Freebies and Free Stuff

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What is even better than “saving money”; how about FREE?  Let’s rephrase Gordon Gekko’s notion about “greed is good” to “free is good” – and possible.  There is nothing like getting something for free, which is why advertisers know the power of the word “FREE!”  It gets our attention and rightly so.  Food tastes better when free, right?  It is possible to get stuff for free when you belong to certain groups or know where to look.  You may need to join a group or already belong to one.  This category changes regularly so rather than provide you the usual web links, I’m going to give ideas to search for so you can get the latest treats.

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Save Money With Coupons – the Right Way

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Images of couponers can range from penny-pinching to extreme hoarders, but in reality, sensible couponing is one of the easiest ways to avoid paying full price.  Your goal is not to see how low you can get your grocery cost or how many boxes or cans you stock in your closet, but to save money by avoiding paying full price.  And now it is easier than ever because you find coupons in so many places.  Coupons for groceries and personal care items are the most plentiful, but coupons for chain restaurants are easy to get and make dining out more enjoyable when you aren’t paying full price.  Look for shopping “passes” for store discounts to make trips to the mall even better.  Here are tips to make it easy.

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Spending strategies to avoid paying full price

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While our frugal mind-set reminds us of the basic rule “avoid paying full price”, we need strategies to make it happen.  Thankfully, there are plenty of them for nearly any occasion.  Always look for savings opportunities and cheaper alternatives to full price products and services.  Here is a summary of key strategies which we will explore more fully in the future.

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Save money by not paying full price

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One of the key goals of this blog will be to help you save money by spending wisely.  Spending wisely starts with the basic rule, “Avoid paying full price.”  Following this rule makes nearly any other financial situation easier.  The more money you save when spending, the more you have for other purposes whether saving, spending, giving, or investing.  It is both a mindset and an endeavor.  Whenever you think about spending, this should be one of the first things that comes to mind and then guides you towards your goal.  Yes, there are plenty of times when we have to pay full price, but that should be a last resort – not routine.  To follow this rule, we need three things:  a frugal mind-set, spending strategies, and practical tips for everyday things.

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Save 15-20% Off Your Electricity Bill Without Sacrificing

You may have a choice of which energy company supplies your electricity and if so, you know that comparison shopping pays you in savings.  Many electricity companies have split distribution of electricity from supplying it.  Check your energy bill to see if you have a choice.  If yes, start your comparison shopping at your company’s website and search for the page that discusses your supplier options.  It should lead you to a webpage that lists all the energy suppliers that supply electricity to your area.  Continue reading

Simplifying your finances

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Simplifying your finances is often one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Pay as many of your bills as possible with autopay on your credit card to get rewards, thru the biller’s website, or with your bank’s online bill service.
  • Put as many of your savings goals as possible on autopay with direct routing of savings amounts to relevant savings and investment accounts.
  • Consolidate multiple retirement, banking, and brokerage accounts.  You may want to keep multiple savings accounts for multiple savings goals.
  • Develop a plan to get out of debt.
  • Put all tax records into an accordion folder as you receive them.
  • Review your budget for needs, savings, debt pay offs, and wants. Put your leftover disposable income on a pre-paid debit card.  When the card is empty, your discretionary spending is done for the month.
  • Diversify your investments, but also keep them simple by avoiding having too many to manage and rebalance.  The simplest investments are index ETFs, balanced funds, and target date funds.

Start off on the right path to financial security

When you get your first full-time job, you are earning more money than ever before, but there are more demands on your money, too.  In addition to enjoying yourself now that you got away from parents and school, you may have rent, auto payments, student loans, a credit card balance, and a wide assortment of monthly bills.  If may come as a shock, but you should also start your savings.  You may plan to start saving for something like a wedding, car, home, or travel, but you should also start saving for an emergency fund of 3-6 months’ worth of expenses, plus your retirement.  No I’m not joking about saving for retirement when you first start working, because the earlier you start, the less likely that a future you will come back to the past and thrash you for financial incompetence.  We’ll discuss this more thoroughly later.

