Financial Wellness: Invest in Your Future

I have been open on my views that I do not feel that high schools (at least back in the day when I was in high school) properly prepare students for the realities of being an adult and they sure do not prepare students with the knowledge that they need going into college and what debt they will likely acquire. So you can imagine my excitement when THIS article landed in my inbox last week. 4 courses for young adults on money? Tell me more!

Well, apparently you are only a young adult if you are enrolled in college. All 4 of the courses mentioned are for college kids. I guess they assume that you have your life together after you graduate from college and you are perfectly aware of your finances. Even though this is when, excuse my language, but shit gets real. Loan payments are no longer deferred. Student discounts disappear. That free, er, “free” gym membership is gone. Public transportation is no longer free or discounted. You all of a sudden maybe want to eat more than ramen noodles. You are working a full-time job which means financial forms to fill out, health insurance to figure out, retirement funds…shit gets real when you get done with your schooling!

I’d like to see a real financial course for adults and I’d like to to be free! Really I would just like to not feel like I’m flopping around when it comes to my finances. And I’m not even just talking about paying bills and making ends meet. I got that…it’s the rest that I am not so good at.

Financial Wellness: Ok, Ok, I’m Obsessed.

With LearnVest, that is. I am just really enjoying their finance articles. The article I’m sharing today walks your through one year of breaking bad money habits, starting in February. These are all taken from the LearnVest article. I love this article because it doesn’t preach to stop doing something, but in terms of say buying lunch, do it every once in awhile, not every day. I’ll summarize my favorites. them but check out the link if you want more detailed info.

February:  Buying coffee, snacks, and lunch instead of bringing your own. Your grocery bill might increase a bit, but it won’t hold a candle to what your monthly budget looks like when you consistently buy these items.

April:  Not prioritizing high-interest debt. Again, just get rid of it. 

June:  Carrying a credit card balance. If you can’t pay off your credit card at the end of the month, THEN YOU DON’T NEED WHATEVER YOU ARE BUYING!

October: Don’t set and forget your savings, constantly be trying to add more and more to that account. 

December:  Buying holiday gifts last minute. My sister is awesome with this. She starts thinking very early on about what she wants to get for people and starts shopping deals in July/August. We have been Black Friday shopping enough too that she knows when she can get good deals on stuff. She also is an ace at using her credit card reward points and using them to her advantage. 

January:  Gift cards. Ug. I honestly despise getting gift cards because I either forget that I have them and never use them or feel too much pressure of what to buy or buy stuff just to buy stuff because I have gift cards. If you are thinking about getting someone a gift card, just get them cash instead unless you know for a fact that they are going to use the gift card. And be conscientious of the gift cards too. Buying those Visa ones that charge you $5 to activate or something…just give the person cash and save yourself some cash.

What are some of your bad money habits that you hope to break? My big one this year will be carrying a balance on my credit card as I keep chipping away at paying them off. Getting closer every pay period.

 

Financial Wellness: Toxic Money and Positivity.

Who knew that toxic money and positivity would ever go together. Well, in this pretty amazing article by LearnVest, they pair the two together. And it’s 3 pages of pure amazing-ness that breaks down to this:  stop ignoring your money problems, write them down, get a plan of attack put together, and be positive. Whether your goals are to retire at a certain age, pay off your student loans, or just start putting away money to buy a house/car/a new wardrobe, you need to have a plan. And you need to have a positive outlook. Saying that it is impossible to pay off your credit debt isn’t helpful and doesn’t move you into the right direction. (Some may even say that it helps you justify getting more into debt). But setting out a plan and addressing what your debt is or what your financial goals are does help you move in the right direction.

