Archive for July 2023

 

School supplies
Q: Back-to-school shopping kills my budget each year. Is there any way to start the year off right without spending a small fortune?

A: Rows of freshly sharpened pencils, an unopened box of crayons and a pair of shiny, new shoes will provide a thrill for any child.

As the parent, though, you’re the one footing the bill. If the thought of all that back-to-school spending makes your head pound, you’re not alone. The National Retail Federation reports that parents of children entering kindergarten through 12th grade plan to spend nearly $700 per child on school supplies, new clothing and shoes this season. That’s enough to fill any budgeting parent with dread.

No worries! As always, 705 Federal Credit Union has your back! Let us help you navigate the second-largest shopping season of the year with your budget and sanity intact. Here are 11 ways to save on back-to-school shopping.

1. Do a house-wide sweep

Before you spend a penny on new supplies or clothing, scour your closets and drawers to see what you have laying around the house. Round up all the supplies you find and take inventory. Write it all down and keep the list handy — in your phone, purse or car — so you don’t forget what you already have and end buying unnecessary items.

While digging through your kids’ closets, sort and purge. Donate outgrown clothing (take note and get a receipt for tax deduction purposes) and throw out everything that isn’t wearable. This way, their closets won’t be cluttered with junk and you’ll know exactly what you have and what each child still needs.

2. Get the teacher-approved list

Most schools and teachers will send you a school supply list that details exactly what your child will need. Those lists are also often available at major retailers. Pay close attention to specifics on the list instead of buying supplies at random. This will prevent you from buying items your child can’t use and being forced to later repurchase according to teacher criteria.

3. Spread your purchases

Spreading your back-to-school purchases throughout the summer will allow you to take advantage of weekly sales. One week there might be a great deal on pencils, the next week, folders will be dirt cheap. Over the course of the summer, you’ll get all your supplies at terrific prices. Also, by picking up a few items a week, you won’t feel the financial squeeze as much as you would if you’d buy everything at once.

4. Take advantage of sales-tax holidays

Many states have a sales-tax holiday during the first week of August; others have tax-free days in July. Look up the timing of your state’s gift to budgeting parents and do your shopping then. You’ll save big!

5. Organize a clothing swap

The clothing your best friend is trashing may be the perfect fit for your daughter. Organize a clothing swap party with other parents in your area. Choose a date and venue, and instruct all attendants to show up with three or more items of gently used children’s clothing. At the party, parents can exchange their kids’ outgrown clothing and go home with incredible finds — all free of charge!

6. Find the best prices

This doesn’t have to mean touring your town in search of the best deal on crayons. Instead, hunt for specials in the Sunday paper and weekly circulars and look up coupons and deals online, at sites like RetailMeNot and CouponCabin. To make it even easier, check out PriceGrabber.com or use the ShopSavvy app for help in snagging the lowest possible price on an item.

7. Use Twitter and Facebook to save

Many companies will send coupon links to their followers and let them know about upcoming sales. Monitor your favorite stores’ Twitter feeds and Facebook updates to find super deals.

8. Time it right

Your child needs to be ready for the first day of school, they don’t need a year’s supply of paper or a full autumn wardrobe before Labor Day. Purchase what your kids need now, and save the rest for later. You’ll find deep discounts on school supplies and fall clothing just a few weeks into the school year.

9. Set limits

Every year there’s a must-have school supply or clothing trend. You want your child to fit in, but you don’t have a money tree growing out back!

That’s why it’s important to set limits. Share your budget with your child. If your budget allows, let them choose one or two pricier items — but that’s it! Don’t give in to every whim; you’ll be enforcing bad habits and breaking the budget at the same time. If your child insists on more, you can always check out sites like eBay and Craigslist for discounted high-end items.

10. Cash and debit card only!

Paying with cash or using a debit card that draws from your checking account will help you stick to your budget. Resist the urge to charge supplies if you can. You don’t want to end up paying interest on pencils for months after they’ve already broken.

