You’re Guide to Discarding Important Documents

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Most people have moments when they come across a paycheck stub, bank statement, etc., and think to themselves, “Do I really need to keep this?” The answers vary based on the type of document. However, many people don’t know exactly when to throw them away (or shred). To help ease the confusion, I’ve got your answers below on discarding important documents 101.

  • Receipts should be kept for three years for any items that you need to itemize for your tax returns. Keep them with your tax documents.
  • Paycheck stubs have a lifespan of one year. Hang onto them until the end of the year to compare them with your W-2 and social security statements. Then, you can get rid of them.
  • Medical bills vary depending on your insurance. Receipts for expenses can be kept for one year unless your insurance company needs proof or verification of visits and claims. Your insurance may request bills for hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, etc., to be shown at certain times. Think about the type of care you received or the type of expense to determine whether or not you should keep them.Avoid discarding these expenses for up to three years. If medical expenses total more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct them on your taxes. Keep these for three years with your tax records.
  • Bank and credit card statements need to be filed away for up to three years. The reason for holding onto bank statements is in case you are audited by the IRS. However, the three-year rule is a little different for your credit cards. If you have confirmed your charges and had proof of payment, then you can shred them. If you are using your credit card statements for tax deductions, hang on to them. Getting too much paper? Switch to online documents. Just remember to write a note, so you’ll know they are online when you go to retrieve them.
  • Utility bills can be scrapped after one year. The exception is if you are claiming a home office tax deduction. Then, our good three-year rule comes into play.
  • If you have records of loans that have been paid off, don’t get rid of them until it has been seven years. If you are still paying off a loan, store all records and statements together until you have paid it off and it has been seven years.
  • Tax returns also go by the three-year recommendation. The returns can be trashed after three years from the date you filed the original return. Hold onto the returns for seven years if you file a claim.
  • Investment and real estate records need to be handy for at least three years for audit reasons. In addition, you will be able to see how much taxes you owe when you sell the stocks or property.Monthly statements can be tossed when you have received your annual summaries.
  • Any contracts, insurance documents, stock certificates, or property records that are active need to be held in a safe place. Only discard once the contracts are completed, and policies expired.
  • There is never a lifespan on documents, such as marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, wills, adoption papers, and paid mortgages. These documents should always be kept and passed down between the generations.

The rule of thumb is to keep most important documents for at least three years. There are exceptions to the rule. But if you are in doubt about something, it is always good to hang onto it no matter how long. It is better to be safe than sorry.

xoxo,

Megan

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When is the Best Time to Buy…?

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Once again the holidays have come and gone and it’s almost a brand new year. Spending money on new purchases is probably the last thing on your mind. However, never fear, because you can plan your wish list around the months of the year. After all, a great bargain never goes out of style. Each month is known for its special deals on different items. According to experts, these deals are based on sale cycles, but some exceptions include fluctuations in prices and a retailer’s inventory. In addition, some products have seasonal specials, as well as being on sale at different times of the year.

January:

  • Holiday Decorations
  • Calendars and Planners
  • Toys
  • Exercise Equipment
  • Televisions
  • Bicycles
  • Houses
  • Small Appliances
  • Air-conditioning

February: President’s Day is a great time for retailers to have sales.

  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Cameras
  • Televisions (especially big-screens)

March:

  • Winter Clothing
  • Luggage
  • Camping Equipment
  • Toys
  • Outdoor Furniture

April:

  • Snow Blowers and Shovels
  • Computers
  • Electronics
  • Car Care Supplies
  • Home Improvement Supplies
  • Vacuums
  • Cookware
  • Auto Parts

May:

  • Easter Decorations
  • Grilling Tools
  • Mattresses
  • Pet Supplies
  • Refrigerators
  • Cookware
  • Vacuums
  • Gym Memberships
  • Party Supplies

June:

  • Gym Memberships
  • Tools
  • Dishes

July:

  • Jeans
  • Winter Coats
  • Furniture
  • Party Supplies
  • Grilling Tools

August:

  • School and Office Supplies
  • College Textbooks
  • Kitchen Accessories
  • Pool Supplies
  • Pillows
  • Linens
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Outdoor Toys
  • Outdoor Furniture

September:

  • Computers
  • Swimsuits
  • Pool Toys
  • Summer Clothing and Shoes
  • Large Appliances
  • Cars
  • Trees, Shrubs and Bulbs
  • iPhones
  • Lawn Mowers

October:

  • Air-conditioning
  • Lawn Mowers
  • Patio Furniture
  • Large Appliances
  • Tires
  • Jeans
  • Grills

November: Don’t forget about Black Friday!

  • Flooring and Carpeting
  • Grills
  • Halloween Decorations
  • Cookware
  • Electronics
  • Tools

December:

  • Cars
  • Golf Clubs
  • Gift Cards
  • Computers
  • Cell Phones
  • Flooring and Carpeting
  • Electronics
  • Winter Clothes

Before any shopping trip, it helps to do your research, especially when it comes to making larger purchases, such as digital cameras or cars. Websites, including consumerreports.org and amazon.com are great places to start. On these sites, you can read customer reviews and learn more about the product. There is nothing wrong with shopping around, whether at stores or online. Shopping around allows you to see where you can get the same product for the best price.

Along with doing your research, it’s important to plan things out. Buy a calendar or make a list of when to buy different things. This is helpful particularly for larger shopping trips. A calendar and list are great for keeping coupons in order, too. Coupons are available in the Sunday newspaper, online and through phone apps. Another option is looking at coupons.com for deals. If you are shopping online, search for the store’s name and coupon codes before making a purchase. If you are a frequent shopper at a certain shop, ask about their loyalty rewards program. Most likely they will have one and it will be beneficial to join. Many of these programs give their members special deals and coupons to use. In addition, some programs give a percent back or discount on your purchases.

Try to schedule your shopping trips around holiday and seasonal specials. Holidays, such as Presidents’ Day, Black Friday, and Memorial Day, are known for their big sales and special deals. When it comes to sales, no matter if it is a special time of the year or not, it’s helpful to read the sales advertisements and flyers carefully. The small print could contain information that would limit or prevent a deal. Lastly, the days of the week also play a factor in when products are discounted.

Sunday:

  • Groceries
  • Major Appliances

Monday:

  • Cars
  • Electronics

Tuesday:

  • Movies
  • Airline Tickets

Wednesday:

  • Groceries
  • Jewelry

Thursday:

  • Clothes
  • Handbags

Friday:

  • Gas
  • Accessories

Saturday:

  • Department Store Items
  • Jackets, Coats and Outerwear

Shopping can be fun and hectic, especially when it comes to larger shopping trips or purchasing bigger products. It is important to remember and use some of the tried and true shopping tips. These tips can help take some of the stress out of the adventure. After all, shopping is supposed to be retail therapy, right?

xoxo,

Megan

A No-Spend Month? Budget, Please!

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It happens to most of us – overspending one month and not having enough money for the next. There are many ways to alter your budget to fix this problem. One of those solutions is having a no-spend month. That’s right, you don’t spend money on anything, but the necessities. You might be thinking, “How can I do that?” Continue reading to find out.

