How to Budget in Times of Inflation

With inflation at record highs, many Americans are finding it difficult to stick to a budget. After all, when groceries have leapt in price and household staples can be double, or even triple, what they cost just a year ago, how can the same amount of money get you through the month?

Sticking to a budget during times of high inflation is challenging – but not impossible. Here are five ways to budget while in times of inflation.

  1. Plan your grocery purchases

Groceries can take a huge bite out of a monthly budget. Fortunately, there are ways to trim your grocery bill, even when prices are soaring.

First, shop your pantry and fridge before hitting the store. You may not remember exactly what you have at home, and doing a quick scan of your food items can help you stick to purchasing only what you need. 

Next, plan your week’s dinner menu before shopping so you can pick up exactly what you need for the week in just one go. The fewer trips you make to the grocery, the less you’ll spend on impulse buys. Also, when you have the ingredients you need and plans in place for dinner each night of the week, you’ll be less likely to make a last-minute decision to indulge in takeout or fast food.

Consider joining a club store at this time as well. You’ll need to spring for a membership, but you’ll enjoy steep savings on groceries and other products. Just be careful to only buy what you need, no matter how cheap an item might be.

Finally, don’t forget to shop sales and to couponize. Use apps like Reebee, Checkout 51, Flipp and Grocery IQ to stay in the know of what’s on sale in each store, and to download coupons for even bigger savings. 

  1. Consider an energy audit

With winter approaching and the cost of energy sources still climbing, this can be a good time to have an energy audit performed on your home. An audit will help identify energy drains around your home, such as air leaks near your windows and doors, so you can fix them to make your home more energy-efficient. You can also take additional measures toward saving on energy costs, such as switching all lightbulbs to LED bulbs, unplugging electronics when not in use and setting your thermostat a little lower during winter, and a bit higher in the summer.

  1. Choose your indulgence

Everyone needs to treat themselves to something special every now and then, but with costs rising on restaurant meals, movie tickets and clothing, something’s gotta give. Take a closer look at your just-for-me purchases of the last few months, and try to narrow them down to just one or two treats. You can swap them with an enjoyable activity that doesn’t cost much, such as a hike or bike ride, or cut them out completely.

Alternatively, you can find ways to trim the cost of your indulgences. For example, if you love dining out but restaurant meals are destroying your budget, you can decide to eat out but skip the desserts and wines, or opt for a midday meal so you can take advantage of lunchtime specials. 

  1. Switch your auto insurance plan

If you’ve had your auto insurance policy for a while and you’ve maintained a good driving record during that time, there’s a good chance you can save a bundle by switching to a new insurance plan and/or provider. Reach out to a representative at your current insurer to discuss your options. Ask about raising your deductible in exchange for a lower premium, reducing overall coverage or negotiating for a safe driving discount. After obtaining a quote, call several other providers to get competing quotes. You can choose to go with your lowest offer, or call back your present provider and ask them to match it for your continued business.  

  1. Pad your income

As always, when income doesn’t meet expenses, you have the choice of trimming expenses or boosting your income – or you can do both! In addition to following the cost-cutting tips outlined here, you can also look for ways to increase your income.

If your paycheck is suddenly not enough to support your lifestyle, consider asking for a raise. Your workplace may have already given you a cost-of-living raise to reflect rising inflation last year, but this may prove to be insufficient as costs have continued to rise. Don’t be afraid to ask for another raise at this time.

In addition, you can look for other ways to pad your monthly income. Find a side hustle, like driving for a ride-share company or consulting for hire, which you can do at your leisure on weekends. Ask your workplace about taking on additional projects on an as-needed basis for additional pay. Open a small service business doing something you love and excel at. Every extra dollar earned counts!

Times are hard for the average American consumer, but with careful planning, you can ride out the record-high inflation rates and keep your budget intact. Use the tips shared here to get started. 

Your Turn: How are you adjusting your budget for inflation? Share your tips and hacks with us in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in December

December blows in at the peak of the holiday shopping frenzy, and then it tiptoes out with the end of the year and post-holiday calm. Black Friday deals are long over, and there are no major shopping holidays this month, but you can still find a fabulous deal before and after the holidays. So, whether you’re finishing up your holiday shopping or looking for year-end bargains in any category this month, we’ve got you covered. 

