5 Tips to Nail Your Yearly Budget

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When it comes to budgeting, planning ahead is the best way to guarantee success. If you have struggled with sticking to a budget in the past, these 5 tips may help you stay on top of it this year.

Write down every bill and expense

The easiest way to fail at budgeting is to forget an expense. When you forget to account for a bill and then try to make up for it by moving around other payments, you may end up far off your budget. Write everything down with the due dates before creating your budget.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Car Payment
  • Insurance
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Toll or parking charges
  • Pet expenses
  • Gym memberships

Prepare in advance

Have you noticed that you are less likely to spend a lot of money on food if you prepare your lunch in advance? Meal prepping can save a lot of money over a year and minimizing eating out for dinner can also help save over the year. Think about better ways to use that money and plan your meals out for the week.

Also, set aside money for entertainment. If you know you will want to attend a party, concert, or movie, just plan the amount of money you will need and allocate your money towards that event. Denying yourself can lead to splurging later, and splurging leads to a failed budget.

Give yourself an allowance

Don’t deprive yourself. You are less likely to stick to your budget if you feel like you aren’t able to do anything you enjoy because of your budget. Therefore, you should give yourself an allowance every week to spend towards things you may want or need. How much should you give yourself? That depends on how much money you have left after all of your bills are paid, groceries are purchased, and your gas tank is full. For some people, $15-25/wk is sufficient, while others can afford to spend a little more.

Treat yourself for a job well done

After a few months of staying on track with your budget, allow yourself to purchase something nice. You can do this by saving your allowance over time, or gifting yourself with something after a bonus or successful month. It’s important to remember that you only have one life, and you should be enjoying it without constantly crunching numbers.

Set reasonable goals

There’s nothing wrong with trying to push yourself to save or payoff a debt as quickly as possible. However, there is something wrong when not meeting that goal causes you to lose hope and fall off the wagon. If you make a mistake and miss something on your budget, fix what you can and keep going. One missed payment should not mean that you stop trying. If you are not acclimated to budgeting, there may be a time or two where you miss something, prepare as much as you can, be also cut yourself a little slack. You are on the right track and that is all that matters.

What are your financial goals for this year? Share them with us!

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High Car Payment? Drop it In 2017!

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If you’re heading into the new year with a high car payment, drop it now! Lowering your car payment now allows you to restructure your budget before the year starts.

Refinance your car

Refinancing your car is the best option to lower your car payments if you want to keep your vehicle. If you don’t plan on trading in for a year or so, you can benefit from a refinance. Refinancing is easy. After a quick application, you will be contacted to start the process. Your existing loan will be paid off, and then your new loan will be established.

If you are looking to lower your monthly payment and extend the term of your loan, auto refinance will allow you to do that in order to lessen the burden of your monthly car payment. Additionally, if you spent too much on holiday shopping, refinancing could allow you to skip a payment, giving you some extra money at a time when several hundred dollars in your bank account can go a long way.

Anyone with an existing auto loan can apply to refinance anytime after they have purchased their vehicle. All you need is your personal, vehicle, and current loan information to fill out an online application.

Purchase a new car

With dealerships looking to clear their lots of 2016 models, this may be a good time to cash in on a new car deal. Additionally, dealerships will have to pay taxes on the vehicles left on their lots at the end of the year. Wondering the best time to buy? End of the month, end of the year, or end of the day. People report getting their best deals during these times. Good thing for you that we are approaching the end of the month and the end of the year.

Be sure to go into the dealership prepared to negotiate. You should know the value of your current vehicle before trading it in and it is a great idea to secure financing through your credit union beforehand.

Also, be sure that you’re negotiating on the full price of the vehicle, not your monthly payment. Otherwise, the salesperson will know what they can tack on to the price of the vehicle to reach the maximum you’re willing to pay for the car each month. If you’re trading in your vehicle, make sure that you know how much you can expect to receive for your trade-in so that you’re not surprised by their offer.

