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Our parents, uncles, aunts, and maybe even our grandparents tried to warn us about credit cards.
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
It’s no secret that life is full of surprises. Surprises that can cost money.
Sometimes, a lot of money. They have the potential to throw a monkey wrench into your savings strategy, especially if you have to resort to using credit to get through an emergency. In many households, a budget covers everyday spending, including clothes, eating out, groceries, utilities, electronics, online games, and a myriad of odds and ends we need.
Sometimes, though, there may be something on the horizon that you want to purchase (like that all-inclusive trip to Cancun for your second honeymoon), or something you may need to purchase (like that 10-years-overdue bathroom remodel).
How do you get there if you have a budget for the everyday things you need, you’re setting aside money in your emergency fund, and you’re saving for retirement?
Make a goal.
The way to get there is to make a plan. Let’s say you’ve got a teenager who’s going to be driving soon. Maybe you’d like to purchase a new (to him) car for his 16th birthday. You’ve done the math and decided you can put $3,000 towards the best vehicle you can find for the price (at least it will get him to his job and around town, right?). You have 1 year to save but the planning starts now.
There are 52 weeks in a year, which makes the math simple. As an estimate, you’ll need to put aside about $60 per week. (The actual number is $57.69 – $3,000 divided by 52). If you get paid weekly, put this amount aside before you buy that $6 latte or spend the $10 for extra lives in that new phone game. The last thing you want to do is create debt with small things piling up, while you’re trying to save for something bigger.
Make your savings goal realistic.
You might surprise yourself by how much you can save when you have a goal in mind. Saving isn’t a magic trick, however, it’s based on discipline and math. There may be goals that seem out of reach – at least in the short-term – so you may have to adjust your goal. Let’s say you decide you want to spend a little more on the car, maybe $4,000, since your son has been working hard and making good grades. You’ve crunched the numbers but all you can really spare is the original $60 per week. You’d need to find only another $17 per week to make the more expensive car happen. If you don’t want to add to your debt, you might need to put that purchase off unless you can find a way to raise more money, like having a garage sale or picking up some overtime hours.
Hide the money from yourself.
It might sound silly but it works. Money “saved” in your regular savings or checking account may be in harm’s way. Unless you’re extremely careful, it’s almost guaranteed to disappear – but not like what happens in a magic show, where the magician can always bring the volunteer back. Instead, find a safe place for your savings – a place where it can’t be spent “accidentally”, whether it’s a cookie jar or a special savings account you open specifically to fund your goal.
Pay yourself first.
When you get paid, fund your savings account set up for your goal purchase first. After you’ve put this money aside, go ahead and pay some bills and buy yourself that latte if you really want to, although you may have to get by with a small rather than an extra large.
Saving up instead of piling on more credit card debt may be a much less costly way (by avoiding credit card interest) to enjoy the things you want, even if it means you’ll have to wait a bit.
The average U.S. household owes over $6,913 in credit card debt.¹
Often, we may not even realize how much that borrowed money is costing us. High interest debt (like credit cards) can slowly suck the life out of your budget.
The average APR for credit cards is over 16.20% in the U.S.² Think about that for a second. If someone offered you a guaranteed investment that paid 16%, you’d probably walk over hot coals to sign the paperwork.
So here’s a mind-bender: Paying down that high interest debt isn’t the same as making a 16% return on an investment – it’s better.
Here’s why: A return on a standard investment is taxable, trimming as much as a third so the government can do whatever it is that governments do with the money. Paying down debt that has a 16% interest rate is like making a 20% return – or even higher – because the interest saved is after-tax money.
Like any investment, paying off high interest debt will take time to produce a meaningful return. Your “earnings” will seem low at first. They’ll seem low because they are low. Hang in there. Over time, as the balances go down and more cash is available every month, the benefit will become more apparent.
