7 Signs You are Living Beyond Your Means

When you’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, scrounging up enough money for an emergency fund can feel like a revelation. All of a sudden you’re not living with a dark cloud over your head and setbacks start to seem more manageable. You feel more in control of your life and your finances.

But you can take that even further. Saving for emergencies is just the first step in developing a strong, stable plan for the future. Once you have the foundation laid, it’s time to start deciding just what kind of future you’re trying to build.

That future starts with savings goals. Here are a few examples of how to start saving beyond your emergency fund.

Car Repair Fund

About 18 months ago, my husband and I were driving up for a ski weekend in the Colorado mountains. We were meeting his cousin and wife for a long weekend of winter sports, beer and food. At least, that was the plan.

On the way there our car started making a funny noise. Eventually, that funny noise turned into a persistent whine, and before we knew it the engine was smoking and we were stranded on the side of the road. We had the car towed back to a mechanic, who informed us that it would cost several thousand dollars to repair the damage.

I hadn’t really planned for this. The car had less than 200,000 miles and seemed in good shape. We’d followed the maintenance schedule religiously and had no reason to worry. Luckily, the incident happened just a few days before we received a huge tax refund, so we took the money and bought another car. I learned a valuable lesson that day: always save for a car repair fund.

Since then, I set up an auto draft to a separate savings account solely for car repairs. I picked $75 a month as a starting point but might increase it to $100 in the near future.

I’ve also started a car replacement fund, so I’m prepared for the next time my husband and I need to buy a new car. That account gets $100 every month, and any leftover money I find at the end of the year.

Vacation Fund

Erin Lowry of “Broke Millennial” wrote in a recent post about how she has a separate vacation fund set aside so she can travel more spontaneously. She has at least $3,000 in her vacation fund, so she’s prepared when her girlfriends want to take an impromptu trip or she finds an amazing flight deal to Germany.

If travel is an important part of your life – or you’d like it to be – consider starting a vacation fund. Even if it’s just a long weekend at the family cabin or a short road trip to a neighboring state, giving yourself the option to escape at any time can make the daily grind a little more bearable.

Don’t feel pressured to save aggressively if you don’t want to. Even $300 a month will add up to $3,600 a year, enough for a two-week European stay or a handful of smaller domestic trips. If you keep saving for multiple years, you could end up with enough for a months-long sabbatical.

Personal Goals

When people talk about their greatest financial regrets, they usually reminisce about the investment deal they didn’t take or the house they never bought. For me, it’s the Spice Girls concert I didn’t go to.

The group came to Chicago while I was in college, and a few people from my dorm were carpooling to the concert. They had an extra ticket, which cost $100. I had the money in my bank account, but chose to be “responsible” and stay home. I’ve regretted it ever since.

About a year ago, there were rumors that the Spice Girls were planning to reunite and go on a limited international tour. I live about three hours from Chicago, and I figured the Windy City would definitely be a stop on the tour.

A couple weeks later I got a birthday check from my grandma, which I promptly deposited into a separate Spice Girls savings account. Rumors of a tour have since dissipated, but I still have hope that one day the girls will be reunited. Until then, I’ll be keeping $200 in that account.

It might seem insane to have a whole savings account for one concert that may never happen, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. If I ever get the opportunity to fulfill this dream, I won’t have to sacrifice a thing. I’ll just pluck the money from my account, close it down and go have the time of my life.

If there’s something you desperately want to do someday, like attend the Super Bowl or run the Boston Marathon, it’s not a bad idea to have the money stashed away for that purpose. If the goal never comes to fruition or you’re not able to get tickets, you can always use it for something else.

Medical Expenses

One of the best ways to save money outside of an emergency fund is in a health savings account (HSA). HSA contributions are tax-deductible, can be withdrawn tax-free and earnings are also not taxed.

You can contribute up to $3,3450 for an individual or $6,900 for families. Once you have more than $2,000 in your HSA, you can start to invest the money like you would for a retirement account. HSAs are only available if you have a high-deductible insurance plan, but don’t have any income limitations.

