UPromise – Make More For College Savings With Your Holiday Shopping

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The holiday craziness is here.  Everyone is doing what they can to find the best deal on those items they need or want.  But what if you could actually do something more with your shopping?  How about being able to help save for your child’s (or grandchild/godchild’s) education all while shopping?

Upromise  allows you to do that.  While most people think it’s just a credit card, there is more to it than that.  Check out the ways that your everyday spending helps you save for college:

  • 5% cash back for college from over 850+ online retailers at shop.upromise.com (and members still get to take advantage of all the great retailer holiday promotions – it’s double dipping on savings)
  • 2% – 8% cash back for college from over 10,000 restaurants (that includes purchases for gift certificates at the restaurant)
  • Cash back on travel with ExxonMobil, and sites like Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, and Hotels.com  (and still use your travel memberships or rewards programs)
  • Cash back for college on everything you purchase with the Upromise MasterCard®
  • You can also invite family, like grandparents, aunts and uncles, to join Upromise and the cash back for college they earn from their purchases can be automatically contributed to your Upromise account and your child’s college savings

While you may already know about those things, did you know that there are even more ways to rack up the savings?  And no, it isn’t because you will spend more money, there are bonuses being offered this holiday season!!!

  • 10% Tuesdays – every Tuesday through 12/16, there are dozens of online retailer favorites who are doubling their cash back to 10%
  • 5% Cash back on gift card purchases with participating partners, including giftcertificates.com
  • Free Shipping Day with dozens of popular partners on 12/18
  • And of course extra savings opportunities on the big shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday

That means if you plan on giving gift cards, you can actually get PAID to shop!  And check out the opportunities to increase your college savings – just by shopping on Tuesday!

The best part of all is that you don’t have to do anything  more than shop through Upromise in order to save for college.  You create your account, start shopping and the savings are automatically funded for you.  As busy parents (godparents, aunts, uncles, grandparents….) we don’t have time to stop to move money around. Upromise makes it simple to save for college.  It does it while you do what you plan on doing anyhow — shopping!!!

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Upromise.  All opinions are my own and were not influenced by any parties.

6 Smart Tips for Smart Holiday Shopping

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Looking to save money on your holiday gift giving?  Make sure you check out this list of SIX great tips!  My personal favorite is #5 - and it is the one I tell my children about each and every year!

 

It is November which means it is now time to jump in and do your holiday shopping.  If you shop all year long, then you are probably about finished — and good for you!  However, many don’t start shopping until around Thanksgiving (or later).  When you start to see all of the deals showing up on your television, Facebook and other places (like this site), it can become overwhelming and you can quickly over-buy and lose control.  Here are SIX great tips you can follow to help keep your spending under control!

 

1.  Create a Budget and List

Before you jump in and start buying willy-nilly, you should have BOTH a budget and shopping list ready.  You can use the standard budget form here (just print the blank one and write down the names of the people you will buy for and the amount you plan on spending).    Once you have that in place, then determine what it is you will buy or make.  If your budget is tight, you may want to try homemade gifts (check out one of my Pinterest boards for some ideas).

Make sure you stick to your budget so that when the mail comes in January, you’ll be happy to see fewer bills show up in the mail box!

2.  Saving money on a deal is really saving

If you find a deal on something that you didn’t intend on purchasing and buy it because of the price, that does not make it a deal.  Instead, when you spend money – no matter how much – you are spending.  Even if you get it for $10 because you are saving $15, that is another $10 taken out of your holiday budget.  Make sure that when you see a deal, that it is something you really need to buy and not something you buy just because of the price.

3.  Don’t get sucked in by the phrase Black Friday

Just because it is Black Friday, it doesn’t mean that those are the best deals you can find.  Some of the best days to shop include:

  • November 26th — Toys and Electronics
  • December 1st – Apparel

If you take a minute to actually look through the Black Friday Ads, you will probably see that many of them are the same things you see in past years or are items which are rather underwhelming.  Don’t fall for the hype of Black Friday and think that means you are guaranteed to get some of the best prices of the shopping season.

If you do plan on getting out to shop, you can read my Best Black Friday Shopping tips.  If you want to stay home instead, we’ll be here to help — complete with a database filled with coupon codes and offers!!!  

 

4.  Shop online

While do sometimes shop in the stores, I will admit to doing most of my shopping online.  I am just so busy that getting out is not as easy as it has been in the past.  Between that and the weekend madness, I’d just rather spend time at home with my kids.

