Ten Money Mistakes You Might Be Making (And Not Even Realize)

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money mistakes

When it comes to money, most of us probably think we are doing pretty well.  I mean, we have a budget, we can afford the things we need and sometimes have extra money to spend when we want to.  However, could you do better?  I mean, in reality, can’t we all?

If you take a look at your spending, are you really being as smart as possible?  It may seem like it at first glance, but if you really sit down and think about it, you may be actually making mistakes with your finances and not even realize it!  This can mean missed opportunities to save or even overspending.  Check out these mistake you may be making – and what you can do to make it right!

1. Not having a budget.

I know, I know, I probably sound like a broken record here.  However, this is key to managing your money.  A budget is not a bad thing.  In fact, it it just the opposite.  A budget puts financial control back in your life.  Otherwise, your money just goes where it wants and you have no control over your finances.

I know it can seem scary to actually sit down and make a budget, but it really is not that bad.  In fact, once you do it and start to follow one, you will realize how much better you feel about your money.

If you need help getting started, read more about How to Create a Budget (including free forms or spreadsheet you can use to create your own).

 

2. Not being involved in your finances (allowing your partner or spouse to take care of it all).

If you are in a relationship where you both contribute financially (married or otherwise), are you both involved in paying the bills?  In most cases, it seems that just one person takes care of this.  It could be the person who is considered your head of household.  There are instances where it is the person who is better at handling money (and/or maybe enjoys it). It is not OK for just one person to be in charge of paying the bills and saving. You both need to be involved.

What you need to do is sit down together and start with your budget (see #1).  Fill it out together so you both see how your money is to be spent.  You can both contribute to how you will save, what you will budget for dining out or other items you want to spend your money on.  You both have an equal voice.  You both are in control of your money.

Once you have the budget, it can not stop there.  You need to look at your investments, credit cards, life insurance – anything with any sort of financial tie.  Make sure you both understand where this is held, be it a bank or insurance company.  Make sure you both know how to access the account by knowing login and passwords.  You can find some free forms to help you complete these lists here.

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3.  Not saving for retirement.

If you have a young family, your focus is more than likely on your children. You are concerned with making sure they have the the things they need, and rightfully so.  You may also be only looking forward as far as saving for college for them.  What about you though?  How will you support yourself when the children are no longer living at home?

Too many parents focus more on college than retirement.  Sure, we’d love to help our children financially with college, but if your children are intelligent, they may get scholarships.  They can take out loans.  They can save to invest in their own education.  However, who is going to help give you money when you retire?

If you plan on relying upon social security to cover your expenses when you retire, you are going to be in for a shock.  They will not give you enough money to live on.  Period.  It is up to you to take the steps now to ensure that you are looking ahead to take care of yourself and your spouse or partner for the future.

The simplest way to do this is to look to your employer.  Do they have a 401(k) plan?  Do they have a matching program?  Start saving right now and look ahead towards covering yourself for those golden years.

 

4. Using credit the wrong way.

I love to shop.  I really do.  However, I never use credit.  If I don’t have cash then that means I don’t get to purchase it.

That being said, many people are wise when it comes to using credit cards.  They use them and turn around and pay it off completely every single month.  If you are one of these people, the good for you!

The problem is when you fall for the traps.  The low introductory rate of 1% or the store offering a discount of 20% if you open a store charge.  While you may say that you don’t do that and will pay it off, that is not the case for most.  Most will allow the balance to carry as it is so tempting to have spent $400 and only have to hand over $15 that next month.  I mean, you get to keep $385 in YOUR pocket – right?  WRONG!

Take a look at this example:

You open a store card to save 20% off of your purchase that day and end up spending $400.  You saved a bunch of money already and so it was smart!

The bill comes and you open it.  You see that the interest rate is 18.9% and that the minimum payment is only $16.  Rather than hand over the entire $400 out of your account, you think – “Heck!  I’ll just send in that minimum and keep that $384 in my own pocket to spend on something else!”

If you continue to do this, it will take you nearly 3 years (34 months) to pay off this balance.  THREE YEARS!  Not only that, but you will accumulate more than $120 in interest making your $400 purchase end up costing more than $520!!!

Just pass on those credit card offers and stick with cash or your debit card and you won’t fall into these even money sucking traps!

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5. Listening to the bank instead of your budget.

If you want a new home or car (or anything which requires a loan), you will go to the bank.  You fill out an application for pre-approval and find out that they tell you that you can afford a $300,000 home with an interest rate of 3.76%.  Your monthly payment will be $1,391.05.

While that looks like it will work according to the numbers, you know that will really stretch things thinly.  However, a bigger house with that huge master tub and large backyard is so wonderful!  The neighborhood is upscale and it is everything you want.  However, is it what you can really afford?

Perhaps you really should spend only $900 a month instead.  That would mean you should not spend more than around $200,000 for a home instead.  That is $100,00 LESS than what the bank says you can afford.

By spending less, you have freed up money to allow you to actually live to love life – not life to pay for a home.  If you find yourself in this situation, it might be wise to consider down sizing or maybe trying to refinance at a lower rate to reduce the amount you are paying each month on your mortgage.

 

6.  Not doing research before shopping.

It is easy for us to overspend on things such as home repairs, clothing, gifts and more.  The reason is that emotion normally drives us.  If the refrigerator is no longer working, we worry and just know we have to get it fixed as quickly as possible. That may result in paying more than you should.

Instead, shop around and do your research.  You should even do so before the unexpected happens.  In the instance of an appliance repair, make some calls to find out the rates of various companies.  Do research to find out who does good work.  Then, write down that name and number so that when you need someone, you will know who you should call and know that they will not only do the work to your expectations, but also at a price you are willing to pay.

You should also look around for deals and the best prices on other items such as clothes and gifts.  By taking a few extra minutes to do some research online, you might find a better price at another store, saving you time!

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7.  Not teaching your children (now).

