What to Look for When Investing in Home Appliances

No one is surprised to find out that appliances can get expensive, especially if you are looking for features that don’t exist on a base model. Like any investment, purchasing appliances should be a contemplated process involving research, trade-offs, and value comparisons. Those who spend the time to find the best deal and continue to maintain their purchases throughout their lifetime will reap the rewards by increasing the value of their investment.

  1. Price

The purchase price is a major determinant for those buying new appliances. Depending on the specific appliance and all the features, you could be spending anything from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. In most cases, the extra cost reflects that of the quality of the appliance, though it is not always the case, as brand name and current trends can skew the prices. Your best bet is to define exactly what you are looking for in the appliance, whether that be a warming drawer in your oven range or a specific cycle on your washer. Then come up with a realistic budget and shop within it. To get the best bang for your buck, wait for a good sale to come up at a local store. That way you can afford something that at its normal price is out of your price range.

  1. Energy

Very few appliances these days are run mechanically or by man-power, instead are fueled by either natural gas or electricity. Depending on the prices of these utilities where you live, you might find one energy source more advantageous than the other, and therefore tailor your search to reflect that. Even if the household appliance only has one energy option, for example, a fridge that runs on electricity, look for energy-saving options that would decrease the cost to operate your new purchase over the time that you own it. Thanks to the new trend towards environmentalism and energy efficiency, many companies choose to report on the average energy use and cost of their product on an annual basis. This makes it easier to compare options and decide on which fits your monthly utility budget.

  1. Reputation

We don’t want to say that name is everything, however, there are specific brand names on the market that have a solid reputation for a reason. From the quality of their products, to the level of servicing and customer support, some brands have a better or longer-standing reputation than others. Though it’s definitely not a “must have” when it comes to purchasing your appliances, many believe that it’s worth investing in appliances manufactured by reputable companies. Do your research before you go shopping, as the salespeople on site might have their own personal or professional reasons for recommending a certain brand or model over others. Trust yourself or an independent sales rep who has no affiliations with any particular brand.

  1. Ease of Repair or Part Replacement

If you are a budget-conscious shopper, apart from the purchase price, you should also be factoring the costs of the appliances’ lifetime, including what it would cost to repair and maintain over this timespan. When you go with a more popular company, you might find that there is a greater availability of parts and more services willing to repair the appliances. For example, you should have no problem finding a Kenmore washer repair expert who will fix your laundry issue than if you went with a super specialized or unknown brand.

There is more to buying quality appliances than just going out and buying the cheapest or most expensive one you can find. Depending on the price, energy type, brand reputation, and maintenance costs, you may find that everything considered, it’s a completely different option that best suits your needs, budget, and lifestyle.

New Homeowner’s Be Sure to Take Advantage of These Tax Breaks

Owning a home is exciting, gives you a sense that you have “made it”, but that soon wears off as the constant home improvements start to kick in.  While you start to contribute much of your take home pay towards your new home, at least make sure you take advantage of a few tax breaks to net you a little more in your pocket during tax season.

Mortgage Interest

If you wonder what most of your monthly mortgage payment goes to, take a look at your account statement and you will see that a majority goes to interest and little goes to principal.  As the years go by, less and less will go towards interest, but the good news is at least you can write-off mortgage interest.  Your lender will send you a 1098 form that will show the total interest paid for the year.  It might make you sick.

Property Taxes

Also on the 1098 statement from your lender you will find what you paid in property taxes for the year, and this can also be deducted on your tax return.  The trick is you will have to itemize, but given that you have not added a few extra deductions by being a homeowner, you will most likely benefit from itemizing.  If you have purchased the home throughout the year, you are able to deduct the taxes paid from the date of the sale on.

Energy Efficient Upgrades

Good news and bad news for this beneficial deduction.  The good news is that deduction for energy-efficient improvements will return you 30% for installation renewable energy sources, or 10% back for energy-efficient products purchased between $50 and $500.  Now for the bad news.  Hopefully you had plenty of upgrades completed in 2016, because the credit expires as 2017 begins, so anything completed this year will not be able to be deducted going forward.  For those receipts that you do have for 2016, you will include in the 5695 form.

