16 Small Steps You Can Take Now to Improve Your Finances

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You have all kinds of financial goals you want to achieve, but where should you begin? There are so many different aspects of money management that it can be difficult to find a starting point when trying to achieve financial success. If you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Progress can be made in tiny, manageable steps. Here’s are 16 small things you can do right now to improve your overall financial health. (See also: These 13 Numbers Are Crucial to Understanding Your Finances)

1. Create a household budget

The biggest step toward effective money management is making a household budget. You first need to figure out exactly how much money comes in each month. Once you have that number, organize your budget in order of financial priorities: essential living expenses, contributions to retirement savings, repaying debt, and any entertainment or lifestyle costs. Having a clear picture of exactly how much is coming in and going out every month is key to reaching your financial goals.

2. Calculate your net worth

Simply put, your net worth is the total of your assets minus your debts and liabilities. You’re left with a positive or negative number. If the number is positive, you’re on the up and up. If the number is negative — which is especially common for young people just starting out — you’ll need to keep chipping away at debt.

Remember that certain assets, like your home, count on both sides of the ledger. While you may have mortgage debt, it is secured by the resale value of your home. (See also: 10 Ways to Increase Your Net Worth This Year)

3. Review your credit reports

Your credit history determines your creditworthiness, including the interest rates you pay on loans and credit cards. It can also affect your employment opportunities and living options. Every 12 months, you can check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) for free at annualcreditreport.com. It may also be a good idea to request one report from one bureau every four months, so you can keep an eye on your credit throughout the year without paying for it.

Regularly checking your credit report will help you stay on top of every account in your name and can alert you to fraudulent activity.

4. Check your credit score

Your FICO score can range from 300-850. The higher the score, the better. Keep in mind that two of the most important factors that go into making up your credit score are your payment history, specifically negative information, and how much debt you’re carrying: the type of debts, and how much available credit you have at any given time. (See also: How to Boost Your Credit Score in Just 30 Days)

5. Set a monthly savings amount

Transferring a set amount of money to a savings account at the same time you pay your other monthly bills helps ensure that you’re regularly and intentionally saving money for the future. Waiting to see if you have any money left over after paying for all your other discretionary lifestyle expenses can lead to uneven amounts or no savings at all.

6. Make minimum payments on all debts

The first step to maintaining a good credit standing is to avoid making late payments. Build your minimum debt reduction payments into your budget. Then, look for any extra money you can put toward paying down debt principal. (See also: The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt)

7. Increase your retirement saving rate by 1 percent

Your retirement savings and saving rate are the most important determinants of your overall financial success. Strive to save 15 percent of your income for most of your career for retirement, and that includes any employer match you may receive. If you’re not saving that amount yet, plan ahead for ways you can reach that goal. For example, increase your saving rate every time you get a bonus or raise.

8. Open an IRA

An IRA is an easy and accessible retirement savings vehicle that anyone with earned income can access (although you can’t contribute to a traditional IRA past age 70½). Unlike an employer-sponsored account, like a 401(k), an IRA gives you access to unlimited investment choices and is not attached to any particular employer. (See also: Stop Believing These 5 Myths About IRAs)

9. Update your account beneficiaries

Certain assets, like retirement accounts and insurance policies, have their own beneficiary designations and will be distributed based on who you have listed on those documents — not necessarily according to your estate planning documents. Review these every year and whenever you have a major life event, like a marriage.

10. Review your employer benefits

The monetary value of your employment includes your salary in addition to any other employer-provided benefits. Consider these extras part of your wealth-building tools and review them on a yearly basis. For example, a Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) can help pay for current health care expenses through your employer and a Health Savings Account (HSA) can help you pay for medical expenses now and in retirement. (See also: 8 Myths About Health Savings Accounts — Debunked!)

11. Review your W-4

The W-4 form you filled out when you first started your job dictates how much your employer withholds for taxes — and you can make changes to it. If you get a refund at tax time, adjusting your tax withholdings can be an easy way to increase your take-home pay. Also, remember to review this form when you have a major life event, like a marriage or after the birth of a child. (See also: Are You Withholding the Right Amount of Taxes from Your Paycheck?)

12. Ponder your need for life insurance

In general, if someone is dependent upon your income, then you may need a life insurance policy. When determining how much insurance you need, consider protecting assets and paying off all outstanding debts, as well as retirement and college costs. (See also: 15 Surprising Insurance Policies You Might Need)

13. Check your FDIC insurance coverage

First, make sure that the banking institutions you use are FDIC insured. For credit unions, you’ll want to confirm it’s a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) federally-covered institution. Federal deposit insurance protects up to $250,000 of your deposits for each type of bank account you have. To determine your account coverage at a single bank or various banks, visit FDIC.gov.

