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Paula Pant

Budgeting & Personal Finance

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Making Smart Choices with Your Discretionary Money

Monday April 14, 2014

Imagine that you have some wiggle room in your budget. (I know, I know ... it's a fantasy for some, and a daily reality for others. Keeping your costs low, and working extra jobs/hours, can help you create this wiggle room. Bit I digress ... )

If you have some discretionary room in your budget, how can you decide whether or not to "upgrade" a purchase? What's worth spending money on ... and what's not?

Find out in the latest article, How to Make Smart Spending Decisions.

How to Avoid Losing Money to Scams

Monday April 14, 2014

Imagine this: You tour a beautiful apartment. It's in the perfect location, and its well within your budget. The property manager says that there's a ton of interest in the unit, so you need to act now if you want to secure the space. So you write a check, right there on the spot, to lock down the apartment.

And then you never see him again.

This is a classic example of a rental scam. Some people obtain the key (or otherwise break-in) to a model showroom or a vacant dwelling. They pose as property managers, collect a handful of deposits from unsuspecting renters, and vanish into the night air.

Part of solid financial planning is protecting yourself from scams, theft and other financial calamities. In these articles, learn how to be wary of losing money to scammers.

Where Should You Keep Your Long-Term Savings?

Thursday April 10, 2014

Your savings fall into three categories: Money you'll spend in the next few months, money you'll spend in the next 5-10 year, and very-long-term savings that you'll keep for more than a decade.

You'll want to put your very-long-term savings in some type of vehicle in which that money can grow. But that adds another layer of complexity. You'll need to think about risk, diversification and many other factors.

One of these factors that you'll need to consider is tax-efficiency. So in this latest article, we look at the tax implications of putting your long-term savings in the market versus in real estate. Enjoy!

What is a SIMPLE IRA?

Monday April 7, 2014

What's a SIMPLE IRA? And are you eligible to contribute to one?

In this article, we identify the meaning of a finance term: SIMPLE IRA. We explain which businesses can create these types of retirement accounts, and why they'd want one.

Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

Sunday April 6, 2014

Should you refinance your mortgage, or stick with your current mortgage? That's the question we seek to answer in this month's Q&A installment.

In this article, we discuss all the factors you should consider, such as the length of time remaining on your mortgage, interest rate, and more.

How to Teach Young Children About Money

Friday April 4, 2014

You want to teach your kids about money, but they're so young. Is it too early? Will they grasp financial lessons?

If they're over age 3, then the answer is yes -- it's time to start. In this article, we share tips on how to teach kids age 3 to 6 about budgeting.

Tips include:

  • Set savings goals that are attainable within a few weeks
  • Teach visual and tangible lessons (e.g. use jars, charts, colors)
  • Discuss charity
Enjoy!

Financial Tips for Renters

Wednesday April 2, 2014

Here are three financial tips for renters:

  • Live one or two steps "below" your ideal price point. Rent a space that doesn't have such high-end finishes, or find a roommate who can split the bills.
  • Create lists. If you're a first-time renter, chances are, you haven't properly inventoried all of the items you'll need to buy. Make space in your budget for items like pots, pans, hairdryers, and home furnishings.
  • Buy renter's insurance. Your landlords' homeowners insurance policy won't cover your personal possessions. It's your responsibility to ensure against loss.

Read more: Should You Buy or Rent Your Home?

And for those of you who are new homeowners: How Much Should You Budget for Home Maintenance and Repairs?

How Much Can You Spend on Car Payments?

Monday March 24, 2014

How much money should you budget for car payments?

I'd challenge that question. Rather than asking, "What's the maximum I can pay each month?," I'd recommend that you ask, "What's the minimum I can pay each month?" Avoid going into debt for your car. But if you absolutely must, borrow as little as possible, and buy an ultra-affordable car.

Yes, that means you'll need to sacrifice some luxuries. Buy a used car that's higher-mileage than you wanted. Forgo the heated leather seats and the sunroof. But keep your budget on-track.

And when you do buy your ultimate dream car, pay cash.

Read more in this article, How Much of a Car Payment Can I Afford?

Actions You Should Avoid in Order to Keep Your Budget On-Track

Friday March 21, 2014

C'mon, be honest: When you read advice about responsible financial planning, do you ever get the urge to pull that all-too-human stunt where you wind up doing something, just because someone tells you not to do it? (Oh, I'm not supposed to stop at Starbucks for a coffee each day? You don't know me!)

If so, then you'll enjoy this article: How to Blow Your Budget in 5 Easy Steps. It's a look at all the things you should avoid doing, to keep your budget on-track.

Do You Need to Factor for Inflation When You're Planning a Retirement Budget?

Tuesday March 18, 2014

Here's a vexing problem:

It's relatively easy for you to think: "I'm happy spending $50,000/year or $90,000/year or $120,000/year today (whatever that number might be for you and your family.) Therefore, that's the budget I'd like to spend each year in retirement."

And then you'll multiply that number, to see how much you need in a retirement portfolio by the time you retire. You're budgeting for the future.

But here's the quandry: You're not going to retire for another 20+ years. And inflation will lower the value of your dollars by that time. Do you need to adjust for that?

Find out in this article.

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