3 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Budgeting

budgeting

Every parent wants the best for their child. As a parent, it is your goal to raise bright, capable adults. And yet, even while saving thousands towards their child’s college fund, many parents do not discuss financial issues with their children. Many parents wait until high school to begin having financial discussions with their kids, but many financial experts caution against this. While it may seem shocking that your four year old is picking up financial habits, children actually start developing an understanding of money from a very early age. Even if your kids are already in their teens, it is never too late to start teaching them smart ways to earn, spend, and save money. If you are ready to have the money talk with your kids, here are some great ideas to start.

1. Teach them how to earn money.

Some parents do not like the idea of an allowance earned for work kids should be doing as contributing members of a household. It can also be difficult to find the funds for a weekly allowance. But an allowance can help your kids connect early on that work and money go hand in hand. Allowances do not have to be a lot. Starting off with quarters for certain tasks or a dollar a week can still facilitate the same lesson. You can choose to reward household chores that go above and beyond the normal household work, or instead opt to provide a financial reward for earning specific grades in school (or other similar milestones.)

If you have a little one with an entrepreneurial spirit, encourage them to practice their business savvy with babysitting jobs, neighborhood yard work, or a lemonade stand. The main goal here is to connect hard work with financial gain. Money does not just magically appear and it is important for kids to understand the dedication and commitment required to earn a buck.

2. Teach them how to spend money.

One of the biggest lessons you can teach your child is how to differentiate between needs and wants. Even adults struggle with this lesson sometimes, so including your kids in conversations about spending can give them the head start they need for future financial success. We often make financial decisions on behalf of our children without explaining why. If your child is begging for ice cream on your weekly grocery run, instead of just saying “no,” take a minute to explain why getting chicken, potatoes, and veggies for the whole family is more important. When back to school shopping, explain why pencils and notebooks are more important than decorations for their locker.

In addition to this, let your kids make real life transactions. Help them count out coins from their allowance to buy a treat. When they are a little older, make them responsible for buying their lunch by giving them actual money instead of simply adding money to their online account. A big part of being a financially healthy adult is knowing how to spend responsibly. Teaching budgeting skills early can set your child up for success in the future.

3. Teach them how to save money.

Let’s face it: saving money can be boring for adults, much less kids. It can be hard for kids to fight the desire to instantly gratify their spending urges when they finally have money of their own. Adding a little creativity and fun to savings can liven up the process while still allowing your kids to learn very important financial lessons. Have your child draw something that symbolizes the item they are saving for and then slowly start to color it in the more they save for it. This will give them a visual to remind them of their goals and help them see how far they have come in achieving them.

While piggy banks are time tested savings tools for smaller children, when your child get a little older it may be worthwhile to open a savings account in their name. Whether you do this at an actual bank or online, opening an account for your child will give you the opportunity to teach your kids about banking. From monthly statements and fees to deposits and withdrawals, your child will be able to watch their savings grow. You could even designate this savings account for college, a car, or some other big financial expense. Involving your child in the saving process for these big ticket items will help your child feel invested in their financial future.

There are plenty of creative and meaningful ways to teach your kids about good financial habits. Taking the time to provide lessons about money now can save them from struggling in the future. When it comes to teaching your kids about money, it is never too early to start!

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How to Save Money This Summer and Still Have Fun

With longer days, warmer weather, and the kids out of school, summer is a time for exciting activities, long-awaited trips, and idle indulgences. It can also be very expensive. Paying for extra summer activities, vacations, a climbing electric bill, and even more daycare can cause a strain on your finances. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of ways to stay frugal while indulging in the joys of summer. Here are a few ways to enjoy the summer without letting your spending run wild.

1. Skip the Gym

During the summer, the weather is nice and you find yourself spending more and more time in the great outdoors. Summer might be a great time to consider canceling your gym membership so you can take advantage of the great weather. Walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, and outdoor sports are all great ways to stay in shape that allow you to enjoy being outside. While some people might need the gym for specific workouts, the majority of those with a gym membership could get the same workout at home without spending the extra cash. If you want to keep your gym membership for the winter, see if your gym will pause your membership plan through the summer months.

