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3 Things to Immediately Change Your Finances

3 Things to Immediately Change Your Finances

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

There are a few things in personal finance that I feel will actually change your life. A budget, sinking funds, and an emergency fund, and I’m not being dramatic when I say this.

If you utilize these three things, you’re financial world will be better because of it. If you’ve been using these 3 things for awhile, then you know what I’m talking about. When I learned about these three things and implemented them, it was amazing how stress free my financial life became.

The reason why these 3 things make your finances so much less stressful is because it prepares you for expected and unexpected spending.

You no longer will need to stress about money because you will have money earmarked for most things that come up.

Here’s a breakdown of what these 3 things allow you to do with your finances.

1. A budget to change your finances.

A budget is going to help you manage your cash flow, the money coming in and out of your account. This also allows you to plan for expenses you know are coming in a specific month.

Personally, I use a zero based budget because it allows me to give a job to every single penny that comes into my account. By the end of the month, all income money has gone out to do something for me. This might be paying off debt, adding to my sinking funds, replenishing my emergency fund, or general monthly expenses.

There are tons of ways to budget, you need to find a system that works for you and start tracking the money you have coming in and going out. This won’t happen over night, but just by being more aware of what money you have coming in and out, you will see changes pretty quickly.

I encourage you to not put yourself on a strict budget, but to instead just track your expenses and see where your money is actually going. Once you see some of your trends, make a change in the place that makes you most annoyed.

For me, I was most annoyed at how much I was spending on convenient stops for food and drinks. It’s crazy how much it adds up. I challenged myself to not stop for convenience food anymore and this freed up a chunk of my cash flow every month.

Remember, you’re trying to create new habits when budgeting, don’t rush the process. Slowly take out expenses from your budget that you know you won’t miss. By creating new habits you will see long term results, rather than only quick wins.

I have created a Google sheet template for you to use in zero based budgeting that has all the math done for you and allows you to track your expenses, you can get it here.

2. Sinking funds to change your finances.

Sinking funds might just be my favorite part of budgeting, mostly because I love having the freedom of having cash earmarked for specific things that come up. Sinking funds are when you put aside a bit of money each month to save up for a specific purpose.

A classic example is Christmas, it comes every single year, so why not plan for it! In January, you give yourself a Christmas budget for presents of $600 (totally made up number). Then, you divide that number by however many months you have to save that. I’d want this to be fully funded by at least November, so I’d divide $600 by 11 and save $55 each month. Yes, I rounded up, I would rather have more money and an easy amount to take out each month!

The great part about this is if you don’t use the entire amount, you can roll it over to next years Christmas fund.

I personally use sinking funds for expenses that I don’t know about, but I know will come up. I currently always put aside money for my medical and car sinking funds. The reason I add to these two every single month is because I want to be prepared.

I’d hate to be in a position where I need to say no to anything health related for me because of finances. Same thing goes for my car. Some months, I don’t touch either account, other months I use them a ton!

Last month, I had a metal tool go into my tire that couldn’t be replaced. They told me it would be $120 for a new tire and I didn’t need to stress about it one bit because I had the cash sitting in my sinking fund.

This month I had to see an ENT, allergist and my orthodontist. All completely unexpected and totaling about $145 in copays. If it weren’t for my medical sinking fund, this would have had to come out of my debt pay off for the month. It’s not terrible, but it would slow down my progress.

3. An emergency fund to change your finances.

The last and possibly most important thing to do to change your finances is to have an emergency fund. This is for those times that you totally can’t plan for. Everyone has a different idea of an emergency, but because I have sinking funds, my idea of an emergency is more like job loss, or loss of one of my income streams.

Emergency funds are going to get you through those expenses that pop up completely unexpected, or in the event of income loss. There is a lot of talk on the Internet about what you should have saved for your emergency fund.

It ultimately comes down to what you are comfortable with. I suggest, at the very least to have one month of expenses saved up, and really this should only be if you have a very secure job, consistent pay, no kids, no house. Any other scenario, I would suggest 3-12 months of expenses saved up.

