Simple Inspiration Interview featuring Sam from Manage Your Means

Manage Your Means

Welcome to this week’s Simple Inspiration Interview.  This week I have opportunity to interview Sam from Manage Your Means to learn how he has simplified his finances.

Manage Your Means is about financial education. Sam’s main goals are to:
1. Help people gain knowledge that will help them make more and spend less.
2. Keep it lighthearted; money is important but it isn’t everything!
3. Motivate people (including myself) to get on track, and stay there.

He also offers a Monday Motivate which is a great way to start your week.  Check it out here.

Let’s hear how Sam has simplified so other can obtain a little inspiration:

What event lead you to realize you needed to simplify your finances?

It was something so simple as missing a payment and being charged a late fee on a credit card we had opened. I was done being charged for borrowing money and ready to take better control of my actions.

What area of your financial life needed the most simplification?

The sheer number of accounts I had open. I had six credit cards, four checking accounts, two savings accounts, and two brokerage accounts for stocks. When you add a Health Savings Account (HSA), 401(k) and an IRA… that’s a lot to keep track of!

Where did you begin to simplify your financial life?

I paid off the small balances I had on my credit cards and closed them out (I didn’t care whether that was going to hurt my credit score or not). Then I combined my two brokerage accounts into one and closed out the old checking and savings accounts. They were just lying around, doing nothing.

What was your biggest challenge or roadblock when it came simplifying?

I love technology but I had always paid my bills by check via snail mail. It wasn’t because I don’t trust electronic payments, it was mostly just out of habit.

How did you overcome this challenge or roadblock?

Once I realized how much money I was spending on stamps and envelopes, and once I knew how much time I could have been saving by paying online, it was an easy transition for me to make.

How has simplifying changed your life?

Making your finances simple makes them easier to do. When I had a complex and lengthy budgeting process, I didn’t want to do it. I’d avoid it – procrastinating until it’d been so long I needed to start over. Simple budgets are inviting budgets. When you constantly know the state of your money, you’ll naturally make better choices.

How long did it take you to simplify?

I’d say it’s an ongoing process, one that I’m never fully satisfied with. There’s always something you can be doing to be more efficient.

How much of your personal finances have you automated?

Most, but not all of my finances have been automated. For me, it’s important to know where my money is coming and going at all times, and full automation would make it easy to slip away from keeping an eye on my finances.

What do you automate?

I automate bills that don’t change regularly – mortgage, cell phone bill, internet, utilities (if they’re paid based on an average). I try to pay bills that fluctuate manually, so that I can see where the changes in my budget are occurring.

What advice or tips would you give to others who want to simplify their finances?

You probably already know all of the changes you ‘should’ make in order to simplify. If you’re on the fence, pick one or two and make those first. Try it for a couple of months, and you’re going to see that it makes your life easier, and you’ll want to make as many changes as you can to make it easy on yourself.

What book, blog, or podcast would you suggest to someone who is looking to simplify or improve their finances?

Stacking Benjamins podcast is really good, I try to listen when I can.

If money was not a concern, what would you do for fun?

I would pretty much be doing what I’m doing now – I try to live my life for me, not for money. I enjoy the work I do and the hobbies I have.

What percentage of your income are saving?

Currently, 23% of my income goes to a combination of retirement and savings.

What’s your best savings tip?

Save before you ever see your money – I make a habit of increasing my direct deposit savings whenever I get a raise, so that I never miss it or wish I had it. Lifestyle creep is a real thing, and can be avoided if you never give yourself the extra money in the first place (and instead save it for later).

Thanks Sam.  I appreciate you taking your time to sharing how you have simplified your finances as well as the tips you shared.  If you would like to read more from Sam visit Manage Your Means or follow him on Twitter @ManageYourMeans

To read previous interviews in the series click Simple Inspiration Interviews.

If you are interested in sharing how you have simplified your financial life, send me an email and I will follow up with you.  Enjoy the rest of your week. Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.

Simple Inspiration Interview featuring Travis from Enemy of Debt

enemy of debt

I am please to have Travis from Enemy of Debt join me for this week’s Simple Inspiration Interview.

