MY MONEY FOR FREE!!!!!
FREE INCOME TAX PREPARATION~ Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
columnist: Lisa Baldwin, Guest writer
Free preparation of income taxes, provided by the Community Action Agency.Taxpayer must make $60,000 or less. Taxpayer must bring:
Proof of incomePicture identificationSocial security cards for payer and children2011 W-2
or 1099Day Care receipt/s with Day care's tax identificationvoided check if you would like to file electronically.
For further information and office hours contact the center below nearest your residence.District Center Locations N.W. District Center
1300 N. McKinley
OKC, OK 73108
(405) 525-2468 S.W. District Center
1621 S.W. 15th Street
OKC, OK 73108
(405) 634-1469 N.E. District Center
3401 N. E. 16th Street
OKC, OK 73117
(405) 424-0315 S.E. District Center
6315 S. Camille
OKC, OK 73149
(405) 672-7311 City-County District Center
12520 N.E. 36th St.
Spencer, OK 73084
(405) 769-3346 Canadian County District Center
203 N. Bickford
El Reno, OK 73036
(405) 262-7042 M.W.C. District Center
1124 N. Douglas
Midwest City, OK 73130
Can I Get That On Layaway?
Columnist: Helen Rambo
Money & Finances
We live in a world of instant gratification. Everything we want is at our virtual fingertips. With the Internet, we can buy almost anything we want online in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds. As a society, we seem to be moving away from saving and budgeting for the things we want. Thirty years ago a "layaway" plan was as common as Facebook. With a layaway plan you could make a down payment on the things you wanted. Once you made a down payment, you made weekly or monthly payments until your items were paid for in full. Your payments were usually based on some percentage of total costs that was affordable to you. The smaller the payment, the longer it took to pay the items off. Once paid off, the items were yours to take home. Under a layaway plan you could buy almost anything!
Layaway plans were good because they taught us how to budget and helped us stay out of debt. Unfortunately, once credit cards became more mainstream and readily available, layaway plans faded away. And so did our debt free lifestyles. CREDIT CARDS ARE THE DEVIL! Well maybe not the devil but they sure have ruined many lives and created a debt chokehold on our society. While layaway plans taught us how to budget, credit cards are fueling are need for instant gratification and propelling us into debt fueled lifestyles.
But all is not lost. Layaway plans are making a come-back. The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is bringing their layaway back to run from October 7, 2011 to December 16, 2011. According to their website, Wal-Mart’s layaway plan will be limited to toys and electronics with a price of at least $15 and a layaway minimum of $50. Their layaway plan has a $5 service fee, $10 cancellation fee and excludes "Black Friday" purchases. This could be a nice and sensible way to budget for Christmas.
Sears and Kmart are also helping the resurgence of the layaway plan. Under their plans, you're required to make a $20 or 10% down payment (whichever is greater). Their layaway plans require payments every 2 weeks over an 8 or 12 week time frame. Both Sears and Kmart have a $5 or $10 service fee (depending on the length of the layaway) and $15 cancellation fee.
While interest rates are going down slightly, credit cards are still costing us millions. According to bankrate.com, the average consumer credit card rate is still a whopping 13.36%! At this rate, a $1,000 credit card balance could cost you $136 annually. That could be groceries for a week!
Layaway plans can save you BIG money over time. Other Advantages Layaway plans help eliminate impulse buying, the need for instant gratification and clearly saves money for those that are disciplined. It's also helpful with planning and household budgeting. One of the best things about layaway plans is that they do not affect your credit adversely. If you miss a payment, your layaway may be canceled and you are charged a cancellation fee depending on their policy. They may even allow you to make the payment up later on down the road. Unlike the credit card companies, layaways usually do not have any late payment fees. So if you are looking to get your budget on track, purchases made on layaway may give you the jumpstart you need. If you are looking to save some money on credit card interest, then a layaway plan may be your key to savings. If you are looking to protect your credit from excessive late payments and derogatory activity, a layaway plan may be the key to your success. So BEFORE you swipe your credit card, consider a layaway plan. You have been EMPOWERED!!!!!
