New to budgeting? Give it three months

No matter how well you think you know your spending, if you’re not already budgeting, I can promise that you really don’t. Sure, you know what your rent or mortgage is, you might be able to guess how much gas you buy each month, and food is, well, honestly, it’s probably a mystery. If you aren’t budgeting, I’d wager that you just don’t know. This makes starting to budget really hard. Not only is it difficult to develop the habit of tracking purchases, which is an essential component of budgeting, but guessing what to allocate to each category will be

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Wow, food is expensive

One of the most common pitfalls around budgeting comes when you’re just starting out, trying to guess how much to put in each category. And at first, it really is a guess. It’s hard. If you’ve never paid attention to you’re spending before, it will seem impossible to get the numbers right. The biggest offender here is usually food. Restaurants and groceries both. For whatever reason, we always begin by underestimating how much we actually spend on food. I’m not going to blame the Starbucks latte as the sole reason for this, thought they are quite expensive. Food just costs

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You’re planning for Christmas, right?

It’s March, so we all know what that means. It’s almost Christmas! Well, maybe not. But even if Christmas is actually nine months away, you should still be thinking about it. A little bit. The great thing about Christmas is that it’s on the same day every year. This means you can, and should, plan for it. There’s no reason to be caught unprepared when December rolls around. If you want money for gifts, or decorations, or lights, then do this: Set up a category in your budget called Christmas, and throw some money in there every single month. If

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You don’t want a tax return

Does that sound crazy? Maybe, but it’s probably not a new concept. You’ve likely heard someone say that when you get a tax return, you’ve given the government an interest free loan. I don’t necessarily buy that line of thinking, but it is true that getting a tax return means you’ve paid more in taxes than you need to. What are the practical results of that? Well, when you get a tax return, you’ve been taking home less than you could have with each pay check. That might be substantial. If you get a $4,000 tax return, you’ve been shorting

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COVID-19 killed the retirement market

Right around this time last year, the market was hitting the bottom of a free fall, thanks to the spread of COVID-19, and the world shutting down to stop it. Things looked bleak, and if you had your retirement invested in index funds that tracked the S&P 500, it may have felt like the bottom dropped out of your future. Between Feb 14, 2020, and March 20, 2020, the S&P 500 dropped from 3,380 to 2,304. If you had a 401k worth $500,000 invested in S&P 500 index funds in the middle of February, it was worth $340,828 by the

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