Have it All: The Roadmap to Becoming a Self-Made Millionaire

Title: Have it All: The Roadmap to Becoming a Self-Made Millionaire

Author: Kris Krohn

Print length: 316 pages

Kindle file size: ‎ 4709 KB

Publisher: Uplife Press

Publishing date: Dec. 9, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone looking to change the way they relate to money. 
  • Anyone looking for practical investment advice.

What’s inside this book?

  • Actionable tips for improving your financial reality.
  • A step-by-step guide for financial success. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to outsmart the old money rules and follow the new ones. 
  2. How to achieve true financial freedom. 
  3. How to create active, passive and positive asymmetric risk.
  4. How to find profitable Returns on Investment (ROIs).

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I unlearn all that society has taught me about money management? 
  2. What do I need to know to be a savvy investor?
  3. Can I really enjoy my life despite having limited financial opportunities?
  4. Can I improve my finances without a large windfall?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Kris goes into depth on different topics to cover everything from real estate to stocks and how to start building a financial portfolio and live a better life!”
  • “Insightful, motivational and really inspiring!”
  • “This book gave me the hope and encouragement I needed, that yes, I can have it all. I love how Mr. Kris Krohn tells us exactly how we need to break those limiting beliefs and allow ourselves to enjoy life to the fullest. This book is so relatable and inspiring.”
  • “If you’re trying to figure out how to become financially free and where to start, then this is the book for you. This is the book that will set you on the next level of your life and get you ready for financial freedom in three to five years!”

Your Turn: What did you think of Have it All? Share your opinion in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in April

The days are getting longer and warmer, and that means summer is just around the corner! Though April is a mid-season month without any major shopping holidays, you can still score some great deals. There are also many items you’ll want to put on your waitlist until prices drop in another month or so. We’ve got all the info for you so you can shop smart! Here’s what to buy and what to skip in April. 

Buy: Cruise tickets

If you’re looking to get away from it all, April is a great time to book that springtime or summer cruise. You can find deals on cruise tickets to Bermuda, Europe and other exotic locations this month. Take action and score the vacation of a lifetime at a discounted price.

Skip: Mattresses

Unless your mattress is giving you unbearable back pain, you’re best off waiting until Memorial Day when deep discounts make purchasing a new mattress easier on your wallet.

Buy: Car parts and accessories

If you need new wipers, tires, brakes or another car part or accessory, this is the month to pick them up! April is National Car Care Month, so auto parts stores and service centers will be running promotions. If your car needs servicing, or even just a tune-up, you can get this done for less this month, too. 

Skip: Grills and patio furniture

Spring is just getting underway, and all things outdoors are still retailing at full price. If you can wait until Memorial Day sale events happen, you can upgrade your grill and deck out your patio in the finest gear for a lot less money. If you wait even longer, until July or August, you’ll potentially find even steeper discounts. 

Buy: Secondhand treasures

Spring-cleaning season means crowds of people are clearing out the clutter in their closets and around their homes. Many of these treasures may end up in secondhand stores or get sold at garage sales around the neighborhood. If you’re looking for already-loved clothing to spruce up your wardrobe, or gently-used furniture to replace your outdated pieces, April can be a great time to pick up priceless pre-owned treasures. Hit the secondhand stores early in the week for the best pickings, as they tend to get the most donations over the weekend when people do their cleaning.

Skip: Vacuums 

April might be time for deep-cleaning, but that doesn’t mean cleaning gear is discounted this month. Unless you’re desperate for a new machine, you’re better off waiting until vacuums go on sale during Black Friday sale events. 

Buy: Tax day giveaways

Filing taxes can be a headache at best, and downright painful at worst. Retailers want to make April 15th a little easier on the wallet for consumers, so many of them will run special promotions and events on this day. Look for giveaways, freebies, deep discounts on goods and more when tax day rolls around.

Skip: Refrigerators

If your fridge seems to be on its way out and you’re in the market for a new one, it’s best to hold off a bit on this purchase if you can. Retailers will soon be rolling out new models, and if you can wait until Memorial Day, you can find a new fridge in last year’s model at a fantastic price. 

