7 Items You Should Never Buy At The Dollar Store

Dollar StoreDollar-store shopping can be a great way to cut costs on your weekly and day-to-day budget, but for certain items, you may be better off shopping somewhere else. Check our list of items that are sure to cut your spending, and the other items that may cost you more than you think.

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Items To Always Buy At the Dollar Store

  1. Party Supplies.
    Most dollar stores carry a wide selection of colored napkins, disposable cutlery, plastic cups and table cloths. Compared to shopping at a special-occasion retailer, you could end up saving a significant amount and your guests won’t know the difference.
  1. Drink Mixes.
    Dollar stores are usually stocked full of powdered drink mixes and fillers. These are great, inexpensive alternatives to brand name mixes at the big box stores.
  1. Candy.
    Whether you’re preparing for Halloween or stocking the candy bowl at work, you’ll save a few bucks by skipping the grocery candy aisle and buying bagged and boxed candy at the dollar store.
  1. Wrapping Paper.
    What’s even better than buying wrapping paper from the dollar store? Buying wrapping paper after the holidays at the dollar store. Preparing for next year with this year’s post-holiday bargains is a great way to ease the budget pressure of the holiday season.
  1. Mugs and Cups.
    Ease the wear and tear of your fine dishware by buying coffee mugs and cups at the dollar store. This is also a great alternative for college dorm room shopping as well.
  1. Frames
    Department store frame prices can exceed $12 for a basic frame. For most of of your photo framing needs, the dollar store has a style or design to fit your tastes.
  1. Air Fresheners
    Looking for an inexpensive alternative to removing the spilled-milk smell from the back seat of the car? Pine tree air fresheners’ prices are significantly lower at the dollar store. You can stock up and be ready for any unwanted odors.

Now, just as important what to buy at the dollar store are the items NOT to buy at the dollar store:

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Items To Never Buy At The Dollar Store

  1. Paper Towels and Toilet Paper
    Often the reason the prices on these items seem so low is because you’re not getting the same volume as you would by buying at a big-box warehouse store.
  1. Batteries and Electric Cords.
    When using appliances and electronics that rely on batteries and electricity, you’re probably better off paying for a higher quality product.
  1. Kitchen Utensils.
    Sometimes the most cost efficient option is to spend more on a utensil or appliance that will last a long time instead of paying replacement or repair costs over and over.
  1. Soda.
    In general, you can save a lot of money in a month by skipping these sugary beverages altogether – especially when eating out. But if you’re thinking about saving a buck or two, your better option is probably a warehouse club store.
  1. Shampoo.
    You can spot brand-name toiletry and shampoo items in the dollar store, and although the savings may look tempting, the volume of the product may leave you disappointed compared to shopping for these items elsewhere.
  1.  Toys.
    If you have small children, dollar-store toys may be a fine option. However, due to the frequent recalls of dollar-store toys, play it safe and search for other alternatives – like thrift or second-hand stores –  that will save you time and money.
  1.  Trash Bags.
    Not to mention the fact that only a few bags are actually included in the dollar-store packages, the quality is no greater than recycled plastic grocery bags – so better yet,  switch to recycled grocery bags and save even more money.

The path to financial freedom is full of day-to-day choices and sacrifices. To learn more about making the most of your paycheck, sign up for Mvelopes Premier download the included E-Books and start your money revolution!

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Mvelopes vs. EveryDollar

hand-app-screen-groceriesWith so many different personal finance management tools all vying for your time and attention, it can be difficult to choose the best for your situation, income, and budget. Recently, we have had some users ask us, “What is the difference between Mvelopes and EveryDollar?”

Both apps are designed to take a proactive approach to the way you budget but only one offers tried and true principles for the value that fits your budget.

What Does Mvelopes Do That EveryDollar Doesn’t?

Mvelopes offers data aggregation for free. Data aggregation is the ability to automatically identify and connect with your financial institution and import individual transactions. Mvelopes’ users enjoy the convenience of seeing each transaction appear without any manual effort or entering on their own. Bottom line: You’ll save time and energy with Mvelopes because it does for FREE what EveryDollar charges to complete.

EveryDollar users must upgrade and pay about $100 per year to enjoy the same convenience that Mvelopes’ users have for FREE – that’s just one reason why Kiplinger named Mvelopes Best for Overspenders.  

