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The One Thing Your Budget Must Have

It may seem obvious but savings is actually one of the most ignored aspects of a budget, even with those who follow one religiously. People tend to think they will save whatever is “leftover” after expenses have been covered, but what do you know, there’s never any!

That’s why it’s much better to treat savings itself as an expense. Add it as a line item into your budget and the put the money away at the beginning of the month so you wouldn’t end up flaking. Savings should not be an afterthought, but something you consciously do to build yourself a better future.

Saving Isn’t Optional

Just like you wouldn’t treat the electricity fee or the house help as optional, savings shouldn’t be either. Any retired person will tell you how much they value the savings they made in their younger days (or bemoan the regret for not doing so). At the very least, saving can help you get out of an emergency without bankrupting yourself.

Unfortunately, most of us tend to focus on spending rather than saving when it comes to managing our finances. Savings are treated like a stray cat that wanders over to your backyard. Maybe if you had a fishbone leftover after your meals, you might feed it. But instead, it should be treated like a beloved house cat who is fed only the most premium of cat foods – or at least something from the discount pile at the pet store (hey, at least it’s getting fed!).

“Most individuals, if they don’t line-item savings in, they just spend whatever money they have at the end of the month, and most aren’t disciplined enough to actually put that [remaining money] into a retirement account,” says Jeff Weber, a certified financial planner with Titus Wealth Management in San Mateo, California.

A 401k is the exception to this reality, and that’s only because you are literally forced to save as the money is taken out of your paycheck and put away somewhere else. It’s like a firewall for impulse spending.

But a lot of people do not have an employer-mandated savings plan. In that case, you can set up short term savings accounts for goals like buying a new car or house, or long-term goals like a retirement account, and of course, the all-important rainy-day fund.

Make Saving a Line Item

Tracking spending is one of the first and most important steps of setting up and following a budget. You may use apps, spreadsheets, or sheer memory power to do this. While you’re ticking off things like rent, power, childcare fees, etc., savings should be in that list of non-negotiable payments as well.

Transfer the designated amount into your savings account even before you take care of expenses to ensure you don’t go overboard with your other expenses. This will condition your mind to treat
savings as a fixed expense like the others.

“It’s easy to talk about budgeting your money, but it takes discipline to follow through on those plans,” says Dara Luber, senior manager of retirement at TD Ameritrade.

Weber Says automatic transfers are a great way to do this. When it is made automatic, with little to no effort on your part, you don’t have to think about it and are less likely to change your mind on impulse. “I have my clients set up a separate account at a bank or brokerage — it is less likely that they’re going to spend that money.”

How Much Should You Save & Where to Put It

This is one of the biggest questions facing you once you decide to make saving a line item in your budget. Obviously, the percentage will vary depending on your income and lifestyle but 15% is a good place to start when it comes to your retirement fund. This is from your pre-tax income and would include things like 401(k) and IRA.

Employer contributions don’t need to be factored in, but Weber recommends counting the amount that is taken out of your paycheck, like your 401(k), as it helps you see the bigger picture. Other than this, you can section your savings into different categories like your children’s college fund or saving for a vacation later in the year.

As for where your money should go, it will depend on when you expect to make use of it. You can contribute to an IRA in addition to your 401k to make that next egg just a little bit bigger. Savings that you intend to make use of it’s the short term (5 years or less), can be held in a high-yield online savings account, but long-term savings could be better off invested in a taxable brokerage account.

Things That Some Of Our Favorite Millionaires Refuse To Spend Money On

Most of us tend to think of the extremely rich in cartoon-like scenarios where they are rolling around in pools of gold or sleeping in beds made of money bills. In reality, most millionaires have managed to become so wealthy because they are wise about what they spend their money on.

No matter how much you earn, you’ll never “make it” if you’re not smart about your finances. You won’t see a rich person buying $2 coffee every day twice a day or buying things that they don’t need just because it’s on sale.

If you don’t believe me, take it from the actual millionaires themselves. When it comes to TV host Jay Leno, Shark Tank veteran Barbara Corcoran, and Youtuber Graham Stephen – these guys have specific things that they have vowed to never splurge on. Read on to find out what they are:

1. Jay Leno – Clothes

With a net worth of over $400 million, Jay Leno can afford to buy as many clothes as he wants but he’s never had much interest in fashion. In fact, the former Tonight Show host says he only buys enough clothes to “cover all parts of the body that are legally required to be clothed”. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration since he wears more than just underwear, but it’s no exaggeration that he finds buying too many clothes a “complete waste of money”.

Sources say Jay Leno’s thriftiness is a result of his childhood when his parents, who’d faced hardship during the Great Depression, ingrained in him the importance of saving every penny he could.

Of course, millionaire Jay Leno has come a long way since then. He may not spend money on clothes, but he’s more than made up for it with his collection of expensive cars. After retiring from the Tonight Show, he had his own series called Jay Leno’s Garage where he showcased his amazing collection.

2. Graham Stephan – Shop Coffee

YouTube has been a goldmine of opportunity for young stars and content creators to reach wide audiences and, of course, make money. While there are several YouTubers who manage to make quite a decent living out of their channels, only a few have reached the millionaire status. Graham Stephen, a real estate agent turned YouTuber is one of them. His annual earnings, including YouTube and several other sources, comes up to around $1.6 million.

Stephens uses his background in finance to give his followers helpful advice on all things related to money. One of his most famous pieces of advice, and one that he follows himself, is to ditch the habit of buying coffee from places like Starbucks and Coffee Bean. His criticisms on these places overcharging is well known. He’s right since a cuppa can cost you anywhere from $1.5-$5 depending on where you’re buying it.

