How to Make a Better Budget

Budgeting Together

Having a budget is essential in order to better manage your money and reach your financial goals, such as paying off debt or saving to buy a home. A budget can help you set spending limits and feel more in control of your money. So, we’ll be going over how to create your own personal budget.

Budgeting First Step: Track Your Income and Expenses

The first step of budgeting is finding out your net monthly income. To calculate how much money you will be taking home, you will need to deduct taxes, insurance costs, and business expenses from your monthly salary. This will leave you with an exact amount that you will be receiving at the end of each month, known as your net monthly income.

No matter how much you earn, it is still possible to end up with no money if you don’t know how to spend it properly. So, the next step is the figure out how to allocate that amount by tracking your expenses and seeing exactly where your money is going. Start by dividing your expenses into two categories, fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are recurring monthly payments such as rent and phone bills which typically remain the same each month. Variable expenses tend to vary based on consumption, such as groceries, gas, entertainment, and eating out.

Step 2: Find Savings in Your Budget (Yes, You Can)

To determine areas where you can save more money, review some of your credit card and bank statements from the past few months. If your net income is greater than your total expenses, then you can start putting aside the extra money for your retirement or emergency fund. However, if your expenses exceed your net income, then you must look for ways to cut down on expenses as soon as possible. This involves going over your variable expenses and identifying unnecessary expenses such as subscriptions that you no longer need or eating out too often. Variable expenses are typically easier to cut down on in order to stick to a strict budget., but you may even need to look to adjust your fixed expenses in case you are still going over your budget.

Step 3: Make Plans for Savings and Paying Down Debt

While budgeting differs depending on each person’s situation, the 50/30/20 budget is a popular choice that works in most circumstances. Under this strategy, your net income will be split 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings or paying off debt. It is absolutely critical that you commit to paying down debt and then setting aside savings. The entire point of budgeting is to help you generate “future-forward” momentum in your financial life. The only way to do that is to free yourself from debt that may be choking your ability to save for the future. The next step? Save for the future.

This is why budgeting is key. Looking at the reality of the numbers that shape your life allows you to get clear about what is happening in your financial life. Think about it this way: what are your big life goals? Retiring? Traveling? Being financially secure and independent? You can’t do any of those things if you find yourself having to shovel part of your money each month into a credit-card debt hole. So make a plan to get out of that hole, today. (Consider debt consolidation loans as an easy option: you can pay off all your cards and pay a single monthly bill that charges you less interest than your cards.)

Budgeting Is Never Actually “Done” — And That’s Good

Also, your initial budget isn’t set in stone, and it must be adjusted regularly as your financial situation changes. When you get out of debt, you revise your budget to set aside an emergency fund. When the emergency fund is complete — 3 to 6 months’ living expenses — then you can start saving for the good stuff: retirement, investing, more. Keep making plans and keep revising your budget — and build yourself the stable financial future you deserve.

3 Outdoor Activities for a Great Labor Day Weekend

3 Outdoor Activities for a Great Labor Day Weekend

Most people view Labor Day weekend as the official end of summer. After this holiday, most children will be back in school. If you are trying to have a great time with your family this Labor Day weekend, now is the time to start planning activities. 

Over 60% of Americans claim they plan on traveling this Labor Day. Whether you plan to travel or stay home to celebrate this holiday without spending much, consider participating in the outdoor activities for Labor Day weekend below. 

1. Explore Nature on a Family Hike

During the summer months, the weather outside is absolutely beautiful. This means it is a great time to take your family on an excursion into nature. One of the best ways to give your children a sense of how enjoyable the outdoors can be this Labor Day is by taking them on a hike. 

Luckily, there are around 6,000 state parks in the United States. These parks have a combined total of 14 million acres of land. Many of these parks have great hiking trails that are perfect for individuals and families. 

If you plan to go hiking with your family this holiday weekend, be sure to check the weather in the area you will be traveling to. The heat during this time of year can be brutal. If the temperatures are going to be hot where you are hiking, be sure to bring along plenty of water and sunscreen for the family. 

2. Biking Can Be Lots of Fun

Getting your children off of their electronics and into nature can be difficult. As you start to plan outdoor activities for Labor Day weekend, be sure to poll the family. With the results from this poll, you can start to narrow down the list of outdoor activities at your disposal. 

Taking a family bike ride can be a lot of fun. Most children love riding their bikes. If you plan to travel to an area to take a bike ride, you need to make sure you can safely transport them in your vehicle. 

