How Financial Stress Affects Your Health

Would you be surprised if someone diagnosed your change of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and incessant headaches as symptoms of financial stress? It might be a hard pill to swallow, but your financial stress can have a tremendous impact on your health.  According to a survey published by the American Psychological Association in 2017, 62% of Americans reported being stressed about finances. Unbelievably, financial stress can cause companies upwards of $520,000 per year! You’re probably asking “why?”


Are you aware of the impact of stress on the human mind and body? You’re about to find out.


Financial stress, and many other kinds of stress, can have a negative impact on your health. There is a positive, temporary response to stress, and that is known as the “fight-or-flight” response. Preparing to run a race, giving a presentation, performing, and being involved in a dangerous situation are all examples of when your body is going to react with the “fight-or-flight” response, or adrenaline rush. Heart rate quickens, pupils dilate, brain functions heighten, and oxygen intake increases as your body reacts to the scenario. This is helpful in the short-term, but in the long run, on the other hand, it can become extremely harmful.

If these stressors are present over a long period of time, other health issues will manifest. Have you ever heard of heart disease? That’s a rhetorical question, since it’s the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Guess what? Chronic stress is one of the main contributing factors to heart disease (along with a poor diet and lack of exercise). Not only is heart disease intensified by stress, but migraines, sexual dysfunction, asthma, gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, general pain, stomach ulcers and many other health complications are also correlated with stress – money worries in particular.

We know that when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to make decisions that aren’t always the best. But when you accidentally, or purposefully, make a choice that ends up being detrimental, stress will follow. For example, the fear of not being able to pay next month’s mortgage bill can initiate symptoms of depression or PTSD. In turn, this can lead to even more issues with budgeting and over-spending (like racking up your credit card balance to make yourself “feel better”), which only exacerbates symptoms.

In the same way that stress exacerbates physical issues, it can also aggravate psychological problems such as anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, anger issues, and hopelessness. About 10% of high-earning individuals experience 2 to 3 indicators of depression, in comparison with 23% of low-earning individuals. Pair together financial stress and depression, and you’ve got a crippling combination. It definitely isn’t a recipe for productive and satisfied employees. Each day it seems that employee health is worsening, so it’s crucial that employees, managers, and health care professionals work to decrease stress levels and improve coping skills.

Although many of us brush off money worries, the physiological effects actually make sense. How can your body thrive if it’s constantly being beaten down with the incessant worry of money troubles? Simply put: it can’t. The physiological response of the body to stress is so immense that physical and mental health quickly begins to suffer. The lower classes of America undoubtedly experience the effects of financial stress, but studies show that financial worries also plague middle and upper class individuals.

In the United States, approximately 75 to 90% of all doctor’s visits are stress-related medical issues according to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. We know that stress causes plenty of medical issues, but some of that can be attributed to unhealthy coping skills. When people are stressed, they tend to resort to unhealthy coping behaviors such as overeating, overconsumption of alcohol, etc., which only worsens other medical problems. Stress management techniques such as exercise, deep breathing, and meditation are all effective ways to lower stress levels.

The heaviness of financial stress can weigh you down, but it’s important that you and those around you find successful ways to decrease stress levels and develop helpful coping skills. Lifting such a weighty burden requires intelligent money management and more important, stress management.

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Self-Employment Budgeting Tips

nj asset management

When you’re not working a 9-5 job with a stable, predictable salary dispensed into your bank account on a set schedule, budgeting for recurring monthly expenses can be a bit tricky. While being self-employed can afford you the freedom to work flexible hours, have a varied office location and the ability to do something you love, it does not always provide the easiest and most consistent stream of income to rely on. This is where careful, diligent budgeting comes in handy.

 

1) Always budget for the necessities first!

While you are most certainly deserving of a dreamy resort vacation this summer, that doesn’t mean it qualifies as a necessity, as your vacation can easily be delayed until you can truly afford it. Necessities solely include staples like your rent or mortgage payment; groceries, gas, medical insurance, car insurance and car payment or other required transportation costs; utilities like electricity, phone, internet, water, sewer and garbage. It is also critical that you budget for your income taxes, as they will no longer be automatically deducted from your income. Anything else not featured on the aforementioned list does not qualify as a necessity and therefore you can live without it and save up for it before purchasing it.

