10 Professional Services That You Can DIY to Save Money

Professional Services That You Can DIY to Save Money

When it comes to household repairs, there are certain things you should always trust to an expert. However, there are easier jobs you can learn to do for yourself. Next time you face these projects, a quick YouTube tutorial or help from a friend could save you hundreds of dollars. Here are 10 professional services that you can DIY to save money and your budget.

10 Professional Services That You Can DIY to Save Money

Household Projects

1. Take care of your own yard work.

Before we moved into our home, I had always rented. So, you can imagine my surprise to learn how much time and money it took to maintain the yard. However, you can save hundreds of dollars each month by mowing, landscaping, or cleaning up your own yard waste.

Professional service fees vary depending on where you live and the size of your lot. Mowing starts from $25-$65, and you will pay more for additional services. Unfortunately, if you are paying for these services weekly or biweekly, they can quickly add up. Although you will have to invest in lawn care equipment upfront, the savings will cover the expense in time.

2. handle simple repairs yourself.

Nowadays, you can find a tutorial for any task on YouTube. With step-by-step videos from professionals, you can learn how to tackle simple repairs and skip labor fees.

For example, there are dozens of free videos that will show you how to prepare your home for seasonal changes. You can learn how to add insulation, seal doors and windows to lower heating costs, or seal your driveway to withstand the elements.

There are also instructional videos if you want to attempt easy plumbing problems. A quick search will produce dozens of people willing to show you how to install your own hardware/faucets, fix leaky toilets, or snake the drains to remove blockages.

Even if you don’t have the equipment, renting it from a home improvement store is still cheaper than paying for professional services.

3. Do your own painting.

Over time, home decor and color schemes show their age. So, painting can breathe new life into a space. But hiring professional painters is another of these professional services that you can DIY to save money.

Professional painters usually charge $20-$50 an hour. An average room will run you a few hundred dollars. But, this figure increases to the thousands when you are painting the exterior of your home.

If you decide to paint it yourself, you will only need to cover the cost of the materials for the job. Although it will take more time, you can get it done for a fraction of the cost.

4. Cancel the Cleaning Services.

My mom ran her own cleaning business for years. And it never ceased to amaze me how much people are willing to pay for these services. While you may hate doing chores, canceling your cleaning services can save you more than $200 a month.

And if you need to cut the budget even further, you can make your own cleaning products for pennies on the dollar. Most cleaning solutions use the same, low-cost ingredients that you can get in any grocery store. Not only will it save you money, but they are also more environmentally friendly than harsh, chemical cleaners.

Vehicle Maintenance

5. Skip the car wash.

I won’t lie to you, I appreciate having a monthly membership to the local car wash, especially during the winter months. But, this is one reoccurring charge that I could eliminate to save more money each month.

During the summer, I will happily wash my own car. However, regular washes become more important in the winter months when salt and other corrosives cling to the paint. If you need to trim the budget, skip the car wash. You can do it at home for free, or head to a self-service car wash to help you save cash.

6. Learn how to do basic vehicle maintenance.

When we first started driving, my dad required all my siblings to learn basic vehicle maintenance. Thanks to him, I have saved thousands of dollars over the years by maintaining my cars and knowing how they work. It has also helped me identify issues before they developed into expensive problems.

To this day, I regularly check the fluids, tires, and air filters to ensure that my car is running at maximum efficiency. These are professional services and simple replacements that you can DIY to save a ton on the cost of labor.

Health and Beauty Services

7. Save on groceries by preparing meals at home.

This DIY service is one of the most common budgeting hacks out there. Yet, people still spend a disproportionate amount of money at restaurants or for delivery services. Sure, it’s easy. But when you have a limited budget, every cent matters.

Preparing meals at home will save you a ton of money each month. And, you can save even more on groceries if you use coupons or join a discount buying club. Not only will this improve your financial health, but it is also an opportunity to focus on your physical health as well.

8. Revamp your beauty routine at home.

Most of us can’t afford regular visits to the spa. Even when you look for services at smaller salons, you are still going to pay around $30-$50 for manicures, pedicures, and skin treatments. And if you are adding hair treatments, these prices will double.

Although these services aren’t necessities, that doesn’t mean you have to stop pampering yourself. Instead, you can learn how to do some of these treatments at home. Not only does it save hundreds of dollars, but it can extend the time between professional services.

If you decide to start doing more of your beauty routine at home, make sure you choose quality products. Or, learn how to make natural treatments that are budget friendly and still give you that same glow.

Financial Services

9. Do your own taxes.

As tax season approaches, many companies and financial institutions have already sent out their documents. Although I have kept meticulous records and collected all the necessary paperwork, I still hate filing my taxes. So, I usually hire someone to prepare them for me.

But if this isn’t in the budget, there is free tax software that can help. You can find the forms online and complete your tax return without the added fees.

10. Save on Management fees with a roboadvisor.

If you take an active role in investing, a roboadvisor could save you a decent chunk of change in management fees. Many brokerages now offer automated roboadvisors to assist you with your investment strategy, sometimes free of charge.

Robo-advisors use complicated algorithms to determine which investments best suit your goals and portfolio. Some of these are fully automated while others utilized human guidance from investment managers. Either way, it provides a lower-cost option to help you save money on service fees.

What are some professional services that you can DIY when living on a budget? Share your thoughts below!

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Things Jobseekers Will Want to Know About HR

Things Jobseekers Will Want to Know About HR

If you are looking for new job opportunities, then you will want to learn everything you can about potential employers. But as you are reading up on the company’s history, you should also familiarize yourself with the current structure, including the Human Resources department. Here are 10 things that jobseekers will want to know about HR before their next interview.

What’s the Role of HR?

The Human Resources department has several different roles. However, most people don’t realize its full reach and participation within the company.

