Budgeting - ClayWallet

Budgeting 101: How to Budget Money

If I have take-home pay of, say, $3,000 a month, how can I pay for housing, food, insurance, health care, debt repayment and fun without running out of money? That’s a lot to cover with a limited amount, and this is a zero-sum game.

The answer is to make a budget.

What is a budget? A budget is a plan for every dollar you have. It’s not magic, but it represents more financial freedom and a life with much less stress. Here’s how to set up and then manage your budget.

How to Budget Money

  • Calculate your monthly income, pick a budgeting method and monitor your progress.

  • Try the 50/30/20 rule as a simple budgeting framework.

  • Allow up to 50% of your income for needs.

  • Leave 30% of your income for wants.

  • Commit 20% of your income to savings and debt repayment.

  • Track and manage your budget through regular check-ins.

Understand the Budgeting Process

Figure out your after-tax income: If you get a regular paycheck, the amount you receive is probably it, but if you have automatic deductions for a 401(k), savings, and health and life insurance, add those back in to give yourself a true picture of your savings and expenditures. If you have other types of income — perhaps you make money from side gigs — subtract anything that reduces it, such as taxes and business expenses.

Choose a budgeting plan: Any budget must cover all of your needs, some of your wants and — this is key — savings for emergencies and the future. Budgeting plan examples include the envelope system and the zero-based budget.

Track your progress: Record your spending or use online budgeting and savings tools.

Automate your savings: Automate as much as possible so the money you’ve allocated for a specific purpose gets there with minimal effort on your part. An accountability partner or online support group can help, so that you\’re held accountable for choices that blow the budget.

Practice budget management: Your income, expenses and priorities will change over time, so actively manage your budget by revisiting it regularly, perhaps once a quarter. If you\’re struggling to stick with your plan, try these budgeting tips.

Try a Simple Budgeting Plan

We recommend the popular 50/30/20 budget to maximize your money. In it, you spend roughly 50% of your after-tax dollars on necessities, no more than 30% on wants, and at least 20% on savings and debt repayment.

We like the simplicity of this plan. Over the long term, someone who follows these guidelines will have manageable debt, room to indulge occasionally, and savings to pay irregular or unexpected expenses and retire comfortably.

Allow up to 50% of Your Income for Needs

Your needs — about 50% of your after-tax income — should include:

  • Groceries.

  • Housing.

  • Basic utilities.

  • Transportation.

  • Insurance.

  • Minimum loan payments. Anything beyond the minimum goes into the savings and debt repayment category.

  • Child care or other expenses you need so you can work.

If your absolute essentials overshoot the 50% mark, you may need to dip into the “wants” portion of your budget for a while. It’s not the end of the world, but you\’ll have to adjust your spending.

Even if your necessities fall under the 50% cap, revisiting these fixed expenses occasionally is smart. You may find a better cell phone plan, an opportunity to refinance your mortgage or an opportunity for less expensive car insurance. That leaves you more to work with elsewhere.

Leave 30% of Your Income for Wants

Separating wants from needs can be difficult. In general, though, needs are essential for you to live and work. Typical wants include dinners out, gifts, travel and entertainment.

It’s not always easy to decide. Are restorative spa visits (including tips for a massage) a want or a need? How about organic groceries? Decisions vary from person to person.

If you\’re eager to get out of debt as fast as you can, you may decide your wants can wait until you have some savings or your debts are under control. But your budget shouldn\’t be so austere that you can never buy anything just for fun.

Every budget needs wiggle room — maybe you forgot about an expense or one was bigger than you anticipated — and some money to spend as you wish. If there\’s no money for fun, you\’ll be less likely to stick with your budget.

Commit 20% of Your Income to Savings and Debt Repayment

Use 20% of your after-tax income to put something away for the unexpected, save for the future and pay off debt. Make sure you think of the bigger financial picture; that may mean two-stepping between savings and debt repayment to accomplish your most pressing goals.

12 Tips to Grow Your Local Business on a Budget

The Internet has made it easier than ever to start a business. A simple idea can spur disruptive empires seemingly overnight. Even the oddest ideas have merit as you’re bound to find an audience somewhere out there on the Web.

But:

The ease of starting a business is equally shared with your competition. It often turns out that your ideas aren’t as unique as you thought. Even now, you may be finding new competitors racing to your market that wasn’t there yesterday.

You also have global brands pumping millions into their ads & marketing campaigns. It seems like building a successful business is a long-shot, doesn’t it? In some ways, it can be, unless you know how to grow your local business.

The faster you grow and reach the market, the better chances you’ll have competing against these startups and global brands.

Don’t know how to start learning and apply growth strategies? Follow along as we get into a collection of our best ideas and strategies.

Creating a Lean, Mean, Growth Machine

You’re in a fantastic position as a small, local business:

  • Smaller operational costs
  • Fewer management headaches
  • Hyped workforce and outlook

You’re lean. You’re agile. You’re a go-getter.

You don’t have bureaucracy sabotaging your efforts. You control the direction and keep each marketing attempt succinct and affordable.

Here is the point saying all of this:

  • Don’t feel obligated continuing a technique if it isn’t working out
  • Fail fast and learn from the mistakes, then move onto the next

Now, consider each of the following items below for your growth efforts. Keep these items in mind moving forward with your campaigns and business goals.

How to Grow Your Local Business the Smart, Affordable Way

Every growth strategy involves some investment. Since many small businesses don’t have big budgets, they’ll make it affordable by DIY learning and doing.

Most of the following growth strategies you can start today. Or, at the very least, you can lay the foundation to let someone else later take over.

Try at least every item mentioned below.

1. Tell People About Your Business

Don’t feel shy about promoting your business. You’re not “slimy” when pitching people you know. Tell everyone you can about the business if they show any semblance of interest.

Try sharing the business pitch via:

  • Meetups and Events
  • Phone Calls and Emails
  • Social Media and Messaging

Use all those platforms you use day-to-day, too. If it gives you a voice then use it to get your business and brand out there!

2. Get Fans/Customers Telling People About It

Get your fans and customers talking about the business. Encourage them to refer people to your business. Or, incentivize it with discounts or revenue share.

