How You Can Save Money Around the Holidays

Now that we’re in mid-November, holiday shopping is about to go in full-force, if it hasn’t already.  This doesn’t just include Christmas shopping and party planning, but also around Thanksgiving as well, which can add up to be another costly holiday, which makes all the more reason to save money where you can.  By starting as early as you can at least you can break up the burden over many paychecks instead of all at once, but there are also a few tricks where you can maximize savings.

Set a Budget

If you’re not careful, you can add up your credit card balance pretty quickly when it comes to holiday shopping.  You get into the festive mood and want to overdo it on food, drinks, decorations, and gifts, so you keep loading up your shopping cart.  The best way to keep spending until control is to set a budget, or a sub category to your household budget that you have already.  This way, maybe it’s have a set amount of cash to use until it’s gone, you can spend what you can afford and hopefully not go overbudget with the risk of not being able to pay the balance and have to pay interest.

Build Credit Card Rewards

Probably the best reason to use a credit card is the amount of rewards that you can get in return for just making the normal purchases you would be making anyways, and get back rewards in the form of airline miles, points that you can redeem for gift cards, or a simple cashback check.  While you’re doing your holiday shopping you might as well not leave free money on the table and use your credit card instead of a debit card.  You just have to be careful though, when you see the rewards start to add up, you may be inclined to go on a spending spree just for the rewards, but if you can’t pay the balance and have to pay interest, that can outweigh any rewards you would get in return.

Take Advantage of Sales

The end of the year sales around the holidays can be the best time of the year not only for Christmas shopping, but also any items that you may need around the house.  While sales such as Black Friday, and most of that weekend really, not to mention sales every weekend to get you to go shopping, you can find basically anything on sale from TV’s, to clothes, to even cars.

Compare Prices

It used to be that when you are comparing prices you would have to drive all over town to see what that store was charging, wasting your whole day to maybe save a few bucks, but fortunately now whether you are in-store, you can always compare online to Amazon, or comparable sites within minutes to see if you’re getting a good deal.  Instead of wasting your day, you can click from website to website in the matter of seconds, to determine if you should buy the product in-store or online.

Smart Ways to Invest in Your Own Future

Although it may be decades until you retire, it may sound cliché to start the earlier the better, but it is 100% true.  The longer you wait, the less you will have in your account to compound over the next few decades.  By missing out on contributing a couple hundred dollars a month could be missing out on a few hundred thousand over time.  If you can make the sacrifices early on to free up extra money, the money you are contributing will feel like less of a burden so you can invest in your future.

Build an Emergency Fund

You never know what life will throw at you, so it’s always good to be prepared for the unexpected.  Instead of throwing an unexpected charge on a credit card when you don’t have the money, you risk going into debt, possibly taking years to pay off with interest accruing every month.  If you can put a few months’ worth of expenses in an account for an auto repair, home appliance upgrade, or even medical bills, you can have money available if you ever need it.

Compare Roth vs. Traditional 401(k)

Now while your emergency fund is important, you want to make sure that you are not leaving too much in there, otherwise it will not earn anything with the very low interest rates of a savings account.  From there you should be saving for retirement, whether that is a Roth IRA or employer 401(k) account.  With a Roth IRA you can contribute after taxes so that you can withdraw tax-free in retirement, while 401(k) will be taxed later, but reduces your taxable income to save on your income tax now.  That will depend on your situation whether it is better to worry about taxes now or later.

Don’t Leave Free Money on the Table

Speaking of employer based 401(k) accounts, you could be able to take part in company matching contributions, some even match up to 6% of contributions.  If you make $50,000 a year, that would be $3,000 that you and your employer would both contribute, for a total of $6,000.  By contributing less than 6% you are leaving free money on the table that not only are you investing, but missing out on the company match investments would could be a huge hit if you figure missing that amount compounding over the next few decades.

Leave it Alone

When you see the amount of money piling up in your retirement account you may be tempted to use that money to pay off debt, use for a down payment for a house, or even take out for a vacation, but you could seriously be jeopardizing your future by taking this money out.  By removing this money if will not be earning compound interest over time, so figure if you wipe out your account, there will be nothing there to grow.  Instead, it’s better to do the old-fashioned way and save up for big purchases, not to mention continuing to contribute to retirement accounts even if you are paying down credit card balances, as it will help you over time.

