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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

Links Lisa Likes – Carnival of Financial Planning

Hi everyone! Welcome to this week’s Carnival of Financial Planning!

Want to be featured in a future Carnival of Financial Planning? You can submit articles at Blogger Carnivals.

Let’s get on to this week’s links!

BUDGETING AND ECONOMICS

Mr.CBB @ Canadian Budget Binder writes Financial Decision Making Steps Some Take As A Last Resort – Financial decision-making based on situational circumstances sometimes force people to take steps in their lives that they’d rather not face.

Jerry @ Sooner Finance writes Why Does Getting a Loan Hurt Your Credit Score? – It’s pretty well-known that applying for and taking on a loan can hurt your credit at first, but why exactly?

Natalie @ Debt and The Girl writes A Secret Career Confession – Last week a friend of mine was looking for people that wanted to do a little acting for a video that was being produced for the company he works for.

Maria @ The Money Principle writes Three gifts for men to get your gift ideas factory going – Men are awkward customers. I can say this because I am a man and I empathise with anyone who has ever endured the frustrating quandary of what gifts for men to get for friends or loved ones.

Danielle @ TeacHer Finance writes Why Bargains Aren’t Always Such a Bargain – Here is some sage and simple advice; never purchase anything just because it is a bargain.

Alexa @ Defeat Our Debt writes How to Get Rid of Debt on Your Own – There is no easy way to get rid of debt. You have several options, each come with their own set of pros and cons. Here is how to get rid of debt on your own.

Larry @ KrantCents writes If You Were Boss – What would you do if you were boss? What if you were boss of the company you work for?

Aaron @ Aaron Hung writes Facts you really need to know about your 401(k) – If you have a 401(k) plan through your employer there are a number of things that you really need to know about it in order to take advantage of it as much as possible.

Marissa @ Thirty Six Months writes Unemployed Financial Management – Losing your job can be a very difficult and stressful time. It is, however, vital that you take the right steps to secure your finances as soon as you become unemployed.

Sam @ The New Business Blog writes 5 Top Apps for Entrepreneurs – If you are a busy entrepreneur you already have your hands full with a million different things that need to be done.

Lily @ Paying Debt Down writes Is Data Mining a fair way to set Insurance Rates? – With computer technology advancing by leaps and bounds, it is no surprise that insurance companies have started using sophisticated software to help them determine what rates to charge their customers.

Andrea @ So Over This writes Could You Live on Minimum Wage? – Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past the year it’s hard to miss the ongoing debate over minimum wage!

Amy @ Money Mishaps writes The biggest threat to Retirees’ nest-eggs? Their Mortgage – What is the biggest threat hanging over the head of many older Americans heading towards retirement?

Danielle @ Saving Without a Budget writes Lock Up Credit Card Safety with the coming Card Control App – One of the most vulnerable points that credit cards have is that, since they are always on, they can always be used by criminals who somehow get access to their data.

Oscar @ Money is the Root writes Borrowing Money? Avoid using these 2 Methods – While it is certainly true that everyone needs money, sometimes it is rather hard to find if you need extra money quickly.

Evan @ The Smaller Dollar writes Top 3 Tips for a Frugal Road Trip – A road trip is generally more frugal than a plane flight since plane tickets, parking, baggage fees, and rental cars generally dwarf just filling up with gas every several hundred miles but there are some key steps you can take to really make your next road trip a frugal one.

 

CAREER AND INCOME

Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves writes How To Teach Your 5 year Old About Money. – We do a poor job of teaching our kids about money in this country. In order to get my kid started in the right direction I set up the following system.

Hank @ Money Q&A writes 3 Surefire Ways To Get Ahead At Work – Looking to get ahead at work and in your career? At work, think of yourself like a CIA agent. Gather intelligence wherever and whenever you can, and get inside the mind of your boss.

