Budgeting, Uncategorized

Budgeting with your spouse

“Money issues are so troublesome that people who say they’re experiencing stress in their relationship cite finances as the number one reason — easily beating out the second place contender: annoying habits, according to a study by SunTrust. Money issues are also responsible for 22% of all divorces, making it the third leading cause, according to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis.” (Woods, July 2015)

My husband and I don’t agree on money priorities. Confession: My husband and I don’t agree on how to spend money. I’ll spend money on the kids and house all day long. He wants to save for trips, retirement and a good nest egg. Every person will have some different priorities. We meet together to discuss where we are at with each of these priorities.

-Plan. First step in any budget is to sit down and make a plan. In order to get both people to stick to a budget, they both need to help with the plan. Understand and listen to the other person’s want and needs. They might say they don’t want to live on a budget or they want you to take care of it. It is so important to figure out what is important to each of you. Help your spouse understand the why of your financial goals. Listen to the why of their financial goals, also. Forget the past. Don’t bring up how much money they spent yesterday, last week or last year. You are both starting now.
-Prioritize. Decide which priorities are most important to you as a couple. One wants to save and one wants to buy a new car this year. Focusing on one priority at a time will help you see results more quickly. Make sure you are listening and agree that the priorities you set, you both want to achieve. After focusing on one area you will see results and then you can decide to stick with that priority or move on to another one.
-Evaluate. Make a way to track your priorities. I have a simple Excel chart that shows how much in debt we paid off last year. My husband likes to see a visual since numbers on a page don’t mean that much to him. Discuss at least once a month where you are both struggling to meet the budget categories that you set up.
-Flexibility. Always allow for flexibility in your budget. Evaluate together what you could do differently to adjust those categories or discuss ways to save in that area. Make sure you have a sufficient amount in your discretionary budget that is yours to spend on whatever you want. My husband often saves his up until he has enough to buy something bigger. I usually find something to buy with mine by the end of the week.
The first step in establishing a budget with your partner is to listen. Then, you can plan, prioritize, evaluate and improve flexibility together. Set aside time to have regular, uninterrupted conversations about your budget. Even after you have established a budget, leave blame and shame out of the conversation. If you start with the first step, listening, your joint efforts will combine, your priorities will shift towards each other, and your relationship will be strengthened.

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Woods, Jennifer Ryan. 10 Ways to Prevent Money from Ruining Your Marriage. July 6, 2015. Forbes Magazine.

Budgeting

5 Ways to Stop Living Paycheck-to- Paycheck

78% of workers in America claim to live paycheck to paycheck. No, the answer isn’t to make more money. 1 in 10 workers making $100,000+ every year, still live paycheck to paycheck. The answer is to be smarter with your money.

american bills business cheque
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1. Track spending and create a budget. Yes, I always start here. I believe that a budget means freedom. If you create a budget that works well for you, you don’t restricted in your budget. But, you do learn to live within your means.
2. Save money the day your paycheck comes. If you use online banking, you can use automatic transfers to move money the day you get paid. Start moving a little money into a savings account right now. It can be $5-10 every time you get paid, but it still adds up. If you don’t have online transfers available, set some money aside from each paycheck.
3. Break monthly expenses into chunks. If your house payment is $1,000 and you receive two paychecks every month, set aside $500 from each. Don’t wait and take all the money for a big expense out of one paycheck. This is one of my favorite tricks which I will talk about the many ways it can help you pay down your debt.
4. Change your attitude. You can pretend to earn less than you do. Cut back on a few expenses every month. If you really like to go out, you still can. But, look at your expenses and adjust them to just save a little.
5. Change paycheck withholdings to get a smaller refund. If you had less withheld from each check, you could be saving or paying down debt quicker. The IRS doesn’t mind holding your money but they don’t give you any interest. If you receive a $4,000 refund, you are paying the IRS an extra $333 every month that you don’t need to pay. If you lowered your withholdings and paid an extra $333 every month on your debt, you would save about $200 in interest for the year on a 10% interest loan. Plus, you don’t have the worry of living paycheck to paycheck. I know you like the big refund but wouldn’t you also like to have an extra $300 a month to pay yourself.
Big Refund? See my ideas of how to spend it.

Living paycheck to paycheck is stressful. Don’t continue to get caught in that cycle. Start with small things to move into financial freedom. Contact me for a free budgeting consultation.