 

2) Establish an emergency fund.

If you haven’t done so already, creating an emergency fund that has enough money to sustain 3-6 months worth of your necessary expenses is an absolute must for the self-employed. Not only does this provide you with added financial security and stability, it also buys you time to find a new job or side gigs if your self-employment opportunity does not prove lucrative enough to afford your expenses.

 

3) Once you have your emergency fund in place and have mastered budgeting comfortably for the necessities and have some wiggle room left over in your budget each month, you can start budgeting for “little luxuries.”

When I say little luxuries, I mean just that. Not living large, but treating yourself to small and affordable indulgences in moderation but on a regular basis. This may include something as mundane as ordering a Netflix subscription and Chinese takeout once a month, or something as exhilarating as a night out at a rock climbing gym with friends depending on your tastes and interests.


Pro tip: seek out experiential luxuries whenever possible as they don’t generate physical clutter that you’ll have to deal with down the road. The memories you’ll gain are much more valuable in the long run.


 

4) Think big: now that you’re managing all your monthly expenses (including little luxuries) like a pro and have a solid emergency fund in place, it’s time to consider your long-term financial goals.

When you’re self-employed, saving for retirement is even more important than it is for your peers who participate in employer-sponsored retirement programs. Given that you don’t have the opportunity to participate in employer-based matching programs, you will need to be proactive and learn to not only save diligently toward your retirement fund, but also actively invest your money wisely to make it work for you. There are tons of great retirement-planning resources available online, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of managing your own retirement accounts, consider consulting with a local retirement specialist who can help get you on the right track. If you’re more concerned about meeting more immediate financial goals like purchasing a home or a new vehicle (or even that resort vacation), a financial planner will be able to help you adequately allocate funds for each important goal while still contributing to your retirement so that it can continue to grow as you meet your other major milestones.

Veitengruber Law can guide you through your NJ asset management needs as you get older; with advances in medical care extending life expectancies, you may be facing difficult choices over health care and your legacy. We also have close relationships with expert financial planners and NJ CPAs with whom we are happy to connect you.

Budgeting Basics

Creating a budget is certainly not a walk in the park. Budgeting is an ongoing process and for most people, your budget has the possibility of changing from month to month. Your first try won’t be perfect, but don’t get discouraged.  As with most things in life, the more you practice budgeting, the better you’ll get. Once you figure out a flexible and successful process that works for you, you’ll be ready to go! Before you start, make sure you have 30 to 45 minutes set aside to work through each step. Let’s get started!

Income

Let’s begin at the most obvious place: your income. As we all know, your income is going to determine your budget, or in other words, how much money you have to spend. Your income can come from a variety of sources: your main day-to-day job, side jobs, child support, or even rental properties. It includes any source that brings money into your household each month. To start creating your budget, record the total amount of money that you’re making.

It’s important to take taxes into account, so make sure you’re recording your monetary income post-taxes. Some people refer to this as your “take home pay.” If you’re married, you’ll potentially be combining your incomes, so record them on the same budget.

Plenty of people are self-employed, which makes a budget all the more important. Your month-to-month income may be unpredictable depending on your business. If you have no reason to believe that your income will significantly drop in the upcoming month, average your monthly income for the last 3 months and use that for monthly income.

Expenses

The next part (that no one likes to think about) is what you spend your money on. Though expenses have their own categories, you always have regular “offenders” every month like your utilities, mortgage, or car payment. Sometimes utilities can sway a bit from month to month, but in general, they stay consistent.

You can’t forget about the other necessities like groceries, gas, clothing, household necessities, and other miscellaneous items. For your budget, it’s important to take into consideration everything that is going to require money. Depending on your family’s spending lifestyle, do you need to add or delete any categories? Think about this before moving on to the next step.

Set Priorities

Maybe you have student loans to pay off or maybe you and your spouse have a baby on the way. No matter what situation you find yourself in, your budget health relies on how well you prioritize.

