Basic Investing 101

Hey Ya’ll!!!

I think it’s a little silly for me to be writing a post on investing, since I’m still learning so much about it myself! But since so many of you have expressed interest, I decided to just give you some Basic Investing 101. So first of all, for those of you who are brand-new to the concept of investing (alot of young women are:), here’s the definition:

“Investing”: (v)

“expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit or material result by putting it into financial schemes, shares, or property, or by using it to develop a commercial venture.”

So here are a few things I have learned so far about investing:

1. Read. 

Dave Ramsey is a wealth of knowledge (pun intended!) on the subject of investing in particular, and finances in general. I recommend anyone who wants to get into investing to read some of his books. I love The Total Guide to Money and “The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity” . Another book I loved reading years ago when I was just starting to be interested in this stuff is Rich Dad Poor Dad.

2. Learn from people who have experience, as well as professionals. 

I had my first meeting with an investment professional (the gentleman my dad invests through) at probably 16 years of age. That’s when I started learning about mutual funds, stocks + bonds, and all that good stuff! I would recommend that if you have parents or mentors who have invested over the years, you start by asking them. My earliest lessons on investing were from my father- he was very open with sharing about good investments he has made over the years, as well as some that have totally backfired and resulted in losing money. In addition, I have met with or corresponded with several investing professionals. I also try to take every possible opportunity to learn from people whose financial principles and practices I admire. If you know someone who is hardworking, generous, lives within their means, and seems to have achieved a level of financial freedom (no debt, etc), ask them if you can sit down and ask them some questions.

3. Start investing money every month. 

My dad and Dave Ramsey taught me that it is wise to start the discipline of setting money aside to invest every single month, and the younger you are when you start, the better! Start investing at least 15% of your income monthly. Whether it’s a little money or a lot, the important thing is to START! If you’re a single person with fairly low expenses you can probably do more than 15%, although you need to be smart about what options you choose, as some are better for short term and some for long term, and if you’re thinking of buying a house in the next few years or even just having money available for starting a business or something like that, you don’t want all your money tied up in a high risk fund or one that will penalize you for withdrawing early.

4. Diversify.

Again, this is a lesson from my dad. He taught me that in investing, it is smart to “not put all your eggs in one basket”. That way, if one thing you are invested in goes down the tubes, you haven’t lost all your money. Investing has a variety of means and methods, including: buying or starting a business, acquiring real estate, buying shares in mutual funds, investing in a (small or large) business, or funding a Roth IRA (this can be mutual funds, it just grows tax free for your retirement). Personally, I use a variety of those investing options. One thing to remember is that even with mutual funds, diversity is key. Don’t put all your money in one mutual fund. If you are wanting to get started investing in mutual funds,  I would recommend you look around and maybe meet with a financial advisor who will come alongside you and help not only by investing your money, but educating you and answering any questions you may have. If you want to find an investing professional in your area, Dave Ramsey’s website has an option to find a local Smart Vestor Pro (Dave Ramsey endorsed investment professional) in your area. Another option if the Timothy Plan. They have a variety of funds, and I love that they are a Christian organization based on ethical + Biblical principles.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Continue Reading

Living a Life that’s Not About Stuff

“No one is going to stand up at your funeral and say,

‘She had a really expensive couch and great shoes.’

Don’t make life about stuff.”

I am convinced that we don’t need as much money as we think to live. The problem is, there is a certain “standard of living” that we, as Americans, can easily start thinking we “deserve”.

Let’s start living a life that’s not about stuff.

“It’s not what we take up in life, but what we give up, that makes us rich.”

Today I want to challenge you to start living a little simpler.

We all have different weaknesses, but we all have them. Whatever yours is, learn to do without. Say NO to yourself.

Watch out for the following pitfalls!

Internet Shopping

This one can be oh so hard in our Amazon age! And the internet is amazingly helpful for conveniently getting things that legitimately need. The only problem is, it can also be conveniently helpful for getting things we don’t need at all!

Personally, I need to not shop for clothing online unless there is a specific item I need and am looking for. Otherwise, I could literally buy a different dress every single month. Any of you girls identifying? For some of you, it’s those sites with those amazing “only for one day” deals, or buying books or movies, and the list could go on. Whatever it is, even your online shopping needs to be strategic and not impulsive!

