A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Budget You Can Actually Stick to

If you’re anything like me, you’re perpetually swinging between vowing to cut all unnecessary spending cold turkey and humming “Treat Yo’self” as you order your third UberEats meal in 12 hours.

Which one you’re doing depends on the day — and how long it’s been since your last paycheck.

The result: a pitiful savings account balance, scrimping to pay the minimum on your credit card and feeling like you’re still living paycheck to paycheck even though your income has come a long way since your first job out of college.

You know there is a way to solve this problem. You know that if you just create a budget — and by some miracle, stick to it — you could finally get the financial freedom everyone else seems to have already figured out.

You also know budgeting is a buzzkill.

But if you give it a genuine shot, we promise that we will, too. We’re in this together.

How to Budget in 4 Easy Steps

Creating a budget doesn’t have to be a grueling process. If you take some time to prepare and learn how to budget in a way that makes the most sense for your lifestyle, you can start on the road toward controlling your personal finances in no time.

We’ve laid out exactly what you need to do in four pretty simple steps.

Step 1: Know How Much You Make and Spend

Before you can make a budget that works, you need to know your numbers. We like to focus on a monthly budget, since most bills are due once a month.

Pro Tip

Exporting your statements to a spreadsheet or using highlighters on printed statements can help you see patterns in your income and spending habits.

Log in to your bank account online, and grab your last couple months’ worth of bank statements. While you’re at it, grab your credit card statements, too.

How to Figure Your Monthly Income

First, write down your monthly income.

This should be your take-home pay for the month. That’s the money you earn minus deductions for taxes, Medicare, Social Security, health insurance contributions and allocations to retirement accounts like your 401(k) or Roth IRA.

This is easy if you have a full-time, salaried job. If you are paid by commission, work hourly or have some other kind of irregular income (like freelancing), use an average of the last six months to get a rough idea.

Self-employed budgeters can benefit by taking a step back each quarter to examine their income. “If you’re paying quarterly taxes anyway, you have this natural stopping point to look,” says Lillian Karabaic, CEO of Oh My Dollar! “It’s a good way to check on the health of your business.”

But don’t just stop there. Add any extra money that comes in from your side hustles. Child support payments. Recurring bonuses or stipends. Financial aid payments. Include it all.

How to Figure Your Monthly Expenses

Your next step is the painful part: It’s time to log your monthly expenses.

Start with the recurring monthly stuff, which may include:

  1. Your rent or mortgage
  2. Car payment
  3. Car insurance
  4. Cell phone bill Internet, cable TV and other monthly subscriptions (think: Netflix and Spotify)
  5. Utilities
  6. Debt payments

Don’t forget to include non-monthly but recurring expenses, like the following:

  1. Vehicle registration fees
  2. Credit card fees
  3. HOA fees
  4. Professional association dues
  5. Annual subscription renewals

To incorporate these non-monthly but regular expenses into your monthly budget, add up the total cost for a year, then divide that number by 12 to find out how much they cost each month, according to Bridget Todd, COO of The Financial Gym.

“You might open a separate bank account for your annual expenses,” Todd said. “Then when the bills come, you don’t have to adjust your spending. It’s similar to saving for Christmas shopping” throughout the year.

From here, you’ll want to start adding up your discretionary expenses. Analyze your spending habits. How much are you spending on shopping, eating out and drinks with friends?

To get a full picture, you can put these things in categories. For example, movies, concerts and museum visits can all go under entertainment. Your gym membership, yoga membership and the drop-in rate on that one CrossFit class can all go under fitness.

Look at a few months of statements to get an average for this part, too. That will give you a more accurate picture of your finances.

Step 2: Set Your Financial Goals

If you’re going to succeed at this budgeting game, you need to have an idea of what you’re hoping to accomplish.

It can be a simple short-term savings goal like funding a vacation with your college besties. Or a long-term one, like learning to budget so your kid can go to college without student loan debt. And don’t forget about funding your retirement savings goal.

Set a goal, and make it a motivating one — your financial plan could be the only thing that stops you from swiping your debit card to buy yet another pair of shoes this weekend.

Next, get your priorities in order — literally. Write them down in order from most to least important to get an idea of where you want your money to go.

You might not get your priorities right the first time, and that’s ok. It’s challenging to choose one option over another, and if the first list doesn’t work well, you can always rework it. Work to find a balance between “fun” and “responsible” spending.

Pro Tip

If you see any areas where your spending is out of line with your goals, now’s the time to fix it by outlining a new budget that directs more of your income to your top priorities.

I take it a step further and mix my financial goals with my personal ones.

For example, I tend to overspend on restaurant meals. But budgeting less for eating out means I cook more healthy meals at home, so I save while staying on track to accomplish my weight loss goals, too. Then, I can use the money I save to build up my emergency fund or pay down debt a bit faster and continue toward my goal of becoming debt-free.

Step 3: Find Your Favorite Budgeting Method

Once you have a complete picture of your finances, it’s time to pick the budgeting method that works best for you. The one you choose will depend on how much time and energy you have to devote to it.

If you feel comfortable creating an old-fashioned budget worksheet in Excel, you can do that. We’ve got a few super simple ideas you can try if charts make your eyes glaze over.

But even after you’ve picked your favorite budgeting method, don’t be afraid to bend it a little to fit your financial situation.

Bare-Bones Budget

You don’t have to spend several hours each month working on a budget. The easiest way to budget is to grab a pen and paper and simply write down how much you make and how much you need to spend on the essentials — like housing, utilities, food and debt repayment. You save the rest.

Pro Tip

When you make a budget, keeping it on a sheet of paper somewhere visible to you will remind you to rein in your spending.

That’s it. You’re done.

Need a little more motivation than a blank sheet of paper? Here are five ideas for creating a bullet journal budget.

Zero-Based Budget

The zero-based budget takes the bare-bones budget one step further. The goal here is to get to zero at the end of each month. It helps you account for each dollar on the way.

Write down how much you make, and divide it to cover all your bills, savings and discretionary spending until you hit $ 0 at the end of the month.

Although this plan encourages you to get down to nothing, the idea isn’t to spend without regard; it’s to make sure every dollar goes exactly where you intend for it to go every month.

50/20/30 Budget

This takes all the guesswork out of deciding which expenses should stay in your budget and which ones need to go.

With the 50/20/30 plan, 50% of your money goes to essential expenses like housing, utilities and your car payment. From there, 20% will go to financial goals like savings and investments. The final 30% is yours to spend on the fun stuff like restaurants, movies and drinks with friends.

Cash Envelope Budget

The cash envelope system is good for those who have problems overspending on variable expenses like groceries or entertainment.

Review your monthly income and average expenses to determine how much you spend in each category.

Then take out your envelopes, label them by spending category and fill them up with their cash allocations. (You don’t need to use envelopes for fixed costs like rent or car insurance.)

When you’ve spent all the cash in an envelope, you can no longer spend in that category for the rest of the month.  

Step 4: Find the Best Budgeting Tools for You

Remember when I said you’re not alone in this quest to budget your money? Well, there are some tools that can help.

Automate Your Budget

Automating the budgeting process helps you focus on your priorities by sending the money where it needs to go before you have the chance to blow it on an impulse.

On the income side, that can mean setting up the automatic deposit for your paycheck to be divided between your checking and savings account.

