Budgeting

Five Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bills

Gas prices keep rising and lowering (but definitely more rising). Our utility bills continue to increase, as does the overalls cost of living especially while food prices steadily continue to increase.

cut grocery bills

With that being said, we are looking for ways to save money and one of the easiest ways to save some quick cash is probably a way that you have never thought of before. Cutting your grocery bills will save a tremendous amount of money and it’s easy!

Here are five ways to cut your grocery bill, which means more money in your pocket for your mortgage payment, your utilities, or even a luxurious day at the spa (or golf course for you men out there!):

1. Clip Coupons – While it may not seem like 50 cents here and 75 cents there will save you money, it will if you know what to do and when. You want to save coupons and use them at the store when the store is having a sale on that particular item. In some stores, you can double or triple your coupons saving you that much more! Here’s how it works: let’s say you pay $2.50 for Prego spaghetti sauce and your favorite grocery store has it on sale for $2. Let’s say you have a coupon to receive 75 cents off that can of spaghetti sauce and let’s go on to say that the coupon doubles at the store for a total of $1.50 off the $2 sale price. That means you are paying only 50 cents for an otherwise $2.50 can of Prego spaghetti sauce. It pays to learn how to clip coupons and use them efficiently. Note: you can get easily coupons in your Sunday paper or online with the click of a mouse! And don’t forget to always be on the lookout for “Buy One, Get One Free” specials at the store and coupons. Match them together and that’s some savings to brag about (maybe even completely free!).

2. Stockpile During Sales – When items go on sale, stock up on them. Use your coupons, too. This means you will need to have plenty of room in your pantry – or somewhere! – so that you can store the additional items, but when the price goes up, you won’t need it saving you money on your grocery bill.

3. Purchase Store Brands – We don’t always have to have name brand stuff, do we? Sure, it’s nice sometimes, but store brand food is generally just as good and you can save a ton of money. This doesn’t only pertain to canned goods, this also relates to fresh fruits and veggies, frozen foods, baked goods and much more! In some cases, the store brand foods taste better than their name brand counterparts!

4. Avoid Convenience – Don’t purchase already cut-up carrots that are pre-packaged when you can purchase carrots individually and cut them up yourself for a lot cheaper. Avoid pre-made foods because in the long-run, you will save more cooking it from scratch at home rather than purchasing it in the frozen section especially in the long-term. Same goes for pre-cooked foods. It’s just better to buy the ingredients separately and make it at home. Next time you want the same meal, you’ll already have some of the ingredients on hand thus saving money!

5. Make a List – We all know that we spend more money at the grocery store when we go in without knowing what we need. By making a list of the things that we need (and sticking to it!), we are saving a ton of money on items that the household doesn’t really need such as extra junk food, an apple pie that looked too good to pass up, etc. So, check your fridge, pantry and cabinets before heading to the grocery store and make that list of the things you need to avoid excessive, unnecessary costs.

Utilizing the above-mentioned five ways to cut grocery bills, you will save a huge amount on your grocery bills each week. In fact, you will probably save more than you could have ever imagined you could save. When you go to the grocery store, make sure you are equipped with these five shop smart ways you can save money.

Party On!

Do you have any big parties coming up? Birthdays? Social Events? Anything?  Well, whether you have a reason or not, throwing a party is always a great way to get together with some friends and family. Parties are not always cheap, but with a few of these money friendly party ideas you will have some great inexpensive fun in no time!

1. Game night!

Be a kid again! You would be surprised at how much fun those old board games or other games can be.  Apples to Apples, Monopoly, video games, even hide and seek all bring back some good memories and a lot of fun with them.

2. Creativity Time.

A few friends of mine came up with this idea.  We got together with our old bikes, searched Craigslist for other bikes, and went to pawn shops and looked for bikes.  In other words, we had a lot of bikes.  Each of us then bought a can of glow in the dark paint. We spent the day together painting the bikes, and then went riding through downtown that night.    It only cost us about $25 each to buy the paint and get used (or our old) bikes. So come up with something creative!  It might not be as cool as our glow in the dark bike riding crew, but that’s just how we roll. Pun intended.

