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)

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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5 Different Ways to Make Money Online

I think as writers we assume that everyone realizes they can make money by selling things online from their websites or by finding freelance jobs online. But I don’t think people in other professions think of it as often. When this contributed article came across my inbox, I thought it had some good ways to make money online. So here it is: 

If you’ve seen that there are a range of different ways to make some money online, you may be wondering if it’s really possible. Because if it’s really that easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, that’s a good question. Although nothing is ever really easy, per se, if you’re in a financial slump and you want to be able to change your life, you can definitely do that by doing something online. Because it doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult for you. While a lot of the ways that you can make money will take time and effort, they’re often incredibly worth it. Because making money online can top up your existing income, or even replace it. So let’s take a look at some of the standout options.

Selling Products

One of the most classic ways of making money online is to sell products. You don’t have to have an offline shop, or even have been in the business of sales before; that’s the beauty of doing this online. You can really learn along the way. You might like to setup an Amazon shop selling products or even do something on eBay or Etsy. Whether you sell items you’ve made or source items to sell yourself, this can be a great venture if you’re willing to put the work in to set it up. You could also look to sell on your own site in the future, too.

Affiliate Marketing

Up next, there’s affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is a way that you can earn money by recommending products and brands. To do this, you will need a website or blog on a certain topic or a range of topics. You’ll then share specific links that are given to you by the affiliates. If your site visitors go on to make a purchase through that link, you will earn a set percentage of the sale. It can be a simple way, once set up, to generate a stream of income.

Blogging

From here, there’s blogging itself. And yes, you can make money through affiliate marketing as a blogger, but it’s not your only option. Instead, you can generate income from advertising, sponsorship, advetorials, contributed articles, and even your own product sales. So this could be an idea that takes you a step above affiliate marketing alone.

Investing

Then, there’s always investing. A lot of the time, people think that this is something that only financial experts can do. But that’s not the case. You just need to read up, using things like stash review, on the best ways to do it. Then, with a bit of knowledge, you can start off on your own investing venture.

Freelancing

If you have a particular skill, such as writing or graphic design, you could then look to sell that on a freelance basis. Sometimes, this could be something you do alongside your day job, or something that you move into full time. You could even consider consulting in this kind of format, too.

Have you made money online? Do you have any tips to share?

 

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Overcoming Your Financial Slump: A Single Parent’s Guide

(contributed article)

Even though this article was written for a single parent in mind, I don’t think it’s bad advice for anyone to follow…

The wonderful thing about being a single parent is that you don’t have a partner to argue with over your family finances and spending; you are in full control of all of your own money. This can be a bit of a hindrance sometimes, though, especially as you may have to make your money stretch even further. There’s always an extra cost popping up, and this can often set you back a few steps. Over time you may find you have taken so many steps back that you’re on the edge and close to falling flat. Your little girl wants ballet lessons and your boy is pleading to let him go to karate. It can be an uphill struggle for single parents, as we want to give our children everything we can, but we have to remain realistic.

Whether you have overspent at Christmas ,are racking up credit card debts, or need to find a better paying job, you can get yourself out of your financial slump. There are a few nifty ways you can boost your money, without making too many changes to your family life. Stay positive and try not to  let the little things get you down. Be grateful for your health and beautiful family, and let’s look at how to get out of your uphill financial struggle.

The Daily Squeeze

You might believe you’re living a frugal life and cutting costs where necessary, but are you doing the best you can? Are you still swinging by the local coffee shop for your morning caramel latte? Your caffeine addiction could be setting you back over a hundred dollars a month, so try and be mindful when buying food and drink when you’re out and about. Most of the time, you will save money if you cook and eat at home instead of in a restaurant.

Consider cooking bulk meals to save money on food, too. You can cut down on food waste by preparing meals that freeze well, and you might find that your groceries go much further. Try not to buy unnecessary items when you’re out shopping, too, especially if you find yourself buying sugary snacks or the food item that you just sampled in the grocery aisle. Kids grow out of clothes far too quickly, so chat with local moms and head to a nearby secondhand store to pick up any essentials you might need. Be completely aware of every penny you’re spending, and you will soon be able to start saving a small stash and pay off those bills.