Travis candidly shares his family’s experiences, struggles and successes as they fight their way out of debt. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.  TravisPizel_New20111

He shares his thoughts on Enemy of Debt.  This site is all about motivational money management.  He likes to mix it up by providing his readers with ways to get the most from their money, the motivation to keep going, and tips and techniques to pass those skills on to their children to financially educate the next generation

Let’s hear how Travis has been able to eliminate his debt:

What event lead you to eliminate your debt?

In June of 2009, I received in the mail 5 identical letters from a major credit card company – one for each of the accounts we had with them. They were changing the terms and conditions of the accounts such that the minimum payment would be calculated at 2.5% of the balance instead of 1%. When I calculated what that was going to do to our monthly payments, I knew we had to do something.

What did having debt prevent you from doing?

Debt really kept me from really enjoying life. We did a lot of things, and bought a lot of things, but it was all financed. I spent my evenings trying to figure out how to juggle funds around to gather enough funds just to make it to the next payday. I had two week tunnel vision.

Where did you begin to simplify and eliminate your debt?

My wife and I evaluated every single monthly bill we had, eliminating and reducing everything we thought we could. It really was an iterative process, though. It took us quite a while to come to grips with how much our lifestyle had to change to be in line with our income.

Our biggest realization was that the most important and enjoyable thing in our life was the relationships with our loved ones. We learned to enjoy just sitting on the deck with our friends, joking around late into the night. We learned that a $1 movie rental, some popcorn, and a family movie night was about as enjoyable as a Friday night can get.

What was your biggest challenge or roadblock when it came to eliminating your debt?

Our biggest roadblock was our communication. We didn’t talk about our finances for the first 13 years of our marriage. Trying to work on that communication skill when your trying to dig your way out of debt is a tough. It’s necessary, but it’s not easy.

Is there an app or tool that you used to help you eliminate your debt?

We really needed to learn how to budget, and to stick to our spending plan. We implemented a version of the envelope system to physically have bills of money aimed at a specific purpose.

How has reducing your debt changed your life?

Reducing our debt has given back control of our future. We no longer hand over our money to credit card companies, but we save it for our future. We will always have to make choices regarding what we can afford, and what we can’t, but something as simple as going to the grocery store and knowing that buying a little better cut of steak, or buying an additional snack isn’t going to through your finances into crisis mode is a great feeling.

How will you feel once you are debt free and what will you do to celebrate?

I think the best way to celebrate…..is to do nothing at all. Maybe a fist pump, and a sigh of relief.

What advice or tips would you give to others who want to eliminate debt?

To others that are struggling with debt, I would want to assure them that they are not alone. I would let them know that there IS a way out, there is help available. They just need to seek out all the options available to help people get out of debt, educate themselves, and then make a plan using whatever solution is best for their personal situation.

What are you current financial goals?

I current financial goals are to:

1.) pay off our vehicles

2.) get to the point where we are maxing out our annual 401K contributions.

What will it take for you to reach them?

To reach these goals we will have to continue to be frugal. We will have to continue to communicate and be diligent with our spending plan never taking our eye off our future goals.

Thanks Travis.  I appreciate you taking your time to sharing your thoughts on how you eliminated debt in your life.  If you would like to read more from Travis visit Enemy of Debt or follow him on Twitter @travispizel

To read previous interviews in the series click Simple Inspiration Interviews.

If you are interested in sharing how you have simplified your financial life, send me an email and I will follow up with you.  Enjoy the rest of your week. Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.

How to Get Your Finances Beach Ready in 6 Easy Steps

 

Beach Ready Pinterest

The summer is almost here. It is likely you have looked at yourself in the mirror. You have probably said to yourself I have to get this body into shape and ready for the beach. Who doesn’t want to look good while they are walking on the beach or relaxing poolside.

So in order to get your body beach ready you have to put in some work to lose a few pound or firm up your body.

The same is true regarding your personal finances. When the summer is here we will only have six months remaining in the year.  While you are getting your body in beach shape why not work on getting your finances into shape as well.  To get your finances beach ready is similar to getting your body into beach shape.

Here are 6 easy steps to take now to firm up your finances so your body and finances are ready for the beach.

