5 Reasons We Overspend (and How to Overcome Them)

We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s that I-gotta-have-it urge that overtakes us when we see a pair of designer jeans. Maybe it’s that shrug as we reach for the $6 cup of overrated coffee that says “I deserve this.” Or maybe it’s that helpless feeling as the end of the month draws near and we realize we’ve outspent our budget — again.

What makes us overspend? Let’s take a look at five common reasons and how we can overcome them.

1. To keep up with the Jones’s

Humans are naturally social creatures who want to blend in with their surroundings. When people who seem to be in the same financial bracket as we are can seemingly afford another pair of designer shoes for each outfit, we should be able to afford them, too, right?

The obvious flaw in this line of thinking is that nobody knows what’s really going on at the Jones’s’ house. Maybe Mrs. Jones’ expensive taste in shoes has landed the family deeply in debt and they are in danger of losing their home. Maybe her Great Aunt Bertha passed and left her a six-digit inheritance. Maybe all of her Louboutin’s are cheap knockoffs she bought online for $23 each.

Break the cycle: Learn to keep your eyes on your own wallet and to ignore how your friends or peers choose to spend their money. Develop a self-image that is independent of material possessions. Adapt this meme as your tagline when you feel that urge to overspend as a means to fit in: Let the Jones’s keep up with me!

2. We don’t have a budget

A recent survey shows that 65% of Americans don’t know how they spent their money last month.

When all of our spending is just a guessing game, it can be challenging not to overspend. We can easily assure ourselves that we can afford another dinner out, a new top and a new pair of boots — until the truth hits and we realize we’ve overspent again.

Break the cycle: Create a monthly budget covering all your needs and some of your wants. If you’d rather not track every dollar, you can give yourself a general budget for all non-fixed expenses and then spend it as you please.

3. To get a high

Retail therapy is a real thing. Research shows that shopping and spending money releases feel-good dopamine in the brain, just like recreational drugs. David Sulzer, professor of neuro-biology at Columbia, explains that the neurotransmitter surges when people anticipate a reward — like a shopper anticipating a new purchase. And when we encounter an unforeseen benefit, like a discount, the dopamine really spikes!

“This chemical response is commonly called ‘shopper’s high,’” Sulzer says, likening it to the rush that can come with drinking or gambling.

This explains the addictive quality of shopping that can be hard to fight. When life gets stressful, or we just want to feel good, we hit the shops or start adding items to our virtual carts.

Break the cycle: There’s nothing wrong with spending money to feel good, so long as you don’t go overboard. It’s best to put some “just for fun” money into your budget so you can make that feel-good purchase when you need to without letting it put you into debt.

4. Misuse of credit

Credit cards offer incredible convenience and an easy way to track spending. But they also offer a gateway into deep debt. Research shows that consumers spend up to 18% more when they pay with plastic over cash.

Break the cycle: When shopping in places where you tend to overspend, use cash and you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. You can also use a debit card with a careful budget so you know how much you want to spend.

5. Lack of self-discipline

Sometimes, there’s no deep reason or poor money management behind our spending. Sometimes, we just can’t tell ourselves — or our children — “no.”

Scott Butler, a retirement income planner at the wealth management firm Klauenberg Retirement Solutions in Laurel, MD, explains that it takes tremendous willpower to say no to something we want now.

“One of the big reasons people overspend is that they don’t think ahead,” Butler says.

Too often, we allow our immediate needs to take precedence over more important needs that won’t be relevant for years — such as a retirement fund or our children’s college education. We simply lack the discipline to not exchange immediate gratification for long-term benefit.

Break the cycle: Define your long-term financial goals. Create a plan for reaching these goals with small and measurable steps. While working through your plan, assign an amount to save each month. Before giving in to an impulse purchase or an indulgence you can’t really afford, remind yourself of your long-term goals and how much longer your time-frame will need to be if you spend this money now.

Your Turn: What makes you overspend? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
thebalance.com
thedollarstretcher.com
hermoney.com
money.usnews.com
elle.com

Simple Steps to Start Saving

Everyone knows how important it is to regularly put money into savings, but research shows that 25% of Americans have no emergency savings at all.

