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Book Review: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

book review

Dave Ramsey is a best selling author of many popular self-help books about getting your finances together. He’s inspired many with his simple, no-hassle philosophies on how to manage money. He also has a radio talk show called the Dave Ramsey Show, that you can listen to anywhere you listen to podcasts. He even started his own company built on his financial philosophies called Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey and his colleagues have loads of resources you can find helpful in your own personal money management journey. Whether you are managing a household or a small business, Dave Ramsey has the financial advice you need to be successful and smart with your funds.

Today we’re going to take a focused look into one of Dave Ramsey’s most prolific publications, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. You’ve heard of fitness journeys and makeovers that change your style into something fresh and new, but Dave Ramsey takes all that and puts a financial spin onto it. With Dave Ramsey’s baby step plan you can exercise your financial abilities in ways you never thought possible and finally get into shape where your wallet is concerned.

What Kind of Book is The Total Money Makeover?

book cover

The Total Money Makeover is written as a self-help book. It’s even been compared to popular self-help books like, Your Best Life Now and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People because of the reader-friendly way it is written. It’s an engaging book with lots of real-world examples and stories from real people who have actually gone through Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and seen results. These short anecdotal stories throughout the book help all of Dave Ramsey’s concepts make clear common sense.

The book also includes a lot of motivational help along with the tips and advice. One of the biggest factors that holds people back from taking full control over their finances is the proper motivation and encouragement to make necessary changes to their lifestyle. Dave Ramsey helps with that too, giving you the fresh outlook you need to understand your goal and the rewards you can gain.

Dave Ramsey is also a Christian, so his books often have a religious undertone. So you may find him referencing Bible verses every so often in this book, and tackling religious views and practices with regard to money as well.

What’s in the Book?

The Total Money Makeover is essentially a step-by-step guide for how to go about your own personal money makeover journey. These steps are based on Dave Ramsey’s key money philosophies. Dave Ramsey has strict beliefs about not ever using debt, loans, or credit cards. He believes that our society today is too dependent on credit and that true financial freedom only comes when you live a completely debt free life. So the first steps in his plan are all about helping you get out of debt, and then setting you up to never get into debt again.

Simple and straightforward advice.

Dave Ramsey’s book became so popular probably because of how easy it is to follow his clearly set plan. Each step is specific enough to leave no doubts about what exactly you need to do, making his plan one that anyone can follow and find success. It also helps that he is never vague about his advice, but rather he is extremely straightforward, open, and honest.

Dave Ramsey has no get-rich-quick schemes. He’s more about using honest work, responsibility, and common sense to reach your goals. So you won’t find any crazy secrets to financial stability and success in his book, you’ll just finally learn to implement the basics in a way that really works.

A change in perspective.

Another reason people enjoy Dave Ramsey’s teachings is because he doesn’t pretend that money is what brings happiness. He’s realistic and believes that money is a tool to create stability and contentment in our lives, not the secret solution to all our problems.

He eloquently tackles many mental barriers and misconceptions many of us have about money, and works to not only change your behavior with money, but your perspective about money as well. One thing he talks about a lot is getting over the need to “keep up with the Joneses.” Often in life we compare ourselves to others in unhealthy ways, and sometimes those comparisons can lead us to make poor financial decisions for superficial reasons. So, when you read the Total Money Makeover be prepared to gain a whole new outlook on the purpose of money, and break free from comparing yourself to others.

The Money Makeover Baby Steps:

The main event of this self-help read are the baby steps the reader can take to reach financial peace and freedom. You can read a more detailed article about each of the 7 baby steps that Dave Ramsey will go through in this book, but we’ll go over a quick outline of those steps here too.

Emergency Fund

The first step in Dave Ramsey’s 7 step plan is to basically get your financial life in order. The road to stability starts by setting up your finance in a certain way. This begins with setting up an emergency fund. You can start with at least $1,000 in your emergency fund but eventually you’ll want to work your way toward having at least 6 months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund at all times.

Debts

Once you start getting your emergency fund in place, it’s time to focus all other monetary efforts toward annihilating all your debts. He goes into more detail about this in the book. For example, he suggests you start with your smallest debts first and work your way up to your larger ones. He also recommends you save paying off your mortgage for last. But eventually the idea is to throw everything you can at your debts until they are all completely wiped out.

Build Wealth

Now it’s time to build wealth and continue saving. Since Dave Ramsey argues you should pay for everything in cash, continually building up your financial stores is an important aspect of the Dave Ramsey lifestyle. You have to have enough in savings to cover all your costs completely with cash.

In the book Dave Ramsey goes into more detail about what savings you should prioritize. He advises that you first complete your 6 months’ worth emergency fund if you haven’t gotten there already. Then he suggests you work toward saving for retirement and (if you have kids or plan on having kids) your children’s college funds.

Things You Can Do Differently:

Dave Ramsey’s primary goal in all of this is to help people get out of crippling debt and stay out of it. But there are modifications you can make to his more rigorous financial plan.

You can choose how much you want in your emergency fund.

If you’re a college student then putting aside even $1,000 may be more difficult for you. But that’s ok! Just put aside what you can. Even just adding $5 to $10 a month into an emergency fund is better than having no emergency fund at all.

Likewise, if you’re more settled in life it might be easier for you to put even more than $1,000 aside into an emergency fund. It really doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters most is that you start accumulating that safety fund in order to be more prepared for surprise expenses in the future.

