September 27th, 2017

Money Mistakes That Can Mess Up Your Marriage

Money Mistakes That Can Mess Up Your Marriage

Dealing with financial issues can be one of the most difficult things you do in a marriage. It’s common to have different financial priorities. They aren’t always easy to talk about. Money problems are often cited in divorces. Financial issues have to be discussed in a relationship, yet it’s a topic many would as soon avoid. That’s why there are so many money mistakes that can mess up your marriage.

Not Discussing Debts

Many families have debts to deal with, from paying off college loans to credit card debts to your mortgage. Paying on these debts can take up a major chunk of your income, and limit the things you can do. Failing to discuss what this means to your finances and your marriage is one of the easiest money mistakes to make.

This can be especially difficult when dealing with debt that one spouse held before the marriage. Sometimes there’s disagreement on whose responsibility it is, or if the responsibility is shared. There may be resentment that one person’s debt is making finances difficult for the entire family.

When you marry, everything about that person comes with it. That includes debts. It’s important to know what debts are being brought into the marriage before it happens, and more important to deal well with them during the marriage. No blaming the other person for them, especially if the debts paid for a college degree that helped them into a better job. You need to be partners in handling debts, regardless of how they happened.

Of course, if debts are due to the poor spending habits of one spouse, that’s another discussion. And it’s important. Spending too much is one of those money mistakes that makes problems worse.

Not Making A Budget

Having a budget can cut down arguments over finances. They are often difficult to agree upon. It’s vital to sit down and take a look at your expenses and what you can afford to spend on non-necessities.

Once you know where you have to spend money and what it comes out to, you can consider the places each of you would like to spend money. Some couples give each person a monthly allowance. Some have a price limit after which they need to check with their partner for approval. As a couple, you need to decide what works for you together. How much freedom you can give each person in spending will depend on how much extra room you have in your budget.

Do your best to have room for savings toward retirement, big purchases and vacations, as well as for emergencies. This may not be possible if your budget is tight, but it’s a huge help when you can manage it. There are a lot of ways to save money, just make sure that they’re worth it.

Not Sticking To A Budget

If one or both partners fails to stick to a budget, having a budget has very little benefit. Poor spending habits can increase credit card debt, which gets expensive fast.

If one or both partners in a relationship constantly ignores the budget, you’ll have problems. It will be much like you have no budget at all. Knowing what you can afford to spend and keeping to those limits is a huge help in avoiding financial stress in your relationship.

Paying Too Much Attention To Income Differences

It’s rare that a couple brings equal incomes to the family. Sometimes they let this be a point of contention. The higher income spouse may argue that they should have more personal spending money because they earn more. The one who earns less or nothing at all may find it difficult to speak up when he or she needs more money for something.

The vital thing to remember is that both partners bring different things to the family. The spouse who earns less may work just as many hours as the one who earns more. One might be a stay at home mom or dad, and that’s their contribution to the family.

Some jobs may require spending more in terms of wardrobe or other things. In most ways, however, both spouses should have equal opportunities to spend money on themselves. The money either person earns should belong to the family more than to that person. Who earns the most shouldn’t be an issue.

Failing To Assign Responsibility For Bills

Even with the auto pay option most bills have these days, couples should know who is going to pay which bill, and when it is due. This helps you to avoid unpaid bills.

The simplest thing to do is have a joint account for all household bills. This includes rent or mortgage, utilities and other necessities for the family. Many couples choose to have separate accounts for personal spending if they can afford it. Having shared bills paid from the joint account makes it easier to be certain that the money is available for those bills. If times are tight, money from individual accounts may have to go to the shared account to help out. Keeping on top of regular bills is far more important than having fun money.

Some bills you still have to remember to pay on time. I just had to send in the registration payment for my husband’s car, for example. I handle most of the bills that aren’t on auto pay here because my husband and I both know I’m more likely to remember them.

Failing To Compromise

You aren’t always going to agree with each other right away. Sometimes you will have to compromise on financial issues. Don’t make this too difficult, so long as the compromise requested is reasonable for your financial situation. Talk to each other about why you see things differently. Most times you should be able to come to an agreement that works.

