Out of Debt

By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

Daniel and I met in 2011. We knew right away that our relationship was special, so it might not surprise you to learn that we started talking about some pretty serious stuff early on: kids, marriage, and, especially, money (he is Dr. Budgets, after all!). Before too long, Daniel had looked at where I was spending my money and made some suggestions to pay down the debt I had been struggling to eliminate. Dr. Budgets was founded about 1½ years after we met*, and so that makes me Dr. Budgets’ first client! As the “OG” client of “Dr. B,” I have some insights to share 🙂

Dr. Budgets has had many success stories… Clients have done amazing things! But, after you accomplish your financial goal, what comes next? Can anything top the feeling of paying off the debt that has been weighing on your shoulders? The answer is YES! What comes after paying off your debt is EVEN BETTER. If you stick with your spending plan, the accomplishments that follow continue to add to your overall sense of well-being. Maybe what I’m trying to describe is best said in a previous blog post:

“I soon realized I wasn’t worried about money at all. I never need to worry because we have automatic payments and buffers, and anything I need or want to buy is accounted for in the budget.”

Can you imagine that? Not having to worry about money? Let me tell you, it’s a beautiful thing. It took some work to get here though. First, I had to learn to live without my credit cards to pay off debt. Then, I had to learn to spend within my (and, eventually, our) spending plan. I also made some lifestyle changes to pay off my debt even faster, including renting out a room and getting a side gig to earn money on the weekends (but I was able to let go of both of those after I paid off my debt).

Now that I’m on the other side of debt and well into my “coaching” with Dr. Budgets, I can say my feelings about money have never been better. For example:

  • I love my job, and I continue to love to work after having our daughter. But it’s nice to know that I don’t have to work at my job if I didn’t want to work anymore. I’m not a slave to my job, and I think that makes me love my job even more! Life is too short to hate what you do.
  • I love our home, but it’s not our forever home. We’re working toward buying our dream house – not just a “it’s bigger than what we currently have and we need the space so we’ll take it” house. We’ve talked about amenities and location, and it’s within reach. I can actually see our daughter happily playing in the backyard of our future home. Paying off debt felt good, but debt is the past… Now, we’re working toward our future. 
  • We live in uncertain times and sometimes I’m nervous about the future. When I was in debt, I was VERY nervous about the future because I was one emergency away (car breaking down, a trip to the ER, losing my job) from being in a financial crisis. When I paid off my debt, I was able to create a financial safety net. Having savings gives me a sense of security.

Those are just a couple of examples of how life is better after paying off debt. But, besides these incredible side effects, what comes next after paying off debt? Here are some ideas, from Daniel:

Evaluate your spending plan. You’ve likely had a line item for debt repayment that can be re-directed. Determine how much of that you want to go into savings and other items in your budget. Maybe you want to give yourself a little breathing room in discretionary spending, or maybe you’ve become very comfortable with your spending plan and can put that money entirely toward your next financial goal.

Celebrate! You’ve accomplished something remarkable! Take a moment to acknowledge your sacrifices and reflect on your achievement. Set a budget and treat yourself to something to celebrate… you deserve it!

Create or Increase Emergency Savings. If you were able to put money toward emergency savings while paying down debt, that’s great! Maybe beef it up a bit to cover a longer stretch of time (6 months instead of 3 months, for example). If not, creating an “emergency savings” or “short-term savings” account should be your first priority.

Set your next financial goal. Get excited about your next financial milestone! Do you want to take a debt-free vacation? Save for a house or buy a new car?

If you’re working toward a financial goal, such as paying off debt, good for you! Keep it up! If you aren’t (but know you should), you may not have realized all the wonderful things that come along with achieving your financial goals… hopefully, this will help motivate you to get started! As always, if you want help please contact Daniel for a complimentary consultation – you have nothing to lose!