2. Find Free Fun

Summer is the ideal time for festivals, concerts, fairs, carnivals, and other free activities. Check out your town’s calendar or website to see what events are upcoming. Free events can be a great way to get the whole family out of the house and doing something together, or it can be a great excuse for an inexpensive adult escape. Take advantage of local parks. If you live near a national park, scope out the free entry days and plan a day trip. If you are looking to relax, check out a good beach read from your local public library. You don’t have to drop a ton of money to enjoy summer!

3. Travel on a Budget

Most people tend to do the most traveling in the summer months. Kids are out of school and the sunny weather energizes the explorer in all of us. The good news is you don’t have to ruin your budget to travel this summer. If you are up for an outdoors adventure, camping is a fantastic family activity that can be very inexpensive without sacrificing any of the fun. Many regions known for camping will have free campsites, allowing you to spend more money on seeing the sights and doing fun outdoors activities.

If camping just isn’t your style, you can still save money without having to rough it. Airbnb homeowners offer great options for budget travelers all over the world, from quaint cabins to glamorous apartments in big cities. Opting for a vacation rental with a kitchen can also save you money in food expenses, allowing you to stay in and cook instead of going out for every meal. When traveling anywhere, be flexible with your travel days in order to take advantage of any flight or accommodation deals.

4. Be Smart About Keeping Your Home Cool

Jersey summers can get rough. The humidity coupled with some really hot days can be miserable and force you to stay inside. On these days, it can be tempting to crank the AC. Instead, try keeping your thermostat set in the mid-70s when you’re home, turning your AC up a few degrees when you’re out of the house. Keep your home cool in other ways, like black-out curtains to block out the sun. Avoid cooking hot meals that get your kitchen boiling on really hot days. Summer is a great time to do some grilling outside or whip up something quick and easy in a crockpot. This will keep your house cool and prevent you from turning down the AC after your oven heats up the house. Keeping your thermostat at a reasonable temperature can save you up to 10% on your electric bill.

5. Shop Second Hand

Summer is a great time for refreshing your style. If you find yourself with the shopping bug this season, think twice before running out to the mall. Yard sales and flea markets tend to be in full swing during summer months, offering incredible deals on everything from vintage dresses to nesting tables for your living room. Thrift shops like Goodwill and second hand home improvement stores like ReStore are great places to score excellent finds for your wardrobe or your house. In addition to the money you can save by thrift shopping – exploring yard sales, flea markets, and second hand shops are a fun and unique way to spend a summer morning.

You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy everything New Jersey’s hottest months have to offer. Keeping your finances in mind during the summer will allow you to enjoy this season without finding yourself broke in the fall.

What Should my Budget Look Like After a New Jersey Bankruptcy?

New Jersey bankruptcy

When overwhelming debt and missed payments start to control your life, bankruptcy can offer a fresh start to begin rebuilding your finances. It is important to take advantage of this clean slate by doing everything in your power to learn from past financial mistakes and create better habits for your future. Debt can accumulate from overspending, a medical emergency, or the loss of employment or income. No matter how you found yourself in debt and filing bankruptcy, there are steps to take to make sure it doesn’t happen again. One of the best ways to become more aware of your finances and prepare yourself for unexpected expenses is to create a household budget.

A household budget will allow you to track your spending and find opportunities to build your savings. Every budget will look different for every household, which is why you need to make sure you are creating a realistic budget that works for your household. Learning how to use this helpful tool will help you manage your money and bounce back fast after bankruptcy. Here are some steps to creating a household budget while recovering from bankruptcy:

1. Track Your Expenses

Take the first thirty days after bankruptcy to track how much money you are spending and what you spend your money on. The best way to do this is to create a spreadsheet listing different categories of expenses and then tracking these expenses throughout the month. Make sure you include every purchase you make to ensure you are getting the most holistic view of your finances. After you spend one month tracking your expenses, subtract your total expenses from your total monthly income.

2. Adjust Your Spending Habits

What are the results? Pay attention to where your money is going. You should never be spending more than you earn in a given month. If you have more money going out than coming in, it’s time to figure out where to make some spending cuts. You should start by determining which expenses are essential, like groceries and utilities, and which expenses are not. Start cutting back on any non-essential expenses.

