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Budgeting for Beginners: These 5 Steps Will Help You Get Started

Setting up a budget is challenging. Doing it forces you to face your spending habits and then work to change them.

But when you decide to make a budget, it means you’re serious about your money. Maybe you even have some financial goals in mind.

The end result will bring you peace of mind. But if you’re creating a budget for the first time, remember that budgets will vary by individual and family. It’s important to set up a budget that’s a fit for YOU.

Budgeting for Beginners in 5 Painless Steps

Follow these basic steps and tailor them to your needs to create a monthly budget that will set you up for financial success.

Step 1: Set a Financial Goal

First thing’s first: Why do you want a budget?

Your reason will be your anchor and incentive as you create a budget, and it will help you stick to it.

Set a short-term or long-term goal. It can be to pay off debts like student loans, credit cards or a mortgage, or to save for retirement, an emergency fund, a new car, a home down payment or a vacation.

For example, creating a budget is a must for many people trying to buy their first home. But it shouldn’t stop there. Once you’ve bought a home, keep sticking to a budget in order to pay off debt and give yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

Once one goal is complete, you can move on to another and personalize your budget to fit whatever your needs are.

Step 2: Log Your Income, Expenses and Savings

You’ll want to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or another budget template to track all of your monthly expenses and spending. List out each expense line by line. This list is the foundation for your monthly budget.

Tally Your Monthly Income

Review your pay stubs and determine how much money you and anyone else in your household take home every month. Include any passive income, rental income, child support payments or side gigs.

If your income varies, estimate as best as you can, or use the average of your income for the past three months.

Make a List of Your Mandatory Monthly Expenses

Start with:

  1. Rent or mortgage payment.
  2. Living expenses like utilities (electric, gas and water bills), internet and phone.
  3. Car payment and transportation costs.
  4. Insurance (car, life, health).
  5. Child care.
  6. Groceries.
  7. Debt repayments for things like credit cards, student loans, medical debt, etc.

Anything that will result in a late fee for not paying goes in this category.

List Non-Essential Monthly and Irregular Expenses

Non-essential expenses include entertainment, coffee, subscription and streaming services, memberships, cable TV, gifts, dining out and miscellaneous items.

Don’t forget to account for expenses you don’t incur every month, such as annual fees, taxes, car registration, oil changes and one-time charges. Add them to the month in which they usually occur OR tally up all of your irregular expenses for the year and divide by 12 so you can work them into your monthly budget.

Pro Tip

Review all of your bank account statements for the past 12 months to make sure you don’t miss periodic expenses like quarterly insurance premiums.

A woman with a dog reviews financial docements spread out on the floor.

Don’t Forget Your Savings

Be sure to include a line item for savings in your monthly budget. Use it for those short- or long-term savings goals, building up an emergency fund or investments.

Figure out how much you can afford — no matter how big or small. If you get direct deposit, saving can be simplified with an automated paycheck deduction. Something as little as $10 a week adds up to over $500 in a year.

Step 3: Adjust Your Expenses to Match Your Income

Now, what does your monthly budget look like so far?

Are you living within your income, or spending more money than you make? Either way, it’s time to make some adjustments to meet your goals.

How to Cut Your Expenses

If you are overspending each month, don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to evaluate areas to save money now that you have itemized your spending. Truthfully, this is the exact reason you created a budget!

Here are some ways you can save money each month:

Cut optional outings like happy hours and eating out. Even cutting a $4 daily purchase on weekdays will add up to over $1,000 a year.

Consider pulling the plug on cable TV or a subscription service. The average cost of cable is $1,284 a year, so if you cut the cord and switch to a streaming service, you could save at least $50 a month.

Fine-tune your grocery bill and practice meal prepping. You’ll save money by planning and prepping recipes for the week that use many of the same ingredients. Use the circulars to see what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those sales.

Make homemade gifts for family and friends. Special occasions and holidays happen constantly and can get expensive. Honing in on thoughtful and homemade gifts like framed pictures, magnets and ornaments costs more time and less money.

Consolidate credit cards or transfer high-interest balances. You can consolidate multiple credit card payments into one and lower the amount of interest you’re paying every month by applying for a debt consolidation loan or by taking advantage of a 0% balance-transfer credit card offer. The sooner you pay off that principal balance, the sooner you’ll be out of debt.

Refinance loans. Refinancing your mortgage, student loan or car loan can lower your interest rates and cut your monthly payments. You could save significantly if you’ve improved your credit since you got the original loan.

