Budget-Friendly Kids

Posted on May 13, 2013. Filed under: Family, Finances | Tags: , , , |

girlcoins

Let’s face it. We all want to give our kids the world. We even measure our success on being able to give our kids more than our parents gave us. What we fail to realize is that the best gift we can give our children is to teach them responsibility. Ironically, to do this you can’t give them everything! Go figure. The reality is that they will not be given anything once they get out in the real world. If you give them everything they want now and then they succumb to their immediate wants as adults, they (and you) will be setting themselves up for financial failure.

What it really boils down to is you can’t compromise your financial situation by getting your kids everything they ask for. In keeping your financial situation in order, you teach your kids that money does not grow on trees and that there has to be accountability for every dollar you spend. To help you keep your finances in check, you should implement (and stick to!) a budget for your kids. Holidays, birthdays and special rewards should all come with a firm price tag that your children (and you!) must adhere to. Sticking to a budget doesn’t always mean telling your kids no to everything they ask for. In fact, creating a budget creates an opportunity for you and your children to be extremely resourceful. They learn to think outside-the-box as they opt for less conventional outlets to get their items from. They are also taught invaluable lessons in researching, saving, and all-around patience.

Here are five tips on how to stick to a budget and get everything on your kids’ wish list:

1. Determine budgets for holidays, birthdays, etc. well in advance so that everyone is aware of how much money they will have to spend. For older children, this budget should be communicated. However, for younger children, the budget is more of a FYI for yourself!

2. Have your children make their lists early and start your shopping as soon as you can. This will prove beneficial because it allows you to shop around for the best deals and you can hold out for a great sale. If you have older children, get them involved in hunting for the best deal.

3. Shop out-of-season or during big shopping days. I have twins that have birthdays in February. Buying their birthday items the day after Christmas provides big savings. My son has a birthday in July and I can buy summer clothes for him at a really great price during that time. Knowing the best times to buy gifts for the kids as well as the best times to buy certain items will help you get the most out of the money you have budgeted.

4. Give your kids the option of whether they might want to purchase a gently used item. This allows them the ability to get higher ticket items within their set budgets. Garage sales, Craigslist, thrift shops, and even pawn shops are good resources to find used items at a great price. Some stores even sell refurbished items, such as electronics, at a discounted price.

5. If your child wants a higher priced item, encourage them to save their money so that they can put it towards any money that you might give them to shop with. This would include any allowances they might get or money they may have received from past holidays. Also, if you know that they will be getting money soon, you might want to suggest that they wait until after the event to determine just how much money they will have. The last thing you want is for them to pick things out just to spend up all their money. Having patience and holding out for something they really want will be a lot more fulfilling.

Sound simple enough? I encourage you to try these out and see how it works for you. Remember to adjust your budget for gifts so that you are well-prepared when the time comes.

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10 Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill

Posted on March 10, 2013. Filed under: Finances, Grocery | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

iStock_00001876The future of double coupons may be up in the air with major grocery chains, such as Meijer and Kroger, ending their double coupons in certain markets. For additional details, view the links below:

Meijer
Kroger

The purpose of ending the double coupons is to promote lower everyday prices throughout the store. Sound familiar? (And yes, in my experience Walmart does not double coupons.) Whatever the result, this is the perfect time to discuss how you can get the most bang for your grocery buck. I talked to you previously about couponing but there are other factors that can help you save on your monthly groceries.

1. Set a budget – Groceries are an unfixed expense and are flexible. So what exactly should your budget be? If you are reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you are looking to lower your budget. If funds are limited, you may already have a dollar amount in mind that you need to stick to. If this is the case, set your budget accordingly and I hope to help you get there. If you are just looking to lower your spending, I suggest you start by reviewing your past month’s grocery receipts. Now cut that by 10 percent to begin. (Once you get the hang of it, you can attempt to cut this even further. I was able to cut my spending by 25 percent by sticking to these methods. Results will vary depending on your current grocery shopping habits.) When you make your grocery list, make sure it is budget compliant and when you go to the store, stick to your list! If possible, you may want to have a little money from the budget left over just in case to find some good bargains.

2. Shop multiple stores – View your local sales ads to see where the sales are. You can purchase the Sunday newspaper to get all of your local ads. There are also smart phone apps that you can use. (e.g. I use Weekly Ads & Sales app that I downloaded from my iPhone.) You can also sign-up for store emails and many of them will let you view the next week’s ad in advance. (You will see why this is important shortly). You may find the best deals in some of the most unlikely places. Dollar Stores have a vast variety of items for a buck. The local farmers or fruit markets may be the best locations for deals on fruits and vegetables. I personally go to Joe Randazzo’s in Westland, MI and have found them to be much cheaper than the grocery store. Be prepared to visit multiple stores in order to complete your grocery shopping. If the stores are not within close proximity to one another, try and plan to go when you are in the area or while you may already be out on errands. This will help you save on gas. Remember: we are not trying to replace an expense with another.

