5 Cheap Ways to Streamline Dinners for the School Year News

Don’t want to cook dinner for several weeks? Plan a monthly
freezer cooking day, when you prepare weeks worth of dinners in
one sweep.

Meal planning is the bane of a parent’s existence during the
school year. Between work, school, sports, play dates, PTA
meetings, and whatever else you’ve got going on, it’s tempting
to just order out or pop a frozen pizza into the oven most
nights of the week. Unfortunately, that’s not good for your
waistline or your wallet.

The key to making mealtime less hectic and more enjoyable – at
least most school nights – is planning. No, you don’t have to
use a huge color-coded meal planning calendar (unless that
floats your boat). In fact, meal planning can be pretty simple
and quick with options like these:

1. Freezer cook

Freezer cooking is becoming more popular in today’s crazy busy
world. Basically, it’s the practice of cooking meals ahead of
time and freezing them so they’re available to pop into the
oven or a crockpot on a busy weeknight or lazy Saturday.

There are a bunch of ways to do freezer cooking. Some people
plan a monthly freezer cooking day when they cook enough
dinners for several weeks. One excellent resource for this
approach is onceamonthmeals.com, which does all the freezer
cooking day planning for you.

Other people just make a double batch of an easy-to-freeze meal
whenever they’re already cooking. For instance, if you’re
making your famous spaghetti bake for dinner one night, make a
double batch. Stick the second batch in a tin pan, wrap it in
foil and freeze. Then you have an almost instant dinner for a
night when you
don’t have time to cook.

2. Make meal baskets

If you can usually find time to cook dinner but struggle with
it once in a while, meal baskets could be a great option. These
are baskets that hold all the nonperishable ingredients for a
meal, and they work great for pastas and canned bean-based
meals.

You might make up a basket that includes dried pasta, your
family’s favorite jarred spaghetti sauce and some sun-dried
tomatoes to toss into the sauce. Another option would be a
basket full of chili ingredients – beans, tomatoes, tomato
sauce, spices, etc. If you want to get really technical about
it, you could
portion out the ingredients in each basket so everything is
measured and ready to go.

This is a good option for quick, last-minute meals that you
don’t have to think about. Rather than rooting around the
pantry and fridge to see if you have ingredients for this or
that recipe, you can pull out a basket and have a meal ready in
minutes.

3. Rotate enjoyable meals

While you don’t want to get into a food rut, rotating meals
your family likes makes meal planning easier. This is
especially true if most of these favored meals are built on a
few ingredients that you tend to keep around.

If you have 10 or 15 meals your family eats on a regular basis,

stock up on ingredients for those meals every couple weeks.
If you want, you can plan out which night you’ll have which
meal. But you could always just see what sounds good on the
night in question and know that you have the ingredients on
hand for that particular meal.

4. Shop online

If finding time to shop is more of a problem than finding time
to cook, consider a
grocery delivery service. They’re popping up in cities all
over the nation, and they’re great. For a low delivery fee, you
can get groceries delivered to your door on a set schedule.

Bonus: Many grocery delivery services will only deliver on a
set schedule. So the truck may only come to your area on
Wednesdays or Thursdays or whenever. That means you are forced
to do some meal planning and plan your grocery list ahead of
time.

5. Involve the kids

If your kids are old enough to safely handle a hot pan, they’re
old enough to
participate in meal planning. In fact, putting older kids
in charge of one meal per week is a great way to teach life
skills they’ll use forever.

Younger kids can help plan and make simple side dishes, which
takes some of the pressure off you. Older kids can be
responsible for planning an entire meal once a week or every
other week – which lets you completely off the
hook.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a drag, and it doesn’t have to
involve an expensive system. But it might take some
experimentation to figure out which of these options best suits
you and your family.

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The One Way to Know How Much You’re Really Spending News

Want to know where all your money goes? Track it.

Have you ever wondered where all your money goes after all your
bills are paid? 

If you answered that question with a “yes,” you are not alone.

According to a study presented by the Brookings
Institute in March, as many as 38 million families are
currently living paycheck to paycheck, and that includes more
than 25 million families who are considered middle class with a
median income of $41,000 per year.

Many of those who live hand to mouth even have assets such as a
home or a retirement account, which is obviously good news. The
problem is, living without any
savings for emergencies leaves them vulnerable when
disaster strikes or when something breaks down or needs to be
replaced.     

How does this happen?

There is no blanket statement that could accurately describe
why many
families are unable to save. Everyone’s situation is
different, after all, and there are many factors that can
affect someone’s ability to get ahead. However, it’s safe to
say that at least some people fail to save anything.

You know the type. 

They get their paycheck on Friday and spend it ‘til it is gone
– then spend the rest of the week counting down until payday.
Are you that kind of person? If you are, you need to
hear this more than anyone else. 

Fact: There is truly only one way to know how much you’re
really spending – you have to track it. 

How to Track Your Spending

It might sound like a huge pain (and it is), but it is the only
way to get an honest look at your total financial picture and
find out where all your money goes after payday. 

