This is a guest post from Pauline of InvestmentZen.com
Getting back in shape financially is just like going on a diet. You want to increase the difference between what you earn and what you spend, just like you would between how much you eat and how much energy you consume. And in both cases, it’s not easy. It even gets really hard if you are way out of shape. But despair not, there are ways to get there faster. Of course, that means drastic changes to your lifestyle. Are you ready for these?
The good news is once your net worth starts to grow and your financial habits improve, you will gain momentum and it will just snowball from then on.
It is quite hard to live in the US without a car. If that means having to quit your job, forget about it. But before you shrug it off and say “can’t do, my job’s too far”, let’s see if it really is. If you are driving anywhere to make minimum wage, that’s not worth it. There are minimum wages jobs right around the corner. Don’t put mileage on your car for a $7.25 paycheck. Walk over to the convenience store, the burger joint or the coffee shop next door, and see if they are hiring.
If your job is worth the commute, how long would it take you to take the bus? Can you carpool with a coworker? Maybe you can use the gym or go for a walk when they finish later than you. The last option, walking or cycling to work, is my favorite. I mean, free exercise, a great way to gather your thoughts on the way in, or forget about your day on the way back home. I used to cycle to work even in winter, you just need a rain paint and a good jacket, so no excuses.
How much money can you save by getting rid of your car? Say you have a $300/month car payment, $100 insurance, $100 gas, and $100 annualized for repairs and maintenance, you are looking at $600 per month back in your pocket! Having a car is costing you $20 a day. If you can take a Uber for less than that, you can even be driven to work in style and save money!
Unless you live in a very walkable neighborhood you’ll probably need a car at some point. But if you can do without from age 22 to 27 and invest $600 a month at 7% annually for five years, you will have $43,229 in your nest egg for a house deposit or to pay off your student loans. Leave it there compounding and do not add another cent until age 60, and you will have $435,410. How’s that for motivation?
I am all for independence and left home at 17 to go to college. There was no way you’d have sent me back at 25, after being used to living on my own for 8 years. My rent back then was around $500, and utilities another $100 maybe. Again, like the car example, that is $600 a month I could have saved.
I didn’t have student loans or high-interest debt that would have justified the sacrifice but considering the average 2015 college student graduated with $35,000 in debt, that might be of interest to you. One caveat to avoid is going out too much because you don’t pay rent. One night out at $50 three times a week, and your savings are gone. Instead, take advantage of your cash flow to wipe away your debt. It should take less than five years.
No bias on any destination, well, I actually live down in Guatemala and life is awesome. You would need an online side hustle though, since earning minimum wage here will net you around $300 and that is not the goal of our drastic financial diet. But you can rent a basic little house for $250 and make it work making $1,000 or less.
If you are not the adventurous type and need to earn a living at a brick and mortar company, you can still consider relocating to a lower cost of living area, in your state or another one. According to CNBC, Mississipi was the most affordable state in 2015, and what better than the Hospitality State to start a new life?
It is a tough decision to move away from family and friends, and one to take very seriously if your only goal is to improve your financial situation.
The odds are not in your favor if you make a low wage in a high cost of living area. But if that is the case, you are likely to make roughly the same in a cheaper state. The minimum wage is $7.25 in Mississipi and $8.50 in Hawaii. That’s barely $200 more a month that will be swallowed by rent, before you even think about eating or putting gas in your car. Teachers salaries are pretty much similar state-wide. And so on.
Like with a diet, it takes motivation and a strong mind to persist towards your goal. But the numbers speak for themselves in terms of the results you can get.
One of the sessions that Deacon covers in his debt free in 18 months is making more money and decreasing expenses.
In another related post, he goes further and details lots of ways to make more money. Some of them involve more time than others, some may earn more money than others, and some may not be applicable for certain folks.
I want to elaborate on one item from Deacon’s list: Rent out your spare bedroom.
I’ve been renting out two bedrooms for the past 7 years. I started renting out my spare rooms to pay my way through graduate school rather than taking on additional student loans.
Renting out rooms went well enough that after graduation, I still continued to rent out my spare room so that I can use the rental income to make accelerated mortgage payments. My main driver for making accelerated payments was to refinance my mortgage.
I bought my house at the peak of the market and when the market crashed, my house value plummeted. Looking back on the situation, I was young and naive to just jump in the real estate market without any need for a house, which could make for another story.
In short, I was under water and the only way out was to pay down my mortgage and to get right side up.
