5 Ways to Save on Childcare Costs

 
 
Any working parent will tell you that childcare is expensive. But even they might not realize the true cost. A recent study by Child Care Aware revealed that in 31 states, the annual cost of childcare for a child under 15 actually exceeds the cost of yearly instate tuition and fees at the states public colleges. So while planning a child’s future education is certainly important, you’re probably more concerned with saving in the here and now.
Explore All Your Options: The highest priced care isn’t necessarily the best. With national chains, the cost of branding and marketing is factored into the price, so you may find that a locally owned, independent childcare center offers more personalized services for less. Also, look into options offered by local churches (you don’t always have to be a member to use their services) and day care centers run out of private homes. Be sure whichever option you choose is licensed by your state.Adjust Your Schedule: Do you really have to be present at your job five days a week to get work done? Ask your employer to allow you to try working from home one day a week. It might not seem like much, but over time the money you will save by not using childcare one day a week will really add up. Just be sure you will have the self-discipline and quiet time needed to actually get work done, or the plan could backfire.
Consider a Nanny Share: While hiring a full-time nanny might be out of budget, it become much more accessible if you share the cost with one or more families. Sharing a full- or part-time nanny is a great solution if you have like-minded friends or family with children around the same ages as yours. A nanny share offers the socialization benefits of day care with the scheduling flexibility and one-on-one attention of in-home care.
Don’t Forget about the Child Care Tax Credit: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit allows you to itemize up to $3000 per child, per year, with a $6000 cap per family. Keep in mind the expenses must be related to allowing you to work so it doesn’t cover the costs for leisure-time babysitting or sleep-away camp; day camp costs may qualify, however.
Think Outside the Day Care: If you have children in elementary school, you may just need child care coverage for a few hours before and/or after school. Before you commit to using a pricey day care to fill the gaps, look into whether your child’s school district offers before and after school programs. Many local parks departments offer similar services. Another option is to find a responsible teen for in-home babysitting until you get home from work. Your kids will be able to get home much sooner to start on homework or chores and you will get to come straight home from work.

Understanding Want vs. Need

 

One of the most basic concepts when it comes to saving money is that we must learn how to determine our wants vs. or needs. No matter where you seek financial advice, you will see or hear that seemingly simple concept over and over again
At first glance, it does seem simple. Our needs are the things we must have to sustain us day to day: food, shelter, clothing, personal care items, and in most cases safe, reliable transportation. Just about everything else can be classified as a want (though it might seem like a need)- entertainment, electronics, leisure travel … the list of things we want is potentially endless.But even within the needs category, the lines can blur. We must have food every day, but we don’t need to dine out to get it. We must be fully clothed to go out in public, but we don’t need the latest fashions to stay within the bounds of decency.
We have become a culture of want, addicted to the rush of newness and convinced it is the road to happiness. So how can we stop wanting so much and appreciate simply meeting our needs. Here are a few ideas.
Take Inventory – Look around and evaluate everything you already have. Chances are you are far exceeding your basic needs in almost every area. Work on cultivating a grateful attitude and appreciating relationships and experiences, more than material things.
Avoid Temptation – Advertising – in all its forms – is designed to make us want. Avoid it as much as possible by unsubscribing from retailers’ promotional emails, recording television shows and skipping through commercials, and carefully choosing the online content you consume. Break the habit of going digital “window shopping” when you’re bored.
Practice the One-In-One-Out Rule- Successful minimalists live by this concept. It simply means that anytime you bring a new item into your home, you must get rid of one that tis the same or similar. So, a new pair of shoes, old pair of shoes out. New baseball cap in, old baseball cap out. You get the idea. It will be easy at first, since most of us have plenty to get rid of. But as you pare down your stuff to items you truly value and enjoy, you will be less inclined to toss them for something new.
Factor in Hidden Costs – Often we purchase something new without thinking of the additional costs we will incur as a result. That shiny new vehicle is gorgeous, but what about the added costs of higher registration and insurance rates? The fancy new phone sure looks fun, but does that new data plan fit with your budget? When you stop to think about the total cost of something, you might discover you’re perfectly content to keeping what you already have. Until you truly need something new.

