Category Archives: Money

4 Ideas for Your Financial Bucket List

4 Ideas for Your Financial Bucket ListNo matter your age, it’s never too early or too late to plan a financial bucket list. This doesn’t mean you have to die to realize these monetary dreams. You just have to start thinking about the most meaningful financial goals you would like to reach during your lifetime.

While these vary widely from one person to the next (do you really want to sell lemonade on the beach in Tahiti?), early planning is the key to successfully check off your bucket list successes. Many are easier to reach than you think. Here are a few suggestions that could brighten your future!

Pay Off Your Home

For most people, their monthly mortgage payment is the largest expense in the budget. It’s also usually the longest-term bill they will be paying for years to come, perhaps most of their adult life and working years. Imagine your budget without a house payment – sound too good to be true? Actually, you can knock off several years from your mortgage loan and enjoy the freedom of a reduced monthly budget in a few easy steps.

If you are married and both spouses earn incomes, live on one income and pay the other on the mortgage loan each month. Remember to pay extra (beyond what is mandatory for principal, escrow for taxes, and property insurance) on the principal balance, which will pay off the loan sooner and lower interest fees. If that is not possible, start paying all non-regular job income on the monthly payment, including tax returns, job bonuses, windfalls (like an inheritance or settlement), and second job earnings or sold household items. Even if you make just two extra house payments a year, that can remove five to seven years from a 30-year mortgage. Pay mortgage payments on time to avoid late fees and penalties. For motivation, imagine yourself writing that final payment and then removing that item from your monthly list of expenses…

Retire Early

Early retirement is becoming increasingly accessible for many Americans who invest in 401(k) plans, IRAs, and stock portfolios, among other options. By starting young, possibly even in your twenties or thirties, investment earnings can compound to earn more each year, bringing retirement ever closer. Consult a financial planner about prudent options that could help you leave a full-time job years ahead of your colleagues.

Take a World Tour

Okay, so you might not want to visit every country in the world, but plan a dream vacation to somewhere you’ve always wanted to see, whether a deserted beach or a teeming metropolis. Some eager travelers save spare change in a huge piggy bank to watch it grow. A creative couple put $20 away each time they refrained from going out to dinner. Within a few years’ time, they were jetting off to their longed-for destination. Sponsor an annual yard sale, sell vintage keepsakes from the attic, or start a dog-walking service to save money for your exciting trip.

Make a Mega-Donation to Your Favorite Charity

If you want to leave a lasting legacy to a cause you believe in, you could make small donations regularly now that will add up over time. Eventually you’ll be recognized as a long-term, faithful supporter in their hall of fame (whatever form that might take), the organization’s newsletter, or at the annual banquet. On a larger scale, if you donate a hefty sum, you might merit a plaque or more tangible form of recognition for your generosity in a public way.

The common denominator in all these dreams is that you can start today to make them come true. Earning or saving a few dollars here and there can lead you on the path to one or all of your bucket list goals!

Five Psychological Strategies to Help You Regain Control of Your Finances

Five Psychological Strategies to Help You Regain Control of Your FinancesWhile some people are lucky enough to be taught good spending habits by their parents and stick to them for life, others have a less sensible approach to their finances. Whether you tend to overspend, forget to budget for necessary expenses before treating yourself or rely on borrowing money too much, people often fall into bad financial habits. Mentally, breaking a habit can be tough, and regardless of all your good intentions, it can be easy to fall back into those oh-so-familiar patterns. But, what if you could train your brain to manage your finances better? Here are five mental hacks to help you spend less and save more.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you can see your money, whether it’s in your wallet in cash or easily accessible from your mobile banking app, you’ll be more tempted to spend it. But, hiding your money away will help you to forget about it more easily. A good way to do this is to open a savings account with a bank that is different than the one you use for checking. This way, when your income is paid into your checking account, you can pay yourself first. Then, you can relax for the rest of the month, knowing that your savings have been dealt with. Don’t worry too much about the amount that you save at first – even if your budget only allows for a few dollars per month, it will add up over time.

