Plugging your Spending Leaks

Sometimes finance can feel like a sinking ship. As soon as money has come in, it’s being paid out somewhere. Your bank account feels like a transient bus station. No matter how friendly you might be towards your money, it’s mere days or weeks before it’s boarding a bus and waving goodbye, off to a new destination: someone else’s bank account. 

Understanding the Problem

Financial problems are usually indicative of deeper problems elsewhere in a person’s life. Now, I’m not pitching to become your therapist, but I am suggesting that if you want to turn your financial situation around, a thorough and honest appraisal of where you’re at today is the best place to start.

The first step is to observe what’s happening now. You’re not changing anything yet because you don’t know what needs to be changed and what doesn’t.

For the next three months you’re going to log each and every purchase and financial transaction you make. You’re either going to write it in a notebook or log the data in an app. And you’re not going to cheat by missing purchases out.

[Elle: Or you can use Mint to manage your budget and to grab all that data for you in about 15-20 minutes. It’s free and easy to use!]

What this does is tell you exactly where you are spending your money. You might be spending too much on entertainment, or credit card interest. You might be spending only on what you need, but you just don’t earn enough in the first place. Wherever the problem lies, the process of logging purchases will show you what needs fixing and what’s working fine.

Taking Control

Now you know where the problem lies, it’s time to do something about it. If it’s a larger salary, or smaller outgoings that are needed, this is where you take action. This is where you make the decisions necessary to make money work for you and not against you.

Having observed the flow of money in your life, you’ll be aware of how much you need to make your life function properly. This is where hobbies, passions and other skills you’ve acquired through life can play their part.

Using your time to make money doing things you enjoy is not just good for your bank account; it’s good for your spirit.

The Money Drug

Currency is the grease of society. Money gets things done. Getting things done makes us feel good. In turn money makes us feel good. It can make us feel powerful, sexy, or secure. But for some people, money is the crazy-maker in their lives, painting them into corners and leaving just enough room on chase their tails. For others it can makes them forget themselves as they focus solely on money and not how money can help them do our best in the world.

Regardless of whether we’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between, it’s important to separate our identities from our bank accounts, our assets and the contents of our wallets.

Make Saving a Priority

I used to live in Great Britain, where lottery winners would stand in front of TV cameras holding champagne flutes and talking about how their newly acquired fortunes would change everything. They still do.

A couple of years ago I moved to Germany. One night over dinner with friends, the question was asked “What would you do if you won the lottery?”

All the Germans in the room said the same thing: “I’d save it.” I found the idea that they wouldn’t sink it all into huge houses, fast cars and the luxury lifestyle fascinating.

The conversation made me think again about the nature of the relationships we have with money and maybe it was time to put a plug on those spending leaks.

Guest post contributed by Sally Shaws who writes about issues related to personal finance and financial freedom. She also writes about volunteering for clinical trials as an alternative income stream and a means to boost finances. You can visit volunteers.gsk for more on paid clinical trials.

Photo Credit: Plumbing Repair

Cell Phones – Should We Stay on Contract or Go Prepaid?

prepaid android cell phone

In a couple of months our contract will be up with Sprint and we’ll have a decision to make – stay with Sprint and sign a new contract, go month to month with Sprint, or switch providers. When looking around at contract deals with other cell phone providers nothing tempting seems to be out there right now.

prepaid android cell phone

However another option is getting a bit of steam – using prepaid phone plans. When I was a college student and had a limited budget using a prepaid service like Virgin Mobile made sense. As cell phones have become more sophisticated and smart phones more common, prepaid looked like a worse option.

Nowadays, though, the prepaid phones have gotten better and the plans have gotten competitive, both in price and in service. Some of this is probably due to the big carriers like AT&T and Sprint being providers for many of these prepaid services.

What to Look For When Comparing Cell Phone Plans

If you want to get the best deal, looking at the price is just one thing that needs to be on your check list. Here’s what I check out when comparing providers and services:

  • Monthly Price: Staying within budget is a big concern so start with the numbers.
  • Area Coverage: Make sure you can get solid service in the areas you’re going to be the most in. If you travel a bit make sure you have some roaming included.
  • Services Covered: If you’re grabbing a data plan, make sure it’s adequate for how you actually use it.
  • Fees: Double check to make sure you won’t get nickeled and dimed with your provider.
  • Extra Features: What services do you get included with your plan? Some regional carriers are limited.

