Penny Pinching: Focusing on the little makes big difference financially

You might be of the opinion that you rarely buy yourself anything, spend money wisely and have a firm handle on your finances.
If that’s the case, why is most of you money slipping through your fingers?
That dwindling bank account, the inability to save money and living pay check to paycheck puts a bit of a damper on previous beliefs that your financial acumen is impeccable.
Turns out, you might be saving money and losing it at the same time.
This art form isn’t impossible, but rather quite common if you take a closer look at your spending.
Take your food shopping for instance.
You make look at this excursion with pinpoint accuracy to make sure you’re purchasing generic brands, shopping smart with online or paper coupons and calculating whether you should be buying in bulk or if less is best.
Those are absolutely wonderful strategies to employ and probably will lead to extra money available in your budget, but only if you’re equally mindful of spending money eating out at restaurants. Let’s say you spend $200 per week on food for the house, which is about $800 every month. That number hardly stands as staggering, unless you’re not only buying food twice.
If you eat lunch and dinner four times per week at a restaurant, that’s about $20 extra dollars per day or $80 each week. That’s another $320 added to your food budget, making your total nearly $1200 per month.
Your specificity and tactical approach to grocery store shopping doesn’t look quite like the impervious game plan you once perceived it to be.
Similarly, if you downgraded your pricey cell phone plan in favor of dropping the smart phone and two year agreement for a pay by month option, you deserve plenty of praise for your ability to live without the luxury of having Facebook on your phone. That is a perfect example of eliminating expenses that make a true difference in how you’re able to save.
Leaving that $200 plus monthly cell phone bill intact and instead deciding that you’re going to save money by cutting out buying a few lottery tickets per week doesn’t make much sense in the long run. Saving an extra $5 per week or $20-30 per month means very little in comparison to a few hundred.
The goal of saving money is to make more than just a minor dent in your debt but rather succeed in setting aside enough cash for plenty of breathing room. If all you’re hoping to save money by keeping your minor spending in check, you shouldn’t hold your breath.

CRAZY BRILLIANT: Can you actually save more by spending more?

Suggesting that you have to spend money to make money works when you’re, for example, talking about a business. It’s hard to imagine that same philosophy translating from the board room to living room as far as getting your personal finances in order.
That sentiment usually is attached to companies that spend money on advertising in the hopes that their investment will turn into more customers and increased sales revenue. Spending more in the business world also could relate to increasing your workforce so that you have eight, instead of six people doing the job, assuming that the adding wages equates to wonderful bottom lines.
But spending more to make more hardly seems like it would apply to your daily routine or spending habits. Even those who aren’t financial wizards or moonlight as a top flight accounting or budgeting expert know that saving money doesn’t start with spending more of it.
Or, does it?
Think of a job that you do from home or an interview that you’re preparing for in a few days? For the former job, if you choose to buy a laptop for around $1,000 versus the one for $300 that is an investment that should have a sizable return. Let’s say the more expensive computer is better equipped to handle the job to the point that you’re getting double the work done in half the time.
That $1,000 pales in comparison to the money you’ll be making thanks to being remarkably productive at what you do.
As far as the job interview, do you really want the first impression of the hiring manager of you to be a mental picture of you in your dad’s old suit? Probably not. Spending money on a power tie and an equally strong suit might suit you well to land that job that pays double what you make now.
In this instance, your $1,000 suit might translate into a new position that pays you $10,000 more a year. Sounds like a fair trade off, right?
Being in the business of saving money also means you could use a little help. Hiring a professional to budget out your expenses might seem counterproductive to the idea that you’re trying to save money. But if this person knows more than you about money, giving them some of yours isn’t a bad thing. In the long run, paying someone a few hundred dollars in exchange for advice and leadership that nets you a few thousand is a business deal any one would take.
And who wouldn’t want to spend a little time and money so ultimately you’ll have more leftover?

