Category Archives: Budget

How Much Will it Cost to Update Your House?

How Much Will it Cost to Update Your House?

Buying your dream home with all the desired facilities is one of the best experiences you can ever have. However, finding a house with everything that you want may be harder than expected, so it can also be one of the most stressful experiences too—especially if the home you are looking to buy needs a little work done to it… so you may be wondering, “just how much will it cost to update my house?”

 

How much will it cost to update your house? // Money Savvy Living

 

If you are looking to renovate your house, which might include remodeling your kitchen, remodeling the bathroom, getting a new roof, or simply painting your house to give it a new-look, you need to know the costs involved before you get started on the renovation project.  Here are some of the more common home renovations and a quick breakdown of costs:

 

 

Kitchen Remodel

If you were to fix and remodel your kitchen, it could cost you around $20,000. Kitchen remodeling is a big deal that would include painting walls, re-facing cabinets, upgrading the sink and installing a tile backsplash.

 

Bathroom Remodel

Bathrooms remodels can be expensive and would include installing bathtubs, counter tops, faucets and other bathroom fixtures, for a grand total cost of around $9000.

 

New Roof

A new roof is a significant investment in your house and can cost you around $7000. While a new roof can improve the overall aesthetics of your house and improve energy efficiency, a functional roof is considered a necessity and won’t increase the resale value of your home by very much.

 

Painting

Even something as simple as updating paint colors throughout your home can cost around $1,600.

 

Many improvements that boost your home’s value could render your home insurance coverage inadequate and leave you vulnerable to losses. So when you make major changes, be sure to talk with your insurance agent to see if a reassessment is necessary.

Also keep in mind that renovations on older homes can also encounter unexpected costs due to meeting current codes or re-working electric or plumbing.

Here is a breakdown of some of the more common home improvement and renovation costs:

infographic put together by Fast Florida House Sale

How Much Will it Cost to Update Your Home? // Money Savvy Living

These costs represent the general costs involved with typical home renovations, you will need to consult a contractor or builder for a specific quote.

Unique Gift Ideas Under $100

Unique Gifts Ideas Under $100

Unique Gifts from UncommonGoods for Less Than $100 | Money Savvy Living |

This post has been sponsored by UncommonGoods.  All opinions are mine alone.  #UncommonGoods #ad

 

If you are looking for a unique gift for a birthday, anniversary, wedding or other holiday, then you really need to check out these cool gadgets from UncommonGoods.  They have unique gift ideas for every budget, so you won’t have to break the bank trying to find the perfect gift.  It is also nice to know that UncommonGoods was founded on the principles of offering socially responsible products, environmentally friendly products, and giving back through the Better to Give Program.

UncommonGoods offers unique gift ideas for kids, teens, and adults that are sure to be a hit.  I like to look for gifts that fit my frugal lifestyle, but also offer something that someone may never have heard of before, is useful, and will get the “Wow, that’s really cool—I love it!” reaction.  So here is my list of favorites (and they are budget-friendly too!):

 

Birthday Picks: 

Birthstone Definition Necklace, this beautiful necklace is handmade in Texas, exclusively for UncommonGoods, $50

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Bluetooth Tracking Tag, Do you misplace your keys a lot?  You can change that for only $40

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Magnetic Key Holder, This key holder comes in the shape of the United States or you can even choose an individual state, $44

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Craft IPA Beer Shampoo and Conditioner, Yes, beer is good for more than drinking… it will give you beautiful hair as well…$19.95

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Heat Conducting Ice Cream Scoop, You will never have to dip your ice cream scoop in hot water again or wait for your ice cream to thaw, $19.99

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

 

Anniversary and Wedding Picks:

Ticket Stub Diary You can now easily create a keepsake of all the sporting events, movies, and concerts that you and your significant other attend together…$12

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Personalized Maple Wall Clock This makes a unique and special gift with the ability to add a surname or date to this clock, $72

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Personalized Cutting Board  Personal and useful—all in one!  A great addition for any newlywed’s kitchen, $54

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

 

Kids and Teens Picks:

