Dec 1 2014

4 Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas (Plus Win a $500 Visa Gift Card!)

By |December 1st, 2014|Personal Finance Tips|1 Comment|

Christmas shopping can be stressful and expensive. But let’s be real, we put that on ourselves.

Christmas is a time when we should be enjoying family not going broke over the latest toys and gadgets. If you want to skip all of the stress that comes along with Christmas this season these tips will help get you there.

Communicate with Family About Christmas Budgets

Having to buy gifts for everyone in your family not to mention friends, teachers, babysitters, and more gets expensive fast.

If you’re feeling stressed out about having to buy so many gifts it’s pretty likely that your other family members are too. Talk to your family and friends and set realistic expectations.

Maybe instead of buying everyone a gift you can do a gift exchange. Or instead of spending $30 on a gift you can spend $15. Maybe some family members would be willing to abandon gift exchanges altogether.

Work out some sort of arrangement that everyone is comfortable with.

Keep Your Budget Realistic

It can be really hard to stay in the budget you set for yourself. It’s fun to buy the people you love gifts that you know they’ll enjoy, which makes going overboard easy.

Instead of falling victim to impulse purchases and overspending set your budget and stick to it. Once you have someone’s name marked off your list stop buying!

Look for Great Deals

If you shop smart you can make your money go pretty far. The key is finding those great deals.

You can use a service like Chippmunk to look for online deals and coupon codes based on price, retailer, and department. It’s pretty much a one stop shop for finding good prices and coupon codes when Christmas shopping online.

And if you’re shopping in store don’t forget to look for a mobile coupon to pair with the sale you found.

Create Memories – Not Clutter

Christmas doesn’t have to be about lavishing everyone with gifts. It should be about spending time with family and creating memories.

Instead of worrying about spending money create a tradition. If you have kids pull out the elf on the shelf and have fun with that. If you want to create memories with your extended family host a party, have movies watching session, or bake cookies.

In the end those memories are what really matters!

Win a $500 Visa Gift Card

And now, to make your money go farther we’ve partnered with Chippmunk to give one lucky winner a $500 Visa gift card!

This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and will end at 12:00 am on 12/15/14. You can enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter widget below and the winner will be chosen at random. See the rafflecopter for terms and conditions for more info.

Good luck and Happy Cyber Monday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nov 21 2014

Why We are Building A New House

By |November 21st, 2014|Blog, Life|1 Comment|

I shared some big news a few days ago. My wife and I are building a new house! We are so excited but also nervous because this is a huge step for us, both for our finances as well as for our marriage and our family.

A lot of our friends and family want to know “why?” Why build a house instead of buy an existing one? Why not wait until your first child is born? Why are you getting such a big house?

The answer is we don’t know. We didn’t really think about any of that.

Haha just kidding.

Here are some answers to the most common questions we are being asked.

Why Build Instead of Buy?

This is a really good question, and after a lot of thought we decided to build our next house because this is going to be our forever home. My wife has literally been looking at houses online almost every day for the last two years, and in that whole time she only found one or two she was truly excited about.

We told ourselves that we didn’t want to jump from house to house, upgrading every few years to something a little bit closer to our dream house. We decided that we just want to do this once, and we want to do it right.

In building this house, we are able to customize everything from the countertops, hardwood floors, backsplash, carpet, and a whole lot more. We can customize the cabinet exactly how we like them. We can truly make this our dream home.

Not to mention the fact that the layout of the home we are building is exactly what we are looking for. While there will be some compromises on the finishings, this will essentially be our dream home right from the start.

Why Buy a House Now?

There are so many reasons we jumped at this opportunity now I always forget at least one when I’m talking to someone in person. I will try to remember them all for you guys.