So along the way of renting out rooms, I learned the benefits and disadvantages. I’m here to share them and how to get started if anyone has this in their game plan to be debt free in 18 months.
The first step may appear as cleaning out the spare room and putting an advertisement online, but that’s not quite it. If you ask me, the first step is to set a financial goal. Why?
You want to allocate the extra income to a financial goal so that you’re not squandering it on material or behavioral items that elevate your lifestyle. Without a clear cut goal, it’s easy to spend that sudden influx of cash. Even worse, when your roommate moves out, you’ll be left feeling even poorer than you did before.
Secondly, with a goal in place, you’re more likely to keep your focus over little annoyances. There were many times when I had to do more than my fair share of household responsibilities such as taking out the trash.
But by focusing on the fact that I’ll end up way ahead financially, it made taking out the trash tolerable to deal with. I simply think of it as making an extra $600 bucks a month to take out the trash several more times a month. That $600 bucks earned every month is chipping away at my debt and moving myself towards financial freedom.
If you’re strapped for cash, you’ll have no choice, but to embrace your new roommate with open arms. But if you’re one of those folks that thinks renting out a room is a good idea, but not quite sure it’s for you.
One thing you can do to try a provisional period with your potential roommate. Set expectations that you only need a roommate for 3 or 6 months so that at the end of the term, you’ll have your space back no matter how good or bad the experience is.
If the experience went well at the end of the term, try for a longer term and consider finding an additional roommate to bring in even more cash. And by this point, you’ll know what worked and what didn’t work so that you can make changes accordingly.
Happy Roommate Hunting!
Mike writes at rentingoutrooms.com where he shares his insights on the topic of renting out rooms. He was motived to start the blog with the lack of sites related to the topic when he started. He hopes to educate and inspire other that’s renting out your spare room is a great way to make extra cash.
Image Credit: Anna Tesar
Before I get to my tips, I want to thank Deacon for giving me the opportunity to do a bi-monthly post for Well Kept Wallet. The idea behind my articles is to offer some money-saving tips and related coupons, many of which are out-of-the-box, to help you make your monthly paycheck go as far as possible. I have been helping families save money since 2001 through my website Rather-Be-Shopping and hope to do the same on Deacon’s terrific blog.
Kids and teenagers across the country are currently scrambling to get ready for the first day of school and college. Parents are examining supply lists, and incoming college kids are figuring how they’re going to afford to furnish their living space. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are going to spend on average a jaw-dropping $635 to get ready for the upcoming school year. But if you shop smart, you can save serious money, especially if you can take advantage of your local thrift store. Here are six tips for buying back-to-school supplies at the thrift store.
Let’s face it, kids and teens grow like weeds on fertilizer. As they outgrow jeans, slacks, and polo shirts, parents often donate them to thrift stores and Goodwill for quick removal. It simply is the easiest way to clear out stuff that isn’t worn anymore. This creates a great thrift store buying opportunity for you. You can regularly find gently used jeans, slacks, and polo shirts, from name brands like Ralph Lauren, American Eagle, Gap and Old Navy. On a recent thrift store shopping trip, my wife found my son a pair of Gap jeans and only paid $3.99. They are in great shape and will easily last him one full school year. Also, if you are looking for distressed jeans with holes, paint stains, and various rips, look no further than your local thrift store. You’ll pay pennies on the dollar for “destroyed” denim that Abercrombie & Fitch sells for $84.99.
Are you looking to stock your dorm room for the upcoming school year? Make sure to stop by the thrift store as you’ll find desks, coffee tables, bed frames, and couches at unbelievable prices. This tip is even better if you are handy enough to refinish a piece on you own. Also, most thrift stores are famous for quirky home decor and wall art. Pick up something really cool and unique, for pennies on the dollar, to spruce up your space. Use the money saved to buy new linens, sheets, and towels.
Also, be sure to stock up for those cold fall and winter mornings right now by shopping for kid’s coats and jackets at your local thrift store. Similar to jeans, many parents (myself included) will donate warm jackets that don’t fit any more to thrift stores. When it comes to children’s coats and jackets, they’re typically still in great condition as kids tend to outgrow them well before they wear them out.
If you’ve ever had kids outgrow sporting goods and gear, you know how quickly it can pile up in your garage. Thus, many parents will opt to donate unwanted sporting goods to thrift stores giving you a great buying opportunity for fall sports like soccer and cross-country. If your child is planning on participating, shop thrift stores for soccer cleats, balls, shorts, sweatshirts, and athletic t-shirts. Also, if you need athletic clothing for P.E. class, shop smart and stock up with bargains from the thrift store.
