Do you ever feel like your money controls you, rather than the other way around?

We all have times when we feel like we aren’t in control of our money. If you want to feel like you are in control of your finances, here are three tips that can help you get started:

1. Track Your Spending

The first step to gaining control of your finances is to know where that money is going. Many of us make financial choices and purchases without really thinking about whether these items are important to us. Unless you track your spending, you might not even be fully aware of where  your money is going.

Use some method of tracking your spending. I use personal finances software. You can use a spreadsheet or pen and paper. The important thing is to record everything you spend money on. Then, you can look at your habits and find patterns. You might even discover that you spend more money than  you should on things that aren’t that important to you.

Once you understand your situation, you will be in a better position to take control and change your habits.

2. Institute a Waiting Period

One of the best ways to regain control of your finances is to institute a waiting period before you make purchases. A spending diet can help you get in the habit of exercising control over your spending. Choose a waiting period that works for you. Before you buy something, wait 14, 30, or 45 days before you complete the purchase. If you have forgotten about the purchase in that time period, or don’t find yourself needing to use it, you can decide not to buy it.

Just instituting a waiting period of a few days can make a big difference. I like to pause before I buy something and ask myself if I will really use it, or if I truly need it. It’s not a huge waiting period, but it’s one that forces me to think through the options. More often than not, I end up putting the item back. Conscious spending is one of the best ways to remain in control of your money.

3. Clear Out the Clutter

You might be surprised at how helpful getting rid of the clutter can be when it comes to regaining control of your finances.

First of all, cleaning out your clutter can help you rethink your spending habits. It’s a good reminder of how often you make unnecessary purchases and it can help you rethink your priorities, which is always a positive stepping when it comes to money choices.

You can also benefit when you sell or donate the items. Selling the clutter allows you to boost how much money you have. Use that money to shore up your financial situation by paying down debt or building an emergency fund. It’s a good way to get back on track.

Once you have cleared out the clutter, make conscious spending your next step. Before adding again to the clutter, really think about what an item will add to your home or your life. If it doesn’t help, you can take back the power and say no to it.

You might be surprised at how effective credit cards can be when it comes to frugal living. Too often, we think of credit cards as a tool of debt. However, the reality is that with savvy use, credit cards can actually contribute to your frugal lifestyle. This is because many credit cards offer rewards programs. These rewards programs can provide you with cash back and other perks, just for spending money as you normally would.

One of the areas where credit card rewards can be especially helpful is when it comes to frugal travel.

Use Credit Card Rewards for Frugal Travel

Last Christmas, my son and I traveled back east to spend time with family. Because I used credit card rewards to help pay for my airfare our total cost was about $250 to fly. When you consider that round trip plane tickets between my hometown and my destination were about $600 apiece, you can see that we saved $950 on our airfare.

These savings came because I use my airline card for all of my regular spending. I even use it to pay my rent. As a result I build up rewards quickly and can use them to travel. As long as I keep with my regular spending patterns, and I pay off my credit card each month, I don’t have to worry about getting into debt and paying high interest rates.

I combined my credit card rewards with the loyalty reward from my preferred hotel chain, and manage to save another few hundred dollars on lodging.

My parents using branded rewards credit card for their hotels. As a result, they were able to stay for free when they traveled to England a few years ago. Being able to save money on travel is one way to live a frugal lifestyle. The reward you choose

The rewards you choose should match with your preferences. Make it a point to use your rewards credit card on everyday purchases so that you can save up your rewards to use and make your frugal travel dreams come true. Just make sure you actually have the money in the bank so that you can pay off credit card at the end of each billing cycle.

Other Strategies for Frugal Travel

For best results, combine your credit card rewards program with other strategies for frugal travel. Look for ways to save money using promo codes and special deals. I have a loyalty points for hotel chains, the train, and even at the travel aggregator Expedia. Using these points along with my credit cards, It means that I almost never pay full price for any trip.

You can also use a frugal travel strategies like going in the off-season, and being willing to fly red-eye. Is also a good idea to plan for food by shopping at a local groceries instead of going to restaurants or bringing your own food on a road trip. My family used to save a lot of money growing up because my parents planned ahead for food, rather than always buying it at expensive restaurants.

With the right planning, travel doesn’t have to break the bank. Combine credit card rewards and loyalty rewards with other frugal travel strategies, and you might be surprised at how far you can go.