How to Help Reduce Monthly Expenses

It’s hard enough to make sure that the amount of money coming in exceeds what’s going out.  By the time you pay your monthly bills, not to mention food, gas, spending, plus hopefully creating an emergency fund and saving for the future, the money is spread pretty thin.  While, sure, you could get a second job to make a little more money, but who has time for that, so the next step is to try and free up money on monthly expenses wherever you can find a spot.

Try a Spending Budget

While clearly not for everyone since experts have said that two-thirds of the population doesn’t follow a budget, but that is probably not a good thing.  If you are having trouble freeing up extra money you can try allocating where funds are going in the month, and once the money is gone, it’s gone until next paycheck.  Sure, you will probably have to tweak how much you are allotting for, but that is part of the process in having a successful budget.  Maybe it will at least curb spending a bit and you can open up extra money each month.

Make the Tough Cuts

No one ever said saving money is easy, probably the reason why lots of people don’t.  If you are really having trouble freeing up extra money and you have exhausted all attempts, then it is time to make the tough cuts.  For starters, look to cutting the cable cord.  You probably don’t watch enough TV to necessitate spending a couple hundred dollars a month.  With the best shows on streaming services these days anyways, you can get an HD antenna for $20 to get local channels, and then get a streaming service or two like Netflix and HBO, and you’re probably good to go, without paying to flip around with nothing on.

Compare Prices

It used to be that comparing prices would mean you would see the product and then go store to store to find the lowest.  While it may have made sense before, with online shopping now there really is no need to waste gas and time on driving around town when you can click from website to website in a matter of seconds to see what the best price is.  The best part too is the free shipping, so you can shop for the best price and then have it shipped for free, arriving a couple days later.

Discounts are Key

Whether it is clipping coupons to go growing shopping, using Groupon, or mail ads that you receive probably daily, there is still no reason to pay full price on anything that you can help.  Sure, it takes a little legwork, but saving money is the goal in the end.  In addition to coupons, if you can get a good rewards credit card you can money back on the purchases that you were going to make anyways, whether it’s in the form of miles, points, or even rewards dollars.  There are plenty of discounts out there, if you are willing to put in the time to save money.

Smart Ways to Save on Your Food Budget

After paying out all of the needed monthly expenses, whiling continuing to fund your emergency fund, pay down debt, not to mention saving for the future, there may not be much left every month, making it all more important to save every way you can.  Depending on the size of the household/number of incomes, the food budget could take up a significant portion, after all we do need to eat, so any way to free up extra money in that department would be a huge help.

Avoid Going Out to Eat

Whether it’s stopping for coffee in the morning, going out to lunch, or taking the family out to dinner, the price adds up quickly.  After all, you’re paying for someone else’s services.  If you can avoid going out to eat, go grocery shopping, and prepare meals at home you will have significant savings add up right away.  Just think about how long you can make bread, lunch meat, and chips last for a week for a few dollars, compared to spending $10 a day going out to eat.  Or a better example, chopping up ingredients to meal prep salads for lunch.

Never Leave the House Hungry

While sticking to going grocery shopping is important in saving money every month, there are a few areas that are of note to stick to.  If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store you know that everything looks good that you begin to load up the cart with whatever sounds good, throwing your food budget out of whack by the time you ring everything up at the register.  Also, when you’re hungry the items will most definitely not be healthy options, so do yourself a favor and have a meal at home and have a full stomach by the time you head to the grocery store.

Don’t Forget the Shopping List

While you are having a bite to eat before you go, that would be a good time to take inventory of the fridge, pantry, and freezer, to see which items you need so you can start your shopping list.  There is nothing worse than going to the store and coming home without the item you went for, or even worse, spending more on items that you didn’t need.  So, if you can make a list before you go, even organized by section of the store, you will be in better shape entering with a plan, instead of wandering aimlessly.

Take Advantage of the Rewards Card

The store’s shopper’s rewards card is great, not only for in-store sale items, and promos such as the “10 for $10”, but you can also load digital coupons from the store’s website, loaded onto your card so they take off the price at the register.  The only trick is you might need to print the list so you remember.  While your rewards card is entered, by shopping that day you can earn fuel points for savings at the gas pump the next time you have to go fill up.

