Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.
Today I am going to share with you my top 10 pantry staples that are both filling and cheap. I always keep these stocked, so that I can make a healthy and satisfying meal at a moments notice. I know that eating healthy can feel daunting and expensive, so I hope this list helps dispel any fears you may have. I promise it’s easier (and more affordable) than you think to stock your shelves full of healthy food!
10 Filling and Cheap Pantry Staples
Although tofu comes with a stigma, I love it because it’s so versatile and affordable. You can make sauces, scrambles or breakfast burritos with it. Or try frying it and adding it to salads or bowls. Don’t be afraid – it’s loaded with protein and super cheap.
Tofu recipes to try: The Best Tofu Scramble, Carrot Noodle Vegetarian Ramen, 30 Minute Crispy Tofu and Squash Bowl, Cajun Tofu Nuggets
I choose my grains based on what is on sale, but some of my favorites are rice, quinoa, farro, buckwheat, and millet. I use these as the base for most of my meals, or put them on salads. Grains are great, healthy carbs to fill you up, instead of leaving you hungry in an hour.
Grain recipes to try: Autumn Harvest Quinoa Salad, Asian Quinoa Snack Bowls, Beet Farro Mediterranean Salad, Spicy Curried Cauliflower and Millet Bowl
Oats are great for breakfast, but you can also blend them to make oat flour or use them in muffins or other sweet treats! It’s both the price and versatility that make oats one of my favorite pantry staples.
Beans pair great with your grains, because together they make a complete protein. Therefore, you can get full for very little money. I always keep different varieties of beans in my pantry to throw on meals for added protein and fiber.
Bean recipes to try: Healthy Southern Baked Beans, White Bean and Kale White Wine Pasta, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Taquitos
Chickpeas are similar to beans, but I find them to be much more versatile. I use them on nearly everything. I love them straight from the can, fried, or baked. These are my go-to protein add to all salads, soups, bowls, tacos or wraps.
Chickpea recipes to try: 5 Minute Chickpea Salad Wrap, Masala Chickpeas with Coconut Rice, Vegetarian Blueberry Cobb Salad, Chickpea Street Corn Tacos
Potatoes are a filling and cheap carb to use as the base of any meal. Stuff them with tons of veggies, protein, and herbs and you have a great meal in no time! Plus, potatoes are versatile so you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Potato recipes to try: Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Dinner Salad, Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Sweet Potato Sauce, Kale and Potato Swiss Cheese Melt, Texas BBQ Potato & Tempeh Tacos
Lentils can serve the same purpose as a grain, but the great part about lentils is that they are packed with protein. This makes them even more filling and worth your money, in my opinion. Use them for soups or stews or bowls or salads!
Lentil recipes to try: Lentil Sloppy Joe Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, Lentil and Sweet Potato Vegetarian Chili
8. Olive Oil
Everyone needs a fat in the kitchen to cook with. And if we are talking about getting the best quality for a budget, I think olive oil is the best choice. It works well to cook eggs with, as well as heating lunch and dinner. The versatility and price make it my go-to cooking oil.
I always have eggs in my refrigerator so that I can eat them for breakfast, add them as protein to a meal, hard boil them for snacks or use them in baked goods. While good quality eggs aren’t always that cheap, the utility wins out here.
Egg recipes to try: Greens and Brie Egg White Frittata, Apple Fennel Fall Fried Egg Sandwich, Spicy Egg and Mushroom Wrap, Smashed Potato Eggs Benedict
10. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are not only a superfood, packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, but they become gelatinous and pudding like when soaked in liquid. Therefore I always keep some around to make an overnight breakfast pudding or a quick dessert. You don’t need a lot of seeds to make a great meal, making them pretty cost effective!
Chia seed recipes to try: Healthy Banana Pudding, Nut & Seed Overnight Porridge, Strawberry Chia Jam, Green Tea Chia Pudding
Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!
Your budget doesn’t have to be a chore when you help it work for you.
There’s always room for improvement, even if your budget seems just fine. If your finances are getting the best of you, there’s more reason to consider a few tweaks.
