Archive

Category Archives for "Saving Ideas"

Find New Ways Of Saving Money

Being financially independent isn’t just about earning more money, but saving it as well. Learn some money saving tips from the experts here.

Saving Ideas

Latest Articles

1

7 Factors That Affect Car Insurance Rates

Shopping for car insurance can be stressful and confusing. How much insurance do you really need? While many drivers choose to reduce rates by opting for lower coverages or raising deductibles, smart drivers can lower rates by being aware of factors that affect car insurance rates and changing things that are within their control.

Here are 7 factors that can affect your car insurance rates.

Gender And Age Of The Driver

It’s no secret that young men have the highest car insurance rates. The reason is that women are usually better drivers according to statistics. Don’t worry guys – the tables flip as you age. Older men have better rates than older women, as statistically older women are more likely to get in an accident.

Marital Status

If you’ve been putting off popping the question, you may want to think twice. Married people get in less accidents than their single counterparts, so getting hitched is an easy way to reduce your premiums. As a bonus, you can also combine policies and get a multi-driver discount.

Your Neighborhood

You’ve probably heard that most accidents occur close to home, so it’s no surprise that your neighborhood affects your insurance rates. Neighborhoods with large populations means there’s plenty more opportunities for a fender bender, so living in a city or a crowded neighborhood can push up your premiums.

In addition, rough neighborhoods can have higher instances of theft or vandalism which will also drive up rates.

Your Cars’ Safety Rating

Obviously you want a car that’s safe, but your insurance also wants you to have a car that’s safe too. Cars with higher safety ratings are cheaper to insure because the odds of the insurance company having to pay for passengers’ medical bills are lower.

Age Of The Car

Repair costs are similar for old and new vehicles, but older vehicles are more likely to be totaled in an accident. The reason is that the cost of repairs rapidly surpasses the value of the vehicle the older it gets. For the insurance companies, the cost of replacing an old car is much lower than replacing or making significant repairs on a new car, so older cars are cheaper to insure.

Vehicle Size

SUV’s and minivans may cost more to purchase, but they’re generally safer in an accident, thus larger cars with good safety ratings tend to have lower premiums than smaller cars with similar ratings.

However, if your car has a big engine like a V8, expect to pay a little more for all that extra power.

Driving History

Not surprisingly, your driving history has a huge impact on your rates. If you’ve had accidents, speeding tickets or previous auto insurance claims you can bet that you’ll be paying more than a good driver. If your record is particularly bad, the insurance company may even deny you coverage.

Do you know of any other factors that can affect your auto insurance rates? Let me know in the comments section so I can update this post.

  • Edwin
  • February 15, 2015
1

6 Ways To Save Money On Your Next Vacation

Going on vacation can help you relax and recharge. Most working people find they are ready to get back into the swing of things with a renewed vigor after having a week or two of vacation time.

For families, vacations are a great way to make memories and spend time together. However, going on vacation can be really expensive. Use the following 6 tips to save money on your next vacation and make a getaway more of a reality.

Use Smartphone Apps

Download apps on your phone to find cheap food and entertainment at your destination. Apps like Foursquare and Scoutmob are the most popular, but they won’t help you find lesser-known places where deals are abundant and crowds are scarce.

For the best deals, try smaller free apps like Happy Hour Finder which lists happy hour deals near you.

Use Daily Deal Sites

Take advantage of Groupon, Living Social and the other daily deal sites. Look up the city you’re traveling to before you head out and grab some cheap deals. Not only will you score a bargain, you’ll also get a better idea of what there is to do in the area you’re headed to.

Skip the main tourist attractions and visit the smaller, lesser known places listed on the daily deal sites for an adventure minus the crowds and big bills.

Research Public Transportation

Research the public transportation systems ahead of time, print maps and plan your days in advance. Doing this little bit of work can not only save you time when you get to your destination, it’ll also save you money. Rather than spending cash on a cab, hop on the subway to get your destination faster and for a lot less money.

Most big cities have transportation near their airports and many hotels are located along commuter lines.

Use Restaurant.com Deals

Scour restaurant.com in advance of your visit. Check out some great local places to eat and then check restaurant.com for discount gift certificates. Just type in the zip code of the area you’re headed to and you’ll see a list of local eateries offering great deals. Make sure to read the fine print to make sure the certificate is good on the days you plan to be in town.

Member Perks

Check out your member perks for any services you belong to. If you’re a member of AAA, Bank of America or any other organization that gives discounts and perks, check out what’s available at your destination. For example, Bank of America offers free admission to partner museums on the first weekend of every month. That can really add up if you happen to be traveling at the right time.

Dining In

Go grocery shopping, even on vacation. Eating out is expensive, so if your accommodations have a small fridge, you can pick up some easy-to-eat groceries like milk for cereal or sandwich ingredients. These small meals are good enough for a quick breakfast or lunch and can help cut your food budget in half.