How can you have peace of mind when you have to pay debts, start several savings plans, pay bills, and still live your life?  You can’t buy peace of mind, but you sure can get your finances to help achieve it.  Peace of mind comes from having control of your finances rather than worrying from pay check to pay check.  It will probably be difficult for your paycheck to meet all your needs and wants, so it’s critical to establish priorities.  Use these tips as a guide.    Continue reading

Dealing with Student Loan Debt

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You may not have thought much about all those mounting student loans when you were acquiring them, but they eventually become due.  In 2013, the average student loan debt topped $28,000.  The level of student loan debt has now passed credit card debt in America and is only exceeded by our level of mortgage debt.  First, review where you stand and what your options are.  Start with these websites to get information about potential options:

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Starting Your Financial Future With A New Job

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Let’s start the new blog at the financial beginning.  The period when you graduate from school, are young and single, and are just starting out can be both scary and exhilarating.  It will never be quite like this again, so get off to a good start.  Don’t just wait for things to happen and hope for the best; instead ensure your sound financial future by understanding sound financial principles and knowing how to make them happen.

Your first priority is getting a job since your income is the starting point for all your other financial calculations.  There are plenty of school, book, and web resources available for creating a first rate resume and looking for a job.  If you know a dream job, go for it, but chances are you will need to be flexible and willing to try different things.  Temporary jobs give you experience, income, and time to look further.  Taking an entry level job to “get your foot in the door” can lead to other opportunities within or outside an organization.   Continue reading

Introduction to “The Financial Guide To Life” Personal Finance Blog

Your financial future begins now.  Are you going to let it control you, or are you going to take control of it?  Don’t just let your finances drift along, live from paycheck to paycheck, or wait for a lucky break.  No matter what your financial situation, there are plenty of things you can do now to make your financial future brighter and the sooner you start the better off you will be.

Planning now to ensure a better future seems obvious, but too often, it’s hard to actually do.  Lack of money, knowledge, time, or incentive lets the opportunity of planning slip away until a sudden need bangs at your door.  The aim of this blog is to provide you the knowledge and tools to better prepare for and manage life’s many financial decisions.  Some things we have little control over and some a lot.  Some people will have to work harder or smarter than others to get results.  Regardless, it is possible to control your financial future and achieve your financial goals.  This blog may or may not make you wealthy, but it can certainly help bring you more financial security.

I will be discussing sound financial principles and practical tips that will improve your financial future and give you peace of mind along life’s financial journey.  I will be discussing them in detail as they apply to various stages along that journey.  But they are more than just general goals; I will be providing you detailed tips for putting them into practice with sections on managing, saving, investing, and spending your money wisely.

I especially recommend this blog to all young people, because the earlier you can start practicing sound financial principles, the better your future will be.  Therefore, I will cover topics from young people just out of school and ready to start their own path along life’s financial journey all the way to retirement.  These are the financial issues I wish someone had explained to me when I was just starting, fresh out of college with a Masters Degree.  Many times when researching this financial guide to life, I cried out, “Why didn’t someone tell me that sooner?  I want a do over!”  But it’s never too late to get control of your finances and there is always room for improvement.  I hope that no matter which stage of life you are in, you can benefit from these financial principles, tips, explanations, hard-learned wisdom, and advice to be more successful in your financial future.

I think there are three parts to managing your money:

  • Psychology – getting and maintaining the will power to do what you know you should and the won’t power for avoiding what you know you shouldn’t.
  • Knowledge – the information and principles you need to make decisions and take action to improve your financial security.
  • Tools – resources and aids that will make it easier to maintain your will power and apply your knowledge.

Being financially successful involves both knowledge and psychology.  You need the knowledge of how to be successful and the will to do it.  Plenty of financial authors and seminar instructors focus on the psychological factors of getting you to follow thru with financial advice.  I think it’s easier to want to do something when you know how, so this blog concentrates primarily on the specific knowledge and steps you should take to be financially successful.  Moreover, any task is easier with the right tools, so I will concentrate on providing you the practical knowledge you need and the tools that will make everything else easier.  In particular, I will try to bring an unprecedented effort to link to a growing wealth of internet tools, calculators, comparison aids, databases, and resources that will supplement the knowledge in this blog and make it easier to manage your money.