Tag: Budget (page 1 of 2)

Basic Budgeting Tips

Many Americans have trouble with their finances. For some, it’s due to a lack of income. For others, it’s difficult to figure out how to divvy up money each month. That’s why it’s so important to maintain a budget. Budgets give households permission to spend a specific amount of money during a given month. A budget is a good way to track spending, and many millionaires claim that this step was an important key to their financial success.

Start With A Zero Balance

A family should account for every dollar when setting up a budget. Having a zero-based budget simply means that every dollar is accounted for at the beginning of the month. It does not mean that every dollar gets spent. Some of the money should go toward savings, but it should not be left without a home in the savings portion of the budget.

Save Automatically

That money that gets saved should get automatically deducted at the beginning of the month. Ideally, this will be the result of an automatic draw from a direct deposit. By saving automatically, there will be less of a temptation to spend the money on frivolities. Any cash that gets saved should be put toward an emergency fund, a long-term savings goal like a mortgage down payment or investments.

Prioritize Debt Repayment

Any money that’s left over after accounting for all necessary expenses should go toward paying off debt. One of the biggest drains on the average family’s finances is interest expense. By cutting out interest expenses and debt payments, many people who have financial stress could breathe much easier. Making more money and cutting expenses are the best way to accelerate debt repayment. Fewer payments going to debtors leaves more money for more enjoyable purposes.

Allow for Miscellaneous Spending

Setting aside some petty cash for small and unexpected expenses is a good way to avoid going into debt or dipping into an emergency fund. Few months are alike when it comes to expenses, so having a little cash on hand to deal with unusual expenses is a great step to take.

Budgeting is an important key to financial success. Rather than constraining a family, a budget can actually be a very freeing process. A budget allows for an easy assessment of where a family’s money is going. By gaining an understanding of where a household’s income is going, it’s possible to make adjustments to provide for more efficient use of that money.

How to Slash Your Grocery Bill

Most working-class people find it hard to control how much they spend on groceries. After paying critical bills like rent, electricity, and phone bills, what is left is allocated to grocery money and other minor expenses. This kind of lifestyle can quickly lead to poor health due to a poor, budget-focused diet, however. Maintaining a healthy diet while saving money is very possible when a few selective shopping practices are followed.

Shopping at Various Stores and Supermarkets

Some stores might not be grocery stores but have many of the same food items, sometimes at discounted prices. For example, individuals and families who frequently eat canned foods and snack foods should consider buying these food items at family discount stores like Dollar General or Family Dollar. Then they can buy their favorite meats, produce, and other foods they need and want at the more premium grocery stores. Shopping at alternative grocery stores balances out the food budget, but quality and nutrition standards are upheld.

Using All Forms of Coupons

Food coupons come in various forms, and these include newspaper cut-outs, magazine cut-outs, printable online coupons, and online coupons for digital shopping only. If more than one of these are utilized regularly, the savings will add up quickly. Taking the time to sign up for online coupon websites that offer real savings is worth it. While most people don’t read the Sunday paper anymore, they might be surprised to find regular savings on foods they routinely eat.

Learn to Cook

Fresh produce, dairy, and meats are some of the most nourishing foods. Interestingly enough, these are the foods found along the perimeter of most grocery stores. The much less healthy processed foods are found towards the center of the store. Processed foods are generally more expensive than whole foods, and the reasons include the high-priced additives and processes used to manufacture them.

If more people learned to cook their own burgers, fries, and other foods that are commonly processed, they would save money and their health in the process. Fruits and vegetables that are presliced or otherwise pre-prepared for customers are higher in price per-pound than the whole fruits or vegetables themselves. Watching a few online videos and learning some simple cooking skills can improve the standards of living for so many people living on a fixed budget.

How To Plan For Student Loan Payments

Many students get out of college and realize that they need to pay off their loans. With colleges sticker prices on the rise each year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by student debt. However, if by applying these tips, students can plan for debt and pay off their loans as quickly as possible. 

Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

Some people may not know where to start, especially if their student debt is going to be quite high. If you fall into that camp, you could look into refinancing your loans. Refinancing your loans means that you use another loan to pay off your student loans.

If you have a stable job and you can find loans with lower interest, then you may want to refinance. This way, you pay off the student loans and then don’t have to pay as much money over time when you work on the other loan.

Set Money Aside Each Paycheck For Your Loans

You should focus on budgeting your money so that you can set aside some of that income from each paycheck. This way, you can always pay off that set amount with each paycheck. Such a consistent system will go a long way in helping you pay off those loans.

Some people may worry that it would take too long to use this approach, but consistent payments do offer a tremendous benefit. Yes, it may take some time, but this method helps you calculate when you’ll have that debt paid off by. As your financial situation changes, you can accurately pivot and recalculate to get a clear picture of your debt payment schedule.

Prioritize Your Student Loan Payments

People tend to push their loans to the side, but you need to prioritize your loan payments. Sure, you can buy a new phone or gourmet coffee, but you should consider putting that extra money towards your loans. If you prioritize your payments, then you can put all your extra money towards your loans. This will help you to pay them off sooner and reduce interest.

Conclusion

While student loans are scary to think about, keep in mind that you can pay them off with careful planning. Look at how much money you make, set aside specific amounts and continue to prioritize your loans until you pay them off. This way, you can overcome your loans and start saving money for life’s next big adventure.

Four Easy Ways to Budget This Month

For some, creating and sticking to a budget is a simple task. For others, it’s a strenuous and seemingly impossible task. The temptation to eat out, splurge on clothes, and throw caution and cash to the wind can be huge, so it’s essential to find ways to stay on track. Here are four ways to create a budget that works and stick to it.

Meal Prep

In addition to various forms of outside entertainment, eating out is a considerable expense. Since most restaurants mark food up—sometimes as much as 300 percent—the only sure-fire way to save money on food is to cook meals at home. However, this is a lot more time-consuming and can be difficult for those without much cooking experience.

Take the time to plan meals, including the cost of ingredients, for at least a week’s worth of meals. Also, include the costs of snacks as well. One way to save on food is to buy in bulk. Look for items that can be purchased in larger quantities and divide up for later.

Set Up Autopay

Another way to stick to a budget is by setting up autopay. Instead of having to pay bills and charges every month manually, autopay lets budget-setters know what they pay and when. The same concept can also help track savings. Just have a set amount of money transferred each month into a savings account.

When it comes to paying utilities, look into budget billing. Customers pay a set amount for power and water. After a set time frame, they’re either refunded the difference or charged for any overages.

Entertain at Home

Simply put, going out is expensive. Everything from grabbing drinks to seeing a movie is expensive these days. Instead of breaking the budget, invite friends over and find ways to create a social atmosphere at home. Cocktails made at home cost half the price when ordered out. The same holds true for take-out. If your group wants pizza and a movie, rent a flick and make homemade pizza.

Track Success

Tracking success is a great motivator, so make sure you keep track of how much money you’ve saved over the month. After seeing positive results, you may feel even more motivated to stick to their budgets.

With a little planning, creating and sticking to a budget is easy. Since everyone has different needs, never compare budget planning. Finally, make sure that the budget isn’t so rigid that it’s impossible to follow. Just be sure to leave some wiggle room for the occasional splurge.

The Best Personal Finance Software

In the world of personal finance, there are some software programs that stand out from the rest. These programs make it much easier to manage budget and track spending within your household. If you’re looking for software to manage your personal finance, these are the programs you should check out.

Quick Books

If there is one program that has continued to stand out over the years when it comes to personal finance, it is QuickBooks. This software has become the cornerstone of personal financing for people who want to keep up with their household spending. The program allows people to set budgets and get running totals for their spending during the month. Users can see how much they deviate from the budget each month, and plan accordingly to save more in the next month. QuickBooks even offers the ability to compare previous years and see if a user’s spending has increased or decreased. With quick references and an easy budgeting interface, this is a great program for users who don’t want tons of fancy features.

