Tagged budgeting

Rainy Day Fun Fund

You’ve heard of the term “Save it for a rainy day” to reference putting money away for when you might need it.  In fact, it’s generally recommended to have three months to a year’s salary worth of saving for emergencies.  While having an emergency fund is definitely important, we’ve also been doing this on a smaller scale to put a little F-U-N into our fund.

My wife has periodically stashed cash in the past, and I’ve been more active in doing so myself of late.  We have several budgets set up on FitFin, one of which is a “Cash/ATM” budget of $100.00/month.  This particular budget was largely ignored for the most part until recently, when I decided to start “paying myself” out of it.  What I do is get $20.00 cash back when I go to the store.  My general rule of thumb is to only get the cash back if my overall bill is less than $50.00 (that amount includes the $20.00) and I can only go up to my budget limit each month ($100.00).  Then when I get home I put the money away in a secret place known only to me and my wife.  The money adds up quickly, and we can use it only for fun.  It’s our little way to reward ourselves for working to be disciplined with our money.

We’ll use the money for things like going out for ice cream, a movie, bowling, etc.  One thing that we haven’t used it for (but would be fun) is a hotel room for a quick overnighter in the mountains (we live in Denver).  You’d be surprised how quickly the money adds up, as we tend to forget about this little hidden treasure of loot!  It’s kind of fun to have the extra money around for fun things.  It also a good little strategy to use to stock money away for an upcoming vacation.

It’s just something we’re trying out, and I don’t know if the trend will continue or not, but for now, it’s been a lot of fun.  It’s definitely something to consider, especially to reward yourself for staying on track with your budget!

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Black Friday blues? Start thinking about next year right now!

According to the National Retail Federation, the average person spent $407.23 during Black Friday in 2013.  Think about your situation in 2014:  Did you spend more or less than the average?  Grab your receipts if you’re not sure.  Don’t be afraid.  And if the thought of going through your receipts and adding up what you spent gives you anxiety, then please read on.

Now that you know what you spent, how did you pay for it?  Did you use cash?  A credit card?  If you’re going to be paying for Black Friday for months, ask yourself these questions so that you don’t make the same mistake next year:

  1. Did your Black Friday purchases comprise of wants or needs?
  2. How many of the items were purchased solely because they were on sale?  Would you have bought them otherwise?
  3. Were these purchases for you or gifts for others?
  4. If you bought gifts for multiple people, how much did you spend on each person?  Is that amount in line with what you expected?  Did you miss anyone on your list?
  5. Based on all of these things, when should you start saving for next year’s Black Friday?

It’s not too early to put money away now for next year.  In fact, if you look at your receipts and think that you might spend near that same amount next year, divide that amount by 52 (if you’re going to save weekly), or twelve if you’re going to save monthly.  If you pay yourself that amount each week/month, you’ll have a good little kitty ready for Black Friday 2015.  And if you use FitFin, it’ll be even easier because you can create a new budget in seconds (you might call it Black Friday–pretty original, I know).  Then you can simply tweak one of your existing budgets (or a few of them if you want) by the amount that you want to save for Black Friday to keep your overall monthly budget consistent.  To do this, just go to your Budgets Overview, click on the budget bar that you want to adjust, then hit the Edit button and change the amount. Again, this takes seconds.

The reason you can do this is because you already know what you spend each month by using FitFin.  Now you’re using the same concept by calculating your 2014 Black Friday spend and making educated predictions on if this year’s experience will reflect next year’s spending.  Then once you have that knowledge, you can start saving now.

By using this simple strategy, you can be assured that next year’s Black Friday won’t put you in the red.

If you’re not using FitFin, you can sign up for free at www.fitfin.com.   It’s a great way to get a handle on your day-to-day expenses!

Five ways to make your Thanksgiving dollar go further

Thanksgiving is a great time to catch up with the three Fs:  Friends, family and football.  It can also be a costly endeavor, bumping your food budget astronomically for the month of November.  With that in mind, here are a few ideas to help you get more bang for your buck this Turkey Day.

1. Create a list—and stick to it.  Maybe you already have a list saved somewhere, and if you do, consider building and saving it in FitFin.  Why?  Because with FitFin, you can build prices into your list, which will give you an estimate of what you’re going to spend.  And after you go to the store, update the list with the actual prices that you paid.  That way you can keep the list for next year and have a very good idea of what you’ll spend each year going forward.  Sign up for free at www.fitfin.com.

2. Find good deals that make sense. A lot of manufacturers create package deals to entice customers to buy their products.  For example, right now, you can get $3.00 off a Butterball turkey when you buy any three Betty Crocker, Green Giant or Pillsbury items.  In fact, that coupon resides on FitFin’s coupon section right now.  I don’t tell you this to go to our site and get the coupon (okay, maybe a little bit), but the point is to look for similar deals.  You’ll most likely need green beans, rolls, etc. for dinner, so why not take advantage of this or other types of deals AS LONG AS THEY’RE ITEMS YOU’D BUY ANYWAY!  Don’t buy them just to buy them, but look for deals that make sense for you.

