personal finances

Turn your finances around in 2015 – Expert tips to accelerate your financial situation

For the twenty-somethings, the standard advice would be to take a close look at their finances and skip those $5 lattes and Starbucks in order to put that money in the bank. However, Adam Nash, the CEO of Wealthfront says that giving up the $5 latte is secondary to the more important questions of controlling your finances. Do you follow a frugal budget? Are you spending much less than what you make in a month? Are you saving enough funds to meet your goals? If the answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, sit back and enjoy the latte. But if your answer is ‘No’, you need to buck up with your personal finances. Here are some steps that you can take in order to stay on top of your finances.

  1. Know how emotional you are about your money: It is true that when it comes to money, you get a bit wobbly. For instance, you work pretty hard to pay off your mortgages whereas if you would have kept your mortgage for a longer time, you could have got tax breaks for a longer time on your income. Hence, when you take steps to remain debt free, consider the pros and cons of prepaying so that you don’t incur fees and penalty charges in the near future.
  2. Save enough for your emergency fund: The idea is to save enough money so that you live without income for at least 6 months. An emergency fund is more like a buffer and it protects you during times of crisis. In case you’re someone unfortunate who is being derailed with unforeseen events like medical bills and car repairs, then it is this chunk of cash that will help you avoid falling into debt.SunnyImage_Financewand(1)
  3. Think of your net worth: According to a well-known personal finance blogger, always keep a bigger picture of your finances by taking a look at your net worth and not your net balances. If it’s going upwards, you’re definitely doing great. This will always keep you accountable for whatever you do with your personal finances.
  4. Negotiate with your creditors: Most debtors think that their creditors always try to push them further into debt but this is not the fact. You should always negotiate with your creditors and keep them informed about your present financial state. They might have some alternative option for you with which you can get out of debt with ease. You can also get help of the IVA Debt help and advice and obtain an improved debt repayment plan.

If you absolutely love your early morning cup of coffee at Starbucks, you should go for it but at the same time make sure you spend less on the other areas. Try to follow a budget throughout the month so that you have an idea of what you’re spending and what you’re earning. Keep evaluating your budget every month and make necessary changes.


Tips for Getting Your Finances in Order

Your FinancesIt’s that time of year again.  When we start analysing our bank statements and credit card bills, as well as reviewing the fixed rate savings, cash ISAs and personal pensions on the market.  Once the festive season has been and gone, the financial season is well and truly upon us. Yes the new financial year and ISA season is a few months down the line, but now’s the time when we vow to sort out our finances and actually stick to the plans we put in place.

Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

Review your budget – or create your first one

You can’t save if you don’t have a budget. First start by documenting all your income – this will include your monthly salary, any benefits you’re entitled to and any interest you earn on your existing savings. Then you need to track all your outgoings. Your necessary expenses such as bills, rent etc are immediately apparent, but it’s the rest of your spending which is much more difficult to keep track of. Keep a diary of your spending habits so you can track everything you spend, such as your weekly fuel costs or what you are outlaying for food, and once you start doing this it will become easy to see where you can cut back, as well as how much you can save.

Develop a strategy to pay off your debt

You need to get rid of those credit card bills and your bank overdraft. Consider transferring your credit card to one which offers incentives for balance transfers so you can start paying off the debt rather than just the interest. Set aside a lump sum each month that covers more than the interest which will mean living within your means but it will be worth it a few months down the line.

See where you can cut your necessary expenses

Car insurance and your energy bills might be necessary expenses, but it doesn’t mean you can’t look to cut down on these costs. When renewing your car insurance don’t automatically renew; if you shop around on comparison sites you may well find a better deal. The same applies to when it comes to your energy bills. If you quote your existing tariff to a new supplier they’ll always try and beat it to secure your custom. Once you do change also elect to pay by direct debit, as energy suppliers offer better rates to customers who agree up front to meet the payment deadlines.

Other ways to improve your finances include reviewing your savings accounts – whether it’s a fixed rate, instant access or a Cash ISA, as well as checking up on your pension options, whilst also reviewing your living situation, will all help.  Getting your finances in order can be a difficult process, but it’s well worth it.


Personal Finances Checklist for Saving Money

Personal Finances Checklist for Saving Money

A personal finances checklist essentially provides two major benefits: it helps you remember items that may easily be overlooked and provides a detailed step-by-step guide to reaching your end goal, which is saving money. With a checklist in place, most people find that it establishes a higher standard of performance centered around clear goals.

