The Cost of Vice

Successful people don’t smoke. It may feel judgmental, but it’s true. Look at the great minds and moneymakers in our world and you’ll rarely see a cigarette dangling from their fingertips. The same can be said of alcohol and other vices. Vices are an expensive money pit that drains your time, resources and often, your financial and career mobility. Aside from the long-term health impact, letting go of your vices can be the biggest investment you can make in yourself.

 

Saving by Quitting

If you’re a pack-a-day smoker, you could save up to $4,000 a year by quitting now. Cigarette prices have risen steadily for decades and they’ll keep getting more expensive. Investing that $4,000 a year into your retirement could net you an extra $100,000 to live off of. If you drink about a 12-pack of beer at home per week, you could save over $1000 a year. If you go out every weekend, cutting out one- two weekends a month can save you thousands too. You don’t have to become a teetotaler to save big, just cut back.

 

Career Impact

Hangovers have a marked impact on productivity and it can show on your yearly review. If you’re coming in to work hungover, no matter how hard you try to mask it, your boss and coworkers will notice. They may not comment on it, but you’re not as sneaky as you think you are. Your habits can cost you promotions and other opportunities. The same goes for smokers. If you’re popping out for a smoke every two hours, your productivity can decline and others will take notice. Even if you just cut out smoking during working hours, or keep it to your lunch break only, you’ll raise your productivity and appear more professional.

 

Health Implications

Alcohol and cigarettes are known contributors to negative health outcomes. Long-term use can impact your health significantly and can cost a fortune in medical bills over your lifetime. Quitting now can reduce your risk for cancer, heart disease, pulmonary disease, high blood pressure and more. If you find yourself struggling to quit, reach out to your primary care physician to discuss options.

 

By cutting the cost of your vice, you can improve not only your physical health but your financial health too.

Personal Finance Milestones to Reach by 40

As your age starts creeping up towards mid-life, it’s time to take your financial planning seriously. Here’s our top 5 milestones to reach by 40 to keep you on track for a comfortable retirement.

 

  1. Retirement Savings

A good rule that financial advisors use is that by the time you reach 40, you should have three times your salary saved in retirement accounts like 401k, IRA or other retirement-specific accounts.

 

If you are not there yet, or just getting your life back on track after financial set-backs, don’t worry. You’re still about 20 years from retirement so there’s time to get to where you want to be. If you are self-employed or a contract worker, be sure that you are setting aside at least 10% of your take-home pay. If you are in your mid-late thirties and still paying off debts, put your energy and money into paying off those debts off quickly, then once that’s paid off, put the same amount of those payments into a high yield retirement account in addition to that 10%. You’ll see your retirement savings skyrocket as you pay yourself.

  1. Credit Scores

In your mid-thirties you should set your sights on improving your credit score a great deal. Aim for a 760 or better and research long-term solutions to keep increasing your score.

  1. Emergency Funds

Having a cushy emergency fund can be a life saver when life throws you curve balls. Whether that’s an unexpected medical emergency or a layoff due to a bad economy, having enough in savings to keep you afloat for at least 6 months should be the goal. Use direct deposit to start sending $50-$100 per paycheck directly into a savings account that’s harder for you to access, like a credit union that’s on the other side of town so you’ll be less likely to dip into it.

  1. Life Insurance

If you’ve got kids or a spouse, it’s especially important to have life insurance, as the people who depend on you can be greatly impacted by your passing. It’s not pleasant to think about, but it’s reality. Without life insurance benefits, your loved ones could be on the hook for your funerary arrangements, debts and more. Life insurance policies can cost as little as $15/ month for a 20-year term life insurance plan for $200,000. It’ll give you and your loved ones some peace of mind. If you have a partner, make sure they sign up for one too!

  1. College Planning

If you’ve got little ones, or are planning for them in the next few year, start saving now. College expenses are exorbitant in some countries and by setting aside money starting now, you’ll be setting your kids up to have option in education. Regardless of it they choose the traditional education routes or opt for a trade education, having that money set aside will give them extra edge in life by reducing or eliminating the need for loans.

No Spend November

No Spend November is the latest in the budgeting craze. This challenge can help you jumpstart your savings for the holiday season and stash more away to make the holidays extra special. Check out our tips to help you stick to it!