Kids are sponges.  They take in everything they witness and hear around them.  This can lead to them learning great things….but also not so great things.  You want your kids to be smart in all areas of their life as they get older.  Finances is one of them.

Start educating them at a young age.  When my kids go to the store, they know that we can’t just buy anything.  We talk about our budget with them and tell them that we have only a certain amount of money to spend on food, so we have to first cover the items we need and then we may be able to pick up that splurge item.

We also teach them financial responsibility.  It is important that you start young with your children so that they understand the concept of how to manage their own money.  Teach them about giving, saving and spending.  By starting young, they will learn no other way of dealing with money than the way you teach them.  That will set them on the path to financial independence as they get older.

 

8. Not planning for the unexpected.

Let’s face it. None of us ever plans on losing a spouse, divorce or other financial hardships.  But, the reality is that it can happen.  It is important to plan now so that you are ready should that happen.

You need to sit down with your spouse or partner and have a candid discussion.  As yourselves these questions:

  • Who will raise our children if we are both gone?
  • How much money will my spouse need should I pass away?
  • How will we cover funeral and/or medical expenses?
  • What happens if I become disabled and can no longer work?

Get your emergency fund in place.  It should cover upwards of 6 – 12 months of your expenses.  You will want to look at your budget and determine what would go away if you were out of work (things such as entertainment and dining out may have to be put on the back burner).  You also need to  add in the additional cost of health insurance premiums (if you get this through your employer). Then, work hard to try to build up your emergency fund so that you can support yourself, and your family, should you find yourself out of work.

Then, put systems in place.  Get life insurance.  Make sure your Will is up to date.  Look into disability insurance.    Check with your employer as they may offer some supplemental benefits to help cover some of these expenses.  They may offer some sort of disability insurance at a reduced premium rate.

 

9.  Not having a debt paydown plan.

There is no such thing as “good debt.”  The best debt of all is no debt.  You may think that you only owe $800 in credit cards, but that is $800 too much!

You should take the steps to get out of debt right away (read more about Getting Out of Debt).  There are some simple things to keep in mind with any debt plan:

  1. Make sure you do not spend more than you earn (that means do not use credit cards or loans to overspend).
  2. Figure out your monthly payments to get the debts paid down.
  3. Set a deadline to getting out of debt.
  4. Put it ALL in writing and stick to it!

 

10.  Ignoring them completely.

It is a fact that ignoring problems never makes them go away.  They are still there.  The same holds true with your finances. If you are ignoring them, things will not improve.

If you find you are in over your head, check with your bank.  For example, CommunityAmerica offers free assistance to anyone who wants to get out of debt.  They even have financial planners available to assist you.  You never know what services are out there unless you ask.

 

It is not how much you make that matters, it is what you do with it.  Making wise financial decisions can keep you from throwing money away and helps you gain more control, leading to happier life.

There are things we all do which might be affecting our finances.  Check out these ten BIG money mistakes you might be making (and not even realize it)!

How to Make Money on Your Fit Bit (Or Other Activity Tracker)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Did you know that you can actually get PAID to use your activity tracker (like a FitBit,  JawBone and more)!  Find out FIVE great (free) ways to get paid for doing what you already do --  WALK!!!

Last night I made a status update on Facebook about reaching more than 15,000 steps in a single day on my Fit Bit and my friend Lauren, with I am That Lady told me that I could have made money on those steps!  She shared with me that you can actually get PAID when using your FitBit!  WHO KNEW!?!!

Check out these EASY ways to get paid for using your Fit Bit or other activity tracker!!!

1. Earn $5 from Shop Your Way (every 14 miles walked).

Believe it or not, Shop Your Way will actually give you money for staying healthy.  It is simple to get signed up, just follow these steps:

  • Visit Shop Your Way Rewards and click the orange BECOME A CLIENT button.  (Now, you will be able to get exclusive coupon codes directly from me!!)
  • Make sure you own a FitBit (you can buy one directly through Shop Your Way once you are signed up – and will also earn 1,000 points for doing so).
  • Next, you need to create an account at FitStudio.com. Just make sure you use the exact same login information you used when creating your Shop Your Way account above!
  • Now you can start to earn those points and then redeem your credit at ShopYourWay.com!!

 

2. Earn Walgreen’s Balance Rewards Points.

Another way to earn money is to connect your FitBit to your Walgreen’s Balance Rewards card.  It is easy to connect your device and start to earn points for walking!

  • Visit Walgreens.com and sign up for a Balance Rewards Account (if you do not already have one).
  • Once you have your card, create (or sign into) your account.
  • From the main screen, click on Account Home.
  • From there, scroll down to find Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices (Steps) and click the blue button EARN POINTS.
  • Click through the screens sharing information. Next you can click on connect a Fitness Tracker (so it updates for you automatically).
  • Select the type of tracker you are using.
  • Next, you will redirect to FitBit’s site and need to ALLOW the app to run (pink button).
  • Now, as you walk, you will earn points!

 

3. Earn Rewards from AchieveMint.

This is a new app I just learned about.  You simply sign up to connect your FitBit and get actual real-life rewards!

  • Visit AchieveMint and click on Register at the top of the page.
  • Enter your information on the first screen.
  • Next, you will see a link to connect your AchieveMint account to your FitBit account.  Click there and follow the steps.
  • You earn points for the activities you complete and when you reach 50,000 points, you will get a $50 Visa Card!!

I love that you don’t have to do anything more than just walk to build up those points!

 

4. Every Move to Earn Points.

This is a health rewards program which allows you to earn points via your FitBit  (and other methods).  You might even check with your insurance company or employer as some of them will even MATCH the points you earn!

  • Visit EveryMove.org and click the orange SIGN UP button.
  • Once your account is set up, you will be redirected to a page which shows various devices, including the FitBit.  Click to connect your account.
  • Once connected, you will then go and can add your Health Plan, Employer or even college (where you may earn bonus points or additional rewards if they participate).  If you do not have these, you can just skip that step.

