Battle Plan Series – Phase 1 (STEP) – T.rack Your Spending

Now that you have figured out how you got here, where you are and where you want to go, its time to start getting things lined up.

The next stage is to put your spending habits on paper, create a budget and squeeze the most you can out of it.

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Creating Your First Budget (Made Easy)

By: Amber Moore

You may have watched your parents budget their paychecks and you’ve probably heard many people say that a budget is the best way to control your money (instead of feeling like it controls you!), but if you’ve never done one before, the thought of it might seem overwhelming!

It’s really not, I promise. I’m going to show you how to create your very first household budget without making your head spin.

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Battle Plan for Financial Freedom

CAM offers a two phase program. STEP is for people just starting out on their path to financial freedom and walks you through getting completely out of debt. Once you graduate from STEP, you will enroll in DFAS where you will build up savings, retirement and pay off your house. If you are interested in learning more about the program or would like CAM to walk with you on your journey contact us me at Charles@CAMFinancialCoach.com.

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What You Need to Know About Saving for College

We are continuing in our College series. Last week we talked about having a plan for your higher education (you can read that here). My goal is to help just one person with the road to college, whether that is a parent or if that is a student, as long as they want to make a change and break the continual cycle of loans, debt, and free flow planning instead of intentional living.

This week we will start at the beginning of college planning which we feel is the financial planning or saving for college. Financial planning we put first because with this out of the way many obstacles and objections to college can be overcome.

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“I don’t have time (working three jobs to make ends meet).”

“It’s too expensive.”

“I don’t need to go to college; there are many successful people who haven’t.”

“College is a business and not about education anymore.”

These are just a few of the mindsets people have today about the possibility of higher education, but if you were to have college already taken care of financially, would your stance change?

As parents, we want nothing more than for them to have the opportunities we didn’t have so they can have the life we didn’t. Something my father always said was, “Listen and adult-education-572269_1920learn from my mistakes; there is no reason for you to make the same mistakes.” As I look back on this, I see how important and how much wisdom could have been gained if I would have grasped all of that phrase when he was saying it. With all of this being said, I want to make it clear that neither me or my wife had college paid for upon graduating high school. In fact, I went out of state to a college I was paying $10,000 per semester, all paid for with student loans. After one semester of partying and $10,000 in loans with no transferable grades to show for it, I moved back home to my dads and decided to go to work. I don’t want my children to continue this cycle.

As parents and, more importantly, as a team, my wife and I continually tell our children that they will go to college (even if they choose to serve in the military). Not because we think it is necessary for success, but because we believe that the knowledge gained, connections made, people met, and the real-world experience learned are all valuable tools for life. We, however, do feel that it is our responsibility to provide this financially for them and so we have started saving for all of their tuition costs. Many people have different feelings on whether it is their responsibility to provide this for their children and I do not believe any of us are necessarily right or wrong, but no matter what your belief is, one thing that is for certain is that we as parents must plan.

How Much to Save

block-1512119_1920To fully fund a college education at an in-state school, it currently costs approximately $40,000 in tuition. Now this is a 4-year degree at a state school completed in 4-years. We can lower this number with grants, scholarships, and financial aid, but for this let us use this as the base number. In order for parent(s) to fund this $40,000, we have to start now.

I will admit that my wife and I are behind on this. We also have 4 children (11,9,2,1) and will fund all of their college (plus we want more kids: YIKES!). Let’s figure out what my family will need to save assuming a 3% annual college inflation rate and a rate of return of 10%. To fund this starting at age 11, we have to save $300 per month at least, for the 9-year old it is $225, 2 it is $110 and we would need to save $100 per month for our 1-year old. Obviously the sooner we start the easier and lower the number. Also something to consider, if for a new born you were to put back $7,000 when they are born, you would have $40,000 at the age of 18.

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The reason I break these down is to show you how starting early can save you money. The $300 needed to fund our oldest daughter’s college, is as much as a car note. The $100 (lowest number) needed for my youngest is the same amount we were paying for my student loans that have been around for the past almost ten years. We have put a priority on our children’s education and even it is expensive, I want to provide this so that our children don’t start out their adult life with that insane student loan debt lingering over their heads when they graduate.

Check out this college savings calculator (or any of the many out there) to figure out how much you need to be saving for your children for college.

