Personal Finance

  • Make Money With Your Brand Clubhouse Panel

    Panel details:

    Panelists and their brand:

    Everyone listed has grown their brands beyond just a single YouTube channel or singular platform. These panelists make money from their brands via courses, podcasts, websites, digital products, affiliate marketing, Patreon, startup companies and more.

    Resources mentioned:

    Questions and Answers:

    I own a digital marketing agency and we are trying to add passive income streams like DIY, DIWY and still keep the done for you. Are there any resources to help create these DIY and passive income products? How can we package and develop the curriculum of what we offer our clients into a DIY system with things like courses and access to our team?

    Jade: Most people have too many platforms and it can get really confusing so packaging should bring people to your website so there are not too many segmented places. 

    If you already have a site, check out Memberful.com that connects all the platforms and your paid email list. Memberful allows payment processing for all the platforms so you aren’t utilizing multiple platforms.  It could connect to the future products you create from courses to paid newsletter and so many other features.

    Sandy: Also check out Beacons, similar too Linktree but offers payments and works with Stripe.

    Sharon: Check out Teachable, it hosts courses and also membership options as well.

    I would like to know about marketing courses. What do you recommend to try for the first time?

    Sharon: We recently launched a course successfully and we used email blasts, Instagram and Facebook groups. We focused on delivering a lot of free content around our topic to deliver value and then if people wanted the step by step they could buy the course. Building the relationship with the audience came first and then that led to course sales.

    Once you have sales then you can reach out to customers for testimonials and share those along with answering frequently asked questions and refining your sales page. Then once you’ve got that done just announcing it on your multiple platforms to your existing audience.

    Sean: We also did a lot of lives and let people see we were real people and get to know us. This let people know more about us to encourage them to buy from real people doing this and answering their questions. We got sales during each live we did.

    Is anyone on Pinterest? I’ve had some brands reach out and I know it’s been good for mommy bloggers long term.

    Sandy: Pinterest is great for video and they are pushing it so definitely repurpose your reels and tiktoks as content for Pinterest.

    Sharon: I use Tailwind to schedule for Pinterest for my site.

    Other notes: Use creator studio and official partner platforms like Planoly for scheduling otherwise sites like Pinterest will lower your reach and cause potential problems. 

    What would you suggest for a YouTuber who just reached 100,000 and is ready to reach the next level? We’ve hit the goal of making our income from home but ready for the next level. Next goal is to ratchet that up. We have an MLM business, Youtube, and we are looking for the next income stream to create stability if one income stream disappears. Another group suggested making something I own since I don’t own the other streams. I have home improvement type content with 145k subs on YouTube and 6k followers on Instagram.

    Nadya: I feel like Instagram is a missed opportunity here if you aren’t utilizing short form content for your home related content. You can lean into the short form content on all of these platforms (YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat). I’ve seen an influencer with a more engaged audience on Instagram has potential for higher brand sponsorships. 

    Other easy ways would be to white label into a brand including the tools you need to do home improvement at home since that’s your topic.

    Jade: I would reframe this and look at creator longevity. You are a media company that also has a product. We are building a community and making sure you are on the right platforms to build community long term is important. If you don’t want to clog up your main channel then you can start a second for short form content but definitely focus on the audience cultivation and then work on the product.

    Create a newsletter or an email or even Facebook messenger (which could be an email replacement with a better open rate since email is not the only option). Creating this will flesh out your overall funnel and help with the multiple platforms leading to a product.

    I recommend having multiple platforms at 100k, evening out your followings on all platforms to hit this will lead to a better overall stable income.

    There are 3 ways to monetize as a creator – sponsored, affiliate, or white label and be the owner of the brand. Looking into creating your own brand and supply chain by doing something like raising money to create a branded product in the home improvement field.

    Recommendations: first even out platforms, even out email list, and then create product and merchandise to grow your brand.

    I’m starting out now as an artist and my focus is an Etsy art business. I’ve also wanted to do YouTube and have so many interests. How do you decide the best platform for your business? Is there a way to figure out the best platform for what content?

    Mary: Filtering in people from different areas is great as long as you are doing content that makes sense on each platform. I’ve had success on YouTube showing my products being used in videos since they are printables meant to be used. Seeing the product in use or being created always generates curiousity in potential buyers.

    Tiktok is a great platform for Etsy sellers right now especially for art since people enjoy timelapses in addition to behind the scenes content. People love watching these and the extra views can grow your audience and bring in potential buyers who will head to your shop and purchase. Showing off how your product is used on YouTube can be done in a similar way and you can even create longer form content showing the product creation.

    Another thing to note is Etsy is it’s own platform that is search based and it’s own beast to learn beyond any of the social platforms. That’s great because it can bring you traffic and potential buyers as well. Definitely learn about the SEO and ways Etsy can bring in traffic to your art for you. There are lots of ways to get your art seen on the Etsy platform itself when you are correctly utilizing SEO, tags, and participating in groups that have sprung up around Etsy with your type of art or style.

    How can I use get content creators to use my original music that I’m creating?  

    Jade: I see you are doing inspired beats and for the jazz type beats so you need to link people by remixing it. Ask yourself how can I make my content link to a relative audience by including things like an artist name and remixing to pull in that audience who is relevant. Doing a Billie Eilish remix with your own music for example.

    Also I highly recommend using TikTok and using duets so you make a track for someone to duet that enables them to share your content. Also using stitching when you mesh a popular track with your own beat. So picking a trending song and putting your music in to remix so you tap into the trends and reach more people.  

    I created a product that has nothing to do with what I do for a living or what I’m known for widely. I’m not sure where the connection is and how to connect with the audience on clubhouse or other platforms that would want this product. How do I reach people when it’s not what I do full time?

    Denis: Sometimes you curate a different audience on different platforms. I offer financial videos on YouTube but share about the aspects of making money on YouTube on clubhouse. So it’s ok to work on different audiences in different places.

    Jade: Agreed, you can have different audiences on different platforms. On TikTok I have a large audience that loves surfing even though that’s not my main topic elsewhere. It’s brought me sponsorships and new audiences and built my overall business even though it’s not my main topic. It’s helpful to grow an audience and doing something different can bring in new opportunities.

    Denis: Shifting your style can help you keep growing and learning because you are trying something new. Nate O’Brien is a great example of this to break through plateaus because he changed up his content in order to keep growing and get to 1 million subscribers.

    I’m a new realtor and I thought it would be great to share my journey so I create content about how to do this and how I created a referral business. I have been on TikTok for about a month and made a discord community but my reels are not doing well. There is no engagement beyond my followers and it’s not reaching out. I’ve been posting daily for two months. How can I reach a larger audience with reels on Instagram?

    Sean: I did 30 days of short form content and reels did the best but I don’t know why.

    Sandy: Don’t give up. It takes reels 3 weeks to a month to catch up on the content you’re creating and start sharing your content.

    I suggest posting less on reels instead of every day. Posting every day or posting too much can lose you followers. Sometimes if people see your content too much they get annoyed and unfollow. Post 3-4 times a week and only post content you know will do well. Tiktok and Instagram are very different;

    Jade: If people scroll by because you are posting too much they won’t show it to larger groups. Tiktok is different and doesn’t show to the existing audience first but instead pushes it out beyond your followers, so use it to test. Also test different things because it’s all about patience and figuring out what works. It’s just about timing sometimes. Sometimes we see people go viral but there can be years of work behind it.

    With Facebook, if you are not advertising and just making posts with your links are they not allowing people to view your content? If you don’t advertise will you get less views? If you share with links will they throttle your views and engagement? What are some tips and work arounds?

    Suzanne: Make sure you are posting from your business page to make sure you are getting that reach. Facebook isn’t suppressing posts but they push out organic content rather than links off the site. Facebook doesn’t want to push content that pushes people off the platform. Some people instead directly upload their content to the platform like uploading their Youtube video to Facebook rather than sending people to YouTube.