Edible Chemistry Kit What can make learning more fun than a cool science experiment?  One that you can eat!  $18

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Bioluminescent Aquarium (small) Tiny plankton will illuminate this spherical aquarium when you swirl it.  Truly a one-of-a-kind gift $59.95

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

Equation Geek Watch Geeks rule the world, right?  Your science-loving teen will love this equation watch. $68

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

DIY Lip Balm Kit Not only is this do-it-yourself gift a fun idea, proceeds from these kits helps to provides jobs and support to women in the Washington DC area. $40

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

photo via: UncommonGoods.com

 

Step outside of the stand-by gifts that you may normally givelike socks… because, really, no one is excited to receive socksagain.

It’s a Credit Card Christmas

It's a Credit Card Christmas | Money Savvy Living

 

I’ll be fine and dandy, Lord it’s like a… credit card Christmas. I’m barely getting through tomorrow… But still I won’t let… spending get me way down…

 

Did you think I was going for a “hard candy” Christmas?  You probably even started to sing along, didn’t you?  Don’t be shy… I know you heard the tune and now it’s stuck in your head, am I right?!

 

Well, it may or may not be a “hard candy” Christmas for you, but it certainly is going to be a credit card Christmas for millions of Americans this year.  A recent Holiday Spending Survey, found that the average individual plans to spend $738 for Christmas this year.  When you add that up for the 245 million adults that plan on doing this shopping, you reach a staggering figure of $181 billion on gifts this holiday season!

 

If you were floored by that figure, wait until you hear this… of those 245 million shoppers, 64 percent of them will use credit cards, or some form of debt, to buy those gifts!  So within the next couple of weeks, over $103 billion dollars in debt will be acquired by Americans just for Christmas shopping.

 

Buying the Perfect Gift is Not an Excuse to Overspend | Money Savvy Living

 

So, how can you keep yourself from having a credit card Christmas?

 

If you haven’t been planning throughout the year already, you can’t really change that at this point, but there are a few things that you can do to help yourself from relying totally on credit cards to pay for Christmas:

 

Use cash—yes, obvious, but as much as you can, use cash.  Using cash keeps you in the clear, so you don’t have to worry about compounding interest on those high interest rate cards.  Even if you pay for half of your gifts in cash, that will be less to pay off in January.  Every small step that you can take to paying off debt makes a huge difference!

 

Pay off credit quickly—sometimes it makes sense to use credit.  Maybe you get a store discount for using their store credit card—and that can actually save you money, but only if you take advantage of the savings and pay the bill off as soon as it arrives next month.

 

Don’t buy gifts that people don’t want—this one gets a bit tricky, but let me explain what I mean.  Have you ever opened a gift and had to try to grin and say thank you when you have no idea what it is?  Perhaps you received a gift, like a $30 canister of gourmet popcorn and thought, “I would have rather had the money that was spent on that instead.”  You know, the nice gift that you really didn’t need or want.  The one that may never be used… I think that we’ve all received them, and probably even given them.  So this year, if you aren’t sure about what to buy, give something that is more meaningful… and here are a few ideas:

 

  • For new parents or parents of toddlers—offer babysitting as your gift.  Seriously, any new parent or parent of a toddler knows that free babysitting is pure GOLD.  I guarantee they will love this gift!
  • For grandparents— make a keepsake ornament from the kids.  Grandparents love anything that is made by their grandchildren, so whether it’s a handprint ornament, craft, or special card, it will be way more meaningful that then sweatshirt that says “World’s Best Grandpa.”  I’ll let you in on a secret: No one really wants to wear these shirts.  Ever.
  • For mom and dad—dad doesn’t need another tie, and mom doesn’t want kitchen utensils.  They probably just want some extra time with you.  So, instead of spending money on something that they don’t really need, invite mom out to lunch just because, make time to go on that hunting trip with dad that you have been too busy to take… they will appreciate this much more…
  • For your kids—as parents we want to make sure that our kids have a HUGE pile of gifts to open.  Because what is better than the joy on their faces and they run downstairs on Christmas morning to see all the wonderful packages that Santa left?!  But, we all know that joy only lasts as long as there are more gifts to tear open and when the dust settles, the kids play with their new loot for about 5 minutes and then life goes back to normal—and all those big bucks you spent to fulfil every Christmas list wish are seemingly wasted… talk to your kids about the true meaning of Christmas and find a way to have them learn the joy of giving… that will last for them a lot longer than getting the hottest, most expensive toy of the season…

 

Just because it seems like everyone around you is giving and receiving the latest and greatest gifts this season, based on the recent Holiday Spending Survey, they may very well be going into debt to do so.