This allows you to weather most storms that come your way unexpectedly. When you don’t have enough in savings, it is setting you up for financial ruin in the event of something happening.

These 3 things will set you up for success.

By having these 3 things in place, you are setting yourself up for long term success. It might not look pretty in the beginning and you might feel overwhelmed, but give yourself time. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but you will see changes happening once you get started.

I encourage you to just start, start tracking your expenses and getting a budget set up. See where your money is going and start telling your money what to do instead. I know this can be difficult at first, it’s why I offer email coaching to help you get started and hold you accountable to getting things done. Send me an email, if you want to be added to my email coaching waitlist. Have you set yourself up for success by having these three things done?

Money Management

Home Renovations on a Budget

Home Renovations on a BudgetThis post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Whenever people move they always want to make updates to their new homes, whether it is a new home, or a new rented apartment. It always is fun to make a space your own and add your touches to it.

This can be very expensive to do though. It is especially expensive if you are getting new furniture for your home. Each of those little projects really adds up and can leave you with a massive bill. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money to do these things and you certainly don’t need to go into debt to do these updates. Sometimes you need to get creative and think outside the box to make these ideas a reality, but they can be done on a budget.

Now, you may be wondering how I am writing a piece on home renovations when I live at home with my parents currently. I figured that may be a bit confusing. My boyfriend recently bought a fixer up and we have been fixing it up since day 1. Through this process, we both have picked up some great tips to save some money in the end and not to use debt in the process.

1. Look to garage sales and family furniture when doing a renovation.

It is amazing what people are giving away. Sometimes you can find the exact piece you are looking for from family, neighbors, or garage sales. If you get really lucky at a garage sale and they have a few pieces you are interested in, they will usually give them to you for cheaper.

When my sister and I were in college we needed to furnish our 2 bedroom apartment. We managed to furnish the whole thing for about $1,000. That included two bedroom sets, two desks, a couch, coffee table, and dining room table with chairs.

2. When doing renovations, paint everything yourself.

Painting isn’t always the most fun activity, especially when you have a lot to paint. However, hiring someone to come paint for you, can be incredible expensive. If you can get some friends to help you, order some pizza and drinks and you’ll have the place painted in no time.

By painting the place yourself, you will save so much money just in this one area. If you are going to be painting by yourself, I suggest you separate the areas and complete them one day at a time. This way you won’t get burnt out of painting, but will be more excited to see the spaces transform. It’s amazing just what paint can do to a space!

3. YouTube will be your best friend when doing renovations.

It is amazing what tutorials you can find on YouTube and I highly recommend you trying to do a lot of renovations on your own, if you feel comfortable. My boyfriend replaced a sink faucet and 2 toilets in his house just from looking up some tutorials. This alone saved him $300 in labor because they were asking for about $150 just to install one toilet.

Of course, if you watch the tutorials and you just don’t feel comfortable with doing it, then find someone that can do it for you. Sometimes, it’s worth it to get it done correctly.

4. Cash flow everything.

When you cash flow a renovation, it will take longer to complete. However, not having the burden of the debt months later will make it so much nicer to live in. When doing renovations, I would make a list of everything you would like to do and then make a list of the practical order to complete them. For example, it is easier to paint before you redo any flooring, that way if you spill paint, it doesn’t matter.

After you have this list made, you need to decide what you can do on your own with the money you currently have set aside for this and what needs to be cash flowed still. This will allow you to price out projects and add it into your budget. If you need help creating a budget, I have a template for you to use!

By cash flowing renovations it will take longer and you will be living in a work in progress for a bit, but you won’t have a bill every single month or interest.

The biggest part of making renovations is to keep in mind how much everything is going to cost, buy quality materials, and find ways to save money where you can. Don’t be concerned about working in a constant state of renovations, it will be worth it in the end not to have any lingering debt. How have you made home renovations on a budget?

 

Money Management

Living Your Best Life on a Budget

Living Your Best Life on a Budget

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

The first thing everyone thinks when they hear budget is being restricted. I know for myself at 22 when I thought about creating a budget I thought I’d never get to do anything, since I’d be on a budget.

