:::: MENU ::::
Posts tagged with: resolutions

Fulfilling Charitable Resolutions Without Breaking the Bank

by

how to keep your charitable resoltions

By Holly Tomlinson

Giving back more is one of the most popular resolutions made each year, but as we round out the first month of 2016, I find myself having done nothing towards my goal. If you’ve also made a commitment to improving the world around you, you might be wondering how you can do so on a tight budget when you find yourself often having less than you need. I always try to remind myself that there is always something worse off who could use a helping hand, and I’ve come up with a list of ways you can fulfill your charitable resolutions without breaking the bank.

Spring Cleaning

The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” couldn’t be truer. Consider donating used goods that you don’t get much utility from anymore. Clean out your closets, including those of your kids, and put any things that you’ve outgrown or haven’t seen in at least six months into a bag. You can also go through recreational items, like hockey sticks from an abandoned hobby, old golf clubs, baby toys, and other things you can bear to part with. Take them to a local church, homeless shelter, or Goodwill and make a difference in someone’s life.

The Tax Breaks

While altruism should be the main reason behind your urge to give back, you can’t deny that tax breaks do give incentive to charitable contributions. A gift to an IRS-approved charitable organization may entitle you to a tax deduction if you itemize deductions on your tax returns. Most charities qualify for this deduction but make sure you do your research before banking on a tax break. You’ll also need to ensure you get receipts from your donations, as no deduction is allowed for anything over $250 if you don’t have documentation of it.

Unused Gift Cards

If you’ve got gift cards with small balances that you’re never going to use, consider giving them to charity or a homeless shelter. More often than not we let them hang out at the bottom of our purses or tucked behind credit cards in our wallet, and according to a MarketWatch estimate, almost $750 million worth of gift cards went unspent in 2014. Don’t hang onto it on the off chance that you might use it, and give it to people who could actually benefit from it.

For Online Shoppers

If you’ve got a mean online shopping addiction, use your purchases to donate money to charities that could use your donations greatly. Websites like iGive.com allow you to choose a cause to support initially. After you’re set up, all you need to do is shop on iGive-approved websites — they’ve got upwards of 1,700 online shopping sources to peruse. Everything from car rental websites to upscale clothing stores are on the list, meaning your every need can be met with the added bonus of donating to a charity that’s close to your heart.

Use Social Media

If you’re looking for ways to get involved, stay active on social media and follow different charities. Often local organizations will post about upcoming events, giving you the opportunity to participate and make a difference. Another handy part of the process? You’ll be able to share great things that come up and spread the news to your friends and family — you never know who’s looking for a way to get involved. Social media outlets like Facebook often have pages where likeminded volunteers can come together in their community and plan ways to get involved, so do a simple search and press join–you’ll be glad you did, I guarantee it.

The Ripple Effect

Even the smallest gesture can create a ripple effect of altruism within your community. Small generous efforts can mean big results, and you don’t have to spend a ton to get them done. If you’re a Starbucks addict, pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you — they might be so thankful that they’re inspired to pay it forward. If you know of a family friend going through a hard time, pick up a gift and drop it off at their home unannounced. Even something as simple as dropping off cookies at a children’s hospital will change someone’s day. Fulfilling your charitable resolutions is easier than you might think, and changing the world starts one person at a time. Consider what you can do to improve your community, and watch the karma dividends come back to you.

(Photo courtesy of Randy Heinitz)


Year of Becoming an Adult: October Update

by

Just last month I told you guys that we’d completed 2 out of our 4 2015 goals on our Year of Becoming an Adult list. Here’s where we stand now:

  1. Wills: Completed a couple months ago.
  2. Life insurance for hubs: I’d mentioned in my last update about hubs losing a bunch of weight (50 lbs, to be exact!!!) He still wants to lose about another 20, but decided to go ahead an initiate the life insurance process now. I remember it taking two or three months last time around (not a quick process), so hopefully by getting the ball rolling now he’ll be able to be insured before the end of the calendar year. And, just to show you how far he’s come, check out this incredible before/after photo comparison (note: I forced him to do this –he’d be embarrassed to do a mirror selfie himself; I also forced him to wear the same shirt for comparison purposes. The difference is incredible, right?!?! So proud of him!!!).

