Last Updated April 12th, 2018

What Are The Biggest Dangers To A Healthy Budget?

What Are The Biggest Dangers To A Healthy Budget?

A healthy budget makes life much easier in many ways. It’s nice to not have to struggle to pay monthly bills or to wonder how you’re going to get groceries this week. It pays to know what the biggest dangers to a healthy budget are.

A healthy budget doesn’t just happen for most people. It’s too easy to make mistakes. Consider these problems and how to deal with them.

Credit Cards

Credit cards can be a blessing when times are tight, but they can quickly destroy your budget as well. The money you spend on them has to be paid back somehow, and the sooner, the better. The interest charges add up quickly, making it even more difficult to pay them off.

Whenever you have to build up credit card debt, work hard at getting it paid off. You may have to sacrifice in other areas to make this happen. That’s not easy on a tight budget, but your budget will have problems until that credit card is paid off.

Change your spending habits if you are carrying a balance on your credit cards regularly. If you rely on your credit cards to get by, you need to either reassess what you are spending or start to earn more. Possibly even both. You can also look into getting a lower interest rate on your credit card debt so that it doesn’t pile up so quickly.

Credit cards are good for one thing, although a debit card may be able to perform the same function. They provide a great record of your spending habits. Go over your records every month and see where your money went versus where you meant it to go.

If you use credit cards wisely, they can be beneficial. Some give points or airline miles when you use them. If you can earn these while paying the cards off each month, you can end up ahead. Just make sure that you stay ahead of the bills.

A Lack Of Planning

A lack of a planning is another danger to your budget. It’s easy to overspend if you don’t know where your money is going. Start thinking about the little things and the big things, and seeing what you can do to improve your spending habits.

Perhaps even more important is the ability to know when you cannot afford something. That means cutting back on some of the fun stuff. But it also means not having to worry about how you will afford the things you really need.

Figure out how much money you need for your basic monthly expenses, such as housing, cars, utilities, and groceries. You will also need to consider expenses that may not happen every month but are still important, such as shopping for clothes or gifts.

Plan out your shopping carefully. If you know exactly what you’ll buy when you go to the grocery store, for example, you’ll probably spend less on extras. You also won’t have to go back because you forgot something. Shopping lists can be very helpful that way.

It can be difficult to plan your shopping at some store. I have a dollar store in my area where I never know what I’m going to find, but its produce section makes regular visits worthwhile. Not everything is a dollar there, but the prices are still amazing. I rarely buy non-food items there, although I did buy my nephew’s Christmas present there for $20, with the same toy selling elsewhere for $75-150.

You should also make plans for those times when you will need cash. Don’t go to an ATM that will charge you a fee to get cash if you can help it. Many stores will allow you to get some cash back if you pay with a debit card, or you can make sure to go to a bank that won’t charge you for withdrawals at the ATM.

Don’t treat your cash as money to spend however you like just because it’s harder to track than spending on a credit or debit card. Treat all your money the same, no matter how you spend it.

Not Talking To Your Partner About Money

Communication is key in any relationship, and vital when it comes to having a healthy budget. Your budget will never stay on track if only one of you is following it.

Make sure you both know where the money in your budget is going. This is especially important if either person has spent extra on something.

Set aside time to talk together about your budget. Make it fun if that works for you. Just be sure that it’s enough of a priority that the discussion actually happens on a regular basis.

No Emergency Fund

Another major mistake people do is to make no allowance for emergencies. What will you do if the car needs a major repair or even just a new tire? Try to allow for saving at least a little bit of money every month. Your emergency fund can keep these little problems from turning into major financial crises.

If you don’t have an emergency fund already, you can start one by putting a little aside for one each month. The more you can put aside, the sooner you will have a solid emergency fund so that you don’t have to hit the credit cards when money gets tight.

How much should you have in your emergency fund? That’s up to you. Your first goal should be to have enough to handle a major car repair of at least $1000. Beyond that, try for an emergency fund that will help you keep going even in the event that a job is lost. Having enough money to handle the bills for a few months while a new job is found can greatly decrease the stress of such an event, plus it’s there for other emergencies.

No Room For Fun

Do your best to allow for some fun things in your budget. But if there just isn’t room, think up cheaper alternatives. If you want to see that newly released movie in the theaters, go to the matinee rather than in the evenings. Wait for it to come out on video.

