With the holidays approaching, now's the time to organize your finances. If you've tried to stretch your dollars and you're still coming up short, we have a few great ways to save.
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Let's do this!
With the holidays upon us, we've added to our deal sites to help you find all the best deals and bargains.
Check out these top deal websites to help you find the cheapest prices and best prices:
Disclaimer: As with any site you try out for the first time, these are just recommendations. Please check the reviews first on the sites, run a virus scanner, and don't click on links they send in emails to avoid phishing scams. If you do make purchases, only use a credit card and not a debit card so if you ever need to dispute a charge, you can get your money back right away.
Even if you're on the tightest budget, we have great ways for you to save more. It's not that hard once you get started:
1. Sow to Save: By giving a tithe or offering, you are activating a faith-based response from God. When you sow, you reap, so this is a quick way to say, "Okay, Lord, I am giving as I know it shall be given back to me." That's what the woman with the 2 mites did in the Bible. Even if you have a small seed, like $5 or $20, whatever the Lord puts on your heart, sow it and trust God to bring it back to you.
2. Save Coupons - Online and in the Paper: Coupons can help you get all kinds of offers and they are now offered online to simplify your savings. Use your favorite grocery store's online flyer to add coupons to your rebates/rewards card. That way when you check out in the store or online, you'll already have the coupons ready to be applied.
3. Save Your Extra Money: Whether it's pennies in a jar that can be taken to a Coin Star location, or that increase in your allowance, save the extra. In the Bible, Joseph had a dream there would be 7 years of increase followed by 7 years of famine, so he saved the "extra" for the hard times. Take all that change from your pockets, the couch, the piggy bank, etc., and cash it in. Then save it in a savings account. You might only earn .01% interest which is about $1 on a $10,000 investment, but if you find an online savings account, it might earn .01% interest which is $5 on a $5,000 investment.
4. Save Your Bonus Money: When you get a promotion or a bonus at work, don't add it to your account, but save it in a separate account like a retirement account where you can't touch it. You will still have the money and in a long-term IRA account, it's tax-free.
5. Start a Retirement Account: If your job doesn't offer a 401(k), you can set up an individual retirement account (IRA) on your own. Just contact a company like Fidelity.com or other brokerage firm to help you get started. Keep in mind that any money you save in an IRA can't be withdrawn without hefty tax penalties. If you're not sure you can keep the money in an IRA, open a 6-month CD to acquire a little interest, then save the money again after it matures.
6. Watch the Fees: Having a bank account or credit card is great, but fees add up. Look for a bank that doesn't charge a monthly fee. Also confirm they don't charge an ATM fee if you use a foreign ATM. That $5 can add up to $60 if you head to the ATM once a month.
Next up, pay attention to the fees your credit card company charges. They might waive that annual fee if you call and ask. You also want to look at your utility accounts. Does your cable company charge a rental fee for your router or modem? Do they charge for remotes or cable boxes you turned in months ago? Check your fees and you might find you have a refund coming to you.
7. Unplug Appliances: With your utilities, unplug appliances you are not using. You might see a drop by $20 - $40 a month if you unplug routers, DVD players, the computer and other electronics when you're not using them - like when you're at work all day.
8. Conserve: In the summer, open the windows, but in the winter, seal the windows. If you have rooms that tend to be drafty, you might be releasing heat and not realizing it. Seal the windows with plastic if you can't replace the windows and you'll find your heating costs go down.
9. Cut the Cord: Cutting cable can save you over $100 a month on average. Switch to a Roku box or other type of streaming device. If you miss local channels, buy a digital converter to get clear reception for local TV. With a Roku, PlayStation or Apple streaming box, you can always sign up for a free trial of HBO, Showtime, Starz, or Cinemax if you want to get caught up on shows.
