Money Saving Tips

We all know there are a million and one ways to spend money. There are many ways to save money as well. It takes a little more effort to save but I have tips that can help. You will feel great once you begin to reduce the costs of things you purchase.

  1. Use Coupons!!!!

I must admit that one of my favorite things to do is use coupons. If I can’t use a coupon to purchase something, I don’t really want to buy it. I use coupons for groceries, dog food, clothes, shoes, eating out, movies, books and even appliances. I have the Sunday edition of the newspaper delivered to my house solely for the purpose of getting the coupons. The money that I save far outweighs the cost of the subscription. I also use coupons that are delivered in the mail. For the past few years I have been able to purchase a coupon book called “Kid Stuff”. Many schools sell this coupon book for $25 as a way to raise money. The book has coupons for clothes, groceries, shoes, restaurants and movies. The possible savings makes this book a great investment.

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You may be saying to yourself, “I live a busy life, I don’t have time for cutting coupons”. I am telling you that you do. You only need about 15-20 minutes a week. Buy a coupon organizer and put your coupons in order so that they are easy to find while you are in the store. Keep your organizer in your purse or in your car so it is handy when you’re out and about.

Another great way to get coupons is by signing up for promotional e-mails. I know your e-mail box is already cluttered, but you can create an e-mail account specifically for receiving coupons and discounts. I get coupons for free meals from IHOP and Houlihans each year for my birthday and for my yearly membership anniversary. As a member of an e-mail club you can receive notices about exclusive sales and events. I signed up to be a part of PETCO’s rewards program and I receive e-mails when my dog’s food is on sale. As well as coupons for 10% and $5 off purchases.

2. Membership Cards

Many grocery and drug stores will offer discounts and sales on items if you sign up for a membership card. With the help of technology most stores can use your phone number to access your account information instead of having to scan an actual membership card. This past weekend I needed to buy some vitamins. They were $11.99 for a bottle at Target. I went to Walgreen’s where I have a membership card and I got the same vitamins and same quantity for $9.99. There was a sale for card members and I got a second bottle for free! I also went to the movies this weekend and used my membership card (as well as coupons from the Kid Stuff book), and received membership awards. It included a free movie ticket and small popcorn. Who doesn’t love getting something for free? Since going to the movies is one of my past times, being a reward member is saving me money on an entertainment expense.

3. Periodically Shop for Cheaper Rates on Services

Do not get lulled into paying the same rate every month for the services that you use. If you’ve been using a service for more than a year, check around to see if it is still a good deal. Call you cable provider to see if there are any discounts that you could take advantage of. Or, downgrade if you don’t truly need all of the channels included in your package. Call your insurance company to make sure all of the discounts available are being applied to your account, such as multi-policy discount or a good driver discount. Also if you live in a state where you can choose in energy suppliers check around to see who is offering the best plan for you. In PA you can review electricity suppliers at http://www.papowerswitch.com/.

4. Buy When There is a Sale

I know it may seem like I am stating the obvious, but I am not talking about impulse buying. Once you determine you have a need for something, wait for a possible sale. I have literally painted every room in my house. I noticed that Lowes and Home Depot periodically offer mail-in  rebates for $10 off a gallon of paint and $25 off of five gallons. As a result, I began to wait until there was a rebate offered on paint to make my purchases. I would save about 25% off the cost. Many retailers have a cycle for putting items on sale. For example after the 4th of July summer clothing begins to go on sale. If you stay  relatively the same size you can get good deals for this summer and future summers.

5. Don’t Buy Items Unless There is a Need

We have all seen an ad or walked into a store and discovered a sale that we thought was too good to pass up. A sale is only a good deal if is for items that you need and within your budget. If you have not budgeted for this purchase, don’t buy it. Retailers use psychology to make you believe their product is a “must have”. I have heard many people justify buying things they don’t really need by saying “It was on sale” or “I work hard, I deserved it!” What you really deserve is peace of mind. Knowing that you are financially stable will help you to sleep better at night.

Once you begin to use these tips they will become a part of your lifestyle. As always, I hope you find this information helpful and look out for my next post about increasing your savings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creating A Monthly Budget

Now that you have an understanding of where your money is going each month, it is time to create your monthly budget. The term monthly budget doesn’t always spark positive thoughts. A budget may be looked at as being restrictive or a hindrance to your lifestyle. I don’t want you to view it that way. A budget is a tool used to help you maintain your standard of living and meet your financial goals.