The reality is that this just isn’t the case. Budgeting is simply managing your money, it doesn’t mean you need to hole yourself up at home! Your budget will set you free to spend your money because you will know exactly where your money is going.

By following these steps, you will find ways to also live your best life while still keeping to your budget. If you need help setting up your budget, I have a template you can use!

1. Determine what you value.

I am a firm believer in spending money on the things that you value. Track your spending for a month and see where your money is going. Which purchases were needs and which were wants. From your wants, what do you truly value, what brings joy to your life.

This is obviously different for everyone! Whatever it is that brings you joy, make sure you include that in your budget. The things that you could go without, cut that expense from your budget.

This doesn’t need to be extreme at the beginning. I honestly recommend not cutting much out in the beginning of budgeting because you will feel restricted, when that isn’t what budgeting is. Cut things that annoy you. I remember when I saw all my expenses the first time I realized the absurd amount of money I spent at Chipotle.

Of course, I didn’t cut Chipotle from my budget, I just cut back in how frequently I went. At the time I was a full time grad student and woking full time. Once a month I worked from 8:00-3:00 and then had back to back classes from 4-10. These were the days I treated myself to Chipotle.

Now I simply have a restaurants line in my budget that I use however I want. I found a balance of what I feel comfortable with after a few months of budget, and you will find that balance as well.

2. Find ways to lower your necessary expenses.

Of course there are things that you just can’t cut from your budget, housing, groceries, utilities, etc. These are necessary expenses and they are going to be a part of your budget, but you should find ways to lower them.

For example, I moved back home with my parents after graduating to cut a major expense when I really didn’t have money to afford moving out. Another great way to lower your expenses is to pay off your debt. Of course this is going to take time, but ultimately it will get rid of a necessary expense in your budget once it is gone. You can use this free awesome tool that helps you calculate your debt payoff date to help motivate you.

Another way to lower your expenses and pay off your debt faster is to refinance your student loans for a lower interest rate. I refinanced mine with Earnest to get a 2% lower rate and you can too, and get $200 when you refinance with my referral link!

The best part about lowering the necessary expenses you have is that these expenses are typically the higher ones. For example, if you can lower or eliminate your housing expenses, it’s going to make your money go so much further for you.

3. Tweak your budget every month.

After you complete a month on your budget you need to reflect on how that month went. Did you feel restricted? What made you feel restricted? What brought you joy this month?

By reflecting on your budget it will allow you to spend money where you want to spend it. For example, going out with my friends for happy hour on Fridays is something that I enjoy a lot. I plan for it and make sure it is in my budget every month.

Something that I don’t enjoy as much is going out for lunch and dinner during the week. For one thing, I don’t have time for it, so I don’t budget for it.

Find the things you love and include them in your budget. A budget is meant to give you permission to spend, but spend on the things you value. When we waste money on the things that don’t bring us joy, we are simply throwing money away. How do you budget for your best life? 

Money Management

How to Zero Based Budget

How to Zero Based BudgetThis post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Creating a budget can be a daunting task and I know that it prevents a lot of people from taking control of their finances. But it doesn’t have to be! I promise that creating a budget seems like a hard task to complete, but once it is done, it is easy to maintain.

From conversations that I have had, it seems to be that people are scared of implementing a zero based budget. Creating a budget is one thing, but a zero based budget is intimidating to so many more. I was terrified to implement one at first myself. What if I overdraft? What if I mess up the math? There are so many what if’s, but a zero based budget was the game changer in paying off $105k in 3 years for me. Of course, side hustles and refinancing (use my referral link to get $200 when you refinance!) helped, too.

At first, I had this crazy system for budgeting that would take me so long to do every month. It was too much. I eventually stopped using it and wasn’t really budgeting at all, just cutting my expenses and kind of tracking it in Mint.

This worked, but it wasn’t as powerful as creating a zero based budget that doesn’t involve hours of my life. I now know that I need something simple and easy to maintain, or I just won’t use it. This is the system I created for myself to easily  maintain a zero based budget.

Step #1: Create a buffer before you create a zero based budget.

