July 18, 2018

Save Money On Food

Save Money on Food

Cooking you own meals can significantly cut the costs of eating. Even fast-food eating out in enormously expensive.

The typical American family of four spends $8,513 per year on groceries. And many families add to that amount by eating out regularly. If you are interested in cutting the amount you spend at the grocery store, file these tips away and follow the advice they offer:

Learn to cook. Cooking you own meals can significantly cut the costs of eating. Even fast-food eating out in enormously expensive. You’ll also save if you cook from scratch and avoid the higher-priced frozen and pre-prepared meals. Not only that, it is likely that you will eat healthier. Book stores have dozens of cookbooks, many of them focused on inexpensive and easy-to-fix meals.

Take fewer trips to the grocery store. Typical American food shoppers go to a store three or four times a week. This means they triple or quadruple the temptation to pick up things they don’t really need. Studies say the frequent shoppers spend up to 54 percent more than those who stock up for a month or more at a time.

Take sack lunches to work. Compare the cost of a $2 brown bag lunch to the average $6 trip to a sandwich shop and you can see how fast you could save yourself some serious money. In this comparison, the savings are about $80 a month or $960 in a year.

Make a list. Impulse buying is sharply curtailed when you have it written down. Sketch out a week’s meals and see that all the ingredients are on hand. Add a few goodies to the list for the occasional treat, but otherwise, stick with the list.

Buy generic. No-name brands are almost invariably less expensive than those that you recognize right off the bat and the quality is likely to be comparable. The experts say you can pocket big savings on such items as canned goods, cereals, frozen vegetables and even baby products such as diapers and prepared formulas. When buying prescription drugs, compare labels so you are sure you are getting the same dose of the active ingredients.

Use coupons. Coupons are good money-savers only if you look for items that don’t cost more than you would find in another brand. Store brands usually cost less. Eateries also offer coupons and you’ll find them online.

Many stores offer information on their shelves or price tags that gives a unit price. Comparison shop using the unit price. Buying in quantity is a good idea for some items. For instance, a pack of 40 diapers may cost f$13. or 33 cents per diaper. A box of 144 diapers at $35 is just 24 cents per diaper. (A word of caution: Although buying in bulk is usually less expensive, it’s a waste if you cannot use the product within a reasonable time. A good deal is not a good deal if it goes to waste.)

Robust Economy? Not For Everyone

Robust Economy

While the economy appears in print as encouraging, there are problems to address before the benefit can blanket all Americans

Unemployment is down. Spending is up. Inflation is manageable. Taxes are down. Demand for new homes is up. Household wealth is higher.

So how come many Americans are not feeling secure, even though the last major recession is nine years in the past? Too many of them are falling into categories where high child care costs wipe out the advantages, or the expanding costs of travel wipe out any pay raises, or those pay raises have not materialized, or . . .

Analysts at Oxford Economics who studied American spending patterns found that those in the bottom 60 percent of earners were drawing from their savings to maintain a standard of living. Many are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Even those who have found jobs as the jobless rate dipped are not feeling financially secure.

Here’s how the current economy looks to these folks:

Even though inflation is not a current concern, the prices of some indispensible items is rising. Gasoline is up 24 percent since a year ago. That can eat away as much as a third of what people hoped to save.

Owning a home has become harder, not easier. Many areas of the country are seeing a dearth of listings in the affordable range. Prices are rising more than 6 percent annually overall and even higher in some areas, increases that effectually wipe out the 2.7 percent increase in most hourly wages. Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages are growing costlier. Average interest rates have jumped too 4.62 percent, from 3.95 percent at the beginning of this year.

At the root of the problem is the decline of America’s middle class. Wealth is increasingly lop-sided, with the ultra-rich sector growing while those at the other end of the scale see little benefit from the great economy. The top 10 percent of the country controls 73 percent of the personal wealth. The gains are concentrated in the top 1 percent, which lays claim to 39 percent of the wealth.

Where the middle class once included some 40 percent of the overall population, the figure now is just 27 percent. In the lowest 40 percent, Americans have a negative net worth and few have cushions sufficient to offset an emergency. They can’t look to stocks, rental properties, capital gains or home equity to shore up the budget if needed. Hourly wages haven’t risen over the past year for most of them.