WHAT IS YOU DEBT CEILING ?
Over the past couple of months we have literally sat back and watched this issue over the “debt ceiling” unfold in front of our face. The media has saturated us with more than what we probably want to know about our nation’s debt woes. We’ve watched congress fumble this issue. They have fought, fussed and acted plain silly about the best approach for raising the debt ceiling. And as we watched this debate, some of us still don’t understand exactly what the debt ceiling is. Simply put, the debt ceiling provides the maximum amount that the federal government may borrow, the nation’s credit limit. Congress decides how much debt we can have as a country. So who decides how much debt you can have?
I think it is amazing that as a country we debate this for weeks and months on end. But as individuals, we seldom debate our own debt ceilings. In fact, most of us give it very little thought. Do we ever sit down and decide that we our credit limit is going to be? Probably not. We usually let others (i.e. credit card companies, banks, and other financial entities) set our debt ceiling for us. If their setting the limit for us, then they are directing us on how to spend our money. I don’t know about you but I don’t need any help with that.
We need to define for ourselves what works for us. And we do that by setting up personal budgets based on our income and our actual needs. This is where we usually fail our families.
So what is your debt ceiling?
Some experts say that your debt payments should not exceed 35% of your income. An example would be where your income is $1,000 a month and your debt payments total $350. It is recommended that you keep it around 15% or less. If you are over 35%, experts agree that you need to work on spending control and your heading in the wrong direction. I believe it will vary based on your real desires and financial goals. The debt ratios typically reflect your spending habits and financial acumen. People that sincerely want to live a debt free life tend to have much lower debt ratios then those that have no financial plans or goals. People with higher debt ratios typically lack spending discipline and may not have a good understanding of how to make their money better serve them.
How do you reduce your debt ceiling?
Just like Congress, you have to cut spending, increase income or both. But that’s only after you have sat down and created a real budget based on needs instead of wants. For example: we need shelter, food and transportation; however, we don’t need a mansion, expensive restaurant food, or a Mercedes Benz.
We also should recognize that these credit card companies and signature loan companies are NOT trying to help us. They are clearly trying to make money on us any way they can. They will offer you the highest possible credit limit based on your credit history. But just because they offer it doesn’t mean we have to take it! We are in control. If they offer you $10,000 credit limit, only use what you need. If you only need $2,000, then make that your budget and don’t exceed it. We have way more control than we let ourselves believe. We just have to exercise it.
We shoot ourselves in the foot by thinking that we are always going to have certain debt. I’ve heard people say that they are “always going to have a house and car payment”. That’s a defeatist attitude with a touch of poverty mentality! You don’t have to always have a house or car payment. You can pay actually pay them off and keep them as long as they will last. You really don’t have to keep up with the Jones’ cause the Jones’ aren’t thinking about you!
Be smart. Don’t let others make decisions about your money and how you spend it. You are in control of your own debt ceiling. Set your limits and stick to it. You have been EMPOWERED.
Are You Working For Free
Because of my occupation, I often get questions from people on how to save. The reference is not to coupons or discounts, but actually setting money aside. Seems like a novel idea but why don’t more people save? And better yet, how do you get started?
Most people have the basics bills which may include a car payment, house payment, lights, gas, cell phone, cable, diapers, food, and daycare. Oh! Let’s not forget the hair and nails. That’s a lot of bills and often leads to more month than money.
If you are fortunate enough to have money left over at the end of the month, consider yourself very lucky and part of an elite group. But don’t be so naïve that you stop reading this article. It doesn’t mean you are making wise financial decisions. It simply means you have a little extra cash. What you choose to do with it is the key.
Uncle Sam usually takes his right off the top by way of taxes. But what’s next?
Have you defined what your financial priorities are? If you don’t know where your priorities are, just look at what bills you pay first. Or better yet, exactly what do you spend your money on? They say a man puts his money where his heart is. After going through your check book, it will become very clear where your heart is and what your financial priorities are.