Home Office Deduction

With so many companies allowing work-from-home, you can not only take advantage of avoiding getting dressed for work and sitting in rush hour traffic, but get a little back on your tax return.  The simplified method would be to take the square footage of your home office and get a calculated deduction.  The regular method would be to figure out what percentage of the home office takes up the total home expenses.  Will be easier to use the simplified option, just be sure that you can prove you use the home office for 100% of work use.

Donations to Charity

Although you do not have to own a home to get a donation to charity credit, but I wanted to make sure I included to be sure that you do not forget this, especially if you owe taxes this year.  If you have had any life changes such as marriage or buying a house it can take a year or two to figure out your optimal tax situation (per paycheck tax payments or getting too little or too much tax return).

Take Advantage of 5 Free Things You Always Had to Pay For

As we find ourselves getting older we always look back and say “I remember when…”, sounding like our grandparents did to us when they would say they would have to walk to and from school in three feet of snow, making note of how easy we had it compared to them.   Our kids have it even easier than us when it comes to items that we used to have to pay for that are free now.

Current Events

I was actually kind of sad when I cancelled my newspaper subscription.  My whole life since I was a kid I have known the newspaper to be part of the morning, and even when I didn’t read the paper, could look forward to the Sunday sale papers.  Now, I find myself reading it every day now, but online, for free.  I even remember having the newspaper at the library attached to those sticks.  Let’s hope the website ads are helping to pay for the lost subscriptions, otherwise I will feel really bad.

Checking Your Credit Report

These days you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus:  Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.  Much like anything you have to enter your personal information, especially your social security number, so you will want to make sure it is a legit site, so if you are not clicking a link off their sites, AnnualCreditReport.com is a trusted site.  The credit score is not included, that will be an additional charge, but with most credit card companies giving your score on monthly statements, you should not have to shell out the extra money.

Every Song at Your Fingertips

This is not talking about downloading songs from pirate sites, that is free and illegal, but something that is free to use and legal (for now), and always a topic of conversation around the industry, is streaming songs.  With sites like YouTube, you can find literally any song to listen to, and with music streaming site such as Spotify and Pandora, as long as you don’t mind a few ads, you are able to listen to stations, genres, and artists of your choosing.

Making Long-Distance Calls

Probably most of you reading this article does not remember having to dial a (1) and then the area code when having to make a long-distance call from your landlines, but I bet your parents remember getting the phone bill in the mail with the outrageous charges and screaming when they see what the damage is.  Now I suppose parents could yell over minutes and data usage.

Directions

It is not only the gas station maps that we used to have to pay for, but I thought it was the greatest when I got my Garmin GPS as a gift, but even those are obsolete a decade later now that we have the free map app on our smart phones, only using the data we have included in the plan.  The other plus is that the app can refresh when maps are updated, giving you the latest possible info.

Signs You Will Not Be Able to Afford Holiday Shopping

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The holidays are stressful enough when it comes to figuring out which house to gather at next, adding to the numbers of nights in a short time span celebrating the same upcoming event with different family members, but throw in money worries, and you may already be looking to skip over to January right now.  For your family’s sake, take a look at signs you may have trouble making ends meet this holiday season and make the necessary adjustments while there is still time.

No Shopping Budget

By this point if you have not saved up a fund for holiday spending, the outlook is not bright, but it is not entirely grim since it is still in early on in November and there are a couple paychecks left to prepare and set a little extra off to the side.  Make adjustments right away such as removing as much unnecessary spending such as eating out, or extra entertainment items such as concerts, sporting events, or movies.  Every little bit helps; just think of the end goal.

Need to Use Credit Cards to Buy Presents

If you do not have the cash on hand and have to rely on credit to make purchases that is already not a good sign.  Holiday gifts do not need to be extravagant, it really should be the thought that counts, so maybe this year you can make or purchase items that mean something, more than just gadgets that are trending at the time.  Keep the credit cards away and stick to the debit.

