Living paycheck to paycheck? Do this to get ahead.

January 17, 2021

When you rely on your next paycheck to be able to pay bills, buy groceries or have drinks with friends, life is different. Life becomes less enjoyable.

What if your paycheck was something that became a side effect of work you loved? What if you started being intentional with that money to actually accomplish your biggest dreams?

Something shifted in my life when I decided to use my paycheck to accomplish my goals. I no longer looked at my account balance as money I had to spend. I looked at it as a lump sum of money that was broken down into smaller goals.

Some of the money would be used to pay down debt, some was set aside in case of an emergency and some was for bills.

When I made this shift in my thinking, while being intentional, it no longer mattered when that money hit my checking account. I was no longer rich on the 1st of the month and broke by the 10th.

If getting ahead of your bills and not having to rely on your next paycheck to pay your immediate bills sounds like something you are craving in your life, I have good news for you. It’s easily within reach, you just need to make a few intentional shifts in your habits.

  1. Sell anything around your house that you no longer need, use or want for some extra cash

  2. Cancel any subscriptions you don’t use and ask yourself if you need all of the ones you do use

  3. Cook at home and use everything in the fridge to avoid waste

  4. Reduce your spending on everyday items by buying generic or in bulk while cutting your impulse and excessive purchases

  5. Save any ‘bonus’ money such as stimulus checks, tax returns or gifts

  6. Keep an eye on money you are giving out as gifts

  7. Get a side hustle and find ways to increase your income

You don’t have to do all of these items, I would rather you do a few things really well than all of them poorly.

When I was getting out of debt, I focused on cooking at home, reducing my spending and increasing my income. By making more money and spending less, I was able to make larger payments to my debt each month without having to give up too much of my lifestyle.

Sure I had to get creative with my vacation time and say no to house projects. But by being intentional with my money, I was able to make real progress while still enjoying the things that made me happiest in life.

My debt free journey started with a pressure cooker

January 7, 2021

I am a big believer in having as little debt as possible, but probably not for the reason you are thinking. There are actual physical, emotional and financial reasons for you to get rid of your debt.

When I was on my journey to getting rid of my student loans I was stressed constantly! And the ironic part was that I couldn’t afford the occasional massage, because I had no money, and I couldn’t relax by curling up on the couch because I was working all the time.

Symptoms of financial stress are real, here are a few of the big ones:

The first real reason to get rid of your debt is that you are carrying less risk, hello 2020. Lose your job? Pay cut? I dropped from 40 hours/week to 20 hours/week basically overnight at my dayjob because of the pandemic, and that was way more stressful than my previous student loan stress. But since my loans were paid off, I just had to reevaluate my budget and watch my spending. Even though I didn’t have extra money, I wasn’t wasting what little money I did have on debt payments.

A better credit score is another. Sure, debt is a factor for a good credit score but it’s not that simple. You can have too much debt which would end up costing you thousands of dollars of interest for that next house, car or boat you’ve been eyeing up because you didn’t qualify for a better interest rate. And debt is actually a very small percentage of this score. The only debt I have is a mortgage and I pay my credit card in full every month and my rating is still excellent, it can be done!

Better cognitive function is next up. Yup, this is proven! Studies show that experiencing poverty impaired people’s attention span, working memory, and self-control. Did someone say self control? Have I ever mentioned that I once bought a pressure cooker on an infomercial before Instapot was even a thing? Yeah, I couldn’t afford it and who knows why I thought I needed one. Now I have the pleasure of a kitchen appliance that weighs a ton that I use once a month when I decide to make rice. Fortunately, studies also show that paying off debt reverses these problems!

Less chronic pain is another real benefit to getting rid of your debt. People with high levels of stress caused from debt were more likely to experience migraines, back pain and general muscle tension. They were also more likely to buy over-the-counter painkillers.

Money Crashers goes into thirteen other reasons you will want to get rid of your debt. The general consensus is that debt is bad, we all know that. But maybe you will see some of your symptoms on this list, just like I did. And maybe it will be enough for you to take the steps to pay down any unnecessary debt to improve your finances along with your mental and physical health.

