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How I Learned to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Today’s blog post was written by our guest author named Adam. He wanted to share with everyone some helpful tips that he’s used to stop living paycheck to paycheck. We hope you enjoy his insights as much as we have!

Sometimes, during the week leading up to payday, I find myself clinging for dear life to my finances. If I can just survive until I get paid, I think to myself, then everything will be OK. I go into crisis mode, axing all discretionary spending and hoping that no unexpected expenses pop up.

When my paycheck finally appears in the mail, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. And then I revert to my old spending habits—eating out, buying the latest gadgets, etc. A few weeks pass, and I’m right back where I started, panicking about making it to my next paycheck.

It’s a cruel cycle, like the spin cycle of a washing machine. But instead of coming out clean at the end, I would just wind up dizzy and half-drowned.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Thankfully, I found a way to escape the constant spin cycle and stop living paycheck to paycheck.

My Arch-Nemesis: The Dreaded Budget

Saving money does not come naturally to me, and money gets spent often without me even realizing it. I knew right off the bat that I was going to get nowhere without a budget.

Budgets take hard work and discipline especially if you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck. You need the self-control to resist making any unnecessary purchases, and you need the personal honesty required to separate wants from needs.

Taking a Long, Hard Look at My Spending

It was time to take out the old magnifying glass and look at how I was really spending my money.
I was shocked. Did I really spend that much money eating out every month? It was atrocious how much of my paycheck went to entertainment.

As soon as I had a strong grasp on where I was spending my money, I was able to craft a budget that accounted for my needs, and even made a little room for some wants (for the sake of my sanity).

My Game Plan for Dealing with Credit Card Debt

One of the big motivators for turning my finances around was that I wanted so badly to get out of debt. Over the years, my spending habits had been subsidized by various credit cards, and I’d built up quite a chunk of debt.

Thankfully, my credit card debt provided short term goals to help me along the way. Basically, I would zero in on one balance, keeping all other balances on the back burner. Once that one card was paid off, I felt the accomplishment of having achieved a goal, which helped me forge ahead with my budget.

Reevaluating Progress

Every six months or so, I take time to reevaluate my budget and spending, and make adjustments accordingly. As I’ve reduced my debt and added to my savings, things have gotten easier. I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve even been able to fit in a few purchases for things I really want, like gadgets and such.

How did you stop living paycheck to paycheck? Leave your tips in the comments section below.

6 Ways to Use Cheap Clothing Stores to Save Money

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It’s tempting to buy all of your clothes new, at full-price from your favorite stores, but there is a better way to do it. If you want to get a new back-to-school wardrobe on a budget, here are a few tips for places to visit to get the most for your money.

Second-Hand Stores

Good Will and Salvation Army are the original cheap clothing stores and have always been reliable standbys when you need to get some new clothes for less money. However, there are other options out there. As those racks tend to be combed clean of any recognizable name brands, try searching in your area for other vintage stores. Popular chains around the country that offer this include Plato’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange.

Trade Your Clothes

If you’re looking to donate clothes and get some extra cash, both of these cheap clothing stores also pay you for your clothes. If you bring your clothes in they will be examined for wear and tear and you will be offered a percentage of the cash the store plans to sell the items for. Some places offer you slightly more in store credit, so you can trade in your clothes and be motivated to spend the money at their store instead of taking the cash.

Outlet Stores

Outlet stores are the designer end of cheap clothing stores. If you have your heart set on certain name brands (or you can’t bring yourself to wear second-hand clothing), outlet stores are a cheap alternative to going to the mall. This is because the clothing sold there is either out of season, or it was created with cheaper fabrics or less detail.

Clearance Rack

A lot of money can be saved by shopping off of the clearance rack. Oftentimes there is nothing wrong with anything on the rack, it is just the last one in its size, or it was returned after a few days. Nordstrom is one of the few department stores that has its own clearance store, called Nordstrom Rack.

Friend’s Closets

Everyone’s wardrobes are constantly in flux. Find friends of yours who are the same size and compare clothes that you want to get rid of. You may find something you love in your friend’s closet that he or she was about to donate.

Cheap Clothing Websites

Shopping online can be risky, as you’re not entirely sure what will fit and what won’t. However, if you take your measurements and compare with what is online, you’re much more likely to get something that fits. There are deals to be found every day – and if something you buy doesn’t fit and you can’t return it, you can always try selling it at a local exchange store.

