How to Save Money While Gift Giving This Season

How to Save Money While Gift Giving This Season

It’s gift-giving season, but there’s no need to stress. 

You’ve got first-rate ideas that are sure to impress. 

Just take a pause before filling your cart, 

and consult this short blog for an awesome head start. 

Give one and give all, with forethought and reason. 

Use these clever ways to save money this season.

 

1. Make a list and check it twice. 

The more people you have on your holiday list, the more money you’ll spend. That’s why narrowing down your list of gift recipients is a good first step.

    • Write down the names of all the people on your gift list. 
    • Take a second look at the list. Is there anyone you can delete, or move to a card-only list? Adjust the list as necessary.
    • Then, for each name, write down the person’s hobbies/interests.
    • Write down 1-3 possible gift ideas and their approximate costs.
    • Total up the list, and compare it to your holiday gift-giving budget in #3. You may need to adjust gift-giving expectations.

 

2. Limit the number of people you buy for.

You may want to buy for everyone on your list but there are creative ways to limit the number of people, and still cover everyone.

    • Whether in a group of friends, coworkers, or family, draw names and set a price limit. That way, you only have to buy for one person.
    • Do a white elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings one wrapped gift. People take turns choosing a present and opening it. They may keep their gift or “steal” someone else’s gift. The last person to go has the choice of any gift in the room.
    • Give a group gift. Connect with your siblings to contribute to your parents’ gift. Or give one gift to a family that everyone will enjoy.
    • Skip all the adults and just give to the children. This only works if everyone agrees; otherwise, you will have some folks showing up with gifts, which could be awkward.

 

3. Set and follow a budget.

Americans will spend an average of $832.84 on gifts and holiday items this season. You may spend less—or more. Keep to what you can afford by putting together a gift-giving budget.

    • Make sure the budget is realistic. 
    • Decide how to split the budget among your gift recipients. 
    • Keep the budget with you, on your phone or in your purse or wallet, so you can reference it throughout the holiday season.
    • Not sure what to budget? Look at your credit card statement from last year and see what you spent on gifts. 

 

4. Shop around.

You could buy items at full price or you could buy them on sale. Find the best deals by shopping around, finding discounts, and using cards and sites that give rewards.

 

5. Buy second-hand items or make your own gift.

Not only are gently-used gifts sustainable, but they are also much less expensive than buying new. So is making your own gift. However, you’ll want to give it to the right person. (Not everyone appreciates a thrift store or homemade present.)

    • Second-hand gifts can be very thoughtful. You can gift family heirlooms or your own special item.
    • For the fashionista, hipster, or collector, thrift stores are a treasure trove of potential gifts.
    • Facebook Buy-Sell-Trade or Marketplace groups offer free and low-cost gift ideas.
    • Baked goods, candy, and cocoa make wonderful holiday gifts. Put it in a decorative tin or basket to make it festive.
    • Exercise your creativity with some home crafting.

 

6. Save on gift wrap.

Skip the expense of gift wrap with your own homemade version. You can be creative with items you probably have around the house.

    • Substitute any of the following for wrapping paper: butcher block paper, newspaper comics, and black paper with drawings done with a white paint marker.
    • Use shredded colored paper to cushion gifts in boxes and gift bags.
    • For extra-large presents, a plastic tablecloth works well as gift wrap.
    • Use old cards cut with pinking shears for your gift tags.
    • Remember to save this year’s bows, ribbons, and wrap for next year’s presents. Wind the ribbon around old wrapping paper tubes.

Pro Tip: To freshen wrinkled bows, put them in the dryer with a damp washcloth. Run the machine on the delicate cycle for 2 minutes. 

 

7. Choose a less gift-focused holiday.

Talk to your family and friends sooner rather than later if you’d prefer to focus less on the gifts and more on the spirit of the holiday season.

    • Consider making a joint donation to a favorite charity instead of gift-giving.
    • Volunteer together over the holidays.
    • Give the gift of your time. Babysitting, a home-cooked meal, and even cleaning out the basement are all wonderful ways to show you care.
    • Plan a family trip or experience instead of giving actual gifts

 

Looking for extra cash for holiday gifts?

Some insurance companies allow you to skip payments around the holidays. At California Casualty, you have the option to skip your auto insurance payment for three whole months. (You also have this option to skip in the summer.) Ask your agent for details.

