If you spill any liquid on your carpet, pour salt on the area as soon as possible and watch it absorb the liquid almost instantly. Wait until it dries, then vacuum it up. Salt tends to provide a special capillary attraction that will work for most liquids. There are a few stains that salt will actually help set, however—never sprinkle it on red wine, coffee, tea, or cola!
If you have kids, you’ve had to clean up vomit. Baking soda can make the job a little less gross if you sprinkle some on top as soon as possible. It will soak up some of the mess and make the smell easier to deal with when you have to go at it with the paper towels.
Ink stains on the carpet? Make a paste of cream of tartar and lemon juice, and dab at the stain. Let it sit for five minutes or so, then clean with a damp cloth.
Red Wine Stains
What’s the easiest way to remove red wine spills from your carpet? Try applying a bit of shaving cream (after checking that the carpet is colorfast), and letting it sit for a minute before wiping away. Shaving cream will also work on grease stains.
Coffee and Tea Stains
Coffee stains can be frustrating, but you can get them out of your carpet by pouring beer on them. That’s right—just dribble a couple of sips onto the stain, and it should vanish. Dab up the extra beer with a paper towel, and if the coffee stain doesn’t go away completely, repeat the task a few more times. This trick works on tea stains too. Alternatively, to remove coffee stains from carpet or clothing, rub a beaten egg yolk into the spot, leave for five minutes, then rinse with warm water.
If you’ve got kids, you’re guaranteed to end up with a grease stain on your carpet. The big thing to remember is to not touch the stain at all—don’t sop it up, wipe it, or do anything else. Instead, pour a large amount of cornstarch on top of the spot and gently stir it with your finger. Let it sit for a day, and make sure no one walks on it. The next day, use your vacuum cleaner’s hose attachment (the plastic one, not the one with bristles) to suck away the cornstarch. The stain should be mostly gone, but if it’s not, repeat this action until it completely disappears. You can then use the brush attachment to clear away the last remnants of cornstarch.
Here’s how to eliminate cigarette burns in your carpet: First, cut away the burn mark. Then, cut a bit of carpet from an area that’s covered by a piece of furniture (such as under a couch), and glue it carefully over the burnt spot. Finally, yell at the person who caused the burn in the first place!
If your pet accidentally peed on your rug, and it still smells like urine after you’ve cleaned it, try deodorizing the spot with club soda, which contains odor-fighting minerals. Pour some on the area, leave it for five minutes, then blot and allow to dry.
For more cleaning tips for around the house, check out our Cleaning Tips board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our Tip of the Day!
Painting a room’s walls is the easiest DIY makeover under the sunâbut want to try something a bit bolder and fun? Consider colorblocking instead.
“Colorblocking is about creatively pairing two or more shadesâor blocks of colorâto make a unique statement on a wall, ceiling, door, or other home surface, and it’s a trend that can be accomplished by DIYers and pros alike,” says Dee Schlotter, a PPG senior color marketing manager.
“These geometric fields of color, which are usually separated by neutral zones, can serve to punctuate or establish a color plan for your space, sort of like accent walls taken to an extreme,” adds Debra Kling of the eponymous color consulting firm.
And if you see hints of modern art or connections to the fashion world in colorblocking, you’re on the right track. Kling considers Mondrian to be the master of this technique, and colorblocked frocks were debuted by Yves St. Laurent in the 1940s and have been trending ever since.
Here’s more about colorblocking, including how-to’s, shade pairings, and where to try this technique in your home.
Gather the gear
Photo by Studio RazaviÂ
Painter’s tape is critical for this task as you’ll need to section off the various colors you want to use and create clean lines, says Schlotter.
“Using a high-quality roller and a smaller paint brush to ‘cut in’ to the smaller details or corners of the colorblocked design will also help ensure a polished look,” she adds.
Relearn the color wheel
Photo by mcleanquinlan
If using a color wheel is making your head spin, get some help from the pros.
“PPG has virtual color consultations to help you choose paint for colorblocking and other home projects,” notes Schlotter.
