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5 Questions To Ask Before You Use Savings To Pay Off Debt

debt and save targetDid you know that your savings can keep your finances from flying apart? In fact, you can use savings to pay off debt. These are only a few of the reasons why this is such an important part of your financial life. In fact, some experts are saying that you cannot be a financial success unless you have some form of savings to your name.

While we are all aware of the importance of savings, sadly, this is a difficult goal for a lot of Americans to reach. According to an article published on, the ideal saving rate is 10% to 20% of consumer’s income. However, a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reveal that the current savings rate in the country is actually 4.2% only. That is not even half of what the saving rate should be. The article also mentioned why it is so difficult for consumers to save. It is because they have too much debt.

But if you think about it, that is not the only issue that we have about savings. While it makes sense to get rid of debt first, a lot of people are actually struggling to decide if it is a good idea to use savings to pay off debt. After all, this is already money that you have. Some experts will frown at the idea but if you do the math, you will be losing more if you keep your savings intact and your debt accumulating. Looking at the interest rate alone, debt has a higher rate compared to your savings account. It makes more sense to pay off debt first because you will be saving more in terms of the interest amount that you are paying.

However, that decision is harder to make than you think. Some people need the security of a savings – that is why they opt to keep it intact. But if you find yourself right in the middle of saving or paying off debt, there are a couple of questions that you can ask yourself to help you decide.

Ask yourself these questions before you pay your debts with savings

If you are torn between using your stashed cash to get rid of your debts, there are 5 simple questions that you can ask yourself.

Where will you get the savings from?

There are a lot of savings that you can use to finance your debt payments. According to, debt has a high effect on our retirement savings. In fact, a study done by the Employee Benefit Research Institute revealed that 74.8% of their respondents cashed out their retirement savings after leaving their jobs to pay off debt. Whether you are leaving your job or not, it is never a good idea to use your retirement savings for anything other than your retirement expenses.

Do you have sufficient emergency savings?

Unless you have your emergency fund intact, you should never use savings to pay off debt. This is one of the requirements that you need to have. In case you do not have this yet, you need to save up for sufficient emergency savings. Anything in excess can be used for your debts. This emergency fund can actually help you sustain your debt payments. In case something happens, your reserve fund will allow you to continue paying off what you owe while taking care of that additional unexpected expense.

How much is your debt and the respective interest rate?

In case of multiple debts, list all of them down and take note of each interest rate. In case the interest rate is more than 7%, then you will end up saving more money if you pay off your debts first with your savings. But if you mostly have mortgage or student loans that have less than 7% of your debts, then to use savings to pay off debt is not really that beneficial. The best scenario to finance debt payments through your savings is when you have mostly credit card debt – a debt that can reach up to 36% of interest rate.

Are you expecting any extra money in the near future?

Another question to ask yourself is this: will there be any extra money in your near future? This should be something guaranteed like a commission that is already being processed, a confirmed holiday bonus or your tax refund. If you have this extra money, you can go ahead and use your savings and just replace it with the money that is coming your way.

Is it in line with your financial goals?

The last question that you should ask yourself is whether this move is in line with your financial goals. Smart money management requires you to set goals and that also means your decisions should be aligned with your goals. If you are saving up for a downpayment of a new home, then it might not be a good idea to use your stashed money to lower your debt. But if you need to lower your debt level to have better chances at a low interest home loan, then go ahead and use savings to pay off debt.

Other options to pay back your debts without touching your savings

In case the answer to the 5 questions point you towards not using your savings to pay off your debts, then that is okay. There are other means for you to eliminate debt without touching your savings. published a survey that revealed how more than half of Americans set saving goals. But when it comes to retirement, less than half are able to save through their employer’s saving plans. The current survey revealed that the number of Americans saving is basically slipping – that is why you may want to opt not to use savings to pay off debt. Use other options that will allow you to get out of debt while still adding to your savings.

Here are some of your options:

  • Debt Consolidation Loan. This debt relief program involves you borrowing a bigger loan that can help you pay off all or most of your existing debts. What will happen is you will consolidate your old debts under one low interest loan. That should make things easier to pay off.
  • Debt Management. This is also a form of consolidation – but this time, you get the help of a credit counselor. For a maximum fee of $50 a month, you can enjoy their service that includes a careful analysis of your debts and the creation of a Debt Management Plan or DMP. This plan contains your proposed lower monthly payment plan that stretches it over a longer period. That means you get a lower monthly payment requirement.
  • Debt Settlement. In case you are in need of debt reduction, this is a debt solution that can work for you. The whole idea is to convince your creditor or lender that you are in a financial crisis. Then, you will offer them a lump sum money that can pay for a percentage of your debt. You will ask them to accept this lump sum and have the rest of the debt forgiven (at least anything that this big payment cannot cover).

These are only a few of the debt relief programs that you can use to achieve debt freedom. If you do not want to use savings to pay off debt, then make sure you know your other options.

4 Ways You Can Eliminate Holiday Debt From Your Future

piggy bankThink it is too early to think about holiday debt? It is not! September is here and before you know it, you just breezed over October and November. Once the 9th month comes in, you need to realize that you should be thinking about how you will spend your money during the holiday season.

If you want to prevent debt during the holidays, the most important thing that you can do is to start preparing for it early. A little bit of planning will never lead you astray. What you have to realize is that the big expense that you make during the Thanksgiving to Christmas season should never take you by surprise. But guess what? A lot of people oftentimes find themselves unprepared for this.

According to the data shown in an article from, 55% of Americans who were surveyed in September of 2013 were not saving for the holidays. It is not really a common practice to do so. Why? Because we all know that we can rely on your credit cards to pay for the expenses that you will make. While this is convenient, it is not always the safest way to make purchases.

The same article revealed some disturbing data that indicated how some parents are willing to take on holiday debt just to buy their children some gifts for the season. 57% of parents are willing to make this sacrifice. But as gallant as it can be, it is also a sacrifice that is unnecessary. Those who earn less than $35,000 are willing to be in debt for up to $700. In fact, 31% of American consumers do not have a spending limit on their holiday buying.

We need to stop the habit to starting our New Year with debt. If you really want to eliminate holiday debt from your future, you have to realize that early planning is the key. If you have yet to act on your holiday expenses, then do not waste any more time. You need to start getting your act together.

4 step plan to avoid incurring debt during the holidays

Fortunately for you, there are ways to control holiday spending. Do not rely on your willpower alone. Make sure you prepare yourself so that you will stay out of any unnecessary holiday debt.