Here is a 4-step process of the revenue share method:

  1. Set up a referral code system on your site or in a spreadsheet
  2. Pick and contact your best followers/customers, seeing if they’ll take part
  3. Give each person a unique referral code or phrase they can share
  4. Offer referral bonuses and incentives for converted leads/sales

Set up a referral system and you’ll have turned fans into a sales force. A lot of people will do it free without the incentive, too, simply because they love your business. It’s like your own promo efforts — have a platform and you’ll notice your message gets spread!

3. Have People Leave Online Business Reviews

90%+ of American adults find businesses through an online search. Google does a great job matching local businesses with local queries. As expected, people looking for your business weigh its reviews found in search.

How can you earn more online reviews? Try these:

  • Encouraging it during or after checkout
  • Sending a follow-up email or postcard reminder
  • Taking to your FB business page, asking for reviews

These take near zero effort but has a lasting impact on growth potential.

Regular, high-rated reviews convince and convert new prospects. Additionally, getting online reviews build trust and even improves search ranking performance. The review also creates a touchpoint you could use in user-generated growth efforts.

This brings us to…

4. Tap Into Your Community for Content Creation

Who knows the intricacies of your products and services more than its users? They’re first to pick apart what you offer, taking to the Web to share opinions. They’re passionate, getting to know the ins and outs of what you sell.

What are customers creating and sharing?

  • Online reviews
  • Tutorials and guides
  • Comparisons

Their efforts appear in search engines and garner views. Imagine if those views were on your website where you could include a sales pitch! That’s the power of user-generated content, and it’s possible when you’re open to it.

You can bring on user-generated content (UGC) doing these actions:

  • Running contests where users share their reviews and thoughts
  • Having followers take and share photos or videos of them and the item
  • Allowing content submitted to the business blog as they would their own

Interviews, too, are a fantastic way to begin exploring UGC. Find and connect with a fan, seeing if they’d share their brand experience. Package the work and get it published on your channels, sharing it on social, too.

Before long you’ll notice people coming to you. Have your channels open to it, and you’ll get free, promotional content for your brand.

5. Create Great Content (You’re Proud Of)

Creating killer content is what you really want to do for growth efforts.

Why create content? Well, the benefits are amazing:

  1. Content can improve your search rankings and website traffic
  2. It helps establish you as an expert in your industry and niche
  3. It will connect and build stronger communities (online and offline)

Creating great content comes down to three important elements:

  1. Settling on an interesting topic to talk about
  2. Having a stance and tone that makes you unique
  3. Getting it to the people wanting to hear the message

Now, here’s what you can do:

Create blog posts for the business blog covering product tips. Or, record videos showing how to use your items. Share your expertise so people get informed and feel entertained, and they’ll want to connect with your brand.

A few ideas to get the content started include trying one of these:

  1. Round-up the top 5 “influencers” in your niche and industry
  2. Take note of the content they’re creating and their angle
  3. Find what you could talk about and what makes it different
  4. Put in the time crafting the piece and exhaust your knowledge into it
  5. Share it across social media and promotional channels

Yes, it’s that easy when you look at it from a top-level perspective. The nuances change as you get into it — but you’ll get the hang of it!

6. Apply On-Page Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization makes content and web pages shine. It improves search rankings through best practices. Higher organic traffic is the result of a well-maintained SEO campaign.

Here is a simplified on-page SEO process you could replicate:

  1. Load up a keyword tool like Google Keyword Planner or SEMRush
  2. Input your niche and industry keywords, identifying what holds interest
  3. Apply the one primary keyword/phrase to each page’s metadata
  4. Fill in the page with optimized content using secondary keywords
  5. Build quality links from relevant sources back to the optimized pages

SEO works best when you’re committed as it can take months to show real results. You can get a win/win by DIYing the content. Then, exploring the advance tactics through expert SEO services (hint, hint).

7. Ask for Insights from Other Professionals

It’s time to make good use of those professional connections. You should network with everyone from supplier to the person delivering your packages.

  • Open your contact list and start dialing
  • Take to LinkedIn and drop a few messages
  • Send out an email to a business group

What’s the point of these contacts? Well, to discover ways you can reduce costs by streamlining operations. They have likely been where you’ve been, and probably have a lot of great information they could impart on you.

8. Start Promoting the Business on Social Media

Do you notice a pattern with the items we’ve already covered? They’re very much aligned with what you’ll do on social media:

  • Connecting with followers and customers to build a community
  • Tapping your professional network to build strong branding and sales

This just goes to show that social media isn’t a difficult concept. You have the skills to connect and create sales. You just need to learn the platforms.

Your business should be on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

These are great starting points.

You should then do these on each of the social channels:

  • Sharing your best content from the business blog
  • Starting conversations and discussions about your products
  • Interviewing interesting people or being part of an interview
  • Posting neat or informative media like photos or videos
  • Running promotional or ad campaigns using their built-in ad tools

If you don’t feel comfortable using social media beyond the basics then leverage social media marketing services to make it more professional. Let SMM pros handle the campaigns while you and team do the interactions.

9. Use Print like in the Old Days

Print materials remain an effective way to get your brand known.

You should invest in:

  • Business cards
  • Brochures
  • Flyers

Get these around town by passing them out or leaving them in busy areas.

You can keep a print campaign super cheap by doing the following:

  1. Go to a design marketplace
  2. Buy or get free design templates
  3. Learn basics from design tutorials
  4. Create business print materials
  5. Get items printed at a local printer

You can get inexpensive graphic design services through freelance boards. Or, let the in-house team make an attempt at them. You may have someone in your professional network who could do it, too.

10. Start an Online Advertising Campaign

You have a few, cheap ways to explore beginner-friendly advertising:

  • Google Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Banner Ads

Start with something super simple like a banner ad on an industry site. You can create these banners using templates or design DIY. Pay the placement fee and you’ll get your brand image on sites people like going to (and sharing).

Feeling up for something more advanced? Try Google Ads.

Here is a basic, 5-step process for starting a Google Ads campaign:

  1. Set up a Google Ads account
  2. Find good keywords using the keyword planner
  3. Create your ad copy (headline, body, link)
  4. Set the budget and campaign length
  5. Launch and run the campaign

Keep an eye on the campaign since it can become a wild success or burn your money fast.  If you’re hesitant about putting big money on the line, hand it off to a team that does PPC management to optimize campaigns and keep them effective and affordable.

