Top 10 Financial Skills That Will Carry You Through Challenging Times

The ability to survive on a modest income is a skill. However, it’s a skill that could be useful for anyone, especially in these uncertain economic times. Even if you’re great with money in general, you might not have the expertise to live on a low income, and such expertise could come in handy.

Practice these skills and you’ll be prepared for any financial challenge:

    1. Be able to differentiate between wants and needs. What you consider to be a need will change when financial resources are scarcer. Before spending any money, ask yourself if the item or service is a true need or a want.

    2. Save anyway. Saving is often a challenge during good times. It’s even more challenging when money is limited. It’s still important to save a portion of any income.

    3. Know how to budget and have discipline. Just about anyone can create a budget, but it’s sticking with the budget that’s hard. It takes practice and discipline. It’s no fun to barely scrape by each month, but a budget makes it possible. It also highlights the little ways to get ahead each month.

    4. Use your car as little as possible. It costs money to use an automobile. Combine shopping trips. Create a carpool to minimize driving to work. If possible, use a bike or walk.

    5. Find an additional source of income. A part-time job can be a big help. There are many things you can do on your own instead of seeking additional employment. You can rent out your car, rent a room in your home, buy and sell items on Craig’s List, or any number of other activities.

    6. Learn to eat inexpensively. A bag of rice costs less than a dollar. Chicken leg quarters are less than $0.70/lb. Choose the least expensive type of fruit. Food is a considerable expense for most families. It’s also an expense that’s easy to minimize.
        • Hit the local food bank. Most cities, towns, and counties have one or more food banks. You typically can’t get enough to satisfy all of your food needs, but you can take care of 50%.

    7. Purchase used clothing. Use clothing stores are everywhere. For example, Goodwill sells most of its clothes for slightly over $4. The first Saturday of each month is half-price.

    8. Be aware of all the public assistance programs. Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, heating subsidies, and the Affordable Care Act are just a few programs that are available in most areas. If you’re used to living a middle-class lifestyle, you might not have the slightest idea of how to take advantage of these programs. Become familiar with what all is available in your area.
        • Most areas have employment assistance or job training programs to help you find work.
        • You can also receive a big tax break if your income falls below certain levels.

    9. Find inexpensive healthcare. Often pharmacies or bigger stores, like Walmart, have an inexpensive clinic. You might be able to find a free clinic if you do some research.

    10. Find less expensive housing. The citizens of the United States enjoy some of the most spacious living quarters in the world. In many countries, it’s not uncommon for ten or more people to share a small apartment. You can probably find a less expensive place to live that will work.

Surviving during challenging financial times requires a new way of viewing money and the world. The less money you have, the more scrutiny each dollar requires before it’s spent. If you find yourself with less income than you’re accustomed to, it’s important to aggressively conserve at every opportunity. Challenging times require a new set of skills.

How to Do a Personal Financial Checkup

In every area of your life, it’s important to submit yourself to a checkup to find out how you’re doing. That way, you can make course corrections and ensure that you’re remaining on the path to the success you were born to experience.

This is especially true about your finances. Your fiscal health affects your overall sense of well-being, self-confidence, and happiness more than anything else. Once or twice a year, it’s important to evaluate where you are financially, where you’re going, and how best to get there.

Follow these tips to perform a personal financial checkup that ensures you experience the peace and prosperity you deserve:

    1. Identify where you are. If you don’t have a family or personal budget, now’s the time to create one. Simply list your income and monthly expenses. Any time you spend money, write it down. Simply being aware of your spending habits and the amount of money you have available will cause you to make more sound financial decisions.
        • If you already have a family budget, now’s the time to make sure that all of your expenses are listed in the budget and funded accurately. An updated budget is your roadmap for your journey into the next few months.
        • The more clearly you see your current financial status, the more motivated you’ll be to make the changes you need to reach your goals.

    2. Identify where you want to go. If you’ve already established financial goals, evaluate whether those goals still make sense in light of your current situation. Think about what’s most important to you, and match your financial budget and goals to those values. Include a fun purchase or vacation to keep you motivated.

    3. Review your insurance coverage. As the circumstances of your life change, your needs for protection may change as well. Look over your homeowners insurance, health insurance, and life insurance and make sure your coverage meets your current needs. Also consider disability insurance, especially if you provide income that your household counts on.

    4. Create or bolster your emergency fund. The backbone of any financial plan that truly provides comfort is a fund that can pay for unexpected expenses. If the car or air conditioner breaks down, your emergency fund makes sure that all the financial claims you made above stay intact.
        • While other families struggle to make ends meet, falling behind at the first unexpected expense, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re covered no matter what goes wrong. This can only come from a well-funded emergency fund.