Times are particularly tough for people who lack an advanced educational degree. Those who ended their education with high school find themselves scrambling as most of the jobs go to college grads. Those minimally educated make up less then 1 percent of the job gains that have boosted the overall economy.

At the same time, it isn’t all rosy for those with a college degree. Ever-higher student debt has wiped out some of the advantage. Since 2004, total student debt has increased 540 percent to a startling total of $1.4 trillion. That doesn’t include graduate school debt. That debt is influencing the ability to buy homes. Realtors have reported home-buying delays of about seven years among those burdened with education debt. College graduates dealing with debt also tend to delay the start of families, another factor that impedes full economic health in the country.

Children are, in fact, very expensive. Nearly a third of families put out at least 20 percent of their income for child care. Some families go into debt to cover child care expenses. Average cost of care for one child is $10,486 a year and it can be as high as $20,209. Many women have dropped out of the job market to stay home with children rather than pay the high costs of outside care.

The percentage of American women in the workforce has dropped from 77 percent in 2000 to 74.8 percent now. A return to the higher figure would see some 1.4 million more women in the workplace.

So while the economy appears in print as encouraging, there are problems to address before the benefit can blanket all Americans.

Wise Shopping For Groceries

Grocery Shopping

Essential ingredients are placed at opposite ends of the store so you must pass through the inner aisles to reach the dairy products at one end and produce at the other

Grocery stores are strategically designed to tempt the shopper into spending more money. Try to avoid some of the pitfalls by following these tips:

Essential ingredients are placed at opposite ends of the store so you must pass through the inner aisles to reach the dairy products at one end and produce at the other. Try to focus on what you need and don’t spend unnecessary time in the central aisles.

Don’t shun coupons. You can save serious cash if you are willing to spend a little time and effort to accumulate coupons for items you routinely buy. Watch the store’s ads to magnify the benefit of coupons. Staying current with sales will save you money. Be aware, however, that coupons are most likely to give you a break on brand-name products when there may be cheaper alternatives. Don’t buy something you don’t need because there is a coupon.

Toiletries generally are cheaper at a pharmacy than in the grocery store. Stock up with an occasional trip to the pharmacy.

Don’t become addicted to brand names. Often, a generic or house brand is of comparable quality and costs less. Often, they are the same product under a different label. Check the ingredients to be certain you are not sacrificing anything.

Remember that the eye-level shelves are likely to contain the more expensive items. Grocery store managers know that what the shopper sees at eye-level is most likely to catch their attention. Look up or down before buying the first version you see.

If an item you have seen that is currently discounted, but you can’t find it one the shelves, don’t hesitate to ask for a rain check. Some stores offer the option of getting an extension on sold-out sale items.

Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. You’ve heard it before. After work or before dinner is the worst time to go. If it’s possible, shop on weekends.

Eat with the seasons. Not only will fresh products taste better, they’ll be mulch more reasonable priced. If you opt for fruits and veggies that are out of season, you pay for the transportation costs that get them to your store.

Mortgage Lingo Requires Study

Mortgage Lingo Requires Study

A higher LTV could represent a greater risk for the lender because it suggests the assets behind the loan are lower

Buying a home can thrust you into a realm where the language is about like being in a foreign country. The alphabet soup of acronyms and the jargon that peppers the conversation can leave you feeling a little lost.

Understanding just one factor, the LTV or loan-to-value component, can be a big help. Basically, it compares the size of the loan you are signing to the value of the home.

The LTV mathematics are relatively simple. You calculate it by dividing the amount of the mortgage by the appraised value of the property. The lender is interested in the LTV because it is an indicator of loan risk.

For instance, on a home appraised at $300,000, if you make a down payment of $40,000, the $260,000 mortgage represents an LTV of 86 percent. In other words, your mortgage is 86 percent of the value of the home. A higher LTV could represent a greater risk for the lender because it suggests the assets behind the loan are lower. Should you default or foreclose with a high LTV, it becomes more difficult for the lenders to recuperate the outstanding balance when they resell the property. Because of that risk, they may charge higher interest in the first instance.

Lowering the LTV has a number of benefits for the purchaser. It will make applying for a loan easier and could lock in a lower interest rate. You may not be required to purchase mortgage insurance, which usually becomes a factor when the LTV is 80 percent or lower. If the value of the property should drop, you could find yourself “under water,” a term applied when the balance on your mortgage is greater than the value of the home.