Your initial exposure to HR happens during the interview and hiring process, but they also handle other aspects of employee relations. The department is responsible for managing benefits, compensation, and career development. But, HR also monitors its employees’ behavior, assists with conflict mediation, assesses risks, and oversees legal issues involving the company.

Since it is responsible for sensitive, personal information, everyone in the HR department must use discretion and operate under a certain level of secrecy. HR can’t disclose information without having the proper authorizations. Otherwise, they may have to deal with some severe legal consequences.

What Should Jobseekers Know About HR?

For those who are currently in the job market, Human Resources will present the first opportunity to get your foot in the door. So, you should start by doing your research about the company. Understanding their HR policies is a great place to start. Here are 10 more things jobseekers will want to know about HR.

1. Human Resources is the best source of information for benefits and employee development.

Since they handle your benefits and provide opportunities for career development, HR is one of the best sources of information. It is a valuable resource for new employees who are learning their way around the company.

Additionally, they can tell you everything you need to know about the extent and eligibility requirements of your benefits. So if you have questions, HR is the place to find answers.

2. Not all information is confidential.

Many people assume that HR’s personnel files are strictly confidential. But, this isn’t true in every case. Under certain circumstances, such as when a crime has been committed or there is a harassment complaint, they must break anonymity.

The company is obligated to investigate claims and report them to the appropriate authorities. Although there are legal limits to what HR can share, employee information may be given on a need-to-know basis.

3. Human Resources may require your health information.

One thing all jobseekers should know about HR is what information you are required to share with them. In most states, you do not have to discuss your health information if you are calling in to use a sick day or PTO. As long as it doesn’t inhibit your ability to perform the essential functions of your job, you are not required to share any details of your medical history.

However, there are times when this information will be necessary to accommodate employees. For example, HR will need documentation if you are seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) so they can provide you with what you need. Or, if employees request leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), they must have medical certification of their condition.

4. Confidence is great; a huge ego isn’t.

Having confidence in your skills will get you far in life and the interview process. When you speak with confidence, people tend to trust you more and want to be in business with you. However, an overinflated ego could kill your job prospects. If you really want the job, don’t assume you know everything and show a willingness to learn.

5. Your social media and online presence can impact your employment.

Nowadays, people document nearly every moment of their lives online. While social media connects us, it also blurs the lines between your personal and professional life.  Therefore, you have to be careful what thoughts, opinions, and pictures you share online.

A good rule to live by is if it’s on the internet, then assume that someone at work will see it. Even when things are set to private, there are no guarantees that your posts won’t be seen by the wrong person. And, you don’t want to sabotage a good opportunity by being careless, especially when you are searching for jobs. So, be mindful of your online presence.

6. Things you disclose to other employees can quickly get back to HR.

Becoming friends with your coworkers can greatly increase your overall job satisfaction. But, it can also create more gray areas in what you consider appropriate in the workplace.

So, practice the same caution with people as you do with social media. You must be careful who you trust and what you tell people. Once again, you never know who could overhear or what they will report back to HR. I’m not saying that you should discourage personal relationships with coworkers; just establish boundaries to protect yourself.

7. It’s wise to always conduct yourself in a thoughtful and professional manner.

In response to the previous point, the best policy is to always conduct yourself with respect and a high level of professionalism. This applies both in and outside the workplace. Even when you are off the clock, don’t assume that what you say and do is above reproach. Be mindful of your words and don’t put yourself in situations where your judgment could be compromised.

8. Human Resources can enact disciplinary plans.

There are several reasons for employee disciplinary plans. And, HR may get involved if there are behavioral issues or a need to improve your performance.

If the department is part of the discussion, they will monitor your activities and progress, share their insights with your supervisors, and contribute during the planning process. Don’t forget that you can discuss any questions or details at any point in the conversation as well.

9. They can discuss any details of your termination with potential employers.

On job applications, you will usually see a question about contacting previous employers. This could be smart if you left on good terms and they will speak highly of you. But if you were terminated, you should probably reconsider this.

Another thing jobseekers should know about HR is if they call, former employers can disclose information about their job performance and reason(s) for leaving. Should you have anything that could hurt your chances of employment, it’s probably best to leave it in the past.

10. They can give misleading information and incomplete responses.

As mentioned above, there are certain legal limitations to the information that Human Resources can share. Although “lying” may be a bit strong, HR often misleads people or omits information. They usually do this to protect the company from liability by keeping information secret until they make formal announcements about promotions, layoffs, mergers, new policies, interpersonal issues, etc.

It is important to remember this last point well. Because in almost every instance, the Human Resources department usually believes that it is better to err on the side of caution rather than tell too much and put the company at risk. While they can be a great resource, you should always act in a professional manner when dealing with HR.

What do you think people should know about HR? Share your thoughts below!

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5 Items That Are Much More Expensive to Repair Than Purchase

5 Items That Are Much More Expensive To Repair Than Purchase

Over time, most things that you own will require repairs or replacement. Sometimes it will be more cost-effective to handle the repairs yourself. But in other instances, the time and labor aren’t worth the effort. You may discover that it would actually be cheaper to buy something new. So if you are looking at a difficult DIY project and debating costs, you should know that these 5 items are often more expensive to repair than purchase.

5 Items That Are Much More Expensive to Repair Than Purchase

In the past, it seemed like there were local repair shops that could fix any household appliance at a reasonable cost. While there are still many experienced technicians and repair shops around, the scope and costs of their services have drastically changed since the late 90s.

Not only have parts become more expensive, but manufacturers have made it harder to find replacement parts for cheaper items. Other industry roadblocks, such as trademarking components and only allowing repairs through authorized dealers, have made it more expensive to fix damaged goods. Furthermore, the influx of cheap products from China has also changed consumers’ mentality and influenced the decision to replace things instead of repairing them. All of these factors have led us further down the path toward a disposable society.

