5 Choices to Make Today to Save Money

Ways to Save Money The Easy Way

Saving money is crucial to our financial freedom. Not only do we feel more confident and safe with a healthy savings account behind us, but it also deters us from borrowing, or even spending that cash we have worked so hard to save. Most of the time, the difficult part about saving money is not knowing where to cut back and get that money from in the first place.

There are a few steps you can take  to easily save $100 or more a month!  Here’s a few ideas for you to consider:

1. Stop Your Cable Service or Pare it Down

Think about how much TV you actually watch. I find that my kids use their computer to stream everything they want to watch. My husband and I were the only ones watching “live” TV, and as time goes by I find myself doing that even less! Getting rid of cable and subscribing to Netflix or Hulu Plus can be a great money saving decision. Not only do they have all the great shows and movies you want to watch, but you can also connect the service to your TV, phones, and other portable devices.  The monthly savings can be quite significant!

If you can’t bring yourself to cut out cable service completely, scale back on your existing package. Or switch providers! You can usually find great deals with competing cable services but these great deals only apply to new customers. So if your contract is up, you can change companies with no penalty charges.  Or you might try calling your existing provider and telling them that you want to switch. They will usually offer you a better deal just in order to keep your business. This might be a good option if you don’t want to hassle with installation appointments, new boxes, etc.

2. Don’t Eat Out As Often

Packing your own lunch to take with you to work  is always a great idea. I would often take leftovers to the office and heat them up in the office kitchen and my co-workers would ooh and aah at the smell of warm, homemade food!  Much better than ordering something from your local deli or fast food restaurant.

You might also want to skip the morning stop at the specialty coffee store to get your caffeine “fix”. Instead, make your own homemade coffee creamer to add to your coffee and use a nice reusable travel mug and take that to work with you. Spending close to $5 on a daily basis for fancy coffee adds up to over a $100 a month!

Lastly, if there are certain items that your family loves (Red Lobster’s Cheddar biscuits is one that comes to mind), why don’t you look it up on Pinterest. Chances are that you will find a version that you can make at home for a lot less than it would cost at the restaurant!

3. Batch Errands or Carpool

The price of gas seems to be going up on a weekly basis, especially during the upcoming summer months. Make it a point of grouping your errands and plan a route so that you have the least driving back and forth. If you are taking your child to school or camp, try to hit the store that’s close by at once! If you have a doctor’s appointment coming up and you can wait to drop off the clothes at the dry cleaners that’s nearby, don’t make two trips.

4. Shopping Online

There are so many great websites that you can take advantage of and save money when you shop online. Many of them even offer free shipping!  You can do comparison shopping easily by using the “shopping” option on Google. I personally use Amazon as a price comparison because they really do offer such competitive prices.  There are also sites like Ebates.com that actually give you cash back when shop. Often they will have double cash back events, so be sure to be on the lookout for those deals!

5. Re-evaluate Your Cell Phone Service Provider

Many of us have cell phones and services that we have not updated in many years. Call your provider and discuss whether your current plan is optimized for your current needs! I know that most families who no longer have teenagers on their plan discover that they no longer need unlimited texting or expensive data plans. Discuss with your provider ways to make your bill cheaper and also check out other service providers. You could easily go from a $180/month plan to an all inclusive $60/plan without ever noticing a change.

These are just some thoughts on how you can start saving some more money. For more ways to save money check out our awesome Personal Finance section!

 


Saving Money Part 5

Ways to Save Money The Easy Way

If you read the 51 Ways to Save Money…The Easy Way you may know some of you may be thinking I’ve lost my marbles on a few of these ideas, but, stick with me ;) Here is second installment and 10 {more} Easy Ways to Save Money ideas:

