Ultimate Guide to Grocery Store Savings

grocery store savingsWorking as a helper clerk at QFC for three years, I acquired a great deal of knowledge about the products sold inside of a grocery store. I also saw first-hand how people shop and the amount of money they spend on each trip, much of which was unnecessary. As a part of my job, I was tasked with stocking inventory on the shelves, which was directly connected to how well the product sold and what price it was at.

So, here are some tips for those of you who are looking to increase savings every time you go to fill up your pantry:

 

1. Read grocery store advertisements like businessmen read the Wall Street Journal

Grocery stores pay a lot of money to put their ads in the newspaper, and there is a reason for it. Some of them have great offers that are often overlooked. If you want to shop smart, you have to educate yourself, especially if you have several grocery store chains located within the same vicinity vying for your business.

Constantly check them and compare to see who is selling what and at what price. Don’t be fooled by the adjectives or adverbs they use to describe their prices. It’s pure math. Easier it’s less or more than another price.

 

2. Carry around coupons

Coupons seem tedious and more suitable for a petulant Baby Boomer, tearing them out of an ad or newspaper with a pair of rusty scissors. But coupons can help trim down costs. They’re the proverbial pebbles which fill up the bucket of water for the crow. But there are a few things to keep in mind so you don’t get irritated having to deal with it, because it can be painstaking at times.

One, you need to keep them organized. Stuffing them in a disorganized drawer in the hopes of being able to find that 50 percent off for a pack of beer the day it expires is not the approach you want to take. Categorize them by their expiration date and what product its for. Discard expired coupons, in the event that your 91-year-old grandmother finds it and tries to use it at a Bartell’s.

Two, read the fine print. I say again, read the fine print.  And trust your instincts. If the coupon or ad seems too good to be true, it generally means either it’s not true, or it’s in a hideously limited supply which has already run out by the time you’re finished reading the ad itself.

 

3. For bread and dairy products, look for the “Manager’s Special”

At QFC, one of my responsibilities was to go through the entire dairy section and look for items which were approaching their sell by date. Those items were then marked 50 percent off with a “Manager’s Special” sticker and code. The bakery employees also do this with their bread products.

If you’re looking for bread or dairy to eat within a day or two, this option is fantastic, especially with the rise in prices for dairy. When I first started working at QFC in 2005, yogurt was around 50 cents. Now, it’s around 60 cents, when it’s on sale. A few days ago, I was looking for something to buy for lunch, and I found a large tub of yogurt for one dollar and 40 cents on “Manager’s Special.”

In case you are worried about expiration dates, remember there are two types of dates; sell by and expiration dates. A sell by date is the day the store is required to sell the item. If it does not sell, then they must take it off the shelf, and usually it is donated to a local food bank. An expiration date is the day the item itself goes bad and is no longer healthy to eat. Usually, the store has both dates on the product and are roughly separated by a week.

So don’t worry about buying a “Manager’s Special” item for health concerns. Dairy item will be good for at least a week, though I would recommend you eat it sooner than that. Bread I would eat within a day.

 

4. Ignore the “buy five, get one free/half off” sales pitch

Unless you intended to buy a large quantity of the product regardless of the sale, you’ll end of spending more money than you intended to, making the whole savings concept pointless. The point is for you to save money, not spend more money just because you’ll save on spending you wouldn’t have done otherwise.

 

5. Wait for expensive items to go on sale, then fill the cart full

The best sales are the ones where the product is at least 20-30 percent off. 50 percent off is a gold mine. Clearance items are Fort Knox.

However, referring to what I said earlier, unless you actually use the item in question, don’t buy it. There is no point in buying something just because it is cheaper than it was before.

As a rule of thumb, if you like a product which continually gets more and more pricey, hold back until it goes on sale, and then stock up on it. I always hold back on my favorite soup, which is now $3.15 a can, and instead wait until it is four for six, or $1.50.

 

6. Give the generic/store brands a try

Depending on your financial situation and food preferences, generic brands are ideal because they’re generally the cheapest. At QFC, Kroger and QFC brand foods and products were always substantially cheaper than the regular brands. In some instances, this is not a problem, because the products do not have much of a difference.

Some, however, vary in quality, so it is a question of how hungry, or frugal, you are. For other national chains, Fred Meyer and Safeway both have store brands as well.

