The two letter word that can change your finances forever

Definition of discipline: Making yourself do something you really don’t want to do, in order to get a result you really want to get. – Andy Andrews

A recent study  by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 61% of people don’t have a budget. While there are many reasons why people don’t budget – too busy, think they don’t make enough, don’t know where to start – I think at the heart of many people’s failure to budget is the simple fear that if they had a budget, then they could not have what they want.

Let’s face it; our society isn’t exactly very good at telling ourselves no. The credit industry has made it so easy that there is very little need to think about denying yourself. Whether it is credit cards or 90 days same as cash deals, the message is buy what you want now and worry about paying for it later.vision

The power of “No”

That little word “no” though is one of the keys to financial success. But, (and this is very important!) saying no does not mean you can’t have what you want. In fact, by saying no to less important things, you make sure you will be able to say yes to what really matters. It is really about prioritizing your money. And that’s all a budget really is.

The key to being able to say no is understanding what you want to say yes to.

What helps give us the ability to say no is knowing what is at stake and having a vision of what could be. If you aren’t connected to the larger vision, then in a moment, you cave and say yes to something you really ought to say no to. Remember that when you say no you are saying yes to something bigger and more significant.

So what do you really want? What are your goals? What matters most to you?

Maybe it’s travel. Maybe you wish you had a bigger house or a house in a better neighborhood. Maybe it’s a hobby that you really love to pursue. Maybe you dream of being able to quit your job and stay home with the kids.

Maybe if things are really tight, you just really want to make sure you can continue to provide food and shelter for your family or perhaps you dream of what it would be like to be debt free.

Spend some time thinking about those dreams. What is really most important to you?

Write them down

Once you have decided on what your goals are, write them down. There is power in written goals. Goals that are not written down are just wishes.

Put them where you will see them

Once you have written them down, keep them somewhere that you will see them. Post them on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror. Tack them on the wall at work. Attach then to the visor in the car. Maybe put them in your wallet next to that plastic.

By having it somewhere you will see it, when you are tempted to spend money, you have a reminder of what you really want most.

Create your budget with your goals in mind

Now create that budge,t but think about those goals as you decide how you will spend your money.

I can have the super-sized cable package with 546 channels, but if I do that I can’t save for that vacation I really want to enjoy with my family. Maybe I could downsize, as I never watch 90% of those channels anyway, or maybe I could do away with cable all together.

I can plan to eat out with my buddies at the office each day. But if on the other hand I saved that $100 a month I am spending on lunches, I could retire someday with more than a half a millon dollars in savings.

I could buy a new car like my neighbor just did, but if I have a $450 car payment then I won’t be able to pay any extra on my credit cards and I’ll be in debt for years. Or I could squeeze a couple more years out of my current car, buckle down, and knock out that debt.

Keeping the greater vision in mind

Andy Andrews defines discipline as making yourself do something you really don’t want to do, in order to get a result you really want to get. That’s really at the heart of successful budgeting. It would be nice if we all made so much money that we could have anything we wanted, but for almost all of us that isn’t the case. And so we must make choices.

Understand that every time you say yes to a purchase, you are also saying no to something else you could be doing with that money. That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty any time you buy something. But by having that bigger picture vision of what you really desire, you have a framework for making sure you say yes to what matters most.

Best of the week – August 23, 2014

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week…

Are Warranties Really Worth It?

While you no doubt can find the occasional story where an extended warranty paid off, by far the most common result is you lose out on the deal. Think about it:  The company selling the warranty has to come out ahead most of the time or else they would be out of business. In truth, extended warranties are often extremely profitable. Many times retailers make more off the warranties than they do on the item they are selling. A better solution is to have a fully funded emergency fund and self-insure.

Lack of household chores making children less responsible, claims survey

Interesting the difference in advice pre-1980′s and since. I believe household chores are a very good way to help children learn the responsibility of work. It is also a good way to help them begin to appreciate the value of money. Not that all chores should have a monetary reward. Some chores should be done just as a responsible member of the family. But having certain tasks that children can earn money for doing, helps them begin to understand that money comes from work, not from just swiping a card at that magic money machine called the ATM.