    Sean: Links on my personal page do ok but when I do the same links on my business page they only get 1-2 likes unless I advertise.

    Mary: Suzanne is right. Like all platforms, Facebook wants to keep users on their site. You will notice that any of these sites from Facebook to Instagram to YouTube focus on keeping users on their platform for the longest period possible. So they aren’t going to promote things that take people off platform to another site.

    I personally don’t have a brand but would like to become an affiliate marketer. What are you looking for when you reach out to people to promote your products? What have you noticed that makes your affiliates successful?

    Sharon: You don’t need a huge platform if you create long form content where you are trying to rank for keywords that encourage someone to make a purchase. Creating a bunch of informational content that will rank and encourage someone to buy tends to be successful. Also the most successful are people who actually use and love the product, not just promote things that they can make money from. It’s also easier to make content around this.

    Denis: You don’t have to have a big following. I went full time on Youtube with 10,000 subs because of affiliate marketing. The key is you have to give value to people in order to get them to click through and purchase. If you are getting started, get started with things that you are using and once you are better and understand the audience you can move on to things that you don’t use. This is what I’ve done and now I promote things I don’t personally use as long as I know the product is good. 

    Also keep it relatively the same niche with the products you are promoting. It won’t make sense to an audience if you are promoting all different things from beauty to home to finance and are all over the place.

    Nate: You can also have a company make an affiliate program for you if you have the traffic. I’d start with building traffic and use that to go to companies with products if you want to promote.

    I’m a personal trainer who created a physical product. How do I continue the success I had with in person events selling products where I sold out in person? I want to reach new customers and clients and I want to build further. Should I send products to influencers? What advice do you have? 

    Denis: You’re more like the advertiser looking for publishers to create content. As a creator we get a ton of emails asking for promotion from brands with products. I’d look at smaller influencers who usually have more engaged audiences on every platform. Finding those creators with 1,000-10,000 follower audiences will lead to sales and provide a much easier path. 

    Jade: I would go very local based. Emailing 100 random influencers won’t stand out because tons of companies are doing that so doing something different and local based would stand out. Or going to colleges where college students are becoming influencers and giving them product and they do a once a month zoom workout or something. Doing something different that stands out or is fun and unique or be very hyper specific in location where you work with just influencers from a certain college or city.

    Sharon: We are doing influencer outreach right now and we had out interns find accounts they resonate with so it’s not a random list of people. We use a tool Mix Max to automate the outreach and follow up with influencers.

    Jade: Use calendly to schedule times for bootcamps so people can give input on times they can make a live class. Build up your email list before hand to make sure you aren’t doing bootcamps or workouts for two people. 

    Where can you find influencers to help promote your brand? I sent my product to an influencer and go no traction and sales.

    Jade: That happens to all of use. She might have fake followers but it actually happens to all of us. Sometimes you share something and no one swipes up. That’s why brands do long term relationships with year long contracts or 4-5 posts because the first few campaigns might not provide much. Longer basis is better. You can also look into YouTubers because it’s harder to fake followings on YouTube.

    If you want to see if they have a true following you can check on Social Rank.

    Denis: Also consider some people are great at engagement but not great at being a salesman. Not all influencers have this so it is important to make sure you are evaluating whether or not the influencer can sell, not just if they get engagement.

    Big brands reached out to me to sponsor a fireside chat after I created a successful ClubHouse community. I haven’t seen anyone monetize here so how would I price it?

    Jade: My question would be to find out what their goal is and what their intention is to achieve. Shoot for the stars and then let the negotiation happen until it’s something you can accept. Shoot your shot.

    Suzanne: Definitely overshoot on whatever price you think you should get. Ask for more when it’s big companies because they will definitely pay for that. 

    Sean: Also remember you are setting a standard for everyone on Clubhouse and future monetization. 

    I have a job, a wedding photography business, podcast, and I made $12 from blogging in December which was the best $12 I’ve ever made. What do you think can help becoming a thought leader and grow this without killing my limited free time? Tips and strategies without spending too much time. I’m overwhelmed with options and feel limited time.

    Sharon: It’s about what your are interested in like if you enjoy writing then do blogging. The platform matters less because you don’t need a huge audience to earn money with affiliate marketing. If you are giving a lot of value to the audience then the platform matters less.

    Denis: The biggest thing with affiliates is that there are products you need to recommend that you don’t need but can help your audience. I also feel good when I make a sale because I know that will help people long term. 

    Mary: Double down on what is already working. It’s super easy to get caught up in shiny object syndrome and always start new outlets. But if something like blogging is working for you or your podcast is you main thing, double down on that. You don’t have to be everywhere especially if you have limited time and capacity.

    I’m documenting my journey as a 20 year old building a business and want to build a sustainable audience that connects with me. I’m getting lost in between when I’m building the operations of the business versus when I’m creating content. I feel like when I’m doing one I can’t do the other as well and would like to know how to manage this?

    Jade: You have to manage both. It helps to outsource things where you don’t have to spend the time to do things like editing. Also, ask yourself what kind of entrepreneur you want to be in five years. If you love the talking and videos then maybe you want to be more of the creator type business.

    When things get hard and you have less time, when you know who you are and what you want to be then you know which you’ll want to focus on. It’s imperative to do both so delegating can help with accomplishing that. 

    Also try to use platforms with short form content because that is a lot easier than making long form Youtube content.

    TJ: One thing I do is dedicate one day to all the content creation where I film everything and then have that delegated for editing and then the rest of the month you can work on your business. You can do everything but need to be able to focus.

    How did you outsource your editing and where did you find those people?

    Jade: They are people I know or people that reached out to me. It’s about the culture you want to build. Do you want to be friends with them and in person a lot? I personally choose local and aligned values. 

    TJ: Ditto about vibes with the person. I have tried upwork and agencies but I feel like the editor should understand your brand and vibes and humor and that’s great. 

    I feel like the instagram algorithm has changed for me and I’m getting less engagement. How do I improve it? Should I diversify to other platforms? 

    TJ: REELS!

    Sharon: Reels changed it for me, I grew from 3k to 50k because of reels mainly. 

    TJ: Reels has great organic reach. I’d focus on that and pump that. You don’t have to post daily and if you great good content it will help grow your views.

    For the main Instagram platform would hashtags help? 

    TJ: yes hashtags help but be careful because anything basic will be very saturated. If you choose hashtags with 100,000 posts or less it has a better chance to be seen.

    I started my brand and reached out to 30 influencers and 10 responded. What are some creative offers to offer influencers besides money? I’d like to work with influences that care about me and my brand not just people in it for the money.

    Jade: Flatter their ego. If you can’t offer money then flatter their ego, by doing interviews or a creative content series where they are an exclusive guest. As an example a brand reached out to me but couldn’t pay but they offered for me to be in a fashion show and that seemed cool.

    Aim for smaller creators below 100k following because bigger creators are going to expect larger payments.

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  • How To Leave Robinhood App For Investing

    There are a lot of reasons to leave Robinhood and move to another investing platform. In the last week or two the reasons have increased and more and more people are abandoning Robinhood for good reasons.

    Reasons To Leave Robinhood

    When I previously posted about starting a dividend portfolio on Robinhood, I was very excited about a platform that made investing feel so fun. However, over time I’ve discovered a lot of reasons why Robinhood App is subpar for investing as well as personal reasons too.