3. Cookie Trade Off

This is a good one for those with a sweet tooth.  Everyone who is invited to the party bakes enough cookies for each person to have at least 2. They then bring a copy of the recipe and everyone tries each other’s treats.  You not only satisfy that sweet tooth that you undoubtedly have but you add to your cookie repertoire.   How much will it cost you to bake a batch or 2 of cookies? Around $20, unless you pay attention to stores with good sales who do ad matching!

 

These are a few simple ideas that will get you started.  Do you have any ideas for awesome parties? Comment below and let’s hear ‘em!

Do Young Adults Need Disability Insurance?

Many things go through the minds of young adults, but seldom do they think of being grievously ill or being prepared for the worst. Usually it is later life when these things are considered and dealt with accordingly. The chances of becoming disabled are considered remote, and therefore not something of which to be concerned.
disability insurance

This leaves many young adults unprepared for such an instance. Unfortunately it is in these years when most people are actually at a higher risk of a disabling injury. Everyone of working age needs to plan ahead of time to see that their bills would be paid if they were to become disabled.

Accidents and illness could potentially cause long lasting or even permanent disability. In the event of temporary disability, a policy would provide a portion of income that would help get bills paid until the illness has passed. The loss of employment resulting in no income for just a few months can have devastating financial consequences for the young adult and their family.

A big benefit in getting disability insurance while young is the reduced cost over getting it later in life. It may also be possible to get a policy during this time that cannot be cancelled by the company. It makes sound financial sense as it stays in force as long as the premiums are met in a timely manner. A policy such as this provides lifelong protection.

It’s no secret that a change in health comes with age. Medical history will play a big role in whether or not a person will qualify for disability insurance. Any kind of medical history will make an increase in the amount paid in premiums. This is where a policy purchase while in the health of youth makes so much sense.

Employers are the first place anyone should begin for any type of insurance. It could be readily available as an option in the company group insurance. Employees are responsible for inquiring about potential benefits they may qualify for as a current company employee. A quick trip to the human resources department will reveal what type of plans are available that can be automatically be deducted from earnings.

Most people are seemingly at their best during the young adult years. It is easy to overlook certain things at this age, particularly when it comes to topics of injury or death. However, it is the precise time to get prepared for all of the things that can catch us off guard. Disability insurance is not just for the elderly or frail. It is for all adults, young or old. These are the individuals that are smart enough to know they need it to take care of themselves should an unfortunate event occur.

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Are you searching for an apartment or place to live?  Do not let your pocketbook be the only thing that holds you back.  There are a few very important aspects that you need to remember when picking out a house or apartment that can end up saving you and your pocket book a little bit of stress.

1. Home Improvements

Does the house or apartment need some tender loving care? Or more like some major repairs?  Either way, hope is not lost.  Take a look at what you will have to spare after you buy the home or apartment. Will there be enough there to make the changes you want? Changes that will really make you happy with this place and make it a home? If yes, sign on the dotted line!  If no, do not stop the search quite yet.

2. Location, location, location

If you are a college student, think about public transportation, work, and class. How far away are you?  There is no such thing as too close but there is such thing as too far.  You do not want to overdo it on gas money, nor use all that time commuting to and from your desired location.  Think about it.

3. Go Green!

Take a look at the environmentally friendly aspects that the apartment already has or can easily be adapted to.  Not only is it good for the environment, but often times going green can also save you some green.  Solar panels? Expensive, but they eventually pay for themselves.

 

Just a couple things to think about ya’ll.  Do you have any tips that need to be shared? Let’s hear them! Comment below!

Coupon Basics: Values of Coupons

The first article in the Coupon Basics series, “Types of Coupons,” hashed out the vital differences between manufacturers coupons and store coupons. But knowing which type of coupon you have before you is just the first part of the process; next you have to examine the value so you can be sure to use them.

