Home Sweet Home: Long-term mindset in home buying

home buying

Image by denisp12

Do you spend more than 25-30% of your gross pay on your mortgage? If so, then you are most likely living in more home than you can afford.

Buying more home than you can afford has been a common phenomenon in the last decade. Long gone are the days when 20% down payment was the minimum in order to purchase a home. Putting no money down and borrowing more than can be afforded, combined with a stagnant job market has plunged too many families into foreclosures and short sales.

Are you counting on two incomes in order to make your mortgage payment? Are you spending more than 35% of your gross income just to pay your monthly note? Would you be in deep trouble if you experienced a reduction in income (e.g. going from two incomes to one, having hours cut, having pay reduced, etc.)? If the answer is yes, you may be paying for more home than you can afford. Here are two rules of thumb to follow in regards to your mortgage:

–       Stay within 25-30% of your gross income

–       Are you a two-income family? Buy as if you had just one income. This way you are creating margin in case of job loss

Living beyond your means can be overcome.

It isn’t an issue of not earning enough, but an issue of reconciling your spending habits with your income. Understanding your spending and correcting waste will lead you to financial freedom!

Here are few basic checkpoints for making a major purchase while keeping a long-term mindset:

1. What will be my TOTAL cost after paying the price and interest rate combined? Don’t be fooled by JUST your monthly payment amount.

2. How will the payment impact my monthly cash flow?

3. What if I lost part or all of my income tomorrow? Can I still afford to pay for that item at a lower income rate?

4. How will this purchase impact me long-term?

Thinking long-term is a great habit to develop if you want to achieve long-term, lasting financial freedom. Get in the habit of asking yourself these few key questions before making major purchases and soon you’ll not only see a difference in your finances, but you’ll also be in the position of helping others become wiser.

 

Haunted by Christmas Debt? Follow These 4 Steps!

Holiday Debt! How to eliminate it!

Holidays, especially Christmas, often end on a sour financial note due to overspending – primarily on gifts. After the dust has settled, the Christmas tree has been disassembled and all of the Christmas decorations put away until next year, dreaded Christmas bills start to appear in our mailboxes, and there is no running away from them!

So what do you do in order to pay off your Christmas debt and put a good system in place to prevent you from going “in the hole” over Christmas gifts next year?

Set a deadline

Once you know the entire amount you need to pay off, set a deadline by which you’d like to pay all of your Christmas bills off. Having a set deadline will allow you to calculate what monthly payments you’ll need to make in order to wipe out your debt. You should target the highest interest bill first, while paying a minimum or slightly above minimum payment on the rest. Once your highest interest bill is paid off, assign that payment amount to the next highest interest bill. Keep going until all of your bills are paid in full.

Adjust your spending

One big mistake while paying off Christmas bills is making only the minimum payments. If your current lifestyle can only handle minimum payments, than you’ll have to adjust your lifestyle for a season in order to make headways on your bills.  If you don’t do that, you’ll run a risk of having unpaid Christmas debt when the next Christmas rolls around! Combine that with credit card debt you’re accumulating on an ongoing basis and pretty soon you’ll find yourself spiraling out of control, unable to meet all of your debt obligations.

So take a look at your current spending and find 2-3 areas where you could cut out $20-$30 a month.  That additional $60-$100 can help you tremendously as you tackle your debt.

Plan way ahead!

One sure way to prevent from accumulating Christmas debt is to start planning way ahead. Now that you know how much you spent this year, use that amount as a base, divide it into 10-12 months and start setting that monthly amount aside in an envelope or an account you don’t normally use. Let’s say you spend $700 this year on gifts. This means you should be setting aside $60-$70 every month in order to have enough cash set aside for the upcoming Christmas.

What you could also do is to look for deals throughout the year and use that saved cash to purchase items ahead of time. This way you can avoid the Christmas rush and use time to your advantage!

Use technology to your advantage!

It’s no secret that technology has been a great friend to all who need help organizing and tracking their finances and who are pursuing a debt-free life.

If you are still living from paycheck-to-paycheck wondering where all of your money is going every month, then it’s time for you to find a budgeting software or an app that will help you get and stay organized. Budgeting software that links with your bank and credit card accounts and tracks your every financial move will not only help you gain visibility into where your money is going every month, but it will also help you plan and adjust your spending so you can reach your financial goals.