When I have the patience to wait for a deal, I can often find deals that I can’t find in the store.  Or, if they are bit more, they are really “the same” as I don’t have to spend fuel or my time to drive to the store to grab it!

I will admit that my favorite place to shop is Amazon.   I also pay the $99 annual fee for Amazon Prime which always more than pays for itself in my shipping savings alone!!!  With the daily lightning deals and how they do a great job of price matching other retailers, I find that I do a great job in getting the things we need, without hurting our holiday budget!

5.  Numbers don’t matter

I don’t know about you, but I would rather spend the same amount and give my kids each 2 or 3 items which will last than 10 items which will fall apart.  In addition, I don’t care what my kids give me either.  One of my favorite gifts was a silly snowman coffee mug that cost $1 at one of our Dollar Stores.  I love it most of all because my daughter was so proud that she not only picked it out herself, but spend her own money to buy it for me.  She reminds me of this when I dig out that mug for my hot cocoa each winter.

I know I’ve receive many gift over the years, but this small mug is the thing I remember.  Your family will do the same thing – if you give something from the heart – or just do what you can to make the holiday memorable, that is what matters most of all.  You probably won’t remember what gift you were given in 2 years, but you will remember that special moment where your child smiled or your last photo with grandma.


6.  Stop shopping when the list is done

This may seem like it is common sense, but it may be harder than you realize.  When you are done with your holiday shopping and have purchase or made something for everyone on your list, just stay out of the stores.  It is so simple to see something and pick up “just one more item.”  Doing this can quickly add up into 5 – 10 more items and quickly blow that budget you set in step #1 above.  Like I tell my kids ……. “put down the toy and walk away.”

What other tips do you have to add to our list?

Bankruptcy: What You Need To Know Before You File

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Banktrupcty - What to know before you file

In 2002, I hit the lowest point in my life (financially).  I had to declare bankruptcy.  It was not fun. I am not proud I did it.  However, having survived it and come out better on the other side, I know that I had to go through that to become the person I am today.

Having done this doesn’t mean I am a bad person.  It doesn’t mean anything negative.  It simply means I was not properly educated on credit and finances.  As a result, I took a path that I could not get out of and it was my last result.  Trust me, I tried a lot of things before visiting with an attorney.

The good that came from this is that I no longer live that same way.  I am very smart with my money and rather than allowing it to control me – I control it!  That is an amazing feeling.  No financial stress keeping me awake at night.  No fights over money with my spouse.  It truly is a beautiful thing.

Even though I’ve personally been down this path before myself, I really do not wish anyone to have go to through this.  However, sometimes, you have no other choice.  I recently contacted a bankruptcy attorney to get some information regarding what you should know before you actually file.

Leslie Tayne, with Tayne Law Group, provide me with some great things to consider before you file.  Keep in mind that this is NOT to be construed as legal advice.  You should always seek counsel before making any decision about this or any other legal matter.  (Whew, now that the legal stuff is out of the way – let’s get onto those points)!

“First, get a copy of your credit report and be in the know about how much debt you actually have. You want to make sure you have all of the debt listed so you can make the best possible choice in terms of a bankruptcy and see which bankruptcy you may qualify for since there are 2 general types of bankruptcy that consumers could file under. That is Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, there are a few differences and knowing them could sway your decision whether to file bankruptcy or not.

Next, consider all of your options.  We counsel people to consider bankruptcy as a last resort. Do research and talk to a few professionals to get the best possible opinions before you file. Consider if there is an alternative to bankruptcy that you can afford and that makes sense in the short and long terms. These factors should be considered as well when deciding on a bankruptcy filing. Once you get into Court you do lose some control and that fact alone can dissuade someone from the bankruptcy process. Regardless of which road you go down, do your research on the professional you choose to work with.

Make sure you have all of your tax information from the last few years in order since you’ll need that when talking to a bankruptcy attorney. This may require a consultation in person with your accountant to go over those details.

Plan out your life after bankruptcy.  It may be hard for you to get credit so consider researching alternatives and know how you will pay your expenses. Consider options such as secured credit cards and dedicate some time to creating a realistic budget to stay on track with spending. In addition, know your income sources and be sure that you can secure your financial future on your current income. You may have to consider some lifestyle alternatives while getting back on your feet which could mean a less expensive car, renting or even taking a second job.”

