Better Money Management Steps, Smartly

What is money? Odd question is it not? Better money management cannot happen if we do not the definition and purpose of money. If you assume your finances are in order then read this before you answer with confidence. The steps in this smart process will challenge your thinking of your idea of better money management.

Save, Spend, Give

Save some, give some, spend some. Not always in that order but that is the common concept for most of us when it comes to money. A simple strategy. Spend less than you make. It is not as easy as it sounds. Just like cooky diet plans, odd ball financial management plans are equally unreliable. Just like with most unsustainable diets, foolish financial strategies also fail. The challenge with smart, better money management is that it involves delayed gratification. If we want to be secure in retirement then we must deprive ourselves of certain spending habits now.

A Simple Strategy

Avoid becoming a member of the statistic known for over spending and not planning smartly for retirement. No magic diets, no slick plans are needed. The fundamentals of smart living which applied 100 years ago still apply today. Follow these smart, better money management steps for a better shot at a secure financial future.
  • Conduct Financial Inventory
  • Track Monthly Expenses
  • Pay Off Debt
  • Save

Budget

Taking an inventory of your financial situation means developing a budget. That budget should include a balance sheet like the one in this example at Investopedia. We will not go through the details of the entire balance sheet here but there are a few basics to get you through the relatively painless process. Cash is easy, you simply count what you have. Assets might be more challenging. Assets are generally anything of value which you own. Assign a fair value to each asset. Fair value should be considered through what current market value is like what similar items are selling for on Craigslist. Your debt is self explanatory. Simply subtract all of the money you owe from your assets.

Expenses

Expenses are almost always higher than we expect. Fact: Small business owners often find that their start up expenses are twice what they expected, yikes! There are always unexpected personal expenses. Expenses are generally divided into two types: fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are those which you cannot change much. Items like rent and car note are fixed, unless you sell your car. Variable expenses are those which you can manipulate without too much effort. Food, fuel, entertainment, clothing are all examples of variable expenses. List everything you spend money on in a month. Categorize that list into things like food, fuel, rent, utilities, etc. Avoid misc. category and the temptation to shove everything into that column. Give every dollar spent a name or category.

Debt

Let us be clear. To the smart person wanting better money management, debt is a bad idea. Debit is also a reality of American life, the working professional, the student, and the small business owner. Avoid debt where you can. If you must borrow money then borrow money for items which provide an income or for items with stable equity. Do not borrow money to buy a Mercedes for your weekend drives. Borrow money to buy a delivery truck for your moving business. Pay off debt starting with the items of highest interest first. You can negotiate with credit card companies for roughly 30% of what you owe if you are tough enough and persistent. It is not likely that you will negotiate with Federal Student Loans or IRS debts because those guys simply do not care, they do not need your money, and they can wait forever. Get it?

Better Money Management Bonus Step

Once you conduct that inventory, develop a budget, manage your expenses, and pay down debt then it is time to relax, right? No, not yet. Let us remember the goal we set at the beginning of this long snoozer of a post. Our goal was financial security in retirement. Now it is time to invest. The common wisdom is that the best path to financial independence is to pay yourself first. Make the first payment from every paycheck a payment to a retirement fund. That action can often be done automatically with your bank. Trust me, your bank will be all too happy to take your money and put it in a saving account for investments. A nerdy but fun investment calculator can be found at Investopedia. Play around with that calculator. Learn how just a small amount of money saved can yield big returns by the time you retire.

The Breviary

Spend some, save some, give some. Nothing revolutionary here folks. No crazy diet plans and no silly, difficult budgets to follow. Just the same dumb thing our grandparents knew every day of their lives. Spend less than you make. Save more than you earn. Give to others in need. What a wild concept!

