Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House?

So you’re at the point in your life where buying a home is not a question of if, but when. You’re scrimping. You’re saving. You’re dreaming of walking through the front door of your very own home.

But as the decision draws near, you start questioning everything. Is now a good time to buy a house? Or is this the worst time? Is it more financially responsible to buy a house right now or wait? And what if you mistime the market, buying too soon or too late, and miss out on lower home prices?

Ultimately, the experts say the answer is less about economies, markets and pandemics and more about you.

So, how do you think through this decision? You’ll want to take time to thoroughly review your personal financial situation and life goals. At the same time, you’ll need to gain some understanding of the market dynamics that impact home costs.

External factors can make buying a house right now intimidating, but your personal finances are an important factor.

This process will take some time, but it’s well worth the effort. With a firm grasp on your personal situation and some context on the housing market, you’ll be able to confidently go forth knowing you’re making a fiscally informed decision about whether to buy a house right now.

Honestly assess these aspects of your finances

Financial security is always important if you’re trying to determine when you’re ready to buy a home. To decide if now is a good time to buy a house, ask yourself the following questions about your finances:

How secure is your income?

Job or income stability is an important factor if you are buying a home in a rocky economy, such as the one triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, says real estate economist Gay Cororaton. Even in a robust economy, your income security should be top of mind when you’re thinking of buying a house right now.

If you have any inkling that your position may be eliminated or that you’ll be making a career change, you may want to delay buying a home. Even a recent break in employment that caused you to draw down some of your savings may raise a red flag with lenders, says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in the Boston area.

If you’re considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home.

– Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow

Do you have enough money saved?

After income stability, savings is the next-most-important financial factor you’ll want to consider to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, Ziegler says. The old rule of thumb was to save 20% of the price of the home for your down payment. While that is ideal, it’s not necessary—far from it, Ziegler says. In fact, it has become more common for first-time buyers to put down much less than 20%.

How much house can you afford?

The down payment is one side of the affordability coin. Your monthly mortgage payment is the other side. You need to know how much you can spend on both to determine if you can afford to buy a house right now, says Jeff Tucker, a senior economist at Zillow. Aim for a monthly mortgage payment that doesn’t stretch you too thin—experts typically put this at around 28% of your monthly gross income, according to Bankrate.

With those guidelines, you can determine what you can afford. For example, if you make $4,000 a month, you should typically spend no more than $1,120 on your monthly mortgage payment in total.

How much house that buys you depends on multiple factors: mortgage rates, property tax rates, homeowners insurance and—if you don’t have the savings to put down 20%—primary mortgage insurance, or PMI. To get a rough estimate, plug your income details into an online calculator. For a more specific figure, talk to a local lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage, Ziegler says.

If you're buying a house right now, aim for mortgage payments around 28% of your monthly gross income.

Once you know your price range, you can determine how much savings you need in the bank to buy a house right now. You’ll also need to have money saved for closing costs, which vary but typically run 2% to 5% of the loan amount, according to Bankrate.

Again, Ziegler recommends talking to a lender to really understand what your individual down payment and closing costs would be. Finally, be sure to add a line item in your budget for home maintenance that will inevitably pop up after you move in. Whether it’s a dishwasher on the fritz or a leaky roof, you don’t want to be caught off guard, so be sure to save money for emergency home repairs.

How is your credit?

Your credit profile is also important to lenders, and it will likely be a factor in what interest rate you’re offered. Given that, you should be checking your credit report and know your credit score before investing in a home. If you’re considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home, Tucker says.

What is your debt-to-income ratio?

Another factor lenders check is your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, Tucker says. This is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes to paying monthly debt payments, plus your new mortgage. Lenders typically require this ratio to be 45% or less but prefer it even lower—in the 33% to 36% range.

Have you considered the opportunity cost?

Another financial consideration when deciding if now is a good time to buy a house is the opportunity cost of delaying a home purchase, Ziegler says. If you’re renting in a market where the rent is higher than your would-be monthly mortgage payment, you may be spending a lot more money each month than if you were to purchase a home. And of course, with a mortgage, your monthly payment increases your equity.

