Managing Your Money: From Necessities to Luxuries

If you think it’s crazy to plan a grand European vacation when you can barely pay rent each month, it’s possible that you’re not spending your money correctly. By budgeting, reallocating funds, and following a few tricks, almost anyone can get a handle on their finances and spend on something big. Here are a few steps to get you started.

Don’t Rely on Your Credit Card

Oftentimes shoppers spend with credit cards thinking they’ll have money to pay them off in the long run. You might not be able to make full payments now, but you think you’ll be wealthier further down the line. The ability to pay for something in small increments in the long run also affects how Americans manage their finances. Paying a little bit each month might seem like a good deal, but actually costs hundreds more in interest. Plus, when you finance for the next two, five, or event ten years, you will always have a payment taking away from your net income.

If there’s a major purchase you have in mind, like a new bed or dream vacation, start putting money away a couple months in advance in order to pay for it all at once. It’s better to save $100 a month and buy it in full than pay $110 a month for the next two years and spend more than $200 in interest.

Start Saving at Least 10% of Your Paycheck

Most economists recommend putting 10-15 percent of your paycheck each month into savings. This creates a nest egg in case emergency strikes. Almost a third of Americans have no emergency savings, and wouldn’t be able to pay rent or medical bills if they lost their jobs or were in an accident.

Saving is often a problem for low-income families, but making small cuts can quickly help them find the money. If a family just needs to save $200 to meet the 10% suggestion, they could eat in just once more a week. The average American spends $12 on a commercially prepared meal, meaning a family of four would spend $48. Conversely, there are many recipes that feed a family of four for under $10, meaning eating in just once a week can save a family of four hundreds of dollars.
Oftentimes these cuts hurt when they’re first implemented, but your family will come around if you make it fun by holding game nights or movie marathons, and your savings account will thank you.

Constantly Reevaluate Your Budget

Comb through your budget and look for signs of unnecessary spending. Paying for Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping isn’t valuable if you only order a couple items a year. It’s better to pay $4 in shipping on those items instead of the $100 annually for a rapid arrival. The same goes for your Costco and Sam’s Club membership; if you only go once a year, you may not be saving enough to justify the payment. While you may have joined with the intention of buying in bulk to save in the long run, you could actually be losing money.

Also keep an eye on your bank account to check for any unexpected charges. Sometimes Internet purchases or ATMs charge convenience fees that quickly add up. One way to save on fees if you find yourself wiring money to relatives abroad is to switch to an international money transfer service. Budgeting isn’t easy, it requires you to focus on your expenses and brainstorm ways they can be reduced.

Treat Yourself

Just because you’re living responsibly, doesn’t mean you have to be boring. If you’ve been cutting back and tracking your savings for a couple of months, treat yourself to celebrate your success. This may be something small like a latte on the way to work, or something bigger like a weekend staycation. Just don’t get too carried away: you can easily derail your savings if you start treating yourself every week or completely let yourself go for a few days.

It doesn’t matter what you want to save for, whether you have a dream of taking a luxury cruise or just want to crawl out of debt and have money in savings, anyone can start walking on the path to good money habits.

Budgeting for Insurance Is Better Than the Alternative

You don’t have to be a terrible driver to benefit from what insurance can do for you. Although car insurance may be mandatory, it will still prove to be an important aspect of driving even if it wasn’t required. While you may believe that you’re an excellent driver, can you say the same about everyone else that’s on the road? Insurance could provide protection whether you’re at fault or not.

Insurance coverage should be one of the most important additions to your budget. The benefits could include auto repairs that would otherwise have to come out of your pocket. In some cases, the coverage could protect you from debris on the road. Since you’re unable to see nails and other objects ready to stab your tires, this would protect you from coming up with the money needed for repairs. If it means you have to sacrifice a creature comfort or two in order to budget insurance, it may be a good idea to do so. While you may enjoy the extra movie channels, the excess spending could pay for insurance premiums and provide protection against random elements on the road and the negligence of other drivers.

In many situations, insurance premiums may be less than what you spend each month at the drive-through window. For example: If your insurance is $300 every quarter, which breaks down to $100 per month. If you could save $3.34 each day from miscellaneous spending, you could easily pay the premiums to keep you protected on the road. Of course, this is only an example, and your personal premiums will be reflected by many different metrics, such as past driving history. Regardless of how much money you need to keep your vehicle insured, there may be a number of ways you can change your daily routine to make sure you’re protected.