You could try Facebook as a Google Ads alternative — which is a great idea because it gives you a few extra features you may like:

  • Fun use of media and graphics
  • Robust demographics and targeting

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the banner from the prior campaign with the copy used in the Google Ad. Then, tweak it so it’s applicable on the FB ad platform.

11. Run an Email Marketing Campaign

Set up an email marketing account through services like:

  • Drip
  • MailChimp
  • Aweber

These provide tools to set up autoresponder emails and lists. You’ll also get embed code for opt-in forms you can place on your site.

Create and use a simple email funnel by doing the following:

  1. Provide an incentive for an email sign up (e.g. ebook or course)
  2. Deliver the incentive and give people an intro of what to expect
  3. Drip emails providing content and helpful tips and tricks
  4. Send out the occasional promotional email for your sales events
  5. Repeat, using what works and ditch what doesn’t

Treat email the same as you would your business blog. Fill it with great content people want to read and share. And, leverage it to build stronger connections with your audience. This builds awareness and makes selling way easier.

12. Run Contests and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways are great ways to build general brand awareness. Don’t expect great conversion rates in the follow-up pitch. But, do expect a bigger community given you tailor the experience.

Here is a sample contest you could attempt:

  1. Decide what you’ll offer like your product or service
  2. Set the rules and outline the entry guidelines
  3. Design a landing page to collect entries
  4. Start and begin sharing the contest on social channels
  5. Keep the excitement going with regular updates
  6. Conclude the contest, pick, and announce the winner

The goal is to collect contact info so you can do follow-ups. In the follow-ups, you could include coupons or promotional offers. Or, don’t promote and use the opportunity to get people involved in your community.

Keeping Momentum and Realizing Your Success

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far! Your journey is not over, though. In fact, it’s just beginning. You’ll soon realize growth hacking is boundless and that’s a tricky thing because you’ll want to try all the tactics you come across!

We’ve got a few extra growth strategies you’ll want to try. But, do these after you’ve done the previous ones since these are tough.

Joint Ventures

Combine tactics with business professionals in your niche and work with those in relevant, related industries. See their owners as peers instead of competitors.

Work together exploring similar ideas in these areas:

  • Developing a product together
  • Exchanging referrals and leads
  • Combine resources to grow faster

Draft a joint venture agreement and explore the risks and rewards. As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one!”.

Suggestion: Attend more industry events and build a network.

Smart Insights

Let numbers drive decisions by using performance data and analytics.

Your data reveals a trove of valuable insights:

  • Market and industry trends
  • VIP prospects and customers
  • Faults and low-performers
  • Exemplary campaigns and tactics

Insights reaffirm “what’s working” so you can do more of it and see more success. It also reveals what’s not working so you can “trim the fat”. This creates an efficient workflow, improving all aspects of your growth efforts.

Suggestion: Explore lean and agile business tactics.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing lets someone who knows what they’re doing work on your projects when you’re stumped. This also lets you focus on what you enjoy doing.

There are many areas of your local business you could outsource:

  • Administrative duties
  • Inbound and outbound marketing
  • Fulfillment and logistics

Outsourcing includes a dozen other areas that take up you and your talent’s time. Whole parts of the strategies detailed in this post can get included in outsourcing, too. Combining growth with outsourcing is a smart way to scale.

This brings us to our closing suggestion…

Final Thought

Do you need help growing your business or ready to take it to the next level? You can always work with marketing professionals.

A business has limited runway often dictated by its budget. The breadth of knowledge is another factor in whether it will reach fruition.

Learning how to grow your local business kickstarts your success. It gives you the knowledge to reach business goals while keeping it affordable.

Yet:

You will find a point where spending your time doesn’t have the same return on investment. You’ll find yourself using up valuable time doing more learning than doing. This means it time to reach out to professionals to fill the skill gap when you hit this point.

How To Create A Weekly Budget: All The Steps To Take

Did you know that the average American overspends by $7,429 per year?

Overspending is a very real issue many people struggle with, but for many of us, it’s also perfectly preventable. How, you may ask?

By establishing and following a weekly budget!

As boring as it might sound, taking some time to set a budget is the most efficient way to avoid getting to the end of the month counting the change in your pockets and anxiously waiting for payday.

Keep reading and learn everything you need to know about weekly budgeting!

Why Make a Weekly Budget

When people decide to start budgeting, they often choose to do it monthly. Mostly because many of us get paid monthly and have monthly expenses, like our rent and car payment.

If that works for you, perfect!

But with such a big period of time between budgeting sessions, it can become harder for you to keep up with your finances and easier to end up spending a bit more than you should.

If instead, you seat down to check on your balance every week, you can easily notice if you’re starting to overspend and just save up during the following week to compensate.

How to Make a Weekly Budget in 5 Steps

Now that you know why you should go for a weekly budget, it’s time to learn how you can make it.

If you’ve tried budgeting before, you might have a general idea of what you’ll need to do. If this is a completely new habit you’re about to adopt, it might seem a bit intimidating at first.

Either way, relax: budgeting doesn’t have to be a complicated process at all.

Here’s how you can do it in five simple steps:

1. Determine How Much You Earn

First things first, it’s important that you’re aware of exactly how much you make.

So start by writing down all your sources of income, whether it’s just your single job or some other side gigs. Add up the amount of money you make with each after taxes.

Note: In case your income varies each month, just do an average of what you got during the previous two or three months.

2. Add Your Expenses Together

You know how much you make, now it’s time to know how much you spend.

On this second step, start by adding your fixed expenses, so things like your apartment rent, mortgage, insurance, car payment, and others. In short, payments you make every single month.

Then consider your monthly unfixed expenses, like groceries and gas, and add them together as well.

Finally, add both numbers to get your total expenses.

3. Subtract Your Fixed Expenses from Your Earnings

The third step is easy: take the number you got on the last step and subtract it from your total income.

You shouldn’t get a negative number as a result: that’d mean you’re living way above your means. Instead, you should have some money left for security.

4. Divide Your Unfixed Expenses

Look at the unfixed expenses you wrote down on the second step.