This is critical to implementing a zero based budget and if you don’t do it, you will run the risk of over drafting on your account, like I did when I got a little too confident. You need to determine what you need to feel comfortable with your zero based budget, some people need a month worth of expenses to feel comfortable, some people need $500. It all depends on what you need to feel confident in your system.

It also depends on your income and if it is consistent or inconsistent. If your income is consistent every month, or part of it is, then you might feel comfortable with less of a buffer. If your income is inconsistent, then I would recommend that you have at least 1 month of expenses as a buffer, if not more.

This might seem counter productive to have money just sitting in your account, but by having the buffer, it will allow you to easily implement your zero based budget. It gives you the peace of mind to zero out your budget every single time without thinking twice. If you don’t have the buffer, you will find yourself questioning your math and your budget every single month. This allows your zero based budget to run more smoothly.

Step #2: Create your zero based budget.

This is my favorite part when I first start working with clients. Everyone’s situation is difference, but a simple template can work for everyone. At the most basic level, a budget should have a spot for you to track your income and expenses. That is the most important aspects to any budget. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you will get a free budget template and expense tracker! Based on your pay periods and what works best for you, you will need to create your weekly, pay period, or monthly budget. I personally use a monthly budget. I now have my Google sheets budget template available for you to use!

The only difference from a budget to a zero based budget is that at the end of your budgeting period, you will have zero dollars remaining, or your income and expenses will be the same amount. The key with a zero based budget is that you are telling every penny where to go. This includes savings, paying off debt, or building sinking funds. This doesn’t mean that you are frivolously spending every penny.

Step #3: Implement your zero based budget.

Once you have created your budget, it’s time to implement it. I still use Mint to track my expenses because I use credit cards to earn cash back and other rewards. I only recommend this if you know you will pay your card off in full each month and never carry a balance, otherwise you should just stick to cash or a debit card. By tracking my expenses in Mint, it makes my zero based budget easier to maintain.

Every Sunday I quickly update my budget with my expenses from the week. This means that I subtract any expenses I had in whatever category that they are from. For example, I budget $250 for gas every month and I typically fill up once a week. On Sunday, I subtract that number from my budgeted amount to see what the difference is. This allows me to see exactly how much I have left for the rest of the month. I do this for every category that I had any expenses in for that week.

Step #4: End of the budget with a zero based budget.

At the end of every month I zero out my budget. The reason you need to do this is because you may have not spent all of your money in a certain category and you need to determine what to do with that left over money. If you don’t, that money will just sit in your account and will get “lost.”

There are many things you can do with leftover money at the end of the month, it really depends on where you are in your financial journey. If you are paying off debt, you might make an extra payment. If you know you are going to need more money in a certain category the following month, you might roll that money over. If you are saving for something specific, you might put that extra money towards your savings goal. If you are investing for your future, you might throw that money in an investment account.

The point is that you need to zero out your budget at the end of the month and determine what to do with any leftover money that you didn’t spend, if there is any. I always have money leftover because I would rather budget more and have leftover, then not budget enough and be scrambling to find the money.

Even though I am focusing on paying off my debt right now, my monthly budgeted debt payment isn’t very large because it is based on just my salary and I have other expenses. At the end of the month, I zero out my budget and determine my extra debt payment based on leftover money and money I earned from my side jobs.

Step #5: Readjust and repeat.

Once you have created your zero based budget, it can usually be re-used again and again. Of course, you need to adjust for certain things, every month is going to be slightly different. However, the overall bones of your budget you should be able to reuse. This allows you to save time once the budget is created, you just need to adjust each month and then take the steps to maintain it.

Remember: A budget isn’t made to restrict you, but to empower you.

Your budget is meant to give you the power over your money and where it goes. Determine what you value and what your financial goals are and budget your money to fulfill them. It takes time to figure out budgeting and get into the routine, but once you see your habits changing and the system working, you will feel empowered by your budget. How has a zero based budget changed your finances?

Money Management

Why You Need to Start Cash Flowing

Why You Need to Start Cash Flowing

There are so many terms when it comes to personal finance and so many ways of doing things out there. I mean with a simple search on the Internet you will find endless resources for personal finance and how to go about getting your finances together. The most important is absolutely getting a budget together, cutting expenses, and increasing your income, but it’s also super important to create sinking funds and cash flowing larger expenses.