Just know that there are things you might try before bankruptcy, but if you do need to file, just keep these few things in mind before placing that call.  Also know that you are not alone and it is not the end of the world.

How To Make Your Own Cash Envelopes (Free Template Included)

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Cash Envelopes Template

I talk a lot about using cash and making sure you have a Cash Envelope System.   I have been using envelopes sold by Dave Ramsey for years now.  I went to place another order this past week and was told that they no longer sell them. Ugh!  Now what?  Yes, I could use a regular envelope, but I loved the size of the ones I used because they had plenty of space for me to keep track of my deposits and spending.  They were also the perfect size to fit into my wallet.

I began an online search to find exactly what I wanted.  Of course, I could not find them.  So, what do you do when you can’t find what it is you want?  You become resourceful and make them yourself!  So that is what I decided to do!

I carefully took apart one of my envelopes and traced it onto a piece of card stock.  However, I realized I was still missing the tracking portion I liked.  I sat down and built the envelope and print it out, cut and put it together.  Once I did, I was really impressed with what I had done!  I was able to have access to the envelopes I loved (and didn’t even have to pay for them).  I then decided that perhaps if I were looking for such a resource, that my readers may be too.  So, I took it one step further and created a useful template for YOU to use!

Envelope Template Printout

Click HERE to access the free template

First, make sure that you have a bit of heavier weight paper in your printer.  You can use copy paper, but it is pretty flimsy and may not hold up for very long.  Next, print out as many envelopes as you need for your various categories (see How to Create and Use an Envelope System for more information).

cash envelope system

Next, cut it out and then fold it along the dashed lines.  Make sure you fold it so that you are folding on the outside of the lines rather than the inside, or your envelope  may be a smidge too small.  Then, tape or glue the edges.  Place your cash inside and then write down your category.  Finally, record your deposit on the outside and then, start to track your spending and current balance!

Now, I’m back up and running with our cash system.  I’ve had some readers who do this same method electronically and just jot down their spending, which may also work.  I find that for me, I do best when I have actual cash in my hand.  It really “hurts” to hand over that green more than it does to swipe the plastic.

If you are like my family, now you too have a great free resource to keep track of your cash spending — all to help you gain more control of your finances!

Cash Envelope Template

Alternative Ideas to Filing Bankruptcy

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alternatives to filing bankruptcy

 

The biggest obstacle to someone with a crushing debt burden is a lack of knowledge of how to get their arms fully around the problem, and know how to go about making it right. They do not know fully what options are available to them, and if they do, they are unsure as to what the right first step for them is.

I know, because in June of 2010, I was in that exact situation.

We knew bankruptcy was an option. While we didn’t know much about the process, we did know that it would affect our credit, and our financial options for years to come. We decided to search for alternative solutions. We hit the internet, and found two debt relief options that we hadn’t heard of before.

 

Debt Management Programs

 

Debt management programs, also called debt consolidation programs or credit counseling, is a way for people to pay off their unsecured debt using a third party debt relief company. A debt management program (DMP) works like this:

  • Customer enrolls in a DMP with a debt relief company providing them with information regarding the accounts to include in the program.
  • The debt relief provider negotiates a monthly payment and reduced interest rate with the creditor that results in elimination of the debt in 3-5 years.
  • The customer makes a single payment to the debt relief provider, including a monthly administration fee based upon the amount of debt enrolled in the program. This fee usually ranges between $10 and $50 per month. The debt relief provider then disperses the agreed upon payment amounts to each individual creditor.
  • In exchange for a fixed monthly payment and reduced interest rate, creditors close the accounts so no additional debt can be accumulated. While the act of enrolling in a debt management program does not affect your credit score, the closing of accounts will affect your debt to income ratio, as well as your credit history likely causing your credit score to dip in the beginning. However, by making consistent payments to the DMP, as well as to other financial commitments, a customer’s credit score usually rebounds quickly.

DMPs generally work well for people who are current with their payments, but just cannot make any progress on the balances due to high interest rates. By closing the accounts to avoid future debt, and having negotiated monthly payment and lowered interest rate, DMP customers can repay their unsecured debt within 3-5 years.

For more information about how a debt management program works, check out this article.

