The Cure for Money Headaches

Today’s guest post is by Barney Whistance.

Planning a solid financial present is centered around four basic stages of financial management; creating an emergency fund, paying off debts, saving for larger long term goals, and investing in your financial future. Any sound financial plan also includes planning, foresight, and budgeting to get in the clear.

Here is a breakdown of the four stages of financial management that will get you on track to reach all your personal financial goals and dreams.

 

Cure for Money Headaches

Build an emergency fund

Your first step to eliminating money headaches will be saving enough for an emergency fund. This will give you and your family peace of mind to handle much of what life may throw at you in the coming years. This initial savings goal should include enough money to get through at least three months of living expenses in the event that you get laid off or have some other type of emergency, like a car or water heater breakdown. Even if you can’t get this saved straight away, keep it as a target to aim for. Also, make sure that the money is in an easy to access account. In an emergency you will need instant access to these funds. If you have not done so yet, create a workable monthly budget, with a line item for saving.   Tuck away as much as you can each month to stock up your emergency fund as quickly as possible.

Pay off debts

Debts are liabilities. They throw your finance in the red and set you up to pay more than the actual amount of the loan in interest payments over time. The second step, then, in creating a workable long-term financial plan, is to eliminate consumer debts completely. Throw all of your resources at your debts and you will be saving a large chunk of money in interest over time that you can then apply towards other parts of your plan.

When it comes it debts it makes sense to tackle the ones with the highest interest rates first. This usually starts with any retail credit cards you may have, and then goes on from there. Just make sure that you don’t neglect the minimum payments on your other loans and debts while you pay down the first. Any budget you have should include at least the minimum monthly required payments on all of your loan agreements.  Bank credit cards, student debts, and other personal loans should also be on this list. 

If you’re facing heaps of student debt in addition to credit card and personal loans, examine your loan types and current occupation to determine if you qualify for federal loan forgiveness or other types of loan reductions due to your career of choice. Government employees, teachers, those working in the non-profit sector, and certain healthcare workers – like those working in critically identified facilities, community clinics, and hospice care support settings – can qualify for loan reductions or even forgiveness after a period of two to ten years.

Currently, only about one percent of the 33 million people employed in the non-profit and government sectors are benefiting from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Check into the Federal PSLF and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) debt reduction programs to see if you qualify.

Build up your savings

Once you’ve built up your emergency fund, and paid off your consumer debt, you can concentrate on funding additional extras and loftier goals. These immediate savings goals might include:

  • Having enough money to go on a vacation and not have to worry about bills.

  • Saving up some extra cash to have on hand so you don’t have to worry about finances during maternity or paternity leave.

  • Putting together a down payment on a house or other property.

  • Buying a car with cash instead of taking out a loan.

 

Invest

The last stage of the journey is to ensure that you are putting money aside each month for important long-term goals like your children’s college education, pension plans, retirement savings accounts, and other long-term investments.

Consider diversifying your investments into physical properties. You don’t have to have a ton of money to break into the property market. With the explosion of crowd-sourced real-estate funding, like Fundrise, CrowdProperty, and Exceedant, just to name a few, you can now invest in part of a property or development project with as little as $20 and earn as much as 12 percent annual return. Diversifying into property investment early on is a great way to maximize your earnings over time.

 

Barney-Whistance

Barney Whistance is an enthusiastic Finance and Economics blogger who is most interested in global economic climate. Apart from doing majors in Finance, he is also a Chartered Accountancy Student and planning to complete his Ph.D. in Finance before he turns 30. You find him here on Twitter.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Thanksgiving Countdown

Happy Thanksgiving Dinner countdown is on and it’s time to get those menus planned! Hello, it’s Heather from Real: The Kitchen and Beyond. Every year I anticipate Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a time to gather ’round the table with loved ones and remember how grateful we need to be for all that we have. It’s also a time I agonize over the Thanksgiving Dinner menu. I love planning and making this meal and narrowing down the array of side dishes and desserts isn’t easy.

 

I am not going to lie, I especially love Thanksgiving dinner tables loaded down with food. Every year as we make way too many dishes, I am reminded afresh of how blessed we are to be able to enjoy a table full of family, love, and food. The two biggest things I have found that help fill that table with less stress and a more frugal budget, is to keep the dishes simple and have everyone bring a favorite dish. This also helps keep the meal easy prep! Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes that make it to the table every year.

