personal finance

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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.

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.

How to Get Your Credit Score Free On a Monthly Basis

A credit score is something that is somewhat elusive and cryptic in personal finance, but simply ignoring your score can harm your finances, and potentially lead to financial ruin. Although advertisements for services such as FreeCreditReport.com proclaim free access to your credit, these often do not come with an actual score, and often lead to monthly fees. One of the trends that has been occuring within the credit card companies is to offer a free score every month with your statement. This is a great tool to take advantage of as it will give you an updated score on a regular basis to use for your resource. Listed below are credit card companies that offer your FICO score on your monthly report and a recommended card for each.

One of the best things that Discover has going for it is their customer service. All of my dealings with the company have been nothing but pleasurable. In addition, they offer an online chat service in which you can directly chat with a representative that is more than willing to address any questions.
One of the great things about the BarclayCard is that points can be used for any travel expenses, which can include hotel stays, flights, and even taxis. This means that, unlike many other rewards systems, hotels and flights can be booked at a discount from sites like Kayak or Hotwire, and the points are then used to reduce the amount on your monthly statement. This is a great resource for thrifty travelers as you save the hassle of booking through the specific reward sites, which are often cumbersome and timely.

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.

Easy Ways to Use Manufactured Spending to Meet Your Credit Card Spending Requirements

Credit cards are a great tool when used correctly

Manufactured spending is a great way to meet hefty thresholds for credit card bonuses. As you may be aware, credit cards often run lucrative offers in which a certain number of “points” will be given after the user spends a certain amount within a set time period. This was the case with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card written about in this article, which gives 40,000 points after $3,000 in spending in the three months after card opening. But what if your spending habits do not support this level of spend? This article will give you five ways to meet this spending requirement, without actually spending any more money in the process. This is a process known as “manufactured spending”.

Amazon Payments
Amazon payments is a great way to meet spending requirements on a credit card by sending money to a close friend that also has an Amazon Payments account. The friend can then write you a check for the amount, which can be deposited back into your account and used to pay off the credit card. There is a limit of $1,000 per month that can be transferred, but by doing this for three months, your spending limit can be reached.

American Express Serve
Serve is also a great tool to meet minimum spending requirements. With Serve, you are able to load $200 per day up to $1,000 per month online from a credit card. Once this is done, you can then transfer the money to your bank account, use the Serve card as you usually would a debit card, or even pay off the credit card using the bill payment feature of Serve. As with Amazon payments, this is an easy way to reach a spending limit without actually having to leave the convenience of your home, and results in zero cash outlay and plenty of benefit.

Merchant Gift Cards
This method requires a little bit of planning and legwork, but is a very feasible way of meeting spend requirements if properly planned. As you may have seen, many merchants sell numerous gift cards to both their own and other establishments. By timing gift card purchases for common items to the time period in which your spending needs to be met, you can accelerate the time period in which the threshold is met. For example, buying gas cards in large amounts to meet the requirement. Additionally, online spending portals often offer cash back in addition to the points that you will earn from the credit card signup.  As this is a purchase that would be made anyway, there is little risk that the cards will not be used, but you are able to accelerate your spending to achieve the bonus.

As with any credit card activity, you should always be aware of the potential consequences of your spending and should keep an eye on your credit card activity, but these methods have the potential to meet spending requirements without actually spending. In addition, you should make sure to have your credit score in line before signing up for any additional cards, and know the potential effects on your credit score. See my previous article for the 5 factors of a healthy credit score.

Happy spending!

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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.