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Elle Martinez

Summer Savings Challenge – Couple Money Jumps In!


This  is my video entry for GOBankingRates Summer Savings Video Challenge. Share with your friends using #GBR1MinMoneyTip

GoBankingRate’s is hosting a fun challenge over at their site and I joined in. It’s the Summer Savings Video Challenge and up as you can see in the video above, yours truly entered.

One video will get the contest’s grand prize – $1,000  in a savings account (basically catnip to a personal finance blogger!). The winner will be announced at FinCon14.

With over 30 bloggers participating, I think it’s a friendly and competitive way to get the word out on saving more.

My Savings Tip – Always Transfer Your Savings

Part of the Savings Challenge is sharing a tip and my submission was about actually saving your money.

Wait, huh?

Okay, hear me out. I’m promise you it’s not as crazy as you think.

Too many times, we save money but we don’t actually put it away. I’ve been guilty of it myself -I find a better deal on insurance and then I promise/plan/dream that we’ll use that  money for savings or paying off the student loan, but it doesn’t happen.

Why?

It’s because that ‘saved’ money is stuck in our checking account where it becomes buffer and over time, it eventually gets spent. It doesn’t mean that we frivolously spent it, but it didn’t make the impact that it could have. Hearing from you and talking with friends, I see that this happens more often than we’d like to admit. It’s and example of  failure of the last mile.

That’s why I chose to make my summer savings tip about fixing that last step and have you really save your money.

Automate Your Savingsextra income

As readers, I’m sure you can guess what my solution is: automate your savings. I’ve been writing about since I started Couple Money and I think it can be especially helpful for busy couples.

When you find a way to cut your cable bill or even eliminate it, go ahead and set up a transfer from your checking into your savings.

You may think that it’s chump change, but getting into the habit of saving your money can snowball and change how fast your money grows. The key to success is having a system that makes it easy for you to stash that cash.

Spreading the Word on Savings

I’m not going lie or hide it I’d love your support and and I would be extremely grateful if you share my video (Why You Need to Automate Your Savings - http://ow.ly/zvulF) with friends and loved ones on Facebook or Twitter.

I mean who doesn’t want to win $1,000?!

Seriously, though, I’d really appreciate if you just spread the word about the savings challenge on wwherever you hang out online. I truly believe that this challenge can be inspire others to stash their cash . Most of us can save more and most of us want to move towards financial freedom.

How about you – what savings tip  do you have to share?

Photo Credit

How to Encourage Your Spouse to Start (and Keep) a Budget

While there are those who are stubborn and insistent about not budgeting, I’ve found that most people are willing to make a change to improve their family’s finances. Getting them started though can be a huge challenge if this is something that they have little experience with or worse, they’ve had a bad time (such growing up where every penny was counted to the point of causing a ton of stress and guilt).

If you’re having trouble getting your spouse on board with a family budget, here are some tips on to get started and how to keep the peace as you find the best way as a couple.

Take the Bite Out of Budget

It may seem like a small change, but there is a significant mind shift when using spending plan versus budget. People associate have a budget with having restrictions and for some who have failed at keeping a budget, it can be a huge mental barrier.

Using the word budget can be just as appealing as saying the word diet for someone who has no interest in the idea.  Instead you can re-frame it so you’re highlighting what the budget does – telling your money how to work for you.

Create Rules for Your Money, Together marriage and finances

The nest step with making a sustainable spending plan is deciding what is important and what you need it to accomplish. Need some ideas? Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Every dollar has a purpose. When you create a budget, make sure you give a job for all of your money. Some of it will be needed to cover the essential bills, some of it will go towards savings, some of if for giving, and some of it for spending.
  • Make sure fun is in the budget. Speaking of spending, being a miser isn’t going to encourage your spouse to stay on track for very long. You should have room in your budget for some fun stuff. You can also dial it back as you two get better control over your money. Your long term goal is to get them on board with the spending plan, so be patient.
  • Save for rainy days and hiccups. Life happens – cars break down, appliance fail at the most inconvenient time, and bills can seemingly come out from nowhere. Prepare yourselves and stash away some money into an emergency fund.