  • First, keep it simple. Try giving up only one luxury for the month. This tip is especially important for starting out. For example, try avoiding shopping for clothes, shoes, etc. for a whole month. This can be a drastic change, and it is best to start with what you are most comfortable with in terms of eliminating expenses. If you feel like giving up multiple expenses for the month, start with decreasing one at a time. Maybe it is the coffee you get on the way to work each morning, or maybe it is cooking dinner at home for a whole week, instead of eating out. Then, build up the amount of purchases you eliminate, until you aren’t spending money on unnecessary expenses by the end of the month. Lastly, you can also alter the time frame for how long you are doing this undertaking. Give it a go for a week. If that works, add on another week and so on. The main idea about the no-spend month is to truly keep it simple. Do what works for you and the plan won’t fail.
  • One option to help motivate you to stick with the no-spend month is to set a goal or give yourself a reason to save up for something. You might be wanting to add an X amount of money to your savings account for the future, or you might want to contribute a certain amount to your favorite cause or organization. This challenge can get tough. It is helpful to have a big picture in mind as to why you are doing this task.
  • Can it be a complete no-spend month? Yes and no. You need to still pay the bills and will have to do some planning ahead of time for the other expenses, such as groceries, gas, toiletries, etc. Think about this goal in terms of not spending money on things that can be considered “luxury” items. Do you really need a new pair of shoes this month? Do you need to see the latest movie in the theaters or can you wait until it is available to rent? There is no exact way to have a complete no-spend month because things happen and expenses come up. Just don’t go overboard on buying items that aren’t needed at that time or could wait another month or so for purchasing. For the needed expenses, try finding deals before spending the money.
  • Use what you have at home before going shopping. This is huge for groceries and toiletries. Remember that pantry full of products or extra shampoo you bought some time ago? Use those items first before purchasing more. Get creative and cook some fun meals for you and your family. You never know what will taste good together until you try it. As for the unused toiletries just sitting there? Think about the money you spent on purchasing those items. Not using the product is really wasted money. Another option is utilizing the items to make other items. For example, low on household cleaning products? Make a homemade version. Most DIY cleaners take ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and dish soap. Recipes can be found through a quick online search.
  • Stay at home, instead of going out. Date nights and family nights don’t need to be nights on the town. Try spending a day or night at home, watching your favorite movie, reading a classic book, cooking a meal together, playing a game outside, or doing absolutely nothing, but relaxing. There is no shame in spending a day or night at home. Plus, it puts more money in your pocket. If you feel the need to get out of the house, spend your time doing free things in your community, such as taking a walk in a park or volunteering.

A no-spend month can be tough. Create a plan and stick with it. Know exactly where you need to spend money and where you can save. At the end of the month, you might be surprised by how much money you saved.

xoxo,

Megan

How the Cash Envelope Method Can Help Your Budget

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Every so often, I add a new trick to my budgeting system. Sometimes this new addition helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Recently, I tried the cash envelope method, also known as the envelope budgeting system, and this was definitely a positive move. The idea is that you pay everything in cash and don’t use a credit or debit card. Instead, you withdraw a certain amount of cash from your bank account and divide it into the payments needed for different expenses. Then, place each amount of cash into an envelope, label it with the name of the expense, and don’t touch it until paid. Sounds simple, right? Well, after using this system for about a month, I discovered there were some advantages and disadvantages. Continue reading to see what worked for me (and what didn’t).

  • It works, but you need lots and lots of discipline. With the cash envelope method, preparation and organization are key. At the beginning of each month, as you are preparing your budget, think about what expenses are automatic withdrawals or can be paid with cash or check. Then, schedule in the bills that will be automatically taken out of your account. After calculating your new bank account total, determine how much money will be needed for the rest of the month’s expenses. For me, all of my bills are automatic withdrawals, so I used this method for my extra expenses, such as groceries, toiletries, etc. Lastly, be prepared to make multiple trips to the bank or ATM. For me, I withdraw money in larger amounts and then set aside individual amounts for the different expenses. To calculate that bigger amount, I added in how much I would spend on the individual expenses. Getting started can be confusing at first, but it is worth it.
  • One downfall for me was not recounting my extra cash often. Early on, I allotted different amounts for upcoming expenses. However, if I didn’t spend all of that certain amount, I had change left over (mostly one dollar bills). But, I discovered I was able to use this loose cash on expenses that popped up during the month (it acted as an emergency fund). Lastly, when I didn’t count my cash often, I relied on my debit card for some purchases. One of the ways to fix this mistake is by always knowing the amount of cash you have on hand.
  • It provides you with a sense of security. I went ahead and set aside money for upcoming, planned expenses towards the end of the month. When the expense was finally needed, I was at ease knowing I already had the money for it and didn’t have to worry.
  • Adjust your system to fit your needs. The cash envelope method is very flexible and can be individualized for any budget. For me, it worked best continuing the automatic withdrawals and using this system for the remainder of my monthly expenses. For you, it might work better to use the method for everything, including your bills. Find what works for you. This budgeting method should help your budget, not harm it.
  • Stick with it. This method is unique and will take time to work. Try using this system for only a few weeks and then you can lengthen the time as you become familiar and comfortable with it.