    Some reasons to leave Robinhood based on their failures:

    • Outages on days with big volume which have led to people losing hundreds and thousands of dollars
    • Lots of bugs and glitches in what shows especially on days where trading volume is very high
    • Customer service is very limited and if you have a problem you can’t get someone on the phone or email (you can just yell into the void on Twitter)
    • There have been issues with users being hacked and accounts looted
    • Robinhood has been sued and will be sued again
    • There is a lack of transparency on how they operate and make money off of the users which does not match their stated company ethos
    • During the Gamestop / short selling debacle of January 2021, they took action limiting what users could purchase which manipulated the price of stocks in a downward manner
    • The lack of transparency and disclosures from Robinhood in multiple cases pits them agains their users which means you aren’t getting the best deal or service

    Some reasons to leave Robinhood based on my investing style as a long term investor:

    • They don’t offer many beneficial investing account types including IRAs, HSAs, 529s etc
    • Because they don’t offer those account types you can only open a taxable brokerage account meaning you will pay more taxes on gains unnecessarily
    • They don’t offer access to buy mutual funds or bonds or several other asset types that you may want in a portfolio to diversify
    • Focus is on stock picking, options, and other riskier investing styles which can lead beginners into trouble

    Those are reasons to leave Robinhood as your investing platform. Luckily it is easy to transfer your stocks out of Robinhood and move to a better brokerage that offers more account types, asset options, and superior customer service.

    How To Transfer Stocks Out Of Robinhood

    Leaving Robinhood is easy and can be done by opening another account at a different brokerage and then trasnferring your stocks.

    You do not have to sell your stocks to leave Robinhood!

    You can sell some if you want, but remember that for any profits / gains you will need to pay capital gains taxes. If you’ve held the stock less than a year that tax rate can be substantial.

    Robinhood even has a guide to how to transfer stocks out of your Robinhood Account.

    Some important things to note about transferring your stocks out of Robinhood:

    • Robinhood supports partial and full outbound transfers of your stocks.
    • Once you transfer all assets out of Robinhood, they will close your account.
    • There is a $75 fee to transfer assets out of Robinhood to another brokerage.

    The process is pretty simple and most major brokerages can help you walk through it as well. The instructions on how to initiate the transfer from Robinhood are quite simple since the new brokerage handles most of the actual work:

    To begin the process, you’ll need to contact your other brokerage and have them initiate the transfer. They’ll submit the transfer instructions to our clearing partner to transfer over your assets and funds.

    If you transfer all of your assets to another brokerage, we’ll close your account.

    Please make sure you initiate an ACATS (Automated Customer Account Transfer Service) transfer. Please don’t request stock delivery using any method other than ACATS, including DTC and transfer agent transfers.

    You might need to give the other brokerage your Robinhood Securities (RHS) account number. You can find this information in your mobile app

    1. Tap the Account icon in the bottom right corner.
    2. Tap Investing.
    3. Your account number will be at the top of your screen.

    You may need to reference a DTC number for your transfer. Robinhood’s DTC number is 6769.

    After you initiate a full transfer, your account will be restricted to ensure the transfer is processed smoothly. You won’t be able to make any trades on the assets being requested, including options in the underlying asset, while the transfer is in process, but keep in mind that you’ll still own the securities or positions during this time, and they’ll update in the app to reflect their current market value.

    You can use any brokerage and many have advantaged above Robinhood. The three brokerages I personally use and like to recommend to people are:

    Those are the platforms I’ve ended up with and plan to stick with long term. Of note, if you are trading then M1 Finance will not be for you since it is geared toward long term investing rather than trading.

    Why I Left Robinhood

    I decided to leave Robinhood as an investing platform in November 2019.

    I left for several personal reasons and issues with the platform as well. As time has gone on Robinhood has only revealed even more negative issues for users.

    Personally I left Robinhood for a several reasons:

    • Has outages on big volume investing days
    • Has lots of bugs and glitches especially when things get busy
    • Customer service there is almost non-existent and you can’t call them
    • You can email but you can’t expect an answer
    • Users have had issues with hacking and looting of accounts
    • I’m not a trader and the app encourages moves that aren’t the best and can be based on emotion
    • The gamification of investing on the app is fun but also encouraged me to act too quickly and not make the best decision

    I originally downloaded Robinhood to open an account to buy stocks because it looked fun, it’s easy to use, and a lot of other YouTubers used and loved it. Yes, even I buy or subscribe to things because of channels I watch.

    I also had the idea of using this portfolio of making it public and sharing what stocks I’ve bought and why. However, after months of use I realize … I just don’t want to do that. I’m not great at picking stocks, I’m not confident enough to recommend them. 

    I can talk all day about index funds and ETFs but individual stocks still trip me up. I’m not great and analysis and honestly I’m too emotional about buying stocks.

    Robinhood has a ton of bugs and outages. Any time there is high volume traffic during a day the app gets glitchy and has hiccups and sometimes just doesn’t work at all. On the biggest days of the past year with stocks Robinhood basically just shut down and screwed over a lot of people and Robinhood did not seem to care about those people.

    Yes, its a new app and they are going to figure it out but I’ve decided if I want to put a lot of money into a platform, it’s not one that feels like it is still working out the kinks.

    So while there are some benefits to Robinhood and I love a lot of the little features and how easy it is to use… it’s just not enough for me to stick with them long term and build a large portfolio there. Since I’m planning to invest heavily after paying off debt I wanted something more stable that better fits the style of investing I actually like to do. 

    I also personally just want to consolidate. I have multiple accounts at multiple companies and frankly I don’t have time or desire to keep checking multiple portfolios and making sure nothing is on fire or needs to be adjusted. Robinhood is only a small percent of my overall investments yet it’s still something that I feel like I have to give too much attention. This whole experience has confirmed that I’m truly a hands off inventory who likes to make things easy and passive. That means I like buying index funds and ETFs where someone else I trust is doing the stock picking not me. 
    With that investing strategy in mind, I don’t need an app like Robinhood in order to consistently invest in those types of investments. I don’t regret using Robinhood or regret recommending it to people because in many ways it’s still a great option and really did change the investing landscape with no commission fees. But for this point in time.. it’s not right for what I want to do.

    I decided to consolidate and to sell those stocks where I’d made a poor choice and had lost money. I also sold some where I didn’t want to hold the stock long term but the gains were not that high and were cancelled out by the losses on others. This money was used to help me pay down debt and get closer to debt freedom. I planned to move the remaining stocks I wanted to hold long term out of Robinhood to another account at a more reputable broker.

    Sometimes you want to try out new things and investigate what is seemingly working for others and that is totally ok! It’s not a bad thing to stray from what you know and learn and see if you like another strategy or plan with your money.

    In this case, I didn’t like it as much and I’m going to go back to the strategy and investing plan I’m comfortable with and honestly, love the most. I’ll be sticking to my plan and sharing more details with you in the future especially as I start to pour more money into investments to hopefully build a future or financial freedom for our family.

    As always, thanks for watching, reading, and supporting!

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  • Top Sinking Funds Categories & How To Set Up Sinking Funds To Hit Savings Goals

    Sinking funds are savings accounts where you save up a small amount at a time for a big expense.

    They can be used for large one time purchases, annual or semi-annual bills, yearly expected expenses, or unexpected expenses. People save sinking funds in multiple ways, from cash envelopes to multiple savings accounts to one big savings account with detailed tracking.

    Sinking funds can change your life. They radically transformed our budgeting life once we started using them. It truly makes sticking to a budget much easier because you eliminate the large expenses that wreck most people’s budgets.

    Setting Up Our Yearly Sinking Funds

    Setting up my sinking funds for the year will keep us on track with our budgeting and hitting financial goals in 2021. I’m using my sinking funds trackers to keep myself on track with my balances and how I’m saving to hit spending goals and paying annual bills.

    Our Sinking Fund Categories

    For 2021 our sinking fund categories include the following things:

    • Birthdays
    • Christmas
    • Car Insurance
    • Life Insurance
    • Car Repair
    • House (+ New Fridge!)
    • Pet Expenses

    There may be more sinking funds that we add later on in the year or we may end up cash flowing things as they come along since we do have a major online income source that can help cash flow extra monthly expenses.

