I Feel Good! – Repeat!

We all love to repeat those experiences that make us feel good! It’s a brain-thing! Our brain will release endorphins and dopamine when we experience something new, exciting or challenging. In recovery, we have learned all about dopamine.

Shopping can create those same feelings, and shopping comes in many forms, not just at the mall or online shopping. If we just finished a great vacation, we are quick to want to book another vacation! If we had an amazing meal with friends, we are so ready to go out to eat again. It’s really not so much for the food, but to repeat the fun that we had. It’s all normal!

Where it’s challenging, is when you are trying to stay on your budget or spending plan. You have worked hard to create a budget, to look at your expenses. You have set goals to save money, and as hard as it is, you have learned that even a small bit of money saved each day, will help towards those long term plans that you have made.

I had a student share with me that when he left work with his cash tips, he walked past his favorite shoe store everyday, and it was very tempting to go in there and shop. He asked for my advice, and I told him 3 things:

  • Go home a different way,
  • Go straight to the bank and deposit the tip money. Get it off your hands!
  • I also told him to put a picture in his wallet of his favorite retirement picture!

The thing about it is, it’s really hard for all of us to have that self-control at the moment. These temptations can happen anywhere at any time. It could have been a different shoe store, and worst yet, the shoes may have been on SALE! Then our brain, will rationalize, and more often then not, we have talked ourselves right into it, only feeling regret afterwards….

Planning for these temptations is so important! They will happen…No matter how tempting, go home, think about it, and then come back to it. It may still be a decision that is not in your spending plan, but at least you gave yourself time, and you did not give into the immediate gratification and impulse that the brain is programmed to do.

No matter what, keep visiting your goals, learn about yourself, and DO NOT beat yourself up! The only way to succeed is to constantly learn about ourselves, being honest and keep moving forward!

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Tax Day!

Today April 15th is the deadline for our individual tax returns to be filed. However, you can still file an extension today. What a relief! I am a retired CPA who was in public practice, so I know, how anxious my clients would get 😉. They would call my office trying to push through on the final details of their return, just to get it done, TODAY. Since I am retired and enjoying today, which does not include going into the office at 5:00 AM… I want to share with you, that it is OK, to file an extension. No, the IRS is not going to flag you for audit because of it.

Just because you file an extension, does not mean you don’t have to pay in your taxes. Your taxes are due today. Without getting technical, (because it may cause me a bit of the shakes), it would be wise to pay in what you think you may owe. If you overpay, try not to worry, when you file your return, you can get refunded back what you overpaid. If you underpaid, well, you may have assessed penalities… but think of it this way, they may be less than not paying at all🤔

It also would be wise, to have a tax preparer help you with this calculation, but in my experience with most CPA’s out there, today would not be a day to call and find out if they are taking on new clients!🤣

Another tip, if you feel like your tax return is not quite ready, don’t rush through it just to make the deadline. File that extension, and come back to it. Many mistakes are made that way. Turbo Tax allows you to file an extension on their software. There are other ways to file an extension today, go to IRS.Gov for more information.

Happy Tax Filing Day!

Thanks to EmojiOne for providing free emoji icons

Self-Talk

I recently read a book called: Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave: How to change your mind in 21 days. You can download the PDF book for free. It was recommended to me, and although hesitant, as we all can be… I read it. Why do I mention this in a money-matters blog? Our thinking is so important in order to take some of our money and put it away for day to day expenses, emergencies and our future. It’s certainly would be more fun to just take our money, deposit it, and just pay our bills or spend it without worrying about when it’s going to run out. We all need some type of discipline to manage our money, and discipline comes from our own thinking.

From my own experience with money, and learning from those that I teach Financial Literacy to, my family and with clients that I have worked with in the past as a CPA, I have noticed that the ones that reach out, ask questions and keep searching are taking notes and making some type of decision to make a change. Sometimes we go to a seminar or read something great, and that is how far it goes. It can go further! What is the next step? For me it was creating a daily activity that make me look at my expenses, categorize them, study my behaviors daily, and slowly I made a connection to my activities and my goals.

I encourage this book, to help you examine your own thinking about money matters. When I teach, I listen to great questions and see the excitement that a new idea or a AHA! moment brings in the class. I see some take notes. But what happens after I leave the class? Or what happens after you read good book or an article? What steps are taken to reach that goal, or make that change. The reason I recommend reading this book, is that it has easy steps and exercises to follow.

