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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Cell Phone Insurance: Hero or Villian?

In budget, Our Guest Appearances, Your World on October 28, 2010 at 2:19 PM

 

Image Credit Richard Lai

 

 

Picture this…

You just purchased the latest android powered 4G cell phone and you’re thinking, “Life is good!” Just as your sale rep finishes activating your phone she mentions that smart shoppers protect their investments by adding insurance to their plans.  A moment of indecision sweeps over you. You know the replacement cost for your new toy is just over $500 bucks.

What would you do?

Read the rest of our post, and get  the inside scope (and money saving tips) about cell phone insurance at Inexpensively.com

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The Science of Savvy Shopping!

In budget, Your Fashion, Your Guest Writers, Your Home on October 1, 2010 at 7:37 AM

(5 tips to a better quality of life)

By: Jennifer Brown Banks

In today’s tough times, there’s a special joy when we get a good deal for our hard earned buck. True? 

It almost feels as if we’ve cashed in at the lottery.

And with the housing crisis, double digit unemployment, and soaring consumer prices, we all need to save where we can.

But what few “divas” recognize is that being an “educated consumer” goes far beyond knowing the best stores to buy treasured items, or the debt cutting value of coupons. It’s much more.

This epiphany came to me recently when a friend of mine, while visiting my home, complimented my setting, (and the stuff I had acquired) while comparing it to hers.  Ironically, she makes more money than I do, and has similar circumstances.

For me my place is embraced as a “blessing”, while she views hers as a burdenShe often complains that her home is a money pit that she constantly puts cash into, but can’t get any real joy out of.

Because of this experience, I felt compelled to share my shopping secrets to enhance not just your ”surroundings”, but also your quality of life.

Here are a few cardinal rules.

  1. Know that it’s not “where” you shop, but “how” you shop that matters. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof. I’ve watched shows like Oprah and the Antique Road Show, (and no doubt you have too), where folks have scored items at garage sales, thrift stores, and specialty shops, for a couple of bucks, that were later appraised for thousands of dollars. Hello! Learn to spot quality.
  2. Recognize that there’s no value or validation in trying to keep up with the Joneses. One of the reasons that my friend “Wanda” is busted and disgusted, is that she’s constantly trying to establish her worth by buying what she feels will qualify her as being one of the “in”crowd. Big mistake. Instead, do you! As a point of reference, I don’t have cable. Never have. Though I enjoy T.V., so far it hasn’t impressed me enough to shell out extra money monthly for the idea of a few extra channels, (no matter how many million folks have it). Stop “perpetrating.”
  3. Consider that too much “impulse shopping” can lead to too little peace and buyer’s remorse. Evaluate. After you’ve taken a trip to your local mall and made purchases, how do you feel? Will your credit card payments last much longer than the life-cycle of the item (s) you’ve bought? Are you sacrificing paying an important bill to catch a deal? Your answers will determine your course of action.
  4. Keep in mind that your purchases should do more than just add to your “inventory”, they should add to your quality of life. For example, I love to buy house plants, beautiful baskets, books, fragrant candles, and unusual frames, because not only do they add to my décor, but they are reflective of my values and personal hobbies. Surround your surroundings with things that make you smile, that call to   mind special times, and are aesthetically pleasing. Make your place your personal sanctuary. 
  5. Accept that inner emptiness and low-self esteem can NOT be made better by “things.” It’s sad to say, but it’s true. Some folks shop to fill an emptiness. Whether it’s a bad marriage, a dysfunctional childhood, or feelings of inadequacy. Once they come down from their “shopper’s high” they’re in more debt and have even less that they feel good about. Don’t let this be you. There’s great truth to the adage, “Money can’t buy happiness.”

 With an uncertain economy, you can be certain that shopping habits from days of old can be detrimental to your finances and your family’s well being.  There’s no reason you can’t still be cute; just be smart as well!

And keep in mind that ain’t nothing cute about being “busted” and disgusted. 🙂

 

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, columnist, professional blogger and managing editor at Coffeehouse for Writers.

