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How Much House Can I Really Afford?

Turn one calendar page and it’s spring – prime time for the housing market to open exciting new doors after a long winter lock-down. But before you contact your real estate agent, stop and ask yourself “how much house can I afford?” Dreaming of luxury kitchen appliances, soaring ceilings, spacious walk-in closets, granite countertops, wood floors and a three-car garage means it’s time to house hunt. But before you contact a real estate agent, stop and ponder this question: How much house can you really afford? A little homework ahead of your house hunt will help you set realistic expectations, save you time and ultimately land you in the right place without making you “house poor.” Increasingly, financial advisors recommend using the 28/36 rule to help determine how much house you can comfortably afford. Ramit Sethi, in his bestselling book, “I Will Teach You to be Rich,” spells out how…

Best Family-Friendly Spring Break Destinations on a Budget

It’s time to dust off your luggage and pack up the family for a spring break getaway. Luckily, making great memories doesn’t need to break the bank. We’ve hunted down six of the best family-friendly spring break destinations to visit on a budget. We focused on locations boasting: availability of flights high-value lodging, and plenty of inexpensive family activities. Here are our top six picks for the best family-friendly spring break destinations to visit on a budget. Phoenix, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona checks all the boxes of a great family-friendly spring break destination. Warm weather and outdoor activities, including plenty of free hiking, will help the kids run off some energy. For a little education mixed into the fun, visit The Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Gardens. Or, simply hang out poolside and relax. Phoenix has several family-friendly hotel chains across the valley. Or rent a condo or house and…

How to Get a Better Price on Everything You Buy

Finding the perfect gift for someone is a wonderful feeling. But, for many of us, finding that gift at a great price adds a little extra fun to the experience. It has nothing to do with a lack of generosity, it’s just something we seem to have in our DNA—if we don’t get a bargain, there’s something unsatisfying about the whole thing. The holiday shopping season is a particularly stressful time for shoppers whose favorite sport is finding the best deal on absolutely everything. Of course, that kind of frustration isn’t unique to the holidays or gift-giving; there are plenty of times, all year long, when you have neither the time nor the inclination to wait for a sale. You need the best price on something NOW. While the ideal situation is having time to shop, there are ways of making sure you’re getting a great price, even if the…

7 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances Before the End of the Year

Did you know “saving [more] money” was one of the top three New Year’s resolutions in 2018? Chances are, it will rank among the top resolutions for 2019 as well. No matter how comfortable we are financially, most of us can do more with our money. If you’re among the many people considering a financial resolution in 2019, there are plenty of things you can do before the ball drops. Addressing your finances now to set yourself up for success in January. Here are seven things to consider doing right now: Check Your Credit Report You can check your credit report for free, with no penalty to your credit, once every 12 months. Take advantage! The end of the year is a great time to order a copy of your report from the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Get yours online at annualcreditreport.com (the only authorized website for the job,…

How to Stop Procrastinating With Your Money in 4 Easy Steps

Personal finance prosperity requires a long-term plan, dedicated effort and regular check-ins to maintain focus. It takes work to reach financial goals. Millions of Americans complain about high debt, low savings and a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle that seems difficult to escape. But if you take the time to get your money systems setup, you can relax as your money goes to work for you. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to avoid putting off getting your finances in order.   Start a Budget Already Do you know you should budget but don’t think you have the time to put one together? Wrong! Anyone can budget in the time it takes to check your email. And you can do it on your smartphone or laptop. Popular budgeting apps Mint (free) and YNAB (paid) connect to your bank accounts, credit cards, loans and other financial accounts to summarize everything in one convenient dashboard. Both…

Need to Control Your Spending? Try Zero-Sum Budgeting

Do you have a solid idea about where your money goes each month? You probably can list the big-ticket items – rent or mortgage, car payment, maybe even utilities or other fixed expenses. But hundreds of other dollars have a way of vanishing and you may wonder why your bank account looks a little thin by month’s end and why your savings don’t grow as much as you’d like. Some financial advisors recommend zero-sum budgeting as a way to track your money, resulting in finding big and little ways to cut expenses to a more reasonable level. This budgeting system is popular with millions of people. Zero-Sum Basics You assign a job to every dollar you make in order to prevent waste and maximize the use of your income. The premise of zero-sum budgeting is that you use your last month’s income to pay this month’s expenses. So, you probably…

A Debt-Free College Degree? Yes, It’s Still Possible

Chances are your Facebook feed is lined with cute pictures of the first day of school. And everywhere you turn, there’s a back-to-school promotion. Too bad there aren’t any sales on college education. Quite the opposite, in fact. The average cost of tuition, room and board at American four-year colleges has more than doubled in the past 20 years, while the Consumer Price Index rose only 35 percent. With average costs at $11,970 (public 2-year), $20,770 (in-state public 4-year), $36,420 (out-of-state public 4-year) and $46,950 (private 4-year) per year, it’s no wonder Americans carry a larger student loan debt burden than ever. About 44 million people are on the hook for over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt. For perspective, total U.S. credit card debt is “only” $860 billion. If you or your college-bound child want to avoid the average $35,000-plus debt burden on graduation day, here are 10 ways…

6 Tips to Manage Your Finances With a Stay-at-Home Parent

The decision for one parent to stay home can cause tremendous heartburn. Many feel strongly about staying home with kids, but don’t know if they can make it work financially. However, with careful planning and a keen eye on the budget, having one stay-at-home parent can work for many families. According to Amy, a stay-at-home mom in the Midwest, the key to managing finances when one parent stays home is open communication and a solid budget. These six tips will help you shore up your budget and manage your finances when one parent stays home. Include Activities in the Monthly Budget When budgeting, leave wiggle room for outings and extracurricular activities. Becoming a stay-at-home parent doesn’t literally mean saying at home. Account for the memberships, entrance fees and supplies you’ll need to create an engaging and fun schedule for your family. You don’t have to break the bank. There are…

You, Too, Can Live Like the Rich and Famous

If you’ve ever bought a Powerball lottery ticket and fantasized about how your life would be fabulous if only you would win, it may be comforting to know that some of the super-rich live pretty much the way you live right now. At least some of the time. Multi-millionaires and billionaires obviously have the capital to do whatever they want, wherever they want, as often as they want. Many, however, opt to live modestly, focusing on growing their businesses and maintaining their wealth instead of how to spend their money. Some ultra-rich celebrities shop at Walmart, Target and the Dollar Store, eat at McDonald’s, style their own hair, prepare their own meals, drive old cars, shop for cheap coach class travel and live in the same modest house they’ve owned for decades. A few well-documented examples: Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $82.3 billion) lives in…

What You Should Think About When Thinking About Retiring

A Gallup Poll in 2016 reported that nearly two-thirds of Americans worried they did not have enough money for retirement. With other polls showing the retirement age is rising and more data showing Americans should expect to retire even later in life than previous generations, what effect does that have on your future plans? Check Your Savings and Create a Budget It seems to be an obvious first question: Do you have enough money socked away in savings? A majority of pre-retirees probably don’t have enough in savings if they wanted to quit working tomorrow. Life expectancies are growing, yes, but many Americans simply don’t save enough of their income to begin with. Savings should be at least 10 percent, if not more. For whatever reason, and it’s not always for reasons we can control, people tend to save less. How do you know if you’ve saved enough? And what…

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