If you’re a visual person and like to check things off a list, then using a debt roll down calculator (there are a ton of free ones out there) will help you create a debt payoff plan that you can print out, post on your fridge and check off every payment you make. You’ll enjoy seeing every payment checked off, and having this visual reminder may help you get inspired to make double or extra payments!

So don’t let the ghost of Christmas debt haunt you forever. Follow these 4 simple steps and you will not only eliminate your holiday debt faster, but you’ll be better prepared to meet next Christmas with cash in your hands!

Get the Most out of Your Gift Card!

Maximize Your Gift Cards!

Christmas came and went, as it does every year. All of the gifts have been opened, and many of us have most likely received a gift card.

The popularity of gift cards has been rising. According to CEB Tower Group we’ve seen a 47% increase in gift card sales over the last 5 years, with over $118 Billion spent on gift cards this year!

Gift cards are a great way to assure that no “ugly” Christmas sweater is waiting for us underneath the tree, and they allow us much more flexibility and options with buying what we really want.

There are, however, a few areas to watch out for in order to get the most out of our gift cards.

 Use it ALL up!

Did you know that there is a $1 Billion in unredeemed gift cards just waiting to be spent, but much of it probably won’t be? How can you make sure you get the most our of your gift card?

–       It’s very common to have an unused balance left on a gift card. Often, after making our purchase, we will forget that there is still $5 or so left to be redeemed. In order to use 100% of your card, make sure you keep the receipt showing the remaining balance, mark it with a highlighter and keep it together with your card in a visible place.

–       Check your expiration date and make sure that you use all of your balance before the card expires. Most gift cards will adhere to the 5-year expiration requirement, but some may not!

–       Some gift cards will have transaction fees or other fees associated with them. Make sure you know how the fees are being charged so you make the most of your gift.

Don’t Overspend

Gift cards can pose a temptation for us to overspend. If there is an item we really wanted but couldn’t afford, having an extra $50 to offset the cost can create an illusion that now we can purchase that item. If you have to combine your credit card with your gift card in order to make the purchase, you probably should not be buying it anyway!

So enjoy the balance of your gift card and if your budget is tight, stick to your gift card’s amount. You’ll treat yourself to something nice PLUS you won’t have a credit card bill showing up in your mailbox the next month asking you to pay up!

Combine you deals!

Getting a gift card is a deal in itself. Can you imagine combining this gift with additional sales and coupons? This is how you maximize your gift!

–       Decide what you want to get with your gift card and than search for the best deals before you head out shopping

–       Look for additional coupon codes or coupons on line

–       If it’s a seasonal item, make sure you wait for the best sale

What if you don’t like your gift card?

Yes, this actually is a dilemma for some! Store specific gift cards can sometimes “miss” the mark and you may end up with a gift card to a store you never shop at, don’t like or have no need for.

You could, with some creativity, turn this gift card into cash.

Sites like The Card Yard or Cardpool will give you cash for your gift card. It won’t be 100% cash back, but it beats not using your gift at all and you will still get 80%-90% of your card’s value. You can also use these sites to purchase gift cards at a discount!

So here is to enjoying your gift cards to the fullest without blowing your budget!

New Years Resolutions and the Quitting Epidemic

Stick to Your New Year's Resolution! By Megan Pacheco

Have you ever made a new years resolution? I’ve made quite a few…and pretty much broke them all! Quitting on new years resolutions has become and epidemic. Data shows that that only 8% of those who make new years resolutions actually keep them! Which means the majority of us don’t stand a chance.

Many of us will quit after just one month of making the resolutions, and most of us will quit after only six months.

So what are some of the most popular new years resolutions? An obvious #1 resolution is to lose weight. Becoming organized is in the second place, and following right after is the resolution to SPEND LESS and SAVE MORE!

Financial wellbeing is obviously a big item on the list, and many of us attempt year after year to get our finances in order and on the path to success. Yet, year after year, more of us end up in more debt and more frustrated about not making any real progress.

