Having studied the topic of personal finance and the extremely frugal for a few years now (I even make all my calls for free), I have compiled a list of what truly frugal people who are trying to save money would never pay for. In this recession we are experiencing, even those who have never considered themselves frugal might now think twice about their budget and running the personal finances like a business will use this list.
Extremely Frugal People Never Pay For Someone to Clean Their House
A frugal person who is concentrating on building wealth and getting ahead will not pay someone to clean their house. There are countless tips on the web to help you save the most time and spend the least amount on cleaning products for your home.
Paying someone to do this for you is a true luxury and is something you can easily do yourself, considering that you are in good health.
Extremely Frugal People Never Pay For a Landscaper
During the day I see dozens of landscapers roaming around the suburbs of New Jersey. There is no shortage of landscape companies in my state.
However, the cost of hiring a landscaper (or gardener) on a weekly basis ranges from $50 to over $100 per week, depending on the size of your property. I am lucky because my husband takes care of mowing the lawn each week.
If you don’t have a wonderful husband to do this for you or if you don’t wish to do it yourself, I have an alternative solution to avoid the high cost of commercial landscaping services. Hire a high school student to mow your lawn once a week.
Possibly even supply the lawnmower so that you have more of a choice of who to hire. This way, you will avoid the overhead costs that are built in to the commercial landscapers’ fees.
A local student would love to earn some extra money and you could offer him or her half the price of what the big companies charge.
Extremely Frugal People Never Pay for New Consumer Goods
A truly frugal person would never buy brand new books, DVD’s, video games or CD’s. There is a huge market for used consumer products that are still in good condition.
Many video games stores, such as GameStop, take trade ins on old video game consoles and on the games themselves. You can then use the trade in credits toward other new or used games.
Good places to purchase used books for 50¢ to $1.00 are local book sales held at public libraries. The website www.booksalefinder.com has a searchable database of book sales in the United States and Canada. After purchasing and reading the used books, you can resell them on Amazon.com.
There are thousands of ways to save money if you know where to look. Being frugal can be thrilling and fulfilling. It’s only as difficult as you make it
The tussle between your 401K contributions vs other lucrative alternatives is as old as retirement accounts themselves (in fact please check out saving vs paying off debt). Most financial planners would choose the conservative option and advise you not to cut-down or delay your 401K contributions, but this way you might miss out on various investment opportunities or end up paying interest on debt that could have been settled for cheap.
In this article, we deal with all the possible questions you might have regarding this, and the right approach to take to secure and maximize your financial wellbeing.
Delaying 401K Contributions – What You Should Know?
If you’re financially strong and have sufficient monthly income to maximize your 401K contributions while still being able to clear off debt, you should definitely choose to do both, there is no doubt about it.
Now what we are left with is the sizable chunk of people who want to manage both, but don’t have the income to do so. They can make this possible by prioritizing between paying loans and investing in the 401k plan.
For example, if you have mounting credit card bills, it makes complete sense to set aside a bulk of your disposable income towards paying them off, and you definitely choose this over your retirement account, since the interest you pay on credit card debt is often many times higher than the returns you get from the 401K.
The biggest drawback with this approach is for those whose employer matches their contributions for the 401K, in which case the potential loss can be quite high, and might offset the short term gains in paying off debt. In this case, the right strategy would be to contribute an amount that matches and maximizes your employer’s share, but not beyond that.
Ultimately, the best way out of this dilemma is to find a way to balance the amount you spend and invest every month. It is not advised to neglect either one of these for the lure of the other.
How To Temporarily Reduce 401K Contributions?
If you are thinking of reducing your percentage contribution to the 401k plan, it is extremely important to consider your employer match. If your employer offers a full match, contribute enough to make sure you are not leaving that easy money at the table.
Initially, if you used to contribute 6% of your paycheck to exhaust your employer match, you should look at temporarily reducing the budget to 4% of your pay so that you get a 2% employer match. If you want to go further down, try investing 2% of your pay and get a 1% employer match.
Ultimately, your decision must be based on a cost/benefit analysis and the overall rate of returns among the various choices. It depends on your total debt obligations, your monthly income, other expenditures, and returns you can expect from other alternatives.
401K Late Contribution Penalty
The tax penalty for not depositing a 401k contribution on time is about 15% of the “amount involved”. The “amount involved” is simply the amount of money that missed being deposited into the funds.
So this is another factor that must be part of your decision making analysis. Would the 15% penalty be less than the long term cost of outstanding debt or returns of potential investment opportunities?
