What is the bare-bones budget?
The bare-bones budget is designed by Better Budget to help you get started with finances. With it, you can set up a solid budget that's extremely easy to maintain and understand. Your budget will be divided into three categories: Bills, Spending, and Savings. You'll setup a budget following best practices and even start to grow a savings! Read the steps below to get started!
Want us to do this for you?
I'll help you set up your bare-bones budget for free! I recommend doing this if you don't like math or find it overwhelming. I also recommend it if you're having a hard time getting through the steps below.
I just need a few things to get started...
Once you gather these things, just message me and make sure to leave your email. I'll get started on your budget right away!
Steps to the bare-bones budget
1. Open two checking accounts and a savings
The first step is to simply have two checking accounts and one savings account. It's not required, but you'll see later how much easier it is if you have the three. Eventually, you'll have just the accounts you need, but that's for more advance budgeting methods. For now, we're keeping it easy and simple. We just want you to get you started with budgeting.
2. Add up all your bills
Add together all the bills you're required to pay per month. Netflix, Spotify, rent, electric, water, student loan payments, credit card payments, etc. I want you to find every thing you pay for per month. Then, add it all together. Here's an example:
3. Figure out a savings goal
A savings goal will be a percentage. You'll hear many different recommendations, ranging from 10%-50% of your take home pay. We'll be taking a percentage of your after-bills (the required payments from step 2) pay, so you can take a little bit of a higher percentage and still be okay. Something normal would be like 15%, 20%, or 25%.
4. Calculate your percentages
This will probably be the most math you have to do. You may have not realized it, but you just divided your paycheck into three categories: Bills, Savings, and Spending. Now, we have to figure out the percentage of your paycheck for each category. Don't worry, I'll walk you through it and if you still need help, just message me. I highlighted the formulas in blue below.
I know the math can be difficult. Just message me for help, if you need it. Math comes easy to me, so I'm confident I can figure out your numbers in only a few minutes.
Let's call our friend Joe.
5. The hard math is over, finishing things up
You will now have three important numbers, your Bills Percentage, Savings Percentage, and Spending Percentage. Remember the 2 checking accounts and the savings account you had from step 1? This is how it maps....
Joe get's paid $1400 from his bi-weekly paycheck.
6. Keep up with it
This budget is called bare-bones because it's made to be not complicated. The math might have seemed hard, but keeping up with it is simple and easy. You just repeat step 5 every time you get paid. Then, simply use checking 1 for all your bills and checking 2 for any spending. If you do this, you're practicing budgeting and on your way to becoming a budgeting expert!
For this budget to work, pay your bills from Checking 1 (i.e. your bills checking) and spend from Checking 2 (i.e. your spending checking). If you don't follow this, you'll make keeping up with the budget harder for yourself!
I'm really happy with how this post turned out. Again, I'll help you get started with your budget if you just message me. I only need a few details to get started on your awesome bare-bones budget! Thanks for reading the Better Budget blog.
Update: As you probably can see, I updated the style to the blog. Let me know what you think! This is only temporary, as I'm working on a Better Budget website now, which will give it an even newer, sleeker look. We've also started social media accounts! You can follow us on Instagram @BetterBudgetCo. You can also find the direct link to our accounts on the right. More social media accounts to come!
How many financial accounts do you have? Savings, checking, investment, and retirement accounts. I bet you have at least 5, but why so many? I'm sure every account you have doesn't have a purpose too. Having 3 savings accounts probably isn't much different than having just 2 or 1, so why keep them? I don't think you should.
An enormous part of personal finances is the psychological side and that's important to understand. Consolidating down to just the accounts that have a purpose will be a psychological action that will improve your finances. Consolidating down to just the accounts you need might not put you in a better position financially, but it will help your finances be less overwhelming and easier to manage. Of course, these outcomes may lead to financial gain, but that's not the point. We want our psychological side of our personal finances to improve.
Follow these steps to consolidating your accounts
There are two ways you can consolidate. First, you can consolidate down to have less accounts (e.g. having 1 checking account, instead of two). Second, you can consolidate down to one platform (e.g. having a savings account and an investment account at the same bank, instead of at different banks). For you, it will be a combination. The goal isn't to consolidate down to one account. The goal also isn't to get all your accounts on the same platform. The goal is to simplify your finances.
Below you'll find my consolidation as an example. I haven't completed the entire process yet, but I'm working on it now. I wanted to share it to help you understand how to consolidate your own finances.
