iStock_000001614441XSmallAs the holiday season quickly approaches, now is the time of year we maybe tempted to take one of those financial teasers as we shop.  We all see them and we are all tempted by them. But in order to simplify your personal finances you must say no thank you  and avoid falling for the trap.  Financial teasers are incentives which are offered to entice us to open a new account.  Financial teasers are everywhere from your banks offering higher interest rate for limited time for deposit accounts to department store offering zero interest for several months when you apply for their credit card.

These financial teasers are usually for a limited time to get you to sign up hoping you will remain a customer for a long time.  Before you agree to accept their offer ask yourself:

Do I really need this financial product such as an additional savings or checking account?

Will I consolidate my existing account to this one account?

Determine how this financial teaser will benefit you in the long-term not just the short-term. If the offer does not have long term and short term benefits, you should look to see if this offer fits within your financial goals and objectives and what other benefits will it have on your financial life.

Here are some of the most common financial teasers you will see and you should approach with caution:

The Irresistible Rate Offer 

Financial institutions often offer special interest rates on saving and checking account and to entice you to open a new account. But how long will you receive the special interest rate and what do you plan to do with the funds when the intro rate has expired. Consider do you really need another account because many times these offers or only for new customers. Does this offer fit within your other financial goals. Will you receive notification that your intro rate has expired or do you have to set up a reminder? Do not just accept a great rate offer unless there are other significant benefits to you as well.

The No Fee Option

Often to get you in the door fees will be waived for a period of time. Before you accept this offer consider how long will your fees be waived. What are the usual fees associated with this product or service? Will I use this product if I had to pay the fee? In addition to these questions, you should consider do you have to call and cancel the service or return the product so fees are not charged to you if you do not want the service or product.

The Free Gift

Financial teasers are gifts for signing up for a credit card or opening a particular type of account. Think about it are you just signing up for the credit card or new account just for gift. What is the gift really worth? There are usually strings attached for example if you sign up for a new credit card just for the gift think about how this credit card could impact your credit score even if you do not use the card. Also determine if you will be charged any fees for openning the account which may equal the cost of the gift you received for free. If you received a gift and plan to closed the account soon after make sure there are no penalties for closing the account or period that the account must remain open. It is sometimes easier to just say no. The simple free gift could turn out to be more hassle than its worth.

Rewards Points

Have you ever signed up for a credit card just because of the rewards program. Rewards card can be great to have but consider the quality of the card not just the rewards it offers. How does this reward card compare to your current card? For example, you just signed up for this great reward card but come to find out the interest rate is twice what your other cards offer plus there is an annual fee in addition to the higher interest rate. Make sure the rewards are not the only reason you have signed up for the card.

So next time you are tempted by one of these financial teasers think before you decide to take the offer. The offer may cause you more stress than its worth. So consider all factors before you say yes to the next financial teaser you see especially around the holiday season when teasers are all around.  By not accepting these offers you may miss out on a short term benefit but in the long term you will not have an additional account you do not need or gift you did not use.

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SFL Christmas Hangover
Yes, I am aware it is only October.  The temperature is beginning to drop and leaves are beginning to change depending on where you live.   It also means you only have about 13 more weeks before Christmas is here.  But that is more than enough time for me to purchase gifts and decorate the house.  Right? Yes it is but now its time to turn your attention to your Christmas budget before you make those purchases.  If you have not done so already.  By focusing on your Christmas budget it enables you to plan your finances for Christmas as well as helps you prevent that Christmas money hangover in January.  We have all experienced the post Christmas money hangover before when you receive your credit card bills and wonder how and why did I spend so much money.  It may have felt great while you were shopping before Christmas but it catches up with you in January.  If you spend more than your finances can handle it may have long term impact on your finances.
So here are 4 things you can do now to avoid having that Christmas money hangover in January.  It will make your holidays less stressful.

