tips

The Top 10 Ways That A Notepad Can Improve Your Finances

When making ends meet starts to become a struggle there are a large number of different things you can do to help boost your finances. For most this will mean changing bill and service providers, writing out a fresh budget, or getting a loan of some sort – but there are other more subtle means to improve your financial well-being too that that involve changing your own behavior and the way you think about your cash.

One great example is to start carrying a notepad. This is a tiny difference that will cost you very little and add barely any weight to your load – but once you start using it daily it can make a big difference in the way you handle your money and add significant value to your overall finances. Here we will look at why a notepad can be so useful and how you can use it to improve your cash flow.

Cash Book

The first and most obvious use of a notepad is to use it to keep track of all your expenditures and purchases. This way you can turn any notepad into effectively a cash book that will allow you to keep track of what your balance should be at any time. In turn this will make it easier to stick to your budget, and to keep a running total of how much money you should have (making it easier to spot discrepancies).

Of course you will ideally keep a spreadsheet or another more complete system for keeping track of your money, but carrying a laptop everywhere with you is hardly practical and remembering every little transaction can be tough too. With a notepad you can write down your purchases right there and then, and then just add them to your spreadsheet when you get home.

Wish List

Sometimes you will find yourself in something of a ‘mental battle’ with yourself when you really want to make a purchase but aren’t sure if it can be justified or not. In such a situation you can stand in a store beating yourself up, and more often than not you’ll end up making the impulsive decision to just buy the item and worry about it later. Unfortunately though, you’ll often find that when you get home, you realize you didn’t need that item and you just wasted your money.

What’s going on here is that you’ve made an emotional decision influenced by the in-store marketing, and by the desire to get that new thing. The whole way stores are laid out and their advertising is employed is designed to prime you into a mood where you want to buy things – which means the decision is often almost out of your hands. You can feel like you need to get it now because you’ll forget to come back for it otherwise and because you want desperately to use it that night.

Of course waiting for a few days and coming back later is by far the best way to avoid these very emotional financial decisions, and that means getting your urges under control. Using a notepad can help you to do this simply because it means you can write down what you want. Once you’ve done that you’ll know you aren’t going to ‘forget’ it, and you can come back to it later. This allows you to breathe easily in the store, and to make a more logical decision later on.

Math

Having a notepad and paper allows you to do math and calculate totals when you’re adding items to your shopping cart, or when you’re looking at the cumulative price of all your bills. This is very useful when making decisions about your finances, and particularly when you’re out and about and you don’t have a calculator on hand.

Notes

Of course with it being called a ‘notepad’, the main use of this little tool is to allow you to write notes. This can be any number of things from remembering to take out the trash to writing a to-do list for your day. So it follows that you can also use a notepad for notes that pertain to your finances, and whether this is remembering to pay a bill or remembering that you need to transfer some cash, it can often help you avoid getting into trouble.

This article is authored by Chris Snelling. He is the owner and editor of the popular financial blogging site www.budgetways.com. He believes that the best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place. You can visit his website to read his latest article on effective and skillful budgeting. You can also follow him on Twitter.


Buy Frozen Food in March & Other Seasonal

Buy Frozen Food in March & Other Seasonal

Seasonal shopping is just plain smart. If you can’t afford “it” this season, save for the next season. Of course necessities usually are right now issues, and buying an air conditioning/heating system or plumbing replacements rarely hit at a good time. Let’s take a look at some of the hints offered by the experts, even from my experience, and see if you agree.

January

From my own personal experience, January savings is for Christmas cards and wrap, furniture, bedding linens, some cold weather gear, flooring, and prom dresses. You can also sneak in a mother-of-the-groom dress deal in January! From the experts did you know home theaters are best buys a couple of weeks before the Super Bowl…how about that! Duh!

February

Weddings are much less expensive in the colder weather months, especially February and November. Even Valentine’s Day is not as pricey as June! And think of the colors in early November in parts of the country with palates of gold, reds, oranges, and browns blended with a few evergreens. According to experts boats and cameras are thrifty buys in February.

March

Besides March being the frozen food month, a couple other items available at lower prices are gardening tools (getting ready!) and china and flatware. You may end up with last season’s patterns for a table setting, but lately variety is the spice of an interesting meal. And apparently perfume is best in March, so if you happen to have a summer anniversary, at least that might be one less expensive item to purchase.