Personal Finance Management in 4 Steps

Personal finance management is all about planning. In other words, success in managing your finances is based on smart strategy. Smart strategy means an informed, deliberate, goal focused method to achieve the result you desire. Achieving the result you desire is the foundation of building your success, your way. If success at personal finance management is a measure of the success of our nation then, as a nation, we are failing miserably. Less people than ever know how to balance a check book. Even less balance the books, even if they know how. Self discipline has been replaced by more immediate desire for increasingly expensive material items. It is only after we feel the frustration and fear of being broke that we rethink our foolish ways and consider the old, traditional, true methods of building wealth and personal finance management. Success at managing your finances is not rocket science. Spend less than you earn. Make smart purchasing decisions, buy what you need, buy a little of what you want, pay off debt, save, save, and save some more. There are world famous, millionaire, radio talk show and TV hosts making millions out of stating the incredibly obvious. That fact tells us something about your need for constant reminders and motivation about the long term value of proper financial decisions. Consider these four foundational steps:
  1. Take and maintain an inventory of your assets, including cash and physical items.
  2. Track your expenses closely. Those nickels and times really do add up.
  3. Pay off debt and stay out of debt.
  4. Never borrow money but if you do, be sure the asset is worth more than the loan.
Those four steps are fairly simple but you might be surprised at how often they are violated. The number of Americans who have an accurate inventory of personal assets is in the single digits. It is fairly simple to so an inventory. Make a list of everything you own. Leave out anything that is leased or where owe a debt on the payment. Track  your expenses with a simple check register or even a notepad. Just write down what you buy and how much it costs. You might be surprised at how much you do not buy when you have to write it down. It might not be worth the trouble. Paying off debt might be a better move than investing. Your interest rates on your debt are likely higher than your rate of return on your investments. That means you are literally going backwards.
Finally, never borrow money for things that you cannot sell to recover the cost. Clothes, food, tech gadgets all depreciate faster than you can imagine so pay cash or do not buy them. Cars are often mandatory for American life. A loaded Mercedes Benz is not! Buy a used car and buy it from a private person to avoid extra fees and markups from the dealer. That way, you are more likely to own a vehicle worth what you borrowed on it. Real estate is often the one area where it is considered acceptable to go into debt. The real estate is often worth at least as much as you borrowed and, if you hold onto it long enough, will likely increase in value. Making smart personal finance management choices is easy. Sticking to those choices is a challenge because the positive results are not always realized. Be patient with yourself. Stay focused on the big picture and stay out of the online shopping sites. Popular online resources to personal finance management can be found at Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Nope, neither of these millionaires know me and they certainly did not pay me to mention their names. Both are master marketers with a bit too much wow and not enough how in their work but they can certainly help you find direction and motivation. Blog images provided courtesy of © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com – Personal Finances Check Paying Bills Expenses Bookkeeping Accoun