BARE BONES BUDGET: Tracking what you spend is easy, unless you make it otherwise

Building a better budget is a job anyone can handle. If you try to build the perfect one, you’ll probably find yourself somewhere between frustrated and frazzled to the point that you’ll just skip having one altogether.
A budget is to the financially misguided what a diet is to those who struggle with how they eat. The words are intimidating and even when you incorporate a diet, for example, most people try to do too much, too son and end up failing completely.
The trick to a diet, much like a budget, is working through it slowly, making simple changes and not attempting to do a complete 180 degree turn within a few weeks.
Budgeting isn’t about a complete overhaul but rather handpicking some bills or debt that could be whacked relatively quickly or spending habits that obviously need halted.
The biggest mistake people make is pairing down their budge to the point that it is unrecognizable and incredibly impossible to fulfill, and still be content.
If that sounds oddly familiar, think back to when you ate whatever you wanted, then decided to diet. Rather than just substitute a baked potato for your French fries at lunch, you tried to live on carrot sticks and salad every day.
And much like weight loss or exercise, you can’t expect to change your appearance or body type within a few weeks. The same could be said for saving money. If you make $2,000 per month, you can’t expect to save $20,000 by the end of a work year. You need to make sure you leave yourself money to live on and enjoy; setting realistic goals helps, whether you want to lose 50 pounds in one month or all of a sudden have a sizable savings account within a year.
That just isn’t going to work, no matter if you’re talking food or finances.
The one aspect of a budget you’ll always need to think about is consciously putting aside cash in case of an emergency. Far too many people break a leg, have a major medical expense or a repair that makes them crazy and no money to take care of the issue.
Even $100 per pay equates to more than $2,000 saved at the end of the year. Over the course of a five year budgeting plan, you’ll sock away $10,000 and be fully prepared to at least tackle most of what ails you financially.
A lot of what will make you successful is patience and not feeling like you have to do too much too soon as far as budgeting. You have to find a system that fits you well, so that your money ultimately will work for you.

SMOOTH MOVE: Make moving day easy by saving money

Moving day has arrived, and along with saying goodbye to your old place and watching your furniture, tables, chairs and lamps jettisoned from house to another, you also could easily bidding farewell something equally as important: you money.

Buying your first home or moving out from under mom and dads watchful eye is an exciting time, one filled with change, responsibility and growth. In the midst of all the packing, unpacking, paperwork and pleading with your friends and family to help, you might forget just how expensive it can be to move.

Between renting trucks, a U-Haul or hiring a company to do most of your moving bidding, you could easily drop a few hundred dollars on that very day. Most businesses that specialize in moving make a living and a killing on selling moving equipment as well as the rudimentary items you’ll need, such as boxes.

Paying for a box is rather silly, especially if you’ve made it a point to plan ahead for when your moving day is taking place. You can easily collect boxes for free from grocery store, department stores or just about any type of business that gathers inventory on a consistent basis.

If the average person uses 10 boxes, at $4 per box, that $40 could easily be used to help offset the cost of the moving vehicle or even pay for gas to and from old place to new.

Furthermore, why rent a truck if you have friends or family that can help? It also isn’t out of the question to begin moving some small boxes with kitchen utensils, clothing or small furniture in your car in the days or weeks leading up to the proverbial “big” move.

This way, if you need to rent a vehicle, you can skip the largest one possible and go modest in the midst of uprooting all your belongings.

And speaking of all your things, who says you need to take everything with you? Of course, the staples must come, such as TVs, appliances and furniture, but moving often is a good time to start taking stock of what you have, and if it made the cut so to speak to go to the new place.

Cleaning out junk or ditching items you don’t plan on using any time soon saves on truck space, boxes and anything else you might be spending a few bucks on along the way.

You’re already in the midst of a major undertaking by moving, and adding to that stress, hustle and bustle and headache by overspending seems like you’re just spinning your wheels on route to  your new pad.


Auto Pilot: Selling your car could yield quite the profit if done correctly

At one time or another, you’ll probably be faced with the prospect of either trading in or selling your car.

Selling the car on your own could easily mean more money in your pocket upon completion of the transaction versus the alternative of trading it in to buy something nicer and newer. The latter certainly sounds much more convenient, but perhaps the sale of your vehicle isn’t tied to getting a new one, and you’re just trying to make some extra cash in a time of need.

So what the best way to sell your car to make the most money?