Here’s what to buy and what to skip in December. 

Buy: Electronics

If you missed the Black Friday sales on electronics, you can still cash in on some incredible savings. Many retailers will keep the leftovers from November’s sales marked down through the end of the month. Look for discounted electronics at big box stores, online retailers and directly from manufacturers.

Skip: Winter clothing

It’s still too early in the season to find any real discounts on clothing. If you can wait until retailers start slashing prices on cold-weather wear after the holidays to drum up some business, you’ll save big on winter wardrobe essentials. 

Buy: Toys

As the year draws to a close, you’ll start seeing steep discounts on toys and games from retailers that are looking to clear the season’s inventory before the holidays. If you can handle the stress of last-minute shopping, the week or two leading up to Christmas can be the perfect time to pick up some budget-friendly stocking stuffers for the special little someones in your life.

Skip: Fitness equipment

Trying to slim down before the holidays? Hold off a bit on purchasing exercise equipment and you can save big. Soon, fitness gear and clothing, as well as gym memberships, will drop in price as consumers commence with the annual New Year’s resolutions fitness craze. Until then, you can enjoy brisk walks and runs around the neighborhood at no cost.

Buy: Champagne

Welcome the new year with the pop of your favorite champagne, all at a price that doesn’t break the budget. Liquor sellers will be competing for your business this time of year, and prices on the celebratory beverage will plunge as New Year’s draws near. Take advantage by stocking up on your favorite bubbly at a bargain price.

Skip: Furniture and bedding

This isn’t the time of year to upgrade your household and give your bedroom a facelift. Furniture and bedding will be sold at full price at most retailers this month. Instead, wait for the January white sales to purchase the same items at discounted prices. For even deeper discounts, shop for furniture and other home goods at fantastic prices at Presidents Day sale events in February.

Buy: Christmas decorations

Prepare to deck the halls without spending a bundle. You’ll find holiday decor, wrapping paper, tree ornaments and more slashed up to 50% in price the day after Christmas. With prices like these, it’s not too early to think about next year’s holiday season! Just keep

everything well-wrapped and store in a dry place. Come next year, you’ll be ahead of the holiday shopping before the season even starts. 

Buy: Gift cards

Gift cards are the perfect antidote to out-of-control inflation. They’re always appreciated, and you won’t feel like you’re spending a ton on a gift that’s not really worth the price. Best of all, you can find discounted gift cards all through December on sites like GiftCardGranny, CardCash and through private sellers listing on sites like Craigslist. Some sites will even let you customize the card with a personalized message for the recipient. 

The year is drawing to an end, but the savings on some items is just beginning. Use the tips outlined here for knowing what to buy and what to skip in December. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great buys in December? Tell us about them in the comments!

How Can I Save on Holiday Shopping?

Q: I’m always worried about money during the holiday season, and with inflation soaring, I’m more stressed than ever. How can I save on holiday shopping this year?

A: If you’re worried about making it through the holiday shopping season in the midst of record inflation, you’re not alone. A recent survey shows that 59% of American shoppers are stressed about buying holiday gifts this season due to higher prices. However, with some careful planning and budgeting, you can enjoy stress-free holiday shopping. Here are seven easy ways you can save during this holiday season.

  1. Shop early

It’s always a good idea to do your shopping early in the season so pressure and crowds don’t cause you to make decisions you’ll come to regret. This year, experts are urging shoppers to hit stores earlier than normally planned so they can take advantage of early season sales. Many big-box stores are struggling with a supply surplus thanks to an inflation-triggered decline in demand. This will likely lead to sales events to make room for more up-to-date inventory. You can take advantage of this surplus by shopping these sales and saving on your holiday purchases.

2. Set a budget

Budgets are for holidays, too. Sit down before doing your shopping to build a reasonable budget for your holiday shopping. Factor in current prices when working out your budget. Of course, this is only half the work – you’ll need to stick to that budget for it to be worth anything. Make this easier by allocating a specific amount for every gift, shopping with cash and/or reviewing your budget frequently as you do your holiday shopping. 

  1. Shop with a list

Instead of hitting the stores blindly, create a list of every gift you plan to buy for friends and family. You can browse online stores for inspiration, but resolve not to start shopping until you have a complete list. You’ll be far more likely to stay within budget when your purchases are pre-planned. 

