Saturday Spotlight: Money Saving Apps

We all love to save money but who has the time.  Do you cut coupons to grocery shop and then forget to take them?  I am definitely technically challenged but I am on a mission to pay off debt so I learning how to use digital coupons and money savings apps. So, pull out your smart phone and check out some of these money saving apps.

My favorites are:

Shopkick – rewards you with “kicks” when you visit participating retailers like Macy’s, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, etc.). Admit it, you go to at least one of these retailers every week. You also can earn “bonus kicks” for scanning specific items while in store. NO, you don’t have to purchase them, just scan the UPC code. Once you’ve earned enough reward points you can redeem them for retail and restaurant gift cards.  This is a fun way to get the kids involved in grocery shopping by letting them scan the products.  They have also added online rewards too.

Ebates – my favorite site for saving money when shopping online! You have seen the commercials right, where people are getting thousands of dollars back.  Well, the truth is I do’t get thousands back but I do average about $25 per month which is pretty good. Right now, you can earn $10 for clicking my link and joining as a new member.  Then get your referrals link so you can earn $25 for each person who joins using your link.

Cartwheel – Are you a Target shopper?  Be sure to grab their Cartwheel app so you can save additional money on products you buy.  This is a savings on top of the 5% they offer by using your Target credit card or debit card.  There is no need to open a credit card to get the 5%, you can link your Target card to you checking account and use it like a debit card.

For the grocery shoppers who love to use coupons, here are three apps just for you:

Checkout 51 – to save on groceries. Every Thursday morning, Checkout 51 updates with a new list of offers. Simply choose the offers you like, purchase them at any store then upload a photo of your receipt through the mobile app or website. When your account reaches $20, Checkout 51 sends you a check.

Ibotta – Before heading to the store, choose the offers you like then go shopping. (The more offers you select, the more you can earn.) After you check out, take a photo of your receipt which Ibotta will verify and then credit your account. Cash rewards can be deposited directly into a PayPal account. Every time you redeem an offer a new one will be sent to you.

What are YOUR favorite money saving sites? Share them with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Time to Get Your Finances In Order

I’ll admit, I am not the one to give financial advice because I still struggle with staying on budget as well as paying down debt.  As hubby says “You will never be a Rockefeller” which is why I was a perfect fit for social work and non-profits.I am always looking for tips on how to get better at this because:

Managing your money is the key to success!

So, if you’re looking to try and get your finances in order, stop spending, and start saving, here are some top tips are for you to try….

 

1. Create a Spreadsheet 

Do you know how much you owe?  If you have debt, do you now how much your interest rate is on each one? To easily organize your finances, a spreadsheet is a great way to see your income and your expenses.  You can create one in Google Drive so you can stay on top of it.   I have a list including interest charges so when there is extra money, I can pay down on the highest interest rate first.

2. Set Up Savings 

I know this sounds crazy if you have debt BUT you need to start saving for an emergency.  It can be as little as $10 a paycheck or $25 a month.  Check with your bank too for some of those instant kind of saving programs.  Bank of America takes the change from your ATM transactions, rounds up and the money is put in your savings account.  Those pennies add up quickly.  It all helps!

3. Organize Direct Debits 

I used to advocate direct debits but when my income varies, it is better for me to have repeated reminders set up. I have reminders set up on each of my credit cards when payments are due – 14 days out and 1 week out.  This ensures I avoid any late payment fees and any (further) damage to your credit score.

4. Refrain From Impulse Purchases 

Yup, we are all guilty of it.  Sometimes it is easier said than done.  Be sure to have some room in your budget for treats – large or small so you can occasionally splurge!

5. Make A List – Stick To It How many times have you gone to the store and your list is home?  The end result, you buy more than what you need and usually forget what you originally went to the store for.  I have started putting my grocer list on my phone.  When was the last time you left home without your phone?  Whether shopping for Christmas, clothing or groceries – always stick to the list!

6. Set Budgets for Events 

Everyone’s salary is different so why not set a budget for Birthdays so you don’t feel pressured to match what everyone else is spending.

7. Emergency Fund 

This goes back to #2 when we set up a savings account.  What happens why you have a surprise expense – car repair, etc?  Tempted to pull out the credit card. DON’T!!!  Use your savings account or emergency account.  By saving a little each money, you are ready for those unexpected events.

8. Don’t Be Drawn In By Offers 

Sales.  How often are you drawn in by the offers non things you may not really need.  If you need it, great.  If you don’t, why buy it.  I mean do you really need the  half price Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?

9. Make a Packed Lunch 

Taking lunch to work is so much cheaper than a daily visit to the local sandwich shop.  Think of the money and time you will save.  Have an hour for lunch?  Imagine being able to enjoy a full hour of leisurely eating your lunch and catching up with friends instead of waiting to order food and then gulping it down.  Bringing your lunch to work is better all around as well as far healthier for you.

