Taking control of your Budget using calculators and planning

When I think back 10 years and 20 years ago, what a difference it has been when it comes to money, finances and where I stand with my budget. 20 years ago I started dating my ‘now’ husband and we both entered the relationship with so much debt. Today we are on track with little debt and a good outlook on our retirement future that is within 15 years away between the 2 of us. My long-term goals are to not have a mortgage payment and we are definitely on track for that by retirement age and to travel-lots of travel!

We had to be strict with our spending and wise in our credit choices when we started attacking our debt. We made decisions on how we spent money on bills, fun, blending credit accounts to pay them off which meant consolidating and how to begin retirement savings and choose medical plans. Budgeting is not simple and even in a tech world, I rely on online calculators or trusty apps.

A lot has changed in 20 years in regards to technology as well and planning is so easy much easier today with online tracking apps, including my bank app where I can customize notifications and keep up on what is happening in my accounts right in the palm of my hand!

There a few things you can do to start tackling debt and creating a realistic budget plan. If you are married or share finances with a partner, the first step is communication and coming to compromises and common goals. I frequently check my bank apps to see what notification options I have and how to set certain alerts. Consolidating smart and choosing to tackle one debt at a time (like getting rid of the high interest debt first) can help you feel like you are making progress. In our debt relief journey, I would have never guessed that I could actually become a tad obsessed with wanting to pay things off at any sacrifice because it is such a great feeling to clean up the budget.

You can always find online tools, such as card comparison calculators from Sites like these allow you to type in your budgets and see your options and goal results. If you have not started the budget talk lately, it is time to start again, especialy as we near the Holidays.

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How to create the ideal budget to get out of debt

15 years ago my husband and I were serious budgeters. We still budget today but in a different way. We used to budget so we could even afford basic necessities and now we budget to plan vacations and our son’s College fund. We worked very hard and with some fortunate career moves, tax returns and learning how to move money, we paid off all access debt. We own all of our cars, have over half of our mortgage paid off and are sitting on a lot of equity. We have helped put one son through College with one more on the way to College in a few years so that fund is already growing for him. If you are drowning or feel lost with where to start tackling your debt, I am happy to share how we got started back then.

The most important tip I can offer you is to get committed. You need to understand each debt. You need to learn who you owe to, exactly how much, if there are penalties for paying off early, know your interest rates and if those rates are fixed or can change. If you are in debt, chances are credit companies know this and you have been sent a lot of offers promising you a positive change. Pay attention to some of these. You know the main credit companies so see how each work and whether they could be a fit for you. What does this look like?

You may see an offer that asks you to consolidate all of your debt into one account. This may seem hassle free, but there is a cost. Calculate that cost. Read on how much they charge for balance transfers, how much interest they will charge you, will the companies you owe penalize you to move their loan, etc.. There may be fees, but the lowest fee wins, right? Compare the difference on how much extra consolidating could save you – or cost you. Maybe you just have a few large loans and individually tackling them one at a time is your money-saver. Or maybe you have so many little loans at various rates, consolidating pays you. You need to sit down and lay out all of your options.

Afford a new house
Our new build 2017

We did a little of both. The year we started tackling our debt, we took our tax return and paid off a little student loan I had left. It was over $7,000 at 3.8% interest and I had been paying $150 each month towards it. There was no penalty to pay it off early and because it is a student loan, the interest was fixed and low so it made sense to get rid of this loan ASAP. No fancy trips, no new car with the tax return – we took every penny of that return and paid debt #1 off. It felt so good and now we had an extra $150 a month and it was time to sit down again and re-budget that $150. I told you that you have to stay committed and dive in. You have to go without and travel less and buy less for the reward.

That $7,000 return would have been a fun summer of travels with the boys back then, but we paid a debt instead. It was OK – we have traveled plenty since and we did it without debts so it pays off. One move like not paying off that loan could have sent us in an entirely new direction back then or perhaps we would have not acquired the motivation we did to keep budgeting this way.

