Author Archives: Silvana

5 Tips to Save Money on Groceries

Do you ever find yourself wondering where all your money goes? If so, the answer is probably food. Most of the money we don’t spend on rent or a mortgage ends up going to the grocery store, but at the same time, if you’re hoping to scale back and save some money, the grocery store is the best place to do so; you just have to know how to do it. Here are five tips to help you save money next time you go grocery shopping.

The first thing you need to do is shop on the right day. Most people are in the habit of shopping on a Friday or Saturday, but those are usually the worst days of the week to shop. Going to the grocery store early in the week, say on a Monday or a Tuesday, is going to be your best bet. For starters, the store will be less busy on those days, so you won’t feel rushed, giving you more time to compare prices of different brands and find the best deal. More importantly, the prices at grocery stores tend to be cheaper on these days, making it easy to save money if you break your habit and shop early in the week instead of the end of the week.

The next best thing you can do when grocery shopping is planning ahead. This means taking an inventory of what you have at home, planning out a menu for the days ahead, and coming up with a detailed grocery list before you head to the market. It’s imperative that you know what you have, what you’ll need, and how you’ll use it before stepping foot in the store. By being meticulous about what you have and what you plan on buying, you’ll avoid buying things you don’t need, which should save you a meaningful amount of money.

Once you’re in the store, you need to know where to shop. This means looking at the bottom shelves in each aisle. Stores will purposely stock more expensive items at eye level because that makes them easier for customers to see. Smart shoppers will shop from the bottom up, as they know that’s where they’ll be able to find cheaper prices. It’s also wise to avoid large displays, as those items will be highlighted because the store knows it will make the most money from them, and so avoiding those items will help you save money.

Next, use coupons wisely. Coupons are not hard to find and they can be quite useful when it comes to saving money. However, you have to use them the right way. Just because you have a coupon, doesn’t mean you have to use it; only use coupons to buy items that you actually need, and don’t get sucked into buying excess items just because you have a coupon, as this will void the savings you get from the coupons.

One of the ways my family saves on food is to have a husband (and son) who enjoy hunting. While they are not always successful, the meat they bring home when they are is cheaper and of higher quality than what we can get at the store. They spend a lot of time outside, but they have all the right gear and always enjoy it.

Finally, the best thing you can do when grocery shopping is to eat before you go. A hungry shopper is a busy shopper, and busy shoppers don’t save a lot of money. There are so many items at a grocery store that will tempt you, especially since most of them are designed to tempt you, and if you’re shopping on an empty stomach you’ll be more likely to get drawn in. Eating before you shop will help you avoid excess items that you don’t really need, and that you only want because you’re feeling hungry. This will help you buy only what you need, which will save you plenty of money in the long run.

Financial 101: Setting Up a Budget

Budgeting is more than just dealing with money — it’s also about setting priorities in your life. A lot of people assume that having a budget would mean being frequently obsessed with every dollar you spend. But that’ll only tell you where your money went. It won’t tell you where your cash is headed in the future and why.

Budget

A budget is basically a spending plan you’ve made to meet your needs.  You can choose anytime as to when you want to cut back. Budgeting is a powerful tool since it acts as a guide to your financial decisions and it ensures you reserve enough for what matters most to you. One of the first steps is tracking where your finances are. You can do this by hand if you like, but there are a ton of financial tracking apps that you can choose from – both web based and mobile/tablet based. Personally, I like mint and personal capital the most , though personal capital is a bit more geared towards investments than min.

Here are essential tips to show you how it can be done. All that’s needed is a bit of a time, a pen and paper, a spreadsheet or an internet-based tool to sort out the numbers.

Setting out your priorities

Your money should be headed to where it matters most. Set main goals that you find essential. It doesn’t matter which order they can be, whether it’s putting your kids to school, getting your home renovated, or shedding off that weight — all of them will be factored into the budget system. So jot them all down.

Gathering your documents

Begin collecting your latest bank statements, pay stubs, mortgage payments, utility bills, rental fees, insurance, and other important documents that indicate your personal spending or earnings.

Make your monthly earnings calculation

Jot down how much you want to earn every month — after taxes, since that’s an aspect you can’t control. If you happen to have an irregular income, look into your previous tax return and divide that by 12, or make an estimate on the minimum amount you’ll be earning over the upcoming year and divide that by 12. Never forget to add in income from dividends, tips, rent, or other sources. Jot down the total amount.

Add in deductions

Is your current employer deducting health insurance fees or retirement benefits from your monthly paycheck? Add them to your monthly income as you’ll be the one accounting for them in a budget.