But, the budget is an important factor. If you don’t have the skills to repair things yourself, it may leave you with few options. And as many people are finding out, these 5 items can be much more expensive to repair than purchase new.

1. Smartphones

With the increased dependence on the internet and technology, smartphones have become an essential part of our daily lives.  Today’s devices have incredible capabilities and provide an impressive leap in technology, but it also comes at a price.

Long gone are the days when the owner could switch out batteries and replace individual parts on their own. Nowadays, it requires special tools and knowledge to perform simple repairs. And since many of the high-tech components are encased in glass, it makes them extremely fragile and more prone to breaking.

However, the biggest issue is how quickly they devalue. After a few years, the operating systems become slow and the model obsolete. And when Apple limits you to authorized service dealers and doesn’t make parts available to the general public, it drives up the cost of repairs. While repairs make sense for new models, it would be a waste of money on outdated technology. Until more is done to make smartphones more durable and repairable, they will probably be cheaper to replace than fix.

2. Small Appliances

Small appliances like toasters, microwaves, food processors, and vacuum cleaners have made life much more convenient. They save you a significant amount of time by handling mundane chores. However, they can present a huge headache if you need to get them repaired.

Although the parts may be relatively cheap and the repairs simple, the service bill will probably be more than you originally paid for the item. And, the manufacturers don’t always make parts available since they earn more profit when you purchase a new one. Luckily, sites like iFixit.com are working to give consumers more options. It provides schematics for all types of appliances if you want to try to troubleshoot and repair the items yourself before ditching them for something new.

3. Large Appliances

Large appliances have seen many impressive advancements in construction and design over the last 50 years. Many are now fully digital, so they no longer rely on timers and switches. Other changes have made them more eco-friendly so they use water and electricity more efficiently. And, high-end appliances even offer internet-connected touchscreens and integration with your smart home apps.

However, these conveniences come with a trade-off in reliability and durability. Older models were easier to repair since it was simpler to replace mechanical parts than the more modern plastic or nylon pieces. Modern appliances also have expensive electronic parts on the circuit boards which are sensitive to moisture and shock. When they malfunction, it could cost you hundreds of dollars to replace these components.

When you invest in large appliances, you expect them to last for years to come. And, they often do. But, it’s a good idea to look at the warranties and extended service contracts before you buy. However, if you are already experiencing issues at the 5-6 year mark, it may be more worthwhile to purchase new appliances.

4. Cars

Due to the lack of infrastructure and public transport in several major cities, cars are a necessity for many American workers. Fortunately, modern cars offer more comfort and conveniences, but they also come with more costly repairs.

Like large appliances, many components are reliant on computers and electrical systems. Therefore, they have more opportunities for issues to occur. And since each vehicle comes with dealer-specific software, it may prevent those who are mechanically minded from fixing it themselves.

With the increasing inflation, supply chain issues, and lack of available cars, many car owners are finding that repairs on older vehicles may exceed the car’s value. If you are having problems with the engine or transmission, it can easily put you in this predicament. And, it will become even more expensive when the problems compound and several systems need maintenance. At this point, you have to decide if it is better to continue investing in repairs, trade it in, or scrap it altogether and buy a different vehicle.

5. Lawn Care Equipment

Having a large yard is one benefit that new homeowners look forward to. However, few understand the expense of buying and maintaining the equipment required for the job. While many city ordinances require regular upkeep, it can become a major expense.

For those who can’t afford to pay for these services, it will be up to you to do the work. And this means you’ll need to have the right tools for the job. While most gas-powered equipment will be fairly reliable, skimping out on quality may cost you more in the long run, especially when you are facing expensive repairs. Rather than paying to fix low-budget equipment, it will probably be more worthwhile to invest in better quality equipment that will withstand the test of time.

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7 Things to Consider as Newlyweds Purchasing a Home

Bride and groom are sitting inside the retro car

As a newlywed couple, purchasing a home is one of the biggest decisions you will make together. In the U.S. and other Western countries, over 90% of people get married before age 50, which means that many newlyweds will be in the market for a new home. However, the process of buying a home can be overwhelming, especially for first-time homebuyers. Here are some things to consider as you navigate the world of homeownership as a newlywed couple, from money to location to house size.

1. Location

The location of your home is one of the most important things to consider when purchasing a property. Think about your lifestyle and what you need in terms of proximity to work, schools, and amenities. Do you want to live in a bustling city or a quiet suburban area? Are you looking for a home with a big yard or something with a small patio? Consider what you are looking for in a neighborhood and what you are willing to compromise on.

2. Size

The size of the home is also an important consideration. As a newlywed couple, you may be starting a family soon and will want to make sure that you have enough space for your growing family. On the other hand, you may be more interested in a smaller, more manageable home that is easy to maintain. Consider how much space you need and how much you can afford.

3. Age and Condition

When purchasing a home, it’s also important to consider the age and condition of the property. An older home may have more character, but it may also come with more repairs and maintenance issues. A newer home may be in better condition but may also be more expensive. Consider what you are willing to deal with in terms of repairs and maintenance and choose a home that best fits your needs.

4. Roof

The roof is one of the most important parts of a home, and it’s important to consider the condition of the roof when purchasing a property.  90% of asphalt roofs are installed with fiberglass shingles, which have a lifespan of 20-30 years. If the home you are interested in has an older roof, you may need to budget for a new one soon. Be sure to have a professional inspect the roof before you close on the home.

5. Kitchen

The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home and is one of the most important rooms to consider when purchasing a property. Kitchen remodeling has increased by 23% in the last year, which means that many homeowners are investing in their kitchens. Consider the layout and condition of the kitchen and think about how you would like to use the space. If the kitchen needs a lot of work, you may need to budget for a remodel.

