Archive for the ‘Saving’ Category

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

I have never had a truly clean and organized closet until I started my fashion capsule project. Had I known that I could have been making considerable cash this whole time, I might have taken the endeavor a bit more seriously. Today I want to share with you some resources I have discovered for making money while cleaning out your closet. Not only do you have the power to make some serious cash, but you also have the opportunity to transform lives by paying it forward to charities in need.

First things first, let’s talk about my purse clean out that netted me $80! 

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

Start With Your Purses- I Made a Ton

I have a terrible habit of switching my purses and never taking time to clean them out. Not only did I find a lot of great lipsticks to wear, but I also discovered that I had a lot of credit card gift cards with small denominator amounts on them that I didn’t know what to do with. Do you know that you can transfer all of these tiny gift card amounts to an Amazon gift card with no minimum balance? I headed over to this page where you can quickly reload your balance with NO MINIMUM amount. After kicking myself for all of the cards that had been sitting there expiring, I was happy to see that I now had $80 of credit that I can use towards my shopping.

Sell The Things You Aren’t Wearing

It has been brought to my attention since minimizing my wardrobe how little I really do need and how little I really do wear. If your items are brand name and in gently used condition consider selling them to make some extra cash or to put towards wardrobe items you really would love and wear.

Here are a few resources you can check. I know there are more, but these are the ones that I am most familiar with: 

Twice

Twice- This has been my #1 resource for pulling together my capsule wardrobe, but it is also my #1 resource for selling my gently used items. Twice will send you a selling kit within 4-6 days of your request that includes a bag and prepaid postage sticker for your items. If you are really excited to just get started though, you can grab a box from your recycling and fill it up with a label you print from your computer. Once you send in your first shipment they will give you $10 of credit towards a purchase so you can buy something you really love. Here is a list of the brands that they accept. Once they make an offer you can decide if you want to accept it or not.  If you don’t like the price, you pay $4.95 for return shipping. In contrast, thredUP charges $12.00 to return your items.

Keep in mind that this is not a consignment shop so they pay you once the item is accepted. No need to wait for your items to sell.

Threadflip

Threadflip- Threadflip is a new discovery for me and I am so excited about using this for my next capsule wardrobe. Threadflip is more of an online consignment shop for your clothing so that means you get paid when your item has been sold and shipped. That being said, they charge a mere 20% commission on your items so that you can pocket 80% of the profit. 

Much like Twice, they will send you an envelope with a prepaid shipping label for your items. Once you send it to them, they will list it for you by their team of professionals, saving you the hassle of trying to photograph and style your item. There is also the option to list the items yourself if you don’t want to send the items in. For me, the profit is the same so I would much rather have their team list it for me, but that one is totally up to you.

Poshmark

Poshmark- Poshmark & Threadflip are very similar in nature and the site is one of my new favorite places to browse for items for my capsule.  It is an app available for iPad and iPhone that allows you to shop, sell, and engage with virtual closets full of pre-worn or new pieces on one simple platform.

You list the items yourself- some take their own pictures while others utilize the photos from the website of where they purchased the item. They also charge a 20% commision fee on your items allowing you to pocket 80% of your profit. 

I will say from a user perspective, despite adding my sizing and storing it, I find the site a bit like going to a high-end garage sale. You have to really scan through all of the listings and even when sizing is set, it still pulls items that are not in my size or unrelated to my searches. Since users set their own pricing, you can find some steals though and I still love the thrill of a good hunt so I am sure thrifty shoppers will be ready to embrace your gently loved clothing.

thredUP

thredUPAll of my friends have been raving about thredUP and after joining to try it for this article, I can see what the fuss is about. Not only can you clean out your closet to make money, but you can also make money on your kid’s stuff and maternity items too! As with some of the other places I have listed, you can order a bag with a prepaid shipping label to start your closet clean out. Their fashion resale professionals review your clothing and then pay up to 80% of the resale value. You can earn thredUP shopping credit, or simply cash out with PayPal. Items that they don’t accept go to charitable partners or textile recycling companies. They can also be mailed back to you as part of their Return Assurance program for a $12.99 shipping fee. Be sure to check their quality standards before sending. Here is $10 of credit to spend on your first purchase. 

eBay- eBay has been around forever and is actually featured a lot in my It’s the 3 Little Things because I find some really killer deals on there as a buyer.  Although I have never personally sold items on eBay, I have had many friends who have with great success. There is a seller fee that you can read more about the eBay seller fees here. The nice thing is that you can sell items individually or you can sell them as a lot grouping instead.

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

Give Away The Rest

If you don’t love it, you aren’t wearing it, and you can’t sell it…share it with someone in need. There are so many fantastic charities to give to and if the items aren’t the wildly popular name brands or you just don’t want to hassle with the sale, consider paying it forward and giving your items to a worthwhile cause.

Here are a few options to consider:

Women’s Shelters- By far my favorite place to donate is to our local women’s shelters. This link helps you browse your state and find a shelter closest to you to give.

Dress For Success- Help someone look and feel their best for their job interviews. Their greatest need is larger size suits and apparel, but any business attire will do! Check here for locations.

