Are You a Good Team?

A few years ago I coined the term “Team Couple” to describe the way a couple operates together with their money.  They don’t always agree.  They will not see eye to eye 100% of the time either.  But they have each other’s best interest at heart.  They want the very best the relationship can handle where it concerns financial matters and they are willing to go the distance as a team. 

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Here are 7 dos and don'ts to becoming a team couple when it comes to finances:

Do:

  • Talk about everything.  If you don’t discuss where you want to be financially then don’t complain when you get nowhere.  You must have the hard conversations about paying the bills, buying a home, and child care expenses.
  • Share the load.  Use your gifts, talents, and interests to determine who is best suited to do the budgeting, pay the bills, or invest for your future.  Don’t force your partner to do something that is inherently challenging for them.  Figure out what you are each good at and incorporate that into your monthly financial activities.
  • Value one another. Each part of this team is needed so value what you bring to the table.  One person might be a free spirit and loves to spend money on fun activities.  The other person might get great satisfaction from saving money for the future.  Both perspectives are necessary to having a financially successful relationship.
  • Check-in.  On a regular basis check in to ensure you are making progress toward your goals and review whether or not some things need to change.

Don’t:

  • Undermine the plan.  Once you agree to how you will handle the finances don’t sabotage the plan but doing something totally different.  Stay committed to your partner and that will change how you approach your financial habits.
  • Keep secret accounts.  If you have to keep secrets more is going on.  It is perfectly fine to have more than one account and even one the your partner isn’t on.  Honesty and transparency will help you trust one another.
  • Control everything.  Give your partner something to do where the finances are concerned so they feel a part of the Team Couple that you are a part of.  Each party needs to know that their voice is heard and their opinion matters.  When you break down the walls of control then you show them you care.

Give yourself the opportunity to become a Team Couple.  Employ some of these habits and see how much closer you become to one another.  Finances are just one piece of the puzzle but a very important one.  If you get this right you are ahead of the game.

 If you and your spouse need a little extra help communicating and getting on the same page, schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with me. I'd love to help you be the best Team Couple you can be!

 

What are you waiting for?

Last week, my mother, sister and I went to New York City to celebrate my sister’s birthday.  It had been 8 years since we did anything like that.  The three of us painted the town!  We went to a Broadway musical, Wicked (amazing!).  We toured the Apollo Theatre.  We took the ferry to see the Statute of Liberty and caught jaw dropping views of the entire city from the Empire State Building.  We even sat in the audience of talk shows taped in NY and excitedly participated in the Today Show outdoor fan experience.  This was a trip of a lifetime!  We all got along.  We paid our own way.  We even laughed hysterically when things didn’t quite go as planned. This trip made me wonder how many people don’t get to live out their dreams because of debt or other financial obligations.  Is life passing you by because you haven’t gotten control of your finances?  Do you feel like you can’t breathe let alone take your family on a vacation someday?

This also reminded me of when I cut my hair a few months ago.  Yes… it’s short!  For the last few years I thought I’d wait until I was 40 to cut my hair.  As if 40 was some magical year when everything “grown up” should occur.  Then I thought, why does 40 get all the fun?  I’m cutting my hair now!  Then, if I like it I can enjoy the style for longer and or maybe find another one by the time 40 rolls around.

I ask you now.  What are you waiting for? What thoughts, beliefs, patterns of behavior, etc are holding you back from living the life you truly desire to live?  Don’t wait until you retire to take the trip of a lifetime.  Go now while you can enjoy it!  Don’t wait until you lose all the weight you want to go shopping for something new.  Do it now so you don’t look like a bum while you are getting smaller.  Don’t wait for some magical time to live your life.  Live it now!  If your finances present challenges for living out your dreams, then get about moving those mountains out of the way with a good debt-free strategy.  I can help you with that.  Schedule a Debt-Free Strategy Session here.

Now is the time to live.  You’ve heard it said “Life is too short”.  Well no matter how long I have, I purpose to use each moment to its fullest.  Will you join me?

Are you a slacker?

Please tell me I’m not alone…  You have your list of todos or you know what needs to happen during the week on Monday.  Tuesday you have already said I will do it tomorrow 3 times.  By Thursday you are sure it must get done tomorrow or you are out of luck.  On Saturday you wake up and wonder what happened that this task didn’t get accomplished?  I call that slacking off.  Do you do it too? I’ve been there.  I’m there right now.  I love staying in touch with YOU , my newsletter subscribers!  And my goal is to communicate with you every month.  Unfortunately, the above scenario happens all too often and my messaging doesn’t get out regularly.

