What To Know Before Cutting Cable. Read This Before You Grab the Scissors

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What to Know Before Cutting Cable:  Before you cut that cord, there are things you need to know!  Check out this list of questions you need to ask yourself, so that you are ready when you finally make the leap!

Cable companies.  They are the worst. From poor customer service to overcharging consumers, it seems like you may be stuck paying that bill every month.   Or are you?

More and more people are cutting the cable cord and finding alternatives to watching cable. For many it is an easy decision to make.  For others, it may be a bit more nerve racking.  Many have questions like:

  • Can I still watch my favorite shows?
  • Will it really save me that much money?
  • Can I keep my internet with the company and just drop cable?

These are a lot of the most common questions that people have when it comes to considering dropping cable from your life.  It really may not be for everyone, so I’ve got the most common questions here below and tips to consider before you make the call to turn off your service.



There are a lot of streaming services such as Netflix, HuluPlus, SlingTV…just to name a few.  Many of these services will actually stream your favorite shows for you.

But, how do you know which one(s) could cover what you like?  The way I would recommend to do this is to first of all, start with a TV watching journal.

Every time you watch a show, write it down.  Keep a notebook right by the TV and never miss writing things down. Don’t forget about the shows you may DVR, the movies you watch, the things your kids watch….write it ALL down.

I would keep the journal for a period of at least a month (perhaps 2).  After that time has lapsed, make an alphabetical list of the shows you watched and not the frequency.

Perhaps you watched something just once because nothing else was on.  That may not be a series you would miss.  There may also be a show your kids watch every afternoon when they get home from school.  That is probably something that you would miss.

Once you have your full list of the “must watch” programs and movies, check out all of the various streaming services to see what they actually carry.  If you can find the nearly all of your programs through one of these services, it might be the right time to make a change.  If you can’t, or one of your favorites is not available, you have to decide if it is worth it to keep cable or not.



There are initial investments that you have to make before you can watch shows without cable.  You must purchase an antenna.  You can find these in all sorts of price ranges. You can try one version in your attic, which you can split with cables to each TV.  You might want to connect a smaller one to each TV individually instead.   There are several options and you can find them priced as low as $25 on Amazon (and they go up from there).  This will get you your local channels only.  Nothing more.

If you want to pay for services to stream other programs, you will need a streaming player or device.  You can get a Fire Stick or Chromecast, which will plug into your TV and wirelessly stream through your internet.  Some SmartTVs now come with built in WiFi connections and service links built into them.  You may also want to look into a Roku or FireTV, both of which will also stream programs and movies.  The one thing that you must also realize is that you will need one of these for each TV in your home.

If you want to record your favorite shows, you can absolutely do that as well.  That will require one additional piece of equipment, a DVR.  However, many people do not do this as most shows are available through one of their paid services, so there is not as much need to record programs (as there was in the past).  Make sure you read the specs as some of them will act as your streaming device and your recorder, so you may find two in one options.  Again, if you want to have this available on each TV set, each one will need its own (and there is no recording on one set and watching anywhere).

The services that you may look into could include:

  • Hulu
  • Netflix
  • SlingTV
  • CBS All Access
  • Amazon Prime (free for members)
  • HBO Now
  • Showtime

The monthly prices vary from service to service, but run as low a $5.99 up to $20 (and more).  Even if you use just 3 services at $10 a month, that is $30 monthly vs. what you paid your cable company!

So while the initial cost may be more, it will more than pay for itself in the long run.



If you plan to use the antenna only, then you will not need internet in your home.  However, remember that without that, you can’t get online on your computer or devices. If you use any of the streaming media devices, you must have an internet connection in order for them to work.

Cable companies tend to bundle things together as it makes the consumer feel that they are getting the best deal out there. However, that can actually leave you paying for services that you don’t want or do not use.

Do some research and check out internet only services close to your home. You might find someone has a great deal that works for you….or just keep your same provider and drop the cable from your bill.


Making a big change like this is scary.  However, what may be even scarier is sticking with a service you do not like and paying to much for.  What is worse for you?


30 Day No Cash Challenge: Thoughts and What I Learned

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Check out my honest results of using credit only for 30 days....find out if we overspent or if we actually MADE money with our card perks!


Whew!  We did it!  My husband and I were able to make it 30 days and just stick with using our credit card.  I will admit that it was not simple.  We started using a credit card for every. single. purchase on September 4th.  It is now October 6th and so we have survived the 30 days we said we would.

This was very interesting and we learned a lot from this experience.  Not only did we learn about ourselves, we also witnessed first hand what others in America are doing when it comes to the way they use money.  It was truly an incredible learning experience.  And while I won’t be using credit like that in the future, it did give us new perspective and understanding.



