Welcome to My Saving Place where you will find an abundance of tips, tricks and good advice on how to save money on just about everything.
The Saving Lady
The dog days of summer will soon be upon us, and parents will be turning their attention to the back-to-school buying ritual — and the expense of it.
First of all, there is no need to break the family budget just because another school year is coming around — unless, of course, it’s off to college. Cool weather won’t be upon us for another couple of months, so clothing that kids wore to school at the end of last year should still be suitable for the first few months of this year. You might find more clothing bargains in late October or early November when stores are trying to make way for holiday merchandise than in August when they expect you to be shopping for back-to-school items.
If it’s supplies you have to purchase — pencils, pens, paper, notebooks and the like — you’ll probably be better off buying everything from one source whether in a local store or online. Together the cost of these items can mount up, but it’s not worth running from store to store just to save a dollar or two. You’ll burn the savings up in gas. Beware of the shipping charges if you shop online. For items like these, shipping charges can wipe out any savings very quickly.
Check out Jason Alderman’s list of tips to save time, money and sanity for more ways to save money on back-to-school buying.
We are in the heat of summer and baring the body beautiful — or at least we’d like to have a beautiful body to bare. Keeping fit doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. In fact, keeping yourself healthy and fit is one of the least expensive things you can do. Here are five way to get started.
1. Use it or lose it. The gym membership that is. Like most of us with good intentions, we join a local gym, go at it for a couple of weeks and then slowly but surely cease going altogether, but we don’t cease paying for the membership. There is no better way to waste money, and millions of people are doing it. If you’re one of those people, ditch the membership now and don’t even think of signing up again.
2. Find free or at least cheap exercise classes. There are dozens and dozens of free workout videos on YouTube. If you have a Roku Streaming Player or similar device, you will find a variety of free exercise and fitness channels to help you towards a more healthy you.
3. Seniors take advantage of Silver Sneakers. If you’re over 65 and on Medicare, check your Medicare or Medicare Advantage plan to see if it has a Silver Sneakers option. Many do. This includes fun fitness classes, access to exercise equipment, certified trainers, health education seminars, social events, and an online tool to track fitness progress usually at no extra cost.
4. Download free fitness apps. MyFitnessPal helps you get trim by counting calories. YogaYak helps you find free yoga classes. Nike Training Club offers more than 100 free workouts.
5. Pick up some inexpensive workout equipment. A jump rose, a pair of weights (or even a couple of 16-ounce cans of beans), an exercise ball are all cheap and effective tools for fitness.
Credit Monitoring - Get free credit monitoring service from CreditSesame.com, a service that other companies typically charge $10/month for.
Credit Report - Each year you are entitled to a free credit report from all three credit reporting services (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). Request your free report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Mulch - You may be able to get free garden mulch by asking road crews clearing away trees and brush if they will dum their loads of wood chips at your home. Also check your local city, county and state governments to see if they give away shredded wood and wood products from their clean-up jobs.
Free Meds - If your doctor prescribes a medication for you or a family member, ask is he has any free samples he can give you. Also ask if he has any free samples of drugs that he has already prescribed.
Free Medical Tests - Search “free health fairs” online to find health fairs in your area that give free basic health tests.
Sightseeing – Each year the National Park Service offers several free admission dates at national parks and attractions. Go to NPS.gov and search for “free entrance days.”
Books - Get free and almost free newly published books at BookBub.com.
Software – Open source software is free for anybody to use. Check out the Free Software Directory from the Free Software Foundation for software that you can use.
Free Learning – Whether you want to learn a new skill to live and work in the 21st Century, brush up on an old one, or just enjoy learning for the fun of it, you’ll find over 90 tutorials to choose from the award-winning learing site, GCFLearnFree.com.
It was Christmas in Port Ludlow, WA. I was there for the holiday with my daughter and her family. A commercial for AT&T ever so briefly blew across the TV, but I was able to catch two words of it — Value Plan. I had never seen a commercial for it in Portland, OR where I live. To this date, I have still not seen an ad for AT&T’s Value Plan. And it’s no wonder.
Ever since I dropped my land line, I had been paying AT&T upwards of $90/month for a single cell phone. I owned my phone. Needless to day, that was for limited service and I was paying $0.20 for each text message either incoming or outgoing. I had been to the AT&T Store to set up an iPad that I had just purchased. There were numerous times I interacted with AT&T, but never did they suggest that I could save money on my phone plan other than by reducing the number of minutes . Anything else would cost me a lot more than I was already paying.
As the TV commercial flashed across my mind, I remembered only that a plan was available with unlimited calls and text messages for a much lower rate than I was paying. In fact, the rate was less than half of my current charge. The only requirement was that you owned your own equipment, which I did.
Did I hop on this deal? In a heartbeat!! AT&T has been my only cell phone provider ever since these ubiquitous gadgets first came into everyday use. I had come to rely on them for connectivity wherever I was in the world. I was a loyal customer — no matter how badly they raked me over the coals.