 

7. Big brand store chains are not always the least expensive

Going to college at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., I was a bargain shopper living on a tight budget. Therefore, I was very selective about where I did my shopping, and had grocery ads flooding my mailbox. I received all sorts of coupons from Macys coupons at Mypoints to penny saver ads with CVS coupons.  I was surprised to find that the Safeway did not actually have the best sales. Instead, it was the local trading company grocery store, which sold many items for half the price. Moral of the story; don’t simply shop. Do your homework beforehand.

 

8. To buy or not buy in bulk

I have spoken to a lot of people about buying in bulk from places like WalMart or Costco and the truth is it is not always the solution. These places definitely cut costs by selling en masse to consumers, rather than individual packages. The issue, however, is whether or not this will curb your costs are increase them. It can be ideal, because you can buy a large supply of food for much less than you normally would at a small local grocery store.

Yet, having shopped at the Issaquah Costco every day after church for years and years as a child, I believe most people tend to buy more than they need or intended to and, thus, spend more money. In a store that is, for all intents and purposes, really just a giant warehouse crammed with every desire of the human heart, there is a terrible temptation to buy everything you see and not realize the price once you see the number appear at the cash register. At that point, most people will be too embarrassed to bail items from their cart like cargo from a sinking ship.

I have not shopped at WalMart as frequently, but if you have ever watched South Park’s episode on it, you’ll understand what I’m getting at.

 

Go out and shop smarter!

Therefore, the question you have to ask yourself before shopping these places is “how much do I need?” as well as “do I have willpower to resist purchasing more than I need?” If you are buying for a group of five or more, Costco and WalMart are where you want to go for bulk food. Anything less, you might want to run some calculations to determine where you’ll spend the least.

Lastly, some grocery stores, like Safeway, have gas rewards programs for shopping inside of their stores. Money spent inside of the store goes towards points that can be redeemed for gas, ranging from 10 cents off to a dollar off per gallon. Membership at stores like Fred Meyer and QFC can be used to save 10 cents off every gallon at Shell gas stations. This gives big store chains somewhat of an advantage over local stores.

Creating a Spending Journal: Tips for Budgeting

spending journalWondering where your bank account has gone?   Individuals and families who don’t do the best job in the budgeting department can arrive often move along through a vicious cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, because they’ve neglected to budget their money. If you’re wondering how your money seems to disappear shortly after each perhaps a spending journal could be the answer.

 

The Useless Budget

Your budget might be useless.   If you have no knowledge of how you’re spending money, where it’s going, and how your finances look by month’s end (budgeted amount vs. actual expenses) â“ you might be wasting your time with your current budgeting strategy.

A budget is something like a credit card statement, so to speak.   In other words, you should not just update your budget, fill in the expected category values with idea numbers, and then even fill in what you’re spending.   You have to put it into action: your budget should serve as a guide, a conversation❠of sorts between you and the numbers.

It may seem a little odd to explain it in that way, but it’s true.   If you aren’t engaged with your budget, looking through the numbers and seeing how you’re doing, you might be wasting your time.   The budget serves as a guide, giving you perspective into your income, expenses, savings, and furthermore.

 

Using the Spending Journal

Whether it is or isn’t part of a formal budget, a spending journal can give you that perspective.

Imagine if you wrote down anything that you spent money on â“ from your groceries to your morning visit to the coffee kiosk, and even your actual bills â“ all noted in your spending journal.   And add the option to attach a category onto the purchase, which would allow you to itemize and sort the payments.   What would that do for you?

At the end of the month, you would have a list of all the purchases you made, from the expected ones to the compulsive ones that undermine your budget. This is the idea of the spending journal; it is a simpler form of the budget⦠and it could be all you need if keeping track of income isn’t complicated.

As you look at your spending habits, you’ll be able to find areas of improvement.   Maybe you’re spending too much on coffee in the mornings, or eating out (always an area with potential.)   This is the type of tool that can keep your spending habits in check, and allow you to concentrate on your saving/investment goals, and whatever is pressing at the moment (debt, buying a home, etc.).

 

How?

Well, of course you can keep the journal as a true journal.   Those that prefer the old fashion way of doing things can still log items in via the pen and notebook.

Technological individuals have a number of options.   You could keep your spending journal on a spreadsheet or get a free personal finance budgeting program. There are a number of free options online, or available through software you can install on your computer. If you have a smartphone, you could easily keep track of your expenses when you’re on the go â“ very convenient, as you can imagine.