Pick Up Please- The Vietnam Veterans of America is a respected charity that gives aid to all of America’s veterans, not just those of a particular age group or war. By donating used clothes, shoes, appliances, and other household items, you help generate funds to take care of the soldiers and service men and women who help keep America safe from harm. See if your state participates by visiting here.

Churches- Growing up our church had a room where guests or members could shop. Check with your church to see if they offer this or if they are partnered with any shelters in town where they could recommend sharing your donation.

Goodwill- Goodwill provides employment and job training to those in need of job assistance. Donations couldn’t be easier thanks to the drop-off boxes. Check here for locations.

Once you have your closet cleaned out, let’s get it organized!

Try a Capsule Wardrobe (here are my Fall & Winter capsules) to Minimize- Read more about what I have learned from minimizing my closet.

Tips & Tools for Organizing Your Closet

Have you made money selling items in your closet? Leave your experience here with the different services and be sure to share any resources that I might have missed!

Pin It

Do You Really Need That Degree? College Loans, Options, and Savings

Monday, October 27th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

College debt has reached an all-time high in the United States. Collectively, we owe over a trillion dollars in student loan debt. Yes, trillion with a capital T. It’s actually over $1,200,000,000,000. Ouch.

Is that degree really worth it

Student loan debt is unlike most other debts though in that it is nearly impossible to get rid of, known as forgiveness or discharge. This means even if you fall on hard times, lose a job, or your life circumstances change drastically it’s extremely uncommon to have that debt wiped away – you’re pretty much stuck with it. For some adults this means they will be carrying debt from choices made in their teens and twenties well into their middle age and often they’ll still be paying off those debts while paying for their children’s education.

When considering our finances it’s important to look at the impact student loan debt has since many readers are impacted by college debt. It’s likely you still owe for your college education if you have one (and often even if you don’t have a degree!). Others may be considering college costs for their children whether they’re toddlers or getting ready to head to college. Finally, there are many adults who go back to school when they change professions or need additional education to improve their earning power.

Since there are a lot of scenarios to cover here I’ll break them down, and you can head to the subsection that applies to you.

Already in Student Loan Debt

You already have a degree and the debt to prove it. While you may owe anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands the advice to not get into debt doesn’t apply. You need solutions and advice on getting out of student loan debt.

Consolidate

If you have multiple loans look into consolidation. You can consolidate loans with your spouse as well. This may allow you to get a lower interest rate or lower monthly payment, but it also makes it easier to manage than several loans.

Pay More than the Minimum

While it’s common sense, paying more than the minimum means you will pay it off sooner. Some ways you can ‘find’ more than the minimum in your budget include: slashing expenses (like dropping cable or getting a cheaper cell phone plan) or adding any pay raises to your loan payment.

Work a Side Gig or Second Job

Need to earn extra money to meet your loan payments or increase your payments to pay it off quicker? Get a side gig or work a second job to earn extra money to put towards your college loans.

Investigate Options

If you’re really struggling financially like having no job call your student loan company before you skip a payment. They may be able to hold or defer payments or offer some other options to help keep you from defaulting on your loans.

Getting Ready or Going to College

If you or someone in your family is headed to school or back to school for a degree it’s the perfect time to consider all the options.

Do you Really Need That Degree?

While a college degree is still statistically going to increase your earning ability over time it’s not always a necessity in every profession. Some professions simply don’t require a degree, and many trades are desperately seeking qualified and well-trained individuals.

Additionally, the job market has changed drastically to allow small businesses with little overhead to thrive. In an age of consulting, freelancing, and startups a degree is nice-but it’s not exactly a requirement. Depending on your skillset you may not have the need for a traditional college diploma.

Check Pay Rates and Rental/Home Prices

Whether you’re going back to school or headed to college for the first time you need to consider the cost versus the income you will earn in the future. While we all know there are no guarantees of future income checking pay rates in your area and investigating the cost of housing will help you get a general idea of what you’ll have to spend on student loan repayment.

For instance, it doesn’t financially make sense to spend $150,000 on a degree if the average entry-level earnings are $35,000 per year and average rentals cost $750/month.

The math would show you it would take an awfully long time to pay back your loans, and in the end it’s unlikely to be worth the added stress and costs when you could get a solid education and degree for 1/4 that cost.

Exhaust Scholarship and Grant Options

Grants and scholarships are plentiful, but it takes some hunting and some time to getting the most money you can for school. If you dedicate the time upfront though you could end up saving thousands of dollars. There are scholarships and grants that are high value and competitive, and there are smaller scholarships and grants that are for less money and more obscure.

Consider Starting Small

Instead of diving into a 4 year college with big expenses consider a local, smaller school to get your initial credits out of the way. You could even consider an online education if you’re an adult or need to work full-time to fund your education.

Saving for Future College Costs

Saving for your children or family members who you hope to help go to college is a great gift, but you have to consider all the options before you start saving.

It’s vital to be sure you aren’t locking up money that is needed for an emergency fund or for retirement first and foremost.

However, if you have a healthy emergency fund and are (mostly) on track with retirement savings here are come options to consider:

529 Plans

529s are a great option since they offer no taxes when withdrawn for qualified education expenses like tuition. Many states also have no tax on withdraws.

There are two types:

  • Pre-paid plans: You pay for college costs at today’s rates even if costs go up when your student goes to school.
  • Saving plans: Savings plans are based on the stock market with a mix of investments that get more conservative as your child nears college age.

