Celebrating 4th of July on a Budget

July Fourth Grill Out

The 4th of July is a great holiday to spend with your friends and family while staying home, going camping or boating on the lake. If you are looking to be frugal this year, check out these money saving tips so your wallet doesn’t fizzle out like a sparkler!

1. Enjoy the Fireworks
What is the 4th of July without fireworks? Put on your red, white and blue attire, grab a blanket and head to your city’s 4th of July celebration to enjoy a night of fireworks in the sky.

2. Host a Potluck
If you like entertaining guests, hosting a 4th of July party is a great idea (especially if you live somewhere with a great view of the local fireworks display). But providing food and drinks for several people can be expensive. Keep costs down by making this year’s party a potluck. Just make sure to assign people different categories of food to bring – you don’t want your potluck to become “that party where 20 people brought potato salad.”

3. DIY Decorations
There are so many cute decorations that are easy and inexpensive to make yourself – plus, this can be a fun activity to do with your friends. If you’re looking for some inspiration, search for “Fourth of July decorations” on Pinterest. If you are in need of some last minute items, head to your local dollar store! They will most likely sell cups, plates, silverware, decorations and more so you can outfit your party in style while on a budget.

4. Camping
The 4th of July is also a wonderful time to consider camping. Many parks offer advance reservations for camping spots. Popular parks can fill up though, so make sure to check online before you load up the car and drive.

5. Wardrobe
Instead of heading to the store to splurge on last-minute 4th of July apparel, go through your closet to see what you already own. Have a pair of old jean shorts? A red, white or blue tank or t-shirt? If you are feeling crafty, check out these super cute DIY 4th of July clothing ideas. Not only will you have a ton of fun making them, but you wallet will thank you as well!

 

What are you doing to stay frugal this 4th of July? Tell us below in a comment!

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Last Minute Father’s Day Gift Ideas on a Budget

76762632Are you prepared to celebrate Father’s Day with your dad this weekend? Some dads are super easy to shop for: new tie, baseball tickets, fishing equipment…done. And then there are those dads who require many days devoted to thinking of some clever Father’s Day gift idea. Either way, Father’s Day is just a few days away! Check out some fun and meaningful gift ideas for Father’s Day that won’t break your bank account!

1. Golf Accessories
Is your dad someone who loves to spend his free time on the course? If so, you can’t go wrong with a new set of golf balls, tees or even a new hat. What better way to make him feel hip and fresh while he is playing with his closest friends or coworkers. Compare your options when shopping though! You don’t need the expensive items the pros use! You can still purchase quality golf accessories for half the price of the top name brand items.

2. Grilling Utensils
If your dad is a backyard chef and master of the barbecue, celebrate his love of grilling with some great utensils or those must have barbecue essentials. Here is a list of some things you can buy: tongs, spatula, skewers, wire brush for cleaning, mitts, new seasonings to spice things up, basting brush, meat thermometer or even a grill light.

3. Get Crafty!
What is better than a do- it-yourself project? Create a card for your dad on his special day. Write a heart-warming message letting him know how much he means to you. If you want to add a little touch to your card, insert a gift card to his favorite restaurant or retail store. What a great way to show you care while staying on a budget!

4. Movies
If you have ever been to Wal-Mart then you know they always have those $5 dollar movie bins. You may have to do some digging but they usually have some great classics! Spoil your dad with a variety of DVDs that he loved growing up! Bringing back memories will be sure to brighten his day!

5. Clothing and Accessories 
Is it just me, or has your dad also owned the same pair of outdated jeans for 20 some-odd years? Or rocked the same pair of goofy sunglasses since the ’70s? While I love my dad more than anything, sometimes I think he needs a little help in the wardrobe department. With Father’s day being a few days away, now is the perfect time to spice up your dad’s closet. Stores like TJ Maxx or Marshall’s sell name-brand clothes, shoes, accessories and more at low, low prices. There’s nothing better than new cologne, a fresh button down shirt or a pair of new kicks to give your dad the boost he needs to step it up a notch. Whatever you might find, your dad will be thankful you are in his life to keep him hip and young, all for an affordable price! And Dad, if you’re reading this, your jean shorts have got to go!