April

In April, you will find malls advertising running and other types of gym shoes on sale; some will even have coupons for making better brands more appealing. And would you know it, snowblowers are hot items for late March and April shopping! If you can file early and expect a tax return, April can be a great time for televisions, as well as vacuum cleaners.

May

Speaking of appliances, I found out the hard way that refrigerators actually go on sale in May. Just tell your 16 year old fridge that! One good thing to note is that mattresses and box springs are available at great deals in May, so after stocking up on linens in January you can put them on that brand new mattress in the spring. Other interesting items available in May are picnic and BBQ items, and almost any party supplies; so your June wedding doesn’t have to be quite the expense fiasco you imagined…well, maybe!

June and July

For June and July, I have a surprise, or at least I had never considered it, stock up on butter! Its freezer life is about six or seven months…just in time for holiday baking! Both interior and exterior paint happens to be a hot commodity this time of year as well. Wonder if you could paint the interior with the AC on and then keep the exterior paint  till early fall and paint it then when it’s just a bit cooler?! Also, in the early summer months berries, peaches, and many summer vegetables are at their peak so outings to pick them or, if you have a green thumb, gathering your garden wealth, and freezing them is prime.

August

Home playground equipment and lawnmowers we found were best August purchases. Now, depending on your local climate, plants and flowers are available for good deals, as are swim suits and other beach apparel. (Note to self, by now for that cruise you booked in April for September.) And in at least one state, August offers a tax-free weekend for shopping for items like school supplies, some clothing items, back packs, and other things with the hopes of providing opportunities to purchase necessities for families.

September and October

September and October are good for stocking up on some canned goods, broths, and hearty frozen pies as the cooler months approach. For the tip I am always grateful, October is car buying month. And it is common knowledge that purchasing seafood in the months from September through December means fresher finds. Of course as you begin thinking about the holidays, October is a great month to check on any specials for those must haves. Fortunately, I just ran out of pecans and almost to the end of the walnuts so will be stocking up very soon!

November and December

Rounding out the calendar year, besides the holiday goodies and pre-sales, remember to see if your favorite nursery has bulbs, trees, and various shrubs on sale. Another item our family has enjoyed is the RV purchased in late November. The deal included a much fancier one, with many more “bells and whistles” making our summer adventure a great time. Oh, remember you can keep frozen turkeys for several months, after all who doesn’t love a smoked turkey in the summer?! One tidbit I certainly did not know is that the best time to buy golf clubs is December! One Christmas gift checked off! And a couple more items include those small appliances you hate getting for anniversary gifts…maybe they would be ok for Christmas; apparently pools are a good December item as well.

Coming to a Close

As the year and these thoughts come to a close, keep in mind the above offerings are certainly not all. If you are a newcomer to your area, spend at least a full calendar year getting acquainted with sales, items in those sales, and the time of year of the sales. It really would not be wise to embark on a dispute because that certain small appliance should be on sale in December. Oh, and before I neglect to mention about the air conditioners, October is usually the month to replace one. Happy shopping!

Jennifer Hawkins is a professional chef and restaurant owner who saves a ton of money every year by shopping smart. She loves to blog and she covers everything from cutting down your grocery bill to tips on serving quick, healthy meals.

Image Credit: 1,2


Five Things to Do with Your Tax Refund – Other than Spend It

Five Things to Do with Your Tax Refund – Other than Spend It

What are you going to do with your tax refund this year? If your immediate answer was “spend it,” you might want to think again. According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2012 is $2,899. That’s certainly a significant amount of money that could buy you a lot of fun, nice things. But if you really want to make a smart decision, consider using your tax refund for one of these five purposes instead.

Pay Down Student Loans

If you still have student loans lingering from your college days, use your tax refund to take care of a significant portion of them. If your refund is big enough, you might be able to pay off your loans completely. The peace of mind that comes with reducing or eliminating your student loans is amazing. It means all the future benefits of your education are entirely yours.