One of the growing trends when it comes to making money is the so-called gig economy. The gig economy is the result of a rising technology that allows people to use the Internet and their computers to make money on their own terms to some degree. The gig economy is characterized by independent contractors and small jobs done one after another.

As a freelance writer, I am a major part of the gig economy. I take jobs as they come and get paid for that as I complete them. I work from home, set my own hours, and even set my own rates.

A new report from Thumbtack digs into the gig economy and what it means. The report breaks down different types of gigs and looks at the job satisfaction associated with different types objects in this growing segment of the job economy.

Skilled Professionals vs. Low-Skilled Professionals in the Gig Economy

According to the thumbtacks study, there are different marketplaces and platformsBased on whether or not someone is offering something skilled or something that requires less skill. Some of the skills-based platforms that Thumbtack looked at includes those that involve writing, graphic design, web development, and software development.

On the other hand, low skilled gigs include the kinds of things that you would find on commoditized platforms like Uber, Lyft, Taskrabbit, and Grubhub.

With both of these types of gigs, it is possible to use technology like computers and phones to find people willing to pay you for various tasks. However, when are you taking gigs on a commoditized platform, you are more likely to have someone else set your rate for you. When you develop the skills that allow you to do more advanced work, you are more likely to be able to set your own rate and make a little more money.

Another item that Thumbtack addressed in its report is the fact that jobs done by skilled professionals are a lot more likely to resist automation and outsourcing. On the other hand, on-demand gigs that require fewer skills might be subject to automation. Thumbtack cites the possibility of self-driving cars taking away the gigs currently available to ridesharing drivers for Uber and Lyft.

On top of that, the report found that skilled professionals are more likely to report higher job satisfaction. The study indicates that 84% of skilled professionals love what they do. On the other hand in the general working population, only 29% of Americans say they are engaged at work.

Skilled professionals also have better job opportunities overall, according to the survey. They are more likely to be able to do work independently and remotely. Many freelancers can take advantage of work done for those who live across the country or even on the other side of the world. If you are driving for a rideshare company, you are limited to your local area.

As you consider how you might fit into the gig economy, think about what skills and attributes you have. You might be surprised to discover that you can make a little extra money on the side by getting involved in the gig economy.

When it comes to frugal living, one the best thing you can do is look for some of the small things that are draining away your wealth. You might just be surprised at how much money you are spending on simple things like your checking account.

A few years ago, outrage over checking account fees forced the banks to slow down in their effort to raise rates. Now it looks like banks are ready to start raising rates again. A recent analysis by MoneyRates finds that the typical American household pays $159 per year in checking account fees. Interestingly, this analysis finds that this is the cost of maintaining the checking account, and doesn’t include overdraft fees or ATM fees.

While it might not seem like a lot to pay on a yearly basis, to someone committed to living a frugal lifestyle, it is clear that that money could be used for other purposes. It could be a car payment, or a week’s worth of groceries, or the fees for your child to participate in an extracurricular activity.

It’s More Difficult to Avoid Checking Account Fees

One of the reasons that these fees are on the rise is due to the fact that is becoming more difficult to avoid checking account fees. Many consumers avoid checking account fees by maintaining a minimum balance. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to reach that minimum threshold. According to MoneyRates, in the last six months alone the amount needed to get a fee waiver rose by almost $800. Four years ago the average balance requirements to avoid a fee was $3,590.83. Today the average amount required in a checking account to avoid the fee is almost double that at $6,847.49.

When you look at the requirements, it is clear why some households are having trouble meeting the requirements and avoiding the checking account fees. MoneyRates reports that the average monthly maintenance fee free checking account is $13.29. Over time that adds up and can eat into your wealth and hamper your budget. This is especially true if you are on a tight budget and trying to meet goals like paying down debt.

Other Checking Account Fees that Will Cost You

While monthly maintenance fees can add up, other fees might be even more costly if you are careful. If you use an ATM that is out of the network you might pay almost $3 on average to get your money. If you regularly get money out of an ATM that is not your bank’s, those fees can add up fast. There are some banks that refund your fees, and they can be helpful.

You should also watch out for overdraft fees. Overdraft fees are some of the most expensive fees to consumers, and a major way that make money. Overdraft fees can cost as much as $45 per transaction, and that will really put you in the hole. It’s important to be careful to avoid spending more money than you have in your account so that you can avoid the fees that come with overdrafts, as well as returned charges.