Ways You Are Jeopardizing Your Wealth

Sure, maybe money isn’t the most important thing to everyone, certainly you have always heard that money doesn’t equal happiness, but there is a fine line on needed enough money to live off, especially during the retirement years when you should be able to leave the workforce behind and enjoy out your remaining years stress-free.  Soon enough you’ll be of retirement age, so it’s best to focus on your personal wealth sooner than later, otherwise you will either be playing catch up, or have little to live off.

Putting Off Saving

A 401(k) account is a great way to save now that can grow over time, but the longer you put off, the less you’ll have to live off during retirement years.  The longer you put off, the more you will have to contribute to catch up to the years where you should have contributed more.  Some employers match contributions, so you should at least be contributing that much, otherwise that would be leaving free money on the table that could be growing over time.  If you are not able to use a 401(k), there are IRA options as well.

Spending is Out of Control

In order to free up extra money every month then you really need to reduce unnecessary spending.  Unless you curb spending, you really could be putting yourself at risk financially.  If you’re not sure where exactly the money is going, a good idea is to take a look at last month’s credit or debit card statement and look line by line to see what was a needed expense and what probably could have been avoided.  Add up all of those charges that could have been avoided and you could be shocked at what could be in your bank account instead.

Not Managing Risk

If you’re getting by with your finances on a month to month basis now that is great, but what is something unexpected happens and you have a huge charge come in such as a needed auto repair or home appliance, how would you pay for?  Probably on a credit card, at which you are then in debt, trying to pay back over time, at which you could be struggling to pay.  If you can create an emergency fund of a few months’ worth of expenses, you could give yourself a pretty good cushion to cover yourself if any unexpected charges come in.

Looking for the Next Get Rich Quick

If you are thinking of playing the lottery next, take a look at the odds of winning and hopefully that will change your mind on playing every week.  The get rich quick scheme are just that, too good to be true, so also avoid any of the Tupperware or candle parties, trying to make a living, other than enjoying some discounts for your friends.  If you are looking for extra income, try getting a second job in your free time, or even look to selling items that are otherwise sitting around the house collecting dust.

4 of the Biggest Credit Card Myths

While there are virtually endless amounts of credit card offers that come in the mail, or you have one that you’ve had but only keep for emergencies, you may not be taking full advantage of the benefits of all that a credit card can do for you.  While they may have had a bad reputation in the past, there are actually more pros then cons for having one, as long as you can curb the spending, so ignore any myths that are out there.

Having a Card is Unnecessary

Well, it’s not life or death that you have a credit card, but they can actually provide plenty of benefits that you would not get otherwise with a debit card.  They provide great fraud protection, especially these days with the number of hacks, if your card is breached, then any charges that you are hit with do not clean out your bank account and can remain pending on the credit card until the dispute process is resolved.  In addition, credit cards offer some of the best rewards, which you can earn cashback on the normal purchases that you would make anyways, so why turn down free money.

Credit Score Isn’t the Most Important

Unless you don’t mind paying a higher APR % and waste money on higher interest payments every month, let alone getting approved at all, go right ahead and let your credit slip.  For those that do care about their credit and strive for it to be the highest it can, are rewarded with the best interest rates on the market, which could save hundreds of dollars a month on say, a mortgage, while keeping car payments lower, and able to pay little interest when repaying a credit card balance.

Closing an Account with Zero Balance

Getting into debt can be a huge weight on your shoulders, and depending on the balance, could take years to get out of, so when you finally do rid yourself of a credit card balance, the first reaction might be to close the account, cut up the card, and never use a credit card again.  Now while you can opt for cutting up the card and never using again, you should actually keep the account open so that the available credit actually improves your score, and closing could great reduce, depending on the size of your other accounts and the balance against it.

Nothing Wrong with Making the Minimum Payment

Now while you will certainly be in good standing with the credit card company by making the minimum payment, as I’m sure you would be their favorite customer, with your monthly payment just barely covering the interest payment and doing little to chip away at the actual balance, could in fact take decades to get rid of the balance.  Sure, you will not be penalized by the company for making the minimum but you are only hurting yourself by wasting money away every month on interest, when it could be best used for more important things like saving for the future, or even taking a vacation.

