Basic Guide to Budgeting and Personal Finance

Are you clueless when it comes to Budgeting and Personal Finance?

Do you want to learn about Budgeting and Personal Finance but don’t even know where to start?

Are you just starting out and want to start Budgeting and Saving properly the first time around?

I wish I had someone to teach me basics of budgeting and saving when I was just starting to work. I would have saved myself so much heartache. This is not a blog about getting out debt (thank goodness!) or about Pursuing Financial Independence or Early Retirement (FIRE). There Basic Guide to Budgeting and Personal Financeare plenty of great people talking about those.

 

This is a blog about the  basics of personal finance and my own journey towards financial security. I am a “millennial mom” who is doing her best to give my family financial security all while living on a low income. No high-earner here!

 

How do you start getting your financial life in order?

It's actually very easy. There are no secrets or get-rich tips. It comes down to proper budgeting and saving properly. Click To Tweet

If you read the following posts (I suggest in order but you can do whatever you want!) it will give you the basic foundation to start getting your financial life in order. Its simple and straightforward.

Budgeting with the Modern Envelope System– a basic budget with a modern twist.

Budgeting on an Uneven Paycheck– What if you don’t get a set paycheck every month? This posts helps you set up a budget to fit your uneven paycheck.

Setting up Your Savings Ladder- Where do you put your savings? How do you know what to save for? The Savings Ladder will tell you exactly where and how much to save.

Emergency Fund: A Primer- The emergency fund is part of your savings ladder. Why is it so important? Why do you need it?

Why I put $5 a Month into a Retirement Account- Creating good financial habits is the key to successfully getting your financial life under control.

3 Tips to Boost your Savings-Looking for tips to boost your savings? Here are 3. No shortcuts though! Just good, old-fashioned savings.

 

Happy Reading and Good Luck!

Some Basics About Filing Taxes

TaxesSome Basics About Filing Taxes

Tax Filing 101

Disclaimer: The following post contains affiliate links, which means I may get money when you click or purchase something from a link in this post.

If you make money- you have to file taxes. Click To TweetThe good thing is that filing taxes is actually pretty easy for the majority of people.

There are 2 types of taxes that you have to file: Federal and State.

According to the IRS:

In most cases, you will need to file a return if any of the following are true:

  • Your gross income was over $10,000 as a single filer (or over $20,000 as a married couple filing jointly)
  • You earned over $400 from self-employment
  • You sold your home during the tax year
  • You owe taxes because of your retirement account, either from distributions or excess contributions
  • You owe Social Security and Medicare taxes on tips that were not reported to your employer, or on wages that your employer did not withhold these taxes from

After you file taxes, you may get a bill from the IRS saying that you need to pay taxes or you may get a Refund (this is when the IRS gives you money back)

The best and easiest way to file taxes is through a cheap or free tax software service. There really is no need to pay someone to do your taxes unless you have a really complicated situation.

According to a Reddit user, “If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $66,000 or less, https://www.irs.gov/freefile has many options which may allow you to e-file your federal and state income taxes for free using popular brand-name software like Turbo Tax, Tax Slayer, etc., even if you need the more “complicated” schedules for things like itemized deductions, self-employment income, or capital gains and losses. Note that the free products offered via this service may differ from the “free” (with pushy up selling) products you’d find if you went directly to the vendors’ web sites. Always follow the links from the IRS if you want the truly free versions.”

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Your employer, your banks, your school- they will all send you various tax forms. As soon as you get them- keep them in a folder or in a specific place on your computer. Once you have all your forms you can begin the process. Software like Turbo Tax allows you to save your work so as soon as you get your W-2 or 1099 from your employer you can get to work.
  2. Discuss with your parents your “dependent” status. Only one person can claim you as a dependent- either your parents or you- but not both. If you are still living at home or you’re parents are supporting you , they may still want to claim you as dependent. If this is not the case, let them know that they can no longer claim you as a dependent because you will be claiming yourself. This will ensure there are no issues if you are claimed as a dependent twice.
  3. File soon and file early. As soon as you can file you should do so. First of all, get it over with. Second, since many people wait until the last minute- the IRS usually takes while to process your return if you file near April 15th. However, if you file earlier (you can file as early as January 28th) they are more likely to process your return and give you a refund quickly.
  1. You MUST file by April 15th. Don’t wait until then. Do it earlier. But that is the latest you can file. Don’t miss the deadline please!
  1. If you are hit with a huge tax bill, then hire a professional to speak to. It is possible they can help you file an amended return if you did something wrong, or help you work out a payment plan with the IRS. Whatever you do, don’t not pay your bill! Even if you can’t afford it- work out some sort of plan. If you just run out on your bill you can be in a lifetime of trouble!