Get a new quote for car insurance to lower monthly payments. Use a free online service to shop around for new quotes based on your needs. A $20 savings every month is $20 that can go toward savings or debt repayments.

Start small and see how big of a wave it makes.

Oh, and don’t forget to remind yourself of your financial goal when you’re craving Starbucks at 3 p.m. But remember that it’s OK to treat yourself — occasionally.

A couple organize tax-related paperwork.

What to Do With Your Extra Cash

If you have money left over after paying for your monthly expenses, prioritize building an emergency fund if you don’t have one.

Having an emergency fund is often what makes it possible to stick to a budget. Because when an unexpected expense crops up, like a broken appliance or a big car repair, you won’t have to borrow money to cover it.

When you do dip into that emergency fund, immediately start building it up again.

Otherwise, you can use any extra money outside your expenses to reach your financial goals.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before dipping into your emergency fund..

Step 4: Choose a Budgeting Method

You have your income, expenses and spending spelled out in a monthly budget, but how do you act on it? Trying out a budgeting method helps manage your money and accommodates your lifestyle.

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or splurges, and fortunately many budgeting methods account for those things. Here are a few to consider:

  • The Envelope System is a cash-based budgeting system that works well for overspenders. It curbs excess spending on debit and credit cards because you’re forced to withdraw cash and place it into pre-labeled envelopes for your variable expenses (like groceries and clothing) instead of pulling out that plastic. 
  • The 50/20/30 Method is for those with more financial flexibility and who can pay all their bills with 50% of their income. You apply 50% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 30% to personal spending (vacations, coffee, entertainment). This way, you can have fun and save at the same time. Because your basic needs can only account for 50% of your income, it’s typically not a good fit for those living paycheck to paycheck.
  • The 60/20/20 Budget uses the same concept as the 50/20/30, except you apply 60% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 20% to personal spending. It’s a good fit for fans of the 50/20/30 Method who need to devote more of their incomes to living costs.
  • The Zero-Based Budget makes you account for all of your income. You budget for your expenses and bills, and then assign any extra money toward your goals. The strict system is good for people trying to pay off debt as fast as possible. It’s also beneficial for those living to paycheck to paycheck.
A hand writes financial-related labels on envelopes.

Budgeting Apps

Another money management option is to use a budgeting app. Apps can help you organize and access your personal finances on the go and can alert you of finance charges, late fees and bill payment due dates. Many also offer free credit score monitoring.

FROM THE BUDGETING FORUM
Starting a budget
S
A reminder NOT to spend.
Jobelle Collie
Grocery Shopping – How far away is your usual store?
F
Budgeting 101
Ashley Allen
See more in Budgeting or ask a money question

Step 5: Follow Through

Budgeting becomes super easy once you get in the groove, but you can’t set it and forget it. You should review your budget monthly to monitor your expenses and spending and adjust accordingly. Review checking and savings account statements for any irregularities even if you set bills to autopay.

Even if your income increases, try to prioritize saving the extra money. That will help you avoid lifestyle inflation, which happens when your spending increases as your income rises.

The thrill of being debt-free or finally having enough money to travel might even inspire you to seek out other financial opportunities or advice. For example, if you’re looking for professional help, set up a consultation with a certified financial planner who can assist you with long-term goals like retirement and savings plans.

Related: How to Budget: The Ultimate Guide

Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Pulte Mortgage Review

A wholly-owned subsidiary of PulteGroup since 1972, the third-largest homebuilder in America, Pulte Mortgage gives customers a financing option that differs from those of banks and online lenders.

As an imprint of the larger conglomerate, Pulte Mortgage leverages construction experience and a personal touch to take borrowers through the home purchase process, helping them understand their options and decide on the best mortgage loan for them. This is done through a personal loan consultant assigned to individual accounts.

While Pulte Mortgage does not have a profile on the Better Business Bureau’s webpage, the PulteGroup has an A- rating, though it is not accredited.

Pulte AT A GLANCE

Year Founded 1972
Coverage Area Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington
HQ Address 3350 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30326
Phone Number 1-(866) 236-8165

Pulte Company Information

  • Part of the PulteGroup, the third-largest homebuilder in the United States
  • Based in Atlanta, the financing branch has served 400,000 borrowers across the country since 1972
  • Offers consumers a streamlined and integrated process, bringing a great deal of construction and lending experience
  • Has a broad menu of conventional, jumbo and government-backed loans, as well as specialty products
  • Assigns personal loan consultants to help guide borrowers understand mortgage rates and other specifics
  • Hosts a mortgage learning center for borrowers that includes a calculator, a glossary, and other resources

Pulte Mortgage Rates

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Pulte Mortgage Loans

Customers who are building homes through one of the approved PulteGroup builders can access loan products including:

Fixed-rate mortgages

Usually offered in 15- and 30-year terms, these mortgages feature a fixed rate throughout the life of the loan, ensuring a steady monthly payment that is easily budgeted for. Fixed-rate mortgages are generally best for homeowners who expect to settle down in their residence or just want the dependable structure. Pulte Mortgage has fixed-rate offerings with both low- and no-money-down payment requirements.

