6 Ways to Shed Pounds on a Dime!

Lose pounds on a dime

Springtime is when many of us recommit to shedding extra pounds in order to be ready for those hot summer months. The thought of hitting the pool or going to the beach is causing us to pick back up our new years resolution.

Losing pounds and getting in shape can cost us quite a nice sum of money (over $600 a year, on average), so here are a few tips to help you get in shape without spending a fortune!

Gym memberships have become much more affordable over time, yet there are ways your membership can cost you more than intended, if you don’t pay close attention.

Make sure that you negotiate a “no contract” membership.

This will allow you to use the gym as long as needed, but will also provide you with the flexibility of “shopping around” or simply quitting. In order to recruit new members, gyms often run specials on month-to-month deals so be on the lookout! Many gyms will offer 24/7 access for a premium price, but do you really need that 24/7 access?

DO NOT use your debit card!

Gyms are notorious for drafting money from clients accounts, even after multiple requests for cancellation. In order to protect yourself from being overcharged, make sure you understand your cancellation policy. It will often require a 30-60 day notice in writing. Once you understand your cancellation policy, ask if you can pay with a check every month.

Many states require health clubs to accept checks as a form of payment, so make sure you know what your state’s requirements are before you commit to a payment plan.

If you cannot pay via check, use your credit card instead of your debit card. By doing so, you’ll be able to more effectively fight off those extra charges. Disputing debit charges is a more lengthy and difficult process.

Fresh air is FREE

Getting in shape does not have to cost you money. Spring time is a great season to get your tennis shoes on and go for a run or take a long walk. Check nearby parks and colleges in your area. Many of them will have running tracks or great trails for walking, running, or biking.

Local YMCA

Your local YMCA may be a better and a cheaper solution to the traditional gym membership. You may not get the 24/7 access you can with most gyms nowadays, but you will get, in most cases, access to a swimming pool, gym equipment, as well as various classes. Since the YMCA will charge you based on your income, you may qualify for a deeper discount based on your financial situation. Local YMCA is also a great fitness option for the entire family so that you, your spouse, and your children may enjoy the facilities! That’s one benefit that your traditional gym most likely won’t offer. You can search for your local YMCA here!

Community College

Many community colleges offer inexpensive access to their gym and pool facilities, so make sure you check those out. Your hours will be somewhat limited due to class schedules, but the cost savings may be worth it.

Social Media

You can find endless FREE workout plans and videos by simply using google, youtube, pinterest, etc. You can create your own workout routine and use your home as your personal gym! Maybe your neighbor would like to join you to help with accountability? How about making a 5am workout date with your spouse? Combine those free workout tools with a free online calorie counting app, like myfitnesspal, and you are set!

Go ahead and use springtime as your “back in shape” season… Do it on a dime… or for FREE!

 

All-New Mvelopes Budgeting Apps for your Smartphone, Tablet, Kindle, and PC!

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We’re ecstatic to announce the release of a new, beautifully crafted suite of personal finance applications!

Following on our recent release of our updated web app for your PC, Mvelopes 4.1, we now have all new apps for iOS and Android smartphones, as well as our first ever tablet and Kindle apps.

Life Impact

Those of you who’ve been using Mvelopes for a while know that it produces real financial results!

Our users have paid off over $1 Billion in credit card debt and have increased their checking and savings account balances by over $200 Million to date! We couldn’t be more excited about seeing more lives positively impacted through the release of our new apps.

 “We were constantly overdrawing our checking account and not able to account for where our money had gone…Then, we found Mvelopes, and we started using it. It is so easy to use and understand. I actually look forward to our “budget meetings” now! It has allowed us to tell our money where to go, and not the other way around. We have eliminated $30,000 in debt in just the last year, and we are on a fast track to eliminating all of our debt except for our mortgage.” – Abby

What’s NEW

Inbox_phonescreen_androidA new inbox view automatically creates a new transaction when users spend money, which is then assigned to a spending envelope. This helps users stay on top of their budget on a day-to-day basis.