Mark Ross @ Money Saving Dude writes 8 Ways How To Make More Money In Your Free Time – The good thing when it comes to making money today is that you can do it in your free time, and you don’t even have to get a second job. Here are eight different ways you can do today that can help you make more money in your free time. Check them out now!

 

DEBT AND CREDIT

Don @ Money Reasons writes When Debt is a Good Thing – Borrowing rates are low, and in this article I’m going to demonstrate that sometimes debt is a good thing! I’m only half way through, and already I win!

TW @ Tightwad Travelers writes Liquidating Visa Gift Cards – Find out how to be a travel hacker with Visa Gift Cards

Mr. 4HWD @ The Four Hour Work Day writes The Fastest Way to Increase Wealth: Want Less – Personal finance often serve as great resources for those seeking to build wealth and improve their financial standing. The best bloggers offer practical advice and actionable tips while creating a welcoming community for anyone interested in money matters.

 

INVESTING AND SAVING

Don @ MoneySmartGuides writes 4 Ways To Save On Internet Costs – The internet is considered a need for many people. But, the internet can cost a pretty penny.

Dominique Brown @ YourFinancesSimplified writes Your Financial Relationships: Should We Have Separate Bank Accounts? – This post is part of our Your Financial Relationships series. This series is designed to help you discover the financial topics you should discuss with your significant other in order to have a financially healthy relationship.

Michelle @ The Shop My Closet Project writes You might not have a job problem but a life problem – This post was originally going to be called -A funny thing happened on the way to quitting my job.- For those of you who have read my blog for awhile (and thanks for being patient while I took a long needed break) you know that I have expressed for awhile a deep rooted dissatisfaction with my job. I had written about my disturbing longevity in my job, my loathing of my commute (it’s a long one), and my lack of a social life.

JP @ My Family Finances writes Where can I collect Avios? – Joining the Avios reward scheme may be the perfect way for you to treat yourself and your loved ones, without having to break the bank too much.

Tony @ We Only Do This Once writes The Inverted Pyramid Model – Managing finances is a skill that takes time and experience to master; the inverted pyramid model allows you to prioritize your finances.

PK @ Don’t Quit Your Day Job… writes A Dividend Reinvestment Calculator for Any Stock – This calculator has the nifty ability to calculate what 15,000 different stocks would have returned, if all dividends were reinvested. We also added a mode for you to calculate returns with dollar cost averaging!

Kurt Fischer @ Money Counselor writes Investor Sheep to Slaughter Again? – Many swore off stocks after the 2008 calamity that cancelled retirement for millions. Now Wall Street’s siren song is luring investors back into the market.

 

RISK MANAGEMENT AND INSURANCE

JP @ My Family Finances writes 5 Reasons That Your Employer Should Have Group Insurance Benefits – Everything from attaining a group insurance quote, to establishing insurance and deciding on good insurance policies is relatively easy and the benefits of group insurance far outweighs any of the perceived negatives.

 

REAL ESTATE AND PROPERTY

Crystal @ Married (with Debt) writes 5-Year Progress Check – I have made decent progress over the past several years in managing my finances better. How much better you might ask? Let’s take a look.

Lenny @ Best Money Saving Blog writes Financial Aid Tips for the Uninitiated – If you are the parent of a child in high school that is rapidly approaching college age, chances are that you have just been introduced to the numbers game that is financial aid.

 

RETIREMENT AND TAXATION

IMB @ Investing Money writes Is France Totally Bankrupt? – Is France a bankrupt country? Examining the pros and cons of the economy of France.

Erastus @ Sprout Wealth writes What Investments Should I Invest in My 401k? – Are you in the position of not knowing where to start with your 401k? Your 401k can be a great way to save money for retirement. I hope this post will help get you started investing in your 401k.

Happy Friday the 13th, y’all! Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

AMDG,
Lisa

April 2014 Net Worth

A little late, but here it is! I’m a little sad my birthday month is over. Time is just flying by much faster these days.