Microsoft Money

Another program that stands out amongst personal finance software is Microsoft Money. This is a program that tends to work well for those that have already utilized Microsoft Excel spreadsheets over the years. Users have the ability to create formulas, track their spending, and create easy-to-manage documents.

The ability to add different categories of expenses becomes much easier with a program like Microsoft Money. It has a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for people that are not computer savvy to create documents of their personal finances. This program tends to be one of the favorites for people that like to create documents that can be saved in different formats. These documents can be exported to Excel spreadsheet or saved as PDF files, offering plenty of versatility depending on a user’s needs.

Mint

In the growing age of portable personal finance software, Mint is the finance tool that has gained a lot of attention with the younger crowd. Mint has offered the millennial generation a viable personal finance program that gives them access to an online platform that is not limited to their personal computers.

Mint users have the ability to add their credit and debit cards to track purchases without manually typing in everything that they buy. The Mint app for smartphones allows users to access their financial budgets whenever and wherever they want. 

Personal Finance for College Students

You’re finally living on your own, attending classes and joining new clubs and organizations. In college, it’s easy to overlook personal finance when focusing on your studies, but proper money management is vital for a successful future. If you’re new to college and money management, here is some personal finance advice. 

Consider Your Credit

Swiping a card is convenient, but that money has to come from somewhere. If you’ve fallen victim to overspending on your card, try to set up a system to evaluate your spending habits. Perhaps you could limit card spending and use more cash. Or, perhaps you need to change your card limit to dissuade yourself from making unnecessary purchases. In addition, you should keep track of when your credit card payments are due—missing those payments can harm your credit score, which can be difficult to improve later down the line.

Search For Perks

Many colleges and surrounding businesses offer benefits to students. From dining halls to student discounts, you’re bound to find ways to save money. For instance, shops close to your school may offer student discounts, allowing you to pay a set percentage less for meals and clothes. In the same vein, your school may offer textbook rentals as opposed to purchases, which can save money. Or, if you can find those books online at Amazon or from other e-commerce sites, you may be able to save bundles. 

Build a Budget

Understanding and implementing a budget can have positive long-term effects. If you’ve struggled with overspending or other money-related issues, budgeting can be a huge benefit. Calculate the amount of income you’ll make in a given month, including rates for on-campus jobs, and figure out your expenses. You’ll want to save a percentage of that income and avoid going over it. The sooner you establish a budget and learn to stick to it, the sooner you’ll save money and build your personal finances.

Find a Job

Colleges often have part-time jobs available for even the busiest of students. From cooking in the dining hall to operating an office desk to providing prospective students with campus tours, student jobs abound in academia. Taking on a job for just a few hours each week can help you better understand time management while generating income. If you want to earn academic credit while you work, internships and work-studies can be a great use of your time. Plus, any campus job is a terrific resume-builder for your post-grad job search. 

Tips for Financial Independence and Early Retirement

What do you consider to be “retirement age”? Perhaps early 60s or late 50s. What about 30s and 40s? The FIRE movement, which stands for “financial independence, retire early,” has gained traction with individuals as young as their 20s. The idea of working 9-to-5 jobs for several decades is an intimidating one, and FIRE offers the chance to work hard and, earlier than expected, play hard. However, FIRE is not an easy process, and it takes plenty of planning to truly retire early. Here are some considerations to take into account if you plan on retiring early.

Do Your Research

Monthly earnings from social security and pensions, costs of present and future healthcare concerns, and similar factors must be considered before an individual takes any steps towards early retirement. There are several complications, ones that often work against each other, to sort out during the planning phase of FIRE, but these factors help paint a picture of your financial future. Make sure you understand what FIRE really is, and what it means for you and your situation. In some cases, research may prove that early retirement isn’t the best option; rather, switching to part-time work or taking a temporary hiatus from work is better. 

