Lunchtime Money Saving Tips (Great Ideas for Shift and Emergency Workers)

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lunchtime at work

There are many times when your job may prevent you from grabbing something to eat at the “normal” times of the day.  For instance, first responders and emergency workers may be on the scene of an accident which happens right at lunchtime.  They can’t stop working to eat because their focus is on the incident.  This can mean that they have to quickly stop by a convenience store to grab something to eat when they can — which can quickly hurt the budget!

I previously asked this question on my Facebook page as one of my readers was asking for ideas for her spouse.  We had some GREAT ones shared by our readers!!!  Check these out:

1. Gift cards.  When it comes time to ask for gifts for any occasion, opt for gift cards for dining out.  This is a great idea for parents and friends  — and even your kids.  As you get older, you really want the things you need more often than not.  This is an easy way to do just that!!

2. Coupons / Entertainment Book.  We recently received an Entertainment Book.  This is FILLED with coupons to various restaurants, stores and more!  Many times, they are a buy one get one offer, so you could find a co-worker and split the cost of your meal – which helps you both!  You can pick up a book for just $21 shipped right now (a savings of 40% off of retail) — from Reader Julie.

3. Pack some snacks.  Pick up granola bars or other small items which you can place in your pocket or vehicle, so you can grab a quick bite when you are away.

4. Invest in a vacuum sealer and make meals.  Reader Teresa had a great idea!  She recommends investing in a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System.  You can take left over meals and seal them.  Make sure they are small enough packages where they can fit into a travel mug.  Then, when you stop by a convenience store, just fill the mug with hot water, which will warm your meal.  Then, you can pull it out and have something to eat!!

5. Think quick meals.  Create items such as wraps.  Make them ahead of time and keep them in your refrigerator so you can grab and take them with you.  Great idea from fellow Law Enforcement Officer JulieAnn and her husband!!!

There are even more great ideas on our Facebook page.  Thanks to our readers for adding some great ideas to this discussion!

Ten Hidden Costs of Home Ownership

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If you own a home - or plan on purchasing one  - make sure you know about these TEN hidden costs of owning a home!!

When you sign for your home, you know right at that moment what your payment will be.  You can see it clearly outlined in your amortization schedule so you  know your principal and interest.  However, there is MORE to owning a home than just your mortgage payment.  You need to plan on these additional expenses and make sure that you fit them into your budget.

1. Insurance.

If you rent, you may have been paying a very small amount annually for renter’s insurance.  However, when you own a home, you will pay a lot more for home owner’s insurance.  In fact, it is much more!

You may not have to pay only homeowner’s insurance, but also private mortgage insurance (called PMI).  If you do not put at least 20% of the purchase price of your home down in cash, then you will have to pay for this additional line item.  This typically costs around .05 – 1% of the total loan amount.  If you purchase a $150,000 home, you could pay $1,500 per year or $125 per month. Once the amount you owe on your home drops below 20% of the value, you can request that this be dropped.  However, until that time, make sure you keep this in mind.

The average homeowner will pay more than $70 a month towards homeowner’s insurance.  You need to make sure that your policy covers not only the cost to rebuild your home, but also all of the contents inside.

Most of the time, both of these amounts will be rolled into the cost of your mortgage, but make sure you keep that in mind when looking at loan calculators, so that you do not forget that you will pay for these on top of your monthly payment.

2. Taxes

When you rent, you do not have to pay any additional taxes to live in your apartment or home.  However, when you own your home, you must pay personal property taxes (depending upon your state, of course).   These amounts can be thousands of dollars annually.

This is one thing to consider when looking at a home.  If you choose to live in a more affluent area, your taxes may be higher. This information is typically available on the MLS listing when you look at any properties.

This amount is also usually included in the monthly mortgage payment, so it can be held in an Escrow account and then paid annually, on your behalf.  This is often required when there is a lien on the property.

3.  Furnishings and window treatments.

When you move into a new home, some of the appliances are not included.  Make sure you know up front what you need to purchase.  This can include a refrigerator, washing machine and dryer.  If your home has more space than where you currently reside, you may have additional furniture costs as well.

You may also need to purchase blinds or shades (especially in the case of a brand new home).  These costs can quickly add up, so include these in your budget.

In addition, if you did not have a lawn previously, you will need to purchase a lawn mower to keep up with the growing grass – or hire a service to cover those lawn care costs.

4.  Utilites.

Some renters do have to cover utilities.  However, when you own a home, these costs can increase as they are typically larger than apartments.  That means more cooling and heating costs.    You can request this information when looking at the property, so you can have an idea of these costs before you put in an offer.

5.  Maintenance and repairs.

When you rent and the sink backs up, you just have to place a call to your landlord and he or she takes care of it for you.  When you own your home, you have to cover this yourself.  On average homeowners spend anywhere from $1500 – $5000 annually on home repairs.

This cost can be lower if your home is newer, but if you opt for an older home, it can often mean that there will be more repairs to be made.  You will want to keep this in mind when planning your budget.

6.  Pest control.
Most of the time, when you see a bug, you just kill it and go on with your day. But, what happens if you notice an infestation of ants or worse yet – catch a rodent eating dinner in your pantry! You have to get rid of them.

