If you’re taking a look at your finances for the first time, chances are that you have at least a few budgeting questions. Here are the most common questions about budgeting we get at Mint.com from first-timers like you.
What should you do before beginning to design your budget?
Before you prepare a budget, you’ll need to take a cold, hard look at your finances. This part is never fun—especially if you’ve wracked yourself up a ton of credit card debt or spend way too much on burritos. But this less-than-pleasant exercise of analyzing your income, calculating your living expenses, and observing your spending habits is the first step to answering your budget questions.
How much do I make? How much can I spend? What percent should I save? To answer those questions about budgeting, you’ll first need to compare your income against your expenses—then you’ll know how much you have to work with every month.
Should I establish goals from the beginning?
When you start budgeting, it is important to give equal consideration to long term and short term savings goals. In order to determine what types of goals should be set and when, ask yourself specific questions like:
Do I want to develop a plan for retirement?
Am I saving for my college education, or do I need to set up a fund for my children?
Is it necessary to set up a fund for large expenses such as a vehicle purchase or a mortgage?
Do I have any big-ticket, short-term financial goals, like a new appliance or a summer vacation?
These budgeting questions will help you develop a set of financial goals, and create a timeframe for achieving them. For example, saving for retirement is considered a long-term goal, and creating a travel fund could be considered a short-term goal.
Choose a budgeting system that feels comfortable for you.
What is the 50 20 30 budget rule?
One of the best budgeting tips you can follow is the 50 20 30 rule, which suggests that you spend 50% of your after-tax income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% to savings. This is a great way to allocate your money into budget categories, especially if you’re creating a budget for the first time.
If you’re worried about math and percentages, don’t be. Download a budget tracker that can do the hard work for you and give you a visual representation of how your personal finances are looking.
Should I use paper, spreadsheets, or software?
To create a rough draft of your budget, choose a system that feels comfortable. While some prefer to work directly in an Excel spreadsheet, others prefer writing everything down with pencil and paper. If you are comfortable on the web, a budgeting tool like Mint.com makes it easy to organize everything into categories, and create a system of reminders.
Is a budget just about paying bills?
No! Creating a budget does set up a system by which you can pay your bills on time, but it is so much more than that. In addition to bills, you should also be setting funds aside to:
Save for educational plans: Either starting a new degree program or furthering your own education.
Save for retirement: This is especially important for those who are not comfortable relying upon the Social Security Administration, as well as those who do not have the opportunity to set up a retirement plan through their employer.
Save for emergencies: Anyone can experience unexpected medical situations, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. Even though no one likes thinking of these negative situations, it is important to plan for them by putting aside savings.
Pay down debt: Creating personal wealth through budget strategies cannot occur until the debt is paid down and investments are put into place. These are important ingredients to a successful budget and should be part of your long-term goals.
What should I take into account when budgeting?
This is one of the most common budgeting questions we get asked, mainly because life can throw you so many unexpected curveballs that completely derail your personal planning. In addition to your basic bills like rent, utilities, and student loan payments, you should set aside money in an emergency fund in case your car suddenly kicks the can and demands expensive repairs.
Always remember to account for upcoming special occasions, whether it’s the vacation you’ve been saving towards, your best friend’s birthday next week, or all the holiday spending that awaits you at the end of the year. A budget app can help you plan accordingly and clear up your questions about budgeting.
How often should I update a budget?
Even though the initial budget is the template for all future budgets, you should revisit your budget every few months, or whenever your financial situation changes dramatically. This is especially true for those who have fluctuating incomes. These fluctuations should be updated within the budget, in case you need to make spending adjustments to stay within your budget.
It’s also important to look for trends in your budget. For example, over the last two months, it may become apparent where you can reduce or eliminate certain spending habits. You can also look for where you can save money, shift money between different accounts, or pay down bills.
What’s your budget question? Let us know in the comments below! Mint makes it easy to create your first budget, and stick with it to achieve your financial goals. Sign up for your free account today!
What Is a Financial Planning Pyramid? – SmartAsset
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Setting priorities in the process of creating a solid financial position can be challenging. The financial planning pyramid provides a visual explanation and reminder to help people make the right moves at the right time. It aims to keep people from taking inappropriate risk by gauging the relationship between risk and reward. The pyramid also takes into consideration the element of time as a person makes progress towards his or her financial goals. It is a simple way to suggest how much of a person’s assets he or she should commit to different investments and other financial products.
Deciding how to allocate your financial assets and when to do so is something a financial advisor can offer invaluable advice on.
Levels of a Financial Planning Pyramid
There’s no single version of the financial planning pyramid. Some varieties have just a few levels and others have several. Some describe a wide variety of specific investments, asset classes and financial products and others just a handful of broad categories.
A core element of all versions of the pyramid is that the least risky financial moves are at the bottom, while the riskiest ones are at the top. The width of the pyramid at the level where a financial product appears suggests how important it is and how much of a person’s assets should be committed to it.
Here are levels of the financial planning pyramid:
Level 1 – The lowest level is the widest, which indicates its importance and where it should be in terms of priorities. It is also the least risky and, in fact, focuses on reducing financial risk. This level includes automobile, home, life, health, disability and liability insurance.
Level 2 – Once the first level is addressed, people can concern themselves with the second level. This level is focused on emergency savings. It includes money put into safe investments such as federally insured bank checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and government bonds.
Level 3 – The third level consists of savings and investment vehicles that may pay better interest rates than the very safe ones in the second level, at the cost of somewhat greater risk. They include money market accounts and high-grade municipal and corporate bonds and bond funds.
