8 Simple Ways To Be Happier

Are you in a rut?  Feeling blue?  It might not just be the time of year.  You might have just hit a low spot.  If you’re there, that’s OK.  But, how do you get out of that and find your happy spot?  It might not take a big change.  Here are a few simple ideas to be happier.

Make Time For Yourself

The demands of life can take away all of your free time.  Family, work, the house, even planning vacations can all drain you.  One thing all happy people do is make sure that they have time for themselves.  This could mean time to exercise.  Or read. Maybe it’s just time to unwind. Either way, it’s important.

Connect With Loved Ones

Your family and friends know you best. They’ve been there with you during happy and sad times.  Make sure that you have loved ones in your life.  I sometimes find that social media makes it so we have access to a huge number of people, yet we often lose connections from the ones that matter most.  Find your anchor person (or people).  It’s important.

Learn Something New

Sometimes being bored can lead to unhappiness.  If you have nothing new to look forward to, the days become dreary.  You can snap out of this by learning something new.  Take a class.  Watch a podcast.  Read a book.  No matter what your idea is, a new challenge can help spark you toward happier feelings.

Do Things You Like To Do

If you have a favorite hobby or pastime that you just don’t have time for, find it again.  I can’t tell you the number of people that say “I used to love…”  My question to those people is simple: Why?  Why did you stop doing something that you love?

Get Rid Of Things You Don’t Like To Do

If you have things in your life that bring you down, try to get them out.  Now, this doesn’t mean to run out and quit your job tomorrow.  Nothing that drastic to start off.  But, think of little things, like a TV show.  How many of you watch a TV show that you once loved but is now a chore to watch? If you have that, it’s time to tune out.  That will free up some time for things that can bring you joy.

Automate Tedious Chores

Are you still writing a check to the gas company?  Why? Chances are you can pay that bill online.  If it’s not the gas company or a check, chances are there’s something you can automate.  Free up time and you have more opportunities.  Finding something to automate can help change your routine, and that alone is worth something.

Stop Being Around Unhappy People

If you have people in your life that bring you down, stop being around them.  Or if you have no choice (e.g. co-workers), then minimize their impact.  At work, this can be as simple as listening to music which reduces how much you hear from them.  Either way, reducing your circle of unhappy people will only serve to help you.  People that are positive will help you be more positive.

Count Your Blessings

Everybody has blessings in their life.  Look around and offer thanks.  This doesn’t even have to be a religious thing.  It can just be a moment to appreciate a nice sunrise or a child’s laughter.  Finding the good in the world around us is very worthwhile.  It’s also very easy to skip over, so make it a point not to.

Those are just a few ideas that I’ve had.  These aren’t life changing, but they can help change your perspective.  Sometimes a big change isn’t what we need to find more happiness.  The little things, as they say, do count.

Readers, what are some of your simple ideas to be happy?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

What Are You Doing With Your 2017 Tax Refund?

We are lucky enough to already have our taxes done and filed.  I anticipated that we would get a refund (which we’re OK with).  Now the idea is how are we going to apply our 2017 tax refund.

Goals

Our goal with our tax refund has always been a mix of things.

  • Boost Savings Goals.  When there is something big we’re saving for, money gives us the chance to help things along.  This has helped us when we needed big projects done around the house.  Examples: A new roof a few years back or exterior painting last year.
  • Offset Spending Needs. If there is spending we know we are going to do regularly, sometimes this can give it a push.
  • Repair.  Getting this fixed or maintained is something I’ve always used when applying refund dollars.
  • Enjoyment.  As you’ll see below, putting our refund to use for vacations is a strategy we use.

Breakdown

Without going into exact figures, here’s how things shape up:

  • Vacations.  We are allocating roughly half of our refund toward vacation funds.  This actually applies to four different areas:
    • Our 2018 Disney Trip.  We’re going on a trip next month and this will help complete the payment.
    • A 2019 Florida Trip. Disney is a treat this year. Normally, we rent a condo down in Florida.  We’ll have to put a deposit down a year in advance. This will fund that deposit.
    • Anniversary Trip. We sometimes go away for a weekend around our anniversary.  This will help set money aside for next time we do this.
    • Camping Trips. This helps fund our summer trips.  What we put aside will fund about 10 days of camping.  That definitely helps!
  • New Camper. We’ve had our current camper for around seven years.  It was used when we bought it.  Eventually we’d like to look at an upgrade.
  • Car Repair. Throwing a little toward eventual car repairs and maintenance?  Why not?
  • Home Repairs. We don’t have any projects planned.  This will help with any just-in-case things, or for future projects.
  • Kids Activities. This is for things like summer camps and such.
  • Repairs. We have two things we’d like to get repaired or in for regular maintenance.
    • Lawn Mower
    • Clock. I have an antique clock wind-up clock that needs repair. It’s likely over 100 years old and is a family heirloom.
image from Morguefile courtesy of jackiebabe

Boring And Proud

This might sound like a pretty boring list.  In fact, it really is. But, I’m kind of proud of that!  I would like to think that this is helping us get a mix of several things.  We are using it to enjoy ourselves.  We are using it to take care of our stuff.  And, finally, we are using it to save for future goals.