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5 Financial Resolutions You Can Keep

pablo-4Every year, millions of Americans write out their New Year resolutions. Most centered around having a better body or sticking to healthier habits. This year, we are going to give you 5 financial resolutions that you are sure to accomplish in the new year!

Spend less

Write out your budget before the year starts to keep yourself accountable. Cut back on spending money at restaurants by planning your meals at home. And, before buying new clothes or shoes, ask yourself if you really need it. Try to only purchase items or services that you truly need. It’s easy to keep track of your spending through phone apps or check registers.

Save more

Decide how much money you would like to save by the end of the year and add weekly/monthly savings contributions to your budget. Save on monthly bills such as your car note or mortgage loan by seeing if a refinance is right for you. Lower your auto, home, and life insurance by checking to see if lower rates are available with the same coverage. Commit to lowering your electric bill, by not running it at peak times and consider trading in your traditional cable bill for a less expensive streaming service.

Owe less

Make a plan to lower your debt by 20-50%. Don’t feel like you make enough money to make that happen? Remember, the amount you make is not as important as what you do with the money you make. Second jobs, freelance work, odd jobs, and discipline can all help you get out of debt faster. Start with your lowest credit card balance or the highest interest rate and focus on paying it off before moving to the next. Any extra bonuses or unexpected income should go directly to your savings or towards your debt. Before you know it, you will exceed your goal!

Invest more

Investing is something that you can start with little money and no risk. Open a Roth IRA if you do not have access to a 401k employer match program. The Roth IRA allows you to withdraw funds at retirement age with no tax penalties. Or, a certificate of deposit (CD) can be an easy way to gain return on your money. Most banks or credit unions will allow you to start investing with as little as $500. This account is considered a savings certificate with a fixed maturity date. Access to these funds are available with no penalties at the maturity date, which can range from 6 months to 5 years.

Travel more

If you have spent the past year saving your vacation time for a rainy day, 2017 is the time to start cashing them in! Save a little every month for the first part of the year and send yourself somewhere special.

Studies show that traveling can recharge your emotions, lower stress levels, aid in better sleep, and increase your overall mood. If you think funds are too tight, look for airline deals and consider enrolling in a loyalty program.

Do you have any resolutions written out yet? How do you plan on reaching those goals? Share them with us!

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Teach Your Child About Money In 4 Easy Steps

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“Teach the children, so that it will not be necessary to teach adults.” Abraham Lincoln

Teaching a child takes patience, understanding, and creativity, but it is necessary for their success later in life. Studies show that children can start to learn money concepts as early as 3 years old. By 7 years old, they can grasp the idea of using money to purchase goods.

Step One: Teach them patience

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Life isn’t fair’? Well, it isn’t. Instill in a child the necessity of patience in life. When your child is a baby, you feed them when they are hungry. When they are thirsty, we give them water. When that child grows up, it’s important for them to know that every want or desire is not received so quickly. Patience is important considering money at any age. It teaches a child in more ways than one.

  • I cannot have everything I want.
  • I cannot have everything I want at the time I want it.
  • When I wait, good things happen to me.
  • I don’t need everything that I want.
  • I should not spend everything I have at once.
  • I have to be disciplined with my money.
  • I have to live within my means
  • I understand what is important in life.
  • I will have money if I am patient.
  • I put off the things I want now in order to have the things I need later.

An easy way to do this:

The next time your child asks for a toy, tell them that you will think about purchasing the toy instead of purchasing it for them right away. Then, if you purchase it later, it is a welcome surprise. Try not to make a habit of always purchasing the toy, but remind them that the toys they currently own, are still working and fun to play with.

Step Two: Teach them to make decisions

Children spend the first few years of their lives believing that their parents make all the decisions. However, around 5 or 6 years old, they begin to realize there are options. This can be overwhelming for a child and cause them to make very slow decisions. Do I want the Superman action-figure or the Iron Man action-figure? The idea is to minimize the number of options and encourage them to choose one.