 

Debt Settlement Programs

 

A Debt Settlement Program (DSP) involves legal representation, and is aimed for people whose financial situation is a little more dire, but still would like to try to avoid bankruptcy. People who enroll in a DSP go through the following process:

  • Customers stop paying the creditors enrolled in the program
  • Customers make monthly payments to the debt relief provider to fund an escrow account.
  • Over time, the customer’s accounts become severely delinquent. The lawyer assigned to the account will then reach out to creditors to negotiate settlement of the account for less than the full amount.
  • The agreed upon settlement is paid from the escrow account.

Debt settlement will have a negative effect to a customer’s credit score since payments to the creditors are halted. Customers may also begin to receive collection calls from the creditor, at which time they are to inform the caller of the legal representation now handling the account. By law, this should stop the phone calls. There may also be tax implications for the amount of debt forgiven through a DSP.

DSPs are generally used by people who cannot meet all their monthly financial commitments and need to lower their monthly payments but want to avoid bankruptcy. By having the debt relief provider negotiate a settlement of less than the amount owed, customers can make progress on getting creditors off their backs in 3-5 years and then focus on rebuilding their financial future.

Click here for more information on how a Debt Settlement Program Works. < >

On July 1st, 2010, my wife and I enrolled in a debt management company. Within a month, all thirteen of our creditors with accounts totally over $109,000 of credit card debt were on board with a negotiated payment and interest rate. We made 55 payments of $2489, with the final payment being at the end of January of this year.

Up until a week before we enrolled in our DMP, we hadn’t heard of debt relief providers, debt management programs or debt settlement programs. There are countless people in the same position we were in then; in debt and looking for a way out, but just not sure what the first step is.

The first step is to educate yourself on all of your options, including debt management programs, debt settlement programs, do it yourself techniques and even bankruptcy. Once you fully understand all your options, only then can you make the right decision for you.

Are you looking to get out of debt but don’t know where to start? Have you looked into a debt management program, or a debt settlement program?

 

Travis Pizel blogs at Enemy Of Debt where he candidly shares his family’s experiences, struggles and successes as they fight their way out of debt. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. 

Money and Relationships: 6 Tips to Help Couples Manage Their Finances

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If you are in a relationship, you know the importance of fidelity and communication.  However, do you discuss your finances?  This is imperative to a good relationship.  We've got SIX tips to help you and your partner or spouse manager your finances.

 

As a couple, whether you have been living together for a while or you recently decided to take the relationship to the next level, you have to manage your money efficiently. Personal finance is one of the most common causes of separation. So for those of you who still consider money as a taboo topic, here are 6 essential pieces of advice to help you manage your finances in a relationship:

 

  1. Get your financial goals together: living happily ever after implies you have to plan for your future. Where do you envision your relationship 5 to 10 years from now? In a brand new property with three kids, owning a small business or backpacking around the world? How much will it cost you to get married or to raise children? All these questions will greatly affect your finances. Therefore, setting your individual and common goals early enough will help you better manage your expectations.

 

  1. Communicate about each other’s budget: Doing a budget on your own is great, but sometimes you have to reconcile some numbers to ensure you are on track to realizing common projects. For example, you may need to share your salary and savings information to ensure you will have enough money put aside to buy that new house next year. However, some partners don’t like having their transactions scrutinized. For those who are sensitive about their privacy, I suggest opening joint savings and checking accounts to track your common transactions.

 

  1. Pool your expenses: Being in a relationship may result in a cheaper lifestyle than being single. Think about all the rebates you can get by accumulating points on a common reward card. For example, my partner and I get free movies faster by using the same Cineplex card; we also get frequent sales on dietary supplements using his GNC card. The same applies to groceries; shopping items and flight tickets. As a couple you can also save money by moving in together. Common expenses like rent, electricity and cable can then be split in half or as a function of individual income. However don’t let monetary contributions define who has more power in the couple. Remember, contributing to a household’s well-being goes way beyond signing checks every month.

 

  1. Take advantage of tax credits: By moving in together, you can take advantage of tax benefits, like IRS deductions, tax-deductible IRA contributions and child tax credits (if you have kids together). Also some unused tax credits can be transferred from one partner to the other.

 

  1. Stop keeping up with the Joneses: Your neighbors drive a Mercedes and you drive a Honda; they send their kids to private school while yours go to public school; they celebrate in fancy restaurants while you host pizza-and-monopoly parties. And you know what? That is completely okay. Don’t try to live above your means by spending money you don’t have. Indeed, with the overabundance of credit products in today’s economy, many couples have ruined themselves in the pursuit of a lifestyle they could not afford. It is important to always control your joint expenses and avoid deteriorating both of your credit scores because of bad spending habits. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.