  • Edwin
  • November 14, 2014
1

9 Tips For Lending Money To Friends And Family

While lending money to friends and family is generally considered a bad idea, sometimes you have to make a small loan to help those you love get by.

If you have the means, helping can be done if you’re smart about your personal lending practices. The last thing you’d want is to lose a friend or start a family feud over money.

To avoid any problems, employ the following 9 tips when lending money to friends and family.

Don’t Cosign Loans

Don’t put yourself in a bad situation by cosigning on a loan, getting them a credit card or letting them use your credit to get a cell phone or a gym membership.

Think about why they’re asking to use your credit. It’s probably because they have bad credit, which means they don’t pay their bills. See where I’m going with this?

The last thing you want is them in charge of your future credit score. If they miss a payment or default on the loan it could ruin your ability to secure credit or get a loan in the future.

Only Lend What You Can Easily Afford

Don’t loan anyone too much money. The more money that is exchanged, the higher the risk to the relationship breaking apart if the loan isn’t paid back.

Even if they claim they’ll pay you back in a week, just don’t do it. Anything can happen.

What if the money you lent them gets stolen? What if their expected tax refund comes in far less than they hoped? What if they get hurt? What if they lose their job?

Many things can happen that will ultimately lead to you not getting your money back.

Therefore, only lend what you can easily afford. Treat any personal loan like a gift. If they pay you back, then great, it’s a bonus.

If you go into the loan not expecting to get the money back, you won’t be in a bad situation if it’s not paid back or not paid back in a timely manner.

Consider How The Loan Will Impact Other Relationships

Sometimes lending money to one family member will impact your relationship with another. Did you turn down your brother for a loan last year, but this year you lent your other brother money? Does your spouse not agree (or do they even know) of your lending practices?

Think about how your funding could make others in the family feel before you lend the money.

Get The Details About The Loan

Always ask where the money is going before you decide whether or not to make the loan. Make sure it’s being spent on something worthwhile.

How would you feel if the other party used the money to have a nice vacation at your expense? What if it was to make an investment?

If the other party gets offended by your question, that’s a good sign that you shouldn’t be making the loan.

Charge Interest On The Loan

Most people that lend money to friends and family don’t think to charge interest because they think it’s rude.

But charging interest on your personal loan is the easiest way to protect yourself. Charging interest will help get your money back since it will make the transaction seem more businesslike than personal.

The odds of you being paid back increase as well because the other party will want to get the loan paid back as soon as possible so as to not accrue more interest.

Discuss The Terms

Talking about finances with friends and family is never easy, but if you’re in the position to lend money you really need to talk about all of the terms. This includes interest, repayment schedules and late fees.

It is imperative to discuss the details beforehand so there will be no misunderstandings later. You could be expecting to be paid back all the money a little bonus as a thank you. But if you didn’t talk about it, forget about it.

You could be expecting to be paid back within a month, but if it wasn’t discussed, you could instead see your money next year, if ever.

You could expect the other party will pay you something extra if they’re late on their payments, but if an exact amount isn’t discussed beforehand, expect nothing, nothing but an argument, that is.

Get Everything In Writing

Just because you’re on great terms with someone right now doesn’t mean you always will be. Get your loan terms in writing just so that in the event of a fallout, there’s no confusion as to who owes whom.

Having an agreement in writing also increases the chances you’ll be paid back. The other party will fear a lawsuit they will surely lose if they don’t pay you back.

Asking that the loan agreement be in writing is a bit like asking for a prenup. It’s awkward to ask, but it’s necessary to avoid possible problems in the future.

Imagine The Worst-Case Scenario Ahead Of Time

Talk about what happens in the event of a default and have a plan of action. Make sure the loanee knows that it’s a business transaction and that there are rules in place.

Distance Yourself From The Loan

Once the loan is made, resist the urge to micromanage how the money is spent. While you may feel an attachment to the money, once the transaction is done, the money is no longer yours and deciding how it is spent isn’t up to you anymore.

  • Edwin
  • September 25, 2014
1

7 Ways To Save On Back To School Shopping

For most parents, back to school time is a wonderful time of year. The kids are out of the house learning and you’ve got some more time to get things done.

However, along with the freedom that comes from sending the kids back into the classrooms comes the burden of purchasing school supplies and back to school clothes. Kids tend to grow a lot over the summer and everyone likes to start the school year with new clothes which makes back to school expensive.

Read on to discover 7 ways you can save money on your back to school shopping.

Sell Their Old Clothes

To make money for their new wardrobe, sell their old clothes first. This seems pretty self explanatory, but as long as the old outgrown clothes are in good shape, you can sell them at a consignment sale to make money to buy new clothes. eBay, Craigslist and even a garage sale are alternatives to consignment shops.

