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

5 Ways to Avoid Overdraft Fees

What?!?

How did this happen to you…again?

You were certain you had enough money in your checking account to make that purchase. Unfortunately, you forgot about that automatic car insurance payment that came through yesterday and brought your available balance down lower than you thought.

Now, you’re stuck with yet another overdraft fee — not something you appreciate much when you’re already having a hard time making ends meet.

Only a kind-hearted customer service rep at the bank can save you now from that fee. However, there are many ways that you can avoid more of these fees in the future.

Check out these 5 ways to avoid overdraft fees.

1. Decline Overdraft Protection

This might sound backwards, but you read that right. Overdraft protection programs allow you to swipe your debit card for a purchase that will overdraw your account. So if you have $25 in your account and buy something for $50, the bank will loan you the extra $25 — and slap you with an overdraft fee in the ballpark of $35. Average overdraft fees in 2020 were $33.47 according to Bankrate.

What’s more, you might not even know that you overdrew your account. Plus, you can rack up multiple overdraft fees if you make multiple purchases before you realize what has happened.

So, overdraft protection saves you the embarrassment of not having money at the checkout counter, but the cost may not be worth it.

2. Set a Low-Balance Alert

You can set up alerts with your bank, so you’ll receive an email or text when certain things happen. For example, you can be notified when your account balance drops below a certain dollar amount.

3. Monitor Your Account

Even with a low-balance alert set up, you should still keep an eye on your account. It’s still possible to overdraw, particularly when making a large purchase. For example, you might have arranged to be notified when your account balance drops below $200. But if you buy something for $250 and have $225 in the bank, you’ll still overdraw.

Additionally, you might not have noticed when the alert came through. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your account regularly, particularly before making a large purchase.

4. Use a Credit Card

Another way to avoid overdraft fees is to not use your debit card for purchases. You can use a credit card instead. As a bonus, you can make money in rewards for each purchase if you choose a card with these benefits.

However, we mention this strategy with a caveat. Monitor your purchases and ensure that you can pay off your entire credit card balance each month. This allows you to enjoy the rewards of using a credit card without being saddled with a bunch of unneeded credit card debt.

5. Find a Bank That Doesn’t Charge Overdraft Fees

Newer competition is in the market and there are some banks that don’t charge overdraft fees. These tend to be online banks that have a smaller overhead and don’t have to charge their customers as many fees to make money. Additionally, the interest they pay on savings accounts may be higher — another benefit.

Another possibility to check out is your local credit union. Some are restrictive about who can join, but many pay higher interest and charge fewer fees. All it takes is a bit of research.

Stay Free from Overdraft Fees

Nobody wants to find out they’ll have to pay a hefty fee for a small oversight. Thankfully, by following these 5 tips to avoiding overdraft fees, you can stay overdraft fee-free and enjoy keeping your money where it belongs — in your bank account.

Check Your Mailbox! Here’s How Financially Stressed Consumers Turn To COVID Debt Consolidation

Covid Debt Consolidation

While politicians continue to debate the new stimulus package, millions of Americans are barely getting by. Many people found themselves without a job and had no choice but to make poor financial decisions to survive. Some people stopped paying rent, mortgage, utilities, and car notes. Others started relying on credit cards and retirement accounts to cover the bare necessities. 

Thinking that the pandemic would pass quickly, they continued these practices to the point of financial demise. Now, a year later, many people are dealing with no emergency funds, maxed out credit cards, and ruined credit. Unfortunately, many fear having their homes foreclosed on, getting evicted, or being on the hook for large utility bills. Looking for a way to regain some stability (and their sanity), some consumers turned to COVID Debt Consolidation for solutions. 

Tackling Credit Card Debt

When your credit card is maxed out, you’re missing payments, and the interest and penalties keep piling up, it’s time to devise a plan. You have several options available. What you chose ultimately depends on your circumstances. 