Note: If you always pay the IRS, start 2019 with a small savings account to pay that bill when it comes due. The IRS interest and penalties when you don’t pay your bill by April 15th is very high. You can set up an appointment with me to discuss how much interest and penalties you are paying by not paying your tax bill by April 15th every year.

 

Budgeting, Uncategorized

No crash budgets: 6 reasons budgeting is like dieting.

money coins cash currency
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My system of “No Crash Budgets” teaches you about interest, debt, savings and planning for emergencies while still living the lifestyle you want to live. My system is adaptable and flexible to you and your wants and needs. It allows you to still get your wants.

Saving money is a lot like losing weight or getting healthy. I advocate for a system of saving money and getting your finances in order that is sustainable unlike a “crash budget”.

  1. Be Real. You must set manageable, realistic goals. Just like when losing weight, you won’t go from $500 in savings and thousands in personal debt to $10,000 in savings in one year. Think about the times when you have gone on a diet and you cut out all sugar, soda and flour. It made you grouchy for a few days and then sometimes you come out feeling great. With a budget, a system allows you flexibility will help you keep on track.
  2. Focus. Find an area to focus on. Once you have a minimal amount in savings ($500-$1,000), it is more beneficial to focus on paying down your debt. But, if you’re paying down your debt and you don’t have a cushion for emergencies, then you go right back to the start. Dieting without a clear focus will not be as successful.
  3. Plan ahead. What actually constitutes an emergency? Things come up all the time. My kids need money for school things and it can feel like an emergency but it’s not. Christmas, birthdays and entertainment are not emergencies. So, I don’t touch my emergency fund.  I put away money every month for Christmas. I also look at whose birthday is during the month and set aside money for that. When you diet, if your house is full of brownies, you’re not going to lose weight. If you plan ahead and fill your kitchen with healthy items, you are prepared.
  4. Track. Track where you are spending your money. Tracking money is an important part of setting up a sustainable budget. Each time you get paid, you should be evaluating how much you’ve spent and where. If you’re out of money in a budget category, can you quit spending or do you need to evaluate another area to take the money from? Track where you are at every month. I even like to make a chart in Excel that shows my savings growing and debt decreasing. If you’re not stepping on the scale or noticing a change in how your clothes fit, the diet will not be as effective.
  5. Deal with setbacks. If you have an emergency fund established, you can handle emergencies. Does it seem like you have more emergencies than most people? Is your house old, your car old, or do you have medical expenses? Even when emergencies do arise, I can look at my budget and see where I could take money so that I don’t need to touch my emergency fund. When you use your emergency fund, start building it back up right away. Every few months, you can evaluate if your savings fund is enough for you. We had to replace a broken furnace during the first week of January. We had half of the money saved up because I knew it was coming. Along with that, we will be replacing our a/c unit in the spring. I am planning ahead and saving the money for that so it is not an emergency. Sometimes when you’re getting healthy you have an injury or just gain a few pounds back. You can quit or you can deal with the setback.
  6. Understanding debt, savings and interest. I recently saw a statistic that the average American owes $15,000 in credit card debt. I want you to understand debt. You can have a car loan and a mortgage as long as you understand exactly what it is costing you. Paying interest means you are sacrificing other things. You should understand interest, tax benefits and decide which is the most important debt to pay off first in your case. Muscle weighs more than fat so the number on the scale doesn’t mean everything. Sometimes, a few pounds is a good thing.

As always, I offer tax and budgeting advice for free. Contact me through my website. You can also follow me on Instagram at nocrashbudgets

 

Budgeting, Tips

5 Reasons a Budget Will Help You.

According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, only 1 in 3 Americans prepare a detailed written or computerized budget. It further states that most of the people preparing budgets have a college degree or make more than $75,000 a year. People with lower income need to budget even more.

Some people say, I track all of my money in Mint so I don’t need to set a budget. While apps are great to track your expenses, you need to make sure that you set reasonable limits for yourself and stick to them.

My goal is not to have all of your debt paid off in a small amount of time. I just want to get you started on the path toward financial freedom. I consider financial freedom as good debt management, a secure savings and emergency fund.