 

All About the Turkey

What is better than a beautifully roasted turkey with crispy flavorful skin? Here is my favorite roasted turkey recipe and a few prep tips for making that bird the main star.

 

 

Bountiful Sides

Amish Mashed Potatoes

Easy Healthy Sweet Potatoes

Gluten Free Sausage Cranberry Stuffing

Easy Lemony Asparagus – roasted with a little olive oil, salt, and the juice of 1/2 lemon squeezed over top

Creamed Corn (I confess, from the can)

My mama’s crescent rolls

Green Bean Casserole ( My favorite way to make it is to dump a 16 ounce bag of frozen green beans in a casserole dish and mix with a batch of homemade mushroom soup, then bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.)

Homemade Cranberry Sauce (see easy recipe below)

 

 

Delicious Desserts

Homemade Apple Pie

Cranberry Ginger Crumble Bars

Pumpkin Pie

 

 

Homemade Clementine Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce has always been that one dish that can’t be left off the table. From cans of jellied cranberries to this homemade clementine cranberry sauce, the color and flavor has to be on my plate. This clementine cranberry sauce has all the tartness of cranberries with sweetness from the sugar and clementine to mellow it out, yet still have bright flavors. Enjoy!

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

  • 1 clementine

  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  • Zest and juice clementine, keeping both the juice and zest for the sauce.

  • Put cranberries in a wide-bottomed pan ( sauté pan or wide bottomed stockpot works)

  • Mix sugar, zest, and juice into cranberries.

  • Cook over medium heat, slightly chopping up cranberries once they get soft. (Use a hand masher or immersion blender.)

  • Heat until thick and bubbling.

  • Transfer to a bowl and chill before serving.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Makes: Approximately 2 cups

 

 

Heather McCurdy writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond where the food is (mostly) real and the making’s easy. She believes any one can cook. Just follow the steps, starting at #1. Read, follow, taste, venture out. Don’t be afraid to fail, then try again. Her other hats are homeschooling, editing fiction, ghostwriting, and culinary marketing. Oh, and she believes life is always better with dessert.

 

 

 

 

The Holidays Are Coming!

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

The  Holidays are coming!  The Holidays are coming!  That’s right – only one month until Halloween, two months until Thanksgiving, and LESS than three months until Christmas!!  Are you panicked yet?  Well, don’t be.  I’ll tell you the secret weapon you need for a less stressful 2013 holiday season.  Planning!

Most of us – me included – tend to wing it when it comes to shopping, cooking, and decorating for the holidays.  In the same way that meal planning reduces the cost and stress of putting dinner on the table, investing a little time in advanced planning for your holiday celebrations NOW will pay big dividends later.

Find the Right Tools ~ I found this awesome and FREE Holiday Planner which has handy sheets for keeping track of your gift list, holiday expenses, and activities.  It’s geared towards Christmas, but you could make a copy for each holiday to track decorations, crafts, travel plans, food, and more!   I like that it includes a budget, which increases the likelihood that I won’t overspend on my holiday fun.

Narrow It Down ~ I’ve been collecting ideas for Halloween on Pinterest and there is NO WAY that I will be able to make and bake everything on that board!  So now is the time to narrow it down and decide what I can reasonably accomplish based on the time and money I want to spend.  Think about what traditions your family really looks forward to for each holiday and make sure you allocate time in your schedule.  This way you won’t be carving pumpkins at midnight, pulling your pumpkin pie out of the oven an hour before you’re supposed to be at Grandma’s house, or facing an all-night wrap-a-thon on Christmas Eve.

Build Your To-Do & Assign Dates ~ Once I decide what I’m going to do for each holiday, the next thing to do is figure out when.  By looking at my schedule for October, November, and December, I’ll be able to figure out when is the best time to indulge in some baking and crafts.  In past years, I’ve always waited until the last minute, which means half of what I wanted to do goes unfinished.

More Time, Stress, & Money Saving Ideas ~  Look over your Holiday To-Do List (which should be posted somewhere you see it often, like the refrigerator) and consider your food and baked goods.  What can you make ahead and freeze?  When I visited my Uncle Paul in August, he was baking pies for Thanksgiving and popping them in the freezer.  What a great idea!  Get started on personalized gifts, Christmas cards, and family pictures now.  I always make calendars full of family pictures for my parents as Christmas gifts.  I hate to admit that I’m always doing this at the last minute, emailing my sisters for good shots of my nieces and nephews to include.  This means I’m usually paying for express shipping to get the calendars on time.  Shopping for both food and gifts during the holiday season can be stressful.  If possible, plan shopping trips during the week in the morning when crowds will be light.  I’ve taken vacation days from work to accomplish this in past years and it’s worked really well.

