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Monthly Archives: January 2023
How to budget during inflation
Inflation is a term we hear quite a bit, but we may not fully understand what it means for us, or how it will affect our daily lives. But, as with any new idea you want to understand better, knowing is half the battle—and we have some info that can help you with the rest of the fight.
What is inflation?
Simply put, inflation just means paying more for the same goods and services. Your favorite brand of soda might go up a few cents, or going to the movies will likely take a few more bucks than you’re used to. If you’ve heard someone mention how cheap a carton of eggs used to be, you are familiar with inflation.
What causes inflation?
Inflation seems to be the result of a few different phenomena:
The “Demand-Pull effect” – the demand for a product or service is higher than the current economy was prepared to meet. Prices rise as more and more consumers seek out certain items (see: toilet paper in 2020), often resulting in prices above the market value.
The “Cost-Push effect” – this effect works in the opposite direction—it’s the cost of the production process or service that rises, which in turn is passed onto consumers. Keeping up with demand while low on supplies or with increased prices of supplies means the consumer pays more.
Built-in Inflation – when prices rise, those in the workforce need to increase their wages to keep up with the cost of living. It’s a cycle of inflation: prices rise, wages rise, and prices rise again.
Budgeting during inflation
One of the biggest ways to handle inflation is by updating your budget. While you know that your budget should be reviewed and updated as your life changes, you can’t forget to factor in external events like inflation. For example, if you currently depend on a medication that is going to cost more, you need to factor that into your budget. If your grocery bill will go up, you should also factor that into your budget. Here are some steps to make your budget go further:
Review your spending
Before you can make any adjustments, your first step should be to review your budget and look over your spending habits. Examine which parts of your budget have been the hardest to keep under control and if there are places you are overspending.
Find ways to save
Once you know how and where your money is being spent, it’s time to find ways to save. If grocery bills are hitting you the hardest, picking generic products, meal planning, and buying in bulk (when it makes sense) can help you reduce your costs. Save on transportation by combining your errands, carpooling when possible, or joining gas rewards programs.
Cut unnecessary expenses
When you reviewed your budget, you might’ve noticed services that you no longer use. Be sure to cancel any nonessential subscriptions or services. There may be other expenses you feel comfortable eliminating, either temporarily or forever, like cable television or a daily coffee habit.
How else can I reduce the impact of inflation?
Unfortunately, the effects of inflation are unavoidable and impact everyone—some more than others. Here are some other steps you can take if inflation affects you:
Take stock of your finances
If you’re worried about inflation and its effects, this is a great time to speak with a financial advisor who can help you determine the state of your finances and ways you can continue to budget and save. Getting an objective, professional opinion can go a long way in identifying potential danger areas and the places where you can grow your wallet.
Keep an eye on the job market
We’ve talked about how inflation means many earn higher wages, but it can also mean fewer jobs. If a company hopes to maintain its own budget while giving raises to some of its employees, there may be fewer jobs available. You don’t need to rush out and find a new job today— just keep your finger on the pulse of your own job while looking at options for others.
Know your home’s value
You may not be planning to move ever again, but it’s always a good idea to know the value of your home. This is a simple task—you can sign up for websites like Zillow that will give you an estimate of your home’s worth. Check out the value occasionally to keep in the back of your mind—you never know when that info could be useful, especially in the current housing market.
Check out your retirement plan
You or your partner are likely paying into a retirement plan already. While this is a great idea, you will want to take a look at the plan and see how inflation can affect your ability to save for the future.
If retirement is a long way off, you have a little more flexibility when it comes to making any changes. But, if you’re looking to get out of the workforce in the next few years, review your retirement account and make necessary changes to ensure your financial security. Consider discussing your options with a financial advisor so you can plan strategically.
- Inflation is when the prices of goods and services increase. Unfortunately, inflation affects everyone, though it may impact certain people harder.
- Review your budget to ensure you’re spending wisely. Cut unnecessary expenses and implement cost-saving tactics like meal planning to make your budget go further during inflation.
Inflation is a fact of life—but you don’t have to be afraid of it. Some of these changes may seem overwhelming, but you’ve already won half the battle with your new knowledge. Make a goal this week to sit down, review your budget, and determine your best next steps for keeping your financial security stable.