What is Cash Flowing?

This is one of those terms that is thrown around the personal finance world a lot and it makes sense, it’s super important. Cash flowing is when you have a larger expense and you delay the purchase until you have enough cash saved up for the expense. This tool is used when it is something you didn’t necessarily see coming (unlike a sinking fund that is for known expenses in the future). For example, I am cash flowing a new to me car instead of financing it. Of course, I could go out right now and get a car and finance it, but that would increase my debt. Something I am not interested in doing because I want to live a life of financial independence.

How to Start Cash Flowing.

You’re obviously not going to always use cash flowing, there is a time and a place. If it is a known expense that is happening in the future, like an oil change or yearly membership fee, you should have a sinking fund for it. If it’s something that you need to purchase and have time to save, then cash flow it. I’ll use my example of a new to me car. This isn’t an emergency and I have time to save for it. So, I’m adding money each month to a car fund I created. You need to decide where your priorities are and how quickly you want to cash flow the purchase. For me, I want to have it cash flowed by October, so I am sending a lot of my extra income from side hustles to this fund each month while still sending extra to my debts. Once you have made your decision, you can tweak your budget to find the cash for your purchase. Remember, a budget is not meant to restrict you, but to allow you to make the purchases you want.

Cash flowing has been a total game changer for me and my budget. Just by delaying a purchase until you have the cash to afford it, you can avoid putting yourself into debt. As I said earlier in this post, in order to obtain financial freedom, you can’t be burdened by debt and having to pay companies for past purchases with interest. Have you ever cash flowed a purchase?

Debt

Mini Series Part 4: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

In this four part mini series you will find all the tips to tackle your student loans regardless of where you are in the process. Student loans affect almost everyone now, which is a very sad reality. From the time a person graduates high school, it’s usually an issue in their life. So, I’m starting this mini series with tips for before you go to college and ending it with tips for after you graduate and have entered repayment.

Mini Series Part 1: Before You Go to College

Mini Series Part 2: While You’re in School

Mini Series Part 3: Before You Graduate

Student Loans Part 4

You’ve crossed the stage, you’ve started in your very first job, and you live in your very first apartment. Everything is falling into place, like it is supposed to after graduation. Now you need to start getting serious about where all of this new money is going that you now have and how you’re going to go about your student loans based on the work you put in for them before you graduated.

  1. Finalize that budget that you drafted before you graduated.

Before you graduated you drafted a budget based on what you thought your income would be and your expenses. Well, now it is time to finalize it. You should know by now how much you will be making monthly, how much your expenses will be, and how much your student loan minimum will be each month. Once you know for sure where your money is going each month, then you can see where you can cut things out. For example, I realized I was spending about $250 each month on eating out when I first tracked my spending. That was a huge reality check for me. This is going to take some time and don’t think you’re going to have your budget set right away. Take the time to make it work for you and don’t rush the process.

2. Save a small emergency fund.

This needs to be a personal choice for you and what you are comfortable with having in case something comes up. I personally have about a month of expenses in a savings account I don’t touch, unless an emergency comes up that I need to use it for. An emergency would be something you can’t plan for, like your car dying. It’s not meant for regular budgeted items, like clothes or food. If you want to go shopping or eat out, put it in your budget!

3. Create a payoff plan for your student loans.

Creating a payoff plan for your student loans is super important to getting them gone ASAP. Without a plan, you won’t know what to prioritize or what you need to do. I personally use undebt.it to plan my debt payoff. It’s wonderful, and allows you to pick what strategy you want to use. It even tells you how each plan will change your debt free date. The things you will need to do this is to have your individual account details (amount, interest rate, minimum, etc.), and know how much extra you can put towards your debt realistically based on your budget.

4. Adjust as life changes.

The most important part of a budget is to constantly adjust it as your life and priorities change. Your budget should change as your life changes. This allows you to be in control of your money versus your money being in control of you. In the beginning, it definitely feels like your money controls you because you’re probably sending a lot of money to your lenders. I know for me, most of my income went to my debt minimums when I first graduated and it was hard. But, I knew as I paid off more, the control would come back to me.

