5 Mistakes to Avoid After NJ Bankruptcy

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After your NJ bankruptcy, a common concern is how to re-establish your credit score. The real challenge is creating new financial habits so you don’t find yourself back in the same hole all over again. At Veitengruber Law, our holistic approach to financial health means our job doesn’t end after the bankruptcy is closed. We work with you to repair your credit and create healthier financial habits.

 

Top Mistakes to Avoid After a Bankruptcy Discharge:

 

1 – Ignoring your credit report

When rebuilding your credit subsequent to a bankruptcy discharge or reorganization, you will want to be very attentive to your credit report. Your creditors are supposed to report any discharged debts included in the bankruptcy to the credit bureaus. These reports should show a zero balance and include a note indicating the debt has been discharged. It is crucial to follow-up on this and ensure that all creditors are reporting to credit bureaus correctly. If discharged debt is being wrongly reported—as either a charge-off or an open account—late or missed payments can continue to show up on your credit. This can further damage your score and make it more difficult for you to get new credit.

2 – Applying for multiple new credit lines

It can be tempting after bankruptcy to rush out and apply for a gaggle of credit cards or loans in an attempt to quickly repair credit. However, it is important to give your credit score time to rebound before applying for new credit. The impact of a bankruptcy is strongest in the first year after filing, although it can stay on (and affect) your credit report for up to ten years. Instead of rushing into opening several credit lines at once, be patient and take the time to research your best options.

3 – Failing to read the fine print

When you do start applying for credit cards, it is important to remember that not all credit cards are created equally. Some credit cards will be more helpful to those rebuilding post-bankruptcy. A secured card, for instance, allows you to deposit cash as collateral up front to create a line of credit. That way, you are not able to charge more than your initial deposit. With any card you choose, it is important to read the fine print of your terms to make sure the card will work in your favor.

4 – Falling for credit repair scams

Many unethical “credit repair companies” make big promises about performing miracles to improve credit scores, but they rarely ever deliver the results promised. These companies rely on misinformation to scam those that don’t know much about how credit works. Some of their tactics may even be illegal. Keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5 – Making things too complicated

Ultimately, when it comes to rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy, you need to go back to the basics. What bad habits caused you to file for bankruptcy in the first place? An unflinching assessment of your spending habits will help you determine which factors led to the bankruptcy and determine where you need to make changes. Figure out what your credit-bingeing triggers are and work toward setting spending limits for yourself. Simple things like making on time payments, keeping debt to a minimum, and sticking to a healthy budget are excellent foundations of any financial strategy and will get you on the road to financial health quickly.

You’ve been through the hard-fought financial battle of bankruptcy and come out victorious on the other side. Now is the time to think positively about your financial future. Rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy takes time and patience, but you can use the knowledge and financial savvy you’ve learned along the way to move forward to a brighter future. Veitengruber Law is here to help. We are skilled in advising clients and creating easy-to-follow strategies to rebuild credit. Call for your free consultation today.

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10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Finances

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  1. Start saving
    It seems obvious, but many times it also seems impossible. By the time you pay your bills and have some spending money, every paycheck seems to fly out the window. The easiest way to save is to make sure you never have the chance to spend those funds in the first place. Most people have direct deposit these days; set up an automatic transfer of 10% of your net pay into a separate savings account each pay period. You won’t miss it, and it builds up pretty fast. When you get a raise, try redirecting the entire difference in your net pay over to savings. Your net pay will seem unaffected on your end, but your nest egg will grow that much quicker. You will be prepared for an unforeseen expense like an emergency car repair or for a “rainy day” when you want to take a long weekend out of town with friends.

 

  1. Make a budget – and be realistic
    Determine your starting point by keeping track of every dollar spent in a month. Now separate each expenditure into a category: utilities, housing, food (groceries), eating out, entertainment (movies, clubs, golf, etc.), childcare, transportation, car payment, and so on.Where are most of your discretionary funds going? See if there is anything you can cut back on or cut out altogether. If you have a wicked Starbucks habit, you might decide you can do without that daily grande latte after seeing that you are spending over $80 a month on coffee. Don’t want to quit your Starbucks habit cold turkey? How about only getting that latte once a week (say only on Fridays or Mondays) instead? Your $80 a month expense just went down to $16. You can’t decide to live on canned soup five days a week – you know it’s not going to happen, so don’t set yourself up for failure. Look at where your money has been going versus where you want it to go.