Pro Tip

If you have a hard time remembering which bill is due when — or those dates just don’t jibe with your cash-flow situation — you can call a lender or company and ask them to adjust the date.

In the expenses column, you can set up autopay for recurring regular expenses like your car payment or mortgage, helping you avoid those dreaded late fees.

Budgeting Apps

While budgeting by hand works great, your smartphone can streamline it.

Mint: My favorite free app is Mint, which is available on iPhone and Android devices, and is also accessible at Mint.com. You connect your bank account and credit cards, then you set a dollar amount for how much you plan to spend in each category.

Mint will automatically analyze your spending and notify you when you get close to your budget limit or overspend. It’s pretty easy to use and can save you lots of time. The only downside is that the “You’ve exceeded your budget” emails can sometimes feel a little judgmental.

EveryDollar: If you’re a fan of the zero-based budget, EveryDollar is the free app for you. It’s also perfect for side hustlers whose income can fluctuate from month to month. As you manually track your spending with the app, use it to make sure every dollar you make is accounted for.

Prism: This isn’t technically a budgeting tool, but it’s still worth mentioning. Prism is a free app that puts all your bills in one place, so you always know exactly how much money you have and how much you owe.

You can connect everything from rent and car insurance to student loan payments and your Tidal music streaming account, and you can pay your bills right from the app.

You Need a Budget: This started out as an app and then became a book, too. It hinges on four rules:

  1. Give every dollar a job.
  2. Embrace your true expenses, not your ideal ones.
  3. Roll with the punches, and adjust your budget as you spend.
  4. “Age your money,” meaning hold onto it longer, and start to break the habits that leave you living paycheck to paycheck.

You Need a Budget is more hands-on than other apps. It’s also the only option that’s not free. After the 34-day free trial, you’ll pay $ 6.99 per month for the service.

Don’t Let Setbacks Discourage You

Lillian Karabaic, CEO of Oh My Dollar!, likes to remind her clients that the first month you set up your budget, you’ll forget about things.

“That’s OK. You’re just getting better information” each month as you remember expenses, she said. “The third month is the point at which, if you’re still doing it, you start to feel like you’re in charge of the budget.”

Key words there: If you’re still doing it.

You’re likely to fall off your budget in one of these two ways: You set restrictions for yourself but fail to meet them, or you forget to keep up with your budgeting method and give up. You only really need the parts of a budget method that serve you and your plans for the future.

And remember: making a budget isn’t a one-time event. Keep an eye on your plan as your goals and life change. Earning a raise, losing a job, getting married, having kids, starting a business — each of these life changes requires you to review and recalibrate your budget to stay on track to meet your goals and live your life.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Nicole Dow, former staff writer Lisa Rowan and freelancer Kevin Mack contributed to this post.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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How to Create a Budget for Your Siding Project

Siding is an integral component of your home. It can drastically change the appearance with texture and color while protecting your home from the elements and making your home more energy efficient. While moving forward on the project and selecting a contractor is exciting, it’s important to find time to look at the numbers and complete the budgeting process for your siding project.

Creating a budget for a home improvement project like siding installation can seem intimidating, but you’re in the right place to find guidance on how to best manage and create a budget for your investment in your home.

Budget for Siding

There are so many siding varieties in today’s market to match every homeowner’s vision and budget. Depending on the material, siding can range in price from $ 4-$ 15 per square foot. Things to consider with your contractor will include the climate in your area, the look you’re trying to create, and the numbers you’re working with. Do your research, but also leverage your contractor’s expertise for which material will be the most cost effective for your home.  

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. Budgeting your project is stressful and we get that: The first step is to be sure you can afford the siding you’re planning to install, based on factors like your cash flow, your assets, and what the return will be on your investment.

That’s where the budget comes in. Put simply, your budget is comprised of some simple math. After consulting with your contractor, here’s what you need to figure out.

How much can you afford?

Calculate your income and your expenses, your needs and your wants, and find the figure of money you could theoretically put aside for this investment in your home. Your experienced contractor is one of your most important initial sources on how to best determine what that investment should look like from outside your personal goals— be sure to consult them, but remember this is your project (and your money).

What Is Your Home Equity?

If and when you decide to finance your own siding installation, your home equity could play a pivotal role in everything from your loan amount to your interest rate. Simply put, your equity is the difference between what you owe on your home or property and the appraised (or market) value determined for it.

The more of your mortgage you’ve already paid, for example, the higher your equity in the given property. And the more equity you hold in your home, the more powerful you are as a borrower, especially when it comes to purchasing power, or the financial ability to buy (or purchase) things.

Begin Your Siding Project Today

What Is Your Credit Rating?

From your credit score to your existing savings, purchasing power, and other ongoing loans, various financial institutions will have slightly different scales by which to determine your eligibility for a home improvement loan. And while some programs are certainly designed to be on your side—like the HomeStyle Energy Program or the Title I Property Improvement Loan—you’re going to be paying back in some way.

One of the most significant markers of your financial health—as determined by financial institutions, anyway—is your credit score. Plainly put, a credit score is “predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Companies us proprietary  scoring models to calculate your credit score using information from your credit reports, which essentially break down your “credit activity and current credit situation, such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts.”

Knowing your credit rating and how you’ll be considered as a borrower will go a long way in helping you determine how much you can afford as you budget for new siding.

Be Real About Your Siding Needs

Homeowners have shared through surveys that trying to decipher the complex elements of their siding project left them seeking more professional support—which our homeowners found with Modernize.

You likely already have a solid idea of what this project will entail based on what your contractor has shared with you. And while their goals might be completely in your favor and aim to maximize the amount of protection from the elements and insulation the siding brings in, they might not necessarily align with your personal or aesthetic goals. Be sure to communicate your own priorities with your contractor.

 It all comes down to trusting a contractor—and that also means a contractor trusting you. The more upfront you are about what you want to do and your financial limits, the better a contractor will be able to hone in on the best type of budget to build for your siding installation. It might not result in the gingerbread house of your dreams siding job you dreamed of, but it will result in the best value you’ll get for the money you’re able to invest.

Modernize’s content is intended for informational use only. We make no representations to the accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site, and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. By using our website, you are accepting the practices described in this Privacy Policy. Please review our Terms of Service for more.

The post How to Create a Budget for Your Siding Project appeared first on Modernize.

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How to Create a Budget for Your AC Replacement

If your air conditioner stopped working unexpectedly, it creates a stressful situation for your entire household. The silver lining is that a new air conditioning unit will keep you cool, help increase the value of your home, and save your money on your utility bills. Trying to make decisions under strife can be daunting. It is important to have clear conversations around cost with your contractor and complete the budgeting process for your HVAC project.

Creating a budget for a home improvement project like an air conditioning replacement can seem intimidating. It is important to research how to best manage and create a budget for your investment in your home.

Budgeting for Your Air Conditioner

There are so many systems and projects in today’s market to match every homeowner’s needs and budget. Things to consider with your contractor will include the type of system your contractor suggests for your home, the energy efficiency of that system, and the budget you’re working with. Complete your own research, but also expect your contractor to know which system will be the most cost effective for your home.  We encourage you to look at our cost calculator as well to get a better idea of what to expect.