The Mvelopes system is a perfect fit for any budget because it can be accessed from not only the Web, but from all mobile devices (iOS and Android) and tablets, and is even optimized for Kindle. EveryDollar is only compatible with iOS devices.

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Mvelopes Can Be Used for Business

Mvelopes’ users create one account and can manage the cash flow from their personal accounts as well as from their business accounts. This feature is especially helpful if your business transactions are tax deductible or will require reimbursement. Simple tagging of those transactions makes expense reports and tax write-offs a cinch!

Are There Mvelopes Upgrades?

Yes, Mvelopes offers premium content, resources and features including e-books, videos, unlimited budget envelopes (categories), the ability to add unlimited bank accounts, 24-hour email support, and live-chat support for only $95 per year – still less than you’d pay for the EveryDollar upgrade.

Talk is Cheap –  Debt Isn’t.

The biggest difference is that Mvelopes has a track record that can’t be refuted. Just ask the 500,000+ people who have used Mvelopes and aggressively eliminated over $1 Billion in debt and you’ll understand how Mvelopes can spur the financial change you’ve been hoping for.

Try Mvelopes for yourself and see why thousands of others are calling it a “great great way to keep track of your money,” and why it is, “Best for Over-Spenders.”

Try it for Free

 

Interested in experiencing Mvelopes Premier? Sign up here, and accelerate your financial fitness goals!

How to File Your Taxes for Free

iStock_000012046730LargeIts that time of year again, and you’re either enjoying a sneak peek of Spring weather or you’re like 25% of other Americans who still haven’t filed their taxes. Filing your taxes can be confusing and frustrating, but it’s also necessary to stay on the path of financial freedom.

Depending on your tax situation, here is a list of FREE tools and services that may help you get the refund you deserve:

IRS Websites/Free File Fillable Forms

Hate them or love them, at least they have provided a way to file your own taxes for free. Simply click here to learn more about the Free File services that the IRS recommends as a resource. These services aren’t as easy as some of the other paid software. Only basic calculations are performed and users must perform certain calculations themselves – but hey, its completely free!

TaxACT

TaxACT offers a free federal and state filing with TaxACT Express, TaxACT’s smartphone app available for iOS and Android. Refund or taxes owed amounts update as users answer questions, and the app provides detailed summaries of income, deductions, credits and taxes. After e-filing, customers can track the status of their e-filed returns and federal refunds.

If you prefer not to use a mobile app and you’re willing to spend a few bucks for the convenience of having some guidance and advanced options, TaxACT also has deluxe services to choose from starting at $12.99 that includes all e-fileable IRS forms and importing features and “tax tutoring,” tips, strategies and explanations. A state return is $9 with TaxACT Deluxe.

TurboTax

Like most of the other automated tax software, TurboTax offers a free federal file but has a $29.99 (subject to change) fee to file your state return. That being said, TurboTax can import your W-2 from over a million employers, or offers options to simply snap a photo (using the TurboTax mobile app) of your W-2 and your information automatically gets populated in the correct format.

As part of the paid services, TurboTax will even search for tax deductions and credits to maximize your refund.

For many who qualify for a tax refund, this is a great opportunity to declare war on your debt, or begin an emergency savings fund – stay tuned for other tips in April on how to optimize your tax holdings for your specific budgeting goals. In the mean time, what services, apps, or programs have you used before? Comment below and tell us what should have been included in our list.

Sign Up Now for a FREE Mvelopes account and join the thousands of others who have started the path to complete financial fitness! Already an Mvelopes user? Check out the Premier services and accelerate your success!

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*If you’re unsure about which tax service is best for you or if you have questions about your tax situation, it is always best to consult with an IRS representative or a professional CPA.*

Satellite Services That Aren’t Worth The Money – Even If You Had The Money

A popular TV commercial for satellite TV depicts Hollywood all-star, Rob Lowe, saying something like, “Hi, I am Rob Lowe and I have satellite.” Then enters a drab and poorer version of Rob Lowe saying, “And I am poor-decision-making Rob Lowe and I have cable.”

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I find the commercial amusing and fitting because it requires an income like Rob’s to afford the most common satellite subscriptions, and yes, subscribing to cable TV is often a poor decision.