When you rent, you just call the landlord and they take care of this for you. When you own your home, you have to take the steps to get rid of these pests on your own. While many times you may be able to purchase products yourself, there are times when you have no choice but to call an expert (think termites).

What might work best is to pay for routine maintenance from a pest company to avoid the additional costs with losing furniture, food or worse, like replacing trim, your floor, or more!

7. Kids and Pets.

This may seem like a given, but it something you don’t plan for. You know you have to feed and cloth your kids, but you also need to plan on home repairs because of them.

When our youngest was 3, she stuffed a bunch of toilet paper into our upstairs toilet and I did not know it. That is, until I was standing in my kitchen and noticed water dripping from the ceiling. It was not that much damage, but still cost just about the same amount as our home owner’s insurance deductible, so we just paid it all ourselves to avoid filing a claim (I think we paid only $150 more than our deductible).

Thankfully, we had money set aside for this repair. We don’t want our kids to damage anything and even the best kids in the world can do something, without even meaning to.

8. Time.

When you rent, the landlord takes care of your maintenance. You don’t spend time mowing, or fixing that door that doesn’t close properly or even the leaky sink. That falls onto your shoulders. You have to make the time to fix those small repairs, before they turn into larger ones which take more of your time!

9. Closing Costs.

When you purchase a home, there are closing costs associate with the purchase. These average between 2 – 4% of the mortgage balance. You can often negotiate to have the seller cover all or a part of these costs. If you do not have the cash, they can be rolled into your mortgage, which can in turn increase your monthly payment.

10. Home Owner’s Association or Condo Fees.

Many areas have Home Owners Associations or Condo Fees, which you have to pay.  These are either due monthly, quarterly or annually.  

These usually cover the general maintenance of signage, flowers and sometimes even a swimming pool.  They can also be used for paving and other maintenance in your community.  You will need to ask up front if this is included, so you aren’t surprised when you get to closing and learn that you have more expenses. 

Saving Money Filing Your Taxes (Some Options May Be FREE For You)!

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Everyone has to file taxes each year.  However, you don't have to spend your entire refund just to pay for them to be prepared for you!  Here are some great options you can try to save money (or even get them prepared for FREE)!

We’ve all heard that saying — “There are only two guarantees in life — Death and Taxes.”  Every January, we all start to collect our paperwork to get ready for this annual ritual of preparing the taxes.  For many, this means a nice refund, but for others, it means handing over more money to Uncle Same.  Either way, it is NOT a fun process.  So, why pay more than you need to in order to prepare  your forms!

We’ve rounded up some of the best deals for you to save money by preparing your own taxes.  Now, keep in mind that if you have any unusual circumstances, own a business or your taxes are over your head, it is truly worth every single penny  to pay an expert to properly prepare your return for you.  An audit can result in additional money spent and possibly fines or penalties.  My husband and I fall into this category, so we never prepare them ourselves.  It is just too important to ensure that we fill out our return properly.

Of course, if your return is a bit simpler to prepare, there are services out there where you can get them prepared at at a discount or even prepare them yourself for free!

Just click the underlined name for each company listed below to be taken there for free!

 

H&R Block

You can file your basic federal return for free. If you have any state returns to file, they are just $9.99 each.  They also offer a bonus when you e-file.  If you select increments of $100 from any of the e-gift cards they list, you will get an additional 5% to your return if you use the free or basic version — or get 10% back if you use any other version!

You can even purchase the software instead, if you prefer to do that rather than to file online.

 

Turbo Tax

For the first time EVER Turbo Tax is offering a completely FREE return!!  They will even include the STATE for free!!  This is applicable for basic filers.  So, if your return is a bit more complex, you will pay more — starting at $34.99 for Federal and state will be an additional $36.99.

If you would rather, you can purchase the software instead for as low as $49.97.

 

eSmart Tax

This site also offers free simple returns as well.  If you need basic, the price is just $14.95 — with no products costing more than $34.95.  You will pay more for your state return. Your return will be efiled with the IRS.

 

FreeTaxUSA

You can also file your basic return for FREE through this site as well.  If you need the deluxe version, that will cost only $5.95.  No matter which version you need, state returns are $12.95 each — unless you are under 22 and then they allow you FREE state filing!!

 

OnePriceTaxes

This service may be better for you if your taxes are a bit more complex.  The most you will pay is $34.95 for your returns.  The basic is $19.95, so it would be better to use another service mentioned above, where the prices are much lower.

 

TaxACT

This site offers everyone a free basic Federal tax return. If your return is basic, then you will pay $14.99 to file a state return and if more complex your total will be $19.99 ($12.99 Federal and $7 state).

 

TaxSlayer

You can also get a free basic Federal return prepared for free here as well.  If you need to purchase more complex versions, the prices start at $12.95.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

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Living Paycheck to Paycheck is a vicious cycle.  Find out how you can stop the madness and gain control of your finances!!

Payday arrives.  You pay your bills, pick up your groceries, fuel up your vehicle and then…..the money is gone.  You didn’t even have it in your account for 48 hours before it was all spent and here you sit, broke until payday arrives again.

This may seem like a vicious cycle you can’t break.  However, you CAN!  You just need to know where to start and how to get out from under that heavy weight.