After taking a clear-eyed look at your income, savings and these other financial factors, you will have a better sense of when you’re ready to buy a home and whether now’s the time for you to dip into the market.

Consider key market factors

Next, take a look at factors that are outside of your control, but still influence your purchase: prices, interest rates and national employment trends.

Where are housing prices?

As you’re looking at the market, one of the biggest considerations when you are ready to buy a home will be housing prices and availability. Research your local market by talking to real estate agents who work specifically in the area where you want to buy and asking them about market trends, Ziegler says.

Track current listings and recently sold prices to get a sense of how prices look today. Generally, the tighter the inventory—meaning the fewer houses available—the higher prices will be, Tucker says.

If you're trying to determine when you are ready to buy a home, track current listings to get a sense of how prices look today.

What’s going on with interest rates?

When you’re ready to buy a home could also depend on another major economic factor: interest rates. When interest rates are low, your housing budget is effectively supercharged, Tucker says, and you can afford a more expensive house because you’re spending less on interest. When they are high, the opposite is true.

This is what compels people to buy when interest rates are low—you get more for your money. If you get a 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, you lock in that rate for the entire life of the loan, which could save you money now and into the future, Tucker says.

How does employment look nationally?

Finally, if you want to get a general idea of where the housing market may be headed—if prices will drop or rise soon—check out the national employment trends, Cororaton says. Low unemployment means prices will generally trend upward because more people can afford houses, boosting competition and prices, she says.

But if unemployment is inching up, then people are losing jobs and will be more likely to remain in their current homes. As a result, there tends to be less competition for them, lowering prices.

You don’t need to be an expert in the market to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, but a baseline understanding of these big-picture forces can give you the confidence you need to embark on your home-buying journey.

So when are you ready to buy a home? Paying attention to big-picture economic forces can help you decide.

Think about your future plans

After reviewing your savings and income and assessing the market conditions, take a step back and think about your life plans over the next few years. Your lifestyle and goals will help determine whether now is a good time to buy a house.

“For buyers who are not certain whether they will still be living in the same place in three or five years, I would caution against locking themselves into a certain location,” Ziegler says. “If they’re just not sure what the future holds, it may be better to have that flexibility.”

It’s unlikely in many markets that you will see substantial financial gain from homeownership if you move within five years, Ziegler says. Your equity gains will likely be offset by the transaction costs of buying and selling your home.

That goes for remote workers, too. Are you working from a home office these days? While widespread remote work may allow buyers to consider homes farther from their offices, ask yourself: Is my company going to permanently allow employees to work from home? Do I think there will be other remote opportunities in the future?

Is now a good time to buy a house? That depends on your lifestyle and long-term goals.

While you’re thinking about the next three to five years of your career, also consider the next three to five years of your personal life. Will you have a family? Will that family grow?

These can be weighty topics, so be sure to think them through on your own schedule. Buying a house is a big decision, and it’s not one to be rushed. By taking the time to assess your life, from your job security to your financial health to your lifestyle, and considering the impact of market factors, you’ll have a clearer sense of when you are ready to buy a home.

If you’ve decided that buying a house right now is the best decision for you, it’s time to learn more about how it will impact your budget. Get started by reading up on these eight unexpected expenses when buying a home.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips

Have you ever sat down to go over your budget only to find out that you’ve outrageously overspent on food? Local, organic, artisan goods and trendy new restaurant outings with friends make it easy to do. With food being the second highest household expense behind mortgage or rent, our food choices have a huge impact on our budget. Using this monthly budget calculator can also help guide how to budget for food. 

You may be surprised to find out that the most nutrient-dense foods are often the most budget-friendly. It’s not only possible, but fun and easy to eat nourishing, delicious food while still sticking to your budget. Here are 11 ways to help you learn how to budget groceries.

1. Track Current Spending

Before you figure out what you should be spending on food, it’s important to figure out what you are spending on food. Keep grocery store receipts to get a realistic picture of your current spending habits. If you feel inclined, create a spreadsheet to break down your spending by category, including beverages, produce, etc. Once you’ve done this, you can get an idea of where to trim down spending.