Once you’ve shared photos of your space and color preferences, experts can text, email, or FaceTime their recommendations and assist with ordering swatches or buying paint.
Match shades with moods
Photo by Inspired Interiors
Bright shades behind a den’s bookcases are energetic, while softer tones create a sense of calm.
“If you want to instill restfulness in your bedroom, consider a halfway-up-the-wall technique by painting the upper portion in a warm hue and the bottom in a darker, moodier version,” says Schlotter.
You can also create a headboard in a bedroom with colorblocking or make an impact by defining shapes behind bedside tables or dressers.
Let loose in kids rooms
Photo by colorTHEORY BostonÂ
“Colorblocking works very well in a child’s room because it adds personality and more visual interest beyond using just a single color,” says Schlotter.
Blocked primary colors on walls are typical in kids rooms, but other combos can also playfully decorate the ceiling, bookcases, and floors.
“For a playroom, consider painting a geometric shape like a diagonal across an entire wall with a bright color on one half and a neutral on the other,” Schlotter adds.
Save paler shades for higher up on the walls, and use darker ones, like navy, lower to the ground as they’ll serve to hide dirt and scuffs that’ll no doubt appear here.
Highlight unusual features
Colorblocking can also create a focal point by showcasing molding or other architectural detail.
“Leanne Ford recently put this technique into play on an arched doorway project using a sandy pink hue to create a playful stripe and her go-to Delicate White (PPG 1001-1) to brighten the walls behind it,” says Schlotter.
Create a room with blocked color
Photo by Achille Ã ParisÂ
Colorblocking with bold paint can create rooms where none existed before by marking off spaces for different tasks. Pull up a desk and chair to a bold purple shape and a home office is bornâor do the same near your kitchen for a breakfast nook or in a hallway to make a cozy reading corner.
The post Want a Fun New Paint Project? Try Colorblocking appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
You hear the term all the time. After all, itâs an essential concept for apartment investors because it not only reflects the viability of your investment but also its value.
But what really is cash flow? How do you compute it, and more importantly, how can you increase the cash flow of your multifamily property?
Cash flow is simply the money that moves in and out of your business. For apartments, the cash coming in is in the form of rent, and the cash flowing out is in the form of expenditures like property taxes and utilities.
Cash flow â or lack of it — is one of the primary reasons businesses, or real estate investments, fail. Without sufficient cash flow, youâll run out of money. Thatâs why itâs essential that you have sufficient capital to not only purchase an apartment property but also sustain it in the event that cash flow fails to be what you projected â for example, if units turn over more often than you expect or rents decline.
Here are some ways you can improve the cash flow of your apartment investment:
Increase rents. This is perhaps the fastest and easiest way to improve cash flow. Consider repositioning the property â investing some capital to improve the units and then bumping rents.
Reduce utility costs. Fix leaky shower heads and faucets, which waste water. Install energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures.
Decrease expenses. Renegotiate your property management contract, or put it out to bid at the end of the term. Use free rental property listing sites rather than paying a broker to rent apartments.
Encourage residents to stay. Moveouts are expensive, so when tenants renew their leases youâll save time and money on prepping the unit.
Add additional streams of revenue, such as pet deposits and rent, garage rentals, vending machines or valet trash.
The post The ABCs of Multifamily Cash Flow first appeared on Century 21Â®.
How long does it take to buy a house? The answer is: it depends. You can buy a house in a matter of weeks or it can take you anywhere from 4 to 6 months. The question is how ready are you? It can take a long time, and that’s just learning about various mortgage options or improving your credit score.
So understanding the various factors involved in buying a house can give you an estimate of how long it will take you to buy the house
Check out now: 5 Signs You Are Not Ready To Buy A House
How long does it take to buy a house? A step-by-step guide.
It can take a homebuyer a few weeks to several months to complete the home buying process. But when determining how long it will take you to buy a house, you first have to find out if you will be pre-approved for a mortgage. There is no sense of shopping for a house to then realize you can’t afford it.