If some of your children cannot ride a bike due to their age, investing in a rear-mounted seat for them is crucial. With these rear-mounted seats, your baby or toddler will be able to enjoy the bike ride with the rest of the family. This activity is fun without making a money mistake.

3. Plan a Beach Day

A day at the beach is perhaps one of the most popular outdoor activities for Labor Day weekend. If you live relatively close to a beach, now is the time to start booking your accommodations.

The best way to make your day at the beach enjoyable is by planning ahead. Getting to the beach early will help to ensure you and your family get a great spot right on the water. You also need to make sure you have plenty of sunscreen, sandwiches and drinks to go around. 

Making Memories with Your Family 

Now that you know more about great outdoor activities for Labor Day weekend, it is time to start planning. By planning your trip well in advance, you can focus on making memories with your family yet maintaining financial stability.

4 Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation

Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation

Everyone wants the freedom to live their own life. But for the sandwich generation, this is easier said than done. Having a family can put a serious dent in your budget. Add taking care of elderly parents to the mix and you find that balancing your family and financial obligations is ten times harder. These budgeting tips for the sandwich generation will help you get through this.

As someone in the sandwich generation, you know just how hard it is to raise children while also taking care of your aging parents.

One of the best ways to manage and come out on top is through effective budgeting. Keep reading to learn money tips for the sandwich generation.

1. Be Open & Set Boundaries with Your Parents

Though it can be hard to have tough conversations with those you love, these talks are a must. While you want to support your parents in any way possible, it’s important to balance your own health, happiness, and finances while doing so.

Talk to your parents about what makes the most financial sense and help them plan their budget. If one of their wants simple isn’t feasible for you, such as moving into your home, it’s okay to say no.

Discuss the financial impact and discuss other housing options that are affordable and safe.

2. Boost Your Emergency Fund

Planning for the unexpected is a must. From unforeseen medical expenses to car or home repairs, it’s best to be ready for the worst to happen just in case it does.

Being sandwiched requires financial preparation. The best way to plan and prepare is by having a healthy emergency fund.

Make sure that you have at least 6-9 months’ worth of expenses saved. This way you can cover any unexpected expenses while also having peace of mind if you lose your job.

If feasible, encourage your parents to start aggressively saving as well.

3. Set Up a College Savings Plan

Odds are that you want your children to go to college. And while there are scholarships and grants to help offset the cost, it never hurts to set up a college savings plan as soon as possible.

By saving when your child is still young, you have years to plan, which means years of compound interest and growth. There are many ways to save for college, including:

  • 529 Plan
  • U.S. Savings Bonds
  • Coverdell ESA
  • Roth IRA
  • UGMA/UTMA custodial accounts

Start saving now, and by the time your child is 18, you’ll have a lot less stress.

4. Keep Saving for Retirement

Dealing with financial obligations and responsibilities from all sides makes it all too easy to put yourself on the backburner. While you want to take care of your family and your parents, don’t forget about your own needs. Check retirement account options as early as you can.

At this stage of life, you’re likely planning for your own retirement and thinking of how you want to live out your golden years. To give yourself some financial stability, continue to contribute to your retirement savings.

Maximize your earnings by contributing as much as possible, diversifying your portfolio, and taking advantage of any employer matching.

Final Thoughts

Taking care of your own family while taking care of your parents is no easy feat. However, with these budgeting tips, you’ll find that you can lead the life you want without feeling overly burdened or pressured.

8 Affordable Ideas for Your Patio Makeover

Patio Makeover

With summer coming up, you might be looking forward to spending time outside with your friends and family. It’s always lovely to sit and enjoy the sun with your loved ones on your patio. Buying a home is an option, but patio makeover can be more sustainable.

If your patio is looking worn-out, here are eight affordable ways to give it a makeover just in time for summer.

1. Paint it

A coat of paint can make all the difference to the appearance of your patio. It‘s an affordable way to give your patio a makeover. You can paint over its existing colour or choose something different to give your garden a new lease of life.

2. Add Some Lighting

Lighting is a great way to give your patio a makeover. You can add small spotlight across the edges of the decking to illuminate your garden. This is particularly helpful if you want to host evening garden parties when the sun has set. You can also go for some hanging string lights to add a magical touch to your garden.

They add atmosphere and character to your patio, and there are several lighting options available, most of which are affordable and great quality.

3. Update Your Patio Furniture

Old furniture can leave your patio feeling outdated and drab. Replace your tables and chairs with brand-new ones to give your partial an immediate makeover. There are hundreds of variations available, ranging from small to large, and modern to contemporary. This is perfect for those summer BBQs you host with your friends and family round!