  • Contact Creditors – There’s a wide misconception that you shouldn’t reach out once you owe a company money unless you’re ready to pay. However, that’s not the case. Creditors understand what’s going on in the world right now, meaning they’re more inclined to want to work with you. You can ask about lowering interest rates, removing late fees, and organizing a more affordable repayment plan. 
  • Crunching Numbers – Paying more than the minimum amount is another efficient way to get credit card debt under control. While it may appear you don’t have the money to afford higher payments, that’s not always the case. Many consumers found that when they created a realistic budget and eliminated wasteful spending, that they had extra money, they could dedicate to credit cards. 
  • Balance Transfer Cards – There are credit cards that allow consumers to transfer balances. These cards often start cardholders off with no interest, which gives them the chance to pay down the principal balance faster. There are a few things to keep in mind. You must have decent credit, and you’ll have to pay the balance off within the promotional period, or you’ll be stuck with a high balance and interest rates. 
  • Debt Consolidation – Companies like COVID Debt Consolidation offer low-interest loans to individuals interested in paying off high-interest credit cards. Their outstanding accounts get lumped into one, make it more affordable and easier to manage. 

Relief In Other Areas

Although credit card debt was only part of American consumers’ financial stress, getting things under control provided relief in other areas. 

  • Better Financial Management – With a system in place to tackle credit card debt, people started applying financial management practices to other areas. Creating a realistic budget to free up cash and sticking to their payment plans got positive results. Their credit improved, they got smarter about their money, and they paid down balances faster. 
  • More Money For Necessities – Whether you contact your creditor to create a more affordable payment plan or you opt for debt consolidation, you’re saving a ton of money in interest and late fees. These financial savings were ultimately applied to other necessities. 
  • Peace of Mind – There’s something about paying down debt and managing your finances that gives you a sense of security. You’re not worried about collection calls, your credit history turns around for the better, and you have money to get things you need. 

Financial stress has reached an all-time high since the start of the pandemic. As people do what they can to survive, they consequently create more problems later. Feeling as if they were drowning with no way out, they turned to methods like those discussed above to tackle credit card debt. Learning how to reduce financial pressures and develop positive financial habits ultimately helped many Americans. They saw a positive change in their credit history, eliminated the chaos, used savings to cover other expenses, and found peace of mind. 

6 Money Habits for a Richer 2021

Money Habits

It’s the New Year, and for many, a time to reflect and set new goals. According to a recent survey on spending habits, “63% of respondents lived paycheck to paycheck in 2020.” Developing effective money habits are crucial for a healthier, wealthier future and something anyone can achieve with discipline and practice. Below are our top six money habits that will set you on a path to financial health in 2021. 

Identify Your “Why”

Before you do anything else, carve out time to identify why you want better money habits. Do you need to get out of credit card debt? Are you hoping to retire early? Do you want to provide a better future for your kids? Travel the world? Your why will be that little voice keeping you on track when you want to stray from your goals. 

Track Your Spending

This is a must-do if you hope to have better spending habits. Find a time every month, week, or even day to go over your spending in relation to the money coming in. Create separate categories for different kinds of expenses. You will likely have a fixed category for expenses that do not change like your mortgage or car payment. Develop other categories for expenses such as going out to eat, entertainment, and shopping. You might be shocked at how much you are spending in some categories!

Set a Budget

Now that you understand your spending patterns, set a budget for each of your categories. Paying in cash or with a debit card is much easier to track and keeps you from the constant debt cycle that comes with using a credit card. Keep your budget accessible so you can refer to it when you need to. Mint is a great app for keeping track of your budget. 

Create Small, Achievable Goals

Instead of making one goal for the entire year that might be abandoned 6-months in, make a 90-day goal with clear directions on how to achieve it. Some examples could be paying down a specific debt, saving a certain amount of money, or any other tangible goal that aligns with your “why.” By creating a deadline, you are holding yourself accountable and breaking down what may feel like a large, daunting task into bite-size pieces. Your goals may change throughout the year, so re-evaluate them every 90 days. 