5 Household Budget Templates That Will Help If You Actually Stick With It

Having a budget  is one of the keys to financial success. Without a written plan you will always reach the end of the month and wonder where the money all went.

Tips for Negotiating a Better Deal

Negotiating is a bit of a lost art, but there is no harm is trying. Ideally, a negotiation should result in the seller getting the sale they want and the buyer getting a little better deal. The goal should be a win/win. And if they refuse to negotiate, the worst case is you buy the item for the same price that you’d have paid had you not tried.

10 Smart Ways to Make Yourself Love Saving Money

Make saving fun.

What to do if parents can’t help with college

If you are still a dependent of your parents, but they are unable or unwilling to help with paying your college, you might find yourself in a difficult place. Financial aid calculations assume a certain amount of parental contribution. Without that, you may find yourself at a disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for aid. If you find yourself in that situation, here are some considerations. The most important thing is to do everything you can to avoid large student loans. They will be an anchor around your life you will regret for years. Another option you have is to simply delay college. Many employers will pay part or all of continued education. That may mean not having much of a life for a few years with long days and evening classes, but that is easier than spending 20-30 years paying off student loans.

Using Checkout 51 to save money on your groceries

Probably one of the biggest variable categories and one of the areas with the most potential to save is food. Food can range from those who eat out almost every night to those with large gardens who may spend very little, with pretty much every data point between the extremes.

While we don’t do the extreme couponing that you see on TV, we do cut coupons for items we commonly buy. We shop a handful of stores for various items depending on where we typically get the best deal, and we try to stock up on items when we see a really good sale.

Recently, I came across one more way that you can save a few more bucks on your weekly grocery bill.

Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is an app that is available for both Android and iPhone. Here is how it works.checkout 51

Each week Checkout 51 posts a list of special deals. Usually there are 30-35 items with specific cash back offers. Most items offer cash back between $0.25 to 3 or 4 dollars, depending on the price of the item.

Simply do your normal shopping at your local grocery store but if you purchase one of the items on the list, save your receipt.

The app then works in conjunction with the phone on your smart phone. You simply tell it you want to upload the receipt. It launches your camera and allows you to easily take a picture of the receipt and preview the result. If your receipt is long it is very easy to piece together multiple pictures. Once you have a good picture of the receipt, you check off which cash back offers you are claiming and then upload the information.

When Checkout 51 receives the receipt, they send an e-mail promising to process your upload within 48 hours. In practice, I have found it rarely takes more than 3 or 4 hours. Once they have reviewed your receipt to verify the date and that it contains the items you claimed, they send another e-mail letting you know your claim has been processed and how much your account was credited.

Each Wednesday night at midnight they refresh the list of items with cash back available.

Once you have $20 accumulated in your account, Checkout 51 sends you a check with your savings.

That’s really all there is to it.

What I like about Checkout 51

It is easy. It probably takes me less than a minute to upload a new receipt. And I have never yet had an issue with the receipt being processed.

They usually have at least a couple generic produce cash back offers. I have seen offers for bananas, apples, tomatoes, and carrots in the time I have been using the service. Usually, coupons for fresh produce are rare, so it’s nice to find a way to save a little on these purchases.

There are no limitations on where you can shop. According to their website you can even use online purchases, though I haven’t tried that personally yet.

It is combined with other offers. On our most recent shopping trip, we had a 50 cents off coupon for a popular household cleaning product. Our store doubles coupons under a $1.00. Plus Checkout 51 had a $1.00 cash back offer. So the all in all we saved $2.00 on the purchase.

What I don’t like about Checkout 51

Really about the only negative I would site is that I wish they had a bigger selection of items. I am not sure how long they have been in business, but hopefully maybe their list of products will grow over time.

