Turning $3 Into $100

  

Have you ever gone into the store to pick up a gallon of milk and come out with $100 worth of stuff?  This happens on a daily basis to many. Then all of sudden you look up and have no money left in your budget and it is only the 20th of the month. Here are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening so that you will be able stick to your budget and have money left over every month. 

  1. Plan your menus – Before you go to the store, make sure you sit down and plan out your menus for each day you are buying for – i.e. if you buy groceries twice a month, then plan your menu for 2 weeks. And remember when you are planning that you don’t have to eat like kings and queens evey day of the week. In order to save money, we eat sandwiches, leftovers, breakfast, etc. several days a week. Also, pick at least one week a month to be “pantry week” where your menus are based on what you already have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. This saves on waste and saves money. 
  2. Make a list – After you plan your menus, make a list and stick to it. This will help you not to just roam aimlessly about in the store. This will also save money because you can add items on your list that are on sale in the circular and take advantage of sales. 
  3. Use cash – it is so easy to just swipe and go, but doing so will make you go over budget every month. $5 a week over budget is over $250 a year. It adds up quickly. Also using cash will help you only get milk when you run into the store. We pay much more attention to our money when we touch it than when we swipe. 

Budgets are not fun but are necessary for building wealth. Sticking to them can be challenging especially in the food category because food is a need. Using the steps above and others like not going when you are hungry will help you stick to your budget and not overspend by $97. 

Tips for a Successful Tax Day

  

April 15th is fastly approaching. Many of you have already filed because you are getting a refund, but many of you haven’t knowing you may owe in the end. But you have nothing to worry about. Here are some tips on how to have a successful tax season and beyond. 

  1. Only pay what you owe – your goal every year needs to be to break even with your taxes. This is what the withholding calculator on the IRS website is for. Owing the IRS is not convenient and giving them too much every month resulting in a large refund is taking away money you need. Using the withholding calculator will get you very close and keep things easy and stress free. Make sure to use the calculator in Feb and again in Sept to keep yourself on track. 
  2. Receipts, receipts, receipts – Make sure you do not take any deductions that you cannot back up with a receipt. And keep those receipts with your copy of your return for 7 years. The 2 main reasons for an audit are random screening and red flags. Either way, receipts will make this process simple should it ever occur. 
  3. Use a professional when necessary – if you have a lot of deductions or sources of income, are self-employed, basically anything other than a simple return, hire a professional. It will be worth every penny to make sure you take all allowable deductions and to make sure your return is accurate. 
  4. Owe money – don’t panic – if you owe this year don’t panic. You can set up an installment agreement if you do not have the cash on hand. You will want to pay it off as soon as possible and use the withholding calculator to fix the issue going forward. But not filing because you owe is a serious mistake. One reason is it is against the law. Another reason is there is an additional penalty for not filing on top of everything else. It is not worth it and not necessary. 

Most people hate taxes and tax season. But there is no need. Taxes are part of life. How you handle them will determine how stressful they are to you. My final advise – file you taxes whether you owe or not. If you do, set up an installment agreement and pay as soon as possible. Use the withholding calculator to fix the future and move on with your life. If you set things up right, April 15th is just another day. 

IRS Call – Real or Scam

  

I have had more calls this week regarding the IRS phone scam that is out there so I felt like I should help everyone to understand what is happening and what to look for.  

There are several reasons to know that this is a scam. 

  1. The IRS will never call you demanding money. If you actually owe them or if an error is found in a tax return, you will receive a letter from them with an explanation and a number to call them at your convenience. Let me repeat – the IRS will never call you demanding money. 
  2. The IRS will never threaten you or tell you that if you don’t send them money (prepaid cards, cash, checks) they will send the police. Again even if you owe taxes, you can work out an installment agreement. If you ignore actual tax debt, they will use proper channels to collect (certified letters and wage garnishments). 

