7 Unnecessary Purchases to Avoid

It is hard to save nowadays with virtually any impulse purchase you have at your fingertips being able to shop online and buy with a click of a button.  Before you hit “submit”, try and avoid some of the biggest unnecessary purchases that you can make.

Four-Course Restaurant Meals

Unless it is a once a year special occasion, there is no reason to splurge this much on a dinner.  For one, having an appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert is not healthy, it is also a huge strain on your wallet.  If you do need to eat out, make sure you are not starving when you go out, so you can avoid temptation and just get an entrée.

Too Much House

I’m not sure if it is a sign of status, but I see far too many people buying huge houses for a couple or small family, that being “house-poor” is not worth it when you figure how much you are losing out in putting in savings, or having life experiences.  Try getting a house that you can comfortably fit in instead of hearing echoes.

Overseas Vacations

Not a knock against any of the beautiful countries overseas from the United States, but the problem is the plane ticket.  With a going rate between $1,200-$1,600 at any given time, that could be the price of a mortgage payment.  While it may be a bucket list to travel abroad, save that for your later years when you can afford it.

Expensive Art

These days you can see every day on Pinterest how creative we are these days, reclaiming old wood into furniture, and buying cheap bookcase and adding molding to create an entire wall of storage that looks expensive.  There is no need to blow money on expensive art when you can create something decorative and trendy for pennies compared to what you would spend on fancy art that no one will know the difference anyhow.

Lottery Tickets

I am sorry to point out the (hopefully) obvious; you or anyone you know are not going to win the lottery.  Office teams pool together, senior play the same numbers every week, and what does it bring?  Lots of wasted money.  Give up the scratch-off’s and the easy-pick’s and invest in something that will make you interest, which will equal money.

Pet Clothes

I will keep this short and sweet.  Pet clothes look stupid, your dog does not enjoy and feels funny, and they are a complete waste of money.  Save the embarrassment to yourself and your pet, and keep the money.

Outrageous Wedding Dress

We see the wedding dress shopping reality shows on TV where the spoiled bride gets a budget of $5,000-10,000 for a dress that she will hopefully wear for only one night in her life.  Sure, it is an important day, don’t get me wrong, but although it is a great party, the memories will fade of what your dress looked like and you could have spent on a cheaper but elegant dress that still made you look beautiful.

Is Dry Cleaning a Waste of Money?

It seems like in every movie those underpaid assistants are constantly running around with their boss’s dry cleaning. Why do we never see them dropping off their own clothes at the dry cleaners? Our first thought is that this is an expensive service and only the wealthy type with personal assistants can afford it. However, we’ve decided to further examine this phenomenon to get a better understanding of how there are still so many dry-cleaning places open everywhere.

When to Dry Clean

There’s no reason for you to take your basic t-shirts and socks to the dry cleaners. If you do, you will most likely be made fun of, but go ahead and give it a try. The point behind dry cleaning is to refresh and spot clean items of clothing which cannot be safely washed in a normal laundry machine. Think items like wedding dresses, suits, leather jackets, etc. These outfits would be ruined if you gave them the same treatment you give your cotton t-shirts. There are also certain fabrics which should never be washed in a conventional washing machine, like silk, fine wool, viscose, and anything with special embellishments like beading and sequins.

So if those aforementioned assistants couldn’t afford a good quality suit, then there is probably little reason for them to visit the dry cleaners with their wardrobe anyway.

Worth it?

If you are looking to invest in a minimalist wardrobe made up of high-quality items, it might actually be worth regular dry cleaning to keep your clothes in good shapes and give them a longer life-span, meaning they don’t have to be replaced as often or as quickly. Otherwise, if you dress in more basic materials and outfits, you’d only be wasting your money. Of course, there will always be exceptions like having a fancy dress cleaned before a wedding or freshening up a suit before a funeral, but no need to make the dry cleaners a part of your everyday routine. Your home washing machine and dryer should be more than adequate to handle the bulk of your laundry needs.

What to Look for When Choosing a Dry Cleaner

If you do find that some of your clothing items would benefit from a session at the dry cleaners, here are a couple of things you should have your eyes on:

  • Is it clean? This might seem pretty logical, but you would be shocked at the filth on the floor in some of these places. If it’s not clean on the customer’s side, you can only imagine what it looks like on the other side of the service desk. You wouldn’t want your silk delicates falling on that, would you?
  • Is it organized? Are you leaving your most expensive clothing items in the hands of people who can’t even run an efficient filing system? Does their conveyor seem to be working? There are a variety of garment conveyors that cover the requirements in today’s garment handling industry which should keep ready items sorted, clean, and wrinkle-free. Ask about the process at the facility you are considering and when you can expect to have your items ready by. Remember to always take a picture of whatever you are getting cleaned in case it goes missing or has damage done to it.
  • It is affordable? This is a no-brainer for many, but sometimes you would be surprised at your options. Even more expensive location might have weekly or daily sales which bring you to a lower price point than even the cheapest guy on the block. Do your research or ask around for the best deal.

