## Use a Savings Challenge to Grow Your Savings

Do you want to save more money? Do you want to start saving money in the first place? With so many people finding it difficult to save on a regular basis, I decided to talk to you today about using a saving challenge to help you get started saving or start saving more money.

Iâ€™ll introduce you to some popular saving challenges and show you the benefits of using them to help you build a nest egg of savings for yourself.

(Photo Credit: nattanan23/Pixabay)

## How a Savings Challenge Works

If you havenâ€™t heard of a savings challenge before, here is how it works. You simply challenge yourself to save a certain amount of money each week.

There are various forms of saving challenges out there, which is great because you can pick one or modify one to fit your financial situation. Here is a run down of the most popular ones:

• 52 week challenge: During this saving challenge you save an increasing amount of money each week for a year. During the first week, you save \$1. The second week, you save \$2. Each week you increase the amount you save by \$1. The end result is you save \$1,300 in a year.
• 365 day challenge: During the challenge you save \$1 every day for an entire year. By the end of the year, you have saved \$365.
• 12 month challenge: During the 12 month challenge you save money once a month, every month. The amount you save is up to you, so the end result will vary based on this.

As I mentioned, you can modify these to fit your current financial life. So if you are in debt and cannot save a lot of money, then you might modify the 52 week challenge by saving \$2 every week instead of increasing it.

The point is to make the challenge simple enough so you succeed but hard enough so you see a positive impact to your savings. By doing both of these, you help form the habit of saving money and make it easier for you to save in the long run.

Now that you know what a savings challenge is, letâ€™s look as some of the benefits.

## 4 Reasons a Savings Challenge Works

### #1. Makes You Aware of Your Spending

The first benefit of a savings challenge is that it makes you aware of your spending. When you are getting started, you have to pick a savings amount that you can handle.

On the surface, you might think that the 52 week challenge will be simple. But a closer look at your finances shows that you arenâ€™t doing as well as you thought.

The result is a deeper look and understanding of how you spend money.

### #2. Helps Motivate You to Save Money

Another benefit to the challenge is that it motivates you to save money. You see your savings increase every day, week or month and this motivates you to keep saving.

What I have found is that in the beginning, the savings amounts are small, so I really donâ€™t pay close attention to my balance. Then I will randomly check my balance and be surprised at how large it is. The result is a rush of motivation to keep saving money.

### #3. Motivates You to Save More

Because it is easy to save with a savings challenge, it motivates you to save more money.

When I first began a savings challenge, I was bit by the bug. I loved how easy it was and decided to save in other ways too. When I would buy something on sale, the amount of money I saved on the purchase would get transferred over to my savings account as well.

The result was a huge increase in my monthly savings.

However, you can get sucked in too much here. While it is great to be bitten by the savings bug, donâ€™t try to save so much that your personal life takes a hit. If you try to save too much and cut out any fun, you will begin to resent saving money and stop saving altogether.

### #4. Community Based For Support

The final benefit of a savings challenge is the social aspect. You can go online and find a handful of community based saving challenges. This is great as posting about your successes and struggles and reading others challenges will help to keep you motivated to reach your goals.

I know when I first started a challenge, joining a group played a huge part in my success. I learned things that I didnâ€™t know and as a result was more successful with saving money in the long run.

### Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, a savings challenge might be exactly what you need to create a savings habit for yourself. Just be sure to follow the points noted earlier about keeping it simple and modifying it so that you can succeed at saving money.

Ideally, once the challenge is over, you will be excited to save more money and improve your finances further, helping you to reach your financial goals.

## 3 Simple Ways to Lower Your Taxes in Retirement

Wouldnâ€™t it be great to not have to worry about taxes during retirement? As great as that sounds, the reality is you are going to be paying taxes until the day you pass away. As the old saying goes, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes.

But what taxes will you pay? Are there any ways to lower your taxes in retirement?

(Photo Credit: stevepb/Pixabay)

### 3 Ways to Lower Your Taxes During Retirement

Luckily there are some strategies to help you save money on taxes. I am going to walk you through 3 things you can do to help lower the amount of tax you pay. But before you run out and start doing any of these things, make sure you speak to both your investment advisor and your tax accountant to make sure they make sense for your personal situation. The last thing you want to do is pay more taxes now or worse, make a move that will cause your retirement nest egg to not provide enough income for you through your golden years.

1. ### Convert to a Roth IRA

When you have money in a traditional IRA or a 401k plan, the tax law states you must start taking withdrawals once you reach age 70 Â½. And since your contributions to your traditional IRA and 401k grew tax deferred, this means you will be paying taxes every year on these required distributions.

On the other hand, there is the Roth IRA. With a Roth IRA, you make contributions after-tax, meaning that when you withdraw the money, you donâ€™t pay any taxes. Plus, you arenâ€™t required to take the money out when you reach a certain age. If you wanted, you could never touch the money and will it to your children or grandchildren.

An option is to convert some or all of your traditional IRA or 401k plan balance over to a Roth IRA. You should do this before you reach 70 Â½ years old so you donâ€™t have to bother with required minimum distributions. The catch to this is that you will have to pay tax on the amount you convert.

