Tag: Just For Fun

 

4 Things Daenerys Stormborn Could Teach You About Money

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She walks through fire. She frees entire cities of slaves. She has dragons at her beck and call.

Without a doubt, Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons is the fiercest character on Game of Thrones.

She’s also one of the most complicated, and one of the most admirable. While I don’t agree with her every decision, I do believe she can teach us something about life — and about how to get paid, even when it requires some blood, sweat, and tears.

Here are four ways to rule your money like the Mother of Dragons.

Believe in Yourself

So many of us have self-doubts when it comes to our finances. We think that we’re doomed to be “bad with money.” Or that being “comfortable” — wealthy, even — is for other people, but not for us.

If you’re nodding along in agreement, take a page from Dany’s book. “So many men have tried to kill me, I don’t remember all their names,” she told Jon Snow. “Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself.”

Unless you believe in yourself and your abilities, you’ll never find financial success. The best way to empower yourself is through education. By devouring podcasts, newsletters, and articles, you’ll eventually develop the financial confidence you need.

To fast-track your knowledge, I recommend the books Get Money and Broke Millennial. Since both were penned by kickass women authors, I’m pretty sure Queen D would approve.

Build a Team

Although Daenerys exudes confidence, she’s also smart enough to know she doesn’t know it all. Along her journey to power, she’s amassed a slew of advisors to help guide her decisions.

As she once said, “It takes courage to admit fear… and to admit a mistake.”

The same goes for your finances. While it’s essential to build confidence, it’s also essential to create a strong financial team as backup. You don’t need to be rich to do so, either. Here are some potential members of a 21st-century financial team:

  • Apps, apps, apps: All of us have a team of financial advisors in our pocket. Between apps for budgeting, paying and trimming bills, and managing money with a partner, embrace the wealth of technology available.
  • A trustworthy bank: Make sure your bank’s got your back. The Breaker of Chains would never stay with a bank that nickeled and dimed her — in fact, she’d probably burn it the ground. So choose banking with no hidden fees that prioritizes you as a customer.
  • A robo- or human financial advisor: This one’s not as vital as the others, but it can certainly help. Get robo-advising for your investments through apps like Wealthfront or Personal Capital, or seek human assistance with a fee-only advisor through the XY Planning Network.

When you surround yourself with high-quality people and products, you’ll find the support you need to achieve financial success. (Even if nobody on your team loves you quite as much as Ser Jorah loves Khaleesi.)

Listen to Your Values

“Our fathers were evil men,” Dany told Yara and Theon Greyjoy. “They left the world worse than they found it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.”

Daenerys lets this sense of justice guide all of her decisions — even if it means slaying thousands of slave masters. While I’m not suggesting you follow those specific footsteps, I do think you can consider your values when making financial decisions.

One way is through “sustainable investing,” which encompasses a range of different strategies, including:

  • Divesting: Pulling your investments out of companies you don’t support, such as those in the fossil fuel or firearms industries.
  • ESG monitoring: Investing in companies with high environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores, or in ESG-focused index funds.
  • Impact investing: Funneling your money toward specific causes like renewable energy.

Just like the woman who would become “Mhysa” to many, you can also let your moral compass drive your financial moves.

Don’t Let Anything Stand In Your Way

Throughout Game of Thrones, people have scoffed at Daenerys and her lofty goals. The Dothraki warlords laughed when she said she would rule them all. Then she burned them down. Others said the Dothraki would never cross the sea. Then they did.

Khaleesi never let the haters get to her. “I am not your little princess,” she declared. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of the blood of old Valyria and I will take what is mine, with fire and blood I will take it.”

Using that as inspiration, think about your money goals. How can you Mother-of-Dragons them by making dramatic changes?

If you want to retire early, for example, move to a new, more affordable city. If you want to accrue a six-month emergency fund, calculate how much to set aside each week, and set up an automatic savings contribution right now. If you want to earn more money, walk into your boss’ office and ask what you need to do to get a raise.

The bottom line: If you have a financial goal, don’t make any excuses. O.K., maybe don’t burn down an entire city with your dragons (#dracarys), but you know what I mean.

How the Mother of Dragons Can Help Your Finances

While Daenerys’ strategies may be a little, well, unconventional, we can still learn a lot from this powerful character.

By sticking to your values, educating yourself, and creating a solid financial team, you’ll gain the confidence to crush all of your money goals — no dragons required.

 

Money Horoscope: What Your Zodiac Sign Says About Your Financial Habits

Perhaps you’ve read your daily horoscope hoping to gain insight about your career or personal relationships. But did you know that your zodiac sign can also teach you a lot about money?

Believe it or not, your astrological sign can help you learn a lot about your financial strengths and weaknesses. And this can be helpful if you want to make positives shifts with your money, like save automatically or tackle your debt.

Read on to learn the best and worst traits of each zodiac sign. Plus, get a glimpse into your own personal money horoscope.

Aries

If you were born under the sign of Aries, you have a natural hunter/gather mentality. When it comes to money, this makes you exceptionally well-suited to seeking out deals and bargains. There’s a flip side, however. Your efforts to be thrifty can be detrimental financially if they lead you to overspend just to score perceived savings.

At the same time, you can also approach your savings goals with the same zest and zeal as your desire to bargain hunt. For starters, try redirecting your impulsive tendencies by shopping wisely. For example, you can take advantage of money-saving apps, clip digital or paper coupons, and impose a 24-hour waiting period before making any large purchases. These are just some of the ways to put your thrifty skills to use in a financially healthy way.

Taurus

What does your zodiac sign say about you if you’re Taurus? In a nutshell, you really like to treat yo’ self. But not just any old thing will do. Tauruses lean towards luxury and like to spend money on high-quality items that hold their value. The positive side of the coin is that even though you like to spend, you’re also great at making savings a priority because you understand the need to have a financial cushion to maintain your lifestyle.

