Category Archives: Money

The first rule of making a personal budget — keep it simple

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Rules. No-one likes rules. But we all realize that if we didn't follow traffic rules and stop at a red light, our streets would be chaos. If you want to have a successful personal budget, you have to follow the rules (in this case one simple rule).

Many people believe that there are a lot of rules to follow when making a personal budget. People believe you must work on your budget every day, and keep track of every penny you spend, or else your budget won't work. Most people think budgets are a lot of work.

Most people also believe that budgets are hard. They think you need to be an accountant to be able to create and maintain a personal budget.

Budgets can be a lot of work, but they don't need to be, if you follow the First Rule of Making a Personal Budget: Keep it Simple. Yes, like a lot of things in life, the KISS rule applies to your personal budget.

Don't try to create a complicated series of linked spreadsheets with fancy graphs and tables. Don't try to master the most complicated personal budgeting software. Don't believe that you have to go to school and study bookkeeping and accounting to make your budget work for you. Keep it simple.

Start with a blank piece of paper, or a blank spreadsheet, and make a list of what you spend money on every month. That's right, you are not making a budget; you are making a list -- how easy is that?

Most people can't even make a list of what they spend each month, because they have no idea what they spend their money on. No problem. Keep it simple. Get a pencil and a piece of paper, and carry them with you everywhere. Whenever you spend money, write in down. At the end of a normal week, you will have a good idea of where you spend your money.

You could then take your week's worth of notes and make a monthly budget. But, to make your budget even simpler, do a separate budget for every pay check, or make a separate column on your spreadsheet for every paycheck. That means if you get paid every week, have a column for every week.

Then, make a plan for how you will spend every paycheck. It's much simpler to decide how to spend your paycheck this week than it is to try to budget for the next six months.

Read that sentence again: make a plan for how you will spend your money. That's the only reason for making a budget. By keeping track of where your money goes, you can make a plan to spend your money where you want to spend it.

If you keep it simple, your budget will be a success. And remember, if you don't follow this simple rule, your personal finances will be a mess, and you could have to declare personal bankruptcy. So keep it simple, because proper budgeting is the best personal bankruptcy alternative.

Simple Secret to Savings: Start with a Single Step

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"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It's as true with saving money as with anything else.

These days, we've been frightened into thinking we must save thousands of dollars immediately. Most of us simply cannot do this, and the media does us no favors when it makes the situation sound so hopeless that we might as well give up.

Financial planning should be focusing on real people, people who have trouble saving, people who really need the help that instead seems geared towards the wealthy.

As a result, many of us think that if we can only save, say, $10 a month, then it isn't worth it. Not true! Once you sock away that $10 and realize that you're still okay, you'll realize you can put away a little more.
Maybe you increase it to only $20 a month, but that's $240 a year, plus the interest you'll receive for putting the money in a savings account or money market. You only need $250 to open an IRA, and that's a worthy goal.

Even if you stick with $10 a month, that's $120 a year, and if you think that isn't much money, you can probably afford to put away more.
The best part of this technique is that you get into the habit of saving. Once you do that, savings can grow and grow as your income increases, your expenditures decrease, or you receive a bit of extra money from your tax return, a work bonus, etc.

Here are a few tips for saving more by starting small:

Pay yourself first. You've heard it before, but that's because it works. When you pay your bills, write a check to yourself. Depositing as little as $5 from each paycheck into a savings or money market account should get you to that initial goal of $10 a month. If that's painless, increase it to $10 per paycheck. If, after a couple of months, you find $10 is painless, increase it a little more. Keep doing this and you might be surprised at how much you can afford to sock away!

If your employer offers direct deposit, even better. Open a savings or money market account and have at least $5 per paycheck deposited into that account. Again, keep increasing this as you get comfortable with saving the money.

Do you spend $2 a day on coffee, a muffin, or some other inexpensive treat? Do that five days a week for 50 weeks, and you've spent $500! Spend a little of that on a coffee maker and some ground or whole coffee beans, and put the rest into your savings account.

When you save money with good deals or coupons, consider putting the difference into your account.

Most importantly, get yourself into the habit of saving, and don't underestimate the effect of saving just a little. All you need to do to begin the journey is to take that first, single step.

Money is About Life: Life is About Mastering Money

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Too often we get caught up in our lives to worry about finances. The problem is that finances are in many cases why our lives are so hectic. This phenomenon is all too common.

I like most people would like to live a life where someone else did the things around the house and at the office that I don't want to do, I would like to be able to spend time at an emotionally meaningful and challenging profession, I would like to spend time with my kids, and I would like some down time to do whatever I opt to do.