 

  1. Little changes can make a big difference
    As you saw, coffee can be a bigger expense than you realize. There are a lot of those little things that can suck money out of your wallet. Limit your dinners out each month. Make the transition less painful by allowing yourself one or two fancy dinners out, but eat at home the rest of the time. Pack your lunch. Join a carpool. Use a filtering pitcher, such as Brita ™, instead of buying bottled water. Feed a meter instead of using valet parking. Shop for clothes at consignment and second hand stores; you might even find higher quality items than in a big box store! Cigarette smokers spend hundreds of dollars a month on a product that they literally set on fire. That type of savings might make a lifestyle change a real incentive. It all adds up.

 

  1. Lower your existing monthly bills
    If you’ve always made payments on time, call your credit card company and see if they are willing to lower your interest rate. If you haven’t reviewed your cell phone plan in a year or more, it’s time to compare new deals and potentially cut your costs in half. Consider whether you really use that gym membership. If you barely go, it’s time to cancel it. Consider workout alternatives like YouTube videos or running groups. If a brick and mortar gym is where it’s at for you consider this; membership deals are generally better in the summer when everyone else would rather exercise outside. You could get those initiation fees waived or get a lower monthly rate.Shop for cheaper car insurance. Lower your electricity bill by using timers and power strips, and your water bill by checking for leaking faucets or toilets. Look into local weatherization programs that can troubleshoot conditions in your home to prevent wasting money on heating and air conditioning. Many times these programs are run by your utility company or local government and are free.

 

  1. Set goals
    Hard decisions are easier when you see the payoff at the end. Want to take vacation? Set up a retirement portfolio? Send your kid to college? Keep that in mind when you’re setting up your budget, or deciding if it’s really worth it to go to Olive Garden tonight, or if you really need yet another pair of black shoes.

 

  1. Check your credit reports
    The three major credit reporting agencies are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You are entitled to a free report annually or whenever you are denied credit directly from all three agencies. Look for mistakes and dispute them! This is even more important if you have a common name or share a name with someone else in your family. Check your credit report for bills you forgot about or never received. Maybe there’s an old bill from a dentist that got lost in the mail or never got forwarded when you moved. Even a small bill that went to collections stays on your report for 7 years after it is paid off. A low or lower credit score can mean increased interest rates or outright denial of credit when you need it most.

 

  1. Don’t pay full price – for anything
    Clip coupons; look for online deals, shop sales. Get discount codes from places like ebates.com, retailmenot.com, or slickdeals.net. Look for Deals of the Day on Amazon. Utilize discounts for services or experiences by using Groupon and Living Social.

 

  1. Change where you bank
    Many banks are rife with fees. Fees for less than a minimum balance. Fees for ATM use. Fees per check. Shop around, find a bank that values your business and doesn’t drain your account when you want to use your money. Veterans and business owners can often get even more perks, such as free certified checks or safety deposit boxes.

 

  1. Utilize employment benefits
    Your benefits package at work can offer a lot more than you think. Does your employer offer matching incentives for retirement account deposits? Flexible spending accounts? Free counseling or other wellness support programs? Take advantage of everything you can.

 

  1. Make sure you are financially informed
    Understanding basic concepts when it comes to investing, spending, saving, interest rates, etc. will benefit you (and your bank account) in the long run. Find out if your employer offers programs on these subjects, or seek them out yourself through online videos or books by consummate professionals in the field. If you have a personal accountant or financial planner, ask questions and ask for advice and heed it! You can’t make good choices if you don’t have the background information needed to make them.

How “Keeping up with the Joneses” can Send You into Bankruptcy

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What exactly is “Keeping up with the Joneses”?

 

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a phrase that originates from a 1913 New York Globe comic strip by Arthur (Pop) Momand. The use of this coined phrase now refers to the actions of striving to keeping up with one’s neighbors in reference to social status and spending. “Keeping up with the Joneses” sometimes begins to happen for an individual when they bear witness to a neighbor or loved one coming into a large financial windfall – perhaps by winning the lottery. The neighbor may start to spend their newfound money on luxuries like cars, vacations, clothing, etc. This inspires said person to begin spending money outside their means to compensate for jealousy of the newly rich neighbor. Unfortunately, these actions can lead to debt, financial crisis, and bankruptcy.

