So I’m saving $2,700 for a new mountain bike…

So I’m trying to save about $2,700 by the end of the year.

The thing is, that $2,700 is going to be for a mountain bike and not necessarily anything to improve our financial situation.

So this is the one I’m looking at. Let’s throw some link authority Trek’s way.

Trek Top Fuel 8

Pretty nice, huh?

And if you’re not familiar with bikes, know that you could easily spend upwards of $10,000 on a top of the line mountain bike if you wanted all the bells and whistles. So $2,700 isn’t too out there.

As someone who has blogged about finances (inconsistently, I might add), it seems a little hypocritical. And honestly I have a hard time myself trying to justify spending that much money when we also have student and car loans to pay off.

But on the other hand, mountain biking is a hobby, something I’ve done for a loooong time, and something I’m passionate about.

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How to Afford Relocating to Another State for a Job

The following is a guest post from Dominique over at MoneyGoody.com where he writes about money and budgeting from the perspective of a millennial living in the city. Dominique had to relocate from the East Coast to Chicago for a job and wanted to share his experience affording such an expensive journey. I’m glad he did, because he offers some great tips in here. Read on! 

Earlier this year I made a major life change. I was offered an amazing job working for a successful tech startup. The gig came with tons of perks like free lunch, all the snacks you could want, unlimited vacation, a beautiful office downtown and so much more. But there was one downside. I had to move over 700 miles away to Chicago. Oh yea, and I had to cover all the costs of the move myself.

A lot of you are probably thinking the same thing I was when I first received the offer. How in the world am I going to afford this?

To give a little background, I’m in my mid-twenties and prior to accepting this position I wasn’t making big money. So I wasn’t exactly swimming in cash.

I was faced with two decisions:

  • Decline the job offer.
  • Figure out a way to afford the move.

As you probably guessed from the title of this article, I chose the latter. So how did I afford it?

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How to Stay Motivated When Saving Money

Saving money can be hard.

There’s always something trying to pull your money away from you and there are always unexpected, random expenses that come up that get in the way.

Car repairs, spontaneous eating out, medical expenses, home repair…you name it. All are forks in the road, but there are easy ways to keep you on the right track. Or at least avoid the potholes in the road that are ready to derail you.

Start out by setting your goals

What are you aiming for? Setting specific goals that aren’t too easy, but aren’t too difficult creates the proper amount of motivation for individuals according to studies as far back as the ‘60s. Set realistic time frames as well, and you are setting yourself up for success before you even begin.

Have some social motivation

Having a savings partner, whether that’s a friend, family member, or just someone with the same goal, can be a great way to hold yourself accountable. If someone else is checking-in on you and making sure you’re holding up your end of the bargain, you are much more likely to hold onto your motivation than if it was just you. Social savings apps like ZigZig (www.zigzig.co) are a great example of a tool that can help you with some social motivation too.

Create mini-goals

Don’t just create your end-goal. Create regular check-ins so you can have little wins along the way. It’s harder to stay motivated when your goal is so far away; however, if you have smaller ones throughout your time-frame, you can celebrate little successes when they come up so you can feel (deservedly so!) that you are making good progress.

Put subtle reminders in place for yourself

When people are trying to lose weight, many will write notes to themselves on their mirror so when they read it in the morning or evening, they are reminded of what they are trying to do. Saving can work the same way. Leave notes on your mirror, in your wallet, on your fridge, or at the door. All areas that you frequent are going to be great ways to keep you on track. Regular reminder emails from services like ZigZig too are also a great way to keep up.

Focus on you and ignore other’s spending habits

Don’t worry about what your friends or family are spending their money on. If they are going out all the time, spending money they don’t have or just not spending their spare money wisely in your opinion, don’t worry about it. Focus on what you can control. Yes, it will require some sacrifices on your part because you may not be able to participate in all of the events your friends or family are. Ultimately though, this is where your other motivational techniques come into play so you can focus on yourself.

Keep track of your progress

To see how close you are getting to your final goal, or even some of your mini-goals, just keep track. Whether that’s using ZigZig, Mint, or your own budget tracking application, checking your progress helps you show where your at. Make an extra few deposits over a month? You’re that much closer, and it’s easier to tell.

Saving isn’t easy. That’s why, frankly, so many people suck at it. But with the right motivation and the right methods, you can be well on your way to hitting your savings goals.