You don’t need an extensive list, just a few guidelines to keep both of you on track.  If you have children, make sure they know the rules.

If you need a starting place for your budget, I’d suggest using the 50/20/30 budget. How does it work?

  • 50% Needs:  This covers your essential expenses like rent/mortgage, food, utilities, and transportation. Make it automatic payments from your checking  so you two don’t have to worry about late fees.
  • 20% Future: This money is allocated for your savings goals including retirement and kid’s college fund. As soon as your paycheck comes in, go ahead and transfer this into savings.
  • 30% Wants: Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest, refers to this as lifestyle choices. What do you two enjoy?

For some this framework is the perfect way for them to see their finances. Having a big enough chunk of their money dedicated to the things that make them happy while still taking care of their current and future needs will curb their spending behavior.

Of course you two have to make the decision about what is sustainable for your family.

Find Tools That Suit Both of You

There are plenty of free and low cost tools that the two of you can use to create and maintain your budget. The two of you have to decide which fits your situation best. Here a some of my top picks to get you started:

  •  Mint: It’s easy for us as the data from our joint account are automatically pulled and Mint organizes it for us. With a few clicks we can check month to month and we can compare them against each other. You can also drill down to get to the individual transaction.
  • Finovera: In line with their vision of giving you one spot to manage your finances, Finovera gives users a digital filing cabinet (currently with no size limit) to store documents such as bank statements, tax returns, and other important records.
  • Gazelle Budget: For first time budgets, Dave Ramsey has a free and paid option to get you two started. You enter your income and it can divvy up your money into various categories.

Another advantage of using the above mentioned tools is that it can be incredibly easy to keep one another in the loop when it comes to your money.  Even if one of you takes charge of the day to day finances, it’s important that you both know how much is coming in and where it is going. Money and communication go hand in hand with a successful partnership.

One last tip, I’d like to point out is to give yourself time to make mistakes and improve. Even if the two of you are on the same page, it can take time to get it right. We ourselves have worked to make sure that our family’s budget works for both of us. It’s well worth the effort and we’re less stressed about money and more focused on each other and our goals.

Thoughts on Encouraging Your Spouse to Save

What about you? How do you create a family budget? What has worked really well for you? What helped you two to work it out?

Photo Credits: 401K and giumaiolini

How to Encourage Your Spouse to Save More

I wholeheartedly feel that your spouse can be a powerful force with your finances. When you two are working hard towards your financial and personal goals that you’ve created together, you two are not only improving your finances, you’re making your marriage stronger.

On the other hand, it can be a daunting (and sometimes frustrating) task if one of you is a habitual spender and the other is saver. I’ve heard from other couples about the struggles and strains. Is there a way to help get your spouse on board? Can you save money and your marriage?

While every couple is different, I do believe that certain principles can help the two of you navigate this possibly tricky situation.

Start Small and Respect Each Other

Don’t expect your spouse to make changes overnight. More than likely they’ve had this habit for years before you two got together, so it will take some time to get them on board. Understanding how they’ve picked up these patterns can give you a clearer idea on how to approach them about saving more.

Talking directly about money can be stressful and put some on the defensive, so it may instead be helpful to just talk about goals instead and go from there.

What does your spouse want to do in the next year or five? Do they want to switch jobs, travel more, or start a new hobby? You may be surprised to find a goal that you can get behind to help them to learn to save.

Split the Difference

What if your husband or wife wants to spend the money you just saved? What do you then? There are several ways you can tackle this, but you may find keeping small separate accounts a plus. Go ahead and split the money saved – you can save or invest your half and they can spend theirs.

You may find that your spouse will start seeing a difference without you having to constantly reminding them of the benefits of saving.