    Our sinking funds are split into two types

    • Date based, where we need to save up a certain amount of money to spend or pay a bill by a certain date
    • Ongoing, where we need to save up money continually for eventual unexpected expenses where we don’t know the exact amount

    Between all of those things we have our yearly sinking funds set up like this:

    • Birthdays – $125 per paycheck or $250 per month
    • Christmas – $25 per paycheck or $50 per month
    • Car Insurance – $40 per paycheck or $80 per month
    • Life Insurance – $20 per paycheck or $40 per month
    • Car Repairs – $50 per month (will increase)
    • House Repairs (Fridge!) – $200 per month (big chunks too)
    • Pet Expenses – $50 per month

    We broke down our goals from how much we needed by certain dates in order to determine how much we needed to save per paycheck and per month.

    What are sinking funds?

    Sinking funds are accounts with a purpose.

    They are accounts you save into regularly for spending on expenses that are irregular expense, non-monthly expenses, unpredictable or big one time expenses.

    It’s a mini savings account for an expense you know you’ll have in the future.

    Sinking funds make saving for these hard to budget items strategic and stress free. You set a little bit aside each month until you hit your goal… and then you spend it!

    So if you’re saving up for an event 6 months from now, you put a smaller amount aside into the sinking fund each month until the event where you spend it all. Sinking funds are designed to let you spend without stress or worry.

    Common Sinking Fund Categories

    Below are some of the most common and often most helpful sinking funds that you can add to your budget.

    This list can help you with a starting point on what types of sinking funds you might want to try in your own budget.

    1. Car Repairs Sinking Fund – Car repairs will eventually happen. Every car needs repairs at some point even if it’s just general tire rotations or oil changes. Maintenance on cars is a necessary expenses if you own a car.
    2. Car Replacement Sinking Fund – Cars don’t last forever unfortunately. This means you’ll eventually need to replace your current car. Saving up a little bit every month into a car replacement fund will make the purchase of a new car much less painful and will prevent you from going into debt to get a new car when the time comes.
    3. Home Repairs Sinking Fund – Just like a car, you know your home will eventually need repairs. Because this is an expense that is inevitable, you need to be saving up for home repairs that will come along when you own a home.
    4. Water Bill Sinking Fund – Many areas have annual or quarterly water bills where several months add up before payment is due. When these big, irregular water bills hit it is helpful to have the money in a sinking fund ready to pay the bill.
    5. Pet Expenses Sinking Fund – Your pet may require regular grooming, special medicines for health issues, special diets and foods, and of course regular vet care. That’s not to mention anything like toys, doggy daycare, beds, clothing or any fun pet expenses. Add in an expensive emergency vet visit and you’ll definitely be glad you have a pet expense sinking fund.
    6. Christmas Sinking Fund – Christmas happens every year so it should not catch you by surprise and lead you into debt. Your Christmas sinking fund can be for gifts but also for things like decor, Christmas cards, foods for special dinners or anything else for the holidays. 
    7. Gifts Sinking Fund – Throughout the year we buy gifts for birthdays, weddings, holidays, baby showers, house warmings and more special occasions. While we love gifting those around us with things they will treasure, it can definitely add up and ruin the budget if we don’t plan for it! We put a little bit into our gifts sinking fund each month and it usually builds up so we can buy gifts when they are needed.
    8. Clothing Sinking Fund – You might not buy clothes every month, but you will eventually need to buy clothing or shoes as items wear out. You can save up a little each month and then eventually buy a higher quality item when you are ready to shop and replace items.
    9. Travel Sinking Fund – Travel is generally a high price tag item which is why many people create a travel sinking fund to save up for trips. If you save just $100 a month into a travel sinking fund then you can take a $1,200 vacation each year. If you want to travel more or go on better trips then you can increase the amount you save monthly.
    10. Car & Life Insurance Bill Sinking Funds – Many life insurance bills and car insurance bills are due every 6 months, quarterly or yearly. We pay our car insurance every six months, so we put money monthly into a car insurance sinking fund. Then when the payment is due we withdraw the amount, pay the bill, and start over again!
    11. Medical Bills Sinking Fund – Unfortunately medical bills can be a huge financial problem in the United States. A sinking fund (or a medical FSA or HSA) can help make these irregular costs more manageable when they come along. If you have a very high deductible you need to be saving each month into a sinking fund for medical expenses that could come up. Your life will be much less stressful if you have the money saved when a medical emergency strikes.
    12. Back To School Expenses Sinking Fund – If you have kids, then you probably want a “back to school” sinking fund. You’ll need clothes and school supplies when school season rolls around. Kids also have a lot of expenses for signing up for extracurricular activities at the start of the school year.
    13. Yearly Renewal Sinking Funds – If you have memberships or subscriptions that renew yearly like Amazon Prime or a Costco membership, they can be put into a yearly sinking funds account. You can create individual sinking funds for each yearly expense item or you can create a “yearly expenses” account where you add up the amount of all items, divide by 12, and save that amount each month.

    More Sinking Fund Ideas

    While those 13 sinking funds are common ones many people use, there are lots of other options that might work for your budget.

    1. Homeowners insurance
    2. Utilities
    3. Landscaping
    4. Property taxes
    5. Pool maintenance
    6. Home improvement projects
    7. New vehicle tires
    8. Fees and licenses (car registration, etc.)
    9. Fees for boats/ campers/ snowmobiles/ motorcycles
    10. Dues and subscriptions
    11. School and education fees
    12. School tuition
    13. Summer camp fees
    14. Kids sports and activities
    15. College savings
    16. Electronics replacements
    17. Outside decor
    18. Dentist visits and bills
    19. Medication
    20. Eye doctor/ glasses/ contacts
    21. Annual gym fees
    22. Miscellaneous
    23. Weddings
    24. Holidays
    25. Taxes
    26. Emergency fund

    If you are looking for ideas this list should help get you started!

    How do you set up sinking funds?

    Setting up sinking funds with many online bank accounts is very easy and super quick! From start to finish most banks have made the process of setting up sinking fund savings accounts very easy.

    If you want to see how we set up our sinking funds originally along with all the info about what sinking funds are then you can see the whole process in the video below.

    Setting up sinking funds is a great way to keep your budget together throughout the year so the ups and downs don’t derail you.

    If you haven’t tried out sinking funds before then you should definitely try incorporating it into your budgeting routine!

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  • Best Shopify Apps For Selling Digital Products In 2022

    Selling digital products in a Shopify store can be effective but you have to set up your store in a way that gives you the best chance for success. Shopify apps for selling digital products can help you succeed.

    In this post I’m going over the best, must-have Shopify apps – including free Shopify apps – that will help you sell digital products.

    If you haven’t started your store yet, try it out with a 14 Day FREE Shopify Trial.

    I’m a Shopify affiliate so I get commissions when people sign up through my links but it’s truly one of the best platforms to use for selling any products online.

    Shopify Apps For Selling Digital Products

    When you’re building a Shopify store for digital products there are a number of apps that allow you to upload and sell products passively.

    Shopify apps allow you to create a Shopify store customized to your needs and all of these amazing apps give you the ability to sell digital downloads and products easily.

    I go over both free and paid Shopify apps in this video. I also cover Shopify apps for selling digital downloads, music downloads, courses, memberships, and more.

    Here are the best apps for selling digital products for different types of content.

    Digital Downloads

    Digital Downloads – This is the number one free app by Shopify for selling digital products. It’s the one I’ve used most often for selling printable downloads. This app allows customers to download their file immediately upon purchase by receiving a link via email.

    SendOwl

    SendOwl – This Shopify app provides instant delivery of purchased digital products and have fulfilled over 8 million order on Shopify. It’s also a stand alone company with additional customer service and features. It comes with multiple useful features like automation, expiring links, and auto-generated license keys that can help you to power your products.

    Single Music

    Single Music – For musicians selling music as a digital product this app is incredibly valuable since it was made with musicians in mind. It bridges the gap between physical and digital music sales with useful tools like chart reporting, upselling campaigns, and clips for samples.

