Money and Finance Articles

Learn to live a life of financial freedom and browse money-saving tips and tricks to stretch your dollar further than ever before. Browse dozens of great articles, hundreds of tips, and full tutorials to take control of your pocketbook!

From Simple Tips to Develop a Saver’s Attitude to understanding the difference between Paying Down or Paying Ahead to understanding When and Why to Give your Kids an Allowance, we have articles covering every money and finance question you have!

You can do it, we can help, and it starts with the articles here!

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What to Do When You Can’t Pay All Your Bills

You’ve lost your job or for some other reason don’t have enough money to pay all of your bills. Which bills should you pay first and which ones can slide for a while?

 

 

Couple stressed and worried looking at bills

 

Here’s a basic rule of thumb according to the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center in its book, Surviving Debt:

“Always pay essential expenses and debts first. If any money is left, you can decide which nonessential debts, if any, to keep in your expense budget.”

An essential debt represents a serious obligation that if not paid could produce severe, even life-threatening consequences.

Do not make payments on nonessential debts when you have not paid essential ones even if your nonessential creditors are breathing down your neck. Keep your priorities straight.

Please do not misunderstand! I am not suggesting that you should just walk away from your financial obligations. You must pay your creditors, you must pay your bills. To not pay them is not an option.

Of course, it is not ideal to let some of your bills slide for awhile. But your situation is what it is. Your resources are severely limited. In time, as things improve (they will) you will be able to get caught up completely.

But for now, you need to know how to get through this month.

Once you’ve determined which bills are essential, prioritize them according to the severity of the consequences you will suffer for non-payment.

Here is a guide to follow, listed by priority. Read more

19 Realistic Ways to Make Money Online

For all the convenience and access to information that the Internet offers, the ability to make money online, honestly and legitimately just might be one of the most useful. At a minimum, you need an Internet connection and computer. Or for some jobs, just a smartphone will do.

The challenge is to wade through all the sales pitches for free get-rich webinars to find authentic ways to make money. The opportunities for online jobs are there. But it’s not like winning the lottery. Most require hard work and dedication before you get paid for your time. But isn’t that true of just about any kind of job? None of what follows will make you an overnight millionaire, but each represents a legitimate way to earn extra money online.

 

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How to Break Bad Money Habits

Money a little tight these days? You might assume it’s due to rising costs, tightening credit and the fact you haven’t had a raise in, like, forever. But truthfully, if your basic needs are being met, problems you’re having are more likely a result of bad money habits you’ve picked up—behaviors you’ve repeated so often they’ve become almost automatic.

Woman stopping the domino effect suggesting she's breaking a bad habit

Don’t despair. In the same way you picked them up, you can replace bad habits with good ones: Stop the old behavior, and consciously repeat the new one so often that it becomes an almost automatic response.

Living without a spending plan

Spending money without a plan has to be the mother of all bad money habits. It’s like driving blindfolded. You don’t know where you are and can’t see where you’re going, so you don’t know when to stop. Pre-spending your paycheck on paper (also known as a budget) is the way to remove the blindfold so you can see what’s going on.

ALSO: Get Financially Fit With Good Habits

Paying with plastic

Depending on plastic—and I’m talking about both debit and credit cards—to cover your day-to-day spending might be very convenient, but it creates a bad habit. You stop noticing how much you’re spending, and that opens the door to overspending. Break this habit by figuring out how much cash you’ll need for the day, and put that much in your wallet. Leave your plastic at home, or put it in a less convenient place in your handbag or wallet.

Rolling a credit card balance

Credit card issuers know that once they can get you to cross the threshold where you owe more on your credit card than you can pay in a single month, they’ve got you where they want you—paying them interest month after month.

If you cannot pay the entire balance in a single month, you’re living way beyond your means. To break this bad habit, make it impossible to use it anymore until that balance is paid in full. Don’t close the account, but put that plastic far from you. Hand it off to a trusted friend or freeze it in a block of ice! Anything to help you break this bad money habit by replacing it with a good one. Then start paying down the balance as rapidly as possible.

READ: You Need to Kick Your Credit-Card Habit

Waiting to save

It might make sense to pay your bills first and then see how much you have left to put in savings, but that’s a really dumb idea. It will lead to a very bad result also known as no savings, because you will keep doing this same dumb thing month after month, year after year.

To break this habit, pay yourself first before you pay any of your bills. In fact, treat yourself as your most important creditor. Make up payment coupons like you have for your mortgage or car payment. Or set up an auto bill payment to “Myself.” Now move “Myself” to the front of the line so that the very first bill you pay each month is to You!

READ: How to Break the Habit That’s Eating Up Your Future

Even if it’s only $25—or even $10—to start with, do it. Over and over again. It won’t take long for that to become an almost automatic response and a very good habit!


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5 Things You Need to Know Before Lending Money to Friends and Family

Over the years I’ve heard from dozens of readers who have lent money to friends and family members, only to have become outraged when the deal goes sour. The problem is they write to me after they’ve made the loan and have been waiting months, even years, for repayment, without success, hoping I can wave a magic wand to get their money back.