The good thing that came from us using the card was a nice little increase in our credit score.  Not that we really “care” what our score says, but it was kind of fun to see it increase as we used credit.

The other thing we realized is that it is really nice to have the card attached to all of our online purchases.  We’ve had our card information stolen in the past (read more about that here).  We both have determined that we will stick to using our Discover card for the online shopping, just so we don’t have to be without our bank card, should something happen again.



We have been using cash for most of our regular spending since 2010.  It is not simple to make a change to what it is you are use to doing.

Part of the reason we had such a difficult time was because it “felt wrong.”  We felt like we really did not earn the things we bought.  There was a lot of guilt attached to our spending.  Yes, we knew that we had the cash in our account and would pay it all off the following month, but in the moment of shopping, we felt enormous guilt.

There were also times when I had to run to the store for just a couple of items and using my credit card for an $8 purchase seemed ridiculous to me.  It was very tempting to grab cash and just use it….but I did not.  I held true to my commitment to really allow ourselves to see through the process.



This is where it really hit us.  We took a look at our spending for the month.  While we normally have envelopes where we track everything we spend, we did not have that this last month.  The cash in the envelopes dictated our spending and always helped us to stay on budget.

For instance, we knew we had $350 to spend on groceries every two weeks.  When we use cash, we knew what we had left to spend just by looking at the envelope and also seeing the cash in the envelope.  We knew it was impossible to overspend.  There was no way to do it.  When the cash was gone, we were done shopping.  That really made us look at what we bought and made us more mindful of our spending.

There are many studies that state if people use credit, they will spend up to 20% more than they would if they used cash.  We also had readers say that they used credit cards because of the rewards they got!  They were earning cash back on the things they were buying anyhow.

When we signed up, we made sure we used a card that offered rewards.  We were able to earn 1% cash back on nearly everything and up to 5% cash back on a few select stores.

I want to be completely transparent and will show you our budget in a normal month vs. our overall spending using credit.  I will also share our total spent over the month and our cash back.  The results may be surprising:


Normal Budget: $700/month
Total Spent in September: $727.24
Over Budget:  $27.24


Normal Budget:  $200/month
Total Spent in September:  $215.72
Over Budget: $15.72


Normal Budget:  $250/month
Total Spent in September: $246.14
Under Budget:  $3.86

Most of our other envelopes accumulate money and are used when needed (such as clothing and haircuts, for example).  We did not have to make any of those purchases during September, so we did not have to take those into consideration.

As a result of using our card, we spent the following:

Total September Spending: $1,189.10
Total September Budget: $1,150.00
Over Budget: $39.01

That may not seem like much, but if we did this every month, we would end up spending $468.12 too much over the course of a year!!

We did earn cash back on our purchases.  That was a nice perk.  However, based upon our spending for the month, we earned a grand total of $12.42.  That was all.

Even if we net our overspending and our cash back, we still ended up spending $26.28 too much during the month (which still would result in more than $300 over our budget over the course of a year).



I know that credit still works for many of you, so you will want to follow me as I get ready to try a new way that you can use credit, cash or even debit and still never end up exceeding your budget.  You will want to stay tuned for that.

For our family, cash just works best.  We are paying off the card in full this month (which is what good credit card users should always do).  We are going back to cash again going forward.  However, we will still do our online shopping using our card (and will track that with this new tool we are going to share here soon).

There is not a right nor wrong way to spend money.  What matters is that you track track your spending and stay within your budget.  That is key.  If you use a card for the perks, but you spend more than you budgeted, then you are no further ahead.  You’d be better off to take the money you would have saved in using cash and just put it aside.

10 Secret Tips for Saving Money at Best Buy

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There are always ways to save money at your favorite store...including Best Buy!  Check out our 10 SECRET tips you need to know to save money when shopping at Best Buy!


One of the most popular shopping destinations for home electronics and entertainment is Best Buy.  You can find just about anything you need from laptops to gaming systems, televisions, appliances and every accessory you can imagine!  Of course, these items are some of the most pricey, which can mean that you may not always get the best price you want.

If you shop at Best Buy very often, you know that finding coupons are pretty rare.  In fact, the only way most people really believe that they can save is to just buy an item when it is on sale.   I’ve actually got TEN secret tips to save you money at Best Buy!!




1. Coupons.  Although rare, they do pop up from time to time.  In fact, it is has been a few years since we’ve seen one that you can print and use in the store.  What may work best when shopping at Best Buy is to see if there is a free shipping code or other online discount.  That is really the best you will do when it comes to tracking down a coupon.