10. Cut the Coffee 

Yes, I went there.  When I was commuting to work, I would do a WAWA stop on the way to and from work.  That came to at least $5 or more a day or $25 per week or over $1,300 per year.  I’m now hooked on Starbucks unsweet green tea and thankfully, I don’t commute or it would be about $1,000 a year on ice tea.  What could you use a $1000 on?

 11. Use Your Legs 

If you live in the city or your commute is to an area where there is good public transportation, this is a great way to save money.  Growing up in NJ, there really is not a very good public transportation system unless you are headed to NY to work. In addition to saving money, you can also burn some extra calories by walking to and from the stops.

12. Seek Out Deals 

Yes, I have gotten lazy when it comes to looking for the best deals.  Whether it is car insurance, phone service or our cable bill – I haven’t shopped around for the best deal in ages.  When I did call Comcast to re-negotiate our bill, I was able to save about $50 per month which is $600 to apply to paying down credit card debt.

13. Sell And Buy Online

I used to do this all of the time – selling on eBay was a regular thing.  It has gone by the wayside but it may be time to revive this old habit.  When it comes to shopping online, I am always looking for the best deal using apps like Ebates and others.

What is YOUR best tips for getting your finances under control?  Share them with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Time Saving Tips

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Are you wondering how it got to be Friday?  Did the week fly by?  Is your to do list just as long as it was on Monday and you have been crossing off things you have done?  Sometimes I feel like little elves come in at night and add to the list or erase what I crossed off, what about you?

I have found some time saving tips so you can get stuff done and move on to the stuff you really want to do.

#1 Eliminate Non-Essentials

Decide your top priorities and don’t worry about the rest. Pick no more than 3 things you want to get done on a particular day and just do them.  If you have time and can, do something else off the list – BONUS.  What are some of the non-essentials tasks you could eliminate?

1. Washing and folding kids’ laundry – Let younger kids fold their own clothes.  Then pick an age when your child becomes completely responsible for their own laundry.  I never did this but I know lots of moms who say this works great.
2. Folding sheets — I don’t fold bed sheets. I keep one set of sheets for each bed, wash them once a week and place them back on the bed.  It helps we only have one bed now to worry about.
3. Making breakfast — Keep easy to prepare foods like bagels, cheese toast, cereal and yogurt so breakfast is a DIY event.  This also helps for those of us who don’t usually eat breakfast.
4. Answering the phone – Our house phone is turned down so low, we never hear it BUT people can still leave a message on the machine.  I am learning to turn off my cell phone too so I can focus on what’s most important. You can use the “Do Not Disturb” setting on your smart phone and answer calls and texts when you have time. I didn’t even know there was a feature like this!

#2 – Just Say “No”

The key to eliminating non-essentials things in your life is learning to set good boundaries. UGH!  Sometimes you will need to make the tough choice of saying “NO” to things outside your values and priorities. This is never easy.  Learning to decline social engagements, job offers and other requests will be easier than turning down friends, family and work associates. Sometimes it is necessary if you want to live your best life focusing on what matter’s most.  Remember it is progress not perfection.

#3 – Batch Tasks

Once you have eliminated tasks you can’t or shouldn’t be doing, how about finding a way to do them more efficiently.  One trick is to group them together and do them at one time. Here are some examples of task batching:

1. Bulk cooking — I always cook for 4 – 6 people even though there are only 2 of us.  Why?  Hubby works the night shift and I freeze portioned meals for us to use during the week.  No pre-packaged frozen meals in this house.
2. Errand day – Pick one day a week to complete all of your shopping and other errands. This not only saves time, but gas money because you can plan the most efficient route.

#4 – Use Online Services

I am learning how to do this more often.  We use JET.com where prices drop as you shop.  They offer discounts on your first 3 orders, Ebates offers a 3% rebate all of the time and shipping is free for orders over $35.  I am now using Amazon PRIME and learning as I go along. Have you checked out Amazon Family? It’s part of Amazon Prime and gives you 20% off on diaper subscriptions, free shipping, exclusive baby registry and family discounts and more.  You can get a FREE trial of AMAZON prime.  What is your favorite online service?

#5 – Create Routines

One of the best way to save time and simplify your life is by creating routines as much as possible.  Specific days for specific tasks, create a morning and evening routine for you and your family, clean your house in the same order every week.  Routines help to ensure you can take care of important tasks without expending much energy. Regular routines will also help your kids feel calmer because they know what to expect.  I learned this early when raising Belinda.  “Winging” things did not work well for her but when she had a set schedule, life was so much easier for this single mom.