Pre budget planning

First step is to set a budget,  But if you don’t do a little pre-budget planning and consider the all expenses you will occur during the holidays you will probably bust your budget and end up spending more then you anticipated.  You do not want to bust your budget and then end up adding more debt to your balance sheet.  By doing some pre budget planning, you can then put together a realistic budget for yourself and hopefully stick to it.  You should list all of the possible holiday expenses you may incur during the upcoming holiday.   The obvious budget items will be the gifts you plan on purchasing which will probably be your largest expense.  However, there are other expenses you may overlook and not consider.  Here are a few others which you want to take into consideration:
  • New Christmas decorations for you home.  (We always seems to buy something new every year and don’t forget the cost of your tree)
  • Holidays cards
  • Wrapping paper (Maybe you are an after Christmas sale person like us and have already purchased these)
  • Food for holiday parties or family gatherings

Set your budget

Now that you considered what expenses you will incur during the holidays now is time to set a realistic budget.  Set a budget for each of the categories of expenses you expect to incur during the holidays.  Hopefully you have budgeted for a portion or maybe all of your upcoming Christmas expenses. If not ask yourself how much am I willing to spend or how much can I afford to spend without adding additional debt to my balance sheet.  You do not want to put it on credit card that you are not able to pay off in January.  Remember you are trying to avoid that post Christmas hanger over.   Here are few tips to help with your Christmas budget.

Set goals

Setting a goal to have all of your shopping completed by specific date.  This will help you avoid those last minute shopping trips which usually cause us to overspend because we are usually rushing to make those purchases and do not always think about the budget.  It also causes more stress then you need to put on yourself.  So getting your shopping done sooner than later is better for you and your budget.

Track your process

Do you go shopping and forget to purchase a gift for someone?  Do you forget how much you already spent on a gift for someone?  or Do you forget who you purchased a gift for? I know I forget some of these while I am shopping.  Instead of trying to remember everything you have purchased and how much you have already spent, establish a tracking system.  A tracking system will help you track all of your purchases you have made and track how much you have spent.  This will help keep you on budget.  Do not forget to also keep track other holiday related purchases to stay within the budget you set.  There are a few apps to help with this so you can take your track system on the go and update as you are making purchases.

Doing these simple action steps now will hopefully prevent you from experiencing post Christmas financial pain and frustration when you realize you have spent more than you planned and don’t have resources to payoff the credit card in January.  It will only add to your stress levels which is not a good way to start the new year.  If you do overspend have a plan to pay it off as quick as possible so it does not linger and become a long term financial issue.  Having  a plan in place will help you simplify your holiday spending.

What do you do to help you avoid the post Christmas financial hangover?
Til next time take one step at a time to simplify your finances.

PHOTO CREDIT: Copyright: danienel / 123RF Stock Photo


SFL Ask Before Switch


In my recent post  Is Rate the Only Thing That Matters, I discussed how if you are looking to simplify your finances you can not just look at the rate you will receive.  You have to ask yourself a few questions before you open the new account.  If you open a new account just to receive a better rate you may end up with more accounts then you really need.  This could lead to your finances getting out of control because you have more accounts than you can realistically manage.

Every so often I will receive offers from various service providers that offer services at a lower rate than I am currently paying.  I am sure you receive these offers as well.  When you receive a better rate from another provider why not do a little comparison shopping to see if the services are similar to what you are currently receiving.  Instead of going through the hassle to make the switch to another provider reach out to your current bank, credit card company, mortgage company or other provider to see if they are willing to match or improve the offer you received from competitor.  Its unlikely that your current provider would reach out to you to inform you about a better rate or offer they are currently offering.  Since you are a current customer there is no incentive for them to improve or change your current pricing or offering.  But if you reach out to inform them you have received a better offer, they now have an incentive and reason to possibly match or improve your rate or services.  They may not want to lose you as a customer.  If they are willing to match the rate or improve your current service, it will save you the hassle of changing providers as well as saves you some money.

I recently experienced this when I changed internet and security system providers to save money.  I checked with former providers prior to switching services and they gave me their standard pricing.  However when I called to  cancel my services both were willing to offer better or matching deals.  However, it was to late then the new company had already installed the new equipment and was providing service.  Pricing was not my only reason for changing the services.  I also was looking to consolidate providers which means instead of two bills to pay and keep track only have one now.  I was also able to save on my monthly bill and upgrade my services by doing this.

Instead of waiting for an offer consider doing a little research on your own to improve pricing or services.  Here are a few providers that may consider matching an offer from another provider:

Insurance Provider

Maybe month or two before your home and car insurance policies come up for annual renewal why not reach out to one or two other providers to obtain quote for similar coverage.  This way when you receive your renewal notice you will know what other providers are quoting for a similar coverage.  If the renewal is higher than what you have received from other providers, you can always go back to current provider to see if they would match the rate you received from other insurance agencies. Being a little proactive is always good.



