Food and Finance

I would like to let everyone know that soon I will be posting more articles on a variety of topics in addition to personal financial pieces. In this new and updated version of Ace the Journey, I will write more about the nutritional aspect of our lives. We know how important a stable financial life can be to us, but we can’t forget about focusing on a healthy lifestyle right? How are we going to enjoy the stability we’ve created by diligently saving for our goals if we don’t feel good?
In the new series of articles I will talk about:

– Best ways to save at the supermarket

– What to ask your doctor about your nutrition and any nutritional deficiencies you may have.

– Best Nutrition books, podcasts and magazines

– What does clean eating really mean?

– How Mandalas can aide your healthy lifestyle…. and much, much more.

– So please keep posted. I enjoy bringing this information to you and hope you enjoy reading it!

Donating your car?

If you are looking for an efficient way to donate your car where it will go towards a good cause and also give you a tax deduction, I asked Morris Franco from Kars4Kids Car Donation Program to give me a bit of background on this non-profit that helps children through education and mentorship by getting funds through car donations. http://www.kars4kids.org/about.asp

What is the best way to donate your car?

As long as basic info has been submitted online or by phone, the donation will count for 2014 and donor will get the tax deduction for this year. Form can be filled out on our home page http://www.kars4kids.org/

How do I know the facility taking my donated car will actually use proceeds to help children?

The best way to tell is to see how much information they disclose online about where the funds are being allocated. After that you can check out their 990 tax forms from previous years which is usually available online.

What is the process like (from beginning to end result? What happens when I donate my car to your organization?

We actually have a web page that addresses how the process works from beginning to end, you can check that out here http://www.kars4kids.org/how-to-donate-your-car.asp

Trouble with money?

Many of us at one point or another have been a bit tight with money. It’s common. Living expenses are high and depending on where we live, living expenses can range even higher. Take NYC for example, the “Capital of the World”. The cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant for one person averages $15. A three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two people averages $75. A regular cappuccino is $3.95. 1 pair of Levi’s 501 jeans averages $57. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the center of the city will cost you approximately $2,839.88 a month. Basic monthly utilities including electricity, heating water and garbage for a small apartment is $150.30 and Internet (6 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) is $49.18 .* Add to this the cost of childcare, transportation, preparing meals at home, entertainment, etc and it’s no wonder why we feel cash strapped.

What to do? The only thing we can do. Set up a budget to see where all our monthly expenses are going. On an excel spreadsheet, make a list of all the items you spend on monthly. For example, list your rental or mortgage costs, childcare costs such as babysitting and alimony, child support, clothes, movies, dining out, transportation, utilities, home costs such as curtains, bedspreads, furniture, TVs, kitchen gadgets, etc. Jot down everything you spend money on and by that I mean everything. Don’t leave anything out; otherwise you won’t see the complete picture. On the column next to this one write down your total income, subtract the expenses from your total income. What’s the difference? Do you have any money left or are you in a deficit? If you have some money left, great! Make sure some of this money is going towards saving for your emergency fund, retirement and college savings. If you are just scraping by, you need to whittle down your expenses. If you are spending more then you make, you have a lot more work to do.

That is the great thing about writing down everything you make and what you spend it on, you can see it. Seeing where your money actually goes every month makes you more receptive to your spending habits and much more aware of where your hard earned money is going.

Creating a budget sheet will help you cut down on unnecessary spending habits and help you save more. Of course, you can’t be a scrooge either. You can spend a little here and there on things that make you happy; this will promote your health and overall well-being but do it all moderately while also saving for a rainy day. Go ahead and try it.

*Cost of living expenses data obtained from www.numbeo.com

Where to find great budget forms

If you are looking for a great way to start a budget, you will find thousands of tips and forms on the web, but one of the best tools a fellow daily money manager suggested comes from the Dave Ramsey website.

Ramsey has several forms you can use, either print them out or use the online budget tool he has available.  The printouts he has include the Quick Start Budget and the Monthly Cash form. All the forms are easy to use and give step by step instructions on how to calculate each category. The forms help you budget for food, charity, saving, clothing, transportation, housing, utilities, and even medications and doctor bills. Plus Ramsey gives recommended percentages to keep you from budgeting too much for any particular category. For example, he recommends budgeting 5 to 10 percent for medical and health related expenses such as vitamins and medications and 2 to 7 percent for clothing. This helps the budgeter have a goal in mind and keeps the format nice and clear.

So if you want to check it out, take a look here: http://www.daveramsey.com/tools/budget-forms/

Tracking your funds!

You’ve probably read the wise old advice of “use cash instead of credit, you’ll be able to budget your money better!” While this in part is true because once you run out of cash, that’s it, you’ve reach the amount you have to spend, how do you keep track of where the money went?

One great way is to use your credit card. At the end of the month, you’ll have a detailed history of where you’re money went and how much you spent on each item. Even better is the fact that after a few months, you’ll be able to find a pattern in your spending by sitting down and analyzing your credit card statements from the previous few months.

Another bonus to using this method is that it will help boost up your credit history. However, make sure you pay your credit card bill each month in full to avoid those pesky interest charges. Make a point to spend up to a certain amount on your credit card each month. Give yourself a limit just as you would if you were carrying cash. Once you’ve reached that limit, stop spending. As months pass by, you’ll be tracking your spending habits on your monthly credit statement and can view exactly what goes where. Ultimately, the goal here is to pinpoint what expenses you can minimize and possibly eliminate thus modifying and creating a stronger budget.

Good Luck!