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15 ways to save at the grocery store
It’s natural to waltz down grocery store aisles and add everything you see to your shopping cart. Strategically placed products catch your eye and make you think you need them immediately. Overspending at the grocery store is a habit that’s difficult to break—but, it can be done. Here are 15 ways you can save during your next trip to the supermarket:
Check your pantry
Before you head to the store, check to see what you already have. There are websites and apps, like Supercook or Cookpad, that allow you to find recipes based on ingredients. Depending on what’s in your pantry or fridge, you could make meals with what you have and avoid going to the grocery store altogether.
Make a grocery list
Compile a list to be sure you’re purchasing the essentials, and stick with it. Don’t stray from your list—you’ll spend more money than you intended.
While you’re determining your list, create a grocery store comparison chart. Pick your essential items, choose your stores, obtain the prices, and compare. It’s an invaluable tool that will ultimately save you money.
This seems obvious, but using coupons can help tremendously. There are dozens of websites, like coupons.com, that have free, printable coupons. Also, be sure to read your local store’s circular—it promotes items that are on sale. In addition to circulars, look for digital coupons that are store-specific.
Don’t shop hungry
The golden rule of grocery shopping: don’t shop hungry. According to Psychology Today, when you’re hungry, you overload your shopping cart with items you don’t need. Your brain focuses on finding its next food source, so you grab everything appealing within sight. To combat this, be sure you’ve eaten before you go. You’ll avoid the temptation of grabbing unnecessary items, and your wallet will thank you.
Leave the big spenders at home
Whether it’s your kids or your spouse, there’s always someone adding more than you need to your cart. It’s not always easy to say no, so avoid the situation entirely by leaving your big spenders at home, if you can.
Keep a running tally of your cart’s cost
Steer clear of the dreaded, “I spent how much?!” when you make it through the check-out line. As you add items to your cart, keep track of the running cost. It doesn’t need to be exact—just a rough estimate.
Avoid eye-level items
It may be easier to grab the first option you see, but scanning the shelves is critical. Stores use the motto “eye level is buy level” for a reason. We look at items that are eye level, so that’s where grocery stores place the most expensive items. Look for cheaper items on higher and lower shelves.
Don’t purchase pre-cut food
It’s often simpler to purchase ready-to-eat salad and fruit, but that’ll cost you more in the long run. You won’t receive as much, either, and pre-cut food doesn’t stay fresh for long. Trust me—just buy the head of lettuce and make your salad. It’ll take less than ten minutes, and you’ll save money.
Ask for a rain check
Did someone get too greedy during the BOGO sale? You can ask your store for a rain check on items that sold out during a promotion. If your grocer allows it, you can snag the item once the store restocks.
Don’t always buy in bulk
It appears cheaper, but buying in bulk isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes, depending on the unit price, it can wind up being more expensive. If you’re debating whether you should purchase items in bulk, it’s crucial to check the unit prices and compare them to see if you’re saving or spending more.
Try generic brands
Don’t be afraid to try the store brand. It’s often just as good as the national brand but a fraction of the cost. If you don’t like it, most grocery stores will allow you to return it and get your money back or swap for the national brand.
Shop in season
If you’re purchasing produce, be sure to buy items that are in season. Not only is it fresher and tastier, but it also costs less. It’s all about supply and demand. When produce is in season, there is an abundance—therefore, it costs less per pound. Compare that with something out of season—there is less of the product in-store, so it’s more expensive.
Pay with cash
When budgeting, cash is king. Paying for items with cash allows you to set a budget and stick with it—once your cash for an item runs out, that’s it. Finance expert Dave Ramsey swears by this method. Bring enough money to cover your groceries for one trip. If your total runs over, take items in your cart out. It’s hard but better than ruining your monthly budget.
Changing how you grocery shop can have a notable impact on your financial well-being. By shopping sensibly, you can stick to your monthly budget, as well as reach other money-related goals you may have. Try one, or some, of these tactics next time you’re at the grocery store—you’ll be amazed at how much you save!
