Simplifying Your Finances

When sitting down to manage your budget, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of expenses you have to handle. By simplifying your finances, you can unburden yourself and create a budget that works more efficiently for you.

 

Financial Calendar

Creating a budget is great but remembering to routinely set aside time to go over your finances can be hard when you’ve got a busy life. Create a financial calendar to help yourself stay on track and meet those personal finance goals you set at the beginning of the year. Your calendar may include reminders about tax season, 401k contribution increase deadlines, insurance renewal dates, or debt repayment goal dates. Setting up your financial calendar in your phone or on your computer will ensure that you will have frequent contact with the calendar and hopefully use it!

 

Go Paperless

We live in the digital age, it’s time to ditch the paper bills and go paperless. It may be useful to create a separate email account specifically for bills. Switch your bills to paperless so that you can file them digitally. You won’t misplace a bill or miss a payment if everything is organized in your email instead of lost in a pile on the desk.

 

Check Your Billfold

If your wallet is overflowing with loyalty cards and coupons, it may be time to clean it out and switch to an online wallet for those reward cards. You’ll feel more organized and save time by not shuffling through your wallet every time you shop. Just whip out your phone and pull up your card!

 

Automatic Savings

Meet your savings goals without the hassle and stress by automating your savings. You can accomplish this by electing to allocate a certain percentage or dollar amount from your paycheck directly into your savings account, or by having your bank automatically transfer a certain amount every week or month. If the process is automatic, you can set it and forget it. And if you do manage to forget it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you finally remember to check it and see how much your savings has grown!

Best Apps for Your Side-Hustle

If you are starting your side-hustle, your small business may need a hand when it comes to keeping things organized and keeping the cash flowing by saving you time and money. Here are the best apps for small businesses available today!

 

Connectteam

Connectteam is an employee app that offers everything you need to keep your team connected and organized. Connectteam offers an employee time clock with GPS time stamp features, live polls, video and picture sharing, suggestion box, live chat groups, employee directory, checklists and forms, and so much more! If you’ve got a team, you’re going to want Connectteam.

 

PayPal

If you’re running a small business, it’s important that you get paid. PayPal is one of the biggest names in online payment platforms. Create invoices, send and accept payments, track your earnings and so much more! You can also qualify for small business loans!

 

QuickBooks

No matter the size of your business, you need an easy way to manage your needs. Track your expenses, create and send forms, generate reports, track taxes and more with QuickBooks.

 

Acuity Scheduling

Acuity offers a fully-customizable scheduling platform that can connect to your social media, websites and so much more. View your bookings in the mobile app, create schedules for everyone on your team and stay organized! Build packages and include discounts too! Your clients can schedule and pay all in one stop!

 

Monday

Monday is your project management rock star! Organize tasks, create projects, update throughout the project and store documents. You’ll never miss a deadline with Monday!

 

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media management system that allows you to track, manage and schedule all your social media channels. You can monitor the chatter about your brand and instantly respond all in one place.

Best Personal Finance Apps

If you are struggling to stick with a budget, you may need a few extra tools in your financial tool box. Today we’ve got the best personal finance apps and programs to help you stay on track to meeting your financial goals!

 

Microsoft Excel or Apple Numbers

Using spreadsheet software that is likely already installed on your computer can be one of the easiest ways to track your finances and ensure your budget is at the tips of your fingers. If you’ve never created a budget on a spread sheet you may find it useful to search YouTube for a tutorial on the basics. Once you have the basics down, it’s just a matter of plugging in your expenses and letting the program do the rest.

 

YNAB (You Need A Budget)

YNAB is a budget and expense tracker made for those new to personal finance management. YNAB offers bank syncing, real-time access to all your data with sharing capabilities, debt management strategies and features, goal tracking, reporting and personal support. The YNAB team boasts that on average, new users save $600 in the first two months and more than $6,000 in the first year.

 

Mint

Mint is the gold standard when it comes to saving you money! Track your budget, set goals, track your spending, manage and monitor your subscriptions. Ever get slammed with subscription fees for apps you deleted long ago? Mint will notify you of those pesky fees and help you cancel them asap.

 

Ramsey+

Ramsey+ is an app bundle based on the personal finance principles of Dave Ramsey, financial guru. The bundle includes EveryDollar, an expense tracker and goal planner, FinancialPeace, a library of personal finance courses, and BabySteps, a debt snowball and payoff planner. This bundle offers a lot of bang for its buck and will get you started on the path to financial freedom.

