Low Income Living Requires Planning

If you live on a low income and expect to continue to pay your bills, feed your family and make it through unexpected emergencies without going into debilitating debt, you absolutely need a plan. This plan will need to explore the support organizations near you as well as teach yourself how to maximize your budget. Without good personal finance awareness and a plan you may find yourself in stressful financially situation – where one unexpected expense such as car repairs can send you over the edge.

Maximize Income, Lower Expenses

The first thing you need to do is maximize your source of incomes and look for ways to lower your monthly expenses. In order to increase your income, you may need to look at taking a second job or developing a hobby that can help add some money to your income. If those are not viable options you can look at government or non-profit organizations grants, loans and entitlements. Ensure that you are receiving income from all available sources. First look at your entitlements from disability, unemployment income, old age or social security payments and ensure you are receiving the maximum benefits that you are allowed.

Next, look to local organizations that help out low income families or individuals in different ways. This could include helping you with monthly heating bills in the winter, providing a special grant for fruits and meats on a monthly basis or other essential item loans or grants for daily living necessities. These can all lower your monthly expenses helping you budget for a better quality of living. Many states have heating aid programs for low income families during winter months; use it to your advantage. Look at other ways to lower your expenses such as taking mass transit instead of paying for a car. Local food and furniture banks can help lower expenses significantly and avoid those large one time payments that throw any budgeting out the window.

Plan and Budget

The problem with low incomes is there is just not enough money to go around. You will need to expertly plan and budget every dollar you have to enable you to make it through each month without giving into the temptation of getting a pay day loan. Planning and budgeting combined with the advice above will be one of the only ways to avoid the dangerous cycle of getting short term loans that only harm your financial position.

If you look at all your money coming in and all that goes out in a month that is budgeting. When you have more going out than coming in, you have a problem. This is when increasing your income, lowering expenses and budgeting properly will save you from these nefarious short term loans. The interest rates, deferral and rollover fees are simply too much to even consider them a viable option. Instead focus on planning for every dollar made to be spent wisely. Also, plan for your impulses; this allows you to treat yourself thus ensuring that you do not over indulge and spend money unnecessarily.

Through careful planning you can make it on a low income if you also seek the help of programs meant to aid those in your position.

Start 2015 Smart and Financially Balanced

So, it’s the New Year. A month and a half in, and you’re probably still mourning the inevitable chunk that holiday shopping bit out of your budget. You planned well but if it puts a smile on Grandma’s face to get her that beautiful expensive scarf she had her eye on, you’re going to go the extra mile, dig into your emptying pockets and do it. We all would! And now that Valentine’s Day has come and gone, the realization that you have to save more throughout the rest of the year might be starting to kick in. (And if you really messed up on Valentine’s Day- you might already be in the market for another gift).

You’ve all read about the “disposition effect” before. As humans we don’t like to admit when we’ve made a mistake and, oh say, overspent because it makes us sad to acknowledge that. But rest assured that while admitting there is a problem is the first step, not beating yourself up is the second. You don’t have to deprive yourself or the ones you love from the necessities or treats. We just have to be smart about creating a financial balance and clever in how we pick to do our special shopping.

For example: have you been hounding your hubby to get someone to fix the patio deck? Why not take advantage of the array of coupons that Home Depot provides, get yourself the materials at discounted prices and make a date of it? Working with your hands, together, will be a great and economical way to bond. And hey, if anything goes hilariously wrong you’ll have a great story for the grandkids. Just make sure to use safety equipment (which you can also get at Home Depot) and save the champagne toast for after all the carpentry!

The same principle applies to our label loving Grandma. Next time she spots something fancy she loves, you don’t have to balk at getting it for her or agonize on the financial hit you’ll take to do it. Just drop her off at a talkie and run on over to Nordstrom or Sears. It’s at retailers like these that a smart shopper can take the most advantage of the deals they offer to still get top quality at a fraction of the cost. Not only will you be able to bring that much coveted smile to Grandma’s face, you’ll make 2015 the year of savings for you and those you love.

How to Choose a Beneficiary for Life Insurance

Taking out life insurance is an important financial matter everyone should attain to. However, what’s next on the agenda is selecting the appropriate beneficiary for your policy. Here are four tips on choosing the right beneficiary for your insurance policy.

Determine What the Money Should Be Used For

A major part in deciding who your beneficiary is, is to determine what the money should be used for. Will this be used to:

  • Take care of your children?
  • Pay off your medical expenses?
  • Pay off other debts such as your mortgage or auto loan?
  • Take care of your spouse?
  • Pay off an old business debt?

