How to Live Below Your Means

With rising prices and ever increasing consumer demands, it becomes more challenging for many individuals to live below their means. Credit card bills, keeping up with the Joneses, and other unnecessary expenses are among some of the reasons it is exceedingly hard to stick to a budget. Some find themselves unable to spend less than the amount of money they are able to make each month. Here are a few suggestions to help you live below your means and improve your financial health.

Living Below Your Means
Living Below Your Means

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Why You Need a Budget

You’ve likely heard that having a budget is an important financial step, no matter what your income is. If you want to have financial safety, it’s important to keep a budget.

Saving Money

One of the main reasons people have budgets is to prevent themselves from spending more money than they have. There are a few ways you can trim areas of your budget, so you have more to put into your savings or investment account. For example, it’s easy to trim your grocery expenses by shopping around for food. Use coupons, and when there’s a sale, stock up on items. But make sure you’re only stocking up on items you will eventually use, and ensure you have a way of preserving them. For example, you can divide the meat into plastic bags and place them in the freezer.

Debt repayment is another area that a budget helps you save money in. You can see how much you’re paying in total on loans. Look for ways to save. For example, if you have Parent PLUS Loans, consider refinancing them with a private lender to save money off your monthly expenses. You could get a lower interest rate, especially if you have a better credit score now than when you took out the loans. One of the main reasons your budget saves money is because it keeps you from spending what you don’t have. It’s easy to abuse your credit card, but you won’t find yourself in this situation when you know just how much you can safely spend without going into debt.

Keeping Your Eyes on the Goal

With a budget, you can determine what your long-term goals are so you can start working toward them. If you just spend money without knowing how much you’re spending in each area, you won’t be prepared to take a fun trip, purchase a car, or purchase a home. When you allocate certain amounts of money toward certain areas, you’re better able to track your progress toward certain goals and eventually meet them. It might be painful if you find that something you really want isn’t affordable. But it’s better than going into credit card debt. Plus, you’ll get something you really want, like a new home, instead of a shiny new toy that will lose its sparkle after a few weeks.

Doing Better During Retirement

Saving money won’t just help you buy things you want right now. If you save money during your working years and stick to the budget, you’ll be better situated to enjoy your retirement years. With a budget, you can allocate a portion of your income toward your investments, such as a 401(k) or IRA. The trick is to start investing now so your funds can grow. Even if you have to sacrifice a bit, you will find it pays off in the long run. That way, you can spend your golden years doing things you enjoy, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not you can afford necessities, such as long-term care.

How to Become Independently Wealthy

Become Independently Wealthy

Becoming wealthy is a goal many of us hope to achieve in our lifetime.  Some want to be wealthy to have unbelievable lifelong experiences or to validate success. However, the goal is often dreamed of but rarely achieved.  Ken Fisher, the author of The Ten Roads to Riches, discusses the many ways people can achieve wealth throughout their lifetime, ten to be exact.  All of these roads have proven to make someone independently wealthy in their lifetime.  Some are more common than others.  So, if the question of how to become independently wealthy has crossed your mind, I will discuss two of the ten roads Ken illustrates in his book.

What Does It Mean to Be Independently Wealthy?

To determine whether you are independently wealthy, you must ask yourself a few basic questions. First, do you rely on financial support from anyone? If not, then consider yourself financially independent. Second, do you depend on your employment income? If you answer no to the second question, you would be considered independently wealthy. When you have become independently wealthy, you have either saved enough or earn sufficient passive income to give up your day job.

How to Become Independently Wealthy: Save and Invest Wisely

I usually sign off my posts with a simple phrase: Budget Smart, Invest Wise.  Budgeting allows you to allocate your funds to various categories. Hopefully one of those categories is savings.  Whether your savings vehicle is an IRA, Roth IRA or other type of investment, saving money is critical to building wealth.  However, saving is only half of the battle to building wealth this way.

The other key ingredient is investing wisely.  Investing wisely means creating a smart investment plan. This may be with a financial advisor or through acquired knowledge that creates a return on your investment.  For example, I have found that investing on a monthly basis in a mutual fund is of most benefit to me because it covers the broad range of the U.S. Stock Market.  This investment, although it has risk involved, prevents me from being susceptible to the failure of one company or one sector of the market.  Saving and investing wisely is the road most traveled. But, it also provides the greatest chance of reward.

