Black Friday Shopping Tips

black friday salesWith the holiday season approaching, you must be eagerly waiting for Black Friday when you can get the best shopping deals. However, in the frenzy of shopping, you may get carried away and spend more money on things that you want than on things that you need. Therefore, you should plan and be ready to shop when the day arrives. So, here are 5 Black Friday shopping tips:

Create A Shopping List

With so many items available at such competitive rates, you may find yourself picking up every item that catches your eyes before you realize that you are running out of money. To prevent this from happening, create a shopping list. Try to do this well in advance so you don’t miss anything that you need. You may amend the list several times before making it final.

Scan The Ads

As the big day approaches, all major retailers come out with eye-catching ads to attract the attention of shoppers. Ads are valuable shopping resources as they contain information about the latest products, their sales price and other offers. You can see the ads on TV, newspapers and websites focused on Black Friday. Many website allow you to filter your searches so that you can look for deals on only the items on your shopping list. [Read more…]

The Only Tip You Need For Retirement Saving Success

retirement successWe suck at saving for retirement. The average 50 year old has $43,797 saved for retirement. I hate to break it, but that is just not going to cut it. With the fact that most of us have such a hard time saving for retirement, we need to come up with a way to make it more fun or enjoyable so that people start actually saving.

Let’s look into the mind of a typical person. They say to themselves, “I should probably start saving for retirement.” The a commercial comes on TV for the new iPhone and drooling ensues. By the time the commercial is over, they say to themselves, “what was I going to do again? Oh well, that new iPhone looks sweet!”

I’m not trying to pick on people, but we have a short attention span. That and companies spend millions every year to better understand how we think and react. They then use this against us so we fulfill a short-term need instead of a long-term need.

If the above example doesn’t describe you, then maybe this one does:

When you think of saving for retirement, you say, why should I save a bunch of money when I might not even be around to enjoy. YOLO people. YOLO.

In either of the examples I presented there is one thing true about both of them: we are not good at conceptualizing the long-term. So, in order to save for retirement, we need to re-wire our brains. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt.
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Ways To Save For Your First Home

saving moneyIf you are preparing to buy your first home, congratulations! There’s nothing like moving from the world of renters to the world of equity. I’ve just owned my house for a year, but seeing the equity pile up makes me think about how much I spent in rent over the years – money gone forever. But I digress. If you are ready to make this jump, you need some money for the down payment before anyone will issue you any home loans. Here are some ways that helped me and my wife save for our own. Follow these steps, and before you know it, you’ll be able to call up BOQ to set up your mortgage.

Rent the Smallest, Most Basic Place Possible

If your new home is a year or more away, move into a cheaper rental in the meantime. Moving is a hassle, but if you are able to save $200 or more every month by moving to a cheaper place, make that move and put the extra money away. We rented a comfortably large house for a year, during which time we split the lease with another couple who occupied the first floor and shared the kitchen. It wasn’t the ideal situation, but we saved almost $500 a month. Plus, the inconvenience made us long all the more for a place all our own. Whatever you save, put it away without spending a time. Before long you’ll have thousands to put toward a down payment.

Ride a Bike

Not everyone can go without a car entirely, but many can reduce the amount they drive. For lots of us, a car is simply a convenience. We could get by without one, but we’re so accustomed to having it available, we don’t want to make the change. To put things in perspective, take a look at any of the driving cost calculators available online. I have a 23 year old car. With all costs considered, by cost per mile, is about $1.50. That amounts to nearly $5,000 a year, with the amount I drive. By greatly reducing your driving, or getting rid of your vehicle entirely, you have nearly enough for a down payment on a house, with that change alone. Think about it.

Play the Savings Game

When I’m saving for something that I need soon, I play a savings game. If I want to, for instance, go out to eat when I could easily make food at home, I’ll think about how much the bill will be for me and my wife. At the local place we go a lot, our bill is usually $45. I will then take $45 from my checking account and move it straight to savings. Then I’ll make some macaroni and cheese. We do this with movies, impulsive purchases, anything we could buy but don’t need. I’ve saved hundreds a month this way.

Final Thoughts

If you follow just these three savings principles, you’ll have a lot of money quickly. I would add to this: try to get better rates on insurance, see if a generous relative will help you foot the bill, find a side hustle job for evenings or Saturdays (saving every dollar you make). There are plenty of ways to save money, all of them inconvenient, but just think, you don’t have to do it forever. You are saving for something that will change your life forever, and it’s worth the momentary suffering. I hope you’ll be able to fund that down payment fast.