Couponing

The best kinds of coupons are those that offer a free item, though these are the most rare. Freebie coupons are manufacturer coupons, typically often offered for new products. The manufacturers are willing to give away free products in hopes that you’ll get hooked and keep buying full priced products down the line. You can often get these by joining company email lists, checking company websites or by engaging with social media profiles of your favorite products and companies.

Single product coupons offer a set amount of money off the purchase of a single product. These will read something like “Save $1 on any one [product]” or “receive 50 cents off one [product]” Just be aware of the fine print, as you may be required to buy a certain size, variety or flavor of the product in order to use the coupon.

Multiple product coupons function like single product coupons, except they require that you purchase a set number of items, greater than one, to reap the benefits. Coupons like this will read “Save $1 on two [product]” or “Save $1.50 when you buy any three [products].” These coupons often allow you to pick from multiple products produced by the same company, or to mix and match various sizes, flavors or varieties of the same products.

BOGO coupons, or buy one get one coupons, are like a combination of freebie coupons and multiple product coupons. These coupons entitle you to a free or discounted product when you purchase the minimum number specified on the coupon. These will read like “Get one [product] free when you purchase two or more [products]” or “Buy three [products], get your 4th for $1.”

These Catalina coupons can have many different values, but usually come in two varieties: purchase or product. Purchase catalinas offer you money off your next purchase, regardless of the products that your next purchase contains, but they must be used at the same store where you earned the reward. If you receive a product catalina, for money off your next product order, the opposite is true; these are like manufacturer coupons and can be used at any store that sells the product in question.

Once you can differentiate between the various types of coupons and can easily understand the values of the coupons before you, you can move on to part three in the Coupon Basics series: Combining and Maximizing.

Just a Tip

Saving money is something we all struggle with from the young age of 16 to the adult age of 50.  After a little experimenting I have found a couple simple and easy ways to save money.  As a college student, these few methods are very simple and very do-able.

Bank Your Change

You may have heard of programs like this on television.  You use your card to make purchases and the bank rounds the purchase amount to the next dollar, putting the difference into the account of your choosing.  For me, the account my change is placed into is my CD account. When starting a CD account, you choose how long you wish to keep your CD untouched.  That means you will be forced to save money through saving your change.

The Jar Technique…

…otherwise known as the literal save your change technique.  I do not like to carry cash, but when I do I try to break it down to as much coin change as possible.  I think put it in an old mason jar and save it to a certain date or till the jar is full.  I also like to put my one and five dollar bills in the jar.  If I have something planned, like a dinner date with friends, a bowling night with family, a car wash, etc., I get the money in cash and put it in the jar as well so that I know I have it when I need it.  If you are like me and spend cash when you have it, the jar technique is an experiment you may want to invest in.

Savings jar
Even spare change put in a jar works for saving.

These are two small and simple ways to save money.  Whether you are a college student scrimping by for loan payments or an adult just trying to save a little pocket change, both these methods are worth your time.  Check them out and let me know how you do!

Rewarding to Shop

As a college student, I am always looking for ways to save money when buying the necessities.  After some major research and personal experience, I have compiled a list of stores that offer some awesome rewards programs. It pays to shop my friends, especially if you shop smart.  Take a look into these programs and give ‘em a try.

  • Target Red Card

This is, essentially, a credit card and if you are like me credit cards are a scary, scary thing.  But Target does have 2 options for their Red Card.  You can use it as is, a credit card, or connect it to your debit card, using it as your debit card when you shop their stores.  Either way you will receive 5% off your total every time you shop. Basically, just a pretty sweet deal all around.

  • Panera Bread

One of the most delicious soup, bread, and pastry restaurants I have ever gone to with an equally delicious rewards program. Just by scanning your card every time you come in, you receive free drinks and food! Free anything is fantastic, don’t ya think?

