Steps to Budget Based on Your Values

Are you finding yourself struggling to stick to a budget? Many clients and Millennials that I talk to are always excited once we are done talking about how to budget. I’ve realized that, like myself, we missed out on not just financial literacy but how to view our money. I have four ways that will help you start to think of your money as a tool to create a better life where you spend your money according to what you value. Here are my four steps to start.

What Are Your Values?

Often I’ve found myself in the past spending money on items that I didn’t use for very long or were poor quality. I’ve learned over time that if we develop an understanding of our values we can learn to spend money with a wiser purpose. When we spend wisely, our budgets become easier to manage and we start to control our finances without them controlling us. (For more from this author, see: 5 Ways to Improve Your Finances Throughout Life.)

From Values to Goals

Our values will lead to our goals in life. If you value family, I

U.S. City With High Pay and Low Cost of Living

Many factors influence where we choose to live. While our home’s proximity to friends and family is a crucial deciding factor, ultimately where we decide to live is influenced by our finances. The two major factors influencing where we live are the cost of living and the income potential in a given region. The problem with looking at these two factors individually, however, is that they often are highly influenced by one another and have a strong positive correlation. Fat paychecks in New York City and San Francisco translate into $20 salads, exorbitant rents, and surge-priced Uber rides. (To learn more, read: How the Cost of Living Affects Your Income.)

When we dissect the data, it’s apparent that the most affordable cities to live in while earning an excellent living are in the middle of the country, rather than along the expensive coasts. We’ve compiled a list of the best cities in the U.S. that combine a low cost of living with relatively high per capita income compared with the rest of the nation.

Houston, Texas

The city of Houston benefits from a high domestic migration rate and a high economic growth rate.

How to Find a Cheap, Last-Minute Vacation

Maybe you’ve been extra busy this year, but suddenly you look up from the computer screen and notice summer slipping away. Can you still find a cheap (OK, cheapish) last-minute vacation? You can and it won’t take all that much work on your end. What will help: flexibility.

1. First, Find a Cheap Itinerary

There are cheaper days and cheaper dates to fly. Experiment with itineraries as you shop to find the best prices. Not surprisingly, you’ll notice that sometimes the more inconvenient the travel days and times are, the cheaper the airfare.

  • Fly these days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are usually the cheapest days for domestic travel. Weekdays are usually cheaper than weekends for international travel.
  • Fly this date: Delay your vacation or getaway trip until around Aug. 22 (or beyond) and you will likely see prices drop from peak summer pricing to cheaper fall fares.
  • Suggested itineraries: For week-long vacations, try flying Saturday to Saturday. For a shorter break, try Wednesday to Saturday or Saturday to Tuesday. As you shop, move the dates around, plus/minus three days and see what works

Merchant Accounts for the Riskiest Industries

Most of the 10 industries that market research firm IBISWorld has identified as the riskiest are in in a constant change and still adjusting to the changing market conditions caused by the recession.

The overall risk score calculation of the mentioned riskiest businesses is based on the risks pertaining to industry structure (structural risk), expected future performance (growth risk), and economic forces (sensitivity risk). 1 represents the lowest risk and 9 represents the highest.

Even if you’re involved in a high risk industry and have a difficult time opening a merchant account, a reputable payment processor that specializes in the field can help you overcome the challenges with ease. With a respectable processor, you can easily get approved for high risk merchant accounts and be able to take your business to new heights.

Recordable Media Manufacturing (Risk Score 7.24)

Risks: Digital media formats and online streaming


Great Ideas for Your Summer Staycation

As the kids finish school and the weather heats up, many people are getting excited about long-awaited summer vacations. Summer vacations are a time to relax, unwind and spend some quality time with loved ones. Big vacations, however, do require quite a bit of planning and, of course, can end up costing some serious cash, especially with a whole family in tow.

If you haven’t gotten around to making summer vacation plans, or it’s just not in the cards this year, you might be the perfect candidate for a summer staycation. (A staycation can be just as enjoyable as a vacation, and can enrich your life for the whole year. Check out Affordable Staycation Ideas for Families.)

A staycation is like a vacation, only you spend it at home. Instead of spending lots of money on airfare and expensive hotels, you can take advantage of the attractions your area has to offer that you never get a chance to enjoy. This includes your house – when was the last time you relaxed at home? A few ground rules will help ensure you have a successful staycation:

  • Put it on the calendar  with a start date and an

Ways to Stunt a Child’s Financial Growth

Financial knowledge isn’t built into our DNA. It has to be learned. Unlike long division and gymnastics, personal finance is not properly covered in school (if covered at all). So it falls upon parents to impart financial knowledge to their children. Unfortunately it’s easy to slip up and make mistakes. In this article, we’ll look at five ways you may be stunting your child’s financial growth.