So now that we know the statistical probability of us keeping our financial new years resolutions, is there anything we can do in order to increase our chances of success? The answer is yes; there are quite a few steps we can take in order to make our financial success a reality.

Accountability Matters (more than you realize)

Motivation, or lack there of, is usually linked to us quitting prematurely. Based on research conducted by Michigan State University, we learn that accountability not only helps with keeping us motivated, but it also helps us with achieving much better overall results.

They found that the simple presence of a moderately more capable partner could increase motivation by as much as 100%! Exercising with a partner also improved workout performance and the length of a work out.

Accountability doesn’t only work with fitness. It can serve a critical role as we strive to achieve financial freedom.

So, while you are plugging along toward your financial goals and dreams, accountability can make all the difference in you actually achieving them.  Accountability may be the missing link to help you make real progress.

At different stages of your financial journey, you will need different accountability partners who can help you progress and improve on your financial goals. Here are a few suggestions on how to approach accountability and wise counsel.

Find someone who does it well!

If you’re at the beginning on your financial journey, you are most likely focusing on building a solid, workable budget, living within your income and starting your debt-repayment journey.

– In order to succeed in all of these areas, you have to break certain unhealthy money habits (overspending, lack of tracking your expenses, etc.). Do you have a friend who is very disciplined with his or her money? Are they making financial decisions you’d like to be making? Ask them to become your accountability partner! Talk to them about their secrets for resisting overspending and for sticking to the budget.

Arrange weekly chats over coffee and give your friend permission to ask you the tough questions.

– If you’d rather keep your financial issues private, there are programs like our Money4Life Coaching where you can work with a qualified coach to help you build a plan and stick to it.  Frequent one-on-one coaching sessions and check points will help you stay on track and challenge you not to quit on your progress.

In order to complement accountability, you should get in the habit of reading about finances. There are great books and financial blogs that will tell you all you need to know about ditching debt, creating a workable budget, sticking to your goals and saving for the future. Commit to become a student of financial wisdom and spend 15-30 minutes a day just soaking in the information. This will require you to stay focused and disciplined, so creating a solid daily routine or posting your goals and objectives in a visible place where you can “check them off a list” can be very helpful.

You don’t have to walk this journey alone. No matter what financial situation you find yourself in, you can overcome it. Need some encouragement? Just read a few success stories of couples and individuals who were at the point of no return but who are thriving today – all because they said yes to additional accountability.

Improving Your Transportation Finances with Vehicle Budget Tips

Save Money - Discount Sale Words on Speedometer

One of the biggest expenses that individuals face is the cost of transportation. Besides paying for a vehicle itself, there is maintenance, fuel, repairs and other costs that can add up fast. That’s why it’s important to be educated on getting the most out of your vehicle without spending a fortune. Here are some budgeting tips to cover the primary aspects of vehicle ownership.

Private Seller vs. Dealership

The advantage of buying from a private seller is a lower initial price and there aren’t typically ongoing payments. A downside is that you don’t always know the complete history of a vehicle and there is an inherent level of risk involved. When choosing a dealership, it’s common to pay higher prices, but your odds of getting a lemon are considerably lower. This is especially true when making a purchase from a reputable dealership that wants to maintain credibility within the community.

According to USA.gov, the Federal Trade Commission requires dealers to post a Buyer’s Guide in the window of each used car or truck on their lot. This will explain whether or not a vehicle comes with a warranty. If you know a reputable private dealer with legitimate references that has a history of quality, you can probably save money by purchasing a vehicle through them. Otherwise, going with a traditional dealer is a smart choice because you’re likely to spend less in the long run. If you’re buying a used car, the FTC has some helpful tips for getting a fair deal. DriveTime is a dealership that can help you find and a quality vehicle and manage your account.

What an Extended Warranty/Protection Plan Covers

It’s important to stay protected in case your vehicle experiences serious issues later on. That’s why many consumers opt for an extended warranty/protection plan to avoid getting hit with excessive repair costs. When it comes to what contracts cover, there are two primary types. There are the less complete warranties that strictly cover breakdowns, and there are the more complete warranties that also cover normal wear and tear.