 

It’s really up to you!

Regardless of how you keep a spending journal, this powerful tool can offer plenty of potential.   It’s up to you as to how useful it can be in your financial situation.

How do you plan your spending each month? Do you find that a set-in-stone budget is a must-have for financial success? Share your tips with us â“ leave a comment below!

(The following is a guest post by Lisa at  Wallet Watcher, an Australian personal finance blog created to help readers figure out how to save money and watch your own spending habits.)

How to Find Work Fast During a Down Economy

find work fastThe economy continues on a path of mediocrity, the stock markets present almost daily doses of whiplash to investors, and just this week the U.S. Census Bureau released a report on poverty in the United States (hint: it’s increasing). If you or someone you know is unemployed or under-employed, it’s time to evaluate every income producing option available – even those options that are less than ideal.

I’ve worked for well over 100 employers (no, that’s not a typo or an exaggeration). I know a few things about finding a job, and quickly, when the chips are down. So if the landlord is banging on your door, your car is running on fumes, or you just need to pay for a decent sandwich – then I’m your own, personal “expert” at finding work in a hurry. Read on…

Swallow your pride and do something “beneath” your abilities.

This is no time to think that “you’re too good” for whatever it is that you don’t want to do. Here’s one trick to use when searching for so-called “low status” jobs: try looking for work in towns located some distance from your normal “stomping grounds”. This way, people you know won’t find out that you’re delivering pizzas or working at McDonald’s (the ones that they might patronize, that is.)

No matter how rotten the economy is, the same industries always seem to be seeking workers. Many businesses involved in the retail, restaurant, seasonal, leisure, agriculture, and trucking industries are always hiring. And don’t forget call centers, also. (By the way, if you decide to look for work at a call center, try to grab a position that involves “inbound” vs. “outbound” calls. “Outbound” means: you’ll be cold calling people just as they sit down for dinner. Not fun.) Remember: a little “hard time” at the crummiest greasy spoon in town may well help you get a management position at a respectable nightclub in the future.

Deliver pizzas

This one really isn’t bad, and probably gets a worse rap than it deserves. To get paid to deliver a major staple of the American diet, you’ll need three things: wheels that you don’t mind putting some mileage on, a reasonably decent driving record, and insurance. Don’t bother with this type of gig if any one of these is missing. You’ll get tips, which means you’ll have cash – always.

You can work whatever schedule is convenient for you (though, obviously, weekends will be more lucrative). Bad weather means better tips. You can listen to whatever you want on the radio, and pull over and use the cell phone at your convenience. Bonus benefit: free food! And, if you’re single: you’ll certainly encounter cute members of the opposite sex, either co-workers or customers.

Start a hauling and/or moving business

I did this once – and wound up with a business that lasted over two years. There are now national franchises that are making millions from hauling away junk from homes, garages, and storage units. If you have a pickup truck and/or trailer, a cell phone, work gloves, and a willingness to get paid to excercise – you can be in the hauling business. When I ran a junk hauling business, I used local weekly small-town newspapers to advertise.

Running classified ads in these types of papers is pretty cheap, and they always yield at least a handful of phone calls. You can use online classifieds like Craigslist, of course – but so is your competition. Besides, many homeowners don’t bother calling service businesses listed in Craigslist because they don’t trust those businesses, or take them seriously.

Play the numbers game

It’s obvious that you should be using the web to look for work. But try the old school method of “pounding the pavement” – since so few others do this these days. Find the area near you where the half-dozen (every town has this area) fast-food joints are located near one another.

Or go visit your local mall. Grab applications at each store, take them home, then fill them out (it’s a more laborious process than you think – do it at home, trust me). Then return those completed applications in person. Try to hand your application over to the store manager on duty. This will leave an impression on that particular manager that you’ll never be able to deliver via cyberspace. You may even receive an interview on the spot – I’ve had this happen to me several times when the business in question needed workers immediately.

Get a commercial driver’s license

This idea only applies if you have a decent driving record, no felonies, and you’re single. If you aren’t single, you soon will be – if you go OTR (trucker parlance for “over the road”). You’ll be away from home for weeks. In fact, some drivers don’t bother having homes and instead live out of their trucks. Which, actually, will save you huge amounts of money – but cost your social life dearly.