2. Allocate a Percentage of Your Income

How much each household spends on food varies based on income level and how many people need to be fed. Consider using a grocery calculator if you’re not sure where to start. While people spent about 30 percent of their income on food in 1950, this percentage has dropped to 9–12 today. Consider allocating 10 percent of your income to food as a starting point, and increase from there if necessary.

3. Avoid Eating Out

This is the least fun tip, we promise. Eating out is a quick and easy way to ruin your food budget. If you’re actively dating or enjoy going out to eat with friends, be sure to factor restaurants into your food budget — and strictly adhere to your limit. Coffee drinkers, consider making your favorite concoctions at home.

4. Plan Your Meals

It’s much easier to stick to a budget when you have a plan. Plus, having a purpose for each grocery item you buy will ensure nothing goes to waste or just sits in your pantry unused. Don’t be afraid of simple salads or meatless Mondays. Not every meal has to be a gourmet, grandiose experience.

5. Keep a Fridge Grocery List

Keep a magnetized grocery list on your fridge so that you can replace items as needed. This ensures you’re buying food you know you’ll eat because you’re already used to buying it. Sticking to a list in the grocery store is an effective way to keep yourself accountable and not spend money on processed or pricey items — there’s no need to take a stroll down the candy aisle if it’s not on the list.

6. Eat Before You Go to the Store

If your mother gave you this advice growing up, she was onto something: according to a survey, shoppers spend an average of 64 percent more when hungry. Sticking to a budget is all about eliminating temptations, so plan to eat beforehand to eliminate tantalizing foods that will cause you to go over-budget.

7. Be Careful with Coupons

50 percent off ketchup is a great deal — unless you don’t need ketchup. Beware of coupons that claim you’ll “save” money. If the item isn’t on your list, you’re not saving at all, but rather spending on something you don’t truly need. This discretion is key to saving money at the grocery store.

8. Embrace the Bulk Section

Not only is the bulk section of your grocery store great for cheap, filling staples, but it’s also the perfect way to discover new foods and bring variety into your diet. Take the time to compare the price of buying pre-packaged goods versus bulk — it’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk, plus eliminating unnecessary packaging is good for the planet.

Bonus: a diet rich in unprocessed, whole plant foods provides virtually every nutrient, ensuring optimal health and keeping you from spending an excess amount on healthcare costs.

9. Bring Lunch to Work

Picture this: you’re trying to stick to a strict food budget, and one day at work you realize it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. But alas, you forgot to pack a lunch. All the meal planning and smart shopping in the world won’t solve the work-lunch-dilemma. Brown-bagging your lunch is key to ensuring your food budget is successful. Plus, it can be fun! Think mason jar salads and Thai curry bowls.

10. Love Your Leftovers

Would you ever consider throwing $640 cash into the trash? This is what the average American household does every year — only instead of cash, it’s $640 worth of food that’s wasted. With millions of undernourished people around the globe, throwing away food not only hurts our budget but is a waste of the world’s resources. Tossing food is no joke. Eat your leftovers.

11. Freeze Foods That Are Going Bad

To avoid wasting food, freeze things that look like they’re about to go bad. Fruit that’s past its prime can be frozen and used in smoothies. Make double batches of soups, sauces, and baked goods so you’ll always have an alternative to ordering takeout when you don’t feel like cooking.

Sticking to a food budget takes planning and discipline. While it may not seem fun at first, you’ll likely find that you enjoy cooking and trying a variety of new foods you wouldn’t have thought to use before. Being resourceful and cooking healthfully is a skill that will benefit your wallet and waistline for years to come.

 

Sources: Turbo | Fool | Forbes | Medical Daily | GO Banking Rates | Value Penguin

The post How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

9 Things I Love and Have Learned After 9 Years Of Blogging

I still remember the month I started my blog. I don’t really remember the exact first day, but I remember the first month and how excited I was.

In August of 2011, I started Making Sense of Cents.

That was exactly 9 years ago!

Back then, I had no idea what I was doing, and I also had no goals for my blog.

I didn’t even really know what a blog was, or that they could make money.

I also didn’t even like to write at that time!

In the past 9 years, so much has changed for me.

It’s crazy to think that I started my blog nine years ago, especially when I consider all of the amazing things it has done for my life.

