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Be Financially Prepared for Your New Baby


You’re preparing to be a parent this year! Getting ready for your little one is exciting and amazing, but it also means you have a lot to do for prepare financially. Here are some steps you should take to ensure you are ready:


Understand Your Insurance

Babies are expensive, even when you have health insurance, so it’s important to understand your policy and anticipate the costs. You should make a forecast of what you will spend. Make sure to select a pediatrician within your insurance network because you will need one soon after your baby is born. Talk to friends and family to get recommendations. You can also call local clinics and ask to talk to pediatricians to help make your choice. Add your child to your health insurance. Typically, you have 30 days from your child’s birth date to do so.


Health insurance isn’t the only kind of insurance you should have before baby comes. Also consider life insurance. Unfortunately, tragedies do happen. Even though we don’t like to think about the possibility it’s important to be prepared. A life insurance policy for a child is generally a low cost. Life insurance for you and your significant other should equal at least six to eight times your gross annual salary when you are expecting. 


Plan for Maternity and Paternity Leave

Understand your company’s policies and your state’s laws about maternity and paternity leave to figure out how it will affect your household finances. Know how much time you’ll get off work and whether you’re paid for the time you’re away.


Draft a Budget that Includes Baby

When your baby comes you will have a lot of new expenses, so plan ahead before the birth. First, cut down credit card debt. High balances in the thousands of dollars will cost you hundreds in annual interest and will make it harder for you to get loans for a larger home or a bigger car. Consider transferring your balance to a credit card with a lower interest rate.


Now you need to create a new budget. Keep track of everything you spend and document everything so you know exactly where your money is going. Finance software can be a big help with this. Programs like Mint.com will make creating a budget easy and offer you the ability tracking your cash flow.


Your new budget should take into account all your upcoming childrearing costs. Costs such as diapers, food and child care will be recurring for years to come. Make sure to visit day care centers or interview nannies in advance if you know you will require their services. Find out what the costs are to make sure you get quality service at a good price. Child Care Aware (www.childcareaware.org) will put you in touch with a local referral agency for free.


Start an Emergency Fund

Children are accident prone and will increase the chances of an emergency situation, so it’s best to anticipate those events by putting money away to pay for any unexpected expenses. A “rainy day” fund with at least three to six months’ worth of salary is a good place to start.



Get Back on Track Financially After the Holiday Season


For a lot of people January reveals a post-holiday budget shock –  they spent a lot more than they should have at the end of last year. In fact, a 2015 study by LendingTree found that one out of every four Americans struggles to pay off holiday shopping debt. But the damage doesn’t have to be crippling. Here are some tips to help you take back control of your finances.


Make a New Budget

Get back on track by making a budget to help you clean up the consequences of overspending over the holidays. Subtract monthly expenses from your monthly income to find out what you have left over, then set goals, such as reducing that post-holiday debt.


Cut Your Spending

Eliminate unnecessary spending and cut back expenses wherever possible for the next few months. Some suggestions include:

  • Cooking more meals instead of dining out.   
  • Searching for low-cost entertainment options such as free concerts, local sporting events or library events.
  • Reassessing expenses and eliminating the non-vital ones.


Reduce Credit Card Debt

Making your debt disappear should be your top priority. Get your finances in order paying off high interest credit card balances as soon as you can. Consider a credit card hiatus for a while so you don’t increase debt.


Make Some Extra Money

Making a little extra money can help get you out of the hole from the holidays. Consider selling household items you no longer need on sites like eBay or Craigslist. You can also have a good old-fashioned yard sale. You could also earn additional cash by requesting overtime, babysitting, tutoring or taking a temporary part-time second job.


Plan for Next Year

After spending way too much you probably think you won’t ever do it again. But chances are you could get caught up in the holidays all over again. A smart move would be to try and get ahead of the game by budgeting for end of the year festivities after paying back the money you spent in 2016. Spread out the costs throughout the next 12 months if possible, plan gift ideas early and watch for sales all year round.


Stop Throwing Away Money and Winterize Your Home!


Winterizing your house is a great way to maximize energy savings for little cost. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy says you can save as much as 1% on your energy bill for every degree you lower your home's temperature during the winter. Here are 5 ways to save money throughout winter by acting now:


Lower Thermostat During Off Hours

Try turning your thermostat down to 50 or 55 degrees when you go to bed or when you go to work. You can save a lot of energy by setting or programming your thermostat lower when you don’t need heat. For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you'll save between 1 and 3 percent of your heating bill.


Keep Drafts Contained

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30 percent of your energy use. Start simple and make a draft snake by placing a rolled bath towel under a drafty door. You can also fill fabric with sand or kitty litter. Draft guards can also be purchased. Try taping bubble wrap on your windows. It’s an inexpensive way to keep cold air out but still allow light to come through. Pack fiberglass insulation around basement doors and windows in unused rooms to really keep heat in. If you have old windows, consider investing in a set of energy efficient replacements. Installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45 percent by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Make sure to look for Energy Star-certified models. Federal tax credits are available at 10 percent of cost (not including installation costs), up to $200 for windows and skylights and up to $500 for doors.


Seal Gaps with Caulk

Your energy bill will increase if you have any small gaps in windows and doors, or cracks in your walls can let cool air in. Check to see if your doors and windows have deteriorated over time. Pay special attention to places where two different building materials meet, such as corners and fill any open spots with caulk. Make sure to caulk the outside and inside. Pull off moldings to fill gaps in the insulation.