Level 4 – At the fourth level investments in equities begin to appear. These take the form of balanced mutual funds and high-grade shares of preferred stock and convertible bonds.
Level 5 – The fifth level consists of shares of blue-chip public companies as well as investments in growth-oriented mutual funds and real estate.
Level 6 – The sixth level represents investments in collectibles, speculative stocks and lower-grade bonds and mutual funds.
Level 7 – At the very top of the pyramid is a narrow wedge representing the small amount of assets that may be prudently committed to highly speculative investments. These could include commodities, over-the-counter penny stocks and the like.
The main idea of the financial pyramid that the width of pyramid at a given level expresses how much a person might wisely commit to the investments in that level. That is, more of a portfolio should ordinarily be invested in blue chip common stocks than speculative penny stocks. Time is also a factor. This means people are advised take care of the risk-management tools in the first level before starting to build emergency savings or begin investing in the stock market.
Different investors have different situations, which can affect the pyramid. For instance, a person in the middle of his or her career may be more heavily invested in growth mutual funds than someone approaching retirement, who would likely emphasize safety of principal with investments in high-grade bond funds.
Some versions of the financial planning pyramid have an even lower level. This may include the creation of a financial plan. Another item sometimes included as part of the lowest level is a budget that aims to make sure a person has cash left at the end of the month to stock an emergency fund and, ultimately, invest.
While financial products at the bottom of the pyramid are lower risk than those on higher levels, there is no risk-free investment. Even government bonds may generate a negative return in terms of buying power if the return does not keep up with inflation. There is also a risk of paying insurance premiums without ever making a claim on the coverage benefits.
The financial planning pyramid is a road map to help people decide where to put their emphasis today in preparing to reach their ultimate financial goals. It is a reminder of the relationship between higher risk and higher reward, and helps to ensure that people have the building blocks of a solid financial foundation in place before chasing better returns with riskier investments. While financial products at the bottom of the pyramid are lower risk than those on higher levels, there is no riskless investment. Even government bonds may generate a negative return in terms of buying power if the return does not keep up with inflation. There is also a risk of paying insurance premiums without ever making a claim on the coverage benefits.
Tips for Investing
If making and implementing a financial plan seems like a complicated challenge, consider working with an experienced financial advisor. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Once you’ve decided to start investing your money, you’ll have to decide on an asset allocation that’s appropriate for your goals, age and risk tolerance. And unless you invest in a target date fund that automatically adjusts that asset allocation, you’ll have to rebalance your assets over the course of your investing time frame. That’s where a free, easy to use asset allocation calculator can be extremely helpful.
Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
Preparing for the big day? Here are some areas where you can cut costs.
The moment you get engaged, everyone wants to know: When is the wedding? Engagements can be simple when compared to weddings—unless you are eloping or having a courthouse ceremony. If you are wedding planning on a budget and your plans don’t include hiring a wedding planner, here are some money-saving tips for your wedding:
2018 national average: $1,6311
Not wearing your grandmother’s gown? Buying used or renting can be a cost-effective way to save money on your wedding. Because wedding dresses tend to be worn once and then preserved, they are usually in “like new” condition when sold secondhand. Many websites offer pre-owned wedding dresses from major designers for when you are wedding planning on a budget.
“We find it very rare that a bride finds sentimental value in her veil or headpiece unless it is an heirloom,” says Brittany Haas, CEO of Happily Ever Borrowed, an accessory rental store. “Accessories are generally an expensive afterthought,” she adds. “For example, the veil is something that you generally only wear for 15 minutes for your wedding day. Brides have so many more romantic things to spend on than an object only worn for 15 minutes.”
Local consignment stores also frequently carry wedding dresses, and sometimes a formal evening gown can double for your big day, which can help you save money on your wedding.
One Last Frog, suggests brides, “Shop at wholesale stores for a high quantity of decor and flowers. Typically, wholesale stores are more open to negotiation and will give you a better price for the quantity of items or flowers a bride will order.”
And once you have your flowers, if you have bridesmaids willing to help out, you can easily put together bouquets to help cut back on wedding costs.
The reception venue
2018 national average: $15,4391
Most wedding guides will tell you reception venues charge less if you get married “off-season” in January, February or March, or during the week instead of on the weekend. The main way to really save on your venue and cut back on wedding costs is to keep your guest list low (100 or less). A smaller guest list can help you save money on your wedding by lowering the cost for food, tables, chairs and drinks.
When comparing the prices of different venues, consider that going with an all-inclusive venue can be a good money-saving tip for your wedding, says Joyce Scardina Becker, designer-in-chief of Events of Distinction. “The reception site and the vendors may have prearranged financial agreements, making it easy and more cost-effective,” Becker says.
2018 national average: $70 per person1
Sit-down or buffet? “Many couples think that buffets are less expensive than a sit-down plated meal, but this is often not the case,” Becker says. “Many times buffets are more expensive because you have to offer more choices and you cannot control the quantity of food a guest takes. So you should check with your caterer before deciding on a buffet versus a sit-down dinner.”
If you’re wedding planning on a budget, food trucks can be an alternative to cut back on wedding costs, while providing a memorable guest experience.
When it comes to alcohol, Becker suggests:
Having a short cocktail hour—make it 45 minutes
Avoiding salty hors d’oeuvres (they make guests thirstier)
Uncorking bottles only as needed (a wedding planner or event organizer can control this)
Additionally, if your venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, wholesalers tend to offer lower prices and typically allow you to return any unopened bottles for credit. Bringing your own alcohol could help you save quite a bit of money on your wedding.
2018 national average: $2,6791
One of the easiest ways to cut back on wedding costs is to limit how long your photographer stays. If you’re getting married in the off-season, you’ll likely find better deals than those getting hitched in the summer and fall.
