The Secret To Smart Investing

The old adage “Buy Low, Sell High” works great … if you have a crystal ball for every investment you make. In reality, no one can predict with absolute certainty the best time to buy or sell an investment. How do you know that a stock is at its lowest price when you buy? How can you tell that a stock price won’t climb higher after you sell? Stop stressing over things you cannot control. That is why you should remove one word from your investment vocabulary: timing.

Now replace that word with something else: dollar-cost averaging.

Dollar-cost averaging is a method of investing the same amount of money on a consistent basis, so that your overall price tag ends up an average rather than the highest point or the lowest point on the scale. Why does this work in your favor? Because you are investing the same amount of money each time, you’re buying more shares when the price is low. That’s smart! You managed to scoop up a good deal. And when the investment price goes up? You naturally buy less shares with the same amount of money.

Think of it like your favorite pair of pants. When they’re on sale, maybe you buy more than one pair. But when they go back to retail price, you stick to just buying one pair. The difference between investing and buying clothes is that with investments, nothing will advertise that they are on sale. That’s where dollar-cost averaging helps you out. This method automatically buys more at a low price.

How do you get started? Chances are if you have a 401(k), you’re already dollar-cost averaging. That is because you already apply the same amount on a regular basis to an investment. But you can do the same without a 401(k). If you have a sum of money, rather than investing it all at one time, consider dollar-cost averaging instead. Let’s use a sample stock purchase to illustrate this strategy.

Dollar-Cost Averaging Example

Investment Amount: $300 per month

Shares of Stock Purchased:

  • January @ $10 / share = 30 shares
    • Average price @ $10.00 / share ($300 paid for 30 shares)
  • February @ $15 / share = 20 shares
    • Average price @ $12.00 / share ($600 paid for 50 shares)
  • March @ $20 / share = 15 shares
    • Average price @ $13.85 / share ($900 paid for 65 shares)
  • April @ $16 / share = 18.75 shares
    • Average price @ $14.33 / share ($1,200 paid for 83.75 shares)
  • May @ $15 / share = 20 shares
    • Average price @ $14.46 / share ($1,500 paid for 103.75 shares)
  • June @ $20 / share = 15 shares
    • Average price @ $15.16 / share ($1,800 paid for 118.75 shares)

Remember when we talked about timing? Can you predict what the price of the stock will be next? You can try to guess, but would you bet all your money on it? Now you understand why timing the market is not such a great idea.

As you notice in the example, the actual price of the stock took a bumpy ride, sometimes jumping $5 up or down between months. But thanks to dollar-cost averaging, you enjoyed a much smoother ride, with the biggest swing being a $2 difference in average price between January and February. Most people cannot pay every second of attention to investing, let alone stomach the bumpy ride. Dollar-cost averaging makes for a much smoother ride. If you were on a roller coaster, wouldn’t you want one with smooth turns, rather than jagged cliffs? That is why smart investors choose dollar-cost averaging!

Homework: Make dollar-cost averaging a new year’s resolution, whether it be through a 401(k) or an investment account. Consider tracking the average price paid per share every month for the next 6 months to see how dollar-cost averaging works.

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The Silent Partner: Cash Flow

Last week we learned that building net worth is a top goal for your personal finances. How do you accumulate net worth? Since net worth relies on assets, the key to growing net worth is to grow assets. Assets like investments help because they grow in value, but what if your investments take a downturn? Then the only way to grow your assets is to add more money. For that reason and to make investment purchases to begin with, you need cash flow. What is cash flow?

Cash Flow = Income (-) Expenses

Income

Income accounts for all money coming in, hence “in” “come.” This could be anything from working wages to monetary gifts to investment growth (take bank interest, for example).

Expenses

Expenses take money out of your wallet. If you need to pay for it, and it does not go back in your wallet, then it’s an expense. Rent, groceries, shopping, pet care are just a few examples. If you calculate cash flow on a monthly basis, remember to include any annual income (such as a bonus) and annual expenses as a monthly amount.

Cash Flow Sample Calculation

Monthly Income ($3,200):

  • $3,200 Paycheck (gross or before taxes and deductions)

Monthly Expenses ($2,800):

  • $1,500 Rent
  • $ 500 Taxes
  • $ 200 Car Loan Payments
  • $ 200 Groceries
  • $ 150 Health Care Insurance and Medical Costs
  • $ 150 Auto (Gas, Maintenance, Vehicle Registration)
  • $ 100 Personal Spending

Monthly Cash Flow = Income (-) Expenses = $3,200-$2,800 = $400

Positive or Negative?

