We’re cleaning out our home too.
The age-old question of payoff debt versus an emergency fund – which is more important?
If you have debt, then you know that the interest you are paying is a drain on your finances. You are correct, that interest is a waste of your hard-earned money. You know that you need an emergency fund and you have been meaning to start one, but you just don’t have the money.
Which should you tackle first? Let’s assume you have $500 in your budget to work with and we will look at a couple of scenarios.
#1 – You have debt totaling $10,000 and you are paying the minimum payment of $250 per month at an interest rate of 20%. It will take you 67 months (5+ years) and you will have paid back $16,750 ($6,750 in interest). That’s assuming you don’t take on more debt.
Then you put the remaining $250 to start your emergency fund.
#2 – You increase your payment on your debt to $500 per month. It will take you 25 months (just over 2 years) and you will have paid back $12,500.
You will not be starting your emergency fund until after the debt is paid. What would you do if an emergency expense happened? How would you pay for it?
As you can see, the answer is somewhere in the middle and you can think outside the box for faster results. You could look into reducing the interest rate on your debt – refinancing, balance transfer for a lower interest rate etc. The quicker you payoff the balance, the less you will pay in interest.
You need an emergency fund to be prepared for whatever happens in life. You will want to start to save something on a regular basis each and every month, even if you have debt.
Friendship and money – these are things we treasure, but sometimes they can be at odds. I can remember when I started my first business and money was tight. I had friends that wanted us to do what we had always done in the past – going to dinner, going to a sporting event / concerts and more – just like old times.
I remember thinking, I can’t afford this right now. Don’t they realize I just started a business and I am not making the money I used to? How could they even ask this of us to do this? All these thoughts went through my head, but I was too embarrassed to say them out loud.
One of the things I look back on and wish that I was able to share my thoughts. But I didn’t share my thoughts. I kept up outside appearances and did whatever with my friends anyway. I didn’t want to disappoint our friends. I didn’t want them to think that we didn’t have the money. In reality, we didn’t have the money then and we were keeping up outside appearances to “keep up with the Jones” instead of being true to ourselves.
This was and is a hard lesson to learn. We all want to have everything and marketing makes us believe we need all of this. Do we? I think this comes with age and wisdom and I wish I had learned this earlier in life, but I know this now. I know that I treasure time with friends and quiet time and not necessary the stuff.
I personally have grown over time from this young woman and now am more able to express my feeling / situation to others. I can turn down invites, that I don’t want to do. I can say, that’s not something I really want to spend money on. I can request separate checks versus splitting the bill 50/50. All of these are choices that you get to make because it’s your money and time.
Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts out loud to your friends. Be gracious in your words no matter which side you are on. Friendship and money are always going to be a part of your life. Be comfortable with your friends and money and be willing to share your feelings with others. Maybe they are feeling the same and can’t express it.
This newsletter, we are going to talk about spending too much! Personally, we upgraded the master bedroom and bath. In addition to the insurance deductible, we added on the additional expense of better bathroom fixtures – granite counter, higher end faucet, natural stone ceramic tile and more. Yes, we did spend more (maybe too much). With a new year beginning, we need to reign in our expenses and rebuild our savings.
If your 2017 goal is to track your expenses and come up with your actual budget, there is an exercise I like my clients to do when they have their budget created. Take out two different color highlighters. Use one color for your fixed expenses (amounts that can’t easily change) and then use the second color for expenses that you can adjust or eliminate. Typically, I see three areas for the adjust or eliminate category:
- Penalty fees (late fees, overdraft, over limit, etc.)
- Do it yourself fees – these are things that you pay others to do that you could do yourself and save money (lawn maintenance, snow removal, housecleaning, coffee, manicure / pedicure, laundry, trash pick-up, etc.)
- Life extras – these are the things that you do that you could reduce or live without (entertainment, movies, concerts, dinning out / take-out food, personal care, etc.)
Now make a list of five ways to reduce or eliminate specific items. For example, I could find a teen to shovel my snow versus paying a snow plowing service.I could download a movie for free (Hoopla) or borrow from the library versus renting and not returning on time and incurring a late fee. I could balance my checkbook regularly to know how much money I have available and not incur an overdraft fee. These are just a couple of ideas. Now make your list and track your savings. How much did you save this month? How much would that be in one year?
Are you getting the hang of it? Are there more ways to reduce or save on your expenses? Share what expenses you have reduced or eliminated by 5pm EST on March 10, 2017 as a comment below and you could win a copy of my new book 111 Ways To Save. Three winners will be selected randomly at the end of March.
In praise of emergency funds! I can’t say enough about having an emergency fund to use in times of an emergency, as well as having the protection of insurance. We had a big life emergency this time, and it could have been much worse.
