Category Archives: Saving

Important Expenses For Which We Need to Save

Who in the world doesn’t like to save money? Well, I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t, since many people love to spend like money is going out of style.  However, many of us who enjoy personal finance truly see the value in saving. In fact, many of us enjoy saving money!

When it comes to saving money, I think that there are some expenses that come to mind quite easily and others that don’t really get taken as seriously as they should.  Here are two examples of each of these types of future expenses we need to save for:

Obvious but Very Important Savings Needs

Retirement

Think about what your current lifestyle is like.  Do you like it? Or, would you really like to be able to afford more?

Well, just to afford the current type of lifestyle, we would need to have a similar level of cash flow.  For example, a couple spending $5,000 per month would need to have that much cash flow in retirement to cover this standard of living.

To get that kind of cash flow strictly from interest income, one would likely need a decent amount of principal.  At $60,000 per year annualized based on the monthly amount just described, with super low rates, the amount of principal needed would be a few million dollars.  Not exactly a small amount!

Most people in this country don’t retire with this kind of money on hand, and pensions seem to be going by the wayside.  With local and state governments potentially at risk for bankruptcy like we’ve already seen in one major city, do we want to counting on pensions anyway?

People can’t work forever, so it’s essential to save as much as possible for retirement.

College

The reality is that many people pay for their own education long after they received it! So, paying for another person’s education isn’t exactly something people are then ready to save for.

You know, kids do grow up fast.  So even though your own student loans January be paid off after hard work, it’s important to start saving for your own kids.  College is increasing at astronomical rates it seems, and yes – it’s important and not optional like a generation ago.   Why put kids in a difficult position of having stress over paying off loans?

Of course, one’s own retirement shouldn’t be put on the shelf for college.  It’s hard to borrow for retirement, while it’s possible to do so for college.

Overlooked Savings Needs

Gaps in Unemployment or Periods of Underemployment

When younger, it seems logical to think that we will progress up the ladder and see continual increases.  Januarybe at some point raises would at worst keep pace with inflation, right?

No, that’s not really right.  People do cap out at some point in their careers, as not everyone can reach the top.  At some point, people get expensive.  The might mean being let go, or working for less than we might think we are worth.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t all be optimistic, because we should! Reach for the stars! But also remember that we just don’t know what exactly will happen. What I’m suggesting is that we should plan for the unexpected, and be prepared in case things don’t follow our best case scenario.

Medical Expenses

As we age, we sure don’t get healthier! Think about it, people seem to get all kinds of ailments and chronic conditions as they get older.  Some people probably fare better than others, but most people deal with one thing or another.  In some cases, these can be expensive issues.

Also, there probably aren’t too many people that find medical costs to be getting less expensive.  Best to save as much as we can for these such costs!

Readers, do you prioritize each of these savings needs? Is there one or more that you feel like you don’t pay much attention to?

Benefits of Using Public Transporation

Is public transportation cheaper than driving? Beyond just cost, is it a better alternative?

Of course, this is something that’s a matter of opinion.  I’ve had experience with both types of commutes, throughout my working years.  Also, I’ve had various difficulties of commutes.

Such as:

  • Driving 5 minutes
  • Driving 30 minutes
  • Driving 90 minutes (no fun)
  • Taking a 40 minute train, then walking 30 minutes or taking a bus
  • Taking a 60 minute train, then walking 10 minutes

Clearly, driving just 5 minutes was amazing.  The thing is, it was my first job out of school, and I didn’t really know any different.  I just saw it as a normal job, and equated the commute to the amount of time I had to spend getting to college or high school in the previous years.  It took me having a longer commute to fully appreciate how good I had it with that first position.  At least, in terms of distance for driving.

Once I had the opportunity to take public transportation, I had a new perspective.  I liked it!  It sure beat having to drive each day.

