Save Money with Your Smart Phone: Ibotta

Check out this cool video tutorial on how to use this app to earn and save more money. Then, let us know what you think in the comments!

Stop leaving money on the table!

These three tips will help you save (and earn) some cash.

Join the 52 Week Savings Challenge!

The savings challenge is on! Are you game?

Is Project Payday a Scam?

When I was invited to join Project Payday, I admit, I was skeptical. After all, I have seen all the ads, read all of the hype and got sucked in to an MLM or two in my days --and I am not a fan of MLM's by the way. Yet, I figured that since this website was free to sign up for, I would give it the good old "college try".

Cash Crate: An In Depth Review

I’m not just going to write a blog telling you how much I love Cash Crate or how much money I earn using it –anyone can do that. I’m going to give you a realistic idea of what you can make, every day, in about an hour of your time, and I’m going to do it step-by-step.

Rising Gas Prices are Pinching My Budget

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"I'm going to sell my car for gas money," is a joke I have told on more than one occasion, because it is a joke that nets me a decent amount of guffaws -most people can relate. Today, as gas prices start eclipsing $4 a gallon and as I see my bank statements rack up charges of $60 a pop for my eco-friendly, fuel efficient Hyundai Sonata, I've been forced to change some of my habits in order to make up the difference in what I used to pay at the pump, versus what I'm paying. However, my routine changes actually hurt the economy in favor of my wallet, and yours may have done the same.
 
Changing My Driving Habits
I share a car with my spouse and my twin teenage daughters. Between driving back and forth to work each day (22 miles each way), we need to fill up our gas tank at least once per week. We need to fill up even more frequently in the event that I need to drive the girls to appointments or drop my husband off at work. On average, the $120 a month inflation has eaten a hole in other activities.

What We Cut
We cut our entertainment expenses to account for the uptick. We cannot afford the $50 at the movies or the $70 for dinner out when our priority is getting everyone where they need to be.
We cut other "luxury items". For instinct, instead of using the local dry cleaner, I found dry cleaning substitutes I can buy at the local grocery store.
And while it was not difficult to make up a $120 shortfall, that was not the last round of cuts I found myself making because of rising fuel costs.

The Domino Effect
When gas prices soar, so do the costs of other goods and services. I spend several cents to several dollars more on grocery items than I did just a few months ago. I have documented a monthly increase in my grocery bill of $100, compared to just three months ago -- and I do not buy expensive grocery items.

The costs at most local restaurants I frequent are also increasing; in part due to less foot traffic (thanks to tighter budgets), but also because of the increase in costs of gas prices.
Fewer local employers are hiring. My two college-bound teens have had a difficult time securing a part-time gig at the local Wal-Mart.

It Gets Worse
Every time I (or anyone else) give something up in favor of filling my gas tank, it causes a ripple in the local economy. With more and more people driving less and less, our local tourism suffered and local businesses have lost money. Many local merchants have already shut their doors, and even more are on the brink of doing the same.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look as though cheaper gas prices are nearby, especially on the edge of summer, when gas prices typically increase even more. For me, this is a sure sign to buckle up and dig in for the status quo. It appears as though gas prices remain in the driver's seat, and it looks like I am going for a long (and expensive) ride

Should Freezing Student Loan Rates Be Up for Debate?

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This week, Senate Democrats are lambasting Republicans for voting down legislation designed to fix need-based student loan rates at 3.4 percent. Without this legislation, rates will likely double in the next year, eclipsing 6.8 percent long before the next batch of freshman graduate. Although there is a lot of quibbling in the Senate and in the House as to why this bill got the thumbs down, student loan rates don't need to be up for debate at your kitchen table. If you design your child's college education the right way, you can get them from their first day to cap and gown, without relying on a dime from student loans - need based or not.

The First Two Years
The first two years of college are critical. It's during these years that students are prone to backslide, drop out and give up; weeded out of academia. And while I'm not professing that college is for everyone, the fact is that those students still exit the world of higher learning with excessive debt. And for those who do make it to the end of the undergraduate tunnel, the debt load doubles. The trouble with both scenarios is that students and parents alike are buying into the student loan lie, with interest.

What I'm Doing
This fall my twins are going to college. While they were both accepted to several four-year institutions, those schools required a lot in the way of student loans. Then I remembered, it doesn't matter where you start, it matters where you finish. We hit the reset button on our expectations in favor of fiscal responsibility.

Community College
We chose community college for the first two years, in lieu of a four-year university. After doing some math, we discovered that the twin's Pell grants pay for the majority of their education expenses, and their part time jobs cover the balance.
The twins also opted to live at home for the next two years, so that they could amass money before transferring to a four-year institution. By going to school full time and then working part time on campus, the twins are stockpiling over $5,000 a year, after paying their tuition and fees.