Adjustable-rate mortgages

Typically called ARMs, these mortgages have an interest rate that fluctuates with market conditions. These loans are ideal for borrowers with short-term housing plans who may move soon after closing.

Since interest rates are generally lower for ARMs, these products may be a good fit for those looking to make a profit, yet although rates are initially low with ARM loans and they remain fixed for a specified number of years, the risk of rates increasing with market fluctuations after the initial period exists.

The terms of these loans usually include a fixed rate for an introductory period that is rebalanced yearly, bi-annually or monthly. While traditional ARMs stay fixed for six months and are thereafter recalculated at the same interval, hybrid ARMs offer longer fixed terms, like 5/1 or 7/1 options, that are fixed for five or seven years respectively and rebalanced each year.

Jumbo mortgages

Sometimes consumers need higher loan amounts than traditional, conforming mortgages can offer, which are limited to $453,000. Homeowners who build their own homes or purchase homes in high-cost areas may need more robust financing options, which is where a jumbo loan comes in. These mortgages often cover loans between $453,100 and $2 million.

FHA mortgages

These loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which allows for less strict qualification requirements to incentivize homeownership. With FHA mortgages down payments can be as little as 3.5 percent, while low credit isn’t an automatic disqualification.

VA mortgages

Veterans Administration-backed mortgages are intended for veterans, active-duty personnel, and qualifying spouses of those who have served in the military or armed forces. Little to no down payment may be required for these types of loans. 

Balloon mortgages

While most borrowers are familiar with mortgages that are paid for incrementally, balloon mortgages are the opposite. These types of mortgages are paid in lump sums over a shorter period of time typically spanning five to seven years but may feature a lower interest rate than a fixed-rate option. At the end of the mortgage, borrowers must refinance or sell their homes, which is something to be aware of.

Bridge loan

While Pulte Mortgage does not offer home equity loans or lines of credit, it can extend bridge loans. This product is a type of the second loan that uses the borrower’s present home as collateral, earmarking the proceeds for closing on a new house before the present home is sold.

Pulte Mortgage does not offer cash-out refinancing options or USDA loans, which are government-backed loans that incentivize rural homeownership through low down payments.

Pulte Mortgage Customer Experience

The idea behind Pulte Mortgage is to streamline the mortgage process for consumers, so it’s more effective and efficient. In that spirit, the mortgage process for borrowers is straightforward with lots of assistance available on the way. Pulte highlights its five-step process:

  1. The mortgage application is started either through a secure online portal or through the mail. A Pulte Mortgage team is also assigned at this point.
  2. The personal loan consultant contacts the borrower to talk about important information, determining personal needs and locking in a rate.
  3. The loan is processed, and credit approval is communicated.
  4. The closing date is set with a builder representative, while the loan processor coordinates necessary actions.
  5. The keys to a new home are ready!

Prospective borrowers who just want to do some research can also benefit from Pulte Mortgage’s resource library, which includes:

  • A calculator that helps determine the buying power
  • A glossary for mortgage terms you’re likely to encounter through the process and should be familiar with
  • A mortgage FAQ for specifics on homebuying and financing

Pulte Company Grades

Although Pulte Mortgage does not have a profile with the BBB, PulteGroup, its parent company, has am A- rating with the organization. Though the company is not accredited by the BBB, Pulte Mortgage has been in business since 1972.

Pulte Mortgage Underwriting

Pulte Mortgage does not publicly disclose its down payment or qualification requirements on its website. Customers who are building with Pulte Homes, or one of the associated PulteGroup brands, can access this information once they complete the mortgage application.

History of Pulte Mortgage

Not only is PulteGroup the third-largest homebuilder in the United States, but it’s also been financing mortgages since 1972. Thanks to a little horizontal integration, PulteGroup can assist homeowners from construction to mortgage closing through Pulte Mortgage, the wholly-owned subsidiary that offers loan products.

The selling point is Pulte Mortgage being a one-stop-shop for homeowners, informed by extensive residential construction and mortgage financing experience.

