Why We’re Spending $2,540 On Gift Cards In A Single Week

Over the past week, we have spent $2,540 on gift cards.  You might think I’m crazy.  I’m not.  Maybe we’re going nuts for Christmas this year?  Nope.  We’re actually cutting back.

So then why are we spending all this money on gift cards?  Because….we’re going back to Disney World!

What does one have to do with another?  Well, read on.  I’ll first go over the trip, then make clear why we dropped some serious bank on gift cards.

Recapturing The Magic

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Tips for Securing a Car Loan

Owning a car is something that many people dream of. However, many simply do not have the money needed to buy one. There is a way for this dream to become a reality. Getting a car loan has allowed millions of people the ability to buy a car and slowly pay for it in monthly installments. There is obviously interest that will also need to be paid.

You might be seriously thinking about buying a car at some point in the near future. If this is the case, you need to explore all of your options where car loans are concerned. You would be wise to educate yourself. This will help to ensure that you get the best car loan at the lowest possible interest rate. Here are some tips that will be very useful when it comes to buying a car with a loan.

Get a copy of your credit report.

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The One Way Our Christmas Budget Fails

We have most areas of our Christmas budget down to a science.  Saving is pretty easy.  We estimate our spending, divide by twelve, and set aside an equal amount each month.  That works out great.  Sticking to the budget works, for the most part.  But there is one area that we still can’t get right.  Tracking our spending is the one area where the Christmas budget fails.

I Can Track Just About Anything

Every year, when Christmas shopping starts, I start off filled with hope. For what, you ask?  Well, hope that I can finally get the tracking down to a science.

This should be pretty reasonable, after all, considering I have a pretty solid tracking system.  I have a spreadsheet where I track all spending.  Want to know how much we paid for electrical service in 2011? I can find that out.  Curious about what our new roof cost back in 2013?  I can track it to the penny.

But what did we spend for Christmas last year?  Well…..that all depends.

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Why Writing Checks Is Inevitable

I remember back when I first went out on my own.  You wrote a check for every bill.  Gas.  Rent.  Car payments.  Cell phone bills.  Credit card payments.  It was the only way to do business.

Now we use electronic payments for just about everything.  Our utilities are deducted each month.  The same goes with the mortgage and cell phone payments.  Just about everything is done electronically.

Even so, we still use the dreaded checkbook.  It’s inevitable!

20 Checks In 6 Months

I was surprised to see that we’ve written twenty checks over the past six months.  That’s almost a full book of checks.

I took a look and found the following breakdown:

  • Grooming Places – 4 – My son and I go to a barber, and they don’t accept credit cards.  So, we write a check.  In addition, when my wife goes to get her nails or hair done, tips can’t go on a credit card.
  • Kids Activities – 3 – Certain parts of things that our kids do seem to be easiest handled by check.  Paying for equipment or such seems to end up being done by check.
  • School – 3 – Buying a t-shirt through the PTO.  Paying for a lost library book.  Again, the school doesn’t accept credit cards so business is handled by check.
  • Passport – 3 – My wife and I both got new passports, so there were fees to the government and the clerk’s office to get things handled.
  • Painting – 2 – We recently had our house painted, and paid some up front and the rest upon completion.  Both were done via check.
  • Family – 2 – We owed money for split costs on items to family members, and it was easiest to write a check.
  • Gift – 1 – A gift for a family member’s Confirmation was done via check.
  • License Tab Renewal – 1 – There’s no charge to use a credit card at the office, but they tack on a couple of bucks if you renew via mail with a credit card. So this just saved us time and money.
  • City – 1 – We get an annual pass to our local beach, and it’s either cash or check.

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Do You Believe These Money Myths?

There are a lot of different things you’ll read when it comes to your money.  The personal finance world has lots of people with many opinions.  I’m one of them!  But with so much out there, it can often get confusing.  What do you believe?  What’s true and what’s a suggestion?  I don’t have all the answers.  But there are a few money myths that I’ve seen come up more than a few times.

#1: Always Pay The Higher Interest Loan First

The higher the interest rate means that less of your payment goes to your principal.  This is true.  So, you should always pay the highest interest loan first, right?

Not always.

I think you have some flexibility here.  If you have a loan with a low balance, maybe consider paying that off first.  It will free up some cash flow.  Plus, paying off a loan will give you a ‘win’ on your scorecard.  Those can be very important and might be worth a few bucks in higher interest in the short term.

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3 Back To School Items We Aren’t Buying

I’m sure that stores lick their chops when it’s back to school season.  After all, every parent gets the same list with the same items to buy.  It definitely has to give a boost for the summer season, which have traditionally lower sales.

But, what items are really needed?  I’ve wrote in the past about how some parents barely bother with the list.  That I don’t agree with.  Even so, are there some items that you can skip or delay and save some money?  Absolutely.

Here are three items we aren’t buying (right now).

Clothes and Shoes

I’ll start off by saying that we have bought some clothes.  But, we don’t buy an entirely new set of clothes.  If the clothes from last year fit and don’t have holes, they get worn.  So, if you figure that your child needs four pairs of jeans, buy only what you need.

Besides, we’ve found that many stores will mark down kids clothes once school starts.  So, even if your child went through a massive growth spurt and you need all new stuff, you can save some big bucks by getting by with what you have for the first couple of weeks, and then scouring the stores for deals.

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Why Are So Many Consumers Hypocrites About Fuel Economy?

I always take polls with a grain of salt.  Still, this one astounded me.   Consumerist reported that 87% of Americans surveyed think that automakers should do more to improve fuel economy.  The first thought that crossed through my mind when I read this was “Hypocrites!”

All For Increased Fuel Economy

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for better fuel economy.  I’ve been driving for about 25 years now (Yikes!) and the advancements in fuel technology have been remarkable. I know that even before that things came a long way from the fuel guzzlers of the past.

Image via Morguefile courtesy of gracey

I think many of the technologies are great.  Automakers build better engines.  They use lighter materials.  They make things run more efficiently.  Aerodynamics are improved.  It all works together so that vehicles use less fuel.

It’s pretty cool.  And I have no doubt that the innovations will continue.

So why am I shaking my head?  Read on.

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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.

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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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6 Things That Troubled Brick And Mortar Stores Need To Do

In an ever changing retail landscape, Gander Mountain is the latest victim to consolidation in the brick and mortar landscape.  They filed for bankruptcy and will be closing about 20% of their stores.  For now.  As has been the case with many other retailers, this is often the first wave of many.  Can Gander Mountain make it?  That remains to be seen.  What’s clear is that troubled brick and mortar stores need to make changes if they do want to survive.  While there are no guarantees, here are some potential changes.

Cut Locations

This is the first and most obvious solution.  Stores that aren’t making money are the first to go.  Even profitable stores might need to go if the profits are trending downward.  Stores need target more than just the obvious choices here.

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