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. Budgeting your project is stressful and we get that: The first step is to be sure you can afford the air conditioning unit you’re planning to install, based on factors like your cash flow, your assets, and what the return will be on your investment.

That’s where the budget comes in. Put simply, your budget is comprised of some simple math. After consulting with your contractor, here’s what you need to figure out.

How Much Can You Afford?

Depending on your home’s layout, your contractor will help determine the best air conditioning system for your needs. Prices could range anywhere from $ 3,500 to $ 7,600. But remember, certain units will also help drive your energy costs down. As noted in a previous Modernize report, central air conditioning units with high energy efficiency capabilities —also known as high SEER ratings— can save you a considerable amount of money on your average heating and cooling energy bills.

Calculate your income and your expenses, your needs and your wants, and find the figure of money you could theoretically put aside for an investment in your home. Your experienced contractor is one of your most important initial sources on how to best determine what that investment should look like from outside your personal goals.

Ready to start
your project?



What Is Your Home Equity?

If and when you decide to finance your own air conditioning installation, your home equity could play a pivotal role in everything from your loan amount to your interest rate. Simply put, your equity is the difference between what you owe on your home or property and the appraised (or market) value determined for it.

The more of your mortgage you’ve already paid, for example, the higher your equity in the given property. And the more equity you hold in your home, the more powerful you are as a borrower, especially when it comes to purchasing power, or the financial ability to buy (or purchase) things.

What Is Your Credit Rating?

From your credit score to your existing savings, purchasing power, and other ongoing loans, various financial institutions will have slightly different scales by which to determine your eligibility for a home improvement loan. And while some programs are certainly designed to be on your side—like the HomeStyle Energy Program or the Title I Property Improvement Loan—you’re going to be paying back in some way.

One of the most significant markers of your financial health—as determined by financial institutions, anyway—is your credit score. Plainly put, a credit score is “predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Companies us proprietary  scoring models to calculate your credit score using information from your credit reports, which essentially break down your “credit activity and current credit situation, such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts.”

Knowing your credit rating and how you’ll be considered as a borrower will go a long way in helping you determine how much you can afford as you budget for new siding.

Be Real About Your Air Conditioning Needs

Homeowners have told us repeatedly through surveys that trying to decipher the complex elements of their siding project left them seeking more professional support— which our homeowners found with Modernize.

You likely already have a solid idea of what this project will be comprised of based on what your contractor has shared with you. And while their goals might be completely in your favor and aim to maximize your home’s insulation or energy efficiency, they might not necessarily align with your personal or aesthetic goals. Be sure to communicate your own priorities with your contractor.

It all comes down to trusting a contractor—and that also means a contractor trusting you. The more upfront you are about what you want to do and your financial limits, the better a contractor will be able to hone in on the best type of budget to build for your air conditioning project. It will ensure the best value you’ll get for the money you’re able to invest.

Modernize’s content is intended for informational use only. We make no representations to the accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site, and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. By using our website, you are accepting the practices described in this Privacy Policy. Please review our Terms of Service for more.

The post How to Create a Budget for Your AC Replacement appeared first on Modernize.

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How to Create a Budget for Your Windows Project

It’s very exciting that you have a set a course to upgrade or replace your windows, and in doing so will be increasing the value of your home and saving on your utility bills. And while your conversations with your contractor are exciting, it’s important to find time to look at the numbers and complete the process of budgeting your windows project.

Creating a budget for a relatively costly home improvement project like a windows replacement installation can seem intimidating — you’re in the right place to find guidance on how to best manage and create a budget for your investment in your home. There are simple paths you can take to simplify and ease your journey.

Budgeting for Windows

Replacement windows are an investment for homeowners. Replacement windows can cost an average of $ 300 to $ 750 per window, depending on the window type and brand.  Homeowners can find the best budget for their project by negotiating the final contract price and terms with a window contractor they trust. Further, it’s okay to expect the contractor to handle the bulk of the work in reducing costs before your windows upgrade project even begins—after all, one of their value propositions is expertise in the field and local knowledge about getting the most out of local, state, and federal rebates and incentives.

That all amounts to a big leg up.

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. Budgeting your project is stressful and we get that: The first step is to be sure you can afford this system you’re planning to install, based on factors like your cash flow, your assets, and what the return will be on your investment.

Enter the budget.

How Much Can You Afford?

It could also be lucrative to finance your own window replacement.  

Calculate your income and your expenses, your needs and your wants, and find the figure of money you could theoretically put aside for an investment in your home. Your experienced contractor is one of your most important initial sources on how to best determine what that investment should look like from outside your personal goals—be sure to consult them for that piece of the pie but remember this is your project (and your money) so it’s okay to be a little selfish and somewhat frugal to achieve your ends.

Begin Your Window Project Today

What Is Your Home Equity?

If and when you decide to finance your own windows replacement, your home equity could play a pivotal role in everything from your loan amount to your interest rate. Simply put, your equity is the difference between what you owe on your home or property and the appraised (or market) value determined for it.

The more of your mortgage you’ve already paid, for example, the higher your equity in the given property. And the more equity you hold in your home, the more powerful you are as a borrower, especially when it comes to purchasing power, or the financial ability to buy (or purchase) things.

What Is Your Credit Rating?

From your credit score to your existing savings, purchasing power, and other ongoing loans, various financial institutions will have slightly different scales by which to determine your eligibility for a home improvement loan. And while some programs are certainly designed to be on your side—like the HomeStyle Energy Program or the Title I Property Improvement Loan—you’re going to be paying back in some way.

One of the most significant markers of your financial health—as determined by financial institutions, anyway—is your credit score. Plainly put, a credit score “predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Companies use proprietary scoring models to calculate your credit score based on information from your credit reports, which essentially break down your “credit activity and current credit situation, such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts.”

Knowing your credit rating and how you’ll be considered as a borrower will go a long way in helping you determine how much you can afford as you budget for windows.

Be Real About Your Home Window Needs

When surveying homeowners, we often hear that ahead of a windows-related home improvement project, people are often misinformed about how to determine what they should focus on like window styles, frames, siding, and so on. Not to mention, the windows market is a wide one and includes many common names and brands you might trust for other products — take some time to familiarize yourself with the best window brands out there.

You likely already have a solid idea of what this project will entail based on what your contractor has shared with you. And while their goals might be completely in your favor and aim to maximize the increase in your home value, they might not necessarily align with your personal goals. Be sure to communicate your own priorities with your contractor.

Find Local Window Contractors Today

 

It all comes down to trusting a contractor—and that also means a contractor trusting you. The more upfront you are about what you want to do and your financial limits, the better a contractor will be able to hone in on the best type of budget to build for your windows replacement, upgrade, or initial installation. It might not result in the pie-in-the-sky home improvement or exponential home value you dreamed of, but it will result in the best value you’ll get for the money you’re able to invest.

Modernize’s content is intended for informational use only. We make no representations to the accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site, and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. By using our website, you are accepting the practices described in this Privacy Policy. Please review our Terms of Service for more.

The post How to Create a Budget for Your Windows Project appeared first on Modernize.

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How to Create a Budget for Your Roofing Project

When you are facing emergency roofing repairs that you did not expect, it’s hard not to worry that your budget for roof replacement is not going to place serious strain on your finances. If you are in this position, the first thing you should know is that you’re not alone: It is estimated that the home remodeling industry in the United States is a $ 99 billion sector. That means a lot of people are remodeling portions of their home at the same time you are.

