6 Easy Tips for Saving Money This Summer

It can be easy to overspend during the summer. From increased energy bills (you have to crank that air conditioner during those hot days) to vacation costs, spending seems to snowball during the hottest season of the year. Instead of leaving the summer with far less in your bank account, find ways to ease the strain on your wallet—while still having a great vacation season. Keep these simple strategies in mind and ensure your finances don’t get hit by the summer spending trend.

  1. Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater

Many homeowners turn up their hot water heater during the winter months to keep their showers warm. However, they forget to turn back the settings in the summer months (when all most of us want is a cold shower). The Department of Energy recommends having any tank-based hot water heater set to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Do a double check and find out where your temperature gauge is sitting to ensure you’re not wasting energy and money on heating water you’re not using.

  1. Automatic Savings

If you’re not the best at self-discipline, it’s a good idea to bolster your savings account automatically. Instead of manually setting aside a chunk of your paycheck each month, have your bank account set up to do it for you. Most banks offer automatic transfer; simply set it up and you never have to worry about it.

  1. Plan a Staycation

Summer is the season for vacations, but sometimes, planning that trip to a beachside oasis is too costly. Week-long vacations can easily cost upwards of several thousand dollars, and for tight budgets, it’s just not feasible. That doesn’t mean you can’t capture the vibes of rest and relaxation. Plan a staycation and get away from it all. Book a hotel room in your city through hoteltonight.com for an amazing discount, or go camping in your backyard to get back to nature. It’s important to set some ground rules for your staycation. If you’re at home, it’s easy to let the normal tasks and stressors affect you. Make a commitment to abstain from chores, and turn off your phones and tablets.

  1. Invest in a Home Energy Audit

If you’ve got an older home and haven’t made any energy efficient upgrades since purchasing, it’s likely that your house is wasting a great deal of energy and water—which means excess costs. Understanding how much energy you’re wasting and learning ways to cut down on this waste can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars each year. Book an appointment with an energy professional; they’ll come in and audit your home’s energy use, uncovering hidden energy leaks and providing you with invaluable advice on how to fix it. Most audits find small issues that are easy to repair on your own, while others find major problems that could become disastrous if left untreated. Making the investment in a home energy audit is more than worth the money you’ll save—especially during the summer months when your air conditioner is likely to be on full blast.

  1. Grow Your Own Produce

Summer is the time for fresh fruit and vegetables, and nothing’s more satisfying than a light, crisp salad on a hot day. Instead of throwing money away for overpriced produce at your local supermarket, plant a garden and begin growing your own produce. Start small with easy to grow herbs and vegetables and move onto more difficult plantings as you get the hang of your gardening.

  1. Pay Off Lingering Debt

We’ve just left tax season in the dust, but for those who still the IRS, the struggle continues. If you’re in tax debt, one of the most important things you can do for your family and wallet this summer is focus your spending on paying off these bills. Forgo the summer vacations and costly meals out and focus on getting your debt paid off. Using a company like Community Tax to negotiate payment plans and installment agreements with the government makes it easier to begin breaking down your debt. This effort now will pay off in the long run.

Saving money this summer isn’t as difficult as you might think. Keep these tips and strategies in mind and bolster your savings this season.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

10 Short Term Money Goals That Are Easy

We all know we can do a better job at saving money, right?  I know I do!  Sometimes figuring out where to start is a bigger obstacle than actually making the changes.  If you can relate to that, then this post is for you.  Here are ten short term money goals, things that you can do today and without much trouble, that can really help you out.

Review Your Insurance Policies

Most people could save money on insurance.  You can often adjust your deductibles to lower your payment.  I also recommend shopping your policies around.  If you have more than one type of policy, you can often get a multiple policy discount by using one carrier.  Either way, checking your insurance is something that can probably save you money.  The great thing is that you can do this with just a few phone calls or website visits.

Create A Savings Fund

If there’s something that you have always wanted but don’t have the money for, that can change!  Create a savings bucket and start putting some money aside.  Whether it’s a bigger TV, a new car, or a family vacation, you can start saving for it today.

Calculate Your Debt To The Penny

Most people know the benefit of getting out of debt, or even reducing it.  This is all fine and good, but I wonder how many people know exactly how much debt they have.  Now is the time to figure it out.   Look at everything you owe and add it together.  It might sound like a frightening idea, but knowledge is power.  Once you know your debt amount, it won’t be holding itself over your head.  Now you can start thinking about ways to pay it down!