While Dave and I were out of the house for about an hour and a half, an emergency struck our house. A feeder line for the toilet broke and we came back to a small geyser. Not only was the bathroom flooded, the water flowed into the master bedroom and then down into the basement. Ugh! You can imagine the damage this has caused. But it could have been much worse.
So this is how our afternoon went:
* Shut off the water – we had individual shutoffs installed all over the house
* Next the clean-up began – towels, wet vacuums and more
* Contacted the insurance company to file a claim. This is the first homeowners claim we ever filed.
* Started the removal of the damaged stuff, and this was hard without Dave being able to move things.
* The insurance company sent out Service Master to remediate the damage. They moved the heavy furniture, installed the industrial fans and dehumidifiers to lessen the damage
* Next day we had to replace the modem, as we lost phone and internet service. It’s difficult to make multiple calls with only a cell phone.
* The drying out stage lasted for days. It included the carpets, hardwood floors, ceramic tiles, sheet rock, furniture and that’s only the big stuff!
Now we are at the rebuilding stage, with the contractors giving us estimates for replacing floors, hard wood and tile, sheet rocking the portion of the walls that were cut away with water damage, painting of rooms, replacing furniture and items that were damaged and more.
Living in a disorganized home as two rooms of furniture and personal items had to be moved out of the rooms and the basement, made our home somewhat of an obstacle course for quite a few weeks. Hopefully by the holidays, we can be back to our organized house.
Finances don’t have to be difficult, but there are things you need to think about when you get into a relationship. You have a way of handling your finances and it’s worked great for you and you like the system.Your partner has a way of handling their finances and it works for them. Seems simple enough. Then you find out that you do things totally opposite. Now what?
You have to come to a compromise that both of you are comfortable with. First, start by really listening to your partner and putting yourself in their shoes. It’s hard to do, but it’s really important. Listen to their reasoning and why they do what they do. Then have the same conversation with the roles reversed. Now come up with a negotiated and agreed upon game plan.
This will take multiple conversations and time. If you both agree to the plan, you have conquered the first hurdle. Here are some of the questions you need to come to an agreement on:
$ What are our goals / what do we want to achieve?
$ How do we get there?
$ Who is going to be responsible for what? Think bill paying, savings, spending, bank reconciliation, credit, debt, investments, retirement, and more.
I have seen this work in many different ways. Here are a few examples:
They keep everything separate. Each person keeps their own income in their own bank accounts.They have agreed to who pays for what bills. Each handles their own investments and goals.
One person handles the big/long term items of the finances and the other handles the day to day finances. So long term is for the future – investments, retirement, savings, college, home buying, etc. and short term are more of the daily finances – bill paying, household purchases, routine items that are in the day to day budget.
The do everything together philosophy. All happens with a meeting of the minds and each person is involved in all aspects of the family finances.
No matter what you choose and how you choose to handle your finances, it all starts with communication and a game plan. All people should know what is going on, where to find the information and how to access it. After my mother died, my father had a hard time figuring out the finances, as he wasn’t involved with them.
Make your joint choices and know that you have the option of trying and changing until you find what is right for the both of you.
We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t keep up with the Jones”. What does it really mean? You are fine with your sofa and all is well with your family. Then your friends gets this really nice brand new sofa that is gorgeous. Then you start to think, my sofa is older, starting to look its age, maybe had a stain in the corner, you start to rationalize that you need a new sofa too.
Just because someone else gets something new, you don’t necessarily need that too. That’s keeping up with the Jones’. All of these steps are hard to do. You have friends and family showing you their new things, marketing showing you the bright shiny items that you love to own, but do you need it?
Needs and wants are a hard subject to learn. You have to come to some balance of what you want and what you can afford. So in my example above, you can do some thinking – there are choices in etween the current sofa and the new sofa:
- Current sofa
- Clean the sofa
- Buy a slip cover
- Reupholster the sofa
- Buy a second hand sofa
- Buy a new sofa
See how many choices that I just wrote out between the current sofa and the cost of a new sofa. Some of these in between steps may work better with your budget. You don’t always need to have the latest, greatest new item.
If financial independence is something that you aspire to, then you need to work on all three of these steps, to get your finances in order once and for all.
This is part 2 of 3 of obtaining financial independence.
Spending less than you earn, sounds easy – but is it? The basic principle is if you earn $100 then you need to spend less than $100. That’s the general rule. But there are times in our lives that this isn’t possible. When you are just out of school and your rent, utilities and student loans are almost your whole paycheck, you may experience times when you are not working – in between jobs, can’t work for medical issues etc., these make spending less than you earn a challenge.
If you have been reading this newsletter, you know that my husband had been home from work after shoulder surgery and is not getting paid while he is recovering. So what is our household supposed to do to spend less than we earn? The answer for us is to reduce our expenses and to fund the shortfall with our savings. Luckily this was a planned surgery, so we had time to plan ahead to save. But this may not be possible for everyone. First, you have to have a savings to fall back on to get through whatever life throws at you.