The downside? You can be as stubborn as a bull, which can make it harder to commit to making money changes. If you recognize these zodiac sign traits as your own, here’s a mantra you may want to keep in mind: Just because buying something gives you a rush, this doesn’t make it a need. Rather than putting yourself at risk of overspending or buying things needlessly, use your natural persistence in your favor. If you’re going to spend, make getting the best deal your number one priority.

Gemini

Geminis are curious and adventurous by nature. If you’re a Gemini, you probably get a buzz from spending your money on new experiences and unfamiliar things versus just buying “stuff”. Your intellectual side likely shows through when it’s time to make a purchase. For example, you may spend hours researching prices or product features before you buy. And you know how to buckle down and save.

The money trap you need to avoid, however, is spending just because you’re bored. A good way to counter this is by channeling your restless energy into productive hobbies so you’re not spending simply because you have nothing else to do.

The next time you have a free hour to kill, for example, sit down and map out a short-term savings plan for your next vacation or travel adventure. Having a plan to follow can also counter another negative zodiac trait Geminis share: a lack of consistency.

Cancer

Being a Cancer generally means you’re a homebody who prefers being in comfortable surroundings. While your friends may splurge on dinners out or new clothes, you might savor a shopping trip to Target to buy sheets or comfy pillows. The faithful and generous sides of your personality can also lead you to help out your friends financially when they’re stretched thin.

The trouble with this is that you may not be keeping your eyes on your own finances. One way to counter this is to surround yourself with people who are financially stable and don’t need the occasional money bailout. If you don’t want to cut ties with your squad, the next best thing is drawing some firm boundaries.

Let your friends know that you’re not an ATM and that you have your own money goals you’re working towards. And, as you spend money on feathering your nest or meeting other needs, ask yourself if there’s a less expensive way to do it. Both of these tips can help you keep more of your money in your wallet.

Leo

Leos are extremely big-hearted and kind, especially when it comes to showing their generosity to their friends. The downside is that they spend to impress. This can make it easier for Leos to end up in credit card debt if they can’t curb their spending. The silver lining is that Leos are also analytical and skilled at taking in the bigger picture.

If you’re a Leo, you can put these traits to work by coming up with a plan for paying off debt. For example, you might choose the debt snowball method to make a dent in your balance. Or you might decide to consolidate debt with a low interest loan or credit card. You can apply these same critical thinking skills to improving your credit score. For example, if you know that late payments can hurt your score, you can set up automatic bill payments through your online bank account.

Virgo

Virgos have a pretty solid head on their shoulders. They’re practical, analytical, meticulous and intelligent. They’re also organized, diligent and hard workers, with a penchant towards charitable giving. To the typical Virgo, needless or unnecessary spending doesn’t make sense.

This all sounds good except that your one money flaw may be a reluctance to spend on yourself. What your zodiac sign says about you is that you may need to loosen the reins a little with your money. If you can’t justify spending on things you don’t need, consider investing it instead. Investing in a retirement account, a taxable brokerage account or a savings account can make you feel better about letting your hair down financially every once in a while.

Libra

Libras tend to have a desire to please and they have a hard time saying no. This extends to saying no to purchases they don’t really need. The good news is that despite a desire to spend impulsively, Libras are the least likely zodiac sign to use credit. They’re also highly creative, a trait that can come in handy for saving and making smart decisions with money.

For instance, rather than buying something new, you may look for ways to repurpose things you already have. Or, instead of splurging on luxury items, you can bargain hunt or shop second-hand to find the same items for less. These kinds of creative moves can help you grow your savings.

Scorpio

Scorpios tend to be passionate and focused, with a need to control situations and things. Being born a Scorpio can give you an edge with money management, since you may be more inclined to save than spend. You like being a step ahead with your finances and may have a solid emergency fund in place. Unexpected expenses are less likely to throw you off-course.

Your money horoscope is probably pretty good already, but there are still ways you can improve it. For example, you can review your budget and look for room to carve out additional savings for emergencies. This way you’ll feel fully in control if a large (or small) unexpected expense pops up.

Sagittarius

Being a Sagittarius usually means you’re brave, confident and ready to take on any challenges life throws your way. You’re optimistic and always look on the bright side and it seems that the planets regularly align to bring you good luck. Those born under the sign of Sagittarius are more interested in spending on experiences, rather than things.

While you may not be extravagant in your spending, you also tend to buy first and ask questions later. You can rein in that tendency by considering the return on investment before making a purchase. For example, ask yourself if a particular purchase is worth the price. Putting purchases in perspective can help you decide which ones are worthy of your time and money.

Capricorn

Capricorns get high marks for being financially responsible. They’re wise, patient and disciplined. And, this pays off. As a Capricorn, you’re not into trends and you value quality in the things you buy.

The downside? You may be forgetful when it comes to smaller purchases, like getting your oil changed. Taking a broader view of your finances – that includes both needs and wants – can help you be more holistic in your approach. And, knowing where you need to put your money can also help you cut down on spur of the moment spending.

Aquarius

Aquarius’ are practical and they like being financially independent. They’re okay with spending on group activities and they don’t lose sight of what’s going on with their money. They can, however, get taken advantage of when divvying up costs with friends.

If this sounds like you, then you need to get comfortable splitting bills with friends. Using a payment app to split group expenses can make it easier to keep track of this. And if you spend a lot of time (and money) hanging out with friends, consider looking for lower-cost or free activities to do together to save some cash.

Pisces

Those with the Pisces sign tend to be generous and don’t get hung up on material possessions. This means that if you’re a Pisces, you’re probably good at keeping your spending under control.

So, if you have extra money on hand regularly, put it to work in a positive way. Use it to grow your emergency savings for those rainy days when cash may be less abundant. Also, consider how you can use it to invest and build wealth for the long-term or pay off your debts.

What Does Your Zodiac Sign Say About You?