If you are interested inÂ comparing the best mortgage rates through LendingTree click here. Itâs completely free.
I. How long does it take to get a pre-approved mortgage letter in order to buy a house?
If you’re serious about buying a house, it’s important to get pre-approved for a mortgage. So when it’s time to make an offer, the seller will know you’re serious. If you don’t have one handy, the seller will likely move to the next buyer.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage in order to buy a house can take longer. That is because you have to make sure your financial situation is in shape. For example, your income-to-debt ratio, your down payment, and your credit score must be good. That’s exactly what a mortgage lender will look at.
Even when these things are in order, shopping and comparing mortgage rates and fees can take several weeks.
Let’s take a look on how long it will take you to get these things in shape before buying a house.
Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. Itâs completely FREE.
A. How good is your credit score?
A low credit score can make buying a house take longer, because it can take months to a year to improve a bad credit score.
A conventional loan will usually require a 640+ credit score.
In fact, your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lenders look at to decide whether to offer you a mortgage. And if it is not where it’s supposed to be, you might get rejected.
Luckily for you there are other ways to get a loan with much lower credit score: FHA loans.
FHA loans only require a credit score of 580 with 3.5% down payment. You may get qualified with a 500 credit score, but you’ll have to come with a 10% down payment.
So before you get into the fun part of shopping for a mortgage or visiting homes, it’s best to know what your credit score is and take steps to improve it.
You can get a free credit score at Credit Sesame.
B. Fix errors on your credit report.
Fixing errors on your credit report in order to get pre-approved for a loan in order to buy a house can take 30 days.
According to Transunion, “most investigations are completed within 2 weeks, but some may take up 30 days.”
Again, we recommend you get a free credit report at Credit Sesame. A credit report will give you a detail analysis of your credit history, how much debt you owe, and how creditworthy you are, etc. If there are any errors or inaccuracies, fix them immediately so there’s no surprise when you’re actually applying for a mortgage.
The best way to do that is by filing a Transunion dispute or Equifax dispute.
C. Do you have a down payment for the house?
How long it will take you to buy a house will also depend on whether or not you already have money saved up for a down payment.
Unless you’re going to buy the house with outright cash, you’ll need a down payment. And saving for a down payment can take a long time. Depending on your income and expenses, saving for a down payment on a house can take years.
Assuming, for example, you want to buy a house that will cost you $450,000, and you’re using a conventional loan to finance the house. With a 20% down payment, you will need to come up with $90,000.
Let’s say again, because of other monthly expenses, you can only save $1500 a month for the down payment.
You see how long it will take you to save for a down payment to buy the house? 5 years. And that doesn’t even take into account other upfront costs of buying a house, such as closing cost.
While it’s possible to get a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price, it’s advisable to put at least 20% down. The reason is because you will avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lenders in case you default on your mortgage.
Home buyers with a down payment below 20% are usually charged with PMI.
Another reason for a larger down payment is that it reduces the cost of the mortgage, grows equity much faster, and saves you on interest over the life of the loan.
As you can see, it can take you as much as 5 years from the time you’re thinking about buying the house to the time you’re actually ready to start the process.
But once you have taken care the things above, buying a house can go a lot faster.
II. How long does it take to find a real estate agent?
Average time: 1 day to a month
Once you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, the next step is to find an experienced real estate agent. Finding a good real estate agent can take a day to a month. Websites such as Zillow and Redfin list real estate agents you can use.
III. Shopping for a home.
Average time: a few weeks to a few months
With the help of a real estate agent and your own due diligence, finding a home can can go faster or take longer depending on available homes, the season and your desired location.
But experts say on average it can take a minimum of three weeks to a few months.
IV. Making an offer, negotiation, and inspection.
Average time: 1 to 10 days
Once you have found the home of your dream, the next step is to make an offer. You and the seller can go back and forth negotiating the price.
Once your offer has been accepted, you and the seller sign something called a purchase agreement. Then, the next step is to hire a professional to inspect the home for defects. Depending on your state, a home inspection must be completed within 10 days. And if the inspection finds some defects in the house, that could delay the process.