1. You’ve Got To Have a Budget.   First and foremost.  Not just a budget that you know in your mind, but a budget in writing.  You have to know where you money needs to go before you can figure out where to free up money.

You can download our FREE budget template, or even Excel versions to use!

 

You will want to make sure you read more about How to Create A Budget so that you can fill out these forms the right way.

2.  Where Does Your Money Go?  Now, once you have your budget in place, look at those items where you may find you over spend.  Do you grab a latte on the way to work every morning?  If you spend $5 a day, that is $25 a week and $100 in a single month!  Imagine what you could do with an extra $100 in your pocket!

3. Step Away From the Plastic.  Another way to prevent overspending is with cash.  No, that doesn’t mean use your debit card.  We are talking cold, hard, cash.

I know, I know, they are so convenient.  However, if you stick with CASH, you can’t overspend.  If you have $100 to spend at the grocery store, you can’t spend $110.  However, if you use your debit card, it is easy to say “It’s just $10.”  If you do that every single time you go to the store, that is more than $500 overspent in just a single year!

It can be tough to start using cash, but once you do, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!  To learn more, click over to read How to Use the Cash Envelope System.

4. Define needs vs. wants.  This is a tough one.  Take a look at your budget and what do you need?  You need clothes, shelter, food, utilities.  However, do you “need” cable?  Do you “need” to dine out every week?  By simply cutting back on your wants (even temporarily), you can free up money from your paycheck.  (Read more about Wants vs. Needs).

5. Ask for help.  If you are in debt or owe companies money, why not call and ask them if they can’t help.  Many times, they are willing to help you make changes to your payment due date, adjust interest rates and more.  If you don’t call, you will never know what they may be able to do to help you!!

6. Stop the waste.  Did you know that you do not have to fill the laundry cup to the top to get your clothes clean?  Did you know that you can use a smaller amount of toothpaste and your teeth will still get clean and freshen your breath?  By simply cutting back on the amount of product you use, you can save money by not having to purchase it nearly as often!  Here are some tips on How to Use Less Product (without sacrificing quality).

With some simple changes, you might find ways to free up some cash, and end that paycheck to paycheck cycle!

Living Paycheck to Paycheck is a vicious cycle.  Find out how you can stop the madness and gain control of your finances!!

 

Ten Money Mistakes You Might Be Making (And Not Even Realize)

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money mistakes

When it comes to money, most of us probably think we are doing pretty well.  I mean, we have a budget, we can afford the things we need and sometimes have extra money to spend when we want to.  However, could you do better?  I mean, in reality, can’t we all?

If you take a look at your spending, are you really being as smart as possible?  It may seem like it at first glance, but if you really sit down and think about it, you may be actually making mistakes with your finances and not even realize it!  This can mean missed opportunities to save or even overspending.  Check out these mistake you may be making – and what you can do to make it right!

1. Not having a budget.

I know, I know, I probably sound like a broken record here.  However, this is key to managing your money.  A budget is not a bad thing.  In fact, it it just the opposite.  A budget puts financial control back in your life.  Otherwise, your money just goes where it wants and you have no control over your finances.

I know it can seem scary to actually sit down and make a budget, but it really is not that bad.  In fact, once you do it and start to follow one, you will realize how much better you feel about your money.

If you need help getting started, read more about How to Create a Budget (including free forms or spreadsheet you can use to create your own).

 

2. Not being involved in your finances (allowing your partner or spouse to take care of it all).

If you are in a relationship where you both contribute financially (married or otherwise), are you both involved in paying the bills?  In most cases, it seems that just one person takes care of this.  It could be the person who is considered your head of household.  There are instances where it is the person who is better at handling money (and/or maybe enjoys it). It is not OK for just one person to be in charge of paying the bills and saving. You both need to be involved.

What you need to do is sit down together and start with your budget (see #1).  Fill it out together so you both see how your money is to be spent.  You can both contribute to how you will save, what you will budget for dining out or other items you want to spend your money on.  You both have an equal voice.  You both are in control of your money.

Once you have the budget, it can not stop there.  You need to look at your investments, credit cards, life insurance – anything with any sort of financial tie.  Make sure you both understand where this is held, be it a bank or insurance company.  Make sure you both know how to access the account by knowing login and passwords.  You can find some free forms to help you complete these lists here.

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3.  Not saving for retirement.

If you have a young family, your focus is more than likely on your children. You are concerned with making sure they have the the things they need, and rightfully so.  You may also be only looking forward as far as saving for college for them.  What about you though?  How will you support yourself when the children are no longer living at home?

Too many parents focus more on college than retirement.  Sure, we’d love to help our children financially with college, but if your children are intelligent, they may get scholarships.  They can take out loans.  They can save to invest in their own education.  However, who is going to help give you money when you retire?

If you plan on relying upon social security to cover your expenses when you retire, you are going to be in for a shock.  They will not give you enough money to live on.  Period.  It is up to you to take the steps now to ensure that you are looking ahead to take care of yourself and your spouse or partner for the future.

The simplest way to do this is to look to your employer.  Do they have a 401(k) plan?  Do they have a matching program?  Start saving right now and look ahead towards covering yourself for those golden years.

 

4. Using credit the wrong way.

I love to shop.  I really do.  However, I never use credit.  If I don’t have cash then that means I don’t get to purchase it.

