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Finance Tips for the Holiday Season

The holiday season can get pretty expensive. Starting with candy and costumes for family and neighbors in October, followed by a feast of food in November and all of the gifts, gatherings, and extras around the winter holiday season, bills can really add up. Unfortunately, your wallet may not be able to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are several ways to help you save money while still allowing you to delight in the magic and wonder of the holidays.

Set a budget

It’s easy to spend money when you don’t try to set a cap on how much you’re allowed to spend. Without a budget, you’ll be more likely to overspend. Sit down and work numbers before even setting foot in a store so you know exactly how much you have to spend. On average, people spend around $704 during the holiday season, but that is all dependent on an individual’s personal financial situation.

Do your research

Everyone is going to be advertising that they have the best deal on a specific product during the holiday season. It’s up to you to do your homework and see who’s actually telling the truth. You can comparison shop right from the comfort of your own home by looking up prices online. That way, you’ll know you’re getting the best deal.

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

Mortgage Tips for Young Homebuyers

For some young people, creating a home is the first major post-graduation decision they’ll make. While young adults might have little capital available, research into mortgages can help these homebuyers make the most informed, budget-friendly decisions. Here are a handful of mortgage tips for young homebuyers.

Access to Special Financing

While younger people might not have much of a credit history, there are options that can help them get into houses. If you’ve never bought a house, there are opportunities for first-time home buyers. These sometimes come with relatively low interest rates. They also come with low down payment requirements for the house’s residents. This will allow you to get into a house without having to save a large sum for a down payment.

More Flexibility

Those who are young tend to have more flexibility. They’ve just entered adulthood. Therefore, living with roommates and sharing a kitchen or bathroom is usually not a big deal. Additionally, younger adults who are unmarried and without children can find value in having roommates. By taking on a roommate or two, you could effectively have them pay off a significant portion of your mortgage and help you build wealth. These less structured options provide plenty of flexibility for young people, and something as simple as renting out a room can lead to cost benefits.

 

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

Common Financial Mistakes Many People Make

Rarely, does someone have a perfect financial history.  Mistakes in finance are common and it’s likely that most people have experienced them at one point or another.  The important thing is to figure out how to correct them, as they can tend to pile up and create somewhat of financial hardship.  However, don’t panic; with the right tools, you can easily change your financial habits. The following tips are a great guide and provide insight into the many financial mistakes people tend to make.

Too Many Monthly Payments

You may not realize it, but your monthly payments tend to add up, quickly.  Many people are seeking the “better” things in life, so they’re willing to tack on monthly finance payments to acquire the things they desire.  And while the monthly payments may not seem like a big hit at the time, the more you have, the more they tend to add up. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for people to have monthly payments that are more on the unnecessary side.  Consider the gym, for example. While for some, a gym membership is a great investment, for others, it may just be a monthly bill that isn’t regularly utilized.  Consider where your bills each month are going, and see which ones are actually necessary.

High Credit Balances

While credit cards may seem like a great way to get what you need, without having to see your bank account take an immediate hit, they can do more harm than good if they aren’t used properly.  Think of a credit card as borrowed money; money that needs to be paid back, and should be paid back in full to avoid any further charges like interest and late fees. The days of cash only are gone for many people, as credit cards are a regular part of today’s society.  Utilize your credit cards to purchases that you know you’ll be able to pay in full and avoid using them for everyday purchases that will increase your balance quickly…

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

Increasing Your Savings Account Contributions

We frequently talk about ways to manage your credit score, combat debt, and be financially free.  One of the best ways to work towards financial freedom is having a savings account and directly contributing to it regularly.  A savings account is a great way to budget your money, and give yourself a nice fund for your future and any major life events that might come your way, such as purchasing your first home, or sending your child to college.  If you already have a savings account, you may want to find ways to increase your contributions. Here are a few key ways to do so:

Evaluate Expenses

Always evaluate your expenses before you get into forming your plan.  The amount of money you save will likely be based partially on how much you’re spending per month.  So you’ll want to calculate your monthly bills, and how much you spend on any other monthly expenses, such as food, gas, dry cleaning, etc.  If you’re finding your spending habits are extreme and are preventing you from regularly contributing to your savings account, find ways to cut back on things that may not be that necessary or important.

Set Achievable Goals

The first step in creating any solid savings plan is setting goals that are realistic and achievable.  You’ll want to base these goals on your current finances; how much money you bring in a month, versus your spending and expenses.  Once you have figured that out, set goals that make sense with your finances, whether that’s a specific portion of your paycheck per week or working on a monthly basis…

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

Are You Making These Common Finance Mistakes?