What was great is that when I signed up, it went back and grabbed some of my prior activity, which added in some “retro-active” points for me!

The only down side to this one is that you don’t earn free items, but rather discounts on those products you may want to purchase.

 

5. Earn points to donate to charity (or keep them for yourself) through Higi.

This is an interesting app because it will allow you to earn points to redeem towards products, or, if you prefer, make a donation to a charity!

  • Visit higi.com and click the green SIGN UP button.
  • Fill out the profile information.
  • When you get to the screen to connect your device, click on the FitBit link.
  • Follow the steps to link your account.
  • Once you reach points, you can either cash them in towards discount codes or donate to a charity instead.

The great thing is that most of these apps will also work with any device you have, allowing you to earn money while staying active!

Investing Tips: Four Ways to Select the Right Stock

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Investing can be overwhelming.  How do you know which stocks you should select?  We've got FOUR tips you can follow to help you find the right stock for your personal situation!

 

4 ways choosing a great stock to invest in is like choosing a great outfit.  Choosing a great outfit is like choosing a great stock. You may be thinking “Candice, are you sure about that?” Yes, I am sure!

Although there are probably hundreds of questions you could ask yourself before choosing a stock to invest in, today I will be going over a few things I consider before deciding if I will invest my money into a company. Investing doesn’t have to be boring. If you think about it you’re already an investor. Everyday you are making a decision to purchase a product. When you go grocery shopping, I know the brand may not be a factor for you and you may just be looking for the best deal, but start paying attention to the brands that you’re using in your everyday life. Each time you purchase anything you are helping a company grow its profits. Once you’ve made your list of companies go to Google and start to do some research on the companies you’ve listed.

 

What does the company do?

If you are looking for earrings to wear to a holiday party, you want to make sure you are shopping in the right stores that sell earrings. Many companies offer a wide range of products and services. Figuring out all the company has to offer is helpful because you can see where the company’s profits are coming from. Every company must submit a report of their company’s yearly and quarterly performance. This report is called a 10k and 10q report.

 

Diversify your closet.

Just like you need to diversify your closet, you also need to diversify your stocks. You wouldn’t wear the same outfit that you would wear to the gym that you would wear to your office holiday party. So this is why you need to have a variety of outfits to choose from for different occasions. You need to buy different stocks from different industries in case something goes wrong in one industry.

If I only choose to invest in fashion then if something goes from the fashion industry and I only have money invested in fashion stocks, then I would lose a lot of money. However I have a one company devoted to fashion, another company that sells snacks, and another company that sells oil than I would be better off. When you hear the term diversify people usually refer to it as “not putting all your eggs in one basket.”

 

Is it worth the price?

I’m don’t know about you, but I love a good deal. The first section I go to in a store is the sale section. Just like you want to be sure you’re getting a good price for your clothes, you want to be sure you’re paying a good price for your stocks.

In order to figure out if you are paying a good price for a stock you need to figure out the company’s price earnings ratio (P/e). According to beginnersinvest.com “Simply put, the p/e ratio is the price an investor is paying for $1 of a company’s earnings or profit. In other words, if a company is reporting basic or diluted earnings per share of $2 and the stock is selling for $20 per share, the p/e ratio is 10 ($20 per share divided by $2 earnings per share = 10 p/e).

Confused yet? No need to be. Most stock-quote systems such as Yahoo! Finance will automatically figure the price-to-earnings ratio for you.” A P/E is used when comparing different stock prices. Each industry will have a different P/E range that is high to low. “On the surface, a $50 stock may seem more expensive than a $20 stock but if the $50 stock earns $5 a share while the $20 stock earns only $1, using the P/E ratio, you will be able to see that the $20 stock is twice as expensive as the $50 stock. ”

 

Staying away from trends

I’m not a fashion expert, but you want to be sure that while you’re shopping you are choosing statement pieces for your wardrobe. Statement pieces tend to last longer and are generally great quality. You want to stay away from clothes that are trendy or clothes that will fade and won’t last long. Clothes that fade or rip after one time use or wash are a waste. You need classic and timeless clothing. The same is true when deciding which stocks to invest in.

I try to avoid trendy stocks. These stocks are like one hit wonder songs. You know the groups who came out with one song and then years later you wonder what happened to them. It’s the same thing when it comes to stocks. If it’s a new and trending stock don’t invest in it. If it seems like a fad and the company hasn’t been around for very long. Remember you only want to put your money into great solid businesses that have been around for a while.  A brand that you trust.

 

Does the company offer dividends?

When you buy a stock you are buying a tiny piece of a business called a share. Once you buy a share you now own a piece of the company. Which means if the company grows, so do you. A dividend is a payment made by a company or corporation to its shareholders. If you invest in stocks that have dividends the company will pay you quarterly. (Usually every 3 months) That’s right the company will pay you for being an investor in their company. Keep in mind that not all stocks pay dividends. The companies that do pay dividends, the more shares you own of a company the more you will be paid in dividends.

There are other questions that people consider when investing, but these are a few questions that I ask myself. I encourage you to do your own research on each company before you start investing in it. Are there any other ways that investing a choosing a great outfit are similar?

 

About the author:  Candice Maire has a passion for helping people take control of their finances.  She enjoys long walks to the bank, eating dark chocolate, working out and reading personal finance books. Her motto is mind, body, soul and bank account be better. Check out her e-book to learn more!
Sources:
http://beginnersinvest.about.com/cs/valueinvesting1/a/011101a.htm
http://www.theoptionsguide.com/price-to-earnings-ratio.aspx

 

How To Create A Price Book to Track Prices, Deals and Sales Cycles

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

One easy way to keep track of the prices at the stores where you shop is with a price book.  You jot down the prices every week after you shop and you will start to learn those sales cycles at your favorite stores - and know where you usually get the best deals!!