Happy holidays from all of us at California Casualty!

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

12 Ways You Can Save on Groceries This Year

12 Ways You Can Save on Groceries This Year

If your bill at the grocery store is higher than you’d like, you’re not alone. The average cost of groceries is 13% higher than this time last year. A family of four can spend as much as $932 on their monthly food bill…

Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it. From how you pay for groceries to where and when you shop, here are our top tips for saving money on groceries and feeding your family on a budget.

 

1. Redefine dinner.

Who says that dinner has to be a three-course affair with meat, veggies, a starch, and a dessert? Take the pressure off and serve breakfast for dinner a few times a week. Omelets are a relatively inexpensive meal and very filling. You also can have soup and sandwich night or a big salad. Be creative. Try going meatless to save money or adding beans to ground beef to increase the amount of food. Put shredded chicken over a soup, salad, or pasta and you’ll use a lot less than when serving pieces of chicken.

Pro Tip: Plan to cook so that you definitely will have leftovers. It’s easier and often cheaper to make a large portion than to plan a whole new meal with new ingredients.

 

2. Make a list and actually stick to it.

Make a meal plan for the week so you know exactly what to put on your shopping list. Pre-planning cuts down on impulse purchases, which can put you over budget. Then shop only for those items on your list. To help stick to your list, always make sure to eat before shopping,

 

3. Raid your pantry.

When meal planning, remember that you likely have plenty of food at home that you can incorporate. Look through your pantry and see if you can create a recipe around the food that is there. Check your freezer too. That way, you may just need a few items on your list to create some delicious meals.

Pro Tip: Check out websites that can help you build a recipe with ingredients that you already have like MyFridgeFood or SuperCook.

 

4. Sign up for the store’s loyalty program.

Most grocery stores offer loyalty programs that are free to join. You can get discounts automatically deducted at checkout. If you’re not on your store’s program, sign up the next time you’re there.

 

5. Clip coupons and look for sales.

Look at the weekly circular in print or digitally for sales, and clip/save coupons for the items you use. Digital coupons can even be loaded directly onto your loyalty card. Remember to do the math, however. Not all sales are the same good deal. Look at the unit price per ounce to compare the costs of different brands. Plus, if you’re not sure that you’ll use it, don’t buy it. Spoiled fruit in the garbage is the same as throwing away money.

 

6. Buy store brands.

The cost of store brands is usually 20-25% less. Try them out next time and see if you notice enough of a difference to justify buying the name brand. If you can’t buy all generic brands, at least try store brands for staples like salt and sugar.

 

7. Avoid pre-made items.

Convenience comes at a price. That means if something is prepared for you, you’re likely paying more for it. When you’re shopping, try to find food closest to its natural state. Buy block cheese instead of shredded cheese, and a box of pasta rather than a heat-and-eat variety. Snacks are some of the priciest items to buy. You can really save a lot here if you prepare them yourself.

 

8. Tally as you go.

Use the calculator on your phone to add up your order as you shop. You’ll be less likely to add items this way, and there will be no surprises when you get to the checkout. It might cause you to think, “do I really need this?”

 

9. When you shop matters.

Shop midweek when many grocery stores restock their shelves. That’s also when they change the discounts. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the price cut from last week’s sale. If you’re looking for clearance specials, shop first thing in the morning – or right after a holiday. If you’re looking for specials in the bakery, deli, or prepared foods section, shop right before closing. Many supermarkets mark down their rotisserie chickens, for example.

 

10. Pay with a rewards credit card or cash.

You might as well get some cash back when you shop. Pay with a grocery rewards card and you can automatically see some savings. Or if you can, pay with cash. Bring only the amount you want to spend, and when the cash runs out, you can’t buy anything else.

 

11. Compare prices at different stores.

Compare prices at different nearby grocery stores. Switch to a store that’s known for more affordable food prices like Walmart, Aldi, or Trader Joe’s. Even Dollar Tree has grocery items. Or you can join a wholesale club like Costco or Sam’s Club. These stores stock items in bulk at often lower prices. You’ll have to spend more upfront but you’ll save in the long run. That might not be for everyone but it’s a good value for large families.

 

12. Use a rebate app.

Sign up for apps like Ibotta and Rakuten. They give you cash back for buying groceries, among other items. Stores pay these apps a commission for sending them your way. Find out which apps link to your grocery store to make sure that they are an affiliate partner.