Don’t let this be you! If you’re ready to start saving, but you don’t know where to begin, Advantage One Credit Union can help. Here are seven simple steps that can get you on the fast track to building your nest egg today:

Step 1: Set a goal

It’s always a good idea to work backward when setting up a plan.

Take a few minutes to think over your long-term and short-term savings goals. These can include saving for retirement, a dream vacation or covering a large purchase like a recreational vehicle or a new phone. Make sure to assign a dollar value for each goal.

It’s important to note that, when you actually start putting money into savings on a regular basis, it’s best to start with building an emergency fund that includes three to six months’ worth of living expenses before moving on to other saving goals.Outlining your more personal goals before you get started will help motivate you on your journey toward saving.

Step 2: Start tracking your expenses and income

Determine exactly how much money you need to get through each month. For three months, keep a paper or digital record of each of your expenses and all streams of income.

As you complete this step, be sure to include seasonal and occasional expenses. Calculate an estimated annual expense amount for these costs and then divide it by 12. Add this value when factoring your monthly expenses.

At the end of the three-month period, review your expenses and income to see how much money you really require to live on each month.

Step 3: Trim your expenses

If you find that your income exceeds your expenses by a generous amount, you’re in a good place and you can skip to the next step.

If your expenses are greater than your income or the numbers are too close for comfort, it’s time to scale back. Look for ways to trim your expenses without feeling the pinch. Start with your biggest non-fixed expense, and move from there, cutting costs wherever you can.

The money you trimmed from your expenses can be used for savings.

Step 4: Create a budget

With your newly trimmed expenses, you’re ready to create a monthly budget. Using your list of monthly expenses and income, designate an appropriate amount for each monthly expense. Be sure to include savings in your budget — as if it were actually an expense.

When working through this step, you can go the old-fashioned route and use pen and paper for a detailed budget, or use a budgeting app, like Mint or YNAB.

Step 5: Choose your savings tools

With your numbers all worked out, you can move on to choosing a place to park your savings.

It may be a good idea to choose a separate location for your long-term and short-term saving goals.

For long-term savings, look for a savings option that offers an attractive interest rate, like a share certificate at Advantage One Credit Union or an IRA for retirement savings. Keep in mind that you may not be able to open a long-term savings account immediately if you don’t have the amount of funds required for your minimum initial deposit.

Short-term savings are better off in an account that allows for easy access and some monthly transactions if needed, like a checking account or money market account at Advantage One Credit Union.

Step 6: Make it automatic

You’ve got your numbers worked out, and if all goes well, your savings should start growing today.

Unfortunately, though, impulses can sometimes get in the way of our best intentions, holding us back from reaching our goals. Keep this from happening to your savings by making them automatic. Ask us about setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account so you never forget to feed your savings again.

Step 7: Review and adjust as necessary

Your savings plan is good to go! Remember, the earlier you start, the more interest your funds will accrue.

While you may have automated your savings, that doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. Be sure to review your budget every now and then and to check whether you should adjust the amount allocated for savings.

Your Turn: What are your saving tips for beginners? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
thebalance.com
nerdwallet.com
lifeandabudget.com

Pass It On: Transferring Wealth, Wisdom, and Financial Smarts to Future Generations

Title: Pass It On: Transferring Wealth, Wisdom, and Financial Smarts to Future Generations

Authors: Lori B. Gervais and Roger G. Gervais

Paperback: 268 pages

Publisher: Lioncrest Publishing

Publishing date:  Oct. 9, 2020

Who is this book for?

  • Parents planning for their children’s financial futures
  • Those wanting to further their own financial knowledge and skills
  • Readers who are or will soon be starting a family

What’s inside this book?