If you’ve been spending more than you earn, this is where you’ll need to cut down. So, if necessary, make some changes.

Once that’s done, divide each category of expenses by four, so that you get how much money you can spend on different things during the week. So, if you typically buy $300 of groceries per month, you know you can spend a maximum of $75 per week on that category, for instance.

5. Track Your Spendings Every Week

Once you know exactly how much you can spend on different things, you need to keep an eye on your spendings to make sure you actually stay on track with your plan.

Consistently writing down your budget and expenses on an Excel document is a great way of making sure you never overspend again.

3 Useful Budgeting Tips

No matter how motivated you might be about budgeting on a weekly basis, we all know how easy it is to lose track of your spendings.

To prevent that from happening, it’s useful to know certain tips and tricks like the following:

  • Be realistic

There’s no point in setting a budget if you’re not realistic, so try your best to stick to your numbers.

Keep in mind that, at the beginning that might mean that you won’t be able to eat out or go shopping as often as you’d like. But in the long run, you’ll start seeing your savings add up and you’ll have more financial freedom than you’ve ever had.

  • Use a calendar

Checking your calendar while you take care of your budget can be a good idea for two reasons.

Firstly, because you can check the events you have each week. From birthdays to date nights, and more: if you know what you have planned, you can set the right amount of money apart for each event.

Secondly, you can use your calendar to meal prep and save on your grocery spendings. The average American spends $4,464 every year on groceries but with a little planning, that number can easily go down!

  • Use an app

Smartphones are great for leisure, but you can (and should) also use them to stay organized. There are plenty of apps that can help you track your expenses, so give them a try until you find the one you like best.

This will make it even easier for you to always follow the fifth step of weekly budgeting, as you can add each of your expenses on the app as soon as the money leaves your bank account. No more excuses!

Staying Within Budget Has Never Been Easier!

Budgeting never sounds like fun. Not only because it’s work, but because it’s always a bit scary to find out exactly how much we spend each week.

But following a weekly budget will do nothing but give you more financial security and, ultimately, help you save money to start living the life you’ve always dreamed of living.

So why not start this week?

If you’d like to learn more about how you can solve and prevent financial problems, make sure to check our Finance Resources!

10 Must-Read Budgeting Tips for College Students

If you’ve recently joined the ranks of the nearly 20 million college students in America, you have a lot to be excited about. Classes, friendships, and parties- all essential parts of the university experience that you don’t want to miss out on.

One experience that you’re probably totally fine living without, though, is the week-to-week painful budgeting on a broke-college-student income. Instant ramen does tend to get old after a while, and student loans? Don’t even get us started on those.

Here, we’re going to help you fight against the daily horrors of your empty wallet by giving you some of the best insider budgeting tips for college students.

Read on to avoid going to class after class having eaten nothing but Nutella from the jar!

1. Actually Set a Budget

The first thing you’ll need to do when budgeting is to, well, actually set a budget. No, we don’t mean taking $300 out of the ATM and putting it in a drawer “for everything this month.” We mean sorting that $300 into various envelopes so you know exactly where it’s going.

In addition to setting aside money for rent or dorm fees, make sure that you have enough specifically for your weekly groceries. Don’t dip into this money for a bottle of beer or a night at the movies! It’s for groceries only.

Other funds you may consider setting aside money for are clothing, personal items (like toilet paper and kitchen cleaners), school expenses, and, yes, a bit for the aforementioned beer and movie night.

2. Use Cash When Possible

Speaking of cash in envelopes, let’s talk about using cash. While it sounds like fake news, it isn’t- people who spend cash actually spend less money on non-essentials. This is likely because you (correctly) feel as though you are spending actual money rather than just swiping a credit card and getting items for “free.”

3. Set Aside Party Money

By ‘party money,’ we don’t necessarily mean funds for wild nights out. Though there may be some of that involved, we’re using this term to describe cash that you’ll be using for nonessential items.

A part of your budget should be solely for enjoying life! Put fifty bucks or so aside so you can have dinner with a friend or buy that new comic book you’ve been eyeing. After all, what’s life without treating yourself sometimes?

4. Download the Right Apps

There are loads of apps out there that can help with your budgeting endeavors. Smartphone applications like Charlie, Goodbudget, and Mint have you covered when it comes to knowing how much money you can spend at any given time.

There are also rebate apps like Ibotta, which gives you a percentage cash back on groceries. Check some of those out if you want to put a little extra coin in your pocket!

5. Open a Bank Account

Speaking of apps, have you downloaded your bank’s yet?

Have you even made a bank account yet?

If the answer to that is anything other than a resounding ‘yes,’ that needs to be made a priority. Having your own bank account is necessary to keeping your money all in one place, making deposits and transfers, and paying bills. Open an account at your local bank today- it’s crucial to your budgeting success.

6. Start to Build Credit

While you’re at it, talk to your bank about building credit. If you have a current credit score of 0, don’t panic- that’s pretty normal for new college students.

There are a variety of systems in place for people to begin building credit from scratch. If you have a good relationship with your parents, one way to do this is to become an authorized user on their account. If this isn’t a possibility for you, there are student credit cards that you can apply for today!

7. Talk to Your Parents

Speaking of your parents, talk to them. They know a lot more about money and budgeting than you do simply because they have more experience with it. They’ll be able to give you more personalized pointers than any online forum because they know you (and, likely, your spending habits.)

8. Have a Financial Cushion

When you budget your funds, make sure to create a short-term savings account. You don’t need to put a ton of money into it on a weekly basis, but make sure that you’re at least putting a small percentage of your paycheck into this account and leaving it there.

Keeping a few hundred dollars put away acts as a financial cushion in case of unforeseen expenses. If your car breaks down or your cat needs to go to the vet, having this financial cushion could stand between yourself and a lot of stress.

9. Apply for Scholarships

Applying for scholarships is also a great way to save money. You’ll have to save significantly less for your student loans this way, giving you more money to put aside for other expenses!

There’s definitely a scholarship out there for you since there’s a scholarship out there for pretty much anything. Scholarships for small people, professional clowns, lefties, and adorable couples exist, proving there’s something out there for everyone.

10. Learn From the Pros

In addition to reading online forums and talking to family members, seeking financial advice from professionals is an awesome idea.

