The Art of Couponing

Coupon usage has become a way of life for most modern consumers. The practice is necessary for every family that is living in this crumbling economy. The Internet has a vast number of coupons that patrons can use to obtain everything from food to clothing to electronics and more.  With the soaring popularity of coupons, though, many sites have sprung up to meet the need and the vast majority of them are worthless.  We’ve sorted through all of the big ones and left you with a list of the most useful and up-to-date coupon sites.

Promotioncode.org

The promotion code site has a user interface that is attractive and easy to use. Visitors can find promotional codes by viewing the “hot list” of codes to the left of the page or by viewing the various categories.

Keycode.com

The key code site is another site that has a “hot button” with codes that consumers can use. The user interface is vibrant with colors and an easy-to-use menu.

Coupon Cabin

Coupon Cabin is a large contributor that connects consumers with more than 30,000 different retailers in various categories. Some of the retail establishments on the websites are retailers such as Auto Zone, Petco, Nike, Lids, Tanga, PetSmart, Walgreens and more.

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Are you having trouble staying on course with budget?

Everyone says they have a budget, which certainly means that you’re at least trying to save money and spend less. The question remains, however, isn’t so much how good is your budget but are you actually sticking with it the way you planned?

The point of having a budget is implementing it in a way so you can stick to it, plan accordingly and ultimately save money and pad your finances for whatever reason you’re thinking of this week: savings account, nest egg, financial future and retirement.

What tends to happen, however, is budgeting becomes more about saying you have one and less about actual execution. Budgeting is like joining a gym; just because you did one, doesn’t necessarily translate into the other.

Joining a gym doesn’t mean you’re going to go, much the same way having a budget doesn’t mean you’re going to stick with that, either.

So how exactly can you train your brain to stay on course as it relates to your budget and not falling off course?

If you’re overlooking your spending habits, that’s a first sign indicator that you really haven’t fully grasped the idea of a budget. Yes, we know you have your bills and the larger debt that you have to account for on a daily basis. That being said, when was the last time you put putting gas in your car, meals eaten out in restaurants, coffee and clothing on your budget as being worthwhile to track?

Those items and others of that ilk tend to get lost behind car payments, house mortgages, rent on that townhouse or apartment and your cable and phone bills. You have to make sure you’ve planned to add to that budget to include things you spend money on daily, since those add up quickly into thousands spent yearly and you wondering aloud why you aren’t able to save with the budget as it stands.

You also want to look closely at your budget at it pertains to credit cards, specifically how much you’re paying on them. If you’re only paying the minimum payment, you might want to rethink your repayment options. The minimum payment can suffice if your goal is ultimately to build more into your savings account and you have a fixed payment in mind. That minimum might be part of your budget if that’s all you can afford, but checking your budget to increase the minimum means less high interest paid over time, but also the ability decrease overall debt faster.

Budgeting bites the dust typically when you don’t account for all facets of it, or take money saving as being too topical and typical than it really is. The more specific you can make your budget, along with adhering to it, the better chance you have of success.

Avoiding and Stopping Identity Theft

Identity theft is a heinous crime that victimizes more than 11 million people each year. The crime includes stealing a person’s personal information to open new accounts, misusing existing accounts, and using personal information for alternative malicious purposes. Identity theft can ruin a person’s reputation with credit bureaus and other organizations, and it can take that person many years to resolve the mess. The following are some tips for preventing and dealing with identity theft: 

Do Not Share PIN Numbers and Passwords

Many people make the mistake of trusting lovers and friends with the PIN to their debit card. The problem with sharing a PIN is that a person who knows it can change it. That person can try to access other cards and accounts using the same PIN, as well. The consumer should trust no one with such information.

Change Login Information Frequently

Passwords to online bank accounts, email accounts and other important accounts should be changed at least once every three months. Once per month is a safer practice if the person has the patience to do it that frequently.

Obtain an Annual Credit Report

A credit report can speak volumes about identity theft. Every consumer should request one free copy of his or her credit report from the bureaus each year. The report will display all open credit accounts. The consumer should dispute any account that looks unfamiliar. The bureau must respond to the dispute within 30 days.

Sign up for Credit Monitoring Services

A credit monitoring service is an amazing tool for identity theft prevention. Such a tool will send a consumer instant alerts whenever someone opens a new account. It will notify a person if his or her credit score changes, as well. The debtor can then take action based on the information that he or she receives from the monitoring service.

Report Foul Play Immediately

A debtor should report a lost or stolen credit card immediately. Additionally, the person should contact the bureaus to launch investigations on any suspicious activities. Sometimes, the credit bureaus can place blocks on people’s social security numbers. No creditors will issue credit to these persons unless they answer a series of questions to verify their identity.