Have you ever wanted to learn how to find out when those items you need will be on sale?  Believe it or not, stores usually cycle sales on schedules.  By learning how your store does this, you can always get the best deals and know when to stock up, and when to pass on those deals.

The way you do this is by creating a Price Book.  This is just what it sounds like – a book which tracks the prices of the items you need at the stores where you shop.

A Price Book is a list of the products you purchase and the prices you pay in order to watch for sales trends and cycles.

It will take time to create yours, but once you have it set up, it is easy to maintain and will help you know when those prices are at their lowest, allowing you to stock up and save as much as possible.

How Do I Make a Price Book?

You want to make sure that what you use is simple enough that you can can maintain it.  If you are a techy person, you might want to use something on your smart phone.  If you are a paper list maker, then you might want to go with a simpler method like a spiral notebook or binder with inserts.  You can even create a spreadsheet on your computer.   The way you track it is not important, it is just important that you do.

You will want to keep the list organized however, by breaking it down by department or possibly even product.  For instance, you will want one sheet for your dairy items, one for meat, one for produce, one for breakfast foods, etc.  That way, when you need to find the prices (and update it), you can easily find it.

What Is Included in the Book?

No matter which method used to create your book, you will want to make sure to keep track of key items.  These will include:

  • Date
  • Store
  • Product/Brand
  • Size (oz, product count, etc)
  • Price
  • Per unit price

We have created a form for you to use, for free.  Just click on the image below to download yours:
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 Click image or HERE to download your free form

 

How Do I Create My Own Price Book?

The simplest thing to do is to starting keeping your receipts.  Once you shop, write down the information based upon what you purchased.  It takes a little work up front to get started, but eventually, the book will be simpler to maintain and you’ll get the hang of it.

To calculate your per unit prices, you will need to make sure you know the product size.  That might mean extra notes when you shop or updating the price book as you put your groceries away.  To determine a per unit price, take the price and divide that by the size.  For example, if you are looking at diapers you would calculate the price per diaper as follows:

$17.49 / 84  = $0.20 per diaper

You can simplify this even more by updating a price book while you shop.  Most stores have the per unit price listed right on the shelf for you.  That makes it simpler for you as you can just write down the price in your book.

Do I Ever Change the Price?

Yes!  That is the reason a Price Book works!  As you shop, you might have a price for an item listed in your booklet, but you find it on sale for less.  You will want to update that price in your book as that means there was a sale.  When you see it on sale again the next time, you might start to learn the sales cycle, such as every 6 weeks or every 12 weeks.  This is how you learn when to shop for the items you need.

How Do I Make the Price book Work for Me?

Before you shop, you will want to consult your price book to see if the items on sale are the lowest price or if you know you can get a better deal.  If your Price Book shows a lower price, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy that product.  It simply means only buy the amount you need to get by until the item will go on sale again at the lower price.

On the flip side of this, if you find that the price in the weekly ad is lower than what you show in your price book, it might mean that you not only need to update your price book pricing, but it also will let you know that it is a good time to stock up at this low price!

Does the Book do More Than Share Sales Cycles?

It sure does!  If you find a great coupon, you will know in advance about what you will pay at the store.  This helps you know at which store you want to use the coupon for the best deal.

A price book can also help with your budget.  If you find that you’ve got “too much month and not enough money” left until your next payday, you can make your list and know ahead of time what you can expect to pay at checkout.  This way, there are no surprises and you can adjust your shopping list before you shop!

Needs vs. Wants and How To Make Them Fit Into Your Budget (And How We Deal With This Ourselves)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

 

When you look at your budget, what is a need and what is a want?  There is a difference.  Find out how to identify those Wants and how to fit them into your own budget!!

When it comes to how you spend money, you basically have two ways you look at it.  Is it a want? Or is it a need?  Ever since my husband and I worked ourselves out from more than $35,000 in debt, we ask ourselves this all of the time.

This is extremely important when it comes to looking at your budget.  Your needs include (not a full list):

  • A place to live, be it rent or a mortgage
  • Food to eat (not including dinners out)
  • Utilities (gas, electric, phone)
  • Health and personal care products
  • Insurance
  • Clothes (just enough – not name brand, over the top wardrobes)

We also always look over our wants as well. These can include:

  • Dining Out
  • More clothes (name brand)
  • Newer electronics or gadgets
  • Larger home
  • Newer vehicle

We always make sure our budget covers our needs first and foremost.  Our budget rarely changes as we have worked hard to tweak it to make it work for us.

Do we have wants in our own budget?  Of course we do! In our own budget we include a category called family spending – for random things we want to do with the kids.  We budget for dinners out with the kids.  We even allow for a bit more for our clothes to get a few nicer things (all on sale of course).  And although we have vehicles which are paid in full, we try to save for a newer one, which we know we will need eventually.

This can be a struggle, to determine if you really need something or if it is a want.  I can completely relate.  We own a 2005 Honda Odyssey.  It is completely paid for and so there is very little cost associated with owning it.  We just pay our insurance premiums and save monthly to cover the annual taxes. We also set a little back each month for maintenance such as oil changes, and tires and are prepared should we have a large expense.  Thankfully, we’ve only had one issue with our vehicle in the ten years we’ve owned it.

The mini van runs perfectly fine.  In fact, it drives like it did the day we purchased it.  It is clean.  I mean, really clean.  I keep it vacuumed and we don’t allow drinks or much food inside.  The only time we might is when we do a road trip (and then, we are careful about what we allow the kids to bring along with them).  I keep it maintained with oil changes and tire rotations.  Everything works.  There is nothing wrong with my van.

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However, I find myself struggling as I have my eye on a different vehicle.  It is actually one of my dream cars – a Buick Enclave. I just love them and I really, really want one.  My husband and I have talked about this frequently lately and have even been visiting websites to see if we can find one which is around 2 – 4 years old.  We don’t want a brand new one, just one that is used will be perfect for us.  We have even considered test driving one.

