Friday, June 24, 2016

SPENDING FOR THE GOALS YOU HAVE

Often times we hear the word budget and we are taken back. We hate the idea of living life on a budget because we feel confined, like we are being held back. But having a budget is a reality no matter what stage of life you are in. Just think, if you’re a college student, you need to have a budget so you can pay for classes and if you’re a homeowner you need to have a budget in order to make your mortgage payment or to fix things around the house. And if you’re a traveler you need a budget for all those vacations you enjoy. It’s hard to get away from budgeting… but having a budget doesn’t have to limit you. Instead it can help you save for the goals you have.

Pay Today!

One of the best ways to k
eep your budget strong and to avoid spending money that you don’t have is to pay your bills on time. By doing so you avoid late fees and save money on interest too. So if you have a bill that you pay monthly like a credit card or your electricity bill, set up a reminder on your phone. This way you remember to pay the bill and don’t have the excuse of “Oh I forgot!”. I have a cell phone calendar reminder for my credit card and it helps me keep track and remember.  Especially since I have e-statements which makes it super easy to forget a payment.

Take out or Dine in?

I enjoy going out to dinner. It’s nice that you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning but rather you can just enjoy a meal. But that gets expensive and quickly too. It’s easy to spend $50 on one night’s dinner. So it’s about finding that balance and compromise. While cooking dinner at home might be time consuming think about how much money you could be saving in the long run. Instead of paying $50 per meal your likely to pay $10-$20 per meal at home.  

While cooking can be time consuming and cleaning can be a chore, why not divide the tasks up with your family or your significant other? In my house it is known that I hate to cook, but I do it because I love to eat. Therefore, when I cook someone else does dishes. However,  when they cook  I have no problem stepping up and doing the dishes. This way we all have our part in the meal prep. 

To Do!

We all have hobbies or things that we enjoy but when we think of a budget, we think it’s time to cut out the fun and focus on the serious. I believe in a healthy balance of serious and fun. It’s important to create a place in your budget for fun. Yes, I know it might sound crazy but if you are not having fun, you’re not truly living life. So, look for deals for family fun, date night fun and even fun that you can have by yourself. There are many great sites for deals and discounts and living in South Florida, we have some great free resources available to us.

We have tons of beaches and parks that are free for you to hang out at. So plan a date night at the park and have a picnic or plan a beach day with your friends and make it a pot luck. Some of the best memories I have with friends are beach days and they cost next to nothing.

Sometimes you might have to think outside the box but there are ways to have fun while keeping within a budget. Like checking out your local library for books instead of buying them or renting moves from Red Box instead of seeing them in the theater. Or carpooling with friends so you’re not the only one always driving.

Think outside the box when it comes to things you like to do and have fun with them. But always have a place in your budget so you don’t have to be the one stressing over finances.

Tuck it away!

If you are not good at budgeting yet you still want to save money or have goals and dreams you are trying to accomplish, then budget backwards. Instead of budgeting for life and using left overs for your trip, budget for your trip and use the “left overs” for life. So If I know my trip is going to cost $5,000 and I have two years to pay it off, I know that I need to save roughly $200 a month for that trip. So each pay period I will tuck away $100. And then use the rest of my paycheck to pay my bills, rent and any other expenses I might have. The best trick I have found when I have a goal in mind is to deposit that money into a separate account. Because, if the money is out of sight, it’s out of mind.

No matter how you decided to save for the goals you have, be sure that you pay what needs to be paid, compromise where there’s room and tuck away money every paycheck so that you can enjoy the life you have!


^Alysha 

Monday, June 20, 2016

LETS GET PERSONAL... A PERSONAL LOAN THAT IS!

There are times in life when you want or need to spend more cash than you have on hand. You can borrow the money and pay it back a little at a time if you have reasonably good credit.
The most common way to borrow, if you don’t have a helpful relative, is to go to a financial institution. There are different types of personal loans available depending on what you plan to do with the money — just bear in mind that eventually you’ll have to pay it back with fees and interest.

WHEN A LOAN MAKES SENSE
You can take out a personal loan, for instance, to pay for a big project or consolidate debt. If you need a lump sum that you don’t plan to pay back within about a year, a personal loan could be the best answer. If you need funding relatively quickly, this could also be the right move. If your credit card interest rates are in the upper teens or higher, paying them off with a personal loan may work to your advantage. If you don’t have the time to save up money to meet your goals, borrowing might be the next logical step.

