In an era of less social contact, debit cards are convenient. Just swipe and go. Even more so for their mobile phone equivalents: Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. We like fast, we like easy, and we like a good sale.
But are we actually spending more by not using cash like we did in the good old days?
We spend more when using plastic – and that’s true of both credit card spending and debit card spending.² Money is more easily spent with cards because you don’t “feel” it immediately. An extra $2 here, another $10 there… It adds up.
The phenomenon of reduced spending when paying with cash is a psychological “pain of payment.” Opening up your wallet at the register for a $20.00 purchase but only seeing a $10 bill in there – ouch! Maybe you’ll put back a couple of those $5 DVDs you just had to have 5 minutes ago.
When using plastic, the reality of the expense doesn’t sink in until the statement arrives. And even then it may not carry the same weight. After all, you only need to make the minimum payment, right? With cash, we’re more cautious – and that’s not a bad thing.
When you pay with cash, the expense feels real – even when it might be relatively small. Hopefully, you’ll get a sense that you’re parting with something of value in exchange for something else. You might start to ask yourself things like “Do I need this new comforter set that’s on sale – a really good sale – or, do I just want this new comforter set because it’s really cute (and it’s on sale)?” You might find yourself paying more attention to how much things cost when making purchases, and weighing that against your budget.
If you find that you have money left over at the end of the week (and you probably will because who likes to see nothing when they open their wallet), put the cash aside in an envelope and give it a label. You can call it anything you want, like “Movie Night,” for example.
As the weeks go on, you’re likely to amass a respectable amount of cash in your “rewards” fund. You might even be dreaming about what to do with that money now. You can buy something special. You can save it. The choice is yours. Well done on saving your hard-earned cash.
¹ “Debit Spending Is On The Rise, But Is It Here To Stay?” Visa Navigate, Apr 2021, https://navigate.visa.com/na/spending-insights/why-debit-spending-is-on-the-rise/
² “MIT study: Paying with credit cards activates your brain to create ‘purchase cravings’ for more spending,” Cory Stieg, CNBC, Mar 13, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/13/credit-cards-activate-brain-reward-network-create-cravings.html
Even though it’s not always obvious, we carry lots of assumptions and attitudes about money that might not be grounded in reality. How we perceive wealth and finances can impact how we make decisions, prioritize, and handle the money that we have. Here are a few common money mindsets that might be holding you back from reaching your full potential!
It’s simple, right? The rich are swimming in cash, so they’re able to save. They get to build businesses and live out their dreams. The rest of us have to live paycheck to paycheck, shelling out our hard earned money on rent, groceries, and other essentials.
That couldn’t be further from the truth! Sure, you might not be able to save half your income. But you might be surprised by how much you can actually stash away if you put your mind to it. And however much you can save right now, little as it might be, is much better than putting away nothing at all!
On the other side of the coin (get it?) is the notion that you have to save every last penny and dime that comes your way. There are definitely people in difficult financial situations who go to incredible lengths to make ends meet. Just ask someone who survived the Great Depression! But most of us don’t need to haggle down the price of an apple or forage around for firewood. And sometimes, the corners we cut to save a buck can come back to bite us. Set spending rules and boundaries for yourself, but make sure you’re not just eating ramen noodles and ketchup soup!
There are definitely times when you might not feel like you need to be proactive with your finances. You don’t feel like you’re spending too much, debt collectors aren’t pounding down your door, and everything seems comfortable. Budgeting is for folks with a spending problem, right?
The fact of the matter is that everyone should have a budget. It might not feel important now, but a budget is your most powerful tool for understanding where your money goes, areas where you can cut back, and how much you can put away for the future. It gives you the knowledge you need to take control of your finances!
Breaking mediocre money mindsets can be difficult. But it’s an important step on your journey towards financial independence. Once you understand money and how it works, you’re on the path to take control of your future and make your dreams a reality.