3. Buy Generic – Try out store brand alternatives for some of those commonly used items. They are often cheaper than brand products even when those products are on sale. Some store brands taste different than others so don’t be discouraged if you don’t care for a certain store product. I used to only buy Heinz ketchup because any other ketchup I tried did not taste the same. I recently found that Meijer’s ketchup is pretty comparable. In addition to trying store brands, also consider trying other brand names. As a rule of them, there is usually one brand item on sale each week for those commonly bought items. For instance, if Kraft shredded cheese is on sale one week; Sargento will probably be on sale the next week. But at any given week, you will find this product on sale.

4. Know a deal when you see it – The key to truly being a savvy shopper is that you know what a deal looks like. Just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon doesn’t mean it’s a great deal. Some stores, like Walmart, who have everyday low prices may provide a better deal. Stores like these also are the best location to go to when you need an item or when you are trying to use a coupon before it expires and it isn’t on sale . You should make it a priority to know a good price for those items you commonly buy. Because items come in various sizes, it may be easier to determine how much you should pay by measured unit. This is where that middle school math comes in handy! Take the total price and divided it by the measured unit. Toilet paper and paper towel are good examples of where this method would work well. I’ve found that when toilet paper goes on sale, it is usually around 50 cents for one “big” roll. So that is my threshold amount to determine if it’s actually a good sale. It may take several weeks before you can really identify a good sale. Once you can, you will be able to increase your savings even more.

5. Stock Up – The second part of knowing a deal when you see it is to take advantage and STOCK UP! Now this may seem like bad advice when I’ve already encouraged you to create a budget and stick to it. Sticking to your budget is still necessary. Another thing I would consider before deciding if you have a “stock up” deal is to see if it is cheaper than the store brand or its larger equivalent. (Usually the larger items are priced cheaper per measured unit. The more you buy, the more you save.) The week of any major holiday is a great time to stock up on canned vegetables and baking supplies. These will usually be at their lowest prices as people are buying these in large quantities for their holiday meals. If you had extra money left over from your budget, this is where you would put it to use. If not, see if there are any items that you can remove from the list. As you start practicing these concepts more and more, you will find that you are not only saving, but you are able to purchase a lot more. This will make it easier to exchange items off your list for these good bargains.

6. Take Inventory – Know what you have in your pantries and when you are almost out of an item. You don’t want to stock up on something that you already have plenty of. You also don’t want to be out of something and be forced to buy it at regular price. Make sure your family helps with this. Some products you may buy specifically for them so it is important that they let you know before they run out of something. Doing this, will allow you to always to able to fish out the best deals for the things you need.

7. Shop Specials and Clearances – Many grocers mark down foods that they have too much of and need to sell before they go bad. These are marked down significantly. If you can consume them by the desired date, then you should definitely take advantage of these bargains. Also, the health and beauty aisle will mark down vitamins and cosmetic products. Be sure to visit that section as well as these are ideal non-perishable items that you can stock up on. Personally, I love buying new polish from these clearances. I created a pretty good selection for my daughter to choose from. Finally, many times you will see items that are bonus sizes for the same price as the regular size and even some that are two for the price of one. Keep an eye out for these items. Quantities are limited so grab them up if you see them.

8. Select Saturday or Sunday as your designated grocery shopping daysWhy? Well most stores start their new sales on Sunday or Monday. If you shop on either of these days, you allow yourself the flexibility of waiting to purchase items if there is a better deal the following week. This is where getting the ads in advance will work in your favor.

9. Plan meals according to what is on sale – It is wise to have your meals planned out prior to making your grocery shopping list. This ensures that you have all the ingredients you need to make the meal and you are not running out to the store to grab any forgotten items. I want you to go a step further and plan your meals around what is on sale that particular week. If pot roast or pork chops aren’t on sale, then save those meals for the next week. The Internet gives you tons of resources for you to be creative with your meals so no one gets bored.

10. And finally, couponing! I went in-depth about couponing in a previous blog. If you missed it, click here.

So there you have it, ten ways to reduce your grocery spending. I’m sure many of you are using some or most of these already. I challenge you to try them all for maximum savings.

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Financial Peace — Here We Come!

Posted on February 25, 2013. Filed under: Finances | Tags: , , , |

member_kit_spread_newIt’s official! I have purchased my Financial Peace University supplies and the hubster and I will be starting our 9-week course next Sunday. I am super-giddy about the opportunity to partake in this class. I read Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover, last summer. I was very intrigued to say the least. Once your mind is introduced to a new way of thinking about financial success, it is very hard to go back to spending frivolously.

The hubby and I really started budgeting and trying to follow Dave’s steps this year and it hasn’t been easy. I know this class will help us become more in sync and adhering to tighter timeframes.

Our road to financial success has been very empowering. I feel like I control my money and not the other way around. I can rework my grocery budget to accommodate any unexpected expenses. We proactively save for those expenses that we can anticipate. It’s a great feeling to be in the driver’s seat (especially for a control freak like me!)

Additionally, we are losing the ‘tude that debt is a way of life. This year our goal is to pay off all our unsecured debt and to not rack up any new debt. That’s right — no credit cards for us! We are also evaluating our secured debt to try and get better interest rates and/or loan terms to get those suckers paid off as quickly as we can.

Most importantly, we are open with our children about “the plan” because ultimately we want them to be smarter about their financial decisions in the future.

Stay tuned for updates on our road to financial success. Of course, don’t forget to look at my previous posts for tips on how to cut your spending.

Not So Extreme Couponing
Fun For Less

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