But, on Friday I held myself accountable to a coaching buddy and everything changed!  I scheduled what needed to happen.  Then I showed up at the scheduled time.  I thought of ideas and formulated what I wanted to say and… poof!  It got done!

Everyone procrastinates at some time or another.  However, chronic procrastination occurs by about 20% of us and results in missed opportunities, frustration, and a sense that we aren’t getting anywhere.

Let me give you some tips for reducing or eliminating procrastination once and for all.

  1. Get some accountability!  When you hold yourself accountable to someone else who will jerk your chain or otherwise make sure the task gets done you have turned procrastination on its head!
  2. Schedule it! Put reminders in your phone or on your calendar that will force you to see what needs to happen.
  3. Take inventory!  Assess what the most important tasks are before you even get started.  If you work on the most impactful items so you see immediate results quickly.
  4. Create a “Done it” list instead of a todo list.  We always focus on what we need to do and rarely look at what we already accomplished.  Why not end your day on a high note by recording what really happened?  That could be just the motivation you need to complete even more tomorrow.
  5. Get help!  Most of the time we can’t do it all on our own.  We need someone to give us insight, direction, and inspiration.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But you must admit it and seek the help you need.
  6. Let go of perfectionism!  Sometimes we stop ourselves from beginning a task because we are afraid of messing up.  Well you will mess up!  We all do!  But should that rob you of the results you want to achieve?  Finish your task even if it isn’t perfect.  Moving forward imperfectly is better than standing perfectly still.
  7. Outsource!  Can you take something off your plate and give it to someone else to do?  We can overload ourselves with tasks that maybe others do better.  Giving up the task affords you the time for more important work.

Don't be a slacker!  Don’t allow procrastination to stunt your growth, rob your future or keep you from being absolutely amazing!  Pick one of the above strategies and take charge of the tasks that have been weighing you down.

If there are financial tasks like budgeting, getting out of debt, or planning for your future that you have been putting off now is the time to get it done.  From now until the end of the year I will hold 30 minute 2014 Financial Strategy Sessions for anyone who is interested.  During these 30 minutes we will discuss what exactly has been holding you back from succeeding financially, what you can do about it, and we will uncover the one thing you can do right now to make a lasting impact in 2014.  Just click here to end your procrastination today!

Are you open?

Have you ever read the best-selling book “Who Moved My Cheese?” I re-read it on Sunday and loved it all over again!“Who Moved My Cheese?” is about 2 mice and two little people who run through a maze to find cheese. Once they found the cheese they enjoyed it, but it didn’t last long. One day the cheese was not in its usual corner of the maze. The book describes the thought process and eventual journey these mice and little people go through to get more cheese. It would seem timely that I read this book now because my family and I moved across the country just 14 months ago. However, I didn’t think it would reveal so much about what I’m going through right now.

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What I took away from the book this time is to be open to all new possibilities. When my cheese (my home, my business, and my way of life) moved I tried to find a recipe and cook up my own cheese in my same comfortable place. I wanted much of my life to stay the same. I wanted to do business the way I’ve always done it. Over the past year God has brought new and different opportunities my way but I didn’t see he was getting me used to change. I needed to see that different can be good. When your journey takes a on a new direction, move with it. Don’t complain because things have changed. Embrace change so you and those around you can grow. Be open to the idea that life can be better after your life has shifted. Be open to new ways of doing things because you just might like it! Often my clients are afraid of change. They don’t understand why they must get out and seek new cheese (job, way of managing their money, etc). They want life to remain the same but available debt has run out, the kids are growing older, and retirement looming is around the corner. Some clients are reluctant to get help. Some are uneasy about divulging information. And still others are afraid of what they will find if they do seek out a new financial path. It seems easier to just sit still, mope, and blame someone else for where you are right now. Here’s the deal. If you don’t get up and do something about your situation right now, your cheese will smell. It will rot and no one will want to be around that not even you!

So I ask the question… Are you open to new ideas in your finances? Is it possible that a budget and debt reduction plan will show you exactly what needs to change so you can finally get free? Is it possible that a coach will help you avoid the pitfalls of creating these plans and keep you moving forward faster than you would have on your own? Can you imagine life without financial worries and stress? Are you open to the many ways that it can happen?

I have a challenge for you… If you haven’t read the book, you absolutely must! For every person who reads the book and schedules a Debt-Free Strategy Session with me I will discount my coaching services by 20%! It is time for change and you must be open to it. Are you jumping in with me?

 

From Scarcity to Abundance!