  • Interest rates are low today. I can’t tell the future but I believe they are going up based on the Federal Reserve’s decision to stop quantitative easing. Rates have already gone up since that announcement. I’d much rather get my forever house now at 4.125% than wait a year and get it at 6.25%. Unfortunately when you build you have to wait until the house is almost done before you lock your rate, which was the hardest part of building instead of buying
  • Let’s add a few bullets about price. The prices literally went up $10k the day after we signed the contract. We knew we had to get in before the price increase.
  • There are only a few lots left in the current phase. In the next phase, each lot will cost at least $50k more. The neighborhood we chose is selling like crazy and prices are going up.
  • Speaking of the next phase, it’s a weird situation where the next phase is actually in a different county. If we had waited until the next phase, we would have to pay about 0.4% more per year in property taxes.
  • Finally, our current house is not laid out well to have a baby. We are hoping to start our family soon, and in our current house the nursery would literally be as far away from the master bedroom as it could possibly be. We needed a layout conducive to having a baby, so we needed a new house.

Why Buy at the Top of your Budget?

There’s no question this house is at the top of our budget. Why make your house such a large chunk of your budget? It’s a darn good question, but I believe we have some darn good answers.

  • It’s gonna be a bit of a challenge for us right now. However, my career trajectory is not flat. I know that I can work my tail off and earn a promotion in the relatively near future. And I can get another promotion from there. I’m darn good at what I do and my salary “tomorrow” is going to be quite a bit higher than it is “today”.
  • With a fixed rate mortgage, as my income increases, the cost of my house stays the same. The house will go from the top of our budget to fitting very comfortably in our budget in a relatively short amount of time.
  • I truly see this house as an investment as well as our forever home. It’s in a very desirable location and as you can tell by the fact that prices are already increasing by $60k in the next phase, there’s a really good opportunity here to build a lot of equity in this house.
  • The whole reason we did a 2-week trip in Europe a few months ago is because we wanted to travel before we devoted our money to our new home. Sure there are other places we want to travel one day, but we are at the point in our lives where we are ready to put our money into our home and our (hopefully) future children.

We are Going to Love our New Home

The bottom line is that we are going to raise our family in a wonderful new home that is customized to our style. It is also, in my opinion, a great investment and will give us so much equity in the home after a few years that we can have a lot of financial freedom if we choose to sell and cash out on the equity we’ve built.

Nov 20 2014

Binary Options Trading Signals Services: 5 Things Investors Must Check Before Signing Up

By |November 20th, 2014|Personal Finance Tips|1 Comment|

If you’re new to the forex binary options market, you’re in for a treat. Most people stay away from forex because of its complexity. And, while it is complex, it’s also a quick way to make some money in the largest financial market in the world. Binary trading simplifies a lot of the complexities of traditional trading, and is suitable for those who just want to dip their toe into the forex waters. But, you can’t just jump in, like most people do, without a plan.

Narrow Your Focus

Coming from the world of stock markets, you might be tempted to “diversify” your trading or investment strategy. In binary options, this is a terrible idea. The more you can know about a particular currency pair, the better. Pay attention to the fundamentals as well as the technicals and really dig deep into the underlying mechanisms that drive the currencies. Focusing intensely on just one pair is not unheard of.

Even though there are only 18 popular pairs, you may only need to trade one or two of them. As long as you are really knowledgeable about them, you don’t need to worry about all of the others.  Trading forex isn’t like trading stocks. Diversification doesn’t always reduce risk. In fact, it can increase risk because you’re less knowledgable about all of the pairs you’re betting on.

Pick A Good Platform

Picking a good forex platform is probably one of the most important things you can do. Forex brokers are a dime a dozen these days, but good ones are a diamond in the ruff. First things first. It doesn’t matter how high-tech your broker is if it doesn’t have a great customer service behind the trading platform.

No platform is bug-free forever, and regular, scheduled, maintenance is just a fact of reality. There’s also the issue of help with both trading and logistics. If you’ve never done this before, you may want to know exactly how to set up your bets and the consequences of making certain bets in a certain way.

In binary options trading, there are three ways to trade (three major ways, anyway). Ask the broker about this – it’s not always obvious at first, so approach the company with an open-ended question like, “how many trading types do you support.”