Happy shopping!

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Holiday Spending on Budget

5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Holiday Spending on Budget

There’s so much to love about the holidays: the festive food, the memorable music, the timeless traditions with friends and family, and the gifts galore. It’s easy to blow your budget when you’re caught up in the holiday spirit.

We typically spend generously around the holidays, an average of $942, according to Gallup. And this season, that amount is only expected to increase.

Celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank by using some of these proven ways to keep your spending in check.

 

1. Make a holiday spending plan.

We often don’t consider everything that goes into our holiday spending. It’s more than just gifts- decorating, food, and entertaining can all add up. Planning ahead will help you understand what you typically spend, and how to make more savvy decisions.

    • Decorate with your budget in mind. You can reuse décor from years before or stop at your favorite dollar store for new items. Homemade decorations offer a personal touch that is extra special.
    • Consider your holiday activities. Some traditions, like watching holiday movies or going to worship services, are free while others come with a cost. Budget for the ones that are important to you.
    • Look at options for holiday entertaining. Consider scaling back your celebrations or rethinking how you gather. Maybe you’d like to set up a group volunteer afternoon rather than hosting a holiday party.
    • If you’re traveling for the holidays, make your plans as early as possible to save money. Include this expense in your holiday spending budget as well.
    • Determine the overall amount of money you have to spend on gifts. This will be your gift budget. Set it and stick to it. (If you’re tempted to go over, see tip #4.)

2. Choose budget-friendly gifts. 

Make a list of family, friends, and coworkers you would like to get gifts for before you shop. This will help you to adjust expectations, specifically how many presents in total you will give, and how expensive they each can be.

    • Create a gift list with recipient names and a price limit for each person or pet. (Be sure not to forget gifts for teachers, coworkers, etc.) Then, write down one or two gift ideas for each name. Keep that list in your purse or wallet for easy access when you’re shopping or simply out and about and spot the perfect present.
    • Don’t forget the extra gift expenses. Gift wrap, shipping/postage, and cards can be pricey. Try making your own wrapping paper and cards to cut down on expenses.
    • Shop early. If you wait until the last minute, you are more likely to overspend. 
    • Look out for deals every day. There isn’t much difference between holiday sale prices and Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
    • Look for discounts and price check your gifts. Apps like ShopSavvy allow you to scan a bar code and check the price against other local retailers or online.
    • Make your gifts. Give baked goods and homemade candy. Create a photo album. Give the gift of your time in the form of babysitting or a home-cooked meal. 

3. Keep track of your spending.

Your holiday spending plan is your overall guide. Be sure to consult it regularly to stay on track. This is the single most important thing you’ll need to do to stay within your budget. Here are some supporting strategies that can help.

    • Consider opening a bank account for your holiday spending. Deposit the money in that account that you have budgeted. Then, draw upon that account for your gifts, décor, and holiday activities. Some banks and credit unions offer a short-term account just for this purpose. Typically, you set it up at the beginning of the year and save a little bit each month until the holiday season.
    • Stick to cash only for all of your holiday spending. Take out a sum of cash and divide it among different envelopes for gifts, décor, activities, etc. Then use the cash in the appropriate envelope for any related expenses.
    • If you are using a credit card to make purchases, choose one where you get cashback.
    • Keep track of your purchases with spreadsheets or budgeting apps. Some popular apps include iSpending and CashTrails.

 

4. Earn extra money.

There’s an easy way to make room for a little more spending this holiday season—and still stay within budget. That would be to add some extra income. 

    • Take on a seasonal job. Retailers are hiring for the holidays and you can get a part-time job that not only brings in money but could earn you employee discounts.
    • Sell your unwanted stuff. Go to websites or apps like eBay, Poshmark, or Facebook Marketplace and sell the things you no longer use or need. This has the added advantage of decluttering your home for the holidays.
    • Give up an indulgence temporarily. If you stop to buy an expensive coffee every morning, now is the time to put that money into a jar. Do the same for dinner out or other indulgences.

5. Start in January for the next holiday season.

Saving over time is the most painless way to get ready for the holidays. Once you’ve gone through the exercise of budgeting, you can use that information to plan for next year.