God is always first on my list. Giving my tithe and making offerings is my top priority. I understand that without Him nothing is possible and with Him all things are possible. Giving is a fundamental principle that is often overlooked as one of our “basic” needs. We live in a society of microwaves and instant gratification with very little concern for our fellow man. We walk daily in a spirit of expectation for what we think we deserve and what the world owes us. Oftentimes, we don’t understand that if we just prioritize our gifts back to God, He WILL supply the increase that we need in abundance. Giving back some of our time and money is the least we can do, all things considered.
Second on my list has to be self. You have got to pay yourself! Make it a priority. There are several ways to pay yourself. Of course making consistent deposits into a savings account is a good start; however that’s not the only way. It could be as simple as putting aside a set amount of money for entertainment or jewelry each pay period. Paying your self could be paying on that dream vacation or splurging on a fancy dinner or concert. Paying yourself is a sound practice that’s also manifested in retirement savings and investment accounts.
While paying yourself seems like a good idea, there are still so many people that haven’t prioritized their finances to include themselves. Instead, there is a lot of attention and effort placed on covering all of the “basics”. Then there is that squeaky wheel that gets the grease thing that sucks the life right out of our bank account.
You have to recognize that you can’t spend the rest of your life JUST paying bills and covering the “basics”. What’s in it for you? How do you stay motivated?
You’ve got to start somewhere and there is no time like the present. Consider opening up a savings account at your bank or local credit union. Every pay period commit to depositing a set dollar amount with a specific goal in mind. $5 a week is enough to get you started. If you save $20 a week for 20 years with 5% interest, you will have saved $36,161!
Be creative in how you save if it will keep you motivated. If you have online banking, you may want to set yourself up as a bill collector. This way when you pay your bills, you are on the list and you can PAY YOURSELF FIRST.
The key is to do what works for you. You control your financial destiny by prioritizing your goals and working to achieve them. After Uncle Sam and God, PAY YOURSELF! Those squeaky wheels will be there. Let them squeak! If you don’t pay yourself, at the end of the day it will feel as if you have been working for nothing. And nobody wants to works for free.
You have been EMPOWERED.
CHILDREN & FINANCES
article provided by: Tinker Federal Credit Union
Parents know upfront that children are a long-term investment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the tab for raising a child in a middle-class household through age 17 is more than $222,000. Then, there’s the expense of college for many, even graduate school.
Researchers report a growing trend of adult children taking longer to become independent and move out of their parents’ home. Others are out only because their parents are heavily subsidizing their living expenses. The reasons for these trends are varied, but many mental health professionals and financial consultants warn overly supportive parents that they may be thwarting their child’s ability to become an independent, responsible adult.
Various experts offer these suggestions:
• If they move back home, charge them rent and set a move out date, as well as a plan for what they will do to pursue their desired career and how they will earn money in the meantime. “Their job is to take steps to move into adulthood,” says Cambridge’s Dr. Apter. “Their job isn’t to hang out and see what happens. If you’ve had a young, healthy adult at home after college for over three years, you have to ask, ‘Is this in everybody’s best interest?’ ”
• Make you children pay part of graduate school, so postponing work has a financial price. “If parents have the money and they want to help, they should structure it as a partnership,” advises Eileen Gallo, psychotherapist and co-author of The Financially Intelligent Parent. “That can empower the child.”
• If you’re helping with rent on an apartment, establish a schedule for phasing out this financial assistance gradually. You might also offer to match any house down payment, if you can afford to, thus encouraging them to save. Don’t, however, give money you can’t afford.
THINK BEFORE YOU PURCHASE, BUYER BEWARE
Before you go getting yourself all worked up about a new car, ask yourself one question: do I really need a new car? I bet if you’re really honest with yourself, you really don't need a NEW car and you may not NEED a car at all.
I know its summer and you’ve got that new car fever. Not to mention that big tax refund that's eating a hole in your pocket. Car makers know this too and they are waiting to feast off the emotional shoppers! It's no coincidence that they release the hottest models in the spring and summer and flood the television with advertisements. Yeah they're fun, exciting, and sexy but let's not forget, EXPENSIVE. New car prices have been on the rise and this year is no exception. You can expect at least a 2% to 3% increase over last year prices. Depending on the make and model, the increase in cost alone could get you an ipad2 or a maybe a Mexican vacation!