If the company is open to discussing all three ways to trade binary options, this is a good sign.

Next is the software. A majority of the risks with currency trading are in poor-quality software – software that doesn’t support real-time reporting or that makes it more difficult to make quick trades. If the software is difficult to navigate, the charts confusing to read, and if you spend a good deal of time trying to just learn how the software works, this is a bad sign.

Manage Risks Intelligently

Most traders do not trade with all of their savings. They hold back most of their capital only risk maybe 5 or 10 percent. Sometimes, they only trade with 2 or 3 percent of their total capital. This is a good rule of thumb to follow.

Keep Trading

A mistake new traders make with binary options is entering one trade, losing, and then giving up. You have to trade a lot to make money. Since there are no real trading fees per transaction in forex, there’s no danger in placing multiple bets. If you’re managing your daily risks, and not dropping below a set stop for your trading capital, keep trading until you make your goals.

Alex Fletcher is a longtime Forex investor who loves to write. When he finds a tool that works for him, he can’t wait to let others know about it, too. Look for his illuminating articles on many investing and stock market blog sites.

Nov 18 2014

What Are You Saving For?

By |November 18th, 2014|Blog, Life, Personal Finance Tips|4 Comments|

I have to admit that my wife and I haven’t been great at saving money ever since we finished paying for our wedding.

Are you having a hard time saving money? My wife and I were in a similar situation just a couple months ago. But after setting a goal everything turned around for us.Once we were done paying for the wedding we did want to book a trip to Europe, which we did (and had an amazing time). But we had enough money and credit card points for that trip, so we didn’t feel the need to be frugal with our everyday spending.

We ate out regularly. Wait. Let me rephrase. I ate out regularly and my wife ate out sometimes.

We went shopping regularly. Wait a minute. Let me try this again. My wife went shopping regularly (keeping in mind that she’s very frugal with her shopping and really didn’t spend a large amount of money). I don’t really shop.

Don’t get me wrong. We were still contributing money to our retirement account and spending much less than we were making, but we just weren’t vigilant about making the right, sometimes hard choices with our money.

That all changed when we decided to build a house.

We’re Saving Every Penny Now

Here is where a lot of people are going to get mad at me. Some people will probably stop reading my blog after what I’m about to say, but I don’t care.

We are building a house at the very top of our budget. It’s obviously not over our budget (because the bank wouldn’t give us a mortgage if we truly couldn’t afford it) but we no longer have the luxury to be relaxed about our budget. We need to save as much as possible.

And boy have we done a dang good job of it.

In the last few weeks, we have pretty much eaten every single meal at home. We haven’t bought new clothes or other non-essentials. We have only seen one movie (and trust me, we love the movies).

Saving is Easy With a Goal

When I look at where we were a month ago, it was really hard to save money. There were plenty of good reasons to do it: save for retirement, make a bigger emergency fund, pay down Tag’s student loans, or maybe put the money to starting or buying a business one day. But none of those were concrete enough to force us to change our habits.

The day we decided to build a new house, we instantly changed our habits. Knowing that we only have about 9 months to build up savings before our house payment skyrockets gives us a very tangible reason to save money.

What is Your Goal?

A few paragraphs ago, I laid out a bunch of goals that could have motivated us to save money if we had really committed ourselves to them.

If we had committed ourselves to those goals a few months ago, we would have been in a better position to buy this house. There’s nothing wrong with switching your goals if you change your mind.

If you aren’t aggressively saving towards a goal right now, I strongly suggest that you find something you want and go get it!

Nov 17 2014

Early Retirement with Middle Class Wages, Thanks to Thrifty Savings!

By |November 17th, 2014|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

jarofpennies

Day in and day out, those of us categorized as “middle class”, punch the clock, pay the bills, and repeat. During that time, we all dream of retirement. A time where we no longer have to wake up and take orders from someone else in order to receive a pay check.