Budgets aren’t meant to be carved in stone as a strict set of immovable rules. Almost everyone can benefit from adjustments now and again. Here are 3 tips for making the best of a good budget or snapping a mediocre one into tip-top shape.
Step Back from the Budget
Your budget shouldn’t rule your life, whether you enjoy managing finances or are worrying yourself sick about getting out of debt. A budget is only a tool, and that tool is under your control — not the other way around.
Stepping back lets you evaluate your priorities and make adjustments. It also gives you the chance to enjoy some of the results of good discipline. Priorities can change, especially as financial goals are met. And what good is a sound financial plan if it doesn’t allow allow you to relax and think about money less often?
Don’t Let History Repeat Itself
Budgets not only keep you moving forward on the right track, but also provide the historical data you need to improve over time. The “moving forward” part is easy to see, especially when you use budget software. You can spot problems before they happen, and take steps to correct them. Each step of the way, your carefully laid plans show exactly what you need to do, such as which bills are due when and how much is available for discretionary spending.
Knowing where you’ve been is just as important as seeing the road ahead. Historical data shows how your budget has performed for the past month or year and reveals areas where you can make better choices. You can spot trends, good or bad, and take steps to correct or improve on them in the future. With budget software such as Mint.com, you can convert that information into charts that bring everything into focus.
Track spending, whether it’s a large or small purchase.
Write Down Everything
Track discretionary spending, even though you’ve allocated money for just that purpose. When there’s $100 in the budget each week to use as you please, you might be inclined to spend unwisely. Discretionary spending adds up, but tracking it can show areas where you can cut back and add more money into savings.
Writing down everything doesn’t necessarily mean carrying a note pad everywhere you go. With Mint.com’s mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, you can enter a purchase on the spot, even if you pay in cash. Money Crashers explains that at the end of a week, month, or year, you might be surprised by how much was spent on a daily newspaper and cup of coffee on the way to work. Switching to a newspaper subscription and making coffee at home could put hundreds of dollars into savings by year’s end.
A personal budget is a living thing. It’s a tool, but one that is designed to evolve and improve as your needs change. If your budget already works exactly as you like, a tweak here and there could yield rewards that you didn’t know were possible. If your budget leaves something to be desired, these tips can help you find improvements that get the results you want.
Mint.com has something for all of your budgeting needs. From automatic updates and information at a glance to predictive data and helpful tips, this budget software works whether your budget is tight or comfortable.
Sign up for your free account today, and lean how Mint.com can help.
Budget apps make managing finances a lot easier. Where budget software for your home computer took away the burden of keeping track of everything on paper, budget apps make the software portable. Now you don’t have to be at home to see your monthly budget and all of your accounts at a glance.
There are many features that make Mint.com’s mobile budget app handy, but here are four of the most beneficial.
Mint’s Apps Work with Smartphones and Tablets at the Same Time
Know what’s great about a budget app on your smartphone or tablet? Portability. Never let your money out of your sight with Mint.com’s mobile budget app, and you’ll find there are fewer surprises every month. Better still, how about an app on one phone and another on a tablet? They all work together.
You don’t have to be on the go for the mobile app to come in handy. Personal finance is important on a shopping trip, of course, but you might also want to keep tabs on you accounts from the comfort of a hammock in the backyard. Wherever your mobile device can go, so can your budget.
Alerts Let You Know What’s Happening with Your Money
Bill coming due? You’ll never have to worry about missing a payment, or making one late because you forgot once Mint.com’s alerts are set and ready to go. You can set an alert for almost anything that you need to remember, and you can also receive alerts for things you weren’t aware of in the first place.
Alerts let you know when an account balance gets too low (or too high), when you’ve spent more than you budgeted for, when bills are coming due, if one of your accounts charges a fee, or if there is ever any unusual activity on an account.
Keep track as you shop and never go overbudget again.
Cash Transactions aren’t Left Out of the Budget Party
Credit card transactions are easy to track. Make a purchase using a card, and your accounts automatically reflect it in Mint.com’s software. But what if you sometimes use cash? Mint.com is smart. Cash transactions are easy to track too, but they take a small amount of time.
