Enjoy More Summer Fun For Less

Movie night in the pool.jpgSummertime is here. That means pricey vacations for some and new wardrobes for others, but don’t let the expenses get you down. Follow these tips for summertime savings.

Check out the bargains at the thrift store
Before hitting the mall to buy your summer wardrobe, visit the thrift store first. Spring cleaning means many thrift stores have high quality, gently worn items. You may be able to outfit yourself for the summer at a fraction of the cost.

Look for discounted gym memberships

Don’t already belong to a gym but thinking about joining one? Now’s the time. Many workout enthusiasts move outdoors when the temperatures rise. So, many gyms offer special rates only available in the summer.

Spruce up the indoors while enjoying the outdoors
During the summer, many retailers slash the prices of interior home goods, such as refrigerators and other appliances, cookware, and indoor furniture. Take advantage of the discounted prices if you’re in the market for home goods.

Use online tools to plan travel

Before booking your hotel or buying your plane tickets, check out some online tools that could save you money. Use online comparison tools and travel websites to get the best prices and fares. Also, visit sites like Venere, Airbnb, CheapOair, and Jetsetter for coupons and discounts.

Take advantage of the summer harvest

Warmer weather usually means plenty of locally grown produce. Support your local farmers and enjoy savings by signing up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. You’ll get a box of fresh fruit and vegetables regularly for a price lower than what you’d pay at the grocery store.  You can also grow your own food. Get to work and turn that unused section of your backyard into a vegetable or herb garden.

Buy store-brand items

When shopping for organic goods, buy store-brand items. Generic brands are usually just as good as the pricier labeled brands and cost less.

Save on gas

Gas prices rise when the temperature rises, especially around the Fourth of July weekend. Making sure your car is running as efficiently as possible will cut the gas it consumes.  Consider carpooling or public transportation to further cut your gas cost.

Clean out your attic, basement, and garage

Go through your attic, basement, garage, or other storage area and benefit. Sell some of your old, unwanted items at a garage or yard sale. Remember “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Consider selling more valuable items online. You might find things still in good shape, like a beach umbrella or chair, that you can use again this year.

Consider your options

Do you really need to take an expensive beach trip? A summer membership to a pool or swim club is generally much less than the cost of a one week beach trip. Is that hot summer concert really worth the cost of the ticket? Host a summer bash at your house instead and avoid traffic.

As these tips show, you can have fun in the sun and protect your budget at the same time.  What tips do you have to share?

Remembering Dad on His Special Day

Cute daughter and her father having princess time.As you look forward to Father’s Day next week, odds are good that you’re planning a barbecue or other get-together to celebrate dad. In some families, the traditions are time-honored and sacred while other families are far more casual about their Father’s Day activities and celebrations.

However, you choose to celebrate your father, finding the perfect gift for the man who taught you to ride a bike, mow a lawn, and throw a punch or who wiped your tears after your first broken heart, waited up to all hours of the night to make sure you arrived home from your dates safely, or agonized the first time a boy held your attention longer than five weeks; can be difficult.

Surely by now he has all the #1 Dad coffee mugs, Grill Master t-shirts, and gaudy socks and ties your money can buy. Sometimes, remembering dad on this special day is the best way to find the perfect gift. Consider gifts that let dad know just how much he means to you today and has meant over the years as an authority figure, role-model, guiding hand, and infinite source of support.

Think of the memories you’ve shared over the years. Whether it’s special camping trips growing up, theme park vacations, roller coaster rides, a love of B-movies, shooting hoops in the driveway, or of watching college football together on Saturday afternoons, dad has been there for you over the years – through thick and thin.

This is the time of year to remember those moments and celebrate them. Whether through photographs, portraits, planning special trips together, or drumming up your own game of hoops, getting tickets to watch your favorite football team, or simply having long talks about those precious and special memories. Remembering dad doesn’t require a special day. He’s near and dear to your heart every day. But on this special day, make a point of sharing your fondest memories for dad with the man himself. Let him know just how special he is and how much he means to you.

Handling Finances After Graduating College

Handling Finances After College Image.jpgLife on campus is kind of like life in a bubble. Everything you really need is contained within a relatively small space. Housing, dining, and education are all included as part of the package and you’re not required to worry about being able to eat if the month runs out of money. You only need to slum it in the college cafeteria and the rent is typically paid up until the end of term.

After college, though, life begins to change and handling your finances becomes far more critical. These tips will help you make sure you have enough money for the month and that all your bills are paid on time so that you don’t have to worry about the painful choice between food, phone, or lights.

Establish a Budget
This is one of the first things you need to do upon graduating, getting a job, and preparing to move out on your own. Set a budget that includes vital things, such as:
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Mobile phone service
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Clothing
  • Vehicle related expenses (don’t forget maintenance, insurance, fuel, etc.)
  • Cable/Internet service
  • Parking
  • Health insurance
  • Savings
  • Giving

These things add up quickly and many of them are often not considered when establishing a budget. Unfortunately, failing to do so can be catastrophic if these numbers are used to justify a major purchase or a higher rent location.