 

Step 1

Before November starts, figure out why you’re saving. Do you want extra money to take advantage of Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales? Planning to buy a big ticket Christmas present for someone special? Or are you just wanting to challenge yourself and catch up on bills? Set your goal date and post it in your calendar, on the fridge or in your phone.

 

Step 2

Plan your budget and trim non-essential spending. If you live for your daily coffee run, include a wallet-friendly alternative in your grocery list. Make other swaps that will help you cut costs and get creative. No Spend November is all about the essentials, and ONLY the essentials.

 

Step 3

Meal prep and plan to save on eating out. Plan meals you’ll actually be excited to eat to cut the temptation of grabbing a burger on the way home from work.

 

Step 4

Pay yourself. Each time you’d normally make a stop at Starbucks, pay yourself by stashing the total of your regular order in an envelope. You’ll have a visual on how much you’re saving rather than swiping a card and forgetting it.

 

Step 5

Remember, it’s not forever. When those cravings to splurge hit, remind yourself that it’s just 30 days. You can do almost anything for 30 days, whether it’s dieting, taking a daily walk or any other habit, you can do this. And at the end of those 30 days, you’ll have even more money to what you want with.

 

Step 6

Reward yourself. At the end of those 30 days, calculate what you’ve saved and splurge just a little. Pat yourself on the back! Check that envelope and see how much you’ve saved by adjusting a small habit. Hold that money in your hand and count it out. You’ll be surprised!

Hosting The Holidays On A Budget

With holidays fast approaching, many people are beginning to plan their big family meals. Along with these plans comes the stress of budgeting for that delicious meal. We’ve got our top tips for taking the stress out of your holiday planning!

 

Set Your Budget

Work within your means and don’t break the bank by overspending. Start setting aside cash from each paycheck now so that you won’t be sweating it on shopping day.

 

Cut Down On The Big Costs

Opt for a hot cocoa and cider bar rather than an alcohol bar. Even if you go all out with toppings like marshmallows, peppermint sticks, whipped cream and sprinkles, you’ll still save tons on the cost.

 

Shop Generic

No one is going to know the difference between name brand or generic cranberry sauce or green beans. In some cases you’ll save over 50% on price.

 

Understated Décor

You’d be surprised at the quality of festive décor that can be found at your local dollar store. Stop in to find place mats, chargers, silverware and decorations and DIY crafts.

 

Distribute The Work

Ask guests to bring a favorite side dish or dessert to give yourself a break and focus on the main dishes. This will also bring down some of the cost of the holiday meal. And who doesn’t like the chance to showcase their signature dishes!

 

Start Shopping Now

Pick up some of the canned goods and other shelf-stable parts of your meal with each shopping trip between now and the big holiday. You’ll feel more prepared and the costs will be distributed throughout the months leading up to the holidays rather than all at once.

 

Have Fun

Don’t waste money on entertainment, set up tables after dinner to play card or board games, plan a white elephant gift exchange, or plan to make gingerbread houses. Gingerbread isn’t just for Christmas, try making spooky haunted gingerbread houses for Halloween!

6 Money Milestones To Reach By 30

As your 20s begin to fade and 30 draws closer, you may find yourself beginning to to worry about getting your finances in order and taking your parents advice to heart about sorting yourself out. These are our top picks for financial planning for your 30s.

Boost Your Credit Score

If your credit score isn’t in the 700s, it’s time to start focusing on boosting that number. A higher credit score will make lenders much more inclined to get you into your first home when you are ready or get that new(er) car.

Banish Debt

Pay off your credit card debt as soon as possible. This will help boost your credit score, but it will also free up your money to save, invest and play. Paying debt off quickly also saves you money on interest.

Student Loans

Unless you want to be paying your student loans off at 40, refinancing and paying off your student loans early can free up thousands of dollars that would otherwise go towards interest. Just make sure to check your loans for early payoff penalties.

Retirement

Unless you are independently wealthy, retirement is decades away. Start saving for it now by taking advantage of your employers 401k plan. Opt for the highest percentage matching and then double your contributions. You’re paying your future self with your 401k, so set yourself up to live comfortably.

Emergency Fund

In the current economic climes, so many people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are one emergency away from financial ruin. Protect yourself by starting and consistently feeding your emergency fund. The ideal is to have 6 months of expenses tucked away in the event of an injury or unemployment. This gives you peace of mind that should the worst happen, you have some time to get your ducks in a row.