Creating your budget for roof replacement can help you feel like the project is more manageable and under control. As the scope of the project starts to come into focus after you get the numbers on paper, you can begin taking actionable steps toward replacing your roof and getting your home looking its best.

Here is what to know about starting your budget for roof replacement and how you can find the finances you need to complete repairs.

Making a Budget for Roof Replacement

Budgeting for roof repairs does not have to be confusing. In fact, by following a few simple steps you can get organized and prepared to create a workable budget that keeps you on track throughout your repair process.

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Step 1. File a Roofing Insurance Claim

If your roof is damaged and you believe some of the costs could be covered by insurance, it’s important to start an insurance claim as soon as possible. If your insurance will cover the cost of your repairs, your entire budget might only be the deductible. For example, if you have a $ 1,000 deductible and your roof will cost $ 4,500 to repair, you would pay the $ 1,000 and your insurance company would pay $ 3,500.

After you submit a claim the insurance company will likely work with you to find a time when an adjuster can come out to survey the damage.  

Step 2. Compare Quotes From Contractors

In order to make a budget to replace your roof you’re going to need an accurate idea of how much the entire project will cost. That’s why you should meet with several local contractors to have them each give you a quote on estimated repairs. Before moving forward with any contractor you should compare quotes to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Even though your contractor might provide a general quote that has one line item for the cost of time and one line item for the cost of goods, ask if they can make the quote more specific. It could help your budget to know exactly what materials they’ll be using and if there are any less expensive materials that could do the same job. Getting a more detailed quote from your contractors allows you to do a better comparison. Plus, if the project goes off budget you’ll have a better idea of why.

Once you have several quotes from contractors you can show these to your insurance adjuster, who will also have an idea of how much these repairs typically cost and if your estimates seem accurate.

Step 3. Find Room in Your Household Budget

Here’s the tricky part — finding room to pay for your part of the repairs. If you don’t already have an emergency savings fund set aside you might find it difficult to come up with the finances to afford your repairs.

Here are some options if you’re trying to find the money to fix your roof:

  • Review your household spending: Are there any areas where you can slim down your spending so that you can reallocate the money toward your roofing project? Remember, this likely won’t be a permanent change in your finances, but a temporary adjustment while you’re finishing your roofing project.
  • Look for housing grants. Some states have programs for low-income homeowners that loan or grant money to help pay for necessary repairs. You can start researching what’s available in your state at the Housing and Urban Development website. The U.S. government also has a program for low-income rural homeowners to help pay for repairs. You can check online to see if you meet the eligibility requirements for this federal program. The federal government also provides some tax incentives for some home improvements that you can review on their website.
  • Consider a home repair loan. If you’re still strapped for cash and are having a hard time making room in your budget for a roofing project, consider applying for a personal loan to cover some of the costs. You can compare lenders online to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Lenders will review your credit history and current work situation to determine your creditworthiness. As you’re shopping, compare APRs and terms to make sure that the loans you’ve been offered are the right fit for you. Remember, if you extend the term of the loan you might have lower monthly payments but end up paying more in interest over its lifetime. Nonetheless, your main priority should be to find a loan with monthly payments that you can keep up to.
  • Look at 0 Percent APR credit cards. Some credit cards will have an introductory rate of 0 percent APR. What this means is that if you pay the entire credit card off before the introductory period ends, you won’t owe any interest on the money. If you don’t have the cash to pay for your roofing project now but you believe you can acquire it before the APR on the credit card changes, this could be a savvy way to finance your roofing project. Remember, depending on your credit you might not qualify for the lowest introductory rate advertised, so make sure you check to see the official APR you’ve qualified for before you open the card. Also, be careful to pay the credit card off before the introductory rate changes otherwise you might owe a lot of interest as the new rate could be significantly higher.  

Step 4. Create an Emergency Fund for Next Time

After you’ve created your budget for your current repairs, don’t stop there. Now that you have an idea of how to create a home repair budget, do yourself a favor and start saving for the next time. As a homeowner, you know that there’s always maintenance and repair work that needs to be done. If you’ve had difficulty saving for an emergency fund in the past, this time consider some new strategies that could help you. Have you tried a budgeting app? Apps like Mint or GoodBudget can help you track your spending and give you notifications to encourage you along the way toward your savings goal so that you’ll be able to handle any home repair emergencies in the future.

Modernize’s content is intended for informational use only. We make no representations to the accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site, and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. By using our website, you are accepting the practices described in this Privacy Policy. Please review our Terms of Service for more.

The post How to Create a Budget for Your Roofing Project appeared first on Modernize.

Modernize

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

How to Create a Budget for Your Solar Project

It’s very exciting that you have a set a course to install solar panels and in doing so will be increasing the value of your home and saving on your utility bills. And while your conversations with your contractor are exciting, it’s important to find time to look at the numbers and complete the process of budgeting your solar project.

Creating a budget for a relatively costly home improvement project like solar panel installation can seem intimidating — you’re in the right place to find guidance on how to best manage and create a budget for your investment in your home. There are simple paths you can take to simplify and ease your journey.

Budgeting for Solar Panels

Most importantly, remember the ball is in your court. The cost of solar installation has dropped more than 70 percent since 2010, according to data from Solar Energy Industries Association. In response, therefore, contractors have stepped up their game to compete in an increasingly saturated arena. Further, it’s okay to expect the contractor to handle the bulk of the work in reducing costs before your solar installation project even begins—after all, one of their value propositions is expertise in the field and local knowledge about getting the most out of local, state, and federal rebates and incentives.

That all amounts to a big leg up.

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. Budgeting your project is stressful and we get that: The first step is to be sure you can afford this system you’re planning to install, based on factors like your cash flow, your assets, and what the return will be on your investment.

Enter the budget. 

Starting Saving With Solar

Calculating What You Can Afford

Some solar panel system installation projects could cost nothing at all. You could increase your home value with solar without buying a solar panel system at all. But considering the many financial incentives offered by local, regional, and federal agencies, it could also be lucrative to finance your own solar paneling system.  

Calculate your income and your expenses, your needs and your wants, and find the figure of money you could theoretically put aside for an investment in your home. Your experienced contractor is one of your most important initial sources on how to best determine what that investment should look like from outside your personal goals—be sure to consult them for that piece of the pie but remember this is your project (and your money) so it’s okay to be a little selfish and somewhat frugal to achieve your ends.

What Is Your Home Equity?

If and when you decide to finance your own solar paneling, your home equity could play a pivotal role in everything from your loan amount to your interest rate. Simply put, your equity is the difference between what you owe on your home or property and the appraised (or market) value determined for it.

The more of your mortgage you’ve already paid, for example, the higher your equity in the given property. And the more equity you hold in your home, the more powerful you are as a borrower, especially when it comes to purchasing power, or the financial ability to buy (or purchase) things.

What Is Your Credit Rating?

From your credit score to your existing savings, purchasing power, and other ongoing loans, various financial institutions will have slightly different scales by which to determine your eligibility for a home improvement loan. And while some programs are certainly designed to be on your side—like the HomeStyle Energy Program or the Title I Property Improvement Loan—you’re going to be paying back in some way.