6. Potential for Future Expansions

As a newlywed couple, you may be starting a family soon and will want to make sure that you have enough space for your growing family. Consider the potential for future expansions when purchasing a home. Look for a home that has a lot of potential for expansion such as a large lot or a home that is built on a crawl space or a basement.

7. Finances

Finances are one of the most important things to consider when purchasing a home. Be sure to have a budget in place and make sure that you can afford the home that you are interested in. Be sure to factor in things like property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs. It’s also important to consider the long-term financial implications of purchasing a home, such as the potential for appreciation in value over time.

In conclusion, purchasing a home as a newlywed couple is a big decision that requires careful thinking. Be sure to weigh all your options before you finalize your purchase. Use these tips to help you pick the best home for you!

7 Signs That You Aren’t Saving Enough For Retirement

Signs That You Aren't Saving Enough for Retirement

Most people plan to retire in their early to mid-60s. However, that won’t be an option for everyone, especially if you think that your Social Security benefits will not be enough to support you. Financial planning must begin early in your adult life. Most advisors agree that you will need about 70-80% of your current income to sustain your lifestyle. So, are you on track to reach your goals and retire by 65? If you recognize any of these red flags, then your answer is probably a “no.” For those who see any of these 7 signs that you aren’t saving enough for retirement, then it’s time to make some changes.

7 Signs That You Aren’t Saving Enough for Retirement

1. You don’t live below your means.

The first rule of budgeting that every adult must learn is how to live below your means. Simple math will show you that it isn’t sustainable to consistently spend more than you earn. If you want to remain financially independent, you have to know how to make a budget, but also have enough discipline to stick to it.

If you frequently overspend, then you are undercutting your long-term goals and future stability. Retirement planning requires careful money management and regular contributions to your dedicated accounts. When you outspend your budget every month, it becomes incredibly challenging to save anything. In the worst-case scenario, you won’t have anything saved, which means you won’t be able to afford to retire. That’s why it is so important to learn this lesson early and ensure that you have enough to live well in retirement.

2. You continue to accrue debt.

Although this goes hand in hand with the first point, it is so detrimental that it deserves its own recognition as one of the worst signs that you aren’t saving enough for retirement.

At some point in our lives, nearly everyone will carry some amount of debt. But retirement planning also requires you to eliminate it before you are living on a fixed income. If you are already struggling to cover your expenses while you are earning a salary, imagine how much more difficult it will be when you have to rely on your benefits and retirement accounts.

Sadly, many people who continue to accrue debt after they retire quickly burn through their retirement savings. If you still have debt in your later years, retiring may not be an option for you.

3. You don’t have a retirement account.

This one should seem obvious, but you should have dedicated retirement accounts to help you with your financial planning. There are several different types of accounts that provide different contribution thresholds and tax benefits for you.

Most people have a combination of IRAs, 401(k)s, life insurance, and other investment vehicles in their portfolio. But your ultimate goals will dictate how much you should save and which ones are right for you. You will need to discuss it with your financial advisor to determine which type of accounts are best suited to your long-term goals.

4. You aren’t maxing out your contributions.

One piece of advice I got as a young investor was to max out the accounts with contribution limits. This is because they offer the greatest tax advantages and return on your investment. Therefore, maximizing your contributions is a good habit to get into.

While it may not be possible every year, hitting these thresholds will optimize your savings plan. And, it will help you get the most from your hard-earned money. For 2022, you can contribute a maximum of $6,000 to your Roth IRA and a total of $20,500 between your 401(k)s. This amount increases to $6,500 and $27,000 for those over 50 who are eligible for “catch-up” contributions. But, these limits will increase in 2023 to help compensate for the increased inflation rates to help you save even more.

5. You don’t take advantage of employer retirement benefits.

You will rarely find employers who offer pension plans as part of their retirement package anymore. Instead, they opt for 401(k)s and contribution matching plans. If your employer offers this and you aren’t taking advantage of it, then you are leaving free money on the table. Those who are lucky enough to have this option need to take advantage of it.

And the best part is that you don’t need a ton of money to get started. Even small, consistent contributions can grow into a large sum if your employer is matching a percentage. And with compounding interest, it can grow into a substantial sum over time.

6. You aren’t investing at all.

One of the most significant signs that you aren’t saving enough for retirement is that you are not investing. It can be a difficult decision to place retirement planning before your immediate financial needs. But, you have to start at some point. It is impossible to save enough of your salary to fund your retirement.

The longer you put it off, the harder it will be to reach your retirement savings goals. As previously mentioned, you don’t need a huge sum of money to get started. However, the sooner you begin investing, the better off you will be when you finally decide to retire.

7. You don’t evaluate or adjust your money management strategies.

Change is a natural part of life. As we grow, we change as people, and our financial situations change right along with us. So, it’s important to revisit your money management strategies after reaching important milestones or experiencing major life changes.

You have to adapt and adjust to your new circumstances. But, it can be overwhelming when faced with these monumental decisions. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Find a financial advisor you can trust to guide you through these important decisions and help you build a solid foundation for your future.

What do you think are the most significant warning signs that you aren’t saving enough for retirement? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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7 Bad Financial Habits You Need to Forget this 2023

Bad Financial Habits You Need To Forget This 2023

With the new year upon us, it’s normal to reflect on the positive changes that we want to make in our lives. So when January 1st arrives, many people resolve to break their bad habits and establish good ones. Since many people struggle with managing their finances, it’s no surprise that many of these changes revolve around regaining control and building a more secure future. If you are looking to improve your money management skills or finally get out of debt, these are 7 bad financial habits you need to forget this 2023.

