How to Avoid Potential Money Wastes

While sure, it’s important to know the sep ira rules when it comes to setting yourself up for financial success but if you aren’t maxing out your retirement account, then there is plenty of room for improvement with the rest of your finances.  By avoiding some of the biggest money wastes, you can free up extra money in order to build an emergency fund, pay off debt, and fund your retirement account.  The earlier you start, the more it will pay off in the end when you really need it.

Not Tracking Spending

You may know how much are in your paychecks every other week or so, but do you know how much is going out each month?  If you take a look at last month’s debit or credit card statement you can go line by line for every purchase in order to track what was necessary, and what probably could have been avoided.  If you just pay the bill every month without looking at the charges, not only could you be setting yourself for potential fraudulent charges, but you just continue to swipe your card without trying to curb spending.

Avoiding a Budget

For those that have built up a nest egg, it is not always easy, but with patience and discipline, not to mention tweaking along the way, setting a budget up is a good way to allocate funds on what you should be spending each month instead of what you are currently spending.  When it comes to funds for entertainment, setting a limit, especially in cash, is a great way to allow yourself a certain amount and when it runs out, that’s it until next paycheck.  At least physically seeing the money leave your hands and go into the cash register could at least give second thought to impulse purchases.

Going out to Eat

Of course, it’s nice to have someone else cook for you, especially if you don’t enjoy cooking yourself, or are missing that skillset, going out to eat, along with being served, makes going out to eat pretty appealing, although the prices can add up pretty quickly.  Whether it’s grabbing coffee every morning, going to the cafeteria at work, or picking up carryout for dinner on the way home, could add up to hundreds of dollars a month extra when if you would go grocery shopping and prepare meals at home, your food bill could be considerably less.

Leaving Free Money on the Table

Plenty of money leaves your bank account every month so why not try and capture any free money that you can.  By using the right credit card that offer rewards on purchases, you can earn points or cashback that otherwise would be missing out on if you used your debit card or another credit card.  On a much higher scale, check at work to see if there are any company-matching retirement fund contributions that you could be missing out on, that could add up to tens of thousands you’re losing out on in the decades to come that could have been growing in your account.

Money Mistakes You Could be Making

While sure, insurance can help you, but it doesn’t help any potential money mistakes that you could be making.  There may not be a cut and dry answer to what is right and wrong, as everyone makes different amounts of money and have different financial goals, but across the board, if you can build up an emergency fund of a few months’ worth of expenses to give yourself a cushion, getting out of debt, while saving for the future you have a good start, but look to avoid a few behaviors that could set you back.

Trying to Keep Up

Sure, we have all heard the old saying about jumping off a bridge would you do it too, but I guess sort of the same thing goes when it comes to finances.  You don’t know everyone’s finances behind closed doors, from what the salary is, to what expenses are, not to mention how much debt they’re in, so just because your friends or family are throwing around money, doesn’t mean that you have to as well.  Keep in line with your budget and make sure your own finances are on track.

Paying Credit Card Interest

Credit cards are great in the fact that you can charge up and not pay until next month, but if you’re not careful that balance can get out of control and you could have trouble paying by the due date.  If that’s the case and your carryover a balance, you will begin to pay interest, which depending on the card could be as much as 16% APR, and depending on how high the balance is, could start to add a significant monthly payment until the balance is gone, provided you pay more than the minimum to get rid of it more quickly.

Missing Out on Company-Matching 401k

Retirement may be decades away but that doesn’t mean you should avoid thinking about it until later on.  The earlier you start to save, the more it has to grow over time and the more you are left with to continue to enjoy life when you finally do walk away from work.  While you should increase contributions every year to maximize savings, don’t miss out on taking advantage of any company-matching contributions that would be leaving free money on the table if you otherwise didn’t use it.  That could be tens to hundreds of thousands of decades from now!

Not Taking Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

I understand the resistance to use credit cards for some that may have a spending problem and don’t want to risk going into debt, but if you can keep spending within your budget, using a credit card for all purchases can actually make sense when it comes to rewards, points or dollars that you can earn just by making the purchases you were going to make anyways.  Not taking advantage of that would be leaving free money on the table, adding up to hundreds to thousands a year depending on how much you spend and the significance of the rewards card.

