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Hello and welcome to DrFrugal.com. If you've ever had the unfortunate experience of trying to find information online that has anything to do with money, you know most sites are worthless because they're trying to pawn something. Not here--there's nothing to buy. I've tried my best to only include pragmatic, realistic informtion to help you lead a simpler life by taking care of your personal finances.
Danger ahead: How to spot financial woes before it's too late
What often makes managing money so difficult is ignorance, that ability you have to ignore just how bad things are yet still talk yourself into a better place and assume that tomorrow will be better.
But how can tomorrow look any different than today if you don't change the status quo, namely what you're current doing to manage money' The reason you don't change or don't recognize that a problem exists is because you can't spot financial woes before it's too late.
You've actually conditioned yourself to ignore just how bad things are, and changing that mentality is the difference from being in financial peril to crawling out of debt and starting to save properly.
Knowing how bad things are starts with acceptance and paying attention to your day to day money habits but also how you're managing (or lack thereof) your money specifically.
For starters, if you notice that you\'re using credit cards quite a bit or your money is running out to the point that every month you're borrowing from either creditors or even family or friends, then your budget needs serious work. The budgeting part is so crucial in understanding where you are and ultimately fixing it.
A good budget takes into account that your expenses shouldn't overtake your income and thus leave you with some money in the free and clear. Being at a deficiency means you're either not properly budgeting or you don't have a budget to speak of at this moment.
Along with having to borrow, you also find yourself with another huge red flag that constantly waves in front of your face: you live from one paycheck to the next, and that simply means that you have zero ability to save money, even if you wanted to. Living from one paycheck to the next means your budget is at maximum level and needs to be paired down so that the income is clear cut ahead of the expenses.
For some, this is commonplace and really isn't seen as an issue but rather it is blamed on the "economy" or just shrugging off that it's hard to live within your means when you have expenses that can't be avoided.
The reality is expenses can be controlled and while that exercise isn't always pleasant, because no one likes to cut things out that they enjoy or want to buy and enjoy, you must take into consideration having zero dollars set aside for an emergency.
Being self-aware is second only to truly accepting where you are money wise. If you don't make enough to support how you live, change it. Between that blanket statement and the other aforementioned tell-tale signs, you should be well aware if a financial fracture is personally awaiting you.
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Joint Accountable: How to manage money with someone who can't
Are you pretty good at managing money'
Do you have a savings account with more than a few dollars in it'
Have you opted to set aside more money for retirement and have a 401K or IRA that is working at this very moment'
If you've answered "yes" to all of those questions, then you're well ahead of the masses as far as money saving goes. But what if you have a significant other who can't answer yes to those questions and perhaps he or she has a propensity for spending money, not budgeting and their idea of retirement is working till they simply can't'
Being with someone that isn't as adept at money as you are isn't anything new or shocking. The flip side of that is you are the person who just isn't good with money and will look to your significant other for help, assistance and guidance on how to be better.
In either instance, the two of you aren't equals, and that could be a problem.
The key word in that sentence is "could'"
You have to tackle the financial situation in the household as a team, despite arguments to the contrary that suggest you should just let the more experienced and success money manager take the reigns. While they can lead and dictate as far as staying organized and on point with budgeting, for example, it doesn't mean the "lesser" person shouldn't be involved in any part of that planning, either.
Experts go back and forth on joint accounts versus each individual having their own, but the trick is to find what works for you. The best practice clearly is having one person "in charge" of the finances but both individuals working collectively and not having a bill or dollar being paid out that both aren't aware of at the very least.
And if you or the person you are with can get a little spend happy, that isn't something you can't ignore. This is part of the explanation and communication phase when you reach a point in the relationship where money isn't about just each of you having a checking account, so the most important element is talking through how to find common ground on how much and the frequency of which spending occurs.
For the longest time, I had my money and she had hers, but our example just wasn't working for a number of reasons. I got paid once per month, and I'd cover the bigger expenses, like my car and the house. She'd get paid (self employed) weekly, and she'd do her car, insurance and mostly her stuff.
What works best for us is a joint account, so that her income can bridge the gap between my paychecks so we can better manage as a whole. Everything gets paid out of my account and all the money goes in there as well, and we both have access to it.
Finding what works for you has to be a plan and action that you both, however, completely agree on and are happy with in totality for it to truly work.
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Advisory Bored: How to spot bad money saving advice
When it comes to money, everyone has an opinion.
Right or wrong, you'll get advice from just about everyone, muddying the waters of how to save money even more than they already are.
The issue isn't so much friends, family members or coworkers trying to be helpful as much as it is you, the one getting the advice, needing to consider the source and whether or not they have a leg to stand on and one red cent in the bank.
Spotting bad advice isn't always that easy, either.
Even if someone claims they're good with money and have a little saved, you still might not be inclined to believe them when they tell you how to save money. They may just have a different situation than you do, such as someone with a high income who spends a lot but saves only because of the income portion not because they actually practice good financial habits.
