Don’t Call It A “New Year’s Resolution”

New Year's Resolution Follow Me on Pinterest Every year you hear about all sorts of great goals people set to better themselves or a situation in the coming new year. They are called “new year’s resolutions” and most of them get forgotten within a few weeks of the new year. You start to feel bad as the motivation fades but the sad truth comes out on February 1 when you’ve already given up on the awesome goals you set.

For a few years my new year’s resolution alternated between “I resolve not to make a new year’s resolution next year” and “I can’t make one this year, I resolved I wouldn’t last year”. I finally decided not to mess with new year’s resolutions anymore a couple years ago.

Why Do We Only Vow to Improve Ourselves at the End of a Year?

We should always be trying to improve ourselves yet many only focus on improving when setting their new year’s resolutions. It doesn’t really matter why it happens and why people fall victim to this trend. What matters is that you recognize this and decide not to fall victim to the mindset that so many others follow.

Look at your life and try to figure out what you aren’t happy with. If there is more than one thing you want to improve, pick the most important one and focus on that. Once you have that figured out try to come up with a way that you can realistically improve that part of your life.

If you’re having trouble with your finances try to figure out exactly what the problem is. If you aren’t earning enough money, devise a plan to get a better job or pick up a side gig. If you’re spending too much, set a goal to track and reduce your expenses or make a budget and stick to it if you don’t have one yet.

It might seem ambitious to have a long list of new year’s resolutions or goals but if you can’t devote enough energy to each goal it will likely end in failure. There are often many things I want to improve but it always seems most effective when I focus one just one  idea. Once you have that goal accomplished you can move on to the next.

Some other ideas to be as successful as possible with your improvements are to set targets or deadlines. Make sure you have a support group (this can be as simple as friends or family) and announce your goal to those people. Ask your support group to hold you accountable!

It Doesn’t Have to Take a Year

The other part about new year’s resolutions is that many people feel that they need to accomplish massive goals that take a whole year to complete. When you set the target so high it is very hard to get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.

Instead, try breaking a large goal into smaller parts. I believe that people make better progress when things seem more in reach. These smaller goals can have shorter time frames and won’t allow you to procrastinate as much. If I resolved to lose 20 lbs in 2013 I could keep pushing it off until later into the year… well, until it is too late altogether and I’ve forgotten about my goal or given up.

Don’t Call It A “New Year’s Resolution”

Please, don’t call your next goal a new year’s resolution. Recognize new year’s resolutions for what they are… GOALS! Set smaller, shorter goals and start knocking them off your list. When you finish one start the next. Don’t wait for the new year to start your next goal. Work to continuously improve yourself!

photo by: Inspire Kelly

How Much Cash Back I Earned From Credit Cards in 2012

credit card cash back Follow Me on Pinterest It should be no surprise that I use credit cards to get as much cash back as I can with the credit cards that I currently have. I even signed up for a new credit card this year in order to take advantage of a sweet credit card sign up bonus to earn even more cash back.

Many people dismiss using credit cards to gain some extra income. Using credit cards to gain rewards or cash back is not for you if you can’t control yourself. I never spent more than I would with cash (despite the studies you’ve read) and I always pay my balance off in full every month.

I’ve never paid a dime in fees or interest (other than carefully calculated annual fees, such as with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which I may get in 2013). If you can’t follow these rules then using credit cards to get rewards or cash back will likely be counter productive because the fees (late fees, over the limit fees, etc) and interest will greatly outweigh any rewards or cash back you earn.

How Much Money I Made from My Credit Cards

In 2012 I used a combination of three credit cards to earn my cash back. I currently have a Chase Freedom credit card which pays 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories, a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card which pays 2% cash back in travel and dining and a Navy Federal Cash Rewards credit card which pays 1% cash back on purchases up to $10,000 a year and 1.5% cash back on all spending above $10,000 for the year.

