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Friday, 15 January 2010

Tips and Tricks to Save Money

There are infinite ways to reduce spending. This way more money can be freed to achieve the financial goals you set. The secret of saving money is to think small: every dollar and cent counts. If you look thorough your budget you will see how really small amounts of money add up: so if you start to save here and there, those cents can also add up.

Below you will find a few money-saving tricks, with the mention that these are only a fraction of what can be done with careful planning and creativity. So in order to save, you should have a really careful look at your expenses, from your car, your home; shopping, vacations, and services.

One of the best places to start savings is your car: the most important thing is you should use your car only when you really need it. Money can be saved by carpooling and planning your routes to reduce the distance you are driving. Try to find the gas stations with the cheapest gasoline, take advantage of discounts, and you can change oil yourself.

Buying a new car is not a very good business, because the value of new cars drop significantly as soon as you buy them. Used cars are already depreciated, so their price is closer to what they actually worth. You also can save money on insurance, as you can get discounts if you have antilock brakes, passive restraints, and antitheft devices.

You can do a lot of savings with your household also: smaller utility bills can be achieved by buying energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, or using curtains instead of air conditioning to keep your home cool in the summer. You can save money also by using high energy appliances, like clothes dryers and dishwashers during nonpeak times.

When you are shopping, you should be looking for sale items you' buy anyway. You can search for coupons on products you use, and paper goods and cleaning supplies can be bought from dollar stores. You can take advantage of bulk discounts by joining warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, Costco, or BJ's Warehouse.

Don't buy anything just because the price is good: you should spend money only on items you really need. You should also be looking for store brands instead of national brands: often store brands are the surplus of a national brand, so you will get the same quality for less money. Shopping online can be also a great way to save money, because the prices don't have transportation fee included in the price.


Thursday, 22 October 2009

25 Ways to Saving Money

1. Make it automatic. Before I see my paycheck, a good portion of it is diverted to my 401(k)and savings

2. Keep minimum funds in checking account. We make our money work for us by funneling extra funds into our savings account where it will earn more interest than in our checking account.

3. Don’t pay banking fees! I use my bank for free bill pay, automatic deposits, free checks, and free reimbursements for all ATM fees. I won’t pay for any of those services. (I bank withUSAA, which is an awesome bank if you are eligible!). I also use ING, which is another great online bank with outstanding interest rates. ING $25 referral bonus.

4. Use rewards credit cards. I get cash back on every purchase and I pay the card off every month so I don’t pay any interest fees. I recommend reward cards, but only if you have no current credit card debt, and can afford to pay the balance every month!

5. Actively search out deals. It never hurts to try and find a better deal, or request a better deal from your service providers. Read about how I saved $1,000 by making two phone calls. I also actively search other money saving deals that can net me free money through sign ups and referrals.

6. Use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats save you an estimated 10-20% on your heating and cooling bills. When we aren’t home, or we are sleeping, our house is quite a bit warmer or cooler, depending on the season. We save a substantial amount on our utilities compared to our neighbors!

7. Use ceiling fans, floor fans, and space heaters. My wife and I program the thermostat to go to the mid-50s at night during the winter. Why so cold? Because we close the door to our room and use a space heater for heat. There is no sense heating an entire house while we sleep. We also use ceiling fans and floor fans to assist with heating and cooling – depending on the season of course! In our computer room we use an air vent booster to increase air flow.

8. Install CFLs to save energy. Compact fluorescent lights use about a quarter of the electricity of normal incandescent bulbs. They also need replaced much less often.

9. Drive smoothly. I accelerate smoothly and at a reasonable rate, and I coast to a stop as often as possible. I also use cruise control on the highway. My car is rated to get 26 mpg around town and I regularly get 29. That’s not quite hypermiling, but it’s not bad! You can also use these tips to save money on gas, and use gas rewards credit cards to save money on fuel costs.

10. Plan and research major purchases. My wife and I recently did this to save money on a vacation. A little planning on our end saved us over $2,000.

11. Buy quality products. Quality items may cost more up front, but they last longer and generally provide better results than cheaper, inferior products. Examples of items you should buy higher quality – furniture, clothes and shoes, vehicles, and other items that will see a lot of use. I used this premise to build a professional wardrobe on a budget.