An easy way to do this:

After your child has saved a little money, take them to the store. They will surely be excited at the idea of buying whatever they want. Allow them to pick out a few items and then remind them of the amount of money they have and encourage them to make a decision on which toy they can afford and which is the most special.

pablo-3Step Three: Teach them that money has value

One of the most important lessons, is to teach your child the time-value of money. If you teach your child that all money takes time to acquire (i.e. patience) then over time, they will see that it does not grow on trees. This lesson will take them far in life, notably when they hit their teenage years and begin to make their own money.

An easy way to do this:

Purchase a clear jar for their savings. The clear jar will show them at all times how much or how little they have to spend. Instead of just telling them how much everything costs, have them take the money out of the jar in order to see how much they have to use and how much will be left if they spend it. This will surely teach them about budgeting.

Step Four: Teach them that saving pays off over time

Kids are notoriously impatient and immediately will want to spend what they have saved. Show them that you are saving and perhaps they will want to do the same. Get two clear jars and make sure they see you add money to it regularly. When they are a little bit older, teach them to deposit money into their bank account, and every month, review their statement with them. These financial lessons will pay off later.

An easy way to do this:

Instead of just giving your child an allowance, give them a pay rate for doing certain chores around the house. Then, give them ‘interest’ payments on their savings. Every week, remind them of how much more they have and encourage them to save it until it gets to a certain amount or until they can make one large purchase.

How are you teaching your child about finances? We would love to hear from you!

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4 Most Common Credit Card Scams

pabloIf you have never been a victim of a credit card scam, you may not know how convincing and sneaky these scammers can be. From fake calls to phishing emails, these fraudsters are stealing money from Americans everyday. Before you give out your credit card information, be on the lookout for any of these 4 tactics.

Fraud Department Calls

These calls involve the fraudsters claiming to be a representative from your bank’s fraud department. They will say that they are calling to confirm your recent charges, but before reviewing any charges they will ask for your full credit card number and CVV (3-digit code) to confirm that you have the card in your possession. Remember, your bank has your verified phone number on file and they already have the credit card number. Your real bank may ask that you confirm the last 4 digits of your card and one of your last purchases, but never the full card number. Do not ever give out your CVV code on an incoming call. Once the fraudster gets this information, they can start to make large purchases, leaving you in a fight to get your money back.

Credit Card Debt Reduction Calls

If you get a debt reduction call, hang up. Unfortunately, these calls are successful because they target Americans with bad credit. The caller promises to work with you to lower your debt by allowing you to pay off your credit cards in one monthly payment. While there are legitimate companies that offer this service, they should never ask you for a large upfront charge to enroll in their service. Before working with a business that claims to reduce your debt, research the company, ask for their company name, phone number, and address. Once you have established that this is not a scam, then you may choose to work with them.

Missed Jury Duty Calls

Fraudsters use this fear tactic in order to get credit card information from consumers. This call will likely start off with them telling you that you failed to report for jury duty and now have a warrant for your arrest. This is simply not true. In most states, there is minimal consequence for failing to appear for jury duty. Additionally, you will likely never get a phone call if you miss jury duty, especially one you never received jury summons for. Once the scammers tell the individual that they have a warrant, it causes fear causing the person to give their credit card information in order to clear their name. Can you guess what happens when they get your credit card information? They start to clear out your bank account quickly from purchases in a city, state, or country that you likely do not live in.

Phishing Emails

You can bet that any email asking for your full credit card number is fraud. The email may say that you are a beneficiary of some unpaid account, you’ve won a prize that you did not enter to win, or you are the sole inheritor of someone’s estate. The best way to protect yourself is to research common email scams, install malware, and avoid downloading attachments from email addresses you do not know. If you get an odd email from a friend with a download that you were not expecting, reach out to them to confirm its authenticity before you download.

If you think you have been a victim of one of these scams, review your account and give your credit card company today.

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