If you are considering buying a new home or refinancing existing mortgage, call other mortgage companies to receive a few mortgage quotes.  Then you can reach out to your current mortgage company to see if their rates are in line with the other companies are offering.  They probably would not want to lose the mortgage so why not see if they can improve rate on a new mortgage or refinance.

Here are a few other providers who may consider matching a competitors rate if you ask:

  • Phone services
  • Cable
  • Electric
  • Security system
  • Internet provider
  • Gym membership

Can you think of any other providers that may consider matching the rate of another provider?

Asking current provider to match competitors rate or offer is great way you can simplify.  Instead of spending time making the change you can ask for match and receive it then your existing provider must make the adjustment to the bill.  You only have to make sure the adjustment was made.  If you have to switch you probably have to complete new paperwork, schedule time for service to be installed.  It never hurts to ask.  You never know they may say yes but you have to take action by asking.

Til next time take one step at a time to simplify your finances.

Copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo


SFL rate question


We make financial decisions all of the time.  Are you making your financial decision solely on the rate that you will receive? Are you considering other factors when making financial decisions?  If you are trying to simplify your finances, don’t let the interest rate be the determining factor in your decision:

New Deposit Account

You see an offer for a higher yielding account.  Before you decide to open the new account because of the interest rate you will receive ask yourself a few questions:

What other services or benefits will I receive from this new account?

Do I need another account?

If I open this account should I consider closing one of my other accounts?

Is this rate just a teaser rate to get me to open a new account with this institution?

How long will I receive this rate?  Six months, One year, or longer.

Why do I need this account?

Is the rate worth the time and effort to manage this account?

How much more is the rate compared to my existing accounts?

Should I consider consolidating my other accounts with this bank?

Why is the bank offering a better rate than all of the other banks?

Consider these factors before you decide to open a new account which tempts with a better rate.  You may thank yourself later because if you decide not open the account that will be one less account you will have to keep track of as well as one less statement.   If its a good rate see if your existing bank will match the offer for you or if they have similar type of account.  This way you do not have to move your relationship and still benefit with the better rate.

New Credit Card

You receive a credit card offer in the mail that looks very enticing. The new card offers a lower than you are currently receiving.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you apply for the new card:

How long will I receive this lower rate?

How much will I really save by having a lower rate?

If I do not carry a balance what other benefits will I receive from the new card?

Could I receive this rate from one of my existing cards?

Should I close an existing card to replace the new card?

How will this card impact my credit score?

What will I use the card to purchase?

Do I really need another credit card?

New Mortgage

You are looking to purchase a new home or considering refinancing your existing mortgage.  Will you chose the mortgage provider who offers the lowest interest rate? Remember this decision will be a long term one since you will have at least a 10 year relationship with your mortgage company.  All rates are not the same.  Ask yourself these questions before accepting the lower rate:

Am I paying other fees to make up for the lower rate? Some mortgage providers will offer lower mortgage rate but will charge other fees such as orgination, application fee or lender fees

What is the reputation of the mortgage provider? You want to work with provider that will be able to close your mortgage in a timely manner. If not that lower rate will not be worth it if not able to close on time.

Does the rate come with prepayment penalty?  You may have to pay a penalty if you pay the loan off early.

What are their underwriting standards?  Are they the same as other lenders.

Will my mortgage be sold to another mortgage company?

Doing a little research on rate on the front end will simplify the process on the back end.

New Investment

Did you just see an advertisement to receive a set rate of return which is great rate and sounds like a good deal.  Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make this invest:

How risky is this investment?

Is the expected return higher than other similar investments?

How long is my money locked up?

How quickly can I liquidate the investment if needed?

Does this investment fit within my current investment goals and objectives?

What fees do I have to pay for this investment and what commission does the sales person receive?

Asking yourself these questions will help you save some future headaches and prevents you from investing in some investment just for the rate.

As you can see taking a minute and asking yourself a few questions may prevent you from opening a deposit account that you really did not need, obtaining a new credit card that you did not need, find the right mortgage provider, or make the right investment that meets your investment objectives.   Doing this will also help you simplify your finances because that will be one less deposit account, credit card, or investment you have to manage.

Which of these questions will you ask yourself next time  you see that higher interest deposit account, lower rate credit card or low rate mortgage offer?

Til next time take one step at a time to simplify your finances.

If you enjoyed this post and would like a simple checklist of questions to ask before you open that next account, sign up for my newsletter and you will receive a free eBook as well as an easy checklist of questions to ask before you open that next account.