3. Allocate Your Income

Once you know where your money is going and where you can start to make some cuts in spending, it’s time to figure out how you’re using your money. The best way to do this is to determine what percentage of your monthly income goes to specific expenses. For instance, if your monthly income is $4,500 and you spend $1,000 a month for your mortgage payment, you’re spending 23% of your monthly budget on your house. Here are some suggested percentages to compare with your budget:

  • Medical: 5-10%
  • Housing: 25-35%
  • Transportation: 10-15%
  • Savings: 10-15%
  • Food: 10-15%
  • Utilities: 5-10%
  • Insurance: 10-20%
  • Recreation: 5-10%

These percentages are only meant to serve as rough guidelines and they will not work with every household, but this is a great jumping off point for creating your household budget. If you find your spending in the above categories is significantly higher than recommended, you may want to start cutting back on those costs.

4. Finalize Your Household Budget

Based on the above information, you should be able to create a monthly budget that works for your household. Continue to track your expenses to keep yourself accountable for your spending and to make sure your budget is realistic. Staying aware of your spending habits will help prevent former bad habits from resurfacing. Pay specific attention to growing your savings and emergency funds. These financial reserves can really save you in the event of an emergency.

At Veitengruber Law, we know that life is unpredictable and rarely goes according to plan. A monthly budget can’t account for everything life will throw at you, but it can help you prepare for unexpected life events and sudden expenses. Creating a household budget will help bring some stability to your financial status and ensure you can weather the set-backs. If you need help making your post-bankruptcy budget, we can help!

4 Ways to Start Building Your Savings

how to build your savings

For a lot of people, the idea of having any money to save can be laughable. When you’re working paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet, it might seem impossible to put any amount of income away for the future. After all, what is the point of saving $5? But saving any amount of money is worth it. Studies have shown that having even $500 in savings can help immensely in the event of an emergency. So while the standard advice for a savings goal is six months of living expenses, every little bit helps. If you are new to saving money, or recently had your savings drained, here are a few ways to build your savings account or emergency fund.

1. Pay Yourself First

Whether you are building your savings account for a big purchase, to fulfill a life goal, or for retirement, the best way to achieve your savings goals is to pay yourself first. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to save the money they have left over at the end of the month—and often find they don’t have any money to put towards their savings accounts. Before you have the chance to spend the money on anything else, put it into a designated savings account.

In order to make sure you pay yourself first, you must get a good handle on your budget. If you can determine what your income and expenses are, you will have a better idea of how much money you can safely put towards savings every month. A budget will allow you to be realistic about your savings goals, while also curbing your excess spending. For example, if you notice you are spending a lot of money eating out, make an effort to cook at home more often and then put the extra money into savings. Every little bit does matter! When creating your budget, make savings the ultimate goal and allow your spending choices to reflect that goal.

2. Make Building Your Savings a Habit

Another good way to build your savings is to make it a habit. It matters less how much you are saving each month; it’s more important that you are consistently depositing money into your savings account. A great way to do this is to set up an automatic deposit. Most banks will let you automatically deposit a set amount of money from your checking account into your savings account on a specific day of your choice. The first few days after pay day is a good automatic deposit day. With automatic deposits, you may not even notice the money is missing from your checking account in the first place. As this “habit” will largely go unnoticed, making it a very easy way to save!

3. Look for Sneaky Ways to Save Even More Money

After you have been saving for a while, you will have a good idea of your income, expenses, and budget. At that point, you should critically examine your spending to see where you could eliminate expenses in order to allocate even more of your income to savings. It is always a good idea to put “extra money,” like bonuses or tax refunds, into your savings. Make sure you are taking full advantage of your employee benefits. If your employer offers transportation reimbursement, matching retirement savings plans, or insurance, you can save money by taking advantage of these benefits. If you are job searching, look for employers who can help you achieve your financial goals.

4. Create a Separate Emergency Account

Once you have an established savings account, it might be a good idea to consider a separate savings account labeled as an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund that is separate from your savings account can ensure that even when facing an unfortunate financial event, you won’t lose all of your savings in the process. With a savings account and an emergency fund, you can plan for unforeseen medical expenses or an unexpected car repair while still putting money away for your future.

