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Eliminate the Waste: 5 Tips for Saving Money on Utilities

Eliminate the Waste: 5 Tips for Saving Money on Utilities

Eliminate the Waste: 5 Tips for Saving Money on Utilities

Written by Kris Lindahl REALTOR® CRS CLHMS
CEO/Owner The Kris Lindahl Team at Kris Lindahl Real Estate
2407 109th Ave NE Suite 110
Blaine, MN 55449
www.krislindahl.com
twitter.com/krislindahl
linkedin.com/in/krislindahl
www.minnesotacommercial.com

 

One can’t go wrong when taking steps to conserve energy use in their apartment home. Besides helping to save precious natural resources, residents can also save a good bit of money by making a few small changes in their units and in the way they live. These five useful tips for reducing utility use can ease one’s conscious as well as those monthly bills.

1.  Kitchen Energy Efficiency Tips

The use of ovens and dishwashers can make the kitchen one of the hottest rooms in the home. In warmer months, experts recommend using these devices in the evening time when it’s cooler to reduce the AC’s heat load. Furthermore, utility use can be further reduced by disabling the second rinse and heat cycles on the dishwasher and allowing them to air dry. Another way to keep the kitchen cool is to install small LED lights beneath counters to reduce use of heat producing and energy draining overhead lights.

2.  Smart Power Strips for Modern Households

In a gadget loving society, most households have numerous appliances, consoles and chargers plugged in at all times.  Whether they are being used or not, such juice drainers are called ‘energy vampires.’ However, today’s smart power strips are designed to save energy and money by shutting down energy flow. These modern accessories cost around $40, feature multiple outlets, provide surge protection and also power down connected devices when they aren’t in use.

3.  Water Wise Conservation Tips

Many apartment communities include water with rental rates as an amenity, so low-flow shower heads and toilets are likely already installed to minimize water use. However, some steps renters can take to further reduce water use and energy costs include:

  • Doing laundry in large loads and using cold water.
  • Running the dishwasher only when it’s full adjusting settings to shut off second rinse cycles and heat drying.
  • Keeping showers short or taking baths in lieu of showers to expend less water.
  • Collecting rainwater in buckets to use for watering plants. It’s free, and plants prefer it over tap water.

4.  Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Lighting

Traditional incandescent bulbs may provide ample lighting but are rather inefficient in a number of ways. They tend to burn rather hot and increase cooling costs. They also draw more energy than today’s modern options such as LEDs and compact fluorescent light bulbs that are far more efficient. Furthermore, energy-efficient options have a greater lifespan that incandescent bulbs, so renters can save even more over the long term. Changing the most commonly used five bulbs in the home can have a noticeable impact on utility bills whole reduceing one’s carbon footprint.

5.  Take Control of Heating and Cooling Costs

Depending on the age of the apartment building, there may be a traditional thermostat or a smart home thermostat installed. Regardless of the type, lowering the thermostat by one degree can reduce energy costs by 3 percent. However, energy rated smart thermostats can help renters save much more, as they can be controlled at will even while away from home. These are ideal for those away from home for several consecutive hours and want to reduce use but prefer to return to a cozy temperature.

At the end of the day, every small change made can add up to big savings. While upgrades are certainly helpful, habits can make a huge difference when they’re consistent. If you’re looking to help the environment or just want save a little bit more every month, these changes can get you headed in the right direction.

Save Money with a Roommate

8 Tips to Get Your Budget on Track

8 Tips to Get Your Budget on TrackGetting back on track with your budget can be disheartening, if not a source of anxiety. How will you eat out four times a week if you’re putting all the money you make away for twenty years? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Heed the following reasonable, simple steps to get back on track with your budget.

Set a Goal

Your goal must be realistic, measurable, achievable, and timely. Are you aiming to have just $50 at the end of every week? Want to save $100 for the holidays? Do you plan to move when the lease is up and hope to put money down on a house? Think about your future, what you’d like to achieve or obtain, and set a timespan in which you can reach your goal, and measure your progress as you go along.

Monitor What You’re Spending Monthly

Begin your budget by maintaining detailed records of your expenses for 30 days. Track every purchase down to the cent. This will help you win back control of your budget by knowing exactly where your paycheck is being spent, and it’ll provide a guide to set a realistic spending budget with. It’ll also give you indications where you can change your spending behavior.

