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New Tools for the New Year: Money

New Tools for the New Year: Money
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    Money can be a tricky issue for many people, especially in the last few years when we have had record high unemployment rates and difficulty making ends meet. As you get ready for the new year, you can prepare yourself with some new tools that can make 2012 one of the best years for managing your money.

    YNAB

    I started to get serious about my money situation about halfway through 2011 when I stumbled on one of the single best money management / budgeting apps around: You Need a Budget. We have actually had the founder and creator of YNAB featured here at Lifehack in the past.

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    YNAB is a piece of software (that works on Mac or Windows) where you setup your accounts and start to budget the money that you have during the month. It’s sort of like making buckets for things that you have to pay during the month and then sticking to them.

    The whole idea though with YNAB, rather than just following a simple budget, is to build up your “YNAB Buffer” where you will use it to eventually pay next month’s bills with this month’s money. This “Buffer” allows you to not get into the “not-enough-money-at-the-end-of-the-month” phenomena and helps relieve a bunch of tension in your life, especially if you have been struggling with keeping track of your money. It took me about 4 months to get my “YNAB Buffer” setup, and I will tell you, the stress and pain of worrying about where my money for this month’s bills is going to be is gone because they were payed with last month’s money.

    YNAB also has apps for iOS and Android to track what you have spent on the go.

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    Credit Cards with rewards

    I wouldn’t say that I am a credit card connoisseur by any means, as I do believe that credit cards can get you into some serious trouble if you are not responsible with them, but they can be appealing if you pay them off every month and use them appropriately. The three cards that I can recommend from personal experience are:

    The APR on these cards are pretty darn high, but as long as you pay off your balance before you get hit with the rates at the end of your month cycle, you can get some great cash back rewards when purchasing a good amount of gas or even ordering things on Amazon during certain times. Keep a look out for other cards that offer some sort of reward that is applicable to you to help you save a little bit of money here and there on things you already purchase.

    Envelope System

    If YNAB is a little too technical for you, there is also a tried-and-true-system that is a lot like it. I have seen this technique in many different places, and I’m not exactly sure who to credit it too, but the-get-out-of-debt guru Dave Ramsey has surely made it popular on his radio broadcast: The Envelope System.

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    At it’s core, The Envelope System requires you to take your paycheck, figure out how much money need to goes to what category (to food, clothing, rent, cable, etc.), create a separate envelope for each category, put the cash in the envelope, and only spend that cash. Sounds simple, hmm? Think again.

    The Envelope System is truly powerful, but only if you can stick to it which is tough to do because budgeting is tough to do. I much prefer the YNAB system to this one, but if you can only live paycheck to paycheck until you get out of debt or make more money, then The Envelope System is probably your best bet.

    Common sense

    Ahh, yes. A little common sense can go a long way when it comes to money. Here are some things to follow. Some of them were new to me this year while some are things that I need to be aware this coming year:

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    • Don’t spend more than you make
    • Create a budget and stick to it
    • Try to find a way to make more money rather than cut out every last expense that you have
    • Try giving money away to charity or a cause every month
    • Start saving money for the future today
    • Read a good money book like I Will Teach You to Be Rich
    • Don’t use a credit cards unless you can pay off the entire balance by the end of the month

    Conclusion

    Like I said above, managing your money comes down to making smart decisions (saving for the future) and avoiding bad ones (like not paying off your credit cards). If this year you budget your money correctly, save, and make smart decisions with how you spend, hopefully your money will be controlled by you rather than you controlled by it.

    (Photo credit: 3D illustration of dollar from Shutterstock

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    Financial Freedom is Not a Fantasy: 9 Secrets to Get You There

    Financial Freedom is Not a Fantasy: 9 Secrets to Get You There
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    Have you ever considered your life now, and how it would be if you had more time to spend with your family and less worries about money?

    Nowadays, financial stress is one of the most troublesome weights in life. If you’ve ever encountered financial stress, you know the difficulty of not having enough income to pay your obligations or bills.

    Many people say that money is not the ultimate goal of life. While that’s true, money certainly plays a very significant role. The meaning of financial freedom changes with the different phases of our life, but ultimately, it is something that many people strive for.

    In this article, we’ll explain how to capture that financial freedom you’ve been looking for. Read on to learn the secrets to financial freedom.

    Break Free of Your Finances

    Financial freedom is about having a constant flow of cash from your assets to cover all your regular needs.

    When you are not worried about your income, or living paycheck to paycheck, you gain a great sense of freedom. It’s the freedom to be obtain and do what you truly need to make your way through everyday life.

    Gaining financial freedom, though, is a process of growth, making small improvements and gaining emotional strength.

    Though it seems hard to believe, it is really very simple to get financial freedom.

    To do so, you simply need to make sure that your assets exceed your liabilities. In other words, you’ll need to find the sweet-spot where your residuals meet or surpass your expenses. This is something that you can achieve with the proper plan.

    While not every person will accomplish financial freedom, the potential for anyone to do so is certainly there. Anyone can achieve this success, regardless of their income level.

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    Outlined below are 9 secrets that will help you in your goals of achieving financial freedom.

    1. Stop Unnecessary Spending

    We often spend money inwardly, instead of objectively.

