Financial goals when the going gets tough

Last month, the December 2015 Consumer Confidence Index ®, showed improvement over the previous month:

“Consumer confidence improved in December, following a moderate decrease in November,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “As 2015 draws to a close, consumers' assessment of the current state of the economy remains positive, particularly their assessment of the job market. Looking ahead to 2016, consumers are expecting little change in both business conditions and the labor market. Expectations regarding their financial outlook are mixed, but the optimists continue to outweigh the pessimists.”

But just a couple weeks into the New Year, with the stock market still reeling, people may be more concerned about the economy. So now that we're smack dab in the middle of the first month of 2016, wherein we at Get Rich Slowly are concentrating on taking charge of our finances, I wonder how it's going for everyone. Do you have the same confidence?
Easy changing to hard - or vice versa

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More about...Budgeting, Economics, Retirement

Save money on your bike commute

This year, my husband decided to commute to work again — on his bicycle. He's not alone. The number of people commuting by bike has increased every year since 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Back then, it was just over 687,000 Americans that biked to work. By 2014, the figure had climbed to more than 832,000.

What's surprising is that the number of active commuters has never even reached 1 percent of the commuting public given how difficult it's been to make a living during the same period.

Female bicycle commuter

Surprising Numbers

In our case, Terry's commute is 35 miles round trip. So using the IRS standard mileage rate for business miles driven (down to $.54 cents in 2016), taking the car to work for 240 days of the year would cost $4,536. Add to that the parking fees of $26 a day. That's another $4,320 annually if we opt for the $360 monthly rate. It's hard to swallow $8,856 for annual transportation costs when the League of American Bicyclists estimates that commuting by bike costs a mere $308. Really. Continue reading...

More about...Transportation, Frugality

Planning For the Year Ahead

 

couple standing on mountain

Every year we ring in the New Year and experience the phenomenon of being connected to everyone else. We're tied together by the calendar. Even though we lead separate lives and have distinctly different journeys from every other person, we can't escape the fact that January 1 starts a new year for us all.

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What do you budget for pet travel or care over the holidays?

It used to be quite rare to find a pet in the cabin of a plane; but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 2 million pets are transported by air every year in the U.S. Out of curiosity, I went to a couple websites to see how much it costs to travel with a pet:

  • Southwest - $95 per pet carrier
  • Delta - $125
  • American - $125
  • Jet Blue - $100 (non-refundable, but the fee also earns 300 points/segment)

So if your holiday plans include a trip to see family or a well-deserved vacation, you can take Fifi along for another $190 to $250. If you're staying at a hotel, tack on another $10 to $85/night at a Holiday Inn.

Hypothetically speaking, a family flying with a pet next week could pay an extra $260 to $845 if they stay at a hotel for the week.

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More about...Budgeting, Travel

What’s your best personal finance tip?

We started a project on our Facebook page a couple days ago. We asked the scrimpers and savers to give us their best personal finance tip -- and, so far, a few people have offered their advice:

  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Stop eating out.
  • Buy what you need, not what you want and never what society tells you you want!
  • Ditch cable/satellite, make meal plans, and only buy what's on the ingredients list, pay cash, use a no-fee bank.

It's a great start. It's also interesting how even just putting something like this together works. I started reading the comments, and for some reason one of them just hit me in the face: "stop eating out."

Wow.

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What else can young people do to jumpstart their lives?

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, the number of young women living with relatives is rising — to levels not seen since the 1940s. Fully 36.4 percent of young women between the ages of 18 to 34 are not financially capable of striking out on their own these days — even though five times more of them are college-educated today.

The gender gap

Parents and young woman

It's no different for young men. In fact, more men than women in this age group (42.8 percent compared to 36.4 percent) live with family members today.

But a recent Payscale.com survey on the gender pay gap indicates that men will earn far more than women by the time they reach their 50s, in part because of the types of jobs men and women typically take.

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How do you decide what to spend on a computer?

Decide to buy a computer these days and immediately you're confronted with a complex decision process wherein you pit features against price. The choice is intensely personal and a total reflection of your tastes, priorities, and pocketbook. I know how I've gone about it in the past, but I was curious to see how other people approach the problem.

It wasn't hard to get people to talk. (People are passionate about their computers!) But as they did, I identified three basic methods to decide on price:

  1. The features route
  2. The cheap route
  3. The set-price route

Now that I think about it, this may be true for a lot of purchases!

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More about...Budgeting

How do you entertain out-of-town guests for free?

The holiday season is fast approaching, and you might be planning to travel home to spend time with family — or your family could be coming to see you. Either way, travel expenses add up quickly, leaving little to no room for entertainment once you're together. Sometimes that's not a problem because there's so much to do anyway. But other times, it really could put a crimp in your budget or strain your guests' finances. That's why it's a great idea to have a slate of activities and events that you could substitute into your plans so that no one has to overextend just to participate.

First, be the Guinea Pig

There's a lot of free stuff out there to do, and most of it is really fun — but sometimes there's a reason something's free too. Whatever you decide to do, it works out best if you've done it yourself before your guests arrive.

Father and son tourists visit the Golden Gate Bridge

For instance, my husband, Terry, was looking for something fun to do one weekend, and he came across these free walking tours in the city of San Francisco. They're offered by the public library system and they're absolutely excellent.

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More about...Frugality, Travel

IRS Tax Changes for 2016

couple getting investing advice

Staying on top of IRS tax changes is a challenge. Don't you feel sometimes like income tax is the hardest subject in the world to understand? Well, it's really nothing to be embarrassed about. Here's what Albert Einstein said way back when:

"The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes." - Albert Einstein Continue reading...

More about...Taxes