Budget Yourself to A Better Financial Situation

Budget Yourself to A Better Financial Situation

You know you make enough to have a little something extra at the end of every month. Yet somehow or other that extra money evaporates away into – who knows what!

 

Some people are organized and disciplined enough to create and stuck to a budget using no more than pen and paper. Or a spread sheet on their computer. Others of us need a little more help. That’s where budgeting apps come in. We’ve sourced a few for you to check out:

 

Mint

Mint is the go-to app for anyone new to budgeting. The app brings all of a user’s bills and accounts together. Including loans, credit accounts, bank accounts and creates budgets tailored to the user.

 

Mint features reminders for upcoming bills and warnings when funds are low.  It also provides access to unlimited free credit scores – along with tips to improve it. By classifying the budget into categories like “Shopping” and “Entertainment” users can determine if it’s possible to save by cutting back in specific areas of their lives.

 

YNAP

 

According the website of YNAP or You Need a Budget, the app will help teach you how to manage your money and get ahead. Their motto is, “Give every dollar a job.” The app is all about prioritizing the allotment of funds, then creating a plan to meet those priorities and following the plan. It’s especially great for helping people reach specific financial goals.

 

PocketGuard

 

The idea behind PocketGuard is to help you track your spending by linking credit cards, bank accounts, investments and loans in one place to see the big picture. By updating and categorizing your transactions as they happen, the app enables you to understand where your money is going and discover opportunities to save. PocketGaurd helps you build a personalized budget based on your income, bills and goals.

 

Albert

Once you’ve connected all your financial accounts to the app, Albert builds a unique budget based on your income, spending habits and goals and automates your finances. It notifies you when you are overpaying and helps you cut costs.

 

Users can text The Albert Genius anytime. (A team of human financial experts) The geniuses alert you to savings you’re missing, identify bills you’re overpaying, help you pay down debt faster and custom-tailor a financial plan for you. The app analyzes your income and spending every day and sets aside small amounts of money you can save safely.

 

Wally

Comparing income to expenses, , Wally helps users understand where their money goes and set and achieve goals by keeping track of daily details. To do that Wally gives users a 360 view of their money, what goes in, what goes out what has been saved. The app is free and available for both iPhone and android users.

 

Goodbudget

For people who want to try envelope budgeting without a paper envelope, Goodbudget is the answer. Each month users earmark their money for specific purposes and distribute it into virtual envelopes like groceries, accommodation, utilities etc.

 

Throughout the month they transfer money from the envelope to its designated purpose. It helps the user see exactly where their money is going every month. The app can be shared with partners across different platforms so it’s great for couples who want to pool resources toward designated expenses.

Preparing to Negotiate After A Job Offer

Preparing to Negotiate After A Job Offer

Whew! The job search is over. You’ve been offered the position, you are thrilled about the possibilities and you feel so grateful. Should you just accept whatever salary they offer? You could, but there’s a good chance you could do better.

 

Remember, they interviewed a number of candidates and they chose you. They like you and they want you. You know what your salary will be if you don’t ask. You don’t know if it could be higher unless you do.

 

Most employers are open to negotiation

A survey conducted by Robert Half found that 55% of workers negotiated pay with their last job offer. 70% of managers surveyed expect you to do it.

 

Even so, before you dive headlong into negotiations start by letting them know how grateful you are about the job and the offer. Then ask if the salary is open to negotiation.

 

Do your research

Before you enter into any sort of negotiation have a number in mind. Do your research. Google average salaries for people in the position you’re entering. Remember to include geography and experience level. Check out salary guides.  Once you have the number let the employer give their number first. You don’t want to present them with a number lower than they were going to offer you!

 

Think beyond salary

You may or may not get an increase in salary, but remember there are other things to take into consideration before you sign on the dotted line. What other perks are important to you? Would you prefer to work from home sometimes? Would more vacation days mean a lot to you? Is there a possibility for more stock options or a better bonus? Would they consider tuition reimbursement for extra classes you plan on taking?