Reduce Temperature of Your Water Heater

Lowering the temperature of your water heater will reduce your water heating costs by 6 to 10 percent. Conventional water heaters are typically set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but most households only need a setting of 120 degrees, so set it at 120. Over time that material can collect in the bottom of your water heater, hindering efficiency. Keep your water heater functioning at pack performance by flushing out particles and sediment through the drain valve. If you are in the market for a new water heater, take advantage of the federal tax credit, which pays 30 percent of cost with no upper limit.


Reverse the Direction of Your Ceiling Fans

If a fan spins in a clockwise rotation it produces warmer air, so make sure your ceiling fans move in that direction to push hot air along the ceiling towards the floor. Using ceiling fans in winter will cut your heating costs by 10%, according to The Daily Green.


5 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Save You Money


The popular resolutions to spend less and save more seem simple, but actually realizing those goals requires commitment, planning and a willingness to follow through. A new year brings you a fresh opportunity to get your finances under control and better secure your future. Here are five financial tips to kick start 2017.


Eliminate Your Debt

Paying your debt off sooner rather than later should be your top priority. If you owe money on several accounts prioritize in order of highest to lowest interest rates when making your payments. Credit card debt will likely have the highest interest rate and should be tackled first. You can also try eliminating small debts to help you build a little confidence. Crossing a debt off the list is a good way to motivate you to pay off other outstanding balances.


Start an Emergency Fund

Put some money aside for surprise expenses that might pop up during the year or to give yourself a cushion in case you lose your job or another event impacts your ability to make money. Most experts recommend saving at least three to six months income.


Put Money in Retirement Accounts

It’s a good idea to start planning for retirement as early as possible. Set aside money for your golden years by contributing to an IRA, 401k, 403b, or even a savings account. Putting at least 10% of your income into retirement accounts is recommended, but if you have to start smaller that’s okay. Just start. You can gradually increase your contributions over time as you make more money or get more comfortable budgeting.


Craft an Investment Strategy

Many people do not know what investments they have or how to handle them, so it’s important to take some time to understand where your money is. Start your new year by taking stock of your investments and figuring out how they work. From there create an investment strategy that will meet your goals. Consider hiring an accountant to help you to understand and diversify your investments.


Build a Budget

Kick off the new year by making yourself a budget. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple list of your incomes and expenses will get you started, and can be expanded later on. You can hand-write your budget or download a free budgeting tool like Mint.com to organize everything. Keep your budget in an easily accessible place so you are reminded of the financial goals you’ve set and your commitment to them. Adhering to a budget over the course of the year will be the hardest part. Take a few days to gather the information you need, such as your salary information and household expenses to make the most accurate budget you can. You don’t have to rush it. Over time you will continue to refine your budget as your life and your means change.



Get Your Vehicle Ready for Winter


Winter weather and icy roads can make for dangerous conditions and put a tremendous strain on many parts of your vehicle. Avoid breakdowns when the temperatures drop by making sure your car can handle slippery road conditions. Here are 6 tips for preparing your car to tackle the winter season.


Check Your Fluid Levels

Many car owners often forget to check their fluid levels during any season. In winter not maintaining them can be hazardous.


Coolant – It’s vital that you have the correct antifreeze/water mixture in your radiator to prevent your engine from both freezing in cold weather and overheating in summer. It also helps to cut back on corrosion. A 50:50 ratio is considered a normal mixture level that will keep fluids from freezing at temperatures as low as -34 degrees Fahrenheit. Consult your owner's manual to double-check the right mixture needed for your vehicle. Pre-mixed bottles of antifreeze and water can be purchased at local gas stations or automotive stores. 


Oil – You always need to make sure your oil levels are sufficient, but if you live in a place where temperatures drop below freezing regularly, you may want to consider switching to a thinner oil. Make sure to consult your vehicle owner’s manual or ask your mechanic about the best way to prevent oil from freezing.


Wiper fluid – Regular wiper fluid won’t do in freezing temperatures. Make sure to switch to a freeze-resistant wiper fluid to keep your windshield clear.


Keep Your Tires

If winter storms and other adverse weather conditions occur in your area, consider replacing all four regular tires with snow tires to improve braking, traction and control on wet or icy roads.


If you choose to continue using regular tires be sure to check their air pressure regularly with a gauge. Deflated tires decrease traction and increase sliding on ice. You can visit your local gas station to fill your ties to the correct level. Your owner's manual should list the suggested pounds per square inch (psi).


Inspect Belts and Hoses

If a belt or hose snaps under the hood while you’re driving your safety could be at risk. Winter temperatures can weaken these parts. Belts and hoses are typically inspected when you bring your car to a mechanic for a tune-up (usually every 30,000 miles), but additional checks will help keep you safe.


Maintain Your Heater and Defroster Units

Heat is a necessity when driving in cold temperatures. It’s also important to make sure your defroster unit is functioning properly. Foggy windshields in winter can cause serious vision impairments while driving.  If you experience a fogging issue, have your car checked for air leaks around the doors and windows.


Keep an Emergency Kit Handy

A safety kit that includes road flares, flashlight, jack, lug wrench, blanket, shovel, hat and gloves, ice scraper and brush, shovel, container of coolant, snacks, kitty litter (if your tires get stuck in snow) and a first aid kit are important to have on hand. In winter you have to be prepared for accidents due to weather conditions.



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