2. Check out refurbished items. You can also shop their refurbished site called CowBoom and even the Best Buy Outlet (both online) where you can find some deep discounts.  You might even try the Best Buy Ebay store where they offer some of their same discounts as on their website (even if the website shows that it is out of stock).



3. Shop Wisely During The Holidays.  Black Friday (and now, actually Black Week through Cyber Monday) is typically when you will truly find the best deals of the year.  The reason that we don’t see them very often is that electronics manufacturers rarely allow retailers to discount products below a set price.  What Best Buy will do is add in a free gift card with purchase.

4. Price Match.  Did you know that Best Buy will price match online retailers?  They will match the following stores:  Amazon, BHPhotovideo, Crutchfield, Dell, HP, NewEgg and TigerDirect.  When you are in the store, just do a quick search to see if the item you need is priced lower online and they will match it.  It must be the exact item (search by SKU to make sure) and they will only do one price match per customer.  They also suspend price matching during Black Week and Cyber Monday, so you will need to check with your store to know the policy before you try to match.

One other little known secret is that sometimes, Best Buy will retroactively price match.  That means if you purchase an item and the price drops during the eligible return period (see below), they will refund you the difference!  Just take in  your receipt to show verification of your purchase.




5. Join Best Buy Rewards Programs.  Best Buy has a program called My Best Buy Rewards.  It is completely free to join and you earn points on every purchase made.  When you earn 250 points, you will receive a $5 reward certificate (or gift card) which you can redeem on anything at Best Buy.

Best Buy Cardholder get even more from this program! You will earn 5% back in rewards when you shop using your card.  There are also special invitations extended only to cardholders which will get you early access to special sales and events.

If you are a frequent Best Buy Shopper and happen to spend anywhere from $1500 – $3500 in annual purchases, you will be upgraded to the Elite or ElitePlus membership.  These members enjoy additional perks such as free expedited shopping, extended return policies and increased rewards points.

6. Special Discounts for Gamers.  Gamers will also want to make sure they sign up for the My Best Buy Gamers Club to get even more benefits including double points on new video games, accessories and digital content.  A 2 year paid membership scores even additional perks such as 20% off of new video games, 10% off of pre-owned games and even a 10% bonus trade-in credit.

Know the return policy.  Best Buy will allow most items to be returned within 15 days for a full refund, even if you have opened it.  Just make sure you have your receipt, ID and all of the packaging and contents.  There are, of course, a few exceptions to this policy:

  • My Best Buy Elite and Elite Plus members receive an extended return and exchange period of up to 45 days.
  • Cell phones and other devices sold with a carrier contract may be returned within 14 days.
  • Holiday returns included an extended return period.  Purchases made between November 1 – December 31 have an extended return period through January 15 of the following year.
  • Opened software, movies, music and video games can only be exchanged for an identical item.
  • Special Order items will be refunded at 85% of the original purchase price.
  • Custom orders are non-returnable.
  • Bundled items or promotional discount items can be returned individually. Best Buy will refund you only what has been returned, less the discount or freebie amount.
  • If you’re missing items or packaging you can still return for a small deduction on your refund.
  • Other non-refundable purchases include digital content, prepaid cards, memberships, completed services, and items that are damaged or missing major components.


7. Shop Video Games in Bundles.  If you wanting to get a new gaming system, watch for bundles.  They often toss in a multiple games and sometimes, even accessories.  If you price them out individually, you will pay more than if you purchase it in a bundle.

8. Purchase discounted gift cards. This is one of the simplest ways to save on your Best Buy purchases.  When you purchase a gift card at a discount, that is instant savings – right in your pocket!  Find out how you can score discounted cards and even a FREE $5 credit towards your first purchase through Raise.com!!  Click HERE for details.



9. Get your HDTV here. If you want to find the best pricing on HDTVs, Best Buy is most often the place to go.  They usually will meet or beat competing sites, which gets you the best possible price for the television you want.

10.  Use Site to Store pickup.  This is a great option because you can score a hot online deal, but still get your item on the same day. Not only that, you can avoid paying shipping charges as well, which is an added perk.

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

20 Items You Should Always Buy at The Dollar Store

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Your local Dollar Store can be a hidden treasure trove of deals (as well as lots and lots of misses). There are the twenty items I would always recommend you pick up at your local store -- and not pay more than $1 for anywhere else!

20 Items You Should Buy at the Dollar Store

When it comes to shopping, I am a believer in getting my money’s worth.  However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get those quality items you need at the Dollar Store — where you can find them priced at just $1 (or around that price).