When you spend cash, quickly and easily keep your budget up to date by entering the transaction on the spot using the mobile app. Because everything is connected, what you enter on your smartphone will be visible on your home computer immediately.
Experiment to See How Decisions Might Impact Your Budget
Thinking about making a large purchase or adding more money into savings? Mint.com lets you try out decisions to see how they would impact the rest of your budget. This is a zero commitment way to move money around, which can help you decide whether it’s a good idea.
Using graphs, Mint.com lets you see how additional savings every month would add up at the end of the year, and it also reveals what your budget would look like if you bought a big ticket item that you’ve got your eye on.
Know Your Finances are Safe with Mint.com
There’s an awful lot of personal information in your budget. Account numbers and balances, investments, and practically anything related to your finances can be included. But there’s no reason to worry about security. Mint.com thought of that, too.
Your account is password protected. Mint’s practices are verified by TRUSTe and VeriSign, and they are also supported by RSA Security. But wait, there’s more! Everything that you see from balances to graphs and charts is read-only. You can’t transfer funds from your checking into savings, close any accounts, or do anything else with your money, and no one else can, either.
With all of these benefits, you might think Mint.com couldn’t get much better, but it does. All of this and more is free, which fits in any budget.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.
Today I’m excited to share with you Sarah Wilson, aka Budget Girl’s debt free story! She’s an awesome millennial woman who paid off over $32K of debt on her own in three years. And along the way has built a community of 59,000 subscribers on YouTube!
Sarah started her journey in 2014 making $26K as a journalist. Over three years she side hustled, lived frugally and made moves in her career to pay off her debt faster.
Sarah’s story will empower you in whatever situation you’re in to suit up and attack your debt. Her YouTube channel is also a wealth of tips and resources on saving, meal planning, frugality and of course, budgeting.
And if after hearing Sarah’s story you want some ways you can live a more budget conscious life, check out my list of 90 ways to live a more frugal life!
Without further ado, here’s Budget Girl!
Can you tell a little about yourself for people who aren’t familiar with you and your YouTube channel?
I’m Sarah Wilson, also known as Budget Girl on YouTube, where I talk about living a frugal and fun life on a budget. I documented paying off my student loans on a low income over the past three years and am now living debt-free, but still frugally, while pursuing my financial goals.
How much debt did you pay off and how long did it take you?
I started off with $32,640ish dollars in debt and paid thousands of dollars in additional interest as I was working the original number down. It took 3 years and two months.
You’re a writer and editor, why start a video channel?
Because I write and edit writing all day, I did not want to spend more time doing that when I got home – hence the vlog over a blog!
Why the name Budget Girl?
I wanted to commit fully to budgeting my income and getting out of debt. (The former really is the secret to the latter.) It wasn’t the first name I thought of, but it was the best that wasn’t taken already!
Logistics aside, it would be very hard to maintain the moniker if I wasn’t doing the best I could at budgeting, so I thought it would also hold me accountable.
How many videos have you done?
Just over 450. 🙂 It’s crazy to think I’ve done that many.
Update: Sarah has way more videos now with over 5.6 million views!
How do you budget?
I use an Excel-type spreadsheet that I created in Google Drive. It’s very basic and doesn’t require a lot of formulas or spreadsheet acumen. Anyone with a Gmail account has access to drive and it can be accessed from any computer or phone – so my budget is always with me.
How can someone else set up a budget in Google Drive?
I have a copy of one of my budgets available in this video, where I also describe how I budget. Anyone can copy the budget to their drive and use it or change it to meet their needs.
What were some of your side gigs that helped you in paying off debt?
I delivered pizzas for a while on the 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift at Hungry Howies. I did secret shopping through SecondtoNone and Marketforce. I bought items at yard sales and sold them online or at consignment.
I also ruthlessly purged my belongings and sold anything I didn’t need. I’ve babysat, dog-sat, dog- trained and helped people organize their spaces.