It was something I started and worked on in addition to my full-time day job as a financial analyst, and around two years after I started this blog, I quit my day job to blog full-time.

Some numbers on Making Sense of Cents:

  • My first blog post was published on August 10, 2011. You can read it here.
  • I have published 1,878 articles here on Making Sense of Cents. That number was higher about a month ago, but I recently deleted several hundred articles that I thought weren’t good enough.
  • I have 70,816 comments on my blog posts.
  • I’ve personally replied to 21,080 comments.
  • It took me 6 months to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents.

First, a little backstory on how I began.

You may have heard this from me before, but the funny thing is that I created my blog on a whim after reading about a personal finance website in a magazine. It started as a hobby to track my own personal finance progress, and I honestly didn’t even know that people could make money blogging!

I knew NOTHING about running a website.

At that time, I was working as an analyst at an investment banking and valuation firm. I chugged along working the 8-5, Monday through Friday grind and didn’t see myself having an enjoyable future there. I had a stressful job filled with lots of deadlines and responsibilities that just didn’t interest me. Yes, I know this is the norm for some people, but I just couldn’t imagine myself living like that for 40+ years.

Blogging was an outlet for my stressful day job, and my interest quickly grew, even though it was just a hobby. It gave me space to write about my personal finance situation, have a support group, to keep track of how I was doing, and more. I did not create Making Sense of Cents with the intention of earning an income, but after only six months, I began to make money blogging.

A friend I met through the blogging community connected me with an advertiser, and I earned $100 from that advertisement deal.

That one deal sparked my interest in taking my blog more seriously and learning how to make even more money blogging.

I now earn a great living from my blog, and it all started on a whim, not even knowing that blogs could make money.

Blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I urge anyone who is interested to learn how to start a blog as well.

Blogging has allowed me to take control of my finances and earn more money. It means I can work from home, travel whenever I want, have a flexible schedule, and more!

Related content:

  • How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog
  • Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!
  • How To Start a Blog Free Course
  • Should I Start A Blog? Here Are The Top Reasons You Will Love Blogging
  • What is a blog post?

And, all of this happened because I started some random blog nine years ago.

I made so many mistakes, and I still make mistakes today. But, I continue to learn and improve, which has shaped this blog into what it is today.

I was so afraid to quit my job when I did, especially for a blog.

So many people thought I was absolutely crazy and making the worst decision of my life. Especially since my husband quit his job at the same time!

Today, I want to talk about the the 9 things that I love and have learned about blogging over the years. I feel like what I enjoy about blogging as well as what I’ve learned go hand in hand.

Oh yeah, if you haven’t yet – please follow me on Instagram.

Here’s what I love and have learned about blogging.

 

1. I love being my own boss.

When I first started my blog and realized I could make an income from it, I quickly learned how much I love being my own boss.

I love being in complete control of what I do, and becoming self-employed may allow you to feel that way as well. I enjoy deciding what I will do each day, creating my own schedule, determining my business goals, handling everything behind the scenes, and more.

I actually have a rule in my life/business where I don’t do anything unless I want to. While I still say yes to many amazing opportunities, I’m not doing anything that feels like a total drag or is against my beliefs. This has really helped improve my work-life balance, which is great because being able to choose how you earn a living amounts to making sure you love everything you do.

I honestly love each and every service I provide – writing online, promoting, networking, interacting with readers, and more.

Running an online business (and being your own boss) may not be for everyone, but it’s something I enjoy.

 

2. A flexible schedule is one of my most favorite things.

One of the best things about working for yourself and being a blogger is that you can have a flexible schedule.

I can work as far ahead as I want to, I can create my own work schedule, and more.

I love being able to work for a few hours in the morning, do something fun during the day (such as a hike), and then work later at night when I have nothing planned. I can also schedule appointments during the day and it’s really no big deal.

I can work at night, in the morning, on the weekends – I can work whenever.

But, this can also be something to be careful with as well, as it can be difficult to have a good work-life balance.

 

3. Location independence is AMAZING.

Being location independent for so many years has been great.

I love being able to work from wherever I am, and it’s allowed me some of the best experiences I’ve had, like living in an RV and now on a sailboat. All I need is an internet connection and my laptop.