 

Take the story of NJ lottery winner Pedro Quezada, formerly from the Dominican Republic. Quezada was from Passaic, New Jersey, and winner of $338 million. After hitting the jackpot, Quezada (owner of a local bodega) proclaimed he was thrilled because he could properly take care of his family.  Spending immediately began, but maybe not in the exact way his neighbors anticipated.  He was constantly approached by frequent customers of his bodega and friends of his looking for handouts, some traveling from as far as Colombia. There were even several false reports on news outlets claiming he declared to pay the rent for his neighbors, and eventually this led to a falling out with them. In fact, Quezada was even sued by his live in girlfriend of ten years for half of his winnings a year after winning the lottery. Eventually Quezada’s attorney won the case because the couple had never been married therefore his ex-girlfriend was not entitled to any of the winnings.

 

Unrealistic expectations

 

Suppose you have a neighbor (or family member) who just won the lottery. They decide to throw a lavish party to celebrate and show off their windfall. Maybe they add in that in-ground pool they have always wanted, or purchase that car or boat they had been dreaming of, and while they’re at it they make upgrades to their landscaping and home. These types of actions can cause a trigger effect with neighboring individuals who begin to look for ways to get rich quick or take out a loan much larger than they are capable of repaying just to be able to unrealistically and irrationally upgrade their lifestyle to keep up with their newly rich friend or loved one. This is a common theme that leads more often than not to bankruptcy and financial crisis.

 

Managing your money well

 

Watching someone win the lottery may seem like a super exciting event, and you may feel inspired to make rash decisions which can then result in irresponsible spending. Our advice? Forget about “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

As an NJ bankruptcy attorney firm, we at Veitengruber Law focus on aiding individuals with managing their debt and finances more realistically to protect their assets in order to avoid bankruptcy. If you feel as though you are lost in your expenses and debts because you’ve tried to live beyond your means, please reach out to us PRONTO. We can help, and we WANT to help.

Self-Employment Budgeting Tips

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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.

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!

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.

 

How to Tell if You’re Living Beyond Your Means

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The recent popularity of YOLO-based thinking (You Only Live Once) has encouraged many people to take life by the horns. Learning to stay in the present is beneficial for so many reasons. After all, everyone’s living on borrowed time, so really appreciating life’s little moments is a key factor in living a fulfilled life.

Some YOLO enthusiasts take the concept one step further, however – following a “Treat yourself!” mantra that goes beyond staying present and moves toward the idea that since you only live once, you might well “live it up.” This mentality can very easily lead to spending more money than you actually have on things that make you feel good – that new pair of shoes, the latest tech gadgets, getting your hair professional styled, a new car, etc.

Of course, you can find yourself living beyond your means even if you never knew what YOLO stood for until now. Even spending slightly more than you have over a period of time will eventually catch up with you. Regardless of how you’re spending too much, when you reach the point of no return, you’ll realize that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life digging yourself out of debt. THAT is definitely no way to live.

You might be wondering, “Do I spend too much?” It can be difficult to know for sure if you’re living beyond your means, especially if you haven’t hit any significant bumps in the road thus far. You’re house isn’t in foreclosure, your credit’s ok, you’re not late on your car payments, and there’s always enough food on the table. Even when it seems as though everything’s alright on the money front, there are still some signs that should send up a red flag to indicate that trouble is coming.

  • You have zero savings. Many Americans today don’t put as much effort into growing their savings as the generations before us did. The problem with this behavior is that no one really knows what their future holds. Your steady job may not last until retirement. You could become disabled or experience any number of truly stressful life events that will limit your income potential. Without any nest egg to fall back on, any hiccough in your life plan could have disastrous consequences.
  • You charge everyday items to a credit card. Things like gas and groceries should be factored into your monthly expenditures and paid for with real money. If you regularly pay for necessities by credit card, it’s time to take a harder look at your spending habits.
  • The balances on your credit cards are headed up. Ideally, you should be working to pay down anything you’ve charged to your credit card(s) recently, which should only be more expensive purchases. If, instead, you find that your credit card balances just keep rising, you’ll be heading for bankruptcy sooner rather than later.

Get back within your means by cutting back on unnecessary spending now. Take a good hard look at all of your monthly bills and expenses compared with your monthly income. If you can find several areas to reduce spending – great! On the other hand, if literally all of your monthly income is earmarked for life’s necessities – you may need a professional’s help to get back on track.

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