Other new features with this release include:

    • Beautiful new UI design
    • New user signup/enrollment directly from the mobile apps
    • New user income, budget, and funding wizard
    • Thumb-friendly transaction assignment/matching
    • Beautiful envelope detail views
    • Attach receipt images to transactions

Love’s Pouring In!

Mvelopes Tablet AppHere is just a “snippet” of some early love our new apps have been receiving. We hope all of you will find as much success in your finances as John and his wife…especially now, with all of these new great apps available to you at home or on-the-go!

 “Then the other day the iPad and iPhone versions were released. I downloaded both versions and started using them. They are great. All three versions, Internet, iPad, and iPhone are consistent, intuitive, and work well. Mvelopes has hit a home run with these versions. My wife and I have been married 45 years and until we started using Mvelopes we never were able to successfully live on a budget. But since we started using Mvelopes, we have lived within our budget, saved money, and we reserve for expenses like car and house insurance and maintenance, and other recurring expenses. I can honestly say that using Mvelopes has been the best financial decision we have made in all the years of our marriage.” John Young

Get the New Apps

The free, all-new Mvelopes apps are available for download in the App Store, Google Play and via the Amazon App store.

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                 Watch Our Awesome New Video

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Should You Rent or Buy? It All Depends – Take a Look

Rent or Buy

Roughly 32 percent of the U.S. population rents their home, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. What the statistic can’t tell you is why. People choose to rent or own for a variety of reasons—it can be about freedom, lifestyle preference, and sometimes it just comes down to a matter of money. If you’re trying to figure out whether you should rent or buy, take the following into consideration.

Good Reasons to Rent

Fresh out of college isn’t the best time to buy a home. You could decide to change jobs or relocate, and you may not be able to afford housing expenses like repairs and utilities. Renting enables you to simply call your landlord to fix anything that goes wrong. You have greater freedom to move if you decide you want a less expensive place or to switch neighborhoods. And if you don’t like being tied down, renting gives the flexibility to take a job in a new city without having to sell your home first.

In some areas of the country, it’s better to rent than buy. CBS News reports that in the Wydown Skinker neighborhood of St. Louis, it would take 7.7 years of home ownership to save money buying over renting. It’s also difficult to predict the ups and downs of real estate. You could find yourself with a home that loses value and end up selling it for less than you bought it for.

Home ownership also means tying up your down payment in a house instead of investing the money into a retirement or high-yield savings account. Meanwhile, your rental deposit is returned if you comply with your rental agreement.

But Then Again, You Could Buy

Depending on your location and housing preference, buying is usually more expensive than renting a home, at least at the start. Closing costs, taxes, private mortgage insurance, maintenance fees and homeowners association fees add up, as do emergency repairs. Of course, the mortgage payment you make each month goes into building equity in your own home, so when you sell you could not only recoup your money but turn a profit. If you rent, that money is simply gone. To help you figure out which is better in your particular situation, use the New York Times rent vs. buy calculator.

Buyers can make any renovation they wish to their home, whereas renters cannot. It’s your place, and you can do whatever you want with it. During lean times, buyers can even customize their own property and rent it out.

Coming up with the cash for a healthy down payment is often a big obstacle for those who would like to purchase their own home. Some people choose to borrow the money from their 401(k) or IRA. Others sell their future structured settlement payments for a lump sum of cash now. Check out a company like J.G. Wentworth on FaceBook to learn more about selling your future payments.

Still struggling to decide? Remember that the only right answer to renting or owning is living somewhere you can afford. Don’t needlessly stretch yourself thin or get in over your head. What you really need is a safe, comfortable place to live in.

Mvelopes 4.1 – New Updates!

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Dear Mvelopes users,

As you continue enjoying all of the new features and updates of our 4.1 release, we have more good news for you! Here is a list of the latest improvements and fixes:

– For our Free users, we’ve added our Mvelopes Assistant to our Help menu, should you need help getting things set up.

– You’ll now be auto logged in to our user forums when you access them from our web app.

– By hitting the “enter” key you will save the changes made to transactions while inline editing them.

