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Ways To Save Money In 2023

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2023 at 7:00 am
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Start the new year with a plan for saving money! America Saves provides many good ideas on how to save money. Here are just a few money saving ideas to consider:

Establish your budget: On the first day of a new month, get a receipt for everything you purchase throughout the month. Stack the receipts into categories like restaurants, groceries, and personal care. At the end of the month you will be able to see where your money is going. Additionally, your bank or credit union may have this as an online-bank feature.

Make an emergency fund: America Saves has a motto. “Start Small. Think Big.” They recommend you start your emergency fund savings goal of just $500.

Use the 24-Hour Rule: Avoid purchasing expensive or unnecessary items on impulse with a self-imposed 24-hour rule. For any non-essential item, wait 24 hours before purchasing. It’s perfect for online shopping where your items can simply be added to your cart to purchase later.

Unsubscribe: Avoid temptation by unsubscribing from marketing emails and texts from the stores where you spend the most money. By law, each marketing email is required to have an unsubscribe link, usually at the bottom of the email or you can reply to any text with STOP, and that should opt you out of their list.

Use only the ATM’s of your bank or credit union: Using the ATM of another financial institution once a week may seem like no big deal, but if it’s costing you $3 for each withdrawal, that’s more than $150 over the course of a year.

Take advantage of your library: Libraries are gold-mines of free entertainment. They offer several entertainment options, including classes, e-books, and audio-books. Some libraries even allow you to borrow things like tools and sewing machines!

Don’t buy cheap clothes for cheap’s sake: There are times when it makes the most sense to prioritize quality over price when purchasing clothes for the family. An inexpensive shirt or coat is a poor bargain for older family members if it wears out in less than a year, but could make sense for quickly growing children.

Brown bag your lunch: The reason you hear this tip so much is that it works! If buying lunch at work costs $5, but making lunch at home only costs $2.50, then in a year you could afford to create a $500 emergency fund and still have money left over.

Commit to eating our one fewer time each month: Save money without sacrificing your lifestyle. Take small steps to reduce your dining budget. Start of with reducing the amount you eat out by just once per month.

Don’t skimp on preventative health care: Routine dental checkups, for example, help prevent fillings, root canals, and dental crowns – all of which are expensive and no fun.

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Some Retailers Are Charging People To Return Items

Posted on Wednesday, December 7th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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Be very careful when choosing what items you want to purchase at retail stores. Some of them have changed their return policies. You might be asked to pay in order to have the store accept the items you want to return. This could cause some budgeting problems both before, during, and after the holidays!

ABC Action News reported a quote from shopping expert Shelly Kohan. “Returns especially coming off the pandemic have really now become part of the shopping journey. It’s part of what shoppers do, especially shopping online. They’re going to buy three items of something with the full intent of returning two.”

According to ABC Action News, the most recent numbers available show the return rate was nearly 17 percent of total sales in 2021. That’s $761 billion in returned products. The cost of returns has always been high. But now, retail experts say they’re also dealing with the effects of higher gas prices and UPS and FedEx raising their rates.

This, apparently, is why a recent survey of retail executives shows around 60 percent say they are changing their policies. ABC Action News says consumers are dealing with charging for returns or attaching returns to a loyalty program. Retailers are also adding restocking fees or shortening their timeframe to make returns.

The Street reported that in 2022, the traditional retail return exchange won’t be as easy as it’s been in recent years.

This is due to the rising number of actual retail purchase returns, the staggering amount of money involved in consumer buying returns, and the current state of the economy, where high inflation, high costs and a retracting economy have companies taking a more aggressive stance on green-lighting shopper returns.

In January of 2022, The National Retail Federation stated that retailers expect more than $761 billion in merchandise sold last year to be returned by consumers, according to a report released by the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail. The report accounted for an average 16.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales, which soared to $4,583 trillion in 2021.

According to the survey, for every $1 billion in sales, the average retailer incurs $166 million in merchandise returns. It also found that for every $100 in returned merchandise accepted, retailers lose $10.30 to return fraud. The categories with the highest return rates were similar to 2020 metrics: auto parts (19.4 percent), apparel (12.2 percent) and home improvement and housewares (tied at 11.5 percent). The most common types of payment used during the original purchase that led to a return were credit cards (22.78 percent), cash (12.69 percent) and debit cards (7.04 percent).