In terms of what isn’t covered, the DMV states that a policy won’t usually pay for expenses associated with exhaust systems, tires, air bags, batteries, light bulbs, glass, paint, moldings, shocks, and brake rotors. Regardless of your warranty, you as the consumer are responsible for these minor replacements and repairs. Accordingly, it’s important find a suitable policy and make it work for you.

When to Find a New Vehicle

Although the cost of repairing a vehicle is often less than the cost of buying a new one, there eventually comes a point when you’re better off making a new purchase. While each situation is different and there isn’t an end all be all formula for making a choice, there are a couple of factors that can assist with your decision. One of these factors is taking into account whether the repair will cost more than half of your vehicle’s market value. If it’s less, then you should generally make the repair and keep your vehicle. If it’s more, then it’s usually smart to get a new one.

The other factor involves predicting how much longer your vehicle should last after having a repair. If it’s an isolated incident where you can expect a few more good years, then a repair is probably worthwhile. Otherwise, if it may only last a few months, then you’re likely to be better off paying for a new vehicle.

Post by Carl Bradley

4 Items to Save Big on in January!

January Savings!

December is a big month for spending money on others. The average household will spend over $700 on gifts for friends and family members.

January, however, is a great month to save big on certain items for your home and for yourself – especially if you’ve made a new year’s resolution to get fit!

It’s no secret that retailers go through cycles. Depending on the time of the year, various items will be offered at a much deeper discount than usual. So if you’re wondering what you can save BIG on in January, here is a helpful list:

Christmas décor

Are you short on Christmas décor? Instead of paying a full price this season, plan on getting stocked up on great decorations, wrapping paper, gift bags, lights, and more right after Christmas.  January is a great month to purchase these items at up to 75% off! Stores like Home Depot, Lowes and Hobby Lobby will start discounting their items right after the holidays. Make sure that you look for online coupons before you head out to shop, since those can help you get even a better bargain.

Furniture

Are you looking for new furniture? January and February are great months to find deep discounts on last year’s models. Since new models will be coming out in February, furniture stores will use January and February to advertise aggressive sales in order to sell out of their current stock.

One word of caution: Many retailers will offer electronics, such as big screen TVs, to lure you in. Those offers usually are dependent on spending a certain amount of money on a bedroom or a living room set. Remember that nothing is FREE, that you will ultimately pay for that TV, and probably more than if you bought it separately at a great discount. Purchase only items that you really need, instead of falling for the big screen TV trap. Shop around, compare prices, and depending on your credit score, you may consider taking advantage of the 0% financing offers, as long as you know you can pay the item off within that timeframe. If not, you will be charged back interest! And believe me, you won’t like it!

Winter apparel

Retailers will begin discounting winter apparel in January. So if there is a coat or a pair of boots you’ve had your eye on for a while, January is a great time to purchase those items at a bargain.

Keep in mind that the longer you wait the deeper the discounts will be, but you may also compromise the variety and availability of certain items. Sales on winter apparel are a great opportunity to stock up on birthday or even next year’s Christmas gifts!

Free shipping is not only available before Christmas. Many retailers will run online deals with FREE shipping, so check those out before you head out to the store.

*Quick Tip: Do you remember those receipts with an option to fill out a survey in order to get a discount on your next purchase? When you throw those away you’re throwing away money! Spend 5 minutes answering a survey and save additional 10-15% on your next purchase. Combine this additional discount with an ongoing sale and you just found yourself a steal!

Fitness Equipment

According to statisticbrain.com the #1 new years resolutions is (drumroll please): To Lose Weight! What a shocker!

Did you know that makers and sellers of fitness equipment know this as well, hence they use January as a deep discount month on all sorts of fitness equipment?

So if you’re serious about getting fit and changing your lifestyle, then January is your opportunity to purchase fitness gear at a great price.

If you’re not disciplined enough to work out at home and need that additional accountability, local gyms will also have great membership prices for you. Be sure to ask for a month-to-month membership deal in order to retain flexibility and options.

*Quick Tip: 36% of those who make fitness related resolutions quit after one month and 56% quit after just six months! So before you spend your hard earned money on fitness equipment, make sure your commitment level is there!

As you can see, January is a great month for some bargain shopping. But as with every “sale” and every “great deal”…It’s not a bargain unless you really need it!