 

*Fun fact: I came up with the name Dr. Budgets… It’s a play on Daniel’s initials “DR”

 

Healthy Habits Save You Money

By Daniel Rodriguez (Dr. Budgets) & Scott Elliott (Kool Body Personal Training)

This month we are doing a joint blog post with Scott Elliott with Kool Body Personal Training. We are each sharing our perspective on 5 Ways Healthy Habits Save You Money from a health and wealth standpoint. Here are the five habits:

 

Eat Your Breakfast

Scott: Most of us are in such a rush to get out the door and to the office, that we often neglect breakfast. Instead of eating breakfast, we opt for coffee and perhaps add a carb to that. Eating breakfast will bring you a sustained boost of mental and physical energy. Skipping breakfast leads to adrenal crash; which we then artificially support with caffeine. The saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” has a lot of truth to it. As you sleep, the cortisol hormone increases, which put us into REM (deep) sleep. When we wake up, the cortisol levels continue to rise and will eventually begin to put stress onto our adrenals. The only way to level out this increase in cortisol levels is to eat a balanced breakfast. This simple act will increase our mental and physical energy throughout the morning, with no mental crash.

Daniel: Breakfast in the morning can be something as simple and inexpensive as eggs and whole grain toast, yogurt with granola, or a smoothie (my wife makes amazing smoothies in the morning!). This daily “breakfast ritual” can save you thousands of dollars over time compared to stopping at Starbucks for “coffee and a carb.” If you still need the caffeine fix, you could brew your own coffee at home (which is often better than Starbucks anyway) and enjoy it on your way to work.

 

Schedule Your Workouts

Scott: Studies show that regular exercise will help reduce the number of sick days you take by stimulating and strengthening your immune system. Regular exercise also reduces the risk of illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. The quote “Failing to plan is planning to fail” by Alan Lakein, highlights the importance of scheduling your workouts. Once scheduled, make sure they are a priority, like meetings for work. Make your workout time a non-negotiable appointment on your calendar.

Daniel: Consistent exercise will actually make you money because of the fewer sick days you will need to take. Depending on where you work, you could then use those unused sick days for something fun like a vacation or cash them out at some point. If you are self-employed, then that means less time away from your business, which means more money. Looking at it from a long-term perspective, if regular exercise prevents diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease for you, then that will save you thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars in medical bills. Additionally, a monthly gym membership is only a waste of money if you don’t use it! If you schedule your workouts, whether at the gym or with a personal trainer, you’re making the most of the money you’re spending for those services.

 

5-Minute Meditation

Scott: Daily meditation will calm our brain, bring inner peace, and therefore, more focus and productivity to your job. Due dates, unexpected problems, or even mental fog all strip away the clarity and focus that we need to succeed in our daily tasks. Set aside 5 minutes each day to sit upright, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Each time your thoughts drift, bring yourself back to your breath, training your mind in the art of self-control, focus, and peace.

Daniel: Consistent meditation can lead to reduced stress, which can save you money in countless ways. If stress leads you to overeat, then meditation can save you money on food expenses. If stress leads you to shop to make yourself feel better, then meditation can save you money by preventing you from buying unnecessary things. If stress causes you to drive fast which leads to a speeding ticket… you get the point 🙂

 

3-Minute Workout

Scott: According to a 2014 Stanford Study, you can boost your creativity up to 60% by adding short bursts of activity throughout the day. Step away from the computer for a minimum of 3 minutes at a time and walk up a flight of stairs or take a walk outside. In addition, you will curb your levels of anxiety and depression allowing you to handle stress much better; stimulating your mood so you can get along with your co-workers and boss much easier.

Daniel: An increase in creativity can definitely make you money in the long-run. If you work for somebody, that could mean a faster promotion or a pay raise sooner. If you work for yourself, then an increase in creativity can lead to increased income ever more rapidly if you apply it in a way that makes you better or more efficient at what you do.

 

Surround Yourself with Like-Minded Motivated Fitness People

Scott: Working out with someone (or a group of people) will not only increase your level of accountability, but there is also a strong possibility of making new business connections, as you sweat it out with like-minded fitness people. You are all there putting in a strong effort to stay healthy, which will lead to a mutual level of respect for one another. Those are definitely people worth getting to know.