I’ve shopped Dollar Stores for years and there are always items I buy there, which I usually don’t pick up elsewhere.  These are items which brand may not matter and/or those items which are disposable.  I mean, if you are going to throw it away, why pay more than you need to!

Here is my TOP 20 LIST of the items you should always try to buy at the Dollar Store.

Birthday Party Supplies - Buy the these at the Dollar Store at a FRACTION of the cost!



These are one of the items I always grab at the Dollar Store.  Of course, I usually stock up on tissue paper at the end of Christmas as that is usually even less than $1, but all other items?  I head to my local dollar store!

1. Gift Bags.  If you are giving gifts, you know that the person will probably open the item and toss the bag.  Why pay $4 (and more) at other stores, when you can find them for just $1 at your Dollar Store!

2. Gift Wrap.  This is usually a better deal – just always check the square footage.  Know what you pay per square foot at larger stores, so you can make sure that it is a bargain.  I usually find that it is a better bargain, but there have been a few rare times when I found a good deal at a larger store, which did cost less them my dollar store.

3. Cards.  These are always $1.  I know that when I give a card to someone (even sympathy, anniversary, thank you, etc), they will read it and then, it usually goes into the trash can.  I pay no more than $1 for my cards just for that reason.  If you price cards at other stores, they can be very expensive ($4 and more)!!

4. Decorations.  You can find balloons, table cloths, party hats, party favors and more — all priced at just $1!  These vary in price at other stores.  By the time you complete your decor, you could easily spend $30 and more at a larger store – compared to just $7 – $10 at your Dollar store!



I do not buy too many of these items at our Dollar store, as I usually find great deals at ALDI.  However, there are a few things I do pick up there – always!

5.  Movie Theatre Candy.  When my kids are on any type of break, we make stop there for them to each pick up one box of their favorite candy.  It is around $1.25 and more at other stores, so it is not a huge savings there.  However, if you pick it up and put it into your bag before you go to actual theater, you will notice HUGE savings.  Theaters charge upwards of $5 and more for the same box!!!

6.  Spices.  You can find all sorts of spices priced at around $1 at your Dollar store.  These same ones can cost much more at your grocery store – realizing instant savings.

Personal Care Products at the Dollar Store


Once again, you need to know the prices of the items you purchase at your regular store, to compare the prices.  These are the items I have found are less than other stores.

7.  Band-aids.  I don’t know about you, but my kids think they need a band-aid the minute that they hurt themselves (blood or no blood).  Needless to say, we go through a lot of them.  I pick them up for just $1 a box and keep them handy for those incidents.

8.  Pregnancy Tests.  While I do not need these personally now (whew!), I did many years ago.  It was so much more costly to pick up dollar store tests rather than pay $10 at other locations.  You may be surprised to know that they are pretty accurate too (at least mine always were).

9.  Reading glasses.  This is one I haven’t needed yet, but my mom sure has!  Rather than have just one pair that she has to take with her everywhere, she has multiples.  She keeps on her desk at work, another in her home office, another in her purse – and even one at my house!

10.  Hair accessories.  With two girls, we go through a LOT of hair bands.  (Seriously, where do those little things disappear to at night??).  We have picked up new combs and brushes for them too – and paid much less than at other stores.

11.  Q-Tips.  I’ve tried our dollar brand of q-tips and you know what – they work as well as the name brand!  I’ve even picked up cotton balls which work just the same too (at a fraction of the cost).

12.  Bar soap.  You can sometimes find 2 bar packages of soap for just $1  — much less expensive than elsewhere (and, if you are lucky enough to have a coupon that doesn’t exclude that size, you can save even more).

Home Decor at the Dollar Store


This may be surprising, but you really can find some great items!  The great thing is that when you pay less, you can afford to change it out with the seasons (or even as your mood strikes).

13. Seasonal decorations.  From Easter to Halloween to Christmas, you can find some great decor items at your Dollar store — for much less than you will pay elsewhere.  The only thing I would not purchase is anything that is electrical.  It is not worth the risk to pay less.

14.  Vases and bowls.  You can find adorable glass vases to hold your flowers or even bowls for potpourri, floating candles and more!  This is a great way to give flowers to someone and save.  Just pick up an inexpensive bouquet at your grocery store, grab a vase at your local dollar store and you’ve got a beautiful arrangement at a fraction of the cost!

15.  Picture frames.  I’ve found some really pretty frames at our local store.  It is a great way to give a photo of our kids to grandparents — or even spruce up the home with different looks!  I’ve even purchased the cheap wooden frames, sprayed them with silver paint, and turned the cheap one into something fabulous for a gift for my mom!!