Learn How to Live Below Your Means

In budget, Your World on September 14, 2010 at 8:14 AM

Image Credit David Siqueira

 

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I’d easily spend $300 on a Coco Chanel wallet or Tiffany card case.  And that evening, it was nothing to drop another hundred on dinner with friends.  Sears, Kmart, Target and “the Walmart” were definitely off my shopping radar.  After all, only poor people shopped those places.      

When I look back at all the money I wasted buying status symbols that only served to make other folks rich, it makes me ill.  The genius who said, “Youth is wasted on the young,” sure got that one right!       

Thankfully, when I turned 24, I married a man who can make a $20 last six months!  He showed me how to manage our money so that it wouldn’t end up managing us.       

These days when I climb into my 11 year-old Honda (156,000 miles and counting) – I smile.  And the folks at my local Walmart, well, they know me by name. 🙂  I’m ecstatic when I find scream’n deals on toothpaste, or save cash by dining in.  And paying extra on my mortgage makes me downright giddy!      

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to live like Ebenezer Scrooge.  It simply means living below your means – comfortably.        

Here are five tips to get you started.     

 Invest in yourself.  I believe in stimulating my economy.  And don’t count on Uncle Sam or anyone else to take care of my needs.  Dedicate a portion of every paycheck to savings. Whether you invest in the stock market, deposit money in a credit union savings account, a tin can or under your mattress – pay yourself.  Even if it’s just fifty cents a week.     

 *Backyard, Sauna and Room for a Pony.  Your mortgage or rent shouldn’t consume more than 28% of your monthly gross income.  But remember – just because you qualify for a loan or have 28% to spend on rent, doesn’t mean you can afford to make the payments.  Owning a home involves much more than paying the banknote.  Home maintenance, property tax, and home owner’s insurance are just a few of many, expenses.     

Note:  Your total debts, (rent, car payments, student loans, credit cards, etc.) should equal 36% or less of your gross monthly income.      

 Paying Retail is for Suckers.  It’s silly to pay full price unless you have to.  Shop around on and offline before making purchases.  And be sure to clip coupons and take them with you.  Check out, My Simon, Fat Wallet, Retail Me Not, Deal Hunting, and Ebates, to find mind-blowing savings.     

 Budgets Rock.  Whether you’re making a six figure salary or living off tips, the only way to see where you spend (and hopefully save) money is with a budget.  Mint and Money Strands are two good and FREE budgeting tools.   YNAB 3 is also a great choice, but the price is $60 bucks.     

 Got a Raise? Great!  Good for you.  Save at least 50% and put the rest towards paying off debts.     

Don’t let a sense of entitlement make you poor.  Instead, practice a little self-control and spend carefully.      

*Keeping Up Appearances – British Situation Comedy.

Find Out The Secrets To Saving $$$ On Your Prescription Drug Costs

In Our Guest Appearances, Your Health, Your World on September 1, 2010 at 11:09 PM

Are your prescription drug costs taking a huge bite out of the family budget?  Click here to find out how to save big bucks on your drug “habit”.

Tired of rejection letters? Then check out my post, “The Secrets to Making Your E-Query Standout Amid the Clutter” at Coffeehouse for Writers.

Sure It Looks Cool, But Does It Really Work?

In Your Guest Writers, Your Home on August 29, 2010 at 1:52 PM

 

If someone told me they’ve never been tempted late at night to pick up the phone and order whatever unbelievably innovative product they saw on TV, I would have a hard time believing it.  The infomercials are so convincing in presenting a product that will literally change your life, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who hasn’t been sucked in at one point or another.  The problem though is it seems so risky.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the horror stories of the hidden $30 shipping and handling fees or worse yet reoccurring billing only disclosed in extremely small print.  Even more, what if the product doesn’t work?  To return something purchased on TV you usually have to pay the shipping charges to you and back, so no matter what it always ends up costing you something.  To be an educated buyer and save ourselves time and money, we must do our research.
 
Just the other night I saw an infomercial for a product called the Shake Weight.  Now this product is a little suggestive and borderline inappropriate for television so I wasn’t so much tempted to buy it as I was intrigued to know if it really works.  Like the millions of other young people in America, I turned to the internet to do a little research.  I quickly discovered there are dozens of websites that claim to objectively review these kinds of products.  However, when you read between the lines you can hear the tone of a sales person.  Usually these types of reviews are sneakily written by the product owner or someone working for them disguised as a regular Joe Shmoe, and it’s highly unlikely they will say their product is a piece of junk if it is. 
 