If you are wondering if you are missing something by not frequenting the dry cleaners, you’re not. However, if you are looking to invest into some high-quality items, it might be worth checking out your options and looking for the best dry cleaning service in your area that will help keep your wardrobe in top shape.

5 Ways to Save While on a Strict Budget

Whether you are living off of wages that you feel could be higher, or do not have much leftover due to being on a strict budget, there are always ways to reduce spending so that you can gain a few extra bucks at the end of the month.  Once you have accounted for every dollar that comes in and goes out, you may have to think outside the box when it comes to saving extra money if you feel that you have reached your limit in getting rid of unnecessary expenses.

Pay Off Debt First

It may seem like common sense to pay off dent, and you might be thinking to yourself that you are already doing that but where do you get more money to do that?  Well basically any money that you have besides a necessary expense such as your mortgage, utilities, or food should go towards debt before anything else.  When I say food, I also mean grocery shopping for the necessities, not eating out or impulse purchases at the register.

Look for an Alternative to Daycare

Being a new parent I never paid attention to the prices of daycare until I had to enroll my child into one, and for those of you that do not know, it is ridiculous.  The daycare at my wife’s work is $63 per day which includes food and diapers, but for a newborn, diapers, maybe.  Let’s say this is every work day for a month, that is over $1200 a month.  If you can find a trustworthy family member to do it for say even $40 a day, that is around $800 a day, which gives you an extra $400 a month!

Sell Unused Items

If you are looking for extra money, look no further than what you probably have packed away in your house.  Try coming up with a rule of thumb, if you have not used the item in the past year, sell it, and see how that works.  If you do not have any high-priced items to sell online, then gathering your household items together for a garage sale might be a good way to get some extra cash together.  You can probably scout out items from family members too that they want to get rid of and have you sell.

Three’s Company?

A good way to bring in an extra few hundred a month, not to mention sharing utilities, whether you bring that into the overall cost or not, is getting a roommate.  Sure, you may think you left that behind in your college days, but back then your parents were paying, and now if money is tight it may be a great way to come up with some extra cash.

Trade Down

Take a look at your house and car.  Is your house too big for what you need and can you downgrade to say, a ranch?  Then maybe it makes sense to sell.  For your car, if you need a new car every few years with a lease, can you take a step down that may save a hundred or two a month?

5 Things You Should Buy Using a Credit Card

For some may be a little leery about using a credit card, after all, all these years growing up it was always embedded into our heads that putting something on a credit card meant that you did not actually have the money and you were sort of kicking the can down the street, if you will.  That outlook has definitely changed over the years, and not only does putting charges on your credit card mean you do not have to pay until next month (and yes, make sure you pay off the entire balance by the due date to avoid interest), using the plastic is actually the financially responsible thing to do for making some purchases.

Basically, Any Online Shopping

Besides the giants like Amazon where they have pretty much a no questions asked return policy and almost instant refund as soon as the item is sent back, with free shipping back no less, there are plenty of sites that you do not know what happens when you put your credit card information in, so it would be nice to be able to dispute the charge if you do not receive the item, instead of paying with debit and waiting for the money to come back into your bank account, which could take a month.

Hotels and Rental Cars

Most hotels and rental car companies will accept debt cards at the time of reservation, but they will put a significant hold that can be upwards of a few hundred dollars on your account that will be reimbursed after completion, which then could take a week or two to be returned, a large sum of money to be missing for an extended period of time.

Big Ticket Items = Rewards $

I put everything on a credit card simply for the rewards dollars.  I do not go out of my way to purchase extra things, but the charges that I would have normally used my debit card for, like going out to eat, gas, and concert tickets, will now go on my credit card and I earn anywhere between 1-4% back on, which may not seem like much, until I received a $700 check recently for cashback on my previous year’s purchases, free to spend wherever.

Charitable Donations

I mention that it is nice to put charitable donations on a credit card simply for ease of keeping track.  When it comes to tax season you do not have to go searching for what you donated, you can check statements, instead of digging for cash receipts, which can be hard to prove if you are ever audited.

