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Use Tech to Secure Your Financial Future with Proper Budgeting

29 Mar

cash

Before you start a financial life plan to invest in your future, you first must tackle the art of proper budgeting. Life throws plenty of curveballs, and getting a grip on your day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year monetary needs will help you when the time comes. Once you’ve developed a proper budget, you can begin to set life goals and figure out how to make them happen.
Unfortunately, budgeting can be very overwhelming for many. Thankfully, there are many great websites and apps available to make things a little easier. I offer budgeting advice and recommend some helpful financial planning tech below:

Track your spending, income, and make a detailed spreadsheet

Before you can begin to budget for your future, you have to know how much money is coming in, how much money is going out, and where all the money is going, specifically. You should immediately begin to track all of your spending in a spreadsheet. Separate it out by type of spending – categories like bills and fixed expenses, discretionary spending, and savings. Use past bills and bank statements to create a larger history of your spending.

If you feel lost tracking this from scratch try an app or program that helps track spending like Mint or Quicken.

Know the difference between fixed and discretionary spending

Fixed expenses usually fall into the “can’t live without them” category. This includes your major bills – house payment or rent, loans, debt payments, clothing, and utilities. Discretionary spending usually refers to anything considered optional like going out to eat, going to concerts, vacation, etc. Some expenses can technically fall into either category, like a cellphone plan. But for most people it will be easy to decide whether something is truly necessary or not.

The trick of course is making sure you don’t overspend in either area. You can use apps such as ShopSavvy to comparison shop while sites like GroupOn and LivingSocial can hook you up with good deals. There are also plenty of apps that help you track your overall spending. For example, LearnVest has an app that helps you group your expenses so that you can manage fixed and discretionary spending separately and more easily see where you might be able to reduce your spending in certain categories. It also helps you set and track financial goals.

Create your budget – down to the percentage point.

Here’s where discipline really comes into play. You need to decide how much or your income you want to spend on fixed costs, discretionary costs, and how much you want to put into savings. One idea is to follow the 50/20/30 rule.

This means that 50% of your income is devoted to fixed costs – those things you simply must pay. That means that 20% can go toward some sort of savings and 30% can be allocated for discretionary spending.

Investing firm LearnVest suggests four basic categories for savings.

“Consider putting at least 20% of your take-home pay toward important payments or contributions that will help you secure your financial foundation. We believe there are three essential goals everyone should strive for: paying down credit card debt, saving for retirement and building an emergency fund. But your financial goals can also include larger savings priorities like a down payment on a new home.”

Building an emergency fund is key. You should always use your savings allotment to first build a fund that can support you if one of life’s unexpected curveballs comes your way. Having an emergency fund will then allow you to begin to pay down debt and then eventually invest in your future.

Once you develop a sensible budget, it’s important to stick to it. It’s also important to always be looking for ways to cut your expenses so you have more money to put away in savings. When you focus on saving, you can begin to set goals for your future. For example, maybe you’d like to buy a house some day or create a website for that online business idea you’ve been kicking around. Using technology to help you track your spending and saving will make it much easier to stay on track to achieve these financial goals.

Bottom line: Don’t get complacent in your habits – always look for ways to maximize what you can put away for the future. Remember, the compound nature of investing means that the earlier you can start saving, the better.

Photo Credit: Pexels.com

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Where Does Your City Rank?

18 Oct

What’s your city population? What professions do residents hold in your area? What building permits have been filed in your town? City-Data collects and analyzes data from numerous sources to create detailed, informative profiles of all cities in the United States. From school ratings to weather patterns, you can find the data you’re looking for on City-Data.

I also discovered the site also has information on restaurants, city guides and tourist attraction articles. If you want to lookup details on your city or one you are planning to visit, then check out this site.

http://www.city-data.com/

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Bring on Web 3.0, What’s Next?

19 Mar

President Obama is revamping technology, so we should also plan to rebuild the information superhighway. We need a system that is measured in gigabtyles, not megabytes. The Great Depression jump started the roads in 1930s, this economic struggle could reignite information superhighway in the 2010s.  If a massive amount of investment is put into the web, then this current stage of the Web era will jump into version 3.0.

What will Web 3.0 represent?