Want to find out how much you’re really spending? Follow these
simple steps:

1. Collect bank and credit card statements
. In order to
track your spending, you’ll need to start with the tedious task
of collecting all your bank and credit card statements. It can
be a huge pain, but it is the only way to truly come
face-to-face with the reality of your situation and your
spending. If you want a thorough look at your overall financial
picture, consider gathering statements that go back several
months.

2. Sort spending into categories. Once you’ve gathered
all of your financial information in one place, it is time to
start sorting your spending into categories. Each person’s list
will be different, but typical categories will include things
such as groceries, dining out, utilities, gas, clothing and
miscellaneous. 

3. Tally it up. Once you’ve listed all your spending in
the respective categories, it’s time to see how it all looks.
Fortunately, any spending inconsistencies or problems will
likely become extremely apparent when you’re sitting
face-to-face with nothing but the cold, hard facts. 

4. Identify your weaknesses.
This is where it gets ugly.
Perhaps this exercise taught you that you’re spending a
ridiculous amount of money on food or clothes. Or maybe you’re
just now realizing that the cost of transportation is
killing your budget and that it might be time to trade your
gas guzzler in for something more fuel efficient. Whatever your
weaknesses are, own them. Don’t make excuses, and don’t blame
your problems on someone else.

Like it or not, there is only one true way to know
how much money you’re really spending and, more
importantly, what you’re spending it on. The simple act of
tracking your spending will quickly shed light on all of your
money mysteries. And once you discover areas where you need
improvement, you can hopefully use that information to turn
your situation around.

Some people
live paycheck to paycheck because they literally don’t make
enough money to make ends meet. Others live hand to mouth
because they are careless with the money they earn and simply
spend until it’s gone. Tracking your spending will help you
determine which group you can fall into and what, if anything,
you can do about it.

The bottom line: The only way to see how much you’re spending
is to force yourself into a confrontation with reality. Once
you take that crucial step, you can no longer hide from the
truth.

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10 Step Checklist for Labor Day Car Shopping News

Labor Day is one of the best times to buy car – as long as you
show up to the dealership prepared.

Labor Day is a federally recognized holiday that celebrates
hardworking Americans with a day off from work. Unofficially,
this day also marks the end of summer and is considered one of
the best times to buy a new car.

TrueCar.com estimated that Labor Day weekend last year
would boast 1.13 million unit sales among the country’s leading
automotive manufacturers. With the car-buying trend likely
to pick up at a similar speed from the last Labor Day weekend,
it’s clear that now is the best time to buy a car for those in
the market. But like any other major purchase – particularly
purchases that require haggling – it’s important to know the
obstacles you’ll face at the dealership.

Whether you’re goal is to drive off your local dealership lot
in a new car or you’re waiting for incentives at the end of the
year, it’s important do a bit of reconnaissance about your
target vehicle, and be armed with the right approach to secure
the best deal.

Here are 10 must-dos before signing on the dotted line: 

1. Know your budget.

Calculate your monthly or recurring financial obligations
before coming up with a price you’re willing to spend on a car.
Once you’ve determined how much your output is for bills and
other regular expenses such as groceries and personal care
items, consider your income after taxes. As a guide, a
conservative range for a monthly car payment is within 10 to 15
percent of your available discretionary budget. A
mistake that many rookie car buyers make is filling up the
remainder of their available money stores with a massive car
loan payment, without breathing room for essentials such as
gas, annual registration, car insurance and maintenance.

2. Check your credit report.

Purchasing a car involves a two-way negotiation, particularly
when you’re financing a car instead of buying it outright. The
reality is that loan lenders use your credit report and credit
score as a basis for determining whether to even approve you
for a new line of credit, what financing percentage of the
vehicle purchase to offer, as well as what interest rate to
charge on the loan. All of these factors affect the overall
affordability of the car you’re eyeing.

Before the test drive, know where your credit stands. Request a
copy of your credit report to make sure there aren’t any errors
casting your financial reputation in a negative light. If your
credit score seems unusually low, and you’ve identified a
mistake on your report, contact the three credit bureaus
immediately to
correct the issue.

3. Test drive ahead of time.

Cast a wide net by feeling out a variety of car models within
your price point – before you decide you’re ready to buy. The
car you’ve dreamed about may not handle as well on the road as
you’d have hoped, and there may be features you were expecting
that the manufacturer doesn’t offer for that model. Test
driving a car on the day you’re expecting to buy can add undue
pressure on you at the dealership and cause anxiety because
you’re unprepared.

4. Identify the trim level you want.

Besides locking in your budget and deciding the make and model
of the car you want, make sure you know the features and
upgrades you need, are indifferent about and simply do not
want. Make these granular details known to the sales associate
you’re working with, and be firm about what you want. This way
there isn’t a question about whether you’d be OK with paying
more for a moonroof and 18-inch wheels when you walked in
wanting a base model at $2,000 less.

5. Research average price points.

At this stage in the game you’ve identified how much you
realistically can afford and what you want in a car, but what’s
equally important is knowing what price points are available
for the car specifications you want. Using online tools like
TrueCar.com can help demystify how much of a deal
you’re really getting.

