Category Archives: Saving

10 Ways to Fight your Fleeting Food Finances

Inflation is a pain for a lot of reasons. Gas prices are going up, basic utilities are a bit pricier and our trips to the grocery store fill our carts but empty our wallets. Whether you’re a person in a family setting or a bachelor that lives on your own, the rising food prices are a dilemma for pretty much everyone. Unlike other things, food is something that we absolutely need to survive. How can we reduce the amount of money we spend on food and not deprive ourselves of what we need? Here are some tips and tricks so your grocery bill doesn’t eat away at your wallet.

  1. Always have a list. This is a huge must! If you are going to the store, make a list and do not deviate from that list. The accessibility that the internet provides is a huge help with this. You can go to the internet, look up coupons, and check out what’s on sale. The list will help you keep on track and buy
  2. Try to use cash. If you can get close to your cost, you can even try to have the amount of cash that you’ll need plus only a little extra in order to restrict yourself even further than the list will.
  3. Always try to buy in bulk. Why? Because, especially if it’s on sale, you end up spending a lot less money if you just freeze the extra meats you buy and shelve the extra canned goods.
  4. Make homemade meals. Eating at home is almost always cheaper than eating out (unless you have a really good coupon or deal). Yes, I know you think it always tastes better when someone else makes it. But when you’re pinching pennies, it’s a bad idea.
  5. Don’t buy boxed food. Just because you’re making it at home doesn’t make it cheaper. I realized this while in college: I was paying $2 for premade bagel pizzas. You know what ones I’m talking about. Then, I compared, and realized that if I bought a package of larger bagels, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni, I was spending a little bit more ($7 compared to $2), but it was covering me for 4 meals instead of 1! Homemade meals, on average, are about 25-50 percent less cost than their frozen counterparts.
  6. Use coupons. Coupons are usually free or, if you buy the Sunday paper, it’s like $2. To save as much money as you’ll save clipping coupons, the $2 is worth it. There are also countless websites that offer coupons that you can print and bring to the store.
  7. Sign up for Bonus Cards. Many stores also have bonus or rewards cards that are also free. Even if you only go to that store once or twice a year, the time it takes to sign up is worth it.
  8. Compare prices between stores. It may take more time, but with the internet, it’s easier to figure how which stores sell what for how much. Sit down and plan out where to buy what things. You may spend a little more on gas, but sometimes the differences are so significant that won’t matter.
  9. Buy before they go bad. Check sell-by dates and freeze-by dates. A lot of times, stores will drastically reduce prices of items so they can sell them instead of throwing them away.  I do this with meat a lot.
  10. Don’t go all the time. Keeping your kitchen stocked and only going grocery shopping a couple of times a month will help keep your costs down. Knowing what’s in your pantry will help so that you don’t have to buy basic supplies unless they’re on sale.

We all need to eat. But eating doesn’t have to be a chore. Be smart, and follow the tips and tricks that we just talked about and it will help your bills be less and your savings account will have a little more at the end of the month.

8 More Ways to Save Money Using the Web

By now, most people know that shopping online can literally save you hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, each year. It’s estimated that the average web-savvy shopper saves over $7,000 a year by using the internet to their advantage! But, I bet a lot of you don’t know exactly how to search for the best deals. Today, we’re going to talk about some of the techniques that you can use to save yourself lots of cash, just by taking extra time to use the internet!

  1. Always check before you go to the store. Even if you are planning on going to a brick-and-mortar store, make sure you compare prices between stores. That MP3 player that is $75 at Wal-Mart may be on sale at Target for $50.
  2. Buy in advance. Tickets for movies, airplanes, and sports events are a ton cheaper when they’re bought way ahead of time. Also, getting a hotel room or renting a trailer, truck, or car end up cheaper. Now, I’m not saying buy like two years before you do whatever you’re doing (most websites only allow for up to a year ahead of time).
  3. Or wait till the last minute! Do you have a weekend free that you didn’t expect? You can get tickets and hotel rooms for a lot cheaper days before you need it because those places are trying to fill rooms up. Think about it: Empty rooms equal no money; they at least want to make something out of those rooms.
  4. Use E-bay and other auction sites. A lot of people get worried about this one. But, you don’t have to. Most websites (E-bay is the most reputable) have a lot of policies to keep buyers safe. You can find almost anything on these websites for much cheaper than you would anywhere else. You just have to be willing to take the time to do the research
  5. Online Bill Pay. Do you realize how much you pay for in stamps in a year? The Post Office may not like me to say that, but consider the following. You have 4 bills that you mail out in a month. Each stamp is 44 cents. You’re saving 1.76/month. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when that adds up to 21.12 a year or 105.60 in 5 years, then you start to see the savings.
  6. Get your news online. Most newspapers have everything you’ll need on the internet. The advertising on their sites help give their writers and editors revenue. You can also use RSS feeds to get news from the sites that you want to get news from. And the best part? It’s free!
  7. Watch TV/Movies online. I currently don’t have cable. Why? Because honestly, I don’t need it. I don’t watch a ton of TV, and any TV or movies that I want to see are online legally. Now, I’m not saying bootleg, and I never would. I’m on a Netflix plan with my family where I can stream as many movies on my Wii as I want, and it costs us $7.99/month.
  8. Shop for Holidays and birthdays. My best friend and her husband live about 2 hours away- close enough for a weekend trip, but too far to go regularly. So, if I don’t get to see them around their birthdays or Christmas, I’ll buy their gifts on Amazon or another website and get them sent straight to their house. Some websites even offer gift wrapping! You save yourself shipping and a lot of headache.