  • Clients’ stories of talking to children about managing wealth
  • Tips on how to begin the conversation about preserving the family fortune
  • Lessons on transferring family values, as well as transferring wealth
  • Instructions on preparing children to inherit responsibility as well as money
  • The authors’ personal experiences both in growing up and in raising their own children

Lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • How to speak to children about preserving your family’s wealth
  • How to ensure your personal values concerning your money are maintained
  • How to instill responsibility
  • How to use money for creating a great positive effect on your community and future generations
  • How and why financial literacy must be addressed within the family

Questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How do I prepare my children to manage their inheritances?
  • How can I maintain my family values while also transferring family wealth?
  • How do I introduce the topic to my family?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Managing money and finances can be some of the most challenging concepts for any family to navigate. I love the way the authors break it down and give us ways to help not only as a couple managing finances…more importantly equipping us with tools to help educate our family, setting us up for success for the future.” — Tara Gundrum

“…Pass It On, provides a financial framework that all of us can customize to meet our financial and life objectives. It goes well beyond wealth management or estate planning, providing clear, practical and actionable guidance we can all apply to virtually any financial matter. A must read.” — H. Edward Wynn, author of We the People: Restoring Civility, Sanity and Unifying Solutions to U.S. Politics

“Many parents fear leaving their kids’ substantial wealth. It can be difficult to know if they will be good stewards of what you leave them. If you are looking to learn a path and framework for passing on wealth and wisdom to those you care about, you will want to check out this book.” — Timothy J. McNeely, CFP CIMA

Your Turn: Tell us how you’ve used the advice of “Pass it On” in your own life.

HisandHerMoney.com

When two people with opposite money views marry, it’s the ultimate in “He said, she said.”

He wants to save every penny so they can afford their dream house within the next five years, and she would rather live it up today while pushing off their dream a little longer.

She wants to budget every dollar to track everything they buy, and he thinks they can trust themselves to keep within their spending limit without accounting for every single purchase.

He thinks golf clubs with a four-digit price tag are a reasonable want, and she thinks they’re a ridiculous luxury reserved for the very wealthy.

And on and on it goes.

For Talaat and Tai McNeely, a pair of high school sweethearts ready to take their relationship further, the money differences were more than just an occasional spat — they were an obstruction standing between the couple and marriage.

As the McNeelys share on their blog, hisandhermoney.com, here’s a sampling of some of the financial issues they were dealing with before they married:

  • Do we let our credit scores dictate if we are compatible for marriage?
  • How will our previous money habits play a role in our marriage?
  • Do we merge our finances?
  • How can we work together to become better at life and win with money?
  • Am I a loser because I have now made my debt problems my future spouse’s problems?
  • Can I change, or is my past really who I am?
  • Should I have a secret account just in case our money situation gets worse?
  • How will we purchase a home? Do we put it in both of our names and risk not having a low interest rate due to the lower credit score?
  • Do I have to take full responsibility for our finances simply because I’m better at it?
  • Will we have to rely on two incomes to run our home?
  • What will our lives look like five years from now?

Despite one partner being debt-free and the other carrying $30,000 in debt, the McNeelys decided to get married. They knew the financial road ahead could be bumpy, but they were prepared to weather the storms together for the sake of their relationship.

Today, after years of struggling to chart their own joint money path, the McNeelys are completely debt-free, have paid off their mortgage and run a 6-figure business online. They have learned enormous life lessons on their journey toward financial wellness, and they generously share these lessons on their blog, podcasts, videos and through their private community of couples seeking financial guidance.

The couple is passionate about helping others overcome their financial differences and build a better relationship and a better future together. Check out hisandhermoney.com to learn their secrets.

Your Turn: How do you and your partner deal with money differences? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
paychecksandbalances.com
hisandhermoney.com

Getting Ahead on Your Student Loan Before You Graduate

young woman working at a laptop in an officeAs you prepare for graduation and begin scouting different employment opportunities, be sure to look at the larger picture before you accept a position.

Hopefully, you’ve chosen a career path that will bring you joy and gratification. Equally important, though, is a job that can support your lifestyle choices. While the positions you consider for your first post-college job will likely offer the opportunity for growth, you’ll still need to pay your bills—and make your student loan payments—as soon as you graduate. A job that brings you satisfaction and a pleasant working environment will not last long if the salary it offers causes you to sink into debt.

How do you determine what kind of salary will be large enough to support your desired lifestyle?

To get this information, you’ll need to create a mock monthly budget for your post-college self.

Using a spreadsheet or paper and pen, create two columns, one for expenses and one for actual dollar amounts. In the expense column, list your typical monthly expenses, including housing costs, transportation costs, health insurance, groceries, entertainment costs, clothing costs, dining out, savings, etc. In the dollar column, list the amount of money you expect to pay every month for each expense.