Set a Spending Budget

You now know where all your money is going, so setting a realistic spending budget will be easier. You will have to make adjustments to understand what will work best for your way of life, so do not be afraid of change, yet also don’t be afraid of sacrificing immediate pleasure for long-term gain. You won’t have to cut out all the fun stuff, but sticking to your spending budget will assist you in reaching your goals.

Choose a Savings Account Thoughtfully

Savings accounts can differ greatly with regards to interest, fees, and minimum balance requirements, so do your homework and find the account that’s best suited for you.

Save Automatically

All of us have weak moments when we intend to put money into savings, but something comes up. Maybe that birthday you forgot about, or your car gets a flat tire. Avoid the situation three months from now when you look at your savings to discover you only have $10 in it by making your contributions automatic, establish direct deposit from your payroll and avoid a saving’s plan derailment. You may also have it automatically drafted from your bank account into your savings via  tools on your bank’s website.

Establish an Emergency Fund

What would you do if you lost your job or were in an accident causing extended hospitalization? Do you have enough money to get you through if have to take off work for a few months? While your savings account could be utilized for a significant purchase like a brand new car or a down payment on a brand new home, an emergency fund is an account you fund and don’t touch unless there’s an actual emergency. Financial experts say you should have four to seven months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund.

Be a Clever Shopper

Look for ways to save. Sign up for rewards or programs loyalty, shop at the warehouse and club stores, use coupons and plan your trips strategically to take advantage of the best offers. When shopping online utilize cost comparison websites.

Get App Savvy

You’ll find an application for almost everything. So look for applications that can help you be a better saver. There are budgeting applications, ones that assist you in finding the best local deals and applications which will help you to sell your old items to other people. Consider YNAB (You Need a Budget), although coming at a price of $50 a year, it connects to your bank account and updates your charges from your budget automatically, and it is totally customizable.

As you get your budget on track, don’t be discouraged by hiccups along the way. The great thing about a budget is it’s flexible, and you actually have built-in safeguards for emergencies and unexpected events. If you get anxious, just put more money toward those areas for a while. Getting back on track with your budget will save you time, money, and put you in the best position to succeed in the future.

7 Quick Ways to Conserve Energy and Save Money

7 Quick Ways to Conserve Energy and Save Money

7 Quick Ways to Conserve Energy and Save MoneyWith so many things to do in a day, the idea of having to worry about saving energy in addition to everything else just isn’t attractive. So what happens? Many people pay it no attention. Yet, energy conservation is important as it helps the environment. As much of our current energy sources are created from dirty sources like fossil fuels, daily energy use produces pollution. Saving energy reduces energy demand and therefore lowers the amount of pollution generated. To begin is really quite easy, just follow these 7 tips to get started!

  • Regularly inspect areas inside your house such as hoses, connectors, and taps to check for any leaks. Repair as needed. Particularly ensure you have no leaky faucets. Even a slow drip of warm water can add a great deal to your monthly energy bill.
  • Place open water containers outside and use them for a wide range of outdoor maintenance activities like watering plants, washing concrete surfaces, outdoor tools, and the like.
  • Take showers instead of baths. Not only will this use less warm water, which requires more energy, but less water generally. Secondly, take shorter showers, and utilize a low-flow shower head. Have a faucet aerator in each faucet to conserve water and heat and maintain high water pressure.
  • Wash garments and dishes with cold water whenever possible.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use, to reduce ghost power usage, also called standby power, that uses energy even when the appliance is not in use. One way to do this is to connect all appliances to an intelligent power strip. Then when you use a certain appliance just switch the strip on, and when you’re finished turn it off and don’t worry about it.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They utilize 70-90% percent less electricity than incandescent light bulbs, last 10 to 25 times longer, and save $30 to $80 in power cost in their lifetime, according to the ENERGY STAR government site. Similarly, use products that have earned the ENERGY STAR certificates meeting strict energy efficiency recommendations.
  • Insulate your water heater to prevent any loss of heat. This may retain heat for a longer period of time for the water inside and reduce the amount spent on energy monthly. Insulate the connecting pipes as well to further prevent the loss of heat.
Renter resume

Tips for Storing Financial Documents

Tips for Storing Financial Documents

As you move from apartment to apartment, the task of storing financial documents can seem daunting at first, not only because some documents might be relevant in the foreseeable future while others virtually useless, but because typically financial documents include sensitive personal information. On top of a good organization system, storing financial documents requires a certain level of security not usually demanded of other kinds of storage. Read the following tips to get on you on the right track.

