Tag: Budgeting

 

5 Coupon Websites That Will Save You Money

Who doesn’t want to save a few bucks? Ever consider couponing?

Luckily, the days of clipping and sorting through coupons is over. Nowadays, you can simply search online for insane coupon deals. Plus, coupon sites are easy to use and allow you to keep more of your hard-earned cash so you can meet your savings goals.

Ready to give it a try? To get started, here are 5 of the best coupon sites to help you save money.

1. Ibotta

What is it?

Ibotta is both an app and a website. While it doesn’t provide traditional coupons, it does give you cash back on groceries and other goods.

Ibotta works closely with retail chains to offer cash back on everyday items, like milk, produce, meat, frozen foods and more. Most regional supermarkets accept Ibotta offers, as do many big box-stores, like Best Buy, Target and Walmart.

Here’s how it works: Once you login, you will see a variety of digital coupons and offers. You then click the offers you want. After you go shopping, you simply scan your receipt with your phone so that Ibotta can verify that you bought the products eligible for cash back. Once verified, you will see the cash back hit your account. Once you have earned $20 in cash back, you can then deposit this cash into your bank account.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

When Ibotta first came out, it primarily offered cash back on grocery items and some other goods. Nowadays, Ibotta has expanded to offer cashback on Amazon purchases, electronics, pharmacy items, restaurants, and even travel.

Coupon examples

2. Ebates

What is it?

Ebates is also a cash back site. You simply log into the Ebates website and find offers there. Ebates partners with most major retailers, including Amazon, Nordstrom, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Ann Taylor, Loft, Gap, and Petco.

Here’s how it works: While you do have to login to the Ebates website at least once, you can install a simple toolbar app that will automatically find cash back offers whenever you visit a participating retail site. If you make a purchase, you will then receive cash back through Ebates. Depending on the purchase, you will receive between one and 40% cash back (based on your total purchase price). Ebates is free to use.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

Once you download the Ebates toolbar, you don’t have to do anything else – the toolbar will automatically notify you of any cashback offers available to you.

Coupon examples

3. RetailMeNot

What is it?

RetailMeNot is one of the original coupon websites and has been around since 2006.

Here’s how it works: You can either use the website or download the app to find coupons prior to making purchases at leading retailers. Whether you shop online or in-person, RetailMeNot has coupons available for download. Once you find a coupon that applies to you, you can either take it to a store or go to the retailer’s website to shop. If you’re a first-time user, you will need to supply your email address in order to use the coupons.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

RetailMeNot offers a wide array of coupons at businesses ranging from Ulta to Hotels.com. No matter what you’re buying online, RetailMeNot makes it easy to do a last-minute search for coupons to see if you can save a little bit of cash.

Coupon examples

4. Honey

What is it?

Honey is one of the newer online coupon sites available. Once you sign up on the site, you can install Honey’s toolbar on your web browser of choice. Then, every time you shop online, the Honey extension will work to find you discounts and cash back offers automatically.

Here’s how it works: Simply download the browser extension. When you go to purchase an item online, you don’t even have to think twice – you can automatically receive a discount, even if you forget to search for coupons.

What kind of online coupons do they have?

Honey boasts a wide variety of coupons, including deals to eBay, Macy’s, Coach, Microsoft, AT&T, and more. Honey is the perfect extension to use when shopping online as it can scan for any coupons before you buy a product.

Coupon examples

5. Coupons.com

What is it?

If you like the idea of traditional coupons, then check out Coupons.com. With this website, you can search and “clip” for coupons for free. Coupons can be used at most major retailers.

Here’s how it works: You can print out coupons from the Coupons.com website or you can apply the coupons to your online orders. You can sort coupons by category, making it easy to find a discount for the specific product you’re looking for.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

Coupons.com is a great resource. Before you pack up to run to the grocery store, be sure to check out the site to see if you can save a few bucks on products you need. Coupons.com can help you save money on pet food, kitchen paper products, canned goods, toiletries, and more.

Since it’s free and easy to use, it never hurts to check for money saving opportunities before you go shopping.

Coupon examples

Couponing made easy

With the rise of online coupons, it has never been easier to save money on your everyday purchases. All you have to do is sign up for a couple of sites, and you’ll be on your way to putting more money back into your pocket.

Who knew saving money could be this easy?

 

6 Cable Alternatives: The Best Streaming Services to Cut Your Cable Bill

Saving more money is one of the best ways to ensure a lucrative financial future. And, with a new year looming, now is a great time to take actionable steps to reach your money goals.

A good first step is to set up an automatic savings plan and lower some of your monthly expenses to free up money. Where to start? Try cutting out cable. Cutting the cable cord doesn’t mean you have to give up the TV shows and movies you love to watch. In fact, you can still watch your favorite shows – thanks to streaming services.

Here are 6 of the best streaming services to replace your cable service, and help you save money.

1. Netflix

You’ve probably heard of Netflix by now. It’s one of the most popular streaming services for movies, television shows, documentaries and more. Netflix is a monthly subscription service that gives you access to their entire library of content.

The basic plan is $7.99 per month: Watch on one screen at a time in standard definition. Download videos on one phone or tablet.

The standard plan is $10.99: Watch on two screens at a time. HD available. Download videos on two phones or tablets.

The premium plan is $13.99 per month: Watch on four screens at a time. HD and Ultra HD available. Download videos on four phones or tablets.

Netflix doesn’t always feature the most up-to-date episodes for TV shows, but they have an awesome line-up of original shows including Stranger Things, Black Mirror, and House of Cards. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial here.

2. Hulu

Hulu is a streaming service that has an affordable monthly subscription rate. You can watch movies, TV shows and now even live television.

Hulu has a great TV show collection including their own original series. New users can get a free 30-day trial. After that, the cost is just $5.99 per month for the first year. For the second year, the monthly fee goes up to $7.99. Hulu does show ads on streaming shows, but if you want an ad-free experience, you can update your plan to $11.99 per month.

Hulu also allows you to stream 50+ of the top TV channels, and you can add on content from networks like HBO®, SHOWTIME®, CINEMAX® and STARZ®. This membership is $39.99 per month.

3. DIRECTV NOW

DIRECTV NOW is a no-contract streaming service with four service plans, ranging in price from $40/month to $75/month.

This option is great for someone who likes to watch live TV as DIRECTV NOW provides access to over 65 channels for the basic $40 monthly plan and more than 125 channels for the top tier $75 monthly plan.

The best part is that you don’t have to commit to a contract or hidden fees, and you can cancel any time. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial of DIRECTV NOW here.

4. Sling TV

Sling TV is a streaming service that’s similar to DIRECTV in that you can stream live TV channels to your devices instead of paying for cable.

Sling TV is great for sports lovers and there are three main packages: Orange ($25/month), Blue ($25/month) and both ($40/month). Sling TV even offers a $5 kids add-on package with family-friendly networks.

The one downside is that while Sling TV allows you to stream movies from the site, not all of them are free. Yet, you can try out the service for seven days before committing to a paid subscription. Get more details here.

5. Amazon Instant Video

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll have unlimited access to Prime Video. This allows you to stream TV shows and movies from various devices.

This service makes sense to have if you like to watch movies and Prime originals, like the award-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Since Prime Video comes with a paid Amazon Prime membership, this is a great perk for those already taking advantage of other membership benefits, including fast and free shipping on more than 100 million items. Get a 30-day free trial here.

6. YouTube TV

YouTube is one of the most-used websites to date. Some of the video content can be addicting and it’s great to support up and coming content creators. While I can watch free YouTube content all day, a paid streaming service is also available.

YouTube TV – touting itself as cable-free live TV with no cable box required – is just $40 per month. For that price, you get access to more than 70 different channels covering everything from news and sports to entertainment and scripted shows. You can have up to six different accounts per household and use the personalized DVR service.

This streaming service is only available in select areas right now but you can check to see if your city has it and sign up for a free trial here.

Cut the Cord and Save

Imagine how much money you can save by cutting the cord and getting rid of cable. Better yet, take action and actually cancel your cable subscription. Then start adding up the savings when you switch to one of these more affordable television streaming services.

 

6 Steps to Enjoying a Debt-Free Holiday Season

The holidays can be an exciting time. ‘Tis the season to enjoy family get-togethers, time off from work, meaningful gift exchanges and more.

Yet, the holiday season can cost money – a lot of money. Indeed, you’re not alone if you worry about overspending. The average American racks up more than $1,000 in holiday debt each year.

Luckily, there are 6 steps you can take to enjoy a debt-free holiday season. Take a look:

1. Develop a Realistic Spending Plan

Your first step should be to develop a spending plan for the holidays, also known as a budget. By knowing how much you can spend, you can then set realistic expectations.

To start, list out all of the expenses you’ll incur over the next few weeks, and figure out how much you’re likely to spend on your holiday gifts. Once you know your limit, it’s time to start saving automatically. I’ll share some of the most creative budgeting methods below.

2. Shop Around for Deals

When doing your holiday shopping, be sure to compare stores and prices to find the best deals. Shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday can help you save so long as you don’t go overboard.

You can also use coupons and look for BOGO deals. And, don’t forget to take advantage of stores that offer price matching. Give yourself enough time to comparison shop by starting early. This way, you won’t feel rushed to buy the first thing you see.

If you see items you want to buy but don’t have enough cash, find out if the store offers a layaway service, This way you can pay as you get paid instead of charging your purchases immediately. Pro tip: If you set up direct deposit with Chime, you can get paid earlier, freeing up more immediate cash for you.

3. Pay for Everything with Cash

Forget about credit card reward points or cash back, particularly if you’re afraid you’ll get into holiday debt. In some cases, it’s just not worth it.

Instead of using a credit card for your holiday purchases, use the cash you set aside according to your budget. When you pay for all your holiday expenses in cash, it’s basically impossible to overspend and get into debt.

You can even try using the cash envelope budgeting method by assigning each category in your budget an envelope that you’ll fill with a designated amount of cash. Once an envelope is empty, that’s it. You’ll need to stop spending in that area. This budget does come with some drawbacks as you won’t be able to shop online and you’ll need to be organized so that you don’t misplace your envelopes filled with cash.

In the long-run, however, the envelope budget forces you to slow down when shopping and spend more mindfully.

4. DIY Hidden Costs

It’s easy to overspend on seemingly hidden things like decorations, greeting cards, white elephant gifts and party food. Instead of spending cashola, go the DIY route.

For starters, you can make your own holiday decor with craft supplies or dollar store items. I went to my local dollar store the other day and found everything from wreaths, ornaments, table decor, holiday lights, and more  – all for a buck each.

When it comes to making your own greeting cards, you can design them online using a free program called Canva. Rather than buying baked goods, you can also bake some of your favorite treats for cheap. Lastly, if you’re doing a gift exchange, you can always DIY gifts – whether it involves making homemade candles and bath bombs, or creating custom artwork.

5. Earn Extra Money

Once you’ve created a budget and have limited your holiday spending as much as possible, it may be time to start earning some extra money.

If finances are tight around this time of year, you can find more wiggle room by starting a side hustle or seeing if your can work overtime at your job. If you’re looking for something easy that pays quickly, you can drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver groceries with Instacart, babysit or pet sit, shovel snow, rent a room out in your home, design logos on Fiverr, or clean homes. These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

The key is to look for opportunities that you can start ASAP. This way you’ll be more apt to earn enough money to meet your holiday spending needs.

6. Focus on Experiences

The holiday season is not just about having and spending money. It’s also about showing gratitude, spending time with loved ones, and having positive experiences.

When you focus on experiences over money, you’ll be more likely to avoid overspending and going into debt during this time of year. And here’s the best part: Experiences can be free. For example, you can trade in a day of shopping for a day of binge-watching holiday movies while eating Christmas cookies and sipping hot cocoa. Or, you can drive around your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, go sledding in the snow, or find a free local event to attend.

The Holidays Don’t Have to Be a Debt Sentence

Don’t sentence yourself to debt over the holidays. It’s not worth it and you have plenty of inexpensive ways to have fun, give gifts and enjoy the season. If you need inspiration, just turn to these 6 steps to a debt-free holiday season.

 

New Year’s Prep: Give Your Bills a Makeover

New Year’s resolutions get all the glory when it comes to planning out next year’s money. But, we’d like to highlight another less-talked-about way to help your money situation in the new year: lowering your bills.

The beauty of going this route is that you just have to make the switch to a cheaper option once, and then reap the savings month after month. Remember, though — savings are only really savings if you actually…well…save that money instead of spending it on something else.

It’s easy to think of bills as a fixed expense that you can’t change. But, believe me — you can. Don’t think it’s possible? Here are three different money-saving apps and websites you can use to give your bills a fresh makeover before the new year starts.

Bill Shark

Believe it or not, it’s totally possible to negotiate your bills. It can also suck to try to negotiate better deals.

We get it: Not everyone is comfortable playing the negotiation game. At the same time, if you’re unwilling to negotiate your bills yourself, you shouldn’t be penalized by paying high bills forever. This is where Bill Shark comes in.

Bill Shark is a unique new company that employs real, flesh-and-blood expert negotiators to haggle your bills with your service providers on your behalf – sort of like a personal consumer advocate. All you have to do is upload your bills through their online portal or take a picture with their app. They can then start negotiating on your behalf.

The service isn’t entirely free, but it has a consumer-friendly pricing model. Plus, if their expert negotiators can’t lower your bills for you, you pay nothing. Nada. And if they are successful? You’ll owe 40% of whatever savings they get for you for a maximum of two years. This amount will be due after they’ve finished their negotiations.

Say, for example, Bill Shark is able to permanently lower your Internet bill by $20 per month. This will save you $480 over a two-year period. The fee for this would then be $192, leaving you to come out ahead by $288. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask us.

Metromile

The cost of car insurance depends a lot on which state you live in. In 2017, residents of Ohio had the lowest estimated annual car insurance premiums at $926. Michigan residents, on the other hand, clocked in at a whopping $2,551 annually.

That’s a big chunk of change. And if you don’t drive very much, car insurance can cost you way more than it should. If this is the case for you, it may be worth your time to get a quote from Metromile.

Metromile actually charges you a per-mile rate based on how far you drive. It knows this because the company requires you to plug in a tiny device into your car’s OBD-II port (it’s not hard to find; we promise) that records and transmits your actual mileage to the company’s billing department.

Another handy money-saving feature of using Metromile? Since the device plugs into your car’s diagnostic system, if that pesky “check engine” light pops up, you can use the app to see what the exact problem is and research the cost before taking it to a mechanic.

Right now Metromile is only available in certain states: Arizona, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. But keep your eyes out for Metromile to expand into more states.

Lemonade

Lemonade is a new type of insurance company offering policies for urban homeowners and renters. It’s based on a different business model than typical big insurance companies.

Lemonade is a public benefit corporation, which means that while it is still driven by profits (a flat fee is taken out of your premiums), it also gives back any other excess “profit” at the end of the year to a charity that you select. Since the company doesn’t operate on a never-ending quest to drain the contents of your wallet, insurance premiums for your home or rental can be less expensive than traditional insurance policies.

Filing claims and getting paid is also much simpler with Lemonade. The company expedites this process and pays claims super fast.

How much can you lower your bills for next year?

We’ve given you three different options for lowering your bills and starting the new year with a fresh makeover for your budget. Yet, you’ve got plenty of other options as well. All you need to do is research ways to lower your bills and then commit to making this a priority.

Here’s what we suggest for maximum impact: Start by going through your budget one line item at a time. Ask yourself: Is there any way to lower this? By switching to a lower-cost phone carrier, for example, you could save $30 per month or more. Over the course of a year, that’s an extra $360 in your pocket!

Now, we challenge you: How much can you save on your bills in the new year? And how much of that can you save into your bank account for your future?

 

Make These 3 Money Moves to Protect Your Family in 2019

With a new year comes new goals. A new year is also an ideal time to reevaluate your financial situation. Whether you are looking to pay off debt, increase your savings, or create a new budget, there are plenty of ways to improve your financial situation in 2019.

But here’s an often overlooked financial consideration that you should take into account: insurance. Security is absolutely priceless, and you never know when tragedy can strike. Are you and your family prepared?

As we move toward 2019, take the time to research insurance options to protect you and your family, To get started, here are three essential money moves to position yourself for potential emergencies and life challenges.

1. Get term life insurance

No matter who you are or what your financial situation is, life insurance is important.

According to the Life Happens 2018 Barometer survey, over 35 percent of households would feel financial impact within one month if the primary wage earner passed away. But, according to the same survey, only three in five people have their own life insurance policy or a policy through their job.

And that’s not all. According to the Life Insurance and Market Research Association, it appears that even those who do have life insurance feel insecure with their overall coverage level. Nearly 40 percent of Americans state that they wish their spouse or significant other had more life insurance coverage. In addition, more than half of married millennials would like more life insurance coverage for their spouses or partners, according to the same survey.

Where to start? Think about purchasing term life insurance. This type of insurance is relatively inexpensive for most families. It’s also easy to understand. In a nutshell, term life insurance provides coverage for an agreed-upon period – or term – of time. For example, if you should pass away during your policy period, your insurance company pays out the benefit to your designated beneficiaries. With term life insurance, you choose how long you want your policy to last. Common term lengths are 10, 20, or 30 years. Also important to note: Once the term is over, the policy expires. Yet, for an affordable price, term life insurance provides peace of mind and a financial security blanket for your family.

TIP: Check out Ladder

If you don’t currently have term life insurance, there many ways to purchase it, including through life insurance companies and insurance comparison sites. One option is the term life insurance company Ladder. Ladder makes life insurance easy because you can apply for it directly online without having to deal with insurance brokers. Ladder offers life insurance at affordable rates with a price lock guarantee. And, best of all, it only takes five minutes to apply to get insured!

2. Purchase renters or homeowners insurance

Tragedy can strike home at any time. Are you prepared?

You never know when a pipe could unexpectedly break, or your neighbor sets off the sprinkler system in your apartment building, ruining everything. Be prepared and protect yourself and your loved ones by getting homeowners or renters insurance today.

TIP: Check out Lemonade

For starters, check out Lemonade, a new type of renters and homeowners insurance that prides itself on transparent payment options and quick payment of claims. Renters insurance rates start at just $5 per month, and $25 a month for homeowners insurance. Plus, any money that you pay that doesn’t get funneled into claims will be donated to a charity of your choice. Pretty sweet (no lemonade pun intended!)

Lemonade currently offers renters, condo, and homeowners insurance in New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Michigan, Connecticut, and Washington D.C. They offer renters and condo insurance in Texas and Rhode Island, and renters insurance only  in Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Arkansas. Additional states and coverages are rolling out every year.

3. Don’t forget auto insurance

Bad things happen to car owners all of the time – and it can cost you an arm and a leg, even if you are not at fault. Even one small accident, like getting rear-ended, can cost you thousands of dollars if you don’t have the appropriate insurance.

Fortunately, car insurance can put your mind at ease during or after an accident. It can also be expensive. In fact, the average annual cost of car insurance paid in the United States was more than $941 in 2018, according to a study by ValuePenguin. And, depending on where you live, your state could be one of the more costly ones. Louisiana takes the medal for the state with the highest car insurance rate, costing insured residents an average of $152 a month. That’s $1,824 a year – ouch!

TIP: Check out Root

Luckily, insurance companies like Root are on a mission to make car insurance more cost-effective. Instead of just basing your rate on your driving record, Root uses an app to track your driving. Your real-time driving habits then determine your rate. If you are a responsible driver, you’ll receive a better quote. Because of this, you can save as much as 52 percent on car insurance with Root.

Give yourself the gift of security

You certainly can’t put a price-tag on security. You also shouldn’t have to spend a ton of dough to feel financially stable. So, this year, save money and protect yourself and your loved ones by making sure you have insurance.

 

How to Avoid Black Friday Fails

It’s no surprise that heavy-duty spending over the holidays is a major budget-buster. In fact, in 2017, Americans racked up an average of over $1,000 in holiday debt, according to a survey by MagnifyMoney.

And, perhaps the biggest contributor to this debt hangover is Black Friday. While seemingly innocuous, if you’re not careful, going overboard with end-of-year deals can put a serious dent in your bank account. Plus, you run the risk of spending more than you can afford or buying something you simply don’t need.

Take it from us: Going on a sales-fueled spending spree during Black Friday isn’t the best way to kick off the holidays. Here are some ways to avoid Black Friday fails:

Check the Money in Your Account

I personally avoid Black Friday like the plague. There’s no better sale than not spending money in the first place. But I get it. Let’s say you’ve been holding out for that shiny new laptop or gadget all year long. Black Friday or its equally evil cousin, Cyber Monday, may be the best time to purchase it.

If you must spend on these deal days, start by checking on how much money is sitting in your bank account—and how much you can safely spend. Look for surprise pockets of savings, such as money you have stashed away in your automatic savings account via a mobile banking app, or cash you’ve put into a savings goal bucket on your money saving app.

Stick to a List

Just like sticking to a list while grocery shopping can help you stay within your budget, you’ll want to create a shopping list before Black Friday. Otherwise you’ll be lured by the mountain of promotional emails landing in your inbox.

If it helps, make two separate lists: items you’ll purchase for gifts, as well things you’d like to buy for yourself.

Create a Budget

Next, gauge how much you can reasonably spend on Black Friday. Will you be purchasing stuff just for you, or for holiday gifts?

Figure out how much you have available to spend over the holidays. And don’t forget to factor in your expenses like holiday-related travel, attire for holiday work parties, gift wrap, gift cards, food for gatherings, and presents.

Do Your Research

Before you click “buy” during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, make sure you’re actually getting a good deal.

A lot of retailers may use “anchoring,” which shows the discounted price against the actual price. This gives consumer the illusion that an item is a bargain, when in fact it isn’t. To avoid bogus deals, do a bit of price comparison beforehand. There are a handful of price comparison websites, like PriceGrabber and Cyber Monday, that can help you find the best price for practically any item in existence. You may discover that the “killer mega Black Friday deal” you’re excited about isn’t actually netting you the best price. Bottom line: Shop smart.

Figure Out the Value Add

If you’re buying something for yourself, make sure the item adds value to your life in some way. This way you’re not spending money frivolously.

My partner said it best when he said that commitments are easy to fall into, but hard to get out of. And whether you like it or not, you have a commitment to the stuff you buy. So, let’s say that you buy a guitar at a huge discount. Once you do this, you’re held accountable for playing that thing. Or else you’ll just hear a nagging voice inside your head whispering “you should probably pick up that guitar.” That’s a slight mental anguish you’re probably better off not dealing with in the first place.

Figure Out the Cost-Use Ratio

When I’m quibbling over whether to buy something or not, I figure out how many times I need to use that item for it to be worth the price. For instance, let’s take a $50 pair of shoes purchased last year as an example. In my book, if I wore those shoes at least 10 times, they would have paid for themselves.

While there’s no perfect science to this, it’s important that you place a value on your item and make sure it’s worth purchasing to begin with. For instance, I could care less how many times I use a dish sponge before it goes into the trash. But for high-value items? I care. I spent $300 on a pair of boots last year. While this seems pricey, I wear them practically everyday. I got my money’s worth.

Don’t Waste Your Time

Time is money. And what’s more important, your precious time is a finite resource. You could be spending your time side hustling, with the fam bam, or having a leisurely, “do-nothing” afternoon.

So, if you see an inexpensive item you want to buy, just do it and don’t feel stressed out or guilty about it. Why shop around for a better price on two dollar dish towels? Um, not worth it.

Avoid Major Fallout

To avoid major Black Friday fails, you just need a little forethought and prep work. Sure, spending is a lot of fun, but you need boundaries – otherwise you may suffer from a regrettable case of holiday debt hangover once sale season subsides.

Instead, take a look at the tips here and shop wisely. You’ll be surprised by how much money you’ll save when you just make a few simple changes.

 

Tips to Curb Overspending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The deals. The doorbusters. The catchy television commercials and ads that land in your email.

Yup, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are among the biggest shopping events of the year. According to a Coinstar survey released last year, at least 30% of Americans plan to shop on Black Friday or take advantage of holiday deals and 70% expect to go over budget.

So, how can you avoid getting lured in by all these offers? Take a look at our top 5 ways to avoid overspending on these two major spending holidays:

Stick to Your List

Holiday wish lists aren’t just meant for kids to tell Santa what they want. The whole family should be making these lists as this will help you control who you are buying for and how much you’ll spend.

You can also refer to your list when scanning ads for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as this will help you resist the urge to make extra impulse purchases. If you stick to your list and plan your shopping trips carefully, you’ll be more likely to spend less overall.

Keep Up with Your Transactions

If you’re using a debit card to shop, it’s a good idea to track your transactions as this will help hold you accountable. It’s easier to blow your budget when you spend freely and don’t really keep up with where your money is going.

If you’ve ever had a busy and expensive weekend, you can probably relate. Say you went out of town and splurged a little. If you didn’t check your bank account to review your transactions, you had zero accountability for your mini spending spree. The same thing can happen with holiday spending. It’s easy to make one too many purchases on Black Friday or Cyber Money.

Here’s a pro tip: Instead of manually logging into your account to check your balance and review your transaction history, Chime can send you instant transaction alerts whenever you use your Chime debit card – attached to your free bank account. This way, you can stay motivated and stick to your spending plan.

In addition, if you have mobile banking with Chime, you can easily see your account balance simply by using the Chime app.

Only Choose One Day to Shop

Is it just me, or does Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to last for several days? Originally, these events took place on one day. Now, Cyber Monday has turned into Cyber Week and Black Friday often starts the night of Thanksgiving and carries into the weekend.

I’ve seen some retailers offer special deals each day of the week to entice customers to come back and keep shopping. This is a marketing trick and if you play along, you’ll give yourself more opportunities to overspend.

Instead, choose only one day to do the bulk of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. Get what you need, then put your money away. When you’re done shopping, unsubscribe from email lists, skip commercials, and avoid all the buzz for the remainder of day (or week).

Compare Deals

Retailer loyalty may or may not be the most important thing when shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Many stores offer the same products – possibly even from the same brand.

This means you should compare pricing to make sure you get the best deal. As an example, when I bought a PlayStation 4 for my son on Black Friday last year, I saw the same exact item at three different stores. I chose to purchase it at the retailer with the lowest price. If I didn’t shop around first, I would have spent money unnecessarily.

Some stores even price match in an attempt to beat out competitors’ deals. So, make sure you check to see if the store you prefer has a price matching policy.

Aside from prioritizing the best price offer, you can also consider other aspects of the deal that may save you money. For example, some purchases comes with a mail-in rebate, whereas some stores offer gift cards with certain purchases.

Don’t Buy Something Just Because It’s On Sale

It can feel great to score a deal, but you only truly win if you need the item or were specifically looking to buy something in particular. There’s no point in buying something just because it’s on sale.

It’s tempting when you come across deals that seem like they’re unbeatable, but try to shop and spend mindfully while sticking to your values.

Take a page from my book: When you come across a great deal for something not on your list, ask yourself how you’ll feel about that item in 30 to 90 days. Would it end up stuffed in the corner of your house somewhere? In other words, do you really need to spend the money on that item?

If you truly feel like purchasing something, see if you can swap it out with something else on your list so you’re not overspending.

You Can Still Get Great Deals Without Going Over Budget

Holiday spending can be great as long as you have full control over your spending habits. Even with all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, it’s important to get clear on what you want and spend wisely. With this in mind, you won’t move into the new year with added debt – or guilt.

 

How to Save on Utilities (and Still Have Fun) Over the Holidays

How to Save on Utilities (and Still Have Fun) Over the Holidays

The holidays are all about spending quality time with those you care about and spreading good cheer.

There’s just one little snag. Between stringing up lights, baking your favorite holiday treats and turning up the heat to fight off the winter chill, your utility bills can easily skyrocket. This may leave your bank account feeling the pinch, especially when you’re also spending money on things like gifts, entertainment and holiday travel.

In fact, the average person plans to spend $1,250 on holiday-related expenses, according to PwC’s 2018 Holiday Outlook. What to do? As you head into the holidays, try these tips to help you lower your utility costs.

Go LED for Holiday Lighting

Instead of sticking with your traditional outdoor holiday lights, consider making the switch to LED this year. Compared to regular incandescent bulbs, LED lights use at least 75% less energy, which means a lower electric bill for you.

“Set the lights on a timer, that way it’s one less thing on your plate,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trend expert at coupon and deal site RetailMeNot.

You can also use LED lights to save money inside your home when you’re hosting holiday get-togethers.

Arthur Smith, editor of LEDwatcher.com, a solar and LED lighting blog, says smart LED bulbs can save you money and set the mood for holiday entertaining.

“Smart LED bulbs are extremely versatile, because you can not only change the color of the light they emit, but also the intensity of the light, and when hosting a holiday party, bright lights aren’t always the best way to go,” he says.

And, here’s another pro tip: Skirboll says you can always skip the lights altogether and use candles for interior lighting.

“You get the same glow but at no additional cost to you, a win-win situation,” she says.

If you plan to do this, just make sure you are familiar with basic candle safety rules so holiday celebrations don’t turn into a fire hazard.

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

Managing utility costs over the holidays and the winter months can be tough if you’re dealing with fluctuating temperatures or entertaining more often.

Josh Savage, owner of Hero Heating, Plumbing & Cooling in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says installing a programmable thermostat is one of the best ways to save on heating costs. You can set the thermostat to turn the heat down automatically at night or during the day when you’re at work or doing your holiday shopping.

Programmable thermostats can cost between $20 and $150, while smart models that connect to your smartphone can run upwards of $300. If you don’t have the cash in savings to swing it, try to get into the habit of turning the heat down before you go to bed or head out for the day.

Savage has a bonus tip for saving on utility costs during the holidays: “Turn the thermostat down before any holiday gatherings or parties.”

This works particularly well if you have people coming over and you’ll be doing a lot of cooking that generates heat, he says.

“Oftentimes people will end up opening a window to cool things back off, and that can be a waste of heat and money,” says Savage.

Use Smart Power Strips

If you’re plugging your Christmas tree and holiday lights into a power strip, consider upgrading to smart versions to save on utility costs.

“Most electronics use electricity even when they’re turned off,” says Jill Caponera, consumer savings expert at PromoCodes.com.

This creates a “vampire load” effect, which adds up to an average cost of $200 per year.

“Smart power strips turn off the power to electronics when they’re not in use, and can be set to turn off at specific times or during times of inactivity,” Caponera says.

Opt for Potluck When Planning Holiday Meals

Matthias Alleckna, an energy industry analyst and creator of energy cost comparison site Energyrates.ca, says that if you’re planning a holiday dinner, make it a group effort.

“The less time you spend cooking, the more money you save,” since you’re not running your stove, oven or other appliances as often, says Alleckna.

To make coordinating potluck dinners easier, use an app like Perfect Potluck or Meal Train to keep track of who’s bringing what. If you need to reimburse anyone for last-minute purchases, like a couple of bottles of wine or extra napkins, you can use the “Pay Friends” feature through your Chime mobile banking app to pay them back.

Simply log into your Chime app, select the “Move Money” tab, click “Transfers” and select “Pay Friends”. Plug in your friend’s name, phone number or email, the amount you want to send and complete the transfer.

Know Your Peak Energy Hours

Your electric company may rate your energy use differently throughout the day, so check with your utility company to see if they have a time-of-use schedule, says Sophie Kaemmerle, neighborhood expert for background check platform Neighbor Who.

You may be charged more for energy during peak hours so it pays to know when the cheapest times of day are.

“Most utility companies offer discounts if you run major appliances, like washers, dryers and dishwashers at off hours,” Kaemmerle says.

Typically off hours are after 7 p.m. This means that waiting until after dark to turn on holiday lights, do the laundry or bake up a batch of gingerbread cookies can help you save money on your electric bill.

Spread the Energy Savings

While you’re cutting down your own energy use over the holidays, give your friends and family a hand as well by purchasing energy-efficient gifts, says Alleckna. If you’re not sure whether a gift is energy-efficient, check for the Energy Star sticker. You can find it on things like computers, appliances, DVD players, TVs and phones.

“Energy Star-rated products use up to 60% less energy than standard ones, which can represent a lot of money at the end of the day,” says Neighbor Who’s Kaemmerle.

Bank on Lower Utility Costs During the Holidays

High utility bills can lead to a holiday hangover and that’s not how you want to start off the new year.

Using one (or all) of these tips in your daily routine can help you cut down on your energy usage during the holidays and beyond. And remember: The more money you save on energy, the more cash you’ll have to spend on holiday fun.

 

8 Free Apps to Download Before Holiday Shopping Begins

Although you’ve probably just had your first pumpkin spice latte of the year, stores are going to start playing Christmas carols any day now.

That means the holiday shopping season is officially underway. Whether that fills you with excitement or dread, one thing’s certain: Mobile apps can help you prepare for — and maybe even crush — your gift-giving efforts.

“Using tech during holiday shopping is huge for me,” says Collin Morgan, founder of savings blog Hip2Save. “It helps me get the best gifts at the best prices, all while keeping my budget in check.”

Wondering what apps you should download? Here are 8 money-saving apps that will prepare you for a productive and affordable holiday shopping season.

1. Santa’s Bag

Before it comes time to check your gift list twice, use Santa’s Bag to create your shopping list and note all of your gift ideas, as well as your budget.

“I like to start by getting my spending game plan together with budgeting apps,” says Morgan. “It takes the stress out of figuring out my funds last minute.”

Once you’ve completed your purchases for someone, you can use the app to record the gifts and their cost. The app will display who is still on your list and how much you have left to spend.

Download Santa’s List on iOS. If you have an Android device, Christmas Gift List is a similar app.

2. Chime

Writing out your gift list will reveal how much spending money you’ll need — and, in turn, how much you’ll need to save.

To break down your savings goal, divide your total gift budget by the number of weeks until your chosen holiday (or until the applicable credit card bill will be due). The result is how much you should save each week. If your gift budget is $500, for example, and you have seven weeks until Christmas, you’ll need to save $71 per week.

As we all know, however, saving is easier said than done. So we recommend using an automatic savings tool like the one available through Chime’s banking app.

Designate how much you’d like to save each week, and Chime will move that money from your checking account to a separate savings account. Using this strategy, you can be confident you’ll have saved enough money by the time the holidays roll around.

Download on iOS / Android

3. ShopSavvy

Picture this: you’re standing in an electronics store, and you see a laptop that’s 50 percent off. Is it really a good deal? Or just good marketing?

The ShopSavvy app will help you find the answer: Simply scan an item’s barcode, and the app will compare prices online and at nearby brick-and-mortar stores. It will also display information from its parent site TopTenReviews. This will help you determine whether that laptop is worth your hard-earned dough.

Based on app reviews, ShopSavvy sometimes has bugs. If you find glitches while using it on your device, then download the Amazon app instead. Although this route will only compare prices on Amazon.com, it will still glean the most competitive prices. Morgan, who’s a fan of the app, says: “Many stores will match Amazon’s prices, too.”

Just remember that prices shouldn’t be the sole factor when deciding where to make your purchases. Shopping locally, even if prices are slightly higher, is an excellent way to support your community and small business owners.

Download on iOS / Android

4. Google Maps

Google Maps beats Apple Maps every time. And, as it turns out, you can use it for more than navigation.

Sarah Hollenbeck, shopping and retail expert at BlackFriday.com, notes that Google Maps can be a handy holiday shopping assistant.

“If used correctly, it can be your best friend come brick-and-mortar shopping needs,” she says.

“You can easily save your parking location in the app, preventing a long search for your car in the crowded mall parking lot. You can also use it to check crowds in individual stores in real-time.”

Download on iOS / Android

5. Slickdeals

So, your daughter really wants an Xbox for Christmas… but it costs way more than you’re willing to spend.

While deciding whether you’ll just opt for a nice board game instead, why not at least track the Xbox’s price? Using the Slickdeals app, you can create a “Deal Alert” that will notify you if the price decreases.

To track prices on Amazon specifically, you can use the Chrome browser extension camelcamelcamel.

Download on iOS / Android

6. Raise

Raise, which allows you to buy and sell discounted gift cards, is useful for holiday shopping in several ways:

  • You can sell your unused gift cards so you have extra cash to buy gifts
  • You can buy discounted gift cards for stores you know you’ll shop at
  • You can purchase discounted gift cards to give as gifts (before sending, you should reload to create even balances: from $46.39 to $50, for example)

“I use [Raise] every time I’m waiting on a checkout line,” says Adrienne Girard, copy chief at O, The Oprah Magazine, which publishes a range of holiday shopping content.

“It’s so easy — in under a minute I can look up the store I’m in, estimate what my total at the register might be, and buy a discounted gift card worth almost that amount.”

By the time she gets to the cashier, the credit will have loaded, and she can show its barcode to pay for her purchase. She’s used this strategy at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, and Sephora.

