Your Vacation Planning Can Help with Your Financial Planning in 10 Easy Steps

10 Steps Vacation Planning

Who does not dream of going on a great vacation with family or friends? At least I know I enjoy taking a vacation each year. Planning your vacation can take some time to plan.

However, we always seem to find a way to make it happen.  We find a way to save enough money, we shop around for the best deals, and we know where we are staying and what we will be doing while on vacation.

But when it comes to our personal finances we seem to forget how to plan. We can spend more time planning our vacation than planning our financial future. Why not apply the same excitement and get it done attitude to financial planning as you do to your vacation plans. Doing this can have just as much impact on your life as a vacation or even a greater impact.

I know planning can be a daunting task. You probably ask yourself: Where do I begin? What’s step one? How can I save more?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning, especially when you haven’t planned before.

Here are 10 steps to help you create a financial plan like you were planning your vacation:

Visualize the Perfect Situation

When planning your vacation you have to decide what’s the ideal place for you to visit, activities you want to do, how you plan to travel, and what time of the year you want to travel.

The same as planning your finances. Write down what you would like your financial life to look like.  What would it take to get there? What time frame do you have to get there?

Set a Budget

You usually set a budget when planning for your vacation at least I hope you do.  Same with your finances, set a budget to manage your monthly expenses. Having a budget is the key to a good financial plan.  A well prepared budget enables you to have a clearer picture of your spending.

Decide Where You Want to Go

You have a picture of the perfect place and have set your budget. Now you have to decide where you want to go. By deciding where you are going it sets a goal to work towards. A lot of people talk generally about what they want their finances to look like but never set a specific goal or put a plan in place.

Deciding where you want to go is important as it forces you to set a definite goal. Having goals in place makes it easier to commit to.

Determine Your Time Frame

When vacation planning you usually decide if you’re traveling by car or plane and how long you will be on vacation so you can plan appropriately.

The same can be applied to your financial plan by determining the time frame it will take to reach your financial destination you desire. To help achieve your goals establish long-term and short-term financial goals.

Start Saving Money

Time to start saving! When vacation planning I am sure you save over time to cover the cost of your trip. I try to allocate funds throughout the year to my vacation fund. It makes it easier to save that way.

Same with your personal finances. Establish a saving plan. Having a saving plan in place will provide you with a financial peace of mind. Here are three savings you should consider establishing if you do not have any savings in place:

Retirement Savings

Emergency Savings

Future Spending Savings

Automate Your Bills

While you are traveling you don’t want to forget about your bills so automate them. Same is true with your personal finances get rid of your mail, go paperless, and set up online bill payment for your recurring bills to ensure you won’t miss any.

Consolidate

When packing for your trip you try to consolidate as much as you can. The more suit cases you bring adds additional cost and hassle so you consolidate the number you bring with you.   You do this by reduce the amount of items you bring with you.

Consider doing the same with your financial accounts. Consolidate your bank accounts, investment, accounts as well as providers. Consolidating will help:

  • Reduce the number of statements you receive
  • Easier to keep track of your accounts
  • Possibly reduce fees

Buy Insurance

When planning your vacation, you may consider purchasing travel insurance. This will help protection you if something occurs and you have to cancel your vacation. Maybe some occurs while you are traveling travel insurance may help cover some of the cost of this unexpected situation.

Same is true with your personal finances. You want to make sure you have the appropriate amount of insurance coverage. You do not want to be left standing uninsured when a medical, natural disaster, or other financial situation occurs which can place a significant financial burden on you.

Hire professional help

When planning a vacation you may hire a travel agent to help you arrange your travel plans and accommodations.  So when preparing your financial plan consider hiring professional advisers to help you reach your financial destination.  The ride to your destination will be smoother and quicker if you hire good financial professionals to help you.

Stay Focused and Inspired

The planning process can be long and time consuming but stay focused at the goal at hand. Here are some inspiring stories how other have simplified their finances which will help you:

Simple Inspiration Interview – How Creating a Budget Helped Mr. CBB Simplify His Finances

Simple Inspiration Interview – Taking a day off helped Peter Anderson Simplify his Finances

Simple Inspiration Interview with Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker

Use these 10 steps as a guide to help better organize and simplify your personal finances.

But no matter what your financial goals are, these steps will help you stay organized as you begin to put your financial plan in place.