The downside: Funds that aren’t used for college are taxed fully and a 10% penalty is tacked on. While it’s hard to tell when they’re infants, it’s not exactly ideal if Junior decides not to go to school or ends up with a full scholarship.

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs are a retirement savings vehicle, but they also offer the option of withdraw for college expenses. This can offer the best of both options for families who need to get the most out of their long-term savings.

With a Roth IRA you can use funds for educational expenses OR retirement meaning if your child doesn’t need all the funds you can continue to grow them for retirement without paying penalties.

The downside: Current Roth IRA limits mean you can only save $5,500 each year or $6,500 if you’re over 50 in these accounts.

Note on investing for college: You can encourage family members to add to your little tyke’s college fund (for instance in lieu of gifts for the holidays or birthday presents). For instance grandparents can gift funds to each child, currently you can give $14,000 per year without penalties. 

When Should You NOT Save?

If you’re in debt or struggling financially saving for college shouldn’t even be a consideration. High interest debt (i.e., not your mortgage or your own student loans!) should be tackled before you consider saving for college. If you’re paying 14.99% on your credit cards the math is against you saving for college costs…for now.

Parents often make the mistake of saving for college funds over retirement thinking they have less time to ‘catchup’ on college education costs, but if they aren’t maxing out their retirement savings they could be in major trouble later in life.

While it is a great goal to make sure your children enter adulthood debt-free it shouldn’t come at the cost of your own savings and financial stability-that will impact your children now.

What it comes down to is this–take care and consider all your options whether you’re paying off college costs or saving for your children’s future.

What are your thoughts on student loan debt and college savings? Do you still owe for your education or are you worried about financing your children’s education?

 

Pin It

Last Day: Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap + $10 Credit

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

ePantry

I am so thrilled that so many of you have taken advantage of the offer through ePantry I offered this week! Today is the last day you can take advantage of this offer through MomAdvice.

Use this link to get a $10 credit to shop and a free bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap.

Sign Up

Simply sign up for an account with ePantry using this link .  ePantry is giving all new customers a $10 credit + a bonus FREE Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap. Take advantage of this offer through today only.

Answer A Few Quick Questions

These questions help them to know what types of products you love, how many people are in your home, and what scents you love.  This helps give a rough estimate to how often they need to ship your favorite items right to your door.

Fill Your Cart

You can add your favorite items to your cart or allow ePantry to make some selections for you based on the questions you answered.

Check Out

Just for this first order, your order must be $30 or more (but that includes the $10 credit), so that is basically saving you more than 30% on household products you use every day!

Here is what I put in my cart as an example of how much you can save!

ePantry

Once you use my referral link you will see a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s  Scented Hand Soap, a holiday exclusive,  with your purchase. You do not need to add this to your cart, as my link will automatically do that for you!

Here are a few of my favorites I chose (just as an example- choose whatever you like!). I have a Method Clementine Dish Soap, a Method Lavender All-Purpose Cleaner, 3 Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soaps, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Toilet Cleaner, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Bathroom Cleaner, a 2 piece Reusable Kitchen Wipe Set, & 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap. Total cost just… $23.25

That is  NINE household products for just over $20 out of pocket, which works out to roughly $2.58 a piece. What a steal! 

I hope you won’t miss out on the savings- happy shopping, friends!

 

 

3 Benefits of Household Subscription Services + Free $10 Credit for ePantry

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

3 Benefits of Household Subscription Services + Free $10 Credit for ePantry

I consider myself to be pretty forward-thinking when it comes to online shopping and embracing the time-saving it offers for my family.  I really, really, really hate shopping in stores and prefer to spend my time wisely price-checking and window shopping online instead of in stores. Today I wanted to share with you about a new subscription-based service I discovered for our household needs called ePantry and my experience using their services. They gave me a $30 credit to try out their services and I wanted to offer an exclusive to our readers to also try the services too.  I learned about this service from one of my favorite money-savers, Crystal from  Money Saving Mom, and I knew if she recommended it, I had to try it for myself.

Who Can Benefit From Household Subscription Services?

In my opinion, everyone. Here are 3 benefits that I have found, in general, with subscription based services and what they have offered my family.

Does Your Dish Detergent Cost $100?

Maybe it is because I have zero self-control, but I can’t make a quick run into Target for dish detergent and walk out with dish detergent. Inevitably, I end up filling my cart with a lot of random and unnecessary things that I don’t need and approach the cashier with a dazed and confused look on my face about what in the world I just brought up to check out. Don’t even get me started on that convenient Starbucks on the way out. Having household items shipped to my door saves me a lot of money that is spent on impulse purchases.

Do You Forget to Keep Items Stocked?

I am generally really good with keeping our pantry and fridge stocked with what we need thanks to my Grocery IQ app on my phone. When it comes to household items though, I am THE WORST. It is usually when some poor family member is on the last roll of toilet paper or when I am ready to finally tackle that mountain of laundry that I remember that I don’t have what we need to… ahem…get the job done.

With a household subscription service, they can figure out what you need and you can modify/adjust that list as needed.  Instead of running out of items, they can automatically ship it right to your door so that you don’t have to make that late night toilet paper run.