That being said, many people are wise when it comes to using credit cards.  They use them and turn around and pay it off completely every single month.  If you are one of these people, the good for you!

The problem is when you fall for the traps.  The low introductory rate of 1% or the store offering a discount of 20% if you open a store charge.  While you may say that you don’t do that and will pay it off, that is not the case for most.  Most will allow the balance to carry as it is so tempting to have spent $400 and only have to hand over $15 that next month.  I mean, you get to keep $385 in YOUR pocket – right?  WRONG!

Take a look at this example:

You open a store card to save 20% off of your purchase that day and end up spending $400.  You saved a bunch of money already and so it was smart!

The bill comes and you open it.  You see that the interest rate is 18.9% and that the minimum payment is only $16.  Rather than hand over the entire $400 out of your account, you think – “Heck!  I’ll just send in that minimum and keep that $384 in my own pocket to spend on something else!”

If you continue to do this, it will take you nearly 3 years (34 months) to pay off this balance.  THREE YEARS!  Not only that, but you will accumulate more than $120 in interest making your $400 purchase end up costing more than $520!!!

Just pass on those credit card offers and stick with cash or your debit card and you won’t fall into these even money sucking traps!

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5. Listening to the bank instead of your budget.

If you want a new home or car (or anything which requires a loan), you will go to the bank.  You fill out an application for pre-approval and find out that they tell you that you can afford a $300,000 home with an interest rate of 3.76%.  Your monthly payment will be $1,391.05.

While that looks like it will work according to the numbers, you know that will really stretch things thinly.  However, a bigger house with that huge master tub and large backyard is so wonderful!  The neighborhood is upscale and it is everything you want.  However, is it what you can really afford?

Perhaps you really should spend only $900 a month instead.  That would mean you should not spend more than around $200,000 for a home instead.  That is $100,00 LESS than what the bank says you can afford.

By spending less, you have freed up money to allow you to actually live to love life – not life to pay for a home.  If you find yourself in this situation, it might be wise to consider down sizing or maybe trying to refinance at a lower rate to reduce the amount you are paying each month on your mortgage.

 

6.  Not doing research before shopping.

It is easy for us to overspend on things such as home repairs, clothing, gifts and more.  The reason is that emotion normally drives us.  If the refrigerator is no longer working, we worry and just know we have to get it fixed as quickly as possible. That may result in paying more than you should.

Instead, shop around and do your research.  You should even do so before the unexpected happens.  In the instance of an appliance repair, make some calls to find out the rates of various companies.  Do research to find out who does good work.  Then, write down that name and number so that when you need someone, you will know who you should call and know that they will not only do the work to your expectations, but also at a price you are willing to pay.

You should also look around for deals and the best prices on other items such as clothes and gifts.  By taking a few extra minutes to do some research online, you might find a better price at another store, saving you time!

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7.  Not teaching your children (now).

Kids are sponges.  They take in everything they witness and hear around them.  This can lead to them learning great things….but also not so great things.  You want your kids to be smart in all areas of their life as they get older.  Finances is one of them.

Start educating them at a young age.  When my kids go to the store, they know that we can’t just buy anything.  We talk about our budget with them and tell them that we have only a certain amount of money to spend on food, so we have to first cover the items we need and then we may be able to pick up that splurge item.

We also teach them financial responsibility.  It is important that you start young with your children so that they understand the concept of how to manage their own money.  Teach them about giving, saving and spending.  By starting young, they will learn no other way of dealing with money than the way you teach them.  That will set them on the path to financial independence as they get older.

 

8. Not planning for the unexpected.

Let’s face it. None of us ever plans on losing a spouse, divorce or other financial hardships.  But, the reality is that it can happen.  It is important to plan now so that you are ready should that happen.

You need to sit down with your spouse or partner and have a candid discussion.  As yourselves these questions:

  • Who will raise our children if we are both gone?
  • How much money will my spouse need should I pass away?
  • How will we cover funeral and/or medical expenses?
  • What happens if I become disabled and can no longer work?

Get your emergency fund in place.  It should cover upwards of 6 – 12 months of your expenses.  You will want to look at your budget and determine what would go away if you were out of work (things such as entertainment and dining out may have to be put on the back burner).  You also need to  add in the additional cost of health insurance premiums (if you get this through your employer). Then, work hard to try to build up your emergency fund so that you can support yourself, and your family, should you find yourself out of work.

Then, put systems in place.  Get life insurance.  Make sure your Will is up to date.  Look into disability insurance.    Check with your employer as they may offer some supplemental benefits to help cover some of these expenses.  They may offer some sort of disability insurance at a reduced premium rate.

 

9.  Not having a debt paydown plan.

There is no such thing as “good debt.”  The best debt of all is no debt.  You may think that you only owe $800 in credit cards, but that is $800 too much!

You should take the steps to get out of debt right away (read more about Getting Out of Debt).  There are some simple things to keep in mind with any debt plan:

  1. Make sure you do not spend more than you earn (that means do not use credit cards or loans to overspend).
  2. Figure out your monthly payments to get the debts paid down.
  3. Set a deadline to getting out of debt.
  4. Put it ALL in writing and stick to it!

