Line by Line: Why exactly can’t we stick to budget?

How often do you hear someone clamor on about just how easy it is to stick to a budget?

In the simplest form, the budget is nothing more than tracking what you spend versus what you make, plain and simple. Budgeting really is not made to be complicated but truthfully taking your expenses and making sure that number is less than what you make, whether that means cutting your cable cord, saying so long to your data plan or eliminating that shopping spree you’ve allowed yourself to enjoy on a regular basis at your favorite department store isn’t quite as simple as some make it.

Yes, you can just go ahead and start hacking away, and that can get you so far, but what if there isn’t enough money coming in as far as income goes? Can you really begin to even contemplate saving money if you’re not making enough to pay even the essentials? At that point, the budget process is tossed aside quickly and with extreme prejudice and you instead decide to scrimp and save where you can and simply wait to pay bills when you have the money, which leads to lower than average credit scores and a reputation that lenders don’t exactly love to see.

Another budget breakdown that you often can’t account for are expenses that you really don’t take into consideration. That two a day coffee habit, stopping for lunch every day and spending money on something as simple as a newspaper or candy bar can lead to thousands of dollars spent per year and even as much as hundreds per month. Ask yourself, how often do you eat out at restaurants, is it breakfast, lunch and dinner some days, and if so, do you realize that accounts for nearly $500 per month in added expense?

When a particular bill or expense, like a gym membership or cable, goes up due to rate hike or added services, do you pay attention to that? Do you adjust your budget? Chances are, you don’t.

Not sticking to a budget is nothing new, but it also isn’t beyond the realm of expectation to not have one at all simply because you haven’t the slightest idea where to start. Sure, a budget can be set up rather easily but staying the course and examining it beyond the norm or not taking into consideration a lack of income or literally all the purchases and expenses you have daily is going to translate into a lot of effort and very little results or outcome as it relates to being able to save money or plan financially for any sort of future.

Broken Down: Why not having money doesn’t lead to better decisions

So let’s face it, you’re broke. You don’t have any spending money and you’re barely able to pay your bills.

Call it “staying above water” or “just making it,” but no matter how you slice it money is at a premium. You promise yourself that you’re tired of playing it so tight as far as income versus expenses, and you’re going to draw up a budget or start making cuts where you can.

But that plan doesn’t always get carried out, nor for some of us is it even put out on the table.

And that is part of the problem in general as it relates to spending and saving, even for those who don’t have any extra cash to speak of.

One of the bigger problems, if you don’t have money, is your unwillingness to have a realistic budget. Let’s say you had a pay cut, lost a job or just don’t have the kind of income that warrants your expenses.

You still might find yourself having the highest and most expenses (and best) cable package money can buy, or not skimping all of a sudden on buying clothes, upgrading your wardrobe or those weekly massages that are wonderful but costing you hundreds you don’t have.

Even the $50 per month gym membership is up for debate, and truthfully really nothings off the table at this point in your budgeting game.

What else do those without money tend to do that is a head scratcher?

How about adding more debt to your already amassing amounts of cash that you owe or not limiting yourself as far as what you spend? The latter is pretty simple: you might have to go a few summers without a vacation or learn to embrace the “stay-cation”. Some that struggle with money are struggling to the point that they still don’t believe they have an issue, and are still charging up and maxing out credit cards with no end in sight.

You can’t assume any more debt at the point where you don’t have any money saved. Adding new debt is never advisable, particularly if you are just making it. Granted, you may have to in a dire situation use a credit card but only after you look at your budget and cut it accordingly. If you’re still enjoying 5 movie channels on cable that you pay extra for or a full blown data plan, and you’re using a credit card for groceries or to pay your car payment, something is way off.

Not having money feels like the end of the world, but you can take steps to fix it, most importantly the one that has you reassess your spending habits but mostly realize you don’t have the money to spend anyway.

Saving Money and Killing Debt Starts at Home

Far too often, debt is linked to a lack of income. That is hardly the case in most instances.