7 Bad Financial Habits You Need to Forget in 2023

1. Overspending

Your spending habits will set the tone for your lifestyle. If you are spending more than you bring in every month, you cannot establish sustainable habits. Overspending will undermine all your other financial goals. While splurging once in a while isn’t a crime, consistently overspending means that you are setting yourself up for failure.

And if you are prone to impulse shopping, this can be even more damaging. Blowing every penny you earn on things that provide instant gratification prevents any chance of improving your financial situation. Therefore, you must learn to live below your means if you ever hope to get out of debt or reach your savings goals.

2. Overindulging in Your Vices

Many people find comfort and relief through behaviors that aren’t good for their physical and financial health. For example, you may enjoy smoking, drinking, and fast food as a way of dealing with the stresses of everyday life. But, do you know how much it is costing you each month?

The average smoker spends about $1,000 a year and those who eat out regularly can spend the same amount within a month. While these behaviors may be okay in moderation, regular indulgence in these activities can hit your wallet hard. If your vices make it impossible to stick to your budget, then it may be time to kick these bad habits for good.

3. Always Paying with Credit Cards

If you have ever tried to get a loan or line of credit, then you know it’s impossible to obtain anything without a credit history. And credit cards are an important part of establishing that. However, you shouldn’t rely on them to get by from month to month.

If you are unable to pay off your monthly balances, the high-interest rates can quickly bury you in debt, especially if you are only making minimum payments. Those who are already struggling to pay down their debt don’t need this added burden. This is why many financial advisors will tell you to reduce your dependency on them. Monitoring your spending and using cash will make it easy to track your finances.

4. Ignoring Your Financial Situation

As hard as it may be to face the truth, you can’t ignore the reality of your financial situation. Burying your head in the sand won’t make your problems go away, On the contrary, it usually makes them worse. Small issues can quickly snowball into an avalanche of problems.

Therefore, you need to be honest with yourself about your financial habits. Start by assessing your situation to see where you are at. Then, make a plan to track your expenses, monitor your accounts, and regularly check your credit report. Once you know where you stand, you can take steps to get closer to where you want to be.

5. Not Taking Advantage of Employer-Sponsored Retirement Accounts

When you are living paycheck to paycheck, investing in your retirement may not seem as important as keeping the lights on or putting food on the table. While your immediate needs supersede future ones, you have to take action toward future financial security.

An easy way to get started is through employer-sponsored retirement accounts. And the best part is that you don’t need a lot to get started. Even small, regular contributions can grow into a sizeable nest egg over time thanks to compounding interest. If you aren’t taking advantage of your employer matching your contributions, then you are leaving free money on the table.

6. Not Tracking Your Invisible Expenses

Creating a budget is the first step in financial management. However, you have to be sure it is an accurate depiction of your finances.

Everyone knows that you must account for major living expenses like food and housing in your budget. However, many people overlook the “invisible” expenses that are tacked on to your bills. This could be anything from higher interest rates on your loans to increased premiums to hidden fees for services. Things that are easily overlooked and not factored into the final budget can tip the scales and put your finances in the red.

7. Procrastination

Procrastination is one of my worst financial habits. I often say that I will take action to get back on track, but then never follow through to make impactful changes. Without a doubt, it has hindered many aspects of my life.

However, if you don’t break this habit, it can also keep you from reaching financial freedom. This nasty habit encompasses many negative financial behaviors such as delay in creating a budget, not building an emergency fund, waiting to invest, continuing to pay for unused services, or even paying bills late and accruing unnecessary fees. If you are guilty of this as well, perhaps procrastination is one of the bad financial habits you need to forget this 2023.

Breaking the Habits

Like many things in life, breaking bad habits is much easier said than done, especially when they are deeply ingrained behaviors. But if you are serious about changing your finances in the new year, then you need to commit to taking action. You must first acknowledge your financial shortcomings and then find a path forward. But, don’t beat yourself up if you experience setbacks along the way. As long as you are putting in the effort and making progress, you will eventually reach your goals.

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Which States Are Americans Fleeing to Save Money?

The 5 States Americans Are Fleeing to Save Money

People move for many reasons: family, job opportunities, tax advantages, better climate…the list goes on. But, as the economic conditions persist and inflation remains high, the cost of living is becoming a more popular reason for people to move. Unfortunately, life in major metropolitan areas has become too expensive for some. Here are 5 states Americans are fleeing to save money and find a better quality of life for their budget.

The Cost of Living Index

Every year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics collects data from each state to compare the cost of living across the country. It then ranks each state based on the cost of living, or the bare minimum you need to afford basic living expenses such as housing, transportation, healthcare, utilities, and groceries.

As a means of measurement, it then created the cost of living index which provides a standard comparison from state to state. A score of 100 represents the national average. Currently, the average American household spends $5,111 per month on living expenses, or $61, 334 per year. A score below 100 means the cost of living is below average. Meanwhile, states with scores over 100 indicate that the cost of living is higher than the national average.

5 States Americans Are Fleeing to Save Money

So, what are the most expensive places to live? And, which states are Americans fleeing to save money?

1. New York

The Empire State claims the top spot for several reasons. First and foremost, a recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that New York had the single greatest population loss in the country. From 2020 to 2021, 1.58% of New Yorkers left the state. Although it was higher than in previous years, it has been a continuous trend.

Secondly, it has one of the highest cost of living index scores at 148.2. Housing expenses are 2.3 times more expensive than the national average, with the average single-family home valued at $373,880. Meanwhile, the average rent is over $1,700 for a two-bedroom apartment here. And, these averages are much higher if you are only looking at the costs to live in New York City. Those who live in the city have a median rental rate of $5,878 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.

Lastly, people here will find it harder to save and pay down debt. The living wage in New York is $110,225, but the average income is only $111,054. This leaves many living paycheck to paycheck, and looking to New Jersey for financial relief.