If you answered parking it in a driveway with a “For Sale” sign on it, that’s a bit short sighted since not many people will see it. You’d be better served to spend a few dollars and list it online for maximum results.

Consider that some online ads cost between $20-40, and most of the more reputable ones carry a decent duration with them. The alternative is an all too familiar and expensive route: the newspaper. Those ads are overpriced and hardly read thanks to dwindling readership.

The real selling power needs to be put in the buyer’s hands, and that begins with the sticker price you’ve selected for your car. Don’t be afraid to ask a little less if you want to get rid of it quickly. That doesn’t mean you should ask $9,000 for your car if you owe $11,500 on it. Instead, if it’s paid off, and you want to get about $4,000 for it, but it’s worth about $5,000, then set it at $4,500. This way, you have a $500 cushion to work with, assuming the buyer is going to bounce back a counter offer from your asking price.

And when you’re deciding on a price, it’s best not to over value your vehicle. Truthfully, it won’t sell quickly if at all, and you’ll be wasting money on posting the ad. The assumption being that trying to overprice your car to make the most money is wishful thinking.

The price obviously would be a moot point if the car doesn’t look the part. If you sell the car, the least you could do is clean it up, wash it, vacuum the interior and throw a fresh coat of wax on it. The car may be worth what you’re asking, but if it doesn’t look like a million bucks, the potential buyer might think you haven’t taken care of it.

If you really want to wow the buyer, show them the original receipt and paperwork, and really hit a home run if you kept records of brake jobs, oil changes or any other maintenance to the car or truck. And please, be honest. If you had a complete transmission overhaul, put that in the ad and let the person know without fail.

All of these tips will push you toward a passing grade and have you riding high when you finally see your profit.

TRASH TO TREASURE: Build the better garage sale to maximize your money efforts

Everyone’s been a little short on cash and long on ideas.

Choosing the best avenue to ensure you’ll soon have some extra income could prove to a laborious process, but one seemingly timeless option always is mentioned at least once.

The garage sale.

In the day and age of CraigsList and eBay, you would think that the idea of piling your stuff in a front or back yard, or actually lining up your belongings within a garage to sell seems a little antiquated. But selling items online isn’t always practical, especially if you’re talking about larger payoffs in the form of appliances, furniture and televisions.

Shipping often can turn into a nightmare, so those not exactly enthralled with everything that goes into online selling and sending turn toward an old friend with a little life left to give.

The garage sale is more than just your stuff scattered on a front lawn and priced way too modestly to make even a profit. This is an opportunity to pay close attention to how your sale is set up and executed so that you can limit your expenses and maximize your profits.

Those expenses might come from a newspaper ad, which ironically can be incredibly pricey even though that information medium is showing no signs of making a popularity comeback. Instead, try posting your sale online through social media. Some Facebook sites are dedicated exclusively to local people trying to promote and eventually make sales through their garage sale endeavor. These ways allow you to skip the $100 newspaper ad and promote your garage sale for free.

Right away, you’re well ahead of the game.

And if you really want to make a garage sale successful, you might want to follow some simple advice: sell stuff. Far too often, garage sales are set up perfectly, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Make sure you aren’t too attached to these items you’re trying to get rid of, otherwise you’re in for a long afternoon and very little money to show for it.

Don’t be overly afraid to part with anything from a lamp to an old TV, otherwise your sale will slump significantly. Mark your prices accordingly and let them be. Don’t haggle over a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in years; let them go for a fair price.

Finally, don’t bother wasting time and money putting together a sale in a spot within your neighborhood that no one visits. If the area you live in isn’t overflowing with traffic, then don’t bother. If you still want to sell your old stuff, ask a friend or family member that lives in a more bustling neck of the woods to team up with you to have the sale of the century.

Who knows, maybe that teamwork and taking control of your perceived “trash,” could lead to plenty of treasure in the form of a few bucks by the end of your sale. 

Wheel Will: Just wait, and you’ll see how much you save on that sort of new car

Car dealerships sit anxious and pensive as the calendar year comes to a close.  Before you can even say “Happy New Year,” they’re in the midst of a marketing drive that is touting the newest cars on the lot, which bodes well for saving money on your next car purchase.

