Gobbling Up with Thanksgiving Savings

 

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

 

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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

Having a Portable Budget

portable budget

A number of months ago I made a switch.  I used to keep track of my budget using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that was saved to my computer.  It was easy for all intents and purposes except that I could only do updates on the computer I saved my budget on.  So I made a switch.

Now I use Google’s Spreadsheet for all of my budget updating.  Here are 3 reasons why.

  1. I can update my budget from any computer where the internet is available.  No need to ever save it as it is done automatically.  Whether it is my work computer or personal computer it doesn’t matter.
  2. You can make budget updates with your PHONE!  This is probably the best part about using the Google platform for your budget.  Just simply download the app, log in to your Google account and you are ready to make budget updates on the go.
  3. Your budget will never crash.  Computers can crash, but having a budget on Google Spreadsheets makes it virtually uncrashable.  As long as you have access to internet you can have access to your budget and unless you decide to wipe it out (which again can still be undone) it is always accessible.

There are numerous advantages to having a portable budget.  The first key is to have a budget, but if you are going to have one do it right the first time and use Google Spreadsheets.

For more on this topic, consider reading my articles on:

Mid Year Budget Analysis

 

Budget Analysis

We are approaching month 8 of our 12-month calendar.  How does your budget look so far this year?  Are you keeping track of all of your spending?

It is always a good idea to look at your budget a few times a year and see how it is going.  As always you should ensure that you are spending less than you make, and have a portion of your income that you can invest.

Why do you need to analyze your budget throughout the year?  Costs change, income can also possibly change.  My rent just increased for my apartment.  I had to make extra funds available.  If you get a raise or a promotion, your income can increase.  If you have a sales role or job in the oil and gas industry, then your income has most likely decreased.  There are a lot of scenarios.

Spending habits change.  Say when you started the year you assumed you would spend $200 a month in eating out; however, you now realize that the amount is closer to $300 a month.  You need to find out where else you can cut $100 worth of expenses from another category.

Follow these 3 points for your mid-year budget review:

1) Make sure you are making more than you spend and aren’t incurring a deficit every month

2) Analyze each category and make sure that your allotted amount is close to your actual spend amount

3) See if there are any new categories you need to add or one that you might need to delete.  I paid off my student loans, so that category isn’t needed for the remainder of the year.

Follow these steps and find budgeting success.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

Video Series: How to Invest

We’ve heard it time and time again from arguably the best investor of all time.  Warren Buffett has simple advice on how Americans should invest.  You can try to beat the market, and some of your investments might do just that.  Most, probably not.  Heed Warren’s advice.

From one king (of investing) to another king (of the court) the way to build wealth is simple.  Own America, invest in a low-cost index fund, invest regularly, and give it time.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Video Series: Budgeting

Throughout the month of March, I will be highlighting a video series.  I will be including videos from YouTube that highlight different aspects of the financial journey.  As I have discussed in previous posts.  The financial journey to wealth is a long one with various pieces.  Today’s video highlights budgeting.  These videos will be short and to the point.  I hope they provide an alternative method to providing information on the financial journey process.

Enjoy!

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

How to Save a Quick $250 in Your Yearly Budget

 

Save a Quick $250

In theory, budgeting should be pretty simple.  You make money, you spend money.  Sometimes you make more than you spend (Good budgeting!), and other times you spend more than you make (Digging yourself into debt).  Once you have downloaded the free budget spreadsheet: Monthly budget example.

For some budgeting income is pretty simple, it used to be for me.  I was a full-time salaried employee who made the same amount each month.  For others, budgeting income is not all that simple.  If you are in a commissioned sales role, your money could fluctuate every month.  Not having a guaranteed income every month means that you have a further responsibility to budget your income correctly.

Budgeting expenses can be tricky in certain instances as well.  Some expenses will stay the same every month: rent, mortgage, cellphone.  While others will fluctuate depending on the time of year: utilities, gas, travel.  Although these “fluctuating” expenses can be hard to determine, in the big picture of things your monthly expenditures SHOULD (and for your financial sake NEED) to be less than your monthly income generated.

So how did I save a quick $250 a year in the expense portion of my budget?

All I did was… Shop around for automobile insurance.  This doesn’t sound fancy at all, but having an extra $20 a month freed up in my budget was something to get excited about.  Say you’ve been with the same car insurer since you first started driving; chances are you have a discount for that.  However, calling other insurance companies to get free quotes is not only easy, but it is a simple way to cut your expenses.  I was with the same car insurer since I turned 16.  I thought I was getting a great deal all along.  However, when I called a few other insurers, I found a much cheaper rate.  So cheap in fact, that it allowed me to save over $250 a year just on my car insurance (FYI, USAA has the best insurance rates and customer service).  That savings freed up an additional $20 a month in my budgeted expenses.  I could use that extra $20 any way I like.

You can save with almost every expense you have.  Whether it is renegotiating your cable bill, or shopping around for car insurance.  Find one expense category in your budget where you can chop out a little change.  The extra money can be used to pay off debt, go into savings, or fund a weekend getaway.  When it comes to budgeting, your expenses are half of the battle.  Lowering your monthly expenses is a great way to make your income go further.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

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The 5 Keys for a $100 a Month Grocery Bill

$100 a month grocery bill

How do I eat on $100 a month?  I will tell you some tips for how I manage my grocery bill.  This $100 a month category includes all of the food I purchase at grocery stores along with some occasional household supplies, laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc.  I have a separate row in my budget for “eating out”.  I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of snacks throughout the day.  I do not starve myself or eat Ramen and PB & J’s.  I am able to eat healthily and consume items such as chicken, pork, fish and beef.  Lastly, I am only supporting ONE person with this grocery budget, no kids or anyone else.

Here are my 5 Keys for a $100/month grocery bill:

1) Make a list: I make a list with all of the items I need beforehand.  This prevents impulse shopping or the purchasing of WANTS instead of NEEDS.  Always make a list!

2) Only buy items on sale: If chicken is on sale for $1.99/lb, I buy many pounds of it and place it in separate Ziploc bags in the freezer.  Additionally, I buy fruits and veggies that are on sale.  It might be apples and carrots one week, strawberries and cucumbers the next week.

3) Go generic: I will be the first to agree that some generic products do not taste as good as the original (i.e. Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup), but find out what generics are the same for you.  Whether it is nuts, chips or cereal, find out where you can save that extra dollar.

4) More prep time equals more food: I can buy a box of dry brown rice for the same price I can buy four microwaveable pouches.  The difference is that the box of dry rice yields twice as many servings as the “convenient” pouches.

5) Don’t waste food: This is a big one for me.  Whatever I buy, I eat.  I never let food go bad.   Google a recipe for food close to its expiration date or something that didn’t taste as good as you thought.  Any food that you throw away is harmful to your budget.

These are 5 things I do to keep my grocery bill low every month.  See if you are able to incorporate any of these into your shopping trips.  If you have any additional tips, leave them in the comments section below.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise