Hope for your financial life and beyond

6 Special Reasons Why I Love Having a Travel Budget

travel budgetI love having a travel budget! For my wife and I it was a priority from the beginning of our marriage. We both went on family vacations growing up and wanted to carry on that tradition with our kids. And never was that ideal more driven home than on a hot, summer afternoon at a tourist beach in St. Maarten.

This is no ordinary beach though. It’s Maho Beach, situated just yards away from Princess Juliana International Airport. Oddly enough, people don’t come to this beach for the beach. They come to watch the planes land.

It’s 1:00 pm in the afternoon and dozens of tourists are standing on the beach looking out over the water. The chalkboard at the nearby restaurant lists the daily landing times. As we looked, right on schedule a tiny speck appeared out over the water.

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10 Tidbits of Financial Wisdom on My 45th Birthday

Forty-five. That’s the age I turn today – March 7, 2018.

A lot has changed in our world since 1973. Almost every area of life I can think of has made advancements. Mostly these have been for the good of society and have ushered in new eras for technology, medicine, science, politics and sports just to name a few.

One thing really hasn’t changed though. And that is our need for money. We need it now just as much as my parents did when I was born. Money provides us with the means to secure the most basics needs for our survival – food, clothing, shelter, utilities and transportation. If any one of those key areas is missing in the equation, then we are more or less suffering to some degree.

I’ve been blessed in that I’ve never had to worry about meeting these needs. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a challenge at times. But both my parents when I was young and now myself leading my own family have always been able to manage. I’ve truly been blessed in that way.

In my 45 years of life, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about money and finances. So today I’d like to give you 10 quick bits of financial wisdom that have helped shape me over the years. I won’t get bogged down in the details about how I learned these lessons. If you want to read more details, click on the links I’ll provide.

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Refinance Your Mortgage Now While Rates Are Still Historically Low

A home purchase is one of the most exciting and expensive financial transactions a person will make. Because homes cost so much, most people choose to buy one by getting a mortgage. They borrow money from a lender at an agreed upon interest rate for a designated length of time. When the loan is paid off, the house is legally theirs.

refinanceThe rate lenders charge for interest on a mortgage does not stay the same. They fluctuate, sometimes even from day to day. Because they can change frequently, Person A may end up getting a lower rate than Person B. It seems unfair that one person could get a better rate and save money just because they had better timing on their home purchase.

That’s where refinancing comes in to play. If done properly, it can end up saving homeowner’s money in the long run.

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Emergency Fund Basics: The Step On Which All Other Success Is Built

If you are just getting started with the “getting-my-financial-act-together” bit, you might not know where to begin. Have I got good news for you. It’s time to cut through all the clutter and for you to realize one important truth. The first step to success in all other areas of personal finance is creating an emergency fund of cash. Then you need to save it for a crisis.

emergency fundThat may seem like a bold statement. I can attest though, from personal experience, having money set aside strictly for emergencies is the #1 strategy that has propelled my wife and I forward in paying off debt, saving for retirement and college and investing in the stock market.

Why is that you ask?

Because it’s a fact – emergency situations in life are going to come. We cannot escape them. So it just makes sense that we learn how to manage through a crisis.

If we don’t have cash that is easily accessible to take care of the emergency the moment it hits our door, then we are really only faced with one alternative – going into debt to deal with the situation. And it’s this constant accumulation of debt that hinders our ability to accumulate great wealth over time.

You must break the going-into-debt-to-solve-the-emergency cycle.

In this article, I’ll outline the basics of having an emergency fund. You’ll learn when to start one, what to use it for, how much to save and the best ways to fund it.

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How Your Gifts Are Also Fit for a King (Matthew 2:11)

If you could give a gift fit for a king what would it be? You may think you would have nothing to offer such an important person. I’d suggest though, that no matter what your personal or financial status, you always have something to offer. I base that challenge on one of the more intriguing stories that surrounds the birth of Jesus.

fit for a kingThe book of Matthew tells us that Jesus received some special visitors shortly after he was born. We know them as the Magi, or the wise men from the East. We don’t know exactly where they came from although many speculate ancient Persia. The Bible doesn’t state how many there were. We do know they arrived sometime after the birth of Jesus because they came to visit Mary, Joseph and the boy at a house (Matthew 2:11) not in the stable, which many traditional Christmas scenes depict.

