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 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.

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.

4 Ways to Teach Children the Responsibility of Money

As our children get older we are focused so much about protecting them for the safety, but what about their financial safety as well?  One day they will start to make their own money, own homes, get married, and hopefully live financially responsible without making bad financial decisions like missing payments, going to debt, or excessive spending, so it is up to us to teach kids about money as early as possible so they can not only take financial responsibilities seriously, but to make the right decisions.

Live Within Your Means

The simple reason that we go into debt is that we are spending much more than what is coming in, so it is important to teach the importance of living within our means of what we can afford.  Each family’s situation is different, but we want to stress the importance of appreciating what you have, and also giving to those less fortunate as well.  Teaching the fundamentals of a budget could be a great way to ensure that you spend what you can afford by allocating certain funds and not going over budget and pulling from other areas or backing with a credit card.

Stay Organized

Organization is key when it comes to handling the household finances, keeping track of not only which bills are due when and how much, but making sure you can continue to afford.  Eliminating unnecessary purchases is a great way to free up extra money each month, and a way to ensure is to making a shopping list prior to leaving the house, and sticking to that list while at the store.  It will make your trip more organized by looking for what is on your list, as well as not having your budget thrown off by extra purchases (and even forgetting items you went to get in the first place).

Find the Best Deal

If we were to price match when I was a kid, it would entail driving across town to store to store to look at the best deal, so by the time you factor in your time and gas prices, was it even worth it.  With online shopping at our finger tips, you can price compare from site to site and have the best deal out there within minutes, whereas before it could have taken all day driving around.  Only problem with online shopping is there is so much, and it never clothes, so willpower needs to be key.

It’s Ok to Seek Help

We as adults may think we have all the answers, but we still don’t, so no matter what age you are at, it’s always good to consult a family or friend that you trust to divulge some financial tips, as well as a professional as well.  If you are having money troubles, spending beyond your means, and falling into debt, waiting will only make it worse, so it’s good to keep someone in the loop that you can even bounce ideas off, or to make sure you’re following the correct path.

Signs You Might Be a Little Too Cheap

There’s a difference between being frugal and being cheap.  Even being frugal has its quirks where it could be easy to be made fun of when it comes to spending money, or lack of, as well as re-using items that you probably should throw away, but being cheap is just a whole other level.  I’ve been around cheap people in my life and I told myself I would never be that way, so look out for signs that you might be a little too cheap.

Suffering Without Air Conditioning

August is really the hottest part of the summer, so if you having turned on the air conditioning yet, then you are no doubt suffering, as well as anyone who unfortunately has to share the house with you.  Yes, it makes sense to turn the temperature up while you are at work, but at night if it’s not cool enough outside to open the windows, then for sleeping sake, turn on the air conditioning, as the ceiling fan in itself cannot keep the sweat from pouring off of you all night.  Once the fall hits, you can give the A/C a break.

Shorting on a Tip

Now unless you really have received poor service, at which even then I have trouble holding back on a tip, but I have received terrible service where I did have to miss filling in the tip line, but as a rule of thumb you should always leave at least 20% off of your bill, not to mention throwing a few bucks to the carryout person for your order (as long as the order is right!).  You can tell the friends that don’t tip when you are out with a group and have to rely on other to pitch in a few more bucks to make up for it.

Dodging a Round of Drinks

Now shorting a few bucks for a tip is one thing, but if you’re out with a group of friends and you are trading off buying rounds, you may have that friend that always seems to be in the bathroom or hiding in the background when it’s their turn to buy a round.  You don’t need to buy everyone a round of shots, but if you are drinking other people’s drinks that they ordered for you, then it’s only fair to return the favor and not cheap out.

Grass Looks Like the Desert

It actually doesn’t make financial sense to water your grass in the middle of the day due to drying up more quickly, and actually advised to water in the morning or at night after the sun is down, but if you see someone’s lawn completely dried up it makes you wonder if they are lazy, or cheap.  Certainly, your water bill will increase in the summer due to having to water, but as long as your watering is not out of control, you can still water and at least keep a smidge of green in your grass to last the rest of the year, unless you’re banking on it coming back in the fall as temperatures drop and rain may increase.