Use online shopping to your advantage, but be careful with it. I personally love shopping online, I just try to be careful to stay within budget and not buy impulsively, especially “deals.” There is nothing wrong with thinking about a purchase overnight and waiting to click the “purchase” button. You may decide not to get it, or you may be more convinced than ever that you really do want to make the purchase!

Thrift Stores

Just don’t go to them every time you feel like it. It’s ok. Someone else needs the “amazing finds” worse than you do. When you do need something, go with a list, and a friend or sister if you need accountability.

Going out to Eat

Choose your eating out carefully and sparingly. It really adds up! I grew up hardly ever going out to eat, so it’s always been something I viewed as a rare and special treat. I want it to always be that way. Food made at home is so much healthier and more affordable, and when you only go out to eat every once in a great while, it is that much more special!

Buying Clothes and Shoes

I have seen that this one can be a biggie for girls and guys alike. Set a budget amount and stick to it.

Also, SIMPLIFY your wardrobe and you will need to spend a whole lot less. 30 pairs of shoes and 50 outfits will complicate your life and ruin your budget.

Getting coffee

As mentioned earlier, this can be a big money drain! Two lattes per week (@ $4.50 each) adds up to almost $500 PER YEAR! Now, I am not saying it’s sinful to buy coffee drinks. I just want you to count the cost and decided how much you should really be spending on it. Again, if you greatly limit yourself, that latte once per month will seem pretty luxurious!

Hobbies

For some of my brothers, they can easily spend a whole lotta money at Scheels! They are avid hunters, and as any hunter knows, it isn’t a cheap sport. My hunter brothers have an actual “hunting category” in their budget every month, and enjoy it to the fullest!

Others may like buying a ticket to a football game, or going golfing, and the list goes on. Be careful about these expenses and make sure that what you are spending on hobbies is in line with your life priorities and financial goals.

Entertainment

With 50 million US subscribers (at a minimum of $96 per year for a subscription), Netflix has found a niche in a society that is crazy about entertainment. While entertainment is not wrong in and of itself, the message of the entertainment and the price at which it comes can have serious spiritual and financial implications.

Even if you don’t have Netflix, be careful about spending money on entertainment. Amusement parks, dvd’s, iTunes, etc add up incredibly.

Thank you all for joining me for another Money Monday! Which one of the above pitfalls struck a chord with you?

I am excited to be back on here next Monday talking about investing! If you have questions you want me to answer, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

-Allison

 

Continue Reading

5 Ways to Cure Financial Butterfingers

Whether you area teenager making a few dollars a week on household chores and babysitting, or a 20-something pulling in regular payckeck, you should be saving money and giving generously. The only way to do it is by not spending all you make.

When I was a teenager making money babysitting, teaching a handful of violin students, and doing seasonal landscaping, I started saving money. I saved a nice little pile, although it could have been more had I started budgeting sooner!

It is so easy to just earn it, then spend it. I mean, it’s fun, right? It’s enjoying the fruit of our labors! But there are some things even more fun than spending money on ourselves:

Giving Money to Others and Saving Money.

If you have ever struggled with overspending, and had trouble keeping your finances- even small amounts of cash- in line, I know the feeling! It is way to easy to let the money slip through our fingers instead of strategically placing it where it needs to go.

Today I want to share with you 5 Tips to Cure Financial Butterfingers:

  1. Track it! You must track every single dollar you earn and spend. This way you can look back and see where your money is actually going, and change your gameplan if need be.
  2. Watch the little expenses. Coffee is a big one for me. It is way too easy to stop by the coffee shop and grab a scrumptious drink. But the truth is, I can make my own delicious coffee at home. I choose to never buy coffee out unless I am meeting up with a friend, taking out a family member, or going for work (even that is limited, as the library also has free wifi and quiet.)
  3. Always pack lunch. When shopping, my mother taught me to always pack food. The RARE times we would actually get frosties at Wendy’s or lunch at Chik Fil A or a yogurt at the health food store were so much more special because they were not a regular occurrance! And we saved hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars as a family by nearly always packing food for traveling, shopping, and other outings. When I started working away from home as a teenager, I didn’t even entertain the idea of going to Subway for lunch like my employer sometimes did. I automatically packed lunch. Now, in my 8 years of working away (landscaping and hotel) I have never once bought lunch. I pack every single time. I would rather save my money to be able to take my mother out to a fancy restaurant for lunch, or give extra money to a missionary, or send a package to a friend, or put more money in investing.
  4. Create free experiences, outings, and gifts. Not every gift or special time has to cost money. You can give coupons for birthday gifts, etc. I am going to do an entire post on this next week, so stay tuned!
  5. If you are tempted, don’t go there! I absolutely love a certain consignment shop in the city near us. I used to go there often, but now I rarely go unless I have a specific item or list of items I need. It eliminates the temptation to buy un-needed things.

