Category Archives: Finance

Tips to Plan With Your Partner And Save More Together

In a world where we broadcast our major life events on Facebook, real, genuine face-to-face communication is increasingly hard to come by.
And when most of our communication takes place via text, it’s not easy to understand a person’s feelings about a subject or even get your point across.
Money is one of those topics that just isn’t suited for Facebook or for texting.
Sure, you can ask your other half to pick up a bottle of wine on their way home, but if you’re always short on cash, living paycheck to paycheck, or you just want to have a better handle on your finances, it’s time to start talking about the price of the wine (and everything else) by sitting down and budgeting.
Related: Best budgeting tools: our favorite apps and websites
Now, your other half might grumble at the idea of making a budget together. After all, what’s the fun in that? Well, I’m here to argue that budgeting with your partner can actually be a great relationship-building activity.
Want to try planning a budget with your partner? Here’s how to convince your honey to join:
Make it a date

I know that having a nice romantic dinner and a movie might seem like a better date than sitting down and crunching numbers; however, you would be surprised at how accomplished you feel after a budgeting date.
You know that small voice in your head that thinks you should track your spending better, or get out of debt, or maybe start saving for retirement? Well, now you can conquer those doubts head-on with a budgeting date with your other half. Together, you can answer these questions and decide how to allocate your money.
What’s important is changing your mindset on what “budgeting” really is: For better or for worse, finances define almost ever part of our lives. If you plan your finances together, you’re helping to build a life together. Just like cooking and cleaning, budgeting can either be a chore or a shared challenge that brings you closer to your partner. Make it the latter, and you’ll strengthen your relationship and your finances. What better activity for a date with your other half?
Once you’ve finished your finance date, you’ll have a clear plan that you can work on together. Best of all, you have someone built into your life who can help you reach your goals on a daily basis.
Attract, not attack

When you finally sit down and get into the nitty-gritty of budgeting, it can be very easy to point fingers. It’s common to have a spender and a saver in a relationship. After all, opposites attract. However, this doesn’t have to be your downfall.
Instead, use it as a learning opportunity. I’m far more frugal than my husband: he encourages me to live a little, while I remind him that his bow tie collection is already quite full, thank you very much. We balance each other out, and we try to use that to our advantage when budgeting together.
Budgeting meetings should be about communication and mutual love, not attacking. If you finally convince your other half to sit down and budget with you, they likely won’t repeat the experience if they have to answer questions about every purchase and financial decision they made.
Don’t forget that personal spending habits can be a sensitive subject, especially if it feels like the things we love are being threatened. Reassure your partner that you’re in this together, and that no one is being punished. Keep thinking of it like climbing a mountain: It won’t always be easy, and some parts will be steeper than others. But if you help each other out, you’ll get to the top together and you’ll feel closer and more accomplished than before.
Related: What baggage do you bring to your relationship with money?
Build in rewards

Although there are some people who can go long periods of time without any sort of budget break or reward, most of us need positive reinforcement to help us get through challenges.
I personally love getting my nails done. There’s just something about typing on the computer for 30+ hours a week that makes me want to have shiny, pretty nails. These, of course, come at a cost, and I have to budget properly in other areas in order to reward myself.
Cut back where you can, but not so much that it’s not sustainable. If you cut out everything you both love, you’ll never stick to the budget at all. The goal is to save for your life together, so make sure to focus on your hopes for the future while still enjoying some treats in the present. Remember, sometimes when you cut back on the things you love, you enjoy them even more when you get to indulge.
Enjoy shared goals

When you budget together, think of it as sharing a mutual project rather than enduring a shared prison sentence. Budgeting can definitely be challenging. I know because I’ve gone through periods where I’ve budgeted perfectly for months only to fall off the wagon and not budget at all for a period of time.
What I’ve learned, though, is that when it comes to finances, someone to keep you accountable is one way to guarantee success. Plus, if you have shared finances, working together on a budget can help eliminate some of those money arguments that pop up and make life together more challenging and downright unpleasant.

Know More About Some Financial Lies We Tell Ourselves

“We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.” ― Eric Hoffer

We don’t mean to, but we lie to ourselves — about a lot of things. We tell ourselves what we want to hear to justify our choices, our behavior, and our avoidance of responsibilities.

Unfortunately, we believe ourselves. We repeat our lies so often, we eventually accept them as truths and continue in our self-deception. Lying is damaging, and telling ourselves financial lies has lasting repercussions.

Here are five common financial lies we tell ourselves.

1. I Just Need to Make More Money

The Lie

We only have one problem. We don’t make enough money. Once that tiny problem is solved, the keys to all doors will unlock. Nevermind our poor habits. Nevermind our inability to say “no” to ourselves. We need more money — that’s it.

The Truth

Increasing your income may very well contribute to improving your financial situation, but surely it’s not the only factor. In fact, if you have poor money-management skills, give in to all your wants, forgo planning and budgeting, then making more money will only compound your negative situation, not improve it. This requires being brutally honest with yourself, but is your income the problem or are you?

2. I’ll Start Saving When I Make More Money

The Lie

We have good intentions with this one. We know we need to save, and we plan to (really, we do), but we feel there just isn’t enough money to pay our bills, AND have a little fun, AND save. As soon as we make more money, we’ll save. (Uh-huh, sure.)