So take action now by applying these simple tips to design your financial future and begin to simplify your personal finances.

Simple Inspiration Interview with Will from First Quarter Finance

First Quarter Finance

Are you looking to build your wealth in your early twenties? If so, you will enjoy reading this week’s interview with Will.  Will blogs at First Quarter Finance which is about building wealth ASAP!  He started FQF because he wanted to create a resource for young people who want to make money early in life.  He uses his personal past and present experiences to give tested advice for building wealth early in life.  He does this by telling his story of how he began investing at age ten.

He states:

“Combining early investing with a healthy income and a frugal lifestyle and… magic happens. Haha. That sounds corny but it’s true.”

If you want to see exactly what he is doing or even emulate it, visit FQF.

Let’s learn how Will has managed his financial life so he will be able to retire at an early age:

What event lead you to realize you needed to simplify your finances?  Will Lipovsky Image

I watch this PBS documentary about the high cost of managed investments. I decided after watching to stop buying managed funds and go with the E/R index mutual funds offered at Vanguard.

What area of your financial life needed the most simplification?

My investments. Hollywood makes it seem like investors should take crazy risks and constantly be screaming and yelling. I decided to stop the buy and sell, scream and yell nonsense. Turns out I’m actually making more money with my simplified approach. Warren Buffett may be onto something…

When did you begin to simplify your financial life?

I was 23 years young when I decided things needed to be simpler.

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

Having to bite the bullet and sell my American Funds!!! I already paid massive front-end load fees. I felt like I already paid to join the club and now I was foolishly giving away my membership by selling. I finally sold all those funds and lost the approximately $4,000 I paid in loads over the years. Ouch. Oh well, it needed to be done. Front-end loads aside, the expense ratios were so high I needed to get out.

How did you overcome this challenge or roadblock?

I did the math on how much more I would make if I switched to low cost investments. Over the long term, selling my American Funds made sense. It’s hard to argue with math.

How has simplifying changed your life?

My investments are now on auto-pilot. I couldn’t be happier with them. I’ve also simplified my life by riding a bike more often than I drive. I also stopped buying empty calories. When you think about it, those cookies won’t help you out one bit.

How long did it take you to simplify?

I’ve taken a pretty simple approach to my finances my entire life. I’ve never had to make any major corrections except with my investments. However, simplifying my food budget took years. I began with giving up soda. Then I stopped buying bread and made baked at home instead. Eventually I stopped buying heavily processed foods.

Today is May 28, 2015 and I’m proud to say I’ve only had one unhealthy item all year. It was a sucker my adorable 6-year-old cousin begged me to eat after telling me, ‘It’s the best food in the entire world!’ It was a green Blow Pop. It was not good.

How much of your personal finances have you automated?

I automate AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Life is too short to slave over paying bills. Heck, even Dave Ramsey promotes automating your finances.
Everything is automated except my invoicing to my freelance writing clients. Maybe I could get something going there… I do use Quickbooks…

What do you automate?

Bills, dollar-cost-averaging my investments, I even use Digit for my savings.

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

Use the rule of first principles. Elon Musk said it best:

“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.”

We should not live our lives based on what we witness around us. Just because your coworkers eat out for lunch doesn’t mean you have to as well. Just because your coworkers drive fancy cars to work doesn’t mean you have to as well. Just because most people are in debt, it doesn’t mean you have to be as well.

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

Well, the site you’re reading this on is a pretty great resource! I’m partial to my own blog as well, First Quarter Finance. Other than those two obvious answers, I recommend people read A LOT of books. I’m always reading at least one personal finance/self-improvement/business book. Doing this is opening up my brain to even more than what I learned in college.

I hate to use this because it’s such a cliché but I recommend you read The Millionaire Next Door. It will cleanse you from the Hollywood millionaire BS you’ve already been exposed to in ample quantities.

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

My life would not look much different. Heck, I still drive the same car I got when I was 16. I’m now 25 and have hundreds of thousands more dollars than I did back then. I’m a sucker for sports cars so I suppose I would have one or two more.

What’s your best savings tip?