 

Check out one of my posts, 10 Ways to Avoid Overspending This Year for Christmas and find out even more ways to get the perfect gift without overspending and going into debt.

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending this Christmas | Money Savvy Living

Are You a Budgeting Phony?

Are You a Budgeting Phony? | Money Savvy Living

Are you a budgeting phony?  A hypocrite when it comes to finances?

Hypocrisy is not a word that you would typically associate with budgeting, is it?  However, when you stop and think about what that actually means, it probably applies to someone you know.

So let’s start out by talking about what a hypocrite is: A hypocrite is one who “acts a false part, or assumes a character other than the real.”

You may be starting to figure out what I mean by a budgeting hypocrite…  There are three types of budgeting phonies: the “dead-broke” budgeter, the “YOLO” budgeter, and the “live-for-the-moment” budgeter.

 

The Dead-Broke Budgeter

This type of person is always complaining about how they have no money.  This type of budgeter may even ask to borrow money frequently and then have trouble coming up with the money to pay you back.  Yet, ironically, they somehow can afford expensive or luxury (non-necessity) items.  Do you know someone who never has enough money to pay bills, get diapers for the baby, or buy gifts for holidays, but has plenty of money for vacations, eating out frequently, and smartphones or other expensive gadgets?  While this type of budgeter says they don’t have enough money, the fact is, they probably would have enough money to pay for the necessities if they budgeted for needs first, and wants second

 

The YOLO Budgeter

This type of person spends money like it grows on trees—well, because, You Only Live Once, right?!  They seemingly have an endless supply of money to buy any and every thing they want.  While things may look fine from the outside, this type of budgeter may be building a house of cards that will come crashing down at some point.  This can easily happen because this type of budgeter overextends their finances by taking out interest only loans (never paying back principle… until that loan must one day be refinanced to pay principle and interest) and/or maxing out credit cards.  Charging it up on credit cards can be fun—until the bill arrives.  The budgeter that lives beyond their means will eventually face a day of reckoning.

 

The Live-for-the-Moment Budgeter

This type of budget is kind of tricky to spot—this may even be you and you don’t even know it yet!  This type of budgeter isn’t always telling you how broke they are, yet seemingly makes unwise budgeting choices; nor do they wildly spend money as though they have an endless supply.  This type of budgeter pays their bills and makes good money decisions—mostly.  The only problem for this type of budgeter is that they have not factored in saving for retirement.  With all of the things that can come along in life, it can be hard to set aside money for retirement—which can be 20, 30, or 40 years away—especially when it feels like you need that money now, just to get by…  However, getting in the habit of saving, even if it is only $20 a month to start with, will start a very beneficial budget routine for you and your family.

So what do you need to do?

If you fit into one of these categories, you need to make budgeting changes NOW.

Yesterday would actually be better.

But, we can’t change how you handled finances in the past; however, we can make positive changes moving forward to get your finances under control and set you up for a path toward a comfortable retirement.