How to Become Independently Wealthy: Invent Income

Inventing income can cover a wide spectrum of earning additional money.  For example, if you are a songwriter or musician, you can create an ongoing stream of royalties from your lyrics or music.  If you purchase a rental property, you could turn it into a cash flow positive stream of income.  The possibilities are endless.  Maybe you have a specific skill that people are willing to pay you to teach them.  Perhaps your area of expertise at work can lead to consulting other companies on the side.  Do you have something you’re passionate about that you can create into a blog or website and charge for ad revenue?  Many of us have the tools, knowledge, and talent to create additional income. However, do you have the drive to reach your goal?

Becoming independently wealthy or successful all boils down to the level of commitment.  If you are committed to becoming independently wealthy, then  you can find a way.  Some individuals, like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, created an enormous amount of wealth.  Maybe you want billions like these company creators. On the other hand, maybe you will be satisfied with millions or even a million.  Only you can determine what being wealthy is to you.

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Blue Apron Free Trial Review

Blue Apron Free Trial Review

Let’s be honest, many of us lack the time or the money to cook unique, cost-efficient meals today.  Whether you are a couple or a family, it is sometimes easiest to just eat out.  Eating out on a regular basis can get very expensive.  So, it’s easy to see how meal delivery services have become so popular, especially with their attractive introductory offers. I recently received a Blue Apron free trial.  I was eager to try and cook my way through a new and adventurous meal, something I wouldn’t normally eat.

As this was a Blue Apron free trial, I had nothing to lose.  I had three meals delivered right to my door.  All of the packaging was recyclable, and it came with a couple of nice reusable freezer packs.  Here is my experience:

Blue Apron Meal: Chipotle-Glazed Meatloaf

Blue Apron Free Trial: Chipotle-Glazed Meatloaf

What I expected:

Blue Apron said the prep time for this meal was just 10 minutes with the cooking time of the meal being between 35-45 minutes.  The card (included in the picture) came with a quick description of the meal along with all of the ingredients for the meal.  Each ingredient listed even came with a picture in case you weren’t sure.  The flip side of the card also came with step by step instructions on how to prepare the meal. Additionally, there were some pictures to assist you along the way.  I laid out all of the ingredients on top of my counter along with the card and began.

The Good: 

You have all of the ingredients you need to create a unique dish.  If you tried to go to the grocery store and buy all of the necessary items to create something similar, you would spend way more than $10/meal.  Also, all of the items looked fresh and appeared top notch.  Everything from the beef, to the potatoes, to the garlic looked like it had been prepared just mere days before.  Finally, Blue Apron also pairs each of the dishes with a wine.

The Bad: 

While the meal card said the prep time was just 10 minutes, this was not the case.  It took me about double that time to prepare the meal.  The only way someone could have done the prep in 10 minutes is if they were highly experienced in the kitchen or if they had prepared this meal before.  The meal also lacked a side of vegetables.  While this might seem quite minor in the details, some healthy vegetables to go along with this meal would have made it complete.  I ended up cooking some green beans to go along with the meat and potatoes.  You also needed some cooking experience to help guide you through.  I don’t believe these meals are for the complete rookie.  For instance, you had to mince garlic, slice potatoes, and needed a few kitchen accessories to complete the meal.

Chipotle-Glazed Meatloaf Dish

Final Opinion of Blue Apron’s Free Trial

Ultimately my Blue Apron free trial was a success.  I was able to create a delicious, unique meal all by myself.  At just around $10/meal, it is also a great value because the same ingredients would cost much more if you purchased them at the store.  Downsides would be that it requires some basic kitchen knowledge and elementary kitchen items.  This meal service is great for a couple who enjoys cooking together and wants to spend some time create different dishes and bonding over the experience.

Continuing Beyond the Free Trial

If you decide to continue purchasing Blue Apron meals after the trial, you have a variety of meal options. The website is very user friendly and lets you browse through their selections easily. Furthermore, they cater to specific dietary needs as well. Pricing varies based on the serving size and the plan you choose. However, you receive a discount for your first week and free shipping. If you aren’t quite ready to commit to the program, the Blue Apron free trial is perfect for you. There’s no risk and you’ll have the chance to sample new dishes for free!