The other caution is one I would add with any kind of coupon. Make sure you are not tempted to buy items you wouldn’t have normally bought. If you buy a $5.00 item to get a $1.00 cash back, remember you didn’t “save” $1.00, you spend $4.00! It is great to save on things you would be buying anyway, just don’t fall into the trap of buying to get the extra “savings”.

Also Checkout 51 currently is only available for stores in the US and Canada. If you are elsewhere, you are out of luck.

A handy app

You aren’t going to get rich with Checkout 51. It isn’t likely to move the needle on your budget. But it really takes very little effort to upload the receipt and if I can save a few bucks here and there on things I would be buying anyway, then count me as a fan!

What savings apps do you find useful?

Best of the week – August 16, 2014

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week…

How Much Auto Insurance Do You Need? Don’t Guess
If you are looking to lower your insurance costs and you have an emergency fund, a great place to start is raising your deductible. This can often yield significant savings. Be very careful though with lowering liability coverage. A bad accident can easily result in thousands of dollars of medical bills if there are serious injuries. Don’t bankrupt yourself because you were trying to save a few dollars on your monthly insurance bill.

Make your kid rich for $1 a day
What if your child could retire someday as a multi-millionaire and it would cost you less than the cost of a soft drink or coffee per day? It actually isn’t that far fetched. Even more important, this really points out how important it is to start soon. When we are in our 20′s the last thing we usually think about is retirement, yet the sooner you start the easier it is to really make life changing progress.

Potential downsides of cashback and rewards
One argument that people often use for holding on to their credit cards is the reward programs. The problem is often these rewards programs aren’t as simple as they seem when they are promoted. Even beyond that, I think the most dangerous part of these rewards programs is they entice you to spend more than you might have otherwise. Many studies have shown that you spend more when using credit than when you use cash, and I have found this true in my life as well. Cash causes you to feel your purchase in a way that swiping a card never does.

The 10 Things You Need to Do If You Want to Quit Your Job
If you are looking at changing jobs it is very important that you handle the process carefully. No matter how dissatisfied you are with your current employer make sure you are doing your job hunting on your time not their’s. When the time of transition comes, make sure you follow the golden rule and treat your former employer and co-workers as you would hope to be treated if the situation were reversed. And most important of all never burn bridges. It may feel really good in the moment to tell that nasty boss where he can shove that old job. Don’t do it. It isn’t worth it. You never know what connections there might be that could bite you even years down the road.


The Four Walls
It is great to pay off debt and to save and invest. But what if you are in a position where there simply isn’t enough money to pay all the bills this month? If you find yourself in this position, it is important that you prioritize what you pay. Dave Ramsey talks about building the four walls first. This short video provides a good explanation of what he means by the four walls. Obviously, you want to pay everyone, but if you just can’t, don’t find yourself in a position where you are current with your credit cards but your house is about to be foreclosed on and they are coming to turn off your electricity.

Understanding the difference between your credit report vs. your credit score

I have written previously about how you can go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com and get a free copy of your credit report from each of 3 major credit reporting agencies once per year. This is valuable and something you should be doing to make sure there are no errors or unexpected items.

This service only provides free access to your credit report. If you want to actually see your credit score, you must pay extra for that.

So what is the difference between your credit report and your credit score?

Your credit report vs. your credit score.

Be aware that your credit score and your credit report are two different things. Your credit report is a list of all of your reported creditors. This would include credit cards, mortgages, auto and personal loans, etc. Note it only includes items that are reported to the credit reporting agencies. So, if you have a line of credit at the local mom and pop hardware, it won’t appear there unless they report it. You credit report will include a list of accounts, your payment history, your current balances and credit limits, whether the account is in good standing or is delinquent, and personal information about you and your employment status.

Your credit score on the other hand is a number that is calculated based on the information on your credit report. It is an attempt to look at how you have used credit in the past along with your track record for repaying that credit and distilling that down to a numeric score.

Not a single score

What many people don’t realize though is you don’t really have a credit score. You have many credit scores. First, there are three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You might expect to see the same score generated from each, but in reality each will be a little different. If your credit reports are accurate across the three sites then those scores should be close but they won’t be identical. If one of them is significantly different from the others, then that probably means you have errors on your credit report.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) creates the formula that is used to distill that credit report down into a specific number. They update that formula from time to time. That formula is also available to mortgage and credit providers. Many banks do their own calculation based off the FICO formula. So if you apply for a mortgage or other credit, your lender may not go back to one of those three credit reporting agencies, they may be calculating their own score and that score could vary depending on which version of the FICO algorithm they use.

In addition to that, credit scores are often used by insurance companies to evaluate what rate you will be charged for things like auto insurance. Guess what? They have their own algorithms for evaluating your score, so that number will be slightly different too.

The bottom line is you don’t have a credit score. You have credit scores. However, if the information in your credit report is accurate, all of those scores should be similar. If most of your scores are in the good range, but you have one that is way out of whack and indicating poor credit, then there is probably an error somewhere that you should try to get corrected.

My disdain for the Great FICO

While I think it is important to understand credit reports and credit scores and how they can affect your financial picture, in truth I really hate the credit score and what it has become in our society.

Everything about your credit score is related to how successful you have been at borrowing money and paying it back. All of the factors considered relate to debt.

If I were evaluating whether or not to loan you money, looking at your current debts and your past track record of making payments would be relevant information. But a history of getting into and out of debt isn’t really a sign that you are financially healthy. In fact, it is probably more of an indication of financial instability.

And yet our society has come to accept that a high FICO score indicates you are doing great. I think that is just plain wrong. But because of the way debt has been normalized and thus the importance that has been placed on a credit score,  it is a factor that you must contend with as you navigate your financial world. As a result, knowing roughly your current credit score, and even more important, regularly reviewing your credit report are important parts of maintaining healthy finances. Just don’t make the mistake of borrowing money just so you can raise your credit score so you can later borrow more money.

Best of the week – August 9, 2014

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week….

How to Start & Build Up Your Emergency Fund in Savings

One of the keys to a healthy financial plan is having a good emergency fund. If you are living and breathing, I can guarantee at some point you will have some unexpected expenses. For many that means going deeper in debt, which then makes the next emergency even more painful, and the next and the next…  An emergency fund takes much of the stress out of that car repair or plumbing disaster or even that layoff.

How to Start the Money Conversation with Your Kids

As parents there are many things we teach our kids, but aside from passing along our faith, I think one of the most important is teaching them about money. For good or ill money affects so much of our lives. Help them learn to make wise decisions while they are in the safety of your home so that they don’t make disastrous decisions when they are out on their own someday.

Stop Putting Off These 15 Home Repairs and Upgrades

There used to be a commercial for a muffler commercial that had the famous line “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” So often spending a few bucks today to address a problem when it is small can save a major repair bill down the road.

Six Things My Grandpas Taught Me About Financial Success

It always fascinates me when we look at just how much our culture has changed in the last 50 years. Debt has become very normalized in our society to the point where many people don’t even consider that there might be an alternative. It was very different though in our grandparents generation. I question just how much better our lives are with all the “stuff” we now have and the debt that goes along with it, vs. the life our grandparents led.

17 Tricks Stores Use To Make You Spend More Money

Many of these are somewhat common sense after you read them, but the reason stores do them is they work. There is nothing wrong with it, but if you understand the psychology that is being used on you, then you can avoid the impulse purchases for things you don’t really need.

5 Little-Known Strategies to Boost Your Retirement Nest Egg

Good tips here, but I think the most important strategy for preparing for retirement is to just get started. The younger you begin saving, the better off you will be. Compound interest is a wonderful thing.

 

 

Should I save for retirement or my children’s college?

As parents, sooner or later we are faced with the question, “should I be saving for retirement or my children’s college?”  This isn’t so bad if we are fortunate to have plenty of money, but what if things are a little tight? What if we have to choose between the two?should i save for retirement or my children's college

According to finaid.org, college tuition is increasing at a rate of about 8% per year and tuition is already incredibly expensive. We want our kids to have all they need to be successful in life which often includes a college degree. College loans, though, are an anchor around so many young people’s lives that we convince ourselves that we must save for our children’s education.