Here are 4 ways that you can avoid this type of credit.

  1. Set a holiday budget. First of all, calculate how much you will spend during the holidays. Most of this will go to gifts that you will give to family and friends. List down all the people you will give to and set a budget for each. If you can identify the gift so you can be specific about the amount, that would even be better. But apart from the gifts, you should also consider other expenses like the household decorations, meals and any travelling that you will make. If you will go on a vacation with the family, make sure that amount is included in your holiday budget. Try to find out all the hidden holiday costs that you will encounter. That way, you will not be surprised by any unexpected costs.
  2. Figure out where you will get the money. Do you have a bonus coming up? If you will depend on this Christmas bonus, make sure that it is sure. If not, you may end up with a long list but no money to pay for them. The safest way is really to save up for it. If your expenses will be too big that you cannot save for it in time, then decide how you will boost your income to make sure you can finance it. Make your credit cards an emergency back up plan. If you can save up for it in cash, that is what you should do.
  3. Decide on your payment method. Once you know where you will get the money, you can now decide on how you will choose to pay for your holiday spending. Will you pay for it using cold hard cash? That will help you stick to your budget because once the cash runs out, you can no longer spend. Or will you use your debit card? That can also work because it will protect your cash from theft. You can also decide to use your credit card for the rewards. But make sure that you will not touch the cash that you saved up so you can pay off the debt as soon as the bill arrives. In case you prefer the convenience of a debit or credit card, make sure that you know how to protect yourself from identity theft. According to, Home Depot joined Target and Neiman Marcus Group in the list of data breach victims. Be smart and vigilant whenever you intend to use your card in any purchase.
  4. Find out how you can cut back on costs. If possible, keep on reviewing your list to see if there are somethings that you can cut back on. For instance, check if there are people that you do not have to give gifts to. Also, check out sale events and take advantage of the savings that you will get from them.

By following these steps, you should be able to eliminate or at least, minimize the holiday debt that you will incur this coming season. That way, you do not have to worry about the money that you will spend. And you can enjoy the holiday knowing that you do not have any lingering debts to pay off after the season is over.

What usually causes too much holiday borrowing

When you are making your financial plans for the holiday, try to concentrate on these two expenses.

  • Gifts. We have mentioned that this is the main expense that you will make this season. If you can think of making homemade gifts, that should allow you to cut back immensely on your budget. According to data from, 6 out of ten Americans planned on giving homemade gifts during the 2013 holiday season. More women opted for this gift giving solution to keep their spending low. Since you are starting early this year to prepare for the holidays, you have more time to make your gifts from home. If you can paint or have a talent for arts and crafts, then that is something that you may want to utilize. If you plan on baking goodies for your friends and give them as gifts, that is also something that you may want to prepare ahead for. Buy the ingredients in bulk if they can be stored without expiring immediately.
  • Travels. Whether you intend to celebrate the holidays in a different country or with your folks in another state, you may want to prepare for this too. You can save on vacation expenses if you book your travel ahead of time. The early bird promos are usually offered months before the actual travel. You can also arrange to stay with family and friends to save on accommodations. Looking at your options early on will allow you to choose properly and not grab whatever is available out of desperation.

Your holiday spending does not have to be met with a dreadful feeling. If you prepare for it well, you do not have to worry about holiday debt.

In case you decide to use your credit card, make sure that decision will not end up in debt. If you think you cannot save up enough money to pay it off immediately, you still need to make a payment plan so you can settle that debt as soon as you can. Here are some tips from a CNN Money video about how you can deal with your holiday debt.

How To Be Responsible When Using Your Emergency Fund

hammer and piggy bankThere are many reasons why you need an emergency fund. It is not enough that you make the right spending choices. It is not enough that you spend within your means. You need to prepare for any unexpected situation because it can cause you to fall into debt so easily.

A lot of people have gone through life without debt. They have made the right choices when it came to spending and have used credit wisely. They have invested in their home and made smart choices about how much they can afford to borrow. However, these acts will not exempt these people from falling into a financial problem. One sickness that requires thousands of dollars in payment or one tragic accident or job loss can quickly pull you under. All because you do not have an emergency fund.

According to a survey done by last June 2014, 50% of their survey respondents have less than 3 months worth of expenses in their reserve fund. More than half of that (or 26% of the respondents) do not have a single cent tucked away for emergencies. The survey revealed that some consumers failed to save for emergencies because they did not plan for it. They pay off the usual expenses like utilities, rent/mortgage, etc and will only save what is left after everything is paid off. But guess what? In most cases, there nothing left to save.

Some people say that they find it hard to save because they have other priority expenses. They put their emergency fund last on the list. For instance, some people choose to save up for a new car or the down payment of a new home instead of saving on their emergency fund. Some people choose to pay off debt first.

While these expenses are important, you have to know that preparing for emergencies is also very important. It should be comforting to know that although they are not the majority, 40% of the Bankrate survey participants, have three months worth of expenses or more in their emergency accounts. 23% said that they have 6 months or more in in case of emergencies.

3 ways to use your emergency savings

Although there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to building our emergency finances, it is also important to consider how you will use the money you have saved. You may have the emergency fund all saved up but you need to commit to how that money should be used in the first place. Some people blow up their reserve fund because they did not clearly define what an emergency is. When the more devastating disaster strikes, they are left with nothing.

One of the emergency fund best practices that you should learn is how you can learn to use this fund correctly. To help you decide, here are 3 important uses for an emergency fund that you should not hesitate to push through.

After an unexpected job loss.

Obviously, this is an emergency. When you do not have any income to get your funds from, then you need to dip your hand into your emergency savings. The only other alternative is to rely on your credit cards – which will put you in debt. That is not really a good idea because you will just make your financial situation worse. Just use your emergency fund frugally while you are in the midst of looking for an alternative source of income.

After a natural disaster.

Another good reason to use your emergency resources is to help you survive a natural disaster. This is another one of the unexpected disasters that you are saving up for. According to an article published on, preparing for a natural disaster is not only about protecting what you have as the disaster is happening. It is also about recovering from the aftermath. And when it comes to recovery, we all know that it usually requires money. If your house was flooded or totally wrecked, there are government financial aids but you can act on rebuilding your life if you have your own emergency savings.

During a health emergency.

