Do You Want to Save More Money Each Month?

It’s probably safe to say we all would like to have more money. But how do we do that without increasing our income or drastically changing our spending habits? Is it even possible? Yes, it is if you follow some of these savvy tips.

Review your bank statements

If you’re like most people, you don’t check your monthly bank statement. I don’t blame you – it’s not the most exciting reading out there. However, you may find that your bank or credit union is charging a recurring fee or there was a fee charged in error. For example, the gym where you canceled your membership several months ago may still be charging you.

I’ve seen examples of people discovering fees months later, and in many cases, past the time the bank will honor a refund. If you are incurring a monthly fee, you need to do whatever it takes to eliminate it. There is no reason to pay $12 – $15 for a checking account when there are so many free options available today.

Use cash

Debit and credit cards make spending money so easy that people don’t even think about the nonessential things they buy anymore. Estimate how much money you’ll need to get through the week and withdraw that amount at your bank branch or through the ATM. Then stick to your budget and only use the cash. Be sure to allocate money for shopping or eating out if necessary.

Use WiFi

This tip is for everyone who has ever been hit with massive data overage charges on their cell phone bill. Make sure you’re always connecting to WiFi at home and whenever possible at work or in public. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for the WiFi password at places where you’ll be using your cell phone a lot. If you have a teenager as I do, you’ll notice how often they reach their data limit. One of the causes of the excessive use of data is that the younger generation stream so much content with their phones and music and video use much more data than text messages or email.

Use a budget tracking app

Several budget tracking apps accurately track your spending after you connect all your bank or credit union accounts to them. Check the Internet for reviews on which work well. The best ones are great at accurately categorizing your expenses so you can see just how you’re spending your money. Sometimes knowing where it’s all going helps to adjust accordingly. My favorite app for this is Mint. It’s owned by Intuit, makers of QuickBooks. It’s available for both iOS and Android and has some great features including category tracking and alerts.

Just say no to the coffee shop

This is a hard tip for me to share since I love coffee so much. However, I notice when I go to a coffee shop I usually buy something beyond a good cup of joe and can end up spending $7 per visit. That can quickly add up! Let’s say I visit a coffee shop every day and spend $7 per visit. That works out to be $140 per month and $1,680 per year! Brewing your coffee, including lattes and cappuccinos, at home will save a lot.

*For me, I enjoy going to the coffee shop as a means to get away from the office, and since I participate in rewards programs, I get rewarded with free coffee occasionally. I have chosen to maintain my (reduced) visits to the coffee shop as long as I follow my next tip often.

Bring your lunch to work

Most of my colleagues go out for lunch every day. I try to limit my spending to once a week. My average lunch bill, which includes drink and tip, can be around $15. If I did this every day instead of once a week, I would be spending about $300 per month and $3,600 per year! Imagine what you could do with an extra $300 per month.

Open multiple checking accounts

This is my favorite tip because it has helped me dramatically over the years. Having two checking accounts may help you limit what you spend on non-essentials. Keep the majority of your money in your primary account for paying your bills and making necessary purchases such as gas and groceries. After putting money in your savings account, deposit your spendable money in the second checking account. This money is for eating out, shopping, and entertainment. Don’t dip into your primary account to pay for non-essential items. This makes sure your bills are not impacted by overspending.

There are countless ways to save money by not spending it on non-essential things. The items above are just a few. Get a handle on how you’re spending your money and think of ways that you can cut the extras out. What tips have worked well for you?

Live Healthy and Save.

Many people think it’s too expensive to live a healthy lifestyle. After all, gym memberships and organic foods aren’t cheap. If you’re one of those individuals, you might be surprised to hear that living a healthy lifestyle can actually save you money. Here are five ways that living a healthy lifestyle might put money back in your wallet.

Reduce transportation expenses

If your workplace is close enough, ride a bike or walk to work. I walked to work for a while and saved tons of money and lost a lot of weight. If you work in the city where parking is a premium, you may be able to walk to a public transit station saving gas, parking fees and the hassle of traffic. If you have children who go to school close by, walk them to school instead of driving them or having them take the bus. Not only will you improve your health and theirs, but you will gain more quality time with them.