Pay Yourself First

This piece of advice, made famous by Robert Kiyosaki’s famous work, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” feels counterintuitive but is a life-changing habit to adopt. Each time you get paid, put a percentage of that money in savings first before anything else. While challenging at first, you’ll be amazed at how your spending adapts over time. You may also surprise yourself with how much you saved over the year!

Learn About Money

Lastly, healthy money habits are a continuous learning process. Read a book, attend a seminar, surround yourself with financially savvy people. Invest in your financial education and you will see results. 

Everyday Money Tips for Small Business Owners

Starting your own business can be a daunting endeavour. There are larger, more time-consuming steps you can take to give your business a financial face-lift. However, there are also 5 smaller, less formidable steps that you can implement on a daily basis that will help you become more financially effective as the owner of your business.

Five Practical Tips for Small Business Owners

1. Separate Personal Spending from Your Business Purchases

Setting budgets on both a personal and a business level is one of the best ways to keep your finances simple. If you ever encounter a financial problem within your business, it might seem like a logical idea to rely on personal funds until you are back on your feet. However, this can cause issues down the road when the time comes to submit your taxes.

By setting a strict budget that you can stick to in both areas of your life, you are making the lives of you accountant or bookkeeper much easier by keeping such a distinct separation in your finances. They’ll be sure to thank you, as will both bank accounts!

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle

When you think of haggling with vendors or contract workers, it doesn’t have to be a scene from a movie set in an open-air market in a foreign land. Working with someone outside of your own company is a great time to talk about pricing and to read the fine print. You can compare vendors by determining what services you need and at what price, and reading the specific terms of your contract can also bring to light helpful information, like extra time allowed to pay for services rendered or discounts for first-time customers.

3. Paying Bills on Time Is Worth It

Whether it’s your credit card, student loans, mortgage payment, or car title loan, paying your bills on time is always the best route to take. This includes your bills for your business. The late fees for bills from vendors you’ve hired and utilities can mount very quickly. You may also be struggling to pay your suppliers, in which case you should consider purchase order financing in order to smooth out your cash flow. Setting reminders on your calendar, in a spreadsheet, or on your phone are great for keeping track of what is due and when. If your business is particularly new, there can be a very thin line in the sand between ending the year with a profit, or a loss. Paying on time helps ensure your first year in business will be a success.

4. Be Thrifty

You don’t necessarily need to be Ebenezer Scrooge in order to spend less money. But simple things, like mail-in rebates for new office supplies, or buying larger items for your office, like chairs, tables, and printers, second-hand can make a huge impact on your business bank account.

5. Try Taking an Accounting Course

Mathematics might not be everyone’s strong suit, that’s why bookkeepers and accountants exist. But taking a beginner’s university course in accounting is a generous step forward in understanding the cash flow of your company. You don’t need to become a professional, but a simple and straight-forward online course on money-matters sets a solid foundation in preparation for larger financial decisions within your business.

Although owning your business may leave you with less time in the day, these small steps take little time and are worth the effort to make sure your company’s finances unfold as smoothly as possible. Before you know it, your company will expand and grow, as will your profit!

How to Manage Your Finances While Transitioning Careers

When you’re changing careers, many things are uncertain. It’s a leap of faith on many levels. So, in this delicate transition, you want to do everything in your power to maintain some stability.

And this means planning for some financial downtime.

Here are some tips to manage your finances while transitioning careers.

1.      Pad Your Emergency Fund

Your emergency fund is meant to help you pay for those emergency expenses that inevitably come up. Most experts recommend having enough to cover three to six months of living expenses under normal circumstances. But when you’re transitioning jobs, try to add enough to cover two to three more months (or more, if you can swing it).

More backup money is always better, and it’ll make your transition a lot less stressful. Start by setting aside as much as you can each week before you make your career transition.