    5. Establish or update your will. While the end of life is an uncomfortable subject for many, it’s important to have your affairs in order for those you may leave behind if something should ever happen to you.

    6. Evaluate your investments. How’s your investment portfolio performing? Are you investing in the right vehicles to match your retirement, college savings and other goals? You may want to seek the advice of a financial advisor if you’re unfamiliar with this area of your financial picture.

    7. Adjust your tax withholding, if necessary. Many people provide the federal government with an interest-free loan every year. At the end of the year, you should be close to breaking even. Instead of receiving a large refund, adjust your deductions and use a savings or money market account to make interest off the difference.

    8. Think about upcoming life changes. Do you anticipate anything big happening in the near future? Is your car getting old? Are there any medical expenses for a surgery or pregnancy that’s coming up? To complete your checkup, think through upcoming expenses that are outside your normal budget and plan ahead.

Once you’ve set yourself up for financial success by reviewing these areas of your family’s plan, repeat this personal financial checkup once or twice a year. The keys to financial success are awareness, determination to succeed, and the ability to dream big dreams. Your personal financial checkup is the roadmap that’ll keep you on track.

6 Smart Financial Strategies to Start Using in Your 20s

Financial responsibility is definitely not a priority for most young adults. If you’re in your early 20s, chances are you’re more pre-occupied with friends, school, relationships, finding work, or travelling.

Finances aren’t fun, but getting a head start will make things easier for you in the future.

Be aware of the obstacles you will be facing in the near future – you have probably already encountered some of them. As a young adult, you are likely already dealing with student debt, a lack of credit history, and a general lack of knowledge about the products and services that will help you achieve financial stability.

Follow these steps to adopt a proactive attitude towards managing your finances:

    1. Choose banking products adapted to your needs. Open a checking account if you don’t already have one and set up direct deposit with your employer. Most checking accounts come with a free debit card you can use to make purchases and pay bills.
        • However, using a credit card for your expenses will help you build up your credit history.
        • Your finances might be easier to manage if you get all your banking products from the same institution.
    2. Put some money aside. You might feel that you aren’t earning enough money to save, but there are plenty of ways to reduce your expenses. You could, for instance, cook more meals at home instead of ordering takeout and look for free activities when you go out with your friends instead of spending money on drinks or movie theatre tickets.
        • The key to saving money is to set some goals and stick to them. Put a specific amount in your savings account as soon as you receive a paycheck or put a percentage of your income aside.
    3. Take advantage of the tools available to manage your finances. Most banks offer online banking tools so you can pay your bills on time and track your expenses. Use budgeting apps to set goals and keep track of how much you spend and save.
        • Always use long passwords and answers to security questions to stay safe while using these tools.
    4. Work on establishing your credit. A good credit score will help you obtain financing for a vehicle, a home, or a business. The best way to build your credit is to use a couple of credit cards wisely and make your student loan payments on time.
        • Stay in control of your credit. Keep track of how much you charge on your credit cards and always make your payments on time.
        • If you borrowed money to go to school, establish a payment plan and stick to it. If you cannot make a payment, contact your creditor to make changes to your payment plan instead of letting late fees accumulate.
    5. It’s not too early to start thinking about retirement. The earlier you start saving, the more you’ll earn from interest. You can get a 401K plan through your employer or open an IRA. Include regular contributions to your retirement account in your budget.

    6. Purchase insurance. Buying health insurance can seem expensive, but this kind of coverage will help you save money if you find yourself in need of medical care. Consider purchasing a life insurance policy, too, since you can easily secure low rates while you’re young and healthy.

Adopting a responsible attitude towards your finances will save you a lot of money and stress in the future. Becoming a homeowner, providing for a family, and getting out of debt are challenges you will likely face, which is why you cannot have a lax attitude when it comes to managing your finances.

There are many educational resources and financial products designed for young adults. Take advantage of these resources to plan for a bright financial future.

Where is Your Money Going? How to Uncover Your Money Drains and Improve Your Financial Outlook

At the end of each month, do you find yourself wondering where all your hard earned money went? Discovering your financial drains will enable your money to work for you, funding savings, debt repayment, or other things that are important to you instead of just disappearing into nothingness.

It may be necessary to do a little detective work to figure out where your money is going. The best way to get a handle on your finances is to get everything accounted for and then move forward toward your financial goals from there.

Try these tips for finding your money drains and improving your financial outlook with a family-friendly budget:

    1. Calculate all income. The first thing to do is calculate all sources of income for your household. Put together a chart listing income sources and amounts for the past 30 days. This will give you an idea of how much money is coming into the household, which is the first step to determining how much money is going out.