High Interest vs. Low Balance
We all want to pay off debt, even if we aren’t always vigilant about it. Debt irks us. We know someone is in our pockets. It’s tempting to pay off the small balances first because it’ll be faster to knock them out.
Granted, paying off small balances feels good – especially when it comes to making the last payment. However, the math favors going after the big fish first, the hungry plastic shark that is eating through your wallet, bank account, retirement savings, vacation plans, and everything else.³ In time, paying off high interest debt first will free up the money to pay off the small balances, too.
Summing It Up
High interest debt, usually credit cards, can cost you hundreds of dollars per year in interest – and that’s assuming you don’t buy anything else while you pay it off. Paying off your high interest debt first has the potential to save all of that money you’d end up paying in interest. And imagine how much better it might feel to pay off other debts or bolster your financial strategy with the money you save!
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 “Average credit card interest rates: Week of Sept. 22, 2021,” creditcards.com, Sep 23, 2021 https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/rate-report/
³ “Debt Avalanche vs. Debt Snowball: What’s the Difference?” Ashley Eneriz, Investopedia, Apr 28, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/080716/debt-avalanche-vs-debt-snowball-which-best-you.asp
Americans owe $807 billion in credit card debt.¹
You read that right: $807 billion.
At this rate, it seems like more and more people are going to end up being owned by a tiny piece of plastic rather than the other way around.
How much have you or a loved one contributed to that number? Whether it’s $10 or $10,000, there are a couple simple tricks to get and keep yourself out of credit card debt.
The first step is to be aware of how and when you’re using your credit card. It’s so easy – especially on a night out when you’re trying to unwind – to mindlessly hand over your card to pay the bill. And for most people, paying with credit has become their preferred, if not exclusive, payment option. Dinner, drinks, Ubers, a concert, a movie, a sporting event – it’s going to add up.
And when that credit card bill comes, you could end up feeling more wound up than you did before you tried to unwind.
Paying attention to when, what for, and how often you hand over your credit card is crucial to getting out from under credit card debt.
Here are 2 tips to keep yourself on track on a night out.
1. Consider your budget. You might cringe at the word “budget”, but it’s not an enemy who never wants you to have any fun. Considering your budget doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a night out with friends or coworkers. It simply means that an evening of great food, fun activities, and making memories must be considered in the context of your long-term goals. Start thinking of your budget as a tough-loving friend who’ll be there for you for the long haul.
Before you plan a night out:
- Know exactly how much you can spend before you leave the house or your office, and keep track of your spending as your evening progresses.
- Try using an app on your phone or even write your expenses on a napkin or the back of your hand – whatever it takes to keep your spending in check.
- Once you have reached your limit for the evening – stop.
2. Cash, not plastic (wherever possible). Once you know what your budget for a night out is, get it in cash or use a debit card. When you pay your bill with cash, it’s a concrete transaction. You’re directly involved in the physical exchange of your money for goods and services. In the case that an establishment or service will only take credit, just keep track of it (app, napkin, back of your hand, etc.), and leave the cash equivalent in your wallet.
You can still enjoy a night on the town, get out from under credit card debt, and be better prepared for the future with a carefully planned financial strategy. Contact me today, and together we’ll assess where you are on your financial journey and what steps you can take to get where you want to go – hopefully by happy hour!
¹ “Average Credit Card Debt in America: 2021,” Joe Resendiz, ValuePenguin, Jul 9, 2021, https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-credit-card-debt
So you’ve made the commitment and started your budget, but after a while something seems off.
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!
One time budget
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!
What you’ve heard is true—used cars really are getting more expensive.
And it’s not just a few dollar 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 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. 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. Powers 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,” Ulitskaya, Cars.com
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
So you’re ready to start budgeting. Congratulations! It’s a big step towards building wealth.
If you’re not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to discover all the steps you need to build a budget.
Know Your Balance Sheet. Companies maintain and review their “balance sheets” regularly. Balance sheets show assets, liabilities, and equity. Business owners probably wouldn’t be able run their companies successfully for very long without knowing this information and tracking it over time.