Car-buying sites can reveal a wealth of information about
pricing, which you can use when
negotiating a car purchase. When walking into a
dealership, it’s important to know the manufacturer’s suggested
retail price (MSRP), the invoice price (how much the dealer
pays for the car) and the average amount paid in your area.

6. Seek out manufacturer or dealer promotions.

High car-sale periods of the year, like Labor Day weekend, are
a good time to buy a new car because dealerships are looking to
push current year inventory out to make room on the lot for
2015 vehicle models. Some manufacturers also recognize these
holidays are a good opportunity to encourage more purchases, so
keep a
lookout for discounts or rebates for 2014 stock.

7. Get a preapproved auto loan.

Probably the most vital – and effective – item on this
checklist is securing preapproved financing from your bank or
credit union. Preapproval shows dealerships you’re serious
about purchasing a car now, so you can cut some of the
back-and-forth haggling from the get-go. Also, it keeps your
budget defined, helping you avoid up-sells, and likely keeps
your auto loan rate as low as can be, as dealership-based loans
are often not highly competitive compared to local bank and
credit union interest rates.

8. Watch out for add-on features.

Despite all the measures you’ve taken thus far to avoid getting
charged more money out the door, it’s always important to ask
for an itemized cost list when discussing pricing. Sometimes
tricky
financing managers try to sneak in extras like an extended
warranty that increases your price overall.

9. Beware of negotiating with four-squares.

If for whatever reason you found your way to a dealership
without getting preapproved and you’re, in fact, interested in
financing through the dealership, make sure you stay mindful of
the overall picture. Often car buyers will be shown a
four-square worksheet that is used to distract them from how
the numbers are being shifted around. The squares are used to
identify any trade-in credit, vehicle price, down payment and
monthly payment. 

Throughout the negotiations, you’ll notice the notes in the
squares become a lot more cluttered, disorganized and
confusing. The goal of this tactic is to make you think the
dealership is actually working with any pricing hesitations you
may have and to get you to focus solely on the monthly payment
instead of out-the-door pricing.

10. Take the pressure off.

At the end of the day, you have more leverage over the
car-buying experience than you realize. Even if you spend three
hours trying to get to your ideal price point, you can still
walk away and give yourself the week to think about the
purchase if you’re feeling pressured. 

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5 Ways Millennials Can Achieve Financial Independence News

Retirement may seem like eons away, but millennials who start
investing today could turn into millionaires by their 60s.

Financial independence is a rite of passage for 20-somethings.
Yet, between student loans, expensive urban housing markets and
pressure to start saving early for retirement, those first
paychecks are in high demand and there’s little room for error.
Managing your finances as an adult should be viewed as an
opportunity to create financial security for your future. All
you need is a little know-how to keep financial stress at
bay. Here are five steps toward achieving financial
independence:

Remember budgeting 101. If you want to get out of mom
and dad’s basement, take a piece of their advice: Create a
budget. Although you may feel that it is unnecessary, budgeting
is essential for long-term financial health. No matter how much
money you have, you can’t make the best use of it if you’re not
aware of where it goes. You can easily spend hundreds of
dollars a month on nonessentials such as fast food or pricey
entertainment. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy these
things, but spend in moderation and make thoughtful decisions
about
where you want your money to go. Put your mobile device or
smartphone to good use, and take advantage of free personal
finance sites and apps to help you track spending, establish a
budget and manage your credit at home and on the go.

Ditch the debt. Many 20-somethings graduate college with
a degree and debt from student loans and credit cards. While
it’s advantageous to
pay off all forms of debt, credit cards should be at the
top of the list so you can avoid high-interest debt.
Millennials should focus on clearing their credit cards first,
and then use all the money they’ve freed up to ditch student
loans and car payments. It’s best to avoid credit card debt
altogether, but do keep the plastic in your wallet for the
times you might really need it like an emergency.

Make savings a priority. When you’re in your 20s, it’s
hard to find the balance between living in the moment and
planning for the future. However, the same rule that you were
taught when you were 5 years old still applies today: save,
save and save – even if it’s just a few pennies at a
time. Saving can be especially difficult when
you’re getting established in your career, paying down debt and
planning for major purchases such as a home or car. The trick
is to set aside that savings into your budget before you get
accustomed to spending it every month.

If your company matches contributions to your 401(k), you’re
foolish not to take the offer. That’s free money. The one
caveat you need to consider is the vesting period. The money
that you personally put into your 401(k) is yours, but some
companies set a vesting schedule, which means the match will be
earned over time (25 percent after one year, 50 percent after
two years, etc.). But for companies that vest immediately, it’s
a no-brainer. If your employer offers a
Roth 401(k), your contributions are made with after-tax
dollars, meaning withdrawals in retirement will not be taxed at
all. And if you don’t completely understand the policies of
your plan, make sure to speak with your human resources
department – otherwise you just might stumble into traps that
could seriously devalue your retirement stash.

