Having a strict budget shouldn’t keep you from having a space that you love.
Having a strict budget shouldn’t keep you from having a space that you love.
If you love meat, you know that it’s wonderful in every way….except its cost. Instead of wasting your money on over-priced meat, follow these tips for finding the best supermarket deals and and avoiding expensive traps.
supermarket in the early morning. That’s when they’ll be restocking the meat case, and you’ll have the best bet at finding a deal.
Ask at the deli counter of your supermarket for “bulk ends,” and ask if there’s a discount! These end bits of sliced meats are too small to slice in the machine, but can be sliced or cubed at home. They’re often offered at half off!
When does your supermarket mark-down meat? It’s as easy as asking the butcher. Especially if you’re friendly, he or she will usually be happy to let you know this valuable savings secret.
Supermarkets have started using their own wording on meat packages to make you think that the product you are buying is a better grade than it really is. Most of the major chains are buying more select-grade beef, but may call it by any number of fancy names such as “top premium beef,” “prime quality cut,” “select choice,” “market choice,” or “premium cut.” Be aware that these titles don’t actually mean anything!
Grocery stores make a lot of money on meat, so it’s not surprising that they display the priciest cuts in the case! Experience dramatic savings by instead asking the butcher to slice different cuts for you from the same primal (or section) of the cow or pig. These cuts can be as little as one-fifth the cost of the expensive, pre-packaged cuts, and they’ll be just as tender and tasty. Here are a few discounted (yet delicious) cuts you can ask for: Instead of buying ground beef, ask the butcher to grind up a bottom round roast for you. If you’re looking for rib eye steak, request chuck eye. (You may need to ask the butcher to cut a 4-inch roast off the front of the boneless chuck, then to peel out the chuck eye and cut it into steaks.) Instead of pork tenderloin, buy an entire loin roast and ask the butcher to cut it up for you.
If you’re going to buy a canned ham, purchase the largest one you can afford. Most smaller canned hams are made from bits and pieces glued together with gelatin. Cured hams are injected with a solution of brine salts, sugar, and nitrites. The weight of the ham will increase with the injection, and if the total weight goes up by 8 percent, the label will usually say “ham with natural juices.” If the weight of the ham increases by more than 10 percent, the label must read “water added.”
Never buy meat that’s already been shaped into patties (unless it’s on sale). Instead, buy your own and shape into patties yourself. Place a sheet of waxed paper between each, then place the entire stack in a resealable plastic bag and put in the freezer.
Even if you want to prepare low-fat meals, you don’t always need to buy the leanest (and most expensive) ground beef. If you’re preparing hamburgers on a grill or on a broiler rack, most of the fat will be lost during the cooking process, so stick with the moderately lean varieties.
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Don’t let supermarkets trick you into spending more money than you should. Grocery shop sensibly armed with these tips supermarkets don’t want you to know from knowing the cost of convenience to buying generic brands.
convenience is worth the extra cost!
When shopping, know your terminology: Only the term “use by” means that you shouldn’t eat the food after the date indicated. “Sell by” dates are only an indication for the store, and foods will usually keep one to two weeks after. “Best before” is only an indication of food quality, not of food safety, so again, your perishables may still be fine to eat.
If you find you’re making a lot of impulse purchases at the store because your kids are begging for snack foods, keep them quiet by buying them a package of animal crackers or a similar snack right when you get to the store. Most stores don’t even mind if your kids eat the crackers before you pay for them.
Supermarkets often discount their day-old or slightly overripe items in the morning. This is a great way of getting deals on fruit, vegetables, bread, and other foods. At first glimpse, this money-saving strategy may not seem appealing to you, but you can use these items in casseroles, desserts, and other dishes where you won’t even notice the difference. With a loaf of day-old bread, for example, you can make french toast, stuffing, croutons, bread pudding, and much more!