Your budget should look something like this:

ExpenseMonthly Cost
Housing$1,200
Transportation$300
Health Insurance$250
Groceries$350
Student Loan Payments$350

It will take some research and some hard, honest thinking to come up with these numbers. For housing costs, take a moment to think about where you see yourself settling down after college. You don’t have to know the exact neighborhood you’ll live in, but it’s good to know the city that will work best for you in terms of lifestyle, career path, and family plans. You can narrow this down to a few choices so long as you keep it reasonable. Once you’ve chosen your desired location, research the median rental prices in the area on real estate sites like Zillow and Redfin.

Next, work on transportation costs. If you already own a car, you’ll have an idea of what it costs you each month. Otherwise, spend some time thinking about what kind of car you want to drive. You can find listings on Carfax.com. Include costs like auto insurance, gas, and upkeep, in this category.

Or, if you plan on living somewhere with reliable public transportation, you might choose this route instead. Make a calculation of how much you’ll spend on bus and/or train rides, along with the occasional cab or ride-share ride.

Complete your budget using your best estimates for each category. Once you’ve filled out each expense amount, add up your total and multiply it by 12 to give you the amount of money you’ll need each year for supporting the lifestyle of your choice. (This number will increase with inflation, but since current salaries will likely increase along with the inflation rate, this exercise can still give you an idea of the annual salary you’ll need.)
Now that you have these numbers, you’re ready to go ahead with your job search. When considering possible positions, you don’t have to choose the one that pays the highest salary if there are other things about the job you don’t love. However, it’s best to pursue positions that can actually support you.

Your Turn:
Are you choosing your first job for the salary or for other factors? Share your take with us in the comments.

Learn More:
knsfinancial.com
usnews.com
usnews.com
brazen.com

Give Your Finances Some Therapy With Amanda Clayman

Protrait of Amanda ClaymanMeet Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist and influencer who uses a therapeutic approach to help people get their finances on track.

Clayman is no stranger to financial struggles. She shares her journey on her blog, telling the story of the “$19,000 haircut” which served as her personal rock bottom and forced her to take her career in a new direction. Clayman makes it clear that it was not a lack of financial literacy or an upbringing steeped in bad money habits that led to her money troubles. Instead, it was the snowball effect of one bad choice leading to another, until she was struggling under a mountain of debt with no visible way out.

Today, Clayman is a popular financial influencer and a practicing clinician who specializes in money issues. In 2006, she partnered with The Actors Fund and founded a cognitive behavioral therapy-based financial wellness program. She says that money can be a tool for transformation, and this belief helps shape her approach for financial healing.

Clayman tells her followers that financial challenges are inevitable; they can only control their reactions. They need to be proactive at developing a healthy way to handle these setbacks so they can set firm, loving boundaries, make value-based decisions and align behavior with intentions when faced with a financial hardship. Ultimately, this will enable followers to view these challenges as a source of personal growth and empowerment.

You can read Amanda’s story on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @mandaclay to learn more about this transformative approach toward money management and financial wellness.

Your Turn:
Do you have a plan in place for financial setbacks? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
twitter.com
amandaclayman.com

5 Ways to Trim Your Fixed Expenses

Monthly expense sheet with glasses and claculator on deskWhen trying to trim a monthly budget, most people don’t consider their fixed expenses. These recurring costs, which include mortgage payments, insurance premiums and subscription payments, are easy to budget and plan for since they generally remain constant throughout the year. While people tend to think there’s no way to lower fixed expenses, with a bit of effort and research, most of these costs can be reduced.

Here are five ways to trim your fixed expenses.

1. Consider a refinance
Mortgage payments take the biggest bite out of most monthly budgets. Fortunately, you can lower those payments by refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate. The refinance will cost you, but you can roll the closing costs and other fees into your refinance loan. Plus, the money you save each month should more than offset these costs. A refinance is an especially smart move to make in a falling-rates environment or if your credit has improved a lot since you originally opened your mortgage.