What does this mean for consumers? It means you need to be really careful about what you buy as gifts for friends and loved ones. Business Insider suggests brick and mortar stores will want people to bring their returns back to the store. But, this can be a trick! If they get you in the door, they are hoping you will buy more stuff.

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Americans Believe Food Inflation Is Higher Than Reality

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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Americans believe that food-at-home inflation has hit 22.8%, 9.7 points higher than the 13.1% annual rate reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to the latest dunnhumby Consumer Trends Tracker (CTT) released on October 3, 2022. The perceived rate of food inflation is 5.1 percent higher than the dunnhumby Consumer Pulse report from February 2022, just after Ukraine was invaded.

The dunnhumby study also found that the impact of food inflation varies widely by geography and demographics. The CTT is part of the dunnhumby Quarterly, a strategic market analysis of key retail themes, with the second edition being focused on inflation.

“Seven months ago we first reported on the dispatch between consumer sentiment and reality regarding food inflation. We now see it’s at the highest point to date, and we are also seeing that consumers are responding by changing their shopping behavior, and perhaps most troublingly, nearly a third are cutting back or completely eliminating some meals,” said Grant Steadman, President for North America at dunnhumby. “While there are signs in parts of the economy that inflation may be dampening, that has not occurred yet for food. Retailers and manufacturers need to ensure that they are putting their customers first when they are making decisions about how to respond to persistent inflationary cost pressures.”

Key findings from the study:

An overwhelming majority of consumers are struggling financially. Sixty-four percent of U.S. consumers report they would have difficulty covering an unexpected expense of $400 or more compared to 60% in April-May 2022. The study found a wide range of financial insecurity with a low of 42% in Wisconsin, followed by 48% in Maryland and 52% in Washington, to a high of 77% in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Food insecurity is on the rise across the country. Fifty-five percent of consumers surveyed report they are not getting enough of the food they want to eat, and 18% are not getting enough to eat. In addition, 31% of households have skipped or reduced the size of their meals in the last 12 month because there wasn’t enough food, a 5% increase since the last CTT survey in May-June 2022.

Seventy-five percent of consumers want retailers to provide consistent prices. Low base prices are also important across all incomes, even among affluent shoppers. Seventy-three percent of households with incomes above $100,000 reported that low base prices are important, an increase of 7%. Shopping at stores with low base prices is the most common shopper behavior with 59% of those surveyed reporting they do this most of the time.

Consumers are shifting a significant share of their spending to dollar stores, at the expense of speciality / premium stores. Since April-May 2022, dollar stores’ share of wallet has increased 2.1% (17.8% to 19.9%) while speciality / premium stores has decreased 1.1% (18.7% to 17.6%). eCommerce channel penetration has also decreased sensitivity to cost. Between October 2021 and July 2022, there’s been approximately a 20% increase in people citing additional fees (eg. delivery and picking fees) as a barrier to buying groceries online.

Consumers are trading down in categories. Eighty-three percent of respondents are looking for cheeper alternatives to the products they usually buy in at least one category. The top three categories consumers are trading down in are packaged food (53%), common household products (52%), and frozen food (42%).

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Help Arrives For Those With Student Loan Debts

Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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President Joe Biden announced in a statement his Student Loan Relief for Borrowers Who Need It Most plan. It is a three part plan that will deliver on President Biden’s promise to cancel $10,000 of student debt for low- to middle-income borrowers.

The Department of Education will:

Provide targeted debt relief to address the financial harms of the pandemic, fulfilling the President’s campaign commitment. The Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellations to non-Pell Grant recipients.

Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples). No high-income individual or high-income household, in the top 5% of incomes, will benefit from this action.

To ensure a smooth transition to repayment and prevent unnecessary defaults, the pause on federal student loan repayment will be extended one final time through December 31, 2022. Borrowers should expect to resume payment in January 2023.

Make the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers by:

Cutting monthly payments in half for undergraduate loans. The Department of Education is proposing a new income-driven repayment plan that protects more low-income borrowers from making any payments and caps monthly payments for undergraduate loans at 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income – half the rate that borrowers must pay now under most existing plans. This means that the average student loan payment will be lowered by more than $1,000 for both current and future borrowers.

Fixing the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by proposing a rule that borrowers who have worked at a nonprofit, in the military, or in federal, state, tribal, or local government, receive appropriate credit toward loan forgiveness. These improvements will build on temporary changes the Department of Education has already made to PSLF, under which more than 175,000 public servants have already had more than $10 billion in loans forgiven.