It happens every month without fail. When payday rolls around on the third Friday of the month, your bank account looks healthy – filled with money to spare, even. With a few easy taps on your banking app, you’ve sent off your rent, covered your electric bill, and paid off a little of your credit card debt. You decide it will be alright if you splurge a little on dinner, a movie, a maybe even a quick weekend trip to the local shopping center. A week or so later, you absentmindedly swipe open your banking app – and stare in disbelief. Your bank balance is practically anemic. Where did all of your money go?

Spending Impulsively

Your morning Starbucks latte could be costing you. Crunch the numbers: a venti latte costs roughly $4 a pop. If you multiply that times the five days in a work week, you find yourself with a coffee bill of $20 a week, or a full $80 a month. In other words, the money you spend on coffee alone could have covered your entire grocery bill for a month. Small expenses add up – so avoid making impulse purchases. If you think you might be splurging just a little too often, check! At the end of the month, compile all of your card charges and assess how much you spent on necessary items or services (i.e., rent, food, gas) versus how much you spent on unnecessary treats or luxuries. You might just find yourself reconsidering your coffee budget afterwards.

Paying Too Many Subscriptions

Do you really need Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and HBO Go? Probably not. Signing onto a service may seem simple and cheap when you’re in the free trial period, but those monthly fees accumulate quickly. Do an inventory of the subscriptions you have and decide which ones you can afford to cut ties with.

Living on Credit

Having a credit card doesn’t give you access to free money! Credit card companies make their enormous profits off of people who make minimum payments and allow interest to accrue. Just think – by leaving the expense of a single small item on your balance, you could end up paying out twice the original price in interest and fees. Believing in the “free money” myth could cost you money; living on credit could leave you bankrupt.

Overspending on Housing

You may want the in-building gym or slickly designed kitchen – but can you afford it? According to a report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, over one-third of all American households spend 30% or more of their take-home pay on housing expenses. Most financial advisors set the expense ceiling for rent at 30% of a person’s take-home pay; however, even this might be too high for someone struggling to pay off hefty student loans or provide for a family. Don’t let a nice apartment or charming home lure you deeper into debt. If you do, you might find yourself needing to sacrifice your personal life and stay home far more than you ever wanted to.

“Keeping Up” With Others

If all of  your friends leapt into crippling debt, would you follow? The answer might not be as easy as you think. Sometimes, it can be difficult to say no to a weekend trip or fancy dinner – even if you know that the expense would eat into your budget for the month. Make a habit of thinking your budget first, and fun second – or risk losing out on a significant chunk of potential savings.

 

*Originally posted on JBowmanAccountant.info

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John J. Bowman Jr Accountant, personal finance, tax

Taxes: DIY or HIRE

Tax season is right around the corner. If you remember last year’s season, you may have been left with frustrations, questions, and concerns. Many people are beginning to wonder if it’s worth hiring an accountant, or if they should file their taxes themselves using programs such as Turbotax. Filing taxes is an important, yet very tricky duty. But I’m here to tell you that there is no right or wrong answer; the choice is simply yours. The ultimate decision simply comes down to you and your preference for filing, and no one can tell you which is the better choice. However, there are some helpful things to think about when the time for filing comes along.
Before you begin the tax process you’ll want to ask yourself is, “How organized are you?” Receipts and records of transactions are critical elements of tax filing. Whether you hire a professional, or do your taxes yourself, you will need these records. Here are some things to consider when deciding how to file your taxes this year.
DIY
Whether or not you did your taxes yourself last year, one of the things you’ll need to consider is has your work life or personal life changed in a considerable way. If you haven’t spent a lot of money on investments or big charitable donations, then it may be a good idea to file your taxes on your own. Another thing to consider is whether or not you understand the numbers and vocabulary that come with taxes. If you understand tax laws and have the time and patience to look up questions of concern, then you can file your taxes on your own. Filing taxes is also a good idea if you’re filing alone. Without any dependents, the filing process becomes less challenging, and may save you money. For example, if your total income is less than $50,000, you may qualify for free filing. The simpler your transactions throughout the past year were, the easier it will be for you to file your taxes on your own.
HIRE
Hiring a tax professional comes with many benefits. For one, you’ll know that you won’t make any important legal mistakes when filing. Typically, if you own a business or make over $200,000 per year, you will want to hire a professional to file your taxes. The reason is because the more money coming in, the more confusing deductions become. Hiring a professional is also a great idea because you may qualify for certain deductions or exemptions that a professional would be able to find for you.
If you’ve had any major life changes such as buying a property, getting a new job, or getting married, you will probably want to consider hiring a professional. First of all, it will take the stress off of you by making sure everything is filed correctly. Filing taxes after a life change can become very challenging. Second, it can take a lot more time to file, which can become frustrating. With a professional at hand, you will be able to get a thorough explanation and understanding of any questions or concerns you may have.

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