 

Keep it professional

Remember this is a business transaction. It’s not the time to talk about personal issues in your life like outstanding student loans or the fact that your partner is out of work. Use your experiences and potential and skills as leverage.

 

No need to answer immediately

There’s no need to make your final decision right away. It’s okay to ask for 24 hours to think it over. Sometimes just saying you need to think it can lead to an increased offer!

Pay Off Your Credit Card With These Five Steps

If you’ve been out of work for a while and you’ve been living off credit you might have accumulated some debt. Once you start making money again and are ready to pay it off don’t fall into the trap of paying the minimum month after month, while you put money toward other things.

 

With interest rates of 15%, 19%, 22% all the money you don’t put directly toward that card is adding to your interest payments.  Essentially you throwing money out the window. Money you could be putting toward something useful.

 

If you don’t have a plan for paying off that credit card debt then essentially you are simply hoping you’ll be able to pay it off.

 

Stop hoping and start take control of that debt. Here are five steps to do it!

 

5 Steps to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

Don’t Wait To Start Taking Advantage of Your 401k

Don't Wait To Start Taking Advantage of Your 401k

You finish school and look ahead to grand future you’re planning for yourself. You get your first real job out of school! Then one of the first things you hear is, Time to start planning for your retirement!  Whether you are about to receive your first paycheck or you’ve been in the working world for more years than you care to count, contributing to your 401k automatically helps you save for your retirement with barely any planning on your part.

 

A retirement account is essentially an investment account that you don’t withdraw from (ideally) until you retire. There are two main types of retirement accounts IRA Individual Retirement Accounts – which is what people who don’t have access to a 401k use, or the retirement creating wonder, 401k.

Money you don’t see in the first place turns into head turning money in the second place

About half of Americans have access to a 401K at work. Essentially what happens is, your employer deducts a percentage of your pay and puts it in an investment account for you. That investment grows over time with compound interest and by the time you’re ready to take it out and live off it, it’s become a whale compared to the small fries you started with.

 

The great things about it is, the money is deducted before you ever see it. Because you don’t have to physically withdraw anything the transaction is essentially invisible. You don’t miss money you never see.  Here’s the even better part. Most companies will match your contribution. Typically if you contribute 6% they will match that with 3%. (most employers offer a 50% match) That’s FREE money going directly into your retirement fund, building toward whale sized savings. Who doesn’t want free money? Apparently quite a lot of people.

 

According to the article Does the Average American Have a 401 (k) from the Motley Fool, “Of those 79% of Americans who get the choice to fund a 401 (k), only 41% opt to participate. As such, just 32% of the total workforce is saving in a 401 (k).”

 

Obviously if you have outstanding debt that must be attended to, that is your first priority, but once you’re beyond living paycheck to paycheck, contributing to your 401k should really be a no brainer.

 

Work your way to maximum contributions

How much you contribute to your 401k is up to you. Essentially you want to try and put in as much as you can afford while still maintaining the ability to pay your bills and meet the rest of your regular financial obligations.

 

If you are currently only contributing 2% because that’s all you can afford right now, and your employer is only matching that with 1% your goal is to work your way up to 4% with a 2% match. Then finally 6% to get that maximum 3% match from your employer.

 

If you are 30 years old with an annual salary of 40,000 and you contribute 6%, which is matched by 3% from your employer, your total contributions of $42,000 over 35 years will have ballooned into $527,000 by the time you’re ready to retire. Use this 401k calculator to figure out how much you can save for your retirement if you start contributing today.

 

Planning for your retirement can be as simple as saying yes to a plan already in place to help you!

Time to Pay Back Student Debt?

Time to Pay Back Student Debt?

My son Matt just finished his master’s degree in education. Last week we got the diploma in the mail. Today we got the letter from student loans detailing his payback schedule – including interest accrued before the repayment date event starts!