You can improve the LTV by increasing your down payment, building equity as you pay off the mortgage or by proving that over time, the value of your property has increased. That requires another appraisal.

As time passes, check the numbers to see if your LTV has improved. If so, you may be able to drop your mortgage insurance.

T.J. Maxx, Marshalls Offer Deals

T.J. Maxx, Marshalls Offer Deals

The two stores are affiliated with Marmaxx Group, so they are able to negotiate what they pay for goods and what savings they can offer to customers.

There are good reasons that bargain-seekers shop with T.J. Maxx and Marshalls outlets. The two stores are affiliated with Marmaxx Group, the largest retailer of clothing and home décor in the country, so they are able to negotiate what they pay for goods and what savings they can offer to customers. Their usual discounts are 20 to 60 percent off original retail prices.

They keep prices low by bypassing agreements with their providers to buy back a percentage of the merchandise if it doesn’t sell within a certain period of time. So they can offer customers a lower price than retailers that agree to the “buy-back.”

T.J. Maxx and Marshalls hire aggressive buyers who pay attention to more than seasonal factors. If a product meets the quality standards and they can get it at a good price, they buy it. The practice ensures an ongoing flow of merchandise.

Marmaxx works with thousands of vendors around the world and they use past experience to make quick purchases on bargain items. They may buy what other retailers might consider “odds and ends.” They are not as fussy about such things as size ranges, etc. If they think they can sell the item, they buy it.

Different shoppers have different opinions about the two retail outlets, depending on what they are shopping for. T.J. Maxx offers fine jewelry and accessories and in some of its stores, The Runway is a high-end discount designer. Marshalls has a full line of family footwear and a junior department called The CUBE.

Knowing something about the price tags at the stores can help shoppers find the best deals. A yellow price tag indicates a deep discount; white tags are regular-priced items; purple signifies items from “The Runway” which offers desirable, high-end goods. The latter are harder to find, but there are some available.

Tuesdays through Fridays may be the best shopping days at these stores. Some shoppers regularly bet that the discounts will be more advantageous on Wednesday mornings. January and July are the months when end-of-season merchandise is offered. Prices are adjusted downward more often in these months.

If you comparison shop, be aware that T.J. Maxx and Marshalls don’t do a good job with such information. The “compare at” prices may tend to be inflated. Use the Amazon app to see comparisons.

The stores discourage haggling. Irregular items are clearly marked and the price takes it into consideration. Damaged items may give shoppers some leeway to bargain with management, but expectations should be on the conservative side.

Discounted gift cards are offered in place of coupons, category promotions or store-wide sales. Savings can vary, but shoppers can expect to shave at least another 5 percent off the price by using the gift cards, which are available through websites such as Raise.com, GiftCardGranny.com and CardPool.com. The cards can be used at T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods.

How To Plan A Savings Plan

Savings Plan

Adopt a lifestyle that allows you to save, rather than saving what’s left when your over-the-top lifestyle is dictating the spending.

When the time comes that you are finally a little ahead of the bills and want to make the best use of your financial “leftovers,” how do you proceed?

Saving with a concrete plan in mind will avoid the haphazard trickle of savings that too many people rely on to enhance their investment earnings. A specific objective is preferable to random savings.

Turning things topsy-turvy for awhile may help. In other words, take the savings off the top and pay bills with what’s left, forcing yourself to avoid frivolous or unplanned spending. Obviously, you do this based on long experience of what your fixed costs are likely to be. If left unchecked, our perceived “needs” expand to take up the whole paycheck. Immediate gratification is a disease that grows over time. Curb yourself.

The very best definition of “savings,” in this scenario, is “living below your means.” The urge to spend becomes a habit if you don’t control it. Adopt a lifestyle that allows you to save, rather than saving what’s left when your over-the-top lifestyle is dictating the spending. When you get a raise at work, automatically raise the amount you save, rather than putting the whole increase into lifestyle escalation.

Make it harder to spend. Tuck the credit cards into the back of a drawer for a while and operate on a cash-only basis for awhile. Paying cash makes the expenditure immediate, instead of looking forward to a bill that may seem a long way off.