Why haven’t we gone ahead and done that?  Simple.  I have determined that a new vehicle is an absolute want and not a need.  My van, which is 10 years old, does not even have 100,000 miles on it yet. It just turned over to 95,000 recently.  It runs perfectly.  It is so convenient with 3 kids getting in and out of it as the doors slide open with the touch of a button. Again, there is nothing wrong with my van. I do not need a new car – I want a new car.

This does not mean we can’t afford one.  We have no debts and could pay for it between trade in and our budgeted savings.  However, we won’t.  Not yet, at least.  There is no need for me to get a new vehicle at a cost of more than $25,000 when I do not need to.  No need at all.

I had to really ask myself why I wanted this van.  I determined that I was just bored with mine.  I wanted the thrill of a new vehicle.  I wanted the excitement you get with something new.   That was all great, but the ultimate question was this:  “Will this new car make me happy?”  I answered that quickly with a “no.”  Not happy in the long term.  I will pay more in insurance premiums. I will pay more in taxes.  My savings will need to be built back up again.  The new will wear off after a short time and I’ll be right back where I am again. Back here with less money in the bank.  Back here wondering if something better is out there.

So, after much soul searching and thinking, I’ve decided not to get a vehicle right now.  I know that there will be at time when I need to do it, and I will get one at that time. I know at that time, it will have moved more from the want to a need and then, it will be the right time.

How to Use the Debt Paydown Form to Actually Pay DOWN Your Debts (Plus Ideas On How To Raise Money to Pay Them Off)

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Debt.  Ugh.  We hate it!  Learning how to actually dig yourself out from under the mountain of bills can be tough!  We've got a SIMPLE way for you to do this - complete with the steps and forms you need to make this the year you become debt free!!

Anything worth having in life takes hard work and dedication.  There is an amazing sense of accomplishment and joy when you can tackle what seems to be the impossible.  The same is with your debt.  Paying it off is NOT easy.  It is going to take a lot of time, but it is so well worth it!

Of course, before you can just jump in to start to pay off debts, you need to follow the right steps.  It is imperative that you’ve already done the following before you actually start working on paying off those debts you have.  These include:

  1. Preparing your Net Worth and Debt Paydown Forms
  2. Creating Your Budget
  3. Learning How to Use a Cash Budget (Envelope System)
  4. Setting up Your Basic Emergency Fund

If you’ve done all four steps then you are ready to move on to the fun part — actually paying down your debts!!  If you haven’t, you will want to take the time to read each post and follow the steps.  These are important as you can’t really get out of debt until all 4 are addressed.

 

HOW TO PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS

Watching your debts slowly disappear is so much fun, I’m not going to lie!  However, it is important that you are ready for this step.  As mentioned above, make sure you  have completed your paydown form correctly.  This form should list all of the debts you owe, listed from the lowest balances to the highest, as well as your minimum monthly payment.  You should also have your budget, handy too! Got that?  Good!

 

Now, take a look at your budget. Do you have any ‘extra’ money you have freed up towards paying down your debts?  If you do, then look at your Debt Paydown form to find out who you owe the least amount of money to.  Then, go into your budget and increase the monthly payment to  them by the amount of the “extra” money showing in your budget.  Here’s an example:

 

Citibank – owe $500 – monthly payment of $10
Visa — owe $885 — monthly payment of $15
Auto Loan — owe $12,500 — monthly payment of $425

Let’s say that you show “extra” money in your budget in the amount of $25.  Your budget and paydown will then look like this:

Citibank – owe $500 – monthly payment of $35
Visa — owe $885 — monthly payment of $15
Auto Loan — owe $12,500 — monthly payment of $425

This means you will pay $35 each and every month to Citibank until it is paid off.  You will not pay anything above the required minimum payment to any other debtors.

When you pay off your first debt, take that payment and ROLL it into your next debt listed.  In this example, that would mean the $35 payment to Citibank will be combined with the $15 payment to Visa for a total monthly payment of $50!  You will continue to do this as you eliminate each debt, increasing your monthly payment – just like a snowball!

 

HOW TO PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS

I previously shared some ways to help you eliminate your debt (outside of your monthly payments).  As a reminder, here are some ideas:

  • Sell items on Craiglist, Ebay or other methods.  If you have extra things lying around the house, you may wish to sell them and raise some money and then turn around and make a nice big payment on that smallest debt.
  • Get another job.  If you can swing it, pick up a part time job and apply all of your earnings towards your debt.
  • Reduce savings and pay down debts.  If you happen to currently have MORE than $1,000 in the bank, but still have debts, you should really take any amounts above $1,000 and pay down your debts BEFORE you are saving.  The reason is why are you saving money for yourself and paying more in interest to someone else than you are making yourself?

 

HOW TO APPLY YOUR TAX REFUND

So, what about that nice big tax return that is coming your way in a few weeks?  Experts say that you should use the rule of thirds:

1/3 towards the past — use to pay off debts
1/3 towards the present — have some fun
1/3 towards the future — savings

If you truly want to get out of debt, I would recommend you do the following:

Make sure that you have $1,000 in the bank so your Emergency Fund is completely funded
Apply an additional amount left over all towards your debt (paying off least amount owed first and working up from there)

We would all love to just go spend a large sum of money on a new television, clothes or a trip.  However, you have to decide if you want that instant gratification (which may turn to guilt) or if you really want to get yourself out of debt.  While I can only recommend that you work on debt first, this is a question only you can answer.

 

(I am not a financial advisor and the information listed within these posts is not to be construed a financial advice.   Financial concerns/issues should be addressed with a professional in order to receive advice and assistance.)

My Top Ten Money Saving Apps!

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I seriously LOVE using my smartphone to help me save money!  However, with the thousands of apps out there, it can be tough to find those which are the best to use.  I've listed ten great apps you should check out and download to help you start saving today!!