If you aren’t eligible for a high-deductible plan or it’s just not a good fit, you can still save for medical expenses outside of an HSA. A good rule of thumb is to save as much as your out-of-pocket maximum since that should cover a year of catastrophic medical bills. You can keep this in the same savings account where you have your emergency fund or in a separate one.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.
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Take this Quiz to Find Out Which Area of Your Finances to Focus On in the Second Half of the Year

Keeping yourself motivated on this everchanging financial journey can be challenging at times. Life demands, family obligations, and so many competing priorities can quickly push this essential necessity to the very last item on your to-do list. Emotions like fear, self-doubt, and sheer confusion create an environment that can make you want to avoid refining your financial goals altogether. Use these tips to help you to finish the year stronger than you began. They will help to ensure you’re being proactive while remaining optimistic.

Re-define your goals

Derailing on your financial journey happens. Unexpected expenses occur, emotionally charged purchases happen and we lose the initial steam we once had. Dedicate some much-needed time to review the goals you created previously. Do these goals still apply? Are they tangible? Do they need to be revised or broken into small goals? While everything can be done on a smartphone, tablet or computer – create a financial goals notebook. This way, everything is included and captured over time. You have the ability to review and track your progress while also have timestamps of when these goals were created. You can also have digital versions of this for when you’re on the go.

Break larger goals into smaller wins

Generally, we experience a feeling of euphoria when setting our yearly financial goals. We have a tendency to set some pretty lofty goals (which isn’t a bad thing), but we often disregard the struggles and challenges that come with the execution phase. Because of this, we begin to doubt our abilities and talk ourselves out of the very thing we were so excited to achieve. Why? The initially set goal needs to be broken down into digestible pieces. This doesn’t mean we’re incapable of them. The key here is we need to be at ease with ourselves, go at a pace that’s sustainable, and breakdown down the goals in different phases.

For example, let’s say you want to end the year with a particular amount of money in your savings account or investment portfolio. Create a monthly savings plan that will break this goal into a consistent line item in your budget versus one lump sum. Celebrate yourself as you attain this monthly goal by picking up your favorite cup of coffee from a local shop or picking up a treat from your favorite bakery. Every month, this will energize you to continue to push forward, bringing your financial goal from ideation right into fulfillment.

Create a vision board

Breaking your goals into smaller wins serves as the “what” while creating a vision board ultimately serves as your “why”. This interactive exercise will help you dedicate time and effort to using pictures, phrases, shapes, and words to bring your financial vision front and center. This doesn’t have to be created in a single day; it can also be broken down over a few days or one week. Once it’s completed, make sure it can be seen in plain sight every single day. This can be in your office, on the fridge, or anywhere that’s most convenient for you. Anytime you feel yourself getting discouraged, take a minute to look over it – this serves as a boost to remind you of what you’re actively working toward.

Anticipate distractions and resolve them quickly

Distractions are inevitable on this winding financial journey and it’s important to identify ways to address them beforehand. What’s the best way to handle these situations? How can we set ourselves up for success and mitigate risks along the way? Let’s use unexpected expenses as an example. In order to maintain your budget and sanity, set up an account to take care of these unforeseen expenses. Enter a specific amount every pay period – this way your savings and emergency funds remain untouched. Your goals aren’t in jeopardy and your proactiveness is protecting them.

Have an accountability partner

Accountability partners are essential in providing us thoughtful and encouraging words when we can’t find the inner strength ourselves. In order to feel like you’re not alone, rally the assistance of your family or friends that can help you stay on track. If this isn’t an option, search for virtual finance groups online or via social media where you can candidly share your experiences while helping someone else along the way. A lot of times we believe we’re on this isolated island with us and our goals – when in actuality, that’s so far from the truth. If you need to take it a step further, consider using a financial advisor to help you sort through your financial goals. Most times, we are our own worst critics. Sharing this information with someone else can not only be therapeutic, it provides a sounding board for you.

Commit to working on your plan

As we all know, the process of creating goals can be relatively simple; the challenges rear their ugly heads during execution. In order to make sure you not only start but finish – commit yourself to achieving your financial goals. We understand things happen outside of our control. Life will throw some curveballs that we can’t always intercept. We will miss the mark at times. The key isn’t to dwell on what didn’t work or what we didn’t finish, it’s to understand the importance of pivoting. Redirecting yourself as things happen not only alleviates pressure and anxiety, but also shows you that you’re much more financially resilient than you believe.