The cash envelope method is something I will continue to use in my budget system. After time, I will be perfecting what works and how I can make it better. You can do the same. Give this method a try, at least once, because you never know how much more money you’ll have left over after all expenses are paid.

xoxo,

Megan

Budget Bzzz: Sweet Summertime Savings

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As May is about to come to a close, many people start thinking about summertime. However, for some people, summertime is closely associated with the dollar sign and all the expenses the season involves. There are vacations, camps, air conditioning, and more that makes summer one of the more expensive seasons. According to the managing vice president of Capital One, Shane Holdaway, March is the most expensive month of the year. (Yes, I realize it is May and we are talking about March – but stay with me here.) In an article on Oprah.com, Holdaway states this is because March is an in-between month, between seasons, where people are getting cabin fever and thinking about their summer plans. And with the summer plans, people are spending money. So, now back to May, if you were one of these people, how do you recoup some of that money to put more back into your wallet this summer? Continue reading below to find out.

  • Assess the damage. It can be hard to admit you went on a spending spree and see how much you spent. However, it is necessary. Think about the expenses you have already made or are going to make during the summer and see where you can pare down. Maybe you purchased a suite at the beach and you really don’t need it. See if a friend or family member might be willing to pay you and use the suite for their vacation. Another option is to try to find another family that will go on a beach trip with you and would be willing to split the costs.
  • Get back on track with your budget. Unfortunately, there are just some expenses you won’t be able to recover. Factor them into your budget and rebuild from there. Sometimes it is best to start from scratch with your budgeting. First, write down all of your fixed expenses, such as car payments, utilities, insurance, etc., and then see how much of your income is left over. Stick to your new budget until you have regained what was lost.
  • Create a plan for paying off your debt and big expenses. Let’s face it – a vacation can be expensive. If you under-budgeted and over-spent, create a well-organized repayment plan. Think about the last trip, refigure your budget and see exactly how much money you have to spend. Paying off your debt or big expenses should become a fixed expense. Go on a spending diet and don’t spend money on anything unnecessary until that purchase is paid off.
  • Always, always, always track your spending. Whether you made the purchase months in advance or that day, write it down in whatever method you prefer. This will help prevent a downfall if you accidently forget an expense that was made in March, but the money wasn’t taken out until May.
  • Set a deadline to get back on track. Summer doesn’t have to be a time to lose money. It can be a time to gain it. For example, create a deadline and commit to it for reorganizing your spending and paying off summer expenses. This can be at the beginning, middle, or end of summer. Whatever works for you.
  • See what went wrong. To be honest, something went wrong somewhere in your budgeting method for some expenses to slip through. Determine how that happened. Maybe it was an impulse expense. There is nothing wrong making purchases ahead of time; just make sure you have budgeted them in and keep track of them.

Summertime can be a time to make memories with your loved ones. But, it can also be a time to save money and get back on track after the summer expenses have been made.

xoxo,

Megan

The Mystery of Sales

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S.A.L.E. I love hearing and reading the word “sale,” because I know where there’s a sale, there is money to be saved. However, when it comes to finding deals in stores, it is important to understand the fine print. Sometimes, an item on sale ends up costing you the same amount, if not more, as the regularly priced item. Back in December, I read an article from The Washington Post titled “Why the money-conscious should beware the after-Christmas sale.” Writer Michelle Singletary states, “We have been brainwashed to see a sale as a thrilling event. It’s not. We’ve been bamboozled.” Later in the article, she says that the problem with sales is that we often don’t know whether or not the sale is truly a discount. As an example, two weeks before Christmas I noticed an item was “on sale” at the grocery store. Then, the week before Christmas, the same item was “on sale” again, but with a higher price. Why? Because retailers know you are going to pay the higher sale price, without noticing last week’s price, and still believe you have saved money. The end of the article gives readers a challenge, which is the same challenge I’m going to give you: be careful when it comes to sales and, before you fork over money, know whether or not it is actually going to put more money into your wallet. How do you do that? Continue reading and I’ll tell you.