Here is a link that will give you the information to download the free PDF and read more about the author.

https://goo.gl/images/d2Aaaz

It is a simple and obvious fact that nothing of value can be achieved until you first see it in your mind. So tell me: When you unlock that secret treasure chest in your mind, what do you see?”  John Hargrave

Tax Refund? Don’t Make A Run For It!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I remember my first tax refund. I was 15 and working at Baskin & Robbins. My boss handed me the this envelope and said this is for your taxes. I panicked! What? I used to get a hand written check, taxes got taken out, but I thought that was all there was to it. My dad was the paper and numbers type, and he took me to our local library to get the forms and instructions to file my tax return. He walked me through it and Woot Woot!  I was getting money back. I was so excited, since I had no expectations and I had been saving money for a car. I was over the moon! What was your first tax refund like for you?

I challenge you to think about your tax refund and make a plan for spending it before you do your taxes.

Here are some tips for things to think about:

  1. Make a list of things you WANT such as: a vacation, new phone, new bedroom set, a new wardrobe, bike, car..
  2. Also make a list of things you NEED: tires, car repairs, braces, medical treatment, counseling, a Christmas club, savings for emergencies, new appliances, college fund, moving out on your own…
  3. Make a list of people you OWE make a note as to how you would feel if you did not owe them any money… sometimes our best relationships are strained over a few hundred dollars.
  4. Make a list of bills you owe that charge interest or late fees. Put on the top of your list the higher interest credit cards.
  5. Think about bills that have a high down payments, such as insurance, that can cause your budget to get off track for a few months.
  6. Think about your future retirement savings. Remember, if you don’t like going to work now, you won’t like it at age 65 either!

Be careful with tax refund places that will tempt you to go get your money fast. Do not be fooled that only “those” places offer big refunds. “Fast Refunds” can cost you hundreds of dollars.  Your tax refund is truly your money, based on overpayments of your taxes or a tax credit that you have already earned. If you choose direct deposit, you can have your money in 10 days with no fees.  If you don’t have a checking account/savings, then ask a trusted family member for theirs. Even if you receive a paper check from the IRS, it may take weeks to get it, it’s still worth the wait.

When you think of needs vs wants, then reasonably you may stop dreaming about the vacation and choose to pay someone back you owe. You may ignore retirement, because your car is falling apart. Even if you choose a vacation, plan for it and enjoy it! Whatever you choose to do, let it empower you! Make a point to remember what if feels like to have some “extra” money.

Remember, your tax refund is only a “forced savings”, it’s your money, the IRS just held on to it for a while…

Everyone

Lately I have been teaching Financial Literacy in the local jail of my area. It has opened my eyes to the recovering community and has humbled me in ways that are hard to explain. The goal with my blog has been to reach out to those in recovery.

I am not a therapist or a certified counselor. I am a Mom, wife and CPA. I have a life-long of experiences with money and all kinds of people. I have prepared thousands of tax returns for retirees, young adults, adults, self employed, and unemployed. It is the kind of profession, where everyone tells you their story.

I chose to direct my writing towards those in recovery, because I have a passion for helping those on the road to financial success! I also have loved ones in active addiction. Their journey include times in recovery. In my experience, in recovery, the mindset is open and ready to hear about saving money, they are excited and motivated. In active addiction, the intentions may be good, but money feeds the cravings first.

My experience with the men and women at the jails is the same. While incarcerated, most are excited about their future, opportunities and learning about money matters. whether addiction brought them directly or indirectly to jail, I don’t know, but it is an opportunity to help someone, plant a seed that may last a lifetime.

My writings are simple, hopefully meant to inspire, offer tips and help to just get started on a plan that is simple enough to keep going forward . I make them simple because for everyone, new habits are hard to keep, setting small goals and keeping them, eventually creates a lifestyle change.

My writings are for everyone, but for those in recovery who are searching for financial change, practicing the step of being self-supportive is a journey in itself. For those in active addiction, my hope is that they read something that inspires a hope for a future that includes financial freedom.

Slipping Through My Fingers

photography of hand during sunset
Photo by Bhupendra Singh on Pexels.com

If we were to think about how we spent our money, last week, last month or last year, we would probably write down the top 3 that repeat every month. Rent/mortgage, car payment, day care… but surprisingly the smaller amounts that hit our debit card, we don’t really think about them much, they add up, and our money just slips away.

It’s a new year challenge, first you have to know how you spend your money in order to make any kind of spending changes. Most of us start out the New Years, with resolutions and determination. Saving money is hopefully one of them!

