A New Year, a New Money Challenge?

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Somehow we find ourselves in a new year. I have never had a year go as fast as 2016 did. Part of it was likely due to the fact that I spent nine of the 12 months pregnant! I’m excited to see what 2017 is going to bring my new family of four that’s for sure.

Though there’s nothing stopping someone from doing a challenge any time of the year, there’s something refreshing and, in a way, easier, with doing them with the start of a new year. Come January 1st there is no shortage of diet challenges, fitness challenges or a money challenge.

For me, I won’t be setting many financial goals this year. I’m on a reduced maternity income so my only real goal for 2017 is to maintain our current budget and prepare for 2018 when I’ll be back to work full-time and preparing our house for sale. That doesn’t mean I don’t think partaking in a money challenge of sorts would be a good idea though.

I tend to do well under pressure. Pressure that I put on myself that is. If I give myself a (realistic) goal I tend to do well with my attempts at reaching it. This has worked well academically and professionally for me. If you’re this type of person, doing something like a money challenge may be exactly what you need to reach your 2017 financial goals.

Figure Out What You’re Challenging

Before you can start any sort of challenge you need to figure out what your goal is and it has to be realistic. If you decide you want to start saving for a house downpayment and set your savings goal at something like $30,000 for the year but only earn $40,000 per year, it may be a difficult goal to meet. You need to have a decent grasp of your financial situation before you can start or accept any sort of money challenge.

Types of Money Challenge

There is no shortage of ideas in terms of what kind of money challenge you can do. It could be simply to start a budget, to reach a savings goal which could be for something small or something very large, to earn more income or even to set up life insurance. Figure out what’s important for you and create or find a money challenge that works for you. There are many pre-made money challenges out there to follow but there’s nothing stopping you from creating your own.

Though 2017 will very much be a year of growth for my family in some ways, with my fixed income and managing my new family budget for four, I’m ok for the first time with not partaking in a money challenge this year (for the record, my favorite ones are income boosting challenges). I do think partaking in a money challenge is a great way to regain focus and see what you’re really capable of. I certainly never thought it would be possible for us to put over $2,000/month towards debt when I set a personal money challenge goal but we did and I encourage everyone to try a set a money challenge goal and crush it!

Do you partake in any annual money challenge?

Resolving to Save in 2017? Maybe You Shouldn’t…

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About 45 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution each year and only 8 percent of those people are successful in achieving their resolutions during the new year. So, is it worth it? Should you make a new year’s resolution?

New Year’s Resolution Break Down

Obviously the 45 percent of Americans and only the 8 percent who succeed seems like a bit of a let down. However, there are a number of factors at work like age, type of resolution and how long they last with their initial goal.

How age affects New Year’s Resolutions

One of the more surprising factors of whether or not you’ll succeed with your new year’s resolution is age. As it turns out, people in their twenties and early thirties are more likely to be successful. Thirty-nine percent of people in their twenties achieve their resolution each year while only 14 percent of people over 50 achieve their goal. Many people think this is because they are still very hopeful, goal-oriented and have plenty of room for changes to make their resolutions work.

What kind of resolution are you making? 

According to Statistic Brain, the top 10 resolutions each year are:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Save more money (spend less)
  4. Enjoy life
  5. Staying fit/healthy
  6. Learn something new
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend time with family

Almost half (47%) of people make self improvement resolutions each year. Thirty-eight percent make weight-related resolutions and 34 percent of Americans make finance-related resolutions. But, still, what are the chances of being successful with your plans? “Most people don’t make it through the first month.”

How long do resolutions last? 

Well, that’s not entirely true. Seventy-five percent of people that make resolutions make it through the first week (small feat). Sixty-four percent of Americans who make resolutions make it through the first month (more than you thought, right?). Even more surprising a statistic is that 46 percent of Americans who make resolutions every year stick to their resolutions for six months.

That’s still not 100 percent though so if you’re still skeptical of setting a resolution in 2017, you’re right to be so. There are ways to be successful with your goals though.

Successful New Year’s Resolutions

In all reality, people who explicitly make resolutions each year are 10 times more likely to reach their goals. If you are planning to save more in 2017 (or whatever your goals may be) you’ll need to explicitly say so and draw up a plan to do so.