  1. Carpool – Take turns hosting a carpool. Whether it’s to work, school, sporting events or a couples night out you’re saving money by carpooling!
  2. Wait 7 Days – When you wait 7 days you’ll either receive a coupon, find a cheaper price on the same item or realize you really didn’t need the item anyway! Tip: When shopping online put the item in your cart, but, don’t check out. Many retailers will send you a email with a discount code so you can purchase the item(s) that was left in your cart :)
  3. Use those gift cards – Unlike money, Gift Cards typically don’t burn a whole in our pocket and they go unused. But, if you don’t use those gifts you will either 1. loose them or 2. loose their value amount because they’ve sat around for to long.
  4. Use the Library – In some of the other Saving Money posts I mentioned reading books, getting rid of cable, unplugging media and so on. You can access your local library for all your entertainment needs and it’s free!
  5. Use Cloth Diapers – When you use cloth diapers on your babies your end result will end in saving money. Your savings will result in thousands of dollars over time and even better if you use your initial cloth diaper purchases for multiple children!
  6. Negotiate for a discount – If you’ve ever sold anything on Craigslist you know that people negotiate for a discount before they even come and see what it is you are selling. So stand up for yourself the next time you make a purchase and negotiate a discount, especially on a big ticket item! Once you get over your initial fear of being turned down, you’ll being asking for a discount more often.
  7. Downsize – Is there really a need for your 4 bedroom house? Do you really need a entire room dedicated to a home office or could you find room in a 2 bedroom condo? As Americans we tend to think “bigger is better”, but, you could be saving money if you downsize. Take out a pen and paper and jot down your expenses versus your savings if you were to downsize. If it’s time, take the leap of faith and downsize!
  8. Re-purpose – I LOVE to re purpose things I find. I’ve taken a egg carton and turned it into a bead organizer for my kids, used a old window as a picture display on my walls, re-purpose Mason Jars for organizing the bathroom to making our own Homemade Chocolate Syrup. Get a little creative and look around your home with ways you can re-purpose items!
  9. Donate – When you give back and donate you’ll be rewarded! Your heart will feel great and you’ll be less stressed with the clutter in your home. If you can’t re-purpose it, donate it!
  10. Drink Water – If you love your carbonated beverages or tend to spend money out at restaurants when you are dining out opt for drinking water. Water is free and the best beverage you could drink!
  11. Make Coffee (and Homemade Coffee Creamer) at Home – Stop spending the $2.50+ on Starbucks coffee and make your own! Calculate how much you spend on buying coffee every week and start making your own coffee at home. You can be saving money today!

Did you miss last week’s edition? No worries you can catch up at Saving Money Part 1 Saving Money Part 2, Saving Money Part 3 and Saving Money Part 4.

Check out the Personal Finance Section for more ways to get your finances on track.


Saving Money Part 4: 10 Ways to Save Money The Easy Way

Ways to Save Money The Easy Way

If you read the 51 Ways to Save Money…The Easy Way you may know some of you may be thinking I’ve lost my marbles on a few of these ideas, but, stick with me ;) Here is second installment and 10 {more} Easy Ways to Save Money ideas:

  1. Be properly insured – This is a tough one in this economy. However, you’ve got to be properly insured. Talk to your Insurance Agent to make sure that you and your family are properly insured. By this I mean, make sure that you have enough coverage if you are involved in a car accident. In the instance you get injured or sick and don’t have income coming in look at Aflac to be a supplement or even grab life insurance if you don’t have any already. You can never be to insured!
  2. Toss Media to the Curb – With the day of electronics EVERYWHERE it’s hard to unplug. However, when you toss media to the curb you’ll be shocked at the money your family will save. Pass the time with games, reading books, exercising or just plain ‘ole playing outside!
  3. Celebrate Birthdays and Anniversaries Simply – It’s so easy to buy extravagant gifts to celebrate special occasions. But, more often than not it’s the simple celebrations that mean the most. Instead of purchasing that $500 necklace to celebrate your loved one throw a party at home with a simple meal and a homemade cake. It’s the memories that will last forever, not the gift!
  4. Discover Whole Foods – I know your first initial reaction is Whole Foods are expensive. However, at the end of the day it’s not about the expense of the food, it’s the overall being. Once you begin to discover whole foods you entire self will feel so much better and you will start putting good things into your families body!
  5. Shop Discount Stores – This is probably a no-brainer, but, when you shop at discount stores for every day items you’ll be surprised at how much you can save. For instance, check out your local Dollar Tree for picture frames, cooking utensils, crafts for the kiddos and seasonal decorations for your home. The bonus is you can use coupons too!
  6. Ask Friends & Family (babysitting, swap meals, etc) – When in doubt, ask friends & family. If you are often in need of babysitting ask them first! Try holding to a day where you drop off your kids for a few hours and switching with your friend so s(he) can go out on their own. If you are in need of something (or can give) ask your friends & family first!
  7. Start a Garden – Start a garden and grow your own foods to save money the easy way! If you don’t have a green thumb start off with herbs in your kitchen. This is also great for teaching kids and they’ll be excited to eat what they are able to grow! If you don’t have any land, but, have a small outdoor area, start a planter garden. They are super easy and portable ;)
  8. Survey Companies – Revert back to #6 to ask what their favorite survey companies are around town. You can make $50+ for a little bit of your time doing research surveys. There’s also lots of survey companies online like Inbox Dollars, Ipsos Survey, MySurvey and National Consumer Panel, to name a few of our favorites.
  9. Swagbucks – If you use a search engine (like Google) you can use SwagBucks and get rewarded! It’s super easy. Sign up with SwagBucks.com and when you search for something online use SwagBucks. You receive SwagBucks which you can redeem for prizes like gift cards to Starbucks, Amazon and Target!
  10. Get a Tune-Up – When you stay up on top of maintenance you won’t be surprised by hefty bills. By getting a tune-up on your vehicles along with your home a/c unit and furnace you’ll save yourself money by having a tune-up.

Did you miss last week’s edition? No worries you can catch up at Saving Money Part 1 Saving Money Part 2, Saving Money Part 3 Stay tuned for the last of the 10 installments on Ways to Save Money next week ;)

Check out the Personal Finance Section for more ways to get your finances on track.