Show, Don’t Just Tell

Speaking of reminders, sometimes, it’s better to let the results do the talking. Even though you really have their (and your family’s) best interest at heart, showing them how fun saving can be can be more powerful than telling them.

Do you have something that you really love and want to get (without getting into debt)? Save for it. Keep your spouse in the loop by having a chart on the fridge with your progress. Perhaps they will see that it really doesn’t take long to buy what you want, you just need to have a plan.

Make It Easy to Save

What if it works? What if you get your spouse on board to try and save more money? Start off with a joint goal that you both want to reach – a debt free vacation, a new television, or just bumping up your emergency fund. The point is you want your spouse to be excited about saving.

Go ahead and make it easy on both of you – automate your savings so the money is transferred as quickly as it is deposited. That can be a huge help as the money is tucked away before the temptation to spend it kicks in.

Thoughts on Encouraging Your Spouse to Save

I’m saying this as someone who has a spouse who was a saver and I’ve learned to not only appreciate the frugality of it, but I’ve embraced it. Saving more went from being a financial buffer or something to do crunch time, but it has become an enjoyable habit. I can have fun now and still have something left over for later.

What about you? Have you two have to deal with two different ways of tackling money? Was one of you a spender and the other a saver? What helped you two to work it out?

Photo Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

Finding the Best Banking and Investing Accounts

One of the best ways to keep your money working for you is to make sure it is stashed in the best bank and investment accounts. Every couple has their particular preferences on what they are looking for, but there are some basic requirements that you no doubt want to keep in mind so your money stays with you instead of lining a bank or brokerage’s pockets.

No matter how you handle finances, it is helpful to review  your accounts every now and then to make sure you’re earning the money you deserve. You may find that there is  a better deal out there for the two of you.

Getting the Right Checking and Savings Account for You

Having the best checking and savings accounts for your family can be a huge boost to your finances. We learned this firsthand when we opened our first joint accounts.

When we were married, we picked Bank of America to be our home for our joint accounts. It made to us – it had plenty of branches and ATMs in the area and I had a student checking account that I was fine with.

I’ve about it before, but long story short, it was not the right bank for us. For all the hassles, we were really getting anything. Every quarter they’d show the interest we earned in our savings account and it was a joke – literally pennies.

Fed up, we switched and have been happy with our joint accounts at Capital one 360. We have fantastic service with them, earn more interest on our savings, and more importantly, it’s easier to stay on top of our finances. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for a new bank. Whether you go with them or not, you two should be using a bank or credit union that fits your goals.

Make Your Accounts Work for You

The first step is probably defining what essentials the accounts need to do well and what you’d like the accounts to have.  For our primary checking account account we needed a place that was:

financial independence capital one 360

  • Reliable (FDIC or NCUA insured)
  • No maintenance fees
  • Pretty fast (and free) bill pay system
  • Conveniently located ATMs
  • Good customer service

We also wanted a place where our savings could actually earn us some real money. When it came to making a choice we went with Capital One 360 (back when it was ING Direct).

We started by moving over our savings and we very pleased with the interest we were getting every month. Next we moved our checking account, keeping some buffer money in our old account for a little bit in case we forgot any semi-annual bills.

Even if you’re already a member, there are some great bonuses out there for you:

Finding the Best Accounts for Your Investments

It can be easy to accumulate several different investment accounts, especially if you’ve changed jobs over the years. Rolling over your 401(k) can be fantastic way for you to consolidate your accounts and have more control over your money.

Besides your retirement accounts at work, if you don’t have them already, consider opening up an IRA for each of you.  These accounts can be powerful assets as you make your contributions. One of their biggest advantage is that you have more freedom in what investments you choose unlike a 401(k) where you may only have limited options.

When looking at where we wanted to stash our money, we chose Vanguard and Betterment.  I like Vanguard for a few reasons:

  • Lower Fees: Vanguard’s index funds are some of the lowest in the industry. If you register for e-delivery of account documents, Vanguard won’t charge you an annual account service fee.
  • Free ETFs:  Being with Vanguard means I can buy their ETFs free. Since I already buy these it would save me some money.
  • Solid Reputation: Vanguard is known for having great customer service and being a valuable resource when it comes to investing. They offer investing advice in an understandable language.