Household Items at the Dollar Store -- pay MUCH less!!!!


I’ve also had pretty good luck with many different household items.  Again, watch the quality so that you don’t get anything TOO cheap.

16.  Dishware.  What I love is that you can find open stock dishware to purchase to spruce up your table for that special dinner.  Keep in mind that it is not the best quality, but it can be a fun way to bring in unique decor or colors to your table,

17.  Glassware.  These seem to chip and break all of the time.  You can find all sorts of glassware (and even coffee mugs) at your local dollar store.  These are also sold individually so that you only need to purchase the number you need, instead of an entire box.

18.  Dish cloths and Dish Towels.  No matter how well you launder your dish clothes and/or towels, they tend to wear out.  Don’t spend more than you need to — just pick up a package at the dollar store.  Then, when they wear out or you need to throw them away, you have a new supply of cleaning rags!

19.  Envelopes.  Have you priced envelopes at your local store?  You can pick up a box for much less — just around $1 when other stores may charge $3 and more!

20. Gloves.  I don’t wear gloves that often, but there are times when I need to.  These are around $1 at your dollar store.  Compare these to $3 and more at other stores and you’ve got a bargain!

iPhone Users Do This (Before Your Cell Phone Bill Goes Crazy)

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This is a MUST KNOW tip if you have an iPhone! The most recent upgrade turned on a feature that could cause you to secretly rack up a HUGE cell phone bill!!!


Apple just released a new update to it’s operating system.  While most updates really run behind the scenes, there is one that you need to know about — and make a change!

They just added a new feature called WiFi assist.  This will make your phone automatically use cell data if your wifi signal is weak.  This could end up costing you big!

The reason that they added this to your device was so that you never lose connectivity when you leave a WiFi network.  Your phone can tell that you are losing your service and will automatically switch you over to cellular data connection.   The idea is that you will never have interruption of service (like if you are watching a movie, or something else).

While this may sound great and be something awesome to have happen automatically, it could really be an issue if your home WiFi signal were to weaken for any reason.  Yep.  Even if you are at home and on your own WiFi, this service could take over if your signal was down or reduced for any reason at all.  Worst of all (or best of all, depending upon your situation), you won’t even know that it happened.

Of course, this may be a feature you appreciate and want to have activated.  However, if you are a limited data plan, it really could force you in to exceed your data usage and rack up a hefty bill — without you realizing why it is even happening.

Fortunately, you can work around this by disabling the feature.  Just do the following:

  1. Click on Settings.
  2. Click on Cellular.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and turn OFF the WiFi Assist.

That’s it!  That is all you need to do!  Now, you won’t have to worry that you are on your cellular network and not realize it!


Our Bank Account Was Hacked: All In the Name of Charity

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Shop Online Without a Credit Card: We live in a digital age .... which includes our money. We use credit and debit cards for many purchases. This opens us up to hackers - sadly. We've put together this extremely helpful article: How to shop online even if you don't own a credit card. There are easy things you can do and still enjoy the online deals (safely).

Shop Online Without a Credit Card


Yes. You read that title correctly.

This past April we were getting ready to head to mass to watch our son make his First Communion. My husband logged into our back account (can’t honestly even remember why). He called me over to take a look when we saw it:

Debit: Joel Osteen Ministires — $1239.60

We both had to actually check twice. Did it really say that we gave Joel Osteen more than $1200?
We scrolled down through the prior transactions and found two more:

Debit: Joel Osteen — $1,663.20
Debit: Joel Osteen – $1,607.00

We’d never given Joel Osteen any money. Not a cent. However, there it was in black and white. A grand total of more than $4,500. It was then that we realized — we had been hacked. But, were we really hacked to give money to a Christian? Doesn’t that seem totally oxymoron:

Hacked To Give Money To Charity

We had to honestly laugh a little as it made no sense. Who in the world would ever hack someone’s account so that they could make donations to christian charity?!? It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?



Later that same Sunday, my husband made a phone call to the fraud department of our bank and reported it. They immediately shut down our cards, flagged our account and began the process of correcting the situation.  It was a good thing that we did as there are actually two more pending transactions – which were each also in excess of $1200 each!!!  That would have meant another $2400 taken from us!!

For us, it meant no debit cards for a few days. This. was. a. pain.

It was not because of our every day purchases, as we usually use cash anyhow. However, we had several automatic payments set up online for our bills. We had to go and update all of those accounts once we received the emails advising us that our payment information was invalid. It was just a royal pain in the $&%.