I can hear it now: "I'm sick of putting money into this car!" And that may be a valid point. But do your homework first. Ask yourself 3 simple questions:
· Are the repair costs reasonable?
· Will the repairs extend the life of the car?
· Are the repair costs less than the value of the car?
If you answered yes to all three, then you should probably skip the new car search and consider getting your car repaired. That new car comes with new payments, usually more years to pay, and maybe even higher insurance.
My mind is set on new!
If you decide you just have to have that new car, at least be smart about it and DO YOUR HOMEWORK! With modern technology and the internet, you can find out just about anything you want to know about the vehicle of your choice.
There are a lot of things to consider when shopping for a new car. A car is probably one of the worse investments you can make, so at least try to minimize the impact on your finances by following these 10 easy steps:
1. Research the historical value of the car you want to buy. The Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com) is a good place to start. Cars depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot. If historically, your selected car depreciates more than 50% the first 3 years, you may want to rethink your purchase of a new car and consider a used car. Otherwise you may end up owing more than the car is worth during the life of the loan, i.e. “upside down”.
2. Develop a budget and stick to it. There’s nothing worse than wanting a car that you absolutely cannot afford. Stay in your budget lane with your purchase.
3. Search for your car close to the end of the month. At the end of the month, the dealer is trying to unload inventory and increase sales. They receive private incentives for reducing their inventory. So at the end of the month, if the dealer hasn’t met their “sales quota”, there may be a deal in it for you. Be patient.
4. Know what the car cost the dealer BEFORE you go car shopping. This is a fairly simple task through internet sites like Edmonds.com. You can find the MSRP, dealer invoice amount, and an estimate of the true market value all in one spot for comparisons.
5. Research both buyer and dealer incentives. While buyer incentives are advertised, dealer incentives are not. The dealer does not have to pass their incentives on to the buyer, so don’t expect a freebie. However, knowing what those incentives are along with the invoice amount will give you more tools for negotiation. Dealer incentives can be really big at the end of a model year which could translate into a better deal for the buyer.
6. Go in with your own financing. There are a lot of tricks played by the finance managers to make the dealer money. If they don’t get you on price or trade-in, they will try to make up for it with expensive and excessive financing. Get pre-approved from your local credit union or a lender of your choice BEFORE you go shopping.
7. Negotiate price first! Regardless of what your credit history is, negotiate the price FIRST! Don’t go in talking about your trade or financing. Settle on a price first.
8. Negotiate your trade-in separate. The dealer will tell you things like, “well I can only get $6,000 for your car at the auction” while Kelly Blue Book is saying that your trade-in value is twice that amount. Don’t believe the dealers hype! If they are not willing to give you a fair price for your trade-in, you may want to walk away from the deal. Then you can consider selling it on EBay or Craigslist. Once it’s sold, go back to the drawing board with the dealer.
9. Don’t buy a new car based on monthly payments. Your monthly payments may be very low, but you could be paying on that car for 7, 8, 9 or even 10 years! This is sure to lead to an “upside down” situation during the life of the loan, which creates greater problems when you try to sell the car before it’s paid off.
10. Be willing to walk away from a bad deal. If at the end of the day, the car doesn’t fit your plan and or your finances, just walk away.
As I said, a car is probably one of the worst investments you can make. So if you’re going to make it, you take the wheel and drive the deal where you want it to go. You have been EMPOWERED!!!!!
Should You Purchase that Rental?
Home ownership is as American as apple pie. And now could be your chance to have a piece of that pie.With home foreclosures at an all time high and home sales at an all time low, the housing market is primed for investors. Affordable interest rates only sweeten the pie. The record number of foreclosures is having a huge impact on the banking industry. The last thing a bank wants sitting on its books is foreclosed property. Idle property on a mortgage in default doesn’t make the bank any money. Most banks don’t have property managers, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, and the like on staff to manage and maintain foreclosed properties. These are costs that only reduce the bottom line.