You can still use credit cards and loans.

Dave Ramsey may believe in using only cash to pay for things but there are advantages to using credit cards and installment loans. When used responsibly using credit can help boost your credit score and get you the things you need to have a comfortable life. Credit cards can also provide lots of perks outside of boosting credit scores. Some credit cards come with special points that can go toward paying for things like groceries and traveling. So long as you understand your limits and include loans and credit payments in your carefully calculated budget and financial plans, you’ll be just fine.

Should I Read This Book?

You may now be wondering whether you should give this book a read or not. You should definitely read this book if . . .

  • you are in debt
  • you have trouble managing your money or realizing where your money goes
  • you have trouble making a budget

If you are looking for a book with more specific details about financial topics (like investing, or small businesses) then you should check out Dave Ramsey’s other books that go more in depth on complex financial topics. The Total Money Makeover doesn’t expound upon these topics too much since it was written more as a beginners guide to Dave Ramsey’s financial baby steps.

 

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Check out some other helpful reviews about Dave Ramsey’s book, the Total Money Makeover:

Review: The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover Review

Goodreads


How to Budget with Dave Ramsey

dave ramsey budget

Table of Contents

Step 1: List Total Income
Step 2: List Total Expenses
Step 3: Plan Your Spending
Step 4: Keep a Record
Free Budgeting Worksheets

Everyone wants to have more power over their money and be at the mercy of strict finances less. What many people don’t realize is that the key to financial freedom is a strong budget. Budgeting gets a bad rap sometimes as being too time consuming, or by restricting your finances too much. But all you need is these 4 steps to make a budget, and once that’s done, you’ll find yourself getting out of debt, saving more, and becoming more financially free and comfortable in the long term.

Dave Ramsey has an article named, “Learn How to Budget” on his blog where he briefly outlines his simple 4 step process to creating a blog. So stop living in the monetary moment, and start living for the financial long term—it really is worth the 5 minutes it’ll take you to go through these 4 steps and create your own simple budget.

Step 1: List Total Income

total income

Dave Ramsey’s first step to creating a budget is, “Write Down Your Total Income.”

The very first step to creating any budget is to list all your sources of income and add them together to have a total income amount at the top of your budget. Dave Ramsey recommends that you use what he calls “take home pay” when adding up your total income. Take home pay refers to net income rather than gross income.

Net Income: Net income refers to your total income after taxes. It is sometimes called “take-home pay” because this is the amount that actually reaches your bank account after taxes get taken out.

Gross Income: Gross income refers to your total income before taxes.

You can find out your take home pay by finding the percentage of income tax for your state and subtracting that percentage from your monthly income.

Make sure you include all sources of income, including any second jobs, any freelancing, or side gigs.

Step 2: List Total Expenses

expenses

Dave Ramsey’s second step to creating a budget is to, “List Your Expenses.”

List all of the regular expenses you have every month. This includes anything and everything you’re your mortgage, utilities, rent, insurance, HOA fees, groceries, gas, subscriptions, clothing, debts, phone bills, etc.

One of the best ways to determine what all your regular expenses end up being is to look at your bank statement for the past month or couple of months and find the average amount you spend each month on everything.

Step 3: Plan Your Spending

spending

Dave Ramsey’s third step to creating a budget is to, “Subtract Expenses from Income to Equal Zero.”

The type of budget that Dave Ramsey suggests you make is called a zero-based budget. This is when your income minus your expenses equals zero. So every single dollar you make goes to some kind of category listed in your budget, not a single cent is unaccounted for. This is a good budget type because every single dollar you make has a purpose.

You do the most math in step 2 of Dave Ramsey’s budget plan. Divide up your monthly income into all your different expense categories until you reach zero. If, at the end of your budgeting calculations, you are above zero then you have funds that could still be going somewhere, like to the emergency fund. If you are below zero you have to reduce expenses somewhere so you don’t end up losing money each month.

Step 4: Keep a Record

record spending

Dave Ramsey’s fourth step to creating a budget is to, “Track Your Spending.”

Now you just have to keep track of all your transactions to make sure you stay in the budget guidelines you created for yourself in step 2 and 3. Figure out the best way for you to keep track of all of your transactions so that you can make sure you don’t go over in any of your budgeting categories.

There are a few ways you can keep track of your spending. You can use any number of budgeting apps, a detailed checkbook, another form of paper note taking, the cash envelope system, the cash wallet system, or prepaid debit cards.

Budget Apps

Dave Ramsey suggest you use the EveryDollar app as your budgeting app.

Checkbook

Using checks can make budgeting a lot easier. Every time you write a check a copy of the check gets written on the slip behind each individual check. By keeping these personal check receipts you can keep perfect track of all your transactions. You can also use the section in the back of your checkbook to jot down the details of all your spending.

If you want to learn more about the advantages of checks and how to balance a checkbook check out these helpful articles, “How to Write a Check” and “6 Advantages of Using Checks.”

Notebook

If you don’t want to use checks, you can still use a paper recording system to keep track of all your spending. You can find notebooks that are ready for this purpose on Amazon by searching budget workbook or expense tracker notebook.

Cash Envelope System

A cash envelope system is when you divide your cash up into different envelopes that are then assigned specific purposes. For example, you could have an envelope for bills, another for groceries, and another for gas. This way, you can only use those strict cash amounts to make purchases. The cash envelope system is a great option for those who have a lot of difficulty staying on budget and not overspending.

