Better Ways to Save

How I do it, and what I do. I combine online shopping portals and a few other methods. In the process, I earn $1,600 a year. Are you?

How Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Reshaped My Financial Life

I might not be much of a self-help reader, but this book is a must read!

You STILL Aren't Using Ebates?

E-bates is an amazing money saving website. Read this and you'll find out why.

If you are looking for extra income without any investment, I love (and use) this website for just that.

Bigger, Better Grocery Savings

If you aren't saving $100 a month on your grocery bill, start now!

How Rich is Rich? (Infographic)


Start a Business for Under $500

Start a Business for Under $500Do you like organizing cluttered garages? Do you make mouth-watering cakes? Do you love to make jewelry? Are you good at planning special events? If you've been thinking about starting a business as your next career, now could be a great time to turn one of these hobbies into a thriving small business -- even on a bare-bones budget.

Starting a business on the side is a smart way to get your feet wet as an entrepreneur. Look first at the services and goods you already provide for free to friends and family. "The best way to start a business for less than $500 is to figure out how to get paid for what you love to do," says Clyde Anderson, a financial lifestyle coach and CNN contributor in Atlanta. "It's crucial for anyone who's looking to start a business to determine what gifts and talents they already have and to convert them into an actual business."

The Hassle-Free Budget

Budgeting may not a dirty word, but that does not stop most people from treating it as if it were. Take my budgeting class for example; I take on 10 new students each month, and at least nine of them look at me as if I grew three heads and screamed obscenities from each of them every time I utter the "B-word". However, budgets do not have to be a hassle when you know how to manage one effectively. -And I honestly only have one head.

Choose your weapon, and make it an easy-to-use weapon.

Personally, my weapon of choice is the spreadsheet. The funny thing is that the word "spreadsheet" invokes almost the same glazed over look with my class as the word "budget" does. Many of my students claim that they do not have the foggiest idea about budgeting using spreadsheets. Thankfully, it is not rocket science.

Microsoft gives its users a plethora of free resources, and all you need to know in order to use them is how to click a mouse and input numbers on your keyboard. I use the already made excel templates as examples for my class. I have downloaded household budgets, enterprise budgets and a wide range of ready-to-use, formula complete spreadsheets in seconds and with minimal difficulty. If spreadsheets are not your thing, there are numerous other online (free) budgeting resources at your disposal.

Get control of your variable expenses.

Once the budget is out of the way, the hard work begins. However, that hard work is only a "hassle" if you make it into one. Most people I work with are savvy enough to define their monthly recurring expenses with remarkably little trouble. They can plug in a house payment, car payment, insurance premium or other standard invoice with ease. The thing that seems to trip most folks up are their variable expenses.


Things like groceries, gas, utilities, or cell phone bills are the items that cause a novice to throw her hands up in the air and run screaming from the classroom. However, I found an easy way to account for these, using a straightforward averaging method. I pour through three months of bank statements, add up costs for all of my variable expenses and then divide the total by three.

Here is my example on how to use cost averaging on a grocery bill:
Month 1: $650
Month 2: $700
Month 3: 575
$650 + $700 + $575 = $1,925 / 3 months = $641 (average).

It's easy, right?

From there, I assign surplus funds into a savings account linked to my checking account. This way, when my monthly costs come in a little higher than average, I am not left with my hands in my pockets, and lint as my only reward.

Making cuts.

After I account for my budget and plan for my variables, I comb through my numbers and trim down where I can. I teach my class to do the same. I have learned that the more expenses you remove from your budget, the easier your budget is to maintain. Items I routinely recommend cutting down (or cutting back) are cell phone minutes, cable bills, entertainment or groceries. I opt for prepaid cell phone plans, Netflix streaming subscriptions and daily deal sites. These let me save without sacrifice. I also create my meal plans and grocery lists based on the coupons I have on hand, instead of clipping coupons to match my list. These unsophisticated cost-cutting methods lead to substantial savings. In fact, these simple strategies have helped me save over $100 every month; $1,200 a year.