An often overlooked money-saving tip for your wedding: Contact local college students studying photography who are interested in expanding their portfolio. Some experienced photographers may also have assistants who charge less, while still providing good service.
Happily (and financially) ever after
While looking for ways to save money on your wedding may not sound romantic, it may be the best gift couples can give themselves in the long run. Utilizing these money-saving tips to cut back on wedding costs can mean more savings to put toward other financial goals as a couple—goals like buying a home, starting a family, saving for a child’s education or building an emergency fund.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.
You’ve heard it said “Everything in moderation.” Like your brain will just know when it’s achieved maximum moderation and you’ll be fine. Who actually achieves their ideal of moderation?
I know a lot of people who think their addictive or impulsive personality means they can’t do moderation.
While there’s something to be said for how genetics and personality affect the purchases we make, overspending and impulsive spending are problems for everyone, regardless of personality type.
The idea that moderation must be organically practiced is a myth. Moderation is a skill that takes building and refinement.
There are actual steps you can take improve your willpower and moderation. It all starts with understanding it, so let’s get sciencey.
But first, if you like this topic I cover this and much more in my book The No-Spend Challenge Guide. Check it out to help you save more, spend less, and make the most of your time paying off debt.
In brain terms, the forehead is the prefrontal cortex of our brain. It’s in charge of executive functions like logic, planning, problem-solving, and impulse control.
According to a study on the prefrontal cortex and impulsive decision-making by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are two types of impulsiveness.
The first is the brain places too much weight on immediate outcomes without considering the weight of future benefit, like choosing to have one cookie now instead of waiting to have two. The second is rapid habitual response without consideration of what the correct response should be.
The study further showed that people’s ability to think about long-term outcomes of their decisions was reduced by stress, distraction, even loud noises.
Got any of those?
We set these big goals for ourselves, to get out of debt, lose weight, stay off social media. Then we get down on ourselves when we’re buying cookies at 10 pm because we saw something unattainable on Facebook.
The willpower to choose moderation is finite. You wake up with the best intentions, have a great day and by the end of it you’re bingeing. Rest assured, you’re not hopeless; you’re normal.
The first step in getting your finances under control is knowing how to take care of your brain to set yourself up to make better decisions. You can have the strongest willpower of anyone you know or seemingly none at all and still be ok as long as you’re taking steps improve your decision-making brain.
There are five totally common sense, eye-roll inducing ways to set your brain up for success. But even though you know what they are they beg repeating. Because until you’re living on the beach with piles of money, you can use a reminder of the simple things that keep your brain and bank account healthy.
1. Manage Stress
When we started paying off our debt I was so stressed working multiple jobs and staring at my loan account that I got shingles. Thank God my body stopped me from living that way because chronic stress is horrible for your decision-making brain.
Chronic stress reduces resilience, impairs memory, and actually shrinks your brain cells. Stress isn’t just bad for the brain; it negatively affects your heart, immune system, and speeds aging. Nobody wants that.
Practice meditation and relaxation techniques regularly. Studies show that just eight weeks of brief daily meditation can increase gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. That means better impulse control and a bigger storehouse for willpower.
If you’re prone to stress avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. In addition to costing money, they’re stimulants so they increase whatever stress levels are already present.
2. Bombard Yourself with Encouragement
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Positive thinking expands your mind and makes you believe more is possible. It’s the difference between achieving outrageous goals and giving up. But just like willpower, positivity doesn’t last, you have to refill your tank daily.
But you can’t manufacture your own encouragement. You can only top this one off with a little help from your friends. And the more the better. Find friends, family, and mentors who get what you’re doing and ask them to keep you accountable but more so encouraged. And don’t be embarrassed if you need more encouragement than you assume is reasonable, everybody needs more on the front end of a big task.
Find 7-10 friends who’ll text you once a week with an encouraging quote or quality they see in you. We live up to the expectations set for us so make sure you surround yourself with people who know you can be great.
3. Sleep More
Sleep deprivation is a type of chronic stress so in addition to avoiding stimulant substances, try the relaxation techniques I mentioned earlier right before bed. It takes just one good night’s sleep to start improving prefrontal cortex function. Studies show that 6.5-7.5 hours of sleep is optimal.
Understand that the older you get the more care you have to take to sleep well, yes even in your 20’s. I used to be able to have a few glasses of wine before bed and now if I do that I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. Pay attention to your sleep and avoid habits that impede it.
And design your bedroom as a place for sleep. Make your bedroom a place of tranquility and do your work outside of it. Training your brain to think night time is sleep time will improve your sleep.
Experts tell new moms to keep noise and light in the house during the day and quiet darkness at night so babies will learn the difference and develop a proper sleeping schedule. If you want to sleep like one, you should too.
When you’re stressed you release a stress hormone called cortisol. It’s designed to decrease your reaction time in cases of physical or mental stress. But if you’re stressed because of money and life problems and you don’t have any life-saving decisions to make, that cortisol just hangs around bullying your brain cells. The best way to burn off cortisol is through physical activity.
A mere 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity can reduce cortisol levels. So when you’re trying to work up the willpower to go to the gym know that you’re not just working your puff into tuff, you’re getting budgeting buff as well. (I’m sorry I love rhymes.)
Side note: Foods with a high glycemic index (GI) foods increase cortisol levels which can increase stress AND make it hard to fall asleep. Try consuming foods under 55 on the GI scale and see if it improves your sleep and stress levels.
