Category Archives: Money

Managing Personal Finances Online

Gone are the days of receiving bank statements in the mail, having to drive to the ATM to check your balance and writing checks at the grocery store checkout. Today’s consumers have access to anything and everything related to their money right at their fingertips.

Using Banking Websites

Any respectable banking institution has a website and a mobile app where one can login and view account information, make payments and transfers, even deposit checks electronically. Of course, these modern conveniences do come with their set of issues and concerns and having to remember multiple user names and passwords for each of your online accounts is one of them. Plus, you still don’t get to see the full picture of your finances by simply checking each of your accounts individually. Thankfully, now there is an entirely new set of tools to help you see the true bottom line!

Free Money Management Apps

Mint, Personal Capital and Empower are just a few of the web-based personal financial management services available to consumers free of charge. They allow you to see all your accounts in one place, including checking, savings, credit cards, investments, mortgage, bank and car loans, even your Paypal balance. You can also add such items as real estate property and vehicles you own. Doing so will allow you to see your true net worth by subtracting all your debts from your assets.

Budgeting Made Easy

Another great feature offered by these money management tools is budgeting. The tools come with some preset budget amounts and categories such as groceries, restaurants, coffee shops, gas, clothing, and entertainment, but the feature is entirely customizable. You can create new categories and adjust the budget amounts allocated to each category. Easy-to-read graphs show you at a glance where you are spending-wise compared to the preset budget for the month. Other useful charts highlight your credit card vs. cash ratio, and overall income vs. spending for the month.

Other Benefits

The apps will also remind you of upcoming bill due dates, and allow you to set up other types of notifications that you may be interested in receiving. You may also see tailored offers sprinkled amongst your financial information, and even though they may become annoying at times, keep in mind that advertising is what feeds the developers of these money management services and allow them to offer the tools free of charge. Additionally, you may actually find some of these offers useful – for example I learned about Stash, which is a great investment tool, through an offer in my Mint app.

Setting Up Your Money Management Service

The initial set up of the tool would require a little bit of extra effort as you will need to add all your accounts by providing the name of the bank or financial institution, and the corresponding user name and password. These login details get saved however, so going forward you will only need to remember the password for the tool. This is one of the best aspects of utilizing a money management service.

While Mint offers both a web-based and a mobile app version, other tools such as Empower exist solely as apps for your smart phone. Keep this in mind when choosing the money management tool that would best fit your financial goals and lifestyle.

How to Curb Impulse Spending

It’s not your fault that you’re an impulse spender. The economy encourages you to be. What do you think all that candy and those magazines are doing at the checkout stand? It’s not convenience for you. It’s a tactic created in hopes that you’ll make a last second purchase on your way out. And sometimes you do. Here are some tips for cutting down on impulse spending, whether it’s in-store or online shopping that you tend to slip up.

Use Cash

We can’t use cash for everything since we make a lot of purchases online. But if you’re making an in-person shopping trip, like going to the grocery store, using cash can be a great way to stay on budget. When we’re using cash we can set an actual limit that might not be found on a credit card. At the same time, we tend to have more of an awareness of how much we’re spending simply because we see the cash leaving our hands.

Make a List

You might already be making shopping lists to help you keep track and remember what you need to buy. Make it a rule that you have to stick with the list. Occasionally you’ll remember something that you really need and in that case, it makes sense to throw it into the cart. But know the difference between needs and wants so that you can avoid coming home with tons of stuff you don’t actually need.

Sleep on It

Impulse spending happens in the moment. But most items that we actually need will still be available tomorrow or next week if we don’t buy them today. When you see something that you really want make a deal with yourself to sleep on it. Many times you’ll realize that the initial excitement wears off a bit or you remember that you already have a similar pair of jeans in your closet. If you can’t stop thinking about something after a few days then at that point consider if it’s worth treating yourself.

Compare Costs With Your Real Wage

You probably know how much money you make in an hour. Don’t forget that number when it comes time to shop. Some smoothies cost nearly minimum wage, and someone living off that salary probably wouldn’t be able to justify working for an hour to buy one. But when something is a need or a truly exciting want, then you’ll be happy to trade your time in work to buy what you want.

