Greetings!

Enemy of Mine

Don’t be afraid—you can handle this monster. It’s big, ugly, and seemingly hell bent on ruining your hopeful outlook for the future, but you can beat it to death and come out ahead. Come on; let’s get a stronghold on the beast sucking the life out of us all…the economy.

Take Charge

Keep in mind, fail to plan…plan to fail. Design a financial plan that will stretch the income you have and prevent wasteful spending. Start by examining every bill, fee, interest rate, etc. and look for ways to lower them or cut them out altogether. For example, consider refinancing your mortgage, switch to interest free credit cards, make sure your bank is not charging you ridiculous fees, and if you do use a credit card—use one that rewards you with cash back.

Compare costs for any service you use with competitors to save money. This includes services like water filtration services, garbage pickup, landscaping/grounds keeping, snow removal, annual pool openings/maintenance, driveway sealants, pest control, cable, Internet, and telephone services. Also consider taking time to compare your insurance needs with various companies. Auto, home, and life insurance are expensive, so get the most for your money. Some companies offer discounts if you pay for the entire year upfront.

Just Do It

Instead of hiring people to service your lawn, pool, and driveway, plus kill any pesky bugs on your premises…just do it and save money. For example, learn to trim your children’s hair. I’ve always done this and with six kids you can imagine the money I’ve saved over 23 years. Learn how to tile a bathroom, paint a room like a pro, clean carpets, or tackle simple home repair problems by renting or buying “how to” DVD’s. Utilize free classes at home supply-improvement stores and remember to visit your local library. The Internet is also a valuable resource for anyone looking to save money on home remodeling or repairs.

If the idea of cutting hair or tiling a bathroom seems overwhelming, then think about your circle of friends and the skills you all collectively possess. Trade time with each other, teach each other, and make good use of the skills you’ve all been blessed with.

Purchases

Groceries- According to my teens, Coca Cola is a necessity. If the dinner menu includes burgers or pizza, I agree, but any other time, it can be left out of the buggy and the world will not end. If you are living on a tight budget, use coupons if you would purchase those items with or without the coupons, but realize if you are only buying products because of coupons, then you’ve been tempted to spend money on things you would not have had on your grocery list. Too often, money is spent on snacks and sugary drinks, instead of nutritious food. Shop around, look for deals, and be cautious about over buying. No matter what I do, I cannot freeze bread or buns. They always taste awful if frozen for too long, so I never stock up on those items. However, go for it and stock up if napkins, paper towels, garbage bags etc. are on sale.

Meals- Rather than paying $2.25 to $3.00 for a can of soup or chili, make a huge batch. Soup can be used for several dinners, especially if you have soup and sandwiches one night, and then soup and salad another night. Tasty muffins or cornbread can be made cheaply and make dinner more satisfying.

If you do buy dinner as “take-out,” skip the drinks. You’ll get more for your money if you use the drinks you have at home.

Clothes- Great deals can be found online and coupon codes are easy to locate as well. Amazon, eBay, Eastbay, Kohls, Overstock, and Old Navy have amazing deals from time to time. Stock up at the end of a season and you’ll really see big savings.

Vehicles- The beastly economy has made it difficult for many to purchase a new car, so look online and locally at the used cars available in your area. Wheel and deal to the best of your ability and do this by knowing exactly what you’re looking for and what the book value is of said vehicle. Kelley Blue Book can help, plus visit websites like Carfax or AutoCheck to run the VIN numbers of any vehicles that catch your interest. Bear in mind, especially with used vehicles, if a deal sounds too good to be true…it usually is.

Holidays/Birthdays

This is a touchy subject for some people, but 2010 is the year to make major changes in shopping preferences for holidays and birthdays. Be brave and inform your loved ones you are cutting back and you honestly want them to do so as well. Gifts do not have to be expensive to be meaningful.

Internet Presence

For some small business owners, maintaining a web presence is extremely costly. Think about using free blogging sites and affordable website building sites, like Create Personal Websites, as alternatives to paying someone else to maintain your online presence. WordPress and Blogger make space available enabling any business owner to shine. Twitter is also another great marketing tool that can be used for free. Upgrades are available on these free options, but if you are just starting a business…get online, link with other businesses, fill your website with terrific keywords and content, and satisfy your potential customers by enticing them to come back to your website.

This may mean learning basic html, but nowadays, templates are used making it incredibly easy to get online and create impressive blogs and websites. Once again, I must stress if you need to learn about online marketing, but you feel intimidated, check with your family and friends for help. Today’s teens are connected to the Internet and almost instinctively know how to maneuver through the virtual world with ease.