Thankfully, some bad advice is easy to spot and universally panned as being porous and downright horrendous when you hear it, and that is your cue to get up politely and walk away.
Never mind the walk; just run.
For starters, has anyone ever told you how to properly use a credit card or pay off debt'
Some self-titled "experts" will beg you to take what money you have saved and spend it all, down to $0 in your savings account, and put it all toward paying off your debt in full.
While this idea might sound like a winner, simply because debt is a bad thing, you also have to account for unforeseen circumstances that may arise. For example, if you have a leak in the roof that is going to cost a few thousand dollars, but the $7,000 savings account was cleaned out to pay off debt, you're left with no money for that leaky roof and guess what'
You'll go back into debt to take care of it by ironically borrowing money or charging it on a, you guessed it, credit card.
Here's another piece of money saving advice you go throw by the wayside: only save about five percent every month out of your pay.
While the five percent advice makes sense, you really shouldn't just use that as your goal. The real number should be about 10 percent if you can, but really the final number is as much as possible, and that starts with budgeting.
And if financial advice also includes someone telling you that you don't need a budget or that they're "overrated," you're moving farther away from the truth. Budgeting is by far a necessity and the most important part of saving money.
While the advice is appreciated, it isn't always in your best interest and navigating through the good and the bad only means you'll be more successful when it comes to saving money.
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Dumb and dumber: How to avoid wasteful spending
Some would say that saving money is easy and follow one simple mantra in order to buff up their bank account and have a sense of financial security.
The less you spend, the more you save.
And while that sounds simple, it's effective particularly if you're someone who watches not only what they spend but if the actual purchases are, quite frankly, dumb and tremendously ill advised.
The key to saving might not be just not spending at all but also in addition to that not overspending, either. Far too often, the all or nothing approach leaves you feeling as though you're being cheated out of something you want, but the real issue simply is overspending and not thinking through the notion that a comparable, lesser alternative might be available.
Case in point, what about your education, specifically the notion that college tuition is on the rise and yet jobs aren't exactly booming' Overspending on education is commonplace because we've been told and reassured that you need a college education, at minimum, to be successful and while that is true to some extend, you might want to consider a vocational or trade school first (less expensive, certainly) or maybe a satellite or branch campus for a few years to get your mainstay courses done and completed for a lesser price tag.
Another place overspending runs rampant is for new parents, specifically ones that feel as though they have to have the best of everything. And while that is true from a safety standpoint for a lot of items (strollers, car seats, etc)., you might want to rethink buying the most expensive clothes, shoes or outfits you can find. The serious thinking that should permeate through your mind is that the kids are going to grow out of those hundreds and hundreds of dollar pieces of clothing and thus the clothes are rendered obsolete (unless you are saving them for baby number 2). For kids and as quickly as they grow out of things, you might want to strongly consider lesser priced, yet still quality, items from clothes to shoes and even accessories and baby related items. The most expensive crib isn't always the one that is the safest, either.
Wasting money is something that is easily avoidable if you exercise patient in purchasing and truly understanding that the highest price tag isn't always the path you should follow.
The truth is you can save more if you spend less, or at least spend a little smarter.
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Sole Survivor: How to save money minus the big paycheck
So your paycheck isn't really doing it for you, is it' In fact, you're rather bummed that your bi weekly or weekly income is hardly making you richer or, quite frankly, allowing you to save money.
Must be the fault of the paycheck and the paycheck alone, right'
The truth is how much you make isn't going to preclude you from saving money, but rather simply force you to make better money decisions and allow your money to work better for you.
One of the bigger misnomers about money is that you have to have a lot of it to be able to save, but if you listen to one success story after another, you'll find a common and surprising thread to each of them.
The successes are hardly underscored with millionaires talking about how they made good. Instead, you get more of a middle class flavor to each tale with the individuals making between 30 and 50 thousand dollars per year, hardly what you'd consider an abundance of money. You also have to take into consideration that most of these tales include families with husbands, wives, partners, and children on those aforementioned incomes.
How exactly do they make it work and save money'
For starters, you hear one word as the prevailing theme of all the stories you'll hear: budgeting.
Most of those families and individuals alike start with making sure they've got their expenses and income down to a science so that dollar one doesn't leave out of the door without it being accounted for, whether it's a grocery bill or tickets to the big game.
All of it is budgeted out, accordingly.
The other key aspect of saving money minus the massive paycheck is making sure to live within your means and learn how to be creative and go without but still have what you want. That means meal planning takes center stage, along with grocery budgeting and thus avoiding dining out. You also have individuals who are smart enough not to overpay for entertainment, such as high end cable and satellite bills and high priced cell phone plans (when streaming and flat rates work perfectly fine).
Saving money isn't a magic potion or some sort of slight of the hand trick. Instead, you have real people making average amounts of money, and the most important part of that is they're perfectly fine with that notion, and thus learn to live happily and financially healthy as a result of knowing quite simply what they can and can't spend, leaving little blame on how much they make.
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