While new pencils, pens, and spiral notebooks are often loss leaders and can be found really cheap at stores like Wal-Mart and Target, more expensive supplies like backpacks, laptop bags, and desk organizers can be real budget busters if bought brand new. So be sure to check thrift stores for these items as many folks will donate unused items when de-cluttering their office space. Make their garbage your treasure and save some serious cash in the process.
I just donated a pile of really nice dishware and Tupperware to Goodwill because our pantry was over-flowing. If you are a college student and need some food storage containers or dishware for your apartment or dorm, check out the thrift store before you head to the expensive department store. For less than $20 you can stock up on enough items to stock your kitchenette or small pantry.
If you strike out at the thrift store when doing your back-to-school shopping, by all means don’t pay full price.
About the Author: Kyle James is the owner and founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com which lists money saving coupons and frugal living tips to over 850 retailers.
Below are a few tools to keep in mind as you buy and manage real estate properties. Using proper real estate management techniques, the return on your investment could be greater than any you would get working a desk job, investing in the stock market, or any other investment avenue.
Know Your Risk
It is no secret that real estate, in its myriad of forms, is an extremely risky investment. However, I would argue that whether you’re investing in apartments, land, a fixer-upper, or a single-family home, your risk can be substantially diminished through an honest assessment of yourself, your resources, and your skills and weaknesses.
Are you a handyman? If not, a fixer-upper probably isn’t the best choice, unless you want to share potential returns with architects, construction crews, and the like. Can you deal with people efficiently? If not, don’t buy a multi-unit apartment property where you’ll have to communicate with multiple tenants – possibly on a daily basis. Are you familiar with the area? If you don’t know anything about the market or its demographics, look elsewhere.
Presently, I work for a real estate property manager and developer in Gainesville, Florida. We specialize in Gainesville apartments near the University of Florida campus. This allows us to know our target market and significantly lower our risk. By establishing a competent maintenence staff, we are able to please tenants and free up our own time simultaneously.
A huge issue in times of economic turmoil is the distance a dollar can take you. If inflation rises, a salaried or hourly worker will be stuck with their wage and will be forced to spend more on daily necessities. This leaves less disposable income for recreation and leisure. Compare this with an apartment property manager. If his/her costs increase, the apartment manager simply increases rent to match inflation.
Real estate returns are linked directly to the prices on the market. As inflation, the rise in prices of an economy’s goods and services, increases, so will housing costs. This means that the higher prices on food, gas, etc., will not affect your income through real estate. The only problem is, a lazy landlord may miss their opportunities to increase rents and be stuck with inflation eating away at their rental income.
Growing up around real estate and property management companies, I learned early how real estate could be used to combat fluctuations and price changes in the market.
Are you working 80 hours a week or more on your property? Vacation rentals, apartments in low-income areas, and poorly constructed buildings can cause an owner to invest all of their time into management and maintenance of the property. Calculate your hourly income through your apartment property or house rent. Then understand that for each hour you have to work to organize a monthly renter or replace that moldy floorboard you are losing money.
When looking to buy apartment rental properties, I have two questions I repeatedly ask myself: How soon will this building start generating income after the purchase? And, How much weekly/monthly personal time will I have to put into maintenance and management after the purchase?
If you are new to the real estate game, don’t look to spend your life savings on a down payment for a multi-million dollar apartment complex. Start at square one: looking for the perfect location where you know people will want to rent. In Gainesville, individuals know that apartments and houses for rent near the University of Florida’s campus are in high demand. As long as the properties are well-kept, they will easily rent. Similarly, areas near research parks and technology communities are usually great places to attract tenants.
Once you’ve targeted a location, meet with a realtor. Get any information from them about the local market and any properties you might visit. Look at small duplexes and houses. Once you have that down you can move forward, but the management and operation process should take time to get used to. Be sure to utilize the many tech-based resources at your fingertips to help you with legal documents, tenant background checks, property histories, and similar interests.
Real estate is exciting because it is risky and your return is what you make of it. There are a number of factors that go into a successful apartment property or single-family home or any other rental property. Utilizing these tips, you can limit the time you spend on your investment and increase the return from it. By keeping your finger on the pulse of the market and your own property, you will free up your time and allow the real estate to work for you.
Josh Steppling is a Marketing Associate for Trimark Properties, a company that manages Gainesville apartments and commercial properties near the University of Florida. Josh has managed businesses regarding real estate and property management and has knowledge and experience across the advertising and marketing spectrum. Josh also runs a Gainesville Apartments Blog that discusses real estate near UF and innovation in Gainesville and is a graduate of the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. Go Gators!