Restrict Your Access

If you often give into the temptation to overspend your money, then you could consider restricting your access to your savings. A fixed bond account, for example, will lock your money away for a period of one year or more as you pay into it. Meaning, that once you’ve deposited or transferred it, you’ll no longer be able to withdraw your money until the designated time is up. But, being completely unable to access their cash just doesn’t work for some people. Instead, you could make this work by creating obstacles which will make it a little more difficult for you to access your savings. For example, you could invest your money in a brokerage account, which will require you to expend some effort to get access to your money.

Budget for Less

Rather than working out your budget using the whole amount that you get paid each month, take as much as you can afford from it to dedicate to your savings account. Then using the amount that you are left with, work out your budget for the month ahead. This will make it easier to avoid overspending, and will motivate you to find ways to save money on your monthly expenses, for example cheaper insurance policies, or a lower rate for your utilities. After a few months of doing this, you’ll adapt to living on a lower amount whilst your savings grow.

Be Mindful

Compulsive overspending can be a symptom of stress, anxiety, depression, and some personality disorders. If you believe that you are overspending due to mental illness, it’s important to seek help from your doctor as soon as possible to treat the underlying issues. If you spend when you feel stressed, mindfulness meditation may be able to help. This ancient Buddhist technique has recently taken the world by storm, and involves relaxing the body and soul through deep, yogic breathing and inward focusing. Next time you feel the urge to spend, try this: Sit, cross-legged on the floor with your eyes closed. Slowly inhale through your nose deeply, then back out again, focusing on your breathing and the movement of your abdomen. As you continue to do this, you will begin to relax and gain control.

Reward Yourself

Continuously setting small savings goals and meeting them, then rewarding yourself for doing so is much more enjoyable than simply saving and saving all the time. If something makes us happy, then we’re more likely to go back and do it again…and again. So, turn your money saving strategy into something enjoyable for yourself, by dedicating a percentage of the money that you save to something specific to look forward to like a new car or a vacation.

Have you managed to trick yourself into saving more money? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

Financially Preparing for Maternity Leave

Financially Preparing for Maternity LeaveHaving a baby is a very exciting time! But it also comes with a lot of new considerations. Life will be different, whether you expect it or not. For example, babies are expensive! But unlike some of the less predictable aspects of bringing a new human into the world, there are some straightforward money concepts to follow. Here are some tips for financially preparing for maternity leave.

Find Out What Policies Your Job Has

The U.S. does not mandate paid leave so the options will vary dramatically between different places of work. It’s important to find out the policies that are in place and what you’re entitled to. In some cases, it’s possible to apply for short-term disability coverage if your job does not have paid maternity leave. You might have to be at a job for a certain amount of time before that option kicks in. So find out if and when you’re eligible, as well as how much the payout will be.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Many women plan on working up until right before the baby comes, and in some cases, this works great. But pregnancy and childbirth can be very unpredictable and sometimes it’s necessary to start maternity leave earlier than planned. Don’t assume that you’ll be making your full salary throughout the entire pregnancy. Instead, start to budget and save money as soon as possible to cover your bases in case something changes.

Check Your Maternity Coverage with Your Health Care Provider

Some health insurance providers offer different coverage than others. Check to see what yours offers and take advantage of any maternity programs that they might have. Throughout the pregnancy and birth you might see a variety of different doctors. Always make sure that they’re in network and covered by your insurance so you don’t end up with any surprising hospital bills. If your current insurance doesn’t cover a lot of maternity options, try upgrading to a plan that does. And if you see something fishy on one of your bills, call your insurance company! We saved several hundred dollars by questioning a bill we got for a regular pre-natal checkup, which should have been covered in full. They investigated and set our balance back to $0!

Save Your Vacation Days

If your job doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, you might want to use some of your paid vacation time instead. It won’t necessarily feel fair, but it can be the difference between having an income during those first few weeks at home and feeling the need to go back to work earlier than you’d like. You can also attempt to negotiate for some paid maternity time whether or not your employer actually offers it. You might not get it, but you might, especially if you’re a valued employee. You can also offer alternative options like starting back up with part time work from home as soon as you feel ready. This could also help ease your transition back into full-time when that time comes.

Set a Budget

Having a child costs money all around, from the gestation process to sending that kid to college. Your financial outlook might change significantly when a child comes into the picture. Set a budget before you go on maternity leave to get into the habit of saving. This will also help build a savings that you can rely on in an emergency while you’re on maternity leave.