As with net worth, the key to cash flow is to stay positive! Limit expenses to no more than your income in order to live within your means. Not living within your means will require borrowing money, which ends up costing more (sometimes much more) than the paid price. And paying back debt eats away at your income too. So if you encounter negative cash flow, consider lowering expenses or increasing income to get to a positive cash flow.

For those with positive cash flow, the remaining amount is probably used for savings, right? But are there enough savings to reach your goals? Rather than looking at cash flow as available savings, consider subtracting savings along with necessary expenses, and then treat what’s leftover as your spending allowance. Here’s a better equation to follow:

Discretionary Spending = Income (-) Savings (-) Necessary Expenses

Net worth combined with cash flow are a great starting point if you’re figuring out where you stand financially. Anyone can be a financial ace with a bit of math and some money!

Homework: Calculate your cash flow. Is there anything you need to adjust? How are you doing on savings and expenses?

Winter Break: Ace Academy will skip the next two weeks’ lessons and be back in session during the first full week of January. Happy Holidays to all!

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Your Financial Score

How do you determine how well you are doing financially? There are many money “scores” out there, including credit rating (a.k.a. FICO score) or financial independence score. But the best way to get a baseline score and track how well you are doing year after year is to calculate your net worth.

Net Worth = Assets (-) Liabilities

Assets

What comprises assets? These are the things you own that you can assign value. For instance, how much can you sell your house for today? How much would someone pay to buy your car? How much do you have in savings accounts? These are all considered assets because they add value.

Liabilities

Liabilities account for any debts owed. For instance, if you sold a home with a mortgage, would you be able to capture all the money from the sale? No. A mortgage is borrowed money that you have to pay back. The amount you earn is what remains after the mortgage debt is paid off. Therefore, in this case, the mortgage is a liability, since it takes away value from what you own. And liabilities don’t only apply to tangible items, like homes or cars. Student loans and credit card debt count as liabilities too.

Net Worth Sample Calculation

Assets ($480,000):

  • $400,000 House
  • $ 40,000 Car
  • $ 40,000 Savings Accounts

Liabilities ($230,000):

  • $200,000 Mortgage
  • $ 20,000 Car Loan
  • $ 10,000 Student Loans

Net Worth = Assets (-) Liabilities = $480,000-$230,000 = $250,000

Keep Score

Now that you have a starting number for net worth, repeat the same calculation with updated numbers next year, and the next year, and so on. This will be your very own financial scorecard. And net worth should follow the same rules as any game. Stay positive and keep it up!

Tune in next week to learn about cash flow and how it relates to net worth. Or subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

Homework: What is your net worth? Jot down all your assets and liabilities, and see what number you come up with!

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Buying A Home: What Is In A Mortgage?

Are you considering buying a home someday? Unless you have all the cash to buy that home outright, chances are you will end up borrowing some money. A mortgage is a loan specifically used to purchase a home. Consider it the middle man if you are not buying the home with 100% cash. The mortgage company pays the cash for the home, and you pay back the borrowed money along with interest to the mortgage company over time. You become mortgage-free once you pay off the full loan or when you sell the home and return what is owed to the mortgage company.

Zillow data from 2016 revealed that 42% of US homeowners are mortgage-free, meaning the majority of Americans still rely on mortgages to pay for their homes. If that majority includes you, it’s a good idea to get acquainted with some mortgage key terms.