You’ll need to make a goal-setting worksheet for yourself, set deadlines and come up with a program. If you are looking to save more money in 2017 you may want to have dates where you want to have a certain amount saved ($600 by July, for example). You may also want to try out a money challenge of sorts to save more cash in the new year.

Whatever your goals or resolutions may be you won’t meet them unless you set your mind to it, set deadlines and be determined.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and success in your endeavors in 2017. 

Photo: mt 23

How to Improve Your Credit Before Buying a House

new-home-1553256_640Purchasing a home is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. Building good credit is a pivotal part of buying a home, so it’s best to check and see your score is good or not before you begin your home search.

The process of buying a home starts even way before you go to your first open house viewing. The first step is to organize your finances and understanding your credit is a key component.

Having good credit opens up a lot of opportunities and deals for you when it comes to buying a home, while having bad credit puts you in some limits that you may find it disadvantageous – financially.

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Personal Finance Apps for Christmas

Personal Finance Apps

Do you know someone trying to get control of their finances? How about someone with a strict budget or just beginning to budget? Well, good news! You can give the gift of organization and planning for your personal finance-minded friends and family this year.

Personal Finance Apps as Gifts

A lot of personal finance apps are free, which makes it hard to gift them. However, there are a few great personal finance apps that cost a little money but are GREAT:

LearnVest – You can get started with LearnVest for free. Set up an account, get an assessment of your finances and get a financial plan for yourself. Through LearnVest you can also access a number of online classes and other tools. However, if you want some of the more advanced services offered by LearnVest you will have to pay a $299 initiation fee and $19 a per month after that. If you know someone who would use the services it could make as a great gift though!

Budget Boss – Unlike LearnVest, Budget Boss is not free to download or sign up. The cost of the app is $0.99, however, that is a one-time fee. Much like the name suggests Budget Boss helps you with budgeting and that is about it. It won’t help you with other parts of your finances nor is there a financial team available for advice. It can, however, make a good gift for someone learning to budget.

Stash Invest – Stash Invest helps people start investing with as little as $5. The app only costs $1 per month and you could gift someone an entire year subscription to Stash Invest for only $12. If you know someone interested in investing this would be a perfect and inexpensive gift.

Free Personal Finance Apps

Additionally there are some free personal finance apps out there that you may want to suggest to your finance-minded friends and family. Here are three of the best:

MintMint, like Budget Boss, is a budgeting app. It will take all of your money across all of your accounts and give you a snapshot of your overall finances (including debt). Use the app to budget your monthly expenses as well as entertainment. You can set savings goals and debt-payoff goals within the Mint app. It is truly great for anyone starting to budget!

Level MoneyLevel Money is another budgeting app (sort of). Instead of giving you a snapshot of all of your money Level Money lets you know what money you can really afford to spend. It replaces you account balance with that spendable amount based on your bills and savings goals.

AcornsAcorns is another great investing app for beginners. Like Stash Invest, you can start investing with small amounts of money. The best part about Acorns is that it allowsPersonal Finance Apps you to connect cards to the account and use the “spare change” to invest. For instance, if you spent $4.75 on something with your debit or credit card $0.25 would go to your Acorns investing account. You can also set up monthly withdrawals and investing goals through the app.

How to ‘Package’ an App

There are a few ways you can “package” an app for Christmas (or any other holiday or celebration). Here are a few crafty ways of packaging a personal finance app:

  • Write them a note. If you and the person you are giving the app to are close and you know why they would want this app, write them a note. You can even tell them that they can pick the app themselves (with a cash limit, of course). This makes it more personal. Then you can purchase the app for them.
  • Give them a gift card. You can get gift cards for the PlayStore and iTunes at most stores. Give the gift-receiver a gift card for their phone’s store and tell them what you thought they’d use it for.
  • Package it with some personal finance materials. If you want to aim for free or cheap apps you may want to package your list of recommended personal finance apps with other items. Some good items to package the list with would be personal finance books, subscriptions to personal finance podcasts, a bill calendar, budgeting materials or even a set of money challenge print outs.

Gift-giving isn’t the easiest thing in the world but personal finance apps and personal finance presents can be the gift that keeps on giving, especially if it helps someone save or get better control of their finances. Happy gifting!

Photo: Esther Vargas