  • Increased Speed – The average page will load in fractions of a second.
  • The End of Net Neutrality – You will have limited websites based on your ISP. Certain Internet Source Providers will make deals with specific websites to only appear on their network. Think TV networks, but you’ll pay for access to certain websites.
  • State Sales Tax on All Items Sold – Right now you only pay if you buy in your state, but what’s stopping the government to enforce tax on everything you buy on the web?
  • Too Much User Based Information – Users need help from the experts again because their is now too much content. What information can I trust on Wikipedia?
  • Need of Secondary Validation – User ratings Not need 2nd Tier of Security. There are 100 ratings on TripAdvisor and 2 are bad reviews, how do I know the validity of those bad reviews?
  • Increased Mobile Use – Phones will be used as central computers and surpass laptop use.
  • Increased Geotracking – Why are you now?  You’ll be able to see at all times where everyone you know is physically located.

What do you think the future of the web will hold?

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Mark Cuban’s Blog

19 Oct

Are you looking for a spark in this down turned economy? Whether you are a successful business executive or aspiring leader, read Mark Cuban’s Blog. Mr. Cuban is not only an Internet mogul, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, but a talented blogger.

His blog delivers true insight that is straight-from-the-hip financial and investment tips. Mark tells it like it is by giving you business examples right from his own life. For awhile I thought he was having someone else write his blog, but as you can tell there is a consistent style. Also, his blog has frequent typos which signifies no professional editor.

What other investment/financial blogs do you visit?
http://www.blogmaverick.com/

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College for Free?

13 Sep

If you are like most parents, you are looking for ways to help pay for the rising costs of college for your kids. Ben Kaplan, a former student, was looking for a way to help his parents pay for college and could not find any easily accessible resources. Yes, there are scholarships.com and many resources at your local public libraries, but there wasn’t one central resource, until now.

Ben Kaplan founded City of College Dreams to find many unknown sources of scholarships. Some you have to hear to believe.
http://www.cityofcollegedreams.org/

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Upromise Toolbar

1 Sep

Do you have a AAA card–or an Entertainment Book?  I’ve got one of each and between the two of them, I could be getting discounts all over town.  But for some reason, I don’t take advantage of them anywhere near as much as I could.  My habits are no different online.  That’s why I give the Upromise toolbar two thumbs up.  It makes sure that you take advantage of any available savings whenever you happen upon one of their affiliated shopping sites.  (Not familiar with Upromise?)

If you or someone you know is using Upromise to save money for their kids’ college education, you’ll appreciate the value in this toolbar.  Of course you could go shopping through the Upromise shopping site directly—but who bothers to think of that?  Not me.  Just install the toolbar in your browser and you will be prompted whenever you reach a shopping site affiliated with Upromise.  Their site claims that members who use the toolbar save more than 5x more than members who don’t.

If you shop online—and you use Upromise, this free tool is a must.

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Creative Play Plus

2 Jul

A new local blog called Creative Play Plus inspires parents to share tips on child rearing. CreativePlayPlus.com centers its content effectively around playing with your children, whether it’s pretend or with Step2’s toys. The website currently features entries on the psychology of children interaction with you and each other. Look for the power of good storytelling and topics that hit home.

http://creativeplayplus.com/

*Thanks to George Nemeth of Brewed Fresh Daily for today’s topic.

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Randy Pausch

27 Jun

If you are looking for a source of inspiration and a new zeal to live, then read Randy Pausch’s story. He is a professor at CMU that was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer that decided to share his story with the world. He wants you to get the most out of your day and ultimately your life. His seminars focus on ways to work more efficiently so you can spend more time with your family.

You may have seen Randy on Dateline or 60 minutes, now follow him online.
http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/news/index.html

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Payless for College

6 May

I recently heard a quick conversation with Reecy Aresty, College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author, on WTAM. He had some good advice on how you can avoid the “College Loan Crisis”. Whether you are just starting a family or you are sending a child to college, Reecy has a plan for you. Check out the following website for more information.

http://www.paylessforcollege.com/

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Spies Like Us

13 Feb

Does your child know what he or she wants to do when they grow up? Astronaut? Police Officer? Teacher?

Codebreaker?

Yes, the National Security Agency, a government organization that originally “didn’t exist” to crack codes and ciphers is looking to your children.

Someday, the current generation of spies and analysts will need to be replaced, so the NSA has put together a site to appeal to kids.

Characters such as Crypto-Cat™ and Decipher Dog™ will show you and your children how much fun it is to figure out puzzles, crack codes, and keep our nation safe.

http://www.nsa.gov/kids

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