 

According to an article about student loan debt from Forbes, student loan debt in 2019 is the highest ever. “There are 44 million borrowers who collectively owe 1.5 trillion in student loan debt.” It’s so rampant that student loans make up the second highest debt category – right behind mortgages!

 

Debt across the ages

The student loan epidemic isn’t only a problem for people just out of school. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear people in their thirties are still carrying student loan debt, but according to the above Forbes article, the largest increase in student loan debt comes from people in their sixties.

 

Depending on whether the student has a private loan or a federal one the interest rate will vary. My son has a federal loan so his interest rate is about 6%. His loan is for $7, 220. Luckily, it’s not huge. If he does nothing but follow the payment schedule provided by the loan office he will pay just over $80 a month for 114 months to pay it back. At that rate he will end up paying a total of $9,489 – an extra $2,269 in interest. Almost an extra third!

 

Obviously the higher the loan, the higher the accrued interest -but none of us is doomed to be a statistic.

 

Pay bi-weekly

Whether you have a student loan or some other outstanding debt, a painless way to make an extra payment a year is to pay your loan twice a month instead of once. We’re not saying to pay more (although yes, we do want you to pay more – but more on that later), what we are saying is to divide your payment in half and pay it every two weeks instead of once a month. As I said, Matt is supposed to pay $80 a month. If instead of doing that, he pays $40 every two weeks then over the course of a year he will have made 13 months of payments rather than 12!

 

Get high interest loans out of the way

If student loans are not your only debt, you need to prioritize yourself. Figure out which debt is costing you the most in interest every month. Make the minimum payments on everything then clear through the one that’s costing you the most first. Once you’re finished with that move on to the next one.

 

Review your budget

The payment amount set by the loan office for Matt is $80, but of course the more Matt pays the faster he dispatches the loan and the less interest he pays as he goes and overall. Matt’s first priority is to assess his budget. He needs to figure out much extra he can put towards that loan on a monthly basis and where that money will come from.  That might mean taking his lunch to work more often or riding his bike instead of taking public transit. It might mean he decides to move back in with me for a while to put that rent money toward the loan.

 

Student loan repayment benefits

To help deal with the overwhelming problem of student debt, many companies offer student debt payment assistance as part of their benefits package. Some will simply put money toward your debt on a regular basis, others will match payments made by the employee. Here are a few examples. A little research will help you track down more!

Make The Most Of Your Tax Refund

Make The Most Of Your Tax Refund

New to full time employment your first tax return might seem like a huge windfall so you may be inclined to treat it like found money and blow the whole thing on a vacation or a no-holds barred shopping spree. The average tax refund in America is $3,000 – a lot to play with. But  you need to remember, this isn’t found money or won money. This is money you earned through the year finally arrived in your account. You worked hard for it, now it’s time to make it work hard for you.

 

Pay down high interest debt

Do you still have student loans outstanding? Here’s a great way to make a significant dent there. What about credit cards with high interest rates? Instead of making small payments and continuing to carry a high interest rate month like 15%, 18% or 22% after month, vanquish the beast or at least cut it down to size in one fell swoop.

 

The money you save not paying that interest month after month is money you can put towards other things.

 

Prepare for emergencies

The other smart thing you can do with that money is either start an emergency fund or add to it. Ideally you want to have about three months worth of living expenses socked away to carry you through unexpected situations. Having an emergency fund will help save you from incurring that credit card debt or line of credit to deal with emergencies in the first place. It also preserves your retirements savings – for your retirement.

 

Invest in your future

Speaking of retirement, according Dave Ramesy’s 40 With No Savings? “The employee Benefits Research Institute reports that 37% of all employees age 35 – 44 and 34% of employees age 45 – 54 have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.”

 

The earlier you start, the more the money you invest today will be worth down the road. No matter how far away the future might seem, all of us will get there much sooner than expected. The more you can put away before you arrive, the rosier it will be when you get there.

 

Aside from adding to (or starting your investment income) other ways of investing in your future include investing in yourself. Are there any courses you want to take to prepare for a business venture you want to start? Are there materials you need to buy to get you started with that new Etsy business you’ve been thinking about? Think of your return as seed money to grow tomorrow’s projects.

