Favorite The No B.S. Quick and Easy Financial Guide

Instead of fluffing all this up, I’m going to get straight to the point and quickly.

Do you have good credit?

Yes- Are you sure? Is your credit report and score spotless and impressive?

No- Do you want good credit?

Why is it important to have good credit?

Do you ever in your entire life want to get a home loan, car loan, personal loan or credit card? Some employers check your credit report as part of the hiring process, bad credit can negatively impact your chances of getting some jobs.

Get your credit report and scores for free. DON’T pay a cent for either of these. Some places offer a free trial, don’t do it. All you need is the free versions.

Free Credit Reports- You can go to annualcreditreport.com and get your credit reports for free once a year from each of the 3 credit reporting bureaus. You can get these all at once or spread them out over the year (such as 1 every 4 months). (est. time about 8-15 minutes) Print it out or save a copy to your computer.

Free Credit Score- You can get your credit score for free through Credit Sesame and Credit Karma and then check it as often as you wish. I usually check mine once a month and have never paid them a cent. My FICO score was amazing close to my credit score from credit sesame, so if you’re planning to get a loan this can save you from purchasing your FICO score.

Why should you check your credit report and score? Basically, it gives you a starting point to see your progress, makes sure all the information is accurate and gives you an overview of your financial standing.

Some of my posts to help you with credit:

 


 

Saving for retirement:

Are you getting older each day? Me too. Do you have ridiculous amounts of money saved up for retirement or can you guarantee that you are going to win the lottery one day? Me neither.

Overall, we’re all going to get old one day and we can’t work forever. So we need to have money set aside to live on when we’re older. It’s simple, but it can be hard for people to see the importance of saving for retirement especially when it’s a way in the future.

How to get started saving for retirement:

401k- Most companies offer 401k programs, where employees can contribute a percentage of their pretax income. If your company offers a match, that is free money and you should try to take advantage of as much of it as you can.

You can get started by just contributing 1% to your 401k, it’s not much but it’s a great starting point. Then later on after you have adjusted your finances, you can increase it in 1% increments.

Can you afford to contribute 1% to your 401k? How much is 1% of your pretax income?

$500 = $5.00 per paycheck before any taxes come out, so it’s not actually $5.00 less of your take home, it’s probably more around $3-4

$750 = $7.50
$1,000 = $10.00
$1,250 = $12.50
$1,500 = $15.00
$1,750 = $17.50
$2,000 = $20.00
$2,500 = $25.00
$3,000 = $30.00
$3,500 = $35.00
$4,000 = $40.00

I’m sure you get the point by now, 1 percent of your pretax paycheck isn’t much. It’s enough to get you started and won’t have much impact on your take-home pay.

What if you don’t know what to do with the money once it’s in the 401k? You have a few options here:

* You can put (or keep it) in cash reserve form

* You can randomly pick a few funds or stocks (whatever your plan offers) and hope for the best

* You can pick a target date fund close to your expected year of retirement. Or if you want to be more aggressive, pick one way later than you want to retire. Or for a more conservative strategy with less risk, pick a target date fund in the next 10 years.

* Ask somebody who knows about investing to take a look at the options and help you choose.

Getting started saving for retirement is really what is important, not so much what you’re choosing off the bat. You can always switch things later down the road.

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs are another great way to save for retirement. The money you contribute to these your aftertax dollars (take home pay).

Sharebuilder.com is where our Roth IRA is and I’ve been fairly happy with them so far. You can even get a bonus for opening your account which is helpful to get started. You even earn a little bit of interest on you money that just sits in the account, so you can take your time to figure out what you want to do with it.

Betterment.com: Betterment also offers Roth IRAs and the great thing about having your Roth IRA with Betterment is that they take care of everything for you. You don’t have to worry about what to invest your money in. You just choose your allocations, how much you want to go into stocks and how much you want to go to bonds and that’s it. I’ve been looking into Betterment and will be switching our Roth IRA over here soon, it’s good stuff.

Roth IRA savings accounts: Captial One 360 offers Roth IRA savings accounts where you just let your money sit and earn interest. I’m not sure that this is the best way to grow your money, but if you don’t want to worry about investing, it’s better than not saving at all. I started out with this and was able to easily transfer the money to our Sharebuilder investing account when I was ready to start investing it. There are many options out there, you just have to look.

Some of my posts to help you with retirement are:

 


 

Budgeting:

How sick are you of hearing “spend less than you make”? Probably a lot, but there is a reason why everybody and their dog continuously spews this most basic point.

So do it! Spend less money than make each and every paycheck and things will get better. If there is anything left the next time you get paid, save your leftovers.

If you’re currently spending more than you make, you have 3 options (none of which include lottery tickets).

Option 1: Reduce your expenses (cut out non-essentials and anything you can honestly live without, use coupons, take advantage of rebates, start a garden, cook more meals from scratch, reduce the amount of meat you use in your meals or go without it more often, make your own laundry soap and cleaning solutions, shop the sales, stretch every dollar as much as humanly possible).

Option 2: Increase your income (try to get some overtime, sell off stuff you no longer use, get a 2nd job, get a paper route, mow lawns, earn money online, whatever you can do).

Option 3: Reduce expense & Increase your income (really drive it home in the budget department)

If you get paid bi-weekly, you can use this to your advantage (see my post: Paying Your Bills With Bi-weekly Paychecks).