You can even purchase envelope systems on Amazon as well by searching cash envelope system where you’ll find envelopes and filing systems you can use to keep your cash organized.

Cash Wallet System

Another way to use the cash envelope system is to use a wallet with enough cash dividers for all your budgeting sections. These cash system wallets are helpful because you can keep all your cash organization neatly zipped up in one wallet. You can also use your wallet for your cards and checkbook as well.

Free Budgeting Worksheets

Tracking your spending in a way that works well for you might be the most taxing part of budgeting. But with these tips you can make recording expenses a breeze.

Some other things you can use to make budgeting even easier is one of Dave Ramsey’s budget forms. Any of these budget forms from Dave Ramsey’s website are free to use and can help you budget and plan.

Specifically his Monthly Cash Flow Plan can help you go through the steps and organize your funds according to Dave Ramsey’s easy money flow plan.

If you need a more simplified version of this budget form you can find it with Dave Ramsey’s Quick Start Budget.

 
Budgeting doesn’t have to be a colossal pain, and it doesn’t have to make your life sad and restricted. In fact, using a budget can be your key to long-term financial freedom.
 

READ MORE

Are you a college student in need of some budgeting help? Check out this article, “Budgeting for College Students 101.”

Read another article all about how to make budgeting easy, “Budgeting in 4 Easy Steps.”


Ways to Keep Track of Your Spending

In our modern economy, many people have complained that they have had trouble finding a job. Indeed, jobs are scarce which means that money is scarce.

Many people have had to make due with living on a much smaller budget than they are used to. Doing this can cause much financial stress within a family.

Financial stress is not pleasant to go through. Nobody wants to be labeled as poor or to live in poverty.

However, sometimes this is just what happens to people. It is truly unfortunate what it does happen.

It’s Now How Much You Make…

What many people don’t realize is that they do not need to make lots and lots of money to have the things that they need. They can rearrange and reorganize the money they are currently making so that they can make ends meet.

Many people do not know how to make a budget, and this is one of the main causes of their financial stress. Here are a few tips on how you can better manage your money.

Try the Envelope Method

One of the things you can do is to create an envelope system that will aid you with your budgeting. You will need to gather several envelopes and label them with the categories of your budget.
For example, one envelope could read “Food.” Another envelope could include “Rent”, and so on.
Continue to label the envelopes according to the categories that are relevant to your life. You may be wondering what you are going to do with these envelopes.

What you do is withdraw the cash amount from your bank account that feel will cover your needs in each specific area for a month. The point of this strategy is that you can only use the money in the envelope that you have allotted for each category.

Once you run out of cash for a specific category, you cannot spend any more money in that category. This strategy helps you see how much money you need for each category; it also teaches you discipline because you cannot buy every single thing that you want to buy.

Only Buy What You Need

This strategy additionally helps you to see how important it is to buy the necessities and essentials first before you spend your money on extra things that aren’t as essential. Many Americans have the problem of buying things that they don’t need.

This is a problem because they oftentimes buy things they don’t need instead of buying the things that they do need. One of the reasons why so many people struggle with this is because while they’re considering if they need to buy something or not, they convince themselves that the item is something that they need instead of something that they just want.

People oftentimes have a hard time distinguishing between wants and needs, and they don’t realize until later that the thing that they bought may not really have been a need. It is important to not get too angry with yourself if you buy a lot of things you don’t need, however.

Learning to distinguish between wants and needs come with time, experience, and practice, just like everything else. Be gentle and kind with yourself while shopping and you will learn eventually.

Another great way to discipline yourself financially is to match whatever you spend on nonessential indulgences and put that in your savings account. For example, if you spend $50 on a new shirt, make sure that you can put $50 into your savings account.

If you don’t want to do this, than you shouldn’t buy the $50 shirt. This method does not work for everyone, but for some people it is just what they need to discipline themselves while in a store.

How Much is Too Much

Another great way to establish a savings discipline is to take the amount an item costs and to divide it into your hourly wage. For example, if you want to buy a $50 shirt and you make $10 an hour, that would mean that you would work for 5 hours to be able to buy that shirt.
The question you should ask yourself is if that shirt is worth five long hours of work. If it is, then go ahead and buy it.

If it’s not, then you would probably be better off spending that money on something else. As mentioned above, it is your money and you get the final say as to what happens to it.

Just make sure that you are wise with your money, otherwise you will see it disappear very quickly.

5 Things You Can Stop Paying For to Save Money

When it comes to saving money there are literally hundreds of ways to do it. In this post we’ll cover some ways that you can save money on fairly common items that can sometimes cost several hundred dollars such as software, hotel stays, and even ongoing bills that you have to pay like cable television. In a lot of cases people usually think that there is no way around some of these expenses, but what you’ll find is that there are several options that can save you literally hundreds of dollars.

Save Money on Software

First, stop spending money on expensive name brand software by getting the freeware versions of popular software. When you shop to save money on food, you tend to buy the generic brands, as these are always cheaper, the same goes for software.
There are a lot of “generic” brands of the popular software options out there. For example, why purchase the newest Microsoft Office Suite for $140 when you can get Open Office’s for absolutely no cost to you?

Open Office offers you much of the same basic functionality that Microsoft’s products do. When all you need is a basic word processor, presentation platform, or spreadsheet program, you don’t need the expensive platforms to get the work done.
The same holds true for Adobe Photoshop. There is a popular, alternative freeware version called Gimp.