When deciding which items make it into your budget and which ones don’t, there are often struggles parting or sacrificing things that seem important. Don’t let satellite TV be one of those struggles. To make it easy, Mvelopes has outlined the value, advantages, and pricing of satellite television, and of course, a much less expensive alternative. So lets get started:

Dish.
Dish seems to be the most popular service and also offers around 320 channels with their highest package. Seems like a slam-dunk until you examine it a little closer. A portion of those channels are available on regular network television – for free. Another portion of those channels are likely in a language you don’t speak and some are just music channels. If music is that important to you, try downloading Pandora or Spotify – they’re free.

What will these 100+ channels cost you per month? About $90 or $1,080 per year.

Direct TV.
Direct TV is for sport lovers. This subscription seems to carry just about every sporting event you can imagine – but unless you’re into watching every UFC match and Kentucky derby qualifying race, you can likely do without many of those too. Direct offers similar channel selections as Dish with just over 285 to choose from. Sure, you get options to stream those shows to your phone and other gadgets, and they include an array of other tantalizing features and upgrades, most of which are luxuries you could do without.

The bottom line? $92 per month or $1,104 per year!

Some people are probably thinking, “I don’t pay that much per month.” Well, that may be true. Many of these subscriptions come with promotional pricing of about $19 per month, but the price promises to jump at some point or another over the course of that 2-year contract.

The Mvelopes Alternative.
AppleTVThe Mvelopes entertainment alternative starts with an Apple TV console that plugs into your existing TV. It uses WiFi and instantly connects you to live programming like sports and weather and even HBO options. It includes countless other features that enable movie and TV show streaming. Next, you can subscribe to Amazon Prime which boasts of 40,000 TV and movie choices, FREE music streaming, and 500,000 free books for Kindle. Additionally, if you’re a mom, Prime offers 20% off diapers with free two-day shipping. If you’re a student, the Prime subscription is half off. Still feel like you need more movie-binge worthy options? Well, subscribe to Netflix and/or Hulu Plus and get instant access to the hottest television series, movies, and documentaries. Don’t forget, you still get access to network television for free.

What will this alternative cost? $69 (one-time purchase) for the Apple TV, $99 (yearly subscription; no contract) for Amazon Prime, $8 (monthly) for Netflix, and $8 (monthly) for Hulu Plus. All of this rounds out to a yearly cost of about $361 per year.

Satellite ComparisonYou should always do what is best for you and your family, but the next time I see Rob Lowe promoting satellite I will be saying, “Hi, I am Reagan. I use the Mvelopes Alternative and save about $700 per year on entertainment.”

If you could use more money-saving tips and ways to cut your bills in half, take advantage of our videos and e-books, exclusive to Premium Mvelopes users. Sign up now, and learn saving-hacks for almost everything else in your life!

How This Couple Retired In Their 30s Using This Old Trick

Meet Jeremy. Jeremy is happily married to his wife Winnie (who is expecting their first child), lives in beautiful Taiwan, and travels the world. Jeremy is also retired – and he was only 38-years old when he did it.

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Jeremy and his wife, Winnie.

What’s his secret? Well, he didn’t win the lottery and he wasn’t the beneficiary of a large inheritance. No, Jeremy wasn’t much different than your average college graduate. He was optimistic about life, excited to stop eating Ramen Noodles for every meal, and he was in debt – about $40,000 to be exact.

What made Jeremy different was his attitude toward debt. Understanding that the average college graduate will pay off their student loan principal and interest over the course of 15-18 years, Jeremy decided he didn’t want to live the next twenty years with this debt hanging over his head. Jeremy did it in just five years!

“About 99% of my debt was student loan and credit card debt from being in college. I knew all along I didn’t want to be in debt because I grew up very poor and saw that people who had a lot of debt just weren’t happy.”

“I graduated and got a job as an engineer making about $40,000 per year, which seemed great, but not compared to the piling amount of interest my debt was acquiring on a daily basis. So I made the decision that I would dedicate myself to paying off these loans and debt.”

This moment of decision isn’t uncommon for people like Jeremy. Most people in tough financial situations come to a breaking point where enough is enough. He describes that moment as a moment of commitment and he was ready to make any sacrifice.

Coffee Quote“At this point in paying off debt, there is always a trade off. It meant making those daily decisions, ‘Do I buy this cup of coffee or do I pay off my debt?’ I was always sacrificing something short term but I knew what I ultimately wanted.”

