10 Ways to Get Ahead on Your Monthly Finances

Wanting to save money, but don’t know where to start? Check out these 10 ways to get ahead on your monthly finances!

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Guest Post Written By: Wendi Iacobello

save-now-cover Getting ahead on your monthly finances takes work. Making small changes now can vastly increase your savings each month. It takes discipline to stick to a strict regimen and make saving money a priority. Below are a few strategies to help increase your savings each month in three key areas.

Electricity

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1-Lights-Change your light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs. Then, only use lights in the room in which you are sitting. During the day time, open up your blinds or curtains and let in fresh light instead of using electricity. To learn more about the cost savings of energy efficient bulbs, click here.
2-Appliances-Change the way you do laundry to save money. Washing clothes in cold water is cost saving. Make sure your laundry and dishwasher loads are full. Lastly, run your appliances during the early morning or late evening hours when energy costs are lower.

Food

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3-Lunch-Food is a huge expense. Packing your lunch can save up to fifty dollars a week, plus you can eat healthier.
4-Dinner-Plan your family’s meals for the week utilizing similar ingredients so you are not wasteful. For example: If I know I am cooking a large meal on Sundays, I make sure that Monday night’s meal plan will incorporate leftovers plus adding in one extra vegetable that can be cooked easily on Monday night. This not only saves money, but can also save you time from having to cook every night. This can also include using similar ingredients in your recipes so you are using the entire product you bought before it expires.

5-Going out to eat-Going out to eat is costly and can wreak havoc on your budget. Depending on how much money you want to save will depend on whether you should eliminate going out to eat completely, or limit it to only one time per week.
6-Grocery List-Make a grocery list and stick to it. Often times when you are in the grocery store, you begin throwing in extra items that are usually unnecessary. When you stick to a grocery list, you avoid adding extra expenses to your grocery bill. For an added challenge, you can write down and add each item as you place it in your shopping cart to make sure you stay within your weekly grocery budget. While I may look ridiculous, I bring a small dry erase board with me to the grocery store with my grocery list on it, and I can add everything quite easily as I shop on the board.

7-Off brands-Instead of name brand products, look for the best prices on some of the products you typically buy. Off brands taste very similar to the name brands, so be sure to check prices and see where you can make the adjustment to save money.
8-Coupons-Using coupons never goes out of style. Many stores now offer coupons right on the shelves which makes it easier to save, but also entices you to buy certain products that you may not really need. Keep clipping coupons and pay attention to the deals to make sure it’s truly worth the buy.

Travel

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9-Errands-Plan your errands accordingly. When you plan your trips around town and errands accordingly, you not only save on gas money, but you also save more time in your schedule. Time is worth money, so if you can save time you can also save money.
10-Trips-Limit unnecessary travel until it is affordable in your budget. Traveling can become costly and puts a large dent in your budget. Avoiding trips and traveling can save tremendous amounts each month.

What are some things you do to save money on your budget each month? Please share in the comments.

Want to know more about Wendi? Read below.

wendi
Wendi Iacobello is an Army wife. She has a background in special as well as adult education. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Arts in Educational Media. She is a blogger, workshop presenter, and advisor to military spouses seeking career and education assistance. In her free time, you can usually find her in the outdoors somewhere gardening, running, or playing with her Beagle puppy. Wendi is extremely passionate about helping others by sharing her experiences, insight, resources, and inspirational stories on her blog Strength 4 Spouses.

New Year, New…??

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What are your plans, resolutions or intentions for the new year?  Whatever you decide, make sure it benefits you personally and your goals for the future.

Good luck in 2018! May all your endeavors be prosperous!

HAPPY NEW YEAR🍾💙💜💚

Are You Ready to Shop on Black Friday?

I love shopping during the holiday season.  My favorite day to shop is Black Friday. I know many disagree because the crowds can sometimes be overwhelming. There are ways to avoid the crowds (at certain stores) and get the items you are looking for. Shopping outside of peak Black Friday hours is a great way to avoid large crowds.  As the years have gone by, Black Friday has made its way to Thanksgiving Thursday. This is mainly because most people are not working on Thanksgiving but often return to work the following day (Friday).  Companies believed that the idea of making Black Friday shopping accessible to those people would help boost their profits.

Bestblackfriday.com is a great site to find deals, it has a list of deals to be had on Black Friday.  Also, they have included a list of retailers that will be closed on Black Friday. This site offers ads prior to Black Friday and even some store maps of where specific items can be located.  Store maps can be your best friend, it makes a positive impact on your shopping experience when you don’t have to search for items in a large store. Theblackfriday.com website also posts deals and early ads for Black Friday.

A few tips for you prior to making a big shopping trip.  Make a list.  At our home around Thanksgiving we have an art night. Each person in my family gets a 5×7 index card to list whatever items they may want. Then we decorate the cards with glitter, crayons, marker, etc.  I write down the sizes of shirts, pants, and shoes on each person’s card. When we are ready to shop my husband and I can split up and take the cards and we know exactly what the children want and their sizes (this works for your significant other as well). Another great tip is to set a budget for each person. We do this at the beginning of the year so that we can save the amount of money we need prior to November.