12. Buy generic where applicable. Yes, I just wrote “buy quality,” but you can save a lot of money on generic items for which the brand name product is essentially the same as the store brand. Food and medicines come to mind as items where generic products are good deals.

13. Use coupons and rebates. We use coupons for oil changes, groceries, books, on-line purchases, and just about anything else we can find. You can even find coupons on the back of receipts. A great on-line resource is Ebates, which is an on-line rebate company. Ebates is free to join, and you can get great savings on on-line purchases (Ebates review). You can currently get $10 just to sign up!

14. Use store rewards cards. We do our grocery shopping at Kroger, and we “save” at least 10-15% every trip. (Personally, I dislike the savings cards because I believe the stores actually mark everything up to force their customers to get the cards, but that is another story…) We still save a lot of money on groceries, so we use it. You can currently get $200 in free groceriesfrom Kroger! (expires July 31, 2008).

15. Cook at home. My wife is a great cook and we both enjoy cooking and eating at home more than we do going out. We only go out about once a month, but when we do, we prefer to make an evening out of it and go somewhere fairly nice. We enjoy this method of eating out much more than eating out several times a week at chain restaurants such Chili’s or TGI Friday’s.

16. Eat leftovers. I grew up eating leftovers, and I still love them (as long as they are not leftover from when I was a kid! yuck!). I estimate I save a minimum of $20 a week by bringing my lunch to work. It is also healthier, and on the rare occasion I go out to lunch with coworkers, I enjoy it more.

17. Use the library. My wife and I borrow movies from the library almost every week. New releases aren’t always available, but lately, we have been watching a lot of classic movies from the 40s and 50s. My wife also borrows CDs and books, but I still have a lot of unread personal finance books to catch up on so I skip borrowing books!

18. Use parks. My wife and I love to go hiking. We have 2 great parks nearby that we visit often. We get great exercise and the only costs to us is the gas to drive there.

19. Take care of things. I treat things I own with respect and take good care of them. This includes doing things such as cleaning our house, washing our cars, and polishing shoes. Things last much longer when you take good care of them.

20. Buy insurance. Health insurance, home owner’s insurance, auto insurance, and other types of insurance are designed to save you money! Sure, you may end up paying premiums for years and never file a claim, but in the event you need to file a claim, your premium will likely be small compared to what you would have had to pay. You’ll be very happy if you ever need it!

21. Bundle cable and internet. You can save a lot of money by bundling these together rather than purchasing the separately. You can save more if you bundle your phone as well, but my wife and I actually save money by not paying for a landline.

22. Use cell phones – skip the landline. My wife and I each have a cell phone, and we do not use a regular telephone. We have been doing this for years and have never had a problem. Here are some tips to save money on your cell phone bill, and how to cancel your cell phone without paying early termination fees.

23. Cancel subscriptions. We don’t get the newspaper or magazines. Almost everything we want can be found on-line for free.

24. Home improvement. Once upon a time I was an aircraft mechanic in the USAF, so I am fairly handy with tools. I am comfortable repairing most items around the house, and I always attempt to repair problems before calling a professional. However, I am not afraid to hire out anything dangerous or that I don’t have the tools to do. (usually electrical or plumbing).

25. Avoid debt. We have a mortgage, which we don’t mind because we would either have a mortgage or pay rent. But we are free of any student loans or consumer debt including credit cards, automobiles, home equity line of credit, or anything else. This means we pay very little interest and are able to make more of our money work for us instead of work for someone else. And that’s the whole point of saving money, isn’t it? ;)

Bonus tip: I actively seek out free money and other savings! This includes things like sign up bonuses, rewards credit cards, and freebies like the free Blockbuster trial or the free Netflix trial.

I know some of these tips won’t apply for everyone, but they work for my wife and I. I’m sure there are many more things we can do to save money, and there are a few places where we can plug some money leaks, but overall, I think we are doing a good job. I hope these tips can help a few other people out there!