If your bank is charging fees that are starting to add up and cut into your budget, it’s time to shop around for another bank. According to MoneyRates, almost 25% of checking accounts have no monthly service fee. These accounts are a good place to start.

Insurance is one of those things that you just need to purchase. In many cases, insurance is designed to help you protect your assets. In the case of car insurance, you are expected to purchase it. It’s the law in each of the 50 states.

As you move forward, though, your insurance needs might change. You don’t have to keep the same car insurance coverage year after year. Here are some signs that it might be time to change your car insurance coverage:

Your Car is Old Enough that Liability is all You Need

One of the biggest reasons that people change their car insurance coverage is due to the car’s declining value. In some cases, it might no longer make sense to keep comprehensive coverage on your car, especially as the replacement value drops dramatically. You still need to maintain collision coverage, which helps you manage your liability if you cause an accident, but you might be able to drop some of your other coverage.

If you decide to drop the comprehensive coverage, you can save money on your premiums, but you need to make sure you’re ready for other costs. You might have to be able to replace the car if you total it. Do you have enough money to buy a new or used car or to put a down payment on a car? If you don’t have the money, and you need a vehicle, it can make sense to keep the comprehensive a little longer so you get some sort of help getting a different car if you need one. Building a savings account can help you self-insure to some degree.

You Make Changes that Increase the Value of Your Car or Its Contents

On the flip side is the fact that you might make modifications to your car that make it more valuable. If you add a new stereo and speaker system, you need to change your coverage because you will want the cost of the stereo covered in the event that it is damaged or stolen.

Don’t forget to evaluate your coverage if you have a vintage car or some other vehicle that is worth more money. If you fix up a classic car, you will need to make sure buy the right coverage, and get the right amount since some of these vehicles can be quite valuable.

Your Family Circumstance Changes

Did you add another driver to your family? When your child is old enough to drive, you might need to change your coverage. You might also need to change your coverage if you get divorced or married or make another major change to your life. You want to make sure that the proper drivers are covered on your policy, and that the coverage reflects the risk profiles of the various drivers.

Even if you end up paying more for coverage, it might be worth it in the long run. You’ll have more peace of mind, and you can ensure that you don’t have to break the bank to replace a car or its contents.

Money is a topic that comes up regularly in almost any relationship. No matter your situation, there is a good chance that you have been talking about money with your life partner.

Unfortunately, money is often a sore spot. Many of us don’t talk about money unless there’s a problem. According to a survey from GOBankingRates.com, the biggest financial deal breaker in a relationship is overspending (37.6% of respondents mentioned this). The next biggest issues include:

  • Secretive about finances (35.9%)
  • Too much debt (32.6%)

As you can see, the next most important money issues in a relationship are also related to overspending in some way. If you are hiding your spending, or in debt, that can cause relationship problems, and these are items likely related to the fact that you probably overspend.

Why Overspending is a Problem

Overspending is a big problem because it can cause stress in your life and in your relationship. When you spend more than you make, you start to feel anxiety because you can’t meet your bill obligations. You worry about how you will buy groceries or if money will be in the account when your insurance company automatically deducts your premium. These situations cause a great deal of stress, and that can strain your relationship since you are likely to argue about money problems — and whose fault they are.

Everything about spending too much can cause relationship problems. You’re tired, stressed, and in no condition to speak rationally to each other. It’s no surprise that many people cite money as a reason for divorce.

How to Keep Overspending from Ruining Your Relationship

If you want to keep overspending from ruining your relationship, it’s important that you take a step back and get honest about the situation. Try to have a conversation about money that doesn’t involve blaming each other. Take a look at your past spending as a couple and identify problem areas.

You should also talk about your priorities as a family. In many cases, overspending comes because you aren’t tracking your spending, and you aren’t spending according to your values. Pay attention to where the money is going, and determine whether or not it is helping you reach your shared goals. If you can have a conversation about shared goals, and put together a plan to help you reach them, you will be more likely to come together as a couple, and stop spending more than you should.

Create a plan that allows you both to spend a little bit on what you want while emphasizing your shared objectives. If you can have a conversation about what matters to you both, and you can begin working on the habits you both have that are making it harder to reach your shared goals, you’ll have less stress in your relationship, and you’ll both be less prone to overspending.