6. Everyday Tools
As I have mentioned before, my dad likes to think of himself as Tim the Toolman Taylor. He is always trying to fix those items that break over and over again instead of just buying quality new ones! Father’s Day is a chance to give your dad the tools he’ll need to tackle his summer projects. Check his tool shed or garage to see what he’s missing. If you are unsure of what to get, purchase a set of tools or a tool box to help him get organized! You can usually find these items for $40 or less!

Whatever you decide to give your dad on Father’s Day, be sure time together is on your list. The time you spend together will be worth more to him than any monetary gift!

Do you have any Father’s Day gift ideas you would like to share? If so, please leave a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

How-to-Tuesday: Expecting the Unexpected

Unexpected medical bills, unemployment, home repairs or even car repairs – it can all happen at a blink of an eye. The question is – Are you prepared to handle these unexpected expenses if they happen to you? If not, then it’s time for you to start an emergency fund.

An emergency fund is designed to cover a financial shortfall when an unexpected expense pops up. Your emergency fund can serve as a place to get the money you need when you find yourself short. Because it must be reliable, it needs to hold guaranteed investments. In other words, savings accounts are good for emergency funds, while stocks are bad.

How do I begin?

  1. Decide how much you’d like to save
    $1,000, three to six month’s living expenses, a year’s wages – there are a lot of opinions out there about how much money you should put into an emergency fund, but the only opinion that matters is yours. Ask yourself how much you would need to have put away to feel secure, and make that the amount that you save in your emergency fund.
  2. Chart your monthly income and expenses
    Figure out how much money you have coming in and how much you have going out on average per month.  Add up all bills, loan payments, gas, groceries, etc. and subtract that from your monthly income. This will be helpful when trying to figure out how much you can put away each month without breaking the bank.
  3. Open an account
    The best place for your emergency fund is in a liquid account (accounts where your cash is easily accessible). This might be a savings account at your credit union that provides some return on your deposit in a form which you can withdraw money at any time without paying any fees. You can also put your money into a CD or a Money Market account. Just double-check to see if there are fees to take withdraw early.
  4. Figure out how much you are able to save
    If you’re like most people, building your emergency fund is going to take a lot of time. Don’t worry though, it’s okay! The important thing is that you get started today. Look through your finances, and determine how much you can afford to put towards your emergency fund each month. Even $10 a month will help, so don’t worry if that’s all you can afford to do.
  5. Set up automatic deposits
    Make saving easy by scheduling automatic deposits to your emergency fund. Then, sit back and watch as your balance grows month-after-month.
  6. Stick to your plan
    This can sometimes be the hardest part of saving for an emergency fund or any financial goal in general. Just remember, if your goals are realistic and attainable, sticking to the plan will be much easier.

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Question of the Day: What Crazy Things Have You Done to Save a Few Bucks?

It really doesn’t matter how well off you are, it’s pretty safe to say that all of us could probably be a little better about saving some of our hard-earned cash instead of spending it every chance we get. Now don’t get me wrong,  having nice things, taking vacations, and dining out a few times a week is fun, but having money set aside for emergencies is definitely something we should all work toward.

However, when it comes to just how far some people will go to save a few bucks,  let’s just say some of us are a bit more creative about it than others. While there are plenty of us who are comfortable with the recommended “10 percent of your paycheck goes into savings” rule, that simply isn’t financially realistic for everyone.

So my question to you: What are some crazy things you have done to save a few extra bucks?

Please leave your answer in a comment below!

 

Happy Friday Everyone!

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Thrifty Thursday: Coupon and Money Saving Apps

Mobile-Coupons

Why pay more than you need to when shopping for things you love? Whether you’re checking items off your grocery list, purchasing a new summer wardrobe, or eyeing the next gadget for your collection, there are a ton of apps on your smartphone to help make sure you never pay full price for anything, ever again. So what are the best coupon and savings apps? Keep reading to find out!