Saving Money the SMART Way

 

We Know This – Saving Money is Hard!- Financial advisors offer the same piece of advice to those just starting to save money: everyone should save at least 3-6 month’s living expenses. And it is good advice. Having funds to hold you over while you face a job loss, major illness, or other expensive life event is a wonderful gift you can give yourself. The peace of mind that comes with knowing you can face life’s challenges is well worth the effort.
But effort is an understatement. With the US savings rate currently 4%, clearly few of us are setting aside 20-30% of our monthly income to build up emergency savings accounts. This level of saving is difficult, if not impossible for many.Are Payday Loans the Answer? -What if you have no savings at all and your current level of money management finds you just making it, paycheck-to-paycheck? Alternate savings advice is commonly “at least $5 per paycheck.” While certainly better than nothing, this plan would net you $1000 after 7.5 years of saving, assuming your payday comes every two weeks. With such a slow savings rate, why even bother. Robbing Peter to pay Paul or (yikes) taking out a Payday loan will get you out of a minor financial bind faster than $5 a paycheck ever will.
Zero savings, however, leaves you at the mercy of your finances. The only thing we know for sure about financial emergencies is that they will happen, eventually.
SMART Goals Make it Happen. -Do the best you can. Pick a goal that works for your situation, set specific amounts and give yourself a strict timeframe to build up your projected savings.
No financial adviser knows exactly what your situation is, but they get this one right, every time: paying yourself first is a must if you want to regain control of your finances.
When you are ready to save, make your goal a SMART one: Decide upon a Specific amount- making your goal Measureable. An Attainable goal is one you have the means to reach, while a Realistic takes other time and money obligations into account. A Time bound goal helps you plan to save a specific amount, by a specific date. Setting timeframes helps keep you motivated to meet your goals.

20 Easy Ways to Save Some Money Daily

 

These days, in our world of instant gratification, it is more important than ever to be able to stay focused on saving money any way you can. So to help you monitor your spending habits and cut expenses, here are 20 easy ways you can save every day – starting right now. How’s that for instant gratification? 

Make a weekly ‘money date’. Commit to sitting down with your money once a week for a money date. During this time, update your budget, review your accounts and track your progress against your financial goals. Like any relationship, if you want your financial life to improve, you must spend time with your money.
Plan out your meals for the week. Taking a few hours every weekend to grocery shop and meal plan for the week will definitely save you money, as dining out is the number one expense for most households. By eating at home, you save money that would otherwise be spent on tax and tip- and you usually save calories, too.
Cut out cable. Gasp! Cut out TV? Never! But with services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you can now watch your favorite TV shows and movies for a fraction of the cost of cable TV.
* A study by a market research firm NPD Group shows that cable bills will soon grow to an average of $123 per month, or $1,476 per year. By switching over to an online service or cutting out TV all together, you can save that money for another financial goal- such as paying off debt, traveling or saving for a down payment on a home.4. **Switch to an exercise pass program. ** If you love working out, an exercise pass program such as Class Pass is the way to go. By paying a membership fee of $99 per month, you are welcome at many of the best studios in your are. And classes- like cycling, yoga, Pilates, barre, strength training, boot camp, dance and more- are unlimited. This beats having to pay for each studio's monthly membership or individual class fee, which can add up to hundreds of dollars a month. 

Host a potluck. The more friends you have, the more money you spend on lunch dates, birthday parties and gifts. Switch it up and, instead of meeting over a fancy dinner, host a potluck and have everyone bring his or her favorite dish. That way, you can save the money you’d spend on restaurant extras, such as tax, tip, parking – and you’ll usually have multiple meals together, too.
Leverage lodging rental websites.  Finding a place to stay while traveling is so convenient when you use a lodging rental website such as Airbnb, Travelmob, our Housetrip. You can often find a place that has a kitchen (so you can cook meals and save money) at a rate that is comparable to hotels. It’s a win-win scenario.
Make coffee at home. This one is not my favorite, as I love going to coffee stores and drinking organic coffee. However, spending $4-$5 on a coffee everyday will add up. So try my approach and allow yourself a few days a week to buy coffee, and the rest of the days, make your own. 
Walk More. When you are working a lot, there’s not much time left to shop and spend money. So stay busy and pursue a career you love. 
Wait 48 hours before you click ‘buy’. Since we can have anything we want these days with just the click of a button (there’s that instant gratification again), you need to find a system to help buffer your impulse purchases. 
* Example: wait 48 hours before spending money that cost more than a certain amount. When you do, you will find that, most of the time, the item was a 'want' and not a 'need'. Plus, you will save money and work toward being more mindful with your spending. 10. **Use blogs and Pinterest to learn DIY treatments.** Self-care is important- but going to spas and getting pedicures, massages, ect., can really add up. Allow yourself certain amount to spend on these things; then use blogs and apps like Pinterest to find at-home beauty treatments to help you save money. Often you can find a DIY organic option using common household or kitchen products. 