Think about the future. Budgeting will help you manage
your day-to-day spending, but you need to have long-term goals
in mind, too. While retirement seems like a dim light at the
end of a very long tunnel when you are in your 20s, you’d be
surprised by how fast time flies. So as you’re setting your
long-term goals, look beyond the next 20 to 30 years and start
saving money now to allow it to accrue and
grow by your golden years.

Setting aside $4,000 per year starting in your 20s could make
you a millionaire by age 62, assuming an average annual return
of 8 percent. Another piece of advice is to put your long-term
goals in writing. Establishing meaningful goals – both
financial and broader life goals – and prioritizing them based
on what matters most to you will give tasks, like budgeting,
more purpose and meaning. If pen and paper isn’t your thing,
try apps like CheckMark Goals or Strides that help you create
and track life goals you care about.

Track your credit score. You may have graduated from
school, but that doesn’t mean that you’re no longer being
graded. Your credit score is the most important grade you’ll
get outside of school. These three numbers play a huge role in
your financial life, as they represent how responsible you are
as a borrower. The factors that go into your score include how
long you’ve had credit, your payment history and your
credit-to-debt ratio. Some basic
rules to maintain good credit scores include: keep your
oldest credit card open, pay your bills on time and avoid
maxing out cards. Check annualcreditreport.com each year to
receive a free copy of your credit report.

By starting your adult financial life on the right foot, you’ll
gain the confidence to wisely manage your finances today while
saving for tomorrow. 

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Back-to-School College Shopping: What to Buy and What to Skip

Wait a few weeks after school starts, and you’ll score some A+
deals on laptops and tablets.

Back-to-school sales are taking center stage at your favorite
big-box store and will continue through most of September. If
you’re college bound or shopping for a college student, make
sure you’re getting the best
deals on dorm room furniture, electronics and supplies.
Take advantage of sales tax holidays, and don’t overlook the
benefits of buying some of those must-haves online.

Here’s a closer look at what you should be buying – and
skipping – when you’re heading back to college this season:

What to Buy

Summer apparel. Deal News reports that retailers are
becoming more aggressive with clothing discounts as the end of
summer draws near, and you could expect to pay up to 70 percent
off retail prices when you shop
summer clearance sales. Stock up on some basics that you
can layer with through the fall and winter months, or just pick
up a few casual pieces for those days you’re lounging around
the dorm.

Backpacks. August is one of the best months to buy
a backpack. Whether you’re hauling around your laptop and
textbooks or just need a carryall to take around campus so
you don’t have to make a pit stop at the dorm, invest in a
sturdy backpack with contoured straps. 

Digital cameras and camcorders. If you need to take
high-quality pictures for school projects or just want to
invest in a digital camera or camcorder this year, you’ll find
the best prices on these electronics right after September.
Take some time to shop around, and don’t overlook manufacturer
rebates and online flash sales for even better deals.

Laptops and tablets. Need a new laptop or tablet for
school? You’ll snag the
lowest prices on laptops right when back-to-school shopping
season comes to a close. If you can hold off on making that
laptop purchase for a few weeks, there’s a good chance you’ll
end up paying a lower price.

Storage containers and shelving. Everything you need to
stay organized during the school year is likely to be on sale.
Stock up on those storage boxes, shelving units and other
organizational tools to keep your dorm or apartment in order.
Look for back-to-school promotions on dorm basics, and take
advantage of online coupons and free shipping offers to save
even more.

What to Skip

Mobile phones. If you’re in the market for a smartphone,
wait a few months for new
deals from major mobile service providers. Back-to-school
season isn’t the best time to sign that new contract because
newer models are usually slated to come out before the
holidays.

Jeans. Denim and fall clothing collections have just hit
the racks and won’t be on sale for at least a few weeks. So
don’t add jeans to the end-of-summer clothing roundup.

Televisions. July is the slow season for TV sales, so if
you missed out on some deals earlier this summer but still want
a new television, it might make sense to wait until Black
Friday sales roll around. Alternatively, take a look at
refurbished or overstock items from reputable retailers.

GPS navigators. You may need one of these if you’re
commuting to campus every day or attending college in a new
city. But hold off on that purchase until November or December
when you can get the best deals on GPS navigators and other
small electronics. Use the Google Maps app on your smartphone
in the interim.

Don’t Forget the School Supplies

Back-to-school season is a great time to stock up on school
supplies and office essentials. You’ll find the
best discounts on school supplies after the first week of
the semester, but your choices may be limited. Take advantage
of last-minute deals and weekly sales available online and
offline during the few weeks leading up to the first day of
class to round up all the basics. Buying these supplies in bulk
is another way to save money, and you can have everything
shipped directly to the dorm or apartment – saving you time and
stress dealing with those back-to-school crowds.

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37 Personal Finance Experts to Follow on Twitter News

Follow these tweeters for 140 characters of money wisdom.

140 characters doesn’t offer a lot of room to impart financial
wisdom. But when it comes to money advice on Twitter, these
experts, reporters and bloggers use the microblogging site to
make their followers more financially savvy. If you want to
brush up on your personal finance knowledge, consider following
these accounts.