Protect future students and taxpayers by reducing the cost of college and holding schools accountable when they hike up prices. The President championed the largest increase to Pell Grants in over a decade and one of the largest one-time influxes to colleges and universities. To further reduce the cost of college, the President will continue to fight to double the maximum Pell Grant and make community college free.

Meanwhile, colleges have an obligation to keep prices reasonable and ensure borrowers get value for their investments, not debt they cannot afford. This Administration has already taken key steps to strengthen accountability, including in areas where the previous Administration weakened rules.

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Save Money on Discounted Items from Big Box Stores

Posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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Big retail chains are trying to figure out what to do with excess inventory as long-delayed orders of goods that were popular during the earlier days of the pandemic pour in, only to be met by consumers whose preferences and shopping habits have changed, NBC News reported.

According to NBC News, stores like Macy’s, Target, Walmart, and others, have been slashing prices on thousands of products in stores and offloading merchandise in bulk before it leaves the warehouse, often at substantial losses.

The good news for frugal shoppers is that stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross could wind up with the products that the bigger stores are having trouble selling. If you are looking for discounted prices on new items, don’t go to the big box stores – go to the smaller ones.

One place to start is with the clearance items. You could potentially find things that previously cost a lot that have now been discounted to a reasonable price. Do the rest of your shopping after that.

Before you go to the checkout counter, make absolutely sure that you really want the items you picked out. CNN reported that some of the biggest stores including Target, Walmart, Gap, American Eagle Outfitters and more have too much inventory of of things like workout clothes, spring-time jackets and hoodies, garden furniture and bulky kids’ toys.

These stores do not want people to bring these types of items back into the store as a return. According to CNN, some large stores are considering handing customers their money back – AND – letting them keep the item. This may seem like a strange thing for a store to do, but right now, they have way more inventory than they can reasonably sell in a short time.

What if you really don’t want the item you tried to return? Some stores will suggest that you donate that item (perhaps to a thrift store). Apparently, this isn’t a new practice – Amazon has been doing it for years.

Lifehacker recommends that look for sales on in-season items. Big box stores might have too much of the items that are currently in-season, and don’t want to store unsold items for over a year. You can get some good deals on those items now, when stores are offering in-season items at off-season prices.

As always, it is important that you keep track of your spending. It is easy to overspend without thinking about it. Before you roll your cart into the checkout line, consider giving the things inside it a second look. Give yourself a chance to change your mind and stick to your budget.

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AMC Theaters Offers $5 Movies On Discount Tuesdays

Posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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The nation’s largest movie chain is bringing back its Discount Tuesday movies, a feature that, along with its AMC Stubs A-List loyalty program, was halted when the COVID-19 pandemic kept movie fans out of theaters, USA Today reported. Starting Tuesday, July 5, 2021, and continuing through October, movies are just $5 plus tax for Tuesday showtimes.

In order to take advantage of these deals, moviegoers must join the AMC Stubs Insider loyalty program. According to USA Today, it is free to join. It offers the following perks:

Enjoy a FREE refill on every large popcorn you purchase. Plus, at AMC Classic theaters, your second annual popcorn bucket refill is always FREE.

Every time you Reach 5,000 points – AMC Stubs Insiders earn 20 points for every $1 spent. Insider members may spend their $5 rewards on eats and drinks. Upgrade to A-List or Premier to earn rewards 5x faster.

All Members Save on Tickets & Snacks – Save big on tickets to Tuesday showtimes! Plus, pair a Cameo popcorn with your choice of a 21 oz. ICEE or a Cameo fountain drink for just $5+tax on Tuesdays.

Premier offers the following perks: (but is not free)

Upsize Your Popcorn & Fountain Drinks – AMC Stubs Premier members save big on large sizes! Order large popcorn and large fountain drinks, scan your virtual card at concessions and watch your savings apply!

Reserve Tickets Online for FREE – Wave goodbye to online ticketing fees because AMC Stubs Premier members never pay them. Just log in and your savings are shown at checkout.

Don;t Miss Out on Your Points & Perks – Scan your virtual card at Concessions every time to earn points on your purchases toward $5 rewards, get a FREE large popcorn refill and more. Log into the AMC site or app to access your virtual card with ease.

