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Money Management International Improving Lives Through Financial Education
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The perfect gift: financial peace of mind

MMI Community Manager

By Kim Mcgrigg, MMI Community Manager

Valentine’s Day rolls around each year on February 14, regardless of the economic conditions. This obvious lack of sensitivity on the part of Cupid, the mythical god of love, leaves many wondering how to show their affection without breaking the bank.

If you find yourself in financial distress, perhaps the best gift this Valentine’s Day is not to spend money on a token of your affection, but to provide your loved one with something that’s not on sale at the stores: a sense of financial peace of mind. This type of financial peace is not based on the size of your bank account. Instead, it is understanding that regardless of the circumstances, the money is being handled responsibly. Putting the following actions in place which will provide both you and your loved one with a better sense of financial stability, even in the hard times.

  • Get financially organized. This sends a calming signal to your loved one that you’re on top of things. And, since it’s tax season, this is the perfect time to shred what you don’t need and file what you do. 
  • Be realistic about the financial situation you’re in. If you’ve lost your job, it’s irresponsible to continue spending as you did when employed. Learn to live within your means, and don’t finance your lifestyle through credit. 
  • Track your spending. When every penny counts, it’s important to count every penny. Doing so will send the signal that you have control over your money, something that mindless spending will never accomplish.
  • Create a personal cash-flow chart. Using a standard calendar, list all paydays and anticipated amount of the paycheck. Next, list which bills are to be paid out of each check. This eliminates the last-minute scrambling to meet payment due dates, and avoids costly overlimit and overdraft fees. 
  • Find a way to save money. A financial safety net in the form of a savings account is a calming factor when unexpected expenses occur. It’s a comfort to know you’re prepared. Start by having 10 percent of each check deposited into a savings account, and vow to not touch it except for true emergencies. 
  • Bank any bonuses or windfall money. You won’t miss what you never had. Use this money to start or bulk up your savings account. 
  • Review the withholding allowances from your paycheck. In recent years, millions of people have received an income tax refund of over $2,000. Often, these are the very same people who struggle to make ends meet each month, and could have used an extra $200 in their paycheck. Go to IRS.gov and type in the words “withholding calculator’ into the search box. In a matter of minutes you’ll see the appropriate number of withholding allowances for your situation. Then, adjust your W4 accordingly. 
  • If you get an income tax refund, use it wisely. Catch up on any past due bills, make needed repairs to the house or car, put 10 percent into your savings account, and then splurge on something special for your family that is under $100. 

Finally, vow to make the most of your money by following these 9 tips. 

  1. Ditch your credit card if it has an annual fee attached, but first, make sure you are eligible for new credit. Issuers have tightened their lending standards, and you don’t want to be left without access to any credit.
  2. Don’t use an ATM if it charges you a fee.
  3. Bank where free checking is offered.
  4. Put your money where it earns the most by finding the best rates available for savings and CDs. You can compare rates at CreditCards.com and Bankrate.com.
  5. Buy generic groceries which are estimated to be 27 percent cheaper than their name-brand counterparts, and are often made by the same company.
  6. Get back to the basics and start cutting coupons.
  7. Utilize any savings plans at work. If your company offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), but you’ve never bothered to investigate it, now’s the time. Taking advantage of the savings allowed by earmarking expenses to be paid through an FSA can result in real savings.
  8. Consider cutting back on contributions to your retirement plan at work. When you’re trying to find extra money, this is a much better option than dipping into your actual retirement account. Just remember to play catch-up when your finances turn the corner.
  9. Make sure you’ve taken advantage of every tax credit and/or deduction available to you.

This Valentine's Day, remember that actions speak louder than words.  When your loved one sees you putting the above steps in place, he or she will know how much you care about them. This is definitely a gift you can afford to give.

This content was provided by The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) . Money Management International is a member of the NFCC.

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Love and Money Free eBook

Free eBook about the coupling of finance & romance

Fifty-six percent of people who are unhappily married say financial problems are to blame. As the numbers from Money Management International’s (MMI) recent survey show, no two subjects spark up more heat than love and money. While a financially sound relationship can help kindle romance, a relationship plagued by financial problems can lead to decreased levels of happiness and, potentially, a relationship meltdown. MMI’s new eBook, Love and Money: Your Guide to the Coupling of Finance and Romance, addresses both the fun and serious sides of marrying two financial situations.

Couples are often advised to set a date night, like dinner and a movie, once a week to help them reconnect with one another. This is horrible advice! For couples who are living on a shoestring budget (think newlyweds or couples trying to get out of debt), shelling out that much money every week can actually strain their relationship.

A weekly date night is a good thing, but only if the date is within the couples’ means. Love and Money offers creative cheap date ideas that are affordable, so couples can focus on each other rather than worry about affording the steak they’re eating. Here are some creative, cheap date ideas from the book:

  1. Plant something green. If either you or your love has a green thumb, you’ll enjoy this eco-friendly date. Plant a tree to commemorate your anniversary. Or, instead of giving flowers that will wilt away, plant a Knock Out Rose bush together. This abundantly blooming plant thrives in most parts of the country.
  2. Get inspired by the silver screen. Check out a favorite romantic flick for inspiration. For example, don your bed sheets in the Grecian fashion. Hand feed each other grapes and olives and watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
  3. Write your life lists together. What dreams do you have for the future? What do you want to accomplish in life? Compile a list of all the things you hope to be, see, and do. You’ll get to know yourself and each other better. Plus, you can bond over the fact that number 29 on both of your lists is to visit the Eiffel Tower. Ooh, la, la!
  4. Games people play. Three may be a crowd but four is a party. Get some of your coupled friends together for board games at your house. Serve inexpensive snacks and satiate your thirst for competition. Games like Battle of the Sexes, Cranium, and Pictionary are always hits.
  5. Reenact the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene. For a steal of a meal, cook up some Italian. Spaghetti marinara and garlic bread are inexpensive to make and taste delicious. Spread a checkered cloth over the table, eat dinner by candlelight, and enjoy the bella note. Who knows, maybe you’ll even share a spaghetti smooch!

For more date ideas and tips on harmoniously marrying two financial situations, download Love and Money: Your Guide to the Coupling of Finance and Romance. It’s free!


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Need another reason to get your finances in order? Do it for love.

 

A couple’s wedding vows may include the phrase “for richer or for poorer,” yet many individuals still place a high value on financial security. In fact, 43 percent of respondents to Money Management International’s (MMI) 2009 Love and Money Survey (both married and single) consider a “low debt level” an important trait that has an impact on a relationship. In addition, 40 percent of survey respondents highly value a good credit history and 34 percent highly value adequate savings.

For those looking for love, these survey results are a clear call to action: getting finances in order now will not only make you a more attractive prospect, but will help build a healthy relationship once you find a partner.

For those already in relationships, the financial experts at MMI suggest you take the following steps.

  • Start by having a frank and open dialogue to discuss where you stand today.
  • Next, make a joint commitment to better your family’s overall financial position by paying down debt and establishing a savings cushion.
  • Finally, set up a time to meet each month to discuss your financial goals and expectations.
Because money matters, the experts at MMI recommend that consumers devote more time to improving their financial position. Being honest with yourself and loved ones about your financial past and future is an early key to success. Remember that everyone has their own money style, which has been shaped by their past experiences. Approaching the issues honestly and openly gives you a much better chance at a strong, healthy financial relationship.

For more tips on love and money, check out our latest eBook at Love.MoneyManagement.org.

Give the gift of your time with a free, printable Valentine's Day certificate.

Free Printable Valentine


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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
800-762-2271 or visit moneymanagement.org.


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