 

10.  Ignoring them completely.

It is a fact that ignoring problems never makes them go away.  They are still there.  The same holds true with your finances. If you are ignoring them, things will not improve.

If you find you are in over your head, check with your bank.  For example, CommunityAmerica offers free assistance to anyone who wants to get out of debt.  They even have financial planners available to assist you.  You never know what services are out there unless you ask.

 

It is not how much you make that matters, it is what you do with it.  Making wise financial decisions can keep you from throwing money away and helps you gain more control, leading to happier life.

There are things we all do which might be affecting our finances.  Check out these ten BIG money mistakes you might be making (and not even realize it)!

How to Make Money on Your FitBit (Or Other Activity Tracker)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Did you know that you can actually get PAID to use your activity tracker (like a FitBit,  JawBone and more)!  Find out FIVE great (free) ways to get paid for doing what you already do --  WALK!!!

Last night I made a status update on Facebook about reaching more than 15,000 steps in a single day on my Fit Bit and my friend Lauren, with I am That Lady told me that I could have made money on those steps!  She shared with me that you can actually get PAID when using your FitBit!  WHO KNEW!?!!

Check out these EASY ways to get paid for using your Fit Bit or other activity tracker!!!

1. Earn $5 from Shop Your Way (every 14 miles walked).

Believe it or not, Shop Your Way will actually give you money for staying healthy.  It is simple to get signed up, just follow these steps:

  • Visit Shop Your Way Rewards and click the orange BECOME A CLIENT button.  (Now, you will be able to get exclusive coupon codes directly from me!!)
  • Make sure you own a FitBit (you can buy one directly through Shop Your Way once you are signed up – and will also earn 1,000 points for doing so).
  • Next, you need to create an account at FitStudio.com. Just make sure you use the exact same login information you used when creating your Shop Your Way account above!
  • Now you can start to earn those points and then redeem your credit at ShopYourWay.com!!

 

2. Earn Walgreen’s Balance Rewards Points.

Another way to earn money is to connect your FitBit to your Walgreen’s Balance Rewards card.  It is easy to connect your device and start to earn points for walking!

  • Visit Walgreens.com and sign up for a Balance Rewards Account (if you do not already have one).
  • Once you have your card, create (or sign into) your account.
  • From the main screen, click on Account Home.
  • From there, scroll down to find Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices (Steps) and click the blue button EARN POINTS.
  • Click through the screens sharing information. Next you can click on connect a Fitness Tracker (so it updates for you automatically).
  • Select the type of tracker you are using.
  • Next, you will redirect to FitBit’s site and need to ALLOW the app to run (pink button).
  • Now, as you walk, you will earn points!

 

3. Earn Rewards from AchieveMint.

This is a new app I just learned about.  You simply sign up to connect your FitBit and get actual real-life rewards!

  • Visit AchieveMint and click on Register at the top of the page.
  • Enter your information on the first screen.
  • Next, you will see a link to connect your AchieveMint account to your FitBit account.  Click there and follow the steps.
  • You earn points for the activities you complete and when you reach 50,000 points, you will get a $50 Visa Card!!

I love that you don’t have to do anything more than just walk to build up those points!

 

4. Every Move to Earn Points.

This is a health rewards program which allows you to earn points via your FitBit  (and other methods).  You might even check with your insurance company or employer as some of them will even MATCH the points you earn!

  • Visit EveryMove.org and click the orange SIGN UP button.
  • Once your account is set up, you will be redirected to a page which shows various devices, including the FitBit.  Click to connect your account.
  • Once connected, you will then go and can add your Health Plan, Employer or even college (where you may earn bonus points or additional rewards if they participate).  If you do not have these, you can just skip that step.

What was great is that when I signed up, it went back and grabbed some of my prior activity, which added in some “retro-active” points for me!

The only down side to this one is that you don’t earn free items, but rather discounts on those products you may want to purchase.

 

5. Earn points to donate to charity (or keep them for yourself) through Higi.

This is an interesting app because it will allow you to earn points to redeem towards products, or, if you prefer, make a donation to a charity!

  • Visit higi.com and click the green SIGN UP button.
  • Fill out the profile information.
  • When you get to the screen to connect your device, click on the FitBit link.
  • Follow the steps to link your account.
  • Once you reach points, you can either cash them in towards discount codes or donate to a charity instead.

The great thing is that most of these apps will also work with any device you have, allowing you to earn money while staying active!

Investing Tips: Four Ways to Select the Right Stock

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Investing can be overwhelming.  How do you know which stocks you should select?  We've got FOUR tips you can follow to help you find the right stock for your personal situation!

 

4 ways choosing a great stock to invest in is like choosing a great outfit.  Choosing a great outfit is like choosing a great stock. You may be thinking “Candice, are you sure about that?” Yes, I am sure!

Although there are probably hundreds of questions you could ask yourself before choosing a stock to invest in, today I will be going over a few things I consider before deciding if I will invest my money into a company. Investing doesn’t have to be boring. If you think about it you’re already an investor. Everyday you are making a decision to purchase a product. When you go grocery shopping, I know the brand may not be a factor for you and you may just be looking for the best deal, but start paying attention to the brands that you’re using in your everyday life. Each time you purchase anything you are helping a company grow its profits. Once you’ve made your list of companies go to Google and start to do some research on the companies you’ve listed.

