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Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

One of the best ways to stay on track with your family’s budget, is to curb impulse buying. Many people do this without even realizing it, and then wonder what happened to that careful planning that was supposed to balance income and bills.

The most common place that people impulse buy is at the grocery store.  A good rule of thumb is NEVER to go shopping when hungry.  Almost anything looks good when you haven’t had a meal recently, and you’re more likely to give in the appeal of a display or “special” for things that you might not buy otherwise.  Go shopping with a list and your coupons.  Don’t sabotage yourself by giving in to cravings or convincing yourself that you deserve a treat. 

On the other hand, treats should be written into the family budget, whether those are food items, or an entertainment expense.  Financial budgeting is much like dieting for calories.  If you continually deny yourself all the good stuff, or the things that you like best, you’re more likely to rebel and go overboard by gorging or spending to excess.

And of course, the classic safeguard against impulse buying is to ask yourself if you really need it.  Don’t stand there and argue with yourself, and try to rationalize the purchase.  If you can’t honestly answer “yes” immediately, turn and walk away.  If you really do need the item, it will still be there when you’ve considered your financial state and whether you can afford it.

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Are you always looking for that perfect deal?  Want to get the most you can for every dollar you spend?  Here are 11 different ways for you to find T.H.E. B.E.S.T. D.E.A.L. when you shop.

T.AKE ADVANTAGE OF DOUBLE COUPONS – Many grocery stores offer double coupons, most of the time up to $0.50 (doubled to $1.00).  Cut them out of your Sunday paper and use them!

H.OLIDAY SALES – This is a great time to shop.  You can get great discounts many times throughout the year.  Look for sales in your paper around these times:  Presidents Day; Memorial Day; Labor Day; Thanksgiving; and after Christmas.

E.LECTRONICS AND APPLIANCES – You can usually take advantage of some sort of mail-in rebate or gift card rebates with big dollar purchases like electronics and appliances.  Check around at your local stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy and Circuit City to get the best deal with rebates.  Only drawback – it can take 6, 8 or even up to 10 weeks to receive the rebate. 

B.OTS – There are Shopping bots such as Shopzilla.com or Pricegrabber.com that make it easy for the consumer to comparison shop and find the deals.

E.XAMINE REVIEWS BEFORE BUYING – Check out the product reviews online before you spend the money.  Often times, they will lead to a discount code, sale or free shipping.

S.TORE CREDIT CARDS – Many stores offer their own VISA or Mastercard sponsored store credit card.  You can really take advantage of some great offers and rebates by signing up for one of these cards.  Sidenote: try to pay off the balance each and every month and only apply for those cards where you frequently shop (you’ll get the most bang for your buck that way).  Example: Kroger (a grocery store) will award points for all purchases made in the store and outside the store using the Kroger Mastercard.  These points are tabulated and rewarded on a quarterly basis with gift certificates that can be used as cash in the store (I’ve gotten up to $80 in one quarter).  PLUS they’ll give you a $0.15 per gallon discount on Kroger gasoline purchased with the card.

T.AKE A LOOK AROUND – Make sure you do some browsing before jumping on that great deal…there may be an even better one right next door! 

D.ISCOUNTS, DISCOUNTS EVERYWHERE – There are always great deals in the: Sunday paper; Val-Pak coupons in the mail; local restaurant coupon deals; and coupon sites such as coupons.com and couponchief.com.  Take the time to check these out…it can save you a bunch of money!

E.FFICIENCY IS THE KEY – Many online shopping carts will allow you to combine or “stack” their deals and codes.  You can get free shipping, 10% off AND receive a free gift all at the same time!

A.SK AROUND – If you see someone wearing a cute pair of shoes or that new tee you’ve been dying for…ask them where they got it.  If they got a great deal, they will be more than happy to tell you about it.

L.OOK FOR USED OR CONSIGNMENT SHOPS – They have great prices on name brand goods and items that have barely been used.  There are always hidden treasures to be found in these shops. 

When you break it down into a formula, it’s not so overwhelming, is it?  Use these steps as a guide to help you find the best deals around.  Happy shopping! 