Already Carrying a Balance

If you already have an outstanding credit card balance that has not been paid off, then you are making lower payments and collecting interest, so adding to the balance with holiday spending will only set yourself further into debt.  Not only will you now have to make cuts to afford Christmas, but you will need to eliminate unnecessary spending entirely to even get ahead.  Do yourself a favor and pay off those credit cards, it will only get worse.

Wish List Keeps Growing

Whether your expenses outweigh your current income, you are still paying off last year’s gifts, or have a larger list this year with even the same budget, something has to give.  If the number of people you are buying for is growing compared to last year, you will have to cut costs across the board, not add to the overall spending.  Opt for more meaningful gifts instead of just throwing around gift cards.

Other Saving Priorities

It is entirely possible that there is a larger saving priority such as a wedding or a down payment for a home, that trumps this holiday season.  You cannot feel bad about that, and do not need to overextend your spending just to think you are making others happy with your large gift purchases. Don’t sacrifice contributing to an IRA or your other retirement funds in order to give more expensive gifts. What does IRA stand for, you ask? Then you might need to pay attention to the above advice even more!  If it makes you feel better, not everyone likes every gift anyways, no matter how much it cost, so keep your eye on your own prize.

8 Tactics For Breaking Your Lease Without Losing Money

breaking-your-leaseSigning a lease on an apartment definitely has its pros and cons. With the standard one-year lease, you’re guaranteed a place to live at a fixed rate for that period of time.  Simultaneously, you’re bound to that contract and can’t simply leave without financial repercussions. Fortunately, there are some ways to still have flexibility while under a lease and to limit the financial damage if you want or need to break that lease.  Here are some of the tips I’ve learned after dealing with several landlords.

1. Find out if you’ll be able to sublet your apartment.  Every lease that I’ve signed has said that tenants are not allowed to sublease the apartment, at least not without landlord approval.  However, I’ve found that subleasing is rarely a problem, as most landlords seem to be indifferent as long as they don’t lose any rental income.  If you’re unsure, ask the landlord before moving in what their policy is on subtenants.  If, for some crazy reason, they won’t allow subleases under any circumstances, you might want to consider renting elsewhere.  I don’t think this will be the case for most situations, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask the landlord ahead of time.

2. Figure out how sublettable your apartment will beI currently pay $400 a month to rent, which is on the low end for the city I live in. Since it’s a decent apartment for a cheap price, I’m confident that I’ll never have a problem subletting if I decide to leave. Subletting can be stressful and difficult, especially in places where there’s an abundance of rooms available.  However, marketing an inexpensive apartment in a highly-desirable neighborhood means that there will be much more interest should I decide to leave.

3. Lower rent to lower liability.  While we all obviously want to pay as little as possible for an apartment, an overlooked advantage of lower rent is that you’ll simply owe less if you move out early.  It merely comes down to simple math that paying rent owed for an apartment you don’t live in that’s $400 a month is much less painful than $800 a month.  If you’re moving somewhere that you’re not certain you will stay, consider a lower rent on a less-fancy apartment for this reason, too.

4. Negotiate the terms of your lease. If you know you want to be in a apartment less than a year, see if the landlord will accept a lease term shorter than 12 months. It never hurts to ask, and you’ll often be surprised how easily you can negotiate with very little time or effort on your part.

Also, try to negotiate as small of a deposit as possible.  I’m not saying this so you can trash the place and have as little money on the hook as possible (plus, you can still be taken to court for further damages).  But if you need to break your lease, for whatever reason, your landlord will have less of your money in their hands already.

5. Give plenty of notice. If you must leave, make sure to give your landlord as much notice as possible.  Many landlords are nice about this and will try to find a replacement to fill your unit.  Giving your landlord more notice gives them more time to advertise the apartment and find someone new.

