Effortless Ways to Save Money

Growing a savings account is quite important. Whether you’re wanting to stash away cash for a rainy day, want to save for a college fund, or increase your investments for retirement, being smart with your money takes a lot of discipline — usually. However, the articles about “how to save money” rarely give us easy tips that are handy for people with limited budgets for a lack of knowhow. You might think it requires tons of discipline and self-sacrifice to save, but there are some painless ways to make your savings grow. When you start saving with one or more of these methods, you will notice that more of the money that passes through your hands stays in your possession.

Start a Coin Jar: Place a coin jar, basket or box near the location where you put your purse each time you arrive home. Take a second to empty out the coin compartment of your wallet into the coin jar. When it’s full, bring the coins to the bank and deposit the total into your savings account. It’s the slow and steady approach, but it also requires no sacrifices!

Use Your Ashtray as a Coin Tray: Convert your ashtray into a coin tray. Each time you get change for your drive through order, put the bills into your wallet and the coins into the coin tray. Never use the coins to pay for things—only to deposit coins. When it’s full, deposit the money into the bank.

Deposit Dividends: If you have an investment portfolio that pays out dividends, set it up so the funds go straight into your savings account instead of having them mail you a check, which you might be tempted to cash and spend.

Budget for Savings: Make a household budget and revisit it monthly. Make efforts to spend less than the budget allows as the month goes by. At the end of the month, run an expense report. Whenever you are under budget, even by a few dollars, transfer that money from your checking to savings.

Save Food: The typical American family wastes over $500 on food each year. Learning to store food correctly will ultimately help you spend less on groceries. Take the time to research the best ways to store lettuce, vegetables and fruits. Use your budget expense report to calculate your grocery savings and send that extra cash to the bank.

Skip the Disposables: Disposable items like napkins, paper towels add up to unnecessary spending. Make a one-time investment in extra kitchen towels and cloth napkins. You’re doing laundry anyway, so just toss those reusable items into the washing machine and save bundles of cash.

Divvy up Bulk Items: If you live alone, the temptation is to indulge in single-serving items. But you will pay dearly for the convenience. Save money in your budget for your savings account by buying in bulk—or at least regular sizes—and divvying them up into smaller portions for yourself.

Learn to Cook: If you’re still buying take-out or prepared food every night, you’ve got hundreds of dollars within your control that you can convert to savings just by learning to cook. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start with simple things like slow cooker recipes and stockpot soups. Buy some Mason jars and freeze your soups and stews for quick and easy meals any night of the week.

Make the Savings Real: You know those cashiers who hand you your receipt and say, “You saved $12.50 today!” Well, you didn’t “save” anything unless you’re actually putting that $12.50 into your savings account. So when you get home, make the savings real. Hop onto the computer and transfer that amount straight into your savings account from your checking. Now you’ve really saved $12.50. If this is too much to do each time you shop, stash the receipts in a box and make a one-time transfer at the end of each month.

Of course, the key to all this is to have a budget to begin with. If you spend willy nilly without keeping track of the outgoing cash, it will be always be hard to save. Your first step should be to get a realistic budget in place. Then it will be fun to see how much you can lower your expenses each month to make your savings grow!

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4 Tactics to Keep Back to School Spending in Check

When parents and kids are both excited to shop for back to school, it can turn into a textbook case of out of control spending. Who can resist those rows of fresh new pencils, fat empty notebooks just waiting to be filled with ideas bordering on genius, and the array of dazzling organizers that promise that this, this year is going to so much better than last year!

Back to school equals new beginnings, fresh starts and do-overs. Back to school means back to serious business, where new friends await, old mistakes are forgotten and the future is wide open. It’s a time when the coolest teen magazines Instagram is filled with filtered photos of perfect little coeds, jumping and laughing together with friends, all the while sporting the latest backpacks, hair bands and fall skirts and shoes.

The thing about back to school spending, is someone’s got to keep a level head. Because if you don’t, there won’t be any money left in the budget for new sports equipment, that cheerleading outfit, the school trips or the endless pizza parties, not to mention that adorable new winter coat that hasn’t even been advertised yet. The fact is, school spending goes on for the entire year, so it’s better to keep tabs on the back to school spending so you’ll have more than a small fraction to spend the rest of the year.

Make a Budget

Boring? Yes, but it’s also good practice for the scholar in the home. Talk about what activities the student might want to join this year, figure in an allowance for shopping trips with friends, and remember to factor in the over-priced, “Oh, my God, I’ll never ask you for another thing as long as I live if you just let me get these boots!” boots. If you make a budget and stick with it, it really will be a good school year, at least financially.