The Truth

If saving is not a priority now, making more money won’t suddenly make it one. Once you’re accustomed to spending 100% of what you bring in, it will be incredibly difficult to break that habit. When your income increases, your wants and needs surprisingly increase too. Make saving a percentage of your income a non-negotiable, much like paying taxes (unless you lie to yourself about that too).

3. I Don’t Make Enough Money to Budget

The Lie

Hahahahaha…(ahem, excuse me.) We really do believe this. Our income doesn’t cover all our expenses so we couldn’t possibly dream of budgeting. As soon as there is enough money to cover ALL our expenses PLUS a little surplus, that’s when we’ll budget.

The Truth

Not budgeting because you think you don’t have enough money is counterintuitive. A budgetis simply a plan for your money. If money is tight and you are struggling to cover all your expenses, then you NEED TO BUDGET! Budgeting will allow you to prioritize what you spend your money on, and often a surprising outcome is that you DO have the money to cover your needs and then some.

4. I Can Afford It. The Payment is Only…

The Lie

We have short-sighted thinking. We focus on the “affordable” monthly car payment, not the $30,000 and almost six years behind it. We think about the “manageable” student loan payment, instead of the $37,000 it represents and the impact those payments may have on our career and life choices.

The Truth

This is one of the hardest things to admit, but if we can only afford the payment, then we can’t afford the purchase. Ouch! The good news is, if you can “afford” the payment, then you can also afford to wait and save up for it. A big difference between financing an item and saving up for it is which side of the payments you make the purchase. It requires a significant amount of maturity and discipline on your part, but by exercising patience and delayed gratification, you will come out ahead.

5. I Need It

The Lie

We can easily talk ourselves into believing our wants are needs. We all do it. Unfortunately, we’re good at deceiving ourselves, and before we know it we’re plunking down money or worst, financing, an item that we convinced ourselves we can’t live without.

The Truth

It may seem like the lines between our needs and our wants are blurred, but it’s only because we’re doing the blurring. If you believe an expense is a need, carefully consider whether or not it is a legitimate necessity. What would happen if you didn’t buy it? What are you giving up to buy it? Is there an alternative? If it is a need, is it possible to wait and save towards it? Rationally thinking about a “need” can reveal that it isn’t one.

The Truth Will Set You Free!

Most of us have operated under at least one of these false assumptions at some point or another in our adulthood. It’s so easy to believe these lies — especially when our culture and those we love and adore perpetuate them.

Thankfully, the beauty of making mistakes is that we learn from them and can move forward with new knowledge! Embrace the freedom that comes with squashing these financial lies!

Should You Know About Financial Advice That Will Keep You Broke and in Debt

Well-meaning friends and family often share financial advice. Unsolicited or not, they are generous with offering up their financial pearls of wisdom.

Oftentimes, though, this advice is not based on solid financial knowledge, but rather on what culture portrays as normal and acceptable.

Because we live in a “buy now, pay later” culture, financial advice offered up by the people in our lives usually perpetuates the assumptions that debt will always be a way of life.

There are a few common pieces of financial advice that we hear all the time. A well-intentioned relative or friend may have told you one of these at some point. You may have even said one or more of these to someone else. See if these sound familiar.

1. You Should Have at Least One Credit Card for Emergencies

Have you ever been told this one? I have — a lot. Surprisingly, I even heard it in response to sharing that I decided to live a debt-free life.

Are emergencies going to happen? Unfortunately, yes. Do we need to be prepared for them? Absolutely! But slapping the cost of an emergency on a credit card isn’t exactly preparing for it. If that is your only line of defense, then you’re setting yourself up for trouble later.

When you think of a few examples of emergencies like job loss, car trouble, an ER visit, or a death in the family, those are all scenarios where adding debt to the mix is just going to make the situation worst. You not only have to deal with the emergency, you now have to deal with the emergency AND credit card debt.

The best way to handle an emergency is to build up a cash emergency fund. When you have cash on hand, and an emergency comes your way, you can focus on the situation you are facing without the financial worry.

2. Student Loan Debt is Good Debt

I think most people will agree that investing in higher education can be a wise choice for some. What is not necessarily wise is going into massive amounts of debt for it.

Well-meaning relatives encourage taking on student loans based on the rationalization that the expected salary upon graduation will wipe out the debt in “no time.” Unfortunately, reality tells us that is usually not the case for the 70% of students that take on student loans.

Between four years of college turning into six and not landing that dream job, too many college graduates find themselves scrambling to make their payments and are overwhelmed by the impact of starting off life with an enormous amount of debt.

Yes, college is a worthwhile investment, but saddling yourself with debt isn’t the only way to make that investment. Explore and pursue alternatives before signing on the dotted line.

3. It’s the Right Time to Buy a House

Home prices AND interest rates are low, and it’s the “right” time to buy??? Great! There’s a foreclosure around the corner that you can scoop up for a dime? Awesome! Do you have the money? No? Then it’s not the right time for YOU to buy a house.

Contrary to what friends and family may say, the conditions in the housing market are only part of the equation in determining when is a good time for you to buy a house. Whether or not it’s a buyer’s market doesn’t matter if you are saddled with other debt, have no emergency fund, or can’t come up with the down payment on a house.

Be patient and choose to buy when it’s the right time for you, not everyone else.

4. Buy the Most House You Can Afford

This common financial advice encourages us to stretch ourselves thin when it comes to getting a mortgage. We are encouraged to take on the biggest mortgage payment we think we can handle. Unfortunately, what we believe we can handle is usually significantly more than what we truly can handle.