Though Girard only saves a small percentage using this shopping strategy, every little bit adds up. Since 2016, she has saved $76.

“When waiting in line, I might as well use my phone to save a couple dollars instead of scrolling through social media over and over,” she says.

Download on iOS / Android

7. RetailMeNot

While you’ve hopefully used RetailMeNot to find online coupon codes before, did you know you can use it when shopping in person, too? The mobile app reveals deals and coupons at stores near you, and also offers the opportunity to earn cash back.

Even if RetailMeNot’s app isn’t the right fit for you, alternatives abound.

For in-store shopping, Carson Kohler, a staff writer at personal finance site The Penny Hoarder, says: “I’ve been a long-time fan of Ibotta — whether I’m ordering from Amazon or gifting an experience like flights or hotels. Also, I always check the Target app and JOANN app for coupons and savings.”

For online shopping, you can also try Honey, which automatically finds and applies eligible coupon codes. Another option: Invisible Hand, which works in the background while you’re browsing and alerts you if it finds lower prices elsewhere.

Download on iOS / Android

8. Charity Navigator

If you’d like to opt out of the consumer frenzy this year, or would simply like to include charitable giving in your plans, then this app is a must-download.

Charity Navigator performs in-depth analyses of nonprofit organizations across the United States, rating them based on financial health, transparency and accountability. When you select one of its highly-rated charities, you can feel confident your money is going to a good cause.

Charitable donations also make great gifts. If you’re stumped on what to buy for the person who has everything, contributing to a charity that aligns with their values might be the best gift of all.

Download on iOS / Android

It’s Time to Deck the Halls…With Apps

No matter which apps you choose to download this holiday season, be sure to check out all the available options.

“Using technology while shopping is no longer an option, it’s a necessity,” explains BlackFriday.com’s Hollenbeck.

“To save money, consumers need to be smarter — and that means taking advantage of every possible deal.”

 

8 Things to Do in the Fall That Don’t Cost Money

After a summer filled with fun activities like concerts, festivals, and travel, you may be looking for ways to lower your spending and get back on a budget this fall.

While you may have less temptation to spend money after the summer, the drop in temperature also means it’s getting closer to Christmas and the end of the year. Yup, it’s time to start automating your savings so you can have enough money set aside to enjoy the holiday season while going into debt.

With an eye toward saving money, you’ll also have to keep a close watch on your spending habits during the fall season. To help you get a jump-start, here are 8 things to do this autumn that won’t bust your budget.

1. Attend a Fall Festival

Some fall festivals have entry fees, but many are free, especially if they are hosted by a community organization. Plus, vendors know that you will often buy food once inside – making it worth it to waive a hefty admission cost.

You can stretch your dollar even more by packing lunches. From there, you can enjoy a low-cost or free day filled with live music, crafts, games, and activities for the kids.

2. Go For a Scenic Hike

Fall foliage can be breathtaking in many parts of the United States. Why not go for a hike, enjoy the crisp air and take in the scenery – all at the same time?

Hiking is free and also helps you and your family stay active. To start, choose a hiking trail that is easily accessible, perhaps in a forest preserve or state park. You may even want to try riding your bike or inline skating on a smooth trail to switch things up.

3. Watch a Parade

Halloween is right around the corner, and many municipalities offer parades and other Halloween-themed events for the whole family to enjoy. Check to see if your town or neighboring city is hosting a Halloween parade, hayrides, corn mazes and other fall favorite activities.

4. Roast Pumpkin Seeds and Watch Scary Movies

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious and cheap fall snack. Plus, you can make roast the seeds right at home. All you need is a fresh pumpkin.

You can cut the pumpkin open and also use the filling to make blended pumpkin puree for pies and other treats. Once that’s done, you can remove all the seeds, clean them, season them and throw them on a baking pan to roast in the oven.

Spend a lazy Saturday with the family snacking on the roasted seeds while watching your favorite scary or Halloween-themed movies.

5. Collect Colorful Leaves

This is a fun activity to do with kids. Go outside and pick up different colorful leaves and then categorize them by type. You can also teach kids the names of the different trees that the leaves have fallen from.

Then, take the leaves inside and paste them on a piece of paper. You can also trace them on colored construction paper. And, voila! You’ve got yourself some beautiful fall decorations to adorn your refrigerator.

6. Attend a Halloween Party

Attending a Halloween party can be a great way to catch up with friends and meet new people. You can also make your own costume by using materials you already have at home and borrowing anything else you may need.

7. Have a Bonfire

If it’s not that cold yet in your area, host an evening bonfire in your yard. Fix up your outdoor space and invite friends over for a relaxing evening by the fire. You can even turn it into a potluck, make s’mores and play games. If you can play guitar, even better. Have a sing-along!

8. Tailgate at a Football Game

Don’t forget it’s tailgating season. This may cost a little money if you’re not in college, but you can still make it a frugal activity if everyone pitches in with the food and drinks. If you’re a student going to a game at your college or university, keep in mind that your ticket to the game may even be free.

Fall Fun Can Be Affordable

No matter what your financial goals are for the remainder of the year, you can always curb your spending while saving more money. The fall season is the perfect time of year to start spending less as there are so many different ways to have fun on a budget. So, take some time to revamp your fall budget and commit to it.

And, we’ll leave you with this pro tip: When it comes to monitoring your spending and savings right before the holidays, you’ll need a flexible way to manage your money. With Chime, you can bank with no fees and manage your cash flow easily.

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