The Benefits of a Budget

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Budgeting is an essential part to taking control of one’s financial life.  You would be surprised to know that nearly two out of every three Americans do not budget their income.

With today’s technology, it is now easier than ever to track your income and spending.  Personally, I use Google Sheets to budget.  I have the ability to access my budget on any computer with internet access along with my smartphone.  Another great way to budget is through Mint.com.  Signing up is free, and they have an app so you can update your budget on the go.

Now that you can see just how easy it is to start your budget, I will quickly lay out why you want to budget and the benefits.

  1. You know how much you make:  Ask someone how much take home income they have in a given month, you would be surprised the number of people who can’t give you a specific dollar amount.  Knowing how much you make is vital to determining how much you can save and spend.
  2. Plan Purchases:  Saving up for a vacation?  By budgeting you will be able to determine how much you need to set aside each month so you and your family can enjoy a getaway.
  3. Eliminating Debt:  This can have a two fold benefit.  Firstly, if you know how much you make, then you know how much you are able to spend, thus you can avoid spending more than you make.  Secondly, budgeting can help you set aside income every month to tackle debt, be it student loans, a car note, etc.
  4. Enjoying your money:  Budgeting allows you to feel confident about your spending habits.  It allows you to plan for purchases and should limit financial stress on your life by worry about how you are going to pay for something.

This is not a comprehensive list of the benefits, but a few of the major ones.  If you are curious of the benefits you can receive from budgeting then give it a shot if you haven’t already.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Take 5 (Minutes)

I’m going to need you to Take 5.

And no, not the candy bar.  We all have 5 minutes a day that we can spare.  This 5 minutes revolves around budgeting and monitoring your spending habits.

Budgeting is a simple process when you have the right tools.  That is why I give you my free Excel spreadsheet so you can create your own budget.

I am now beginning my third year of budgeting, and I have found great enjoyment in knowing where all of my income goes on a monthly basis.  It could be because I like number a lot, but mainly because I know I’m setting myself up for financial success.

Kathleen discusses in her article how a simple 5 minute action every day keep hers on her budgeting towards her goals.  Honestly, I don’t even think it takes the full five minutes, but they don’t make a candy bar called Take 2.  Check out her article and see just how simple it is to get your money habits off to a great start in the new year.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/habit-takes-less-5-minutes-160000540.html

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

 

Don’t Get Emotional

The other day I was sitting in a conference room with some coworkers.  Our company was restructuring it’s retirement plan for employees.  After the changes were announced, general conversation started taking place.  The financial recession of 2007 through 2009 came up.  One employee joked how he lost over $3,000 in the market downturn.  While it isn’t a large sum of money, it was enough of a loss for him to take his money out of stocks and place it in bonds.  He has had it in bonds ever since.

It is often said that losing money is more painful than gaining or winning money.  It is human nature for us to make rash decisions when our livelihood is being threatened.  And yes losing retirement money does effect one’s future quality of life and thus his or her livelihood.

My fellow coworker got too emotional during a time when he shouldn’t have.  When the market goes down, we hear “SELL, SELL, SELL”.  And when it goes up, “BUY, BUY, BUY”.  Don’t watch the news, don’t watch CNBC and their stock reports, and please don’t get emotional.  Investing consistently over time is the best way to ensure that you invest during dips and spikes in the stock market.  Right now the market is currently down about 6% from it’s all time high.  I consider that 6% a sort of holiday discount that we should all be benefiting from.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

25 Ways to Improve Your 2016 Finances

new year

A new year is fast approaching.  While many are finishing up their holiday shopping and setting their New Year’s Resolutions, now is also the best time to lay out your financial framework for 2016.

As is always the case with every new year, it is time to prepare a new budget.  Getting your budget off to the right start is the best way to help your financial situation in the new year.  Go to the Monthly Budget page on my website and download an Excel version for yourself.

Create your monthly budget for the new year, using your best guess estimates for various income and expense categories.  Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and you can always change it as the year goes on.

After you have set up your monthly budget, I highly suggest you check out Kimberly Palmer’s article that was shared on Yahoo Finance.  I have provided the link below:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/25-ways-improve-finances-2016-154142827.html#

Look at some of the suggestions outlined and see where you can tailor your budget to focus on paying down high interest debt, or finding spare money to invest for your future.  You might not be able to relate to or benefit from all 25, but find at least three that you can implement into your 2016 budget.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

What Is Retirement?

The other night I was pondering what actually classified as retirement.  We all think of retirement as falling towards the end of one’s life.  You work for a while, save up enough money, then use those savings to enjoy the latter part of your life.

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But what if you don’t want to wait until you are 65 or older to retire?  Say you want to save up money for 15 years, take 5 years off and then re-enter the workforce.  Is this retirement?

I didn’t know the answer, so I did what everyone does now-a-days to find such an answer.  I Googled it.  Webster’s Dictionary defines retirement as the following:

The act of ending your working or professional career; the period after you have permanently stopped your job or profession.

So if you did decide to take 5 years off during the middle of your working career I guess it would be classified as a hiatus.  Regardless of when you decide to retire, there are a few things I believe retirement truly is.

  • When one’s passive income is greater than one’s expenses.

Your investments, rental properties, royalties or whatever revenue generating sources you have other than trading your time for money are greater than your expenses.

  • Finding ways to spend your time with people you love and doing things you love.

