Living Well Below Your Means

Most adults aspire to not live paycheck to paycheck, maintain the ability to save, and be comfortable enough to cover unexpected expenses. Unfortunately, there are many people who are not able to do so – or at least they think that’s the case. You can achieve all of these things by partaking in a simple exercise and sticking to it. I’m talking about budgeting, money management, a game plan, or a spending plan – whatever you want to call it you need to have something in place to get spending under control and to increase your saving. This blog highlights a few systems for keeping track of your expenses so you can confidently take control of your finances.

50/30/20 Rule

The 50/30/20 rule is probably the simplest budget out there, but it’s a good way to see how your spending stacks up. If you are under spending in the living or personal categories, you’re in good shape! If you find your spending is creeping out of the guidelines of this budget, it may be time to reevaluate how you spend.

Living Expenses

Living expenses are the 50% in the 50/30/20 budget. These expenses take up the biggest slice of the pie – for good reason. The things that fall into this category are the expenses you can not live without. They are housing, utilities, food, and transportation. By carving out half your monthly income for living expenses, you maintain flexibility, but put a cap on how much you should spend. If your housing has a high rent cost, you more likely live in a city and could walk to work. Thus, your transportation costs would be low. Similarly, you can keep your utility costs down by being conscious of energy use and installing fixtures that conserve water and electricity.

Personal Expenses

Personal expenses make up 30% of your monthly income. Personal expenses cover all unnecessary spending or bills that you have control over. For instance, if you are looking to cut down in this area, you can change cell phone plans, reduce cable costs, and eat at home more. This category has the most flexibility because it all comes down to your lifestyle and spending habits. Putting a 30% cap on your personal spending will give you a hard number to stay under. Just a heads up, when you begin to employ the 50/30/20 budget you very well receive a rude wake up call. Most people grossly overspend in this category. Don’t panic! Now that you are aware, you can make necessary changes.

Savings

Your saving should cover the final 20% of your income per month. Saving can also translate to “getting ahead.” You can use this money to either stow away or pay off additional debt. Either way, this money should be used to improve your financial footing. This number is also the most flexible. If you end up spending less in one or both of the categories above, then you should add the extra cash into this category. There’s nothing wrong with saving more than you’ve allotted. It may even come in handy a month you go over in another area.

Spending Plan

If a budget like the 50/30/20 plan doesn’t suit you, a spending plan can give you enough freedom to make decisions on a monthly basis. A spending plan is an alternative to the traditional budget. Budgets tend to employ a one size fits all mentality. Every month is devoted to the same budget. That method does not work for everyone.

Disclaimer: a spending plan requires a bit more work and tenacity. You need to monitor your spending closer than you would in a cap expense budget like the 50/30/20 system.

To get started, you’ll need to determine your monthly take home pay. This is what you have to work with every month, so it’s a good place to start.

Next, move on to the meat of your spending. These are your fixed monthly costs. You know, the bills you have to pay every month in order to live in your house and have everything you need. Some of these expenses will be the same month over month, but others can fluctuate. No matter what, you are going to shell out something for these items every month. Some examples of fixed monthly costs are:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Insurance (health & auto)
  • Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Utilities
  • Savings/Retirement

Now that you have your fixed costs for the month, subtract that from your take-home pay. The money left over is what you can spend the rest of the month. This should go without saying, but you don’t have to spend it all! If you want to save for a larger purchase, increase your emergency fund, or put money aside for a vacation, then go ahead!

The beauty of a spending plan is the simple fact that you now have juxtaposed what you need to spend with what you want to spend. You make come to some realizations because of this. You may notice that you have very little left over after the fixed costs come out. This can signal a few things for readjustment:

  1. Your fixed costs may need a little tweaking. Do you want to have more spending money? Then you may need to get rid of cable or lower your package. Maybe you don’t need as much data on your cell phone plan. Whatever the case may be, you have identified the issue and can make changes accordingly.
  2. The reason you can’t seem to get ahead with credit card bills or can’t save as much as you like is simply because you were spending more than what you should be. This can be a rude wake up call for some people, but with some work you’ll get where you want.

No matter what plan of action you adopt, set realistic expectations and be honest with yourself. Your financial goals will be the motivator between how much you spend and how much you get to bank away at the end of the month. With careful planning, a closer look, and financial adjustments, you will find yourself on better financial ground in no time.

Tools Every Accountant Needs

You may not have thought about it, but accountants all need certain tools to do their jobs right. Many of the tools used by accountants are to make the job easier and provide ways of offering better services. Below is a list of a few of the most important things every accountant should have.

Reliable Computer

Invest in a quality computer because it is the one that takes on most of your work for you! Having a fast, reliable computer will allow you to run multiple programs at once. It also gives you the peace of mind that you will be able to do your job effectively.

Tax Software

Tax software eliminates the need to file taxes by hand and saves you a ton of time and headache. Investing in a great tax software will help you serve more clients at a more efficient rate. Plus, tax software will catch any mistakes you may make and gives you the option to correct them. Doing so can save your client a lot of money.

File Encryption

Adding a layer of security to the confidential and sensitive information found on most of the files you have will ensure clients that their information is safe. By having file encryption in place you will be able to email sensitive materials without the risk of the wrong person getting a hold of that information.

Scanner

In order to convert paper files into easily accessible electronic files, you will need a scanner. You can get a traditional scanner/printer combo or even a file scanner specifically for scanning documents and sorting them. These special document scanners often can scan both sides of a double sided documents at the same. They also turn your bulky paper documents into easily accessible PDFs.

Gear Up

You can have the best computer all the software in the world, but nothing beats old school gear. Have a great calculator handy for crunching numbers. Also have plenty of writing utensils and notepads around for note taking. Being able to do the thing the “old fashioned” way never hurts. You may not always be able to rely on technology and having the tools to complete the job are important.

Finance Degree vs Accounting Degree

Students looking to get into finances of any sort are often faced with the dilemma of getting a finance degree of an accounting degree. Each one comes with it’s own unique difficulties and job opportunities. Educating yourself on the difference will give you the knowledge to make a decision that makes sense for you.

Money

Typically, finance degrees yield a higher payout. Wealth managers statistically receive higher salaries because they receive commission off of the portfolios they manage. Accountants on the other hand charge a flat fee for the service they provide. If money is your main motivator – finance may be the better major for you.

Education Requirements

In order to take the CPA exam for accounting, there tends to be a requirement of credit hours that succeed a bachelor’s degree, but fall just short of a masters. If you go this route, it may make sense to continue on your education for a master’s degree for a better understanding. Finance majors on the other hand can get away with a bachelor’s, but will have better job opportunities with a masters. Either way, accounting or finance, a master’s degree seems like the way to go.

Job Opportunities

Both degrees provide graduates with a multitude of job opportunities, but they fall into two separate categories. Those with finance degrees will find themselves with jobs managing wealth and investments. Accountants handle more of the tracking financial data. Again, this comes down to a personal choice of which avenue you will have more of an interest in.

Stress

Who is more stressed – those with degrees in finance or accounting? When it comes to stress, each field has its opportunities to provide stressful work environments, but it all depends on the job you pick. Accountants who tackle tax season may work longer, more stressful hours during tax season but see a significant break for the rest of your year. Those finance majors with wealth management jobs carry their own unpredictable amount of stress depending on the clients and the investments.
Overall, when it comes to picking a major, it all depends on what side of the fence you fall on. Do you want to help people manage and grow their money or track and analyze financial data to create budgets and maintain retirement accounts? Depending on what you choose will be the deciding factor of what degree you will pursue.