Help Is At Hand

If you’ve found yourself in a tricky situation when it comes to credit cards and debts, you might feel daunted at the thought of paying it all off. Look into some reputable debt consolidation companies, who can help you to organize and eliminate your debt. These companies will give you a helping hand in managing all of your debt. If you have multiple credit cards and bills, to pay off they will be able to merge it into one larger loan. By amalgamating everything together, you will be able to come up with an action plan to pay it back each month.

You can get yourself out of the slump you’re experiencing–just find the correct help and alter your lifestyle for a short time. There will always be someone who can advise you, so try to remain positive and don’t ignore the problem. Prevention is better than cure, so get one step ahead with your financial planning this year and you will finally find your feet again.

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Overspent this Christmas? Now What? 5 Tips To Help

(contributed article)

If you fear you might have overspent this Christmas and worry you might not be able to pay the credit card bills that will soon be coming your way , it can understandably be tempting to want to bury your head in the sand; however, it tends to be much better to know where you stand, so that you are in the empowered position to nip any issues in the bud rather than let them spiral out of control.

Here are a few pointers to help you get your finances back on track, as the majority of the world nurses their financial hangover after overspending in the festive period.

  1. SELL ITEMS YOU DON’T USE

Many people have things lying around, or even in draws or the attic, that they don’t use anymore.  If you are willing to consider selling these items, you could sell them online via sites like Craigslist or eBay, or even have a more traditional garage sale, depending on the weather this season where you live.  If you have gift cards that you don’t plan to use, you could sell these too; and if you have any unopened gifts that are unwanted after Christmas, then consider taking them back to the store and receive a store credit in return.

  1. GET AN ADDITIONAL JOB

Depending on your schedule, consider getting a part-time job for a few months, or perhaps setting up some freelancing or small business, like dog sitting, opportunities.  Investing a few hours each day in either activity could give you sufficient earnings to pay off your debt at a much faster pace.

  1. REDUCE CURRENT SPENDINGS

It can be heard to cut back after such exuberance in the festive season; however, you’ll be joining the majority of people as they tend to their financial hangovers after spending so much during the holidays.  Indeed, January is one of the quietest times of the year for restaurants and hotels.  

  1. MANAGE YOUR CREDIT CARDS

Focus on paying credit cards that have the highest Annual Percentage Rate (APR) first. You might find that you can’t realistically repay your credit card balances. In this scenario, consider getting a credit card that levies no interest on balance transfers for 12 – 24 months. Pay the nominal transaction fee (approximately three percent of the amount transferred). You will be able to save more money on this card. Remember that your existing card will charge you interest once you cross the interest-free period.

  1. DON’T USE PLASTIC

Until you repay all your bills, avoid making any further purchases on your credit card; and try to pay in cash for making purchases, as this makes you feel more connected to the amount you are spending.  Doing this will ensure you avoid adding to your existing levels of debt.

That said, if you find that your credit score has been compromised with your overspending, once you have paid off your outstanding debt, try using financial products available specifically for the purpose of rebuilding credit.  

As an example, there are plenty of rebuilding credit cards available for people that have a poor credit score who are looking to improve their financial position.  These credit cards often charge a reasonably high rate of interest, but they are a great way to help rebuild your credit; and presuming you pay off the balance each month, they are a worthwhile investment in repairing your credit.

In summary, please know you’re not alone if you’ve overspent this Christmas, as there are plenty of people who will be nursing their financial hangover this New Year.  The trick is to get back on track as fast as possible, and to do that, you need to focus on getting more money in and spending less–even if just for a little while.

 

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Great Parenting Needn’t Be Expensive

(contributed article)

The start of the new year is a lean time for many as we awaken, bleary eyed from the excess of late December and face the challenges of the new year. The trouble is that the view can be pretty grim through the lens of a New Year’s hangover (literally, metaphorically, or all of the above). After what seems like an eternity of seasonal spending, your bank balance aches, and your credit score looks grimmer than your father-in-law when he unwrapped yet another pair of socks for Christmas. Maybe you maxed out your credit cards to pay for the Christmas season; and though the memories will last a lifetime, they certainly won’t pay the bills. Soon the kids will be back at school and a whole new avenue of expense will open itself up to you.

