How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

January 7, 2019

Many people have become more health conscious in recent years. By exercising and eating a healthy diet, we know we’ll live happier and longer lives. Unfortunately, processed foods tend to be cheaper than lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s due in part by government subsidies to farmers growing corn, soybean, and wheat, the main ingredients in processed foods, which keep those prices down.

When you’re on a tight budget and always in a rush, it’s sometimes easier to hit a fast food restaurant or just microwave a frozen dinner– meals full of sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. So how can you eat more healthfully? Here are a few tips:

1. Slow down. Eating healthy requires a little time and attention. Many people rush through their days, wolfing down their meals mindlessly, so they can hurry to the next appointment. Give yourself a little time to shop mindfully, prepare your food, and fully savor your meal.

2. Buy produce in season and freeze it.  
Fruits and vegetables cost more when they have to be shipped from far-away sunny lands that can still grow produce in November. Buy these items locally, in season, and freeze them for use in the winter.

3. Start your own vegetable garden. You can easily grow lettuce and tomatoes in small planters on a balcony or, if you have a yard, stake out a few feet to grow even more. You’ll even get a little exercise while you do it.

4. Buy in bulk.  Many grocery stores offer dry goods in bulk, saving you the usual packaging costs. You can also save on meat by buying in larger quantities and rewrapping in smaller, meal-sized portions. Freeze those portions to use for weeks to come.

5. Check your dining-out habit.  
If you eat at restaurants often, the habit is taking a big bite out of your wallet. On average, a restaurant meal costs almost 5 times more than a home-made meal. Save dining out for special occasions.

With the money you save, consider opening a Certificate of Deposit.

Income Tax Filing Tips for January

Although income tax returns are not due until April 15, it’s always good idea to plan ahead and file early, especially if you expect to get a tax refund. Here are six steps to take now:

1. Get ready for the arrival of records. If you don’t already have a Tax file, select a single location (even if it’s just a large envelope) to collect your W-2s, statements, and other tax-related documents as they arrive. If you receive records electronically, create a “2018 taxes” folder or subdirectory.

2. Contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA). Most Americans can contribute $5,500 to a Roth or traditional IRA for 2018 ($6,500 for those age 50 and older) until the tax filing date.

3. Decide how you want to do your taxes. Do you like to do it yourself or do you want to hire a pro? Do you prefer pen and paper or a computer? Now’s the time to decide.

4. Find your forms. If you file by paper, you can get forms from a public library or at IRS.gov. If you file electronically, get your software.

5. Consider electronic filing. Taxes filed electronically are processed faster than paper ones, and refunds are issued within 3 weeks. Alternatively, if you file your tax return on paper, it will take 6 to 8 weeks to receive your refund. This filing season, taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $66,000 or less in 2018 can file Federal taxes for free via the IRS program.

6. Use direct deposit. Regardless of whether you file electronically or on paper, consider having your refund check directly deposited into your credit union account. You will need our routing number, which is: 251082233. It’s another way to get your return faster.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was enacted in December 2017 which made changes to tax rates and Federal income tax withholding. To learn about these changes and how it will affect filing, go to the IRS website.

Stressed Out About Money? 5 Things to Do

October 26, 2018

No one likes to be stressed. And unfortunately, money can be a huge source of stress if you aren’t careful. Whether it’s an unexpected expense, a job loss, or inability to meet your savings goals, money stress is real, and it can completely derail you.

Fortunately, while you can’t avoid every money woe, there are plenty of ways you can better prepare yourself to avoid sticky money situations. Not only that, but you can work on altering your reaction to money stress so it affects you less. Here are 5 things to do if you’re stressed about money.

1) Get Organized

Living in a chaotic state can cause you more stress than you may even realize. Like anything else, it pays off to take time and organize your finances.

When you organize your money, you know exactly when each bill is due, how much money you will have in your bank account at any given month, and you can know exactly how much you need to save in order to meet your financial goals.

To start organizing your finances, one tip is to create a money calendar. First, you can write down every pay day. Then, write down when every bill is due. From there, you can calculate to ensure that you have more than enough money in your checking account to cover every bill without over drafting.

2) Build an Emergency Fund

Peace of mind is priceless. Without an emergency fund, you may be left in financial despair when a sudden, unplanned event occurs. If you stress over wondering how you will pay for unexpected expense (and even if you don’t stress), an emergency fund is a must.