  1. Leave some last-minute shopping for Green Monday

While it’s best to do the bulk of your shopping early in the season, you can leave some last-minute gift-shopping for Green Monday, which falls on Dec. 14 this year. This is when retailers make their final pre-holiday markdowns. Be prepared for slim pickings, though, so don’t leave any specific gifts for this late in the season. 

  1. Think outside the box when planning your gifts

If ever there was a holiday season to get creative with your gifting, this is it. Retail inventories are full of products that were backed up during the post-pandemic supply-chain disaster. Think furniture, home decor and more. While much of this may not make for typical holiday gifts, there’s no real reason you can’t delight a loved one with a new office chair, exercise bike or coffee organizing station.

  1. Give gift cards

Protect your gift list against inflation by giving gift cards. You can find discounted cards on sites like GiftCardGranny and CardCash, or use cash-back apps to earn them at no cost. Gift cards are easy to shop for, easy to budget for and always appreciated by the receiver.

  1. Use apps to save

In 2022, there are so many apps that can help you spend less on your shopping, and even put money back in your pocket. Here are some money-saving apps you might want to download ahead of this shopping season:

  • Drop. This free app allows you to link your credit and/or debit card, and shop directly from the app at 300+ retailers. Earn points back on every purchase. Use your points to purchase gift cards.
  • Honey. Why pay full price when you can get the same item for less? This coupon-scanning app will automatically find promo codes and coupons for items you’re searching for so you can save on your shopping. You can earn points on purchases made through the app, too.
  • Fetch. Earn points on grocery purchases by scanning your receipts after you shop. Redeem points for gift cards.
  • Ibotta. Get cash back for your purchases by scanning your receipts with this app. Use for online purchases, and by linking store loyalty cards for in-store purchases, too. Redeem points for cash or gift cards. 

Holiday shopping may be a race against inflation this year, but with a little pre-planning, you can complete your shopping with your budget intact. Use the money-saving tips outlined here to get started.

Your Turn: How do you plan to save on holiday shopping this year? Share your best tips and hacks in the comments. 

Step 10 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Plan for Retirement

[Now that you’ve learned how to indulge responsibly and are mindful of your credit score, it’s time to start planning for retirement. This is true no matter your stage of life.]

It’s never too early – or too late – to start planning for your retirement. However, like all long-term savings goals, retirement should ideally be planned for as much in advance as possible. That’s because the more time you allow for your savings to grow, the bigger the nest egg you’ll be rewarded with when it’s time to cash in on your funds. 

Here’s how to get started on planning your retirement.

Set a target number

Before you start squirreling away money for the future, determine how much you’ll need to have saved for living comfortably and independently throughout retirement. Experts recommend taking your current living expenses and multiplying that number by 400 to reach the amount you’ll need for sustaining yourself based on a 4% return.

Choose your retirement accounts

Next, you’ll need to select a place to keep your retirement savings. There are many options to consider, some of which you may already have if you are employed. Here’s a quick review of the two most common retirement accounts:

  1. 401(k)

If you’re currently or previously employed, you may already have a 401(k) that’s collecting money for your retirement, and investing it so it can have an opportunity to grow. Take advantage of this retirement tool by maximizing your contributions. Additionally, many employers will match a portion of, or all, your contributions, which is literally free money that will help your investments grow, tax-deferred.

  1. IRA

An Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) is a retirement fund that allows your money to grow, tax-deferred. Like with a 401(k), some employers will match a portion of, or all, contributions. However, there are federal limits on how much you can add to your IRA annually. You can choose between a conventional IRA or a Roth IRA. A conventional IRA lets your money grow tax-deferred, but withdrawals are taxable. A Roth IRA does not feature tax-deferred growth, but qualified withdrawals are not taxed.

Presented in the table below is a brief summary of the pros and cons of each retirement vehicle for easy comparison. 