Given these financial goals I often wonder what I am doing to work towards those goals. I spend a lot of time around the house and office doing things I don't want to do. I find excuses for not hiring someone to do those things.

Instead of focusing my energies at work on things that are emotionally meaningful and challenging, I tend to spend my days pushing paperwork. Yet, I have spent very little time thinking about how to remedy this situation. When I start thinking about these issues, I often make excuses (such as "if I want it done right, I have to do it myself").

I spend a lot of hours in the office and even when I am at home I end up doing tasks that are away from my kids. I could easily hire this type of work out, but somehow I always end up just doing it myself.

I have a lot of interests but I never seem to find time to do these things that I enjoy.

At this point you might be thinking, "so what does that have to do with finances?" The answer is that it has everything to do with finances. Each decision is predicated on either earning more money or spending less money. That is the rub. The dirty secret that is all too taboo in our society. Money, if used properly, can in fact make your life better.

One message remains the same: your money is your happiness. Secure your money and you will secure your life. Of course this means different things to different people. The "do-it-yourselfer" may read this to mean that they should be frugal and save every penny, to have a brighter tomorrow. The "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" kind of person might read it to mean that they should spend everything to have a brighter today.

Luckily they are both right. Each individual can and should examine what is important to them. They should set out (I mean by actually writing it down) a plan in light of what is important to them. They should take steps over time to fully implement that plan and they should review the plan periodically to ensure that they are still pursuing goals that are important to them. This is what I try to implement in my own life.

I spend more time at home with my kids and I hire rather than do some things myself. In short I force myself to do what is not what I would normally do. After exploring my goals, that was what was important to me. Having made a lot of progress towards these goals, I can tell you that my life is a thousand times better today than when I started. I fully expect it to be a thousand times greater in the future.

This is what true financial planning is all about. If you have not explored your goals, I urge you to do so now. If you haven't met with a financial professional to discuss your goals, I urge you to do so today. Once you start making progress towards your goals, you will wonder why you didn't do so sooner.

Living Debt-Free

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Do you dream of living without the burden of excessive debt hanging over your head? It's possible, but not easy. Living debt free requires financial discipline, all the time. To become debt free and maintain a debt free life, try the following three steps:

1. Get rid of existing debt. This is obviously your first step to living a debt free lifestyle. Cut up any credit cards that you currently have in your wallet, purse, or desk drawer and do not apply for or accept any other cards. Pay your bills on time, sending as much as possible to one account while paying the minimum due on all of your other accounts until the account is paid off. Do this until all of your debt has been paid off.

2. Create a budget. Every single person who lives without debt has a financial budget and follows it. Without budgeting for expenses and incidentals, people overspend on unnecessary items and then when things just "happen" unexpectedly, (otherwise known as unplanned for expenses) these individuals rely on credit cards to make ends meet. Make a list of every monthly expense you can think of. Then, make another list of every incidental expense that you pay throughout the year but not necessarily on a monthly basis. If you usually get 3 oil changes a year at $20 a piece, you need to plan for $60 a year for oil changes, which is the equivalent of $5 per month. Once you have a comprehensive list, subtract your total monthly expenses from your total monthly income and see what is left over. Be sure you include savings accounts in your "expenses". Pay yourself first is a good rule to live by. If there is still money left over, congratulations! Use it to pay more on each individual account until everything is fully paid off, or invest in IRA, 401K's, or even a money market account with high interest rates to help your money earn more money.

3. Avoid credit like the plague. Make all of your purchases with cash and you will never fall into the debt trap again.

Manage Your Money

As you are starting the process to a debt free life, you should be extremely mindful as to where your money is going. It's important that you track your spending habits for a period of time in order to see where money is being wasted, or where you can cut costs without completely changing your lifestyle. Keep a notebook where you list every single item you purchase, including the amount you paid, where you purchased it, and the reason. Include all bills that were paid, how much you paid, and how much you still owe. After a few months of tracking your spending habits, you will be able to determine exactly where all of your money is going, and you may be surprised at how much your little purchases are adding up and eating away at money you could be using to pay off debt to enjoy a debt free lifestyle! That cup of coffee you grab every morning on the way to work could be costing you $10 or more each week- about $40 per month, and brewing your own coffee at home could save you considerably since you can purchase a can of coffee for about $4 and it will last you about a month!

How to Remain Debt Free after Recovery

One of the biggest mistakes people make after making a financial recovery is to allow themselves to fall back into old habits. Before they know it, they've racked up another few thousand in credit bills, and they're heading down the same path to having a desperate situation where they just can't make their payments on time each month.

