Saving $$$ with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holidays (plus great ideas for DIY gifts)

Saving $$$ with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holidays (plus great ideas for DIY gifts)
As I was sitting here, making a list of the people I am gifting this year and writing out a budget to stick to, I thought this might be helpful for someone else too. So if you want to save some money or you just need great cost saving ideas that are gifts people will actually use, here you go!

First up - I suggest making a list or excel spreadsheet of the people you usually gift. And I'm talking a LIST - like every single person from your mail carrier to your hairstylist to your gram and gramps. Now of course this doesn't mean you HAVE to gift the world, but making a list is a great way to visually see who you gift to, see the money you're spending and also will make next year's holidays easier.

Next, set a budget! Yes, I said the "B" word O.M.G. But listen, if you've got debt and you're working hard to pay it down, it makes NO sense to go INTO debt for the holidays as you're just lengthening the amount of time you'll be paying interest. A simple $25 gift can easily become a $50 gift when you include interest. 

So, write a total number you want to spend and then try to list out what you want to spend on each person. Some will be more than others and that's ok! 

Ok, then we'll figure out what we're actually gifting them! If you're a DIYer, I've found this to be the best way to make a large amount of personalized gifts that don't break the bank.

I found that once I made my list, it was getting a little ridiculous. Remember that YOU and your financial goals are important. Words can be the simplest, most meaningful gift of all so don't underestimate the power of a hand written note or card.

Also don't underestimate the power of time - it's one of the resources we can never get back and it is valued more than gold. Gift a walk in the park with a friend, a picnic, or a phone call. You don't even have to tell them "this is my gift for you" just do it and see how it makes you both feel.

Now that you have your list of people you're gifting this year, the amount you want to say within per person and the amount total you are budgeting for, add 10%. Trust me - it's nice to have this cushion and often times we need it. 


xoxoxo,
Gwen


Have you given your money a job?

Have you given your money a job?
I am willing to bet that money stresses you out.

Why? Because I know for a fact that over 70% of people don't have more than $1000 in their savings for an emergency.

So what happens when an emergency comes up and it costs more than $1000 OR if you have multiple emergencies right in a row?

We tap into that savings account and then to cover the rest we take on more debt.

I. Have. Been. There.

It's not fun and honestly it's a stress I do not need in my life.

So how do we change that?

Let's break down the payday cycle of life in this short video:


So what I want to know is, which way feels better? When your money has a plan, or when it doesn't? I think you can guess where I'm going with this one....

And YES it's possible with irregular income, freelance income, any kind of income you can give your money a plan and get out of the stress cycle.

So, I feel like if you get this right, 2022 and the years to come could be KILLER for you. But...if you get this wrong, it's just the hamster wheel that keeps on spinning.

If you want more help with this, just shoot me a message here and let's chat to see if I can do to help.

xox,
Gwen

How to Have Better Time Management Skills

How to Have Better Time Management Skills
I hear this from women all the time, they are sick of being behind, being late, running out of time, not getting much done at home and at work.

They want to start a business, write a blog, create a product or change people's lives in some other way but feel like they don't have time. 

When it comes down to it, time management is one part of life that totally trips women up. We feel like we have to be in control of every single part of our life and I don’t know about you but for a while I believed if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done correctly.

What you think is that you suck at time management, but what’s actually happening is you’re prioritizing too much and then thinking that you’ve failed because you couldn’t get it all done. And then every day feels like groundhog day, never getting ahead, never getting to those things you really want to do.

Let’s break down time management into super simple steps anyone can do to create more time for the things they want to do.

1. Make a list of the things you absolutely need to do, and another list that you can ask for help with. You MUST ask for help. You are not super woman and yes, while you and your spouse might make lunches differently, or clean differently, they both still get done. Allow other people to help you. Think carpooling, think meal planning, think cleaning and laundry and all the little things that take up extra space and time in your life that absolutely do not NEED to be done by you.

2. Make a list of your values and make sure what you’re doing daily reflects them. If you value time with your family, make sure you are prioritizing time with your family. If you value starting a side business, make sure you are prioritizing time to work on your business. If you're passionate about something, you must make time to do it.

3. Declutter your life. That means the space you work, the clothes you wear, the things you own. You will have less responsibilities keeping you from doing the things you truly want to once you get rid of things taking up that space. You are physically creating more space.

4. If your weeks are busy, figure out how you can take action to set yourself up for success. Can you meal plan on Sundays? Can you set out clothes for the week? What can you do to make the busier days less busy, freeing up your mind to work on things you love?

5. Oh and this goes without saying (or does it) but it's the things that most commonly get left behind - get good sleep, hydrate and treat your body well. You’ll have more energy to do the things you love!

You won’t ever get time back, it’s so important to do the things you love in your life because that will light you up. It will lead to a healthier happier you, healthier relationships, more fun and a life that can be enjoyed. Your dreams are important and no one else can or will live them like you can. It’s time to start making them come true.
 
xoxo,
Gwen

What investments are best for beginners?

What investments are best for beginners?
Raise your hand if you’ve experienced analysis paralysis when it comes to investing? Definitely been there, done that.....for years!

Open an account? Sure, easy peasy.

Transfer money from bank account? Done.

Choose investments? BAIL, BAIL, BAIL! hahah Just Kidding.

I get it, the actual act of selecting what to put your money in can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be!

Since I’m not a financial advisor and I don’t know your specific situation, I can’t tell you what you should invest in but here’s what you can look for when beginning:

1. Low cost index funds will save you money and allow you to diversify your funds all in one spot. They are an easy, hands-off way to invest in the stock market. This is what took the scary out of investing for me.