When it comes to saving money, we all know about clipping coupons, but what about doing more than that?  There are some great apps which you can install to help you save money in different ways.  Here are ten of my favorite apps!

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Gas Buddy – available for Windows, Android, Blackberry and iPhone

I love this app to help check out fuel prices.  Of course, driving too far out of your way won’t save you anything, but sometimes, a few cents can make a difference.  You simply enter your zip code and it looks around t prices close to where you are at.

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Shopkick – availble for both Android and iPhone

This  Free mobile app provides scannable coupons for stores like Target, Macy’s and more.  Not only that, you earn Kickbucks for simply walking through the door of your favorite stores!  Kickbucks are like points (or cash) which you can redeem in the on-line app. There are all sorts of rewards – including gift cards for yourself!

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RedLaser Barcode Reader  – available Android, Windows and iPhone

When you shop you can make sure you are getting the best price around.  You can scan in the barcode of the product.  This app will search not only the web, but also the brick and mortar stores to return the best price.    You can then Click BUY NOW to go directly to the website with the bargain price — or even get directions to the local store with the deal.

Coupon Sherpa – available for both Android and iPhone

This is a really awesome app if you love to shop retail!   When you are at a store, you can search your phone and see if that retailer happens to have any coupons available.  You simply search through the list, click on the store and if you find one, show it to the cashier and save.  No more clipping coupons for these stores!

Key Ring – available for both Android and iPhone

This is the perfect app to replace that stack of loyalty cards.  You always forget them or have 20 to sort though when you shop…..no more!   You simply add your card number to the app and then show it when you shop.  They scan (or manually enter) the number and you are on your way.

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Out to Eat with Kids – available both for Android and Apple Devices 

This is an app which can help families save money – no matter where you happen to be!  You simply allow the app to use your location and it will share restaurants which are close to you.  You click on the restaurant link and they will share the deals with you – so you know where kids can eat free including the dates, times and restrictions!

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Ibotta –available on Android and Apple Markets

I’ve talked about this app more and more and wanted to make sure you were signed up.  Ibotta is an easy way to earn money when shopping.  It is very simple to use this app.

  1. Go through the app to find the products you want to buy.  Follow the links to have various amounts added to your account.
  2. Select the store where you will shop to purchase the product(s).
  3. Take a photo of your receipt showing you made the purchase.
  4. They will deposit that amount into your account.

viggle

Viggle -Android, Windows and Apple Markets

If you love to watch TV, then this is an app for you!  As you are watching your favorite shows, check in on Viggle to share what you are watching.  You can interact with other who love the program, but you can also earn rewards just for watching!

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Goodbudget (formerly EEBA) – available on both Android and Apple Markets

If you want to use the idea of the cash envelope system, without using envelopes or cash, then this is the app for you!  You simply leave your mone in your checking account.  Then, you create virtual envelopes instead.  As you shop, you track your spending and when your envelope reaches zero – you are done shopping!

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Target Cartwheel App – available for Android and iPhones

This is another easy way to save money at Target!  You simply scan the products in the store and if there is a Cartwheel coupon available, it will let you know!  So, you just shop for the items you need and you might end up saving more at checkout!  Remember that you can stack Target coupons (mobile or print) and manufacturer’s coupons with this app for even greater savings!

How to Use Your Phone To Save Money (Using Coupons Without Printing Them)

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You may not realize it, but there are coupons you can use right from your phone!  No printing and clipping, and you can still save on your shopping and even dining out!  Find out HOW to do this by clicking on over!It seems that nearly everyone has a Smartphone these days.  We use these to stay in touch, text, read, play music and save money.  However, did you know that there are actually options which allow you to use your phone to redeem coupons — without printing them!

Of course, most manufacturer’s coupons still do require you to print them, there are some stores ways you can just find the coupon on your phone, saving you time!!  I’ve broken this down for you below so you know which coupons can be shown on your phone and which you have to take with you in hard copy.

 

COUPONS / SAVINGS REDEEMABLE WITHOUT PRINTING

 

There are some stores/options out there where you do not need to print your coupons (or clip them from the paper) to use them.

Target Mobile Coupons.  You can sign up for these to be sent to your phone.  You simply show the code to the cashier and your savings will be applied to your purchase.  These are Target store coupons, so you can not stack them with any other Target printable coupon, however, you can combine them with your Target Cartwheel coupons.

Target Cartwheel.  This is a an app you can install onto your phone.  You simply add the offers you want to redeem to your list.  Then, when you shop, you make sure you purchase them.  At checkout, you show the barcode on your phone to the cashier and save instantly.  If you’ve never used this service before, make sure you read more about How to Use Target Cartwheel.

Cellfire.  Some stores allow you to load these manufacturer’s coupons to your store rewards card.  Since these are manufacturer’s coupons, you can stack them with any store coupons for more savings.  The stores which offer these coupons are limited.

Ibotta.  This is a rebate site.  You claim the offers (can increase by doing more).  Then, you purchase at the store listed (or one of the available stores).  Once you make the purchase, take a snapshot of your receipt and then upload it. Nothing to print or even show to the cashier!!! Within a few days the money is waiting in your account!!! Download the Ibotta app to get started.

Snap! by GroupOn.  This is another rebate site.  You make the purchase for the item listed and then upload your receipt and you get cash back!

Checkout51.  This app is similar to Ibotta.  You make the purchase for the items listed and then upload a photo of your receipt.  Once you do that, you get the money deposited into your account and can cash out and get that money back! Learn more about Checkout 51 HERE.

SavingStar.  This is another clipless app, which is connected to your store card. You add your card to your account.  Then, “clip” the offers you want to redeem.  When you use your store’s rewards card you get that amount deposited back into your account.  Read more about How To Use SavingStar.

Store Coupons.  Many stores offer digital coupons which you can download to your card.  You will need to check where you shop to find out if this option works or not.  Stores such as Walgreens and Dollar General offer these coupons.