Saving Money Part 3

Ways to Save Money The Easy Way

 

If you read the 51 Ways to Save Money…The Easy Way you may know some of you may be thinking I’ve lost my marbles on a few of these ideas, but, stick with me ;) Here is second installment and 10 {more} Easy Ways to Save Money ideas:

  1. No Cable – This may be a no brainer for some but, going cable free can save you as much as $100 a month! There are other options such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Movie or rent movies from your local Library!
  2. Minimum Cell Plan – You could be surprised at the fact you have more minutes and data usage that you need. Head to your wireless providers website, login to your account or just stop into a local store to find out if you can save a few bucks by lowering your plan.
  3. Taxes are not a good savings plan – Speaking of plan, your taxes are not a good savings plan! Many folks take their income tax return as a savings account and once the money is their hands, it’s spent before you’ve ever received it.
  4. Be Content – This is a hard one as we are always on the go. Be content with staying home and in your overall life…and remember, money doesn’t buy happiness.
  5. Eat Out for Free (or close to it) – Believe it or not there’s lots of ways you can eat out for free (or close to it!). You can sign up with local restaurants who will offer you a free appetizer for joining and then random rewards and coupons throughout the year. We will have more on that, so stay tuned!
  6. Check the Couch Cushions – Ahhhh the couch cushions! You’ll be amazed at how much change adds up in your couch over time. Not to mention the cracks and crevices of your vehicle(s) as well.
  7. Turn Off the Lights – Lights cost money, plain and simple. Turn them off! This is especially so in our house with the kiddos ;)
  8. Home Brew – If my hubby sees this he’ll wanna home brew his own beer. To start the process can be initially a little hefty, but, it’ll pay for itself over time. Plus, if you get good with your home brew you can even sell for a profit ;)
  9. Pack your own lunch – Just for fun, calculate how much you spend on dining out for lunch in a typical work week. Then calculate how much you spend on a packed lunch…you’ll see the savings and begin to pack your lunch, I guarantee it!
  10. Relocate – It’s amazing to see the price differences on living on the East Coast compared to the West Coast. If you are living outside of your means, it may be beneficial to relocate to a affordable city.

Did you miss the previous week’s editions? No worries you can catch up at Saving Money Part 1 and Saving Money Part 2. Stay tuned for another 10 installments on Ways to Save Money next week ;)

Check out the Personal Finance Section for more ways to get your finances on track.


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Saving Money Part 2: 10 Steps to Save Money The Easy Way

Ways to Save Money The Easy Way

If you read the 51 Ways to Save Money…The Easy Way you may know some of you may be thinking I’ve lost my marbles on a few of these ideas, but, stick with me ;) Here is second installment and 10 {more} Easy Ways to Save Money ideas:

  1. Quit your job – Again, I haven’t lost my marbles! With this Saving Money suggestion I need you to do some leg work and get out a calculator! On a sheet of paper jot down your weekly income. Now subtract any expenses you incur while at work. This could be eating lunch out, daycare or babysitting expenses, gas money, bus fare, time spent commuting, work related expenses that’s not reimbursed (uniforms, specialty tools, etc.). How much are you really MAKING at the end of the week? It may be cheaper to stay home…
  2. Couponing - Chances are if you are here, you are already couponing. But, if not check out our online class and get started! Couponing really is the fastest and easiest way to begin saving money…it is!
  3. Stay home more – Again, probably another no brainer, but…If you like to hit the town with friend, stay home! Host a pot luck or a night cap party and let all of your guests contribute. This allows you to still socialize, but, in the comfort of your own home and you’ll be saving money in the process.
  4. Cook from Scratch – I’ve recently been avoiding the packaged foods from the grocery and cooking from scratch. This includes making my own tortilla shells, Hershey Syrup, Ranch Dressing, biscuits, breads and more. Not only am I avoiding GMO’s, High Fructose Syrup and food dyes, but, it’s cheaper!
  5. Meal Plan - Once I starting cooking from scratch I realized I needed to get back to a Meal Plan. This helps SO much with finding ingredients on sale and allowing my family to know what’s for dinner!
  6. Serve Meat as a condiment – If you are a vegetarian you are already one up! If not, serve meat as a condiment. Even with meat on sale, it’s still often pretty expensive especially if you are an organic fan. Start serving your family more fruits and veggies along side meats. This is a great way to start saving money now!
  7. Budget Reasonably – Stop living outside of your means! It’s that easy. Stop spending $250 a week at the grocery store, it’s wasteful spending. There’s no need for Starbucks coffee three times a week or all those 350+ cable channels.  With you budget reasonably you will begin to save money instantly and be able to stick money into a savings account!!!
  8. Accept Hand-Me-Downs – There’s no shame in Hand Me Downs. In fact, I’m going to show you how to Host a Hand Me Down party next week ;) You may even consider joining (or starting your own) FreeCycle group. This is a group that’s full of individuals in your area who like to give things away for free. These items are no longer useful to their owner, but, if you can be creative and accept hand me downs, they’ll be useful to you and they’re FREE!
  9. Garage Sale – Hold a garage sale. It’s that simple. Get rid of your clutter and things that are taking up valueable retail in your house. I will have a in depth article in the coming weeks on How to Hold a Successful Garage Sale…stay tuned!
  10. Thrift Store – All the rage right now are Thrift Stores. You can Thank Macklemore for that! Visit your local Thrift Stores and do it frequently! Get to know when the sales are and when they put out new merchandise. Again, get creative with your findings. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure ;)