Pay Down Credit Card Debt

If you have credit card debt, and lots of people do, use your tax refund to pay a portion of it. If you can pay it all off, even better. Using your refund to work on your credit card debt is one of the smartest things you can do with it. If you can reduce your credit card debt, you will significantly reduce the amount of interest you have to pay on it before it’s paid off completely and save money in the long run.
Add to Your Child’s College Fund

If you have any children, you hopefully have college funds started for them already. If you don’t, now is the time to start saving. If you do, add your tax refund to them for a big boost in savings. By the time your child is in college, the price of their education will probably be even higher than the current ridiculously high price of it. The extra savings from your refund, plus any interest it will accrue over the years, will be a big help to your child when they do enroll in college.

Add to Your Retirement Fund

If you have a retirement fund, and hopefully you do, consider putting your tax refund into it. If you don’t, you should start one now. Whether it’s an IRA or a 401(k) or otherwise, the amount of your tax refund will represent a significant contribution that could be a tax write off next year, and it will greatly increase your savings for your future. Especially in a time when Social Security is threatened, it’s very important to prepare for your own retirement as early as possible.

Donate to Charity

If you don’t have a significant, immediate need for your tax refund, or if you’re just feeling very generous, you could donate it to charity. Your donation can be a deduction next year, but more importantly, it can help out those who are in great need. There are many fabulous charities all over the world, so do some research and find one that you’re most interested in contributing to.

Andrew Clarke is a college student and avid writer who fancies himself an expert on spending money. He often writes for blogs and generates content pertaining to the benefits of writing and how it can make you money.

Photo Credit: 401K


Tips on your household finance

Tips on your household finance

Like most large companies, a house is run like a business and so should be dealt with in a similar manner. The way people deal with their personal finances can often be lacklustre, though keeping track of it is of optimum importance.Unlike many businesses, which can account for their spending down to nearly he last penny, many households don’t know how much they spend on many of the things that come in and out, with many not keeping books at all.

So, what is the best way to keep a track on the finances for a home and what way should you best go about doing it?

A small investment in a notebook or cashbook can be a good start. Being able to keep a record of your outgoings and your incoming at all times makes keeping a record of house finances a lot easier. If you don’t have the discipline to remember, bring it around with you and write down the figures after shopping. If there are more than a couple of you in the house, ensure everyone has their own separate book to put money down in and budget with.

Transfer these figures into a ledger to get a better view of the whole households spending. This gives you an overall view of the household’s incomings and the household’s outgoings over a monthly basis. Include all the other things outside of the notebook in this such as bills, mortgages and other large and regular costs this allows you to project for the future.

If you are a little bit more up with computers and know how to create spreadsheet, then it is easy to keep a track of expenses through one of these. Spread sheets are faster, offer less work to do as they do the calculations for you and are also clearer than ledgers. Use a spread sheet in the same fashion as a ledger to record household spending.

Business software can also be used for household purposes and offers an even clearer view of expenditure and incomes again. This software is fit for the task and so offers an even wider range of functions than a spreadsheet. Business budgeting software can be gotten for a low price and is ideal for complete clarity.

When you do your monthly calculations it can then be very easy to see where the household is spending unnecessarily and so you can then easily make the cuts you need from this expenditure.

Keeping a clear and concise budget also means that you can set money aside for saving as well as for other things and allows you project for the future and anything nice that you wish for you and your family to have. It is simple, takes only a little time and is a good habit to get into.

Simon Grant is a writer and blogger who contributes to Fiscal Muses and has written this on behalf of Ulster Bank, a bank where you can apply for a bank account online.


Money Management Tips

Money Management Tips

Saving money now days seems almost impossible. Not only have gas prices and home expenses risen over the past 6 months but jobs have become harder and harder to find. In order to save money in this type of economy parents need to start teaching their children money management tips from a small age. Below are a few helpful tips.

  • Track your money. You should know exactly what is coming in and going out.
  • Limit your credit cards. Credit cards should not be for everyday use but for emergency situations.
  • Keep a budget. Limit the amount of money you spend on entertainment and eating out. Give yourself a weekly allowance.
  • Always have an emergency fund. The average person should have at least 3 months salary in an emergency savings account in case of job loss, family illness, etc.
  • Don’t get behind on bills- Ask for help when you need it. There are a few financial services that offer short-term payday loans for minimal finance fees.