Spending less than you earn is critical to financial independence, as you have to save on a regular basis, putting a regular amount from each and every paycheck into savings first – pay yourself first.
Here’s how to start:
- Take a calendar out and mark your paydays.
- Determine the amount that you want to save. It’s okay to start small ($10 a week) and then increase often.
- Set up automatic system. There are two ways to do this – with direct deposit have your paycheck split by your employers so that the amount you want to save is directly taken from paycheck and deposited to your saving.The other way is to set it up with online banking and have a transfer from your checking to your savings.
There are some suggestions to making this work. Make sure not to link your savings account to your ATM card. You may want to have this savings account in another bank or credit union – not where your checking is located. You want to have access if you need the money but not have easy access to use if when you just want something. It’s too easy to transfer money without thinking.
So for that $100 you earn, you will want to save money first – pay yourself first, then live off the rest. The rest is what you pay your bills with, shop for your necessities and the money to have fun with. Yes, that’s a lot, but I know you can make it work. You want to be conscious of what and where you spend your money, so that you can make choices. Do you want to purchase that now or have that money saved for later? The choice is yours.
Yes, we all probably want this and therein lies the problem. How do we attain this?
There are some generally agreed upon principles that are good practices that we all should attain to:
- Avoid consumer debt
- Spend less than you earn/Pay yourself first (save)
- Don’t keep up with the Jones’
These are all great suggestions and work really well, but what if you need to work on some of these steps. In my opinion it all goes back to budgeting. Budgeting is the road map of your finances. You can see where your money is going and then make the necessary steps to eliminate consumer debt, reduce your spending, save by paying yourself first and break your habit of keeping up with the Jones’. It may sound simple but it isn’t. So with this issue and the next three I will tackle these issues.
Today, let’s look at avoiding consumer debt. This can be difficult to attain. But on the other hand, this is so important – too important not to strive for.
There have been times in my life that I have had more debt than I would like to admit. Yes, this happens to me too. In my opinion, there are two steps to start on the path to being debt free. First, you have to stop creating debt. Yes, you heard me. You need to do whatever it takes to avoid adding more to the debt. With that said, you can’t put every extra penny towards your debt and not have an emergency fund. Otherwise, the next time an emergency happens and you don’t have a fund to fall back on, you will create more debt.
In May and June, my husband had surgery and was home from work for a month without pay. We only had about 6 weeks’ notice to plan for this. We got through this period with the help of the emergency fund and savings to cover the shortfall. This was the key to us being able to live and pay the bills. Without the savings to fall back on, we would have had to use credit cards and create debt. So you can see how having an emergency savings plays a big part in getting rid of debt.
Back to the debt. Second, there are many ways to tackle this. Start by taking an honest look at your all your debt. Make a list including how much you owe, the minimum payment, interest rate, etc. I understand this is hard, but it’s necessary.
Now make the plan. You can payoff the smallest debt first to eliminate one debt (gives you momentum). You can payoff the debt with the highest interest rate (saves you money). You can plan to get more money (bringing in more income) with many options to add to your payment. Take some time to brainstorm what will work best for you and then put that plan into action.
You’ll need to stop creating additional debt and to create or increase your emergency fund. Next issue, I will discuss spending less than you earn/pay yourself first.
We all want to save for retirement, but there never seems to be enough money left over to save. Does this sound familiar?
The first rule of saving for retirement is, if you are offered free money take it. If your employer sponsored retirement plan offers you matching funds, take it. Contributing to a retirement plan through your paycheck is a great way to get started on the path of regular automatic saving. The earlier you start this habit the better off you will become. On the other side if you haven’t done this, it’s never too late to start now. In this case, free money is a good thing
Next you want to manage your debt. Debt is the enemy to your budget, so you want to avoid it at all cost. I am not saying don’t borrow or use credit, what I am saying is to use it wisely. Don’t become a slave to your debt and that you live paycheck to paycheck trying to keep up with your debt payments.
Charge wisely and only amounts that you can pay off easily. If you find yourself with an emergency and you have to borrow money, evaluate your options and make the choice that is best for you and your budget. Pay back the debt as quickly as possible to avoid as much of the finance / interest charges as possible.
Lastly, gratification – are you someone who needs instant gratification? Do you buy without a payback plan? Look at the food cost (groceries, dining out, take out etc.), shopping, memberships, entertainment etc. These are the expenses, that where the instant gratification that can harm your budget. These are the first defense against the leaks in your budget. Plug those holes to have more money for your retirement.
Think about your finances then make a plan to implement these strategies one by one. Once you master one, start the next. Remember that your finances will not change overnight, be patient and remember it takes time.