  • Groceries: You have to feed you and your family, so first and foremost, set aside enough money for food. This should come before you worry about other bills. You may have to adjust it a bit depending on other expenses.
  • Utilities (Electric, Water): You have to keep the water running and the lights on, so these should take next priority. You might be asking, “isn’t my mortgage more important?” Well, living in a house without lights or water is no fun. The utility company won’t wait to turn your water and electric off if you don’t pay them. You tend to have slightly more leeway with your mortgage payment.
  • Mortgage or Rent: Don’t put this off unless it’s a dire emergency. Stay on top of it and don’t let it slip to the bottom of the pile!
  • Gas/Fuel: You have to put gas in the car to get to work, and if you can’t get to work, well, you’re not going to need a budget. (This is not a good thing!) Pay the monthly car payment and keep some gas in the tank. Tip: Be smart about your trips or try carpooling.
  • Clothing: You need to look appropriate at work and the kids need to be dressed for school, so if you’re only spending money on necessary clothing, that’s great! Don’t feel required to buy name brand clothing or accessories.

Once you’ve covered these 5 categories, you can move on to other sections of your budget that may vary from person to person. If you still have money left in your budget, you can include things like: Date Night, Cable, Family Entertainment, and other fun categories that should only be a part of your budget if you can afford to spend real money on them (not credit).

Final Touches

Many websites have free budgeting templates that will get you started. These make it pretty easy to figure out spending for monthly bills, since they don’t change much. You will have to make an estimate for gas and groceries. We suggest looking over your spending for those categories throughout the past couple of months and then finding an average. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you do want the most accurate idea of where your money will need to go.

Once you’ve figured out your grand total of expenses, you want to make sure that it doesn’t add up to more than your total income. If you end with a negative number, you’ll need to go back through and see what unnecessary spending can be cut out. If Income – Expenses = $0, you’ve successfully created your first budget! Some people prefer to have their final number greater than $0, just to provide a little wiggle room. This is naturally preferable so that you can begin to build up a small savings.

As you go through the next few weeks, chances are, you will have to make some edits to your budget. This is more than okay. Remember, it’s a process and it takes time to figure out. Don’t be discouraged at the thought of having to create a budget; instead be proud of yourself for taking a step towards managing your money skillfully.

Top Ten Money Saving Tips for Healthier Living

Cut coffee out of your budget (or at least brew it at home!)

If you have a daily caffeine habit you’d like to kick, let all the money you’ll save by cutting it out of your daily routine serve as an extra incentive to help you achieve that goal! However, if you are among the lucky folks who can enjoy coffee in moderation, there’s no need to deprive yourself even from a daily coffee habit. Just try to avoid coffee stands and restaurants where coffee is costly. Instead, consider investing in a home coffee machine like a cartridge coffee maker or an espresso maker, a reusable travel mug and even a milk frother if you prefer more gourmet-style drinks. These fancy gadgets can be more affordable than you think and will easily pay for themselves within a month or two if you’re a regular coffee drinker. Home coffee makers are convenient and easy to use, and reusing your own mug everyday also has a positive impact on reducing your carbon footprint to help protect the environment.

 

Clip online coupons from the convenience of your home computer

When people think about clipping coupons, it often sounds tedious to go through the newspaper and find relevant coupons each week. However, there are dozens of reputable websites online that offer both printable coupons that can be used in-store and coupon codes that can be used at online retailers. Anytime you’re about to make an online purchase, be sure to search your favorite coupon sites like Retail Me Not or Coupons.com to make sure you’re not eligible for any additional savings, a free gift or free shipping before committing to a purchase.

 

Seek out deep discounts at the grocery store

Did you know that every grocery store puts items on sale that aren’t even advertised in their weekly circular? That’s right! By knowing where to look you can save yourself even more money on your weekly grocery bill. If you’re looking for a dinner to cook the same night you shop, check out the butcher’s counter or the deli counter for discounted items that are close to their expiration date. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the reduced price food items, but they need to be prepared and consumed within a day or two in order to be guaranteed fresh. Many grocery stores also have a clearance section filled with pre-packaged, non-perishable and often seasonal items (think organic Easter candy!) they are closing out.

