How to Save - Part 3


How to Save

Try the 50/30/20 Method of Saving Money

Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 at 7:00 am
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Having trouble sticking to a budget? There is a new method that could help you. It is called the 50/30/20 plan.

The plan was created by Help Me Hank, the consumer investigator for Local 4 News in Detroit, Michigan.

The concept of the of the 50/30/20 plan involves a simple breakdown. 50 percent of your income goes towards basic expenses. This can include important things like mortgage or rent, utilities, and groceries. 

30 percent of the plan goes towards discretionary spending. That phrase refers to money spent by consumers on non-essential purchases such as vacations or luxury items. Discretionary income is the amount of money remaining after a person pays for personal necessities and taxes.

Discretionary spending includes the fun things in your life. This includes travel, vacations and hobbies. It also includes dining out at restaurants, bringing home take-out, or having food delivered.

The 20 percent part of the plan goes towards savings and paying off debt. There are two ways to use this part of your budget. One is to spend the 20 percent on a credit card debt, a student loan debt, or whatever other debts you have. It can be used to pay a medical bill that your health insurance refused to cover.

The other way is to put that 20 percent into your savings account. If you think you will be too tempted to spend that money on discretionary spending, there is a way to prevent it. Create an automatic transfer of 20 percent of your paycheck directly into your savings account.

Ideas like the 50/30/20 plan are especially useful for younger people who have plenty of time to save up money for their retirement.

People of any age can benefit from having an emergency fund. Most financial experts suggests that your emergency fund should be equal to at least six months of expenses. 

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Make Use of Reusable Items You Already Have at Home

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2019 at 7:00 am
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One way to save money is to reuse items that you already have at home. Doing so means you won’t have to spend money on new ones. It also is a good way to keep useful items out of landfills. There are plenty of items that you may already have at home that can be used multiple times.

Glass Jars
The empty glass jar of pasta sauce, applesauce, or pickles can be washed out and reused. Glass jars make good containers for dried goods that you buy in bulk. Fill a glass jar with pasta, beans, flour, or coffee. You can easily see how much you have left.

Bring an empty glass jar, with a lid, with you when you grocery shop. Ask the store to weigh the empty jar. Then, fill the jar with beans, rice, or anything else you buy in bulk. The cashier can subtract the weight of the empty jar from the weight of the full one and charge you the correct price.

Old Towels
Don’t throw away those old towels that are worn out and much less absorbent than they use to be. Cut them up and turn them into dust cloths. You can wash and reuse those dust cloths over and over again. Doing so can save you money because you won’t need to use paper towels when dusting.

Bread Bags
Most people throw away the bag that their sliced bread came in when the bread is gone. People who have dogs can reuse empty bread bags. The laws where you live may require you to clean up after your dog. You can save money by using empty bread bags for that purpose (instead of spending money on bags).

Food Scraps
Little scraps of fruit and vegetables can be used in compost. You can also add crushed egg shells, used coffee filters, used tea bags, and used paper towels and napkins. They can all go into your compost bin. Turn those scraps into mulch for your garden.

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How to Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 at 7:00 am
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You can stretch your food budget a little bit farther if you take steps to prevent food waste in your kitchen. You are probably throwing away food, or parts of food, that are entirely edible. Keep an open mind, and you will look at food differently than you have before.

Broccoli Stems
Many people enjoy eating broccoli florets. Did you know that broccoli stems are edible, too? Some restaurants have started using broccoli stems in their recipes. Peel off the tough exterior of the broccoli stem and use the rest.

You can use cut broccoli stems in a broccoli and cheese soup. Parents can cook the broccoli stems, and mash them, to make baby food. Cut the broccoli stems into small pieces and use them in a chicken and broccoli stir fry. In short, any recipe that calls for broccoli florets can make use of stems instead.

Stale Bread
Bread is a favorite food for many people. Those who love bread often throw away bread that has become stale. This is a waste of good bread! Stale bread can be used in a number of tasty ways.

Cut stale bread into cubes and turn it into croutons for a salad. Grind it into bread crumbs and use those crumbs to coat chicken before you fry it. Dip the stale bread into an egg and make french toast for breakfast.

During the holidays, stale bread can easily be made into stuffing. Bread pudding is a nice dessert that can be served any time of the year.

Browning Bananas
Bananas that have over-ripened, and are a little mushy, are safe to eat. Cut one up and put it in a breakfast smoothie. Browning bananas are the key ingredient in banana bread and banana muffins. You can also use over-ripened bananas to make banana pudding, or add bananas to a bread pudding recipe.

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Food Banks and Food Pantries Help People Get Food

Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 7:00 am
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People who are very low-income often struggle to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families. People who are unemployed face the same difficulties. Food banks and food pantries can help people get the food they need. This allows the person to use their limited money on other bills and necessities.

Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs that provides food and services to people each year. In addition, some cities and counties may also have their own food banks and food pantries.

A food bank is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger-relief charities. Food banks act as food storage and distribution depots for smaller front line agencies, and usually do not themselves give out food directly to people struggling with hunger.

A food pantry functions as the arms that reach out directly to a community. It receives food from a food bank (which functions like a warehouse) and makes that food accessible to people who need it. Visit the Feeding America website to find the food pantry nearest to where you live.

During the 2018-2019 partial government shutdown, Feeding America is helping unpaid federal workers to obtain food. Some of these workers had been furloughed, and will not be paid until the shutdown ends. Others workers are still working – but not receiving paychecks.

To help, Feeding America has been deploying pop-up food pantries in areas where there are many government workers who need help getting food. Some Feeding America food banks are opening on days when they are usually closed in order to help meet people’s needs.

Local food pantries can also help individuals and families who lose their SNAP benefits, or their WIC benefits due to the partial government shutdown. Contact Feeding America, or your local food pantry, for more details.

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How to Save Money on a Gym Membership

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 at 7:00 am
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One way to get in shape is to get a gym membership. Many people do this in January as part of their New Year’s resolution. Sometimes, a gym membership can be more expensive than your budget can handle. Here is how to save money on a gym membership.

Ask for a Trial Membership
Not sure if a particular gym is the right one for you? Ask if you can get a trial membership. The cost of a trial membership is typically less than the price of a regular membership. Some gyms will offer people a free trial membership.

A trial membership gives you the opportunity to try out the gym and see what it has to offer. You can use the equipment, the pool, and possibly take some classes. You get the opportunity to see if you fit in with the other gym members, and if the environment is comfortable, before you spend a lot of money.

Ask for a Discount
Does the gym offer a discounted membership fee for people who happen to work at the company you are employed at? It might be worth finding out. Check with the gym, and ask your HR department about it.

You might qualify for other types of discounts. Gyms may offer student discounts, military discounts, teacher discounts, or senior discounts. If you qualify for any of those categories, and can bring an ID that proves it – you can save money on a gym membership.

Wait Until Later
Businesses often have a quota to hit before the end of the month or end of a quarter. Gyms need to make a certain amount of money on memberships. You might get a better deal at the end of the month than you would at the beginning.

Another option is to wait a few months when people give up on their New Year’s resolution to exercise. Gyms may offer nice discounts later in the year to attract new customers.

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Ways You Are Wasting Electricity

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2019 at 7:00 am
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Is your electricity bill higher than you expected it to be? This can happen if you are wasting electricity. There are many hidden ways that wasting electricity could cost you money. Here is some advice that can help you to stop wasting electricity.

Don’t hold the fridge door open
You are hungry, but aren’t sure what you want to eat. Many people solve this problem by opening the refrigerator door and looking at the food inside it until they figure out what they want to eat.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences estimates that 7% of a refrigerator’s total energy use is the result of opening its doors. You can save on electricity if you figure out what you want to eat first and then open the refrigerator door to get the ingredients.

Don’t leave appliances plugged in when not in use
The U.S. Department of Energy has advice on how to make your appliances more energy efficient. One way is to look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY Star certified computers and office electronics power management features and efficient internal and external power supplies to ensure energy savings.

Use Advanced power strips to prevent electronics from drawing energy when they aren’t being used. Many consumer electronics continue to draw power even when switched off, which could add an extra 10% to your monthly utility bill.

One easy thing to do is unplug your appliances when they are not in use. It only takes a second to plug the microwave or coffee maker back in right before you need to use it.

Don’t use the dishwasher’s drying cycle
The Department of Energy says that a dishwasher’s drying cycle is an energy waster. A more energy efficient way to dry dishes would be to open the dishwasher door and allow the dishes to dry before putting them away.

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Easy Ways to Save Money on Vegetables

Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 at 7:00 am
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Tips for Shopping at Your Local Farmer's MarketOne way to stay healthy is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. That’s not always easy to do, especially if you don’t have many groceries stores to choose from. Here are some easy ways to save money on vegetables.

Buy Seasonal Produce
You can get the very best price on vegetables if you buy them when they are in season. Why? It is because that is when a specific fruit or vegetable is the most abundant. The price will go back up when that type of produce goes out of season.

Not sure when certain types of produce are in season? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a Seasonal Produce Guide that clearly shows which produce is in season during the spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Eat Frozen Vegetables
According to Eating Well, frozen vegetables may be even more healthy than the fresh produce you find in grocery stores. Frozen vegetables are processed at peak ripeness, when they are the most nutrient packed.

Another great thing about frozen vegetables is that they last longer than fresh produce. You can buy frozen produce in bulk, which can bring the cost down.