The Vow of Silence

A lot of funding has been put into researching why kids fall into particular traps. Teen pregnancy, drug use, underage drinking and many other early problems have been traced back to a lack of communication – hence, the “if you’re not teaching your kids about ____, then who is?” campaigns. A lack of financial education doesn’t seem as serious as a drug addiction, but its long-term consequences are quite severe. Remaining mum on financial matters sends the message that either money is not important, or it’s something to fear and never mention. Neither of these are lessons that help with the financial realities children will face as they grow up.

If you’re not willing to teach good financial habits to your children, the school system and

The Beauty of Budgeting

Can you name a Fortune 500 company that doesn’t have a budget? Don’t spend too much time thinking about it – there aren’t any. Successful businesses around the world have one thing in common: they budget their money. And they do it because it works.

But although making money and making a budget appear to go hand-in-hand, a 2013 Gallup poll found that only one in three Americans prepared a detailed written or computerized household budget. Things may be improving somewhat: A survey in 2015 found a much higher number said they budgeted (36% on paper and 26% on a computer or smartphone app). On the other hand, another 18% didn’t budget and a matching number answered “yes” to keeping the information “all in your head.”

If you’re one of the non-budgeters (or sketchy budgeters), we’ll show you how to get a better idea of how you spend your money by putting together – and sticking to – a personal budget.

Part of America’s aversion to budgeting may be rooted in language. The word “budget” – much like the word “diet” – has negative connotations. Budgets and diets are viewed

Student Loan Forgiveness: How Does it Work?

For decades, educators have encouraged young people to get increasingly expensive post-secondary degrees that provide arguably decreasing real returns in the labor market, and to take out large subsidized loans, regardless of their career choices.

In 2016, the average college graduate borrowed between $26,450 and $31,200. Fortunately, some borrowers may find relief. There are many programs in place, some old and some new, through which debt forgiveness is possible, and we should expect more programs to surface in the near future, as untenable student debt burdens become a larger political topic.

Using Debt Forgiveness

Debt forgiveness programs are exactly what they sound like. In a student loan forgiveness program, qualifying borrowers may have some or all of their public student debt forgiven, either immediately or over a period of time. Unfortunately, none of these programs forgive private loans. The only known methods of discharging or removing private loan amounts is through bankruptcy or a one-off restructuring with the borrower’s private lender.

Currently, there are four major programs and several other minor programs that might cancel or significantly reduce your federal student loan balance. The major ones are Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Perkins loan cancellation, income-based repayment and Teacher

Should You Pay in Cash?

Articles and books on personal finance generally pack in as many tips as possible in an effort to make at least a couple essential ones stick. This shotgun approach is worth it if it helps readers learn to pay themselves first, spend less than they make, and so on, but saying too much sometimes means explaining too little.

In this article we’ll focus on just one technique to improve your finances, by taking a close at how making purchases with cash can contribute to your ability to budget, save and invest.

A Plastic Paradise

With the proliferation of plastic alternatives to hard currency, some people consider carrying cash a throwback.

To be fair, plastic is much sexier than a piece of colored paper with a dead president staring vaguely into the distance. Some banks even allow you to customize the graphics that appear on the credit card/debit card or choose from a range of designs and colors the company is marketing.

There is also the security advantage with debit and credit cards. Debit cards are protected by your personal identification number (PIN) and credit cards by your signature (and for some cards, a PIN number too). Cash is only protected by your ability

Ways to Save a Buck With Destination Weddings

Ah yes, a destination wedding. Who hasn’t seen those beautiful pictures? White-sand beaches, lush coconut trees leaning over emerald waters, the silhouette of the beautiful bride and groom kissing against a gorgeous sunset…you can literally breathe in the love in the air.

Until this week, as a guy who’s never been married, I always thought destination weddings were really expensive. First of all, everyone has to fly to the destination and the newlyweds are probably flipping the bill. Having heard countless complaints about how expensive wedding venues are here in California I can’t even imagine how much more it is at a resort on an island. Then there is the reception, the flowers, the rehearsals…all seems to cost a bundle.

All this changed when I got invited to a destination wedding at a beautiful resort in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic. I realized my understanding of this topic was almost entirely wrong. (For related reading, see: Have a Charming (and Cheap) Wedding.)