 

Cook and meal prep at home more to avoid buying lunches out

While eating out can be a fun experience to occasionally treat yourself to, eating out regularly can really dent your budget and your health! Even cheap fast food meals add up quickly, not to mention they aren’t the healthiest options with which to fuel your body. By always bringing a lunch and/or snacks to school or work you will be less likely to succumb to the temptation of eating out or pulling up to the drive-through window when hunger hits. Bringing lunch from home will save you a ton of money over the course of a year and even over the course of a month.

 

Cut back on trips to the salon by DIY

While treating yourself to an occasional trip to the salon should not be forbidden, try to limit the number of times you go to the salon every year. By purchasing a couple bottles of nail polish in your favorite colors and investing in a good quality nail file, with a little practice you can often achieve a salon-quality result at home. Recruit your best friend or significant other to trim your hair between salon haircuts. You can also successfully deep condition your own hair at home and even color your own hair at home for a fraction of the cost if you have a willing helper and a little patience.

 

Call your cable, internet and phone service providers to negotiate a discounted rate—whether you’re a new customer or not!

If you’re in the market to switch companies, now is the time to capitalize on the new customer discounts! Make sure to always inquire about their new customer rates any time you switch service providers. However, even if you’re an existing customer, it’s always worthwhile to call your providers periodically and ask them about any current promotions in your area and customer loyalty specials. You’d be surprised by the amount of money you can save just by asking.

 

Review your insurance policies

Call your insurance company to find out if you’re eligible for any multi-policy or multi-car discounts, non-commuter policies and safe driver discounts. If you have teenagers behind the wheel, ask if your insurance company offers a discounted rate for good grades. Your insurance company may also offer a discount for having extra safety features on your vehicle.

 

DIY your own all-natural cleaning products

Chemical cleaning products are not only expensive, they are also bad for your health! There are several inexpensive and effective alternatives that are much safer than most pre-made cleaning products you can buy at the store. Baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are all extremely affordable cleaning staples that you likely already have on hand in your pantry or medicine cabinet that can be used as key ingredients to make multiple cleaning products (think window cleaner, dishwasher tablets, toilet cleaner, etc.) easily and at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay to purchase each product individually. There are many informative video tutorials available online that will walk you through how to make your own all-natural cleaning products from scratch. After you’re done making your own products, you will have a powerful, safe and effective arsenal of cleaning products at your disposal.

 

Use apps to find the lowest gas prices

There are so many free and inexpensive apps that can help consumers uncover extra savings nowadays, even on necessities like gas! Special gas tracker apps find the lowest prices in real time and even show you where the gas stations are located on a map. This is a great option if you live in or nearby a city with multiple gas stations to choose from. Prices are always changing, so be sure to check before you fill up your tank each time.

 

Try consignment shops for clothing—buy, sell and trade!

Consignment shops are a great way to save on high-quality, gently used and sometimes even never-been-worn clothing. Even if you’re not in the market to purchase any new clothes, consider consigning, trading or selling your gently used clothes to a consignment shop to earn some extra cash and clear some clutter out of your closet while you’re at it!

How To: Overcome Financial Stress and Get Your Finances in Order

Before the Great Recession, financial stress was the number one worry of over 70% of Americans. Since the Great Recession, money issues have become increasingly depressing for some people. With the loss of a job or a decrease in income, many people can have a prolonged stress that sits like a ton of bricks upon their shoulders. This chronic financial stress is extremely detrimental to the body, and you will begin to affect the lives of those around you. Before you know it, you may start to rely on bad habits to relieve your stress. How can you get a foot in the door of overcoming your financial stress and straightening out your money matters? Well, it obviously doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep reading, you may gain some insight as to how you can begin.

Setting Goals. 

Though you can’t control all of your circumstances, you can initiate steps towards improving them. One of the most important first steps is setting a goal. This might sound simple, but that’s because it is! Before you can even think about your goals, you need to take a step back and review your finances. Doing this on a monthly basis could be beneficial for you, and don’t forget to check out your budget to know where exactly your money is being delegated.

Once you’ve had a chance to look over and get really familiar with your debts and income, set some goals. We are always setting goals in life – (financial, fitness, education, etc) and this goal is just like the others. It should have a purpose and a particular plan of action that will help you to attain the goal. Rather than setting a broad goal, attempt to set specific goals. Maybe your goal is to have $5,000 in your bank account within the next 2 months. You can break that broad goal down into smaller goals, like making yourself more valuable to your employer or improving your business plan. No matter the goal, review your financial state, set a goal, and clearly define the parameters and steps needed to reach it.