14. Check your Social Security statements

Set up an online account at SSA.gov to confirm your work and income history and to get an idea of what types of benefits, if any, you’re entitled to — including retirement and disability.

15. Set one financial goal to achieve it by the end of the year

An important part of financial success is recognizing where you need to focus your energy in terms of certain financial goals, like having a fully funded emergency account, for example.

If you’re overwhelmed by trying to simultaneously work on reaching all of your goals, pick one that you can focus on and achieve it by the end of the year. Examples include paying off a credit card, contributing to an IRA, or saving $500.

16. Take a one-month spending break

Unfortunately, you can never take a break from paying your bills, but you do have complete control over how you spend your discretionary income. And that may be the only way to make some progress toward some of your savings goals. Try trimming some of your lifestyle expenses for just one month to cushion your checking or savings account. You could start by bringing your own lunch to work every day or meal-planning for the week to keep your grocery bill lower and forgo eating out. (See also: How a Simple "Do Not Buy" List Keeps Money in Your Pocket)

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With the new year here, it’s time to take control of your financial goals. From creating a household budget, to calculating your net worth, or setting a monthly savings amount, we’ve got 16 small steps you can take to improve your finances. | #personalfinance #moneymatters #budgeting


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How to Teach Your Teen to Budget Like a Pro

It amazes us how quickly our girls are growing up. Next month when school starts up again, we’ll have a fourth-grader and a kindergartener.

Even though we have some time before they are ready to move out of the house, we want to spend time now prepare them for the big transition. As a parent, you probably feel the same way too. 

One crucial piece of a financial foundation kids and in particular, teens, need to master is learning to budget (and sticking with it),

While they’re home now, you have a fantastic opportunity to get them comfortable with handling their money.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some tips from fellow parents and experts in the personal finance space to make teaching this life skill a bit easier less stressful for you and your teen!

Teach Your Teen to Budget for Real Life

Teens or not, whenever most people hear the word budget, they also hear the word ‘no’. To them, budgets feel like a strict diet. Just as fad diets fail, an unrealistic or extreme budget will more than likely discourage your teen and they will quit.

The first step before you even talk about the numbers is to discuss exactly what a successful and sustainable budget should be. When done right, a budget is something that helps you move your money towards your goals. Explain to them that at its root, budget is simply a plan about what they’d like to do.

You want a budget that can cover:

  •     Essential bills
  •     Future goals
  •     Discretionary expenses

When your teen’s budget covers those goals, they’re not only putting their finances in a good spot, but they’re moving closer to their specific long term dreams.

Creating a Doable Budget (They’ll Actually Enjoy!)

Once your teen(s) understands how a budget works, it’s important for them to create a budget that they can use in the real world. You can honestly budget however you want, but an easy budget to get your teen started is the 50/20/30.

Quite simplify, the 50/20/30 budget puts money into those three main buckets:

  •     50%  goes towards essentials
  •     20% towards savings (or investing)
  •     30% for fun and discretionary expenses

I appreciate how easy and flexible this budget can be. You can adjust the percentages for your teen’s needs, but it gives them some ballpark idea of how to portion their finances when they are out on their own.

How do you start them out on this budget?

With teens, you may have expenses like clothing or their cellphone bill count as essentials, or you may want to give your child the experience of being responsible for a small, shared family bill while they are still at home.

For older teens, you could even charge them a nominal ‘rent’ to offset their portion of the bills. In some cases, parents give that money back to their child as a gift to help with moving expenses (like for their security deposit) or use as additional savings. 

However you decide, talk it over so your teen understands why you’re doing it this way.

Share Your Family Budget

Creating a budget isn’t complicated, but it can difficult if your teen has no idea what to expect. Knowledge can be empowering.

While we may take it for granted since have to deal with the numbers, but your teen may not be aware of how much it takes to keep the lights on and roof over their heads. If you haven’t already shared your own budget already, now is the time.

Not knowing also puts them at a disadvantage when they start searching for a place or are comparing prices on expenses. Being armed with the numbers makes your teenager a more informed consumer.

When Your Teen Breaks Their Budget

Will there be times where your teenager will mess up with their budget? Probably so. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As parents, we tend to want to protect our kids, but we also have to prepare them for the real world. As Ron Lieber, author of The Opposite of Spoiled, pointed out we should let our kids make financial mistakes. 

Wouldn’t it be better for your child to break the clothing budget while they’re still at home allowing you to help guide them through rather than having break their monthly budget while they are on their own and have bills to pay?

Mistakes will happen, they’re a part of life so giving your teen time to work those them and adjust their budget is a blessing for their future selves.

Essential Accounts for Your Teen  to Have

Since we’re talking about budgets, we should also mention some essential accounts you’d want your kid to have so they can practice managing their money.