Now, you can also drive “local”, but these driving gigs are far more difficult to get, especially for newer drivers. Most local driving gigs involve 10-12 hour days anyway, so even these will greatly impact your non-working life. I’ve worked mostly local gigs, and made great money doing them. But, I like my downtime. A LOT. Which is why even the most lucrative local driving gig, for me, only lasted three years. (However – I paid off huge debts during that period.) Having a “CDL” means you’ll always have work (if you want it).

Use temp firms

Yes, there is a lot not to like about temp firms. Most treat applicants like ten-year-olds, take a cut of your hourly pay, and will waste a lot of your time before sending you to a gig. Temp firms tend to want you at their office, in person, so that they can run you through a battery of tests to prove you aren’t a complete moron. Ironic, since many temp staffers are. (I’m not a fan of temp firms, in case you didn’t notice.) On the other hand, maybe you don’t care, since you need cash immediately.

Let’s face it – in any economy, the temp firms usually have something (anything!) Don’t kid yourself, though – many temp firms are trying to fill lousy gigs with warm bodies – the kinds of gigs that in-house H.R. departments gave up trying to fill. Some firms, of course, are worse than others. The worst part about applying for work via a temp firm is watching the dummy videos that nearly every temp agency forces prospective employees to watch. Painful.

Volunteer, or work for free

If money isn’t really that pressing, and/or you’re fortunate to have a side income or partner who brings home the bacon, then thank your lucky stars. Go visit a volunteer website and offer your time to someone less fortunate (there is always someone less fortunate than you.) Find a cause you can get into and help out. Even a couple hours a month is welcome. You can also work for free (Different from volunteering; I’m talking here about donating free work to a for-profit organization.)

I’ve noticed that sometimes “experts” on job hunting will occasionally suggest that you work for free. This may (“experts” claim) lead to a paying gig. I suppose that might be the case, sometimes. I doubt it, though. I’ve worked for “free” as a freelancer on several occasions. Not once did doing so get me paid work. I don’t recommend doing this, but it’s an idea worth including here.

Some job hunting sites are better than others

I have had good luck finding full-time and part-time work through classified sites like Craigslist and Backpage.com; not so much with the larger job-related “megasites” like Monster.com or CareerBuilder. The latter two sites are overloaded with listings from recruiters, who will waste your time more effectively than actually find you paid work.

The former two sites, however, are filled with job listings from employers looking for help and who need to hire quickly. Beware of scams, however – especially with Craigslist. Never send a prospective employer your Social Security number via e-mail or via an online job application until you are sure of who you’re dealing with. That said, there are far more legitimate job opportunities on the online classified sites than scams – just be careful. If a job opening sounds to good to be true, it’s likely a scam.

Just because you’re a college graduate (and especially if you aren’t) doesn’t mean a good job is your birthright. Quit expecting your “dream job” to fall out of the sky, and look for work beyond “your field” (do people still use this phrase?) Your field is wherever the work is, right now. A paycheck derived from driving a taxi is better than no paycheck at all.

(This has been a guest post by Matt Henterly, a developer of The BuckTrak Budget Planner, a free online financial manager for individuals and small businesses.)

5 Wise Ways to Save Money

ways to save moneyWe’d all like a few more dollars in our pocket every month. But making cutbacks in your budget doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think – and it could make all the difference to the shape of your finances.

Here are five wise ways you could save money:

 

Consider ‘couponing’â¦

Savvy shoppers know that getting their hands on the best cost-cutting coupons can knock more than a few dollars off their grocery bill. It’s even become something of a ‘craze’ for some dedicated bargain hunters!  Check out specialist online voucher websites, such as Groupon deals, and approach all newspapers and magazines with a pair of scissors at the ready: you could get your hands on discounts on everything from toiletries to restaurant meals!

 

Ditch the designer labels

Most of us really can’t justify paying hundreds of dollars on clothes just because something’s got a top designer’s name sewn inside – especially if we end up wearing it just a handful of times.  Try looking online or at the local mall for discounts on designer clothing, or for similar items at a fraction of the price. You might find the difference between ‘designer’ and ‘mall-bought’ is smaller than you thinkâ¦

 

Thinking of redecorating? DIY!

Redecorating can be costly – particularly if it’s a room with a lot of detail to consider, such as the lounge or the kids’ bedrooms. However, rather than calling out the professionals, why not approach things more economically?

See if you – or any friends and family – have any old paint you could use rather than buying it brand new, and if you know anyone who’s handy with a paintbrush and can spare a few hours at the weekend, why not see if they could help out?

