Be a Cheap Shopper!

Of course, when I say cheap, I mean frugal.  Wanting to save money while shopping doesn’t always mean you have to buy  poor quality products.

Here are some websites that will help you save money when you shop!

Printable Coupons:
A Full Cup – This website will help you find coupons from all over.
Coupon Mom – Also offers shopping tips and advice.
Coupons.com
Valpak

Internet Coupons & Codes:
Retail Me Not – Also has printable coupons
Ebates – Get a $10 gift card just for signing up! (I received a Target gift card.)
Coupon Surfer
Cool Savings

If you or someone you know is a college student, look at Upromise.com for more savings.

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10 Ways to Cut Costs

(in no particular order)Money in hand

1. Ditch the cable or dish.
With faster connection speeds, internet is becoming more and more useful.  If you have favorite TV shows, chances are you can watch full episodes (some even in HD) for free on their network’s website or on Hulu.  This will save you a monthly bill and you can watch the show when you want.  If you are technically skilled, there are even ways to hook your computer up to newer televisions so you can still watch your shows on your big screen.

2. Cut your home phone bill.
More and more people are completely getting rid of land-lines and just using their cell phones.  While I still recommend having a land-line for emergencies (if power goes out for a long period, you won’t be able to charge your cell phone) there are ways to cut your spending on home phones.

First you could get rid of all the bells and whistles on your current plan.  Do you need call waiting on your home phone? Do you need long-distance if you have a cell phone that you could use for long-distance calls?  If that doesn’t work for you and you DO need the bells and whistles, consider switching to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service. These services use your internet connection to make calls.  You may have heard of Vonage that offers this service starting at $24.99/month.  But between you and me, I’ve heard their service is not very good.

A service that I know for a fact is good (it is what I use) is Ooma. Ooma can eliminate your phone bill completely.  After purchasing the Hub (the box that has to connect to your internet) you never have to pay for service. (UPDATE 6/8/10: Ooma now charges taxes and fees that vary depending on where you live. Where I live I only pay $3.47/month, still can’t beat that deal.)   They do offer a “Premier Membership” which is only $12.99/month, but this is if you want features that you most likely don’t use now.  Their free service includes many features including, but not limited to, call waiting, caller-ID, and a voice mailbox, which can also be checked from your account on their website, so you can check your messages from anywhere with an internet connection.  With this service you can also choose to keep a very basic land-line, so if you lose your internet connection you can use your land-line to make calls.

3. Do your laundry frugally.
Only wash full loads of laundry and use cold water when you can.  The only laundry I wash in hot water are undergarments and bed sheets.  Your clothes will be just as clean washing them in cold water.

You could also try making your own laundry detergent and save hundreds of dollars a year. Here are recipes for both liquid and powder detergents.

4. Make a shopping list.
Before going grocery shopping make a list of everything you need to get.  Add toiletries and other items as well if you need them.  When you go shopping DO NOT put anything into your cart that is not on your list.  It is so easy to spend a lot of money on items we don’t need or didn’t want until we saw them at the store. Don’t impulse buy.

5. Use the 30 day rule.
You may have heard of this before.  If you want to buy something not considered a necessity (i.e. food and toiletries) put it on a list.  Write it down on a piece of paper and forget about it for 30 days.  After 30 days, if you still want it AND can afford it, you can buy it.

6. Skip the movies.
The price of 2 adults going to a movie theater is more than the price of buying the movie on DVD.  There is a place called Redbox (you may have heard of it) where you can rent movies for $1 a night. If you watch a lot of movies get a membership with an online rental service such as Netflix.  If you HAVE to see a movie in the theater, go to a showing during a weekday ( matinees are cheaper) or find a dollar theater.

7. Stop buying bottled water.
American’s spent over $15 billion dollars on bottled water in 2007.  If it’s your health you’re worried about, city tap water is not going to hurt you. According to the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) “bottled water is not necessarily safer than tap water.”

If it’s the taste that you can’t stand, buy a water filter.  Either a filter that hooks up to your faucet or a pitcher with a filter will both work fine.  Recycle your old water bottles by refilling them with your new filtered water to keep the same convenience as buying bottled water.

8. If you’re not using it switch it off.
This goes for water, lights and appliances.  Specifically for appliances, even when they are turned off, small lights that stay on can draw power usage.  Consider plugging all your electronics for your entertainment system or computer into a power strip that can be switched off when not in use.  In my home we have done this and then plugged our power strip into an outlet that is connected to a light switch so we can easily flip the light switch if we want to watch TV and flip it off to cut off all power.  I can testify from experience that doing this can save you money on your electric bill.  The first month we did it we saved $5.