Once we paid off that student loan, the offers came in fast and plentiful. One day an envelope came from a local credit company offering us $0 balance transfer fees, a very good interest rate because it came into an economic time we knew rates were falling, the rates were fixed and then a few loans told us they would forgive early pay off fees. This meant, we could move right then to consolidate and we did. All credit cards we had were molded into one payment and now we were saving over $300 a month making one payment instead of several small ones. What did we do with an extra $300 a month? Pay more towards our car loan and start a small savings. We would stash $100 a month away and $200 a month extra on the car. The next tax return, we paid our lowest car loan off. Then we used that monthly payment saved on the other car and began paying that one off while putting even more into savings a month. You can see how in time we came to a place where we were finally debt free. We also committed to buying nothing extra in this time or we would have never made it.

We paid off a loan, getting rid of a monthly payment. But, we took that old monthly payment and rolled it into another debt and put more into savings. With all of the money saved today + we make more in our careers, we have stocks and savings. We travel. We still have no car loans or credit card loans. The cards we do have are travel reward cards we pay off each month, so we do save traveling. It is like a big umbrella that keeps opening more and more until you are finally standing under it protected from any unfortunate money decisions of the past.

Can you imagine the feeling when you stack your funds just right and make that final payment? I have felt that and not too much beats the satisfaction. I have a College degree and have had great promotions at work and none of that compared to being debt free. Every sacrifice was worth it and we don’t miss any of it today. I came across a great Guide to Budgeting that will help you out. Learn more by visiting this guide. Stick with it! You can get out of debt if you get committed and create a plan.

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Financial Planning Strategies for Your Retirement

Financial Planning Strategies for Your Retirement
Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

Even if you love your job or can’t imagine life without a full-time career, the day will likely come when you are ready to retire and enjoy your golden years with fewer responsibilities. How can you be confident that when that day arrives, you will have enough money to enjoy the lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of? The best solution is to make sure you are well prepared. 

When it comes to investing for your future, the longer you have to prepare, the better, so start researching, planning, and investing today. To get started, consider these financial planning strategies for attaining financial freedom during your retirement years.

Do Your Homework

Everyone knows that the most essential step in any good plan is thorough research. To make wise decisions when developing a financial plan, you need to educate yourself on available investment options. There are books and online guides to educate you on all facets of retirement planning, as well as tools for determining anticipated expenses and income. If you are still unclear after studying your options, you may want to consider contacting a financial planner for help.

Invest in a Retirement Annuity

If you want a guaranteed revenue stream during your retirement years, consider purchasing an annuity. There are options that allow you to pay with one lump sum of money, as well as options that allow you to make regular payments over a period of time. 

Additionally, different annuities offer different systems of payout. There are variable annuities that base their return rates on the performance of a select portfolio of stocks, but for peace of mind, many investors prefer fixed annuities. Because this type of annuity offers a fixed rate of return for the rest of your life or a preselected number of years, you have guaranteed income you can count on.

Consider a Life Insurance Policy

When it comes to retirement planning, many people overlook the necessity of life insurance. However, everyone knows that life can bring sudden surprises, and it’s best to be prepared.

To ensure your beneficiaries are not left in a financially vulnerable position, consider taking out a life insurance policy. The concept of this type of plan is that you pay the insurance company a regular premium, and when you die, the company provides a predetermined amount of money to your beneficiaries.

In terms of timing, the sooner you acquire life insurance, the lower your premiums are likely to be. However, if you overlooked this investment and are already in your golden years, don’t worry. There are life insurance plans for seniors that can be customized to fit your needs at an affordable price.

Maximize Employer Contributions

If you are planning for your retirement while still working, take advantage of any retirement benefits offered by your employer. It’s very common for companies to offer a 401(k) plan that allows you to invest pre-tax income. The money is taken directly out of your paycheck, and consequently, you are able to easily and painlessly invest.

Some employers also offer matching contribution plans in which they contribute company money towards your 401(k) plan. These companies match up to a designated percentage of your income if you also invest that amount. For example, if the designated matching level is 3%, the firm will contribute 3% if you do. Because this doubles your investment, it’s critical to take advantage of this offer and contribute at least the percentage your company is willing to match.

Investing in your future is vital if you hope to experience the retirement lifestyle you deserve. Thankfully, with thorough research, careful planning, and effective strategies, you can rest easy knowing that you are doing what it takes to prepare for a future filled with new opportunities and exciting possibilities.