3. Don’t overbuy your food.  Yes, we all love days upon days of turkey sandwiches, but according to the Worldwatch Institute, Americans waste an extra 5 million tons of food between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  Think about how much food you threw away last year—was it a little or a lot?

4. Get creative with leftovers.  This kind of goes with number three, but once you can’t stomach the thought of shoving another piece of turkey into your mouth by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, consider how you might turn that bird into something new and exciting.  There are tons of recipes to make that turkey come back to life, so to speak.  I have included the Google search results for Thanksgiving leftovers, because there’s only so much cranberry sauce one person can take.  https://www.google.com/#q=thanksgiving+leftover+recipes

5. Buy bulk and share the cost.  Chances are that everyone on your block will be eating the same thing on November 27th.  So rather than everyone buy a 5 pound bag of potatoes only to throw away two pounds in early December, consider investing in a 20 pound bag with several neighbors.  Think about all the things that could be purchased in bulk and consider making a group run to a discount warehouse, like Costco or Sam’s Club.  This mob-mentality could also apply for liquor, wine and beer.  Which reminds me, if any of my neighbors are reading this, please let me know if you have any extra Sam Adams lager or ale–I’m not picky.

These are just a few ideas to help you save costs on Thanksgiving.  Who knows, you might be able to take those savings and parlay them into Black Friday gold!  Above all, please remember that the most important thing on Thanksgiving is to enjoy your family and friends, and to give thanks for all the things that you have.

Cheers!

I’m not a budget guru…

In fact, for years I cringed at the very mention of the word budget, as I’m sure many of us do. So why am I blogging about budgeting, you ask? According to a Gallup poll conducted in June of 2013, only 32% of people surveyed use a budget. Two of the top reasons people don’t use them is because they’re confusing and they take up too much time. Like many people, I’ve been confused by different tools out there, and been stressed by trying to find the time to effectively budget when there’s so much else to do. And in my frustration, I searched for a better way. The end result is FitFin.

Going back to why only 1/3 of us budget, a lot of it has to do with time. Whether it’s perception or reality, many of us don’t have the time to sit down for hours at a time to look at spreadsheets. With FitFin, it takes seconds to create and manage a budget. We’ve all got a few seconds here and there, right?

But we also have to look at time in terms of actually remembering to do it. How many times have you heard or read something that talks about budgeting only to think: Oh, I should probably do something about that. Then you go about your day and forget. Or, you have a budget already set up and periodically think about looking at it, only to never actually do it. We all do that, right? With FitFin, you have a reason EVERY WEEK to go into your budget. Several times a week, really. That’s because we combine your budget with the best shopping list tool available. According to a poll conducted by Reader’s Digest, 84% of us use a shopping list of some kind. Again, compare the 84% of shopping list users to the 32% of people who have a budget. I know we’re comparing apples to oranges, but from a familiarity/comfort standpoint, you can see that people are more receptive to shopping lists.

And that’s exactly our angle at FitFin. If we can provide you with the best shopping list out there that will actually talk to your budget, why not give it a try? We realize that your shopping list and your budget aren’t necessarily an obvious combination, like chocolate and peanut butter, but when you think about it, their integration makes sense because they’re both part of the shopping cycle.

Need more convincing on why to try it? Here are three benefits to tying your budget with your shopping list:

  1. You’ll visit your budget 3-4/week at a minimum.  The best part is that you’ll only have to look at your budget for about 10 seconds to get a clear picture of what’s going on.  That’s maybe a minute a week that you’re looking at the budget, but you’re looking at it EACH WEEK (versus looking at it rarely or never now).
  2. You’re being a proactive budgeter.  You’re reviewing your budget BEFORE you go to the store, not afterwards, like with many other budgeting tools.
  3. Budgeting is a by-product of using the tool.  We talk about the anxiety of budgeting.  With FitFin, since the budget is just a part of the shopping cycle, it becomes a natural part of the process.  Our hope is that just by going into FitFin several times a week as you access your shopping list, you’re seeing your budget and spending as it happens in real time and naturally, so there are no big surprises.  The big surprises tend to happen when we don’t consistently look at our spending numbers.

As I stated before, I’m not budget guru. I’m a human being with real expenses, just like you. But what I’ve found is that by keeping a close watch on where my money goes and doing it consistently, I’ve eliminated a lot of the financial stress I used to have because as problems come up, I’m better equipped to fix them. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. FitFin gives me access to that knowledge, and I can get up to speed with things in mere seconds.

A good analogy that everyone can understand is getting into better physical shape. To do so, you have to watch what you eat and exercise on a regular basis. If you want to get in better financial shape, you want to watch what you spend, and look at your budget on a regular basis. FitFin gives you the tool to do both in a quick, natural way. If you haven’t checked it out, please go to www.fitfin.com. It’s free and it takes just seconds to sign up.

Here’s to your financial health!  And to chocolate and peanut butter!

Are you a saver or a spender? Take the FitFin quiz to find out!