Photoshop costs about $600. It can do a lot of the same things that Photoshop can and is free to download.

Can you really beat the freeware version if it can do many of the same things your purchased edition can? Find reliable alternatives for purchased software.

Save Money On Travel

Second, find free lodging when you travel. A popular movement hit the streets a few years back called couch surfing.

Someone had the genius idea to set up a database to find people willing to allow travelers to bunk on their couch for an evening. Sponsoring families list their homes on the website to give travelers a place to stay for the night.

These homes are located throughout the world, so its usefulness isn’t limited to the United States. Hosts tend to be travelers themselves that use the system to find places to stay.

All you have to do is go to Couchsurfing.org to find a home in the city you’ll be travelling to and sign up. The service is free and the savings you make while travelling are worth it.

Don’t Pay For The Kids to Eat

Third, don’t pay for your kids meals when you decide to eat out. MyKidsEatFree.com has a list of over 5,000 restaurants around the country that allow kids to eat for free.

Obviously you’ll have to pay for your own meal, but the savings from multiple kids eating free can save you quite a bit of money every time you go out to eat. There’s no need to feel guilty about using the system either as these companies proudly advertise their deal for kids to eat free.

It’s a part of their marketing plan, so take advantage of it while your kids are still young. For many families, this is the time that they want to save money anyways.

Cut The Cord

Fourth, stop paying for your TV subscription. The world is in love with more channels.

Satellite and dish providers boast the number of channels they have, swearing that more channels is directly related to better quality TV. If you can’t find something to watch on your favorite channels, you have 900 others to choose from that are sure to have something interesting.

The only problem is that the increase in channels did nothing to increase the quality of TV shows. Even though you have a million channels, you’ll still spend evenings flipping through the channels, looking for something entertaining.

So instead of paying for monthly satellite or cable subscriptions, consider using normal TV instead. Normal TV is still free and it offers better reception than ever before.

If there’s a show you fall in love with, you can often watch the episode mere minutes after it airs on the internet. Many of these popular shows try to cater to everyone.

They upload episodes to the internet so you can watch it if you missed the air time. The best thing is that watching these recaps are usually free.

Not only do you pay nothing more than your electric bill for your television, but you also pay nothing to watch the most popular shows on television (the ones you are looking for when channel surfing late at night). At the other end, it could help you tear yourself from the TV to spend more time with those you love.

Protect Your Computer For Free

Fifth and finally, save money on your anti-virus software by looking for its freeware versions as well. Just like for the other big name software producers, someone made a free-ware version that works just as well.

Find a trustworthy free-ware version of anti-virus protection to download and cover your computer for you. They can help you remove malware just as easily as the paid programs.

There are a number of opportunities to stop paying for things you thought you had to pay for before. All you have to do is know where to look.

Planning Ahead for Retirement Before it is Too Late

Planning for one’s retirement is an increasingly vital preparation for people to make. With Social Security funds waning as more and more of the workforce heads towards retirement, the time to set up one’s own plans for retirement is right now.

A study conducted in 2012 found that almost half of the American citizenry is not planning for retirement through saving for retirement. For those American workers under the age of thirty four, the percentage of individuals who are not starting to save for their retirement is over half.

These statistics show that nearly one out of every two Americans has no concrete plans for retirement, or are otherwise failing to accomplish any plans they may have established in the past. Without starting to save money for retirement right now, almost half of the American workforce is deciding to make retirement more difficult for themselves.

Without saving money long before the goal retirement age, a person can practically guarantee themselves employment after retirement. For these reason, saving money early in life and throughout one’s career is a fundamental element in a solid retirement plan.

So, why does almost half of the American work force refuse to start saving money for their retirement now? Most people, when asked this very question, have stated that they are not yet saving for retirement because they do not believe they can afford it.

But the ability to save money for retirement is just that, a belief in one’s self that they can make the choice to save if they so desire. The real issue at the core of the inability to begin saving for retirement is not the amount of income that a person or family makes, it is instead they believe that whatever the income amount is that it is not enough to live on.

Or in other words, the root problem for the nearly fifty percent of Americans who are not saving for retirement is not that they have a low income, but that they do not know how to manage that income and still be able to save a portion of their income every month. Thus, in order to start planning for retirement effectively by taking steps to save money now for retirement in the future, an individual or family will need to understand and implement proper money management.

Choose to Start Saving Now!

The first way that an individual or family can begin to save a portion of their monthly income is by simply choosing to do so. It may sound over simplistic or perhaps even impossible because of the monthly bills and debt, but by simply choosing to save a portion of their monthly income, a family will be able to begin doing so.
One can choose to save money every month by making saving a habit. One can make saving a habit by deciding that no matter what, some portion of the month’s income will be put away into a savings account or otherwise preserved for future use.

By choosing to save a little each month, the action of saving some money every paycheck or every month will become an automatic, and richly rewarding, habit. But some may gawk at the thought of reserving money every month simply because they do not see how they can live without that portion.

This cycle of needing to spend every cent of one’s income to pay for the various necessities of life is called living paycheck to paycheck. While many are stuck in this cycle, it can be broken in time after these individuals choose to make saving and budgeting a part of their fiscal lives.

Free Up Money by Budgeting Now

Budgeting is a common topic of discussion among financial advisors because of the effectiveness that a strict and adhered to budget can have on the financial success of individuals and families. Creating a budget for one’s family is a relatively easy task to undertake but can be a difficult task to accomplish.