Are you interested in Blue Apron? Get $30 off your first week using this link.

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Finance Tips for Parents

It is often said that parenting is an expensive thing to do, and that is true in many ways; once you have a child or children, you will need to pay out for things you never had to before, including childcare, clothing, extra food, and ways to keep them entertained. However, that doesn’t mean you have to struggle, even if there is no extra money coming in. There are many ways that you can be financially comfortable, no matter how many children you have, and here are some tips to help you.

Plan Ahead 

Planning ahead when you need to make any kind of financial decision is truly important and will help you to keep within your budget. If you think about going to the grocery store with a list compared to times you go without one, for example, you can quickly see that with a list, knowing what you need, and being able to stay focused is going to be much better than trying to remember what you need, or buying things you don’t want, but that look like they might be required in the future.

In the first scenario, you will know roughly how much money you are going to spend. In the second, you will have no idea of how much money you will spend, plus you are likely to overspend on your budget because of all the extras you buy.

By planning ahead, you can ensure that you always have enough money to do everything you want to do, whether that is buying groceries, paying bills, or doing something more fun, such as taking the kids out for the day or trying out sportsbetting.com. Remember, fun is just as important as everything else, so you should always put money away to enjoy yourself too.

Save Where You Can 

Saving money where you can is a life lesson that people should try to follow, whether they have children or not. Having some savings can be extremely useful, especially when it comes to emergencies or saving up to buy something important. This way, if you can put money aside each month, you will always know you can afford to pay for new shoes, for a school excursion, for Christmas and birthdays, and for fixing the car or things around the house when they need to be fixed.

It’s not always easy to save, but if you put money into a separate account at the start of each month, just a little at a time, you will soon see the difference, and over time it will add up to a good amount.

Compare Prices

Whatever you are buying, and no matter where you happen to be buying it from, you should always stop before making your purchase to compare prices. It is wise to check whether you can buy the same item or service for less elsewhere, as you might be able to save yourself a lot of money in this way.

However, don’t assume that a lower price means you should make a purchase. There are other things to consider, which is why you should take your time with your research. There might be shipping costs added on, for example, which make the item more expensive in the end. Other issues could be customer service or slow shipping times. Make sure you are spending your money wisely when you do buy something.

3 Reasons Why Weddings Are So Expensive

Beach Wedding Ceremony during Daytime
Why are Weddings so Expensive?

Summer is in full swing. While weddings occur all throughout the year, summer seems to be a popular time for two people to tie the knot. Many of us attend a wedding with the assumption that we are celebrating friends or family. But do we really know the costs behind it all? Weddings have been getting more and more expensive each year. Today, the average American wedding costs approximately $33,900. You may be asking yourself “How is this possible?” I can tell you 3 reasons why weddings are so expensive.

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Buy Once Cry Once Mentality in Budgeting

 

Buy Once Cry Once Mentality in Budgeting

Most believe that the purpose of budgeting is to make sure you have your finances in order.  You take what you make and from that, you monitor what you spend. Many try to find out how to reduce their expenses by as much as possible. Is that the best way? Some say buying quality over quantity is more cost-effective. The ‘Buy Once, Cry Once’ mentality in budgeting may cost more upfront but can save you a ton in the long run.

What is the ‘Buy Once, Cry Once’ Mentality?

Buy once, Cry once simply means valuing quality over price. It means that you can purchase something one time, and it will withstand the test of time. I understand the importance of cutting corners here and there to save a buck. I used to be that type of person. But the ‘Buy once, Cry once’ mentality is now ingrained in me.

For example, instead of buying a cheap, poorly made winter jacket for $20, look at purchasing something from a quality brand.  Yes, it might cost five times as much, but chances are it will easily last you five times longer. Additionally, you’ll be happier with it in the end.

Another example would be buying an expensive cooler. Many high-end coolers have recently flooded the market, but the appeal in them comes from their longevity. You buy one of these coolers once (cry because of the high price) and you never have to purchase another cooler again.

Buy Once, Cry Once Mentality in Budgeting

So now that we have wrapped our heads around the ‘Buy once, Cry once’ mentality, how does it fit into budgeting?