6 steps to protect your business’s financial data
As a business, you must protect your consumers’ financial data. If your company’s sensitive, financial information is hacked, you could suffer from financial loss and brand mistrust or damage—and possibly lose customers. Ensuring the safety of your customers’ financial information can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure where to start. Below are six steps you need to take to protect your business’s financial data:
1. Identify critical assets and systems
The first step in protecting your business from cyber threats and securing financial data is to identify the “crown jewels” of your business—the assets and systems critical to your business. This data is considered a high-value target for cybercriminals or without which your business would have difficulty operating.
To start, create a detailed inventory of data and physical assets, and update it routinely. Record the manufacturer, make, model, serial number, and support information for hardware and software. For software, know the specific version that is installed and running. You should also know where data and technology are stored and who can access both.
2. Protect your data and devices
Once you’ve identified your data and devices, how do you protect them? Ultimately, your goal is to build a culture of cybersecurity that includes employees knowing how to protect themselves and the business. You should also understand the cyber risks as your business grows or adds new technologies or functions.
3. Keep your software up to date
Installing the latest security software, web browser, and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Regularly updating your software will ensure your company is not at risk of being exposed to security flaws.
Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks—turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option. Automatic software updates allow you to get the latest security fixes as quickly as possible without doing anything.
4. Use strong authentication procedures
Use a robust authentication process, like two-factor or multi-factor authentication, to protect access to accounts and ensure only those with permission can access them. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds layers of security, typically by sending a one-time password generated in real-time, making it harder for hackers to crack. MFA can reduce security breaches by up to 99%—allowing you to protect your business’s sensitive information.
This also includes enforcing secure passphrases. A strong password is at least 12 characters long and combines letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not use sequential letters or numbers, like “qwerty” or “1234.” It’s also recommended to use separate passwords for different accounts. Using the same password for every account could be detrimental in a security breach. If you use the same password for your social media account and (for example) your POS system, your customers’ financial information could potentially be stolen if your social media accounts were hacked.
5. Back up data
Back up your data by implementing a system—either in the cloud or via separate hard drive storage—that regularly makes electronic copies of essential information. If you have a copy of your data and your device falls victim to cyber threats, you can restore data from a backup.
Use the 3-2-1 rule as a guide to backing up your data. The rule is to keep at least three (3) copies of your data and store two (2) backup copies on different storage media, with one (1) of them located offsite. Limit access to data or systems only to the employees who require it to perform the core duties of their jobs.
6. Keep a clean and secure device
Your company should have clear rules for what employees can install and keep on their work computers. Employees installing unapproved software poses a major threat and could compromise sensitive data.
Employees should also know not to open suspicious links in emails, tweets, posts, online ads, messages, or attachments—even if they know the source. Employees should also be instructed about your company’s spam filters and how to use them to prevent unwanted, harmful emails. Encourage employees to keep an eye out and say something if they notice anything strange on their computers.
Protecting your customers’ sensitive financial data is one of the most critical aspects of owning a business. Over the next few months, we’ll share greater insight and tips on other ways to safeguard your business and protect your customers’ financial information. In the meantime, we offer additional resources to brush up on your financial education with ACHIEVE for consumers and small businesses. Click here to start learning today.
6 easy financial New Year’s resolutions
It’s the start of a new year, and in keeping with tradition, it’s an ideal time to turn over a new leaf that will lead to positive change. Millions of people will resolve to lose weight, get organized, quit smoking, or spend more time with family.
Right in the middle of the most popular New Year’s resolution pack is financial fitness—in other words, save more, spend less. But, let’s face it. With the glow of the holiday season fading fast and the inevitable arrival of last month’s bills arriving in your mailbox, it’s an admirable goal, but a tough challenge.
Like exercising, though, financial health is something you need to visit every day. It’s not a one-and-done achievement. So, in the spirit of the resolution season, here are six easy financial resolutions you can set and keep in 2023:
1. Organize your finances
Before you can make any changes, you need to organize your finances. Use a spreadsheet to record your assets and liabilities including your home, car, savings and investment accounts, insurance policies, revolving credit, automated subscriptions, services like pest control, lawn maintenance, TV, internet, and phone charges…and anything else that involves money coming in or going out the door.
