10 Saving And Spending Tips To Live By


Do you know how much to save or what debts to pay off first? This article clarifies in an easy to understand way exactly what needs to be saved and how to spend so that you make the most of your income!

MSN Money suggests…

Retirement, Part I: “Save 10% for basics, 15% for comfort, 20% to escape.” This rule of thumb works pretty well if you start to save for retirement by your early 30s. Saving at least 10% of your income ensures you won’t be eating pet food. Fifteen percent should get you a more comfortable living, while 20% gives you a shot at an early retirement (and yes, you get to count employer contributions as part of your percentage). Wait just a decade to start, though, and you’ll need 15% for basics and 20% for comfort; an early retirement may not be in the cards. For a more customized estimate of how much you need to save, check out MSN Money’s Retirement Planner.

Retirement, Part II: “Retirement money is for retirement; until then, keep your mitts off it.” There’s rarely a good reason to borrow against your retirement accounts, and almost never a reasonable excuse for cashing them out. Look elsewhere to find money to pay your debts or buy a home. Let your retirement money keep working for you undisturbed. Someday, you’ll be glad you did.

Student loans: “Your total borrowing shouldn’t exceed what you expect to make your first year out of school.” Many graduates have learned to their chagrin that student lenders will gladly loan you far more money than you can comfortably repay. Students and parents need to put their own limits on how deeply they go into debt, or they could face a literal lifetime of student-loan payments. Read “How much college debt is too much?” for more details.

College savings: “Saving for retirement is more important, but try to put at least $25 a month per kid in a college savings plan.” Your child can get student loans, but no one will lend you money for retirement. That’s why retirement comes first. But contributing even a small amount each month will help reduce the amount of debt your child eventually incurs. Thanks to recent tax law changes and reductions in fees, 529 college-savings plans have emerged as the best way for most parents to save. To learn more, read “How Uncle Sam wants you to save for college.”

Cars, Part I: “Buy used and drive it for at least 10 years.” This one rule of thumb easily could save you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime compared with what you would pay buying cars new and owning them just five years. Not only will you buy half as many cars, but you’ll avoid the 20% or so loss to depreciation that happens as soon as you drive a new car off the lot. Today’s cars are better built and will last longer than ever before, so buying used isn’t the gamble it used to be.

Cars, Part II: “If you must borrow to buy a car, follow the 20/4/10 rule.” Which means: Make a 20% down payment, don’t borrow for more than four years and don’t agree to a monthly payment that’s more than 10% of your income — or 8% if you plan to buy a home in the next few years. A substantial down payment ensures you’ll have equity in your car when you drive off the lot — which is important, since owing more on your car than its worth can leave you financially vulnerable if the vehicle is totaled or stolen. (Read “Close the gap in your car insurance” for more details.) Limiting the loan term and monthly payment will keep you from overspending.

Credit cards: “If you carry a balance, look for the lowest rate. If you don’t, get rewards at least equal to 1.5% of what you spend.” Your primary goal if you carry credit card balances should be paying them off as quickly as possible. That means avoiding reward cards, which tend to have higher interest rates, in favor of the lowest-rate card for which you qualify, given your credit history. But if you already pay off your balances in full every month, you should look for cards that give you cash back or reward equal to 1.5% or more of your spending (read “People who charge everything” for more details). Sites like and can help you sort through the offers.

Debt repayment: “Pay off maxed-out cards first.” When paying down credit card debt, the argument used to be between those who advocated paying the highest-rate card first (to save the most money) and those who argued for paying the smallest balance first (for a faster feeling of accomplishment that can motivate you to keep going). These days, though, you should first tackle any card that’s close to its limit, since maxing out cards hurts your credit scores and can trigger penalty rates and fees.

Mortgages, Part I. “If you can’t afford to buy the house using a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, you can’t afford the house.” There are good reasons for choosing less traditional loans, but buying a house you couldn’t otherwise afford isn’t one of them. Too many people today are wrestling with foreclosure because they used an adjustable or interest-only loan to buy too much house for their means. Read “Who’s at most risk for foreclosure?” for the grim details.

Mortgages, Part II. “Fix the rate for at least as long as you plan to be in the home.” Lenders, brokers or real-estate agents may tout the low, low payments of adjustable-rate loans, but sooner or later those payments will jump — sometimes substantially. Protect your family and your investment by opting for a loan with a fixed-rate period that matches how long you expect to live there. If you’re sure you’ll move in five years, for example, a five-year hybrid is a good option. If you think you’ll stay put for 10 years or more, you might just go for the certainty of the 30-year fixed.

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