Failing To Work As A Team: One Of The Biggest Money Mistakes

If you’re in a marriage or other long term relationship, you need to work as a team toward your short and long term financial goals. Talk out your disagreements about money. Plan for your financial future.

If one partner makes a mistake and goes off budget, talk about what happened and how to avoid the same problem in the future. Don’t keep dragging it up forever once the problem has been resolved. Reminding someone that they’ve caused the family financial distress isn’t productive for long. It’s certainly not productive if their habits have since improved and your budget is in good shape again.

Don’t let money mistakes mess up your marriage without trying to talk them out. You can make things work if both spouses are willing.

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.

September 18th, 2017

Simple Strategies to Save On Groceries

Simple Strategies to Save On Groceries

Groceries aren’t the largest expense for most families, but they are one of those areas where you may be able to make changes and save money. This can be significant for many families. Here are some simple strategies you can consider to save on groceries.

Saving money on groceries is rarely the only solution when a family is having financial problems. It’s one place many people can use to be more frugal, however.

Dollar Stores Can Help Save On Groceries

I love my local dollar store, 99 Only. They have locations in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. Not everyone will have one available, but they are my absolute favorite dollar store for one simple reason.

Their produce section.

The other dollar stores in my area don’t bother with fresh produce as a general rule. 99 Only not only has fresh produce, some of it is organic. You have to be a little careful when buying it, as some locations aren’t as careful as they should be about freshness. When you get the produce fresh, it’s wonderful, especially considering the price.

For example, the other day I bought a package of yellow, red and green bell peppers. Six of them for $2. Even Aldi doesn’t beat that price in my area. I get much of my fresh produce at 99 Only because I know when they usually put out the fresh stuff, and it’s such a good deal. They carry an excellent range of produce.

bell peppers from dollar store

My bell peppers from the dollar store. There were 6 in the pack, but my kids snagged two before I got around to taking a picture.

They sometimes get amazing deals on other things. Bacon from various companies comes in, and some of it’s very good. They had a shipment of grilled, marinated artichoke hearts come in. I may have gone somewhat overboard on that find (15-20 jars, but they’re at least $5 at the grocery store so I went a little nuts). The kids love it when the granola bars come in, the same brand as we get at the grocery stores the rare times I will buy them. The random deals like these make every trip a hunt to see if there’s something unusually good available that I’ll probably never see there again.

Dollar stores are often good for canned goods and frozen foods. You can also get a lot of stuff for decorating your home around the holidays, dishes, cleaning supplies and more, but that’s not the topic for today. Just check your local dollar store if you’re not familiar with it and see what they carry that is good. There might be some surprises.

If you find a dollar store you like, see if there’s an active Facebook group for it, especially a group local to your region. I learn about things I should keep an eye out for that way. It can be frustrating if I miss something good or if my local store doesn’t get the item, but overall I’ve found this a useful tactic.

Aldi

If you have an Aldi in your area, you probably know that the prices are very good there. The stores are on the small side, so the selection may not be all that special, but there’s generally enough to make a stop there worthwhile. Most people find Aldi an excellent resource to save on groceries.

If you aren’t used to shopping at Aldi, it may feel a little strange. You have to put a quarter into a slot on the cart to separate it from the other carts. You get the quarter back when you put your cart away, so it’s not a big deal, but it catches a lot of people off guard. That said, it’s not at all uncommon at the Aldi by me for people to pass carts off to each other. Sometimes it’s in exchange for the new person’s quarter, but many people don’t care about it.

You also have to bag your own groceries. I live in California, and these days we have to bring our own grocery bags anyhow, but the added step of having to bag your own can be a little surprising. They have a long shelf for people to handle this, and it’s not a big deal at all.