Opening up student checking and savings accounts (usually free low on fees as well as not having minimum balance requirements) are good foundational accounts for your teen. They can deal with real-world situations pending charges, automatic transfers, and direct deposits.

As Family Balance Sheet founder Kristia Ludwick pointed out, teens should have the skill of balancing a checkbook even if they decide to go all-digital with their banking.

If they work, talk it over together and see if they can open up an IRA and start contributing. It doesn’t have to be much. The idea is to get them familiar and comfortable with the basics of investing.

Even if they put in $25 a paycheck, having them practice setting aside money in their budget for both long and short term goals is an invaluable lesson. You can also encourage them to contribute by offering a match for what they put in.

How Teens Can Easily Stay on Top of Their Money

With several accounts to keep tabs on, your teen is going to need an easy system to track their budget and goals.

With Mint, they can link up their accounts in one secure spot. They can also add their budget along with any savings goals they want to hit and make sure they stick with them.

Hopefully, these ideas and tips will make it easier to help your teen transition into a self-sufficient adult.

The post How to Teach Your Teen to Budget Like a Pro appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How I Make Money On TikTok – How I Grew To 350,000 Followers and Made $60,000 In 6 Weeks

Do you want to learn how to make money on TikTok? Here’s how Tori grew from 0 to 350,000 TikTok followers and made $60,000 in just 6 weeks. 

how to make money on TikTokUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard something about TikTok. TikTok is one of the most popular social media networks currently, and it is growing like crazy.

There are already over 500 million active monthly users on TikTok around the world.

So, you may be wondering if you can learn how to make money on TikTok, and any TikTok tips so that you can see success too.

That completely makes sense!

Today, I want to introduce you to Tori Dunlap.

Tori Dunlap is a nationally-recognized millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K. She has helped over 200,000 women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

I met her a couple of years ago in person, and she has built an amazingly successful business. I’m in awe of what she has done, and I enjoy her creative ways of helping people improve their money situation.

I asked Tori to take part in an interview on Making Sense of Cents about her explosive TikTok growth. She went from 0 to over 350,000 TikTok followers, and made $60,000 in just 6 weeks on TikTok.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • About Tori’s background and why she decided to start on TikTok
  • How she grew her TikTok to over 350,000 followers in 6 weeks
  • How she has made $60,000 just from TikTok in 6 weeks and how to earn money from TikTok
  • The tools needed to create TikTok videos
  • The length of time it takes to make each TikTok video
  • Whether there is room for new TikTok accounts
  • Her top TikTok tips for a newbie

And more! This interview is packed full of valuable information on how to earn money on TikTok.

I know so many people have questions about TikTok, such as how to grow on TikTok, how to make money from TikTok (including, how much money do TikTokers make?), and more, so hopefully you will find this interview both interesting and informative!

You can find Tori on TikTok here.

Related content that you may be interested in:

  • How Sailing SV Delos Makes Money on Youtube
  • How This 34 Year Old Owns 7 Rental Homes
  • How Amanda Paid Off $133,763 In Debt in 43 Months
  • How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year

Here’s how to make money on TikTok.

 

1. Tell me your story. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m nationally-recognized millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, I quit my corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money.

I’ve helped over 350,000 women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest — and I firmly believe that a financial education is a woman’s best form of protest.

A Plutus award winner, my work has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, the New York Times, PEOPLE, TIME, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, and more.

Before becoming a full-time entrepreneur, I led organic marketing strategy for Fortune 500 companies—with clients like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Nike, the NFL, and the Academy Awards—and global financial technology start-ups. For almost five years, I specialized in social media, SEO, content, and influencer marketing to grow community and increase awareness.

I now travel the world writing, speaking, and coaching about personal finance, online businesses, side hustles, and confidence for millennial women.

 

2. How long have you been on TikTok? Why did you decide to start a TikTok account?

I only really started doing TikTok for my business in the last 6 weeks (and gained almost 350,000 followers in the process, which is wild.)

I knew that you could see accelerated growth on the platform — it’s the only main social platform that currently has more people consuming content than creating it — and it fit well with my brand.

I’m passionate about financial education as a form of protest, and making money conversations inclusive — meeting people where they are on TikTok seemed like a perfect way to do that.

To me, going viral and gaining 350,000 followers in such a short amount of time is proof that Gen Z is craving personal finance advice.

 

3. How did you get your TikTok account to explode?

I was shocked by the growth, and I’ve never seen a platform that is so creator-friendly (Facebook, for example, has become more and more business-focused.)

In terms of followers, it took me 3 days to do on TikTok what it took me 3 years to do on Instagram. But I was ready for it — I have an established, global business, credibility, and products to sell. As a former social media manager, it’s a reminder that consistency, credibility, and serving before selling are what grows your account — not paid ads or manufactured authenticity.