How Destination Weddings Can Save You Money

  1. Paying for your guests’ travel is optional: Many of us plan to travel to the tropics sometimes in the future—Mexico, Belize, Virgin Islands, Bahamas, etc. If you plan far enough

Why Some Kids Never Leave The Nest

It’s an international phenomenon: the kids that won’t go away. The Italians call them “mammon”, or “mama’s boys”. The Japanese call them “parasaito shinguru”, or “parasite singles”. In the United States they are known as “boomerangs”, and in the U.K. they are called “KIPPERS”, which is short for “kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings”. According to 2016 data from the Pew Research Center, close to 32% of Americans aged 18-34 were living with their parents. And if we expand this category to include those living with relatives outside of their immediate family, the statistic rises to almost 40 percent, according to CBS. Generally speaking, this is a more common practice for sons than daughters. Surveys in the United Kingdom and Japan suggest a similar situation in those countries. In this article, we discuss some of the reasons why kids may be living with their parents for longer periods of time and outline some steps that parents can take to reduce the potential for negative effects – both for their kids and for themselves.

The Benefits Of Staying Home
Growing up is not only tough, it is increasingly expensive. In the quest for a rewarding career, many young adults

Fastest Growing Industries in the United States

Construction in the United States is on the upswing. Seven of the top 10 fastest-growing industries in the country are related to construction. This data comes to us by way of the financial data provider Sageworks, which has compiled a list of the fastest-growing industries based on annual sales increases. This year, computer systems design and related services tops the list, followed by a variety of construction and utility-related industries.

1. Computer Systems Design and Related Services

This industry is far and away the fastest growing in the U.S. As quoted in Forbes, Sageworks analyst James Noe said, “There’s just an obvious need in the economy for these types of services. Everyone uses computers and businesses rely heavily on technology now, so in my mind, it’s a no-brainer that these types of services are growing fairly quickly.” According to a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 15 percent rise in employment in this field is expected from 2012 through 2022. Looks like that’s on track, with 18% growth last year.

2. Services to Buildings and Dwellings

This industry is comprised of all the establishments that provide services necessary for the maintenance

The Secret to Managing Your Finances

The first step when organizing your finances is to determine what it is you would like to accomplish. After your goals are set, the most important thing you need to take a good look at is your cash flow, so that you can figure out the necessary steps to fund your goals. I suggest doing this in three steps:

  1. Add up how much you are spending.
  2. Figure out how much you earn and pay in taxes.
  3. Subtract your expenses and taxes from your income to calculate your discretionary income.
This is a cash management analysis. It does two things: it brings awareness to your spending habits, your taxes, and your income, and it allows you to plan accordingly. By plan accordingly, I mean that when you are faced with a decision to buy a new or used car, to buy a bigger home, or even just to add a monthly cable bill to your expenses, you’ll know exactly how that is going to impact your cash flow. So let’s explore how to figure out your cash flow in a little more detail. (For related reading, see 3 Steps for Creating an Emergency Fund.)


The best way to know where

The Importance of Building Savings Habits Early

We’re taught to save money from the time we get our first tooth fairy payment, but when we’re young, saving doesn’t always seem necessary. A common belief is that saving is for people who are getting ready to buy their own house, put their kids through college, or retire.

Why Saving Money Early Is Key

First, it makes savings a habit. Take the tooth fairy profit, for example. The quarter a six-year-old saves from the dollar she found under her pillow isn’t going to fund her college tuition (a child only has so many teeth, you know). But having her tuck that little bit away in a savings account or piggy bank will get her into the habit of saving a little from everything she is given or earns in the future. The same goes for high schoolers and college students. Saving some of their summer job pay or internship income will prepare them for saving when they enter the work world full-time. Opening a Roth IRA sooner rather than later can be one of the best financial decisions that a young person can make.

Second, you may actually have more money now rather than later. A recent college grad

Plan of Household Expenditure to Save from Retirement

“I’m Too Busy to Plan for Retirement”

Like all of us, you’re busy. Retirement is a fuzzy, distant event that has nothing to do with shuttling the kids to lacrosse practice or dance lessons while making sure family members with five different schedules manage to eat a semi-healthy dinner every night.

Maybe you’re a professional, dutifully saving 3% of your salary into a 401(k) every year and getting 3% on top of that in matching funds by your employer. This is better than most Americans: this rate of savings will fund a retirement in some form, but probably not the retirement you want. Saving at least 10% of your income (or more if you’re getting a later start) is often what’s required given the increasing likelihood that you’ll live to 85, 90 or possibly even 100. (For more, see Can I Retire Yet?.)

Why I Hate “Budgets” and Love “Spending and Saving Plans”

What comes to mind when you hear the word “budget?” Either it feels like an exercise in denial or it feels like a tedious, hours-long exercise of tracking where every single nickel is going in your household.