    For example, you may spend when you’re anxious, depressed, restless, exhausted, from fear of missing out, or to please others. This is a very unhealthy way to handle your finances.

    To stop this habitual spending, log down all your spending over the course of a month.

    Just as some people keep a food diary, keep an expense diary. Remember not to just write down how much and what you spent the money on, also include the circumstances of why you spent the money. Was it an impulse buy at the checkout line or was it something you planned to purchase?

    This increased self-awareness could enable you to avoid triggering situations in the future when you are considering an impulse buy.

    2. Plan a Monthly Budget

    This is a great opportunity to get serious.

    Take a seat with your spouse or partner and make a monthly budget based on your income, not your expenses. You are never again going to spend more cash then you have on hand.

    Overspending is the thing that led you to more financial obligations. Make sure you decide every month what is coming in and what will be going out and stick to that budget… no matter what.

    3. Cut-up Credit Cards

    Perhaps you are the type of person who always pays your credit card balance in full before the end of your billing cycle, and enjoys the reward points you gain. If this is the case, then you’re already way ahead of the game.

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    If not, you may want to consider ridding your life of the burden that credit cards bring.

    Many cards have strategies set up so that if you make a certain number of late payments, they will raise your interest rate much higher. This can really add up in the long run and you won’t be doing your financial situation any favors. If you’re prone to late payments or have a large balance due on your cards, cut them up!

    Without proper self control on credit card spending and payments, you are basically throwing your money away. To ensure that you have better control over your spending, use only cash or debit for all future purchases (and don’t forget to pay at least your minimum payment on your cut-up cards each month!).

    4. Increase Savings

    There is no doubt that for a comfortable retirement you must accumulate satisfactory savings throughout your working life.

    It’s good practice to save up to 15% of your income.

    Start with your workplace 401(k), if you have one. If not, a Roth IRA (if you are eligible) or a traditional IRA (if you are not eligible for the Roth) are the next logical steps.

    Increase in longevity means you might be able to look forward to 25 to 30 years in retirement, or possibly even significantly more. Investing now in good retirement plans will ensure that you have a guaranteed a stable monthly income when the time comes to stop working. [1]

    5. Invest Wisely

    Consider investing in funds.

    Specifically, you will gain higher returns if you invest in different types of mutual funds such as Debt funds, Equity funds and Hybrid funds with a proper balance, although it absolutely relies on your personal preferences and sense of risk taking.

    To get the most of these benefits, make sure you are investing in a variety of assets. Another resource of investing in mutual funds is SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) where you invest some money every month in funds. SIP works by averaging the per unit price of the stock.

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    Mutual fund investors are aware of the benefits of an SIP (Systematic Investment Plan). For one, it is the most secure way to invest in equity mutual plans so that wealth is created over a long period of time. This plan also helps you to gain a better sense of financial discipline, which will come in handy in all your financial endeavors.

    6. Invest in Gold

    There isn’t really a better way to invest in gold than to have the physical gold itself in your possession.

    You can purchase gold coins and bars from mints as well as from coin dealers and other private sellers.

    Another way to invest in gold is through ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).

    These are is similar to mutual funds but they are exclusively investments of gold. ETFs are great because they offer more liquidity; the ETF owns the actual physical gold, stores it, and retains the value of the shares. These shares can then be bought and sold in the stock market, and one big benefit is that the transaction costs of gold ETFs are much lower than the that of physical gold.

    With its consistently-increasing demand, investment in gold can be very wise long-term investment to make.

    7. Stash Emergency Funds

    Whether it’s a cash gift or a work bonus, always try to save any extra money that comes your way rather than making unneeded purchases.

    If you get paid every other week, you’ll get an “extra” paycheck (three rather than the usual two) twice a year. Either save those paychecks towards your emergency funds or utilize the money to pay down other obligations, such as loans, credit cards or other debts.

    Make it hard to get your cash.

    Put your savings in an alternate bank, maybe an online bank that forces you to delay for several business days before transferred money hits your regular bank account.

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    8. Find Fabulous Mentors

    Find a mentor, such as a friend or family member, who has exceptional control over their finances and pay attention to everything they do.

    If you do not have any friends or family that are enjoying financial freedom, then find a mentor online! There are numerous blogs and guru websites featuring the advice of many people who have reached financial freedom, and they exist primarily to let you in on how to achieve it for yourself.

    There are also plentiful forums available that share tips and tricks on how to best achieve financial freedom. Read as much as you can and start changing your habits for the better.

    9. Be Extra Patient

    Patience is the key of financial success.

    Being patient can be quite tough, especially when you’re struggling with your finances, but having faith is worth it. You’ll continuously be on the right track if you are taking the proper steps above.

    So don’t be discouraged, even if you are only saving a few dollars a month; it all adds up. Within just a few years you’ll look back proudly at your accomplishments and be glad that you had the patience to get there.

    Financial Freedom for All

    Anyone can achieve financial freedom, regardless of their financial circumstance.

    Use the tips provided above to get yourself on the track to financial freedom and toss your monetary concerns out the window. If you wish to achieve a life with financial freedom for yourself and your family then you must adopt a disciplined approach towards your finances.

    Following the simple secrets above is a great start to making your money work for you, so you can work less and live more!

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Hartford Gold Group: IRA Retirement Accounts

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