5. Focus on One Thing at a Time
The less you have to think about and the fewer decisions you have to make, the better the ones you make will be. That’s the philosophy of the No Spend Challenge. By focusing on one thing you won’t have to make any other discretionary decisions about money.
I love the book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I highly recommend it to anyone embarking on a major life-changing project, like paying off debt.
Instead of trying to master all your goals at the same time and inching forward on each of them only to give up one and throw yourself into another; The philosophy of the ONE thing is that by focusing your energy on one thing at a time you can get maximum results from it quickly and move from one thing to the next.
So if paying off debt is your ONE thing then make it your ONE thing so you can cut the clutter and achieve it fast. You’ve only got one brain, stop wearing it out and work it smarter, not harder, and you’ll discover an ease in budgeting and saving you didn’t know was possible.
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Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.
The Burnout generation—this is the nickname that has been given to millennials as they seek financial freedom from all of their debts. Millennials earned this nickname on account of being so generally anxious and overworked that just the thought of making a phone call to deal with student loan debt can seem crippling. Looking over a credit card statement is oftentimes a daunting and frightening task.
But what are the real reasons behind the debt that millennials are experiencing and how can they navigate through it? In the below sections, we will discuss the main causes of millennials and debt and ways of getting rid of it.
Average debt for millennials
A study done by Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Planning & Progress Study found that the average debt for millennials is $27,900. While most people think that the bulk of these personal debts comes from student loans, it actually comes from credit card debt.
A lot of financial experts attribute this circumstance to the trend of millennials not wanting to sacrifice their lifestyle habits even though they have student loans and other bills to pay off. This is a particularly troubling phenomenon for a generation so young (the survey polled people ages 23 to 38) because it means that they are likely unable to be saving money for retirement.
A study done by the Pew Research Center found that while Americans are technically earning heftier paychecks, the purchasing power of those checks is about the same as it was 40 years ago. In other words, day-to-day costs are getting more expensive while wages are generally failing to keep up.
Student loans are another factor of millennial debt, of course, with $497.6 billion in student loan debt looming over the heads of about 15.1 million borrowers. This turns out to be about $33,000 per borrower.
The overall costs of college has risen over the years and with it, the amount of money being borrowed to pay for it all. It’s important to keep in mind that these numbers only reflect the students who have completed college and owe money for their student loans. This does not include those who did not finish school, but may still be responsible for some student loan debt.
Effects of debt on millennials
Recent psychological research shone some light on how income and debt impact our mental state. The studies have shown that the amount of money we are making per paycheck can’t fully make us happy as long as we are in debt.
Further research and surveying has even implied that acquiring debt can actually take away from the happy, accomplished feelings that people get from finishing college.
Student debt is also one of the main reasons why millennials can’t buy homes.
How millennials can get out of debt
Looking at your overall debt balance and trying to come up with a way to pay it all back can seem like a daunting task, but there are a few ways that you can help yourself get back on track such as:
Getting rid of student loans: Depending on your financial situation and lifestyle, it might seem impossible to pay off your student loans. But a lot of millennials are eligible for a payback plan that is based off of your current income. This could benefit those who want to make strides toward paying off their loans but need a more realistic plan until they’re able to afford more.
Depending on your profession, you may also be able to apply for government student loan forgiveness. Both of these are excellent options to explore if you are struggling with student loan debt.
Finding a workable budget: If it’s credit card debt that you are dealing with, sticking to a simple budget is your best bet. Try to avoid using credit cards when possible and do your best to live within your means. Take the time out to create a traditional budget using pen and paper or try using an online budgeting platform or mobile app.
Check out our page on paying off credit card debt fast for more detailed information on some tried and true methods.
Other considerations: There are other creative ways that you can find solutions to all of your millennial money struggles. For example, if the company you are working for doesn’t offer a traditional 401(k) plan, consider setting up an IRA or Traditional IRA. You can arrange to make automatic monthly contributions and invest larger amounts whenever possible.
Look for other areas in your life where you can afford to cut costs. Perhaps you can take public transportation to work instead of driving a car. Consider getting rid of your cable plan and sticking with cheaper forms of entertainment like Netflix or Hulu.
In today’s ever-consuming world, being a millennial is rough, but with the right planning and patience, reaching financial health is manageable.
Map out everything you need to do, week by week, until the big day.
When it comes to moving, proper organization is the defining difference between ultimate success and complete failure.
Even if you’re already an excellent organizer, you might still feel overwhelmed by the number of relocation-related tasks you have to complete before moving day — unless you find a way to bring order to the chaos.
Here’s a moving timeline that will do the trick. It will help you organize your time, prioritize your tasks, track your progress, and reduce moving stress. What’s more, you’ll never forget anything important, because your week-by-week moving checklist will remind you of what to do every single day until moving day.
Eight weeks before moving day
Organizing a safe, efficient, and trouble-free relocation requires about two months of careful planning and hard work. So, start your moving preparations about eight weeks before the big day:
Start looking for an appropriate new home in your future area (you may have to start sooner if you’re moving to a particularly hot real estate market).
Research your moving options and decide if you’re going to move on your own or use professional moving services.
Six weeks before moving day
Contact a few trustworthy movers and request an in-house estimation of your relocation costs. If you’ve decided on a DIY move, contact several truck rental companies and compare their rates and conditions.
Review your finances and designate your moving budget.
Notify all the relevant people and institutions of your move: your landlord (if you’re a renter), employer, family physician, children’s school (if applicable), and bank, for starters.
Start looking for a trustworthy health provider and a good school for your kids in your new city.
Schedule your move and book your chosen moving company (or book a rental truck of appropriate size for the day of your move).
Four weeks before moving day
Obtain your and your family’s medical records and your children’s school records.