Also, this advice is usually offered at the exclusion of the other things we need to do like actually maintain the house, put kids through college, and save for retirement. Even banks will lend you more than what is healthy for your particular situation. We have the financial crisis of 2008 to prove that. Personally, it took going through a short-sale to fully wake up to the fact that the house I thought I could afford was not affordable at all.

Following the advice to buy the most house you can “afford” will leave you house-poor or worse — house-less.

5. Don’t Throw Your Money Away on Rent

This advice is the cousin to “It’s the Right Time to Buy a House” and “Buy the Most House You Can Afford.” It seems like we’re just eager to push others into buying homes, even if conditions aren’t ideal for them.

Many people incorrectly assume that renting is a waste of money and they are very vocal about telling you. But there are many scenarios where renting is wise including, getting settled in a career or marriage (or life in general), taking the time to build up an emergency fund and a healthy down payment, or getting over a personal or financial crisis.

Even in the aftermath of short-selling, I’ve been told that what I am spending on rent is “good mortgage money.” What you pay on rent is not a waste if you are not in a position to buy a house.

6. You’ll Always Have a Car Payment

This is common. It doesn’t occur to most people that you can purchase a car without having a car payment. Because we live in a “buy now, pay later” culture we think the only way to purchase a car is with a car loan.

But, If we are willing to exercise some patience we would realize that if we can “afford” a car payment then we can afford to wait and save up to buy a car with cash.

Choose to put the payment before the purchase by saving up for your next car.

Control Your Spending With Using Multiple Bank Accounts

I am always interested in how others manage their personal cash flow, so I’ve decided to share how I do it.
I am always interested in how others manage their personal cash flow, so I’ve decided to share how I do it. Ultimately, which accounts your money flows through matters less than where it flows to, but recently I’ve found utilizing multiple bank accounts actually makes keeping to a budget easier.
I have four bank accounts. Two checking accounts, two savings accounts, plus one credit card. I’ve come a long way from the days I had four credit cards and one bank account (with nothing in it!)
But it’s not that I need four accounts to hold all my cash (though I do wish that were the case). Instead, I find compartmentalizing my money simplifies keeping track of it and, consequently, staying on budget.
See what my bank accounts look like below.
Every two weeks my paychecks are directly deposited into my free checking account at a local credit union. On approximately the same day preset amounts are electronically transferred from my free local checking account to my two savings accounts and my online, high yield checking account.
I then use the debit card linked to my online checking account for all my routine purchases and discretionary spending. This includes gas, groceries, eating out, etc. The beautiful thing is: I only put a set amount in that account every two weeks, so I train myself not to spend more than that.
Throughout the month, I use the remaining funds in my local checking account to pay all of my bills. Most months this is a very predictable amount, though obviously some monthly bills, especially utilities, can fluctuate. I usually budget for a 10% cushion. Above that I could tap into my short term savings.
My two savings accounts are earmarked as short term and long term. My short term account, also at my local credit union, I’ll use if I want to save for a large purchase or a vacation. My online savings account is for either buying a home or graduate school, and also serves as an emergency fund.
Finally, the credit card.
I only recently set up this banking system. Until then, I had been using my credit card for my monthly spending and paying the balance each month in order to get rewards points. (Even I was amazed how long I could go without needing cash). But even with my attention to my finances I found that I was spending more than I wanted each month. Not enough to send me spiraling into more debt, but enough to make me take notice. So my credit card was demoted to a new role in my wallet.
Reimbursable expenses. That’s right. The only thing I pay for with my credit card are travel expenses for work. I’m still earning points without risking racking up a balance of personal expenses. I will probably still use my credit card for personal travel, though this money will be “secured” by funds in my short term savings or spending accounts.

Simple Habits You Must Adopt to Win with Money

It’s no secret that if you’re looking to win with money, you need to make some changes to what you are currently doing. Otherwise, you will remain exactly where you are.

Knowing and doing are two different things, though, and when it comes to change, the doing is hard. It’s difficult to break away from familiar and comfortable behaviors — even if they impact us negatively. Those negative behaviors have become habits, and we all know habits are hard to break.

That’s why adopting new habits and swapping them in for some of your current behaviors is essential if you want to win with money. There are many to consider, but we’ll look at four. These habits can also be referred to as attitudes or characteristics, but I’m calling them habits because they need to be practiced and exercised over and over until demonstrating them becomes routine.

Here are four habits you must adopt to win with money.

Contentment

I talk a lot about contentment because I think it’s a factor that affects our finances so deeply. Whether or not you practice the habit of contentment determines your outlook of where you are financially and where you are headed next.

When contentment is absent, you can easily make decisions that harm you financially. My own lack of contentment is what led me to pile on over $74,000 of debt. Finding contentment is what allowed me to pay it off and make a life of debt a thing of the past.

Contentment is not to be confused with complacency. I think sometimes, people hear the word contentment and equate it with settling. The opposite is true. Contentment does not mean “just be happy with what you have.” No, it means you can (and should) still work on your goals and aim for where you want to be, but you’re doing that while recognizing, acknowledging, and appreciating what you have and where you are.

Practicing contentment allows you to have a healthy perspective on the state of your finances and life in general.

Gratitude

Contentment and gratitude go hand-in-hand. When you have a real sense of contentment, that naturally leads you to gratitude for where you are financially.