Host A Clothing Swap

You can gather up local moms and host a clothing swap with your mom friends. If you and your mom friends have kids that are the same age and roughly the same size, you can swap clothes to create new outfit possibilities. Get your kids involved and have fun trading in old fashions for new and exciting ones.

Make A Clothes Budget

Set a budget – and stick to it. Before you even step foot in the store, set a budget for your back to school shopping. If your kids are old enough, have them decide how to prioritize the budget. Do they want the fancy shoes or name-brand shirts? Maybe they put more importance on nice school supplies than clothes. Budgeting and involving the kids will keep your back to school spending in check while teaching your kids about responsible spending.

Time Your Shopping Correctly

While shopping before school starts seems like a good idea, the best sales happen in October after school has already started. If new clothes aren’t needed right away, wait until the real sales start to indulge in back to school shopping. You may even be able to score some great deals for next year if you’re good at predicting how your kids will grow.

Buy Used Clothes

Sometimes you can find clothes that have been barely worn or not worn at all at your local thrift store. Big department stores often donate clearance clothing that didn’t sell after a certain period of time. Finding out when the department stores donate can yield amazing savings on brand new clothing. Just remember to examine anything you buy carefully to look for rips, stains and patches.

Use Coupons

Many department stores offer coupons for a percentage off your purchase or for a special price on specific items. Combine coupons with sales to get the best deals on staple items for your child’s wardrobe. You may also find coupons for school supplies online that you can print off and combine with back to school sales.

Stock Up

If you find a rock bottom price on school supplies, it’s time to stock up. Buy extra to last throughout the year and if you can use a coupon to get it for free, grab as many as you can and save them for the following years too.

3

7 Things You Should Buy In Bulk

When times are tough, some people start looking for a way to make what they purchase go a lot further. One way of doing that is to buy in bulk. With the advent of such stores as the Sam’s Club and Costco, it’s much easier to do. Both stores require a yearly membership fee, but you’ll quickly recoup your investment with just a few bulk purchases.

There are three main questions that you need to ask when you go shopping in bulk. First, do I really need this much of it? Second, is the price per unit really good? And lastly, do I have room? If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you should buy that item in bulk.

Below I’m going to list 7 items that you should consider buying in bulk.

Alcohol

If you drink alcohol, you may want to think about buying that in bulk. You can get great deals on such items as beer, wine and some liquors. The overall cost per unit is lower than at the local grocery store or a liquor store.

Beans, Pasta, Grains

If your meal planning involves such items as beans, pasta and grains, buying those items in bulk makes a lot of sense. They are easy to store and they last a long time. You can use them up a little at a time throughout the year and it’s good to know they’re always there in case of an emergency. In most cases, you can save up to 32% less than buying them at the grocery store.

Cereal

If you have children you know they eat a lot of cereal. Buying at the local grocery store can get expensive when you buy box after box. Buying it in bulk is an excellent way to remedy that situation. You can save up to 50% by buying corn flakes in bulk. Keep in mind, it’s easy to go crazy with this one. Make sure you don’t buy too many boxes, as children’s tastes tend to change from time to time.

Toilet Paper

Everyone uses toilet paper, napkins and other paper products. Buying toilet paper in bulk is very practical as you know you’re going to use it. If you’re lucky to have the room it’s always a good idea to stock up on TP.

Office Supplies

If you have a home office you’ll always be in need of various office supplies. This could be paper clips, paper, envelopes, staples, boxes, tape, etc. Obviously these items won’t spoil, you’ll use them all and best of all you won’t have to make any more trips to the store just because you ran out of printer ink.

Vitamins

Another good item to stock up on next time you’re at a warehouse club store are vitamins and pain relief medication. Just one big bottle can last you months if not years. These products typically don’t expire for a few years so buying in bulk here is a safe bet. You can choose to save even more by not buying name-brand pills. Just look at the ingredients to ensure the cheaper replacement product you buy is exactly the same.

Diapers

If you’ve got a newborn you know they use lots of diapers and wipes. Buying those necessities in bulk is going to save you in the long run. In addition, you’ll have them when you need them instead of having to make that emergency run to the store to grab some diapers. Just make sure when buying those items in bulk that you keep in mind that babies grow and they will outgrow their diapers every few months.

Are there any other items you guys like to buy in bulk? Let us know in the comments section.

3 Reasons Your Car Insurance Rates Went Up

There’s a lot more that goes into your car insurance premium than just having a clean driving record. Certain changes in your life outside of having an accident can cause your insurance rates to spike. If you have seen your premiums go up for apparently no reason, there may be an outside factor causing your insurer to hike prices.

Here are 3 possible reasons your car insurance has gone up.