Lastly, you need to use your emergency fund for your health. This is one of the unexpected expenses that you should not hesitate to pay off – especially if it is a matter of life and death. With the high cost of getting health care, it is common for some people to deplete their reserve fund just to pay this off. This is okay as long as you make a plan to rebuild your emergency fund. Dave Ramsey, in one of his shows, encountered a caller who had this dilemma. His medical bill threatens to deplete their emergency savings and he was hesitating to do it. Watch the video to hear what Dave Ramsey had to say about it.

3 ways you need to think twice before using your reserve fund

Of course, the use of emergency funds go beyond the three that we have listed above. But the other uses of this reserve fund will have to be done carefully and smartly. While they are smart uses of your money, it does not always mean that you should use your emergency money on them. You need to analyze the situation first before you go ahead and use it.

Here are the three examples of the emergency fund uses that you need to think twice before spending on them.

When there is a financial opportunity.

There is an interesting article in about emergency savings being a bad idea. The author said that putting your money in a savings account will restrict its growth. This is probably the reason why some people tend to use their emergency fund to help them fund a financial opportunity. While investing to grow your money is okay, make sure that you put your funds somewhere it can be easily liquidated. That way, if an emergency strikes, you can easily take the money and use it to survive a disaster.

When you have unexpected home and car repairs.

Most people will think it is okay to use your emergency fund for home and car repairs. But here’s the thing – these are not unexpected expenses. If you know that your car’s transmission needs replacement, this is something that you can monitor and prepare for. The same is true for any repair or maintenance expenses that your home requires.

When you need to buy basic necessities.

Unless you lost your job, never use your emergency fund to buy basic necessities. If you find yourself in a situation wherein your money cannot afford to spend on basic commodities, then you should know that there is something wrong with your budget. Buying your everyday needs should not be an emergency. It should be something that your finances can easily accommodate. There might be an area in your finances that requires you to spend more than you should. Or maybe your lifestyle is beyond what you can afford. This may be a sign that your finances is not being used correctly.

It is true that saving can literally save your life but only when it is available when you need it the most. Make sure you decide on what is the right way to use your emergency fund. Just because you run short of money, that is enough reason to tap into your emergency resources. Be strict and develop self control. That is how you can hope to have a secure financial future ahead.

Secret To Wealth: Spending Less Than You Earn

2 guys shaking hands saying "We can do it"Do you want to grow your personal wealth? If you do, then you have to start spending less than what you are earning. That is the secret to building true wealth that will not be spent in a rush.

A lot of us think that being wealthy is all about earning more money. That is why we end up spending a lot of time working and turning our backs to what matters most in life. We skip family events because there is a deadline to be met in the office. We miss seeing our children grow because we had to hop on a plane to fulfill the demands of our job. Despite all of these sacrifices, we are still far from being wealthy.

Why is that? published an article that started with this sentence: Americans are spenders. That is our reputation. We spend so much money to buy a house, a car and a lot of useless junk. We also spend too much on our education. Some of us even put ourselves into debt just to keep up appearances.

The article said that we are encouraged by the government to spend just so we can say that our economy is growing. Our economy is 70% reliant on consumer spending. That is why everywhere you turn, you will see signs, advertisements and endorsements with one message: spend, spend, SPEND!

Truth be told, there is nothing wrong about spending. However, excessive spending can be destructive. Especially when you are borrowing the money that you are using to pay for your expenses.

If you think about, we are all driven by the need to be able to spend. Financial capability is what really drives us to work hard every day. It is what motivates the young ones to study. To bring themselves to a position wherein they are able to work so they have enough money to spend. Our pursuit of wealth is anchored upon our ability to spend. While it is true that being able  pay for the things that you want is a sign of adequate wealth, we have the wrong notion of how to build up our personal net worth.

The truth is, the only way we can become rich is to develop the habit of spending less.

Reasons why lower expenses help you build wealth

It may seem difficult to grasp – lower spending will lead to more wealth. But here is the main reason why lower expenses will lead to richness – you can save.

That is really how simple it is. You want to be able to save so you can put yourself in a position wherein you have abundant finances at your disposal.

You may be thinking right now that this is sort of contradictory. You will choose not to spend now so you can spend in the future? That is correct. What you actually want to do is to discipline yourself to spending less than you earn today so you can save to set up your finances so the future will not be burdened by the excessive spending that you are doing today.

According or an article published on, only a little more than half of Americans are setting specific goals. From 54% in 2013, the count is now down to 51% in 2014. It is also safe to assume that not all of them are meeting their goals.

If you want the motivation to help you develop the habit of spending less than what you earn, here are 4 important reasons.

You can correct the mistakes of the past

One of the important gains to spending less is to be able to correct the mistakes of the past. The norm today is this: we work hard just so we can pay for the expenses that we have done in the past – our debts. That is not how you should set up your finances. The real secret to wealth is to spend less today so you can save for the expenses of the future. Besides, savings can complete your debt solution – regardless of the program you have chosen to use. By spending below your income, you can free up money to help pay for your debts.

You can build up your emergency fund

Another benefit that you will get from a lower spending is you can build up your emergency fund. This reserve fund is the money that you will use so you do not have to borrow money when an emergency strikes. You want to be ready for any even that could lead you to debt. Having adequate money in this fund will help you keep the stress level low despite the crisis that you are currently facing.

You can prepare for retirement

Saving for the future is very important. Sadly, not everyone believes in this. They think that they can just wing it when they get there but when you are in your pre-retirement year, you will feel the rising panic – knowing that you do not have enough money to retire. Do not put yourself in this situation. Discipline yourself today so you can build enough wealth to help you live a comfortable and quality lifestyle when you retire.

You can invest

Of all the reasons to spend less, this is the most proactive in getting you more money. When you free up a portion of your income because you are spending less than what you earn, this is extra money that you can invest. It can be invested in stocks, bonds or even in real estate. This is how you setup your money so you it can earn you extra income. Make your money work for you. This is an effective first step in building your wealth.

Tips to lower your spending

Of course, when you are used to consumerism like we are, spending less is not that easy to implement. In fact, published an article that compared how Americans and the British differ in terms of spending. Their finding revealed the following facts:

  • Americans are more comfortable in spending money – even if it is not their own. The credit industry is relatively larger compared to its UK counterpart.
  • Americans are positive in their perspective of the future and that makes them less cautious of the repercussions of their debts.

The problem with the spending of Americans is a lot deeper than we think. It is a cultural thing to spend more than what we are capable of. But we need to stop those bad spending habits and that could take a lot of work.