The only other time when it was an issue was when we had to fuel my husband’s vehicle so he could go to work. It is just easier to pay at the pump. He had to get a bit more cash out and go inside and pre-pay before he was able to fill up the truck. Not the end of the world at all, but still, it was an inconvenience.

Our bank was amazing as they refunded the money back into our account within a couple of days. We were very fortunate to have enough money in our savings account that we did not go overdrawn (this is when a big emergency fund is a life saver). However, had that not been the case, we could have had even bigger issues to deal with.



The odd thing is that we had not been doing any online shopping around that time. The only thing that thought made sense was that perhaps a skimmer was placed onto one of the gas station pumps my husband used on a recent trip.

To this day, we still aren’t sure how happened and we never will. We just know that it sucked. Yep. No better way to put it…it was just suck-suck-sucky!!!!!!



Considering that we do not often use our debit card, we really did not make many changes. We know our bank has an amazing fraud department and they jump in and help out consumers as soon as they can. It is reassuring to know that they are on our side.

The only change we are making is with our online shopping. As I’ve mentioned before, we haven’t owned a credit card in years. I applied and received one so that I could complete my 30 Day No Cash Challenge. We’ve decided that we will use this card for all of our online purchases, just for this reason.

While we know our bank would refund us any fraudulent charges, the inconvenience of having to get new cards and update payment information and having to wait to get the money in our account makes us not want to shop online nor use them very often.

Now, we know that if our credit card happens to be hacked, the only issue we have is the current charge(s). There is no having to update payment information nor waiting for a new card to arrive so we can use it. Still a pain? Yes. But nearly as much as in the past.



If you want to shop online, but only have a debit card, you are a bit more limited in your options. Obviously many don’t have (and/or do not want) a credit card, so online shopping is done only with this card.

Here are a few ideas as to what you can do if you want to shop online and need to keep your bank information safe:

  • Purchase gift cards. These have limited funds on them and if the number is taken, you are out only the amount remaining on the card. They have no access to any other information, which means they can not steal anything further from you.
  • Sign up for a Pay Pal account. This account can be attached to your checking account. That means when you shop, the money will be deducted automatically for your purchase – but hackers would never have access to your bank account information.Keep in mind that many retailers will accept PayPal as a form of payment, but some will not.
  • Set up a separate bank account for online shopping.  You will have a separate card that is used for your online purchases. You just need to make sure that you do not have overdraft protection attached to the account (and them make sure you never overspend either).When you get ready to shop online, transfer the money between your main and online account. The balance will always be very low, so if you are hacked, you are not out very much (while you wait for your bank to make the deposit for you).

Whatever way you decide to shop online, make sure you carefully monitor accounts. Watch for small transaction of $1 or less (as that can be tell tale sign that someone is testing to make sure your card number works). Make it a practice to check your statements at least 1 – 2 times every week (if not every day).

Having your bank information stolen is not fun. Just make sure you are ready when someone comes calling …. taking money to give to someone you don’t know!


**Joel Osteen Ministries was not the guilty party in this situation at all. They immediately refunded the money back to our bank when they reached and explained what happened. They do not condone hacking of any sort. However, be careful as when you are hacked, your name will get onto their mailing list. 😉

Bridesmaid Gift Giving Etiquette

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Ever wondered what a bridesmaid should do for the bride when it comes to a gift?  We've got the best bridesmaid gift giving etiquette tips here!


Bridesmaid Gift Giving Etiquette


Wedding trends come and go (although I don’t think anyone’s holding their breath for puffy sleeves to make a comeback). However, some traditions are fairly resilient, such as a having bridesmaids. These three to five ladies do far more than stand beside the couple at the altar on their big day. Bridesmaids often lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on or some even function as the day-of coordinator. Unfortunately, with this honor and responsibility often comes a hefty price tag.

These days, members of the bridal party can expect to spend $1,500 to $1,800. These costs cover everything from attire and day-of beautification to airfare and hotel stays, all elements of today’s wedding festivities. Of course, these expenses can vary wildly depending on location or levels of formality but if you say yes to the bride (and the candy-colored dress, shoes and destination she picks out), you’re going to need to start budgeting for gifts as well.


Pre-Wedding Presents

Your name is probably on the invitation list for every shower, party or get-together thrown for the couple. While not every gathering will involve gifts, you undoubtedly won’t be showing up empty-handed to every one of them.

When putting together a “bridesmaid budget,” plan to purchase a shower gift and a wedding gift. If gifts are expected or encouraged at other events, like an engagement party or multiple showers, a heartfelt, handwritten note or small gift (a picture frame, an ornament or a fun piece of barware) are all great ways to express your happiness without blowing your budget.