Did you miss last week’s edition? No worries you can catch up at Saving Money Part 1. Stay tuned for another 10 installments on Ways to Save Money next week ;)

Check out the Personal Finance Section for more ways to get your finances on track.


Saving Money Part 1: 10 Easy Ways to Save Money

Ways to Save Money The Easy Way

Last week I shared 51 Ways to Save Money…The Easy Way! I know some of you think I’ve lost my marbles on a few of these ideas, but, stick with me ;) Here is our first installment and 10 Easy Ways to Save Money ideas:

    1. Make your own Homemade Laundry Detergent - Laundry detergent has become EXPENSIVE over these past few years. Even with coupons you are still paying around $2 and this is for “cheap” grade detergent with the “expensive” brands like Tide often being at least $4 for a small bottle. Once you get into the habit of making your own Homemade Laundry Detergent you’ll wonder why you didn’t start doing this sooner!
    2. Make your own Dishwasher Detergent – Again, this is a no brainer. Even with sales, dishwasher detergent is expensive. Your initial investment will be pricey, but, you’ll end up saving money in the end!
    3. File your Taxes for Free – It’s tax season. If you have basic w-2′s, 1099 and can tally up your deductions I say save money and file your taxes yourself! There’s lots of options to filing your taxes for free!
    4. Freeze your Debit Card – Stop using your debit card. It’s so easy to swipe that we don’t realize where our money is going. Then there’s number 5!
    5. Cash Only – When you are able to SEE where your money is going you will begin to spend smarter. Give yourself a weekly allowance to spend on groceries, gas, entertainment, etc. and I bet you’ll think twice about giving away your cold hard cash!
    6. Cut hair at home – Who wants to spend $12 (or more) for a hair cut when you can do it at home for FREE?!? The initial investment of clippers and good scissors will run you under $75 and totally worth the expense. Tally up how much you spend on hair cuts in 12 months, it’ll surprise you!
    7. Barter – If you’ve ever sold something, chances are you were offered a amount lower than your asking price. While we often give in, others will too! The next time you are out shopping for a product with a hefty price tag, barter! Ask for a lower price or consider trading something you no longer need for what you do need!
    8. Sell your 2nd car - Is it necessary for your family to have that second or third car? You might want to consider selling your other vehicles and opting for carpooling with other members in your family, neighbors or even riding the bus or a bicycle to your destinations.
    9. Sell everything - This is one you are saying “Has she lost her marbles? I’m not selling everything.” But, wait! I’ve there’s a point behind my madness!!! When you sell off everything, not only will you have extra funds, but, your life will be much simpler. You will have a clear mind set and begin to see your life in a whole new way.
    10. Get a part-time job - Again, this is probably a no-brainer, but, this doesn’t have to be a dead end job. This can be walking dogs in your neighborhood, delivering the newspaper, working at your local sports stadium or simply babysitting.

Stay tuned for another 10 installments on Ways to Save Money next week ;)

Check out the Personal Finance Section for more ways to get your finances on track.


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51 Ways To Save Money…the Easy Way!

51WaysToSaveMoney

Many folks often struggle with ways they can generate income, save money or just get by from pay check to pay check. Here are 51 Ways to Save Money…The Easy Way!

  1. Make your own Homemade Laundry Detergent
  2. Make your own Dishwasher Detergent
  3. File your Taxes for Free
  4. Freeze your Debit Card
  5. Cash Only
  6. Cut your own kids hair (or your own even!)
  7. Barter
  8. Sell your 2nd car
  9. Sell everything
  10. Get a part-time job
  11. Quit your job
  12. Couponing
  13. Stay home more
  14. Cook from Scratch
  15. Meal Plan
  16. Serve Meat as a condiment
  17. Budget Reasonably
  18. Accept Hand-Me-Downs
  19. Garage Sale
  20. Thrift Store
  21. No Cable
  22. Minimum Cell Plan
  23. Taxes are not a good savings plan
  24. Be Content
  25. Eat Out for Free (or close to it)
  26. Check the Couch Cushions
  27. Turn Off the Lights
  28. Home Brew
  29. Pack your own lunch
  30. Relocate
  31. Be properly insured
  32. Toss Media to the Curb
  33. Celebrate Birthdays and Anniversaries Simply
  34. Discover Whole Foods
  35. Shop Discount Stores
  36. Ask Friends (babysitting, etc)
  37. Start a Garden
  38. Survey Companies
  39. Swagbucks
  40. Get a Tune-Up
  41. Carpool
  42. Wait 7 Days
  43. Use those gift cards
  44. Use the Library
  45. Use Cloth Diapers
  46. Negotiate for a discount
  47. Downsize
  48. Repurpose
  49. Donate
  50. Drink Water
  51. Make Coffee (and Homemade Coffee Creamer) at Home

Over the coming weeks I will be going into detail with these 51 Ways to Save Money…The Easy Way!