  1. Financial freedom comes as you aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck and you know where all of your money is going before you receive it. If your expenses are exceeding your income even by a little each month, you will never have financial freedom.
  2. Evaluating each month. Each month, you should be looking at your expenses. If one area continues to exceed your budget, do you want to increase that budget and decrease another area? Or is there a way you can decrease the expenses in that area? Either option works fine, but you can’t keep exceeding expenses and expect to get out of your old cycle.
  3. Large, irregular expenses. You always know which areas you can adjust. When Christmas is coming or a birthday, generally you need to lessen some expenses in another area to get ready. If you follow a budget, it is easy to see where you can adjust.
  4. Emergencies. We all have emergencies come up. We’ve been trying to save for a new furnace for over a year. But, little things keep breaking around the house, too. So, we are always grateful for our emergency fund. When something happens, if we don’t have enough money to cover it, we can usually figure out a way to make up for it in the next month or two because we follow our budget.
  5. Retirement. It is always important to be saving for retirement. Many strict budget programs don’t want you to save for retirement until all of your debt is paid off. Three main reasons not to do that:
    1. Time value of money. Yes, you are likely paying more in interest than you can receive as a return on investment. However, the sooner you start saving for your retirement the more money you will have. Even if you start small, and try to increase as you go along, your money will grow.
    2. Taxes. Saving for retirement can have tax savings now or in the future. If you wait and try to put away too much each year after your debt is paid off, you could lose some tax benefit due to the caps on contributions yearly.
    3. Employer Matching. Many companies offer employer matching on 401(k) plans. This is like free money. So, not utilizing this matching program every year and in every paycheck is like giving money back to the company.

Budgeting and planning gives you the financial freedom later in life. But, it can also be helpful in many areas right now. As stated above, I don’t usually worry too much when things come up. Money doesn’t keep me up at night because I know exactly where my money goes and that I have enough whenever something comes up.

Bookkeeping, taxes

Check Register App Review

I love Excel. So, I designed a spreadsheet to track my expenses. I’ve used it for years and it’s perfect for me because I can customize the spreadsheet to fit my needs. I decided to try the free apps on my iPad for a check register. I’ve tried a few and here is what I’ve found.

Checkbook – This is my favorite app. I like the categories for expenses  with pictures, the description that auto fills, and recurring payments. I don’t like that the upgrade is required to add more than one account. I also wish I could clear the transaction while I’m in the entry screen.

Balance – I haven’t tried this one too many times. You can clear the transactions on the entry screen. But, the downside is you can’t clear the entry on the transaction list screen. It looks pretty boring. It doesn’t have categories for transactions.

Check – This app allows you to add multiple accounts without upgrading. When you open the app, you are required to watch an ad. Like Checkbook, you need to click on a tab at the top for expense vs. income. I would prefer to put in a +/- sign as I am entering the amount. I can put in categories but it doesn’t have the cute pictures like Checkbook.

My Check Register – This looks like a paper check register. This app doesn’t have categories. It only allows transaction detail like a traditional check register. I also don’t like that you can’t print out category totals.

They’re all great apps but for my purposes, I’m most excited about Checkbook. I will be taking the other apps off soon. Checkbook fills all of my needs with being able to print out the reports of each category.

 

 

 

 

 

Tips

Personal and Business Expenses

When you own a business, expenses can quickly add up. Businesses should try to keep personal and business expenses separate. Sometimes, that proves difficult for small businesses. So, if you do keep expenses together, keep all business receipts. Then, make a notation or category for business expenses so you can easily find those at tax time. 

“Business expenses are the costs of carrying on a trade or business, and they are usually deductible if the business is operated for a profit.” IRS Pub 535

Expenses should be ordinary and necessary. Ordinary means common and acceptable in your industry. The expense should also be appropriate and helpful. It is easy to find examples of expenses that the taxpayer disagreed with the IRS as to ordinary and necessary. 

For example, the IRS closely watches cell phone usage. You can only claim the business portion of expenses. So, you must calculate the portion of business usage because you likely use it for both.

“Generally, you cannot deduct personal, living, or family expenses.” IRS Pub 535

You should be careful to save receipts from large retailers, i.e. Costco, Amazon. In an audit the IRS will generally want proof that these expenses are for business purposes. 

Some additional expenses that can be tricky include:

  • Business Use of Home. If you use part of your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses. The area of your home must be used regularly and exclusively for business. Calculate the percentage of your home used for business and then you can deduct this portion of mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, and depreciation. 
  • Business use of your car. If you use your car for both personal and business purposes, you must divide expenses based on actual mileage. Look at my post on this subject for more information.
  • Interest. If you borrow money and use part of the money for personal and part for business, figure out a percentage for each and only deduct the business portion of the interest you paid.

Always be careful when claiming expenses that they are for business purposes. In the weeks to come, I will add more information to help you complete most of your own accounting.