Sarang Ahuja | Finance

Leader, Financial Expert, Game Changer

Category: business (Page 1 of 6)

Spring Cleaning Your Wallet

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Now that tax season is here and the hustle and bustle from the holidays has finally settled down, it’s time to get cleaning, your wallet that is. Now is the perfect time to come up with new financial goals while planning out your financial expenditures for the rest of the year. Tax season is a great motivator to getting your finances on track and looking forward to springtime. Here are the some ways to clean up your financial wallet this season!

 

Pay down your debt

With tax season finally here, now is the best time to pay off as much of your debt as possible. Why? Because your tax return will give you the highest cash value that you own. Now, remember to do this the smart way. If you only got $500 back in taxes, but have $2000 in credit card debt, it may be a better idea to split those payments up to help contribute to a higher monthly payment. But if your tax return is say $3000, then you have enough to pay off your debt and treat yourself! It’s also a good idea to split up your monthly payments to an even amount until you can pay it off in full. This will show creditors that you are able to pay your monthly bills at a consistent rate.

 

Plan out vacations or trips

Now is the best time to plan out any family vacations or yearly trips. For one, you have more time to do so now as it’s still snowing and cold outside. Once spring time hits you’ll want to spend as much time outside as possible, without the worry of planning your yearly travel plans. Now is also a good time to plan things out because again, tax season is here so you may have a little extra boost in cash to contribute to your vacation funds.

 

Consider your credit cards

With spring time comes new promotions and rate options available from different financial lenders. For example, there may be a discount on personal or student loans. Many companies also offer great credit card offers with 0% interest or low fees on balance transfers. This is the time to sit down and take a look at your debt to see if there’s anyway you can cut down your monthly payments. Making a phone call to your lender provider can actually be the trick to lowering your rates. You may also consider opening a new credit card or transfer your balances for a lower rate. Whatever you decide to go with, make sure you do your research and talk to a provider before making any important decisions on your finances.

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Tax Season Tips

With tax season here, hopefully you’re not sporadically running around looking for your tax returns, receipts, and other important documents. Hopefully, you have also decided how you will be filing your taxes this year. But if not, have no fear! You still have two months left to file your taxes and most people haven’t even started yet. By following these tips you’ll be able to get organized and ready to file your state, local and federal taxes, but also take these tips to help you become organized for the rest of this year so that you have a smooth tax season next year.

Receipts

One of the most important things to do during tax season, (which sadly most people forget to do) is to save and organize your receipts. The reason for this is because if and when you get audited you have to have proof that you made that purchase (since you are filing it for a return). Many people questions if they should really be saving all of their receipts, however saving all of your receipts will give you an accurate estimate on how much money you spend on categories such as food, entertainment, shopping, etc. Saving your receipts will also allow you to become more organized and when tax season comes around, you’ll know exactly what you can and cannot claim.

Documents

As you already know, you’ll need some important documents to file your taxes. It is your employer’s responsibility to send out your w-2 or 1099 form. (If you are self employed, you should have a 1040 or 1099 form). It’s important not to lose these forms, however, some payroll and employer services have these forms on file. You will also need identification and your social security number. Along with these, you will need to bring along any documents or forms that were received from any stocks, investments or bank accounts that you will receive. Be sure to stay organized and keep everything together.

DIY or HIRE?

Another step you’ll need to consider is how do you want to file your taxes. It may be easier to hire someone, but it could also be costly. If you make over $200,000 a year, it is recommended that you hire an accountant to do your taxes for you as they will ensure that the least amount of mistakes are made. If you didn’t make much money, are not a homeowner or a business owner, and can’t claim anyone but yourself, filing your taxes via DIY may be the way to go. For one, you will usually find out how much your return will be right away. You can also do these at home with the click of a button so it saves you time and money. However, you do take the risk of making a mistake. Again, it’s always best if you can have professional advice to help you decide which way is best for you to file.