Here are a couple of tips to get started on a path for 2019 and working on your money matters:

  • Open up a savings account and do not link your savings to your checking. That way you are not tempted to transfer the money over. Or open up a savings account in a completely different bank.
  • Deposit money every week, no matter what! Even if it’s a very small amount. The key is the discipline. The habit of making a deposit with every paycheck.
  • Look at your expenses every week. Challenge yourself to “say no” to something that you always do. For example, make your own coffee and don’t stop at the convenience store. Put that money into your savings.
  • Have a relative or close friend open an account for you in their name* deposit a small amount into that account from each paycheck. Do it every week, no matter what. The goal is to not touch this money at all until you meet a specific goal.  Obviously this person needs to be someone you trust. Create a goal for that money. My son and I have an agreement that when he reaches $1,500 the money will be used to buy a car. The money will not be used for anything else. *This is a suggestion for a short term goal, just to get the habit and discipline of savings started.
  • Don’t get discouraged, even if your weekly deposits are small!

For me, I had to shock myself with “knowing” how much I spent at 7-11 and got mad enough for a change. I started saving all the 7-11 receipts (yes paper!) added them up… Oh my! I was spending over $100 per month! I started to make my own coffee, and I made little baggies of M&Ms or Mini Oreos for the week, so I could take them on the run. I started to see not only how much money I was spending but also how much junk I was eating 🙂  Knowing was my key for change.  What is it for you?

Money slips through our fingers… watch it, learn from it and find ways to put the money back into your goals!

Heart of the Money Matter

 

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One Day At A Time is a fantastic slogan for all of us to remember and apply to our lives. In early recovery it is a life-line. Staying clean, each and every day is the only goal that matters the most.  So, at what point in recovery would be a healthy time to talk about money matters? Paying bills is one thing, and another would be to come to a place of readiness to really dig in and go over income and expenses, make a plan to pay back debts, and save money. Is the time now? If not, can you think of a time in the future where it makes more sense in your recovery. Talk it over with your sponsor, but set a date for the future.

NOW came for me when I was paying more in interest than my actual minimum payment due on my credit cards. I just had to change. I was paying my bills, but my debt was climbing. I felt so angry and frustrated because the money I made was barely enough to pay those minimum bills. I did not have any savings, so if my car broke down, I just kept charging…I had struggled every month with paying bills on time, and if I missed a day of work, then WOW, the late fees! I felt defeated, and my self-esteem was at a very low point. Being angry at myself did not pay my bills off any sooner…

Finally, I made some decisions that changed everything. I made a decision to work more hours, and send the entire extra amount that I made to my credit cards. I found a very inexpensive place to live with a roommate. I traded down my car. This empowered me, because I actually was paying my bills and paying down my debt. I did not look at how long it was going to take, I did not want anything to discourage me. I looked at everything I could do to save money, and I sent that money directly to the credit cards. I wrote several checks a month to the same card. For example, if I saved $50 on something like insurance or groceries, I sent the $50 to my credit cards right away, I didn’t wait for the due date. I wanted the money out of my hands as quickly as possible. It took me about 3 years, but finally, I was debt free! It was painful, I gave up many “things”. The habits I created then to become debt free, I have continued with… I had other financial challenges later on in life, because of this experience, I was able to get through another very difficult time later.

I wrote “…The End In Mind”, You Have To See It-to own it! AHA! YES! I SEE IT! , Know Thyself because for me, it was finally seeing it and recognizing that I was indulging in “rewarding” myself, (because I felt that I “deserved” it! Recognizing that trait in myself, was so important, because that is the reason I bought things I did not have the money for. I have learned through that experience that rewarding myself was actually sabotaging me!

That is part of my story, which is why I write about the “what” and “why” rather than the mechanics of making a budget. But what’s your story? Maybe it’s not at all like mine. Maybe working extra hours is a challenge, due to family responsibilities or family support. Maybe your bills are so high that a 3 year goal is not going to cut it. Maybe finding continuous employment is a challenge. I don’t know what your challenges may be… I hope to inspire you enough to sit down and look and see where a change can be made. If you are stuck, look for a non-profit organization and ask for counseling help. Talk to others in recovery that have walked your walk, but don’t give up! Look for ways stay positive and know that it is possible to change your heart of the money matters!

Budget Blues

Beating the Blues is not always easy.  Progress Not Perfection.