You do not need to have credit cards in your wallet. Yes, it is a very odd feeling to go from having several cards available to you to none, but it is the safest way to avoid overspending. You may want to keep one credit card in a safe place in your home, for purchases that do require a credit card. Think long and hard before using the card, and if it is possible to buy it with cash, than do that instead. A credit card should not be used for every purchase, nor should it be used when you want to buy something unnecessary that you don't have enough cash to purchase. If you want a luxury item, save your money until you can buy it- if after several months of saving you decide you don't need it, then you've saved the money on an item you previously may have purchased on a credit card, discovered you didn't really need or want it, and then had to pay back three to four times what the item is worth after all the interest and finance charges were added!

Personal Finance – How To Reduce Your Monthly Expenses

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Everyone has fixed expenses which are the basic of needs for our daily living. There is no way to eliminate the fixed expenses but with some innovative budgeting, you could save some good money from this practice. If you have debt problem, a good practice in expense control and budgeting can help you to free up enough money to pay down your debt and may prevent you from bankruptcy. Of course, to accomplish your goal, you might have to live a very austere existence and scarification.

This article will list down some ideas on how to lower your expenses. While reading this article, you can make a list of you own ideas to cutting down your expenses.

Ways To Save Money

1. Reduce the Number Of Credit Cards

For many people, owning a credit card is the style of life and there are people holding 5 to 10 credit cards. It's so convenient to make payment with credit cards and you many overlook your budget. Although to terminate all credit cards are not possible for many people, you could reduce the number of credit cards in hand.

2. Ask for a Lower Credit Card Interest Rate

A major consumer group conducted a study to find out how easy it is to get a lower credit card interest rate. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of those who simply telephoned their credit card company and asked for a lower interest rate got one instantly.Getting your credit card interest rate lowered depends on various factors. Normally the bank will approve your request if you meet the following conditions:

  • You have a good credit rating -- meaning no late pay notations on your credit report and a good credit score;
  • You do not have a high debt-to-income ratio and you do not carry a big balance on your credit card;
  • You do not send in just the minimum payment required each month;
  • You have an excellent payment record with that particular creditor;
  • The credit card is not one that is categorized as "sub-prime", meaning it is not a secured credit card or one marketed exclusively to those with bad credit.

When you call and ask for a lower interest rate, your reasoning should be based on the argument that you deserve it because you're an excellent customer or you're getting better offers from other credit card banks.

3. Always Buy Classic Style on Clothing

Clothing fads come and go so quickly and it will become out of fashion after a season.Instead, buy only good quality classic clothing that you can wear five years from now if you haven't worn it out by then. This will help you to reduce the frequency of buy new cloths.

4. Know Your Budget on Food

According to some survey, people who do not know how much they spend on groceries each month are twenty times more likely to be over their heads in debt than those who know exactly how much they spend on food each month. A lot of money can be saved by with below practices:

  • Stop eating outside - Dinners you prepare at home is significantly less expensive than meals you pay someone else to prepare.
  • Don't buy what you don't really need - Good examples are soft drinks, sugary snacks and other sweets. Giving them up will improve your health, reduce your medical and dental-related expenses and fatten your wallet.
  • Get the best price by comparing supermarkets -- Don't shop at the closest supermarket just because it's more convenient. Driving a mile or two down the road can save you as much as $50 per week on groceries.

5. Car pool with your neighbors

If you have neighbors who work close to your company, you can car pooling with them to save gasoline and transportation cost.


Above are just a few ideas to reduce your monthly expense, sit down and list down your own list. You will surprise that by listing down all your monthly expenses, your will realize that actually there are a lot of expenses which can be reduced or eliminated. And you can use the saved money to pay down your debts.


Is It Really Necessary To Create A Family Budget?

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The thought of budgeting may seem simple to do, right? However, if we really get into it and try to balance our income and expenses, we realize that it's not that easy to do. Still, having a budget or spending plan can help us manage our finances better.

Money issues, especially within the family, can be a source of relationship conflicts. Dealing with money problems always gives stress. Thus, it is important that we create a budget for the family. And it should not only be you who are going to do it but all of the members of the family should get involved. Each, even young children, should have a say on the family's finances.

Step-by-Step Guide

Here's a guide to help you start making your family's budget.

1. Assess your current financial situation. Before starting to write down a budget plan, try to check first your spending patterns for the past year. You may want to take a look at all your utility and other bills for the past year. You would also need a copy of your salary records and income tax return for the past year. In case you do not have copies of your bills anymore, utility companies and other service companies like credit card can give you a record of your transactions or provide an estimate.