1. List of accounts and their platforms
2. For each account, write the purpose for it. Okay to leave blank.
3, 4, and 5. Consolidate, Perform, Improve.
In steps 3, 4, and 5, you can see I consolidated to what I needed and then changed some of the accounts to get the maximum benefit for the purpose I have. For example, switching from Wells Fargo Savings to Betterment increased my yearly interest from <.01% to 2.68%, which is pretty close to inflation. I switched my individual brokerage account from Wells Fargo (who had a trade fee) to a company that doesn't have trade fees. Then finally, I consolidated my retirement accounts onto one platform, Fidelity. Then, I closed accounts I just don't use anymore, like my old checking account and Acorns. They served a purpose at one time, but they don't anymore.
I consolidated down from 11 different accounts to 8. My platform count (5) stayed the same, but I improved many of my accounts by changing platforms, whether they offer lower fees or higher interest rates. Overall, it's less overwhelming, easier to manage, and more financially beneficial.
Your plan will probably look totally different then mine. The important part is that you choose a consolidation plan that fits your finances the best. Determining the best plan for your consolidation might be hard, so please reach out to me. I'll help for free.
I do have one announcement. We're starting to create social media accounts for Better Budget. The first is @BetterBudgetCo on Instagram, so please follow! More social media accounts to come. I hope you enjoyed reading Better Budget and that it helped improve your personal finances!
If you Google "First time home-buyers help", you'll be swarmed by articles and advertisements claiming to have the answer. They fight for your attention, like two dogs playing tug-of-war with a rope and you're the rope. You feel pulled between a lot of different "answers" and "solutions". They're not all bad, but they often don't cover the entire process. You get served a meal, without an appetizer. I'm going to serve you the appetizer and explain today how you can prepare to buy a home. In this post, you'll learn about what you can afford, how to save for for a home, and how long it will take.
I broke down the process into 4 simple steps. If two people went through these 4 steps individually, they both would come out with different answers. My point being, these steps are tailored for you and your situation. They're not hard-rules, like a lot of financial-guru's preach. I like to keep things dynamic and adjust to your situation. So, let's get started!
Step 1: How much can you afford?
I want you to head over to Chase's mortgage calculator. Then, fill out the form like this:
I filled out this form for a hypothetical couple that makes a combined $90,000 per year ($7,500 per month before taxes). This couple pays $300 to debt each month. They chose to have a 5% down payment.
Don't worry about the results yet, just fill out the form :)
Step 2: What's your timeline?
Next, what's your timeline? Your timeline isn't when you want to move into your home. Rather, it's when you want to have the available funds. Most likely, you'll move into your home 1-3 months after you save the enough funds.
I recommend choosing a time span, i.e. not a target date. It makes the math easier. So, for our hypothetical couple, let's say their time span is 2 years. If you want to, you can choose a target date. For example, "I want to save enough for a home by January 1, 2021."
Step 3: Calculate!
Alright, now for the fun part! There may seem like a lot of steps, but I purposefully broke it out to keep things simple. I'll first summarize the steps, then show you how our hypothetical couple would calculate it. If you're not the greatest at math, I'll help you out. Just message me.
Now, let's go through these steps for our hypothetical couple. Remember, our couple makes a combined $90,000 per year, with $300 debt payments per month.
Step 4: Make adjustments
We're finally ready to make some adjustments if needed! If your Monthly Savings is way too high, you can make adjustments in a number of ways. You can make your debt lower (i.e. lower your Monthly Expenses in the calculator) and it will lower your Monthly Savings. You could do a 20 year mortgage, or 30 year mortgage, and it would lower your amount. If you changed this, you would also have to change your interest rate to something higher. You would also be have to buy a home less than the new estimate.
Really, you probably don't need many adjustments. You will be in a very good spot financially if you just generally follow steps 1-3. They'll already be customized for you, since everyone has different numbers and goals.
For a lot of us, our emergency fund is a big sum of cash. It's sitting in our bank accounts, tempting us to use it. It's not doing anything for us. It's not invested or getting us "fun" things. It's just dormant money waiting to become active for an emergency. Why not put that dormant money to use?
Well, there's a pretty good reason not to put an emergency fund to use. It's your security. You don't want to risk losing it. You need it for the hardest of times, but the problem is even though you're not using it, you're still losing money. How? Well, inflation. If you look at inflation between now and 1958, you'll find that the average inflation is 3.68% per year. In other words, money you don't spend loses 3.68% per year. Explained again, if you had $1000 on January 1st, by December 31 it would be like having $963.20. It's crazy to think about, but even though you didn't spend ANYTHING, you still lost almost $40.