2. Lower your property taxes
Taxes may be inevitable, but they aren’t set in stone. You may be able to lower your property taxes by challenging your town’s assessment of your home. Each town will have its own guidelines to follow for this process, but ultimately you will agree to have your home reappraised in hopes of proving its value is less than the town’s assessment. This move can drastically lower your property tax bill; however, if you have made improvements to your home, it may be appraised at a higher value, which could raise your taxes.

3. Change your auto insurance policy
The Geico gecko and Progressive’s Flo, who love disrupting your favorite TV shows, actually have a point: You may be overpaying for your auto insurance policy.

If you’ve had the same policy for several years, speak to a company representative about lowering your monthly premiums. By highlighting your loyalty and having an excellent driving record, you may be able to get a lower quote. You can also consider increasing your deductible to net a lower monthly premium.

If your insurance company is not willing to work with you, it might be time to shop around for a provider that will. A few minutes on the phone can provide you with a significant monthly savings for a similar level of coverage. Once you have a lower quote in hand, you can choose to go back to your original provider and tell them you’re seriously considering a switch; they may change their mind about their previous lowest offer.

4. Consolidate your debts
If you’re carrying a number of outstanding debts, your minimum monthly payments can be a serious drain on your budget. Plus, thanks to the high interest rates you’re likely saddled with, you might be feeling like that debt is going nowhere.

Lucky for you, there is a way out. If you have multiple credit cards open, each with an outstanding balance, you might want to consider a balance transfer. This entails opening a new, no-interest credit card, and transferring all of your debts to this account. The no-interest period generally lasts up to 18 months. Going forward, you will only have one debt payment to make each month. Plus, the no-interest feature means you can make a serious dent in paying down that debt without half of your payment going toward interest.

Another way to consolidate debt is to take out a personal loan at Advantage One Credit Union. Our personal loans will allow you to pay off all of your credit card debt at once. You’ll only need to make a single, affordable monthly payment until your loan is paid off.

5. Cut out subscriptions you don’t need
Another fixed expense most people mindlessly pay each month are subscriptions. Take some time to review your monthly subscriptions and weed out those you don’t really need. Below, we’ve listed some of the most commonly underused monthly payments:

  • Gym membership
    Are you really getting your money’s worth out of your gym membership? It may be cheaper to just pay for the classes you attend instead of a full membership. Or, if you have a favorite workout machine at the gym, consider purchasing it to use at home for a one-time cost that lets you to drop your gym membership.
  • Cable
    Why are you still paying for cable when you can stream your shows for less through services like Netflix and Hulu? If you don’t want to cut out cable entirely, consider downgrading to a cheaper plan that drops some of the premium channels you don’t watch much.
  • Apps
    How many apps are you signed up for? You may not even remember signing up for an upgraded version of an app you rarely use. A quick perusal of your monthly checking account statement or credit card bill can help you determine how much these subscriptions are costing you. Drop the apps you’re not using for more wiggle room in your monthly budget.

Your fixed monthly expenses are actually not as “fixed” as you may have thought. By taking a careful look at some of these costs, you can free up more of your monthly income for the things that really matter.

Your Turn:
How have you lowered your fixed monthly expenses? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
debtroundup.com
experian.com
thesimpledollar.com

Book Review: The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Live Rich

The Latte Factor cover - white cup on saucer full of coffee with a dollar sign drawn in the cremeIf personal finance books make your eyes glaze over, but you can never say no to a page-turning novel, this book was written for you.

In The Latte Factor, best-selling author David Bach and co-writer, John David Mann, present a personal finance book that reads like a novel. It tells the story of Zoey, a young woman in her 20s who is perpetually struggling to make ends meet. Like many of her contemporaries, Zoey is weighed down by staggering student loan and credit card debt.

Though she’s working in New York City at her dream job, she can never seem to get ahead of her expenses. When Zoey’s boss suggests she get acquainted with Henry, the barista at the coffee shop Zoey loves, she has no idea how significantly this connection will change her life.

Henry is an elderly gentleman who is working at a relatively low-level job, but has built himself a comfortable cushion of savings. He shares his three primary principles of financial freedom with Zoey, which she immediately dismisses as nonsense. Soon, though, she comes to appreciate that small but significant changes in her daily routine can make a huge difference in her finances. She learns to adapt Henry’s principles: Pay yourself first, make savings automatic and live the life you want today. Slowly, she makes the changes she needs in her life to achieve financial freedom.