Dig for Coupons

Before you go shopping, arm yourself with as many coupons as you can lay your hands on. Think about that jumbo coupon book you bought off the Boy Scout outside the grocery store earlier this year. Dig that out and see if there are any coupons for the usual teen beloved stores like Forever 21 or H&M. Go online and sign up for their newsletters so you can get coupons delivered to your inbox. Consider a club membership at Sam’s Club or BJs, where you might find school supplies with a hefty bulk discount.

Consolidate

Each year, teachers make long lists of supplies for their classes. But for one reason or another, half the stuff ends up not getting used. And teachers don’t really have the time to coordinate with other teachers to make sure they aren’t accidentally asking parents to buy double the amount of supplies they really need. But you can make sure. One 3-subject notebook will cover three classes. Your youngster doesn’t need three separate notebooks. They also don’t need a pack of eight ball point pens. They only need one, and they can probably find a perfectly good one in the kitchen junk drawer. When they lose that one—and they will—there’s probably another one underneath the pile of clothes on the floor in their bedroom. The point is, consolidate the list and the existing supplies in the household, and save money. Every penny counts.

Communicate

Parents often feel guilted into buying back to school things that their kids don’t really need. It’s okay to say, “I have a budget, and we’re sticking to it.” It’s okay to say no. Saying no to buying more school supplies doesn’t mean you’re dooming your eager student to failure in middle school.

Let your kids know that there will be plenty more opportunities to bond over shopping during the year. Most important of all, let them know that buying new stuff won’t make life improve. A new sweater won’t get them a date for homecoming, and gel nails won’t get them into the popular girls’ club. Shopping for back to school items is the perfect opportunity to get your kids excited about learning, but the first lesson should be how to spend money responsibly.

4 Ways to Keep Back to School Spending in Check

When parents and kids are both excited to shop for back to school, it can turn into a textbook case of out of control spending. Who can resist those rows of fresh new pencils, fat empty notebooks just waiting to be filled with ideas bordering on genius, and the array of dazzling organizers that promise that this, this year is going to so much better than last year!

Back to school equals new beginnings, fresh starts and do-overs. Back to school means back to serious business, where new friends await, old mistakes are forgotten and the future is wide open. It’s a time when the coolest teen magazines Instagram is filled with filtered photos of perfect little coeds, jumping and laughing together with friends, all the while sporting the latest backpacks, hair bands and fall skirts and shoes.

The thing about back to school spending, is someone’s got to keep a level head. Because if you don’t, there won’t be any money left in the budget for new sports equipment, that cheerleading outfit, the school trips or the endless pizza parties, not to mention that adorable new winter coat that hasn’t even been advertised yet. The fact is, school spending goes on for the entire year, so it’s better to keep tabs on the back to school spending so you’ll have more than a small fraction to spend the rest of the year.

MAKE A BUDGET

Boring? Yes, but it’s also good practice for the scholar in the home. Talk about what activities the student might want to join this year, figure in an allowance for shopping trips with friends, and remember to factor in the over-priced, “Oh, my God, I’ll never ask you for another thing as long as I live if you just let me get these boots!” boots. If you make a budget and stick with it, it really will be a good school year, at least financially.

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The Annuity Riddle Unraveled

An annuity is an investment vehicle that has very polarizing effects on people. Some people can’t say enough good things about annuities, while others are so strongly against annuities that they almost put them in the same category as door- to-door loan sharks. Before you form an opinion either way, make sure you completely understand what annuities are, the different kinds of annuities that are available, and how they can impact your future financial security.

First of all, the term annuity refers to a payment made on an annual basis. So you can notice the inclusion of the Latin root “annu,” which means “yearly.” Note that a yearly annuity payment can be broken up into twelve monthly payments, but the contract obligation is still based on a total annual amount.

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Is Your Credit Score a Business Loan Killer?

As a business owner, you may need extra financing at some point. Getting a business loan can be difficult, though, unless your personal credit score is up to par. Even liberal banks may turn you down for a business loan if your credit score is under a certain number. Is your credit score a business loan killer? If so, here are some ideas to raise it.

Lower Your Debt

Your business debt will be a part of the equation when a bank considers your application for a business loan. Of course, you’re allowed to have some debt on your books, but a substantial ratio of debt over income will raise flags in the loan department. Try to pay down outstanding business debt in the form of credit cards or commercial vehicle loans.