[Photo Credit: Steven Depolo]

Celebrate Thanksgiving On A Budget

save money on thanksgivingWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, you’re probably thinking about where to have the party, who will be coming and what to include in the menu. So here are 5 useful tips to help you celebrate Thanksgiving on a budget.

Create A Budget

You can’t celebrate Thanksgiving on a budget without creating a budget. First, determine how much money you will have available and calculate the amount you will be able to spend on Thanksgiving. Then estimate the amount of food you will need. See if you can reduce the main course, appetizers, beverages and desserts without making your guests go away hungry. Cut the entertainment and activities to a minimum.

Reduce The Guest List

The more guests you have, the more costly your Thanksgiving party will be. Therefore, celebrate the day with only your immediate family members. This can make a huge difference in your food and beverage bill. If the food and beverages on the table are less than adequate, they will understand. You may even be able to cut out the alcoholic beverages altogether. [Read more…]

What Outrageous Fees Are You Paying?

outrageous feesIn today’s business world, profit is more important than ever. Whereas in the past most businesses would do the right thing just to keep a customer, today many companies are more concerned with milking every penny out of the customer. How do I know this? Just look at the fees various companies are charging you.

Outrageous Fees You’re Being Charged

Here are a handful of various fees I’ve encountered recently. Sadly, they are all too common:

Airline Change Fee: Did you know it costs you around $150 to change your plane ticket? How crazy is that? I have plans to fly down to Florida to see my niece and sister next month. We just found out my sister’s husband might be getting a new job and they may need to relocate, which puts my trip down there in question.

I called the airline I am booked to fly on to see if I could go down earlier. The woman was super nice and told me “of course you can”. They she quickly added “it’ll cost you $150”. I nearly fainted!

Using A Bank Teller: How crazy is this fee? If you go to the bank and want a human being to handle your deposit or withdrawal, it is going to cost you. Granted not all banks are using this fee, but why do I have to pay to see a teller? Isn’t it their job to wait on customers? (As a quick aside, if any bank tellers are reading this, I would be concerned for job safety. This sounds like a way to boost profit, err, cut costs by letting you go.)

Airline Baggage Fee: I hate to pick on the airlines, but it is too easy. At first, this fee was charged to us because of the high gas prices, or so the airlines told us. Here we are, almost 10 years after gas prices first skyrocketed up and we are still being charged this fee. Interestingly, gas prices have come down while this fee is still here.
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How To Save On Taxes The Way The Wealthy Do

how to save on taxesThe following contribution is from The Money Template, a personal finance blog exploring all things related to wealth and well-being.

Taxes are simply one of those things where no matter how much you fight them they never seem to go away. That is … unless you know a few tricks on how to get around having to pay more than your fair share.

Believe it or not, this is actually one of the contributing reasons why wealthy people stay wealthy. Even though the tax code appears to be written in such a way that you should owe more money the more you make, this is generally not the case. In fact it was famously revealed in the 2012 presidential election that millionaire republican candidate Mitt Romney was paying an effective 14% tax rate. Are YOU enjoying a nice 14% tax rate?

Similar to Romney’s case, the trick in knowing how to save on taxes is learning how to use legal tax incentives to your advantage. Though you may think this is something that is only reserved for the ultra-rich, the reality is that a lot of these same techniques can be applied to your own situation with the aid of financial planners and accountants who are familiar with the tax laws.

Here are a few you can start using now:

7 Strategies for How to Save on Taxes:

1)  Retirement Accounts:

Contributing to your employer-sponsored retirement funds is one of the simplest ways to take advantage of tax-sheltering. With these types of programs the contribution is taken out of your gross pay, meaning that it is no longer considered to be taxable income. Your regular income taxes are calculated on the total amount that is left over. The more money you defer to your retirement plan, the less money there is to be taxed! The IRS will allow you to defer up to $18,000 per year to your 401k plan starting in 2015. [Read more…]

Ways To Save On An Investment Home

investment homeWhen we bought our first home a year ago, my wife and I had no specific plans of leaving it in the near future. But, at only 800 square feet, we find ourselves quickly outgrowing this house. Fortunately, we live in an up-and-coming area. We’ll have no problem renting or selling, once we finish our current renovation projects. As we look to the future, I’ve been learning about the best ways to save on a larger, second house, while keeping the current home as an investment property.

Good Employment And Credit History

Now that we are out of debt, and have been so for a couple of years, our credit history/scores are awesome. A challenge we run into with the bank is that while my wife has been employed in her field for 3 years, I have been a self-employed writer for not as long.