Regardless of what you have been told or have read about saving money and general financial matters, money is a complicated affair. Every individual has different financial situations, goals, income patterns and saving methods. The options available for investment and saving are too numerous to count. This is where a personal finance checklist for saving comes in handy, to review finances on a regular basis and make appropriate changes, so you end up saving money in the long run.

Pay Yourself First

My father made himself a millionaire with a 7th grade education. What he taught me was to take 10% from your paycheck before you pay your bills. He had a saying, “If you make a dime, save a penny.” He taught me this when I was nine years old!

Teach Your Children When They Are Young

So that brings us to the next important step. Teach your children as soon as they are able understand the value of money. When my children was 3 years old I took them to the bank and helped them to open a savings account. Every week we would go to the bank and they would deposit their savings.

Where did the money come from you may be wondering. It came from they getting ten cents every time they put their toys. I paid them in pennies so that they could figure out what they made and take some for a treat, like an ice cream cone.

Credit Card Debt

Debt is a vicious cycle and credit card debt is probably the worst debt trap of all. Numerous frustrated consumers cannot understand why their debt does not lessen even after 10 years of making payments. There is no use saving when in debt; it is advisable to get rid of the debt first. Check on the following:

  • Clearing the credit card debt before using money to pursue other goals saving is pointless when the interest earned on savings is nowhere near what is paid out toward credit card loans.
  • Putting a plan in place to pay off the debt and adhering to the plan
  • Making use of credit card rewards and interest free periods for personal financial benefit

Saving

Acquire knowledge about various saving plans available to be able to make informed decisions about what saving options to choose. Consider the following:

  • Make a sizeable contribution to your employer’s 401k retirement plan
  • Contribute to an alternate saving plan to supplement retirement income
  • Based on eligibility, making a contribution to a Roth IRA
  • Automatic saving account into which a direct deposit is automatically made on a weekly or monthly basis

Investment

Formulate a personal investment strategy and stick to it even when money is in short supply.

  • Invest idle cash
  • Take advantage of tax advantaged accounts such as IRAs

8 Great Apps for Managing Personal Finances

8 Great Apps for Managing Personal Finances

Spending money is easy. Keeping track of the money in our accounts is the hard part. In today’s digital world, much banking is done online. Many people take advantage of banking technology by having their paychecks automatically deposited into their accounts each month. Others sign up for automatic bill pay for all of their monthly bills. These modern conveniences make it easy to keep up with our finances. However, if we don’t always see the cold, hard cash leave our wallets, it can be too easy to overspend or not be aware of all our purchases. With tax season approaching, many people are flailing to gather receipts and account for yearly spending. Get your finances in order with the help of one of these apps for your smartphone.

Mint

This free app for Android, iPhone and iPad devices lets you keep track of your entire financial life in one spot. Receive alerts when bills are due, track your monthly budget, or create savings goals. Easily access your financial information in graph form.

Pageonce

Pageonce is a versatile app, available for all smartphones including Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. View your finances on user-friendly graphs and charts, receive alerts when bills are due, or program the app to warn you when you are about to overspend.

EasyMoney

EasyMoney is an app for Android users only. It features a wide range of tools to keep your entire financial life in order. You can track all of your spending by category. It has the ability to photograph receipts or check registers, allowing you to keep them organized with the rest of your finances. You can try it free for 30 days.

Pocket Money

Pocket Money works with iPhones and iPads. This thorough app leaves no financial stone unturned. Enter every amount spent, or you can set it up to track those monthly expenses that never change. Purchase the Photo Receipts plug-in to easily input your miscellaneous spending. Desktop versions are also available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

MoneyStrands

This app for the iPhone allows you to set up a budget and helps you stick to it. You can view all of your accounts in one place and set it up to receive alerts when bills are due.

Gift List Budget Shopper

This iPhone app is for those who love to shop. The app will help you budget for gifts you intend to purchase, plan shopping trips, and help you search for products via the Internet. There is even a feature for tracking greeting cards.

CheckPlease Lite

CheckPlease Lite is a simplistic app for iPhones. The app can divide the guest check evenly when you are dining out with friends and calculate the tip. It is available in four languages and currencies.

BillMinder

This app organizes all of your monthly bills in calendar format so you can easily see what’s due, how much and when. Use BillMinder for iPhone or iPad to always be on the same financial page as your spouse or other household members. The app will sync with multiple devices, so you can all access the same up-to-date information.

Smartphones open up all sorts of new possibilities for managing and handling your personal finances. Take advantage of these to stay organized and save money. Visit billeater.com four more helpful Money-saving tips.


Do You Need to Make a Financial Change?

Do You Need to Make a Financial Change?