Some of my posts to help you out with budgeting are:

 


 

Spending:

If you don’t have the money for it, then you can’t afford it. If you have some available credit on your credit card, that does NOT count as having the money for it.

Spend your money on things that are necessary and things that are truly important to you.

Put off purchases for a set amount of time, 1 week or even a month to make sure you truly want the item as much as you think. Oftentimes, the desire fades or something new and better takes it’s place. Don’t give into instant gratification and your finances will be much healthier in the long run.

You work very hard for your money, so don’t waste it.

When you do decide to spend your money on something, look around for the best deal. Is there a cheaper price at a different store? Any rebates for the item? Can you earn gas rewards at your grocery store if you purchase a gift card to pay for your purchase? Can you earn money back on your purchase by using Cash-back shopping online?

Whatever you do though, do NOT completely deprive yourself or you will have a very hard time. Sometimes it’s best to start with baby steps.

Some of my posts to help you with your spending:

 


 

Saving Money:

Saving money doesn’t have to be difficult, but there will always be times that are worse than others. Most times, the hardest part is not touching the money you have saved.

The easiest way to not touch your saved money is to keep to your budget and pretend you don’t have any money saved. This works best if you have an online savings/checking account that is separate from your everyday accounts.

Personally, I use CapitalOne360 (formerly ING Direct) and have been since 2007 and our everyday banking is with a local physical bank. The ability to transfer small amounts (yes, even under a dollar) was what got me started with all this finance stuff in the first place.

Starting out to save money doesn’t have to be painful. Do you have a buck? Then you can start now. Don’t wait, just do what you can, when you can. I promise, in the end it all adds up and the sooner you get started, the easier it will be.

A few of my posts to help get you saving:

 


 

Obviously, I can’t shove every morsel of my financial knowledge into one post, but this should be enough to get you started and point you in the right direction.

If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it via social media or email. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Saving!

Tips to Avoid Bounced Check Fees

Bounced check fees often put consumers in a financial bind. Most banks charge an average of $35 per bounced check each time the deposit is attempted. Some retailers submit checks multiple times. This causes a bounced check fee with each attempt. In some cases, a single bounced check results in over $100 in additional fees.

Check Balances Daily

In order to keep your bank account in the positive, check your balance daily. This also means that you should automatically deduct the amount of any checks you have written from the daily balance on that day. This tells you exactly how much you have available and will help prevent overspending.

Getting into the habit of deducting checks before they hit the bank is a good practice to maintain. This will help you to know what your balance and available funds are at all times.

Don’t Write Checks your Funds Can’t Cover

When you know that you don’t have money to cover a check, just don’t write it. You will end up kicking yourself in the future for purposely bouncing a check. If you have too many and they remain unpaid, this can result in legal action being taken against you and you can go to jail for bounced checks, depending on the amount and frequency.

Don’t Use Checks

If you know your spending habits and your desire to bounce checks is prominent, forget that you have them available. It is easier to maintain your finances and not bounce checks if you only use your debit card. These transactions come off of your balance immediately. Watch your account though because some retailers wait a few days to complete the transaction or it is allowed to fall off and be completed later. Simply deduct your purchases as you make them, just as you would with a check.

With the tips above you can completely stop bouncing checks. It is up to you to be diligent in knowing your available balance. One of the negatives with writing checks is that it can take several weeks for them to be processed. When checks are mailed to retailers or creditors for payment, it can take up to a week for them to receive the payment. It may take another week for them to apply the payment and up to another week for the check to finally reach your bank account. This is how many consumers find themselves with multiple bounce checks and steep fees.

Mortgages Prompt Aussies to Save More

Australians who own homes and have mortgages are putting more money in savings accounts than they have in recent memory. As of mid-2013, the average Australian household had tripled its savings account over the previous two years. This information, which was made available through the ING Direct Financial Well-Being Index, may seem promising, but it also highlights the major gap between older Australians and their younger counterparts. After all, first home buyers are struggling more than ever to afford ever-increasing home prices, and many find it difficult – or even impossible – to save up deposits in the first place.

How Aussies are Saving More

The biggest driver behind the ballooning size of many Australian homeowners’ savings accounts can be traced back to the record-low interest rates that have favored the market in recent years. Indeed, rates continue to be low, and many homeowners are wisely taking the money they’d otherwise be sinking into interest and putting it in their savings accounts. At the time of the ING Direct report, the average savings account in Australia was just under $15,500. Low interest rates are definitely making it easier for Aussies to save, but another factor that shouldn’t be ignored is the inevitable rise in those rates. For many Aussies, building large savings accounts is more about having a buffer than anything else.

Homeownership Still Beyond Reach of Many Australians

While many homeowners around the country are amassing nice savings account balances, many others who don’t already own homes are finding it more and more difficult to make homeownership a reality. Unlike their home-owning counterparts, these Aussies often find it difficult or downright impossible to save up the money that’s needed to qualify for mortgages. Most need to put down anywhere from five percent to 20 percent to get their foot in the door, and the lackluster job market, escalating home prices and high unemployment rates are holding them back.

Saving Now is Wise

As nice as it is to have low interest rates for mortgages, it won’t last forever. In fact, many expect rates to creep up slowly but surely over the next 18 months. By saving what they can now, Aussie homeowners can soften the blow when their monthly repayments increase due to higher interest rates. Regardless of people’s reasons for saving, it’s never a bad idea. The bigger a household’s buffer is, and the more financially aware they are the less likely it is to run into trouble affording the mortgage.