When you’ve been buying the same brand-name product for as long as you can remember, it’s hard to make the switch to generics. However, you’ll be surprised when you find many generic and store-brand products taste exactly the same (or better!) for less than half the cost. Always buy generic baking ingredients such as flour, oil, and sugar. These generics are indistinguishable from their more-expensive counterparts. Frozen and canned vegetables are also usually exactly the same. As for products such as cereals, cookies, and crackers, basic is better—we’ve had good luck with plain granola, potato chips, and wheat crackers. No matter what the product, it never hurts to try. If you end up having to throw away one can of soup, you’ve wasted a few dollars, but if you like it, you can save a lot over the course of a year.
Need a little help budgeting your trips to the supermarket? Many chains now offer prepaid gift cards. Buy one for yourself and think of it as a portable checking account: Put money on the card, then “withdraw” from it every time you shop. With a dedicated grocery “account,” you’ll find it’s easier to keep a tighter rein on your spending.
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Buying a new house is always exciting, especially if it’s a fixer-upper that just needs a little TLC to become the home of your dreams. But are renovation costs dampering your spirit? Guest writer Kerrie Kelly from The Home Depot shares her budgeting tips for staying sane and stress-free during home renovations.
Kerrie Kelly is a California interior designer who has helped many young couples choose their “first-home-together” decor. Kerrie writes on her design experiences for The Home Depot, offering homeowners ways to save money without compromising design.
Your child is never too young to start learning about money. Use these tips to begin the conversation and cultivate a healthy relationship between your kids and their money.
Read LoanStart blog for financial advice and learn the intricacies of financing and loans and how they can help benefit your current financial situation.
Get your children involved with money. For example, you can have a young child join you at the grocery store to help with shopping. Ask them to compare prices of similar items and discuss why the items may be different. For older children, you might allow your child to watch or participate when you pay bills. Explain the process to them. Let your child know how much money comes in each month and how much you spend on expenses. Show to them how expenses add up.
Involving your children in household finances will help build their financial knowledge at an early age.
There are several benefits to giving an allowance. For one thing, when your child has money of their own that they can spend at their discretion, they will be incentivized to learn how to handle it. Once the allowance is gone, your child will have to save up to buy necessary items. You can teach your child to be responsible for money management and living within their means by sticking to the rules. Disperse allowance on a regular schedule, and never extend “credit.”
Some financial experts recommend giving out an allowance to be budgeted once a month rather than once a week. This gives the child a longer amount of time on how to manage a given amount of money. Also, the larger the amount of money, the more management skills are to be learned.
Your children look up to you, so your decisions with money will set an example. Are you late on your bills? Are you living beyond your means? Get your financial situation in order and be honest with your children. Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior so that you can discuss financial planning and management as a family.
Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior and embark on sound financial planning and management as a family.
Make sure your children know that there are more ways to use money beyond just spending it. Teach your child to save, invest, or donate to charity, and explain why these options are worth the effort, even if they do not offer the short-term satisfaction that comes with making a purchase.
Occasionally, you can offer your child an opportunity to make a small amount of extra income by having them do some chores around the house. This will teach them early on about the value of earning money. You can then help them decide what to do with the extra money they have earned.
Before your child buys something new, discuss with them the alternative ways of spending money to emphasize the value of making choices. Teach them to compare shops and items for prices and quality. Show them how advertisers persuade people to buy their products. Encourage your kids to be savvy and critical of ads and commercials.
Teach your child how to handle credit. When you think they are old enough to understand what credit is, allow them to borrow an extra amount of money from you to make a major purchase. Talk to them and negotiate how much amount your child will pay you each week from their weekly allowance, and then collect the money and keep track of the remaining balance each week until the debt is repaid.
Let your child see how you plan your budget, pay bills, how you shop carefully, and how you plan major expenditures and vacations. Explain to them that there are affordable choices, and allow the kids to participate in the decision-making process. You can set a family goal that everyone can work towards.
Explain to your kids that there are affordable choices, and allow them to participate in the decision-making process.
Children are prone to impulse buys when they find something cute or eye-catching. Instead of giving in and buying the item for them, let your child know that they can use their savings to pay for the item. However, encourage your child to wait at least a day before they purchase anything above a given benchmark–for example, 15 dollars. The item will still be there the next day and they will have properly decided with a level head if they still want the item.
