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If You Want To Save More Money, Own These Money-Saving Items

If You Want To Save More Money, Own These Money-Saving Items

Did your latest savings campaign end slowly, dribbling to a halt as you realized you weren’t saving as much money as you wanted or needed to?

It happens to all of us – good intentions and determined willpower slowly fade as we fail to meet our savings objectives.  With the right tools, however, maintaining budget-friendly habits and systems is infinitely easier. Support your financial ambitions and save more money by stocking your home, workspace and vehicle with the money-saving items shared here.

Around the home:

Ceiling Fans

Running ceiling fans counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter can lower both your cooling and heating bills.  The rotation disperses cooled or heated air, meaning less energy is required to establish and maintain the desired temperature in the space.  During moderate heat, the increased air flow from a ceiling fan may mean that you don’t even need to run your air conditioner.  Your budget will thank you, as your utility bill takes a nose dive.  Don’t know how to change the direction on your fan? Get up on a ladder and take a look – most have a switch on the side – or call the manufacturer directly.

UV-blocking Curtains

UV-blocking curtains can drastically reduce both your heating and cooling bills. Now, energy-efficient curtains are available in a variety of colors and patterns, so you can find them to match any decor in local home goods or even hardware stores.  Live somewhere particularly frigid in the winter? Put up liners during cold months to lock heat in even more effectively.  No matter what kind of curtains you have, remember to keep them drawn during particularly warm spells.

Reduced-flow Shower heads

Look for a shower head that allows you to select the flow rate, or one that automatically adjusts.  While it can be a pain to try to rinse shampoo out of long hair with inadequate water, you simply don’t need a high rate of flow for most needs.  Families in particular can save hundreds of dollars each year by installing reduced-flow heads into each of their bathrooms.

Toilets with Options

Think it takes the same amount of water to flush #1 and #2?  You’re right – it doesn’t, and if you’ve never thought about it, time you should!  While graphic, the amount of water used in your toilets each year adds up on your bill.  For about $100, you can install toilets with dual flush options, which means you don’t have to use extra water unless you need it.

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Grocery and Shopping Bags

Regularly ponying up $10 for small trash can liners for bathrooms, laundry rooms, or guest rooms?  Use grocery bags instead.  They’re the perfect size, reusing them is good for the environment, and you already paid for them when you made your purchase.  Grocery bags can also be used to clean up after your pet at the park, or stock your car for emergency spills.

Rechargeable Batteries

Whether your home is full of kid’s toys that eat batteries alive, or you need to fuel flashlights, smoke detectors, appliances, and more, rechargeable batteries make a lot of sense.  While they may require frequent recharging, they will save you over the long run.  Bonus benefit: no more grunts of frustration when you realize that you are out of the type of battery you need.  Remember to unplug chargers when they are not in use; anything plugged in will use energy that you pay for.

Clothes drying rack

Your dryer requires electricity, which can raise your utility bill sky high. Keep the bill in check by doing a bit o’ good for the environment by drying your clothes on a rack or line. Folding drying racks can be found at any home goods or superstore.  Or, hang a rod and line with materials readily found at hardware stores.

In Your Kitchen:

Cooler

Heading out with friends this weekend? Instead of meeting at a restaurant, stock a cooler with items from the grocery store and picnic at a local beach, garden, or park. Coolers really pay off for families who stock them with food from home and bring them to local entertainment venues. Many zoos, aquariums and parks allow you to bring your own food.

Insulated lunch box

Brown-bagging it during the week is a whole lot more attractive (and safe) when cheeses, meats, sandwich materials, fruits, and vegetables are kept at an appetizing and safe temperature for lunch-time consumption.  Look for a soft shell bag that can be compressed to fit inside a large purse or briefcase post-lunch.  Keep your lunch box in your car when not in use, to make it easy to slide leftovers into when you grab dinner on the go.

Coffee Pot

Make the daily runs to Starbucks a thing of the past, and save hundreds, if not thousands, every year. Brewing that cup o’ joe at home in the company of friends could also provide a substitute for costly weekend brunches or catch-up coffees, as well.  For added convenience, select a model that allows you to set a brew time, and wake up to that coffee aroma you love.

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Insulated Beverage Container

Take your second (or third, or fourth) morning cups of coffee on the road with you in an insulated beverage container.  Bonus: that same container can hold smoothies, soups, and other items you prepare yourself to save money.