As you continue post grad, it will get easier as you get more comfortable with the process. No matter your circumstances after graduation, there are options to make things easier for you financially. There is never a one size fits all when it comes to finances and ultimately you need to make your decisions personal. With that being said, if you have any questions about getting your budget together or creating a plan to pay off debt, feel free to email me with any and all questions! How did you tackle your student loans after graduation?

Debt

Mini Series Part 1: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

In this four part mini series you will find all the tips to tackle your student loans regardless of where you are in the process. Student loans affect almost everyone now, which is a very sad reality. From the time a person graduates high school, it’s usually an issue in their life. So, I’m starting this mini series with tips for before you go to college and ending it with tips for after you graduate and have entered repayment.

Mini Series Part 2: While You’re in School

Mini Series Part 3: Before You Graduate

Mini Series Part 4: After You Graduate

Mini Series Part 1_ How to Tackle Your Student Loans
Before I went to college, I had no idea I would end up having roughly $200k in student loans 5 years and 2 degrees later. My parents always told me that I would need to take out some loans, but they were going to able to help me with school. Unfortunately, they couldn’t help me with school as much as I thought. I’m not saying I expected my degrees to be paid for by my parents, I never once expected them to give me a dime, until they told me they would. Here are a few things I wish I had known and done before I began my higher education and student loan journey.

1. Know your financial situation completely

This is the biggest one for me. I did not fully know my parents financial situation and didn’t ask for details about what it meant for them to help with school. Unfortunately, I did not get much financial aid because the FAFSA is filed based on your parents income and finances, not mine. This is why it is so important to understand how your education will be paid for. Don’t do what I did and not ask questions. Be specific with your parents about how this is getting paid for. This is a HUGE financial decision and since it’s all based on your parents finances (usually), it’s important to understand how it will be paid for.

2. Seek out advice on filling out the FAFSA

Usually your high school has someone to talk to about filling out the form, but it is best to talk to an expert on how to fill the form out. It’s a pretty straight forward form, but there’s some things they don’t need to know and other things they absolutely need to know. My best advice is to seek out an expert on what the form absolutely needs to have on it because it determines how much financial aid you are going to get. Unfortunately, my mom took responsibility for all of this for me, which at the time was wonderful for me, I didn’t need to deal with it. But once my sister and I received practically no financial aid, we talked to an expert. He quickly told us we provided a lot of unnecessary information, which made our financial situation look very different from what it actually was.

3. Choose your university wisely

If I could go back to when I was applying to colleges, and knew what I know now, I might not have picked the university I went to. It’s very hard to say that after the amazing program I went through. However, it was incredibly expensive and far from home. I could have gone to a closer university and commuted, saving me a lot of money. Of course, I went to a university that has the #1 program for teaching, so would I have landed a teaching job so quickly after graduation had I not done the program, that’s the tricky part. You will never know what will happen in the future, but my advice to you is to avoid having to go into a ton of debt, like I’m currently in.

4. Apply to every scholarship you can find

I made the mistake of not applying to a lot of scholarships because I thought I had no chance of getting it. What I have learned since then is that some scholarships aren’t given out because no one applied to them. That could have been money for my college education. I learned in grad school that you NEED to tell people your situation in order to get the help you need. In our society people don’t talk about their debt or financial situation, but that’s exactly what you need to do. Once I confided in the grad recruiter that I was drowning in debt, she called the right people and within a week I had an email saying I earned a scholarship. Of course, I had done a lot of work for my school in undergrad and my grad studies at that point, which definitely paid off.

5. Take out the maximum amount of federal loans you can before private

Federal and private loans are very different. Federal loans have some loan forgiveness programs, usually lower interest rates and offer a bunch of options for repayment. Private loans have no forgiveness options usually, limited or no payment options, and usually very high interest rates. Stick with federal loans if you can, you’ll be happy you did when repayment time comes along!

The next part of this mini series will explain some tips for when you’re in school. What are some tips you have for tackling student loans before you start school?