You Moved

Where you park your car at night is a huge determinant in your auto insurance rates. The insurance companies look at data for your neighborhood regarding break-ins, collisions and other factors that determine your rates. Just because the neighborhood seems nice doesn’t mean that you don’t have a high number of drunk drivers for neighbors or that your area isn’t a target for petty thieves breaking into cars at night.

Obviously, you will do everything you can to avoid being in an accident, but you can’t control what those around you do. If your neighbors aren’t so careful about their driving habits, your rates can be affected. This goes back to the concept of risk.

Insurance companies charge you based on the likelihood of you submitting a claim. They look at everything in your life, including your address, to determine your risk. That means that if you live in a neighborhood full of bad drivers, your insurer may decide that you could be a bad driver too and increase your rate.

You Changed Your Car

Every car has an accident rate score and a theft rate score. If you purchase a sports car like a BMW 328i for example, odds are your insurance premium will increase. Likewise, a Honda Civic may be costlier to insure since they are stolen so frequently.

You may still be the same driver with zero accidents and zero tickets. You may still be living in the same zip code in the same house. You may still drive the same number of miles per year. Yet still, changing your vehicle can have an adverse impact on your insurance rate.

Before deciding on a car to buy, you should contact your insurance company and ask them how your rate will change. If you’re debating between two cars to purchase, you may be swayed into getting the one with the lower insurance premium.

Your Credit Score Declined

If you experience a decline in your credit rating, your problem may be compounded by having your auto insurance rates go up too. By now you know that your credit score impacts pretty much everything in your life. It can get you denied from a job, renting an apartment and of course from getting a car or a home loan.

But increasingly auto insurance companies are monitoring your credit score and adjusting your rates accordingly. If you commit a financial faux pas and ignore a few credit card bills, it could not only hurt your credit but also negatively impact your insurance premiums. Credit is considered a marker of responsibility, so those with bad credit are usually judged to be more reckless, as a bigger risk and thus more likely to drive in a reckless manner.

There is no such thing as an arbitrary increase to your car insurance rates. If your premiums have gone up recently, one of the 3 reasons above is probably the culprit. Your absolute best defense against overpaying on car insurance is to periodically shop around and see if there’s anything cheaper out there. Don’t let the insurance company be in the driver’s seat – beat them at their own game and take control of your rates.

1

7 Ways To Cut Costs At The Grocery Store

How much do you spend on groceries a month? Have you noticed the price of just about everything has gone up as of late? This trend isn’t going to stop any time soon.

If your grocery store expenses are beginning to eat away at your budget something’s got to change. If you want to keep your wallet and your stomach happy, follow these 7 smart ways to reduce your costs at the grocery store.

Make A List

This scenario plays out every day: You need to buy just a couple of things at the grocery store and before you know it you’re at the checkout lane with a cart full of goods. This happens because of a lack of careful planning. Before you go shopping, plan your meals, make a shopping list and stick to it.

Use Coupons

Another great way to spend less at the grocery store is to pay attention to the stores’ current deals. When you enter the store it’s always a good idea to pick up their flyer/mailer which is full of their current deals and coupons. You can also find manufacturers coupons online that you can print and bring to the store with you.

Don’t Shop Hungry

One of the biggest mistakes many of us make is going to the store hungry. When you need a bite to eat, everything in the store looks good. It’s always good to go shopping right after eating a meal or a light snack. The chances of you overspending should dramatically decrease.

Skip Organic

Buying organic foods is great, but only if it fits into your budget. Produce with a thick skin (such as avocados and bananas) aren’t too susceptible to pesticides, so you can skip the organic versions of those items.

Buy In Bulk

Take advantage of buying in bulk when possible. Individually wrapped items will always cost you more. You’re pretty much just paying extra for the packaging. Buying things in bulk helps you not only save money, but also saves trips to the grocery store.

Buy Store Brand Items

For most items, store brand items are equal to name brand items. There are a few exceptions such as corn flakes or potato chips for example. But for other items like bandages, pain relief medication, vitamins, raisins, peanuts, they’re the exact same thing.

Watch The Register

A final yet crucial tip on saving money on groceries is to always check the register during checkout. If you’re not keeping a keen eye on the display, you’ll find some items will be scanned twice or will ring up at a higher price. This is typical for sale items where the price change has yet to be changed in the system. But isn’t it interesting that the errors are never in your favor.

How else do you manage to cut costs at the grocery store?

3

5 Tips For Traveling On A Budget

It is always nice to travel and experience new things in a new place to stimulate your ins and your senses. However, traveling has never been a poor man’s hobby. But that was before.

Now, both local and world travel have taken a different turn. Traveling is no longer an extravagant activity exclusive to the affluent. There are now more than enough ways to get you all set and ready to fly to a far-away destination. All it takes is some careful planning.