After a little more searching I found a decent website that rates and reviews As Seen on TV products called TVTopTen.  Not only do they have actual customer reviews, but they also have a slew of different videos including product demonstrations and the actual commercial.  They post real customer reviews, both positive and negative.  Using websites like these and taking the information objectively, you can avoid making costly investments into products that suck.  Doing this kind of research will save time and money, and who doesn’t need more of both these days? 
 
About the Author:

S. Sparks is a writer for small businesses and online stores with an emphasis on health and beauty. Some of her most recent work includes articles for Ace Carpet Cleaning  San Diego.

12 Simple Separates: Your Guide to Lookin’ Good and Feeling Great!

In Your Fashion, Your Guest Writers on August 1, 2010 at 11:03 AM

 by Heather Claus of 365 Days of Style

 

 

It’s a tough economy and times are tight. Everyone wants to cut expenses without giving up quality of life.

I do, too.

In fact, I’ve been learning to “tightwad” for over a decade. Sadly, I’ve not mastered it, but I have found a balance in my life. I prefer to spend money on priorities, rather than having it just dribble away with each purchase.

Thing is, I love fashion.

Well, not fashion, exactly. I love style. Personal style. I love to create my own style from what’s in fashion, what’s out of fashion (I’ve been a fan of vintage for 25 years), fun accessories, and even garments I design and sew myself. All that can get expensive.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

Add on top of that many of us live multiple lives. Home life, mommy life, social life, business life… that’s a lot of wardrobe – and a lot of moolah, if you’re not careful.

That’s why I created 12 Simple Separates. The goal behind this PDF is to teach you to purchase (or thrift or sew) just 12 basic garments that can be combined into 80 combinations. That’s FOUR MONTHS of work weeks without duplication. 12 garments make 90% of a work wardrobe. Just add shoes and accessories.

It’s not just about money, though. It’s also about time. Having a million options every morning can make getting dressed MORE complicated, not less. Having a set of clothing that you know fits, looks good and will work for the office makes hectic AM dressing a breeze.

Of course, this doesn’t just work for the office. A wardrobe for SAHM duty would use the same combinations of tops and bottoms, just in a more comfortable, casual style.

Are you a small business owner? It’s easy to put together a professional wardrobe on a budget, even when most of your time is spent working at home in your yoga pants (guilty!).

Thing is, getting your 12 basics together is cost-effective, and once you have them, you’ll have the time and money to put towards other priorities – like cute shoes! *smiles* Or gorgeous jewelry, a family vacation, car repairs…

This PDF will get you started. If you have questions, feel free to ask me here, or to email me directly at info@365daysofstyle.com. You can also visit and register at my site for weekly style lessons and new PDF files as I add them!

I’m Heather Claus, and I love style. I didn’t always, but once I learned I knew anyone could, so I taught. Register at 365DaysofStyle.com for weekly style lessons, fashion giveaways, and daily style resources – and don’t forget to follow me on twitter! *smiles*

Gas Crunch

In Your Home on July 17, 2010 at 8:40 AM

by Barbara Carrow

This nation is ignoring an easy way to save a third on gasoline. The way we drive has a big impact on gas mileage and can easily turn a somewhat average 22 mpg into a respectable 30. Here are some recommendations for saving gas:

Coast

See a stop sign ahead? Coast as far as you can, and then brake gently. Traveling down a hill? Again, try coasting. The reasoning is simple. Accelerating uses gas and not accelerating saves gas.

Slow Down

Take your time. Following the 80-mph crowd on the interstate may be tempting. The U.S. Department of Energy says to expect a rapid decrease in mileage at speeds over 60 mph. Use cruise control on the open road to cut down on speed changes and to keep your speedometer from creeping upward.

Around town, driving with a light foot will pay big dividends. One expert suggests driving as if you had a hard-boiled egg under your right foot. Another recommends that you not press your gas pedal down more than an inch unless you have to. Accelerate slowly from green lights. And remember that racing to a red light and letting your car idle while you wait for the light to turn makes no sense.