– The “Fully Funded” status is now shown only when the funding plan amounts match the budget goal for each envelope in Funding Plan.

Here is to becoming debt-free, living a life of financial fitness, and achieving all of your financial goals and dreams!

The Mvelopes Team

[Working tirelessly on the awesomeness of your Mvelopes experience]

5 MUST USE Financial Calculators

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Money is an essential part of our daily lives. We earn it, borrow it, spend it, or try to grow it. There is not a day that goes by when money and finances are absent.

Since managing money is such a big part of our day-to-day activities, here is a list of financial calculators we should keep in mind. These calculators will educate us, make us more aware, help us make sound financial decisions, and, if we pay attention, prevent us from making big financial mistakes.

What’s the REAL cost?

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself: What’s the real cost of that item I’m buying? Every time you choose credit as the form of payment, you’ll pay a premium. I’m sure you know that. Too many of us, however, dismiss the real cost of an item as long as the monthly payment seems to fit our monthly budget.

Next time you’re about to purchase something with credit, use this simple real cost calculator in order to understand the final price of the item. As an example, a $10,000 loan taken out for 5 years at a 5% interest rate will add $1,322.74 to your final price. Are you ok paying additional $1300 for that item?

Debt payoff calculator

Do you have a clear idea of your debt payoff dates? Do you know the difference an additional $20, $50 or $100 could make to your debt payoff date or how much interest you could save by making those additional payments?

Here is an easy to use debt payoff calculator . Simply enter how much you owe, your interest rate and the monthly payment you plan on making and voila, you’ll get your payoff date as well as the amount of interest you’ll end up paying. You can use this calculator to adjust your monthly payment amount in order to see how that new amount will impact your payoff date as well as your interest.

Once you’re done adding all of your debts, print your list out and use it to keep yourself accountable for achieving your debt elimination goals!

How much do i need for retirement?

Retirement is something most of us will face, sooner or later. Regardless of our current age, we should at least be aware of how much money we’ll need in order to cover our financial needs during retirement.

This retirement calculator is a great first step to help you figure out your ball park figure and see if your current retirement saving strategy is on par with your final goal.

Knowing what amount of money you’ll need will help you adjust your current budget in order to make room for more long-term savings. As always, the sooner you start saving for retirement, the better, since compound interest will have more time to work in your favor!

How much home can I afford?

Many experts suggest you should not spend more than 30% of your gross monthly income on housing. We would take an even more conservative stance and suggest spending 25% or less of your gross monthly income on housing. A recent report shows that the number of Americans who are spending more than 30% of their income on housing is growing, which puts many families in a financially dangerous position.

Here is a calculator that helps you determine how much house you can afford. Keep in mind that many calculators factor in spending between 30%-36% of your gross monthly income on housing. So as you use them, bring your final “affordable amount” down to 25% of your gross monthly income.

Mortgage payoff calculator

Becoming completely debt-free, including your mortgage, should be a goal of every individual or family. Owing nothing creates incredible freedom and options, plus it reduces financial stress tremendously.

Consumer debt should be prioritized ahead of mortgage payoff, but once you’ve eliminated all of your consumer debt, your mortgage should be next in line. Here is a calculator that helps you understand how additional payments towards principal (whether made monthly or annually) will shave off time and interest from your mortgage payment. You’ll be amazed at the difference that even an additional $50 per month can make!

This calculator will also give you your new amortization schedule so you can proudly track your mortgage payoff goal!

We hope that these 5 essential calculators will help you make better financial decisions, ditch debt faster, and avoid overpaying for items! If you need more tangible, one-on-one help, with eliminating debt and accelerating your savings, connect with one of our Money4Life experts!

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How much money do I need for retirement?

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How much money do I need for retirement?

If you are in your 20’s, 30’s or even 40’s, you’re most likely not thinking, or at least not much, about retirement. Many of us feel like we have plenty of time to think and plan for retirement, hence we prioritize today’s needs and wants and we tend to minimize our future needs.