You might be wondering how this will lower your taxes in retirement. If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket at retirement, then doing this can make sense for you and save you money on taxes. For example, letâ€™s say that your spouse still plans on working part-time and with your required minimum distribution and Social Security you will have taxable income of \$80,000. That puts you in the 25% tax bracket (depending on how much of your social security is taxed). But right now, before you are taking your required minimum distribution, you have \$50,000 of taxable income. This means you are only in the 15% tax bracket. Paying the tax now on a conversion could be less than the future tax on a required distribution.

Again, you should talk to your tax accountant to understand where you stand now and where you will stand if you were to not convert and get taxed on your required distribution amount. For some, paying the tax now could mean a tax savings. Also see Should you do a Roth Conversion?

And one final point if you do decide to go this route. Donâ€™t use your retirement funds to pay the taxes due. Use any cash you have sitting on hand to cover the tax bill. The more money you keep in your retirement account, the more compounding and growth can occur.

2. ### Donate to Charity

We all know that donating to charity is a good thing. And doing so can also lower your taxes in retirement. Letâ€™s assume making a conversion to a Roth IRA is not for you. You can instead make a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA.

This means that instead of receiving the cash from a required minimum distribution, you can just donate the money instead and get the tax write off that it provides. In many cases, your investment custodian has the paperwork to do this so the process is easy.

On the other hand, if you are making the conversion to a Roth IRA, you can still reduce the taxes on the conversion by making a charitable donation during the same year. The only catch here is that the donation has to come from outside a retirement account. Since you are simply moving from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, the donation cannot come from this account. But making a sizable donation can help to offset some taxes that you would otherwise owe.

Finally, another option is to donate stocks or mutual funds you have in a taxable account to charity. In this case, you can simply donate the appreciated asset to the charity of your choice. The reason for doing this is that you can avoid paying any capital gains tax if the stock appreciated in value and take a charitable deduction. Reader Mark points out:

Any big gains can be directly donated to a favorite charity rather than selling it to get the double benefit of a charitable deduction and the avoidance of capital gains. To me, that is one of the biggest tax benefits of investing since a double benefit is realized.

There is a limit to how much you can donate when it comes to appreciated assets, so be sure to talk things over with your tax accountant.

3. ### Take Retirement Withdrawals Sooner

A final option for you to lower taxes in retirement is to start withdrawing money from your traditional IRA account once you reach 59 Â½ years old. By taking withdrawals at this age, you accomplish a couple of things.

• You lower your future required minimum distribution amount. Your RMD is based on your age and account balance. By having a lower account balance, your future RMD will be lower and thus you will pay fewer taxes.
• You can put off taking Social Security. By waiting to take Social Security benefits, you will receive a larger benefit. The catch here is that once you reach your maximum social security age, your benefit will not grow any longer, so it makes sense to begin taking it at this time.

Of course, as with the other options listed, you need to talk things over with your tax accountant to make sure you arenâ€™t pushing yourself into a higher tax bracket now, just to save money on taxes later. Once you withdraw the money see What to Do With Your Required Minimum Distribution.

### Final Thoughts

While taxes are inevitable, you want to make sure you lower your taxes in retirement. This is because many things like the tax you pay on Social Security benefits and your Medicare premiums are all tied to your income. The more income you have in retirement, the more taxes you pay and in the case with Medicare, the higher the healthcare premiums you will pay.

Take the time to sit down with your accountant and walk through various scenarios. Ideally, your financial picture in retirement will be a simple one and you wonâ€™t have to take any steps to ensure your taxes are minimized. But in the event you do have to take steps, these 3 options are worth looking into.

What suggestions do you have to lower your taxes in retirement?

## How to Handle Rising Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve has made it clear that it plans to raise interest rates in 2017. In fact, as of this writing the plan is to raise interest rates 3 times this year. Each raise is expected to be just a quarter of a percent (0.25%) but by the end of the year, interest rates will be around one and one half percent (1.50%) assuming nothing major happens and they stick to the plan.

What does this mean for you and your money? How will rising interest rates impact your wallet? We will look at both loan and savings products as these both react differently. The goal is for you to see and understand the impact so that you can make any moves now with your money that you might have been holding off on.

(Photo Credit: bykst/Pixabay)

### What Do Higher Interest Rates Mean?

When interest rates rise, it costs more to borrow money. Banks get charged more for borrowing money and they pass this cost on to the borrower, which is you. When it comes to savings accounts, the interest you earn will be more as interest rates rise.

The other difference is the timing. On loans and other debt products, interest rates will rise almost immediately, reflecting the increase. But for savings accounts, the interest rate will be slow and you might not see higher rates until later this year.

### Home Loans

When it comes to home loans, itâ€™s a mixed bag. If you own a fixed rate mortgage, you are in the clear. Your rate is locked for the entire length of your term. If you have an adjustable rate mortgage however, you will see an increase in the rate.

On a loan of \$200,000 you could be paying an extra \$85 a month if the Fed follows through and raises rates by three quarters of a percent (0.75%) this year.

What if you are in the market for a loan or a refinance? Interest rates have already risen for fixed rate mortgages since they are tied to the 10-year Treasury yield. For adjustable rate mortgages, the same scenario applies here as above.

And if you have an equity line of credit, you will see the interest rate rise on this product quickly after rates are increased. But with the rate increases being so small, the overall impact on you may not be severe.