Here are five helpful budget travel suggestions:

1. Search For Budget Locations

A vacation in Poland will cost a whole lot cheaper than a trip to France. So try to evaluate what you really want to get out of your trip before you plan it.

Do you want a beach escapade, a historical adventure, or a cultural experience? Once you have defined what you really want, pick the destination that can hand you that experience in the cheapest package.

2. Plan Way Ahead Of Time

Much like the early bird gets the worm, those who plan their trip early get the best rates. Low-cost seats on an airline, off-season hotel room rates and free attraction tickets aren’t available year-round either. So plan your trip at the right time and reserve your spot early.

Your chances of getting the best deals in town are much higher if you book months ahead of schedule. When seats, rooms or tickets begin selling out, the price of the remaining tickets always go up.

3. Set A Budget

Before planning your trip to determine how much money you want to spend on it. Look at your savings, your debt and your monthly income to determine how much of a trip you can afford.

Once you come up with a dollar amount be sure not to exceed this amount. Take into account transportation costs, hotel stay, food, souvenirs and attractions. Then factor in a couple hundred dollars more for “miscellaneous”.

When you say budget travel, you have to learn how to let go of some of the frills and perks that you’re used to. So instead of booking a car rental service, use public transportation instead. Instead of a guided tour, try a do-it-yourself sightseeing trip.

4. Travel In Groups

There’s nothing more affordable than a bill split four ways. So instead of traveling as a couple, find a set of friends with whom you can share the experience (all the expenses) with.

If you book with the travel agent they may be able to give you a better discount by ordering more tickets. You can also join an existing group to qualify for even better rates.

5. Connect With Friends

There’s no better way to find the best travel deals than with the help of a local. If you know somebody living in the city you that wish to visit, contact him or her and ask for suggestions. Having an insider’s access to where you’re going makes your travels much cheaper and more fulfilling.

If you don’t know anyone in the area you can look for local deals on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Just change location to the city you’re traveling to and your find deals that were meant for locals.

Do you have any other methods to travel on a budget you want to share?

3

7 Strategies for Saving Money on Amazon

Amazon is a great place to save money, but there are more ways to save on Amazon than you thought. Here are 7 strategies to save even more money at Amazon.

1. Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates is Amazon’s affiliate program. Bloggers and webmasters earn a commission on any item they sell through their website. While you personally cannot buy things under your account and get credit for your own sales, your friends can.

When you sign up for the Amazon Associates program you get a unique url with your ID in it. What you can do is give out your unique link to all your friends and family (and friends on Facebook and Twitter) and ask them to change the Amazon link on their favorites to your link. When any of them make a purchase from your link, you get a commission.

2. Subscribe and Save

For a few years now savvy shoppers have been benefiting from Amazon’s subscribe and save program. With this feature, you agree to receive items on a regular basis, every month or up to every six months. This is great for items you will always need more of. It’s convenient because the orders are processed automatically at the internals you want.

The saving part of this is that Amazon will give you 5% off any subscribe and save order. If you have five or more items going out in any given month this gets bumped up to an impressive 15% off. You can cancel any time and you can change the frequency of your deliveries. It is also possible to place an order to get the subscribe and save discount and then cancel the subscription afterward.

3. Amazon Prime

People who use Amazon a lot may benefit from the Amazon Prime program. For a yearly fee of $99 members get free two-day shipping. Non-members also get free shipping however their items must total over $35 and usually arrive in 5 to 8 days. If you buy a lot of things from Amazon and don’t want to wait a week to get them then this program may be right for you.

You can get a free trial to test it out and see if it is right for you. It may be a good idea to start your free trial in December so you can get free two-day shipping on all of your Christmas presents.

4. Ebates.com

At ebates.com you earn cash back for shopping at the stores you already shop at. You can make some money by shopping at Amazon using the links provided on ebates.com. Typically, depending on the department, you could earn between 3 to 6% cash back.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Amazon receives orders, Ebates.com receives commission for every purchase you make and you get a piece of that commission.

5. Deals On The Homepage

You can find the best deals right on the Amazon.com home page. There are daily deals, lightning deals and freebies. You can subscribe to get notified on their latest deals. Around the holidays there’s an enormous amount of deep discounts to be had.

6. Amazon Student

Students can get a massive discount off Amazon Prime. At $49 (50% off) students get free two day shipping, they can borrow free kindle books and unlimited streaming of movies and tv episodes. If that’s not enough, students get a whopping free six month trial. All you need is to prove you’re a student, which is typically done by confirming you have a .edu email address.

7. Price Watch

The prices on Amazon fluctuate sometimes on a daily basis. If you keep a close eye on an item you want you can see when the price drops and strike when the iron is hot. But that takes a lot of time to keep checking prices on your own. There are deal tracker websites that will track the price of an item and tell you how much it costs historically. Not only that, but they can send you an alert when the price drops to the amount that you want.