V. How long does it take to close on a house?
Average time: 30 to 45 days.
Once the inspection is done, your lender will need to officially approve you for the loan. And depending on the lender, it can also affect how long it takes to buy a house. You may need to provide additional documents. But the lender will need to assess the home for its value. And depending on the program (whether it’s conventional loan or FHA loan) it can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to close on a home.
When asking yourself this question: “how long does it take to buy a house?” The answer is : it depends. If you have your credit score, your down payment, your other finances under control, you can buy your house in two months or less. But if you have to save for a down payment, fix errors on your credit report, raise your credit score, the whole home buying process can take years.
Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. Itâs completely FREE
Still wondering how long it takes to buy a house? Read the following articles:
5 Signs You’re Not Ready To Buy A House
10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes To Avoid
3 Signs You’re Not Ready to Refinance Your Mortgage
The Biggest Mistakes Millennials Make When Buying a House
7 Signs You’re Ready To Buy A House
Work with the Right Financial Advisor
You can talk to aÂ financial advisorÂ who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). So, find one who meets your needs withÂ SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals,Â get started now.
The post How Long Does It Take To Buy A House? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that home sales were up more than 17% in June 2020 from the month before, and up more than 13% compared to the year prior. Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt (or reorganize their current debt) in todayâs low interest environment.
Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt in todayâs low interest environment.
With low 30-year mortgage rates, owning a rental property that âpays for itselfâ through monthly rental income is especially lucrative with a significantly lower mortgage payment. If youâre curious about buying a second home and renting it out, keep reading to find out about the major issues you should be aware of, the hidden costs of becoming a landlord, and more.
Important Factors When Buying a Short-Term Rental
The issues involved in buying a rental home varies dramatically depending on where you plan to purchase. After all, buying a ski lodge in an area with seasonal tourism and attractions might require different considerations than buying a home in a major metropolitan area where tourists visit all year long.
But there are some factors every potential landlord should consider regardless of location. Here are a few of the most important considerations:
Location. Consumers rent vacation homes almost anywhere, but youâll want to make sure youâre looking at homes in an area where short-term rentals are popular and viable. You can do some basic research on AirDNA.co, a short-term rental data and analytics service, or check competing rentals in the area youâre considering.
Property Management Fees. If you plan to use a property management company to manage your short-term rental instead of managing it yourself, you should find out how much other owners pay for management. Also, compare listing fees for your second home with a platform like Airbnb or VRBO.
Taxes. Property taxes can be higher on second homes since you donât qualify for a homestead exemption. This means higher fixed costs each month, which could make it more difficult to cover your mortgage with rental income.
Competition. Check whether a rental area youâre considering is full of competing rentals that are never full. You can find this information on VRBO or Airbnb by looking at various rentals and checking their booking calendars.
Potential Rental Fees. Check rental sites to see how much you might be able to charge for your second home on a nightly, weekly, or monthly basis.
5 Steps to Rent Your Second Home
Before purchasing a second home, take time to run different scenarios using realistic numbers based on the rental market youâre targeting. From there, the following steps can guide you through preparing your property for the short-term rental market.
1. Research the Market
First, youâll want to have a general understanding of the rental market youâre entering. How much does the average short-term rental go for each night or each week? What is the average vacancy rate for rentals on an annual basis?
Research your local rental market, the average price of rentals in your area, various features offered by competing rentals, and more.
Action Item: Dig into these figures by using AirDNA.co. Just enter a zip code or town, and youâll find out the average nightly rate, occupancy rate, revenue, and more. Although some of the siteâs features require a monthly subscription, you can find out basic information about your rental market for free.
2. Know Your Numbers
You need to know an array of real numbers before renting your second home, including the following:
Average nightly rate
Average occupancy rate
Fixed costs, such as your mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance for the rental
Property management fees and costs for cleaning between tenants
Additional fixed costs for things like trash pickup, internet access, and cable television
Costs for marketing your space on a platform like VRBO or Airbnb, which could be a flat fee or 3% of your rental fee depending on the platform
Youâll use these numbers to figure out the average monthly operating cost for your second home, and the potential income you might be able to bring in. Without running these numbers first, you wind up in a situation where your short-term rental doesnât pay for itself, and where youâre having to supplement operating expenses every month.
