Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Finance and Budgets (page 1 of 2)

4 Things Debt-Free People Never Do

(contributed article)

Are you ready to be debt-free? Almost everyone in the red will answer with an enthusiastic “YES!” An overdue balance can make life difficult, which is why getting into the black is vital. There are plenty of ways to get over the financial hump. Some people like to consolidate their accounts and pay them off in a single transaction. Others prefer to hire money managers to take the strain and relieve the stress.

Another method is to look to successful people as mentors. After all, they’ve been there, done it, and come out the other side with the t-shirt. You decide where to go next and what to do, but there are traits to keep in mind on the journey. Here are four things debt-free men and women never do.

Debt-free people never…

Ignore Accounts

Once the payment is set up between the bank and the seller, it’s easy to forget about the money. The amount stays the same anyway, right? In most cases, there won’t be any discrepancies, but there are times when rates increase and decrease. The latter isn’t a problem, yet the former is a big deal as it may add to your expenses. And you have no idea if you’re not checking your account. For example, think of a cell phone contract and add-ons, such as extra data, texts and calls. Regularly check the bill at the end of the month to make sure it’s correct.

Believe Marketing Ploys

Everyone knows that businesses use advertising to trick people into purchasing goods. The shocking thing is that it doesn’t matter because the message is so powerful. You want to buy the product and only need a slight nudge in the right direction. Don’t worry if you can’t afford it because often there’s a ninety-day offer where you don’t pay a penny. The debt-free group understands that once the trial finishes, the rate jumps, and it becomes much more costly. They either save up  or use a credit card and then pay it off in full.

Invest In Myths

“Whoa, wait a minute, you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy? Don’t you understand it will kill your finances forever? That’s a ballsy move.” Essentially, filing for bankruptcy is a serious issue, yet it won’t destroy your credit for eternity. You’ll still be able to get loans and apply for credit cards and everything else. From chapter 13 bankruptcy to 11 and 7, some pros exist, depending on the situation. For example, it wipes unsecured debts. Clever people weigh the pros against the cons and play the percentages. That’s why they’re eventually stable, and if they stick to the plan, they will become debt-free.

Lack Earning Potential

Rather than save cash, they make it also. Their primary job is the number one money-maker, yet they often moonlight and have freelance projects on the side. Yes, it takes up some of your free time, but some hobbies can even be money-spinners. Look at how blogging has monetized writing thanks to sponsors wanting to piggyback traffic.

Do you have a strategy for staying debt-free?

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Tips For How To Be Better At Saving After Clearing Your Debt

(contributed post)

What comes next after clearing your debt? A big holiday? A new car? A new wardrobe full of clothes? Clearing your debts can be freeing – but if you’re not careful, you could end up back where you started.

So what should you do after paying back your debts? Planning for your future is a great place to start. Instead of being a spender, learn to become a saver and keep your finances on the straight and narrow. Take a look at the following tips to help you become better at saving after clearing your debt.

Set a monthly budget

Whether or not you’ve had a budget before, it’s never too late to start one. A budget is often met with negativity, but it actually makes sense to have one to keep track of your finances. Getting started with a budget is simple, and it will help you to know exactly what your income and outgoings are.

Sleep on it

Do you tend to rush into making purchases you might regret down the line? Sleeping on a purchase might make you realize you don’t need it after all, as things can appear different in the morning. Ask yourself if you really need something before you buy it, and if you can’t justify spending the money – don’t do it.

Save now to spend later

If your past behavior involved buying the things you want and need now and paying them off later – you can change this habit. The habit of using credit to pay for things can be dangerous, so you can learn how to save for the things you really want. It will feel much more satisfying paying for something you know you can afford over something you’re still paying off a year later.

Invest your money

By investing your money, you’re helping to grow your savings ready for the future. Investing means your money is tied up elsewhere, preventing you from spending unnecessarily. If you’re looking to invest in a lower risk environment, a Japan ETF (exchange-traded fund) could be the right answer for you. Alternative investments include property and startup businesses, giving you plenty of options for places to put your money.

Develop better money-saving habits

Being thriftier with your spending is no bad thing, especially if it means you use the extra money saved to put towards your savings. There are plenty of excellent money-saving tips out there to help you save on everything from your grocery bill to your vacation, and the more you do it then the better you will be at it. Look for bargains where you can to help your money stretch further.