When it comes to building and maintaining a hassle free budget, the single missing ingredient is you. My attitude about money is what drives my success, and it is the one ingredient you are missing. So, what are you waiting for?

Read this and more on Yahoo

How to Earn Free Rewards for Things You Do Online Anyway

Do you remember when I promised you some real solutions to make money online? Here is one, and it's one I am a huge fan of. Check out Swag Bucks. You earn FREE stuff for doing the things you do everyday. There is no cost, no obligation, no hassle. It's just free and easy.



Remember, after you sign up, please leave a comment about your experience!

Many thanks and good luck!

I Swear By Saveology

I know there are a million and half different options out there for savings on "stuff" but I recently stumbled upon Saveology and I absolutely love it (the movie deals for my family are THE BEST). I highly recommend it to all of you Penny Pinchers out there. Signing up takes just a few moments, there is NO obligation and it's free. 


Saveology Local Deals

Please give it a try and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!

How I Make over $200 a Month Online, With No Investment


I like deals. Chances are, if you are on this website, so do you. I also advocate shopping for deals, using Ebates. I describe how Ebates works in an earlier post, and it’s a WONDERFUL (100% free) program. 

What you might not know is that Ebates also helps me make extra money. In fact, it’s one of my multiple streams of income. You see, for every person who signs up for a FREE account, and shops getting cash back and downloadable grocery coupons, I get $5. Thanks to promotion on my blog, on my Facebook and on my Twitter, I earn $200 a month.

Check out what you get between now and March 31 as a bonus. Meaning you get your $5 and other goodies too!



If you want to start making some actual cash online without having to invest oodles of time or a single cent, this is a great way to do it. 

Check it out and let me know what you think!

If You Aren’t Setting Goals, You Might as Well Give Up Now

You might be doing it, you might not be. If you aren’t, you’re living life full of empty promises. You will fail. Yes, I know it’s harsh. It has to be.

Goals can be anything. They can be to save up money to take the kids to Disneyworld this year, to lose 5 lbs or to give more money to charity. Your goals are your personal pathway, and I am not going to infringe on what they are, but I am going to harp on you to write them down. However, not just to write them down, but to be specific. Your goals have to be attainable, measurable and time oriented. You have to hold yourself accountable to (what should be) the most merciless boss in the universe: Y-O-U.

Let me tell you how I do it.
I am a spreadsheet fanatic. If I can’t make a spreadsheet out of it, I would probably have a complete mental breakdown. Well, maybe not complete, but close.

My goals are no exception. For those I make a spreadsheet.

But not any ordinary spreadsheet.

On the first tab, I write out my annual goals, like this:


From here, I break them down into subsets by month. Here is a look at January:


As I accomplish each goal, I gray it out. Then I rinse and repeat.

The beauty of this is that I can add to my goals at any time. What I don’t do is give myself wiggle room to modify them. My goals are set in stone. Whatever doesn’t get done in January, moves to February. But they will get done, and they will get done before December 31, 2012.

I revisit my goals once a week, every Sunday, like clockwork and I am well on my way to accomplishing everything on my list for January. Honestly, I cannot tell you how great that feels.

Are you setting your goals? Are you holding yourself accountable? Are you writing them down?

Leave a comment and tell me how you do it…or how you’ll do it better!

Battle of the bulge: At-home workout vs. the gym



Gym rats raise your hands. Now, get ready to learn something from an ex-gym rat that might just save you three thousand dollars a year. Yes, you read that correctly, because I'm about to break it down for you ladies, old school.


From a Reformed Gym Rat
I did it: I would go to the gym, jump on the treadmill and watch an episode of "Charmed" or reruns of "Desperate Housewives" on the gym television. I would watch other ladies work with trainers or run beside me. I would wait in line at the stair master after my weekly personal trainer time and think I was getting a vigorous workout. I wasn't getting a "bad" workout per se, but I wasn't getting extraordinary results either.