Here are some tips that can hopefully help you correct your ways so you can practice spending less to build up your wealth.

  • Set up saving goals. This will give your financial life direction and will guide you through every decision that you have to make.
  • Create and follow a budget plan. This is how you can reach your saving goals. You want to know where your money is going so you can decide where you should be spending less. It is all about letting go of the expenses that are not important and concentrating on those that will lead you towards your goals.
  • Avoid unnecessary expenses. No matter how small the expense is, do not spend on it if it is not necessary. These small expenses add up and soon, you would have wasted a lot of money on it already.

Spending less is tougher to implement than you think but if you really want to grow your wealth, this is the habit that you need to develop.

8 Signs That You Need To Implement Financial Management

checklistFinancial management is a critical part of growing up. It dictates how well you are able to handle income and dispense the same for payments on your expenses and other loans. It restricts your purchases and tells you what is important and what can wait. It tells you as well what you can do to increase your income to meet financial targets. Financial management can also be a potent tool against debt.

This is important to share when there are about 20 million college students on an average at any given year according to That is a lot of college seniors entering the workforce where they will be earning on their own and experiencing life in full blast. The walls of their colleges and universities has now grown bigger to accommodate a lot more responsibilities. On top of these is developing financial management in running their money.

It starts with a desire to get their finances in order. There are still  a good number of Americans who are not able to balance a checkbook. The 410 (k) retirement fund, investments and emergency funds are alien to them. These are some of the foundations of financial management and college graduates and even some seasoned professionals needs to understand this to survive financially.

8 signs that you should start working on money management skills

As you go through life, there are pit stops where you need to make decisions and add some financial tools in your arsenal. Some of these can start as early as when you get your first job and for others, it could be as late as a few years before retirement. Whenever it happens, you should be able to discern these signs and know that it is time to work on your financial management skills.

When you start earning your own money

As soon as you leave university, the first order of business is not a vacation with your friends or a cruise with your partner. It should be to look for a job because your expenses and loan payments will not wait for your to finish a good time. If you have student loans, six months is a short time for a grace period and you need to start making payments after. Getting a place to stay, applying for utilities and others will require you to have a steady income.

When you get a job, income will not be too far behind. And when you start earning your own money, it is a clear sign that you need to implement proper financial management. This will put order in your finances and ensure that your monthly salary will not only last you until the next paycheck but will actually provide financial security for you in the long run.

When you already have a bank account shared that there are about 7.7% of American households who still do not have their own bank account. That is approximately 1 in every 13 American families. There are mixed sentiments on how the banking system helps consumers but it cannot be denied that it is one of the safer ways to keep money and allow it to grow. When you open your own bank account, it is another step up  that needs proper management of your finances.

When you are saving for a goal (e.g. retirement, etc)

Having financial targets is another clear sign that it is high time for financial management skills. These can be in the form of emergency funds or retirement funds. In fact, there is only about 18% of Americans who are confident that they have enough funds for retirement according to Having financial goals is also a clear sign of financial maturity as you are already planning ahead and not just for the moment.

Here is a video explaining how saving for retirement might need to be done until 68 years old:

When you are responsible for paying monthly bills

Being able to pay for utilities such as water, electricity, phone, internet, and cable is another benchmark on the need to implement financial management. You need to be able to juggle your income with your expenses to avoid coming out short at the end of the month.

When you have started taking on credit

Taking on credit is another sign of financial maturity. Adding expenses on your card or taking out a payday loan to fix some part of the house needs proper management of finances. Without it, you might just end up in a store sale using up the loan you took out for another unnecessary expense.

When you start monitoring your credit

Monitoring your credit comes from the need to understand where you are putting your hard earned money. What items are you buying and where you can cut down on expenses. Financial management will help immensely at this point because it can provide a clear direction on how you can proceed after monitoring your credit.

When you  have started investing

Investment is a by-product of forward thinking and once you start delving into the world of investments, you will need financial management to guide you through your options. In fact, investing is one key to financial independence. It can help you plan for your future and hopefully retire at the time when you want to, not when you need to.

When you start paying your taxes

Making tax payments is a sign that you are already earning your own money. This calls for the need for financial management not only to monitor your income but to check as well if you are remitting the right amount for your taxes. Tax refund is a great surprise at the end of the year but it actually stems from wrong tax calculation. That would have been money you could have used for investment at the early part of the year. Instead of just giving the government an interest-free money, it could have earned a few dollars somewhere else.

4 important concepts of financial management

Financial management has four key pillars that consumers need to understand. It is beneficial to know these points in order to practice proper management of your finances.

  • Budgeting. Income has to be treated as the output of your hard work. You should put importance on how you use it and this is where budgeting comes in. Understand the important expenses and forego those that you can live without.
  • Saving. At this day and age, not a lot of people has an excuse not to save. Even technology has made saving easier. This is an important aspect of financial management because it allows the consumer to have funds for future use.
  • Smart spending. Similar to budgeting, spending smartly allows you to weed out your needs from your wants. It helps you identify and prioritize the important spending items in your budget.
  • Credit monitoring. It is important to be on top of your finances and monitoring your usage of credit can give you a great overview of your habits. Where you spend too much and where you can make improvements are just some of the advantages of checking your credit spending.

Financial management is an important tool in putting sense in your finances. Some people say that it is not how much you earn but how well you use what you have. This is where proper management of your finance kicks in. As long as you see the signs along the way, financial management can guide and steer you in the right direction.

Signs You Are Financially Ready For Early Retirement

man looking tired with workWho wants to wait until 80 to retire? Nobody. No one in their right mind would want to keep on working until they drop. Even those who love their work or are meticulous about the businesses that they have built for themselves do not want that. They all have an age wherein they want to relax – or at least cut back on work. But never work full time until they can no longer physically work.

But sadly, early retirement is not possible for everyone. There are people who are in too much financial troubles that they have compromised their retirement. In, it is revealed that 50% of retirees do not have sufficient retirement funds. Not only that, 25% have chosen not to participate in the retirement plan being offered by their employers. With the average person spending 20 years in retirement, those who are not prepared will be in for some tight financial difficulties. This is scary because retired individuals have health care needs that cannot be scrimped on because it can be a matter of life or death.

You do not want to put yourself in this situation. That is why you want to work hard to be able to afford an early retirement. Later on, we will discuss how you can do this.