We can easily get caught up in thinking about what we lack and what we want, but practicing the habit of gratitude puts the spotlight back on the many things we have to be grateful for.

No matter where we are financially, there are several things that we each can and shouldcelebrate. Take a moment, daily, to identify a few things you can be grateful for. Adopting this practice will keep gratitude at the forefront of your mind and will cast a healthy perspective on where you are financially.

Focus

Our culture struggles with focus. If you have children, you may have witnessed their inability to just watch television anymore. No, they’re watching TV, while playing a game or doing something else on another screen.

We adults are no better. When it comes to our finances, we sometimes want to do everything all at once. We want to save for retirement, buy a house, pay off debt — all the while we have no cash on hand in the event of an emergency.

When we attempt to do too many things financially at the same time, we sabotage our chances of making significant progress in even one of the areas in which we are seeking change. We experience similar results to the person who is trying to lose weight and goes all in by cutting carbs, slashing their caloric intake, and working out seven days a week all at once. They dilute their efforts by trying to do too many things at the same time and quickly give up.

The same will happen to you if you attempt to tackle too many things financially. Set yourself up for success by focusing on one thing at a time before moving on to the next.

Discipline

I think this may be one of the most challenging habits to practice and develop — but one of the most necessary. As challenging as it is to develop discipline, the good news is that once it’s in place in one area of your life, it will spread to other areas of your life.

Many people who have developed discipline in their finances also experience discipline in their physical health, work life, time management, and other aspects of their lives.

Like all habits, acquiring discipline requires constant practice. And even the “most disciplined” continue to be challenged at times, but once this habit is in place, you will see radical effects on your finances. Being disciplined allows you to say “no” when you need to and “yes” when you can.

Practice Makes Perfect

When contentment, gratitude, focus, and discipline are in place, you will see an amazing transformation in your finances — and in your life.

Adopting these habits requires practice. And not only practice but the daily commitment topractice them. The more you attempt to exercise these habits, the quicker they will become just that — habits. As we said earlier, negative habits are hard to break, but thankfully, so are good ones!

Tips To Save When You Were Born To Spend

Some people are natural-born savers. Others, not so much. Were you born to spend? Saving money won’t come easily, but it’s not impossible. Here’s why.
Are you a Natural Born Spender or Natural Born Saver? Believe it or not, research suggests that—Spender or Saver—you may really be born that way.
So if you want to change your financial habits—say cut back on impulsive purchases and save a bit—what can you do?
A good start is to couple up with your counterpart.
Ever noticed that among couples, one person’s often a Saver and one’s a Spender? It’s a good thing. When two Spenders get together, it’s a recipe for financial trouble. Meanwhile, two married Savers may endure a very secure albeit boring lifetime together.
My parents are an example. My dad’s a Saver, my mom’s a Spender. My wife, Lauren, and I are like this too…and I’m the Spender.
But wait, aren’t I personal finance blogger? Yes, yes. But I’m still a Spender. Despite my dad’s efforts to instill a saving ethic in me, when I got out on my own, I ended up more like my mom: Spender. (Maybe it is in my genes.) Although I learned lessons from overspending, spent years repaying big debts, and now have created systems to pay myself first and invest a percentage of my income, when money comes in, my gut wants to spend it, not save it. I have to fight the urge to spend to put money in the bank. I’m a born Spender.
And though Lauren doesn’t set regular saving goals or always stay on top of things like her retirement savings, she’s a born Saver. When Lauren gets paid, she’s reluctant to spend her money, and usually doesn’t. For example, Lauren could use some new clothes to replace casual outfits she’s had since college. She knows she could use new clothes. We have the money to afford new clothes. I give her time to go shopping for new clothes, offering to watch our daughter on weekends. She’ll go shopping for new clothes. And come back empty handed. She can’t bring herself to spend the money. She’s a born Saver.
So when it comes time to make big financial decisions, Lauren and I balance each other. When I want to hurry up and buy something, she suggests we hold off. When Lauren balks at spending money we have on something that could really improve our life, she’s appreciative that I push us forward.

