Brainy Chick Finance

Budgeting & Saving

4 Easy Things To Do Financially in the New Year

4 Easy Things To Do Financially in the New Year

  1. Track Your Net Worth
  2. Look at Your Spending Categories
  3. Evaluate Your Budget
  4. Set a Financial Goal

 

Track Your Net Worth

Start an excel spreadsheet, a notebook, a sticky pad – anything where you can current write down your net worth. To be able to grow your wealth, you will want to start tracking how your net worth is impacted.

Your net worth is comprised of all of your assets (house, art, car, furniture, money, valuables, etc) minus your liabilities (car insurance, mortgage, student loans). You might be surprised at the number. Each month you want to do this calculation and work towards moving your net worth to more and more.

Total time spent: 15 minutes / 5 minutes if you have tracked your net worth before)

 

Look at Your Spending Categories

Write down (or print out) all of your spending for Oct, Nov, Dec (probably your most heavy spending months). And then for each month group how much you spent in general categories, eating out, gas, rent, cell phone, etc.

How do you like your spending? Was it within your original budget? Did you not have a budget but you cant believe you spent $300 a month on eating out? Highlight the areas where you want to improve. Chances are, if it is worrisome in the latter part of the year, they probably were not that great at the rest of the year either.

Total time spent: 20 minutes / 10 minutes if you have tracked via Mint.com, PersonalCapital.com, etc before)

 

Evaluate Your Budget

Take your last month’s expenses and do a work back budget. (and I know that December was a holiday month, so there can be some unusual factors). Take your expenses for the month (on your debit and credit cards) and subtract them from your income. For example:

Gas – $20

Cell Phone – $50

Rent – $1250

Dog Supplies – 21.99

Gas – $21

Etc…

And say your income was $4000 for December, subtract the (currently, $1362.99) and see where you end up.

Chances are, you might be in the negative for the month, meaning you over spent.

Next steps are to determine what of the expenses could you go with out, or possibly, how you can increase your income.

Total time spent: 20 minutes / 10 minutes if you have tracked via Mint.com, PersonalCapital.com, etc before)

 

Set a Financial Goal

Similar to New Year’s Resolutions, you will want to set a goal that will positively impact your finances. The goal can be small, like start a savings account for emergencies or a large one, like set up a plan to become a millionaire. Either way, you want to make sure that a goal is set so that you have something to work towards.

Write down your goal where you can see it.

Total time spent: 5 minutes / 30 seconds to write it down where you can see it)

How the Presidential Election Could Impact Your Money

How the Presidential Election Could Impact Your Money

Watching the presidential elections always makes me think about my money. While there are a ton of important issues, I always relate it back to how is this going to impact me? And many of their positions and policies are focused around money or could impact my money in ways that I cannot control.

How the Presidential Election Could Impact Your Money

Regardless of which side you relate to most, regardless of who becomes President, their policies could impact your future. The presidential election could impact your money.

Taxes

Their economic policies could cost you money. If you are working towards earning more, you could move up a tax bracket, causing you to pay more in taxes. One way to circumvent this is to put your money in as many retirement vehicles as possible that will tax you in a lower income bracket today versus when you get closer to retirement.

Recommendation: Max out your 401k, max out a Roth IRA

Increase in interest rates

With interest rates so low, there is nowhere for them to go but up. What does that mean if you are looking to buy a home, car, or even student loans? Basically, with the historical all-time low rates, there could be a chance that the Federal Reserve will raise them in December. For a big purchase, every time that interest rate increases, you can feel the sting.

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Foreign Policy

While their decisions will impact foreign policy, and the outlook on foreign affairs, it could trickle down to the travel that you make.

Take for example, the Brexit vote a few months ago, not only did it affect foreign policy, but the pound is worth much less compared to the USD. In this example, if you are from the US and have any interest in traveling to England specifically, within the next year or so you might start to plan your trip. With the pound being down, our USD can go much further over there. Translation: it will be cheaper to travel and stay in England.

Oil Prices

Not to get too deep into the interconnectedness of the oil industry, but as of today, oil prices are relatively low compared to a few years ago. But that does not mean that they won’t fluctuate when a new President comes into term.

While your econ class might seem a distant memory, supply and demand does affect price, so you could see gas prices go up in the future. While prices at the pump might not seem like they change that much, a major jump like a $1/gallon could mean an extra $40 every time you fill up. And within a month, that can be close to $100 depending on your driving.

Recommendation: Evaluate your budget and if gas prices go up, can you budget support an equivalent to an extra tank of gas each month. If it can’t, look into cutting one thing out of your budget or look into how you can increase what you are making.