The difficulty in implementing an effective budget comes because of a lack of discipline to limit spending to the assigned goals one has set for each category of expense. Another factor that can inhibit the realization of a set budget is the unexpected expense.

Even when people and families stick to their budget and remain disciplined, unexpected expenses can rob a family of their hard earned savings. To avoid this, a family may wish to build up their savings with an emergency fund built in that can be specifically used for such unexpected expenses.

Auto Title Loans For Unexpected Expenses

Another way for a family to deal with unexpected expenses is by using their available assets to handle the expense. For example, an auto title loan on the family car can be taken out to cover costs of unexpected or emergency expenses and subsequently paid off on the next payday.

Saving for retirement is one of the most import plans a person can make for the benefit of their future. Building up savings through deciding to save on every paycheck and budgeting wisely will enable an individual or family to save for their retirement.

Money Saving Techniques for Small Business Owners

In the current economic market, everyone is looking to save a little extra cash here and there. The internet is full of blog posts and commentaries on how families and individuals can save money at home, but there are far less money saving tips for those who own and operate small business.

At Check City many of our clients own and operate small businesses themselves, oftentimes they need a cash advance to be able to cover payroll for a week or two so we know that even small savings can make or break a small business. These small companies and their owners are in just as much need as anybody, perhaps in even more need, to save money and expenses wherever possible. Saving money for a small business is not solely for reasons of sound commerce like it may be for larger companies, but often saving money for a small business is for the very livelihood of the startup in its entirety.

Because saving money wherever possible is an absolute necessity for a small business, the following are a few tips and tricks that will hopefully be beneficial for the small business owner in their efforts to save money and weather an otherwise difficult financial time. Some of these tips may be common knowledge for some small business owners and some may not, but either way, utilizing as many money saving techniques as possible is the desire as many believe that the salvation of the American economy rests in the hands of its small business owners.

Find the Best Real Estate Options For You

The first tip that can be offered is for those small businesses with a brick and mortar location. Physical locations of business directly translate to overhead costs of rent, owning, or leasing a commercial property.

And just like in the home, monthly utility bills are a regular and potentially costly expenditure for a small business. Without proper regulation and conservation of the energy that a business uses, the monthly utility bills can cripple a small business’s finances if not managed properly.

Small business owners should highly consider installing a programmable thermostat in their office that will allow them to set and program an energy saving temperature to be maintained by the thermostat. Programmable thermostats can also help cut costs by automatically turning down the heating or cooling when the office is not in use.

Beyond regulating the energy used to adjust the temperature of the small business’s office, small business owners can cut utility bills by using less energy wherever possible. Turning off lights in unused rooms, using only half the lighting banks available, and using energy efficient equipment can all do their part to save the business owner potentially hundreds of dollars per year.

In the same vain as saving on energy costs, one little known energy conservation technique for small business owners to implement is the use of laptop computers over desktop computers. Laptop computers consume up to ninety percent less energy than desktop computers.

Because of this massive difference in energy usage between laptop and desktop computer, small business owners should strongly consider replacing desktop computers with laptops wherever possible in the office or business. This is especially true if the small business relies on employees do the bulk of their work from computers.

By saving up to ninety percent on energy to run a computer, even though the energy needed to power a computer is relatively small, a business operated upon the backs of computers will see a sizable decrease in their energy costs by switching to laptops. Other energy conservation tips for a small business to save on its operating costs reflect those used by homeowners to save on their monthly utility bills.

The conservation of heat in the winter and cool air in the summer through weatherproofing doorways and windows will dramatically lower the expense of a company. So too will installing better insulation along the exterior of the building.

Save on Office Equipment

Other ways for a small business to save money include sharing printers where needed and using discounted or recycled printer ink, as this item can be a regular and costly expense for an office-structured small business. Similarly, a company can save money by using the right and cheapest operating material in all situations.

An example of this would be to use a specialized packaging company for the shipping needs of the company. Specialized business packaging companies can work with a small business to cut typically high shipping costs by being uniquely interactive with the small business and its products.

Find “Cheap” Labor

A final tip for small businesses to save money would be to contact a local college or university to explore internship options. Many educational institutions will partner with companies to provide their students with internship opportunities.

This gives the students college credit and real work experience in a particular field while simultaneously cutting the payroll cost of a small business without sacrificing much if any in productivity. These few tips and others can greatly reduce the amount of resources and finances that a small business uses in their monthly operations.

When it comes to running your small business the financial decisions you make early on can make or break your business in the long run. If you’re just starting your small business it’s important to understand that there will most likely be some tough times, some months it will be tough to make payroll, if and when you run into those months dont lose hope, understand that it’s only temporary and that Check City is here to help.

Tip of The Week: Three Simple Steps to a Budget

For the “Tip of The Week” this week we’re going to break down budgeting into 3 easy to follow to steps. A lot of times when it comes to creating a budget for your personal of family finances you can easily get overwhelmed and quit before you’ve even started. As you start planning out your budget it’s important to understand that getting accustomed to using a budget and getting out of debt will not be an overnight process. Budgets are often the most effective when you make small and simple changes and apply them over a long amount of time. As you apply these three simple steps you’ll be amazed at what they can add up to over time.