If that’s boring, then sign me up!

Readers, what are you doing with your refund money this year?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why It’s OK To Get A Tax Refund

Don’t get a tax refund.  That’s one of the first things most personal finance bloggers will tell you.  It’s giving the government an interest free loan.  That’s what they will say to justify the reasoning.  Keep the money yourself.  That’s the advice you’ll get.  Earn the interest on your own money.  That’s the benefit you’ll be told justifies it.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to worry about it.  If you get a refund, even a large one, it’s no big deal.  It really isn’t much of a problem at all.

The Justification For No Refund

Avoiding a tax refund was one of the first big tenets of personal finance I heard when I started reading money blogs.  That was over ten years ago.  I listed above the reasons, but it basically boils down to the idea that you shouldn’t give the government an interest free loan.  It’s money that you paid all year that you get back, right?  So, you should earn interest on it.  Interest is more money.  More money is great for personal finance. It all makes perfect sense.

It’s Stale Advice

Back in the day ten years ago, I was 100% for this.  However now, I really don’t think it’s that important.  Why?  Two

image from Morguefile courtesy of clarita

words: Interest rates.

Ten years ago, banks were flying high and paying out big interest on savings accounts.  Getting a yield of 5-6% was not uncommon.  Things like CDs and such could get you 7% or more.

That was pretty big money.

Now, interest rates are pretty low.  The biggest savings rate I earn is 1.75%, and that’s up big from a few years ago.  It was 1%.

Say you get a $3,000 refund.  Your interest, back in the heydey, could have been as high as $210.  Now, with 1.75%, you’d get $52.50.  *I know that it wouldn’t come to these exactly, but for simplicity purposes, I’m going with these.

When Something May Not Be Better Than Nothing

One thing I still hear is that, even with low rates, it’s still free money.  After all, while $52.50 isn’t as much as the $210 you could have earned, it’s still $52.50.  You should grab it, right?

My answer: Sure, but….what about temptation?

See, when you get extra money in your check, it’s easy to say that you won’t spend it.  But, what if you do?  In my example above, it would only take $52.50 of spending through the entire year before you come out behind.

Think about that.  $1 per week and you’d be behind.  One night out with dinner and drinks.  You get the point.

You Can’t Spend What You Don’t See

Getting $52.50 is certainly nothing to sneeze at.  But, if you take away the temptation to spend that throughout the year, most people won’t.  If you don’t see it, you’ll be less inclined to spend it.

Is taking away $52.50 a small price to pay to end up with a guaranteed $3,000?  I think that for many, it might be.

It’s All Discipline

Many will read this and be aghast.  They’ll say that of course they could save that money every week.  They’ll point out that any money left on the table is foolish.  They’re right.

But the fact is, those people are in the minority when it comes to saving.  Many people may not be disciplined enough to end up with that full $3,052.50 at the end of the year.

See, I’d rather a whole bunch of people end up with $3,000 than end up with $2,500 because they spent $10 per week throughout the year.  For many, that’s worth it.

Know Yourself And Trust Your Gut

If you end up getting a hefty tax refund, don’t beat yourself up.  If anything, understand that it’s still your money.  Interest alone won’t make you rich, so don’t sweat the lost opportunity.

If you think you can make the change, then do so. Keep the money.  Enjoy the interest.

But if you decide it’s not worth it, don’t sweat it.  If you think you might get tempted to spend a little bit, then let the government have their loan.  Take your refund next year and enjoy it.  I promise it’s not that big of a deal.

Readers, what do you think about getting a tax refund?  Am I violating the personal finance code of ethics, or do you see my point?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

Editors Note: I’m competing in the Rockstar Rumble, which is a contest to select the best Personal Finance post of 2018.  Please go over and vote for my post in Game 43 “How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything”.  It would mean so much.  Thanks!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  This is the time where you have to buy chocolates and flowers, right? Well, not necessarily.  Only Hallmark and the florists really believe that!  Actually, it is possible to have a great Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank.  Here are a few ideas.

image from Morguefile courtesy of rosevita

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

  1. Make A Favorite Meal.  You don’t have to go out to have a great Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes staying in with a special meal works well.  Maybe something you make just once per year to keep it special.
  2. Send Along A Note. Since Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of the week this year, one or both of you will probably be working. Send a note in their lunch or wallet to let them know you’re thinking about them.
  3. Make A Card.  Why spend $7 on a card when you can make one yourself?  It will probably be more meaningful that way, too!
  4. Relax.  A nice massage along with a glass of wine can be a perfect little gift.
  5. Take a skip day.  If one of both of you works, maybe a skip day is in order.  This works really well if one can surprise the other.
  6. Don’t forget the kids. If you have young kids, include them on the fun.  Make the whole family feel special.  They’ll just feel loved in a different way, but will still be happy.
  7. Netflix and chill.  After the kids go to bed, pop in some Netflix, relax, and see where things go.

Valentine’s Day comes around only once per year.  While it can be a go-all-out type of day, it can be special no matter what.

Readers, what do you remember most about your favorite Valentine’s Day?   Do you prefer to go over the top or would you rather lie low?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.