4 Money Moves To Make Before Year-End

December 28, 2020

The end of the year is the perfect time to wrap up bad money habits and start fresh.

Things that we want to be doing on a regular basis include creating a spending plan, tracking our spending and investing towards retirement.

But there are some items that can be done less frequently. Use the end of the year as your reminder to check off some of these less frequent items.

  1. Do you have money sitting in your name waiting for you? You might! You heard me right, old bank accounts, insurance claims or tax refunds get left unclaimed on a regular basis and are easily searchable on a government site for unclaimed money.

  1. Find a cause close to your heart and give them some extra love. Besides the obvious reasons for donating, it also lowers your taxable income and can result in less taxes owed to Uncle Sam. Win-win, just be sure to donate by December 31.

  1. Every year, you get to pull a copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting companies, Equifax, Experience and TransUnion, for free! By pulling your report, you can see any errors or fraud under your name, loan balances and your credit score.

  1. Use it or you’ll use it! If you started saving with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) through your employer you’ll want to spend those dollars before December 31. Funds within this type of account are only good until the end of the year but shouldn’t be confused with an HSA. Besides the more obvious expenses you can purchase, such as medications or deductibles, here are a few other things to ensure you are using these dollars wisely.

Managing your money doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. Use these tricks to stay on top of your debt and ensure that you’re not missing out on any money that’s yours!

3 holiday tips to avoid January buyer's remorse

December 18, 2020

Here we are, that wonderful time of year where we show love and affection by participating in our consumerist culture while worsening our own financial wellbeing.

Ok that was dramatic, but is it not true? This year has taught us that physically being with one another is not only something we crave, but it’s something we need.

Dinner parties with friends, trying something new with a spouse or connecting with loved ones at the annual holiday gathering is far superior than anything big box stores have to offer.

Black Friday this year broke records for online shopping, topping off at $9 billion. And as you might have guessed, Cyber Monday broke another record at $10.8 billion.

While I can’t stop the economy from surging during the holiday season, I can ask that we all reflect on what we are buying, why we are buying it and does anyone actually want it?

Here are three tips to keep your holiday spending under control so that you don’t start the new year with buyers remorse.

  1. Be sure you are setting money aside. Presents, gift wrap, holiday grocery store runs, it all adds up. Create a realistic budget that you know you can follow this year and remember that your January self would appreciate little to no credit card debt. Click here to download a template to get started on your budget.

  2. You don’t need to buy a present for everyone you have ever met. Keep your shopping list to a realistic size and only give something that you know the person truly would enjoy (hint, you don’t always have to buy something, handmade items can be just as fun)

If you are buying gifts, whether it’s with a family gift exchange or for a spouse, agree on a total dollar amount that you are comfortable spending. To help you stay on track be sure to compare prices on multiple sites and shop early for deals.

You can be earning cash, on your cash!

December 12, 2020

Not to start off with a cliché Alber Einstein quote but “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.”

I lead with this because not only is it so true, but I'm willing to bet you’re paying interest on something as you are reading this (and probably on a few things).

But there is hope! The easiest way that anyone can take advantage of compound interest is to start a high-yield savings account.

If you are asking yourself, ‘what the heck is that’ then you are in exactly the right place.

A high-yield savings account features a higher interest rate and generates more returns, which is a fancy way of saying that it gives you more money back for just having money in the bank. Yes, real money, not rewards or points. goes into detail explaining that, “unlike other methods of generating returns, such as investing in the stock market, putting your money in a high-yield savings account poses little to no risk...if you’re going to hold cash, you want to seek out a bank that has consistently competitive rates to maximize earnings on that cash.”

Protip, since the amount of interest earned depends on the amount of money you have in the account, be sure your savings for larger purchases are in this account, such as a downpayment for a house, vacation fund or your emergency fund.

Here are how the numbers break down. If you had $2,000 in a checking account with a standard APY of 0.06%, you would earn $1.20 over the course of a year. In a high-yield savings account with a 1% APY, you would earn $20 a year.

Be sure to read the details of your high-yield checking account, they all are a little different. They will have different interest rates, requirements on an initial deposit or minimum balance and some might even have fees.

Here are some examples of some accounts you may want to look into but be sure to do your research and find an account that will fit your needs!