Make it measureable.

As covered in the last paragraph, clearly defined goals will be of more benefit. A goal such as “having a lot of money” does not have clear parameters. Some financial professionals suggest keeping 3-6 months of expenses in your bank account. Rather than setting a goal of “I want to always have 6 months of expenses in my account, sit down and put an actual value to that 6-month amount. This will focus your mind on a specific number instead of a vague sum.

Realistic and Reachable.

When you are setting your goal, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s one that you can actually attain. If you don’t have a good chance of reaching the goal, what was the point in setting it? Since you’ve already reviewed your finances and budget, you know whether or not a goal is realistic. If the goal is realistic, in your mind, you know that it’s attainable. Maybe your goal is adding $500 to your savings account each month. If you’re currently struggling to pay rent and have a low income, that goal may be a little out of reach. Work with what you have.

Deadline.

If you have no time limit on your goal, it might take you forever to reach it, which in turn makes setting the goal a waste of time. Part of defining a goal is listing a deadline so that you are able to separate your one big goal up into smaller chunks. Focusing on reaching your goal week to week can be mentally easier than seeing a huge number in front of you and stressing about how to climb that mountain.

Financial stress can take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional state, which is why it’s so crucial to alleviate at least a small portion of that worry. Now that you have a few pieces of advice on how to overcome your financial stress, don’t wait until you find yourself in a desperate financial state. If you aren’t sure how to go about everything on your own, don’t hesitate to get in contact with a professional debt resolution/credit repair expert. They will be able to help you in setting a proper budget as well as raising your credit score and negotiating with any creditors to whom you may owe outstanding payments.

5 Ways to Get Caught Up on Bills After the Holidays

 

debt resolution

Just as a little too much partying on New Year’s Eve can leave you with a painful hangover — a little too much spending during the holiday season can result in a financial hangover. Unfortunately, the latter can’t be cured by drinking plenty of water and getting some extra rest.

When your out-of-town loved ones have gone back home and the decorations are starting to come down, credit card debt and crumbling finances can be a cold, unwelcome reality check. While we want our holiday memories to last a lifetime, holiday debt is something we’d really rather not think about. Avoiding the truth about how much you really spent on gifts for all and sundry won’t make the problem disappear; what it will do is snowball the interest and late fees.

5 effective ways to begin tackling your excessive holiday spending:

 

  1. Assess the Situation/Make a Plan

Tackling excessive debt is anything but fun, but it can’t be avoided. Begin by looking over all of your banking statements and making sure that you agree with all listed charges. Then, make a list of your debts from smallest to largest (based on total amount) to get an idea of  how much you’re in the hole for. Next, create a list of their interest rates from highest to lowest.

Once you have a clear picture of what you’re dealing with, choose either the Snowball or Avalanche debt repayment strategy and start working on the plan of your choice ASAP.

 

  1. Return, Return, Return

Did you end the holiday season with scads of decorations, gifts, or other items that were never even opened? Perhaps you bought gifts for a friend’s significant other only to discover that they broke up in November. Maybe you lost self-control and brought home that ridiculously overpriced holiday decoration you’ve coveted for months.

Do not hesitate — GO NOW, this minute, to return any still-in-box, tagged items. If you are able to get your money back – put it to good use by making an extra credit card payment before you have a chance to buy something else you don’t need. Without a receipt? Use store credit to buy something you’d purchase anyway, like home goods or diapers.

 

  1. Work to Cut Regular Monthly Spending

If you have assessed your budget and concluded that there isn’t enough money left over each month to pay off your credit card debt, then reducing your monthly expenses is a must. Chances are, you have at least some recurring monthly payments that could be eliminated or decreased. Try calling your cell phone provider or cable company to see if they have any New Year’s offers or plans that would be cheaper than what you’re currently paying. Be sure to mention that you’ll have to change providers if they can’t lower your monthly bill.

Look around for a new (lower) quote on home and car insurance. Keep searching until you find a company that has the coverage you need and is willing to work with your budget.

