frugal

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One of the best ways to stay frugal is to keep track not only what you are spending on an everyday basis, but also what you are earning. It is easy to figure out your gross pay, but how much will you actually take home on a given salary? This website allows you to calculate exactly how much will end up in your pocket after paying the tax man.

Salary Paycheck Calculator | Payroll Calculator | Paycheck City.

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365 Days of Frugality Day 7: Combine chores into consolidated trips

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day-to-day life. Check out the postings so far here.


 

This one takes some planning, but in today’s age, reducing the amount of time that your spend in the car is beneficial in more ways than one. Not only do you spend less money on gas, you also save on wear and tear on your vehicle and help to save  the environment in the process. Yes, I know that this has very little impact on the environment, but every little bit helps. In addition to these reasons, if you have a set list of chores and have the locations set out, you will be less inclined to make impulse purchases throughout your trip, which are often unnecessary.

365 Days of Frugality Day 6: Keep track of everyday spending

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day-to-day life. Check out the postings so far here.


 

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With access to online tools to track spending in today’s age, there is no excuse for not knowing where each and every dollar is being spent. The best personal finance software that I have found is Mint.com. Mint.com keeps track of this spending as it occurs, but also offers proactive budgeting tools to plan your spending on a monthly basis. This  program is very easy to set up, updates your account information seamlessly, and provides suggestions based on your own specific situation. Overall, this is a great beginners tool to personal finance that should be taken advantage of by all.

To make this habit stick, I have gotten into the habit of checking the website as part of my daily return. It only takes a few minutes to open up the account, take a look at your transactions, and determine if the expense has been properly categorized. You can then check and see how much of your budget for this category is left. It has really become an addiction to see that my spending has lined up with my budget, and plan the rest of the month based off of the money that remains, while still being able to save for my goals.

365 Days of Frugality Day 5: Take advantage of credit card rewards and offers

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day-to-day life. Check out the postings so far here.


 

As I wrote in a previous article, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great tool to get cash back on everyday purchases. These points can be used for travel to all inclusive resorts for free, gifts, or even straight cash back in the form of gift cards or a check. In today’s age of digital safety, credit cards also give your purchase protection, in that money does not come directly out of your account when a purchase is made. This will save you from fraudulent activity in the case your number gets stolen. Overall, with cash back on every purpose, it would be stupid not to take advantage of offers like these.

So far this year, these tactics have resulted in me receiving around 300,000 points with minimal efffort by taking advantage of credit card offers. This has translated into multiple hotel stays and basically being able to book my upcoming honeymoon to all inclusive resort at no cost. The possibilities are nearly endless with a little research and effort, and can result in $1,000’s in free travel.

How to Take Advantage of Cash Back and Discount Websites to Receive Goods for the Lowest Possible Price

By taking advantage of cash back and discount websites, you can receive good for tremendously low prices. As I am in the process of moving into a new apartment, I am in need for a moderately sized television for the living room of the new space. As the move is about a month away, I have recently started the process of searching the internet for deals that would be the most beneficial. The following is my step by step process to receive the best deal possible on an item.

1. Set Up Alert On Price Monitoring Site – Amount saved: $100
Process: This is a crucial part of the process, and is the reason why this process can’t be rushed. The purpose of using a price monitoring site is to find the best possible price of an item, not just at a given point in time, but for the life of the product. This would be very cumbersome if you had to do it manually, and I wouldn’t even know where to start. The site that I like to use for this process is slickdeals.net. This website allows you to set “deal alerts” for specific products or even categories of products and let you know of any deals that are occurring within that product or category. In addition, there is a ranking assigned to the deal, so that you can set up an alert so that only the best deals are noted. As deals are posted to the very extensive forum, you are alerted by email, text, or other forms of communication that the deal is going. Although this is an indirect form of price monitoring, the members of the forum do a great job of alerting the forum to deals as they occur, and I have come across some fantastic bargains through the site.