If you take a long look at your budget and what your expenses are, you’ll see that a lot of it is tied to day to day living, something as mundane and inconsequentially supposedly as a cup of coffee to examining your mortgage and how much you’re paying on a monthly basis.

The mortgage often is the biggest culprit, and it starts during the prequalifying offer you’ll get in the form of a max amount you can borrow.

Why exactly would you want to max out your borrowing capacity when it comes to buying a home?

The idea behind a mortgage as it relates to saving money is to have a monthly payment that doesn’t leave you nearly broke. Some say your mortgage payment shouldn’t be any larger than half of your gross income in two weeks of work. Others have tried to keep their housing payment as low as possible by simply going more economical when they buy. No matter which way you sway, staying well under that borrowing dollar figure that you’re pre qualified for is a smart financial decision. Once the newness of the house wears off and that large payment settles in, you’ll regret it immediately as you write that mortgage check every month.

In addition, you an always work diligently to cut down on your expenses at home, starting with the most obvious and least needed culprit: cable television. Not far behind, however, is your cell phone bill and that data plan.

Cable costs the average consumer nearly $2,000 per year. That money can be offset by simply signing up for Netflix or Hulu or taking advantage of new channels such as CBS and Showtime that want to give you access to their programming, a la carte style, for a monthly feel so you can pick and choose what you want to watch.

Seems like the days of paying for cable television on that level are coming to an end, but the issue is the lack of willingness of customers to change; they simply accept the fact that cable is a necessary expense. It isn’t.

Finally, convenience often is king, and that pertains to eating out for dinner, even if it is fast food, rather than cooking at home. Continually break in that kitchen on a regular basis, and you’ll save nearly $1,000 per year on food cost, enough to put in your savings account and build that nest egg you’ll eventually need.

The whole idea behind saving is to avoid borrowing, and that can be accomplished within the confines of the four walls you call home.

Saving Money and Killing Debt Starts at Home

Far too often, debt is linked to a lack of income. That is hardly the case in most instances.

If you take a long look at your budget and what your expenses are, you’ll see that a lot of it is tied to day to day living, something as mundane and inconsequentially supposedly as a cup of coffee to examining your mortgage and how much you’re paying on a monthly basis.

The mortgage often is the biggest culprit, and it starts during the prequalifying offer you’ll get in the form of a max amount you can borrow.

Why exactly would you want to max out your borrowing capacity when it comes to buying a home?

The idea behind a mortgage as it relates to saving money is to have a monthly payment that doesn’t leave you nearly broke. Some say your mortgage payment shouldn’t be any larger than half of your gross income in two weeks of work. Others have tried to keep their housing payment as low as possible by simply going more economical when they buy. No matter which way you sway, staying well under that borrowing dollar figure that you’re pre qualified for is a smart financial decision. Once the newness of the house wears off and that large payment settles in, you’ll regret it immediately as you write that mortgage check every month.

In addition, you an always work diligently to cut down on your expenses at home, starting with the most obvious and least needed culprit: cable television. Not far behind, however, is your cell phone bill and that data plan.

Cable costs the average consumer nearly $2,000 per year. That money can be offset by simply signing up for Netflix or Hulu or taking advantage of new channels such as CBS and Showtime that want to give you access to their programming, a la carte style, for a monthly feel so you can pick and choose what you want to watch.

Seems like the days of paying for cable television on that level are coming to an end, but the issue is the lack of willingness of customers to change; they simply accept the fact that cable is a necessary expense. It isn’t.

Finally, convenience often is king, and that pertains to eating out for dinner, even if it is fast food, rather than cooking at home. Continually break in that kitchen on a regular basis, and you’ll save nearly $1,000 per year on food cost, enough to put in your savings account and build that nest egg you’ll eventually need.

The whole idea behind saving is to avoid borrowing, and that can be accomplished within the confines of the four walls you call home.

Satisfied customers: Why online coupons make consumers happy

Research is a thing of beauty. No matter what the subject matter at hand, you always get quite the viewpoint on, well, just about any topic that typically leads to discussion.

Including the use of online coupons.