 

Goodbudget

This easy-to-navigate budget planner allows you to sync across multiple devices, offers insightful reports on your spending, generates multiple reports to help you understand your spending habits, and includes a virtual envelope system to help you manage your spending and stay on track through the entire month!

Top Budgeting Apps

Using a budgeting app can help you easily regain control of your personal finances. Today we’ll explore the benefits of some of the top budgeting apps available on mobile devices.

 

Truebill

Ever go to make a purchase and realize you don’t have enough in your account? Wonder where that money went? Truebill can help! Once you’ve given Truebill a thorough picture of your finances, Truebill can highlight and cancel subscriptions you don’t need or want. Truebill’s experts can negotiate lower bills for your cable, internet, phone bill and more!

 

Digit

Digit analyzes your budget daily and allows you to set financial goals that it automates to help keep you on track. Digit will monitor your checking account balance and moves money back when you’re close to overdrafting. Digit is your personal finance assistant!

 

Fetch

Fetch isn’t exactly a budget app, but it will help you rack in the $$. After grocery shopping, take a pic of your receipt with your phone and upload it to Fetch, where Fetch will turn your spending into rewards points, Amazon gift cards and more. You get to choose how to spend your points.

 

Stash

You can start investing in the stock market for just $5 with Stash. With fractional shares, you can choose how much to invest in any of the thousands of stocks and ETFs available. Use the Stock-Back Card to invest in companies you trust. Manage your investments and allocate them towards retirement, your children, and your goals. Find advice and learn about investing in this great, easy to use app.

 

Mint

Mint personal finance and money app allows manage your finances, reach your goals with personalized insights, customize your budget, track your spending and check in on your credit score all in one place.

 

Goodbudget

Goodbudget Budget Planner lets you sync and share your budget, track your spending, track your debt repayment progress and set digital envelopes to help you stay mindful of your spending habits. This app is wonderful for those who need a hand in building new financial habits and offers great insights that will boost your financial literacy.

 

The key to a good budget app is exploring what works for you! You won’t use an app that doesn’t cater to your needs, so download a few and see what will be the best fit, then use it!

Financial Milestones To Focus on in 2021

There are financial milestones that are important to meet by different ages throughout our lifetimes, but for millions, those milestones got washed out with the crisis that was 2020.! Start getting on track and make some goals to help you find your financial stride!

 

Finding Your Career

Decades ago this milestone would normally be places on a list for college-aged young adults. But in this economy many are having to make major changes, go back to school and rethink their career paths. There’s no shame in changing direction and figuring out what career will leave you fulfilled at the end of the day. Meet with a career coach or even a life coach to help you figure out what will work for you.

 

Pad Your Emergency Fund

2020 showed the world how important it is to plan for the unplanned. Protecting yourself and your family from financial disaster should be at the top of your list for things to do this year. Replenish or continue to add to your emergency funds, and increase what you are setting aside for those rainy days. Choose a savings account that has a high interest rate and don’t touch it! Let that interest accrue as you continue to save.

 

Retirement Funds

If you, like many Americans, had to tap into your 401(k) to make ends meet last year, it is time to increase your contributions to make up for the losses. If you took out a loan against your 401(k), pay it back as soon as possible. If you had to drain your retirement accounts, make sure that you plan accordingly because you will be taxed as if it were normal income.

 

Student Loans

Student loan forbearance was a godsend for millions of Americans, but the forbearance will only last for so long. Right now you aren’t penalized for non-payment and no interest is accruing at the moment. If you’re in the position to do so, it may be time to focus on increasing your payments. The sooner you are able to pay off those loans, the sooner you can start allocating those funds towards your forever home or other big-ticket items. If not, make sure you factor in the payment dates into your budget when the forbearance ends.

 

Credit Score

You may have had to rely on your credit cards to make ends meet in this last year. As 2021 brings a little bit more stability and returns to work, it’s time to face your credit card debt and start paying down your balances. Credit card debt is one of the leading causes of financial stress.

 

Life Insurance

If you don’t yet have a life insurance policy, it’s time to get one. With the monumental loss of life in the last year, you cannot put off securing your family’s safety net should the unthinkable occur. Many policies cost less than $20/ month so there is no excuse not to.

Budget Toolkit

A budget toolkit is what you use in your every-day life to manage your finances and keep yourself organized. If this term is totally new to you, then you are in the right place! Budget tools can be anything from a composition notebook and pen to Microsoft Excel or any of the numerous budgeting apps available at the touch of your fingertips on the Google Play Store or Apple Store. Today we will explore some of the tools available to help you manage your budget and gain control of your personal finances.