 

  1. Discard your pre-conceived ideas: Still today, relationships and money management are both culturally and gender-driven. Therefore in many countries where men are expected to provide for women, it can be hard to conceive of a society where ladies are consistently handed the check in a restaurant or where John goes to work while his husband Marc is a stay-at-home dad. However don’t let age-old traditions on one side or a strict 50-50 split mentality on the other hand get in the way of the financial decisions that best suit YOUR couple.

 

About the author: Meinna Gwet is the founder of Bobbyfinance.com, a financial literacy blog dedicated to young professionals and beginning entrepreneurs. She frequently writes about personal finance, business and economics in a way that is accessible to ordinary individuals. You can follow her on the platforms below:

 

Facebook: http://facebook.com/bobbyfinance.blog

Twitter: @bobbyfinance

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVUl8g54euyIZkD4Pcnf7fw/feed

 

Common Misconceptions About Credit Cards

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If you use credit cards, it is important that you fully understand them.  Make sure you read this list so you aren't follow for one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to your own credit card.www.pennypinchinmom.com  #credit cards #knowledge

 

Common Misconceptions About Credit Cards

Scott Sery is a contributing writer for Card Journalist where he writes about everything dealing with credit cards including how to use them to travel for almost free.

Before the mid 1990’s credit cards were somewhat of a novelty. Many people had them in case of emergencies, but they rarely ever used them. When you went into a store and paid with your card, the cashier (and most people in line behind you) would groan. The cashier had to take out a large clunky device, slide a carbon paper over the card to make a couple of different copies, and then it was submitted for payment. It was a cumbersome process. However, improvements on phone lines and internet have switched the roles of credit cards and checks. Now if you pull out your checkbook people will groan that you’re holding up the line. The point is, credit cards are still a relatively new commodity. And with anything new, there are a lot of misconceptions that go along with the use of credit cards. Here are a few.

 

Carry a Balance to Boost Your Credit Score

 

Shortly after I turned 18 I got my first credit card. I had several friends tell me that to build my credit score faster I should start carrying a small balance (just a few dollars each month). One had even heard it from his mom who works at a local bank. Some quick research showed this myth will do nothing more than waste money on interest.

 

A Lower Limit Boosts Your Credit Score

 

One of the items that FICO looks at when determining your score is how much of your monthly limit you use. For instance: if you have one credit card with a $1,000 limit, and you charge $990 every month, then you are using 99% of your limit. If you have one card with a $10,000 limit and you charge $990 each month, then you are using 9.9% of your limit. The lower the percentage that you use, the less risk of default you pose, thus the higher your credit score.

 

I Just Need to Pay the Minimum

 

Technically this is correct; you only need to pay the minimum. However, this is a foolish decision due to the outrageously high interest charged on credit cards, and it may actually hurt your credit score. Notice the example above; if you max out your card, and then you only pay the minimums, you are keeping your balance near 100% of your limit. A high percentage, especially for an extended period of time, means your score could go down.

 

They Aren’t Safe

 

With news coming in every few months about how certain retailers have been hacked, and credit card information may be compromised, it is easy to believe that credit cards are not safe. However, consider this scenario: you are travelling, and you have $1,000 in cash in your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, there is no way (aside from tackling the thief) to recover your money. If you have no cash and only a credit card, you can cancel the card and you will not be liable for any fraudulent purchases. Would you rather be out $1,000, or out the hour or two to cancel your card and file a fraud claim?

 

Travelling with Your Credit Card

 

Most people know that traveling with a card is a good idea. Not only do you rack up rewards points, but you also get some perks that you wouldn’t otherwise get when you pay with cash. Take these perks into consideration before paying with cash:

-        Free auto insurance. Did you know that when you pay with your credit card, you will likely get the rental agency’s extended coverage for free? If you pay for it, you are paying for something you already get for free.

-        Free travel insurance. Many cards offer free travel insurance. This covers you in case your luggage is lost, and possibly other misadventures.

-        Free hotels. Certain cards offer perks where if you have an overnight layover, they will cover the cost of your hotel.

-        Free Travel Planning. Most cards offer a concierge service that is almost never used. If you have a trip coming up but no time to plan it, just call and have your card company arrange the details.