1. Ibotta
I recently discovered this app and it’s amazing. This free mobile coupon app turns smartphones into tools for collecting cash-back opportunities. Upload grocery or other receipts after buying select items (offers change weekly) and receive cash in return. When the total reaches a certain amount, Ibotta transfers it into a PayPal or Venmo account. If you don’t have an online payment account, Ibotta also lets you cash out in the form of an iTunes, Starbucks, Redbox, or other gift cards. If you’re willing to do the leg work to earn money on your purchases, Ibotta offers tons of rebates to get you just that.

2. Retail Me Not
Another free mobile coupon app for smartphone users, Retail Me Not lets you save when and where you want, just as its motto says. As you make your way through your favorite stores at the mall, Retail Me Not alerts you to location-based deals. Plus, you’ll have access to a variety of coupons and promo codes for almost anything, from clothing and electronics to food and entertainment.

3. SnipSnap
SnipSnap combines coupons you already have with coupons you may not have found otherwise. Browse through their large selection of coupons and save the ones you think you’ll use. You can also see a percentage rating for how successful it’s been for others. If you clip coupons from the paper, you can take photos of those and save them right to your iPhone. That way you can just show the cashier your iPhone come time for checkout.

4. My Grocery Deals
The pen and paper grocery list is so 1990’s. Get with the 21st century by registering with My Grocery Deals and create a list while simultaneously finding and comparing deals at various big-name grocery stores. This grocery website also lets you browse deals and coupons available at your store of choice and/or relevant to your ZIP code.

5. Groupon
Groupon lets you buy deals now to use later. For instance, find a coupon for half off at your favorite restaurant and purchase the deal now. Then take the Groupon with you to that location to cash it in. The nice thing about Groupon is that you can find deals for everything imaginable, from vacations to gym memberships, find it all on your smartphone today!

6. Cartwheel 
If you are an avid Target shopper like myself, then it’s about time you download the Cartwheel app. Cartwheel is a free savings program that you use at Target where you can save anywhere from 5-50% on the items you purchase.  You choose the offers you want to use and scan the barcode at checkout to save. You can download Cartwheel from the app store on your smartphone or access it from a computer.

 

Do you have any coupon or money saving apps you like to use when shopping? Let us know in a comment below!

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Memorial Day Weekend: Money Saving Tips

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is about honoring the men and women who have served for our country, but it is also the unofficial kick off to summer! No matter what your plans are, check out some helpful money-saving tips this Memorial Day Weekend!

If you’re traveling, here are some ways to save a little extra cash:  

  • Tune up your vehicle to get the best gas mileage:
    • Check your tire pressure to make sure each tire is inflated properly. You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3% by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure.
    • Use cruise control while driving! The consistent speed will save you money on gas and might save you from an expensive speeding ticket.
    • Empty your trunk of any unnecessary items and save at the tank! For each additional 100 pounds loaded into your car, you lose 1% to 2% in fuel efficiency. For every 100 lbs. you manage to shed, you’ll save the equivalent of 6 cents per gallon.
    •  Finally, turn off the air conditioner, open the windows, and enjoy a little fresh air (assuming the rain stays away)!
  • Pack a cooler full of snacks and refreshments! While traveling, you might have a tendency to eat at nice restaurants or fast food chains which can all add up quickly! By packing food ahead of time, you can save money to do other fun things on vacation!

Here are some ways to enjoy your weekend if you’re on a budget or want to keep it simple :Memorial Day Food

  • The warm weather is finally here! If the rain decides to stay away this weekend, take time to enjoy the sun, have a bonfire or a picnic with your family. Outdoor activities are generally free, so they fit in perfectly with a thrifty lifestyle.
  • Spend time on the water! Rent a boat, kayak, canoe or fishing boat. Get a group of friends to help split the cost. Bring your own beverages and snacks and enjoy the soothing waves while catching some rays!
  • Go Camping! Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of camping season! With no work or school on Monday, many of us will break for the outdoors to embrace the warm weather. Campsite spots fill up fast so call ahead to see if they have anything available.
  • A barbecue is also a great way to enjoy the outdoors while feeding your friends and family on a budget. Hamburgers and hotdogs are always a great choice and won’t break your bank account. Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring sides or drinks to a barbecue, saving you a few more dollars. Most likely, they will be glad to help out! Play some music and grab a bags set or some other fun outdoor activities you and your guests can enjoy. It’s sure to be a hit!
  • Instead of traveling, or hosting a party, enjoy your three-day weekend in the comfort of your own living room. Rent some movies and enjoy quality time with your loved ones for little or no cost.