It’s a known fact that Amazon.com changes the price of items on a daily or even hourly basis. While they are fairly closed lip on this topic, it is my belief that they are simply following buying trends and data which they have collected over the years. Be sure to use this to your advantage by adding products to your cart in the “Save for Later” section. Then check back often to observe the price changes. Only buy when the price dips to a comfortable level. I have personally used this strategy to save up to 40% off my purchase price.
Have you ever heard of the Amazon.com ‘Subscribe & Save’ program? The program is a great way to save money and get free shipping on items you buy on a regular basis. Things like diapers, office supplies, and household supplies fit the mold. Essentially it works by Amazon mailing you your pre-selected items on a pre-determined schedule. The best part is you’ll save up to 15% off when you have 5 or more items on your monthly schedule. Also, the kicker is that you’ll always get free shipping. Cancel at any time, no fees, and no obligations.
Many are unaware that Amazon.com has an online outlet that offers deals up to 70% off the retail price. The outlet is not shown on the homepage as a clickable link. Amazon breaks the outlet down into very easy to navigate categories as well as the savings available. Popular outlet categories include clothing, jewelry, electronics, and shoes. Your best bet to get to the outlet is to click on the above link or do a Google search for “Amazon.com outlet”.
If you are a loyal Amazon user you should definitely consider a Prime membership. For $99 a year, you get unlimited free 2-day shipping with no minimum order size, instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, and 1 Kindle book borrow per month. The Prime membership breaks down to just over $8.25 per month, so if you make at least 2 purchases a month with Amazon you’ll essentially break-even. With the unlimited shipping and the amazing selection that Amazon has, you can shop from home for not only gifts but household supplies and everyday items. The convenience is what really makes the Prime membership so attractive to consumers. But with that comes the risk of overbuying and impulse purchases. You definitely have to be aware and keep your spending in check.
Are you an avid Amazon.com shopper? If so, do you have any other secrets on how to score a great deal? I look forward to your comments.
Kyle James owns and operates an online coupon website titled Rather-Be-Shopping.com which specializes in coupons to over 850 popular retailers like Walmart, Amazon.com, Best Buy, and Lands’ End.
Although investing in real estate is a great way to achieve financial freedom, it can be a perilous journey. There are plenty of con artists out there ready to take your money. Before you jump into a real estate deal, you should be aware of the scams that people try to pull. This article will give you tips about things to look out for when you are investing in real estate.
As a real estate investor you live or die by the information you are able to gather. One of the most important pieces of information is the amount of repairs that will need to be done to make the property livable. Some sellers will try to hide things such as a roof that is badly in need of repair. Repairing a roof can be very expensive. It’s best to do your own home inspection with your own inspector before you commit to purchasing an investment property.
Some unscrupulous people are pretending to be real estate agents. You may find a listing on Craigslist or some other classified ad site that seems too good to be true. You may put up earnest money to secure the property only to find out that the person wasn’t a real estate agent and the property they were selling wasn’t even for sale. Do your due diligence. Check that person’s real estate license before you hand over any money.
You may have seen the ad on Facebook or got a letter in the mail. The person looks legit. They have on a business suit. They promise to teach you how to be a successful real estate investor in a two-day boot camp for the low price of $1,997. So you excitedly fork over the money only to realize that the “boot camp” is nothing but a pitch fest with someone trying to sell you more books and DVDs.
To avoid this scenario, just ask the people you network with if they’ve ever been to the seminar you’re planning on going to. Most people will gladly share if they’ve had a bad experience at a particular workshop. Also check out the reputation of the “expert” that is holding the seminar. If you see pages upon pages of complaints on the ripoff report, then you may want to steer clear of this particular event. There are some GREAT seminars out there. You just have to do your homework and be diligent to make sure that you don’t get scammed.
If the investment property you are considering buying is an occupied foreclosure property, beware of the problems that can arise from this sort of purchase. If the tenant of the property is uncooperative he or she may not allow inspection of the interior of the property leaving the buyer totally unaware of what his cost will be to make necessary repairs and upgrades. Also, the occupants may refuse to move out leaving the new owner no choice but to pay costly court fees for an eviction. This will hurt the buyer’s bottom line because evictions can take months to complete. A disgruntled tenant who has just been evicted may decide to take a few things from the property in retaliation such as air conditioner units, heater units, appliances or create damages to the property that can lead huge repair expenses to the new owner.