First thing’s first, for documents you don’t want to keep, destroy them: do not simply recycle or toss them in the trash. Because these documents contain sensitive information, the only safe way to dispose of these is through a shredder or incineration. If you don’t have a shredder, and don’t care about incineration, just visit Office Depot, or other office supply stores, to shred documents, as these businesses usually offer shredding services.

Physical Storage

For financial documents you won’t need access to, but should still keep in storage, just place them in filing boxes. To keep it simple and easy for the future, you might name boxes by category. For  security, a filing cabinet with a lock is the best direction to go, or even a locker where you can stack the boxes on top of each other.

On the other hand, if you want certain financial documents accessible, there are a few things you can do. Of course a filing cabinet is optimal, and then categorizing financial document types by file color. Also breaking down categories by date needed or date received could be useful.

Other, long-term financial-relevant documents you might need, like birth certificates, you can store at a safe deposit at your local bank, or purchase a safe for their keeping to protect it from possible future damages.

Digital Storage

A good way to keep your financial documents accessible while also adding an element of security is to purchase a small external hard drive. You probably won’t need more than 5 or 10 GBs, given how little space documents themselves take up, when compared to pictures and videos. With an external hard drive you can add a password protection. Another advantage is you won’t have your financial documents directly on the computer designated for everyday use. This will keep your sensitive files out of the hands of hackers and, maybe, your children. You won’t have to worry about accidentally sending the files or deleting them, as they’ll always be on the external hard drive, which you can disconnect from all devices when you don’t need access to the files stored there.

Another easy way to store sensitive documents is through the cloud, which will enable you to have access to these documents on any network-connected device. A free option is Google Drive, but there are other services like iCloud that provide similar services. You might also just want to look into getting a sensitive document storage program.

Whatever you do, remember to balance security and accessibility.

These Cities Cost Student Loan Borrowers Most

These Cities Cost Student Loan Borrowers Most

These Cities Cost Student Loan Borrowers MostStudent debt is one of our country’s most pressing problems. As of this year, the total amount of student loan debt has reached $1.44 trillion. Paying back the average $37,000-plus loan will be a challenge for millions of students for decades to come. And for some more than others. This means that loan borrowers will have to focus less on investing and more on repayment, less on contributing to the economy and more on simply balancing budgets.

To be responsible and to flourish do not always coincide. Larger cities with higher housing costs will drain more income from a person than smaller towns, while yet offering unique opportunities and venues that attract younger crowds. It’s a classic catch-22. More, perhaps higher-paying, jobs are in the cities, and so are, quite likely, friends and opportunities. Should a young person, with their whole life ahead of them, forgo the city to repay steep student debt, while in the long-term stifling their social life and career?

Credible.com has helped us answer this question in some form: by compiling a list of “Cities where student loan borrowers struggle with debt the most.” Maybe the answer isn’t to forsake the city in general, but only certain cities that have the unfortunate characteristic of demanding higher housing costs without proportionately offering higher wages.

To compile their list, the team at Credible reviewed data submitted by 8,981 applicants from America’s 23 largest cities. The city that makes it most difficult to repay a student loan is San Jose, California, seizing on average 31.47% of a person’s monthly income in housing and student loan costs. This percentage doesn’t include other expenses like food, transportation, or taxes.  What might come as a surprise to many, Dallas, Texas, ranked least expensive among the top 23 cities, nabbing 26.24% of income.

The full list may be found here. Perhaps the question isn’t whether to move to a city, but in which city one might sustainably live. As student loans are one of the few forms of debt that are essentially impossible to dissolve by bankruptcy, they are here to stay. The road that leads directly to a good life, debt free, full of friends and possibilities, isn’t clear to student loan borrowers at this point. However, thanks to the new study by Credible.com, it’s easier to discern which steps one may take to begin the journey.

