Financial Planning for Millennials: How You Can Achieve Your Finance Goals in 2014

millennials

Image by marsmet531

As 2013 draws to a close, a Fidelity survey found that 46 percent of consumers plan to make a New Year’s financial resolution. Saving more, spending less and paying down debt were the most popular goals. However, more than a third of respondents felt financial resolutions are harder to keep than commitments to lose weight or quit smoking. Less than half felt they achieved a significant majority of last year’s financial goals.

One obstacle might be that half of Americans lack formal financial goals, as reported by Northwestern Mutual’s 2013 Planning & Progress report. The report noted that nearly four out of 10 people complain they’re too busy to think about long-term finances. If you’ve been putting off your financial planning, the New Year is the perfect time to start.

Develop a Financial Plan

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants suggests financial planning tips and goals applicable to typical situations millennials face.

  • If you’re a college student, AICPA emphasizes the need to learn how to reign in your spending
  • If you’re building your career, make sure to understand your benefits, take advantage of direct deposit opportunities, plan your taxes and investigate retirement plan eligibility, along with disability and life insurance
  • If you’re getting married, consider items such as joint accounts and taxes, shared insurance and child care expenses
  • If you’re buying a home, you’ve got mortgages, taxes and insurance to consider

Create Your Budget

Whatever your financial goals, some universal budgeting principles apply. Many experts advocate the 50/30/20 rule of thumb developed by Elizabeth Warren. This involves putting 50 percent of your monthly income toward necessities, 30 percent toward discretionary nonessentials and 20 percent toward increasing savings and reducing debt. Use this strategy to help you budget for your New Year’s goals.

Build Your Savings

Saving more was the most popular resolution in Fidelity’s survey. Experts recommend building two types of emergency funds: First, build a fund of $1,000 to cover sudden expenses such as car repairs or funeral flights. Next, in the event of job loss, save up enough to cover three to 12 months of expenses.

After achieving both these goals, consider other savings goals such as retirement or tuition funds. If you’re currently receiving regular structured settlement payments, consider selling future payments to a company that buys structured settlements for a lump sum of cash now. These funds can then be used to invest in your future (i.e., buying a home or paying for school).

Cut Your Spending

Another popular resolution is cutting spending. According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the three biggest expenses for most households are housing (including utilities), child care and education, and transportation. Strategic goals in these areas could include finding less expensive housing, insulating your residence, buying a car with better mileage and getting cheaper car insurance.

Pay Down Debt

The other most popular resolution is repaying debt. Financial advisor Dave Ramsey recommends his snowball plan for debt reduction. You pay off your smallest nonmortgage debt first, and then you can put the money from the bill you save each month toward your next biggest debt.

Four Things To Consider When Buying Property At An Auction

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Image by thinkpanama

Buying a property at auction can be really exciting as there is a chance to avoid the drawn out process that usually comes with house buying. That is because when the hammer falls, the highest bidder owns the property – effectively condensing a process that normally takes a matter of months into mere minutes.

Yet an auction is not a place for the faint-hearted, so it is worth keeping a number of things in mind on the run up to the day, as well as when you arrive. To help make things a little bit easier for you, here are just a few things to consider when buying a property at auction:

Try Before You Buy

It is well worth your time and effort to attend an auction before you go to the one that you want to buy a property at. This is so you can get a real life experience of what an auction is actually like and the processes which are observed. Otherwise it could be quite overwhelming on auction day when you aren’t sure when to raise your paddle and so forth. If you know someone who is a seasoned pro at auctions, it might make sense to bring them along with you.

Have Cash Ready To Go

Because properties at auction are bought so rapidly, the turnaround time is also very quick. You must have a 10 percent deposit ready for payment on auction day, usually paid through cheque. If you need mortgage assistance you should arrange one in principle before buying at auction; this is because you will need to ensure you have access to the remaining 90 per cent of funds within 28 days. Some people bidding at auction choose to use bridging loans until a long term financial agreement is settled. It is worth noting that you could lose your 10 percent deposit if you fail to complete within the time given.

Don’t forget to set a strict budget and financial limits in order to stay within your boundaries of affordability!