You also have a balance sheet, whether you realize it or not. Assets are the things you have, like a car, house, or cash. Liabilities are your debts, like auto loans or outstanding bills you need to pay. Equity is how much of your assets are technically really yours. For example, if you live in a $100,000 house but carry $35,000 on the mortgage, your equity is 65% of the house, or $65,000. 65% of the house is yours and 35% is still owned by the bank.
Pro tip: Why is this important to know? If you’re making a decision to move to a new house, you need to know how much money will be left over from the sale for the new place. Make sure to speak with a representative of your mortgage company and your realtor to get an idea of how much you might have to put towards the new house from the sale of the old one.
Break Everything Down To become efficient at managing your cash flow, start by breaking your spending down into categories. The level of granularity and detail you want to track is up to you. (Note: If you’re just starting out budgeting, don’t get too caught up in the details. For example, for the “Food” category of your budget, you might want to only concern yourself with your total expense for food, not how much you’re spending on macaroni and cheese vs. spaghetti.)
If you typically spend $400 a month on food, that’s important to know. As you get more comfortable with budgeting and watching your dollars, it’s even better to know that half of that $400 is being spent at coffee shops and restaurants. This information may help you eliminate unnecessary expenditures in the next step.
What you spend your money on is ultimately your decision, but lacking knowledge about where it’s spent may lead to murky expectations. Sure, it’s just $10 at the sandwich shop today, but if you spend that 5 days a week on the regular, that expenditure may fade into background noise. You might not realize all those hoagies are the equivalent of your health insurance premium. Try this: Instead of spending $10 on your regular meal, ask yourself if you can find an acceptable alternative for less by switching restaurants.
Once you have a good idea of what you’re spending each month, you’ll need to know exactly how much you make (after taxes) to set realistic goals. This would be your net income, not gross income, since you will pay taxes.
Set Realistic Goals and Readjust. Now that you know what your balance sheet looks like and what your cash flow situation is, you can set realistic goals with your budget. Rank your expenses in order of necessity. At the top of the list would be essential expenses – like rent, utilities, food, and transit. You might not have much control over the rent or your car payment right now, but consider preparing food at home to help save money.
Look for ways you can cut back on utilities, like turning the temperature down a few degrees in the winter or up a few degrees in the summer.
After the essentials would come items like clothes, office supplies, gifts, entertainment, vacation, etc. Rank these in order of importance to you. Consider shopping for clothes at a consignment shop, or checking out a dollar store for bargains on school or office supplies.
Ideally, at the end of the month you should be coming out with money leftover that can be put into an emergency fund. Keep filling your emergency fund until it can cover 3 to 6 months of income.
If you find your budget is too restrictive in one area, you can allocate more to it. (But you’ll need to reduce the money flowing into other areas in the process to keep your bottom line the same.) Ranking expenses will help you determine where you can siphon off money.
Commit To It. Now that you have a realistic budget that contains your essentials, your non-essentials, and your savings goals, stick to it! Building a budget is a process. It may take some time to get the hang of it, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Numbers never lie, and when it comes to statistics on financial literacy, the results are staggering.
In 2020, financial illiteracy cost Americans $415 billion.¹ That’s $1,634 per adult. What difference would $1,600 make for your financial situation?
But what is financial literacy? How do you know if you’re financially literate? It’s much more than simply knowing the contents of your bank account, setting a budget, and checking in a couple times a month. Here’s a simple definition: “Financial literacy is the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing.”²
Making responsible financial decisions based on knowledge and research are the foundation of understanding your finances and how to manage them. When it comes to financial literacy, you can’t afford not to be knowledgeable.
So whether you’re a master of your money or your money masters you, anyone can benefit from becoming more financially literate. Here are a few ways you can do just that.