FORBES SportsMoney Index: Ranking Money in Sports

FORBES SportsMoney Index: Ranking Money in Sports

FORBES SportsMoney Index: Ranking Money in SportsHave you ever wondered who the highest paid athletes in all of sports are? Or the most valuable teams? The most influential brands? To answer these pressing questions of our time, Forbes compiled a unique index to track and rank money in sports.

Forbes describes the new index: “To create the SMI, we’ve combined all of FORBES’ SportsMoney annual valuations lists (sports teams, brands, athletes, agencies) and proprietary financial data into a single ranking that reflects their monetary success and how their values affect one another. This is the first time that a cross-category ranking of sports business influence has ever been compiled.”

The main factor that makes FORBES SportsMoney Index uniquely comprehensive is its mapping of all connections between brands, agencies, athletes, and teams. This is how the aforementioned cross-category ranking is determined. As a result, the financial world may now study how wealth is truly generated and established in the domain of sports.

Admittedly, for us the benefit is a bit less academic, though nonetheless interesting. When it comes to sports, comparing statistics is one of the most satisfying activities of speculation. Below you’ll find the top 3 brands in sports and the top 3 teams and athletes in soccer, basketball, baseball, and football. And for the fans of other sports, below the top 3 we’ve included the most valuable athletes and teams of every other sport ranked in the order they appear. We have not included the number of connections to other brands each brand, team, or athlete has. For that, and more, view Forbes’ fantastic, complete list here.


Top 3 Brands:

1 (#1) Nike

SMI Connections 9 Value: 27.5 B Revenue: $30 B

2 (#4) Pepsi

SMI Connections 4 Value: 19.4B Revenue: 11.8B

3 (#13) Budweiser

SMI Connections 14 Value: 23.4B Revenue: 10.9B


Top 3 Teams:

1 (#2)Real Madrid (Soccer)

Value: 3.6 B

Revenue: 694 B

Operating Income: 162 M

2 (#3) Barcelona (Soccer)

Value: 3.5 B

Revenue: 675 M

Operating Income: 108M

3 (#6) NYY (Baseball)

Value: 3.4B

Revenue: 516M

Operating Income: 13M

 

Top Teams in Other Sports:

(#10) New York Giants (Football)

Value: 3.1B

Revenue: 444M

Operating Income: 133M

(#11) New York Knicks (Basketball)

Value: 3B

Revenue: 307M

Operating Income: 109M

(#115) Chicago Blackhawks (Hockey)

Value: 925M

Revenue: 173M

Operating Income: 34.4M

(#144) Ferrari (Auto Racing)

Value: 1.3B

Revenue: 455 M

Operating Income: 7M


Top 3 Athletes:

1 (#5) LeBron James (Basketball Cavaliers)

 

LeBron James is the only top ranked athlete in the index that doesn’t play for one of the top 3 most valuable teams. The Cavs are the 5th most valuable team in basketball and sit as the 38th most valuable team in all of sports.

Just the 3rd player in NBA history to make at least $30 million in salary (joins Jordan and Bryant) Added Intel and Verizon last year, joining Nike, Coca-Cola (Sprite), Beats By Dre, and Kia Motor.

Total Earnings: 86 M

Endorsements: 55 M

Salary: 31 M

2 (#7) Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer Real Madrid)

Worlds most popular athlete (200 Million social media followers) Nike, Tag Heuer, Sacoor Brothers suits, and Monster Headphones endorsements. 3-time FIFA best player in the world, made at least 50 goals in over six seasons in a row for Real Madrid.

Total Earnings: 88M

Endorsements: 32M

Salary 55M

3 (#9) Lionel Messi (Soccer Barcelona)

Won FIFA’s play of the year award 5 times.