Saving money can give you peace of mind and a sense of financial security. Knowing you have the financial resources to get through some of life’s many hurdles is a powerful feeling. Every dollar you put into savings is an investment in your financial future. Everyone has to start somewhere, so start saving today!

Investing Basics for Millennials

investing for beginners

As the average college student graduates with around $30,000 in debt, it can be hard for young adults to even think about using any of their income to invest. Even for those who did not go to college, most working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. In fact, the latest Merrill Edge Report found that 66% of millennials would rather put their money in a savings account instead of investments or a retirement plan. For many millennials, it can be confusing or scary to entrust their financial security into the hands of others. The good news is, investing doesn’t have to be scary or difficult. Here, we explore a few ways beginners can start investing in themselves and their financial futures.

Why invest in the first place?

Put simply, the number one reason to invest is to create wealth. Smart investing is the best way to increase the power of your financial resources. Investing can make it possible for you to achieve your financial goals, start a college fund for your kids, establish a legacy, or even just create a safety net for retirement. If you think you don’t have enough money to invest, think again. There is no one-size-fits-all investment plan. While most financial planners suggest investing 10% of your income, investing what you can is better than not investing at all. A small initial investment when you’re young can have a big long-term impact.

There are many different ways to invest, but the most common forms of investment are the ones you can choose as part of a brokerage account or through your retirement plan at work. These generally include:

 

Stocks
Stocks are a partial ownership of one or more companies. If a company does well, the value of their stock increases—along with the return on your investment. While more prone to sudden and sometimes drastic changes, stocks have a high return potential over longer periods of time.

 

Bonds
Bonds are fixed income investments designed to create a consistent stream of income. The values of bonds are vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations, but they are considered to be more stable than stocks, despite having a lower return potential.

 

Cash
This doesn’t just mean physical cash. It also includes investments like savings accounts, artwork, or collectibles. Cash investments tend to be the lowest risk, but they also have the lowest return on investment.

 

Mutual Funds and ETFs
These funds invest money pooled from many investors in an array of stocks, bonds, and other investments.

 

Your personal investment portfolio will be different than any one else’s portfolio. Part of learning how to invest is learning how to make the best decisions for your own financial future. Still, there are some basic rules to help you start making smart investment choices.

The biggest rule in investments is to create a diverse investment portfolio. Diversification can help you ride any potential losses. Even if one of your investments takes a hit, you will be able to rely on your other investments to make up for the loss.

Another important rule of thumb is to invest in what you believe in. Don’t let others do your research for you. If you don’t know or understand what you’re buying, don’t buy it! Do your own research to figure out which investments will be the most profitable for you. After all, no one cares more about your money than you. Be patient with your investments and only invest in what you can afford. If you invest what you reasonably can and give your investments time to mature and grow, you will see some great returns.

Creating wealth through investing involves a lot of research and evaluating different kinds of investments. Once you feel comfortable with the basics, you can come up with a game plan for your financial future. Even with limited funds, making steps towards investing can dramatically affect your financial future. Investing will get easier the longer you do it; all you have to do is get started.

Creative and Affordable Valentine’s Day Ideas

 

Love is in the air this week and if your budget is tight, fear not! There are plenty of ways to show your loved ones you care without breaking the bank. Here are some creative and affordable ideas to make your Valentine’s Day special.

 

Gifts for Her:

  • Find some video tutorials on YouTube that explain folding origami flowers. Make a bouquet that will last weeks instead of flowers that will die in a few days. Bonus points on learning a new skill.

 

  • Find a recipe for DIY bath bombs and schedule an hour for her to use them. Prepare a beautiful bath experience with soothing music, a spa pillow, candles – and if you have kids, take them out for a bit so she can unwind in peace.

 

  • Bouquets of fresh-cut flowers are a huge expense, bad for the environment with their extra plastic wrap, and don’t last long at all. Instead, choose a beautiful potted plant that can be enjoyed indoors year-round like lavender or succulents. Alternatively, select a perennial you can plant together in the spring together like a rose bush. You’ll love returning to the plant each year for more buds.

 

 

Gifts for Him:

  • Print out photos of the two of you and make a collage in a frame he can fit on his desk. Glancing at the two of you all day will make him happy to come home!