But on the flip side we see items on the news all the time warning that the days of 30 years and a gold watch and a pension are gone. Combine that with dire warnings about the future of Social Security and we are faced with the reality that we may be on our own to prepare and save for our retirement.

So what do we choose? Save for retirement and leave junior to fend for himself? Or save for college figuring we can worry about retirement later?

First things first

Before we even think about retirement or college savings, our first goal should be to get our finances on solid ground.

When you fly, the attendants always instruct you that in the event of an emergency to make sure your own oxygen mask is securely in place before you try to help someone else. In the same way, if we are drowning in debt and consistently spending more than we make, then we need to address those issues before worrying about college and retirement. Get on a budget. Get intense about paying off the debt. Use retirement and college as a motivation to sacrifice and get those debts knocked out as fast as possible. Then make sure you have a good emergency fund of at least 3-6 months of expenses or more.

Once you have that flow of oxygen established in your finances, you are then in a position to be able to think about other priorities.

 College or retirement?

While our children’s well-being pulls at our heart-strings and may make us feel guilty if we aren’t saving for college, the answer to this question is almost always, save for retirement first. You need to be saving about 15% of your income for retirement, then once that requirement is met you can save for college with what is left.

The only exception to this would be if you already have a large sum saved for retirement. If you feel you have sufficient retirement savings, then you might back off on the retirement savings some to save for college. If you feel you are in this category, I would highly recommend meeting with a good financial planner who can review your savings and your goals to make sure you are really on track.

What about paying for college?

So if the focus is on saving first for retirement then how will junior pay for college? The most important reason for saving for college only after your retirement is taken care of is that your children have options for paying for their schooling.

  • Go to a less expensive community college to get some general requirements out of the way.
  • Choose to attend a public in-state school as opposed to a much more expensive private institution.
  • Get a job. Some studies have shown that students who work part-time while in school actually get better grades than those who do not.
  • Apply for every scholarship you can find
  • Many companies pay part or all of the tuition expenses for employees seeking to gain a degree
  • Get a loan. I don’t recommend student loans. I think young people should do everything possible to avoid them, but it does remain true that there are loans available for college. You can’t take out a loan to fund your retirement.

Retirement savings must come first

While it is a noble goal to pay some or all of your children’s college expenses, the bottom line is that making sure you are able to support yourself in retirement has to take precedence.

You child has the option to work to pay for their degree. As you near retirement age you might not have that option. Health issues may prevent you from doing what you once did. While age discrimination is illegal, we know that it does still occur, and you may be limited in the jobs you can get when you are 70.

Finally, saving for retirement is so much easier if you get an early start.

Let’s say you start saving when you are 22 and have that first job out of college. Assuming only an 8% rate of return, by saving just $200 a month from age 22 to age 67 you’ll be able to retire with over a million dollars saved!!

Now let’s suppose you also got married at 22 and junior came along shortly thereafter. You want to be able to pay for college so you divert that $200 a month to a college savings program. If you waited until age 40 to start saving that $200 for retirement, you would only have $227,000 at retirement. To have that same million dollar retirement starting at age 40 you’d actually have to save $885 a month. The longer you wait to start the harder it is.

I believe in the value of a college education and I plan to help my son with his educational expenses. However, you must never allow guilt to shame you into prioritizing your child’s education over your long-term retirement savings. If you can do both, congratulations, but if you must choose, always err on the side of your retirement.

There are many options for paying for college. With the uncertain state of pensions and social security, it may be up to you to provide for your retirement years. Make sure you don’t short change yourself.

Are you tempted to prioritize saving for your children’s college over saving for retirement?

Best of the week – August 2, 2014

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week…

Why we didn’t buy our “dream” home

Great example of a wise approach to the home buying process. So many people get house fever and the dream home becomes a nightmare. There is also nothing wrong with renting for a time until you are able get your debts paid off, get an emergency fund, and save up a good down payment.