Consider How You Think About Money. Everyone has ideas about financial management. Though we may not realize it, we often learn and absorb financial habits and mentalities about money before we’re even aware of what money is. Our ideas about money are shaped by how we grow up, where we grow up, and how our parents or guardians manage their finances. Regardless of whether you grew up rich, poor, or somewhere in between, checking in with yourself about how you think about money is the first step to becoming financially literate.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Am I saving anything for the future?
- Is all debt bad?
- Do I use credit cards to pay for most, if not all, of my purchases?
Monitor Your Spending Habits. This part of the process can be painful if you’re not used to tracking where your money goes. There can be a certain level of shame associated with spending habits, especially if you’ve collected some debt. But it’s important to understand that money is an intensely personal subject, and that if you’re working to improve your financial literacy, there is no reason to feel ashamed!
Taking a long, hard look at your spending habits is a vital step toward controlling your finances. Becoming aware of how you spend, how much you spend, and what you spend your money on will help you understand your weaknesses, your strengths, and what you need to change. Categorizing your budget into things you need, things you want, and things you have to save up for is a great place to start.
Commit to a Lifestyle of Learning. Becoming financially literate doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t feel overwhelmed if you’re just starting to make some changes. There isn’t one book, one website, or one seminar you can attend that will give you all the keys to financial literacy. Instead, think of it as a lifestyle change. Similar to transforming unhealthy eating habits into healthy ones, becoming financially literate happens over time. As you learn more, tweak parts of your financial routine that aren’t working for you, and gain more experience managing your money, you’ll improve your financial literacy. Commit to learning how to handle your finances, and continuously look for ways you can educate yourself and grow. It’s a lifelong process!
¹ “Survey Results: Deficits in Financial Literacy Cost Americans $415 Billion in 2020,” PR Newswire, Jan 7, 2021, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-results-deficits-in-financial-literacy-cost-americans-415-billion-in-2020-301201971.html
² “Financial Literacy,” Jason Fernando, Investopedia, Sep 10, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/financial-literacy.asp
The most dangerous money mistakes are the ones you don’t notice.
Are buying cars you can’t afford and living paycheck-to-paycheck dangerous? Of course! But they’re obvious. Hard to miss. They’re like a voice yelling into a megaphone “Hey! Something’s not right.”
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 overtime, they add up.
So here are 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 even enjoy your money?
Plus, penny pinching can stop you from taking calculated risks that could save your money from stagnation.
So instead of penny pinching, try moderation instead. You may find yourself far more inspired to budget and save then if you commit to complete frugality.
Under and 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.
When you have too much money in your emergency fund, it’s tough to make any real progress on your long-term financial goals. A good chunk of your net worth gets sunk into money that’s not growing.
The solution? Save up 3 to 6 months of income in an easily accessible account, no more. Use that money to cover emergencies. If it runs low, refill it.
Once your emergency fund is full stocked, devote your income to building wealth.
Leaving goals undefined. It’s tough to achieve a goal you don’t have. And it’s even tougher to achieve a goal that’s fuzzy and undefined.
That uncertainty makes it easy to fudge good financial habits. You don’t see how lapses impact your big picture because you don’t have a big picture,
So when it comes to your money, be specific. Write out your goals and make sure they’re measurable. That way, you can track 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!
Are you one of those people who always seem to be putting off tasks?
It makes sense. Life is hectic. Schedules are full. Sometimes, it seems like you hardly have a second to brush your teeth or have a real conversation. 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.
But with 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’s at stake. 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. Attempting to master your finances at least moves you closer to your goals. Procrastinating doesn’t.
Think of it like this—50% success is infinitely 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 tiny 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 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 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!
Budgeting is essential. But what if you don’t know where to start?
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 fashion 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 fashion 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 simple 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, cost $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?
You’ve probably heard the phrase “knowledge is power” before. In fact, you may have even said it yourself from time to time.
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 and said a few times—“Know thyself.”