A Few Ways to Save Money on Purchases

While sure, you can start doing an opinion outpost or few to start making some extra money, but a good place to start is reducing the expenses that you already have.  From getting rid of your cable bill, to avoiding going out to eat, to even just cutting out impulse purchases that you don’t need, you can free up extra money that you can put towards better use, such as paying down debt, building up an emergency fund, or better yet, saving for retirement.  I understand there are certain purchases that we do need to make, and that’s where we can apply the best practices to save as much money as we can.

Keep a List

Sure, it can be helpful even for online shopping to avoid filling the cart with items you don’t need, but before you go out shopping, especially when it comes to going grocery shopping, taking stock of everything you need before you leave the house can be important so that by the time you do get to the store you don’t forget what you went in there for, not to mention coming out with plenty of things you didn’t need in the first place.  A list can help you stay organized to maneuver through the aisles getting exactly what you need.

Find the Best Deal

In order to compare prices, we would have to drive all over town, going from store to store to try and save money, and by the time it was all said and done, between dealing with traffic, wasting gas, to maybe save a few bucks, it makes you wonder if your time isn’t more valuable.  These days you have the luxury of being in your own home, able to flip to virtually endless amounts of websites in a matter of seconds each, trying to find the best price.  Best of all, you don’t have to fight the crowds.

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

Credit cards used to get a bad rap, but if used correctly, they can actually make good financial sense.  Take rewards for instance, by making the purchases that you would be making anyways, you can earn points of which you can redeem for gift cards, hotel, or airline miles, or even a cashback check.  It can be argued that you could actually use a credit card for all purchases, but for some, seeing the rewards add up could mean more purchases, and if you are unable to pay off the full statement balance by the due date, the amount you pay in interest could outweigh the rewards.

Or Try Using Only Cash

Credit cards are not for all, and I understand that, so if you are at risk of going into a spending frenzy then perhaps using cash in credit is the way to go.  This way you can allow yourself a certain amount to spend, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.  This could be a nice way to budget all expenses and the little spending money that you have left over.

Expenses You Can Look to Reduce this Year

While you could look to an opinion outpost to give you all of the answers, the truth it it’s up to you to make your own financial decisions and in order to free up extra money each month so that you can build an emergency fund to give you a cushion in case of unexpected expenses, not to mention fund your retirement account so you are prepared when you do finally decide to walk away from work, you need to reduce monthly expenses right now.

Get Rid of Cable

This may be a tough one to swallow, but think about how much TV you actually watch, or better yet, how many channels you actually sit down for, not including flipping around for what is most likely “nothing on” anyways, or a string of commercials.  If you can spring for a streaming service for around $10 a month you can still watch quality shows, even getting an HD antenna so you can still get local channels, it’s probably closer to a reality that you can cut the cable cord and go ahead and save yourself at least a hundred dollars a month.

Reduce Going Out to Eat

This may be more difficult than getting rid of cable, is having someone serve, prepare, and clean up after you when you go out to eat.  The problem is that the costs add up pretty quickly and feeding yourself, let alone an entire family can just be a waste compared to what it would cost if you just went to the grocery store and prepared your meals at home.  Even stopping for coffee can add up over a course of a month so you can even time for your coffee to be brewed by the time you are ready to walk out the door for work in the morning.

Limit Impulse Purchases

Think of when you are at the grocery store without a list, walking up and down each aisle, loading any item into your cart that looks good, especially if you go on an empty stomach, everything looks great, and pretty soon you’re paying through the roof compared to what you had planned, and by the time you get home you wonder why you bought all of these items that now not only hurts your wallet, but also your waistline with all of the junk food purchases that you made.

Boost Your Credit Score

You may not think that credit score has a lot to do with monthly expenses, but think about the bills that are due each month when it comes to the mortgage, any outstanding loans, or interest that you’re paying on a credit card balance that you carry over each month.  By improving your credit score, you can take advantage of the best interest rates on the market and lower your monthly payments if you refinance, take out a new loan to pay off the existing, or get a better credit card and cut up the old one, especially if that new card has rewards that you can earn cashback.