 

  • Buy lottery tickets with numbers that are meaningful for you as a couple. Use birthdays, anniversaries, addresses, lucky numbers, etc. Watch the drawing together and split the winnings!

 

  • Skip the massage parlor and bring home a bottle of massage oil. Treat each other to a sensual couple’s massage without the awkwardness of a spa.

 

  • Download Cards Against Humanity card templates and create a personalized game for him using inside jokes and memories.

 

 

Classroom Valentines for Kids:

Many schools have banned food treats, so you may have to get creative.

 

  • Buy heart-shaped molds and melt down broken crayons into fun rainbow heart crayons. Attach a card that says “You Color My World.”

 

  • Let nature be your inspiration! Check out these adorable ideas using rocks (You Rock!), sticks (Let’s Stick Together), shells (You Bring Me Out of My Shell), feathers (We’re Birds of a Feather), acorns (Nuts About You), and pine branches (I’m Pining for You).

 

Activities:

  • Beat the cold weather and take a trip to your local planetarium for a romantic night under the stars.

 

  • Make a valentine-themed meal together. Serve an appetizer of tomato and heart-shaped mozzarella drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Make and top mini heart-shaped pizzas with heart-shaped pepperoni. Cut strawberries into hearts to decorate a slice of cake.

 

  • Get in on the paint and sip trend. These are affordable nights out where you learn to paint a chosen picture and bring your own wine for the evening. Choose a bottle you’ll both enjoy and a picture you can hang side-by-side as a memento of the evening.

 

  • Choose a few favorite movie titles and put their names in a jar. Pick out one or two for a movie marathon evening. Don’t feel obligated to pick a rom-com. To some couples, The Terminator is just as romantic as The Notebook.

 

  • Escape rooms are a fun way to spend your night. Get locked in a room with each other for an hour and puzzle your way out. You’ll learn new things about each other and have a memorable experience to share.

 

It’s easy to stick to a budget and still show those you love you care about them. With a little creativity your Valentine’s Day can be both memorable and affordable.

Budgeting for NJ Business Owners

NJ Business Owners

If you’re a NJ business owner, you know it is essential to find efficient ways to keep track of your finances. Establishing a business budget can help you track and organize your financial resources so you can make informed decisions about how to run your business. But not every budget is the same and different budgets work better for different companies. There are a variety of budgets to help you manage your spending and utilize successful strategies in order to maximize your assets and revenues. Here, we lay out some of the most popular budget plans for your business:

  1. Master Budget

Your master budget is the big picture. It combines all of a company’s individual budgets (sales, operating expenses, income streams, etc.) to help business owners evaluate the overall performance of their business. This type of budget will give you a comprehensive overview of your company’s general financial health. This budget is best utilized by larger companies, allowing different managers to see how their departments’ progress aligns with company goals.

  1. Operating Budget

An operating budget is typically what business owners think of when they hear the word “budget.” This type of budget is a projected forecast of income and expenses over a specific period of time. An operating budget allows business owners to get an understanding of their business’s financial health on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Over time, owners or managers can analyze this data to figure out in what areas overspending is occurring.

  1. Financial Budget

Unlike an operating budget, a financial budget looks beyond income and expenses to assets, liabilities, and equity. Typically, data for a financial budget is laid out in a balance sheet to provide an overview of the financial health of the business. This kind of budget is very important for determining a business’s value relative to public stock offerings, funding opportunities, or for a merger.

  1. Cash Flow Budget

A cash flow budget allows business owners to project how and when cash comes into and out of a business during a specific time period. This helps a business understand if they are managing their money efficiently. In analyzing a cash flow budget, a business owner can see whether or not upcoming financial obligations will be met or if they need to look into other financing options.

  1. Labor Budget

If your business has employees, creating a labor budget is important to help you determine how many workers you need to employ to achieve your desired level of productivity. This budget is helpful for establishing payroll costs of running your business and, in some cases, planning for the hiring of seasonal workers.

  1. Capital Budget

This budget is helpful for business owners preparing to purchase large assets like expensive machinery, new technology, or a bigger work space. This kind of budget establishes what the cost of the new asset is and analyzes whether or not the predicted return on investment is worth the expense of the purchase. This can help business owners plan for a big purchase as well as determine cost effectiveness.