Do you feel like you need to make changes? Is your budget just not working out? You might not feel comfortable with your income and expenses, or be unsure how to approach money. If you need a change, here are some questions that can help you get on track and find your way.

Where Am I?

Evaluating where you currently stand is essential before any other financial steps that you are considering. Even on a small scale, this is true; how would you compare car insurance rates without first evaluating what type of car insurance you need? Take the following points to get you started:

  • What is your debt situation? Take a look at your debt-to-income ratio, how your debt is spread out (i.e. in credit cards or personal loans, at a variety of interest rates?), and so forth.
  • Consider your savings goals. Do you have certain financial goals that you wish to meet? Are you on target to meet them?
  • How do you organize everything? Do you have an efficient system for keeping your budget, accounts, and important documents in order?

Note that some ways to improve your finances are complementary to one another. In the last point above, simply changing the way you budget can help you get more organized, and in turn produce financial results.

What Do I Do First?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. While it might take time to conquer debt and get a truly comfortable hold on your finances, there are always ways to take small steps to your goals.There is one tip that doesn’t involve anything special: it begins with your budget. Once you start devising your budget, take a step-by-step look at your finances and where there is opportunity to save money. By keeping up to date with your insurance options, credit card choices, and your general living expenses, you can take a systematic approach to managing your money.

Look at your familiar problem areas, and also any that you haven’t addressed in some time. If you haven’t, for instance, taken the time to compare car insurance rates in the past –or just haven’t done it recently– then perhaps there’s an opportunity to find a lower premium if you look around. From saving to investing money, you might be able to identify relatively simple ways to help right your financial ship, so to speak.

“Can I Do That Myself?”

Yes, you usually can! It’s often a matter of motivation. There are some poor personal finance habits that are caused by a lack of financial know-how. Maybe disorganization and a poor memory are to blame, in part or in full, for other financial woes. Both these problems can be remedied if you apply yourself to picking up the skills you need. Consistency and motivation make up one of the most important dynamic tandems in personal finance. Keeping yourself on track and moving forward is very important for success.

Spend some time on a complete overhaul of your finances. Look at ways to save money, get out of debt, and make your money work for you with term deposits or other savings and investments. At the end of the day, your success will come down to organization and execution. You need to stay motivated and consistent, and simply keep working toward your goals one step at a time.

What will it take to improve your finances? Whether you think you need an extra job, or just a tweak to your budgeting methods, what needs to change? Start asking yourself some financial questions to figure out your way forward.

Citations:

This article is by personal finance blogger Brian Neese, who shares his car insurance comparison tips and term deposit rates updates online to help ordinary people save and make money.


New Software to Run your Finances

New Software to Run your Finances

Economy seems to have been the buzz word for the last couple of years. Everyone is paying more attention to the economy, their jobs, and especially their finances. With technology on the rise, and their prices getting more affordable, many are turning towards tech to help keep their finances in order and save as much money as possible.

The economy’s future is unknown, but your finances and budget don’t have to be. If you are also turning to your computer or smartphone to help manage your finances, then you should consider the software and apps you will need in order to stay organized. Here is some of the most popular software to keep you on top of your finances.

You Need a Budget:

YNAB is personal finance software that implores 4 rules of budgeting. Each rule is implemented in the software as well as teaches you how to look at your money differently. These rules include giving each dollar a job, save for a rainy day, roll with the punches, and stop living paycheck to paycheck. More than just a system for their software, these rules can be applied to everyday spending.

The software shows you how to create your budget and stick with it. You can import your bank statements to see where your money is going, where it has been, and how much you are saving. The software remembers everything from your normal bills, to the larger infrequent payments that need to be made. There is even an iPhone and Android app available for managing your budget on the go. You can try it for free, but the full version of the software is $60 and is available for Mac and Windows.

Manilla:

This is an online service that basically puts all of your bills in one place. By adding all of your accounts, Manilla will show balances due, payments that have been made and reminds you of when your payments are coming up. You can easily track all of your utilities and other bills with one password. This service is meant to help avoid late fees and overdraft charges by offering an easier way to view your monthly bills. Currently Manilla is n beta and is free to sign up.

AceMoney:

Since Microsoft Money is no longer supported or upgraded, many are looking for full featured software to replace it. AceMoney is one of those software suites. It is a cheap solution that offers downloadable transactions, budgeting, and investment tracking, plus much more. The software tracks your spending habits and shows you how to budget your money more effectively. You can view reports in AceMoney or export it to your favorite spreadsheet format.

Buxfer:

This software does it all. It allows you to upload reports from your accounts, track payments, and even set spending limits. If there is more than one in the family with access to your accounts, you can even track shared expenses and spending. For those who want to keep an eye on your budget while on the go, there is an iPhone app available to see where your finances stand no matter where you are.

