Friday, December 30, 2011

Budgets: Are they Do-able?

Christmas is over and plastic organizers are showing up in all stores reminding us to clean house. It's time to clean house, literally and financially. Folks, it is time to sit down and think about a budget. A budget never works for me you might say. It doesn't if you don't do it right.

Gather up all your bills. Write down what you make. It is a bad thing if you suddenly realize you spend more than you make.You really need a slush fund to account for unexpected auto repairs and trips to the emergency room. How do you make your income cover your output?

Sell things you don't need. I've sold online, on community bulletin boards, and yard sales. I usually avoid the local paper because they charge too much.

Get extra jobs where you can. Sometimes a weekend job or a part-time job can help pay down credit card debt. Even an occasional time job of working the polls, substitute teaching, or even writing can put some extra dough in your pocket.

Plan your expenditures. Start a Christmas club now so you don't go broke next year.Put away money for your car each month because you know it will need tires.

Have an emergency fund of $1000. That way a new washer to replace your dead one won't put you into financial hot water.

Consider second hand. Often we buy things new that have a 500% to 1000% markup. A good example of this is jewelry and furniture. You can get some great deals combing the Internet, the paper, consignment shops and even just asking.

Cut expenses. A good place to start is halving your eating out, followed by basic or no cable, downgrade your cell phone plan, drop magazines you don't read, and quit gyms you don't attend. Downgrade your food brands. Seldom is a name brand worth the extra expense.

Live within your budget. This involves using the word "no" to members of your family. They won't like it at first, but they'll get used to it.

Constantly monitor your expenses to see what can be cut.The cup of coffee on the way to work tastes good, but you can bring your own from home for a fraction of the cost.

Sometime you need to downgrade a vehicle or even a home that is breaking you.

This is a new way of thinking and will take definite practice, but it can be done.

If you think you can't do it on your own. Contact Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and find a seminar near you.

Have a goal. It is great to live with in your means, but the family works together better if you are working toward a goal. Please don't make it an expensive goal, either. Maybe something as simple as trip to the zoo or a family camping trip to celebrate reaching your finacial goal.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Store Coupons and Loyalty Cards

As you, all know tis the season to be shopping, but I want to spend as little as possible to that end; I use the store coupons and loyalty cards. You have to use them with some finesse, though. My daughter who is a hard-core Target shopper received a coupon for $15 off $150 purchase. This was not a good deal because she only received 10% off and she had to spend $150 to get it. So when is a store coupon a good deal?

You really want a coupon that allows you to use it on anything in the store including clearance. I’ve had plenty of department store coupons that prohibited me from purchasing almost every item in the store; the only reason for the coupon was to get me in the store. How good the coupon is dependent on the store and what you are buying. I used a 20% coupon at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy a wedding gift and saved $30. I used another BBB coupon that was $5 off any $10 or more purchase. Even though I saved 50% off my cooking sheet, the $5 coupon wouldn’t have been the best bet for the comforter I bought for the wedding.

I get coupons by signing up for loyalty cards and mailing lists for my favorite stores. I also scour papers, magazines, and the Internet for coupons. My relatives will give me their coupons for stores I favor. I do use multiple email addresses to get several coupons from the same store. The most important thing to do is only spend the bare minimum to use your coupon. I use my Ulta coupons all the time. I get one each month that usually ranges from 35-50% off a ten dollar purchase. With two females in the family, we can always use cosmetics or toiletries.

Store coupons to overpriced stores don’t save you money. It sounds like a great chance to visit a store you could never normally afford. You’ll find even when you show up that the discounted prices don’t even come close to normal prices, forget sales prices. Then horror of all horrors, they won’t accept the coupons for some trumped up reason. The store believes you’ll push through with the purchase at the regular inflated price. Studies have shown once a customer picks up an item or tries it on that they are highly likely to buy it. Ever wonder why the salesperson tries to get you to pick up something or at least try it on.

A coupon to a store you’ve never been to before isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing if you go with the intention not to impulse buy. When you go into the store, ask for specifics about the coupon how you can use it. This helps the store employee know you are a bargain shopper and it keeps you from any surprises. Who hasn’t shown up at a restaurant with a coupon only to find out it wasn’t good on weekends, holidays, or lunch?

When do loyalty cards come into play? Loyalty cards are best for sales. Any item that is on sale in your grocery can only be bought at sale price using the card. Most cashiers will run the item through on their cards if you forgot yours. The prices are much better with the loyalty card and you get additional rewards such as reduced gas prices, coupons, and free groceries—this is only applicable to the Kroger card.Loyalty cards track what you use and give you store coupons for the items you use. I develop my photos at CVS and I get very good coupons for photo precessing by using my loyalty card.

Pharmacy transfer rebate is another money saving game between Meijers and Kroger if you transfer your prescription you can get twenty dollars or more off your groceries with the coupon. Do ask about this before transferring because one store pulled the coupon because too many people transferred. Of course, you can transfer it back and forth a couple times, but keep in mind that your insurance company will only pay once a month for your refill. Another way to make a few dollars is point cards.

Points cards can be debit or credit cards. My bankcard gives me so many points for using it. I can use the points as cash back or to purchase gift certificates. Chase offers a Disney card that actually earns you money toward a Disney vacation. Some airlines issue a charge card that allows you to accumulate travel points. The only thing you need to remember about the points cards is to pay them off every month or they could become unwieldy.

Some people don’t like to use coupons, discount cards, or even loyalty cards because it embarrasses them. I went out last night to a newly opened restaurant and it was hopping. There were several well-dressed couples in the place and almost every one of them had the same half off coupon I had. Other people have no problems using the coupons why should you? The companies did put them in the paper, online, or even mailed them to you to get you into their business. My philosophy is always save money where you can.