  1. Strategic Plan Budget

Most businesses work under the vision of a strategic plan. A strategic plan sets up the long term goals of a business—but doesn’t always include long term budget goals. Make sure you don’t make that mistake. By including financial information in your overall vision for your business, you can better understand how you need to plan in order to create financial growth.

  1. Static Budget

A static budget is a financial plan that remains fixed. This a good budget for businesses that have very predictable and consistent income and expenses. Business owners are able to judge the performance of their business by comparing their static budget to the actual financial performance of their business. This can be particularly useful in monitoring a increase or decrease in sales performance.

Budgets are important to the success of any business. Besides allowing you to track your success internally, a well maintained budget can help you attract investors or secure business loans in the future. Don’t overlook the importance of creating an effective financial plan for your business. Veitengruber Law offers the long-term planning you need. Our experienced team can help you devise a sound financial plan to protect your assets and grow your business to new levels of success.

4 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Gift Cards

using giftcards wisely

There’s no question that at some point during your life you’ve struggled to come up with a gift idea for someone in your life. Whether that person is a loved one or someone you barely know, the go-to gift in this case is usually a gift card. They’re quick and easy to purchase, versatile, and satisfying to most gift recipients.

Some years, you yourself may feel inundated with gift cards. If this year was one of those years and you’re buried in a heap of gift cards, we’ve got some tips for you. If your free money is burning a hole in your pocket, read through to the end of our blog post before you give in to that spending temptation.

According to the National Retail Foundation’s holiday projections, over half of all consumers surveyed reported that they expected to give at least several gift cards as Christmas presents. The average person has approximately $300 worth of gift cards in their possession immediately after the holiday season. When that’s the case, self-control and intelligence comes in handy in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Tip #1: Check the balances. Before you launch into a spending frenzy, make sure you know the exact balances on each gift card. This helps prevent overspending and surprises at the checkout counter. After the holidays, the last thing you need is an expense you weren’t expecting. There are various ways you can check your gift card balances:

  • Call the number on the back of the gift card.
  • Search the company online and visit their website. Most stores will have link to check your gift card balance, like this one at Kohls.com.

Tip #2: Wait for the sales. Just as you should when using your own money, wait for a sale when preparing to use your gift cards unless you need an item ASAP. If it’s a pleasure item you’re coveting, like that fresh pair of sneakers you’ve had your eye on or a new smart watch, wait until the price drops.

While there are some companies and certain products that rarely (if ever) go on sale, many items will go on sale regularly. The key is to muster up enough self control to wait for deals like “buy one, get one free” or a percentage off. Your patience will pay off when you’re able to get the most out of your gift card(s) and are able to avoid spending any of your own money.

Tip #3: Trade, sell, or exchange. It’s rare that you’ll receive a gift card that doesn’t suit your personal taste, but if you don’t expect to ever use a card you’ve been gifted, there is a growing market wherein you can sell or trade your unwanted gift card. You probably won’t get 100% of what the gift card is worth, but the more popular the store and gift card, the more your card will be worth in trade. On sites such as Card Kangaroo and CardCash, you can trade or exchange electronic gift cards and even partially used gift cards. Right before the holiday season begins is the prime time to unload the gift cards from your hands, but immediately after the holidays is a close second.

Tip #4: Stock up for next year. If you aren’t a planner, here is a good opportunity to get a jump start on next year’s gifts, whether for birthdays, house-warming, baby showers, Christmas and more. If you aren’t fond of the gift card that you were given, you can easily re-gift it to someone else. Just make sure it’s not back to the same person or someone in the same family.

Gift cards can easily burn a hole in your pocket until you have given in and spent them all. This is where wisdom, self-control, and patience are key. Be intelligent about when and how you spend your gift card(s). By taking your time waiting for the right sale, you’ll be able to get the biggest bang possible out of any gift card(s) you received!

10 Clever Ways to Save Money in the New Year

save money in 2019

By the time the Christmas season passes us by, people are ready to pull out their hair – which may contain a few extra grays after the stress of the holidays. It’s easy to let stress get the best of us, and truthfully, it’s not uncommon to feel like life is a tad unorganized. Thankfully, we get a chance to wipe the slate clean, pull our scattered lives back together, and set an ambitious goal for the coming year. For many people, that means sorting out money matters. In order to adapt a “tabula rasa,” mentality, it’s important to commence the New Year on the right financial path, with a solid budget in place, and your consumer mind in check.