  • Create a budget. This is the first step to getting your finances into order.  Know where you are and then set the path forward.  This is going to involve talking to your spouse or significant other about money—a potentially very sensitive subject.  Before starting this discussion, you may want to read When Not to Talk to Your Spouse About Finances so you can make that conversation as productive as possible.  You can also download my free, printable budget to help you organized:

Mone Savvy Living Budget printable

  • Treat retirement savings as a necessary expense. Why an expense?  Because then you are factoring it into your budget every month as money going out of your bank account.  In this case, it is not going to pay a bill, it is going into a retirement savings account—401k, Regular IRA, or Roth IRA.  My article, Retirement Planning: Are You a Saver or Spender? goes over why you may be leaving free money on the table if you aren’t currently investing into a retirement account—especially an employer sponsored retirement account.
  • Prioritize your spending. For all three of these types of budgeting phonies, mismanagement of finances is the root cause of the problem.  Creating a budget will quickly show you the items that are necessary to pay first, and then using the money that you have left over after paying all your necessary expenses (which is called disposable income), to buy the things that you want, but don’t necessarily need.

The Payday Savings Plan

Payday Savings Plan  | Money Savvy Living

 

It’s a simple concept: pay yourself when you get paid.

 

Instead of just budgeting to pay bills, make savings a part of your monthly budget. If savings aren’t a part of your monthly budget, then the chances of you actually setting money aside each month are greatly diminished.

 

Realistically, most of us spend based on what we see in our wallets or as our checking account balance. After all your bills are paid, if you have $500 left in your account, you probably feel that this entire amount is your disposable income. If, however, you have included savings into your budget—let’s say, $200—and prioritized it as you would any other expense, you would now only see $300 in your account as disposable income. This would force you to adjust your spending.

 

The payday savings plan enables consistent savings, sets aside money before it is spent on other disposable income items, and prioritizes savings as a part of your budget.

 

Pay Day Savings Plan | Money Savvy Living

 

You must plan to save money. Saving is not something that is going to happen on its own. It is a habit that you must purposefully implement into your budget.

 

Look at your entire budget.

Before you can decide how much to save, you must look at your income and expenses. After all of your bills are paid each month, the money that is leftover is your disposable income. So, for example, once you know that you will have approximately $500 a month left after all your bills are paid, you can then decide how much to set aside for savings.  Build savings in as a part of your budget.

 

Decide how much you can afford to save each month.

After you have taken a look at how much money is left over each month after all of your monthly obligations have been met is your disposable income. The disposable income is the money that you spend on the stuff you want—not the stuff you need. This is your fun money. Yes, it is fun to eat out or buy a new pair of shoes, or whatever your extra money each month goes to, but the short-term disappointment of sacrificing some of these wants will reap huge benefits for you in the long-term by saving and planning for retirement.

 

Commit to a fixed amount that you can put into savings each pay period.

It is easier to save each month when you are setting aside a set amount each time you get paid. Some savings plans tell you to start out saving $1 the first week and working your way up to saving $52 the last week of the year; this sounds good, but the reality of this means that the first month, you are saving $10, and the last month, you are saving over $200. That is a huge swing in your budget, one that can be hard to stick to, especially when unexpected expenses come up. Setting aside a specific amount allows you to budget more consistently.

 

Set up automatic funds transfer.

Whether your savings are through an employer-sponsored retirement plan or just depositing in a savings account each, set it up to go directly from your paycheck to that account. If the money is set aside before it even hits your bank account, it is not every likely to be spent. You know the old saying: out of sight, out of mind…

 

Don’t turn down “free” money.

If you have an employee sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401k, you are turning down free money if you aren’t participating in it. Many companies have some sort of matching component to their 401k plan. So if you contribute 2% of your paycheck, your employer will match that and also contribute 2%. If you aren’t contributing to a company sponsored plan, you are literally turning down free money.

Even if your employer doesn’t match or if you are self-employed and it is just you contributing to your account, you are still missing out on free money if you aren’t contributing each month. How is that possible? It has to do with the time value of money and the compounding effect that it has. Ok, this may sound a bit confusing, but simply stated, your savings account balance grows by compounding on the principle and interest each month. So the more you contribute, the more interest you will get on the larger balance each and every month. So the sooner you can start saving, the better.

Live Rich—Even on a Budget

Live Rich even on a Budget | Money Savvy Living

 

Living on a budget doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice quality. When people think of sticking to a budget, they automatically think that means that they have to give up something or choose cheaper, inferior-quality products or services. This definitely doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re savvy enough, you might get away with merely using a budget calculator.  Many times, you can keep the same lifestyle or still choose the high-quality products, you just have to be a bit savvier about when and how you purchase these items. Take a look at these seven ways that you, too, can live the good life… on a budget.