What are some Easy Ways that YOU Save Money?


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Saving Money & Smart Spending Tips

Money in hand

At one time or another we’ve all been there, drowning it debt or simply not being able to make ends meet. When you are saving money and are educated on smart spending you’ll be out of debt in no time. But, you will need to put forth the effort to regaining control of your bank account and save for retirement.

If your parents’ sound financial advice didn’t resonate with you as a young adult, or if you simply chose to focus elsewhere, you may be finding yourself under financial duress now that you’re a working adult. The turbulent nature of our economy and the restrictive salary of your first job make budgeting seem far-fetched. Unless you want to go back to your college days of microwave meals and bus passes, here are a few tips to get your finances in order.

Work with percentages

If you’re ready to get aggressive with your savings and start building up your nest egg, move forward by using the 50:30:20 Rule in which 50 percent of your monthly salary goes towards your necessities (mortgage/rent, food, monthly bills), 30 percent for wants (entertainment, shopping and travel) and 20 percent for savings. Determine these percentages in advance based on your monthly salary and upon getting paid so you know the exact breakdown of your monthly budget.

Avoid spending on luxury

Luxury items such as cars, clothing, jewelry and other accessories always provide that instant gratification. They may even be useful for selling a professional image at work. Consequently they are a step in the wrong direction if you’re serious about your savings goals, so maintain self-control and spend wisely. Do your research by finding used cars on Kelley Blue Book according to make, model and mileage for customized results, and shop knowing a vehicle’s fair value. For clothing and trendy items, stick to your budget of 30 percent for each month’s “wants” and weigh each swipe of your credit card according to what it means for the rest of your month’s purchases.

Start saving early

Retirement seems irrelevant to a 20-something just entering the workforce, but putting away even a small amount now can protect you from making big monthly payments while juggling financial responsibilities like mortgage payments and private school tuition costs down the road. If you started saving just $5,000 at age 25, you could potentially reach $1 million by age 70—including 6 percent compound average returns. That’s just a little over $400 a month! Starting at age 45 will require $18,000 in savings to produce this same return.

Maximize interest rates on bank accounts, not credit cards

In some cases, debt is unavoidable, and even necessary. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that 60 percent of students borrow every year to cover the cost of college. According to studies by the Federal Reserve, the average credit card debt is $15,279, and the average mortgage debt is $149,456.

Look for high interest rates when it comes to savings accounts, since this reflects the amount you’ll earn simply by letting your money sit in the bank. Make conscientious decisions about where your money goes, and be forward thinking about how each expense effects your future financial situation. Proper planning at a young age will pay off as you age, and you’ll have your smart thinking and small sacrifices to thank in the future!

Extra Income

Whenever possible look for places to earn extra income. This could be by clipping printable coupons, taking online surveys with sites like Inbox Dollars, Ipsos, MySurvey, and National Consumer Panel are just a few to get you started!

In addition, you can clean your home, get rid of the clutter and get organized by selling items on sites that let you sell items for free. There’s TONS of Facebook groups in your neighborhood for this as well as Craigslist and Bukoo.

 

 


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How to Slash your Debt in Half

Hi! I’m Kathleen, and my corner of the internet is Frugal Portland. Thanks, Maria, for letting me write here!

Debt is a four letter word. I mean that not only in the literal sense, but also in the “things you shouldn’t say in polite conversation” sense. And yet? Most people have some type of consumer debt. According to debtconsolidation.com, credit card debt is the most common, and that’s what we’ll focus on today.

Why Care About Credit Card Debt?

If you’re one of the millions of people who carry a balance, you should know something really important. As long as you have credit card debt, you are not in charge of your money. Some giant corporate bank is. Now, let me ask you something, who cares more about your money: you or BofA?

That’s what I thought. So, let’s make this the year to take back your money! Who’s with me?

Sorry, I got carried away there for a minute. In my head, I was gathering people in the street, and we were getting ready to march. Where? I don’t know. But maybe we were going to storm the banks to take back our…?

Instead, we’ll keep it on the internet. But we’ll take back our money by slashing our debt in half.

Once we do that, the other half just doesn’t stand a chance.