Money Moves to Improve Personal Finance

Handing the household finances is a tough job, in fact it is one that should not be tackled alone.  If you have a significant other, should work together as a team, after all it’s both of your money, or if you are living alone, it’s always a good idea to bring in a family member or friend that you can trust, or even better, a financial advisor.  If you are looking to give your personal finance a boost, try starting a few behaviors that may help.

Build Up an Emergency Fund

You never know what life is going to throw at you, so it’s always a good idea to be as best prepared as you can.  If you had a sudden auto repair that was more than you expected, a home appliance replacement that would cost thousands, or even worse, if you lost your job and it took months to find a new one, how would you handle these costs?  The simple answer is that the expenses would go on a credit card and worry about them later.  If you can put a few months’ worth of expenses in an account, you can have available cash if any large sudden expenses come up.

Reduce Unnecessary Expenses

Not only do you need more money coming in every month instead of going out, you need to reduce the money going out as best as you can so you free up more money for either paying off debt, saving for a rainy day, or more importantly, saving for the future.  If you can start paying attention to what you’re spending money on, you can then try and fix your spending behaviors.  Try looking at last month’s debit or credit card statement and go line by line.  Add up what should have been avoided, and you will probably be shocked.

Save for the Future

As you are continuing to free up money every month, more and more priority should be on saving for the future.  Retirement may be the last thing on your mind right now, but if you can start stashing away money now, it will have more time to grow over time.  A 401(k) is a great way to start saving, not only does it help relieve some tax burden, but your company may match contributions up to a certain point, so that is free money!

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

I’ve gotten so used to the credit card rewards now that I put every single charge on a credit card so I can earn 1-4% cashback every year.  Now I’m talking the expenses that I would have spent anyways.  If you start charging just go earn rewards you will be in for trouble, so it’s always a good idea to set a spending budget so you can make sure you don’t go overboard and you’re not able to pay the statement balance by the due date, otherwise you start paying interest and that is just asking for financial trouble that could take years to dig yourself out.

Why to Use a Credit Card for Every Purchase

Credit cards used to get a bad reputation.  I remember being a kid and always hearing the perception that if you used a credit card it meant you didn’t have the money, like you were broke or something, but whether that was just my ignorance or not, that is certainly not the case anymore.  There are so many pros to using a credit card, that I have since put my debit card away and only use a credit card now for every purchase.  The trick is just not to spend too much so you can pay the full statement balance by the due date.

Grace Period

The nice thing about charging on a credit card is that it does not take from your bank account right away, it actually gives you a chance to have the money in time for the statement that will be due next month.  The catch is, you need to have the willpower to not overextend your spending so you will be able to pay the full statement balance, otherwise you will start carrying over a balance and begin to pay interest until the balance is paid off.

Easy to Book Hotel & Rental Car

Booking travel on a credit card is always a must, especially when it comes to deposit holds.  When you check into a hotel or rent a card, the company will place a hold on your account that can be up to a few hundred dollars to ensure that there is no damage, and then the funds are released.  If you use a debit card it takes from your bank account and can be a week or two before you see the money again.  With a credit card, they can put whatever hold they want on there, but will go away in a few days, long before the next statement balance.

Fraud Protection

There is so much fraud these days, it’s happened to me twice in the past year.  Fortunately, this time it was on my credit card after I learned my lesson never to use my debit card again.  With the debit card, much like a deposit hold, will be taken from your account and will not come back until the disputed funds are resolved, which who knows how long that will take.  With a credit card, they can sort it out, without being on the hook for the balance until next month.

Rewards!

Last, but certainly not least, as I was saving the best for last in this case, is the credit card rewards.  Whether it is points that can be redeemed for a gift card, or actual dollars that you can receive a cashback check back at the end of the year.  Now yes you can spend more to earn more rewards, which can be tempting, but scary as you are increasing spending, but if you only take the normal purchases that you make in a month anyways, you are earning free money back on what you would have spent otherwise.