    Thinkific

    Thinkific – For course creators the Thinkific Shopify app is the best way to add and sell courses to your Shopify store. The Thinkific app makes it super easy to create a course curriculum by uploading and drag and drop content. There is a free option when is great for beginners that allows you to create and sell up to three courses in your Shopify store.

    FetchApp

    FetchApp – This delivery app for digital products has more features than. Shopify’s free app but less than the paid SendOwl version making it a good option for people that need to start with a free plan but then grow. You have the ability in this Shopify app to attach multiple files with a digital products which can be useful for larger items with multiple file types.

    Sky Pilot

    Sky Pilot – If you’ve been wanting to build a membership program then Sky Pilot is a great option. For recurring revenue for your Shopify store this app can fill all needs. You can sell files, video streams and more to your customers in the membership.

    Bold Memberships

    Bold Memberships – This app is also a great option for building a membership site with recurring revenue for your business. You can show or hide any piece of content to your members, create tiers of membership, and customize lots of features and functions. This app is $9.99 a month and offers a free trial.

    These are some of the best options for selling different types of digital products on Shopify.

    Shopify Apps exist to help you build your business by adding extra features to your Shopify admin. Most are created by third party developers, not by Shopify, so you’ll have to keep in mind that custom apps will be serviced by those companies directly. Apps are a great way to add features and create a better store overall, especially if you plan to sell digital products.

    How To Start A Digital Products Shopify Store

    I recommend using Shopify to build a shop on your own website.

    If you don’t want to sell digital products on a competitive marketplace like Etsy this is the ideal e-commerce option. It’s ideal if you want to start with your own store from the beginning.

    The video above is specifically tailored to opening a Shopify store for selling digital products.

    Shopify is one of the leading platforms to create your own online store super easily and quickly. It’s also able to scale up as your business grows.

    The ease of creating a store and selling your products immediately makes Shopify the best platforms for selling online.

    There are many ways to make Shopify work for selling digital products.

    Additionally, here are some posts and links about Shopify that can help you:

    Digital Product Ideas

    So maybe you’re set on opening a store to sell digital products but you don’t know what you want to sell. There are lots of possibilities out there so finding the right product to sell is all about finding out what works best for you and your personality and skill level.

    Some ideas for digital products to sell:

    • Printables
    • Spreadsheets
    • Music / Songs
    • Courses
    • Ebooks

    Check out these related posts with useful lists of types of digital products you can sell in your Shopify store:

    Enjoy the passive income that comes from selling your digital products via Shopify!

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  • I’m Debt Free! My Debt Payoff Journey

    It’s time for a debt snowball update for the month of December 2020 because I’m now debt free!

    That’s right..

    I’m now debt free!

    I managed to pay off debt in massive amount for the month of December. This huge amount was major progress on our debt free journey… it finished off my debt free payoff journey!

    My Debt Payoff Journey

    In 2018 I set up a debt snowball to pay off the remaining debt in my life: leftover parent plus student loans I had been ignoring and one student loan for my husband.

    When we starting paying off this debt together my husband and I set up our debt snowball as follows:

    • Husband’s Loan 1: $1,043.99
    • My Student Loan 2: $5,400.05
    • My Student Loan 3: $5,792.96
    • (Multiple loans) Loan 4: $31,129.13

    Total debt: $43,366.13

    You can see how we worked through the debt snowball with our debt snowball playlist where I added videos showing our progress working through the debt snowball.

    After one year of the debt snowball, I had made some progress and paid off several of the smaller loans.

    We made a lot of progress paying off debt in 2019.

    In the next year of paying off debt I kept changing the end date goal for my debt payoff.

    I did this because I also did saved up an emergency fund, bought a car in cash, and maxed out my Roth IRA.

    However, even with those other financial goals I worked on I was still able to finish paying off my debt on the very last day of 2021.

    As a result, it took me just over 2 years to pay off the $43,000 debt snowball that I wrote out when I started.

    My Previous Debt Payoff Experience

    The debt snowball method worked well for me both in this experience and when I paid off $22,000 in student loans and $5,000 in credit card debt in my early 20s.

    In 2010 I paid off $5,000 in credit card debt. In 2013 I finished paying off $22,000 in student loan debt that was in my own name.

    That first expecience was a harder debt payoff experience in many ways because I spent most of those year not earning much money. I spent those years living very frugally so that I could pay off the debt quickly.

    Is paying off debt worth it?

    Both times I paid off debt towards the end was less about the actual debt or the interest rate and more about achieving the feeling of being debt free.

    I wanted to be rid of the burden of debt.

    I wanted to be done rather than stretch the loans out to the full term years from now.

    This was a personal choice because debt bothers me. It lingers in my mind and overshadows my happiness. Many other people don’t feel this way and debt is just a tool they use for leverage. Whether or not paying off debt is worth it will depend on what type of person you are.

    For me, paying off debt was worth it. It took a while to finally feel debt free and realize I didn’t have to make those big payments, but once I did the feeling was unmatched.

    im debt free text with an image of my debt snowball printable

    How do you stay motivated paying off debt?

    Debt payoff motivation is something I’ve worked on consistently for multiple years of my life.

    Why? Because paying off debt is not fun!

    No one really wants to pay off debt. Digging yourself out of a debt hole using big chunks of your income can be very depressing and demotivating especially if you have a lot of debt to pay back.

    Paying off debt can be a long and hard journey. This video shares a few ways I stay motivated during our debt free journey.

    Here are a few of the ways I stayed motivated:

    • gave myself a plan
    • used visual trackers
    • celebrated my small wins
    • celebrated debt payoff milestones
    • found accountability with my debt free community online

    There are many different ways to find motivation and stay motivated while paying off debt!

    How does it feel to be debt free?

    At the end of my debt payoff journey the last big payments toward debt represented a lot of hard work and sacrifice as well as a new beginning.

    My student loans are gone! Now I don’t owe anyone anything. First I paid off my credit card debt and now I paid off my student loan debt.

    I am completely debt free as of this moment. 

    This is a huge step in my financial life as becoming debt free has been a motivating factor in all my financial decisions thus far.

    I have to admit it feels great. It feels amazing! Liberating! It feels like I can do anything!!

    Freedom from debt obligations has given me a feeling of lightness and freedom. 

    I highly recommend paying off your own debt and achieving debt freedom!

    Do you need help paying off debt?

    If you’re struggling to pay off debt, these posts should help you!

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  • How To Raise Your Credit Score With Credit Card Use

    I’ve gone through the process of improving my credit score and I’ve also helped my husband and several friends do the same. Working on your credit to reach an 800 credit score can be both frustrating and very rewarding.

    Figuring out what works to raise your credit score takes a bit of effort, reliable resources, and time. The things you need to do to increase your credit score to 800 are well documented and anyone can do it. In this video and blog post I’ll share what I’ve learned about raising my credit score to 800 and how I used credit cards to do it.

    Learn About Credit Scores

    You are probably starting off with a bad or non-existent credit score so the world of credit seems mysterious and unknown. Luckily while the exact formula is not public information, the general knowledge of how to increase your credit score is well know.

    Learning about credit scores and how credit works will help you raise your score on your own or find the right person to help you do it. If you’re new then reading up about how to improve credit is a great place to start. I’ve share multiple posts about credit scores that can help get you start:

    There are no real secrets to credit repair and anyone can do it with a bit of self-education. Most of the things that increase your credit score are actually just solid financial principles likes paying down old debts and not spending more on credit than you can afford to pay.

    Figure Out Your Why

    Credit scores and even the use of credit can be controversial in the personal finance world. Some people are for it, some are against it, and others like me accept it as part of our current system as a tool we can use to better our life.

    Credit scores are important to regular people living their lives for a number of reasons from buying a car to purchasing a home to even getting better rates on insurance. There are a number of reasons in life why you might want a good credit score and thinking about your own personal reasons will help you during this process.

    For example, knowing you need to increase your credit score to finally purchase a home of your own is much more motivating than just the general idea of having good credit.