Did you learn anything new about your zodiac sign and what it means for your money? Understanding your sign can reveal some surprising insights about what drives your financial choices. Now that you know what your best (and worst) money traits are, use this to your advantage to improve your financial situation going forward.

 

How to Handle No Spend Sundays Like a Boss

Fun fact: Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Yes, I know it’s dangerously close to Monday. But, I still look forward to it because it’s a chance to treat myself after working for five days and then side hustling on Saturdays.

Yet, while I love Sundays, it’s easy to get caught up in my favorite day off and blow right through my budget. Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario of how quickly spending can add up on a typical Sunday:

Coffee – $5

Brunch – $50

Groceries – $75
Gas for the week – $30

Total: $160

When multiplied by four, this adds up to $640 a month or $7,680 a year. Yikes.

If this type of spending looks familiar to you, then a No Spend Sunday may be just what you need in order to boost your savings goals. If you’ve never tried one of these challenges before, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn how to navigate a No Spend Sunday in 5 easy steps.

Step 1: Separate Wants From Needs

First, it’s important to understand the definition of a No Spend Day.

Think of it like going on a diet but for your finances. It means that you eliminate (or scale back on) anything that’s non-essential to your budget. For me, based on the above hypothetical list, I would cut out coffee, brunch and challenge myself to lower the amount I spend on groceries. Gas would remain on the list as a “need.”

Now it’s your turn: Take a step back and write down all the activities you normally do on a Sunday that cost money. Place a checkmark next to the ones that are essential and an “x” next to the spending you can do without.

Step 2: Get Creative

Kristy Runzer, CFP® and Founder of OnRoute Financial, says that the key to surviving a money challenge like a No Spend Sunday is to get creative and find things to do that will bring you happiness without the price-tag.

“So, for example, let’s say that you typically enjoy going out to eat with girlfriends to fill the need of wanting to spend time with those closest to you and simply have fun. On a (No Spend Sunday), instead of spending money at a restaurant, you could meet up with your girlfriends at the park or hang out at someone’s house. The end result is the same – you fulfill the underlying need to connect, without feeling guilty about your spending,” says Runzer.

Sami Womack, Founder of A Sunny Side Up Life, also agrees that “having fun doesn’t have to cost money.”

Some of Womack’s favorite free activities include:

  • An at-home spa day
  • Hiking
  • Reading a book
  • A movie night at home
  • Subscribing to a new podcast
  • Spring cleaning your closet
  • Doing a pantry/freezer cleanout

Step 3: Get an Accountability Partner

It’s so much easier to stay the course with just about anything when you have extra support.

If you can’t find a friend or family member who wants to hop aboard the no spend train with you, then look no further than social media. Many money coaches and personal finance bloggers host money challenges throughout the year that you can participate in. All you have to do is search #NoSpendDay or #NoSpendWeek, etc.

Step 4: Give Your Savings a Purpose

When saving money, it’s important that you save for a specific purpose. Yet, oftentimes folks miss this when they survive a savings challenge.

So, let’s say you decide not to eat out or go to the mall during your No Spend Sunday. Estimate your savings by looking at how much you would normally spend on each of these activities.

Let’s say the total is $100. At the end of the No Spend Sunday, transfer $100 into a separate savings account until you figure out what to do with it (pay down debt, put it in your summer vacay fund, etc.) This way the money isn’t just floating around in your checking accounting, tempting you to spend it on things you probably don’t need come Monday.

Step 5: Keep Building Those Healthy Money Habits

The benefit of a spending challenge is that it teaches you money mindfulness.

“Every day, but especially on weekends, it’s easy to spend money without thinking twice. You don’t realize (the damage) until the credit card bill comes and you’re left with a spending hangover,” says Runzer.

“Putting even a little bit of thought into what you’re spending or wanting to spend on and why really goes a long way. This is truly empowering because it puts the choice and the control back in your hands. You get to make money decisions from a place of knowing where things are going and what they’re doing for you,” she says.

From here, you can make incremental changes that positively affect your finances over time, rather than trying to make a drastic overnight change. This is exactly what Lauren Tucker, Founder of An Organized Life has done. She started out with a No Spend Friday, then a No Spend Week, until she worked her way up to a No Spend Month.

“It’s definitely been a process,” says Tucker.

“But starting small is the best way to introduce a new habit,” she says.

“Everyone’s definition of a no spend (challenge) can vary, but for me, it means that I refrain from purchasing anything that’s not in the budget or that I have already identified to spend in my miscellaneous spending category.”

Tucker plans out her month using a Google Keep Note where she outlines what she intends to spend with any discretionary income. She also tracks her success each day and shares her monthly results on her social media feed.

Bonus Tip: Pay Yourself First

After my husband and I completed our first no spend challenge, we realized that one of the reasons we would overspend is that we had too much money left-over in our checking account after paying our bills. That money was just hanging out, waiting to be spent.

That’s around the time I learned about the importance of paying yourself first. This means that we save first before doing anything else. By doing this, it reduces the amount of “extra money” we have left in our checking account and forces us to be more conscious of how we spend – especially on the weekends.

We still incorporate no spend challenges every now and again, especially when we have a specific money goal, like saving for a vacation.

We challenge you to try out your own No Spend Sunday for yourself and see how much money you can save!

 

5 Money Management Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

In our digital age, podcasts are the continuation school for busy grown-ups. They’re snack-sized audible lessons packed with digestible information.

What better way to learn about the world and satiate your curiosities? Consume them during your morning commute, your lunch break, or listen to them while doing household chores.

For those wanting to level up on their money management skills, an easy way to go about it is to check out a podcast. Want to know what are all the money nerds listening to these days? Here’s a roundup of our favorite shows about the mighty dollar.

Harsh Truth

Art and money is rarely talked about. For artists or creative freelancers such as myself, you may want to learn the ins and outs of art as a business. The Harsh Truth podcast, co-hosted by artists Gondek and Frankzilla, does just that. How do successful creatives make a living and what money struggles do they face? What changes are taking place at the intersection of culture and commerce? Plus, there are also some amazing stories on how guest artists developed their craft and unique styles.

