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.

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.

8 Financial Considerations When Starting a New Job

Getting a job offer is always an exciting time. Whether you’re getting your first job, a promotion, or changing careers, there’s a lot to be happy about. But it’s always wise to consider the financial aspect of any decision; starting a new job is no exception.

Before You Accept the Job

    1. Negotiate your pay. It never hurts to ask for a little more money. Keep in mind that any increase in salary you can get now will only compound your future raises. Respectfully asking for more money doesn’t cause any harm.
        • Negotiating is the highest paying activity you’re likely to ever to take part in. Consider that just a minute or two could result in thousands of dollars in additional income for many years. When was the last time you made that much money for a couple of minutes of work?

    2. Ask about the benefits. Typically, you’ll be told the general aspects of the company benefits. Don’t be afraid to ask for details. For example, some medical insurance plans are much more expensive than others. A job with a slightly lower salary might be much better when you have all the details.

After You Start Your New Job

    1. Deal with your previous 401(k). Either roll the money into an IRA or move it into your new 401(k). Resist the temptation to withdraw the money; the tax penalties are significant. Ask your new human resources department about your options and then make the smart choice.

    2. Keep your lifestyle in check. Just because you get a raise doesn’t mean you have to buy a more expensive house or car. If you can maintain your spending level for even one year, you can save a lot of money. If you do increase your lifestyle, then be sure to bank at least part of your raise.
        • Getting a raise is a great opportunity to save a lot of money or aggressively pay down your debt.

    3. Start paying yourself first. Set up your bank account with automatic savings of part of your increased income so you start saving money immediately. It will be easier to start saving now than later because you won’t miss money that you’ve never seen.

    4. Ensure you’re withholding enough for taxes. It’s not financially smart to get a huge refund every year. On the other hand, it can be pretty challenging both financially and psychologically to have to pay more at tax time. Be confident your withholding is enough to guarantee a small refund each year.

    5. Make benefit choices wisely. Set up your life, health, and disability insurance and other benefits intelligently for your own unique needs. For example, the most expensive medical plan might not be the option you want if you’re young and in perfect health.
        • Your life insurance needs will vary depending on your family situation.

    6. Have your paycheck deposited into an interest-earning account. Interest rates are so low right now that it might not matter a whole lot, but it makes sense to deposit your paycheck into an account that pays interest. You can always transfer what you need into your checking account later.

Being financially healthy is the result of making smart decisions consistently. A job opportunity is a time for celebration; just ensure you’re making positive financial moves to take your best advantage of this occasion.

Creating a Thanksgiving Feast on a Budget

Maybe you’ve always wanted to host Thanksgiving, but were concerned about the cost of feeding the largest meal of the year to a small army. The holidays and excess seem to go hand in hand. The economy still isn’t great, but fortunately, a great Thanksgiving meal can be created with a limited budget.

Implement these suggestions to create a wonderful, affordable Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Get started early. According to the experts, the turkey is almost half of the cost of the typical Thanksgiving meal. A frozen turkey can be purchased a month or so ahead of time. Avoid waiting until close to the holidays to shop for your turkey because the prices go up and demand increases. Shop around for a good deal and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

  2. Purchase items in bulk. If you’re feeding a large group, it can be worthwhile to purchase items in larger quantities. Many of the larger stores have an aisle with bulk items. Of course, there’s also Costco, Sam’s Club, and similar stores that specialize in bulk quantities.

  3. Utilize coupons. Grocery stores are fighting for your dollars this time of year. It can be worth the time it takes to cut out and use the coupons. Start looking a month before the big day.
      • Even if you don’t typically use coupons, it might be worthwhile around Thanksgiving.

  4. Skip the appetizers. Most appetizers are expensive, and the result is a lot of leftovers. Everyone will be well fed soon enough. Let everyone focus on the main meal. Appetizers are intended to make up for a smaller main course.

  5. Consider what items are in season. Brussels sprouts are abundantly available in November, while asparagus is not. Be on the lookout for items that are harvested late in the year.

  6. Be reasonable. Most Thanksgiving meals have excessive leftovers. Try to make a realistic prediction of how much food you’ll actually need.
      • There are calculators online that can help you make an accurate estimation of your food requirements, depending on how many you’re feeding at Thanksgiving dinner.

  7. Do it yourself. Dinner rolls are quite inexpensive in the store, but you can probably save even more money if you just do it yourself. Some items, such as pecan pie, can be expensive to purchase, but cheaper to make.

  8. Stick with the basics. Many amateur chefs make the mistake of trying out new dishes that require special skills, expensive ingredients, or both. These dishes rarely turn out well, and the food may go to waste. There’s a reason why the classics became classics. Nearly everyone enjoys eating them and the costs are minimal.
      • Even Martha Stewart suggests a menu of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, seasonal vegetables, and pumpkin pie. That’s simple and inexpensive.

  9. Encourage all guests to bring a side dish. Take care of the turkey and let everyone else prepare and bring the other dishes. Assign responsibilities for the core items and take the time and cost burdens off your shoulders. Someone is sure to bring something unique and interesting.