Before you retire, it is very important that you are aware of the signs that you are ready to retire. Imagine quitting your job and realizing that you will outlive your money – that is a scary situation to be in. At that point, earning more will be difficult to do. But for pre-retirees who are seriously thinking about early retirement, you may want to look into the signs that will tell you that you are ready.

Signs you can retire earlier than expected

Here are the signs that indicates you can retire early and do so comfortably.

You have enough retirement money.

On top of the list is your retirement fund. You should have enough money to be able to buy the things that you will need. Since most of your funds will be in investments, you should check if your portfolio has enough funds to support your expenses. If it is diversified and the returns are enough for you to live by, then you can live comfortably. The easy way to determine this is to compute the 4% of your retirement fund and see if you can live on that amount. If not then, you need to grow your funds some more.

You do not have debt (or at least it is manageable despite a reduced income).

If it is difficult to save for retirement when you are drowning in debt, imagine how difficult it will be if you are already retired and still have too much debt. It will not be a pretty life for you. You need to consider if your debts will give you a hard time in the future. If you still have some credit obligations, then you cannot hope to have an early retirement. Pay them off first through the many debt solutions available in the market. The earlier you start, the more you can hope to retire early.

You have tried a retirement budget and you have adjusted to it.

Another sign that you can retire earlier than usual is when you have gone through a couple of months in your retirement budget and you have adjusted well to it. When you retire, you will be forced to spend lower than what you used to. That is because the income coming in will not be as big as it used to. You have to downsize your lifestyle to keep from overspending. If you cannot manage that, then you need to extend your retirement budget trial period.

You have a reliable health insurance.

One of the biggest concerns of retired individuals is their health insurance. According to published infographic in, specialty drug spending in the US will continue to grow over the years. In fact, it will quadruple  by 2020 to $401.7 billion – a very huge increase from the 87.1 billion spending in 2012. This data from the PwC Health Research Institute indicates that health care costs will grow over the years. You have to prepare for this and your lack of health insurance will make it difficult. What could happen is you will just skip the medical care for lack of funds. You do not want this to happen.

You have no one financially reliant on you (except your spouse).

If someone is still in college or you are helping out your parents, you might find it hard to push for an early retirement. Unless your retirement fund can finance all of your needs, then go ahead and retire early. But if not, then you may want to postpone it first.

You are emotionally ready to face retirement.

Lastly, you may want to check if you are emotionally ready for retirement. This will involve a lot of changes in your life. You might think that lounging all day is something that you can do until you drop. But trust us when we say that you will get bored eventually. You want to pursue an activity that will keep you healthy. You need to map out how you plan on spending your everyday – otherwise, you will feel the boredom creeping in.

All these signs are indications that you can already opt for early retirement but they do not have to be all in effect for you to pursue it. In the end, there is one important thing to remember: you need to learn how to make your money work for you.

The key to retiring early – making your money work for you

If you think that this is impossible, don’t. There is one guy (actually his whole family) practicing this. His web name is Mr. Money Mustache. He has a blogsite called and he shared how he and his wife was able to retire by the age of 30.

They are not millionaires. They did not earn six figure incomes. They did not inherit huge sums of money.

Their secret? Frugality and investing. We have discussed Mr. Money Mustache in a previous article and we would like to expound on his techniques because they really make a lot of sense.

This is the best summary that you will get out of what they did:

Then we retired from real work way back in 2005 in order to start a family. This was achieved not through luck or amazing skill, but simply by living a lifestyle about 50% less expensive than most of our peers and investing the surplus in very boring conservative Vanguard index funds and a rental house or two.

Here are some snippets of information that we got out of his website.

  • What happens when you can save more of your income? As it turns out, spending much less than you earn is the way to get rich. The ONLY way.
  • If you can save 50% of your take-home pay starting at age 20, you’ll be wealthy enough to retire by age 37. If you already have some assets now, you’re even closer than that. If you can save 75%, your working career is only 7 years.
  • I just saved about 66% of my pay without really noticing it, and in under ten years I woke up and realized I didn’t have to work for a living any more.
  • If you can get 25 times your annual spending saved up and working for you, that is enough to live off – forever.

When you have saved that much money, what do you do with it? Here is what Mr. Money Mustache has to say:

  • You invest it. In stock index funds, in paying off your own house, in rental houses if you are interested in local real estate, and in other sources as you continue to learn about making money work for you.
  • My own retirement income comes from a dead-simple asset allocation: one high-end rental house with no mortgage, and some 401(k) and taxable stock accounts which pay quarterly dividends.

This is probably the best advice that you will get out of this site:

Your attitude determines your lifetime wealth much more than your knowledge of financial nuts and bolts. – Mr. Money Mustache.

True enough, you can memorize all the financial literacy books out there but if you cannot implement it and live it, financial success and early retirement will continue to elude you.


Here is a video that discusses how you can retire earlier by using penny-pinching methods.

Dealing With Life After Debt

Husband and wife happily talking to another personLife after debt seems to be wishful thinking for most consumers that are way in over their head with debt. They read stories and probably know some people that were able to get out of debt but have never paid too much attention on how they themselves can be debt free. They see debt as a forever companion and minimum payments is then only way to make the payments.

Stories of how sticking to a budget, debt free through minimalism or getting rid of debt with the help of debt consolidation looks like a herculean task. But these are real solutions to an ever growing debt problem. Being debt free is a possibility because a lot of people are able to get it done. There are practical steps that have been formulated to apply to different situations. The only variable is how people stick to the program to experience life after debt.

Financial moves like debt consolidation, debt management and even debt settlement are some of the ways to get your financial standing on the right track to recovery. Coupled with a financial diet in terms of watching what you spend and finding ways to increase your income, you can be looking at financial freedom in a few years. After years of being in debt, you can now start to think about mornings after debt.

Life before debt

Undertaking a financial audit greatly increases your understanding of your current situation. Most borrowers would take a close look on where their debts are coming from, how much all the payments total every month and where they are getting the all the funds to pay for the monthly obligations. But another thing to some people overlook is an emotional audit as well.

One great strategy to get you going in your pursuit to financial freedom is to study your current emotional state such as how you feel and how other people interact with you. Recognizing these intangibles and making mental notes of how they affect your life can be a potent reminder to steer you clear of debt again.


Debt is a big problem and being in debt is a situation a lot of people know about. They are either in it themselves, on the way out or living debt free already. Whatever people’s situation is, they know about debt and how it affects the lives that carry it. Because of this, sympathy is an all too common reaction a borrower in debt would get from people around them.