Back to school shopping can be daunting, and in the end it is probably going to be expensive – but not as expensive as it has to be. You can get more for your money by trying the tips above rather than going straight to the mall and buying clothes off the rack. Keep track of how much money you’ve spent and how many items of clothing you got and compare it to your friends’ lists. You’ll be surprised how much you saved.

How to Budget Your Money Like Robin Hood

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“Steal from the rich, and give to the poor.” That was Robin Hood’s cry. As the greedy Prince John taxed away all the people’s money, leaving them destitute, a hero had to rise up. So Robin Hood stepped up and became the hero that everyone looked to for help and hope.

Perhaps inside of you, you have an inner Prince John lurking in your heart preventing you from learning how to budget your money. Does that greedy side steal away precious money for pleasure, while so many of your needs are left penniless? An insatiable lust for designer clothes, cutting edge technology, entertainment, gourmet food, or even little things like nail polish or candy bars could be emptying your coffers, leaving car payments, rent, student loans, and other important bills unpaid.

If so, it’s time to tap into your soul and bring out the hero – your inner Robin Hood – to rescue you from greed and budget your money for good! Only then, can you discover exactly how to budget your money.

Your Key: Good Budgeting Requires Courage and Strength

As you try to breathe life into your inner Robin Hood, it’s important to believe that you possess both courage and strength—it will take both to overcome your greedy villain, take back the money that is being improperly used and return it to the things that need it.

If you don’t think you have courage or strength, you’re wrong. Even realizing that you have a problem shows that you have already taken the first steps on this hero’s path. You know who the enemy is and that you need to do something about it. Your courage and strength are already starting to emerge. Don’t let anyone take this away from you in your journey toward financial independence!

The Plan of Attack

Next comes the game plan. As Robin Hood and his Merry Men (no doubt you also have family and/or friends willing to support you) prepared to steal back the money from Prince John, they laid out a careful plan to ensure success.
For you, this means sitting down and planning exactly how to budget your money. Really, it’s just a matter of redistribution of wealth within your own little fiefdom—your personal finances.

First, identify how much money is being siphoned away unnecessarily that you can take back and use elsewhere. You don’t necessarily have to go cold turkey, but you need to commit to redistributing a sizable amount of that money towards more important needs.

Second, rank your expenses in order of importance to help you understand your needs.
Third, make sure the most demanding needs get the most money back. Carefully plan out how much of your income will go where, and put it in writing.

Remember, life is unpredictable. Sometimes no matter how well you plan ahead unexpected expenses will come up. If you find that one month you end up coming up a little short that’s ok. Do what you need to do to take care of your emergency expense, whether it’s getting a payday loan or paying with a credit card and then readjust your budget to get them paid off as quickly as possible.

Turn the Key to Put Your Plan into Action

This, of course, is the most challenging step. And that’s ok – because real heroes are made by overcoming challenges. So sling on your figurative bow and invade that castle of greed. Stick strictly to your plan and don’t back down in the face of opposition or temptation. (But if you do slip, don’t despair! Get right back up and keep going!)

Yes – changing your spending habits will be difficult. But you can do it! Always keep in mind the purpose that you are fighting for and soon, your battle will be won!

Learning how to budget your money is an epic journey. Don’t expect to get there overnight, and remember: we’ll be with you when you need a little help along the way.

Budgeting for College Students 101

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College is a great time to explore adulthood and learn a few things the hard way.

You’re going to make mistakes, that’s a given. I know I did.

Of course, now that I’m blessed with 20/20 hindsight, there are a few things I would definitely do differently. I definitely would have asked that cute girl in my French class out on a date, and I probably wouldn’t have eaten so much food from vending machines and microwaves. I also wish I’d spent more time studying, less time playing video games, etc. etc.

However, rather than focusing on a depressing list of regrets, let’s focus on a few things that could actually be useful.
I’m talking about making a college budget. If you mess up with money while in college, your life can be negatively affected for years to come. Let’s say, for example, you damage your credit. Suddenly it becomes incredibly difficult for you to do things like buy a car, find an apartment, and even land a job.

To help you get a head start on figuring out your financial smarts, here are two little college student budget tips I wish someone had shared with me at the start of my freshmen year.

Keep Track of the Little Expenses

While it’s important to understand the difference between wants and needs, for me the most important part of sticking to a college budget is keeping track of the little things. I’m talking about those little purchases that are easy to forget about but have a way of adding up fast.