Overpriced Items to Look to Avoid

One of the best way to come in under budget each month is to not only reduce impulse and unnecessary expenses, but to also reduce necessary monthly expenses as well.  If your monthly food budget is say $500, if you find a way to come in at $400 instead, you can use that $100 to invest that will grow considerably more over time instead of whatever you were going to buy in its place.  With just a few tweaks in the purchases we may, we can go from spending money on overpriced items to save money each month.

Movie Theatre Snacks

Going to the movies is expensive enough, but I guess if you’re looking for something to do on a date night, then under $25 isn’t too bad for tickets, but once you start throwing in snacks and drinks, let alone alcohol, is where your night can get expensive pretty quickly.  Especially if you are bringing the entire family to the movies, you could be looking at $100 in tickets and snacks just for seeing what will probably be a mediocre movie otherwise.  It may be worth it to order a movie on-demand at home or on one of the many streaming services, and have your own food and snacks at home.

Cosmetics

My wife tried her hand in the cosmetic “pyramid scheme” for a while, when she tried selling cosmetics on the side.  While she actually was very good, there is limited growth and unrealistic sales goals in order to actually make any money, but what I did notice was the ridiculous markup of the product compared to what she should buy it for to what she was selling, and anywhere in between based upon the many levels of selling and what you can earn of each product.

Pre-Cut Produce

Sure, you get what you pay for, and that is definitely true when it comes to time equals money.  Cutting up fruits and veggies when you get home from the grocery store can be a task in itself in addition to washing, so it makes sense that we would want to buy already cut up produce.  The problem is, you will pay likely at least quadruple the price, so you have to ask yourself if it worth it to save a few minutes cutting when it adds up to real savings by just buying produce as it is.

Gift Wrapping/Bag/Card

It’s actually surprising how much money you can save on greeting cards, gift bags, wrapping, and tissue paper by skipping the normal drugstores and departments stores and going straight to the dollar store.  At running around $6 per greeting card anywhere else, you can probably stock up on everything you need to wrap gifts for the same price, which shows you how much of a markup goes into it, not to mention how little that those things actually matter when it comes to giving gifts.  You’re lucky if the card is even saved, but everything else goes straight into the trash besides the gift.

Smart Ways to Boost Your Credit Score

First impressions are lasting, and there is nothing more important to the eyes of the lender than your credit score to see if you are worthy as a borrower.  The higher the score, the better, in order to take advantage of the most favorable rates on the market.  Your score can affect your loan approval or denial, so whether you have had credit troubles in the past or are looking for ways to give it a boost, there are important behaviors to continue to possess in order to continue to see your credit score rise.  You can now see your credit score included on credit card monthly statements, so each more you can see your score rise or fall.

Every Payment On-Time

Lenders want to see that you repay your debts on time if they are going to continue to lend to you, so it’s important not only to avoid late fees and possible interest rate increases, but if thirty days late, it will be marked on your credit report that could take up to seven years to come off, so one mistake, and it could take the better part of a decade to come off, so make sure that payments are made on or before the due date each month.  A good way to make sure all payments are made is to split between paychecks, so that way you can even out payments made, and leftover cash.

Pay Down Debt

Just as important as payment history is the amount of debt you carry compared to the credit line.  The closer you are to reaching your credit ceiling, the more you will significantly reduce your credit score.  Start paying down debt and you will start to see your score rise each month.  Just keep in mind that reports are typically a month or two behind, so if you have made a large payment recently, it may take a little while to catch up until you see the score boost.

Leave Accounts Open

It’s a huge weight off your shoulders to finally payoff debt, especially if it has taken years to overcome a credit card problem.  The first instinct you may have when you finally have that zero balance would be to close the account so you never have to risk charging it up again, but in fact, it will help your credit score to leave the account open, and if you don’t want to use the card just simply cut it up, that way you will have the available credit and length of the account will continue.

Limit Credit Applications

Every time you fill out an application and credit is pulled, there is an inquiry on your credit report that will stay on there for up to two years.  Since it will remain on there for a while, it’s best to limit your credit applications to only necessary decisions such as a lower interest credit card or mortgage, and avoid submitting to shop around, at which the more applications that you submit it could give the impression that you are looking to go on a shopping spree.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...