ARE YOU A SPENDER OR A SAVER?
A big step towards reaching your goals is to understand the subconscious forces driving your financial decisions. We like to think that we’re capable of making entirely rational financial decisions, but this is not the case. If you’re a Spender, you’ll need to create systems in your life that make it impossible for your impulsive self to spend your money. And if you’re a Saver, you need to find ways to create permission for yourself to spend and enjoy your money here and there.
You may already know if you’re a Spender or a Saver. If not, quiz yourself:
SPENDER OR SAVER? QUIZ
When you get a paycheck or another lump sum of money, do you:
Immediately start thinking of things you could buy with that money?
Put some of the money in savings, or simply ignore the fact you now have more money than before.
When you are getting ready to make a large purchase, do you:
Get excited and buy as soon as you can, sometimes too impulsively.
Feel anxious and put off buying as long as you can.
Do you tend to buy things that you don’t really need?
Yes, I have collected a lot of crap I shouldn’t have over the years.
No, I don’t buy something unless it’s absolutely essential.
Obviously, if you answered at least two of these questions “1”, you’re more of a Spender. If you answered two or more “2”, you’re a natural Saver.
When you know this about yourself, you can take steps to consciously overcome your money gut when you need to…even if you’re not married to your financial counterpart.
HOW TO SAVE WHEN YOU WERE BORN TO SPEND
If you perennially have the urge to splurge, saving can be as hard as shedding belly fat. As soon as you take a few steps forward, one lapse in willpower puts you right back at starting line…or behind it.
Michael Rubin is a financial planner and blogging friend of mine who’s just released his second book, The Savings Solution: A Conversation About Living for Today While Saving for Tomorrow. It addresses this exact problem. For Spenders, it provides a way to incorporate financial planning while still enjoying some money now. For Savers, it takes away some of the guilt that comes with spending money.
The Savings Solution presents 10 savings strategies that closely mirror the advice woven throughout my own blog. I want to highlight four here:
1. Stay emotionally connected to your money.
Emotional connections differentiate Savers and Spenders. (Again, this is not about numbers, it’s about psychology.) Savers are emotionally connected with money. It gives them pleasure to watch it grow and it pains them to part with it. We Spenders are emotionally connected to things money can buy; we get more pleasure out of a new outfit or that new car smell than we feel pain from spending. Rubin’s first saving strategy is learning to develop a healthy level of emotional connection to money. You want to feel pinch of spending money, but not so much you hoard it.
2. Major on the major, minor on the minor.
With some rare exceptions, cups of coffee don’t sink a budget—housing, cars, and other expensive stuff does. You want to take time with major financial decisions like where you live and what you drive. The little stuff matters too, especially small but recurring expenses (like a gym membership you’re not using), but you don’t want to be to pennywise but pound foolish.
3. Spend with comfort on what you value most.
This is what I call spending with intention. Here’s an example:
Michael travels from New England to the University of Michigan, his alma mater, for football games several times a year at a cost of at least $500 a trip. To a non-football fan, that’s a lot of money to spend each year on a very discretionary expense. But Michael loves those trips. They give him something to look forward to. He enjoys every minute of the games—and the trips—because they are intentional.
When you build an indulgence or two that you love into your spending plan, it makes it easier to make other sacrifices (like driving that old car another couple years), because you’re using money in ways that fill your soul and literally add meaning to life.
4. You don’t spend what you don’t see.
Paying yourself first is such a powerful strategy because, as Michael puts it, you don’t spend what you don’t see. If you want to save money, take it out of your paycheck before it even hits your checking account. Then, don’t give yourself easy access to the savings account where you store it (that means no ATM card.) When you automate your finances correctly, you don’t need to budget constantly (also one of Michael’s strategies), letting you worry about money less and enjoy life more.

Tips To Start Saving

Americans aren’t great at saving. In an oft-cited statistic, almost half of Americans (46 percent) report that they wouldn’t be able to handle an unexpected $400 expense and would have to go into debt to pay it. Another 21 percent reported that they’d deal with three months of unemployment by borrowing from friends, selling assets, or taking out payday loans.
At Money Under 30, we feel that the emergency fund is the bedrock of financial security. It allows you to weather unexpected hardships without raiding your retirement funds or other investments, which means you don’t miss out on gains or pay unnecessary fees. It gives you a sense of comfort and confidence that you can face any challenge.
All that said,  saving is hard. It requires you to fight against cultural conditioning (in the form of ads, TV, and your friends on Facebook) that tells you you should spend, spend, spend, and acquire all that you can. It requires you to forgo immediate pleasures for the sake of far-off calamities.
We all know we should be saving—people regularly list it as one of their top financial resolutions each year—and yet so many of us don’t. There’s a reason for that.
Here’s how to start saving—by first acknowledging why it’s hard.
Why it’s so hard to start saving

When you first start putting away money, it can feel so insubstantial as to be meaningless. You’ve got, what? Fifty bucks in your brand-new savings account? It’s a start, but it’s far from where you want to be. Your goals and dreams can seem so far away as be unreachable.
By saving rather than spending that money, you’re also giving up something. It can feel like an unfair trade. After all, that $50 in your savings account won’t help all that much if you’re suddenly hit with a $500 expense; it’s also not gonna get you to Vegas for your buddy’s bachelor party. (Unless you already live in Vegas.) And, by tucking it away in your savings account, you’re not getting the sweater/video game/daily frappuccino that you would have normally spent that $50 on.
It’s easy to weigh the pros and cons, say “screw it,” and take that money and buy what you want, enjoy the immediate gratification, and then later beat yourself up for not having the willpower to save. And to do it all again with your next savings attempt.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
Soon enough, you’ve resigned yourself to a life as a non-saver, living paycheck to paycheck, frittering away the future on a few frivolous pleasures.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a few tricks, and the right mindset, you can start building up cash reserves that’ll help you weather any storm.

1. Keep your savings out of sight

The absolute first thing to do is set up an external saving account. You need to put up some barriers between you and your reserve cash.
If you just transfer money to a savings account at the same bank where you have your checking account, then it’s too easy to transfer it back and spend it. (At my bank, it’s literally instantaneous.) The separation between a checking and a savings account at the same bank is practically nil.
An account at a different bank erects hoops you’ll have to jump through if you want to spend your savings. And, if you’re anything like me, that effort will be too much, and you’ll opt to keep your money where it is and not buy whatever shiny toy has caught your fancy. As an added bonus, you’ll avoid buyer’s remorse.
A separate high-yield savings account can also offer you significantly better interest than your run-of-the-mill savings account. That interest is still likely to be a piddling 1 percent, but as your balance grows, so will the interest you get, which can be a motivator in its own way. (Free money is free money, even if it’s $2 a month.)

