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How to Budget for a Pet

How to Budget for a Pet

If you’re a pet owner, you know just how much fun they can be. But adopting a pet is a big decision that comes with many responsibilities — and expenses. Here are some considerations when planning for the next four-legged addition to your family.

Adoption & Licensing

Most pets require spaying/neutering and vaccinations, and some may also need to be microchipped and trained. If you obtain your furry friend from a breeder, not only does the purchase price go up, but you may also have to pay all these expenses on top which can bring total costs above $6,000. In contrast, adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue organization can be below $500, which generally includes initial vet work. You’re also giving an at-risk animal a happy home. Certain shelters will reduce the price further for older pets that can be good companions for seniors. In addition, some local governments require an annual license that‘s generally below $25 if you spay or neuter.

Food & Supplies

Fish, rodents and birds are often more economical to feed — from around $15 to $50 annually. Cats, ferrets and small dogs may cost approximately $200 to $325 per year, while larger dogs can run up to $400. These prices don’t include special treats or prescription food for older animals. Then come the supplies. Smaller animals can make up for their lower purchase cost with the need to maintain an aquarium, cage or other habitat. Cats and dogs have collars, leashes, crates, carriers and toys that you may replace several times during their lives. Cats have the infamous litter box to repeatedly fill, but dogs can have their own high-ticket demands: After all, they may be the reason you decide to fence in your yard!

Grooming & Veterinary Visits

Cats are generally self-cleaning and may even resent your efforts to groom them (thank you very much), although long hair varieties tend to require more maintenance. Dogs can be a different story. Some even love getting bathed and will try to get you to do it with them. But even if you handle bathing on your own, you’ll still need to buy shampoo, brushes and combs — and some breeds benefit from an occasional haircut. You’ll also need to schedule annual checkups with the vet and may have to purchase heartworm medication or a hairball preventative. You may also want to go to the vet between checkups for

certain delicate procedures you don’t feel comfortable with, like trimming nails or — yuck — expressing glands.

Pet Sitting

You can’t take your pet everywhere but getting a sitter before your vacation or during the holidays usually isn’t cheap. Professional pet sitters can charge different rates depending on the time frame. This can be around $75 a night. Another option is a boarding facility, where your pet can have 24-hour care for about $50 per night. And many pet parents choose to install in-home wifi cameras to monitor their pets when they’re out (some even include remote treat dispensers).

The Joy They Bring … Priceless

Some costs can be difficult to anticipate, such as a pet deposit or monthly fee for renters. It’s important to include all costs as budget line items. And consider a dedicated expense account for furry, feathery or scaly companions. But if you‘re responsible with your pet spending, you’ll find that all creatures great and small can be worth every penny for the joy they bring you.




Control Car Costs

Control Car Costs

There’s more to consider when buying a car than deciding on whether you want the upgraded sound system. Remember that your monthly payment will comprise more than just your car note. AAA reports that drivers can expect to spend about $750 a year on average for repairs and another $1,200 or so on insurance. And then there’s filling the tank, an occasional trip through the car wash and purchasing a pair of fuzzy dice. But with prudent planning, you can still own a car without breaking your budget. 

Keep up With Routine Maintenance. Even if you have a brand-new car with a full warranty, you’ll still have regular maintenance expenses like oil changes, air filter replacements and tire rotations. So, set aside money in your monthly budget to keep up with these routine costs. Skipping or delaying service can lead to more expensive repairs down the road. And especially if you have an older car, a membership with AAA or other roadside assistance program can avert a pricey tow should you break down far from home.
Curb Insurance Costs. Remember your high school driving class? Those lessons are just as relevant now. Don’t have a lead foot on the road. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs (legal or otherwise). Tickets can have lasting effects on your pocketbook. In some states, insurance rates can rise by as much as 30% after you get a ticket — and premium increases can last for years. 

Luxury or high-end vehicles can also jack up the price of insurance because of the typically higher repair costs for these cars. So buying a more moderately priced vehicle can help reduce your insurance bill as well as your loan payments. And there are other steps you can take to reduce the risk of a claim. Leaving a car parked in a driveway most of the time, instead of garaging it, can increase the risk of theft. This matters because even if you’re well-insured, you’ll be required to pay a deductible. 