I always tell these readers that I wish they’d written to me before they lent the money. Doing things right from the start makes all the difference in the end. Here’s how:

 

One person lending money to another

1. Accept reality

Lend only the amount of money you can afford to give as a gift. Don’t tell your potential borrower this, but know in your heart that the chances of you ever being repaid in full are fairly slim. That’s a fact of life. There’s a reason this borrower is coming to you and not to a bank or conventional lender to borrow money.

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How to Break the Habit That’s Eating Up Your Future

Let’s not beat around the bush. Eating out is eating up your future. It’s gobbling down your present and keeping you stuck in the past. That heavy debt you’re hauling around didn’t happen while you were asleep. Chances are pretty good that you’re eating your way into debt. 

Breaking the eating out habit isn’t easy to do, but it can be done. What it takes is motivation, determination, and perseverance.

Restaurant hamburger and fries good enough to eaat

Cost

Let this exercise act as a quick-start motivator: For one week, track your household spending on every form of eating out including coffee, donuts, restaurants, cafes, diners, street vendors, food trucks, fast food … all of it.

Once you have that number, multiply by 52. But wait, there’s more. Estimate the cost of all of the food that you throw in the garbage every week because you buy it, then eat out instead. You may be looking at the reason you aren’t saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, or stuck in debt.

6 Ways to Stop Throwing Rotten Produce in the Garbage

Gross factor

I don’t want to get too graphic here describing a negative motivation that might persuade you to eat at home more often, so let me allow the CDC to do that: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in five restaurant workers admit coming to work while sick with diarrhea and vomiting—two main symptoms of the stubborn norovirus, which understandably is now running rampant.

The problem lies with these sick workers who take a bathroom break, do not wash their hands with soap then return to prepare and serve our food. Not only is it expensive to eat out, but your chances of getting sick are also increasing.

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How to Make Saving $1,000 Cash Virtually Foolproof

The most important thing you can do to make your personal economy strong is to have an umbrella—an emergency fund with enough money in it to pay all of your bills for six months. And it needs to be safe and secure in a bank account. You read that right—half a year’s income! Wait. You can’t even imagine being able to save that much? No worries. The secret to getting there is to start small. Let’s say you make $1,000 your emergency fund goal.

U.S. $100 bills folded and secured with a paper clip

Save 10%

Weekly, or as you get paid, save 10% of your paycheck. Too much? OK, start with 5% or even 1% and build up from there. Just start!

Make it automatic

This is going to be hard, but I know you can do it: Make feeding your emergency fund—whatever the amount—the very first bill you pay, before anything else.

Once you have accumulated $50, go to your bank or credit union and open a savings account. Or open a free savings account at an online bank like Ally.com or Marcus.com (Goldman Sachs).

While you are opening that account, set up an automatic deposit authorization. This will give your bank authorization to automatically transfer the amount you designate from your checking account straight to your emergency fund. Here’s a secret: You won’t miss what you don’t see in the first place. Okay, you’ll miss it for the first few paychecks, but soon you really will not miss it.

Get rid of non-essentials

Give up the little things such as cable TV, eating out, and gym membership and that landline phone you have but never use. That’s a start, you’ll know instinctively how to add to this list.

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How to Curb Emotional Spending in 5 Easy Steps

Somewhere back in my dark financial past, I discovered that emotional spending was a great antidepressant. I spent to change my mood, to reward myself and to make myself feel better. 

I spent money when I felt sad and when I felt glad. I spent money so I wouldn’t feel broke. I spent to get approval, to make my kids more popular, to impress people I didn’t even know. The list goes on and on. 

 

 

Emotional spending, or it’s much cuter name “retail therapy,” was my go-to activity when I was feeling stressed out, bored, under-appreciated, incompetent, unhappy or any number of other emotions. In fact, I’ve been known to spend mindlessly just because I’m happy.

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25 Ways to Save $1,000 on Monthly Expenses

A number of years ago I met Kathryn and Galen. They’d won a contest sponsored by Woman’s Day magazine. The prize? A money makeover and financial coaching with … me! From our first meeting, we became fast friends.

Not only were they drowning in debt, Galen was dealing with a protracted season of unemployment. Their financial situation was grim.

 

Young couple worried about how to cut expenses and get out of debt

Kathryn and Galen were totally committed to working with me as I created a plan that, if followed diligently, would get them out of debt and on their way to financial freedom.

The problem was that even with their new scaled-back lifestyle, my students were $1,000 short every month—an amount they would have to find somewhere, some how, if this plan were to work.

Never have I seen a couple so committed to getting out of debt. They didn’t complain or seek pity. They didn’t whine or make excuses. Instead, they adopted a “scorched earth” attitude as they became committed to doing anything and everything possible to reach their goal.

Here’s Kathryn’s list of the 25 things they did to cut expenses and find find the $1,000 they needed every month in order to stay on track with getting out of debt:

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