Mortgage Key Terms

  • Down Payment. Why bother with saving money when you can just borrow the money to purchase a home? In most cases, you will still be asked to put a portion down at time of purchase, known as a down payment, to show the mortgage company that you are serious about the purchase. If a borrower tries to flee and dodge payback responsibilities, at least the mortgage company can minimize losses through the down payment they received. The amount required for a down payment can vary with different qualifying programs, typically ranging anywhere between 5%-20% of the home purchase price.
  • Interest Rate. The downside to choosing a mortgage over cash is that you pay more for the house in the long run, due to interest that you must pay on top of the principal loan amount. However, interest rates on mortgages tend to be lower than other loans, such as credit cards. Depending on IRS rules, mortgage interest may even be tax-deductible, so you might be paying less interest than you think. Rates are subject to change, so consider locking the interest rate when you are approved for a loan. The type of loan can be a fixed rate mortgage or adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM for short. If you don’t want to risk the possibility of increased interest on your loan, a fixed rate mortgage will allow you to keep the same interest rate for the life of the loan. If you believe interest rates could decrease, so that you pay less interest during the life of your loan, you would opt for an ARM.
  • PMI. PMI stands for private mortgage insurance and applies to mortgages with less than 20% down payment. This pays for the mortgage company’s insurance in the event that a borrower becomes delinquent on payments, and the mortgage company is left with a debt to pay. If you have PMI because your down payment was less than 20%, not to fret. You can call your mortgage company to eliminate PMI once you reach 20% equity on your home. Equity is how much of the home you own.
  • Mortgage Term. The term on your mortgage is how many years you are expected to pay back the mortgage company until you return 100% of the loan. The most common terms are 15 years or 30 years.
  • Impound Account. Mortgage companies allow borrowers to bundle their property tax and homeowner’s insurance payments into the monthly mortgage payments. It’s entirely your choice whether or not to use an impound account, and there is no interest charged for doing so. Property tax and homeowner’s insurance bills typically hit once or twice a year. For many people, it’s easier to have the money collect in a fund to pay for these bills, rather than keeping track on their own how much to save throughout the year, so that they can afford to pay a big chunk once or twice a year.
  • Foreclosure. This is a worst case scenario, in which a borrower cannot keep up with mortgage payments, and the borrower loses the home to the mortgage company. Unlike credit cards, which allow the borrower to pay a portion of the total charges each month, a mortgage payment must be paid in full and on-time each month.
  • Refinance. If you already have a mortgage, but want to change the term or want to pull money out of home equity or interest rates are lower, you might consider a refinance. This just means you are changing one or more factors on the loan.

A mortgage will factor in the principal loan amount, interest rate and mortgage term to dictate a monthly payment. Most mortgage companies will only qualify borrowers who can prove that the mortgage payment is 35% or less of their income. Your credit score, or trustworthiness, also plays a factor in how much you are qualified to borrow.

Although they are not to be taken lightly, mortgages help many live their dreams of becoming homeowners. Sometimes mortgages allow people to afford homes that make money when the homes are sold. Other times, mortgages allow people to pay off their homes and never make another payment to live there. Whatever the reason, a mortgage can be a great tool to reach those dreams!

Homework: Use an online mortgage calculator to view sample monthly payments by entering a home purchase amount, down payment, interest rate, and term. If you (or your parents) have an existing mortgage, examine the mortgage statement. Is it time for a refinance?

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The 411 On 401(k) Plans

Savings accounts come in many forms, and one of the most popular in the US is the 401(k) plan. It’s essentially a piggy bank that you should not crack open until after age 59 1/2, close to retirement age for most of the workforce which is why it is often viewed as a retirement savings account. To make matters more confusing, it’s named after a tax code, hence a bunch of numbers in the name: 401(k). How it works is quite simple by learning a few fundamentals. And if you work for a non-profit or government agency, most of the following will be true for you too, except instead of a 401(k), you call it a 403(b).

Understanding a 401(k) plan starts with learning how to use it and how not to abuse it. Using it requires being employed by a company that offers a 401(k) plan. This account belongs to you, and you keep it if you leave the employer. A 401(k) relies on a defined contribution, a percentage of your salary (%) that will automatically go from earnings into your 401(k). In many cases, employers will offer a 401(k) match for contributing to the 401(k) plan. You decide how much to contribute, and your employer matches that amount, up to a limit dictated by your employer. So your employer is actually paying you more money than you thought! Isn’t it neat to get an extra $50 or $100 or $200 per month? Just remember though, you have to contribute to the 401(k) in order for the employer to match.

Why use a 401(k) vs. saving at the bank? The difference with a 401(k) is taxation. Money going into the 401(k) is pre-tax, and any growth on that money is tax-deferred. What does that mean? Taxes take a share of any money you make, so as an example, earning $100 really means earning $85, based on a 15% tax rate. However, in a 401(k), that $100 equals $100 going in. If that $100 grows to $150 this year, you keep that $150 in the account, as opposed to taxes taking $7.50 away ($50 growth x 15% tax = $7.50). Keep in mind that this example only illustrates $100. Imagine what this means for $10,000 or $100,000. Now before you go putting all of your paycheck into a 401(k), there is a limit on how much you can contribute each year, set by IRS tax regulations. This year (2019), the limit is $19,000 for the year, with the ability to contribute more if age 50 or older, known as catch-up contributions.