Action Item: Gather every cost involved in operating your specific short-term rental, and then tally everything up with monthly and annual figures that you can plan for.
3. Buy the Right Insurance
If you plan on using your second home as a short-term rental, youâll need to buy vacation rental insurance. This type of homeowners insurance is different from the type youâd buy for your primary residence. Itâs even unique from landlord insurance coverage since you need to have insurance in place for your second home and its contents.
Some vacation rental policies let you pay per use, and they provide the benefits of homeowners insurance (like property coverage, liability, and more) plus special protection when your property is rented to a third party.
Action Item: Shop around for a homeowners insurance plan thatâs geared specifically to vacation rentals. See our top picks for the best homeowners insurance companies out there.
4. Create a Property Management Plan
If you live near your second home, you might want to manage it yourself. Thereâs nothing wrong with this option, but you should plan on receiving calls and dealing with problems at all hours of the day.
Many short-term rental owners pay a property management company to communicate with their tenants, manage each rental period, and handle any issues that pop up. Property managers can also set up cleanings between each rental and help with marketing your property.
Action Item: Create a property management plan and account for any costs. Most property managers charge 25% to 30% of the rental cost on an ongoing basis, so you canât ignore this component of owning a short-term rental.
5. Market Your Space
Make sure you appropriately market your space, which typically means paying for professional photos and creating an accurate, inviting listing on your chosen platforms. Your property manager might help you create a marketing plan for your vacation rental, but you can DIY this component of your side business if youâre tech- and media-savvy.
Action Item: Hire a photographer to take professional photos of your rental, and craft your rental description and listing.
Risks of Purchasing a Short-Term Rental
Becoming a landlord isnât for the faint of heart. Thereâs plenty that can go wrong, but here are the main risks to plan for:
Government roadblocks. In destinations from New York City to Barcelona, government officials have been cracking down on short-term rentals and trying to limit their ability to operate. New rules could make running your business more costly, difficult, or even impossible.
Your home could be damaged beyond repair. If you read the Airbnb message boards and other landlord forums, youâll find an endless supply of nightmare rental stories of houses getting trashed and rentals enduring thousands of dollars in damage.
Housing market crash. If the housing market crashes again like it did in 2008, you might find you owe more than your second home is worth at a time when itâs increasingly difficult to find renters.
Reliance on tourism. As weâve seen during the pandemic, circumstances beyond our control can bring travel and tourism to a screeching halt. Since short-term rentals typically rely on tourism to stay afloat, decreases in travel can affect the viability of your business, quickly.
High ongoing costs and fees. Higher property taxes, property management fees, cleaning fees and maintenance costs can make operating a short-term rental costly in the long-term. If you donât account for all costs and fees involved, you might wind up losing money on your vacation home instead of having the property âpay for itselfâ.
The Bottom Line
A short-term rental can be a viable business opportunity, depending on where you want to buy and the specifics of the local rental market. But there are a lot of factors to consider before taking the leap.
Before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, think over all of the potential costs and risks involved. Youâll want to ensure that youâve done comprehensive research and have run the numbers for every possible scenario to make an informed decision.
Related: How to Invest in Real Estate
The post How to Buy a Second Home that Pays for Itself appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a convenient way to store funds specifically for medical expenses. If you qualify for an HSA, you will get to enjoy a few tax advantages as well. While this might sound like an ideal setup, not everyone is eligible for a health savings account. To qualify for a health savings account, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The details of these plans are revised every year by the Internal Service Revenue (IRS), which sets the bar for:
The minimum deductible a plan must have to be considered a HDHP.
The maximum amount that a customer who purchases a plan is able to spend out-of-pocket.