Another small tip. You can add an item to your cart and leave it there. After a few days sometimes the price of the item drops. I have seen this happen to me on two occasions so I don’t know if it’s a proven fact.

Do you have any other tips on how to save money at Amazon? Please share in the comments section below.

6

9 Things To Buy At The Dollar Store

Department stores like Target or Walmart have some pretty good deals. But they can’t compare to the savings you’ll get at the 99¢ store. Sure, there are items at the dollar store which are inferior to the name brand items you’ll find at Target, but not everything needs to be name brand.

Here’s a list of 9 things you should be buying at your local dollar store.

1. Party Supplies

When you’re throwing a party, there’s no need to spend big bucks on disposable items like balloons, cups and plates. Nobody knows nor cares where you bought these items.

You can save big by purchasing things like tablecloths, plastic utensils, cups and paper plates. When the party is over those items will be thrown away anyway.

2. Wrapping Paper

A few times per year, and especially during the holidays, you’ll need to wrap presents and get gift bags. But what’s the point of getting top quality wrapping paper? The recipient is going to rip it and throw it away anyway. I’m sure they’re more interested in what’s inside.

3. Dishes

The dishes sold at dollar stores are certainly not top of the line. But when you have kids you don’t want to use fancy dishes that break easily. You’ll want to find cheap plastic plates and cups at the dollar store.

4. Greeting Cards

You do not need to spend $4 on a greeting card. Most of the time the gift I’d appreciated but then discarded. The dollar store may not have top quality cards, but it’s the message you write inside that counts.

5. Picture Frames

Prices for picture frames vary wildly at stores like Michaels. But sometimes the best picture frames are plain. A simple picture frame draws attention to the photograph, rather than the frame. And if a simple picture frame is what you’re after, the dollar store is the place to get it. Just check the quality of the item first.

Since these products are mass produced, check the hardware to see if it was built correctly. I doubt there’s any quality control going on at the Chinese factories they were made in. Make sure the frame is not too flimsy and there’s no excess glue on the frame which could be hard to remove.

6. Fashion Accessories

You don’t want to buy clothing at the dollar stores, but accessories may be alright. You can find anything from colorful shoelaces to hair bows there. Other accessories include headbands, bobby pins and bracelets.

7. Holiday Decor

You may be the kind of person who decorates their home for every major Holliday. If this is you, then you should be picking up the decor at the dollar store every year.

You can find more than just Christmas ornaments. There’s also Halloween decor, Easter eggs and decorations for Thanksgiving too.

8. Washcloths

If you’re looking for cleaning rags, look no further than the dollar store. You can buy them at two for a dollar. That price can’t be beat.

9. Plastic Storage Containers

The big stores typically want to sell you a full set of plastic containers. But at the dollar store you can buy them individually for just a buck. You may not recognize the brand but it doesn’t really matter does it. The same goes for storage bags. Ziplock is the leading brand, but the $1 bags hold your sandwiches just the same.

What other items do you like to buy at the dollar stores?

How Much Money Do You Need For Retirement?

We all plan to retire at some point in our lives. For many, the retirement age to get most of your social security benefits will be at the age of 67. The quality of your life past that age relies on how much you have in your 401k retirement account. If you are relying on social security to take care of you, you are headed straight for trouble.

In the future, social security may not be able to pay you the full amount you have earned. In fact, the money you’re putting into social security right now isn’t even going into your account. That money is being used to pay out current retirees. If that doesn’t make you motivated to deposit more money into your own retirement account then nothing will.

Even if social security does pay you the full amount, it will not be enough to live a comfortable life. If you’ve been reading this site then hopefully you’ve created a budget. Look at your total monthly expenses. Will your social security check be as big as that? I doubt it.

If you’re spending $3,000 a month and your social security check is projected to be $1,500 a month then you need to make up the rest somehow. Just in case you’re wondering, $1,500 per month means you’ll need $540,000 if you live for 30 years after retirement. This is assuming things don’t go up in cost, which they undoubtedly will.

Calculating how much money you will need to have saved up by the time you retire is a must. If you don’t know how much you’ll need later, then you don’t know how much you should be putting away right now. But that calculation is hard to do because it’s different for each person. Here are some of the factors involved in determining how much you need to save up for retirement.

How Long You’ll Live

If your parents and grandparents lived to an old age, you might live that long too. With that in mind, you might need to plan for a 35 year retirement rather than a 20 year one. If there’s a history of certain costly ailments in your family then you will need to assume you’ll fall prey to it as well so you should adjust your retirement savings goal accordingly.

The longer you live also means the more you will need to spend on medical care. And as I’m sure you’re aware health care costs are rising at an alarming pace.