Buy: Mother’s Day gifts

It’s never too early to think about making mom happy! And if you buy your Mother’s Day gifts in April, including jewelry and chocolate, you can save a bundle, too. 

Skip: Baby gear

Like all products that are upgraded annually, baby gear sees its biggest discounts when new models are rolled out, in January and February. This includes cribs, strollers, car seats, highchairs and more. 

Buy: Cookware

April is the unofficial kickoff of wedding season, when cookware becomes a popular gift. In a bid to attract customers, retailers offer steep discounts on pots and other cookware this month. Round out your own collection of cookware, or start stocking up on wedding gifts for less.

Tax day notwithstanding, April can be a time of fantastic finds and springtime memory making. Have a wonderful, bargain-filled month!  

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great deals this month? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Step 3 of 12 to Financial Wellness: Pay Down Debt

You’ve tracked your spending, designed a budget for your monthly expenses, and you’re well on your way to financial wellness. In this next step, you’ll create a plan for paying down your existing debt.

Consumer debt can be one of the biggest challenges to realizing good financial wellness. Credit card companies design their business model in a way that makes it easy to get stuck paying off debt for years. With some intentional action and commitment, reaching true financial wellness and being financially independent is possible. At the very least, seek to be on track for paying it off shortly. 

Below, we’ve outlined how to pay down debt in five simple steps, along with three debt-paying strategies to avoid. 

  1. Organize your debt

Before you get started, determine how much debt you must pay off. List every credit card you own that has an outstanding balance and jot down the amount owed to each. Next, list the interest rate of each card. Do this for any other fixed installment loan debt you have as well. These numbers will help you build a debt-payoff plan in the next two steps. 

You can also add up the amounts owed on each account to reach your total outstanding debt amount.

  1. Choose your debt-crushing method

There are two main approaches people utilize for getting rid of their debts: 

  • The snowball method involves paying off your smallest debt first, and then moving to the next-smallest debt until all debts have been paid off. 
  • The avalanche method involves getting rid of the debt that has the highest interest rate first and moving on to the debt with the next-highest rate until all debts are paid off. 

Each method has advantages and drawbacks. The snowball method provides frequent motivation as debts are paid off sooner, but it may involve paying more overall interest on the debt. The avalanche method, on the other hand, generally saves the borrower a significant amount they pay in interest, but it can take a while to generate results.

Choose the method that makes the most sense for your personal and financial circumstances.

  1. Maximize your payments

Once you’ve chosen your debt-crushing method, it’s time to find ways to maximize your monthly credit card payments. You can do this by trimming your spending in one budget category and channeling that money toward paying down your debt. You can also find ways to pad your pocket with extra cash for your payments, such as freelancing for hire or selling your creations on a platform, like Etsy, if you’re the crafty type.

Once you’ve determined how much you can afford to pay each month, you can create a debt-payoff plan using the systems you’ve reached in Step 1. 

  1. Consider a debt consolidation loan

For some consumers, the most challenging part of paying down debt is managing multiple payments across several credit card accounts. With several monthly debt payments to make, it can be complicated to remember them all. It can also feel like the monthly payments are only going toward interest.

A debt consolidation loan can change all that. When you consolidate debts to one low-interest loan, it’s a lot easier to manage the monthly payments. Plus, the savings on interest payments can be significant, especially if the new loan has a low interest rate. 

If this approach sounds favorable, consider taking out a personal loan from Advantage One Credit Union. The loan will provide you with the funds you need to pay off your credit card bills and leave you with a single, low-interest monthly payment. 

  1. Negotiate with your creditors

Many credit card companies are willing to lower your interest rate once you prove you are serious about paying down debt. After kicking off your debt payment plan, it’s worthwhile to contact each credit card company to discuss your options. At the very least, see if you can get the company behind the first debt on your list to lower your rate. 