Smokey Mountain Smoker by Weber – Review

Smokey Mountain Smoker by Weber is an excellent tool for backyard cooking. Find healthy balance in your life. Fun Friday gear reviews are about good stuff for great life experience.  These are unbiased tests from a wanna be adventurist who works more than he plays. Use these posts to define “your own brand of success” outside of work. In this post, we review the Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5″ charcoal smoker. It is the month of July, the sun is shining, the air is warm with a light breeze. A hint of freshly mowed lawn grass combines with the scent of finely roasted barbecue delicacies. Children laugh and play in yard while parents relax in lawn chairs with something cool to drink in a tall glass. This is the ideal vision of every man with even the smallest urge to entertain family and friends while celebrating life’s priceless moments. Barbecue is an art form for many Americans. We take just as much pride in the process as we do in the result. At the center of every great barbecue experience is the barbecue grill like the Smokey Mountain Smoker. In this case, we are focusing on the smoker. The smoker adds another layer to the complexity of the pursuit of perfection. Properly smoked meats and fish adds flavor that is generally accepted as the ultimate goal for the backyard chef. The purpose of smoking is partly for curing and partly for flavor. Curing and smoking meat and fish was historically used to preserve the quality of edible items for use at a later time. It is only within the last century that people started using refrigerators and freezers to store food for later consumption. Before that, smoking, drying, curing were the options used by almost every culture on the planet. Fast forward to today and many of us still crave the flavor and enjoy the process, the tradition, the brilliant simplicity that is  smoked barbecue from something like the Smoke Mountain Smoker. When selecting a smoker, consider these important features:
  • Ample distance between the heat source and the items to be smoked.
  • An effective way to control heat and smoke.
  • A method of monitoring the internal temperature of both the smoker and the smoked items.
  • Easy cleanup and simple design.
Putting distance between your heat source and the items to be smoked is important. The point with a smoker is to provide low temperature smoke and not always heat to your subject matter. Indirect heat is often the term used to describe this method. If your heat source is too close or too hot then you end up with dry, bland, cooked meat instead wsm_cutawayof slow roasted, juicy, smoked flavor. Good smokers provide a method of controlling either the range of heat or the oxygen level in the smoker. Electric and propane smokers allow you to control the heat source while a charcoal smoker provide a method to control the air flow to the coals for more or less heat. Most quality smokers come with an attached temperature gauge. These are not always reliable and sometimes fail. An extra thermometer is a must and some smokers provide a built in port to insert it where you need to measure heat. Finally, be sure your smoker is easy to clean and store. The more complex the more time it takes to clean. The Weber Smokey Mountain smoker is one of the most popular of the charcoal smokers. Many annual barbecue championships are won with this affordable, simple smoker. The design is a simple egg shape with three main parts. The lid, the middle, and the base. Each part simply sits on top of the next for easy assembly and reverse assembly. Charcoal is placed in the base then the other parts are stacked on top. Temperature is controlled by several air vents which slide open and closed according to your wishes. The 18.5″ model offers two cooking grates for two levels of smoking. The Good And The Great:
  • Charcoal and wood is widely considered the gold standard for the best flavor.
  • Simple but quality construction for easy assembly and cleanup.
  • Built in thermometer port for a wireless thermometer.
  • Excellent egg shape design seems to be idea for surrounding your recipes with great quality smoke.
  • Highly insulated. This thing holds heat from just a handful of charcoal bricks for hours.
The Not Great But OK:
  • Air vents and charcoal do not control heat as well as propane or electric. It takes some practice to master your temps. This is not set it and forget it!
  • The temperature range from the lower grade to the top grate can vary as much as 50 degrees. Pay attention to what you are smoking and where. Keep your temps low.
  • The built in temp gauge in the lid failed after five uses. Get a wireless thermometer and use the side port on the smoker. Trust me on this.
  • This smoker was upwards of $300 so be sure you really want to smoke stuff and eat it.
The Breviary: Enjoy your time outside of work with friends and family. Do it around food. Properly smoked meat and fish tastes awesome. Great smoked barbecue requires both art and science demanding process and commitment. A great charcoal smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker should be at the center of that effort. Photos courtesy of http://www.weber.com/grills/series/smokers.      

Celebrate Like Miss Universe

You’re a winner! Everyone loves a winner. Whether it is a cheap stuffed animal at the county fair, the lottery, or the Miss Universe Pageant, the feeling is the same. Studies show that no matter what you win, the physiological result is mostly the same. Entrepreneurs often focus on what is going wrong and not on what is going right. The smart business strategist learns how to celebrate small successes may mean the difference between your dream job and a desk job.
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Fun Friday – Concealed Carry Handgun Choices

You have a life outside of work.  We work hard and play harder.  Fun Friday gear reviews are about great stuff that helps improve our experience.  These are unbiased and real world tests from a wanna be adventurist who works more than he plays. I hope you use these posts to define “your own brand of success” outside of work. This subject might not be fun but it is certainly serious. Personal protection is paramount for a small business owner. Concealed carry handgun choices is a blog post to help you arm yourself with knowledge to make an informed decision. I recently became certified for concealed carry handgun and purchased firearms for that purpose. Here is what I learned:
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