Blender

Make your own smoothies, juices, baby foods, and more with a heavy-duty blender. Not only will you save money, but you can ensure you get that flavor you like exactly right, every time.  Earn extra savings points by only blending with in-season fruits and vegetables to lower your grocery bill even further.

Crockpot

Think you don’t have time to cook? Toss meat and vegetables in the pot in the morning, turn it to low, and have a delicious meal waiting when you get back from work.  Extras can be frozen for another day, meaning yet another meal you won’t have to cook for.

Glass Food Storage Containers

Available in a variety of sizes, glass storage containers are the healthiest way to store leftovers. Anytime you cook at home, cook extra – not only will you have plenty to toss in that fancy lunchbox the next day, but preparing food in larger quantities means you can buy it in larger volume and take advantage of bulk discounts.

Deep Freezer, or refrigerator with large freezer capacity

Having hefty freezing capabilities means you can buy and cook in bulk, then freeze.  Can’t see yourself ever using pounds of meat or gallons of soup? Split bulk-buying costs with a friend, and ask them to chip in a few dollars to use your freezer.

Chalkboard

Create a grocery list as you run out of items, as well as any other items you need to stock up.  Stick to the list during weekly errands to minimize impulse spending; numerous studies show that shopping with a list can drastically cut your bill.

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In Your Office:

File Folder, Envelope, Paper Clips, Binder

… or whatever is most useful to you in tracking and logging receipts for all purchases and expenditures.  You can’t save more effectively, if you don’t know where your money is going in the first place.  Analyze your spending habits at several points during the month to allow for time to correct for any wayward expenditures.  At the end of each month, scrutinize ways to improve your savings rate even more.

Internet at Home

Shop online retailers, or the online warehouses of your favorite stores, for virtual discounts and deals.  Don’t want to shell out more for wireless? Talk to your phone provider – many smartphones can be used as a hub, within the limits of your data plan.

“Smart” Power Strips

If you use a computer at home, or run multiple devices like a laptop, printer, stereo, and so on from your desk, this item is a “must have.” The power strip focuses power usage on the devices you’re actually using, reducing the energy sent to the others and negating “phantom charge.” While some consider unplugging energy from gadgets you’re not actually using to be a waste of time, consider that the charges aren’t so “phantom” when they show up on your bill.

In Your Living Room:

In-Home Entertainment Subscription

Regularly shelling out $25 to see the latest movie on the big screen? For far less, you can have unlimited entertainment at home through Netflix or similar entertainment options.  At-home entertainment can also be a great option for a date night or fun evening in with friends that saves you all money.

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In Your Garage and Yard:

Patio or In-Ground Garden

Whether it’s a single planter with basic herbs on a windowsill, pots of tomatoes on your porch, or an extensive in-ground plot, gardening will cut your produce bill.  Having plants around may also reduce stress and improve the overall quality of your living environment, cutting doctor’s bills and the need for that stress-busters class you pay for each week.

Loose Change Jar

Every penny you lose is a penny that could be spent reducing debt, contributed to an emergency fund, or otherwise constructively employed. Keep track of them and give yourself a visually encouraging boost with a loose change jar in an easily accessible location.  Decide how you’ll use the money before you toss in the coins, and delight at how quickly it adds up.

In Your Wallet:

Library Card

Make Barnes & Noble (and their expensive, tempting coffee bar) a thing of the past by checking out books at your local library.  Many libraries also maintain subscriptions to popular magazines.  While you may not be able to check them out, you can enjoy them at the library.

Membership to a Warehouse or Bulk Discount Club

If you turn up your nose at the thought of bulk shopping, it might be high time to check out your nearest Costco or Sam’s Club.  These retailers often carry organics, clothing, household goods, furniture, and office supplies.  If you truly can’t use anything in bulk, or lack room to store it, split the membership with a friend and buy items you both use, together.

Bonus Savings if You Have:

A Friend or Co-Worker Willing to Ride Share

Always drive yourself? Consider teaming up with a friend during weekend outings, or better yet, find a coworker who can help your commute.  You’ll save money in gas, mileage-based insurance and, over time, vehicle maintenance.

Thirsty for more tips and tricks? Check out these 55 Practical Ways to Save Money Efficiently.

Featured photo credit: Kristina Zuidema 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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