Create A Christmas Fund

This sounds an awful lot like the savings fund idea, but it’s really a specific one.  If just thinking about paying bills in January stresses you out, then this one is for you.  Stick a little bit aside every month and you can have a good chunk (or all) of the money ready when the bills come due.  I’ve used this strategy for years and it makes the holidays much less stressful.

Look At Your Cell Phone Bill

If you have a cell phone, and who doesn’t, then take a look at the bill.  You might be able to save some money.  These days the plans and offerings change so fast, that you might be able to make some changes and save some money.

Bump Your Retirement By 1%

Most people won’t notice if their paycheck declines by 1% but it can make a serious difference in your savings.  Go in and add 1% to your deductions today.  Bonus tip: Every time you get a raise, bump it by another 1% each time.

Sell Some Junk

It might be junk to you but you might have stuff sitting around that someone else will pay for.  You get money and space.  It really can’t get much better than that!

Track Your Net Worth

This is another one that goes into the ‘knowledge is power’.  Track your net worth, which is simply to add together all of your assets, then subtract out your debt.  Once you’ve figured it out, then re-calculate it every month.  This will start letting you see how your financial story is changing over time.  The thing is you have to start doing it, so do so today.

Check Your Credit Reports

You get a free check of each of your three credit reports every year.  I go in roughly every four months and run a check of my credit report. This is easy.  It only takes a few minutes.  You want to make sure that everything is accurate, and you can use this to identify things that you could do, like close a dormant credit card account.

Think Of Something That You Can Live Without

Indulgences are fine, but chances are there is at least one that you can get rid of and find that you’re perfectly OK with.  If you have premium channels on your cable package, could you drop this? Could you make your own coffee instead of stopping at the coffee shop?  Do you really need that pair of fancy shoes?  When you spend less money, it adds up to money in your pocket.

Readers, what are some easy ideas that you have to meet short term money goals?  Let me know your ideas and what’s worked for you in the comments.  Thanks so much for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

It’s OK If Your Savings Account Doesn’t Make You Money

One of the basic pieces of advice is to make sure that your money is working for you.  And of course you want that work to yield maximum returns.  Finding good investments at low cost is a perfect example of a way to make this happen.  While you definitely want to make your money work for you, don’t get carried away.  See, some people fall into the belief that every single dollar has to make money.  While this would be nice in a perfect world, it isn’t always possible.  This is no more true than with a savings account.

The Savings Account: Then And Now

Until the recession that started around 10 years ago, a savings account was a great way to earn a little money.  You could stash money away, risk free, and still earn some interest.  It wasn’t a whole lot, but it was generally enough to keep up with inflation.

Then, the recession hit.  In order to spark the economy, interest rates fell to all time lows.  This was great for borrowers, but for savers it meant that interest rates on savings accounts fell to zero, or pretty darn near that level.  While interest rates have creeped up a tad, they still remain at practically historic lows.  Again, it’s great if your borrowing, but not so much for savers.

Should You Ditch The Savings Account?

With savings accounts paying nothing or close to it, the money you keep there isn’t earning you anything.  In fact, when you factor in inflation, a savings account could actually be costing you money.

So the logical question becomes whether it is time to get rid of the savings account.

To that, I say, take a deep breath, relax, and hold on to your savings account.

In short, no.  Don’t get rid of the savings account.

Why A Savings Account Matters

The fact is that a savings account still holds value in the personal finance world, and should be part of almost every household.  The value, however, isn’t in the interest it pays.  Savings accounts provide value in the easy access to money and the security in knowing that you have money available quickly.

Think of some of these possible scenarios:

  • What if your credit cards get stolen and you need to pay for stuff before new ones come up?
  • What if you have a natural disaster strike and cash becomes the only way to get goods?
  • How about if an unexpected bill comes your way?

In many cases, the window for getting access to money held in different types of accounts is shortening.  Without a savings account, you could theoretically sell an investment in a brokerage account, and transfer the money over within a day or two.

That’s all and good, but that’s still an entire day or two that you have to wait.  Is that a matter of life and death?  I certainly hope not!

Keep A Nominal Amount In Savings

The smartest strategy is to keep a small amount in your savings account.  If you have $100,000 in savings, chances are you won’t need access to that amount, and the potential lost earnings is meaningful.

But $2,000.  That’s certainly manageable.   And if that costs you, say, 2% a year, that amounts to $40.  I think that little bit of lost income is worth the peace of mind of knowing that you have quick access and are covered for anything that comes about that might require up to $2,000.

Don’t you?