Let me open a window in my life right now.  8 Years ago my husband and I got out of nearly $100,000 in debt.  I have worked with over 200 people to do similar feats.  I have spoken to numerous audiences about money, finances, and debt-reduction.  But here is my dark little secret… Get ready because this is hard for me to say… I don’t have it all together!  I’m still a work in progress!  I have my own money issues just like you do.  How? Why? You ask… Well I have had a scarcity mentality.  Or, I have been happy to live in the land of just enough.  Playing small so I don’t have to stand out from the crowd was safe space.  Feeling guilty if I had “too much” was a regular occurrence.  I never wanted to show off or make others feel bad when I could make financial moves they could not.  I learned to make any amount of money work for both my family and others.  When there wasn’t “enough” we cut back.  When there is more than enough we use wisdom about what to do with the extra.  My husband has taught me how to have fun with money because that didn’t come naturally to me.  But I am just finding out that I’ve been holding myself back by not striving for more.

God desires you to “have life and that more abundantly”.  But, for some reason I am just now coming to the conclusion that it directly applies to me.  God wants me to play a bigger game so that I can have abundance, give abundantly, and help others do the same.

The scarcity mentality holds you back and therefore will hold others back because of your playing small.  The abundance mentality reveals that there is always more than enough for everyone and your participating spreads the wealth around.

My question to you is where on this spectrum do you live?  Are you playing small by not fully utilizing your gifts?  Are you settling for what you have right now and not striving to go the next level?  Can you dream beyond getting out of debt or making ends meet?

I challenge you to step back and evaluate where you are on the abundance spectrum.

Poverty                Scarcity                 Just Enough            More Than Enough          Abundance

Think about this in terms of your thought life and your reality.  Can you envision yourself moving through these phases to your own next level?  If not, what is stopping you?  The answers to these questions will help you get free! It did for me! Set up a 30 minute Abundant and FREE Session today if you want your answers now!

Refund or Not?

It’s tax season! You have 1 week to complete your taxes if you haven’t done so already.  Some people love tax season because they know a refund is in their future.  Others are dreading it because they always owe.  The best way to successfully maneuver through tax time is to have a plan.  Here are some suggestions whether you face either scenario. Let’s talk worst case scenario first.  If you owe the government here are some things you can do to recover well…

  • If you don’t have all of the money right now, the government does take payments.  So don’t be afraid to file if that is the case.  Just be honest about what your budget says you can afford and do your best to pay it off by April of 2013.  We don’t want this to linger very long.
  • Estimate your withholdings with the “withholding calculator” at www.irs.gov. Then go to your payroll department and change your exemptions so enough money is getting taken out of each check.  It is best to plan ahead than find out you will owe again!
  • Review your budget.  Make adjustments to your budget because now you need to live on less.  Find out what is unnecessary and reduce it or cut it out entirely.  Be sure your budget balances with the change in exemptions and/or your monthly payment to Uncle Sam.

If you always get a refund here are some suggestions to make the most of your money…

  • Put some money in savings!  If you don’t have $1,000 in savings then you need to make that 1st on your list of to dos.
  • Pay off some debt!  List your debts smallest balance to largest balance and see how many you can pay off within your refund amount.
  • Set aside money for any upcoming expenses (car repairs, non-monthly bills, etc).
  • Have some fun!  Yes I said it!  Go out to dinner, take your kids to the museum, or buy something pretty for your home.  Of course, I don’t want you to spend all of the refund on fun but a little fun makes you feel like you got something extra.
  • The best way to handle a refund though is to actually get it in your paycheck throughout the year.  If you received $2,400 from the government, I think it is better to get $200 more each month instead.  Go to www.irs.gov and estimate your withholdings with the “withholding calculator”. Then change your exemptions with your payroll department so you just break even.  Imagine having more money each month to pay down debt, save, or simply have fun!

Whether you have a refund or not I hope these tips will help you to be a better steward over your taxes this season.  Making smart decisions with your taxes can have a positive impact on your future.

Is it worth it?

Paying off debt is exhilarating!  Getting free of the bondage of debt gets me excited!  How you go about doing that may not be quite as exciting though if taxes get involved.  Read on if you settled debt in 2011.  Tax Day is coming April 16th and you need to be sure you are ready. Typically if you have old debt that hasn’t been paid on for more than 6 months I recommend you settle them.  But you must know that there can be consequences to doing that.  I believe the freedom of being debt-free is worth it though.  Let me explain…

Let’s say you have a $1000 debt that hasn’t been paid on for a year.  When you have the cash on hand you could settle that debt for $200 which means the creditor took a loss and you only paid $200.  You never have to deal with them again!  However, you may be responsible for reporting the $800 savings on your taxes as debt forgiven.  Which means your income for that year just went up by $800 and you now have to pay taxes on it.  If your tax bracket is 25% then you now owe the government $200 additional.  Therefore, in total for that debt you have paid $400.