 

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Achieving Financial Success This Year

As the New Year is finally here, many are taking on New Year’s resolutions. However, come a week after new years, followed by months of setting your goals aside, we end up in the same position as last year, with our goals being dusted away and forgotten The new year has always been known for starting a new chapter in our lives, therefore it’s a great time to write down a list of goals to commit to. Here are five ways to actually reach and commit to your financial goals.

Commit to the Envelope Method

Let’s go back to a time before online banking and smart technology. One of the most successful savings methods used was the envelope method. Today, this method can be applied on your smartphone or tablet, or the old fashioned way. The concept is to create different envelopes for your spending habits so that you don’t go over your spending budget. This is a successful method as you are able to see how much money you have (or don’t have) to spend. It works great with paper envelopes, or you can organize your bank account through various online envelopes.  Creating this habit will allow you to stay committed to your goals.

 

Cook for 30 days straight

You hear me right. January is a great time to save money. First of all, who wants to go out in the middle of winter? Secondly, what better time to detox all the sugary baked sweets and holiday treats from the holiday than January? Begin by establishing a meal plan for 30 days straight, then head to the grocery store, and buy only the items you’ll need for your meals/ snacks. If you typically eat out, this will detox your mind and body and allow you to save money and make healthy meal choices. After 30 days, you won’t have the urge to go out to eat every day, as you’ve spent time learning how to cook and see how much money you’ve saved.

 

Make coffee at home

Cooking at home for 30 days straight, includes making coffee at home. The average cup of coffee costs about $2.70. This means an average of $18.90 per week or $907.20 per year. That’s enough to buy you a weekend getaway. Investing in a nice coffee pot and large, quality coffee mug will still save you money throughout the year just buy discontinuing those coffee runs.

 

Focus on quantity, not quality

The idea here is that less is more.The higher quality clothing, household products or items you buy, the the longer it will last, and the less amount of money you’ll spend fixing these items or spending money on replacements. This is a good thing to keep in mind when buying clothing or furniture especially. Once you purchase high quality products, you won’t have the need to buy more until you absolutely need it, hence, saving you money.

 

The Worst Things to Spend Your Money On

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We live in a society where it is almost impossible to get by without spending money. We are so consumed in our work and spending power, that we don’t even notice why we make the spending decisions that we do. There are many things that we can’t get away from spending money on such as street parking, taxes, and health insurance. However, there are many things that you can avoid spending money on and avoid unnecessary purchases. Here are the worst things that consumers spend money on, and ways to save.

 

Buying Brand Names

One of the biggest things consumers tend to care greatly of is brand names. Many people have committed relationships with brand names and items, while others find that brand name and generic items don’t have much of a difference. Brand name items such as clothing, toiletries, and food can cost a lot more money compared to generic items, hence one of the ways people get away with spending half as much as others on groceries. The biggest difference in generic items and brand name items is simply the name of the company, where the ingredients tend to be the same. Buying generic can save you thousands of dollars when shopping. Try it out sometime and see if you can tell the difference!

 

Coffee & Water

You knew it was coming! Spending money on coffee can equal out to over $1000 a year! And don’t even get me started on water bottles, especially if you buy them individually. Consumers tend to spend thousands of dollars a year on the convenience of buying coffee and water. If you were looking to save money, investing in a coffee pot and water filter would be your way to go. If you still can’t give up your morning coffee ritual, at least bring your own coffee mug. Some cafes give you a discount for using your own cup, plus it’s better for the environment.

ATM FEES

One of the most inconvenient places to spend your money, right? Although it’s important to carry cash around, heading to the nearest ATM won’t help you save money. ATMs can charge consumers anywhere between $2-$5 for taking out cash, adding up to hundreds of dollars a year if you’re an advocate visitor. Instead, taking some extra time to visit your regular bank on a weekly or monthly basis may help you save money. You can also visit your bank’s ATMs where you won’t be charged.