2. Hawaii

Hawaii has long claimed the title of the most expensive state. It has an index score of 193.3, reflecting that the cost of living here is nearly double the national average. Furthermore, the cost of housing is triple the national average, with the median value of a single-family home of $730,511. Even renting is expensive at $1,651 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. And since many items have to be shipped to the islands, groceries also cost about 50% more as well.

However, it still has one of the lowest poverty rates. Living wages are estimated to be $107,702 per year while the average income for a family of four is slightly higher at $118,223. Yet according to the analysis, Hawaii still experienced a population loss of -0.71% in 2021 alone, more than double previous years. This migration likely shows those who moved, seeking some relief from the price of living in paradise.

3. California

Although the cost of living here has always been notoriously high, inflation has made it even more expensive to live in the Sunshine State. The current index score is 142.2, over 40% more than the national average. The price of gas makes transportation costs here the second-highest in the country. And, housing expenses are more than twice the national average. The median value of a single-family home is $683,996 while the average rent runs about $1,600 per month. But, you can expect it is much higher in larger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

With these prices and current wages, it’s hard to keep up with the cost of living. The current living wage is set at $110,255, but the median income is only $105,232. When you look at these figures, you can understand how it has the highest rate of homelessness in the country.

Life in California has become unsustainable for so many, that they have decided to seek greener pastures elsewhere. During the span of the study, California saw a population loss of -0.66%. And, this figure will likely increase as economic conditions persist.

4. Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts takes the fourth spot on our list of states that Americans are fleeing to save money. An index score of 135 makes it the fourth most expensive state to live in. However, it should be noted that the cost of living in Boston is much higher than in other areas of the state.

On average, residents of Massachusetts pay 77% more than the national average for housing. The average single-family home runs $518,203 and the median rent is about $1,360 a month. But, you will need triple this figure if you are looking in Boston. People in the Bay States also pay nearly 20% more for healthcare and groceries here.

However, it also has the highest household income in the nation at $140,309 while living wages are set at $121,414. But a population loss of -0.53% by 2021 proves that wages alone are not enough to keep people from leaving.

5. Illinois

Looking at the consumer price index and an index score of 94.3, Illinois may seem out of place on the list. However, it has one of the highest population losses with -0.89% growth from 2020 to 2021. This is the eighth consecutive year with 69% of all moves going out of state.

So, why are so many people leaving? The analysts at Kiplinger believe it is because Illinois is the least tax-friendly state for the middle class, with higher than average income, property, and sales taxes.

However, it is also important to point out that the figures for Chicago are drastically different from the rest of the state. And with almost 22% of the state’s population, it’s worth looking at Chicago on its own. The cost of living in the city is 33% higher when compared to the rest of the state and 25% higher than the national average. In this context, it makes more sense. Between the high cost of living and bitter winter weather, it’s no wonder people are looking for milder conditions.

Final Thoughts

Although many Americans are fleeing these states to save money, we can’t assume that the only reasons are financial. However, one thing is for certain; people are moving in search of a lower cost of living and a better quality of life.

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5 Hottest Collectibles to Invest in 2023

 

The 5 Hottest Collectibles to Invest in 2023

As the economy continues to struggle and inflation remains high, people are looking for additional ways to make money. Since many people are looking at alternative assets, collectibles have become popular for those who want options outside the stock market. Some have even made a career of buying and reselling collectibles for profit. So if you are thinking about adding this asset to your portfolio, experts predict that these will be the 5 hottest collectibles to invest in 2023.

Learning the Basics of Collectibles

The collectibles market is notoriously fickle. Items that are popular one year may completely disappear the next. You will see many people waste thousands of dollars on fads that never appreciate in value. The truth is that it takes time, patience, and a good eye to build up a valuable collection. It could take decades for certain items to even become valuable. So, you should carefully consider if it is the right type of investment for you.

If you decide to invest, the next step is to choose your niche and learn everything you can. You’ll need to know the rarest collectibles and how to identify them. Furthermore, you will need to be able to gauge the condition of the items. Since rarity and condition have the greatest impact on an item’s value, you will need to teach yourself how to recognize it.

Lastly, you’ll also need to be prepared to properly store your collectibles. Since they won’t improve with age, you need to take precautions to prevent damage or deterioration. Depending on what you collect, this could be an investment in itself. Even if you bought the items in pristine condition, they will be worth nothing if you don’t care for them.

5 Hottest Collectibles to Invest in 2023

For those who want to add alternative assets to their portfolio, collectibles can be a great way to preserve and pass on wealth. Based on expert opinions and current trends, these are 5 of the hottest collectibles to invest in 2023.

1. Toys

The collectible toys industry is still booming. In 2021, it was valued at $12.5 billion. And, it shows no signs of slowing down. On the contrary, it seems more adults are taking an interest every year.

People spend hundreds of dollars on Barbies, Hot Wheels, Legos, dolls, figurines, trading cards, and toys affiliated with popular movies from their childhood. Some Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Marvel memorabilia even sell for five and six figures at auction. So, toys would be a solid choice of collectible to invest in.

Even if you don’t have the capital to buy valuable items, you may discover hidden treasures among your childhood toys. Or, you can try to buy items that will appreciate in time. Franchises like Disney have always had a strong market. So, collectibles from new movies will probably also hold their value.

2. Sports Memorabilia

Diehard fans are always willing to spend top dollar to own a piece of their team’s history. And thanks to e-commerce, you have a much wider market. Not only can collectors find items from around the world, but sellers can also access global communities.

And there is a huge variety of branded items that fetch a good price. Old ticket stubs, newspapers, magazines, trading cards, autographed pictures, uniforms, equipment, and even the original player’s contracts have come up for auction.