The December holidays can put us in the consumer mindset, provoking the typical American to drop money on anything and everything. Before you know it, you may have racked up debt as high as Mount Everest! Here are a few tips to getting off the debt mountain and back on solid ground.

1.      Budget Build

This may seem like an obvious starting point, but it provides the foundation from which all other money matters flow. A budget’s “job” is to create a sense of financial order. Here’s a piece of advice that just might save you a spike in blood pressure: don’t attempt to draft, edit and finalize your budget in one sitting. Instead, once you’ve collected all necessary financial details (money income and outflow), break up the work into a few manageable sessions. After completing an organized budget table, closely search for places where you can either decrease debt or augment your savings goals. Don’t forget that you should be saving more than you’re spending!

2.      Home-Cooked Helpings

Going out to eat is one of the ways in which many American families spend a significant amount of money. Because money that is spent on items outside of the home is the most flexible, it is the primary category where substantial saving can take place. Preparing more home-made meals is easier said than done, mainly because of the time commitment. There are different strategies that you can use to cut down on time and money spent at the grocery store. For example, make a 10 week meal plan, and every 10 weeks, start the plan over. You won’t get tired of the meals, but it helps keep you prepared for the week ahead as well as knowing what groceries you will need well in advance.

3.      Smart Shopping

Coupons are your best friend. The mail, apps, and grocery stores’ flyers are just a few places where coupons can be found. Apps such as RetailMeNot and BradsDeals make it easy to compare prices at retail stores to guarantee that you’re getting the best buy. You’re right, comparing ticket prices for expensive items is crucial, but check for discounts on more affordable items, too.

4.      Sustainable Solution

Helping the Earth is incredibly important, but so is saving a couple bucks on your heating bill. Consider setting your thermostat just a few degrees lower this winter, especially when you’re not around. A few degrees may not seem like it would make much of a difference in your heating bill, but remember, every little bit helps.

5.      Air Leak Atrophy

Similar to the money-saver listed directly above, any air leaks in your house will contribute to an increase in your heating bill. Slowly leaking air may not be at the top of your list of things to fix in your household, but it’s an easy job that will produce a ROI.

6.      Starbucks Self-Control

“Sleep-deprived and busy, busy, busy” – we often hear these words when we ask someone how they’re doing. It’s true, Americans are busy, but we seem to rely on caffeine to replenish our energy. Caffeine isn’t the worst thing to be addicted to, but it does hit the bank account hard, especially when your coffee stop becomes a daily habit. Try cutting your coffee stops in half, or just stop on Fridays. Let that be your motivation to get you through the week.

7.      Show the Library Some Love

Rather than spending money on movies, books, or magazine subscriptions, drop by your local library to see what they have to offer. Many libraries provide free checkouts for countless books, various magazine subscriptions, and DVDs.

8.      Stop Subscriptions

Do you have random magazine or other subscriptions that you just don’t use? Save a few dollars and cancel it as soon as you can. It’s easy to bite on the “one month for free” bait, but if you forget to stop the subscription, you’ll be a quarter of the way up Mt. Everest before you realize that you don’t even read half of the magazines that arrive at your door.

9.      Exercise Economically

Naturally, exercise has a myriad of benefits, from keeping your weight in a healthy range to boosting your mental health and even improving your body’s health at the cellular level. Humans were created to move! Unfortunately, the cost of gyms and personal trainers can be outrageous. Instead, make a habit out of grabbing a friend to do an activity that doesn’t revolve around food or drinks. Try hiking, biking, taking a walk, or any other activity that gets you moving.

10.   Sidestep Shopping Online

Simply scanning your email inbox can be a slippery slope, especially if you’re one to get sale alerts from your favorite stores. Avoiding these promotions and sales can save you a lot in the long run. Using email filters, you can automatically send all of your promotion and sale emails to a special folder, limiting your temptation to see them right when they come through.

Saving money is a challenging task when everyone around you falls prey to the lure of retail. There are countless ways that you can save money in 2019, but it will take some discipline. Start with our tips and add a few of your own. Before you know it, your holiday debt will be reduced to dust and your savings account will start to grow.