Maybe your numbers never add up or too many expenses are coming “out of the blue”. You might also feel a sense of dread every time you make a purchase. No matter what you do, this whole budgeting thing doesn’t seem to be working.
Hang in there! Here are a few budgeting potholes that might be slowing down your financial goals and how to avoid them!
Budgets are supposed to help you use your money wisely. They should be a positive part of your life—they’re not supposed to make you feel like you’re constantly failing. But sometimes our passion to save money and get our financial house in order gets the better of us, and we set up budgets that are too restrictive. While coming from good intentions, an overly thrifty budget can actually make it harder to achieve your goals. An impossible to follow plan can make you feel discouraged and resentful. You might even decide that it’s not worth the hassle! Try starting with a more reasonable strategy and then build from there!
Sometimes our budgets are just too complicated to actually be useful. Not everyone loves working with numbers, and sometimes fiddling with spreadsheets can get so overwhelming that we just want to quit. Plus, there’s plenty of room for human error! A good option is to investigate free budgeting sites or apps. All you do is punch in the correct numbers and the magic of technology will do the rest!
Life is constantly changing. Your simple, streamlined budget might be perfect for the life of a young single professional, but will it still hold up in five years? Where will the portion of your paycheck that works down your student loans go once you’re debt free? And when will you start saving for a house?
Take some time every few months to review your budget and see what’s changed. Evaluate what you’ve accomplished and areas that need improvement. Ask yourself what your next milestones should be and if those line up with your long-term goals!
Budgeting takes work. But it shouldn’t be a burden. Cut yourself some slack, prune your process, and stay consistent. You might be surprised by the difference filling in budgeting potholes can make in your financial life!
One interior decoration blog estimated that decorating a living room from scratch could cost between $14,400 to almost $50,000!(1) The numbers for the dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen are similarly high. Furnishing an apartment averages between $3500-5800.² But is there a better way? How can you save some cash if you’re trying to furnish your home? Here are a few helpful tips to guide your decorating process!
Start by taking stock of what furniture you have that can be used in your new home. Some of it might work in your new home, some of it might not. Try to get an idea of what existing furniture will go where and make note of new items you’ll need.
Arrange your list of new items in order of importance and buy those first. Mattresses for your bedroom? Top of the list. Abstract modern art to hang in your bathroom? Maybe hold off on that until you’ve taken care of the essentials!
Concerned that your kitchen is a little drab? Worried that your table cloth doesn’t match your dining room? You might be surprised how far a new paint job will get you! It might be a more budget-friendly way to spice up your living situation than tossing all your old furniture out the door, especially if you do it yourself. Things like tables and wooden chairs are all potential candidates for a new coat of paint, as are the walls of your home.
But there’s no doubt that at some point you’ll need to get a new piece of furniture. What then? Cough up and pay a ridiculous price? You might be surprised by the resources available to acquire furniture at a bargain. Local thrift stores can be treasure troves for things like chairs, coffee tables, and bookcases. Craigslist and eBay are also worth investigating, as are estate and garage sales. And you can always scour the curbs for a free sofa if you’re feeling bold!
Furnishing your new house can be fun. It’s a chance to unleash your creativity and make your home a special place. Just make sure you follow these budget-friendly tips before you start indulging!
¹ “Budget Breakdown: How Much Does It Cost To Decorate A Room?” The Kuotes, https://www.kathykuohome.com/blog/budget-breakdown-how-much-does-it-cost-decorate-a-room/
² “The Cost of Furnishing an Apartment: A Step-By-Step Guide With Breakdown Of Furniture Costs,” Bonnie Stinson, Furnishr, Jan 7, 2022 https://furnishr.com/blog/cost-furnishing-apartment/
And it’s not just a minor price hike. Used cars saw a 66%-110% price increase from December 2019 to December 2021.¹ For comparison, overall prices have increased “only” 12% from 2019 to 2022.²
Why? Like almost everything over the last two years, it all comes back to the pandemic.
Here’s the story…
New cars need microchips. That’s where all the computerized magic happens that consumers have come to expect when they drive out of the dealership.