 

Online shopping

In today’s society, time is spent in a completely different way. A big reason for this is the advancement of the internet, which allows us to save time on things such as shopping. However, this also means spending more money. For one, monthly uses of the internet can become costly, depending on your plan. Although online shopping may be much more convenient than running to the store and purchasing your items, the costs of shipping and handling can become expensive. There are only a few sites that offer free shipping, whereas others require a yearly subscription (amazon) or shipping fees for each item. Unless you live miles and miles away from a shopping mall, convenience store, or grocery store, you’ll save a lot more money that you can use towards shopping if you don’t do it online on a regular basis.

Top 5 Finance Books To Read Before You Turn 30

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Becoming financially successful typically cannot be done overnight. It takes a lot of time, practice and decision making to reach the ultimate peak. However, you don’t have to wait until your retirement to live financially free. One of the best things an individual can do to practice financial success is to read. Although it doesn’t sound like much, reading can help expand the mind of individuals and fill your brain with the confidence and power for strong decision making, problem solving, and analytical thinking. Here are 5 books you should read before turning 30, to get on the road to a financially free life.

 

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

As previously mentioned, decision making is a very important aspect of finance. Kahneman talks in detail about the two different types of thinking that drag our minds into making decisions, allowing us to understand the reasons behind why and how we make important, life decisions. This book will allow open your mind up in the way that we think and allow you to make choices in a way you never have before.

 

Debt-Free By 30 by Jason Anthony and Karl Kluck

As many people are burdened with debt, they also tend to think that there is no way out. However, Debt-Free by 30 offers resources, tools, and advice by two young men who have reached their peak debt point. The authors were living for and under control of their debt, when they decided it was time to get their lives back. Anyone who’s ever felt like they will never get their life back should consider reading this book and becoming prepared for the challenges that life can take us by. There is a way out.

 

The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman

As many young people graduate high school and college and look for the next step in their lives, it is no surprise that millennials don’t know where to begin their financial journey. This book is a step by step guide in understanding your finances straight out of school. It even includes financial vocabulary to help reader gain a thorough understanding of finances in life. Schools typically don’t teach finances in today’s world, so whether you’re looking to buy a house, get out of debt, or come up with a financial plan, this book is a must read.

The Millionaire Next Door by, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

Many people believe in order to become a millionaire, one must be born into money. However, this book will help you understand why this concept is a myth and what it really takes to become a millionaire. Through hard work, dedication, and financial planning, you can be on your road to financial success.

 

The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards

We live in a society where buying things for satisfaction controls our financial decisions and spending habits. Richards explains in detail the theory of “the behavior gap” for consumers to understand their reality and have the ability to change their train of financial thought.

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Post-College Financing

For those of you out there who have just finished another chapter of your life and graduated college, congratulations! You’re ready to take on life choices and decisions and you’ve officially entered adulthood. This means that you’re on the road to finding financial success and will most likely begin paying off your loans from the last four years. Although it can be a hard subject to think about, taking control of your finances post college life is attainable. By following these four steps, you can be on your way for financial success.

 

Calculate your Debt

As hard as it may be to think about how much money you don’t have, knowing how much you owe is crucial to come up with a plan to paying back your loans. Once you have established a number, write it down. This will allow you to keep track of your payback progress. When making monthly payments, it’s also a good idea to set up automatic payments. Automatic payments will ensure that your payments are always on time and establish a positive credit score and a good relationship with your bank.

 

Keep an Eye on your Credit Score

College is about learning from your mistakes, right? As soon as you get out of college ( or even before), you should keep an eye on your credit score. Whether you’ve applied for loans/ credit cards or not, monitoring your score will help protect you from fraud and identity theft. It’s also important to keep in mind that checking your credit report too often can actually hurt your score. If you’re planning on taking out a mortgage or big loan this year, keep the credit pulling to a minimum, such as 3 times a year. However, checking your monthly FICO score is a great idea to have an idea where your credit stands. FICO works by predicting what your actual score is. It’s usually offered with online credit card statements, therefore you can look at it as much as you’d like without worrying about your score going down.