But there are plenty of fun things you can do without getting into your budget. Watch for free admission days at museums. Go hiking. Go to the beach. Many fun things won’t hurt your budget much at all.

Think about the fun things you like to do when planning your budget. Can you make room for an occasional dinner out or going to the movies? What about time out with friends? If you can spare some space in your budget for fun but unnecessary things, you won’t have to feel bad when you do them.

old boots

Going Too Cheap

A mistake that can be a bit contrary is to go too cheap. If you buy excessively cheaply made items, in the long run they can cost you more than buying one more expensive but better made item. The right balance will save you both money and frustration.

I like the Sam Vimes “Boots” Theory of Economic Injustice from Discworld by Terry Pratchett:

At the time of Men at Arms, Samuel Vimes earned thirty-eight dollars a month as a Captain of the Watch, plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots, the sort that would last years and years, cost fifty dollars. This was beyond his pocket and the most he could hope for was an affordable pair of boots costing ten dollars, which might with luck last a year or so before he would need to resort to makeshift cardboard insoles so as to prolong the moment of shelling out another ten dollars.

Therefore over a period of ten years, he might have paid out a hundred dollars on boots, twice as much as the man who could afford fifty dollars up front ten years before. And he would still have wet feet.

Via https://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/Sam_Vimes_Theory_of_Economic_Injustice

While you can’t always avoid going cheap, remember that quality can be more affordable in the long run. Whether you can afford to buy better quality up front is another question. But when you can afford to buy something that will last really well, do so.

Giving In To Temptations

Everyone gets tempted to spend extra money sometimes. There’s a reason why many people joke about how dangerous it is to go to Target, or that the minimum total purchase at Costco is $100. It’s also why you should never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. It’s too easy to buy more than you need.

One way to help is to make a shopping list before you go and stick to it. I mentioned this back in the planning section, but it bears repeating.

Think about the things that will tempt you to spend extra money, and figure out ways to avoid them. This way, you’ll be ready when they happen. And they will.

Looking At Money Saved As Extra Money

It’s great when you get an amazing deal on something, isn’t it? You planned on spending $50, but it was $10 off. That’s $10 you can spend elsewhere, right?

Not necessarily.

For one thing, the money saved can be something of an illusion. How often does the item really cost full price?

Stores know you like deals, and so they set them up so that you want to spend more to get the best deal. It’s why you have to buy at least four items for some deals or get a higher dollar amount off your total purchase when you spend more. It’s a trap. You might even end up spending more than you had budgeted for.

When the savings are real, you’re better off putting that money aside rather than spending it as though it’s extra. Don’t use savings as an excuse to splurge, especially if that makes you spend more than you saved.

One of the best things you can do is to know when to buy and when to save. A healthy budget will keep you and your family in better financial condition. Take steps so that you’re ready for emergencies or unplanned but necessary expenses, and you’ll have a better shot at keeping your budget healthy.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 5th, 2018

What Things Should You Buy In Bulk?

What Things Should You Buy In Bulk?

Have you ever noticed how much you can save when buying in bulk? When you do it right, the price per unit savings are amazing. Do it wrong, however, and you waste a lot of money. What things should you buy in bulk?

Let’s start with the most important things you should NOT buy in bulk. That’s anything you aren’t prepared to deal with. If you can’t store it and/or use it in time, bulk buying it will be a waste of money. Okay? That’s just the beginning of what not to buy in bulk. There are a few more things you should consider before buying anything in bulk.

What To Consider Before Buying In Bulk

While you can save a lot of money buying in bulk, you can also waste a lot if you do it wrong. Start considering the financial angle before you buy a bunch of anything.

This includes if you can afford to buy in bulk, of course. If bulk buying is going to ruin your budget, it’s just not a good idea. It’s as simple as that.

You keep buying in bulk from ruining your budget by being sensible about it. Don’t buy everything you can in bulk right away. Spread your purchases out so they’re more affordable. And always, always watch for sales and other good deals.

You also need to consider how long your purchases will be good for. You don’t want to buy fruits and vegetables in bulk, for example, unless you’re ready to preserve them. Even then, you’re usually best off canning produce you’ve grown rather than bought unless you got a very good deal.

