‘Tis the Season To Be Penny-Wise

No, not the creepy clown from IT, more like Uncle Pennybags. As we head into the holiday season, it’s easy to fall into a spending spree with no regard for your financial state. In a time when wish lists are pervasive and the urge to impress is rampant, it’s more important than ever keep an eye on your bank balance.

There are many ways to manage your holiday spending. The first step seems an obvious one – set a budget. Write down the list of people you need to buy for, those you like to buy for, your last minute “oh I got you something too” gifts and don’t forget all the incidentals such as food and decorations. Once you know how many gifts you need, set a reasonable amount of money you can afford without incurring unmanageable debt. Now you know how much you have to spend and how many gifts you need to buy. Set a number beside each person and item. Bring this with you when you go shopping and be sure to check it twice.

The aforementioned plan is a great way to address holiday spending, however, an added step to this would be to start saving ahead of time. Start a holiday fund at the beginning of the year to help reduce the financial strain at the end of the year. It’s surprising how fast $20 per cheque can add up and how little you would miss it. If you put $20 per cheque in your stocking, by December you would have approximately $440 of disposable income. That’s a lot of cash with very little effort.

Another area to be attentive to is holiday socializing. It’s surprising how these events can add a lot of cost to those who are hosting. Why not create an environment that is more in line with the spirit of the season and have everyone bring something? That helps distribute the cost and makes it more enjoyable for all those attending.

While it is the season for giving, it’s important to remember to give to yourself. Your gift should be the gift of financial freedom.

How To Organize a Moving Budget

Moving all your household items can be a stressful burden and it requires a careful resource management and planning. Evert detail is important; otherwise the whole operation can turn into a nightmare. Not bringing enough boxes or packing materials will certainly delay the whole operation and will have a direct effect on the overall moving budget. We can offer you 3 simple tips for organizing a moving budget.

1) Analyze all the costs. You will need to make a list with all the items that you are shipping away. Also, label all parts accordingly. Each item must be protected by a specific container or box. If you have the original boxes, it will be very good, since it will reduce the costs. Otherwise you will have to buy new boxes. The same goes with packing materials. You either have them, or you must buy them. Check online for prices for: boxes, packing tape, dish washes, Styrofoam, bubble wrap and so on. Sum up the costs and you will find out the minimum cost for the whole relocation process. Also add storage costs, if you plan using storage services. IT would also be recommended to add several costs not related to labor hours and moving supplies. These costs may include fuel and meal costs, plus anything that makes you focus during the trip, like energy drinks.

2) Choose high quality materials. Now it is not the time to be a cheapskate. All your valuable items are at stake and if you do not want to see them damaged, try to offer as much protection as possible. If you see any whole, puncture, crack or major scratch on your boxes and containers, discard them. During transit these defects can compromise the whole integrity of the box, thus rendering all the items without any effective protection. Make sure to be properly informed before buying any type of material.

3) Work with professionals. We know that it is easier and cheaper to work with handpicked friends and family members. But do they have any experience whatsoever regarding a relocation process? Probably not. With inexperienced people, the risk of producing an accident is higher. Not all of us are built to lift heavy items or to plan a moving strategy. Plus, companies have dedicated moving equipment and sufficient transport vehicle, read for use. These are the strong-points held by any professional moving company and this is why you should hire a company.

Saving Money by Buying More

To this day I can still remember my first big grocery bill after we were married. It was about $200 and I cried on the way home. I didn’t get anything fancy-just the basics. We were poor newlywed students and food expenses were a necessary evil that I could not get around.

Buying groceries was my responsibility in the marriage and I was determined to live within our meager budget. I dove right into the challenge and years later found myself teaching community classes on “couponing” (“yes”, I had to tell my sisters, “couponing is a word”).

I no longer spend hours finding, printing, cutting and organizing coupons but there are some invaluable shopping principles I learned from those studies that I will never change. My favorite one is buying more to save more.

The simple idea behind the strategy is to buy more of something when it is on sale so you do not have to pay full price for it later when you need it. Applying this principle will look different in everyone’s home. Take some time to consider the following questions to be able to maximize your savings.

*How much room do you have for food storage?
This may seem like an obvious question but this has landed me in jeopardy more than once when it comes to frozen foods. I have become much more organized (and creative!) with my freezer space out of necessity. Although this is obviously not the answer for everyone, we invested in a deep freezer as a result of one of the best sales I have ever seen on cheese and meat. I convinced my husband that after a few additional sales like that one we would pay for the freezer with the amount of money we saved.

*How much of this item will we use?
No matter how good of a sale it is, it’s never a good deal if the food goes to waste. Make sure you do not buy more than you can use. Consider the expiration date and your schedule and meal rotations. I always try to make meals where the bulk of my ingredients are things I already have stored so that nothing is wasted or forgotten, but that’s a whole other principle.