Monthly Bills

Not only will you earn rewards at the same time, but all of your monthly bills can come from the same source, and paid at once when the due date comes, instead of making sure you have enough at each pay period to spread them out over the course of the month, figuring out when the best time to pay is.  This way, you can set up automatic payments on the due date for everything and never worry about having insufficient funds or missing a payment.

Avoid These 5 Things to Save a Little Extra Money

It can be tough to have a little extra money left at the end of the month after paying bills, contributing to savings and retirement accounts, while budgeting for grocery, gas, and spending money.  If you are even coming out ahead you are doing a great job, but there are a few, if you think about, really unnecessary expenses that we continue to shell out money of each month, draining our accounts.

Cable TV

If you think about how many channels you pay versus how many you actually watch, and how often you even watch those channels, it can be upsetting to see how much you are spending on your cable bill each month.  Not that there is anything wrong with watching TV, but cable companies need to figure out a way to make it cheaper before subscribers are totally gone in favor of $10 a month streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Snacks

Not only for health reasons is it good to avoid snacking between meals, but you are essentially spending money on junk food.  Unless you are having the guys over to watch a game and you put out a spread of your favorite gameday snacks, you should avoid at the grocery store.  Not only will you save at the grocery store, but ever stop into a gas station to buy snacks?  Those little bags are triple the price what the full size would have been at the grocery store.

Energy Drinks

Trading one caffeine addiction for another (hey, at least coffee is cheap, and you can brew at home and take a travel mug with you), energy drinks have plenty of poison in them that should be avoided in your body, not to mention spending a few dollars per can, more than what 20oz of sodas would be.  Unless you are a high performing athlete (even that I doubt could be proven that they are more effective), you should stick to free tap water.

Online Shopping

Talk about something else that can be an addiction is online shopping, especially coming from someone who works from home and has access to the internet all day sitting at my desk.  It can be easy to be distracted to go on Amazon, order an item or two, and have it arrive at your doorstep in two days, not even having to leave the house to go to the store.  Do your wallet a favor, and stop the online splurging.

Eating Out

While it is a convenience to have someone else prepare your food, not to mention cleaning up, it comes with an extremely high markup that these days a couple cannot go out to a restaurant and get out for under $40 with a tip, and that is even on the low end.  While it is enjoyable to go out to eat, try only going once a week, or on special occasions and you will see how quickly the money will add up only sticking to grocery shopping and eating at home.

5 Smart Ways to Use a Tax Refund

Tax time can be a little stressful.  It is when you take a look at all the documents, expenses, and hopefully receipts, over the past year to see where you fall.  The goal would be to have a $0 refund, which meant that you paid enough taxes during the year and received the most in your paycheck, but if you are lucky to get money back, try and spend it wisely.

Home DIY Projects

If you have not already been thinking what you wish you could do around the house if you magically came across some money, well this is your lucky day, so spend it wisely.  With buying some higher-end paint, you can bring new life to a room, and adding a fresh coat of white for the trim and doors to really made it pop.  Replacing the worn-out carpet can be fairly inexpensive to do as well.

Build Up an Emergency Fund

If you ever heard your parents say “put it in the bank”, this is one of those times when you get a little money that you want to spend, but need to hold onto it.  Experts have long said that you should have between three and six months’ worth of expenses on hand in case of a job loss or event where you need money to fix an appliance or car repair.

Decrease Debt

If you are carrying a credit card balance over month-to-month there is plenty of interest being charged that could have been used elsewhere, so it is always good to pay off the balance each month, but in the event, that you have not been able to, then you should pay down debt with a tax refund.  Some cards can have an APR of 16%, so most of your monthly payment could just be going toward interest and not putting a dent in the principal balance.

Take a Vacation

I am cautious saying this as it seems that I may be giving a nudge to blow the money but that is not it at all.  If you stick to a budget and live frugal the rest of the year, then you may be in for a long overdue vacation that you are able to take for free with a tax refund.  After all, it is important to save, but life experiences are as important to others as well, so make sure to still live life, without breaking the bank of course.

Donate to a Charity

Sure, this may not be the first idea that comes to your head when you see a check made out to you come in the mail and get you excited, but your donation could go a long way for those in need.  There are endless numbers of charities that are out there, so give to one that you are most passionate about, whether it be child, animals, or research.  If you are wondering what is in it for you, besides given to someone less fortunate, you will be able to write-off on your tax return, getting a little back when you file next year.

5 Hidden Fees to Watch Out For that Could Be Adding Up

As if we do not have enough everyday expenses that add up to huge monthly costs that eat up our paychecks and hold us back from building up that retirement savings.  Sure, it is our own fault it we splurge on spending and not focusing on sticking to a budget, but some are just unavoidable that are not displayed in the beginning, but give a huge shock when the final total is added up, so keep your eyes peeled at some of the common hidden fees.