IT DOESN'T STOP THERE...KEEP READING

Grocery Savings Tip: Write Your List Backwards


If you want a quick tip on how to maximize your coupon savings do what I do –no extreme couponing required. 

I use a simple, three step process. I combine the in-store grocery coupons, sale items and downloadable coupons from two sites in particular, and I save a bundle. 

1.    I collect coupons in bulk. I keep all of my grocer’s in-store coupons (and downloaded) in an envelope to use, as needed. 

2.    I visit my E-bates account, go to the coupons section and download whatever strikes my fancy.

3.    I rinse and repeat that activity at Coupons.com.

By now, I have about 20 – 30 coupons ready to use. THEN (and only then) do I make my list. This saves me 30 – 50 percent more than designing a list and trying to mix and match coupons to fit. The puzzle pieces go together far more easily if you are the architect.

This week, just using the E-bates coupons alone, I saved over $22 on items I needed to buy anyway. Take that, and multiply it by four trips a month and E-bates saves me over $80. 

When adding my Coupons.com and in store savings, my total savings increases to over $100 a month.

So that leads me to just one question: What could you do with an extra $100 per month?

Check out the coupons section of the website and drop me a line to let me know how much you saved this week by writing your list backwards!

5 eating tips for a bangin’ bod on a thrifty budget



Two years ago, I was fat. I was only a few pounds shy of two-bells (200 pounds) and at 5 feet 6 inches tall that was not an attractive weight. Instead of running to a surgeon or scarfing down fistfuls of diet pills, I decided to melt my fat off the old-fashioned way, using diet and exercise. I traded in the Little Debbie snack cakes for healthier eating options, and now at 138 pounds of lean muscle, I can candidly say that if I can have a banging body and a fat bank account, so can you.  

1. Food is fuel
First, you have to adjust your mindset. Food is fuel, not a treatment method for emotional trauma or a bad breakup. For me, my mindset about food changed dramatically when I picked up regular workouts -- and by regular, I mean six days a week. I found that when I gave my body the right fuel, I could train like an athlete. When I filled my body full of fast food and garbage, I was lethargic and sluggish. The better I ate, the better I felt, and make no mistake, it really is that simple.


AND THERE'S MORE....

Daily Deals V. Entertainment Book



For many years, I swore by the annual entertainment book for my dining out coupons, movie ticket deals and more. Even so, as I became increasingly familiar with daily deal websites, the entertainment book didn't seem to be worth its weight in pennies. Then, I had a friend challenge me to a 30-days-of-savings battle royal to see which venue reigned savings supreme. The ante was $35 (the cost of one entertainment book) and prize was the ultimate title of "Frugalista."


The Rules
From September 15 to October 15, we would pick one activity per weekend for our families (which each had five members) and one dining out excursion. She could only use her entertainment book and I could only use daily deal websites. Once the rules were set, it was ready, set, go. Whoever spent less and saved more over the 30-day challenge would be declared the winner.


The Challenge
Over the course of 30 days, we visited museums, went to the movies, played laser tag and went to a haunted house. On her end, her family went to a museum, played miniature golf, rode go-karts and went to the movies. When we added up the receipts, I saved $23.70 more than she did and spent $30 less than she did.

FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED

12 Money Resolutions for 2012


People that know me know that I hate New Year’s resolutions. If you ask me, they are a fraud. I would rather save my piety for Lent, because 40 days of penance as opposed to 365 seems far more do-able to me. However, I am the exception and not the rule. I know that many people take resolutions quite seriously. And, as I looked back upon my sins of the past, I realized that I made 12 money changes (over time) that made a giant financial impact on my life, and they can do the same for you. So, without further adieu, let me introduce you to the 12 resolutions you need to make with your money in 2012.

1.  Budget – I use Mint.com. This brilliant virtual solution walks you through how to create a budget you can stick to, because it synchronizes with your online bank accounts and automatically tracks your spending against what you should be spending. 