  • As with any form of budgeting, it is important to plan and scope out the deals and sales ahead of time. It is also imperative to do the math and know the product’s regular price and exactly how much you’ll be saving with the purported sale. Retailers use psychological tricks to make shoppers think the closer it is to the holidays or on major sale days, such as Black Friday, the better the deal a person is getting. However, most of the time, sale prices go up as the days approach. To avoid this trap, try using apps, such as ShopAdvisor. This program alerts customers when products they want to purchase drop in price. If you are like me, you always wonder “Will the sale go any lower?” Think about what day you are shopping. Is it near a major holiday or sale day? If so, the answer is probably no and you should buy the item now. Is it an out of season purchase, such as Christmas wrapping paper at the beginning of January? It might decrease. This is the beauty of paying attention to apps to help you shop.
  • Another psychological trick that fools people is the “left-digit effect” or the difference of one cent in price. For example, more consumers will buy something if it is priced $x.99, instead of a whole number. In a 2009 study, researchers at Colorado State University and Washington State University ask participates to analyze two identical pens. The only variation between the two was their price – one was $2.00 and the other was $3.99. The study’s results showed that 44% of the participants chose the higher-priced pen, because they only noticed the 99 cents and not an even number.
  • Watch out for bulk bargains. There are times when items are placed on sale, but with a maximum limit. Research has found that having a limit makes sales jump, even if there is no discount. A person’s mind and the store’s marketing department cons one into thinking the product is on sale. So, the next time, ask if the “2 for $4” means if you are only purchasing one is it only $2.00 or regular price.
  • Lastly, notice the placement of certain items in a store. Normally, half-priced, pick-up purchases are at the entrance, because they get customers shopping immediately after walking into the shop. These products are known as “open-the-wallet” items and are displayed in an elaborate and random design. During the holidays, retailers began this ploy as early as October and hope it keeps consumers purchasing into November and December. Continue walking into the store if you are looking for the real deals. In addition, look at the position of products. For example, many stores will put two very similar, but different in price, items side by side, in hopes people will purchase the higher priced item. Be aware of the “compromise price effect” and look at the price tags. Also, keep in mind the quality of a product. Just because it is the lowest price or on sale, is it durable? Will it last a long time? Sometimes it pays off in the end to spend a little extra on quality purchases.

Shopping for items on sale is a great way to put extra cash in your wallet. However, it is important to shop smart and know whether or not the sale is actually worth it.

xoxo,

Megan

How to Start the New Year Off Right with Budgeting

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Often, at the start of another year, people set goals and begin different routines. They break away from the ordinary and change things up. So, why not do this with your budget and finances? Last month, I discussed what you need to do at the end of the year. Now, let’s talk about budgeting for the new year.

Organize Your Budget: 

You might have done an analysis of your budgeting method in December. Now, it’s the time to put your changes and/or brand-new budget into practice. According to CNNmoney.com, one way to divide your income to make sure you cover all budgeting areas is by using the percentages below:

  • 30% – housing and debt (mortgage/rent, credit cards, loans)
  • 26% – living expenses (food, clothing, utilities, medical, transportation, and entertainment)
  • 25% – taxes (federal, state, local, and property)
  • 15% – savings and retirement
  • 4% – insurance

To stay on top of these percentages and how much of your income goes where, use a budget worksheet. Consumer.gov has an easy printable worksheet. If this method doesn’t work, don’t give up! Continue searching until you find a budget worksheet and percentages that fit you.