 

What does the company do?

If you are looking for earrings to wear to a holiday party, you want to make sure you are shopping in the right stores that sell earrings. Many companies offer a wide range of products and services. Figuring out all the company has to offer is helpful because you can see where the company’s profits are coming from. Every company must submit a report of their company’s yearly and quarterly performance. This report is called a 10k and 10q report.

 

Diversify your closet.

Just like you need to diversify your closet, you also need to diversify your stocks. You wouldn’t wear the same outfit that you would wear to the gym that you would wear to your office holiday party. So this is why you need to have a variety of outfits to choose from for different occasions. You need to buy different stocks from different industries in case something goes wrong in one industry.

If I only choose to invest in fashion then if something goes from the fashion industry and I only have money invested in fashion stocks, then I would lose a lot of money. However I have a one company devoted to fashion, another company that sells snacks, and another company that sells oil than I would be better off. When you hear the term diversify people usually refer to it as “not putting all your eggs in one basket.”

 

Is it worth the price?

I’m don’t know about you, but I love a good deal. The first section I go to in a store is the sale section. Just like you want to be sure you’re getting a good price for your clothes, you want to be sure you’re paying a good price for your stocks.

In order to figure out if you are paying a good price for a stock you need to figure out the company’s price earnings ratio (P/e). According to beginnersinvest.com “Simply put, the p/e ratio is the price an investor is paying for $1 of a company’s earnings or profit. In other words, if a company is reporting basic or diluted earnings per share of $2 and the stock is selling for $20 per share, the p/e ratio is 10 ($20 per share divided by $2 earnings per share = 10 p/e).

Confused yet? No need to be. Most stock-quote systems such as Yahoo! Finance will automatically figure the price-to-earnings ratio for you.” A P/E is used when comparing different stock prices. Each industry will have a different P/E range that is high to low. “On the surface, a $50 stock may seem more expensive than a $20 stock but if the $50 stock earns $5 a share while the $20 stock earns only $1, using the P/E ratio, you will be able to see that the $20 stock is twice as expensive as the $50 stock. ”

 

Staying away from trends

I’m not a fashion expert, but you want to be sure that while you’re shopping you are choosing statement pieces for your wardrobe. Statement pieces tend to last longer and are generally great quality. You want to stay away from clothes that are trendy or clothes that will fade and won’t last long. Clothes that fade or rip after one time use or wash are a waste. You need classic and timeless clothing. The same is true when deciding which stocks to invest in.

I try to avoid trendy stocks. These stocks are like one hit wonder songs. You know the groups who came out with one song and then years later you wonder what happened to them. It’s the same thing when it comes to stocks. If it’s a new and trending stock don’t invest in it. If it seems like a fad and the company hasn’t been around for very long. Remember you only want to put your money into great solid businesses that have been around for a while.  A brand that you trust.

 

Does the company offer dividends?

When you buy a stock you are buying a tiny piece of a business called a share. Once you buy a share you now own a piece of the company. Which means if the company grows, so do you. A dividend is a payment made by a company or corporation to its shareholders. If you invest in stocks that have dividends the company will pay you quarterly. (Usually every 3 months) That’s right the company will pay you for being an investor in their company. Keep in mind that not all stocks pay dividends. The companies that do pay dividends, the more shares you own of a company the more you will be paid in dividends.

There are other questions that people consider when investing, but these are a few questions that I ask myself. I encourage you to do your own research on each company before you start investing in it. Are there any other ways that investing a choosing a great outfit are similar?

 

About the author:  Candice Maire has a passion for helping people take control of their finances.  She enjoys long walks to the bank, eating dark chocolate, working out and reading personal finance books. Her motto is mind, body, soul and bank account be better. Check out her e-book to learn more!
Sources:
http://beginnersinvest.about.com/cs/valueinvesting1/a/011101a.htm
http://www.theoptionsguide.com/price-to-earnings-ratio.aspx

 

How To Create A Price Book to Track Prices, Deals and Sales Cycles

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

One easy way to keep track of the prices at the stores where you shop is with a price book.  You jot down the prices every week after you shop and you will start to learn those sales cycles at your favorite stores - and know where you usually get the best deals!!

Have you ever wanted to learn how to find out when those items you need will be on sale?  Believe it or not, stores usually cycle sales on schedules.  By learning how your store does this, you can always get the best deals and know when to stock up, and when to pass on those deals.

The way you do this is by creating a Price Book.  This is just what it sounds like – a book which tracks the prices of the items you need at the stores where you shop.

A Price Book is a list of the products you purchase and the prices you pay in order to watch for sales trends and cycles.

It will take time to create yours, but once you have it set up, it is easy to maintain and will help you know when those prices are at their lowest, allowing you to stock up and save as much as possible.

How Do I Make a Price Book?

You want to make sure that what you use is simple enough that you can can maintain it.  If you are a techy person, you might want to use something on your smart phone.  If you are a paper list maker, then you might want to go with a simpler method like a spiral notebook or binder with inserts.  You can even create a spreadsheet on your computer.   The way you track it is not important, it is just important that you do.

You will want to keep the list organized however, by breaking it down by department or possibly even product.  For instance, you will want one sheet for your dairy items, one for meat, one for produce, one for breakfast foods, etc.  That way, when you need to find the prices (and update it), you can easily find it.