10. Sneak In Savings: If you know you'll spend what you have, set up an automatic debit in an amount that you won't miss like $5 or $10 a month into an IRA account or a savings account. Treat the account like another bill so you're not tempted to touch that money. Then when you pay a credit card off, use the money you would spend on that bill and add it to this savings account or IRA. As you go month-to-month, you won't even pay attention to the deductions and you'll have added savings that can accrue over time.
11. Sign Up for Cash Rewards Credit Cards: Cash rewards cards can give you added savings. For example, Discover has a 5% cash back reward if you shop on Amazon. Amazon has a free 30-day Prime Trial if you want to try Amazon Fresh. The grocery delivery fee is waived, the prices are cheaper, and if you use your Discover card, you'll get $5 back if you spend $100. Just be sure to pay your full credit card balance as this is debt and you don't want the hefty interest payment that might range from 19% - 24% depending on your credit.
12. Use Gift Cards: Some stores will give you the credit card discount if you use a gift card. For example, if Macy's has a 10% off sale, but it's 15% with a Macy's card, buy a gift card to make your payment. The gift card purchase is free and you'll be able to use the 15% off at the register.
Gift cards also come in handy if you have cash rewards you can't use. Sometimes people will sell their gift cards on sites like Ebay where they can get the full value or close to it. For example, you have a $100 Home Depot gift card. You can sell it online for $100 and if it's a site like Ebay, the listing is free and you'll just pay for the transaction fee.
To be safe with gift card sales, ensure the value and note the date. Sell to buyers that have all positive feedback and if they say there's no value, let them know you've confirmed it and you can track them based on the date when the card was used. This can help stop any fraudulent transactions.
13. Sign Up for a Survey: While they can take a little time to fill out, surveys might give you an extra 5% or 10% off your order. Look online for survey sites that pay or sites that ask for your opinion about your purchases. Just be careful with online fraud. Never give your personal information and never open emails that might redirect you to fake sites.
14. Sign Up for a Shipping Rebate: Shipping.com waives the shipping on orders from top retailers. Even if you don't see this offer at checkout on your favorite store, go to the shipping.com site for a free 30-day trial. You might find that you can get the shipping cost back from retailers like Macy's or ProFlowers.
15. Do Your Due Diligence: Ready to check out online? Check for a rebate or coupon first. We've listed a few sites in our "Best Deal Sites" section. By checking for coupons before you check out, this can give you added savings. For example, Bath and Body Works might have a 10% off coupon, but you might find a 20% off coupon on a site like Retailmenot.com.
16. Cut Down On Spending Out: Tempted by the smell of movie popcorn? Eat before you go to a movie. Most movie theaters are located near a Walmart or other store. Eat a meal and get a bag of popcorn before you go to the movie. By the time you get to the theater, the popcorn smell won't bother you.
If you're out shopping and tempted to stop and get something to eat, bring a snack like trail mix or a granola bar. A protein bar is better because you can hold onto the wrapper without touching the food with your hands especially if you're shopping for deals and have a cart full of items. If you're shopping all day for holiday items, bag a lunch and sit in the food court with your sandwich and drink that you brought from home. Nothing says shopping like peanut butter and jelly. Wash it down with a bottle of water, or bring a mug of coffee. Now you're ready to shop again. Costs? Zero.
17. Look for (Big)ger Deals: Look online for deals that can help you save more. If you know your kids are home during the winter break and want to head to the movies, sign them up for MoviePass. MoviePass is $10 a month, but it gives the user one full movie ticket a day at AMC theaters.
Want a cheaper alternative? Sign up for a free movie trial online. Showtime, HBO, Starz, and other channels usually have a 7-day free trial with access to all the top, recent movies.
18. Go for a Walk or Ride: If you live close to work, walk there, or bike there. By easing your commute, you can save a few hundred dollars on gas each year. If you have the option, move closer to your job so you can walk or bike, or look for your next job in your neighborhood. Not only will you be the most valued and reliable employee, you're also less stressed because there's no traffic!