One way to do this is to look at a great personal finance advice blog. Experts post on these blogs to give you the best tips for saving money and spending wisely. Going out of your way to talk to those in finance and banking- maybe even professors at your university!- is immensely helpful as well.

More Budgeting Tips for College Students

While coming up with and sticking to a budget is difficult, it’s an easy way to alleviate stress from your college experience. When you spend smart and save big, your future self thanks you.

Now that you have some of the best budgeting tips for college students, it’s time to go in search of even more. Click on the ‘contact us’ tab on our home page to discuss finances with our knowledgeable professionals.

We’ll give you the best tips, tricks, and ideas on how to save money so you can have a stress-free college and post-college experience.

Good luck!

5 Budgeting Tips to Help You Manage Your Money in 2023

Having a budget is a good way to grasp where your money is going. Although the idea of using one can feel somewhat limiting, it can actually give you more freedom if done properly.

As you save up more money from creating a budget, you can work toward and eventually reach your financial goals. Here are some of the best budgeting tips to help you manage your money in 2023.

1. Figure Out Your Reason for Budgeting

Some people use a budget to increase savings, while others simply want to know where their money is going each month. Sit down and ask yourself why you feel compelled to create a budget and why now?

Maybe you’re saving to buy a house, there’s a little one on the way, or you finally want to become debt-free. When sticking to the monthly budget feels challenging, you can always come back to why you started and use that goal to keep you on track.

2. Be Realistic

Many budgets fail because people try to cut back too much too fast. If you’ve been averaging $500 each month on eating out, it’s likely not wise to set your first month’s eating out budget at $100. Try instead for $450 the first month and progress from there.

Not hitting your budgeting goals in the first months can lead to dropping the idea of budgeting altogether. By achieving small wins and decreasing budget categories slowly over time, you can build confidence and motivation to keep going.

3. Track Every Expense

For many people with regular employment, income tends to stay pretty much the same, while expenses can vary wildly from month to month. It’s critical to track every expense down to the dollar to make sure you understand precisely where your money is going. You can track expenses by:

  • Using a budgeting app. Some apps can link to your bank accounts or credit cards and let you know how much you’ve spent to date in each of your budgeting categories. If you check the app each day, it can remind you how much you have left and enables you to cut back as needed to stay on track.
  • Going old school with pen and paper. Sometimes the most effective way to track progress with a budget is to write down every expense. Spending can feel more real when you track it physically instead of on an app. Keep a pad of paper on the kitchen counter and commit to writing down every expense when you get home each day.

4. Make Sure to Budget in Fun

Budgets can sometimes feel restrictive. And when certain people are faced with the restraint month after month, it can lead to a big splurge or shopping spree. Be sure that your budget has a category that allows you to do the things you enjoy.

Obviously, the “fun” category shouldn’t be the majority of your budget. But you can figure out what small expenses bring the greatest joy. Maybe treating yourself to a coffee and muffin from the shop around the corner once a week makes you super happy.

Budgeting in an extra $10 each week to treat yourself on Friday mornings may be able to give you the satisfying feeling of a splurge without going overboard.

5. Give Yourself Grace

The majority of people who decide to start a budget won’t be 100% successful or even close to it for the first few months. You’ll need to monitor progress and make changes as you go.

It’s important to practice forgiveness and give yourself grace instead of beating yourself up over a lack of progress. As long as you continue to do a bit better each month, you’re on the right track. And your financial picture is benefitting, whether it feels that way or not.

The Bottom Line

A budget is meant to empower you to manage your money and work for you, not against you. If you feel like the budget you created is suffocating or not serving its purpose, try something else.

Then, keep trying new things until you land on the one that works for you. Budgeting is not a one-size-fits-all tool, but these budgeting tips to help you manage your money can steer you in the right direction.

Notice: Information provided in this article is for information purposes only. Consult your financial advisor about your financial circumstances.

16 Basic Budgeting Hacks You Can Use Everytime

Almost everyone wants to save money, and make their budget go farther. Stretching your dollar with finance and budgeting hacks can help get the most bang for your buck.

While we could suggest things like don’t spend more than you have, which surprisingly has a need to be said more often than one might expect, we’ll try to break down some of our recommended and favorites, along with some practical tips from others below.

1. Use Cash

Use cash for most of your purchases, where you can. While some might not want to give up credit card reward points, when you use cash it can help you stay on budget.

2. Keep Receipts

An easy one that anyone can do is to keep all of your receipts, or write your own – at the end of each and every day. List all of your expenditures.

When the end of the month comes, group those expenditures and create yourself a simple overview of where you might be spending too much (or even too little) and get some insights to how you are doing with your budget.

3. Monitor Spending

Good habits lead to good practices, so making it a habit to review your own spending and monitoring your spreadsheets helps to keep your own finances in view, top of mind, and remind you of outstanding debt that you might be trying to pay down.

4. Avoid Expensive Upgrades

There are all kinds of toys and items that we all want the latest of, but more often than not it’s a desire more than a necessity. Just a few of these culprits include mobile phones, laptops and even cars.

If it aint broke, don’t fix it and make due. There is a vicious upgrade cycle that many fall victim to, which leads to more monthly payments, and less savings. If you can do without, make due with what you have when it works.

5. Ditch Credit Card

Another Crediteck credit card tip is to not actually carry one in your wallet, as this only increases the temptation, which can easily disrupt your budget with a few purchases. Leave the cards at home if possible.

Now here’s a bunch more budgeting hacks, many you can use, to get back on track with your personal finances so you can pay down your debt and take that trip you always dreamed of, buy that must-have gadget, or simple save more for a rainy day.

6. Separate Yours Savings

When you keep your savings in a separate account, it’s less likely that you’ll borrow from it or use it like a checking account. In the long run, this can help many to save more effectively.

7. Plan For Unexpected

You can’t plan for the unexpected, and since life is full of surprises, you should be ready. It might be repairs or a dozen other things, but having an emergency fund is never a bad idea.

8. Money Automation

No, we’re not talking about printing it, but how using automation can help. This is one of the simplest budgeting hacks you could hope to find. Using automated withdrawals from your paycheck can make it a whole lot easier to save.