What Is Included in the Book?

No matter which method used to create your book, you will want to make sure to keep track of key items.  These will include:

  • Date
  • Store
  • Product/Brand
  • Size (oz, product count, etc)
  • Price
  • Per unit price

We have created a form for you to use, for free.  Just click on the image below to download yours:
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 Click image or HERE to download your free form

 

How Do I Create My Own Price Book?

The simplest thing to do is to starting keeping your receipts.  Once you shop, write down the information based upon what you purchased.  It takes a little work up front to get started, but eventually, the book will be simpler to maintain and you’ll get the hang of it.

To calculate your per unit prices, you will need to make sure you know the product size.  That might mean extra notes when you shop or updating the price book as you put your groceries away.  To determine a per unit price, take the price and divide that by the size.  For example, if you are looking at diapers you would calculate the price per diaper as follows:

$17.49 / 84  = $0.20 per diaper

You can simplify this even more by updating a price book while you shop.  Most stores have the per unit price listed right on the shelf for you.  That makes it simpler for you as you can just write down the price in your book.

Do I Ever Change the Price?

Yes!  That is the reason a Price Book works!  As you shop, you might have a price for an item listed in your booklet, but you find it on sale for less.  You will want to update that price in your book as that means there was a sale.  When you see it on sale again the next time, you might start to learn the sales cycle, such as every 6 weeks or every 12 weeks.  This is how you learn when to shop for the items you need.

How Do I Make the Price book Work for Me?

Before you shop, you will want to consult your price book to see if the items on sale are the lowest price or if you know you can get a better deal.  If your Price Book shows a lower price, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy that product.  It simply means only buy the amount you need to get by until the item will go on sale again at the lower price.

On the flip side of this, if you find that the price in the weekly ad is lower than what you show in your price book, it might mean that you not only need to update your price book pricing, but it also will let you know that it is a good time to stock up at this low price!

Does the Book do More Than Share Sales Cycles?

It sure does!  If you find a great coupon, you will know in advance about what you will pay at the store.  This helps you know at which store you want to use the coupon for the best deal.

A price book can also help with your budget.  If you find that you’ve got “too much month and not enough money” left until your next payday, you can make your list and know ahead of time what you can expect to pay at checkout.  This way, there are no surprises and you can adjust your shopping list before you shop!

Needs vs. Wants and How To Make Them Fit Into Your Budget (And How We Deal With This Ourselves)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

 

When you look at your budget, what is a need and what is a want?  There is a difference.  Find out how to identify those Wants and how to fit them into your own budget!!

When it comes to how you spend money, you basically have two ways you look at it.  Is it a want? Or is it a need?  Ever since my husband and I worked ourselves out from more than $35,000 in debt, we ask ourselves this all of the time.

This is extremely important when it comes to looking at your budget.  Your needs include (not a full list):

  • A place to live, be it rent or a mortgage
  • Food to eat (not including dinners out)
  • Utilities (gas, electric, phone)
  • Health and personal care products
  • Insurance
  • Clothes (just enough – not name brand, over the top wardrobes)

We also always look over our wants as well. These can include:

  • Dining Out
  • More clothes (name brand)
  • Newer electronics or gadgets
  • Larger home
  • Newer vehicle

We always make sure our budget covers our needs first and foremost.  Our budget rarely changes as we have worked hard to tweak it to make it work for us.

Do we have wants in our own budget?  Of course we do! In our own budget we include a category called family spending – for random things we want to do with the kids.  We budget for dinners out with the kids.  We even allow for a bit more for our clothes to get a few nicer things (all on sale of course).  And although we have vehicles which are paid in full, we try to save for a newer one, which we know we will need eventually.

This can be a struggle, to determine if you really need something or if it is a want.  I can completely relate.  We own a 2005 Honda Odyssey.  It is completely paid for and so there is very little cost associated with owning it.  We just pay our insurance premiums and save monthly to cover the annual taxes. We also set a little back each month for maintenance such as oil changes, and tires and are prepared should we have a large expense.  Thankfully, we’ve only had one issue with our vehicle in the ten years we’ve owned it.

The mini van runs perfectly fine.  In fact, it drives like it did the day we purchased it.  It is clean.  I mean, really clean.  I keep it vacuumed and we don’t allow drinks or much food inside.  The only time we might is when we do a road trip (and then, we are careful about what we allow the kids to bring along with them).  I keep it maintained with oil changes and tire rotations.  Everything works.  There is nothing wrong with my van.

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However, I find myself struggling as I have my eye on a different vehicle.  It is actually one of my dream cars – a Buick Enclave. I just love them and I really, really want one.  My husband and I have talked about this frequently lately and have even been visiting websites to see if we can find one which is around 2 – 4 years old.  We don’t want a brand new one, just one that is used will be perfect for us.  We have even considered test driving one.

Why haven’t we gone ahead and done that?  Simple.  I have determined that a new vehicle is an absolute want and not a need.  My van, which is 10 years old, does not even have 100,000 miles on it yet. It just turned over to 95,000 recently.  It runs perfectly.  It is so convenient with 3 kids getting in and out of it as the doors slide open with the touch of a button. Again, there is nothing wrong with my van. I do not need a new car – I want a new car.