Pulte Mortgage finances new home construction for customers of Pulte Homes, Centex, Del Webb, DiVosta, and John Wieland Homes, which all fall under the PulteGroup umbrella. Personalization is a key focus, with personal loan consultants for each borrower.

It also has an extensive online learning center to help prospective homeowners become familiar with different loans it offers, including conventional, jumbo, FHA, and VA loans, as well as specialty products like balloon mortgages and bridge loans.

Bottom Line

PulteGroup can assist homeowners from construction to mortgage closing through Pulte Mortgage. Many customers enjoy the fact that Pulte Mortgage is a one-stop-shop for homeowners, informed by extensive residential construction and mortgage financing experience.

For more information visit their website.

The post Pulte Mortgage Review appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

16 Small Steps You Can Take Now to Improve Your Finances

Pretty brunette with moneybox in hands

You have all kinds of financial goals you want to achieve, but where should you begin? There are so many different aspects of money management that it can be difficult to find a starting point when trying to achieve financial success. If you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Progress can be made in tiny, manageable steps. Here’s are 16 small things you can do right now to improve your overall financial health. (See also: These 13 Numbers Are Crucial to Understanding Your Finances)

1. Create a household budget

The biggest step toward effective money management is making a household budget. You first need to figure out exactly how much money comes in each month. Once you have that number, organize your budget in order of financial priorities: essential living expenses, contributions to retirement savings, repaying debt, and any entertainment or lifestyle costs. Having a clear picture of exactly how much is coming in and going out every month is key to reaching your financial goals.

2. Calculate your net worth

Simply put, your net worth is the total of your assets minus your debts and liabilities. You’re left with a positive or negative number. If the number is positive, you’re on the up and up. If the number is negative — which is especially common for young people just starting out — you’ll need to keep chipping away at debt.

Remember that certain assets, like your home, count on both sides of the ledger. While you may have mortgage debt, it is secured by the resale value of your home. (See also: 10 Ways to Increase Your Net Worth This Year)

3. Review your credit reports

Your credit history determines your creditworthiness, including the interest rates you pay on loans and credit cards. It can also affect your employment opportunities and living options. Every 12 months, you can check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) for free at annualcreditreport.com. It may also be a good idea to request one report from one bureau every four months, so you can keep an eye on your credit throughout the year without paying for it.

Regularly checking your credit report will help you stay on top of every account in your name and can alert you to fraudulent activity.

4. Check your credit score

Your FICO score can range from 300-850. The higher the score, the better. Keep in mind that two of the most important factors that go into making up your credit score are your payment history, specifically negative information, and how much debt you’re carrying: the type of debts, and how much available credit you have at any given time. (See also: How to Boost Your Credit Score in Just 30 Days)

5. Set a monthly savings amount

Transferring a set amount of money to a savings account at the same time you pay your other monthly bills helps ensure that you’re regularly and intentionally saving money for the future. Waiting to see if you have any money left over after paying for all your other discretionary lifestyle expenses can lead to uneven amounts or no savings at all.

6. Make minimum payments on all debts

The first step to maintaining a good credit standing is to avoid making late payments. Build your minimum debt reduction payments into your budget. Then, look for any extra money you can put toward paying down debt principal. (See also: The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt)

7. Increase your retirement saving rate by 1 percent

Your retirement savings and saving rate are the most important determinants of your overall financial success. Strive to save 15 percent of your income for most of your career for retirement, and that includes any employer match you may receive. If you’re not saving that amount yet, plan ahead for ways you can reach that goal. For example, increase your saving rate every time you get a bonus or raise.

8. Open an IRA

An IRA is an easy and accessible retirement savings vehicle that anyone with earned income can access (although you can’t contribute to a traditional IRA past age 70½). Unlike an employer-sponsored account, like a 401(k), an IRA gives you access to unlimited investment choices and is not attached to any particular employer. (See also: Stop Believing These 5 Myths About IRAs)

9. Update your account beneficiaries

Certain assets, like retirement accounts and insurance policies, have their own beneficiary designations and will be distributed based on who you have listed on those documents — not necessarily according to your estate planning documents. Review these every year and whenever you have a major life event, like a marriage.

10. Review your employer benefits

The monetary value of your employment includes your salary in addition to any other employer-provided benefits. Consider these extras part of your wealth-building tools and review them on a yearly basis. For example, a Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) can help pay for current health care expenses through your employer and a Health Savings Account (HSA) can help you pay for medical expenses now and in retirement. (See also: 8 Myths About Health Savings Accounts — Debunked!)