Event Ticket Purchases

Take it from someone who attends a lot of concert and sporting events, that most of the ticket charges are extra fees.  Whether it is from the venue’s site, Ticketmaster, or third-party sites such as StubHub, it is nothing but fees, charging upwards of 30% of what the face value of the ticket is, by the time you add in service fees, delivery costs, and even added-in parking costs.  Do yourself a favor and try and buy all tickets in-person, directly at the venue’s box office to avoid any extra fees.  This way you are able to attend more events, and it is comforting seeing the ticket say $25, and it is not actually $40 by the time you add in all of the extra charges.

Extra Hotel Charges

Speaking of extra charges, when it comes to booking a hotel room, the actual room rate is not bad, but by the time you add in the taxes, it really boosts the price up.  If you are looking at rooms in Las Vegas, for example, keep in mind the extra “resort fee” which can be upwards of $30 per day added to the daily room rate.  Since all of the sites have their own fees, try and get the best final rate between the hotel’s website and all of the various travel sites.

Inflated Cable Bill

You see the ad for cable where you get it for $20, but add in a decent cable package, HR, DVR, not to mention internet and you quickly build up a hefty monthly fee.  Wait until the promotion period is over and you will really see your bill skyrocket, reaching $200 a month, and you will start dialing customer service right away to lock you into a better deal, just make sure you continue to escalate the call to someone that will give you the best deal, even if it is sending an email to the CEO’s office to help.  Most locked in periods are for two years, so savings over 24 months can really add up.

Banking Fees

This is the reason that I switched to a credit union.  There are no monthly “maintenance fees”, or minimum balance requirements that can see $10-20 a month in unnecessary charges to your account that can otherwise be avoided going elsewhere.

Airlines

When you book a flight, do not ignore the extra $30 each way to add in baggage, not to mention if you want to select your seat beforehand.  A $200 deal you think you can be getting on a flight quickly turns into $300 after taxes and baggage.

Best Ways to Simplify Your Credit Cards

Depending on your discipline with credit cards, they can be a huge benefit by getting cashback using for spending, or the death of you with overspending and interest charges.  Credit cards can be stressful, even if you are on top of your finances, so why make it even worse by juggling multiple cards, due dates, payment balances, and keeping track of which reward is for which card.  Give yourself a break and save a few gray hairs by simplifying credit cards the best you can.

Limit the Number of Cards

Using multiple credit cards for spending can get tricky when it comes to payment dates, balance, and interest on each card, so why not limit to only one card with a balance, while the rest are at zero.  It is important to leave the remaining cards with a zero-balance open, and not close them, as closing could reduce your credit score by lowering the available credit.  If you are worried about using the other cards, then simply cut them up, that way you will not be able to use them, while the accounts will remain open.

Monitor Account Statement

Now that you are down to using only one credit card throughout the month it will be easier to track spending.  Take a look at the previous month’s statement and go over line by line every dollar spent and split up into categories such as necessary and unnecessary spending.  If you need to take it a step further, you could break up the necessary spending into further categories such as monthly expenses, gas, food, although the food spending will most likely trickle into the unnecessary spending, as down the road you can hope to reduce the number of times eating out.

Pay the Full Balance Every Month

Some will say that automated billing payments are necessary in order to simplify credit cards, but that will only work if you are paying the full account balance. Paying anything less than the minimum payment will only lead to interest charges that will take over a majority of the monthly payment and limit the amount of principal balance that will be paid.  By making the entire balance payment you will eliminate any extra charges in interest and start fresh each month, although you will need to make sure the regular spending occurring throughout the month will be able to be paid in full the next month.

Try Not to Ignore Rewards

With so much competition between the creditors trying to win over your business, as long as you have a great credit score, they should be lining up to provide you with rewards in return for spending.  When figuring out the credit card you are going to use regularly, you should pick the one with the maximum rewards, such as cashback, miles, or point for gift card redemption.  If you do not have a rewards card, then it would be worth the initial credit score hit for the application inquiry in order to save on rewards the remainder of the year.

Take Advantage of 5 Free Things You Always Had to Pay For

As we find ourselves getting older we always look back and say “I remember when…”, sounding like our grandparents did to us when they would say they would have to walk to and from school in three feet of snow, making note of how easy we had it compared to them.   Our kids have it even easier than us when it comes to items that we used to have to pay for that are free now.