With tax-filing season in full bloom, plan ahead how to spend your refund, if any. Use the windfall to supercharge your savings. The average return, according to the IRS, is $2,895. Half of that, or at least a good share, would go a long way toward reaching a goal of having three to six months’ of savings as a healthy cushion when things go wrong financially. Having this amount stashed in a savings account or money-market fund, before you start toward other investment goals, is a wise move.
The alternative in a financial emergency is to tap into retirement accounts that may impose a penalty on withdrawals.

Once the basics are set, the next savings strategy is to invest in such things as stocks and bond mutual funds or ETFs. Sticking to low-fee investments such as index funds and ETFs reduced your investment costs, opening the way to higher returns. Over decades that is akin to saving an extra percentage or more of salary each year.

But all of these tracks to greater savings have to begin with a viable plan and then sticking to it, monitoring along the way to stay on track. It’s the only way to assure financial security now and when you are retired.

What Would You Do With An Extra $500

Extra 500

Consider how to get the most benefit from extra cash by looking at short-term investment options.

What if you found yourself with $500 that wasn’t committed to any part of your budget. Could happen. An income tax return, for instance.

Regardless of the source of your windfall, it’s time to consider how to get the most benefit from it by looking at short-term investment options. Having one or more of these in your financial profile is a buffer against the unexpected.

Carefully look at the possibilities before putting your $500 on the line. The most common short-term options

• A term deposit, sometimes referred to as a certificate of deposit, means you put an amount into an account at a financial institution, with a fixed term. Maturity dates can be set for as short a time as six months or extend to five years. Most institutions charge a penalty if you close the account before the term is filled. In most instances, the institution pays a higher dividend on a term deposit than on a traditional savings account. You can increase the value of such a deposit by “laddering,” or opening multiple accounts that mature at different times, anywhere from a year to five years. When a deposit matures, you can flip it into a new term account. Creating a train of short-term deposits allows you to access money when you need it on a regular basis while still earning good dividends.

• Look at mutual funds, an investment program that takes money contributed by many people and putting it into securities. Beginning investors may be particularly interested because mutual funds are easy to understand and to buy. They are affordable and offer a variety of categories and types. Consider where you feel most comfortable placing your $500.

• Peer-to-peer lending puts people with money to invest together with people or organizations that need to borrow that money. These lending platforms operate online, so they have lower overhead and fewer transaction costs. Three- to five-year investments usually earn higher returns. As is usually the case, that means higher risk. It is possible the borrower could default and the debt go to collection, or be lost entirely. Diversity is the best approach. Putting small amounts of money into several loans minimizes the possibility of damage to your portfolio.

Whatever you decide to do with your $500, don’t leap before carefully studying all of the possibilities. Be familiar with the institution in which you intend to invest your money. If you are uncertain, find a financial advisor who is familiar with the answers to your questions.

Simplify Next Car Purchase

Simplify next car purchase

If you have a particular vehicle in mind, check Consumer Reports for ratings, reviews and updated car news.

Unless you really like spending time in car dealerships haggling over the details of a car purchase, try to minimize the hassle by using your computer or mobile device to accomplish the legwork before settling down to the details.

If you have a particular vehicle in mind, check Consumer Reports for ratings, reviews and updated car news, There also are sources such as AutoSMART that make it easy to shop and compare both new and used vehicles online.

Compare dealer prices by emailing an internet sales representative and get quotes. Be sure to include taxes and fees, since they can add appreciably to the vehicle cost. If you want particular features, alert the dealer so the question of add-ons doesn’t come up in the final analysis.

Get your loan pre-approved. Know up front what interest you are likely to pay on a loan and be certain how much you have to offer for your new car. If you are considering financing through the dealer, compare first with the other options you have.

Establish the value of your current vehicle. Kelley Blue Book, Craigslist and other sources can give you an idea of the value. Knowing will help you if the plan is to sell the old car to help finance the new vehicle or deal for a trade-in.

Check out current promotions. Your local dealerships may be offering special deals. Look into them in detail to see what the offer means to you personally. The offers most often hold out decreased interest or a “cash back” option as the incentive.

Take the test drive. It’s like the first meeting between prospective couples. Online photos are nice, but don’t always tell the whole story. Take the test over a route that is similar to the one you expect to travel most, such as the drive to work. How does the car handle? Are you comfortable with turns? Does acceleration meet freeway needs? Are you comfortable with the vehicle in stop-and-go situations? If you have reservations, now if the time to express them.