It sounds unfair and some may wonder if the process is worth it.  I believe it is still worth it to pay off the debt.  You must protect your online reputation, pay the debts you owe, and make good on your commitments.  This is just a different way of going about it. The finish line is still there.  You just took a different route.  Knowing how the process works helps you develop your strategy for getting free.  Don’t allow the tax implication to stop you from your freedom.  Now go pay off that debt!

Are our Finances Healing? Experts Give Advice...

We are finally beginning to see a turn in our unemployment rates and some experts think we’ve bottomed out in the housing market. So maybe, just maybe, we are heading in the direction of a recovery. But if our nation is finally healing… are your finances healing too? It would be nice to think that all will be well in the world if everyone who wanted a job got one and could get “back to normal”. But what is normal? And do we really want that? For years, Americans have overspent therefore, creating obscene amounts of personal debt. For the last several years we have had no choice but to tighten belts and spend less. Now that many people are back to work and/or getting raises, have we learned our lessons? Now is the time to get out and stay out of debt! Now is the time to save money for your future. Now is also the time to lay a solid foundation for your finances. You can do it if you keep that belt tightened just a little longer… Read more in a recent AZ Republic article Ericka Young was featured in…

To Your Success!

Way to Save!

Last month I received a terrific question from a subscriber.  Since the answer can help everyone I’ve decided to make it the main topic of this month’s newsletter. “There are so many different kinds of savings accounts and so many different institutions to choose from.  What kind of institution would you recommend and which type of savings account is best and will pay the most interest?”

First of all, you must understand that there are several reasons for saving money:

  • Emergencies
  • Large purchases
  • Future goals (children’s college, retirement, etc)

I’ll explain the last one first.  Long-term savings is for goals that are at least 5 years away.  You could be planning for retirement, kids college education, a child’s wedding, etc.  No matter what the long-term savings is for, the general rule should be that you save it in mutual funds, stocks, etc only if you know you won’t need the money for at least 5 years.  The reason behind this is volatility in the stock market.  Over long periods of time the stock market is a great way to save for future endeavors.  You could see 10%, 12% or more in returns.  But if you need your money in a relatively short period of time you don’t want to pull funds out of the market during a potential down period.  Historically speaking, the stock market is a great way to invest for your future but you will have ups and downs so be prepared.  Understanding your risk tolerance and time horizon is critical to your long-term investment strategy.

A large purchase is something that will take less than 5 years to save for.  That means you are saving in a more stable type of account because you don’t want to run the risk of volatility in the market with money you will use soon.  Large purchases include: cars, household furniture, major car repairs, vacations, planned medical expenses, appliances, home down payment, etc.  I recommend saving for these items in a money market account.  Money market accounts typically earn more interest than the average savings account.  Basically if you don’t need it right away and the total amount you must spend won’t fit into your monthly budget then you must begin a regular savings for it until the amount you need is available IN CASH!

Saving for an emergency is vital and the critical first step in everyone’s financial plan.  You must keep $1,000 in the bank before beginning your debt reduction plan.  Once you have the $1,000 saved you move on to getting rid of all your debt except your mortgage.  Next you increase your $1,000 emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses.  Here again I recommend using a money market account to save.  You earn higher interest, retain your principle deposits, can withdraw at any time, etc.  Some banks offer check writing privileges for minimum amounts.  You may need to keep a minimum balance, but this is savings right?  You want a minimum saved!  There usually are limitations on how many times you use the account, but the idea here is that you aren’t treating this account like a checking account.  There shouldn’t be an emergency or large purchase several times each month.

There are tons of banks to choose from when opening an account.  Online banking is making it much easier to sock away cash without leaving the comfort of your home.  Check out www.bankrate.com for rate comparisons between accounts. Make it a priority to save and your money will begin working for you!  Then later you don’t have to work so hard for your money!

ABC 15 News Segment

Helping a valley family get back on their feet and sharing financial advice is what I do best and that is what landed me on ABC 15 News along with advice being shared by Suze Orman. Kim's family is over $20,000 in debt. She reached out to ABC15 after ABC 15 News put a post on their Facebook page looking for families struggling to make ends meet. My advice to Kim, "You've had an income decrease of about 50 percent," Ericka Young explained. She's a certified financial coach of Tailor Made Budgets and is helping Kim and her family get back on their feet. "Make sure that you're tracking your spending for all of your categories that you have on your budget," Young urged Kim. "So we'll be working on that as well."

