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Tips for Shoring up your Finances in 2017

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Tips for Shoring up your Finances in 2017

Von Goethe wrote, “Many people take no care of their money ’til they come nearly to the end of it …” The new year is time to create new resolutions and revisit old ones. One-quarter (25 percent) of Americans want to spend less and save more money as part of their resolutions, according to Nielsen. Unfortunately, far too many people break their promise of becoming more fiscally responsible. When it comes to your wallet, it’s key to be disciplined and have a good game plan. Here are ways to do just that and have a prosperous year.

  1. Measure your money.

As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” Create a budget and differentiate between your needs and wants. It’s key to know your disposable income so you’re clear about spending limits. Growing your bank account simply involves putting in more money than what you take out.

Moreover, you should be realistic when creating your budget and to remove non-essential items from your buying list. Non-essential spending usually arises from impulse shopping. It is comprised of things that don’t add much value to your life over the long-term and that end up as junk in your garage.

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  1. Pay on time and track your credit.

Paying bills on time will avoid negative reports on your profile as delinquencies will lower your score and increase your borrowing cost over the duration of the loan.

Most Americans want good credit. A 2016 Credit Confidence Study by Capital One found that 86 percent of respondents say they want to increase their credit score while 82 percent say they’re willing to do what it takes to improve their score. How does this metric improve your finances?

Your credit score affects your ability to get key loans such as car loan or home mortgage. Moreover, your credit profile impacts your borrowing costs and ability to pass a background check. Each year, you can access your credit report from the three major credit bureaus, as provided by federal law. There are free apps such as CreditWise that let you monitor your score without adverse consequences to your credit profile.

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    1. Leverage technology.

    Your smartphone is the gateway to discounts and perks offered by companies that want to attract your business. Consider downloading mobile apps offered by your favorite retailers to unlock savings and offers. For example, RetailMeNot and SlickDeals are all-in-one discount apps that hunt for deals from thousands of retailers. If you shop at big box stores like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target, and Best Buy (to name a few), their mobile apps have shopper-friendly features that let you compare prices and redeem vouchers, among other features, all from your mobile device.

    The key is stick to essentials. Level Money is an app that helps you track your key expenses and figure out what portion of your income you can responsibly spend.

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    1. Digitize and be organized.

    A paper trail of receipts, warranty cards, and gift vouchers are a thing of the past. They’re inefficient and difficult to verify when damaged or lost. Consider using mobile wallet technology which digitizes your purchase information, account details, gift vouchers, and other records.

    Also, consider using scanning apps that let you use your smartphone’s camera to scan your paper receipts, coupons and other purchase information. Storing your data in digital format gives you peace of mind when records are damaged or misplaced.

    Most everyone wants to improve his or her finances. There’s a roadmap to get there that includes creating a reasonable budget, monitoring your credit profile, using technology to get discounts and offers, and organizing your wallet. The new year is time to shore up your finances!

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    Featured photo credit: Photo credit: Flickr (commercial use & mods allowed) via flickr.com

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    Marvin Dumont

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    Last Updated on January 5, 2022

    33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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    33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

    In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

    Some easy ways to save money:

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    1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
    2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
    3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
    4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
    5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
    6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
    7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
    8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
    9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
    10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
    11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
    12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
    13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
        a reusable water bottle and refill it.
      • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
      • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
      • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
      • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
      • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
      • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
      • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
      • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
      • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
      • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
      • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
      • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
      • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
      • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
      • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
      • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
      • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
      • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
      • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
      • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

      Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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      Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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