So, if you didn’t know how to shop for deals online before, now you do! These tips can help you save lots of money and time in the long run, just by sitting at your computer and doing a little leg work!

Surprising Summer Savings – Act now!

As I look out my window, it’s really odd for me to even think about summer. 7 inches of snow earlier in the week, an extra inch or so today… will summer ever come? But, there are a lot of professional money-savers that want you to know that right now is the best time to buy a lot of things that you’ll use in the summer time. You’re probably thinking “Good. Because that rock salt was a lot more than I needed it to be.” Want to save before the warm weather hits? Then check out these categories of items now so that you save lots later.

  • Getting married? Over the past few years, I had several friends get married over the summer. Statistics say that it’s the most popular time to get married. Because of this, the cost of items such as champagne, party supplies, and gifts are lower than usual. Since the major holidays are over (the only other one that lends itself toward any of these items is Valentine’s Day in February), stores need to offload a bunch of this stuff to make room for summer stock.
  • Gardener or Yard Tender? Many items that you may use during the summer (lawn tools, seeds, and decorations) are usually thrown in the clearance section during the winter. They’re taking up valuable seasonal space, most people aren’t thinking ahead that far, and those same items may not be the “big hit” that next summer.
  • Vacations. In a way, this goes with getting married too. Booking your honeymoon or family vacation during the winter time is a great idea! Because travel isn’t as extensive this time of year, airlines will discount flights, even those that are scheduled for the summer, so they can get some sort of cash flow. Cruises will also drop prices to get the same thing. Family resorts and hotels also get booked up early, so the earlier you get these the better.
  • Clothes. I’m not someone who follows styles, so if I see something that I like on the clearance rack, I get it. It’s probably last year’s style, but who cares? Like everything I mentioned above, stores want to move old stock to make room for new stock. A lot of stores have their semi-annual sales during the winter as well. I have gotten jeans as cheap as 3-5 dollars each because of these sales!
  • Summer camp and classes. What? Yeah, I don’t have kids, but I know a lot that go to summer camps. A lot of them offer discounts for early enrollment. If you’re considering taking a summer class at a community college, a lot of schools will waiver or reduce your application fee and possibly give you a discount per credit.
  • Houses. You think I’m kidding! One of my best friends is moving today in the weather I described above. Not exactly the most pleasant experience. A lot of times, the cost of homes is cheaper because people really don’t want to move during the winter months. Also, if you are looking for a beach home or condo, it’s definitely a great idea to look during the winter when no one else is. You may find that diamond in the rough you want!

Spend a little more this winter to save a lot during the summer. Hot deals during the cold months are easy to find; if you’re snowed in, there are countless resources to help you look for any of these items on the internet.

Filing for Bankruptcy – A Quick RunDown on Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcies

Research studies have shown that half of US bankruptcies were caused by Medical bills. The study estimates that medical bankruptcies affect about two million Americans annually. When most people think of bankruptcy they tend to think that it comes from acts of past irresponsible spending however it could happen to anyone.

Bankruptcy is a federal court process that places you under the protection of the bankruptcy court while you attempt to repay your debts ( Chapter 13 Bankruptcy ) or removes the debts altogether ( Chapter 7 bankruptcy ). In a bankruptcy, assets in excess of your allowed personal exemption, or non exempt assets such as, real estate, automobiles and boats will be liquidated by the trustee. When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect. The stay prohibits your creditors from trying to collect any debt without the approval of the court.