Index funds track various indexes and are made up of stocks that mirror the companies performance - like the S&P500. 

Low cost index funds are inexpensive because they are automated and designed to follow the shifts in value of an index.  Because these funds are not actively managed by a well paid team of analysts, they don't cost the investor as much. Winning!

For example, the average annual expense ratio for stock index funds in 2016 was .09% while the average annual expense ratio for actively managed stock funds was .86%. Now you might be thinking "that's not a huge difference", but over time this adds up and will take away from what you're able to earn on your investments.

The S&P although wildly popular, isn't the only index fund in town. You can select various index funds based on the categories of stocks the house. There are index funds based on size of companies, funds based on geographical area, the type of businesses they include, domestic versus foreign, and even by market opportunity.

Remember, not every index fund is low cost.

2. Look for funds that have low investment minimums or zero minimums. Sometimes the minimum required to invest can be a few thousand dollars to start.

3. Don’t pay someone to do this for you just because you’re a newbie. You can totally learn how to invest! And the great thing is, you can learn as you go and adjust accordingly.

4. Average return rates over time. For example, the VTSAX has returned an average of 8% since it’s inception. The VFIAX, 7.93%. But these are just examples and you can easily pull these statistics up on any investing platform or even by throwing it into a Google search. 

5. Consider how much time you have. The younger you are, the more risk you can potentially take (but don’t have to). With that being said, this is even more of a reason just to start now. The earlier the better and the more time your investments have to grow, the more compounding interest works for you.

And remember, investing is a long game. There may be dips over time but historically you can track funds to see their overall growth. Don't get scared if you see a decrease in earnings, as long as you're not very close to retirement, you have time to ride it out. It will come back up.

Most importantly, pick one and start! You can learn more as you go and adjust as needed. You’ve got this and I believe in you.

For more details, grab my free guide 
“Investing for Beginners” 

xoxo,
Gwen

Should You Use Your Savings To Pay Down Debt?

Should You Use Your Savings To Pay Down Debt?
I don't know about you, but that money in my savings account feels pretty precious. Especially if you've ever worried about being able to pay the bills or if you've been stressed about money before, that savings account feels like bumpers at the bowling alley.

It's hard to part with that money!

But, if you've accumulated some debt, your money in your savings could be working for you.

Here's a few questions to ask yourself before you tap into your hard earned savings account:

1. How much money is in your savings account?
It used to be that $1000 would be a good solid base for an emergency savings. I'm not sure if you've had an "emergency" lately, but $1000 isn't going to cut it. 

We had to replace the tires on my car and it came in close to that! 

Now I recommend $3000 to my clients as a good base and there are a few reasons.

Number 1: $3000 will cover most typical emergencies. Not ALL, but you can't possibly plan for ALL emergencies. 

Number 2: a savings account is not the only place you should have money to pull from.

First and foremost - if you haven't put your emergency savings money in a High Yield Savings account, do that now! You're missing out on extra moula. It's not much these days (returns of about 0.5%) but it's better than a typical savings account at 0.04% wouldn't you say?

 2. How much debt do you have?
If you have a small amount of debt, it's usually much easier to part with some savings knowing that you can probably replenish your account quickly. The faster you can make that debt go away, the more your money can work for you!

But if you have a mountain of debt - the kind of debt that just weighs on you and makes you feel like you can't get out from under it, there's a strategy for tapping into your savings.

I believe it's always worth putting some money towards your debt so that the interest doesn't keep growing. Have you ever looked at your mortgage or student loans? The amount you took out is never the amount you will have paid in full by the end of the term. Interest accrues quickly.

What worked for me and what has worked for my clients is a split of 45/45/10. After you have a $3000 base, take the rest and split it up. Forty-five percent can go towards paying a debt, forty-five percent to investments and ten percent to fun. 

Because trust me, if you aren't allowed to have any fun while you're paying down debt, you won't stick with it!
Doing it this way, consistently every month creates new habits and quick wins so you'll want to keep going.

Now of course, everyone's situation is different - if your job is on the out or you know you're about to lose your health insurance, you have to evaluate what kind of cash you need access to in the next few months.

So before you go allocating those funds to debt, take a look at what you might be up against.

3. Don't wait to invest!
Most people I talk to believe they have to wait until they've paid down their debt to invest. But here's why investing while you pay down debt is important:

You can still access some of your investment contributions if you need extra money in an emergency.

Investment service M1 Financing actually allows you to borrow against any contributions you've made to your investments. They loan that money to you at 2% interest and BAM look at that extra money you have to pull from if you need more than $3000 for an emergency.

Now of course that 2% is costing you more than if you had say $15,000 sitting in a high yield savings account, but it's an emergency right? Something that doesn't typically happen, and in this case, you have access to money if you need it. Then you're really just paying yourself back with a little bit of interest.

You may also be able to borrow your contributions you've made to your taxable brokerage (read, not your retirement account) without penalty so this can serve as a type of emergency fund as well if you've been investing at all. *Pay attention to capital gain rules in your state and per your specific account type.

So you might as well put your money to work!

Have you caught my drift yet? No matter where you are, if you haven't started investing, START! It's the best thing you'll ever do.

At the end of the day, what I want for you is for you to feel like you know exactly what's going on with your finances. This is about decreasing your stress and empowering you to take the reigns on your money because no one else is going to care as much as you do about your finances. No matter where you are now, you have the opportunity to change that and for your finances to look completely different in the next 365 days.

If you're not sure where to start, grab my free Beginner's Guide to Investing download and join our free community where women are slaying debt, making finances fun & sexy and designing a life they truly love.

xoxo,
Gwen

 
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