The only problem with being location independent is that it can be hard to separate work from the rest of your life. You may find yourself working all the time, no matter where you are, and while that may seem great, being able to take a true vacation can be a hard task.

However, I’m not going to complain because the work-life balance I’m rocking right now is great.

 

4. Remember, success takes time!

Many bloggers quit just a few months in.

In fact, the statistic that I’ve always heard is that the average blogger quits just 6 months in.

I completely understand – starting a blog can be super overwhelming!

But, good things don’t come easy. If blogging was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

It took me 6 months for me to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents. If I would have quit at that time, I would have missed out on so many great things!

Remember, success takes time!

 

5. Don’t write when you feel forced.

One thing I have definitely learned about myself over the years is that I write best when I’m not forced – i.e. when I’m on a deadline.

Instead, I always try to write content ahead of time.

I used to write content for Monday on the night before (Sunday!), and I found that to be super stressful. Even a week in advance was too stressful for me.

I like to be at least a month ahead, as then I can truly write when I feel inspired and happy to write.

 

6. Get ready to learn.

Pretty much everything about having a blog is a learning process.

Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme, and anyone who tells you that it is (or acts like it is) is lying.

Blogging is not easy.

And, you won’t make $100,000 your first month blogging.

Blogging can be a lot of work, and there is always something to learn. Something is always changing in the blogging world, which means you will need to continue to learn and adapt to the technology around you. This includes learning about social media platforms, running a website, growing your platform, writing high-quality content, and more.

This is something that I love about blogging – it’s never stale and there’s always a new challenge.

 

7. Stop seeing other bloggers as competition.

Okay, so this isn’t exactly something that I’ve learned, but I want everyone else to learn!

I have always had this mindset – that there is plenty of room for everyone in the blogging world. However, not everyone feels the same.

So many bloggers see other bloggers as enemies or competition, and this is a huge mistake.

I mostly see this in newer bloggers, and this can really hold them back.

Networking is very important if you want to create a successful blog. Bloggers should be open to making blogging friends, attending blog conferences, sharing other blogs’ content with their readers, and more.

Networking can help you enjoy blogging more, learn new things about blogging, learn how to make money blogging, make great connections, and more. If you want to make money blogging, then you will want to network with others! After all, networking is the reason why I learned how to make money blogging in the first place!

The key is to be genuine and to give more than you take, which are the two main things I always tell people when it comes to networking. I receive so many emails every day from people who clearly aren’t genuine, and it’s very easy to see.

I’ve made great friends who are bloggers and influencers, and it’s truly a great community to be in.

 

8. You don’t need previous experience to be successful.

To become a blogger, you don’t need any previous experience. You don’t need to be a computer wizard, understand social media, or anything else.

These are all things that you can learn as you go.

Nearly every single blogger was brand new at some point, and they had no idea what they were doing.

I’m proof of that because I didn’t even know that blogs existed when I started Making Sense of Cents, and I definitely didn’t know that bloggers could make money. I learned how to create a blog from the bottom up and have worked my way to where I am today. It’s not always easy, but it’s been rewarding!

With blogging, you’ll have a lot to learn, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s challenging, but in a good way.

 

9. You can make a living blogging.

This is probably one of the best things that I’ve learned since I first started my blog.

You can actually make a living blogging!

No, not every single person will become a successful blogger (it’s NOT a get-rich-quick scheme), but I know many successful bloggers who started in a similar way as I did – blogging as a hobby and it just grew from there.

For me, I have earned a high income with my blog, and I have enough saved to retire whenever I would like. I am still working on my blog, though, as I enjoy what I do.

 

What’s next?

I’ve never really been much of a planner, so I don’t want to commit to anything HUGE haha.

But, for Making Sense of Cents, I do have some plans. I am working towards improving traffic and readership, and coming up with more and more high-quality content.

I am so grateful to all of you readers, and I want to continue to help you all out by writing high-quality content.

That is really my only goal for now!

If there’s anything you’d like me to write about on Making Sense of Cents, please send me an email at michelle@makingsenseofcents.com or leave a comment below.

Thank you for being a reader!

 

There’s a ton of valuable free resources.