I have made the most money Youtubing though. My channel currently makes me about $1,000 per month through monetizing the videos with Google. It has been a slowly growing thing.
I didn’t make any money during the first year I was making videos, but it really took off during the final year of debt and I was able to put all my YouTube earnings toward my loans.
What was your biggest setback during the last three years?
Being intentional with your money and having to log every dollar you spend has a wonderful side effect of really coming to understand what life costs.
So if an unexpected expense came up, I dealt with it and made a plan to never have to stress out over that same thing again. So when my car needed sudden work, I started a car repair/replace sinking fund and after that always had at least some money set aside to deal with costly car issues.
The same with medical expenses. So after budgeting for about a year, I was never shocked when a rainy day came and I had umbrellas a-plenty. This allowed me to transform potential setbacks into minor aggravations.
I was aggravated that I couldn’t put as much money to debt that month, but planning for inevitable expenses allowed me to never have to walk backwards.
Instead, I would say that for all three years, I never was set back, but occasionally moved forward more slowly or even had to stand still for a moment.
During this time I sinking funded two cross-state moves and paid cash for a new-to-me used car. But I never went into more debt. I anticipated the storm and slowed my debt payoff temporarily to save up and pay for it.
What are some of the things you’re going to do now that you’re debt free?
I plan to save about $10,000 as a fully funded emergency fund, as per the Dave Ramsey Plan. This will allow me to pay for most issues that may arise with cash on hand. If God forbid, I was to fall ill or lose my job, I would have a healthy nest egg to ease or deal with the situation.
I do also plan on traveling some and generally enjoying life a little more than I allowed myself to when I was on a scorched earth budget and trying to get rid of my debt.
I’ve already started buying the good cheese, chocolate, and coffee at the grocery store instead of the cheap stuff. 🙂 I also plan to save for retirement, invest and generally make smart future-oriented money decisions.
What advice would you give to someone starting their debt-free journey?
It’s not going to be easy, but it will absolutely be worth it. Sacrificing now to live better later will be the best decision you’ve ever made, and looking back you won’t care about the times you had to say no to eating out or the home decor you didn’t buy, because you’ll be free from debt and will have so many more options.
Don’t put this off. You can do it. Keep trying. Definitely, get plugged into a group of like-minded people that will keep you accountable.
There is the financial YouTube community, which I can’t recommend enough, but also financial websites and Dave Ramsey groups online that are encouraging and inspiring (Dave Ramsey Baby Steppers with Compassion and Dave Ramsey’s YouTube Crazies are two very good groups).
If you’re looking for ways to get started cutting your budget like Sarah then try out some of these things I do to save money:
Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on activities.
Shopping through Ebates when making any purchases online will get you cash-back from virtually any retailer.
Apps like ibotta and Checkout51 to save at grocery stores and other big box retailers.
ThredUp for nice secondhand clothing at steep discounts from retail.
Use Blink to save on prescriptions.
EyeBuyDirect to save on prescription eyewear.
Energy saving methods like low-flow showerheads to reduce our utility bill.
Sites like Restaurant.com for dining deals.
I take advantage of free trials at gyms.
Use healthcare sharing to save big time on health insurance.
Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.
In response to COVID-19, the federal government passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill with the goal of aiding Americans and providing relief in a time of great financial hardship. This bill — also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) — was signed in late March and has supplemented millions of eligible citizens that have been hit hard by the coronavirus with one-time checks.
Using 2018 and 2019 tax return information, the IRS has given eligible individuals $1,200, married couples $2,400, and an additional $500 per child. More than 23.1 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the middle of March 2020, so this stimulus check has provided much support to those who are struggling to stay afloat. If you have not yet received your payment, see if you qualify for the stimulus check.
Managing your finances and maximizing the funds of your stimulus check are key during these unpredictable times. Read more to learn 10 ways to use your stimulus check wisely.
1. Create a Budget
Once you receive your stimulus check, reevaluate your budget. Since we are facing uncertain times and the future is unclear, creating a new budget for yourself will give you the flexibility to stretch your stimulus check for a longer period of time. Having a budget is the best way to take control of where you’re spending your money and ensure you’re making the most of what you have. For example, a budget may make it clear where you need to trim additional expenses, such as unnecessary services or subscriptions.