One of the most significant markers of your financial health—as determined by financial institutions, anyway—is your credit score. Plainly put, a credit score is “predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Companies us proprietary  scoring models to calculate your credit score using information from your credit reports, which essentially break down your “credit activity and current credit situation, such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts.”

Knowing your credit rating and how you’ll be considered as a borrower will go a long way in helping you determine how much you can afford as you budget for solar panels.

Find Solar Installers Near You

Be Real About Your Solar Panel Needs

When surveying homeowners, we often hear that ahead of a solar power home improvement project, people are often misinformed about how to determine the right amount of solar panels for their home.

You likely already have a solid idea of what this project will entail based on what your contractor has shared with you. And while their goals might be completely in your favor and aim to maximize the amount of solar power you could bring in, they might not necessarily align with your personal goals. Be sure to communicate your own priorities with your contractor.

It all comes down to trusting a contractor—and that also means a contractor trusting you. The more upfront you are about what you want to do and your financial limits, the better a contractor will be able to hone in on the best type of budget to build for your solar panel installation. It might not result in the pie-in-the-sky solar panel home improvement you dreamed of, but it will result in the best value you’ll get for the money you’re able to invest.

Modernize’s content is intended for informational use only. We make no representations to the accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site, and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. By using our website, you are accepting the practices described in this Privacy Policy. Please review our Terms of Service for more.

The post How to Create a Budget for Your Solar Project appeared first on Modernize.

Modernize

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

How to see the Seven Wonders of the World an a budget


The Seven Wonders of the World are there for all of us to admire but sometimes getting there is a little out of our price range. They are some of the most visited places on Earth, but we are left wondering how because they are so expensive to travel to. Luckily we have some tricks that will make sure you can check off the Seven Wonders from your bucket list at a fraction of the cost.

How to see the Seven Wonders of the World an a budget

Get your timing right

The first thing to consider when looking to book a trip to visit any of the Seven Wonders is to look at the time of year. If you’re heading there in peak time, then you’re going to be spending way more money than if you go at a different time of the year.

Most of the Seven Wonders are cheaper to visit from April to June, except for the Taj Mahal, which is cheaper to visit in November. Heading to these wonders during the off-season means your bank balance will be healthier and you’ll also be able to enjoy them with fewer people around.

Book ahead

No matter what time of the year you decide to go, you’re going to have to buy tickets to the Wonders. Why not save yourself both some time and some money by booking them in advance. Most places will offer you some discount for advanced bookings so why not take advantage of that when visiting the Seven Wonders?

Keeping your eye out for any promotions the attractions are offering is another way in which you can save yourself some much-needed cash.

Spread them out

Some people try to take in the Seven Wonders in one trip, but that usually means they don’t get to spend much time looking at them. Plus, if you’re booking yourself a round-the-world trip, then you know that cost is going to add up.

Traveling isn’t all that cheap so maybe take your time and visit one at a time. That way you can take them in at a slower pace, plus you don’t have to frantically travel to the next destination, which adds more stress and cost.

How to see the Seven Wonders of the World an a budget

Shop around

One of the most important things you can possibly do to save yourself some money is to shop around, especially when it comes to accommodation. These attractions are all surrounded by hotels just waiting to charge you an arm and a leg for the pleasure of staying with them. Not much further afield will be cheaper places to stay, or you could go even cheaper and look at hostels or B&Bs.

If you’re traveling on a budget, you’ll want to save money where you can and your accommodation, along with your travel, are likely to be the most expensive. Making real savings on these will make the Seven Wonders of the World accessible for those traveling on a budget.

Many of us want to see all of the world, but sadly we just don’t have the cash. Following these tips will help make sure you keep costs low but still get to witness some of humanity’s greatest achievements.

The post How to see the Seven Wonders of the World an a budget appeared first on Worldation.

Worldation

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

The Money Snapshot: A 32-Year-Old Tech Support Worker Shares Thoughts on Budget Tracking

graphic of various money-related icons with text on top reading A 32-Year-Old Tech Support Worker Shares... Her Money Snapshot

Presenting our fourth “money snapshot,” this time with a tech support worker in Kansas! She notes: “Our decision to move from L.A./Orange County to Kansas City … [has] been probably the biggest factor in allowing us to improve our lifestyle and financial standing. When I told one Californian friend what I paid for my 3BR house, she literally fell over. It’s an enormous difference for the cost of living.”

By way of background: We got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we’ve asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving and more! If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here to submit your response! You can see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time. See others in the Personal Money Snapshot series here.

Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat

Name: Aerin
Location: Overland Park, KS (suburb of Kansas City)
Age: 32
Occupation: Tech support worker 
Income: $ 58,300
Partner’s age: 37, works as a technical trainer
Household income:
$ 115,000
Net worth: House is worth about $ 190K, have about $ 55K in retirement/savings. My husband also has savings accounts; don’t know his totals.
Net worth when started working: My very first job was babysitting at 14, so I didn’t have much net worth one way or another. I graduated college at 23 with about $ 11K in student loans and $ 5K in credit card debt.
Current debt: $ 1K credit card, $ 4K on car, $ 1K student loans, $ 138K balance on mortgage, $ 25K on personal loan
Living situation: Own, pay $ 1,100 mortgage

Is there anything else we should know about you?
Personal loan was to consolidate credit cards and financing for a major home repair, plus a bit of a slush fund for further home improvements. That total also includes the financing for our bed, which we got at 0% interest.

Also, my parents and I were in a commercial when I was a baby, doing one of those customer testimonial things. Commercial money is kind of insane, because you get paid every time it airs. I had to pay taxes as an infant! That money helped set up savings accounts for me and my siblings, and was the seed of what my parents later contributed toward a down payment for my house (about $ 5K by the time I cashed it in).

Debt

What does your debt picture look like?
I have some student loans, not a ton. My husband has more, but he handles that separately. I ran up some credit card debt in college due to some emergencies/large expenses that took me a while to pay off. Recently I had to carry a balance on one of my cards due to a large vacation.

How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
$ 100–$ 200 for credit card beyond regular use (see below), $ 70 for student loans, $ 177 for car payment, $ 1,200 for mortgage, $ 560 for personal loan.

How did you pay for school?
My school had a very generous aid package, and a commitment to ensure that any student they accepted could attend, regardless of what they could pay. For the first year and a half or so, my dad was contributing to the tune of maybe $ 6K/year. Then my sister was in a serious car accident that required two months in the ICU and several follow-up surgeries. He talked to the school and they eliminated his contribution, replacing it with grants. Student loans were a small percentage of aid to begin with, but then my senior year the school made headlines by removing loans from the package altogether. Beyond that, I had a work-study job, and worked an additional part-time job for about half my time there, which covered day-to-day expenses, travel, books, that sort of thing.

Have you paid off any major debt?
I had three separate student loans in my package. Two of them are paid off, and the third should be cleared in 2019. I also cleared a credit card by paying it down by an extra $ 100 each month. (So if the balance had been $ 1,900, then usage + interest brought it to $ 2,050, I would pay $ 250 to bring the balance down to $ 1,800.)

Home debt: 
We pay $ 100 more than the minimum. We looked at what we were paying in rent and tried to keep our mortgage payment similar. We ended up spending more than we hoped, but still less than we got approved for. Paying off the mortgage faster is a nice idea, although we plan to sell this house which would start the clock over anyway.