Your local college may even offer night classes on things like plumbing – and remember that the long-term gains could outweigh the cost of the course fees.

 

Have car-free days

Leaving your car in the garage a few times every month, and walking or cycling to work instead, could save you a fair amount on fuel bills. Not only that, but you’ll also be doing the environment a bit of good – and getting an extra bit of exercise into the bargain too!

 

Try cutting back on ‘small spends’

Think about the smaller purchases you make on a daily basis that could be having a big impact on your finances.

Do you get a coffee from an expensive coffee shop before work every day? Why not take your own instant brand? If you use the subway, why not get off a few stops before the one you need and walk to save on travel costs? You may be surprised at what a big difference such little changes could make to your budget.

 

These tips could help if you’re generally managing your money well. If you’re having real problems with your finances and have fallen into debt, you might need to do more than cut back on your spending – and the debt section of the Think Money website could help you.

My Buzz Cut Saved Me Over $1,000 in College

buzz cutYup, you heard that one right.  I cut my own hair during college and saved over $1,000 during my four years there.  This is a tip that helped me graduate college debt free!

Now, I know this won’t apply to the female readers, but it definitely does to the guys out there.  As a male in college, you have a huge money saving opportunity.  Cutting your own hair can save you a significant amount of coin.  You won’t be able to have the “cool haircut” but it will be cost effective.  That’s me on the right.  And yes, that’s a 4 wheeler that my buddy owned.  Man I miss that thing!

OK, so back on topic.  I’m going to give you an in-depth analysis of the cost break down and how these savings came to be.  I’m going to assume a couple things and make this straight forward and simple.  There is no doubt in my mind that if you follow this guideline you too can save over a grand during college by simply cutting your own hair.

So, I was a freshman, brand new to the University of Washington.  I didn’t come from a family with money, so I was always looking for ways to cut expenses and save more of my money.  What better way to cut expenses than to cut expenses that you can control?  It was like a light bulb went off and buzzing my own hair became second nature to me.

I think it was my birthday and I had a buzzer on my list.  My Grandma ended up buying the hair clipper kit for me and I was well on my way.  Looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a present before.  Maybe it had something to do with all the money I was going to save the next few years haha.

I was off and away.  During college, I ended up buzzing my hair once a month, not only to keep it short and looking sharp but for some odd reason, my hair grows really fast. I would typically get a professional haircut once a month, so this type of schedule came naturally to me.

Let’s dive into the typical haircut costs for me.  I’ll also touch on hair products and the associated costs for them.  Let’s assume one haircut a month and one shower a day for four years.  Here is the breakdown:

Professional barber cut= $15

Tip= $5

Bottle of shampoo/conditioner (mid range)= $7.50

Hair gel= $5.00

TOTAL= $32.50/month

$32.50 x 12 months x 4 years= $1,560

VS.

Cost of cutting my own hair?  FREE!

Yes, you’re seeing that right.  I saved a grand total of $1,560 during college by avoiding these costs!

Now that you know what I saved, you might be asking about the costs associated with cutting your own hair?  Well, for my situation, my only cost was time (usually would take me 20 minutes to buzz cut my hair) and maintenance of the hair clippers I received as a present.  Even if you had to pay for the clippers, I think the nicest ones in the store will run you $40.  You’d still be saving $1,520 if you had to buy your own clippers.  That cost is  negligible  since you’re saving that much over a long period of time.

Now that you know the cost savings associated with buzzing your own hair, let me give you some tips!

  1. Having a friend around to help is always nice.  Hitting certain angles can be hairy (no pun intended).
  2. Move slow with the clipper for a finer cut.  Moving too fast will grab at chunks of your hair.
  3. Always  perform a final pass through.  This will take care of stubborn hairs and hair at awkward angles.
  4. Use a hair guard that comes with the kit and try to shower right after.  This is your best bet for keeping your bathroom looking clean!
  5. Oil the hair clippers after each use.  This keeps the motor running smoothly and keeps the blades running sharp.
  6. For your convenience, don;t worry about blending in hair.  If you’re going to do a buzz cut, simply use a single number blade and it it on your entire head.