So, what's the solution? This is how I look at it. I need to earn 3.68% on my emergency fund per year, just to keep it in line with inflation. Secondly, I want to do it with as little risk as possible. So to recap:
So, the solution is to invest your emergency fund just enough to earn 3.68% on it. The worst thing you could do is just place it in the stock market though, even in low risk index funds or mutual funds.
Imagine this scenario. You invested your emergency fund in some low risk funds, earning a modest 4% per year. The market crashes and you lose your job, but since the market crashed you also lost 40% on your emergency fund. Now, when you needed it the most, it's worth almost half of what it originally was. Now you probably see the risk.
Thankfully, there are some low risk solutions that might work for you. Here's my review, pros and cons, of each. Like with many of my posts, ultimately it's up to you and its different for everyone. The amount of risk you're willing to take, your likelihood of needing emergency money, and how important it is to you, are all are factors of this decision. I think it could be different for everyone.
Let's get started reviewing some good low-risk investment options for your emergency fund...
Savings accounts are most likely what you are keeping your emergency fund in now. It's perhaps the lowest risk, but also offers the lowest return on your money. Most banks offer less than .1%, which isn't even worth considering. There are some banks out there that offer more. For example, Ally Bank is offering a savings account at 2.1%. That might be enough for you. Then you'll only lose about 1.5% on your money per year, or about $15 per $1000 in your emergency fund.
If you're likely to experience an emergency, or don't like high risk investments, a savings account is best for you. The con, I haven't found a savings account that could keep up with inflation, so you will definitely be losing some money every year.
I will say, if you can find a bank that offers a savings account at 3.68% or higher, please let me know! Let's say "Better Budget Bank" offers a savings rate of 3.7%, I would say this is the best option for your emergency fund right now. I wouldn't even review other options.
CDs (Certificates of Deposit)
CDs might be an okay option. The problem with CDs + emergency funds is that they lock down your money. It keeps your money from being liquid. One of the things about emergency funds is that you don't know when an emergency is going to occur. So, if your entire emergency fund is locked up in a CD, then you might have to pay penalties when you take it out (if you take it out before maturity).
Another con of CDs, at least at the time of this posting, is the best 1 year rate is 2.7%. The best 5 year rate is 2.8%. Neither get you to our inflation goal of 3.68%. Similarly, if you just did a high-interest savings account for somewhere in the low 2s%, then it would be a lower risk because you keep your money liquid.
Well, let's say you read this at a different time and CDs are around 4%. So, at this point, I would consider CDs as an option for my emergency fund. Next, I would ask myself how likely I am to have to pay for an emergency and if I can wait for a CD to mature. My biggest emergency over the past couple years has only been about $1000. Additionally, I usually have enough in the bank to cover this sort of emergency. I'm in a stable job and have a strong family that would support me in the worst-cases. My need for very liquid money is low, which suggests CDs might be a good option.
Let's say everything checks off and you believe CDs are the best route for you. This is how I believe you should use CDs for your emergency fund. You want to set-up a 5 year CD ladder. You can Google "CD ladders" and get a in-depth explanation, but here's how they work at a high-level by example.
Say you have a $5000 emergency fund. You divide your emergency fund by 5, to get $1000. Then, you invest invest $1000 is a 1 year CD, 2 year CD, 3, 4, and 5 year CD. Now, you have 5 CDs, which matures once per year. If you think you could experience emergencies more frequently, buy more CDs at smaller, equal, intervals. Then, when one CD matures, reimburse yourself for an emergency, or reinvest into a 5 year CD again.
To be honest, I haven't done too much with treasury securities. I tend to have a stock-heavy portfolio and thus, don't purchase many treasury securities. Treasury securities can be bought directly from Treasury Direct. The advantage is the low risk. They're backed by the US government, so you know they lower risk in that sense. However, they lock up your money like a CD. Unfortunately, they don't pay much more than CDs either. There are some long term 30 year bond options that out perform inflation, but 30 year options are not good for an emergency fund.
If you are happy with treasury securities as an option for your emergency fund and are happy with the risk tolerance, I would still really encourage you to ladder your investments. You don't want your emergency fund being tied up when you need it most.