    • Calculate what you spent on the holidays this year. Divide that number by 12. Then, make a plan to save that amount each month. Set up a holiday spending account at your bank.
    • Take advantage of post-holiday sales. You can get discounted décor, cards, and other holiday-themed items after the holiday. Buy them now and put them away for next year.
    • While the season is still fresh in your memory, write down the traditions that you enjoyed this year and ones that you may want to skip next year. Include any other reflections that might help when planning for the next holiday season.

 

Happy holidays (and happy spending) from California Casualty!

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims – 6 Steps to Take if it Happens to You

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims – 6 Steps to Take if it Happens to You

Americans are finding themselves among another national crisis amidst the coronavirus pandemic – fraudulent unemployment claims. Across the country, employers are receiving numerous unemployment claims by imposters using the personal information of those who haven’t filed (because they are still employed).

This is simply a different form of Identity Theft where an individual’s personal identifiable information (PII) is compromised and then used to file an unemployment claim. The surge of COVID-related unemployment makes it easier for the fraudsters to file mass numbers of claims with hopes that some will go through. Unfortunately, if someone has successfully filed for unemployment in your name, not only has your PII become compromised, but you will also be responsible to pay the federal taxes owed on the amount received/reported in your name.

If you are actively working and have gotten a notice from your state or employer that someone has filed for unemployment in your name, here are 6 steps to help you get started protecting your identity and your credit.

 

1. Report the fraud to your employer

If you were not contacted by your employer, start by contacting your business’ Human Resources (HR) department and making them aware of the situation. For your records, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you keep a note of who you spoke to and when.

 

2. Report the fraud to your state unemployment benefits agency

Report the fraud to your state’s unemployment agency and let them know that it was not you who filed. You can do this quickly online, click here to find your state’s agency. Again, keep a record of your case number and who you spoke to.

 

3. Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Because your personal information has been compromised you will also need to file a report with the FTC. Visit IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338 and to complete the ID Theft Complaint Form. You should receive a confirmation notice with the reference number assigned to your complaint within 48 hours.

 

4. Place a fraud alert on your credit report

Placing a fraud alert on your credit will make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name, this is because a business must authorize your identity before issuing the credit. Placing a fraud alert is free, lasts one year, and will not affect your credit score. To do this, contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus and they will inform the other two.

Equifax: (800) 525-6285

Experian: (888)-397-3742

TransUnion: (800)-680-7289

After placing a fraud alert, it’s a good idea to get your credit reports and review them for major changes. You can obtain a free copy by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You should also keep an eye on your credit score. You can do this by visiting a website that will not affect your score when you check, like Credit Karma.

 

5. Continue to monitor your accounts

In the following weeks, you should keep a close eye on your bank and other financial account statements, utility bills, credit card statements, medical bills, and medical insurance statements. If you see any unknown activity or unauthorized transactions call and report it immediately.

 

6. Get ID Theft Protection

Save yourself time and stress by investing in a service that will help protect your identity, like CyberScout. CyberScout is the nation’s premier provider of identity services. California Casualty customers automatically get free ID theft resolution services from CyberScout when they purchase their policy. For more information on CyberScout click here.

 

One in five Americans has experienced identity theft; one-third of Americans have never even looked at their credit report. As the pandemic continues to aide in the increase of online shopping and as tax season gets into full swing, it’s important now- more than ever- to be extremely cautious and protect your identity.

Here are a few more tips to help you stay safe this spring:

    • Use complex passwords
    • Don’t give out your personal information online
    • Use two-factor authentication
    • Purchase online through safe, trusted third-party apps like PayPal
    • Sign up for credit card usage alerts
    • File your tax returns as early as possible
    • Use a trusted tax-preparer

Don’t wait until it’s too late, fraudulent unemployment claims and other identity theft scams can happen to anyone at any time. Take the necessary steps and precautions to make sure it won’t happen to you.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

First (or Fourth) Time Homebuyers Guide

First (or Fourth) Time Homebuyers Guide

Purchasing a home is an extremely exciting adventure in the life journey – in fact, more than anything it might represent achieving the American dream. For all the excitement though, it can be confusing, challenging, and stressful. And even for those who’ve done it before, today’s real estate and credit markets are significantly different from even five years ago.

So, whether you’re embarking on this journey as a first-time home buyer, taking advantage of record-low interest rates, or just planning on downsizing or upgrading, follow our guide to help get you in great home-buying shape.