I look forward to working with Kim and her family. You can read the full story here and watch the video of the news segment.

My 15 Minutes (6 hours) of Fame on ABC 15 News

To follow up on my appearance on ABC 15 News last week, I was asked to do an interview by my marketing "gal" - she had some burning questions.  We had so much fun, that I decided to make a blog post out of it. Birgit: Ericka, as an entrepreneur, it must have been quite exciting to be invited to Channel 15 ABC News to share your expertise with their viewers, and not just on one segment, but 3 segments in the afternoon and the 10 PM edition.

Q: What was your first reaction when you heard the news that you were invited?

A: Surprise! It was completely unexpected! I was driving my daughter to a piano lesson when the reporter called me.  When I told my girls what the call was about they were so excited!  I was too, but I also wanted to remain neutral in case it didn’t work out.

Q: How did your family react? I’m sure your kids were excited.

A: Oh yes, my kids were very excited about seeing mommy on TV! They said “here is the superstar!” It makes me so happy to know that they are proud of mommy. I desire to be a role model to them with money and life.

Q: Did your family watch the show?

A: Yes my family watched the live TV segments but we were all in different places. My kids were with my aunt and cousin while I taped live at the station.

Q: Tell us a little about your experience of being on the set? Were you nervous?

A: When I walked into the station I was a bit star struck! I saw some of the familiar faces and started taking pictures like a giddy tourist! I was very nervous the first time they taped my Q&A. My heart was beating out of my chest! I calmed down though and followed Susan Casper’s lead.

Q: The viewers were able to chat live with you on the ABC 15 website. What was that experience like? Where there glitches?

A: The online chat was fun! I answered over 40 questions. Some questions were tough and heart-warming while others were easier and straight to the point. It was difficult to paraphrase what I would say in a 1 hour meeting into 2 or 3 sentences. Overall I would totally do it again!

Q: What was it like to be mentioned in the same sentence with Suze Orman? Do you do what she does? Or how do your services differ?

A: Yes it was crazy being in the same news segment with Suze Orman. She is a financial planner who is able to invest in securities for people. I help my clients create a budget to reach their financial goals like increasing savings or getting out of debt. You come to me first before you begin investing for the long-term.

Q: Why do you do what you do?

A: I was once one of my clients! When I had $60k in debt, no savings, and didn’t know how to get out. Even when we learned how to budget we went further into debt. I had to help myself and decided to share the tips, tools, and tricks to get out of debt. I love seeing others get free!

Q: What have you learned from this experience?

A: I learned that anything is possible! God gave me this opportunity and I am thankful!

Conclusion: It was a time for me to realize that anyone can accomplish just about anything, as long as you are committed to a successful outcome and invest yourself, the time and resources needed.

To read the the full story and the online viewer chat, go to ABC 15 News.

Change is Good!

Let’s face it.  We are reluctant to change.   We see change as intrusive, bothersome, and annoying.  We want to continue doing what we have always done because it is comfortable, easy, and well-known by us.  Change involves movement, which in turn requires effort.  But… everything was created to move.  Don’t believe me?  Trees move with the wind.  Rivers, streams, and ponds are active.  Think about it.  To breathe is to move.  Your chest expands because your lungs are taking in oxygen.  The rest of your body is dependent on that simple movement.  Anything that is stagnant becomes stale.  Water when stagnant produces scum, mold, and a foul smell.  People when stagnant lose their ability to move their limbs.  Life when stagnant simply dies.  Change, therefore, is GOOD. The benefits of change are numerous.  Let me tell you why...

  • It proves you are alive.
  • Nothing stays the same or gets boring.
  • You are improving, growing, and learning.
  • Others benefit when you change.
  • Change reminds us that anything is possible.

2012 can be full of great opportunities if you will embrace change.  Many times we set goals, make New Year’s resolutions, or create ultimatums for ourselves when the New Year arrives.  Being so drastic can be disastrous.  What I’d like to propose is that you simply embrace change because only then will you actually achieve your goals or resolutions.  Open yourself up to new possibilities and be willing to create them for yourself.  Where it concerns your finances think about (and write down!) the transformation your budget will undertake when you are totally free of debt!  Then make the necessary changes to your budget now to get there.

See change can be good!  Think about what it will feel like to pay cash for a car!  If you have never done that before then it requires a change in behavior.  The New Year brings hope, excitement, and fresh look at what is possible.  This year commit to changing your outlook and you will in turn change your LIFE!