  10. Use the leftovers to your advantage. If you have overnight guests, they will need to be fed the following day. Push that leftover turkey on them! Who doesn’t like a turkey sandwich? You already have the food, so put it to good use.

Thanksgiving is a time to create and share memories with your loved ones. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money to accomplish that. Start planning early and stick to the classic dishes that everyone seems to enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner. You can host a memorable Thanksgiving and keep your budget intact.

RV Insurance: Types of RVs

Note: RV insurance varies with each carrier. Engarde Financial Group has working relationships with multiple insurance carriers and will work with you to find the insurance carrier that is the best fit for you. 

RVs are for road schooling. They are for traveling to visit family. They are for road trips with friends. They are for enjoying the great outdoors. 

No matter where your RV adventures take you, be sure to have peace of mind knowing you and your RV are covered in the case of an unfortunate event. 

RV insurance offers both standard coverage and optional coverage. Listed below are some of the common types of RVs that can be covered by RV insurance policies. 

    • Pop-up campers  a small trailer used for camping with collapsible walls.

    • Fifth-wheel trailers  a trailer with a raised section in the front to provide additional living space.

    • Conventional trailers – a trailer between 12 – 40 feet in length used for camping and/or vacationing.

    • Class A motorhomes  a motorhome between 21 – 40 feet in length. It is the largest type of motorhome.

    • Class B motorhomes  a motorhome usually no longer than 21 feet in length. It is the smallest type of motorhome.

    • Class C motorhomes  a motorhome between 20 – 33 feet in length. It is a mid-size motorhome. 

Obtaining RV insurance ensures peace of mind while enjoying one of your favorite past times; RVing. Contact Engarde Financial Group at 412-533-2373 to discuss RV insurance today. 

Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

RV Insurance: Standard Coverages Part Two

Note: RV insurance varies with each carrier. Engarde Financial Group has working relationships with multiple insurance carriers and will work with you to find the insurance carrier that is the best fit for you. 

RVs are for adventures. They are for long cross-country trips. They are for living off the grid with family. They are for exploring. 

No matter where your RV adventures take you, be sure to have peace of mind knowing you and your RV are covered in the case of an unfortunate event. 

RV insurance offers both standard coverage and optional coverage. Listed below are the standard coverages covered by RV insurance. 

Because accidents can happen, no matter how much you are enjoying yourself, think about who would pay for medical bills if an accident were to occur. 

    • Medical payments pay for the medical bills when you or someone else is injured. 

Let’s face it, sometimes an accident occurs, and you are at fault. Liability insurance covers you. 

    • Liability pays for damages and injuries when you are at fault in an accident. 

Unfortunately, there are times when you may find yourself in an accident and to make matters worse, the other party is either uninsured or underinsured. Do not get caught footing the bill. 

    • Uninsured and underinsured motorist pays for medical bills incurred due to bodily injury or bills from damages to your motorcycle that the motorist at fault I unable to pay for. 

Lastly, rest easy knowing that your RV is covered when things out of your control take place. 

    • Comprehensive and collision pays for repairs to your RV or the replacement of your RV when damages occur from such events as vandalism or fire. Collision pays for repairs or replacement when you are involved in an accident. 

Obtaining RV insurance ensures peace of mind while enjoying one of your favorite past times; RVing. Contact Engarde Financial Group at 412-533-2373 to discuss RV insurance today. 

Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.

Advantages of Term Insurance

Life is filled with choices. Choosing the life insurance that is the right fit for you is one of them. We, at Engarde Financial Group, are here to help you make an informed choice. We strive to help our clients choose what is best for them and their family. 

Term life insurance provides reliable coverage giving you a sense of security. You can rest assured that your family will be taken care of after you are gone and no longer can provide for them. Term insurance is an investment in your family’s future. Listed below are some of the many advantages of term insurance. 

One advantage of term insurance is affordability.  

Term insurance provides the coverage you need with less money coming out of your pocket. 

Another advantage of term insurance is flexibility.  

Term insurance puts you, the policy owner, in control. When you decide to invest in purchasing term insurance, you have the power to choose 10, 15, 20 or 30 year coverage, which are the most common. You also have the power to choose the amount of money you need. 

A third advantage of term insurance is tax – free payouts. 

You can feel confident in knowing that death benefits from an insurance policy generally do not count as taxable income. 

A fourth advantage of term insurance is fixed premiums. 

Simply put, your premium does not change during your policy term. 

Lastly, another advantage of term insurance is guaranteed protection. 

You do not have to worry if your family will be financially secure in the event of your death. Death benefits are guaranteed.  

With that said, life is not filled with many guarantees, but term insurance is the exception. Contact Engarde Financial Group at 412-533-2373 to discuss life insurance options today. 

Engarde Financial Group is positioned to educate and serve its clients with other insurance coverages.

We understand that your personal items that you possess are of significance to you. Here at EFG we look at every situation differently. When it comes to your needs there is no such thing as one size fits all. Speak to a insurance professional today so that we can design a policy to cover all the things you love.