Either the economy needs to improve or we need to improve our budgeting. If your finances are on your mind, look to technology and the many different software suites available for managing your personal budget and spending. Take the small amount of time it takes to enter your account information and yield the rewards of a better financial future.

Author Thomas Hathaway is a finance consultant and contributor for payday loans uk, a site that provides more information and cash advances when you need an advance on your regular paycheck.


The best budgeting software to help you manage your personal finances

The best budgeting software to help you manage your personal finances

When it comes to managing your finances, staying on top and staying in control are crucial. Whether you want to maintain a big money share portfolio, monitor multiple savings accounts or simply keep a close check on your grocery spends each week, keeping accurate budget reports are crucial for keeping track of how your money is performing and where it is going.
For many people, the idea of budgets and spreadsheets fill them with dread, but luckily there are now a host of online and desktop software solutions which can keep accurate records of your finances. There are many different options for personal finance tools for both PC and Mac users and the best ones can really help to take the stress out of budget control. Here are some of our favorites:

GnuCash (Windows, Mac and Linux)
www.gnucash.org
For those loathe to spend money on software, GnuCash offers a powerful desktop solution, and best of all it’s completely free. It is built by volunteers as an open source project and is effective enough for use by small businesses as well as for those wanting to keep track of their personal finances. It is desktop based meaning you have access to your accounts offline and its intuitive interface allows you to keep accurate records of your stocks, bank accounts income and expenses. Built firmly on time-tested accounting principles it will help you balance the books with double-entry accounting and professional-standard reports.

Mint (web based)
www.mint.com
Another option that gets a big thumbs up in the dollar saving stakes, as it’s also free to use. It’s a web-based solution which means you can use it on any machine with a decent internet browser, but also means you’ll need to have online access whenever you want to check your finances. Cloud-based systems have become a lot more secure in recent years so you shouldn’t have any concerns from that point of view, although there are many people who would still prefer the comfort of a desktop solution for their financial accounting. But if you’re happy with a cloud-based system, then Mint offers an easy-to-use and elegant option. You can access from your computer or phone and see all your balances and transactions in one place. It will also help you track investments, send you reminders when bills are due and even offers tips on how to save and get the most from your money.

Quicken (Windows, Mac)
www.quicken.com
The daddy of personal finance software from the same people behind Mint. This is the top choice in America and for good reason. It’s not cheap though and will set you back between $49.99 and $99.99 depending which version you want. But what you get is a powerful day-to-day budgeting package, with cash flow graphs, bill reminders, automatic and intuitive budget goals and quick and clear analyses of where your money is going. It can even help you plan for retirement, set up debt reduction plans and alert you to any unusual account activity.

Christopher Moriarty is a writer with a passion for personal finance. Christopher blogs about family finance issues including credit card charges and Mis-Sold PPI claims as well as other personal finance topics such as investing and mortgages


Developing Good Money Habits

Developing Good Money Habits

In the face of some of our country’s toughest economic times, we are forced to get back to the basics of imagination and creativity. Here are a few tips to getting your personal finances under control, while establishing habits to save money and create savings for your future.

Put Your Household on a Budget

  • First, determine how much you have been spending in categories such as food, utilities, entertainment, auto expenses, school and work lunches, childcare, etc. List the mandatory items before luxury or entertainment.
  • Next, take a realistic look at your take-home income from all sources
  • Now set up a spreadsheet (Excel is a great tool for this) reflecting your monthly income, actual expense categories and see if this is leaving you money for emergency savings, vacations, school tuition, etc.
  • Set up a budget column, filled in with an ideal cap on each expense category and a minimum contribution to your savings and goal categories each month.
  • Fill in what you spend in the “actual” column and see how it compares to the budget column each month. Keeping track of your household budget will reveal your spending habits, as well as which items you can adjust to bring them into line.

Groceries – Buy Only What You Need

  • Live within your means. Buy groceries for the week, and clean out your fridge before you shop; tossing out wilted or expired foods.
  • Plan out a weekly dinner menu and include your favorite staples on the grocery list. Buy only the freshest ingredients that you need for your planned meals; they are healthier and your family will enjoy them more.
  • Don’t get lured into bulk purchases just because they are on sale.
  • Save money by choosing from the top and bottom shelves; the more expensive (and usually less nutritious) items will always be at eye level.