Current Events

I was actually kind of sad when I cancelled my newspaper subscription.  My whole life since I was a kid I have known the newspaper to be part of the morning, and even when I didn’t read the paper, could look forward to the Sunday sale papers.  Now, I find myself reading it every day now, but online, for free.  I even remember having the newspaper at the library attached to those sticks.  Let’s hope the website ads are helping to pay for the lost subscriptions, otherwise I will feel really bad.

Checking Your Credit Report

These days you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus:  Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.  Much like anything you have to enter your personal information, especially your social security number, so you will want to make sure it is a legit site, so if you are not clicking a link off their sites, AnnualCreditReport.com is a trusted site.  The credit score is not included, that will be an additional charge, but with most credit card companies giving your score on monthly statements, you should not have to shell out the extra money.

Every Song at Your Fingertips

This is not talking about downloading songs from pirate sites, that is free and illegal, but something that is free to use and legal (for now), and always a topic of conversation around the industry, is streaming songs.  With sites like YouTube, you can find literally any song to listen to, and with music streaming site such as Spotify and Pandora, as long as you don’t mind a few ads, you are able to listen to stations, genres, and artists of your choosing.

Making Long-Distance Calls

Probably most of you reading this article does not remember having to dial a (1) and then the area code when having to make a long-distance call from your landlines, but I bet your parents remember getting the phone bill in the mail with the outrageous charges and screaming when they see what the damage is.  Now I suppose parents could yell over minutes and data usage.

Directions

It is not only the gas station maps that we used to have to pay for, but I thought it was the greatest when I got my Garmin GPS as a gift, but even those are obsolete a decade later now that we have the free map app on our smart phones, only using the data we have included in the plan.  The other plus is that the app can refresh when maps are updated, giving you the latest possible info.

Ways to Pay for Holiday Shopping

The holidays can be quite a difficult time to remain on a budget. There is so much pressure to find just the right gifts that are both affordable and nice, and this can be quite the challenge. If you happen to be worried about how you will manage to get through this holiday season, financially speaking, we have a few tips that might help.

Installment Loans

Payday loans are not recommended at all. The repayment terms are typically not easy to handle and the interest rates are exorbitant.

There is an alternative, though. Some people actually take out installment loans to pay for the holidays and then pay it back once the holidays are over. These online payday loan alternatives can get you as much as $1,250 for your holiday shopping needs. They are easy to qualify for; you just need to have an active checking account, a valid social security number, and verifiable employment. Funding is fast and most of the time, you can have the funds deposited into your account the very next business day. Payments are flexible and you typically will have about 6 months to pay it back. You can pay it back before that time with no penalty.

Not having a budget for shopping really doesn’t mean that you will not be able to afford holiday shopping this year. There are other things that you can do…

Ride Sharing

If you have a vehicle, a valid driver license, and insurance, you might consider making a bit of extra money by driving for Uber. This is a great way to earn extra money at any time. You can work driving around your existing schedule, whether it includes work, school, or anything else. They even offer Instant Pay, which will allow for you to be able to transfer all of your earnings right to your bank in an instant.

Credit Cards

Yes, if you have credit cards, you will more than likely be tempted to use them for your holiday shopping. This is not really recommended. There are a couple of reasons for this too. One is that credit cards should only ever be used for emergencies. This gives you a cushion in the event that you experience a financial crisis at some point. The other reason is that you should never spend money in order to save money. Consider this… during the holiday season, stores often have their best sale prices of the year. You might be tempted to buy stuff at these reduced prices. However, if you are making these purchases with your credit cards, you will also be paying interests and possibly some other fees. Therefore, you will be spending money to save money – and this is always a financial no-no.

Make Money Online

This is easier than you might realize. The internet offers so many opportunities. There really is something for everyone. You might consider writing for cash. You can do this by writing for other people, or you might decide to create your own blog or website. You can also become an affiliate marketer. This is someone who will assist entrepreneurs and companies to sell their products and or services. You can offer your services as a translator if you know a foreign language. You might be versed in the cyber arts and decide to open your own business creating websites. You can be a marketer, a virtual assistant, a customer service representative, and the list goes on.

The great thing is that with most of these things, it is ok if you have a job outside of the home. These can be done on your schedule. This is a great way to make extra money for the holidays or at any other time of year.

The very best thing to do is not to do all of your holiday shopping at one time. If you get everything in a single day, how much of a hit will your bank account take? Think about buying things one or two at a time throughout the year. If you see something in February, for example, that Aunt May would love, get in in February and put it up until the holidays. You might be surprised how much stress that will take off of your shoulders when the holidays do roll around.

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