Daniel: Anytime you connect with like-minded people there is a good chance you will each benefit from that relationship. If you own a business, maybe one of those people becomes a client, which would lead to more revenue for your business. If you are an employee, maybe one of those people connects you to a job opportunity when you need it. Connecting with people who share similar goals and interests with you can lead to many rewards beyond money as well.

 

We hope you enjoyed our post on 5 Ways Healthy Habits Save You Money! If you want to learn more about Kool Body Personal Training, you can contact Scott at selliott@koolbody.com. If you want to learn more about Dr. Budgets, visit our home page or contact us.

  

Give Wisely This Holiday Season

Saturday, 03 December 2016 by

Give Wisely

By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

It can be easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holiday season… going into credit card debt of course! Kidding aside, it is very easy to overspend during the holidays because we are in a generous mood, and it seems like every company in the world is trying to get us to spend our hard earned money. This is probably why 37% of people said that going into debt is one of the top 5 causes of holiday stress. It doesn’t have to be a stressful time if you put some thought into it ahead of time and set some parameters for yourself. Below are four things you can do to give wisely this holiday season.

Make a List.   It’s amazing how powerful it is to make a list before you go gift shopping for the holidays. I recommend you make a list that includes everyone you are buying a gift for and the amount you plan to spend per person, then add it up. If the total amount is too much, then make some adjustments before you start buying presents.

Don’t Use Your Credit Card.   If you only use cash or your debit card this holiday season, then it will be very difficult for you to get into credit card debt. Think about it… do you really need to go into debt to buy things for the loved ones in your life? Is there a way for you to be more thoughtful about your giving and at the same time spend less? The people who truly love you probably don’t want you to be stressed out about your credit card debt.

Give What They Want.  Give to the loved ones in your life how they want to be given to. You have to know your audience when you are giving. For example, my wife and I took the Love Languages test and ranked “Receiving Gifts” very low, so showering each other with gifts isn’t the best way to express our love for each other. Instead, we are able to show each other we care in more meaningful and affordable ways. Be very mindful of how to express your love and appreciation to the people in your life… sometimes you don’t need to spend a lot of money for them to know you care.

Charitable Giving.   If you are giving money to charity, ensure that most of the money you are donating actually goes toward the cause they are supporting (this article can help you). Also, if you can donate and receive a tax deduction as well, even better! My wife and I give the things we don’t need to Goodwill, which gives us a nice little tax deduction every year. Lastly, check to see if you can get your monetary donation matched to double your contribution (sometimes companies have programs where they do this).

These are just a few tips on how to give wisely this holiday season. If you have some other tips, please share them with us in the comments section below. If you know somebody who went into credit card debt because of their holiday spending, and now needs some direction on how to pay it off, put them in touch with us. Happy holidays!

 

Shopping Smart

By Jennifer Rosson for Dr. Budgets

This month we  are excited to have Jennifer Rosson as a guest blogger for Dr. Budgets sharing her tips on shopping smart! She is a true expert on shopping. To learn more about Jennifer, check her out at styleyourlifeblog.com. Here are her five ways to save money on your wardrobe…

1) Take a good look at your closet before you shop!

Most people tend to purchase the same type of items again and again… I call this your “uniform”. Because of this, your wardrobe isn’t as adaptable as it should be. What items could you add to grow your wardrobe and make it more versatile?   Make a list of these items and look for them when shopping.

2) Think about your Cost Per Wear.

Keep this very simple formula in mind when shopping!

You take the cost of the item and divide it by the number of times it is worn, adding in any maintenance cost (dry cleaning, laundering tailoring).

For example:

  • Dress on clearance $19.99
  • Wore it once (1)
  • Dry-cleaned ($5)
  • $19.99/1+$5= $24.99

Cost per wear = $24.99

  • Designer Jeans $189
  • Wear it once a week for 12 months, 52 wears
  • washed every other wear $1.00
  • $189/52 +$.50 = $4.13

Cost per wear = $4.13

So sometimes those “deals” aren’t really deals at all. Think about this next time you are shopping 🙂

3) Consider shopping consignment.

I love consignment shopping. Find a credible consignment store that carries higher end items. This is a great way to pay up to 70% less on designer and contemporary brands. Closely check for any flaws, fading, etc. because these stores often have a final sale policy.