Speak With a Financial Advisor

Financial advisors often assist individuals experiencing drastic life changes, such as making a family or retiring. When it comes to the latter, financial advisors will examine whether a client’s current financial system sets a strong foundation for retirement. Additionally, financial advisors look to the future to predict potential issues. Taking all of this into consideration, clients and advisors can develop a plan to work towards that independence. While hiring a financial advisor does come at a cost, the benefits of receiving an expert’s advice and planning assistance can be a lucrative investment. 

Don’t Rush the Process

A simple Google search can unearth a plethora of FIRE horror stories. A common trend in these tales involves early retirees jumping the gun and retiring before they’ve hit their financial goals. For some, this means retiring several years sooner than planned. While earlier-than-early retirement is enticing, it’s unwise to throw your financial goals out the window. Doing so means deviating from your financial plans, which in turn leads to increased risks of your independence returning to dependence. Remain patient and diligent as you work towards retirement, and avoid making rash decisions to save time—that won’t always equate to saving money.

Understand Your Drive

Why do you want to retire early? Is it to avoid unhealthy amounts of stress? Are you trying to spend more time with your family? Has a hobby become your life-long passion? A thorough understanding of the “why” behind your desire to retire early will help you figure out how to reach your financial goals. Anyone can say they want to have more free time. But what are you going to do with that free time? Take some time to introspect and figure out what drives you towards early retirement. 

Why You’re Overspending (And How to Stop)

Compare your monthly income with your monthly spending. Do you notice a glaring discrepancy? Are your earnings in the red? Can’t figure out how you spent hundreds on groceries? You aren’t alone. Overspending is easy to do, and purchases can accumulate in the blink of an eye. Here are some reasons why you’re overspending and advice on how to stop.

You’ve fallen into a bad habit

Do you buy lunch at the deli down the street every day? This is just one example of a bad spending habit. It may be comfortable and convenient to make a daily or weekly purchase, but ten dollars per day, five days a week, four weeks a month equals $200 each month just for lunch. 

The best way to remedy a bad spending habit is to ease yourself out of the habit. For the lunch example, try packing a meal most days each week, and only go out once a week or so as a special treat. You don’t have to quit anything cold-turkey, and easing yourself towards a better spending habit might inspire you to be more mindful of what you buy.

You ignore automatic payments

This one is easy to notice, especially if you subscribe to magazines and newspapers that clog your mailbox. Still, with the rise of streaming services and other digital subscriptions, you may not be keeping track of all the services you subscribe to. It’s easy to let automatic monthly payments slip through the cracks, but those payments are also an easy way to lose money.

Each month, carefully study your credit card statement. Write down the names of subscriptions you used during the month, whether that means watching a movie on Netflix or flipping through a copy of Sports Illustrated. Next to that list, write down the subscriptions you didn’t use. Unsubscribe from the ones that you didn’t touch. You’d be surprised how much money you can save annually just by paring down your subscriptions.

You haven’t disciplined your spending habits

It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t disciplined their spending habits. Whether you fall victim to impulse buys at the checkout line or fill your gas tank before it hits the halfway mark, everyone has a spending vice. 

No two people have the same income, interests, and habits, which can make disciplining your spending habits difficult. The key is to figure out what you’re buying and why you’re buying it. It helps to break purchases up into categories, such as “loans,” “food,” and “entertainment.” Not only will this show how much you’re spending, but it will also reveal what exactly you’re spending your money on.

3 Things to Consider Before Investing in Stocks

As an increasing number of books, websites, and apps introduce the stock market to the general public, more people find the stock market to be accessible. Even though software and guides have streamlined the process, adequate research is essential for anyone hoping to get into the stock game. It’s crucial to keep numbers in mind, but nuggets of advice are equally important. Whether you’re a first-time investor or seasoned stock aficionado, the following three tips are important to keep in mind.