Do You Hate Hassling With Coupons?

I have admitted to you over and over again that I am no coupon clipper. I admire people that do this, but I just can’t make the time for deal-hunting with two busy kids and my work.  You do know though that I love to save our family money so that is why I shop for our groceries at Aldi, where coupon clipping just isn’t an issue, and I love shop offerings that are competitively priced that don’t require coupon clipping and I have found that ePantry offers lower prices than I was getting in my store, they have free shipping, and they save me from impulse purchases.

How Does ePantry Help?

According to their website, ePantry customers save 26% vs. their local grocery store. There are no service or maintenance fees and you’ll be charged only for the products you buy. Based on the information you provide, ePantry is able to predict how much and when you need each product. They do understand though that there are countless variables in life (vacation, house guests, an addition to the family, etc.), so we made it incredibly easy to make changes on your personal dashboard, or via their mobile app. A week before any shipment is scheduled to go out, they send you a reminder email and a text message for you to make any changes.

What I love the most about ePantry is there are no commitments or fees to use their services. The products are all focused on green living so I can be proud to use them in my home. They also will only charge you once items are shipped. You can cancel at any time, and if you don’t like a product, they will refund you.

3 Benefits of Household Subscription Services + Free $10 Credit for ePantry



Currently, ePantry is offering a MomAdvice exclusive offer which I am so excited to share with you. You can  get a free $10 credit to use on their site when you sign up to try their service + a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s Cranberry Scented Hand Soap for the holidays (retail value $5.59) with every purchase.

ePantry-Review

Just for this first order, your order must be $30 or more (but that includes the $10 credit) so you can spend just $20 and get several natural home cleaners with my referral credit for a lot less than you would ever get in the grocery store.

Here is what I put in my cart as an example of how much you can save!

ePantry-Cart

Once you use my referral link you will see a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s Cranberry Scented Hand Soap, a holiday exclusive,  with your purchase. You do not need to add this to your cart, as my link will automatically do that for you!

Here are a few of my favorites I chose (just as an example- choose whatever you like!). I have a Method Clementine Dish Soap, a Method Lavender All-Purpose Cleaner, 3 Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soaps, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Toilet Cleaner, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Bathroom Cleaner, a 2 piece Reusable Kitchen Wipe Set, & 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Cranberry Hand Soap. Total cost just… $23.25

That is  NINE household products for just over $20 out of pocket, which works out to roughly $2.58 a piece. What a steal! 

Just as I stated above,  shipping is always free and for all future orders, there’s no  minimum amount to purchase.

I hope you enjoy the savings and convenience as much as I have and I am so excited to get to share this exclusive offer with you! This offer WILL EXPIRE on Tuesday (10/21/14) so I wouldn’t delay if you are considering trying this service. 

I love it and hope you do too! Happy shopping!

*This post contains affiliate links! I promise to only link to things I love.

 

Pin It

Cars, Trains, Bikes, and Feet: How to Get Around for Less

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

Transportation costs are often the second largest expense after our homes. For cars, the cost of ownership goes beyond the sticker price and includes everything from oil changes to replacing tires and wiper blades regularly. Train and bus passes may save you big bucks, but they can also add up to lots of time (especially if you encounter delays). Walking is by far the cheapest way to get around, but it also takes the most time and may not make sense more suburban and rural areas.

In the end it doesn’t matter much how you travel- by train, by car, or by your own two feet -they all cost time and money. So, let’s dig into how to get around for less.

How to Get Around for Less

Location, location, location:

They say it’s true for real estate, but it’s also true when it comes to public transportation. If you live in an area that’s far away from work, school, and activities you will spend more time behind the wheel. If you live somewhere that has decent public transportation you may be able to rely on it for commuting. In suburban areas you may be able to do a combo of using both trains and buses and relying on your car for things like errands. While we can’t always pack up and move it’s worth a second look at what your community offers in terms of transportation.

What to look for: Look for bike routes, walking paths, bus stations, trains, and car sharing options in your local area. Try using Google Maps to create your route and look at what public transportation options are available. While biking and walking directions should be examined closely in street view (as they are in beta in many areas) you may be pleasantly surprised to find new ways to travel.

Do the math: If moving is an option look at what you could save on transportation costs. If it’s not an option consider what you’d save by using public transportation, carpooling, walking, or biking 3 days a week. Challenge yourself to see what you can save. Consider monthly passes for public transportation as well. Many locations offer monthly passes at a steep discount if you’re a regular commuter.

Consider Going Carless

For many families, but especially those in the suburbs or country, a two car way of life is the only way that their family can meet all their obligations. Mom and Dad may work in different directions while the kids need to go to after school programs. Even if one parent stays at home it may be inconvenient to spend an hour or more dropping off and picking up their spouse to work with kids in tow.

What to consider: Look at the family obligations as a whole and see if you could juggle having one car. Consider parking one for a few days or a week as a trial. You could always keep it around if it’s not costing much in insurance money for times when it is needed. This will work especially well for families with an at-home parent who either stays at home or works from home. The office worker in the family can drive in most days, look at public transportation options for a few days a week, or even consider carpooling with a local co-worker.

