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17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

The new year usually sparks many of you to want to improve your finances. Now, I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions. But I’m all for focusing on your financial health. If the New Year sparks that fire within you to get your finances together – then I’m all for it!

Here are 17 ways to improve your finances in 2017. Choose a few of these to focus on in the New Year if you’re new to personal finance. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed. But I do want you to make some real change in your life.

improve your finances

Overall financial health

1. Dream a little

This may seem like fluff advice, but I really believe that dreaming/envisioning the ultimate financial state can really get you revved up to actually improve your finances! So take a moment to really imagine what it would be like to live with no more debt. To finally turn in that last payment for your mortgage, car loan, student loan, etc. Imagining this huge weight coming off of your shoulders can help you get started on actually tackling your debt!

2. Know your numbers

To improve your finances, you need to know where you are currently. Make it a point to know and be more mindful of your monthly income and expenses. Your entire personal finance journey is built with these building blocks! Here’s a video I put together on how to get this information if you don’t already have it.

3. Track your net worth

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip of knowing your numbers. Knowing your numbers is one thing, but actually tracking your numbers each and every month is what helps you be more mindful of your situation. The key here is checking in on your finances every single month, whether it’s your net worth or your income/expenses. (I hope to do a post/video on what your net worth is soon).

4. Educate yourself about personal finance

I get it – the world of personal finance can be overwhelming. But running away from it is a surefire way to not get anywhere financially. Make it a point to read a book (I recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi) or listen to a podcast (I recommend The Dave Ramsay Show or Stacking Benjamins) about personal finance once a month or so. Believe me – avoiding personal finance will not solve your personal finance problems!

5. Focus on one or two financial goals

When you focus on way too many goals at once, you tend to lose track, get overwhelmed, and fail at most of them. Choose one or two goals to focus on this year. Will you work on increasing your income or decreasing your expenses? Is this the year you get serious about your debt or start saving for emergencies? Pick a goal that will improve your finances and get started! I personally suggest following Dave Ramsey‘s step by step goals if you don’t know where to start.

6. Get in sync with your significant other

This is something Juan and I are still working through. Actually, I think this is something that will just become a constant conversation. As your goals change, your spouse’s may change as well. As you improve your finances, make sure your partner is still on the same page as you. Make an effort to check in with each other each month to make sure you’re working towards both of your goals.

Increase your income

7. Start a side hustle

Your main income is great, but having a side income can really help with your financial goals! Don’t know where to start? Think of things you already love to do – crocheting, working on cars, spending time with pets… chances are someone has already come up with a way to monetize it! Think of how you can monetize one of your hobbies so your side hustle can also be something you enjoy doing!

8. Work towards a promotion

Nine times out of ten, a promotion leads to an increase in income. Make sure you are an absolute stellar employee – make it into work on time, finish your tasks in a timely manner, and make sure all the work you do is done with integrity. Then, when a spot above you has opened up, make it known to your manager that you are interested. Work hard and your work will speak for itself!

9. Work towards and negotiate a raise

Sometimes a promotion just isn’t in the cards. That doesn’t mean you can skip asking for a raise. Make your case as to why you deserve a raise, do your research on the average salaries for job titles closest to yours, and have an honest conversation with your manager. Warning – this only works for great employees, not just any employee. Just because you want to improve your finances doesn’t mean you deserve a raise.

10. Sell some stuff

Got a ton of unused clothing, appliances, toys, etc. lying around? Donate the stuff that is already in poor condition and sell the stuff that is still in great quality! eBay is a great place to start, but there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ fashioned garage sale. The extra cash will come in handy as you improve your finances.

Expense control

11. Give up just one thing

I’m not asking you to give up cable, coffee, soda, AND gift giving all at once (although – more power to you if you want to)! Start small – what’s one expense, big or small, you can go without for all of 2017? For me – I’m going to cut back hard on eating out. Speaking of eating out…

12. Eat out less

It’s no secret that eating out often can do a lot of damage to your waistline. But it also does a ton of damage to your wallet! I’m not saying you should eliminate eating out completely – just cut back! Juan and I are going to stick to eating out only twice a week (this is a huge step back from our normal 5-7 days a week)!

13. Find another commute option

For us 9-5ers, a commute can really make or break the budget. Take a look at what you spend now on your commute (gas, toll, train fare, etc.) and look up other options available to you. Keep in mind the cheapest option may not be the best in terms of time spent, so make sure you take into account all things – not just the price tag.