Don’t do anything just for the sake of saving money. Life is too short for that. You need to have a greater reason for doing something other than saving money. I bike to work because it’s healthy (and saves money). I drive an older car because I love 90s sports cars (and it’s cheaper than a new Porsche 911). I cook at home because I don’t like the low quality ingredients and hidden calories served at most restaurants (and I can eat steak at home for what I could pay for a paper thin burger at a fancy restaurant).
It’s hard to be motivated by saving money alone. Think bigger.

Are there any areas of your finances that you still need to simplify?

I still have things to sell on eBay and Craigslist from my younger years. Most of the items are listed, they just need to sell. I hate owning things I don’t use. I can’t stand the waste.

 

Will appreciate you sharing your story with us today.  You offered some great advice on how to simplify your finances as well as your life.

If you would like to read more from Will visit First Quarter Finance or follow him on Twitter @firstqfinance

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 with J. Money

J Money Interview

 

I am pleased to have the opportunity to interview J. Money for this week’s Simple Inspiration interview.  J. Money has one of the best personal finance blogs and definitely one of the most entertaining blogs.   I had the opportunity to finally meet him at FinCon this past year and learned more about him.

If you don’t know  J. Money, he blogs over at Budgets Are Sexy, a personal finance site that tries to get you excited to think about money. He also shares his favorite financial articles he finds over on  Rockstar Finance, as well as his love for coin collecting @ Coin Thrill. You can learn more about Jay and all his projects here: jmoney.biz

Let’s hear how J. Money has simplified his personal finances.

What event lead you to simplify your finances?

I wouldn’t say it was an event per se, but rather a bunch of years where things were scattered all over the place and I decided enough was enough. I started transferring all of my banking under one main roof (USAA) and then rid myself of multiple credit cards and other accounts that really weren’t that necessary in the grand scheme of things. I decided the interest rate/rewards chasing wasn’t for me in the end, and that I’d much rather have a simplified system than a jumbled head. And I haven’t been happier since ;)

What area of your financial life needs the most simplification?

For me specifically I’ve gotten most of my finances simplified now so we’re all set (even though I’d like to have my business accounts set up the same way (USAA doesn’t offer biz accounts, damn them…) but for people in general I’d say it’s probably investments. With all the job hopping we do and investment vehicles out there (401(k)s, IRAs, stocks, mutual funds, etc etc) chances are your stuff is all over the place. So that’s where I’d start looking if you’re serious about streamlining. And of course having your checking/savings system set up is smart too – especially with the automating of your bills.

What steps have you taken to simplify your financial life?

Outside of shutting down old accounts and moving everything under one roof, I’ve moved all of my investments under one place as well (Vanguard) and have most bills/goals automated. So now I have two main accounts that cover 99% of all my finances online with the exception of my main mortgage (and I can’t refi – womp womp). I’ve also stopped all temptation to credit card hop or chase the best interest rates out there for savings/etc. I’d much rather have a simplified financial life than make a few extra dollars…

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

Just taking the time to sit down and DO IT, really. I mean, first you have to realize your stuff is a mess before you think to take action, but then once you do it’s setting the time aside to actually do something about it. Which unfortunately takes a few hours depending on how many accounts you have open, and where. Fortunately with the bad ass that is the internet, most institutions can do stuff for you right through the web or by just picking up the phone… I moved $350,000 of investments on a single phone call which probably lasted 20 mins tops. That’s pretty cool! I didn’t even have to fill out any paperwork – so much is done online now.

How has simplifying changed your life?

It saves me hours every month, it saves me brainpower every month, and more importantly it saves any troubles down the road in the sad event I pass on from this world sooner than later… My wife knows exactly where all our money is because there are only 2 main spots to look! So it benefits my entire family at the end of the day which is a pretty important thing to consider.

Are there any areas of your finances that you still need to simplify?

Not really, no. My investments were the most tangled of them all, and sure – I wish I could move my business accounts closer into my simple system – but overall I’ve gotten things set up pretty much to my liking these days…. Which is about damn time considering I’ve been alive for over 30+ years!
What app or tool helped you the most when it came to simplifying?

The web, USAA and Vanguard. The thing with USAA that’s killer is that it covers all our insurances too! Since that’s their main specialty. It took me a while to catch on that they offer banking services and loans/mortgages/etc too – so they’re more unique than your typical financial institution which has served me incredibly well over the years… If you’re in the military, or connected to someone who is in your family, I’d highly suggest checking them out. It really has made a huge impact on my finances.