My one car experience: We were a one car family for several months after my husband’s car needed repairs that cost more than the car was worth. We sold the car, paid down some debt, and worked out our schedules to make one car work. It wasn’t easy but it allowed us some time to save up for our next car purchase, and definitely challenged us to be more thoughtful about our driving. You can read more about it here.

Do the math: A car payment + maintenance + gas can add up to $100s each month. If you have a car that’s paid in full you’re still looking at thousands of dollars in maintenance cost. If you could commit to going car-free or cutting back to one car for a year you could easily save upwards of $3,000-$5,000.

Save on Buying your Next Car:

Buying a car can be an intimidating prospect. Considering that most of us only do it a few times in our lives it’s not something that’s easy to ‘practice.’ The buying process can trick you into thinking you’re saving big money, but the truth is most often the dealer will always do well since it’s a process they go through regularly. But there is good news. The internet makes it easier to find out what people are actually paying for cars (both new and used) and you can use it to your advantage to source the exact car you want at a price you want to pay.

Do the math: While it’s fun to consider snazzy features and brand names that include jaw-dropping sticker prices you should really look at function over form. You want a car that has a low cost of ownership, has the features you need (and okay maybe a few you want), and holds its’ value well.

When it’s time to buy you should put everything you can reasonably afford into the purchase so you have low or no car payments. While the old adage is that used is always better and a new car loses 20-40% of its value the second you drive it off the lot that’s not always the case. For cars that hold their value well you may even find that a newly used car (like 1-2 model years old) will be just as expensive as a brand new car.

Whether you get around on foot, by bike, train, bus or car, you’re sure to have ideas on additional ways to save. Share in the comments.

 

Pin It

Evaluating the Cost of Home: Renting vs Buying

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

One of the largest expenses we have is our homes. Whether you’re renting or buying your home it can add up fast. While most financial experts recommend you spend 25% or less of your earnings on your home costs, location plays a huge factor in whether you can meet that guideline or not. This month we’ll be evaluating how to make the decision to rent or buy, and I’ll share some money saving tips that will help whether you rent or own your home.

Evaluating the Cost of Home Renting vs. Buying

When deciding if you should rent or buy it’s important to consider a number of factors:

1. Evaluate your Needs and Where you Are
Knowing what you need in a home or rental is the first step to your evaluation between renting vs buying. In addition to knowing what you need in a home, location plays a big factor. Look at the community you want to live in, but don’t be afraid to look outside your ideal area because the savings may be worth it.

Renting: If you’re renting it’s easier to look for something that fits you right now, but that may be a mistake. Consider what plans you have in the next several years because it is easier to stay put than it is to move you want to ensure you don’t go through the upheaval of moving multiple times especially if you have a family.

Money saving tip: Before you sign a lease find out if your rent is negotiable. For instance you may be able to make repairs or improvements for savings.

Buying: If you’re buying or own a home you will want to consider a little more long-term. For instance, if you’re planning to add children to your family or possibly care for an elderly relative you’ll want to be sure your home has enough room to grow into.

Money saving tip: Homeowners should evaluate their mortgage to see if refinancing will save them money.

2. Cost is King
Cost is a major factor in your decision to rent or buy. The costs of home ownership and rentals in your area will play a big role in your decision. In some communities and urban areas it never makes sense to buy because rent is low and home prices are high. In most areas though it can save you money in the long run to own your own home. As rental prices increase your mortgage payment will stay the same.

Renting: One of the major costs of renting a home is the deposit you have to put down. Generally this will be 2-3 times the monthly rent. In some urban areas they will require a larger deposit especially if you have poor credit. This could end up costing you several thousand dollars to tens of thousands in higher priced areas. In addition, you will have to factor in what other costs are covered (or not) by renting. Your rent could include utilities, WiFi, and water bills or might even include a building gym or services especially if you live in a metropolitan area.

Money saving tip: Consider all the costs you will have to pay when comparing rentals. If you find a rental that’s going for $1,000/month but you have to pay $300/month in costs for electric, water, and association dues that is more expensive than the $1,250/month rental that includes everything.

Buying: The major cost for buying is the down payment on your home. With the collapse of the housing market options have become more limited for people who don’t have a large down payment. However there are options to consider, so be sure to check with your local bank and mortgage broker. In addition you will have moving costs and repairs to consider if your home needs anything immediately.

Money saving tip: Shop around for pre-approval for a mortgage if you decide to buy. You can save tens of thousands of dollars by doing your homework on mortgage rates.

Prepare to Save

No matter if you’re buying or renting here are some steps you can take to get a better deal:

1. Improve your credit-
Use your free credit reports (1 per agency each year) to ensure everything on your report actually belongs to you and there are no false reports on your credit. I

Money saving tip: A credit dispute can take up several weeks to be fixed and can affect your mortgage interest rate and your ability to rent.

2. Research, research, research-
Knowing what typical rent and home prices are is the key to finding a good deal and simply not overspending on your home. You can use sites like Zillow, RedFin and local realtor sites to get an idea of pricing.

Money saving tip: Set up email alerts or app alerts so you don’t miss when new properties become available.

3. Set Expectations-
Know that there will never be the ‘perfect’ home. In most cases we have to choose the best options out of what is available and what we can afford. In some cases this means trading square footage for location or choosing an older home because the neighborhood schools are worth sacrificing granite countertops.