9. Cashback

When shopping online you should use cashback with every purchase that you make where this is an option. The more you save, the more you have to work with as a budget.

10. Cut The Cord

It’s been growing in popularity, isn’t now time to cut the cord? There’s so many streaming services available now like Netflix, Hulu and more that maybe now is the time to do it.

11. Cut The Subs

With all the companies that have moved to a subscription model, there’s a good chance that you might have some that you hardly use or even forgot about. Review and remove some!

12. Invest In Envelopes

While it’s not for everyone, the envelope budgeting method has proven to be a favorite for many. It’s an easy way to allocate funds to help control your spending and reaching financial goals.

13. Audit

For some, there can be a fear of looking at your bank statements. But if you really want to budget like a pro, you’ll need to discard this fear so you can review things regularly.

14. Micro Investing

You might think you don’t have the funds for investing, but there’s an easy way that is worth exploring. Using a service to roundup your spare change, it accumulates into a little nest egg.

15. Debt Attack

The sooner that you pay down your debt, the less interest you’ll have to pay. In the long run, this can mean more money in your pocket and eventually more for your budget. The place to start would be the debt with the highest interest.

16. Credit Card Conundrum

Do you know the details of your credit cards? What interest rate do you pay? Do you only make minimum payments? All good places to start. It’s also worth trying to call and see about negotiating better rates.

Final Thought: Budgeting Hacks

One way to organize your money is the 50-20-30 Plan. This is where 50 percent goes to necessities, 20 percent goes to long term savings, and the other 30 percent goes to lifestyle choices. Working within these guidelines is a good approximation for many to use.

Some last minute thoughts that are worthy of anyone interested in better budgeting;
brown bag your lunch more, never go grocery shopping hungry, and don’t spend more money than you have.

If you’re looking for even more hacks on budgeting and frugal living, take a look for more ideas on how to save on groceries, everyday living and just saving money in general below.

How to Create a Monthly Budget in 5 Steps

Have you ever felt like there are more days in the month than money in your pocket? This can happen due to a lack of financial planning.

Before you apply for an emergency loan at the last minute, you can create a monthly budget to organize your finances and track where your money goes each month.

Continue reading to learn more about how to create a budget to help you better understand your spending patterns.

What is a Monthly Budget?

A monthly budget is a strategy for balancing your income and outgoing costs to meet long-term financial objectives. It helps ensure you don’t spend more money than you have and save money along the way.

If your income is more than your expenses, you have money left over to save or use for other things. If your expenses are more than your income, you should find ways to reduce your expenses or increase your income.

Creating and following a monthly budget may be difficult at first, but it can help you achieve your financial goals with time.

Elements of a Monthly Budget:

When it comes to budgeting, there are three key elements to consider: income, expenses, and savings.

  • Income: Your income is the money you have coming in each month, whether from a job, investments, or other sources.
  • Expenses: Your expenses are what you need to spend each month to cover your basic costs of living, like rent, daycare expenses, and utilities.
  • Savings: Your savings is the money you set aside each month to cover unexpected expenses or save for future goals.

By closely examining all three of these elements, you can better understand where your money is going and how to make adjustments to ensure that you’re on track to meet your financial goals.

How to Create a Monthly Budget

Follow these five steps to get started on creating your monthly budget:

1. Calculate Your Total Income

Start by calculating the total amount of money you make in a month. Your total income is your take-home earnings after tax deductions, health insurance, and retirement contributions. If you have multiple sources of income like freelancing or gig work, you’ll need to add that amount too.

2. List Your Monthly Expenses

List all the things you spend your money on every month. It’s helpful to review the last three months’ worth of expenses to see if there’s a pattern in common items you purchase every month.

Common monthly expenses include:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Groceries
  • Car payments
  • Life insurance
  • Savings/Retirement
  • Investments

3. Determine What Your Variable Expenses Are

After making a list of your fixed monthly expenses, determine which are variable. Examples of variable expenses include eating out, entertainment, and extra shopping.

If money is tight or you need to save for something important, you’ll know what expenses you can cut back on to meet your goals.

4. Create a Savings Goal

A savings goal can help you focus your efforts and stay on track. It can also make it easier to resist spending temptations since you’ll have a specific purpose for your money.

When setting a savings goal, it’s important to be realistic. Consider what you can reasonably save each month. Once you have a target amount in mind, decide on a timeframe for reaching your goal.

5. Make Adjustments

If you find that your budget is too restrictive or doesn’t allow for enough flexibility, don’t be afraid to make adjustments. It’s also best to adjust your goals if you receive more income or make large purchases.

The Bottom Line

Monthly budgets are a great way to keep your spending in check so you’re not overspending each month. By taking the time to calculate your total income, list your monthly expenses, determine your variable expenses, and create a savings goal, you can create a budget that works for you and helps you save money.

The most important thing is that you have a plan and are working towards reaching your financial goals.

How To Budget as a Freelancer (The Ultimate Guide)

Over 57.3 million Americans currently engage in some form of freelance work, and research shows that the majority of workers will freelance by 2027.

For a new freelancer, it can be scary to navigate money and create an effective budget guide when your income isn’t always steady.

Fortunately, we’ve got the guide to help you learn how to manage your money- and splurge with ease.

Let’s get to it!

1. Track Your Money

This is the first step for all freelancers, and it may be the most important step of all. You need to know where your money is going! And, no, that doesn’t just mean checking your bank account “every so often” to make sure that you’re in the clear.

To actually make an effective budget guide, you need to know how much you’re spending and how much you’re saving.

Are you spending too much on groceries each month? Too much on eating takeout? Too much on little impulse buys that don’t feel like much of anything- until you add them up?

Fortunately, today it’s easier than ever to track your personal finance and create a budget guide. You don’t even need pen and paper. With free money management apps, such as Mint or Personal Capital, you can simply link your bank accounts and credit cards and view all your transactions.

These apps can provide an overview to see how much income you’re actually making (in proportion to how much you’re spending).

If you’re a freelancer, you already know that your money won’t necessarily be predictable. Apps like these can help you predict the downturns and plan accordingly for them.

2. Build an Emergency Fund

If you don’t already have one, you need a solid nest egg (at least 1-2 month’s income) for unplanned expenses that may arise.