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Where to put the money

For college education, there are many options for college savings from government bonds (probably the most famous grandparent gift), taxable savings account, 529 college savings plans, and 529 pre-paid tuition plans.

What we recommend is to put the money first into a 529 college savings plan and to diversify and control the investment. Investment options with your 529 plan can include stock mutual funds, bond mutual funds, and money market funds, and even age-based portfolios that become more conservative as the child gets closer to leaving for college. 529 plans allow your money to grow tax-free (some states will still charge state tax) and to withdrawal without penalty as long as the money is going toward eligible college expenses (tuition, room and board, books, etc.). You can learn all about 529 plans in this article from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Things to Remember

income-tax-491626_1920Contributions to your child’s (or grandchild’s, niece’s, etc.) college saving plan count as a gift from you. You have an allowance of $14,000 per year for gifts (you can choose to pay up to 5-years worth at once as long as it wouldn’t exceed that allowance). Check with your accountant for tax implications.

You don’t have to be the only one saving for your child’s college. In lieu of big expensive gifts that will go unplayed with, you could ask friends and relatives to instead give children college contributions for birthdays or other holidays. Also, when your child is old enough to start earning his/her own money, a portion of that should be going toward their education.

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Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.comwhere you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.

Have a Plan: 3 Tips to Preparing for College

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In today’s society, no child is left behind, each participant gets a trophy, and everyone thinks they deserve everything that their neighbor has, even if they can’t afford it. Because of this, education has been a topic of major debate.

You have some concerned that education is too expensive now, putting out of reach for some. Some of those even believe higher education, at least to an Associates degree, should be government funded. Then you have many people do not think about education enough, and just accept the concept and decision that the only way to go too school is to fund it with student loans.

I am here to tell you that you can go to school DEBT FREE. If you have already finished school and you are in student loan debt, there is a way out.

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For the next few weeks, we will cover the financial side of education and work through everything from preparation of the student and parents, going to school debt free, getting out of student loan debt if you are already there, and more topics to start a dialogue and the thought process of the possibility of a debt free higher education.

This week we will look at student loans and some basic college facts and talk about having a plan.

AVG Debt – $30,100
AVG In-State Cost Per Year- $$24,061

AVG Private School Cost per Year – $47,831
AVG GPA at Graduation at Public Colleges – 3.1
AVG Grant and Scholarship Aid – $9,740

AVG Financial Aid – $12,740
AVG Graduation Rate – 60%
AVG Degree Change – 75%

(These figures are based on graduating with a bachelors degree from a 4-year university)

With all of these numbers, it is easy to see that the college mindset will more than likely change and evolve over time. But as with any decision, the biggest part of making a good choice is planning. These facts show that changes will happen, and while these are simply averages they are a great representation of the student loan debt that can easily become attached to these changes. So how can you best pursue higher education and avoid going in debt to do it? Well, you need to have a plan.

Here are 3 steps to planning ahead for higher education:

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First, make sure you have a plan for a degree.

While statistics can vary, most will report that nearly 50% of students go into college with an undecided or undeclared major. With this information, its no wonder that nearly 75% of all college students end up changing their degree. This “I’ll figure it out later” mentality is adult-education-572269_1920what kills people in their decisions. For example, when you shopping for a car: if you go to a lot with no idea what type of car you want, what features you need or what your budget is, that salesman is going to do his best to take you for everything he can. And if you change your mind in a year or 2, you will be so far upside down you won’t be able to do anything. You wouldn’t walk down the isle unsure if you were making a good or right decision would you? Thinking you would just change your mind a couple years down the road? The emotional and financial implications of a divorce are devastating. So, why 50% young adults think its okay to start college without a plan is beyond me.

If you need to take a year or two off to decide what you want to major in, then do that. Work and save some money, explore some options, but most importantly: pray that God will show you where He’s called you. Once you have a good idea of a degree you would like to pursue, then you should start applying.

Click here for a great article on Forbes on why going undeclared is such a bad idea.

Second, start thinking about how you are going to pay for college.

If you’re lucky, your parents have been financial savvy and have some or all of your college set aside. However, according to Sallie May, only 30% of college costs are covered by the parent’s income and savings. So, how will you come up with the remaining 70%?

There is federal financial aid (if you qualify), grants, but most importantly: scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there for just about everything you can think of, you just have to find them. We will go into more detail about scholarships in an upcoming post.