Lastly, assess any larger loans you’re currently repaying (mortgage, home equity, education). Consider refinancing or modifying some or all of those more substantial loans. Every dollar you decrease your monthly payments by can go directly toward paying off credit card debt.

 

  1. No Credit Diet

Until you have that credit card debt completely paid off, we strongly recommend putting yourself and your family members on a “no credit diet.” When you purchase anything, use debit cards, cash or write a check (ancient, but still better than spending money you don’t have). Using these forms of payment will avoid racking up any more credit card debt.

 

holiday spending

 

  1. Every Dollar Counts

Everyone has some expenses that could be considered “flexible” – grocery bills, clothing, entertainment, recreation, and more. Determine what items in your budget are ‘must-haves’ and what you or your family could go without.


In short: Evaluate your spending habits and start making better choices until they become habits.


Example: When you’re tempted to buy that five dollar cup of coffee, think about how quickly your coffee habit could put a dent in your debt. Bonus: Getting off caffeine (or reducing your intake) is good for your blood pressure!

We’ve given you a few ways to start lowering that holiday debt that you had so much fun charging last year. Take the tips that work for you and add your own debt pay-down tricks into the mix.


One caveat: If your holiday debt goes far beyond just the recent holidays, and you’re finding your monthly minimums are more than you can handle, regular debt pay-down strategies probably won’t get you very far. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.


When you’re so far behind on your bills that they just keep piling up, unpaid, on your kitchen table, it’s time to ask for professional help. Call Veitengruber Law. We will provide you with a holistic analysis of your debt and tailored solutions that will get you “back in black.”

The best part about reaching out to us for help?  The first meeting’s on us.

What Everyone Should Know About Black Friday (and Cyber Monday)

black friday tips

Since its inception well over half a decade ago, the day after Thanksgiving has morphed into a spectacular affair for retailers across the country. As the unofficial start to the December holiday season, “Black Friday” sees merchants everywhere offering irresistible deals on desirable, giftable items in an attempt to attract as many customers as possible.

Store owners rely on big sale numbers on Black Friday because literal millions of shoppers brave the crowds that day, ready and eager to make purchases. The Thanksgiving four-day weekend also kicks off the biggest shopping season of the year. Last year, consumers shelled out a staggering $655 billion between Thanksgiving and the end of the calendar year!

With these mind-blowing statistics in mind, what will you be doing on Black Friday this year? If you have plans to shop in store(s), keeping the following things in mind as you do so will ensure that you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Plan ahead

Scour all of the advertisements that interest you and make a list of stores you want to visit, and in what order. A great way to get the most up-to-date special offers is to follow your favorite retailers on social media.

Do ample research

In tandem with planning ahead, be sure to research store hours, specific sale “start times,” and what part of the store your desired item(s) are located.

Limit purchases to “doorbusters”

Don’t get sucked in by other, much smaller sales while you’re out shopping. Stay focused on the deals that will save you the most money, and avoided the temptation to toss impulse buys into your cart.

Be aware of stores that price match

If you plan on visiting a retailer that offers price matching, be sure to bring along the advertisements from their competitor(s) that are relevant.

If shopping with credit, use a card that offers rewards

Racking up a ton of debt that you won’t be able to repay after the holidays is definitely not advised. However, if you have the cash to be able to pay off your credit card bill in full in the new year, be sure that you’re being rewarded for using credit. Use a card that offers cash back to make your Black Friday deals that much sweeter.

Keep all receipts

While it goes without saying, keeping receipts for all of your holiday spending is important for two reasons. First: you’re going to be gifting many (if not all) of the items you purchase on Black Friday – so be sure to ask for gift receipts where appropriate. Second: if you need to make a return for any reason, it’s always easier with a receipt. Since you’re doing more shopping than usual, keep all holiday receipts in a designated location.

When Black Friday ends, remember – that doesn’t mean the deals have to end. Most retailers are offering “Black Friday” deals that run all weekend long – and some last even longer. Cyber Monday will see another spike in awesome price drops online. In fact, many deals that are offered on Black Friday in stores will also be available online, too.

If you’re solely shopping online this year, be sure that you only shop on secure websites with the https prefix. Do not enter your credit card information on any site that isn’t secure or that feels sketchy in any way.