Avoid hills if possible. If you can’t avoid them, don’t try to climb one at record speed. Maintaining your speed on hills (even dropping down in speed) is perfectly acceptable.

Don’t Idle

Staying in one place is murderous for your mpg. Avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible. And if you’re waiting for more than two minutes for the kids to get out of school, shut off the engine.

The no-idling rule extends to cold-weather warm-ups. You only need to warm up your car when it’s below freezing. Even then, 30 seconds (or a minute if the weather’s really cold) will do the trick.

It All Adds Up

Experts offer other suggestions that can help stretch a tank of gas.

– Remove cargo racks. They add to wind resistance.

– Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your car. According to the Department of Energy, an extra 100 pounds can reduce your mpg up to two percent. Smaller vehicles are affected more than larger ones due to the ratio of the extra weight to the car’s weight.

– On the highway, opt for air conditioning if you’re traveling over 40 mph. At higher speeds, open windows create aerodynamic drag.

– Maintain your vehicle properly to burn less fuel. That includes keeping your engine tuned, tires inflated properly and oil changed.

– Use overdrive gears when appropriate. Your engine speed will go down, which saves gas.

– Unless your owner’s manual tells you to use premium unleaded gas, don’t waste your money buying it. There’s no need to pay for it if your engine is designed for regular gas.

– Fill up when it’s cool. Pumps dispense gas by volume, but a car’s engine uses it by weight. Gas is denser when it’s colder. The colder the weather, the more gas you get for the same money.

Try these tips, and you’ll be groaning less about the high cost of fuel and saving more on gas. No coupon required.

Barbara Carrow is a contributor to The Dollar Stretcher; a great resource for”Frugal Living Tools”.  The Dollar Stretcher offers articles on a variety of topics ranging from  How to Buy a Used Car  to buying school supplies to working after retirement.

Consignment Shops: The New Black for Back-to-School Shopping

In budget on July 12, 2010 at 10:26 PM

Have you shopped for “Back to School” yet?  My spending frenzy began last Friday, during freshman orientation.    My son is a college student this year, and between tuition, books, room and board, parking fees, non-essentials, essentials, and miscellaneous fees, my budget is on life support!  A $32,000.00 gorilla is on my back and come August 18Th, the ape better be fed.   

Last August, my quest to earn a few extra college bucks (and avoid a future stint in the poor house) led me to an often overlooked source for raising back-to-school revenue – Consignment Shops!

According to NPD, a global market research firm, 2009 saw a dramatic drop-off in back-to-school “spending intentions”.  Moms and dads are holding on to their hard-earned dollars; frugal living is vogue.  But, while traditional retail sales are declining, consignment shops are seeing huge increases in sales.

As we prepare to send our little, and not-so-little ones back to school, consider stimulating your economy by cleaning house.   Instead of giving away electronics, furniture and clothes, try consigning those items; you’ll be surprised at the amount of cash you earn.

Ten Q & As to Get You Started

  1. What is a consignment shop?  Think of a consignment shop like a garage sale, but without the typical headaches of dealing with bad weather, making change, haggling with customers and keeping an eye on shoplifters.  Traditionally, consignment shop owners sell your unwanted stuff with the understanding that the consigned items belong to you  until the items sell.
  2. What types of items can I consign?  Browse through home fashion magazines and think about trends; these are the types of items that sell quickly.  Stay away from trying to sell grandma’s console TV or mom’s disco boots from the 70s. 🙂
  3. Can I consign my daughter’s broken IPod?  In a word, no.  Items should be clean and in good working order.  Ask yourself if the item is worth more than five or ten bucks.  If it is, chances are someone will buy it.
  4. Do items have to be new?  No, gently used items are great.  Make sure that whatever you bring has all its pieces, and that clothes are clean, pressed and free of holes.  If you’re bringing large items like couches or bookcases, they shouldn’t be worn-out or scratched.  It’s also a good idea to test electronics before trying to consign them.
  5. I paid $125.00 for a pair of Cole Hahn shoes and won’t take less than $75.00.  Can I set the consignment price?  It depends on the shop.  Some owners work with you to set a selling price.  Shop owners know market prices, their customers and what types of items sell.  Work with the owner to come up with a price you are both comfortable with.
  6. How much commission does the shop receive?  Again, it depends on the shop.  This is a great question to ask before bringing in your items.  Some owners do a 50/50 split; others receive 25% or more.  If you decide to consign with a shop, make sure you understand all the terms in your contract, to include  payment policies.  Ask for a copy of your contract and a receipt listing all the items you brought in.
  7. How much money will I make?  Don’t expect to get rich; consigning items is an effortless way to make extra cash.  Sit back and enjoy the experience. 
  8. I have a lot of high-end items to sell.  Are there specialty shops that I can work with?  Do a bit of research before venturing out.  Some shops specialize in one or two areas like, baby items and maternity wear, or furniture and household accessories, haute couture, antiques and vintage or electronics and tools.  Find the store that has the niche you’re looking for.
  9. Can I consign anything? No, most shops won’t take food, alcohol, weapons or illegal items.
  10. What happens to my items that don’t sell?  Some shops allow you to take your items back; others may buy the items from you.  Check the terms of your contract.