Reduce monthly food bills

Replacing pre-packaged, processed foods with homemade meals can greatly reduce your monthly grocery bill. For example, compare pre-packaged soup to homemade soup. The cost of pre-packaged soup is the same as the ingredients for a homemade soup. However, the pre-packaged soup will last you two days, while the homemade soup will last five.

Eating at home will also help your waistline and wallet. A takeout meal costs two to five times more than a homemade meal and may have double the number of calories. Scientists have demonstrated that your body prepares itself for food intake while you’re cooking and digests food much better as a result. You’ll feel more fit and satisfied after a homemade meal.

At the very least, taking your lunch to work instead of eating out every day will dramatically reduce expenses, and you can eat healthier foods that you prepare yourself. Since you can take your lunch with you, walk to your favorite spot and “people watch” or listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook.

Reduce medical expenses

Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about developing a fit body. Exercising regularly improves your sleep and boosts your immune system. In turn, you will spend less money on over-the-counter medicines for colds, headaches and other common illnesses. You’ll find yourself spending less on prescription drugs too because losing weight reduces blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and joint stress.

Another added benefit to exercise is it helps reduce stress. After a long stressful day, I would do pushups and situps in my garage every night. After a few days of this, I found myself being less stressed at work, I had more energy throughout the day and was in much better shape than when I started. To keep me motivated and help me keep track of my progress I used Runtastic’s PushUps and SitUps apps. These apps kept track of my progress and helped me develop a routine towards my goal. You can also compare your progress to other Runtastic users. You can learn more about these and other apps by Runtastic here.

Cut back on expensive activities

Taking your family to the movies is extremely expensive nowadays, especially if you buy popcorn, candy and other snacks. If you want to spend quality time with your family, buy a Frisbee or a football and head to the park. If you’re not into throwing things around, most parks have a walking trail. Why not walk and talk instead of sitting on the couch? In general, outdoor activity boosts your mood and improves your health, and it’s usually free.

Cut out expensive vices

This tip seems obvious, but I still encounter plenty of people who smoke. At current prices, smoking 10 cigarettes a day costs you about $1,750 annually. Besides improving your well-being, quitting smoking will save you money, which you can use for a gym membership, purchase healthier foods and vitamins or invest it.

Soft drinks are another vice that increases your weight and decreases your cash flow. You can save about $175 a year if you refrain from soft drinks. While that may seem like a small amount, drinking sodas increases the likelihood that you’ll develop diabetes and have to spend money on expensive treatments in the future.

Living a healthy lifestyle is about more than looking good. It’s about improving your overall well-being and quality of life. Saving money to help your financial health is just an added benefit. Feeling good about your health and finances will lead to much more happiness.

Five Simple Things You Can Do Every Day to Improve Your Life

Many times, we don’t make the effort to better our lives because the job may seem too big. You can make big improvements by doing some smaller, simple things each day. Here are five simple things you can do every day to improve your life.

Determine Your Day Before You Get Up – When the alarm goes off in the morning, rather than getting up right away, take a few minutes to predetermine the great day that lies ahead. Tell yourself that people are ready to help you, and visualize a satisfying day filled with energy, fun and enthusiasm. Remind yourself of past successes, and fill yourself with enthusiasm. Use your time in the shower as you get ready to continually mentally prepare yourself for a productive day.

Be Grateful – We truly need to realize that many of our “first world problems” are insignificant. We all have much to be grateful for. There are family and friends who care about us. If you are employed, be grateful for the opportunity. If you don’t like your job, be thankful you have the opportunity to change it. We have technology and conveniences and are connected like never before. Look for things for which to be grateful. It is nearly impossible to be stressed when you are in a state of being grateful. Try it.

Purposely Do Nice Things for People – You are probably already a nice and helpful person, but intentionally crank it up. Even make note of these good deeds. You may also want to pay attention to the reaction you get from doing these deeds. You just may be surprised about how much return you get both mentally and emotionally from these acts, even if they are anonymous.

Talk a Walk Outside by Yourself – Try to put your mind on hold if you are feeling stressed. If you are trying to solve an issue, a walk may help you focus on new ways to look at the problem. Your body will soon learn that these walks are designed to decompress. Your mind will learn that the walk is an opportunity to avoid distractions and find solutions. Learn to ask proactive questions such as, “What are three terrific solutions for this?” Breathe deeply as you walk, and let your mind do the work for you.