What it teaches you about money: Most artists aren’t trust fund babies. And contrary to popular belief, they don’t hate money. In fact, they want more of it, and don’t typically struggle with the fears of being a sellout. It turns out that most artists think hard about how to make a dollar and run their own businesses. Making money is an important sign of career validation. An artist’s journey is tough and they run the risk of getting ripped off, both in terms of money and intellectual property.

HerMoney

Sorry, boys. But Jean Chatzy’s HerMoney is one for the ladies. Featured topics and guests run the gamut from how to earn more to money and relationships to overcoming your fears about investing. Chatzy taps into her powers of being a personal finance celebrity and has some big-deal guests come on her show, notably Jen Sincero, Daniel Pink, and David Bach.

What it teaches you about money: Achieving financial wellness requires looking at the big picture, such as earning more, learning how to negotiate, and mastering your money mindset. It also means you’ll need to focus on the nitty-gritty, like the importance of auto-saving for your goals and keeping tabs on your account balances with a bank app. There’s so much to get your head around. It requires an open mind, focus, and commitment.

Bad With Money

Those who live, eat, and breathe money get a bad rap about living in an echo chamber. As nearly half of Americans struggle to save $400 for an emergency, the “I am going to retire at 30” and “I have half a million saved for retirement” leads to many an eyeroll.

That’s why voices like Gaby Dunn are so important. Her podcast Bad With Money views money from a feminist and queer perspective, and chats about finances for those who suck at money. By offering a platform for different voices to share their qualms and struggles with money, Dunn’s show helps you you face your money woes and improve your relationship with it.

What it teaches you about money: Many people are bad with money. Don’t be fooled by the swarm of personal finance blogs and tales of success. More people are drowning in debt than touting positive net worths. There are more underemployed folks than those earning six-figure incomes. That being said, there’s room to better your situation.

But avoiding thinking about the topic altogether won’t help. By being honest with where you’re currently at, you can take the steps to form positive habits and learn how to make improvements.

Afford Anything

I’ve long been a fan of Paula Pant and her motto: “You can afford anything, just not everything.” Pant’s podcast Afford Anything is an extension of this truism, and she explores topics that run the gamut from strategies for saving for retirement to how to live a meaning life.

As Pant is well-known for escaping her day job and achieving financial independence through rental properties, you can find a handful of episodes on FI/RE (financial independence, retire early) and house hacking. But beyond how-tos, Pant also delves into quandaries people might face: How to give to charity while achieving financial independence, and how to be happy with less.

What it teaches you about money: As someone who is financially independent, Pant offers a unique perspective on what money represents. What happens after you’ve worked hard, and were clever enough to aggressively save so you can retire early? For Pant, it’s not having fancy things, or slaving away at an office job. It’s about spending time with your loved ones, and doing what you enjoy, whether it’s traveling, spending time in nature, or reading a good book. How you spend your resources, particularly your time and money, defines how you spend your life.

Beyond the Dollar  

As the name implies, Beyond the Dollar takes a deep dive at the emotional aspects of money. How does debt affect mental health? And can one create a money-life manifesto? Entering its fourth season, I’m eager to check out new episodes as Sarah Li Cain is flying solo – sans former co-host Garrett Philbin – as the host of this thought-provoking, soul-digging show.

What it teaches you about money: Financial wellness just isn’t about information, numbers and math. There’s an emotional, even a spiritual component with money. Li Cain’s show helps you understand the role your emotions and mindset play in to your decisions, and what might be getting in the way of reaching your goals.

Learn More, Improve Your Money Situation

There’s no shortage of ways to consume information, and these podcasts make it easy to learn more about money.

In turn, you can form positive habits, change harmful money mindsets, and educate yourself on how to save for your goals and build wealth. Dig in!

 

3 Ways to March Madness Your Budget

Can you smell it in the air? It’s almost here.

That time of year when brackets flutter around the office like confetti, when bars fill with rowdy fans, and when people who don’t know the difference between a bucket and a block crowd around the TV to cheer on their picks. I’m talking, of course, about March Madness. Not only is this annual event a lot of fun, but it’s also a good opportunity to examine your money — taking into account everything from your budget to your banking app.

That’s because, if the year were divided into basketball quarters, we’d only have a few minutes left of the first quarter. This leaves you with enough time to forget about your financial resolutions — yet plenty of time to recover before the December buzzer.

So, using this month’s tourney as inspiration, here are three ways to apply the March Madness frenzy to your finances.

1. Write It Out

No one records their brackets in their head. First off, there would be no way for anyone else to tell how well (or, in my case, how badly) they’re doing.

And second, it would get insanely confusing to track the swirl of teams, games, and picks without having it on paper.

If this sounds obvious, then what makes you think you can get away with keeping your budget in your head? While it probably has fewer than 64 line items, your budget is way more important than a silly sports bet.

So, taking a cue from your bracket, write out your entire budget. If you’re not a fan of traditional budgeting, then at least create a visual layout of where your money’s going. This way, you’ll ensure you’re paying yourself first by funneling money toward your goals.

This flowchart from Ramit Sethi, for example, shows how you can prioritize your future and automate your finances without a line-by-line budget.

2. Look at the Records

While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and pick teams without any background or knowledge, this usually won’t nab you the first place trophy.

There are always going to be people who have never watched basketball who somehow win it all. Similarly, there are always those people who invested in Netflix when it was $15 a share and made a small fortune. But, most of us need to rely on research.

Case in point: Investing in your friend’s new organic dog biscuit company might be tempting, but it’s probably not the safest bet. To give your nest egg the best chance of growing over time, do what’s worked before — and invest in low-cost index funds.

Over the past 50 years, the S&P 500, for example, has offered a 5.78% annualized return (after adjusting for inflation). This means that if you invested $5,000 back in 1969, it would now be worth almost $350,000. I’d call that a pretty good bet.