 

Golf

Everyone wants a 7:00 am tee time on a Saturday morning, right? While the sun peeking through the trees and the dew still shimmering on the grass does make for a beautiful and tranquil golfing experience, you can get a similar experience—possibly at half price—by going later in the day. Ok, the dew will be gone, but if you opt for a later afternoon tee time, the prices are much cheaper for 18 holes. Save yourself even more money, and take an early evening spot for nine holes of golf. Weekends are also the busiest time, so prices drop even more if you are willing to golf on weekday afternoons or evenings. Many courses also offer discounts on golf packages for the season, which can save you some money as well. We always hear about what an expensive sport golf is—but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing the best time to book your round can give you the golfing experience that you are looking for, at a fraction of the cost.

 

Sporting Events

Next time you want to attend a professional baseball game, you may want to look at going to the minor league version instead. Not only can you avoid the huge crowds, expensive parking, and the mile hike to the stadium, but you will save at least 50% on ticket prices. It is no surprise that the food at the concession stands are much cheaper as well. But the nicest thing about attending these minor league games is that the stadiums are just as nice as the bigger stadiums, and every seat is close to the action! Same great ball park experience, at a budget-friendly price.

 

Designer Clothing

If the designer label means a lot to you, but you don’t want to spend the designer price, there are still ways in which you can buy these clothes without breaking the bank. Of course, you are probably familiar with websites, such as Overstock.com or Zulily for bargains on designer goods; however, there is also a new trend in the world of second-hand designer goods. Poshmark, is an app that allows women to buy—and sell—lightly used designer fashions, so you can pick up some good deals, but also sell some of your own used designer items and pick up a few bucks along the way.

 

Luxury Car

While the thought of slipping into a brand new car and driving it off the car lot is appealing, you may want to think twice before signing and driving because once that car pulls off the lot, it is going to depreciate in value. That is good news, though. It means that you can pick up a used luxury car for a lot less than a new one. Even though it will have a few miles on it, the luxury amenities— such as leather, heated seats, premium sound system, and pretty much automatic everything—are still going to be just as nice. You can check out Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book to price and compare new and used car prices. For instance, if you are looking at buying a brand new 2015 BMW 335i Sedan, the price is around $39,500, but a used 2008 BMW 335i Sedan, with approximately 60,000 miles on it, is about 50-60% less than a new one, ranging from $15,800-$18,800.

 

Vacations

Even if you are on a budget, you can still take a nice vacation. The caveat is that you have to know when to go on vacation. Timing really is everything when it comes to being able to get a luxury vacation at a frugal price. If you want to plan a beach vacation, don’t go during the busy season—summer. Pricing during the busy season will cost you double, if not triple, what the same room would be during the off-season. A good rule of thumb for traveling, in addition to a destination’s peak season, is that holiday and weekends are typically going to cost you a bit more. An added bonus of traveling during non-peak season or non-holidays is that you will avoid the huge crowds too. If you have a flexible travel schedule, then you may also be able to take advantage of last-minute deals too.  For more ideas on how to save money on your next vacation, check out my article, Frugal Vacation Planning: 10 Ways to Save Money

Frugal Vacation Planning: 10 Ways to Save Money | Money Savvy Living

 

Fine Dining

Believe it or not, you can still eat out at the five-star restaurants—even if you are on a budget. Again, knowing when to go, makes all the difference. Many times, these restaurants are open for lunch, or even have early-bird or weeknight specials. The food tastes just as delicious, and you will experience the same up-scale atmosphere and excellent service, but by avoiding the evening dinner pricing and the weekend crowds, you can have your Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée—or cake—and eat it too.

