Four Tips to Help Manage your Money in 2023

Managing your money can be difficult, but it is essential to achieving your financial goals in 2023. The beginning of the year is a great time to prepare and plan to manage your money better in 2023. Often, we need better planning with personal finances. And then we get frustrated and quit, all the while thinking that this budget stuff does not work. Read further for four tips to help you manage your money in 2023.

Develop Goals for Your Finances to Manage Money in 2023

First things first, goals point the way to first. Everything starts somewhere, and like laying bricks, if the first course is straight, we know the wall will be straight. If we start the right way, we can finish the right way. It would be best if you had goals for your finances. Develop S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Actionable, and Realistic, with some Time frame) for your finances. If you make your goals SMART, you will be more adept at achieving them. Goals are like a mission statement in business. They tell you what you are going to do and how consistently. When you doubt or need direction regarding what to do with your finances, your goals will point the way.

Sit down and think about how you want your finances to look in 2023 and what you want to do with your money. Then write down some SMART financial goals for 2023.

Track Your Spending

One of the most important things in managing your finances is tracking where your money is going. You must know where and how much money you are spending to manage it effectively. Managing money is about behavior and tracking your money allows you to see behavior(s) that need to adjust.

I dare you to track your spending for a month. Write down and track every penny you spend and where you spend it. By tracking your expenses, you will see where you can spend less and identify areas where you can cut back and redirect that money toward your goals. You will see places where you can change your spending behavior with money.

Pay Off High-Interest Debt

High-interest debt, such as credit card debt, can be a significant obstacle to achieving your financial goals. Consider consolidating your debt or working with a financial counselor to develop a plan to pay it off. By reducing or eliminating high-interest debt, you can free up money to go toward your financial goals.

Plan your Spending to Manage Money in 2023

Now comes the fun part — spending your money and a spending plan or a plan to spend your money. One of the three things money is good for is spending. So, it’s okay to spend it, it’s yours, and you worked hard for it. My goal is to get you to plan to spend it.

Next, take all the information from tracking your spending and create your spending plan for the next month based on what you spent that month. For example, if you spent $400 at the grocery store last month, you would spend around $400 next month. At least you will be closer to the actual number than just picking a number out of the air. Remember, a spending plan is an estimate of how you will spend your money. The better you can make the estimate, the better the spending plan. Sticking to your spending plan and adjusting as necessary to stay on track is important.

Review your progress regularly and adjust your plan as needed. It would help if you also considered setting up automatic savings. This would allow you to save money consistently and make progress toward your goals.

Managing your money is not easy, but with financial goals, tracking your spending, paying off high-interest debt, and creating and using a spending plan, you can make the most of your money in 2023 and reach your financial goals. Remember to stay disciplined and persistent, and don’t be afraid to seek help when needed.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2023.  By setting goals for your finances, tracking your spending, and planning to spend your money, you can manage your money better in 2023.

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Your Holiday Spending Plan

First, I wish everyone a wonderful, stress-free holiday season. I pray this holiday season is free from money worry and brings you all the joy and peace you can handle.  

The holidays are a time to get together with friends and family and to celebrate. It can also be a stressful period when it comes to personal finances and managing money. It’s the most beautiful time of the year and can be the not-so-most lovely time of the year for your bank account.

Holiday retail sales are expected to increase 4 – 6% this year, and 2 in 3 (68%) of shoppers will spend more or the same on holiday shopping this year compared to last, according to a report from Klarna.

Below are a few tips to keep your holiday spending plan wonderful and on track.

You Need a Spending Plan

First, decide on a spending plan for your holiday expenses, including gifts and gift-related items, and stick to it. Also, include non-gift things in your spending plan, like entertainment, food and travel. If possible, use last year’s spending as a guide to create your spending plan for this year.

Make a list and Keep It with You

Make a list and set spending limits for holiday gifts for each person. A list will keep you on task and help you not get caught up in the season’s pageantry. Make sure to keep your list with you as you are shopping during the holiday season. Keeping your list on your cell phone is a great way to take your list with you whenever you are holiday shopping. 

It’s very easy to get caught up in the season’s emotions and buy more than you planned. A list can help go a long way in keeping your spending in check and preventing a sizeable after-the-holiday bill.

Be Aware of Credit Card Spending

Credit cards can make it easy to overspend. A large portion of a credit card company’s profits is generated by holiday spending and overspending.

An excellent method for holiday spending is the envelope system. In the envelope system, you develop a spending plan and then distribute your cash into different envelopes with the names of your gift recipients or spending categories on the envelopes. When the envelope is empty, there’s no more spending for that person or category.