3. Prepare for the Unexpected

When it comes to March Madness, there’s only one thing you can count on: upsets. Some top-ranked team will fall to some underdog. That, after all, is what makes March Madness so much fun.

Though you can’t call many of life’s surprises “fun,” they are, as in the Big Dance, guaranteed. Yet only 39% of Americans could cover a $1,000 emergency. What about you? What would happen if your car broke down or you received a large medical bill? Would you lose your ability to get to work, and therefore to cover your rent?

You don’t want one financial surprise — one March-Madness-like upset — to topple your entire life. So, start putting money into an emergency fund today. Eventually, you’ll want to get to the point where you can cover at least three months of expenses.

At Chime, we make it easy with our automatic savings program. You can quickly funnel up to 10% of every paycheck toward your savings account. By saving just $100 per week, you could accrue $5,200 over the next year.

Let March Madness Inspire Your Finances

Even for a college basketball greenhorn like myself, March Madness is a blast. I always look forward to the mayhem, the upsets, and the friendly competition.

From now on, though, I’m not only going to think about basketball when March rolls around — I’m also going to think of it as an opportunity to make sure my bank account is ready for anything.

 

I Tracked My Spending For a Week: Here’s What I Found

If you feel like money just seems to slip through your fingertips whenever you get paid, you’re not alone. Only 32% of Americans admit they maintain a household budget.

But even if you have a budget, this won’t fix all your financial problems. You need to create a realistic budget and then stick to it.

The best way to start is to track your spending. This way you can base your spending categories on actual numbers and not assumptions. Better yet, you can plan your spending accordingly and possibly even free up some additional money to save.

To help you get going, I’m going to share with you how I regularly audit my own spending. I  recently tracked my spending for a week and here’s what I found.

It’s Easy to Track Your Spending with Mobile Banking

Let’s face it, most people don’t carry around cash all the time.

While you may use cash for some expenses, you likely also use debit cards and rely on mobile banking to track your purchases. This can be helpful because all you need to do is check your account to review your purchases over the past week or month.

During the week I tracked my spending, I spent $292.71. Here’s how that total breaks down:

  • Dining out and take out: $26.21
  • Household supplies and store runs: $49.54
  • Bills: $160.97
  • Subscriptions: $36.99 (gym membership and Audible)
  • Miscellaneous expenses.: $19

Analyzing My Spending

I chose to track my spending for this particular January week because it was a typical week for us. There were no major events or large planned expenses.

We paid bills as usual, ran some store errands, made a nine dollar impulse purchase on behalf of my son, and dined out two or three times. We did end up adopting a dog from the shelter in January so the $10 hold fee I had to place on our dog was included in the miscellaneous category.

The following week, we paid $80 to cover the adoption along with a few other supplies and food items for our new pup. There wasn’t much I could do to save for that purchase, but I could have planned for it better.

Developing an Automated Savings Plan

An automated savings plan would have been perfect for our decision to add a new dog to the family. First off, we knew we were looking for a dog since early December. And, when adopting from a shelter, you never really know when you’re going to find the right dog for your family.

However, you can always start saving and preparing in advance. To do this, I recommend drafting up a general budget based on a few common expenses you know you’ll have to pay, and then start setting aside the money. We knew the fee to adopt a dog from the shelter was $90. We also knew we’d need to provide food, water and basic supplies. Then, there’s always the consideration that we would adopt a dog with special needs which would require us to put more money toward care and medicine.

Whether you’re planning to adopt a new dog or not, this strategy can be used to help you prepare for any extra expenses that can throw off your budget. Want to buy an appliance or enroll the kids in summer camp? You can start preparing for the expense in advance by drafting out a budget and automating your savings.

Another tip: Determine how much time you have before you’ll need to make the purchase and divide your savings goal up. Each time you get paid, you can even have a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited to savings.

Saving on Dining Out

After tracking my spending for a week, I realized I could have also saved in these two areas as well: store runs and dining out.

Dining out was a small amount, but it was extra and unplanned nonetheless. I know this because I usually withdraw my dining out and entertainment money at the beginning of every month so I can hold onto the cash and budget better.

The money in my account typically doesn’t go toward dining out unless I’m overspending. This week in particular showed that although my spending wasn’t out of control, dining out is definitely an expense I struggle with. Whenever I overspend in this category, I view it as taking a step backward when it comes to reaching my goals to pay off debt and boost my savings

I try to combat the urge to overspend in this area by planning out my meals and snacks ahead of time. To do better, I’m going to start batch cooking and freezing some of my meals more often. This way I have something to rely on when I don’t feel like cooking and I’ll be less tempted to order takeout.

Also, simply having the cash withdrawn to cover this expense is helping me stay on budget, along with setting clear savings goals.

Saving on Store Runs

Store runs have been the worst for my budget lately and it all comes down to a lack of proper planning.

My husband and I have decided to get better at this by keeping a running list of the items we need for the house so we can grab everything at once on a weekly basis. The fewer times we go to the store, the fewer opportunities we have to grab extra impulse items and forego our savings plan.

However, it’s important to realize that there’s nothing wrong with shopping for your needs. If you want to save and still have the freedom to run to the store when you want, consider using Chime’s automatic round up savings feature.

This feature allows you to automatically round up your transactions to the nearest dollar and save the round up amount in your Chime Savings Account. This way when you spend, you’ll save as well.

Find the Money Leaks in Your Spending

Auditing your spending for a week is super eye-opening if you want to get a realistic view of how much money you spend, while pinpointing some key areas where you can save.

I was able to track my spending for the week and do an analysis in just a few minutes, so you can definitely do this as well.

Remember: Make it fun and estimate how much you can save once you fix all the leaks in your spending habits. From there, you’ll be on your way to spending less, saving more and reaching your money goals!