Finally, account holders should log into their online banking and credit card accounts frequently so they can catch strange activities quickly. Keeping one’s eyes open at all times is crucial. 

EMOTIONAL SPENDER: Buying based on how you feel can sink your budget

Everyone has bad days. Some are few and far between, and others can string together for what seems like an eternity.
Your job isn’t exactly panning out the way you thought.
You’re working too many hours, and find yourself completely stressed.
You may be in the midst of a porous relationship or can’t seem to get on track with accomplishing any goals, whether that’s exercising, eating better or spending more time with your family.
All of those aforementioned scenarios, at first glance, probably have very little to do with spending or saving money or your monthly or yearly budget.
Emotionally charged spending is quite a bit more prevalent than you would think, mostly because the people who participate in this tumultuous type of buying don’t believe it to be a problem. How many times have you heard the phrase “I’m having a bad day; I’m going to buy myself a present.”
Those famously foreshadowing words often lead to spending gratuitously to the point that you’re not only buying items you don’t need, but also are incapable of saving money.
This type of shopping hardly is confined to just clothing and can extend to food, more specifically, eating out in restaurants frequently, or simply redoing a room in your house with the purchase of expensive, unnecessary furniture and accessories that you simply don’t need.
The simple fact is buying makes you feel better in that very instant. Once the credit card bills or bank statements start rolling in, you instantly feel a sense of regret for the purchases you’ve made. When you’re in the midst of feeling bored, sad or not appreciated, it’s easy to fall victim to clever, savvy advertising that convinces you that you need a jet ski, even though you don’t like to swim.
The trick is channeling your energy away from newspaper ads or television commercials in favor of perhaps a leisurely stroll with a set of headphones. You might want to consider calling an old friend that you can seamlessly bounce your emotional status off of without fear of judgment or rejection.
This tips take only a few minutes, but ultimately will afford you with the wherewithal and restraint to banish that debit card back into your purse or wallet or filling out a credit card application at a department store while trying to hold back tears.
Buying and how you’re feeling today, this week or for the entire month run parallel with one another, but the key is capturing that emotion and transforming into something a little more positive than wrecking your budget in one fell swoop.

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.

 

Take in a Roommate

This might not be the ideal situation for everyone, and I realize that.  Also not everyone is going to be living in Washington D.C., so maybe you will not have the same opportunities to see people that I do.  As many of you know, Barack Obama won the election in November to become the new president of the United States of America.  How funny that as I typed this up, his name still has not been added to the automatic spell-check function of Word or the Firefox.  Anyway, in the next week or so, everyone on Earth will be flocking to this city to see his inauguration.  The experts are predicting around 4 million additional people will flood into D.C. for the event.  This is on top of the regular people who live and work in the area.

 

While the city is attempting to get everything done in advance, there are some crazy things going on.  For instance, all of my classes are cancelled.  The private institution that I attend decided it would be pandemonium if we were all trying to get to class and using public transportation.  I have heard that everyone is being advised to use public transportation the day of the inauguration.  However, I have also been informed that despite how good Washington D.C.’s metro is, the best in the nation, it cannot handle an extra 2 million people on it.  It is going to be crazy.

 

Anyway, while everything is shut down in the city except the inauguration traffic, I have decided to pay some of my bills for the next few months by renting out the extra room in my apartment for the period of three days.  I simply have a fold-out sofa, clean sheets, a few extra pillows, and no access to the kitchen or anything.  There is also a small bathroom without a shower in it.  And yet, a couple on Craigslist was willing to pay me $3,000 for the three days that they will be here.  $1,000 a day for doing absolutely nothing.  I have the days off, so I will be able to make sure that nothing happens to my apartment.  I spoke extensively with the couple and they were very kind on the phone and it sounds like we will not have any conflicts of interest.  Plus, we will all be at the inauguration together, so I will not have to worry about them getting too excited in my place and destroying everything. With all that money, I can pay my rent, utilities, and most of my grocery shopping bills for the next three months.  Yes, this is a frugal and a good idea.  If you live in the area and want to get in on these good deals, get on Craigslist and keep your eye out for people who are looking for a place to stay.  Just watch out for the crazies.

Political Contributions?

Since I’m poor I don’t really have a lot of disposable income but even if I did, I’m not sure I’d be willing to make a political contribution–even if I really loved a candidate.  I can’t help think but that money would be better spent on things that actually go towards something real.  I could easily take that $200 and instead of it going to pay for Barack’s assistant to get some donuts for the staff, it could more directly go to put food in the mouths of the hungry.  I realize that everything has administrative expenses but giving money to the rich, especially since I am not rich, just doesn’t strike me as something I’d ever really want to do.