Features401(k)IRARoth IRA
Allows Matching FundsYesNoNo
Tax-DeductibleYesDepends on income, tax-filing status and other factorsNo
Tax-Deferred GrowthYesYesNo
Taxable WithdrawalsYesYesNo
Maximum Yearly Contribution (2022)$20,500$6,000 $6,000
Maximum Yearly Contribution Age 50+ (2022)$27,000$7,000$7,000

After you’ve identified the retirement fund strategy that best works for your goals, you’ll also need to choose somewhere to invest the money. Low-risk investment vehicles, such as federal bonds or trust funds, are usually the best choice.

Select a target date fund

If you are saving for retirement through the use of a 401(k), be sure to check if your employer offers a target date fund. This refers to your planned retirement date. You’ll know your employer offers a target date fund if there’s a calendar year in the name of the fund, such as “B.K. Holdings Retirement 2055 Fund”. Simply determine an estimated guess of the year you intend to retire, and then pick the fund with the date closest to your anticipated retirement date. 

A target date fund is a smart choice because it spreads the money in your 401(k) across many asset classes, such as large company stocks, small-company stocks, bonds and emerging-markets stocks. Then, as you near the target date, the fund becomes more conservative, owning less stocks and more bonds, automatically reducing your risks as you near the date of your retirement.

With a bit of work and a lot of planning, you’ll have your future secured in the best way possible.

Your Turn: What’s your retirement vehicle of choice? Share it with us in the comments!

Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together

Title: Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together 

Author: Erin Lowry

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Publishing date: May 2, 2017

Who is this book for? 

  • Cash-strapped 20- and 30-somethings who are always stressing about money.
  • Anyone looking to take control of their financial health.

What’s inside this book?

  • A step-by-step guide to take you from broke to financial master.
  • Tips and tricks for tackling every kind of money situation, in addition to basics, like investing, credit card debt and budgeting.
  • Anecdotes from Erin’s own journey from a debt-crushed millennial to a money master who successfully negotiated a 40% raise.

 4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to understand your personal relationship with money.
  2. How to manage student loan debt without falling into a panic.
  3. How to successfully navigate social outings in which you’re the only broke one among your friends.
  4. How to find out about your partner’s true financial health.

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. Should I treat money more like a Tinder date or a marriage?
  2. Is it possible to conquer a mountain of debt without getting a massive windfall?
  3. How can I learn about money on millennial terms?
  4. How can I get on the same money page as my partner?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Broke Millennial takes the typical preaching and finger-wagging out of money lessons and replaces them with humor, empathy and a fun, pick-your-financial-path twist, while offering helpful and practical advice to successfully navigate all the financial questions you’ll face in the real world.”— Farnoosh Torabi

“Rich with specific advice to guide readers on the path to financial wellness. Millennials who may be overspending because of #FOMO need to read this book stat!”— Bobbi Rebell

“Thinking about money, especially when you don’t have much, can be painful. But Erin Lowry shows that you don’t need to be a mathematical genius to get on the right track. She makes it easy for people to build a financially healthy plan for life. Spend some time with this book, and your financial decisions and confidence will improve, no doubt.”— Nicholas Clements

“If you’re looking for a book to give to a recent grad, your friend who has no idea what a budget is, or just want to read a personal finance book from someone like you who’s been there…you absolutely need to grab a copy of Broke Millennial.” — Jessica Moorhouse

Your Turn: What did you think of Broke Millennial? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Gen Z Money $ense: A Personal Finance and Investing Guide

Title: Gen Z Money $ense: A Personal Finance and Investing Guide

Author: Ella Gupta 

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: New Degree Press 

Publishing date: May 22, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Gen Z readers trying to navigate the financial landscape. 
  • Readers of any age looking to broaden their financial knowledge and to learn how to grow their wealth or manage money more effectively.

What’s inside this book?

  • A comprehensive guide to the world of finance, complete with down-to-earth analogies and fun facts on every topic.
  • Pragmatic financial tips on filing taxes, robo-advisors, cryptocurrency, investing and more. 
  • Expert insights from financial experts, including Karen Finerman, JJ Kinahan, Ahdrew Ross Sorkin and Jill Schlesinger. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to take charge of your financial future.
  2. Why it’s best to start investing at a young age.
  3. All about the blockchain and how it works.
  4. How to understand trending financial topics like ESG investing.