Six tips to save for your future home
So, you’ve decided you want to buy your first home. It’s an exciting time, but there are various things to consider—the most significant being a down payment. Standard down payments are approximately 20% of a home’s cost. If you’re purchasing a $200,000 home, your down payment could cost upwards of $40,000—that’s a considerable amount of money! It seems daunting to think about saving that much money, but it can be accomplished—here are some tips to help you start saving towards your first home purchase.
Determine a goal
If you haven’t already, determine how much you need to save. Set a definite goal and time frame, that way you have a tangible end within your reach. Then, set a monthly budget so you aren’t overspending and can accumulate as much money as possible. An essential thing to consider is ensuring you are debt-free—focus on paying off your debts before you acquire more. It’ll save you more stress in the long run if you pay off that student loan or credit card before making a big purchase like this.
If you already have a savings account, then great. However, there are more options than a traditional savings account that will help immensely when saving for a down payment. Look into a high-yield savings account or money market account. You’ll earn more interest than you would with a traditional savings account—the longer your money sits in the account, the more interest you earn, which ultimately puts you closer to attaining your goal of owning a home.
You can also consider a Certificate of Deposit, otherwise known as a CD. CDs enable you to set money aside for a predetermined time, so you earn a set amount of interest. There is less flexibility and liquidity, but this is ideal if you have a particular time frame where you want to meet your goal. However, it’s crucial to note that you could be subject to a fee if you prematurely withdraw funds.
Cut out unnecessary expenses
When you’re preparing your budget, look at where you spend the most amount of money. If it’s unnecessary, cut it out. Things like going out to dinner or buying coffee start to add up—if you spend $5 per day on coffee, that totals up to $25 per week. It doesn’t sound horrible, but if you proceed to do that weekly, it costs $1,300 per year. Shocking, right? Imagine how much closer you’d be to your down payment if you simply brewed that coffee at home.
Pause saving for retirement
Odds are, you’ve probably begun saving for retirement. It may seem strange not setting money towards your 401(k) at first, but just remember, it puts you that much closer towards your goal of owning a home. If that idea scares you, just remember—it’s only temporary. You can start putting money towards your retirement again once you’ve purchased your home. However, despite what some websites may say, absolutely do not withdraw from your retirement account. You could be slapped with penalties and taxes for withdrawing early.
Set aside your bonus
Got a bonus or tax refund? Be responsible: put it into your savings—you’ll be thankful you did when you’re relaxing in your cozy breakfast nook, sipping on a hot cup of home-brewed coffee. As tempting as it is to solely use your refund on a new wardrobe or a fancy dinner, every dollar counts when you’re saving for a home.
I can assure you, things are lying throughout your apartment and collecting dust. Scour and gather everything you’re not using, and sell them. Or, ditch the summer vacation. According to Business Insider, people fork over nearly $2,000 annually on summer vacations. I know—vacations are sometimes necessary, but foregoing your family trip this year will catapult you towards attaining your goal. Do you like animals? Start offering to pet sit or walk your neighbors’ dogs. Or, you could begin driving for a rideshare service or food delivery. Take that extra cash you earn and immediately put in your savings. You won’t miss it—I promise.
If you’ve done all of these but still need some backing, many credit unions offer down payment assistance programs for first-time home buyers. These programs help with home financing, loans for first-time buyers, and more. There are also various federal and state programs that offer similar support. However, it’s critical to keep in mind that you’ll pay more interest with a lower down payment.
Saving up for a home seems intimidating, and with such a large amount of money, it’s hard to imagine ever being able to save that much. These pointers will aid you in reaching your goal, so you can finally fulfill your aspiration of owning a home.
Have questions about buying your first home? We’re here to help!