The benefits of a health savings account
Here are some of the key advantages of having a health savings account:
It covers a large variety of medical expenses: There are many different kinds of medical expenses that are eligible, such as medical, dental and mental health services.
Pretty much anyone can make contributions: Contributions to your health savings account donât have to be made by you or your spouse. Employers, relatives, friends or anyone who would like to contribute to your account can do so. There are limits, however. For example, in 2019, the limit for individuals was $3,500 and $7,000 for families.
Pre-tax contributions: Since contributions are generally made at your employer pre-taxes, they are not considered to be part of your gross income and are not federally taxed. This is usually the same case when it comes to state level taxes as well.
After-tax contributions are tax-deductible: Any contributions made after taxes are deductible from your gross income on your tax return. Doing so minimizes the amount you would owe on taxes for that year.
Tax-free withdrawals: You can withdrawal money from your account for approved health care costs without having to worry about federal taxes. Most states do not tax, either.
Annual rollover: Any unused HSA funds that are left over by the end of the year get rolled over to the following year.
Portability: Even if you change health insurance plans, employers, or retire, the money in your health savings account will continue to be available for qualifying health care expenses.
Having a health savings account is convenient: Most of the time, you will receive a debit card that is connected to your health savings account. This way, you can use your debit card to start paying for eligible expenses and prescription drugs on the spot.
The drawbacks to having a health savings account
While there are many advantages to having a health savings account, there are a few things to consider. For one, in order to qualify for an HSA, you must hold a high-deductible health insurance plan. The tax benefits might entice you to purposely sign up for insurance coverage under one of these health plans but think before doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages to having a health savings account:
The High-Deductible Health Plan: These types of health plans can end up being a lot more expensive in the long run, even with an HSA. If you have other options for health insurance that offer lower deductible, definitely consider those and donât only choose a High-Deductible plan so that you can open an HSA.
You need to stay on top of your spending: If you have an HSA, you need to be willing to hold yourself responsible for recordkeeping. Keep track of all of your receipts so that you can prove you spent your HSA funds on eligible expenses.
Taxes and penalties: Using money from your HSA on other expenses that do not qualify as eligible health care expenses could result in you owing taxes. If you do this before the age of 65, you will have to pay taxes with a 20% penalty tacked on. If you are 65 or older, you will be responsible for paying taxes, but the penalty gets waived.
Fees: Sometimes, health savings accounts will charge additional fees, either per month or per transaction. Check with your HSA institution for more information on extra fees.
How an HSA works
In many cases, if your employer offers high-deductible health plans, they probably offer health savings accounts as well. Talk to your employer to find out what they offer. If your employer doesnât offer HSAs, then you can sign up for a separate one through a different institution.
You get to decide how much you would like to contribute to your HSA annually, but keep in mind that you cannot exceed the HSA contribution limit. Once you are set up with an account, you will either receive a debit card or a series of checks that are linked to your HSA. Right away, you will be able to use the funds in your account for:
Other eligible health care expenses that your insurance does not cover.
Generally, you cannot use HSA funds to pay your insurance premiums.Â HSAs are not the same as flexible spending accounts, because HSAs rollover. Once you turn 65, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your account, but you can still use the available funds for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. If you use the funds for non-eligible expenses, you will owe taxes on these amounts.
Another benefit of HSA that you may or may not have heard of is that you can invest the money in mutual funds and stocks. If this is something that you are interested in, seek advice from a financial advisor for more information.
What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
A key financial decision people struggle to make is how to allocate savings for multiple financial goals. Do you save for several goals at the same time or fund them one-by-one in a series of steps? Basically, there are two ways to approach financial goal-setting:
Concurrently: Saving for two or more financial goals at the same time.
Sequentially: Saving for one financial goal at a time in a series of steps.
Each method has its pros and cons. Here’s how to decide which method is best for you.
You can focus intensely on one goal at a time and feel a sense of completion when each goal is achieved. It’s also simpler to set up and manage single-goal savings than plans for multiple goals. You only need to set up and manage one account.