Take your pet to the vet for a complete checkup and get all the necessary papers: vaccination records, health certificates, etc.
Get rid of unwanted items. Organize a moving sale, sell items online, donate them to charity, or give them away to relatives and friends.
Obtain packing supplies and start packing the items you won’t need before moving day. Make sure you don’t pack any nonallowable items.
Cancel subscriptions to delivery services and memberships to clubs and organizations.
Two weeks before moving day
If you’re driving to your new home, have your car serviced to make sure your road trip will go as smoothly as possible. If you’re flying to your new city, book your ticket and find a trustworthy auto transporter to ship your car.
Change your address with the United States Postal Service.
Transfer utilities — arrange for services in your old home to be disconnected the day after your move. Contact service providers in your new city to have utilities running in your new home on move-in day.
Reserve a parking place for the moving truck (directly in front of the entrance to your home) and an elevator for the time of your move (if applicable).
One week before moving day
Contact your moving company and confirm that everything is going according to plan.
Say your goodbyes — organize a farewell party, spend some quality time with your closest friends, visit your favorite places in town, etc.
Check on your packing progress. Most of your belongings should be packed up and labeled by this point.
Prepare an “open first” box that contains all the essentials you’re going to need as soon as you arrive in your new home.
Hire a sitter to look after your children and/or pets on moving day (if necessary).
Check if you’ve paid all the bills, picked up your clothes from the dry cleaners, returned library books and borrowed items, etc.
Two days before moving day
Finish packing — leave out only a few items you can’t do without during the last couple of days in your old home, and the cleaning supplies you’re going to need to clean the place before leaving it for the last time.
Defrost and clean your fridge and get all your household appliances ready to move — empty them, clean them, and make sure they’re fully dry and safely wrapped for transportation.
Disassemble large furniture pieces and pack them for shipment.
Make sure you have all valuables and important documents with you.
Have a good night’s rest and get up early in the morning to have enough time for last-minute moving tasks.
Double-check your home for forgotten items.
Meet your hired movers and provide them with all the information they need to perform a quick and efficient move.
Keep kids and pets away from the hectic moving procedures.
Carefully read all the paperwork you need to sign.
Prepare some refreshments for your movers and have some cash ready to tip them if you’re satisfied with their work.
Give the truck driver your exact new address and your phone number.
Clean your old home, lock it safely, and bid it farewell. The time has come to set foot on the road to your new life!
Even though most moving tasks are common for all residential moves, you can modify them to meet your personal needs and requirements. Certain aspects of your move will be unique and will require a different approach, so personalize this moving timeline checklist and make it work perfectly for you.
It happens. You have a budget, and something comes along, and you fall off the wagon. It might be illness, emergencies or even a spending spree (like the holidays or a birthday). Whatever the reason, it happens. The good news is that you are not alone. The better news is that you can get back on track quickly and easily.
Don’t focus on what happened, but rather on putting that behind you and getting back on track. And, as you address these issues, make sure you have a plan in place, so you don’t let it happen to you again!
GETTING YOUR BUDGET BACK ON TRACK
1. Stop spending
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? The truth is that if you’ve been spending a little too freely, this can be difficult. You have to remind yourself to stick with buying the things you only need, such as food, utilities, and shelter. Don’t buy the extra things like lunch out with friends, that new bag or upgrade your phone.
Start there – STOP spending money!
Read more: 12 Reasons Why You Keep Overspending
2. Figure out what went wrong & plan ahead
You didn’t blow your budget for just any reason. Something came up that pushed you off course. Maybe it was the car broke down, and you did not have the money to pay for it. It might be that it was summer and you just spent time relaxing rather than focusing on budgeting.
Whatever the reason, figure it out. And then, make sure you are ready so that if it happens again (and trust me, it probably will), you are ready. Build up your savings account or add a spending cushion in your budget.
Read more: Planning for the Unexpected
3. Start over with the budget
Think back to the day you were motivated and sat down and tackled your budget. You had a sense of excitement and anticipation, right? You need to get that same feeling back again.
If you have been using paper and pencil for your budget, maybe it is time to try an app. You might even look at using an online spreadsheet. You could move back to the paper and pencil method from something more high tech.
Whatever you feel you can do to help get your mindset back onto the excitement about setting a budget (that you can actually follow), do it! There is never a one size fits all method of setting up your budget!
Read more: How to Create a Budget
4. Save on your groceries
How often do you go to the store and stock up, just to have food go bad and you throw it away? Probably more times than you care to admit.
Take the time to plan your menu and then, also plan out your shopping trip. Having a plan keeps you on track and ensures you are only buying what you need (and will actually eat).
For some of you, this might mean using more coupons. For others, it could be as simple as changing where you shop. I get most of our food from our local Aldi, where the savings are HUGE. This simple change allowed us to reduce our grocery budget by nearly 50%!! There are a lot of ways you can cut your grocery bill; you need to know where to start.
Read More: How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
5. Downsize your stuff
If you look around your house, you probably see many things you no longer need or use. Why not sell or donate them?
Having a garage sale is not difficult. It just takes planning. I have had several successful garage sales. You can find my tips on how to have a successful garage sale helpful if you are new to trying this yourself.
If hosting a sale is not for you, you could donate the items you no longer need. Make sure you keep accurate track of everything you give away so that you can save the details for your taxes! It’s the perfect way to get rid of the clutter while saving a bit on what you have to pay to Uncle Sam.
6. Don’t be so hard on yourself
The key to making a change is knowing that you need to do just that. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just get your focus back where it needs to be – your budget. Learn from your mistakes and move forward.