11. Plan ahead

Finally, start thinking about the next school year now! When school supplies and backpacks are ridiculously discounted a few weeks into the school year, stock up for next year. Stash away your extra supplies to pull out at the end of next summer. You’ll be grateful you did!

Resources: 
https://www.moneycrashers.com/best-credit-cards-use-everyday-spending/
http://www.familycircle.com/family-fun/money/back-to-school-shopping-savings/
https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/07/22/14-back-to-school-shopping-hacks

 

How to Budget in Times of Inflation

With inflation at record highs, many Americans are finding it difficult to stick to a budget. After all, when groceries have leapt in price and household staples can be double, or even triple, what they cost just a year ago, how can the same amount of money get you through the month?

Sticking to a budget during times of high inflation is challenging – but not impossible. Here are five ways to budget while in times of inflation.

  1. Plan your grocery purchases

Groceries can take a huge bite out of a monthly budget. Fortunately, there are ways to trim your grocery bill, even when prices are soaring.

First, shop your pantry and fridge before hitting the store. You may not remember exactly what you have at home, and doing a quick scan of your food items can help you stick to purchasing only what you need. 

Next, plan your week’s dinner menu before shopping so you can pick up exactly what you need for the week in just one go. The fewer trips you make to the grocery, the less you’ll spend on impulse buys. Also, when you have the ingredients you need and plans in place for dinner each night of the week, you’ll be less likely to make a last-minute decision to indulge in takeout or fast food.

Consider joining a club store at this time as well. You’ll need to spring for a membership, but you’ll enjoy steep savings on groceries and other products. Just be careful to only buy what you need, no matter how cheap an item might be.

Finally, don’t forget to shop sales and to couponize. Use apps like Reebee, Checkout 51, Flipp and Grocery IQ to stay in the know of what’s on sale in each store, and to download coupons for even bigger savings. 

  1. Consider an energy audit

Have you ever performed an energy audit? An audit will help identify energy drains around your home, such as air leaks near your windows and doors, so you can fix them to make your home more energy-efficient. You can also take additional measures toward saving on energy costs, such as switching all lightbulbs to LED bulbs, unplugging electronics when not in use and setting your thermostat a little lower during winter, and a bit higher in the summer.

  1. Choose your indulgence

Everyone needs to treat themselves to something special every now and then, but with costs rising on restaurant meals, movie tickets and clothing, something’s gotta give. Take a closer look at your just-for-me purchases of the last few months, and try to narrow them down to just one or two treats. You can swap them with an enjoyable activity that doesn’t cost much, such as a hike or bike ride, or cut them out completely.

Alternatively, you can find ways to trim the cost of your indulgences. For example, if you love dining out but restaurant meals are destroying your budget, you can decide to eat out but skip the desserts and wines, or opt for a midday meal so you can take advantage of lunchtime specials. 

  1. Switch your auto insurance plan

If you’ve had your auto insurance policy for a while and you’ve maintained a good driving record during that time, there’s a good chance you can save a bundle by switching to a new insurance plan and/or provider. Reach out to a representative at your current insurer to discuss your options. Ask about raising your deductible in exchange for a lower premium, reducing overall coverage or negotiating for a safe driving discount. After obtaining a quote, call several other providers to get competing quotes. You can choose to go with your lowest offer, or call back your present provider and ask them to match it for your continued business.  

  1. Pad your income

As always, when income doesn’t meet expenses, you have the choice of trimming expenses or boosting your income – or you can do both! In addition to following the cost-cutting tips outlined here, you can also look for ways to increase your income.

If your paycheck is suddenly not enough to support your lifestyle, consider asking for a raise. Your workplace may have already given you a cost-of-living raise to reflect rising inflation last year, but this may prove to be insufficient as costs have continued to rise. Don’t be afraid to ask for another raise at this time.