For this reason, banks are very anxious to sell these properties, sometimes for pennies on the dollar. As a rule of thumb, most banks will sell a foreclosed property for 80% of the unpaid mortgage balance just to get it off their books. The longer the property remains idle, the greater the chance of vandalism and theft, both of which increase the banks holding cost. But buying foreclosed properties and converting them into rental property is not for the faint of heart and requires you to do your homework.
Is there value?
When considering the purchase of an investment property, you have to determine if the property has built in equity or if it will be able to hold its value in the future. If your cost is less than the appraised value, then there is equity which is where you want to be. But if your costs are more than the appraised value, you are starting out in the hole and this is not where you want to be with a rental. Bottom line: if there is no built in equity at the time of offer, don’t buy it
How’s your cash flow?
As a rule of thumb, rental properties should have a positive cash flow. This means that the monthly cost of the property (mortgage, insurance, taxes, repairs and maintenance) should not exceed the monthly revenue (rent) on the property. A positive cash flow will help to supplement your income and may be beneficial in the event there are unexpected expenses on the property. Positive cash flow can also be used to pay off the mortgage quicker, thus building additional equity in the property. If you are NOT anticipating a positive cash flow, then the rental is probably not a good move for you.
One of the biggest mistakes made when buying a rental is the purchases usually under estimates the cost to maintain the property. If you are a handyman, you are probably in pretty good shape. However, if maintenance and repairs are not your forte, then it’s a good idea to secure a handyman or individual contractors for routine maintenance and repairs in advance. Being responsive to your tenants can have a profound impact on your ability to keep the rental occupied. Negotiate the cost of these services in advance so that you can properly budget for these future costs.
Consider a property management company If you do not have the time or inclination to manage your rental, hire a property management company (PMC) to do it for you. The going rate is around 10% of monthly rental income. It is well worth it. The PMC will handle all of the maintenance, repairs, late payments, and evictions. They will also help to get the property occupied with a viable tenant. Don’t overlook the investment of a PMC. It’s worth it.
In a nutshell: buying a rental property can be a good investment given our current economy and the state of the housing market. BUT YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST! Make sure you truly understand that EVERY rental is not a “good deal”.
You have been EMPOWERED!!!!!!
You Don't Have to Retire Broke!
Some people live their lives with the philosophy of “you can’t take it with you”. They go paycheck to paycheck, ignoring the inevitable: RETIREMENT. That won’t make it disappear. It will only put you further away and in most cases it will ensure your retirement plan is based on a social security system that is struggling at best. Do you really want to live your retirement years on less than $1,200 a month in social security benefits?
Given our current economic struggles, more and more retirees are experiencing a reversal of the empty nest syndrome. High unemployment rates and higher costs of living are sending grown children back home to live with mommy and daddy. This is a growing trend that most retirees did not plan for. Are you planning for it? Will $1,200 from a grossly unfunded social security system be enough to take care of you and your grown kids?
The easiest way to begin is by taking advantage of employer retirement plans. Over the past twenty years, the retirement game has changed dramatically. Big companies no longer offer those “cushy” retirement plans where the employer contributes 100% and the employee has no out of pocket costs. Employers realized they could save millions by having the employee contribute to their own retirement. Hence the 401K, 403(b), 457, profit sharing and similar plans where the employee is required to contribute, have become the norm instead of the exception.
There are so many advantages to employer plans with the major advantage being the reduction of taxable income. Most employer plans are pre-tax which means you pay no federal or state taxes on your contribution at the time it is made. For example: if you contribute $3,000 of your $30,000 annual income to an employer plan, you only pay federal and state taxes on the net amount of $27,000. So not only do you save $3,000 for retirement, you save additional dollars on taxes. This is clearly a win / win financial situation.
Another major perk to participating in the employer plan is the ability to take advantage of the employers matching contribution. Some employers will offer to contribute a matching percentage of your salary if you participate in the plan. That spells FREE MONEY! For instance, if you are contributing 10% of your salary to the plan and the employer is matching up to 5% of your salary, your total contribution is now 15% of your salary. Congratulations!! You are making out like a bandit unless you prefer to leave money on the table. I don’t recommend the latter.