Save on Gas. Use a mobile app to find the best price for gasoline in your area. And plan your errands to avoid zig-zagging all over town. Keeping tires properly inflated and not carrying excess cargo in your trunk can help maintain fuel efficiency — as does avoiding “riding the brakes” excessively. And don’t forget carpooling as a great strategy to save on gas and mileage.

Don’t Let Your Car Take You on a Financial Detour. The emotional benefits of owning a car you love can be as impactful as the practical ones, but don’t let an impulsive purchase derail you from your future financial priorities. An expensive car payment, high insurance rates, costly repairs and poor fuel efficiency can put the brakes on long-term goals like saving for a new home or investing for your dream retirement. Contact your WellCents financial professional for help analyzing your budget to find the ride that can keep you driving toward all the things that matter.  

How to Save for a House?

How to Save for a House?

It's the biggest purchase most people ever make, and with good planning and some preparation, it can be a solid financial move.

If you don't already own a home, the idea of affording one can seem daunting. And with the national median house price expected to top $270,000 in 2020, just saving for the down payment can be a challenge(1). But it's one you can meet with a good plan and some discipline.

While there are various ways to buy a home with less than 20% down payment, many experts don't recommend doing so. You may be required by your lender to take out Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) to ensure that they get paid back if you default on your loan(2). On an average home loan, that 20% down payment equals $54,000. Since the average household has about $8,800 in savings, that's a big gap to bridge(3).



Begin planning before you buy - several years before, if possible. Start by researching neighborhoods to find ones you like that are in your price range. Check statistics that can indicate greater stability: Crime rates, turnover, school performance and activity of religious and charitable organizations. Educate yourself about the home buying process. Real estate agents are generally anxious to sell you a house immediately, but find one who's willing to share what they know about neighborhoods, values and trends. Don't let them talk you into buying a "bargain" fixer-upper either unless you have some serious DIY expertise. Getting trapped in a broken house with problems you didn't anticipate - after spending your savings on a down payment - can be a nightmare.

This is also the time to start saving. You're probably not going to scrounge up $54,000 in a year, but look at your budget and see how much you can save each month. Some financial experts recommend the 50/30/20 rule:(4) Spend half your take-home pay on essentials such as housing, transportation and food. Allocate 30% on things you "want" but don't need - an occasional night out or vacation. Then save 20%. If your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, that would put $600 a month into savings. Not considering any interest earned, you'd have your down payment in seven and a half years. Reverse the rule - save 30% and spend 20% - and you'd cut that to five years.

Here are some ways to reach that 30%, or more:

  • Earmark yearly income tax refunds for the down payment fund. The average refund is about $3,000.(5) Do that four years in a row in conjunction with your $900 monthly savings, and you'll be close to your goal.
  • Cut expenses. Do you really need that supermax cable TV package? Can you delay buying new cars? Do you have to have a Hazelnut Mocha Coconut Milk Macchiato each and every morning? That alone could save $100 a month.(6)
  • Re-evaluate all of the recurring online purchases in your household. You may be surprised by the number of "vampire" charges - such as $3 for cloud storage or $10 for a streaming service - lurking on your credit cards.





Make a point to talk about your plans with your financial advisor. They can help you with tips, savings advice and maybe some ideas you haven't already thought of to reach your goal - and you just might be having that housewarming party sooner than you think!

#save #largepurchase #home #house #buying #wellcents

ACR# 342327 02/20

Family Finances: Saving to Have Children

Family Finances: Saving to Have Children

What do you do when your heart demands something, but your bank account says no? That's the dilemma that many, especially Millennials, find themselves in when they think about having a family.

Even if your idea of a happy family isn't necessarily 2.5 kids, a dog and a house with a picket fence, financial realities are making it hard for many Americans to envision having any kind of family at all. When a New York Times/Morning Consult survey asked men and women aged 20-to-45 about their plans for having children, 64% said they were not planning to have children soon because childcare is too expensive, 43% said financial instability was holding them back, and 44% said children were just too expensive.(1)

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child to age 17 has ballooned to over $230,000.(2) For a generation saddled with student debt,

job insecurity and slow growth of real wages, waiting to start a family is a pragmatic - if unsatisfying - response. But like other financial goals, having a family is achievable if you have a plan and stick to it.