 

Phase 1: Prepping and Planning

1. Decide how much you can afford – If you’re like many, your home is the largest purchase you’ll ever make – so the biggest question is around how much you can comfortably afford. This is determined according to your income, debt, credit score, location, and more. Then there’s the down payment, for which you’ll probably need to have a savings plan to reach (typical amount is 10-20% of the home value). You can use a home affordability calculator or, better yet, talk to a financial planner.

2. Put your financial ducks in a row – You’ll want to be in good financial shape before house shopping. That means paying off all or most of your debt and making sure you have an emergency fund. The latter will be helpful for those unexpected expenses you’ll have as a new homeowner (that you didn’t have to worry about as a renter!). You’ll also want to save for closing costs (typically 2-5% of loan amount), moving expenses, repairs, and other various expenses.

3. Strengthen your credit – Your credit score affects what loans you will qualify for, so you want it as strong as possible. Get free credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion and make sure there aren’t any errors. Then build your score by making sure to pay all bills on time and keeping card balances low. If you don’t have much credit history, quickly start building your score by putting a utility bill or two in your name and staying current on your payments.

4. Educate yourself – Get familiar with all the steps of the process, including all the costs along the way and the people who will be involved. Your main contact (and person working on your behalf) will be your real estate agent, but you will/may also be working with a seller’s agent, broker, loan officer, underwriter, appraiser, listing agent, loan servicer, home inspector, and others.

5. Work with recommended professionals – The most important of these is your real estate agent, who will be representing you and your interests through the process. Ask for recommendations in your circle. Pro tip: You may get referrals to “real estate agents,” “realtors,” and “real estate brokers.” What’s the difference? The first is a licensed professional representing buyers or sellers, the second is a real estate agent who’s a member of the realtors’ association, and the last generally has more training and may work independently or have their own firm.

6. Explore your mortgage options – You can go with all kinds of lenders – all of which have a different down payment and eligibility requirements. Make sure you look at the range of loans, including conventional mortgages as well as loans offered by the FHA, USDA, and VA. As a first-time homebuyer, be sure to research federal or local assistance programs for your buying cohort – they typically offer advantages and savings not offered to other home buyers! After your research, carefully compare the different loan fees and rates.

7. Get pre-approved – After you’ve chosen a preferred lender, apply for pre-approval. Having a pre-approval letter (which specifies the lender’s offer amount) shows real estate agents and home sellers that you’re serious about buying, which can put you at the front of the bidder line.

 

Phase 2: House Shopping

8. Research the area – Smart buyers don’t make buying decisions based on the property and house alone. Make sure you thoroughly research the neighborhood (visiting it at different times and days) and think about proximity to schools and workplaces. Research crime rates and consider traffic congestion and freeway access. Also, know the value of homes in the area – a price per square foot average is a great yardstick for making sure you don’t end up paying over market value.

9. Go to open houses – The pandemic has made online home-viewing easier than ever. Take advantage of 3D home tours, which will let you filter out homes that don’t fit your needs. From there, you can attend in-person open houses only at those homes you’re most interested in.

10. Get an inspection – Paying for a home inspection is money well spent and can save you very expensive headaches down the road. A typical inspection covers things like structural elements, grounds, attic, heating and cooling systems, roof, exterior surfaces, basement, insulation, electrical system, and all other parts of the home.   

11. Make an offer – Once you’ve found the home you want and can afford, you’ll make an offer to the seller. If you’re not sure how much that should be, lean on your agent for their expertise! They can also help guide you through any negotiating (on say, repairs) or other terms or conditions. Finally, a personalized offer letter never hurts!

12. Know the market – You may be buying in a seller’s market, a buyer’s market, or somewhere in between. Knowing the larger marketplace will help ensure you don’t over-or underbid (again, your agent should be your guide here!). If the market is especially hot you’ll be competing against lots of other offers – know your top price going in so that you don’t get saddled with debt you can’t afford.

13. Get adequate home insurance – Your lender will require homeowners insurance, so start shopping for coverage early (at least 30 days before closing). Get quotes and make sure you understand what’s covered, what’s not, what the terms are, and any additional coverage your home may need. Have questions? Give us a call – we offer special benefits to educators, firefighters, nurses, and peace officers!

