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!

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Free Cash: Why We Use Cash Back Credit Cards

We use cash back credit cards for just about every purchase that we possibly can.  Why?  The answer is simple, because we earn free cash and it adds up to a good amount.  Below is how much cash we’ve earned in the last twelve months.

Costco Visa Card

This is our primary spending card.  It has the most rewards that we use.  We get 4% cash back on gas, 3% at restaurants, 2% at Costco, and 1% on everything else.

They issue a certificate once per year that you take into the store to cash.  This year we’ll be getting $281.88.

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Planning Our Spring Break Trip To Madeira Beach, FL

Our last big family trip was to Disney World in November 2015.  It was great and we had a great time.  As soon as we were done, we started thinking about our next trip.  We didn’t want to do anything as big as Disney, but we wanted to do another trip to Florida.  This time we were thinking Spring Break.  In order to give ourselves time to catch up financially, we targeted the spring of 2017 for our trip.

Well, spring break is almost here, and we’ve gone ahead and planned most of our trip.  Here are some of the details.

Picking Our Spring Break Destination

We knew that we wanted to do a beach trip.  Our family loves camping in the summer and most of our trips seem to be centered around the beach.  We both have had various trips in the past to Florida, so we initially looked at two locations.

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Terrible Costco Coupons Equals No Costco Trips This Month

December, it seems, is the holy grail of food months. Buying food, groceries, etc.  What better month to count on than December, right? So, if that’s the case, it’s really amazing that Costco is trying to shoot themselves in the foot with a terrible coupon insert.  The Costco Coupons book that we eagerly look forward to was a total dud..

As a result, we haven’t gone to Costco. Those two things go hand in hand, as it turns out.

Our Costco Coupons Habits

We have been Costco members since before we got married.  That means it’s been over ten years now.  Wow, does time ever fly!

During that time, Costco has always sent out a monthly coupon book.  For three weeks out of every month, members can enjoy savings on a handful of items. It’s always been a good mix of general merchandise, electronics, and food.  Until this month.  This month, Costco pretty much eliminated the food category.

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3 Ways We’re Streamlining And Saving On Christmas

The Christmas season is fully upon us.  We have finished our decorating and are getting ready for all the shopping, family gatherings, and seasonal activities.  A big part of Christmas has become gift giving.  This is true for us, especially with younger children.  Although we have our Christmas gift fully funded, we came up with some ideas to save us time and money.  Here are thee ways that we’re streamlining and saving on Christmas this year.

Saving Time And Money On A Gift Exchange

On my wife’s side, there are six adults that exchange gifts.  Traditionally, we had a budget and list for both of my in-laws, plus my sister-in-law, as well as her boyfriend.  That was four people to buy for.  This year, we all agreed to a system where we drew names and each person will buy for one other person out of the four people not in our household.  This means that between my wife and I, we’ll only have two people to shop for instead of four.  This is also less gifts to wrap.  We also put a cap on the budget, which will save us around $50 versus the budget we had previously in place to cover all four people.

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Stockpiling Works For Us (At Least For Now)

One of my long time favorite bloggers, Funny About Money, is contemplating something that you rarely hear about: Quitting Costco.  She’s finding that, for her, not going to Costco is actually saving her money.  Could bucking the stockpiling trend actually work?

I think that many people don’t even consider such a thing.  They just assume that Costco saves them money by giving them lower pricing, with the tradeoff that you have to buy in larger quantities in order to realize the lower per-unit pricing.  So, the kicker is that you have to use more in order to really realize the savings.

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4 Reasons Why I Love My Smart Meter

Do an Internet search for ‘smart meter’ and the results aren’t pretty.  Most of the top results are articles or blog posts complaining about smart meters and pretty much suggesting that everybody that has one is going to get cancer.  To that, I say, hogwash.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I love my smart meter.  Yes, I used the word ‘love’ and even if I’m the only person in the world, so be it, but I think as time goes on, more people will find that their smart meter is not something to complain about, but instead something to embrace.

Smart Meters 101

First of all, what is a smart meter?

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How I Easily Saved Money At Lowes

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year, but one of the things I don’t like are the inevitable costs that come about for the upkeep on the yard areas.  Flowers are exempt, because, well, flowers are awesome, but there’s always a few other things.  I had a list of items that I needed to get and decided it was time for a trip to Lowe’s.  I was pretty happy with how things turned out because I saved money at Lowes by doing a few simple things.

Our Lowe’s Shopping List

  • Garden Soil for the soon-to-be planted flower beds
  • Potting Soil for the flowers we put out on the deck
  • Top Soil to fill in a hole where a rotting tree stump used to be
  • Grass seed for the aforementioned spot
  • A new hose nozzle as I broke the handle on the old one last year by snagging it on a tree.  Oopsmb-2016-05-sandbox
  • New play sand for the kids sand box
  • A bag of mulch.  We mulched last year and most of it lasts every two years.  There’s one tree in the street that needs it more often because the lawn mower tends to chew up the mulch
  • Wasp and hornet spray.  We get at least one nest every year.

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Lesson Applied: Lower Prices Usually Return

Last year, my dad opened my eyes to a pretty simple theory about prices.  It’s a simple theory.  It says that if lower prices go away, they will typically return.  Remember, no price is set in stone!

That One Time Deal

I learned the lesson last year when we were computer shopping.  My wife’s laptop was no longer working well for her online business, so we decided that it was time to get a new laptop.  My dad has always been very tech savvy and on top of the latest trends, as well as what is good pricing.

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How To Calculate The Value Of An Annual Membership

Do you have an annual membership or pass to any local attractions?

Many families find annual memberships to be a great way to save money on favorite places or attractions.  They can be especially valuable for families.  We have young kids, so we have four different memberships that we take part in:

  • Detroit Zoo
  • The Henry Ford Museum
  • City Park  (for the beach)
  • Robot Garage

It’s a pretty well rounded group of attractions.  The first three are pretty self explanatory.  The last one is a local business that recently opened up that offers classes and drop-in opportunities where kids build with Lego, gears, wheels, pulleys, motors and all kinds of other nifty materials to create things that walk, roll, open, close and other cool things.

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