You also could be working your butt off through highschool (and most especially in the summers) to save up everything you can. Continue working throughout college to pay off anything you are still responsible for. Most students can have about 12% of their college expenses covered by their own income and savings. And working doesn’t mean lower grades. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) discovered that students working 1­-15 hours per week have a higher GPA than students who don’t work at all.

Third, figure out where you want to apply to.

One of the biggest myths out there is that college is as much about where you go as it is the degree field you are working towards. 95% of the industries out there don’t care where you went, they just care that you did go and you learned what you needed to while there.

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One option is to go online. Online degrees hold the same weight as other degrees, KNOWLEDGE. This knowledge will transform into job opportunities and career paths.

Another option is to start at your local community college. Its cheaper and you can get your electives out of the way.

Your third option for a smart college path is to simply go to an in-state college. Staying in state is at least half the cost of going to an out-of-state public school.

Coming out of college with a degree should be a time of excitement, uncertainty (in a good way), and celebration. However, with the AVG student debt upon graduation being $30,100, these emotions now change and the focus is just finding a position so you can now pay for these loans. By putting the 3 tips we discussed into practice, you can help make sure you don’t start your adult life with the tremendous burden of doubt.

Just make sure to plan. Plan for the experience, ups and downs, change, and cost of college but most of all plan to gain all of the knowledge you can while there, because that is what carries past the school and that is the reason for going.

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Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.com where you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.

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3 Tips to Help You Budget Better

Budgeting, to families and people who have never done it, is a word that can cause anxiety, alarm, and even fights for couples.

But budgeting doesn’t have to be a dirty word.

A budget should be the most important part of your battle plan. It will free you and allow you to spend money on the things you need and want without guilt or shame. It will keep you on track to getting financial freedom.

Whether you’ve never created a budget before or you’ve been doing one your whole life, there’s always room for improvement. Through our journey for financial freedom my wife and I have found these three techniques have helped our budgeting process and also our communication.

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I occasionally provide links to excellent financial products that I personally endorse. If you do decide to purchase the item, I may receive a small commission on the sale. Do not feel obligated to purchase anything I link to.

3 Techniques to Help You Budget Better

1. Admit You Are the Problem

This may seem like a no brainer or a very simple technique but this is by far the hardest one to conquer. You have to recognize that you are the only reason you are in this mess and then decide that from this moment on there will be a change. Decide that you are in control of your money, and then start being intentional with your income.

 

I know that before my wife and I started budgeting monthly there was communication on bills and money, but the communication normally was “Hey, we need to watch our spending until payday.” Fortunately we were able to pay our bills and had money left over, but it always felt like we we were just treading water.

 

The first month we did a budget and saw all of our income on paper we truly did not know where it was all going. Why don’t we have more money in our pocket each month? Why are we always waiting for the next paycheck to arrive? These were just a couple of the questions we asked ourselves.

 

We had to recognize that we were the problem and figure out how to address it in our budgeting process. No one else was eating out for us, no one else was making weekly trips to the grocery stores using our money because they forgot to meal plan, and certainly no one else was drinking our Starbucks coffees. Once we got through the admitted that we were the reason for our problems and then set a realistic budget, we really did feel more in control and like we had the money to not only reach our goals but also to fight for complete financial freedom.

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2. Communicate Through Dreams

Whether this is with your spouse, with an accountability partner, or even just with yourself, communicating your dreams will give you goals and the motivation to continually try to reach them. As Chris Hogan, NY Times #1 Best Seller, says, “Dream in HD”. This will amplify your dreams and build them up. Let that thought of a secure and even lucrative retirement build and put more than just an age next to it. Amplify that dream with what your plans are during retirement. Amplify that dream with your numbers needed so you can make a plan a reality.

Dreaming with your spouse can be one of the best opportunities for communication. When my wife and I talk about our dreams, so much more than just the goal is discussed. When we are dreaming, we are planning and those plans aren’t just for us but for our family. Those dreams become our why, and our why becomes the motivation we need to get to the next step.

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3. Sticktuitiveness

This is a word that I heard almost 15 years ago and has stuck with me ever since. When budgeting we must have an ability to stick to it! That means accountability and the ability to tell yourself NO. Sticking to anything takes a decision and having a why – that is why this is tip three.

 

This is a long term concept. Having the sticktuitiveness to apply your budget and maintain the numbers through the month is not always easy. However by using tips 1-2,  it will be easier.