Buying a vehicle, new or used, is quite the financial endeavor, but only the most competent will employ tactics that take the entire buying scope into perspective and make a purchase that is deemed perfect.

Saving money on your next car doesn’t have to entail haggling sticker prices or getting into a back and forth argument with an overly aggressive salesperson. It just takes a little research and wherewithal to hold your own once you step on to the showroom floor.

At that point, you’re either the hunter or the hunted. The latter leaves you in quite the unenviable position and probably means you’re going to overpay for the car. You’d much rather rely on being in the former category and take control of your car buying situation.

The first step is understanding that the end of the year or the very beginning of the new year is an ideal time to buy a vehicle. Dealerships begin slashing prices on, for example, 2013 vehicles to make room for the 2014 ones. Even though 2013 has just ended, in the car business, those model year cars, trucks and SUVs are archaic in car years.

Once you’ve determined the year car you’d like to pursue, you’ve got to then comprehend the inner workings of how the salesperson skews the numbers, and tries to focus on the monthly payment, rather than the actual price of the car.

One big mistake a car consumer can make is answering this famed question: “How much are you looking to pay each month?” In car terms, this means if you tell them $300, then they’ll make the “numbers work” but truthfully that probably means they’ll extend the terms.
So that 60 month car payment simply gets rewritten as 66 months; not exactly a magic act of epic proportions.

Another huge misstep when you’re buying a car is divulging too much information about your own financial standing or being pushed into making a decision on the spot. It’s perfectly fine to walk away and continue shopping for a better price, and you should make sure to tell the dealership that’s why you’re leaving.

And don’t fall for techniques employed by the lesser known car salespersons and dealerships, such as letting you take the car home for the evening. That’s a huge red flag that you’re not dealing with a professional organization. In that same vein, be leery of giveaways or promotions that encourage you to spend $30,000 on a car and get a free cooler or barbeque grill.

Who wouldn’t love a new iPad Air, but not for the sake of overspending on a car?

It’s time for you, the consumer, to turn the tables on the dealership and do what you want when it comes to making a financial investment as paramount as a car.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Stores know how to hook you into spending more money

The holidays have ended, but that doesn’t mean you’re quite in the clear just yet.

Retails stores have their eye on you. More importantly, that can’t stop staring at your wallet.

The after Christmas sales aren’t the only means to make you spend more money and keep you coming, and staying, within the confines of your favorite retail place.

You’ll be more apt to spend money, which means less cash on hand, a dwindling bank account and stores that are smiling from ear to ear.

So what’s their secret to keeping their sales revenue bloated and you focused on buying any and all products?

There isn’t one particular trick of the trade that retailers implement per say, and they certainly shouldn’t be dubbed as the “bad guys” in this situation. Stores simply provide an arena to make purchases, and provide a product or item that you may opt to buy. The trick for the consumer is to buy what you need, not so much what you think you need.

Stores make the process a little harder for customers to ignore, when they tout sales, coupons, clearances and discounts across the board. But it’s up to the consumer to show a little restraint and put paying their bills ahead of a Playstation 4.

A sure fire sign a store is out for blood, however, is if they have a sales associated manned at the front door and is quick to hand out coupons before you’ve even tried on one sweater. Those same savvy sales people might also be handing out bags, or in some cases, carts as you walk through the door. Think of it realistically: if you have a bag or cart, aren’t you more apt to fill, or overfill, it?

Although it might be a different sales associate, you might find yourself faced with an overly helpful employee. Naturally, part of their job is to help you find what you’re looking for, but they’ll be quick to point out what looks good or a recommendation of what they think is best. Granted, that advice could prove potent and ultimately lead you in the right direction as far as making a purchase, but you should be a little leery if they’re adding on to an already large purchase.

For example, you’re in the midst of buying a new laptop, and that aforementioned sales person follows you to the register with a case, cooling pad, wireless mouse and headphones in tow. That’s salesmanship and soon to be overspending on display.

Being able to resist that temptation and differentiate between those who are trying to be helpful and those creating a financial hardship for you is the key to keeping your spending at a minimum.