When you’ve cleared your debt, the next important step for your finances is to plan for your future. With some good money-saving savvy behind you, you can become a great saver to put you and your family in the best financial position possible.

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5 Things To Consider For You and Your Family When Dealing with a Serious Injury

(contributed post)

When you sustain an injury that puts you out of action for a considerable length of time, your work life will change  and your family and home life might too. It’s therefore in your best interest to think about what you can do to stop those changes from wreaking havoc. It’s possible to limit the negative impact of this situation if you take the right steps. 

Adapt Your Home

There are certain adaptations that can be made in your home to help you navigate it a little more easily after your injury. If stability is a problem when you’re getting around the home, it might be a good idea to add some grab rails, so you feel more sturdy. If you’re using a wheelchair, widening the doorways in the home might be a good idea to explore, too.

Find New Ways to Work

Just because you’ve suffered some sort of injury doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay off work completely. As long as you feel up to it and your doctor agrees, you might be able to work in new ways that are more accommodating for you. It might be possible for you to work fewer hours or simply work from home instead of heading to the office.

Secure Compensation if Possible

If your injury occurred as a result of someone else’s mistake or fault, you should look into getting compensation for what happened to you. The major benefit of this is that it allows you to cover any loss of income you might experience as a result of your injury. An injury lawyer should be able to help you with all this, so it’s worth pursuing. At least look into whether it could be an option for you.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

Your mentality and general outlook will certainly be important when you’re looking to come back from an injury. If you take a negative approach to everything and spend all your time feeling sorry for yourself, you probably won’t make the most of your time. So try to maintain an outlook that’s as positive as it possibly can be given your circumstances.

Recovery Properly Rather Than Quickly

Sure, recovering quickly is obviously going to be what you want to do, but not at any cost. There are lots of things that can go wrong if you rush through your recovery process. That’s why your recovery should be focused on the right way of doing things rather than the fastest way of doing things. You don’t want to make mistakes that result in setbacks for you.

Experiencing a big injury can be really difficult to deal with, especially when it impacts your career and family life. However, you just need to approach things in the right way if you want to limit the overall impact on your life, and the tips here will help you.

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How To Keep The Family Going When You Lose Your Job

Losing your job is always a scary time. You’ll be worrying about how you’re going to find another job, and more importantly, how you’re going to manage financially until you get back to work. All of those worries are magnified if you’re the main breadwinner, and you’ve got a family to support. But don’t worry, even though it’s going to be a tough period, you can make it through the other side if you follow these simple steps.

Borrow Some Money

Borrowing isn’t a habit that you want to get into, but if you’ve just lost your job, you might have to. When the end of the month comes, you need to cover all of your bills. If you don’t have enough money there, you could take out a short-term loan to keep your head above water until you sort something more permanent out. Click to learn more about where to find the best short-term loans. Just remember, you shouldn’t think of this as a long-term solution; it’s just a way of making sure that you don’t miss any payments.

Take Stock

Now that you’re not earning, you need to take stock of your finances and work out exactly how much money you’ve got to work with. Check all of your savings and then add up all of your monthly expenses. By doing that, you’ll be able to work out exactly how many months you can afford before you’re in financial trouble. Once you’ve got that budget drawn up, you can start planning properly.

Cut Back On Expenses

When you’re out of work, you need to start prioritizing the things that you’re spending money on. A lot of the luxuries that you were buying when you were earning are going to have to go. It’ll only be temporary, and you can get spending back to normal; but the more you reduce your outgoings, the longer you can survive without an income. Things like TV subscriptions, expensive phone contracts, etc. are easy things to cut out of your budget right away. When you’re shopping for groceries, consider switching to a cheaper store and always be on the lookout for any deals and offers that will make it less expensive.

Be Honest With The Family

You probably don’t want to tell the kids that you’ve lost your job and you’re in a bit of financial trouble, but trying to hide it is only going to make things worse. Children are very perceptive, and they’ll be able to tell that something is going on. If you keep them in the dark, they’ll only worry about it more. The best thing to do is to be honest with them and tell them that you aren’t working at the moment, but it’s only going to be for a little while and they don’t need to worry about it.