 

Budget Worksheets

Budget worksheets can help you organize your expenses and keep you informed of where your money is going each month. There are thousands of free sample budget worksheets available by searching Google, with printable versions. If you have minimal expenses and no stock portfolio, you won’t need a complicated worksheet that includes those line items. If you run a small business, your budget worksheet needs will be different. Find the budget worksheet that most closely matches your needs and use that as the template for creating your budget and learning how to manage your finances.

 

Excel or Other Spreadsheet Programs

If you own a computer, chances are you have access to Microsoft’s Excel or Apple’s Numbers programs. There are numerous tutorials on YouTube to help you learn the basics of creating a budget with a spreadsheet tool. You can learn the basics in under 20 minutes. By using one spreadsheet with tabs for each month, you can keep track of your finances for the entire year and use it to analyze your financial habits.

 

Budgeting Apps

If you don’t have access to a computer or are just more comfortable using your phone to track your finances, an app may be the best choice for you. There are numerous apps available, it’s simply a matter of finding the one that will suit your needs best. Most of these apps function in the same manner. You begin by plugging in your income and expenses with paydays and due dates for bills, then the app does all the math for you. Some apps allow you to link to your bank account and set autopay or reminders for your monthly bills, ensuring you always pay your bills on time.

 

If you are like most people, budgeting won’t be the highlight of your week, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either. Explore the tools available to you and figure out what will work best for you. Make it a habit to sit down weekly and review your budget so you can make adjustments as needed.

Missteps to Avoid This Tax Season

Tax season is upon us and with it comes stress, anxiety and dread for many. 2020 was especially stressful for many and taxes may feel extra challenging. We’re here to help take some of that stress away! Here are the biggest missteps to avoid and how to handle pitfalls when they do arise.

 

Misstep #1 Not filing your taxes

If you’re expecting a large tax bill and know you won’t be able to pay, you still need to file. Penalties for not filing are much larger than filing and not paying on time. Not filing results in a 5% monthly late fee, up to 25% of the bill, plus interest. Filing and not paying on time only accrues a 0.5%  late fee per month, also capped at 25% plus interest. You’ll still eventually have to pay, but your late fees will be considerably lower.

 

Misstep #2 Using credit to pay off taxes

Instead of racking up credit card interest, apply for an IRS payment plan. You’ll still accrue penalties and interest, but when you sign up for the installment plan, the monthly late fee drops to 0.25%. Future tax refunds will be applied to your balance but the IRS won’t take any further action against you and you’ll avoid wage garnishment or liens on property.

 

Misstep #4 Taking a withdrawl on your retirement funds

Again, applying for an installment repayment plan is by far the best route to go, but if you absolutely must withdraw from your retirement funds, seek out a 401(k) loan. A full 401(k) withdraw will result in more taxes. You’ll pay a 10% penalty and that money will also be taxed as regular income. With a 401(k) loan, you won’t be penalized.

 

Taxes can be a source of monumental stress, but by avoiding these missteps, you’ll set yourself up for success and easy resolution.

Budgeting Basics: Wants vs. Needs

When it comes to creating a sustainable budget, defining your wants and needs is key to success. Let’s explore wants and needs and how they fit into your budget.

 

Survival Needs

Needs are specific to what is necessary for your survival. This includes:

Shelter- You need a place to call home

Food- You need food to fuel your body

Transportation- You need to be able to get to work or school

Clothing- You need protection from the elements

Hygiene- You need to be clean to stay healthy

Utilities- You need running water and electricity

Healthcare- You need access to treatment, medications, etc. as necessary

 

Humans also need connection, love, sense of purpose and belonging, and a sense of security to live a fulfilling life, but those don’t necessarily factor into your budget.

 

Emotional/ Mental/ Social Wants

Entertainment

Smartphones

Internet

Travel

Fast Food

Coffee

Home Décor

Alcohol

Electronics

Makeup

Etc.

 

Your wants are important, but not as important as your needs. Your needs need to take priority when budgeting. Your wants are secondary to your survival and fit into your budget after your needs are handled. By creating your budget around your needs, you’ll remove the stress that comes with unstable and unfulfilled needs. Your wants should take up no more that 20-25% of your budget, and you still need to factor in debts and savings.

 

Each need category can have multiple subcategories. For example, transportation may include gas, car maintenance, registration and insurance. Be sure to factor each subcategory into your budget. Keeping your needs forefront in your priorities and sticking to your wants limits will continue to ensure your budget will be sustainable.