But chip manufacturers were hit right between the eyes by the pandemic. They faced extensive lockdowns, followed by surging demand once the economy began to recover. Factories were simply unable to produce new cars quickly enough. Consumers needed alternatives. So they started buying used cars, en masse.
Demand shot up. Supply went down. And as a result, prices for used cars have soared.
Fortunately, there may be relief on the horizon. If chip manufacturers reopen and new cars hit the market, used car prices should start to trend downward. J.D. Power estimates the market will stabilize in late 2022 or early 2023.³ Morningstar puts the date in 2023.⁴
But whether those predictions become reality remains to be seen. For now, if you’re in the market for a used car, expect to pay more than you would have just a few years ago.
¹ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/
² “$1 in 2019 is worth $1.12 today,” in2013dollars.com, https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/2019?amount=1#:~:text=Core%20inflation%20averaged%203.02%25%20per,2022%2C%20a%20difference%20of%20%240.09
³ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/
⁴ “Used car prices continue to surge. Here’s why — and when they could come back down,” Mike Stunson, Miami Herald, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article257060717.html#storylink=cpy
Is racking up credit card debt or taking out payday loans financially dangerous? Of course! But they’re obvious. Hard to miss. They’re like a voice yelling into a megaphone “Hey! Don’t do it!”
But what about money mistakes that aren’t so obvious? Or even worse, money mistakes disguised as money wisdom?
Those may not devastate your bank account in one swoop. But they often go unaddressed. And over time, they add up.
So here are some money mistakes you might not have noticed.
Penny pinching. Sure, it sounds like a great idea in theory. But when you’re constantly scrimping and saving, it’s tough to enjoy life. What’s the point of working so hard if you can’t enjoy a reasonable treat now and then?
Plus, penny pinching may stop you from taking calculated risks that could save your money from stagnation.
So instead of extreme thriftiness, try moderation instead. You may find yourself far more inspired to budget and save than if you commit to complete frugality.
Under or over filling your emergency fund. A lot of people make the mistake of not having an emergency fund at all. It leaves them vulnerable to unexpected expenses and financial emergencies.
But when you have too much money in your emergency fund, it might be tough to make any real progress on your long-term financial goals. A good chunk of your net worth could be sunk into an account that’s not growing.
The solution? Save up 3 to 6 months of income in an easily accessible account, but no more. Use that money to cover emergencies ONLY. If it runs low, refill it.
Once your emergency fund is fully stocked, you can devote the rest of your income to building wealth.
Leaving goals undefined. It’s tough to achieve a goal you don’t have. Do you know where you’ll be financially in 5 years? 10? What are some things you’d like to save towards? A nicer home? An awesome vacation? A comfortable retirement? Not sure?
That uncertainty makes it easy to fudge good financial habits. It’s hard to see how lapses in your overall strategy can impact your big picture because you don’t have one.
So when it comes to your money, be specific. Very specific. Write out your goals and make sure they’re measurable. That way, you can monitor your progress and ensure you’re on the right track.
Be on the lookout for these dangerous money mistakes. They may seem innocuous, but they can add up over time and stop you from reaching your financial goals. Stay vigilant and steer clear of these traps!
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.
Method 1: The old fashioned way. 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.
Method 2: Pre-made spreadsheets. 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.
Method 3: Budget apps. 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.
Notice your emotions. 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.
Notice your thoughts. 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?
Notice your actions. 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!
What is a budget?
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.
How to create your budget
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.
Leverage your budget
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 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.
It’s budgeting time. 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).
Hide the plastic. 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
Pay down your credit card debt. 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.
Save for things you want to purchase. 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.
Save one card for occasional use. 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
Much like physical health, financial health can be affected by binging, carelessness, or simply not knowing what can cause harm. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – as with physical health, it’s possible to reverse the downward trend if you can break your harmful habits.
Not budgeting A household without a budget is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly and – sooner or later – it might sink or run aground in shallow waters. Small expenses and indulgences can add up to big money over the course of a month or a year.