There you have it guys.  A real life, tried and tested method for saving money during college.  I’ll give you a warning though.  If you do this, the most  random  people will come up to you and ask if you’re a Marine.  Trust me, it’ll happen a lot.  At the end of the day, if you’re like me and want to save money during college, this was a strategy that saved me a significant amount of moolah’.  I totally understand if this won’t work for you or if you don’t want to buzz cut your hair.  There are plenty of other ways to save money during college.  Everyone has their own story and things they like to do.  For me, this came natural and I personally loved my buzz cut!

READERS: Would you ever consider this money saving strategy?  What other strategies have you used to help ease the burden of college expenses?

Percentage of Income to Save Each Month

income percentageThe Perfect Percentage

If you’re looking to prevent overspending, you will need to develop a method that fits your budget. One common method involves tracking all expenditures during the month and adjusting them to ensure that expenses never exceed income. This may work for some, but others want something more concrete and ambitious. So what percentage of your earnings should you save each month?

Unfortunately, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all number, but 40% provides a good starting point.  Make sure to plan according to what you can afford to set aside; your number might need to be different.   If you hit your perfect percentage, you won’t have to count every penny, and you’ll have plenty of extra cash at the end of the day.

The Key to Putting Money Aside

Contrary to common belief, it rarely matters where you’re overspending. After all, it’s all debt. But, it is important to understand your committedâ”or fixedâ”spending so you can be ready for   unforeseen expenses. Big, irregular expenses can drain the remainder of your emergency cash reserves. If you set aside 40% percent of your total earnings, you may be able avoid flat-lining your accounts when you take a vacation or fix the roof.

How you handle committed expenses often determines whether or not you’ll hit your 40% savings goal. Try not to spend any more than 60% of your income on fixed expenses. Many things  fall into this category, including food, clothing, essential household expenses, insurance, bills, and taxes.

 

Your Allocation Scheme

Once you have figured out how to budget your way to 40%, you’ll need to put that extra money in the right places. Here’s one way to divvy it up:

Long-Term Savings Goals: Make deliberate steps to create a long-term savings goal. A certain percentage of the 40% should go into your retirement account. Aim high and scale it back if needed. Start with 10% to be safe. Drawing money from this bucket should be your last resort.

Irregular Expenses: This is the big one. You will need to set aside 20% for vacations, repairs, appliances, gifts and other irregular and unpredictable expenses.

Entertainment Expenses: Everyone needs to live a little. Set aside 10% for fun. This includes weekend trips, amusement parks, movies, bars, restaurants, and whatever else you’re into.

 

Make Your Mark

As you probably know, there’s no perfect percentage for the masses. You’ll need to test the waters and figure it out for yourself. But, if you start at 40%,   you’ll probably find your mark rather quickly.

By saving regularly, you’ll put yourself in a better position to meet future financial challenges head on. Of course, it’s not all about helping yourself. When you set a goal now, you can make your mark on your children’s lives, too. Be sure to set realistic expectations, and always maintain a lifestyle that fits your budget. The Jones’s aren’t that cool, anyway.

(Check N Go is the fourth largest consumer financial service institution offering installment loans, check cashing and online payday loans in the United States. As a founding member of the Consumer Financial Services Association (CFSA), Check N Go has always been committed to responsible lending and works with legislators to improve the credibility of the cash advance industry. Check N Go has check cashing and payday loan locations in 28 states, with online locations in an additional 3.)

photo by debs-eye’s

Credit Card Mistakes To Avoid at All Costs

credit card mistakesIn many people’s lives, credit cards tend to take on one of two roles. One is that of an indispensable ally, one that is always available to bail you out of a tough situation at any hour of the day or night. The other? Well, that is of a cruel enemy, dragging you into a deep pit of debt and then slapping you with extra fees when you are down. Even when things are harmonious in your financial house, credit cards can be fickle friends. Make one mistake â“ a single missed payment, one charge too many that pushes you over your limit or simply apply for too many cards â“ and it can have a negative impact upon your credit score. That, in turn, can result in higher interest rates and other bad news for your budget.

Here are a few of the most common â“ and not to mention expensive â“ credit card blunders that are best avoided.

Late Payments

It may be fashionable to be late to a party, but it’s downright dumb to be late paying your credit cards bills. Not only will missing a payment cause your card issuer to charge you a late fee, but it will lead to them increasing the interest rates on your account. Your payment history accounts for about 35% of your credit score and one single messed-up payment can cause your score to take a serious dive. If you are not set up to make payments online, make sure you drop your check in the mail well in advance of its due date.