Outsource online. Time is a commodity, and your time is precious and valuable. And these days, there are so many tasks you can outsource that will save you time and money. But how do you figure out if outsourcing something is worth the expense? 

A great thing to do is actually calculate the cost of your time, which will help you figure out if you can pay someone to do something for less than your hourly rate. Here is an example: A monthly net income of $3,000 divided by a total of 160 hours worked equals an hourly rate of $16.75. Now that you know the value of your time, you can strategically outsource it using a service like Fiverr or Task Rabbit for a fraction of your own hourly rate. 12. Get Creative with gifts. Find creative ways to express your love to friends and family members with free, lower-cost or handmade birthday and holiday gifts. After all, a handwritten not explaining why you love someone can be more sentimental than some expensive gift he or she may never even use. Most people will appreciate the thought behind your gifts more than anything, so don’t be afraid to save money and find free ways to celebrate birthdays and holidays. 

Choose quality over quantity. This can apply to food, clothes, electronics and much more. Although it is tempting to choose the more budget-friendly version of an item, sometimes choosing quality over quantity will save you more in the long run. Save up your money and get the best- quality product you can afford, and leverage the cost-per-wear philosophy with much more expensive clothing and shoes. This applies to food, too: buying organic quality food can nourish you in ways that fill you up more than prepackaged, processed stuff and potentially save you money on health-care expenses in the future, since you are taking good care of yourself. Find a balance that is right for you and choose quality whenever you can.
Deal with your emotions.  Excessive spending is often a way to avoid feeling certain emotions. If you check in with yourself before you go on a major spending spree, you may be able to identify if you are feeling bored, lonely or stressed and are therefore spending money as a means to avoid the underlying emotion. Check in with yourself before you buy, and be mindful with your spending. 
Stop trying to keep up with the Kardashians.  It is hard to keep your blinders on and not compare your financial life to that of others, especially celebrities. However, it is really important to be clear about what matters most to you and make sure you build a financial plan that supports that vision. This will keep you moving toward your financial goals and stop you from spending money on things you don’t need.
Read a personal finance book. When you learn about personal finance, you will learn even more strategies to help you save money for your goals in life. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can save. 
Balance your ‘YOLO’ mind-set.  With social media controlling our lives like never before, people often fall victim to the ‘fear of missing out’ phenomenon and instead go overboard with a ‘you only live once mentality’.

While it is important to live in the present and soak up each precious moment of life, make sure you balance that out by saving for your financial future, too. Without checks and balances in place, you can find yourself saying yes to everything and spending more money than you have – all due to the fear of missing out. 18. Map out your financial goals.  Be very specific with your financial goals. For example, saying. “I want to save money for a home down payment” is not enough. You need to map out how much you need, by when and what you need to save every month in order to reach the goal. When you know what your targets are, you are more likely to stay the course and continue saving for them for the long term.

Keep your eye on the prize. Staying focused on goals takes discipline and determination. Saving can be easy and exciting at first, but after a while you may lose that initial motivation and start to find other things you can spend that money on. To avoid veering off course, check in with your goals regularly and keep your eye on the prize. 
Track your progress. Americans save only 5.5% of their money compared to the 20% that personal finance indicates you should put away. But instead of feeling ashamed about your lack of savings, just start by saving something. 

Even 1% is better than nothing. Track your progress and continue to increase the number year after year. Step by step, day by day, you can get to that 20% savings level. 