12 Items You Should Buy Generic (and 4 You Shouldn’t)

Experimentation is the key. We have found many generic items that are almost indistinguishable from their name brand counter parts. (Other than the much lower price tag!!) But we have also tried a few that were clearly inferior. I remember a case of store brand canned green beans that I’m pretty sure were made of cardboard. But in general I have found the bad experiences to be the exception more often than the rule. Next time you are shopping, try a generic. You might be surprised.

5 types of credit unions worth joining

I have used a credit union as my primary banking institution for almost 20 years. I love it. Rarely do I have fees to pay, and when I have it has almost always been my fault for doing something really dumb. They are friendly and service-oriented and they have good products.

Squished! What to Do When Financially Supporting Two Generations

Many people are finding themselves in the position of having to help support elderly parents as well as children who have moved back home after college because they are unable to find a job. This presents some real challenges. Communication is an important key.

5 products on deep discount in August

Looking for air conditioners, back to school supplies and backpacks, dehumidifiers, outdoor furniture, or snow blowers? This might be a good time to find a deal and Consumer Reports provides some tips to not only find a good deal but make a wise choice when you do.

10 Things To Do After The Job Interview

So you got your foot in the door and you got the interview. Sounds like a good job opportunity. Here are 10 good suggestions of things you can do to make yourself stand out from the other candidates who may have been interviewed.

9 ways to make sure your budget is a failure (#9 might be the most common)

Tried budgeting but decided it might work for others but it just doesn’t work for you? Chances are you might have done one or more of these common mistakes that pretty well guarantee you will fail.budget failure

1. Don’t do one

OK, this one may be a little obvious, but the first way to ensure you will never successfully have a budget is to never even try.

A 2013 Gallup poll showed that more than 2/3′s of Americans do not live on a budget. I think if you asked most people, they would have at least a vague sense that they probably should be doing a budget. They probably would agree that a budget might help them achieve their financial goals faster. But the truth is most people don’t do it.

2. Don’t write it down

Some folks say they have a budget. Well sort of. I mean I kind of know in my head what my bills are each month. So that counts, right?

If you don’t have it written down, you don’t really have a budget. You’ll forget things and underestimate others. The only way to really take control of your financial situation is to have a written budget you follow each month. How you create it doesn’t matter. You can use software like Quicken, internet services like Mint or You Need A Budget, your own spreadsheet, or plain old paper and pencil.

3. Use the checkbook method

If there is still money available in my checking account, it must be ok to spend it. I am sorry to admit for many years this was my basic form of budget.

Parkinson’s Law says that work will expand to fill the amount of time you give it. The same principle holds true for your bank account. I couldn’t understand why I could never seem to make any progress on my goals, but my problem was when my budgetary decisions were based on how much money was left in my account there was always something that I needed to purchase.

By deciding at the beginning of the month exactly how you intend to spend every dollar that comes in for the month, you are really prioritizing your spending to make sure you are spending on what matters most to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t adjust as the month goes along. You will always have things come up that cause you to make adjustments, but by having that written plan you are able to make those adjustments based on your priorities and not by how much money you have left.

4. Try to create the perfect budget

Another mistake I made was trying to create a perfect budget for the entire year. There is no such thing as a perfect budget.

You have to do a new budget each month because each month is different. Sure somethings are constant like your mortgage or your phone bill perhaps, but every month has it’s quirks. School fees, birthdays,  magazine subscriptions, that new pair of shoes, you name it. Each month will be a little different. There is no one size fits all budget.

5. No emergency fund

You are doing good budgeting. You’ve made it through a couple months. Then one week the water heater fails, the alternator goes out in the car, and the dog needs some medicine from the vet. Suddenly your budget is shot and you give up.

Without an emergency fund, you will never have a successful budget. Life happens. Unexpected things occur (and usually at the worst possible time). An emergency fund allows you to smooth out those bumps in the road. Without it you will fail.