Habits of a millionaire, just in time for the holidays?

December 4, 2020

Let’s get straight to the point. Budgets are the key to building wealth and while you might know the importance of one, I don’t know if you are giving them as much credit as they deserve.

Ramsey Solutions, the Dave Ramsey empire, conducted the largest survey of millionaires, with over 10,000 participants, all to find out what some of the common trends were.

Here is what they found:

Since the holidays are here, and 52% of us Millennials are going into debt because of it, I’m here to offer a solution. Don’t wake up in January with your credit cards maxed, desperate to cure your holiday hangover, let’s change the path you might be headed down.

Here is a free, easy-to-use template to get your holiday budget created today! Use this spreadsheet to organize your holiday spending categories, assign dollar amounts to avoid debt and record your transactions to help you stay within budget!

While this year’s budget may not be fancy, we only have a month until the big holiday so let’s be realistic with how much you can save, I want you to know that it’s ok. 2020 has tested us, pushed us and prodded us to act differently.

So here we are, creating a budget, changing our spending habits and building a future for ourselves because we deserve more than just going to work and paying our bills. Thanks 2020 for the wakeup call.

Bouncing back after #livingmybestlife

November 19, 2020

Keeping up with the Joneses is expensive. Spending excessive amounts of money on going out to eat, a quick trip up north or that thing at Target adds up quickly and is a major reason Americans struggle with debt.

I am here to tell you that overspending just by a little in a handful of areas may be the reason you are carrying a balance on your credit card.

According to an article in, “Groceries are the number one reason why people carry a balance.” One explanation for increased credit card debt is that we put everyday expenses on credit cards, when we once used to pay for these items in cash. Dealing with other debt payments, we are strapped for cash at the end of the month, unable to pay the full balance on our cards.

Here are some tips to get ahead of your credit card debt after you had a couple months of excessive spending:

  1. Look at your spending and figure out which categories caused you to not make your payment in full

  2. Determine a spending limit for all your budget categories and make sure it adds up to less than your monthly household income

  3. Use that extra money to pay extra towards your credit card balances

  4. Check your spending before each purchase to make sure you haven’t hit your category limit

  5. Make sure you are not spending just to qualify for rewards or card benefits, you can do this once you get your balance back to zero

If your credit card balance is not manageable, but you would be able to pay it off within a year, look at consolidating onto a new card with 0% APR.

The thing to remember is that consolidating to a new card or rolling the debt over with your mortgage does not solve the problem at hand. Be sure you are proactively creating a spending plan before each month and really sticking to it. By following a plan each month you will be able to ensure you have money extra to pay down debt.

Turning junk around the house into cash!

November 12, 2020

If spending this much time at home has taught us anything, it’s that we have a lot of crap!

Seriously, how many knickknacks, items in a drawer, old electronics in a closet or old clothes does someone need?

I personally think that if Marie Kondo’s sparking joy movement would have landed on Netflix shortly after the ever-so-amazing Tiger King, we would be in a much better place physically and emotionally with our homes.

I don’t keep a list of random odds and ends that I sell, I honestly don’t need to rehash the amount of stuff that I owned at one point. But, by perusing my history on Facebook Marketplace (much better for household items than Craigslist these days) I have recently sold:

  • An old painting for a neighbor - $40

  • An extra trash can - $20

  • A leaf blower - $200

  • An extra charging hub - $15

  • An old cable modem - $30

  • An electronics docking station - $25

  • A Vikings jersey that I won at bar pre-covid - $75

  • Our dining room table, I found a cheap one that I liked better - $700

  • Our coffee table, also found a better one for free that I refinished - $80

That's $1,185 in my pocket that I never would've had otherwise, and I had to do was take a picture and describe the item on Facebook Marketplace.

You get the point. If you find yourself staring at something every day and it doesn’t make you happy or proud that you own that item, get rid of it! There is no rule that you have to keep it.

And if it can bring in some cash, then why not?

How to share money with a partner and still like them at the end of the month

November 8, 2020

Sharing money with someone is hard! We are all different people, with different past experiences with different goals.

Study after study shows that the success of your finances, and your relationship, is heavily dependent on the amount of debt a couple has and how they communicate about money.