Two I recommend: The Real Real (online) and My Sisters Closet (San Diego)

4) Shop sale sections.

Okay before you say yes, of course, that’s obvious….

Let me clarify. Shop sale sections at high-end stores and shop with your list (from #1). Many people shop sale sections; the difference is shopping them with direction.

Shop sale sections in stores a level above where you’d typically shop. Why? Because you can get higher quality pieces for the same price you typically pay. Let’s say you typically shop at Banana Republic and you are willing to pay $150 for a dress. Well then head on over to Bloomingdale’s sale section and I assure you will find a higher quality dress for around the same price.

The second thing to keep in mind when shopping sale….

USE YOUR LIST!!! It is not a bargain if you don’t need it!!

Remember cost per wear?

5) Don’t shop out of desperation.

We’ve all been there, you have an interview or event and you have nothing to wear. You rush out the day before and purchase something to get you by. You settle because you couldn’t find something you loved. The result: you don’t feel fabulous at your event because you don’t love your outfit and you will probably never wear it again.

How to you avoid this happening to you? You know your lifestyle, you know what types of events, presentations, and interviews you have in a typical year. When you see a piece of clothing you love and you know you’ll have an occasion to wear it, buy it then! Don’t wait till you have the specific event.  The event will come believe me and you’ll already have the perfect piece hanging in your closet!

Money Tips for Small Business Owners

By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

Many people probably find it overwhelming to bring some structure and planning to their personal spending. This is probably why only one in three Americans prepare a detailed household budget. This, in turn, is one of the reasons why people are still in debt. If you are a business owner, then this adds another layer of complexity, which is probably why so many small business owners are flying off the seat of their pants when it comes to their finances. When I work with small business owners at Dr. Budgets, there are four things I recommend they do when it comes to organizing their personal and business finances…

1) Separate Personal & Business.    Keeping your personal and business finances separate is a critical first step. This starts with simply having a separate checking account for your business, and then using it exclusively for business. If you use a credit card for the business, then having a credit card dedicated exclusively for business expenses is a must (whether it is a business card or a personal card you only use for business). Also, even if you have a very simple business, you want to have both a personal AND business budget.

2) Track Your Spending.   You want to track your business expenses using some sort of software. If you have a simple business without much activity, then you can probably get away with using a spreadsheet. As your business grows, consider using bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks. This is so important that clients of Dr. Budgets who are small business owners receive bookkeeping in QuickBooks as part of their coaching package. Also, track your personal expenses. If you have a record of those expenses available, your tax accountant may find that some of those expenses on the personal side can be written off on the business side.

3) Pay Yourself a Salary.   Many people who own a small business don’t have a plan on how to pay themselves. As money comes into the business, that money usually is spent on both business and personal expenses. It is important to create some stability in your personal spending by paying yourself a consistent salary (as if you were working a job). Set a reasonable salary that will balance your personal budget, while ensuring that you don’t take too much money from the business. A fine balance has to be stuck here because if you pay yourself too much, your business runs out of money, but if you don’t pay yourself enough then you run out of money on the personal side. I spend a lot of time with my small business owner clients to come up with a salary figure that strikes that balance.

4) Save for Taxes.   Many small business owners (especially new business owners) tend to forget to save for taxes. When you are an employee, it’s easy because taxes are taken out of your paycheck before you can spend the money. As a small business owner, you have to put some money away to prepare for the inevitable tax bill. If this habit is built at the very beginning, then it just becomes another “bill” that the business needs to pay every month (by transferring money to your business savings). Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t do this, and then when the inevitable tax bill arrives, they are shocked. Not saving enough money to pay your taxes is an easy way to get into debt as a small business owner, so you must plan for this by setting aside some of your business income every month.

Being a small business owner is a challenge even without factoring in the financial side of things. Doing the four items above can help mitigate some of the stress associated with running a small business. If you know a small business owner who prefers to have an expert look at their spending on the personal and business side, please have them contact us to schedule a consultation. These are only four tips for business owners. Do you have some other ones? If so, please let us know in the comments section below.