Shop Smart

Shop around, whether online or in-person, because prices can vary drastically, and allow yourself time to compare prices and offers before Christmas comes. Think of personalized or homemade gifts that people will use and cherish. Remember that it is the thought that counts and be creative with your gift-giving. Certain browser extensions like Honey, Rakuten and Capital One Shopping will do the work for you if you are shopping online.

The holidays should be a time of celebrating with family and friends, but too often, the season is overshadowed by financial stress. With advanced preparation and setting realistic spending plan goals, the holiday season can be a cheerful time.

Wishing everyone a happy, joyous, peaceful, stress-free holiday season and a prosperous New Year!

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5 Tips to Reduce Debt

One of the first steps to managing your finances well is to know where you stand with debt. People use and go into debt for many reasons depending on our financial situation, life needs, and personal preferences. Debt can be classified into four main categories: secured, unsecured, revolving, or mortgaged. Below are 5 tips for reducing debt and paying debt off faster.

Create a Spending Plan Now

If you are using a spending plan already, great! If you are not using a spending plan, start using one today. To manage your finances well, you must know where your money is going, and a spending plan helps you to do that. Recording your transactions is a great habit and understanding your cash inflows and outflows is a great way to uncover new ways to save.

With some planning and managing, you can reduce the stress of borrowing and improve your financial health while reducing debt. Creating and using a spending plan will also help you live within your means and not have to use credit on everyday items like gas and groceries.  

Pay More Than the Minimum

Paying as little as $10 more than the minimum on your debt payment will help pay your debt faster and save you money in interest. For example, if you have a credit card with a $1,000 balance and an 18% interest rate and pay only the minimum monthly payment, it will take almost three years to pay off the balance. The total price would be about $1,304, meaning you are paying out $304 in interest alone.

On the other hand, using the same balance, interest rate, and minimum amount due, let’s say you pay more than the minimum due each month. If you were to pay an additional $60 each month, or a total of $100, it would take just 1 year to pay off the balance, and the interest paid would be reduced to $103, a significant saving.

It makes a big difference to pay more than just the minimum due, in both the time it takes to pay off debt and how much you end up paying. Of course, the optimum plan would be to pay the balance in full each month and avoid paying interest altogether, but the most important thing is to make sure your payments fit your spending plan. 

Make Biweekly Payments

Instead of paying your mortgage once a month, slice your payment down the middle and send half every two weeks. Why? There are 52 weeks a year, so this works out to 26 biweekly payments, meaning you would pay 13 total payments.

Biweekly mortgage payments don’t save you money by lowering your interest rate; they save you on interest by paying your mortgage earlier. When you pay your principal balance down faster, there’s less interest and less debt.

Choose One Debt and Pay it Off

Two approaches to this strategy are snowball or avalanche methods of debt reduction. In the avalanche method, you pick the debt with the highest Annual Percentage Rate (APR), attack it until it’s paid off, then move to the next highest APR. This will reduce the largest chunk of money you’re spending on interest.

With the debt snowball method, you focus efforts on the smallest balance. When your first debt has a zero balance, you take the amount you were paying towards that debt and use it to pay down the next debt on your list, paying off that debt quicker, and so on. Once you move all your debts to a zero balance, you can begin applying all your debt repayment spending plan items toward your savings to help you reach your long-term goals.

Use Savings to Pay Debt

If you owe more in interest on your debt than what you are earning in interest on your savings, you may want to use some savings to reduce your debt.

Paying down high-interest debt with savings may be a better use of your money. While it’s essential to build up your savings for many reasons, such as having money to pay for emergency expenses, there are times when that money may be more helpful in paying off debt. Paying off high-interest debt is one.

Reducing debt is always a good idea, and the 5 tips for reducing debt above can help pay off debt. Using a spending plan, paying more than the minimum, and paying off debts early, will save you interest. And with your debt paid off, you can put more of your money into saving and financial goals. Comment below; I would love to hear from you.

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What is Credit Utilization?

One of the least understood factors affecting your credit score is credit utilization. It’s an important factor making up 30% of the credit score. So, what is credit utilization?

While credit utilization may sound confusing, it’s relatively easy to understand. It’s the percentage of the debt you carry based on your credit limits. If your credit balance is high or close to the limit, it will lead lenders to believe that too much of your monthly income is going toward debt payments.

Debt-to-Credit Utilization Ratio

It’s often expressed as a ratio called the debt-to-credit utilization ratio. The ratio measures your credit usage against your available credit. Also known as revolving credit, it’s your credit card usage and how much of your open credit lines you are using.

Your credit utilization ratio is the sum of all your credit card balances divided by the sum of your card limits. For example, if your card balance is $400 and your total available credit is $1,000, you have a 40% credit utilization ratio.