6. Force landlords to mitigate your loss.  In many states, landlords are required to search for a replacement tenant to mitigate the tenants’ loses.  While some landlords may be good about this, they’re also still entitled to receive rent from you while they are searching.  I haven’t had any experience with this, but I would anticipate that not all landlords are inclined to put 100% effort into their search for a replacement tenant. Still, it’s their responsibility to do something about it and reminding them of law is a good idea for your own sake.

7. Carefully read the terms of your lease (and use them to your advantage).  If your landlord has violated terms of the lease, like invading your privacy, you may have grounds to terminate the contract.  If they’ve failed to properly maintain the property, that could be grounds for breaking a lease, too.  But just because you believe that the landlord has violated the lease doesn’t mean you can simply walk away.  Landlords aren’t likely to give in easily, so prepare for resistance and even legal action if you simply try to move out. At the very least, your security deposit is on the line.

8. Stop paying rent.  This applies only in the worst-case scenario where your landlord is awful and you have no other recourse. You’ll probably be evicted, which is not good when searching for new apartments.  In many states, you are allowed to leave if your apartment has become uninhabitable.  In either case, you’re probably going to have to fight to get your security deposit back.

Before making any choices related to breaking your lease, consider the ethics of your decision. While many of the tactics are favorable for tenants trying to escape a lease, I’m not advocating screwing over your landlord.  Whenever you can, be fair and honor your lease and try to come to an agreement with your landlord if you must leave.

Have you ever had to break a lease? How did you do it?

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photo by: seier+seier

How to Get a Loan When You Have Bad Credit

Unfortunately, for many having bad credit is a part of everyday life. Mistakes and unfavorable circumstances happen, such as hospitalizations, job loss, and repairs needed around the home. These situations can place you behind on your bills, and late payments will reduce your credit score. This doesn’t make you a bad or irresponsible person, but it does reflect negatively on your credit report. If you have bad credit and are in need of a loan, check out the below four ways to get the loan you need.

Use the Equity in Your Home

If you own a home or condo, check and see if you have equity in your property. If so, you could get a tax deductible line of credit and use that to spend how you wish. A home equity line of credit does not require you to have a credit check. You just need to prove to the bank you can repay this additional loan, so having a reliable source of income is necessary. Just be careful with this type of loan since you will be placing yourself in deeper debt and putting your home on the line.

Apply with a Co-Signer

Many people take loans from family and friends and end up at war with each other. It’s a battle of when you are going to pay that person back or what happens if they see you making other purchases?

A way around this is to have a binding contract, and what better way than to ask your friend or family member to co-sign on a loan for you. There is still risks associated with this, such as if you default on the loan and the lender comes after them. However, they don’t have to come out of pocket with any money. If you are a responsible individual and they know you are in need of this money, this is a viable solution. This could be a win-win for you both, as if you make your payments on time, you’ll increase both of your credit scores.

Remember, Money Talks

If you’re borderline with your credit, it’s possible you can convince the lender to give you the loan if you have an above average income. There are some financial institutions that go through a more rigorous underwriting process. They can pull your report and look into the background specifics, such as why your score truly is low. If your income is up to par, you may be eligible for the loan. To the lender, it’s all about getting their money back – money does talk.

Take a Short Term Loan

If all of the above are not viable options for you, there is still another way out. Short term bad loans have a bad reputation. However, these loans for people with bad credit have bailed out thousands every day. You should only take one if you know you have the means to pay it back timely, or else you’ll fall into the loan trap. These loans have extremely high interest rates, so do be careful. You don’t need credit at all for a short term loan, but you do need to provide proof of income and have a checking account for them to draw the funds automatically from.

The above four methods can help you get a loan when you need it the most, even without good credit.

Beyond Money: How to Find Happiness in Your 20s (or Any Time)

find-happiness-ThailandI spend a lot of time thinking about how to be happy, and I think I’ve finally cracked that code.

Sometimes I even spend more time thinking about how to be happy than anything else, including my business. Why? Because that’s what matters most. We don’t really want to just have more money, more friends, or more freedom — we just want each of these things to make us happy.

Whether you’re struggling with money, a job, or just surviving daily life, here’s my best advice for being happy no matter what.