 

How to KonMari Your Money

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For a 4’ 7” human, Marie Kondo is huge.

More than 11 million people have bought her books, and still others are binge-watching her Netflix series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” People are drawn to Kondo’s philosophy: You can change your life by getting rid of all the things that don’t “spark joy.”

Want to give it a try? You don’t need to limit yourself to clothing or books or Beanie Babies. In fact, nearly all of us could stand to tidy up our finances, too. Here’s how to “KonMari” your bank accounts, credit card purchases, and investments — and maybe even spark financial joy.

Envision Your Ideal Lifestyle

As Kondo wrote in “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”: “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

So, take a moment to reflect. Do your expenditures and money habits reflect your ideal lifestyle? Or, are you, say, spending your money on bar tabs when you actually want to travel the world? Or living in an expensive city, even though you dream of retiring early?

Think about how you can align your finances with your ideal lifestyle.

“Start with the vision of your best financial life to help you shift your mindset and shape your criteria for what sparks joy,” says Kristyn Ivey, a KonMari Consultant who co-hosts the Spark Joy podcast.

Make a Money Mountain

If you were organizing your wardrobe, Kondo would tell you to make a “clothing mountain” by removing everything from your closet and piling it on the bed. This way, you’d get a full picture of what you own — and can therefore make better decisions about what you do or don’t need.

The same goes for your finances. While the results won’t be as physically impressive, collecting a mountain of data about your money habits will hopefully have an even greater long-term impact.

The most accurate way to assemble this information would be to track your spending and income for a few months. (That’s especially true if you often use cash to make purchases.) If you’re in a hurry to KonMari, however, you can get a decent overview by compiling your credit card, bank, and investment account statements from the past year.

“The reason we ask you to gather everything in one category all together is so that you see all that you have at the same time,” says Jane Grodem, a KonMari Consultant in the Bay Area.

“This is an opportunity to consider the state of your finances with clarity, and ultimately the goal is to let go of those [expenses] that do not serve you in your current or future life.”

Decide What Sparks Joy

Once you’ve created your money mountain, analyze the information.

  • Are you spending more than you earn?
  • Where are you spending the most money? Did those purchases spark joy?
  • Do you have enough saved to cover at least three months of expenses?
  • What have you saved for your future goals?

Unlike physical objects, finances are tricky because saving money often doesn’t spark joy in the moment. So, to help you feel that joy in your bones, visualize your financially secure future — whether it’s holding the keys to your first home or treating your grandkids to all the ice cream they desire.

You can also note the financial data points that definitely don’t spark joy, like an ATM fee from your bank, a spartan retirement account, or an expensive takeout meal.

Now that you know which financial behaviors do and don’t spark joy, you can look for ways to augment or disrupt them. For instance, you can spend more money on plane tickets instead of shoes, or you switch to a fee-free bank.

According to Liv Cloud, who blogs at Funding Cloud Nine, viewing her life and finances through the KonMari lens has saved her “thousands” of dollars.

“I no longer mindlessly spend money on unnecessary things,” says Cloud.

“I have become more intentional with my spending and with the items that I bring into my home. If it isn’t something that I really love, then I simply leave it at the store,” she says.

View Your Budget as Plentiful

Kondo is all about what your woo-woo friend might call an “abundance mindset.”

“The biggest mistake people make is to focus on what to discard instead of what to keep,” Kondo told Mic. “If you focus on this, you look for flaws… and cannot appreciate the things you own. The correct mindset is to keep what you love instead of throwing out what you don’t like.”

Although she’s talking about physical items, that’s the perfect way to look at your budget, too.

When you’re deciding which expenditures spark joy, don’t agonize over what you’re cutting out. Instead, delight in what you get to keep: rent for your (hopefully tidy!) apartment, groceries for next week’s potluck with friends, a splurge-y fancy coffee every Friday.

Organize Your Financial Paperwork

Being overwhelmed by paperwork is totally normal. In fact, Kondo devotes an entire clutter category to it, with her baseline rule being “discard everything.” (What a relief!)

Of course, some paperwork, like the past three years of tax returns, must be kept. Which is why Kondo recommends three folders, each with a different purpose: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or kept indefinitely.

You should also make a “pending” folder for papers you haven’t had time to organize yet. And then get in the habit of recycling paper as soon as you get it, so it doesn’t ever have the chance to — horror of horrors — pile up.

Be Grateful for What You Have

Before Kondo embarks on any decluttering mission, she sits on the floor and thanks the house. Before discarding an item, she thanks it for its service. Although it might sound loony, numerous studies have suggested that gratitude can vastly improve your outlook.

So, while you’re in the midst of KonMari-ing your finances, take a step back — and be grateful for what you have. Maybe you don’t have the latest designer handbag, but you have enough to eat. Maybe you don’t have enough money to take a vacation this year, but you have a job.

“I now surround myself with things, people, and experiences that bring joy to my life. Instead of focusing on what other people have, I focus on what is going to make me happy and make me the best person I can be,” says Cloud.

 

Where Do Our Taxes Go? A Breakdown With the Help of Cardi B

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As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. And every year when you file your tax returns, you may be scratching your head, thinking “Where the heck does the money go?”

Cardi B wants to know, too. Last year the superstar rapper, on an Instagram video that went viral, asked, “So you know the government is taking 40% of my taxes. And Uncle Sam, I want to know what you’re doing with my… tax money.”

This is a great question, and the answer: It’s complicated. To keep things simple, here are some figures from an article at The Hill: The federal government spent $33,054 per household and collected $26,198 in taxes. What’s the budget deficit? We’re talking $6,856 per household.

Based on this $33,054 household amount, here’s where the money went:

Social Security/Medicare: $12,401. This comes out of your paycheck, and the 15.3 percent for Social Security and Medicare is divided evenly between you and your employer. Note: If you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for the entire 15.3 percent.