Have you ever done anything noteworthy to avoid or lessen debt?
The debt consolidation loan was kind of a big deal. It lowered the interest rates on some of my debt pretty substantially. And, of course, it just felt really good to zero out those other accounts. Oh, and I can’t forget our decision to move from L.A./Orange County to Kansas City. That was entirely financial — we had outgrown our one-bedroom apartment, and our options were to get a roommate, get second jobs, cut our expenses significantly, or move someplace cheaper. We opted for the last one, and it’s been probably the biggest factor in allowing us to improve our lifestyle and financial standing. When I told one Californian friend what I paid for my 3BR house, she literally fell over. It’s an enormous difference for the cost of living.

Thinking of making a move like Aerin’s but worried about leaving behind big-city life? We asked her to pass on some advice: 

It’s funny, I actually do a lot more in Kansas City than I did in L.A. — we’re members of the zoo and had season tickets for the symphony and the Broadway series for the past couple of years (although we’re not renewing either), plus we do a fair number of concerts, author events, and conventions. In L.A., we had annual passes for Disneyland and … that was about it. We have the time (thanks to a commute that’s over an hour shorter each way) and disposable income to do things we just couldn’t there. I’ve always lived in cities (well, suburbs of major metros) so I don’t think I’d do well in a legitimately small town. But I’ve found that basically if a city is large enough to support an airport, it’s likely going to have a decent selection of good restaurants and cultural offerings. I mean, Des Moines has a better Broadway series than KC does for next season! There are still some specific things I miss (returning to In-N-Out is the closest I get to a religious experience), but on the whole the trade-offs have been worth it.

The deal I made with my husband when we first talked about moving was that if we weren’t happy, we could just save aggressively for a couple of years and be better positioned to move back. It helped that we didn’t have kids, and that he was able to transfer within his company so we retained his income and our insurance for the transition. I’m open to making a big move again if the right opportunity comes up, but we’re more settled now, so the bar for that would be pretty high.

Savings, Investments & Retirement

How much do you save for retirement?
I contributed $ 3,600 this year. My company matched that, plus an additional 1% of my salary.

How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts?
None. I know my husband has an FSA, though.

How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
I have a $ 25 monthly savings transfer that I set up in college and still use. I also have a keep the change program that rounds up my purchases to the nearest dollar and moves that to savings. Beyond that, I allocate money to savings as I can when dividing up paychecks.

Do you have/use a financial adviser or planner? 
I just use the default for my retirement plan. I don’t really have enough of anything else to do any serious investing.

Do you have an end goal for saving or are you just saving for a rainy day?
Mostly I like to save for a rainy day. We also tend to save up for large purchase/projects, especially vacations.

What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
I try to avoid purchasing things until I have the cash on hand to do it. I also try to price compare and find good sales. We lived paycheck to paycheck when I was growing up (we were pretty solidly middle class, but my mom kept the regular expenses extremely tight to allow for spending/safety nets in other areas) so I learned a lot of tricks and a frugal mindset that way.

We asked Aerin to share some more money-saving strategies she’s learned:

When we were kids, my mom made us divide our money into 50% savings, 20% gifts, 30% spending. So this acquainted me with splitting early on, but I kind of resented not getting to keep much of my money. So when I wanted to buy a laptop in high school, I ended up sort of skimming off myself — if I made $ 17 babysitting, I’d hand over $ 15 and squirrel away the other $ 2 in a hidden spot. I found it easier to get my head around saving up for something specific than for its own sake. That’s still largely how I operate, very goal-oriented.

The other big thing I remember is her teaching us the importance of tracking expenses. Once we were about junior-high age, she gave each of us kids an equal envelope of cash and took us back-to-school shopping for clothes and supplies, where we’d each pick out and pay for our own stuff. The trick was, we didn’t go to Walmart for supplies until very last. So if you didn’t hold back enough money to pay for a new backpack or binder, you were stuck using last year’s. Definitely a hands-on lesson! Another time she and I went on a long weekend trip to visit the campus of my first-choice college, and she put me in charge of writing down every penny we spent. Seeing how little stuff could add up was very enlightening.

How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
$ 3K in my personal account, $ 4K in joint account. My husband maintains a separate personal account; I don’t know his total.

How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week?
$ 1,200 in personal savings, $ 4K in joint savings.

How much is in your “emergency fund,” and where do you keep it?
Savings accounts as noted above. Some money in the regular accounts is allocated for specific larger expenses as needed (like medical bills or car stuff).

How much do you have in retirement savings?
$ 50K; don’t know about my husband’s.

Spending 

How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?

Groceries: $ 400
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery: 
$ 300
Clothing and accessories: $ 30
Transportation: $ 200 (car payment; car is fully electric, so charging costs are minimal)
Rent/living expenses: $ 1,100
Entertainment: $ 150
Other major expenses: If I’m working on a major sewing/craft project, that can eat up a lot of cash. (I do have an Etsy shop, and it’s not something I would consider a full-on side hustle, but it usually brings in enough to pay for supplies for the next project and keeps that stuff from cluttering up the house. The downside is it means I tend to pick projects with an eye toward inventory rather than fun or challenge.) We also allocate about $ 50/month for pet expenses. 
Health care — premiums and other costs: $ 3.300/year medical, $ 130/year dental, $ 280/year vision, all for me and my husband. I probably spend about $ 1,000/year outside of coverage for things like chiropractor (not covered), co-pays, tests, that sort of thing.

What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?

Vacations – Range: $ 1,000–$ 8,000 
Vacations – Average:
$ 4,000

Charity – Range of Donations: $ 10–$ 200
Charity – Average Donation:
$ 30/monthly recurring donations, $ 10–20 here and there when I can

Individual items of clothing – Range: $ 5–$ 300
Individual items of clothing – Average: It hurts me to spend more than $ 20 on a single item of clothing. I do a lot of thrifting. One thing I do spend more on is coats.

Apartment or house – Current main residence: Purchased at $ 153K

Car or other vehicle – Range: $ 2,000–$ 10,000
Car or other vehicle – Last purchase / current main vehicle: $ 8,000

Any other large personal expenses? 
Lawn care $ 75/month (although we’re probably gonna get rid of that).

We asked Aerin to comment on whether she’d like to spend less (or more) on any of the categories listed: 

I’d really like to get our food costs down. We’ve been experimenting with a few different things for that, but everything at the grocery store is getting so expensive that it’s tricky. And I’m always trying to find extra money to throw at the vacation fund.

Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.
I could save a decent chunk on groceries if I cut coupons and planned my meals better, but I don’t because I just don’t have the time or energy.

When was your wedding, how much did it cost (total), and how much did YOU pay? 
2010, cost $ 7K, my parents contributed about $ 4K

Tell us about your wedding: 
We cut down the guest list to literally the people in the wedding, their spouses, and any other family on the same tier. (So my husband’s uncle performed the ceremony, so we also invited the uncle’s siblings but not other aunts and uncles. He’s closer to his extended family than I am to mine, so this gave us a clear way to draw lines.) Total was about 40 people. Since my family is scattered all over, we got married in Las Vegas to make the travel easier. We booked a huge suite with a great view at Mandalay Bay, and that’s where we did the welcome dinner, rehearsal lunch, ceremony, and reception. When our caterer asked for my budget I told him $ 35/person, figuring I could go up as high as $ 50/person plus booze. He came back with a cocktail menu including beer/wine/soda for $ 35. The food was great, and that allowed us to cater the other meals plus take everyone to a breakfast buffet the next day.