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Saving Money Tips on Gift


Saving Money Tips on Entertainment

  1. Buy an Entertainment book. The initial investment is about $20, but there’s hundreds of dollars in entertainment savings in it.
  2. Join Gamefly for cheap video game renting.
  3. Trade video games, DVD’s and books with your friends.
  4. Start a book or film club. After reading the book or watching the film, discuss it.
  5. Have a game night with friends.
  6. Attend movies at dollar theaters.
  7. Take advantage of your local university. Colleges often have free entertainment events.
  8. Join the library.
  9. Read magazines for free at bookstores.
  10. Check out DVD’s from the library, rather than renting them from the video store.
  11. Find cheaper hobbies like blogging or jogging.
  12. Go on a hike, take a walk in the park, or go to the beach. Some of the nicest things to do in life are totally free.
  13. See if your local zoos, museums, entertainment parks and water parks have annual passes. Often the annual passes may not cost more than the price of a couple of visits.
  14. Save money on movies by going to the matinée.
  15. Watch amateur sports. High school athletic competitions are cheap and can be just as exciting as the pros.

10 Tips For Healthy Eating On A Budget

  • Cook at home The most important change I made to save money was to turn cooking at home into my default option rather than rely on neighborhood eateries as my go-to cop out.
  • Shop on weekends If you already have fresh food in the fridge you will be more motivated to cook for yourself instead of going out and spending money.
  • Shop seasonally When choosing what to eat, taste trumps health 90% of the time. (That’s why you rolled your eyes when I suggested you eat fewer burritos.) If you really want to start eating healthy you must wantto eat vegetables, and that will only happen if the ones you buy taste delicious. Seasonal, farm fresh produce can completely change how you feel about vegetables and fruits–it also tends to be the best deal in the produce section.
  • Shop at the farmers market There is no denying that the best tasting grocery store produce is at Whole Foods. But if you have ever been shopping there you know what a dent it can put in your wallet (this does not apply to their non-fresh items, which are competitively priced and often cheaper than anywhere I have seen). Rather than handing over your Whole Paycheck or settling for less than inspiring options at Safeway, do your weekly produce shopping at your local farmers market. If you shop intelligently (see below) you can get 2 meals for the cost of one burrito.
  • Focus on leafy greens Leafy greens like kale, chard, collards, spinach and broccoli are some of the most nutritious, least expensive things you can buy. Frequently, half a bunch of kale with some beans, grains and herbs (delicious!) is my entire dinner and costs around $1.50. It also takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Can you beat that?
  • Buy in bulk Canned beans are fine, but dried beans taste better and are way cheaper. Grains from the bulk bins at your local health food store are only pennies per serving. Cook these staples in large batches and save them in your freezer for cheap, quick and nutritious food anytime. Just add some greens and you’re good to go.
  • Eat less meat This is probably the easiest way to save money. Whether at the grocery store or at restaurants meat is always the most expensive thing on the menu. I do not advocate a vegetarian diet, but limiting meat to once or twice a week is an easy way to cut back on both calories and expenses. If you are worried about protein (you shouldn’t be), you can eat beans, eggs and fish instead.
  • Use fish from cans Fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but fresh fish can be incredibly expensive (especially the wild sustainable kinds).Canned salmon, sardines (boneless, skinless) and anchovies are inexpensive alternatives for protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Make fruit dessert If you think the farmers market is expensive my bet is you spend most of your money on fruits. I am the first to admit that fruit can be very expensive, especially summertime berries and stone fruits. While I do recommend you invest in some high quality farmers market fruit, it will be easier on your wallet and your waistline if you consider fruit a treat to be enjoyed in moderation once or twice per day.
  • Think long term I am not arguing that buying every single food item at the farmers market is the cheapest way to shop, but it is almost certainly the healthiest. Our hedonistic tendencies may incline us toward cheap, greasy foods but you should consider what you are really paying for in the long run. Poor diet can be attributed to most cases of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and a generally difficult, painful life. And I probably don’t need to convince you that a farm fresh salad costs less than a hospital trip and a lifetime of medication. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, but unhealthy eating can cost you your life.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

20 Money Hacks: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Finances

Improving your finances improves your happiness. Share your tips and tricks in the comments!
1. Use cash. Instead of charging things to credit cards or debit cards, use cash for non-bill spending such as eating out, gas, groceries. Spending cash makes the spending more real, and there’s an added advantage of knowing when you’re out of cash, instead of spending more than you

2. Small weekly savings transfers. I got this idea from my friend Trent at The Simple Dollar, who automatically deducts $20 a week from his check to savings. I decided that I could live with $40/week without really feeling it — it’s a relatively small transfer that I barely notice, and I save about $2,000 a year on top of my larger bi-weekly savings transfers.