Example: In my case, as I was interested in flat screen televisions, I set up an alert on slickdeals that sent an email I’m any instance where a deal hit the front page related to HDTV’s. In this case, I set the alert to send deals with 4/5 thumbs up, which indicated a very good deal. For this particular tv, the usual selling price is in the 400+ range, but there is a special going on that brings the tv down to $299. This is where the real fun starts, as the cash back percentage is dependent upon this price.

2. Take advantage of any store specific rebates or discounts Amount saved $100
As mentioned in 10 Easy Ways You Can Save Money Today, one of the best ways you can save money is by taking advantage of coupon sites. Once you have figured out what site is going to give you the lowest price on the item, you need to take into account any discounts or rebates that are offered by the store. These can be percentage discounts off specific items or rebates that are given in the form of discounts in exchange for purchase, and will save you easy money for little effort. Some sites, like Amazon, will also offer free shipping. One of my favorite tools to discover these kinds of deal is retailmenot.com. Befrugal is also a great resource. This is an online website but is also an iPhone and android app. You simply type in a store and it outputs the current deals that are ongoing. There have been numerous instances where I have been standing in line to purchase and item and have pulled up a 10% discount to be used at the register.
Example: For this purchase, dell, the site where I purchased the tv, was offering a rebate in the form of a gift card on purchases of televisions in the amount of $120. This was a great deal because even if I wasn’t in need of the gift card, I could sell it on various online gift card exchange sites that are abundant these days. My favorite gift card exchange site is giftcardgranny.com, which is a gift card exchange site aggregator, which means that it rounds up deals from the various gift card sites. This allows you to get the most out of your mooney. Even if I am able to get 75% value for the gift car by selling on the site, this will result in $90 in my pocket.
3. Use payment specific discounts to receive additional cash back Amounts saved $30
Once you have taken advantage of the store specific discount to get the purchase price as low as possible, it is time to focus on how you are going to pay for the item. You may think that the choice is pretty simple, credit or debit card, right? That is not the case. There is an additional layer of savings that you can build onto your purchase, and that is lowering the actual cash outlay of your payment method. This can be accomplished many ways, including cash back portals, credit card reward sites, and even cash back from a credit card. The purchase can also go towards earning sign-up bonuses, for cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Example: In my example, due to having multiple credit cards at any given time, there is usually an offer on the website that will yield a percentage back just by going through the cards’s website link to the store. In my case, you don’t even have to use the specific card that the website is for. It just so happens that Discover, of which I have the fabulous IT card, was offering 10% off any purchase at the Dell website. By going to the discover portal and clicking on the Dell store, I would recieve 10% cash back, just like that. This was is a tremendously easy way to get cash back with just a few seconds of work.

Summary: Overall, using the three ways noted above, setting up alerts on price monitoring sites, taking advantage of store specific discounts, and using payment specific discounts to receive additional cash back, I was able to lower the price of the HDTV that I purchased from a $400 to about $170 when all is said and done. Using these techniques can result in hundreds of dollars of savings on almost any item that you can imagine, and help you stay within your budgeting goals.

365 Days of Frugality Day 4: Go for a Run or Walk

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day-to-day life. Check out the postings so far here.


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This one isn’t directly related to finance, but getting good exercise on a daily basis will pay huge dividends to your financial situation. With the rising costs of healthcare, it is in your best interest to keep your body healthy, which in turn will reduce costly office visits and procedures. The best defense is a great offense, and this is no change when it comes to your health. Get outside and breathe the fresh air once in a while. In addition, it doesn’t cost you a dime!

For my fitness, I like to make use of technology to aid in my progress. One of my favorite ways to track my runs is using the Nike+ running app on my Iphone. This is a free tool that keeps track of how long you have run, and also maps your route and the number of miles that you have covered. It also provides motivation on your run through audio cues and has a great interface to control your music during your run.

365 Days of Frugality Day 3: Skip the Morning Coffee

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day to day life. Check out the postings so far here.


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Until you get to work, that is. That sentence alone without the second part could probably put some people in shock.