Financial Wellness: A Glimpse at my Attempt to Budget

One of my major goals for this year (and life in general) is to get better with managing my money and one of the best ways to do that is to set a budget (and stick to it). When I was growing up my mom always used a software to track her money. I decided to use a version of that but instead of using the software, just using an excel workbook and utilizing separate sheets within the workbook. 
So I have set up my 2014 Workbook 
 
 
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And then within these sheets, I have a section to track my income including what day I get paid
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And then I track my expenses including what date they were paid/scheduled for payment 
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And then I will track how much I spend on groceries and any other purchases that I make. 
So this is a look into my budget. My overall main goal for 2014, specifically with finances, is to pay off my credit cards. As you can see, I have 3 that I opened up during college thinking that I would get them paid off when I got a real job. This past year, I was making equal payments on each of them and that reallllly didn’t do anything. And after talking to some people who know finances better than me, I will concentrate on paying one card completely off and just making minimum payments on the others. And pay them off one by one and get rid of this stupid debt. I’d like to end 2014 with only have my student loans as my debt. 
 

Financial Wellness: Are You Really Saving Money?

Yesterday I attempted to pay some bills online. I prefer to pay my bills online because I can save on buying stamps and envelopes (if they don’t provide you one) and I can use paperless billing as well. I just keep my online bills in my inbox until I have paid them and then put them in my paid folder after I have paid them. I have a pretty good process that just makes it easy to do. Except yesterday, I discovered that one of the places was actually CHARGING me processing fees for paying my bills online vs. mailing them in. One place actually charges me $3.00/transaction to pay my bill online. Which means I have been spending $36 more a year on bills than I actually need to be. Now this may not seem like a HUGE deal, but when you are on a tighter budget like I am, $36=a week of groceries (almost).

The point of this post? Even though a company might say you are “saving time, money and paper” by switching to paperless billing, you might actually be SPENDING more money to pay online.

Wellness Check-In: Revisiting September Goals and Setting October Goals

  • Budget. Budget. Budget. Seriously. Budget my little budget off. …still need to work on this and keep it a priority to work on. 
  • Swimming. I really need to be working on my swimming and with the pool that I use being open for more hours and more days, I think it will help just being in the pool more and working on stuff. So I’m going to carry over my August goal of getting comfortable swimming 100s and utilizing flip turns. I am going to do a more detailed post on swimming tomorrow, but I am working on this as well. 
  • Stick to my workout schedule. I respond so well to schedules and having a good workout schedule is helping me out great! But I want to see myself making more gains-lifting, running, and swimming. 
  • Blogging. I feel like August was so hectic that my blog really started to slack so I want to make sure that I keep up the integrity of my blog. Especially since I am going to be in Kentucky for a week, I want to make sure that I have posts ready to go on at least travel days-I learned my lesson the hard way when I was travelling to Colorado. I feel like I did a much better job of this. I planned well for when I was traveling and made sure I had content ready to go. Even though it is time consuming, I want to keep up the integrity of my blog, especially as I am trying to get my blog name out there more and more. There have been a few posts when I was like…really Vanessa? 
  • Emotional/Mental wellness. I need to take more time to make sure this is in check. I struggled with this a lot during August. I let stress (both personal stress and work stress) take over my mental wellbeing. We hear this all the time, there cannot be happiness without sadness…it is completely true, for me. After my rough couple of weeks, I was having just a normal day, but nothing bad happened. I was with das boy and I just turned to him and said, “today is a great day.” 

September Goals/don’t judge me if I carry some of August’s goals over

  • Hey Vanessa, BUDGET! BUDGET! AND BUDGET SOME MORE! Get your spreadsheets out and get going!
  • Stick to the fitness schedule and write up a workout to do on the days when I am working out solo and then actually stick to it-regardless of how many guys are in the weight room.
  • Swim a mile.
  • Stay focused on my volunteer work and research with the leadership project.

I’m going to keep October nice, sweet, and simple. Just 4 goals-realistic yet challenging.

What are some of the things you want to accomplish in October?

Also, TODAY is the last day to enter my giveaway! So far my sister is the only one that has entered! So in the comments below, be sure to let me know what wellness means to YOU! I will pick a winner tomorrow and set up sending the Wellbeing book with a unique code so YOU can take the the finder and determine where you are at the wellbeing scales!

Financial Wellness: WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY :(

Well, here I am, yet again, with a car story. Not even a story. Just a, “why do all of my vehicles perpetually hate me?” rant.