2.      Create an Iron-Clad Budget

You aren’t going to make it through a tight financial time by sheer luck. You need a plan. Create a budget that includes only the necessities. First, get a good handle on your regular monthly expenses. Make sure you have money set aside to cover these for at least six months. And then, create a plan for the money you have leftover.

You’re going to create a budget for food, clothing, transportation, debt and anything else you need to spend money on during your downtime. And it’s okay to plan for some entertainment as long as your budget allows. Just be sure to keep it to a minimum.

3.      Negotiate

When you’re ready to take a job in a new industry, you might have to start from the bottom. And this inevitably means a pay reduction. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept the first offer that comes your way.

Even a $500 increase over the year is better than nothing, and it’s not much of a consideration for your potential employer. If someone were to hand you that money, you certainly wouldn’t turn it down. And if you’re in a position to ask for more, always ask for more. The worst they can say is no, and you should still have the option of accepting the original offer.

Here’s one tip for making yourself more marketable in a new career. Instead of focusing on your hard skills, use a functional resume template to focus on your soft skills. These are things like leadership, communication and teamwork.

Soft skills are important in any industry, and they are usually things that can’t easily be taught. Be sure to provide any awards or certifications you have to back up your claims. Everyone says they are a team player, so how can you show that you really are one?

4.      Consider Alternate Income Sources

While you build your reputation and income in a new career, you may want to supplement your income to avoid having to change your lifestyle too much. This will mean working a part-time job or taking on a side gig. It could also mean cutting back on some of the more frivolous activities that may have become a staple in your life, like your regular Asian massage or weekly round of golf.

Fortunately, it’s easier now than ever to make money online or outside of your day job. You can work for a ride-share company, one of many delivery services, or you can freelance. It does involve a time and energy commitment, but this may help alleviate some financial burdens of the change.

Changing careers can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, but with the right financial plan in place, you can rock this transition and seamlessly flow into your new career. It’s all about being prepared.

And if you’re thinking about changing careers, don’t let the transition scare you out of staying in a job you hate. It’s important to love what you do.

Ways to Avoid A Scam

I recently was a victim of a scam where my credit card number was stolen. The thief used my card to buy almost $1,000 worth of groceries on a popular online grocery site! This incident made me really look into how this could have happened and ways to avoid it. There are many sources that are popular for thieves that should be red flags and be paid more attention to.

Online

With technology moving in the direction that it is, everything is online these days. This technology is great but at the same time it also adds a lot of security risks. All sites are subject to being hacked so basically your info isn’t as safe as it used to be. Many businesses out there are trying to take the proper security precautions to make transactions secure. When using sites, especially when you are buying something, make sure the site is secure and has additional security steps to make sure your information isn’t at risk.

It is every computer owner’s responsibility to make sure they have up to date antimalware installed.  Running a periodic scan is imperative to avoiding a scam.

Phone

There are many scams out there over the phone. There are reports that people are getting phone calls from people who are pretending to be someone else. They get information out of the people over the phone and use it to steal their money or identity. For example, they may pretend to be one of their family members in trouble and ask for money. Or they may pretend to be the IRS asking for your social security number. As previously explained, be sure you are aware and paying attention when giving away your information. When you are on the phone never give out your social security number and otherwise make sure you are speaking to who you think you are.

There is a ridiculous scam that has become popular recently where you literally give access to a hacker proclaiming to be a representative from Microsoft. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS ONE!

Skimmers

Another thing to worry about are skimmers. Skimmers are devices that can steal your number when swiped through the device. Gas stations and Atms are popular locations for these devices. The key is to be aware and make sure when you swipe your card that it doesn’t look suspicious or look like it has additional equipment attached that could compromise your card information.

It is no fun that we need to worry about these things these days but it is a reality. The best advice is to just be aware of what you are doing. Know where and who you are giving your information to avoid being scammed.