Well, I’m signing off for now, friends! What would you like me to write about next? I have posts on investing and giving coming up, but I am open to other ideas, as well!

-Allison

Continue Reading

Let’s Budget!

Ok so who all took the challenge to write down all spending and eliminate one spending weakness? I would really really love to hear from you gals (and guys!)

It’s finally time to start talking about budgeting, and boy am I ever excited about that! I am really hoping you dear people will chime in on the conversation and give me your feedback as I write. I want this to be a discussion, and to get all your ideas, thoughts, and questions.

So……how does a person budget?

Well first of all, there are a few different ways to do it. If you have a set weekly or monthly paycheck, you can decide on your budget and keep it the same every month. If your income varies, you can budget off the previous month’s income, and this means your budget varies by the month. Or…..one more option is to have the set budget even if your income varies.

I go with the third option, but it’s not a right or wrong thing! The important thing is that you figure out how much money you are making (hopefully you already have been keeping good records!) and set a budget off that, whether it varies by the month or no.

The idea is to spend less than you make. Never all, and NEVER more!

For in-depth information on budgeting, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money. This book is a very comprehensive on budgeting, and also contains valuable information on saving, investing, renting/buying, getting out of debt, etc. Reading Dave Ramsey’s books was part of what fueled my passion for finances in the first place.

How do I recommend budgeting? I am going to give an idea for a basic beginner’s budget plan:

Giving: 15%

Investing: 20%

Spending: 50%

Saving/Mission Trips/Emergency Fund: 15%

Now my personal budget percentages are different than that. But if your budget includes any debt payoff, or school bills, or even if you’re just pretty new at it all and spending less than 50% of what you make seems like hardly enough with all things considered, then this is a good place to start.

Also, just a disclaimer- I am primarily targeting single people living in a shared household (family or room-mate sharing grocery/rent/etc costs) with these posts. I fully understand that buying a house, and having a family, and things like that, do change the ball game here!

Here are a few thoughts on the different categories:

GIVING

I really recommend, no matter your financial situation, that you give at least 10% of your income no matter what! And to me, 10% isn’t even where it’s getting truly fun! I think giving is the most fun thing we can possibly do with our income, so why not give alot more than just 10%?

INVESTING

Wayyyyy too many young people don’t even think about investing. This is really sad to me, because the prime time to do this is when you’re young and don’t have as many financial responsibilities. Children are a blessing, but they cost money! Same with marriage, and buying a house, and all those things. If you’re single and blessed with cheap housing, you have absolutely no excuse to not be investing a percentage of your income every single month. No one really does have an excuse to not invest, but especially not you.

It is a discipline, and I can’t wait to do a whole post on this! I absolutely love having monthly investing set up where the money comes out of my bank account every single month without fail. Most months I don’t even think about it. And the rewards down the road are mind-blowing! But I am saving that for a whole ‘nother post.:)

SPENDING

You kinda gotta spend to live. Just make sure you’re spending smart. There are so many ways to save money and spend less. Like buying your meal w/out sides/dessert/drink. Or only shopping when you have a list of things you need. Or buying a cheaper, older, used phone instead of the newest version. And so many other ways to bring your spending down.

Ok, so I have a story on this…..the other weekend when my brothers were all getting married (ok, not all 6 of them, just half of the 6:), I was trying to figure out details for my two different bridesmaid outfits. I had planned to stop at Dollar General after work the day before the first wedding, and pick up some new nail polish. Well, I got to the store and started looking at the selection. And thinking.:) I knew there was some polish at home that would work. I just wanted a certain shade, and to buy a new nail polish. But when I looked at the price tag ($2), and started thinking about how valuable that $2 really was, plus the fact that what was at the store wasn’t that much more amazing than the stuff in my bathroom at home, I walked away.