However, you must be cautious with the increased number of forgeries. These fakes have undermined the entire market. Always look for authentication. And if you collected an item yourself, get photo evidence whenever possible.

3. Tech and Electronics

It should come as no surprise that there is a huge market for vintage electronics. Just as adults have nostalgia for their favorite childhood toys, movies, and sports teams, many also have strong attachments to certain electronic products. For years, people have geeked out over antique computers and systems that represented pivotal changes in the industry.

So, many people choose to turn their passion into a valuable collection. We are at a point where many items are still fairly common, but that may change in the near future. If you want to look for these collector’s items, seek out things that are the first of their kind, new in box (NIB), and in mint condition. A 1st generation Apple iPod recently went for $23k at auction. So, who knows what an original iPhone, iPad, or Alexa device will bring down the road?

4. Work from Emerging Photographers

Photography is one category in which many collectors have had success in recent years. Several lucky people have stumbled across caches and prints from the early work of respected artists. Back in 2007, someone discovered negatives from Vivian Maier. Since then, they have made a documentary and books of her work. Now, her prints start at $4,000 each.

Another example is the rare photos from Frank Worth. He had some fantastic shots on old Hollywood sets which started appearing on the market in the last decade. One photo of James Dean sold for around $7,200.

If you have an interest in photography, visit local galleries to learn about emerging artists so you know whose work to watch for. And even if you don’t strike it rich, you can still enjoy beautiful art.

5. First Editions of Best Sellers

Many people choose to invest in literature after falling in love with a particular book, author, or series as a child. While many classics are sold for a small profit, it’s the first editions that hold the most value. After publishers print a new book, they release a small number of copies to gauge popularity. Only a few hundred copies of these first editions were released, making them more valuable.

Over time, a book’s value tends to be more linear in appreciation. And based on current collections, a rare book will typically double in value in 7 years. While most of us will never be able to afford any of the most valuable books and manuscripts, you can start building your own collection. Start by finding copies of new releases and put them away somewhere for safekeeping.

Key Considerations Before Investing in Collectibles

It’s true that collectibles can bring in much more money than their original value. But, it’s not as easy as people think to find rare and valuable items. And, there are no guarantees that your investment will pay off.

If you decide to pursue it as an investment, do your research and choose something that you are familiar with. As Warren Buffett said, never invest in a business you don’t understand.

However, the best advice is to discuss it with your financial advisor before you buy anything. You may discover that collectibles are not the best investment for your financial goals.

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7 Things That Are Disappearing With the Pandemic

Things That Are Disappearing During the Pandemic

Many things have changed since the early days when Covid-19 first started to spread. And while more people are vaccinated now and life is returning to some sense of normalcy, no one can deny that certain things have permanently changed. For example, the way we view public health, how we communicate, and how the workforce is organized will never be the same. Looking back over the last few years, here are 7 things that are disappearing with the pandemic.

7 Things That Are Disappearing with the Pandemic

Although many things have changed, here are a few things that have affected nearly everyone since Covid-19 became a household concern.

1. Handshakes

When doctors and national agencies first realized we were in the midst of a pandemic, health experts recommended precautions to protect people from the virus. In addition to handwashing and masks, one of the most important was to minimize person-to-person contact.

Since Covid-19 is highly contagious, it makes sense that people would eliminate handshakes to reduce their risk of contracting it. However, people got inventive. Some started using other gestures to greet one another and seal business deals. Although it is a culturally entrenched behavior, handshakes may be phasing out with new generations who have been taught the danger of passing contagions through physical contact.

2. Offices

As the world went into lockdown, businesses had to adjust to keep their employees safe and their operations running. Therefore, many people were allowed to work remotely. Today, some companies have tried forcing employees back into the office. But, people seem to enjoy working from home. Not having to commute allows them more time with family and a better work-life balance.

Companies are also seeing the benefits. Since they no longer have to lease offices or pay utilities on large, commercial spaces, it drastically reduces their operating costs. Although some companies are resisting the transition, others have gone fully remote. If more corporations realize the financial advantages, Covid-19 may trigger the end of traditional office culture.

3. Local Shops and Restaurants

The service and retail industries were two of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Many locally owned shops and businesses suffered huge losses when the government implemented new public health standards for social distancing. But reducing staff and hours of operation wasn’t enough for some to survive.

After several months, smaller stores and restaurants were unable to pay their staff and continue covering the costs to do business. Unfortunately, they couldn’t compete with national retailers. So, many smaller shops had to permanently close their doors.

4. Movie Theaters

As a teenager, I spent every Friday night at the movies with my friends. And, the location changed every week since we had several different theaters to choose from around the city. Even as streaming services became more popular, many movie theaters were still thriving before the pandemic.

However, now a good number of them are scrambling to stay out of the red. Although many theaters have changed ownership or branding, you will still be able to find places to catch the latest flicks. But, it seems like they are fading away and may never reclaim the prominence they once had.

5. 24-Hour Walmarts

When it first entered the scene, this giant in the retail world set itself apart as the store that was always open. You could find anything you needed at Walmart, day or night. However, they announced that they would reduce their store hours when the pandemic hit in 2020.

Nowadays, stores no longer remain open overnight or maintain the same hours of operation during holidays. Although the policy changed two years later, it is still in place. Many hopeful shoppers have shared rumors that Walmart would return to their former 24-hour schedules. But, the Director of Walmart Press Office Corporate Communications confirmed there are no plans to make this happen. So, it seems the days of 24-hour Walmarts are already fading into our collective memory.

6. Cash

The decreased circulation of cash is not a new concern. In recent years, some governments have even tried to eliminate cash currency and have discussed ideas to go fully digital.