According to a recent survey, Americans are feeling much better about their retirement, yet 36% of workers have less than $1000 saved and 44% have no clue how much they’ll need in order to retire.

In most cases, it does not matter how good we “feel” about our retirement, many of us are ill equipped and very unprepared to face those retirement years.

There are multiple things you can do, depending on your age and your financial position, in order to become better prepared

Figure out the “magic” number

Estimating your retirement income needs should your first step. Even though the number will be just an estimate, it will help you create a doable plan of action. You may not be able to start saving towards that goal 100%, but at least you’ll have a “specific number” to strive towards.

Estimating your retirement income is really not that hard. There are many wonderful tools to help you do that in just a few minutes or even seconds.

CNN Money has a great visual calculator to help you get a general idea of your target number by simply putting in your age, your retirement age, your current salary, your current savings and the percentage of your income that’s being set aside towards retirement .

This calculator does not get into the nitty gritty of your current assets, debt levels etc. but it’s a great tool to give you a “ball park” figure.

Bankrate is another great resource for quite a few retirement calculators. Unlike the CNN Money calculator, Bankrate’s tools get into the specifics of your finances in order to help you get a more accurate number on your future retirement needs.

Are you in your 20’s or 30’s?

Here is a list of items you should pay close attention to in order to maximize your retirement contributions:

Employer match

This one is a no brainer. If your employer offers a matching program for your retirement, you should contribute at least the percentage of the match. Since your contribution is with pre-tax dollars you won’t feel it as badly in your actual paycheck.

Roth IRA

No employer match option? Start your own Roth IRA. You can contribute up to $5,500 a year towards your retirement. That’s $230 each paycheck, if you want the maximum benefit. Since your Roth IRA is a post-tax contribution. This means, you won’t have to pay taxes upon withdrawal. Another benefit to the Roth IRA, is that you can access the principal (not the interest earned) without penalties!

Transportation costs

Many young people choose to invest money in expensive cars rather than prepare themselves for the future. If you have a car payment that’s $350 – $450 per month, you are most likely cheating yourself in the long run. Combine your car payment with a higher gasoline cost (if you’re driving a gas guzzler) and a higher cost of insurance, and you have just identified a “black financial hole” that could be reclaimed for your future benefit.

Are you in your 40’s or 50’s?

Debt

There is nothing better you can do for your financial future than to eliminate all of your consumer debt. This stage is no time to accumulate more debt. It’s time to become debt-free! Figure out a strategy that makes sense for you, whether it’s attacking your highest interest debt first or your smallest balance one in order to create a quick financial win. Make a plan and go after it with determination. make a commitment not to carry a revolving credit. At this stage of your life you should have no other debt other than your home mortgage to focus on.

Mortgage free!

You should make it your goal to own your home outright by the time you retire, or earlier. being completely debt-free will tremendously expand your retirement options and will stretch those retirement dollars much further! Recent statistics show a troubling trend. More and more homeowners carry their mortgage into retirement. As many as 30% of those who are 70 years old still have a mortgage payment! That’s additional $800 – $1200 a month that could be used for other expenses like health care.

You still have time, so make it your goal to wipe out your mortgage payment as soon as possible. Adding even as little as $50 a month to your principal can shave off years from your mortgage.

Are you in your late mid 50’s to mid 60’s?

Long-term care insurance

 This is a great time to look into a long-term care insurance. Avoid any surprises by learning about the financial cost that long-term insurance carries. Make sure you know what each option covers and more importantly what it DOES NOT cover. Here is a quick glance at long-term insurance care:

 ·   Pays for home care, assisted living or nursing home care.

 ·   A 50-year-old buying a typical policy—one that would pay a daily $200 benefit for 3 years with a 3% compound inflation option—is now $2,235 annually, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care insurance.

 ·   Two options are available: Unlimited lifetime benefits OR fixed benefits—make sure you know what you are getting.

 ·   The best time to buy long-term care insurance is between the ages of 55 – 64.

 ·   Once you purchase insurance, the insurance provider cannot cancel or raise your rates based on changes in your health.