Amazon Prime

Amazon has some pretty good grocery deals, and you’ll get your groceries quickly if you have Amazon Prime. They have a program called Amazon Fresh for fresh foods in some areas, which includes shopping from Whole Foods. You can also check out Prime Pantry, which allows you to fill a box for a flat shipping rate. If the deals are good enough, the shipping rate won’t be a problem.

Know What The Deals Are

If you plan your shopping to take advantage of the weekly deals at your local grocery store, you can save quite a bit. It’s harder to stick to a budget if the ingredients you need are at full price.

Make sure you know if your grocery store does overlapping ads. I shop at Stater Bros, and every Wednesday is a double ad day – the new ad and the old both apply. Guess what day is my big shopping day.

You can also create a pricing spreadsheet very easily. I like online spreadsheets because they’re easier to edit than printed ones. These days it’s no big deal for many people to open it up on their smartphones while shopping. You can also use a spreadsheet to calculate cost per unit, which is a huge help when dealing with different package sizes.

I have the spreadsheet through Google Docs, Google Sheets, and PDF. This way you can use it in whichever way works for you.

Track The Unit Prices

It’s easy to think something is a good deal when it isn’t if you fail to notice how much you’re getting for the money. Different brands may offer different amounts in their packages. Manufacturers may decrease package size to disguise a price increase. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to know unit prices when you want to save on groceries.

Meat can get very tricky. Different cuts of meat will give different numbers of servings, depending on whether or not skin or bones are included and how fatty it is. There are times when getting the bones is an advantage, such as saving the bones from a whole chicken to make chicken soup later. Other times, the bones are just something you throw in the trash after your meal.

If your budget and storage space allow, stock up when prices are especially good according to your tracking.

Remember Your Coupons

There are a lot of ways to get coupons now. You can use the traditional clipped out coupons. There are websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com where you can download coupons. Some apps are available that will give you money back on your purchases. Here are some to consider:

Ibotta (my referral code may give us both a bonus!)
Checkout51: iTunes, Google Play
Shopmium: iTunes, Google Play
Mobisave: iTunes, Google Play
Receipt Hog: iTunes, Google Play
SavingStar: iTunes, Google Play
BerryCart: iTunes, Google Play

You may also want to check out store-specific apps such as Target’s Cartwheel app (iTunes, Google Play). You select from the available deals before you go shopping, or as you shop. When you check out, the cashier scans your code off your phone.

Another good option is Walmart Savings Catcher in the Walmart app (iTunes, Google Play). Scan your Walmart receipt after shopping. The Savings Catcher will seek out lower prices on your purchases. It will add price differences to a gift card for you.

Many of these can be used together, or rather, have no effect on each other. Sometimes you will find an item that has more than one discount available. That can really help you save on groceries.

Take Advantage Of Loyalty Programs

Many grocery stores have loyalty programs. While it’s a bit of a pain to have to keep their card with your or give them your phone number, you can save quite a bit of money with these. Many of the deals stores offer are only valid if you are a part of their loyalty program.

The Keyring app can make it easier to keep track of your loyalty cards by storing them on your phone for you.

Don’t Shop Hungry

This is old advice, but still very good. If you’re hungry, you’ll probably spend more at the grocery store. Have something to eat before you go to the store.

Skip The Aisles You Don’t Need

If you don’t need anything from a particular aisle, skip it. You don’t need to check every aisle. It’s especially helpful to skip the aisles that have nothing other than relatively unhealthy snacks and drinks, such as the chips, soda and candy aisles. They’re all a lot less tempting if you don’t look right at them.

Buy Store Brands

For many foods, brand name doesn’t make a significant difference anywhere except on the price tag. When the store brand is cheaper and just as good, it makes sense to buy the store brand.

Don’t Go To Too Many Stores

Going from store to store to store can cut down on your savings because you’ll spend them on gas without realizing it. Figure out which store or stores have most of the best prices, and use those as your regular stops. Keep an eye on the ads for the others, and know when a run to a different store will be worth the money.

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.