4 questions this book will answer for you:

  1. Why does Gen Z have a unique relationship with money?
  2. How can I start investing?
  3. Why is Gen Z positioned to achieve substantial wealth?
  4. How can I learn to manage my money as naturally as I drive a car?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Ella Gupta is money-wise beyond her years. It’s remarkable that someone her age has the interest and knowledge to write this book, but that speaks to just how intrepid Gupta is. With a dearth of financial literacy among young people, here is a book to address that problem.” – Andy Serwer

“A wise read not just for Gen Z but for all generations. Ella Gupta does an excellent job explaining the fundamentals of investing in a clear and fun way, while offering practical and immediately actionable advice.” – Burcu Esmer

“In Gen Z Money $ense, Ella Gupta provides a financial roadmap that should be required reading in every high school in America.” – Tim Ranzetta

“Ella has put so much thought and passion into this book. Investing your time reading it will surely pay dividends that will be hard to measure.” – Lauryn Williams

Your Turn: What did you think of Gen Z Money $ense? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Step 9 of 12 Steps of Financial Wellness-Build and Maintain an Excellent Credit Score

Your credit score is a crucial part of your financial health. The three little numbers measure the capacity of your credit, the proficiency of your money management and your fiscal responsibility. An excellent credit score can open the door to large loans with better interest rates, as well as employment opportunities and more. On the flip side, a poor credit score can be a strong impediment toward building wealth, funding large purchases and finding gainful employment.

Let’s explore the best ways to build and maintain an excellent credit score. 

Have several active credit cards

Many consumers mistakenly believe the path toward great credit is through swearing off all credit cards. However, building and preserving a healthy credit score requires owning a card or two and keeping them active. If you’re just starting out, consider signing up for a beginner’s card, which generally features easy eligibility requirements and very little available credit. Otherwise, be sure you have a minimum of three open cards and that you use them on a regular basis. 

To keep your cards active without having an open balance, you can pay one fixed monthly bill, such as a subscription or monthly membership fee, with each of your credit cards. Set up an automatic monthly payment for the bill by linking your credit card, and then set up an automatic monthly payment for the credit card, too, by linking your checking account to the card. Choose to have the money transferred before the bill is actually due. This way, your cards will be open and active and you’ll never have a late payment, which would negatively impact your credit score. Several months of using your cards responsibly will generally help move your credit score upward.

Work on paying down debt

If you’ve landed deep in debt and can’t find a way out, now’s the time to work on kicking that debt for good. 

First, choose your debt-crushing method: The snowball method works by putting all available funds toward paying off the smallest amount of debt first, and then the next-smallest, until all debts are paid off. The avalanche method works the same way, but pays off the debt with the highest interest rate first, and then the next-highest, until all debts are paid off. With the snowball method, you’ll see results quicker, but may ultimately pay more in overall interest. Choose the method that works best with your personality, goals and lifestyle. 

Next, list your debts. If you’re going with the snowball method, list in order from lowest amount to largest. If you’ve chosen to use the avalanche method, list your debts in descending order of interest rate. 

You’re now ready to pay down those debts! Review your monthly budget to find a way you can trim your expenses, or look for a side hustle, and use the extra cash to maximize your payments toward the debt you’re working on first. Keep at it until you’re debt-free.

It may take a while to crush a mountain of debt, but showing the credit bureaus that you’re on track to pay off that debt can do wonders for your score. 

Pay your bills on time

Paying credit card bills when, or before, they’re due is a major factor in determining your score. Carrying an outstanding balance, and/or owing lots of interest, shows that you are not timely with your bills and can’t be counted on to repay loans responsibly. As mentioned, you can set up automatic monthly payments for your bills so you’re never late. Just make sure you keep the account you are paying from well funded to cover your payments as they come out.

Bring down your credit utilization ratio

Another crucial factor contributing to your score is your credit utilization ratio. This refers to the amount of available credit you have and use. It’s best to keep your utilization under 30%, or even 10% if you can. To that end, make sure you’re using just a bit of your available credit each month. In addition, consider accepting offers for increased credit – as long as you know you won’t rack up huge bills by having all that additional credit.

Keeping an excellent credit score is a key factor in financial wellness. Use the tips outlined here to build and maintain a great score.

Your Turn: Do you have an excellent credit score? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Financial Lessons You Can Learn from Fantasy Football

As summer winds down with autumn creeping closer, it’s time to start thinking fantasy football! Drafting the best team and guiding them toward the championship takes knowledge, dedication, skill and real talent. Do you have what it takes to be a fantasy football champ?