About 10 days ago when I was driving home from work, my ABS light turned on (cue the joke about how I have been saying that I really want abs this year…ahahahahaha). In a vain shred of hope, I decided to give it a week to see if it was still coming on and what it was doing. Don’t worry, I read the owner’s manual to make sure it was semi-ok/safe and talked to some people and got feedback that it would be ok to drive w/ my ABS light on for a little bit but if if stays on, get it checked.

So Monday night when I was driving home and that little light was still on, I made the phone call that I didn’t want to make and made an appointment. I rushed getting ready this morning to drop my car off at the car place and prepared myself to part with my car and money. And now I impatiently wait to hear the prognosis.

I keep going back and forth with options on my car. I currently have a SUV which I bought because I knew that it would be useful for moving (I bought this car 3 years ago and since then I have moved, four going on five times…). But recently I have been exploring other options, more eco friendly and economical options. But I’m not sure what I want to do. I really don’t want to lease/buy a new car and have car payments because that is just another bill and another expense. But I am tempted to lease because of the “perks”. I have also thought about trading in my vehicle and getting a different one but one that like a straight trade or something. That doesn’t make any sense does it? Le sigh. I have also thought about just selling my car and buying a bike. But realistically, that really wouldn’t work very well.

I don’t know. I just want to be done w/ dealing with my car and all the issues. Because in addition to all of the stuff that has happened this summer, I also need to get new back tires, I put a new battery in it this year…it is just so much money that I spend on it all the time. I have been saying for a long time now that in an ideal world, I would live close enough to work and other places that I would need to go that I could walk or bike (on my imaginary bike…yup still don’t have one) and just not have to rely on a car any more. I could get rid of paying for car insurance and all the expenses that having a car bring. But then I would also have to deal with the “inconvenience” of not having a car.

This isn’t a post that gives advice or analyzes wellness information. It is just me ranting about the financial woes of having a car and that I cannot decide what to do. And me asking for advice and your experiences. Seriously. I need to be mentored on this.

 

Edit: something about something broken on my axel or something. It’s going to be $300 to fix. Which just an FYI means that JUST this summer I have spent $1000 on car repairs. Just this summer. Just car repairs. And to put that in perspective, I have spent an ENTIRE paycheck on car repairs this summer.

Financial Wellness: …er I don’t have a cool/witty title for this one…

I really just wanted to share this article. I am subscribed to variety of different newsletters and this Gallup one has to be one of my favorites. I signed up for it when I was taking my Well-Being Finder. They basically just send you a newsletter with new research that they are churning out.

THIS one by Frank Newport touches on something that I struggle with-I have money to get by week to week, but if something catastrophic happens (er, like car problems) I tend to not be as good to go. Turns out, I’m not alone in this headache. Around 70% of Americans struggle with the same issues I do. The Gallup research in this article indicates that until you are looking at around $48k/yr, unexpected major expenses are stressful and sometimes downright impossible to cover. (I’m lucky that my mom forced me to buy savings bonds as a little kid and she keeps them tucked away in a safety deposit box and they are my “oh shit money”.)

This research presents various different findings including people’s feelings on their spending (“Did you worry yesterday that you spent too much money?”) and how they feel basically about their financial security blanket. For the most part, American’s are feeling good day-to-day but once something major comes at them, it starts to get stressful and they may not have money tucked away for that.

This is really just some interesting research and unlike some research articles, the information is easy to read and comprehend and it just makes sense (I can’t tell you how many times in grad school I would read a research article and just go…Image

What are your thoughts on this research? Do you feel it is accurate? Do you have any financial tips on how to make sure you are covered if a major expense comes your way?

PS:  I leave TOMORROW for vacation! And since this is a financial wellness blog post-I stalked ticket prices for about a month to figure out when they were generally the lowest and got a ticket for less than $150 and I am staying w/ a friend (so no hotel costs!). I also knew that flights are generally cheaper M-Th and go up F-Su so I’m flying out on Thursday and coming back on Tuesday. Just a quick trip and not putting a major dent in my pocket book!

Financial Wellness: Are Coupons REALLY Worth It?