Lower Your Unpaid Balances

Does your business routinely keep a high unpaid balance of customer receipts on the books? If so, your business loan application could be negatively impacted. If the bank sees you as a business owner who has a difficult time of getting clients to pay you, they may not approve your loan at all. Try to get your clients to pay their outstanding balances before you apply for your small business loan. Whenever you make collection calls, make sure you adhere to the regulations that oversee this practice.

Don’t Close Open Credit Cards

Once you pay off some of the credit card balances, resist the temptation to close the accounts. Closed credit card accounts show up as closed, but they don’t show up as to who closed them. A loan officer could look at your closed account, and assume that the credit card company closed the account, and not you. If you are fortunate enough to pay one or more of your credit card balances down all the way to zero, just keep the card open. You don’t have to use it, but don’t close the account.

 

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Don’t Fall Behind on Collecting Customer Funds

It’s essential to have positive cash flow in your business. Cash flow impacts your small business success in several ways including your business credit score, your ability to get a business loan, and the day to day functioning of your business. To keep your accounting records in the black, learn how to stay on top of money owed to your business.

Side Effects If You Fail To Collect Money Owed To You

One way that poor debt collection practices can negatively affect your business is your credit score. Your business credit score is partially calculated by a determination of the ratio of business income compared to your business debt. When the ratio become heavily tipped on the side of debt versus income, as it would be when you’re not collecting money owed to your business, your business credit score drops.

Another side effect of failing to collect debt on a timely basis is an inability to get a business loan. Loan officers want to see that you have a consistent and positive cash flow coming into your business coffers. If you have too much money in your accounts receivable column compared to your bottom line, this can indicate to the loan officer that you aren’t well equipped to handle your finances. Banks aren’t to eager to lend to people who don’t know how to handle their money.

Finally, failing to adequately collect money that is owed to your business can negatively and dramatically affect the day-to-day functioning of your business. As a business owner, you know that you have certain recurring expenses related to running your business. Maybe you have to pay for daily food deliveries, daily fresh flower deliveries or for your chef’s morning purchases from the fresh market downtown. Whatever those daily expenses are, you won’t be able to make them without positive cash flow.

How can you improve your accounting tactics to stay in the black and not dip into the red?

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Where Are You on the Financial Road to Retirement?

The financial road to retirement starts with small, steady steps and ends with one giant leap to financial freedom for the rest of your life; or so it’s supposed to go. But most of us aren’t perfect, and we may have skipped a step or two, leaving our retirement nest egg a little light. If you’re worried that you’re not where you’re supposed to be at this stage of the game of life, take a look at these expert recommendations, as well as ideas for what you can do to correct any shortfalls.

At 30 you should have had a minimum of one year’s salary put away for retirement. Many women choose to use an IRA to hold retirement savings, but that’s not essential. The assumption for this figure is that you were earning a significant salary since you graduated from college. Another assumption is that you would be able to get an 8% annual return on your money year after year, which would leave you with $600,000 by age 65 if you had $40,000 socked away by age 30.

You can see that the assumptions are a little ambitious. The likelihood that you started earning $40,000 right out of college is slim. The chances that you were able to somehow save all that money at a young age are even slimmer. You might have had college loans to repay, a wedding to pay for, a down payment to make, and house furniture to buy.

The point is, you need to forget all this about being at a certain point at a certain age in order to have a comfortable retirement. The goals that financial experts put out there are rarely based in real life, and they just make you feel scared and inadequate.

As a 50-plus year old woman, you simply need to save as much money in the next fifteen years as you comfortably can, without sacrificing your current quality of life. It’s as straightforward as that.

There’s nothing you can do to turn back time. What’s done is done, so please don’t look at those online calculators and feel bad about yourself, that you somehow failed. You didn’t fail. Chances are, as a responsible woman, you saved what you could, and spent what you felt you needed to make yourself and others happy. Even if you haven’t saved a dime up until now, you won’t do yourself any good to feel bad about it.

The financial road to retirement lies in front of you. Try to put away 15% of every paycheck from here on out. Using a trusted financial advisor for guidance, put the money into your IRA, into the stock or bond market, or invest in gold. Keep an eye on your returns, and try to get a minimum of 8%.

Another possible option for you, if you feel you’re short financially, is to invest in real estate. A sound rental property investment could provide very steady monthly income for you for the rest of your life. If you’re 50 right now, you can take out a mortgage on a rental property, rent it for an amount equal to the mortgage plus insurance, and have it paid off by the time you’re ready to retire. After that, the rental income will pay for the continued insurance (never drop that, by the way), and supplement your retirement income.

This is how to build a retirement income. Look at your present situation, not your past. It’s never too late to start.