Now, I would most definitely choose a very short drive over a long train ride.  Time is valuable! However, most other things being equal, one can see a lot of benefits to public transportation.   Here are 5:

1) Spend less on gas.  With the high cost of filling up your car with gas, it can be very expensive to have a long commute.  Driving isn’t cheap! A 30 mile commute, might cost somewhere in the range of $10 round trip.  A train fare, for example, might be comparable or less.

2) Cause less wear and tear on your car.  These are additional “expenses” that we don’t really notice because we don’t see additional cash outlay right away.  However, they add up. The more mileage a person puts on his or her car, the more quickly it depreciates.  For example, a car with 50,000 miles is worth more than a car with 100,000 miles, everything else being equal.  Not much is depreciating when you take public transportation.

3) Less stress.  Let’s face it, we’re really making major life and death decisions on the road when traveling at high speeds.  We also come into contact with enough drivers out there that we eventually cross paths with a few really bad ones here and there.  All that can add subtle stress on the mind and body.  If you take public transportation, you can just sit back and chillax! That allows your own energy to be used on more productive things.

4) A chance to get things done.  So, I mentioned that public transport helps facilitate less stress.  Well, if you want to get some work or other things done, you could do so on public transportation.  You can’t send emails in the car, and you certainly can’t tweet and drive! Not safe.  On a train or bus, this is no problem.  You can be more productive, which can be more profitable.

5) Better for the environment.  Fewer cars on the road helps keep the air cleaner, right?  There is something to be said for knowing that you’re helping do your part, in our own little corner of the world, to help the greater good.

Another thing I’ve liked about public transportation is the reliability of coming and going at specific times, based on a schedule.  Of course, there is a flipside to that, in terms of losing some flexibility. But keeping on schedule probably helps us stay focused on getting things done.  You won’t linger at work for that extra 10 or 15 minutes if you’re risking making your train or bus!

Readers, what are your thoughts about public transportation as an alternative to driving?

8 Ways to Save on Gas Expenses for Your Car

The cost of driving a car seems to be going up, at least from my vantage point.  When I consider how cheap gas was years ago, there is no doubt that its price has risen at a rate higher than that of inflation.

Thus, when I look at how much I’m spending on cars- and gas in particular – I’m motivated to consider ways that one can save.  Spending over $50 at the gas pump recently – after just filling up the week prior – has a way of motivating someone!

Along those lines, I’ve come up with a list of 8 ways to save on gas, which encompass a wide range of expense types:

  1. Carpooling.  This isn’t feasible for many folks, and let’s get real- it might even be annoying depending on the people you carpool with.  However, depending on what your commute to work might be, the savings could really add up over time if you cut your drives by 50% or more.
  2. Plan Your Driving Trips in Advance.  Sometimes, we can plan ahead and consolidate our driving trips for shopping and other errands.  If we just run out to a store because we remembered we needed something, that could cost a couple dollars right there.  Not to mention our precious time!
  3. Don’t Speed Excessively.  First of all, we have speed limit laws that need to be followed :)  Second, we can be very inefficient with gas usage if we speed excessively.
  4. Empty Your Car Trunk.  Using your car trunk as another storage unit might be helpful in some cases, I get it! However, it isn’t going to help our mileage.  Even though savings January be small by being cognizant of this, every little bit counts!
  5. Look for Low Price Gasoline.  I’ve written about this before, discussing apps for gas prices.  Sometimes prices can really vary by a surprisingly significant amount.  Not that it makes sense to go out of our way to drive more to save money, but if two gas stations are equidistant from where you are, and one has prices at 10 cents per gallon less, it would be nice to know.
  6. Take Public Transportation.  This isn’t really an option where I am now,  but I know people that do have that option.  Some of them drive instead of taking public transportation, for the convenience (and dislike of commuter trains).  Well, it can save money in the long run by using public transportation in many cases.
  7. Keep Tires Properly Inflated.  If tires are low on air, it could impact your mileage.  Also, it might not be safe to be driving on tires that have low air pressure.  Check periodically.
  8. Have a Clean Air Filter.  Of course, changing this too much can be expensive.  However, an air filter that is dirty could potentially impact your gas mileage.