Review Each Day’s Positives – Too often, our days are spent focusing on negatives. Take at least some time at or near the end of each day to mentally review your day from the beginning, reflecting only on the positives. Try to find the positives in even the negatives. If a key employee left, remind yourself that you will be able to find a replacement. If you lost an account, remember that there’s more business out there. It is a good time to be grateful again and reflect on the successes of the day and anticipate more for tomorrow.

Hope these were helpful.  I know we can struggle at times, but knowing things can be worse may help put things in perspective.  Life is too short to be misserable.

The Best Time of Year to Buy Things

Did you know that you can save money on just about anything if you buy it at the right time of the year? That’s right. From new cars to computers to furniture to clothes, there’s a best time of the year to buy stuff. Check out our guide for when you can get the steepest discounts.

Cars

September is the best month to buy a new car if you’re willing to purchase last year’s model. New car models are released in the fall, so dealers slash prices on last year’s inventory to make room for the new year’s inventory. So what about used cars? April is the best month to buy used vehicles. Dealerships usually purchase them at auction in April and try to sell them pretty quickly. The excess supply makes April a buyer’s market for used cars. Since April is National Care Care Month, you can also get good deals on car parts, tires, and service.

Furniture

January is the best month to buy new home furniture. New models come out on in February, so furniture stores offer great bargains to clear space for new inventory. You can also find deals on office furniture. Entrepreneurs tend to launch new business ventures in the new tax year, so retailers drop their office furniture prices to lure them in.

Laptops

As you might expect, August’s back-to-school sales bring good deals on laptops. June is another great month in which to buy laptops even though back-to-school bargains are weeks away. If you’re in the market for a desktop computer, wait until September. Desktops go on sale after the back-to-school madness ends.

HDTVs and electronics

Obviously, November is a great time of the year to get the best deals on electronics, HDTVs, tablets, and cameras as the. holiday shopping season kicks off. HDTV savings continue into December. January is another month where you can find bargains on HDTVs and electronics. The annual Consumer Electronics Show triggers price drops, so retailers can clear shelves for the latest and greatest models. Retails continue to discount HDTVs and audio equipment in February, which is also a good month to buy video games released during the holiday shopping season.

Clothes

As a general rule, season specific clothes go on sale midway through their season. February is the best time to buy winter coats and apparel. May is when you’ll find the best deals on spring clothes, and July is a great time to buy summer apparel. If you can wait, September and October are the best months to buy jeans for you and the kids.

Other fun stuff

In general, the best time to shop for items is when new models are introduced or seasons end. Here’s a list that shows by month when you’ll find the best bargains on lots of fun stuff.

  • January: Home furniture
  • February: Boats and tax filing software
  • March: Winter sports equipment, suitcases, and frozen foods
  • April: Snow blowers and jewelry
  • May: Mattresses and home goods
  • June: Gym memberships, lingerie, and cruises
  • July: Tools and grills
  • August: Lawn mowers and camping gear
  • September: Bikes, patio furniture, and sunglasses
  • October: Bikes, grills, and lawn mowers
  • November: Wedding dresses and cookware
  • December: Small appliances, holiday decorations (day after Christmas)

As long as your willing to wait and don’t mind buying last year’s models or styles, then you can save big bucks waiting for the best time of the year to buy stuff.

Top 10 Reasons to Invest in Your Employer’s 401(k) Plan

Investing in a 401(k) plan is one of the most popular ways to save for retirement. If you aren’t already contributing to the plan offered by your company, here are the top 10 reasons why you should.

It’s easy.

Every time you get paid, your employer automatically deducts a contribution. Worried you’ll miss the money? Enroll after your next annual review and set your contribution percentage to the same percentage as your salary increase. You won’t miss what you didn’t have.

Get free money.

Years ago I had asked a colleague of mine about investing in the company’s 401k. When he said “it’s free money” I was hooked.Over 70 percent of plans feature matching contributions of some type. Some even match employee contributions dollar for dollar up to a certain percentage. Today, I invest the highest match percentage to make sure I’m still getting “free money”.

Get tax breaks.

You get two tax breaks by investing in a 401(k) plan. Your contributions are tax-deductible and don’t count toward your gross income, lowering your taxable income for the year. In addition, your earnings are tax-deferred. You don’t have to include them on your tax return until you make a withdrawal.

Your interest compounds.