 

Emergency Savings

Although setting up a 401k and retirement is important as a post college student, it’s more important to have an emergency savings account set up as soon as you can. If you come out of college with a job lined up, consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, you’ll need to set up a plan for living costs, such as moving back in with your parents or finding freelance work. When your income isn’t steady, an emergency living plan is more important than setting up a retirement plan. The reality is that you went to college to find a job, so eventually you will find one. But some unexpected costs may come up, such as car damages, shopping for interview clothes, or other emergencies could potentially come up, so you have to be ready.

 

Create a Budget

My best overall advice for college graduates, is to start thinking about your future monthly expenses before you graduate so that you’re not shocked when it comes to paying your bills post college. Then, create a budget to keep in mind. This will also help you in the long run when you make more money than you’re spending, allowing you to create savings plans.

4 Ways to Get Serious About Finances in Your 40s

Securing a firm grip on finances can be difficult for any age. Although many people wrongfully believe that struggling to make payments, put money into savings, or fall behind on credit card payments is only for the young just getting used to their first job, many people struggle financially well into their adult years.As you navigate through your 40s, there are a number of financial burdens you need to consider that may not have been a problem before. Children are approaching college age, retirement is just around the corner, and you’re still working to pay off your home, cars, and debt. It can be overwhelming to think of all the things you need to save but can’t figure out where that money is going to come from.

Financial instability, even in your 40s, doesn’t need to be the end of the world. You still have time to turn things around and gain financial independence. If you’re ready to get a grasp on your money, here are four steps you can take.

1. Consider what has worked.

Chances are, you didn’t get where you are by doing everything wrong. Think of things that had worked for you in the past, that you maybe could have taken to the next level to get a bit more benefit from it. Maybe it was automatically moving a portion of your paycheck to savings or cooking in for your meals.

Even these small changes can be built upon to make something larger. When you recognize something that you’ve maybe tried in the past, it can feel easier to ease it into your life today. It can also feel rewarding to know that you’re getting on a better track.

2. Think of the long term.

Many of us think of the things we need to afford now instead of the things we might need to save for in the future. Retirement seems so far away, so instead we buy a new car or upgrade our TV at home. We think that we have time to save for retirement and it isn’t a problem now.

When we reach our 40s, retirement has finally stopped being so far away. If we want to retire on time for the national average, that is only about 25 years away. When we want to save enough money to live the rest of our lives off of, that isn’t that much time.Stop looking at the short term and consider what’s further down the road. Forget about what you could buy now and instead think about helping a kid with college or putting into a retirement fun.

3. View savings as a requirement.

One of the biggest problems many of us have is not thinking of savings as a necessity. Instead of putting our money away like we should, we believe it isn’t as important as meeting our bills and making ends meet. While this may be true in some circumstances, we need to stop seeing our savings money as “extra.”

To force yourself to save, view your savings goals as bills for that month. If you want to save $300 to your savings account that month, charge yourself the same way you would a bill. Don’t think of as it as extra cash anymore.

4. Get excited.

When you’re thinking about planning your future, you should be excited. One way to fuel yourself to start saving is to create an image of what it will look like when you get there. Are you and your spouse going to travel during your retirement? Are you going to move somewhere warm? Are you going to stay home to be surrounded my family?

When you have an idea of the lifestyle you’re saving for, you’ll do what you can to start saving to get there. Having an image in your head gives you something to work for and grounds the goals to something real.

Finances can be a struggle, but the more you put them off, the harder they will become. If you’re in your 40s and just beginning to consider savings, getting out of debt, and becoming financially independent, you don’t want to waste any more time.

It is never too late to get started, you just need to take the first step.

How to Fix and Avoid Debt

sARANG AHUJA

First off, don’t become discouraged by debt. Nearly everyone has some debt, especially those who frequently use credit cards or attended college. It’s all a matter of handling it step by step without feeling overwhelmed and also avoiding acquiring further debt.