Experts

Jeff Rose

Handle: @jjeffrose

Day job: Certified financial planner, author of “Soldier
of Finance,” founder of GoodFinancialCents.com, CEO of Alliance
Wealth Management, former U.S. News
& World Report contributor

Why follow him: Jeff Rose knows money and has been known
to dance on film to get his point across. He uses Twitter to
share his own content, answer financial quandaries and even
asks the tough questions, like “Which is better: bologna or
spam? #toughdecisions.” Rose shares valuable content including
humorous videos, he’s responsive to his followers and infuses
his feed with personality. And to answer his question: always
bologna.

—-

Farnoosh Torabi

Handle: @FARNOOSH

Day job: Author, TV and Web host, personal finance
expert

Why follow her: Farnoosh Torabi embodies a no-nonsense
approach to handling finances, which is important for people of
any age. Torabi dug herself out of $30,000 of debt on a modest
salary, and her personal life launched her into writing
nationally acclaimed books including: “You’re So Money: Live
Rich Even When You’re Not”  and “When
She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women.” Torabi
uses Twitter to share her blog posts, interviews, articles and
favorite financial information with followers.

—-

Clark Howard

Handle: @ClarkHoward

Day job: Consumer expert, author and host of the “Clark
Howard Show”

Why follow him: From his short, practical videos to his
helpful blog posts, Clark Howard helps make finance easy for everyone.
Nearly 88,000 people turn to Howard for financial advice on
Twitter, and you should too. He helps consumers avoid financial
scams and learn how to handle their money. Howard’s Twitter
feed is an easy way to keep an eye out for the recent deals and
steer clear of rip-offs. Howard uses his Twitter feed to
educate followers, start discussions and share content from his
show and website.

— 

Jean Chatzky

Handle: @JeanChatzky

Day job: Financial editor for NBC Today, author

Why follow her:
Jean Chatzky got her financial chops writing reports for
research analysts on Wall Street and then as a fact checker at
Forbes before becoming a reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
Now, Chatzky is the financial editor of NBC’s “Today Show” and
uses her Twitter feed to share the best in financial news.
Scrolling her feed will give followers a feel of the pertinent
issues in personal finance today – whether it’s learning 34
percent of people say they have zero nonretirement savings or
how to protect your identity from crooks.

Suze Orman

Handle: @SuzeOrmanShow

Day job: Host of “The Suze Orman Show,” author

Why follow her: Suze Orman’s Twitter bio defines her as,
“America’s Most Trusted Personal Finance Expert.” While a few
other top personal finance experts may dispute her claim, she’s
undoubtedly a force in the world of dispensing money wisdom.
Her Twitter feed is a mixed bag of personal tweets – “I am in
Juneau Alaska and just ate at the best Indian Restaurant I have
ever eaten at. If you ever go its Saffron on 112 N Franklin
St.” – and promos and crowd sourcing for her show. Die-hard
Orman fans should follow her on Twitter to monitor what’s
coming up next, but those looking to learn about finance would
be better served picking up her book or watching her show.

Dave Ramsey

Handle: @DaveRamsey

Day job: Host of “The Dave Ramsey Show,” author

Why follow him: Similar to Suze Orman, Dave’s Twitter
feed is better suited for his loyalists than the average Joe
looking to pick up some financial advice. Ramsey shares content
from his show and 140 characters of scripture or other quotes
he finds moving. Ramsey’s take on personal finance has proved
effective for many Americans, but his tough-love, and
religious-centric mentality is certainly not for everyone.

Reporters

Carl Richards

Handle: @behaviorgap

Occupation: New York Times columnist: The Sketch Guy

Why follow him: Carl Richards takes often complex
financial ideas and expresses them in a simple sketch
accompanied by an article. He often addresses the psychology
behind financial decisions instead of just regurgitating copy
from a press release. His style is a breath of fresh air.

Heidi Moore

Handle: @moorehn

Occupation: Editor of finance and economics for the
Guardian US 

Why follow her: Heidi Moore must have a phone
permanently affixed to her hand, because she’s a prolific
tweeter. She’s witty, shares the best of what she reads and
interacts with her followers.

Kimberly Palmer

Handle: @alphaconsumer

Occupation: Writer of U.S. News & World Report’s
Alpha
Consumer blog, author

Why follow her: Kimberly Palmer not only shares her own
content with followers, but other relevant financial topics.
Palmer, author of “The Economy of You,” weaves money wisdom
into stories about real, relatable people.

Other reporters to follow:

Mandi Woodruff, Yahoo Finance, @mandiwoodruff

Catey Hill, MarketWatch.com, @CateyHill

Liz Pulliam Weston, AskLisWeston.com, @Lizweston

Danielle Douglas, The Washington Post, @DaniDougPost

Cameron Huddleston, Kiplinger, @CHLebedinsky

Jonnelle Marte, The Washington Post, @Jonnelle

Rob Carrick, The Globe and Mail, @rcarrick

Tim Maurer, Forbes, @TimMaurer

Donna Freedman, Money Talks News, @DLFreedman

Experts and reporters may get paid more to talk about money,
but personal finance bloggers offer some great financial
fodder, especially on Twitter. Follow these bloggers, and you
won’t be disappointed.