Other products expire too, of course. Make sure you know not only when the package says it expires, but when it really goes bad. A lot of expiration dates on packaging don’t mean all that much. Other times, they mean a lot.

Do you know where you’re going to keep all your bulk purchases? Storage is a huge problem when buying in bulk.

My husband likes to buy rice at Costco, for example. Those 50 pound bags aren’t exactly convenient to use or store. But we have a pretty good plan for using them. We break the rice up into smaller packages, some of which go into our earthquake kit. Doing it this way means the earthquake kit rice gets switched out regularly, keeping it fresh, and the huge bag of rice becomes manageable.

Make Buying In Bulk Make Sense

It’s easy to go overboard when buying in bulk. That huge package has to be a good deal, doesn’t it?

Bulk isn’t always the best deal, however. If you aren’t checking the price per unit in comparison with smaller purchases, you might not be getting the best deal. This is especially true if you consider weekly store deals and coupons. Sometimes smaller is better.

You can also keep from going overboard by planning your bulk buys with someone else. Find a friend or family member who would be willing to split larger purchases with you. This will allow you to get some deals that might otherwise be unreasonably large. Be sure to check in with them before you make a purchase so that you don’t find out after that they weren’t interested.

Bulk buying isn’t always about large packages, of course. Sometimes you bulk buy several normal size packages and put the extra in storage. I do this quite a bit when the dollar store by me has a great deal. Do your buying in bulk right and it will help you save on groceries.

What Goes Bad Easily?

Some things go bad in storage more easily than others. It’s just their nature. Here are some examples. I’m not going to list fruits and vegetables – you know those won’t last unless you work to preserve them!

Medications: It may seem like a good idea to keep a stash of medications, but make sure you know whether they’re safe if kept around for a while or not. Some merely decrease in effectiveness. Others become toxic. Read up on the particular medications you want to store so you know what happens to them over time.

Flour: Flour lasts for approximately a year in the pantry, less if it’s whole wheat. Whole wheat flour, in particular, may develop a rancid scent when it has gone bad.

Nuts: Nuts make a great snack, but they don’t last forever. If they have been stored too long, the oils in them will go rancid.

Spices: Lots of people have no idea if the spices they have in their cabinets are really all that good anymore. Spices lose their flavor over time. If the spice doesn’t smell as strong as it used to, it’s not as good as it was then either.

Soda: Soda may seem fairly shelf stable, but it’s awful if it manages to go bad. Besides, it’s not good for you. Keep your supply of soda limited. Besides, soda goes on sale pretty often. You don’t need to store that much of it.

Okay, okay, on to the things that you should consider buying in bulk.

What Should You Buy In Bulk?

The basic rule for things that you should buy in bulk is anything that’s a good deal, you can store, and it won’t go bad. Here are just a few things you can consider.

toilet-roll

Toilet Paper: You know you’re going to use up however much toilet paper you buy eventually. It won’t go bad, but it can be a pain to store if you buy more than a few packages. I keep our excess under the laundry room sink.

Detergent: Whether for the laundry or the dishwasher, you can often get your best deals on detergent in larger packages.

Soap And Shampoo: Soaps and shampoos don’t tend to go bad. If you can get a good deal, go for it. Watch your price per unit, though. Sales and coupons can make smaller amounts a better deal fairly often. I like to buy large containers of liquid soap and pour it into smaller containers for use.

Dry Rice: I mentioned above how we buy the 50 pound bags of rice at Costco. Dry rice lasts indefinitely if properly stored. It’s well worth buying in bulk if you have large containers you can seal it into.

rice

Dry Beans: If your family eats them, anyhow. I keep some around, but my kids don’t like them at all, so I don’t bulk buy these personally. They are in my earthquake kit because they can be stored indefinitely.

Dry Pasta: Pasta, on the other hand, my kids will eat. Dry pasta is easy to make but doesn’t go bad quickly so long as it’s dry.

cereal

Cereal: I love it when I spot a really good deal on a cereal my family enjoys. The box size is usually the same as normal, so you just have to buy more boxes when a good deal comes around. I’ve often seen boxes that are normally over $4 each drop to $1.25 each at times. It keeps well so long as the package is sealed.