Not Stopping There
When the time comes for the girls to transfer, we estimate tuition and fees for a four-year university upwards of $9,000 a year. However, with that we know that the girls will have at least a year's worth of tuition saved in full by the time they finish their sophomore year of college.
In addition to that, the twins have weekend jobs where they earn $8,320 a year.
Add the money they are saving from both of their part-time jobs together, and their undergraduate degree is paid for in the first two years of college, sans student loans. When they transfer, they can pay the next two years' worth of tuition in cash -- not too shabby, if you ask me.

The Bottom Line
So you see, not everyone needs a student loan. You can go to (and pay for college) even if you haven't saved a dime in advance, providing you plan properly. We are, and we are (all) better off for it.

My Family Style Budget

I believe in teaching your nippers about the value of money and the importance of budgeting early on. I believe in it so much, as a matter of fact, that I have been helping my sprogs learn the tricks of the budgeting trade from the time they were 10-years-old until today. As my twins maneuver into the macrocosm of higher academia (and the mounting expenses accompanying this brand-new adventure), my family style budget has never before been more valuable or efficacious.

Our Family Budget
To understand our family budget, you have to understand how we manage our money. We all have a joint account, our family account. Then, each of us has our own individual accounts.
We use the family account to pay monthly bills, buy groceries and as a savings vehicle. Individual accounts are for individual expenses. All money goes into the family pot for my husband and me, and then that money is split up between our individual accounts, once the bills are paid and money put in savings.

While the twins' accounts are linked to ours, their paychecks are deposited directly into their individual accounts, and are not part of the family budget.

Mint.com
About two years ago, I signed us up for Mint.com's free budgeting website, and I've never looked back. Every member of my family has a username and password that grants them access to the household budget and (likewise) access to their own "micro-" budgets.
We classify and plan for each person's income and expenses together at the beginning of each month. We do this for the conjoined budget and for each of our children's individual budgets. We help them set goals they can stick to and discuss what money is being spent, versus what money is being saved. And since Mint.com synchs up with each separate bank account we have, we never have to do any manual updating.

Accountability to the Family Budget
I am a humongous devotee of answerability. And by "huge devotee", I mean enormous. The reason I opted to have our family budget commingled with separate budgets for our kids is that it gives me the ability to track family spending, set independent and household nest egg goals and provides me with a hard-hitting, kinesthetic learn-as-you-go tool.

Thanks to Mint.com's portability (you can use it online or use their app), my family stays connected and coordinated with our idiosyncratic and household funds at all times. In the event someone overspends using either family funds, or personal resources, we get an email informing us of the faux paus. By catching money mistakes as they happen, we can work collectively to correct our course before spending gets out of hand and before our budget is completely blown.

Why I Believe it Works
My system of rules works for us because it affords each individual in my family (from my 11-year-old to my 17-year-old twins) personalized control of her own cash flow, but also a more accomplished and across-the-board understanding of the budgeting process, and the aftermaths connected with not adhering to a budget. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that my 17-year-old's have a better understanding of budgeting and consequences than most 30-year-old's I know.

The entire family uses money, so the way I see it, the entire family should know what's going on with the money, and be able to understand the importance of sticking to a family budget.

How does your family do it?


Our Car Insurance Saved Us $10,000

We had been Progressive customers for 10 years. In that decade, we experienced our share of twisted fenders along the way, so we were somewhat familiar with the claims process. However, when my husband was in an accident that totaled our car, we realized how useful having the right coverage truly was. 

The Accident
I heard the impact through the receiver. My husband habitually calls me on his way home, and that Friday afternoon was no exception. He stopped talking mid-sentence, and all I heard was sound of squealing brakes, burning rubber, breaking glass and metal on metal. 

My heart stopped.


 

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5 Small Business Lessons I Learned From ‘The Hunger Games’

For the past few months, "Hunger Games" mania has been in the air. After seeing the hit film, I got to thinking about how I could use some of the principals touched on in the movie to help my franchise businesses. So, the day after I watched the film, I got to work. As it turns out, I learned some powerful business lessons from a Hollywood blockbuster. 

Build your brand
Katniss had to create a brand in order to survive a post-apocalyptic death math. In order to thrive in the business world, I needed to build my own brand. To do this, I created Facebook fan pages, Twitter pages, and a LinkedIn page. Then I built a blog for both of my franchises and let the net take care of the rest. My online activity automatically increased traffic (and profits) to my websites, virtually overnight. 

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4 Places I Don't Swipe My Debit Card...Anymore

I have learned many of life's lessons the hard way. Unfortunately, using my debit card was no exception. I (like many other folks I know) habitually used my debit card to pay for gas, groceries, dining out and snatching online bargains. That is, until I found out how easy it is for someone to wipe my financial slate clean. 

I Lost $5,000
It was a birthday dinner for a good friend of mine. We planned the party, met at a posh local eatery and were ready to celebrate. We wined, we dined and had a fantastic time. At the conclusion of the meal, I handed my debit card over to the waiter for my portion of the bill. When he brought back my card and receipt, I left him a terrific tip and drove home. However, I came to find out that my waiter tipped himself a little more than 30 percent I intended.
Two days after the birthday bash, I logged on to my bank and found my checking account $5,000 lighter. Someone had utterly wiped me out. 

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