Pay Bills on Pay Day

It’s easy for money to get away from you when you least expect. This is especially the case in a world where it only takes the swipe of a card to pay your bills and buy the next shiny new thing that comes along. Paying essential bills (rent, utilities, car note, credit cards, etc.) on the corresponding pay day means that the money that is spent afterwards isn’t money that was earmarked for these vital expenses.It may not be pleasant to survive the month on ramen noodles and store brand macaroni and cheese, but it’s infinitely better than having your power disconnected.

Establishing this practice early will ensure that you are creating positive spending and credit habits. One or two months of a ramen noodle diet will have you quickly reassessing your budget and spending to look for appropriate changes.

Learn to Live Within Your Means

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn in a consumer driven society. Now, however, is a great time to learn that you don’t need a new iPhone every year.

Even bigger is the lesson that you don’t need the endless data plan either. Chances are that most of your time is spent at home or work. Use your Wi-Fi and cut down your data to a crawl to save big on your mobile service each month. Look for other areas where you can cut costs too.

These savings and life lessons add up fast. They will certainly help you make it through those leaner first years on your own after graduating college with your credit score intact.

Weekly Cartoon: Manage vs. Lead

Managing when I should have been leading2

What are your thoughts?  Is it more important to lead or to manage?

Remembering the Real Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day in Arlington National CementeryA funny thing tends to happen with federal holidays in the United States – even though they’re often born with only the noblest of intentions, people soon seem to place emphasis in the wrong areas: namely, a day off of work. Such is the case with Memorial Day, an annual holiday that people tend to get far too caught up in the commercial aspects of like a long weekend, sales and picnics. That’s all well and good, but it’s always important to take a minute to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, and to honor the sacrifices of the men and women who made it possible to enjoy these things in the first place.
The Origin of Memorial Day

The first thing to understand about Memorial Day is that it’s actually a lot older than you probably realize. It started all the way back in 1868 and was called “Decoration Day” after the American Civil War. It was designed to be a time of peace for the country to decorate the graves of Union soldiers following a lengthy period of battle that changed the shape of the United States forever.

Memorial Day as we know it came about when “Decoration Day” and a competing holiday designed to honor Confederate soldiers merged. The name was changed to reflect the fact that everyone who sacrificed their lives should be honored, regardless of which side they happened to fight on. As the country engaged in more wars over the following decades, Memorial Day became a way to honor ALL troops who protected our shores in conflicts both foreign and domestic.

Support is About More Than Remembrance: Charitable Organizations for Soldiers

Before you head out to that great backyard barbecue this year, consider making a contribution to one of the following charities. They exist in the spirit of Memorial Day itself, as a way to honor members of the armed forces and their families who have given their all so that we can enjoy so much.

* The Wounded Warrior Project
* Support Our Troops
* The Gary Sinise Foundation

Thank you to all who served.

Weekly Cartoon: Spinners

Will work for spinners

Have you ordered your own spinner yet?  How long do you think the craze will last?

Preparing Your Child to be a Financially Responsible Adult

Dad helping daughter move into University
A kiss on the cheek, a pat on the head, a car packed to the brim and your precious baby is off to begin the first steps of his or her adult life. You’ve fed her, raised her and kept her out of trouble (as much as possible, that is) and you’ve taught her how to live her life as a responsible adult.

Before she leaves, though, it is paramount to help her understand her finances and what adult life will have in store. Here are a few tips to include in the conversation to help your child become a financially responsible adult:

1. Save

A penny saved is a penny earned, but more importantly, a penny that could be used to grow into a small fortune one day. Savings is an important part of any adult’s life as it helps to steer clear of purchasing on credit and racking up unnecessary debt. Most things can wait and saving up for things cuts out interest fees and creates a sense of accomplishment.

2. Create an Emergency Fund

Although this is similar to saving, it is for a different purpose. While you can save for a new car, a down payment on a house or apartment or something fun, an emergency fund is strictly for those unexpected things in life. A flat tire, fewer hours at work or any other sudden expense can be crippling, so it is important to have a good amount saved up for such occasions. A good rule of thumb is a month’s rent or at least one thousand dollars.

3. Employment

Even if it is only part-time, having steady employment can help teach a college student how to manage responsibilities and priorities as well as give them a little extra money to save or use for fun. They will also receive real-world experience in dealing with customers and bosses, even if it is not in their particular field.

When searching for a job post-college, it is always good to have experience to show you know how to work. But it will also be helpful if your field does not have a position available and you have to search for employment in a different profession.

As a parent, you want your child to be successful. Smart money management habits are a part of that success, and so you’ll want to make sure your child is prepared to handle his or her money responsibly.