    In this step you can also decide if you really want to pursue a good credit score or not. Most of the things you can accomplish with good credit can also be done with no credit at all as well. However, you need to pick one route or another because ending up in the middle without a plan leaves people with bad credit that hurts more. You need to think about why you want good credit and then either commit to having the best credit possible or no credit score at all. Either option is valid but you need t commit to what is best for your situation.

    Open New Credit Strategically

    Opening new credit can boost your credit score if it’s done in the right way. You need to have a strategic plan for opening new credit so that doing so helps you and raises your credit score instead of pushing you in the wrong direction.

    Building your credit by opening multiple new lines can actually hurt you if you do it all at once. Instead of running out and opening multiple new credit cards at once, you’ll want to do one now and wait a few months until making your next move.

    Opening credit for the first time can be done by getting a commonly offered card or even getting a secured card if you can’t get approved for another. A secured card is where you put down a deposit in order to have a credit line equal to the amount of the deposit. This protects the credit lender and allows you to build a history with credit.

    Because you won’t be opening all your new credit lines right away you’ll have to accept a longer term perspective for increasing your credit score to 800. It won’t happen overnight and depending on your starting point it could even take a couple years. This is where having a reason why and having a purpose will keep you on track.

    Using Credit Cards Wisely

    How much credit you are currently using will affect your credit score. If you are only using a small percentage of the credit you could be using then your score will be higher.

    Having a good credit score doesn’t mean you need overwhelming amounts of debt. In fact, having large debt balances usually hurts your credit score because of the credit utilization factor. You never, ever want to max out your credit cards because doing so will hurt you and your credit score.

    Your credit utilization is the balance of your debt compared to the available credit you have access to. This contributes 30% to FICO score’s calculation which means it is something you need to work on asap. 

    The goal here is to pay off debt while still keeping your credit limits high. This lowers the amount of credit you are using compared to the amount you could actually use. 

    Keeping your credit utilization low will involve several things:

    • Paying down existing balances – Keeping your debt levels on credit cards lower will help you keep your credit score high. If you have high existing balances your first move will be to pay those down.
    • Use your cards with bills not spending – Personally I recommend most people don’t use credit cards for day to day spending because it usually gets out of control and leads to debt. The best way to do it is just charge a bill or two to your card so it’s active and being used but not hitting 30% use (I find 10% or less to be effective).
    • Increase credit card limits – Another way to help utilization is to increase the amount of credit you have access to that you are not actually using. A great way to do this is to increase your credit card limit by asking the company to raise it.
    • Pay your bill on time once it’s been reported to the credit bureaus – Every lender reports their existing balances to the credit bureaus at different times. This is a critical thing for you to know because you want to make sure you pay your bill before it’s overdue but after it’s been reported so it will help you credit score. While it’s normally around the statement date, the best way to find this date for each card and lender is to ask them directly.
    • Never max out your cards – This has been mentioned throughout the post but you do not want to max our your cards when trying to increase your credit score. This will just hurt your score.

    Apply for New Credit As Needed

    Having multiple accounts open for long periods of time can help your credit score but that doesn’t mean more is better.

    You don’t need to open 25 different accounts to get a good credit score. In fact I have less than 10 and have an excellent credit score.

    Be selective in the credit lines that you open. Don’t max yourself out with too many new open lines of credit. It will drop your credit score temporarily and it could potentially put you in a precarious situation.

    If you are in a credit building stage, then you should work on opening new cards strategically over time but never all at once. Wait 6 months or more between opening new credit lines.

    Don’t Obsess Over The Score Daily

    It might be tempting to pay someone to help improve your credit score quickly, but be cautious of these services. Many are not helpful but take your money for something you can do yourself.

    You can improve your credit score over time by following common sense credit guidelines and getting on a budget.

    The less you obsess about your credit score the better off you will be.  Ultimately a credit score isn’t the most important thing in your financial life and there are ways to operate around a bad credit score or no credit score at all.

    If you are planning to use credit less and don’t need it for a future mortgage or car loan or new job then your credit score will be less important.

    Remember that even if you are planning to use credit in the future, you can work with what you already have, pay things on time, use credit responsibly, and build your credit score from there.

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  • Reasons To Use Credit Cards

    I used to hate credit cards. Hate. Hate. HATE.

    When I was paying off credit card debt right after college I hated those cards so much that I couldn’t bring myself to use them at all. I didn’t understand how anyone could say they actually liked using their credit cards… it just didn’t make sense!

    Credit card debt can be one of the worst types of debt because the high interest rates make it very hard to get out. When you are paying 24% interest on your debt you have to work much harder than if you are paying 2%.

    When I was paying back credit card debt I was very much in alignment with Dave Ramsey – I hated credit cards and planned to never use them again. Cancel them! Cut them up! Never again!

    Obviously, after I moved past the trauma of paying off credit card debt I eventually changed my mind and saw credit cards for what they can be: a tool to help you financially when used responsibly.

    using credit cards responsibly

    Why I Love Credit Cards Now

    Now that I’m free of credit card debt I love credit cards and credit cards are the main reason why I have an 800 credit score.

    I’ve been using my credit cards responsibly for several years now and haven’t missed a payment or paid interest again. During that time I’ve also gotten thousands of dollars in free travel and cash back rewards. Thanks to responsible credit card use I’ve benefitted far more than I was hurt by credit cards.

    The credit cards are paying me now instead of me paying them. It’s a huge lesson – if you are smart with your money you get rewarded, but if you are dumb you are penalized.

    If you are smart with your money you get rewarded, but if you are dumb you get penalized. 

    That basically sums up credit cards in a nutshell even if there is more behind the psychology of it where credit card companies work to make you spend. If you can be responsible you will be rewarded, and if you can’t then you will be penalized.

    That means you need to stick to some very important but sometimes hard too follow truths:

    • If you don’t have the actual money to pay for something then don’t use a credit card.
    • If you don’t trust yourself then don’t use a credit card. If you know you will overspend then don’t carry a card.
    • Use your credit cards for increasing your score and other benefits, not to spend more on a lifestyle you can not afford.

    Credit cards can be good. You just have to be smart.

    I’m under no illusion that I’ll get rich off using credit cards. That is often the thing mocked by certain financial gurus who are anti-credit card. I know I won’t get rich from using them and there are potential downfalls, but if you use credit cards wisely then you can be rewarded in small ways and also increase your credit score too.

    Reasons To Use Credit Cards

    There are actually more reasons to use credit cards than to not use them. If you’ve been wondering why anyone would use a credit card over a debit card, check out all of these reasons to use credit cards:

    • One time sign up bonuses (often hundreds of dollars)
    • Cash back rewards for spending
    • Reward points for travel for spending
    • Frequent flyer miles with your favorite airline
    • Safety protections from fraud
    • Protection from bad or dishonest vendors
    • Grace period before money leaves your bank account
    • Insurance and consumer protections from the company
    • Builds your credit history and raises your credit score
    • Easy spending tracking with less effort
    • Free credit score monitoring

    There are even more rewards and benefits that cards may offer but these are some of the biggest ones that are reasons why you might want to use credit cards!

    When Credit Cards Can Help You

    In order to use credit cards responsibly you have to be aware of when and how you are using them. Swiping a credit card without thinking is a slippery slope that might start off ok but can end in a credit card debt disaster.

    Credit cards can help you, but only when these things are true:

    • When you know your credit score.
    • When you use them responsibly.
    • When you pay off balances at the end of each month.
    • When you use credit cards for expenses you can afford.
    • When you use credit cards that offer rewards.
    • When you use credit cards to slowly build your credit score.
    • When you use credit cards to get extra protection.
    • When you don’t buy more than you can afford.
    • When you save more or get a store discount.
    • When you sign up for a credit card to get a killer bonus.
    • When you tae advantage of special offers from credit cards.
    • When you get a good balance transfer deal to save money.
    • When you use credit cards to reach a goal.
    • When you use them to better keep track of spending via Mint.

