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!

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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!

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

Budgeting in Retirement: Living Well in Your Golden Years

budgeting in retirement

Having a well thought-out budget is the best way to start your retirement on the right foot. Retirees must plan to have a form of steady income and create a budget that fits their expected lifestyle. In retirement, financial priorities will change with your changing lifestyle. It can sometimes be hard to determine what kind of retirement budget is realistic until you have entered retirement. While some people overestimate their expenses in retirement, some people struggle to adapt to life on a fixed income. For these reasons, it is a good idea to revisit your budget several times a year.

Retirement involves a lot of big changes, but one of the biggest changes is how most people get paid. Instead of receiving a weekly or biweekly paycheck, retirees typically rely on income that pays out once a month. On top of this, many people find their monthly income reduced in retirement. It can be a big mental shift for people entering retirement to suddenly adjust to all of these changes. Sometimes the best way to adjust your budget in retirement is to go back to basics. Here is how you can take one month to monitor and analyze your retirement budget:

Throughout the month, keep all receipts, payment confirmations, and a tally of any cash spent. It is best to record these expenses daily so you do not accidentally leave something out. Use a spreadsheet, notebook, or app to track your expenses. In tracking spending for a month, you can get a good idea of where your money is going. At the end of the month, sort your expenses into categories: groceries, dining out, entertainment, phone, utilities, housing, insurance, transportation, etc. Be sure to factor in irregular expenses like holidays and birthdays. Your expenses in December are likely to be a lot different than your expenses in June, for instance.

Next, analyze the results. This analysis is meant to be a realistic assessment of your lifestyle as it relates to your spending and income. Where is your money going each month? If your monthly budget was based on your pre-retirement lifestyle, you may see some significant differences between your expected spending and your actual expenses. Maybe you spend less on transportation and entertainment, but you spend more on eating out and medical expenses. Pay attention to these shifts in spending and make sure you are adjusting your budget accordingly.

After you have identified the trends in your spending, figure out where you can cut expenses. Determine which expenses are needs (like bills, housing, transportation, etc.) and which expenses are wants (like entertainment, hobbies, and gifts). In retirement, your “needs” may change. While you may have needed two cars when you and your spouse were working, is this still a necessary expense? Are you eligible for discounts to your cell phone or insurance plan? While you want to make sure you cover your essential expenses first, finding ways to make cuts to necessary spending will give you more financial freedom in general.

Finally, it’s time to put all these insights into your finances to create a new plan for your budget. Identify five goals that make sense for your income and expected expenses. Goals help you align your budget with the intention of getting the most out of your income. Make your goals specific and give yourself deadlines. Find ways to keep yourself accountable. Sign up for auto-pay, use an envelope system to categorize your spending, or get your spouse or partner to join you in your strides to reach your goals. A budget is only as good as your ability to stick with it!

You can do this financial check-in every six months or whenever your budget seems to be spread too thin. Sticking to a budget will help you feel more secure and relaxed so you can enjoy your golden years. Get your finances back on track by taking a fresh look at your retirement budget as we move toward the New Year!

8 Ways You are Wasting Money (and How to Stop)

money management

Some money saving tips seem obvious, like cutting back on eating out and sticking to a realistic budget. But there may be some things you are wasting money on without even realizing it. Being a smart consumer means looking at all of your expenses critically—even the little things. These are some common ways people waste money without even realizing it:

 

  1. Shopping Brand Name

This goes for everything from designer clothes to grocery items to pharmaceuticals. If you insist on buying only brand name items, you’re definitely overspending. Instead, look at the quality, function, and value of an item. For groceries and pharmaceuticals especially, the generic item is likely to contain the same exact ingredients as the name brand, but will cost you a fraction of the price. Don’t get hung up on big names; it will make a huge difference in your wallet.

 

  1. Overpaying on Car Insurance

Car insurance is a necessity, but taking the time to shop around and compare rates once a year can save you big. When it comes to car insurance, you can’t assume any one company is the cheapest. Different people will pay different prices for the same coverage which is why you have to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal for you. Check for discounts you may qualify for and make sure you’re getting coverage that makes sense for your car.

 

  1. Paying for Cable

There are dozens of movie streaming services and non-cable TV options on the market today—and those services are always growing. Almost any streaming service is cheaper than cable or dish and you have the added bonus of paying for exactly what you want. You can build a package catered to your interests instead of having to pay for extra channels you never use.

 

  1. Keeping Electronics Plugged In

Saving money on energy goes beyond turning lights off when you leave a room. You would be shocked at how much energy waste you produce just from leaving devices plugged in. Some electronic devices, like computers, DVD players, and even microwaves will use power even when they’re not in use. You can calculate what these devices are costing you using this tool from Duke Energy. Keeping these devices unplugged can save you money on your electric bill.

 

  1. Piling on Credit Card Debt

If you use your credit card to pay for most things, it’s a lot easier to spend outside your budget unless you are vigilant. Credit card debt can add up quickly if you aren’t keeping up with your monthly payments. If you fall behind, you may find yourself spending so much money on interest that you can never catch up enough to pay off the actual balance. Don’t ignore potentially crushing interest rates. Be proactive by looking into consolidating or refinancing debt.

 

  1. Spending Too Much on Gas

Overpaying on gas can really hurt your everyday budget. Pay attention to changing prices and shop around for the cheapest gas station in your area instead of just going to the closest one. You can even go a step further by earning rebates on gas purchases. Some credit cards will net you 5% cash back when you buy gasoline. Shopping with certain stores can help you get gas discounts, too. Giant, for example, will help you save 10 cents per gallon for every 100 points you earn at Giant grocery stores.

 

  1. Overpaying Monthly Bills

Just like with car insurance, reviewing the amount you pay for your cable, internet, or cell phone provider is essential to making sure you’re getting the best deal. Some companies rope you in with discounts and monthly credits that expire after your first few months paying for the service. Don’t let that be the final word on your monthly payment. A lot of the time, if you call your provider to discuss a payment increase, they will work with you to keep your business.

 

  1. Not Earning Cash Back When You Shop

There are dozens of apps out there that give shoppers money back for their purchases. Some apps will pay you for scanning your receipts from specific stores while others will give you cash back on individual items. Ibotta and Fetch Rewards give you cash back for scanning your grocery and retail receipts. Ebates and Shopkick give you cash back on specific items from qualifying retailers. A lot of these apps have cash sign-up bonuses. Using cash-back apps is a great way to earn a little money back when you shop.

 

All of these little ways to save money can add up big time in the end. Taking advantage of new technology and competitive pricing will give you more financial power as a consumer. Use these tips and start saving today!

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Finances

improve your finances

  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

bankruptcy attorney

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.

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.

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.