Don’t wait – choose to be happy now

I truly believe that being happy is a choice. Maybe it’s not 100% of the equation, but for many people, there are a lot of changes they can make when they’re unhappy.

Too many people are waiting for a change in their life to make them happy. I’ve been there. While quitting my job and moving to Portland was exciting and my dream, that alone wasn’t enough to make me happy. I had to take a more active approach, especially when life gets hard.

I hear others say “I’ll be happy once I make more money/find a boyfriend or girlfriend/get a better job/discover my passion.” The truth is that just might not be the answer, and you’re setting yourself up to be let down.

This may sound like I’m being negative, but what I’m actually saying can be a good thing if you look at it the right way.

Choose to be happy right now, no matter how hard life is. Anything that improves your life later is just a bonus.

Be grateful – every day

Do you think your life sucks and you have nothing to be happy about?

You may be going through a tough time where you’re feeling depressed, but there’s always someone or something to be grateful about.

I had a lot of fun with this on my Letters of Gratitude project. I wrote letters to 57 people so far. Not only has writing the letters done a lot for my happiness, but the gratitude that others have expressed back to me has been phenomenal.

If you’re struggling, think small. Take a moment and write down five things you have to be grateful about. Maybe you had a delicious breakfast this morning, or a friendly fellow driver waved you through on a commute into work. No matter how big or small, find things to be grateful for every day.

To make this easier, use a service that sends daily reminders to be grateful like Happy Rambles or the Random Gratitude Journal app.

Give all you can

Since quitting my job, I stopped making regular donations. The reason was half and half between just putting giving on the back burner and feeling a little tighter for cash. But giving just feels good, and I can’t skip it any longer.

My goal is to give 10% of what I make to charity, no matter what. I’m not saying this to brag, I just think it makes sense and it makes me feel good at the same time.

Spend money, but only on what you love

I’m not the most frugal person you’ll meet by any standard. I’d probably rate myself a 7 out of 10 on the frugal intensity scale (that’s a made up measurement, by the way).

That said, there are plenty of things I enjoy spending my money on. I’m a bit of a beer snob, and I get restless if I don’t go out to eat at least once a week. I even bought a $400 ski pass this year.

But don’t get me wrong: my spending is very calculated and for good reason.

There are some things that others regularly spend on that I don’t find value in. I almost never go out for lunch during the workday because I don’t enjoy the food enough and would rather spend my money elsewhere. I have no plans to own a car any time soon because I don’t like all the expenses that go with it. I could go on, but you get the point.

Spending money does bring happiness when you do it right. Step back and think about if how you’re spending your money is how you want to or if you’re just following others’ scripts.

Let go of fear and trust that things will be okay

Fear is one of the hardest things to deal with in your 20s. Some might not realize it consciously, but the way they’re living their lives is based largely on what would happen if they did something differently.

I haven’t completely conquered fear, but I’m okay with that because it’s the fear that motivates me.

Other times, it helps to focus on what we’re actually afraid of. For example, what if you quit your job but go broke when the business you launch fails? To most people, this is terrifying. But what would actually happen to you in this situation? If you’re in your 20s, you’d probably move in with family temporarily until you figure things out.

Those in their 20s should be most afraid of the decisions they don’t make. One of the top regrets of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Think about that for a second and how it relates to your own life. What decisions have you made not on your own but because that’s what others expected? Spend time doing what you love, and you’ll have far few regrets.

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How have you found happiness in your life?

Hitting a Financial Knowledge Peak (and What Really Matters)

I’ve spent the past 2 years+ absorbing all the personal finance knowledge that I possibly can. Books, blogs, webinars, conferences, and more – I’ve read a ton on a wide range of topics. I don’t know everything, but I still feel like I’ve hit a knowledge peak.

Hitting a knowledge peak

In some ways, I’d like to give up my pursuit for consuming more and more financial knowledge. I feel like I’ve definitely hit the point where the return I get for time spent has neared its peak. I don’t know everything, but I do think I know more than I need to live my daily life (and I DEFINITELY know more than the average person).