We did a bunch of other stuff to cut down on expenses. My gown was $ 250 at David’s Bridal, marked down because it had been discontinued. I spent nine months making roses out of book pages. Instead of a regular cake, we did cookie cakes on a tiered display I designed and built. (That one got featured on CNN!) I spent ages scouring eBay for things like bridal party gifts (my side each got a nice leather-bound copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales), cake topper, shoes, jewelry, etc. Photographer and videographer were both friends who gave us good rates. The one place we didn’t skimp on was the rings, since we figured that was one of the few things we’d still have after the day was done. Those cost about $ 1K each.

Basically, we wanted to put our money toward showing everyone a really good time. We knew that traveling was expensive and annoying, so we wanted to make sure our guests were well cared for while they were there. The whole affair was pretty relaxed and we got to see nearly everyone outside the wedding itself, so it was pretty successful in that regard. And we did so well on the cost of the wedding that we had about $ 3K left over to pamper ourselves for a few extra days in Vegas.

Are there any other large expenses in your life, now or previously?
Buying myself a MacBook Pro in college cost about $ 3K that I didn’t have at the time, and I spent quite a while paying back that credit card debt. But I didn’t need to buy another computer for about six years after that, so I guess it worked out? Moving across the country pretty much wiped us out. We had some friends who let us live with them for a couple of months until we got on our feet, which was a huge help.

At any point in your life to date, has inheritance played a role in your money situation?  
My mom inherited some money from her parents, but we were all adults when they died so none of it has really passed to us (since there wasn’t a ton). 

How has your family provided financial support in your adult life, if any? (Or, do you provide support to them?)
My mom and stepdad gave me a car when I was in college, because I desperately needed one due to how far away my job was. When that car died and couldn’t be revived, my dad had just paid off his car so he gave it to me and bought a new one. I was extremely broke at the time and couldn’t afford car payments, so this was extremely necessary. Beyond that, I haven’t really leaned on my parents for much financially. 

I should revise the non-financial support from family: I don’t live anywhere near family, though they’ve sometimes advised from afar. Recently I had a weird power outage, and I told my mom who told my stepdad who told my stepbrother. He correctly deduced that it was an issue with the power company, which saved me from having to pay an electrician on a Sunday.

Does your family provide any non-financial support? 
I don’t live anywhere near family, though they’ve sometimes advised from afar. Recently, I had a weird power outage, and I told my mom, who told my stepdad, who told my stepbrother. He correctly deduced that it was an issue with the power company, which saved me from having to pay an electrician on a Sunday.

Money Strategy

Do you have a general money strategy?
Oh, yes: The Spreadsheet.

I started doing this after we moved to the Midwest, before I found work and money was extremely tight. It’s got a column for each category of expenses: one for each bill (mortgage, power, insurance, etc) and then columns for things like vacation, appliances/furniture, or other things I’m saving up for, like new computers or a tattoo. Each column is marked with a target amount that it needs to get paid up to. On bills, this is the high-water mark of what we’ve ever owed. So one time our power bill was $ 250 for the month, so I keep $ 250 in that fund even though it’s usually much less each month. For other categories, it’s the savings goal, either a specific cost if there is one or a general guideline.

Then I go through the checking account, and each transaction gets entered in its own row. The amount gets listed in the correct column. Paychecks get divided up accordingly, and I have another page in the spreadsheet where I can keep track of which credit card transactions came out of which column so the bill can be divided accurately.

Functionally, this means I have at least one month’s worth of expenses on hand at all times. Once a bill comes out, I then put back the money so it’s ready for next month. It also allows me to work toward long-term goals, because even if I can only allocate a couple of bucks a week I’m still at least making space for it in my plans. More importantly, it means I don’t have to do a lot of thinking about my money when I’m spending it. If I get really concerned, I can pull it up on my phone to see where I’m at, but for the most part it works as a sort of post-hoc budgeting. If I overspend on one category for this week (like when I bought a bunch of work clothes from a store that was closing because they were 80% off), I know that I can’t put as much into other funds until I’ve made up the difference, and I also should avoid spending from that fund until it’s been rebuilt.

It’s a fair amount of work to sit down and log everything once every couple of weeks, but I absolutely love that I can buy fun, silly things on impulse without having to worry about whether this will mean I can’t pay a utility bill. It was a long road to go from being overdrawn in that account to having this sort of cushion, and The Spreadsheet absolutely helped me get there.

(After submitting her Money Snapshot, Aerin sent us this update: “I dug up the link to The Spreadsheet! Way old, but still works. I uploaded mine into Google Drive so it’s accessible from multiple devices — one version for my personal account and one for joint.”) 

Time vs. money — do you spend money to save time (e.g., cleaning service)? Do you donate your time instead of money? What else does this phrase mean to you?
There are definitely times when I do that, especially with home repairs when the DIY route usually ends up being more expensive as well as more time-consuming. I worked a retail job part-time for a while, but I realized that the bit of extra money wasn’t nearly worth the time, energy, and stress of it. My time is a non-renewable resource, and pushing myself beyond the limits of my energy had a much higher cost. I donate money over time, though, for much the same reason. I just don’t have the bandwidth to give extra time beyond my current commitments, but I can at least provide some support to the people who can.

Anything else to add? 
When my husband and I moved in together, our system was basically that he’d pay for everything, and I’d write him a check once a month for my half. It worked, more or less. Now, we have a joint account that we both pay into, which we use for shared household bills and anything that is used by both of us. However, we’ve still maintained our separate personal accounts as well, and I think it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. See, if there’s only one account, things become a zero-sum game: If he springs for some nice clothes, I might not be able to get the video game I was eyeing, because it’s all coming from the same pot. But with separate accounts, you don’t have one person held responsible for the expenses the other person incurred independently. We’ve been together for 10 years and we’ve never once argued about money. We talk about it a lot, and it’s been a source of stress when it’s not there or when we get thrown a curveball, but there’s just not the resentment about each other’s choices and priorities.

So that’s probably my biggest piece of advice to people getting serious with a partner: Keep a personal checking and savings account, even if you combine nearly everything else.

Photo credit: icons via Stencil. 

The post The Money Snapshot: A 32-Year-Old Tech Support Worker Shares Thoughts on Budget Tracking appeared first on Corporette.com.

Corporette.com

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

NY’s budget plan is far from progressive — but at least it was on time

Albany lawmakers took their money and ran early Sunday morning — leaving Gov. Cuomo with a big grin on his puss and, no surprise here, taxpayers with substantially lighter wallets. That is, the Legislature got in under the legal deadline for a new state budget — a $ 175.6 billion double whopper with extra cheese that…
Opinion | New York Post

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The best cities for budget travel in 2019

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You don’t have to have the budget of a Kardashian to have some epic travel adventures in 2019. In fact, the best thing about budget travel is that you can use the money you save for a duty-free shopping spree at the airport – or even more travel! Just because you’re on a budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t explore the world. Here are the best cities for budget travel in 2019.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos is often overlooked in favor of Thailand and Vietnam, and as such, it is a lot cheaper or those who do visit it. If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, you are going to love the vast range of activities, from zip-lining and kayaking, to climbing and hot air ballooning. Although these are all activities offered in other places, you will find that the cost to enjoy them in Laos is a whole lot lower, with smaller crowds.