In nearly every household, it might be possible to find some extra money just by cutting back on non-essential spending. A budget is your way of telling yourself that you may be able to have nice things if you’re disciplined about your finances.
Frequent use of credit cards. Credit cards always seem to get picked on when discussing personal finances, and often, they deserve the flack they get. Not having a budget can be a common reason for using credit, contributing to an average credit card debt of $6,913 for balance-carrying households.¹ At an average interest rate of over 16%, credit card debt is usually the highest interest expense in a household, several times higher than auto loans, home loans, and student loans.²
The good news is that with a little discipline, you can start to pay down your credit card debt and help reduce your interest expense.
Mum’s the word. No matter how much income you have, money can be a stressful topic in families. This can lead to one of two potentially harmful habits.
First, talking about the family finances is often simply avoided. Conversations about kids and work and what movie you want to watch happen, but conversations about money can get swept under the rug.
Are you a “saver” and your partner a “spender”? Is it the opposite? Maybe you’re both spenders or both savers. Talking (and listening) about yourself and your significant other’s tendencies can be insightful and help avoid conflicts about your finances.
If you’re like most households, having an occasional chat about the budget may help keep your family on track with your goals – or help you identify new goals – or maybe set some goals if you don’t have any.
Second, financial matters can be confusing – which may cause stress – especially once you get past the basics. This may tempt you to ignore the subject or to think “I’ll get around to it one day”.
But getting a budget and a financial strategy in place sooner rather than later may actually help you reduce stress. Think of it as “That’s one thing off my mind now!”
Taking the time to understand your money situation and getting a budget in place is the first step to put your financial house in order. As you learn more and apply changes – even small ones – you might see your efforts start to make a difference!
¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021 https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/
² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa
It’s a challenge they tackle with gusto. Shaving down expenses with couponing, hunting the best deals with an app on their phones, or simply finding creative ways to reuse a cardboard box, gives them a thrill. For others, budgeting conjures up images of living in tents, foraging for nuts and berries in the woods, and sewing together everyone’s old t-shirts to make a blanket for grandma.
To each their own! But budgeting doesn’t have to be faced like a wilderness survival reality TV competition. Sure, there might be some sacrifice and compromise involved when you first implement your budget (giving up that daily $6 latte might feel like roughing it at first), but rest assured there’s a happy middle to most things, and a way that won’t make you hate adhering to your financial goals.
Simplifying the budgeting process can help ease the transition. Check out the following suggestions to make living on a budget something you can stick to – instead of making a shelter out of sticks.
Use that smartphone. Your parents may have used a system of labeled envelopes to budget for various upcoming expenses. Debit cards have largely replaced cash these days, and all those labeled envelopes were fiddly anyway. Your best budgeting tool is probably in your pocket, your purse, or wherever your smartphone is at the moment.
Budgeting apps can connect to your bank account and keep track of incoming and outgoing cash flow, making it simple to categorize current expenses and create a solid budget. A quick analysis of the data and charts from the app can give you important clues about your spending behavior. Maybe you’ll discover that you spent $100 last week for on-demand movies. $5 here and $10 there can add up quickly. Smartphone apps can help you see (in vivid color) how your money could be evaporating in ways you might not feel on a day-to-day basis.
Some apps give you the ability to set a budget for certain categories of spending (like on-demand movies), and you can keep track of how you’re doing in relation to your defined budget. Some apps even provide alerts to help keep you aware of your spending. And if you’re feeling nostalgic, there are even apps that mimic the envelope systems of old, but with a digital spin.
Plan for unexpected expenses. Even with modern versions of budgeting, one of the biggest risks for losing your momentum is the same as it was in the days of the envelope system: unexpected expenses. Sometimes an unexpected event – like car trouble, an urgent home repair, or medical emergency – can cost more than we expected. A lot more.
