New Year, New Goals: Evaluate Your Finances and Make a Plan for 2017

shj121916_new_years_resolution_blog_image2016 has been a whirlwind of a year, but hopefully not on your finances. Life changes and with it come new expenses or new financial goals. It’s important to regularly check in on your finances to ensure you are staying on track. What better time than the new year?

Here are 5 things to review as we move into 2017:

Income and expenses
The key to managing a spending plan is knowing how much money is coming in and how much is going out. As we head into the new year, review your pay stubs, earnings reports and other sources of income and crunch some numbers. Once you’ve figured out your income, do the same with your expenses.

Try out an online budget tool or use online banking to automatically categorize your expenses so you can see where you are spending the most. Pull up your budget from last year to see what may have changed and adjust as needed. Remember to be realistic about how much you will spend, not how much you want to spend.

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If A Significant Other Isn’t Truthful About Finances

photo-1443130128240-22fb98ca70a4Many of us are well aware of the emotional strain caused by infidelity in a relationship, but not as many are aware of the emotional strain caused by financial infidelity. However, this seems to be a growing problem in the United States. The National Foundation for Financial Education® (NEFE®) conducted a poll in early 2016, digging into the details of the presence of financial infidelity in households across the nation. “Among U.S. adults, 42 percent admit to financial infidelity compared to 33 percent just two years ago. The survey also finds that when financial deceptions occur, 75 percent say there is an effect on the relationship.” (Source)

You may be asking yourself, “What exactly qualifies as financial infidelity?” Financial infidelity has been defined as “…the secretive act of spending money, possessing credit and credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt unknown or unwilling to one’s spouse, partner, or significant other. Financial infidelity in a relationship may also include any financial decision(s) made by a partner that may effect, burden, strain or set back the financial planning of the relationship.” (Source)

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Black Friday: 5 Tips on Spending to Save

Black FridayBlack Friday, for some, has become a post-Thanksgiving tradition. Finish the pie, clean up the kitchen, bundle up and go camp out. Now, many stores are opening for Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day, making it a 2-day “door buster.” If you plan on indulging in the deals this holiday season, here are a few tips to keep your bank account in the black.

#1: Start with a Budget

If you start by looking at all the deals, you can quickly go above what you want to spend. Remember, Black Friday isn’t the only time of year to snag a great deal. Decide early on how much you want to spend. Write it down or make a spreadsheet to hold you accountable.

#2: Go in with a Plan

The most important part of Black Friday shopping is to go in with a plan. Create yourself a list. Know exactly which items you plan to buy at what stores, and how much they will cost. Focus on the bottom line prices, not the percentage of discount. Prices can be inflated so stores can offer more of a ‘discount.’ Take time to compare prices across similar stores and look at the total savings.

#3: Befriend Google

If the idea of standing out in the cold and battling for a space in line doesn’t sound appealing, remember, retailers are offering more and more Black Friday specials online as well. Online shopping makes comparing prices easier. Keep in mind, Cyber Monday is just a few days behind Black Friday. You can avoid the crowds and enjoy shopping from the comfort of your own home or office.

#4: Use Credit

Going in with a wad of cash might help you stay more accountable to your budget, but it does little to protect you. The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary says, “If you are going to make an expensive purchase — a new iPhone 6 or iPad, or iWhatever — it’s best to charge it. Credit cards offer a lot of consumer protections that cash does not. If a product is damaged or not delivered, you can dispute the charges and you have an ally.” (source) Just be sure to pay off your balance by the next billing cycle to avoid paying any interest!

#5: Skip It Altogether

Spending time with family, friends and loved ones is what makes the holiday season so special. We suggest taking some time to just be together and make memories. But, if anyone is going to be out on Black Friday, we might have a few items to add to the list…

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Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Sharkey, Howes and Javer. We are thankful for you and wish you the best of luck on your Black Friday adventures!

Please note, our offices will be closed on Thursday, November 27th and Friday, November 28th to allow our employees time with their families.