Max Out 401K Or Save For Down Payment
Deciding on whether to invest in a 401k contribution or invest in a down payment fund, all boils down to how much your income is, how much time you have in hand and how big or small are your liquidity needs.
The general advice for anyone making more than $50,000 per year is to max out their 401k plan regardless of an employer match. The idea here is to max out and then invest that amount plus 20% more after income tax into a safe down payment fund.
For those who earn less than $50,000 per year, it is strongly advised to at least contribute an amount that matches their employer contribution. For example, if your income is $40,000 per year and your employer contributes 3% of your base income, then you should look at contributing at least $1,200 every year towards your 401k plan.
Reducing 401K To Save For House
A house is probably the most important asset anyone can own in their lifetime. But if you look at it from a financial standpoint, your home is not a great investment. They don’t generate any income and require a lot of maintenance. However, it is a reasonable need to have a home on your name. That being said, consider a few things before you delay or reduce your 401K to buy a house.
Consider the security of your job against layoffs and external shocks from the economy. Ask yourself if buying is really needed when you have an option of renting. In the end when you have thought about all these factors, you need to weigh the benefits of having a home now versus having a secure retirement in the future.
Reducing 401K Contribution To Pay Debt
If you are standing at the crossroads of debt and retirement, you need to consider the type of debt, outstanding amount and the rate of interest to make a financially sound decision.
Debt Type – If you are carrying huge student loans, it makes sense to pay them off first, especially if the interest rate of your loan is going to exceed the amount you’ll get from your investment. However, if you have a low-interest debt, you do not need to take away any amount from your 401k contribution.
Interest Rate – If you have a high-interest credit card, it would be a wise step to lower 401k contributions temporarily and pay off the credit card bill. Also, paying off debt will increase your credit score and provide you with more financial flexibility.
Debt Amount – Coming to the debt amount, it is a no-brainer to not touch 401k contributions if your debt amount is relatively lower. Instead, use the amount from your monthly income to fend off the debt over time while still saving up for your retirement.
Why should run your personal finances like you would run a business? As an Operations Analyst working for a large financial firm, there are many lessons that I learn daily from working “under the hood” of the business. From this perspective, I have to make sure company transactions settle correctly and ensure minimal risk. In Operations I also work to improve the processes that make the wheels of the business turn.
One area where I bring my job home is in personal finance. I often ask myself what processes can be improved that can ensure there is minimal risk in my finances, this is not the same as investment risk. Where I work, the risk is a loss of money due to issues with transactions settling, this can be in the form of penalties, charges, and loss of business. This is the risk I speak of when referring to risk in my personal finances. I like to think of my finances as a pipeline and my cash flows inside the pipes, I think of the leaks in the pipeline as my risk exposure. I search for leaks in order to fix them using many of the great personal finance tools out there free of charge. My bank has a functionality where I can view all of my finances regardless of who they are with, but if your bank does not offer this, Mint.com is another great tool that serves the same purpose.
Little fixes go a long way
When my cash in was less than my cash out, my first reaction was to “stop the bleeding.”I looked at the pipeline of my personal finances, for example, I looked at my magazine subscriptions when renewal time came up and realized they cost far more to renew than to initially subscribe, I also realized the magazine’s website offered many of the same articles free on-line after the magazine came out. By not renewing and waiting longer to read articles I saved 50 dollars a year. I also paid 17 dollars a month to use health tools, but I was able to find an app on my phone that was just as effective for a one-time cost of 2 dollars. This switch saved me 194 dollars a year. Also, I refinanced my car. This saved me 20 dollars a month and 900 dollars over the course of the loan. These little fixes and decisions helped me to free up needed cash when cash was tight.
In Conclusion: Run Your Personal Finances Like You Would Run a Business is a Great Life Lesson
Before my experiences working in operations my financial firm, and thinking how to run your personal finances like you would run a business, I always thought that the only way to increase cash flow was to bring in more revenue from the outside, but by making the pipeline of my personal finances run more efficiently and leak-free I can get the most value from every facet of my cash flow. By doing this I am able to free up a lot of money I never thought I had. Businesses not only increase their profits by increasing their revenue but they also do it by reducing their cost and by running more efficiently internally as well. That is one the one key lesson I bring home with me every day from working under the hood of my business.
Saving Money vs. Paying Off Debt is an age-old question. There are many people in the personal finance world to turn to when you need advice on how to handle your money. Especially if your financial life includes debt that needs to be incinerated. The problem is that not all of the experts agree on how you should first go about handling the debt and still having money for life’s emergencies.