Bach draws on his decades of experience counseling clients through debt and toward a life of responsible money management to build a realistic story that is both engaging and enlightening. You have to believe he’s helped many “Zoeys” along the way.

Some readers are uncomfortable with the fact that Zoey is portrayed as a caricatured female who does not know how to handle her money and that the book is essentially badly disguised “mansplaining” in a way that talks down to women. Others, though, have found The Latte Factor to be a fun book that leaves readers with lots to think about.

Do you have to be rich to live rich? Read The Latte Factor and find out today!

Your Turn:
Have you read The Latte Factor? What did you think about this book? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Learn More:
goodreads.com
policygenius.com
amazon.com

Tw

Step 6 Of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Trim Expenses

Now that we have a budget, let’s slim it down!

a couple plan their finances in a journal

You’ve already practiced spending less thanks to Step #2 in this series. Now, it’s time to get serious about it.

Take a long, hard look at the money you spend each month and find your weak spots.

  • Where do you spend the most on unnecessary purchases?
  • What’s your particular vice? You may even have several spending traps.
  • How can you cut back on you daily expenses?

Any extra money you save goes toward your debt payments.

Your Turn:
What’s your spending trap? Share it with us in the comments.

 

Six Figures Under – Dig Out From Your Mounting Debts

Six Figures Under personal finance made publicWhen Stephanie and her husband found themselves looking at a six-figure student loan debt load in 2009, they didn’t know how to start freeing themselves. Their small family’s budget was just barely making it to the end of each month. How would they possibly pay off such an overwhelming amount of debt?

Fast forward to the end of 2016 and that huge, monstrous debt was completely gone.

How did they do it?
On her blog, Six Figures Under (SixFiguresUnder.com), Stephanie shares her family’s ongoing story, detailing the steps she’s taken and the changes she’s made in her family’s lifestyle for paying down their debt while continuing to live financially responsibly. She is brutally honest about her struggles and successes, sharing the mistakes she’s made along the way and the triumphs she’s celebrated. She also offers readers complete transparency into her family’s finances, posting actual numbers about the income her family earns, their fixed expenses, investments and the way they choose to spend their money on non-fixed expenses.

But Six Figures Under is not just about Stephanie’s story. Stop by the blog and you’ll find a large community of active followers joining in on a mission to pay down their debts and live a more financially conscious life.

For 2019, Six Figures Under is on a Debt Smash-athon charge. The blog’s community is invited to share the amounts of debt they’ve paid down each month. The numbers are then tallied and posted on the blog with the big wins singled out with special mentions. In March 2019, the Six Figures Under community paid down a total of $149,866.53 of debt, invested $31,202.12 toward retirement and put away $39,151.21 for big savings goals. The feeling of togetherness motivates members to boost their efforts in paying off their debts.

There’s more than numbers to Six Figures Under. Check out the blog for the following categories and topics:

  • Frugal Living Ideas – Here, you’ll find tips and tricks for saving money on everything from family road trips to grocery bills. Posts are always engaging and packed with actionable tips you can apply to your own life today.
  • Budgeting and Finance –  The blog advocates living on last month’s income—and shows readers how to live this way, plus creating a manageable and realistic monthly budget.
  • Debt – Read up on tips for increasing your debt payments and common mistakes people make when handling their debt.
  • Ideas for Increasing Income – These posts cover a broad range of money-making ideas, from running a killer yard sale to starting a thriving business on Etsy.

Members of the blog get friendly monthly reminders inviting them to share their progress with the rest of the community, as well as frugal living tips and ideas delivered directly to their inbox.

The Six Figures Under blog is an inspirational, friendly place that is packed with money management tips and strategies for doubling down on your debt payments. Check it out today and join the debt-smashing fun!

Your Turn:
Do you have a target date for paying down all debt? Or are you just chipping away at it, month by month? Share your debt-paying strategy with us in the comments.


SOURCES:

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/our-story/

http://www.barebudgetguy.com/six-figures-under/

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/family-budget-update-march-2019/