As you can see, each age group can take certain steps to assure the best retirement possible. Don’t get overwhelmed, just do something and you’ll be ahead of many in your generation.

Take it one step at a time. With a little planning, awareness and willingness to do what’s necessary, you’ll position yourself very well for your “golden” years.

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Your Mvelopes Data is Safe!

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A major vulnerability in the technology that powers encryption across much of the internet was made public on April 7th, 2014. It has been called the Heartbleed bug. Like many other teams, we took immediate action to examine our systems for any vulnerability in our infrastructure. We can report that we made appropriate patches quickly and are safe from this vulnerability. However, we strongly recommend that you change your Mvelopes password.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:   What is Heartbleed?

A:   Heartbleed is a bug that causes a serious vulnerability that could expose a user’s passwords to hackers who take advantage of them.  To learn more, go to http://heartbleed.com/

Q:   Is my information safe?

A:   Yes, Mvelopes is safe. However, your information on other websites may have been exposed. Please look for information on those sites to know if you were at risk.  Additionally, if you use the same username and password on Mvelopes that you do on other websites, your password may have been exposed on those sites, and we would recommend changing it in here to be safe.

Q:   I ran a heartbleed checker on another site, and it didn’t have information about Mvelopes.  Why is that?

A:   Some checkers do not return correct results or time out.  We have no control over those sites but have reviewed our systems and Mvelopes.com, our APIs, and our apps are clear.

Image via https://familysearch.org/blog/en/familysearch-data-safe/

We’re Bringing The RED Back…And Much More!

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Thank you all for making the Mvelopes 4.1 release a great success!

We’ve received hundreds of comments telling us how much you enjoy the new updates. We hope that these changes will ultimately result in even greater financial success for you and your family.

That said, we haven’t stopped working on improving Mvelopes and are excited to share these new updates with you:

First, we heard you loud and clear and decided to bring the RED back!

We’ve received overwhelming feedback from many of you that you want to see RED for all negative account and envelope balances, and use BLACK for positive account and envelope balances.  Also, we’ll now have positive amounts as GREEN for the Inbox, Account, and Envelope registers, while negative amounts here will be in BLACK.

Next, we fixed the “Save & New” button when creating a new Transaction, and Mvelopes will also now remember your preference for when you want an envelope group view to be expanded to collapsed.

There was also a fix made to our Funding Plan and grouped paychecks, it is more stable now as we’ve addressed a bug that several of you reported.  Plus, we’ve identified several other performance and formatting items that have been cleaned up across the app.  We’re hard at work going through each and every piece of Mvelopes to make it the best personal finance solution on the planet and hope these enhancements and fixed help us do just that!

Our hope is that as you continue using Mvelopes, you’ll actually stop seeing red, and instead, you’ll see higher savings account balances, lower debt amounts, and your periodic expense envelopes fully-funded. But, as we all are working to improve our situation every day, one day at a time, we hope this helps call attention where it is needed so you can take action!

Thanks again for allowing us to be part of your financial turnaround,

The Mvelopes Team

Is There Such a Thing as a “No Closing Cost” Loan?

No closing cost loan

Is there such a thing as a “no closing cost” loan?

Whether buying a new home or refinancing your current mortgage, you’ll most likely find plenty of lenders advertising a “no closing cost” loan.

For many who are short on cash,  “no closing cost” terms may seem like a great deal, but is there really such a thing as a “no closing cost” loan?

Have you ever heard that “there is no such thing as a free lunch?”. Well, this applies to home loans as well. Every time you hear “no closing cost” in reference to a home loan, please remember that even though you will not have to pay that specific cash amount upfront during the closing time, you will eventually be charged for that amount.

You’ll either pay a higher interest rate over the course of your loan or your lender will add that amount into the actual loan balance, which you’ll be paying off over the duration of your loan.

If you are considering a purchasing a house or a refinancing, please run the numbers first and see if “financing” your closing cost will make financial sense. Often you will be better off paying your closing cost with cash. Rolling closing costs into the loan and paying interest on it or accepting a higher interest rate will, most likely, cost you more in the long run.