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Although you may not be able to afford a summer vacation this year, there are no-cost, fun summer activities for the whole family. Check these out and feel free to leave me some other fun ideas in the comments!

  • Go to the library! What is more fun for a kid than to go on down to the public library and check out a couple of books and maybe a fun DVD to view? It’s absolutely free and most libraries have summer reading activities that reward your child when they reach certain goals. This will help keep up their reading skills for school in the fall 🙂
  • Have some outside quiet time. Pick a tree in your back yard and lay down a blanket. Have some lemonade and cookies, and read the books you’ve checked out from the library. Take turns reading. Invite friends and their kids to join you. Make it a weekly event.
  • Make a treasure box with your kids (this follows the popular Pirates of the Caribbean theme this summer). Have them scout around the back yard or beach for rocks or sea shells or any item they think would be cool to include. Have the kids make a treasure map and include some information on pirates found on the internet. Add some coins, and make a pirate’s flag with black fabric. Have the kids add their own symbols to it. Then the kids can bury it in the back yard or keep it on hand and add to it each year.
  • Garden with the kids. Have your kids plant their own flower garden. Talk about each flower; how it grows, how much room it needs, and then give the kids a title, such as Director of Water Resource (this would be for one kid to oversee the watering of the plants); or Director of Roots and Shoots (this would be for another kid to oversee the weeding), etc. Also, give your kids some watermelon seeds to plant. You never know what may crop up.
  • Take a bike ride. This is such a great activity for the entire family. You can even pack a picnic lunch and stop midway for a great time together! It’s wonderful exercise and will really bring the family together.

No-cost, fun summer activities for the whole family can be achieved with just a little imagination and a LOT of creativity.

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You have a family budget in place. Now the hard part begins—sticking to your family budget. With the demands of all the wants and needs of kids, it can be challenging to keep a close eye on your money matters. Here are some simple tips to save money and help you stick to your family budget:

  • No satellite – On average, the least expensive satellite package can run anywhere from $35-$40 per month. Multiply that times twelve months and you end up with a whopping $420-$480 per year! Do away with this single bill and your family can save almost $500 every year. Now that’s an incentive!
  • Limited video rentals – Many families choose to rent movies for a family night instead of going to the movies. While rentals are a huge money saver, it can still get expensive if you go overboard. Limit your rentals to two every two weeks, for example.
  • Return videos early – Another cost that adds up quickly is overdue rental fees. For the cost of a few past due days on one movie, you could purchase that movie and watch it forever if you wanted to. Write yourself a note so you won’t forget to return your movie rentals on time. Even better, try using an online video rental service like Netflix. You’ll pay the same each month, pay no late fees, and get new movies every time you return one.
  • Plan meals before shopping – Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You will want to buy everything you see on the shelves. You may think it’s silly, but you will be amazed at the results if you try it.
  • Buy off-brand products – Most off-brand products taste much the same as their counterparts. There are a few, like mayonnaise for example, that taste slightly different. For the most part, if you are trying to stick to a budget, buying off-brand products can save you a lot of money. And don’t forget to clip and use coupons, too!
  • Bring your lunch to work – Once again, let’s do the figures. If you spend a minimum of $5.00 per day on lunch (that’s a cheap lunch!), at the end of the week, you’ve racked up $25.00. With gas prices on the rise every day, that extra $25.00 could come in handy if you drive to work, too. Instead of eating out, fix your lunch to bring with you.
  • Drink water – Sodas are easy to grab and run with, but water is much healthier for you. Instead of spending money on canned drinks, buy a family-size pack of bottled water. You’ll save money and drink healthier.

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I ran across this great article for SAHMs (Stay at Home Moms) with some tips on how to earn some extra money. Read on…

Stay at Home Mom Tips for Earning Extra Money from Home

Staying at home with your children is a rewarding job. Raising children is a hard task even under the best of circumstances. Still, moms who stay at home may be yearning for more in their own lives to feel fulfilled.