Personal Finance Bloggers

Shannon Ryan, The Heavy Purse @TheHeavyPurse

J. Money, Budgets Are $exy, @BudgetsAreSexy

Joe Saul-Sehy, Stacking Benjamins podcast,
@AverageJoeMoney

LaTisha, Young Finances, @YoungFinances

Deacon Hayes, Well Kept Wallet, @DeaconHayes

The College Investor, @CollegeInvestin

Money Crashers, @MoneyCrashers

Shannon McLay, Financially Blonde, @blonde_finance

Dave Grant, Finance For Teachers, @davegrant82

Listen Money Matters, @MoneyMattersMan

The Billfold, @TheBillfold

Mary Beth Storjohann, Workable Wealth, @marybstorj

Sophia Bera, Gen Y Planning, @sophiabera

Kali Hawlk, Common Sense Millennial, @KaliHawlk

Stefanie O’Connell, The Broke and Beautiful Life,
@brokeandbeau

Other outlets offering great content:

LifeHackers’ Two Cents blog, @TwoCentsLH

GoGirlFinance, @GoGirlFinance

Get Rich Slowly, @GetRichSlowly

Now, go use Twitter to get financially savvy instead of sharing
what you ate for lunch. #NoOneCares And don’t forget to follow
@USNewsMoney.

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6 Ideas for an Inexpensive Labor Day Weekend News

If you offer your house for the must-do Labor Day barbecue, make
it a potluck to keep the costs down.

In a previous post, I shared a list of four cheap things to do on a three-day weekend.
Those strategies work well for any weekend, but what about
Labor Day weekend?

Labor Day weekend is often seen as the last weekend of summer,
as it’s followed by the gradually cooling temperatures of
autumn. And if you have children, the school year is just
getting started. So this weekend, take in that one last breath
of summer – here are six ways to do just that.

Host a potluck barbecue. Barbecues are one of the
traditional ways to celebrate a Labor Day weekend, but many
people avoid them because of the expense. You can do away with
much of the cost while keeping much of the fun by hosting a
potluck barbecue.

Call up your friends, and have them bring a side dish and/or a
bottle of wine and beer. Provide the meat (or portobello
mushroom caps for your vegetarian friends) yourself. Fire up
the grill, put on some music and enjoy a wonderful warm evening
with friends.

Organize home improvement projects. If you’re a
homeowner, you probably have a home improvement project or two that you’ve been
meaning to take care of, but there’s always something better to
do. Use this weekend to take care of it.

That doesn’t mean you have to spend the weekend alone without
having fun. Get a few friends together, and share the projects.
Do a project at one friend’s house on Saturday, another at a
different house on Sunday and another on Monday. Have each
friend host dinner for everyone at night.

This way, you’ll get a big home improvement project done at
your home, spend three days with friends doing something both
fun and productive, eat three (or more) meals with friends and
the only cost is your own home improvement materials and one
large meal.

Visit your nearest state and national parks. My family
often camps on Labor Day weekend, which is another great way to
spend a three-day weekend without breaking the bank. Spending a
day at your nearest national or state park can be
inexpensive. Just pack a picnic meal and head to the park to
enjoy the natural beauty, take a hike or two, pitch a tent and
build a campfire.

Catch a minor league baseball game. Labor Day weekend is
a great time to catch a minor league baseball game. Minor league tickets are inexpensive, and the
teams often go the extra mile to entertain fans.

The timing is particularly great as you’ll get a chance to see
a bunch of major league prospects right before their September
call-up to the major leagues. If you’re a real baseball fan,
this can be an extra special treat.

Have an outdoor-oriented staycation. Instead of going on
an expensive trip, plan a three-day staycation. Treat the three
days as a vacation, but instead of staying at a hotel, you stay
at home. The goal is to visit interesting places near you.

Take a look at your state’s tourism guide to see what places
are within a few hours of where you live, and pick out a few to
visit each day. Pack up a picnic meal or two, and head out each
day to see what’s near you. This is a great time to check out
outdoor attractions, as some may close after Labor Day.

This can work well with other tips on this list, as they can be
a part of a long weekend staycation. For example, attend a
minor league baseball game on Saturday, and hit a national park
on Sunday.

Lose yourself in a new place. One of my favorite things
to do is go to a place I’m unfamiliar with – having just a bit
of cash in my pocket – and just wander around to see what I
discover. I end up eating at interesting places, visiting
strange shops and educational museums, and I often find
something memorable.

If you do this, make sure you have your smartphone ready for
pictures, as you’ll often find lots of things to capture. A
bunch of pictures from a day spent wandering can make for a
nice scrapbook or social media post.