Test out features such as fuel economy, cargo space, seat comfort, safety, information and entertainment provisions. How easy will it be to install a child’s safety seat? Can more hefty family get in and out easily and have room to sit comfortably? A short test drive may not answer all these questions.

Take your time making the final decision. If you think you need more information, rent a similar vehicle and use it for a few days. The prospects of a long-term relationship with a vehicle make it worth the extra effort.

Save Money At Costco

Save Money at Costco

At Costco there are deals that go beyond groceries, such as store and restaurant gift cards, movie tickets and local theme park tickets.

Large families have obvious advantages when they shop Costco. But if you are single and haven’t much living space to store your bulk purchases, is it worthwhile?

It can be if you share the advantage with a friend. Split up bulk packages of essentials such as toilet paper, paper towels, laundry products and other items that you buy routinely and you’ll both save money.

You can learn the Costco pricing codes that will tell you if an item is specially priced, discounted or not considered for restocking. In general, according to HubPages, the codes go like this:

• Prices that end in $0.97 have been marked down from their original price.
• Prices ending in $0.99 indicate the original price.
• Other odd pricing such as $0.49, $0.79 or 0.89, are generally attached to regular-priced items.
• If there is an asterisk (star) in the upper right corner of the price sign, that means the item will not be reordered. Stock up if it’s one of your favorites.
• If the store manager has marked an item down to move the product faster, the price will likely end in a combination such as $0.88 or $0.00.

Watch for Costco coupons. The store issues a monthly coupon book as well as the Costco mobile APP. Don’t bother clipping coupons. The cashier has copies at the register and will scan them when you purchase the discounted item.

Buy seasonal items before the season is over. Costco makes massive markdowns on such things as patio furniture and pool toys to free up room for the next season’s specials. After Christmas is an especially good time to look for bargains.

Even if you are not a card-carrying Costco member, you can buy alcohol at Costco stores in some states, and pharmacy and immunizations are available to you., as are eye and hearing exams. You can obtain a Cash Card without signing up for an annual membership. Such a card, however, must be obtained or reloaded by a member.

Aside from the bulk goods that you have in mind when you join Costco, there are deals that go beyond groceries, such as store and restaurant gift cards, movie tickets and local theme park tickets.

Eating out, especially with a family, is a budget-buster, but there are inexpensive alternatives at the Costco food court, such as the $1.50 hot-dog-and-soda specials or the $10 pizza

Kirkland products, the Costco store brand, offer great deals for quality food and grocery goods. Many of them come from the same name-brand sources as the items you’ll find at greater cost.
Make a list before shopping. Without one, you may be tempted to fill up the cart when you had just a few items in mind. And partake freely of free samples. The companies that made them want the store to pass out as many free samples as people will eat.

Ways Seniors Can Save Money

Seniors Save Money

Millions of America’s senior citizens are looking for ways to save money now that they are living on retirement income.

Millions of America’s senior citizens are looking for ways to save money now that they are living on retirement income. There are things they can do, including:

• Cut the cord on monthly cable costs. You could save up to $100 per month or more by switching to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video subscriptions. But you can avoid even those fees by switching to an antenna that can relay news, weather, sitcoms, cooking shows, kid’s shows, sports and movies for free. Most broadcast stations offer additional regional programming free. The Clear View antenna, for example, is one that attaches to your current TV antenna jack. The new antennas are greatly improved from your old “rabbit ears.” Look at the option that will best serve you.
• If you are traveling, there are many discounts that will cut the costs. Many hotels and motels routinely offer discounts for seniors, usually in the range of 10 to 15 percent. Shop around a little before settling on away-from-home accommodations. Booking.com can help you find the most economical choices.
• If you own your home, investing in a home security system could save you money on insurance. Savings of 10 to 20 percent are offered by some insurance companies to clients who install a high-functioning home alarm system. Some alarm companies also offer perks for the purchase of their systems. An alarm system also has the benefit of putting seniors within easy reach of help in an emergency.
• Cruise lines provide a huge variety of discounts for seniors. Check and compare among the leading cruise providers to see where you can get the best deals. A little time spent researching could make your vacation funds go a lot further.
• A lot of the top retailers give senior discounts. Each store decides on when the discount kicks in, some setting the limit at 50 years old and others at 55 or 60. Some of the retailers have regular days on which seniors are treated to discounts. Don’t be shy about asking.