blog, personal finance, Uncategorized

The Best Holiday Shopping Budget Tips

Holidays are a time for giving, but giving too much can also put you in a huge financial hole. If you don’t want to end up having to dig yourself out of a shopping deficit at the end of December, follow these holiday shopping budget tips.

1. Set an overall budget.

Think about what you’re really able to spend overall and stick to that amount. What you’ll spend on each individual can fluctuate within that amount, but the overall budget should remain the same to avoid overspending.

2. Make a list of gift recipients, then trim it down.

Your second cousin whom you haven’t seen in 10 years probably doesn’t need a new set of dinner plates. Stick to the closest family members and friends for gift giving. If you still want to send something to long-lost relatives and acquaintances, a holiday photo card is a nice, inexpensive idea.

3. Use cash for purchases.

Credit cards can make it much easier to overspend. Instead, put cash aside at the beginning of the holiday shopping season and use that money to make purchases. If you prefer online shopping, create a separate account for your holiday shopping money, or be extremely disciplined in sticking to your budget.

4. Take advantage of free shipping.

Online shopping is convenient, but the shipping costs can really add up. Take advantage of free shipping days by making several gift purchases at once. Most retailers offer free shipping if you spend a certain amount.

5. Start shopping early.

Waiting until the last minute can cause you to overspend. Starting your holiday shopping as early as September or October is a good idea because you can shop a little bit at a time. Everyday deals are often better than Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals anyway, and you’ll be more likely to score the big-ticket items that might sell out on these busy shopping days.

6. Think quality, not quantity.

One thoughtful gift is more appreciated than several random items. Homemade gifts are also a good idea as they come from the heart. The best part is, they’re also less expensive.

Stay on budget with these holiday shopping tips and enjoy the season!

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Estate Planning Simplified

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Nobody likes thinking about dying, but, if you die without a plan in place, you’ll be leaving your assets and your family in a difficult position. In that case, you’ll be taking the chance that the state’s probate laws will work in your family’s favor. It’s much more advantageous to develop a simple estate plan.

Start With a Will

Above all, you need a will to ensure certain arrangements will meet with your approval. Even if you don’t have many assets, you should use your will to identify your heirs and determine how assets will be divided up among them. More importantly, a will is the only way you can choose guardians for your minor children and make arrangements for their care.

Add a Living Trust

Your estate plan should also include a living trust. If you have significant assets, or if you want to make sure a loved one receives a specific piece of property, a living trust will serve this purpose better than a will. Since a trust is a private document, it typically won’t be included in the probate process. This means any property transferred via the trust will also be kept out of the probate process.

Care for Yourself With Powers of Attorney

An estate plan can also help you take care of yourself in the future by helping you choose people to make medical care and financial decisions for you. A healthcare proxy allows you to choose someone you trust to make decisions regarding your healthcare if you’re ever in a situation in which you can’t communicate your wishes. Under those same circumstances, a financial power of attorney will appoint someone of your choosing to take care of your finances until you’re able to act on your own behalf.

While you could probably create a simple will that’s legally binding, it’s a smarter move to consult an estate planning attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you draft the other documents you’ll need for your estate plan, and they can explain how the laws in your state will affect your final wishes. Creating a simple plan for the future may seem bothersome, but you’ll be surprised by the peace of mind it provides once it’s done.

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

The Benefits of Online Banking

Technology has infiltrated into the banking industry, facilitating what is currently known as online or internet banking. The concept of internet banking revolves around banks providing ordinary banking services to customers through the web, thereby eliminating the need for them to walk into a banking hall. Online banking has proven to be a major lifesaver, especially given the convenience it causes to bankers. Here is an outline of some of the key benefits of online banking.

Facilitating Convenient Access to Banking Services

Bankers do not have to wait for official working days and hours for them to access banking services in banking halls. As long as they have access to the internet and a computer or mobile phone, banking customers can conveniently access their accounts while on the go. This convenience of online banking ensures that customers do not have to experience delayed access to their money or any other types of banking services.