 

No Spendtember

By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

In many ways, No-Spendtember goes against what I teach my clients. In general, Dr. Budgets is not about cutting out the things you love and drastically cutting your spending. However, what I like about No-Spendtember is that it is like a spending “cleanse,” and by participating in “No Spendtember,” you see how freely you spend your money on things that aren’t that important to you. The side benefit is that you can jump-start your debt repayment or savings goals by participating in a one-month spending cleanse. No-Spendtember really challenges you to plan ahead and to get creative… two habits that can save you lots of money with a little effort. Here’s how:

Plan Ahead.   How many times do you know you are going to attend a birthday party, but you put off buying a gift until you are on your way? Then, you pick up the gift (say, $35) but you also need a card ($5), a gift bag ($3), and tissue paper ($2). You know the gift could have been purchased online for $25 if you had ordered it ahead of time, and then you could have used a reused gift bag and tissue paper you had from the last time you purchased a gift last minute. And the best greeting cards are either handmade or purchased from Trader Joe’s (99 cents!) or Home Goods (their fancy cards are HALF the cost of a regular card at Target). All of which would have saved you $15-$20! Do that once or twice a month over the year and it starts to add up! Another scenario where planning ahead saves you money: packing snacks and water for a day at the zoo, park, ballgame, airport, etc. can easily save you $40 for a small family. Planning ahead definitely saves you money!

Get Creative.   Often, spending money is an easy solution to lots of life’s situations. I have found, if you take a little time to get creative, you can solve a problem or improve your life without spending money (or without spending a lot of money). For example, say you want to buy a new kitchen appliance (let’s say a juicer). You could jump on Amazon or head to the mall to pay full price, and then likely be upsold or give into an impulse buy and spend even more money! Then, you may not even use it as often as you thought you would and regret the purchase entirely. An alternative might be to borrow the appliance from a friend or family member to try it out for a week. If you love it and still want to buy one of your own, maybe you can find a discounted one on Craigslist or eBay (and save some money purchasing it from people who didn’t end up using it as often as they thought they would!). Another scenario where getting creative saves money is getting friends together for a potluck at your house instead of going out to dinner at a restaurant. You can easily save $50-$100 by doing that, and you’re able to let the wine flow freely!

The challenge to not spend money for a month during No-Spendtember simply encourages you to plan ahead and get creative, which in turn builds good habits that you can use all year. What are some ways you’ve planned ahead or gotten creative to save money?

 

5 Money-Saving Tips for Baby Budgets

By Jeannie & Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

This month we wanted to write something from our perspective as brand new parents. Our daughter just turned three months old, and we couldn’t be happier (tired, but happy :-)). Since this is a money-focused blog, we want to share with you our 5 initial thoughts on having our first child as it pertains to money…

Plan Ahead.  Before the pregnancy, we started to think about how to structure our health insurance and how much to put into our Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Timing obviously helps with this…we found out we were pregnant in September, and open enrollment was in November. We switched over to a lower deductible and lower out-of-pocket maximum health insurance plan and maxed out our FSA to take full advantage of what was offered through work.

Disability & Paid Family Leave. We live in California, which is very generous when it comes to maternity leave. Figuring out how to get disability and paid family leave benefits can be confusing though! There are no clear step-by-step instructions on how to obtain leave and it can be frustrating. For those who are eligible, you can receive up to four weeks paid short-term disability (State Disability Insurance or “SDI”) before the baby comes, and six weeks after (eight weeks if you had a cesarean section). The four weeks of pre-delivery leave can only be used before the baby arrives, so plan accordingly. Then, at the completion of SDI, you’re eligible for Paid Family Leave (PFL) to bond with your child. You can get six weeks PFL – and if your significant other pays into SDI with his/her job, then they’re eligible for six weeks paid bonding time too! Also, you don’t have to use the six weeks consecutively… you can use chunks of time up to a year after the baby’s birth day.

Something neat that we learned was that you can transfer your benefit amount from the Visa prepaid card to your bank account automatically! Since things tend to change often, your best bet is to Google instructions on how to do this. For us, receiving this money allowed us to spend just over three months with our newborn daughter, and that time with her and each other was priceless.