Have a tip for saving time, money, or stress during the holiday season?  I’d love to hear it!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Practice What You Preach!

           

          January is synonymous with new beginnings, and that is certainly true for my life right now.  For the past twelve years, I have worked as the VP of HR & Accounting and been a part owner of my family’s business, KRC Machine Tool Services.  I am grateful for the people I have met and worked alongside for many years and for the comfortable living that my job has provided for me.  However, I feel that my calling in life is to help people save money and get out of debt.  So, by the end of February, I will be completely self-employed and putting a full-time effort behind Strong Tower – teaching Meal Planning and Coupon Workshops and doing financial coaching.  Equal parts exciting and scary!

            For the past seven or eight months, I’ve essentially been working a job and half, trying to ramp up activity with Strong Tower while working full-time at KRC.  I’ve definitely been better about Meal Planning during this time, because I’ve had to be!  Certainly Meal Planning saves money, but its main benefit is saving time and stress.  However, because I’ve been SO busy, I haven’t been as diligent as I could be with keeping up on the deals for my family and maintaining my coupon binder.  I’ve been so occupied teaching others, that it’s been difficult to find time to do it for myself!

            That is going to have to change!  Once I’m completely self-employed I will certainly have more time to check out the deals and shop more stores.  I’ll need to because there’s going to be a decrease in our family’s income until Strong Tower starts really taking off.  Yes, we’ve got a good cushion in our savings account so I won’t have to worry too much, but I don’t want to dip into that unless it’s absolutely necessary.  So I will definitely be practicing EVERYTHING that I teach and preach to others – Budgeting, Meal Planning, Stockpiling, Freezer Cooking, and Super Couponing!

            The one thing that I tell people in my classes is that the more savings techniques you apply together, the bigger your return will grow.  All of us have different family, income, and job situations.  Some people have more time to devote to Couponing and Meal Planning than others.  The nice thing is that you can easily pick and choose how much of it you want to do and which strategies you want to apply.  When you have a change in income, schedule, or family dynamics, you can easily change what you’re doing with Meal Planning and Couponing to adapt.

            The lesson here is not to beat yourself up over how you’re not doing everything you can to save money.  Take a good look at your money and life situation and decide how much time you can devote to Couponing and Meal Planning.  Hey – no one’s perfect!  (Least of all, me.)  Can I get an “Amen”?

Here’s my Meal Plan for this week.

Monday ~ Fish Tacos.  They remind me of being on vacation with my husband in Maui, where I first tried them.  With it being freezing outside, I’ll give myself a little mental vacation!

Tuesday ~FFY (Fend for Yourself!)  I will probably eat out at Panera or my favorite cheap Chinese restaurant.  I am helping teach Financial Peace University at my church tonight.  I love helping people get out of the bondages of debt! 

Wednesday ~ FFY (Fend for Yourself!)  Bible Study.  I have several freezer meals that I can pick from for dinner – turkey noodle soup, chili, or Mom’s split pea soup.

 Thursday ~ Weeknight Deviled Cornish Hens.  I found this recipe in the USA Weekend magazine that comes in my Sunday paper.  It sounds easy and delicious!  I’ve included the recipe below.

Friday ~ Turkey Stroganoff served over egg noodles with peas.

Saturday ~ Baked Salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli

Sunday ~ Tomato basil soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on rye bread.

 

Weeknight Deviled Cornish Hen

• 2 Cornish game hens (1½ to 2 pounds each), cut down the back with kitchen shears to butterfly
• 1½ tsps. olive oil
• 1½ tsps. dried thyme leaves
• ¼ cup dry plain bread crumbs
• Salt and ground black pepper
• ¼ cup Dijon mustard

Adjust rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add thyme and bread crumbs; toast until fragrant and golden, a couple of minutes.

Lightly sprinkle hens all over with salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet large enough for them to comfortably fit in a single layer. Brush hens with mustard and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Roast until impressively golden brown and juices run clear when leg thigh is pricked with a fork, about 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes. Halve and serve.

Makes 4 servings