Making the “Big Three” buckets

Decide on how much income you want to allocate for the “Big Three:” your needs, wants, and savings. If you don’t have a retirement savings or even an emergency fund, push your allocation to savings up to 20% (at the very least). Allocate around 50% to 60% of your monthly income to essential housing needs such as food, education, housing, and transportation. The rest will go to the things you want. Calculate how much you want to spend for each bucket.

Dividing them

Make a detailed list of your spending. Keep in mind your priorities, make an estimate as to how much should be spent to each of your needs and wants. Enforce one important rule: Never spend more than your monthly earnings.

Make comparisons and adjustments

This is basically your own reality check. Look into the spending plan you’ve made. Then compare it to your collected documents. If you feel you’ve left a major expense, include that to your budget.

Setting your system

It’s one thing to make a budget and another to stick to it. Make things simpler by making the process as automated as possible. Opt for online billing payments so you won’t have to deal with balancing a checkbook or seeking for stamps. If you feel you’re more into the old-fashion approach by keeping your expenses in envelopes, then set it all up.

Checking back in

Your primary goal is to make sure your spending is roughly on the same path as that of your spending plan. Once every month, spend several minutes looking into your financial goals and flows. Then make adjustments if needed.

Once every year, re-visit your priorities and budget so you can ensure it still meets your goals and what you want to get out of life.

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Frugal Activities for Teens

When springs beings and the cold weather slowly dissipates, it’s a good moment for teens to think about outdoor activities that keeps them healthy, energized, and happy. It’s not about taking trips to Hawaii that will cost you thousands of dollars. There are a plethora of frugal activities that are as ideal as that of today’s pricey vacation trips — sometimes even better.

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Here are several ideal frugal outdoor activities that teens can opt for:

  1. Picnic

Settling for a picnic is one of the easiest things to do. Pack in a few backs, go to your vehicle or take public transport and head for the natural green near you — a park, a hill, or at the woods. Cost is very limited when you go for a picnic. All you need is food and transportation. And you can rule out food costs from the equation since you’ll be eating anyway — even if you’re not going for a picnic. A weekly or monthly picnic is more than enough to keep yourself and your friends refreshed for more time ahead.

  1. Hiking

If you’re the active type and want to go for something physical, head to your nearest mountain and spend a bit of time hiking. You don’t have to force yourself to climb peaks. Just take a stroll on broken ground for a couple hours and you’ll be refreshed like you’ve never felt before.

You don’t buy or rent any special equipment. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes, a mobile phone, and a raincoat. Avoid going to areas that are prohibited for tourists. Never overestimate your skills and walk on the same speed as that of the slowest group. Hiking with other teens should be relaxing and fun — don’t force it into a competition. Ensure you have enough food and water for the whole trek.

Not having a mountain near you isn’t an excuse. You can do your hiking on smooth ground as well. It may not be as rigorous as that of hiking on a mountain but it’s a lot better than sitting in front of the TV. And it’s a very cheap activity as well.

  1. Backyard activities

If you happen to have a backyard, it’s not really that difficult to set up a volleyball net, a basketball hoop, or a net for playing soccer. Playing sports in your backyard is good for your health and helps you spend a good time with other teens. It’s also considered a frugal activity: once you’re through setting up a net and bought yourself a ball, you don’t have much need for anything else.

  1. Paintball

Paintball guns and masks won’t come cheap when it comes to purchasing the required equipment and playing in a yard. But there are bunch of places where you and your friends can play paintball at an hourly basis, which are affordable.

Today’s teens tend favor paintball so it’s a good approach to make such consideration. It would be a lot more fun if you involve your neighbors to create bigger teams. My son absolutely loves the game, and spends hours playing.

  1. Jogging

If you want to go for a very cheap activity, then give jogging a try. You can do this in a park near you. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and light clothing. Jogging is ideal for groups of around 2 to 3 individuals, but even if you’re part of a large group it’s still ok to run together.

Similar to hiking, some people have turned jogging into competition. Never do this since it’s all about having fun and keeping your friends together.

  1. Biking

Biking is a lot more fun than jogging and is said to equally good for your health. Heading out with your bike can also turn into an expedition since you can check out areas that are several kilometers away from your current location.

Biking will entail a big investment from the start, but once you have a bike, it can be utilized for many years to come with some ongoing costs along the way (way lesser compared to a vehicle).

These are just some frugal activities ideal for today’s teens. Not only are they cheap but they’re also good for the health while helping you bond with your friends. The next time you plan something together with your friends, considering these activities can help you go a long way while saving money in the priceless.

Image: 1/paintballing