3 Debt-Crushing strategies to avoid

As you work toward paying down your debt, beware of these debt-crushing strategies, which may do more harm than good: 

  • Debt settlement. Debt settlement services offer to lower your interest rates and boost your credit score in a short amount of time – for a fee. Unfortunately, though, many of these companies are fronts for scammers and should be avoided. Do note, though, that there are legitimate debt settlement companies, so do your research well if you are thinking of using one.
  • 401(k) loans. It’s rarely a good idea to borrow from the future you. Withdrawing funds from your 401(k) to pay down debt can mean getting hit with all sorts of penalties, fees and taxes. 
  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). Borrowing against your home means putting yourself at risk of losing your home.  

Regardless of the strategy you choose, or the methods you use for paying off your debt, commit to not adding more charges onto your card while paying it down. Paying off a large amount of debt will take time and willpower, but living debt-free is key to financial wellness. Best of luck on your debt-crushing journey! 

Your Turn: Have you successfully paid down a significant amount of debt? Tell us about it in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in February

Are you looking to snag some bargain buys this month? We’ve got you covered! We’ve done the legwork so you don’t have to, researching items that get marked down in February, and those that’ll see steep discounts in the coming months so you’re better off putting them on hold for now. 

Here’s what to buy and what to skip this February. 

Buy: TVs

Whether you’re a diehard football fan or you are a binger of the latest streaming seasons or movies, you can pick up a fantastic deal on big-screen TVs in February. TVs tend to go on sale in the beginning of the year, but it’s not until the middle of February that home entertainment systems see their lowest prices. These sales often continue through President’s Day and may even run until the end of the month. 

Skip: Flowers

Flowers might have their big day in the middle of February, but that doesn’t mean fresh blooms are discounted this month. In fact, you’re better off skipping the flowers in February and finding another way to show your sweetheart how much they mean to you.

Buy: Winter gear 

In the world of retail, “Old Man Winter” is well on the way out when the calendar hits February. To make room for the spring stock, stores will generously mark down winter gear this month. You can snag a great deal on all kinds of winter stuff in February. Prices on sporting equipment, like skis and snowboards, can be slashed by up to 30%, while winter clothing may be discounted as much as 80%!  You’ve still got a nice chunk of winter to enjoy the goods, or you can store them for next year’s cold-weather season. 

Skip: Electronics

Aside from TVs, you’ll want to skip pretty much all major electronic purchases vthis month. Computers, smartphones, gaming consoles and other electronic items are full price right now. You’re better off purchasing these items during Black Friday sales in November. If you can’t wait that long, you can also pick up great deals on electronics during “Black Friday in July” events.

Buy: Furniture

You can pick up some beautiful new furniture at great prices during Presidents Day sales, which can run for a full week or two. Be sure to check out prices at several stores before splurging on a big-ticket item, since prices on furniture can vary tremendously between retailers.

Skip: Fitness equipment and gym memberships

Fitness equipment and gym memberships are usually at their lowest in January to attract the hordes of people seeking to get fit in the New Year. By February, these markdowns on workout gear and promotional offers on gym memberships are gone – and you likely won’t see them again until the warmer weather sets in and people take their workouts outside. 

Buy:  Tax software

Tax season is underway, and that means tax software companies are looking to attract customers with super specials on their products. Score a great price on tax software in February to make this tedious task super-easy and smooth. 

Skip: Patio furniture

It’s tempting to upgrade your outdoor furniture as soon as a hint of warmer weather arrives, but February is only the start of the spring season. Prices will still be high and will only start to see discounts during Memorial Day sale events. For the best deals on outdoor furniture, wait until September, when retailers need to clear out the season’s inventory to make room for next year’s updated selection. 

Buy: Jewelry

During the second half of February, prices on jewelry plunge up to 80%. You can snag a great deal on a beautiful ring, bracelet, necklace or pair of earrings during post-holiday sales. Hold onto your bargain-priced jewel buys until Mother’s Day, your love partner’s birthday or your shared anniversary. 

Use our tips to learn what to buy and what to skip for the best deals this February. 