In fact, most financial experts recommend having at least 6-12 months of take-home pay saved in a savings account, but you definitely need to start somewhere.

Consider keeping your money in a high-yield savings account where you’ll accrue interest for just keeping it parked there.

And, remember: this is your emergency fund. You only pull from it when an actual emergency happens. Only you can really define what that means, but it’s a fund designed to protect you in extremely dire times- not when you just want a bit of extra cash.

There are always options available if your emergency fund runs dry, but if you can avoid the unnecessary stress, that’s usually most optimal.

3. Organize Your Spending

Now that you know where your money is going, you need to figure out how to create a budget guide that honors the inconsistencies that are common with freelance income.

Many financial gurus recommend starting with the 50/30/20 budget. With this model, you’re aiming to spend 50% of your income on basic needs.

These include:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Car payment
  • Insurance
  • Groceries
  • Transportation
  • Medical bills

The other 30% can then be devoted to your wants, hobbies, and priorities. These can include anything from:

  • Gym memberships
  • Restaurant expenses
  • Clothing
  • Hobbies and entertainment
  • Travel

Finally, it’s ideal to use your 20% for paying down any debts and saving for retirement.

With that said, these aren’t hard numbers, and you may want to tweak them to fit your budget guide in a way that makes sense for your lifestyle.

If you’re in extreme debt, you’ll probably want to cut your “extra 30%” down. Experts recommend you don’t reduce it altogether! Everyone needs that small indulgence, whether it’s a browse through Shop Three Wishes Online Store or a special date night with your significant other.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to retire early, you’ll want to amp up your savings. Evaluate your priorities and plan accordingly.

4. Stay On Top of Invoicing

As a freelancer, you don’t just have the luxury of getting paid biweekly at a predictable time. Typically, you’ll be using invoicing with your clients.

In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to set up an invoice system and an appropriate billing period for your clients. You can use professional software to do this or make your own invoices.

Doing this will provide you with a peace of mind since you can anticipate when you’ll receive your payment. Just be sure to clearly state your terms and conditions beforehand.

After all, you want your clients to know when and how to prepare your money- and by what date they need to send it.

5. Splurge on the Right Things

Now you know that creating an effective budget guide entails saving money and budgeting appropriately.

With that said, it’s also important to know how and when to spend money! After all, as a freelancer, you’re not necessarily “given” the tools or equipment to succeed. You need to purchase them yourself.

Consider the following investments:

Professional Memberships

Depending on your specific industry or niche, joining a professional membership can provide you with valuable access to contract databases and networking opportunities. These memberships may even “pay” for themselves with the clients and leads that you land through such connections.

Creative Digital Marketing

You know that saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. In today’s day and age, it’s more like it’s not who you know; it’s what your website looks like.

What does that mean for you? It means that you need to have a standout website and marketing campaign. You can do this yourself, but it may be worthwhile to consider outsourcing these complex tasks to the pros. After all, if you spend all your time trying to decipher SEO, you may end up wasting precious time that you could be spending on your own freelancing.

Secure Software

When you’re working on your own, you can’t just call up the IT desk at the office next door. You need to tap into your own resources.

In general, buying software to serve as a backup system will get the job done. It’s important to protect your business’s data and your clients’ sensitive information. With all the data breaches happening today, this isn’t a risk worth taking as you draw up your budget guide.

Clothing

If you just work at home, you can work in your pajamas, right? You probably don’t need a ton of fancy suits or jackets.

However, many freelancing businesses thrive on meeting clients face-to-face, and you want to look as professional as possible during these interactions.

Fortunately, you don’t need a whole new wardrobe. Consider investing in a few quality items and taking really good care of them.

Office Furniture

If you work at home, you want your office to be functional, inspiring, and productive. If you’re all crammed in a messy room with dim lighting and clutter everywhere, are you really going to feel creative? Probably not.

No, you don’t need to blow your entire budget guide here. But consider buying a desk you love and make sure that you splurge on a few nice office decorations (plants work great!).

Don’t neglect the computer chair, either. Chances are, you’ll be spending several hours sitting in it, and you want to make sure that you are comfortable.

Virtual Assistants or Employees

If your freelance business is booming, some extra help may be needed in your budget guide. After all, we can’t just do everything on our own, and some of the most successful freelancers have several people helping them behind the scenes.

Virtual assistants can be great for social media marketing, organizing, scheduling, and pulling different resources and information.

You may also want to consider adding on another employee- especially if you are finding yourself burnt out or spread too thin. This will allow you to expand your work without overwhelming yourself with too many tasks.

Good Internet

If you’re in the freelancing business, having fast and reliable Internet goes without saying. If you have slow or spotty connections, consider switching providers.

This will save you all the headaches that come from reloading pages (so much time spent!) and give you more time to work on the projects ahead of you.

Plus, you’ll be able to stream Netflix better (for when you’re taking those much-needed breaks). And, it’s a tax write-off, so it’s a win-win for everyone!

Final Thoughts on Your Freelancing Budget Guide

The world of freelancing can be as exciting as it is overwhelming. With the proper planning, you’ll be on top of your finances in no time at all.

Interested in more useful guides and tips on making it as a successful freelancer? Be sure to check out our blog today.

On a Budget? Here are 11 Ways to Save on Prescriptions

According to one study, 1 in 4 Americans said that it was difficult to afford prescription medications.

While medications can be expensive, sometimes it’s necessary to have them.

Do you need medication, but don’t have a lot of extra funds? In this guide, discover how to save on prescriptions.

1. Get Generic Drugs

One thing you can do to save on prescriptions is by getting generic brands. The name brand prescriptions typically cost more than the generic ones.

However, most of the time the only difference is the price.

With some generic drugs, there are different fillers than ones that have a name brand attached to them. However, the generic drugs are still regulated by the FDA and held to the same standards as the other drug. That means the generic one should work just as well as the name-brand one.

Some doctors may not even be thinking about prescribing a generic drug, so you should make sure that you ask them. Some drugs aren’t available with a generic brand.

If there isn’t a generic alternative, you could ask your doctor about having a different drug that has a generic one. Doctors have all kinds of reasons for prescribing the drugs that they do, but ultimately you should try and choose the one that will best help your condition.