I am still with AT&T, but as I write “This Week’s Saving Grace,” I have discovered yet another savings that I have been missing out on since March, 2014. They added another lower level to their plan that will save me $15/mo.
Did they tell me about this? Duh, of course not. It’s my own fault for failing to check out this service provider for ways to find savings. It’s the same with insurance — especially auto insurance. When I finally followed my own advice and shopped insurance, I save nearly $600/yr. I venture to say that millions of people are paying much more than they have to for many services including mobile phones, cable and Internet service, insurance, memberships, etc., all because we fail to keep ourselves current on these items. It’s sort of a set-it-and-forget-it attitude because of the busy lives people lead. We are all guilty. These companies are never going to tell you how you can save money — as long as you keep paying and never question your service. Yet, the savings can add up to hundreds of dollars a month. So what are you waiting for? I’m signing off to get my $15 savings at AT&T — and who knows where else.
Call this a futurecast because nothing in this week’s saving grace is going to help you today, but if you don’t start today, it could cost you dearly in the future.
It occcured to me while trying to find a new adventure that most people will probably go into debt for their summer vacation. In fact, most people will go into debt for all of their major purchases spending far more money than necessary in the long run. Take for instance plane tickets for a family of four. At an average cost of $450 each, that amounts to $1800. If you purchase them outright, that’s one thing, it’s still $1800.00, but if you’re still paying for them a year from now because you charged them, those tickets are costing you a whole lot more. The same can be said for any major purchase excluding real estate.
The problem is called short sightedness. We all know that the washer and dryer won’t last forever. You will probably need or want a new (or newer) car in 10 years. You know you will be taking a vacation every summer until the kids leave home. How about that roof on your house? Do you plan for these major expenses? If you’re like most people, the answer is, “No.” You end up charging it or financing it because you simply don’t have the money. And when you don’t have the money, you really can’t afford it. Yes, you could take a second mortgage out on your home if you have enough equity in it. That’s what got a lot of people in trouble during the housing bubble not so many years ago. Using your home as an ATM machine jeopardizes your retirement plan.
The best way to save for a major purchase is to set up a separate savings account dedicated to just those things. The account could be a simple interest-bearing account or an investment account. You will need to fund it through regular deposits from you monthly earnings, but you can also add to it by selling things you don’t need at a garage sale periodically or on Craigslist or taking on a part-time second job. The financial calculation for how much you need to put away every month is something only you can do. Here is an example:
Next year’s summer vacation – $2000; new water heater in 10 years – $1000; new refrigerator in 20 years – $1500; new car in 10 years – $15,000. In order to have the money available for these purchases when the time comes, you will need to put away:
Water Heater 8
Or a total of $306/month. That’s not chump change, but if you don’t want to go into debt, that’s what you have to do. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but unless you cease to exist tomorrow, some things are a certainty like those major appliances that won’t last forever, or the car that goes past its prime or retirement. Correct that short-sighted vision today, so you won’t be blindsided tomorrow.
Warm weather is upon us and that means it’s time for a garage sale. There are two reasons for having a garage sale: 1) To get rid of stuff, and 2) To make money. OK, there is a third: 3) To get rid of stuff AND make money. How successful you are at either getting rid of stuff and/or making money depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into the event. Following are 5 things you much do to insure your garage sale’s success:
1. Make the garage sale worthwhile. Nobody likes a garage sale that doesn’t have a lot of goodies to sift through. If you don’t have enough stuff for a single garage sale, join forces with your neighbors to put on a really big one. The more stuff, the more traffic.
2. Advertise, advertise, advertise. Post photos of some of the better stuff on Craigslist. Tell your “friends” on FaceBook about the sale and ask them to pass it on. Post large signs in the neighborhood a few days in advance of the sale. Make sure GARAGE SALE in big bold letters is your headline with address, dates and times followed by an arrow to point the way towards the address. If you have a local neighborhood newsletter that you can advertise in for a few dollars, do so.
3. Price everything. Most people have an aversion to bargaining. If they don’t see a price on something, they don’t even know where to begin the process if they are inclined to do so. If you have a bunch of small items that you want to sell for $0.25 each, put them in a box and use painter’s tape to stick on the box and write out: This box – $0.25 each. You can do the same thing with items on a shelf or on a table, ie. Towels – $2.00 each, Magazines – $0.25 each, etc.
4. Display stuff with traffic flow in mind. The more convenient you make it for people to access your stuff, the more they might buy. Make sure there is room for people to pass each other in an aisle. Don’t have any dead spots where people can get trapped an not get out. Arrange like items together, ie. kitchen stuff, gardening stuff, tools, toys, etc. Some people are only interested in very particular items. Categorizing your stuff makes it easy for them to find. Place larger items outside in the driveway where it doesn’t inhibit traffic flow.
5. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Nothing is more frustrating for potential buyers than to arrive at a garage sale and discover the seller completely unprepared. A successful garage sale requires a lot of planning and preparation. Not only are you competing with other garage sales in the area, but the local Goodwill store and other charity venues have a lot of what bargain hunters are looking for in clean, comfortable environment. How well you prepare for your garage sale will directly affect how successful it will be.
Do you believe that people in other developed countries are better off than us? Do you wonder if Americans are the only ones struggling to save money? What about the every-so-proper Brits? It may surprise you to know that the British are very inventive with their budgets. Here are 10 things they do to earn and save a little extra:
1. Refuse to pay full-price for goods. Buy only discounted items.
2. Complete online surveys and questionnaires for money.
3. Rent out a spare room or garage space.
4. Use cash-back sites like eBates.com when shopping online.
5. Set a fixed time limit for grocery shopping, ie. 30 minutes, 1 hour, etc.
6. Cut their own hair.
7. Pay no attention to “use by” dates.
8. Bathe or shower less often. Take sponge baths instead.
9. Turn off heat and lights.
10. Donate sperm, plasma, eggs, hair, etc. for money.
It appears the British can be creative about making and spending money; the only other question remains: Do they have a better resolve to stick to their budgets? The answer may surprise you.
Up to a certain age, kids have no concept of money. I remember one day my 4-year-old niece asked her mother to buy her new shoes. Her mother said simply that she did not have the money right now, to which my niece innocently replied, “Just write a check.”
Of course, children will eventually learn on their own about money, but whether they will be good stewards of their money may depend on what they learn from their parents. Somewhere at about four or five years old is a time when children can be very receptive to the concept of saving and spending.
I don’t know who invented the jar system, but it is a simple teaching method to adopt. All you need are four jars labeled “Spend” and “Save”. “Spend” allows the child to use the money anyway they choose. “Save” lets them put money away for a specific item they want.
Next, give your child an allowance. When I was a child, a mere $0.25 per week was a lot of money. Today, that amount won’t buy much of anything. It has been suggested by some that $0.50 for each year of a child’s age is a good amount to work with. Thus, a child of 5 would receive $2.50 per week. Pay the allowance in quarters or 50-cent pieces to make it easy for them to divide the money between their jars.
When you go shopping with your child (or children), allow them to bring whatever amount they want from their “Spend” jar. Let them pick out a few things they want, then sit down with them somewhere and count the money to see if they have enough to pay for it. If they don’t, ask them which item they want the most and explain to them that they can put money into their “Save” jar and buy it when they have saved enough money.
If they find an item they can afford to buy, tell them they are free to buy it, but explain that if they don’t buy that item and “Save” the money instead, they will be able to buy the item they want most much faster.
Try to set an example with your children. Yes, it’s very convenient to use a debit or credit card to make purchases, but when shopping with the kids, try to use cash. The card system is too advanced for them to understand at this young age. Save the card system for the times when you shop alone. By paying in cash and receiving change, you children are receiving a tangible lesson, something they do understand. All the while, explain to them how hard you work to provide food, shelter and clothing for them. This helps to make the lesson stick.
How many times have you gone shopping only to come home with half a dozen things you didn’t intend to buy? Whether it’s the local super market, big box store or department store, unless you’re more disciplined than most people, you will inevitably buy things you really don’t need and poke holes in your monthly budget — holes that drain your wallet and force you to rob from Peter to pay Paul at the end of the month.
Or how about all the time you waste during the day or the week doing unproductive tasks thinking you’re accomplishing something only to find that truly important tasks went undone.
The best way to prevent unintended or impulse purchases and wasting time is with a list. When I was young, I used to poo-poo lists. It just seemed like a waste of time and I wanted what I wanted so I never stuck to them. As I grew older with more to do and seemingly less time to do it, I started making lists.
First came the to-do list. Sunday evening I would sit down and make a list of all that I wanted to accomplish that week. It wasn’t easy for me to follow the list, but over time I became more disciplined — a habit was formed. Imagine my surprise when I discovered how much more truly free time I had all while accomplishing everything I wanted to do. I say “truly fee time” because it wasn’t time spent fretting over the time I just whiled away accomplishing nothing. The magic of a to-do list is that it frees up time for you to enjoy.
Next came the grocery list. I’m a foodie, so it’s easy for me to indulge myself at the super market. If it looked good, I’d buy it. Many times I’d buy something I thought I needed only to find I already had two of them in the cupboard. Worst of all was all the fresh food I’d end up throwing out because I never got around to using it before it spoiled. I was literally throwing money away until I started making a grocery list. Not only did it save me money, it also saved me time since I wasn’t spending extra minutes browsing the aisles.
Today, I make a list every time I leave the house to shop. Of course, making the lists are easy. The real trick is maintaining the discipline to stick to your lists. This is the hard part. This is what takes practice. Shopping without a list is a bad habit that needs to be broken. It also needs to be practiced among all family members for it to work to your benefit.
When you have reached the point where you can make a list and stick to it no matter what, you will find a much more rewarding life in more ways than one.