Quality Of Life

The amount of money in your retirement account will completely depend on how much money you have saved up in your 401k.

If you plan on traveling during your golden years you better have the bank account to justify it. If you will want to buy a car some time between your 60’s and your 80’s then you will also need to have money for it in your savings account.

The price of everything will continue to go up every year. This includes the cost to fill up a tank of gas and the price of food at the grocery store. Just because you spend $150 on gas and $300 on food now doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll spend in retirement. Take these increases into account in your planned retirement budget.

Your Mortgage

Do you plan on having a mortgage after you retire? If you’re renting now and plan to continue renting, you will be paying rent throughout your whole retirement. Sure, you won’t have to deal with property taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, but you will be paying rent forever.

The savings you get now will not make up for the many years of rent you’ll be paying during retirement while others have completely paid off their homes.

Another reason not to rent is that rent prices will continue to go up, even while your retirement budget will not. Mortgages are a fixed payment for 30 years and then $0 after it’s paid off.

So let’s say that you planned ahead and bought a house in your mid 30’s. You would think you’d be done paying it off by the time you’re in your mid 60’s right? Think again.

What if you have trouble making your payments in your 40’s and decide to refinance to lower your payment. Now you’ll have a mortgage well into your 70’s.

What if you lose your job in your 50’s and you have to sell the house and rent? Since you don’t know the future, plan for the worst case scenario of having to pay rent or a mortgage well into your retirement.

The Stock Market

There are countless calculators online that will help you figure out how much you need to be saving to reach your retirement goals. What these calculators can’t do is tell you the rate of return on your money.

If you do well and get a steady 9% return then you should be fine. If you end up averaging just 3% then your money won’t grow as much as you thought – meaning you would have had to deposit more money. But how do you know how much your money will grow? You don’t.

If you opt for the safe route, you won’t get high returns, but your money is relatively safe. If you decide to take risks with your retirement savings you could earn big or go into the negatives. So when you use these calculators make sure and change the interest rate number around to see how that changes things.

Go For A Test Run

If you’ve read through this post and decided to create a retirement budget, you’re on the right track. The final step is to actually practice living in retirement.

For many, their retirement expenses will be less than their current expenses. The reason being that they’ll use their car less, they won’t have to spend money on their kids or they won’t have a mortgage payment.

Regardless of what you plan your retirement expenses to be, go for a test run and see whether you can live on this amount. Try it out for a couple of months. If you have trouble staying in budget for these two months, now imagine how hard it would be to stick to it for the next 25+ years.

  • Edwin
  • November 12, 2012

8 Ways To Lower Your Home Heating Bill

The average American family plans to spend $2,000 this year on home energy, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with almost half of that going toward heating and cooling the home.

While buying a new energy-efficient system is a great idea, there are other less costly ways of heating your home up for less. Here now are the 8 ways to lower your home heating bill.

1. Turn The Thermostat Down

The first tip is the most obvious one, lower your thermostat by a few degrees. The purpose of a heater in your home is to keep you from shivering in the cold winter months. The purpose of a heater isn’t to transform winter into summer. Try to make the temperature inside your home livable, rather than comfortable. If you are still too cold, wear a sweater or a jacket. At night, put on an extra blanket to stay warm.

2. Stop The Air Leaks

You spend good money every month heating your house up during the cold winter months. But the small gaps around your doors and windows are letting the heat out and the cold air in. Plug these leaks up and you can save big on your home heating bill. To find the leaks, hold up a feather near drafty areas. But don’t just concentrate on the doors and windows, look at recessed lighting and electrical outlets too.

3. Heating Up Water

The less warm water you waste the more money you will save on your home heating bill. So a good start is to see what you can do in the home to use less water. The first place to look is the shower. You can take colder showers, you can take shorter showers, but what will really make a difference is installing a low flow showerhead. You can buy one for about 20 bucks and rake in the savings for years to come. To further save on your heating (and water) bills, limit your use of warm water when washing dishes, washing your hands or brushing your teeth.

4. Use The Sun

During the day, open up your sun-facing blinds or curtains to let the suns’ bright rays in. Let the sun naturally heat up your home so your heater doesn’t have to do all the work. Close the drapes at night to keep the warmth in through the night.

5. Service Your Furnace

If you want your furnace to treat you right you will need to treat it right. Have your furnace inspected every year or so to ensure that it’s running efficiently. A properly maintained unit running at peak efficiency can save you 5-10% on your heating bill.

6. Heating Ducts

If there are ducts in rooms that you don’t need to heat, close them. There’s no point in heating up rooms that are not used. Force all that warm air inside the rooms that matter. You will also want to ensure that there is nothing obstructing the airflow from the ducts, such as furniture.