A-List offers the following perks:

With AMC Stubs A-List, it’s easy to make FREE online reservations anytime for up to 3 movies every week. Choose any format, including IMAX and Dolby Cinema. There are no blackout dates. You could have a triple feature in one day, or watch movies throughout the week. If you really, really like a movie, watch it again and again. Your benefits reset every Friday, so you can check out the latest movies every week at any AMC near you.

USA Today reported that AMC has about 600 locations in the U.S. – and about 950 locations with 10,500 screens worldwide. Typical adult evening ticket prices for 2D showings range between $5 and $20, depending on market and location.

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Frugal Summer Fun

Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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Is summer your favorite season? Travel to far away vacation destinations might be too expensive for your budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of frugal options for summer fun that you can enjoy without breaking the bank.

Go to the Farmers’ Market

The best place to find the freshest fruits and vegetables is at your local farmers’ market. Bring a canvas tote with you to hold whatever you buy. The prices might be a little higher than you expected, but the food will taste better than what you can get at the grocery store. Travel to the farmers’ market by bus and make sure to get back on it for the ride home.

Farmers’ markets sometimes include entertainment. Take a moment to listen to a local band. Eat some of the foods that the restaurants are serving outdoors. Don’t forget to use the fresh produce you bought before it goes bad!

Visit the Library

Your local library can be a wonderful refuge on hot summer days. You can sign up for a library card for free, and check out as many books at you like. Bring home those books, find a comfy place to sit, and fall into the story. Make sure to return your books on time so you can avoid paying a late fee.

Parents can take advantage of children’s events at the library. This could include story time, arts and crafts, or a summer reading program. Help your child find the books that match their reading level, and introduce them to a whole new world of stories they can fall into.

Use your streaming service

Streaming services often require people to buy a subscription. Summer vacation is a good opportunity to start watching movies and TV shows. Paying for a streaming service – and not using it – is a waste of money. Now is a good time to start watching movies and TV shows.

Are you paying for too many streaming services? Cancel the ones that you lost interest in. Use that money on something else that brings you joy.

Shop local

Summer is a good time to pop into some of the unique independent stores that are local. Thrift stores provide an ever-changing selection of used clothing, home decor, old magazines, and more. Check out the used book store near you and buy something interesting to read. Local music stores might have used CDs, records, comics, and more. What treasures will you bring home?

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Great Ideas for Frugal Living

Posted on Wednesday, May 11th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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Gas prices tend to get higher over the summer months. Groceries might be a bit scarce due to a problem at the ports that is slowing down the trucks that deliver goods to stores. These are a few good reasons to consider living more frugally. Here are some of the best ideas for frugal living!

Use Less

Reader’s Digest recommends you use less soap, toothpaste, shampoo and detergent. They believe you won’t notice a difference, and that your clothes will still feel fluffy with only a quarter of a dryer sheet.

Other ways to spend less money on laundry include: waiting to use the washing machine until you have a full load. In general, this costs less than doing several small loads. You can also hang-dry clothing instead of putting it in the dryer.

Make Lists

Reader’s Digest also recommends you make a list before you go to the store. This can be extremely helpful for grocery shopping because it ensures you remember to buy the items you need. It also prevents you from making impulse buys and unplanned purchases, and is a good way to stay within your budget.

What if you prefer to have your groceries delivered? It may cost you a little bit more than typical, but might cost less than the price of the gasoline that you would otherwise used up driving to and from the grocery store.

Energy Efficient Appliances

The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy recommends several cost savings and other benefits that come from using energy efficient appliances. Energy efficiency is the use of less energy to perform the same task or produce the same result. Energy-efficient homes and buildings use less energy to heat, cool, and run appliances and electronics.

At home, you can save money on energy bills by making energy-efficient weatherization upgrades – such as adding insulation, using LED lighting, and installing a heat pump – that reduce your energy use and can improve comfort.

Use Things that Can be Reused

Keep the plastic containers that you already have at home and continue to use them. Save the glass spaghetti sauce jars and use them for food storage. Cut up old and worn out t-shirts and use them as cleaning cloths. They are great for dusting and wiping up small messes. Toss them into the laundry and reuse them as needed.

Visit the Library

You can get a library card for free. It gives you access to everything that your local library holds. This often includes ebooks that you can read on your tablet. A walk to the library on a nice day is a good way to get some exercise. On rainy or cold days, consider talking the bus.