The best thing about a college student budget is that you can allow yourself to make these small purchases. As long as you remembered to make room for them in your budget then you really can buy something small, like a cup of coffee at the bookstore café, without feeling guilty. Enjoy that snack from the vending machine – if you really must! Just keep track of the small purchases, and once you’ve reached your limit, stop.

Don’t shop for Textbooks at the Campus Bookstore

One of the biggest budgeting tips for college students is save money on your books! I don’t know about your college’s bookstore, but mine was a bona fide racketeering enterprise! The prices students were charged for required textbooks should have been illegal. I was lucky that I wasn’t majoring in the hard sciences—textbooks for those classes could easily reach $300 for one book! My English Lit books were cheaper, but I had to buy 12 of them at a time for a single course.

Thankfully, a new technology was invented 30 or so years ago. You might have heard of it—it’s called the internet.
Seriously, buy all your books online. Look for used copies on Amazon. Scavenge for books on Craigslist. Find an online forum where you can swap books with other students. Whatever route you go to acquire your texts, try to avoid the campus bookstore like you would the plague. This simple tip will single handedly save your college budget.

It took me about three semesters before I figured out I could buy my textbooks online and pay a fraction of what I was spending at the bookstore. My emotions upon making this discovery ranged from feelings of betrayal all the way to outrage – with a little triumph once the purchases were made online and I realized how much money I had left over to spend on the vending machines…

So there you have it, my top two financial tips for new college students. For more in-depth budgeting advice, take a personal finance course or visit a financial aid advisor at your college. Oh, and when you do save money on book purchases, ask that cute girl in [insert name of class here] out!

Do you have any of your own budgeting tips for college students? Share your tips in the comments section below. Don’t forget to check out our regular blogs for more great budgeting tips.

How to Make a Household Budget in 4 Simple Steps

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You’ve heard the saying “love is blind,” but when it comes to your partner’s financial status you should take those blinders off before you take the plunge and say I do.

Follow these 4 steps with your partner to avoid any ugly surprises after the honeymoon ends. Once you’ve discussed these 4 steps you can put those blinders back on (you might be glad you have them in about 10 years!)

Step 1: Begin the Discussion

Come prepared to talk openly and honestly with each other about your personal financial circumstances. Make sure that each of you know how to make a budget, if you don’t consult a professional. It’s important that you do this without blaming or judging one another; remember you’re in this together now. This is the time to lay it all out on the table, don’t hide anything like debt or bad credit from your partner. It will only come back to haunt you later.

Here’s a list of questions to ask each other. These will help you understand the financial make-up and mindset of your partner before you dive into specific numbers:

  • How did your parent’s make a household budget? Did they talk to you about money?
  • Are you a spender or a saver? How do you decide whether or not you should buy something?
  • What does money mean to you and how much is enough?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you want? What are your goals or dreams? Example: Do you want to travel to exotic places or is early retirement more important?
  • Do you both want to work or go to school? Do you want kids? Is it important that one of you stay home with kids?

Step 2: Look at the Numbers

Figure out where you are now so you can set some goals for the future. What is your credit score, potential combined income, debt, loans, bills, etc? Crunch the numbers and set a household budget. If you aren’t sure about your categories, track your spending for one to two months and then start a household budget.

If you’ve already determined that one of you will stay home to raise a family, it’s important to not include that person’s income when budgeting for your future together. If you can get by without that second income, try putting it in a savings account. That way you will not become accustomed to having the extra money and you could have something to fall back on should you need it.

Step 3: Budget and set Goals

There are a lot of different ways to set up a budget, such as using Excel, Quicken, or mint.com. Find one that works for you and commit to sticking to your household budget.

Dreaming of the future is exciting, but without a solid plan you might lose focus or fall into unwanted debt. Decide on these goals now so you can succeed in following your dreams:

  • Determine your wants vs. needs
  • What is your spending limit on big-ticket items before you need to consult your spouse? $100? $1,000?
  • Commit to each other to live on less than you earn, or as mentioned above, learn to live on one income. This sounds simple but is an essential step to any personal budget, but even more vital to the success of your household budget.
  • What will you do for income in the event that anything should happen to your spouse in the future?
  • Plan regular budget meetings. Who will pay bills? Are you on track, does your budget need any adjustments?
  • How will you handle friends and family who need or ask for money?
  • Now the fun part, set a few goals for your future. How much do you want in savings? Do you need to save for a down payment or a big trip? How about retirement?