Wedding Wishes

If you are concerned about costs (and even if you’re not), one idea to consider is splitting the cost of a big-ticket item with others in the wedding party. Some couples put higher-cost items on their registry for this reason alone. If the registry has been picked over, a gift card to a local attraction or restaurant is a nice gesture as well.

What you spend on the wedding gift depends on how much you’ve already spent getting to, and ready for, your friend or family member’s wedding. Use your best judgment and, no matter what, you should give the bride and groom a card. This helps prevent any confusion about whether or not a gift is in the mail. Not only that, but it’s also a great opportunity to share well wishes and express your delight about being included in their big day.


Sometimes, good things come in small packages. In other instances, good things arrive professionally wrapped the week before the wedding. For our next installment, we’ll talk about gifting etiquette for guests on the big day. Stay tuned! For more savings tips, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens or visit http://communityamerica.com

Simple Tips To Know About Using Credit vs. Cash

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If you use credit, it can be very, very easy to over spend. We asked our readers for THEIR Simple Tips to Know about using Credit vs. Cash!


As you know, recently the #ppmchallenge started, where you use no cash, just credit, but still try to keep on budget. So we’re curious, how much does using credit allow you to overspend? Can you still stay in budget? I guess the questions stems from, if you go to the store with $20 in cash, you can’t spend more because you would have to put something back… however, if you are just using credit and you spend more than $20, you’re probably more likely just to go ahead and swipe your card before putting something back… Is it true?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are a couple of the tips which were shared by our readers.

“I use my credit card for everything and get dividends paid back at the end of the year. I get on average $800.00 every December.” – Beatka C.

“If you are responsible, credit cards can work to your advantage. I’ve had numerous free hotel rooms and flights using my credit card points. I also get 4% on my checking account if I use my debit card 10 times a month.” – Debi O.

“Use a credit card with rewards. My hubby and I both have a Amazon Rewards card. When our March 2014 baby arrived, most of the stuff we bought for him was purchased on Amazon using our reward dollars.” – Julie E.

“Take advantage of 0% interest promos and pay it off before the promo ends.” Valerie C-S.

“Pay close attention to your online statements and keep track of your purchases. With it being electronic and reliant on technology, mistakes can occur (double charges, etc) that if you don’t keep an eye on can go unnoticed.” Courtney B.

Penny Pinchin’ Mom used to be cash only until the challenge… the reason was to get a good look at what happens when credit is used vs just carrying cash! We asked our readers and some said they use the cash only method while others answered their reasons for using credit… The rewards seem pretty tempting and definitely helpful to some if they do those things… However, I wonder if they’re overspending to capture rewards, and the money saved from using cash could just pay for the extras? Follow along with our #ppmchallenge and see what we find out!

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!


Five Tips To Help Lower Your Cell Phone Bill

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If you hate paying your cell phone bill, you are not alone! There are things you can do to pay less each month -- just read our Five Tips to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill! (My Favorite is #4)!!

Five Tips to Help Lower Your Cell Phone Bill


Every month when our cell phone bill comes, I shudder at how expensive it is!  I realize I do so much with my phone (more than just talk to family and friends).  I use it for work, social media, entertainment and even to save money!

If you find your cell phone bill is out of control, you are certainly not alone. However, just because you get a bill and they tell you what you have to pay doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck in that higher payment rut!  Check out these great tips to help you lower your cell phone bill.


1. Compare plans to find the best option. Whether you are in the market for a new carrier or just want to see if you can reduce your rate, it is important to compare plans.  Grab your current bill and visit MyRatePlan or WhistleOut.  You will enter a few key pieces of information from your bill and they will offer different plans which may be available from your current carrier, or perhaps even a lower one through another company.

Don’t forget that you can now keep your same number if you do happen to sign up with a new carrier.  It is very important to read reviews about the company before you jump on board.  Research things such as coverage area, dropped calls, dead zones, etc.  It is not worth paying less if you are going to also receive less service and/or your phone will not work when you need for it to.


2. Renegotiate your current plan.  If you really love your cell provider and do not want to leave, you can still use MyRatePlan.com or WhistleOut.  Find out what their competitors have to offer.

Call your carrier and talk to them about making a rate change. First, discuss what they offer new customers and  try to negotiate to get that same rate, or share what you can get if you happen to leave to go to a competitor (which is when the above information will come in handy).

If you happen to be at the end of your contract, you will often have much better results, as they know you will be free to leave and they want to do what they can to keep your business.


3. Go with a no-contract plan. The worst thing that we can do as consumers is to lock ourselves into a contract.  It may sound great to pay less for the latest cell phone, but it may actually be cheaper to purchase the same phone via an installment plan.  You may find that the access fees are less on these installment plans and you usually do not have to put any money down.  Many of the larger providers are already heading this route, so they know what customers want and are making the changes for you!