Merry Christmas!

I am so grateful to God for sending Jesus. He was the ultimate gift. His example is what we need to follow after every day. This picture is of my family hiking the Great Wall in Beijing on our summer vacation to China. Yes, we went to China and paid CASH! It was an experience I won’t soon forget. I am so thankful to God that we had such a wonderful opportunity. We had some wonderful Christian neighbors we stayed with and took us around the major tourist attractions. It truly was the trip of a lifetime! I wanted to share some of the things I learned while I was there. The things made me appreciate our country and the God that we serve.

  • Freedom of religion is not to be taken lightly. I can praise my Heavenly Father anytime I want! Many times I will be in company when I do it too because more than 75% of Americans proclaim Christ. In China however, that number is less than 30% and finding a church is even more challenging.
  • I learned that privacy is relative. In China, you never know who is watching your comings and goings. The government is highly involved in your life. In America, most of the time we can feel secure when we close our door at night. That isn’t the case everywhere.
  • We are definitely a wealthy country. No matter what the dollar is worth, how the stocks perform, or what the unemployment rate is; we make a lot of money overall. Did you know that the average annual income in Beijing was $2715 in 2005? That is less than unemployment benefits in Arizona! No wonder they have shared living spaces, one child per family, and eat simply!

This holiday season I purpose to be thankful for God’s many blessings and look for ways to share that with others. Our trip to China was outstanding but also a fantastic reminder of how blessed we are. Not only is Jesus the reason for the season but frankly He must be the reason for everything. This Christmas make sure that everything you do has Christ at the center and helps others to acknowledge Him as well.

Merry Christmas!

Ericka

Get Real and Get Ready!

Get Real and Get Ready! Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!!!  The holidays are upon us.  Are you ready?  Typically we gauge our preparedness for the holidays by our timeliness of the following things: getting the tree trimmed, buying gifts, sending out Christmas cards, etc.  I’d like to adjust the way you view your holiday planning.  Until you’ve written down a detailed list of what these holidays will cost you aren’t completely prepared.  As of this writing I see some areas that I myself have missed and need to prepare more accurately for.  Yes it may sound like overkill, but come January 1, 2012 you don’t want to be experiencing a 2011 Holiday Hangover because you didn’t accurately assess what your wonderful holidays would cost.  That is a good way to overspend and the holidays sure aren’t as festive when there’s debt at the end of it.  Create a detailed list of the following items with dollar amounts and come to grips with your holiday spending.

Your holiday worksheet should have the following categories:

  1. Gifts and gift wrap (family members, co-worker, friends, neighbors, secret santas, teachers, coaches, hostesses, pastors, care-givers, mail carriers, hairstylists, babysitters, maid service, etc).
  2. Decorations (tree/wreath, lights, etc)
  3. Food and beverages
  4. Greeting cards, film processing, family portraits
  5. Postage, shipping and boxes
  6. Holiday events and parties
  7. Holiday attire

If you’ve already begun your holiday spending simply back track and see how much you’ve spent so far and what needs to happen in the next 27 days.  There is still time to get on track and stay on track.  You need to know what you typically spend each year.  A great goal for starting off the 2012 New Year is to save all your funds for the holidays before they even begin.  Just divide your total holiday expenses by 12 and save that amount each month.  Why wait until 2012 to begin setting goals?  Start now and Get Real!

Keep the holidays in perspective while you shop and complete your list.  The true reason for the season is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the greatest gift you can ever give to those you love and care about.

Are You Ready for the Holidays?

Well they are coming even if you aren’t ready! Now is the time to prepare for the next few weeks. The nature of shopping is changing. You must know how to navigate so you get the best deal and keep more money in your pocket. Here are some tips that will help get you through this holiday season with no regrets and happy gift recipients.

  1. Check online 1st. www.blackfriday2011.com already has the latest ads that have been leaked so do your shopping now before you leave your house on Friday. Also, check out www.cybermonday2011.com.
  2. Buy online and get the same deals you would in store.  Many times you don't have to fight the crowds because the stores have the same sale prices online.
  3. Search your favorite stores for coupons again before you leave your house. Signing up for email lists usually ensures you will get the latest information quickly.
  4. Be a fan! Like your favorite stores on facebook and check their updates regularly. Typically, companies run specials, coupons, and giveaways for fans only.
  5. Follow them! Twitter can be a great way to ask specific questions about hours, specials, and upcoming events. If your stores have a twitter page be sure to follow them.
  6. Subscribe to the many deal sites like www.groupon.com, www.livingsocial.com, or www.dealchicken.com. Be careful that you only buy what you will use though.
  7. Make a list! Too many people leave their shopping to guesswork. Lack of planning leads to overspending. This list needs to include all the people you’d like to buy for and how much you intend to spend on them. You may also want to include gift ideas. Then, make sure you total it up and take it shopping with you.
  8. Shop with cash. There is nothing worse than a holiday hangover on credit. Who wants Christmas shopping to follow them forever?
  9. Don’t forget the small stuff! Make sure you decide on Christmas cards and postage, family photos, meal planning, teacher gifts, decorations, party attendance, etc. Nowadays, very little is free but planning can keep your personal costs to a minimum.