View A Property First

It is a very good idea to view a property or lot before you decide to bid on it – and the exterior of a building doesn’t entirely count. This is because you never know what is lurking indoors, and should give you a good sense of whether the property is right for you. It will also allow you to ask neighbours of the property for their own opinion, as well as giving you the chance to see the wider local area. You will be able to arrange viewings through the details listed in the catalogue so make sure to get your hands on one in plenty of time.

Bring The Right Items To Auction

You should be aware that you will need to have certain items with you on auction day to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. The first thing you should bring is the auction catalogue, just to refresh your memory. You will also need to bring a form of payment for your deposit (cheque), banking details, and two forms of identification such as a driving license and passport.

6 Ways to Save Using Social Media

social media

Image by Jason A. Howie

Social media has been growing by leaps and bounds. I’m sure many of you have multiple social media accounts and you interact with your friends and family members through social media on daily basis. But did you know that you can use social media to save money? Here are 6 ways you can turn your Pinterest account into money saving machine!

 1. Lower your grocery bill

Not an extreme “couponer”? No worries, just type in “save on groceries” and you will find hundreds of “pins” about lowering your monthly grocery bill. You can find anything from full month’s menus that will feed a family of 4 for $400 a month, to creating ready crockpot meals out of in-season vegetables and “on sale” meats.

Do you love technology? Pinterest is quick to provide you with the latest apps that help track sales, make grocery lists, and download digital coupons. Just search “grocery apps” and Voila! You’ll get a collage of apps that aim to put a few more dollars in your pocket book by helping you find deals on food items.

Looking for ways to save on healthy eating? Here are 3 ways to eat well and save big!

2. You don’t have to get it NOW – sleep on your choices & save

Pinterest is a great environment not only for finding things you absolutely love, but it also gives you the opportunity to sort through your choices, sleep on them and then look for a bargain on that perfect item both on and off-line. We all know it’s never good to buy on impulse. There’s no harm with “pinning” on impulse! Create your clothing boards, favorite recipe boards, and home décor boards. You can even prioritize your pins and choose favorites or must haves. Pinning does not cost you a dime. Making premature purchase decisions can cost you hundreds of dollars.

3. Save on home projects

Are you looking to spruce up your home but think it would put a huge drain on your budget? Think twice! DIY & Crafts and Home Décor sections of Pinterest offer countless ideas on how to improve your home on a thrifty budget.  Is your kitchen looking a bit tired? Are you dreaming about those granite countertops but you cannot spend thousands of dollars on the upgrade? Did you know that for less than $100 you could achieve the granite countertop look by simply using paint? Pinterest is a great place to find those DIY tips and step-by-step instructions. This simple idea will save you more than 90% of what a professionally installed upgrade would cost. How about refreshing your bedroom with a new headboard? You can search hundreds of great DIY headboard ideas, pin those to your board, and decide which one would look best. With a small investment, you could have a refreshed bedroom.

10 remodeling do’s and don’ts! 

4. Beauty on a budget & great thrifty gift ideas

Staying beautiful could require a substantial financial investment… unless you are a Pinterest user! How about learning to use natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar, cornstarch or coconut oil to not only cut costs on store bought beauty treatments, but also to get much better, natural skin care? Pinterest has hundreds of natural and very low cost tips on anything ranging from whitening your teeth to creating your own skin toners, lotions or even eye shadow. Once you try one of those natural beauty treatments and find they work well, you could create great inexpensive gifts for your friends and family!

5. Save on doctor visits

Pinterest is a great place to find natural remedies for many common ailments. You can browse though hundreds of posts that offer home remedies on anything from the common cold, hives, cold sores, dry skin or even simply boosting your immune system…you name it!  Instead of rushing to your local pharmacy for every ache and pain, how about checking out Pinterest first? You may find that your cabinets or herb sections of your local grocery store have a natural remedy for whatever ails you. In no way are we suggesting that Pinterest should take the place of a physician, but for common, mild symptoms, there are often effective at home treatments that are also wallet-friendly!

6. Pinterest – your new personal fitness trainer!

Would you like to get in shape but the cost of a gym membership or hiring a personal trainer is not in your budget? No problem! Pinterest is a great place to go to for fitness tips and plans for losing weight, toning, etc. The Health and Fitness section of Pinterest will help you save hundreds of dollars on gym or even fitness equipment while offering you a plethora of ideas on how to do quick workouts at home or even in your office! Combine that with great healthy recipes you’ll find in that section of Pinterest and you are on the way to better YOU at a minimal cost!