Discount on Hospital Bill.  It takes a while for the hospital and insurance company to work out the bills on their end before you get a bill for what you owe. And, with everything going on with having a newborn at home, the bills might keep getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list (below “keep baby alive” and “brush teeth”). If you don’t pay your bills right away, don’t be surprised if you get a call from the hospital billing department about payment. If you do hear from them, be honest about your situation. They might be in a position to offer 20% off your bill (which they did with us!) and/or set up a payment plan.

Amazon Prime.  Amazon Prime was convenient before having a baby. If you are unexpectedly at the hospital three weeks before your baby is due, then Amazon Prime becomes a savior! If you are an Amazon Prime member and create a registry on Amazon, you get 15% off eligible items remaining on your registry. As labor began, we used the one-time 15% off discount to order the things we needed for the baby from the hospital room. When we arrived back home a few days later, we had a mountain of boxes waiting for us on our front porch! Also, with Amazon Prime you get free two-day shipping (and, sometimes, free ONE-day shipping), so we didn’t go crazy buying things we weren’t sure we would need before the baby came – we knew that if we needed an item, it was only a few clicks away. This saved us money by limiting what we bought before the baby arrived.

Cloth Diapers.  We love cloth diapers! They are cute, cost effective, and eliminate a ton of diapers from ending up in a landfill. Yes, it is a little more work having to wash and dry them, but well worth it for us. We estimate the cost savings here to be minimal the first year (we had to purchase the diapers after all), but upwards of $400 for the second year, and potentially thousands for the future child(ren) we wish to have.

Those are our 5 initial thoughts on having our first child. If you know someone who is pregnant or just had a baby and wants some coaching on how to adjust their budget after this big life change, have them contact us or schedule a complimentary consultation. Happy parenting!

 

Don't Let Debt Abuse You

By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

Debt can help you fulfill your dreams and move you forward in achieving your financial goals. Debt can also turn into your worst nightmare if you aren’t careful. So how do you use debt, rather than letting debt abuse you?

Step one is to get yourself out of credit card debt. If you are in credit card debt, then you need to figure out why you are still in debt, then take the necessary steps to pay it off. You can use a debt payoff calculator (like this one from The Simple Dollar) to get you going.

Step two is to stay out of credit card debt. It can be easy to use debt in a way that does not support your financial goals. Using a credit card to buy the latest gadget, that new pair of shoes, or to take that vacation when you don’t have the money can have harsh long-term financial consequences… this is when the Rule of 72 can work against you! Unfortunately, poor spending habits can be hard to break. As your income increases, you develop more expensive tastes, and your credit card balance continues to rise. It is a cycle that, sadly, isn’t broken by many people. Don’t be a part of those statistics!

So once you are out of credit card debt and are able to stay out of credit card debt, then there are many ways you can use debt to further your financial goals. You could use debt to purchase a property, purchase a car (be reasonable here!) so you can commute to work, or invest in your business. My wife and I have a low-interest rate mortgage that allows us to live in a place we love while keeping our monthly payment relatively low and stable.

Debt can also be used properly for short-term use, such as taking advantage of rewards or cash-back credit cards. The key is to use them wisely and pay them off every month to avoid interest charges. My wife and I use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred credit card for all of our grocery store purchases to receive 6% cash back… and we avoid paying interest by having it set up on automatic payment to pay the full statement balance every month. This way we earn the $360 annual maximum cash-back reward without ever paying a cent in interest! We also use the Target REDcard to receive 5% off at Target and free shipping at Target.com, and the Amazon Store Card to receive 5% off at Amazon.com, which in essence pays for our Amazon Prime membership.

There are definitely ways to work the system and use debt to your advantage. Carrying a credit card balance is not one of them, which is why that is step one. So, if you are still in credit card debt, bookmark this post and come back to it when you are out of credit card debt. If you are ready to get out of debt so you can start using debt to your advantage, contact us or schedule your complimentary consultation today to get started!