Don’t allow the holidays to wipe you out. You can and should be prepared for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. I hope these tips help you to enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas, and a financially prosperous New Year!

Are you staying or leaving… your bank?

I’d really like to know! With all of the potential changes coming are you staying or leaving your bank? This past Saturday was National Transfer Day when people already chose to leave their large bank in favor of smaller options like credit unions or online and local banks. Were you one of them? When Bank of America announced last month that they were going to begin charging monthly fees for the use of debit cards on accounts, consumers were outraged! Other large banks thought it was good idea too and toyed with jumping on the same band wagon. But, on November 1st Bank of America decided to halt charging customers those fees because of the major backlash. Of course, my hope is that other banks will do the same. For once, the banks listened to the consumers and changed their mind!

Be forewarned though, there are many other changes that the banks are still considering and may slide under the radar unnoticed. Be sure to check with the new bank you decide to use and/or the one you have now for the following potential fees.

1. $5 Minimum balance fee 2. $3 ATM fee even if you use your own bank’s ATM 3. $5 Notary charge 4. $2 Direct deposit charge 5. $3 Teller usage fee 6. $3 Coin tally service fee

If you add up just one of each of these charges for one month you have paid $21 in fees! Well I’m not taking it! And I hope you don’t either! Continue to speak up and let your bank know you won’t stand for all of these fees. You can also speak up by moving to a smaller bank, online bank, or credit union that aligns with the values you have. Check out creditunion.coop, bankrate.com, or banktruth.org to comparison shop your choices. I want to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts and what you are deciding to do. We must all come together and speak up!

Do You Keep Track of Your Budget?

Now, more than ever it is extremely important to keep track of your budget. Additionally a check register is a must. Yes I said CHECK REGISTER! What do you think is the best/easiest computer software for creating and keeping track of your budget/check register? I use a few tools that work for different purposes.

Excel - For budgeting it is easy and you can save them all for future reference if you want. Anyone can use it and it is on virtually everyone's computer.

Quicken/YNAB/or Mint - For tracking your spending and keeping a check register these tools do the trick simply and easily. You can download your bank transactions and keep the records for years if you want to. You can also monitor your spending for certain categories like groceries, dining out, clothing etc, and you can keep tabs on multiple accounts.

I don't like the budgeting tools for any of these software packages because they assumes your budget is the same every single month. You are not allowed to keep last month's budget. Also, when I budget I make sure to break down my spending by pay period. These programs do not allow that flexibility. Therefore I use it only as a check register and spending history.

If you aren’t savvy with the computer then use a simple check register from your bank to easily keep track of your daily bank balance. We know this might be a bit old-fashioned these days, but keep it with you at all times and immediately record any transactions into your check register, so you are always up to date of how much money is left in your account. When relying on online banking, some transaction post later and if you are not aware of them, your account is easily overdrawn resulting in additional fees.

For more tips, please feel free to sign up for my newsletter. When I say, I love what I do, I mean it! Helping you make good budgeting decisions, makes my day. :)

It's That Time Again

Every year between October and November companies begin to notify employees about benefit renewal. During this time you can modify your benefit elections for the upcoming year. Although medical benefits are one of the main elections that many people are concerned about, don’t forget to take advantage of some other benefits your company may offer. Dependent care accounts (DCAs) allow families who pay for child care to save before tax dollars up to $5,000 per year for dependent care expenses. You can access the account for reimbursements with your receipts and/or pertinent documentation for child care, nursery school, or at-home care for dependents. If you put $5,000 for the year 2012 or $416.67/month into this account it will come out of your paycheck prior to taxes. Therefore, your taxable income is reduced by $5,000 for the year. Not only is it an automatic savings account, but it is advantageous on your tax returns. Be sure to only designate the exact amount you will need because the funds do not roll over to the next year.

Also, check into term life insurance. Group plans are by far the least expensive way to pay for life insurance. You need 8-10 times your income so that the ones you love are financially taken care of when you are gone.