College is an important phase that can affect the future of your child. There’s no time like the present to have your teen saving for college. If they plan on working a summer job you can take a portion of that amount and put it on a college savings account. Your child will feel more responsible since their future is at stake with how much they save.
What should you ask for in a divorce settlement? What is a typical divorce settlement? Here are some things you might consider when getting a divorce.
5 Expert-Approved Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce. My second episode in this series was 5 Ways to Co-Parent with Your Ex-Spouse.
There really isn’t anything easy about divorce. Thankfully, as I discussed in the first two episodes, there are strategies and thoughtful ways to navigate through some of divorces issues, especially if the two parents are willing to put their personal differences aside and focus on their kids. In addition to the emotional turmoil that encompasses divorce, there is also another difficult component that couples must deal with and that is the financial aspect.
After 25 years of marriage and 8 kids, Mighty Mommy had to get her financial house in order and make some significant adjustments going from a two-income household to a single income.
Here are four financial considerations, as backed by the experts, to keep in mind if you are thinking of or getting a divorce.
The entire divorce process is completely overwhelming, and when you begin to delve into the financial ramifications, the stress is taken to a whole new level. Once we began having our small tribe of kids, we decided I would leave my career to be home with our family. During the last 10 years of our marriage I went back to work part-time as a freelance writer but by no means was I contributing significantly to our income. My ex-husband managed the majority of our financial affairs so when the reality of our divorce settled in, I knew the first thing I had to do was get a handle on every aspect of our financial status. I honestly wasn’t sure where to begin, but my divorce attorney recommended I start by gathering all my financial documents.
Maryalene LaPonsie, contributor to USNews.com writes in 7 Financial Steps to Take When Getting a Divorce that “as soon as you know you’re getting a divorce, collect all the financial documents you can.” She continues, by stating that these include:
In addition, other documents to consider are:
When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances.
When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances. Because my ex was the one who paid all the bills and the sole provider for most of our marriage, I never worried much about the details of our 401(K) plan, life insurance policies or what our overall assets and debt totaled.
One piece of advice I received many times over was that I needed to know what our budget was so I could begin to realistically know what my living expenses would be.
Jason Silverberg, CFP at Financial Advantage Associates, Inc. and author of The Financial Planning Puzzle, told me via email: “If there was one singular, most important piece of financial advice that I could offer someone going through a divorce, that would be to understand where everything is and what everything’s worth. Without knowledge of what you own and who you owe money to, you really are going to have a hard time moving forward. You’ll also want to understand all of your sources for income and all of your monthly expenses as well. This will help you have a good handle on your budget to provide you critical understanding, so you can make smart financial decisions.”
He went on to say, “This exercise should be done both prior to as well as after the divorce. This way you can get a sense for how your household budget will operate on one income.” To help divorcing couples realize these figures, Silverberg has created the Personal Financial Inventory (1 page worksheet) inside the Picking up the Pieces eBook.
This exercise was extremely enlightening as I realized exactly where every penny (and then some) was going on a monthly basis. I was also able to gauge how much income I would need to start making in order to support these bills in addition to the child support and alimony payments I was receiving. One important factor to consider with child support is that it will decrease as your children get older, so I had to continually modify my budget based on this decrease. At first, it was overwhelming to see how much money I would need to keep our household running, but when you are armed with the figures and you pay attention to your monthly cash flow, it becomes easier to make adjustments. The fact of the matter is that some of the extra splurges such as frequent trips to the hair salon or buying my kids their usual top-of-the line items like sneakers or sports equipment had to be adjusted to what I could now afford. My kids have had some disappointments in this department, but they appreciated how we were trying to work together as a family-unit so that their lifestyle wasn’t affected as drastically as it could’ve been which balanced everything out.
Here’s how to handle all of the possible expenses your dog could incur—and then some.
When Craig Hynd and his fiancée brought home their new Lhasa Apso puppy Chewie, they knew the addition to their family would be worth it—but they didn’t quite understand the true cost of owning a dog. As new homeowners, “we didn’t have a lot of money to spare on a month-to-month basis,” Hynd says, “but we also love dogs and felt that we could afford to bring one into our home.”
