Credit Unions = Saving $$$

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Bank or Credit Union?

If you are using a bank, switching to a credit union could be a better alternative for your family. 

Here’s why…

On the outside banks and credit unions look very similar.  But, how they are created and function could not be more different.  

Banks, in general, are driven by profit.  The management “decision makers” of bank’s are pressured by their investors to make decisions based on the bottom line.  This causes the bank to not always have the best interest of the  customers at heart.  Customers sometimes experience this through fees, high loan rates and low dividends.    

Credit Unions are not-for-profit.  They are less concerned about the bottom line and are more concerned about how much of an asset they are to the community and its members.  Internally, they have no investors or stockholders, like banks.  When you join a credit union, you are actually becoming a member and buying a share into the company.  Each member has one vote in the election of the board of directors.   The board of directors are all volunteers, who unbiasedly approve credit union decisions on behalf of its members.  This enables credit unions to offer a banking service where any extra profits go back to the community through community service and sponsorships.  Members also benefit through free checking, cheaper overdraft fees, low minimum balance requirements, better loan and dividend rates.  

I know it could be a hassle to go through the process of switching banks.  But, you could be saving big if you are paying a monthly fee just to have a checking account or occasionally using your banks overdraft system.  Those same services are almost always cheaper or free, in some cases, at credit unions.  

I am not saying that credit union’s are for everyone but it might be something to consider.  I know our family has benefited financially by using a credit union. Who knows, yours could too.

Small ₵hanges that make big difference$

 

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Saving Hundreds In Just 4 Phone Calls

PHONE CALL #1- Cable Provider

Just by picking up the phone and calling your cable provider could save hundreds a year.  If you have never called before, you will first need to check your current package and learn what packages your company offers.  Most companies do not advertise their cheapest package, so you will need to ask a live person. Most people are paying for channels that you are not watching.  Let the customer service representative know that you are looking to save money and see what they can offer you.  Believe me, these companies want to retain your business and will do there best to make you happy.  

If you already have the cheapest package that best fits your family don’t stop calling.  Call every few months just to check in and see if they have any new deals.   I always get promotional advertising in the mail from other companies trying to win my business.  Every time I get these, it reminds me to pick up the phone and call my current provider. I start the conversation by telling them about the advertisement I received from their competitor.  I usually say how happy I am and that I really would prefer to stay with my current company.  I ask them if there is anything they can do to lower my rate in order to keep my business.  To keep me from switching service providers, they almost always send me to a “Retention Specialist”.  This employee can offer deals that the normal customer service representative can’t.  The main goal is to get transferred to one of these representatives without flat out asking.  If you are lucky, the “Retention Specialist”  will offer $5-$10 off a month for six months up to an entire year without doing or changing anything.   Sometimes they throw in a few movie channels too.  Your thirty minute phone call could save you $120 per year.  If you are not able to get the employee to offer you any savings, just ask to talk to a manager and simply express your concern.  I have definitely found that being polite, and persistent, is the best way.  It really works.  My family has the “basic” channel package, two receivers, DVR, HD channels and Cinemax.  Our last bill was $17.64.   

PHONE CALL #2- Internet Provider

Most people bundle their cable and internet together, but I have found that having them separate is more economical.  It could be a option for you if you have never though of splitting the two services.  Wether you have them bundled, or separate, there are a few ways to save on your internet.  The easiest and quickest way is to just lower your speed.  Most companies have different speed options, and will offer you the higher speed, and higher cost, without you even knowing.  If your bill goes up, you could just wright it off as a rate increase, but really they are “upgrading” your package.  You also might not even realize you are paying for the highest speed they offer and not be using the internet often.   Ask the company to lower your speed and see if you can even tell a difference.  You have nothing to lose. If you notice, just increase the speed back.  It really is that simple.  I have also heard of some people splitting their internet service and bill with a neighbor.  This option is definitely not for everyone, but it may be something to consider.

PHONE CALL #3- Insurance Agent  

Call your insurance agent to review your coverage.  Make sure what you are paying for best fits your family and wallet.  You might be able to save by increasing your deductible.  Take the money you save and set it aside.  If you have an accident use the money set aside and if you are lucky then you get to keep it.  It also can’t hurt to shop around once every couple years to see if you are getting the best deal from your current company.  I called USAA six months ago and  they were not able to save me any money.  The time was well spent because now I know I am getting a good deal.  