Step 4: Ask the Professionals

Take a class or read some books together to learn additional financial skills. Consult an accountant to discuss how you should file your taxes once you are married and if you need to make any adjustments on your withholdings. Update any insurances or policies or obtain necessary insurance you need, such as health insurance or 401(k).

Do you have any suggestions on how to make a household budget? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments section below. Also, keep an eye on our blog for more great tips on ways to budget and save money.

8 Money Management Tips You Can Apply Today

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Money management can sometimes feel like a tiresome exercise of self-denial. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact some of the more successful penny pinchers out there have gone so far as to claim it can be a fun and even enriching experience for themselves or their families! The key to this, they say, is to set goals or personal challenges, get creative and even turn it into a game.

Whether you are one of the persistent few with a well-established budget or are still trying to get yours started (again!) here are some simple but less utilized money management tips to make your money stretch a little further.

1. Beware the ATM!

Most financial institutions will not charge customers for ATM usage provided they have an account with the bank that operates that ATM. However, if you do not have an account there, or are not drawing from an account held with that facility, the institute operating that ATM will charge you for any withdrawals made via their machine. The fees incurred from these machines can really hurt your personal money management goals.

Worse still, you could incur fees from your own bank too, as some financial institutes will charge for the privilege of withdrawing from any machine not operated by their group. Though these fees are generally small, they add up if you are doing it regularly. So the next time you get the urge to use an ATM that is not operated by your bank, ask yourself if it’s really worth the double dip fees!

Pro Tip: Give yourself a specific amount of cash, for a specific amount of time, and see if you can stay on budget. Keep track of how much you spend, on what, in that period of time. Adjust accordingly but always aim to spend less and not more on non-essentials.

2. Eating Out: A Privilege, not a Right!

Eating out can be a fun way to spend time with friends and family, or satisfy a craving. But if you are eating out regularly, it can put a strain on your monthly budget. Especially if you are doing this every day for lunch too!

While you might not want to give up eating out altogether, by simply cutting down to one or two times a month, or legitimately special occasions, you can save more and make the times you do eat out really count.

Pro Tip: Use those nights you would usually eat out as an opportunity to make something adventurous at home. Try a new recipe or think of creative ways to combine the ingredients in your pantry! Try taking a homemade lunch into work with you at least three days a week. Brown bagging is a great opportunity to develop healthy habits as well as a healthier budget!

3. Learn a New Skill

No, it doesn’t have to be cooking! Learn to coupon and price match at the store and cut your grocery bill. Learn to sew and save money on new clothing purchases or clothing repairs/alterations. Learn to grow a garden that can supply your kitchen with healthy foods. The list is vast, the internet has resources!

Pro Tip: If you’re really adventurous, the internet is crammed full of demonstrations for things like making your own laundry detergent, soap and household cleaners! You can also learn how to revamp old furniture or repurpose items you’re not using – some of these skills could end up making you some extra cash!

4. Make it a Game

Have you ever tried to find yourself a new outfit using only the clearance racks? If so, try adding a price limit too – think “I will only buy this item if it is priced at $5 or below!” Or better yet, consider stores that sell “gently used” clothing.

Alternatively, challenge yourself to go without spending money for a set period of time. Play the mix and match game with the food in your fridge and pantry. If you run out of something less essential to the preservation of your sanity (and we’re not advocating that you deny yourself a caffeine fix or milk for your children’s cereal), see how long you can go without replacing it!

Pro Tip: Feel as though you really need to update your closet? Search for a website that offers mix and match clothing tips. Enter phrases like “the only 20 items you will ever need in your closet!” Instead of paying full price for these items, find them in a second hand store and follow the tips to create several outfits from them!

5. Stop Hoarding and Make Money

You’ve probably heard the saying “if you haven’t used it for a year, you don’t need it!” You might even be in the habit of decluttering your home on a regular basis. But what do you do with it all? Have you considered trying to make money off of the things you no longer need or use?

Pro Tip: Sites like eBay, Craig’s List and KSL are great tools for turning clutter into extra cash. Go through your closets, sheds and garages for well-preserved items you no longer need or use. Consider that piece of jewelry you never wear or furniture you’ve been storing with no intention of using again. Someone with restoration skills might jump at the chance to snap it up.

