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Personal Finance

01/07/16 Personal Finance , Work # ,

A Year of Blogging and a Year of Growth

A Year of Blogging and a Year of Growth

I started CashSmarter a little more than a year ago with a few goals. The main one was to establish a site where I could write about personal finance in a way that I wanted to write.

I wanted to write about my personal journal with money, and to help people be smart with their money. As I wrote in the first post here on Nov. 21, 2014, your time is worth money, and you shouldn’t be wasting time and money by buying things you don’t need and having to spend more time working so you can pay for them.

Another reason I started CashSmarter was so I could write for myself and hopefully see some of the fruits of my labors. I still write for other personal finance websites, but I wanted to try writing for my own site to see if I could make money.

The good news is I have made money by writing for my own site. The bad news it wasn’t CashSmarter. Continue reading

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10/22/15 Debt , Insurance , Personal Finance # , , , , , ,

25 Worst Financial Mistakes Anyone Can Make

25 Worst Financial Mistakes Anyone Can Make

Anyone can make a mistake. They’re part of everyday life. Financial mistakes, however, can lead to problems for years to come if not corrected soon.

After talking to financial experts and others who have either experienced or seen other people make the worst financial mistakes of their lives, we compiled the following list of 25 of them. Many are common after graduating from college and starting a financial life on your own, but they can still happen to anyone at any age.

We should also note that these worst financial mistakes aren’t listed in any order. We’ll leave measuring their importance to you:

25 Worst Financial Mistakes


1. Not going to college

The average starting salary for a high school graduate is about $28,000. That figure almost doubles to $48,127 for college graduates in the class of 2014 with bachelor’s degrees, according to a salary survey by National Association of Colleges and Employers. Starting your working life by being that far behind in pay is one of the worst financial mistakes you can make.

2. Not paying off student loans fast

The average student loan debt for a college graduate is $28,400, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

For a college grad who is earning some real money after four or more years of living like a student, it can be tempting to spend much of their new income before paying off debt. That’s one of the worst financial mistakes a graduate can make, says Alfred Poor, a college speaker and author of books about problems young people are having in the workplace.

“If college graduates tighten their belts and lower their expectations, and live like they only have the high school diploma, they will rapidly pay off their average $27,000 in student loans,” Poor says. “If they spend their whole salary on a more comfortable lifestyle, they could be struggling to pay off that debt for decades, and end up paying much more in interest.”

3. Paying off student loans too quickly

Paying off student loans quickly can also have a downside, says Steven Fox, a financial planner in San Diego with If they use all of their extra income paying off student loans, they could be in financial trouble if they don’t put some in an emergency fund and lose their job or get in a car accident and have unexpected medical expenses, Fox says.

“They should really think about whether they should pay off their student loans as fast as they possibly can once they get their first job if it means that they’re doing so at the expense of not saving or investing anything,” he says. “Ending up with zero debt is good, but ending up with zero savings is very bad.”

An emergency could lead to borrowing money at a higher rate than what they were paying on student loans, says Fox, who reminds graduates that student loan interest is tax deductible for up to $2,500 for individuals making $80,000 or less without having to itemize. Continue reading

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10/13/15 Debt , Personal Finance # , , , , , ,

Comparison Shopping Not So Popular for Big Ticket Items

Comparison Shopping Not So Popular for Big Ticket Items

Years ago when I was a business desk copy editor at a newspaper, I was amazed at how often the paper wrote about gas price increases and the best places to shop for gas. Long before the GasBuddy app was available, the newspaper put out a regular graphic on where the lowest gas prices were in the area, and regularly interviewed shoppers about comparison shopping for gas.

We didn’t do as much reporting on the changes in milk prices, showing readers where the best prices for a gallon of milk were. Milk and other groceries were regular household expenses, but they didn’t warrant the attention that gas prices did.

Comparison shopping for everyday expenses such as gas is common among American shoppers, but not so big for big ticket items such as buying a new car or taking out a personal loan or mortgage, according to a recent survey by LendingTree.

Shopping for gas, but not auto loan

More than 80 percent of people surveyed said they’d go out of their way to save 10 cents per gallon on gas, but only 17 percent of car owners negotiated the interest rate when financing a new vehicle, the survey found.

More than 67 percent use comparison shopping websites for electronics and airfare, while 14 percent do the same for loans. Continue reading

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09/21/15 Children , Personal Finance , Travel # ,

Teaching Kids Household Finances

Teaching Kids Household Finances

I’m still trying to teach my 11-year-old daughter the value of a dollar, and I try to remind myself that it’s a constant teaching process. But it’s now always easy, especially in the area of household finances.

Household chores, for example, don’t always get done, which results in no allowance being paid and no TV or Kindle time. That’s a fun time.

Middle school is a key time to introduce a child to household finances, though I’m not too optimistic about my chances with the lackluster success on her chores. Still, I’m willing to give more things a try in an effort to teach my daughter as much as I can about money before she goes out into the world, and things are going to ramp up this year.

Plenty of household finances

She already has plenty of questions about how much things cost, and earning money to pay for some of her own things is a habit we’re working on. Kids are very curious, and they observe how their parents spend money on household finances — from clothes to cars, groceries and a summer vacation — that they should have an idea of how much is needed for certain things.

Here are some ways to help your kids learn about household finances so that they not only understand why you go to work each day, but hopefully appreciate it and can better see the value in a dollar: Continue reading

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06/02/15 Personal Finance , Saving # ,

6 Financial Lessons Worth Learning in Your 30s

6 Financial Lessons Worth Learning in Your 30s

Another personal finance blogger recently asked me to contribute to a post he was writing about money mistakes people in their 30s make and how to avoid them. I was happy to help with my best financial lesson.

As with most finance questions I come across, this one got me thinking about my own money mistakes and the financial lessons I wish I had taken full advantage of in my 30s. Here are six financial lessons, most of which I followed:

Buy real estate ASAP

Owning a home isn’t for everyone. Renting makes more sense if your job is mobile and you’re not sure where you’ll be living in a few years. Renting also makes sense if it’s a lot cheaper than owning a home.

My answer to the curious blogger about financial lessons was to buy real estate when you get the chance to. I don’t mean just when it fits into your finances and lifestyle — such as having a steady job and being married. My point, which I didn’t elaborate on in my quick response to him, was that buying real estate as an investment when you’re young can be a smart move many years later if you bought at a time when the real estate market was down.

You don’t necessarily have to live in the house you’re buying, though that does have good tax benefits.

For example: About 15 years ago a relative bought a townhouse in a nearby city. The townhouse was next to a major shopping center that would only get bigger in the coming years as more people moved to the area. Even back then, it was obvious to me that it was a growing area and that home prices would only go up. They did, and are now worth 10 times what they were 15 years ago. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.