I know I’ll be asked this, so I am going to include this here.

One of the great things about starting a blog is that there are a ton of FREE blogging resources out there that can help you get started.

In fact, I didn’t spend any money in the beginning in order to learn how to blog – instead, I signed up for a ton of free webinars, free email courses, and more.

  1. First, if you don’t have a blog, then I recommend starting off with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.
  2. Affiliate Marketing Cheat Sheet – With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.
  3. The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training)– Improve your SEO knowledge in just 60 minutes with this FREE 6-day video training.
  4. The Free Blogging Planner – The Blogging Planner is a free workbook that I created just for you! In this free workbook, you’ll receive printables for starting your blog, creating a blog post, a daily/weekly blog planner, goals, and more.

Do you have any questions for me? Are you interested in starting your own business?

The post 9 Things I Love and Have Learned After 9 Years Of Blogging appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

What Is “Accessible Income” on a Credit Card Application?

If you’re applying for a credit card, you might stumble upon this term “accessible income.” In fact, that’s the only situation in which you will come across the term: on a credit card application. So, you need to know what it is.

Accessible income is not just income you earn from your regular job. Rather, it includes much more than that. It includes income from a wide variety of sources, like retirement savings accounts, social security payments, trust funds, just to name a few.

Accessible income can work in your favor because not only you can list income from your job, but also all types of other money you receive in a given year. This in turn will increase your chance of getting approved for the credit card, simply because you can list a higher income.

It also can get you approved for a higher credit limit, which in turn can help your credit score and allow you more spending freedom. In this article, I will explain what accessible income is and the types of income you need to include in your credit card application. Before you start applying for too many credit cards, consult with a financial advisor who can help you develop a plan.

What is accessible income?

Accessible income means all of the money that you have accessed to if you are 21 years old or older. According to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, lenders are required to offer you credit if you are able to pay your bill. If you do not make enough money and do not receive enough income from other sources and cannot make payments, they can reject your application. That is why they ask for your accessible income.

If you are between the age of 18 and 20, your accessible income is limited to income for your job, scholarships, grants and money from your parents or other people.

However, if you are 21 and older, your accessible income involves way more than that. It includes income from the following sources:

  • Income paychecks
  • Tips
  • Bank checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Income of a spouse
  • Grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid
  • Investments income
  • Retirement funds
  • Trust funds
  • Passive income
  • Checks from child support and spousal maintenance
  • Allowances from your parents or grandparents
  • Social security payments or SSI Disability payments

To report that accessible income, just add them all up to arrive at a total and submit it. The credit card companies will not ask you to provide the specific source of each income

What does not count as accessible income

Loans including personal loans, mortgage, auto loans do not count as accessible income simply because they are borrowed money. So, do not list them when submitting your credit card application.

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Accessible income on the credit card application

Accessible income is only associated with credit card applications. In other words, you’re only asked that when you’re applying for credit cards. When applying for a credit card, you should take advantage of all sources of income and not just the income from your job.

So, you should make sure to gather all of the money you have accessed to that year. Not doing so means that you’re leaving other income that is just as important. As mentioned above, you should not include loans or any borrowed money.

When reporting your accessible income, be as accurate and truthful as possible. While some credit card companies may take your word for it, others may ask you to verify your income. In that case, you will need to provide hard proof like pay stubs, bank statements, statement from your investments accounts, etc…

Why providing accessible income important?

Your credit score is the most important factor credit card companies rely on to decide whether to offer you a credit card. However, your income is also important. The higher your income, the better.

A high income means that you’re able to cover debt that you may accumulate on your credit card. And the higher your chance is that they will approve you. The opposite is true. If you have a low income, some credit card companies may not approve you even if you have a good credit score. So, in order to increase your chance, you should take advantage of accessible income.

The bottom line

The only situation where you will find “accessible income” is on a credit card application. Accessible income is all income you have access to in any given year. That includes much more than your paychecks from your regular jobs.

But it also includes all types of money including checks from child support or alimony, allowances from your parents or grandparents, money in your retirement and investment accounts, etc. So, you should take advantage of it when applying for a credit card.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post What Is “Accessible Income” on a Credit Card Application? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com