By learning from the mistakes you’ve made and them making changes for moving forward, you can absolutely get your budget back on track again.
7. Stick with cash
The simplest way to restrict your spending is to use cash. There is no way to argue that fact. When you have cash, it is impossible to overspend. However, using plastic, you still can.
If something costs $22 and all you have is one twenty dollar bill, you can’t buy it. But, if you have a credit or debit card, you can. You’ve instantly spent $2 more than you should have.
Unless you live in an apartment where utilities are included, you probably groan slightly every month when your utility bill arrives, and you may wonder how you can account for utilities in your monthly budget.
It’s difficult to define an “average” utility bill in the United States, because the needs of a house in Orlando are completely different from the needs of a house in Minneapolis. The size of your utility bill depends on the size of your home, how well insulated it is, how many people live there, energy rates in your region, and how careful everyone in the household is with energy usage.
A 2013 survey of utilities in US cities found that Memphis, Springfield, MO, Reno, Omaha, and Columbus, OH had the lowest average utility bills, with average monthly bills ranging from $234.40 to $293.95. But utilities are metered, so how do you plan for them in your monthly budget?
Start With Your Billing History
If you save your bill stubs, you can get an idea how much you spend in a typical month. Your utility company can provide you with a record of your utility bills if you don’t save your stubs, or you can look back over bank statements to find how much you’ve been paying. Keep an eye out for anomalies like record heat waves or cold snaps. Note the trends in your utility bills so you’ll have an idea which months make the highest demands on your utility budget. Being prepared can help you fine tune your monthly budget based on typical utility costs.
Learn if Your Local Utility Does Budget Billing
Many local utilities offer what they term “budget billing” or some variation of that term. What they do is average a couple of years’ worth of utility bills for your home and bill you the same amount each month. Before you sign up, ask if there are any administrative fees associated with the service, and also find out how shortfalls or overages are handled. Ideally, at the end of the year, you should get a credit on your bill if you’ve used less energy than budgeted (or you may have to make up a shortfall if you use more than budgeted). But not all utilities do this, so ask up front. While budget billing doesn’t give you the satisfaction of low bills during those mild spring or autumn months, it does give you predictability, helping you plan a more accurate monthly budget.
Read the Mail Your Utility Companies Send You
Electricity and gas providers generally alert customers to trends in utility prices each year. If natural gas prices increase, for example, your gas company may include this information in their periodic newsletters, or it may be covered in a local news story. And you can always call your utility and ask where rates are headed.
Be Smart With Energy Usage
Lax energy habits cost your family money, but habits can change. The next time you run out of energy-hungry incandescent light bulbs, go ahead and spring for LEDs or compact fluorescent bulbs. They last much longer and use far less energy, and today’s compact fluorescent bulbs come in more eye-friendly colors, so your home doesn’t have to be cast in a dull, unflattering light.
You can have an energy audit done by your local utility company, and it may be free of charge. These are great for pointing out hidden leaks and drafts, which can account for 25 to 30% of an average energy bill. Your home may have obviously drafty places, and you should address these with weather stripping or caulk.
Set your water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit rather than 140 degrees. This can save you $36 to $61 per year, and reduces the danger of scalding, particularly in households with small children. Replace your furnace or heating / AC system filters every six weeks or so to keep dust from impeding air flow into your system and to help it run more efficiently. Finally, every night before bed, do a walk-through and turn off unused lights and appliances. Over a year, the savings can really add up.
Having a monthly budget is one of the smartest ways to manage money both short term and long term. Energy costs can be tricky to budget for because they fluctuate, but you can do quite a bit to reduce utility costs, and your utility provider may offer monthly average billing so you can avoid billing surprises. Online budgeting tools are great if you are starting a monthly budget, because they help you remember all the things you have to budget for and let you track your progress. Learning to plan for utility costs is a powerful way to make monthly budgeting easier and more effective.
Ameriprise Financial is a financial services company that was founded over 120 years ago and offers insurance products, as well as wealth management, estate planning, and other services. It is available in 33 states, including Washington D.C, and offers relatively cheap auto insurance and home insurance in all of them.
Find your best rate on Car Insurance!
Attention: Still Open During the Financial Crisis…
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Compare free personalized quotes from the nation’s top providers.
Ameriprise Auto Insurance Coverage Options
Ameriprise doesn’t have the cheapest car insurance options for the majority of drivers. It struggles to match the likes of GEICO, State Farm, and Allstate in that area and will almost certainly not compare to the low rates offered to military members via USAA.
But Ameriprise insurance rates are competitive, nonetheless, and all the main coverage options are available, including:
Liability Coverage Insurance: Bodily injury and property damage cover are required in most states, with the exception of just a couple. With the Ameriprise insurance company, you can get the bare minimum cover that you need and extend this where required.
Collision Coverage: Collision coverage provides a payout when you damage your vehicle and are not covered by standard liability insurance. Such is the case when you hit a wall, guardrail or tree.
Comprehensive Coverage: Comprehensive coverage pays out if your vehicle is damaged by weather, vandalism, animal collisions, and many other issues not covered by collision insurance or liability insurance.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP): PIP insurance covers you for medical bills and lost earnings, as well as other expenses resulting from injuries sustained in a car accident.
Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage: When you’re hit by an uninsured driver or a driver that doesn’t have the full liability coverage required, this form of insurance will step in.
Ameriprise Auto Insurance Policy Features
In addition to all of the aforementioned coverage options, Ameriprise policyholders may also be offered the following, depending on the optional extras they choose and the state in which they reside:
Accident Forgiveness: Your first accident will not impact your claims if you have been claim-free for at least three years. However, this feature is not available in California, North Carolina or Kansas.