Notice I said that money in your 401(k) is tax-deferred, not tax-free. In a 401(k), taxes take their share when you withdraw money, at your normal tax rate. But the important thing is that your money had more potential to grow because taxes did not eat away at every cent along the way. Thus, the 401(k) is known as a tax-advantaged account, a special type of savings account.

How does growth happen in a 401(k)? Through investing! Often people confuse a 401(k) with the stock market. True, you can place stocks in your 401(k), but stocks are not the only type of investment you can have. Going back to a former lesson when we talked about planting seeds, the 401(k) is just a flower pot, and you get to decide which investments, or seeds, to grow inside. Most employers limit your investment choices to a few, so that you are not overwhelmed by the options.

A 401(k) is not always used as a retirement savings account. Let’s discuss some possible pitfalls with the 401(k). Try to avoid the following:

  • Early Withdrawals. If you withdraw money from your 401(k) before you turn age 59 1/2, you not only pay the taxes owed, but you also get penalized an extra 10% on your withdrawal. That diminishes your earning power.
  • 401(k) Loans. Some 401(k) plans allow you to take a loan. But borrowing from a 401(k) means you lose out on the time that your investments could be growing. Time is something you cannot buy back.
  • Not Capturing Full 401(k) Match. Although you could argue that any contribution to the 401(k) is still savings, not capturing the full employer match is a loss for you. To view it from another angle, if your employer let you choose between $50 more or $100 more per month, and neither option required you to work more, wouldn’t you choose the $100? That’s the same as capturing full 401(k) match!

There you have it! The 401(k). It may seem like a lot to absorb, but just think of the flower pot, and you are well on your way to being an ace at the 401(k)!

Homework: Take a look at your 401(k). Are you capturing full 401(k) match from your employer? Parents can start kids young with a savings match! Learn more by clicking here.

Ace Academy will skip next week’s lesson in observation of Thanksgiving holiday and resume the following week. I also want to take this moment to thank you for reading!

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Credit Card FAQs

Whether you already have a credit card or are thinking about getting one, it’s time to get acquainted. Here’s what you should know.

What is a credit card?

A credit card allows you to borrow money to make purchases and then pay back later. How much you can borrow is based on your credit, or your trustworthiness to pay back the money. There is also a time limit to pay back the money before interest starts to multiply on the original amount borrowed.

Why use credit cards?

Credit cards carry several advantages:

  • Use credit cards in place of cash, which can be bulky in your wallet.
  • Build and maintain credit history. Mortgages and other loans will often check how well you handled past payments. Did you pay on-time?
  • Earn perks like travel miles or shopping points, and sometimes even cash back, with certain credit cards.

What are some key costs of using a credit card?

  • Finance Charges – Do you carry a balance on the credit card after it is due? Then you owe interest on the borrowed money, otherwise known as finance charges. These get calculated as an annual percentage rate, or APR. If you pay in full each month, you have no finance charges.
  • Late Fee – Don’t pay your credit card on-time? There’s a fee for that.
  • Balance Transfer Fee – Trying to move other debt to your credit card, so that you can capture a lower interest rate? Doing so incurs a balance transfer fee, usually a percentage of the amount to be transferred.
  • Annual Fee – Some credit cards carry such good perks or low finance charges that it costs you money to use them. Using these types of credit cards is wise only if the perks outweigh the annual fees.

As you can see, most of these costs don’t apply if you pay your credit card in full each month. Thus, it is actually possible for the cost of using credit cards to be zero!

How does credit card debt happen, and how do I avoid it?

As long as you pay off your credit card in full every time and on-time, you won’t fall into debt. In fact, it should be the only way to use credit cards. Unfortunately, credit card companies give the option to pay a minimum amount, typically 1%-2% of the total credit card balance. Paying the minimum causes the remaining balance to rack up interest, adding to the cost of what was originally borrowed.

To illustrate the real cost of carrying a balance on a credit card, let’s use this example. Say you buy a bike for $100 on a credit card with 18% APR (annual percentage rate). $100 x 18% = $18. You actually pay $18 more dollars on that bike if you let that debt sit for a year. If the credit card company calculates on a monthly or daily basis, and most do, that bike will cost even more. Much like compound interest on investments, debt multiplies itself over time. Avoid debt altogether by buying only what you can afford and paying off the balance in full each month.