How to Slash Your Debt in Half

Stop using credit cards. Right now, this minute. Stop. Take them out of your wallet, and either cut them up, or if that’s too scary or dramatic, put them in your bedside table. Use debit cards instead. Or cash, if you’re at Target. I don’t care about the points. You don’t get to care about them either, not until you’re done slaying this dragon. Think of the debt as a bucket of water. Paying off debt is removing water a cup at a time. But continuing to use the credit card while paying off debt is like putting a tablespoon back in. If the goal is an empty bucket, you have to stop with the tablespoons!

Figure out the low-hanging fruit. When I was deep in credit card debt I had more than four different cards at varying interest rates. My first step? I paid off the card with the lowest balance. They all had interest rates that were terrifyingly large, but there’s so much value in getting rid of one whole card. One down, three to go!

Become more of a minimalist. You know what will keep you broke? Spending more money. And you know what will make you want to spend more money? Having a closet full of things you don’t like wearing. Start your minimalist wardrobe and you’ll be happier, because you’ll only keep the things you love. Then, when you open your closet, you’ll see all of your favorites, and nothing else. You might think this will make you want to go shopping, but that’s surprisingly not the case. You’ll see how much you have, and you won’t feel like you need one more black top (ahem, guilty).

Save treats for milestones. Every single milestone deserves a treat. You paid off that card with the lowest balance? Hooray! Sound the noise maker! Your debt is down a digit? HOLY COW THAT IS AMAZING! These things deserve a treat. Really. Have a latte. Go get a manicure. Do not go to Tahiti. Little treats. Because you’re not treating yourself anymore just because you’re tired/sad/had a bad day, right?

Track your progress. And use this little trick of psychology. Open a spreadsheet. Write January at the top, and your total debt just below it. Make that debt a negative number. Then, in February, when you make a payment, those are positive numbers. Your chart will inch up in the positive direction.

All right, so we’re not storming the street. But we are going to take back our money. Who’s with me?

About the author: Kathleen O’Malley writes at Frugal Portland about living simply, increasing productivity, and saving money.


(Still available!) FREE eBook: Dave Ramsey’s Guide to Budgeting

Dave Ramsey's Guide to Budgeting

It’s a new year and I can imagine as many of us look back at 2012 we see areas we could improve on financially.  Too many lattes and not enough in savings?  Dave Ramsey has released a completely free resource called “Dave’s Guide to Budgeting“.  I am not sure how long it will be available for free, so I’d suggest you head on over and download it now.

More details about the free download:

For the first time, we’ve put together an awesome Guide to Budgeting that looks at all the nooks and crannies of making a budget. And the good news? It’s not about numbers. Or math. Or fancy calculations. It’s practical, down-to-earth information and encouragement that’s sure to get you started on the right foot. But it’s up to YOU to get started!

If you’re looking to for a success story you should read Katie’s, she shared their debt free journey here on TFF last year.

They’re DEBT FREE: $77,000 in 28 Months

They’re DEBT FREE: $77,000 in 28 Months Part 2

Here are a few more posts that I think will inspire you on your own journey to financial peace…

FREE Debt Snowball and Avalanche Plans Worksheet Download

Getting Your Finances In Order: Save Cash By Using Cash

Getting Your Finances In Order: TFF Tackles the HSA

Don’t buy stuff you cannot afford.


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*It’s Back!* Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Junior Kit – $14.39 Shipped!

 

Update: This crazy good price is available once again!

We have a set of Dave Ramsey audio books for the kids that we listened to over the Christmas break.  We’ve always taught them to divide their money between 3 envelopes – Give, Save, and Spend.  However until they listened to these stories they didn’t quite grasp why and the thought of saving for college or a car was so far removed from their everyday life.  It’s been so much fun to see the lessons come to life for them!  The Financial Peace Junior Kit includes their favorite book – Battle of the Chores.  I highly recommend this kit for your children, ours are ages 5, 7, 9, and 11 and they were all ears and we loved how the concepts were broken down for them to understand.

Amazon has Financial Peace Junior Kit on sale right now for $14.939 plus free shipping for Prime Members.

In the Financial Peace Junior Kit you’ll find the following:

  1. Kid’s Activity Book
  2. Parent Guide
  3. Quick Start Guide
  4. Dry Erase Chore Chart
  5. Magnet Frame
  6. Battle of the Chores Audiobook
  7. 4 Crayons
  8. Calculator
  9. Stickers
  10. Wet Erase Marker
  11. Give, Save, and Spend Envelopes

From Dave Ramsey about WHY we should teach our kid’s about money:

Remember when you were a kid and had no idea what it was like to pay bills? Parents often shelter their kids from grown-up realities about money. But in our attempts to protect them from “real world” truths, we can fail to teach them about money at all.

As a result, we’re raising a whole generation with “sucker” stamped on their foreheads. When your kids leave home, they need to know how to handle the financial challenges and temptations they’ll face. They should be aware of the hidden dangers behind those credit card offers and that driving a used car isn’t such a bad thing. It’s our job as parents to get this message through to them. If you teach your children how to handle money when they’re young, they won’t end up with money regrets later on in life. You can give them the head start you wish you’d had.