Consider the person best suited to take care of this matter. You know if you have medical expenses to finalize that your beneficiary should not be someone who feels the government can cover it.

Be Careful if the Beneficiary Receives Government Benefits

Next, consider if this person currently receives any government benefits. Benefits such as disability or social security continue only if a person’s income remains at a certain level. Your life insurance death benefit would be considered income, and put their income over the top. They could lose their government benefits at that time.

Know That You Have Options

Also, know that you have options before selecting just whom you think is best. You determine while you are alive whom you want to receive the death benefit. Otherwise, the government may make up your mind for you.

  • You can name multiple people to be your beneficiary
  • You can set up a trust of which the trustee will      administer the benefits
  • You can donate it to a charity
  • Your estate can inherit it all

Also, remember, that nothing in life is guaranteed. It’s always best to set up a primary and secondary beneficiary in case something happens to your first choice.

Name a Guardian to Distribute the Money on Your Childs Behalf

Finally, if you have children, do know that leaving your underage child as the beneficiary, your child will not receive the money until they are of legal age. Their legal guardian will have the say, and the court will appoint one if one is not set up already. So this person would make the necessary decisions such as paying for their education and if they continue the quality of life you provided.

Use the above four tips to carefully designate the best beneficiary(s) for you. This will impact exactly how you want your wishes to be carried out.

Which Gas Saving Tips actually Work, and Which Don’t?

Even though gas prices have been dropping steadily over the last few weeks, gasoline still isn’t exactly cheap. If you do a lot of driving and you’re looking for the best gas saving tips, you’ve probably heard quite a few of them because, frankly, there are millions of blog articles about gas saving tips scattered all over the web (including from us).

Recently however we began to wonder if all of those tips actually work, and did some research to find out which ones did and, more importantly, which ones did not. This blog will enlighten you and hopefully lighten the load on your wallet the next time you go to fill up your car’s tank.

Gas Saving Tip #1: Driving Slower – YES

This is one of the biggest tips that you’ll find on almost all blogs and it simply says that if you drive at slower speeds you will definitely save money on gas because your car will use less of it.  This tip is, in fact, quite true. The difference between driving just 10 miles an hour slower can save you upwards of 12 to 15%  on gas.  The fact is, one of the biggest problems that most people have when driving, especially long distances, is that they don’t give themselves enough time to get where they are going on time, and thus need to speed to get there.

If most people give themselves a little bit of extra time they would save a lot of money because they would be able to drive slower. Also, driving slower is quite a bit safer.

Gas Saving Tip #2: Using Cruise Control – YES

Another tip that you frequently see on gasoline saving tip blogs is that using cruise control is a great way to cut down on wasting gas. It’s true and not only does it help save gas, it also forces drivers to take the “long view” of any road they’re driving on, which helps them to react less to the various changes in traffic and prevent surging, which wastes gasoline.

Gas Saving Tip #3: Driving Aggressively rather than Calmly – YES

Interestingly, one of the biggest factors in whether or not you can save gas while driving is, surprise, you. Many people are such aggressive drivers, mashing their foot down on the gas at lights and stop signs, driving much too fast and accelerating when they should actually be taking their foot off of the gas pedal and slowing down, that they waste gas by the gallon. The people who look far ahead when they’re driving and anticipate stops and starts and coast whenever possible save much more on gasoline than their aggressive counterparts.

Gas Saving Tip #4: Using the AC versus Opening the Windows – NO

Many readers will be very glad to know that, especially in the dog days of summer, using the AC rather than opening the windows doesn’t affect your gas mileage or gasoline use very much at all. Yes, the AC compressor does waste a small amount of gas but, in today’s modern cars, it’s quite minimal.  When faced with the decision to save a very small amount of money while you roast in a hot car, or spend just a bit more and drive comfortably, the choice should be quite clear  (unless  you’re ridiculously frugal.).

Gas Saving Tip #5: Keeping your Tires Properly Inflated – NO

Okay, this one is a bit tricky. The fact is, tires are quite expensive and keeping them properly inflated is the best way to make sure that they last as long as possible. On the other hand, a slightly over or under-inflated tire isn’t going to really make a difference in your gas mileage at all. So, as far as gas saving is concerned, you don’t have to be a freak about worrying if your tires are properly inflated. On the other hand, if you don’t want to spend money more often on purchasing new tires, keeping them properly inflated and checking them regularly is a good idea.