    2. List your expenses. List all of your regular monthly expenses such as rent or house payments, car payments, credit card and loan payments, gas, food, utilities, cable, internet and others. Try to list exact numbers, or estimate if your expenses vary. This will give you a good idea of what your basic expenses are.

    3. Track every penny. Spend an entire month tracking every cent that you spend. Write down your beginning balance and then every dollar in and every dollar out. This is the key to determining where you’re losing money.

    4. Interpret the results. Compare how much money you’re bringing in to how much you’re spending every month on bills and other expenses. Are you spending beyond your means? Are you allocating money for savings, investments, and retirement?
        • If you have money drains, determine what they are. Are you spending $4.00 on an iced latte Monday through Friday? Is your dining out expenses much higher than you expected? Are you eating from vending machines or expensive fast-food joints at lunch rather than brown-bagging it?

    5. Put this information to good use. Armed with your written guide to your income and expenses, you can control your finances more effectively. Once you have this information laid out in front of you, it will allow you to fine tune your finances little by little until you’re putting more money into savings and less into “money drains” from month to month.
        • Determine ways to reduce these money drains. Can you brew coffee at home to save money every week? Can you cook at home to save money on eating out? A few dollars saved every month in different areas of your budget can definitely add up to your benefit.

Once you know how much money you have coming in and going out, you can start directing your money toward what’s really important to you. Trim down your expenses or find ways to increase your income so you’re not spending beyond your means. Your financial future will shine much brighter when you enable yourself to prepare for the future you desire.

Planning a Budget That Sets You Free

Wouldn’t it be great to have enough money to live your life to its fullest, while still putting away plenty for a rainy day? You can turn this dream into your reality, if you’re willing to plan and stick to a budget. A well-planned budget enables you to make financial decisions that support your happiness and peace of mind.

With a budget, you see exactly where each dollar you earn is being spent. This helps you spend less on items that don’t fit your life’s priorities. As a result, you have more money to spend on things that really matter to you.

If you think that staying on a budget is difficult, you may be pleasantly surprised. It’s easier than you think. When you plan your budget carefully, you create the right mix of spending and saving to support you in the pursuit of your dreams.

How to Plan Your Budget for Financial Solvency

Contrary to popular belief, planning a budget allows you to experience more of the fun things in life. Many believe that sticking to a budget robs them of life’s adventure and spontaneity. A well-crafted budget, however, ensures that funds are available for instant adventures as well as planned expenses.

The first step in creating your budget is to gather the things you’ll need. Among them are your bank statements, bills, and information about how much cash you have available. It’s also helpful to know how much you’re spending on necessities like food and gasoline.

The budget you create can be as simple as a hand written document or small spreadsheet on your computer. The important thing is that the budget helps you to track what you spend and keep your financial life organized.

To plan your budget, consider:

    • How much money you have right now
    • What you’re spending your money on
    • Where you can cut back
    • What you’ll gain by spending less
    • What you want to save for
    • Your plans for the future

When you know what you want and where you’re going financially, you can create a plan to help you get there. Don’t be afraid to dream big and budget for joy.

Using a Budget to Meet Goals

With a budget, you’re more likely to achieve your financial goals. Break your ultimate goal down into a series of smaller goals to keep from getting overwhelmed. The sense of accomplishment as you achieve these small goals will keep you moving forward.

Also, remember that it’s okay to adjust your budget. You don’t have to do everything perfectly from the beginning. The effort to get your finances under control can lead to more monetary security in the future if you stay organized and adjust your budget as you go.

Plan your budget with your significant other, if you have one. Ensure that the budget you create supports the pursuit of the things that are important to both of you. A step-by-step plan for your financial future together is more fruitful if it’s a joint goal-setting effort.

Track your spending, commit to a plan that supports your financial goals, and remain flexible. Your first budget may need tweaks, but that budget is the first step to the financial freedom and peace of mind you deserve.

7 Financial Habits That Will Keep You Poor

Are you continually facing financial challenges? You might be keeping yourself poor with habits you didn’t even realize were contributing to your situation. Dropping the habits that are keeping you poor is an effective first step toward enhancing your security and financial future.

Make the decision to drop these financial habits from your life:

    1. Failure to create an adequate emergency fund. There’s no better prevention for financial disaster than an emergency fund that covers at least 3 months of living expenses. A short period of unemployment or a single, unexpected, major bill can be financially devastating. It will Avoid believing it’s a matter of “if it ever happens.”
        • Set aside whatever dollar amount you can manage and begin building an emergency fund. Even a few dollars each week is a start.