“By living in a small apartment and in an old building, walking and biking instead of owning a car, and preparing most of my meals in my own kitchen, I was able to save a large percentage of my income. Instead of buying things and services, I learned new skills that reduced my expenses even further.”

Jeremy changed the way he looked at money and he got creative.

“At that time, I would habitually throw away credit card offers in the mail, however, I caught a glimpse of a credit card offer and decided I would make credit work for me – not against me.”

“The offer stated that for the first year, the card would be interest free. I used it to pay my student loans that year and it saved me 7.5% interest on a $40,000 loan for an entire year! I made some serious progress on paying on my debt.”

Their trick is simple. Jeremy and his wife are meticulous about tracking of every dollar they spend and every dollar they earn. To climb his way out of debt, Jeremy used spreadsheets to categorize his budget and allocate funds from his income – the same principles of envelope budgeting. When it comes to living within their means, Jeremy and his wife are masters.

“My wife and I don’t even think about money anymore. Not that money isn’t an issue, it has just become such a routine habit – a lifestyle – that we don’t even have to think about it anymore.”

Jeremy and Winnie enjoy the retired life and continue to make sound financial investments and spending decisions, but they are reminded that life wasn’t always this great. It is their memory of the past that keeps them looking forward.

The same tools, habits and hacks that Jeremy used to escape debt aren’t obsolete and they can be learned. Download Mvelopes to start building your FREE budget, or take advantage of the premium services with tutorials, E-books, downloads, videos and more.

Learn other additional tips with this FREE E-Book 

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To read more about Jeremy’s story, visit his blog http://www.gocurrycracker.com/

Millionaire Celebrities Who Are Financially Worse Off Than You

There is an anxious fantasy that roams through people’s minds from time to time where they imagine their lives as millionaires and they bask in the freedom that a large sum of money would grant them. This fantasy usually happens when they’re between paychecks, late on payments or deep in debt. The solution seems easy. With more money our problems would go away, right?

Think again.

To mismanage money you have to have money to begin with. The more money you have, the more chances you have to really screw it up.

To help remind us that the “financial grass” isn’t always greener on the other side, Mvelopes presents for you viewing pleasure: The Top 4 Celebrity Money-Mishaps.

1. Nicolas Cage.

Nicolas CageNick Cage is the epitome of not living within your means. According to Forbes, he earned $40 million in 2009 but blew it on “investments” that didn’t return as he expected. These “investments” include vintage cars, homes, foreign getaways, private islands, and two European castles. Oh, and if you think you’re worried about taxes this year, Cage owes nearly $7 million to the IRS. Yikes!

 

 

 

2. MC Hammer.

mc-hammerThe winner of 3 Grammy awards, this hip-hop singer proved he was “too legit to quit” – quit spending that is. In the mid 90s Hammer’s record sales began to plummet but his lavish lifestyle did not. In his prime, Hammer was worth more than $33 million but failing to live within his means caused the rapper to file for bankruptcy in 1996 and lost it all.

 

 

 

3. Stephen Baldwin.

BaldwinDespite being the son of the famous Alec Baldwin, Stephen couldn’t stay away from credit cards. In fact, Baldwin filed for Bankruptcy in 2009 with more than 2 Million dollars of debt and unpaid credit card charges to the tune of $70,000.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Paul McCartney.

sir_paul_mccartneyFormer mop-top and member of the fab foursome from Britain isn’t bankrupt – far from it in fact – but that doesn’t make Sir Paul immune to poor financial decisions. When Paul divorced from Heather Mills, he was forced to pay a settlement cost of $50 million due to not signing a prenuptial agreement.

 

 

 

 

Remember that a larger income or winning the lottery isn’t necessarily the answer to financial freedom. With a little dedication and sacrifice, you truly can afford anything  – not everything – but anything you want.

Its not how you make your money that is important; it’s how you spend it. Just ask our list of celebrities.

Download your FREE E-Book “Budgeting Bootcamp” 

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The Apple Watch and What It Means for the Way You Budget

People whispering and talking into their watches sounds like a scene from an old spy movie, but with the new Apple Watch – the latest in Apple Inc’s flagship product line up – that scene will soon be reality.