Think long and hard before going into bankruptcy. Once you file, it will severely affect your ability to obtain credit, buy a house, buy life insurance and even get a job. There are other factors that might make one type of bankruptcy better for you than another.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – Reorganization. Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which applies to most people, involves reorganization of your debts. You’ll need to file a proposal with the bankruptcy court detailing your plan for repayment and include a detailed budget, which could be challenged by the court if the judge or a creditor feels you’ve added a lot of nonessential items. Some debts can be erased altogether, others must be partially repaid, and others must be repaid in full. If your proposal is accepted, your wages will most likely be garnished during the repayment period, which generally lasts three to six years. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can prevent the loss of your home by immediately starting to make your regular mortgage payments and any catch up payments required by your repayment plan.

Is Chapter 13 bankruptcy for you?

Due to that fact that repayment of some of your debts is the basis for chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have to have regular income in order to qualify. Aside from employment or self-employment, regular income can include social security benefits, child care or alimony, and rental income. You also have to have enough disposable income after your basic needs like housing, utilities, and food to use for debt repayment. In addition, your secured debts ( those with collateral, like a car or a house) cannot exceed $872,000 and your unsecured debts ( those with no collateral, like credit card debt, student loans, and medical bills ) cannot exceed $270,000.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – Liquidation. In Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you turn most of your personal property over to the court, which appoints a trustee to sell the property and use the proceeds to pay off all or some of your debts. As in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’re allowed to keep certain exempt property, but to keep secured property such as your house, car, or furniture you’re buying on credit, you have to sign a Reaffirmation Statement stating that you agree to be responsible for those debts. Once you’ve signed the Reaffirmation Statement, these debts can’t be discharged for at least six years. In other words, you can’t change your mind two – three years down the road and decide you don’t want those assets and don’t want to be responsible for paying for them.

Is Chapter 7 bankruptcy for you?

Chapter 7 is typically the bankruptcy type of choice for people who have large credit card or other unsecured debt and few assets. If there’s a risk that you might lose your home or car under Chapter 7, your lawyer may recommend that you file Chapter 13 instead. If you have more equity in your car or home than the exempt amount allowed by your state, the chance of being forced to relinquish these assets to be sold to pay your creditors is pretty high.

Filing for bankruptcy is not going to help you in the long run if you got there by irresponsible spending habits that you haven’t changed. However, if job loss, high medical bills, disability, death, divorce, or other circumstances not entirely in your control have produced the financial burden, bankruptcy may be the only way you can get a fresh start. The court will help place restrictions on how you can spend money and will not allow you to buy what it considers non essentials.

On Preventing Bankruptcies

Many bankruptcies can be avoided by practicing good money management. Some simple points listed below:

  • Avoid impulse spending.
  • Don’t use a credit card unless you have the cash to pay it off.
  • Tear up credit card offers you receive in mail.
  • Create and stick to a realistic budget.
  • Don’t buy a house or a car you can’t afford.
  • Protect yourself by having medical, homeowner’s and auto insurance.
  • Don’t make speculative or high risk investments.

If you do find yourself falling behind on your bills, call your creditors immediately. Most companies will work with you if certain circumstances (job loss, divorce, illness, etc.) have made it difficult for you to meet your financial responsibilities. Suggest a temporary reduction in your payment, a waiver of late fees or penalities, skipping several payments now and increasing future payments to make up for it, or skipping several payments and adding them to the end of the loan.

Owning a home is not for everyone

The typical “American Dream” is owning your own home, however, if you’re not able to swing it financially, it could end up being your worst nightmare. Some questions, you might want to ask yourself :

  • How much are you gonna save up for a down payment and closing costs?
  • How do you know how high a mortgage you will qualify for?
  • How much can you really afford based on your lifestyle?
  • How much will you really save in taxes?

The key point here is home ownership is not for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. If your lifestyle requires you to change jobs often and move or get transferred every year or so then it makes perfect sense not to buy. Typically, it takes 4-6 years to recoup the money you pay in up-front costs and the cost and fees.

You may also be happier renting if you’re not comfortable with performing your own repairs and maintenance and you can’t afford to hire someone else to do it for you. There are plenty of people who enjoys the benefits from living in apartments, benefits such as like swimming pools, recreational features and the flexibility of being able to move without too much trouble. You want to think about whats important to you, there is nothing wrong with renting if it suits your lifestyle.