Whether you do or do not, know that fantasy football is so much more than just a super-absorbing hobby. You can actually learn a lot about money management and growing your wealth from the game. Here are five financial lessons you can learn from fantasy football.

  1. Do your research

Every fantasy football aficionado can tell you that your team’s performance throughout the year significantly depends on that one day (typically) in August: Draft Day. Knowing which NFL players to “draft” to your team is crucial to its success. If you sail into this uber-important day unprepared, you’re essentially setting yourself up for failure. Instead, in the weeks leading up to draft day, the true fantasy football pro knows to listen to podcasts from training camps, research potential trades and learn about past performances of various players. Come prepared for draft day and you will make better decisions. 

In personal finance, the rules are similar. When choosing a place or company to “draft” for sinking your money into, you’ll want to do as much research as possible and ask lots of questions: Is this investment secure? Is this company projected to experience growth over the next few years and beyond? What kind of annual gains can I expect to see from this stock? What values drive this company’s culture? Find out as much as you can about any potential investment before forking over your money.

  1. Diversify

In fantasy football, it’s important to diversify your team and to draft players who excel at various positions in real life to ensure the most wins. In finance, diversification is even more important. You’ll want to spread your investments over a mix of whole-market funds, securities and savings accounts. The more exposure your portfolio has among various asset classes and markets, the more protection it has against market volatility and inflation.

  1. Keep your investments private

To a true fantasy football manager, there’s no conversation topic as exciting as the team they’ve drafted and the wins they’ve scored. But to the uninitiated, there’s no conversation topic that can put them to sleep faster than your fantasy football league. Find like-minded fans to talk shop with, but otherwise, you’re best off keeping your observations and insight on the game to yourself.

Investments are similar. You don’t want to be the drag of the party, the office or the block. Talk about your stock performance with your partner, your financial advisor and maybe your mother. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.

4.   Don’t let personal biases impact your investments

It’s hard to leave your personal feelings and opinions behind when drafting players for your fantasy football team. You might want to pick your favorite quarterback, even though there may be one that’s more likely to put up massive stats available to draft. Or maybe you’ll plan to pick players from your favorite team, no matter what they are likely to produce during the season. Or maybe you’ll pass on a top-tier player simply because he’s on the rival team of your favorite. However, the real fantasy football pro knows to ignore personal biases like these and to focus on the skill of each individual player when drafting your roster. 

This rule parallels perfectly in the world of investing. Investors sometimes let their own biases get in the way of making sound financial decisions. For example, they may choose to keep their money in a stock that’s performing poorly because they’ve always loved the company. Or, they may feel personally invested in a stock they’ve purchased, but have a hard time letting go when it is clearly time to sell. To be a successful investor, it’s crucial to leave all personal biases behind when making decisions. 

  1. Assess your financial health throughout the year

While the decisions you make on draft day will have the biggest impact on your team’s performance throughout the season, the fantasy football pro knows how important it is to continuously monitor the performance of each player in real life. There will always be players who get injured, teams that change their strategies or don’t use your chosen player much and players who simply have unproductive seasons. You’ll need to keep an eye on what’s happening so you can make the best decisions regarding potential players on the waiver wire (players who are not on anyone’s team and generally available for any team to add) going forward. 

Financial health is never a set-it-and-forget-it affair. To achieve and maintain true financial wellness, you’ll need to monitor your budget, savings, spending habits and more throughout the year. It’s not enough to give your financial wellness a check-up at year’s end; review and assess your money management every few weeks for the best results. 

Fantasy football–it’s so much more than an addictive hobby! Fantasy football can teach you financial lessons for life. 

Your Turn: Which financial lessons have you learned from fantasy football? Share them with us in the comments.

Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Freedom

Title: Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Freedom 

Author: Sam Dogen

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: Portfolio

Publishing date: July 19, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Financial Samurai fans looking to learn more.
  • Readers of average economic status who want to learn how to build wealth and achieve financial freedom.

What’s inside this book?