2. Address Essential Needs
Taking care of your basic needs is an important thing to keep in mind when thinking of how to use your stimulus check. Put this money towards essentials such as food, rent, and other bills. Be sure to find out if you are eligible for financial relief — many lenders, such as financial institutions, auto services, and utility companies, are offering some allowances during this difficult time.
3. Add to an Emergency Fund
You never know what may happen in the future. Consider putting your stimulus check towards an emergency fund if you can afford to do so. Having a financial backup fund provides peace of mind and can be used on a rainy day. Usually, these funds should hold enough money to cover expenses for three to six months, but something is always better than nothing.
Using your stimulus check this way can offer a great kick start to this type of account. Another plus is that you can earn interest over time on your emergency fund if you put it in a high yield savings account.
4. Pay Down Debt
If you have the means to, use your stimulus check to pay down high-interest debt. For example, this type of debt includes any high-interest loan or credit card debt. As of February 2020, the average annual percentage rate for a credit card stood at 15.09 percent, according to the Federal Reserve, which is a good reason to focus on tackling this debt first.
Come up with a repayment strategy and contact your credit card lender to discuss other payment options or schedules if necessary.
5. Help Your Local Community
During this time, many local businesses are struggling to make ends meet as they have been forced to shut down or minimize hours due to the pandemic. You can use your stimulus check to give these businesses or their employees some much-needed financial help since many people are now out of a job.
Ways to do this include purchasing a gift card from your favorite places such as restaurants or other small shops to use once restrictions are lifted. Food delivery is another option — consider leaving the delivery worker or employee a big tip. Many GoFundMe’s have also been created that you can contribute to.
6. Pay Your Taxes
Due to COVID-19, the deadline for filing taxes has been postponed to July 15, 2020. If you still haven’t filed or paid your income taxes, you can use the stimulus check to help out with your outstanding tax payments.
Paying your taxes on time is important even if you can’t pay the full amount that’s due. A good rule to follow is that if you must pay late, then the sooner your taxes are paid, the less is owed in interest and penalties. There are a few payment options, such as Electronic Funds Withdrawal (the quickest and easiest way), same-day wire, check or money order, or even cash.
7. Open a High-Yield Savings Account
If your bills and essential needs have been met, you may want to increase your savings, and put your stimulus check into a high-yield savings account. High-yield savings accounts are comparable to traditional savings accounts, with one difference: they offer a much higher annual percentage yield.
While we’re currently in a low-interest environment, these high-yield accounts typically pay up to 25 times the national average of a traditional savings account and are low in risk.
8. Contribute to a 529 or College Savings Account
Use the stimulus check money to open or contribute more to a long-term investment account for your kids, like a 529 plan. This type of account allows you to withdraw growth on your investment tax-free. Depending on your state, there may also be additional tax benefits.
With the money you have saved in this account you can use it, tax-free, to pay for qualified expenses such as books, supplies, and tuition. The stimulus check package also provides $500 per child so if you do not need that money, you could think about investing the money into a 529 account and help save for their future.
9. Invest in Yourself
With all of the newfound time on your hands, investing in yourself and continuing your education is another great option for how you can use your stimulus check. Set yourself up for success and think about the areas you are interested in or ways you want to improve your skills.
You can put this money and time towards learning a new skill, such as one that is necessary for your career or even a language you’ve been curious about learning. If you’re still in college, consider putting this money towards your tuition for next semester or use it to pay down your student loans.
10. Donate to Those in Need
If you find yourself not needing the extra cash from the stimulus check, you could make charitable donations to those in need or to a cause you believe in, or to friends and family who need extra help.
Many relief platforms are fighting for the cause, such as charities, food banks, nonprofits, and hospitals. These include trusted sources such as the World Health Organization and the American Red Cross. Check with your local and state governments for more opportunities to help those in need.