To help you feel normal, money is the number one thing that couples argue about and nearly 63% of all marriages start out in the red, with debt!

To lay on the unsurprising stats, the larger the debt amount, the more couples will say that money is an issue in their relationship. And nearly ⅓ of us have hid a purchase from a spouse, because that always helps, right?

But there is hope! We can do four simple things to help us improve our relationship with our spouse and the health of our finances.

  1. Decide on how you will share your money. Do you share everything? Do you split certain bills? Do you have a joint account? The options are endless but each person in the relationship needs to agree it’s fair.

  2. Create goals that you want to hit together. This will make saying no to certain purchases easier since there are common goals.

  3. Give eachother grace. If someone goes over on spending in one area, WWIII doesn’t have to start. Have a conversation and find out what happened and do better next month.

  4. Check-in on a regular basis. It’s hard to know if you are following your plan, or are way off, if you never look at your transactions. Talk weekly to celebrate wins or identify areas of improvement.

15 Ways To Save Money

October 29, 2020

Saving money is something that you are either really good at or it goes against everything that brings you joy.

I find that while I really enjoy saving money some ways, other ways can be tedious and not worth the effort.

Here are some tips I personally use. I find them helpful whether you lost a job, are looking to get that emergency fund started or just want to be a little better with your money.

  1. Pay off your debt - payments to interest is like throwing money out the window

  2. Keep a running total while you are grocery shopping as a reminder of how quickly the bill adds up

  3. Oh and buy generic brands, because it’s the same thing

  4. Review all of your subscription services and cancel those you use the least

  5. Send money to a savings account automatically and for specific items (it’s easier to save for that trip to Mexico this spring versus for a generic vacation fund)

  6. Unsubscribe from those companies that always email you tempting offers

  7. Bring your lunch to work (if you aren’t working from home of course) and save restaurants as a way to treat yourself

  8. Say yes to the match for your employer’s 401k benefit - free money

  9. Look at your cell phone bill - can you get on a family plan, ditch your insurance, get on a plan with less data or sign up for an off brand servicer like Cricket or Visible

  10. Make your morning beverage at home

  11. Rent books at the library (you can even request books they don’t have)

  12. For your next vacation, grab an airbnb rental during the week, you’ll find a cheaper rate you won’t have to spend lots of money on gas or fancy plane tickets

  13. Sell anything around your house that you are sick of, don’t use or is more work than it’s worth - you won’t miss the junk once it’s gone and you’ll love the cash

  14. Challenge yourself to not spend any money (besides the essentials) for a week

  15. Shop around when making larger purchases, you might be able to find it cheaper at another nearby store or get a price match

6 Reasons You Are Still In Debt

October 21, 2020

Your debt and your thoughts towards debt is directly tied to our society. Debt is normal. Just because something is normal doesn’t mean it’s good. As my mom used to say, “if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you?”

But there is hope! Here are some reasons that people stay in debt:

You think there is no way out. Being in debt doesn’t have to be your destiny. You can kick it to the curb, you just need to have the confidence to take the steps to change your future.

You don’t know the reason you keep accruing debt. Knowing how you accumulate debt is the key to getting out. Do you have a problem with a credit card? Do you like fancy cars? Look into these traps and stay away from them!

You don’t want to make sacrifices. I’m not asking you to give up your hobbies or to never go on a vacation, but there might be some things you have to say no to.

You and your spouse are on different pages. This is a hard one but something that needs to be addressed head on. If you share money with someone, both parties need to agree on how you will spend your money and what your priorities are as income changes.

You don’t have goals or a plan. At the end of the day, it’s hard to stay motivated when times get tough if you don’t know your why. Take some time to dream big! Write down everything you are going to do (or buy) once you are out of debt.

You don’t have a budget. This is a simple one. Get on a budget, they are a necessity for everyone!

This app will change how you think about budgeting !

October 1, 2020

While I was getting out of debt I started using an app early on that I think was a total game changer. This app not only helped me stay accountable, but it took all the guessing out of “how much do I have left in groceries” or “oops I spent too much, now what?”

Drumroll please - YNAB (You Need A Budget). Yup, that’s the name of the app!