2. Focus on the process rather than the ultimate goal

This, of course, is the opposite of what most personal finance blogs say to do. They’re all about final goals! If you’re saving for a vacation, they tell you to put a picture of a sandy beach in your wallet, or to imagine the surf tickling your feet whenever you want to spend money on a mindless purchase. Visualize what you want, the theory goes, and your will won’t fail you.
And that probably works great for saving for fun stuff. Concrete stuff. Things like access to sandy beaches or a bright new iPhone. But it works less well for what might be the most important savings goal of all: Your emergency fund. I guess you could put images of scary car accidents or large medical bills into your wallet, but that’s no way to live.
Instead focus on the process, on simply doing the thing that needs to be done, and reward yourself (in some small way) for keeping up with it. Perhaps tell yourself that you’ll only do it for a certain amount of time, like three months. Then the sacrifice won’t feel so great, the commitment less permanent. By the time the three months are up, you’ll be in a groove and won’t want to stop.

3. Don’t set yourself up to fail

Where most of us go astray when it comes to resolutions—whether financial, professional, or otherwise—is by setting goals so lofty they might as well be impossible.
For instance, if you decide you want to lose 50 pounds in the next year, you’re going to feel crappy if exercising and not eating delicious cake doesn’t yield results immediately. You might even be tempted to quit. (After all, you gave up cake and have gotten nothing for it!) But a lack of major results doesn’t mean you’re failing—after all, there are so many factors that go into weight gain or loss—not just exercise and diet, but genetics and other things outside your control.
Instead, if you say you want to bike to work three days a week and eat a salad for lunch every Friday, then that’s a lot more manageable. It’s specific, but allows for some wiggle room. (Some days it rains, after all.) And exercising, whether for weight loss or other goals, usually makes you feel better. You’ll feel good and you won’t get frustrated when you don’t immediately drop three inches from your waist, because that’s not what you set out to do. You focused on process, not results. The means, not the ends.
The same goes for money goals. If you say you want to save $10,000 in the next year, you may find yourself frustrated by slow progress or an unexpected setback, and just give up. But if you just say you want to save X amount each paycheck, then you’re going to be more likely to succeed.
And that success will give you motivation and momentum to keep going, so that you’ll be more likely to hit that lofty original goal. If you bike to work, it’s possible you’ll start shedding fat, gaining muscle, and feeling more energetic. If you put $100 aside every paycheck, soon you’ll have a substantial sum.

4. Take advantages of windfalls to help build savings momentum

Nothing gets you more stoked about savings than seeing your balance go up—way up.
If you’re putting away $50 a paycheck, it’s gonna take a little while to build up some serious cash. (And that’s okay!) However, if you find yourself with a nice year-end bonus, or an unexpectedly large tax refund, or even some birthday money from Mom and Dad, you can make major progress in no time at all.
Your first instinct, of course, is to spend that money, guilt-free. And that’s one option. But by putting that money (or most of it, anyway) into savings, you’re getting closer to that moment when you’ve saved up enough that you feel invested, when you no longer look at your balance as some piddling nothing, but rather as something to be protected and cultivated. (If there’s one thing that regular savings teaches you, it’s that it takes a long time to save up a substantial sum, and no time at all to spend it.)
Once you hit that place, then saving becomes a lot easier. It stops being drudgery, and starts being something you want to do. You experience, for maybe the first time, what financial security feels like. And it feels good, so you’ll want to get more of it.

5. Get a side hustle

I know, I know. We’re always talking about side hustles around here. But there’s a good reason for that.
It can feel truly empowering to get paid for something outside your biweekly paycheck—especially if you’re trapped in a dead-end job or something you’re not passionate about. And since your budget is based on expected income (for us wage-slave drones, at least), that money (minus self-employment taxes) can go to anything you want, including your savings. It’s all gain, baby!
I made major strides in my savings goals over the last year by putting almost all my freelance money towards my emergency fund. Because of this, I’m likely to get it fully funded more than a year earlier than I would have if I had just been making my regular deposits from my biweekly paycheck.
Making those extra deposits—and seeing my balance go up by leaps and bounds, rather than dribs and drabs—makes me more motivated to save, and more motivated to seek out new freelance projects.

Some Important Money Lessons

Hands down, my dad is one of the most frugal people you will ever meet. Now, don’t get me wrong, this 6’4” gentle giant is by no means cheap. But frugal on the other hand, well, this two-syllable word should have been his middle name. While many members of our family tree have constantly joked about his level of frugality — myself included — it wasn’t until I entered into the world of adulthood a few years ago when his financial wisdom deeply resonated. Because let’s face it: “adulting” is hard and confusing. Not to mention expensive!

It’s because of my dad, and the countless hours he spent teaching and ingraining lessons about money in my mind, that I was able to step through the threshold of the much-anticipated “real world” with confidence. It’s because of him that I learned money doesn’t have to be scary or controlling. And it’s because of him that I am excited to be sharing the five most important money lessons he taught me with you. Because all these lessons are universal, I hope to pass along his wisdom and shed a light on how everyone can become financially healthier, all thanks to the good ole friend of frugality.