The bottom line is that it is getting more expensive to borrow money for a house. But the increase shouldnâ€™t have a large impact on the house you can afford, assuming you are not trying to buy too large of a house.

### Car Loans

Even though car loans are a debt product and will rise, there is a lot of competition between car manufacturers. You see this with many offering zero percent or 0.90% financing offers on new cars. As rates rise, so too will the rates on auto loans, but they will still be manageable. And if you havenâ€™t been shopping for a car lately, you probably wonâ€™t notice the small increase in rates from 0.90% to 1.90%.

For used cars, the interest rate will rise here as well. But the impact wonâ€™t be large and you shouldnâ€™t really notice an impact on the overall interest you pay on the loan.

Therefore, the same idea applies here as it does for house buying. The small uptick in interest rates shouldnâ€™t determine whether or not you can afford a car. If it does, then you are looking at a car you simply cannot afford.

### Credit Cards

Since this is a debt product, you will see your interest rate increase by the next time you get your statement. Of course, as long as you pay your balance in full each month, rising interest rates shouldnâ€™t have an impact on your or your wallet.

But if you donâ€™t pay your balance in full, donâ€™t despair. Because of the slow, methodical plan to raise interest rates, you probably wonâ€™t notice the increase all that much. The extra interest you are charged may only be a couple dollars more per month if your balance isn’t very large.

This isnâ€™t to say you shouldnâ€™t act however. You should be striving to get rid of your balance as quickly as possible so you can start using your money to grow your wealth. Consider a balance transfer as a potential option. Right now you can still get 0% balance transfers. With interest rates rising however, it is unclear how long these offers may last.

### Savings Accounts

With savings products, you will start seeing a rise in the interest you earn later this year. After all, a bank is a business. They want to get more money now (raising the interest they charge on loans) and keep it by taking their time to increase the interest they pay you on savings.

Even with a rise in interest rates, donâ€™t expect anything amazing. Most savings account interest rates will rise 0.10% – 0.20% with the higher increase for online banks.

That is your best option when it comes to earning more money. Move your savings to an online bank and earn more money. The switch could be the difference between a 0.10% interest rate at a brick-and-mortar bank and a rate of 1.00% at an online bank. That is what the spread is now and it will increase a little more as interest rates rise.

On savings of \$5,000 that is the difference between earning \$5 and \$50 interest over the course of a year. That is a big difference.

### Final Thoughts

Even though small interest rate hikes like these donâ€™t look like that big of a deal, they can have an impact on your purchasing power when it comes to loans and how much interest you earn on savings accounts.

Luckily, this impact is small assuming you are buying things you can afford. Otherwise the impact to you is going to be great.

While it isnâ€™t necessary to have a complete understanding of how interest rates work and how a rising interest rate environment will impact the economy, it is important that you pay attention so that you can get the most from your money.

## 5 Money Challenges to Help You Save More Money

We all know that in order to reach our financial dreams, we have to save money. Most of us go about this by saving whatever is left over at the end of the month. Sadly, this usually amounts to nothing as we spend all we have (and in some cases, more than we have). In order to help you save, Iâ€™m going to outline some money challenges for you to try.

By taking on these challenges, they will do one of two things. First, many of them will get you to save first and spend what is left over. When you save this way, you ensure you save something every month. And second, some of these money challenges will help you save by cutting back your spending when you are about to buy something you donâ€™t need or will regret in the coming weeks.

(Photo Credit: nosheep/Pixabay)

### 5 Money Challenges for You to Try

Letâ€™s get started with the challenges. You can decide which one you want to start with after reading through them. While you could try to use two at a time, I would suggest you just work with one and when you complete it, move on to another challenge.

1. ### 365 Day Challenge

The savings challenge is to save money every single day of the year. You can decide on the amount of money you save every day. Most people keep the amount the same but if you want to vary the amount, that is OK too. The key here is to save money every day.

I know people that take on this challenge and save \$1 a day. Others choose \$2. The amount is up to you. But before you decide on a number, make it realistic. By this I mean look at the savings amount over the course of the month.

For example, you might want to shoot for the stars and save \$10 a day. But over the course of a month this comes to \$300. If money is really tight, you might start off strong, but at the end of the month, you are going to be feeling the pinch.

Of course, this isnâ€™t to say you should just save \$0.01 a day. Make it a challenge but not a burden. If you save \$2 a day for a year, you added over \$700 to your savings account.

2. ### 52 Week Challenge

If saving money every day sounds like too much for you, there is the 52 week challenge. All you have to do is save money each week of the year. As with the 365 day challenge, you can just choose to save \$5 a week. You can make this really fun if you start at \$1 and increase the amount you save by \$1 each week.

For example, week 1 you will save \$1. In week 2 you will save \$2. By week 25 you are saving \$25 and at week 52 you save \$52. In the beginning, this challenge will be easy. Saving a dollar or two a week isnâ€™t that difficult. But things will get harder later in the year when you are saving a couple hundred dollars a month.

3. ### No Spend Challenge

For this challenge you don’t physically move money into a savings account. Rather, you stop spending for an entire month. To do this challenge, you simply pick a category and decide to not spend any money for the month.

For example, take dining out. Next month, you might decide that dining out is off limits. You have to eat at home. If you can get by without spending any money dining out, you will see a positive impact to your bottom line.