Parents can introduce credit cards using a 3-step approach. 1) Start with gift cards. What’s great about gift cards is that you can only spend what you have and nothing more, but you are required to spend in only one place. Nowadays there is the option to get gift cards to use wherever credit cards are accepted. 2) Get a debit card to allow for spending anywhere, keeping within the limits of what is available. A debit card requires an attached bank account to pull funds from, so you will need to set one up if you want children to access their own money. 3) Graduate to the credit card! Only keep the credit card if every statement is paid in full.

Credit cards: Good or Bad?

Only you can decide whether credit cards are good or bad for you. If you can commit to paying off your credit card in full each month, there really is no disadvantage to keeping or getting one. Choose what’s right for you!

Tune in next week to learn about the 401(k) plan. Is it a type of investment? Is it a savings account? Subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

Homework: Know what credit cards are charging you. Become familiar with the costs before getting a credit card, and choose the right one. If you already have a credit card, is it the best one for you?

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Compound Interest

In addition to the seven natural wonders of the world, Albert Einstein believed in an eighth wonder of the world: Compound Interest. What is compound interest? In a nutshell, it’s money making money.

How does one unlock the door to compound interest? Through investing. The easiest way to understand investing is to think of a plant. Start with a seed (investment), and the plant will eventually sprout branches. Some branches will have leaves (interest), but others will sprout new branches, which yield more leaves (more interest). Sure, there may be setbacks, but if your plant thrives, your little seed has grown into something much larger. Imagine if you could do the same with money? You can! That is the power of compound interest. Branches growing more branches.

Time plays an important factor in investing. Just like plants need time to grow, your money needs time to grow interest and then more time for that interest to compound into more interest. The earlier you invest, the more your money can grow on its own. To calculate what time can do for your money, use the Rule of 72.

Rule of 72: Divide 72 by the (%) interest rate you earn, and the answer is how many years it will take for your initial investment to double. For example, if you earn 8% interest on a $1,000 investment, 72 divided by 8 equals 9. Without adding any more money, that $1,000 investment will double to $2,000 in 9 years.

When it comes to investing, your choices vary widely, but they boil down to a few basic types.

Cash

Believe it or not, cash is a type of investment because it has the potential to earn interest. Some common cash investments are money market accounts or certificates of deposit (CD). Although cash tends to be the least likely investment to lose money, it does not typically yield a lot of interest. But for short-term needs, also known as liquidity, this is a good choice to earn a little bit along the way.

Bonds

Have you ever borrowed money and needed to pay interest when you returned the money? When you invest in a bond, you are loaning your money to others, and after some time, they pay back your initial loan with interest. There are many types of bonds you can invest in, so the interest rates and chances of getting your money back fluctuate depending on who you are loaning the money to.

Stocks

Buying stock is essentially owning a part of a company, hence you buy “shares” of that company. A stock earns money when the company is viewed favorably by investors and loses value when the company is viewed negatively. Stocks have vast potential to grow, but also come with the risk of losing money. Much like plants weather different seasons, stocks can take a bumpy ride. This is why stocks should be seen as long-term investments, so that your money is given a chance to ride out any volatility. You may have also heard of investments called mutual funds, index funds, ETFs, options. These are simply variations of investing in stocks and sometimes bonds.

Real Estate

Ever wonder why most people say buying a home is better than renting? It’s because buying a home gives you the opportunity to earn money when you sell the home, assuming the home grows in value. To invest in real estate, do you have to buy a house? No. You can actually invest in real estate companies through real estate investment trusts (REIT) or even buy shares of publicly traded real estate companies on the stock market.

Tying It All Together

When thinking about what to do with your savings, you will most likely take more than one approach to investing. You may even have investments not listed above. The key is to plant those seeds, and then witness the wonder of compound interest!

Tune in next week as we explore credit cards. Good thing or bad thing? Subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

Homework: Do your research! Choose 5 of your favorite companies or brands that are publicly traded on the stock market, and follow their stocks for the next month (or longer). If you initially invested $10,000, how much did you earn?

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Balancing A Checkbook

Ever wonder why the amount left on your account is called a “balance?” That’s because you should get that same number after you “balance” your checkbook.

Like budgeting, all it takes to balance a checkbook is addition and subtraction. However, budgeting and balancing serve different purposes. Budgeting is about looking ahead, whereas balancing is about looking back.

Nowadays with all the available money tracking tools, most people don’t bother to balance their checkbooks. However, I strongly encourage you to add this exercise to your monthly routine, so you can monitor how well you are doing against your budget. Are you spending what you originally planned? Do you need to make tweaks to your ongoing budget?

Let’s Begin!