Can knowing more really help me right here and now? I don’t think so, or not by much at least. It’s more going to come down to how I use the knowledge that I have through the trying time of launching my own business.

Like a lot of things, having the knowledge itself dones’t guarantee anything. It’s how you use that knowledge, coupled with internal and external factors that determines what happens.

Much of what’s really essential to financial success is emotion. It’s how you handle situations in life, like risk, fear, failure, and success.

Emotions

What’s else is wrong with the financial knowledge peak? Despite my wealth of knowledge, I don’t think it will help me most to succeed financially. Not at this stage at least.

When quitting a job or making a career change, it’s ultimately how you act and react in that situation that determines the outcome. Sure, knowledge comes into play, but it can only take you so far. Even with all the knowledge one can possibly have, fear of failure can still snap you like a twig.

I haven’t quit my job yet, but I’ve already experienced just about every emotion over the last several months. Most of them are tied to the uncertainty of my future or working on side-businesses that take a lot of work besides my full-time job. I’ve had times when I was certain that I would succeed, but there’s also been moments where I’ve felt like crap because I’m a failure.

I know it’s going to take even more strength to keep myself on the entrepreneurial path. I’m reminded all the time by others how easy it is to go back to working a steady job with a good paycheck. I’ve seen and heard stories from many people around me that have done that (and they’re often unhappy with their jobs once they go back).

I don’t think it’s always a bad choice to go back to working for these people, but it’s the easy way out in a lot of ways.

Emotion = Living

As much as it sucks to go from the highest highs to the lowest lows, it’s what makes us the most alive. I’ve been in that situation where I just feel numb. No excitement for tomorrow, but not necessarily any resentment for today, either. It just is what it is. It’s easy, but it’s boring.

Creating situations that generate emotion is what defines life and gives it meaning, and I’m all for making those things happen no matter how uncomfortable.

What do you think? Have you hit a knowledge peak?

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photo credit: quinn.anya

Making Space For Roommates: Are the Savings Worth the Hassles?

Please enjoy this post, originally published in January 2011.

Currently, as I have since my freshman year of college, I am living with roommates.  I just moved out of a place where I had 3 roommates (plus one pesky dog) in a small, four bedroom apartment in downtown New Haven.  It was a cramped little place, with only 4 small bedrooms, a mini-kitchen, and 1.5 baths, all on one floor.  I now live in a slightly larger place, but it’s definitely not my dream apartment, either. Despite this, my rent is less expensive than anybody I’ve talked to in New Haven and I’m located about one mile from my job.

While the location is great, having roommates the past 7 years is starting to wear on me.  I’m torn on what to do next when I move out this summer.  Here just some of the many factors I’m considering:

The case for roommates:

I can afford a location I would not be able to otherwise.  From my experience, single bedroom apartments are anywhere from 50 – 100% more expensive than renting out a room in a multi-bedroom apartment.  This makes the cost prohibitively expensive with my income in areas like Boston and New Haven.  In order to find a cheaper, single bedroom unit, I would need to move into a less-desirable area.  At this stage of my life, living somewhere with restaurants, bars, and other fun things around is important.

Utilities are shared.  Not only is rent more expensive in a single bedroom apartment, but, if I’m living alone, I have to cover all utilities myself.  Internet, electricity, and heating can ad up to a a lot when it’s no longer split three or four ways.

Roommates provide company. While I haven’t enjoyed all of the roommates I’ve lived with, I’ve had many that I’ve gotten along with very well.  I like having other people around to talk with, and I find it lonely when I’m all by myself.  It’s a bit of an unknown when moving in with roommates that I don’t know ahead of time, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

The case against roommates:

Some expenses are out of my hands.  I’m typically a very energy conscious person.  I turn out the lights whenever I leave the room, make sure my computer and other electronics are turned off when I’m not using them, and I like to keep the heat around 62 degrees.  But roommates don’t always share the same values that I do.  They leave lights on, forget to turn the TV off, and prefer the thermostat stay around 70.  While my energy savviness often translates to savings on utility bills, I’m essentially helpless since my roommates just aren’t on board.