Compound interest is not retroactive. If it takes up to a decade to get around to long-term savings goals (e.g., funding a retirement savings plan), that’s time that interest is not earned.
Compound interest is not delayed on savings for goals that come later in life. The earlier money is set aside, the longer it can grow. Based on the Rule of 72, you can double a sum of money in nine years with an 8 percent average return. The earliest years of savings toward long-term goals are the most powerful ones.
Funding multiple financial goals is more complex than single-tasking. Income needs to be earmarked separately for each goal and often placed in different accounts. In addition, it will probably take longer to complete any one goal because savings is being placed in multiple locations.
Working with Wise Bread to recruit respondents, I conducted a study of financial goal-setting decisions with four colleagues that was recently published in the Journal of Personal Finance. The target audience was young adults with 69 percent of the sample under age 45. Four key financial decisions were explored: financial goals, homeownership, retirement planning, and student loans.
Results indicated that many respondents were sequencing financial priorities, instead of funding them simultaneously, and delaying homeownership and retirement savings. Three-word phrases like “once I have…,", “after I [action],” and “as soon as…,” were noted frequently, indicating a hesitancy to fund certain financial goals until achieving others.
The top three financial goals reported by 1,538 respondents were saving for something, buying something, and reducing debt. About a third (32 percent) of the sample had outstanding student loan balances at the time of data collection and student loan debt had a major impact on respondents’ financial decisions. About three-quarters of the sample said loan debt affected both housing choices and retirement savings.
Based on the findings from the study mentioned above, here are five ways to make better financial decisions.
1. Consider concurrent financial planning
Rethink the practice of completing financial goals one at a time. Concurrent goal-setting will maximize the awesome power of compound interest and prevent the frequently-reported survey result of having the completion date for one goal determine the start date to save for others.
2. Increase positive financial actions
Do more of anything positive that you’re already doing to better your personal finances. For example, if you’re saving 3 percent of your income in a SEP-IRA (if self-employed) or 401(k) or 403(b) employer retirement savings plan, decide to increase savings to 4 percent or 5 percent.
3. Decrease negative financial habits
Decide to stop (or at least reduce) costly actions that are counterproductive to building financial security. Everyone has their own culprits. Key criteria for consideration are potential cost savings, health impacts, and personal enjoyment.
4. Save something for retirement
Almost 40 percent of the respondents were saving nothing for retirement, which is sobering. The actions that people take (or do not take) today affect their future selves. Any savings is better than no savings and even modest amounts like $100 a month add up over time.
5. Run some financial calculations
Use an online calculator to set financial goals and make plans to achieve them. Planning increases people’s sense of control over their finances and motivation to save. Useful tools are available from FINRA and Practical Money Skills.
What’s the best way to save money for financial goals? It depends. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re taking positive action. Weigh the pros and cons of concurrent and sequential goal-setting strategies and personal preferences, and follow a regular savings strategy that works for you. Every small step matters!
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This article is from Barbara OâNeill of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
How to Manage Your Money â No Budgeting Required
Use the grocery calculator below to estimate your monthly and weekly food budget based on guidelines from the USDAâs monthly food plan. Input your family size and details below to calculate how much a nutritious grocery budget should cost you. Of course, every family is different. Some love coupons and leftovers, while others prefer fresh fish and aged cheese. Once youâve established your budget, use the slider to adjust your estimate to your spending habits.Â
Getting your food budget on point takes practice. With this grocery calculator and the right spending habits, youâll have enough for your living expenses and exciting financial goals like paying off loans or buying a house.
Grocery Budget Calculator
A moderate grocery budget will run you:
Weekly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
Monthly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
What kind of spender are you?
Does your estimate look right? If your spending habits don’t add up, explore these other budget options and choose what’s best for your lifestyle.
Thrifty This is the USDAâs estimated food budget for families that receive food assistance like WIC or SNAP.
Cost-Conscious This is an ideal budget for nutritious meals if youâre looking to save a little extra cash with leftovers and coupons.
Moderate This is the standard for affordable, nutritious, and balanced portions for most families.