 

How to Use CDs for Large Purchases

Knowing you have a large purchase coming up can be overwhelming. A down payment on a house for example? Or maybe you’re paying cash for a car because you don’t want to go into debt for it? That’s a lot of money that you have to come up with.

And with that type of savings taking longer than most, there are a lot of places where you can go wrong (or right!) on your savings path.

Luckily, there’s a relatively simple investment you can use when saving for large purchases that gets you better interest than a savings account, but isn’t as risky as the stock market.

What you should be looking at are certificates of deposit, or CDs.

CDs are essentially a low-risk investment that provides a good avenue for people who aren’t needing to access their money for a set period of time.

In exchange for putting your money away in a low-risk bucket until its maturity date, you get guaranteed interest after a set period of time. This type of CD is a called a traditional CD; however there are less common types like Variable Rate (the rate changes based on an index) or a Jumbo CD (typically a minimum deposit upwards of $100,000).

CDs have received a less-than-favorable reputation lately because interest rates have been so low (less than 1%, and only slightly above if you choose a longer term), but these investments still have better interest than savings accounts. The only downside is that the account is not liquid like a savings account, so you do not want to use a CD unless you already have an emergency fund set up for unexpected problems.

Typically, CDs can start with as little as a one-month time frame but can go as long as 10 years. The longer time frame you choose, the better your rate of return. But with most types of CDs, once you lock in your rate & time frame, you’re set. If rates go up, you lose out. The flip side of this benefits you though: if rates decline, you’re able to keep the high rate you locked in at. .

But how can you actually use this strategy as a way to save for large purchases while making sure you can keep up with the best interest rates?

It’s actually quite easy, and it comes down to a strategy called CD laddering.

What exactly is CD laddering?

Well, it’s basically exactly like a ladder. Each rung represents a different CD.

Let’s say you’re doing a 3-year CD ladder and that, for simplicity’s sake, you have $10,000 to invest.

Take that $10,000 and divide it in three. Invest equal parts in three separate CDs: a 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year.

When the first CD matures, take the final amount and invest it again in a 3-year CD. When the second matures, do the same thing with a 3-year CD.

The original 3-year account will then mature and get invested into another 3-year CD.

Using this method, every year one of your CDs matures which gives you the opportunity to reinvest your money. Conversely, if a financial situation arises that requires a large sum of money, this allows you to have points where you can take your money out without facing an early withdrawal penalty.

Especially in the current situation where rates will likely either stay steady or rise (simply because they are so low already), investing in a new CD each year will allow you to always take advantage of the best rates.

And ultimately, that will help you save up for larger purchases or down payments more efficiently than just putting money in savings.

Saving in CDs isn’t a good option for every situation though. There are limitations, namely the low interest rate. Depending on where you’re at in your retirement savings, you would likely want to choose an investment with a higher chance of return if you were looking for long-term gains.

But there are plenty of shorter-term things you can use CDs for like down payments.

Not only will the CD generate interest safely, but it also stocks your money away in an investment you can’t really touch (either that or you pay a big penalty). Knowing that the money is there until it matures is a powerful piece of knowledge to help you stay committed to your goal. Because large purchases aren’t something you can get to quickly, having tactics in place to help keep you on track are essential.

There are quite a few apps that are available to do just that, whether it’s a notetaking app to provide reminders or a simple personal finance app like Mint, there are a lot available. A recent web app though that has taken a social approach to keeping you on track – an app called ZigZig (www.zigzig.co). Essentially what the site allows you to do is to create and share with your friends what they call a “Zig”, or a savings plan that you commit to.

Just like a CD, you set your term, the amount you’re committing to, and ultimately what you are saving for. That commitment with a CD or a Zig (or creating a Zig to save money to put into a CD) is really the first step towards saving more money and being on your way to achieving your financial goals.

But ultimately, how to save your money depends on what your situation is. Do you have emergency savings, where are you at in your retirement savings, what do the interest rates look like on CDs, etc. Don’t think of this as a catch-all, this-is-good-for-every-situation investment. Yes, it’s good, but personal finance is just that – personal. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of potentially strong options like CDs.

Education. The First Step Toward Financial Empowerment

The following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you.

The concept of financial empowerment can mean many things to many people.

It can mean having flexibility with your finances, being proactive with your money, having an emergency fund so you always are prepared or it could mean something entirely different!

To do all of those things though, and how I ultimately feel financially empowered, is feeling knowledgeable enough about money and our situation to feel like I’m making the best decision at that time.

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