Instant Cash Transfers

Online banking services give customers the ability to remotely transfer funds from one account to another at the touch or click of a button. This eliminates the many hours of waiting that customers have to endure with non-online banking. The instant transactions help facilitate convenience when it comes to funding bankers’ businesses and personal needs…

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Top Personal Finance Apps of 2019

Many people struggle with managing their money. Tracking bank balances and expenses can be tedious and somewhat dull. The good news is the technology industry has made it much easier to balance checkbooks and pay bills using the power of smartphones and apps. There are hundreds of personal finance apps to choose from, so here are some of the best personal finance apps of 2019 to help narrow down the list.

Prism for Bill Payment

Prism combines all your bills and bank balances in one user-friendly platform. You can schedule bills for payment and receive due date notifications. There is no charge to download the app, and it is compatible with Windows 8, Kindle, iOS, Windows Phone, and Android phones.

EveryDollar for Budgeting

Dave Ramsey, the well-known personal finance guru, helped design this app’s budgeting features. The app features a built-in expense tracker that connects to your financial institution. Using this feature, you can see how much you have spent each month and how much money you have left to spend. The app also has financial planning that lets you contact money management experts.

Clarity Money for Managing Subscriptions

This app lets you manage all of your monthly subscriptions in one platform. Unfortunately, many people cannot keep track of all their subscriptions and do not realize just how much money they are spending. Clarity Money eliminates the need to handle monthly subscriptions individually…

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John J. Bowman Jr Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Creating a Healthy Retirement Plan

Building a healthy retirement plan is possible. Sure, it may be more difficult for self-employed folks than those who have access to a workplace plan. However, no matter the source of an income, it’s possible to save for retirement. Here are some steps to take.

Open An Account

The first step toward building a healthy retirement plan is simply opening an account. Those who have access to a 401(k) plan from work can start there. Those who are self-employed can open up a Solo 401(k) or a SEP-IRA account. Both can open up a Traditional or a Roth IRA as long as they fit the income parameters. The important thing is to just start.

Pay Off Debt

Outside of a mortgage, it’s a good idea to pay off debt as soon as possible. Every dollar that goes toward paying off a previous debt is a dollar that cannot go toward retirement savings. Additionally, with debt, the power of compounded interest is acting against the borrower and in the favor of the lender. By paying off the debt, the power of compound interest begins to work in the favor of the saver, and over time, it can really lead to a healthy nest egg.

Think About An HSA

Health Savings Accounts, better known as HSAs, are intended to accumulate funds for medical expenses. Many people are unaware of another benefit of these funds. After age 65, account holders can access the funds without penalty. Only regular income taxes are due at that point. As long as the funds are used as intended before that point, the money is tax-free going in. They are also tax-free while invested and when disbursed to pay for medical bills. Every dollar that does not go to the tax man is a dollar that can be invested for retirement..

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Building Financial Independence After College

College years bring forth an abundance of growth and independence for students alike.  You’re likely getting into the habit of managing your school work and class schedule completely on your own, and if you’re taking advantage of on-campus housing you’re living on your own for the first time.  With all of these new life milestones coming to light, there’s a good chance that though you’re taking your own independent strides, you may still be under a parental wing, financially. As graduation is approaching for many college students this month, it may be time for you to consider the best ways to adapt to the real world, and potentially build your financial independence.  Here are a few tips:

Open Your Own Account/Credit Card

The first major step to building your own financial freedom after college is looking into opening your own bank account or credit card if you haven’t already.  Visit a bank that you trust, and sit down with a banker that will help set you up with the right type of account, preferably one that builds interest or provides you with small rewards.  As for a credit card, building your credit is an essential part of growing up; however, always be careful when using a credit card. To build your credit wisely, make small purchases that you can pay off in full each month.  Racking up a high balance that requires you to make minimum payments can ultimately do more harm than good in the long run. Additionally, you’ll want to research which credit card would work best for you. Many companies offer different programs and rewards and incentives; make sure you find what fits your financial situation best…

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Healthy Financial Advice for Couples

Combining finances can be one of the stickiest parts of starting a new relationship. While it might not be true that two can live as cheaply as one, it is true that couples can take advantage of economies of scale. For example, there is no need to pay for two houses or apartments. Here are some good pieces of financial advice that can really help couples.

Don’t Keep Secrets

This is especially important when you get married. Both partners need to provide full financial disclosure. Married couples legally share most assets. Unfortunately, they also share debts. Therefore, it’s imperative to get everything out on the table because keeping financial secrets can lead to unnecessary stress on a relationship.