4 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store

Before you grab your shopping cart and start going aimlessly up and down each aisle, it is good to go in with a plan.  The grocery store can be an overwhelming place.  There are seemingly endless places to go and get lost within the fresh, frozen, and beer aisles, wondering what you even came in for in the first place.  That is why you always hear of people running in for a couple items like milk and eggs and coming out with a whole cart full of groceries that will probably hurt your bank account, not to mention your waistline.

Stick to a List

If you go in with a few things on your mind you are doomed from the start.  There are so many places to have impulse purchases, especially if there are free samples given out, making you want to keep adding to your cart.  Since the store is large, in order to keep your head down and focus on a list, you can set up your grocery list in parts such as fruits & veggies, canned, frozen, household items, so that at least you can find everything in roughly the same spot so that you do not have to go on a search and get lost in temptation.

Never Go on an Empty Stomach

It would be wise to eat before you head out to the grocery store, a full meal at best, so that you have a clear mind when you get there and can just stick to your shopping list.  If you have gone grocery when you were hungry before, you will know that you probably came home with plenty of unhealthy and expensive impulse purchases that you either scarfed down, or threw out because you didn’t eat after that one time.  Believe me, you’ll thank yourself later.

Use the Rewards Card

Like most major grocers, there is a shopper’s reward card that you can plug in your phone number at the register that is associated to the account and you can see the savings start to take away from the balance.  In addition to the sale items exclusive to your rewards card, you can also load digital coupons to your card from the store’s website (although you may have to print off the list so you remember what you put on there).  Also, just by using you can build up fuel points that will take money off each gallon of gas when redeemed.

Avoid the Weekend Rush

Grocers know that the weekends are going to be packed, so why give any extra incentive.  During the week, you can likely find more promo sales that you will not see on the weekend.  Not only can you save additional money during the week, but you can also save the stress on yourself but avoiding the crowd, in the parking lot, and in the store, and especially if you can go in the evening after dinner, you will hardly see anyone and can get in and out with little delay.

Tips on Saving Money With a Newborn

Having a baby can be (and is, for that matter), stressful.  The crying baby in the picture was my first thought to start off this article as that what it seems to consume my life with now, having a newborn a few weeks ago.  So, while we adjust to our new family member, it is another mouth to feed and more expenses that will occur that will need to be accounted for.  Much like everything else in life, we try to save money the best we can, so same goes with having a newborn.

Clip Coupons!

It is suggested to clip coupons when you are grocery shopping, so why wouldn’t you do the same when it came for baby necessities.  You find formula coupons that will help to ease the burden if you are having trouble with breast milk.  One thing I have noticed is that Bed Bath & Beyond and Buy Buy Baby are owned by the same company, so they accept BB&B coupons at BBB, so that is nice, when if you are like me, receive them in my email or mail just about every day.

Seek Hand-Me-Down’s

Whether some friends and family stopped at one being enough, or maybe have another child not being the same gender and needing to clean house a bit as things get outdate and less need, you can probably get great hand-me-down items from those you are close to that can save a ton of money then having to buy your own.  We have neighbors stopping by giving us their old toys and accessories, so most are probably happy to not only free up some space in their home, but to also have their items to go be loved by the next.

Return Items from Baby Shower

Now this may sound like a selfish thing to do, but I’m not talking about taking the generous gifts you received from friends and relatives and turning them into cash, but there are always those few people that decide to buy something that is not on your registry because they think it is “cute”, and we all know that we don’t have the same taste as everyone else.  Hopefully the random gifts they got you were at least from the store you registered at, or a popular store with an easy return policy.

Luck Out with a Diaper Party

While a baby shower is typically for women (although the new trend is for couple’s showers), one of the popular events now for the father to be is to have a diaper party, usually planned by a best friend or close family member.  You can get the guys together for a night on the town, sort of like a bachelor party of sorts, with the only admission to the party is a case of diapers.  With most having kids by now, those are happy to pay with diapers for a much-needed night out, and those without kids are just happy to have all of their friends out at the same time.

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.

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