There’s less space.  With roommates, I obviously have less space to myself.  My bedroom is my own, but the other 80% of the apartment is shared.  In a smaller apartment with little storage, this can be tricky to maneuver.

But more noise.  Roommates can be noisy and may have a different sleep schedule.  At my last apartment, I had to sleep with earplugs every night simply because my roommates liked to stay up late.  The wall were also paper thing, and I could hear just about anything going on in the room next to me.

Other considerations: unwanted guests, damages, dealing with leases, cleanliness (or lack thereof), clash of personalities and all-out disaster.

Roommates are always going to be cheaper, but there will always be drawbacks, too.  I will probably continue to have roommates in the near future since I still prefer to live in popular and expensive areas.  If my income increases to a level that I can afford to live alone (or if I move in with my girlfriend), I’ll definitely consider moving to a single bedroom apartment.  For now, I’ll do my best to choose my roommates carefully

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photo by: army.arch

Financial Minimalism to Simplify and Save

minimalist-financesSince I first heard of the term “minimalist,” I’ve been intrigued by the idea and have at least loosely attempted to follow it in my own life. A true minimalist only owns few things (often less than 100 items). Minimalists have various reasons for doing so, but they often include their desire to simplify life or travel while carrying everything they own on their back.

While minimalism isn’t for everyone, there are a lot of lessons we can learn and apply to personal finance. Here are several minimalist-inspired ideas that I’ve applied to my own finances.

1. Use cash as often as you can, and keep as few credit accounts as possible. I’ve given up credit cards. I’ve done this mostly to simplify the number of accounts that I have open.

I hate having to track the balances I have on 5 different credit accounts and 2 debit accounts. Instead I’d rather just check one account to know exactly how much cash I have available.

If you’re set on using credit, try carrying only one credit card at a time. Then you simply have one balance on one card. It makes things easier for preventing identity theft, too, when you don’t have as many cards around.

2. Buy only as much as you need. Minimalism and frugality go hand in hand. The less you own, the less you’ll have to pay for. You won’t have to keep track of all your stuff, either.

I’m not always a big fan of buying in bulk simply because I end up wasting more. When this happens, you lose money instead of saving it. Buying multiples means that I’ll have to store things, hoping that I won’t lose things.

Get rid of as many things as you can that involve recurring payments. This is why I don’t own a car. Cars are a money pit that seem to never end.

3. Automate. Right now I have automatic payments of $1,100 coming out of my account until I finish paying of my student loan debt at the end of 2011. It’s the first thing that comes out of each paycheck so I don’t have to think about where to send my money first. It’s a foolproof plan.

I also have automated transactions to fund my Roth IRA, an account for bicycle expenses, and to send spending money to my PerkStreet account. I plan to create automatic savings and separate accounts for even more things, too, since it makes saving easy and cuts down on stress

4. Keep a simple budget, and make tracking expenses as easy as possible. I hate budgeting, so setting up a complicated budget with 30 different items just isn’t going to work for me.

Initially I set up a quick spreadsheet to track expenses, which was a great start and got me to do the bare minimum to see where I spent my money and stay on a budget.

I’ve since graduated to using Mint and the Mint App for iPhone, which allows me to add transactions in only a few seconds. Mint really does it all for me (although I’m excited to give the Adaptu App a chance to take on Mint, too).

5. Make your entire financial plan as simple as possible. I’m not always a fan of Dave Ramsey, but, when it comes to simplicity, his plan is best. Simply follow his seven baby steps, which are crystal clear, and you’re in great financial shape.

I prefer a slightly less-minimalistic approach than Dave’s, but for those that are buried in debt and don’t have a clue, Total Money Makeover is easy to follow and solid advice.

Check out this post on Minimalist Money on Get Rich Slowly where I got some of my inspiration for this post.

How do you make your finances as simply as possible?

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photo by: mockstar

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