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Inexpensive Spring Cleaning Tips

Posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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The weather starts warming up in the spring. It is also a really good time to put some effort into cleaning your home. Fortunately, spring cleaning doesn’t have to be expensive. Not sure where to start? Here are some money-saving spring cleaning tips.

Good Housekeeping recommend that you steam clean your microwave. Start by filling a large microwave safe bowl with one cup of water and a chopped-up citrus fruit (lemon or lime). Add several tablespoons of vinegar and stick the bowl inside the microwave.

Turn the microwave on “high” and wait for the solution to boil. The window of the microwave should be steamy. Let it cool for five minutes before you open the door. Wipe the inside of the microwave with a sponge.

Real Simple has advice for making your trash smell better. Place a couple of dryer sheets on the bottom of the can. Dryer sheets that have already been used will do! They will absorb spills and help to mask orders.

The Spruce advises that you start your spring cleaning by clearing the clutter. Sort your belongings into four categories: trash, give away, store, or put away. You can do this as you go through your spring cleaning routine. Move the clutter out as soon as possible by bringing those items to a donation box, a charity, or by having a yard sale.

In addition, The Spruce also suggests that you keep cleaning products to a minimum. You might need little more than a good all-purpose cleaner and some microfiber cloths. Those two items together could be used on most (if not all) surfaces of your home.

Budgeting Couple likes to start spring cleaning work from the top down. Start by removing the cobwebs from the ceiling, and end your cleaning by sweeping the floor. Don’t forget to wipe off the walls, clean the windows, and remove the dust and dirt from the blinds and drapes.

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The Children’s Place Has a Huge Easter Sale

Posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2022 at 7:00 am
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Have your kids outgrown last year’s Easter outfits? Now is a good time to check out the huge Easter sale at The Children’s Place. The sale includes dozens of Easter outfits for kids starting at $7.99. Some of the outfits are up to 60% off.

If you order clothing and accessories from the Easter Sale online, it will be delivered by Easter for free. Order by 11:59 PM EST Sunday, April 10th for delivery by April 17th (Easter Sunday, 2022). Clothing categories include: Girl, Boy, Toddler Girl, Toddler Boy and Baby.

The advantage of shopping online is that you won’t have to enter a physical store with a child who might be sick or who is immunocompromised. The disadvantage is that the clothing you purchased online doesn’t fit your child after all.

The Children’s Place might be inside your local mall or as a standalone shop near where you live. The Easter sale should be valid there as well. The advantage of shopping in the physical store is that a parent can have their kids try on the clothing (to make sure it fits them well). The disadvantage is that the store may run out of the dress or shirt your child wanted to wear on Easter before you got there.

When in doubt, take a moment to go through the dressers and closets to see what condition last year’s Easter clothing is in. Has it been ripped? Is there a stain on it that seems impossible to remove? You might find that last year’s outfit is too worn out to wear this year.

If the clothing is in good condition, it is time to see if it still fits your child. If so – congrats! You just saved yourself some money. If not, maybe a younger sibling can wear it this year. If those options won’t work – it might be a good idea to take a look at the Easter sale at The Children’s Place.

As always, it is best to shop a sale as soon as you are able to. This is true for both online and in-store sales. Wait too long, and you will end up with less items to select from.

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Good Tip: Saving money is important – especially if you have a lot of expenses like bills to pay, loans to pay off, and all the other things that drain your bank account. Figuring out a way to save money can feel tedious to some, and like a punishment to others. U.S. News suggests that you try one of these money saving challenges. The “No Eating Out for a Month” Challenge This one is self-explanatory. The goal is to avoid eating out for an entire month. This might be super easy for people who enjoy making meals at home. People who really enjoy dining out, or ordering food to be sent to their home, may struggle with this one. It’s worth a try because spending money on take-out is more expensive than buying groceries. The Pantry Challenge This one is a variation of the “No Eating Out for a Month” challenge. The goal is to use up all of your groceries before you buy more. It forces you to try and remember why you bought a food or beverage that you don’t know what to do with, and gives you the opportunity to find a way to use it. The one exemption to this challenge is the foods that have expired. Don’t eat them! Throw them in the trash. The “No Spend” Challenge Make a goal to avoid spending money during an entire weekend. The only exemption in this challenge is that you are allowed to pay bills. This challenge is interesting because it requires creativity. You must be creative and find workarounds for problems that you would typically solve by spending money. You may have a different outlook on spending after finishing this challenge.