7. Ceiling Fan

You typically think of ceiling fans as something you use when it’s already warm and you want to cool down a room. But you can also use a ceiling fan to warm up a room too. Heat rises, so the air around the height of the ceiling fan is warmer than where you’re sitting. So turn on the ceiling fan at the lowest level for a bit and allow it to circulate the warm air around your room.

The way you can save money is by lowering the thermostat by a couple of degrees and turning your ceiling fan on.

8. The Fireplace

If you want to warm up your house yet you don’t want to turn on the heater, use your fireplace instead. But the fireplace can be your enemy by allowing warm air to escape. So keep your fireplace damper closed when it’s not in use.

3

What Do I Do With My Tax Refund?

It’s tax time again and your probably asking where is my refund?.Even though a tax refund is your own money simply being returned back to you, it still feels good getting a nice fat check around tax time.

According to the IRS, the average tax refund check came in at $3,050.

So, what should we do with this nice tax refund windfall?

While the decision is entirely up to you, I’m going to give you some tips on what to do with your tax refund.


Fund Your Emergency Account

Fund Your Emergency Savings Account

Before you spend your tax refund on anything else, you must first fully fund an emergency savings account! Unexpected events can happen to anyone and can happen at anytime. In fact, they always seem to happen, don’t they?

I can tell you from personal experience that having an emergency savings account has saved me countless times. I would have missed a mortgage payment and ruined my credit if I didn’t have money saved up for emergencies.

There’s plenty of emergencies that can happen to any one of us, such as:

  • Car accident. If the accident was your fault, your insurance covers the other driver. But what about your car? Unless you have full coverage, the cost to repair your car is on you.
  • Medical expense. Getting sick is a part of life. Whether it’s the flu or something else, there are extra costs involved. Imagine not going to work for a week or two? How will you make your rent or mortgage payment if you miss a paycheck?
  • Job loss. If you got fired today. How long would it take to find another job? If the answer is 6 months, do you have 6 months worth of income saved up?
  • Repair. Homes continually need repairs and upkeep. Anything can go wrong, from the water heater needing to be replaced to a leaky roof. And it always seems to happen at the most inopportune time.
  • Miscellaneous. Ah yes, the dreaded miscellaneous. There’s an endless list of things that come up all the time that we don’t plan on it. Let me give you a few: how about dropping your phone in the toilet, your dog spraining their leg or a funeral you have to attend.

Just how much money do you need in an emergency savings account? In a good job market, 3-6 months of living expenses is enough. But if your skill is not in demand, be prepared to have 6-12 months saved up.

If you already have your emergency savings account fully funded, then you’re free to spend your tax refund on something else.


Pay Off Debt

Pay Off Your Debt First

There are not many things that hurt your financial situation more than high interest credit card debt. It should be your goal to pay off this debt as soon as possible.

If you are paying any interest on a credit card, this must be paid off before you spend your tax refund elsewhere.

Even if your debt is an interest-free loan from your friend or family gave you, pay this off with your tax refund.

Carrying a debt is like walking around with a weight on your shoulder. For the sake of your mental sanity, get this paid off.


Take A Vacation

Use Your Tax Refund On A Vacation

Most personal finance blogs will tell you to save your money at all costs. But I’m here to tell you that life is for living, not for saving! So if you already have an emergency savings account and no debt – go ahead and take a vacation.

It’s important to reward yourself and your “wins”. If you have a fully funded emergency savings account and no debt – you deserve to treat yourself!


Fund Your Retirement Account

Fully Fund Your Retirement Accounts

Nothing can give us more peace of mind than knowing our future is financially secure.

Odds are you are not fully maxing out your retirement account. For 2017, here are the retirement plan limits from the IRS. If you have a 401k account, you can put up to $18,000 in it. You can also open an IRA and fund that with the max amount of $5,500.


Improve Your Home

Improve Your Home's Efficiency

Nobody ever seems to have money to renovate their house. It seems like most people just fix things as they break. Well, how about doing some upkeep and preventative maintenance? How about making your home a nicer place to live?

This includes things like a new roof or landscaping to add value to your home. But you can also do energy efficient improvements which will lower your monthly utility bill and may also be tax deductible.


Give It To Charity

Donate Your Tax Refund To Charity

If you don’t have an urgent need for your tax refund money, consider donating it to charity. Not only can it be a tax deduction, but it will make you feel good inside.

Notice a pattern here so far? Each of the things I’ve listed so far are beneficial to both your mental and financial health.


Ideally you’ll want to get the smallest refund possible in order to get the benefit of that money throughout the year. Using a tax return estimator can be of great assistance to figure out how much taxes you expect to pay in the coming year.

When you get a tax refund, don’t treat it as free money. After all, it’s your own money the IRS is giving you back. Consider doing something with your refund that will have a long lasting effect on your wellbeing.

What do you do with your tax refund?

>