Making the Minimum

If you are trying to pay a balance, you must make more than just the minimum payment. Consider this example put forth by the website, omaha.com:

With a $5,000 balance and annual interest of 14 percent, a $100 minimum payment will pay off the bill in 22 years, with $6,110 going for interest. If you pay $150 a month, the bill is gone in four years with $1,369 in interest.

Federal Laws are now in place requiring lenders to display, on every statement, how long it would take you to pay off a balance making only the minimum payment. This as well as the monthly amount you would need to pay, in order to pay off the debt in three years.

Withdrawing Cash On Your Card

DO NOT, as in ever, ever, ever, use a credit card for cash advances, except in the instance of an absolute emergency. Aside from the dizzyingly high interest rates associated with pulling out cash on your cards, there are typically additional fees. Also, interest begins to accrue IMMEDIATELY on the amount of cash withdrawn which means that you will be paying back much more than you borrowed even if you quick about it.

Paying An Annual Fee

Some rewards cards come with an annual fee and sometimes those rewards are tied to the amount you charge. So no matter how nifty the perks on your plastic, they may not be worth what you will be paying for them. Make sure you are not tempted to spend more than you normally would on your card just to get those rewards.

You should always take the time to make sure you understand the exact terms of your credit card. That way you will avoid unnecessary fees and penalties. If you are in the market for a new card, comparison sites such as credit land can be an invaluable tool. If you know how to use your credit cards mindfully, your wallet will house plastic pal instead of foes.

photo by moneyblognewz

Saving Money in the Garden This Summer

gardeningGetting green in the garden is a great way to save pennies on grocery bills, whilst also supporting a low carbon and sustainable approach to living. But getting set up and sustaining an efficient plot can take some cash investment in itself. There are sneaky, thrifty cheats to many green fingered pursuits â“ here are just a few ideas on how to save money in the garden.

Compost

Whether you’re growing for food or simply aesthetic pleasure, composting is the way forward for providing plants with a rich, wholesome environment, whilst making big  savings  on gardening expenses. You don’t even have to invest in an expensive compost bin â“ a few pallets salvaged from the local builders yard can be knocked together to make a frame. Any raw food from the kitchen is good to compost, along with paper, cardboard and grass clippings. Time spent turning the heap pays dividends in keeping the material aerated and fresh.

Nettle brew

Composting is the ultimate illustration of the beauty of recycling, but there are loads of other ways to turn junk to jewels in the garden. Nettles might not be the first choice for herbaceous borders, but make great tomato feed. Pull from the patch, submerge in water and leave to brew for two weeks â“ the highly smelly result works wonders on all veggie plants.

Any old iron

A tea pot, old boots, vases⦠anything and everything has the potential to become a new plant pot and the results create a unique and eclectic look for any garden, without spending a penny.

DIY seedling pots

Save old newspapers and a wine bottle â“ wrapping the paper around the bottle and folding at the base to create perfect seedling pots that are biodegradable, make good use of waste paper and save money on plastic pot purchases.

Save seed

Save your own seed â“ allow some veggies and flowers to go to seed, select a healthy, disease free head and remove the seed pod. Place the pod in a paper bag or envelop and store somewhere dry. Check regularly and when the seed pods have split, separate the seeds, discard the pod and stash until planting season.  

Swap shop

Network with local gardeners and get together for a swap shop â“ if you’re saving seed or are lucky enough to have a bumper crop of one variety of vegetable, now is the time to take your offerings and swap for products you’re lacking. Save money, make friends and create a bountiful, beautiful garden.

Are Hybrid Cars Worth the Money?

hybrid car

Hybrid cars were manufactured to provide an alternative means to combat the rising fuel costs. They are energy efficient and come in different models and sizes. They are powered by both gas and electricity and possess a fuel efficient gas powered engine. They also have an electric powered motor which works with the engine when the car is accelerating.

 

The vehicles are equipped with a battery powered electric motor which is automatically recharged while it is being driven.

The hybrid cars come in two different types: a parallel and series hybrid. In the former, both the electric motor and the gasoline engine work in unison to propel the car forward, while the series hybrid uses the gasoline run engine to power the electric motor which in turn either powers the vehicle or works to charge the batteries which will perform that task. Hybrid cars are right in line with the current go green❠technology.

 

Sales of hybrid cars have spiked in recent months due to the increase in gas prices worldwide.