Chase Freedom

I use my Chase Freedom credit card only for purchases that are in the rotating 5% categories. There were a couple quarters that had categories I spend a decent amount of money in such as gas stations and supermarkets. I was also awarded a sign up bonus of $200 in January of 2012 even though I signed up for the card in 2011.

In total, I earned $321.19 in cash back on the Chase Freedom credit card in 2012.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card this year due to the $400 sign up bonus. I did have to meet a hefty minimum spend threshold in order to get the $400 cash sign up bonus but it wasn’t a problem for me because I was buying an air conditioner.

I also earned 2% cash back on travel and dining spending on this credit card. I made sure to charge my Disney World travel spending and my first cruise to this card to get 2% cash back on those vacations. I earned $167.34 in terms of non sign up bonus cash back.

In total, I earned $467.34 in cash back on the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card in 2012.

Navy Federal Cash Rewards

The Navy Federal Cash Rewards credit card is my fall back cash back credit card. Any spending that doesn’t have a higher cash back percentages on another credit card gets charged to my Navy Federal credit card.

In total, I earned $140.78 in cash back on the Navy Federal Cash Rewards credit card.

Total Cash Back in 2012 from Credit Cards

If you add up the cash back I earned from these three cards, I earned a total of $929.31! That’s pretty awesome considering I just spent money like I normally would. All I had to do was swipe a piece of plastic instead of trying to remember how to write a check or swiping my debit card (which I never use).

Kick Start Your Cash Back in 2013

If you’d like to get some serious cash back in 2013 I suggest you check out my comparison of the Blue Cash Preferred and Blue Cash Everyday credit cards by American Express. You can get a $150 or $100 sign up bonus and up to 6% cash back on purchases at stand-alone supermarkets!

Do you use credit cards to earn cash back or other rewards? Which cards do you use and which do you suggest I try out?

Note: Credit card links in this post ARE affiliate links and I do receive a payment if you get approved for a credit card through my affiliate link. I work my hardest to provide value to you, my readers, and I appreciate it if you have come out of your way to click on my affiliate links. Thank you!

 

photo by: Tax Credits

Increase Your Retirement Contributions for the New Year

increase retirement contributions Follow Me on Pinterest The New Year is right around the corner but I bet many of you haven’t implemented this simple step to set yourself up for a more likely financially successful retirement.

It involves your retirement contribution rate and the average retirement contribution rate for US employees is so scary I didn’t even bother looking it up.

If you want to have a financially successful retirement you must want to (and actually) be above average. It isn’t too hard and I’m certain you can do it. So what is this simple tip?

Increase Your Retirement Contributions

Increasing your retirement contributions is quite easy in most cases. The first thing you need to do is know how much you are currently contributing to your retirement account. Look at your brokerage statements or paychecks depending on how you contribute. If you need help figuring this out contact me and I’ll do my best to assist you.

The next step is quite easy now that you know how much you currently contribute. Contribute more money! If you contribute through paycheck deductions go to your HR department (or log in to your account online) and ask to increase the amount or percentage beginning in January.

Even a small additional amount as low as 1% a year or $10 a paycheck can make a big difference in your retirement.

If you execute transactions through your brokerage firm, simply increase the amount of each transaction you execute by your additional contribution. If you have an automatic investment plan set up with your brokerage firm, increase the amount of the automatic contributions.

You should only have to increase this once per year and then you can forget about it until next year when it is time to increase your contributions again!

Can Raising Your Retirement Contribution Amount Make a Difference?

Think about this. If you get paid bi-weekly (26 times a year) and increase your retirement contributions by just $10 a paycheck once and maintain that contribution level you’ll be contributing an extra $260 per year. If you have 40 years until retirement that is an extra $10,400 even without calculating any type of investment returns!

Another fun example is if you increase you retirement contributions by $10 additional dollars each year. That would be $10 per paycheck over the base year in year one, $20 per paycheck over the base year in year 2 etc… By the end of year 40 you will have contributed an additional $213,200 just in base contributions. That doesn’t even factor in investment returns!