11. Review your W-4

The W-4 form you filled out when you first started your job dictates how much your employer withholds for taxes — and you can make changes to it. If you get a refund at tax time, adjusting your tax withholdings can be an easy way to increase your take-home pay. Also, remember to review this form when you have a major life event, like a marriage or after the birth of a child. (See also: Are You Withholding the Right Amount of Taxes from Your Paycheck?)

12. Ponder your need for life insurance

In general, if someone is dependent upon your income, then you may need a life insurance policy. When determining how much insurance you need, consider protecting assets and paying off all outstanding debts, as well as retirement and college costs. (See also: 15 Surprising Insurance Policies You Might Need)

13. Check your FDIC insurance coverage

First, make sure that the banking institutions you use are FDIC insured. For credit unions, you’ll want to confirm it’s a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) federally-covered institution. Federal deposit insurance protects up to $250,000 of your deposits for each type of bank account you have. To determine your account coverage at a single bank or various banks, visit FDIC.gov.

14. Check your Social Security statements

Set up an online account at SSA.gov to confirm your work and income history and to get an idea of what types of benefits, if any, you’re entitled to — including retirement and disability.

15. Set one financial goal to achieve it by the end of the year

An important part of financial success is recognizing where you need to focus your energy in terms of certain financial goals, like having a fully funded emergency account, for example.

If you’re overwhelmed by trying to simultaneously work on reaching all of your goals, pick one that you can focus on and achieve it by the end of the year. Examples include paying off a credit card, contributing to an IRA, or saving $500.

16. Take a one-month spending break

Unfortunately, you can never take a break from paying your bills, but you do have complete control over how you spend your discretionary income. And that may be the only way to make some progress toward some of your savings goals. Try trimming some of your lifestyle expenses for just one month to cushion your checking or savings account. You could start by bringing your own lunch to work every day or meal-planning for the week to keep your grocery bill lower and forgo eating out. (See also: How a Simple "Do Not Buy" List Keeps Money in Your Pocket)

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With the new year here, it’s time to take control of your financial goals. From creating a household budget, to calculating your net worth, or setting a monthly savings amount, we’ve got 16 small steps you can take to improve your finances. | #personalfinance #moneymatters #budgeting


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5 Reasons You Need To Hire A Financial Consultant

If you’re a busy individual and have no time for the day-to-day management of your money, you may need to consult a financial consultant.

Beyond being busy, however, there are major turning points in your life where working with a financial consultant is absolutely necessary.

For instance, if you’re approaching retirement, you’ll have to figure out how much money you need to live during your non-working years.

So what is a financial consultant? And what do financial consultants do? In this article, we’ll run you through situations where financial consulting makes sense.

We’ll show you where you can get a financial consultant that is ethical and who will act in your best interest, etc.

Of note, hiring a financial consultant is not cheap. A fee-only financial advisor can charge you anywhere from $75 to $300 per hour. If your situation is simple, you may not need to hire one.

However, hiring a financial consultant in the situations discussed below is worth the cost.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor

What is a financial consultant?

A financial consultant is another name for financial advisor. They can advise you on a variety of money subjects.

They can help you make informed decisions about managing your investments and help you navigate complex money situations.

Moreover, a financial consultant can help you come up with financial goals such as saving for retirement, property investing and help you achieve those goals.

To get you started, here’s how to choose a financial advisor.

5 Reasons You Need To Hire A Financial Consultant:

1. You have a lot of credit card debt.

Having a lot of credit card debt not only can cause you severe emotional distress, it can also negatively impact your ability to get a loan (personal loan or home loan).

For instance, if you see 50 percent of your income is going towards paying your credit card debt, then you need professional help to manage debt. Your best option is to find a financial consultant.

Luckily, the SmartAsset’s matching tool is free and it helps you find a financial consultant in your area in just under 5 minutes. Get started now.

2. You are on the verge of bankruptcy.

If you have way too much debt and can’t seem to pay it off within a reasonable time, another option for you is to file for bankruptcy.

Although bankruptcy will free you from most of your debts, avoid that option if you can.

One reason is because it can have a long, negative impact on your credit file. Once you go bankrupt, the bankruptcy will be on your credit report for a long time.

Working with a financial consultant can help you come up with different strategies. They may advise you to consider debt consolidation, which can significantly lower interest rates.


Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals. Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.


3. You’re ready to invest in the stock market.

If you’re thinking about investing in the stock market, then the need for a financial consultant is greater. Investing in the stock market has the potential of making you wealthy.

But with great returns come great risks. The stock market is volatile. The price of stock can be $55 today, and drops to $5 the next day.