If having a happy - and financially secure - family is in your future, here are some ways you can start planning and saving now:

  • Start a savings account earmarked for family expenses and, if possible, have money from each paycheck diverted into that account automatically. If you receive your income by direct deposit, your bank should be able to do this.
  • When picking a house, a smaller-than-ideal house in a better school district may be a better choice than a sprawling ranch in an area where public schools are weaker. If you're in an underperforming district, you may feel the need to send your kids to private school, which can be an additional major expense.
  • Start accumulating baby gear now. Tell your family and friends what you're doing and start a baby registry at Target or an online source like Amazon or This can significantly cut into the first-year budget hit.
  • Plan for the unexpected. Think through how you'd handle it financially if one of your children is born with a disability. Even a relatively mild disability can impact the parents' earning ability. And does either parent have a family history of twins? While having two doesn't double all of the costs (a two-seat stroller isn't much more than a single-seater), it definitely increases the workload for both parents. And until there's a two-for-one college plan, that cost will be significantly higher.
  • Maybe pick up a side hustle to help boost savings before you have additional parenting responsibilities. As you're thinking that through, look for one that could produce more than supplemental income if one parent needs - or wants - to stay home with a child for an extended period of time.
  • Start a 529 college savings plan early. Under current law, the regulations are far less restrictive than what they used to be. Perhaps ask if the children's future grandparents would consider starting a 529 for their benefit(3).
  • Talk with your financial advisor about your family plans and how they may impact your short- and long-term goals.

It's tough to think dispassionately about such a deep-rooted emotional issue. But if you do - and take steps to prepare - you'll be in a better position to have the financial resources necessary to raise the happy family of your dreams.





ACR# 342328 02/20

Marrying and Money: How to Save for a Wedding

Marrying and Money: How to Save for a Wedding

While the cost of nuptials has held steady over the past few years, too many couples are planning to borrow to cover the cost. Here's how to avoid the debt trap.

A wedding ceremony can range from picking out some nice suits and heading over to city hall to reserving a 200-guest blowout, with varying costs. But according to a survey by wedding website The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. was $33,900 in 2019.(1)

All too often, young couples are planning to borrow in order to pay for their weddings. A Student Loan Hero survey found that 74% of respondents said they planned to take on debt to cover the costs.(2)

Having that perfect day is important, but carefully consider the ramifications if it creates financial burdens you'll have to carry while you're adjusting to married life. Not to mention how that much debt could impact your retirement savings or any plans to start a family.

The two ways to get to your goal sooner are to reduce costs and save more. Here are a few tips:

  • Think about the balance between spending on the ceremony and spending on your honeymoon - consider splurging on one and not the other.
  • Consider location, location, location: According to, the average wedding in Mississippi costs around $13,000, while tying the knot in New York can easily top $88,000. A destination wedding - which wraps wedding and honeymoon together - is somewhere in the middle at about $27,000. (3)
  • The biggest drivers of wedding costs are the size of the guest list, the venue (whether it's at your backyard or the Four Seasons) and the style (tiaras or blue jeans). You might be able to plan an elegant wedding for 20 guests or a barbecue for 200 for around the same price. Decide on your wedding style and the size of the guest list, then stick to them.
  • If you must get married in a big city, think about hiring a caterer from a less expensive suburb who'd be willing to drive in. Also, venues tend to charge less on Fridays and Sundays.
  • If parents or others are helping with the expenses, find out how much they intend to contribute?
  • Deduct contributions from your budget to see what you need to save, then divide that by the number of months between now and the big day. That's how much you need to save each month to make this happen without borrowing. If that number is overwhelming, think about pushing back the date to give you more time to save.
  • Automate your savings by setting up a separate savings account and have part of your paychecks deposited there.
  • Get a side hustle. Maybe sell some stuff on LetGo or Craigslist. Consider postponing other big purchases (car, house) until after the wedding.
  • Don't drink so much Starbucks! Seriously, cut down on out-of-home food and beverage and put that money in the savings account. It'll add up faster than you think.

Finally, while talking with your financial advisor isn't on many pre-wedding checklists, it should be. Your advisor can help you evaluate your current situation as well as your vision for the future.




#wedding #save #largepurchase #wellcents

ACR# 342322 02/20

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