2. Get a Flex Spending Account

A flex spending account (FSA) is sometimes available through your healthcare provider. This healthcare account takes money from your paycheck and puts it in a bank that you can use to pay for medical expenses. That means you can use it to pay for your prescriptions.

You will also be saving money because this money comes out before taxes are taken out. That way you are making sure that you put more money back in your pocket.

If you aren’t great at saving, this will also help you be able to have enough money for any prescription drugs. You won’t have to take a bunch of money out of your own savings and be left with a lot of debt wondering how to make ends meet.

Before you sign for this type of account, make sure you fully understand what you will be able to use the money for.  Most accounts don’t roll over at the end of the year, so you have to make sure that you use the money put away, or you will lose it.

3. Compare Pharmacies

Some pharmacies offer different prices, so make sure that you shop around first. If you don’t have a copay, this could make a huge difference.

Look around at different apps and websites to see what your local pharmacies are selling the drug for. If you can’t find any, you could also talk to your pharmacist and see if they could help you out.

After all, they do want to make sure that their customers are satisfied and keep coming back.

4. Join a Patient Assistance Program

There are patient assistance programs that are out there that you can join to help you afford your medical bills as well.

If you can’t afford to pay for your prescription, the pharmacy may have programs listed on their website to help you. These groups sometimes offer discount cards or other ways to help make sure that you get the medicine you need.

One patient assistance program you could check out is available for a Neupro Patch.

5. Do Some Math

A lot of medicines come in different doses.

If you sit down and look at the math, sometimes you’ll realize there are cheaper options. For example, if one prescription comes with more pills, it may be more expensive then, but in the long run, you would save more money than if you had bought a smaller deal.

Sometimes you can also try and split pills and make them last longer, but you should only do this if it is approved by the pharmacist or your doctor.

6. Skip the Pharmacy

If you can’t find a discount card or a pharmacy with a good deal, you may just want to skip the pharmacy altogether.

You can check directly with the drug companies to see if they offer patient assistance as well. sometimes they run promotions where you can save money or still get the drug if you can’t afford it.

7. Search for Discounts

Before you head to the pharmacy, check online to see if there are any coupon codes are discounts that you could apply toward your purchase.

Pharmacies have started accepting different coupons that are found online, but you should make sure that they are verified before you do that.

8. Figure Out What Your Copays Are

If you have health insurance, you should have a copay.

You should look at what your benefits are before getting your medication. Know exactly what your copay should be so that you can make sure that you’re not paying more.

Most health insurances have different tiers of copays as well.

9. Ask for Free Samples

Sometimes you can ask your doctor if they have a free sample that you could try. Sometimes they do have full-size samples for some medicines for blood pressure or asthma.

10. Get a NACo Card

A NACo card is good for different United States counties. This service can help you get discounted prescriptions, and it’s free to join.

If you don’t have any insurance, you could save about 25% on prescription drugs.

To sign up, you just need to fill out a form.

11. Talk to Your Doctor

If nothing else works, one of the most important things you can do is to talk to your doctor.

If you don’t know where to start looking, your doctor may be able to point you in the right direction. They should know what kind of drugs are out there and be able to recommend the best one for your condition and your budget.

If you explain your predicament to them, they should be understanding and figure out a way to make sure you can still get your medication.

Save on Prescriptions Today!

If you follow these tips, you should be able to save on prescriptions and still get the care that you need.

Don’t let the cost of prescriptions scare you from getting the help you need.

Make an appointment to talk to your doctor today!

Budget Bride: How to Plan a Wedding On a Budget

If you’ve ever wondered, “How much does a wedding cost these days?”, we have a surprising statistic for you.

The average American wedding costs $34,000.

We’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off of the floor.

If you have other plans for your life savings, you’ll want to learn how to plan a wedding on a budget. Read on for our handy guide to help you through the process.

1. Cutting Costs on Your Venue

If you’ve been Googling “wedding venues near me” only to find yourself in sticker shock after seeing the quote from your dream wedding venue, know that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to have a beautiful ceremony.

Venues can eat up a considerable portion of your wedding budget. But with a little bit of flexibility, you can cut costs without too much sacrifice.

Choose to get married during the off-season. Your venue won’t be in as high of a demand then, and coordinators will be more apt to give you a deal. You can also choose a morning or early afternoon wedding to save some money, too.

Choosing a less common day of the week for your wedding – a Thursday, Friday or Sunday – can result in lower venue costs, too.

2. Save on Your Dress

The average wedding dress costs $1500. Savvy brides know that the dress doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, though.

Many women sell their wedding dresses online for a fraction of what they paid for it. Use online selling platforms like Craigslist to find deep discounts on worn-once dresses.

If you don’t want to have a wedding dress in your closet after the wedding, you can rent one. Some online fashion outlets have bridal sections where you can peruse through your gown rental options.

3. Keep Track of Your Spending

Wedding-related costs add up very fast. Especially if you’re planning a long engagement, it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve spent and where your money is going.

We recommend using a wedding budget spreadsheet so you can keep track of where every cent is going.

4. Throw a Budget-Friendly Reception

The wedding reception is often the part of your wedding day that your guests look forward to the most. What’s not to love about delicious food, cake, dancing, and drinks? But if you’re not careful, those things can add up very fast. You need some budget-friendly wedding reception ideas to save money while still throwing a great party.

You have several options when it comes to feeding your guests. A buffet-style meal can save you thousands on catering costs because your venue will require fewer staff to serve you.

If you have kitchen-savvy friends and family members, you can ask them to help with food at your wedding. Your venue may not allow outside food in, so you’ll have to clear this with them beforehand.

DIY your wedding favors or skip them altogether and save a few hundred dollars.

If you’re serving alcohol to your guests and your venue will allow it, buy it from the liquor store. When the wedding is over, you can return unused bottles for a full refund.

How to Plan a Wedding On a Budget? Get Creative!

Now that you know your entire life’s savings aren’t required to marry your significant other, it’s time to get down to business. Create a wedding budget spreadsheet and stick to it. Think outside of the box, and you’ll be surprised how much money you can save.

If you loved our blog on how to plan a wedding on a budget, you’re going to want to check out our website for more frugal living ideas.