I walked into a Starbucks the other day and was  astonished by the prices charged for some of the items. $4.75 for a small frappuccino? Outrageous. Small indulgences like these add up to become major line items on a budget over a weekly and monthly basis. Instead of making the morning coffee stop, switch up your routine and make a thermos before you leave work. Even single serve Keurigs are a better deal than going to a coffee joint, and are very convenient. You can even buy k-cups off of Amazon as low as 61 cents each. (Donut Shop is my favorite, btw.) Better yet, take advantage of the office provided coffee for a few days. Yes, I know some of it is terrible, but caffeine is caffeine and even drinking this a few times during the week will save a few bucks. You may even end up liking the convenience and even learn to appreciate it black compared to the sugary mess that Starbucks passes off.

As an added extra, here is a recipe for how to make a pumpkin spice latte, for those that are addicted to the Starbucks offering during this time of the year.

365 Days of Frugality Day 2: Pay off your credit cards in full.

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day to day life. Check out the postings so far here.


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This cannot be said enough. As noted within my post 5 Factors To a Healthy Credit Score, carrying a balance does not indicate a healthy credit profile, thus will not benefit your credit score in the long run. Even though paying the minimum on credit cards may seem optimal as it frees up your cash flow over a longer time period, this will keep you in perpetual debt and you will pay longer on the purchases. I like to think of it this way. Would I want to pay a 15-20% markup on this purchase from the moment that I buy it? If not, I will reconsider the purchase and make sure that I have the funds necessary to pay off the balance IN FULL. It is as simple as that.

365 Days of Frugality Day 1: Pack Your Lunch for Work

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day to day life. Check out the postings so far here.


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This is one of the things that can instantly result in savings on an everyday basis. At the minimum, you are spending $5 each day to go out to eat, which adds up to $25 per week, or $1,300 per year. Think about what you could spend this money on! This is enough for a nice vacation, although it you are using my tips, you could vacation for free. Regardless, packing your lunch will leave extra dollars in your pocket at the end of the week, and will also be more kind to your waste line, as the average fast food meal contains a whopping 836 calories. 

Best Budgeting and Personal Finance Planning Tool

Take Hold of Your Finances with Mint.com
In my experience, the best budgeting and personal finance planning tool is three things: easy to use, easy to understand, and free. These characteristics are important because they will not only allow you to start using the tool, but they will encourage your to keep using the tool to make the most of it. In this case, the personal finance tool is more of a personal finance online tool, Mint.com. With a wonderful online interface, along with helpful mobile tools to keep track of your spending and finances on the go, it is a perfect solution for beginners and even seasoned personal finance experts to get on track and save money.

Easy To Understand
First and foremost, a personal finance tool should be easy to use. You should be able to take a quick glance through light the day and know how your finances stand at and point in time. This is accomplished by the dashboard that mint has set up which accomplishes these tasks. It contains all of your account information, the current balance, and also any bills that may be coming due in the upcoming period. Even if you only have a few minutes of your time to check out the see, the dashboard will keep you up to date. 


Easy To Use 
The second most important aspect if a personal finance tool is it’s ease of use. If using the app is tedious and long winded, you are less likely to stick to a routine of checking it regularly. Mint accomplishes the task of being easy to use in that if offers and intuitive website interface with multiple ways to view your finances. You can get an overview of your situation at any given time, drill down into the detailed transactions across many accounts, and even come up with graphs and charts to help in visualizing our data over a period of time. 
 
Additionally, mint offers an app that is available on iPhone and android platforms, giving you access when a computer isn’t available. The mobile app offers much of the functionality of the full site, becoming a useful tool to monitor spending when you are out on the go. 

Free 
Last, but still importantly, the app is completely free to use. This is important because it eliminates any barriers to entry when setting up the tool. You won’t need to hand over your credit card and add anther expense to your list of bills. To subsidize the free cost, mint sometimes suggests cards and financial products that may fit your situation, but these adds are easily avoidable and unobtrusive. 

 

 
Overview
Overall, mint.com is a great solution for your all in one personal finance tool. It is an easy to use, easy to understand product that can help you take hold of your financial situation with very little set up time.