 

 

Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner on a Tight Budget

While everyone around you is hyped about the upcoming holiday(s), you feel an uneasy sense of dread anytime you so much as think about how much money the months of November and December are going to cost you. Living on a tight budget is particularly challenging when holiday festivities are in full gear, and you want desperately to join in on the fun.

While Thanksgiving isn’t quite as costly as the gift-laden holidays coming up in a month or so, there are without a doubt some hefty expenses that go into planning a family feast. If you’re on deck to host this year, your head is probably swimming with dollar signs and question marks.

Your best option here would have been to preemptively (and gracefully) bow out of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house. Most families would be understanding of your money struggles, and in general, there’s always someone eager to take on the task. With that being said, Thanksgiving is almost here, so if you’ve already committed to making the big meal happen in your kitchen, take the following tips to avoid spending more than you can afford.

Create a Thanksgiving budget

Take stock of what is most important to you and your loved ones on this holiday. Is it more important to be together and share quality time with those you may not see very often? If so, the food may be less of a focal point (and therefore less of an expense.)

On the other hand, if your guest list includes people who you see on the regular, maybe you’d all like to get creative this year and start some new traditions.

Once you’ve determined what is your main focus for the day, you’ll be better equipped to determine how much money you’ll need to make it a reality.

Become an even savvier shopper

Some grocery store chains offer a free turkey, ham or game hen when you spend a certain dollar amount there during the months preceding Thanksgiving. This is an easy, and somewhat obvious way to cut a nice chunk of money from your budget.

If you aren’t able to get your main dish free – consider going meatless. Meat is very expensive, and there are plenty of vegetarian options that are quite delicious. Even if you aren’t strictly vegetarian, it can be an adventure to try something new, while saving money at the same time.

Stock up on all of your sides and necessary ingredients over several months prior to the big feast. Only buy items that are on sale – this is why starting early is important. BONUS: If you hit some spectacular sales, buy two of everything non-perishable on your ingredient list (less expensive items like canned vegetables, bread crumbs, gravy, brown sugar, etc) and donate the extra items to a local food pantry or shelter.

Consider making your Thanksgiving a BYOD meal

Bring Your Own Dish meals, or potluck-style gatherings, can actually be really successful and fun. Not only does it take the financial pressure and performance anxiety off the table for the hosts, but it can also be an adventure for your taste buds.

Give everyone ownership of the meal by asking them what they’d like to contribute. What dish is their “specialty?” As the host, you can be in charge of several dishes as well, and you can all come together to taste test what everyone brings to share!

Divorce Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Credit Score!

While the act of separating and/or getting divorced from your spouse won’t affect your credit score on its own, it is likely to cause indirect damage to your finances. So, while there won’t be a giant mark on your credit report that says “GOT DIVORCED, automatic 100 point deduction,” your score can and will begin to drop after a divorce if you aren’t hyper-aware of the potential damage.

In order to take proactive steps to maintain a good or excellent credit score during and after a divorce, you first have to know what you’re up against. Some of the biggest factors that cause divorcees financial strife include:

  • Suddenly dropping from two incomes to one income
  • Joint debt that goes unpaid by your soon-to-be ex-spouse
  • Shared bank accounts that can be drained by either party
  • Spiteful actions of one spouse, like running up a joint credit card balance
  • Lack of an independent financial identity and/or credit history
  • Divorce expenses
  • Child support and/or alimony

Even if the split is something that will ultimately make you happier, the process of getting to that end goal is undoubtedly going to be stressful. It is much easier to miss a bill payment or make other financial errors when you are stressed to the max.

Why is My Credit Score so Important After Divorce?

Losing a few credit score points shouldn’t make or break anyone, right? In many situations, this may be true. However, for those people who are going through a divorce, maintaining a solid credit score is IMPERATIVE.

You may need to buy or rent, initiate utility services for, and completely furnish a new home. In order to do so, your credit must be fair to good at minimum (ideally in the upper 600s or above).

Additionally, many divorcees seek higher-paying jobs in order to make up for the second income that was lost in the split. These days, it is common practice for employers to check the credit history of all potential hires before extending a job offer. If your score tanks during or after your divorce, it may prove difficult to make even a lateral employment move.