Anti-Poverty Programs: $6,112. This comprises assistance programs to help the less fortunate, like aid for low-income families. Some of these programs include Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, housing subsidies, child care subsidies, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and low-income tax credits.

Defense: $5,046. This is everything from military paychecks, operations in the Middle East, and the R&D and acquisition of new technologies and equipment.

Interest on the National Debt: $2,434. Just like how you pay interest fees on credit cards, mortgages and car loans, our government pays interest on the national deficit.

Veteran’s Benefits: $1,390. This includes income and health benefits provided to our veterans. 

Federal Employee Retirement Benefits: $1,098. This goes toward retirement benefits for federal employees.

Justice Administration: $546.  This is earmarked toward law-enforcement grant programs, and paying for federal attorneys and prisons.

Education: $536. While the majority of education spending comes from a city and state level, nine percent of K-12 education spending comes from the federal government. Where does the money go exactly? The lion’s share goes to low-income school districts, college student financial aid, and special education.

Health Research and Regulation: $533. This goes toward dozens of grant programs for health providers, as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Highways and Mass Transit: $487. This is funded primarily by the 18.4 cent per gallon tax you pay on gas.

International Affairs: $371. This includes contributions to the UN, operation of American embassies abroad, and economic and military assistance to other countries.

Disaster Relief: $338. This amount provided assistance and relief to hurricanes and natural disasters.

Miscellaneous: $1,761. If you’ve been crunching the numbers, you might have noticed that there’s $1,761 still left to be spent. This remainder is distributed to federal programs that aren’t listed, such as unemployment benefits, social services, natural resources, farm subsidies, and space exploration.

Tax Filing Tips

Now that you have a basic idea of where the money paid from your federal taxes goes, how can you best prepare to file your tax return in 2019? Take a look at some of these tips:

Get Started Early. With all the changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and this historic, epic government shutdown, filing a return for the 2019 tax year might be a tad more complicated than in previous years. So, it’s important to get a jump on tax prepping as soon as you can.

If you’re going the DIY route, and using software to file on your own, gather all the required documents to file your taxes – starting with your wage and income statements (i.e. W-2s and 1099s). Have your receipts or credit card statements handy in case you need to include deductions. You can even try tracking some of your spending using a money management app.

If you’re working with a tax pro, ask her what documents you’ll need to gather to get the process rolling.

You can file your return as soon as it’s ready and this way you’ll get a refund sooner. And just think: This might be a nice boost to your savings as the average tax refund is $2,895 (this can vary by state.)

Consider Whether You Need an Extension. Need more time to file? You can ask for an extension. It gives you six more months to file, and pushes the deadline from April 15th to October 15th. Remember: Receiving an extension means you have more time to file, but payment for any taxes owed are still due by April 15th.

The More You Know

So there you have it. Both you and Cardi B now have a clear idea as to where those government tax dollars are going. It’s now your turn to file your tax return!

 

What Instagram Influencers Are Teaching Us About Money

Unless you’re living underneath a rock, chances are you’re no stranger to envy-inducing Instagram influencers. You know the ones. They’re always cavorting to exotic locales,  sipping on Mai Tais underneath a breezy palm frond, or enjoying Sunday brunch at a picturesque polo lounge surrounded by besties.

Truth bomb: Some influencers are spending a pretty penny to keep up these appearances. Yup, they’re not being compensated by corporate sponsors. And the cost to look like an influencer can cost a small fortune. According to Fashionista, you’d have to spend about $31,400 a year “to maintain the physical standards of beauty represented daily in our Instagram feeds.”

Case in point: An Instagram “star” racked up $10,000 in debt trying to make it seem like she was living a glamorous life while still living with her parents.

So, how can you keep it real and stay grounded with your finances despite the illusion that permeates your social media feeds? Here are some money lessons that can be gleaned from Instagram influencers:

Don’t: Keep up with the Joneses

Bleeding money just to keep up with your peers isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s just that it’s hard to escape Insta feeds filled with those who are “living their best lives” and “living large.”

For example, I have a friend who is married to a popular Instagram influencer. My pal once admitted to me, “it’s all empty.” I’ve also witnessed behind-the-scenes actions of a social media power couple who have 250,000 Instagram followers and sponsored ad campaigns. It turns out the couple spends a lot of time and money carefully curating their feeds. Plus, they’ve experienced massive burnout and growing pains.

The truth: Nobody has their situation figured out, financial or otherwise. We’re all struggling. It’s just that some of us are better at making it look like we have it all together.

So, instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, live a life that works for you and a life you can afford. If you’re feeling stretched or having trouble staying on top of your bills, it’s time to recalibrate.

Don’t: Wear your wealth on your back

If the price tag of your Christian Louboutin ankle boots is higher than what’s in your bank, it’s time to think twice. Remember: Your worth isn’t defined by the type of car you drive or the swath of designer threads in your closet. It’s how much money you have sitting in your bank and investment accounts, and the value of your assets.

To figure out your net worth, enlist the help of a money-saving app or financial management software. Look at what you own and have saved up. Then, subtract all your debt – student loans, credit card debt, car payment, house payment. Whatever is left over is your net worth.

Don’t: Compare and despair

You’ve probably experienced pangs of pain from comparing yourself to others when you were a child. Who had the yummiest snack spread in their lunch box? Who was the smartest, prettiest, most athletic in your class? Sadly, those internal head games we play with ourselves don’t disappear when we become adults.

As they say, comparison is the root of despair. There will always be someone who is faring better than you. But guess what? Instead of focusing on what you don’t seem to have, practice gratitude. You’re probably doing well, and even better than most. Be appreciative of what you do have, and know that you have enough to be content.

Do: Assess the value of a purchase

As someone who tends to be super frugal, I’ve recently leaned toward focusing on the value of what I buy versus just how much it costs.

For example, I have made some “spendy” purchases, but the value was high. For instance, I bought $300 pair of leather boots. That’s more than I’m used to spending, but I wear my boots nearly every day. That’s a good value for the price.