Want are you best time saving tips for moms?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Money Saving Apps

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I will be the first to admit that I am technically challenged.  I am on a mission to pay off debt so I am moving into the digital age for coupons and savings apps.  So, pull out your smart phone and check out some of these money saving apps.

Shopkick  rewards you with “kicks” when you visit participating retailers like Macy’s, Target, Best Buy, etc.).  Admit it, you go to at least one of these retailers every week.  You also can earn “bonus kicks” for scanning specific items while in store. NO, you don’t have to purchase them, just scan the UPC code.  Once you’ve earned enough reward points you can redeem them for retail and restaurant gift cards.

Checkout 51 – to save on groceries. Every Thursday morning, Checkout 51 updates with a new list of offers. Simply choose the offers you like, purchase them at any store then upload a photo of your receipt through the mobile app or website. When your account reaches $20, Checkout 51 sends you a check.

Ibotta – Before heading to the store, choose the offers you like then go shopping. (The more offers you select, the more you can earn.) After you check out, take a photo of your receipt which Ibotta will verify and then credit your account. Cash rewards can be deposited directly into a PayPal account. Every time you redeem an offer a new one will be sent to you.

SavingStar  offers e-Coupons for participating stores that are automatically added to your store’s savings card. The savings are stored in an account and once you’ve saved $5 or more you can be paid through a bank transfer, PayPal account or Amazon.com gift card.  This is a great way to save and use the extra money to pay off debt.

Retail Me Not – Before you shop use this app to find coupons and coupon codes for most major retailers. You can use Retail Me Not for online shopping as well.  A great way to get the best deals.

Shop Savvy – Use this app to scan items in the store to compare prices so you can see if you can get a better deal. This is super helpful if you have a specific item you’re looking for and want to find the best price.

Gas Buddy – This app helps you to find the best gas prices in your area by listing current prices at the gas stations closest to you. You can even earn points when you report a gas price.

Every Dollar – Dave Ramsey’s free online budgeting tool with a iPhone app. Helps you to create your budget for the month and allows you to connect your bank account for a small fee.

Mint – This free budgeting app automatically tracks your accounts and allows you to see exactly where your money is going. This is one of the top apps recommended by money saving individuals.

Ebates – my favorite site for saving money when shopping online!  Earn bonuses too when you help your family and friends save.

What are YOUR favorite money saving sites?  Share them with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Travel on a Shoestring

Are you itching for a vacation but tight on cash? I know I am….We usually travel to North Carolina in May but this year with all of the doctor appointments, there was not time.  I will be celebrating in my “pink bubble” in July and am planning some trips for the fall.  One will definitely be to North Carolina and maybe even surprising hubby with a trip to Maine.  SHHHH!  It is a surprise!!!

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So this week, we are going to talk about travel tips – from saving money to being organized ensuring that you don’t forget anything.

Here are just some tips quick tips to help you save money on your next trip:

#1 Airfares:  I don’t know about you but I feel like every time I turn around there is a change in airlines – mergers, acquisitions route adjustments and more. It may not seem it but the airlines are vying for your dollars. I know the additional charges for EVERYTHING is crazy but you can still get some good deals.  Finding the best fare is the trick. I have been checking rates on Hipmunk.  I have found some of the BEST rates there.  Let’s SQUASH the myth that round-trip tickets are the least expensive option today!  I have found that one way tickets are sometimes better – combining airlines can be cost effective.  Finally, purchasing up to 6-8 weeks before your trip will most likely result in the lowest price. PLUS flying mid-week and at off-peak times like early morning or late evening will result in cheaper fares.

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#2 Hotel Rooms:  I know that you have seen all of the commercials about the difference in hotel room rates, right?  Just like flying, sometimes the cheaper option is to arrive mid-week and depart before the weekend rush.  Maybe you can’t afford that 5-star hotel BUT  you may still be able to enjoy some of their amenities during the day. They may sell day passes to access the pool, spa or gym. Their restaurants and bars are also an easy to way pamper yourself even if you are not a guest of the hotel. There are lodging alternatives like airbnb.com or VRBO.com that offer vacation rentals at cheaper rates.  Just be sure to do your homework.

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#3 Meals:  Eating out and exploring new restaurants can be part of the fun while in a new city, but it can also be very expensive. We have always either brought our own snacks and breakfast when driving OR when we fly,we find a local grocery store and stock up on snacks, easy breakfast items and bottled water.  Booking a hotel that includes breakfast or even afternoon snacks in your room rate is a great option too.  Simply eating “in” for one meal a day will save you a lot of money over the course of your vacation.

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If you like to pack your vacation with activities and excursions, planning ahead is also a smart way to save money.  Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer discounts on tours, activities and show tickets. When doing things online, be sure you are set-up with Ebates.  This will give you money back every time you shop online with one of their stores, including Groupon and Living Social.

What is your best tip for saving money when you travel?  Share it with us…

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

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