The big shift was a video that went viral (as of this writing, it has 3.5 million views and over 730K likes.) Having gone viral multiple times before, this was next level — I was getting 100 followers every 5 minutes.

It’s more than doubled my website traffic, increased my sales, and grown my credibility.

how to monetize tiktok

Tori’s TikTok

4. How do you make money on TikTok?

I make money through promoting my own products (like my resume template and side hustle courses) and my affiliate partners.

For example, I might talk about high yield savings accounts and send folks to the link to my affiliate bank partner.

In the last 6 weeks, I’ve made over $60,000 just from TikTok.

Now that I have a substantial following, I’m also monetizing my platform with brand partnerships, and showcasing products I believe in.

Related: 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income Free Guide

 

5. How do you decide on your TikTok video ideas?

Just like the rest of my content, I focus on creating actionable resources for my followers.

Most of the questions I answer in my videos or advice I give comes from someone asking me about it, which guarantees I’ll have consumers of that content because I know it’s valuable for them.

Your audience will tell you what they want to see!

One of the smart things I did was waiting to become a creator. I was a consumer on TikTok first, sharing and enjoying videos before I started creating my own. Doing so helped me understand trends, what content well, the way the videos were shot. I got to know the landscape and followed creators doing good work.

So much of TikTok is collaborative creation, so I’ll often duet with another creator and offer my two-sense, or will be inspired by a trend or sound I see elsewhere.

 

6. What tools do you need for your videos? Is it simply your phone?

Your phone is the biggest thing you need. I also invested in a ring light/tripod to make it easier to shoot content, and to make sure the lightning was decent.

If you want to do more advanced videos, you might need editing software, a more professional camera, or props.

There is a learning curve with understanding how to shoot videos, and I was too intimidated to start for a while.

Don’t let that scare you: just like anything, it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

 

How do you get paid on TikTok?

Some of Tori’s TikTok videos.

7. How long does it take you to make each TikTok video?

Batching content has helped me save time, so I make about 5-7 videos in one session.

Because we’re still in quarantine, I often shoot without camera-ready makeup, which I think adds to the spontaneity and authenticity of the video.

I’ve also made the decision to not change clothes for every single video, it just seems like overkill.

My 15-second, talk-to-camera videos take about 10 minutes — 3 to shoot, 7 to add text and a caption.

More in-depth videos — with green screen effects or lots of text that moves — can take about a half hour.

I try to intersperse content — not only for variety’s sake, but also to keep myself sane.

 

8. What do you like about making TikTok videos? What do you not like?

Instagram has started to feel more and more like work, while TikTok allows me to be more creative.

As a theatre major, it’s a perfect platform for me to make weird faces, perform, and showcase my personality in addition to my advice.

I’ve also found TikTok a more welcoming environment. You’ll always have trolls and hateful comments, but I’ve found there’s more support and encouragement from people who aren’t following you on TikTok than on other platforms.

I really love and engage with Instagram Stories, and TikTok doesn’t have a feature like that (yet.) Stories are a good way for your audience to learn more about you and your business in a less polished way, so I think it’s harder for someone to get to know you on TikTok.

Captions are also WAY shorter, and you cannot post your hashtags in the first comment, so any explaining you need to do through text needs to be in the actual video.

 

9. Do you think there is room for new TikTokers?

YES!

More than any other social platform.

Instagram, for example, is very saturated. It’s almost impossible to discover a new account within the platform, unless a friend directly shares it with you. You’re really only seeing posts from people you already follow.

TikTok has a following tab, and also a “For You Page” tab, where they show videos they think you’ll like.

I’ve never seen an algorithm as responsive as TikTok’s, so you’ll find content that actually connects with you and your interests.

 

tiktok tips10. What tips do you have for someone wanting to start on TikTok?

Content that does well is at least one of the following: aspirational, educational, or entertaining.

You have travel vloggers showcasing their Airbnbs in Paris (aspirational), vegan chefs walking you through a recipe (educational), or a thrill-seeker trying a new stunt (entertaining.)

I found my niche between aspirational (talking about how I left my 9-5 job and built my business) and educational (how to pay off debt, invest, etc.)

Like any social platform, consistency is key. TikTok is like Twitter — you have the option of posting 7-10 times per day (and not being punished by the algorithm.) I usually try to put out 2-3 videos per day, some more complicated than others.

 

11. Are there any other TikTok tips you would like to share?

Don’t invest in TikTok unless you know your audience is there.

For example, if your potential customers are men in their 50s, they’re probably not on TikTok.

When I worked in marketing, it was easy to chase platforms or trends. It’s easy to feel like you need to be everywhere in order to make sure you’re relevant.