The IRS is a scary thought to most which is why the criminals have chosen this avenue to use to steal your money. But being aware of how things really work and asking questions will empower you to not become a victim. Here are a few other ways to protect yourself:

  1. Know what you owe – they are calling people who have never owed taxes in their life. If you do not receive something in writing, then you are okay. If there was an actual error, which can happen, everything will be in writing. Never send money you “owe” without validating the validity of the claim – we can help if you ever need it. 
  2. Don’t answer any calls from numbers you don’t recongnize. This way they leave a message and you have their voice and message recorded. This will help you dissect their message and realize it isn’t real. 
  3. Ask them questions – it throws them off and helps you realize it is a scam. 
  4. Just hang up. You can call the authorities, but it isn’t necessary as they are aware. If it persists, I would report it. 

I hope this information helps. I hate all scams and I love empowering you with the knowledge you need to fight them. This is a scary one because everyone is a little afraid of the IRS. If you get a call and are not sure what it is about, contact me directly at dking@debbiking.com and I will be happy to help you. Don’t be a victim – you are a victor!

4 Positives When It Comes to Leasing a Car

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Cars are one of the hardest subjects for me to give advice on.  Cars themselves are a necessity 90% of the time, but the type of car and how you purchase it is all personal to your situation.  Usually I write about how to buy a car with the least amount of damage to your finances, but today I want to write about leasing a car.  Many people, including myself at times, think that leasing is just throwing your money away.  And on the surface it seems that way.  But today I want to share a story of a client of mine, Mary, for whom leasing was the perfect option.

First of all, like anything else you buy, it is about the math.  You can’t just look at the monthly payment or the total cost.  You have to look at both and more.  Whether you pay cash or finance a car (which I don’t recommend if you don’t have the money to back it up), you will have a car expense every month; either in the form of what you stash away or what you pay.  The monthly cost of owning a car is there in some form or other, just like car insurance.

Mary needed a car because her old car had 230,000 miles on it and was getting to the point where some major expenses could occur (engine, transmission, etc.).  Mary owned the car free and clear.  Also, 4-6 times a year, Mary was renting a car to go on vacation or to visit family because her car wasn’t reliable enough to go long distances.  This cost her about $200 each time.  After running all of the numbers (which we will visit in a moment), leasing was the best option for Mary.

Here is why:

  1. Cost – she was able to get a brand new, reliable car for $3000 down and $135 a month (2015 Honda Civic).  This is an amount that she had cash to cover; therefore, it wasn’t debt.
  2. Warranty – the car came with a full warranty covering everything for the term of the lease (36 months).  Therefore, she will not have any repair bills.
  3. Gap Ins – Gap insurance, which covers the difference if your new car is totaled or stolen, was included in the payment.  Adding this to your insurance policy if you buy a new car would be an added expense above the payment.
  4. New Car – she will get to drive a new car every 3 years if she stays on track with this plan.  If you are paying for a car every month anyway, in one form or another, why not drive a new one?

The bad parts of a lease are 2 fold – you never own the car and you have to stay within the mileage or you will owe additional money.  Now this worked for my client in this particular situation.

There were 3 options for Mary:

  • To lease the car, which down payment included, cost her $214/month to drive the car.
  • To buy the car, which with the same down payment, would cost her $379/month plus any repairs needed after the warranty expires.
  • To pay cash for the car, which would cost her $316/month plus repairs.

I want to make one point very clear about car buying or any other purchase you make – never promise money you do not have.  This is called debt and will stymie you every time.  The point of this post today and of Mary’s story is that when buying anything, but especially something as big as a car, do what works for you.  Run the numbers, count the cost, and make the best decision you can.  Mary paid cash, $8000, for the car with 233,000 miles on it.  She had it 7 years.  This means it cost her $100/month plus repairs plus rentals to own that car.  Now she can drive a new car, no worries, for less.  She is not in debt because she has the cash on hand to pay out the lease if something happens like a job loss.  In 3 years, she will look at the numbers again and for her, a lease will probably be the way to go.  But who knows what the future brings.  Do what works for you today and make the best, wisest decisions you can for you.  Personal finance is just that – personal.

Everyday is Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is the day of love. But in my marriage, and I would bet in your relationships as well, love is an everyday event. And with this philosophy comes a lot of savings and a lot less stress.

If you celebrate love everyday, then when February 14th rolls around it is just another day – another day of love. This means that it is not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on your loved one to show them your love.