Choose the things that are the most important to you now and think ahead for the next several years. Will this house or rental suit your needs as your kids get older? Or are your kids older and you’ll be able to live with less space in a few years?

4. Real Estate is not an Investment (for Most of Us)-
While there are exceptions (like people who make it their business to buy and sell real estate) for most of us our homes are simply a place to live. While it’s important to pay attention to the costs it’s unlikely the housing market will climb the way it did pre-housing boom in most areas.

Since most families don’t stay in their homes and locations the way they did in past generations it’s not as common to pay off your home mortgage. Even if your mortgage is paid off and you own your home outright you will still have the costs of repairs and upkeep. When/if you do eventually sell a paid-off home you’re going to use that money to buy again.

5. Repairs are Costly-
If you’re renting, having a landlord means you will have someone to lean on when things need to be repaired and won’t have to cover the cost yourself. While you may not incur the cost directly it will be passed on in the form of your rent.

If you buy a home all the cost and work of repairs will be on you. While you can DIY some things larger repairs can be get expensive. An inspection before you buy will help identify some needed fixes when buying a home, but you may encounter things you didn’t expect.

No matter what you choose or how you save money on your home it can be challenging but worth it both financially and for your happiness. Examining costs and weighing your options may not seem especially exciting but by saving on the place you call home you can slash your budget significantly.

Of course there is one thing you can’t put a price on and that’s the feeling you get when you’re truly home.

For more in our series of money savvy tips read:

 

Pin It

DIY Bike Makeover Ideas

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

DIY Bike Makeover Ideas

With warmer temperatures on the horizon, I am looking forward to spending lots of time biking with my kids this summer. Is there anything that makes you feel like a kid again like riding on a bike? I think not! Today’s post offers 7 ideas for a DIY Bike Makeover that you can do on a bike you already own or on a bike that you might like to purchase from your local Goodwill Store.

Did you know that Goodwill has bikes? I often see them lined up outside of our store and I had been dreaming of buying one and updating it with a few embellishments and spray paint of my own. As I had been dreaming and bookmarking my plans, my husband secretly surprised me with a bike to celebrate selling my first book.

Read more about my love for bikes and get 7 Ideas for a DIY Bike Makeover on the Goodwill Tips Blog today!

Pin It

Earn More Money to Help Save More and Pay off Debt Faster

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

Saving and cutting back are not the only way to get your finances in order – in our series we’ve discussed reducing expenseshow to deal with unexpected expenses, and 5 easy steps to a budget that works. But slashing spending is only half the battle. The other half is earning more money so that you can save more, pay off debt, and reach your financial goals faster. Today I’m sharing some ways you could potentially earn more as well as some ways to make sure that extra money doesn’t end up in extra spending.

Earn More Money

Earn More Money

Earning more money is essential if you’re struggling to make ends meet. Here are some ideas to get you started on the path to earning more:

  • Ask for a Raise or more Responsibility at Work. There are many reasons to ask for a raise including being underpaid, having extra responsibilities, and being responsible for generating new income or cutting costs for your company. There are lots of tips for negotiating but the best way to get your boss to say “yes,” is to show your value.
  • Time to Job Hunt. If you are in a position where there’s no room for growth it’s time to look at new jobs. Your skills could be more valuable elsewhere. People often see a jump in income when they make a lateral move from one company to another.
  • Start a Side Gig. Whether you have an idea for a small home business or can tutor kids from home in the evenings’ it’s likely you have skills or hobbies that could be used to earn you some extra money.
  • Get a Second Job. Getting a second job may not sound ideal but look for work that fits your schedule. You don’t have to work two 40 hour a week jobs. You may find a part-time or job you can do online or at home when your regular work day is done. Use your network, friends, and family to find something that is a good fit. This could be anything from a part-time barista job to being a virtual assistant from your computer at home.
  • Improve your Education or Training. If you’ve reached as far as you can go with your current role it may be time to look at more education or training. For some industries it makes sense to go back to school for an advanced degree while for others a certification course will help improve their skill set. If you’re short on cash to pay for further education look for training, programs, or degrees that will be covered by your current employer.
  • Add New Skills to your Resumé. For many people they have a set of skills that they work with each day. Look at related skills to help improve your value to your current or future employers. For ideas on things you might consider search LinkedIn for colleagues or those with similar titles at other companies.
  • Start a Blog. Read some great advice from Amy on long-term tips for bloggers. Blogging is definitely not a ‘get rich quick scheme’ but it can be helpful for reaching new clients for your day job or be a creative outlet that’s totally different from what you do from 9 to 5. And yes it can eventually earn you some extra dough.

Temporary Boosts in Income

While the following ideas won’t get you out of debt entirely or help you save every year they can be a great way to jumpstart your financial goals:

  • Sell Off Items. Whether it is baby gear you no longer need or housewares that aren’t getting use daily you can earn some extra cash by selling items you no longer need or want. Using Craig’s List or other services works well for local only items (like the play kitchen your kids outgrew) while eBay works well for items like collectibles, designer clothes, and electronics.
  • Take Surveys. There are multiple sites that will allow you to earn cash for answering a few questions. Some are based on your fit for the survey while others offer to pay for your feedback no matter your personal fit.
  • Use Apps that help you Earn. Apps are available to help you earn now. The Ibotta app allows you to earn cash for shopping after answering a question or two, liking on Facebook, or even watching a short video. GigWalk is another app that allows users to take photos, submit surveys, and share info with companies that are looking for ‘on the ground’ help.