Most importantly have fun, be safe and take a moment to remember why we celebrate this special day!

 

Have a great weekend!

Jessica

Money Monday: Living on Your Own

It’s graduation time and many of you graduates will soon be moving into your first apartment! It’s a very exciting milestone in your life, but there are a lot of things to think about financially. Are you ready to make the big move?

Living on your own creates new expenses that you may not have considered, such as rental insurance, commuting expenses and furnishing your new place. Here are a number of things to consider as you plan for your big move.

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Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Skin Care/Beauty Products

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There is nothing like having a little down time to pamper yourself a few times a year. However, going to the store and purchasing high end products to do so, can drain your bank account pretty quickly. Ditch the expensive beauty products and get in the habit of DIY (do it yourself). Not only can  you find most of these ingredients in your kitchen, but you will avoid the chemicals and artificial junk that may be doing more harm to your skin than anything else.

1. Hair Mask
There are so many hair masks you can create that will help your hair stay beautiful, but my favorite is this recipe including coconut oil and honey. These ingredients combine to make a mask that your hair won’t soon forget. The richness of the coconut oil, combined with the antibacterial nature of the honey give this a consistency that feels amazing while applying it, and leaves your hair feeling amazing. Click here to find out how to make and apply!

2. Exfoliating Oatmeal Body Scrub
This scrub is specifically designed to exfoliate the skin, and help keep it calm at the same time with oatmeal. Four simple ingredients go into this recipe, and out comes a body scrub that doesn’t include any harmful ingredients that actually work against you. Click here for the recipe!

3. Natural Lip Scrub
Make sure your lips are healthy and smooth all year long with this DIY lip scrub. Using a homemade lip scrub once a week, especially in the wintertime, is very important. Your lips have the thinnest skin on your whole body and should avoid becoming chapped or dry. Many people suffer from dry, cracked lips and there’s no reason to keep them that way!  Apply this scrub to your lips for about 20 seconds and you will see results instantly!

4. Face Masks
Why pay for a store-bought face mask when you can use basic ingredients found around the house to make your own concoction! The first thing to do when making a DIY face mask is to pick a base. These are usually simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. Check out a few recipes that work great for all skin types!

Curious as to what kind of mask will work best for your skin? Check out this BuzzFeed article for more information!

5. DIY Eye Cream
Eye cream is necessary to get rid of puffiness, wrinkles and dark circles. Don’t try to fight it!  For a natural moisturizer that targets that delicate under-eye area and boosts collagen production, you’ll only need a small container and 2-3 ingredients. You can create the eye cream without the essential rose oil, but if you want the extra perks try it out! Click here to find out more!

6. Coconut Oil for Everything!
Did you know you can swap out many of your beauty products for coconut oil? Get rid of the expensive moisturizer, hair products and switch to coconut oil. It can be used for almost anything ranging from make up remover to reducing premature signs of aging! Sounds appealing right? Click here to find out how you can use this in your morning/bedtime routine!

 

Have you made any of these DIY products? What did you think? Any recommendations?

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Money Monday: 10 Ways to Cut Your Debt Now

Are you swimming in debt and don’t know how you’re ever going to pay it off? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, the average U.S. household has more than $15,000 in credit card debt, according to a 2014 NerdWallet analysis.  It’s important to know that getting rid of debt is possible, it may just take small (but very important) steps and strategies to get there!

Advice is always a good first step. Set up a meeting with a financial planner who can help you investigate all sources of income and total up all your obligations — most will make you bring all your bills with you — and tailor a plan that matches your needs and circumstances. But in general terms, here are 10 steps you should follow:

  1. Get a grip on the amount of debt you have: You can’t overcome a debt problem without knowing how much you owe. Start pulling together every bill with a balance where you’re charged non-tax-deductible interest — credit cards and auto loans for a start — and get a total. If you’ve missed any payments on any of these balances, bring those current first. Then organize the rest of the debt with interest rates and set a payment order that attacks your highest rate balances first. Also, this is a good time to check your credit reports to make sure there are no other surprises in your credit picture. You are entitled to three free credit reports each year on AnnualCreditReport.com. Any other credit report with the word “free” in its name that asks for a credit card number will likely charge you — avoid those.
  2. Put the credit cards away: Cut up your cards if you have to, but at the very least, put them in a safe place where they’re far away from your wallet and your phone or computer (so you don’t use them for catalog or web orders). Once your debt is paid off, then you can consider which accounts you will use — sparingly — in the future.
  3. Now get a grip on spending: It’s time to make a budget. For a month, start tracking your spending — every dime. You can do this on paper or on a computer-based solution like Quicken or Mint.com. As you go through the numbers weekly, start identifying things you can live without — coffee and doughnuts, expensive lunches (carryout is a huge budget-buster) and any other frills that can be cut or eliminated. Once you start to suspect that a particular spending item isn’t absolutely essential, cut them immediately — don’t wait for the end of the month. When you get to the end of the month, build a spending plan that covers the essentials and then direct any additional savings you’ve identified toward paying off the debt.
  4. Try to refinance your home debt: If you have not recently refinanced your mortgage or home equity debt, see if there’s an opportunity to do so while rates are still low. You’ll need at least 10 percent equity in your home and a credit score exceeding 740 to qualify for the best rates, but start negotiating with your current lender first and see how well you do.
  5. Try to refinance your credit card debt: If you are facing an overwhelming amount of credit card debt, talk to each credit card company directly to see if you can lower rates or monthly payment amounts. Don’t fall for the 2:00 a.m. come-ons from debt resolution companies — they generally charge high fees and take the payment process out of your hands, which may mean late or missed payments. It’s not easy to negotiate a better deal and you may need to insist to speak with several supervisors. But if you succeed at getting a more favorable deal, it’s better if you keep the payment process in your hands so you can keep a constant eye on how your situation is improving.
  6. If you need outside help, use some smarts: The Credit Card Act that took effect in February 2010 requires credit card issuers to print a toll-free number for a nonprofit credit counseling service on every bill. It’s important to know that the credit card companies fund these nonprofits, so they’re not acting completely in your interest. Nor are they foolproof in making sure bills get paid on time — any time you let someone else handle your finances you face that risk. But if you are looking for outside assistance and negotiation with your balances, these agencies are a better option than those credit-repair agencies you’ll see advertised on TV. Yet a financial planner may be able to offer specific negotiation tips that can help you keep better control of your debt issues.
  7. Learn to use cash or debit: Try to migrate as much spending as you can to cash as long as you get receipts that help you track that spending. A more efficient solution — particularly if you download your bank transactions into a financial tracking computer program — is the debit card. Debit cards wearing a bankcard logo are typically welcome at most stores where credit cards are accepted. This way, you pay cash without carrying cash. If you don’t have such a card, you can probably get one from your bank to replace your traditional ATM card. But remember to tell them to limit your buying power on the card to only what you have in your account. And use overdraft protection to avoid fees.
  8. If you can do it safely, do it yourself: You don’t have to pay for a hand car wash or a lawn service if you can do such things yourself. For any home or auto maintenance chores you may have during the year, learn as much as you can about those tasks and how much skill, money and time it takes to do them. Previous generations made do-it-yourself a necessity. See if that option is right for you and you might save a considerable amount of money doing it. Also, for bigger jobs, pair up with friends and family and help each other save money.
  9. Plan your shopping in advance: Impulse buying had its own role in the debt crisis. It’s time to stamp it out at least until your debt issues are fully under control. Start making a centralized list of necessary shopping items — keep the list for grocery, discount store and other locations on one page so you can see everything you’re considering. Mark off what seems less than necessary. Use coupons and other discounts — the same goes for online purchases. Always do a search for coupon and discount codes to save money on shipping and overall purchase price. Oh, and when you can, buy used — recycled clothes, furniture and home goods will save you money, and if you’re making smart purchases, no one will care. Again, direct all savings toward debt.
  10. At the end of the rainbow, don’t restart the problem: Once the slate is clean, don’t start spending again. Start saving and investing.

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

 

Resources: http://www.moneysmartweek.org
http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance

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