TYPES OF PERSONAL LOANS

Most personal loans are unsecured. That means you’re borrowing the money based on your creditworthiness alone, without putting up collateral such as a car or house. Unsecured loans present a higher risk for the lender, since it’s essentially relying on your financial reputation to guarantee repayment. So this option carries a higher interest rate than one secured by an auto or a home. If you don’t repay a loan backed by such an asset on time and according to the terms, the lender can take your collateral or foreclose on your property.

HOW TO GET A LOAN

Before you fill out a handful of online loan applications, check out the terms and interest rates to see what’s available, what’s affordable and what’s realistic. Understand that every time you apply for a loan, your credit score can take a hit, which may jeopardize your chances of getting the loan — or of paying a lower rate. Check available rates, including where you bank regularly. If you have a history with a lender, even just a checking account, it may be easier to qualify for a loan even if your credit isn’t great.


Before borrowing, it’s best to have a plan for how the money will be used and how you’ll pay it back. Taking out a personal loan can help consolidate debt, accomplish goals or even make a dream become a reality.

*Resource: Balance

Thursday, June 16, 2016

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!

“Close together or far apart dad is always in the heart”- Unknown.

Father’s Day is quickly approaching and that means it’s time to spoil dad! No matter if you live near or far, there are many great things you can do to show your father some love on father’s day!

Live near?
If you are fortunate to live near your dad, then take the time to really appreciate him this Father’s Day by planning a day for him.

*Take your dad to his favorite restaurant and share a nice meal with him, bring the rest of the family and laugh and bring up the good times.
* Plan a fun outing. Think about the one thing your dad enjoys, is it Fishing? Maybe a sporting event or even maybe there is a movie he’s been wanting to see. Whatever the case might be, plan an activity that your dad will love! Plan some YOU and DAD time or some family time. But, just be sure to do something that your dad enjoys.


Live Far?

If you live far, there are still many great ways to celebrate your dad this father’s day!

*You can mail him a care package with some of his favorite sweets and treats.

* You can make a father’s day card and mail it to him. Because of technology, we don’t take the time to send letters like we used to. I’m sure your dad would love to get mail that isn’t a bill.

* Skype, facetime or any other kind of video chat. Take some time out of your day to have a face-to-face conversation with your dad. Talk about the “good ole days” and maybe even plan a trip to see him.

* Surprise!!! Plan a surprise visit for the day or even the weekend if you can make it happen! What dad doesn’t love a surprise visit? A surprise visit would probably make him so happy to know you took time out of your busy life to appreciate him!

Must Give a Gift!

If you’re the child that must give a gift so that you’re father feels appreciated, do a little snooping. See what he needs this Father’s Day. Is his wallet worn? Maybe his watch is a little banged up? What about his sneakers are they in good shape? A great gift idea is something that he uses daily, this way you are always with him! If it’s a wallet, add a picture of you into the wallet so when he opens it up you’re the first face he sees. If it’s a watch maybe get it engraved with a funny joke you share. There are always ways to take every day gifts and make them personal… you just have to do some searching.

One thing I learned about my dad is he always loved when I gave him a photos of us. While he didn’t have a desk job, he loved carrying photos of my brother and I and showing them off to his co-workers and friends. If there was one thing my father was… it was a bragger. He loved to brag about us kids.

So while you might think a gift is small, if it’s something that comes from the heart, it’s going to be the biggest gift your father can receive.

Make it a memorable Father’s D
ay!

Alysha


Monday, June 13, 2016

IT'S A MONEY THING: DEMYSTIFYING MORTGAGES


Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before Signing a Mortgage

Asking the right questions is an important part of every financial decision you make, and home ownership is no exception. If you’ve been thinking about buying a place, preliminary research will turn up a long checklist of questions for you to ask at every part of the process. There are questions for your financial institution, questions for your mortgage broker and questions for your real estate agent. But what about the questions you should be asking yourself?