But if the audience you’re looking to target is largely not on a platform, don’t invest time and money in it.

Do you want to learn how to make money on TikTok and how to grow on TikTok?

The post How I Make Money On TikTok – How I Grew To 350,000 Followers and Made $60,000 In 6 Weeks appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The Magical Third Paycheck: 5 Budgeting Hacks If You’re Paid Biweekly

If you get paid every two weeks, you’ve probably noticed extra money coming your way certain months. Maybe you even thought your company’s payroll made a mistake! But it’s no mistake. You get two magical months like this a year: when you suddenly have a third paycheck and—the best part is—your monthly bills stay the same. Yes, it’s appropriate to jump for joy—provided you have a plan for that extra income.

Why does this happen in the first place? If you’re paid biweekly, you get 26 paychecks throughout the 52-week year. That means two months out of the year, you end up getting three paychecks instead of your regular two.

Those two extra paychecks can go a long way. But without a plan in mind, they can also disappear. Fast. The first budgeting trick to saving two paychecks is to find out when they will hit your account. Grab a calendar and write down your paydays for every month in a given year and highlight the two extras. Maybe even put calendar reminders in your phone so you can track when the additional funds will hit your account. The extra paychecks will fall on different days every year, so tracking them in advance is key.

Samuel Deane, a founding partner of New York City-based wealth management firm Deane Financial, says there isn’t one correct way to budget with an extra paycheck, but that it should depend on your personal situation and financial goals. You could decide to give yourself some extra room in your budget throughout the year, for example, or use the extra money for something specific.

There are a few different ways to budget with an extra paycheck.

How can I budget for an extra paycheck? Consider these 5 budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly:

1. Pay down (mainly) high-interest debt

Once you’re done jumping for joy at the realization of the third paycheck, consider how your budget with an extra paycheck could help you pay down debt. “The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt,” Deane says.

Before paying off debt with your new budget with an extra paycheck, make a list of all of your debts organized by balance and annual percentage rate (APR). Paying off the debt with the highest APR could save you the most money because you’re paying the most to carry a balance. Paying down a few low-APR, low-balance debts can also help you gain momentum and bring other financial benefits. For instance, if you owe close to your credit limit on a credit card, the high credit utilization—or card balance to credit limit ratio—could negatively impact your credit score.

If your budget with an extra paycheck includes debt repayment, you’ll start to owe less and have less interest accruing each month, freeing up even more cash from subsequent paychecks.

“The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt.”

– Samuel Deane, a founding partner of wealth management firm Deane Financial

2. Build an emergency fund

Paying down debt isn’t the only way to budget with an extra paycheck. “Taking a look at whether you have a sufficient emergency fund is pretty important,” says Dan Stous, director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management.

An emergency fund of three to six months of your regular expenses can help you weather financial setbacks, such as a lost job or medical emergency, without having to take on new debt. Keeping these funds separate from your regular checking and savings accounts can help you keep them earmarked for the unexpected (and reduce the temptation to dip into them for non-emergency expenses). Places to keep your emergency fund include a high-yield savings account, certificate of deposit or money market account.

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If creating an emergency fund or adding to an existing one is on your to-do list, a budgeting trick to save two paychecks is to automatically transfer your extra paychecks into your emergency fund account.

3. Save for a big goal

If you want to save for a goal like a new car or home, or contribute to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, contributing two full paychecks out of 26 can be a good start. “If a client is debt-free and doing well, they might be able to focus on other goals,” Deane says. If you’ve got a financial goal in mind, a budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly is to transfer your two extra paychecks from your checking account to a savings or retirement account right away.

Using your extra paycheck to save for a goal, like a new home or new car, is a smart budgeting hack if you're paid biweekly.

If you have a 401(k) through an employer and already contribute enough to get your maximum annual match, Deane says you may want to consider a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is for retirement, but it also allows first-time homebuyers who have held their account for at least five years to withdraw up to $10,000 to buy a home, Deane says. Your budget with an extra paycheck could then go to either major goal.

Even loftier, “you could put aside money to start a business,” Deane says. If you plan on starting a business someday you could put away the paychecks annually and let those savings build as start-up capital.

4. Get ahead on bills

If you already have an emergency fund, are currently debt-free and are making good progress on your savings goals, try this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly and get a third paycheck: Pay certain monthly bills ahead of time.

“If you have the ability to prepay some of your bills, it can ease anxiety in the coming months,” Deane says.

Before using this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly, check with your providers to confirm that you will not be met with a prepayment penalty, and get up to speed on any prepayment limitations. Some providers may even offer a discount or incentive if you pay something like a car insurance bill all at once. You could also explore whether or not prepaying your bills makes sense for utilities, your cellphone or rent.