If you ascribe to this mantra, then you know your budget is going to take quite a hit. After all, paying for quality is not a new idea. In terms of budgeting, you should plan on this expense being a once a year expenditure. For example, if you are buying a new winter coat, allot yourself extra money around the November/December time frame in your budget to accommodate the extra expense.

Think of it this way, a one-time expense for a quality item can easily turn out to be a better value over time than having to budget to purchase that particular item, of lesser quality, on a yearly basis.

How to Get Quality at a Lower Cost

Even though you are going to spend more upfront with this approach, you can still find quality at a decent cost. Just because you want to buy quality products does not mean you have to buy the most expensive option. You can save a lot of money by doing some research before you spend anything. Compare product reviews and shop around for the best deals. Depending on what you are shopping for, you can likely find excellent deals with seasonal offers.

 

Another way you can stretch your budget is to find second-hand items. With online marketplaces and sales becoming more active than ever, there is a good chance you can find used products for a great price. If possible, take some time to explore used options before you blow your monthly budget.

Conclusion

Shifting your mind to purchasing something based on quality over price can reap many financial benefits in the future for oneself.  The ‘Buy once, Cry once’ mentality in budgeting may be hard to grasp at first, but once you do I can assure you that you’ll ultimately be satisfied.  By creating a free monthly budget, you too can be on your way to financial independence.  

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

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Businesses That Can Make Use of a Direct Debit System 

Direct debit is an arrangement to enable the transfer of money between a customer and a business. A direct debit system is an automated way to facilitate the transactions. When a product/service supplier and a customer agree on the amount and terms, the direct debit system automatically deducts the client’s bank account with the agreed amount. The direct debit system is an efficient way to ensure the supplier gets paid the exact amount on the agreed dates. Here are some of the businesses that can greatly benefit from a direct debit system.  Continue reading

Top Tips to Develop the Best Brand Strategy     

Melbourne is the home of some of the largest corporations all over Australia. The capital city of Victoria earned the distinction of being the 15th most competitive financial centre in the world, according to the 2018 Global Financial Centres Index. Diverse businesses also have their headquarters built in the city, including those in the fashion garments, food procession, pharmaceuticals, and petrochemical industries. Because of the thriving economy in Melbourne, plenty of entrepreneurs choose to launch their businesses in the city. To move forward with their businesses, companies need to find the right brand strategy agency in Melbourne to promote their products or services.  Continue reading

The 3 Best Things About a Gym Membership

The 3 Best Things About a Gym Membership

It’s the time of year that the marketing gurus of fitness products and anything related to fitness are broadcasting out their ads. Buy this, buy that, join us, join this. This piece of equipment will help you shed 20 pounds in one month!

While all these ads are out there, I’ll explain to you the 3 best things about a gym membership from a guy who belongs to one and actually goes!

Best Thing About a Gym Membership #1

No investment in bulky equipment! Like most Americans, I don’t have the space in my home to dedicate to a full service gym. Unless you have at least a few hundred square feet to dedicate to an all out gym, chances are your areas are occupied with other items.

Sure bikes like a Peloton or an elliptical might claim to be “space saving”; however, the more equipment you add the more space you need.

Best Thing About a Gym Membership #2

The variety of the workout. This piggybacks off of the first point. The more machines you have and weights you have, the more space you need. A gym membership allows you to do a variety of cardio workouts as well as weight lifts.

Most gyms have a full set of dumbbells, benches and other weighted machines for one to use. My gym also offers cardio options such as stair steppers, rowing machines, ellipticals, bikes, and treadmills. Using the same piece of equipment each time you workout can easily get boring, but the variety of a gym allows you to workout as you please.

Best Thing About a Gym Membership #3

The low cost. Sure there are specialty gyms out there that charge upwards of hundreds of dollars a month, but places such as Planet Fitness start as low as $10 per month. For the gym I use, I pay $15 a month and have 24/7 access. I even worked out at my gym on Christmas Day!

What people want in a gym differs, but you can gain access to a quality gym at a low monthly price. It is often said that the biggest investment you can make is in your health.

Conclusion

We can all dream of fancy home gyms or expensive pieces of equipment, but in reality you don’t need much money or space to have a quality workout. Gyms aren’t for everyone, but for those thinking it could be, the new year might be a good time to try it out.

If reading this blog post makes you want to try your hand at blogging, we have good news for you; you can do exactly that on Saving Advice. Just click here to get started.