14. Cut out cable

*gasp* I know, how dare I say these words??? But let’s face it, y’all – cable is expensive! With Netflix and Hulu being at extremely affordable rates, the case for still having cable is starting to dwindle. For us, the hardest part will be finding ways to watch our Golden State Warriors and other sports broadcasting. But other than that, Netflix and Hulu usually does the trick for our TV fix.

Beef up your savings

15. Seriously, get an emergency fund

I don’t care if you’re in deep debt – get yourself a freaking emergency fund! If you don’t have on yet, building one this year will greatly improve your finances. You are not invincible and Murphy loves visiting those who aren’t prepared. Even if it’s just $1,000, it’s a great start and better than nothing.

16. Set up a personal escrow account

You know those annoying expenses that don’t happen every single month and surprise you whenever they do pop up? Setting up a personal escrow account will prepare you for all of those expenses. Pair it with automatic savings and you don’t even have to think about it!

17. Start saving for retirement

I don’t care how young you are – it’s never, ever too early to start saving for retirement! No one ever said, “Man, I really wished I waited longer until I started saving for retirement”. For starters, look and see if your employer offers a free match to your contributions into your company sponsored retirement plan. Basically – your employer will put money into your retirement plan for free as long as you’re also putting in money! Take advantage of that free money!

So there you have it – 17 things you can work on to improve your finances this year! You don’t have to do all of them – in fact, I suggest choosing just one or two of these things. Focus on a few goals at a time and you’ll be well on your way to financial peace.

What are your financial goals for 2017?

AMDG,
Lisa

The Budget Series Pt. 1 – Income and Expenses

The Budget Series Pt. 1 – Income and Expenses

It’s the beginning of 2017 and I know that some of you want to get your finances together this year! If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to grab control of your income and expenses, I’m here to help!

I’m creating a video series called The Budget Series that will go over different budget methods for different types of people. The first video in this series is focusing on your income and expenses. More specifically, how to gather these numbers and why they’re important, no matter what budget method you choose.

Your income and expenses are vital to all kinds of budgets, whether you’re a beginner or more experienced. This series is mostly targeted to budgeting newbies, but I’m sure you’d find this helpful even if you’re more advanced.

Please watch the video below and don’t forget to like/subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of The Budget Series!

What are your budgeting struggles?  How can you improve your income and expenses this year?

AMDG,
Lisa

February 2014 Net Worth

Holy cannoli – February was crazy! A lot has changed for such a short month, and my net worth is no exception!

February 2014

Net Worth as of February 28, 2014: $115,558

Overall, my net worth decreased by $549 this month 🙁

Not the prettiest net worth update. In fact, this might be my worst net worth update to date! But, like I said, a lot has changed in February – most notably, my job! It’s a great change, but there was a week when I was not working, which really affected my financials.

Cash: $2,657 [MTM ($966)]

Balance always fluctuates, nothing too crazy here.

Savings: $43 [MTM ($969)]

This category includes both my emergency fund and my travel fund. Since I had a week off, and my first paycheck from my new job was a partial paycheck, I had to dip into my emergency fund to help cover my expenses this month. Also, the purchase of my #FinCon14 registration tickets affected this category as well.

401(k): $8,646 [MTM $1,939]

This is the account I had with my former employer. Great gains here this month because I finally got my employer match! Since I have left the company, I plan on rolling this bad boy over into a Traditional IRA. My current employer does offer a 401(k), but I have to wait for 90 days after my first day to actually enroll.

Roth IRA: $12,053 [MTM $848]

Pretty solid gains this month – I won’t complain!

Credit Cards: $2,718 [MTM $2,718]

UGHHHHH. Yes, this does not look pretty. I’m back to credit card debt. Only temporarily though! There was a slight delay in receiving the rent payments from my mom and brother, and I had to fork over some money in the meantime. Also, my commute has changed, which means commuting costs have changed as well. I put all my gas and toll on this card and sometimes I forget to check it. I know – bad pf blogger, bad! I’m hoping to rid of this debt in a few months.

Student Loans: $16,022 [MTM ($523)]

After months of seeing no progress with my student loans, a lower balance is a sight for sore eyes. I try to tell myself that I’m “pretty lucky” because I borrowed much less than the average student, but seeing that $16k in debt just for school just doesn’t feel good no matter how you spin it. I’m not getting rid of this as fast as I’d originally hoped, but progress is progress.

Car Loan: $20,133 [MTM ($334)]

Nothing unusual here. I’m tacking on a few extra dollars here and there, but the truth of the matter is that this isn’t my priority at the moment.

Mortgage: $277,772 [MTM ($459)]

Nothing special here, either. I will be implementing a bi-monthly payment with a few extra dollars each two weeks. But just like my car loan, my mortgage is not a huge priority at the moment.