IMG_0363

  1. Open retirement accounts: We opened a Roth IRA back in April, and I also started funding an additional account through my work (a 401a) in July. I’m investing 10% of my paycheck into the 401(a) + my 7% employer match, plus still doing the $100/month toward the Roth (I know its not much, but better than nothing!)
  2. Open college savings accounts for the kids: I finally did it! I opened two 529s (one for each child) and have set up an auto-deposit of $25/month for each of them (a total of $50/month). Once we’re further along in the debt-payoff process we may increase contributions a bit, but I’m happy with where they’re at for now. It’s not much, but every little bit helps.

It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a year! Some serious happy times and some serious lows have been had. And in the last few months as I’ve transitioned back into full-time work I feel like I’ve let a lot of these “household” type tasks fall to the wayside as I’ve been trying to balance my work obligations and father caretaker tasks.  I’ve alluded to this without outright saying it, but I’ve taken over 100% of my father’s financial matters. Since he owns two separate properties, it feels like I’m essentially running THREE households myself. Hubs and I still have our budget meetings so its not like he doesn’t contribute to our household, but I’m still the person who balances the YNAB budget and physically pays the bills. It’s been a lot to take on, but I’m of course happy to help my Dad and just trying to stay on top of everything. I’m eternally grateful for the accountability I’ve received here!!! I’ve always done Excel budget spreadsheets, but I don’t think I was as uber-careful about where every single penny was being spent until I started blogging here (and, really, YNAB has been a life-changer in that regard. Check out my review if you’re interested.) Without the organization I’ve gained since I started blogging here, managing 3 separate household budgets would be really tricky. I mean, its tricky either way, but it’s certainly much easier being organized.

At any rate, in spite of the haze that this year has been (can’t believe its already mid-October! Where is 2015 going!?), I’m really glad to have now solidly accomplished 3 of our 4 “Year of Becoming an Adult” goals and that we’re well on the way to completing the fourth as well.

Now….if we can just squeeze in some debt payoff milestones we’ll be set! ; )

Have you ever tried YNAB? What did you think?

Do you do goals or resolutions for the year? How are you doing on your 2015 goals?


The Year of Becoming an Adult

by

Hubs and I have been talking a lot about different life things lately.

This year has been a big turning point for our family. We’ve really committed to the decision to get rid of our debt and we’ve made huge improvements in this area (yes, we still have an enormous amount of student loan/medical debt, but we’ve eradicated all credit card debt and drastically slashed our license fee debt, while also lowering our interest rate and making big progress on our car loan debt).

And as the end of 2014 draws near, we’ve been discussing big goals for next year. After some  discussions, we have decided to declare 2015 The Year of Becoming Adults!!!

Now, this may sound strange. Yes, husband is 32 and I will be turning 31 soon (my birthday is on New Years Eve!), so if you look at age you would certainly think of us as “adults.”

But you guys know all our dirty little secrets. You know we’re not full-fledged adults yet….at least not from a financial perspective.

In 2015 we’re hoping to change that!

Right now (and through March 2015 – one full year of blogging), I am going to stay steadfast in putting every extra dollar toward debt. I’ve talked before about how at that time I might reassess things and move at a bit slower pace. We have decided that with at least some of our “extra” money (currently put toward debt), we are going to make some big strides toward becoming more adult.

  1. First, we’re going to make a will. This is not going to be fun and I am not looking forward to it. Part of the reason we decided to make 2015 the year-of-adulthood is because I don’t want to deal with this type of paperwork as the holidays approach (maybe not an adult way to handle the situation but, hey, I’m working on it).
  2. Second, husband will get life insurance (hopefully!). I have my life insurance all in place, but we have had a LOT of struggles with getting him insured. After some talking, we’ve decided to put it on hold right now. Hubs’ medical mystery illness (discussed here) occurred at the end of 2013 so we want to get past the 1-year mark, hoping that this will make a difference and improve our chances of getting him covered. We’re also probably going to go with a different company than the one we’ve been dealing with, but we’re still looking into options.
  3. Third, we’re going to open retirement accounts. You may recall that after we paid off our last credit card I created a new savings category called “savings for Roth IRA.” So I already semi-started this by at least setting money aside on a monthly basis. In 2015 we’ll actually open an account and get this all started on an official basis.
  4. Finally, we’re going to open college savings accounts for our girls. We haven’t talked exact numbers yet (regarding #3 and #4), but at least some money will be set aside monthly (probably in a 529) as a college fund for each of our children (we have 2).