The truth is, there are many ways to save money. Find the ways that work for you, and slowly start incorporating these strategies into your life. 
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Supermarket Spending Traps

 
 
You did everything right. Planned a menu, made a list, organized your coupons, updated your shopping apps, and had a snack before you left for the store. Yet, you still ended up going over your grocery budget for the week, and you don’t know why. Chances are, you got caught in one or more of the following supermarket spending traps.
Spending Trap #1: Music
While it may seem like harmless background noise, the music played in the store can actually affect your shopping habits. Slow music can cause you to take your time and spend more. And classical music can make you buy more expensive items than you intended. To counter these effects, you can bring your headphones and listen to your own music. Or just be aware that when you hear Beethoven and Brahms, the store is hoping you’ll reach for the brie.Spending Trap #2: Store Layout
It is no accident that the tempting aromas of fresh baked goods great you as you enter the store. Or that staple items like eggs and milk are all the way in the back. This spending trap is designed to make you hungry and get you to walk through the entire store to get to the items you really need. There are a few ways to escape this spending trap. One is to learn the layout of the store you shop most often and head for only what you need, bypassing temptation along the way. The other is to shot the perimeter of the store for staple items like produce, dairy, and meat and avoid the aisles as much as possible.
Spending Trap #3: Bulk Sales
The sign screams ’10 for $10!’ which seems like a great deal, until you get home and realize you only needed two. These bulk sales are really just a sneaky way of getting you to spend more then you planned. Studies show they can get you to increase how much you spend by 30-100%! Don’t fall for it. Stay on track and buy only what you know you will use.
Spending Trap #4: Shelf Placement
Be aware that stores place their most profitable items at eye level. It’s where you’ll find the name brands and recognizable packaging. But when you take the time to look up and down, you’ll see the store brands and generics that will help you save. Just remember not to grab for the first thing on the shelf that catches your eye- it was meant for a reason.
Spending Trap #5: Free Samples
Sure, free samples are a fun diversion, and often delicious too. So delicious, in fact, they entice you into buying something you hadn’t planned. Stores don’t give out free samples just to keep you happy while shopping. They do it to provide the instant gratification that makes you more likely to impulse buy the item you just sampled. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the fre samples. Simply take one, smile, say thank you and go right no shopping from your list.
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The Secrets of Living Comfortably Within a Tight Budget

In this high expensive world, people are struggling hard to lead a comfortable life within a limited budget. Leading a frugal and affordable life has acquired a new meaning in times of recession and inflation. Are you aware of the secrets of living comfortably within a limited budget?
What are the tips that can help you to lead a good life within a limited budget?In order to live comfortably within a tight budget you have to be very cautious and take precautionary measures that will obstruct you from spending more. These are some of the tips that can be helpful to you for leading a frugal life and still enjoy life with all the necessary amenities required for livelihood.

You have to examine and analyze your expenses. Why don’t you formulate a balanced personal budget and try to stick to it? When you are able to analyze the areas of expenses you can plan out accordingly and then spend money wisely.
Get rid of your credit card debts one by one. Stop using your credit cards until you are successful to pay off the debts. Furthermore,don’t possess too many credit cards. Instead, you can make use of the debit cards and stay in your budget.
Find out alternative options to expensive entertainments. Instead of hanging around in restaurants, lounges, bars and coffee shops, you can plan out for hangouts with your friends and family right at your home. It not only reduces your expenditure but also provides you with full entertainment.
Limit the use of your car. There are several transportation facilities and services available to reach schools, colleges, workplace, market, etc. In order to cut down the expenses on the fuel and maintenance you have to take the aid of public transports like bus, trains, cabs, share taxis etc., more often.
How about growing your own vegetable and fruits? Don’t you think this is a fantastic idea of spending less yet having top notch quality products? When you grow vegetables and fruits in your home, you don’t have to spend money purchasing costly items from the market.