Life Insurance

No one wants to think about death. But by obtaining a life insurance policy, you’ll be protecting your loved ones. Establishing a life insurance policy in your twenties, when you’re young and healthy is cheaper and easier than when health issues begin to creep in later in life.

Finances for Couples

Couples combining finances, when marrying or even cohabitating long term, can feel like turbulent waters to be navigated. It may lead to arguments about fairness, equity and balance. Luckily, some education and communication can make the transition to combined finances much smoother sailing.

Educate

Both partners should do their own research on methods for combining finances and take into consideration their own financial situation as a single person.  Some couples will choose to keep finances separate and have a joint account for household bills, contributing their part. They may agree to contribute proportionally. For example, if Partner A makes $5,000 per month and Partner B makes $3,000 per month, they both contribute an agreed upon percentage of their income to the joint account, generally with the higher earner taking on a higher proportion of the financial burden. The advantage here is that neither partner feels pressured to keep up or budget down. The drawback would be that the higher earning partner may feel resentful over time, or like they are being penalized for earning more.

 

Other couples may split all bills 50/50 regardless of how much either partner earns. Advantages are that neither partner feels taken advantage of or like they’re being subsidized, there is no power imbalance. The drawbacks include potential differences of lifestyle and feeling like a roommate rather than a partner.

 

And still, other couples may combine all finances, with all income put into joint accounts. This allows for easier book-keeping, and a more “we” spirit rather than a “you” and “me. Drawbacks can include resentment over spending habits, resentment over contributions to the joint fund.

 

Communicate

No matter which method of combining finances you and your partner choose, communication must be open and honest. Discuss lifestyle expectations, money management styles and financial goals.

Keep purchases out in the open. If one partner overspends one month and will be short on a bill, it must be communicated. Mistakes happen. Unexpected purchases and unplanned for expenses occur. Talk about it, make a plan and handle it, together.

If you’ve completely combined finances, set a rule that if one partner wants to make a purchase over an agreed upon dollar amount, they must check in the other partner. This dollar amount will vary with your household income, saving goals, debts, and other concerns. Some couples will have a $100 limit, others will have a $30 limit, and still some may have a $1000 limit. If a partner wants to purchase something “extra”, like a big-ticket hobby item, it is best to run it by the other partner. Money spent on “extras” should be balanced between both partners so as not to breed resentment.

 

Keep lines of communication open, keep educating yourselves and be flexible when life throws curve balls. Careers change, layoffs happen so make a plan with your partner now to avoid arguing when stress is high from financial issues and you’ll be thanking yourselves for it later.

7 Ways to Make Extra Cash

With the holidays looming, many people are feeling like this season may be a bit slim. It doesn’t have to be! We’ve got some great ideas on how to earn some easy extra Christmas cash!

  1. Put your skills to work

Fiverr, GigSmart, TaskRabbit and HelloAlfred are just a few of numerous companies that match gig workers with clients. Do short, small gigs for big money in your spare time. Gig work lets you choose when and where you work and what jobs you take, as well as setting your own fees.

  1. Donate Plasma

Donating plasma can net you an extra $600 a month! The need for plasma in the medical industry never stops. Help those in need and get paid for it!

  1. Tutor

If you’ve got the knowledge to teach beginners in just about any subject, you can make some serious cash. Advertise locally on school boards and set your own schedule.

  1. AirBnB

If you’ve got an extra room in your home, rent it out for a few months through AirBnB. You’ll be covered by insurance through the company and with shorter stays, you’ll meet new and interesting people without risking a horrible roommate situation.

  1. Wash and Detail Cars

Mobile detail services make a killing year-round. Print out some fliers and grab some cleaning supplies! Hit up the more upscale areas of your city and you’ll be bringing in big cash in no time!

  1. Write Resumes

Resumes can make or break job opportunities. If you’ve got a knack for writing and an eye for detail, advertise on LinkedIn and help others get their foot in the door.

  1. Become a Tour Guide

If you’re the adventurous type and love to explore, advertise as a local tour guide! Have a blast showing others your favorite local sights and make some great money in the process!

Budgeting When You’re Behind

Are you’re living paycheck to paycheck and robbing Peter to pay Paul, and can’t figure out how to get ahead? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Millions of Americans are in the same rat-race and struggling to play catch-up! We’ve got you covered with some budgeting basics to get you back on track.

  1. Assess Your Finances

If you’ve been playing ostrich with your head in the sand about your finances, it’s time to stop and take a good, long look at what’s going on. The only way to start catching up is to face it. It may be overwhelming at first, but the first step is understanding where your money is going. Get it all out on paper, every single purchase, bill, expense, everything.