Remember Your Goals

If you have long-term saving goals, refer to those when you get the urge to shop. Often our impulse to buy is simply a pleasure seeking response. Remind yourself that you’re saving up for a vacation or a special purchase that will feel way more exciting that giving into this sale today will. It can take some time to retrain yourself if you’ve been an impulse shopper all your life. But it’s definitely possible with some awareness and dedication to change.

5 Ways to Save Money when Traveling

It’s no secret that travelling is expensive. According to American Express, the average cost of a vacation is over $1,100 per person. For many, this amount just isn’t attainable, so they simply don’t ever take trips out of fear for what it will cost.

It’s possible to take a vacation without spending a fortune, though. Driving is almost always cheaper than flying, especially for multiple people. Road trip expenses can add up quickly though, so it’s important to plan ahead to avoid spending more than expected.

Ready to make some memories on the road, but want to stick to a budget while doing so? Here’s 5 tips to save money on your next road trip.

Pack snacks

Head to the grocery store a day or two before your road trip and stock up on your family’s favorite snacks. Think about things that will be easy to keep fresh while you travel, and plan to eat any perishable snacks (fruit, veggies, hummus, sandwiches) on the first day (or have a good cooler in the car).

Don’t forget drinks – bottles of water, cans of soda, juice boxes, and other drinks are great to bring in a cooler on your trip. If your overnight accommodations have a fridge, chill your drinks as often as you can to keep them cold. If your hotel offers free ice, take advantage of the opportunity to re-chill your cooler for free.

Even if you splurge (within reason) on some of your family’s favorite special treats at the grocery store, you’ll still save money. You can often buy a package of food for close to the same price as an individual serving at a convenience store. It’s tempting to run in for a snack when you’re stopping for gas or a restroom break, but having plenty of snacks in the car will save you money.

Don’t overpay for sleep

It’s fun to stay in hotels when you travel, but it’s also super expensive. With the average cost of a hotel room in the United States during peak summer travel months at around $130, the cost of a bed really adds up and can blow your budget fast. If you choose to stay at a hotel, plan ahead and book your room before leaving for the best rates. Some chains offer deals for staying at their hotels multiple nights in a row, which is definitely something to look into as well.

If you have friends or relatives who live on or near your path, spend a night with them instead of shelling out for a hotel. This might also include a home cooked meal, which can be a bigger treat than expected after several days on the road.

Another option is to rent with AirBNB or VRBO (always ask for a discount!). It’s often possible to find cheaper accommodations than a hotel, and you can book a place with a kitchen and save money by cooking your own meals.

Dine cheaper

Small, locally owned restaurants tend to be cheaper than chains. Ask for recommendations at your hotel, the gas station, or look online for suggestions of the best local restaurants to check out at meal time. You might save money while also supporting small business owners, and who knows when you will find a hidden gem. Eating a large meal at lunch instead of dinner can also save money as many restaurants offer reduced prices on their lunch menu.

If you stay in a hotel, book one with free breakfast. Even if you don’t normally eat breakfast, taking advantage of a free meal in the morning can reduce food costs if you can skip lunch and snack through the afternoon. Don’t be afraid to grab an extra piece of fruit as you leave breakfast to take in the car for later, and be sure to fill up your insulated thermos with coffee to stay caffeinated without a $5+ latte.

Car Maintenance

Take your car in to have it looked over before leaving on a long trip. If there’s any concerns, it will save you a significant amount of money and stress to be able to take care of the issue before hitting the road.

GasBuddy.com is a great way to look for the cheapest gas prices near you. While a few cents per gallon savings may not seem like much, it adds up quickly!

Bring cash

Withdraw cash to have on hand before leaving town. If you find yourself somewhere that doesn’t accept plastic, or end up needing to pay a toll road, withdrawing cash at your financial institution before leaving town can save you from ATM fees on the road. And, while you’re at the bank, be sure to tell them you’re headed out of town to prevent out of state charges from being flagged as fraudulent.

It’s also a good idea to keep emergency cash hidden safely in your car should your wallet get stolen or your credit card get shut down for fraud. It’s always a good idea to travel with more than one payment method, and cash as a backup is best.