When looking for ways to manage your budget, begin with the expenses that you absolutely need to have in order to live your current lifestyle. Rent, insurance, food, electricity, water and phone are the most common absolute needs. When developing your budget, visit your local Nationwide insurance agent to find out more about your personal premiums and options. The more accurate data you have available for your personal expenses, the easier it will be make changes to create a comprehensive budget plan. Don’t let the lack of insurance cause a financial crisis if someone runs a stop sign and smashes into you in an intersection.

What It’s Like Driving For Uber

One of Lauren’s biggest complaints is that I come home from work and watch sports for several hours. On Sundays, she commandeers the TV during the most important parts of games because “you’ve been watching football for 8 straight hours,” as if that’s a valid reason. Well, I found an alternative that keeps me busy, entertained, and earns a little cash on the side! It’s not as passive as some other ways to earn money each month, but it is a lot of fun! Uber has everything I look for: super flexible hours (work only when you want), interaction with people, and the more you put in, the more you get out.

The Approval Process

At the prodding of a friend, and after reading a lot about it on The Rideshare Guy, I signed up to be an Uber driver. Or rather, I started the process of becoming an Uber driver. The first step was getting a background check, which took a few days, and once I was approved, I got my car inspected. It took about an hour and cost $20, but it was well worth it. I’m now confident I don’t have any major issues with my car, and am aware of a small one that I should get fixed at some point in the next few months.

I uploaded my inspection documentation, my license and registration, and a few pictures of my car, and waited. And waited. After about a week, I emailed asking about the status, was told it could be a few more days, and waited some more. After another few emails, I finally got approved to take my first trip.

Preparing My Car

I cleaned the inside and outside of the car, brought along some charging cables (iPhone and Android), and hit the road. We just bought a handheld vacuum, which came in handy (and will save me time and money in the future if I drive regularly). There are certain points in life where I consider having “made it.” Having a dustbuster is one of them.

Hitting The Road

My first night (a Wednesday), I left the house at around 7:30, and drove a few blocks away to the restaurant area, hoping to pick up the after-dinner crowd. After about 10 minutes, I got my first ride, from someone not at a restaurant. Go figure. I plugged in her destination (a comedy club), took off, and started to make some conversation. Of all the people I drove the first night, this was easily the best. It was a 15 minute trip, the conversation flowed freely, and we were going to a popular part of town where I was sure to pick up more people.

I’ve read stories about forgetting to start the trip, but somehow, I let it happen to me. I was too focused on the directions and forgot to hit the start button until the very end of the trip. I cost myself $7, but after requesting a fare review and explained that it was my first trip ever, Uber credited me with the difference.

After dropping off the first passenger, I had to wait nearly 15 minutes for my next ride. From speaking to other Uber drivers, that seems like a long wait. A couple of short rides later and some more waiting around, I decided to pack it up and start heading home. Of course, as soon as I did that, I got alerted that there was another ride available, so I took it. 3 drunk people entered the car, I started driving to their place, while one asked if I wanted to rob a bank. I said “not tonight,” and he said, “Of course not tonight!” as if I was the crazy one.

Again, as soon as I dropped them off, I got another ride. I took it, hoping that it would bring me closer to home. Nope, 3 girls were going out to a hotel for a fun night out. Another good ride, and as luck would have it, as soon as I dropped them off, I got pinged that there someone at the hotel who needed a ride. Awesome! They got in and directed me to within a few blocks of home. Amazing!

But there was an issue with that last trip. The total came out to $6.66! I don’t like that vibe, so I contacted Uber and they gladly changed the price to $6.65 for the sake of everyone’s luck. Success!

Lessons Learned

Overall, I had a great time, but did learn a few lessons. Lesson one: Start the trip! This was a dumb mistake but luckily, I got it out of the way early. Lesson two: Get a phone mount. I was constantly looking down and the audio wasn’t working properly the whole time, so I decided to buy a phone mount for the car. This way I just have to glance and I won’t be as distracted. Well worth the money and in my mind, it’s a necessity. Lesson three: Stay in one spot. I got a bit antsy waiting for passengers, so I tried moving around a bit. This didn’t work and cost me gas, so lesson learned. Better to not get a ride in one place than not get a ride and waste gas in the process. Lesson four: Start later in the night. I started way too early and the first hour or so was very slow compared to later in the night. Maybe it was a one-time thing, but I don’t see a reason to leave the house before 8pm. I need my sleep so I don’t anticipate driving until 11 or 12 every night, but I will pick my spots so I’m more profitable while I’m out there.

Overall, it was a great first night and I enjoyed the experience. I will definitely be back on the road soon and will do some lessons learned posts!