These five tips can help you to live a frugal life comfortably. Once you get used to the frugal life and understand the value of staying within the budget, it becomes an easy task to improve your credit score as well. When there is an improvement in the credit score, your chances of loan rejections get minimized.
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4 Budgeting Basics for Beginners

Budgeting is something most of us like to put off for the longest time. We assume it isn’t important until we have a student loan, mortgage debt or credit card debts looming over us. However, emergencies, major life changes and lifestyle demands deem it necessary we look into our finances and budget. 
Here is a quick 4 step guide for all of you budgeting beginners. Don’t worry, it isn’t as bad as most of us make it out to be. Compare income and monthly bills. The first step to budgeting is the bigger figures. Tracking all your big and small spends in the week will only make you want to pull out your hair. Start with taking into account your whole monthly income and subtract fixed monthly expenses like the electricity bill, rent, ect. the stuff you know you will invariable spend out of your income. This is the base amount for your budget. 
Weigh in your spending cash.  The difference between your income and base expenses is your spending cash. What you decide to do with this money will define your spending habits. It is crucial that you separate impulsive purchases from important ones like grocery shopping and home supplies. Factor in the things you may splurge on and ensure it is a lot lesser than the actual necessities. 
Make saving a priority over spending. It is easy to feel like more credit accounts won’t hurt and assume you’ll make payments effortlessly in the near future. A big part of budgeting is cutting down piled up debt. In the beginning it may feel like you are doing away with too much handy cash. But, your savings will erase debt and in the long run you will have less to put away in the debt fund and more for your personal expenditure. 
Plan your month. This is the part everyone doesn’t like. However, you will be surprised how satisfying it is to find you have more room in your personal budget for things you have wanted to invest in. Once you are done with figuring out how much cash belongs where, pen it down. If excel sheets aren’t looking very friendly, get yourself an app that lets you prepare a budget, but make sure you chalk it down somewhere. This will keep you organized and give you a clear picture of your budget. 
Following a personal budget may feel a little restrictive in the beginning. Cut yourself some slack and know that you won’t be a wiz at it right off the bat. Take baby steps and let your budget do the saving for you. 
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Start Small to Save Big – Easy Saving Solutionss

When looking for ways to save money, we often focus on the big things and completely overlook the small expenses that add up over time to eat away at potential savings. For example, paying a dollar and change for a bottle of water might seem insignificant, but doing it every day for a year can really make a dent into your savings plan. The key is to start thinking of the long-term impact of your choices rather than short-term gratification of buying something you want in the moment. 
Here is a breakdown of some everyday purchases and the long-term impact they can have on your financial health along with alternative saving solutions. Calculations are based on U.S. national average price and a five-day work week. 

Bottle of Water
* Average Price: $1.45

Per Week: $7.25
Per Month: $36.25
Per year: $435

Saving Solution:  Buy a case of bottled water from the warehouse club, which works out to a much cheaper per unit price. Better yet, get a refillable water bottle and fill it with filtered water as many times as you want. Many bottled waters are simply filtered municipal water anyway, so there is really no reason to pay extra for it. It is better for your wallet (and the environment, too). 

Coffeehouse Coffee
* Average Price: $3

Per Week: $15
Per Month: $60
Per Year: $720

Saving Solution: Make your coffee at home and take it in with you in an insulated travel mug. Even if you splurge on exotic beans, you will still save a bundle over buying from a coffeehouse. Better yet, embrace the free coffee offered at your office (if available) and bring in your own flavored creamer. 

Buying Lunch
* Average Price: $10

Per Week: $50
Per Month: $200
Per Year: $720

Saving Solution: Yikes! Do you really want to spend more than $2000 a year eating forgettable meals? Making your own lunch is not only cheaper, it is likely healthier, too. Beat boredom by trying new and interesting recipes, or cooking dinners with the intent of taking the leftovers for lunch. Use the money you save on lunch to take vacations instead. 

Happy Hour
* Average Price: $20

Per Week: $20
Per Month: $80
Per Year: $960

Saving Solution: It is always fun to let loose with coworkers after a hard week, but you do not have to hit the bar to do it. Invite people over for a BYOB happy hour and ask everyone to bring a snack or appetizer. Rotate houses to share hosting duties. 
Of course, there will be days where you don t feel like making lunch, or leaving your freshly made coffee sitting on the counter as you leave the house in a mad rush. Life happens. It is unrealistic to expect that yo will never need or want to spend money on purchases. The goal is to think before you spend, rather than getting to the end of the week and wondering why your wallet is empty and you have nothing tangible to show for it. 
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Are you Financially Fragile?