My family often does this with geocaching. We’ll go to a new place and wander
about, seeing what’s in that location and finding geocaches
along the way. On a good day, we’ll find a dozen caches and a
dozen or two additional interesting things.

A three-day weekend full of fun doesn’t mean you have to empty
your wallet. Take advantage of what’s around you, and you’ll
have an enjoyable three days while still keeping your
pocketbook intact.

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The Best Labor Day Weekend Shopping Deals

If you need new outdoor furniture or a new mattress, Labor Day
weekend is the best time to shop.

As always, summer seems to pass in the blink of an eye, and now
Labor Day is just around the corner. Here’s a little secret
about Labor Day weekend: It’s a great time to shop. While it’s
not traditionally considered a big shopping weekend, the
unofficial close of summer offers some of the best discounts
you’ll find all year. Here’s how you can take advantage of top
Labor Day deals and how much you can expect to save.

Why shop Labor Day weekend?

By the time Labor Day weekend rolls around, retailers need to
clear their shelves of back-to-schooland summer merchandise,
which motivates them to offer some steep discounts. In fact,
you may find better deals over Labor Day weekend than you do
during the better-known Black Friday sales.

Upgrade Your Backyard Retreat

If your patio furniture and grill have seen better days, Labor
Day sales provide the perfect opportunity to spruce up your
outdoor living space before your next fall barbecue.
Historically, Labor Day weekend has offered some of the

lowest prices of the year for backyard items. You should be
able to find discounts of 50 to 60 percent on outdoor
furniture, as well as on grills, umbrellas and other
accessories. Last year, Kmart reduced its entire collection of
outdoor items by as much as 90 percent.

[See:
12 Habits of Phenomenally Frugal Families.]

Spring for a Better Night’s Sleep

A new mattress and box spring amounts to a major investment, so
it really pays to keep your eyes open for sales. If you’ve been
putting off replacing your worn-out, saggy mattress, you may
find some sales this holiday weekend that make you glad you
waited. It turns out Labor Day weekend is one of the best times
of the year to
shop for mattresses, with discounts of up to 60 percent at
discount chains and department stores.

Stock Up on Summer Styles

Stores need to make room for their new fall clothing lines, so
Labor Day weekend is an excellent opportunity for the whole
family to get great deals on summer clothing. Expect to find
prices on shorts, tank tops, swimsuits and other hot weather
apparel slashed anywhere from 30 to 85 percent. While you’re
shopping, you’ll probably also find bargains on beach items
such as flip-flops, sunglasses and beach towels. Depending on
where you live, the weather may stay warm enough to enjoy your
purchases for a few more weeks (or even months) this year.

Hold off on those fetching new fall styles, though – in-season
prices will still apply there. You’ll do best to stick with
summer apparel purchases, and resist the temptation to

build your autumn wardrobe until later in the season.

[See:
12 Simple Ways to Raise Your Credit Score.]

Watch the Games in Style

Football season kicks off Labor Day week, and retailers often
respond by reducing television prices for customers planning to
settle in at home and watch the action. This makes the holiday
weekend a great time to look for discounts on the latest TVs
and home entertainment centers, and you’ll also see deep price
cuts on discontinued models. Expect discounts of
about 30 percent.

Take Advantage of Back-to-School Bargains

If you’ve procrastinated picking up back-to-school supplies,
you could hit pay dirt. By Labor Day weekend, retailers figure
most
back-to-school shopping is done, and they’ll be anxious to
clear out their inventory. You’ll really benefit if you can
hold off until the last minute to buy what your kids need for
school.

[See:
10 Ways to Feel Better About Your Money.]

More Great Deals and Tips

Labor Day weekend savings are almost endless, with significant
markdowns in almost all merchandise categories. Stores may
offer as much as 60 percent off bath towels and rugs, and as
much as 40 percent off home furniture. Even kitchen and laundry
appliances often go on sale at this time of the year, so you
might save as much as 30 percent on that new fridge or
washer-dryer combo.

Experts advise shoppers to start checking out sales early in
the weekend, but at the same time, you should exercise
patience. The very best sales and deals won’t happen until the
last day of the long
weekend – Monday – when holiday promotions
come to an end and retailers make one last push to offload sale
items from their inventory.

If you’d rather avoid the malls and shops, you can still take
advantage of Labor Day deals online. To
get the best possible savings, take the time to look for
special coupon code offers and seek out online merchants
offering free shipping.

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How to Get a Credit Card Late Payment Fee Waived in 4 Easy Steps

Sometimes, all you have to do to get a late fee waived is call
the card issuer and ask.

It was all my fault, and I
felt awful about it. Worse yet, I was stuck with it, unless
I got a break. 

I’m talking about a $25 late payment penalty fee on a
department store credit card that I opened within the last few
months. As so many people have, I signed up for the card at the
checkout counter, largely for the discount, and didn’t really
concern myself with the interest rate. But I would pay it all
off in a big hurry, so I didn’t have much to worry about – or
so I thought. 

I used the card several times in a fairly short period to save
a little bit extra on some clothes I needed to buy, and I
quickly paid all but a small portion of my balance off quickly.
But as weeks passed following those shopping trips, I basically
forgot about the card. Out of sight, out of mind – at least
until that second bill arrived. 