6. Get creative with gifting

If you have children, the odds are they get invited to birthday parties. Cue the pressure of finding just the right gift. We’ve all been there; trying to balance our money management goals on that fine line between what the little friend will love and what their parents will be impressed with! Depending on the neighborhood you live in or the size of your extended family, this little ritual can get out of hand. The solution is simple: Set a price limit on gifts.

Sound daunting? Make it a game. Most stores will have seasonal toy/craft clearances or a clearance aisle. It’s a great opportunity to grab a few things and put them in storage for future needs. Visit the dollar store for gift bags, tissue paper, bows and filler candy.

Pro Tip: For more intimate celebrations, encourage your loved ones to get creative and make gifts with personal appeal. Homemade coupons for dates or chores can make for more enriching experiences. Even Christmas shopping on a budget can be fun if you’re trying to come up with the most creative stocking fillers for the least amount of money.

7. Fantastic Fun for Free!

Use the internet and find out what’s going on in your community or surrounding areas for free or nearly free. Often times these activities make for great cultural or educational experiences as well as having entertainment value. Do you really need to see that movie when it first comes out? Can you wait for it to go to the dollar flicks? Or better yet, have a Redbox or Netflix and homemade popcorn night!

Pro Tip: How many free activities can you attend in a month? Who can find the most interesting free or nearly free activity?

8. Keep an Inspirational Reminder in Your Wallet

Keep a picture or reminder of your inspiration in your wallet. Your inspiration could be something you are saving for, a picture of your family or even a great quote that makes you feel ready to conquer the world. Whatever you choose, just make sure it is something that keeps you on the right track for spending!

All of these strategies really can help you meet the budget goals you set for yourself. But, only if you start applying them. So, don’t put it off, decide on at least one of these tips and start implementing today!

Six Awesome Tips to Saving Money on Groceries

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Surprisingly, one of the most difficult budgets to stick to is the grocery budget. It’s rough standing in the checkout lane, watching nervously as the numbers tally up, realizing that you’ve once again missed the mark. But what can you do? How do you save money on groceries? You need food!
If the grocery store seems to stump you or if you simply wish you could spend some of your food money on something else, follow these 6 money saving tips and watch that grocery receipt shrivel up like a raisin!

1. Check the Junk Mail

Yes, it’s called “junk mail,” but no, it’s not always junk! Every week, you probably receive a mailbox-full of ads and coupons for various grocery stores in your community. Before you throw them in the trash, pull them out and take a good look. There are always good sales going on. Find the best sales and cut out coupons (small though the discounts may be – they can really add up)!
Coupon matching is another great way to save money on groceries. There are web sites out there, hosted by people who have done the coupon matching for you. Find a couponing site hosted by someone local and you could find yourself saving more than you every thought possible just by using your coupons in the right combination!

2. Choose Your Stores Wisely

Based on the ads you see and your experience exploring various grocery stores, you’ll eventually learn which stores have the best deals. Perhaps one is great for produce, and another rocks for packaged goods. If they are both conveniently located, shop at both.
Additionally, more and more stores offer price matching services. So rather than running from store to store for coupon deals, you can get all the best deals at one store by matching the prices. It can be a bit of a hassle at first, but it will be worth it once you realize how much money you are saving.

3. Make a List at Home

This is a basic rule to saving money on groceries, passed down from generation to generation. If you want to stick to a budget, you MUST make a shopping list at home, and USE it! No spontaneous buys, no on-the-spot treats. If that sounds too restrictive for you, make a solid list, but also budget $10 or so for “miscellaneous purchases” to spend on whatever catches your fancy.
No matter how organized you are, there will be times when you get to the store and realize you forgot to put a few essentials on the list. Budget a little more for those things, but be sure that you really need them!

4. Consider your Menu Options

Do you eat a lot of the same meals regularly? Great! Write down those meals you tend to rotate through on a weekly to monthly basis, and you pretty much have your grocery list covered. Don’t forget to include breakfast and lunch staples, and any snacks you or your family enjoy. Then, simply rotate through cleaning and toiletry supplies as needed.
Note: “snacks” are not necessarily “treats.” A great way to keep the budget tight and your family healthy is to be sure that “treats” are occasional, and “snacks” are healthy – like fruit, cheese, yogurts etc.
Ever find yourself struggling to come up with last minute dinners? Do the random contents of your refrigerator or pantry fail to inspire you in your culinary endeavors? Menu planning can be very beneficial here too, as it will help you use up what’s already in your home. Then you can plan for buying only those things you will actually use in the future:

  • List the basic staples you and your family like to eat, for example; chicken, ground beef, pasta, vegetables, rice etc.
  • Do an online search for simple recipes using these staples. You can even include parameters such as “low carb” or “fat free” etc.
  • Save the recipes you like the most. Hint: they will use ingredients and flavor profiles you are familiar with and enjoy eating – in fact, you should already have at least some of the ingredients in your home! Save enough recipes to have at least a week’s worth of meals. You can add more over time.
  • Use the listed ingredients for these meals as a basis for your grocery list! Add your other staples as needed.