Now, there are a lot of budgeting apps and there is a chance that you might already have one. But let me tell you why this one is different and why you should think about spending the $7 a month for it.

First off, if you spend too much in a category, YNAB will turn the category red and you won’t be able to ignore the problem. It will then ask you where you want to pull money from to make things right again. When you overspend that money has to come from somewhere and YNAB has no problem holding you accountable.

The second reason I love YNAB is that it let’s you use credit cards and it’s easy! I won’t go into the details here but just know that you can still accumulate your miles while you are paying off your debt.

Lastly, it makes saving for larger items a piece of cake. Maybe you want a savings goal for a specific item, like a new coach. Or you are saving for vacation but are going to be spending money along the way. Or maybe it’s a monthly bill and you are sick of looking up how much it is each month. Yup, it’s all there, and more!

The point I want to make is to encourage you to reach out and find tools that will make things like budgeting or paying off debt easier. Don’t try to create fancy spreadsheets or processes for saving receipts that you will never use.

Why make things harder?

Why I don’t think you should have an emergency fund

September 17, 2020

This is a BOLD statement, I get that. But do you know why I say that? I think when we have a large buffer sitting in our bank account we become compliant and lazy with money.

When I only had $2,000 in the bank as my buffer when I was paying off debt that scared me. I was constantly thinking about some possible emergency that could happen and I would be screwed.

But do you know what happened? Nothing, I just worked my tail off to get out of debt so that I could start saving for an emergency and feel safe again.

Saving for an emergency was important to me because I wanted to know that if something happened, I was prepared. If I lost my job (which unfortunately we all know too well right now) I had time to find something I loved doing versus reacting to my new situation.

Don’t get me wrong, you should still have some money saved up while you are paying off debt, but let’s not save 3-6 months just yet

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Save $1,000 for each member of your household before tackling debt

  2. Once you have your minimal emergency fund, stay focused and on plan to pay off your debt

  3. Once you are debt free, save 3-6 months of expenses and set it aside in a high yield savings account for a higher interest rate

5 Things I Did To Get Rid Of Debt

September 11, 2020

  1. Create a budget (see last week’s article on how to do this)

I always thought a budget was for poor people that needed a plan. Which ironically was me but I didn’t think so at the time. By writing down your plan ahead of time you are able to ensure that you aren’t spending more than you make and that every penny is going towards your goals.

  1. Pay extra on current debt

This may seem like an obvious one but you’d be surprised. Use your budget to determine how much you can afford to pay extra each month and make that payment first! When we make debt payments at the end of the month life gets in the way and we don’t pay as much as we had originally planned. By comparing my spending habits with my income I was able to see how much I could afford to pay extra on debt with my current lifestyle. No matter what my income was each month, I would always pay the same amount towards my debt.

  1. Don’t sign up for new debt

I had to call this one out because our society normalizes debt to an extreme, we even have “good debt” and “bad debt”. Debt is debt. Period. Depending on your personal goals you may want to eliminate certain debts before others but to truly build wealth, don’t take on new debt.

  1. Get a side hustle

Everyone should have multiple streams of income coming in, it’s a safety net in case something changes with your job. Increased income doesn’t mean increased lifestyle. Send extra income towards your debt or use it to pay for larger purchases in cash. While I was paying off debt my side hustle was waitressing. It was dependable easy cash and I had been doing it for so long I could do it in my sleep.

  1. Have some real (and sometimes hard) conversations with yourself

Personal finance always involves self reflection. Whether you make a lot of money, or have a smaller income, can you afford the lifestyle you currently live? I am going to guess no if you have debt. Do you need to cut subscription services? Do you really need a new phone every two years? Small lifestyle changes add up and make a large impact towards paying off debt.

3 Easy Steps To Get Started With Your Budget

September 3, 2020

A budget can seem overwhelming, stressful and sometimes, boring! But a budget is the key ingredient to paying off debt and saving for those things in life that matter most helloooo vacation!

  1. Track your current spending

Look at your spending from the last couple of months and get an average for money spent in each category. Think of categories as buckets your transactions fall in - restaurants, clothing, hygiene, monthly bills, subscriptions, etc.