Identify what you want to improve

Just like you would look in the mirror to determine what area of your body you want to improve.  Do the exact same thing with your finances. Take a look at your finances and determine what area of your financial life you want to improve upon or look better.  Are you overweight because you are carrying to much debt or maybe you are a little skinny and need to build up your savings.  Which ever area needs improving the first to is to identify that area first.

Take your current measurements

Once you determine the area or areas you would like to improve you need to see where you currently stand.  For example, you want to lose 10 pounds how will you know you lost 10 pounds without measuring your current weight by standing on a scale.  These few measurements can help you determine where you stand currently.

Net Worth

Your financial net worth is simply your financial assets minus your financial liabilities. Knowing your net worth is an excellent way to measure your financial health. Calculating your net worth will help you track your financial progress from year to year or from month to month. When you calculate your net worth you want this number to be positive not negative.

Debt to Income

Debt to income measures the amount of income you earn versus the amount of debt you have outstanding. It’s another good indicator of your financial health.

You calculate it by totaling up all of your monthly debts then dividing it by your income. Using your net income is a more accurate calculation because it is the actual amount you take home which is available to service your debt.

Credit Score

Your credit score determines your credit worthiness which is based on your history of managing to payment of your bills in a timely manner.

Credit score can range from low 400s to mid 800s. Maintaining a good to high credit score has its financial benefits because you will usually receive better interest rate as well as financing terms when you are financing a purchase.

Saving Percentage

Having a healthy savings has significant benefits and is another indication of your financial health. Calculating your saving percentage is simply dividing your gross income by your savings amount. When calculating your total saving take into consideration the amount you saving for retirement, emergency fund and any other general savings.

By improving these numbers you will improve your finances.

What numbers do you want to achieve?

You have calculated your numbers to access where you currently stand.  Were the numbers better or worse than expected?  Improving just one of these numbers will help your finances.  Just like you want to lose 5 or 10 pounds, you want to improve your numbers so you can look financially better.  So set a goal to either increase your savings percentage, reduce your debt to income, increase your net worth or improve your credit score.

Get Financially Lean

One way to get your body to look great is to get lean.  You can apply this same concept to your personal finances.  By making your finances lean you will improve your financial situation.  Here are several ways you can make your finances lean:

Reduce the amount of debt you have outstanding

Reduce the number of credit cards you have open or carry in your wallet

Reduce the number investment accounts

Reduce the number of bank account you have open.  Try to use one bank if possible

Eliminate paper statements

All of these will help you improve your finances.

Reduce Calorie Intake

If you are looking to tone up or lose some weight you usually will reduce the amount of food you are eating as well as monitor what you are eating.  You can apply the same to your finances.  Consider reducing the amount of money you are spending as well as keep track of where you are spending money.  This will enable you to save more and see where you are spending your money to determine what can be eliminated.

Make Small Lifestyle Changes

Now you have make some changes to your finances don’t let all of your hard work go to waste. Why not make a few lifestyle changes to help you maintain this financial beach body all year long. So you ask what do I need change? Start with your financial habits. Identity your good financial habits and look to eliminate your bad financial habits. These small habits can have an impact on your financial life year round.

So now use these 6 simple steps to take action to get your finances in beach shape.  Start now so you are not looking back wondering where did my summer go.

Do it now.

It will not only help your finances to look good but will help you simplify your finances as well.

Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.

Simple Inspiration Interview with Lindsey from Cents, Sense & Sensibility

Cents Sense

Are you ready for some financial inspiration?  This week I have the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey from Cents, Sense & Sensibility.  She blogs about getting out of debt and taking control of your financial future. She offers her own personal journey to financial freedom and tips on budgeting, saving money, and investing. Make sure you stop by and visit anytime, she would love to hear from you!

Let’s hear how Lindsey has taken control of her finances:

What event lead you to want to get out of debt and simplify your finances?

It was about seven years ago. My best friend came to visit me for the weekend and it just happened to be on a payday weekend. I had a routine that I went through every pay day in order to ensure I had money for everything. At that point, I was relying on payday loans to get me through the month. I knew on one level it was a big mess, I just didn’t let myself think about it.
She watched me frantically run around and arrange new due dates with billers, wait for my last pay day loan to clear, and then run back into the same payday loan center and negotiate a new amount. This nonsense took most of the day and was beyond stressful. After everything was done, she asked me if I thought this was normal. I blinked a couple times and realized that I actually did think it was normal. It was that day I knew things had to change.