3. Stay home. Going out makes you more likely to spend unnecessarily. You eat at restaurants, go to the mall, stop at the gas station for snacks. It’s hard to avoid spending when you’re on the road. Instead, stay home, and find free entertainment. It’s also a great way to bond with your family.

4. Don’t get catalogs. Or emailed announcements from companies trying to sell you stuff. Their announcements of sales or cool new products make it very tempting to buy something you don’t need. Instead, stop the catalogs and emails from ever getting to you in the first place, and you’ll spend less.

5. Keep a 30-day list. If you have an impulse to buy something you don’t absolutely need, put it on a 30-day list. You can’t buy anything but necessities — everything else goes on the list, with the date that it’s added to the list. When the 30 days are up, you can buy it — but most likely, the strong urge to buy it will be gone, and you can evaluate it more calmly.

6. Cook at home. I know, it seems more difficult than eating out. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Throw together a quick stir-fry with frozen veggies and either boneless chicken or (my favorite) tofu with soy sauce or tamari. Make home-made pizza with a ready-made crust, some sauce, cheese and veggies. Put some spices on something and throw it in the oven while you cook some brown rice. Not only is this much cheaper than eating out, but it’s healthier.

7. Exercise. Staying healthy is the best way to avoid costly medical bills later.

8. Use the envelope system. It’s the same idea as using cash for spending, but in addition you use envelopes to split your spending cash into categories. My non-bills categories are groceries, gas and miscellaneous spending. Three envelopes, and when they’re empty, I’ve spent my allotment.

9. Talk with your SO weekly. It’s important that you and your significant other be on the same page. You should have the same financial goals, and from there you should agree on a general spending plan and a policy for impulse buying that won’t have either of you wanting to choke the other. Make sure you both know what bills have been paid, what your balances are, etc. A weekly meeting of just 20 minutes accomplishes that. Communication is key.

10. The spreadsheet tracker hack. There are expensive programs like MS Money, Quicken, and the like that will do amazing things with your financial information. There are even free ones, on your desktop or online, that can do all kinds of things. Trouble is, I don’t need all that. All I want is a way to track my money easily, with no other bells and whistles, and a way to access that online so that I can view it from anywhere. The best way I found to do that is through Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I created a simple spreadsheet to track my bank accounts, that does everything I used to do with MS Money. It has the date of each transaction, the title and amount, a little field for memos, and a running balance. What more do I need? Keep it simple. Update: View a sample I put online here.

11. Pay savings and debt first. When you sit down to pay your bills (I do them all online), make the first bills you pay be your savings transfer and your debt payments. If not, if you pay them last … you’ll often end up shortchanging them. But if you pay them first, you’ll make sure you still pay your rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries and gas … so you’ll just cut back on other spending.

12. Exercise at home. Some of you will disagree with me on this, which is OK — everyone should do what works for them. But I’ve saved a lot of money that I used to spend on gyms by just running at the local track or on the roads in my neighborhood, and buying some simple weights and a chin-up bar. I do a lot of body-weight exercises (pushups, Hindu squats, lunges, pullups, dips, etc.) and I don’t need a gym for those things.

13. Cut out cable TV. I’m not saying I don’t watch TV — I watch DVDs, so that I’m sure that what I’m watching is something great, rather than the useless stuff you find on TV most of the time. And there’s a lot of it online for free if you look. Not a huge savings, but it adds up.

14. Declutter. By getting rid of all the excess stuff in your home, you not only make your life much simpler and more peaceful, but you make it harder to buy stuff that will just clutter things up again. Once you’ve simplified your home, you won’t want to go back.

15. Lend and borrow. Give books and clothes and toys you don’t need anymore to your friends and family. If you need something, send out an email asking if anyone has it. Chances are, they’ll give it to you for free if they don’t use it anymore.

