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New Tools for the New Year: Money

New Tools for the New Year: Money

    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

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    Published on November 20, 2018

    The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

    The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

    The truth is, there are many “money saving guides” online, but most don’t cover the root issue for not saving.

    Once I’d discovered a few key factors that allowed me to save 10k in one year, I realized why most articles couldn’t help me. The problem is that even with the right strategies you can still fail to save money. You need to have the right systems in place and the right mindset.

    In this guide, I’ll cover the best ways to save money — practical yet powerful steps you can take to start saving more. It won’t be easy but with hard work, I’m confident you’ll be able to save more money–even if you’re an impulsive spender.

    Why Your Past Prevents You from Saving Money

    Are you constantly thinking about your financial mistakes?

    If so, these thoughts are holding you back from saving.

    I get it, you wish you could go back in time to avoid your financial downfalls. But dwelling over your past will only rob you from your future. Instead, reflect on your mistakes and ask yourself what lessons you can learn from them.

    It wasn’t easy for me to accept that I had accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Once I did, I started heading in the right direction. Embrace your past failures and use them as an opportunity to set new financial goals.

    For example, after accepting that you’re thousands of dollars in debt create a plan to be debt free in a year or two. This way when you’ll be at peace even when you get negative thoughts about your finances. Now you can focus more time on saving and less on your past financial mistakes.

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    How to Effortlessly Track Your Spending

    Stop manually tracking your spending.

    Leverage powerful analytic tools such as Personal Capital and these money management apps to do the work for you. This tool has worked for me and has kept me motivated to why I’m saving in the first place. Once you login to your Personal Capital dashboard, you’re able to view your net worth.

    When I’d first signed up with Personal Capital, I had a negative net worth, but this motivated me to save more. With this tool, you can also view your spending patterns, expenses, and how much money you’re saving.

    Use your net worth as your north star to saving more. Whenever you experience financial setbacks, view how far you’ve come along. Saving money is only half the battle, being consistent is the other half.

    The Truth on Why You Keep Failing

    Saving money isn’t sexy. If it was, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

    Some people are natural savers, but most are impulsive spenders. Instead of denying that you’re an impulsive spender, embrace it.

    Don’t try to save 60 to 70% of your income if this means you’ll live a miserable life. Saving money isn’t a race but a marathon. You’re saving for retirement and for large purchases.

    If you’re currently having a hard time saving, start spending more money on nice things. This may sound counterintuitive but hear me out. Wouldn’t it be better to save $200 each month for 12 months instead of $500 for 3 months?

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    Most people run into trouble because they create budgets that set them up for failure. This system won’t work for those who are frugal, but chances are they don’t need help saving. This system is for those who can’t save money and need to be rewarded for their hard work.

    Only because you’re buying nice things doesn’t mean that you’ll save less. Here are some rules you should have in place:

    1. Save more than 50% of your available money (after expenses)
    2. Only buy nice things after saving
    3. Automate your savings with automatic bank transfers

    These are the same rules that helped me save thousands each year while buying the latest iPhone. Focus only on items that are important to you. Remember, you can afford anything but not everything.

    How to Foolproof Yourself out of Debt

    Personal finance is a game. On one end, you’re earning money; and on the to other, you’re saving. But what ends up counting in the end isn’t how much you earn but how much you save. Research shows that about 60% of Americans spend more than they save.[1]

    So how can you separate yourself from the 60%?

    By not accumulating more debt. This way you’ll have more money to save and avoid having more financial obligations. A great way to stop accumulating debt is using cash to pay for all your transactions.

    This will be challenging, depending on how reliant you are with your credit card, but it’s worth the effort. Not only will you stop accruing debt, but you’ll also be more conscious with what you buy.

    For example, you’ll think twice about purchasing a new $200 headphone despite having the cash to buy them. According to a poll conducted by The CreditCards.com, 5 out of 6 Americans are impulsive spenders.[2]

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    Telling yourself that you’ll have the discipline to not buy things won’t cut it. This is equal to having junk food in your fridge while trying to eat healthy–it’s only a matter of time before you slip. By using cash to make your purchases, you’ll spend less and save more.

    A Proven Formula to Skyrocket Your Savings

    Having proven systems in place to help you save more is important, but they’re not the best way to save money.

    You can search for dozens of ways to save money, but there’ll always be a limit. Instead of spending the majority of your effort saving, look for ways to increase your income. The truth is that once you have the right systems in place, saving is easy.

    What’s challenging is earning more money. There are many routes you can take to achieve this. For example, you can work long and hard at your current job to earn a raise. But there’s one problem–you’re depending on someone else to give you a raise.

    Your company will have to have the budget, and you’ll have to know how to toot your own horn to get this raise. This isn’t to say that earning a raise is impossible, but things are better when you’re in control right? That’s why building a side-hustle is the best way to increase your income.

    Think of your side-hustle as a part-time job doing something you enjoy. You can sell items on eBay for a profit, or design websites for small businesses. Building a side-hustle will be on the hardest things you’ll do, be too stubborn to quit.

    During the early stages, you won’t be making money and that’s okay. Since you already have a source of income, you won’t be dependent on your side-hustle to pay for your expenses. Depending on how much time you invest in your side-hustle, it can one day replace your current income.

    Whatever route you take, focus more on earning and save as much as possible. You have more control than you give yourself credit for.

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    Transform Yourself into a Saving Money Machine

    Saving money isn’t complicated but it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do.

    By learning from your mistakes and rewarding yourself after saving you’ll save more. What would you do with an extra $200 or $500 each month? To some, this is life-changing money that can improve the quality of their lives.

    The truth is saving money is an art. Save too much and you’ll quit, but save too little and you’ll pay for the consequences in the future. Saving money takes effort and having the right systems in place.

    Imagine if you’d started saving an extra $100 this next month? Or, saved $20K in one year? Although it’s hard to imagine, this can be your reality if you follow the principles covered in this guide.

    Take a moment to brainstorm which goals you’d be able to reach if you had extra money each month. Use these goals as motivation to help you stay on track on your journey to saving more. If I was able to save thousands of dollars with little guidance, imagine what you’ll be able to do.

    What are you waiting for? Go and start saving money, the sky is your limit.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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