-        Free Airline Ticket. Many cards that are offered by major airlines offer a companion ticket. Once per year you pay for your ticket (at full price) and a companion can fly for free (just pay taxes). My favorite companion offer is from Southwest Airlines.

-        Free checked bag. If you used your airline card to purchase your tickets, you may be entitled to a free checked bag.

-        Free Airport Lounge. Certain airline cards will allow you access to these exclusive lounges in the airports.

-        Free extended warranty. Traveling or not, many cards will give you a free extended warranty on big purchases. This means if the item is lost, stolen, or broken you can get it replaced for free (even if the manufacturer’s warranty has expired). This goes for cell phones, so don’t waste your money on those insurance plans.

-        Free fraud protection. The biggest perk of any credit card is that you aren’t liable for fraudulent purchases. Most will be wiped from your card the instant you call in, and removed permanently if the investigation determines that you aren’t liable.

Wrapping it Up

 

Credit cards are wrought with myths. For some reason many people are still suspicious about how they work and if they are actually going to help them. Those who embrace the card, and are responsible with their spending, can get a number of free rewards and perks. As usual, check with your card to see which perks are offered.

 

How do you use your credit card? Have you taken advantage of all that it has to offer?

A Baby Costs HOW Much? Create a Budget BEFORE Baby Arrives

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If you are expecting a baby, you know to buy a crib, diapers and get the room ready. But, did you remember the most important thing -- a budget? Read more to learn what you need to start doing today so that you are ready BEFORE your baby arrives! #budget #pregnant #baby www.pennypinchinmom.com

 

Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Every aspect of your life will be altered, especially how you spend and save money. A recent BabyCenter survey found that 42 percent of parents expect to spend around $10,000 in their first year with baby. Of course, this number is an approximate cost. With some forethought and careful budgeting, you and your family can moderate some of the costs associated with the first year of your baby’s life. While you can’t foresee every cost, being proactive will minimize surprises and increase peace-of-mind and enjoyment when your beautiful new addition arrives.

 

Giving Birth

 

Labor and delivery costs vary wildly. Location is a big factor. Depending on where you are in the country and where you choose to give birth (home, hospital, or birthing center), choosing where to give birth can alter your plans and budget.

According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the average cost of a normal (no C-section or complications) birth in a hospital is around $3,200. Add in the costs of pre and postnatal care, you’re looking at an additional $4,000 (or more) added to your hospital bill, and this is after insurance. If there are any kinds of complications, such as low birth weight or jaundice, you can realistically except to pay more.

When you find out you’re pregnant, contact your insurance company to find out what kind of coverage you have and if you have it, what your HSA or FSA will cover. If you’re insured through work, talk to HR. You will likely be having several conversations in his or her office, especially if you’re going to take maternity leave.

 

Taking Time Off

 

Finding out what kind of family leave your company offers (or doesn’t offer) is going to affect your budget. It may be surprising, but only about one-third of all working women in the United States are offered any sort of maternity leave. If your company offers leave, find out if you get the full amount or only a percentage of your regular paycheck. This may affect how long you take or even if you return to work. If your company doesn’t provide leave, they’re still required to honor 12 weeks, unpaid, under FMLA law. Fully understanding your own benefits will give you a clear idea of how to create a feasible budget for you and your growing family.

 

Budgeting For Baby

 

Once you have a clear idea of how much money will be coming in, you can begin creating a budget for the months leading up to, and after, giving birth. Use a ‘first year’ calculator to figure out what you’ll need to save. The numbers may surprise you so expect to make some adjustments in your spending. Curious about how to start making some cuts? Start by figuring out where your money is going now. Track your expenses in Excel or if you’re more comfortable on your phone or the computer, try using an app/program like Finance Works, You Need A Budget or Mint.

Once you’ve figured out where your money is going, create a budget with savings in mind. More importantly, start that budget before the baby is born and stick to it! If you’re spending more than you’re earning (or saving), start cutting unnecessary expenses like cable or magazine subscriptions. Limit your travel and avoid eating out too often. Packing a lunch, instead of ordering a sandwich, can add up quickly.

 

Buying For Baby

 

Buying furniture and supplies as you prepare your home for your little one is where a lot of families tend to blow their budgets. First-time parents are often unsure about what and how much they will need to care for their newborn. Before you build a registry or go on a shopping spree, have an honest conversation with your partner, yourself and other parents about what’s truly necessary.

