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20 Money-Saving Hacks for Parents

20 Money-Saving Hacks for Parents

Regardless of your marital status, income, number of children or the amount of debt you carry, you want to save money. There are countless ways to save, but it helps to take a general, broad look at the ways parents can save throughout the year, in different areas of their lives. The following 20 hacks will help you save money across the board, from groceries to travel to gift giving.

Groceries

American families spend an average of $146 to $289 per week on groceries. Begin saving today with the following hacks:

1. Plan Meals Around Deals

If you want to save at the grocery store, everyone knows that planning is essential. Do your research and find out what will be on sale for the upcoming week. Plan meals around those sale items and use a recipe website if you’re lacking creativity.

2. Use Couponing Websites

Couponing is a time-consuming art form, but one way to ease into it is to use couponing websites. These sites remove the need to sort through pages of circulars and cut out what you need. Instead, you can search the databases for what you need. Try The Krazy Koupon Lady or Passion for Savings.

3. Create a Cooking Group

If you’re close with your neighbors, consider creating a cooking group. Each family in the group cooks dinner one night per week for the other families in the group. This way, you can enjoy a few nights off from cooking, as well as added savings from buying cooking items in bulk.

4. Order Online

Be honest with yourself and admit if you’re an impulse shopper. If you are, it might be wise to get your groceries delivered. Or, you can order ahead and pick up your groceries to avoid going into the store altogether. While these services come at a cost, it might be worth it if you’re prone to impulse buys.

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Gift Giving

Does it seem like your budget is shot every month because of birthday parties? Your kids won’t have to miss the parties if you consider the these hacks:

5. Stock up on Gifts for Birthday Parties

Toys go on sale every January, so use this time of year to stock up on a variety of inexpensive gifts. Keep a stockpile and add to it whenever you spot a good deal. Set a limit for yourself, such as no more than $5 or $10. When the inevitable party invitation arrives, visit your stockpile instead of the store.

6. Have Your Kids Hand Write Cards

Instead of paying $3 or $4 for a birthday card, have your kids create one. Kids love to get craft and people love handmade cards. Plus, your wallet will appreciate the added savings, come the end of the year.

7. Opt for Christmas Wrapping Paper in Solid Colors

Purchase Christmas wrapping paper after the holiday season at a discounted rate. Choose papers in solid colors like green, blue and red, and then use it throughout the year for birthdays and other holidays.

Kids’ Clothing and Toys

Clothing is a necessity and toys are important, too. Save money by purchasing clothes at the right time and finding toys in the right places. Consider the following tips:

8. Shop During the Off Season

Clothing is expensive. Smart shoppers gauge their children’s sizes and shop in August for the next warm season and at the end of February for the next winter season. Get into the habit of doing this every year, and the savings will be significant.

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9. Join a Toy Library

Toy libraries rent or lend toys to families. It’s a great way for your kids to receive something new to aid their development — and it also teaches them responsibility. As they care for the toys, they learn the concept of borrowing. Plus, they get to experience a variety of toys at very little cost to you.

10. Embrace Consignment

There are many different ways to consign today. Clothing exchanges, consignment stores and online mom swaps make it easy for anyone. But online consignment stores likely provide the most options.

Vacationing

Planning a vacation usually comes with some anxiety as you consider the costs involved. If you want to save money on your next vacation or make your vacation dollars stretch as far as they can, consider these hacks:

11. Join a Home Swap

Instead of paying hefty hotel fees, opt for a home swap. You can explore other countries and live like a local. The experience will be rich, and your dollars will stretch much further. Websites like Home Exchange match you with an appropriate swap family.

12. Avoid Busy Travel Days

This is a simple hack, but it’s an easy way to save. Flying Monday through Thursday is cheaper than flying over the weekend, but Wednesdays are the cheapest. Plan your trip from Wednesday to Wednesday to get the lowest fare.

13. Plan Early or Late

Planning early comes with many perks, such as being the first to book at the lowest costs. As soon as you get your child’s schedule for the upcoming year, plan vacations around days off. Opt for non-holiday days off from school, such as teacher in-service days, to avoid spiked rates. On the flipside though, spontaneity is sometimes rewarded through last-minute deals.

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Social

Children become involved in more activities as they age, and parents immediately notice how expensive it is to stay involved with social activities such as sports and clubs. Consider the following tips:

14. Make Playdates

Instead of opting for “Mommy and Me” classes that cost money, socialize with other moms and babies by creating your own group. Use social media to connect with area parents or try Playgroup Meetup.

15Implement a One-and-One Rule

There are many free activities to participate in if you look in the right places. When your children become interested in joining clubs and sports groups, implement a “one-and-one” rule. This means they can join one paid activity and one free activity every season. Examples of free activities include reading groups or story time at the library.

16. Create a Babysitting Co-op

Check out local churches and community centers for babysitting co-ops, or groups of parents that agree to help one another babysit at no cost. If there isn’t one available in your area, create one. Also, there are sites to help connect families such as Babysitter Exchange.

Bills

You don’t have to like them but you can budget for them. Get your monthly budget in the green with these simple strategies:

17. Check Your Family Plan

Cell phone bills are a big expense, and they typically grow every year, especially as your children become responsible enough for a phone. Check out the site My Rate Plan to see if you’re overpaying. And be sure to shop around for better rates every year.

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18. Cut the Cable

There are many ways to enjoy television without paying a hefty bill. Streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu offer more economical options for TV than cable.

19. Minimize the Water Bill

Reduce your water bill by replacing leaky faucets and adding aerators to them. Aerators reduce water flow by up to 60%, which can equal a huge potential saving. Fill a plastic milk container with stones and place it in the back of the toilet tank if you don’t have a low-flow toilet. This technique will minimize the amount of water needed to fill the tank.

20. Only List Teen Drivers Under One Car

To save money on your car insurance, only list teen drivers under one vehicle. List them as occasional drivers on the least expensive car to pay the lowest rate.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to cut costs throughout the year with minimal effort. What are some of the hacks your family uses to save money throughout the year? Share in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Steven Depolo 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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