Budapest, Hungary

While everyone else is flocking to Rome or Paris and paying over inflated prices, make sure you head to Budapest, where you can get your fill of delicious food, culture, history, and amazing experiences for a fraction of the cost. A top tip for saving money on your budget trip in Budapest is to remember that the further away you are from the river, the cheaper things are going to be!

Medellín, Colombia

Colombia has such a mix of environments, from valleys to beaches, and jungles to mountain ranges, that you really get your money’s worth when you choose to visit. It really does feel as though you are passing through several counties at once. The food is cheap yet delicious, museums are cheap, if not free, and public transport is also a reasonable price; allowing you to have a fantastic vacation without breaking the bank.

Transylvania, Romania

If you have a love for all things gothic or medieval, a visit to Romania should be high on your list, and you will be pleased to know that it’s not too pricey either! Explore the forests (but be on the lookout for bears and wolves), visit historical castles, and step back in time in the medieval towns. Train travel is a cheap way to get around, and the daily menu in most restaurants will only set you back around $ 5.

Berlin, Germany

One of the biggest draws of this city are the many outdoor attractions and green spaces which are open for free access to the public. There are plenty of museums and galleries to enjoy, and be sure to experience the nightlife too! Berlin is ranked as one of the more affordable cities in Europe but has plenty to offer for its low price tag.

So if you are on a tight budget this year, you don’t have to forgo a vacation entirely. Instead, just choose one of these fantastic budget destinations and really make the most of every cent! After all, ‘budget’ doesn’t need to mean boring.

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The post The best cities for budget travel in 2019 appeared first on Worldation.

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Never Tired: Fatigue Pants For Every Budget

The triumvirate of classic men’s casual pants? Blue jeans, khakis, and fatigue pants. They rule over all others. The renewability and adaptability of these styles keeps them relevant year after year after year, whether “classic style” is the prevailing style for men or not. Since before Cady Heron wore Army pants with flip flops (in 2004 (!)), olive drab, military-derived pants have been cool (with someone, somewhere) for decades.

How people choose to wear fatigues changes, of course. The current taste for them likely has something to do with nostalgia for the 1990s, when baggier shapes were the standard for men and women. Slim shirts for women and shoe-swallowing hems for all. The return has been considered a welcome break from over a decade of close-to-the-body cuts, but for men, at least, looser fatigues have always been there.

There have been piles of olive drab milsurp pants in thrift and vintage stores for as long as I can remember (fewer in real thrift stores in the last decade), designer versions since at least Maharishi in the 1990s, and today you can take your pick from surplus, to mall retail, to high end repro, to more conceptual takes. The models vary a lot: “fatigues” refer most often to the military’s work uniform from the 1950s until the late 1980s. It’s often referred to as OG 107, which refers to the color of the cloth (olive drab cotton sateen). The olive color is most often associated with the Army, but it was the work uniform across the U.S. armed forces.

The trouser design is nearly as basic as possible, although some details vary across production lots and contractors: straight (or slightly tapered appearing roughly straight) leg, button closure and fly, belt loops, button adjusters at the sides of the waist, and front and back pockets sewn as patches outside the pants. Also called utility or field pants, these pants do not have cargo pockets, articulating seams at the knees, or drawstring hems, hallmarks of the later tropical combat uniform.

We recommend fatigues all the time as a solid alternative to denim — comfortable, versatile, and without the business casual associations of plain khakis. The way I wear them I owe mostly to the styling of Daiki Suzuki and Engineered Garments, who in the late 2000s showed men that fatigues didn’t have to be sloppy. Nepenthes’ honcho Keizo Shimizu has credited Suzuki with bringing fatigues to the Japanese market in the 1980s at their Tokyo shop, Redwood.

A lot of people considered Engineered Garments’ fatigues to be the current standard; the brand makes a pair nearly every season, although the fabric and silhouette can vary. They’re great. They’re also north of $ 200 retail, which is beyond a lot of budgets. There are a good number of options out there.

$ 50-$ 100: Vintage, Earl’s Apparel/Stan Ray

Fortunately, it’s pretty cheap to give fatigues a shot. Vintage fatigues are everywhere. Many surplus stores will have them. They’re plentiful on ebay and Etsy. Some men’s contemporary retail stores have been carrying vintage pairs as well. While design and condition can vary, they’re really easier to buy, in my opinion, than vintage denim, as there’s fewer “special” features to look out for. There’s no redline selvage to look for, no hidden rivets.

There are several different makes — from the 1950s until the 1970s, the pants were made with 100% cotton sateen fabric. Then a more colorfast cotton/poly blend was introduced. It’s not worse, just different. Older models have slightly fancier buttons, with a lip on the edge; newer are flatter. When buying vintage, you just have to keep an eye on measurements — some are sized S/M/L; later models are sized by inches, so 32/34 being 32 waist, 34 inseam. Many if not most of the trousers were also altered by the owners, so measurements on worn trousers may not match the expectations given the size. Consider especially that pants were intended to be worn “bloused” — that is, tucked into boots.

A popular option for new utilities is Earl’s Apparel, the Texas company that makes camp pants under Stan Ray and Gung Ho brands. These trousers have a good rep; they’re basic and well made. Right now they’re a little hard to find in the United States — you’re more likely to see them in the UK under the Stan Ray name or in Japan labeled Gung Ho. I spoke with Jeanne Beard at Earl’s and she said she expects their “camp pants” to be more visible in the near future, although the company does not have a retail operation. In the United States, you can buy their slim fits at Snake Oil Provisions for $ 75, which is a good value. They also have a fuller, classic fit that’s currently sold out in many locations–Independence still has a couple of pairs.

Topo Designs also makes a slim fatigue pant in this price range; J. Crew’s Wallace and Barnes had a slubby cotton olive drab version this fall (they’re the ones in my photos in this post) that has sold out–you can still find them on eBay.

$ 100-$ 200: Contemporary Cuts

For some reason, my survey of the market didn’t find a lot in this range, which is a comfort zone for a lot of guys — more than basic but not a major commitment. A couple of UK-based brands have slightly upscale versions of the OG 107 pants. Albam has made a herringbone version in a modern, tapered cut, and Universal Works has a smooth-finish twill pair with side adjusters.

$ 200+: Special Fabrics and Designer Takes

At this range, you have essentially two paths: painstaking recreations of original pants, or creative riffs on fatigues. Real McCoy’s has made maybe the ideal reproduction, although availability is sparse and the price is dear. Orslow makes a slubby, sturdy cotton version that looks a lot like military issue, just new and $ 250. Monitaly has made a pair in their Vancloth fabric for a couple of seasons–baggier and tapered. Engineered Garments generally releases an olive drab version every year–sometimes in rip stop, sometimes in cotton blend, sometimes in their heavy “double cloth” — the cut can vary season to season. Their line of perennials, Workaday, usually has a sateen pair in stock in a full cut. Needles makes a wild baggy tapered style that is pretty daring and only loosely linked to the original design.

The post Never Tired: Fatigue Pants For Every Budget appeared first on Put This On.

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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