A few more tips…

  • If you’re the entrepreneurial type try buying quality items for  low prices at thrift stores, garage and estate sales; then sale the items at your favorite consignment shop.  
  • Try shopping consignment shops for back-to-school bargains.  They’re a great budget-stretching resource for everyone.
  • Consignment shops are a great venue to sell and get exposure for your handmade crafts. 

While I haven’t earned enough cash to feed my pet for the year, I’ve managed to pay for Reid’s books and even a few bananas.  🙂     Thank God for scholarships!

Have you shopped at consignment stores?

Free for You and Me!

In Your Freebies on July 1, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Before heading out this holiday weekend, take advantage of these HOT freebies and coupons!

 

  • For a limited time, receive free sample bottles of Erik Prautsch’s Hairtrigger shampoo and conditioner.  These items are from his newest line called SMOOTHSMOOTH.

  • Transform a backsplash, toy box, or office wall into a high-performance dry-erase surface with IdeaPaint!   Click here to receive a free sample.

  • Before you head out this July 4th weekend, print this coupon to receive a free 32oz fountain drink at Pilot Travel Centers.  Click here to find a Pilot Travel Center.

Find Your Frugal Mojo

In budget, Your World on June 15, 2010 at 8:12 AM

Many folks are searching for smart and creative ways to stretch their hard-earned dollars while riding out this economic recession. 

Here are two snippets from budget-stretching articles we wrote that were featured on Inexpensively.comClick on the title links to read the full versions.

Organization:  The Key to Savings

Have you ever paid a hefty late fee because your mortgage statement was buried under heaps of coupons or pyramids of free sample packs of gum?

Or paid a fine for an overdue library book, simply because it was hidden under piles of BOGO ads from 2006? 

You’re not alone in your battle with clutter.

Disorganization clogs the pipelines of many homes. It’s frustrating, it’s expensive and it destroys household budgets. Studies have shown that 98% percent of moms are disorganized. Actually, I made that last part up; it’s probably more like 56. 🙂

Start With Baby Steps

It doesn’t make much sense to clip coupons and pour over weekly circulars, only to have your savings eaten up by late fees. Starting today, make a vow to stop wasting time and money, searching for coupons, invoices, cell phones and keys. Throw out those ancient magazines and piles of junk mail that occupy prime real estate on your office desk. Empty those overflowing trash cans and wastebaskets and stop playing hop-scotch with the heaps of catalogs sprawled across your office floor. Organization is the key to saving money and it’s really not as difficult as you might think…

Save More and Waste Less

Everyday living expenses can easily get out-of-hand.  Money spent on paper towels, single use cleaning supplies, carbonated drinks and similar household staples could be put to better use.

Follow these five  tried, true. and green ways to stretch your household budget.

1. Use Smart Products. Use multi-tasking products that save time and money.

  • For Body:  Look for foundations and moisturizers that contain sunscreen (at least 15 SPF), and shampoos with built-in conditioners.
  • For Home: Make your own, or use versatile cleaning products that work on windows, countertops, appliances, and mirrors.  Make your dollars work smarter by choosing products that are safe to use on the interiors of cars.

2. Turn On the Tap.  Put the kibosh on soda and other expensive drinks.  Next to air, water is the most important (and cheapest) element our bodies need…