 

If you are just starting out with a fresh new budget, you can use the envelope method to help you stick to the budget. Create envelopes for your wants and put the cash you have allocated for each want into the envelopes. If you run out of money for a certain envelope, that’s it for the month. You can replenish that fund next month. This will help you ration your funds and prioritize them as well. Personal finance and budgeting are habits, and just like any habit, they take time to build. Be flexible and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Analyze your spending habits each month so that you can modify your methods to better suit you as you go.

Budget Rehab: Reigning in Overspending

If you are constantly reaching the end of the month with an empty bank account, it may be time to take a good hard look at you spending habits. One of the biggest pitfalls to healthy personal finance is overspending. Overspending can often result in an avalanche effect, blowing your budget for the month completely and resulting in financial stress. Rehabbing your budget is vital to getting yourself back on track to meeting your personal finance goals. Here are 5 steps you need to take when dealing with overspending.

 

Step 1 Face The Facts

The first step to managing and rehabbing is facing the facts about your spending habits. This doesn’t mean you need to beat yourself up about it, it just means you are acknowledging the situation, learning from the experience, and doing better.

 

Step 2 Identify The Problem, Explore Solutions

By identifying why you overspent, you can help prevent it from happening in the future.

  • Did you overspend due to stress? Explore healthy stress management techniques
  • Did you get overspend on take-out, fast food or fine dining? Time to re-evaluate your time management and grocery habits.
  • Did girls night or boys night get a little out of hand and you overspent at the pub? Explore free or low-cost alternatives for a fun-filled night out on the town!

 

Step 3 Create A Plan Of Action

Just like any other form of habit change, you need a plan of action to change your spending habits. This includes re-evaluating your wants vs. needs and creating a realistic budget around those priorities, realistic being the keyword. If your budget isn’t realistic, you’ll blow it immediately and end up back where you started.

 

Step 4 Pay More Than The Minimum

If your overspending was on plastic, you’ll want to pay more than the minimum on your credit card payment. This will help you lower your debt and lessen the impact of interest rates.

 

Step 5 Curb Spending

Here’s some helpful tips to help you curb your spending:

  • Put credit cards in a safe, leaving them locked up when you head out for the day. You’ll be less tempted to impulse shop.
  • Set your fun-money budget and use cash only. When you pay in cash you’ll be more aware of your spending.
  • Remove credit or debit card information from websites your frequently shop on. This will create an extra hurdle that can stop you from one-click shopping.
  • Change up your drive home from work so you don’t pass your favorite fast food restaurants. You’ll be less tempted to stop if it’s out of sight.
  • If you’re overspending is due to an emotional impulse or attempting to fill a void, you may want to reach out to a mental health professional. There’s no shame in reaching out for help.
  • Start thinking about purchases in terms of how many hours it will cost you. You’ll work 2 hours for a nice meal out, and it’ll cost you a week worth of work for bigger ticket items.

 

 

 

Overspending can be a big problem, but there are solutions that can work for you.

4 Financial Missteps To Avoid In 2021

2020 was disastrous for millions of Americans, and 2021 is the opportunity many need to recoup and reset after such a tumultuous year. Here are the biggest missteps of 2020 and how to avoid them in 2021.

 

Lack of Emergency Funds

Emergencies happen. Unemployment and layoffs happen. And an emergency fund can mean the difference between financial breathing room or homelessness. The goal is to have 6 months of expenses saved should the worst happen. By having 6 months of savings, you give yourself the ability to get back on your feet without making major changes to your lifestyle. Find a savings account that can earn you cashback on debit card purchases and a high interest rate to maximize your savings.

 

Not Investing

Investing can add to your financial security. Start small with micro-investments that cost less than your daily coffee and build your portfolio over time. Diversify, pay attention to smaller companies that have potential and watch your investment portfolio grow.

 

Not Having Life Insurance

Having life insurance can be vital to the survival of your family should the very worst case scenario occur. No one likes to think about their own death, but if you’ve got loved ones to think about, you need to be thinking about how to provide for them after you’re gone. Rates can be as low as $16 a month and will give you and your family peace of mind in an unpredictable world.

 

Not Tracking Your Credit Score

If you’ve avoided checking your credit score, you should probably be checking your credit score. So many Americans are at risk or have already lost their homes due to eviction and foreclosure. Knowing your credit score and working to improve your score can offer you more security and options for you and your family.

 

Addressing these 4 issues now can help you mitigate financial disasters and ensure your security and safety for years to come.