I would personally not recommend treasury securities. I think there are better options, but this may be due to my lack-of experience with treasury securities. I don't like putting my emergency fund in places that are influenced heavily by market conditions (and in this case, political conditions as well). Likewise, you can earn more on your money, in shorter periods of times, using other options. Lastly, I'm not a huge fan of having an not-liquid emergency fund. So, securities and CDs aren't my favorite choices.
Money Market Accounts
Money market accounts are similar to high-yield savings accounts. One of the biggest differences is that money market accounts usually require a minimum amount for their rates. For someone growing an emergency fund, or just have low expenses so, thus, a low emergency fund, a money market account might not be best.
While this might be a con to some, it might be a good thing for an emergency fund. Money market accounts often have a transaction limit. If you're one that finds yourself always dipping into your emergency fund, this might be a great option for you.
Overall, I think money market accounts are second to high-yield savings accounts. If you can meet the minimum requirement, they're great. They're highly liquid too. The con, in today's market, they still don't offer that 3.68% return rate we're looking for. They're usually better than high-interest savings funds, but they're still only in the mid-twos. About a percent off or so, from where we want to be.
This is kind of a broad topic, but I think they can all be considered similarly. I think this is the riskiest option, but I also think it will get you closest to that 3.68%. Look at all different types of funds, mutual funds, index funds, etc. and find one that you're comfortable with. When I say comfortable, I mean to make sure it fits within your risk tolerance.
I recommend you only invest in funds if you meet the following criteria:
This post was long, but I think it had a lot of great information in it. My favorite option is probably just a high-yield savings account. Money market accounts are great, but I don't have a large enough emergency fund yet for a lot of them. CDs and securities are not my favorite options, because they tie up your money. I like funds, but I haven't been able to find a fund that would fit within my risk tolerance. You could also do do a combination of these options.
Ultimately, the decision is whatever fits your finances best. Think about your life, your emergencies, and your risk tolerance. Then, make a decision to see where the best place is for your emergency fund. You may be okay with a 3.68% loss and just keep it in a standard, every-day, savings account. That's totally okay, because it's your emergency fund and it fits your risk tolerance. The important part is that you have it when you need it most.
If you made it this far, I'm really happy you took the time to read. I hope you learned a little, or a lot, or just enjoyed finding all my grammar mistakes. If I can help you make a decision on where to put your emergency fund, please ask. I haven't heard from many of you yet, but I know you're out there. Don't be shy!
Thanks for reading the Better Budget Blog and I hope this helps you get better with personal finances everyday.
Well, that's what Rob Berger believes, creator of the Dough Money Roller podcast, a podcast I listen to often. I don't necessarily disagree either, but I think the end to this statement could be different for everyone.
For me, I think the best thing money can buy is time. You could probably argue that time=financial freedom, but I like to be a little more explicit. You have probably heard the saying, "Time is money" and it's true. I explained in a previous post how you can calculate your wages per hour. I want to look at this from two perspectives: 1) How money can buy you time, and 2) Why I think buying time is the best use of money.
How money can buy you time
The other day I was driving home from the beach. I usually use Google Maps as my GPS because it has an option to avoid tolls. Most times, the time difference between taking a toll route vs a non-toll route is only 10 minutes or so. However, this route would double the trip from an hour and a half, to a three hour trip, if I took the non-toll route. The tolls would only cost about $16 total. Paying $16 to save an hour and a half of driving is more than worth it. That's just one example of how you can buy time.
Why I think buying time is the best use of money
Time is the only resource that you can't get more of. So, it's very important to use your time wisely and make the most of it. Therefore, this is the primary reason that I say buying time is the best use of money.
The way you end "The best thing money can buy is..." is different for everyone. Some people have very wrong answers too, morally or just not the best thought out. I also think many people would have an asterix next to their statement too. For me, "The best thing money can buy is time*" (*the money must be spent according to good financial principles and time can be bought indirectly). Even then, it's a little vague because "good financial principles" differ from person to person. For instance, I wouldn't recommend going into debt to save time. Thinking more about it too, I'm not sure how strongly I would hold my stance that buying time is the best use of money. It's not exactly a hard rule.
Let's try this exercise. Finish the statement, "The best thing money can buy is...". Once you finish this statement, ask yourself if you're following it. If you follow it in some cases, but not others, that might indicate that you should have a different ending.
Thanks for reading the Better Budget blog. I hope you enjoyed it! If you have any questions or want some financial help, please reach out to me. I'd be happy to help.
Better Budget Co
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My name is Corey and I have a passion for budgets and personal financing. I can talk about it for days (weirdly enough). Hope you enjoy the blog!
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