 

Do something for yourself

If you are not in debt and you’re comfortable with where you are financially, then absolutely give yourself a treat! Even if you need to use the money for debt or investment you could still take a portion of the return to treat yourself. 10% maybe.

 

Or, instead of treating yourself maybe you’d like to use that money to donate to a cause or organization that means something to you. You help others and as a side benefit you come away feeling great about yourself. The ability to help others is one of the wonderful things money can buy. If you’re not exactly sure where to donate check out Give.org to ensure your money is going somewhere you can believe in.

Make The Most of Your Vacation Time With The Least Amount of Money

Make The Most of Your Vacation Time With The Least Amount of Money

All of us have dream vacations we’d one day like to take. Mine include Rome with all those stunning fountains, Egypt and her mystical pyramids, the utterly unique Galapagos islands. I cannot currently afford any of those vacations. In the meantime, does that mean I need to settle for staycations with my limited means,? No way! With a little planning and alternative thinking it’s possible to take fun, interesting vacations on a restricted budget.

 

Sometimes the when is as important as the where

Set your alarms everyone, because according to Skyscanner the best time to book a flight is 5 am! Further to that, the best time to book flights for domestic trips is 2 – 3 weeks in advance. The best time to book international journeys is 5 – 6 months in advance. The least expensive month to book those flights is January (with an average round trip flight of about $500). February comes next then leapfrog all the way over to August. While you’re planning, plan to book your domestic flight on a Tuesday and your international flight on a Wednesday to enjoy the most savings.

 

Accommodation alternatives

Last year I went to Costa Rica with my daughter – which is why I’m on a limited vacation allowance now! Following a few convincing words from my daughter, one of the things we did to save money was stay in a hostel. Old enough to have a twenty-four-year-old daughter, I’d never stayed in a hostel before, thinking they were for backpackers and twenty-four year olds. To be sure there were many of those, but to my surprise there were also all kinds of people my own age. Some traveling with their own kids, some on their own. Although we stayed in a room with 5 other people there were options for semi-private and private rooms. The hostel was spacious and clean and very friendly. It cost us about $25 a night and was an experience I would definitely repeat.

 

If hostels are absolutely not your thing you can still score significant savings through sites like Airbnb and HomeAway.

 

There’s also Glamping – which you can think of as luxury camping or glamorous camping across locations around the globe. Or Canopy and Stars a collection of unique, creative places to stay in the great and grand outdoors.

 

Transportation

You could take a taxi when you travel and pump your money into someone else’s pocket or you could get friendly with the bus and subway schedules in the area. Or if distances aren’t too daunting you could put your legs to work either as locomotion on their own or as peddle manipulators.

 

If you do need to rent a car follow these tips from tripsavvy and:

Book early

Comparison shop

Reserve the smallest car possible

Compare daily and weekly rates

Use non-airport facilities

Ask for a discount

 

BYOB

By carrying your own water bottle and filing it up as you go, not only are you helping save the world from more plastic refuse you’re also saving significant amounts of money. Speaking of water, choose nature’s thirst quencher as your beverage of choice and put the savings toward other aspects of your vacation. Extra night in the hostel anyone?

 

Enjoy the freebees

No matter where you travel there are all kinds of things you can do for free. In the article about free things to do on vacation from Wise Bread they mention that many museums around the world offer free admission, and for the ones that don’t they often have a day when admission is free. Plan in advance and explore world treasures without paying a cent.

 

Walking tours are also a great way to see any city and often those are offered for free.

 

One other thing, don’t forget about Google. Type free things to do in X and go to town!

 

Become your own tour guide

Get yourself a tour book before you go and familiarize yourself with your destination then become your own tour guide. For instance, when I finally do get to Rome I could book a 60 euro tour to see the coliseum or I could prepare in advance and get in with 12 euros and create my own experience.