How to fix it

There is no quick fix to debt, so don’t let shady internet schemes or ads on TV tell you otherwise. Though your debt cannot be magically erased, there is a lot you can do to get out of debt if you’re determined.

The first step is to acquire a realistic understanding of your debt. Instead of avoiding looking at the overall amount on a bill and quickly scribbling out a check for the minimum payment, gather all your bills together, sit down, and figure out just how much you owe. Take notes and keep an organized list of the debt you currently have. Look at the minimum payment and interest rates and get a basic understanding of how it all works.

Once you understand your debt and where you stand, there are various methods that exist, which can help you manage debt. You may want to pay off the largest balance first, which will make it easier to tackle the smaller ones later on. An alternative method would be to work smallest to largest, because paying off the smaller debts first gives you a sense of accomplishment that encourages you to continue with the current plan.

Find out what plans work for you and maybe even consult an expert for advice on payment plans. Look into credit counseling to help you manage your debt. For now, avoid using a credit card unless you absolutely have to so you don’t pile up even more debt!

How to prevent it

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the emotional rush of making a new purchase, or of buying something for your kids or partner that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. People spend money in an effort to feel happy, though we’ve all heard the age-old saying “money can’t buy happiness”. No, but it can give you a nice rush of endorphins. Don’t get caught up in the instant gratification of a purchase. Instead, remind yourself of the goal of saving or of paying off debt. This mindset is not natural to most people, so you’ll need to remind yourself constantly and learn to have a lot of self control. It’s easy for people to be more concerned with the now instead of the future. Be kind to your future self and avoid large credit card bills.

Try not to use your credit card for small purchases. While it might be tempting, when you don’t have cash on you or are waiting for your next paycheck to replenish your bank account, spending $20 to eat out really adds up over time. Use your credit card for large purchases, like appliances or cars, and avoid small luxury items until you have the disposable income or make a plan to save up to purchase the item. You could even make two separate bank accounts, one just for money you can spend on more frivolous items and the other to pay bills and purchase necessities. Keep the two cards separate and don’t allow yourself to budge when using them.

It’s important to make budgets that accurately reflect your current income. By being aware of your means and having a spending plan, it can help you avoid spending above them.

Read this guide for more information about debt in the United States.

7 Characteristics of a Great Business Leader

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In order to be a truly successful business leader, you’ll need quite a few skills and traits. Luckily, many of these can be cultivated and learned. Here’s a helpful list that can prepare you for your career as a successful business leader!

1) Perseverance

When working in business, it’s important that you persevere. Somedays, your job will be mighty difficult, especially if you’re a leader of a large company. Instead of feeling discouraged, give yourself a pep talk to power through the obstacles and keep working toward your end goal.

2) Passion

No matter what your career is, passion is necessary in order to succeed. The people around you will notice this passion and be drawn toward you. Having passion helps you with networking and advancement in your career, because you’ll put effort into your work and be able to think of innovative ideas to accomplish goals. Passion is an admirable trait in any capacity, but it can be particularly helpful in your career.

3) Ability to take criticism

It’s important that you can handle constructive criticism if you’re a business leader! Lots of people will be closely scrutinizing the work you do and will have lots of ideas on how to improve it. You must handle the comments thrown at you well and also sift through them to find the positive feedback and suggestions that can actually help you. At the same time, you should be able to dismiss the criticism that you know is harsh and unconstructive.

4) Never settle

In order to advance your career as a leader, learn never to settle with where things are. This doesn’t mean you should be an unhappy person who is never satisfied, but it does mean that you should always be looking ahead with your business and career. Always make goals and strive to achieve them. Once you attain a goal, move on to the next one!

5) Collaboration

The ability to work well with other people is vital to your personal success. It’s important to make connections and be able to accomplish goals with others’ help. No single person can achieve all their goals on their own, so it’s important to interact positively with your co-workers and any other people around you. Being able to work on projects and meet goals together will make you and your business great!