9. Draft proof your home.
Make sure your home is not working against you. In the winter, you may be losing your warm air from drafty windows and doors. In the summer you may be losing your cool air.  Replace old windows if needed.  If you can’t replace your windows or they still let in cold air in the winter, use plastic to cover them up.  You’d be surprised how much cold air plastic can keep out.  Install weather seal around your door opening or make or buy a draft guard.

Another way to cut on heating and cooling costs is to close vents in rooms not being used.  If you spend most of your time in one room, close the vents to the other rooms until you plan to use them.

10. Eat at home.
Eating out isn’t good for your wallet and it isn’t good for your body.  Make meals at home using quality, whole ingredients; whole, meaning as basic as you can get it.  Don’t buy frozen and pre-made meals either, those are way overpriced and not healthy for you.  If you don’t know how to cook, learn to. There are plenty of websites that offer great homemade recipes; AllRecipes.com and RecipeZaar.com to name two.

Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps That Will Change Your Life

dollar army

Dave Ramsey is a personal finance expert. He has his own website DaveRamsey.com and radio show ‘The Dave Ramsey Show’.

What’s different about Dave is that he isn’t an expert that tells you how to get rich quick, but simply how to eventually become financially free. Dave has made mistakes in his life just like you and me.  In fact, at one point he was in a whole lot of debt, but recovered and is now financially at peace.  Now he makes his living by sharing what he learned from experience.

Here are Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps to Begin Your Journey to Financial Peace:

  1. $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  2. Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  3. 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  4. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  5. College funding for children
  6. Pay off home early
  7. Build wealth and give!
    Invest in mutual funds and real estate

Printable version can be found here

Home Inventory Has Never Been Easier

One of the most important things you can do to protect your finances is create a home inventory. In case of a disaster or burglary it is a good idea to be prepared with a list of all your possessions for insurance purposes.  It is easier to claim losses when you have some proof of what you have lost.

Not only do you need an inventory but you need to keep a copy of this inventory outside of your home. An inventory list won’t do much good if it’s burned along with your home.

Now I could go through and tell you exactly what needs to be on a home inventory, but I have a better idea.

Here is a FREE website that takes you through an easy step-by-step process on creating your inventory room-by-room.

StuffSafe

StuffSafe is a secure, online inventory program, which means you have to use an internet connection to access your inventory.  The benefit to storing your inventory online is that you will automatically have a copy stored “outside” of your home.  You can also print or download copies in multiple formats if you’d still like to give a copy to a trusted friend or family member or store a copy in a safety deposit box.

StuffSafe will even allow you to upload photos and other files to attach to inventory items.

Get to work and achieve peace of mind!

Programs to Help You Create a Budget

calcDon’t spend more than you make! This very simple concept is overlooked in our society by a lot of people. This is why debt happens; people spend more money than they earn.

The first step you need to take to start saving and/or pay off debt is to create a budget.

A budget is good for many reasons:

  1. Shows how much money you have
  2. Shows how much money is being spent
  3. Shows what its being spent on
  4. Helps you to control spending
  5. Helps you find extra money

There are many, many software programs available for personal budgeting. Some of them are online-based, which means you need an internet connection to use them. A benefit to having an online budget is you can check your finances and budget anywhere that has an internet connection.

Others are downloaded and used offline. The benefits for an offline budget is you can access it if you don’t have an internet connection and your information is stored on your computer, not on a server.

Here is a list of FREE programs and tools that will help you get started with making your budget:

Excel Budget Planner – This is a very detailed Excel spreadsheet that is downloaded on to your computer and used offline.

Printable Budget Worksheet – Print it out and fill it in the old-fashioned way, with a pen or pencil.

Mint.com – Online budgeting program that automatically imports bank transactions from your bank accounts.

Quicken Online – Online budgeting program that automatically imports bank transactions from your bank, but also gives you the control to manually enter transactions.

SimpleD Budget – Offline budget software

AceMoney Lite – Downloadable budget software that works offline but you can download and import transactions from your bank online.

For a bigger list of Budgeting Programs click here.

Once you set up your budget, STICK TO IT! This is the biggest problem people run in to, I know from personal experience. The difference in the amount I spend when I’m sticking to my budget and when I’m not is incredible. Stick to your budget!

Freecycle Your Way to Savings!

An excellent way to save money is to Freecycle! Similar to Craigslist, users of Freecycle post listings of items they are wanting to get rid of. However, unlike Craigslist, all items are absolutely FREE! In fact, it’s against the rules to ask for any money in return.

Go join your Freecycle Community now and start saving money!
Be sure to read all your welcome emails to learn how to use Freecycle.