Let me share what my husband and I have done for 11 years that has worked great for us:

* Get a card (from the dollar store) that helps us say what is sometimes hard to put into words.
* Make a romantic dinner at home (which we do at least once a week already). I love to make my shrimp scampi which is 3 ingredients and takes 15 minutes to make.
* Rent a movie or watch an old classic on TV.

I am very blessed. My husband, every so often for no reason at all, brings me beautiful flowers he buys at Aldi (if fresh, they have beautiful choices at low prices). That means more to me than a day on a calendar where he feels obligated to buy me something and take me somewhere.

The lesson here is not one of savings, although that works. And it is not one of love, although that is very important. The lesson is about not letting society decide for you what something means and what is expected of you. My husband and I do not feel bad for one second for how we celebrate. And if anyone asks what we are doing, we proudly tell them. Valentine’s Day is a date on a calendar but having and celebrating love in your life everyday is priceless.

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What About Me?

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We all at one time or another ask “But what about me?”.  Even the most selfless person will ask this question from time to time.  As a typical southern girl and a person of faith, I was raised to not be selfish and to always think of others first (which is not a bad thing, by the way).  And I have always said that selfish people do not become wealthy.

So why am I getting ready to teach you a situation where selfishness pays off?  Because it is not the form of selfishness where you don’t care about others and only care about yourself.  I am going to talk about a situation where being selfish will pay dividends for years to come.

When it comes to your money, there are scenarios where you need to be selfish.  Being selfless means that you don’t care about yourself and you put others first.  But when it comes to how you handle your money, doing what is best for you has to be the number one priority.  What works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.  You have to be selfish and stick up for what will work for you and your financial success.

For many years, I did what everyone else told me I should do.  I even went to school for what my parents told me I should, not what I wanted to do.  After I graduated, I did what everyone told me was the next logical step.  However, the next logical step didn’t work for me.  Taking the next logical steps landed me in $200,000 of debt, divorced and very unhappy.  I am not blaming my parents or anyone else.  This is all on me – I made the decision to follow the crowd and not be true to myself.

When it comes to your career, how you handle your money, when or if you buy a house, who you marry (or if), if you go to college, or any other life decision, you have to be selfish and do what is right for you no matter what other people think.  It is always good to get advice with large decisions, but always remember that the final decision has to be yours and if someone gets upset, it is their problem, not yours.

Personal finance is personal.  This is true for every aspect of it.  This major lesson that I learned the hard way is what makes our coaching firm different from the rest.  Our only goal is to find what works for you.  One way or another, find what works for you and do it 110%!

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**Make sure to visit Amazon to purchase Debbi’s award winning books in paperback and Kindle format.

Are You Really Ready?

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This weekend, to spite the controversy, the Super Bowl will be played – the biggest football game of the year.  The most asked question by reporters, coaches, captains, and friends will be “Are you ready?”  And you will not hear one player answer no.  They have been dreaming of this game their entire lives.  They have trained for this game.  It all comes down to this weekend.

But what happens if a player thinks he is ready but he really isn’t.  What if he has let the controversy cloud his mind?  What if he begins to doubt his abilities?  Or what if he gets a little too full of himself?  What will happen then?  Well the odds are he will not have a great game.  And the fact that he really isn’t ready might affect his dream and the dreams of all his teammates.

Many people have the dream to reach financial freedom by getting out of debt and saving money.  But the reality of whether or not you reach that dream is if you are truly ready.  I never wanted to have the financial stress that I had many years ago.  I didn’t wish for it – it wasn’t the story I told when asked “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  However, due to poor decisions, bad money habits, impatience and so much more, it became my reality.  Every time I went to the mailbox, every time the phone rang, every time I was stressed out about money, I thought “I have had enough.  I am going to change my situation”.  But the truth was, it would never change until I was really ready.

Really ready means that you will do anything to make it happen.  Do you think the football players just said “I want to go to the Super Bowl” and it just happened.  No – they had to work and work very hard, and sacrifice to make it happen.  And this is what you will need to do if you are looking to get out of debt and reach financial freedom.

The good news is this – the decision is 100% yours.  You don’t have to wait on anyone or anything to make your dream a reality.  You just have to be ready – I mean really ready!

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