Why You Should Use a Credit Card for Christmas Shopping

One can argue that you should use a credit card for all purchases you make in a given month, but if you are afraid to totally rely on a credit card I don’t blame you, after all, it takes discipline to keep the balance down enough so that you can pay it off entirely by the statement due date, otherwise interest starts to incur.  If you want to try out baby steps and just use for Christmas shopping only, then you can start to see why using credit cards actually make plenty of financial sense.

Better Fraud Protection

When you use your debit card and your card gets compromised, your entire checking account could potentially get wiped out if you don’t catch the fraudulent charges in time.  Sure, you can dispute them, but what if you have bills pending that need to be paid.  The delay in getting the disputed charges returned to you could put your finances in jeopardy, so at least with a credit card if your information is taken and charges are made, at least they’ll remain pending until resolved without putting you on the hook.

Build Up Rewards

Probably the best reason to use a credit card and why it can be argued to be used for all purchases are the credit card rewards.  Now I don’t know if say a victoria secret credit card would give the same perks as the other cards out there, but by making purchases that you would normally make anyways you can earn points to redeem for gift cards to restaurants, earn points for free hotel rooms, or just accumulate dollars that you would receive in a check back to you once a year, either way, not using a credit card is like essentially leaving free money on the table.

Improve Credit Score

You may that that credit score is not important, but if you ever want to buy or refinance your home, get a personal loan, car lease, or even employment, then credit score really does matter when it comes to showing if you are a responsible borrower or not.  While it will not help your score to carry a balance over each month as that would add to your credit utilization, by charging and paying off each month it can not only improve your score with on-time payments, you can also gain credit line increases as well which will add to your overall credit available.

Simplifies Spending

It can be a lot to juggle cash, debit, credit, while staying within a budget and not going overboard.  After all, if you continue to pile up the charges sooner or later you will have to pay them off, so why not simplify purchases with say a credit card.  You can earn rewards while you are making purchases, give yourself a little grace period of paying back, and only have to track purchases on one account and statement to review line by line to see what you purchased the month prior to see any room for improvement.

How Credit Card Debt Can Quickly Spin Out of Control

In this cashless society, relying pretty much on credit and debit cards, especially with the ease of purchases between online shopping and swiping in-store, as the purchases continue to pile up, so does the credit card debt.  When you carry a balance over to the next month is when things can start to add up, now that you are paying interest and the monthly payment will need to be large enough to cover interest and chip away at the balance, before credit card debt can spiral out of control.

Charging to Earn Rewards

Rewards is probably one of the best perks when it comes to using a credit card, earning free money on the purchases you would be making anyways, whether that is in the form of airline miles, points to redeem gift cards, or even get a cashback check each year.  The problem is, once you start to see the rewards adding up, you may be tempted to start making extra purchases just for the rewards.  If you start to carryover a balance and pay interest, that would probably outweigh any rewards you would get in return anyways.

Lack of Emergency Fund

You never know when a large unexpected charge will come up, whether it’s an auto repair, home appliance replacement, or vet bill, that can put a strain on you if you don’t have the available funds and need to put on a credit card, trying to figure out how and when to pay back.  If you can set aside a few months’ worth of reserves, that would give yourself a nice cushion in case something comes up.  From there, saving your retirement would be your next bet, whether that’s a  401k vs ira, it may be best to consult a professional on your best option.

Using Credit Instead of Cash

When you pay with cash you actually see the money leaving your hand and going into the cash register, watching your hard-earned money leave pretty quickly, probably enough to make you wonder if the purchase is worth it in the first place, going back to the days when you would actually think about it and come back to finally make the purchase.  These days you can just swipe your card with no worries, that is until the bill comes in and scares you, but there really is no second guessing when it comes to swiping your credit card.

Not Tracking Purchases

If you don’t know where your money is going, now is the perfect time to take a look at last month’s credit and debit card statements and actually go line by line and see what and where all of your purchases were.  From there you can take a look to see which ones were necessary monthly bills and expenses, and what probably could have been avoided.  A good place to start would be looking at food expenses, specifically going out to eat, something you could have avoided if you would have gone grocery shopping and prepared your meals at home, for a fraction of the cost.

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.

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