 Your Turn: Did you pick up a great deal in February? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Step 2 of 12 to Financial Wellness: Creating a Budget

Now that you’ve tracked your spending and kept a careful record of where your money goes over the course of a month, you’re ready to move onto the next step of financial wellness: creating a budget. Budgets play a crucial role in promoting financial awareness, which then helps to facilitate more responsible money choices. This discipline will benefit you individually, as well as all who are part of your household. 

Let’s get started by taking a look at how to create a budget and review some popular budgeting systems and how they work. . 

Create a budget in 5 easy steps

  • Track your spending and income. This includes all your financial documents, such as your account statements, bills and pay stubs. [If you’ve followed Step 1, you’ve already completed this step–nice work getting ahead of the game!]
  • Tally up your totals. Calculate the totals of your monthly expenses and all your streams of income. If your income exceeds your expenses, you’re in a good place. However, if your expenses exceed your income, or the numbers are too close for comfort, you’ll need to trim some discretionary expenses to make it through the month without falling into debt if an unforeseen big expense happens. 
  • List your needs. Your needs include anything that is essential for living and basic functions, such as rent or mortgage payments, savings, food and clothing. Needs always take priority in a budget. As you list each need, write down its corresponding cost. Sum up the total of your needs when you’ve finished. 
  • List your wants. This includes anything that is not essential for living, like entertainment costs, brand-name clothing and eating out. Here, too, note the monthly cost of each item on your list and add up the total when you’re done. 
  • Assign dollar amounts to your expenses. Open a new spreadsheet and copy your list of expenses, starting with fixed-cost needs, then non fixed-cost needs, and finally, your wants. Assign an appropriate dollar amount for each of these costs, making sure the total does not exceed your estimated total for monthly expenses. 
  • Review and tweak as necessary. You will likely need to adjust the amounts in each expense category at least once a year to keep your budget relevant. Likewise, you will hopefully be able to increase the amounts in the income column as you move upward in your career path or find additional income streams. 

Budgeting systems

While every kind of budget involves tracking expenses and committing to a maximum spending amount each month, there is a wide range of budgeting systems to fit every kind of personality and money management style. 

The traditional budget doesn’t involve much more work than the steps described above. After working out a number for every expense category, you’ll simply need to track your spending throughout the month to ensure you’re sticking to the plan. You can use a spreadsheet for this purpose, or utilize one of the popular budgeting apps, like Mint or YNAB, and do it digitally. 

The money-envelope system works similarly. However, instead of simply committing to sticking to your spending amounts for each expense category, you’ll withdraw the amount you plan to spend on all non-fixed expenses in cash at the start of the month. Divide the cash into separate envelopes, using one for each of these expenses. Then, withdraw cash from the appropriate envelope when making a purchase in that category. There’s no way to blow your budget with this system; when the money in the “Dining out” envelope runs dry, that’s all for this month!

The 50/30/20 budget is simpler, but requires more discipline. Set aside 50 percent of your budget for your needs, 30 percent for wants and the remaining 20 percent for savings. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your income and expenses will work with this kind of budget. Does 50 percent of your income cover your needs? If yes, this budget allows for more individual choices each month and less accounting and tracking of expenses. 

A well-designed budget can provide its creator with a sense of financial security and freedom. When you stick to a budget, you’ll always know you have enough to get through the month and save for the future. Start budgeting today!

Your Turn: Do you stick to a strict monthly budget? Share your best budgeting tips with us in the comments. 

Which Financial Steps Should I Take After a Divorce?

Q: I’m going through a divorce, and one of my biggest stressors is identifying how I’m going to deal with my finances on my own. What steps do I need to take to ensure ongoing financial stability after a divorce?

A: Divorce can be difficult on many levels, and one of the most formidable challenges for most is the financial strain it causes. Making sense of your finances after a divorce takes work and time, but with proper planning and a responsible approach, it can be done. 

Here are 10 financial steps to take after a divorce:

1. Close all joint accounts

If you haven’t already taken this step, do so immediately. Review all your financial accounts and credit cards and close all the ones that are jointly owned by you and your ex-spouse. In the best-case scenario, failure to take this step can leave your accounts open to fines and maintenance charges for accounts you don’t really use. In the worst-case scenario, your ex-spouse can rack up huge bills on a shared credit card or leave a shared checking account in the red, leaving you to pick up the tab or risk ruining your credit score and financial health. 