6) Willing to take risks

Don’t be afraid to take risks! Try a new concept out and, even if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned, you’ll have learned something. Be open to learning from mistakes made, whether your fault or otherwise, and then move on and be more victorious than you were before. Train yourself to have a growth mindset instead of feeling downtrodden when events don’t work out exactly the way you hoped.

7) Stand up for yourself!

Finally, in the cutthroat world of business, it’s important that you can stand up for yourself and your ideas. If you want to create a bright career for yourself, you need to learn not to let anyone walk over you or take credit for your ideas. Whether this person is a superior or a co-worker, teach yourself how to voice your opinions and make yourself clear in a way that’s respectful, but still gets your point across.

Watch out for the Five Factors that are impacting your Savings

Savings-Picture

When it comes to your finances, it is imperative that you be more strategic with your spending. The truth of the matter is that financial freedom doesn’t come easy. Just because you have large expenses does not mean you cannot save a good portion of your salary for your future. By learning your own particular spending habits, you will be able to accumulate the necessary wealth for a long and fruitful future.

If you are looking for improving your personal financial health, start off by evaluating your own spending habits. Evaluating your expenses with an open minded view will help clarify what is holding you back from financial success. Below, I have highlighted five particular spending habits that we have all encountered over time. If you are looking to buy a house or plan a trip to Madrid, it is vital that you start controlling your spending today.

The Real Cost of Happy Hours

Social happy hours may seem harmless. But in the grand scheme of things, these particular outings do add up. To help you take control of your financial spending, make sure you are aware of the overall cost this habit can have on a monthly basis. Outings such as lunch with coworkers or happy hours with friends can be incredibly expensive. To help prevent this, try and limit yourself from going out throughout the week. On average, people spend about $20 dollars a day on these particular social events. That comes out to $400 dollars a month, money that could be used to pay off your bills or to add into your retirement account. Once you understand the extreme ramifications of your spending, you will be more than likely to save for your future.

Stop Dining Out!

Similar to happy hour, dining out and expensive hobbies can take a toll on your savings. Let’s start off with dining out. I mean, do not get me wrong, who doesn’t love going out to dinner with your significant other and your friends. The only problem is that those nights are incredibly costly. Usually, restaurants will charge on average three times their food cost on what you are actually served. One option that can help resist the urge is by staying in and cooking instead. If you can cut back on dining out, this can absolutely impact the amount of money you can save yourself each and every month

The Membership Fees

Unlike college, group activities are separate expenses in your life. Take for example signing up for a membership at a wine of the month club or a private resort club. These dues and subscriptions can eat away at your hard earned cash. Even cheap subscriptions such as gym memberships can play a factor of what you could potentially be saving in the future. Now the problem with these memberships is that most are automatically debited from your bank account, so withdrawals can happen without you noticing. If it seems like these are just passive activities, try and decide if they are worth staying on. For most cases, it is better for you to just cancel that membership and utilize that extra money for something you actually enjoy.

Resist those Impulse Buys

Making expensive purchases on a whim can quickly diminish your savings. We have all been in that situation where we see something that catches our eyes and immediately have the impulse to buy. While satisfying as it may be, you must resist that temptation. To prevent this from happening, go into your stores with an overall inventory list of what you actually need. This will prevent you from loading your cart with unwanted buys.

Pay in Full

When it comes to credit card debt, it is important that you pay in full. Yes, there will be times where you cannot pay the full amount. But making only minimum payments on your credit card will be a disservice to you and your financial future. By paying the minimum amount, you are adding years to your payoff date. In addition, the interest compound increases making it almost impossible to get out of debt if this continues. Make sure you allocate your funds in paying off your debt. Yes, this will require a big sacrifice, especially for those social activities. But, it is also absolutely necessary to get you on track in building a healthier financial future.

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