  • The Financial Samurai’s unique approach to money management, which has been absorbed by an audience of 90 million over the past 13 years.
  • The Financial Samurai’s innovative 70/30 framework for optimal financial decision-making.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to tell the difference between good debt and bad debt.
  2. The best way to invest on your own terms.
  3. How to create your own rules for spending.
  4. How to take the guesswork out of financial planning.

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. Can I invest in real estate if I can’t afford to buy property?
  2. How can I build passive income streams that work with my goals and risk tolerance?
  3. What’s the best way to pay down debt?
  4. How do I optimize every dollar I earn so I can maximize my wealth?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Financial Samurai and this book have prepared me for life after basketball! A straightforward guide to live a balanced, financially free life. – Shaun Livingston

“A no-nonsense guide to living your best life now while also ensuring a financially independent future.” – Emily Chang

“A one-of-a-kind book! Bold advice from someone who’s not just done the math, he’s lived it. A must read!” – Kumiko Love

“Step-by-step, chapter-by-chapter, Sam shows how to make optimal money choices that focus on wealth building—not just saving for saving’s sake, but for living life on your terms.” – David Mcknight

Your Turn: What did you think of Buy This Not That? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Cash, Credit or Debit–How Should I Pay?

Q: With inflation soaring, I want to spend my money in the best way possible. When paying for various everyday and occasional purchases, should I be using cash, credit or debit?

A: There’s a time and place for everything. Some purchases should be paid for with cash, some with a credit card, and others with a debit card. Your lifestyle and personality may influence this choice as well. Let’s take a closer look at each payment method and when they should be used.

When should I use cash?

Between P2P payment platforms, mobile payment wallets and the growth of cryptocurrency, the world of commerce is becoming increasingly cashless. In fact, some consumers barely touch cash at all. 

However, there can be times when you’d be better off using cash. First, some gas stations charge less per gallon when the driver pays in cash. The difference is usually modest, up to 10 cents a gallon, but with gas prices soaring, it can add up to substantial savings over the course of a month. Next, if you have trouble sticking to your budget when you shop, it can be helpful to take only the amount of cash you need and leave your cards at home. This way, you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. Finally, some small businesses, like food trucks or independently owned stores, only accept cash payments or offer discounts for paying cash.

On the flip side, there are many disadvantages to using cash. First, cash provides no purchase protection. Consequently, it’s best not to use cash for very large purchases. Next, cash leaves no paper trail and it can make tracking expenses difficult. It’s best not to use cash if you’re trying to get a clear picture of where your money is going. Finally, cash always carries the risk of being lost or stolen. 

When should I use my credit card?

Credit cards are the double-edged sword of personal finance. On the one hand, credit card debt is one of the leading causes of consumer debt in the country. On the other hand, owning credit cards and using them responsibly is a crucial part of one’s financial health. 

In addition to the impact to your credit score, responsibly used credit cards offer two primary advantages: rewards and purchase protection. Using a rewards card for purchases you’d need to make anyway, such as paying utility bills or subscription fees for a service, can help you earn cash back, airline miles or another reward. The second big advantage to using a credit card – the purchase protection it offers – makes it the ideal choice for paying for large purchases or when buying something from a newer retailer. Knowing you can always dispute the charge or even cancel it if the product turns out to be different than expected, can help you shop with confidence. In addition to these advantages, paying with a credit card and making on-time payments can help boost your credit score while making expense tracking easy. 

Ideally, credit cards should only be used to cover fixed or steady payments, such as monthly bills, and for purchases you know you can pay for in full when the bill becomes due. It’s never a good idea to swipe your card for a purchase you cannot pay for today or within the next few weeks. Use your cards responsibly to ensure a healthy credit score and to stay out of debt. 

When should I use my debit card?

In many ways, debit cards offer the best of both worlds. You can always track your spending by reviewing your checking account statement, and you generally can only spend what you have. This helps minimize the risk of falling into debt. In addition, if your card is lost or stolen, you can cancel it and/or close the associated account. 

Debit cards can be a great choice for everyday purchases of any kind. However, since they  typically don’t offer rewards or the same level of purchase protection as credit cards, they may not be the best choice for large purchases, or for paying for products from a new retailer. 

Life is expensive, and you want your money to go as far as possible. Use this guide to help you choose the right payment method in every situation. 

Your Turn: When do you use cash, credit and debit? Tell us about it in the comments.