4. Add Some Greenery

Your garden is the perfect place to add in some colourful flowers and plants. You can opt for some hanging baskets around the fence above the patio, or place some filled plant pots around the edges.

5. Repair Any Damage

If your patio is worn or cracked, it can make your time out in the garden less enjoyable. Repairing any damage is a cost-effective way to get rid of any signs of wear and tear without having to replace the whole patio. Avoid wasting money on necessary purchases. You can buy weed killer to get rid of any unwanted growth too!

6. Get a Large Umbrella

For those hot summer days, an umbrella is a necessity to keep you cool in the shade. They also protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Get yourself a bright umbrella to place above your table, ready to enjoy your time outside on the patio.

7. Lay Down a Rug

If you don’t want to repaint the patio or buy new furniture, consider laying down a rug. Whether you choose a bright, patterned rug, or a more neutral option, this is an easy and inexpensive idea to give your patio an immediate makeover.

8. Add Some Candles

Candles are amazing to add atmosphere to your patio area. They are super relaxing and provide a beautiful low light for the evening time. Plus, the scented candles smell great!

5 Tips for Budgeting Together as a Couple

Budgeting Together

Some folks seem to think that finances get more complicated when individuals become a couple. Well actually, that may not always be the case. In fact, it can actually be the other way around. Budgeting together may actually be easier and less cumbersome, especially if you follow these tips!

If you are in a relationship now and want to improve your financial literacy with your partner or are just preparing for when your dream gal or guy comes around, keep on reading to learn about 5 tips for budgeting together, as a couple.

1. Communication is Key

Communication is vital is practically every facet of a committed relationship. This much is also true when it comes to money and budgeting. Talk about things like:

  • Your salary
  • Debt
  • Assets
  • Saving goals

Talking about finances can be an awkwardly private thing. But it doesn’t have to be, especially with your partner. The open and honest you can be about money matters with your partner, the better.

2. Understand Your Individual Money Financial Style

Everyone is different when it comes to how they understand, spend, and save money. The decisions people make as adults regarding their money are largely affected by their upbringing. So, understanding the foundation of your partners financial upbringing is important (and interesting).

Maybe they were raised to be more frugal than you. Or perhaps more free spirited with their money. Whatever the case may be, knowing what their current money style is, and how it meshes with your own allows for more budgeting success as a couple.

3. Determine Your Needs as a Couple

We each have our list of individual necessities when it comes to life. It could be the type of food we like to eat, the activities we enjoy and the type of lifestyle we practice. In a couple, you have to begin to assess the shared needs as well, especially once you begin to live together. 

Considering items rent, utilities, transportation and debt can help to determine the size of budget you need to live the life you need as a couple.

4. Talk About Your Individual Wants

You may think you have a lot in common with your partner, but everyone wants different things. Despite being individual in nature, like gym memberships, hobbies, and home improvements, with a shared budget, individual desires become shared.

There needs to be give and take, or compromise, when it comes to what the individual wants and how it affects not only the shared budget, but also the other person in the relationship.

5. Outline Your Shared Financial Goals

The goals we have for our futures are directly connected to our finances. Talking about each other’s goals, as they relate to finances and life in general, will help you get a better idea for how to budget as a couple. You may check these money apps to achieve your financial goals.

Ask questions like:

  • What does retirement look like?
  • Are children part of your future?
  • What travel plans or dream vacations do you have?
  • Would you like to buy a house?

With answers to questions like these, and by taking a few other tips to heart, you will begin to flesh out differences and commonalities that can help prepare your budget together moving forward.

Related Reading: 8 Healthy Financial Habits You Should Start Today

Top 4 Money Hacks for One Income Families

Money Hacks for One Income Families

In the world we live in today, everything is getting more and more costly. As a result, most families need numerous or more than one earning member. In the case of families having a single income source or earning member, things are quite different. 

Starting from the source of income, to expenses and budgets, a rigorous planning is necessary. Even if the source of income is huge, proper money handling is very important. Here are some effective money hacks for one income families. 

Hack 1: Proper budgeting and expense tracking

The first thing to do as a one income family is create a budget. The budget must be according to the level of income. While making a budget, it is sometimes important to cut corners. The budget should primarily focus on the daily needs and expenses. Make sure you do not add anything unnecessary to the budget.

To make sure that you don’t spend out of budget, tracking or keeping records is crucial. You must keep a record of every single expense. In addition to that, keep track of every bit of money, whether it is earned, saved, or spent.