So, investing in the stock market can be very intimidating. And if you’re a beginner investor and unsure about the process, it is wise to chat with a financial advisor to see if they can benefit you.

A financial consultant can help build an investment portfolio and help manage your investments.

4. You’re starting a family.

If you’re just got married seeking a financial consultant is very important. A financial advisor can help you figure out whether you should combine your finances, file taxes jointly or separately.

You also need to think about life insurance as well, in case of death of one spouse. And if you’re thinking of having kids, you need to think about saving for college to ensure the kids’ future.

Turning the job over to a financial consultant can save you a lot of money in the long wrong and is worth the cost.

Related: Do I Need A Financial Advisor?

5. You’re just irresponsible with money.

If you make emotionally based financial decisions all of the time, you’re buying things without planning for them, you may be irresponsible financially and therefore need professional advice.

If you’re spending money on expensive items when you could be planning and saving for retirement, then you may need a financial consultant.

You may find yourself having trouble saving money. Then it may make sense to speak with a financial advisor.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor For You

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

 

The post 5 Reasons You Need To Hire A Financial Consultant appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

10 financial resolutions for 2021 – that are actually doable

How many times have you made a number of New Year’s resolutions – only to forget about them long before spring?

The trick to making New Year’s resolutions is to choose those that are actually doable. And a good place to start is with your finances.

To explore feasible financial moves that are easy to stick to, we got advice from Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride, CFA.

Use these tips to set yourself up for financial success in 2021.

10 financial resolutions for 2021

  1. Set financial goals
  2. Create or freshen up your budget
  3. Check your progress on paying down debt
  4. Review your credit card benefits and reward offers
  5. Review your asset allocation and rebalance your portfolio
  6. Consider converting your traditional IRA to a Roth
  7. Review your beneficiaries
  8. Review your savings
  9. Check your credit report
  10. Continue to educate yourself

1. Set financial goals

Before you dive into your finances, make sure you know what you hope to accomplish this year. According to Women & Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line from Merrill Lynch, “Seventy-seven percent of women say they see money in terms of what it can do for their families.” By figuring out what is most important to you, you can create specific priorities and goals.

Do you hope to pay off your credit cards or are you saving for a down payment on a house? Or do you see yourself purchasing a new car this year? Map out your goals so it’s easier to see why you need to create a budget.

2. Create or freshen up your budget

You’ve heard that you need to create a budget a million times. Why? Because it’s one of the healthiest financial moves you’ll ever make.

Particularly after 2020, when many faced unemployment, 2021 is a good time to figure out where your money is going by tracking your spending against a budget.

“Make a monthly budget for 2021 and resolve to track your spending against it throughout the year,” McBride said. “Any month you spend less than budgeted, transfer the difference into savings.”

As daunting as it may seem, a budget will provide long-term benefits, both financial and mental.

Mint, Goodbudget and You Need a Budget (YNAB) are all good options. But whichever tool you pick, make sure to:

  • Give your money a purpose by bucketing it into specific funds or accounts.
  • Be patient as you settle into a budgeting routine.
  • Schedule a “money meeting” with yourself every month and examine your spending, make tweaks and congratulate yourself for the work you’ve done.

See related: How to create a budget that works for you

3. Check your progress on paying down debt

McBride congratulates those who have made steady progress in paying down their debt and recommends making a plan to pay it down in 2021 (if you’ve stalled a bit in 2020).

You can temporarily cut your expenses and throw that money toward your debt, or, if you have high-interest debt, consider debt consolidation, McBride said.

A nonprofit credit counseling agency can set you up with a debt management plan that will even likely lower your interest rate.

In addition, you might want to pick up a side hustle and use that money to pay down your debt.

The average credit card interest rate is still around 16%, and that’s still a high rate, particularly if you carry a balance.

“Credit card debt is the most expensive debt most households have, so put some urgency behind the efforts to get these balances paid off,” McBride said. “Paying down a 16% credit card balance is a risk-free return of 16% – at a time when savings accounts and government bonds pay less than 1%.”

There are many strategies you can use to pay off your credit card debt, but a good guideline is to first pay off the debt with the highest interest rate.

See related: How to pay off credit card debt – 3 best strategies

4. Review your credit card benefits and reward offers

Credit card issuers have responded toward consumer spending changes as a result of the pandemic by adding new benefits and rewards bonuses to their credit card products.

Don’t miss out on those perks, such as extra cash back on groceries and food deliveries, streaming services and more.

See related: Best cash back credit cards

5. Review your asset allocation and rebalance your portfolio

The stock market has been particularly volatile in 2020 so you should review your mix of investments in 2021.