Owning a home is likely the largest financial commitment you’ll make in your life, and it’s easy to get caught up in details pertaining to debt-to-income ratios, the real estate market, current interest rates and amortization schedules. But financials are only a part of the picture. In order to make a truly smart decision, you need to acknowledge and accommodate some personal factors along with the financial ones. Asking yourself the following four questions will help you determine whether or not you’re ready to own a home:

1. Why do you want to own a home? 
Seriously, why is owning a home important to you? (Don’t answer with what you think you should answer; be honest with yourself.) Are you looking to build equity? Does it just seem like something a “successful adult” needs to do? Do you see it as an investment? Do you think renting is somehow inferior to owning? Are you just fed up with your landlord? Do you see it as a symbol of your freedom and independence? Do you have a Pinterest board of home renovation ideas you’re dying to try? Do you think it’s something that all (insert age here)-year-olds should do?

There’s no “right” answer to this question (even though some reasons might be more frivolous than others). By simply observing what surfaces when you ask yourself these questions, you’ll get some insight into why you’re contemplating buying a home in the first place. Are your motivations fueled by practicality or insecurity? Is it something you want, or simply something that everyone else seems to be doing? You’ll be able to tell if you’re in it for the right reasons.

2. Are you okay with staying put?
To make the most out of buying a home, you need to be in it for the long haul (which, in this case, usually means at least five to seven years). There’s a reason why short-term home ownership isn’t a thing outside of those real estate flipping TV shows—it’s a great way to lose a lot of money. Your home, like any investment, needs time in order for its value to grow (and that growth isn’t guaranteed, by the way). By selling your home after only a couple of years, you’re at the mercy of real estate market swings and your home may not have increased in value enough to break even—especially when you factor in closing costs and other additional expenses that go along with buying a home. If the thought of staying in one place for more than one year makes you feel panicky, then it might not be the right time for you to buy.

3. Are you happy?
Stability is key when it comes to buying a home, and so anything that threatens that stability could also potentially cause some major headaches once you’ve signed the mortgage papers. Do you love what you do for a living? Do you have job security? Do you enjoy living in your neck of the woods? Is your personal life stable?

You don’t want to be in a situation where you purchase a home and then find yourself faced with the need to change things up. A career change, the start or end of a relationship or a sudden onset of wanderlust could all interrupt your plans to stay put and build equity. Of course, life can be unexpected even when you’re happy—but generally speaking, if you’re pleased with where you’re at, dramatic changes won’t be looming around the corner.

4. Is your savings account up for the challenge?
Have you done your homework and figured out how much home you can afford, based not only on the monthly mortgage payments, but also on all of the other expenses, such as property taxes, insurance, homeowners association fees, and utilities, to name just a few? Regular monthly expenses aside, home ownership can serve up all sorts of expensive surprises, and you’ll want to make sure your savings account is up for the challenge. Save up for inevitable home repairs and maintenance—the financial responsibility of maintaining a household (appliances, heating, plumbing and landscaping) can take new homeowners by surprise. You’ll also want to beef up your emergency fund so that you have some flexibility and can continue paying your mortgage if you suddenly find yourself with health or job troubles. If your savings are healthy, you’ll also want to consider budgeting for moving expenses, furniture, and home upgrades before making the move.
________________

On the surface, home ownership can seem like a smart and appealing option, especially if your mortgage payments work out to be lower than what you would be paying to rent. However, rushing into a mortgage can set you up for a ton of stress (financial and otherwise). Before you buy, check in with yourself to make sure that you’re well prepared, that the timing is right and that you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

SUMERTIME FUN ON A DIME


Summertime was by far my favorite time when I was growing up and in college. I loved having time off of school and having no responsibility.  The only problem was, my checking account drained pretty quickly during those summer months. At first I couldn’t figure out why but then I figured it out. During the school year I had a meal plan, and did lots of free activities on campus. During the summertime, I had no meal plan and everything cost money. There were no free BBQ’s, no free sporting events, and since school was out my part-time campus job also ended.

If I knew then what I know now!                                                                                                                                             
There are actually a lot of things that you can do living in South Florida that won’t cost you much but still allow you to have a fun time whether it’s during the summer, fall, winter or spring. Wait, what am I talking about, we live in Florida, its summer year-round!

Eat Cheap!

Eating out is one of the most expensive outings in South Florida. We have some great restaurants but the price of dinner adds up … and quickly too. There are ways to cut the cost without cutting the quality of your meals. You can always check out happy hours. Often times they have great specials on food (not just drinks) and if you order an assortment of appetizers you can have a meal for cheap! It’s nice because often times the same appetizers that are $10 are $5 during happy hour.