You have a few options of which retirement savings to increase depending on your personal situation. Americans could increase the amount you contribute to your Roth IRA, regular IRA, 401(k), 403(b) or other tax advantaged retirement savings vehicle (as long as you don’t exceed the stated 2013 maximum contribution limit next year). Here is a great resource if you don’t understand an IRA vs 401(k).

If you’ve taken advantage of all of the tax advantaged accounts that you can, or you want to retire early and needs some non-retirement savings, you can contribute more to a taxable brokerage account.

This simple strategy is so easy. It only requires you to increase your contributions. We aren’t talking about huge difference. Just increase your contributions. You’ll thank me when you retire and have more money to live your life.

Do you increase your retirement contributions every year? Will you be doing so for 2013?

photo by: o5com

Drive Safe and Save Money

Driver's Education Follow Me on Pinterest The following is a contribution for our readers.

Does it ever seem like you pay more for car insurance than the value that you get back for that money?  The cost to acquire car insurance is always moving upward yet the benefits from it seem to stay the same, and many of us wonder if we truly get value for the money we pay.

However, it is not easy to find car insurance quotes that are affordable and justifiable as insurance agents and companies like to dictate what they feel we should pay.  The traditional method of acquiring car insurance involves negotiating with the insurance provider to work out a policy, but we often find ourselves up against agents who are inflexible or unwilling to negotiate what we feel is a fair policy.

That’s why the internet is such an amazing tool that has revolutionized everything – including car insurance shopping.  Websites exist to help us find the lowest rates we can leverage for a more affordable car insurance policy.  These online resources take the control out of the insurer’s hands by placing it in ours, and within minutes we have information on the most affordable car insurance policies across Canada.

This is invaluable when we negotiate for a car insurance plan because it gives us the leverage to hold out for a more affordable rate.  If an insurer is unwilling to offer a lower rate, we can comfortably walk away from their offer because we know that there are better offers at other providers.

They say knowledge is power and by using these online resources, the power is placed in our hands.  Never pay more than is necessary for car insurance again – discover what other options are available to find a plan that addresses your unique situation with rates that are affordable on your budget.

This contribution has been made possible by Lowest Rates.

photo by: Trailnet

Quicken 2013 Review

Quicken 2013 Review Follow Me on Pinterest Just so everyone knows Quicken has provided me with a copy of Quicken 2013 Home and Business to review. The opinions in this article are my own and describe my experience with the software. For more about the giveaway head to the end of the article.

My Experience with Quicken

I often read reviews on products and software. The thing I like to know about the reviewer is their experience with the software and how they use it. As far as Quicken goes, I have been using a version of Quicken 2005 since late 2009. I am definitely not a power user but I use the software for what I want to get out of it.

I manually input all of my transactions as a way for me to mentally keep track of my spending rather than importing everything automatically. I mainly used Quicken as a way to keep track of my bank balances in all of my budget accounts and to keep track of my spending via all of the reports it could generate based on the data I input.

Quicken 2013 vs Quicken 2005

I was happy that when I installed Quicken 2013  they automatically asked to update my 2005 Quicken files to the 2013 version. I imagine they do this with any upgrade but it was nice to not have to hunt around and try to figure out how to do it myself. Once my data was upgraded and I had the program open I began to explore.

When I opened the new version I was happy to see that everything was still where I expected it to be. My accounts are still in the same area even though the interface looks much more modern than in my 2005 version. I was happy that they haven’t changed the bank ledger system much so I still knew how to enter my transactions.

The reporting in Quicken 2013 is much more intuitive and useful than the reporting in Quicken 2005. I like the default spending pie graph in the My Money section and how I can easily customize the time frame to whatever I need to get the information I want.

I can use the auto update feature now that I have a more current version of Quicken. This feature no longer worked when I was using Quicken 2005. I haven’t used it for my bank accounts but I did set up automatic updates with my Vanguard Brokerage account and it seems to work just fine. I have read that there are many users that have problems with certain banks but I have not run across any of these issues yet.