There is no perfect utilization percentage, but the lower the ratio, the better. A ratio of 20% is better than 30%. Paying your card bills in full each month is the best way to keep a low credit utilization ratio.

Generally, a credit utilization ratio of 30% or less is acceptable. Improving this part of your credit score can require some strategic thinking. But, again, at 30% of the credit score calculation, well worth the effort.

Controlling your Credit Utilization Ratio

One way to lower your usage ratio is to increase your credit limit. For example, if your balance on a credit card is $400 on a credit card with a $1,000 limit, your ratio is 40 percent. However, a credit limit of $1500 with a balance of $400 makes the ratio 26.7 percent, which is much better. The lower your card balance, the lower your ratio—and the higher your credit rating.

Keep in mind that, since all your cards are factored into your credit utilization ratio, even the ones you don’t use can help your ratio and score. Additionally, if you pay off a credit card, keep that account open, so the available credit line raises the ratio in your favor. Further, asking for credit limit increases can better your usage percentage.

Why Does Credit Utilization Matter?

Why is this important? Generally, the lower the amount of outstanding debt, the higher the credit score, and vice versa. Remember, credit utilization is 30% of your credit score. If your credit burden is high, lenders will think that much of your monthly income is going toward debt repayments. Consumers who constantly reach or exceed their credit limit are seen as potentially risky.

Credit reporting agencies pay attention to your credit utilization ratio because it indicates how well you have your payments in order. A low utilization ratio suggests that your balance is manageable. A high one means you may have difficulty paying your debts.

Final Thoughts on Credit Usage

An open account with a zero balance can positively affect your credit utilization ratio. There can also be a negative effect on your credit score if you close an account.

So, the bottom line is to keep an eye on your credit utilization ratio. A low one is good for your credit score, and a high one is not so much. Comment below. I would love to hear from you.

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A Word or Two On Giving

a man giving cooked meal at home

As we get closer and closer to the holiday season, giving season, I want to give a word or two on giving. I give; you give; we all give. We give of our time, our talents, and our money. We give gifts for birthdays, during the holidays, and at weddings. Our tithes are given, and we give to the annual United Way campaign and even the PTA. With all this giving, do we really give the way we should, and more importantly, do we think about giving like we should?

Giving is Good

When I teach spending plan classes, one of the things I do is ask the class what the three things that money is good for?. I have categorized all we do with money into three categories and have written about them here. I ask this question to help them to see and think differently about spending and planning to spend their money. It’s good to spend money; I just believe in planning to spend money. The same with giving – giving is good.

I get some interesting answers from the class. Sometimes someone will blurt out, “money is good for earning, or it’s good for wasting, or we make money; money is good for making, right?” 

I really get a kick out of the initial responses. 

Eventually, after we get over the initial answers, someone will say spending or a category of spending like gas, shopping, or groceries. Then, someone says saving or investing, which takes care of the second category, saving/investing. And then, however, we get stuck. We cannot think of that other category, that other thing we have all done with money – giving. At this point, I continue with the class and tell them we will come back to the third thing later. Usually, I tell them but rarely does anyone guess the answer correctly.  It’s good to give. 

According to Dictionary.com, giving is the act of presenting voluntarily and without expecting compensation; to bestow. Also, to devote or contribute generously of: to give of oneself; to give of one’s abundance and, to make a gift or gifts; to contribute. 

Giving is Biblical

Giving is also biblical. In 2 Corinthians chapter 8 verses 13-14, Paul writes to the church in Corinth:

 13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. 14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.

Giving is about equity. It’s about being a good steward of what you have been given.

Giving is something that we are prompted and not pressured to do. We are often pressured to give during your local United Way campaign or to another cause. In our current economic environment, there is a great need for giving, and many asking for gifts. 

Accordingly, when giving and deciding who and what to give to, give on purpose and give to vision.  

Give on Purpose

When we give on purpose, we give an established amount for an intended desired result. Giving on purpose is not haphazard but done with a goal in mind. What it is not is giving because of pressure or because of how you feel. You are giving an amount, whether time or money, that you believe will have the intended result. Ask yourself what the cause is. What is the organization doing? Can they do more and then contribute to the cause on purpose.

Give to Vision

When we give to vision, we give to something or someone that is going somewhere. They see a positive that others have not yet seen, the wildest dreams. We are inspired by vision, inspired by these dreams. When vision is visualized, it makes you happy to think about it and see it becoming a reality.

You can give to whatever you like.  It is your gift and I encourage you to give.  However, giving on purpose and giving to vision allows your gift to be maximized. You are being a good steward of what has been given to you when you give in this way.  And it will help you to systematically give and be confident giving more.  Thinking about giving in a different way, you will give like no one else. Comment below, I would love to hear from you.