There are many possible ways you can use your stimulus check, as the choice ultimately depends on your personal preference and financial situation. However, following smart financial decisions such as budgeting, taking care of personal needs, and paying down debt should be priorities to make the most of your stimulus check. Following these 10 tips can help you get on the right track and allow you to figure out how to use your stimulus check wisely.
COVID-19 has given everyone around the world both time and space to reflect on what individually matters most in life. Whether it’s the chance to walk around outside, or the opportunity to spend more time with your kids, knowing what brought you joy during quarantine can help you learn to spend your money in ways that maximize your happiness. Equally important is knowing what didn’t bring joy to help you avoid wasting time and money.
Here are three simple steps you can take to hold onto joy and let go of what brings you down as we all prepare to live our lives after quarantine:
(Psst…you can also do this exercise, but in less time, with the Mint app!)
Step 1: Rate your spending categories
Think about the last 30 days of your life. These are complex times, but you’ve most likely spent money very differently—more in some categories and less in others. Based on your last 30 days of spending, are there some merchants or categories that you usually spend a lot on, but you’ve realized they brought you limited amounts of joy? Are there merchants or categories that you usually don’t spend much on, but they’ve recently given you a substantial amount of joy? With the time and space to slow down and have more awareness, these are the questions you can ask yourself.
Use the worksheet below to help you think through non-essential spending categories, and rate each one based on the among of joy it brought you:
Step 2: Review your spending and add up your totals
Use the Mint app, or your bank and credit card apps to review your spending in each category or from each merchant. Add up your spending totals from each column.
Now, try to reflect on the amounts and spending categories where you’ve marked “Spent too much for the lack of joy I felt.” Why do you think you have been spending too much in this category? Is it because you got into a habit? Is it because you haven’t carefully considered this spending category? And, if you were to reduce your spending in this category or from this merchant, how would you rather spend that money to bring you more joy?
Step 3: Commit to a budget that adds more joy to your life
Are you ready to cut back on the categories or merchants that brought you less joy? Try starting with a small change. Alicia Butera, CFP® recommends starting with a 25% cut-back on the “spent too much for the lack of joy I felt” categories, and reallocating those funds to your “spent too little for all the joy I felt categories” categories. Try that out for a week or two and then re-evaluate how you feel. If it feels good, consider re-adjusting to 50%, then maybe even 75%. In terms of the “My spend to joy ratio was just right” categories, you can leave that alone for now, but continue to monitor for the ways in which those categories may make you experience more or less joy.
Once you’ve completed steps one through three, let us know how it went in the comments below. Consider doing these steps every week for the next few months to become more aware of your spending patterns, change your spending habits, and most importantly, learn what brings you the most joy in life!
(Psst…you can also do this exercise, but in less time, with the Mint app!)
Minters – Say hello to our newest feature, the Mint Transaction Widget on iOS!
With the new Mint widget, you can now track your spending faster than ever without even opening the Mint app. It’s customizable, so you can change your view depending on whether you want to see your last 1, 3, or 5 transactions. Designed to be both convenient and secure, the new transaction widget will nevershow up on your lock screen.
How to Get Started
Step 1: Touch and hold an empty area on your home screen.
Step 2: Tap the plus sign (+) in the top left corner.
Step 3: Search or scroll to find Mint and tap “add widget” when it pops up.
Step 4: Choose the widget format you like best. Now you have a view of your transactions without needing to open the app!
Insider tip: if the line item is grey on the widget it means the transaction is pending. The widget is also available in dark mode.
The Budgeting Tool You’ve Been Looking For
Mint is here to be your all-in-one finances app, where you can connect your accounts, bills, and more – in just one place. And that’s why we’ve rolled out new features like the Transaction Widget, the This Month tab, and personalized Alerts. You deserve a better holistic view of your financial picture, and we’re here to give that to you!
Whether you’re just starting out, or have been budgeting for a while, the Mint widget empowers you to quickly access your finances any time, any place – within seconds. With the transaction widgets, tracking your spending has never been easier.
Try it out for yourself to stay on top of your finances!