2. Change beneficiaries on your savings and retirement accounts

This step is equally important and is also often forgotten about by divorced individuals until it’s too late. Neglecting to change the beneficiaries on your accounts after a divorce can mean your ex-spouse ends up inheriting your IRA, 401(k) or another savings account after you pass away. Changing the beneficiaries on each relevant account can be done quickly and easily with a single form. Look for the designation of “primary beneficiary” and “contingent beneficiary” on each account’s form and list your choice. 

3. Review your living trust and make any necessary changes

Don’t wait to review your living trust and estate plan or you may never make the necessary changes. Speak to your attorney for guidance. If your ex-spouse is the one who primarily dealt with the attorney and you’re looking for a new start, you can ask friends and family to recommend a new attorney you can use. 

4. Open new accounts

Once the divorce is finalized, you’ll want to open new accounts with your name exclusively listed as the owner. This includes credit cards, checking and savings accounts. Once you have new credit cards in your name, take steps to build up your credit quickly, like making regular, small purchases on your cards and paying the balance in full each month.

5. Update your insurance coverage

You don’t want to get stuck paying for coverage you don’t use — or worse, get stuck with no coverage at all. Review all your insurance policies, including life, health, auto and homeowner’s insurance, then change any plans that were shared with your ex-spouse. Pay particular attention to assets you may have listed in your homeowner’s policy as you may not own all of them any longer and each asset can increase your premium. Now that you are on your own, you may also want to consider taking out a disability insurance policy, which will provide you with the monthly equivalent of a paycheck if you become injured and are unable to work for an extended period of time. 

6. Build an emergency fund

Divorce is often expensive, and you may have wiped your savings clean after splitting up with your ex. Now that you are single again, it’s more important than ever to have a safety net that can tide you over in case of an emergency. You can open a new savings account at Advantage One Credit Union for just this purpose and save aggressively until you have enough to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses.

7. Adjust your budget to fit your new financial situation

You may have lost one stream of income in the divorce, but your everyday expenses will likely be considerably lower. On the other hand, you may have new expenses to cover, such as alimony and child support. Take the time to sit down and determine how your income and expenses have changed after the divorce, and then adjust your budget accordingly. 

8. Update all legal documents and records

If you’ve changed your legal name during the divorce, be sure to change the name of record on all your legal documents and accounts, including your driver’s license and Social Security number. You can contact your local DMV and the Social Security Administration for assistance. 

9. Purchase a new safe and shredder

If your ex walked away from the divorce with the safe and shredder, be sure to replace them as quickly as possible. A home safe is the best place to keep valuables and important documents, and shredding any documents containing sensitive information that you no longer need is an important part of protecting yourself from identity thieves.  

10. Analyze your investments

If your ex-spouse handled all the investing in your marriage, you’ll need to analyze your investments and create a new portfolio that fits your own investment style and needs. Consider working with an investment advisor for guidance.

Getting divorced can spell disaster for your finances, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By taking the steps outlined here you can keep your financial independence after a divorce.

Your Turn: Which financial steps have you taken after a divorce? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Leaving Your Job? Make Sure Your Wallet is Ready

One of the many pandemic’s lasting effects on the U.S. economy is the so-called Great Resignation of 2021. Employees are voluntarily leaving their jobs in droves. In fact, according to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, a whopping 20.2 million workers left their jobs from May 2021 through September 2021. Reasons for the high turnover range from availability of federal economic aid to general burnout, which reached a turning point during the pandemic. 

If you are considering becoming a part of the Great Resignation, it’s important to make sure your finances are in order before you give official notice at your job to cover any gaps in employment. Below, we’ve outlined some important steps to take before you leave your job.  