For the past couple of weekends, the boy and I have been watching Netflix shows but because we cannot decide on one show to watch…we go back and forth between watching a show I want to watch and watching a show he wants to watch. I have long loved Extreme Couponing and was excited to see that Season 3 was released on Netflix. So naturally, when it was my turn to watch a show, I made the boy watch it. And he got interested in how these people could save so much money. So he decided the next day to pick up a Sunday paper and see what coupons he could find.

I tried couponing first when I lived in Kentucky. And quickly stopped as it didn’t seem to me to really pay off…I was buying tons of stuff just to use the coupon that I had…even if I didn’t need that item. I learned quickly that couponing won’t save you money if you are just buying something just to use the coupon. Especially if you are just buying food and things for yourself and not for a family or not doing a big trip to donate items. But seeing the boy get excited for couponing may have inspired me to …

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…spend a couple bucks to see what coupons were in the paper. I also have been “clipping” coupons onto my Kroger card (but forgetting what coupons I clipped….

The determining factor for me when clipping a coupon was always this, “Is this something that I will actually use?” or “Is this something that I actually have a need for?” Clipping coupons can be a great way to save money. But you have to be smart about it as well. Scantilly Cllad is a blog run by a girl I went to high school with who has some great tips and ideas for finding coupons and how to use coupons. If you are interested in more in depth reading about coupons from an actual person who isn’t an Extreme Couponer, I highly recommend giving her blog a read.

I’ll do an in depth grocery haul when I start to use some of my coupons sometime in August and break down how I used the coupons and how I saved money.

The bottom line, using coupons is a great way to save money. But just make sure that you are clipping coupons and using coupons to actually buy things that you will actually use.

 

Financial Wellness: A Rant about Student Loans and What I Wish I Would Have Known.

I woke up this morning to see that my student loans that were being managed through the government were now transferred to Sallie Mae, an organization notorious for not letting students pay more than their minimum balance on their loans to get out of being in debt for 30+ years and not having to pay as much interest. Not that it mattered, I can only afford to pay the minimum and my whole big master plan of getting my masters degree and getting a job that paid 60k a year and just living like a college student for a couple years while I buckled down and just paid off my student loans was really working out anyway.

But it got me to thinking, we tell high school students to get involved to make their college application more diverse. We tell them to get good grades and high scores on the SAT/ACT to better their chances of getting in. We tell them to apply for scholarships.

But, I feel that we lack in educating students about student loans. According to this 2012 New York Times article, “about 2/3rds of college students borrow money” (2007-2008 grads) versus grads from 1992-1993 (45%). Combined, there is over $1 trillion outstanding from student loans.

What can we do to remedy this seeing as the cost of going to school isn’t going down? Educate the students in high school. Give them the knowledge that they need to figure out what it means to take a loan and what the ramifications are of taking out a loan. And I’m not talking some bullshit hour long meeting or online “class” that they go through. I’m talking a mandatory “if-you-have-even-the-slightest-twinkling-of-going-to-college” you take this semester long course in loans. That walks you through the entire process and how you evaluate YOUR finances to determine what YOUR need is. How you read this legal jargon on the loan papers. How to budget in college. How to get a part-time job. Etc.

Sure, taking classes like Economics and Calculus are great, but throw in one real-world experience class and make it be about managing your own finances. Make it explain about loans. I wish someone would have explained to me more about loans. I didn’t understand them as a high school senior. I didn’t understand how signing this piece of paper was going to affect the next 30+ years of my life. I just knew I needed to go to college and that it was a lot of money.

Now, I know what you are thinking (I don’t, I’m just pretending), if you are going to be an adult and take out loans, you should (cringe) know what you are signing before you sign it. Agreed. It absolutely was my responsibility (and everyone else’s that signed loans) to know what the heck we were getting ourselves into. I absolutely should have done more research and applied for more scholarships and managed my money better and not been so caught up in living a college lifestyle. I recognize the mistakes I made along the way. But I still think that every high school student that is thinking about going to college…Student Loans 101. Semester long course. Show ’em exactly what they are getting themselves into.