You have to set goals

Throwing your cash in random directions and hoping something sticks is the exact opposite of what a good investor should do. Look into the industries that interest you and seek out key players and up-and-coming competitors. Then, develop a strategy by deciding how much money you’ll invest total, and how much each investment will be. It’s best to start simple if you don’t have much investing experience, which means you should stick to regular investments and establish a well-researched foundation. Once you’ve started that foundation, give yourself a timeframe before you check on those stocks again—as you’ll see in the next section, obsessing over the numbers is going to hinder you.

You have to keep a level head

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has maintained for years that the buy-and-hold strategy is the best option for any investor. Real-time updates cause dramatic fluctuations to the stock market. While sudden drops in stock rates are worrisome, a goal-focused investor should be safe, even if rates are down. This is especially key in the short-term, as split-second decisions can be dangerous for the success of an investor’s stock portfolio. A volatile market is one in which long-term negative changes come into play. A short-term downturn is not necessarily a cause for alarm.

You have to diversify your investments

Don’t just invest in a bunch of businesses from one industry. Check out a few industries and businesses of interest to you, and ask yourself whether they fit in with your overall goals and budget. A diverse portfolio reduces the overall effect of a downturn on your portfolio. This may not be doable early into your investing journey, but as your portfolio grows and your investing confidence improves, diversification is going to be important.

Strategies for Quick Debt Repayment

John J Bowman Jr - Debt Repayment

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon, and you’ve decided that you deserve a day out on the town with your friends. You’re exhausted and burned out from a too-long work week, sick of the grind and needing a break. You’ve been so thoughtful lately, you think, minding your budget, that you deserve to splurge a little. You hit the mall with a gaggle of friends and start swiping; more than a few bag handles circle your wrists as you reach for your credit card to pay for overpriced popcorn and soda at the complex’s theatre. You haven’t gotten your paycheck yet, but that’s okay – you know that your credit will cover you for now. When you check your banking app the next day, though, you can’t quite believe the number that blinks up at you. How can your credit balance be so high?

 

Sometimes, using a credit card to cover purchases can feel like playing with Monopoly money. We spend and spend and spend, knowing that we don’t have to pay back our debt right now. The fact that the money will need to be paid back at some point is a concern for later…until later rolls around to the present, and we face a veritable mountain of debt. According to a 2017 nerdwallet study on household debt, the average American consumer owes $15,983 in credit card debt. Totaled across the nation, that’s $931 billion owed by US consumers. Paying off this debt is an intimidating endeavor, but not an impossible one. Here, I provide a few strategies for a quick and efficient debt repayment.

 

Put the Cards Down

If you want to lower the mountain, why would you add to its height? Stop using your credit cards, and avoid making purchases that would add to your overall balance. Steering clear of credit for a few days or weeks might help you keep better tally of how much you actually spend in a day; the dues feel dearer when you have to pay them immediately, rather than at some hazy later date.

 

Revisit Your Budget

Take a closer look at your current budget! Can you trim any of your costs? Be tough but fair with yourself; you probably don’t need Netflix, Hulu, and HBOGo. Being on a budget doesn’t require you to give up all entertainment, but treating yourself should only go so far. Once you have a pared-down budget, you can start crunching the numbers and make an estimate of how much you can afford to apply towards your debt each month. Remember, paying off your balance now will greatly decrease what you pay in interest later!

 

Pick Up a Side Hustle

Trimming a budget can only go so far. In the end, you’ll make more from a part-time job or side hustle than you would ever save by canceling subscriptions or couponing. Find a money-making gig that can fit with your schedule!

 

Apply Unexpected Income Sources Towards Your Balance

It can be tempting to splurge when you find yourself with an unexpected windfall. However, the money you spend on luxuries now could be handicapping your ability to pay for more basic needs later. Put bonuses, inheritances, and tax refunds towards paying off your debt! Once you live debt-free, you will be able to afford splurging now and again.

 

Be Consistent

Debt repayment won’t happen unless you hold yourself to a firm budget and repayment schedule. Be consistent! As much as it might hurt to pass on dinners out or afternoons at the mall, your debt-free future self will be much happier and more financially secure for your efforts.