Ideally, you should take the amount you saved by not dining out and move it your savings account so you truly save the money.

When you do this challenge, you can do any discretionary spending category you want. Entertainment and dining out are two good categories to start with for this challenge.

4. ### Cash Only Challenge

For the cash only challenge you only spend cash. You cannot use your credit or debit card for any purchases. Only cold hard cash. The idea here is that you will spend less when you see money leaving your wallet.

We have a psychological relationship with money and seeing it leave our hands has a huge impact on us. When we use credit however, it is just a piece of plastic and we spend freely because there is no emotional tie in.

Trust me, when you try only paying with cash, you will think long and hard before making a purchase. Seeing that \$10 leave your wallet hurts.

5. ### The Pause Test

The last of the money challenges is the pause test. With this challenge, before you buy anything, you have to wait 1 minute. During this minute, you should think about whether or not you really need the item or if you will really use it.

Many of our purchases are emotional. When the rational side of our brain catches up, we regret the purchase. This is where buyerâ€™s remorse comes from. To combat this, pause for a minute.

Do you really need those new jeans? Will you wear them? For me when it comes to clothes, if I am not excited to the point where I want to wear the shirt or pants home, I know that I donâ€™t really need them and to put them back. Doing this has saved me a ton of money.

The same idea applies with the grocery store. Before putting something in your cart, ask yourself if you will really eat it. We throw away a lot of food. Stopping and asking this question can help us limit the amount of food we throw out and save us money at the same time.

### Final Thoughts

There are 5 money challenges for you to try. You can decide which one you want to try first. The key is to make them easy enough to do, but not so easy that you donâ€™t see an impact to your bottom line. For example, saving \$0.01 a day for a year is great. You did the challenge and saved every day. But you have \$3.65 to show for it. Odds are you wonâ€™t do this challenge ever again.

When you do any of these money challenges, make it a point to move the money into a saving account. Itâ€™s great to take on the no spend challenge or the pause test, but if you donâ€™t move the money to a savings account, odds you are going to spend the money next month if it is left in your checking account.

Move the money to savings and watch your money grow.

## Replace Cable with Sling TV to Save \$850 Per Year

We finally got rid of cable and replaced it with Sling TV. We’ve talked about How to Get Rid of Cable and Still Watch TV for years, but ran into stumbling blocks, mainly for sports related programming.

Cutting cable or switching to a lower cost provider is a great way to save money.

Here’s how we made the switch to Sling TV, without giving up our favorite cable channels and sports networks.

### What is Sling TV?

Sling TV is a streaming service. You can watch live shows and sports (which was a requirement at our house) for a fraction of the cost of regular cable or satellite service. In addition, you are not locked into a contract.

Cost. The Sling service is free for the first 7 days. After the first free week, the cheapest Sling TV package is \$20 per month. There are various packages, based on the channels you want.

What device do you need? You’ll need a device to access the Sling TV app. We are watching on a Roku. But you can also use Amazon Fire TV players, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox or other compatible devices.

Free Roku Express. If you don’t already have a device, there’s a Sling offer for a free Roku Express when you prepay for two months of Sling TV.

Sling Sports. Depending on which Sports channel you watch, you can pick a different Sling package. See all the Sling TV Sports channels and packages.

### Other Inexpensive Streaming Services

In addition to Sling TV, we have added a few inexpensive complements to Sling TV to fill in some of the gaps that Sling TV doesn’t have:

Netflix. Netflix is still our go-to for movies, kids programming, and binge watching various series.

Amazon. We watch very little on the Amazon app, but since we already have a Prime membership there’s no additional cost.

Extra Sports. During football season we rely on the Big Ten Network, which isn’t included in Sling TV. There was an option from our local cable provider for a streaming alternative, ours was \$20 per month for online access.

Network Apps. Most of the major networks have their own free app. If you don’t have an option for easy over the air access for local channels, you can watch your favorite shows on the ABC or NBC app for free. However, you can’t skip the commercials on these apps!

### What about Internet and Phone Bundles?

Most of the cable service providers in our area offer a three service package bundle with phone, TV and internet. If you need internet and phone they make it very difficult to get the stand alone services at a good price point.

For inexpensive phone service, we use ooma. We switched to an ooma six years ago. Here’s an old review of Our Ooma Phone.

We pay \$40 per month for internet. This rate was obtained through the “call and ask for a lower rate” method!

### Annual Savings

Our average monthly bill for cable or satellite (we often used to flip back and forth for the introductory pricing) was \$102. And it was creeping up.

Now we pay \$31 a month for Netflix and Sling TV! We’re saving \$852 per year without giving up any of our favorite shows or channels!

### Stack the Savings

Better Balance Savings. Netflix is a perfect recurring charge to put on the Better Balance card. See How to Automatically Earn \$120 Every Year from the Better Balance Rewards Card.

Cash back. We put our Sling TV charges on our Chase Ink card to earn 5% Cash Rewards.

Have you cut the cord on cable yet? What is holding you back?

## Tricks to Save Money on Health Care Costs

Iâ€™ve dealt with a decent amount of medical bills so far this year, and it should come as no surprise that medical treatment is expensive! (And donâ€™t get me started on the confusing statements I get that talk about the cost, covered amounts, co-insurance, and everything in between.)