We picture ourselves barefoot on a beach, soaking up the sun, or maybe you see yourself in a cabin in the woods getting lost in a new novel each day. Regardless of where your retirement dreams take you, it’s possible to get there sooner than you may think.

On Friday nights sitting at home watching the Shark Tank on ABC you get inspired to build something big. Very big. Being realistic however is also key as it never makes sense to risk it all and go into debt if your business ventures do not work out. According to a recent Huffington Post Article says that saving to get rich doesn’t work but smart saving and smart investing should have been the key focus from the article.

With a little will power, penny pinching, and patience, it can be done. The first step in reaching this goal is to determine where you want to be. What age do you want to retire? Where do you plan on living? What is the cost of living at this time and place? You’ll need to sit down and review your income and expenses. You will also need to clear up any bad debt you may have. There are a lot of cases where a monthly income stream is there from an annuity that you can sell off or keep depending on your financial situation and your goals.

Now that we have that figured out, its game planning time. Time to figure out where and how to save. Determine how much you will need on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. Decide how much you need to put away now to accomplish your goals. Evaluate everything you spend. Pinching pennies, being cheap, going generic, these are all terms you can use from here on out.

Everything you buy, you will need to bargain, downsize, and skimp on. Couponing has become one of the biggest ways to save on not only groceries, but clothing, furniture, household products, etc. DO IT. Seriously, once you get into the groove of figuring out the method, you will save a ton of money, and also stock up on everything you may need (some will even last you until your retirement!!!).

Do you know what’s better than cheap? FREE. Take hand-me-downs, go to yard sales, and check the newspapers for items you may need. Each and every cent you save, you have to decide how much to put away in savings. Remember to keep this amount realistic. You don’t want to over or under do it. You can use a piggy bank or an actual bank. Either way, once you deposit these savings, absolutely do not touch them. For “emergency” situations, keep a separate emergency account. Keep in mind, this will take a lot of discipline. Your beach dreams won’t happen overnight, but with patience and determination, you can do it!

photo by alamosbasement

Nov 13 2014

How to Break Up With Your Cable Provider

By |November 13th, 2014|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|3 Comments|

Now that I’ve been in my house for one year and 11 months, I’m only one month away from the end of my 2 year agreement with my cable provider. That means it’s time for us to start seeing other people.

I got the bundle deal with internet and TV because it was literally about $5 more expensive than just internet. Luckily the pricing models have changed and now I can get only internet for substantially cheaper than I could get internet and cable.

So how do you get rid of cable TV but still entertain yourself with some high quality visual entertainment. Let me tell you.

Things Have Changed

I actually wrote about this very topic a long time ago. Actually I rapped about this topic. However, that rap is a little outdated, as there is much better and cheaper technology available these days.

All you need is the internet and either your laptop or a very cheap device to meet almost any entertainment needs you wish.

Once you’ve gotten internet from an ISP, you’ll need to find a way to stream shows to your TV. That requires 2 things: a streaming service (like Netflix) and a device to play  your shows and movies.

Streaming Service Options

There are still 3 main players in this world, and most of you are probably aware of them so I’m not going to go into much detail.

  • Netflix has TV shows and movies and is $7.99/month
  • Hulu Plus has mostly TV shows (more current options) and is $7.99/month
  • Amazon Prime gives you TV shows and movies along with free 2-day shipping, some free music, and other benefits. It costs $99/year ($8.25/month)

Streaming Hardware/Device Options

This is where there is a huge variety and I honestly haven’t tried a lot of them. The basic idea is that you can spend anywhere from $40 to $100 dollars and get a streaming device of your choice. You’ll have to do your own research, but here are a few of the most popular devices on the market today.

Cut the Cable Cord

With just the internet, one or more streaming services, and a very convenient streaming media player, you can get rid of cable for good and still get plenty of quality entertainment.

Also, if you do decide to get cable one day these media players are actually pretty nice to work in tandem with your cable subscription. Most of the media players have apps like HBO GO and Watch ESPN, so you can get that content over your media player even if you aren’t pulled into the cable box.