Although it may seem like a plot from a science fiction movie, digital payments have become more popular and e-commerce has been booming long before the pandemic began. In fact, it spurred their development and acceptance in the marketplace. And at the rate people are utilizing them, digital payments may replace cash transactions entirely someday.

In 2017, only 30% of all transactions were paid in cash. However, this has decreased even more thanks to Covid-19. With the fear of spreading germs through paper money and coins, even fewer use cash today. If people continue to choose alternative forms of payment, cash may not be the only currency disappearing with the pandemic.

7. Privacy

One of the greatest losses over the last few years has been our personal privacy. If you have a smartphone or use the internet, you should assume that you have no privacy, and you need to act accordingly.

Nowadays, hackers and businesses alike can track every keystroke and click you make. Some use it to steal your information while others analyze your web activity for marketing purposes. However, even your personal devices track your movement with sensors and GPS data. And, if you use a smartwatch, they can even access information about your personal health

While you should always take precautions to protect your data, it is nearly impossible to operate in modern society without the internet. That is, unless you plan to live off the grid. So unless you can rely on your survival skills, personal privacy may be a thing of the past.

Keep in mind this list is not intended to be all-inclusive since many things are disappearing with the pandemic. What do you think has changed most since the pandemic began? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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How to Strengthen Your Four Walls of Budgeting

How to Strengthen Your Four Walls of Budgeting

When you are in debt, it may feel like you are digging yourself deeper with every dollar you spend. And as the bills start mounting and collection agencies are pressuring you to pay, it’s easy to panic and forget your priorities. However, knowing the four walls of budgeting can help remind you what is most important in your budget. So if you are having a hard time making ends meet, here are a few ways you can strengthen your four walls of budgeting and get closer to your financial goals.

What Are the Four Walls of Budgeting?

Dave Ramsay describes the four walls of budgeting as the essential things in your budget that you need to survive. Like the four walls of your home, these four categories represent the things you need to sustain the bare minimum standards of living.

But, the amount you spend and the definition of each wall will vary from person to person. So you have to identify them within your own budget. However, here is a basic guideline of what each wall represents.

1. Food

Humans are animals, and our bodies need fuel to function. This category should include all the food with the essential nutrition that your body needs. When tallying these expenses, you should include all your expenses for food.

2. Shelter

The second wall of budgeting deals with our basic need for shelter. This category covers all the expenses to keep the roof over your head and the lights on. For most of us, this will incorporate the largest portion of the budget.

The general guideline suggests that 30% of your income pays for housing. In addition to your monthly mortgage or rent payment, there are also property taxes, utilities, maintenance, and repairs and repair costs to consider as well.

3. Clothing

The third wall represents the basic clothing items you need in your daily life. This should account for formal and business attire at work, footwear, winter apparel, undergarments, and any other clothing items you wear from day to day.

4. Transportation

The final wall of budgeting has a great deal of variation depending on where you live. Transportation covers the amount you need to get from Point A to Point B. In some places, there is no other option than to own a vehicle. However, this comes with significant costs such as registration, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and gas.

Those who live in urban areas with modern public transit have the luxury of more options to fit the budget. Most cities have buses, trains,  or subway systems that offer monthly passes for minimal fees. Some people may even be able to ride a bike or walk to save even more.

How Do You Strengthen Your Four Walls of Budgeting?

If you want to strengthen your four walls of budgeting, you have two options: earn more income or decrease your spending. While the answer is cut-and-dried, the way to achieve it is more fluid.

Bring in More Income

The easiest way to strengthen your four walls of budgeting is by bringing in more income. These are the easiest ways to make that happen.

    • Ask for a raise. If you had a good performance this year, then asking for a raise may be well received. Try to time your request after a big win or the completion of a successful project. And, you will probably have a better chance to get it if you do it before they determine the annual budget.
    • Go for a promotion. Another option is to go for a higher-paying position. So, if you are willing to take on more responsibility, then why not get paid to do it? Start looking for positions within your company to advance your career and your savings goals.
    • Look for a second job or side hustle. Many people look for ways to bring in extra cash around the holidays You could bring in more income with seasonal work, a second job, or starting a side hustle in your spare time.
    • Find ways to generate passive income. My personal choice is to put your money to work for you. Look for investments that generate passive income to support your budget.

Reduce Your Expenses

For those who have no way of earning more money, the only option is to reduce your spending. If trimming the budget is the only way to strengthen your walls, here are a few ways that have worked for me, even on a bare-bones budget.

    • Food – The best way to reduce your food bill is to stop dining out and prepare you food at home. You can also use coupons, buy off-brand items, buy in bulk, and save more with discount shopping clubs.
    • Shelter – If the timing is right, refinancing your mortgage could save you on interest. However, you can also save money by finding cheaper accommodations or downsizing. Another idea is to look for a roommate or renter to split expenses if space allows.
    • Clothing – Since I live in athletic wear, my clothing costs are minimal. I avoid designer brands and prefer to items second-hand to save money.
    • Transportation – Choosing to sell a car or trade it in for one with a lower monthly payment is a tough decision. There are tons of ways to save on gas and car insurance, but it is a major expense. If you have to eliminate it completely public transportation, riding a bike, or walking when possible could save your budget.

Beyond the Four Walls

The four walls are a great starting point for anyone learning to live on a limited budget. However, there are other essential costs that you will need to tailor to your situation. For example, those of us who work from home must have reliable internet and cell phone service. Those with children will need childcare. And, all of us will require healthcare services at some point. Although you may be able to live without them temporarily, it’s not a long-term solution.

There is no single answer for strengthening your four walls of budgeting. Ultimately, it comes down to whatever method will help you stick to your budget. You may have to try several different approached before you find one that sticks. But, if you have determination and self-discipline, you can strengthen your walls and build a solid foundation for your future.

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