The most important thing that you should remember in the wake of a job loss is not to panic. It might feel like the end of the world, but it’s only a temporary situation. As long as you manage your money properly, you’ll be fine.

 

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Family Finance: Are You Getting What You Paid For?

(contributed post)

If you took a few moments to sit down with a pen and paper and work out exactly how much you spend every month, you might be shocked. The cost of living is considerable, and often, the fact that we spend so much on bills and services is compounded by the fact that we don’t get our money’s worth. If you’re in charge of your family’s finances, here are some tips to help you ensure you get what you pay for.

Insurance

When you pay out for insurance, you expect to be able to make a claim in the event that something goes wrong. If you need medical treatment, your car has been damaged in an accident, or your roof needs repairs after a storm, it’s logical to assume that your insurance company will pay out. If this doesn’t happen, you may be out of pocket. If there’s a clear reason for rejection, for example, the treatment wasn’t covered by your policy, you will be liable for the costs; but if you feel that you’ve been mistreated by the provider, it’s wise to seek legal advice. Check the details of your policy and see Darras Law for more information. To reduce the risk of problems, always take a look at the terms of the agreement before you file a claim. If you have queries, contact the company directly before you complete and send the claim form. If you’re not happy with the service you receive from your insurance providers, take a look around at alternative options. You can often save money by switching, as many firms reserve their best offers for new clients.

TV and Broadband

Many of us moan that our Internet is too slow or half the channels we pay for don’t work. If you’re guilty of doing this, it’s time to take your provider to task. If you’re paying for super-speed broadband, but your pages are loading at a snail’s pace, call and complain and ask what can be done to rectify the issue. It’s also worth asking if it’s possible to claim a refund for the services you’ve missed out on.

Shopping

Have you bought products from the grocery store that have been past their best or have you tried new clothes on to discover there’s a stain or a hole? If you’ve paid money, you expect a certain standard of quality, and you have a right to request a refund. Take the product back to store complete with your receipt and ask about exchanging or replacing the item.

Home and Car Repair Services

If you’re paying an individual or a company to fix up your car or home, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t get results that meet your expectations. It can be awkward to say that you’re not happy, but the customer is paying the bill. Many of these service providers will be willing to work with you because they want your repeat business and references.

Most of us work very hard for our money, and there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’ve been short-changed. If you’re taking control of your family finances, now is the time to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

 

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Thriving, Not Just Surviving, as a One-Income Family

The following contributed article has four really good tips that we have all heard before but that are so true. One of my goals this year is to stop using credit cards and to pay for things with cash. We have stopped eating out as much and are looking for free and inexpensive (but fun) activities to do this summer while we save up money for future better vacations. Anyway, when this article came in, it really hit home for me, so I hope it does for others, too. 

Being a family that is living off one income can be tricky, but it is possible to do it and to thrive as you do so, rather than just survive. The key is to get serious about your finances and keep track of them, which may seem tedious. But it can help you to stay on top of things and to not feel like each month is such a struggle. There are plenty of families that out there, living off one income, whether as a single parent family or a family where only one parent works. So here are some of the tips and strategies to help your family do just that.

Plan a Precise Budget

When it comes to money and making sure that you have enough to go around, you need to have a budget that is specific and precise. It is no use just looking at your income and guessing what the bills are that you owe. Check your statements and bills, so that you know exactly what you do owe each month. From there, you can set a specific budget for groceries, clothing, entertainment, etc. When you’re specific and precise, you know exactly what money is going where, and what you should be left with at the end of each month.

Shop Around

It pays to shop around in all aspects of your life. Take your mortgage (or rent) as an example. No doubt this will have been set up a while back, and not looked at since. But you can change your mortgage provider, even when you are still owing. The debt gets “transferred” to the new provider. So shop around to check that you’re getting the best deal possible. Are there mortgage brokers that perhaps offer cash back or guaranteed low rates? Shopping around works for other things too: from your cell phone provider, to your grocery store, to where you buy school shoes. Shop around, don’t just take someone’s first offer, and you will save.