 

Just like when you are trying to create any other habit (or stop one), it takes a daily decision to do what you need to. When trying to get fit, you have to make up your mind every morning to go work out even when you don’t feel like it, or eat that salad instead of those cupcakes. That’s all willpower is, a decision. You don’t “have” direction-1015716_1920willpower”, you create it. In order to win your fight for financial freedom, you have to wake up tomorrow morning and decide that you are going to stick to your spending plan, that you aren’t going to impulse buy that new TV, or go out to eat just because you don’t feel like cooking. You have to decide when to say no because its not in the plan. You have to decide everyday that you made the best decision of your life by deciding to get financially free, trust that decision, and stick to your battle plan!

 

So there you have it. Whether you are just starting out budgeting or you have been doing it for years, these 3 tips will take your budgeting and mindset to the next level.

Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.com where you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.

How to Vacation on a Budget

We all need a little break from life every now and again.

Vacations are a good way to rejuvenate both mentally and physically. But when you are tight on money and doing everything you can to stay on track, a vacation might seem impossible.

Not true.

As long as you have a battle plan, anything is possible. So start by making a plan to save for a vacation and then read below to learn how to get the most bang for your buck.

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How to Vacation on a Budget

So, first I’d like to tell you a little bit of background about my family and myself. We have been overseas working for a defense contractor for over a year now. Vacationing and spending money is something that seems to come naturally to many of these seasoned contractors and a vast majority of the people we work around. Between seeing the country we live in, visiting close/neighboring countries, and going back to the US to see friends and family, we have had some amazing opportunities to take some low-cost but amazing family vacations.

But how do you take any type of vacation when you are trying to pay off debt and only have a set amount of money to spend? Don’t you need to have credit cards or a large amount in case you need it? No! Not if you make and stick to your battle plan. Follow the steps outlined below.

First and most importantly, come up with a spending plan (aka budget) for your vacation.

Vacationing and budget are not two words our mind wants to see in the same sentence because we have been conditioned to believe that a budget would take the fun out of a vacation. Rachel Cruze, a NY Times best selling author and daughter to Dave Ramsey, always says, “because my budget gave me permission.” This is how I look at budgeting for a vacation: we are giving ourselves permission to have fun.

Doing the budget is part of the planning phase for vacation. We do the budget just like we choose where we are going. Look at all of the options, then decide what is best for your family. You have to remember that even though vacations are spent away from home, that you can still be intentional with your money by having a plan and a budget.

Once you have your spending plan in place, next you need to decide where you can go based on that budget (woohoo the fun part!).

If you plan to save $1500 for a vacation, you probably won’t end up in Paris on a dream grand-canyon-1083745_1920vacation, but that’s okay. You will make it there (or where ever it is you dream of going) one day. There are so many amazing places, even right here in the US, that you can take your family to and have an unforgettable vacation.

Check out some budget friendly destination ideas here.

Now that you know where you want to go, start researching transportation and lodging.

One thing that my family does that is the opposite of what most do is we give ourselves options on several locations and then look at the dates we want to go. This way, if there are restrictions on airfare or lodging in one location, we still stay on budget by just searching one of our alternate choices. Airfare and lodging almost always will make up the bulk of your vacation budget. By minimizing those costs, you not only save money, but you are able to put more of the vacation fund into the fun entertainment and activities.

Another thing you need to do is search, search, search. use many different airline sitesairplane-1155134_1920 and search engines. use things other than large hotel chains such as hostels or apartment sublets.

While traveling to Hong Kong recently, my family used AirBnB to book our lodging. We were located right at a subway stop, making travel around the city a breeze, and the price was much better than any hotel we would have used. Plus, the experience of staying in an actual apartment in the heart of Hong Kong was an experience my family would have never got to enjoy otherwise.

Lastly, plan out your activities.

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Google or pull up some travel sites that tell you the best things to do or see while at your vacation destination. Make a list of 4-7 things you would like to do in order of preference. Then look up the costs of each and write them down next to that activity. Check off each one going down the list until your estimated spend reaches your budget amount for activities.

There you go: you have a fully planned vacation that you get to pay for in cash. More importantly, you have a plan that allows you to provide an unforgettable experience for you and your family. You’ve won the battle of the budget-friendly vacation in your fight for financial freedom!

Now go enjoy your vacation!

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Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.com where you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.