In the end earning more only helps you reach your goals if you stick to your budget. While it can be tempting to spend a little more on things since you’re earning more-don’t. It’s pretty easy to get yourself right back into living paycheck to paycheck if you aren’t careful. A simple way to manage the extra funds is to have them deposited into a separate account that you use to save, pay off your debt, or reach your other financial goals.

These are just a few ways to earn more. What are some ways you’ve earned more?

 

Pin It

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

For years I have been wanting to make beans in the slow cooker, but was intimidated with the process. Beans in the slow cooker though are surprisingly easy and frugal to create in large batches for your family. Today I wanted to show you a foolproof and delicious recipe for Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans for all of your Cinco de Mayo fun, or as a frugal side dish for your next taco night. Today’s cooking tutorial is going to take you through the in’s and out’s of how to cook beans, how to freeze them, and then in the comments below you can share your views on bean preparation. Everyone has a theory, a trick, and a recipe. Let’s share what we know works best for us!

Bean Cooking 101

How to Cook Dried Beans

Why Should You Trouble Yourself With Dried Beans?

There is true convenience in grabbing a quick can of beans for your dishes out of your pantry. Although it is still a frugal staple, dried beans are oh-so-much cheaper and they have much more flavor than the canned variety. Dried beans typically cost two to three times less than canned beans and they have the added benefit of less sodium, more flavor, and can save you a lot of room in a small pantry. Did I mention that they can be made while you are sleeping in your slow cooker? Now that’s a beautiful thing.

When I posted that I was working on this on Instagram, many people commented on their techniques as well as their failures in cooking beans. I guess I am not the only one a little intimidated by the process. Now that I have made them though, I will be making this a regular habit because it saves me a lot of money and is a very filling protein for someone who is on a gluten-free diet and always hungry.

A Little Sorting Never Hurt Nobody

Once you purchase your beans, make sure you sort them out. Arrange dried beans on a sheet pan or clean kitchen towel and sort through them to pick out any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris. This is not an all-day affair, just a quickly peek and move on to the next steps.

Rinse It, Rinse It Good

Always make sure you rinse your beans really well before beginning. Make sure you also rinse them well after our salt brine (below).

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

To Soak or Not to Soak

Sounds like a great Shakespeare line, doesn’t it? I know that many people skip the soaking process and opt to just throw them right into the slow cooker after a rinse.  I always consult the experts when it comes to cooking and according to Cook’s Illustrated, quick soaking can be effective, but their proven method of soaking beans in a brine, yields a bean that a girl can really be proud of.  Just as a brine on a bird can yield tasty results, beans can benefit from salt too. The salt soak prevents magnesium and calcium from binding to — and, subsequently hardening — the cell walls on your beans. When people  complain that they can never get the beans to soften, you can be assured that a brine can help with that, while maintaining the shape of your beans.

Cook’s Illustrated recommends, for 1 pound of dried beans (about 2 cups) dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 quarts of water. Add the rinsed beans and let them soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. (If you’re short on time, quick-soak the beans: Place the beans in a large heatproof bowl. Bring 2 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Pour the water over the beans and let them soak for 1 hour before draining and rinsing.)

As far as salting goes for your beans for seasoning though, it is advised to wait until the end and salt once they are cooked and season to taste. You also want to be sure that you are rinsing that brine off before you get started with your recipe.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.  Cook Them Low & Slow

Since beans need to be cooked low and slow, the slow cooker is ideal for cooking your beans. Once you have rinsed these after the salt brine, add them to your slow cooker along with liquid and seasonings of choice and turn your slow cooker on Low and head to bed.  Skip the addition of anything acidic though because the acid can prevent those beans from breaking down and it’s all about getting these beans to break down.

I cooked mine in my Ninja Cooker and set it for six hours and it set’s itself to warm after that.  The beans should take roughly six to eight hours to cook and slow cookers can be the ideal tool for cooking them. According to The Kitchn, it’s adviseable to pick a slow cooker that fits best with the amount of beans you are cooking. They advise that for small batches of beans, a pound or less, to rely on a 3 1/2-quart or smaller slow cooker. If cooking 2 pounds or more, you can use your 7-quart slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com. Freeze Those Beans

Once the beans are done, divide them up into two cup portions in freezer bags and put them in the freezer.  You can now enjoy the savings all month long and enjoy these beans as a side or accompaniment to any of your favorite Mexican dishes.

I hope this tutorial helps and I can’t wait to read your own tips for cooking beans in the comments below! These would be delicious paired with my favorite 10-minute fish tacos, our chicken enchiladas (made with homemade enchilada sauce), my roasted corn salsa, and a tall margarita or mojito…just in case you are looking for a few great dishes for Cinco de Mayo!