Steps to Budgeting

Step 1: Evaluate Current Spending- As we’ve mentioned in previous budgeting posts the first and most important step in starting your budget is knowing where your finances currently stand. As you begin your budget we recommend sitting down and taking a look at ALL of your expenses. Oftentimes when we people start outlining their expenses there are several that will go overlooked but it’s important to account for not only your normal monthly expenses but also your expenses that come each year like property taxes, some life insurance plans etc.. By outlining all of your expenses you’ll have a starting point to work from.

Common Expenses Include:

  • Rent/Mortgage Payments
  • Car Payment
  • Average Monthly Fuel Expenses
  • Average Monthly Vehicle Maintenance Expenses (Oil Change, Transmission Services, etc..)
  • Planned Family Vacations (Divide By 12 To Know The Monthly Amount)
  • Home, Life, Auto Insurance
  • Weekly Groceries
  • Entertainment Expenses (Cable, Internet, Movies, Restaurant Expenses)
  • Annual Property Taxes (Divide By 12 To Know The Monthly Amount)
  • Gym Memberships
  • Movie Clubs
  • XM Radio, Sirius Radio, Spotify monthly memberships

Step 2: Set Spending Goals- Once you have an idea of your monthly expenses it’s time to set some goals. Before you can set some goals you need to first compare your expenses to your income. If you find that you’re spending more than you make each year your goal should be to cut your expenses so that you do not have to spend more than you make each month. Some of the common expenses that you can cut include cable, internet, entertainment/out to eat, and other monthly memberships. When people finally sit down and take a look at their expenses they begin to realize how they’ve let all of their different monthly memberships add up to the point that they are suffocating, this will be a good time to simplify your monthly spending. Once you get your expenses in order it’s time to set a goal to start saving, your first goal should be to start saving at least 10% of your pay each month, once you’ve accomplished that you should work towards saving 20% each month until you’ve built up a reserve that could cover 6 months of your monthly expenses.

Step 3: Repeat Monthly- As we mentioned at the beginning of this post this is an ongoing project, don’t think of this as a one month goal. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your budget keep working at it each month, continue to assess your expenses each month so that you can always be moving forward to your next set of goals. Once you’ve built up a savings, there are always more things that you can do whether it’s paying down credit card debt, paying off your car loans or even working towards paying down your mortgage early. As you work through this process it’s important to understand that everything isn’t going to go as planned, there will be months where you come up a bit short and you might need to put some unexpected bills on your credit card or take out a short term loan. If that happens don’t give up, keep working towards your goals.

Budgeting can be a lot of fun if you let it, there are a plethora of budgeting apps that you can use to make budgeting more fun or exciting. As you make your budget your focus it’s also important to remember that it’s ok to have fun every once in awhile, if you get too strict on your budget you’ll end up hating everything about your budget and giving up. If you have any questions on budgeting be sure to leave them in the comments section below or check out our other budgeting videos.

When Budgeting Tools Take Over

When it comes to following a budget, tracking your progress is essential to your success. However, the more you start tracking your finances the easier it becomes to start obsessing. Most people don’t realize that as with anything else you track such as your weight or progress in a certain skill, if you focus too much on your budget it can become an addiction.

monitor your budget

While you might start off just checking your budgeting tools each day, before you know it you may find yourself constantly staring at a spreadsheet trying to figure out where every single penny has gone and projecting things like how much you will be able to make and save along with every possible expense that might come up during the next several years. Maintaining a balanced budget is definitely a fine line between tracking your income and expenses closely and having it become a full blown obsession. Below we’ve outlined some tools that will make monitoring your budget easier along with some warning signs that might tell you when you’ve gone too far.

Free Budgeting Tools to Monitor Your Spending

Budget Spreadsheets- In this day and age everyone seems to be more interested in apps, software and cloud computing rather than a good old fashioned spreadsheet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still work wonders. Most budget spreadsheets have the same elements; they are just designed a little differently. Each budgeting spreadsheet will have a place for you to enter in your monthly income as well as additional income you may get throughout the month such as bonuses, gifts, etc.. In addition to listing out your income you’ll also be able to break up all of your expenses into categories so that you can track them easier. If you’re not familiar with how to set up and create spreadsheets yourself, there are tons of free budgeting spreadsheets available throughout the internet. You can find a great article that covers ten of the best free monthly budgeting spreadsheets by clicking here.

Mint.com- When it comes to free personal budget software Mint.com should be more than enough tto suit your budgeting needs. Mint is a free personal budget software that allows you to track all of your personal finances in one easy location. Mint was recently purchased by the intuit company because their Quicken online personal budget software was never really took off. For some people Mint being free seems too good to be true, however, Mint is able to remain a free software because they get referral fees from products and services that they recommend within the system. Within Mint you’ll be able to break up all of your monthly income and expenses into categories and then actually set up email or SMS alerts that will notify you if you’ve gone over budget in a certain category.

Some of the downsides with Mint include the fact that it’s not an ideal tool for small time investors as well as there is always the issue of security. While the Mint.com system is secure, if someone was able to hack your personal computer and gain access to your account they’d be able to access a lot of your information in one area.

However, those security issues exist whether you are using an online tool or have a program like Quicken on your home computer so it would seem the benefits of having a tool like this far outweigh the risks of the off chance that a hacker is able to access your home PC.

Pageonce Personal Finance- Mint seems to have more of the market when it comes to free online personal budget software but smartphone apps are quickly becoming the most popular way to manage your budget. While Mint.com has an app for the iPhone, Pageonce is arguably the most popular personal finance app for all iOS, Blackberry, Android and Windows Phones. Within Pageonce you’ll be able to not only track your spending but also pay your monthly bills all from one convenient location. Similar to Mint.com you’re able to set alerts within each of your budget categories so that you’ll be able to tell when you’ve overspent in one of your budget categories to keep yourself close to your monthly goals. You’ll also be able to pay all of your bills through one convenient location either by credit card or through your bank account.