5. Fund much-needed rewards

If you’re looking for budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly, consider that managing money isn’t only about dollars and cents. Emotions often play an important part in personal finance, and they’re often the root cause of people’s decisions. Accepting this fact could be an important part of successfully managing your money.

“From an emotional and behavioral standpoint, people should reward themselves for being responsible,” Stous says. “Basically, treat yourself.”

Perhaps you need a vacation from the daily grind, want to enrich or educate yourself or your family or simply want to get a date night at your favorite restaurant on the calendar. A budgeting trick to save two paychecks could be supplemented with some spending on yourself.

“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal. On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”

– Dan Stous, director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management

There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting trick to save two paychecks

When you’re deciding how to budget with an extra paycheck, you might find yourself going back and forth between options.

“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt-reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal,” Stous says. “On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”

Even though budgeting solutions are not the same for everyone, being disciplined and proactive about the savings opportunity of a third paycheck can help you form a strong foundation for your financial future.

The post The Magical Third Paycheck: 5 Budgeting Hacks If You’re Paid Biweekly appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

The Ultimate List of More Than 50 Budget Categories You Must Use

The post The Ultimate List of More Than 50 Budget Categories You Must Use appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

It is no secret that you need a budget.  But, it is imperative that it includes everything.  Take the time to review your spending and don’t leave anything off of it.  Below you will find a list of household budget categories you need to include. Forgetting even one off might be a big mistake.

It is no secret that the number one thing you must do to take control of your finances is to create a budget.  Without one, you really can’t see where your money goes.  Or, more importantly, you don’t get to direct your money to be spent as you would like for it to be!

While there are posts on how to create a budget, one question I get frequently is, “What categories should I include in a budget?”   When you are new to making a budget, something such as a personal budget categories list can help.  I agree.

As you create yours for the first time, it is important you don’t leave off anything important. A successful budget is one that includes a line item for every way you spend your money.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget.

There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

 

To help you get a jump start on with your budget, and to make sure you don’t leave off any categories, download our free budget template.  This form has helped thousands get started with creating a budget.

SIMPLE BUDGET CATEGORIES 

Once you have your form, you are ready to figure out your budget categories!  While you may not have each of these as individual line items on your form, just make sure you include them all somewhere in your budget!

 

DONATIONS OR CHARITY CATEGORIES

These are all of the monthly donations you make to various charities.  Don’t forget about those you may make only once or twice a year as well!

Church
Medical Research
Youth Groups

 

SAVINGS CATEGORIES

While not needed to live, it is crucial that you always pay yourself before you pay anyone else.  Once you meet your necessary expenses, ensure you are saving enough each month.

If you are in your employer’s retirement plan, you pay those before you get your paycheck, so you would not include them.  However, make sure you account for the different types of savings accounts you may have.

Emergency Fund Savings
Annual Fees, such as taxes, insurance, and dues
College Savings
Investments
Christmas/Birthdays/Anniversaries
Additional Retirement (outside of your employer’s plan)

Read More:  Yearly Savings Challenge

 

CATEGORIES FOR HOUSING

No one will forget to add housing to their budget.  But, make sure you include the amount you may save for repairs and other expenses. To figure out how much to budget, look over your prior year spending and divide that total by 12.  You will add this to your savings, but you can track it under your housing budget category.

First Mortgage
Second Mortgage (if applicable)
Property Taxes
Insurance
Home Owner’s Association Dues
Maintenance
Housekeeper/Cleaning
Lawn Care

 

PERSONAL BUDGET UTILITIES CATEGORIES

You can’t live without your water and electricity.  It is essential that you don’t leave any of these off of your budget either!  These are some of the basic budget categories most people will not intend to forget, but just might.

Electricity
Water
Gas/Oil
Sewer
Trash
Cable/Satellite/Streaming Services
Internet (if not part of your cable bill)
Phone

Read more:  How to Lower Your Utility Bills

 

FOOD

You have to eat. There are only two ways that happens  — you cook or you eat out. Make sure you include both of these categories in your budget.

Groceries
Dining Out

 

TRANSPORTATION CATEGORIES

You have to be able to get around.  That doesn’t always mean a vehicle as it could mean using other means of transportation.  Whatever method you use, make sure you include all of those expenses in your budget.

Remember that you may not have to pay for some of these items each month, but it is essential you budget for them monthly so that the funds are available when needed.

Vehicle payment (make sure you include all payments for all vehicles)
Fuel
Insurance
Taxes
Tags/Licensing
Maintenance
Parking Fees
Taxi/Bus Fares

 

CLOTHING

A line item many people leave off of their budget is clothing.  They forget that it is a necessary expense.  While this doesn’t mean you should go and buy new clothes all of the time, it does allow you to replace items which are worn out.

It is also essential that parents include this item as kids need clothes a bit more frequently.