Six tips for stronger savings
If you’re wondering when you need to start saving money for the future, that time is now. Whether you’re saving for a trip, a house, a car, retirement, or something else, setting aside money now for future benefit is an action that has to be repeated until it becomes a habit. Here are several helpful suggestions—perhaps you’re already doing some of them. The more steps you take, the faster your savings will grow!
Tip 1: Avoid instant gratification
Some call it the 30-day rule. Before you make a significant purchase, wait a month. More often than not, your urge to buy the item has waned or passed completely. Now, you’re enjoying the effects of your patience instead of suffering from buyer’s remorse. A short wait can save you a lot of money.
Tip 2: Set up an emergency fund
One of the fastest ways to get in debt is to be financially unprepared for an emergency. This can include everything from a medical emergency or sudden job loss to unexpected car repairs. As a rule of thumb, you should have at least 3–9 months’ worth of living expenses saved up for these situations.
Tip 3: Record your expenses
When you document your purchases, you avoid the familiar “where did all my money go” scenario. This includes even small purchases, such as that fancy cup of coffee. If you want, you can cross-reference your list with your bank statements to ensure accuracy. Now that you’ve collected your data, break it out into categories (gas, groceries, rent, etc.). Where can you trim? Are you going out to eat too much? Maybe it’d be better to brew that java at home.
Tip 4: Automate your savings
Virtually all banks and credit unions offer automated transfers between your checking and savings accounts. Determine an amount that can be automatically transferred and saved without straining your budget. You’ll be surprised how fast your savings account grows. Just set it up and forget it.
Tip 5: Renegotiate your terms
Whether it’s your cell phone or cable bill, the closer you are to the end of your contract, the more leverage you have to get a better deal. Call and ask to speak to the retention department. Let them know that you are considering a new provider and see what they offer to keep you as a customer. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save. Also, keep an eye on aggressive offers from its competitors. It may be time for a switch. The same goes for your home and auto insurance. Get a quote to make sure you’re getting the best price.
Tip 6: Install a programmable thermostat
Why pay to keep your house or apartment comfortable while you’re away? Programmable thermostats can be set to reduce your heat or air conditioning use during certain times to boost energy savings. According to Energy Star, you can save approximately $180 a year with a programmable thermostat. Now that’s a
This is just a small sample of what you can do to maximize your budget and savings. The important thing is to get started!
How to stop anxiety from ruling your finances
Financial decisions are rarely easy, whether it’s buying your first car or home or deciding whether to refinance student loans.
The anxiety can be heightened for millennials who witnessed economic turmoil during the Great Recession as they weigh milestone financial choices as adults.
“Many [millennials] grew up and saw their parents lose a house or have to delay retirement,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and associate professor at Creighton University. “Of course, they are going to be anxious.”
In fact, a survey this year by insurance company Northwestern Mutual found that this generation not only has a stronger inclination to make financial plans compared with older generations, but also has a higher level of anxiety about whether they are following the right strategy.
The survey found that 66% of millennials (those born from 1981 to 1996) said they were “highly disciplined” or “disciplined” financial planners, compared with 60% of Generation X (born 1965-1980) and 52% of baby boomers (born 1946-1964).
At the same time, 70% of millennials said their financial planning needs improvement. That’s compared with 68% of Gen Xers and 52% of baby boomers.
There are ways to reduce the stress of financial decisions. Start by identifying your attitude toward money. Then, take action in a way that’s tailored for you and turn to others who’ve been there.
Know your attitude toward money
Most of us grow up with a specific approach toward money, often learned from our parents, imbibed from those around us, or informed by our own experiences.
Being aware of your relationship with money can help you avoid pitfalls like worrying too much. Klontz, the author of several books on finances and psychology, says he’s found four common approaches to money: worship, avoidance, vigilance, and status.
For example, those who are vigilant about money always worry about having enough and experience trouble making spending decisions. On the other hand, avoiders don’t look at bills or statements until they absolutely have to, Klontz says.