    I might have hated credit cards in the past, but I love them now! There are lots of situations where using credit cards can be a good thing and I’ll forever advocate for wise credit card use.

    If you feel like you can’t handle credit cards and always overspend, then that’s ok! Don’t use them. Don’t even tempt yourself with the possibilities of overspending. Either cut up the cards so you can’t use them or cancel them entirely. You don’t have to use credit cards and should never use them if you know it will lead you to a bad space financially or mentally.

    Learn More About Credit

    If you are using credit cards then you should also make sure you learn about and understand credit scores. Here are a few posts to help with that:

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  • How To Save Money On Food

    In the past, each month I would check my monthly spending and realize I’d spent a lot of money on food. A lot. Way too much. Between groceries and eating out I overspent my food budget every month.

    It was something that continually frustrated me because I overspent on food constantly. It wasn’t until I was forced to cut back that I finally took control of the situation and stopped spending a ridiculous amount of my income on food.

    Eating on the cheap is totally possible but it does take some effort, just like eating healthy does. I was spending so much money on food each month because I wasn’t thinking about it. I was making healthy choices for food but I wasn’t making great financial choices. I spent a lot of extra money on convenience foods that were healthier but more expensive. Spending money on convenient foods and eating out really does add up quickly. It might not seem like much when you are spending a few dollars at a time but it’s something that snowballs quickly.

    Now my budget is about half of what it used to be for food and I actually stick to it! It’s pretty amazing that I once spent so much on food when it was entirely unnecessary.

    how to save money on food

    Below I’ve collected some of my personal favorite ways to save money on food. Hopefully they can help you reduce your food budget too!

    Tips to Save Money On Grocery Food

    • Commit to cooking more. Learning how to cook and preparing food at home is a great way to save money on food. If you know how to cook and do it often the savings will add up. Choosing to cook at home rather than get a meal at a restaurant saves me $5 – 15 dollars per meal in most cases.
    • Check out what you have in your pantry. Using what you have already will keep your grocery shopping list smaller. It’s also fun to create meals from scratch using what is available. I like to have “Chopped” nights where we pick pantry ingredients and make something using them. It’s not as weird as the show and usually turns out well!
    • Plan your meals around your cheap staples. Planning your meals helps you keep food costs down. Planning around cheap staples that you can buy in bulk like rice or pasta will make your costs substantially lower. There are many ways to prepare these staples so it’s not something you will get bored of eating.
    • Go grocery shopping once a week or less. The more you pop in the more you will buy the little add on items that add up. Every time you step foot in a grocery store you will have more opportunities to overspend. Stop that from happening by buying everything you need in one trip and sticking with what you bought. You can still have veggies and fruit that is good for your last day with proper meal planning.
    • Make a grocery shopping list. Stick to what you planned to buy and don’t deviate. Impulse buys at the grocery store used to cost me a ton of money every month. By making a list and forcing myself to stick to it I save $10-$25 per grocery store trip since I’m not grabbing whatever looks good. Having a plan and a list also means nothing goes to waste which will save you money and frustration!
    • Clip coupons and shop the sales. This isn’t as hard as it sounds and once you’ve done it a few times it gets even easier. When you meal plan and know what something regularly costs you will be able to take advantage of the sales and save money by buying items at their lowest price. Using coupons as well will just add to your savings.
    • Adjust how you think about food. For some people food is the ultimate pleasure and they live to eat. This can be an expensive way to live since you will spend more on food that you enjoy. Adjusting how you think about food and recognizing it as just fuel for most of your meals will help you spend less overall. You can still cook or go out for decadent meals but they should be an occasional occurrence instead of every meal.
    • Take advantage of free food. While I don’t do this in the extreme, I definitely take advantage of free food where I can. I attend several networking events and meetups that are sponsored in the form of free food. Several days a month I get a free meal by attending these events. Chances are there are some days where you can attend an event or get a meal at work for free. If you have the opportunity, take it!
    • Eat with others at home. Host and attend potlucks and dinners at friend’s houses. Spreading the cost and time of cooking between multiple people helps save money. Just remember that you don’t have to serve the best food ever – spaghetti or hamburgers works just fine when you are spending time with people you love!

    Those are just a few of the the ways I now save money on food and keep my budget under control.

    It’s great to spend less money on food because it gives you more money to work with in other areas of your life. I’d much rather feel secure in paying my bills and having extra money to save than eating my way through my paycheck!

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  • Why & How We Refinanced Our Home in 2020

    I’ve shared a lot about our first home purchase from the starter home purchase price to the easy ways we were paying it off faster to drop PMI.

    Now I’m sharing the next phase in our home ownership journey: our mortgage refinance.

    Our Home Refinance Trigger

    When mortgage rates dropped to low levels in the middle of the pandemic during 2020 we decided it was finally time to start a refinance of our loan.

    We bought our home in 2016 and had been paying $99 a month in mortgage insurance premiums every single month since then. We had not found an opportunity that made since to refinance previously because we had a decent rate at 3.625%. The few times I looked into refinancing the interest rate was not low enough to give us any financial benefit.

    Once interest rates started dipping below 3% I knew it would be a good time to refinance for us because we might finally be able to get a deal good enough to break even from closing costs within a reasonable time frame.

    While the pandemic of 2020 is tragic in many ways it was a great financial opportunity as far as interest rates on mortgages went.

    Shopping Mortgage Refinance Offers

    Once I wanted to refinance I knew it was time to shop around and find the best mortgage refinance offer.

    To compare the offers I made sure to look at several things:

    • the new interest rate compared to my rate
    • the new payment compared to my payment
    • the total amount of closing costs
    • when I would break even based on closing costs

    Those were the most important factors. It makes no sense to refinance your mortgage if you aren’t getting a better deal that will start saving you money within a reasonable time frame, especially if the home is not your “forever” home.

    I decided that I wanted the interest rate to be 2.75% and less than $2,500 in closing costs, and preferably a 15 year loan. I set out to find just what I wanted!

    I began with Rocket Mortgage / Quicken Loans because they were constantly advertising to me and I’d previously reached out and their loan officer straight up told me it wouldn’t make sense for us (I valued the honesty instead of trying to make a sale). However this time I got a different person and it was not a pleasant experience. They were the first I checked with but the rate was higher than I wanted (I wasn’t refinancing who was pushy and would not get the rate below 2.99% with over $4,000 in closing costs. When I explained their costs were higher than I wanted the sales person got pushy and tried to explain interest rates to me like I didn’t understand how much money I could be saving. I already knew I wasn’t going with them based on having the worst quote but that experience was rude but unfortunately likely works on people who aren’t as savvy who then end up paying more.

    Because that first check on my credit had opened my mortgage shopping period I then checked with every single bank I could in my city as well as local credit unions. I figured if the larger national mortgage companies weren’t providing great service then I should turn to banks that were known for doing a better job.

    I got about 10 different quotes and some got close to what I wanted but not quite. I went ahead and checked with the bank I already used for business checking because it’s a regional bank who’s been great to deal with so far. They ended up giving me the best closing cost quote: just $2,000. They also agreed to lock me in at 2.75% and wouldn’t go forward with the paperwork unless that was a sure deal. At the time I contacted them rates were bouncing back up to 3% but they assured me that they were there to get me what I wanted … and they did!

    Our Mortgage Refinance Experience

    Because of the low closing costs and great rate I went with Iberia Bank for my mortgage refinance. I figured they would likely sell my loan to a larger servicer but the deal for my mortgage was just too good to pass up.

    Because I banked with Iberia already they allowed me to waive the appraisal of our home for the refinance. I’m not sure if that is 100% the reason or if it was also because of the pandemic or that they could look at real estate websites and conservatively estimate our house at an amount that would have us past 80% loan to value ratio.