Adult Clothing
Kids Clothing

 

CATEGORIES FOR HEALTH

Don’t forget your health expenses when determining a budget.  Make sure you include the money you pay towards your co-pays during the year.

Health Insurance
Dental Insurance
Eye Insurance
Doctor Visits
Dental Visits
Optometrist
Medications
Deductible Savings

 

PERSONAL ITEMS CATEGORIES

Personal is a “catch-all” category which may contain much of your discretionary spending!  Some of the most common types you need to include:

Haircuts/Manicures/Pedicures
Life Insurance
Child Care/Babysitting
Toiletries (if not included in your grocery budget above)
Household Items (if you did not already include in your groceries budget above)
Education/Tuition
Dry Cleaning/Laundry
School Dues/Supplies
Magazines
Gym Memberships
Organization Dues
Postage
Pet Care (food, grooming, shots, boarding)
Photos (school and family photos)
Random Spending (always useful as a way to pay for the things you may not have broken out in your budget)

 

RECREATION

We all love to spend some time doing things we love.  Don’t forget to include your entertainment category when determining your budget.

Entertainment (movies/concerts)
Crafts
Hobbies
Parties
Vacations

 

DEBTS

Once you pay off your debt, these will go away entirely and will no longer be needed.  You can learn how to get out of debt and get started with that (once you have your budget).

Credit Cards (all debt)
Unsecured loans
Home equity loans
Student loans
Medical loans

 

Now you have the categories you need for your budget!  Take the first step in getting control of your finances by putting this to work for you.

caclulator on desk to figure budget categories

The post The Ultimate List of More Than 50 Budget Categories You Must Use appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

7 Best Short-Term Bonds Funds to Buy in 2020

For investors with short-term saving goals, short-term bonds can be appropriate investments for your money.

They are stable and they certainly provide a higher return than a money market fund.

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However, even with the best short term bond funds, there’s also a risk of losing a percent or two in principal value if interest rates rise.

There are many options available to you, but your best option is to invest in taxable short-term bond funds, U.S. Treasury short-term bond funds and federally tax-free bond funds.

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What are short-term bonds?

Short-term bonds, or any bonds for that matter, are debts instruments that companies and the government issue. They typically mature in 1 to 3 years.

When you buy a bond, you are essentially lending money to the issuing company or government agency.

They are obligated  to pay back the full purchase price at a particular time, which is called the “maturity date.” 

Short-term bonds are low risk investments and you can have access to your money fairly quickly.

As with all bond funds, one of the risk of short term bond funds is that when interest rates rise, the prices of the bonds in the fund decrease.

But short term bond funds have a reduced risk of default, because the bond funds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

Moreover, because the term is short, you will earn less money on it than on an immediate-term or long term bond fund.

Nonetheless, they are still competitive and produce higher returns than money market funds, Certificate of Deposits (CDs), and banks savings accounts. And short-term bonds are more stable in value than stocks.

At a minimum, don’t buy a short-term bond fund if you’re saving for retirement or if you want to hold your money longer.

If you’re looking to invest your money for the long term and are still looking for safety, consider investing in Vanguard index funds. 

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Short-term bonds: why do you need to invest in them?

You should invest in short-bonds if you intend to use the money in a few years or so. However, don’t push your emergency cash into bonds. That is what a bank savings account is for.

Also, you should not put too much of your long term investment money into bonds, either. If you have a long term goal for your money, it’s best to invest in mutual funds such as Vanguard mutual funds, real estate, or your own business.

Here are some situations where you should invest in short term bonds.

  • You want to stabilize your investment portfolio. If you have other aggressive investments, you may need to balance it out with short term bond funds. The reason is because short term bonds are safer comparing to stocks.
  • Buying a house.
  • Retirement. If you’re thinking of retiring in a few years, short-term bonds are appropriate.
  • Purchasing a car.
  • You’re a conservative investor. Not all investors can stomach the risk of losing all of their money due to the market volatility. So instead of investing in stocks, which falls on the riskier end of the securities spectrum, you should invest in short term bond funds.

Best short-term bond funds to consider:

Most people prefer to buy bonds through a broker such as Vanguard or Fidelity.

If you’re looking for the best short-term bond funds to buy now, consider these options:

  • Vanguard Short-Term Treasury Index Fund Admiral Shares (VSBSX)
  • Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VMLTX)
  • The Fidelity Short Term Bond Fund (FSHBX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Share (VWSTX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX)
  • T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund (PRWBX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (VBIRX)

Tax free short-term bonds

There are some short-term bond funds that are both state and federally tax free. But there are not too many out there.