9 Smart Money New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

money new year's resolutions

Everyone looks forward to the New Year as a fresh start. This year, use your New Year’s Resolutions to benefit your wallet! From big goals to small changes, these 9 tips can get your finances on track in 2019:

 

  1. Eliminate/Reduce Credit Card Debt

If your credit card debt has gotten out of control in 2018, plan to make paying down your credit card balances a priority in 2019. With the Federal Reserve likely to increase interest rates this year, credit card debt is only going to become more expensive. Set a specific goal for yourself, (for example:  pay down 25% of your current debt). Focus on paying down the debt under the highest interest first to avoid income-draining interest rates. If you are struggling to make credit card payments, do not hesitate to reach out for help from Veitengruber Law.

 

  1. Pay Down Student Loans

For a lot of people, student loan debt is a heavy financial burden. It’s a great idea to take 2019 as an opportunity to make a huge dent in your student loans. Start by reviewing your loans and determining which ones have the highest interest rates. Making extra payments on those loans will save you money on interest in the long run. Paying more than the minimum due each month is also a great way to make sure you are not spending more than you should on interest. If your interest rates are high or you have a lot of different loans, consolidating your loans may allow you to get a lower interest rate and create more manageable monthly payments.

 

  1. Emergency Fund

In 2018, 39% of Americans paid for an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings.* Many Americans end up in debt trying to cover unexpected costs. Most experts recommend having at least six months’ worth of expenses in savings, but if you are starting an emergency fund from scratch, make your goal something you think is reasonable to achieve. Even having a few hundred dollars in savings is better than nothing. You may want to consider setting up automatic transfers from your paycheck into a savings account so you are not tempted to spend this money.

 

  1. Improve Your Credit Score

The first step to improving your credit score is to know what it is in the first place. Signing up for free and reliable credit score monitoring through services like Experian or Mint will help you see how healthy your credit score is now. Good credit scores range from 700-749 and scores of 750 and higher are considered excellent. If your credit is not where you want it to be, make raising it your priority in 2019. Small things like paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, and setting up automatic payments right after you’ve gotten paid can help reduce your debt and improve your score.

 

  1. Do Taxes Early

Filing for your federal income tax returns as soon as you can is a great way to start the New Year. Not only will you get your refund faster, it can give you extra time to pay taxes you may owe or help you avoid needing a tax extension. If you are expecting a big life change in 2019—like returning to college or buying a home—filing early will help you get a head start on this paperwork. For instance, students can use the information on their 1040 form to apply for financial aid. Plus, the sooner you apply for your refund, the less likely it is that you will be the victim of tax return identity theft.

 

  1. Cook More

Americans spend thousands of dollars a year eating out. A big way to save money in 2019 is to spend less time eating out and more time making your own food. Use 2019 as a chance to get more comfortable in the kitchen. Bring lunch from home, meal prep on the weekends, and spend some time researching quick-to-make meals. The more frequently you eat food bought from the grocery store, the less money you will spend—and the healthier you will be, too!

 

  1. Retirement Savings Plan

It is important to start saving for retirement as soon as possible. There are many options for creating a savings plan for retirement and you can determine which one is best for your specific circumstances. Maybe your employer provides a 401(k) plan, but if not – you can open an IRA or, if you are self-employed, a Simplified Employee Pension IRA. If you already have a retirement plan in action, reassess the plan in 2019. Could you be saving more? Are you on track for retirement?

 

  1. Home Improvements

While some home improvement projects will cost big and add value to your home, sometimes it’s the small projects that can have a big impact on your finances. Investing in energy-saving appliances in 2019 could allow you to save money every month on energy costs.  Energystar.gov has recommendations for energy efficient products and other home improvement ideas to get you thinking about ways you can save money on energy this New Year.

 

  1. Focus on Your Health

The average American spends over $4,000 a year on health care. Make your health a priority in 2019! Join the gym, focus on eating well, and take the time you need to relax. Go to the doctor at the first sign of illness instead of waiting until your health has been severely diminished. Preventative healthcare measures can save you big in the long run.

 

 

 

*From Bankrate