Another source of insight about your financial mindset is Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Four Tendencies,” which explores what drives people’s decisions. She categorizes people as obligers, questioners, rebels, and upholders.
“Your ‘tendency’ shapes your perspective on the world and influences what kinds of [financial] strategies will work for you,” Rubin says. For example, a “questioner” likes doing their own research and will only seek outside counsel they trust, Rubin says.
Take actions tailored to you
Once you’ve identified your attitude toward money, use that knowledge to ease the anxiety of financial decisions.
Make a to-do list
a financial to-do list, says Eric Tyson, author of “Personal Finance for Dummies” and a former financial advisor. You could calculate how much money you earn and spend every month or add tasks like saving money for a goal or getting your credit in shape for a loan.
“Prioritize it, get some early victories,” he says. “Don’t beat yourself up thinking you’ve got to do it quickly.”
If you’re an “obliger” and want to save up for a goal, use accountability to get started and stay motivated, Rubin says. That may be in the form of friends, a financial advisor or thinking about what you want in the future, she says.
Visualize the end goal
If you are a “rebel” who doesn’t like being told what to do and wants to pay off debt, think of the freedom you’ll have when you’re debt-free. Set up automatic payments so you don’t have to think about them, Rubin says. The automatic payments option is effective for anyone, she notes.
Turn to others for guidance
Tyson says the biggest mistake he’s seen people make is that they don’t get advice—or rely on one source—before making a financial decision.
“If your Uncle Joe seems financially savvy, you can run your thinking by him, but you should be selective about taking one person’s advice as gospel,” Tyson says.
If you want an expert’s perspective, turn to a fiduciary fee-only financial advisor. Advisors who are paid by fees only, not commissions, have fewer conflicts of interest; those who follow the fiduciary standard put clients’ interests ahead of their own. Or you can set up a free consultation with a nonprofit credit counselor.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
Amrita Jayakumar is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ajbombay.
Can you save money by cutting cable?
Whether it’s Comcast, DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, Xfinity, or DISH Network, your cable service is expensive. It’s also the main reason people have been saying bye-bye to traditional pay-TV services. With the dramatic switch of viewers to online streaming, TV antennas, and other entertainment options, cable companies are struggling to retain subscribers and are quickly losing their financial foothold on the market.
Yes, cable still has some good shows like This is Us, The Walking Dead, and Survivor, but you don’t necessarily need a cable box to watch them. If you’re thinking of cutting the cable cord, here are a few options you’ll need to consider about life after-cable TV:
Consider an HD antenna
Antennas have come a long way from rabbit ears and tinfoil (which still works, BTW). Antennas provide free local and live network TV, but the most popular ones now provide it in HD. With just the cost of the antenna and no additional subscription needed, it’s the least expensive and simplest alternative once you call it quits with your cable provider. Just plug the antenna into your TV and point it toward the window. It’s ideal for news and sports but offers limited channels, and where you live has a lot to do with what you’re able to watch. Closer proximity to broadcast towers delivers better reception so those in urban areas can expect the clearest pictures and the best channel selection.
Choose your streaming service and your device
If you’ve purchased a TV in the last few years, it’s likely a Smart TV, which means you already have access to the streaming services that you need. Apps for popular services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, among others, come already installed on a Smart TV. With a monthly subscription of $8 – $17 per month or $119 per year, depending on the service, you’ll have more TV entertainment than you could possibly enjoy in any couch-potato life.
If you currently don’t have a Smart TV, it’s an easy fix. The simplest alternative is to download the streaming app on your laptop computer and watch online. If you prefer, you can also watch it on your TV if you attach your computer via HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, or DVI cable.
If plugging your laptop into your TV each time isn’t ideal, there are other reasonably priced options, like set-top boxes, streaming sticks, game consoles, or other devices, that accomplish the same thing. The most popular choices are made by Roku, Apple, Google, and Amazon and range in price from $35 to $400.