  1. Categorize

Categorize your bills and expenses, then identify your needs and your wants. If you’re behind on big bills, then pare down the wants to catch up on the needs. Pause or cancel some of the recurring wants, they’ll be there as luxuries once you’ve caught up.

  1. Make Some Calls

For things like mortgage, electricity, and other important needs, pick up the phone and call the companies. Ask for leniency and ask for a payment plan to help you catch up. If you’re facing hardship due to job loss associated with current world events, you may qualify for financial assistance and extensions. You won’t know unless you try. This can also give you a bit of breathing room to prioritize the bills that can’t wait.

  1. Drop The Excess

Cut the cable, find a cheaper phone plan and start cooking at home instead of eating out. You can save hundreds a month by identifying and eliminating the excess drains on your bank account!

  1. Opportunity Knocks

Figure out a way to make some extra cash every month, whether it’s clearing out the attic and holding a garage sale or starting a side-hustle on Etsy or Fiverr. Pick up a few extra shifts at your job or look for better opportunities in your field.

  1. Get Motivated

If you need to make a goal chart to visualize your financial successes, do it! Listen to personal finance TEDTalks or find a YouTuber who gives great financial pep talks! Sticking to your new budget may be hard, but you’ll be back on top in short order!

Top Finance TEDTalks

TedTalks are short, motivational and packed with cutting edge information. TED pulls from innovators and leaders in tons of fields on a vast array of topics, personal finance included. Here’s our top picks for personal finance TED Talks.

 

One Life-Changing Class You Never Took by Alexa Von Tobel

Alexa emphasizes the importance of financial literacy and walks us through the typical American’s financial situation. She points out pitfalls that education could prevent and teaches strategies to set yourself up for success in a society that has forgotten to teach younger generations how to navigate the financial world.

 

How Student Debt Will Cripple The American Dream by Dusty Wunderlich

Dusty highlights the disparities between higher education and the income and how jobs that require degrees don’t offer pay that matches the money applicants have put into their education. A great watch for students who are in the process of deciding their major or for those who want to go back to school for a career transition.

 

Sell Your Crap, Pay Your Debt, Do What You Love by Adam Baker

If you’ve caught the minimalism craze, this is the TEDTalk for you. Adam expounds on the simple life that can come with living debt-free.

 

Millennials, Money and Changing The World by Kelly Peeler

Kelly highlights the lack of financial education and the big ambitions Millennials have for changing the world. She emphasizes the need for financial literacy as a means for younger generations to accomplish their dreams.

 

An Honest Look At The Personal Finance Crisis by Elizabeth White

Elizabeth opens an honest dialogue on the financial situation of millions of baby-boomers heading into their golden years with empty bank accounts and limited earning prospects, and the generations that are following in their footsteps. She offers practical advice on how to live on limited income and still find comfort and happiness.

Budgeting for the Holidays

Summer is fading fast as we head into cooler weather. The holidays will soon be upon us! And with many struggling due to Covid, now’s the time to start planning for the holiday season! Here’s our top tips to help you prepare!

Holiday Expenses

Make a list of your holiday expenses. Don’t forget to include travel, gift lists, white elephants, wrapping paper, and cards. Make use of free holiday budgeting worksheets found with a simple Google search.

Set a Limit

Figure out how much from each paycheck you want to set aside for the next 3 months and stick to it. Avoid the temptation of spending more than you can save and nix the credit cards this year, you’ll thank yourself in January. Write down your nearest and dearest and put a dollar amount next to each name. Don’t break the bank by going over and buy within your means. It’s the thought that counts!

Create Your List

Create your shopping list now and start shopping now! Buy a few presents each paycheck to space out the expenses and avoid the holiday rush. Avoid spree shopping and keep to the list.

Take Advantage of Sales

If Black Friday mayhem isn’t your thing, Cyber Monday sales will be a surefire way to snag some great deals on big-ticket items. Keep your eye on discounts and coupons from your favorite stores to help cut costs.

Handmade

If you’re the crafty type, try your hand at making personalized gifts like ornaments, wreaths or photos. Make sure to calculate crafting supply costs into your budget.

Buy Extra

Pick up a few generic gifts and stash them away. If you find yourself in a gifting pinch, you won’t have to scramble last minute.