What are some of your financial goals? Is it to pay off your credit card debt? Save for a down payment on a house? Or increase your emergency savings fund? Whatever your goals may be, budgeting will help turn them into a reality.  Create a chart similar to the one I have below. List your goals and figure out how much money you need to obtain them. Then determine the timeframe in which you want to achieve each goal. . Give your goals a priority, because you may not have the funds to accomplish each goal at the same time. Therefore, you may have to wait before you can add a goal into your monthly budget. Below is an example of the worksheet:

Goal Total $ Amount Need  # of Months to Reach Goal  $ Need Each Month Priority
Vacation 1000.00 12 83.33 3
Laptop 500.00 12 41.67 4
Six months of Salary in Savings 18000.00 60 300.00 1
Create fund for Home Repairs 5000.00 36 138.88 2

Now we are going to construct your monthly budget. Use a spreadsheet application to create your budget. If you don’t have access to software, you can construct a chart similar to the one I have below.  You will add the following sections:

  1. Net monthly income
  2. Monthly expenses
  3. Lifestyle Expenses
  4. Financial goals

Subtract the total of your monthly expenses, lifestyle expenses and financial goals from your net monthly income. Below is an example:

Net Monthly Income 
Bi-Weekly Paychecks $3,000.00
Child Support $400.00
Total $3,400.00
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage/Rent $1,100.00
Car Payment $300.00
Utilities $250.00
Cable $100.00
Credit Cards $100.00
Car Insurance $85.00
Cell Phone $85.00
Total $2,020.00
Lifestyle Expenses
Groceries $250.00
Gas/Transportation $160.00
Clothes/shoes $70.00
Eating out $50.00
Hair Done/Cut $50.00
Total $580.00
Financial Goals
Six months of Salary $300.00
Funds for Home Repairs $140.00
Savings for College Tuition $200.00
Total $640.00
Net Monthly Income $3,400.00
Monthly Expenses+ Spending+Fin. Goals ($3,240.00)
Balance $160.00

After completing your budget, if your balance is positive, meaning you have money left, congratulations! You have created a budget that is within your means and have increased your chances of sticking to it.

If your balance is negative, meaning you do not have any money left, you will need to rework your budget. You have to reduce the amounts designated to your lifestyle expenses and your financial goals.

Remember the amount spent on each item within your monthly budget doesn’t have to be set in stone. You should always be looking for ways to reduce your expenses. Also once you accomplish one of your financial goals you can remove it from your budget and work towards the next goal on your list.

Keep your budget somewhere easily accessible so that you can refer to it and become familiar with it. If you are having trouble sticking to your budget you will need to re-work it or use greater discipline in your spending habits.

If you have any questions or need some advice, just ask. I would be happy to hear from you! Stay tuned for my upcoming posts on ways to save money and stay within your budget!

 

Why Don’t I Have More Money?

I know that I said in my last post I would tell you how to create your monthly budget.  Before we do that I want to address a situation that you, amongst many others, may be in. After calculating your monthly disposable income, (by subtracting your monthly expenses from your net monthly income) did it appear that you should be doing better financially than you really are? On paper, do you have money left after paying all of your bills but still fall short each month? If this is the predicament you find yourself in, we need to further exam exactly what you are spending your money on. You are spending more than you can afford and you need to be conscious of where your money is going.

I remember when I did a financial evaluation because I was starting the process of buying a home. I was happy with the final numbers and the amount of home that I could afford. I was also fully aware this was nothing more than my financial picture on paper. My financial reality was slightly different. I had a few bad habits that I knew I was going to have to get under control before I actually purchased my home. I ate out way too much and I was known to frequent the mall a little too often.

To tighten the reins on your spending habits, begin by making a list of things that you have a consistent cycle of spending money on. For example, how often do you go out to eat, to the club/bar, get your hair done/cut, buy clothes or engage in one of your hobbies? If you did not include food, gas (or transportation expenses) as a part of your monthly expenses from the last exercise, include them on your list.  Once you have the complete list, give a dollar amount of how much you spend on these items each month.

Being realistic about your expenses and your spending habits is key to being able to create a budget that works for you and will allow you to stick to it. If you are having trouble figuring out exactly where your money is going, then I want you to track every penny that you spend for one month. Yes, I really did say, every penny for one month. Remember, I said I would help you make your finances simple, however it will take some effort on your part.

To track your spending, you can use your debit card for purchases so that you can have an electronic account of your spending in one place. If you need to pay in cash, keep all of your receipts. To make it easy on yourself, I suggest tallying your receipts each week. Then add up the grand total at the end of the month.

Once you have this valuable information, prioritize how important these expenses are to you. Think of how you can begin to scale back or possibly eliminate expenses. Once again, make sure that you are realistic. If you eat out 3 to 5 times a week and spend about $50, don’t make your goal to stop eating out altogether. Instead make a more realistic goal like eating out once a week with a limit of $15. If you stop each morning before work to grab a $2 cup of coffee, you can start making your own coffee at home. You can save $40 a month on the store bought coffee.

After evaluating your spending and figuring out ways to cut back, if you still don’t have enough disposable income, you need to figure out how to increase your income. Keep this in mind though, for every dollar that you earn you only keep a percentage of it due to taxes that will be taken out. However, you will be able to use the full amount of each dollar that you are able to save by cutting back on your expenses. Therefore, cutting back on your expenses, if you can, will be more beneficial.

Thanks for reading and walking with me towards “Finances Made Simple”. Make sure to check out my next post when I help you to create a monthly budget.