Are you familiar with the phrase ‘financially fragile’? It’s a phrase economists use to describe people who would not be able to pull together $2000 cash within 30 days. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that more than a quarter of Americans fall into the financially fragile category. Even Vice President Joe Biden recently made headlines for declaring he didn’t have an emergency savings account ready to go.
While $2000 cash sounds like a lot of money (and it is), it represents what many people typically need in the event of an emergency such as a major car repair, unforeseen medical bills, or mandatory home repairs.
If you’ve suddenly realized that you’re financially fragile, there is no need to panic. But you need to start saving immediately to reach (and exceed) that coal of having $2000 emergency cash. Here are some ways you can do it.Get a Second Job or Pick Up Extra Hours-
Remember when you were a kid and you’d ask to do extra chores to make money above and beyond your regular allowance? This is the grown-up version of that. Working a part-time or weekend job for a few months and putting all of your pay toward your emergency fund will make it grow quickly. Or if you have a chance to pick up extra hours at your current job, do it. Just be sure any extra pay goes toward that $2000 goal.
Liquidate Your Assets-
 This is really just a fancy way of saying sell some stuff. Whether you have a yard sall, sell items on Craigslist or eBay or through consignment shops, you can cash in by selling things you no longer want, need or use. Look around your house for unused sports and fitness equipment, clothing with tags still attached, electronics – even your old cell phones. Just about anything in new or good working condition has a resale value. Deposit all the proceeds from what you sell into your emergency fund.
Cut Back on Expenses –
Challenge yourself to a few months of personal economic austerity measures and put the money saved towards your emergency savings goal. For starters, minimize dining out, take your lunch to work and skip the coffeehouse coffee every morning. Another great way to save is by switching to a streaming video service rather than paying for cable. You can also start using coupons and money-saving apps when you shop for groceries and household essentials. And if you’re feeling ambitious, start making staples like bread and yogurt from scratch.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize- Remember that everything you are doing is to help you reach your $2000 emergency savings goal. The extra hours might be tiring and you might get bored with packing lunch every day , but it is all to give you piece of mind you need to remove yourself from the financially fragile category. You can do it.

Last summer of Freedom? Not From Your Debt!

Alright, summer is officially here, graduation parties are over, the congratulations of relatives are beginning to fade and you are ready for your last summer of freedom. Sounds great, but recent college grads with personal debt to finance their future careers can’t really afford an “I’ll do it tomorrow” attitude.
Along with sun and beaches needs to be careful consideration of the proper way to approach student loan relief or student loan consolidation. This process may take longer than many might expect, unless of course you’re expecting the President to pay for it. Note the sarcasm? Yes you can’t rely on the Obama Student Loan Relief program, because it’s an urban myth.So now you’ve accomplished one task already; crossing the Obama Student Loan Relief idea off your list.
Then what? Well as the past decade has shown personal debt is not something not to be taken lightly. You need to formulate some actions steps now to address your concerns or hopes for student loan consolidation or discover if student loan relief is truly a viable option.
You need to align yourself with a qualified personal debt counselor. Uncle Jerry may have made a bundle, and Grandma has your best interests at heart but unless they head the IRS, they may not be the most qualified on the latest ever changing regulations and programs for student loan consolidation. Do your research and find the right person for you, because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are over 30- thousand credit counselors actively working in the U.S. today as the issues surrounding personal debt continue to spiral and confound the average consumer.
Once you are able to make a connection with one of these qualified credit counselors, then you may actually qualify for student loan relief, though it won’t happen overnight.
These are limited to certain incomes and careers. The federal government does offer a Pay As You Earn option if your student loan monthly payments are in excess of 10% of your expendable income. If you’re headed for a teaching position you may qualify for a teacher loan forgiveness after working for 5-years in an impoverished elementary or secondary school. Additionally careers in public service or the nonprofit sector may be more desirable as there are options there for student loan relief. Some of these government sponsored programs will forgive up to 100% of your personal debt from student loans after five years of service or wipe the slate the completely clean after 10-years in a specified position.
Some things to think about as you enjoy perhaps your last summer of freedom but keep in mind learning how to properly deal with a personal budget now will give you a lifetime of freedom.