Canned Food: Most canned food will still be good beyond the best by date printed on the can. You probably don’t want to buy canned food in extra large cans unless you have a need for that quantity all at once. It won’t stay good forever once that can has been opened.

soup cans

Cooking Oil: With a caveat. Don’t buy more cooking oil than you can use before it goes rancid. Different types last anywhere from a few months to a couple years once opened.

Meat If You Have The Freezer Space: If you have the freezer space and can seal the meat up properly, you can get a much better deal on it in bulk. Some people even buy a whole, half, or quarter cow. It may cost more than prepackaged beef, but it’s usually a higher quality beef. For most of us, the warehouse store is just fine.

Pet Food: Most pet foods are dry or canned. They keep pretty well. Dry pet foods should be kept in a sealed container after opening, not only so that it stays fresh, but so that it doesn’t attract pests.

Printer Paper: My kids can go through a fair bit of printer paper for school projects at times. Some are turned in online, but there are times that they have to hand assignments in after printing them out. I also keep a small supply of printer cartridges on hand – the off brand ones are cheap and work just fine for our needs. Keep a supply of binder paper on hand if you have kids in school too. You never know when they’ll need more… aside from about an hour after the office supply store closes the night before the assignment is due.

Pens And Pencils: Kids in school go through a lot of pencils, and pens love to get lost. Put those together, and you could probably use to keep a supply of these on hand. Extra pencils are also nice if your kids’ teachers sometimes send supply requests home. Pencils are almost always on the list.

There are many other things you can buy in bulk. Many household supplies, office supplies, and personal care items can be bought in bulk. Some will expire; others won’t. Make sure that if the container is too large for convenience that you have a way to move the product into a container you can use. Think about toothbrushes, dental floss, pads or tampons, light bulbs, storage bags, and your preferred cleaning products for around the house.

Where Can You Buy In Bulk?

You can buy in bulk many places. Warehouse stores are a popular option for buying packages that are actually larger than normal. However, you can also buy in bulk at your normal stores. Just watch the sales and coupons. Normal size packages can be worth buying in bulk when the right deals come along.

If you have a good dollar store by you, they can be great for bulk buying as well. The one by me gets some amazing deals… you just have to catch them before the product runs out. That happens fast when the deal is really good. Sometimes it’s snack foods such as granola bars, but healthier items come in as great deals too.

Don’t forget to check online. Some products are cheaper on Amazon than they are locally. Prices vary over time, so you will need to look at the things you buy and compare prices for yourself. They sell some products in bulk sizes.

Take a look around in your area and figure out what places are your best options for you to buy in bulk. Much of your success with this will depend on what’s in your area.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 22nd, 2018

How to Save Money on Children’s Clothing

How to Save Money on Children's Clothing

How much do you spend on children’s clothing? It’s easy to spend too much. They outgrow clothes so quickly, especially during growth spurts. Finding ways to save money on children’s clothing can be a help to your budget.

Some tactics are easier when the kids are younger and don’t much care about where their clothes come from. Older kids may want more say in what they wear and where their clothes come from.

The first rule is, of course, to avoid impulse shopping. Buying only what you need will always help you save money.

Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers are in many ways the easiest to shop for, if also the most tempting for dressing them up cute. Most parents end up with far too many clothes for their kids at this age after baby showers. They’re so easy to buy for and the clothing is often just so cute.

If you had a baby shower, take a good look at what you really have for your baby before you start buying. You may not need that much. Keep doing this as your kids grow and you fail to realize just how many clothes they have received as birthday presents or at other times.

It’s also a great time for shopping thrift and resale shops. An amazing amount of infant and toddler clothing makes into such places unworn or so close to it you’d scarcely notice the difference. The savings can be a real delight.

Don’t stress about sizes on baby clothes. They vary so much! Go by what fits your child, not by what the tag says. This will be true to a degree as kids get older, but is especially an issue in baby clothes.

Shopping for Older Children

As kids get older, shopping for them gets more difficult. Even preschoolers may start to develop a distinct fashion sense or start to prefer name brand clothing. Gently used clothing that still meets their preferences becomes more and more difficult to find.

You can still find some good clothing at resale or thrift shop for your kids. As they develop an interest in how they are dressed you will need to let them help you pick appropriate clothing. Some kids can develop a real sense for the bargains to be had at resale shops.