Stolen Key Coverage: This feature is covered under Ameriprise’s comprehensive coverage plan. There is no deductible for a lost or stolen key if the claim is for less than $250.
Towing Coverage: A form of roadside assistance that covers you for towing expenses.
Rental Car Reimbursement: If your car is being repaired or has been stolen, this coverage option will ensure you get back on the road quickly by paying for a rental car.
Travel Accident Cover: If you have an accident more than 100 miles from your home, Ameriprise will pay towards some of your expenses.
Glass Repair Waiver: If your windscreen needs to be replaced, a deductible will apply, but if it can be replaced then no deductible is required.
Ameriprise Car Insurance Discount
One of the best discounts offered by Ameriprise comes via wholesale club Costco. You can get a discount on your Ameriprise home insurance and auto insurance if you are a Costco member. That’s not all, either, as policyholders can also get all of the following discounts:
Garaging: A small discount offered to drivers who keep their cars locked in a secure garage overnight, as opposed to leaving it on the driveway. This can reduce the risk of thefts, vandalism, and weather damage.
Educational Discounts: Good student discounts are offered to young drivers who maintain a B grade average. There are also discounts available to students who live on campus.
Claims Free Discount: The longer you go without making a claim, the more you can save on your car insurance rates. Fewer at-fault accidents mean you’re a low-risk driver and a much more appealing prospect to all auto insurance companies.
Loyalty Discount: Stay with Ameriprise insurance for three years or more and you will be rewarded for your loyalty.
Defensive Driver Discount: Take a defensive driving course to improve your skills behind the wheel and prove yourself as a driver. In the process, you’ll get a slight discount on your Ameriprise insurance policy.
Safety Features Discount: Get a discount if your car has essential claim-reducing safety features such as seatbelts, anti-lock brakes, front-and-side airbags, trackers, alarms, and more. Anything that can reduce the threat of accidents, injuries, and theft can trigger big savings.
Accident Merit: As noted above, accident forgiveness isn’t offered in all states where Ameriprise is available. However, for the states where it’s not offered, drivers can still reduce premiums related to accident surcharges when they stay accident-free for a pre-determined period.
Bundling: Also known as a multi-policy discount, bundling is offered to policyholders who combine homeowners insurance and auto insurance.
Other Insurance Options
Ameriprise also provides homeowners insurance. One of the best features of this insurance option is replacement cost coverage, which means you’ll get the original value of any stolen items before deprecation is considered.
If you lose a $2,000 MacBook that’s over 6 months or a year old, you’ll still get cover for that $2,000, as opposed to the $1,500 or so that it might be worth now.
Ameriprise home insurance also provides identity theft protection (up to $5,000 in personal losses); food spoilage protection (up to $500 in lost food), and $100 in lock replacement cover.
Ameriprise Customer Satisfaction, Ratings, and Reviews
Ameriprise claims can be made 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Policyholders can submit a claim online or over the phone and Ameriprise offers a very fast and streamlined process, giving drivers the chance to change details and review their cover via an online portal.
Ameriprise has a very high financial strength rating from AM Best and it also has the highest possible rating from JD Power. It has very good reviews from customers, but it has a poor rating from the Better Business Bureau, with numerous complaints and a low score overall.
Summary: Ameriprise Auto Insurance Review
Ameriprise is partnered with American Family Insurance, which means your policy may be underwritten by them if you go through Ameriprise. It’s one of the biggest auto insurance companies in the United States, offering extensive coverage, with relatively good reviews and ratings across the board.
As always, though, it’s important to get multiple insurance quotes before settling on any single one. Take a look at policies from providers like Progressive, Nationwide, GEICO, State Farm, and more, add as many discounts as you can, and make sure you’re getting the best possible deal before you sign.
For many, knowing where to invest their money can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s in a long-term account that they can’t immediately access without facing fees or penalties. Fortunately, there are a variety of short-term investments that you can consider to grow your wealth and withdraw from in a shorter period of time.
Knowing what the best short-term investments are is hard, as it depends on current market conditions and your own financial goals. Today, short-term investments are even more challenging to understand as the COVID-19 pandemic is causing market conditions to fluctuate. However, there are a variety of short-term investments worth considering. Below, we’ll cover short-term investment examples throughout this post to give you a greater understanding of your options.
Read end-to-end to explore what short-term investments are available to you, or browse different short-term investments using the links below.
What Are Short-Term Investments?
You’ve probably heard the term thrown around here and there, but what are short-term investments? The short-term investment definition considers short-term investments, also referred to as temporary investments or marketable securities, as investments that can produce returns quickly, usually in 5 years or less.
People may place their money in short-term investment vehicles if they need their money to grow by a certain time. Unlike long-term investments like stocks and mutual funds that are riskier and can drop in price from bear markets, short-term investments are often safer, as the risk of losing gains is often lower.
There are a few reasons why someone may want to invest in short-term securities. For example, if you’re planning your wedding or hoping to place a down payment on a new home, you might consider short-term investments to grow your money and have access to it in a shorter period of time.
Another reason someone may become a short-term investor is because they want to take advantage of rising interest rates within a short period of time. While this strategy can be difficult, those knowledgeable on short-term investing can earn profits off of their marketable securities.
Common types of short-term investments include savings accounts, money market accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), Treasuries, bond funds, peer-to-peer lending. In the next section, you’ll learn more about each of these types of short-term investments.
Types of Short-Term Investments
There are numerous short-term investments you can place your money in with hopes of gaining a return. Knowing how to start investing can be confusing, especially if it’s your first time and you know little about different types of investment vehicles. Below, we’ll cover some of the best short-term investments you may want to consider in 2020.