Guess what? By the time I’m 50 years old, that money, invested at 8% interest, will be worth $35. Yeah….the nail polish isn’t really worth it.:)

And it gets even better! That $2 could also make a significant difference in funding Arabic Bibles needed in teh Middle East right now. Click here to donate with a reputable and Godpel-centered ministry.

SAVING/MISSION TRIP/EMERGENCY FUND

This one is pretty great. I think it’s a great idea to have extra money set aside for car breakdowns, a last minute missions trip, etc. While I (along with Dave Ramsey) recommend putting the bulk of your non-spending/giving money in investments that will give you some return, it is smart to have a chunk easily available for the aforementioned things. Just make sure you aren’t accessing it for random spending sprees! That definitely doesn’t qualify!

My fund of this type would also be used for spending budget if I took off work for a mission trip, or travel expenses for said mission trip, etc. While you can figure this into your regular budget, I figure that because these things aren’t very predictable or regular, and I pray over them and am not spending the money impulsively, it works better to take it out of a special savings fund and thus keep my “personal monthly spending” budget lower.

Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to chatting with ya’ll in the comment section!

-Allison

Continue Reading

Why Should Girls Be Good With Money?

Before getting into the nitty gritty of saving, budgeting, and investing (starting next week), I want to lay the foundation for why I believe it is crucial for women to learn how to handle finances REALLY well when they are young.

Who you are when you’re young lays the foundation for who you are 20 years down the road.

Would you want to be raising a family, or buying a house, or getting ready to be a missionary in Africa, with your current financial habits?

If the answer is no, then you need to buckle down and get to work. You may not be raising a family, or buying a house, or moving to Africa today. But you very likely will be doing one of those things down the road.

Here are some reasons every girl should learn to be smart with money NOW:

To Bless Her Future Husband

If you get married, it will be a serious blessing to your husband to have a wife who already knows how to handle finances really well. He won’t have to teach you how to make and live on a budget. You can help with his business if he has one, as well as contributing help and ideas in your finances as a couple.

If you started saving money as a single girl, you will have a blessing to bring to your husband! Whatever money you have saved will doubtless be very much appreciated! Most young couples have a lot of expenses in the first five years- housing, furniture, vehicles, babies, insurance, etc and having a significant chunk of savings will greatly benefit you and your husband as you start your household.

To Be Prepared for Her Remaining Single Years

If you end up being single for years (or forever), you will be prepared to be a responsible citizen who can take care of herself. Think down the road- if you are single at 40, will you be be prepared to buy a house, or will you be renting a little apartment barely making ends meet? Girls, just because your parents provide housing, food, and a car now doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. You might be single a little longer than you anticipate, and it’s wise to be prepared to care for yourself.

I know that marriage is God’s will for most girls at some point, but I also know that many end up being single into their 20’s or 30’s, and it is wise to have a plan for that!

I have personal goals for my finances down the road. Obviously, when I get married, those goals will be modified to fit my husband’s, but I don’t want to handle my finances haphazardly in the meantime. I would encourage girls to make financial goals yearly, as well as for 5 and 10 years down the road. These are not to be held onto with an iron grip if the Lord has something completely different in mind (like giving up your paycheck to do missions for a year), but for me I find that these goals help to keep me on track and lazer-focused on being frugal and future-minded in a season of life when I could totally “live for today” in my finances.

To Put Herself into a Position to be Available for Mission Work

If the Lord calls you to the mission field, or even to short term mission work, and you have been saving and investing previously, you won’t be starting from scratch with raising support.

When I lived in Mexico last fall doing mission work, I was fully prepared to take off six weeks of work (thus eliminating my paycheck), and pay for my own ticket and living expenses while I was gone. All that using extra money in the bank and not dipping into my investments. I don’t share this to elevate myself, but to encourage you girls to start learning and saving now so that if the Lord brings you an opportunity to do missions work you are financially prepared.

To Have Money for Unforeseen Expenses

I have had friends who needed to pay for part or all of their wedding. If your parents aren’t able to help much or at all with wedding expenses, it is wise to be prepared. Sure, you can go super simple and spend very little, but if you have a wedding their will be at least some expenses.

Consider this, too- if there is something like, say, a really good photographer, that is important to you but doesn’t fit the wedding budget your parents give, you will be ready to pay for it out of pocket if you have extra money in savings.

Continue Reading