Replace your cable provider with another service
If you’re nervous about cutting yourself off from the cable world and your favorite daily channels, consider a cable replacement service. It’s a subscription service, just like the cable company, but somewhat less expensive. Services like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV fall into this category and subscription prices range from $25 per month to $80. The services include different channels, so if you’re hooked on ESPN or need to watch Nickelodeon on Saturday mornings, it’ll impact your selection.
Another service to consider is Plex, which allows users to create their own media library on their personal computer and then stream it to their web browser, game consoles, or other media players. The service allows for screen mirroring, recording live TV, and sharing libraries with friends. Best of all, it’s basic service is FREE.
With so many options, we can see why people are making the switch. If you’re paying for a service and there may be a better option that meets your needs and your budget, it’s worth a look.
New Year, Better Finances: 5 Resolutions for 2019
Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions – whether it’s trying to lose weight, find a new job, reduce stress, and everything in between. One popular resolution is saving money, but this goal can be difficult to achieve. So, here are five, simple ways to start (and keep!) your financial resolution for 2019.
Create a budget with your goals in mind
Set a financial goal, and with that in mind, make a realistic budget that you’ll stick with throughout the year. If you’re not sure where to start, check out free financial wellness tools like ACHIEVE. Don’t forget to take advantage of budgeting tools. With apps like Mint and other online programs, budgeting has never been simpler! Or, if you like to keep things traditional, create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses and income, and lay out a plan so you’re able to put some cash back into a savings account. And speaking of savings…
Stop shopping, start saving
Since the holiday shopping season is over, it’s time to focus on savings. It’s extremely simple to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings using online banking. If you’re currently setting aside $20 each month, consider upping that amount by $10 (or whatever amount works for you). By saving $30 per month instead of $20, you’ll have an extra $120 by the end of the year. Odds are you’ll hardly miss that extra $10 per month.
Pick a weekly “no-spend” day
Start the new year with a new habit by committing to “no-spend” days. Once a week, try not to spend anything. Cook the food in your fridge or cupboard (get creative!), and make your morning latte at home with some steamed milk. If your no-spend day falls on a weekday, prepare breakfast and lunch the night before, wake up a few minutes early to make coffee, and cook for dinner later that night. Find some free entertainment by watching a movie or playing a board game with family and friends. It’ll be a fun reminder that you’ve kept a couple extra bucks in your pocket for the week.
Clean out your wallet
No, we’re not talking about the mess of receipts you may have stashed in your purse (we’re all guilty). Do you have more credit cards than you bargained for? Take a closer look – are you using all of your cards enough to warrant any annual fees or payments? If not, consider which ones are worth keeping, or if it’s time to upgrade to a credit card that better fits your needs. If you’ve opened up a store card for a couple of benefits here and there, but have to pay an annual fee or an insane interest rate, is it still worth it? Ask yourself these questions and lighten the load in your pocket by closing a few cards. (Heads up: if you’re concerned about your credit score, think before you close long-time cards. Length of credit plays a major role in your credit rating.)
New year, no debt
Saving money is key, but it’s hard to save when your money is going toward paying off debts. Make 2019 the year you take control of your debt. One option is to consolidate (or combine) multiple debts into one, which usually means a more favorable interest rate and payoff terms. Plus, you’ll have one payment versus many. Before consolidating your debts, do the math to make sure you’re getting a good deal and a manageable payment. Consolidation is best used with student loans and credit card debt, so see what works best for you. Keep in mind if you consolidate federal student loans, you may lose certain borrower benefits from your original loans, such as interest rate discounts.
Balance transfers are another option for managing and reducing credit card debt. Many cards offer balance transfer perks, such as reduced or no interest for a specified period of time. As long as you’re able to pay off the transferred balance in full within the timeframe, you’ll save money on interest and knock out your higher rate debt sooner.
What are your financial resolutions for 2019? Let us know in the comments!