    We didn’t have to do an appraisal but we did have to still provide a lot of paperwork.

    The video above shows the things you have to provide in order to refinance out of your FHA loan to a conventional mortgage during a refinance. Here are the things we had to provide during our refinance:

    • two years of tax returns
    • two years of W-2s
    • last two paycheck stubs
    • current mortgage statement
    • current insurance information
    • credit checks
    • credit check explanation (for mortgage shopping)
    • approval for no appraisal (you might have to do an appraisal)
    • explanations for anything confusing (my work had to provide one)
    • proof of identity

    Even though you already “own” the home you are creating a new mortgage so it’s very much like the first time you buy a home. You have to provide a lot of paperwork and “prove” yourself in order to qualify. They want to know that you have the income and stability to pay this new loan.

    Our refinance experience was interesting because they were so bogged down and busy during this period because many, many people were refinancing. We actually would go long stretches without hearing anything back from the bank. At points it felt like they had forgotten us but I knew they were overwhelmed and were working on it.

    In the end the underwriting and everything went smoothly and we closed on our refinance in April 2020.

    Our New Mortgage Details

    Our new refinanced mortgage is pretty great in my opinion and it’s set up to let us pay our home off even faster than we had originally planned.

    Here are the details for our new mortgage loan:

    • New loan amount: $142,000
    • Interest rate: 2.75%
    • Loan term: 15 years
    • Monthly principal & interest: $963.64
    • Monthly payment: $1,292.96
    • NO PMI

    This fit all of the requirements I wanted when I set out to refinance our mortgage.

    The break even for us was just under two years and we knew we planned to stay at least that long and potentially keep this house forever as a rental. With that in mind it was very exciting to be saving so much money in the long run and paying off this home much faster.

    As you can see from the most recent mortgage payoff video in July 2020 we are already paying off the mortgage at a much faster rate.

    Our new mortgage payment is $93 per month more than we were paying with our original loan each month yet we are more than doubling the amount we are paying toward our principal balance each month.

    With this new refinanced mortgage loan we are starting off with our first payment sending $638.22 to reducing the principal of the loan and that number will only increase over time. In just 9 months we will be sending over $650 per month to reduce the loan balance.

    This mortgage refinance has drastically increase how fast we will pay off this loan and reduced the amount of interest we will pay. Even if this is not our home forever I’m thrilled to see my money being used for equity instead of PMI and interest!

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  • What Makes Up Your Credit Score

    Your credit score is incredibly important for many reasons from buying a home to paying less on debt you do owe. People often use good credit to leverage their money and achieve more than those who have bad credit.

    If you are wanting to improve your credit and reach a good credit score so. you can have more opportunities then you first need to know what makes up your credit score.

    How To Get Your Credit Score

    You can get your free credit score from Credit Karma here via my affiliate link. You can also get free scores from major credit card providers.

    One thing to note is that Credit Karma and other free services offer your Vantage Score, not your FICO score. Most lenders use the FICO score as your credit score which means your free score you are tracking may be off. Based on what I’ve seen from hundreds of people it can be off anywhere from 2 points to 100 points depending on your credit profile.

    If you want your accurate credit score that lenders will see then you have to pay for it. You can purchase your score from the consumer facing side of the FICO brand at My FICO. This is the only option to see your FICO score unless you are working with a lender who will let you see it in their portal.

    You can get your FICO score at My FICO with plans starting at $19 a month, via this affiliate link and cancel when you don’t need it any longer.

    What Makes Up Your Credit Score

    The information in this post and video about what makes up your credit score is from Credit Karma. I chose to use Credit Karma as an example because it lays out the information well and makes it easy to understand. It’s also a FREE platform that has helped hundreds of thousands of people improve their credit.

    According to their platform (and from what I’ve seen in improving my own credit score), your credit score is made up of these 6 factors:

    1. Payment history
    2. Credit card use (credit utilization)
    3. Derogatory marks
    4. Credit age
    5. Total accounts
    6. Hard Inquiries

    As you will see, these factors also differ in how much they affect your score. Some will make more of an impact like payment history and others will make less of an impact like hard inquires.

    Seeing 6 factors makes credit seem less overwhelming since you only have 6 things to work on improving.

    Payment History

    Payment history makes a huge impact on your credit score. It’s well known it contributes almost a third of your score so making sure you pay bills on time is incredibly important.

    Even one late payment can injure your credit score and drop it by many points. It’s important that you always pay your bills on time and if you are late on any payments you make sure you try to correct or dispute it.

    Remember that a single 30 or 60 day missed payment is easy to recover from in the long run but will initially hurt your score a lot. A 90 day missed payment can be so damaging it leads certain loans and lenders to disqualify you automatically. This is all calculated via a formula that includes all possible payments on all accounts so the more missed payments you have the worse it will be and the harder it will be to recover.

    Lenders want to know that you will pay your bill on time so make this your highest priority when thinking about credit.

    • Action steps: Set up auto pay for as many bills as possible and set calendar reminders for due dates to make sure things get paid on time.

    Credit Card Use

    Credit card use or credit utilization is the calculation of how much of your credit you are actually using. Credit card use is a good way to measure this because credit cards are a line of credit where you have access to a lot of credit and can use it – or not.

    Credit card utilization matters most for each individual card but your score also takes into account the average use across all cards and lines of credit.

    The goal is to stay under 30% of your credit used and 10% is ideal. You don’t have to carry credit card debt or pay interest in order to build credit. You can open a couple cards and charge just a small amount and pay it off every month.

    • Action tip: Calculate your utilization rate for each credit card and then work on a plan to pay down balances to 10%.

    Derogatory Marks

    Derogatory marks like collections, bankruptcies, civil judgements and tax liens are all things that are negative and can negatively affect your credit score for a long time. These can stay on your credit report for 7-10 years so it’s best to avoid or remove them if possible.

    Debt collections have to have proof that you own the debt and everything is accurate so you can work through the process of verifying, disputing, and settling your debt.

    If it’s over a couple years old you may also just decide to let it fall off your credit report. The older a collections account is the less it will affect your credit score.

    • Action steps: Make a list of all the derogatory marks on your credit report. Start working on improving them by using the “pay for delete” method for collections.

    Credit Age

    Credit age is another important factor because creditors like to know that you are going to be using credit wisely for a long period of time before they lend to you.

    Experience handling credit is important and to show this you should always keep your oldest accounts open. I cringe when people pay off their credit cards then close the accounts because they hurts you so much in the long run.

    Make sure you keep your oldest credit card open and use it for 1 small thing every since month so it is active and not auto closed.

    • Action step: There isn’t much you can do here other than make sure you take out credit early and keep it active!

    Total Accounts

    The total number of accounts you have is another factor in your credit score but this one has a low impact on your actual score.

    Having different type of accounts like credit cards and installment loans is a factor in your score. This is something people generally build over time as they open more accounts with different types of credit.

    Personally I’ve seen that you generally want at least 2 credit cards in use and one installment loan in order to have the best credit.

    • Action step: Make a plan to strategically increase your accounts by opening a new line, but don’t just rush out and open multiple at once!

    Hard Inquiries

    Hard inquiries are a factor in your credit score and while they have a low impact, having too many can drop your credit score.

    Luckily unlike the other factors this is usually a temporary drop and will even back out after about three months.

    As you can see from my credit score slide above, we recently applied for a new refinanced mortgage which is why we had more inquiries and our score dropped temporarily.

    • Action step: Only apply for credit when you absolutely need it and try to plan ahead to minimize these inquiries in the year before you get a mortgage.

    Building Your Credit

    If you are struggling to build or repair credit then this should give you a good start to work on improving your credit. By focusing in on 6 different elements you are able to eliminate things that don’t matter but could waste your time.

    I recommend you start from the top of the list and then work your way down. You will get the most improvement from your efforts if you focus on what affects your score the most. This means getting organized and making a plan to strategically pay off debts and increase your credit score!

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