This can start from the family and ripple down to friends and co-workers. Knowing that you are in debt could attract sympathy from other people. How people react to it is different from one borrower to the other. Some like the feeling of other people looking out for them while others resent this reaction and makes them feel weak.

Free Pass

There are other people needing financial help – siblings needing an extra few thousand for a mortgage down payment or friends finding themselves a few hundred dollars short for student loan payments. But if they know you are in debt as well, they would think twice before opening up the topic of borrowing money from you. You get a free pass because on the list of people they would think of borrowing money from.

It is always nice to help out and in these types of situation, it is better to be the one lending money rather than being in a position where you need to borrow from people around you.


Being in debt oftentimes gives you a scapegoat to pass on some trips or Friday night outs. This is limiting your social interaction and other borrowers are in fear of losing some friends and opportunities in the process. But this is a necessary move to be able to save up on funds to apply for payment being in debt is a hard part but these challenges can keep you focused because of your desire to get out of the situation.

Life after debt

After you have successfully paid off the last monthly payment on your debts and loans, you are officially debt free. There will still be monthly payments for living expense but that does but count. Taking care of student loans, credit card debt, auto loans, mortgage and even signature loans will give you the financial freedom that you have worked so hard for. All those times that you had to pass up a furniture discount or a holiday trip on sale will be all worth it.

But not a lot of people know that fear is common even for consumers that has paid off their debts. Of course you do not have to toy with the idea of ignoring your debt collector because they will not be in contact with you anymore. Fear comes from not knowing what to do next and fear from the possibility of going back to the old ways and finding yourself in debt again. Here are some of the things you can do.

Transition payments

A few months into it and you might find yourself with more cash than you know what to do with. The amounts that used to go to payments are just there. There are no more payments to be made besides from the living expenses that are already budgeted from the beginning. Do you increase your lifestyle? Do you increase the channels in your cable or put a faster internet connection? Is it time to install that automatic garage door?

You can use that feeling of getting used to making payments every month. But instead of making payments, recommends that you send it to a savings account as if you are still making payments to some loans. This can feed of that routine of making payments every month.


Start redoing your budget based on priorities outside debt payment. After taxes and living expenses, your monthly budget would have a drastic makeover because of the absence of loan and debt payments. Are you going to save or invest? How much are you going to put on these ventures? Which one do you do first?

Building your emergency fund takes the top spot. This is because you can use it when rainy day comes. It could be in the form of losing a job, medical emergencies or having to relocate to another city or state. Your emergency funds will help you stay away from future debt. The more you put in, the longer it can last. The general rule is 6 months worth of expenses is already a good amount for emergencies.

Get your retirement fund started early as well. It is best to have started with this even before you were making debt payments. Taking advantage of 410(k) company matching and maxing out the allowable contribution per year is a great start to be able to retire when you want to. With the monstrous student loan debts, you might want to start saving for your kids college tuition already to help them steer clear of college loan debts. shows that 70% Americans before or after debt already donates about 3% of their income to charity. This is another good way to pay it forward and help people that are in most need. These are just some of the ways on how to handle your finances after debt.

5 Routines to Practice Financial Fitness

Consumer running while carrying a briefcaseFinancial fitness is an important aspect of our financial literacy. Similar to athletes participating in several sports, they prepare long and hard for each game. They live with discipline and dedication in order to achieve their goals. The more they practice and prepare for their game day, the better their performance is on game day. They are able to address the needs of the game and quickly adjust as needed.

The same principle goes for consumers in their daily battle with finances. It does not happen overnight. You do not wake up the next morning with all your debts paid off, all your bills paid for, your 401(k) at retirement level and emergency fund that can last you more years than you need. Even if you win the lottery today, it will be a short lived cash happiness without being financially fit and literate.

The even shows that heading to off season, the NBA teams are just as concerned with their financial fitness as they are in keeping their players fit and healthy. The teams need money to pay the salaries of their players and they need the players to generate income for the team. Both area of the business and sport needs to put a premium on fitness to ensure that they can continue their purpose.

Practicing Financial Fitness

One of the world marathon majors, the New York city marathon is one of the biggest marathon events being organized in the world. Now carrying a different sponsor, it used to be ING New York CIty Marathon but is now branded TCS New York CIty Marathon. The event is slated on November 2, 2014 and is set against another challenging course.

The race begins in Staten Island in Fort Wadsworth near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It then passes through Brooklyn and reach the Pulaski Bridge signifying the racers are halfway in the course. The road track proceeds to cover East River via the Queensboro Bridge entering Manhattan. Runners proceed to Willis Avenue Bridge and returns to Madison Avenue Bridge before entering Central Park through Harlem down Fifth Avenue. The race concludes by going back to Columbus Circle near Tavern on the Green.

That is a full marathon circuit and anyone taking that course on November 2 needs to be physically fit. Relating that to financial fitness, that course is similar to the challenges we have to take on in life. As the runners race to the finish line, we practice financial management to get to our goal. But we do not just get up and run the race just as we do not instantaneously get to our financial goals. Aside from the having a financial health checklist, we need to prepare for the actual financial challenge.

Set a goal

The first step is to financial fitness is setting a goal. Just as the marathon runners in New York city has one goal in mind, which is crossing the finish line at a good time, consumers need to also have a goal in mind. This serves as a target to aim for and can regularly remind of the ultimate pay off on all your financial decisions.

Having a goal helps you keep your focus. Say the goal is to pay off your student loan as fast as you can. That goal will help guide you in all your financial decision making. Just like the runners whose main goal is to finish the race, their preparations are all leading to that purpose. They train to get fit to achieve that goal. Your roadmap to your financial goal should be built around your main purpose. It has to lead to your achievement of your financial target.

Budget routine

There are people who are having a hard time grasping and understanding how budgeting works. This plays an important role in practicing financial fitness. Putting together a budget is your blueprint to achieve your goal. It is your step by step process in making sure you are on the right track and don’t go astray.

New York marathon runners train with a specific routine. They follow specific strength training workouts and check their food intake. They measure their performance to check if they are improving and staying on course. This holds true for consumer budgeting.