Savings and Emergency Funds: 

You might have seen on social media various “money saving challenges,” such as setting aside all of your $5 bills for a whole year or each month putting $25 into your emergency fund. Well, these strategies do have value (no pun intended) to them. Adding to savings can be hard at times. However, small changes can add up over time. One of my favorite money saving challenges doesn’t involve setting aside a certain chunk of income every so often. The task is to eliminate something each month:

January: Skip the restaurants and fast food.

February: Cut out soda, bottled water (use a reusable water bottle), and alcohol.

March: Say no to retail therapy; only purchase what is necessary.

April: Spend less money on entertainment.

May: Eat no junk food.

June: Leave the air conditioner off for as long as possible.

July: Cancel paid subscriptions and unused memberships (you don’t really need that gym membership).

August: Look for extra ways to make money.

September: Limit trips and traveling long distances. If you are looking for a summer getaway, now is the cheapest time to book.

October: Quit expensive habits.

November: Keep your heating costs down and only use when needed (after all, we do live in the south, where it says warm even during this time of the year).

December: Create your own Christmas gifts.

With this strategy, you won’t save the same amount each month, but you will decrease your spending. This plan can also be altered to your schedule and needs. If you need a designated lot of money for each time, start small. Put away loose change or a $5 bill once a week. Then, reflect on how well your process is going and make necessary changes. Whenever an emergency occurs or you want to purchase a big ticket item, you’ll be glad you have the extra money to make that happen. It’s like paying yourself!

Stock Up: 

You don’t need to do the extreme couponer’s version of stocking up and creating a stock pile, but it is always helpful to have items on hand. Aim for having a three-month supply of things you and your family use every day. Your “stock pile” could include:

  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Shampoo and hair care products
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Flour, sugar, and other baking essentials
  • Nuts and trail mix
  • Coffee
  • Cleaning supplies

The key to stocking up is to not pay for each item individually. Be on the lookout for coupons that are buy 1, get 1 free and when a coupon is paired with a sale. Buying in bulk from stores, such as Sam’s Club and Costco, are great ways to add to your pile. Also, think about the holidays and seasons. Never spend money on popular purchases until they are out of season. For example, your sweetie can wait until after Valentine’s Day for their candy.

Starting off right with new strategies for your budget will help you all year long. Come December 31st, you’ll be in a better position to accomplish all your financial goals and dreams.

xoxo,

Megan

Post written for Forsyth Woman Magazine 

The Cheater’s Guide to Saving Money at Various Stores

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I keep a running list of toiletries, groceries, and other items I need to replenish and go through the weekly store flyers and coupons on Sunday to see if anything from my list is on sale. If there is a special, where I will buy it can depend on what it is. Will I buy the item at a drugstore, grocery store or a superstore? It depends on wherever I can get the best buy because there are little-known secrets on ways to save based on the various types of stores.

Grocery Stores:

Grocery stores are logistically laid out in a square. Most of your essentials are located on the outer rim of the store, such as dairy and produce. However, most of the time people will walk through the middle aisles, spending money on unnecessary items. Try to skip the aisles you don’t need and stick to your list. Never buy toiletries here, instead, buy them at a drugstore. Rarely do I buy toiletries with my groceries. Yes, it is more convenient, but it can also be more expensive. When shopping for items, don’t be afraid to buy generic and store brands compared to brand names. Just be sure to check the ingredients to make sure you are getting the right item. Lastly, remember that the most expensive items are located at eye-level on the shelves. Look up top and down below for better buys.

Drugstores:

Drugstores can be a place to easily overspend. One of my favorite tips for saving is to shop when your essential items are on sale, not when you run out of them. I’m guilty of purchasing toothpaste, shampoo, etc. when I desperately need them and don’t have a coupon. If possible, wait until you have a manufacturer’s or store coupon to stock up. Always read the store flyers and cut out coupons before your shopping trip. Speaking of coupons, check to see if the drugstore has a store coupon book. These books include high-value store specials that can be used with manufacturer’s coupons, letting you double up on the savings. Also, use your points or bucks from the rewards program. Some stores have a kiosk when you walk in to scan your rewards card and print more specials. There can be time limits on when to use the points. If you don’t need anything during the time, as money allows, stock up anyway. You can give the items to someone else, donate them to a non-profit for a tax write off, or keep them for yourself. All the points and bucks are extra money, so spend all you have, and you’ll get more in return.

