Retirement Fun: How to save when you’re behind

Preparing for retirement is something we all think about, no matter if you’re 30 something or in your 50s, but the latter demographic tends to think a little longer and harder since calling it quits at work is much closer and at the forefront of their mind.

That said, being a 30 something should signal that retirement comes sooner than you think, and that saving starts from the moment you take that job and you’re asked if you want to pay into some sort of retirement fund, and you decide to jump on it, versus the alternative of letting free money (company match) fall by the wayside.

But those who are in their 50s tend to fret a little more than the 30 something crowd, particularly if you’ve been saving (or not) and are close to retiring but need one last gasp to get to the dollar amount you want and need in order to feel comfortable leaving work once and for all.

Those who want those extra dollars for retirement start by focusing on one huge elephant in the room, and that is paying off what should be very little of your mortgage leftover.

Those payment turn quickly into money saved, and that fact can’t be undersold when you are talking about heaping amount of money in your pocket for retirement.

If you aren’t in a position to pay off your home, consider downsizing your living area, perhaps selling your home for the last five years you plan on working and taking a $2,000 mortgage and turning it into a $800 per month rental in the form of an apartment. That, over the course of five years, means $1,200 per month in your pocket or $72,000 in that time period, for some an entire year of salary.

And as far as that work retirement plan, 401K or IRA, you might want to rethink your contribution there in relationship to your budget at home. That means increasing how much you’re putting toward your retirement and cutting expenses on your budget currently. For example, maybe that $200 per month for cable can be better served going into your retirement account when you change your contribution from the bare minimum, let’s say four percent, to eight percent. Yes, that’s more out of your paycheck but consider where it is going and that you might not miss cable all that much when you’re able to retire at 55 or 60, exactly as planned and without reservations that money is going to be a problem.

Save Bet: Some saving money tips are simple

Anyone who has ever tried to save money knows just how difficult it can be. But why is it so easy for some?

When you talk about “easy,” you have to put that term into perspective. “Easy” might be defined as someone who has money, and the rest of the world sits back in awe and wonders just why you can’t be the same way and how they did it with what seemed to be effortless.

The truth is those who save money with the greatest of ease aren’t supermen or superwomen, but rather have the whole saving money mindset with everything they do, and everything they buy or how they track both of those items.

It begins and ends with a budget, but beyond that they know how to save money in ways that aren’t difficult but common when you dig a little deeper than surface saving.

Food, surprisingly, is a cause for concern and one of the main reasons why you can’t save money. Ironically, it’s one of the easiest ways to save when you start to think about it.

First, you should be planning meals ahead of time and shopping accordingly. The biggest downfall as it relates to saving money and food is that you’re not necessarily overpaying but you’re paying twice.

You’re spending hundreds in groceries, and if you’re not thinking about your meals, you might end up throwing food away and losing hundreds via your garbage can. Furthermore, if you’re eating out at restaurants on top of the groceries, you’re planning and buying food in a store and also out, so what happens to the food in your fridge if you keep eating breakfast, lunch and dinner outside of your house.

In addition to saving money by not eating out, another simple way that the smart money managers use is their acumen and ability to cut out of their budget and modify accordingly. They may cancel cable in exchange for streaming, or make date night an actual night and not something that occurs every single weekend.

They’ll forgo the Starbucks in favor of Maxwell House, and they’ll buy their clothing in the offseason, such as that winter coat in April or the swim trunks in September.

No matter how you slice your savings, you can always do better. The once who do it best are the ones that look at it with a sense of casual common sense and no urgency, just in a way that is cool and calm, while of course they collect that extra money to save.

Money Mistakes Run Rampant when you don’t Budget

The term “budget” is overused considerably by the masses who act as though they have their money allotted in all the right places when in actuality they’re making one financial mistake after another.

Case in point, ask yourself not so much if you have a budget but if you actually track your spending and stick to what you have on paper. Remember, your budget is only as good as your tracking method and often certain line items get left off your list because they’re not main points of payment like your car and house.

That daily cup of coffee or the movies you rent on cable through your DVR box once a week for Saturday date night don’t fall under an entertainment or food piece of budgeting that goes unnoticed, when in actuality they add up considerably.

Your spending also tends to become more difficult when you ironically can’t spend at all. A budget needs to be looked at as though you actually have the ability to spend money, and if that means cutting back on other expenses, then so be it.

If you need to build in a budget item that allows you to buy shirt once per month or a DVD, that shouldn’t be off the table. You have to be able to enjoy your income and so if cutting cable television or lowering your phone payment is the alternative to being able to take a vacation or go to the movies, that’s the give and take that budgeting has to take.

Budgeting also means you have to have your savings account in mind or putting aside that nest egg that we all need when we move toward retirement. Again, it goes back to looking at the entire scope of your income versus your expenses, and getting rid of the latter in spots where you can turn spending into saving.

And far too many people look at budgeting as something they have to do, not a beneficial tool to save money the way it is intended to take place. Budgeting needs to take on the perspective of a means to secure your financial future, to still enjoy life and live comfortably within your means, rather than depravation and deciding between what you can and can’t have.

Budgeting is about what you need to survive and what is expendable, and not so much living in the moment but realizing one day after the next is a balance between how to save money and spend the right way.

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.