And you can start small. Even an extra $500 can go a long way to cover you if you’re ever faced with a financial emergency.

3) Change How You View Your Budget

Budgets don’t just exist to tell you how to spend your money. This view of a budget can feel restricting, and you may grow to hate your budget. Instead, view your budget as an invaluable resource to bolster you to your financial goals. In fact, your budget is the way you can afford the things you dream about spending money on.

So instead of focusing on what a budget prevents you from spending money on, key in on how a budget allows you to spend money on the things you care most about. This mindset shift is imperative to removing financial stress from your life.

4) Stop Comparing Yourself

Keeping up with the Joneses is stressful. Ultimately, the Jones effect happens when you compare yourself and your lifestyle to those around you. Most of us are guilty of feeling pressure to keep up with what our peers are doing. And it’s a fascinating phenomenon – we spend a lot of money and create a ton of stress for ourselves by trying to keep up with our peers who we may not even like, or share the same interests with.

Once you free yourself from comparison, you can focus on spending money on the things that truly are important to you.

5) Learn More

You don’t need to be an expert in every job, responsibility, or area of life. Everyone, however, needs to be educated about money because, like it or not, money plays a huge role in most everyone’s life.

There’s no shame in admitting you could stand to learn more about money – in fact, even most financial gurus will admit there is always more to learn. Commit to educating yourself. Fortunately, there are endless resources at your disposal for little to no cost. From blogs to books, and from podcasts to newspapers, you can always find a new tool to help teach you more about money.

Bonus: Side Hustle Your Way to Financial Freedom

Would you be as stressed about money if you simply made more? Increasing your income is easier to do than most people think. And having a higher income means you can meet all of your financial goals faster.

You don’t have to leave your day job in order to increase your income. Side hustles are a great way to earn more, and you can start a side hustle today. Whether you choose to become a part-time dog walker, a blogger, or a freelance writer, there are thousands of ways to earn extra cash on the side.

 

Source: Young Adult Money

How to Refinance a Car Loan

October 9, 2018

Refinancing an auto loan can save you hundreds of dollars in interest payments. When most people hear the word “refinance,” their minds automatically jump to home refinancing. After all, your home loan is likely the one that will take you the longest to pay off. So it’s the one that typically benefits the most from a refinance.

But did you know you can also refinance your car loan? This is an especially good option if you could get a much lower interest rate on a new car loan. This can save you tons of money and also help you pay off your car more quickly.

Interested in refinancing your auto loan? Here’s how:

Know When to Refinance

First, you will, of course, want to keep an eye on whether or not you should refinance. You’re likely a good candidate to refinance if one or more of the following applies to you:

  • You’ve seen auto loan interest rates drop. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on industry trends to be sure you’re still getting a good rate.
  • You’ve boosted your credit score. According to this auto loan interest rate calculator, your credit score can make a huge difference in what you’ll pay in interest on your car loan. On a $10,000 used purchase loan, you could pay an average of 15.58% interest with poor credit, or an average of just 2.73% with excellent credit. That’s a huge difference! If your credit score has increased several points since you financed your car, look at your new expected interest rate.
  • You just didn’t get that great a deal on your financing. Maybe when you bought your car you didn’t know how to get the best financing deal.
  • You need to decrease your payments. Are you struggling to make your car loan payments? In this case, a refinance could get you into a lower payment by extending the repayment term. This isn’t a great option, if you can avoid it. But it can be a reasonable way to trim your budget without having to give up your car.

If one or more of these situations sounds familiar, you should at least find out what deal you might get by refinancing your car loan.

Find Your Break-Even Point

Before you actually refinance your car, first find out if it’s actually a good idea financially. Sure, saving a few percentage points on your interest rate seems like a good idea right off. But there are costs involved with refinancing. So be sure your savings will outweigh your costs.

To do this, you need to calculate your break-even point. This is the point–usually a number of months–at which your savings will begin to outweigh your costs.

To calculate your break-even point, first figure out if there are any fees involved with refinancing your car. This might include early termination fees on your original loan, transaction fees for your new loan, and potentially new state registration fees. Some states require borrowers to re-register their cars after a refinance. Add all that together, and that’s how much your refinance will cost.