When it comes time to vote in November, make sure you look at how the policies could impact you and your wallet not just today but in the future.

We Didn’t Budget For Our Dog and Blew It

We Didn't Budget For Our Dog and Blew It

When we started thinking about getting a second dog, we knew we would have to pay his adoption fee and a few other necessities. We were in the excitement of adopting a new dog, asking questions and figuring out the logistics that we forgot to do one critical step: talk about how to create a budget for a new dog.

We got Lenny almost over 2 months ago and after starting to settle the accounts, I am realizing how much a second dog is costings us. Almost $2500 – Ouch! And we didn’t budget for our dog. At least not in the right way.

The Initial New Dog Budget

We had set aside some money for his adoption fee and the initial vet visit in an initial budget. Our problem: we had assumed that since we already had a dog, that we could have everything we needed already, minus a few supplies: collar, extra leash, etc.

Lenny was an international adoption which meant that he could be flying in from another country and we didn’t meet him until he came to the states and our adoption process began. (Luckily, we did not have to pay for his flight or the slew of vet exams and shots he had to get to fly). But the part that started this snowball-like spending habit, was that we were judging him and his size off of pictures. He was a cute 3month old at 15lbs when they took the pictures, but when we got more recent pictures, he looked more like 50lbs. So, accordingly, we ordered sizes corresponding to what we saw in the pictures. Well, don’t believe everything in pictures – he was only 20lbs and the pictures had made him look larger. Opps – can’t return the massive box of milkbone LARGE dog bones.

Cha-ching: the initial adoption fee and doubling up of supplies $500 dollars unaccounted for.

What we did not account for was the extra supplies for a second dog. For example, we had two bowls, one for water and one for food. But then we started researching water bowls for two dogs. Eventually we decided on a fountain watering system that cleaned the water and was big enough for two dogs to share. Cha-ching: another $89 dollars unaccounted for. (Although they do quite enjoy the running water).

Pet Insurance

After our first trip to the vet, we started talking about whether pet insurance was necessary. With Lenny’s young age and clean bill of health, if we wanted to get pet insurance, now would be the time.

Ultimately, we decided that his breed did not have any major health issues that could potentially arise, there was not a true need to pet insurance. Ideally, we really liked the concept of “Pet Wellness” where your pet insurance covered for routine exams. In this case, having pet insurance would be very similar to having health insurance. But for wellness and emergency health issues, we were looking at over $70 a month. And that is assuming that something was going to happen.

One of the only budgeting techniques we did do, was each month, set aside money in another savings account that was automated to build a little emergency fund for Lenny in case he needed it. We set aside $40 a month so by the end of year, he would have roughly $450 set aside for emergencies, but really to pay the average $250 a year in vet bills.

Cha-ching: another $450 dollars discussed but not pre-budgeted for.

Vet Bills

We took Lenny to his initial adoption vet appointment which was $25, not bad at all. Luckily, he was in good health and had most of his work up already completed. He needed a few more shots and of course, being younger, he would have more frequent check ups than a mature dog.

Cha-ching: another $100 dollars we did not take into consideration for.

Puppy Supplies and Treats

And here is where the whammy set in… TOYS! With a 5 month old, we did not do the research on his chewing habits. We figured the amount of current toys we had could suffice, but Lenny was losing teeth and needed softer chew toys. And of course, we had BarkBox for our current dog (~$200 a year) and wanted to get him one as well. Overall, you just want to spoil your dog, right? We should’ve anticipated how MUCH love via toys, Lenny would enjoy.

Cha-ching: another $200 dollars unaccounted for.

Obedience and Training Classes

With a Belgian Malinois, we knew going through obedience school would be necessary. We thought it would be cool if he went through working dog or agility classes as well. We found a trainer that had worked with his breed and did an initial evaluation – $25. We liked what we had heard and saw and signed him up. We did not stop to talk about long term costs of schooling. Initial puppy classes are usually $100-$200 which we did have built into our budget, but we did not anticipate having a specialty trainer with private and group classes and a total cost of $1500! Ah! But at least our dog will be trained, right?

Cha-ching: another $1200 dollars unaccounted for.

Overall, we love our second dog and clearly spoil him silly, like most pet owners. We definitely learned along the way that having a pet can be very costly, even when you discuss initial costs up front. We should have had the money saved up already in an account special for our dog, but we didn’t so we are using credit cards (the frequent flyer miles for those training classes will be nice) and changing our spending habits for ourselves slightly. I would say that the next time we will be more prepared, but I do not think we are getting a third dog anytime soon. Good learnings though, regardless. If anything, reflection on recent purchases is always something you should do and do it frequently.

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