 

5 Reasons Why You Are Still in Debt

By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

You have a balance on your credit cards and you have decided to pay them off in two years. That’s great! So you simply take your total balance and divide it by 24 to find out what you should pay each month… then, two years later, you’re out of debt, right? If only it were that easy!

Paying off debt isn’t just about figuring out the numbers. There are a lot of emotional considerations involved that may make it hard to pay off debt, which might explain why the average American household carries $15,762 in credit card debt.

Here are the 5 reasons why you are still in debt…

Lack of Motivation.   Maybe you tell yourself you want to get out of debt every year, but at the end of the year you have the same amount (or more) debt than you did when the year began. You have a desire to pay off your debt, but your actions are painting a different picture… your desire to purchase what you can’t afford is stronger than your desire to pay off your debt. The reason why you are still in debt is because your goal to pay off your debt isn’t strong enough (or at least not stronger than your desire to swipe your credit card).

Lack of Knowledge.   Maybe your goal to pay off your debt is strong, but you just don’t know how to start paying it off. Do you pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance? Do you do a balance transfer to a 0% credit card? Do you continue to use your credit cards while you are paying them off or do you cut them all up? You can pay your debt in a variety of ways, but if you don’t start somewhere it won’t pay itself off! My recommendation is you start by putting your credit cards away and stop using them until you are completely out of credit card debt. Once you put your cards away, you can then decide whether to pay off the highest interest rate or the lowest balance card first. If you haven’t started because you feel you don’t have enough knowledge, then this is probably the reason why you are still in debt.

No Budget.   You can have the motivation and a plan for how to pay off your debt, but without a realistic budget (healthy spending plan) your progress will be limited. If you don’t know where your money is currently being spent and you don’t have a plan for how to spend it, then you can easily miss opportunities to make a significant dent in your debt balance. So, figure out how you are currently spending your money using a spending tracker like Mint.com, then develop a budget so you can allocate as much as possible toward your debt repayment goal. If you don’t have a budget, that could be the reason why you are still in debt.

Financial Emergency or “Financial Emergency.”   Sometimes true financial emergencies happen… unexpected hospitalization, major auto repairs, or having to take a last minute trip to attend a funeral. Most of the time, though, they are probably only a “financial emergency.” Needing new tires or routine maintenance on your car is not a true emergency. Having to pay your car registration is not an emergency. Your annual insurance bill is not an emergency. Taking that last minute trip with your friends is not an emergency. I could go on and on, but the point is that all of these so-called “financial emergencies” are all things you can plan for in your annual budget. If you find yourself constantly encountering “financial emergencies,” that may be the reason why you are still in debt.

No Accountability.   So, you have the motivation, knowledge, and a budget that factors in “financial emergencies,” but you are still not making much progress toward paying off your debt? The biggest reason could be a lack of accountability. When you have someone hold you accountable to your goals, something magical often happens… you start achieving those goals! Accountability is often the missing ingredient to achieving your goals because with accountability you have someone to report to about your progress. And it is much more enjoyable to tell that person you are on track with your goals, rather than having the conversation that you are failing miserably. So, have someone hold you accountable, whether it is your spouse, a friend, or a Dr. Budgets money coach. If you find that you have done everything, but you are still in debt, then the lack of accountability is probably the reason why you are still in debt.

If you are ready to get out of debt, contact us or schedule your complimentary consultation today to get started!

 

Home Buying TipsBy Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

This month, we sat down with Bobby Martins, a Real Estate Broker with nearly 20 years’ experience in San Diego. Bobby shared his home buying tips – all of which are Dr. Budgets approved – and some of them might surprise you!

 

Professional Details

Name: Bobby Martins, GRI, ABR, CRS, CDPE, EPRO
Occupation: Real Estate Broker
Company: Keller Williams Realty
Location: San Diego, CA

 

1) Select a Great Agent

Do your homework to  find a real estate agent who fits your needs. Most home buyers are brand new to this, but the data is out there to help you. Bobby says to “go to Zillow to find out how many sales that agent has done. Is that the best agent for you? Maybe not, but it’s a starting point.” Interview a minimum of three agents and ask for written documentation of their sales. It shows that they have a good track record. Finally, he says that if you talk with an agent who makes predictions about the market or how much your home will increase in value “You should RUN. They’re not supposed to and there’s no way they can know for sure.”