Not only is it important to maintain a budget, it’s imperative to stick with it and redefine it as needed. Having financial goals are also essential, but actually working toward them is so much more rewarding. Dedicate time every week (or whatever cadence works best for you) to review your goals. Are you on track? In what ways can you improve? How can you create a fun experience? Having regular check-ins sound like another item on your growing to-do list, but you’ll feel so much more confident in your abilities when reviewing this information regularly.

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4 Tips to Stand Out at Work

As you strive to smake a splash at work, you may focus on innovation, agility, and other sexy buzzwords. But don’t overlook the power of the basics. Being someone who always gets the job done is invaluable. Modern Mentor has 4 tips to help you become every hiring leader’s dream.


Rachel Cooke
July 13, 2021

Rachel, when I ask you to take something on – getting a project finished, a question answered, a memo written – I know that as soon as you put it on your list, I can cross it off of mine.”

As compliments go, that one was pretty unsexy. But over time, I came to realize that she tended to give the juiciest assignments – the most important, the most visible – to me because I was her most reliable team member. Once I said I would do something, she never had to worry or chase it down. And that was incredibly valuable to her as a busy leader. 

Don’t underestimate the power of being someone who does what you’ve said you’ll do. It builds trust, credibility, and may earn you access to the work that matters most.

Tip #2: Be a team player

You’ve got a job to do – as do each of your colleagues. As a general rule, it’s not your responsibility to pick up someone else’s slack. That said, there are always moments of exception. And sometimes the very thing to do is step outside of your “official” job description and just get the thing over the finish line.

Maybe you notice a colleague struggling with overwhelm and you see something on their plate that you know you could knock out in minutes. Maybe a client has called you because their official point of contact is busy, and the client’s need is urgent. Can you resolve their issue without breaking a sweat? Or even just point them in the right direction? If so, go for it.

Being a team player is a mindset. It’s not about a willingness to take on extra work, but rather a commitment to an outcome and a desire to be flexible in the role you play. Leaders really appreciate that commitment and flexibility. It bumps up their confidence that the most essential work will get done.

Tip #3: Demonstrate accountability

Accountability has become a dirty word – a synonym for blame and shame. Today, I’d like to reclaim it!

Imagine you’ve called a customer service hotline with a question. The representative who picked up your call doesn’t have the answer – but she’s offered to transfer you to the right department. At this point that representative has two options: a “cold” transfer (she sends the call) or a “warm” one (she hangs on the line with you until she’s confirmed her colleague has picked up).

Having accountability is being a warm transferrer. Your job is not always to know the answer or to do the work, but rather to recognize the need, and do your part to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

Maybe you work in finance and part of your job is providing data to the sales teams to inform their go-to-market approach. You’ve noticed that one sales team in particular seems to be lagging behind the others, and you suspect they may be missing or misunderstanding an important data point you provided. So you sit down with the leader, ensure she understands the critical information, and make a recommendation on how she can use that insight strategically.

It’s not your job to point this out. But noticing an opportunity to further an organizational goal with your expertise is accountability in action.  And your willingness to step outside your formal job description for the greater good won’t go unnoticed. Leaders love having team members who are focusing on the bigger picture.

Noticing an opportunity to further an organizational goal with your expertise is accountability in action.

Tip #4: Be a pleasure to work with

Clients hire me to design interactive experiences that help their teams deliver their best work. They refer me to others because I’m good at my craft…but also – and just as importantly – because I’m easy to work with.

Don’t misunderstand. I have and express strong opinions. I offer unsolicited advice that may be hard to hear. And I hold teams to high standards during my programs. But I do all of this with empathy and respect. I also make sure to bring fun and levity into the room. I check in with people to see how they’re doing. I show interest in their work as well as mine.

People like to work with people they like to work with. This is never an excuse not to do excellent work. But leaders want to build teams of people who are just enjoyable to be around.

This never means tolerating inappropriate or offensive humor or allowing your personal boundaries to be infringed upon. It just means showing up as someone interested in those around you – someone others want to spend time with.

So start a practice of asking your teammates how their projects are moving along, or periodically check in with someone just to see how they’re doing. You will be amazed at how much mileage this simple gesture gets you.

About the Author

Rachel Cooke

Rachel Cooke is a leadership and workplace expert who holds her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Founder of Lead Above Noise, she has been named a top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine and has been featured in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, and many more.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com