 

Going to the Movies

If you went to the movies recently for date night, you know that the tickets and popcorn can really add up—and even more so, if you took the whole family. However, there is a way to still catch the newest Hollywood blockbusters without busting your budget: opt for the matinee or go during the weekdays—weekend and evening prices are always a bit higher. And if you don’t have the will-power to walk by the concession stand, and I know that I don’t—I mean, what is a movie without popcorn?!—share a larger size popcorn, rather than buying individual sizes and save a few dollars. And if you want to save even more money at the movies, Cinemark is running family-friendly kid specials all summer long for $1 per ticket, and even discounts on popcorn and drinks.

 

Budget-friendly Superfoods

Bunch of Grocery Produce Items on a Wooden Plank

The New Year is here, and that can mean a fresh start for your finances…. and your health.  With nearly ¾ of all resolutions made at the beginning of a new year relating to either losing weight or getting finances under control, let’s look at a way to make those goals achievable together: choose budget-friendly superfoods.
So what are superfoods?

Superfoods are foods that seem to offer additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Superfoods have the following qualities:

  • Low in calories.
  • Contain substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids or monounsaturated fatty acids.
  • High in fiber.
  • Contain phytochemicals that research shows may help to prevent disease.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Low in unhealthy substances such as saturated fats, trans-fats, or refined sugars.

Often, when we think of health foods, we think of expensive supplements or over-priced produce that you don’t even know how to pronounce. But superfoods don’t have to be outlandish or expensive. There are several, everyday items at your local grocery store that can provide the nutrition you need without blowing your budget:

  • Beans and Peas: Legumes, including kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas and lentils, are an excellent source of meat-free protein, fiber, folate and potassium.
  • Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables: Kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens and mustard greens are excellent sources of fiber, folate, Vitamins A and K, calcium, and antioxidants.
  • Berries: Most of us just eat berries because we like the naturally sweet flavor, but, berries are also bursting with a multitude of healthy nutrients, including fiber, Vitamins A, C and E, calcium, and potassium. Don’t forget that frozen berries can provide the same nutrients as fresh berries, which may not be available year-round.
  • Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage: This group of vegetables is also low in calories and high in fiber and Vitamins A, C, and K.
  • Cinnamon: Polyphenols in cinnamon help to reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Low-fat, plain yogurt: Loaded with calcium, potassium, protein, and probiotics.
  • Eggs: contain 12 vitamins, including choline, which is good for brain development and memory.
  • Nuts: should be eaten in small quantities because they are higher in fat.  However, they are also a good source of protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats, and antioxidants.
  • Quinoa: whole-grain, good source of protein
  • Salmon: low in calories, low in saturated fat; high in protein and iron
  • Sweet Potatoes: high in Vitamins A and C, calcium, and potassium

Now, you may be thinking that nuts and quinoa can be expensive when compared to substitute items.  And the truth is, they are more expensive.  However, think about how much it costs to buy processed, pre-packaged meals and it is certainly less than that.  A one-pound bag of almonds or walnuts or one box of quinoa can be used as part of several meals, so even though it costs a bit more up-front, it will help stretch your dollars in the long run.

 

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending this Christmas

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending this Christmas  | Money Savvy Living

 

Shopping for everyone on your list, attending all of the holiday parties, and taking in all of the sights and sounds of Christmas can get expensive—but it doesn’t have to.  There are a few steps that you can follow to ensure that you don’t end up with the winter blues, a whole lot of regret, and a huge credit card bill come January.  Here are 10 ways to avoid overspending this Christmas:

  1. Make a list. Don’t just set out to shop without a game plan. Write down who you are buying for and what you want to get for them. And remember, if it’s not on the list—don’t buy it!
  2. Set a budget. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend on the gifts you will buy. The easiest way to not overspend is to set aside a certain amount of cash, when the money is gone, your shopping is done. If you are buying online or using a credit card, save your receipts and make sure to keep track of your spending.
  3. Don’t get drawn in by “biggest SALE of the season” advertising. Just when you think that Black Friday has the best sales, then Cyber Monday comes along with a whole new plethora of items on sale. Really, until Christmas Eve, you can count on retailers trying to entice you onto their website or into their store so you can take advantage of the Christmas savings. Don’t get me wrong, the 52” flat screen HD TV is a great buy for $300, but if you don’t really need it, then that was $300 that you didn’t really need to spend.
  4. Focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It is so easy to get caught up in buying the perfect gift for that special someone or making sure everything is checked off the “Santa” list, but gifts, decorations, and holiday parties are not the reason we celebrate Christmas. Remembering that we celebrate Christmas because of the birth of Jesus helps get things back in perspective.
  5. Make gifts. As much as Grandma and Grandpa enjoy getting a new pair of slippers under the tree, they would probably enjoy getting a homemade gift from their grandkids even more.
  6. Wait until the after-Christmas sales. This won’t do you very much good this year, but planning ahead can save you 50-75% off for next year. Wait to buy lights, wrapping paper, and other decorations once they go on sale the day after Christmas.
  7. Take advantage of gift card specials. Many stores offer a free “gift” with purchase— $10 free gift card with a purchase of $40 of gift cards, for example. If there are items that you know you want to get from a store that offers this, buy the gift cards first, then use them to buy your gifts—and pick up a bit of extra spending power along the way.
  8. Comparison Shop. With most stores having an online presence, it is pretty easy to look up current sales and compare from site to site which retailer has the best deals or offer free shipping.
  9. Shop consignment stores for holiday clothes for the kids. If you want to have the perfect holiday outfit for your kids for the annual Christmas picture, card, or school program, it can get very pricy. If you aren’t careful, you can sink quite a bit of money into a complete outfit that your rapidly growing child will only wear one or two times over the holidays.  Many consignment shops offer “nice as new” and name brand clothing for a fraction of the original cost.
  10. Attend FREE holiday events. Many churches, individual venues, or communities offer free events such as plays, light displays, Christmas tree lightings, caroling, and festivals. These free events can offer a lot of great family fun—and it doesn’t cost you a thing!

 

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending This Christmas | Money Savvy Living

Budgeting Basics: 5 Ways to Get Your Finances Organized

Photo by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Photo by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Does just thinking about your finances seem overwhelming? Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Do your bills keep piling up? Creating a budget and knowing your exact financial situation can help to make things more manageable and get you back on track. Many of the household items have probably increased in cost over the past few year, such as food, gas, healthcare costs, and other consumer goods, probably outpacing any cost of living raise that you may have received. These increases, while relatively small, can really start to squeeze your finances. So in order to get to a point where your finance are manageable, you have to get a financial plan in place that takes into account your entire financial situation. A little bit of organization can take the frustration and confusion out of managing your money.

Steps to organize your budget and create a financial plan:

1. Create a budget—The first thing that you need to do is have a clear understanding of the money that you have coming in each month and how much is going out for expenses each month. Make a spreadsheet or list of all of your monthly income sources and monthly bills, or expenses.

  • Income sources: wages, tips, alimony, child support, pension, IRA, SSI, investment income
  • Fixed expenses—mortgage/rent, auto loan, insurances (health, life, auto, home), 401k/IRA contribution, personal/signature loans
  • Variable expenses—utilities, food/consumer goods

Add up all of your income. Add up all of your expenses. Once you subtract all of your expenses from your income, the amount that is left over is your disposable income. From the disposable income, you can set aside additional money in a savings account, have some spending cash, or just have money set aside for any unexpected expenses that pop up during the year.
*Notice that 401k/IRA contribution is listed as an expense. Even though it is optional, look at it as a necessary expense that you must budget in each month. Making this a part of your budget each month will set you up for financial freedom in retirement.

2. Limit credit card use. Only charge on your credit cards each month an amount that you are able to pay off. Don’t let the balance carry over month after month; most credit cards have high interest rates that compound daily. Paying only a minimum payment will take years (maybe even decades) to pay off.

 

3. Use cash when possible. After creating a budget, it is easy to see how much money is left over each month that is considered expendable. Obviously, using cash, it is impossible to overspend. Once the cash that you have set aside for the month is gone, the spending stops.