However, the ones that are available are good investments. So, if you are in a low state bracket and in a high federal bracket, consider investing in these Vanguard bond funds.These are federally tax free bond funds:

Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VMLTX)

This Vanguard bond fund seeks to provide investors current income exempt from federal taxes. The fund invests in high-quality short-term municipal bonds.

This bond fund has a maturity of 2 years. So, if you are looking for a fund that provides modest income and is federal tax-exempt, the Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund is for you.

The fund has an expense ratio of 0.17% and a minimum investment of $3,000. This makes it one of the best short term bonds to buy.

Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Share (VWSTX)

Like the Vanguard Limited Short Term fund, this fund also provides investors with current income that is exempt from federal income taxes.

The majority of the fund invests in municipal bonds in the top three credit ratings categories. It also invests in medium grade quality bonds.

This fund too has an expense ratio of 0.17% and a minimum investment of $3,000, making it one of the best short term bond funds.

U.S Treasury Short-term Bond Funds: Vanguard Short-Term Treasury

If you’re interested in a bond fund that invests in U.S. Treasuries, then U.S.Treasury bond funds are a great choice for you. One of the best U.S.Treasury bond funds is the Vanguard Short-Term Treasury.

This bond fund seeks to track the performance of the Bloomberg Barclays US Treasury 1-3 Year Bond Index. The Vanguard Short-Term Treasury invests in fixed income securities with a maturity between 1 to 3 years.

This bond fund has an expense ratio of 0.07% and an initial minimum investment of $3,000. Currently, this short term bond fund has a 1-year yield of 4.51%, making it one of the best short term bond funds.

Of note, this fund is also available as an ETF, starting at the price of one share.

The Fidelity Short-Term Bond Fund (FSHBX)

The Fidelity Short Term Bond Fund is one of the best out there for those investors who want to preserve their capital. This fund was established in March of 1986 and seeks to provides investors with current income.

The fund managers invests in corporate bonds, U.S. Treasury bonds, and assets backed securities. Over the last 10 years, this bond fund has a yield of 1.98% and a 30-day yield of 1.98%. This Fidelity bond fund as an expense ratio of 0.45%. There is no minimum investment requirement.

Taxable short-term bond funds: Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX)

If you are not in a high tax bracket, then you should consider investing in a taxable short term bond fund. One of the best out there is the Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund.

This bond fund provides investors exposure to high and medium quality investment grade bonds, such as corporate bonds and US government bonds. This fund has an expense ratio of 0.20% and an initial minimum investment of $3,000, making it one of the best short term bond funds out there. 

T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund (PRWBX)

The T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund invests in diversified portfolio of short term investment-grade corporate, government, asset and mortgage-backed securities. This bond fund also invests in some bank mortgages and foreign securities. This fund produce a higher return than a money market fund, but less return than a long-term bond fund. The T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund has a minimum investment requirement of $2500, making it one the most favorite short term bond funds out there.

Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (VBIRX)

The Vanguard Short-Term bond is a good choice for the conservative investor. It offers a low cost, diversified exposure to U.S. investment-grade bonds. This has fund has a maturity date between 1 to 5 years. Moreover, the fund invests about 70% in US government bonds and 30% in corporate bonds. The bond fund as an expense ratio of 0.07% and a minimum investment requirement of $3,000.

How to Invest in Short-Term Bonds

If you’re considering in investing in these or any of Vanguard bond funds, you need to do your due diligence.

First, think about what you need the bond fund in the first place. Is it to diversify your investment portfolio?

Are you a conservative investor who need a minimize risk at all cost? Or, do you want to invest in a short term bond fund because you need the money to use in a few years for a vacation, buying a house, or planning for a wedding?

Once, you have come up with answers to this question, the next step is to do your research about the best bond fund available to you.

Use this list to start. If it’s not enough, do your own research.

Look into how much the initial minimum investment is to buy a bond fund. Most Vanguard short term bond funds require a $3,000 minimum deposit.

Some Fidelity bond funds, however, have a 0$ minimum deposit requirement.

Next compare expense rations, performance for different funds to see if they match your investment goals. But you have to remember that past performance is not an indication of future performance.

Your final step is to open an account to buy your bond funds. If you choose Vanguard, you can do so at their website.

How do you make money with short-term bonds?

You can make money with short-term bonds the same ways you make money with a mutual fund (i.e., dividends, capital gains, and appreciation). But most of your returns in a bond fund comes from dividends.

The bottom line

In brief, short-term bonds are great investment choices if you have short term saving goals. You may be interested in buying these bonds because you expect to tap into your investment within a few years or so. Or, you want a more conservative investment portfolio.

Short term bonds produce higher yields than money market funds.

The only problem is that the share prices can fluctuate. So, if you don’t mind market volatility, you may wish to consider short-term bonds.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond short-term bonds, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
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The post 7 Best Short-Term Bonds Funds to Buy in 2020 appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com