As with a traditional savings account, your interest compounds. This means you earn interest on the principal as well as the interest you’ve already been paid. Because your earnings are tax-deferred, they roll back into your plan and help your retirement nest egg grow faster.

You buy low and sell high.

Each time. you make a contribution, you use the same amount of money to buy securities. You buy fewer shares when prices are higher, and more shares when prices are lower. Over time, the average cost of all your shares is lower than if you watched the market and tried to buy the same shares at their lowest prices.

Save more than through an IRA.

You can contribute more to a 401(k) plan annually than you can to an IRA. This means you save faster for your retirement.

Save time.

Some people prefer to manage their own investment portfolios. It takes a lot of time and experience and a little luck to create a diversified, profitable portfolio. With a 401(k) plan, professionals manage your portfolio for you. There is a fee, but many financial planning experts agree that it’s money well spent for those who aren’t sophisticated investors.

Withdraw emergency money.

Many plans allow you to make hardship withdrawals, which you don’t repay, in case of emergencies. Some plans may also offer loans, which you do have to repay.

Take it with you.

If you leave your employer, you can roll the funds from your 401(k) plan into another qualified retirement plan without paying taxes or a penalty. However, you have a limited time to do so.

Supplement Social Security.

Social Security is meant to provide, at most, one-third of your income when you retire. Funds from a 401(k) plan may be a way to make up the difference.

Helps with a home purchase

I was able to secure a mortgage much easier because of my 401(k). From a bank’s perspective, the balance in my retirement account was an asset and lowered their risk of lending me the money.

Most people don’t have the knowledge and experience to be successful investors and provide for retirement through savvy investments. Participating in a 401(k) plan lets the experts manage your portfolio with your consistent and easy-to-make contributions. Look into your employer’s plan today. Don’t miss your opportunity for “free money”.

Top 10 Tenants for Creating a Culture of Smart Saving and Investing

Whether from a family-centric view or the entire society, smart savings and investing isn’t just a process. According to reports, the average American household has about $15,355 in credit card debt, much more if you factor in mortgages, personal loans, student loan debts, and vehicle loans. This is an expensive fact of American life. How can we change it? What will it take to create a culture of savings and investing instead?

#1: Teach Kids Smart Money Management
Even from a child’s perspective, money management should start with savings. Instead of spending a whole dollar, teach children to save half of it.

#2: Instant Gratification Isn’t the Best
From turning on the laptop to purchase something desired instantly to buying from a smartphone, it’s easy to spend money. Instant gratification, though, is not necessarily the best for people. It teaches to spend without regard to savings. How often do you make a purchase only to wish you didn’t a day later?

#3: Move Away from Credit Use
Credit cards are a key reason people face debt. It’s often considered the smart decision to use credit for everyday purchases, in fact. However, moving to a cash-based payment system within the home, for example, teaches better money management. You can’t buy it if you don’t have the money on hand to do so.

#4: Access to Easy Investing Tools
People are very digitally focused today. If you provide access to digital ways to save and invest, such as through the use of apps or online tools, people are more likely to engage in this activity. Going into the financial advisor’s office isn’t likely, on the other hand.

#5: Budgeting Has to Be a Priority
Another key area of concern is creating and sticking with a budget. Online tools are available to help with this. A budget should be a focal point of the monthly money management process.

#6: Tracking Spending
Sometimes, people don’t realize just how much they spend on spur of the moment purchases. From stopping to pick something up at the grocery store to getting a cup of coffee on the way into work, tracking how much is spent is essential.

#7: Rewards for Savings
On a society level, creating a system that rewards people for saving and investing, much like it does for using credit cards, can help to show people the value of making this change.

#8: Create Long Term Goals
Not only do financial advisors have tools to tell people how much money they need to save to achieve retirement goals, but so does most of America. The need to use such tools to plan savings is growing.

#9: Access to Education Is Essential
From credit unions to community colleges, there needs to be more focus on teaching everyday people how to invest and the rewards that it offers.

#10: Teach the Consequences
It’s also important for people to see, visually, the consequences of not saving. Education online or otherwise should showcase what happens when people don’t save, the cost of debt, and the cost to their future.

At the height of the recession, Americans were very conscious of their money. Now that the economy has improved, it appears many Americans have gone back to bad habits. Creating a culture of savings is anything but easy to do. However, it is one of the most important changes society needs to benefit in the long run.

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