1. Expect the unexpected.

I’ve lost track of how many times my dad has preached the “expect the unexpected” sermon to me, but I do know one thing for certain — this lesson will forever be carved in my mind. Whether my car breaks down, I need an unanticipated surgery, I lose my job, or I’m just down on my luck, whatever the challenging issue might be, it is crucial to have an emergency fund.

Having this financial cushion not only puts my mind at ease it also acts as a blanket of comfort knowing I don’t have to rely on anyone else in any unforeseen situation, as I have my own resources.

2. Forget “keeping up with the Joneses.” Always live within your means.

Looking back, my dad was very adamant about teaching me the importance of living within my means. While credit cards can be beneficial for building credit, we would have regular conversations about the dangers that could very easily come along with credit card love affairs, as well as by trying to keep up with others’ spending habits. As he always stated, “Just because your friends have the latest gadget or “it” device, doesn’t mean you automatically need it.”

He emphasized the importance of tracking what comes in vs. what goes out. By knowing exactly what’s coming into my bank account each month, and creating a list of all my fixed expenses — for instance: rent, car payments, insurance, electricity, the list goes on! — the lines of living within my means aren’t so blurry, as I am then aware of the amount I have left to spend.

3. Planning for retirement doesn’t have to be nerve-racking.

Whenever the word “retirement” enters the room, nerves start tangling and stress levels begin to rise. And with good reason. It’s a chapter of our lives we all know we should be saving for, but with it being 30-plus years away, what’s the rush, right? And how do we even begin? Yes, even the idea of saving for retirement can feel daunting. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be…If we start the process now.

When my dad first sat me down to talk about 401k accounts and Roth IRAs, the words coming out of his mouth sounded like a foreign language. Yet over time, I began to catch on. I realized the magic time can have on money and the beauty of compound interest. Therefore, it’s not so much about the amount you’re investing into your retirement at this given moment. Instead, the importance lies in ensuring you’re adding something to your account and making consistent contributions. Remember, even the smallestefforts can make a drastic difference down the line.

4. Start saving today for your dreams tomorrow.

Growing up, my family loved to go on camping trips together. Seeing and exploring new places was our jam. So when my travel itch extended into wanting to sign up for an international trip with my high school, my dad thought this would be the perfect opportunity to teach me the importance of saving. He and my mom made a deal with me that they would pay for half the trip, but I would have to come up with the rest of the money.

After a summer of endless hours spent babysitting, mowing yards, washing cars, and any other chores I could scrounge up, I met my savings goal. And oh, how sweet that moment tasted knowing I had achieved my dream on my own! Not only was I able to embark on my first international experience, but it was during that time I also learned the true value of a dollar. I learned by taking the time to plan out tactical steps, I could break down any goal into something manageable. Most importantly, I learned with hard work, patience, and discipline, I could accomplish any long-term savings goal — even ones that seemed a little too far out of reach.

5. Be your own Prince Charming.

As a father of three daughters, my dad was determined to teach us the importance of being financially independent. While he always hoped we would one day find our “Prince Charming” in life, the last thing he wanted for us was to rely on that person to rescue us from any financial woes.

To balance the encouragement of us going after our dreams, and living the life we’ve always imagined, my dad taught us early on the importance of understanding finances. Whether or not we met someone to share our futures with, his focus was to ensure we would be well-equipped with the knowledge to take control of our financial future. For that, I will forever be grateful.

Thank you, dad. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. And thank you for instilling so many of your financial habits in me. It is because of you that I value financial responsibility. It is because of you that I choose —and always will choose — peace, love, and frugality.

Trick Yourself Into Saving More And Spending Less

You know that if you do enough abdominal crunches and jumping jacks, your stomach will get stronger and you’ll lose some weight.
According to psychology experts, the mind is just another muscle that works the same way. If you exercise the brain, you can strengthen your financial health, and lose some of that money-related anxiety.
We asked Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D, an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at San Francisco State University and co-founder of Beyond the Purchase, a think tank about how and why people spend money, to explain how you can use the power of the mind to trick yourself into buying less, paying down debt, and saving more.
Post visual reminders of your financial goals in strategic spots

Saving for something big, like a vacation? Or trying to get your credit card balance down to zero?
Place a visual reminder in places you look at a lot.
For example, print out a picture of your next ideal vacation destination, and wrap it around your debit card, or change the background photo on your cell phone.
If you’re a big online shopper, but want to wipe out your credit card debt, change the background image on your computer screen to a big fat zero.
“This helps take the emotional excitement out of buying and makes it a deliberative, cognitive process,” Ryan says.
Find a cheaper phone plan

Many of us spend a lot more money than we need to on our phone plans. There are many alternatives to high-price, big-name phone carriers—take FreedomPop for example.
Let’s compare FreedomPop’s most popular plan of unlimited text, talk, & 2GB of data, at the cost of $24.99 (after the free one-month trial!) to Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. For this same plan, Verizon charges you $40, AT&T charges you $50, and Sprint opts for a 3GB plan instead of two at $50.
You might be saying, well FreedomPop must have spotty coverage or charge way too much to purchase a new phone—there’s got to be a catch. Well, you’d be wrong.
FreedomPop gets their coverage through Sprint, so anywhere your Sprint phone works, so will FreedomPop. And compared to Verizon, FreedomPop works just as well in inconsistent coverage areas like Maine.
FreedomPop also offers a much more financially accessible phone purchase. The Moto E 2nd Gen LTE Android phone is just $29.99 compared to the hundreds you could spend on a phone elsewhere.
FreedomPop’s 2GB plan is for someone who spends a good amount of time looking at their phone. If you’re a more casual phone user, FreedomPop can offer you a plan that’s free. Yes, free. You can get 200 minutes for talk, 500 texts, and 500MB of data each month at no cost to you.
When considering which phone plan to use, make sure to think about what you really need and make sure to choose a plan that doesn’t charge you for what you aren’t using.
Stick with budgeting tools and apps, even when they make you feel bad