Go Green

Go green, save trees…save money. If your business typically sends out paper correspondences, go green and make the same documents pdf files or accessible online instead. Newsletters, quarterly statements, and/or company magazines can all be web based and they will look stunning, plus save businesses money. Bank online and skip buying stamps too.

Entertainment/Family Time

During these tough times, using local libraries to acquire entertainment resources is a smart choice. Libraries today are nothing like the ones I frequented as a child. Movies, puppets and toy areas, group activities for both adults and children, and use of computers make them a wonderful place to visit. I was shocked when I visited our local library.

NETFLIX– So great to rent movies online and never have to pay late fees! Check it out and see if this online movie rental company can save you money.

College

Remember to take advantage of the lower tuition costs at a local community college. Make sure to investigate which universities will accept your credits as transfer credits. Online classes are wonderful for people who need flexibility in their schedules. Also, if possible, avoid out-of-state tuition. Apply for grants and scholarships in a timely manner, and bear in mind some local organizations offer fantastic scholarships.

If you served in the Peace Corps or the military, check to see if your college offers anything special just for you.

If you have a great money saving tip, please leave a comment.

Thanks for visiting!

Greetings!

Dashing to the Laptop

Now weeks away, Christmas and Hanukkah may be on the minds of many as the task of gift-giving draws near. Do not fear. No need to drive to any outlet or mall—dash to your laptop instead.

Remember, gift-giving can be as easy as eating pumpkin pie if you take note of these tips and visit the links below.

 -Shop according to your budget. This is vital for good mental health during and after the holiday season. If your budget is tight, relax. Go back to the way things used to be. Bake some goodies for someone or offer your time as a gift; just show you care. That’s what really matters.

-Make a list and check it twice. It’s easy to forget who you’ve shopped for and who is left on your holiday agenda.

-Write down everything purchased and keep all receipts in one place. Get gift receipts if possible.

-Consider a person’s age, job, hobbies, and entertainment likes and dislikes as guides to shopping for him/her. Toys have labels noting the appropriate ages for that toy. A person’s job could inspire a desk accessory or wall décor item as a gift. Do you know an artist? Get some top of the line brushes and paint for him or her. Or if you’re not sure of the specific items…organizational items for a person’s hobby are cool too. Movies, books, and the latest in music releases are all terrific sources to start, but keep in mind what genres your recipients prefer. Some people would be horrified to receive a horror movie no matter how much it was praised.

-Keep in mind what guardians/parents will permit as gifts. (This relates to ratings on video games, movies, etc. A six-year old child should not be playing “M” or “mature” rated video games. Be careful! Some covers look innocent. This is also relevant when purchasing music for young people.)

-Compare prices with shopzilla.com, and/or pricegrabber.com, plus go directly to Amazon, eBay, and Overstock to make sure you’re getting a deal. Watch out for shipping charges and remember Overstock has low, everyday shipping. Some websites offer free shipping depending upon how much is spent.

 Click Away for a Perfect Shopping Day

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): Find educational gifts that are truly beautiful. Check out Deck of Stars which opens up 40 major constellations, plus other stars, galaxies, and mysteries of the night sky with glow-in-the-dark spotter cards. The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking is also a brilliant choice for gift-giving. The AMNH offers up awesome calendars and posters, plus many other gift ideas as well. Just imagine how pleased a teacher would be to receive a gift from the AMNH.

Zazzle.com: Visit this website to buy stunning photography and posters that will surely please your recipients. Zazzle.com offers custom postage stamps that ship in 48 hours and their gift ideas start at $5.00.

SERRV: Handcrafted items like tapestries, wooden bowls, jewelry, baskets, and serving trays…absolutely different from what you’d pick up at the mall. Make a purchase from SERRV and help artisans in developing countries. Read about their mission to eradicate poverty. SERRV is a nonprofit organization.

 Container Store: The deal is sealed tight at the Container Store. Check out various gift ideas including containers for the kitchen, storage, and office. A favorite is the Salad Blaster Bowls.

 Personal Creations: They specialize in gifts personalized with initials and names, which definitely make a gift memorable. They have doormats, wall décor, apparel, jewelry and many other splendid gift ideas.

 eBay: Great website to find gifts, but consider sellers’ ratings and read the reviews posted about him/her. Also take a look at the sellers’ refund policies, shipping costs, and notice if the item in question is new, refurbished, or used.

 Amazon: Shop until your face hits the keyboard! Amazon’s prices are worth checking.

 Overstock: Let your fingers do the walking on the keyboard and try Overstock. Stress free shopping at its best with low shipping costs. Do remember to check if your electronic device is new or refurbished.

 Enjoy the holiday season!