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Can I get a credit limit increase, please?


This was too good (in a sadly true way) not to share.  This isn’t meant to stir controversy and more than the government innuendos I took this and applied it to our personal lives.  We should all be thinking about the legacy we’re leaving for our children.  Do we want to bless them or leave them to clean up our mess?

Thanks for sharing Frugal Living NW!


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Why I think the “52 Week Money Challenge” isn’t the best idea out there…

52 Week Money Challenge

Have you see this posted on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter?  Surely you’ve seen it by now, it seems everyone I know is sharing it like it’s a magic diet pill for your finances.  We all know diet pills don’t work and while this challenge may work, it’s just silly.

The premise is this…

Week 1 you deposit $1 into a jar
Week 2 you deposit $2 into the jar
Week 3 you deposit $3 into the jar
Week 4 you deposit $4 into the jar

…all the way until week 52 where you deposit $52 into the jar.  At this time you’ll have saved $1,378.00.

In case you care what my opinion is on the subject…

I think this is a bit silly for a myriad of reasons, but for starters how do you know come 11+ months from now you’ll have an extra $200/month to deposit into the jar?  If you have that much now, why not start saving the $52/week right right away?  This is way more complicated than it should be because each and every week will be a different amount.  My guess is that many people will fall off the wagon half way through the year.  This is a band-aid and not a solution for financial irresponsibility.  There I said it.  This is for people who can’t manage their money and find themselves broke at the end of the year.  Which isn’t YOU.  You are here because you know how to live frugally or you’re learning how – way to go!

If you budget money for all of your expenses on a monthly basis, you will have the money in place for all of life’s needs.  Christmas budget, car maintenance, back to school clothes, etc.   Think of budgeting (we suggest the envelop budget method) like stockpiling toothpaste – when you need it, it will be there.  When your radiator explodes (do they do that?) then you’ll have the money that has been building up in your car maintenance envelope to take care of the problem.

What do I suggest doing instead of the 52 Week Money Challenge?  

FIRST set aside a percentage of your income each and every month to be automatically drafted out of your bank account into your savings account.   When you have an emergency fund in place ($1000 minimum) and IF you are debt free then start investing your money.  But this $1, $2, $3 a week thing is for the birds in my opinion.  If your family makes $4000/month and you put 5% into savings that’s $200/month and at the end of 12 months you’d have $2400. Or if you’re stuck on the $1,378 number then you can depositing $26.50 per week into the jar (or savings account).  Either way you must ask yourself:  ”What is the purpose I have intended for this money?”  That is a vital part to this equation.

HOWEVER like I mentioned briefly above, it all depends on what this money is for. Is it for an emergency fund or a Christmas budget?  If your money doesn’t have a purpose assigned to it there’s a much higher chance you’ll raid the funds when something unexpected comes up.  You need to have 2 different things in place:

  1. a budget that covers your day to day and month to month expenses and
  2. a savings plan that will cover emergencies.

That’s it for now until you’re debt free – then invest the extra, don’t stick it in a jar.

WHO I think this will work for would be someone who is learning to get in the habit of saving but even still I’d suggest starting with a flat weekly amount and not bothering with changing amounts each and every week.

I know this is a super popular savings method that popped up seemingly out of nowhere over the past couple of months so I’d like to hear what your thoughts are.  Do you disagree with my thoughts on this method?  Are you in the middle of this program, if so how is it working out?  I’m looking forward to hearing what you all have to say!

 


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How to make Money with eBay — Customer Service Tips

This series is brought to you by Kimberly from Homemaking Expert. Kimberly is a stay-at-home mom who uses eBay to supplement her family’s income while her husband finishes college. She writes at Homemaking Expert about cleaning, cooking, budgeting and all other things related to making a house a home.

Now that you have listed your item and shipped your item, let’s talk about how to deal with your customers. Having good customer service skills is a great tool for success. Here are a few things to remember when it comes to keeping your customers happy:

Feedback Score

After an item sells your customers have the ability to give you a feedback score. There are two aspects to this. They can give you negative, positive or neutral feedback. Obviously, you want positive every time! The amount of positive ratings you have shows up beside your username on your item listing. The higher that rating, the more confident buyers will be.

The second aspect is the five star scoring system. They can rate you from one to five stars on communication, shipping cost, shipping time and item as described. It is important that these scores be above 4.5 stars. When it dips below that, eBay and Paypal start to get a bit leery. Your account will be evaluated every 35 days and if you have bad ratings your account can be put on temporary hold, restricted or even removed. So, like I said, customer service is important!

Communication

If you get questions about an item before it sells or after an item is received answer in a timely fashion – within the first 24 hours is ideal. And if there is a delay in shipping for whatever reason, let them know right away. It is easy to misinterpret one’s tone in an email, so be as nice as possible! Chances are if it sounds cheesy in text, it’ll come across pleasant on the other side.