PHONE CALL #4- Cell Phone Company 

Talk to your cell phone provider and review your usage and current plan.  There might be a plan that would better suit your needs, based on your last few months of use.  Your company can easy check your data usage, minutes, and text messages sent.  Just by asking, you could save you big.  We happen to use Verizon, and I sometimes prefer to talk to someone face to face.   So every once in awhile, I will go to the local Verizon store and have them review my plan.  Also, make sure you are getting the best deal possible when you upgrade.  The local stores are always in competition with the online service, and each other.  Sometimes one store will offer a significant savings over another, for the same phone.  Each store has quotes to meet, so use this to your advantage.  Ask the representative, “what is the benefit of upgrading here rather than online or over the phone”.   In the past, they have offered me free accessories just by upgrading in person.  It can’t hurt to ask.

Saving $$$ On Our Four Legged Family

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For anyone that has a family pet, you know that the yearly vet visit can get expensive.  The last time I took my two dogs to a typical veterinarian for a wellness visit, I walked out with a $300 bill.  Ouch!  After some research I found a cheaper alternative that does not sacrifice the health of our family pets.  It has really worked for our family and saves us over $200 a year.

Two words… Planned Pethood.  I know, I laughed at the name also.  But after my first visit, I wasn’t laughing anymore; I was smiling.  My bill was $90.  Planned Pethood is a non-profit, low cost spay and neuter clinic.  There goal is to help eliminate the destruction of healthy dogs and cats by reducing the pet overpopulation.  A goal that I can stand by.  They also offer a wellness clinic with no visit fee.  This could run you around $50 at a regular vet.  Planned Pethood charges $15 per vaccination.  That’s it!  I consider the rabies vaccination the most important and it lasts for three years.  Two other vaccinations that are also important for your animals, if they socialize, are DIstemper/Parvo and Bordetella.  That would mean, per pet, you would pay $45 for the first year and $30 for any year that you don’t need the rabies vaccination.  That is a price anyone could live with.

You might not have a Planned Pethood in your town but search for the same kind of organization.  Any animal society that is a non-profit will offer these types of services.  For example Angles of Assisi in Roanoke, Virginia offers the same services for $10 a vaccination, but charges a $15 visit fee.  So, it ends up being comparable in price.  Not only are you saving money, but you are supporting a GREAT cause.  Just to mention these types of organizations main priority is to offer low cost spay and neuter services.  Both of our dogs were already spayed/neutered prior to adoption so this was something that we did not have to worry about.  But something to keep in mind.  It just takes a little investigation to save a lot of money.

I do want to mention that if any of my dogs are sick or something is severely wrong, I never hesitate to take them to a normal veterinarian hospital.  With the money I save with the normal wellness visits, I never get upset spending a little more in case of an emergency.  They are a part of the family after all.

Websites:

Planned Pethood  http://plannedpethoodrockymount.com/planned_pethood_clinic.html

Angels of Assisi  http://www.angelsofassisi.org/services/well-pet/

Couponing Basics

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I got hooked on coupons about two years ago and have been using them ever since.  To me coupons are cash in a different form.  If the coupon is for a dollar off an item, I see it as a dollar bill.  

 

People tend not to use coupons because they can get a little tricky and are a bit time consuming.  I have to agree, but the little time getting to know the process will PAY off in the long term.  Just give it a try.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  Start small and see how it goes.  What will you lose? For the people that have never tried couponing, these are the very basics.  More specifics to come.  

 

Manufacture Coupons vs. Store Coupons: There are two different types of coupons.  The first are manufacture coupons, which are coupons from the company of the product.  These can be used at any store that accepts coupons and sells that specific product.  Then there are store coupons, which are only redeemable at the store that is selling the product. It will be clearly marked on the coupon which one it is.  The best way to save is “stacking”  the manufacture coupon with a store coupon for double the savings.  Lets use the purchase of Colgate toothpaste from CVS as an example.  If you have a manufacture coupon from Colgate for $1, and a CVS store coupon for $1 off any toothpaste from the coupon print center, you could use both for a total of $2 off one tube of toothpaste. 

 

Read The Fine Print: All coupons have rules and restrictions.  They will also have an expiration date that is non-negotiable.  A requirement could be how many items to buy per coupon.  Some coupons require multiple items. For example, you might have a coupon for $2 off 2 bottles of All Laundry detergent.   Also, size of the item might be specified like a coupon for Dawn Dish Soap 16oz size bottle or larger.  