Last but not least be sure you are making a wise investment. You want to be sure the real estate you are investing in will provide you with a positive cash flow. A negative cash flow will result in having to provide money out of your own pocket and can create a hardship on your personal finances. The housing market tends to fluctuate at times and a positive cash flow will ensure you can get through hard economic times as well as a vacancy or unexpected repairs.
While there are some dishonest people involved in the real estate business, there are also tons of honest people just out there trying to make a living. Real estate is a great vehicle to use to get out of debt and save money for retirement. Don’t let the few bad apples keep you from reaching for your dreams.
Ori Tal is a real estate developer from Cocoa Beach Florida. You can read more about him at orital.org.
How much life insurance to buy? After getting married and having children responsibilities start to set in. You’re putting a little bit into your 401(k), you’re reading about the benefits of a Roth IRA, and you know that you need to buy life insurance.
Although life insurance should be simple many times people are overwhelmed with all of the different options. How much life insurance should you buy? Should you buy term or permanent life insurance? What if your employer offers life insurance, should you buy it through them? Let’s tackle these questions and see what makes the most sense for you and make sure you don’t make any mistakes in buying life insurance.
When it comes to buying life insurance to protect your family there really isn’t a right answer. Sure there are some general rules of thumb out there that you could follow. For example, purchasing a face amount 10 times your current salary is one you here often. But there are many factors at play if this makes send for you. Some of these include:
You don’t want to be life insurance poor, so you want to be careful and not pay too much for life insurance.
Is this just to cover your mortgage or do you need it more for a long term income replacement need.
The fact of the matter remains though it is important to have some life insurance to make sure that your family has protection.
If the cost of life insurance is a non-issue, then typically I always suggest that a young family purchase 20 times their current salary and not 10. Why you ask? Because as you age you should be making more money getting career advances and pay raises along the way to where 10 years from now the income replacement need is much higher.
Compound that with the fact that you’ll be getting older and you never know what health conditions may arise. Locking in a low premium when you’re much younger and much healthier is the equivalent of locking in a 30 year mortgage at a 3% interest rate. Lock it in while it’s cheap!
For me personally I took out a $250,000 30 year term policy when my wife and I first married. I thought that was plenty until we had our first child. I then realized that we didn’t have nearly enough.
Upon the birth of our first child I immediately added a $500,000 30 year term policy and kept the original $250,000 policy. Hindsight being 20/20 I would have bought more life insurance when I was younger but luckily my health was still intact, so it was relatively a non-issue. I was lucky. Many aren’t.
I have to be upfront when I say that I’m not a big fan of whole life insurance. I’m sure there are situations where it could make sense, but most of the time that I see it used with a young family they’re paying much more for life insurance coverage with a much smaller death benefit. Pinyo from Mooloanomy.com had the same revelation that he wrote about his post “Should I buy whole life insurance?“. The post does a great job of analyzing why it didn’t make sense for him. What’s amazing about the post is in the comments section where (greedy) life insurance agents attack him for making a decision that was best for him and his family.
Without question term life insurance is cheap. A healthy 30-year-old male can get $250,000 of coverage for 20 years for as little as $150 a year. Compare that to whole life insurance and you may be paying closer to $300 a month for far less coverage.
This is a common question that I get from many individuals that feel that buying life insurance through their employer is so much more convenient. While yes I totally agree that it’s super easy to buy it through your job, but consider this; what happens when you leave your job?
I’ve heard of instances where an individual was leaving their job where they were covered under a group life insurance plan, but with their new job there was no life insurance coverage offered. Now if they wanted to buy life insurance they have to go to a third party and get a medical exam.
For a healthy individual that wouldn’t matter as much, but what if you had a high risk condition such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes. These type of conditions make purchasing life insurance that much more expensive. Often times I suggest that people buy life insurance through a third party, i.e. independent life insurance agent, and lock it in for 20 to 30 years. That way if they ever leave their job they don’t have to worry about trying to get new life insurance coverage.
As far as the cost of buying life insurance through a third party versus buying it through your work when you’re young the cost is almost identical. If you want to do a cost comparison of what you’re paying through your job through getting life insurance through a third party you can get a free term life insurance quote online here. When shopping for life insurance I cannot stress enough to go through an independent agent that has the ability to use multiple carriers.
Every life insurance company is structured differently and your age, your geographic location, and health history will all factor in determining the price of your life insurance policy. Having an independent agent that can use multiple carriers and shop around for you will help keep more money in your savings account than going through the life insurance company.