There isn’t a shortage of home budget software options, but no two are created equal. Some are so simplistic that there’s little to gain from the investment. Some have a host of features, but you might never learn what half of the features do.
You shouldn’t have to settle for mediocrity just because you’re not a financial wizard. The best software takes some of the most complicated and beneficial features, and transforms them for the layperson.
Here are 5 features that make home budget software worth the time and effort.
Money management isn’t your favorite activity, so why make it more difficult? Home budget software should be simple, intuitive, and not require a degree in accounting. If it looks complicated, it probably is.
Features should explain what each step does and why, and you shouldn’t have to read a textbook-size manual first. That gives you confidence and puts you in control. Entering information by going through the motions can make you scratch your head, and it doesn’t offer much toward true personal finance management.
Importing Your Information
When information is automatically imported, it saves time and reduces errors. From bank accounts to credit cards, budget software should let you enter account information, then it should do the rest.
Information import not only populates each account in the program with accurate information, it automatically updates when changes happen. For example, when you use your debit card, your checking account automatically reflects the purchase in the budget software. That’s intuitive financial management.
Nothing wrecks a budget faster than miscalculation. Home budget software shouldn’t ask you to add and subtract. Ever. Not even to project what would happen if you paid off one credit card or got a new mortgage. Otherwise, you might as well use a pencil, ledger and calculator, and wing it on your own.
Automatic calculation is more than simply keeping your checking account balance straight. It’s what gives you an accurate snapshot of your finances as a whole, and shows how each budget factor affects the others.
You probably don’t speak Latin, and some budget software might as well present information in a foreign language. Simplicity is key, so the best programs help you make sense of the information. This lets you make better decisions instead of only seeing the results of past ones.
Graphs and charts package strings of numbers and percentages into a format that’s easier to process. Think of it as a visual aid. Instead of just line items on a spreadsheet, look for software that puts information into logical groups.
You might spend more time examining the budget at home, but mobile access keeps you in the loop when you’re not at your desk. This means the software should be web-based, which is the only way you can access the same information from different devices.
Mobile access is streamlined. You might not have every feature that you have at home, but you’re still informed and in control of your money on the road.
Think that’s a lot to ask of budget software? Not when you rely on Mint.com. All these features, and plenty more, are at your fingertips 24 hours a day.
Sign up for your free Mint.com account today. Google+
For most people, buying a house is the largest purchase they will make in their lives- so it goes without saying that this is not an impulse buy but one in which preparation and research is key. Before you even begin considering signing your name on that dotted line, you need to ensure that your personal budget is in check. By fine-tuning your finances and looking at a home purchase as a lifelong investment, you can buy your new home with minimal monetary concerns and a happy outlook for the future. These ten tips will help you get your personal budget in shape, get the best mortgage for your money, and finally buy that new home you have been dreaming of.
1. Figure Out Your Household Income After Tax
How much money do you actually have? Check your pay stub or use an online income calculator and find out how much money you are left with each month after taxes.
2. Make a List of All Monthly Household Expenses
Next you need to write out all your monthly expenses like bills, utilities, insurance, as well as groceries and any extras such as tuition. The number you have left is your expendable income. Mint.com offers a free online budget plan that organizes your spending and tracks outgoing expenses.
A personal budget is the first step towards buying a new home.
3. Know Where to Cut Back
Once you have all your expenses down, take a look and see if there are areas that you can improve upon. Maybe you are spending more than you expected going out to eat or paying for a service you no longer use. Make adjustments so that you can put as much money as possible into savings and paying off outstanding credit cards and loans.
4.Pay Off Debt
While you can technically buy a house with debt, it is much easier to not only be approved but have a handle on your mortgage payments when you don’t have to worry about outstanding debt. It will also improve your credit score, an important determinant factor when purchasing a home, by minimizing what you owe as much as you can.
5. Save for a Deposit
Though the economy looks to be on the up, lenders are still being extra cautious about lending money. Many require at least a 20% deposit- if you are purchasing a home for $150,000 that would mean you need to put down $15,000 up-front. It may seem like a big chunk of change, and it is, but if you focus your personal budget on saving towards that payment it can definitely be done and improve your chances of getting approved.