    2. Habitually paying bills late. Most consumers believe that credit card companies make most of their money from the high interest rates they charge. This isn’t true. It’s actually the late fees they collect. Nearly every bill you pay each month becomes more expensive if you’re late, even by a single day.
        • Develop the habit of sitting down once a week and paying the bills that are coming due. Pay them at least 7 days in advance.

    3. Inappropriate use of credit cards. Using credit cards to purchase unnecessary items you can’t afford is the worst use. Putting charges on your cards up to their limits and then only paying the minimum due will put you in a precarious position, lower your credit score, and keep you in debt for a long time.
        • Resolve to limit credit card use to emergencies or to accumulate rewards if you’re paying off your balance in-full each month.

    4. Failing to save money from each paycheck. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, saving money often seems impossible. But this is the time it’s most critical. Start by saving 1% of your take-home pay and build from there. If you never save any money, how will your situation change?

    5. Making impulse purchases. How many times have you made a big purchase and then run out of money at the end of the month? Impulse purchases are rarely satisfying after the initial glow has worn off. In fact, you’re probably resentful of the purchase after the financial pain comes home to roost.
        • Take a few days to think about the purchase before making a final decision. You’ll often find the urge has subsided.

    6. Buying items you don’t need. After shelter, clothing, food, and medical care, most spending is optional to varying degrees. You probably don’t want to feel like you’re living in a cave and eating sticks, but you certainly spend money each month that could either be saved or spent more wisely.

    7. Failing to contribute to your retirement. After forty years of toiling to make ends meet, wouldn’t it be nice to retire comfortably? Many seniors find themselves in challenging financial circumstances because they failed to contribute adequately to their retirement. It’s never too late to start.

Eliminating negative habits is the most effective way to start your journey to financial abundance. Choose one habit and make an effort each day to remove it from your life. The most powerful action you can take with regards to your finances is to eliminate your three most debilitating financial habits.

How to Save Money on Your Next New Car Purchase

Buying a new car is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. Your heart races with anticipation as you consider the perfect make, model, and color for you. Perhaps you’ve been dealing with breakdowns and repairs on your old car for years, and you’ve finally decided that getting a new one is right for you.

Whatever your situation, new car shopping can also be a frustrating experience if you’re not prepared. With the right strategies, you can save money on your next new car purchase.

To get the most for your money and drive away happy, follow these new car buying tips:

    1. Determine whether buying a new car is right for you. Ensure that a new car purchase is the right fit for you, your lifestyle, your family, and your budget before you spend the money. If your current car is in good shape, you may want to keep it for a while and save yourself the money.
        • You may be able to find a used car that’s in great shape for a lot less money. It’s not as glamorous or exciting, but it might be the wise choice for your pocketbook if you find a great deal.
    2. Pay cash if possible. You can save yourself a lot of money on interest if you can afford to pay cash up front. The larger the down payment you make for your car, the more money you’ll save. Cars lose value fast, and you can end up paying hundreds of dollars more than the purchase price of the car in interest unless you pay cash for the purchase.

    3. Take your time. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of shopping for your dream car. Car salesmen may add to the pressure by making you feel rushed. But if you take your time, you’ll be glad you did. You’ll make wiser decisions, save money, and be happier in the end if you slowly walk through the process, instead of rushing.

    4. Sleep on it. When you find the car you want and you’re ready for purchase, go home and sleep on it overnight. In the morning, after having a night to think about the terms and the other options you’ve seen, you may feel differently about the choice than you did in the heat of the moment of shopping.

    5. Shop around. If you’re willing to work for it, you can often save yourself hundreds of dollars by shopping around for the best price. You may also save by finding the dealership that offers you the best incentives for purchasing from them, such as cash back rebates.

    6. Be wise about your trade-in. If you’re trading in your old car, take steps to get the highest value possible for your vehicle. By handling the situation correctly, you can often increase the money you receive for your trade-in by hundreds of dollars.
        • If you plan to trade-in your old vehicle as part of your new car purchase, mention the trade-in to the dealer only after your negotiation for the purchase price of the new one is complete. Often, you’ll be treated more fairly by the dealer this way and get more for your old car.
        • When you discuss your trade-in, let the dealer know that you’re going to ask for bids to get the best value. The bid you receive will likely be a bit higher, and the amount you receive for your trade-in can vary widely from dealership to dealership.

    7. Go shopping when the next year’s models first come out. In about September every year, when the new car models come out for the following year, dealerships often have great incentives and sales to get rid of their inventory of the old models. This can mean great savings on a brand-new car that’s perfect for you.

Shopping for a new car can be both exciting and overwhelming. But if you follow these tips, you’ll save money on your next new car purchase and leave the experience knowing that you made the choice that’s right for you.