Now, what do you need and what can you do without? Talk with your insurance agent to make sure you have enough—or if you have too much—home or car insurance. Can you find a more reasonable internet/phone provider? Is your dental plan worth renewing or should you downgrade your medical coverage? Can you mow your own lawn? Is your Amazon Prime membership worth the annual cost?
Yes, it’ll take time, but knowing how much money you have, where it goes, and what value it brings will be the basis for almost every other financial decision you make this year.
2. Build up your emergency fund
An emergency fund is like insurance. You may not need to use it any time soon, but it’ll save your financial life if you do. You could be living comfortably at the moment, but whether it’s an unexpected home repair, sudden job loss, or large medical expense, it can cripple your financial stability. Start by saving a few dollars a week and keep building until you have at least three months of living expenses. And just so we’re clear, replacing your standard TV with a 65” flat screen does not qualify as a home repair. Just sayin’.
3. Create and stick to a budget
The old “stick-to-a-budget” advice is an extremely common financial resolution. But listen: the number of Americans who spend their hard-earned money without a budget in mind is astronomical, and it’s a big reason our finances are a major source of worry and concern.
Believe us, we know. In the beginning, budgets are tough. You’re used to whipping out a credit card at Starbucks, buying the newest technology because it’s cool, or spending money on your designer shoe habit. If those things are important to you, you don’t necessarily have to do without them—just budget for them.
A budget realistically balances your earnings with your spending, saving, and investment goals. It helps you avoid overspending, allows you to live within your means, and alleviates financial stress and worry.
When you’re aware of how much money is available, you’re able to make smarter financial decisions that lead to a much happier life. And we all want that, don’t we?
4. Pay down your debt
Life is expensive—you need certain things, everyone has it, so some amount of debt must be fine. Debt can be used for good, like when you need a mortgage, but, it can also spiral out of control.
Revolving debt that continues month after month after month can be detrimental to your financial health and could hinder any financial progress, whether it’s your emergency savings, investments, your mortgage, retirement, or even saving for a vacation.
Be diligent about paying it down every single month and track your progress. It may not be gone by the end of the year, but if you’re committed, you’ll not only make a significant dent, but you’ll be able to sleep a little better at night.
5. Stop buying stuff you don’t need
Selling your unnecessary or no longer used stuff is one way to recoup a small amount of what you’ve spent on these things, but the best way to regain that money is to avoid buying it altogether.
Do less shopping and more relaxing. Use that time for more constructive efforts, like investing it in a hobby or spending more time with friends. The next time you find yourself ready to make a purchase, ask yourself how often you’ll use it.
Impulse buying is an all-too-easy way to put a major dent in your budget—especially with thousands of items available online at our fingertips. Next time you find yourself impulsively adding items to your online shopping cart, wait 72 hours. If you find yourself still fawning over that new top or latest electronic after 72 hours has passed, then you can treat yourself (if you have room in your budget, of course).
6. Create an additional income stream
Any side hustle can help you pay down debt, increase savings, build your investment portfolio, or even retire at an earlier age. Turn a hobby into a small business, turn your talent into freelancing, sell your stuff on eBay, or list your creativity on Etsy.
Find something you love and figure out how to make money doing it. Be a personal shopper, a babysitter, or a handyman on weekends. One caution, though. Don’t sacrifice your performance at your full-time job, and be careful to balance your work and home life. Making extra money should be a bonus, not a dreaded chore.
It’s not an all-or-nothing mentality
Resolutions aren’t easy to keep. In fact, more than 80% of people give up by February, and we can understand that. When you set unreasonable expectations, the first sign of failure offers you the permission you need to return to your old habits. Each of these financial resolutions, though, is a work-in-progress. Did you this week’s emergency fund deposit on a Starbucks run for the office? Splurged on some after-Christmas shoe sale? Don’t give up—simply get back on track. Practice makes perfect, and one misstep doesn’t mean it’s all over.
Make the commitment, work on getting your finances in order, and 2023 will be a stellar year!