  1. Outline a budget with your new and improved spending habits

After you know how much you currently spend in each category, add up all those categories and see if you are spending more or less than your current income. You may need to do some adjusting. If you are spending more than your income, you will need to decrease dollars assigned to categories. If you spend less than your income, where should that remaining money go - saving for a new car, a down payment on a house, your 401K?

  1. Start budgeting!

Now is the time to follow your new budget with the goal to stay at or below the spending limit for each category. Be sure to track each expense so you know if you are getting close, or going over, the money assigned to each category. A budget is not perfect so continue to track your expenses and adjust your budget with each month.

49% of Americans are concerned, anxious or fearful!

July 6, 2020

According to Marketwatch, 49% of Americans are “concerned, anxious or fearful about their current financial well-being.” The not-so-funny thing is that this study was before 1) the coronavirus, 2) a potential recession and 3) record breaking unemployment rates.

This is almost half! Why do we continue to live life with debt if it is causing us so much pain? Ost of us don’t see a way out. It has become so normal in our society we truly start to believe there is no other way.

One roadblock when trying to get out of debt (which means living on a budget) is that you become an outsider. You start to have doubts that your friends will think of you differently, that people might think you are poor or that you can’t do fun things anymore. And the fact is that all those things can’t be further from the truth.

Aligning your spending with what you value most in life (vacation, a bigger house, fancy restaurants) is the best thing that you can do for yourself. Because you will be truly happy.

Don’t let what others “might” think of you as something that is stopping you. Being in debt shouldn’t be how you live your life, doing what makes you happy should.

Why and how you should be saving with Sinking Funds

June 28, 2020

A sinking fund is when you set small amounts of money aside each month towards the purchase of a larger item. Wouldn't it be easier to save $100 a month for Christmas and have $1200 by December rather than putting Christmas on a credit card and stressing about it in January? YUP! Or how about that 6-month insurance premium? It's much less scary setting aside money each month rather than sacrificing all your fun money the month it's due.

Sinking funds can be used for anything that is not a monthly expense and becomes a line item in your monthly budget. So for example, in your budget, you will have a line item for your rent/mortgage, groceries and Christmas sinking fund (along with a bunch of other stuff). And each month you are setting money for the Christmas sinking fund aside but you aren't actually spending money in that fund until it get's closer to December.

How do you organize money from all these sinking funds? You can transfer the money into a separate account or keep it in a labeled cash envelope. There are also a few apps that help you organize money into separate categories to make your account balance more clear - Qapital and YNAB are a couple that I recommend. Use whatever makes the most sense for you!

This is why you are broke...

May 14, 2020

Are you confused at the end of each month because you know how much money you make, and there should be plenty to cover your bills, but then POOF - it's gone before you even knew what happened? Unfortunately, I think we can all relate to this one! I promise I won't harp on the importance of a budget in this post, even though that would tell you exactly where your money is going.

My guess is on subscriptions! And not only subscriptions themselves, but the mentality that the purchase doesn't effect anything. How many things are you "subscribed" to each month? I'm not talking about magazine subscriptions like the good old days. I'm talking about Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Bark Box, Spotify, all the beauty boxes, Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix, Hello Fresh and the ever so popular wine club -- the list can go on FOREVER.

This is where your money is going. $5 here, $15 there, you don't even notice each individual transaction but by the end of the month your paycheck is out the window. And it is not each tiny service that is making you broke, it is the mentality that these things don't have any effect on your money.

I'm not saying you can't have these these things, some of them save you time, increase your mental health, allow you something to look forward to during quarantine. I get it! But do me a favor, go through your bank statements for the past month and write down your subscriptions. Do you need them ALL? Are you paying for something you barely use? Can you find a free version? And before you sign up for the next new thing, take a second, see how it is going to fit in your life and determine if there is something else you need to give up to account for this new cost. Small changes like cancelling some of these services can free up money to put towards things you truly love.

Let's create a vacation budget!

May 11, 2020

Did you know you could create a budget for just about anything? When you sit down and do the basic (yet crucial) steps that involve creating a budget you become aware of how far (or not far) your money can get you, no matter what it is being used for.