 

3 Budget Tips for Newlyweds

newlyweds

Image by PeculiarForest

You’ve finally tied the knot with the love of your life and you’re looking forward to spending the rest of your days with this person. You probably have a great honeymoon spot picked out, an incredible party being hosted by your friends and family, and are looking forward to all of the new adventures that lie in wait. However, there is one adventure that seems to be highly overlooked during the newlywed years and that is your budget.

Learn the power of envelope budgeting here!

A lot of newlyweds miss out on a lot of fun and experiences because they don’t think they can handle the budget side of being with someone else. Here are a few tips to keep yourself out of trouble and fully prepared.

Living situation

In 2013 the typical first-time homebuyer was 31 years old and 66% of all homebuyers were married couples. So young married couples are looking for a place they can call their own. There is also another interesting trend emerging. More and more young couples decide to purchase a home together before they actually get married.

Wherever you live, be it in a house or rented property, you want to make sure that you’re not spending more than a quarter of your check on your monthly housing expense. Most of the time people will hunker down in an apartment complex and give it a go. This is a good place to start, but not a good long-term deal. If you’re looking to rent, be it because you’re planning to move away, you don’t want to worry about the banks, etc., look for a privately owned house, townhouse, or condo. In the long run, privately rented properties tend to be more tenant friendly, more wallet friendly, and are generally in areas that people would like to begin their life in. If owning your house is more your style, you’ll want to get all of the information, take the first time homeowner’s courses, and hunker down with a realtor that doesn’t just want you for your money and dumps you when you say no. Make sure that you have a decent amount of cash stored away so you can pay the fees and down payments on the house when you do find one that you like. With the current housing market the way it is, it’s a great time to look into purchasing.

Always remember to keep a long-term mindset while home buying!

Cell phones

People spend a lot of money on their cell phone plan. You might not realize just how much you’ve spent on that new-fangled phone of yours, but when the bill comes at the end of the month, and you see just where your money goes, you might end up reconsidering those new T-Mobile 4G LTE phones. Take a deep breath, it’s okay. If you want to put the kibosh on your bill, try signing up for a family plan, or jump on the split plan bandwagon. This way you’re not spending too much out of your own pocket and your partner can get in on the action. This will keep both of you well within your financial means. If you have an issue with your spouse wanting more data than you, work something out where you pay just a fraction less for the data plan unless you start using it more. Remember, marriage is about love, longevity, and compromise.

Trips

It’s time for you to go on that beloved honeymoon that you’ve been waiting for since you said “I do” at the altar. Most people go for the typical destinations, and if that’s something you want then go for it. However, if you’re still unsure about where you want to go, start scouring the web for the lesser-travelled places. These destinations tend to be a lot cheaper since the traffic flow is ab it less than average. If you need a helping hand in figuring out where you can spend your honeymoon, you can take to a travel agent. If you want to save a little extra cash, watch the travel channel or other destination oriented network. It might sound a little silly, but you’d be surprised the places you see and the places you can go for just a fraction of the cost of what a normal honeymoon would cost. Who knows, you might even have more fun this way!

Here is a list of 23 best travel sites to check out so you can find big savings on your next adventure.

These are just a few quick and easy tips for saving a little extra during those newlywed years. Can you name a few other ways to keep an extra buck in your pocket?

10 Home Remodeling Do’s and Don’ts

home projects

 

Image by kqedquest

It’s always exciting to do projects that improve the quality as well as the appeal of our home. We all love the smell of a freshly pained house, or the look of new kitchen counters, new decks and new floors.

The cost of home projects, especially major ones, can creep up on us. In 2013 the average cost of a home improvement project was $4000, up by $500 from the previous year. As a nation, we spent over 500 billion on home improvement projects last year alone!

If we’re not careful, these projects can leave us wanting, both in terms of the final price as well as the final result. So what are few basic do’s and don’ts that can prevent us from overpaying and from getting poorly done work?

Do’s

1.   Do your budget! Never start a major home project without first understanding how much your current budget can handle. Take a look at how much cash you can spend on your project and what part would have to be financed.

2.   Do your homework. Whether it’s new kitchen counters, a new deck, or new carpet, you should set aside ample time to do your research. Visit various retailers and learn about their product. Compare both the materials as well as the cost of installment and don’t forget to verify each retailer’s claims on line.