These tips seem very simple yet 61% of Americans say they live paycheck to paycheck an increase from 49% in 2008. Of the 61%, 21% of these Americans are in the high-income levels. Another alarming statistic states that 36% of individuals put no money towards retirement like a 401k or IRA. Social security is predicted to run out in 2037 so it is very important to start saving for retirement now. These tips are a starting point and will hopefully help with your money management.


How to Save Money During Tax Season

After the excitement and good cheer of the holidays are over, people find themselves facing another busy season – the dreaded tax season. Generally, by the end of January or the first of February, you will have received your W9s, 1099s and other income documents from your employer(s). Although your employers are in charge of sending you documentation of the income you’ve earned from them, you will still have some work to do. This is especially true if you are self-employed and/or want to save money on your taxes. If you are interested in saving money on your taxes, then you need to keep reading and following the tips listed below.

Prepare in Advance: While many look for last minute ways to save money on their taxes at the end of every year, the best way you can save money during tax season is to begin preparing for it in advance. Well in advance – like January. January is the time when you need to begin getting things in order for the next year’s tax season. For example, organizing your home office and creating folders for various types of documents such as receipts, credit card statements, utility bills and any other tax related documents will help save you time and money as next year’s tax season approaches.

Keep Track of Business Expenses: This is crucial for those people who are self-employed. So many people miss out on thousands of dollars in tax refunds because they are poor record keepers. Business expenses are any kind of expenses that are work related. For example, it may be the purchase of a new suit to meet a new client in, hotel bills, computer repairs made to your business computer, ink for your printer, pens, paper, etc. Also, don’t forget to include cell phone, electric and internet bills if you have a home office as a percentage of these are tax deductible too.

Make Contributions: Many people understand that making yearly contributions to their retirement funds (IRA or 401k) is a great way to increase their tax refund. However, these are not the only types of contributions that will save you money come tax time. You can contribute money to your children’s college funds, donate money or items to charity or give a monetary gift to a friend or family member. If you are thinking big, you could donate a car to kars4kids or if you choose to give a monetary gift then you will need to speak to your accountant first to ensure you don’t exceed the amount of your state’s non-taxable gift laws.

Don’t stop at your car, though. Larger contributions, like a boat donation, can also be made in the name of charity. Whether you have a boat that has been occupying space in your garage or you’re in a bind and need to figure out a way to lessen your tax burden, it is a good call. Additionally, you’re able to give back to a charity of your choosing whenever you donate a car or boat. So give donation a serious consideration the next time you decide to sell one of your old vehicles.

Do it Yourself: What?! File your own taxes? It’s understandable that you may be a little nervous about filing your own taxes, but it’s not hard and you will save money doing this. There are many programs available that will help you file your own taxes and these programs are reasonably priced as well. However, to save even more money, you can easily find turbotax coupons or free services online.

Tax season is stressful for everyone, especially those caught unprepared. However, with the tips above you will not only reduce your stress during this dreaded season, but you will also save money. So, get to work!


Simple and Effective Ways To Save

With the current economic situation many of us are looking for simple ways to save us money. I’ve read hundreds of articles about money saving tips, but in my experience it’s normally the simple tips that are the most effective.

It’s important that when we save money, we make our savings work for us. We all know how hard it can be to save money so don’t just your savings in your normal bank account, open up a high interest savings account and watch the interest grow and grow. The more money you add into the account, the more interest you will gain.

In the US one of the best interest savings accounts is the LSA or Lifetime Savings Account, and if your UK based like me then it’s the ISA savings account. Be sure to do your research wherever you are based to find out what’s the best option for you.

When we’re out shopping is when were most likely to spend money, and many of us get carried away. We tend not to consider the long term implications of our spending before we buy a product and we should! Here are some simple and effective ways to save money that you could think about next time you go shopping.

Use voucher codes

Before you venture out to go shopping, check some voucher codes websites online to see if there are any deals that you could take advantage of. Before you go shopping you will probably have an idea of what you want to buy so look for some product specific codes that can save you money.

Check out deal websites

There are loads of websites that specialise in providing their visitors with product specific deals. If you know what you are looking for then these sites can be a great way to save some extra money and find some bargains!