If you’re recovering from the spend-a-thon of the festive season, it can feel like your personal finances simply won’t allow you to spend money on quality time with your children. For all their wonderful new Christmas presents, eventually they will grow tired of them, and you will be hearing, “I’m bored.” While there are lenders out there who specialize in personal loans for bad credit, your parenting needn’t go hand in hand with your expenditure. Sometimes, the most meaningful gifts you can give your children involve no to little expense whatsoever.

Be forthcoming with your affection

All the iPhones, xBoxes, and designer shoes in the world amount to nothing when you are comparing them to your child feeling loved. While your kids are unlikely to ask for hugs and kisses, they crave them far more than the superficial trappings, which they’re far more vocal about. Tell them that you love them and you’re proud of them. Kiss and hug them every day. If you don’t engage with them on this level (despite their protestations), it’s one of the ways to impede their interpersonal development when they grow up.

Nourish them

Nourishment is one of the most important duties of a parent. This means not only giving them the emotional nourishment they need but ensuring that they eat a balanced diet. While they’ll never thank you for it, a good diet is one of the most important gifts you can give a child. It will ensure that they grow up as healthy and nutritionally aware adults who lead long and healthy lives. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to load up on cheaply made pre-packaged foods just because money’s tight. Filling your fridge with fresh veggies and researching nutritious and delicious recipes that enable your kids to actually enjoy them is not only great parenting, it’s surprisingly easy on the household budget.

Treat them like an adult

Maybe don’t offer them a cigarette and a shot of vodka before sitting down to your favorite zombie flick 🙂 HA! HA! , but treating your kids with the same respect and transparency as you’d treat, say, a work colleague, is tremendously empowering for them and is likely to engender maturity.

While it’s perfectly fine to spoil your kids over the festive period, it’s important to remember, especially in the thrifty aftermath, that the most meaningful gifts you can give your kids won’t cost you a penny.

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Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying A (nother) Baby Product

If there’s one thing that women do while pregnant, it’s shopping. Shopping and expecting a baby seem to go hand-in-hand, and admittedly, most of those purchases are necessary. You’re going to have to fill your home with equipment and supplies you have never needed before so that you’re ready to welcome your new baby.

However, if you read enough guides, you will find yourself with a shopping list so long that it feels you will never complete it. How can a baby need so much stuff? The demands are endless, and naturally, every product manufacturer absolutely insists that their product is completely necessary. Of course, you want the best for your baby, so you buy… and then find yourself joining the ranks of parents who don’t use half of those so-called “essential” items.

Before your next purchase, it’s worth running a few questions through your mind to see if a product truly is needed, or if it’s one you can skip.

“Can I Envisage A Scenario Where I Will Use This?”

Many products will pass this question with ease; it’s simple to imagine when you’re going to use a breast pump or a toy that can also monitor your baby’s breathing while they sleep. More esoteric products, however, will fail this test, helping to shorten your shopping list in one fell swoop.

“Does This Product Fix A Problem?”

The majority of products will pass this test as well. Concerned about your baby rolling over while sleeping? There are plenty of baby pillows that can help fix that issue. Worried your baby is going to struggle to adapt to their new environment? Then you can look for the best baby sound machines to help meet that need. A huge number of baby products are expressly designed to meet the needs of parents, so this test is relatively easy to pass.

What won’t pass is decorative and novelty items. These items are nice, of course, and there’s no harm in having a few, but you don’t want to go overboard and stretch your budget as a result.

“Is This Something That Will Be Used Frequently?”

The most important products to buy are those that will be in constant use, such as baby monitors, strollers, highchairs, and car seats. These are the items that should command the majority of your budget.

However, if an item is only designed to be used in certain, infrequent situations — such as when your baby has a cold — then it’s wise to leave these products on the shelf for now. You can always purchase them in the future, when you’re experiencing the problem that these products are designed to ease.

In Conclusion

There’s enough shopping to do to meet the essential needs of your baby, so it’s important to avoid making life even more difficult by buying additional items that may not be necessary. If a product can pass the three questions above, chances are it’s a good purchase; if a product fails, then you might want to leave its purchase until a later date or not at all. With less shopping to do, you can focus on enjoying being pregnant, and look forward to greeting your bundle of joy!

 

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