At Walmart, I pair the store ads with the store map so that I can quickly find each item.  Walmart tends to be one of the busiest stores for Black Friday shopping.  They offer a daily shopping guide from Thanksgiving Day until Sunday. There are certain items I like to purchase from Walmart like; pajamas, kids’ toys, and electronics (if we need them). This is one of the best time to buy electronics (Computers, TV’s, etc.) because they are usually deeply disconnected.

Old Navy, I go to for denim jeans.  I love their jeans, especially for my children (their waists are small and Old Navy has the elastic insert in the jeans). On Black Friday, Old Navy usually has the jeans and pajamas half price and they also offer super cash and other incentives, like their opportunity tickets to win free money.

Outlet malls; If you are shopping for someone who likes handbags, designer clothes or other designer items.  On Black Friday, Check out the Michael Kors and Coach Stores.  You can buy a handbag for less than half the price of a traditional department store.   Many of the outlets stores also offer additional percentages off your purchase.

I hope you gained a few good tips to prepare you for your holiday shopping trip. Holiday shopping should be fun and festive! Remember stay positive and patient. Until next time, stay frugal!

Giving Back🌎🤝

Did you know that people who give back to their communities are wealthier and happier than people who do not? If you have ever listened to a financial counselor, advisor, or guru speak they all have one thing in common, they believe in giving back to their communities. Their methods maybe different; some tithe in church, some assist homeless people, and others contribute to charitable organizations.

You don’t have to be rich to give back to your community. There are plenty things you can do help better your community and the people in it. You can donate your time, you can donate your money, or you can donate material things that you believe may help another person.

My favorite way to give back to the community is to feed people who live on the streets. My family makes about 50 or so sack lunches and we hand them out. We go to an area where there are homeless shelters, usually downtown. I go to the grocery store and purchase brown paper bags, plastic sandwich bags, bread, lunch meat, chips and juice pouches. My family puts the lunches together. This is a great way to spend time together and to teach our children about humility. We talk to the homeless people, try to encourage them and give them a lunch. This usually cost us about $50 dollars every time we do it. I can tell you a million things that I have spent $50 dollars on that did not give me half the satisfaction of helping people. Seeing them helps me remember that we all have a purpose in life and it is up to us to figure out what that purpose is and how to fulfill it.

I also like to volunteer my time. My time is very valuable and sometimes an organization just needs a helping hand. There are shelters, churches, and other nonprofit organizations that cannot always afford to hire people to complete some of the most basic, but much-needed tasks. Contact a local organization and find out how you can help make a difference!

Financially contributing to organizations can be a great way to give back if you are unable to give your time. I suggest doing some research to find out what the organization specifically does with their funds prior to donating. But in all honestly,  if you are giving from the kindness of your heart, it doesn’t matter what the organization does with the funds.  If you have good intentions that is all that matters.

Having financial security is not only about having money, but also about how you are using the money you have. Be wise.  In strengthening others, we too become empowered.

Moving on a Budget🚚

Moving, in my opinion,  is always a fun new adventure to be had! It can also be a costly endeavor. I have moved more than the average citizen, due to military life.  In this article, I will discuss how to move when you are on a budget.

First things first, do you know the new location you’re moving to? Are you familiar with the area, schools, cost of living, and overall lifestyle? If you are familiar with your new location, great, this will make your move easier and more than likely, you will settle in quickly. If you are not familiar with the new location take some time to research the area prior to your move.

Time to prepare for your move. Moving supplies can be costly depending on the size of the home that you are moving from. You can buy boxes at your local hardware store or multi-purpose stores like Walmart or Target. If you want to take the budget friendly route, you can go to the same local stores, including grocery stores, and ask the customer service representative if there are any boxes that you can have for free. Usually they are nice and will tell you when the store shipments come in and that’s when they will have boxes available for pick up. Purchasing a box of large, heavy-duty trash bags are another way to save money. You can pack soft items such as linen and clothes in the trash bags for short moves. I wouldn’t suggest this for long-distance moves because condensation may collect in the bags and cause mildew. You will also need tape for the boxes. You can rarely find it for free, but buying it in bulk at the hardware store is usually cheaper than buying it at the grocery store or your local shop.

The best thing that you can do for yourself, your family, and your budget, is to be prepared. I use a moving checklist.  You can find them on Pinterest, Google, and many other sites.

Take your time. If you have knowledge of your move at least 3 months in advance, you have time to slowly purge items you no longer need or want and get things organized.

If you are renting a moving truck, check out different sites.  Research different options, find out what size truck will best fit your needs and what price will best fit your budget.

Make your move simple, positive, and adventurous! Good luck on your new journey!