February was the shortest month, but it was also the craziest month! Just when you think you’ve got this whole net worth increasing trend going, life will prove to you otherwise. I’m not going to beat myself up too much about the decrease this month – a lot has changed and I think I’m coping pretty well. Let’s just hope next month will be better!

My priorities are now to 1) build up the emergency fund back to $1K and 2) get rid of the credit card debt (again). I definitely have my work cut out for me these next few months!

How did your February financials go?

AMDG,
Lisa

Lisa vs. the Millionaire List

A while ago, I wrote about what I would do if I happened to receive a million dollars. It was fun thinking about the endless possibilities of what I would do with all of that money.

Then I thought, wouldn’t it be funner if I actually had a million dollars? You know, instead of just dreaming about the possibility of winning or inheriting it, I could actually put a plan in motion so that I can really get there!

I know you’ve probably dreamed of having a million dollars, too. But I’ve decided to stop dreaming and to start doing!

That’s why I’m joining J. Money’s Million Dollar Club!

The Million Dollar Club is a group of soon-to-be millionaires who are all working toward that goal of having SEVEN FIGURES in their accounts one day! We’re all at different parts of the journey – some are still in debt, some are just starting to invest, and others are a few months/days shy of having the bragging rights of being called a millionaire.

Obviously, I am still in debt (hence Lisa vs. the Loans if you didn’t catch that). But I’m not letting my loans get in the way of me being a millionaire! The key is to work on increasing my cash flow. Without further ado, here’s my Millionaire List!

1. Contribute to 401(k) up to match

I’m sure you’ve heard me say it, but I’m going to say it again! My employer matches 100% of my contributions up to 3% of my salary. Basically my employer will throw in 3% of my salary into my 401(k) if and only if I throw in 3% or more myself. Which basically means free money, y’all! At this point, I am only contributing enough to get the employer match and nothing more. Eventually, I’ll be maxing out the entire 401(k) (see #6).

2. Max out Roth IRA

In 2014, the maximum an individual can contribute to their Roth (or Traditional) IRA’s is $5,500 per year. Which means that every month, I am contributing around $450 towards my Roth IRA. I do this automatically. This trains me to learn to live without that $450 each month.

3. Get rid of non-mortgage debt

My credit card debt was the first to go. Next up will be my student loans and after that will be my car loan. The more debt I get rid of, the more money frees up each month since I would no longer be paying for those debts. This extra money will come in handy.

Why won’t I be getting rid of my mortgage right away? There are two sides to this issue: one is to pay off your mortgage right away and the other is to pay it off as planned. Honestly, I’m not quite sure which side I’m on yet. I see benefits to both. So I’ve decided to cross that bridge when I get there.

4. Decrease expenses

One of these days, I’m going to have to track my spending to really see where each of my dollars are going. Right now, I’m postponing it because, quite frankly, I’m scared of the findings 😛 But once I actually do track my spending, I will have a better picture of what items/services I spend too much on. Off the top of my head, I’d like to decrease my car insurance expenses, possibly downgrade my cable, and stop eating out so much.

5. Increase income

Currently, I’m looking for a better paying job. Not only will this increase my income immediately, but the extra money makes a huge difference in the long run. I won’t bore you with the mathematics of it all, but just trust me that the sooner you ask for a raise, the better (hint: compound interest)! On top of my regular 9-5, I’ll be looking into other side hustles such as secret shopping, doing surveys, eventually monetizing this blog, or even becoming a virtual assistant. Every extra dollar helps!

6. Max out 401(k)

In 2014, the maximum an individual can contribute to their 401(k) is $17,500 a year. That’s about $1,458 per year! By getting rid of monthly debt payments in #3, decreasing my expenses in #4, and increasing my income in #5, I should be able to throw enough at my 401(k).

7. Diversify investments

Not only will I be diversifying my investments in my 401(k) and Roth IRA, but I’d also like to invest in real estate. I haven’t determined whether I would be a house flipper or a landlord, but I do know that I’d like to try my hand at real estate in one way or another. I’d also like to look into peer-to-peer lending.

There you have it! As you can see, I don’t really have a timeline for when I would actually achieve the coveted seven figure accounts balance. Instead, I’ll be focusing a lot more on my yearly goals. In fact, my 2014 goals are pretty much in line with this Millionaire List. You can track my progress in my monthly net worth updates. I’ll also be revisiting this list once in a while to keep myself accountable.

Will you be joining the Million Dollar Club anytime soon?

AMDG,
Lisa
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