2.  Shop online – You save time, money and gas. Shop using the E-bates portal and connect with websites like Drugstore.com to earn 8 percent cash back on your purchases, get valuable online coupons, free shipping and more. I do this each and every month without fail for my toiletries, shampoo, conditioner –all of the things I don’t need to see, touch or feel-- and I save a bundle in the process. In fact, using E-bates for back to school supply shopping, holiday shopping, home appliance shopping and just about everything else, I earned $1,000 cash back in 2011. And guess, what, it’s FREE. 

3.  Maximize your cash back – With the inception of the Frank-Dodd act, most banks eliminated cash back debit card services last year. However, I use both a Perkstreet card and a PayPal cash back MasterCard and still get my rebates. Each time I swipe my card or pay for something online I earn 1 to 2 percent cash back. So can you. Pay as many bills as you can with a cash back debit card and maximize your rewards this year. 

4.  Use bill pay services – If you cannot seem to get your bills together, Try a service like Manilla.com to keep you organized and on the straight and narrow. Late fees account for the bulk of fees that lenders and merchants collect in revenue each year. Make sure you don’t fall victim to that. Manilla is a completely free service–as if I would give you something that wasn’t. 

5.  Invest – If you have not started investing yet, it’s time. Open up that IRA, that Roth account or that 401K you’ve been putting off. Time waits for no man –or woman. Have pre-tax or payday allocations in place, keeping your cash out of sight and out of mind. If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it. 

6.  Hold yourself accountable to paying yourself – You have to hold yourself accountable to save. Create a budget that is 20 percent less than your take home pay each month. Live on that, and have that 20 percent allocation automatically deducted from your bank account or paycheck each payday. Put 10 percent in savings, 5 percent in mutual funds or CD’s and direct another 15 percent to your investments.

7.  Check in everyday – Check in with your bank account(s) each day. Most banks offer emails or text alerts to help you. Sign up, take advantage and take control of your cash flow. 

8.  Use coupons – There are a plethora of places to print online manufacturer coupons and I do it religiously. Plan your meals around your coupons, not visa versa. I do this and I save an average of $20 to $30 each grocery store trip. That extra $20 or $30? That is my mad money. Learn to reward yourself for savings everywhere you can and you will find yourself motivated to save even more!

Hint: E-bates also has rad, FREE printable grocery coupons.  
 
9.  Shop your insurance rates every six months – Never get comfortable or complacent with your insurance rates. Shop around for car, home, renters and even medical insurance every time you are up for a renewal. Overpaying for insurance premiums makes no sense when the coverage is the same. 

10.                 Change or whittle down at least two services this year – I whittled (way down) my cell phone bill last year. For five phones in my house (2 iPhones), I was paying $250 a month for unlimited texting, data and 1,400 minutes. I realized that I don’t “need” to talk on the phone, so I kept the unlimited texting, data and changed my plan to 500 minutes, with rollover. This dropped my bill by $100 a month ($1,200 a year). With AT&T’s rollover, I am sitting pretty at 15,000 minutes, more than I will ever use, in my lifetime.

I also whittled down my cable bill. I dropped the premium channels, and went with Netflix streaming, saving $50 a month --not too shabby. Look at your budget and make some cutbacks that make sense for you. Then, do it again.

11.                 Go green – If you are a homeowner, make a commitment to go green in your home this year. I went with solar screens. The initial investment of $1,000 for these UV blocking screens saves me an average of 20 percent off my power bill AND protects my furniture and carpeting from sun bleaching. I also have a radiant barrier in my attic, which keeps my attic 20 degrees cooler and saves me a bundle on heating and cooling costs. My power bill in south Texas in the dead heat of summer (when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk) is $140 at most.

12.                 Start multiple streams of income – I believe in multiple streams of income, and it has proven to be a lifesaver time and again. Start a business, start a blog, sell something and change your life. Don’t rely on the 9 to 5 grind. The rat race rarely pays off in dividends.


Start your money resolutions today, and fare better in 2012 than you ever have before!

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