August 25th, 2017

Beat Your Impulse Shopping Habit To Save Money

Beat Your Impulse Shopping Habit To Save Money

Most people like to shop. There’s always something new you want, clothes, the latest gadget, even that snack by the register that looks so good. You tell yourself you’re just browsing, just considering it, but soon enough, you’re serious, and you’re buying it. Some days it’s hard to avoid getting that impulse purchase, even when you’re trying to save money.

There are a few simple ways to cut down on impulse shopping.

Come Back Later

Telling yourself you can come back later can be a huge help for controlling impulse shopping. It’s not like the impulse to buy is always wrong. It is sometimes, and that’s where deciding to take more time to think helps.

With most purchases, coming back later isn’t that big of a deal. Most things you want will still be there in an hour or a day, or whenever you get back to it. If you really need or want the item, and it’s a reasonable purchase for your budget, getting it a little later is not a problem.

The idea here is to cut out the impulse part of impulse shopping. Give yourself time to think, and you will know in a while if your reaction was to seeing an interesting item or if it’s something you need.

Depending on where you are and what the item is, you might walk away for a short time or several days. It depends in part on how easy the item will be to get later.

When my husband and I were at the fair, for example, he came across a garage door storage rack. It’s a pretty neat idea – you can put your shovel and other long-handled garden tools onto it, and the rack hangs on the garage door. The items stay put even if you open the garage door.

He didn’t buy it right away. We walked the rest of the shopping areas of the fair, did some more fun stuff, and on our way out he decided that he still wanted the organizer. He bought it.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am still waiting for him to use it. He has gotten as far as taking it out of the box. He hasn’t done any big organizing in the garage lately, but I’m letting that slide.

Possibly, this was a foolish purchase. If he never gets around to putting it up, then it was definitely a foolish purchase. But it was the only one, and I still have hope for it. There were other things we considered buying. I can’t even tell you what they were, because they’ve been forgotten. Interesting in the moment, but not beyond. Coming back later kept several other purchases away.

The thing to remember is that pretty much anything you see while out shopping will still be there later. Very few things are all that limited, and most really limited things you might buy on impulse aren’t things you need. The things you need are more likely to be there day after day, week after week.

Coming back to a potential purchase later works pretty well if you have a few options to consider. It’s time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the things you’re considering. You might find that an item that attracted you immediately doesn’t matter as much as one you notice with a little more thought.

What About Grocery Shopping?

Impulse purchases can be extra difficult to avoid when you’re grocery shopping. Not only do they put tempting items all around the store, they keep it up right to the cash register. Inexpensive candy and treats are there for a reason!

The first thing to do to avoid impulse shopping at the grocery store is not go shopping hungry. Go after you’ve had a meal or at least a snack. The hungrier you are, the more you’re likely to spend.

The second thing is have a list and stick to it. If you know what you need, the things you don’t need are less tempting.

There are two big reasons to control impulse shopping at the grocery store. The first is financial – it’s amazing how quickly impulse purchases there add up over time.

The second is that many grocery store impulse purchases really aren’t that healthy for you. Chips, soda, candy – they’re all tempting and shouldn’t be bought all that often. There are healthier snacks out there that are pretty good. If you can find the right ones, it’s easier to avoid the wrong ones.

Use Cash

When you’re shopping in person, stick to cash to control impulse shopping and save money. Bring no more than you’re willing to spend and can afford. You’ll think your purchases over more carefully when you know there’s no way to go over budget. Leave the credit and debit cards at home if possible, or at least refuse to use them.

Do A No-Spend Month

Try having a month where you only spend money on necessities, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, food, and gas for your vehicle. No buying clothes. No extra stuff. If something tempts you, make a note of it, but don’t buy it until you reach the end of your no-spend time.

Much of what tempted you won’t matter to you by the end of the month. That’s money saved.

Look At What You Already Own

When you want to buy something, take a look at the stuff you already own, especially if it’s similar.

When you want to buy a new pair of shoes, go over the shoes you own now. Do any of them really need replacement. Would these new shoes do something for you your current shoes won’t?

Do the same for other purchases you’re considering. If you already own something good enough, you don’t need to buy something new.