Most importantly, you need to evaluate your medical care. Look back over 2011 and see how much you spent on medical needs. Review the choices available so you spend the least amount of money but get the most benefit for you and your family. I love HSAs because they are savings accounts that grow tax-deferred but you can use the funds on medical expenses. You can keep this account until you turn 65 at which point you can use the money for anything you desire after you pay the taxes!

Take action today! Know your options and make sound decisions concerning your benefit choices. It will pay off in the long run!

Check that Book

Personal finance is just that… personal. In this day and age no one wants to admit to having trouble in the area of their money. We are responsible right? We know what to do right? No problems here… Well take a look at the housing market right now and see for yourself if we really know what we’re doing. We as American’s have not made good decisions with our money and now many of us are paying the price.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your financial life is Check that Book! Many people come to me because they are dealing with overdraft fees and bounced checks. We’ve all done it, but there is a lot of shame, guilt, remorse, and stress over making this particular mistake. I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Actually, this is the reason that I am doing this business. Making smart decisions with your finances begins with tracking where all your money is going. Miscalculations quickly lead to overdrawn accounts. How do we end this cycle? There are several things you can do to get on the right track if this has happened to you.

1. Start with today’s bank balance for your account. Write it in the checkbook immediately.

2. Write everything down!!! All of your ATM debits, checks, debit card purchases, withdrawals, automatic payments, service charges, dividends, and of course all deposits must be written in the checkbook. Many people forget about the automatic payments or checks that were written several weeks prior. If you authorized it, it will hit your account soon. Review the transactions the bank already took out. Insert any transactions that haven’t yet hit your account in addition to outstanding checks you’ve written.

3. On an ongoing basis it is imperative that you write down all transactions as soon as they occur. If you are utilizing a software tool for your checkbook like Money or Quicken then you must keep all receipts in a convenient place so you can record everything as soon as you can get to your computer.

4. Bring the balance down! If you don’t subtract or add your last transaction and know the balance remaining then a checkbook is worthless. The whole point is for you to know exactly how much money you have currently in your account.

5. Accuracy is key. Never round up or down to make it look like more or less is in your account. All that says is that you don’t want face the truth. This whole process is about facing the truth. Your checkbook balance may be just the reality check you need.

6. Remember that using your debit card can also post as a credit card purchase. If you use your pin number during the transaction it posts to your account immediately. If you sign without using your pin number then it is run as a credit purchase and could take several days to show up. Do not allow this to be a checkbook catastrophe. Just because it doesn’t come through today doesn’t mean it is never coming through. Record it in your checkbook just as if it debited your account immediately.

7. Balance it. Be sure to check each transaction with your bank at the end of each month with your bank statement. I check off each transaction when it comes in. This way I know what is still outstanding. OK my engineering background is about to come out… Remember this equation.

Bank Balance = Confirmed Bank Transactions – Outstanding Transactions

You want to make sure not to forget any checks that are more than a month old. Sometimes it takes people a while to cash checks. At least this way you can give them a reminder call to let them know the check needs to be cashed. Otherwise you might feel that you have more money available than you truly do.

You can face the checkbook giant. Actually, conquering this beast will bring freedom and control. Knowing exactly what you have in your account at any given moment helps you to make sound decisions with you money all the time. Even if there isn’t much in the account at least you know. If there is a lot in the account… at least you know. Ignorance in this area is certainly not bliss and could lead to financial stress and countless fees. Make it a point to begin utilizing your checkbook.

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds”

Proverbs 27:23

Never, Never, Never Give Up!

A close girlfriend of mine used to have a message on her voice mail that said “Success is achieved through perseverance so never, never, never give up!” Every time I called her I knew that if we talked she would encourage me in some way and if she isn’t available at the time I’ll still be encouraged with her message. What a wonderful way to greet all who desire to speak with you. Today I encourage you with the same words.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” - Galatians 6:9

We are entering the last quarter of 2011 soon. Have you made plans to stay on a budget, save a certain amount of money, or purchase a large item? How are you doing on your financial goals for 2011? It is easy to set our goals, but what do we do once they are written? Let’s not hide them in the office drawer. Pull them out and read them at least weekly. Make sure you are showing progress regularly. Show them to someone who really cares about you. It takes at least a few weeks of repetition before the new behavior becomes a habit. If you haven’t achieved your goals for 2011 yet, there still is time. Don’t give up before what you are striving for really becomes a part of who you are. Whatever it is that you are destined to accomplish this year is worth the effort required. And… you are more than worth the rewards that achievement will bring. Never, never, never give up!