That’s right, those online coupons and the sites that work directly with retailers and offer online coupon codes are actually responsible for making you happy.
A recent study showed that consumers who use online coupons and sites that deal directly in codes are nearly 40% happier while shopping versus those who don’t use the sites or perhaps still have a propensity to shop in the more traditional manner.

Seriously, though, who still likes the idea of clipping coupons the old fashioned way, particularly when you have sites like coupons.com and keycode.com that offer a slew of online promotions and deals that save you more than the paper copy variety, and make online shopping even easier than it already is?

And isn’t that really what consumers want?

Of course, any customer will tell you that they don’t walk into a store or buy online hoping to pay full price. The penchant for practicing the art of saving money is more important now than ever, what with even 30 something year olds worried about retirement and not having the means to do so at a reasonable age.

Saving money is paramount, so naturally online coupons and codes tend to push to the forefront when you’re about to buy a gift or start your holiday shopping. The real benefit of online coupons is not only the money saved, dollar earned or whatever phrase helps you sleep at night, but also the notion that you can save money, shop from home and have a variety of coupons from which to choose.

Far too often, coupons and savings are dictated in a manner that is take what you can get from only certain retailers. The beauty of, for instance, promotioncode.org, is that you can search out which retailer you want and get more than just one coupon that is a take it or leave it endeavor.

Online codes often go above and beyond the norm, too, as far as the percentage off or dollar amount saved.

Simply put, the advantage of online coupons is vast, whether it is free shipping or the ability to compare the best deals for a retailer on coupon sites vying for your point and click.  The practicality of online coupons is you don’t have to lug around the paper version and are just a few steps away from buying what you want, when you want, at the deal you want from the comfort of your couch.

And, like studies show, you’ll be happier doing it.

Asking To Double Stack

The coupons that have the most printed value are the ones that are worth the most to you, right?  Wrong!  Most retail grocery stores, including Kroger and Safeway brands, will typically double any $0.50 coupon you have to a full dollar and you don’t even have to ask.  Why would they do that?  The inventory records aren’t kept down to cents, just dollars so the rationale of making a coupon-using customer happy in exchange for “found cents” is always going to be worth it.

So where are the best places to score these fifty cent coupons?  In addition to the inserts in your local newspapers, these coupons can be found from sites like Redplum, Coupons.com, and RetailMeNot.  A good trick to using sites like Google or Yahoo is to run a query like inurl:fifty coupon storename so something like inurl:fifty coupon aldi and that will return pages that have to have the word fifty in the url so there will be a greater likelihood of finding these magic coupons.  The downside of this approach, though, is that a lot of coupons may be expired since Google and Yahoo don’t care about providing date-sensitive results.

Make a Plan: Start off Correctly for 2014

One of the things I like to do at the start of each year is to make a plan for myself and my family because I feel if I begin my year correctly, my budget goals for the year will be plain sailing.

Starting off the New Year 2014 with a budget in mind and a plan in place could be your start to a debt-free calendar year. What is most important is having your focus on finances, leaving distractions in the background and keeping your goal in mind. Turning off the television is where it all starts. Television instills ideas of grandeur in our heads, with guilt-inducing and money-motivating ads. Find another hobby that will motivate you better – try reading. Next, join every Free Rewards Card Program that you can. I know what you’re picturing – a huge key ring with hundreds of rewards cards dangling; you can avoid that chaos today with a digital version of almost every rewards card. Take this step to join and track your spending at your favorite shopping locales. To simplify this process, create an e-mail address specifically for your rewards cards and promotions. Only access this account when it is time for you to shop for an item or items you are looking for. As far as credit cards, I know you have those “emergency” credit cards available for use in your wallet. Hide them. Take a bit of cash instead, you will be far less motivated to swipe away in a dire situation. Don’t allow yourself to have a plastic safety net until you feel like you have the strength to not use it simply based on how easy it is to swip