Congratulations on embarking on the exciting home-buying journey! With a little extra effort, a plan, and a solid understanding of the process, you’ll be settled into the home of your dreams in no time.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

How To Create a Budget In 7 Easy Steps

How To Create a Budget In 7 Easy Steps

Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to start saving money, or to start spending a little more wisely? The best way to save money for you and your family’s future is to create a budget.

Most people cringe at the thought of sitting down and going over their finances, but budgeting doesn’t have to be scary. Even if you think you are in good financial standing you may be shocked when you sit down and go through the numbers. A budget will help you monitor your flow of money and get rid of unnecessary spending, saving you money each month, so what’s there to lose?

Here are 7 easy steps to begin setting your budget.

 

Step 1. Sit Down Together

Get together with your significant other to calculate the total amount of money you each have coming in each month. From there you will be able to more accurately know where you can cut spending and start saving.

 

Step 2. Find Out Your Essential Spending Costs

When you begin to sit through and work out your family’s budget, it’s important to start by writing out all of the essential spending your family does each month. This will include payments for your mortgage, rent, bills, insurance, auto loans, student loans, schooling, daycare, food, prescriptions, and essential groceries and clothing.

 

Step 3. Find Out Your Non-Essential Spending Costs

Next, you will write all costs that may not be essential, but you would like to keep putting money towards them each month. If you have any non-essential spending that you don’t use anymore this would be a good time to start cutting that spending out to help you save. Non-essential monthly spending could include just about anything, like streaming services- Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, or Disney +, etc., subscription and other services like Amazon Prime, Adobe Creative Suite, Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix, etc. It could also include any club or gym memberships, extracurriculars, etc.

 

Step 4. Set Aside Extra Cash to Pay off Debts

By paying off your debts more quickly you can get yourself in better financial standing for the future. To do this start, use the money that is left that you have calculated from your essential and non-essential spending, and start by paying a little above the average monthly payment on your credit cards. Do this every month until you get the balance low enough to completely pay them off. It doesn’t have to be much, a few extra dollars here and there will still get you closer to paying debt off than the minimum payment. You can also do this with your other loans, like your car or home, as well. You can either do this with multiple debts or choose one debt to pay off at a time; it depends on you and your preference and financial situation.

 

Step 5. Set a Limit for Extra Spending

Setting Limits may be hard at first, but when you sit down and calculate your average cost at the grocery store or your weekly retail therapy, you may find out that you are overspending. Set a reasonable limit for yourself when you go shopping, one that fits into your budget, and stick to it. Bye overspending.

 

Step 6. Leave Yourself Some Room 

A common mistake in budgeting is not leaving room for events that take place throughout the year like, Holidays, Birthdays, Weddings, Back to School, Baby Showers, etc. If you have an event coming up, know to keep a little bit of extra money out to put it towards. Even if the event is your family going out to eat once a month, remember to leave yourself some room. One of the best ways to do this without overspending is to take out a cash deposit and put it in an envelope to use on that date. That way it is out of your account, you have a spending limit, and the rest can go towards your savings.

 

Step 7. Determine How Much You Can Save

Once you have all of your spending calculated, you can then determine how much you can save each month. Assuming that some of your payment already goes into your 401k, it’s important to also contribute a personal savings account every month or every paycheck. Think of your personal savings account as a nest-egg for you and your family in case of emergencies. It is wise to contribute enough money into this account until you have reached an amount that could support your family’s essential needs for at least 6 months. Do not pull out of this account.

If you would like to start a savings account that you want to attribute money towards each month for additional life events like college, home-ownership, your own wedding, engagement rings, renovations, family trips, vacations, etc. open a new account, a new one that doesn’t include the nest-egg savings you have built, and start contributing what you can until you have reached your goal.

 

BONUS TIP: Track Your Spending

To stay on track is to monitor your spending. You should track every dollar moving in and out of your account. There are hundreds of budgeting apps that can help you, or you could just make it a point to look at your online banking at the end of each day. Tracking all of the cash flow in real-time will help you cut out costs that aren’t necessary or that you may not use as often as you think you do. This will also help you monitor your account for any suspicious purchases or accidental charges.

 

Budgeting doesn’t have to be scary, and if you get the math wrong on your first month that’s okay. Fix some spending/saving and try again, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments where they are needed. It’s your money, find whatever works for you and your family.

Happy budgeting!

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

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