Assess Your Comfort With Risk

Investing is the only way to really grow a nest egg over time unless you’re stashing tens of thousands every year. Not everyone has the same level of risk tolerance. Discussing the acceptable level of risk for each partner is a good way to stay on the same page financially.

Talk About Priorities

Many, if not most, couples will have a saver and a spender. For the spender, a new car or a bigger house might be at the top of the priorities list. For the saver, maxing out a 401(k) or saving for emergencies might take priority. Regardless, it’s a good idea to understand what your partner wants to accomplish with the money your household brings in. Making concessions in some areas can be a great way to avoid unnecessary conflicts…

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John J. Bowman Jr Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

Student Loan Myths

Many people take out student loans in an attempt to ensure they earn more over their working lives. Overall student loan debt in the US is now more than $1.5 trillion. Those in such debt generally have a great desire to pay it off. This leads to many myths around the subject of student loan debt. Here are a few to avoid.

You Can’t Pay Student Loans Early

There is a common myth that says you have to pay the stated amount each month and that it’s impossible to pay off student loan debt early. This is not the case. It is indeed possible to pay extra and take care of student loans before the actual term of the loan is finish. There’s no penalty for paying early, and you may be able to save thousands in interest costs in the process.

You’re Stuck With Your Interest Rate

Student loans can come from the government, and they can come from private lenders. Those who take out loans from multiple lenders will likely get stuck with a variety of interest rates. Private loans can come with higher interest rates, but there’s no need to be stuck with a bad rate. It’s possible to refinance these loans and save money in the process. There is the possibility to consolidate the loans into one loan if you have a good credit score.

You Can Skip Payments

Some borrowers are stuck with very large student loan payments each month. There is an option for income-based repayment plans. Others might think skipping a payment or two is a good idea from a cash flow standpoint. Actually, this idea could not be further from the truth. Going into default on a student loan will hurt your credit score. Additionally, the interest will continue to compound on the unpaid amount, which will increase the amount of debt you actually owe…

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, Uncategorized

What To Know About Financing A Car

One of the first large purchases a person typically makes is a car. Although the process can seem a bit daunting, it is far less complicated than it seems. Once you have a basic understanding of what financing a car means, you will be far more capable of choosing the right option for you.

To get started, take a look at what financing a car means: put simply, you want to be a car, but you don’t have the money to pay for it in full. So instead, you finance the vehicle or pay the car off over time with either a loan or a lease. The most important thing to understand about financing is that along with the loan or lease comes interest rates, fees, and other costs, so although financing happens more often than not, it is more expensive to do so than to purchase the car outright.

Once you have determined that financing a car is your best option, it is time to look at whether you want to finance through a loan or a lease.

Loan v. Lease

There is a distinct difference between loaning and leasing: when you are financing a car with a loan, you are paying to own the vehicle, whereas if you are financing a car with a lease, you’re paying to use the car, not to own.

Financing a car through a loan consists of 3 factors: the loan amount, the annual percentage rate (APR) and the length of the loan. Use a calculator like THIS one to determine how various loan amounts, APRs and loan periods will affect your monthly payment. Other essential components to remember:

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John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance, tax, Uncategorized

4 Ways to Wisely Use Your Tax Refund

Now that tax season is fully underway, you may be thinking about what you want to do with your tax return when it comes in.  For some, it might go right into a savings account.  For others, it might be an opportunity to splurge on different items you’ve had your eye on.  A healthy balance between the two, is looking into some wiser ways you can utilize your refund.  If you’re waiting on your refund to come in, consider some of these great options to put it towards:

Contribute to Your Emergency Fund

You may have one already, and if you don’t, it might be a good time to consider starting one.  An emergency fund is a great tool to have in case you encounter an unfortunate major expense that you wouldn’t regularly have the funding for.  You can contribute to your emergency fund on a regular basis depending on your pay schedule. However, when your tax refund comes in, depending on the amount, you may be able to make a large contribution, and give yourself a better financial cushion in the event of an unexpected expense.

Invest in a Down Payment

You may be in the process of looking for a new home, or even a car.  Both of these purchases are likely to require some sort of down payment, especially if you want your monthly payments reduced as much as possible…

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