Look for local deals. Many restaurants have specials during the weeknights. Like Bonefish Grill, Tijuana Flats, and even Ale house's. So be sure to ask your favorite restaurants about week night special and be sure to sign up for e-mails from your favorite places. I get e-mails on a regular basis with discounts and coupons for restaurants such as Outback and California PizzaKitchen and who doesn’t love a free appetizer! Plus, like them on social media too, you never know what deal might pop up in your news feed.

Call around town! If you’re craving something particular, take the time to call restaurants and see what specials they have. Often times you might find specials on steaks and burgers at places you would least expect!

Oh and don’t forget to check out Groupon and Living Social for restaurant deals! They have amazing deals for cheap eats that are good!!

Fun on the town!

We have free beaches! Do I need to say that again? I was on a girls weekend to New Jersey once and it cost money to step foot on the beach. What is that? We have FREE Beaches! Pile into the car and take a drive, enjoy a beautiful day on the beach. Bring a cooler with food and drinks and maybe a football to toss around. Find volleyball courts and get a game started or take the time to build a sandcastle. Whatever makes you happy, do it on the beach! Maybe even start a water balloon fight. Hmm I think I need to make this one happen.

Everyone loves a good movie, so if you have a free afternoon, go check out the latest movie release. You’ll save a lot too! An afternoon movie could cost you about $9 while an evening movie will be about $12. Hey every dollar counts! Plus who doesn’t love sitting in a dark theater on a raining day or any day really!

Create your own fun!

Everyone loves a funny story, an embarrassing memory and even a crazy time so why not create it yourself! Have a pool party at a friend’s house, or host a pot luck night or even plan a themed dinner! The catch is to have all of your friends contribute. Themed parties could be something fun. You could do Indian night and have everyone cook at your house and make a dish there or bring an already made dish. Who doesn’t like try new foods? Pot lucks area always fun too, because you can hang out relax and eat. And who doesn’t love a day of fun in the pool? Play some pool volleyball, some Marco Polo and blast some music!

There are fun things happening all around us, we do live in Florida! Have fun this summer and we encourage you to share your stories of fun things you and your family like to do that don’t make you go broke!

Enjoy!!

-Alysha


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

THE 411 ON LOANS!




Loans help finance some of our biggest goals in life. They can provide access to possibilities that we can’t afford upfront—possibilities like going to school, buying a home or starting a business (to name just a few).

A loan is also one of the biggest financial commitments we make in our lifetime. Rushing into a loan without fully understanding how it will affect your budget can create a very stressful situation that can quickly spiral out of control.

The good news is that you can avoid this stress entirely by choosing the loan that’s right for you: a loan you can afford, from a reputable lender, with a payment schedule that makes sense.

Not sure where to start? The five tips below will help you shop smarter for the loan that’s right for you.

#1: Take your time
Reading the fine print is not fun, researching loan options is not exactly exciting and asking financial questions can feel intimidating—but these all play an important part in helping you find the right loan product. The process is not easy, and if you’re tempted to rush through it, just remind yourself that being thorough now can save years of financial stress down the road. You should never feel pressured to sign anything on the spot. Remember: this is your loan and your future—you’re in control!

#2: Be honest about your budget
In order to choose the right loan, you need to have a clear idea of how much you can comfortably afford to borrow. Spend some quality time with your budget (if you don’t have one, now is a great time to make one). You’ll want to come up with a range, so calculate a few different scenarios:

  •    If your income and expenses stay exactly the same as they are now, how much of a monthly payment could you afford?
  •    If you suddenly lost your job, how many payments could you make before running out of cash? Do you have an emergency fund in place?
  •    Is there an area of your budget where you can reduce spending to cover a planned (or unplanned) increase in your monthly payment?

Picturing your loan payment alongside your other budget items will give you a sense of what you can realistically afford so that you can confidently shop for a loan without worrying about the financial effect on your lifestyle.

#3: Give yourself some credit
Your credit score plays a huge role in determining the loan rate you qualify for. Additionally, knowing your credit score before you go loan shopping will save you some time by making it easy to weed out offers you’re not eligible for. In the meantime, keep up those good credit habits: pay your bills in full and on time, and try to use only 10% of your available credit limit each month.