While scrupulous tracking may be required if you are in

How Much in Savings You Need to Live Comfortably

According to the Federal Reserve’s study on economic well-being in U.S. households, published in 2016, Americans are satisfied with how they are doing financially. The number of adults reporting they are “living comfortably” or “doing okay” rose to 69%, up from 65% in 2014 and 62% in 2013. However, surveyors then asked a series of follow-up questions that called into serious question what most Americans perceive as comfortable. For example, 46% of study participants admitted that if an unexpected expense costing $400 arose, they would be unable to pay for it without selling property or borrowing money. Of the 22% of respondents who incurred an unexpected medical expense over the previous year, nearly half, or 46%, still had debt from that expense.

It’s difficult to rationalize the impressions most Americans have of their financial situations with actual numbers. Simple math indicates sizable overlap among those who claim they are doing fine financially, yet could not pay out of pocket for a basic car repair. This calls into question whether $400 in savings can support a comfortable existence. It also raises other interesting questions, such as how much in savings is truly sufficient to be financially secure, and how this number may vary based

Is Investing $25 a Month Worth It?

Any time you move money from your checking account to another account, whether it’s an individual retirement account (IRA), investing in stocks, mutual funds or savings account, you’re making an important step toward a financially secure future.

But what if you only have $25 a month to invest? Can you still secure your financial future? Or is it better to put it into a savings account until it’s large enough to counteract fees? This article will explain how to evaluate fees involved in small investments.

How to Translate Fees Into a Percentage of a $25 Investment

Saving $25 a month will total $300 in a year, not including any interest. A $40 fee on an investment account equals more than 13.33% of your investment. Thus, this $25 investment would have to earn more than $40 in a year just for you to break even. This means that if the fee was taken out at year’s end, you would have to earn a 27% return on your money to break even. Why 27% instead of 13%? The reason is because your money grows steadily, and you earn interest on the amount you have in your account. For example, after one month you’ve

Is Amazon Prime’s $99 Annual Fee Worth it? It Depends (AMZN)

With more than 64 million people paying $99 a year for Prime membership with Inc. Inc AMZN 967.99 + 1.16% ), this would appear to be a good deal. However, for the other 50 million-plus Amazon shoppers asking the question “Is Amazon Prime worth it?” the answer depends on how much they think they can benefit from the long list of Prime perks.

The Value of Free Shipping

Initially, the major draw for Prime membership was the free shipping, which was a good enough reason for many Amazon shoppers who joined. Considering that the average amount spent by Prime shoppers is $1,200 versus about $500 for nonmembers, the savings on shipping costs may be more than enough to justify the membership fee. The big difference could be attributed to the free shipping Amazon members get on most purchases, which others do not. However, if nonmembers buy an average of one item a month from Amazon, paying an average of $12 for two-day shipping, Prime membership would be worth the cost. Even for an average shipping cost of $6 for five-day shipping, the cost of membership may be worth it if

Tips for Your Household Expenses

Becoming a millionaire may not be your ultimate goal. But everyone wants to enjoy financial freedom and learning where we can easily save money will help us on that journey. So whether you want to be the millionaire next door or just be able to have financial peace, these 10 tips will help you achieve your financial goals.

Clarity Money

Clarity Money is an app that works great if you pay all your bills with your bank account. It simply ties into your account and shows any monthly payments that you have. This allows you to see if there are any services that are no longer bringing you value or if you are not using anymore. (For related reading, see: 7 Money Saving Tips for Eating Out.)

Cut the Cord

For those that have not cut cable out, it may be time. Cable can add at least $30 per month to your monthly expenses. This could be lunch, gas or even money invested for your future. With services like Sling, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video it is making less sense to have cable anymore.

Call Your Internet Provider

If you have already cut the cord, you should

The Two Cheapest Days to Fly in August

Why Are These Dates a Big Deal?

The big deal is what these August dates represent: the start of the cheaper fall season. The airlines know that by these particular dates, kids are mostly back in school so demand slacks off significantly. Airlines still have to fill those empty seats, though, so they lower their ticket prices. Last month, for example, Southwest advertised a big sale for domestic travel, good for flights starting Aug. 22. Note: These cheap summer dates vary slightly year-by-year, but always occur in late August. In fact, this year’s Aug. 22 date may vary a day or so for some U.S. travelers depending on the departure city and route.

How Much Can You Save?

This, too, can vary. Generally speaking, travelers save anywhere from 11% to 20% off the peak summer airfares. The amount within that range will depend in part on where you take off, where you go, and whether you fly non-stop or on connecting flights. In almost every case, though, you will save something. Here are some examples of roundtrip fares found this week on FareCompare, my airfare comparison search site:

Los Angeles – New York, nonstop