Compared to the measly 20 cents it’ll cost you to make one at home, this is a ridiculous price to pay.

3. Barbara Corcoran’s Travel Preferences

Businesswoman Barbara Corcoran has always been open about how difficult she had it starting out in the world of real estate. Although she’s made herself into a successful entrepreneur today, we think the lessons she’d learned during her struggles are what prevents her from splurging on things simply for the sake of showing off.

When it comes to travel, the uber-rich prefer to fly in private planes and luxury jets, or at the very least, in business class. But Corcoran finds these a waste of money.

The Shark Tank investor always flies coach, although she does make an effort to ensure that she has a “high-class experience” while doing so. This includes ordering a gourmet meal complete with fancy cheese and fresh fruit, and she even brings her own utensils and oversized napkin. She even buys a small bottle of wine at the airport to enjoy in the air. Sounds like the lady knows how to enjoy herself without wasting a bunch of money!

Childcare Costs Around $250,000 Per Child, But Here Are 7 Ways to Cut Back

The first lesson of Parenting 101 is that having a child is expensive! As the decades roll by, the cost of raising a child has been increasing steadily. Your grandma will be surprised to hear just how much you spend on your child, and no, it’s not all unnecessary luxuries like most older people seem to think. Although inflation has a major role to play in the increasing of childcare costs (like all other costs, in general), that’s not all it is.

Families are struggling to support themselves and their children under the weight of all the expenses. Another thing that has changed in the passing decades is that more women are focused on their careers, compared to their ancestors who would see childrearing as their main purpose in life. But for some working mothers, it’s not just about growing a career because most just cannot afford to live on a single income.

Either way, this means that they have to put a lot of money into services like daycare or getting a nanny. Even these are not available 24/7, so it’s not like there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to childcare. Of course, parents always want the best for their children, but there are several ways in which you can look to minimize costs while also ensuring that your precious little ones get the best facilities and caregivers.

1. Nanny Sharing

Hiring a nanny/au pair or putting the child in a nursery/daycare is the most common solution to childcare when the parents are working. Choosing which option is best will depend on family to family. While things like the particular child’s interest and personality as well as the trustworthiness and reliability of the facilities available are the main criteria for selection, your budget is also a big thing to consider.

If you’ve considered all the pros and cons of daycare and are satisfied, by all means, go for it. Or if you can afford it, you can get a nanny or au pair who lives with you full-time. But if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider nanny sharing with a trusted friend or neighbor. This will save you a ton of money in the long run, and your kid gets to socialize with other children of their age!

2. Babysitting Circle

Many communities have babysitting circles or babysitting co-ops where participating parents trade babysitting hours with each other. They take turns throughout the week and get paid in child-free time! Every time you babysit, the number of hours you did get credited to your account. When someone else does the same for your kids, it gets deducted. This may even make your life easier when you do have the kids because they can play together and socialize.

If your community doesn’t have a babysitting co-op, you can be the first to start one! If you joined a new mom group when your baby was born, you may already know several moms with similar-aged children who you’ve gotten to know pretty well. You can start by doing a few group activities with the mothers and children so that everyone involved is comfortable with each other.

3. Flexible Work Opportunities

In today’s job environment, there are more jobs than ever that lend themselves to work-from-home opportunities. Flexible work hours, part-time jobs, freelance, remote work, etc. are all becoming more popular. Consider switching jobs or talking to your boss so you can work from home at least some of the time. Or you can consider taking up a night shift job so your spouse can be at home when you’re not. This way, you’ll only need to pay for daycare on the days when either of you won’t be at home with the kids.

4. Government Concessions for Childcare

Many countries around the world make an effort to make the job of the parent easier, so if you live in one of them, make use of it! In fact, you may not even know all the concessions your government has for parents, so educate yourself first.

For instance, Tax-Free Childcare is a program in the UK where the government contributes to a portion of a family’s childcare expenditure. In the US, the Child and Dependent Care Credit is a tax deduction available to those paying childcare expenses. Sweden offers paid parental leave and tax-subsidized daycare, along with Child Allowance and even Large Family Allowance for families with more than 2 children.

5. Free or Cheap Activities

Kids of today seem to need loads and loads of activities from sports camps to piano lessons. Unfortunately, this can all prove to be quite expensive, especially during summer or winter holidays when school-age children are bored and need to be occupied constantly.

Short of shipping them off to grandma’s house for a few days, you can try to find cheaper activities that are fun and educational at the same time. Spend time at places that cost you very little or nothing at all, like the beach, park, or a library during storytime. Kids can even get a kick out of visiting places like the museum or fire station (most will give you a tour) which can be fun and educational. Volunteer work or community clean-up days can teach them loads as well. Another good way to keep costs down is to get together with your parenting community to organize events for your kids. You can do movie nights, sports days, scavenger hunts, art competitions, etc.

6. Ask for Help

While we realize that this may not be a viable option for everyone, especially those who do not have family around, it is still something that is available to many. You can even consider asking close friends who already spend time with your kids. Even if you think your parents or siblings won’t like to look after your children, it wouldn’t hurt to ask, would it? You may be surprised at how willing they are, especially the child’s grandparents. After all, they say it takes a village to raise a child.

Being away from you can help your child bond with their grandparents, aunties, uncles, etc. as they share some alone time. Just be aware that this may not be a full-time solution or that they may expect you to compensate for the expenses they incur on your kids’ behalf.

7. Move Houses

This may sound like quite a drastic solution, but there are several areas (even in your own city) where childcare costs such as daycare and even the general cost of living are lower than others. This can help reduce your overall expenses as a family. Or you could consider moving closer to family members who are willing to help out for free.