Bring a parent on your registry trip – they will give you the lowdown on strategic purchases and can assist your internal debate between that fancy baby Jacuzzi or $10 plastic tub. That doesn’t mean you can’t splurge on something adorable you love. Just call a splurge a splurge, save for it and buy other things more affordably.

Don’t buy anything without seeing what your friends or family members are willing to lend or give you for free. Some babies grow so quickly they never get the chance to wear their newborn outfits or onesies. The same can be said of furniture like gliders or high chairs – parents may discover that their kids prefer their car seats or booster chairs. Buying gently used clothing, furniture and supplies can save you a lot of money over time. Also, consider registering or purchasing gender-neutral clothing and equipment. If you plan on having more children, you won’t feel pressured to buy new things.

Lastly, if you’re planning on using day or homecare, the sooner you can start interviewing centers or home care candidates, the better. Some have an admissions process, waiting lists or deposits so if you have a certain person or location in mind, schedule your visit well before your due date. With this sort of prudence and planning, you’ll feel more confident about bringing your baby home.

 

What happens when you planned to go back to work but have a change of heart after the baby is born? Next week, we’ll discuss making this emotionally charged decision. For more advice on navigating financials or saving up for your growing family, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens. This post was written by Maven Jason Armstrong.

 

How to Email Companies For Coupons!

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How to Email for Coupons | www.pennypinchinmom.com

 

Did you know that companies will send coupons to consumers when they provide feedback to companies about their products — be  it positive or negative.  Of course, you won’t just ask for a coupon, however, many times, they will send you a coupon as a thank you or as an apology for a product that didn’t live up to your expectations.  When you are emailing, always keep a couple of things in mind:

1.  Be specific about the product you are emailing  them about.  Don’t just say I love Bar-S Products.  Tell them, I love your Bar-S Beef Franks.

2.  Provide details.  What is that you love about the product?  Is it the packaging?  Is it the reasonable price? Is it a favorite of your child?   The more information you can provide, the better.

3.   If you are complaining, be sure to have your package handy.  Sometimes, they will request the UPC so that they can look into products, in case it needs to be removed from shelves and/or to monitor other complaints to be sure others from the same production line aren’t affected.

4.  Be Polite.  You know that saying “You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar”?  Well, that couldn’t be more true.  Even if you disliked something, be considerate in how you worded it.

Not sure how to say what you need to?  Well, here are a couple of examples you can use:

 

COMPLAINT

 

I had purchased some Kraft Sliced Cheese.  When we opened it to feed our children – it smelled horrible and I had to throw it away.  Here is the information I provided to Kraft:

UPC and product information from the packaging (the webiste asked for this to be completed).  And then my comments were:

I recently purchased a package of Kraft American Sliced Cheese.  This is normally the ONLY cheese I purchase for our family because I really trust the Kraft name and know that what I am feeding my children is a product that I feel is good for them.  That is why I was surprised when the last package we purchased was spoiled when we opened it.  It smelled horrible and the taste was bad enough that my children actually refused to eat it.  I know that this has to be an isolated incident as we have never had any problems with your company in the past.  I felt the need to let you know, in case others were experiencing the same issues.

And what did I get in return?  A coupon for a free package of cheese — up to a $7.99 value!  So it really paid off!

 

COMPLIMENT

 

Now – I have also written to praise companies and again, I am honest and polite.  Here is a sample of what I sent to Breyer’s about their Yo Crunch Yogurt.

I just had to take a moment to write you to let you know how much my children LOVE your product!  In our house, yogurt is always called ICE CREAM.  So, my children don’t even realize that they are eating something healthy when they ask me for “ice cream.”  When I bring home your product, my 5 year old daughter’s face just lights up because she loves pouring the little candies into her “ice cream.”  As a mom, it makes me feel good to know that my children are enjoying healthy snacks that they only know as something they love to eat.

And this one — sent me a coupon for a free package plus 3 coupons for $0.75/1.  So that really saved us a lot of money!

It might be worth your time to take a minute and send some emails – you never know what you’ll receive!

Ten Ways To Make Money From Home

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There are a LOT of ways to make money from home, but many are not legit. Check out this hot list of not one - but TEN - ways you can make money from home! #workfromhome www.pennypinchinmom.com

We have had several requests to share this post again.  Here are ten ways to make a little extra money from home.

