Usually this time of year I start looking over our finances for the year, project our income a year ahead and start setting some goals for the year. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I am not great at following through with them but […]
When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our […]
I was given the opportunity this week to check out a new retirement planning tool by AceYourRetirement.org and although I was not paid for this article it does contain promotional material. I would never post about something I have not tried myself and I always give my honest opinion about any product I recommend.
One of our biggest goals over the past 10 years as a couple has been to maximize the amount we are able to put into retirement savings. It is really easy for families to get sidetracked with everyday expenses and short-term goals such as upcoming vacations or maybe the kids have extra-curricular activities that need paying for and lose sight of the bigger picture. We have been focusing on retirement and ever so slowly our small nest egg has begun to grow. I am really glad we have been focusing on retirement too because my parents did not and now they are struggling to find ways to support themselves after some medical issues popped up. I do not want to put my children through the same kind of stress so by maximizing our retirement savings I am hoping to prevent it.
The fact that 2 out of 5 households do not save for retirement is very worrying. Even small savings steps can pay off in the long run. Our family went from struggling to save 4% to get our full employee match eight years ago to reaching our goal of 10% this year and I am super proud of us. It took a lot of hard work, determination and some aggressive debt repayment but I am finally feeling a little bit more secure about our future. Some of our savings tips can be found here on the blog:
- A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer
- A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending
- A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending
Understanding your exact retirement needs can be confusing sometimes since there are so many ideas on what is the best approach. Here are some simple tips for helping you get started with easy-to-understand resources at AceYourRetirement.org. We follow many of these steps and I found a few more great ideas when I went through the AceYourRetirement.org website. It only took a few minutes too!
5 things to consider to help you maximize your retirement savings.
- Minimize debt – but not at the expense of paying into your 401k or other retirement accounts. The less debt-load you have during your retirement, the more you’ll be able to make your retirement dollars stretch.
- Don’t rely solely on Social Security – in fact people are often recommended to wait until up to age 70 to collect Social Security to allow benefits to grow more.
- Consider whether downsizing your living quarters makes sense once children are grown and out of the house.
- Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date and talk to your spouse to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- If you’ve been divorced but not remarried you may be eligible to Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
- Enroll in a retirement savings plan. Even a little bit held out from each paycheck can really add up.
- Never contribute less to your 401k account than your employer matches if they offer a matching program. Save more if possible and increase your savings by 1% per year whenever possible.
This time of year can often get pretty hectic with all financial goals flying out the window. Winter clothes, Christmas presents, and so on. But this year I’m already looking ahead at next year’s goals. The retirement calculator and tool at AceYourRetirement.org was great for personalized, simple tips on how to jumpstart my retirement savings. It was so helpful to me to see a couple areas that I could adjust to help improve the financial situation of our family. Now that we have hit our goal of saving 10% we are looking to increase our retirement savings by 1% every year and try and eventually maximize our contributions. One of the ideas that AceYourRetirement.org mentioned for us was for me to start working again to maximize our Social Security benefits. I have been thinking of going back to work part-time and this has motivated me to start looking for a job! I also love that they recommend you find a hobby to earn extra income during retirement. Just because you retire doesn’t mean you can’t earn extra income!
Taking steps to take control of your retirement planning could have a positive impact in many areas of your life. Many times families save for their kids’ college and leave nothing for themselves to retire on. This puts extra pressure on the kids to support their parents later on in life, something that many young adults may not be prepared both financially and emotionally to do. More than half of people in their 40s and 50s say that feeling more confident about saving for retirement would help them feel less stressed (54%). And 46% would be happier knowing they are taking care of their family’s future. I know I feel better about our retirement path after working through the AARP website AceYourRetirement.org. You should check it out and see what easy steps they have for you!
Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our […]
One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]
Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we had only one kid we made our own gluten free flour mixtures tailored to whatever we were making but now that we have three kids and our time is in very short supply I have been buying an all-purpose gluten-free flour. We found it at Costco for a decent price. It works pretty well for generic recipes and I use it in my Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Banana Bread and it tastes very similar to regular flour.
Gather your ingredients. We buy most of our items from Costco as you can see!
Cream your coconut oil and sugar in a bowl.
Add your eggs and vanilla and mix until blended.
Now add your baking soda, salt and flour. I like to split the flour in two to cut down on the mess. Purists will mix their dry ingredients in a separate bowl before mixing in with the wet ingredients but I like to avoid washing more dishes if at all possible so I have always done it this way.
Next add your chocolate chips. The recipe calls for 2 cups but honestly I just dump what I think is a good amount in and call it good. I like the dough to be full of chocolate chips so I probably add more like 2.5 cups but it really is a personal preference.
Once you are done mixing place the dough in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
I usually freeze at least half of it by double wrapping it in plastic wrap. It is really convenient to have a little bit of cookie dough in the fridge for those days that you need to whip some dessert up in a hurry. Sometimes we will portion it out ahead of time and freeze on cookie trays so we can bake individual cookies which is great for when the grownups want an after bedtime treat!
Once chilled, set the dough out on the counter for 20-30 min and then used a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon to divide up the dough. Place it on a cookie sheet with a Silpat, ball it up a bit and then squash the tops so that they are a little flat.
Bake for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees or until done. Leave on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer them too a cooling rack and let cool.
And that my friends is how we make our easy Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies! They are great with milk (both soy and regular). At some point I might get ambitious and try making dairy-free ice cream sandwiches with them.
What is your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?
Mini Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
These easy to make dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are delicious! They are perfect for parties, events and for making with the kids.
- 3/4 c coconut oil
- 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 1 c packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups Gluten-Free flour
- 2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips
- Step 1 Cream your coconut oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a bowl.