Let’s use the following example to illustrate how to balance your checkbook. Feel free to substitute your own numbers.

Start with $2,000 in your bank account at the beginning of the month.

Add (+) $3,000 in earned income.

Subtract (-) $1,000 for rent.

Subtract (-) $200 for utilities.

Subtract (-) $200 for transportation.

Subtract (-) $100 for Internet / phone bills.

Subtract (-) $1,000 for purchases related to food and miscellaneous shopping.

After doing the math above, we are left with $2,500. This number should match the remaining balance on the bank account at the end of the month.

There you have it! Now you are an *ace* at balancing your checkbook!

Homework: Balance your checkbook for last month. Did your actual spending match your budget?

What is the eighth wonder of the world? Tune in next week for the answer! Or subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

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Budgeting 101

A budget is just a fancy way of saying a “plan for your money.” Anyone receiving money on a regular basis, whether it be allowance or salary, should have a budget. This tells you exactly where your money goes, so that you only spend what you have. It’s easy to start a budget, but will take some discipline to stick to the plan!

Money Out = Money In

With just a bit of addition and subtraction, you can create a budget. Add all the money coming in, and then subtract every expense line-by-line. Once everything is subtracted, did you get zero? If you get a zero, that means your money is perfectly balanced between what you spend and what you make. If you get more than zero, you can afford to spend more or add more to savings. If you end up with a negative number, you either need to earn more money or lower some expenses.

Share and Save First. Then Spend.

A budget works best when you account for the 3 S’s in the following order: Share, Save, Spend. Treat money you share and money you save as expenses that get subtracted … first. This will get you in the habit of recognizing what you can afford to spend.

Should Credit Card Spending Be Its Own Expense?

The quick answer is NO. Credit cards should not be considered its own expense category on a budget. Since purchases placed on credit cards reflect specific expense categories, the purchases belong in their rightful categories. Say you used a credit card to buy clothes for $20. That $20 gets categorized as “Clothing” or “Shopping.” The exception to this rule is if you are paying off existing credit card debt, you should include an expense line for “Debt Payoff.” We’ll talk more about credit cards in the future.

Monthly vs. Annually

A budget, or plan, works best when you can follow it. Most salaries and bills come on a monthly basis, so I recommend creating a monthly budget, in order to follow along more easily. Just remember to divide any income or expenses that happen once a year into a monthly amount. For example, car registration tabs get renewed annually, so divide the expense by 12 to account for them each month. You may also consider taking the sum of your electric bill over 12 months and listing an average amount each month because costs vary during the winter vs. summer months.

You Did It!

You just created a budget! Stay within your limits when spending in each category. Update the budget with any new changes, and monitor your progress at least once a year. Remember, a budget is only as good as you make it, so be honest with yourself!

Homework: Get started on your own budget! Parents can involve children by working on the family budget together. Did everything balance out to zero at the end?

Now that you are an ace at budgeting, are you ready to balance a checkbook? Tune in next week to learn more! Or subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

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5 Steps To Smarter Spending

Spending money. Let’s face it. We love to spend money, but we don’t love to talk about our spending decisions. Have you ever been in a store when a child asks, “Can we buy that toy?” and then hear a long, detailed response on all the reasons to buy or not buy the toy? Probably not. Instead, we hear a quick response like “maybe” or “nope.”

That conversation is actually a great opportunity to educate children about money. Ask them the questions: What do you need to do to get that toy? Would you rather spend money on a toy instead of eating dinner that week? What else could you buy with your money? Make them aware of the decisions they face when spending money. They will come to appreciate what they have and not spring for every shiny new thing just because they have money.

What might help is to talk through these 5 Steps to Smarter Spending. If shopping on your own, go through the steps as a thinking exercise.

  1. Set a limit. How did you come up with that number? Spending money is fine, but only if it’s within your means.
  2. Trace your money. What did you have to do to earn that money? Understand the value of what you are spending.
  3. Weigh your options. Where else can you spend that money? Don’t forget to factor in basics like food or shelter.
  4. Compare prices. Read my post “What Is The Right Price?” to learn more.
  5. Let go. Every financial coach seems to say, “Don’t spend money!” But I’m here to tell you that spending money is ok. Let me repeat. SPENDING MONEY IS OK! We make money so we can use it. Just be smart about it!

Homework: Practice the 5 steps to smarter spending using a food menu. Bon appetit!

Tune in next week as we tackle budgeting. What is a budget? How do I begin? Or subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

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