The key is creating a safe environment to have this conversation, and ensuring that you are both committed to changing your spending habits and working toward a common goal together.

This time of year is always a little stressful for home business owners. It’s tax time, and you need to be ready to prepare your taxes. As you get ready to complete your taxes, here are 3 things to consider:

1. The 1099-K Could Add Headaches

A few years ago, the IRS introduced the 1099-K to its arsenal of forms. The idea is that those who use third-party payment processors like PayPal might be fudging some of their numbers. The new form is issued by third-party processors to those with at least 200 transactions and $20,000 in receipts. The downside for independent contractors is that many of us are paid via PayPal, but our clients don’t realize they don’t have to issue a 1099-MISC anymore. This leads to double-reporting of income, the IRS demanding more money, and a headache as you try to prove that you have reported everything correctly. Keep careful track. If you use PayPal, consider downloading the reconciliation file to help you as your prepare your home business taxes.

2. Don’t Forget All of Your Tax Deductions

As you prepare your home business taxes, don’t forget about the deductions you have coming to you. While some of them, like office supplies and the home office tax deduction are fairly obvious, don’t forget about the following deductions, if they are applicable:

  • Business travel
  • Insurance
  • Memberships in trade associations
  • Costs associated with networking

You might also be able to a dependent care credit if your child is in daycare for part of the time. This can be a good tax break if you qualify since it is a better tax break than a deduction. A deduction reduces your taxable income, while a credit is a dollar for dollar reduction in what you owe — kind of like a gift card you can put toward your taxes.

3. An Accountant Can Be a Big Help

I’ve used an accountant for years to help me get my taxes done. If your tax situation is complex, or if you find yourself spending long hours preparing your return, it can make sense to use an accountant. I find that the time I spend preparing my taxes can be more profitably spent working. I make more during that time than the accountant costs. Plus, if an accountant is preparing your home business taxes, the cost is tax-deductible. Add up how much time you spend preparing your taxes. If it makes sense, you can consider turning to an accountant so that you have better use of your time.

Add up how much time you spend preparing your taxes. If it makes sense, you can consider turning to an accountant so that you have better use of your time. You still need to take care of some paperwork items, such as gathering records and preparing your profit and loss statement, but having an accountant do most of the work can help you stay better organized and save time and effort.

Plan ahead, organize yourself, and prepare. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time to file your home business taxes.

There’s a lot to talk about when you plan to get married. From where you will live to how to raise your children, it helps to be compatible in a number of areas. One of the most important subjects to talk about is money, though. Understanding how your potential partner feels about money, as well as creating a plan for spending, is very important.

Money is an essential part of life, and it’s one of the most important things that we all deal with every day. Your money situation can have a big impact on everything from your mood to your health, and a difficult situation can strain your marriage. Before you get married, it’s a good idea to make sure that you are on the same page financially. According to COUNTRY Financial, there are five main things to talk about before you tie the knot:

1. Spending

One of the biggest things to consider is your spending plan. Determine how much money you will make combined, and get an idea of what your joint expenses will be. Will you be able to meet your needs for housing, food, and other items? You should also talk about your spending priorities and figure out whether or not you are compatible. Do you prefer to spend on experiences or things? How will you handle large purchases? Will you divide up discretionary spending in a way that allows each of you to spend on what you want?

2. Insurance

If you plan to start a family, it makes sense to talk about insurance. You want to make sure that either of you can provide for your family in the event of a death. Figure out how much coverage you will need, what kind of policy makes sense, and what you hope to accomplish with the coverage. Perform an analysis of how much insurance your family will need, and get as much coverage as you can afford.

3. Debt

Have a frank conversation about debt. It can be embarrassing to talk about debt, and reveal what you owe, but it’s important. You need a joint plan for tackling any debt that you both have. You should also talk about credit score and understand where each of you stands in terms of credit and debt situation. Make it a point to address these issues early on — and decide how much you can handle. In some cases, it makes sense to put off a wedding until you are both on the same page.

4. Saving

Talk about what you will put aside each month. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Are the compatible? Make sure that you understand how your potential partner thinks, and be sure to put together a plan that works for both of you.

5. Retirement

Not only do you need to figure out how you will save for retirement, but you also need to talk about what retirement will look like for you. You might not be compatible if one of you wants to stay at home and maybe hit the golf course on occasion, while the other wants to travel the world.

Getting these realities out in the open early on can help you decide if you really are ready to get married, and help you create a plan that you can work on together.