Banks like to see predictable income histories of at least 2 years. As we approach the possibility of buying a larger house, this has been an impediment. Luckily, though my income is enough to pre-qualify us for something larger, so is her’s by itself. When purchasing a house, these factors will be very important. If you have a significant other with good employment/credit history it can help. If you’re on your own, your game will have to be locked tight. Eliminate debt, don’t use more than 30% of your available credit, and get a job that lasts more than that 2 years. Here’s a link to the website that can help you find just such a job.

Know Where To Find Deals

By doing the above, you’ll secure a great interest rate and save money in the long term. But there are short term considerations as well. When we bought our current home, we picked a house that was much less than we could afford, that needed significant renovations. We made a lowball offer and it was accepted, because the home was not a hot commodity. We took out a loan bigger than what we needed to cover the price of the house in order to pay for repairs, and to get them completed quickly.

There are many houses like this. By finding several in your price range, in a good area for your goals, you are able to make offers lower than the asking price. If it’s not accepted, don’t worry about it. Just go to the next one. Eventually one of your offers will be accepted. You’ll be in a position to fix up the house fast and get it quickly rented or sold.

Rent Out The First House, Live In The Second

You will find that your bank offers you better rates and financing if you are buying a new house to move into. If you are simply investing, you won’t have as good a rate. This makes sense, because your government wants more homeowners more than it wants more landlords. If you are buying a second, larger house simply to flip or rent out, you’ll pay a lot more in the long run than if you rent your first and move into the second. If using both properties is important to you, consider buying a second home large enough to accommodate you and your family, while turning a portion of the home into a self-contained income suite, with it’s own entrance and amenities.

There are many more strategies to help secure the best investment for your situation. But these are some of the most relevant to this author at the time of this writing. There’s a lot to learn in the world of real estate and landlording, but this is a great option for many homeowners and investors. If you have, or are in the process of eliminating debt, consider a move like this for the future.

[Photo Credit: Kathleen Tyler Conklin]

How Managing Debt Is Like Dieting

debt dietGetting rid of debt is like dieting to shed the extra fat on your body. If you do it right, you can become debt-free within a short time; if you do it wrong, you will remain in debt as long as you decide to make a change. The keys to becoming debt free or losing weight is to be realistic and to have a plan you can stick to. Here are 4 reasons managing debt is like dieting.

You Can’t Wish It Away

Like the extra weight you may have accumulated, you can’t wish your debt away. It takes time, patience, a lot of hard work and a lot of willpower. But unlike dieting, giving up is not an option. Therefore, you have to explore all options available to you, such as finding a better paying job, working part-time and selling your assets. You can’t just hope that something will come along and sweep your debts away; you have to work hard at it.

You Can’t Become Debt-Free In One Day

Unless something happens to you along the lines of becoming the beneficiary of a huge windfall or winning the lottery, it’s very unlikely that you will become debt free in one day. Ask any formerly obese or overweight person how long it took him or her to get rid of the extra weight and you will probably get the answer in terms of months and years. Gist of the story: you have to think “long term”. Getting rid of your debts is like that – it takes several months to several years.
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Carnival of Financial Planning – The Getting Sick Sucks Edition

getting sickWelcome to this week’s edition of the Carnival of Financial Planning. This weeks edition is the “Getting Sick Sucks” edition, because, I got sick. I’m one of those people that get touches of a sore throat or a stuffy nose, but rarely does a cold knock me out. For a few days this week, this cold did just that – knock my out! I’m happy to say that I am on the fast track now to getting better. In fact, I slept for over 9 hours last night!

If you are in the unfortunate situation of getting sick, I found that doing stuff actually made me feel better than just laying around all day. Of course, you can’t be moving all of the time. To that, take some time to better your finances. Lucky for you, here are a handful of great posts to read to get started!!

BUDGETING AND ECONOMICS

Gretchen @ Retired by 40 writes Throw a Frugal Birthday Party – Throw a Frugal Birthday Party

Maria @ The Money Principle writes Don’t Make Debt a Worry: Try These Business Tips – Don’t look at your bank statements, you think to yourself. If I don’t see my debt then it isn’t there.

Alexa @ Single Moms Income writes Another Great Way to Give: Operation Christmas Child – I’m completely convinced that giving back to people whether that be with a thoughtful note, big batch of cookies, or small gift is one of the best ways you can make a difference in not only the world, but also in yourself. [Read more…]