 

 

Is it Time For You to Refinance?

Should Your Refinance?

Refinancing a home mortgage is a big decision that is not typically done on a whim. It’s important to consider all the factors that go with refinancing a home, including length of time you will be living there, which kind of refinance to choose, the interest rates, and extra costs of home ownership.

How long do you want to live in the home?

Timing and circumstance are the most important things to consider when deciding to refinance a home. This is also the first place you should start. You have to plan on being in the house for many years in order for refinancing to make sense. The national average for closing costs on $200,000 loan is $3,754. This does not even include taxes, insurance, or prepaid items. Consider how many months of lower payments it will take to recoup the closing costs of a new mortgage.

There are also many reasons you should not refinance based on timing and circumstance. If you do not plan on being in the house for two years or more, then stay in your mortgage. If you owe more on the house than it is now worth, then you might be able to refinance it under the Home Affordable Refinance Program. This is only for homeowners who are current on their mortgages. If you have had the mortgage for a long time, then refinancing is not a good choice. It will restart the amortization process, making monthly payments credited to paying interest and not buying equity. If your current mortgage has a prepayment penalty, it will increase the time it will take to break even.

Which kind of refinance is right for you?

There are two major types of refinances – cash-out and standard. In cash-out refinancing, you take out a new mortgage on the same property. The amount borrowed will be larger than the previous mortgage with the difference taken out in cash. This will have a higher interest rate because the lender has more money at risk. These are used to pay down debt. The biggest risk here is converting unsecured debt into secured debt. It can lower a credit score if you cannot afford payments. Missing a few payments can cause foreclosure.

A standard refinance is only used to replace your existing mortgage with a new one at a lower rate. Cash out is only used to cover closing costs. It offers a slightly lower interest rate than cash-out. You are also not increasing your outstanding mortgage debt.

How low are current interest rates?

Refinancing a mortgage just because the interest rate is lower is not always a good decision. The interest rates have to be really good, such as two percent or lower than your current rate, and the timing needs to be right. Many people refinance every time the interest rate drops, which reduces your overall financial benefit. You will have a long bill of closing costs every time you refinance this way.

Every situation is unique. Even if the interest rate is two percent or lower, you might be paying down discount points or have prepayment penalties that will not make refinancing beneficial. You can calculate if refinancing is right for you if you find a calculator online. You indicate your current loan numbers and the current interest rates in to see if you should refinance or stick with your loan.

What other costs do you need to consider?

There are other costs that need to be considered for refinancing. It could consolidate high interest debts while having enough equity in the home. This is another motivation to refinance. However, if you consolidate debts and then use the equity to take on more debt to do it again, refinancing is not a good option.

Another cost benefit to refinancing is protecting the home. It is a positive cost consideration since homeowners can double their investment made by refinancing. There are many ways to protect the home, all of which can be found at www.securitychoice.net.

The most important thing to consider when refinancing is timing and circumstance. Refinancing is only good for certain situations and all aspects of your home finances need to be considered.

Hurry to Spend More – Slow Down to Save!

Smart Buying!

By Megan Pacheco

Do you ever make financial decisions in a hurry?

Many of us probably make more financial decisions in a hurry than we’d like to admit.

Whether it’s small items like clothing and food, or bigger items like cars or cell phones, we tend to get in this “have to have it now” mode, and passions take over all logic and sound judgment.

The only cure for “frenzy spending” is to slow down and do your homework in order to get the best possible deal on the item. Overpaying is not smart, and it’s really unnecessary; so here are few ideas on what you can do in order to become a smart consumer.

Car Buying

Most of us use credit in order to purchase a car. As with any large purchase, knowledge is power, so arm yourself with knowledge before you start shopping:

–       First, understand what payment amount your current budget can handle without stretching it too thin. Establish an amount and stick to it. Use an online budgeting app to help you establish and track those boundaries!

–       Consider various vehicle types and compare consumer reports on each make and model.

–       Use websites like kbb.com in order to determine what you should expect to pay when you purchase the vehicle from a private seller or from a dealer. Print those numbers out and have them handy during your negotiations.