2. Design budget outline. There are sample budget outlines found in the Internet that you can download and make use of. You can also find some in magazines and books. Utilize these things to create an organized and well-written family budget.

3. Write them down. Once you have all past references to your income and wages, as well as a budget design, you can now start writing down your income -- from wages, pensions to tax credits -- for the current month. Then write down your expenses for the month -- utility bills, credit card bills, and other purchases. Receipts and your checkbook may be good references to find the information.

4. Lifestyle check. You need to check your family's lifestyle and spending patterns. This is where every member of the family should get involved. Think about the important things that each member spends on. Think also of the things that you can probably do without.

5. Plan for next year. Estimate the income and expenses that your family may have for the next year. Your income may remain the same or you can also adjust it if you expect it to change within the year. You also need to take into consideration special occasions where you usually spend on like Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving and other holidays.

6. Know your credit standing. You also need to find out your current credit standing. You may request for you Credit Report from a credit bureau near your area. You can find them listed in the yellow pages.

Writing down a family budget will definitely help you realize how wisely you and your family spend money. If you feel that you are spending too much more than what you are getting, then it's high time to start fixing your finances and sticking with your family budget.

Saving is also one way to improve your finances. For a family, there should be a substantial amount of savings that you can use in case of emergency. As head of the family, you should impress on your spouse and children the importance of savings. If you can commit your whole family into saving, then most likely, you will not have a problem in sticking with your family budget.

Simpler Solutions For Managing Your Money

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Let's face it, coming up with smart and simple ways of saving money takes thinking that is a bit more creative.

Use some of these shortcuts to managing your finances. They are guaranteed to save you time and money.

Trick your mind into saving

Can't always come up with where your money goes? There is a simple solution: Trick your own mind into spending less and saving more.

If you are up for a challenge, allocate yourself a weekly allowance. Put a set amount of allowance into an envelope and determine that this will be all you will be allowed to spend for any given week. Next, divide your allowance to take care of your expenses. When you get down to the last $20, that's the amount you put into your emergency fund. When the money is gone, there will be no more until next week.

Each payday, allocate a percentage to go into a secret fund used only for emergencies. When it's crunch time, you will know it's there.

Establish one dresser drawer just to toss single dollar bills. This way when the pizza man arrives, you will have the singles handy and won't need to break the larger dollar amounts. This discipline forces your mind to think larger amounts and to save larger amounts. You get into the habit of spending only the singles. This works!

To control your credit card debt, carry just one card and pay it off each month. If you are tempted to over spend, the credit card goes into the safe where you only stash your emergency fund. When crunch day comes you have a credit card you can use that will always be in good standing.

Jot down expenses in a notebook and tally them at the end of each week to see if you are over or under your budget estimates. Build in more than you need so that you will always have a cushion in case of a cash emergency. Tracking your spending takes some work but if you take careful notes, you will always be able to see one or two areas where you're leaking cash. You can then come up with an extra $20 or more per week in savings. That's $1,000 a year in real money for an emergency fund.

More tricks to add to your own savings routine: Have your paycheck automatically deposited directly to savings rather than to your checking account. You will transfer money to pay your bills, but you'll think twice about withdrawing additional cash.

Make ONLY one ATM withdrawal each week. Subtract your credit card purchases immediately from your checking account so you're not surprised once the bill arrives.

When you pay off a loan, add the amount to payments you're already making to the next lender on your list. You can also send the money to a saving or investment account earmarked for a house, a vacation or a new car and this money will be made available in case of a money emergency.


Keeping Up With The Family Finances

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Staying on top of the family finances does not have to be difficult. With a little planning, your finances can be kept up to date with ease. Believe me, having a handle on your family finances goes a long way in creating family harmony.

The first step is to set up a bookkeeping system. We've used Quicken software for years. It has helped to keep track of our expenses, and we have been very happy with the program. It takes a little bit of time to set up initially. The second part of your bookkeeping system involves setting up a place to save your receipts. We use a small cardboard divider file with a special slot devoted to "receipts that need to be posted". The key idea here is to have a place where you store all receipts from expenses (including ATM withdrawals) so that they are readily available when you go to enter them into your bookkeeping software.

Once you have the system set up, then you simply enter your receipts, whether income or expenses. As you enter each item, you select a category for it to go into. Reconciling your account is done online. One of the greatest advantages in using an automated system like this is the ability to see your expenses by category. With the click of a button, you can find out what you spent on groceries, entertainment or any other category for any time period, like last week, last month, or the last quarter. Many other reports are available such as a cash flow report and an itemized categories report. Using this system has streamlined our ability to keep our account updated. Bills are easily paid on time.