“Taking the opportunity to rebalance back to your intended mix of stocks, bonds, cash and alternative investments means lightening up on things that have done well while adding to asset classes that have lagged,” McBride said. “This also enforces the discipline of ‘buying low’ and ‘selling high.’”

“Travelers have been largely sidelined in 2020, but credit card rewards have very much been on the move,” McBride said. “Check your cards and make sure you’re aware of category spending payouts that have changed and are using the right card for those expenditures.”

See related: Investing tips for women: Overcoming financial setbacks for future success

6. Consider converting your traditional IRA to a Roth

If you lost income in 2020, McBride suggested maybe taking advantage of your lower tax bracket to convert some of your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.

“Be advised that converting will trigger taxes on any contributions not already taxed, so be sure to consult your tax adviser,” McBride cautioned.

If you earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, consider a “back-door” Roth conversion.

“If you’re unable to contribute to a Roth IRA directly because of your income, you may benefit from contributing to a traditional IRA, then converting the funds to a Roth IRA,” McBride says.

“If you have an existing traditional IRA, be sure to consult your tax adviser about the tax implications before converting anything,” he added.

7. Review your beneficiaries

Many people designate beneficiaries and forget about it but it’s important that your assets go to whom you want, so review yours for 2021. McBride said to keep in mind that beneficiaries trump wills, so make sure the two documents are aligned in their directives.

“If you haven’t looked at it in a while or especially if there has been a change in family dynamics such as a marriage or divorce, review the beneficiary designation on your life insurance and retirement accounts to make sure it reflects your current intentions,” McBride said.

8. Review your savings

Having savings is important in the event of an emergency. If you had to exhaust your savings during 2020, you’re not alone. But in 2021, make a plan to replenish and grow your savings account.

“Add up the amount you’ve contributed to your retirement accounts, 529 college savings plans, savings accounts and other investment accounts and subtract out any withdrawals taken during the year.” McBride said.

How much emergency fund should I have?

9. Check your credit report

You should check your credit report routinely to see if there are any mistakes on it that happen to be affecting your credit score – or, worst-case scenario, to see if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.

“Regularly checking your credit report is a great way to spot errors or evidence of identity theft,” McBride said. “Knowing what is on your credit report and that everything is correct is important when going to apply for a loan, rent an apartment or even changing insurance carriers.”

AnnualCreditReport.com provides consumers with a free credit report annually, so make sure you take advantage of that in 2021 so you can catch (and fix) any errors early.

See related: Credit cards that offer free credit scores

10. Continue to educate yourself

Learn the ins and outs of your own financial picture – even as it relates to the fine print. Find places where you can make tweaks or by gaining a better understanding of your taxable income, your investments, your insurance products, etc.

Some great financial literature to get you started includes “Clever Girl Finance: Ditch debt, save money and build real wealth” by Bola Sokunbi, the founder of Clever Girl Finance and a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI). The book is an accessible personal finance book written specifically for women.

Another piece of literature worth looking into is “Live Richer Challenge: Learn how to budget, save, get out of debt, improve your credit and invest in 36 days” (which comes with accompanying resources) by Tiffany Aliche, better known as The Budgetnista. An award-winning teacher of financial education, Aliche has been featured on “Queer Eye” and, through her company, has created a financial movement that has helped over 800,000 women worldwide collectively save more than $100 million.

Free resources are also available to you as you make your way through your personal finance journey. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers tools and resources to help women bridge issues like the wage gap.

Final thoughts

As you make your way through 2021, don’t put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to your finances. Use the tools available to you and make a plan that you can easily follow. By adding personal finances to your 2021 resolutions, you’re setting yourself up for success!

Source: creditcards.com

How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review

How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals ReviewIf you are looking for tips on how to save money as a college student, then one of the top things you need to learn is how to save money on textbooks such as through cheap textbook rentals. In this post, I will be including a Campus Book Rentals review because I used this textbook rental company throughout college and was able to save a great amount of money with cheap textbook rentals.

P.S. I also have a Campus Book Rentals coupon code at the end of the post, so do not miss out on this valuable Campus Book Rentals coupon for the best textbook rental company out there!

When I was in college, I always made sure to save as much money as I could. College is expensive, and everyone knows that. The costs can quickly add up. Between the tuition, lab fees, parking fees, textbook costs, and more, college costs can quickly get out of hand.

I know and understand this. I graduated with around $38,000 worth of student loan debt, and that was even with me carefully managing my costs. Thankfully I paid off my student loans (read about how I paid off my student loans within 7 months), but I do like to help others in as many ways as I can.