Never Used Quicken Before

If you have never used Quicken before and are looking for a software solution to track your expenses and provide reports I feel Quicken is a great tool. There are free options available other than Quicken but they don’t allow the same control Quicken does or they take a ton of time to use.

I personally used Excel before using Quicken. I could do whatever I wanted in Excel but it wasn’t a quick and easy process. You have to know quite a bit about Excel to get it do what you want in a fast and efficient manner. If you’re an Excel power user you could probably get by without Quicken but I didn’t mind spending some money on Quicken 2005 to save a ton of time and frustration.

There are other programs out there that will aggregate all of your data and generate some generic reports. The thing I prefer about Quicken is that I can manually enter all of my transactions which keeps me more aware of my spending. On top of that, I can customize reports to get exactly the information I want rather than the canned reports in some of the online expense aggregation programs.

Quicken Home and Business

The nice thing about Quicken Home and Business is that I can keep track of both my personal finances and business finances in the same software but I can keep them in completely separate areas and accounts. My business accounts show up in a subsection called Business and all of the accounts are subtotaled as just business accounts.

The business module of Quicken 2013 Home and Business shows a profit and loss statement, a cash flow statement and an account overview for whichever time period you pick. There are many other reports available to choose from including a balance sheet, accounts receivable reports and accounts payable reports just to name a few.

There are business tools such as project/job lists, estimate lists and a mileage tracker along with many more.

Another great feature is the fact that you can keep the finances of multiple businesses separate in the software. I expected it to only allow one business but was surprised by the option to track multiple businesses which may come in handy down the road.

Quicken Mobile

An exciting feature released in Quicken 2013 is Quicken Mobile. While I do now have a smartphone this isn’t a feature I have tried out yet as I am quite happy with my current Quicken experience. Since I only update my Quicken file at most once per week I don’t feel the need to constantly check up on my finances via my phone or enter transactions as soon as I make them.

However I do see how this could be very useful if you often forget about purchases. Using Quicken Mobile to record a purchase right after you bought an item might be the most effective way to make sure you track all of your expenses. If you’re big on being always connected this new feature in Quicken 2013 may make it worth updating to the new version.

Overall Thoughts on Quicken 2013

Overall I was really impressed with Quicken 2013 Home and Business. It was easy for me to use and navigate through. There are even more options I can explore going into the future that I haven’t even touched on yet. I am a financial nerd so I love being able to dig into my spending and Quicken is the perfect tool to allow me to do this.

If you want to buy Quicken 2013 I have linked to the Amazon product pages for the different versions below. These are affiliate links and I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you buy through my link. I work hard to provide value to you, my readers, and greatly appreciate it if you went out of your way to click through my affiliate link to buy Quicken 2013. Thank you!

Quicken Starter Edition 2013 - This is the most basic version of Quicken. It let’s you track your expenses but doesn’t allow you to list loans, investments or retirement accounts. It won’t allow you to import your data from earlier versions of Quicken.

Quicken Deluxe 2013 - This version does allow you to list loans, investments and retirement accounts. It will help you create a custom plan to reduce debt, create savings plans to pay for large purchases (college, house, etc), show what you need to do to reach retirement goals and DOES allow you to import your data from earlier versions of Quicken.

Quicken Premier 2013 - This version, in addition to the features of Quicken Deluxe, helps you to manage investments and plan for taxes. It will continuously update quotes to keep your portfolio value current and track cost basis as well as create Schedule D tax reports for capital gains.

Quicken Home & Business 2013 - In addition to Quicken Deluxe, this version allows you to manage your business finances along side your personal finances while keeping them separated. It will also help create professional looking invoices and estimates.

Quicken Rental Property Manager 2013 - In addition to Quicken Home and Business, this version helps you to manage your rental property income and expenses. It allows you to track income and expenses by property and creates Schedule E reports to help make doing your taxes easier.