As a rule of thumb, a “no closing cost” loan will make sense for those who either: do not have cash to pay up front, or those who are not planning to stay in their home for more than 5 years.

If you are buying a home that you hope to live in for the next decade or possibly a lifetime, then you are better off saving enough cash to pay for your closing cost up front.

Having and sticking to a solid budget will help you with buying and keeping your home! If you are considering purchasing a home or refinancing, start with a solid budget first. Make budgetary adjustments in order to save cash for your closing cost, and make sure that the home you’re considering will not exceed 25% – 30% of your gross annual income!

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Debt Elimination for Your Personality

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Did you know that your personality greatly influences your finances? Have you ever paused to reflect on how your personal strengths and weaknesses contribute to your current financial position?

The truth is that not many of us think about finances and our unique personality all at the same time. When in trouble or looking for financial help, we most likely seek “expert” advice and “best practices” from those who were able to overcome that particular obstacle. We assume that what worked for that individual will surely work for us, if we just try hard enough. What we seldom or possibly never take into consideration are our own personality traits and how they influence our ability to succeed.

According to Cambridge Personality Research quite a few financial companies are looking at an individual’s personality in order to predict their ability to repay debt! Yes, financial institutions recognize that our character and personality matter greatly when it comes to their financial success, hence they came up with a “personality formula” that gives the highest debt repayment probability. Here it is: If you’re an optimist, have high self-esteem and if you’re not a compulsive buyer, your chances of repaying debt are superb.

So if financial institutions are taking our personalities into consideration, so should we. Especially when it comes to ditching our debt and enjoying a debt-free future.

Finding the “right” method to pay down debt will depend on more than just interest rates and our debt balance.  There are at least two schools of thought. One says to pay the smallest balance first and the other suggests tackling the one with the highest interest rate. I would argue that a few more factors need to be take into consideration as you look at eliminating your debt.

Do you get discouraged easily?

If you’re an emotional individual who lacks patience and tends to get discouraged quickly, then paying off your smallest balance first will give you a quicker positive emotional experience and a reason to celebrate. Achieving a quick win will give you a better chance of sticking with your long-term debt repayment plan. Since debt repayment, for most of us, is a marathon and not a sprint, it requires long-term commitment and stamina. Being able to celebrate quick wins along the way will help you stay encouraged to keep going.

If sticking to the plan and ability to commit long term are non-issues, then you will do very well with tackling higher interest and larger balance debts first. Your personality type gives you enough natural safeguards against quitting; hence you don’t need to score a win as fast as others. All you need to know is that you’re making a steady progress toward an established goal.

How healthy is your monthly cash flow?

If you struggle with your monthly cash flow, if making ends meet is an issue and you tend to use debt to compensate for your cash deficit, I would suggest tackling your smallest debt first, for a few reasons. You’ll be able to take that payment amount and roll it over to your next smallest debt or split it in half and use one portion to apply to your next debt and the second half to create some breathing room in your monthly cash flow. In order to eliminate debt, you first need to stop using debt. If paying off your smallest balance will give you that extra $50 or $100 a month needed to stop the cash deficit, then you should go for it.

If cash flow is not an issue and you are managing your month-to-month expenses well, tackling your highest interest debt will make sense, especially if the interest rate you carry on that debt is fairly large.

Debt roll down…The most effective debt payoff method

The best debt pay off method includes having a written spending plan (budget) where every single dollar is assigned to a specific spending category and you’re committed to stick to those boundaries.

Commitment to live within your means will make or break your long-term debt repayment.

Choosing to pay smallest balance first versus highest interest rate debt using the debt roll down is a very common and effective strategy to eliminate debt fast. Once one debt is eliminated, instead of absorbing that payment amount into the monthly cash flow, it should be reassigned to the next debt payment, and then to the next one.

So before you dive into your debt repayment strategy, take a few minutes and think about not only how quickly you’d like to become debt-free, but also about your personal strengths and weaknesses that can help or hinder you from being successful in ditching your debt.

[Photo credit:www.LendingMemo.com]