In addition, you can look for other ways to pad your monthly income. Find a side hustle, like driving for a ride-share company or consulting for hire, which you can do at your leisure on weekends. Ask your workplace about taking on additional projects on an as-needed basis for additional pay. Open a small service business doing something you love and excel at. Every extra dollar earned counts!

Times are hard for the average American consumer, but with careful planning, you can ride out the record-high inflation rates and keep your budget intact. Use the tips shared here to get started. 

Resources: 

https://www.ramseysolutions.com/budgeting/adjusting-your-budget
https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/how-to-budget-during-inflation/
https://www.incharge.org/blog/how-to-budget-during-inflation/
https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/14/inflation-is-costing-us-households-nearly-300-more-a-month.html

705 Travel Hacks for Vacation Costs

 

Vacationing with a prepared spending plan on hand is one of the best ways to have your fun, and your financial wellness, too. However, transportation costs can take a big bite out of a vacation budget. The good news is, there are loads of tricks and hacks you can use to bring those costs down. Here’s how to save on transportation costs while on vacation. 

Book early

One of the most effective ways to save on transportation costs is to plan and book your travel arrangements in advance. By doing so, you can take advantage of early bird discounts, promotional fares and special offers. Whether you’re booking flights, train tickets or rental cars, comparing prices and booking ahead of time can significantly reduce your transportation expenses.

Travel offseason

Timing your travel during off-peak seasons can yield substantial savings on transportation costs. Popular tourist destinations often have peak and off-peak seasons based on factors such as weather, holidays and local events. By choosing to travel during less-crowded times, you can take advantage of discounted transportation services.

Take advantage of public transportation

Public transportation can be a cost-effective option when exploring a new city or country. Many destinations offer efficient and affordable public transportation systems such as buses, trains, trams and subways. Research the available public transportation options and consider purchasing daily or weekly passes for unlimited travel within the area. You’ll save loads on your transportation costs and enjoy the unique experience of rubbing shoulders with local residents.

Get moving

Think outside the box and consider exploring your vacation destination on foot or by bicycle. Getting from point A to point B outside the confines of a vehicle will give you a more immersive and intimate travel experience. Many cities have well-planned walking and cycling routes, making it convenient and enjoyable to navigate through popular areas and attractions. You can rent a bike for the duration of your stay, or opt for a daily rental when needed. You can also choose to participate in guided walking tours to save on transportation costs while staying active and getting up-close and personal with the destination.

Share rides and carpool

If you prefer the convenience of private transportation, sharing rides or carpooling can significantly reduce costs. Services like Uber and Lyft often offer shared ride options, allowing you to split the fare with other travelers who are heading in the same direction. You can also link up with fellow travelers through websites and apps dedicated to carpooling, helping to reduce expenses while meeting new people.

Use travel passes

Many destinations offer travel passes or city cards that provide discounted or free access to various modes of transportation, attractions and activities. Research and compare available travel passes at your destination to determine which best aligns with your travel plans. These passes can provide substantial savings, especially if you plan to visit multiple attractions or use public transportation frequently.

Seek out local discounts

Keep an eye out for local discounts and offers that can further reduce your transportation costs. Look for tourist information centers, visitor bureaus or websites that provide information on discounted transportation tickets, car rentals and more. 

Rent smartly

If you do plan to rent a car, be sure to do it right to score the best deal. First, use an app like Hopper or Hipmunk to learn about special deals. Next, choose a smaller car for big savings. Finally, don’t ask for recommendations. The hotel concierge who shares the name of a rental place is likely getting a kickback from the company for every referral, which significantly increases your price.

Don’t let your transportation costs kill your budget! Use the tips outlined here to save big on vacation transportation costs. 

Resources:
https://www.mintnotion.com/travel/10-travel-expenses-youre-forgetting-vacation-budget/ 
https://ordinarytraveler.com/save-money-travel-transportation
https://marketbusinessnews.com/save-on-transportation-costs-while-traveling/310060/

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