While there are hundreds of tools out there, the most important thing is to find a tool that will work for your needs and something that is easy enough for you to use that you can stick to it.

How to Tell When You’re Obsessing

Now that you know of some tools you can use to effectively track your finances the next important thing to know is whether or not you’ve taken it too far. As we mentioned above, there’s a fine line between being financially responsible and financially obsessing.

Hermit Status- If you’re trying to stay within your monthly budget, expensive nights out to the club that yield high bar tabs will have to go but if you find yourself turning down every single invitation to go out with friends and family, you’ll know it’s gone too far. Some people have been known to get so budget focused that they turn down invitations from friends to a free activity such as a walk around the park for fear that they might want to do lunch or dinner afterwards, if you find yourself getting to this point it’s time to take a step back and splurge a little.

While it’s important to keep track of your finances and stick to your budget it’s also important to understand that sometimes you need to live a little. The best way to plan ahead is set yourself a monthly “going out” budget. That way if friends or family do invite you out, you’ll know what activities will work within your budget.

Sandwich Math- Another way that you’ll be able to tell if you’ve gone too far is if you have broken down the cost of individual daily items. The classic example is someone who said they knew they had gone too far with budgeting when they knew how much each ingredient in their sandwich cost individually, each slice of ham, each piece of bread, each piece of cheese. And it’s not just sandwiches, mothers have been known to break down the cost of each individual wipe that they use when they change their babies diapers or each scoop of formula. Not that it’s bad to know these expenses but if they affect your actions that’s when it’s gone too far.

If you feel that you’re budgeting has gone too far the solution is pretty simple, just take a break. Now don’t go on a spending spree especially if you have a large amount of debt, but take a week or two away from checking your spreadsheet or budgeting apps each day. Also, it can help to turn off the budgeting alerts that you can set up within Mint.com or the Pageonce app. When it comes to budgeting and overcoming debts, slow and steady wins the race.

8 Monthly Expenses You Can Cut This Month

If you find that your income doesn’t cover your expenses month after month it’s time to take a look at your expenses and decide which of those “necessities” in your monthly budget are actually just luxuries.

oftentimes people get accustomed to a certain way of life as they grow up in the homes of their parents and as more and more kids grow up and leave the house to either go to college or work on their own they seem to have trouble seeing the difference between necessities and luxuries.

financial advice

When they lived at home they were used to a cell phone, land line, internet, cable TV, Netflix, and many other types of monthly services that seemed like a necessity at the time simply because they were available and it was hard to think of life without them. What people fail to see is that their parents worked their entire lives to be able to provide all of those luxuries and in fact there may have been months where even their parents came up short when they might have needed additional help from a online cash advance or online payday loan. When you compare those monthly expenses with having food to eat, a place to live, electricity, and gas to heat your home it then becomes easier to discern between luxuries and actual necessities.

As you look over your personal finances and try to decide what you can do without, here is a list of the most common luxuries that are posing as necessities.

Cable or Satellite Expense- While cable television seems commonplace in so many homes throughout the country, it’s important to remember that being able to sit down at the end of the day and watch your favorite television program is a luxury and not a necessity. If you aren’t able to pay your bills and are amassing credit card debt to be able to pay your power and your cable bill, it’s time to check your priorities. Most service providers get you in at a introductory rate and then jack up your bill to a ridiculous amount. So while your bill might start off at $19.99 a month, by the time you add high definition an extra cable box etc… your bill could be well over $100.00 PER MONTH.

Internet- In addition to cable, internet is another one of those services that seems like it should be commonplace in any household. But again, if you can’t pay your power bills then there is no need to have internet. As an alternative to having the internet in your house; most city libraries, coffee shops and other restaurants offer free wifi. In addition to those options, most smart phones have internet and if you have an iPhone or Android based phone you can actually set those devices up as mobile wifi hotspots so that you can use the internet you’re already paying for rather than paying for internet on your phone as well as your home. If neither of those options sounds convenient, you can also look into splitting the cost of internet with a neighbor. While this option works best for people living in apartments or condos there are actually long distance routers that might be worth investing in if you live in a traditional neighborhood.

Landline Phone Bills- Most young people moving out can’t remember the last time they used a land line phone but sometimes, just because their parents have one, or one is bundled along with their internet or cable package they get one anyway. While this isn’t a huge expense in itself (usually $15-$35) it can definitely add up when combined with some of the other monthly expense on this list. In addition to the $15-$35 expense you would be shocked at how many old school telephone companies will try to set you up on an out dated plan that charged extra for long distance, caller ID and other features that are free on most cell or voip phone options.

Xbox Live and Gaming Networks- While gaming is a nice way to get away from things, the monthly membership to some of these gaming networks can add up fast. With the monthly fees in addition to in game purchases they can take a big chunk out of your monthly paychecks. In addition to all of those reasons there are definitely more productive things that you can be doing with your time to help improve your situation like studying if you’re a student or taking on a second job.

Netflix, HuluPlus- Services like these can actually be a great resource if you’re looking to cut the cord with your cable or satellite provider but if you are adding them on top of your normal cable provider the $4.99-$47.99 that they charge for their plans could definitely go towards something more essential. Also, if you decide to go the route of cutting the cord with your cable company, understand that you will need internet to take advantage of the instant streaming features that are available with these services.