Review your savings

Before giving up a steady paycheck, make sure you have enough savings to tide you over until you find new employment. Ideally, you should have an emergency fund with 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses to help you survive periods of unemployment, such as when you’re between jobs.  If you don’t have this kind of money saved up, consider pushing off your resignation until you can put together a nest egg to help you get by without a paycheck. 

Check your benefits 

If your job includes employee benefits, like retirement funding, be sure to review them carefully before giving notice. Here are different options to consider for the most common employee benefits: 

  • Health insurance. Work-sponsored health coverage generally ends on an employee’s last day at work, though coverage will sometimes continue until the end of the month. Similarly, some companies start covering new employees on their first day of work, while others have a waiting period that can last from 30 to 90 days. If you’ll have a gap in coverage, try to negotiate for early coverage when securing your new job. If this is not possible, thanks to COBRA, you can continue your current health coverage at your own expense for 18 months after you leave your job. It’s important to note, though, that this can be a pricey option. You can also purchase a short-term policy through the marketplace. 
  • Pension. If your previous place of employment came with a pension, you may be able to keep it or take out the money when you leave. This depends on whether or not your contributions are vested and the other rules of the pension plan. In general, if you were only at this job for a short while, you likely will not be able to hold onto your pension. If you have a choice, it can be better not to take out a pension in a lump sum because you will likely get a better return with a pension than on other investments. If you do take out your pension, you may want to roll it over into an IRA or a 401(k), which is tax-deferred. 
  • 401(k). If your old job came with a 401(k), you’ll need to decide what to do with the funds. You can keep the account as it is without making any additional contributions, roll over the funds to a new 401(k) program, roll the money over into an IRA or cash it out. Consider the investment options in your current 401(k) when making your decision. 
  • Life insurance. Don’t forget to consider a possible gap in your life insurance coverage when leaving a job. You may be able to continue paying for coverage until you have a new plan through your next place of employment. 

Assess your risk tolerance

Before accepting a new job, make sure you can handle a possible blow to your income. Many jobs will present new employees with the possibility of better pay in the future, while initially only offering a starting salary. How comfortable are you taking a risk with a new job that doesn’t guarantee as much financial security? 

Adjust your budget for your new salary

If your new job comes with better pay, or you’ll be bringing home a smaller paycheck for now, you’ll need to adjust your budget accordingly. You may want to increase the contributions you make toward your investments or find a new place to park your cash, such as a Advantage One Credit Union Savings Account, for the extra income while you decide on a more permanent strategy. On the flip side, if you’ll be earning less money now, look for ways to trim your budget so your paycheck can stretch to cover all your expenses. 

Leaving an old job and looking for a new one can be an exciting opportunity, but it’s important to make sure your finances are in order before taking that leap. Follow the tips outlined here before giving notice at your place of employment to ensure ongoing financial security.  

Your Turn: Have you recently changed jobs? Share your best tips and strategies in the comments. 

What are the Tax Benefits of Owning a Home

Q: I’m in the market for my first home, and I’m trying to get a complete picture of how owning a home will affect my finances. What are the tax benefits of owning a home?  

A: Owning a home can provide you with significant tax benefits. It’s important to learn how home ownership can impact your taxes so you know which home-related expenses to claim on your returns for maximizing your savings potential. 

Before we explore the specifics, let’s review how an income tax deduction works. A deduction reduces your taxable income by a percentage, which depends on your tax bracket. You can choose to take the standard deduction ($12,550 for individuals filing as single taxpayers, or $25,100 for married couples filing jointly) or to itemize your deductions, which involves listing each eligible deduction separately. After adding up the total of your itemized deductions, you’ll multiply that amount by your tax bracket for your total deduction. 

With this understanding, let’s take a deeper look at the tax benefits of owning a home. 

Tax benefits of buying a home

Purchasing a home offers the buyer several tax benefits. 

First, with the exception of very large loans, you can generally deduct the cost of the points you paid when securing your mortgage. If you’ve refinanced your original mortgage and paid points when taking out your new loan, the cost of these points can be deducted as well. 

Second, if you are an active-duty member of the armed services, you may be able to deduct your moving expenses from your taxable income. However, this tax perk is limited to active servicepeople who need to move because of a permanent change of station due to a military order. 