Knowing your natural tendencies when it comes to saving (or spending) money will help you better understand what it will take to reach your goals. Take the FitFin Save or Spend Quiz to see where you rank. We want you to answer each question twice: The first answer should be what pops immediately into your mind (your gut reaction). The second should be how you’d answer after giving the question some thought (your brain reaction). Score both the “Gut” and the “Brain” blank with either a, b, c, of d for each question. To give you the best chance at finding your natural tendencies, please be honest.

1. You find $20.00 lying on the sidewalk and no one is around who could have possibly dropped it. Do you:

a. Put it in your bank account/stuff it in your mattress
b. Put up a flyer announcing the lost money
c. Find the nearest store and buy something
d. Buy the next round

Gut ___ Brain ___

2. You’ve been dying to buy the _______, which normally costs $300.00. It’s now on sale for an amazingly low price of $100.00 (today only, of course!). The problem is that you check your account and you only have $50.00 in it. Do you:

a. Wave the white flag and leave the store, with a tear in your eye
b. Go back to your house to search for loose change in your couch
c. Get out your phone to see if there’s a cheaper price online that you may be able to get the store to match
d. Say screw it and put it on your credit card

Gut ___ Brain ___

3. You receive a $3,000.00 tax refund. Do you:

a. Put it in your IRA/similar product (or open one if you don’t have one)
b. Pay down debt
c. Make a list of things you might buy with it
d. Go on vacation

Gut ___ Brain ___

4. You need transportation. Do you:

a. Buy a bus/other public transportation pass
b. Buy a bicycle
c. Buy a used car
d. Buy/lease a new car

Gut ___ Brain ___

5. You need a new phone. Do you:

a. Buy a flip phone (not a smartphone)
b. Buy an older model smartphone that costs very little or is free with a service contract
c. Search places like Craigslist/eBay for a used model of the phone you want
d. Get the latest and greatest model, regardless of the cost

Gut ___ Brain ___

Now tally your answers for the Gut category. Assign a one point for every ‘a’ answer, two points for every ‘b’ answer, three points for every ‘c’ answer, and four points for every ‘d’ answer. Once done, do the same thing for the Brain category.

Answer Scoring (scale applies to both Gut and Brain answers, but use them separately)
1-5 You have natural savings tendencies (some call you cheap, but you know you’re wise and frugal)
6-10 You’re pretty good with your money, but sometimes like to splurge
11-15 Keep an eye on what you spend and maybe find an accountability partner to hold you in check
16-20 Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Note your scoring for both the Gut and the Brain categories.
Are they similarly low? Then you’re a saver (or at least have saving tendencies). Congratulations! Are they similarly high? You’re not a natural saver. You may need to work at saving, but you can do it! Is one high and one low? Consider which score is closer to the truth and make changes as necessary.

Thanks for taking the FitFin Savings Quiz. We hope you learned something about yourself when it comes to your natural views on saving money. Regardless of if you’re a saver or a spender, please check out http://www.FitFin.com for a great tool that can help you set up a budget and track it in literally seconds a day. Best of all, it’s FREE!

Simplifying the Complicated

At FitFin, we work hard to make things simple. Ironically, making them simple has been at times complicated. But we think it’s well worth it.

With FitFin, your budget doesn’t have to be complicated either. Our philosophy is simple: Everyone has three buckets of money:

1. Take-home pay – this is the money you bring home however often you get paid. This is your after-tax money to live on.

2. Fixed expenses – these are your expenses that consistently stay the same amount each month. Here are examples of what fixed expenses might include:

a. Rent/Mortgage
b. Insurance
c. Cable (for the most part)
d. Phone (for the most part)
e. Garbage
f. Utilities (for the most part)

These expenses don’t vary much, and if they do vary, make sure to estimate them high when creating a budget to ensure worst-case scenario spending.

3. Variable expenses – these expenses fluctuate month-to-month and are where most people get into trouble. These might include:

a. Groceries
b. Dining out
c. Gas/automotive
d. Entertainment (i.e. going to the movies)
e. Household expenses (i.e. home repair)

Consider this: You may have a $500.00 monthly grocery allowance, but if you’re not actively tracking it, you may be spending $700.00 and not even know it. That’s an extra $2,400.00 a year!

With FitFin, you can easily create budgets for all of these and any other categories you want to help you stay on top of your finances. Setting up a variable expense budget takes less than thirty seconds and is customizable to fit your needs.

Once your budget is set up based on the three categories above, track your expenses against your take-home pay. Try to have 10-20% of your pay leftover to go towards savings or to pay down debt. If you find it difficult to get to this percentage, do what you can. Two percent is better than zero percent or being in the red. But take a serious look at your expenses and try to find things you can cut back on. You’ll’be surprised at what you can reduce or eliminate altogether.

Be sure to remember expenses that are often forgotten, like gifts (birthday, holidays), travel, vehicle registration fees, and other expenses that may not occur monthly, like vehicle insurance (sometimes every six months), or life insurance (sometimes annual). Brainstorm every possible expense to ensure accurate budgeting.

FitFin has great FREE tools to help you set up your budget. Please visit http://www.FitFin.com to see just how simple we’ve made this historically complicated process. And if you like what we do, please let us know—and feel free to tell your friends and family, too.

Thank you for being a part of the FitFin Nation!