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8 Expenses to Cut and How

8 Expenses to Cut and How

Are you looking to simplify your life? Do you have financial issues? Are you still paying off debts with no end in sight? Hey, me too! Part of my methodology includes plugging expense holes, and shunting that money towards my debts. Here are eight expenses to cut and how:

  • Make Your Own Morning Coffee– I have a tiny little one-cup machine with a steel filter. Why? Because it’s silly easy to operate and clean. I buy really good coffee by the pound, and so a pound of coffee costs $6.50 or so US. Buying coffee at the coffee shop is $2.50 or so for a large. That means, I save after only 3 uses, and it doesn’t really slow down my getting out the door, especially if you think about how much time it takes to wait in a drive-up line.
  • Use Your Public Library– Libraries have changed. Most libraries are now connected into a big sharing consortium, expanding the collection of what you can take out and what they’ll have that you might want. Further, most now have an online catalog that you can use to browse and request from home. Libraries now frequently stock DVDs (mine favors Hollywood movies, and the one in the next town features mostly highbrow independent stuff). Heck, my library just launched a big commercial digital audiobook download deal, so I can get books on my computer from my desk.

    How often do you reference a book after reading it once? Make that your point. Are you going to open it many times over the years, or is this a read once, use often kind of information dump?

  • Get Netflix– Going to the movies isn’t a great plan if you’re trying to save money, but renting movies is a hassle too, right? At least in the States, this is a much better option to going to brick and mortar stores for movies. They deliver the movies to your mailbox. You can’t get a late fee. Oh, and you can choose from getting just one disc at a time, two, three, or even larger numbers, for those of you who get to watch tons of flicks at once. BONUS: using one of your Netflix slots for a kids movie lets you save money, too. Kids will watch a movie 200 times, and then never need to see it again. Right?
  • Bring Meals From Home or Find a Cheap, Repeatable Meal– We tend to bleed cash on feeding ourselves, and rarely do we really savor or notice the food anyhow. It’s just a meal that we consume in between doing other things. If you can bring meals from home, that’s the least expensive, and it’s also the bet way to ensure that you know what you’re getting. I’m currently taking frozen dinners that cost only $2.00 a meal, and that’s cheaper than any sandwich I can buy. If you have to eat out, trying finding the healthiest, best value meal you can find, and stick to it or slight variations. The more adventurous your meal seeking gets, the more it will likely cost you.
  • Drink at a Friend’s House, Not a Pub– The cost of a dozen bottles of beer shared between a few friends will always be less expensive than a single drink out at a pub. Surely, one of you has a place to go for the casual entertainment experience, right? Okay, you might not be able to meet attractive members of the opposite sex there, but even if you spent a few days at one of your homes, that’d save some cash, true?
  • Reconsider Your Driving Habits– Are you a leadfoot? Are you the kind who goes on an hour or more jaunt just for something to do? With gas/petrol costs being so high thanks to some interesting world stage situations, considering how often and how fast you travel will help you cut a few bucks in the short term. BONUS: Get out your bike and kill two birds with one stone. Work that spare tire back off the ole belly.
  • Sum up all Your Entertainment Expenses– When you look at each one separately, it probably doesn’t seem weird to pay $15 a month for Netflix, $10 a month for XBOX Live, $60 or so a month for Cable TV, $100 or more a year on various magazines, not to mention all the ways you spend money when you go out, including clubs, pubs, bars, concerts, shows, events, and dinners. These are all entertainment. If you’re working on your debt, tally up all those expenses and look at them in a big sum per month. How much does your entertainment budget really cost, and does that relate to how much money you’re putting towards your debts and other expenses? Maybe it’s time to reconsider.
  • Go on a Clothing Fast– There are a hundred reasons why you need that new shirt, or that clever belt. You might need those shoes because they’re quite a bargain. But take a good long look at your closet, at what you already have. Do you need more right now? How often are you buying clothes for fashion’s sake versus need? Are there ways you can stretch your budget by coordinating differently? We buy clothes on impulse more often than just about anything. Pay close attention to this, and consider a clothing fast. Promise not to buy clothes for one month at a time. Say, “I’ll go all of August without buying a single article of clothing.” At the end of August, assess. Do you really need anything? See if you can go September, too.

Sure, you’re deserving of a good life. This isn’t as much about deprivation as it is examining the life you’re leading. If you’re working on your finances, and you’re serious about putting them in order, there are even more holes than those I’ve listed above that could use plugging. With a little bit of tweaking, you’ll recover money at a fairly decent clip. This adds up. If you tally up your savings from all eight tips above, it could quite easily be $200 or more back in your finances a month. $2400 a year? That’s a nice tidy raise, eh? Congratulations.

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–Chris Brogan is working hard on his expenses over at [chrisbrogan.com]. Well, not really. He’s writing about self-improvement and creativity.

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

Reference

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