Total Earnings: 81.4M

Endorsements: 28M

Salaray: 53.4M

Top Athletes in Other Sports:

(#19) Eli Manning (Football Giants)

Total Earnings: 45M

Endorsements: 8M

Salary: 37M

(#58) Jacoby Ellsbury (Baseball NYY)

Total Earnings 21.8 M

Endorsements: 600K

Salary: 21.2 M

(#73) Jordan Spieth (Golf)

Total Earnings: 52.8M

Endorsements: 32M

Salary: 20.8M

(#87) Roger Federer (Tennis)

Total Earnings: 67.8M

Endorsements: 60M

Salary: 7.8M

(#126) Denny Hammlin (Auto Racing – Nascar)

Total Earnings: 15.2M

Endorsements: 1.8M

Salary: 13.4M

(#134) Alex Ovechkin (Hockey )

Total Earnings: 12M

Endorsements: 3M

Salary: 10M

#191 Floyd Mayweather (Boxing)

Total Earngings: 44M

Endorsements: 12M

Salary: 32M

 

Why Smart People Rent--On the Benefits of Renting

Why Smart People Rent: On the Benefits of Renting

Why Smart People Rent--On the Benefits of RentingTrying to decide between renting or buying a home? Of course, buying a home gives the stability of a mortgage. And renting a house or apartment allows for tremendous flexibility of location. But there must be more, right? Is flexibility the only reason to rent?

The Khan Academy has published a video on the difference, mathematically, between renting and buying. They challenge the notion that “buying is always better than renting.” Many people have also challenged the claim. If you haven’t heard, renting is on the up-and-up. According to Appfolio.Com, “2 million new renter-occupied households were added in 2014, while the number of owner-occupied households decreased by more than 350,000.”

Amenities are an often overlooked but important aspect of renting a unit in an apartment complex. If you buy a house, not many conveniences are included. Gyms typically require a $30-$50 per month membership plan. You may have to drive to a far location to play tennis or basketball, or to swim. And, almost certainly, your home will not come with a playground. Imagine all these expenses as monthly fees in addition to your mortgage. However, many apartment complexes include such amenities and more.

Many pro-and-con lists are created for this type of decision. Realtor.Com has a convincing video for the pros of renting. For example, if you rent, you may have access to amenities that, as a homeowner, would not typically be within your reach. Similarly, renters often do not make home repairs. Rather, property managers and landlords take care of them. Many apartment complexes have onsite maintenance and even 24/7 emergency maintenance. Everyday maintenance issues are taken care of by property owners or landlords. Furthermore, you may wake up to an upgraded wifi network, new central air unit, or a newly carpeted hallway.

What renters lack in ownership they gain in freedom. If you don’t like your neighborhood, feel an itch to move, or want to explore the world, renting is a good option for flexible people. Leases aren’t mortgages. With renting, you aren’t locked in for 30 years.

The decision to rent or buy is one of the more important decisions you’ll have to make. The worst thing to do would be to listen to cliches. As we have seen, renting isn’t just for people who want flexible living arrangements. There are reasons to rent long-term.  It is not accidental that rental properties are thriving: the numbers don’t lie.

Renting has many appeals, from communal living to practically maintenance-free living. And renters don’t need to acquire realtors. Many apartment complexes now have their own websites. Utilizing the tool ApartmentsForUs.Com proves that finding the perfect apartment in this day and age is a breeze thanks to the rise of digital marketing.

Why Renting is the Better Choice for Millennials

Why Renting is the Better Choice for Millennials

Why Renting is the Better Choice for MillennialsYou’ve probably heard: student debt is over $1.3 trillion. And, according to a report by CNBC, it’s “growing faster than the average salaries for recent graduates.”

For a borrower aged 20-30, the average monthly student loan payment is $351. That’s quite a bit, especially when the median income for millennials remains relatively low. As reported by BusinessInsider.com, “In 2013, the median annual earnings for millennial women working full-time, year-round were $30,000,” states the report, “compared with $35,000 for their male counterparts.” A $351 payment can seem steep, since it accounts for about 12% of income for males and 14% of income for women.

Coupled with other expenses, from car loans to credit card debt, from housing costs to food, student loans are a heavy burden for many millennials trying to scrape by.

So, if you’re a millennial with a lot of debt, listen up. The following are things to consider before you buy a house. Like many others, you might find renting the better path.

Stability

Houses are sought for their stability. Even as markets change, a locked-in mortgage rate won’t. But the stability of a mortgage requires stability in life. Before you house-hunt, begin at step one. Think seriously about how stable your job is, your relationships, and career path. Are you expecting a promotion, or a change of scenery? Do you see yourself in the same job or relationship in five years? If not, a house probably isn’t your best bet.