To make sure they were financially on the mark, Hynd, a marketing executive for HR software company Youmanage, decided to do some research on how to afford a dog on a budget, shortly after Chewie settled in. He was glad he did: He found that the costs of dog ownership added up to much more than he originally anticipated. Fortunately, there was still time for him to adjust.
But Hynd’s foresight is not always top of mind for new dog owners. Getting a dog can be an emotional, knee-jerk decision, and you may not think about the expenses that go along with it or how to budget for a dog. The cost of owning a dog over the average lifespan of 12 years ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. The majority of dog owners underestimate this figure.1 That’s the kind of misunderstanding that can leave you short on funds for things such as vaccinations and preventative care—even food and toys.
So when asking yourself the question, “How much money should I budget for a dog?” you’ll be glad to know that a little financial preparation can go a long way toward making sure you’re ready for the responsibilities that come with pet ownership. The information that follows can help you and your new pooch share a happy, healthy friendship for years to come.
“Before getting my dog, I made sure to save as much money as possible,” says Danielle Mühlenberg, a professional dog trainer and blogger at PawLeaks, a site that focuses on dog training and dog behavior. Mühlenberg paid $1,300 for her 115-pound rottweiler Amalia. A safe approach when thinking about how to budget for a dog is to “always put away more money than you’ve calculated in your budget, so you won’t be overwhelmed by any surprise costs,” she adds.
Mühlenberg outlines the first-year expenses new dog owners should expect as they resolve how to afford a dog on a budget and some suggestions on managing costs:
The purchase of a purebred puppy from a breeder can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 or more—which makes a pure-blooded hound the most expensive type of dog to own. At the other end of the spectrum are the many shelter or rescue dogs in need of a home; they can generally be adopted for as little as a few hundred dollars. You will also need a dog license to bring home your pup, which runs from $10 to $20 on average (and needs to be renewed annually).
It can cost between $200 and $800 to spay or neuter a dog at a veterinary clinic. You can typically pay less at a shelter or humane society, where such procedures are often subsidized by donations. In other costs, puppies need an initial exam and special vaccinations that typically run between $75 and $100 (rabies is the only shot required by law, however). Microchipping, while not mandatory, is recommended to help identify your pet if it’s lost or stolen. This procedure costs around $40.
Expect to spend another few hundred dollars for a collar and leash ($6 to $50), food bowls ($10 to $50), waste bags ($6 to $20), a crate and bed ($25 to $250), doggie shampoo and brushes ($5 to $10), training pads ($16 to $35), toys ($10 to $200) and the first month’s supply of food ($40 to $60).
A new puppy needs a lot of attention, which can add to the cost of owning a dog. One in five dog owners took time off from work to care for a new puppy.2 Some puppies have a harder time on their own and can chew up your home and belongings, so it’s worth knowing this upfront in case your pup needs a sitter.
Annual, ongoing costs of owning a dog can vary widely depending on your situation. Why the disparity? It’s due mainly to dog size. For instance, larger dogs eat more food, and if you’re the type of owner that chooses premium kibble over a lower-cost option, that can really add up. Groomers also charge more for larger dogs because of the extra time and care needed to handle them.
Mühlenberg spends about $1,200 per year on her Rottweiler’s high-end food and another $600 annually for twice-weekly social training sessions. A pricey diet and puppy play camp may fall in the “nice to have” category of dog ownership for some. Dog owners worried about how to afford a dog on a budget can minimize these costs by choosing less expensive canned food and kibble or by making their own dog food. To save on other expenses, Müehlenberg grooms her dog at home, makes her own toys and treats and buys pet supplies in bulk.
To get a handle on how to budget for a dog, here are some of the biggest costs annually that dog owners need to plan for:
To help relieve the financial burden of how to afford a dog on a budget, you may want to open a savings account for emergencies. Mühlenberg puts a few hundred dollars aside each month, which can be tapped for unplanned household repairs due to any damage the dog may cause, dog sitting for unexpected travel or illness or other pup-related surprises. The Discover Online Savings Account is one place to hold cash for a dog-only emergency fund and grow your savings.
You earned it.
Now earn more with it.