Reduce Debt

One of the best things that you can do to really thrive as a single-income family, is to reduce the amount of debt that you owe. You can never truly thrive as a single income family if you have debt around your neck. So as part of your precise budget, make sure that you look at paying off credit cards or other loans as a priority. It may mean some sacrifices to start with, but it will be so much better all around when you are consumer debt-free.

Use Cash

Using credit cards can be tricky for a number of reasons. One of which is that you don’t “see” the money going, so you can kind of get out of hand as you spend it. And for things like groceries, you just buy what you want and put it on a card. But using cash, and not having cards with you, makes you pay more attention to your budget. If you’re in the store, you can only buy what the cash in your hand will cover. So there is no overspending unnecessarily, and you’re more conscious of what you’re spending.

 

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4 Tips for Dealing With Debt When You’ve Got Mouths to Feed

(contributed post)

Debt is horrible, and anyone that’s ever been in a significant amount of debt will be able to confirm that it’s one of the worst things that can happen to you. The situation can be made worse when you’ve got a family that needs feeding. However, all is not lost. While you may feel hopeless when it comes to your financial situation, there are always things you can do to help your financial situation. Here are some tips on how to deal with debt when you’ve got mouths to feed. Let’s get your financial status back on track!

Phone around your providers

One of the easiest ways of freeing up more money in your bank account each month is by phoning around your utility providers and securing yourself a better and cheaper deal for your energy. One thing that no energy company will tell you is that there is always a cheaper deal unless you call and ask. The threat of you leaving them will spur them into offering a cheaper (and most likely more value for your money) deal. You can do this with all of your providers including your phone bill, car insurance, and even your broadband deal. Put those haggling skills to good use and help yourself out financially!

Speak to a bankruptcy attorney

Sometimes your debt can get to a point where you simply cannot fathom how you’re going to get yourself out of the situation. At times like this, it’s a good idea to speak to a bankruptcy attorney for some advice. They can talk with you about the process of chapter 13 , help create a future financial plan for you to stick by, and answer any questions you may have. Sometimes starting a fresh is the best thing that you can do for yourself.

Cut out anything unnecessary

You’d be surprised at how many things you’re paying for that you don’t actually need. Go through you direct debits and standing orders to make sure that you’re not paying for something that you no longer need or want. That magazine subscription? Get rid of it so that you can free up some money in your bank account each month!

Consider selling something of value

When you have excessive debt, you could see something of value and pay off your debt. or at least a large chunk of it and make life much easier for yourself. This might be some jewelry, a vintage car that’s been in your garage, or even a collector’s item that you’ve been storing away.

Try these four ideas to get yourself out of debt and allow you to continue providing for your family! Remember to keep track of your finances so that you can avoid getting into debt in the first place.

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Top 5 Financial Posts to Help Parents Manage Their Money

Here are the top 5 articles on “Look to the Western Sky” to help you make smart financial decisions for you and your family. Most of these articles with “finance” or “budget” in the title or tagged with these words were contributed. I think many of them offer some good, practical advice and give you some points to consider when you are thinking about your family’s budget. I didn’t include two articles about making money online, but those are also on my blog if you want to click FINANCE in the tag cloud and scroll down to find those. Sometimes, you are looking for part-time opportunities or day-time work that does not make you leave your house or your children, so those two articles are something to also check out.

I’m always looking for good financial articles for parents for this blog–these articles help me and they help my readers. Even the most money savvy person can use a reminder here or there on how to save money or take an inexpensive vacation or save for your children’s college. Our motto should not be “Money Schmoney.” 🙂

Overcoming Your Financial Slump: A Single Parent’s Guide

 

Improving Your Finances at the End of the Week

 

Cutting The Cost of Parenthood

 

Money Myths That Cost Single Parents Greatly

 

Great Parenting Needn’t Be Expensive

 

 

 

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5 Tricks to Spend Less Money at the Vet

I have written about my boxer Chester before, and he is a blessing to my family. However, his vet bills always seem high to me, even though we love our vet. So, when this article came in as a possible contributed post, I thought: I bet other people have the same issues as me, so why not post some tips that could possibly help us all lower our vet bills?  

Veterinary costs are some of the biggest expenses of being an animal owner. Fortunately, you can reduce these costs and give the animal the treatment it deserves without digging yourself into debt. Here are just five tricks to spend less at the vet.