The hardest part about a budget is not the work involved in creating it, but in accepting that change has to happen.  Knowing that you must make a change in your money-matters and then putting it off is normal… but the consequences of not managing money comes right back to you when money is short for something like rent, credit cards… and  you either have to borrow money or be late on the next bill.  The Budget Blues keep growing, it comes around and whispers to you, “give up, you can’t do it” and self-esteem goes down…

“Progress Not Perfection”  is a great slogan in recovery.  I recommend to start with one small goal.  It  could be to look at your  receipts for 4 weeks.  Save them all, and review them.   Remember, Progress, not perfection!  Set a date for yourself to make the next goal, and keep moving forward!

The truth about a budget, is that it seems like it’s confining and restrictive, but it’s the opposite of that.  Paying bills on time and saving some money gives us an incredible feeling of empowerment.   It’s such a great feeling that we want to keep doing it.  We start seeing bills go down, or we pay someone back we owe.  It’s an awesome feeling!

Progress not Perfection!

Can’t See The Forest for the Trees

“It means that if you look at things one at a time, you might not realize that a branch of separate “trees” go together to make a forest.” (Urban Dictionary)

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The trees… what are the trees in your life?  Life is so busy, our day-to-day activities can be overwhelming.  When it comes to money-matters, we can have a ton of reasons for the trees in our lives, that don’t allow us to see the big picture, the forest.

It is my hope that the experience that I gained in 12 years of working in my CPA practice, will help you see, what I have learned from preparing thousand’s of tax returns for individuals and small businesses.  Most people wait for a deadline. Why? Because life is busy. We have so many other things to do that are “more important” than sitting down and looking at depressing bills and expenses. Even when there is a deadline for taxes, most people push it off, it’s very normal! Guess who are first in line? Those getting a refund! Money in hand is very motivating for most of us!  Believe me… a budget can put money in hand!

I want to inspire you to take a look at your expenses and create a budget? The power of compound interest is powerful because of “time”.  Check out this simple example:

$10,000 loan at 14% with a $200 a month payment will be paid off in approximately 6.5 years.  Add $100 a month to that same loan and it’s paid off in 3.5 years! Wow! 

It can be so motivating to find that extra money each month, that most people just keep finding new ways to save money! Your self-confidence will go up! Guaranteed!

You may need to take your day off to do it. You may not like what you may see, but don’t beat yourself up, don’t rationalize it, just look at it, and just do it!

Make a date for yourself and your Forest.

 

The “B” word…Beating Around the Bush about…

BUDGETS!

I have set some realistic goals for todays needs, a bit later in life and retirement…”

Now that you have made some notes in your money journal about your spending habits, this next step is to roll up your sleeves and dig in! Are you ready? Get your bank statements and start to break them down! Go back 1 year if you can.  We look back to go forward! We can set some goals if we truly see where we are with our expenses. Let’s get real!

START with each expense and categorize them in columns.  I will call them buckets. I recommend you go back 1 year in expenses. Why? Well, the unexpected budget-breakers are 1 time expenses that just show up in life. Tip: If you have a lot of ATM withdrawals, that may be a challenge, allocate those into the buckets (gas, food, … ). It does not have to be perfect, just keep going! Don’t get stuck on the details.  Here are the buckets:

Housing* Automotive* Food* Medical*  Entertainment* Clothing* Other

Do not create too many buckets, so that you are not overwhelmed.  You can group expenses together, so that you can see where your money is going. Then you can split those up afterwards.  For example , you can combine Utilities  with Rent; and Auto Insurance with Gas; Food with Coffee Outings.  Keep it simple and put the numbers in these categories. If you use the “Other” category, then write a note and re-bucketize (my word) them later.

PATIENCE  is so important.  This may take longer than you think.  It’s OK, walk away, and come back to it.  You may find that you have some expenses for example, Amazon, that you need to go online for.  Hang in there and remember what your goal is. Set a date in your calendar and come back to it.

ADD THEM up and make some decisions…can you find some money to create a new bucket for either saving some money or paying off a debt? It does not matter how small the amount is, the key is to start with something, anything. It’s totally empowering to see that this works even with the smallest amount.

LOOK at your expenses and compare it to your paycheck: Budgeting is setting a limit for each bucket and you are

DONE!

KEEP UP: In order for this to work, you have to figure out how you can see what you are spending in “real-time” and compare it to your budget often. Are you ready for that?  I look at mine each week especially the groceries and entertainment buckets.

Remember to keep your goals in front of you, pray and reflect on them.  Were you able to come up with some extra money at the end of the week or month?  Can you find some expenses in your worksheet to cut back on?  If you could have money left over, can you start paying off a debt, build your savings account or both?  Maybe your goal is to pay your bills on time? By seeing where your money goes, you can start making changes for your future!

Happy Budgeting!

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