Before you embark on that shopping trip, make a list before you leave. This will help to maximize efficiency and cut down on additional unnecessary spending. Don’t place anything in your cart that is not on your list, no matter how tough that may be and you will end up saving surprisingly more money than you envisaged. During this shopping trip, stock up on items you can use for multiple meals. Cut down on fast food and eating out, spend a weekend afternoon for a few hours and prepare meals for the week. This way you will save time and money, and you will also benefit by having healthy meals if you stick to it. Simple ingredients leave options for a lot of different meals to enjoy throughout the week and variety is key in sticking to this program. Spend time creating a casserole of sorts and make multiples. Freezing food is just as easy as purchasing a prepaid meal and it’s something you can eat healthily and cheaply. Instead of planning those meals around a cookbook you have, or a Pinterest recipe you found, base it on your local grocery stores flyer. Base it on the bigger items that are on sale and you will maximize the store savings discounts and you will get more bang for your buck. Don’t be afraid to do a comparison by taking a couple of extra minutes to compare the items on your list to those at another local store. Heck, the grocery stores do it all the time! Eventually you will come to find that one of the stores you choose will consistently have better deals and the more you frequent that location, the more you save.

All of these ideas are just the beginning of a new lifestyle for yourself in 2014, and when you make a plan, you prepare the ground going forward. Simple changes can really affect your pocket book in a positive light, and you may even find yourself having fun in the process.

Promo Codes Can Maximize Your Gift Card Dollars

Did you get a bunch of gift cards for the holidays? If so, here’s the best way to extend that money so you can maximize your shopping spend.

Here are three insider tips:

1) Shop online and get a promo code

There are great sites around the internet that specialize in providing coupon codes and promo codes for many of the same places that you have a gift card for. Just surfing around, I found Lands End promo codes, JCPenney promo codes, and many others at My Coupons.. The site is simple to navigate and offers multiple codes for each store. That’s what I like – is the ability to utilize different codes depending on what I am buying. I’ve used them many times with great success – stretching my money!

2) Want cash for those gift cards instead? Sell them back.

Now for years people have sold gift cards for cash on places like Ebay. If you have a $100 gift card to JC Penney, for example, you can actually sell it on Ebay and probably fetch around 85-90% of it’s value. It’s good for you converting the gift card to cash, and good for the buyer who immediately saved 10-15% on his purchases.

There are also services online that do the same thing and I’ve found them to be even simpler. Here is one example on GiftCards.com. These guys have been around for many years and are trusted.

3) Sign up for a credit card in store

Now I am not someone that pushes folks to sign up for credit cards. In fact, this should be one of your last resorts, but if you want to save money, signing up for the in store credit card can knock an additional 15% off your purchases, taking that gift card money even further.

I hope these quick tips will help you spend that gift card money even better ! Happy New Year!

How to Use Verizon Promo Codes to save Money at Christmas

Promo Codes are fast becoming one of the most utilized forces on the Web to generate savings with online purchases. They come in all different shapes and sizes and we’ll take a brief look today at some of the most popular and how to use them properly.

To the uninitiated, Online Promo Codes are simple ways to save money on purchases of online merchandise that are on sale. They resemble the old garden-variety paper coupons that we’ve all taken to the store over the years except these are numerical codes. When you buy a product or service, there is usually a box in the checkout form that will ask the purchaser for the Code in order to calculate the discount into the final sales amount. The codes can be found on easily located websites where they are offered in bulk.

There are two product areas that seem to attract the most Promo Codes. One is department store websites such as Target, Home Depot etc etc. The codes are usually of short expiration but can be plentiful so these represent a huge savings opportunity. I’ve always tried NEVER to buy anything from a Big-Box store without some kind of Online Promo Code. Doesn’t always work out that way but more often than not I can usually squeeze a few bucks off my bill.

The second area is that of online phones, Internet service and mobile calling plans. Most of the manufacturers and vendors deeply involve themselves in this market place. One of the most lucrative currently offered are the “Verizon Promo Codes” which are very simple to obtain and can realize some deep discounts. They are wide-ranging and offer savings on many of their services.

If you are a smart “couponer”, these offers will definitely become a big part of your savings “arsenal” going forward, and given that we’re at the time of year when we’re looking to save every dollar we can, there is not time like the present!