Angry at myself over my mistake, I didn’t beat myself up. I
took action.

Here’s what I did:

1.
I paid the bill … The next day, I paid the
bill through my bank’s website. I knew it would take a few days
to process and for the money to actually get to the credit card
issuer, but that was OK. Since I acted quickly, I knew I wasn’t
in any danger of ending up 30 days past due, getting a

black mark on my credit report and slashing my strong
credit score. (If you are nearing that 30 days past-due
threshold, don’t rely on online banking. Call your bank and
arrange something that ensures the bank gets paid more
quickly.)

2. … but not all of the bill. I pay my
credit cards off each month, typically. I’ve been deep, deep in

credit card debt and have no intent of ever returning to
that point. However, in this case, paying the entire statement
balance would have been a tactical error. Instead, I paid the
balance minus $25 – the amount of the late payment fee, which I
hoped would eventually be waived by the credit card
issuer. 

3. I set up electronic billing and auto pay through
my bank. 
I made this move for the card issuer’s peace
of mind – or algorithm. My bank allows me to receive electronic
bills through the bank’s website and then pay them in full
automatically each month. It seemed like a win-win for me and
the bank. My thought was that if, when speaking with the issuer
about waiving my late payment fee, I could tell the company
that I’ve made these arrangements to ensure I’ll never be late
again, that might help my case. Of course, the issuer would
have no way of knowing if I really had done it or if I was just
saying I had, but even so, it felt like a worthwhile good-faith
gesture to make. 

4. I called and made my pitch. “Hi, my
name’s Matt Schulz. I was late with a payment recently.
However, I just paid my bill online – and even set up
electronic billing and auto pay so it won’t happen again – and
I’d like to see if you could waive my late payment fee.” I was
nervous about asking, since I don’t have a terribly long track
record with this card, but I asked anyway. The customer service
representative said she needed to speak with her manager and
proceeded to put me on hold. As I waited, I considered what I
would do if my request was rejected, possibly going as far as
threatening to
close my card. But that became a moot point. A few nervous
minutes later, she told me that the bank would grant my
request, but only this once. Mission accomplished. 

Of course, it probably helped that I have very strong credit
overall, even if my history with this particular card is short.
The better your track record with the credit card issuer, the
more likely it is to cut you some slack when you mess up. 

Still, the fact is that you don’t have to have a
perfect credit score to get a fee waived. Some credit cards
– like the Discover it card – include a policy that allows a
cardholder’s first late-payment fee to be waived. But typically
you do have to ask, and sometimes if you do, you might just
find that you’ve saved yourself $25 for your efforts. 

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How to Write a Killer Sales Page

Deetslist Copy WritingHow to Write a Killer Sales Page

Sales pages are inarguably one of the most effective ways of selling your products to the people who need it the most. It is one of the Internet Marketing practices that has evolved through time by adapting to change, and technological advances. It’s a true art form that takes time to perfect and use effectively. Luckily for you there are some rules and tips you can follow that will increase your chances of hitting it out of the park. If you follow these tips you will increase your conversions and smash it out of the park. It takes a lot more practice than any other type of content but it is fun.
Get the headline Perfect

This is the most important part of you sales page and it has to be perfect. I opt to do this last because it’s just that important. You have 8 seconds to grab the attention of the people you are trying to sell to. If you don’t have a compelling headline, your sales page is useless. It simply wont be read and all your effort will have gone to waste. If I were you I would write down 10 possible headlines and get other people’s opining on which one does the best job at grabbing their attention. Make it stand out with numbers of an interesting component. You should also get an e-book with a compilation of headlines for inspiration. Don’t try to automate this process with one of those software’s, they don’t work and will hurt your sales page.

Tell a Story
One of the most effective devices used to sell are “stories”. Everybody loves a good story and pay attention when they are reading one. This can be used to grab attention and further explain things in an entertaining way for you audience. Your story has to be amazing and entertaining. It also has to be important and relatable to your product/service. This is hard to get right and master, the more you write the better you will get. Be open to ideas on experiences that will make for great stories.

Use Hypnotic selling devices

With hypnosis you have the power to influence people’s subconscious minds and make them buy. You can easily implant simple trigger words to activate involuntary hypnotic “actions” in people’s brains. You could easily do it in writing by highlighting embedded commands by bolding, italics or use of colour.
You probably don’t believe this is real but it actually happens everyday and is proven by experts and psychologist. At a point in time we’ve all been subtly hypnotized to do certain things without realizing it. The cool process started long before we could talk, it’s ingrained in us. Its possible you would never suspect these hypnotic triggers upon reading. They are simple yet innocuous.

Use the fundamental template for Sales Pages

Headline
Sub-Headline

Introduction
Compelling Story
Introduce Product/service

List features
Compelling call to action

Farewell and P.S.

 

I hope this helps!

Have an incredible Day!

 

Mike Deets - Living

Mike Deets – Living