6. Don’t plan for irregular expenses

Irregular expenses can sink your budget. Items like real estate taxes, insurance, some utilities, Christmas, vacations, and the like can wreck your budget. This is another mistake that used to trip me up. I’d think I was doing well until I hit that month where the taxes or the home owner’s insurance were due and suddenly my budget was wrecked.

Irregular expenses shouldn’t come as a surprise. You know Christmas will be December 25th each year. You know when the real estate taxes or other bills come due. The key is to plan for it. If you plan to spend $1,200 on Christmas gifts, then set aside $100 each month and when December rolls around you’ll have the money you need. Same is true for all those other irregular pills.

7. Set unrealistic expectations

If you budgeted $100 to feed your family of 6 for the month, unless you have a really big garden, you are probably going to fail.

Budgets have to be about more than just making the numbers work. It has to be realistic. Sure you can save on coupons and shop sales, but you will spend a certain amount to put food on the table each month. If you don’t budget a realistic amount, your budget will always fail. This is true for many categories. Your budget needs to reflect what you will really spend. If your spending exceeds your income, you may need to make some adjustments, but the bottom line is what is written on the page needs to be realistic.

8. You and your spouse aren’t in agreement

If your spouse says “Sure dear, the budget looks great, now I’m just going to head over to Home Depot and spend all this week’s grocery money on that new tool I want”, your budget will never succeed.

If you are married, you and your spouse need to be in agreement about what you will spend. If you are pulling in opposite directions you will never succeed.

9. Don’t ever say no

Last, but perhaps most important, if you are unwilling to tell yourself “no” occasionally, you will always get to the end of the month and wonder where the money went.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean to imply you can never have what you want if you live on a budget. In truth it is the opposite. A budget allows you to prioritize your spending so you can have what is most important to you. But unless you are Bill Gates or Donald Trump, you probably don’t have enough money to always get whatever you want. You have to learn to say no to the things that are less important, so that you can have the things that matter most to you.

What is keeping you from being able to budget your monthly income?

Best of the week – July 26, 2014

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week…

A Singular Focus of Paying Off Debt Leads to Peace

I am a firm believer that lack of focus is one of the things that prevent people from getting out of debt. When you are trying to accomplish ten different financial goals at once, it is hard to feel like you are making much progress on any of them. The natural result of that is discouragement. It becomes very easy to just give up when you feel like all your efforts aren’t really making a difference. When we focus on one thing at a time though, we start to see that our sacrifice is making a difference. That provides the encouragement we need to press forward.

Family Fun…For FREE!

Family fun doesn’t have to imply spending a lot of money. In fact, sometimes the most fun and the things the kids will still remember 50 years from now are things that don’t cost any money at all.

Why Debt Consolidation Doesn’t Work

The biggest problem with debt consolidation is it gives the mistaken impression that you have accomplished something. We give it away in the verbiage we use. We say, “I got a debt consolidation loan and paid off my credit cards.” Truth is, we didn’t pay off anything. We simply reshuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic. Without a change of the behavior that got us in debt, in a few years we’ll find ourselves in worse shape than when we started.

How Much Does it Really Cost to Rent a RV?

We recently got back from a vacation in the west where we visited several National Parks. Driving around I saw lots of the Cruise America rental RV’s. I wondered how much it would really cost to tour around in one of those. Jeff Rose at Good Financial Cents just got back from a family vacation where they rented an RV.  If you ever wondered about the costs and gotchas of renting one of these, Jeff has a very comprehensive write-up on their experiences.

Why Generosity Is Key to Everything — Including Your Career

Only in the movies does the dishonest backstabber get ahead. Think of it this way: You are a manager of two employees. One is usually smiling and always willing to help out. The other you have trouble trusting because it is obvious they want to get to the top and will step on anyone they need to get there. Which do you want to be around? Which are you more likely to promote? In a healthy organization, the generous will be rewarded.

15 Helpful Apps No Single Lady Should Be Without

Many of these apps are great for anyone, not just single ladies, and most of them are free.