Let's take an example that we can all relate to - vacation! Let's say you have $600 in your vacation savings account and a friend asks if you want to go to Chicago for the weekend because flights are only $100 - yep! Your hotel, for three nights, is $200 (splitting with your friend). You head to Target and buy a couple of new shirts and some toiletries, $75 (at least!).

Once you get to Chicago, you buy the 3-day train pass for $20 because your hotel isn't as close as you wanted it to be. You start figuring out that you are spending $80 a day on food, two quick meals and one sit down restaurant. By the end of the weekend you will have -$35 with the new food expenses. You still have a concert you planned on going to and a couple of local museums, so you put the rest on your credit card and will figure it out when you get home.

Well, here we are. Home with more credit card debt. This is an endless cycle that creating a quick budget could have solved. Maybe you don't run to Target the night before. Maybe you get a hotel a little further out since you will have the train pass. Maybe, you can't go?

Let's practice! Create a sample budget of a past vacation - write down all your expenses and what categories they fall in. Once you're done, use this as a template for future trips and rearrange money as needed (maybe you need less restaurant money but more flight money).

How much extra should I be paying on my student loans?

April 23, 2020

This is a fun question because when I start digging deeper into your finances as a coach and I tell you how much you can afford on paper - the jaws drop! We have been trained to think that if we are making our minimum payments we deserve a pat on the back - because we did it! Right? We didn't have an adjusted payment, we aren't in forbearance, we made the payment. Well, sorry, but no.

That minimum payment will cost you tens of THOUSANDS of dollars in interest that frankly, you can't afford. Nobody can! In most situations you should be able to pay double (at least!) on your loan to get rid of it! There are a lot of financial calculators online, I like, that help you play around with various extra payment amounts to find out just how long it will take you to pay off your debt.

Give it a shot, it's really motivating to see if you pay just a little extra each month, the number of years you can knock off the term of your loan!

Why you should keep paying your federal student loans while they suspended.

April 11, 2020

Right now you are not required to may a payment on your federal student loan, sounds great right? Wrong! If you are still employed, or your household can afford to make your monthly loan payment, you should continue to do so. And, this may sound crazy but, pay extra!

Think about it this way, normally you have interest tacked onto your loan each month. So when you make your payment, some goes to the loan and some goes to interest.

Right now, with your payments, 100% of it is going directly to the principle! That means that every penny you are sending to your lender is paying down your debt.

Of course, if you are worried about making rent or buying groceries you should hold off. But, if you are one of the lucky ones, hit it hard!

What expenses are counted towards an emergency fund? Calculate it here!

April 9, 2020

Any good emergency fund consists of expenses that continue on during an emergency. While there are a few different scenarios in determining when we can tap into this savings, there is only one way to calculate it and it is pretty simple.

1. Housing - rent or mortgage, it also includes electricity, trash, water and those sort of bills. Netflix is not here, and if times are tough, neither is WiFi.

2. Food - groceries. Don't put your restaurant spending money or brewery adventures in your emergency fund calculations. This is how much money you need to put food on the table for your family. And if members of the house are still working, this includes packing a lunch (no going out to eat at work either).

3. Transportation - let's be realistic, even in a crisis you will need gas to go buy your groceries or to pick up kids from school. Maybe you take the bus, include your bus passes here instead. You aren't accounting for saving for a car in this fund or a repair that you want to get done in the future.

A proper emergency fund consists of 6 months of savings for the above items. Add up expenses for each month, times it by six and there you go! This money should live in a savings account that you have quick and easy access to. You are not trying to gain interest on this money, you are getting prepared for an unfortunate time in your life.

Reader question: What is the best thing to do with savings? Invest? What kind of account is best to have it in?

April 7, 2020

A: This is a great question and it depends on the type of savings you are referring to! Let's assume you have no debt for this example. Your emergency fund should be in a separate account from your primary checking and it should be accessible. The point of this money is to get it when you need it so make sure it's in an account that doesn't require minimum balances or a specific amount of time that it has to be in the account. The purpose of this money shouldn't be to be making money so don't worry about the interest rate. You may see better rates with online banks, be sure you have a card to access the money.