Your budget needs to keep you on track in achieving your goal. It is there to remind you how much you need every month to cover your expenses. It also lists down all your expenses every month so you can quickly do an audit n where your money is going. It can help you curb unnecessary expense items and save you extra dollars every month

Get debt down

Most runners have an ideal weight that they need to get down to in order to run more efficiently. In financial fitness, think of debt as excess weight that is pulling you down. Physically speaking, it is best to shed of excess weight until you are comfortable with your own body and you can move and go around as much as you want.

This is the same with your finances. Getting debt down can help you move freely with your finances. It opens more financial opportunities and just gives you more legroom to go around. Debt ties up your income to interest payments which is eating up on what could possibly be your emergency fund or retirement fund.

Avoid temptation

There will be temptations along the way as you reach for your goal. For New York Marathon runners, it could be skipping a training day or cheating on their diet. It could also be going around not being serious with the preparations for the run like sleeping late and partying all night long. These temptations steer them away from achieving their goal.

Same goes for financial fitness. Steering away from financial temptations can be a challenge. Just like getting that new mobile gadget or putting in your online cart that discounted European cruise. These are temptations when it will keep you away from your main goal. If the money that was supposed to be extra payment for student loans is used to buy a new guitar just for hobby, then that is a temptation. But if your bread and butter is producing music, then that guitar can be an investment.

Get professional help

New York marathon runners are mostly professional runners. And majority of them have had professional trainers guiding them to their peak health and condition to take on the gruelling marathon course. This is the same for consumers on the road to financial fitness.

There are professionals out there that can help you make better decisions with your finances. There are those as well that can help you manage your debts better. They offer professional pieces of advice that you can use to get out of debt.

Benefits of Financial Fitness

Practicing financial fitness can yield benefits for the consumer. Some of these are:

  • Less stress. People who are financially fit are able to manage their finances better and are in top of the situation. This gives the peace of mind knowing how they are financially performing. Taking a prevention-stance is better than problem-solving mindframe.
  • Better health. Taking on a financially fit goal ripples out to physical fitness. It gives you more sleep and takes away worry. It gives you a good appetite and you are able to eat healthy food rather than wolfing down on ice cream and cake because of too much worrying.
  • Improved focus. You are able to concentrate as well on the task at hand rather than thinking of how to pay for the bill coming in at the end of the week rather than paying attention on your current task. tells consumers that fitness is a step by step process. This is made up of small positive financial habits that we maintain over the course of time. As we do it over and over again, we build it into our own routine and helps us get to our goal faster.

In most cases, your financial health is connected with your physical health. So if you want to be physically fit, you also have to work on your personal finances. Here is a video from NBC15 about financial health.

The Road to Financial Literacy

Woman looking at paperFinancial literacy is one of the key components to achieve a successful financial life. Some people have the right resources and opportunities but their lack of knowledge only led to the loss of what could have been a good shot at personal wealth. Financial literacy and opportunity goes hand in hand in ensuring proper finance management.

Having the right tools to manage your finances normally leads to a path of financial freedom as well.  Debt is often the product of uninformed financial decisions that can be compounded by unfortunate life circumstances. But focusing on those that can be addressed is an important step in getting out of debt and on to a road of financial independence.

Financial literacy in the country recently rated the states in the country in terms of financial literacy. New Hampshire took the top spot by ranking number one followed closely by Utah and Virginia. New Jersey and Minnesota rounds off the top five in the study. The study shows that these five states are conscious and serious about proper financial management.

The study used metrics to measure education and knowledge as well as daily habits and planning as well. The study also revealed rankings of different states according to characteristic:

Dropout rate for high school

Education at any level is important for an individual. It works with the character and determination of a person to succeed in life. It is not the only determining factor in success but it is a very crucial tool in reaching greater heights. There are also some schools teaching your kids about finances.

The study showed that New Hampshire has the lowest dropout rate of 1.2%. This is a good factor leading in why the state is leading the pack in financial literacy. It is also a good sign of a healthy educational system.

Emergency fund

Saving up for a rainy day is important in getting over unforeseen challenges life will throw our way. Medical emergencies or losing a job could be some of the events our emergency funds can address. Without it, you can get deeper and deeper in debt as your only option is to get a loan to have the money to survive.

Arizona tops the list at 53%. More than half its population knows the value of a rainy day fund. They build on it and put it aside hoping they never get into a situation where they need to use it. But if they do, then they have something to pull out. Indiana is at the bottom of the list at 33%.


Bank accounts are essential tools in safekeeping hard earned money. Better than just letting the funds collect dust at home, they earn interest in the bank. And you also almost the same type of access to your money in the bank just as you would put it in a drawer.

New Hampshire tops the list again with just 99.1% of residents having a bank account. This means they are well on their way to ensuring their funds are kept safe. It is also important for parents to tell their kids about their finances in case of emergencies, they know the financial standing of the family. Mississippi is rounds up the list with 15.1% of residents not having a bank account.

Sustainable spending habits

Making good use of the money you earn is a good sign of sound financial literacy. Maryland residents know about this as they top the list at 14%. Most of them know the value of a dollar and uses them wisely. Mississippi is again at last place with only 22% of its population guarding their spending habits. Proper spending habits can also make you confident about personal finances.

Borrowing rate

This is a great gauge on the risk profile of state. The lower the number, the lesser the chances of default and the better the credit score. It also echoes the health of the economy in a  particular area. Excluding bank rates, New Jersey tops the list with only 16% and Oklahoma is at the bottom with 40%.

Financial literacy occurs on two levels. Looking at the macro-perspective, consumers need to understand the policies that are formed and how it relates to their finances. They need to be updated with rulings and recent news that could affect their lives. On a micro level, consumers need to be aware of personal financial traits and characteristics. This can include saving, spending and even consumption. The understanding that encompasses these two levels can greatly contribute to financial literacy.

Financial literacy month

April was financial literacy month and it was a great time to remind us that at the end of the day, we are all responsible in our financial standing. It also made us realize the importance of saving and what it brings to our future. In light of this, came out with some points on how to create our map to financial literacy.