### Tricks to Save Money on Health Care Costs

Because of the costs, Iâ€™ve started looking for ways to try to keep my health care expenses in check. The following are some of the steps I am taking and hopefully you can use some of them as well to save some money when it comes to health care.

### Cram Procedures into the Same Year When Meeting Your Deductible

If you have a high deductible plan, there is a certain amount that you pay out of pocket 100%, then a reduced amount and then finally nothing. If you have an expensive procedure in one year, it might make sense to move your other visits, tests and procedures into the same year so that you can save some money.

Now there are two caveats to doing this. First, be sure it is OK to move visits/tests/procedures around like this. Your health is much more important than taking unnecessary risks just to save a few bucks.

But if you need to see the dentist and you need x-rays, or worse â€“ like have a cavity filled â€“ then by all means get it done now so you can save some money.

The second note is to know when your plan year is. Most insurance plans donâ€™t run on a calendar year but rather a fiscal year. Our plan runs from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. I learned this the hard way a few years ago.

### Take Health Assessments

Many insurers are now offering a discount if you take a health assessment. We received a discount on our monthly premiums for this. It was really easy, so easy we did it at home.

All we did was answer a few questions about our lifestyle and then provide our height, weight, waist and hip measurements, etc. We also had to prick our finger and send in a small blood sample so they could verify our cholesterol.

Some might scoff at doing this, but for us, saving 15% a month on our premiums was worth it.

### Check for Discounts

Many insurers also offer various discounts. A common one is a gym membership. Join a gym and go a certain number of times in a year and you can get a discount.

When I was with a previous employer I took advantage of this to get a \$150 rebate from my insurer. The kicker was that I got an incredible deal from the gym that year and my annual gym membership was just \$125, so I ended up â€œmakingâ€ money.

Another benefit they offered was a \$25 rebate on a new bike helmet. As a mountain biker, Iâ€™ve cracked a few helmets and like child car seats, one crack and itâ€™s done. The rebate helped to offset my out of pocket cost.

Today, some insurers are offering free fitness trackers to members. If you can attain a certain number of daily steps, you can earn a discount.

### Shop Around for Procedures

Another big way to save money on health insurance costs is to shop around. Not with the insurance providers but rather with the services you need. Surprisingly, an MRI at a hospital costs a different amount than if you go to the clinic.

Be sure to ask the hospital or the clinic the cost they charge and then call up some other facilities. You may be surprised at just how much the price varies. In fact, a co-workers wife needed an MRI and the hospital was charging twice as much as the local clinic.

Again, as with the earlier point about saving money, donâ€™t pick the subpar clinic just because they offer the best deal. Make sure they are just as qualified to perform the procedure when deciding where to go.

Furthermore, when it comes to dental care, see if there are any dental schools in your area. Many of them take patients so that the students can work on a real person. Before you say no to this, most (if not all) dental schools have an instructor watching over so you can rest easy knowing that it will be a job well done.

### Be Conscious of Costs

Finally, I just want to make note once more to not make cost the sole factor when making your choices on health care. For example, my mother is on medication and switched her prescription to Walmart to save money. The monthly cost was close to 60% less at Walmart than at the pharmacy where she had been getting the prescription filled.

A few weeks after making the switch, she started getting lightheaded and nauseous in the morning. She couldnâ€™t figure it out. Finally, she thought about the drugs. She stopped taking them for a few days (it wasnâ€™t a medication that would cause major issues if she stopped for a few days) and the nausea and lightheadedness went away. It turns out it was a bad batch of drugs from India.

Iâ€™m not suggesting you avoid Walmart here, I am just showing you that in some cases, you are better off paying more for health care. Donâ€™t just assume the two things you are comparing are equivalent and the only difference is the cost. Many times there are other factors at play.

### Final Thoughts

In the end, there are many ways you can save money on health care costs. The easiest thing to do is call or email your benefits department at work and ask what discounts your health plan offers. Odds are they will offer a few for you to take advantage of.

Once you know what they are, you can assess which one or ones you want to incorporate to start saving some money. From there, shop around for tests/procedures and lump them together into a year so that you can save even more money.

## 5 Quick Tips to Save Money

I love to save money. Who doesnâ€™t right? While you can search for ways to save, I figured I would show you the many different ways I save and how they work.

After all, seeing how a real person saves as opposed to a random list can be much more beneficial. Here are the various ways I save money.

5 Quick Tips to Save Money

### 5 Quick Tips to Save Money

1. Automate Your Savings.
This is first because it is hands down the biggest one. I found that when I started working I was like many others â€“ I spent my money and then saved what was left over. Some months that meant saving \$20. Other months I saved nothing. After a couple years, it was no surprise that I wasnâ€™t getting ahead financially.

So I made a change. Instead of spending first and saving what was left, I saved first and spent what was left over. To do this, I set up automatic transfers.

The first one was to my savings account. I wanted to save 10% of my income each month. So I took my paycheck and multiplied it by 2 since I was paid bi-monthly. I then took it and multiplied that number by 0.10 and got my savings amount goal. My last step was to log into my bank account and set up the transfer. In about 5 minutes I was done and guaranteeing I was saving 10% of my money each month. (Really I was saving more since I was putting money into my 401k plan at work as well!)