16. Barter. It’s a lost art, but lots of people will take your services or goods instead of money, especially if you’re friends or at least know each other. Get into the habit of offering to barter, and you’ll find yourself saving a lot of money. My website design was done through the barter system, so I saved well over $1,000 there, for example.

17. Use online savings. I use Emigrant Direct, but ING Direct is also popular, as are a bunch of other online banks. Not only do you earn like twice the interest of a normal bank savings account, but if you don’t get the ATM account it’s not as easy to withdraw money … making it less likely that you’ll get money out on an impulse.

18. Try frugal gift-giving. Giving people gifts is one of the most wonderful traditions, as it shows generosity and caring. Until it becomes commercialized. Then it’s just really really expensive. Instead, try giving the gift of spending time with someone. Try giving them something you baked or made yourself. Try giving them services they’d appreciate. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be generous.

19. Teach your kids about advertising, saving, earning, and gift-giving. If you have kids, educating them about money will save you a lot of money in the long run. If they know about how advertising influences them in tricky ways, they’ll be less likely to demand (OK, beg and plead for) the latest fad toys. If they know about saving and earning money, they’ll respect the money that you earn, and that you are trying to save. If they know that gift-giving doesn’t have to be about spending a lot of money (see above), they won’t necessarily want expensive stuff.

20. Find happiness in life, not spending. Many times people buy stuff because they think (subconsciously perhaps) that it will bring them happiness. They just HAVE to have the latest gadget or shoes or cars. It’s so fun! And yet, you buy that stuff, and you’re only happy for a day or two at most. Then you just need to buy more. It’s a never-ending cycle. Instead, learn to love life. Find joy in nature! In the people around you! In doing something you love! In exercise and meditation! There’s so much in life to make us happy, there’s no need to find it in spending.

“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.” - Pablo Picasso


Ideas for Saving Money on Eating Out

Eating out can be tough on anyone's budget, and in general it's best to shop for yourself and eat at home. You can save half or more by cooking for yourself instead of eating out. However, it's always nice to relax, treat yourself (and your family), and eat a meal at a restaurant. Here are some ways to do that without breaking your budget.

1. Don't order two dinners. If you go to a restaurant with your partner, order one dinner and an appetizer and split it. Restaurants typically serve way too much, which is costly and unhealthy (if you try to finish it).

2. Make a second dinner on leftovers. Start by eating the veggies and fries or bread, then eat the actual meat item last. You might be so full from the warmup stuff that you don't eat much meat. Then take the meat home and use it for a second dinner the next night. Two dinners for the price of one!

3. Go for lunch specials. Lunch specials will be cheaper than dinners, and breakfasts are even cheaper, generally. Always ask about the daily special, as it can often be a good deal.

4. Get a discount. There are lots of ways to find discount coupons for restaurants online. Try enter your zip code and see what restaurants offer coupons or discounted gift certificates.

5. Just order side items. A salad and an appetizer can often make for a delicious but affordable meal for one.

6. Special days. Many restaurants will offer special family days, or will allow kids to eat for free, or have special discount days. Call ahead and take advantage of them.

7. Choose an affordable restaurant. While fast food is invariably bad for you, there are medium-priced restaurants that can offer a decent meal without breaking your budget. While there are many ways to save on eating out, one of the best is to start with a restaurant that doesn't charge an arm or a leg.

8. New restaurants. Often a restaurant that has just opened for business will want to attract new customers with discounts and specials. These are often advertised in the newspaper or in advertising mailings. Keep an eye out and take advantage.

9. Drink water. You go to a restaurant for the good food, not the soda or alcohol. You can get those for much cheaper at a grocery store. Drink water, perhaps adding a slice of lemon for taste.

10. Fast food. The cheapest options, of course, are fast food restaurants, and you can find some fairly healthy options at some of them. Subway, Wendy's salads or new healthier sandwiches, vegetarian options at many restaurants these days. Go to a burrito place and order a vegetarian burrito — cheap, fairly healthy, and delicious.

11. Skip dessert. If you're eating at a sit-down restaurant, dessert is often a rip-off. Pick up a carton of ice cream on the way home, and save a bunch.