For those who do want to own a home, you want to make sure to avoid being house poor. You don’t want to put your self in a situation where you have such high house payments that your a prisoner to your own house and cant afford much of anything else. You may think at first that buying your dream house is worth the sacrifice but years of doing without the enjoyment of vacations, new furniture, new cars, eating out and just other simple life pleasures can make your dream house into your worst nightmare. Becoming house poor can also affect your relationship with your spouse or partner.

The general rule of thumb you want to stick to is to buy a house that costs less than two and a half times your income. For example, if you and your spouse make $100,000 together, then you want to try to keep your home price under $250,000.

Overcome your worst fear: Learn How to Save

Raise your hand if you think saving is a good idea? Now out of everyone who raised their hand, keep your hand up if you actually save. Here is where almost everyones hands go down.

When you ask anyone to save a certain amount of their pay check, they will most likely agree that it is a great idea but they claim they can’t because they’re already pushing their limit within their budget. To save money from your current income will mean reducing your standard of living and that may be moving into a smaller place, not driving a fancy car, eating cheaper foods, or not able to enjoy your daily morning Starbucks. But because peoples lifestyles are all built on habits, even if they can agree that saving may be a great idea, the actual thought of reducing ones lifestyle is so unacceptable that they are not able to discipline themselves to take the first step.

Believe it or not, saving has always been a part of your life. When we were all growing up, we were given allowances and also were encouraged to save our money. Back then, we looked upon money as a tool to buy happiness whether it be in forms of toys, candy, ice cream, or cookies. Therefore as a result, we also naturally begin to look upon saving a way of punishment, which means depriving ourselves from the toys, candy, etc. At an early age, people begin to associate savings with pain, sacrifice, loss of pleasure, satisfaction and happiness. Now as adults, this habit is manifested in our desire to want to spend money as soon as we receive our checks.

Well instead of telling you how you can overcome this habit or cutting back on your current lifestyle, heres a different route. From this day forward, you need to save 75% of every increase in pay you receive from work.

How does this work?

This is something that you can do because it does not require you to lower your current standard of living, in other words, you don’t yet have the money built into your daily lifestyle. It is easier for people to commit to saving money that they don’t have than for people to agree on saving by cutting down on their current lifestyle. In order to become wealthy, you need to develop these habits.

So starting today, commit to save at least 75% of future raises in income. The earlier you start, and the rate at which your income grows, saving 75% of your future increases in years to come will allow you to acquire an enormous amount of money. Developing this habit will eventually make you financially independent.

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Car Gas Experiment: Regular or Premium?

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We all know that gas is expensive and we also know most of the basic tips/tricks thats out there to save money on gas. Things like:

  • Taking off slowly from stops
  • Keeping your tires inflated at its recommend pressure
  • Changing your air filters from time to time
  • and driving at a consistent speed

are all good tips but it wasn’t enough for me. I still wanted to know more. A while back a good friend of mine told me that premium gas gets you better gas millage. He said that although it costs a little more, in the end he gets 80-90 miles more than using premium and it out weights the cost. So just out of curiosity, I did the math just to see what he was talking about.

If premium is running at $2.99 and his tank fills up at 12 gallons, then it would cost him $35.88 to fill his tank. If regular is going at $2.69 per gallon, a full tank would cost him $32.28. So it only costs him $3.60 to go from regular to premium and getting an additional 80-90 miles. I was thinking, wow thats awesome. I need to start buying premium! At this point I was really excited.

So I decided to give it a try. My car usually gets somewhere around 350-375 miles per tank(I drive mostly highway) using regular. After a month of using premium, which is about 4 full tanks, I was done with my experiment. I have to say I was quite disappointed, my car did not have any effect what so ever using premium. I was still getting my usual 350-375 miles each time before having to fill up.

I told my friend about my little experiment and how it had no effect on my car going from regular to premium. We were both puzzled at first but then we came to the conclusion that maybe it was because he was driving an older car. He drives the same make and model as me but 11 years older(1992 Honda Civic).

Although my experiment didn’t necessary help me any, I thought I share it with my readers. If you drive an older vehicle and want to do a little experiment go for it, it only costs you about 4 bucks to see if you can possibly get an extra 80-90 miles in your car. I think its definitely worth trying. Even if you drive a newer vehicle, still doesn’t hurt to give it a try. Go ahead and try it the next time you go to the gas station and let me know how it goes. You can email me your results at moneywalks(at)gmail(dot)com, I’d love to hear your story. Also make sure before you try this that your car can take premium, I’ve ran into some cars that can only take regular.