#4: Do some research
Start with brushing up on some basic loan terminology and then move on to learning about different types of loans (such as secured loans, unsecured loans, fixed-rate loans and variable-rate loans). Research loans online to get an idea of the interest rates for the products you’re interested in. When comparing various loans, look at more than just the Annual Percentage Rate (APR). Consider the fees, the payment schedules, the eligibility requirements, and the application and approval process. Also, check out the history and reputation of the various lenders—especially if you stumble upon offers that seem too good to be true.

#5: Check in with your credit union
Credit unions are known for offering competitive rates on loans. You may also qualify for discounts based on your existing membership or because you have other banking products with your credit union.

________________

Once you’ve done your research and you know your budget inside and out, then arrange to meet with a loan officer. And bring a ton of questions with you! Don’t be shy—ask about any wording you don’t understand. Ask for your lender’s opinion and ask if they’ve worked with someone in a similar situation as yours. To really put your loan in context, ask a variety of “What happens if…?” questions:

  •    What happens if I miss a payment?
  •    What happens if I default?
  •    What happens if I want to pay off the loan faster than expected?
  •    What happens if I pay weekly instead of monthly?


The most important thing to remember is that taking out and repaying a loan is not intended to be a stressful experience—it’s intended to make large purchases or investments affordable for you. It’s easy to get sucked into horror stories about things like foreclosures and student debt, but a little knowledge and preparation will make your own loan story a lot happier and a lot less dramatic. So study up, focus on your specific needs and ask around—your perfect loan is out there!

Monday, May 23, 2016

CREATING A HOLIDAY BUDGET... NOW

Create your holiday budget... NOW!

Yes, I know it is only May but what better time to start creating a holiday budget than NOW?
If you are anything like me, you wait until the last minute to start buying holiday gifts and then you're stressed, your checking account is empty and your credit card bill is higher than expected.
So why not start preparing your holiday budget now and maybe even checking some items off the shopping list? First things first, give yourself a loose budget. Maybe you plan to spend between $500 and $800 on holidays shopping this year.  Second, find the best way to save!

Is it a Holiday Club Account?

Tropical Financial offers a Holiday Club Account, which is in essence, a savings account. This is a FREE account to our members and is a great way to stash your cash. The account can be opened up any time of the year... (Now is a great time to open it) and you add to the account as often as you want. You can set up direct deposit, deposit at the branch or send deposits through the mail. There is no minimum balance required so you can save what fits your budget. Maybe one week its $100 but the next week is $20. It's your money, your account and your terms.

Once October rolls around, your money is transferred to an account of your choosing and BAM you're ready to shop. Oh and there's even a "gift” for you too! The Holiday Club Account earns monthly interest so you'll have a little extra for you.  As the saying goes, "out of sight, out of mind." This is a great way to save and not accidentally use the money for something else.

Gift Cards

This is another great way to save weekly or monthly and doesn't require too much effort on your end.
Every pay check you receive, go to the store and buy a gift card. For instance if you're goal is $600 and you buy two gift cards each month for $50. You'll be at your goal in no time.
The trick here is to keep those gift cards in a safe place, and remember that safe place. For the record, your wallet is not a good or safe place as you might see the gift cards and spend them on yourself.

Shop now and save later

All year long we have amazing sales in the stores. Memorial Day Sales, President’s Day Sales, Sales just because it's Monday and even sales for on-line only purchases. The sales are endless... I know I get text alerts daily.

So, if you know who you’re shopping for and you have an idea of what to get them, why not buy it now? Find a coupon, check out the sales and make the purchase now! Just don't be like my mom who I love dearly, buy it, hide it and forget it. I get a lot of gifts after Christmas.

Now, you might be thinking, "What about Black Friday?" What about it?! Most people think those are the deal of a lifetime but that isn't always the case. A lot of time the TV's are several generations old, or they only have two of the special deal computers in stock and sometimes the prices are raised and then discounted to make you feel like you're getting 50% off.  Often times the deals are much better throughout the year.  So, just be aware and alert of the sales and deals.

Start now! 

No matter which route you chose, even if it isn't one of my options, start preparing now. It's never too early. Start creating your shopping list and the items you hope to buy. Start checking out pricing so that you can set a budget that works with your finances. But more importantly, don't wait until the last minute. We know that every year our loved one has a birthday, and the holidays are coming, yet we ALWAYS wait until the last minute to buy gifts.

The more you spread out your holiday spending and the more you save now, the less your wallet will feel the hit later.

^Alysha