  • Hy-Vee Fuel Savers

If you are in the Midwest and anywhere near a Hy-Vee grocery store, you must be living under a rock if you have not heard of the Fuel Saver program.  Hy-Vee advertises that through purchasing certain items you can earn discounts towards gas that you can save for up to 30 days from the purchase date.  Costco and other large chain grocery stores participate in gas discount programs similar to this and are definitely worth checking out!

  • Student Advantage Card

This is a student credit card that gives you discounts on a ton of things; flights, hotels, textbooks, and clothing stores being amongst those things.  I have not used this program, but of the friends of mine who have, it has been a great success.

shopping discounts
Many stores offer shopping discount cards

These are just a few examples of programs that can help you save when you shop with them.  Do you know any store, restaurant, or company that offers a rewards program? Are they better than the ones I just listed? Oh yeah? Well, let me here ‘em! Email the store name and website to me including your name and home state to megan@investinged.com with the subject heading of Financial Ed!, and share the discounts!

The Smart Way to Get A Mortgage

The current economy and dire predictions of the real estate market to come may frighten prospective buyers from taking that big step into home ownership. But with careful preparation and research, there’s no reason to be afraid when setting out to obtain a home loan.

house mortgage

As with any large purchase, research is the first step to finding and applying for a mortgage. Examine your personal finances and assets, figure out what kind of monthly payment you can afford, not to mention whether you have enough on hand to cover fees, underwriting and closing costs. The majority of lenders require a significant down payment – between five and twenty percent – and you should know ahead of time how to secure that lump sum. Beyond your current financial situation, make sure to contact one or more credit report services to review your credit score and history, making sure to correct any errors right away. Once you’re satisfied that you have the assets and income necessary to maintain your mortgage payments, it’s time to research potential lenders.

Whether it’s through a credit union, broker or direct lender; rates, fees and closing costs determine which loan is best for you. Look into the approval percentages of the lenders you’re interested in, as well as their interest rates. If you go with an adjustable rate rather than fixed, ask how your monthly payments will vary with market fluctuations. Another often overlooked expense is Private Mortgage Insurance. If you apply for a loan that is more than 80% the cost of the property, most lenders will require a monthly insurance payment to protect them in the event you default on the loan. There are limitless online resources for loan shoppers, and www.fdic.gov even offers a shoppers worksheet to help you compare and contrast the details of up to four different loans. Remember, these institutions are fighting for your business. Don’t hesitate to let them know that you’re shopping around for the best rates.

When you’re ready to apply for the loan, ask for a “lock-in” that puts the rate, fees, points and closing costs in writing, protecting you from rate changes throughout the approval process. For the application you’ll need to provide proof of residency, check stubs, bank statements, tax returns and any income from investments you may have. Once you’ve provided the lender with the application they’ll review your credit history, evaluate your ability to pay and perhaps appraise the property. Given the research and due diligence necessary, it can take up to three or four weeks to receive a final decision. Remember, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects borrowers from discrimination by lenders due to sex, race, age, religion, national origin, marital status, or income from public assistance. If you suspect your failure to be approved is due to discrimination don’t hesitate to confront the creditor and your state’s Attorney General. However, with hard work and preparation, chances are good that you’re on the road to owning your own property.

 

How to Juggle College Finances

With disposable income becoming a bigger and bigger problem both in the United States and globally and inflation and the economic situation increasingly unpredictable, investment in aspects of our lives like education is becoming harder to manage.

college finances

College education, of course, makes a critical the most important part of one’s education and is traditionally a major source of concern for the majority of families in the United States.

College education represents an expense process that covers many facets, and for a lot of people, the one thing that is focused on is tuition fees. Of course tuition forms a critical part of one’s college education but several other expenses play a role as well, without which the college degree may be encumbered or possibly not even achieved.

Apart from tuition fees, colleges have different fee structures that include registration, and access to different facilities at the university that may not be included in the tuition fees structure.

Daily living expenses are also important, as one needs to take into consideration meals, accommodation, transportation and things of that nature. Study materials, like text books and laptop computers cannot be ignored either.

All these and many more mean the study process for a college student is a difficult and expensive one for a lot of people.