Shipping Time

Ship fast! My goal is to have items picked up or dropped at the post office within 24 hours of receiving payment. That way the customer can see it’s on its way and so can Paypal and eBay. Having a high shipping score is a good way to avoid your Paypal account being set to pending status and having to wait for your money. Shipping the item right away makes for happy customers and excellent feedback!

 Unhappy Customers

Despite your best efforts of describing an item thoroughly, shipping an item fast and communicating well, you will have customers that just aren’t happy with the product. So, what then? Here’s what I do…

I do put in every listing that I don’t accept returns in an effort to deter people from requesting a refund. However, chances are if a customer asks for a refund I am willing to come to a compromise in the name of good feedback.

If the item was indeed defective or there was something major that I overlooked, I issue a full refund. I usually do not ask them to send it back in this case and just send back their money and cut my losses.

If the item is simply not what they expected but I described everything accurately, I offer them two options – to either issue a percentage refund and they keep the item (usually 30%) or to have them return the item and I will issue a full refund less the eBay fees and shipping costs to me. In this scenario I typically require that they pay for return shipping.

Under most circumstances your customer will be satisfied, but it’s important to know what to if the situation arises.  Being a happy seller is as important as having happy customers. So, next we’ll talk about ways to stay organized which for me equals happy!

Upcoming Posts in This Series

Getting Started
What to Sell
Finding Inventory
Listing Your Items – Part 1
Listing Your Items – Part 2
Smooth Shipping
Customer Service Tips
Staying Organized
Tips for Success
My eBay Successes & Stumbles


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How to Make Money with eBay — Smooth Shipping

This series is brought to you by Kimberly from Homemaking Expert. Kimberly is a stay-at-home mom who uses eBay to supplement her family’s income while her husband finishes college. She writes at Homemaking Expert about cleaning, cooking, budgeting and all other things related to making a house a home.

Packaging and shipping your items can be the most time consuming part of selling items on eBay. There are several tips that I have learned along the way that have really helped me to streamline this process. I only ship using the postal service, so my tips are specific to that option. You can also ship using FedEx or UPS, but I find that to be a bit more expensive and time consuming.

Shipping Cost

As I mentioned in the Listing Your Item-Part 2 post, I personally charge my buyers the shipping cost. Most people who purchase items online are expecting to pay for shipping so I don’t feel charging shipping deters people from purchasing from me.

To calculate shipping I weigh my item and then use eBay’s shipping calculator to determine what to charge. I always add one pound to the weight to account for a box or packaging materials. Then I charge the lowest shipping method, such as parcel post or priority flat rate. I let my buyer know in the description that the cheapest shipping is rarely the fastest and if they’d like a faster method to let me know and I’d tell them what the difference is that they need to pay.

(Note – the shipping calculator is available at this link and in the listing section where you choose your shipping cost for the item.)

Packaging

As I mentioned in the Getting Started post, I rarely pay for packing supplies. I find boxes to reuse, keep newspapers and magazines to use for packaging and save brown paper bags to use to wrap items. If you are shipping an item with Priority services, those boxes are available for free at the post office or you can order them online for free and have them delivered to you.

The only packaging supply that I ever pay for is tape and larger manila envelopes. And those supplies I purchase at The Dollar Tree.

Shipping Time

I always try to have my item out to ship within 48 hours of receiving payment. This is a bit obvious but extremely important - do not ship an item before you receive full payment for that item!

For the first 90 days of you being a new eBay seller, your money is held in your Paypal account until three days after the item shows delivered. So, the sooner you ship, the sooner you get paid. I always use eBay or Paypal to print my shipping label so that the tracking number is automatically updated to my account and Paypal, eBay and the buyer can track the package easily.

Time Savers

Here is my process for shipping – on the last day of the auction I package for shipping everything that has sold. I then weigh each item and write on the package the weight and the contents. Then I make a list of the items and the weight of each and stack the packages in a closet waiting for payment.

Usually each buyer will pay within 3 days. As the item is paid for, I can reference my list for the weight, go through eBay to pay for a print the shipping label, cut the bottom half off of the label, which is your receipt, and tape the label to the package.

Here’s the best time saver tip – I schedule a pick up. That’s right, the mailman comes to my door and picks up the packages. You have to have at least one priority item to schedule a pick up, and you just go online, let them know where to get them, how many they are getting and what time you’ll be home. Then they pick them up! Great, huh?! You can run a business without ever even having to leave the house!

Tomorrow we will talk more about what happens when the customer receives the package. We’ll go over feedback and how important that is and what to do if you have an unsatisfied customer!

Upcoming Posts in This Series

Getting Started
What to Sell
Finding Inventory
Listing Your Items – Part 1
Listing Your Items – Part 2
Smooth Shipping
Customer Service Tips
Staying Organized
Tips for Success
My eBay Successes & Stumbles


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