If your budget is stretched just as far as it can go, you might be looking for additional ways which you can earn money.  Unfortunately, if you do a search on-line, you will more than likely hit upon sites which are less than honest (so I don’t recommend you do that).

The best tip is to look for something you can do to use your skills and interests.  Don’t try to do something simply to make money, or you’ll quit before you even get started.  Below you’ll find TEN ideas for jobs you can do right from home!

Of course, you can always check out Amazon for several free Kindles (and some for which you pay), but below you’ll find TEN popular ideas!!

1. Virtual Assistant. This type of job is for someone who is organized.  Many sites (even mine) hire Virtual Assistants to help them.  A virtual assistant (VA) works for bloggers or websites.  They could do things from check email, to writing articles to even doing accounting.  The hours and pay varies from site to site, but it is a nice way to pick up a few extra hours of work and some extra spending cash.  Visit VirtualAssistants.com to learn more about how to become a VA.

2. Survey/Points Sites.  I’ve recommended these before – because they work.  You may not always get approved for every survey, but if you keep at it, you can definitely earn some money.  In addition, it can take a while to turn those points into cash, but it does happen!  Most of these sites reward you in the form of points and then you in turn redeem the points in exchange for cash or prizes.  Some of them you might look into include:  Inbox Dollars, MyPoints, MySurvey and National Consumer Panel.

3. Open a Day Care.  This is one which is for someone who truly loves kids.  You will need to be able to prepare meals, teach kids and have a set up in your home which would be safe for children.  If this interests you, it is important that you visit your own state’s childcare license office to learn what it will take to become accredited.  Share with friends to help them get the word out that you are open for business!

4. Home Based Business.   I’m sure you’ve heard of many consultant based businesses, such as Thirty-One Gifts, Mary Kay, Party Lite, Pampered Chef, etc.  These are great companies that allow you to set your own hours, get out and meet new people and still bring in a little spending money.  Make sure you do your homework so you fully understand the start up costs and even what you have to do in order to maintain your consultant status.

5. Ebay.  If you love to search out deals, Ebay might be a good deal for you.  If you find a great deal on a toy on clearance, you can probably turn around and sell it on Ebay for more than what you paid for it.  Another great thing to sell on Ebay is children’s clothes.  Right now, the economy is so tough that parents can’t afford new clothes, so they can head to Ebay and purchase them for just a few dollars per item.  Whatever you decide to sell, Ebay has tools to help you from determining your cost to ad layout.  Just do your research and get ready to sell!

6.  Sell Your Photos.  If you are budding photographer, you can make money by selling your images.  There are sites where you then sell your photos.  As with any on-line endeavor, always read the fine print before you sign up so you know what you are getting into.  Here are a couple of sites you might check out:  iStockPhoto, Shutterstock, Fotolia.

7.  Call Center Employee.  When you place a call to a company, the call rarely goes to an office, but is directed to an employee (who is probably working from their home).  You simply set up an area where you can work and follow a script, taking calls from customers.  Pay varies, depending upon the type of company for which you work.  If you are interested in this option, here are some sites you can visit to learn more:  workingsolutions.comliveops.com or alpineaccess.com.

8.  Data Entry.  With the digital age comes the need to transfer all of that content on paper into digital media.  Companies actually pay people, just like you,  to enter this for them.  This is the one where you will find a LOT of scams, so make sure you are very careful before you sign up.    Here are a few sites you can trust:  HEA-Employment and VirtualBee.

9. Content Writer. Love to write?  You might be able to get hired for freelance writing jobs.  The reason is that companies need to hire quality writers to create content for their websites.  This can also be a way to sell your content to bloggers (if you are an expert in a field).   Visit Elance to get started!

10.  Sell your wares.  If you love to create items, you can sell them for cash.  Check out Etsy and sign up!

Of course, before you ever sign up, make sure you protect yourself.  Here are tips to know if the company could potentially scam you:

  • Watch for pyramid schemes.
  • Be leery of a company who makes you pay before they tell you what your job will be.
  • Read the fine print.  Know what to expect before you agree to the terms (that means, don’t just click the accept button).
  • Research the company at the Better Business Bureau to see if they are accredited or if there have been complaints filed.

Whatever you decide to do when you work from home, just make sure you do thorough research.   Make sure it works for you and it is something you enjoy doing.  Not all opportunities are for everyone.  Good Luck!