Readers, what do you think?  Do you think savings accounts are obsolete?  Do they still hold value?  What is your strategy with a savings account?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Best Digital Tools for Saving Money

In our increasingly digital world, there’s an app, website or browser extension for just about everything, including money management and shopping. It’s easy to do all your banking online, transfer money to and from accounts, and review and make adjustments to your investments. As for couponing, cash-back programs and digital promo codes make savings instant and accessible without clipping or storing.

Since most of us never leave the house without our smartphones and spend much of our time in front of a computer, using these tools is all the more effortless. Read on for the best digital tools to streamline your finances and savings potential!

Money Management Apps

 

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Mint. This all-in-one money manager helps you budget and track expenses. View your accounts, credit card statements and recent transactions, and keep track of your upcoming bills on one easy-to-use interface. Mint also allows you to view your credit score, and facilitates management for your investment accounts. Mint is available on desktop and mobile devices, so you can stay on top of finances no matter where you are. It’s free to create an account, and your security is always guaranteed.

Level Money. One of the hardest challenges of budgeting is knowing how much you can properly put aside each month for fun spending. Level Money helps by creating a budget for you to determine how much per month you can use for splurging after taking care of rent and bills. Their app tracks your spending and keeps your balances and totals easily viewable so you don’t lose track. Set savings goals, view all your bank and credit card accounts and even get bill predictions for the next month.

Wally. Say goodbye to overstuffed wallets full of disorganized receipts. Wally’s personal finance app not only keeps track of every purchase you make, but allows you to scan and store receipts. With a colorful and orderly interface, this app makes it easy to track how much you have and how much you’ve spent. You can also categorize expenses with customizable fields, which helps organize your budget better.

Digit. Stashing away money for savings every day isn’t an easy task. The days of collecting spare change into jars are dwindling, but as per the new norm, there’s now an app for that. Digit works with your bank account to analyze your daily spending and calculate an amount that can be put into savings every few days. With no account minimum required, unlimited transfers and a no-overdraft guarantee, this app is a smart choice for a risk-free way to start saving.

Shopping Tools

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Coupon Sherpa. The purpose of the coupon is to save you money, but you don’t have to dedicate hours to clipping, stashing and saving them. Getting in the habit of checking for coupons for specific stores you plan on visiting is easy with savings sites like https://www.couponsherpa.com/. This site and app has a huge selection of online coupon codes, in-store offers and even grocery coupons. Their search interface makes it easy to look for specific stores, even if you’re already in the checkout lane.

Honey. This browser extension does the couponing for you. Whenever you shop online, Honey scours the internet for coupon codes or discounts that are applicable to your order and automatically applies them. Honey works with popular online merchants like Amazon, Expedia and Groupon, but also for restaurants and clothing retailers. Plus, you can also earn cash back for shopping with this extension. You can install Honey for free on all major browsers through https://www.joinhoney.com, including Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Group Buying Sites. One of the best ways to save while still enjoying local activities and dining out is to check out group buying sites like Groupon or LivingSocial. These sites feature new deals every day for restaurants, activities or products near you. Often the savings are up to 70% off, with coupon codes making the savings even more considerable. Most group deal sites are available as mobile apps, too.

Rewards and Cash Back Earners

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Ebates. Ebates is a popular cash-back shopping portal that helps you earn extra income every time you shop online. What shoppers may not know is they also have a browser extension that, like Honey, scans sites where you shop online for cashback offers and automatically applies promo codes to your purchases. You must be a member to earn rewards through Ebates, but it’s free to join and use.

Paribus. How many times have you made a purchase one day, only to discover the price on the item drops a few days later? When you use Paribus, you receive a price adjustment without any extra work! Paribus tracks your online shopping receipts and seeks price adjustment refunds when an original price drops. The service takes 25 percent of what you receive if they successfully find you a refund (and nothing if they don’t). If you don’t track prices after you make purchases, Paribus is a no-brainer way to get a little money back with zero effort.

Shopkick. The Shopkick app lets you earn rewards points, or Kicks, when you shop at participating locations. You earn Kicks just for walking into a store, and then on every item you purchase. The Kicks can later be redeemed for gift cards to a variety of popular stores or even restaurants like Starbucks. It’s comparable to a credit card rewards program (without pesky balances and APRs), and the app is completely free.

Ibotta. This handy rebate app allows you to scan barcodes, upload receipts and earn cash back for shopping at popular grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and even specialty stores. Your earnings go into an Ibotta account which can then be transferred to Paypal or converted into gift cards. The app also allows you to earn bonuses and works with many popular rewards programs to ensure maximum savings and cash back.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.