Readers, which of these methods for saving money on gasoline do you use? Do you have any others to add?

 

Free is Good – So Use Your Library!

So many of us truly enjoy saving money.  Not just the big picture, important aspect of having enough money for retirement or other necessary expenses.  We also like to have those frequent “successes” in terms of saving money on different purchases or expenses.

It that’s something you enjoy, why not visit the local library? Really, it’s easy to save money by using the library, as I’ve discovered.  Or, rediscovered is a better way to put it.

Personally, when younger, I didn’t care to go to the library.  Honestly, it was a place that was only someplace I might go if I wanted quiet in order to get things done. But looking to the library as a place of value, where I could save money? No, not so much.

However, it’s been the last 6 or 7 years when I’ve rediscovered the benefits of the library.  At the time my new-found discovery started, I was commuting over 75 minutes to work each way.  Yes, that’s 2.5 hours round trip, and on a good day at that.  Needless to say, I was spending far too much time in my car – certainly more than I wanted to!  There was only so much of the radio I could listen to.

That’s when I got the idea to look for books on tape.  For better or worse, my car at the time actually had a cassette option in addition to CD (yes, an older car!), so I had a chance to choose from both types of media.  Upon visiting the local library, I was happy to discover a wide range of good options that I could listen to.  The commute went from being horrible to being…well, at least much more tolerable!  I actually learned some things, and remember some key points from some of those audio books.

That got me to have a new appreciation for the library.  Here are a few things I’ve gotten from it:

New Release Books

Yes, I’ve been able to read some new releases – ones that I could have otherwise bought at a bookstore.  If you have a reader, you know that these things still aren’t cheap.  If you want to go “old school” with a hard-copy book, the library is a good option for a free read.  You might be surprised at the quality of the offerings at your library.  Of course, if you want older books, I’m guessing most libraries have plenty of those too :)

Movies

My local library offers a really good selection of DVDs. Sure, it’s not like I’m getting the benefits of streaming – and choosing from home.  But if you want a wide range of movies, including many great titles and some relatively recent hits, my local library has it.  I can keep the movies for 1 week, and I think I can could renew longer if nobody else has a hold on a particular title.

Classes

There has been one class I signed up for, so I suppose this hasn’t been one I’ve leveraged too much.  But I can see how this can be of major use to people depending on the class or seminar offered.

A  Peaceful Place to Work

This has been helpful.  Once in a while, I’ll leave home to get work done outside.  While I like a coffee shop for this, the library is a good alternative as well.  Why? Well, you get free wi-fi, peace and quiet, and you don’t have to spend a penny.  Alternatively, if you did want to bring in a glass of coffee, my library doesn’t mind.  So, you have choices.

The best part? Of course, it’s all free! No additional costs incurred, other than driving there.

Readers, do you ever try to enjoy your local public library? What do you find to be the best benefits of the library for you?

Customer Loyalty Cards are Great!

Do you use customer loyalty cards at places where you shop or eat?

At one time, I would shy away from doing so.  My reasoning was that the loyalty cards would be more of a burden than a benefit.  For example, one would have to carry the card around in order to accrue any benefits.  For example, back when these were punch cards, it would require carrying the card with you on the specific instances you visited someplace.  Spontaneous visits wouldn’t gain benefits, and it would be cumbersome to carry cards with you at all times.

Also, there is the concept of being lured into visiting someplace just because of the loyalty card.  That was something I might have been influenced by when younger, but not so much anymore.  Such programs don’t cause me to behave any differently in terms of my purchasing habits, at least I believe that to be the case.

These days, however, we don’t need to be burdened by too much at all when signing up for a loyalty program.  If they ask for an email address – which is normal – I’ll give it to them.  You can always set up a separate email for such programs, so they don’t clog up the inbox of your primary address.  Thus, promotional-type emails aren’t annoying.