What is Coming In and What is Going Out?

Every time I hear the phrase “living paycheck to paycheck” it makes my ears hurt. There are so many things wrong with this phrase for so many reasons. I can’t help but want to ask a series of follow-up questions, such as how much money is being made and what is it being spent on? Please, understand I am not being judgmental. Right now, there is a major debate in this country about people being able to earn a wage that allows them to live a decent life. I fully understand that trying to make ends meet can be difficult. However, I do think there are things that can be done so that people can start to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle. I want to help you create and manage your monthly budget. Before we do that, we need to evaluate your financial state.

Calculate your monthly income

First, figure out exactly how much money you make and/or receive each month. This is a fairly simple process. If you work the same number of hours each week or you are salaried, add up the net amount of your paychecks for a month. The net amount is the actual money that you receive after taxes and any other payroll deductions you may have. If you are paid hourly and your hours worked fluctuate each week, use three months of pay stubs. Add up the net amount of all the paychecks, then divide by three. This should give you a good estimate of the amount of income from work you can expect to have on a monthly basis. Also consider any money that you rely on from sources other than a job. This could include funds from a Social Security check, disability check, alimony or child support.

Calculate your monthly expenses

Once you have calculated your monthly income, make a list of all the bills that you pay on a monthly basis and the amount you spend on each. The list should include expenses such as your monthly mortgage or rent, car payment, electricity, water, credit cards, cell phone, etc.  No bill is too small. If you pay $15 a month to have the paper delivered to your house, include that as well. For utilities that fluctuate such as gas and electricity, take a six month average of what you pay. Add up the total bills for six months and then divide by six. Use this number as your monthly amount. Personally, I like to include food and gas for my car as part of my monthly expenses. I include them because they are necessities that I spend roughly the same amount on each month. However, since they aren’t actual bills, for this exercise it is your choice to include them or not.

Determine your disposable income and what to do next

Now, that you have your net income and monthly expenses, you can determine your disposable income. Disposable income is money that you have left to spend on whatever you choose.  Subtract your monthly expenses from your net monthly income and the amount left is your disposable income.

Below is a sample chart of an income and expense comparison.

 

Income Source Monthly Amount
Net Bi-weekly paycheck-$1500 $3,000
Child support $400
Total $3,400
Monthly Expenses Amount
Mortgage/Rent $1,500
Car payment $350
Utilities $300
Student loan $100
Cable $100
Cell phone $80
Car Insurance $80
Credit Card $75
Total $2,585
Monthly Income-Monthly Expenses Disposable Income
$3400-$2,585 $815
*This example does not include food or gasoline, because they aren’t fixed debts. Include them if you want a more precise representation of your disposable income.

Now that you have this very important information, how do you feel? Are you surprised, shocked, happy or was it what you expected?

If your net income was lower than your monthly expenses, you have no disposable income. You are in a deficit each month and living above your means.  A deficit is the amount by which something, especially a sum of money is too small. You need to review your expenses and figure out which ones can be reduced.  Target the expenses that are luxuries and figure out how you can cut back. For example, if you are paying for the premium cable package discontinue service or at the very least downgrade.

If you fall into the category of having some disposable income but not as much as you would like, go through the same exercise. If you conclude there aren’t areas where you can cut back, then you need to focus on ways to increase your income.

Finally, if you are pleased with the amount of disposable income that you have, congratulations on being a good steward of your finances. Creating a monthly budget can still be beneficial to you. A budget is a plan about how you are going to spend your money. It is important you have a plan to help you achieve personal financial goals.

In my next post I will give details and instructions on how to create a monthly budget that will work for you. My hope is that the information I have supplied was helpful and just the first step in our journey of making your finances simple!

Start Managing Your Money

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There are many conversations that take place around money. The topics range from making money, not having enough money and all the ways we find to spend money. Another topic that needs to be added to the conversation is managing money.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Marketing from Drexel University, and I understand that thoughts of managing money can be scary. For many the phrase “managing your finances” sparks thoughts of investing in stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. Some believe that this is a science that they will never master and usually shy away. There is no reason to be scared.

You can take small steps in your journey of understanding and mastering your financial situation. You don’t need to aspire to be the next Wall Street superstar, but you can be a successful manager of a household budget. In the past 20 years I have gone from not having 65 cents in my pocket to buy a soda on a hot summer day, to being a financially stable homeowner with a luxury car parked in the driveway. I have learned a lot during this time and I want to share it with you.

I want to start with having you evaluate your current financial state. If you are making more money than you can spend, this blog may not be for you. For the other 99% of America, I have practical tips that can improve your financial situation and increase your quality of life. Yes, I am saying that improving your financial outlook can make your life better. Think about it, what if you could decrease the stress in your life that is associated to money? Wouldn’t your life be better?

I want to help you learn about managing money in a way that may be new to you.  It will take some effort but I assure you that implementing some practical techniques will pay off. So let me help you, make your finances simple!