The Bible tells us that as the wise men entered the house that day, they came bearing gifts – gifts certainly fit for a king. We are told they bowed before Jesus,  “…and when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

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Sinking Fund: The Best Way to Save Money for Christmas Gifts

Ten years ago my wife and I hated Christmas shopping. Sure it take enormous amounts of time and energy. But more than that, it played havoc on our December monthly budget. We’d have to come up with money for Christmas gifts out of nowhere while still paying all our other bills. It was a real challenge that often led to frustration and even overspending on gifts. Thankfully, the financial frustrations vanished the day we heard about a simple money management technique called a sinking fund.

sinking fundThe concept of a sinking fund is not new but it took me to my mid-30s to hear about it. Essentially, a sinking fund is a savings fund you create for the express purpose of purchasing something in the future. And, as I’ve found out, it’s a really easy technique anyone can learn. It’s also one of the best practices to help you eliminate overspending and pay for bills, gifts or other budget items that come infrequently.

Because this has revolutionized how my wife and I pay for things, I want to show you how it works. And at the end of the post, I’ll include the template we use to keep track of our savings.

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How to Easily Protect Yourself When Giving to Charities

Are you someone who loves giving to charities? My wife and I sure do. We make it a practice to give at various times during the year. But our interest really peaks during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are so many charitable organizations that do great work at these times of year. It is true that people are in need year round. However, the depth and seriousness of focus seems to peak during the holidays. I think that’s because we have an innate – some would say God-given desire – to help those in need. Many of us have been blessed through the holidays and we want to pass those joys and blessings on to others.

giving to charitiesOf course giving to charities doesn’t have to be only about money. You can give of your time and talents as well. But for most, the easiest path is to donate money and let the charities put that to use the best way they know how.

But how do you know if your money will be used wisely? Perhaps the better question is how do you know if you are not getting ripped off or taken advantage of by a rogue charity or a scam artist?

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How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off From Service Industry “Professionals”

Have you ever needed to hire a service industry professional for advice, a project or repair? Chances are we have all been there. Why? Because taxes need completing. Cars break down. Computers need fixing. Home air conditioning systems go bad.

You may be among those fortunate enough to know how to do these things on your own. Or at least you know a little about how these things work. The vast majority of the public does not know how to fix a car or computer. We don’t know why AC units malfunction. We rely on industry professionals who are trained to handle such projects or repairs.

service industry Most service industry professionals are hard working and credible people. They are not looking to take advantage of people. They just want to make a living by doing an honest day’s work.

However, we all know that not all service industry professionals fall into this category. In fact, we need to put quotation marks around some service industry workers when we call them “professionals.” They may be experts at their chosen career. But they are also experts at another thing – conning people out of their money. So they don’t exhibit the kinds of qualities we would all want in someone who was truly professional at their job. Here is a case in point.

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Visa Debit Card Safety: What You Need to Know

My daughter just reached an financial milestone the other week when she opened her first checking account several weeks ago. However, she’s even more excited that, along with the checking account, came a Visa debit card. Yep, her first piece of plastic.

Visa debit cardOf course she will have to learn how to use it responsibly. That’s because debit cards act like cash. All transactions post to your checking account register. In other words, when you buy an item with a debit card, the money is immediately withdrawn from your account to complete the purchase.

The advantages here should be obvious. Debit cards force you to budget your money. They force you to keep track of how much money you have left to spend. Credit cards don’t do that. The credit limit is the limitation placed on the account. But once you’ve hit that limit, many people have already spent more on the card than they actually have. That’s what makes credit cards so dangerous.

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What Is a Savings Account and Does My Child Need One?

As part of my return to blogging after a brief absence, I’m going to be writing a series of posts that answer some basic money questions.  Even for seasoned consumers, it’s important to return to the basics from time to time, if nothing more than to solidify in our minds why we do these things. So today I’m going to be answering the question what is a savings account?

And I’ll be answering some FAQs at the end – one in particular about savings accounts for children.

Savings 101

what is a savings accountOther than spend, there is no more basic activity to do with money than to save it. People save for many reasons. But the main purpose of saving is to have a store of money for needs, for wants or for emergencies.

You can save money anywhere. If you are like most people, you probably have a small amount of cash at your home. But the majority of people who want to save large amounts of cash do so by opening a savings account at local bank.

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How to Save One Thousand Dollars in a Month

If you are serious about getting out of debt and building any kind of financial future, then you must save money on a regular basis. The best part is you don’t have to begin with much. All you need to do for starters is to save one thousand dollars. That will give yourself some cushion.

When I worked construction I learned that every building requires a solid foundation. For your financial life, that foundation is savings. Without adequate savings you will struggle to get out of debt and will always be susceptible to emergency situations.

save one thousand dollarsNow I know the process of saving money isn’t sexy. We’d rather go spend our money on gadgets and entertainment that would give us an emotional high. Saving money and leaving it in the bank is an emotional blah.

To save one thousand dollars in a month may or may not sound like a daunting task depending on your situation. Some of you may be struggling to pay your basic bills.

But you can save one thousand dollars quickly. In fact, you could do it in only one month. Here’s how.

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