You downloaded an app like Spending Tracker or finally linked up all your accounts with one of our recommending budgeting tools.
Feels good to take control of your finances, right?
Yes—for awhile.
Don’t be surprised if you start to feel depressed once you start actually entering numbers about purchases, or seeing—in those neat, colored Mint graphs—how far off your budget you went.
“These tools have made it so simple and easy to track money,” Ryan says. “But knowledge can be painful. It’s unenjoyable to know you’re not doing well at something.”
But stick with it, Ryan advises. “It’s like exercise,” he says. “At first, it’s painful. But then you begin to enjoy it, or at least realize the uncomfortableness is worth it. Realizing you spend too much money isn’t fun, but the pain that comes with massive credit card debt is worse.”
There’s also an easy way to save money similar to budgeting apps, but that does the work for you.
Chances are you have a couple of subscriptions out there that you quickly signed up for, but forgot about haven’t had the chance to cancel. Maybe it’s your gym membership, or that freelance site you no longer need because you’re full-up on jobs.
Either way, Trim, a free financial service, will find and cancel these subscriptions for you. All you have to do is link your bank and credit card info to their service (don’t worry, they only load the transactions related to subscriptions). They then send you a text message with all your subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, your gym, etc.) and you can cancel them by replying with “Cancel [insert subscriptions here].”
Don’t purchase upgrades

Retailers offer upgrades for almost everything these days. But in most cases, the upgrade isn’t worth the cost.
“Think about a concert or a baseball game,” Ryan says. “Is there really a difference between nosebleeds and ten rows in front of the nosebleeds? Unless you’re paying for an upgrade that will get you behind the dugouts or in the tenth row, don’t buy the upgrade.”
Wait 24 hours to buy any unnecessary items

Avoid engaging in retail therapy.
“If you’re wandering through a mall aimlessly, and you’re feeling bad about your career or something else, and you see a shiny new phone, you might think, ‘That will make me happy,’” he says.
But studies show the joy that comes with a new purchase usually disappears. All you’re left with is the debt from these purchases, or less money to put in savings. The less money you have, the more stressed you’ll be.
But sometimes you do need a new phone, or new clothing. So when is it OK to make these purchases? When you take 24 hours to think it over.
“After 24 hours, you’re probably not making an emotional purchase,” Ryan says. “You either really want it, or you’ve decided the purchase will truly bring you closer to family and friends.”
When shopping or eating out, if the total is less than $100, use cash

The last time I visited an ATM was over two weeks ago, when I took out $100. It’s a pain for me to get to an ATM, especially in cold weather. Now that I can deposit checks through Chase’s mobile app, I have even less of a reason go to an actual bank.
I just checked my wallet, and I still have $80 there (my husband swiped $20).
Now I’ve certainly spent money since then—I just always pay with my debit card at stores and restaurants.
Even though I know I have cash in my wallet when I’m paying a bill, I’m reluctant to use it. I keep telling myself I may need it in the case of an emergency (although when I think about it, I’m not sure how cash would really help me) or if I go to a cash-only restaurant. But when I think about it, that’s ridiculous. I can just stop being so lazy and go to ATMs more.
According to Ryan, your brain will send out a lot of “don’t do it” signals when you know you only have cash in your pocket. “Research shows there’s pain in paying with cash,” he says. “You really understand how much you’re parting with when you use cash. You don’t have that same experience with plastic.”
You probably shouldn’t carry around loads of cash. After all, wallets are sometimes lost or stolen. But Ryan thinks carrying around $100, and using that to pay totals and tabs will pay off in the long run

 

Write a Goodwill Letter

I first heard of goodwill letters on Personal Find Nancys, a blog that sadly no longer exists.

Essentially,  a goodwill letter is something you write to a past creditor requesting that they remove a blemish on your credit report. Here’s the catch: while you were missing payments, you must have been going through some trying personal circumstances or have some worthy excuse.

Blemishes will be removed after seven years of the report date regardless, but if that’s too long for you to wait, writing one of these letters is a good way to attempt fixing the problem fast.

Before I wrote my own goodwill letter, I had a serious blemish on my report. When I first started going to school, there was some confusion about who was paying.  It resulted in me unknowingly defaulting on a payment plan. As soon as I was aware the money was due under my name, I paid it off.

But apparently that didn’t keep it from creeping up on my credit report. I figured writing a goodwill letter couldn’t hurt.

Good news!  Not only did it not hurt–it worked!

They sent me a return letter confirming that they’d remove the item. I checked my credit report, and it’s no longer on there.

Goodwill Letter Template

Before I wrote the letter, I did a little bit of research. I picked and chose my favorite parts of each example I saw, and created a template. I thought I’d share it with you today since it was successful for me.

It’s not guaranteed to work, but it’s worth the cost of a stamp to try! Keep in mind that you may need to change it up a little depending on your personal situation. If you fail the first time, you can keep trying every six months.