Online savings with no minimum balance.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
As you can see, there are a lot of annual costs to consider when determining how to afford a dog on a budget—and they can really add up, particularly when a pooch gets sick or is involved in an accident. Preventative care such as flea, tick and heartworm medication, which can cost a total of $64 to $320 monthly, and regular vet visits can decrease the risk of an expensive health condition.3
For larger or recurring costs, consider pet insurance (an annual policy costs about $360 to $600).2 Some unexpected expenses can be offset by a pet insurance policy, which “is kind of like a forced savings account,” says Sara Ochoa, DVM, veterinary consultant for product review site DogLab. “You pay the insurance company, and they will pay for most of your pet’s medical bills.” This might go a long way in resolving how to budget for a dog.
For example, a typical pet insurance policy may cover accidents, illness and conditions that are genetic, congenital and chronic, as long as these conditions were not present at the time the policy was purchased.5
Ochoa is often able to witness the financial benefits of pet insurance firsthand. She cites one example of a client whose dog had emergency surgery and spent a few nights in the hospital. According to Ochoa, the bill would have cost the owner around $7,000. With their pet insurance, they paid somewhere around $1,000.
In the end, how to budget for a dog just takes some advance planning and preparation, which can help manage the upfront costs and monthly cash cushion required to ensure a happy and healthy dog. By understanding the cost of owning a dog as much as possible, you’ll have less financial stress and more time to focus on play time with your pup.
“Even with the associated costs,” Hynd says, “I don’t for one moment regret our decision [to bring Chewie home].” Mühlenberg agrees: “Bringing a dog into my life has always been a goal and dream of mine. The love and affection you receive back from a dog are priceless.”
1“The True Cost of Owning a Dog or Cat,” Credit.com
2“The True Cost of Getting a Puppy in 2019,” Rover.com
3“The True Cost of Getting a Dog,” Rover.com
4“5 Reasons to Get Your Dog Licensed,” Cesar’s Way
5“Pet Insurance Coverage: What You Need to Know,” ConsumersAdvocate.org
New financial advisors need something to help them stand out. Consequently, the AAMS does just that. Designed for newcomers to the financial advice business, the AAMS trains advisors to identify investment opportunities as well as help clients with other financial goals. It also gives more experienced advisors a fast and simple way to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. Here’s how it works.
An Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) can advise clients on college savings, taxes, and retirement savings. The course and tests for this certification are designed to ensure advisors can assist clients with their complete financial needs. It emphasizes evaluating the client’s assets and making appropriate recommendations.
The AAMS certification is granted by the College for Financial Planning, a unit of the Kaplan Company. The college oversees a large number of financial certification programs, including the Certified Financial Planner designation, one of the most valued certifications in the field.
To receive an AAMS, students first have to complete a 10-module education program provided by the College for Financial Planning. Then they have to pass an examination. Finally, they must agree to abide by a code of ethics and promise to continue their education.
The courses are online and can be delivered in self-study or instructor-led formats. Courses are open-enrollment, therefore students can begin at any time without waiting for the next session. The 10 modules cover the following material:
1.:The Asset Management Process
2. Risk, Return & Investment Performance
3. Asset Allocation & Selection
4. Investment Strategies
5. Taxation of Investments
6. Investing for Retirement
7. Deferred Compensation and Other Benefit Plans
8. Insurance Products for Investment Clients
9. Estate Planning for Investment Clients
10. Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisors
The College of Financial Planning provides everything necessary to study for and complete the modules and take the test. Students have access to the study materials and tests through an online portal.
Streaming video lectures, audio files, and interactive quizzes also can be found through the college’s site. Meanwhile, students can access live classes online and contact professors with questions and issues.
To get the AAMS certification, students have to pass just one test. However, they have to make their first attempt at the test within six months of enrollment and pass it within a year.
The fee for the first attempt at taking the test is included in the course tuition. There are no prerequisites for signing up to take the AAMS course.
Tuition for the AAMS courses is $1,300. This includes the fee for the first attempt at passing the certification exam. It also includes all needed course materials. Each additional attempt costs $100.
Students employed with certain financial services firms may be able to get tuition discounts. The college may also provide scholarships.