What area of your financial life needed the most help or simplification?

I needed to find a way to get my debt under control. No matter how closely I stuck with a budget or how frugal I was, the numbers just didn’t add up. I never had enough money to pay the bills and my debt. I needed some help simplifying my debt so I could get the rest of my finances in order.

What steps did you take to get your finances in order?

I had to face facts and understand that my debt was much bigger problem than I could hope to solve myself. The first step had to be finding a way to control my debt. Since I didn’t have the credit to do it on my own, I enrolled in a credit counseling program called Orderly Payment of Debts. It consolidated all my debt, set an interest rate, and put everything together into one payment that was more manageable.

What was the biggest financial mistake or mistakes you have made?

I think the biggest mistake I made was taking out too many student loans. By the time I graduated, I had over $50,000 in student loans. In a sense, I was finished before I even had a chance to start. I just didn’t realize it yet.

Please understand I’m not saying that everyone who has a large student loan is doomed. For me, it just wasn’t a good idea. There were definitely some extenuating circumstances: I was a single mother and I took a degree in something that wasn’t going to be profitable until much farther into my career. Not surprisingly, a big student loan number, combined with being a lone parent and employed in a lower paying profession was not a recipe for success.

What was your biggest challenge or roadblock to eliminating your debt and get your finances in order?

I think I felt trapped by my limited earning potential. After a while, I just ended up not even trying – everything felt so pointless. It wasn’t until I realized that I could get creative with how I made money that I understood I could take control and write my own future.

What app or tool did you use?

I’ve used several apps and tools over the years; I liked Quicken for tracking my finances but have recently moved to Mint.com. It’s great because I can access it from everywhere and it sends me notifications on changes or charges to my accounts.

 How has eliminating debt and simplifying changed your life?

Well, I haven’t fully eliminated my debt but I’m well on my way! Simplifying my finances has been about simplifying my life. I’m practicing good financial habits every day and I’ve devoted myself to learning more about how to be better at money. This has helped me be more flexible with how I approach new problems and planning for my future.

Are there any areas of your finances that you still need some work?

For sure. I think my finances will always need work because there is always room for improvement. At this point, I think I’m most concerned with having the resources to manage crises that always seem to come up. I don’t want to dig into my retirement savings whenever something happens so I need to find an alternative. I need a strategy for building an emergency fund for the future while dealing with whatever crisis happens in the present.

What advice or tips would you give to others who want to get their finances in order?

Everyone is in a different place when they start thinking about getting their finances in order. Some people really need to work on a budget, while others need to increase their earning potential, and still others need to do some retirement planning.
It’s important for you to determine what priorities are for yourself. Take the time to organize your finances in a way that works for you and go from there. You can do it!

What book, blog, or podcast would you suggest to someone who is looking to simplify or improve their finances?

The book that really got me moving in the right direction was the Smart Cookies Guide to Making More Dough by Andrea Baxter, Angela Self, Katie Dunsworth, Robyn Gunn, and Sandra Hanna. I started a money group with some like-minded ladies and got going on fixing my finances.
I liked that this book was written by Canadian women who just wanted to improve their money situation. They didn’t have any special knowledge or understanding about their finances; they just wanted a better future and made that happen for themselves. It was really relate able and inspiring at a time in my life when I felt overwhelmed by all my money issues.

Thanks Lindsay for taking some time to share your thoughts and how you have simplified your finances.  She offers some great advice Simplifying my finances has been about simplifying my life. I’m practicing good financial habits every day and I’ve devoted myself to learning more about how to be better at money. This has helped me be more flexible with how I approach new problems and planning for my future.

If you would like to read more from Lindsey her check out her blog Cents, Sense & Sensibility or follow her on Twitter @LindseyThurston.

To read previous interviews in the series click Simple Inspiration Interviews.

If you are interested in sharing how you have simplified your financial life, send me an email and I will follow up with you.

Enjoy the rest of your week. Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.