The other main tool I attribute to my financial gain over the years is the trusty old Excel spreadsheet. I use my “money snapshot” template I created many a moons ago every single month to track my net worth and where all my other money is at. It’s one of the main things I don’t automate on purpose so that it keeps me accountable and forced to look at my money every month!

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

To really ask yourself *why* you have the system currently set up as you do now. More often than not it was created many years ago before life changed and got more complicated, so taking a solid 15-20 mins and writing where everything is down on a piece of paper will help frame things in picture more. And then see how minimal you can get things without sacrificing anything in the process! It’s amazing how much we over complicate things over time… But money (and where it’s housed) is pretty simplistic when it comes down to it. Less is usually better in this case (accounts set up, that is – not the amounts of money you have ;))

j-money-dollar

I would like to thank J. Money for sharing how he has simplified his finances.  He offers some great advice to get your finances in order.  Take his advice now and “JUST DO IT” now by taking 20 minutes to review your current finances.  I am sure you will find ways to simplify things.  If you want to learn more about J.Money check out his site Budget are Sexy, I know you will enjoy it or follow him on Twitter @BudgetsareSexy .

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 Simplify Your Personal Finances with One Website?

SFL Online Banking One site to simplify

I am always trying to find new ways to simplify my finances or at least make it easier to keep track of my finances.  Having multiple things to keep track of can be time consuming as well as cumbersome.   Why not have one website you can keep track of everything or at least the majority of your personal financial life.  It will not only make your financial life better as well as easier.   Yes one website can help you simplify your finances.  I talking about your bank’s website.  Now I know every bank has different features on their sites but the majority banks have features to help you simplify your finances which I will discuss.  I have not used a credit union so they may also offer some of these features as well.

So you may be wondering how can my bank’s online services simplify my finances.  Here are 6 ways  your bank’s online banking services can help you simplify:

Review all of your accounts -when you looking to simplify you are also probably looking to save some time in the process.  If you have all of your deposits accounts (checking and savings), credit cards, mortgage, and investments account with the same bank you are able to review all of your accounts on one site.  Makes it easier since you do not have to remember multiple log-ons and passwords.  Think of the time you save by just going to one site instead of several sites.

Review all transactions – Keeping track of your account balances is important when you are trying to simplify your finances.  Being able to monitor your transactions in one location makes things so much easier.  You can just log on to one site and you can see credit card and deposit transactions.  This helps you monitor you account balances and spending in one place.

Set and receive alerts – another great way to help you simplify your finances is to set alerts on your accounts.  These alerts can alert you when your checking account reaches a certain balance minimum.  This lets you know you need to transfer or deposit money before you make your next purchase to avoid those ugly overdrafts.   You can also set alerts to let you know when a certain amount has been withdrawn from you or when a debit has been taken from your account.  This helps you track payments and alerts you if a transaction over a certain amount has occurred that you did not initiate.  For example, you may want to be alert to all transactions over a certain dollar amount.

Setup online transfers - when you simplify you want to automate as much as possible.  You can have everything automated from you bank’s website.  You can set up monthly transfer to your savings account as well as investment accounts.   You can also set up automated transfers to your checking account when you balance reaches a certain balance.  Helps you prevent overdraft charges.

Setup bill pay services – not only can you set up transfers to various accounts, you can also pay your bills from you bank’s website.  Paying your bills through bank’s website makes it easier to simplify.  Instead of writing out those checks you can simply set up the company that needs to be paid and the check will be issued for you.   Makes keeping track of your bills easier also.

Review statements – reducing the amount of mail you receive as well as the number of statements to   keep will help you simplify and better organize your finances.  Using online banking you can pull up  your statements online which means less paper you would receive in the mail.  When you use online banking many banks will keep several years of statements for you to access.  This means less statements  you would need to store.

As you can see by signing up for online banking it can help you simplify your finances.  So if you are not using online banking or only some of your bank’s online capabilities sign up and give it a try.  You never know you use may  benefit from it.  I am aware there are other financial website such as Mint available to help you review your finances.  However, since everyone has a primary bank why not give it a try as  you are already using their services.

Let me know what you like about your bank’s online capabilities?

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

 

PHOTO CREDIT:Copyright: jcjgphotography / 123RF Stock Photo