5. Don’t Go Hungry

Another time-tested tip to save money on groceries is to never go to the grocery store when you’re hungry. Food at the grocery store is always displayed in ways that make it look appealing. And if you’re hungry – you’re a pushover for food related advertising, no matter how cheesy! Chips, candy bars, doughnuts, fluffy white rolls, colorful yogurt, and out-of-season fruit will all be calling out to you. Defend yourself against these temptations by shopping on a full stomach.

6. Save Gas as you Go

Although this doesn’t directly tie into “How to save money on groceries”, your gas budget will benefit greatly if you plan to go grocery shopping strategically. If you drive past a grocery store on the way home from work – do your shopping then! Don’t waste gas on a separate trip when you can do it all in one outing.
If you’ve made your lists and planned in advance, you can limit your shopping trips to once every week or two. So rather than running back to the store every day to pick up single items – try to do it all in one shot.
Sticking to a grocery budget doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow these 5 tips and enjoy a surge of saved money! Visit our blog for more family friendly articles and tips.

Working Your Way to the Excel Big Leagues

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If you’re a little behind the times, tackling your budgeting and finances through online sites, tools, and apps, might be a little intimidating.

There are some great sources out there like Quicken, You Need a Budget, Mint.com, etc., but if you aren’t ready to trust your finances with your budding computer skills, there is an alternate way to get started: Microsoft Excel.

The Beauty of the Basics

If you think it’s time to move from paper to electronic budgeting, Excel could be a great transitional tool for you. If you aren’t familiar with Excel, it is Microsoft’s spreadsheet program. It is perfect for budgeting, because it can be used to do math, formulas, tables, charts, and graphs, all tailored to your personal needs and preferences.
The great thing about excel is that it is a step up from paper to electric, but is still very simple, clean, and clear. It’s almost like having your old paper checkbook, except it does the math for you.

But perhaps most importantly, you won’t risk messing up real money like you might on an online program if you make a mistake. There is no button you can push that will wipe out your funds, sign you up for unwanted services, or enable hackers to access your accounts.

*But remember – most online programs are very safe. You won’t risk the aforementioned tragedies using trusted online software and services. But if you are worried regardless, Excel is a great electronic stepping stone for you.

Using Excel

Although with a little tinkering around you can figure out how to use Excel’s basic functions without help, there’s no harm in asking a more tech-savvy friend or relative to set up some nice budgeting tools for you.

In Excel, there are endless possibilities to the styles and methods you can choose to use for your budgeting and finances. For example, you can create weekly or monthly tables, basically identical to your checkbook. Add a mathematical formula to the table, and it will do the math for you.

You can set up different tables or tabs (like pages) devoted to certain accounts, categories of spending, specific credit cards, and so on. You can even link information from each table to one consolidated place to track your overall financial situation.

If you are an Excel beginner, you may need some help setting up these tables and functions. But if you do know your way around Excel, don’t be afraid to experiment around with different systems of budgeting and work out a unique system that works for you!

Additional Perks

Even beyond convenience and clarity, using Excel for your budgeting/finances comes with some extra perks:

  • It’s free
  • It’s a great way to keep reliable financial records
  • Some banks allow you to download financial statements directly to Excel
  • It’s customizable to your personal preferences/style/use

Stepping Stone

If you try Excel and enjoy that style of budgeting, great! But if you’d like an even easier or more sophisticated and direct style of banking, Excel will act as an excellent stepping stone to online programs.
Still stuck on paper? Take the first step to electronic budgeting with your very own Excel spreadsheet!

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

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When people are carrying around a substantial amount of credit card debt, they sometimes have difficulty just getting started paying off that debt.

It’s easy to get frustrated quickly, and feeling overly anxious about your debt isn’t going to help you pay it off any faster. So what is the best approach to eliminating your credit card debt?