How to Work With a Retirement Plan Advisor

Sometimes it seems there are retirement plan advisors on almost every street corner, trying to hustle you out of your hard earned savings, squeezing your bank account for commissions and trading fees. When you think about it, choosing the right retirement plan advisor (RPA) is almost as important as choosing the right spouse. This person is going to have an insiders look at the most intimate details of your financial portfolio. Here’s how to choose wisely.

1. Make sure you’re on the same page. Your financial goals have to align with the presumed goals of your RPA. At this stage in your life, financial risks should be undertaken with caution, if at all. If you want to be certain you’ll retire in the black, and not in the red, make sure you don’t unwittingly give permission to your RPA to gamble with your accounts.

2. Ask questions; get answers. Your RPA should be able and willing to give you general retirement advice that you can use to help guide the decisions you make about your retirement future. You shouldn’t have to figure out all by yourself if it makes sense to retire early or to work longer, and the Internet won’t give you the answers you need, either. Your choice to work longer or not must be based on your very personal situation. The factors to be considered will involve your family life, your financial soundness, your physical health, and your emotional willingness to devote more hours of your life in the workplace. Make sure that the RPA you choose is amenable to sitting down with you and having honest communication about your choices.

3. Take stock. RPAs take different viewpoints toward financial portfolio options like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities trading, futures, etc. Though almost all RPAs are legally allowed to—with your permission–move your money where you want, as people, they will have favorite and not so favorite methods for making your money grow. If you have any personal interest in particular arenas of the financial markets that you’d like to pursue, make sure your RPA is on board with that. It’s not worth it to have to argue over your choice of vehicle every time you want to initiate a transaction. If you’re into stocks, get a stock aficionado. It will make all your future communication that much easier.

4. Play an active role. No wise money holder hands over their cash and says “Do what you want with it.” You need to play an active role in the way your retirement money is handled. This means frequent communication via email or telephone. It also means you need to do your homework. Even though you’re hiring an RPA because of their expertise, you need to be able to understand the nuances of the information they’re giving you about your money. Take the lead role in your retirement planning. This isn’t the time to be shy about standing up for yourself and your right to know what’s going on with your money.

 

Dissecting the Annuity Market

How did your business fare in the annuity market in 2014 compared with other annuity management providers? According to the Financial Planning Association, 29 percent of financial planners either advised their new clients to choose fixed annuities, or have current clients in fixed annuity vehicles. Four years ago, that number was a high of 49 percent.

Seemingly, this might have been an adjustment made to offset runaway inflation and a slumbering economy.
Now that the economy appears to be recovering, at least from the perspective of the cash-rich corporations, more providers may be viewed as being comfortable with variable annuities.

What Can Your Business Do to Encourage Annuity Investment?

Annuities have traditionally been seen as complex investments that are only for financially savvy movers and shakers. Though it is true that your clients need to enter the annuity market with their eyes wide open, it’s equally true that you could woo even more suitable annuity clients if you use the right approach. Here are some ideas for marketing your company’s annuity packages:

Accentuate the Positive

Often, accentuating the positive is as easy as comparing something with another thing that is less attractive. As the following article shows, why not develop some historical financial charts that highlight the returns based on annuity rates versus the returns on other vehicles such as mutual funds, stocks or even certificates of deposit. You’ll be able to shine a light on the positive aspects of annuities without compromising your ethic to offer a choice of investment options that are appropriate for your client’s financial planning needs.

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Should You Hire an Accountant to Manage Your Books?

As a home business owner, you likely have a thorough understanding of the importance of saving money wherever possible. But you also know that there are certain areas where it’s unwise to scrimp. Trying to determine whether or not it is in your best interests to hire an accountant to take care of your books is something all home business owners eventually have to face. Following are some things to consider when making this important decision.

1. Your Income Level

The IRS has certain characteristics it looks for when determining who to audit. They base this on a complicated algorithm that calculates numerous factors, including their chances for catching tax return errors that will lead to increased tax revenue for them. If your income meets or exceeds $200,000 a year, your chances for an audit are increased. If an accountant prepares and signs your return, those chances are reduced, partly because the IRS knows that the accountant has reviewed your paperwork and has signed off on it as being truthful.

2. Your Time Management

Home business owners are often wearing all the hats in the business. You can’t expect your business to grow and reach its potential if you are spending much of your time balancing books, filing quarterly tax returns, paying monthly payroll tax, and keeping track of deductible time and business expenses. An outsourced bookkeeper can take care of many of these tasks for you, but they will be the first to tell you that they are not accountants.

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