Especially if you don’t plan to stay in a house long term, you should consider the payoff of picking up and relocating that an apartment provides. The assumption of many homeowners is they’ll be able to sell whenever they want. That, tops, it’ll take maybe a few months to close a deal. But as many learned during the housing crisis of ’08, when interest rates skyrocket, the equity of your house diminishes. The stability of a mortgage is a double-edged sword. There’s nothing to protect your home from future devaluation by the market. This isn’t a decision you should rush into.

Cost

Unexpected losses aren’t just restricted to market change. Other costs to home owning can also set you back significantly. The best thing to do is create a hypothetical budget. As HousingWire.com suggests, “Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25% to 30% of your gross monthly income.”

To place the costs of owning in further perspective, imagine that, after you budget, you have $500 every pay period left over. One day you notice your refrigerator isn’t working. You have to buy a new one. You get the new refrigerator and it turns out that the issue is with the electrical wiring going to the refrigerator. You have to pay an electrician to come out, and it turns out your entire kitchen was poorly wired and needs updated. If you don’t have deep savings or a friend who happens to be an electrician, your bills can become, very quickly, too large for a budget with little room for error.

Conclusion

When it comes to renting, however, apartment complexes take care of all major maintenance issues, and many minor issues as well. And, though rent prices might be higher than mortgage prices in some areas, apartment complexes provide amenities that you’d usually have to pay for if you own a house: pools, weight rooms, clubhouses, etc.

If you’ve acquired large amounts of student or credit card debt, it might be a wiser choice to rent an apartment for a few years while you climb out of debt, and stash away some money in savings in the meantime. That way, if you get a house, you’ll be ready for unexpected issues and they won’t break your budget.

renting is greener than owning

How Renting is Greener than Owning

renting is greener than owningWhen you think about it, the average apartment unit size per family size is probably smaller than the average house size per family size. This, at the outset, gives an advantage to renters: with a smaller area, you’ll use less energy to provide heating or cooling to satisfy the same amount of people. But some statistics, provided by the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario in 2012, may surprise you. It turns out that renting is significantly greener than owning.

Statistics[i]

APARTMENTS ARE GREENER THAN SINGLE FAMILY HOMES

  • 65% less energy use per household
  • 40% less water per capita
  • 60% less waste 10 km shorter commute distance to work

RENTERS ARE GREENER THAN OWNERS

  • 50% less energy used per household 8.4 km shorter commute each day
  • 32% less likely to use a car
  • 150% more likely to take transit
  • 175% more likely to walk

This is good news. Not only is the rental market booming in the United States, but other green initiatives are combing to create a market climate better for the environment and better for our wallets.

Could there be a better time to rent?

 


[i]Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario. (2012, February 08). Apartment Living Is Green. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from frpo.org, http://web.archive.org/web/20140208064830/http://www.frpo.org/documents/2012%20Apartment%20Living%20is%20Green.pdf

Budget Worksheet

How to Create a Basic Budget

how to save moneyMoney in the future isn’t a matter of relying on every paycheck coming in exactly as expected. If you save up, the future looks a lot different. You can plan trips and large purchases ahead of time. It’ll take all the stress out of spending, and it’ll take a lot of stress out of living. Here are some tips to get you started.

Establish Goals

Why do you make money? To pay bills? What else? Do you want to fund a hobby, go on a trip, plan for a future child’s schooling? If you create goals, you’ll be able to reach them with financial plans—estimate how much you need, how much you make, and how much time you’ll have, then the rest is easy. These considerations are the foundations for any budget.

Basic Budgeting

Some people hate this word. But budgeting is the only way to get your money to work for you. Of course, you work to earn money, but have you thought about the ways in which you can, now, become more independent from your earnings? That’s what making your money work for you means.

When you’re hanging out with friends, or that new video game is released, it’s easy to blow the latest paycheck. In these situations, it can seem like your always chasing that next payday. Create an expense sheet. List all your monthly expenses—estimate if you need to, for your food and gas costs, for instance. Then add all your income per month together. Now subtract your expenses from your income. The money left over is free for you to save or assign to different goals or wants for the rest of the month. It’s a good policy, however, to try to save at least ten percent of what you make monthly in a savings account. And many people recommend only spending about 5% of your monthly budget for entertainment.

This is just an extremely basic budgeting strategy. But there are plenty of strategies available online. Whatever you do, plan ahead!