 

Always Check Your Receipt: I cannot tell you how many errors I have caught.  After checking out, I find a spot out of the way before I leave the store to skim my receipt.  If I see something that doesn’t look right I go to customer service with my cart of groceries and talk to them politely about the discrepancy. Most people do not know that Kroger has a policy that if an item scans for different than listed on the shelf, you get the item free!   

 

In my eyes, coupons are only a benefit if you are saving money on items you were already planning on buying AND the coupon is making the item cheaper than the generic alternative.  I know everyone has their brand loyalty to certain items.  Our family is very biased to Cottenelle toilet paper.  When it comes to toilet paper, my husband has made it clear that this is something he wasn’t willing to sacrifice.  I just so happen to agree.  In this case, I specifically search for Cottenelle Manufacture coupons and wait for them to go on sale. Then I pair the coupon with the deal for extra savings.  For most things I don’t even notice the difference between name brand and generic.  Take a few extra minutes and compare the two item prices.  This is where a small calculator may come in handy.  You also want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.  For example, if you are buying diapers and you are comparing generic to name brand, but the amount of diapers in the box is different, make sure you calculate price per diaper to accurately compare.

 

The REAL key to couponing is pairing a coupon with a store sale.  If you have a brand name coupon and the item is full price, chances are the generic will be a better deal.  Even when compared to the brand name item with a coupon.  But, if you catch a name brand item on sale and pair it with a coupon, you will probably get it for less than the generic alternative.  

 

Continue reading Couponing Basics

If you were on a deserted island would you complain about drinking water?

Drink more water!  It saves our family hundreds a year.  I challenge you to resist buying any sodas, alcoholic drinks, sugary juices at the grocery store for the entire month of February.  Your grocery bill will not drop dramatically, but you will see a difference.  If you are like me and go to the grocery store once a week and buy one 12 pack of soda you will be spending a average of $2.75 a week.  That might not seem like a lot, but times that by 52 weeks and you are spending $143 a year just on soda.  See how fast it adds up.  Most people say they do not like drinking water.  To them i say, “Try eliminating every beverage in your home and when you get thirsty see how water taste.” After enough time you will train your body to love water.  If you are one of those people that has to ease into an idea try buying a water enhancer, like Aquafina FlavorSplash, and slowly transition.  Some people out there have funny tasting tap water so I would invest in a Brita Filter; it will be well worth the investment.  This blog is about saving money by drinking TAP water and if you went out and spent a lot of money on bottled water it would be counterproductive.

I could list all the benefits of water but I am sure you have already heard how good it is for your body and mind.   I will just skip the nutritional lecture and say water is very cost effective.

That also goes with anything else you buy on a consistent basis, that is not necessary.  Look at your most recent grocery store receipt and add up how much you spent on sugary and unhealthy treats.  I am not saying to never splurge on chips, cookies, and soda.  But making it less accessible is the key.  Skip the splurge at the grocery store and let your hubby take you and the kids out for an ice cream two times a month (we like Mc Donald’s ice cream for $1) .  When you go out to dinner to gorge yourself on chips and salsa at your favorite mexican restaurant, order a soda.  Make sure to get free refills and a cup of soda to go 🙂 If you go to a party at a friends house or a family get together and they offer you a soda, say yes!  The key is understanding what at the grocery store is a necessity and what is a luxury.  When I go to the store I have two separate grocery lists. The first list is all the ingredients I need to make a week of meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The second list includes 6 items: two different types on fruit (whatever is in season or on sale), a few “as in two” snacks for the baby, and a few snacks for Mom and Dad.  For example the second list could included: bananas, clementines, graham crackers, avocado, almonds, and trail mix.

I do want to add that I always have milk for my daughter.  Calcium is very important for her growing body.  This is something I do not skimp on.  I buy hormone free local milk from The Homestead Creamery.  She always has two drink options that are milk and water, no juice in this house.  Some parents say that there child doesn’t like water.  To them I would say, “start small and mix half juice with half water”.  Then eventually offer less juice and increase the water until you eventually offer only water. If you have already introduced juice your child can transition to water.  Be strong and only offer as a special treat every once in a while.  Our bodies are made to consume water.  It is very natural and definitely possible.