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

SAFETY NOTE: If you are cooking kidney beans, boil them for 10 minutes before cooking. This neutralizes a toxin called phytohemagglutinin that can cause acute digestive distress.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Be sure to read our Bean Cooking Tutorial before you begin! These beans make the perfect side dish for any meal!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes (ADD AT THE END)
Instructions
  1. Follow the instructions for sorting, rinsing, brining, and then rinsing again as I have outlined above.
  2. Put the drained beans into your slow cooker, then add the chopped garlic, broth, cumin, and chili powder. Stir well to combine.
  3. Set on LOW for six to eight hours in your slow cooker (see above for recommended slow cooker sizes based on pounds).
  4. Once they are done, stir in diced tomatoes and season.
This post contains affiliate links.

What’s your favorite way to cook beans? Any tips, tricks, or techniques that work well for you?

Pin It

Reducing Expenses: Put the ‘Personal’ In Your Finances

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

How to Reduce Your Expenses

Personal finance is called ‘personal’ for a reason. No matter what advice or best practices exist, money—how we earn, spend, and save it—is intertwined with our values, beliefs, and experience.  By exploring not only the practical side but also the personal side, you will find that you not only can ‘find’ more money, but you’ll be happier because you’ve given your personal finances careful thought.

Knowing your goals and setting up a budget that works are the first steps in putting the personal in your finances. Once you know where your money is going and how much you’re spending you can challenge yourself and your family to reduce or eliminate unnecessary spending by examining what you’re spending through the filter of your goals.

Each expense should be evaluated and considered. Is it essential? Could it be reduced? Should we be ‘investing’ more in this area?

Let’s examine a few common areas where you may be able to find savings that can really add up:

 

Trivial Spending

Buying a cup of $3 coffee at work or spending $10 on lunch out with co-workers every week may not seem like a big deal, but it can add up…and fast! Spending $30/week on those little things can add up to over $1,500/year!

Tips to Manage Trivial Spending:
Choose intentional spending instead. If you know you are going to spend money on little thing it’s best to set a budget of yourself-or an allowance. Once you’ve spent your ‘allowance’ you will have to skip the little expenses for the rest of the month. This will allow you some freedom while staying within your budget.

Stop, Think, Spend Strategy

This simple strategy will keep you from overspending. Stop before you go to the checkout counter. Think about what you’re buying. Go over a few questions in your head to get yourself to be in the moment. No justifying the clearance cost or the unnecessary stuff.

Tips for using Spending Strategy: 
Some sample questions you can either keep in mind or have a list in your wallet (ideally in front of your credit or debit card)

  • Is it a need or want?
  • Can you use something else in place of the item you’re going to purchase?
  • Can you find a better price elsewhere?

Only after you’ve given it the stop and think then and only then is it time to spend.

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

One of the best strategies I have is to always shop with a list. I keep running lists on my phone and in a notebook I carry. This includes everything we need and things I’m looking out for-like a new pair of curtains and the budget I have for those items. If it’s not on the list we don’t purchase it. This keeps me from impulse purchases (my weakness!) and allows me to keep track of things we need that may not be at the forefront of my mind.

Tips for using Lists: 
Use your phone or a dedicated notebook to keep track of your lists. There are plenty of apps that work great for this including Notes (on iPhone), Moleskine’s app, and Taasky.

Unwanted Expenses

We all have things in our budget we’d rather not spend money on-not the things we have to (like home repairs), but expenses that come from a lack of time management or organization. Some examples include; late fees, parking tickets, monthly contracts, or convenience fees. It could be you forgot to return your library books or you needed to pay a bill online that day and had to pay a $3.95/fee. You may have signed up for a ‘free’ trial and forgotten to cancel. While these may seem like small time they can add up if you aren’t careful.

Tips to Avoid Unwanted Expenses:
Avoid unwanted expenses when possible, but also make sure to have some room in your budget (Misc. category) for paying off those unwanted expenses now. To keep from making the same mistake again you can set reminders in your phone or have notes on your planner for due dates and mark down the day you should cancel a ‘free trail’.

Cutting the Cable(s)

One expense most families have is their cable bill. It can add up to more than $150 with internet access, cable channels, premium channels, DVRs, and a home phone. That’s a lot of dough! While internet access may be a requirement at home cutting the cable or dumping the home phone are both ways you can save big bucks.

Tips for Cutting the Cable:
Cutting the cable doesn’t mean never watching TV or movies! You can get a membership to Netflix, use Hulu, HuluPlus subscription, or Amazon’s Prime to stream movies and TV for cheap or free. The best part is you aren’t in a contract so you can cancel or ‘pause’ your membership at any time.

Reducing Interest Payments and Debt

The best way to reduce your expenses is to cut back on interest and debt payments. After all, saving more doesn’t make sense if you’re spending 10% or more on interest payments or more a large percentage of your earnings on debt. Debt isn’t all bad-it may allow you to pursue higher education, purchase your home, or finance a business. Revolving debt, loans, and high interest rates are an expense we should fight to eliminate.

Tips to Reduce Interest: 
While you’re working to pay off debts you can reduce interest rates by:

  • refinance your mortgage-you may be able to refinance for a lower interest rate
  • call your credit card company-call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate
  • switch credit card companies-0% intro rates are a great way to eliminate interest (be mindful of fees for transferring balances)
  • consolidate loans-by consolidating loans into one payment you can often reduce interest rates

What are effective ways you’ve reduced expenses?

 

Pin It