You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have ways to enjoy it or enjoy your time then it has no purpose.

  • Creating your very own legacy.

Volunteering, raising money for a worthy cause, instilling wisdom in the minds of younger generations.  Creating a legacy to be remembered by is the ultimate goal of success.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

 

Happy 1 Year

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Budget and Invest turns 1 today.  I know it is Thanksgiving and I want you all to enjoy your time with family so I’ll make this short and sweet.

I was inspired to start this blog a year ago by the passing of my father, a man for who I had much respect.  Although my father taught me many things, finances was something we rarely discussed.  The subject wasn’t taboo or anything, just not something that was ever brought up in conversation.  After he passed away, I started to see why.  My family’s finances weren’t as well of as I personally would have liked to have seen for my mother.  She didn’t have much say when it came to the family finances.  Dad would always tell her that he has everything handled.

The older I get, the more I realize just how open people need to be with their finances with loved ones.  I have also come to realize that the more one educates himself or herself on personal finances, the better off they’ll be.  Books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Millionaire Next Door, and Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth have taught me more about personal finance than a lifetime of schooling ever has.  That is why I share you with the knowledge I have gained and my personal stories.  In hopes that all of my readers can achieve the same financial success that I hope to and will attain in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Gobbling Up with Thanksgiving Savings

Tis’ the season!

Of deals that is.

Now is the time where we are bombarded with fantastic deals for the holiday season.  Black Friday, Cyber Monday, we have already been getting emails about these fantastic prices to be for over a month now. Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy are just a few of the companies vying for your holiday shopping business.

Whether it’s a good deal on a new TV or the latest gadget, companies want you to think that it is now or never when it comes to getting the best deal on a product for the gift-giving season.  While this may or may not be true, creating a budget for these seasonal expenses is critical to keeping credit card debt to a minimum.

It isn’t only the season for savings, but people feel the need to spend more than they can afford and charge it to their credit cards.  This equates to not being able to afford the full payment when your cycle comes around, thus leading to the high interest rates that credit cards charge.  Avoid the high interest rate and keep your holiday spending in check with these 3 tips.

  1. Pay Cash: Don’t be so quick to put every purchase on a credit card.  If you can pay in cash then do it.  This will prevent you from mindless spending.
  2. Create Gift Allowances: Put a limit on the amount you will spend on someone for the holiday season.  This will allow you to appropriately budget out your funds for all of the individuals you need to buy for.
  3. Time Over Money: Remember that the holiday season isn’t truly about who gets the best gifts, it is about spending time with the people you care most about.  Objects and money can be easily replaced, but moments spent with loved ones will have a greater lifetime value.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

How Much Should I Save?

The short answer?  As much as you can afford.

Various articles will try to tell you what you need to save for retirement based on your age.  The conclusion of each chart though?  The earlier you can start off saving, the better.

Forbes has the following chart:

What this chart tells us is that the earlier you start saving, the less percentage of your income will be required to save in order to have a healthy retirement.  For someone who is 25 years old, saving roughly 15% of one’s income all the way up to retirement will produce the same level of retirement living as someone who starts saving when they are 40, but has to save 43% of his or her income.  In a nutshell, the earlier you start saving, the better.

Do I practice what I preach?  ABSOLUTELY!

I save 15% of my pretax income towards my retirement.  I don’t stop there.  I also save an additional 40% of my after tax income towards my future.  This includes a company sponsored 401k, a Roth IRA, and a taxable brokerage account.  I am still able to enjoy the money I make now through entertainment, going out to eat and travelling, but I have placed a high emphasis on making sure I have an excellent post-work life.

Don’t feel like you have to save every extra penny.  Find ways where you can maximize your savings and have a wonderful quality of life.

Make sure you are taking advantage of a company 401k plan if you have the opportunity.

Open a Roth IRA if you haven’t already.  I’m serious about this one!!!

Save first, spend later.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

Student Loans: Grace Period, Waste Period

I spoke with my sister who just recently graduated with student loan debt.  She asked me, “How do I start paying back my loans?”  I told her, I don’t know.

If you have recently graduated from college then chance are you have student loans to pay back.  There is student loan exiting counselling you must go through and then it seems like you’re all finished.

This is exactly what I did.  After I graduated I went through loan counselling sometime during the late summer of 2012.  And then… Nothing.  I don’t even believe I received an email until almost six months later when it was time to start paying back my loans.  My grace period was coming to an end.

If you take out a student loan through your college or university you will most likely have a grace period of six months.  This is so you can have time to “Get your finances in order”.  I assume these loan company figure if you were this easy to get into debt it was the least they could do.

The bad part about this “Grace Period” is that interest is accruing during the six months you aren’t paying back your loans.  The loan companies try their best to hide this from you and make it as difficult as possible to figure out how to pay back your loans before the period is over.

Step 1: Log on to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/?login=true and find out who your student loan provider is.

Step 2: Create an online account with your provider(s) and set up your account information.

Step 3: Begin paying back your loans before the grace period ends to limit the amount of interest you will pay over the life of the loan.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Video: Step by Step Guide to Creating a Monthly Budget

I have discussed the importance of creating a monthly budget on many previous posts.  This post is for all of you visual learners out there who have not yet created your own personal monthly budget.  Rachel’s video illustrates just how easy it is to create your very own budget.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs8P0Eh7Zbc

Budget Smart, Invest Wise