Hope for your financial life and beyond

How to Make a Zero Based Budget in 3 Easy Steps

One task that may not be apparent to first time budgeters is to create a zero based budget. My wife and I had tried to make a monthly budget before but for one reason or another, our budgets never seemed to work. Putting this step in place helped us lesson those failures and moved us towards a place of continual success with our budgets.

zero based budgetThe process of putting a zero based budget together is not hard to understand. Like any other budget it does require some planning and attention throughout the month. You might have to tweak some numbers here and there as the month unfolds and life happens. In my opinion it’s the best type of budget to put together as it leaves no room for money to go unaccounted for.

It’s important to have records of where money goes. With records, you have built-in accountability that shows where you spent your money. You begin to see patterns of how you spent your money over time. Then, you can then make changes if those patterns reveal things you don’t like about your spending.

So, let’s walk through the process of how to put together a zero based budget.

[Read more…]

A Beginner’s Guide to Home Remodeling Costs

The first house my wife and I owned was brand spanking new – right out of the box. We walked in to fresh paint, clean carpets, new appliances and a cute little covered porch right off the back door. Everything was so perfect. We had no home remodeling costs to speak of.

home remodeling costsA few years and two kids later we decided it was time for some more space. So we moved into our second home for our expanding family.

This house was nice and definitely an upgrade when it came to space. But it was not new. It had issues.

The carpet was old. EVERYTHING in the kitchen was dated. The deck was falling apart. And there is no way I will ever forget the rust-toned, orange paint in the upstairs hall bathroom.

Of course we were thankful for finding a home to fit our needs. But we knew changes and upgrades to the home were in order.

[Read more…]

Kids, Money and High School Graduation Day

In a few hours, my firstborn child will walk across a stage and receive her high school diploma. It’s been 18 years in the making and now we are here. One of the milestone days any parent looks forward to.

It seems like only yesterday.

You hear people say this phrase all the time, “It seems like only yesterday.” Well, it’s true. Mom and dad are really feeling that today. I was just talking with a friend this morning about how quickly time passes. And I can vividly remember the day my daughter Kelly came into this world.

What a joy it’s been to raise this child. She’s been obedient…kind to her siblings…dependable and reliable…driven…generous…sweet.

And I’ll tell you something else she has been…costly. (Hey, this is a personal finance blog…what did you expect me to talk about.)

[Read more…]

The 3 Main Advantages of a Debit Card

advantages of a debit card

Are there advantages of a debit card that makes them better than using a credit card?

Debate rages sometimes in the personal finance world over which one of these payment options is better. I see how both can be used responsibly to assist people with their money management. The key word in that last sentence though was “responsibly.” Of these two options, credit cards by far have the most potential for abuse.

Advantages of a Debit Card

Banks and other financial institutions issue debit cards as a way for customers to access their accounts to pay for goods and services. The card links to your checking account at the bank. When you swipe it at a business, the amount of the transaction is withdrawn from your account to pay the merchant.

[Read more…]

Secret Advice For Teenagers Who Love to Spend Money

You know who you are – teenager who loves to spend money like it’s going out of style. You spend money faster than it takes a Snapchat to disappear. Money comes into your hand one minute and flows out like water the next.

spend moneyAnd you like it that way!

If that’s you, I have some special advice today. It’s unusual, maybe even secret advice. I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard an adult say this to you before. In fact, your parents may hate me for saying this because it might go against how they have instructed you to handle money. So I’m actually running a big risk here.

But before I reveal this big secret about spending your money, you have to promise me something.

The promise I’m asking you to make is to read this entire post. You are going to love what I have to say about spending money but you can’t take it as stand alone advice without understanding the bigger picture. As they say, the devil is in the details. So I’m asking for five minutes of your time to help you avoid failure on this issue.

Ready for the big, secret advice? OK, here goes…

[Read more…]

The Sam’s Club Scan N Go App Is a Shopping Game Changer

Have you ever missed out on something for so long and when you finally heard about it, felt stupid for not knowing sooner? That’s how I feel right now about the Sam’s Club Scan and Go app. I’ve been shopping at Sam’s for about a year now and just learned about this app several months ago. It’s actually been out since 2016.

Sam's Club Scan and GoThe only thing helping me shed my feelings of stupidity is the shopping experience this app provides. It’s that amazing!

One of the challenging things about shopping at warehouse clubs like Sam’s or Costco is the checkout line. First of all, there is the line itself. It’s usually long, especially during peak hours. I’ve easily stood in line for over 20 minutes before on the weekends.

Secondly, it’s just a bear to check out with all your massive, bulky items. You have to unload at the checkout line and then reload carts after the items are scanned. Even the most skilled checkout attendant can take 5-plus minutes if you have a cartload or two. But we put up with this because we are saving money by buying in bulk.

That’s where the Sam’s Club Scan and Go app comes into play. By using it you can bypass the whole checkout line process! Here is how simply it works.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

Always Plan a Budget Around These 5 Expenses First

The first time I sat down to plan a budget with my wife, we didn’t know where to start. There were literally dozens of expense categories popping into our head at once. The whole process seemed a bit overwhelming.

plan a budgetAt some point it dawned on us that we needed some clarity about the process. We needed to narrow the field and focus on certain priorities in the budget. By doing that, it became obvious what areas of the budget we needed to focus on first.

What we found was that there are five fundamental expenditures to focus on when you plan a budget. Without them, any person would have a difficult time surviving. Coincidentally, these categories will also be some of the most expensive budget items each month. Those two reasons alone – basic survival and cost – should justify why it’s important to start with them when you plan a budget each month.

Five Basic Categories When You Plan a Budget

[Read more…]