Copyright: timbrk / 123RF Stock Photo



“ Let go of all the stuff you can’t control and start using your time to master what you can control. ”


Control – The power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

Are you frustrated when the stock market is down and your saving rate remains low.  Are you allowing things you can not control such as stock market, interest rates, or even the weather control your personal finances. Stop worrying about those things.  The only way to simplify your finances is to control what you can control.  If you can’t control it try not to worry about it.  You can not allow those things to control your financial life.  It may be preventing you from achieving your financial goals you set for yourself.  It sounds so simple but many times we find this to be a challenge.  We all do it.  I know I do it as well.  We worry about the things we can not control.  If you think about it, if we would just focus on the things we can control , I am pretty confident you can simplify your finances.   Simplify your personal finances by controlling what you can control.

Here are 7 things you can control that will help you simplify your finances:

Your Asset Allocation

You can not control the stock market but you can control how you allocation your assets.  We know the stock market goes up as well as goes down.  But having the appropriate investment allocation based on your risk tolerance and time horizon will help you weather those ups and downs.  Also building a diversified investment portfolio will help reduce the risk in investing in the stock market.

Having Emergency Fund and Proper Insurance

You can not control the weather or when an emergency will occur.  But you can control if you have a properly funded emergency fund in place for those unexpected expenses.  You can also control the amount of insurance you have in place on your home, car, and medical coverage to cover those unexpected expenses which maybe caused by the weather or other factors.

The Amount You Save

You can’t control the interest rate you earn but you can control how much you save.  You determine how much you save each month.  You don’t at least I hope you don’t determine the amount you save based on current interest rates.  Consider saving a set percentage of your income each month.  This post Secrets to Savings may help you with your savings.

Your Spending

You can not control the price of products and services but you can control your spending.  Controlling the amount you spend dictates how much debt you may carry as well as how much you are able to save.

Multiple Income Sources

You can not control when your job is eliminated but you can create multiple sources of income.  Having another source of income will help in case your job is eliminated.

Where You Bank

You can’t control the fees your bank charges but you can decide where you bank.  Make sure you match your banking needs with your bank of choice.

Having Life Insurance and Will in Place

You can’t control when you die put you can prepare for it with will pre-plan arrangements and life insurance.  Having preplanned services will not help you but will make it easier on your family when they have to make arrangements as well as decided how to handle your assets.

As you can see there are many things you are not able to control so stop worrying about them and focus on those things you actually can control.  What you can control is what will make the difference in your financial life.

What will you take control of in your financial life so you can improve your finances?

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


SFL Going home to FinCon


I will attend FinCon 14 this week.  I can’t wait. I have heard many great things about the conference and look forward to attending.  This will be my first year attending the conference.  If you have not heard about FinCon, it a conference for the financial media.  This is the 4th year for the conference.  The conference was started by Phillip Taylor aka PT.  If you want to learn more about the conference check out the FinCon website.  This year’s conference will be held in New Orleans which is my hometown.

I lived in New Orleans my entire life until Hurricane Katrina forced us to evacuate and flooded 80% of the city due to the levees breaches.  My family and I decided to relocate to Texas where we have now lived for 9 years.  These 9 years have gone by fast.  I visit New Orleans often because I still have family and friends who live in the city.

When I read that FinCon was going to be held in New Orleans this year I thought it would be fun to attend.  This will be my first conference I ever attend.  As I am looking to grow this blog and learn more about personal finance blogging I thought this would be the perfect conference to attend.  Also you can’t beat attending a conference in New Orleans either.

I look forward to meeting many of the blogger who I interact with on Twitter as well as those I am unfamiliar with.  The schedule was released about a month ago and there are many great session to gain some knowledge.  It also will be great to see some family and eat some New Orleans cuisine while I am there.  Another bonus to this trip is I will be attending the home opener for my beloved Saints.  I can not wait.   WHO DAT.  If you are attending FinCon and are football fan I would suggest walking over to Champion Square to enjoy some tailgating if you are still in town on Sunday morning.

So if you see me say hi.  I will be the guy that speaks like everyone else you have come in contact with from New Orleans once you arrived. So if you need any suggestions about New Orleans or just how to pronounce something correctly I am happy to help.

Look forward to see all of you who will be attending.  I will have a follow up post about all the great things I learned and wonderful people I meet.

I am on my way.  See you on Thursday.

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