Generous This budget gives you some spending wiggle room for finer foods or extra portions.
See where the rest of your budget is going Sign up for Mint
Monthly Grocery Budget
Ever wonder how much you should spend on groceries?Â The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.
Hereâs a monthly grocery budget for the average family. This is based on the national average and likely varies by location and shop. For instance, New York City grocers are going to be far more expensive than Kansas City shops. Additionally, organic grocery stores like Whole Foods are pricier than places like Walmart or Aldi.
Youâll also want to consider dietary choices, like gluten-free or vegan diets. These can significantly affect your budget, so consider planning your grocery list online to compare prices and find your preferred alternatives.
Finding a reasonable monthly grocery budget ensures you and your family have what you need, while not overspending. Look back at previous months using a budgeting app or credit card statements to see what youâve spent at the grocery store. Decide if you want to maintain your current budget or cut back.
Purchasing Groceries vs. Dining Out
Donât forget what you spend at restaurants when you consider your food budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend 11 percent of their take-home income on food. It doesnât all go towards groceries, though. Approximately six percent is spent on groceries, while five percent is spent dining out â including dates, lunches with coworkers, and Sunday brunch.
With this framework in mind, you can calculate your total food budget based on your take-home income. For example, Rita makes $3,500 per month after taxes. She would budget six percent for groceries ($210) and five percent for restaurants ($175). So sheâll need a total of $385 for food each month. With a little practice, sheâll better learn her habits and be able to accurately adjust her budget.
Tips for Reducing Your Budget
There are several ways to cut back on what you spend without sacrificing the quality and taste of your food. Trimming your food budget can help you stow away more for your financial goals, such as building an emergency fund or saving for a dream vacation.
Coupons are easy to find in the mail, in store, in your inbox, and even in a Google search. Many popular grocery stores are rolling out apps that track your coupons and savings. Be sure to download and register your email for new updates and sales. These usually work in person or online, so you can shop when and how you like.Â
While a single coupon might not give you a large discount, you can save a lot with multiple coupons. Itâs also important you make sure you actually need the item youâre purchasing instead of buying it for the sale. This can quickly get out of hand and push you over budget.Â
Freeze Your Food
Freezing your fresh food before it goes bad helps your wallet and the environment. You can plan ahead and freeze prepared produce to save time on weekday cooking, or chop and freeze last weekâs produce before shopping for more. Frozen vegetables are great in soups and stews, and you can use frozen fruits for healthy breakfast smoothies.Â
Plan a Weekly Menu Ahead of Time
Plan your meals ahead of time to determine the food items and quantities you need before you head to the grocery store. This way youâre more likely to buy the exact items you need and can plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to plan for recipes that use the same ingredients so thereâs less to purchase. You can also make larger meals and plan leftovers for lunch so you have less to plan and purchase.
Bring Lunches to WorkÂ
A $13 lunch out might not seem like much, but it can blow your food budget fast if it becomes a habit. Push your monthly food budget further with delicious lunches from home. Salads, sandwiches, and leftovers are all easy, inexpensive, and nutritious.Â
Buy Store BrandsÂ
Many packaged products have a huge price disparity between brand name and generic items, and store brand items tend to be cheaper without sacrificing much quality. You can easily save 10 cents to a dollar per item, which adds up quickly over many trips.Â
Shop at a More Affordable Store
Your local farmers market, chain grocery, and organic store will all offer different specialties and sales. Check out the different shops in your area to find the best combination of quality and price. Some stores might even offer bulk items â great for your favorite products and those with a long shelf-life. Choosing cheaper staple items like milk and yogurt can also make a huge difference over time.Â
An accurate food budget that works for you helps you feel more confident and in control of your finances. Build a budget, learn your spending habits, and keep a grocery list to keep you on track and responsible so you can reach bigger goals, like a new vehicle or a down payment on a house.Â
Sources:Â USA Today |Â EurekAlert | Persistent Economic Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet
The post How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator appeared first on MintLife Blog.
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