1. Savings Accounts
When you get paid, you most likely place your earnings in a bank account. There are two main types of bank accounts: checking and savings. Checking accounts are great for everyday spending, as you can withdraw funds for bills, groceries, and other transactions whenever you please. This is because checking accounts usually earn little to no interest.
Savings accounts, on the other hand, can earn interest. There are plenty of savings accounts where you can store your money, and one option is a high-yield savings account. High-yield savings accounts often offer high interest rates, which can earn you money over time. However, they usually place limits on how many withdrawals you can make each month – usually six. Savings accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000, which will protect your money in the event of a market collapse.
If you have robust savings or an emergency fund sitting around in a checking account earning no interest that you don’t plan on withdrawing from in the near future, you may want to consider placing your money in a savings account. Doing so can earn you more money in interest each month.
2. Money Market Accounts
A money market account is a high-interest earning account that typically pays a higher rate than a traditional savings account. However, these accounts often require a minimum investment, which means you may have to put down a sizable chunk of your savings to open one of these accounts. Money market accounts, similar to checking accounts, saving accounts, and CDs are FDIC-insured up to $250,000.
It’s important not to confuse money market accounts with their riskier counterpart, money market mutual funds. Money market mutual funds, which are not FDIC-insured, invest in debts and short-term maturities of less than one year.
Certificates of deposit (CDs) are a savings instrument that lock your funds for a fixed period of time. While locked, the bank or financial institution that offers your CD will pay a fixed-rate interest for the duration of the CD. Typically, the longer your CD term, the higher the interest rate you’ll receive. CDs typically offer higher interest rates compared to savings accounts and money market accounts. You can choose terms that can range from 7 days up to ten years. However, the most common CD terms are six months, one year, or five years.
When you open a CD, you typically agree to keep your money held in the account for the specified amount of time. If you withdraw money from your CD before it matures, you can face an early withdrawal fee or have to forfeit a portion of the interest you earned. Another drawback is if you tie your money up in a CD, you can risk missing out on another opportunity that offers a higher rate.
The U.S. Treasury offers a variety of securities you can invest in and grow your money. Some of the most common treasuries include:
Treasury Notes (T-Notes): Issued with maturities of 2, 3, 5, 7, and 10 years and pay interest every six months
Treasury Bills (T-Bills): Short-term securities that are sold as a discount from their face value and have maturities that range from a few days to 52 weeks
Treasury Bonds (T-Bonds): Long-term investments that pay interest every six months and mature in 20 or 30 years
Floating-Rate Notes (FRNs): Issued for a term of 2 years with interest being paid quarterly, with interest payments rising and falling based on discount rates for 13-week Treasury bills
Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS): Marketable securities with maturities of 5, 10, ad 30 years with interest being paid every six months with the principal adjusting by changes in the Consumer Price Index
Besides Treasury Bonds, these Treasuries are all backed by the U.S. government and are short-term investments worth considering.
5. Bond Funds
Bond funds invest in a pool of bonds, such as corporate, municipal, and government savings bonds. Ultra-short bond funds are similar to mutual funds. However, instead of investing in a pool of stocks, they’re investing in a pool of bonds with short durations.
In short, a bond is a loan to a government or business that pays back a fixed rate of return. They are generally safer than stocks, but still pose risks, such as a borrower defaulting.
When it comes to bond funds, you might want to consider investing in ones that primarily own government bonds. This is because government bonds are usually less risky than corporate bonds and have a lower chance of defaulting because they’re backed by the government. Bond funds are a viable option if you’re looking for a short-term high-yield investment. Additionally, you most likely won’t face a penalty if you withdraw early.
6. Peer-to-Peer Lending
Peer-to-peer lending, or P2P lending, is an avenue for small businesses and individuals to access capital through the internet. P2P lending is similar to taking a loan out from a bank, but comes from a peer instead, such as your neighbor, family member, or friend.
To get started in peer-to-peer lending, you first need to join a lending platform and decide what types of loans you’ll offer and the risk you’re willing to accept. From there, you’ll be able to pick and choose borrowers based on their creditworthiness and begin making money through interest.
With P2P lending, you can often yield greater results compared to savings or CDs. However, a drawback is that P2P lending isn’t FDIC-insured, which means it can be a risky investment if the borrower defaults and can’t pay back your loan.
7. Roth IRAs
Saving for retirement is a common goal for many individuals. One way to save for retirement is with an individual retirement account, such as a Roth IRA. While the initial purpose of a Roth IRA is to save for retirement, it can be used as a short-term investment. Unlike a traditional IRA, Roth IRAs allow you to make withdrawals without facing a penalty or having to pay taxes on your contributions. Any gains, however, can face taxes and penalties if you withdraw early.
Investment Options for Short-Term Money
There are numerous investment options for short-term money at your disposal. You don’t want to fall victim to common investment mistakes like buying a security without doing your research. Refer to the chart below to view a side-by-side comparison of common short-term investments.
Key Takeaways on Short-Term Investments
If you’re looking to grow your money in a short amount of time, short-term investments might be the option for you. Here are some key takeaways on short-term investments:
Short-term investments are investments that can produce returns quickly, typically in five years or less.
There are numerous short-term investment examples, such as savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, Treasuries, bond funds, peer-to-peer lending, and Roth IRAs.
The best short-term investments are those that match your financial goals. It’s important to do your research to find a short-term investment that works for you.
FDIC | Investor.gov; Certificates of Deposit | U.S. Treasury | U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Investor.gov; Ultra-Short Bond Funds |