I know this all flies in the face of a Dave Ramsey-eque model of debt eradication.

For any who are unfamiliar, Dave suggests having only a $1,000 emergency fund while working on eradicating debt. He also advocates stopping contributions to retirement and kids’ college accounts while in debt reduction-mode.

Honestly, though, the idea of not doing these things (i.e., saving for retirement especially, and putting at least some money aside for college) scares me. We just came up with our grand 2015 vision and haven’t talked numbers yet. Plus, its difficult to talk numbers when our income is so variable and I’m on the job market and could potentially have a big change in income in the coming year. This is something we’ll have to sit down and discuss at length in the coming months.

But numbers aside, I just wanted to let you guys know about our plans. I know these thoughts and ideas are going to ruffle some feathers because the goal of this blog is debt-eradication and switching gears from full steam ahead to a lower gear of debt-reduction is not necessarily a popular decision.

I haven’t decided what I’ll do come March 2015 in terms of blogging. I love the support and advice I get from you all and if readers are interested in me continuing at that point (with the knowledge that debt reduction would be done at a slower pace) then I may continue to write and contribute. But I don’t want to upset readers and/or cheapen the mission of this site in any way by taking sole focus off of debt-reduction.

We’re not at that point today so it’s not as if any big decisions need to be made right now. I just feel like I want to be honest and open with you all, as you have been so supportive of me on this journey. I want you to know where it and I, as a person, are headed.

Do you have any big goals or resolutions for 2015? What financial goals are you currently striving toward?


Resolve To Leave Your Financial Comfort Zone

by

step outside your comfort zone

It’s that time of year when you have probably created a list of resolutions that you hope to complete in the following year. While there are a large number of financial resolutions that you can make, one that you probably don’t have on your list (or have even considered) is going outside your financial comfort zone.

Most people only venture out of their financial comfort zone when they have to. This usually comes about because some situation completely outside their control forces them to make drastic changes that they would have otherwise never attempted. I know this all to well. I was forced to make some large sacrifices which I would have never done on my own, and which took me well outside of my comfort zone when I found out that my fiance was in $80,000 of credit card debt. It sucked. I hated it, but the sacrifices needed to be done. That is exactly the way that most people leave their comfort zone, with me being no exception.

Here is a question to ponder. What if you purposely set up situations which took you outside your normal financial comfort zone? This was something that I had been doing more and more frequently when I would make bets with my sister. These bets almost always had me doing something outside my comfort zone. Sometime they were things which had absolutely nothing to do about money, but other times they did. A good example was when I tried to eat well on a dollar a day for 100 days. I chose to purposely do the challenge, and in the end going far outside my normal comfort zone paid off in numerous ways; the biggest being that I now have complete confidence that no matter how little money I have, I will always be able to feed myself without worry.

What I have recently started to learn is that the time to leave your comfort zone isn’t when you are forced, but when things are going well. Why? Because when you leave your comfort zone when things are not in a dire situation, you give yourself the chance to make mistakes and learn when those mistakes won’t cause nearly as much harm.

There really isn’t a need to make a huge step outside your comfort zone (although the farther away you are willing to step outside this zone, the bigger impact it can make on your life and the more you are likely to take away from it), but you should always be pushing at the edges so that your comfort zone becomes bigger and bigger. It can be something as simple as doing a no spend day challenge or as large as trying to live well on a minimum wage salary for a year. Big or small, taking the time to conscientiously move outside your normal financial comfort zone will help your finances in many ways you never anticipated.

I’m sure that making a resolution to do things outside your comfort zone may seem like a weird type of money resolution to make, but I think that if you do so, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how beneficial it can be, and how much more you’re able to accomplish than you ever thought possible. So as you begin to lay out your financial plans and strategies for 2013, I encourage you to make sure that some of the things that you do purposely take you outside your financial comfort zone. I will be there pushing my own comfort zone right there with you.

What are some of the financial challenges that you hope to tackle and address in the coming year?

If you are looking for other quality financial blogs to follow, here is a great opportunity to do so with the chance to win $100 as a bonus. This is part of our ongoing financial giveaway series. Feel free to follow any of the participating blogs, or simply comment to have an opportunity to win. It costs nothing and your chances are a lot better than entering a lottery

a Rafflecopter giveaway