Hack 2: Savings are always helpful

After spending according to the budget, there is a good chance of having an extra amount of cash in hand. In such cases, the wisest thing to do is save that money. However, it is not wise to consider leftovers as savings. 

The smart thing to do is setting aside a certain amount from the monthly income. As a result, some cash automatically builds up. However, upon acquiring large savings, the chances of spending on a frenzy rise in many. In such scenarios, the issue of emergency expenditures must always be considered. Savings can be great blessings in times of emergency. For example, in cases of medical emergencies and huge-scale debts, savings can remove the burden of expenses.

A very significant form of saving is investing in life insurance. It ensures the security of the non-earning members of the family, in the event of the earning member’s death.

Hack 3: Sort out major expenses

Like daily needs and expenses, the major expenses require severe attention. Major expenses can comprise debts, taxes, mortgages, or any form of debt. If a person having loans is the only earning member, his or her death will put the other family members in a huge problem.

As a result, paying off debts is a great issue for one-income families. In addition to that, expenses such as school fees, and medical bills also fall in the category of major expenses. However, major expenses vary from one family to another. 

Hack 4: Be tactical while spending

Spending according to a budget is not the only way of reducing expenses. Being tactical makes it much easier. Avoiding home deliveries is a good way of reducing costs. Instead of being lazy and ordering online or via phone, getting the parcel yourself is a good way. However, there are always exceptions.

Avoiding credit cards is also an effective method. Credit card charges and debts can easily cause a person to run low on cash. Completely avoiding credit card usage is not mandatory. As mentioned earlier, tracking is crucial here. As for credit card debts, one must treat them as a major expense. 

In day-to-day expenses, you have to be very strategic. For instance, instead of buying vegetables, and dairy products from a super shop, you can go to the farmer’s market. This way one income families can afford the same things, but fresher and at a lesser price.

The Bottom Line

One income families do not necessarily need to lead a very strict life. All it takes is to be strategic and cautious. Pre-planning and these money hacks for one income families can help family live a more disciplined and comfortable life.

Related Reading: 7 Types of Income and How They Can Change Your Future

8 Healthy Financial Habits You Should Start Today

Healthy Financial Habits

Finance is one aspect of your life that’ll affect every other part. Financial security and freedom can make every other facet of your life, including your health and personal relationships, significantly better. And for that, what you need are healthy financial habits.

The earlier you get serious about your personal finance, the better off you and your loved ones will be. To help you with that, here are eight financial habits for financial security and freedom that you can start today.

1. Make a budget

Nothing else will fall else in place unless you make a budget. Calculate your income and expenses based on your financial statement from the past few months. If you want to change your financial situation, you should know where you really stand. And there are so many budget apps available that can make budgeting easier.

2. Limit your expenses

Now that you know how much you spend every month, put an upper limit on your expenses. Unless it’s a healthcare or family-related unavoidable expense, you shouldn’t go beyond this limit.

3. Automate savings

With automatic withdrawals, you can start setting up a savings fund. Setting up one will take a few minutes and once you’re done, the system will automatically deduct it from your salary. When you don’t have access to that money, you’re less likely to spend it.

4. Pay credit cards in full

Credit card interest rates are among the highest in the industry. Keep that in mind whenever you use your card and make sure that you pay your monthly payments in full. Any leftover will carry exorbitant interest rates.

5. Reduce your rent

Rent is one of the biggest expenses that most of us have to make. Ask yourself whether you need a big apartment, especially if you’re starting out. Move to a smaller apartment or get roommates.

With remote work getting regularized, you can also move further away from your office, if it’s possible.

6. Imagine paying in cash

Here’s a neat little trick to help you cut down on your spending. The next time you’re about to buy something, imagine paying it in cash. That will suddenly feel heavier.

If you’re already paying in cash, imagine someone offering you either that product or service or that much cash. What would you choose?

7. Start investing

Earning makes you comfortable, investing makes you rich. Most people can’t comprehend the power of compounding but know that the earlier you start investing the bigger your returns will be.

Spend a couple of hours every day for two weeks to learn about index funds and retirement savings. Next step? Talk to a financial advisor.

8. Develop a secondary source of income

You can only reduce expenses to a certain extent. With an extra source of income, you’ll have more to save and invest in. If you can offer a service, you can find a market through the internet.

You don’t have to start all eight on the list immediately. Pick any two for the time being and focus on them. The rewards will encourage you to stick to every other financial habit.