For my husband, Betterment was a practical solution. Like Vanguard, Betterment makes index investing simple and easy to set up and manage.

  • Saves Money: Betterment is very reasonably priced. There are no transaction fees, no deposit/withdrawal fees, and no fees to rebalance your portfolio.
  • Saves Time: Keeping your portfolio on target with your asset allocation is easy with Betterment as it’s done automatically for you. You don’t have to stress out about where to invest. Once you’ve set your plan, Betterment automates the process.
  • Easy to Navigate: Going through the set up process was a snap. In addition to asking me for personal and funding information to open the account, Betterment also went ahead asked about financial goals we had.
  • Encourages Contributions: The easiest way to stay on target for your investment goals is to go ahead and automate your IRA contributions. With Betterment, it’s quick and easy to set-up so you don’t have to remind yourself to make your monthly contribution.

We’re really happy with both companies and recommend them for anyone who needs a a place to build their investments.

Get a Check Up Today

If you want to keep tabs on your money, there are some wonderful and free options like Mint and Personal Capital. Mint allows you to pull all the data from your various accounts into one place. We’ve used them to quickly set-up and adjust our budget.

With Personal Capital you can get a financial snapshot of all of your accounts and you may qualify to get a free portfolio check-up to make sure your investments are aligned with your personal goals.

Thoughts on Banking as a Couple

Every couple is different, so I’m very curious to see how you handle your finances. How many accounts do you have between the two of you? How do you stay on top of what you have? Which banks, brokerages, and credit unions do you love to use?

Photo Credit: Renee Barron

Dealing with Rising Vet Bills

Our cats are a part of our family and we enjoy their company. My little girl loves to help out with taking care of them. Even though she is a toddler, we give her responsibilities like helping with feedings and keeping the water bowl full.  It’s an easy way for her to learn that pets require love and attention.

Lately our older cat has been having some problems and that meant  extra vet visits and with it bigger bills.

Taking Our Cat to the Vet

It appeared that our grumpy old cat is starting to run into some problems. He’s always been an anxious cat so several years ago after trying behavior modification and diet change, he was prescribed medicine to calm him down. It has helped immensely and he is more pleasant to be around.

But now he’s starting to have urinary tract, thyroid, and possible kidney complications that have involved time and money as we’ve had to get exams and tests done to diagnose and treat them.

Looking over the past year, expenses for our buddy is a whopping $943 for this year so far. That total includes vet visits (and tests), medicines, and typical expenses like cat food and litter.

Can We Afford the Increasing Veterinarian Bills?

It’s reaching the uncomfortable point of having to discuss whether or not we can keep this up.  While running tests is important, it can quickly add up. In addition to how expensive x-rays are, we also have to pay extra so our cat is sedated as he is highly anxious.

Fortunately our vet listened to our concerns and agreed that we have to look at the different options and start with treatments that are both likely to work and fit within our budget. Since it seemed that our cat has a stone we went with the modified diet treatment. If the stone is made of a particular material, it should be enough to help break it down.

We’ve been keeping him on the special diet these last few weeks and we’ve noticed a big improvement. We are taking him back to the vet soon for a follow-up and x-ray to make sure that it has been removed.

So it looks like our budget has been squeezed, but not broken. We’ll be keeping an eye on him to make sure that if anything changes we catch it sooner than later.

Thoughts on Taking Care of Furry Friends

While we have a budget for pets, this has taught us to add some buffer for the future.  We hope we won’t have to use it, but with our older cat it may be necessary. If you’re think about adopting a pet and want to get an idea of how much to budget, the ASPCA has a great source of various animals’ costs.

How many of you own a pet? Have you gone through something similar with your pets? How did you handle it?

Photo Credit: www.sunsetseo.com