As long as you can, discourage them from wanting only brand names. And if brand name isn’t in your budget, consider it a lesson for your children on living within your means. There is no rule saying children have to be dressed in brand name clothing, no matter how much they want to be like their friends.

Outlet shops can also be a great resource. When you give in on brand names, try the outlet shops rather than the department stores. You should be aware of the regular price as well as what you could get the items on sale for, so you know what a good price is at the outlet.

Shopping at the right time matters as well. You won’t always have your choice with kids – if they have a growth spurt and outgrow the clothes you have for them sooner than you are ready for them to do so.

But whenever you can, be prepared to shop at the right time. Good times to find the best deals include the end of the season and after holidays. Just be careful about buying too much in advance – you might end up buying items that never get worn.

Then there’s the piece of advice my son’s pediatrician gave at his most recent checkup. My son is at that age where he is getting tall! She told me to buy shorts rather than long pants as much as possible for him. Long pants are outgrown much more quickly than shorts.

Handmedowns

At any age, don’t forget the value of handmedown clothes for children. My sisters and I passed so many clothes down through the years, starting when the kids were babies. Some outfits made it through five kids, and there’s one jacket, still going strong, that is nearly 20 years old now. It’s still beautiful and every girl has been reluctant to give it up even after outgrowing it. Yes, that’s it in the snow picture above.

Handmedowns went so well for us that the younger kids had almost too many clothes at times, as each family would add just a few new items to the batch. It was pretty amazing how well this worked for us.

You can do handmedowns with friends too. All you need is a group of people willing to pass kids’ clothes back and forth, and kids with the right age separations to make it practical.

Some kids will get grumpy about handmedowns as they get older. The big thing I do is make sure that there are some new clothes for each child, and not just handmedowns.

Timing of handmedowns can help as well. My kids have to wear uniforms to school, so they get their handmedown clothes at the end of the school year, when they can actually wear them regularly. This makes them a lot more exciting. They get out of school and have a whole new wardrobe for summer!

Kids who don’t have school uniforms are more likely to appreciate new clothes when school starts. There’s something so nice about having new clothes for school, and I think most of us remember that. Even if it’s just new to your child and not new from the store.

Online Shopping

Shopping online with a trusted merchant can be a fair deal as well. You can find quite a range of clothing at Amazon, for example. The one disadvantage is that the clothes cannot be tried on beforehand. If you have Amazon Prime, it’s usually not much of a problem, as many clothes will have free shipping.

There are a lot of other places online where you can get children’s clothes for cheap. If you want used clothes, ThredUp may be an option.

Rarely Worn Clothes

Some clothes your kids will wear only rarely. Sometimes you can get away with buying an extra large size in rarely worn clothes, so that you get an extra year or so out of them.

Think about winter jackets in places with mild winters. My kids need a heavy jacket no more than a couple times a year, so if I have to buy one, I get it in a larger size than they need. Same for snow boots. Boots can be worn with extra socks to make them fit better, which isn’t a bad idea in cold weather anyhow.

Don’t buy oversize in things that oversize will be uncomfortable or awkward. You want your kids to use the clothes, not hate them.

Sell Old Clothes

If you aren’t doing handmedowns, selling old clothes can be a great way to get some money back on anything your kids haven’t completely ruined. Many will go through phases where they ruin a lot of clothes, but anything still in good shape could be sold.

You can go the traditional route and have a garage sale every year or two, for example. You can sell some clothes on eBay or Poshmark, or sell them to ThredUp or Swap.com. Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into if you send your clothes to ThredUp so that you aren’t disappointed in what they give you.  And of course you can shop for clothes on any of these as well.

Some people do well selling their clothes on Instagram. The advantage here is that you don’t pay a commission, although you may have to deal with Paypal fees.

Avoid Single Use Items

When it comes to special occasions, it can be easy to want to buy something special for your child. These special items can cost more than regular clothes, yet you might only use them once.

Special occasion clothes were always my favorites for handmedowns or thrift stores. They don’t cost much that way.

I also do what I can to find special clothes that can be worn more than once. Don’t choose a super Christmas-y outfit for a child if there’s one that could be used for other holidays as well.