So, take a page from my book: If you’re concerned about going into debt for a large purchase, consider setting up a savings account, and auto-saving on the regular for a splurge fund. Then, when you can afford that purchase, make sure it’s a good value and give yourself permission to splurge.

Do: Be realistic

When it comes to spending money, timing plays a huge part of whether you can or should buy something. As nerdy as it sounds, I have a list of questions I run through before I make purchases I’m on the fence about:

  • Is it the right time? Do you have enough money in the bank? Are there other purchases that should take priority?
  • Can I afford it?
  • What is the trade-off?
  • How many times would I have to use that purchase for it to be worthwhile?
  • What is my gut reaction/feelings telling me?

You do you

There’s no benefit to spreading your finances thin and digging a deep debt hole just to live like an Instagram influencer. So, live within your means, be realistic with what you can afford, and be in sync with your values.

 

15 Quotes from Our Favorite Money Saving Experts

Like it or not, money makes the world go round. It provides you with basic necessities and helps you achieve your savings goals. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees.

But here’s the good news: You can save and earn more money by turning to experts for tips, tricks and inspiration. To help motivate you, check out these 15 quotes from our favorite money experts:

1) “Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.” – Warren Buffett

No one knows the importance of seizing upon an opportunity better than billionaire Warren Buffett. Buffett made his fortune by purchasing millions in stocks during lulls in the market.

The takeaway: While you may not have millions of dollars sitting around, you can still invest and earn more money. Whether this means accepting a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, moving your money into a high-yield savings account, or taking advantage of swings in the market, be sure to put out your “bucket”…not your “thimble.”

2) “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin

Those little expenses add up – and no one says it better than inventor Benjamin Franklin. While it’s easy to keep your larger expenses in check, it’s not so easy to count all the small, every day expenses.

The takeaway: Those little expenses add up, and can rapidly ruin your budget. To keep yourself in check, evaluate your expenditures every month, and cut back on any miscellaneous, unbudgeted expenses.

3) “A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.” – William Feather

Perhaps no one explains the importance of budgeting better than publisher William Feather. A budget is a great tool to tell you where your money should go. But it’s up to you to hold yourself accountable.

The takeaway: Pay attention to your budget and don’t spend more than you have available.

 4) “Make sure you have financial intelligence… I don’t care if you have money or you don’t have money… you need to go and study finance no matter what.” – Daymond John

You don’t have to be a financial analyst in order to understand the basics of finance. And this quote from entrepreneur Daymond John proves just that. No matter who you are, it’s vital that you educate yourself on the basics of personal finance.

The takeaway: Educate yourself by making free simple moves like reading books from the library or personal finance blogs.

5) “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert H. Schuller

Everyone faces a difficult financial period at some point. But instead of panicking or becoming overwhelmed, it’s important to note that these times are only temporarily.

The takeaway: With a lot of hard work, smart planning and determination, any financial situation can be turned around over time, no matter how bad it is.

6)  “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

So, you want to take control of your finances? You want to switch jobs? Start your own business? Any financial decision is just a thought until you take action.

The takeaway: Turn your thoughts into actions. Take a leap and make your financial goals a reality.

7) “Personal finance is only 20% head knowledge. It’s 80% behavior!” –Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey, financial expert and author of Total Money Makeover, has a unique approach to finances. According to him, your finances are more a reflection of your behaviors than your financial knowledge.

The takeaway: Establish positive money habits like creating a budget or automating your savings. Celebrate your new behaviors, which can easily become money wins.

8) “A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life.” – Suze Orman

Financial guru Suze Orman is a huge proponent of saving money. And, saving for an emergency can save you oodles of stress.

The takeaway: Instead of worrying about how you’ll pay for unexpected expenses, consider starting an emergency fund.

9) Money, like emotions, is something you must control to keep your life on the right track.” -Natasha Munson

Money isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it certainly is important. Just like you must keep your emotions in check, it’s important to keep your finances in check, according to Natasha Munson.

The takeaway: Take steps to improve your finances as this will give your some control over your life and decisions.

10) “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.” – Confucius

Even according to Confucius in ancient times, planning ahead was extremely important!

You never know when something unfortunate could happen.

The takeaway: Prepare for the unknown by saving money for a rainy day.

11) “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” – Joe Biden

Unfortunately, simply creating a budget doesn’t mean you are on track financially. In order to keep yourself on track with your budget, check out these tips from EveryDollar.

The takeaway: Adhere to a reasonable budget so that you’ll be more apt to make strides with your financial situation.

12) “It’s simple arithmetic: Your income can grow only to the extent that you do.” — T. Harv Eker

T. Harv Elker, the author of “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,” is an enormous proponent of personal development. In fact, he claims that your income is a direct reflection of your personal growth.

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself! Here are a few affordable ways you can invest in yourself while on a budget.

13) “Money isn’t everything, but it’s right up there with oxygen.” – Zig Ziglar

Money truly isn’t everything. But it does afford you the lifestyle you want, according to businessman Zig Ziglar.

The takeaway: You can’t ignore money. Instead, it’s important to prioritize your money goals so that you can afford the lifestyle you want.

14) “You can have excuses or you can have success; you can’t have both.” ― Jen Sincero

According to Jen Sincero, author of “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth,” success takes a lot of work. So, instead of blaming your financial woes on your present situation, she proposes that you take control of your situation and turn it around.

The takeaway: Think of your financial situation as a reflection about your attitude about work. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

15) “In fact, what determines your wealth is not how much you make but how much you keep of what you make.” ― David Bach

According to David Bach, author of “Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams,” you can make all the money you have ever imagined…but if you can’t save that money, you have nothing. This is particularly liberating if you don’t earn a ton of money.

The takeaway: Whether you earn $30,000 a year or $100,000, your savings is what matters most! On that note, we’ll leave you with this pro tip: Don’t forget to save even more money by opening a Chime savings account!

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