The College for Financial Planning recommends students plan to spend 80 hours to 100 hours on the course. Since the course is self-study, this amount of time is flexible.
To maintain AAMS certification students have to commit to completing 16 continuing education credits every two years. Also, continuing education has to cover one or more of the topics covered in the AAMS coursework.
AAMS certificate holders also have to agree to follow a professional standard of conduct. As a result, they have to maintain integrity, objectivity, competency, confidentiality and professionalism in providing financial services.
AAMS certificates are generally earned by entry-level workers in the financial advice business. Consequently, AAMS holders are typically trainees. In some cases, they may provide support services to more experienced and highly credentialed advisors.
The AAMS designation does not confer any special powers or privileges. Instead, it’s an optional credential that students may obtain to advance their careers and enhance their knowledge of financial advice.
In addition to the AAMS, the College for Financial Planning offers an Accredited Wealth Manager Advisor (AWMA) certificate. This is a somewhat more advanced designation. As a result, it requires a course equivalent to three graduate level college credits and requires 90 hours to 135 hours to complete.
Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) is sponsored by the Investment Company Institute along with the College of Financial Planning. It is similar to the AAMS certificate except it focuses on mutual fund assets.
Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) is a general personal finance advice certificate from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. First, it requires 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience. Secondly, it demands three letters of reference. Finally, applicants must both complete coursework and pass an exam.
The AAMS designation is usually for newly minted financial advisors, but even experienced pros can use it to bulk up their credentials. The courses and tests associated with the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations.
While this certification doesn’t give an advisor any real powers, it’s a sign that they can identify investment opportunities specific to their clients. Above all else, it can be a great relief to a client who has a child going to college or a retirement house on their wish list. As a result of obtaining an AAMS, and advisor can point them toward the right investments for their goals.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SARINYAPINNGAM, ©iStock.com/fizkes, ©iStock.com/Suwanmanee99
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Do you ever feel like your electricity bill sneaks up on you? These tips will help cut down your usage, so you won’t freak out when the electric bill arrives.
appliances, they still continue to use energy. So pull the plug when you’re done with the blender, toaster, food processor, and even your television—everything except appliances that need constant power to preserve a special setting.
Did you know that you could be losing warm (or cold) air through your electrical outlets? We placed some fireproof foam insulation under our outlet covers and switch plates, and were able to save several dollars a month on our utility bill.
One of the easiest ways to save money on electricity is to turn off electronics when you’re not using them. To make it easier, get a power strip like the SmartStrip, which powers down devices based on the device’s usage. For example, when you switch off your computer, the SmartStrip will cut the power to your monitor, printer, and scanner as well.
If you’re trying to decide between deep or baby blue for your walls, you should know that lighter colors of paint well help you use less energy, as they reflect the light and heat in a room better than darker hues.
You may not realize that most electric companies charge more for power during the day than at night. Contact your local utility to find out whether this is the case in your area. If it is, make sure to do all your laundry, dishwashing, internet surfing, and other power-intensive tasks during off-peak hours. We noticed the difference on our electric bill, and you will, too.
Here’s a neat trick for keeping your house warm without spending a cent in the fall and spring: Pour water into mason jars or glasses (we use cleaned-out salsa jars with their labels removed), and line them up along your windowsill. During the day, the sun will warm the water, which will gently warm any air getting through your window at night. To make the jars even more decorative, add ribbons and bows, or add food coloring to the water for some pretty windowsill reflections.
Especially if it’s an older model, your cordless phone can use a lot of electricity. Keep your energy bills down by making sure you dim the lights on the display (if possible), and by not cranking up the volume, which can force the phone’s amplifier to work twice as hard.
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Estimate your spending, prioritize your health, start an emergency fund and more.
Adults often feel the pressure to act responsibly with everything related to their well-being and their wallets. And nothing says “adulting” quite like budgeting for medical expenses. It’s easy to think that health insurance will cover the majority of medical-related costs and thus can be overlooked in your budget—a copay here, a deductible there… all can be handled without much ado, right?