I also did this for my brokerage account. I set up a monthly transfer so that I didnâ€™t have to think about investing my money each month. I just took a couple minutes to set it up and never looked back.

2. Use Online Cash Back Sites.
Another way I save money is when I shop online. Before buying anything, I check out cash back sites. There are many out there but I stick with eBates. They offer anywhere from 1% cash back and up at many stores. When I shop through their online portal, they put the cash in my account and then PayPal it to me.

One extra step that I take and suggest you do as well is to search for online coupon codes. I will then compare the savings as sometimes you can only get one or the other. Most times though I do get to use both the coupon and get the cash back from eBates.

3. Use Credit Card Malls and Discounts.
Another option when shopping online is to check out if your credit card offers any discounts. I have a Discover card and they have all sorts of partnerships with retailers. When I need printer ink, I use my Discover card and shop through their portal at Best Buy. I get 5% cash back from Discover (compared to 2% at eBates). And since I am a Best Buy Rewards member, I save an additional 15% off my ink. Also see the Discover Rewards Calendar.
4. Earn Credit Card Rewards.
Speaking of credit cards, I only use two when shopping. The one is my Discover card that I use depending on what they offer 5% off on per quarter.

My other card is an American Express Blue Preferred card. I get 6% cash back at grocery stores and 3% cash back when buying gas. The trick I use is to buy gift cards at the grocery store. This allows me to get them at a 6% discount.

The only catch is there is an annual fee on this card. There is a no-fee version, but the cash back amount is lower.

5. Collect Coupons.
Last but not least are coupons. The trick with these is to only use the coupons for products you really buy. For me, most times this narrows the list to body wash, deodorant and shampoo. I collect the coupons and then wait for sales.

I either will shop at CVS or the grocery store depending on the sale. Many times at CVS I end up buying 4 items and paying less than half because of the sales and my coupons. At the grocery store, I take advantage of the sale and use my cash back American Express card to get a bigger savings.

### Final Thoughts

That is how I save money. Of course, saving money when shopping is great, you still have to â€œsaveâ€ that money. In other words, actually move the money to a savings account.

This has helped me to really boost my savings. Anything I save when shopping gets moved to my savings account so I donâ€™t have it to spend at a later date. My checking account (and budget) thinks I spend full price when in reality I paid much less and saved the difference.

## How to Have a Life While Living On a Tight Budget

Living life while on a budget can be tough. When I bought my first house a few years ago, money was tight. In fact, I bought more of a house than I could afford and I had to literally watch every penny I made. Going through this experience was tough, but it forced me to think outside of the box and to find new ways to have fun. Below are a handful of the ways I still had a fun life while living on a tight budget.

### How to Have a Life While Living On a Tight Budget

If one of your plans for the New Year is to improve your finances or take charge of your financial future, you will also need to find a way to enjoy life while sticking to your budget.

(Photo Credit: Stuart Miles)

### Have Nights In

Instead of going out all of the time, invite friends over to your house or head over to their house for a fun night in. There are plenty of things you can do to have fun. You can have pot luck dinners where each person brings a different dish. You can play board games (trust me; there are plenty of board games directed for adults). You could even play video games â€“ the Wii is great for this â€“ or just watch movies. Doing any of these things will save you money and help you stick to your budget.

### Go Out Earlier or Later

When we would go out, we made it a point to either go out early so we could take advantage of happy hour specials. We made sure to do some research so we knew the places for the best happy hours and visited those places more often than not. In addition to this we would sometimes go out late at night to take advantage of late night appetizers.

In both cases, the apps were more than enough to fill us up and we sometimes even had money left over.

### Think Outside The Box With Other Spending

If I knew there was a hockey game or night out that I didnâ€™t want to miss, I made it a point to rearrange my spending. I shopped for more sale items at the grocery store or went without the case of soda for the week. I made small cutbacks to my spending here and there so that I could spend a little more on a night out.

It all comes down to priorities. I am certain you can think of a few things you donâ€™t need to have when you go grocery shopping or something else in your budget you can cut out for the short-term so you can take advantage of an upcoming concert or event.

### Pay Attention

Itâ€™s amazing what happens when we just pay attention. For me, I would always fill up my gas tank by my house. But after money got tight, I made it a point to look at gas prices along my route to work. Surprisingly, I found that the gas station near my work sold gas for \$0.10 less on average!

This also worked out when grocery shopping too. I typically shop at the store down the street from me. One day I was hanging out with a friend and he went to a different grocery store in town. As we walked the aisles, I noticed that some of the things I tend to buy were cheaper here.

Learn to pay attention and you might be able to save yourself some money.

### Find Other Sources of Income

Another option is to instead of trying to cut back, increase what is coming in. I took surveys for a few years. While the money I made wasnâ€™t earth-shattering, it was a nice amount to help me pay for some of my wants.

I also made sure to perform my best at my job. Over time, I starting earning 4-5% raises which helped to ease my tight budget. Always remember that there are two sides to the budget equation â€“ income and expenses. Donâ€™t forget about one for the sake of the other.

### Do Your Homework

Just like with the idea about half price appetizers above, if you do your research, you can find all sorts of things to do that are free or low cost. Through research we found a movie theater that had Tuesday specials. You could see a movie for \$0.50. While it wasnâ€™t ideal to hit the movies on a Tuesday night, doing so allowed us to see the latest movies for a fraction of the normal price.