One of the most common hybrid vehicles, the Toyota Prius, has dominated sales in the US largely owing to its affordability feature. Many other hybrid vehicles are also making waves. The cost of the hybrid cars are ranging from $24,000 to $35,000 depending on the model and the features. Even though they are a bit more expensive than their fuel run counterparts, the hybrid vehicles should pay for themselves, especially if the gas prices continue to skyrocket.

 

In 2011, more hybrid cars were manufactured than ever before.

Some of these cars are the Honda Insight, Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, and Escape to name a few. There are also cars scheduled for release from 2011-2013. The manufacturers of these vehicles realize that this is a trend that is catching on. Many drivers have resorted to hybrid vehicles as an affordable alternative, but some people are switching over simply because they want to help the environment. Apart from the fuel cost, you have to take into consideration the cost to replace the battery which costs far more than the average car battery which simply starts the car. Servicing a hybrid car can prove to be more costly than other cars as well because of the technicality involved.

 

So is it really worth it to buy one of these hybrids?

If you are tight on money then the answer is probably no.   But as more of these cars are made the cost should go down.   If the sole purpose of buying the car is to save money then hopefully you are a patient person who can wait the 10 years or more for the car to pay for itself in gas savings.   And hopefully in that time you will not have any expensive car repairs.

(To save money on costly auto repairs you can look into getting an extended car warranty.   Frank is a writer for www.ExtendedCarWarrantys.com where you can find all kinds of advice on choosing the right warranty for your vehicle and how to avoid warranty scams.)

Use Gas Buddy and Save Thousands at the Pump

gas buddy review

Summer is around the corner and that means expensive gas!   I’ve already shared with you some easy ways to save on gas, but I wanted to add another tool❠to the tool chest.   This new tool is a phone app called Gas Buddy.   Gas Buddy is just that, you’re new buddy.   Since it’s loaded on your phone, it goes with you wherever you go.   It accomplishes a simple goal.   It finds you the cheapest gas at your location.   How sweet is that?   Don’t you hate that feeling when you fill up at one station, you leave and you pass a station that has cheaper gas by 15 cents!   I know I do, and now with Gas Buddy, it won’t happen ever again.

Packed full of features

By far, the coolest feature is that the phone app only works with the help of the community.   The gas prices on Gas Buddy are actually aggregated by other phone users who input the prices of gas they’ve paid for recently.   One drawback of this is that if you live in tin buck two, you’re going to have less accurate gas prices since there’s far fewer people putting their information into the system.   Another great thing about it is that you’re not limited to a single operating system as it works with Windows, Android, and the I-Phone.   No one is left out!

Easy to use

The developers of Gas Buddy have made it pretty easy to use.   It’s as simple as saying gas closest to me❠and Gas Buddy will find you the cheapest gas closest to your GPD location.   If you want to see some gas stations outside of your immediate area, you can click on the map view and Gas Buddy will show you even more gas stations.

If you feel so inclined, you can tap on the gas station you are at and input the current prices and snap a picture to upload to Gas Buddy.   This is all part of the greater community❠by everyone doing their part to keep the app up to date.   You are also able to view what other users have imputed in the past.   You can find out what features are at the gas station like if there are available bathrooms or a mini mart.

gas buddy

Fully customizable

You can totally switch up the default settings of Gas Buddy on your phone.   You can choose your default startup screen.   Some people like the app going straight to stations near me❠and others like the main screen so they can choose from the available options.   There is also an option to choose your default fuel grade.   For me, I’m always premium to it’s good to know that Gas Buddy knows that I’m looking for premium gas prices, not unleaded.

Possible improvements

Since Gas Buddy is reliant on its users, traveling to small towns or cities will lead to little or no data for this app.   It’s frustrating but part of the bugs that come along with a user based app.   Pretty much, any town under 25,000 people, you’re not going to have much luck with Gas Buddy.   Depending on where you live, this might not matter to you.   Just remember that on long road trips, you might have to ask around for cheap gas prices instead of using Gas Buddy.   Other than this small bug❠Gas Buddy is a great addition to anyone’s phone.

Gas Buddy is a win for your phone and your wallet

Gas Buddy is just starting out, so the problem of limited user information will fix itself over time.   Gas Buddy definitely has the edge over its competitors.   This is by far the best way to find cheap gas wherever you’re at.   You know the best part about Gas Buddy?   It’s FREE!   Go get it on your application market and start saving gas today!

More info is on their site GasBuddy.com

(Photo credit goes to GasBuddy)