What is really great is that when you pay your phone off, your bill will drop by $30 or more every month! However, should you be on a contract plan, your rate stays the same for the entire term of the agreement.

If you find that you want to leave your current carrier and sign up with someone else on a no-contract, installment plan, talk to the company about buying out your current contract.  Many times, they will offer to do so in order to get your business.  It is always worth asking!


4. Avoid data hogging traps. Do you love to watch video streams on your phone or even play online games?  These often use a LOT of data.  Instead of using your data to stream these, make sure you are connected to WiFi.  When connected to a cell network the following will gobble up your data:

  • Video Calls: Face to face calls can use up to 3 MB per minute!
  • Video Streams: HD-Quality video streams can consume upwards of 6 B per minute.  If you stream just one 4 minute video daily on YouTube, you can use upwards of 700MB of data every single month!
  • Uploading videos:  A video can use a lot of data when uploading to YouTube or other providers.  For example, a 3 minute HD video can use as much as 300MB.
  • High Action On-Line Games:  These are a lot of fun, but can use 1MB of data for every minute of play.

Connect to your home WiFi whenever you can to run these types of applications.  Doing so may reduce your overall data usage and you might be able to change your plan.

You can use an app like My Data Manger to track your data usage and alert you when you are getting close to your monthly limit, so you don’t have to pay overages.


5. Carefully review your plan.  Look for mystery charges on your phone.  If you are not sure what something is, then you need to check into it and make sure you are not paying for something you do not need.  Even at just $5 – $10 a month, that is YOUR money.  Even at just $5 a month, that is $60 in just one year!



30 Day No Cash Challenge: Week 1 Check-In

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Join me as I vow NOT to use cash for 30 days.....to see if the myths are true when it comes to using credit cards. Will I spend more or are the cash back perks truly a plus?


The 30 day No Cash Challenge has been underway for a week now.  I’ve put away my cash envelopes and traded them in for a credit card with cash back perks.

To be honest, it has been extremely difficult.  I haven’t used credit cards in more than 7 (nearly 8) years.  I have not enjoyed it.  I feel like I am doing something wrong.

So far, it feels like I am not really paying for the things I buy.  I am just going on this giant shopping spree.  While I am not going crazy and just getting anything I want, I do feel like it is making me less concerned about what I spend.

I don’t think I’ve really overspent so far.  Although I had to get a ring fixed and did not think twice about not having the money with me to do it, when I would normally move funds from that cash reserve into my account and then pay for it with my bank card.  I know that may sound like it is “the same thing” (using debit vs. credit), but it isn’t.  At least not to me.

You see, when I use my debit card for anything, I know I am paying for it right there. I know it was completely in the budget or the savings reserves.  There is not worry that it is not 100% paid for the minute I swipe my card.  However, when I use my credit card, I wonder what the bill will look like come the end of the month.

I look at these receipts for my normal purchases such as food and our weekly dinners out as a family.  I look at the little things we buy on on Amazon (normally out of our online shopping budget) and wonder if I am on track for our spending.

Right now, I am not using an app to track what I spend.  Sure, I could.  However, I know the majority of people do NOT do this and the entire idea behind this challenge is for me to live like many do using credit.  I am going to just shop for what we need.

If anyone were to look into my wallet right now, I have absolutely NO cash on me. Not even a single $1 bill.  I think the worst part is when I have that small $5 purchase and I don’t even have the cash to cover it. Instead, even that goes onto my card.

Right now, I do not care for this.  I want my cash back. I want to put the credit card away and just quit.  However, I am NOT one to turn down a challenge. I am not the person who will give up.

I am pushing through and will do this.  I’ve gotten through 7 full days of not using cash.  I can do this for 23 more.  I know I can.

So, have you yet joined the challenge?  Are you trying to change the way you spend.  That means, if you use cash, why not try using only plastic to shop and see if what challenges you face?  How about those of  you who use only credit, why not try a cash only budget.

So often, we are quick to judge how someone else lives be it a cash only or credit only lifestyle.  Only when we try something new, even if it not the most comfortable, can we truly understand another person.  We can’t judge them.  We can’t even relate.  Without first hand knowledge of how another lives his or her financial life, we really do not know the facts.

That is what I am doing here. I am trying to understand.  I am going to see if the overspending myths are true.  I am going to see if the perks can truly outweigh any potential overspending issues.  Who knows, I may just be proven wrong.  And you know what?  I am perfectly fine with that.