Additionally, if you visit a place, you don’t have to actually have your card with you.  Since the days of the punch card are gone with most bigger businesses, you can usually circumvent hassles by simply telling the cashier you don’t have your card with you but you can provide your phone number (or email address, if that’s the identifier they ask for).

Through last year, I estimate I probably got about $50 worth of discounts just by signing up for such programs.  There were a few free meals involved, and a few times when I got discounts when ordering.  All without any extra work, other than simply spending a few moments signing up for a program and then pretty much not doing another thing after that – except checking email a few times.  And I literally mean just a few times, as in around my birthday to get a few free meals.  Otherwise, it’s sign up and forget about it  – just take the discount or freebie when they tell you that you have it, when paying.

I suppose a bigger way to save is to never eat out (or do much shopping), and I would agree to that.  However, if you’re going to periodically grab food outside or on the go, sign up for the loyalty program where you think you’ll go multiple times.  Why give away money?

Readers, do you ever sign up for loyalty programs? Have you scored good freebies this way? Are you able to do so while making sure that such programs don’t cause you to spend more?

Using RedLaser to Save Money

With smartphones and even simply going online at home, it’s not too difficult to price comparison shop for quite a few items.  Quite a bit different from how many people – inlcuding me – remember shopping just a decade ago.  Then, we had to go store to store or make phone calls.  No longer!

Along those lines, I recently posted on the phenomenon of showrooming, where people go to stores to look.  Then, they can turn around and buy elsewhere, particularly online.   It’s especially helpful to do this when you have a smartphone.

The question might be, what’s a good way to conveniently use your phone to showroom, or simply compare prices with another store?  I’ve recently discovered an app called RedLaser, which seems quite interesting and provides price comparison information that can be eye opening in some cases.

I simply downloaded the app on my Android phone, and in minutes I was ready to use it.  It’s available on iPhones as well, I believe.  Anyway, at that point I was at the store and all set to compare prices on a few items I was looking for – right before the holidays.

Here’s how it went:

Item #1: Kid’s Toy

Not to bore anyone with the details of the toy, but it was a toy for boys under 8 I would think, and was on sale at the store I was at for $50.  Well, actually $49.99, but let’s get real and call it $50.  I then opened up RedLaser, grabbed the toy, and then found the barcode.  At that point, I scanned the barcode with my phone.  Within a few seconds, the scan was complete.

Then, comparative prices appeared.  What caught my eye were two tabs: “online” and “local”.  Let’s start with the latter, local.  This was most relevant to me, as I probably didn’t have time to get things shipped to me expediently at that point.   The app quickly found local prices ranging from $50 to $76.  So, good news! I was in the right place.

In looking at the online prices, they ranged from $48 to $83.  So, shopping online might not have made sense anyway.

So clearly I was fine where I was.  But if I was somewhere else, at another store, I might have quickly found out that I needed to go somehwere else.  There were multiple stores just within a couple of miles.

Item #2: Laptop Mat

This was one of those things that you can put a laptop on, and it would theoretically keep it cooler.  It’s to be used when you’re on the sofa or just lounging using your laptop.

At the same store I was at, this was priced at $40.  In searching the local price comparison, one place just down the road came in at $30.  Where I was at was at the high end of the range.  Who knew things could be so different between the two items I looked at?

When looking at the online price comparison, there was a similar broad range of prices. Multiple sites had it for over $40.  However, the low end of the range was $26.  Now, I don’t know what shipping might have been in that case, if was free, or what the impact would be on prices.  But the actual item was in fact less.

Anyway, this was simply an experiement of two different items.  What I learned is that prices can vary quite a bit from store to store, and the savings aren’t necessarily just pennies.  If the stores are close enough to each other, using an app like RedLaser can help change where we buy and save us some money.  If we actually have time to shop online and let the items be delivered, it opens up potential savings even more.  Of course this needs to be for items more than just a few dollars, for this effort to be worth it.