Superstores or Major Retailers: 

Sometimes at superstores or major retailers, we think of buying in bulk. Well, be careful. Compare the prices of a bulk item to the item individually to see which is the better price. Also, pay attention to the quantity of the item you need. At the end of the aisles, there can be a fun display promoting an item with a special. This isn’t always the best deal, but the way the display is advertised serves to trick customers into believing they are getting a great deal. Another way to save is by downloading the store’s app. Sometimes there will be specials only on the app or additional coupons for you to download. Want to know if an item is going to be on clearance? Look at the price tag. For some stores, a price ending in 7 is usually the original, a price ending in 5 is the 1st markdown, and a price ending in 1 is the final markdown. For others, prices ending in $0.06 or $0.08 mean the item will be on markdown again, and prices ending in $0.04 are at their final clearance price. Lastly, research the store’s markdown schedule, because different items are marked down on different days of the week. Speaking with store managers can help you understand the schedule.

The next time you go shopping for essentials, pay attention to where you are going and where you can get the best buy. Shopping for the right items at the right stores will help you put more money in your wallet.

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Woman Magazine 

Extreme Couponing…That’s Not So Extreme

  
Extreme Couponing—you either love or dislike those words. At one time or another, we all wish we could be like the shoppers on the television show “Extreme Couponing.” However, becoming an extreme couponer is easier than you think with the help of these useful tips.

  • Before beginning your coupon hauls, it is important to get organized. Keep everything in order with a box or binder. A photo album works well. Use different sections for different items, such as food, cleaning items, toiletries, etc. Another way to keep coupons organized is with a coupon e-mail. Create a free account, either on Gmail or Yahoo. This way stores and brands can send you coupons to print out or upload to your store loyalty card.
  • Get to know a store’s policy and manufacturer coupon policies before heading out to shop. Understanding the fine print will help you know what you can and can’t do for coupons, such as how many coupons you can use per item. Each store and manufacturer is different. Know before you go.
  • You can also join loyalty programs for stores. Sign up for e-mail offers, exclusive coupons, and special deals. It never hurts to have a store card to slip on your keychain to use. Some stores have kiosks near the front where you can scan your card for extra savings.
  • Get technologically-savvy when looking for coupons. Apps, including coupons.com, Saving Star, and Retail Me Not, are great places to look for money-saving offers. You can also download these apps onto your phone, which makes it convenient when you go shopping. Websites are another great resource to look for extra savings. Groupon.com, LivingSocial.com, TheKrazyCouponLady.com, and Coupons.com offer a variety of deals, from trips and restaurants to grocery and retail stores. Also, you can set the location settings for your city or surrounding areas. A simple Google search for coupons can help you save, as well.
  • Always carry coupons with you for unplanned shopping trips. Keep a small pocket file in your purse, bag, or car with coupons for items you use on a regular basis. That way you’ll never be without a chance to save money.
  • Some stores will allow you to use their coupon as well as a manufacturer’s coupon on an item. This is where knowing the different policies comes into play.
  • Only buy items for things you use. Otherwise you are wasting money. This can be hard to do, especially when there is an item at a great price. However, hold yourself back and know it is better to save money on things you will get a “return” on.
  • Buy items in bulk. Paper towels, toilet paper, dish or laundry soap, are items you use consistently. You will get a better return on your money, because then you won’t be dashing out to the store every time you run out of the item. You may not want to hear the word “stockpile,” but sometimes creating a stockpile on everyday items is the best way to save. However, know when to stop purchasing the items for a while. Know when you have enough shampoo, soap, etc. If you keep buying these items, and you don’t need them, you are wasting money. If you still feel the need to buy the item, donate it to a local organization or charity.
  • Some stores allow overage, which can be defined as shopping for free. This occurs when you receive cash back, have a gift card or have the remaining balance applied to your purchase because the total falls below $0. Unfortunately, most stores don’t allow overage. This can be found in their coupon policy.
  • Lastly, watch coupon expiration dates. The Sunday newspaper is a valuable place to get coupons; however, you have to be careful they don’t expire within a week or so. Also, some coupons coordinate with the different seasons. Summer items will be on sale more likely during the summer than winter, and vice versa for the other months.