Look into pet insurance

Pet insurance can help to pay for any big medical expenses, however you should check that the rates aren’t too high first, otherwise you could be spending much more money overall. To get the best bargain, you should take out pet insurance when your pet is still young and healthy and look into a fixed rate that won’t be affected when your pet gets older. Older pets are more likely to need treatment for conditions, like arthritis and renal disease. Rates will be much higher for these pets, and you could be better off avoiding insurance. Look online for deals at sites, like https://www.directline.com/pet-cover , and use comparison sites.

Seek out your local vet college for routine treatments

It’s possible that your local vet college will be looking for animals to use for vet students, so long as it is a routine treatment. Treatment could be much less costly than going to a clinic (it could even be free in some cases). Check if they are advertising for animals to use with students. If not, it could still be worth contacting them.

Consider other treatment options

It’s worth weighing up different treatment options as some may be less expensive. Sites like https://www.petbucket.com/ sell pet medication that could be cheaper than buying directly from your vet. You may also want to weigh up the price of surgery and pain relief medicine – surgery in older pets may be expensive and high risk, making it less worthwhile, whilst in younger pets taking pain relief for the rest of their life could be more expensive than surgery.

Negotiate pricing

There will often be room for negotiation when it comes to costly surgery, although specialist vets may offer less leeway. By collecting quotes from multiple local clinics ,you may be able to negotiate a price match. Some clinics may also offer installment plans, allowing you to pay off the treatment in monthly installments rather than all in one go. This could be cheaper than taking out a loan, which is likely to have interest attached.

Give your pet a healthy lifestyle

Many trips to the vets are avoidable and can be attributed to an animal’s lifestyle. Animals that are overfed and don’t get regular exercise are more likely to contract illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. By taking more care when offering treats and encouraging your pet to be more active, you could prevent a lot of these diseases. Similarly, you should make sure that your animal is well groomed or that their cage is regularly cleaned out, so that they’re not at risk for fleas, bacterial infections, and worms.

 

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How to Earn Extra Income Online as a Parent

Guest post by Kevin O.

It’s no secret that spending money is far easier than making money, and as a parent with real-world responsibilities and mountains of bills to pay, sometimes a little extra cash can make a big difference.

So what’s an innovative way to earn an additional income for today’s digital age? It’s actually far simpler and easier than you might imagine – online freelancing.

Let’s break it down. If you are a parent, especially a single parent, that has a family to support, you really cannot afford to engage in activities that have a potentially disastrous financial downside. Although trading stocks and making investments is lucrative when it works out, it doesn’t always work out – and this is a key aspect of risk-taking to understand.

Assuming a risky activity like investing didn’t work out, losing a significant portion of your wealth as a single parent would be devastating not only for yourself, but for your family as well. The effects would be even more disastrous if you originally set out to earn more money and actually ended up losing money.

Therefore, as a parent, or anyone with profound responsibilities, you have to look at methods of earning money that don’t involve potentially losing money.

Freelancing Online

Although noting in life is truly risk-free, freelancing has to be one of the safest ways to earn an additional income with only minimal amounts of work. The only downside is the time you invest. The best part is, freelancing can be done 100% from the comfort of your home! Although you could argue there is an opportunity cost for the time you spend freelancing, there is no way to directly lose money or assets; in other words, freelancing is fairly safe. If it doesn’t work out, you’re not going to lose anything except for the time you invest.

Anyone can become a freelancer by quickly creating a profile on Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr and marketing any services, skills, or talents that are in demand. Some of the most popular areas to start off in are article/blog writing, graphic design, manual data entry, and survey completion.

The beauty of freelancing is that you are not obligated to do it every day. You can logon to one of these sites for a few hours each day and see if there are any quick jobs that need doing. If you don’t feel like freelancing one day, you don’t have to!

Freelancing offers a lot of independence and freedom, both physically and financially, and as a parent or single parent, it can truly be a great way to improve your quality of life.

Kevin O. is an expert financial writer, who has written hundreds of articles for several financial news industry titans, finance writing, financial blogging, news articles, investor updates, and equity research reports are second nature.

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