So next time you go shopping: ready, set, scan!

My Questions for You

Have you ever tried RedLaser or any other app?

What are your favorite ways to price comparison shop?

 

Showrooming When Buying

Shopping online can be a great way to save money, as you can comparison shop.  With multiple options for buying certain products, we have a number of places we can look in order to see prices.  We can look for the place that offers our product for the best price, and then make the purchase.

Now, buying online might have some distinct shortcomings, and one that jumps to mind right away is the ability to actually see something.  Not everything is a commodity where we know exactly what we’re getting, and whether or not it’s a good fit for us.  Clothes come to mind as an immediate example.  But even beyond that, we might have a number of other things we would like to buy, such as electronics for example.

Whatever the case is, there is one way to avoid this issue: Showrooming when buying.

It’s simple, really.  Go to a retail store, and take a look at the product.  If you like it, you might consider buying it there.  Instead, you can go online or use price comprison apps to check competitor prices.  If you can get it cheaper elsewhere, just buy it elsewhere.  Use your smartphone immediately to decide, after seeing the product in person, if it’s worth your time to buy right there on the spot. Or not.

I just went through this practice, this week.  I was thinking of buying an iPod touch for someone as a gift, and thought I would check it out in person while I was out at a local store.  After liking what I saw, I determined that it would make a good – albeit expensive – gift.   A quick check of prices determined that I could get it for $7 less by simply ordering online, including shipping.  So, I walked out of the store without it.

Not that $7 is an astronomical amount to save, and one could certainly argue with real validity that the time I would spend later to buy it, along with the risks of shipping around the holidays, might not make that small amount of savings worth it.  Fair enough, in this specific case.

However, in other cases, where timing isn’t of the essence and the products are perhaps different, the value proposition could be much more clear.  You could simply look in person, then order later - all the while saving more money while waiting a short while for your item to arrive.

I do feel a tiny bit guilty, but rationally I know that it’s not warranted. Business is business, and you have to save when you can.  Showrooming can be a good way to get the best of both worlds, seeing the product in person and getting the best online price.

Readers, have you ever showroomed? What do you think are times when it can be worth it?

5 Ways Bloggers Can Use Fiverr to Outsource Tasks

The Number 5

Taking a chance on $5 Services!

In the world of digital money, we can bank, invest, and shop online.  With barriers to entry weakened, there are many different business and entrepreneurs who can take advatange of this stage to get their products to you.  This can push prices downward, which in man cases helps the end consumer.

One such source for low-cost deals is Fiverr.  Have you ever really spent time to check it out?  I really hadn’t paid much attention to it until recently, just perusing it to see what it was all about.  However,  when going through the site for a specific purpose recently, I realized that there are a ton of different things that one can get for the low cost of just $5.  Yes, are are tons of things that can even be outsourced for $5.

This is where I decided to consider how to use Fiverr for outsourcing blogging tasks.  I almost feel bad that people are just getting $5 for such things, at that doesn’t seem like a lot of money for one’s time.  However, it’s a free market and if that’s the going rate, then I’ll take a look!

In honor of the $5 price point, and to serve as an example of the value of this site, here are 5 tasks that bloggers can outsource on Fiverr:

1) Blog Header

Starting a new blog? Or, do you have a header you don’t want – but don’t want to spend the time putting one together?  This is where you can get low cost help.

Take a look at the header at the top of this page.  Yes, this was purchased through Fiverr.  I offered up my specs, paid the $5, and hoped for the best.  It was my first and only foray into Fiverr, but I thought I would give it a try.  The result was a functional header that was pretty much what I was looking for: black background, with silver or similar lettering.

Granted, I can admit that this isn’t a super glamorous header.  A more snazzy, detailed one might have been able to be purchased for quite a bit more.  However, a basic header was good for this site at this particular point in getting started, and I was pleased with getting this for just $5 while being turned around is 1 day.  The designer even gave a 2nd version, just in case.  I went with this one, and can be considered a pleased customer.