Buy your dream home with financial confidence.
6. Buy Realistically
If you buy more house than you can realistically afford, it will eventually catch up with you. Most lenders advise that you can buy a house that is around 2.5 times your annual salary. The total housing cost needs to include not only the mortgage, but also other expenses such as maintenance costs and homeowner association fees.
7. Get Pre-Approved
To really put your best foot forward, it is advised to get pre-approved from a lender before you start house hunting. When you are ready to put down an offer, you will be taken more seriously because they know you are already ready to go ahead with the sale.
8. Hire a Home Inspector
Hire a home inspector, separate from the appraiser required by the lender, to find any potential problems you may need to deal with in the future. This will also protect you from getting into unforeseen major issues before the property is yours.
9. Check the Market Before You Make an Offer
Before you make an offer, check similar homes in the area to make sure you are paying a fair price in the local market. It could be a potential bargaining chip if the property you want is priced higher than other homes in the neighborhood.
Make that dream a reality!
10. Buying a house
By taking the time to get your finances in order, save for a deposit, and research the market thoroughly- you are ready to buy your new home with confidence.
Buying a new home will be an exciting chapter in your life, do it right, and reap the benefits of a secure and happy future.
Jessica Galbraith is a full-time writer and author.
A routing number is a unique number that identifies a specific banking institution. Each routing number is made up of nine digits. Routing numbers are sometimes referred to as an American Bankers Association routing transit number or an ABA RTN. Large multinational banks can have several different routing numbers, typically based on the state in which someone holds an account. Meanwhile, small banks usually have just one routing number.
How to Find Your Routing Number
To find your routing number, here are four ways to look for it:
By looking at your personal checks. The routing number is almost always located on the bottom left side of the check, but sometimes it’s listed in the middle. Remember that you won’t get a routing number on a debit card, as your debit card uses an entirely different numbering system
By logging into your online bank account. When you’re logged in to your online account, you should be able to find your routing number under your checking account information.
By searching a bank’s website. We’ve linked the routing numbers of 10 of the largest commercial banks in the United States:
By contacting your bank directly. If you’re unable to find your bank’s routing number or want to double-check that you have the right one, contact your bank.
When Do You Need to Know Your Routing Number?
Account and routing numbers work together to identify your account and ensure that your money ends up in the right place. An account number is your bank customer ID, and it is unique to every account holder. Routing numbers aren’t unique to each person: they correlate with banking institutions to indicate exactly where funds are coming from and going to during a transaction. Both are required to complete most basic banking transactions.
Here are some common scenarios when you’ll need to know at least your routing number:
Setting up automatic bill payments
Establishing direct deposits
Reordering or processing checks
Sending money internationally
Making tax payments
What To Do If Your Routing Number Changes
If two banks merge or if one bank acquires another, your routing number might change. It’s a rare occurrence, but if it happens, it’s helpful to know what to do. As an account holder, you’ll be given notice of the change with enough time to make adjustments.
Follow the steps issued by your bank. You’ll know months in advance if your routing number is going to change. Your bank will inform you of any necessary steps, such as changing your automatic bill payments to the new routing number.
Update your automatic transactions. Consider all of your automatic deposits, withdrawals, and money transfers. Make sure to switch each of them to the new routing number. Be sure your employer has the right direct deposit information. It’s better to make the changes earlier than later, so nothing gets stuck in limbo.
Order new checks. Your old checks might work for a while, as your bank phases out the old routing number. You’ll need new checks eventually, so it may be wise to go ahead and place your order. Check to see if your bank will give you a free box of checks for the switch.
Keep your financial records current. Update your financial documents to ensure they’re accurate. Be sure any account and routing information is kept in a secure, confidential location.
Knowing how to locate your routing number and important banking information helps you to be more in charge of your finances. Understanding how much money you should keep in your checking account at all times is crucial, too. From budgeting your automatic payments to saving for family fun, you can be well on your way to financial prosperity. After all, when you’re confident about your finances, you’ll be able to better enjoy all that life has to offer.