- Step 2 Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on low.
- Step 3 Add your baking soda, salt and 1/2 of the flour and mix. Once mixed add the remaining flour and mix until smooth.
- Step 4 Add your chocolate chips and stir until combined.
- Step 5 Chill your dough for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Step 6 Remove dough from the fridge and let sit out at room temperature for 30 min.
- Step 7 Set oven to 350 degrees while you measure out your dough with a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon. When you measure pack the dough into the 1 Tbsp measuring spoon and flip onto the cookie sheet. Mold into balls and flatten slightly.
- Step 8 Bake for 5-7 min on the middle rack or until done.
- Step 9 Remove from the oven and cool on a wire cooling rack.
- Step 10 Enjoy!
- Step 11 If you decide not to bake all it at once you can double wrap the dough in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Let thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before removing it to bake.
A little while ago I wrote about how we have been working on our budget and how I use Quicken to track our finances. I love the Savings Goals category and it has helped us tremendously the last few months to keep track of how […]
We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every […]
To say we’ve had a lot of change over the past two years is an understatement. We bought a house, added a child, added a new driver, got a puppy, discovered our older dachshund has some chronic health issues (lots of vet bills), have one child starting college this fall and two starting different preschools and to top it off my husband just started a new job with a completely different type of pay schedule. Needless to say our budget has undergone so many changes over the past couple of years I am having a hard time reaching a new normal. As soon as I get everything calculated and rearranged something new pops up and I have to do it all over again and it is getting a more than a little frustrating. I am determined this time, with the new pay schedule to figure things out once and for all (or at least until another major change ha ha!). My goal is to find a system that works for us and has lots of flexibility for those months when everything seems to happen at once.
I started doing my research on a new way of budgeting a few months ago. I looked at several websites, talked with my posse of like minded budget gurus, read some of my favorite budget books and a few new ones, and browsed Pinterest boards to see what was trending because just like diet fads, budgeting methods seem to follow trends too. What spoke to me the most was adopting a more frugal lifestyle and building up our “buffer” for those months that seem to have every expense on earth scheduled. I have used Quicken to track my expenses for over a decade and it has been the best resource I have tried. This year the “Savings Goals” tool has become my absolute favorite. It has really helped me stash away money for big expenses in my regular checking account without having to stash it in several different accounts for each category as many budgeting gurus suggest. Keeping track of multiple accounts can get challenging and simplifying budgeting makes it way easier to stay on track!
The way the savings goals work is you “move” the money into a separate account so it is not available in your checking/savings account. It is a great way to keep track of how much money you have available in your account for any given expense. In the past I would try to accomplish this in a spreadsheet but that got complicated with trying to remember which amounts I had moved around. For example lets say you have some money set aside for home improvements. Let’s say you have $2000.00 total and you have some minor home improvements you want to complete that will cost about $1000.00 but will take you a few months to complete. You would transfer the $2000.00 into the Home Improvement savings goal in Quicken so it would not show up in your checking account register but if you look at your balance at your bank online it will still be there. Let’s say the first weekend you tackle the pantry needing to be fixed (here’s our pantry story) but you only have time to buy paint and that costs $60. The next weekend you go out and buy shelves, bins and the accompanying hardware and that costs another $150. So your total for the pantry project is $210. You could either “move” the money from your Home Improvement savings goal to your checking account after each transaction or after the next time you balance your checkbook. There is no need to worry about being short in your checking account or remembering to transfer money from savings to cover it because the money is already there. Once you move the money your balance in your Home Improvement account would be $2000.00 – 210.00 for a total of $1790.00.
Let me tell you, it is amazing! I am a total budget to the penny kind of girl and I don’t like leaving unnecessary money in the checking account in case I forget which money that particular amount is to be used for (believe me with the craziness going on in our house it is bound to happen every once in a while) but now I have it separated out without having to transfer anything in my actual bank account. I don’t really have to think about it beyond I have about X amount saved for projects around the house. I have set up several different categories this way including a buffer, money for our twice yearly car insurance payments, home improvements and for vet bills. And the major bonus is that if something unexpected comes up like an emergency vet visit when you have exhausted your “vet bills” account you can avoid the worry of paying for the visit and shuffle money between the categories to cover it.
The best way to use this tool is to automatically transfer money into your categories at regular intervals. I put money in the buffer every pay check and the rest of the categories monthly after our second pay check of the month. This will make saving the money for your categories a habit and after a couple of months you won’t even notice that you are “missing” the money from your checking account. It is really important that if you use this method to focus on the balance in your checking account register in Quicken and not what your bank says you have otherwise you will be tempted to over spend.
The absolutely most important part of this method is that it eliminates the need for you to put anything on a credit card that you don’t immediately pay off.
Let me repeat that. If you have enough money in your checking account to cover both expected and unexpected expenses you will never need to put money on your credit cards that you are not able to pay off immediately. The best uses of credit cards are to rack up points/miles for a discount on services you already use, for an extended warranty, fraud protection (although some debit cards offer something like this) and to build up your cashback bonuses. Any interest you pay on credit cards will immediately void the value of any rewards you receive from the credit cards. 1% cashback is way less than paying 10% in interest and the credit card companies come out on top any time you are paying interest.
I have been really happy with our new budget so far! Automatically transferring the money has really saved a lot of the guesswork out of the budget and now it takes me about half the time to balance everything every couple of weeks or so. Stay tuned for my next installment where I cover some of the methods we have used to be more frugal around the house!
Happy budgeting everyone!
Summer is upon us and the vegetable garden is in full swing. My pumpkins have taken over the garden space and the spaghetti squash is not far behind it. The kids and I are harvesting berries, green beans and squash every other day. I have […]