On the savings side, get an estimate of how much you’ll pay on your refinanced loan. Find out how much that will save you per month. Then, divide your overall cost by your monthly savings.

This is easier than it sounds. Let’s say your refinance will cost you a total of $500 in fees, but you’ll save $50 per month on your loan. It will take you 10 months to break even. After 10 months of car payments, you’ll start saving money.

Shortening Your Term

Calculating your break-even point can be tricky if your refinance leaves you with a larger or similar loan payment because you’re also shortening the term. If you can significantly cut down on your interest, you can pay off the loan more quickly for the same monthly payment. This is a good option if your payment is affordable and you want to get out of debt more quickly.

In this case, though, you’ll need to calculate your overall expenses versus your overall savings. You can do that using an amortization calculator. Put in your current car loan terms and current principal. See how much you’d pay in interest over the rest of the life of your loan as is. Then put in your current principal with the new loan terms. What’s the difference in interest payments?

In our first scenario, where a refinance would cost $500, if you save $501 by refinancing, you’re saving money. Of course, it’s up to you to decide how much you need to save in total to make the effort of the refinance process worth your while.

Get Your New Loan

Getting a new auto loan is typically pretty simple. You get your documentation together, usually including the car’s information and documentation about your income. Then you fill out the application for funding. In the last step, you may have filled out preliminary applications. At this point, you’ll likely need to provide things like actual proof of income.

If the new lender approves the terms, they’ll typically work behind the scenes with your existing lender. The new lender will pay off the balance on the loan, and then they’ll take over the title. Once you pay off that loan, they’ll send you the title to the car that you now own free and clear.

Refinance with Argent Now!

 

Source: DoughRoller

8 Moves That Will Protect Your Family from Financial Chaos in Case of the Unexpected

October 1, 2018

Older man doing his taxesWhen it comes to protecting your family from any financial disputes in the event that you die, there’s a lot you need to consider. In fact, you need to plan everything accordingly and early enough so that you don’t leave your loved ones having to deal with all your financial affairs during such an emotionally charged time.

People who die unexpectedly without having their financial affairs in order usually end up putting their family through tremendous financial turmoil. This is especially true for those who have dozens of estates that need to be managed after they die. With that in mind, here is a list of what you can do to ensure that doesn’t happen in the event that you die unexpectedly:

Draft a will

Studies have found that more than half of all Americans currently don’t have a will. That’s a very big mistake, especially if you own estates or properties. Someone will need to handle and manage the assets you leave behind; that’s one of the main purposes of a will — to set your records straight and avoid disputes after your death.

Seek trusts

A trust is used to manage your financial affairs, estates, and/or property after you die. You should also include this in your will. In most cases, people opt for trusts if they still have minor kids who they feel may not be able to handle the finances you leave behind — or if you have adult children but you believe they aren’t up to the task of maintaining what you have already built. Trusts usually include an attorney’s will-creation fee.

Assign a power of attorney

By assigning a power-of-attorney, you authorize someone else to act in your place to handle your business affairs if you are incapacitated or can’t manage to do so personally.

Set an advance directive

This is a document which usually lays out your end-of-life preferences. The document also can incorporate a living will, medical power-of-attorney, and even “Do Not Resuscitate” orders. You don’t necessarily need an attorney to create this document. But other states require that the document be witnessed as you write it.

Have enough life insurance

Life insurance can help provide coverage for things like lost income after your death in case you have children who are dependent on you financially.

Update your beneficiaries

It is extremely important to ensure that the beneficiaries on your insurance policies, 401(k), investments, and retirement accounts are included in your will. Don’t let someone from your past relationship end up inheriting your financial assets simply because you failed to specify your intended beneficiaries.

Organize your paperwork

It is also important to ensure that your tax returns, 401(k), insurance policies, and brokerage statements are properly organized and paid up. And be sure to notify your closest friend or family member where the paperwork is so that they can access it in the event of your death.

Keep everything accessible

Never keep your wills and important financial documents them in a safety deposit box; some estates seal these deposit boxes when the owners die. As a result, the survivors may have a hard time settling an estate. While it is important to keep these relevant documents safe, it is just as important to keep them easily accessible after you die; this is very important especially if you have quick loans or any form of credit. Keeping everything accessible makes it easier for your family members to manage your credits and assets more smoothly in your absence.

 

Source: Len Penzo Dot Com