-card-interest-rate/50841/
³ “Credit Card Debt Study,” Alina Comoreanu, WalletHub, Nov 17, 2022, https://wallethub.com/edu/cc/credit-card-debt-study/24400
In some cases, the warnings might have been heeded but in other cases, we may have learned the cost of credit the hard way.
Using credit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may be a costly thing – and sometimes even a risky thing. The interest from credit card balances can be like a ball and chain that might never seem to go away. And your financial strategy for the future may seem like a distant horizon that’s always out of reach.
It is possible to live without credit cards if you choose to do so, but it can take discipline if you’ve developed the credit habit.
Here’s some tough love. If you don’t have one already, you should hunker down and create a budget. In the beginning it doesn’t have to be complicated. First just try to determine how much you’re spending on food, utilities, transportation, and other essentials. Next, consider what you’re spending on the non-essentials – be honest with yourself!
In making a budget, you should become acutely aware of your spending habits and you’ll give yourself a chance to think about what your priorities really are. Is it really more important to spend $5-6 per day on coffee at the corner shop, or would you rather put that money towards some new clothes?
Try to set up a budget that has as strict allowances as you can handle for non-essential purchases until you can get your existing balances under control. Always keep in mind that an item you bought with credit “because it was on sale” might not end up being such a great deal if you have to pay interest on it for months (or even years).
Part of the reason we use credit cards is because they are right there in our wallets or automatically stored on our favorite shopping websites, making them easy to use. (That’s the point, right?) Fortunately, this is also easy to help fix. Put your credit cards away in a safe place at home and save them for a real emergency. Don’t save them on websites you use.
Don’t worry about actually canceling them or cutting them up. Unless there’s an annual fee for owning the card, canceling the card might not help you financially or help boost your credit score.¹
When you’re working on your budget, decide how much extra money you can afford to pay toward your credit card balances. If you just pay the minimum payment, even small balances may not get paid off for years. Try to prioritize extra payments to help the balances go down and eventually get paid off.
Make some room in your budget for some of the purchases you used to make with a credit card. If an item you’re eyeing costs $100, ask yourself if you can save $50 per month and purchase it in two months rather than immediately. Also, consider using the 30-day rule. If you see something you want – or even something you think you’ll need – wait 30 days. If the 30 days go by and you still need or want it, make sure it makes sense within your budget.
Having a solid credit history is important, so once your credit balances are under control, you may want to use one card in a disciplined way within your budget. In this case, you would just use the card for routine expenses that you are able to pay off in full at the end of the month.
Living without credit cards completely, or at least for the most part, is possible. Sticking to a budget, paying down debt, and having a solid savings strategy for the future will help make your discipline worth it!
¹ “How to repair your credit and improve your FICO® Scores,” myFico, https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/improve-your-credit-score