 

2) Ask Lots of Questions

Here are some questions to ask an agent:

Do you have a support staff? Who? How many?

How many sales have you had over the last 12 months and over your career?

Have you ever been sued or gone to arbitration?

What are the main points of your marketing? (This is a question for a seller’s agent)

What’s your favorite thing about working with buyers?

But what Bobby says is most important is to “find somebody you like and connect with – somebody you trust. It’s the biggest financial purchase of your life.” And he stressed again the importance of interviewing multiple agents… “Be careful not to end up with a nice guy who can’t negotiate contracts. Right now, there is very low inventory… if you’ve been looking for 2-3 months and find your dream home, you want somebody who can close the deal.”

 

3) Tap Into Your Agent’s Professional Network

An experienced real estate agent has a vast network of professionals who can help you. To whom should I talk to about where to start with pre-qualifying for your mortgage? To whom should I talk to about title insurance? Which escrow company should I use? Do you know someone who can show me how to save for the down payment? A great agent will have answers to all of these questions.

 

4) Think Long-Term

Bobby says that when he starts working with people, he starts a conversation… “I want to start forecasting… Do you have kids? Do you want kids? Are you going to stay in San Diego?” If you’re looking for a 10-15 year home, you might want to stretch a little.

It might surprise you that a Money Coach would encourage you to stretch your budget in order to buy a home (that better serves your long term needs), but Bobby makes a really good point “If you buy a home to fit your immediate needs and then outgrow it, you have to move again.  Commissions, closing costs, hiring movers… it can all add up to tens of thousands of dollars. You can see how it makes sense to stretch a little financially to buy a long-term home.”

But there’s a fine balance. You don’t want to fall in love with a home you can’t afford. “It’s the kiss of death,” says Bobby “you should never look at properties you can’t afford.” To prevent that, Bobby has his clients work with lenders to get pre-approved, and then they work to map out a game plan to start identifying suitable properties.

 

5) Buy a Home Close to Where You Work (Even if It Costs More)

There can be a lot of extra costs to owning a home located far from work. Some are clear, such as higher fuel costs and additional wear and tear on your car. Other costs are less obvious. If you buy a larger home in the suburbs, it costs more to heat/cool and furnish it. And if your home has a big side yard, you might buy an RV! Bobby says “live close to where you work. If that means living in a townhome, then so be it. You’ll save a lot of money on gas, you can go home for lunch, and your quality of life is so much better.”

Another aspect to consider is your lifestyle. Bobby points out that “if you like to frequent restaurants and clubs downtown, but buy a home in Scripps Ranch, you’ll start to see Uber expenses adding up.”

 

6) OWN

Everybody’s situation is different, but for many people, it makes sense to own. Bobby says to own “as soon as possible – as soon as a lender will give you money. The numbers need to make sense, but it’s so much better to own.” From a budgeting standpoint, owning can be great because your mortgage payments stay the same (as long as you get a fixed mortgage) over time. You do have to have an extra line item in your budget for repairs and maintenance (i.e. plumbing, air conditioning, roofing, etc.), which many people fail to account for when they purchase a home.

Bobby asks, “as a renter, do you feel that rents are going to go up in the next 2-3 years, or down? Everybody says up… you’re already paying a mortgage, it’s just not your own.”

 

And now, the important questions! It’s a tradition to ask our guests some fun questions…

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Girl Scout Cookie Samoa-flavored

If you didn’t live in San Diego, where would you live?
Orange County or Los Angeles, as close to San Diego as I could.

What is your favorite color?
Baby blue… it says “trust me” 🙂

If you weren’t a real estate broker, what would you be doing?
I don’t know… an actor maybe?

 

Thank you so much, Bobby, for sitting down with us and sharing your expertise! These are some great home buying tips. I have known Bobby for many years and refer to him for my real estate questions. If you are looking to purchase or sell a home and need a few real estate agents to interview, please contact me. If you have any other home buying tips, please share them in the comments section below.

 

TOP