I also suggest buying fancy shoes for kids as rarely as possible. Kids want to run around, and fancy shoes make that more difficult. Sure, they’re cute, but they scuff up too easily, or the decorations get ruined. Kids don’t need really dressy shoes for most occasions. Take some time to consider if this is really one of those times.

It’s not always easy to save money on children’s clothing. Doing so can mean you teach them not only about how to look nice but also how to live within your means. Both can be valuable lessons.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 9th, 2018

What Are The Options To Cut The Cable Cord And Start Streaming?

What Are The Options To Cut The Cable Cord And Start Streaming?

How would you like to save money on your monthly cable bill? Cutting out your cable subscription in favor of streaming services has become very popular. Most people save a lot of money this way and still have plenty they can watch on their television. What are your options to cut the cable cord and start streaming?

There are a few factors you should take into consideration first. Some families don’t find it as worthwhile as others. Here are a few.

What Channels Do You Want To Keep?

Some channels are more difficult than others to replace with streaming. This is where your costs can head back up toward what you were paying with cable.

Some channels, such as CBS, now offer their own streaming services, and so are no longer offering their shows elsewhere. You can watch them over the air if you can get them with an antenna, but otherwise you have to pay for them.

Make a list of the channels you absolutely want, as well as the exact shows you watch most on them. This will help you figure out which services will give you the shows that you want most. List the services you would need, and what it would cost per month.

What Channels Can You Get With An Antenna?

In some areas, lots of local channels are available for free if you simply hook up an antenna. This is great if you like your local networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and your local Fox station.

Others will get few or no local channels with an antenna. This is the situation I have in my area. We aren’t close enough to anything to get the local channels over the air, plus there are hills in the way. The disadvantage of living in the mountains.

You can get a good estimate of the local channels you will get with an antenna. There are a few services that do this, but I like http://www.antennaweb.org/ best. The website is kind of ugly, but it uses your address to give you its best estimate of what channels you can get with an antenna.

The list I get tells me an antenna probably won’t be worth the trouble. I would have to get my local channels some other way.

What Other Objections To Streaming Do You Have?

My husband’s biggest objection to streaming is that he loves to channel surf and just see what’s on. Streaming isn’t the same to him and he’s not at all sure he would like it.

You may find objections like this in your family too, that don’t simply come down to “I need this channel/show!” Take them into consideration. They may not change your mind, but you should be ready for them.

Streaming Companies To Consider

There are so many streaming companies out there that I won’t try to list all of them. I will give you a sample listing here, along with current costs. Don’t take my prices as accurate, as they’re subject to change at any time. Also, remember that most don’t have contracts. You could change services monthly if you felt like it.

Most will work on whichever streaming devices you have, along with computers, smartphones, and tablets. Some will not work with older devices, however.

Netflix – $7.99-$13.99 per month – Netflix has been around a while now, and produces some great shows that are exclusive to them, as well as streaming popular and not so popular movies and TV shows. Their selection changes a little every month, which can both delight and infuriate customers.

Hulu – $7.99-$39.99 per month – Hulu has two levels of service. The main one is the $7.99 service and it gives you access to thousands of movies and shows. Like Netflix, they also have shows produced just for their platform. The pricier $39.99 per month option is for those who want to watch live sports, news, and more, as well as having access the the full Hulu library. This is one of the ways you might get your local channels.

You can also add on premium channels such as HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime for an additional fee.

Sling TV – $20-$40+ per month – Sling is another option if you want access to some of your local channels, as well as ESPN. Sling offers three basic channel packages to give you more control over what you’re paying. The plus in the pricing is because they offer addon packages for $5 each, with the exception of premium movie channels such as HBO, which will cost more.

CBS All Access – $6-$10 per month – CBS All Access makes some people nervous about the future of streaming. No one likes the idea of having to pay a fee for each network. That would get more expensive than subscribing to cable, fast. But if you want the shows they have, such as Star Trek Discovery, this is how you do it.

Amazon Prime Video – I won’t list Amazon Prime prices here, as they’re picky about affiliates listing prices online. It’s an annual subscription, and you may have it already for the shipping. You can get Prime Video separate from Amazon Prime as a whole, but you won’t save a whole lot. If video is all you want from them, go for the lower price. Amazon has some great original shows.