Credit Cards

  • Keep your card limits low. Once you have made consistent payments for six months or so, the card companies will usually boost up your limit (to entice you to spend more). Simply call them and request that they lower them back down
  • Cut up cards you don’t need, but keep the accounts open, as they are part of your good credit history.
  • Don’t use your credit cards to buy things you can’t afford; this is where you get into real trouble. Remember that your charges constitute a “loan” and would you really go out and get a personal loan at 18 percent interest?
  • Using your debit card for purchases will remind you to spend what you have and limit impulse buying.

Cut Down on Your Utilities

  • Weather-strip your doors and windows; a ¼ inch gap at the bottom of your front door is the equivalent of a 3” square hole; an escape hatch for your heated or cooled indoor airflow.
  • Most power companies have a plan where they spread your annual cost evenly into monthly payments. You pay the same amount each month instead of getting hit with enormous bills to pay 3-4 months out of the year.
  • Use fans in the summertime as they take less electricity to run than your air conditioning; in extreme heat, your A/C can be set higher while running a fan to circulate the air in warmer rooms.
  • Change your filters regularly; your heating and cooling will be much more efficient and save you money.
  • Cancel your land line telephone; if you use a cell phone then you mostly likely have free long distance, call forwarding and voicemail, etc.
  • Plant shade trees around your home to keep the sun off your windows. Though “desert” landscaping saves watering, it can raise your inside temperature by 10 degrees.

Becoming more aware of your actual spending habits is not only a huge wake up call, but gives you a much greater sense of control. Your wasteful expenditures will be very obvious, as will the solutions. Coming up with ways to save money each month can be a fun and challenging exercise, giving all family members the tools to create their own financial freedom.

Sheila Barnett writes on personal finance and budgeting tips for Financial Calculator, a website dedicated to helping you plan for your personal financial and retirement needs. Her favorite tool on the site is the investment calculator.


First New Years Goal: Budget Your Personal Finances

For many the New Year ushers in chances to get things better. You can get the edge by spending quality time budgeting your personal finances.

Another day, another dollar. Another year, another chance to reach and exceed your financial goals and objectives. Of course, you’ll find it easier to surpass your financial expectations if you’ve taken the time to map out what is happening with the money that comes into and passes out of your life.

When we fail to plan for the necessities in our lives, emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances tend to sneak up and rob us of any reserves we might have accumulated. The only thing worse than seeing your savings depleted is to see your high interest rate debt increase because that’s the only way you have to pay for the unexpected.

Asses Where You’re At
Once you have determined that it makes sense planning this year’s financial future, you’ll want to be sure to set aside time for current assessment. It has been said that if you don’t know where you are, you won’t know where you’re going.
From a financial planning perspective this actually makes sense. Many people simply have no idea how much debt they’ve accumulated over the past few years. If you are not spending regular time understanding where the money goes, it can be a frightening experience to wake up and see the red, red bottom line.

As you begin the process of budgeting your personal finances, don’t worry about what the facts tell you. Collecting the information from your various accounts might be time consuming, and depending upon what that data tells you, it could even be discouraging. Just make notes of everything you find. How much money is available in your various accounts, savings, credit limits, etc.

Track Reoccurring Payments
If you have set up any sort of recurring payments, make notes of them as well. You’ll want to know what to expect as each month of the New Year comes around. Don’t forget about the occasional expenditures which might not be a regular thing. If you only buy shoes a few times a year, or need haircuts irregularly, simply make note of what you spend on those activities.

Record Cash Spending
It’s also important to understand where you pocket cash is spent. Sometimes it can be a real challenge to account for several hundred dollars every week that came directly out of your pocket. If this might apply to you, consider carrying around a pocket sized note pad and writing down the amount and description of every expenditure you make for a week or two. It can be a hassle to remember this for every little purchase, but if you’re able to, you will get a real sense for how much and what you are spending your pocket money on.

Having a clear picture of what you own and where your money is going is but half of the equation. The next big thing you’ll want to do in the New Year to take control of your personal finances is to develop a plan for where you hope to be by year’s end.

This may be a literal thing if travel is a part of your resolutions, or it could simply mean meeting monetary goals this year. One of the most amazing things about goals and plans for achieving them is that once you’ve done the work to develop a strategy, very often achieving success is easier and much faster than you would have ever thought possible.

Remember, it’s never too late to take a few hours and get your personal finances in order and on track to achieving your goals, dreams and desires. Once you’ve put in the time, you might also consider using some of the amazing online and downloadable tools available on the Internet. It is so much easier to stay on track once you get on track and the software and services available can make that process easy and painless.

Jessica Bower is a freelance writer for Quicken. Quicken offers money management that makes money management easy. Quicken’s products help people get their spending under control with helpful budgeting tips.


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