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4 Ways You Can Shop Without Spending Any Money

4 Ways You Can Shop Without Spending Any Money

Everywhere we turn, we are surrounded by advertisements telling us that our happiness lies within the product they sell. However, numerous consumer studies have shown that the stuff we buy often fails to deliver on that guarantee. Regardless, we find ourselves caught in an infinite cycle of longing and purchasing, constantly searching for the items that, if the price is right, will bring us absolute joy.

Retail therapy isn’t all it’s cut out to be though. It turns out that happiness lies in the desire for stuff and the journey it takes to acquire it, but wanes after the actual acquisition.

The novelty of new purchases wears off over time whereas the happiness derived from experiences lasts much longer. Why should we continue to spend money on all this stuff if it’s not improving the overall quality of our lives?

While we may be able to provide anecdotal evidence to support the claim that shopping does make us happier, that pleasure is unfortunately short-lived. Take a moment to scope out your recent purchases around your house and ask yourself how much of that still ignites a feeling of excitement and joy.

Whether or not the fact that shopping doesn’t make us any happier is news to you, we are well aware of the financial implications of our shopping habits. Money spent on items that don’t improve our quality of life can be money spent to pay down overbearing debt or put into savings to pay for experiences like vacations or hobbies – purchases that do retain their value in happiness over time.

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Even when we realize that ongoing joy can’t be found at the bottom of a shopping bag, we still get that yearning to head out to the stores. The next time you get the urge to spend money at the expense of your financial goals, harness that desire and try these four ways to hack the exhilaration of shopping without actually spending any money:

1. Go shopping in your closet.

Start by organizing your closets and cabinets. As daunting as this sounds, going through the clutter and purging what you don’t want will bring new life to the stuff you choose to keep.

Rather than shopping for additions, shop for items you can get rid of. You can do this with clothing, accessories, kitchen gadgets, food pantries, book collections and even knick-knacks around your house.

Get rid of the stuff you don’t need or enjoy and organize the stuff you choose to keep. Make a shopping list of any things you need or want to replace and try the following ideas before you commit to a new purchase.

2. Browse and share on social media.

Next time you get the urge to make a purchase, reach for your camera phone instead of your wallet. You don’t need to own a pair of shoes to take a picture and post it to Instagram.

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The “likes” you receive on a picture is a great substitution for the compliments you would receive if your purchased and wore the shoes in person.

When you stumble upon something that looks really neat but for which you can’t find any immediate use, snap a picture and upload it for your followers to check out. You’ll be much happier knowing it exists rather than as a line item on your credit card statement.

3. Assemble vision boards on Pinterest.

Pinterest satisfies the craving to browse a store without physically stepping into one. You can search for a specific item within Pinterest or peruse the “aisles” of the internet and pin images externally.

Viewing the images of your shopping pursuit through the Pinterest lens keeps you from making impulse purchases as you would while wandering around a physical store.

Rather than adding an item to your online shopping cart, pin the image of the item to a Pinterest board. Keep all of your online shopping on the same board.

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By viewing everything lumped together, rather than as categorized items, you’ll be able to weed out the purchases that aren’t worth your hard-earned money. You can even create a board called “Stuff Not Purchased” later and celebrate all the money you have saved.

Who knows – maybe you’ll even find some inspiration to DIY the items you are searching for!

4. Throw a swap party!

A swap party is an economical and eco-friendly spin on social events. Rather than heading out to the mall with your friends, invite them over with instructions to bring a fixed amount of items they no longer want.

You can stick with just clothing and accessories or include kitchen gadgets and knick-knacks. You can trade, barter or donate to friends while snagging new additions for yourself without spending a dollar.

Remember, someone’s trash might be another person’s treasure! And once the party is over, you can donate anything you were unable to hand off.

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By focusing on the present and carefully considering the fixations of your desires before you pay for them, your pursuit of financial freedom will not be obstructed by material possessions. Focus on the doing, not the having, and always consider what experience you can buy at the expense of another object.

By using the tips above, you might even enjoy the whole process.

Featured photo credit: Girl Pointing At Sky/StokPic via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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