Why? Because there’s no greater power than power over yourself. The more you know yourself, the more able you’ll be to shape your actions, your habits, and your destiny.
This couldn’t be more relevant when it comes to financial 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 personality, emotions can affect money. They’re especially important 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 money to destress?
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. Breath. Notice how you’re feeling. Those emotions can give you valuable information that will 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 thoughts 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 the “opinions” about money that you share when you’re chatting with friends. It means the thoughts that flow through your mind when ever you encounter money in daily life.
Take a few moments right now and notice those thoughts. Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they just neutral?
Notice your actions. Just like feelings almost always lead to thoughts, so do thoughts almost always lead to action.
Those actions might be to ignore, or repress, or get angry, 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 stress spending, snack buying, or binge shopping? That can reveal a facet of your financial self—maybe you think that spending will relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
Or maybe you notice lots of thrifting and penny-pinching. That could reveal either a resourcefulness in hard times, or worry about going without.
Or maybe you notice wild, untamed spending. Perhaps this shows that you don’t prioritize money, and think of it as a tool to make you feel good.
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!
You can’t afford to live in a world of denial.
If you want to maintain your 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. Having a budget is important because it keeps you aware of when you are spending too much or if there are ways your money could be saved.
It can also help you understand your spending habits as well as identify problem areas, such as overspending on credit cards or buying expensive lattes every day. With a clear understanding of how you spend money every month, you can reduce expenses and even start saving for luxuries or emergencies. You can’t have a goal of saving for your next vacation if you don’t know how much money you’re spending every month.
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. Do you have a job? Is your employer cutting back your hours? Do you have another source of income such as side jobs 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. 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 without having to spend any more than you already are through increased expenses.
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, another job or 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 at expensive restaurants!
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, rather than going out every evening, or go to free local events.
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. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to save more and plan for the future.
A financial strategy is many things.
It’s not just a budget. In fact, a solid financial strategy is not entirely based on numbers at all. Rather, it’s a roadmap for your family’s financial future. It’s a journey on which you’ll need to consider daily needs as well as big-picture items. Having a strategy makes it possible to set aside money now for future goals, and help ensure your family is both comfortable in the present and prepared in the future.
Financial Strategy, Big Picture. A good financial strategy covers pretty much everything related to your family’s finances. In addition to a snapshot of your current income, assets, and debt, a strategy should include your savings and goals, a time frame for paying down debt, retirement savings targets, ways to cover taxes and insurance, and in all likelihood some form of end-of-life preparations. How much of your strategy is devoted to each will depend on your age, marital or family status, whether you own your home, and other factors.
Financial Preparation, Financial Independence. How do these items factor into your daily budget? Well, having a financial strategy doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to an oppressive budget. In fact, it may actually provide you with more “freedom” to spend. If you’re allocating the right amount of money each month toward both regular and retirement savings, and staying aware of how much you have to spend in any given time frame, you may find you have less daily stress over your dollars and feel better about buying the things you need (and some of the things you want).
Remember Your Goals. It can also be helpful to keep the purpose of your hard-earned money in mind. For example, a basic financial strategy may include the amount of savings you need each month to retire at a certain age, but with your family’s lifestyle and circumstances in mind. It might be a little easier to skip dinner out and cook at home instead when you know the reward may eventually be a dinner out in Paris!
Always Meet with a Financial Professional. There are many schools of thought as to the best ways to save and invest. Some financial professionals may recommend paying off all debt (except your home mortgage) before saving anything. Others recommend that clients pay off debt while simultaneously saving for retirement, devoting a certain percentage of income to each until the debt is gone and retirement savings can be increased. If you’re just getting started, meet with a qualified and licensed financial professional who can help you figure out which option is for you.
Everybody needs a budget.
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 (May 15, 2021).
Dealing with finances is a big part of any committed relationship and one that can affect many aspects of your life together.
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.