Archive for March, 2009

Get Your Head In The Game!

March 31, 2009

Have you ever been out of touch? clueless? puzzled?  Maybe you got benched by your coach for not having your head screwed on right?  You just weren’t up to the task and you were sent to the pine for some reflection time.  You ask yourself:  What did I do?  What was I thinking?  How did I forget what we practiced? Mismanaging money kick you to the sidelines as well.  Managing money is a game.  There are rules to follow.  There are offensive and defensive moves that must be practiced.  Neglecting the principles and practices can result in failure.  Below you will find some tried and true advice to keep yourself in the financial game.

1) Know where the goal is.  You must know your destination.  You need to know what produces results.  Is your goal to be debt free?  more unity with your partner about money? start investing for retirement? I’ve heard it said that a goal is a dream with a deadline.

2) Have a solid offense.  Offense means putting points on the board.  If your goal is to have a comfortable retirement, then you need to designate a place for this money to go.  Some of your choices are IRA, Roth IRA, 401K, and pensions.  You must have a budget as well.  If your dollars don’t have a destination you will not get the most out of them.

3) Have a solid defense.  You need to protect what you earn.  If you’re married and have children this part of your game needs serious attention.  Some examples of good defenses are: having reliable insurance (home, life, auto, health,disability), emergency fund, and a will.  Life has risks and you need to be prepared ahead of time. 

4) KnowYour Strengths.  You need to be aware of the options available to you.  Not using Michael Jordan or your 401K can have disastrous results. In regards to retirement, you need to know what is offered by your employer.  You need to educate yourself about these options so you can maximize the benefits you are offered.

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Marriage, Money and Manners

March 30, 2009

Have you ever considered how manners play out in how you and your spouse discuss money?  Is it reasonable to consider manners in regards to money?  You may wonder what does manners have to do with money.  It comes down to respectful communication.  Just as manners tell you to say ‘thank you’ and ‘please,’ common courtesy also applies to money as well. 

Checking In.  I’m delighted when my wife calls me first before purchasing an unplanned item.  This conveys respect for the money that we work hard to earn.  Checking in with your spouse about financial issues ensures peace and keeps you both on the same page.

Teamwork.  The keyword when it comes to marriage and money is team.  We are not separate when it comes to financial decisions.  Every financial decision impacts the overall picture.  Whether it is an expense or savings, it needs to be discussed by the team.  

Two Heads Are Better Than One.  Sometimes your partner can see things that don’t occur to you.  Gaining their input may provide a different view on how that purchase may conflict with other financial goals that you have.  Your spouse may also offer other alternatives that you can’t create from your own mind.

Power of Agreement.  You can’t discount the power of agreement in a marriage.  When a husband and wife enter into marriage it is about two becoming one.  When you choose to marry you choose to involve another person in your choices.  You and your spouse need to enthusiastically agree on money decisions.

In conclusion, how you and your spouse discuss money is important.  It’s imperative that both partners feel free to discuss money issues openly.  Money secrets can weaken the trust that must be present for a relationship to remain strong.

What money manners do you practice in your relationship?  Please share what works so others can glean from your wisdom.

Online Bill Payments..What works?

March 28, 2009

I recently discovered that I did not make an online payment for 2 consecutive months.  While I have paid this bill online for a couple years, I did not make the time to go to the website and make the payment.  I used to get an email reminder to pay it but haven’t received one that I can remember.  This was a humbling lesson.  While I like to think I’ve got it all together, little slip ups like this remind me that managing money is a journey not a destination.  What about you?  How do you make sure all online payments get paid?

Roth IRA: Great Retirement Option

March 22, 2009

The Roth IRA is a great way to invest for the future. It gives the investor more options than most other investment types. If you don’t have a 401K at work, a Roth IRA is probably your best choice. The main thing a Roth gives you is options. Below are the main advantages to having a Roth IRA.
1) Contributions Grow Tax Free.  Any money you put in a Roth IRA can be withdrawn without tax consequences.  While you are taxes at ordinary tax rates when withdrawing 401K money, this is not so with the Roth.  Being able to withdraw this money at retirement with Uncle Sam getting a slice is a good deal.