xoxo,

Megan

Traveling on a Budget

I recently wrote this article for Forsyth Woman, a local magazine in Winston-Salem. And, trust me, you’ll want to continue reading if you love traveling. After all, going a trip doesn’t have to break your bank. 

Use these tips to help you take an adventure, go on vacation, or make this summer the time of your life.

xoxo,

Megan

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Traveling on a Budget 

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, many people get an itch for travel. But, did you know summer is one of the most expensive times to take a trip? When it comes to taking a vacation, there is a price, with the hotel fees, flight tickets, and expenses that seem to pop up. No matter what your budget is, there are ways to go on a new adventure and make memories.

  • Before spending any money on anything trip related, it’s a good idea to research and shop around for the best prices. Websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Trivago help compare prices for flights and hotels.
  • Booking flights can get confusing and expensive. However, here’s an insider’s tip: book flights on Tuesdays and if possible, near 3 pm. Flights will be the cheapest at the time.
  • Avoid traveling during the holidays and summer. Disney World is a magical vacation but isn’t so magical when there are sky high prices and crowds during Christmas or summer. Take a trip during the fall or a three day weekend. Better yet, go during the week. Prices are usually lower Monday through Friday. Another plus is less crowds at the hotels and attractions.
  • Discounts are available for students, military members, and senior citizens when traveling. If you aren’t in any of those groups, research discounts on the Internet, using keywords “promo,” “coupon,” or “voucher code.”
  • Another way to cut back on costs is to travel with friends. Make it a couples’ get away or a girls’ weekend.
  • Before you go, plan out the main events for each day. Decide when you are going to a certain attraction or visiting a certain area of the city so you can go ahead and purchase tickets in advance if needed.
  • Speaking of purchasing tickets in advance, always do it. Prices are lower for hotels, tourist attractions, and shows if bought ahead of your visit. For example, the Biltmore House in Asheville offers a special, lower price, if you buy tickets ten days in advance.
  • Prioritize your spending. Think about what you want to spend your money on the most and where you will splurge. Maybe use pictures as souvenirs, instead of buying things.
  • Food is another place where money can either be saved or splurged. When booking a hotel, make sure they have a free complimentary breakfast. Then, have something small for lunch or pack snacks to carry with you throughout the day. Make dinner a fanfare event by picking somewhere nice and indulging in a great meal.
  • If you are interested in an attraction or museum, research to see if they have a free admissions day(s) or if admission is lower on certain days.
  • Use public transportation. Public parking can be a pain, especially with meter and parking deck fees. Save yourself the hassle and tour the city by using buses, trains, or by walking.
  • Hotels are always more expensive in bigger, tourist cities. Try to stay outside of the area, where costs are lower. For example, if you are visiting New York City, don’t stay in the city. Look for hotels in New Jersey or surrounding locations. This also gives you a chance to travel and explore places besides the main attraction.
  • It is important to be smart with your money while traveling. To avoid losing your credit cards or overspending, carry only cash so you’ll always know exactly how much you have to spend. Be sure to separate your cash between wallets, purses, and bags to prevent losing all of it if something is stolen.
  • There is nothing wrong with having a stay-cation in your own city. Be a tourist for a day and explore new places, nearby towns, and places you didn’t even know existed right in your backyard.
  • Lastly, start a travel fund with your spare change. The change will add up and can be put towards a fun trip away from home.

Article posted on: http://www.forsythwoman.com/traveling-on-a-budget/