Just Don’t Look

The final way I’m going to discuss to avoid impulse shopping is the just not look. Don’t go places just to window shop too often. It’s too likely to turn into impulse buying.

This includes shopping malls and shopping online. I know quite well how dangerous Amazon can be. They’re very good at suggesting items you might find interesting. Bad enough when you’re there to buy something you need. No need to give them more chances when you don’t need anything.

Avoiding the places where you have trouble resisting impulse purchases is a good idea. Try keeping track of your impulse purchases. How many were actually good purchases? How many weren’t? Which ones would you have still bought if you had taken a little longer to think about it? You can learn a lot about your impulse purchases and shopping habits if you stop and review.

What works for you to avoid making too many impulse purchases?

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.

July 12th, 2017

12 Tips To Keep Cooler Without An Air Conditioner

12 Tips To Keep Cooler Without An Air Conditioner

We’ve had some hot weather here lately. If there’s one thing I hate about summer, it’s what the hot weather does to my power bill. Using the air conditioner, even as little as I use it, gets so expensive. I set it to about 81 degrees F, so it’s not like I’m trying to keep the house cold. It still adds up too fast. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to cool yourself and your house that don’t involve using the air conditioner.

Ceiling Fans

The more rooms that have a ceiling fan in a house, the more I like it. My home office has one, and it is such a help, especially since I’m on the far side of the house from the air conditioner and only get a little of it when it does run. Moving air isn’t actually cooler, but it feels cooler, and that makes a warmer house much pleasanter.

Window Treatments

Windows are one of the big ways that heat gets into your house. Double panes help, but there’s still more you can do. First and foremost, keep your sun facing windows covered during the day to minimize the heat that comes in through them.

Look for window treatments that block sunlight. White is a good color to have on the outside, as it reflects a lot of heat. Anything that insulates the window or is considered to be light blocking is good. We have thermal shades in some rooms, and not only do they block the sun in the morning (great for sleeping in!), they keep the room cooler.

If you can’t afford to get new window treatments, you can use cardboard in the windows if you don’t mind ugly. It blocks a lot of heat. Another inexpensive alternative is to buy a Mylar emergency blanket and cut it up to fit your windows. Use painter’s tape to hold it up so the tape isn’t too hard to remove later. Mylar is wonderful at blocking heat. It doesn’t look nice, but if you put it up carefully you may be able to open your windows with the Mylar still on when the evening cools off.

If you can spend a little more, there are insulating films that attach to the window. They look much neater than cardboard or Mylar sheets taped to the window.

Solar screens are another option. They don’t block your view too much, but they keep a lot of heat out. This is something we’re considering as some of our windows need new screens anyhow.

Whole House Fan

We have a whole house fan, which is quite a help in cooling the house in the evening after the outdoor air is cool enough. Shut down the air conditioner if you have one, open a bunch of windows and turn on the the whole house fan to pull in cooler air and blow out the heat of the day from your house. It’s not as fast as an air conditioner, and some are pretty noisy (like ours), but it’s cheaper to run.

Use Ice And A Fan

For cooling a small area, place a bowl of ice in front of a fan. The fan will blow the cooled air around the room. Just make sure it’s somewhere that the melting ice won’t cause any problems.

smoothies

Enjoy Cool Treats

Start out by drinking cold water throughout the day. I keep an insulated drink bottle full of ice water at my desk. It’s the healthiest choice and it feels good to have a cold drink right there.

You can have more fun with cool treats too. Make fruit and vegetable smoothies. Have popsicles. Ice cream. Just don’t overdo the stuff that isn’t good for you.

Use A Cool Cloth

A cool cloth on your neck will help keep the rest of you cool. Dampen a washcloth and drape it across the back of your neck.

Take A Quick, Cool Shower

A quick, cool shower will help you feel much cooler. This can be a good idea right before bed. If you don’t mind damp sheets, don’t dry off completely, and they’ll feel cooler on you.

Run Through The Sprinklers

This might be more for the kids than for you, but a quick run through the sprinklers will get you active and cooler. Make sure you use sunscreen if you’re going to be out for more than a short time.