2) Contributions can be used to fund college expenses.  This is one of those options that make this investment great.  You can use contribututions to pay for your college or your children’s college.  Our financial needs change due to circumatances.  Even if you desire to use this for retirement, if your financial picture changes you can use this to help fund Suzie’s first year in college.

3) Contributions can help with the purchase of a first home.  Here is another great option provided by this investment.  Money inside a Roth IRA can be used as down payment toward your first home purchase. 

4) Roth IRA assets can be passed to your heirs tax free. What a comfort knowing that your children won’t lose a portion of your estate to the government!  If you have a Roth IRA, this money will pass to your designated survivor without tax consequences. 

5) Contributions (not earnings) can withdrawn at anytime without tax consequences.  You never know what is around the corner.  If a costly financial issue drains your emergency fund, you can use money in a Roth (contributions) as a back up.

I hope you can see a Roth IRA is a GREAT investment tool.  If you’re interested in reaping any of the benefits above, open one real soon.  You won’t regret it.

Coupon Savings…..What Now?

March 17, 2009

So you tried this coupon thing out and you have seen results.  What do you do with the savings?  If you’re human and you’re not careful it will quickly get away from you.  You need a specific plan for your savings.  I suggest you use an envelope for your grocery spending.  You withdraw the cash amount for your grocery spending out of your checking account.  You put it in an envelope.  At the end of your pay period any remaining cash goes toward a specific financial need.  The financial term for directing this money is called snowflaking (taking extra to tackle other expenses).  Below are the steps I suggest you take regarding your savings.

Step 1: Bring any past due debts current.  You must get all accounts caught up and in good standing.  Being behind on debts is a vulnerable place and shoring this up is a first priority.

Step 2: Fund your emergency fund ($1000).  This is Baby Step 1 of Dave Ramsey’s 7 step plan for financial success.  For more information on this program visit www.daveramsey.com.  You simply must have money set aside to handle the unexpected.  I recommend this money be deposited in a separate online savings account such as www.ingdirect.com.  The account can be linked to your current checking account for convenient transfer (2-3 days). The rate at this site is higher than those you find at your local bank.

3) Fund Your Fun.  After you’ve completed steps 1 & 2 you can focus on some fun.  You deserve some reward for the discipline of completing steps 1 & 2.  I recommend a vacation that meets the criteria in my previous post titled: “A Vacation Worth Taking.” 

There is little benefit to couponing if you don’t properly track your savings.  I hope you invest the time and energy to follow these steps.  You cannot get head financially unless you follow these steps in order.  Have a fun and frugal week!

Is Couponing For Me?

March 15, 2009

My wife has been a devoted couponer for about 2 months now.  It has been fun to watch the transformation unfold.  She devotes much time and energy to this and has saved us a couple hundred dollars in the process.  Maybe you are wondering if it’s for you.  You begin to think if the time invested is worth the result.  Each of us must determine what is worthy of our time and attention.  Below are some signs that this couponing thing is for you.

1) You’re barely making ends meet.  Getting to the end of the month witha couple dollars tells you that things are tight. In today’s economy this probably applies to many people.  Couponing can put more disposable income in your pocket.

2) You have no emergency fund.  Emergencies are going to happen.  Cars need repair.  Things break down.  An emergency fund is your plan for the unexpecteds of life.  Not having an emergency fund places you in a place of having to fund these expenses with plastic. Not good.  I recommend a $1000 as a good start for an emergency fund.

3) Using credit cards to buy basic staples.  As I’ve heard Dave Ramsey say, If you don’t have a plan, VISA does.  Buying everyday items with credit cards is a slippery slope.  It’s a habit you best not start to do.  Unless you pay the balance off at month’s end, you’re paying additional interest on these items.  If you do this, please consider couponing.

4) You’re behind on your bills.  If you’re not current on your bills, the time to coupon is NOW!  Money saved on groceries and other needs can be directed toward getting these bills caught up.  My wife’s mentor, Kasey Trenum has a great website with information on couponing. The address: www.time2save.blogspot.com.  This gal has solid information and does travel and do seminars on this subject.

If your financial picture includes one or more of the above scenarios, you are a candidate for a coupon makeover.  Go ahead and take the time to move yourself forward by using these incredible cost cutting tools.  Have a great day.