A good strategy to help protect your budget from an unexpected expense is an Emergency Fund. It may take a while to build your Emergency Fund, but it will be worth it if the tire blows out, the roof starts leaking, or you throw your back out trying to fix either of those things against your doctor’s orders.
The size of your Emergency Fund will depend on your unique situation, but a goal of at least $1,000 to 3 months of your income is recommended. Three months of income may sound like a lot, but if you experience a sudden loss of income, you’d have at least three full months of breathing room to get back on track.
Go with the flow. As you work with your new budget, you may find that you miss the mark on occasion. Some months you’ll spend more. Some months you’ll spend less. That’s normal. Over time, you’ll have an average for each expense category or expense item that will reveal where you can do better – but also where you may have been more frugal than needed.
With these suggestions in mind, there is no time like the present to get started! Make that new budget, then buy yourself an ice cream or turn on the air conditioning. Once you know where you stand, where you need to tighten up on spending, and where you can let loose a little, budgeting might not seem like a punishment. In fact, you might find that it’s a useful, much-needed strategy that you CAN stick to – all part of the greater journey to your financial independence.
There’s a significant financial mistake people in their 20s and 30s make. It’s simple, but if you’re young, it could change your financial future…
Have you made this mistake? Think you know what it is?
Young people don’t save enough. Not by a long shot. On average, Millennials have only saved $23,000 for retirement.¹ And a recent survey revealed that 65% of 50 year olds felt the greatest financial mistake of their 20s and 30s was not saving.² It’s no wonder, then, that the same group feels they have under-saved and under-prepared for retirement.
So what can you do if you’re a young person seeking to build wealth? Here are three ideas…
Automate saving every month. The power of automation makes saving easy. Saving stops being a conscious decision with which you may or may not follow through. Instead, it’s a background process you can set and forget.
Meet with a financial professional. They’re the guides you need for navigating the world of budgeting, saving, and building wealth. They can help you identify the goals and strategies you need to inspire your savings.
Focus on your own financial growth. Comparing your lifestyle to your peers is tempting, especially when you’re young. But it can be dangerous, especially if it causes you to spend more than you earn. Just remember—you may not really know the financial situation of your friends as presented on social media. People tend to just show the good and not the bad. Orient yourself towards improving your own situation and building your future.
So don’t make the mistake that so many have made. Follow the tips in this article and start laying the foundation of your financial future.
¹ “Retirement Security Amid COVID-19: The Outlook of Three Generations 20th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers,” Transamerica Center For Retirement Studies, May 2020, https://transamericacenter.org/docs/default-source/retirement-survey-of-workers/tcrs2020_sr_retirement_security_amid_covid-19.pdf
² “Money Mistakes: Exploring the financial situation of people over 50,” Caring Advisor, https://caringadvisor.com/money-mistakes/
There are a lot of reasons why. It takes planning and self-control. You’ll have to ask yourself if you can fit every purchase into your budget. It means giving up something today in order to benefit tomorrow.
These are all true, but saving doesn’t have to be hard work. One way to make it easier is to automate your savings and then watch your balance grow!
Automation is such a powerful tool because it makes saving effortless. With automation, saving is now a default, as opposed to a decision—you’re always saving in the background.
For example, you might have a goal to save $1,000 for a vacation. If you’re saving $20 per week, that would take less than a year. And the same logic applies to larger goals—it’s a key strategy for creating retirement wealth.
First, decide how much money you can afford to save each month. Then set up automatic deposits from your main bank account into your savings account. That’s it! Every month, money will go straight from your paycheck to your wealth building efforts.
Now, you’re positioned to go about your daily business, confident that you’re preparing for the future. And it only takes a few minutes to do! If you want to discover more wealth building strategies, contact me. We can review your financial situation and create a game plan.
But that doesn’t stop “budget” from being an intimidating word to many people. Some folks may think it means scrimping on everything and never going out for a night on the town. It doesn’t! Budgeting simply means that you know where your money is going and you have a way to track it.
The aim with budgeting is to be aware of your spending, plan for your expenses1, and make sure you have enough saved to pursue your goals.