–       Shop around for best interest rates on a loan. You’ll often get a better rate at your local credit union or even from your local bank than from a dealer, so do not settle for the first interest rate that’s offered to you! As a simple example, if you borrow $10,000 at 10% for 5 years, you’ll end up paying a total of $12,748.20. If you increase the interest rate to 15% you’ll end up paying a total of  $14,274!

–       Be aware of the “extras” the dealership will try to sell you. Those extras will be sold to you as “must haves” and could cost you quite a bit. Be comfortable with saying NO.

–       Finally, be ready to negotiate. Know what others are selling this vehicle for and ask for price match or even a slight discount in order for a dealer to secure YOUR business! After all, it’s not the dealer that does you a favor by selling you a car. You’re doing them a favor by giving them your business.

Shopping for Appliances

 Things break; it’s a given. If we planned well enough, we should have an emergency fund set aside to cover a broken dishwasher or a broken dryer. But what can we do if we have no reserves set aside?

–       Tap into your network of close friends and family members and ask if someone has a slightly used appliance for sale. Buying a used or refurbished appliance, especially one that’s been well taken care of, is not a bad idea, especially if you’re strapped for cash.

–       Check your local stores for floor models or discontinued models. You can often get those at a pretty good discount.

–       If you have good credit, you may consider opening a store account in order to take advantage of the 0% interest on your purchase. Just make sure you charge nothing else on this store card until you pay your appliance off.

–       If you plan to use your traditional credit card, first check if it offers an extended warranty on such purchases. Stores will often try to sell you extended warranties, but why pay twice if your credit card already offers you that coverage!

–       Did you know that large home improvement stores will often compete for your business by matching prices and giving you an additional discount? So don’t be shy about asking. It’s your money!

–       Lastly, read consumer reports about the brands you’re considering. Paying a top dollar for the latest color or for a certain brand may not be worth it!

Cell Phones

My husband and I recently upgraded our phones through our cell phone carrier. We lost money on the deal. You know why? Because we were so excited about getting our new phones that we took the in-store trade in instead of selling our old cell phones privately! Yup, BIG mistake!

–       Before you decide on the upgrade, check a few sites like: gazelle.com, NewtonsHead.com or nextworth.com to see what you can sell your current phone for. Compare that price with the in-store credit and take the option that offers you the most money!

–       Don’t assume that doing your upgrade in-store will give you the best deal. Compare your upgrade options with places like Radioshack in order to make sure you’re paying the least!

I hope you can see that hurrying is a bad, bad idea when it comes to making smart purchases. Pause and do your homework in order to keep more money in your wallet!

Eat Well and Save Big!

Eat Well and Save Big!

By Megan Pacheco

After paying our mortgage or rent, food is the close second priority in our monthly budget. Most of us spend anywhere from $150 -$180 every week on groceries – that’s $600 – $720 a month, and it does not include occasional dining out.

Food is not a luxury, it’s a non-negotiable expense we have to incur in order to survive; so don’t feel guilty about spending money on food. But a food budget, unlike our mortgage for example, presents a greater opportunity for flexibility and for cost cutting, if we can learn and apply certain tricks.

There is a way to enjoy delicious food and eat well on a thrifty budget. There is a way to squeeze in occasional dining out without having to break the bank. Would you like to find out how? Here are few tips:

Eat your fruits and veggies… those that are in season!

Every season has its own advantages when it comes to buying fruits and vegetables. Winter months are awesome for loading yourself with cheap vitamin C that comes from oranges, tangerines, grapefruits and lemons. So, instead of spending $5 on a small serving of strawberries, get your fill of seedless tangerines and delicious oranges for a fraction of the cost. Come May – June, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious strawberries and blueberries at a low price.

If you want to see what fruits and vegetables are in season month after month, you can find out here!

Portion control

It’s no secret that Americans struggle with obesity. Part of it may be caused by bad food choices but much of it is simply caused by lack of portion control.  Overeating is not only destroying our health and our quality of life, but it’s also impacting our pocket books.

So what can we do to help us curb potions while, at the same time, putting a few dollars back in our wallets?

–       Share a plate while dining out. This will instantly provide you with 50% savings, will allow you to still enjoy a nice evening out and will protect you from consuming insane amounts of calories.

