November 7th, 2013 by sophie
We all have bad habits, some more damaging than others. But bad money habits can have serious consequences for your daily life – and your financial future. If you’re guilty of the following, consider taking steps to make a positive change.
• Not saving for emergencies. Unexpected emergencies can wreak havoc on your finances if you’re not prepared. Your car could break down, you could chip a tooth on that piece of Halloween candy you probably shouldn’t have had – anything can happen. So, it’s essential to set aside some money each month should something happen. For more information on starting an emergency fund, click here.
• Spending blindly. Not having a budget is one of the worst financial mistakes you could make. Small purchases can really add up and if you don’t keep close tabs on your spending, you could end up with no money left for groceries or a huge pile of debt. For help creating a budget, check out these budgeting calculators.
• Ignoring bills. Stuffing bills in a drawer or never opening them in the first place won’t make them go away. You still need to pay them – and if you don’t, you could owe even more money in interest. One way to change this behavior is setting up automatic bill payment.
• Not contributing to a 401(k). If you’re young, retirement might seem a lifetime away. But there are many advantages of starting a 401(k) – setting aside money starting now could translate to tens of thousands of dollars extra down the road. Your future retired self will thank you.
• Maxing out credit cards. When used correctly, credit cards are an effective and useful tool to help you make big purchases and build a good credit history. But if you rack up more charges than you can pay off every month, you could do some serious damage to your credit score.
November 1st, 2013 by sophie
Holiday costs can quickly add up, with family feasts, gifts, seasonal décor and more. Wouldn’t it be nice to simply enjoy the holidays without over stretching your budget? Most financial planning starts with a budget, and the holidays are no different. But have you considered all potential costs? Follow the tips below for financially stress-free holiday season.
• Meals. Is it just you and a few friends or family this Thanksgiving? Or are you helping cook for your family of 20? Unsurprisingly, the costs would vary tremendously based on your situation. Look at recipes and see how many ingredients you have to buy, already have or can enlist family or friends to contribute. Also consider making hosting a big feast potluck-style – it’s a great way for everyone to pitch in and take the load off one person.
• Decorations. Store-bought decorations can be pricey – and think about it, you only use them once a year. Get creative and make festive décor like table centerpieces and name place cards out of construction paper, pumpkins and colorful fruit.
• Travel. Are you traveling over the hills and far away to Grandmother’s house? If you’re flying, consider landing in a more remote airport and then driving; airfares tend to be less expensive. Don’t forget to account for equipment rentals (like skis), snacks and unanticipated events. To calculate your expenses, use this Travel Budgeting online calculator.
• Dining out? If you are not up for cooking a big meal and going out for Thanksgiving, look for special offers from local restaurants. You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a fun night out with friends and family.
For a complete budgeting guide for the holidays, check out this Entertainment Planner.
October 24th, 2013 by sophie
What’s stressful, overwhelming and extraordinarily high in America? The answer is: debt. We’ve provided some tips to get out of debt (for another resource, visit Getting Out of Debt), but what else do you need to achieve such a goal? As you start to take charge of your debt, consider the following mental approaches that could significantly improve your chances of success.
• Patience. You can’t eliminate debt overnight. Like most goals in life, you have to take it one step at a time. While it can be easy to give up when you don’t see that number rapidly dwindling down like a countdown on fast-forward, you must be patient. You’ll get there eventually.
• Perseverance. Getting out of debt isn’t easy. It requires diligence and determination, keeping your eyes on the prize at all times. Be resolute in your decision to change your habits and get on the right track. If you’re buried in bills and are having trouble remembering the bigger picture, there’s no shame in making yourself a large sign to remind yourself of your goal.
• Planning. Make a budget to organize your finances and figure out how much debt you can afford to pay off each month.
The above alone cannot get you out of debt, but it can help. Be patient. Persevere. Stay positive. Being debt-free is worth it.
October 17th, 2013 by sophie
October is a month of pumpkins, candy and goblins – and it’s a time when “Trick-or-Treaters” of all ages open their wallets to spend. But Halloween purchases can really add up. Don’t let the first holiday of the season bust your budget. Read on to discover tips to reduce those tricky costs.
• Treat bags. Stores stock shelves with plastic baskets shaped like pumpkins and other such fancy candy carriers. But going back to the traditional pillowcase treat bag offers an opportunity to save money – and you might even find it will hold more candy than a store-bought basket.
• Candy. In the case of Halloween candy, waiting until the last minute just might work in your favor. Stores often lower prices to rid their shelves of Halloween candy early to make room for Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise. Check your local newspaper for coupons or deals and don’t be too pick in your selection – avoid the supersize and grab whatever’s cheapest.
• Entertaining. Plan ahead! Make a budget and stick to it, reuse decorations and work together. Potlucks are a great way for everyone to chip in. After your party, shop clearance sales for next year’s décor.
• Costumes. Seasonal Halloween stores can be tempting, but expensive. Instead, be thrifty. Swap with friends, create what you can out of what you already have or jump online to eBay or Amazon.
You don’t need to spend tons of money to celebrate Halloween. Remember – the holiday season hasn’t even begun. Get creative and save your money.
For more Halloween budgeting tips, click here. Also, use this entertainment calculator to plan your holiday spending.