Weekend Roundup

March 14, 2009

As I surfed around for good financial reading I made note of a few sites that can lead you down the right financial path.  At www.nodebtplan.net there is great information on the savings you can find playing the drug store game to using rebates and coupons.  Another gem can be found at www.biblemoneymatters.com if you’re interested in eating out for less.  If you want help in breaking down financial goals go by www.ncnblog.com for some helpful advice.  Saving $4,000.00 a year is possible if you look at www.myliferoi.com for some tips. Go on over to www.brokegradstudent.com for advice on whether or not to give loans to friends.  Have a safe and fun weekend!

5 Tips: Fixing Your Broken Budget

March 11, 2009

If you saw yourself in my previous post then this post is for you.  The good news is that budgeting is a journey, not a destination.  We all make mistakes with money from time to time.  My hope is that some of the tips will help you manage your money better.

1) Review your account weekly.  Whether this is done online or in your checkbook it does not matter.  You need to carve out 30 minutes a weekend to make sure every transaction is recorded. 

2) Review your budget at the end of each month.  You need to review how your spending went for the month.  You need to see what categories may need some adjustments.  This is also a time for you to think through the next month about what expenses are coming. 

3) Use envelopes.  I learned this strategy in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  You withdraw cash to fund some categories from your budget.  My wife and I use envelopes for our grocery costs.  Once all the envelope is empty you may not spend on that expense until your next paycheck.  Envelopes can also be used for gas and fun money as well.

4) Have a central location for receipts.  Debit and ATM transactions can accumulate.  It is very easy to lose track of these papers and allow your checkbook to be inaccurate.  Having a specific location in your house for this paperwork makes reconciling your checkbook easier.

5) Have an emergency fund.  It would be nice if life went as planned.  The reality is the unexpected will happen.  We had an car alternator problem ($205) this past week.  Having an emergency fund allowed us to not use VISA for this emergency.  I recommend an online savings account such as www.ingdirect.com.  The account set up is simple and it can be linked to your checking account to allow for transfers.

4 Signs Your Budget Is Broke

March 8, 2009

Budget means different things to different people. To many it’s a bad word. It means constraint and limits. Something we don’t like to think about. Whether you have one or not your money still goes somewhere. A budget is simply a drill sergeant for your money. It tells your money what to do and where to go. How are you managing your money? Are all the bills getting paid on time? Does your current system work? Below are some signs that your budget may be broke.

1) You’re paying overdraft fees.  If you’re paying overdraft fees, something is definitely wrong.  Having your account run over is a sign that you’re overspending somewhere.  An overdraft comes with additonal fees for your mistake.  This is a sign that some fine tuning is needed.

2) Using credit cards to purchase everyday items.  Going to your credit cards for things such as groceries and gas is a sign that things are out of balance.  Unless you pay the card off at the end of every month, you are paying for these items with interest added. Not smart.  If you’re regularly going to plastic because the account runs dry, it’s time for change.

3) Poor record keeping.  Put simply, not writing your transactions in your checkbook can be a hazard to your financial health. It’s not uncommon for me to find 10 or more unrecorded transactions in our checkbook every month.  This is very easy to do if both spouses use a debit card but only one carries the checkbook.  If you have suggestions, please leave a comment on this item.

4) It’s not in writing.  It’s imperative that you have your budget in writing.  You need to have groupings for expenses such as insurance, housing, food, medical care, and automobile just to name a few.  Not having a written budget is like going on a vacation with no road map.  

In summary, a budget is a must if you want to get the most from your money.  Money that doesn’t have a destination quite simply gets blown on non-essential items.  If you’ve seen some of these signs in your own finances, it’s time to make some adjustments.  Banks have enough money as it is.  Don’t let them get their hands on anymore of yours.  Be on the lookout for some solutions in my next post.

Weekend Roundup

March 7, 2009

Here are a few sites that have had some interesting posts this past week. At http://www.pimpyourfinances.com there’s a great post on a better way to budget – accrual. At http://www.thesimpledollar.com Trent posts a good article on starting a side business in a tough economy. At http://www.cashmoneylife.com there is information about how to avoid identity theft. There’s a good review of Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps at http://www.biblemoneymatters.com. At http://www.ncnblog.com there’s a good post about dealing with stress entitled, “From Overwhelm to In Control.”