Tax benefits of owning a home  

There are multiple ongoing tax benefits to owning a home:

  • Mortgage interest deduction. Most homeowners can deduct the interest payments they make on their mortgage from their taxable income. There may be limits on how much you can deduct, which is dependent on how large your loan is. 
  • Real estate taxes. The money you pay in property taxes is deductible from your taxable income. If you pay through a lender escrow account, you’ll find the tax amount on your 1098 form. If you pay your taxes directly to your municipality, use your personal records, such as a copy of a check or automatic transfer, as proof. 
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI). If you took out a loan that was equal to less than 20% of the home’s value, you may be able to deduct your PMI payments from your taxable income. This deduction depends on your adjusted gross income (AGI): If you’re single and your AGI is less than $50,000, you’re eligible for the PMI deduction. For married couples filing jointly, the threshold is $100,000. Once you’ve reached the max income allowed for the PMI deduction, the amount you can deduct begins to phase out.  
  • Home equity debt. If you’ve taken out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit against your home, the interest payments on these loans can be deducted from your taxable income, as long as the loan is used, in the words of the IRS, “to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.”
  • Home office expenses. If you use a part of your home exclusively for work purposes, you may be able to deduct related expenses.

Are there any tax credits available for homeowners? 

Unlike a tax deduction, a tax credit directly lowers your tax bill, dollar for dollar. You may be eligible for a mortgage credit if you were issued a qualified Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) by a state or local governmental unit or agency under a qualified MCC program. In addition, depending on your home state, you may be able to claim a credit for a percentage of the costs of buying and installing items that help your home harness renewable energy, such as solar panels or geothermal heat pumps. 

Home ownership comes with many advantages, some of which include tax benefits. Keep that in mind as you explore your options, and as with all tax advice, please remember to consult a tax professional for the most current and accurate laws.

Your Turn: How has home ownership benefitted your taxes? Tell us about it in the comments. 

12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Step 1: How to Track Your Spending

Are you ready to join us on a journey toward financial wellness?

Each month, Advantage One Credit Union will focus on one step of a journey of financial wellness. We’ll tackle the topic in detail and help you learn all you need to know about this step. Follow along, and at the end of the year, you’ll have mastered the tools for a life of financial wellness.

Tracking your spending is the first step toward greater financial awareness and, ultimately, toward financial health. However, mastering this skill is easier said than done. How can you track every dollar you spend when you make multiple purchases each day?

We’ve outlined how to track your spending in 3 easy steps. 

1. Choose your tools

Tracing every dollar’s journey isn’t easy, but with the right tools, you can make it quick and simple. Choose from one of the following money-tracking techniques: 

  • Budgeting apps. If your life happens on your phone, you can download a budgeting app like YNAB or Mint to help you track your spending. Both apps allow you to allocate a specific amount of money for each spending category for each month, and will enable you to track your spending with just a few clicks. It’s important to note that YNAB is not a free app, but that it may be worth the price for users who want to take on a more active role in their money management. 
  • Spreadsheet. If you like to see everything spelled out clearly, a spreadsheet might be a better choice for you. You’ll need to record every transaction, but if you prepare the sheet with all the spending categories you think you’ll need, this step shouldn’t take long at all. 
  • The envelope system. If you’re a big cash spender, consider withdrawing the cash you think you’ll spend in a month (or in a week) and keeping it in an envelope designated for each category. When you need to make a purchase, just use money from the envelope. 
  • Receipts. Hold onto every receipt from the purchases you make this month to help you track your spending. 

Pencil and paper. Recording each purchase the old-fashioned way can help you make more mindful money choices throughout the day. Be sure to keep a steady supply of both writing instruments handy at all times so you never miss a purchase. 

2. Review your checking account and credit card statements carefully

Along with one of the tools listed above, you can track the purchases you make using plastic by reviewing your monthly checking account and credit card statements at the end of the month. You may receive these in the mail, or you can access them online by logging into your account and downloading.