3.   Listen to other customers. In this day and age, customer feedback is easily accessible online. Even though you probably wont find a 100% satisfaction, you’ll be able to pick out general customer experiences. You can also visit sites like ConsumerReports to get independent reviews and product comparisons.

4.   Use licensed, bonded and insured contractors only. Accidents do happen, and if you’re not careful about who does your work and their protection plan, you could be financially liable for whatever happens on your property during the install time.

5.   Learn about warranty on both materials and labor. There are certain home improvements like installing new windows, putting in new floors or new roofing that should never be done until you fully understand the length of the warranty and what it covers. Ask to read through the warranty documentation so you can ask clarifying questions beforehand. Skipping this step could leave you ill-protected.

Don’ts

1.   Don’t make an emotional decision. The thought of upgrading our home can push us to make a rushed, emotional decision that’s based on fantasy and wishes rather than facts. Allow yourself ample time to make an educated, rather than emotional, selection.

2.   Don’t give in to pressure. Many of us have had pushy salesmen coming to our home trying to sell us on the “best” product, only to find out that the cost of that unbelievable product is way outside of our budget. We are then offered a “special” discount if we can make a decision right now. This process can take hours and those who are “week in the knees” and have a hard time saying NO can fall prey to the slick sales tactics.  Never commit to anyone who is pressuring you to spend thousands of dollars without giving you the right to do your due diligence.

3.   Don’t overextend yourself financially. If your home improvement project can wait, you’d be much better off waiting for a season and saving enough cash so you can cover all or most of the project outright. Depending on the size of your project, you can also opt for the 0% financing that some of the retailers offer for a period of 12-18 months. If you do choose to borrow money, make sure that your monthly payment can be easily handled with your current income and can be covered in case of partial income loss. Make sure you are also getting the best interest rate possible and have a plan to pay the project off within a short window of time.

4.   Don’t always go for the cheapest option. Not all products and materials are created equal. Depending on the scope of your project, there are times when it makes sense to go with a higher quality product, especially one that carries a solid warranty.

5.   Don’t be a superhero! Even though you may be very handy, make sure you recognize your limitations when it comes to doing a major home remodeling project. Trying to save on the cost of labor can cost you much more in the future. Calculate the time you’d have to invest, the cost of tools you’d have to purchase and the cost of having to higher someone to correct or redo a botched up job in case something were to go wrong. Only then make a decision on whether you can truly handle the project.

If you pay close attention to these 10 do’s and don’ts, you’ll avoid some very common mistakes, be able to make an educated decision and stay within your set financial boundaries.

100+ Freebies on Your Birthday!

birthday

Image by dixieroadrash

All of us love freebies.  Free gifts, free coffee, free deserts…

What if I told you that you could treat yourself to over 100 freebies and discounts, just because it’s your birthday?

Many retailers understand that making your birthday just a little more special can earn them customer loyalty and additional revenue, hence hundreds of them are ready to shower you with gifts and discounts on your special day.

You could literally have 3 free meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), free dessert and free coffee topped with a free movie rental or a free popcorn at the movies and great discounts on purchases, all in one day!

Don’t believe me? Check out this list of 101 freebies and discounts. Some you can redeem right on the spot by simply providing proof that it indeed is your birthday. Others will ask you to opt in online in order to receive your birthday treats in the mail.

So go ahead, check out this plethora of freebies for both adults as well as children, opt in, and enjoy!

Here is a quick sneak peak of your birthday freebies:

– Start your day with a FREE breakfast at IHOP! This one is actually a triple treat. Simply sign up on line and you’ll receive 3 FREE meals, one of them being on your birthday.

– At lunchtime you can opt for a free medium sub atFirehouse Subs or if you’d rather have a juicy hamburger, you can get your FREE one at Ruby Tuesday.

– After a satisfying lunch you can go out for an afternoon coffee (or another drink of your choice) all on Sturbucks

– In the evening you can opt for a delicious FREE steak dinner or Mexican or Italian dish.

– You will also find 10% – 20% discounts at various retail stores so you can buy yourself a birthday gift at a fraction of the cost.

– If fast food is your thing, there’s plenty of fast food treats waiting for you on your birthday as well.

You may also want to check out your local attractions like a zoo or an aquarium in order to find free of heavily discounted entries.

So here’s to your next birthday full of freebies and fun!