Stay away from impulse purchases

 

Impulse purchases are those purchases than you don’t intend to make when you enter a store but you see a product and you just want to buy it. These purchases can really affect your overall shopping bill, and if you add up the price of your impulse purchases over a few months, it can equate to a serious amount of money.

Take a shopping list with you

 

This is a great way to try and avoid impulse purchases, take a shopping list with you, and include of all the things that you intend to buy and stick to it. By avoiding the expensive unnecessary purchases that you don’t need you may be surprised how much money you can actually save. Give it a try and see for yourself.

Have you had a search online?

More often than not a product will be cheaper online rather than in store and price comparison shopping websites are a great way to find the cheapest price. They will compare the main retailers for a specific product for you to find the best price; they basically do all the hard work so you don’t have to.

Use Twitter as a means to save

Most of the main retailers or deal makers will have Twitter accounts, and they will regularly post their best deals for their followers to see. Follow the companies that offer the products you are interested in and see if there are any deals that interest you that will help you save money.


Save Money and Time: Why Being Single Isn’t So Bad for your Checkbook

I recently graduated college and most of my friends are already married or in the process of engagement. One particularly impatient friend has a baby on the way. And, being the selfish single lady that I am, I’ve noticed that their exclusive partnerships are causing problems for me. Most annoyingly, I’m struggling to find a roommate because all of my friends have relocated or have moved in with their significant others, which has left me alone eating Ben & Jerry’s out of the carton while watching late-night reruns of The Nanny on my parent’s couch.

Sure, I’ve dated; I’ve tried men in every variety: soccer players, car enthusiasts, photographers, frat boys, and even the editor of the university newspaper, but every man seemed to have a flaw. Men who ask for loans. Military personnel who are never in the States. Younger men with step-mothers your age. Older men with daughters your age.

No one seemed up to standard. I’ve been told I’m too picky and that I should settle, because, after all, I’m 22 and there’s still no ring in sight.

Songs, TV shows, movies, commercials, and even billboards are filled with messages that having a significant other will make you want to listen to Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” on repeat and hurry home to your rose-petaled bedroom after a long eight hours of being away from your “other half.”

Even completely non-romantic products are marketed towards filling some kind of void. I’ve even been tempted to call Just Breaks because “they really do care.” If only finding Mr. Right were as easy as installing new break-pads.

I was so stuffed full of “get married” messages that I was beginning to vomit teddy bears, flowers, and diamonds. And last week after my mom pried Ben & Jerry from my arms and sent Fran flat lining into a screen of black, I decided it was time to stop being lonely and start being alone.

Lonely is always alone, though alone is not always lonely. And if I’m learned anything from Beyoncé and Jay Z , it’s that all the single ladies have it pretty good and having 99 problems isn’t so bad, as long as a bitch ain’t one. Before they were able to become the celebrity power couple they are now, Beyoncé and Jay Z had to become celebrities in their own right. I’m no celebrity (though I’m sure I have quite the blog following), but I know that to be happy, I’ve got to embrace being single.

When I think realistically about my married friends, they’re not constantly skipping through daisy fields and coming home every night to strawberries and champagne and bubble baths. They’re complaining. Complaining about how the other doesn’t clean the place-mats, complaining about in-laws, complaining about how they don’t spend enough time with their friends. But most of all, they’re complaining about money.

In fact, financial issues are the cause of a great many divorces. Yes, I’m single and I’m not living a fairy-tale romance and I don’t have someone to curl up to at night (though I do have a poodle who is just lovely). But being single also means that I don’t have to share; not my time, not my friends, and not my money.

The liberation of being financially independent is almost as intoxicating as the martinis I’ve taken to drinking with my girlfriends on Thursday nights. Each week we meet at the bar, order our drinks, and live out our clichéd fantasy of being single and loving it. And now that we’ve realized we can keep our money, our friends, and our lives and still keep men in our beds, we’ve just got one question for you: why be with only one Mr. Right when you can be with seven Mr. Right Now’s?

This is a guest post by Jane Tiluda. Jane Tiluda is a blogger and personal finance expert from Atlanta, GA, currently happily living the single life.  Stay tuned for installments in Jane’s ongoing series about finance tips for dating and living the single life.


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