Open The House Up At Night

Now obviously, this depends on the safety of the area you live in and how cool it gets at night. If possible, open up your windows at night and leave them open to let the cool night air in and the heat out of your house. We’ve had warm nights where this still doesn’t help, but most nights it’s a good idea.

Use Your Barbecue

Cooking in your home will make it warmer. If it’s not so hot that you just can’t bear the thought of going outside, fire up the barbecue to cook meals. I love using a propane grill for this, since it doesn’t take long to heat up properly.

Plant Trees

This is a long term solution, and probably won’t help you this year or even next. Plant shade trees in your yard, with a focus on blocking the worst of the afternoon sunlight on your house. You don’t want the tree planted too close to your home, or the roots may damage your foundation, but you do want it close enough to give shade.

Put Up An Awning

An awning over the windows that get the most sunlight in your house can keep things cooler. It’s a bit of an expense, but it can 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.

June 15th, 2017

How to Earn Money at Home When You Can’t Find a Work at Home Job

How to Earn Money at Home When You Can't Find a Work at Home Job

Finding a work at home job has never been easy. There are a lot of people out there looking for those jobs, and only so many jobs available. But sometimes you need the money but really can’t get a job outside the home while you wait for a work at home job to come available. It can be a tough situation.

How do you make money until you find more regular work you can do at home?

Garage Sale!

Having a garage sale is one way to declutter and get some money at the same time. You can clean out a lot of things you don’t need anymore with one garage sale.

There are disadvantages of course. It’s kind of a one off. Once the stuff is sold, you don’t have any more to sell to make more money.

You’ll also be fighting off bargain hunters who just want stuff as cheap as they can get it. Figuring out when bargaining is worth it versus sticking to your price isn’t always easy.

Craigslist

If you have less stuff to sell, Craigslist is another good way to go. Some things go very quickly.

You may still have to deal with bargain hunters, but you may also get multiple calls on your listing. With any luck you’ll quickly know if standing firm on your price is going to work.

Try Freelance Writing

Serious freelance writers can earn some good money, but if you just want a little to tide you over until you get whatever kind of work you’re looking for, some basic freelance writing can bring in some money.

I have a list of more than 100 freelance writing gigs, and new listings come up regularly on my online job board.

Tutor

What subjects were you good at in school? Do you think you could find a few students in need of tutoring? There are a number of places that hire online tutors, or you can put up signs at local schools or businesses if they will allow you.

Start a Home Business

Yeah, take a little risk. Or not. You could always go the free route with a Blogger or WordPress.com blog.

Running a blog may or may not make you any significant money, but it will keep you busy and may be good for your resume if you keep your blog relevant to the type of work you’d like to be doing. Show off your knowledge!

You may be able to earn a little from product recommendations with affiliate links. Make sure you have some sort of disclosure about affiliate and other relationships to products mentioned on your blog.

Most bloggers do not earn very much, but it can be worth a try. You can spend money on this if you want to, but if things are that tight, free may be the way to go. But hosting and a domain name aren’t much to spend if you can afford it.

Do Small Jobs on Amazon Turk

Many of these don’t pay so well, but the lower the pay the easier it should be.

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a program through Amazon.com where people ask for small jobs to be done. You complete it, they’re supposed to pay you. Just be sure that you accept the hit before you do the work so that someone else doesn’t beat you to it. It doesn’t matter if the job’s only going to take you a couple of minutes. You don’t want to waste your time and not get paid for something you did just because the opportunity vanished.

Fiverr

Can you think of something you can do quickly that someone will pay $5 for? It has to be quick, since that’s not a lot of money and you get 80% of it. Some people do very well on Fiverr, but for most it’s a side gig at best. Take a wander through the site and see what others have done.

None of these are things that are likely to become your regular source of income. Most people want more. But sometimes even small jobs are just enough to keep you going until things get better. And if you try the home business idea and it takes off, well that would definitely be worth it!

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.