TurboTax

I personally have been using Turbo Tax to file my taxes for the past 8 years and I have been very happy. TurboTax is a software that you can purchase in-store or online that walks you through filing your taxes and then e-files for you, if you want. It’s easy, straightforward and it saves all your work. I also love that they save all your information from previous years so a lot of the information is already there the following years. It’s a great option that you can do from home- it’s quick and easy! You can request that your refund (if you are entitled to one) be directly deposited to your bank account which speeds up the processing time as well. I have always had very quick turn around times with my refund when doing through Turbo Tax, but I usually file my taxes in the first week of February. There are different forms of the software starting from free for basic returns and getting more expensive as you get more complicated. The website can help you figure out the best program to purchase.

DO NOT get your refund in Amazon gift cards (this is sometimes an option). It’s just begging for you to spend your refund instead of using to pay down debt, bulk up savings or use it for more crucial purchases. It may seem like a good deal (sometimes there is a financial incentive) but getting gift cards instead of cash is RARELY a good idea. Be smart with your refund and let the money help you become a little more financially secure.

 

 

Why I put $5 a Month into a Retirement Account

Why I put $5 a Month into a Retirement Account

I’ve been working on building an emergency fund. Unfortunately there have been a lot of setback which means that its taking me a really, really long time. I don’t make a lot of money so putting money way is very, very hard. Putting money into a retirement account is not really happening right now. Yet, I still put $5 a month in. Why do I do that, you ask?

$5

Some Background:

Well, many years ago I was lucky enough to receive advice when I took my first job that I was smart enough to actually follow. At the time, I was fortunate enough to be living at my parent’s house rent-free so my expenses were really low and although my first job wasn’t paying tons I didn’t have to spend most of it. I met my personal finance teacher from high school who told me: Max out a Roth IRA as soon as you can. So I did. So I took her advice and saved up pretty quickly to open my Targeted Retirement account from Vanguard (a pretty basic and simple approach for anyone who is looking for a simple retirement account). Once the account is open with the initial minimum amount, you can deposit as little as you want (assuming you haven’t maxed it out- no worries there!). Most accounts have a pretty large initial balance so you would need to save up for that first.

After that first year, I moved out, got married, had kids and dealt with life. Saving got a lot harder especially since I hit a period of unemployment. I was and still am unable to put aside money for retirement. But… I decided to still put $5 a month into that account.

Why?

One reason is because of compound interest. I like to think that even the smallest amount will grow and make a small difference as I grow older. I may be able to put more later on, but at least this small amount will grow over the years. A little is better than none!

But ….The biggest and main reason is because:

Creating good financial habits is the key to successfully getting your financial life under control. Click To Tweet

The hardest part of creating a habit is beginning. And saving money must become a habit in order to be successful. (That’s why its best to start as young as possible. Parents: start teaching your kids to save now!!!).

Setting up an automatic deposit is the first step. And that is usually the hardest part. Fear can come into play. “What if I need the money now?” Laziness comes into play. “It’s too annoying, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Complacence comes into play. “I’ll have enough money to retire on when the time comes.”

Taking that first plunge is the hardest part. But once that first step is taken it is a lot easier to keep it going. Human beings work on inertia so stopping a habit is just as hard as starting for example, stopping an automatic deposit is just as difficult as starting an automatic deposit because all the same thoughts and excuses come into play (subscriptions anyone?).

Once I have more money to save (it will happen one day!) then adjusting the amount to be deposited is easier than setting up the deposit. I’m talking emotionally here- not physically! The habit has already been created- I will be just adjusting the amount. A much easier task! If I need to increase in really small increments I can do that as well! Slowly, month by month, that $5 is creating a habit that will be hard to stop. It’s making it so much easier to save even if the amount is negligible!

Sometimes it seems that small amounts don’t really make a difference. When we do the math it seems depressing. There are so many articles and blogs out there bashing the “latte factor”. But- when you do save, even the smallest amount, and you do resist the impulse to buy something (even if it’s cheap) you are creating habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Creating and maintaining good financial habits is the key to getting your financial life in order. It is what makes you spend and save responsibility even when your income increases. It is what helps you navigate every type of financial situation you may encounter.

And that is most definitely worth it!

Where should I put my savings? In your Savings Ladder!