If you are self-employed, there are other retirement plans that you should investigate including the SEP plan, Roth IRA, and Traditional IRA. These plans are different from the employer plans yet can yield similar and sometimes better results.
Small change can bring BIG gains
So you think you don’t have enough to contribute to a retirement plan right now? I beg to differ. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. You just have to take small steps towards your goal. Every little bit counts.
With the power of compound interest, even your small contribution can grow into BIG dollars over time. For example: If at 21 years old you invest $25 a week into a retirement plan with an estimated return of 8% annually, you will accumulate $501,896 by the time you are 65 . That’s about $3.50 a day or the average price of a cup of Joe at Starbucks! If you wait until you are 33 to invest that same $25 a week, you will only accumulate $188,729. That’s less than half the amount you would have saved by starting at 21! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that TIME IS MONEY. If you’re wasting time, then you’re wasting money!
If $3.50 a day may be too much or not enough to contribute. It depends on your financial position and your retirement goals. Regardless of the amount you contribute, just contribute and remain consistent. Consistency is the key to building any investment. Consistent contributions will yield consistent returns and help you reach your retirement goals faster.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda……
Most retirement plans require you to be at least 21 years old to participate. That’s a great place to start. If you wait until you think you can afford it, you will never start. We are notorious for procrastinating. The earlier, the better! The longer you put it off, the further you will be from your retirement goals. Get started NOW! There are no excuses. You have been EMPOWERED.
REAL Financial Freedom is NOT FREE!
Managing your finances can seem daunting when there is more ‘month’ at the end of your money. Oftentimes we wallow away in debt with no real plan for getting out of it. We simply pay what we can when we can. I say WE because I was there, too!
When we wallow in debt it's usually because we have not empowered ourselves with real, applicable information or we feel stuck in a rut with no end in sight. If we arm ourselves with the power of information, we can get out of that rut and gain the financial freedom we deserve and desire.
This column will give you key, common sense, financial nuggets to help you get unstuck. Understand that real financial freedom is NOT FREE. It requires information, determination, dedication and implementation.
Information on getting out of debt and becoming financially free doesn’t have to cost YOU any money. Books are available at the library, countless resources are available online, and free workshops designed to empower our financial knowledge are presented by churches and other community groups often.
Determination comes from within. It's that internal fire that pushes us in all areas of our lives to exceed mediocrity. We have to be self-motivated with clear goals for our financial future.
Dedication is the simple commitment to do what it takes to achieve our financial goals. I say simple, because it is. We commit ourselves daily to things that are far less important. In our quest to achieve real financial freedom, we have to be dedicated.
And finally, we have to be willing to implement our plan for financial freedom. Empowering ourselves with information and developing a plan are all worthless if we have no call to action: implementation. If you're going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk.
So how do you get started? Well, if you are reading this column you are already on your way! This column is designed to EMPOWER you with FREE financial information and wisdom. It is also INTERACTIVE. I want YOU to ask me questions and tell me which topics you would like for me to cover.
My goal is to share my experiences and knowledge with each of you so that you are EMPOWERED and ready for battle!
If you have a question or would like for me to cover a specific topic, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A well-designed, realistic spending plan is the most important step to take in your journey to reach your financial goals. If you're not completely comfortable with your spending plan, or would like some guidance with this or other financial issues, consider a free and confidential money management counseling session with a BALANCE counselor. Our appointments are available weekdays, evenings, and weekends. The average counseling session lasts approximately one hour, and there is no limit on the number of sessions you may have.Counselors are qualified to discuss general money management, credit and housing topics including goal setting, spending and savings plans, credit and credit reports, debt management, buying a first home, mortgage delinquency and foreclosure prevention. Each session is goal oriented and results in a written action plan clearly outlining the steps you and your counselor decide to take in order to establish personal financial control.Developing Your Own Spending Plan
Download our Money Management Planner, a budgeting tool (PDF) to see if you're right on track or if you'll need to increase your income or decrease your expenses in order to save enough money to get where you want to go.The math that lies at the root of a strong spending plan is simple: The amount of money going out must always be less than, or equal to, the amount of money coming in. Most of us have a fairly good sense of how much we bring home each month through our paychecks and perhaps earnings on savings and investments. Money going out, however, may be a bit fuzzier. The checks we write and the purchases made on credit cards are easy enough to track, but cash may seem simply to disappear. As a result, there are gaps in the spending plan.Understanding and flexibility in your spending habits is the key to successful budgeting. Once you’ve tracked your spending, then you are in a position to make an educated decision whether to continue spending as you have, or to make changes in order to more readily reach your financial goals.Wonder where all of your money goes?