Without a budget, it can be easy for expenses to climb beyond your ability to pay for them. You break out the plastic and before you know it you’ve spent fifty bucks on drinks and appetizers with the gang after work. These habits might leave you with a lot of accumulated debt. Plus, without a budget, you may not be saving for a rainy day, vacation, or your retirement. A budget allows you to enact a strategy to help pursue your goals. But what if you’ve never had a budget? Where should you start? Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to get your budgeting habit off the ground!
Track your expenses every day. Start by tracking your expenses. Write down everything you buy, including memberships, online streaming services, and subscriptions. It’s not complicated to do with popular mobile and web applications. You can also buy a small notebook to keep track of each purchase. Even if it’s a small pack of gum from the gas station or a quick coffee at the corner shop, jot it down. Keep track of the big stuff too, like your rent and bill payments.
Add up expenses every week and develop categories. Once you’ve collected enough data, it’s time to figure out where exactly your paycheck is going. Start with adding up your expenses every week. How much are you spending? What are you spending money on? As you add your spending up, start developing categories. The goal is to organize all your expenses so you can see what you’re spending money on. For example, if you eat out a few times per week, group those expenses under a category called “Eating Out”. Get as general or as specific as you wish. Maybe throwing all your food purchases into one bucket is all you need, or you may want to break it down by location - grocery store, big box store, restaurants, etc.
Create a monthly list of expenses. Once you’ve recorded your expenses for a full month, it’s time to create a monthly list. Now you might also have more clarity on how you want to set up your categories. Next, total each category for the month.
Adjust your spending as necessary. Compare your total expenses with your income. There are two possible outcomes. You may be spending within your income or spending outside your income. If you’re spending within your income, create a category for savings if you don’t have one. It’s a good idea to create a separate savings category for large future purchases too, like a home or a vacation. If you find you’re spending too much, you may need to cut back spending in some categories. The beauty of a budget is that once you see how much you’re spending, and on what, you’ll be able to strategize where you need to cut back.
Keep going. Once you develop the habit of budgeting, it should become part of your routine. You can look forward to working on your savings and developing a retirement strategy, but don’t forget to budget in a little fun too!
¹Jeremy Vohwinkle, “Make a Personal Budget in 6 Steps: A Step-by-Step Guide to Make a Budget,” The Balance (March 6, 2020).
The good news is, you don’t need a perfect relationship or perfect finances to have productive conversations with your partner about money, so here are some tips for handling those tricky conversations like a pro!
Be respectful. Respect should be the basis for any conversation with your significant other, but especially when dealing with potentially touchy issues like money. Be mindful to keep your tone neutral and try not to heap blame on your partner for any issues. Remember that you’re here to solve problems together.
Take responsibility. It’s perfectly normal if one person in a couple handles the finances more than the other. Just be sure to take responsibility for the decisions that you make and remember that it affects both people. You might want to establish a monthly money meeting to make sure you’re both on the same page and in the loop. Hint: Make it fun! Maybe order in, or enjoy a steak dinner while you chat.
Take a team approach. Instead of saying to your partner, “you need to do this or that,” try to frame things in a way that lets your partner know you see yourself on the same team as they are. Saying “we need to take a look at our combined spending habits” will probably be better received than “you need to stop spending so much money.”
Be positive. It can be tempting to feel defeated and hopeless that things will never get better if you’re trying to move a mountain. But this kind of thinking can be contagious and negativity may further poison your finances and your relationship. Try to focus on what you can both do to make things better and what small steps to take to get where you want to be, rather than focusing on past mistakes and problems.
Don’t ignore the negative. It’s important to stay positive, but it’s also important to face and conquer the specific problems. It gives you and your partner focused issues to work on and will help you make a game plan. Speaking of which…
Set common goals, and work toward them together. Whether it’s saving for a big vacation, your child’s college fund, getting out of debt, or making a big purchase like a car, money management and budgeting may be easier if you are both working toward a common purpose with a shared reward. Figure out your shared goals and then make a plan to accomplish them!