You can also find apps which collect both store and restaurant coupons in one easy location.  My favorite app for this is Coupon Sherpa!  They have the best coupons right at my fingertips (and you can even assign your favorite stores so you can get to those offers more quickly).

 

COUPONS WHICH MUST BE PRINTED TO BE REDEEMED

 

Most coupons are still required to be redeemed in print or paper format.  Here are those you need to keep in mind:

Printable Manufacturers coupons.  These coupons do not offer a paperless option.  They must be printed to be redeemed.  They also do not allow you to request a coupon be mailed to you instead, so  printer is required.  These sites include:

Coupons.com
SmartSource
RedPlum
Hopster
Common Kindness

Store coupons.  Many stores still required coupons to be printed in order to be redeemed.  These include the Target Store coupons.

 

If you do not have a printer, you can purchase one at an affordable price, here are a few ideas (as of the date of this post):

There are things you also need to know when it comes to printing your coupons from your Wireless Devices.  Make sure you read more about that HERE.

 

 

How To Create An Emergency Fund and Why You MUST Have One

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Whether you are in debt or not, an Emergency Fund is a MUST!  You have to have money set back in case you ever need it.    Find out how to set one up, how to track it and even tips to fund yours by clicking on over!

 

Whether you are in debt or not, you need to be prepared for the unexpected.  How does one do this?  Simple.  With an emergency fund.

In fact, if you are in debt and working to be come debt free, it is even more important that you have this in place before you begin to tackle your debts.  The reason is that you need to have funds in place in case you need them.  In fact, if you are in debt, it is imperative that you do what you can to get $1,000 in the bank before you work on paying down debts.

 

What is an emergency fund?

 

So, what is an emergency fund?  It is money that you have saved for, well, an emergency.  Some examples could include the furnace going out, your refrigerator needing repair, etc.  Items that aren’t emergencies are a flat screen TV marked way down, new soccer cleats for your child or a vacation to Mexico.    Those items are wants and you should save for them separately.

For most, the reason to maintain an emergency fund is in the case of job loss.  Since it may take longer to find new employment, you need money to carry you through.  Having an emergency fund is one simple way to do this.

 

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How much do you need in an emergency fund?

 

If you do not yet have any emergency fund, you should start as soon as possible.  In fact, if you are in debt, you need to do what you can to get at least $1,000 in the bank.  If you read further, we have some ideas on things you can do to help build up your own account.  That will be a base to cover an emergency should it arise and you will not have to go further into debt just to cover those expenses.

As you get out of debt and are more financially stable, you will need to save more.  Several  years ago, when the job market was stronger, 3-6 months was the norm.  However, with the way things are now, it is best to have at least 6 months of your monthly income if you are single and upwards of nine months if you are providing for a family.

That may seem unattainable, but you can do it!  Keep in mind that the actual dollar amount will vary from person to person.  What you should do is look at your monthly budget.  If you happen to be out of work, which items do you no longer need (maybe you could drop cable or stop dining out).  Make sure you also add in those items you need to cover yourself such as health insurance premiums.  Once you see your new budget, take that amount x6 to determine 6 months of savings, or however many months you are trying to save.

 

Do you need a separate account for emergency savings?

 

For some people, it is simpler to have two different savings accounts.  One account is for regular savings for items to purchase during the year such as taxes, birthdays, holidays, insurance, etc.  Then, a separate account is set up to keep emergency money only.  This way, when they need the money, they know they are drawing it from the correct account.

However, for others, it will not matter as savings is savings.  If you do keep just one account, it is best to make sure that your fund never drops below a minimum amount, such as $1,000.  That way, you know you always have money ready if it is needed.

 

What can you do to build an emergency fund?

 

There are so many different ways to build an emergency fund!  What is the most important thing to remember is that when you get paid, always take a moment to pay yourself.  Even if you can save just $100 a month, you will have $1,200 saved in just one year!

1. Sell items.  Look around your home and see what you have that you might be able to sell.  Do you have kids’ toys you no longer need?  Perhaps you have furniture that you are not using.  You can either have a garage sale or just list them for sale on websites such as Craigslist (just be careful when selling items so you are safe).  When you are in debt and/or you need emergency money, you need to look at the wants in your life rather than the needs and pare down to get out from under financial troubles.

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2. Find a part-time job.  You might find that your local retail store or even a local pizza shop is hiring part-time workers.  You can get an additional job and use that money to just build your emergency fund (and then later, use the income to pay off your debt).

For some, this may not be an option, so you might be able to find one of these Ten Ways to Make Money from Home work for you.  The best way to make more money is to find your passion and then turn that into a way to make money.  Passion will carry you through and help you stick to it!!!

3. Adjust your budget.  There are things you can do to save money on your monthly budget.  You can work harder to save money at the grocery store by using coupons.  Follow our site to find out ways to do just that.  We share many tips and even in-store deals to help you get those items you need for as little money out of your pocket as possible.

You can also take steps to reduce your monthly utilities.  We’ve got a great post here with Ten Ideas to Help You Reduce Your Utility Bills.  Take that monthly savings and put it into your emergency fund.

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4. Stop dining out.  If you spend $100 – $200 a month dining out, that is a lot of money!  If you take those funds and just put them into savings instead, you will have reached your emergency fund savings goals sooner than you realize!!  When we were getting out of debt, we did not eat dinner out but a few times a year.  Difficult?  Yes!  Worth it?  More than you realize!!!  Follow your own menu plan and figure out what your family will have for dinner that week without dinner away from home!  You can read more about Menu Planning here.

5.  Don’t go to the store.  This may sound extreme, but it works.  Try to just visit your grocery store just once a week – and stick to your shopping list.  When you visit the store more frequently, you will usually end up spending money on items you may not really need.  By sticking to your shopping list, you will stay on budget and not end up overspending when you don’t want to.