April 2014

Net Worth as of April 30, 2014: $119,569

Overall, my net worth increased by $2,644 this month! 🙂

Who doesn’t love seeing all greens across the board? I am absolutely loving these increases! Let’s get into the breakdown.

Cash: $2,405 [MTM $297]

As always, this category is always fluctuating. I will say though, the increase in my salary as well as overtime hours have a lot to do with this particular bump. Oh, and my tax refunds!

Savings: $1,020 [MTM $472]

Yes, yes y’all! The emergency fund is back up to the $1k mark! I have my federal tax refund to thank for this one.

Traditional IRA: $8,601 [MTM $118]

Last month, these funds were in my 401k at my old job. I decided to roll these funds over into a Traditional IRA over at Betterment, where my Roth funds are as well. That way I can keep an eye on both of these accounts at one place. I have yet to decide whether or not I’ll be contributing to this account.

Roth IRA: $13,227 [MTM $654]

Holy macaroni. This gain is ridiculous… Ridiculously awesome!

Each month, I contribute enough to max out for the year. For 2014, the maximum you can contribute to any IRA account for a single person is $5,500. Currently, my monthly contributions of about $460 have all been going to my Roth. Moving forward, I’m thinking of:

  1. Keeping things the same and only contributing to my Roth IRA, or
  2. Mixing it up and contributing half to my Traditional and half to my Roth, or
  3. Completely move all my contributions to my Traditional.

 

There’s a lot to think about here, and I might post a more in-depth analysis about this later.

Est. Car Value: $18,802 [MTM $0]

No change in this category. It is an estimate after all. I decided to update this amount only twice a year. This means that next month, I’ll probably take a dip in this category. Hopefully it won’t be too big of a drop!

Est. Home Value: $390,000 [MTM $0]

Originally, I hadn’t planned on updating this number until July, which would be two years since I bought it. But I had an informal conversation with my realtor a few weeks ago (she’s also a very close family friend, so I do see her pretty often) and she gave me an update on this. I was hesitant to change anything because it is such a huge jump! I think I’m still going to wait until July to update it though, just to stay consistent.

Credit Cards: $2,259 [MTM ($243)]

Now that my emergency fund is back up to the $1,000 balance that it was originally at, it is time to get rid of this bad boy. Again. I swear, I feel like this credit card debt just keeps coming back to life!  Honestly, this time around, I don’t feel as bad about having this debt since I know that I lot of it was due to a lot of changes – small delays in income, changes in expenses, etc. But still – it’s annoying to look at! Right now, the goal is to eliminate my credit card debt before doing anything else.

Student Loans: $15,902 [MTM ($61)]

*sigh* A $61 decrease looks so small! But I’ll take it – a decrease is a decrease, right? The credit card debt is a little annoying, but these student loans are on a much different level of annoyance. I will be absolutely relieved once these are down to $0!

Car Loan: $19,486 [MTM ($326)]

If I had to pick one expense to get rid of each month, it would be this car loan. It is absolutely killing me! Don’t get me wrong, I really, really like my car. But man, buying brand new is definitely up there on the regrets list. Every time I pay this loan, I look at the high amount leaving my bank account and think of all the things I could have done with that money. But alas, this isn’t the focus for now. So I’m just going to have to live with it for a few more years… 🙁

Mortgage: $276,839 [MTM ($472)]

Great progress on this! This debt is by far at the bottom of the totem pole. I have a great interest rate and an affordable monthly payment, so nothing really to complain about (for now). I did change things up a little this month – I now have half the payment automatically drawn out my account twice a month. I also round each payment up to the nearest $5 increment just to make even the slightest difference in interest paid down the road.

April was such a great month for me, both on the net worth front as well as on the personal/career growth side. It’s always a good month when each and every aspect of your finances is going in the right direction – even if it’s a small change!

How was your April? Do you max out your IRA contributions? Roth or Traditional?

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
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