According to the results of a survey recently published by Student Loan Hero, one of the biggest financial resolutions made by Americans this year is to pay down debt. Many Americans feel saddled with debt, and are concerned by the restriction it represents to their financial freedom.

If you are one of those who resolved to pay down debt this year, here are some ideas for sticking with it, and not becoming discouraged:

Start Small

You might not be in a position to realistically expect to pay off all your debt this year. You might not be able to come up with an extra $500 a month immediately. Don’t let that stop you. Any progress is good progress. Start small. Look for ways to put an extra $50 or $100 toward your debt pay down each month.

Once you get comfortable with that small start, you can increase the amount that you put toward paying down debt. You can increase it by another $25 or $50, depending on what you can handle. You can also use the debt snowball method or some other type of debt reduction plan that works for you.

When you start too big, you set yourself up for failure. Be realistic about the situation and don’t get bent out of shape if you need to change things up a little bit. Tweaking your plan a little, while still moving forward, is better than quitting.

Acknowledge Your Progress

One of the best things you can do is acknowledge your progress. You don’t want to reward yourself by spending money, but you can reward yourself with a relaxing evening in. Or, just look at the progress you’ve made and congratulate yourself. You can also think about what you will enjoy moving forward. What will you do when you have more money because you aren’t paying interest to someone else? Consider these questions, and use them to feel better about your situation. When you look at how far you’ve come, it can provide motivation to stick with it, even if you are moving somewhat slowly. Know that your forward progress is an important step forward and use that to motivate you.

Start Over When You Need To

We all experience setbacks. One of the downsides to getting hung up on New Year resolutions is the idea that once you fail, you’re done for the year. Don’t think like that. While you can use the beginning of a new year to figure out what you want from life, and reflect, don’t get caught up in the idea that you can only make changes at the start of the year. You can set new goals and adjust course anytime. If you need to take a step back and re-evaluate, do so. Start over when you need to. When you need to rethink how much you put toward debt each month, or whether a financial setback means you need to start over in a couple of months, the important thing is that you get back up there and keep working on improving your financial situation.

Every year, many of us resolve to make the most of our money by spending less. Making more money might also be a major goal that many of us have.

No matter your goals, you can help reach them by practicing frugal living. Here are 5 tips that can help you with your frugal living objectives in the coming year:

1. Rethink Your Things

One of the biggest expenses many of us have is things. We buy things, and then we have to pay for the space to store them. Rethink your things this year. Before you buy something new, ask what you’ll actually do with it, and then consider getting rid of something you already have to make room.

At the very least, go through your storage unit and get rid of what you can. You’ll save on monthly storage costs, and if you sell some of the stuff you might even make a little money.

2. Cut the Cord

Finally, it’s time to cut the cord. If you have Internet, you can stream a lot of what you want to watch for much less than cable or satellite. I save about $150 per month since cancelling the satellite and going all-streaming for my TV-related entertainment. It’s amazing how much you can save just in TV costs when you change the way you manage your entertainment.

3. Know Your Priorities

This is an underrated way of saving money. Few of us think seriously about how we want to use our money, and what really matters to us. As a result, it’s difficult to keep more money in our pockets. Once you understand what really matters to you, and you stop spending on things that don’t matter to you, being frugal becomes easier. If you aren’t spending on things that don’t matter, chances are that you are spending much less.

4. Use a Waiting Period

Once again, it’s easy for us to lose track of what really matters to us when we’re in spending mode. Rather than buying something immediately, institute a waiting period. You can decide what works for you, whether it’s 14 days, 30 days, or 60 days. Anytime you want to buy something, put a waiting period on it. Revisit the item at the end of the waiting period. Chances are that you don’t actually want it badly enough to use your hard-earned cash on it. I find that if I can do without something for a month, I really probably don’t need it. It’s a good way to keep from spending more money on things that I don’t really care about.

5. Remind Yourself of Your Long-Term Goals

Finally, keep your mind on what you want to accomplish in the future. Remind yourself of your long-term goals. When you feel like spending on some pointless item, ask yourself what else you could be doing with the money. I find that reminding myself that I could go on a weekend getaway with the money I’d spend on TV keeps me more interested in setting the money aside than buying the TV. Whether you hope to be debt-free or travel the world, reminding yourself of your long-term goals can help you avoid spending money right now.