HBO Now – $15 per month – If you love HBO’s original shows such as Game of Thrones, this is a hard subscription to skip. Some subscriptions, such as Amazon Prime, will allow you to add on your HBO subscription to your account with them, but it will still cost the same.

DirecTV Now – $35-$70 per month – DirecTV Now offers much of what you would get if you got DirecTV through a satellite dish. It has a lot of on demand options and some deals on premium channels. There is also a 72 hour rewind feature and a new cloud DVR. It is limited to two users at a time.

PlayStation Vue – $40-$75 per month – This is the expensive option. It’s not that different, in many ways, from what you would get from the cable company. The most expensive options include HBO and other premium channels. It has a DVR so that you can watch record shows to watch later. PlayStation Vue does not require a PlayStation, as it works on many other devices.

More streaming companies keep coming. Disney has a streaming service they plan to launch in 2019, for example. The potential to always want to add new services is one of the risks of using streaming services. On the other hand, most are month to month, so you can cancel one and start another if you like to keep each month’s costs down.

Equipment Needed

If you have a smart TV, it may already be capable of streaming from several services. Most also have apps so that you can use them on your computer, tablet or smartphone. And of course, there’s always the Playstation if you have that.

If you don’t have a smart TV, you may need to get a little equipment. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost a lot. Look into Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV Stick. Any current version of any of these devices should be able to handle streaming from a range of services.

If you have to buy something, make sure it can do what you need it to do. You won’t be happy if you buy a device only to find out that it’s not compatible with a service you want.

Make A Comparison Chart

Once you have enough data, you can make a comparison chart, or use this sample one I have created in Google Sheets. It has a sheet for listing the channels you need and where to find one, and a second sheet to compare costs. Contact your cable company to find out what your monthly bill would be for just internet. If you need to keep landline phone, keep that in there as well. We have very poor cell phone reception where I live, making a landline still necessary. You want the most exact numbers you can get for what you would be paying, so this comparison may include keeping or dropping a landline phone.

Make sure you include any streaming services you’re already using on the cable side of the bill. You’re probably going to keep those regardless.

Depending on your need for local channels, you might decide to keep a very small cable TV package just to get those local channels. You don’t have to be a complete cord cutter unless it makes sense for you.

On the cable cord cutting side, include the cost of a high enough speed cable plan for your family’s needs. This includes whatever is needed for the entire family. You will need more speed depending on how many people are likely to be using your connection at once.

It may also be worth throwing in what it would cost to switch cable companies. Sometimes you can get a better deal if you change companies because your old package deal has expired. Cable companies aren’t always nice about giving you a new deal when they already have you as a customer. Take a look at where else you can take your business. It’s inconvenient, but the savings may be worthwhile.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 14th, 2018

Watch Out: Tax Refund Spending Mistakes Many People Make

Watch Out: Tax Refund Spending Mistakes Many People Make

People are getting their tax refunds at this time of year, and are ready to spend them. A lot of people, however, don’t spend them wisely. Suddenly you have a chunk of money right there, ready to be spent. It’s easy to use that unwisely. These are some of the tax refund spending mistakes many people make, along with some suggestions for smarter choices.

These situations aren’t true for all families, of course. Something that’s a mistake for one is just fine for another. But all too often, there’s a smarter choice available. The tighter your finances are for the rest of the year, the more careful you should be when spending your tax refund.

Major Tax Refund Spending Mistakes

Most times, it’s a mistake to spend your tax refund on these things. Not always, of course, but if you want to do this, make sure you know why you’re spending your money this way and be sure there isn’t something smarter you should spend your tax refund on.

That New TV

Getting a new TV, smartphone, or whatever gadget you’ve been eyeing is often a tax refund spending mistake. Sure, they’re nice to have, but how much do you really need it? Why couldn’t you afford it before?

If you’re spending your tax refund on something like a TV, think about why you’re spending it that way. If it’s just “I have the money now” and not “That’s how the timing worked, and the old one is about dead,” you may need to rethink things. You’re smartest to buy such things when they really need to be replaced, not just because a chunk of money came in.

If you couldn’t afford it without the tax refund, is it really affordable with it? Maybe there’s a better way to spend your money.

Other Splurges

It’s easy to want to splurge when you get extra money in your account. I get that. But it’s not a good idea to spend your entire refund on stuff that won’t last.