Some other things that you might be able to get for $5 (I haven’t paid for any of these):

2) Twitter Background

Again, I haven’t done this.  But given that my Twitter background is quite basic at this early point in the blog’s life, I might explore this in the future.

Just searching Fiverr, I can see quite a few opportunites to get a Twitter background for $5.  TONS of people were advertising this service, which really speaks to how the competition can be quite intense.  I like that, from the perspective of a potential consumer.  With such a massive number of people trying to do something very similar at the same price, it makes sense that to get a lot of repeat orders they should work to be very good.

3) E-Book Cover

Have an e-book that you’re writing? Or, perhaps you’re considering writing one in the future?  This is yet another option for that $5.  I saw people describing the end product as “professional”, and some noted 24 hour turnaround.  Certainly worth keeping in mind, at the very least!

4) Keyword Research

Now, this appears to run the gamut of possible services.  From specific keywords for niches, or analysis, or other tasks altogether, there is no shortage of people that offer these services.  I haven’t used any of this, so I can’t speak for the output at all.  That being said, you can see the rating percentage as well as read individual reviews of the services.  That might offer some useful information before shelling out that $5!

5) Voice-Over

Considering making a video, or just need a voiceover for something you’re trying to add to your blog?  There are people offering their services on Fiverr that advertise just those types of things.  You could even get things in different accents!  Not a mainstream blogger need, perhaps, but an interesting option that’s there!

Other services I noticed:  facebook fans, twitter followers, blog promotion…and the list goes on.

Readers: have you ever used Fiverr for anything, blogging or otherwise? After checking it out, is there anything that seems interesting that caught your eye as a good deal for $5?

Saving Money by Comparing Gas Prices Online or With Apps

Gas PricesUnless you live in an urban center, and don’t need to commute too far, you probably live in a household with a car.  Along with that car comes expenses, including the regular purchase of gasoline.  As we know, in recent years those prices arent’ exactly low anymore. Thus, it just might be a good idea to compare gas prices in order to save money.

Now, first of all, I have to admit that I think that we should be careful not to go too far just to save a little bit of money on gas.  Or, for that matter, anything.  While saving money is very important, and of course a critical part of reaching financial freedom, it shouldn’t require spending ridiculous amounts of time to do so.  Not to mention spending money or driving further to do so, which is convoluted and another topic for another day.

However, sometimes we can just spend a little bit of incremental time in order to save money. In these such cases, I think it might be worth it.  One such way to save money on gas is to compare prices online, or via a smartphone app.

The one source I sought to check out was Gas Buddy, which honestly was simply top of mind to me.   When it comes down to it, this is really quite simple and doesn’t take much time to do.  Remember, time is valuable! Anyway, all it took was searching by zip code to get the most current reported low prices in the area.  Just a few moments, and the prices were there!

I was quickly able to determine that there was a price variation of $0.20 per gallon in the local vicinity, from high to low.  Additionally, to capture these savings, it wouldn’t really require any extra time or additional driving.  So, it would be pretty close to incremental.  Filling up 15 gallons, that would equate to $3.00 in savings.  If you fill your tank 3 times per month, that’s $9.00.  Annualized, that’s $108.00!

Of course, it’s hard to really say that there would such a wide range of prices at all times, and that it would always be possible to count on such savings.  However, even if you could save 50% of this – meaning $54 – it’s not a bad annual total to save just for taking a moment to quickly search prices. Small amount add up!

Other sources (these were sites, not apps) that I saw were Mapquest Gas Prices, and MSN Autos.  Ultimately, whatever you might prefer to use it of course up to you.  But keep in mind that there just might be some savings to be had by taking a few moments to quickly compare gas prices.

Readers – do you actively compare gas prices? If so, A) do you check online, and B) what would be enough of a difference for you to go to a different station that originally planned?