Not so fast. Medical expenses should be a top budgeting priority, with out-of-pocket costs on the rise and the always-present risk that an unexpected medical expense could put a ding in your spending plans. Consider this: On average, healthcare costs account for about 8 percent of annual household spending, or nearly 7 percent of pretax income, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if your health insurance kicks in to cover an expense, your budget for healthcare costs still needs to include your premiums (AKA the amount you pay for your health plan).
How do I budget for healthcare costs, you ask? Fair question. This can sound like a lot. To better plan for healthcare costs, consider these five steps:
When budgeting for medical expenses, it may be helpful to bucket your healthcare costs into three categories:
When it comes to planning for healthcare costs, your medical and spending history is key. “The best place to start in determining how much to budget for healthcare costs is to look at how much you actually spent on healthcare previously,” suggests CPA and personal finance blogger Logan Allec.
You can start by reviewing all of your receipts from your insurance company and healthcare providers and going through your bank and credit card statements to flag any healthcare costs you paid out of pocket over the past year, Allec says. (If you didn’t save all of last year’s receipts, don’t stress. You can contact your insurance and healthcare providers for documentation.) The final number you come up with is a good start for determining your annual fixed and routine healthcare expenses. (Those unexpected curveballs mentioned earlier? See tip 3.)
When budgeting for healthcare costs, Allec also says to anticipate if you’ll have any extra costs this year that you didn’t encounter last year. For example, are you scheduling a surgical procedure or expecting a child? Make sure you understand how much you will have to pay out of pocket by reviewing exactly what your insurance covers annually, and factor that into your plan for healthcare costs.
Once you’ve estimated your annual healthcare costs, consider how you prioritize them against your other essential expenses, says Todd Christensen, blogger and financial educator from Money Fit.
As a guide, Christensen says that healthcare expenses should fall between necessities like your mortgage or rent, taxes, food, transportation and phone. “If you have a hard time paying for prescriptions but make monthly payments to your cell phone provider, then you have prioritized your personal communications over your health,” he adds.
From budgeting for your insurance premiums to preparing for doctor visits and ordering prescriptions, think of paying for healthcare expenses as a “need” instead of a “want,” Christensen says. By adjusting your mindset to give your health the significance it deserves, budgeting for medical expenses will become second nature.
Remember those unexpected healthcare costs that are tricky to plan for? When creating a budget for healthcare costs, Christensen suggests creating an emergency fund. An emergency fund is an account that is set aside to help cover an unexpected financial or medical emergency, such as a procedure or medication that is not fully covered by your insurance plan.
Sunny skies are the right time to save for a rainy day.
Start an emergency fund with no minimum balance.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
Experts typically recommend saving at least three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund so you can pay for unexpected expenses without having to take on debt or dip into savings earmarked for other financial goals. But, according to Christensen, if you’re starting an emergency fund from scratch, it’s best to start small and focus on a goal that’s attainable for you.
“Initially, the amount is less important than the commitment to just do it,” Christensen says. Managing the account, however, does require some discipline. For example, going on a 10-day wellness retreat, however therapeutic the massage sessions may seem, probably does not qualify as an emergency.
In addition to your emergency fund, there are also special health savings accounts—funded by you or your employer—that can help you cover your health expenses and plan for healthcare costs. Here are three common health savings tools to consider:
To budget for healthcare costs effectively, consumer finance leader Trae Bodge suggests you take the time to evaluate your health insurance options to find the best plan for you and your family. For each plan, you’ll want to carefully consider the type of plan (are your preferred doctors, hospitals and pharmacies covered?), as well as the cost of premiums, deductibles, copays and prescriptions. Your health history may also be an important factor when considering different coverage options.
“If family members go to the doctor frequently or have multiple prescriptions, it may be better for your budget to opt for a more expensive plan, given the coverage provided,” Bodge says.
If you’re an entrepreneur or self-employed, you can shop the Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov. But also look at comparable plans directly through insurance providers to better budget for healthcare costs, Bodge says. You might be able to save by choosing a smaller insurance company over a larger one or by signing up directly with the provider, Bodge adds.
When it comes to budgeting for medical expenses, a little planning today can go a long way toward providing for a more financially secure tomorrow. With a healthcare budget firmly in place, you’ll be better empowered to make decisions that are good for your health—and your wallet.