I can promise you these new habits will not only help your wallet they will help your waist line.

I am looking forward to hearing your feedback and if this helps at all!

eBay, my NEW Best friend

OK, so I officially have the job title of Stay At Home Mom and the first thing I do is sign up for eBay and Paypal.  After I sold my first item, I was hooked.  The rest was history.  I was making money and clearing clutter, my two favorite things all while at home.  Most people do not sell on eBay because it is time consuming and that is something that was not an issue for me.  It was also convenient because I live in walking distance to the post office and it was an excuse to get me out of the house.  The fresh air was great for me and baby.  For those of you that do not live near the post office or do not have a reason to leave the house, the post office website offers free scheduled pickup so there is no excuse. I made in the last year about $3,000 from things we already had.  I know you can too.

How it works?

Take a picture, describe the item,  choose shipping method and price, then decided starting bid.  It really is that easy!

Take a picture- The picture is the first thing the buyer will see.  You want to make sure you are capturing the essence of the item and making the item look desirable.  The eBay audience has a lot to choose from so you want to make sure you stand out.  I always use a white table cloth as the background to make sure there are no distractions. You get 12 free pictures so use them.

Describe The Item- This one is easy; I search for a similar object and can almost always find someone selling the exact same thing.  Then I copy there description and tweak it if need be.  Make sure everything is 100% accurate. Believe me if something is not, you will hear about it.

Choose a shipping method and price- This one was the hardest for me to get the hang of.  USPS I found was the most economical and universally used among eBay.  They have flat rate boxes that you can get free and if it fits it ships.  I am sure you have seen the commercials.  I started using these at first and charged the seller the flat rate fee.  Then I started to understand a little more about the standard pricing and was able to charge the seller less.  The less you charge for shipping the more the person will bid on the item.   If you have any questions ask the post office workers.  I asked a different question every time I dropped off a package and got to know them and they were super helpful.

Starting Bid-  This one is easy too; I almost always start the bid at 99 cents.  The lower the starting bid the more watchers you get and the more people get a notification when your item is about to end which is great for bidding wars and your item will almost always sell at market value.  Sometimes, when the item is unusual and I do not think I will get a lot of interest, I will start at the minimum that I am willing to accept.

Tip: Complete and save a few items everyday then at the end of the week preferably Thursday (when most everyone gets paid) list all the items at once.  This way all the items will end together and you can hopefully make one trip to the post office.  Also, keep in mind that the item will end the same time it is published so I try to publish after dinner around  7 or 8pm.

eBay Rules: Before you start using eBay I recommend you read the disclosures and fine print. eBay gives you 50 free listings a month and after that you will have to pay a listing fee.  I timed it where I would list my 50 free then wait until next month to list more.  They charge a percentage based on the overall price of the object and shipping 9%.  Paypal also charges a percentage based on the amount that is paid to you.  Even though it does cost a little, you end up with more than you had to begin with.

What to sell?

I started room by room and eventually went through the entire house.  Look for brand names and anything that is commonly searched.  Don’t forget the closet.  This is where I found a lot of clothes that I wore in college and did not see myself ever wearing again as a mom.  My Lilly Pulitzer dresses were cute for a frat party, but not really anywhere else.  If I didn’t see myself wearing it in the next two years, I listed it.  I also downsized my purses.  I knew I was going to be carrying a diaper bag around for the next three or four years, and my coach bags could only hold my wallet and one diaper.  Not very practical.  So, I listed them too.

What do people buy on eBay?

Answer is everything.  I even made some money on the formula coupons I received in the mail.  You can pretty much count on a profit of half the face value of any coupon.  For gift cards you get a little more.  I sold a few gift cards that I had laying around the house that I never planned on using.  One had a face value of $50 and the highest bid was $46.  I didn’t even have to ship I just e-mailed the code on the back of the card.  Electronics are some best sellers too.  Any old chargers or flash drives for those lost cameras sell too.

Be selective of what you have in your home and hold on to.  You could consider me anti-clutter.  I am very practical.  Everything in my home has a daily purpose or sentimental value.  If not, it goes.  To me, a simple home is comfortable and easy to clean. When I became a mom, my priorities changed dramatically.  If it is the difference between my Ann Taylor Cashmere sweater or staying home with my daughter, the sweater goes.  Try letting go of objects that you do not use on a regular basis and see if you ever miss them?