Consider the Dollar Stores
Supermarket News reported that Dollar General is adding extra refrigerated space and a fresh produce section. This could potentially result in other, similar, stores to do the same. Visit the store’s website to find out what produce it offers.

Eat Your Vegetables
The best way to save money on vegetables is to make sure you eat them before they go bad. That money will be wasted if you had to throw the food away.

One way to ensure you eat your vegetables is to make a meal plan that includes them. Another good idea is to think small. How many vegetables can you realistically consume in a week? Buy only what you need.

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Will Your Gift Cards Expire?

Posted on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019 at 7:00 am
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Gift cards make excellent gifts. You can buy one for a friend or family member who is difficult to buy for. Receiving a gift card means you get to pick out something nice for yourself. Will your gift cards expire before you can use them up?

In 2009, the United States Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. It provides some protection for consumers who use gift cards.

Here is a summary of the CARD Act on the National Conference of State Legislatures website:

“The law provides that gifts cards cannot expire within five years from the date they were activated and generally limits inactivity fee on gift cards except in certain circumstances, such as if there has been no transaction for at least 12 months.”

The following states prohibit expiration dates on gift cards: California, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Rhode Island.

Maine says: “A period of limitation may not be imposed on the owner’s right to redeem the gift obligation or stored-value card.” Montana says: “A gift certificate is valid until redemption and does not terminate.” New Hampshire prohibits an expiration date for gift certificates valued at less than $100.

Oregon limits the situations in which a gift card can have an expiration date to some very specific rules. Washington does not allow expiration dates on gift cards unless no money was paid for the gift card.

All the other states do allow gift cards to expire. You might want to scroll through the CARD Act website to learn the full details about what your state does, and does not, allow.

Some states allow gift cards to expire after a certain amount of years. Others allow expiration dates on gift cards if the card makes the expiration date very obvious. When in doubt – use up the gift card as soon as possible.

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Tips for Returning Gifts

Posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 at 7:00 am
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The holidays are over and it is time to try and return gifts that are not suitable for you. The process of bringing in a return, and standing in a line, can be unpleasant. Here are some tips for returning gifts that will make things a little bit easier.

What are you allowed to return?
The first thing you need to do is figure out what a store will accept as a return. Some stores only accept items that are damaged or defective. This means you can return a gift that was defective or missing some parts.

Other stores are more open to what kinds of things they will accept as a return. Many stores will allow you to exchange a sweater that was the wrong size for one that fits you. Some stores don’t require people to give their reason for a return – they simply accept all items that they currently sell.

Do you need a receipt?
Some stores will not accept a return unless it comes with a receipt (either a gift receipt or a regular one). Hopefully, your friends and relatives have kindly included a gift receipt with your gift. If not, you may face some difficulty when trying to return that gift.

Where can you return the gift?
In general, if the gift was purchased in a brick-and-mortar store, it is possible that you can return it if you physically bring it to that store. If the gift was purchased online, you might have to send it back to the vendor through the mail. Find out if you have to pay for shipping.

Very few brick-and-mortar stores will accept returns that were purchased from the store’s website. The item might be something that the physical stores do not carry.

How is the money refunded?
The store accepts your return. Where does the refund go? The store might refund the money onto the credit card that the purchase was made with. Or, it could give you a gift card for that amount.

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Coupon Tips for the New Year

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2018 at 7:00 am
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The end of the year is a great time to get your coupons ready for the days ahead. There are certain habits that people who use a lot of coupons utilize in order to get the most from their efforts. Here are some coupons tips for the new year.

Ditch the Expired Coupons
Start by going through all of your paper coupons and getting rid of the ones that have expired. Stores do not take expired coupons, so these are of absolutely no use to you. Toss them into the recycling bin.

Next, go through your coupon apps. Some coupon apps will automatically remove coupons that have expired. Check through the digital coupons that are currently available to you. Take a close look at the expiration date. Delete the ones that have expired.

Organize Your Coupons
The main reason to take the time to organize your paper coupons is so you won’t lose them before you have the opportunity to use them. Some people organize with a three-ring binder that is filled with plastic sheets that were originally designed to hold baseball cards. Extreme couponers tend to use this method of organization.

Other people will use a small, closable, coupon holder to put their coupons in. This works best for people who do not tend to use tons of paper coupons. Toss the coupons into the coupon holder (or a regular envelope). Bring it with you when you go grocery shopping.

Get the Store’s Loyalty Card
If you haven’t done it already, get the loyalty card for the grocery store that you shop at the most often. The loyalty card might connect with the store’s app – which usually will have coupons and special offers.

Check the Coupon Information Center
The Coupon Information Center is the first website you should visit if you saw a coupon online that doesn’t seem right. It keeps an updated list of counterfeit coupons that you should avoid using.

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