We also were able to find a bowling alley that offered a group rate on Saturday nights. Instead of paying over \$20 for a lane and shoe rental for a few hours, we paid \$12 and bowled as much as we wanted for four hours.

### Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, having a social life while sticking to your budget isnâ€™t that hard to do. You just have to plan and do your homework. There are plenty of things you can do for a reduced cost; you just have to be willing to take the time to find them. In some cases, the thing you do will be horrible. But those are great times too. Not in the moment, but when you get together and reminisce with friends, that horrible experience becomes a funny story that never gets old. Make it a point to expand your thinking and try new things. You never know what you might find.

What do you do for fun while sticking to a budget?

## How to Save Money on Vitamins

Multi-vitamins may cost money upfront, but they are worth it in the long run. Taking a daily multi-vitamin fills in the gaps of any vitamins or minerals you didnâ€™t get throughout the day. Even the most health conscious people, still may be lacking in a certain vitamin on any given day. Each vitamin or mineral serves a specific purpose for your bodyâ€™s needs from basic functionality to energy throughout the day.

Here are some tips on how to take multi-vitamins to make the most out of them and how to save money on buying them.

Photo Credit: Colin Dunn

### How to Take Multi-Vitamins

Taking a daily multi-vitamin is an easy way to improve your overall health. Follow these easy tips to be sure you are taking it the appropriate way.

Talk to your doctor. As always, with any medications, vitamins, or changes to your diet, consult your doctor before you start taking anything. Multi-vitamins are great for the general public, but every individual person is different. Certain diseases, conditions, your age, or other aspects of your lifestyle can change the type of vitamin you take or if you should take them at all.

Choose the multi-vitamin appropriate for yourself. Multi-vitamins have evolved past the basic supplement. Today, there are specific vitamins for specific groups such as women, men, children, over 50, women trying to get pregnant, and teens. There are also vitamins for a specific area you may be concerned with like multi-vitamins to increase energy, extra heart health, or digestive help. After consulting your doctor, you can determine what vitamin is best for you so you get your moneyâ€™s worth.

Take your vitamin with food. Taking your vitamin with food increases the time it has to be absorbed in your body therefore improving its health benefits and stretching the benefits even more. This will also help to make this part of your everyday routine by taking it after the same meal every day. It also will reduce any discomfort you may experience in your stomach when taking the vitamin.

Consider cutting the vitamin in half or taking it before bed. It is not uncommon for a multi-vitamin to slightly irritate your stomach. If that is the case, try taking the vitamin before bed to avoid the discomfort. You can also cut the vitamin in half with a pill cutter and take each half at different times of the day. This also distributes the vitamins at different times throughout the day and can help you absorb the vitamins better.

### How to Save Money on Vitamins

Even though taking a multi-vitamin daily can add to your costs if you have not been previously taking them, they can actually save you money in the long run. Taking a vitamin and getting those essential vitamins and minerals can mean less costly doctor visits, paying for fewer cold medications, and in the long-term, lower medical bills and health insurance premiums. Also, strengthening your immune system with multi-vitamins means less chances youâ€™ll have to take off work for a cold which depending your job, can mean loss of income. But there are also plenty of ways to save on taking a multi-vitamin. To lower costs on vitamins, follow these simple tips:

Buy in bulk. Vitamins generally have a long shelf life so buying in large quantities is a great way to save. Stores like Samâ€™s Club and Costco are good places to look for bulk amounts of vitamins. Also, sometimes stores offer buy one, get one deals or have a larger pack, which could be a better deal. Just be sure you know what the expiration date is so youâ€™re taking the most potent vitamin possible and nothing that has gone bad.

Search for coupons. Brands like Centrum or One-A-Day offer coupons right on their website that you can print out. Visit a specific brandâ€™s websites, in-store coupons from grocery stores, and websites like Coupons.com for deals. You can also sign up for e-mail alerts for vitamin brands and â€œLikeâ€ them on Facebook and follow on Twitter to get coupons and learn about offers.

Keep an eye out for sales. As I already mentioned, vitamins are usually good for a while, so stocking up on them when theyâ€™re on sale is a great way to keep costs low. Watch for buy one get one sales. Read the label to understand how to store them so they can stay fresh for longer.

Consider using generic. In many cases, the generic brand is almost identical to the brand name. Compare the labels to double check you are getting the vitamins you need and it is approved by the FDA. If youâ€™re curious about a certain brand, ask your doctor or a pharmacist.

Shop online. Companies like Puritan’s Pride are a strictly online vitamin company that offers low costs and deals. Itâ€™s a good idea to compare the ingredients and quantity of ingredients to make sure youâ€™re getting what you expect. The FDA sets the recommended dietary allowance which will let you know the specific amount of vitamins you should be getting each day.

Ask if your company offers discounts. Some employers offer full or partial reimbursements for health products you purchase as part of a compensation package, which may include some types of multi-vitamins. It doesnâ€™t hurt to ask your human resource department if that is something they offer or would consider doing in the future.

### Final Thoughts

Taking a daily multi-vitamin is a quick way to improve your health. If you canâ€™t budget in the cost of vitamins or choose not to take them, be sure your diet is rich in essential vitamins and minerals. With the help of your doctor, identify the vitamins that are most important for you to be getting, and find foods that can give you the amount you need.