For one week, record all of your expenses no matter how small. At the end of the week, you'll have a clear idea of where those extra dollars could be hiding. In the future, you can use the funds you currently fritter away to increase savings, pay off bills, or buy something special.Pay Yourself First!
Save and invest 5-10% of your gross annual income. Of course, for most of us, this is easier said than done. If you're currently living from paycheck to paycheck without seeing an opportunity to get ahead, begin by creating a solid spending plan after tracking all of your monthly expenses. Or, call a BALANCE counselor to help you get your savings plan in order.
MONEY & FINANCES
Have you decided that you're ready to start saving? If you're ready to start saving, here are 10 tips to help you get started.
1. Budget-Decide on an amount of money that you want to spend on groceries each month or each pay period.
2. Make a list of items, including your favorite brands, of things you purchase regularly.
3. Find and clip coupons.-When clipping coupons, while clipping things you normally eat, clip coupons for things that you'd eat/use if it were free. My favorite places to find coupons: Sunday Paper, www.coupons.com, www.retailmenot.com (you can also find great coupon codes here), www.smartsource.com, www.redplum.com, and you can also find coupons on the manufacturer's website. For instance, I like Horizon Organic Milk. I'd never seen a coupon for it until I visited the website. I found three coupons. One for $1.00, which Homeland doubled. I paid around $2.00 for Organic Milk!
4. Once you've found your coupons and have clipped them, you're gonna want to organize them. I suggest visiting the office supply section of Wal-Mart, or rolling by Office Depot or Staples. Each of these places have the little plastic accordion folders that you can use to organize your coupons, or you can buy a binder and photo pages and put it together that way. I will post some pics of what I'm talking about.
5. Decide on categories to place your coupons in. I have two major sections. Edible and Non-Edible. You can definitely begin with just two categories. After that, I have sub-categories like meat, bread, milk/dairy, cereal, pasta, pet food, air fresheners, self maintenance, etc. Decide on the categories that work best for you and your purchasing system.
6. Make your shopping list.
7. Now that your coupons are categorized, and your list is made, pull your Sunday Paper back out and take a look at the local ads. Homeland, (their ad actually comes in the Wednesday Paper, and is also available online) Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Crest, (I've only seen their ad online), and any other stores you like. As you're looking, remember the coupons you have so you can combine sales with coupons. For instance, I had a $1.00 coupon for Kraft Home-style Macaroni and Cheese. It was on sale at Homeland for $1.99. Homeland doubles coupons up to a $1.00, so guess what? FREE MAC AND CHEESE BABY! You can get free stuff too!
8. Look for things you plan to purchase. Now as you're looking, you may think "I'm busy. I don't have time to shop at 3-4 stores." Good news, neither do I, but I look at all the ads, and usually shop at the store(s) I can get the best deals at. I usually shop at Homeland, but if Walgreens has Haagen Daz on sale, I'll run by after work one night. If Target has Tide on sale, I may run by during lunch. Do what works best for you. I live close to Homeland, Wal-Mart, Target, and Walgreens, so I shop mostly at those stores. I work close to a Crest, so I may run by there if they have a heck of a major deal.
9. Set a goal for saving. If you're just starting out, set an easy goal. For your first time, your goal should be $1.00. If you walk in thinking you're gonna save $100.00 your first time, you'll either give up because you didn't reach that goal, or you'll buy things you don't need in order to reach that goal. Remember, baby steps. You'll get in the big leagues, one trip at a time.
10. Before you walk out the door to shop, you should have: Your coupons, the ad of the store you're shopping at, your shopping list, and the cash amount you've budgeted to spend. Using cash helps you stick to your budget.