*How good is the sale?
This is something you will get better at knowing over time. The worst feeling is when you stock up on a favorite item because it’s on a great sale, only to find out the next week that the same item is being sold at a significantly better price at a neighboring store. You will become familiar with prices in your area and start to know what is a good price for different items. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people! I have talked to my butcher at my grocery store several times about prices. I don’t know of a grocery store where they pay their employees commissions on sales so they will honestly tell you whether you should wait for a better sale or when an upcoming discount can be expected. Be kind and friendly to employees- they have a wealth of knowledge!

*How often is it on sale?
This question is one of my favorites because it’s such a game changer. Sales go in rotation. Not only can you expect certain items to be discounted around certain times, you can plan your food storage around them! For example, my grocery store has meat sales on a two week rotation. This means that I only need to buy enough chicken to last my family two weeks before I know it will be on sale again. It also gives me a reason to never have to buy chicken at its full price in between those sale prices because I can simply pull it out of my freezer.

Another sale rotation that is extremely helpful to be aware of and watch for are seasonal sales. For example, barbeque sauce is usually marked at its lowest around the Fourth Of July and nutrition and health bars are normally at their lowest in January for everyone’s New Years’ resolutions. Oftentimes these items do not expire for over a year so if you have the space, buy enough to last your family that long.

Once your stock piles reach a successful rotation you will find that you are shopping completely differently. It’s not unusual for me to come home from the store with 25 boxes of cereal, 10 bags of cheese and then only a handful of other basics like bread, milk and bananas. I don’t need to buy every ingredient on my list for meals that week because I have already stocked up on them when they were on sale. As a result, I can make the same tasty meals at a much lower price for my family. Buying more to save money is all about timing your larger purchases with their sale prices and ironically you will soon find that buying more can indeed help you spend less.

8 Money Tips to Live by – Revamping Your Spending Habits

Money spending habits, good ones are important part of our lives and just like any habit, we can learn through practicing control of our spending habits. Below are 8 money tips that we should thrive to live by in order for us to take control of our spending habits:

1. Pay attention to Interest Rate

When you have loans, try to pay off the one with the highest interest rate. For savings, look for the one with the best/higher interest rate. Always check your interest rates both for savings and debt – compound interest rate can be your best friend (savings) and your foe (debt). Check out this formula for finding compound interest for savings.

2. Have a budget

Net Income is what you budget on! Not money you are expecting somewhere! Not money so-and-so promised you! And definitely, not your credit card! You don’t budget on gross income thus the money your employer or business brings in before all your deductions such as taxes, retirement contributions.

Use the 50/20/30 rule to set up your budget – you divide your net income into three; 50% goes to housing, transportation, utility bills and groceries these are known as Essential Expenses; 20% goes to your debt payments, savings contribution, investments and retirement contributions (some employers deduct these contribution from their employees’ gross salaries) these are called your Financial Priorities and finally, 30% of your net income should go to your Lifestyle Choices, these includes personal care, restaurant, internet, entertainment, gym membership fees, shopping and other miscellaneous and discretionary expenses.

3. Treat your money as part of you – set specific financial goals

“I want to pay off my credit card loans this year.” This statement is just silence; it doesn’t push you to do anything. Now let’s look at this statement, “By the end of July this year, I want to pay $250 towards my ZXY bank credit card and by September this year, I want to pay off the $100 of my Shop-by-Choix clothes credit card.” The second statement is clear and compiles you to do something. You can divide the $250 by the months left to get to July and set how much you will have to pay on monthly basis in order for you to hit your goal, the same applies for the $100 debt.

4. Love yourself and be appreciative

Appreciate the things that you have first and do not set your life based on others not even your friend because we all walk different financial paths. Acquiring more materials will NOT make you happy – the more you get the more you want.

5. Avoid Co-signing a Loan

If the bank asks for the borrower to have a co-signer then it means the bank does not trust the borrower to fulfill their payments and so shouldn’t you. Co-signing for your friends or family members can affect your credit score if they fail to pay their installments and the bank can come after you.

6. Rethink what your money can do for you – Invest in stock market

One of the reasons why people don’t invest is because they believe that they cannot afford to invest in stocks with little money and that it is just waste of time but when you start with the little that you have, you in fact taking a big step towards building your wealth. Nearly anyone afford to start investing in stock – when they learn to be disciplined with their money. The risk of failing to invest now is loss of time and loss of time means losing out on wealth growth!

7. Your income raise should sponsor your savings and investments

Getting a raise does not mean bigger spending habit automation – rather than spending more, use your raise to grow your investments and savings.

8. Apply for your local supermarket reward card

If your local supermarket offers loyalty program then sign up as this can help you in saving on groceries through rewards they offer for your purchase or even buying at cheaper price than the non-card shopper. Just make sure that they prices that they sell the products at either equal or lower than other local shops otherwise the loyalty card will not be worth it – the whole point to get the card to work for you.