Once you’ve examined the plans, it’s time to look at the phones offered. As I was checking I noticed that the phones have improved, but I did not see any top of the line phones on the prepaid plans. For many people though it’s a non-issue.

For us, we still have time to look at our options, perhaps we’ll find a great deal later this year.

Thoughts on Switching from Contract to Prepaid and Vice Versa

How many of you have made the leap between contracts and prepaid phones? Which was the better deal for you and why? Which provider would you recommend and why?

T-Mobile

Photo Credit: Android Phone

Why We Haven’t Worried About ATM Fees In Years and Why You Shouldn’t Either

As we were getting finances together years ago, I looked for money leaks that we could fix. One that was easy to save on was ATM fees. Those fees are usually between $2-$4 each time you use an ATM not affiliated with your bank. Sometimes you charged by both the ATM owner and your bank or sometimes you’re charged on side. Either way, you can avoid these fees 99% of the time.

Never Pay ATM Fees Again! 

Here are some tips that has helped me and others when it comes to avoiding ATM fees.

  • Go to your own bank  or credit union’s ATMs. It’s obvious, but I’ve seen people not go to their ATM because it is slightly out of their way. Going to your own financial institution’s ATMs will save money. However if your bank or credit union doesn’t really have conveniently located ATMs, you may want to switch where you bank.
  • Find no fee ATMs. One of the biggest no fee ATM networks out there is  Allpoint. We found out about the network through Capital 360 as they use them. Besides Allpoint,I know certain gas stations like Wawa off no fee ATMs. Be careful though because you bank may still charge you (which I think is ridiculous). You can open a checking account with Capital 360, simply click here to get started and get a $50 bonus!
  • Use cash back with your debit card.I’ve used my debit card to take care of two errands in one. I’ve picked up groceries and grabbed cash for the week in a single trip. When you’re pressed for time, it is really handy.
  • Think ahead with the ATM. Instead of making several trips to the to grab $40 at a time, have a weekly withdrawal and grab what you actually need. Having a planned amount can also keep you on budget.

Thoughts on ATM Fees

When was the last time you got hit with an ATM fee? How much was it? Did you get it waived?

Photo Credit: TheTruthAbout…

Betterment Gift Registry – Is It For You?

betterment gift review

For those who haven’t read my Betterment review, Betterment offer easy investment solutions for those looking into passive investing. Now they released a new option this week that can be a great help for those looking at giving a practical gift that can build in value – Betterment Gifts.

Gift Registries That Matter

With loved ones celebrating life events like marriages and births, having a gift registry can be incredibly helpful for both the recipients and the givers. When we were planning our wedding, we worked hard at creating a registry that only had these we planned on using many times. No one wants to give or get a gift that’s not needed or wanted.

It was smaller than the typical registry, but givers knew that if they bought something off the list, we’d truly use it as we settled into our first apartment together. Besides guifts, we were also grateful to receive cash and checks as gifts. Instead of splurging that money, we instead used it for savings, including as seed money for our house down payment.

Creating a Betterment Gift Registry betterment gift review

When I heard about Betterment’s new service I thought of how helpful it would be for couples and families to use for long term goals. I asked for more information. I wanted to see how hard or easy it was for customers to create and give on their site.

The good news is that Betterment makes it simple to create a registry for your special event.

  • Create a new account or login to your existing Betterment account
  • Click “add new registry”
  • Create a preferred URL address for people to visit
  • Choose an event type for your registry
  • You can now give the details of the event. Please enter an event name, date, description, and location.
  • Add your investing goal and select which account you want the gifts contributed towards.
  • Go ahead and save your registry and make it public.

Betterment Gifts – Easy and No Fees for Giving

Giving a gift through Betterment is even easier. You simply need a credit or debit card and the money is contributed towards the recipient’s goal. Betterment doesn’t charge a transaction or credit card fee for your deposit.

Thoughts on Betterment Gifts

I’d really like to hear from you. For those getting ready for a big life event like getting married or having a baby, what are your plans? Are you going to have a gift registry? What are you planning on including in it?