Doing what you can to build up your emergency savings account before you do anything else.  I know it takes time, but remember that this is not a race to the finish line.  In the case of financial freedom, slow and steady always wins the race.

(I am not a financial advisor and the information listed within these Debt Challenge posts is not to be construed as financial advice.   This is knowledge we gained through our own personal experiences and information as outlined in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Makeover — and is being shared as such.  Participants are not required to follow any steps listed if they do not wish to do so. Financial concerns/issues should be addressed with a professional in order to receive advice and assistance.)

How to Create and Use The Cash Envelope System (And Why It Really Works!)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Whether you are in debt or not, you need to track your spending.  The simplest way to do this is with a Cash System.  If you've wanted to try the envelope method, but were not sure how to do it, we can help!  Click on over and get the steps on how to set this up (and even a free tutorial so you can print your own envelopes)!Whether you are getting out of debt or not, you can probably use some help in making sure you control your spending.  Contrary to what many people say, the best way to do this is to use cash.  If you are trying to get out of debt, this is the next step you need to follow!

Before you proceed, it is important that you have already completed your Net Worth + Debt Paydown and Budget Forms.  It is just important that you have completed these steps as you will need to have your budget ready as you get ready for this step — Envelope Cash System.

 

ENVELOPE SYSTEM

 

Cash is King!!  I say this all of the time because I truly believe in this.  When I bring up using cash, the first rebuttal I get is  “If I have cash, I spend it far too easily.”  I do not agree with this statement at all. The main reason that people fail on a cash budget is lack of tracking what they spend and assigning it a task.

I find that because I use cash, I spend more wisely.  When you have only $200 for groceries and you also know that your cash must last for 2 weeks, you really think twice before you buy that extra item.  Of course, with couponing, you usually are able to save and spend less, which can help, but you still should always use cash.

The first thing to do is take a look at your budget.  You should seriously consider using cash for the following items:

  • Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Dining Out
  • Hair Cuts/ Beauty
  • Doctor Visits
  • Random Spending (which is your spend as you want – only if you can afford it)
  • Medicine
  • Doctor/Dentist Visits

You will notice that I didn’t include gasoline in my list.  The reason I didn’t is that most people won’t overspend at the pump.  Most of us just fill up our tanks and go about our merry way.  You also don’t drive around and burn fuel or decide to fuel up because your neighbor did.  This is a budgeted item, but not one where you might spend above your budget.  Not only that, it is usually much more convenient to pay at the pump.

When it comes to an envelope system, you can purchase an envelope system as sold by Dave Ramsey or you can just use the envelopes in your desk drawer.  If you want to use what Dave Ramsey sells, but want to save money, you can actually make them yourself!  I’ve got a great tutorial to help you make your own (and it is FREE)!

Cash Envelopes Template

 

One you have your categories, you have to determine how much cash you need for each category (based upon your pay period).   For example, if you are paid every two weeks, take the total monthly grocery budgeted amount and divide it by 2, to figure out how much grocery cash you need.  If you want some help doing this, you can scroll down on our Budget Worksheet Excel form and there is a little template you can use!!!

Go through each category you plan on paying for in cash and determine the amount you need.  Then, figure up how many of each denomination of bill you will need and include a breakdown for the teller.  Go to the bank and withdraw that total amount in cash and divide it into each envelope.  Confused?  LOL!  No problem – here is an example:

MONTHLY BUDGET

Groceries – $500
Clothing – $100
Random Spending – $80
Doctor – $50
Dining Out – $100

MONTHLY BUDGET DIVIDED FOR BI-WEEKLY PAY

Groceries – $250
Clothing – $50
Random Spending – $40
Doctor – $25
Dining Out – $50
Total cash needed:  $415

 

Now that you see what you have budgeted to spend on each category each pay period, you need to determine how many bills of each denomination you will need to get from the bank.  Using the same example above, here is how you will do that:

Groceries – $250 —- 3 $50 bills, 5 $20 bills
Clothing – $50 — 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill
Random spending – $40 —- 2 $20 bills
Doctor – $25 —- 1 $20 bill, 1 $5 bill
Dining Out – $50 —- 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill

 

Finally, write down the total of each denomination you need onto a piece of paper and give it to the teller, along with your check, so that he/she knows who to break down the cash back:

3 $50 bills
12 $20 bills
2 $10 bills
1 $5 bill

 

When you get home with your cash, sit down with your envelopes and put the amount of the deposit into each one.  Then, write down the amount of your deposit on the envelope.  In order to truly make this system work, you will need to write down  every. single. transaction.  I am not joking.  Doing this can help you stay on track and you also have to account for everything you spend.  So, when you spend $20.17 at the grocery store, make sure to deduct that from your total.  You can jot it down on the outside of the envelope, or keep a paper inside with the cash for you to use to track it.  If you use the envelope template above, there is space provided for you to do this.  Make sure you also always update your running balance after shopping, so you can always see how much money you have available to spend.

If you prefer to do this method electronically, you can use Goodbudget (formerly called EEBA) on iTunes or Google Play.  Instead of individual envelopes, you actually set up electronic ones instead.  Then, as you shop, you make a note in that envelope and have a new total to spend for that category.

When you have to make yourself accountable for your spending, you are taking control.  It also will help you spend less as if you only have $100 to spend on dining out over the next two weeks, you really think twice about ordering take out 3 days in a row as when the money is gone – you are done spending!!!

It isn’t completely about cash.  It is learning self control.  That is the one thing everyone will learn in going through this process.  Cash enforces this way of thinking.  You will quickly learn to love using cash and  you will feel more in control of your finances.  We’ve been doing this for so long that I don’t know how to shop without my envelopes!   It is routine and it helps us always know, in a matter of minutes, how much money we have available for the things we need.

(I am not a financial advisor and the information listed within these posts is not to be construed a financial advice.   Financial concerns/issues should be addressed with a professional in order to receive advice and assistance.)