A quick Google search of “how to pay off credit card debt” will give you over a hundred different answers. The truth is that different methods work better for different people—you need to understand your own personality and spending habits in order to choose the best option works for you.

Know if You’re a Compulsive Buyer

Many people combat their own feelings of stress and anxiety by shopping compulsively. Maybe this is why you’ve found yourself with so much credit card debt.

If you can admit to yourself that you’re a compulsive shopper, then you can craft your strategy with this in mind. For example, to ensure you don’t keep adding to your debt, you can start by cutting up your credit cards.

Another trick is to come up with an activity that you can turn to whenever you feel the urge to spend compulsively. It could be anything—gardening, reading a book, or going for a walk—the point is to get your mind off of your compulsive behavior long enough for the urges to pass.

Identify Wants and Needs

Another part of what makes you unique is that you have specific wants and needs that could be very different from other people. For you, something that another person might think is a want is something you strongly feel is a need.
It’s ok to have unconventional wants and needs. You just need to be able to identify them. Because—let’s be honest here—you’re not going to be able to get out of debt unless you avoid unnecessary spending on things that you don’t need.

Take a close look at past spending and compare it to your list of wants and needs. How much was spent on wants?
I bet you’ll discover that you have plenty of room to cut out unnecessary spending. If you understand what your needs are, then you won’t feel bad about spending money on them. On the other hand, you need the self-control to avoid those pesky “wants.”

Focus on High Interest Rates First

The trick to paying off credit cards fast is honing in on the one card with the highest interest rate, and paying that off first. And remember, it isn’t necessarily going to be the card with the biggest balance.

By paying off the cards with higher interest rates first, you’re lowering the amount you pay to the credit card companies in interest, ultimately reducing the overall amount you’ll wind up paying. The result—your debt will be paid off faster, and at a lower cost.

Keep all other payments at the minimum, and once you’ve paid off the worst offender, move on to the next-highest interest rate.

Don’t Give Up

People make mistakes, and if you slip up along the way don’t give up on your overall goal. If you stumble, then pick yourself up and continue on the path to financial stability.

How to Budget for Your Pets

Spring is in the air, and for a lot of people that means new family pets will be coming home. Sometimes in the excitement of looking at fresh litter of puppies and kittens it’s easy to forget about the commitment that comes along with a new pet. The added cost of shots, food, accessories can add up fast. If we are not careful, we can end up spending an unnecessary amount of money on our pets. By following some of these steps we can see just how avoidable that is if we budget are money appropriately for our animals.

Cheap Adoption

When buying an animal, consider how much money you have. If you are truly living on a budget, consider buying a fish that does not cost that much money, time, or effort to take care of. In addition, their life spans are shorter, meaning you will be paying their bills for a shorter amount of time. However, if you are looking for an animal such as a dog or a cat, you will need a slightly larger budget. In fact, it has been known for dogs and cats to cost almost ten times as much as fish to maintain. Be sure to evaluate all of your options and compare prices.
Research exactly what breed of animal you want as well. Some breeds tend to inherit expensive genetic defects, while mutts are generally relatively healthy. You can also buy from either breeders who make a living selling animals or go to the local animal shelter and rescue an animal for much less money.

Best Deals

This brings us to our second point which is, you must search for the best deals. When it comes to adopting the actual pet, taking it to the vet, or getting your pets’ medicine, it can get expensive really fast. Make sure to get your necessary pet medicines online, and not from the brand names. The medicine contains the same active ingredients as the brand names, just at a lower price.

Preventative care

Follow the instructions given by your veterinarian. If they tell you to buy certain medicines for your animal, do it, even if your animal is not sick. The reason for this is that the medicines will most likely prevent your pet from getting that disease in the future. Animals are capable of living long, healthy lives, but need nutrients and vitamins just like humans do. This preventative care will keep your animal from needing more expensive medical care and potential surgeries later on down the line.

Do it Yourself

Do anything within your power to do on your own. You do not need to hire expensive groomers or trainers to do the same thing that you could do yourself. Luckily, cats do not need to be bathed. Dogs, however, need a bath at least once every three months. They also need tending to their hair and nails. Be careful and do research to know just exactly what needs to be done.
In the end, a lot of us will do anything for our pets and spend as much money as necessary to make sure that it is living a comfortable, and sometimes even pampered lifestyle. In this case, Check City offers a variety of options to quickly and easily get a small and short-term loan. Your pets will appreciate it.

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