Regardless of the size of debt you have, there will always be emergencies. Some used to call it a “rainy day fund.” As Dave Ramsey says, “I’m not being negative, it is going to rain.” He is basically saying that we will all have emergencies. And since that is a given, we should prepare for them even as we are getting out of debt.
Saving Money vs. Paying Off Debt
Yes, you should concentrate on paying down your debt, but experts such as Dave Ramsey, Mary Hunt, and the folks at Crown Financial Ministries recognize that without emergency savings, you are likely to go back into debt or deeper into debt to cover the emergency. Dave Ramsey says the emergency fund acts as a cushion between you and Murphy (you know – whatever can go wrong will go wrong). But they don’t all agree on how much you should have as an emergency fund while you are getting out of debt. Here is a rundown of the amount each suggests.
3 Recommended Plans for Saving Money vs Paying off Debt
1. Dave Ramsey: $1000 Baby emergency fund (unless you make less than $20,000 per year and then it should be only $500). After establishing that you start, what he calls, the Debt Snowball. When all debt is paid off, except for the house, you save your fully-funded emergency fund of 3-6 months of living expenses.
2. Mary Hunt: $10,000 full emergency fund. This is saved while you are getting out of debt in order of the fastest payoff and setting aside other money for irregular expenses (like taxes, insurance payments – things that are not paid each month).
3. Crown Financial Ministries: There are actually 3 levels of emergency funds. You go through their money map as you get control of your finances. At the first destination, you save $1000 for emergencies. Destination 2 has you saving one month’s worth of living expenses while paying off credit card debt. And Destination 3 has you up to 3 months of living expenses while paying off the rest of your consumer debt. After that, you will be able to save for other big-ticket items.
All three of these experts and their businesses (profit and non-profit) have their basis rooted in Christian scripture and among them, you will find different approaches to everything regarding personal finance (investing, debit cards, credit cards, etc). What is important is that you find the plan among them (or another place/person you trust) that is going to work for you and your family.
Conslusion – Which way to go Saving Money vs Paying Off Debt
Personal finance is just that – personal. And no one can presume to have saving money vs paying off debt all-in-one-solution for everyone. And some of these plans are just easier to understand than others. All three agree on one thing: save for emergencies while paying off your debt. It is the most prudent thing you can do to keep Murphy from moving into your spare bedroom (another Dave saying).
The race for deductions becomes more frantic as tax filing season deepens. Efforts to offset income with allowable income tax deductions become serious when the number of earnings, dividends, and other income sources is totaled. The best time to look for tax deductions is while you are passing through the prior year. It is never too late to take a second look to locate additional deductions before you file your return.
Read the instruction book for your tax forms.
This often-overlooked way to find deductions can offer many directions to search for additional subtractions to your income. As a part of the explanations for each line of each form, the IRS furnishes examples of the types of deductions that can be taken. You may need to use these as hints to guide you to your specific deductions.
Consult with other people in a similar position as yours.
Other people may have a different perspective. You can take advantage of this to pick their brains for the types of deductions that they are using. Be careful with this method. Some people believe the best way to test deductions is to put them on the form and see if the IRS says no. Look for other forms of confirmation of deduction ideas borrowed from your peers.
Mine your lifestyle.
Take a look at how you live. You may be overlooking business-related deductions. This can be true even if you are not self-employed. Unreimbursed employee expenses can often be deducted from your taxes on as additional personal deductions on Schedule A of 1040.
You may have activities that could qualify as a business.
This would open up a whole new possibility for business deductions. Of course, you would have to file Schedule C and claim any self-employed income to take advantage of these deductions.
Keep better track of house, health, and personal expenses.
As you become more aware of what types of expenses qualify as deductions, your receipts gain in value. Keeping good track of your expenses gives you the ability to go backward when you start to search for extra deductions during tax season. The real big issue here is to keep up with your home improvements so that you can reduce potential capital gains when you sell it.
Look at charitable gifts and special purchases for home upgrades.
Most charities are tax-exempt 501(c3) organizations. This means that almost any donation that you make to them can be considered a tax deduction up to certain limits that are outlined in the tax preparation booklet. If you itemize, these will be good resources for allowable deductions. Make sure that you have receipts that specify that no goods or services were received in exchange for your donations.
The government gives tax incentives for certain types of home improvements.
These deductions change from year to year. You will need to do the research to find out if upgrading your furnace, water heater, insulation, or making other energy-efficient changes to your home offer you a tax deduction. This type of deduction is often a direct tax reduction rather than a true deduction. The outcome of paying fewer taxes is the same.