Accept that your partner may have a different background and approach to money. We all have our strengths, weaknesses, and different perspectives. Just because yours differs from your partner’s doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. Chances are you make allowances and balance each other out in other areas of your relationship, and you can do the same with money if you try to see things from your partner’s point of view.
Discussing and managing your finances together can be a great opportunity for growth in a relationship. Go into it with a positive attitude, respect for your partner, and a sense of your common values and priorities. Having an open, honest, and trust-based approach to money in a relationship may be challenging, but it is definitely worth it.
Many of us treat it like a guilty pleasure and almost take a little pride in our extravagant purchases, even seeing it as “self-care”. But there’s also a part of us that knows we’re not being wise when we senselessly spend money.
So how do we resolve that tension between having fun and making good decisions? Here are a few ideas to help you splurge responsibly!
Budget in advance. “Responsible splurging” might seem like a contradiction, but the key to enjoying yourself once in a while and staying on track with your financial strategy is budgeting. Maintaining a budget gives you the power to see where your money is going and if you can afford to make a big/last-minute/frivolous purchase. And when you decide that you’re going to take the plunge, a budget is your compass for how much you can spend now, or if you need to wait a little longer and save a little more.
Beware of impulse purchasing. The opposite of budgeting for a splurge is impulse buying. We’ve all been there; you’re scrolling through your favorite shopping site and you see it. That thing you didn’t know you always wanted—and it’s on sale. Just a few clicks and it could be yours!
Tempting as impulse buying might be, especially when there’s a good deal, it’s often better to pause and review your finances before adding those cute shoes to your cart. Check your budget, remember your goals, and then see if that purchase is something you can really afford!
Do your research. Have you ever spent your hard-earned money on a dream item, even if you budgeted for it, only to have it break or malfunction after a few weeks? Even worse, it might have been something as significant as a car that you wound up trying to keep alive with thousands of dollars in maintenance and repairs!
That’s why research is so important. It’s not a guarantee that your purchase will last longer, but it can help narrow your options and reduce the chance of wasting your money.
Responsible splurging is possible. Just make sure you’re financially prepared and well-researched before making those purchases!
Paying off your mortgage, car, and student loans can sometimes seem so impossible that you might not even look at the total you owe. You just keep making payments because that’s all you might think you can do. However, there is a way out! Here are 4 tips to help:
Make a Budget. Many people have a complex budget that tracks every penny that comes in and goes out. They may even make charts or graphs that show the ratio of coffee made at home to coffee purchased at a coffee shop. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated, especially if you’re new at this “budget thing”.
Start by splitting all of your spending into two categories: necessary and optional. Rent, the electric bill, and food are all examples of necessary spending, while something like a vacation or buying a third pair of black boots (even if they’re on sale) might be optional.
Figure out ways that you can cut back on your optional spending, and devote the leftover money to paying down your debt. It might mean staying in on the weekends or not buying that flashy new electronic gadget you’ve been eyeing. But reducing how much you owe will be better long-term.
Negotiate a Settlement. Creditors often negotiate with customers. After all, it stands to reason that they’d rather get a partial payment than nothing at all! But be warned; settling an account can potentially damage your credit score. Negotiating with creditors is often a last resort, not an initial strategy.
Debt Consolidation. Interest-bearing debt obligations may be negotiable. Contact a consolidation specialist for refinancing installment agreements. This debt management solution helps reduce the risk of multiple accounts becoming overdue. When fully paid, a clean credit record with an extra loan in excellent standing may be the reward if all payments are made on time.
Get a side gig. You might be in a position to work evenings or weekends to make extra cash to put towards your debt. There are a myriad of options—rideshare driving, food delivery, pet sitting, you name it! Or you might have a hobby that you could turn into a part-time business.
If you feel overwhelmed by debt, then let’s talk. We can discuss strategies that will help move you from feeling helpless to having financial control.