3. Review and categorize your purchases

At the end of the month, use your chosen tool to review all the purchases you’ve made throughout the month. If you’ve used an app or a spreadsheet, adding your purchases to find the total amount of money spent will be simple. The app or spreadsheet may have already helped you divide the money spent into separate categories as well. Similarly, if you’ve used the envelope system, you should know how much you spent on each kind of purchase this month. However, if you’ve chosen another method to track your spending, you’ll need to crunch some numbers to get an accurate picture of your spending habits.

When completing this step, don’t forget to include any automated payments you may rarely think about, such as subscription fees and insurance premiums.

Tracking your spending and identifying your money drains is the first step toward greater financial awareness and responsibility. Use the tips outlined here to successfully master the skill of tracking your spending. 

Your Turn: How do you track your spending? Share your tips with us in the comments.  

How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues – It Doesn’t Need to Cost a Thing!

The visitors have returned home, the leftovers in the fridge have been tossed, the kids are back in school and you have work first thing Monday morning. After the excitement of the holidays, the return to normal can make even the most jolly of folks a little depressed. 

Without the holiday festivities to distract us, the winter months can suddenly seem very gray and drab. If you find yourself feeling blue after the holiday season, you’re not alone. It’s normal to start feeling down as the flurry of the holidays winds to a lull. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to beat the blues, and they don’t need to cost you any money.

Here are some simple tips to use this winter that may help lift your spirits:

  1. Stay social – not social media

The holidays are centered around social gatherings, such as parties, big meals and traveling to see family or friends you haven’t seen in a long time. After such a flurry of social activity, you may find yourself feeling lonely when it’s all over. But there’s no rule that says your social calendar needs to be empty after Jan. 1. Plan some activities with a friend. They don’t need to cost money. Take a walk or watch a movie at home with a friend or family member. Talking on the phone can be a great social outlet as well.

The important thing is to talk to someone verbally, not through texting or social media. Social media apps often give us the illusion that we’re being social, but in reality it’s not the same thing as truly talking with someone. Planning a fun social outing can help remedy the letdown after the holiday parties have ended.

  1. Get active

Physical activity is one of the best things you can do for yourself, especially when you’re feeling a little down. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins. Endorphins are natural chemicals in the brain that help trigger a positive mood.

If you’ve got the blues, get out there and get some exercise. It may be tempting to veg on the couch with your favorite show all day, but before you begin the binge watching, try some physical activity first to see if getting the body moving and the blood flowing doesn’t help lift your mood. You may be surprised at how good you’ll feel after your workout. 

You don’t need to pay for a gym membership or an expensive exercise machine. Get outside for a quick run or walk. Stretch or do yoga in your living room, or try an aerobics class on YouTube for free. 

  1. Focus on realistic resolutions 

New Year’s resolutions give us something to focus on after the holiday parties are over. It’s great to have goals and something to look forward to, but be careful not to become too perfectionist and hard on yourself about achieving your resolutions. Unattainable goals only cause stress and feelings of failure. Instead, focus on realistic goals that you can actually work toward and feel good about.

Start by writing out specific and measurable goals you can realistically achieve. This will give you the best shot at success. For example, instead of making a vague goal of saving enough money to retire early, try setting a goal to save an extra $100 per month. This way you can see your success each month as you save money and build that nest egg. 

  1. Look forward to the next big thing

Thanksgiving through New Years isn’t the only fun season on the calendar. After the holidays, there is still plenty to look forward to with excitement and optimism. 

Start planning your next vacation or what you want to do on spring break. And there are still upcoming long holiday weekends to consider in January and February, such as President’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Planning a simple family outing, staycation or dinner party with friends can refocus your thoughts. Weekend day trips can be done on the cheap and give you something to spur your spirits.

  1. Boost your mood with vitamin D

Low levels of vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” have been linked to depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. Of course, in the winter months, exposure to sunshine can be a little hard to come by. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin D or taking a supplement is an affordable option that may help improve your mood until spring.

Your Turn: What are your tips for beating the post-holiday blues? Tell us about it in the comments.