The invention of the Internet opened up many doors for entrepreneurial exploits. An entire world of information is at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. To take advantage, all we need is a computer and a little motivation. This is the perfect way for moms to make some money of their own.

The most popular choice would be internet auction houses. The most popular of which is eBay. Everyone has something around their home that they can sell that someone else may want. One day, while your kids are sleeping, check out the attic and the garage for hidden treasures that could fetch a good price on the internet. Use a digital camera to take pictures of all potential money-making items. You can find a useful guide to getting started with auctions here.

Use your hobbies to make some easy cash. Do you like to draw, paint, crochet, or create crafts? Create your own website to advertise your particular expertise. Local flee markets and craft shows are a perfect way to get your product out there to the public. These events take place on the weekend, so your spouse can watch the kids while you market your merchandise.

Another way to make some extra money is online surveys. Large companies spend millions of dollars each year in market research for new and existing products. They poll consumers like you and me to see if there is sufficient interest in their products. The surveys can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour per survey for follow-up surveys. Don’t expect to get rich, but just earn a little extra income. Different companies offer a variety of incentives. Some companies offer points for their surveys which can be converted into prizes. Other survey companies offer cash for trialing new services and products. These surveys usually require a credit card for a preliminary fee that is reimbursed by the company upon completion of the survey.

Any work you do for extra money on the Internet requires an online account for companies or individuals to deposit your earned cash. The premier online account is PayPal. Signing up is free, but you must have a valid bank account that can be verified in case there is any discrepancy with the funds in your PayPal account.

There are a number of ways to earn extra money as a stay at home mom. The Internet offers plenty of opportunities that do not require a lot of time. The extra funds that you will be making will feel good.

If you want to take it to the next level and start earning more serious cash from home, visit Moms Talk Biz for more ideas.

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Shopping online has become the wave of the future. No standing in lines, no posted hours to shop and you don’t even have to take a shower and get dressed to do it! These are all great advances from the old method of shopping; however, you need to make sure you’re safe when doing so. To this end, here are some tips for keeping your online shopping experience a safe one.

  1. Never buy anything from an unknown company. If they don’t have a phone number or address – stay away from them.
  2. Ensure that whenever you buy a product, you are sent a receipt by email.
  3. Some card companies are offering virtual credit cards – check into this type of service as it changes card numbers each time a purchase is made.
  4. Always look for the Veri Sign logo, BBB logo, and the lock on the bottom right corner of the website. This ensures the company is well known, and is using a method to conceal your information.
  5. Do not apply for credit cards on line. The company may be a bogus one.
  6. If you have several department store cards, and buy from them online, change your password every month.
  7. Research the stores you buy from beforehand. Ensure they are credible and have been around for a number of years.
  8. Shopping online and using your credit card unfortunately leaves you open to hackers. Make sure you have virus protection software installed in your computer, as well as a firewall.
  9. Change your passwords monthly. Although this can be a huge pain, it will be well worth it in the long run!
  10. Clear out your cache every time you sign off.
  11. If you are using a cable modem; unplug the PC cable from the modem every night. Using a cable modem means you are on a network; avoid any hackers from engaging in illegal activity.

If you are careful, you can shop almost anywhere and any time online as long as you keep these tips for keeping your online shopping experience a safe one in mind.

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If you have already visited your CPA or filed your 2006 income taxes on your own; you may want to invest the money you’ll be receiving from your tax return (provided you are receiving a fairly large sum).

Some may ask why investing your tax refund is a smart move, while others can’t wait to cash the check. Here are some investment ideas for those of you who are considering it.

  • Reinvest the money back into your home – repairs, landscaping, addition, etc…
  • Invest in a bank CD
  • Increase your IRA account
  • Your current 401K, SEP or other retirement fund
  • Invest into a 529 or other educational savings vehicle
  • Pay off insurance premiums
    Pay off your credit cards or other high interest debt

Think about why investing your tax refund is a smart move. Talk to your accountant to determine the best course of action which will yield you the highest interest for you and your family. This may be the smartest move you’ve ever made!

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