This does not mean we can’t afford one.  We have no debts and could pay for it between trade in and our budgeted savings.  However, we won’t.  Not yet, at least.  There is no need for me to get a new vehicle at a cost of more than $25,000 when I do not need to.  No need at all.

I had to really ask myself why I wanted this van.  I determined that I was just bored with mine.  I wanted the thrill of a new vehicle.  I wanted the excitement you get with something new.   That was all great, but the ultimate question was this:  “Will this new car make me happy?”  I answered that quickly with a “no.”  Not happy in the long term.  I will pay more in insurance premiums. I will pay more in taxes.  My savings will need to be built back up again.  The new will wear off after a short time and I’ll be right back where I am again. Back here with less money in the bank.  Back here wondering if something better is out there.

So, after much soul searching and thinking, I’ve decided not to get a vehicle right now.  I know that there will be at time when I need to do it, and I will get one at that time. I know at that time, it will have moved more from the want to a need and then, it will be the right time.

How to Use the Debt Paydown Form to Actually Pay DOWN Your Debts (Plus Ideas On How To Raise Money to Pay Them Off)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Debt.  Ugh.  We hate it!  Learning how to actually dig yourself out from under the mountain of bills can be tough!  We've got a SIMPLE way for you to do this - complete with the steps and forms you need to make this the year you become debt free!!

Anything worth having in life takes hard work and dedication.  There is an amazing sense of accomplishment and joy when you can tackle what seems to be the impossible.  The same is with your debt.  Paying it off is NOT easy.  It is going to take a lot of time, but it is so well worth it!

Of course, before you can just jump in to start to pay off debts, you need to follow the right steps.  It is imperative that you’ve already done the following before you actually start working on paying off those debts you have.  These include:

  1. Preparing your Net Worth and Debt Paydown Forms
  2. Creating Your Budget
  3. Learning How to Use a Cash Budget (Envelope System)
  4. Setting up Your Basic Emergency Fund

If you’ve done all four steps then you are ready to move on to the fun part — actually paying down your debts!!  If you haven’t, you will want to take the time to read each post and follow the steps.  These are important as you can’t really get out of debt until all 4 are addressed.

 

HOW TO PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS

Watching your debts slowly disappear is so much fun, I’m not going to lie!  However, it is important that you are ready for this step.  As mentioned above, make sure you  have completed your paydown form correctly.  This form should list all of the debts you owe, listed from the lowest balances to the highest, as well as your minimum monthly payment.  You should also have your budget, handy too! Got that?  Good!

 

Now, take a look at your budget. Do you have any ‘extra’ money you have freed up towards paying down your debts?  If you do, then look at your Debt Paydown form to find out who you owe the least amount of money to.  Then, go into your budget and increase the monthly payment to  them by the amount of the “extra” money showing in your budget.  Here’s an example:

 

Citibank – owe $500 – monthly payment of $10
Visa — owe $885 — monthly payment of $15
Auto Loan — owe $12,500 — monthly payment of $425

Let’s say that you show “extra” money in your budget in the amount of $25.  Your budget and paydown will then look like this:

Citibank – owe $500 – monthly payment of $35
Visa — owe $885 — monthly payment of $15
Auto Loan — owe $12,500 — monthly payment of $425

This means you will pay $35 each and every month to Citibank until it is paid off.  You will not pay anything above the required minimum payment to any other debtors.

When you pay off your first debt, take that payment and ROLL it into your next debt listed.  In this example, that would mean the $35 payment to Citibank will be combined with the $15 payment to Visa for a total monthly payment of $50!  You will continue to do this as you eliminate each debt, increasing your monthly payment – just like a snowball!

 

HOW TO PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS

I previously shared some ways to help you eliminate your debt (outside of your monthly payments).  As a reminder, here are some ideas:

  • Sell items on Craiglist, Ebay or other methods.  If you have extra things lying around the house, you may wish to sell them and raise some money and then turn around and make a nice big payment on that smallest debt.
  • Get another job.  If you can swing it, pick up a part time job and apply all of your earnings towards your debt.
  • Reduce savings and pay down debts.  If you happen to currently have MORE than $1,000 in the bank, but still have debts, you should really take any amounts above $1,000 and pay down your debts BEFORE you are saving.  The reason is why are you saving money for yourself and paying more in interest to someone else than you are making yourself?

 

HOW TO APPLY YOUR TAX REFUND

So, what about that nice big tax return that is coming your way in a few weeks?  Experts say that you should use the rule of thirds:

1/3 towards the past — use to pay off debts
1/3 towards the present — have some fun
1/3 towards the future — savings

If you truly want to get out of debt, I would recommend you do the following:

Make sure that you have $1,000 in the bank so your Emergency Fund is completely funded
Apply an additional amount left over all towards your debt (paying off least amount owed first and working up from there)

We would all love to just go spend a large sum of money on a new television, clothes or a trip.  However, you have to decide if you want that instant gratification (which may turn to guilt) or if you really want to get yourself out of debt.  While I can only recommend that you work on debt first, this is a question only you can answer.

 

(I am not a financial advisor and the information listed within these posts is not to be construed a financial advice.   Financial concerns/issues should be addressed with a professional in order to receive advice and assistance.)