With all of that, additional savings should be going into a Roth IRA. Personal finance coaches don't give investing advice so I would recommend you speak with a financial adviser on other account types. I would avoid single stock options if it was me.

If you don't have an emergency fund or you have debt, this should be your priority. Set aside $1,000 for each person in your household first. After that, work to pay off all your debt. Once your debt is paid, save six months worth of living expenses for your emergency fund. And that brings us back to the top!

Hope that helps!

What should you do with your COVID Economic Impact check?

April 4, 2020

So, this stimulus check. What about it?

First off, check out this link to see the details on how much you may be receiving. Amounts vary but are up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for those filing jointly (with $500 per child also in the mix). If you are behind on child support you won't be seeing a check. You will receive this money via direct deposit or a check in the mail, depending on your last filing method.

What should you be doing with this money? I can tell most of you that the answer here won't be to spend it. There are a few easy scenarios to cover but if you think your situation is a little more unique you can always reach out.

If your job is stable, you are not worried about lay-offs or reduced hours, this money should go towards any debt you may have. Let's say you don't have debt, then it should go towards your savings. If you have a five month emergency fund you can always invest or, my personal favorite, make a donation to an organization that is doing some good right now.

If you are at all questioning your employment then it should go towards your necessities and any leftover funds should go straight to savings. What are necessities? Rent/mortgage, gas for your car, food and utilities. Netflix? Nope. It's only $8.99/mo - nope. Getting food to go because you can't stand to cook anymore? Nope. Birthday gifts for friends because you feel bad they are stuck at home? Nope. Nope. Nope. You lost all or some of your income, it's time to save every penny you can.

Be safe and be smart out there!

This is what you should pay off first!

April 3, 2020

Debt, a lot of people have it but no debt is good debt. Hear me now, I will say it again. YOU DON'T WANT DEBT.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, if you do have debt and you are trying to get rid of what, where do you start? Reminder, no judgement, I was there too with a scary amount of student loans, but I am here to help.

Ok first, we want to list all debts from largest to smallest. I also like to put the interest rates next to them because it might effect things.

After we list all our debts, we are most likely going to pay the smallest debts first. This is snowball method, you can also use the avalanche method which is where you pay off the highest interest rates first. Back to paying off the smallest, this helps with creating easy wins as you pay them off. If it takes you a year to pay off one debt (let's say it's your largest), a year is a long time before you get a win in your journey. Too long and it's hard to keep up momentum.

With that, if you have a $300 credit card bill that is at 25%, we gonna get rid of that.

Back to the plan, once you pay off your first debt, that money then rolls into your payment for your next debt, and so on. And that's it! Easy right? Stay on track, remember your why and life will be grand on the other side.

What is debt?

April 2, 2020

This is a fun topic because I am about to blow some of your minds. What exactly counts as debt is something that can go one of two ways in conversations. You have the deniers that think a car payment is the American way and student loans are "good debt". Then you have the people that don't want it but haven't taken the steps to get rid of it for one reason or another.

So what is debt? Debt is anything you owe to anyone for anything. Anything.

  • Credit cards

  • Car loans (or boat loans, rv loans, you name it!)

  • Student loans

  • Home mortgage (this debt is more acceptable by the debt free community but a 15-year mortgage is a must)

  • Outstanding medical bill

  • Payday loans

  • Personal loans

The list can go on but we will stop there. If someone can take it away because you don't make a payment, it's not yours. That is why I am here, preaching what I preach, to get YOU to own your stuff and to stop owing people for things.

What is a budget and how do I get one?

April 1, 2020

A budget is key to being successful with your money. While you may think of a budget as something restrictive, it is actually something that allows you to spend. If you have money in a category in your budget, you are free to spend every penny and not feel bad about it.

There are a few ways to create a budget, I always recommend the zero-based budget. Zero-based budgeting is where your income minus your expenses equals zero. That doesn’t mean your bank account is empty, it means that every dollar you have handles something very specific. The types of things that this money is assigned to ranges from monthly bills, living expenses, savings, travel funds, 401k contributions, etc.

The best part about budgeting is that it can change every month. Take 5 minutes a day to look at your budget and categorize your spending, it saves you time in the end.

That's it, now go make a budget!