19. Reduce Credit Card Debts: Now this is big. There are 2 great ways to cut credit card debt. You can pay the card with the lowest balance first and work your way up, or you can pay off the card with the highest interest rate. We like paying off the smaller bills first as this is considered the "snowball effect." Pay a bill off, then use the money due for that bill towards the next one.
20. Pay Off Your Student Loans: Owe $60,000 in student loans? What about $100,000? What about $200,000? Don't let the amount scare you, just set up a plan. You might need to set aside 5-years or 10-years, but you can pay all your debts off. Refer to apps like Dave Ramsey for help with a 5 or 10 year plan and ways to apply for income-based student loan repayments.
For a 5-year plan, it might require that you cut back on all excess spending for 5-years and take a part-time job, but you can pay your debts off. If you owe $200,000 for example, that's $40,000 over 5-years. Subtract your basic utilities, rent/mortgage, and groceries, and get a part-time job to cover the balance that you need. It's only for 5-years, and once you're done, book a vacation to celebrate. You've got this!
21. Maximize Your Savings: With your 401(k) and your IRA, save the max every year. If you change jobs, look for one that offers 401(k) matching to help increase your nest egg!
22. Get a Roommate: Not that you need it, but a roommate can help pay off your mortgage faster. If you're unsure about getting someone that will pay their fair share, hire a property management company that can screen applicants for you. If you move from your home, rent it out and the property management company can help you find applicable tenants.
23. Downsize: Have a home that's too big? Kids already left for college? Downsize. It's the perfect way to save towards retirement.
24. Buy in Bulk: When you shop, instead of shopping when you run out of something, shop once a month with all your coupons. Even if you order online with Peapod, Amazon Fresh, or other delivery services, a free trial can include free shipping. Look for offers and be sure to use your coupons.
25. Pray for Wisdom: We intentionally started with sowing and are ending this with prayer. No matter how big your debts are, pray and ask God for wisdom. Remember, if you have debts that are over 7-years-old, they should be removed from your credit report. If you have suffered a financial hardship, ask the company for a payoff in a lower amount. Just be careful not to talk to collection agencies that are for bills over 7-years-old. You're not obligated to pay a collection bill unless you talk to the collection agency again which can restart the debt collection process. Note: Bills that won't come off your report include judgments for tax debts and student loans.
For medical bills, ask for a hardship discount or see if the facility will waive the bill. Some charitable hospitals allow for hardship cases. Lastly, remember that God doesn't give us the spirit of fear but a sound mind. Ask God for wisdom and trust that He will make the way! God's got this!
*OUR BIGGEST TIP THIS HOLIDAY SEASON: If you see something at a really great sale price, go ahead and buy it, but keep your receipt. That way if you see it cheaper, the store might price match, or you can return it/exchange it.
Looking for the best sites to help with your finances? Check out these top sites with tips on budgeting, saving, and paying down debts:
1. Mint: Mint can help with everything from paying down your debts to setting up an easy to view online budget. Plug in your monthly bills and Mint helps you organize your finances. Mint is FREE and you can find it in the iTunes Store or in the Google Play Store.
2. You Need a Budget: This budgeting program is designed to help you go from paycheck-to-paycheck. You allocate/dispense money into specific categories and it can help you organize your money. Try a FREE trial when you sign up with your iPhone or Android device.
3. Dave Ramsey: Dave Ramsey has a faith-based app that can help with all kinds of financial situations. Whether you are starting out and want to save for a new home or you are in debt and in over your head, there are hundreds of success stories from people who took "baby steps" to get out of debt and get their finances on track.
4. Credit Karma: Whether you are just looking for help with improving your credit score or you want to apply for a top credit card with the most cash back savings, Credit Karma can help.
5. Credit Sesame: Want to look up tips on how to improve your credit score? Try Credit Sesame. It's similar to Credit Karma and you can read up on credit card offers, ways to manage your finances, and how to shop for a loan.