Apple WatchIts the most personal device yet and will be available on April, 24 to customers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK and the US. Apple Watch also presents an entirely new way to receive information at a glance and interact with the world through third-party app experiences – including personal budget and finances apps – designed specifically for the wrist.

How will this affect the way you handle your personal finances? Well, that is up to you.

Despite the obvious limitations of handling your budget and finances on a 42mm screen, the personal finance capabilities on the Apple Watch will likely be far more passive than the budgeting app functions you have become accustomed to on alternative devices like your phone and computer. Meaning, rather than having the freedom to track, report and predict spending habits and issues, you may be limited to simple notifications and alerts.

Here lies the potential problem.

By putting your budget and finances on autopilot and relying on digital notifications there is a propensity to become aware of issues only after the fact and this may condition users to be reactionary rather than proactive with their budget.

The truth is, there is no turn-key solution or silver bullet when it comes to handling personal finances. Personal finance and budgeting apps can be extremely useful, but only in complementing and supplementing proactive budgeting strategies that you have already developed.

The Apple Watch certainly has the capability to aid in your quest to become financially independent and sustainable, but it won’t reverse years of poor spending decisions and habits – that part is up to you.

For ideas on how to develop proactive habits and ways to spot savings in your everyday purchases, check out our Budgeting Bootcamp video series by signing up for Mvelopes Premier!

 

Does Daylight-savings-time Save Money? 5 Tips to Save Time and Money

3 Easy Ways to Accelerate Debt Payoff

When it comes to daylight savings time, most peoples’ reactions are anything but enthusiastic. This year, instead of rolling your clocks forward, try moving forward on your lost New Year’s resolution to tackle your budget and jump out of debt- after all, it is “savings” time.

Whether you are trying to lose weight or get out of debt, the process of accomplishing your goal is the same. You need to remain dedicated and focused beyond simply deciding to make a change on January 1st – or March 8th. Although I can’t offer any insight on losing weight, here are some helpful tips for proper budgeting to kick off your daylight “savings” time in style:

Pay Attention to What Your Stress is Telling You

Everyone experiences stress and the headache of handling their personal finances. Instead of trying to bury or ignore your stress, try embracing it and recognizing the opportunity for positive changes in your financial life. The stress you feel is an indicator that something isn’t right – and its not. Use this time to rededicate yourself to living within your income and paying down debts.

This tip may seem simple, but it is a common tale to hear of people ignoring their finances only to return to a pile of debt, repos, and foreclosures. That type of stress will take a toll on your mental health and doesn’t go away. Keep in mind that you are not the only one that suffers from poor financial decisions. Your family, friendships, and even your career depend on you making wise decisions and remaining free from the stress living paycheck to paycheck.

Pay Off Student Loans (And Other Debts) Early and Often

Although student loans are typically considered “good debt,” no one likes having any kind of debt hanging over their heads. Student loans are unique in that they are a little different from other loans. It is important that you identify what type of loan you have – subsidized or unsubsidized – and determine how much interest you are paying on top of the principal.

Reevaluate Your Income and Expenses

Try reevaluating your budget and determine which expenses you could cut back on and then allocate the difference to paying your off your debt quicker. Items like your cell phone, cable bill, and even food choices often have less expensive alternatives.

Evaluate the small, everyday spending decisions that you may have not noticed. By recognizing that you could save up to two dollars per day by making your own coffee and skipping the expensive coffee chain, will help you become for budget conscious. Digitally tracking when, where, and how often you are spending can be an invaluable asset when holding yourself accountable to your budget.

Sell What You Don’t Use

Be honest with yourself. Most of us hold on to old Ipods, phones, computers, furniture, and even designer clothing that we haven’t worn since high school. Turn to sites like Craigslist, Ebay, and other local classified-ad sites to help dump your unusables and turn them into cold, hard cash.

Unexpected cash flow is another great way to continue to pay down your debts if you can resist the urge to splurge!

Focus on What You Can Control

At the end of the day, there are some things you can control and others that you can’t. Always remember that you control when, where, and how you spend your money. When you make wise and considered financial decisions everything else will fall into place.

Overall, your finances rank at the top of the most important aspects of your life, so make this Sunday – daylight savings time – a time to change and a time to save.

How will daylight savings time change your life?

If you haven’t already, sign up for Mvelopes for free, and stop stressing and start saving!