10 Financial Challenges and Saving Solutions

Steals and deals on gas, food, phones and more.

By Mary Rowland from Reader's Digest

9. You’re living paycheck to paycheck, worried you’ll never own a home, get a degree or retire.

Solution: Consult a financial planner. Time was when they refused to do anything short of a full financial plan, which cost thousands of dollars. Today a network of fee-by-the-hour planners will help you with one specific goal — choosing investments for your 401(k) plan, getting out of debt, saving for college — for as little as a few hundred dollars.

To find an à la carte planner, go to garrettplanningnetwork.com. Participants in this network have been trained and approved by Sheryl Garrett, the planner in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, who set up the network and who has been named one of the most influential people in financial services.

Michael Donahoe, a planner in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, met with a young couple who wanted to buy a home. They had $10,000, but they couldn’t manage to save the remaining $10,000 needed for the down payment and closing costs. If they kept their $10,000 invested at 8 percent, Donahoe estimated, it would take them about 8 1/2 years to buy a home.

Donahoe set them up with a systematic investment program and reviewed their retirement benefits at work. As a result of his suggestions, they will probably be able to purchase a new home in two years, says Donahoe, who charged them only $370. Donahoe provides a fee estimate before he starts work. “And I don’t bill above what I estimate,” he says.

10. You’d like to go to the movies and eat out more often, but the “fun stuff” really costs.

Solution: Check out meetup.com, a social networking site unlike the others: Folks actually get together. Over 2.5 million have joined local Meetups, and there are more than 4,500 interests listed, including dining out, movies, belly dancing, scrapbooking and ghost tracking. Join an existing group for free, or start your own.

But you’ll have to check your neighborhood at meetup.com to see which groups discount activities or offer them at no charge. A yoga instructor in Brooklyn, New York, for example, gives free lessons since she found a studio she can use at no cost; she asks for a $5 donation. A movies Meetup in Orlando, Florida, and a vegan group in Boston get group discounts.

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