–       Eating at home? Use smaller plates! Divide your regular dinner serving in two and save half of it for next day lunch! This simple trick will prevent you from spending additional money on lunches!

–       Water please! Did you know that Americans spend over $73 Billion on soft drinks each year? That’s over $800 a year per household! Every time you’re about to purchase a drink, other than water, just take that money and set it aside in an envelope. You’ll see that by the end of the year you’ll have a nice sum of money set aside!

Save on dining out!

Did you know that there is a way to NEVER pay full price for a meal? As long as you’re flexible about where you dine out, you can find awesome deals at a fraction of a cost.

Restaurant.com

Before you go out to eat, check out this web site. Just put in your zip code, and you’ll get a list of deals for your local restaurants. You can get $15 worth of food for just $6.00. You can find $10 gift cards to your local pizza joints for just $4.00!  As long as you remain flexible, you can save hundreds over the course of the year. These gift cards make for a great Christmas gifts as well!

Giftcards.com

This is another good place to find savings on eating out and more. Although the savings are not as deep as with restaurants.com, you may find offers for more popular restaurant chains. Just go to restaurants and you’ll see offers for anywhere from 5% – 18% discounts. Combine that with sharing a plate, and you just found yourself a great deal!

As you can see, saving money on food is possible without having to give up eating out or special treats altogether.

If you have a special money saving trick on food or dining out, we’d love to hear about it!

Put $2000 Back In Your Pocket!

Save $2000 with two smart moves!

Most of us love saving money. That’s a fact.

Most of us could save nearly $2000 a year by making two budget adjustments. That’s also a fact.

What’s stopping us from putting thousands of dollars back in our pockets is a simple lack of awareness about great “substitute” options for the services we use on daily basis. Here are great alternatives for two most common services we use every day. Make these few changes and your budget will experience much-needed breathing room.

 Cell phone plans

Cell phones have become the norm. We can’t imagine our lives without them, and many of us probably can’t remember the time when cell phones weren’t around. Cell phone plans have a way of cutting into our monthly budgets and many tie us down with 2-year contracts and hefty cancellation fees.  So how can you save money on your cell phone bill?

ChitChat Mobile

Wow… If you’re not using much data and simply need a phone that allows you to talk and text, this could be a huge money saving option for you.  For $19.99/month you can text and talk all you want!  For additional $3/ month you can add a data plan that will give you 50 MB worth of data to use! So unlimited text, talk and 50MB of data would run you about $25.00/month!  Compare that with an average $70 – $80 traditional cell phone bill and you just found yourself  $50-$100 savings, especially if you have a family plan. That’s $600 – $1200 a year!

What could you do with that money?  Go on a vacation, pay off debt, do Christmas debt-free!

Straighttalk

This is another, slightly higher option for those who are looking at cutting cost on their cell phone plan. For $45/ month you can have unlimited talk, text and 2.5 GB of data. Savings would range about $30-$40 / month which would still give you $360 – $480 a year worth of cash to use on something else.

Cable TV / Satellite

Cable TV is another monthly “money-sucker” and billions are spent each year for the privilege of having access to hundreds of channels (most of which we probably do not watch anyways!) On average, most will spend $70/ month on their cable TV or satellite bill. So how can you cut your cost while still enjoy watching movies, shows, news etc.?

Netflix

As long as you have Internet access, for $7.99/month you can watch your favorite TV shows and movies.  For few additional dollars you could have DVDs sent to your home (this is a great alternative for those who have no Internet access.)

Hulu

This is another $7.99 alternative to traditional cable / satellite TV. You have to have Internet access in order to tap into Hulu’s rich library of shows, movies, kids programming and more.

Traditional TV antenna

For a one-time investment of $30-$60 you can install a traditional TV antenna in your home that will give you access to local channels. If you prefer to get local news through TV rather than Internet, combining this option with Netfilx or Hulu will give you a solid package of daily news, movies, and shows.

If you decide to break up with your cable / satellite provider you could save $60/month! That’s over $700 / year!

By making changes to your cell phone and cable TV plans , you can put almost $2000 back in your pocket! Who’s in?