However, there are a number of ways of reducing the cost implications covering the requirements of a college education.

Keeping the college choice within your state of residence or home states cuts back on transportation costs considerably and makes access to scholarships easier especially if you focus on those which are within your locality; people tend, surprisingly, to ignore these.

You can also consider the advantages, cost-wise, of using community college, which have particularly pocket friendly tuition rates and permit one to carry college credit accumulated in high school.

Applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid doesn’t hurt at all, especially if you have more than one child attending college. You may just fall through the cracks or the criteria can include you because of the obvious implied financial strain.

Once in college, it is important for the student to remain focused on his or her studies and goals. All those extra semesters or papers carried forward imply additional costs that add to your financial load. Some universities also offer programs that help you save or recoup on certain costs like tuition, travel costs for visiting family as well as text books (http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/08/24/colleges-offer-hidden-savings-to-students). It helps to be on the look out for such initiatives.

Being prudent with your money at this point in your life is always going to be a challenge but it forms an integral part of learning financial discipline. Look out for student discounts in college towns, which are usually on offer at restaurants, shops and clubs. Prioritize your technical needs, for instance, do you really need to have a printer in your room? Make the most of what the college does offer you, like meals which make an unnecessary dent in your personal expense account when you eat out.

When looking to cut costs or save, it’s more often than not, the little things that actually count and the same applies to college-related expenses.

This Holiday Seasons Most Popular Gifts

As the Christmas and New Year holidays drew near, certain products started flying off the shelves, or more accurately, getting ordered online. In no particular order, these include:
holiday gifts

“Steve Jobs”, a book about the late Apple guru that passed away on October 5th, 2011. His impact on the world of computing and mobile devices was totally unprecedented and it was no surprise that this book, written by Walter Isaacson, was particularly popular, retailing at $17.49.

Amazon’s Kindle was another popular Christmas gift, with shoppers not being daunted at all by its $199; indeed, most considered it a steal for the tablet, despite it’s relatively short-time span on the market.

Nintendo surprised everyone with the game Just Dance 3, a sing and dance video that could also double as a cardiovascular regime guide. Unlike the usual role-playing or first shooter videos, this broke from the norm and was an instant it at $29.96.

Olay put out a cut price beauty product called the Olay Professional Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System that was hugely popular with the ladies. At only $ 26,it claimed to compete solidly with similar product packages used by professionals and was ten times cheaper. It would seem they were telling the truth, because it simply flew off the online shelves.

Apart from topping charts, Adele’s sophomore album “19”, sold at $9.99 was also a huge hit with Christmas shoppers with the singer-song writer from England making a mockery of poor CD sales in the industry.

Toys and holidays are synonymous and the Alex Toys Friends 4 Ever Bracelet Making Kit, handy for making friendship bracelets using beads and floss was a hit with children, selling at $20.47.

Movies also were best sellers during the holiday, and true to tradition, one of the best- selling movies was from Walt Disney Studios. The help, sold at $16.99 compared to traditional favorites from the industry in terms of sales.

Levi, the jean making brand, is a traditionally strong selling item all year round and sales shot up during the holiday season, with the jeans available in a conveniently wide array of sizes and selling at $39.99.

Beads seemed to be a central theme this holiday and the affordablely priced jewelry from Heart Mother & Daughter Beads Charm, selling at $9.99 worked as the perfect mother and child holiday gift as well.

With the holidays and a White Christmas comes the inconvenience of using a touch screen. Well, along came Agloves with the Agloves Original Touch Screen Gloves which made using a touch screen during winter for phones, tablets and other media much easier.

Honorable mention also goes to the following gifts: Janae cuff links, the ultimate in statement cuffs; gift-wrapped pistachio cookies; classy but affordable earrings from Mark; the hugely popular HoodieBuddie With HB3 Technology Sweatshirt, a hit with husbands all over the country and finally comfy Minnetonka Men’s Slippers, all of which retailed affordably at stores during the holidays.