Happy driving :)

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Tips on Ways to Maximize Tax Deductions for Travel

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Remember that you cannot deduct expenses that are for personal purposes, but you can deduct travel expenses that are the ordinary and necessary expenses of traveling away from home for your business or job.You may also deduct travel expenses, including meals and lodging, you had in looking for a new job in your present trade or business. You may not deduct these expenses if you had them while looking for work in a new trade or business or while looking for work for the first time. If you are unemployed and there is a substantial break between the time of your past work and your looking for new work, you may not deduct these expenses, even if the new work is in the same trade or business as your previous work.

With that being said, here are some tips to maximize tax deductions for travel:

  • Do not prorate travel costs of getting to and from your business destination.
  • Allocate travel expenses between business and non-business. Prorate your business and non-business expenses to identify the business expenses that are tax-deductible.
  • Deduct costs associated with travel outside the United States. If you did not want to spend your entire time on business, you can still deduct the entire cost of your travel outside the United States.
  • Deduct travel expenses for another individual. Yes, you can deduct the travel expenses for another individual who travels with you as long as its a business trip and he/she is an employee of your business.
  • Deduct the cost of travel associated with your attending a business convention. You can deduct your travel expenses when you attend a convention as long as you can show that your attendance benefits your business.
  • Deduct up to $2,000 each year for attending cruise ship conventions that are directly related to your business. As long as you meet the following conditions: The ship must be registered in the US, All ports must be in the US, You must submit two supporting statements with your tax return, and you must spend at least 51 percent of your time attending the seminar.
  • Qualify a day as a business day. You can do this if your primary activity was business. A good rule of thumb is that your business activity be at least four hours in length during normal working hours.

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Tips for Proper Receipt Handling

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I have a friend who has been keeping his receipts for as long as I can remember. I guess you can say that he’s a receipt freak. He keeps them to enter into his money tracking system to keep track of his budget.

This is all very understandable and some what commendable for being so organized but I asked him, “why not just use your debt card like I do and keep track of your spending that way”. He replied ” because I like paper and I like to organize them!”

Apparently, he keep them filed away in a very organized folder on a monthly basis. I was amazed.

What did I learn? I guess there are people who just likes to keep their receipts and hold on to them.

So for all you receipt lovers out there, here are some tips I want to share with you on proper receipts handling skills:

  1. Establish a simple routine for dealing with your receipts as soon as it comes into your hands and stay consistent. You can for example leave a space in your wallet or purse just for receipts and every time you purchase something. When you get back home, immediately put the receipts into an organized folder. This way, you don’t have to think about where you put your receipt and don’t have to waste time looking for them.
  2. As soon as you receive your receipt, look for missing or faded information and fill in that spot immediately. There’s nothing more frustrating then trying to read the receipts’ date or price long after the fact when you’ve finally gotten around to putting into your data entry.
  3. For those of you who likes to fold your receipts, fold it so that the printed side is uppermost. This way, it will be easier to find the receipt if you ever have to look for it. When you fold a receipt so that the printed side is hidden, all receipts look alike and you’ll have to unfold them all to find what you’re looking for.
  4. Don’t let the data entry pile up. It’s a good habit to schedule a time every week to do the necessary data entry and make sure to stick to that schedule. If you don’t, you’ll find your self just putting it off and your piles of receipts will become even more ugly.

I hope these tips can help you out some way or another. Keeping track of your receipts is really nice and handy, but the trick is to being able to keep them organized. Good luck, I think I’ll stay with the online statements :)

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Credit Card Completely Paid off!

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Yes, I’m really excited to announce that I have completely paid off my credit card as of this past weekend. I have wrote many posts about my credit card situation and it has been an ultimate goal for a while now. I am finally glad to announce that my long journey has finally reached an end.

For those who do not know, I originally had a credit card debt of about $9,000.00 as of last year May. Over this past year I have been trying really hard to fight temptation to not buy anything that I don’t need and only worrying about paying off this debt.

So now that it’s finally paid off, what’s my next goal? What am I now going to do since my debt has finally been paid off? It’s simple. Save, save and save. Invest, invest, and invest. That is going to be my next goal. Over this past year, paying off my debt has definitely been a great learning experience and through the process I’ve learned to budget effectively and to live frugally.

Now my main goal is to save up for my down payment for my first home. I plan on purchasing my first home in about 3-4 years from now, so I have plenty of time to start saving. I live in Maryland and houses here are quite expensive. If I want to save for a 20% down payment, I’m going to need about $70,000. That’s going to be my next 4 year goal.

Having this credit card debt paid off has relieved a lot of stress off my back and now I’m ready to continue my financial journey.

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