  • Commit to financial change. Financial literacy starts with a commitment. It starts with the individual wanting to change and a commitment to stick to a lifestyle of sound financial decisions.
  • Check your financial standing. Doing an audit of your situation financially can get your started in the right track. It is important to know where you are coming from in order to prepare on where you want to be. Financial literacy starts with an honest assessment of one’s self.
  • Credit report clean-up. Making sure that your credit report is accurate will help you open numerous financial opportunities down the line. Check the accuracy of your report and if there are any problem, report them right away so they can be fixed.
  • Priority setting. It is crucial to lay out your priorities to reach your goal. Knowing where to start with and what to aim for first can guide you in the right direction. This can also help remind you of what financial journey you are on.
  • Set goals. Classifying your goals as short, medium and long term can help you prioritize even more. This can give you a clear direction on where to start and when you should end on a specific goal. It allows as well to put a time frame to your goals to push you even more.
  • Debt payments. It is quite a challenge to pursue financial dreams with a ton of debt breathing down your neck everyday. Paying down and paying off your debt should be on top of your list. Clearing up income payments that go to debt payments and channeling them over to your goals will help achieve them faster.
  • Emergency fund. As with everything, we need to expect things will not always turn out the way we want. There will be bumps along the way that could steer us off-course. The way to remedy this is to prepare for the unexpected. Build an emergency fund to help you through rough times and prevent them from getting rougher.
  • Retirement fund. You are only young once so save up for those winter days. Tackling retirement early will help you retire when you want not when you need to.
  • Track your expenses. Keeping tabs on where your money is spent is a good practice on financial literacy. It is easy to remember the big ticket items but those small repetitive ones are quite hard to tally up. By tracking them, you will see just how much you are spending on unnecessary items and can help you save up precious dollars.

Understanding Convenience Fees

credit card on a keyboardConvenience fees have been creeping up in the finance industry every now and then. They key to avoiding them is to understand how they operate. It is best to tackle a problem if you know what you are dealing with. Boxing blind will only leave you exhausted and nowhere close to your target. Dig into the details and have a plan of action.

One thing to note is that convenience fees are not technically classified as deceptive as what capital one faced early last year.  There might be questionable practices in the finance industry but this is not one of them. This is actually a legitimate cost to consumer in exchange of a value-added service most commonly found in credit cards.

Distinguishing convenience fees

Convenience fees are charged on top of the purchase for a privilege. As the name suggests, it is for the convenience of the consumer to use an alternative payment method. This is a payment channel that is not the norm for the business establishment. One perfect example would be paying for credit card purchases by phone.

It indeed saves up precious resources like time and effort to transact payments using the most convenient method possible, but this practice brought about convenience fees. There are no ruling as of now on the minimum and maximum amount for assessment of this fee so it varies per transaction.

As stated, convenience fees should not be confused with surcharge. These are two very different fees assessed mostly with credit cards. Surcharge is mostly using a credit card. This is of course a practice frowned upon by numerous consumers. It is a common sentiment that they should not be charged extra for buying on credit. Convenience fees, on the other hand, is added to the purchase when the payment method is not the usual practice.

Surcharging is much more controlled that convenience fees. There is a legal framework with which to work around in. Consumers should know the following to be guided with this additional fee:

  • No more than 4%. Merchants are restricted in slapping surcharge fee to credit card payments for up to  4% of the total transaction price. They are not allowed to go beyond this cap when adding surcharge to a credit card payment. Anything more than this could be a convenience fee and not surcharge.
  • Illegal in 10 states. As most consumers dislike surcharge fees, there are actually 10 states that has gone to the point as declaring them illegal. These are Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Oklahoma and Maine. Residents of these states enjoy a surcharge free credit card use.
  • Cash discount. Using cash is one way of getting rid of credit card debt and actually encouraged by merchants. To the point that some offer cash discounts as compared to using credit card. The ruling on this is that the prices for cash and credit purchase has to be clearly presented side by side for the consumer to see.

Concert goers in Houston got surprised to see $30 convenience fee added on to their total bill when they paid online as reported by This is a steep price to pay when purchasing tickets online. Of course there is no cap on the amount but proper planning can prevent this from happening. Like buying the tickets in the venue to save $30. The dilemma comes in at the point when tickets are selling like hotcakes. The tickets can be sold out during the short amount of time it took you to o travel and buy the tickets physically.

Here is a video about the concert convenience fee: also carried the news about University of Arizona charging students convenience fees. The school is adding a 2.5% convenience fee for the use of a credit or a debit card to pay for any bill inside the school. That could be small per transaction but totals to lot during the year considering all the student loans being shouldered by the students.

Fees to avoid

There are other types of convenience fees we can avoid to maximize every dollar we get and to help save on purchase cost.

Overdraft fees

Knowing how much you have in your account can actually save you a few dollars on some occasions. When going out to do a scheduled grocery or just a quick errand, it is helpful to know how much you have in the bank if you will use your card. This is because once the payment charged to your account is more than what it has, your bank will charge you overdraft fees.

There are banks that offer overdraft protection and it is best to explore this option to prevent unnecessary add-ons to you your bill. One way to prevent this from happening is to use cash when paying. This lets you know how much you actually have and how much you can actually spend.

Late Fees

Knowing your payment due date is important to avoid late fees. Your due date is when the payments are deemed payable by your lender. This is the date that you should make a payment. Failure to send out a payment can result to late fees being added on  your bill.

One way to address this is to ensure you pay before on time. By knowing your due date, you can easily make advance payments or anticipate that the bill should have come in prior to this date. Another option is to subscribe to auto debit payments. It is convenient and easy as the payments are automatically taken out and sent to your creditors. Just ensure there are  enough funds to cover the transaction.

It is helpful to note as well the difference of due date and grace period. These two co-exist in the finance world and are often misunderstood which has credit score implications. Due date is when the payment should be made but most creditors has a grace period. This allows you to make payments without being assessed late fees. But check with your lenders as some payments received during grace period does not have late fees but are already considered late.

Preventing Additional Fees

There are a couple of things consumers can do to prevent these fees from ever touching their income.

  • Cash is king. This mantra has helped a lot of households deal, manage, reduce and  even pay-off debt. By using cash, you are visually aware of the money you have for purchases. You are able to hold the money and count them with your own hands. This increases our value for money and could help consumers stay away from impulse buys. But this is not to take out credit card in the equation. It still has some benefits and knowing when to use cash or credit is important as well.
  • Budget. Creating a monthly budget for income and expenses should come in handy. This gives you an idea on how much money is coming in and how much you can use for expenses. It can also help consumers track their savings, emergency fund and even retirement chest.
  • List. When going out to buy items, make sure to carry a list of the things you need. The importance of having a list cannot be emphasized enough. One thing is that it reminds you of what you need and prevent you from picking up unecesarry items. Another is that you have a place to out the prices of the items you bought. This is handy when you are budgeting and making forecasts.
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