 

4. Be an informed consumer

  • Clip coupons—also look for stores that offer to double your coupons.
  • Purchase items when they are on sale. Most stores have websites, which have weekly ads, and email sign-ups, which send out coupons, promotions, and savings events information.
  • Comparison shop—the internet makes it easy to look up the price of an item at multiple stores or online shops to figure out where it is offered at the best price.

5. Save for the future

  • Savings account—even though interest rates are low now, putting money into a savings account is still a good idea. If you set up direct deposit, that money will go there before you get your net paycheck; it is much easier to save when the money is taken out of your paycheck directly.
  • Retirement account—if your employer offers a 401k or other similar retirement plan, you want to contribute to the maximum matching level. If you employer matches to 4%, that is the level to which you want to minimally contribute, otherwise, you are turning down “free” money.
  • Emergency Fund—it is suggested that you have at least six-months salary set aside in case of a life emergency, such as accident or loss of job. These funds can help get you through if something were to unexpectedly happen; you will still be able to pay your monthly bills, even if there isn’t any current income coming in.
  • Open a Return of Premium Life Insurance Policy—While this type of life insurance policy provides protection for a certain period of time, it also provides a sort of forced-savings account. If the benefit is never used, policy holder gets all of the premiums back.

This article has also been published at: Bella Home Goods and on my Personal Finance Examiner page.

Daily Habits that are Costing You Hundreds of Dollars

Daily Habits Costing You Hundreds | Money Savvy Living

When you are trying to save money, there are, typically, quite a few places that you can look. The obvious place to start is with monthly bills: evaluate your telephone package, cellular plan, satellite/cable options, and internet connection service. Many times, companies are able to give you special promotions that are currently going on or you can even down-grade your current options, based on what you actually need and use. Although, there are some ways to save that you may not have even considered. These money-usurping habits often slide under your monthly budget radar because they aren’t individual bills that come in the mail each month. You may pay cash or put them on a credit card used for other household items, so these expenses may go unnoticed, but could, literally, be costing you hundreds of dollars each year.

 

The morning coffee addiction

If you are like most of us, you probably can’t really get going in the morning without a cup of coffee. However, it can make a huge difference in your budget where you are getting that coffee. If you are stopping by your favorite coffee shop and ordering a specialized coffee from a barista, you are probably spending around $4.00 each work day, or about $88 each month. While the gourmet latte each day is delicious, it is costing you over $1000 per year, if you buy a gourmet coffee each workday! Don’t lose heart, though, there is a much cheaper way that is still going to taste great. If you aren’t good at measuring out and making your own coffee, invest in a coffee maker that you can simply place a K-cup in and have a perfect-tasting cup of coffee every time. The least expensive way to enjoy a K-cup is buying at a wholesale store (I go to Sam’s Club). You can get a large box of 84 K-cups for just under $40. Buy some flavored creamer and you will get a great tasting cup of coffee for around $0.50 per cup! Making your own coffee at home costs about $11 per month and will save you $77 per month; that is a savings of over $900 for the year!

 

Eating out for lunch

Mornings can be hectic, especially if you are trying to get your children ready for school, help kids finish homework, make breakfast, and make sure everyone gets out the door on time. It can be really hard to add one more thing to the morning checklist. Honestly, we all know that it is just easier to buy lunch rather than take the time to pack one. Buying lunch at a restaurant each day can make quite a dent in your budget. Even if you are getting a value meal at a fast food restaurant, you are probably spending at least $5 per day, which would be about $1250 per year. This is an expense that can approximately be cut in half by packing a lunch each day.

 

Happy hour

It may not seem like a big deal to stop by your favorite sports pub after work and have some wings and a beer with a few co-workers to wind down after work, however, you may be spending more than you think. There are always “happy hour” specials so it seems relatively inexpensive. Of course, if you go every day, you are probably adding at least $5-10 to your daily expenses, and potentially, a whole lot more, depending on how long you stay.

 

The best way to limit the amount that you spend each month on these “daily habits” is to budget for them. You don’t have to give everything up altogether. Build a certain amount into your budget each month and then stick to it.

 

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