Unnecessary Phone Plan Expenses- When it comes to phone plans, whether it’s a cell phone or a landline phone companies have a way of sneaking in hidden expenses. In addition to looking for hidden expense it’s also good to assess your phone plan every couple of months and confirm that you still have the right plan for your needs. Oftentimes people will be paying for features such as text messaging, picture messaging, or long distance when it might be included in a new version of the plan they already have. Also, people usually over estimate how many minutes they might need on their plan they might have a 750 minute plan and only use 200 or 300 minutes. By assessing your plan each month or even every couple of months to see your usage you can save quite a bit of money each year.

Gym Memberships- This is one of those expenses that is hard to tell people to give up, simply because the gym can be a great release for people to eliminate stress while improving your health. If you currently have a gym membership it’s important to make sure you use it, if you are using multiple times a week then see if there is any way you can get a lower fee. Just like with cable, gyms are notorious for offering a low introductory rate and then jacking up the fees. Also, if you’re not using the pass multiple times a week, look into getting rid of that gym pass. Also, there are cheaper alternatives, running is free, there are home workout programs that you can find online for free that require only your body weight and most community centers, colleges and even high schools have times when you can access their gym facilities.

Satellite Radio, Spotify, or Other Music Subscriptions- In addition to gaming and video membership there are also several options for paid music subscriptions. While these expenses seem minimal they are difficult to justify if you are having trouble paying your bills. These plans range anywhere from $10-$20 per month and when combined with Cable, Cell Phone, Netflix and other monthly expenses they can take out a considerable chunk of each of your paychecks.

While these are the most common expenses that people seem to take on without thinking twice about it there are many more out there. The biggest key to improving your financial situation is to eliminate as many costs as possible and work towards building up your three to six month savings. As you work toward improving your situation keep in mind that some months you will still come up short, if you find that being the case stop by one of your local Check City offices to see how we can help you out with a Cash Advance or a Short Term Loan.

9 Tips to Help You Save Money

It is always important to be fiscally responsible with your money. To achieve good finances, it’s essential that you develop strategies to keep your finances in good order.

The good news is that no matter what your income level is, you can start developing fiscally responsible strategies today and start to save money!

Be Conscious

The first strategy to save money is to be conscious with your money. As children, money was magic. We knew every penny, and carefully considered each purchase. As adults, with direct-deposit and debit/credit cards, money can be easier to spend. So, the first step is to regain your fiscal intelligence, is to regain that physical connection to your money. You can start as easily as paying for some items with cash. By doing this, you will see the physical money leaving your pocket.

Be Honest & Fearless

Learn that every dollar you spend is either for a need or want. For instance, a mortgage, rent, car payment and utilities are needs. These are the bills you pay, no matter what. A trip to the movies is a want; fun to do, but not a necessity. Are you addicted to buying shoes? Take a look at what you normally buy. Do shoes take precedence over some of your needs? If so, then switch your priorities to keep your money going toward the necessities in life. You can then budget for wants as you build your savings.

It’s Time to Budget

As you are becoming conscious of your money and your expenses, it’s important to take a detailed look at your spending. Take a look and see where you can cut unnecessary expenses. Create a budget that tells you how much you are able to spend on certain needs/wants every week or month. If you don’t know how to create a budget, research and seek professional help.

Free Activities

Even if you have to retrench financially, there are plenty of ways to add a little spice to your life that cost little or nothing. For example, you can take a hike through the park, read a book, and hang out with friends. With a little creativity, you can find great activities that stick to your budget and help you save money.

Focus

As you work to stay conscious, keep your focus on the big picture. If you need to fix your car, focus on the car repairs, cut expenses by eating home cooked meals, and not going out. Being fiscally responsible is all about making and prioritizing choices. If you get bogged down with the small stuff, such as eating out or shopping every day, it can be easy to blow through your essential funds.

Friendly Motivation

It is always easier to budget when your friends and family are budgeting with you and helping you stay on track. Being with friends is about time you spend together, not how much money you spend with them. Make socializing a priority before over spending. If your friends want to do expensive activities, don’t be afraid to hold out for an activity that fits your budget. If they are your friends, they’ll hang with your budget.

Recurring Expenses

When you sign up for cable, a cell-phone, or a gym membership, these recurring expenses are important to keep up. If you decide to keep cable, you might downgrade your subscription. You may not need all of the premium channels. Take a look at what plans you have and consider downgrading your plan to save money!

Value What You Spend

Another point in becoming fiscally responsible is to place value on your expenses. Stay consciously attuned to your spending habits. If you choose to have a night out, plan out how much you can spend. Once you reach your limit, stop.

Open a Savings Account

As you set your account to direct deposit, delegate a certain percentage of each check to be deposited into your savings account. If you set this up as a constant, you won’t miss the money; in fact, you’ll be surprised how fast your savings will grow.

One great recourse and tip for anyone’s finances is to have an emergency savings fund of cash available for use on a rainy day. It is always important to keep extra money for emergencies! By adding this to your budget, you won’t take a major hit during an emergency, because you have already budgeted for this.

If you learn to be mindful with your money, you won’t feel the pain of a budget. Let your new-found consciousness and confidence keep you on the path toward fiscal responsibility. Follow these steps and start to save money today!

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