Once you've established your bookkeeping system, then you must set aside time on a regular basis to update it. For our family, we've found that a weekly update works well. My husband and I alternate weekly turns on posting receipts and then reconciling our account. It never takes us more than 30 minutes at a time and our account is always balanced.

If you are behind in your finances, start by doing just 15 minutes at a time. You'll catch up eventually. Then, be sure to make time on a regular basis to keep up with your account. Having your finances in order is a real stress reliever and can be attained by anyone!

Personal Finance Is Your Responsibility

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Whether or not you choose to ignore it, you cannot deny the truth embedded in this statement: Your personal finance is and always will be your responsibility.

When it comes to finance, many people put an impractical blind eye to the fact that finances need to be managed. Personal finance is an ever-growing popular term for adults and teenagers alike, regardless of whether you are earning the money or not. After-all bills have to be paid, family members have to be fed and your lifestyle has to be maintained.

The biggest and most neglected step for many families is teaching their teens how to manage their money. Teenage finance is about educating teens on the value of money. Teach them how to save by showing them how to use their primitive form of book-keeping. This can often be incorporated through the child's upbringing via
piggy-banks, savings accounts, and little chores in exchange for money.

Teenage finance is an important part of your personal finance because, too. When your children learn to save and use money wisely, you are subsequently saved from bailing them out of financial troubles in the future.

Personal Ethics and finance go hand-in-hand; if you have a good relationship with yourself, you will be able to save money. You won't feel the urge to do things that go against your ethics like sign-up for a credit card using someone else's name.

Personal finance involves taking a few steps toward safe-guarding your money. Your money spent should not exceed your money received. In order to prevent this from happening, you should make a crude balance sheet and use it to record all of your transactions.

Each month write down how much was received and how much was spent. Make a list of all the things the money was spent on, so you can keep track of your money.

You will be amazed at how much we spend on things that are not necessities.

Make a list and stick to it. Always try to get the best deal for your money and remember that cheaper does not necessarily mean lower quality.

After-all it is your money; managing your personal finances should be seen as a mandatory part of making money work for you.

Saving for Your Future

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We all know that we should save money. But something so easy to say can be quite difficult to actually do.

Saving money is the basis of building your financial future. However, many consumers are putting it off one more day. Those days turn quickly into years of lost money. Without savings, the chances of meeting long-term financial goals and achieving financial security are quite miniscule.

In order to save money, you have to control your finances. Saving has nothing to do with how much you make. It has everything to do with how you control your money. If you have lots of credit card debt and live paycheck to paycheck, you are not in control of your money. And you aren't saving for the future either.

You have to spend less and save more. The two are tied together. In order to save, you have to start spending less.

And it all really isn't that difficult if you just start doing it.

First, sit down and write down your financial goals. Just ask yourself what you want from your money. Perhaps you would like to have a downpayment for your first home. Maybe you need a new car. Make long-term goals, such as retirement, and short-term goals, such as new living room furniture.

Give each goal a dollar amount and a time frame. In order to save, you have to know what you are saving for. You have to have a reason to put your money aside.

You will need to set up a seperate savings account. You probably know that leaving the money in your checking simply won't work -- you will spend it. Have a savings account that you can easily deposit or transfer money into. Many banks will set up an automatic withdrawal to your savings each month. This is a easy way to set it and forget it. It is paid just like any other bill.

Over time, you will see your money start to grow. This is rewarding and exciting. Most people become motivated to save even more. Saving and investing can become addicting in a good way.

You will find that a written budget is almost essential for saving money. You need to know where your money is going in order to make changes to the way you spend. A budget not only tells you where you are spending, but it can help you plan how you spend. Include into your budget a debt reduction plan, and your budget will make the most of your dollars. Budgeting is simple and doesn't require you to sacrifice your entire lifestyle. It is just a plan to get where you are going.

If you do have a lot of credit card debt, you should focus spending your saving money on eliminating that debt. It would be wise to put a small amount aside for emergencies, but the vast majority of the money you are saving right now needs to be going to your debt. The reason why is simple. Why pay 20% interest on a credit card debt when your savings are earning 2% to 10% in interest. You are spending more than necessary. Wipe out that credit card debt first. It will save you more in the long run.

A lot of people really boost their savings by putting their unexpected money into their savings accounts. Your bonuses, raises, tax refunds and overtime can really pump up your savings. You aren't having to spend even less or cut back more, but you are seeing your account balance rise.

There is no real secret to saving money. You simply have to start doing it. That is often the hardest thing -- the first step. But once you see your finances begin to change and the interest start working for you, you will be hooked on saving for your future.