What Can I Do to Maintain a Good Credit Score After my Divorce?

As soon as you know that divorce is in the cards, your first move should be getting a current credit report from each reporting agency. This will allow you to know precisely what debts and recurring payments are officially your responsibility as opposed to your spouse’s.

“Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty.” ~ Will Durant

After you have current credit reports in hand, it’s important that you take smart action based on the information contained in your report(s). For example, you may not have realized that your spouse listed you as an ‘authorized user’ on a credit card. If the card’s balance gets maxed out due to extra expenses during your divorce and your ex-spouse stops making payments, you could be held responsible for the balance. In addition to removing yourself from any joint accounts, you should:

  • Create an amended budget using your adjusted spending limit.
  • Make it a priority to make all of your payments on time.
  • Closely monitor any accounts that you’re unable to separate immediately.
  • Get educated on the topic of good financial habits.
  • Seek the help of a financial advisor or NJ credit repair attorney, if needed.

 

 

 

 

How to Invest in Your Future When You’re Broke

If you find yourself “barely” living paycheck to paycheck, the worry of not having any money saved can eat away at you. The concept of planning for future events like sending your kid(s) to college, helping them get married, and enjoying your own retirement can feel impossible when you can hardly afford your current lifestyle.

Although it may seem completely unimaginable, you can make a plan for your future; in fact, strategic financial planning may be the one thing that also helps you live better now as well.

The main reason most people don’t have a real savings plan in place is because they simply feel they don’t have enough money to do so. The change that needs to happen isn’t in making more money (although that is obviously not a bad thing) but in getting a new mindset.

The first step in getting a new money mindset is to change your inner dialogue from “I’m broke! I can barely even pay my bills!” to “Let’s see if I can find ways to improve how I spend money.”

While you may feel that you are barely able to meet the financial demands of your life, most people find that they’re spending too much in at least one area that can be cut back. Take a good, hard look at where all of your money goes for at least one complete month. Write down each and every cent that’s spent, organized into three categories:

  •  Necessary/survival: Housing (mortgage payment or rent), utility bills (electric, gas, water/sewer, trash removal), all forms of necessary insurance (homeowners/renters, car, health, life), food (for eat-at-home meals only), vehicle payment(s), vehicle maintenance, gas.
  • Debt: College/student loans, credit cards, personal loans, and any other forms of debt.
  • Luxury: These are things that, while dearly beloved by many of us, can be eradicated without causing you extreme hardship. Examples include: cable/satellite tv packages, streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Now), high speed internet connection, Xbox Live membership, restaurant meals, magazine/newspaper subscriptions, cell phone(s) and their service plans, gym memberships, satellite radio, hair/nail services, frivolous (unnecessary) purchases like new electronics, expensive clothing/shoes, and other items that you simply don’t need.

Once you have a clear picture of exactly what you’re spending all of your money on, you will be able to create a plan to start saving money – it’s that simple!

Your mindset must remain steadfastly dedicated to saving money in order for this to work, however. See that list of luxury items? You are going to have to decide which of them you can either cut out entirely, or scale back. You will likely be surprised at how many companies will be happy to work with you to lower your monthly bill when you explain your situation. They’d rather keep your business at a lower profit than lose you altogether.

Instead of having your nails painted professionally, invest in the supplies needed to do your nails at home. Listen to the (free) radio in your car or pop in a CD rather than paying for satellite radio. Cut out your cable tv and keep your streaming services. Cancel your gym membership and get outside to exercise or start an indoor workout program – there are a multitude of free exercise videos on Youtube.

Even something as simple as not stopping before work to get a coffee and breakfast on-the-go can make a difference. If you spend $5 every day for a breakfast to-go, you can put that money directly into your savings account by eating breakfast at home. This habit can save you over $1,000 a year!

Another potential way to save money every month is to negotiate your interest rates with any lenders or credit card companies. You may also qualify for a loan modification (even for your mortgage loan) wherein the terms of your loan would be adjusted in order to make your monthly payments lower.

After you have found several good ways to save money each month – be sure to put the money saved into the right place! The best way to make sure this happens is to put a set amount into your savings account before you pay any bills or spend any money. That way you will train yourself to live on the money you have left after you’ve already invested in your future.