According to the National Association of College Stores, the average college student spends around $700 per year on the cost of textbooks.

That could be a total of a little less than $3,000 for a 4 year degree just for the cost of textbooks, and as everyone knows, the cost can actually be much higher than that.

I actually think this number that is estimated is wrong, because I don’t really know anyone who bought their college textbooks and only spent $350 or less from their college bookstore on the cost of textbooks. That wouldn’t have even covered two college textbooks for me from my college bookstore.

When I was in college, many of my college textbooks were around the $200 price for just one textbook, and I often took 7 or 8 classes a semester. This means if I paid full price for each book (whether I bought them online or from my college book store), I would have sometimes paid around $1,600 each SEMESTER!

Or $3,200 a YEAR!

That is just insane.

Below are my tips on the best ways to save money on college textbooks:

 

Rent your college textbooks through cheap textbook rental websites such as Campus Book Rentals.

When I was in college, I saved a great deal of money by renting my college textbooks. As I said above, college textbooks for me were expensive if I were to not shop around and just stick with the expensive books at the college bookstore. Who wants to waste a ton of money on the cost of textbooks by buying them at full price?

NOT ME! You can save a lot of money on the cost of textbooks by renting them instead.

I often rented my college textbooks that were $200 at my college bookstore for less than $50 for the semester. There are definitely some cheap textbook rentals out there!

I often found cheap textbook rentals for $25 as well That is a STEAL! I always used coupon codes as well, as they can be found everywhere. Lucky you, if you keep reading I have a CampusBook Rentals coupon code as well! 🙂

It was easy to rent textbooks online. Here is the step by step process of renting textbooks online and my Campus Book Rentals review:

  • I just had to find my college textbooks online such as on CampusBookRentals. Campus Book Rentals is the best textbook rental I used when I was in college. They made it easy and have a large college textbook selection for students to choose from so that you find the exact textbook you need.
  • I would then order the textbook for whatever time frame I needed. You can usually rent them for 45 days, two months, a full semester, or even longer. The longer the time frame, the more expensive they are, of course.
  • I would use the textbook for a class. Of course, this is not a surprise!
  • Once you are done with the textbook, all you have to do is return it. You will be provided a return label, so the return shipping is absolutely free. You don’t have to worry about the textbook being outdated, a new edition being published, losing money, etc.

I also have a Campus Book Rentals coupon code for 5% off your total purchase plus FREE SHIPPING if you need one as well. I genuinely believe they are the best textbook rental company out there right now, or else I wouldn’t be writing this whale of a Campus Book Rentals review post. The Campus Book Rentals coupon code is snowfall5. All you have to do is click on my affiliate link (the Campus Book Rentals coupon code only works with the affiliate link) and once you are ready to check out, enter snowfall5 as the Campus Book Rentals promotional code.

 

Skip the college bookstore for cheap textbook rentals or buy textbooks used.

The college bookstore can be a big rip off. Sorry to everyone who has ever worked at one.

I have three college degrees, and have visited the college bookstore many times to compare prices, and I do not think there was a single occurrence where the price at the college bookstore was cheaper than the price I found somewhere else, such as through CampusBookRentals.

 

Sell your college textbooks.

Some of you might be saying, well why didn’t you just buy your textbooks used and then sell them back, instead of renting college textbooks? Well, this is because it often turned out that whenever I bought a textbook, the very next semester they would be considered “old” because a new edition would be published. No one really buys old editions of finance books as they are considered “outdated” by many professors.

However, there are many instances where selling your college textbooks can be a great idea, and you can make some money as well.  If you are looking to save money in college, then you should learn how to sell your college textbooks back so that they aren’t just hanging out in your house collecting dust.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this Campus Book Rentals review and that you learned how to save money on textbooks and a new way on how to save money as a college student.

How do you save money on your college textbooks?

 

Campus Book Rentals coupon code for the best textbook rental company!

P.S. Here is the Campus Book Rentals coupon again as well since you took your time to read my Campus Book Rentals review. I have a Campus Book Rentals coupon code if you need one for even cheaper cheap textbook rentals. The discount will give you 5% off your total textbook purchase rental plus FREE SHIPPING. The Campus Book Rentals coupon code is snowfall5. All you have to do is click on my affiliate link (the Campus Book Rentals coupon code only works with the affiliate link) and once you are ready to check out, enter snowfall5 as the Campus Book Rentals promotional code. This coupon code is good until April 30, 2015, so you have plenty of time to use it for this semester’s classes.

 

The post How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com