Do you take a multi-vitamin? Which vitamins do you recommend? How do you save money on your vitamins? What are some other budget-friendly health tips you have?

## 12 Cheap Anti-Aging Tricks

It seems that staying young comes at price. The Wall Street Journal estimates that the anti-aging industry is a \$261 billion industry. While trying to reduce the signs of aging, sometimes people think the only option is expensive creams and products or procedures. Instead, here are 12 budget-friendly tips to look and feel younger:

Photo Credit: Jinx McCombs

### 12 Cheap Anti-Aging Tricks and Tips to Look and Feel Younger

1. Exercise.
Exercise is a key to a healthy lifestyle, regardless of age. It will keep you at a healthy weight and looking and feeling good. Exercise is a fantastic anti-aging tool since you can keep your body toned, and it also can help build bone density, which diminishes as we age. Go for a walk regularly, and build your workout routine from there. Ask for a guest pass for a gym or athletic center. Once there, participate in classes to get some tips you can use at home. Join a community sports team. Watch professional exercise videos online or on fitness channels at home. Borrow fitness and exercise books from the library.
2. Exercise mentally.
Keep your brain sharp by taking time to exercise it regularly. Do puzzles, word searches, and brain teaser games. You can find puzzles online for free or visit the library. Learn a musical instrument or learn a language. Go to the theatre, orchestra concerts, and visit museums. Make regular dates with friends who participate in stimulating conversations and that make you laugh.
3. Eat healthy.
A lot of people try to look their best by applying lotions, exfoliates, and make-up. But many health professionals will tell you that itâ€™s not what you are putting on your body, but what you are putting in your body that will lead to better results. Eat a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables. To save money, buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and find what is on sale. Drink water and green tea. Find foods rich in Vitamin A (spinach, sweet potatoes, red peppers, carrots), Vitamin C (broccoli, oranges, cantaloupe), foods rich in Omega-3 (salmon, tuna, walnuts, and flax seed), and rich in antioxidants (dark chocolate, berries). Stick to lean proteins and natural foods.
4. Eliminate or reduce unhealthy foods.
Avoid junk food and unhealthy choices. Stay away from processed foods, high sugar, high fat, and other less desirable choices. Learn to read labels, and understand what you are putting in your body. Limiting the intake of these types of food will not only make you feel better, but you will also look better and it can help with the aging process. Plus, youâ€™ll save money by not buying junk food, and ultimately, save money on doctor bills down the road by not eating stuff like this.
5. Wear UV protection sunglasses.
Do you think of your eyes when youâ€™re thinking about helping the aging process? Protect your eyes by purchasing sunglasses that are UV protected. They will be protecting your eyes from harmful rays that could result in vision problems down the road.
6. Use sunscreen.
While getting out into the sun can promote a healthy amount of Vitamin D, the sun can also be harmful to our skin and result in premature aging. Apply sunscreen regularly â€“ not just when youâ€™re heading out to the beach. There are many fantastic, affordable moisturizers that have a small amount of SPF that you could use daily. When youâ€™re going to be out in the sun for a longer duration or somewhere where the sun is stronger, apply a stronger amount of SPF. Donâ€™t forget to reapply throughout the day. Donâ€™t forget lip sunscreen or finding a gloss or lipstick with SPF in it.
7. Dress for the sun.
While sunscreen is helpful, it sometimes isnâ€™t enough to protect against the sun. If youâ€™re heading outside for a long duration, consider a wide brim hat to protect your ears and face. Wear a breathable, light-colored long sleeve instead of a sleeveless shirt to protect your arms. Visit outdoor stores for options on protective clothing that is still comfortable to wear in the sun.
8. Get more sleep.
Sleep is right up there with exercise and eating healthy to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Sleep can reduce stress and anxiety which causes havoc to our wellness and our skin. Sleep helps our skin look its best.
9. Follow a good skin care regimen.
The products you need and your skin care regimen drastically differs on your specific case. To find out, you can stroll past the skin care department in your local department store. The professionals will be happy to share their opinion on what skin type you have and what products would work best for you. Generally speaking, wash your face morning and night. Always remove make-up before you fall asleep. After you have a clean face, apply moisturizer at night.
10. Quit smoking.
Smoking will cause havoc to your skin, teeth, and overall health. Quit the habit for a healthier lifestyle. Not to mention that stopping smoking will save you hundreds or thousands each year.
11. Reduce stress.
Stress not only causes other health problems, but it can lead to premature aging. Start with determining what stresses your out. Write a list of everything from small issues to big ones. Next to each stressor, determine what you can do about it. If possible, eliminate the stress altogether. If you canâ€™t eliminate it, what can you do to make it better? Other ways to reduce stress are to exercise regularly, meditate, take up yoga, and eat healthy. Do things everyday to reduce your stress and make you happy. Read a book, paint, watch your favorite TV show, write in a journal, or take a relaxing bath.
12. Drink water.
Stay hydrated, and drink more water. Drinking water helps your health, your skin, and your overall health. You can cut lemons or limes to put in the water to infuse flavor in water. Plus, water is free! Carry a water bottle with you while youâ€™re running errands, exercising, or at work or school.

What are your favorite cheap anti-aging tricks?