Whether it’s a new wardrobe or a nice vacation, really think about why you’re spending your refund that way. Be sure your priorities are straight. There are good reasons to spend your refund on things like vacations (you can’t beat the memories!), but not all reasons are good.

The Wrong Down Payment

There are times when it’s the right move to spend your tax refund as a down payment on something, such as a new or newer car. Other times it’s a huge mistake.

Don’t use your tax refund as a down payment on something you will struggle to make the monthly payments on. Just because you have enough money for the down payment doesn’t mean you can afford the thing the rest of the year. Keep it sensible so that you don’t add to your money troubles after the tax money is gone.

Gambling

Some people can’t resist gambling when they have some extra money. It’s that dream of hitting it big, and you have a system, right?

Casinos look as amazing as they do because people lose a lot of money there. Odds are that you’ll be one of them.

If you really want to gamble, only use a small part of the money for that. Don’t risk your entire tax refund. If you have a good day gambling, you have some extra money. If the odds aren’t in your favor, you’ve only lost that part of the money, and still have the rest to spend more carefully.

money twist

What Should I Spend My Tax Refund On?

The right choice for what to spend your tax refund on depends on your situation. If any of these apply to you, however, they’re probably a good choice.

If you’re getting a huge refund every year, odds are that you should adjust your withholdings. Remember, this is money you put in. If you change your withholding, you’ll have a little more money each month, rather than having it sit around until you file your taxes. You can put that money to better use if you get it as a part of your regular paycheck.

Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is expensive. If you get a big tax refund, spend it paying down that credit card debt. It’s so hard to get out from under it that the boost should help you quite a bit. Getting rid of credit card debt is usually a wonderful idea. Considering how high credit card interest can be, there are few things that can beat paying it off for financial benefits.

Household Repairs

Are there any repairs around the house that you’ve been delaying on because of money? Spending your tax refund getting your house into better shape is probably a good idea.

You might look into better insulation for your home, new windows, a new roof, new carpeting or flooring, or planning a remodel of your bathroom, just for some starter ideas. Depending on the size of your tax refund, it may not pay for the entire amount, but if you can afford to make these changes with your tax refund money, this is a great time for it.

You may even be able to consider getting solar power if there are good deals on it in your area and your electric bill is high enough for it to be worthwhile. In my area, solar companies try to get the monthly cost to less than what you’re paying for electricity, so this could be a good deal regardless of the size of your tax refund.

Start An Emergency Fund

How prepared are you financially for an emergency? Do you have a few months’ income saved up? If not, spend your tax refund by starting an emergency fund for your family.

This is money you try hard not to touch, even though it’s fairly accessible. Keep it separate from your regular spending money, at least in terms of how you track things. This way you don’t have to touch the credit cards if you need a major car repair, a pet gives you a huge vet bill, you need a new refrigerator, and so forth. An emergency fund will cut down on the stress of these events.

Try for a high yield savings account for your emergency fund if you can. This should keep it accessible for emergencies, but still let it earn a bit of interest.

Invest

How does your retirement portfolio look? Have you been good about contributing to a Roth IRA or other retirement account?

If you have room to contribute, this is a wonderful use of your tax refund that will pay itself back when you retire. Most people don’t have enough money saved up for retirement. You can give yourself a boost by adding an appropriate amount of money into your retirement account. This is especially important for stay at home moms and dads who often struggle to contribute to a retirement account.

If you can’t contribute more to a retirement account, how about a regular investment account? It won’t have the tax advantages of an IRA, but it’s still a good way to make your money work for you.

A Sensible Vacation

Taking a vacation can make a lot of sense, even though they can be expensive. You can’t beat some of the experiences you can have while on vacation.

You need to keep it sensible, however. Don’t take a vacation that is far beyond your means. The money you spend on vacation, even if it comes entirely out of your tax refund, should make sense in light of your overall financial situation.

Improve Your Career Or Business

Have you been waiting for the money to improve your business or career? This is a great thing to spend your tax refund on because it should pay you back.

What would you like to learn that would help you to earn more money? Now is the time to take action and do it. You could learn to be a virtual assistant and start a whole new business from home, for example. You could learn a skill that would make it easier for your employer to promote you.

Whatever you choose, be sure that it’s a wise choice. Don’t fall for a scam.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.