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10 Money Saving Strategies That Really Work

10 Money Saving Strategies That Really Work

When my family and I found ourselves in a nasty financial situation, we had to dig deep to discover how to take care of the family and still have fun on the cheap. We discovered it was not only possible to live cheaper, we even had fun doing it. We decided to keep doing it when times got better, because it made us feel smarter to save more. If you want to feel smart too, here are 10 money saving strategies that work.

1. Learn to Love the Library

I used to hate the smell of old books and the sounds of silence. When finances caused me to spend more time at our local library, I discovered how many things have changed. Libraries host free events for kids and families. They bring movie nights, magicians and musicians to families of all ages. You can use the internet for free, play online video games, check out movies or music, and, oh yeah, they let you get books for free too. Just remember to return things on time and this place can entertain you in amazing ways. Saving money at the library will become a habit you carry on for years. It’s just that fun.

2. Is It Big Screen Worthy?

If you’re a movie fan like me, you know you can plop down serious amounts of cash by just attending a few flicks a month. So, when you need to save some money it’s time to become a discerning viewer. Most movies make it to DVD within a few short months. They also land on Netflix or Amazon Prime or another venue fairly soon. You can catch that movie later for free or at least cheaper if you are willing to wait and if it’s worth it. The question you have to decide when it first arrives at theaters is this, “Is it big screen worthy?” If you can get just as much enjoyment out of it by watching it at home, then that movie may be worth the wait. You’ll find yourself spending much less money if this becomes your starting question.

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3. Shop at Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, and Consignment Stores

For those who enjoy Biltmore style living, this can be a difficult transition. Many communities, including the well-off ones, have regular garage sales. You might find that someone is moving and needs to unload an almost new vacuum. If that fits your need, you’ll save a hundred dollars and still get a product with great suction. When funds deplete, the mall is just too much of a temptation. It does require more hunting and planning, but garage sales, thrift stores and consignment stores will save you a bundle. As you stroll through the items at these places, you’ll find clothes, furniture and knickknacks that contain character and even make your world more fun. When you save money at these stores, you’ll wonder why you ever shopped elsewhere.

4. Choose Cheap and Save Big on Cell Phones

We know the names of the big cell phone companies but did you know that they make their lines available to other companies too. Walmart’s Straight Talk uses the Sprint network at a fraction of the cost. You pay less for the same phones and less on a month to month basis with no contract. You can also set up a pay-as-you-go system with Straight Talk as if you had a contract, but without the extra fees. Republic Wireless limits their phone choice but cuts the cost incredibly by using a hybrid system of WiFi and 3G or 4G. PC Magazine has recognized these companies in their Reader’s Choice Awards. None of the big companies even got a mention.

5. Learn to Cook

It may sound like something out of the 1920’s but when you cook for yourself, you save a ton of bread. This doesn’t mean you will save big by buying a frozen dinner and warming it at home, though you may save a little. If you learn to cook, you’ll find out how many restaurants and fast service overcharge for what they make. They have to do it because they have a bunch of employees to pay. You don’t. When you buy food and make it, you’ll be able to pack it into lunches or make great dinners. You could even branch out and get creative for breakfast. Not only will you save a bunch, you’ll also probably find yourself getting healthier.

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6. Learn the Difference between a Need and a Want

When you hear about a new gadget that can do 20 different things you never imagined, you may find yourself excited and itching to buy it. Then, ask yourself to consider if you need this item to survive or if you simply want it, because it caught your attention. The more you ponder the difference between the two, the more you’ll realize the things you don’t need to own. And, you’ll save money.

7. Practice Patience

Technology has been improving at an exponential rate. We get the annual iPhone updates and Samsung updates. New laptops come out each year, as do desktops. New software gets developed each year. It’s mind-blowing how much money you could spend if you made certain to purchase each new annual item. But, if you wait, that new product becomes an old one very quickly. Within one to two years prices often drop by almost 50%.This same approach applies to cars that have aged a couple of years. Consider how much you save if you wait for the new item to not be quite as new.

8. Make Your Own Coffee

Starbucks works hard on its product, but also on its environment. They create nice looking places with beautiful lighting and background music. It makes you feel like you’ve entered a fine dining restaurant when it’s actually caffeinated fast food. You plop down a few bucks for your favorite drink and feel absolutely extravagant. What if you could do it? Many people have figured out how to make them at home for less cost and all the joy. Personally, I love this Gingerbread Latte that I can make for myself at a much lower cost.

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9. Exercise Outdoors

Before our finances took a dive I belonged to our local gym. It cost me several dollars each month to ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill. When I started seeking to save money, it occurred to me that I could do those things outside on my own. You can too. Many communities provide opportunities to play basketball, run, walk or ride a bike. You can get outside and move rather than pay to remain indoors. Once you start doing it you may never go back to the gym even if you’ve got plenty of money to spend.

10. Learn to Be Content

Often we find ourselves driven to feel happy, happy, happy. Unfortunately, we look to people who make millions of dollars and believe they’ve found it. We want more and more stuff. It’s like we assume that the more things we buy, the better our lives will be. If you’ve read the news lately, you probably also know that people with money have their own dreams dashed to pieces, too. Even people who have got tons of cash still want more.

Maybe we’re hunting for the wrong thing. Instead of seeking happiness, maybe we need to find a deep and complete sense of contentment. There are people who are content with their lives. They appreciate each day because of its innate beauty,not because of what it gives them. Those people value themselves and their lives even without fancy vacations or expensive technology.

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The Bible makes a reference to a man who had people try to kill him several times. He had to run from towns and got placed in jail regularly. This same man stated that he had learned to be content in any and every situation. I’ve discovered how valuable contentment really is. It helps me to not need many of the things that cost a fortune and deplete my bankbook. If you seek to learn the secret of being content, you could find yourself saving too.

Featured photo credit: One and Two Half Dollars/Eric Gjerde via flickr.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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