Budgeting, Saving

Budget Tips for Your Vacation

Summer Vacation and Your Budget

Summer is quickly approaching, and if you haven’t planned a vacation yet, you have at least thought about it. With the current state of the economy and the rise of gas prices, you may think you won’t be able to afford a vacation this year. But, there are a few ways you can take some time off and relax without overspending.

There are many sites that now offer discounts toward the purchase of a vacation. Check out Jetsetter and Living Social to see what they offer. You can get email alerts from these sites so you are always up-to-date with the latest travel deals.

A Vacation vs Staycation

Do your research and pick a destination that is not over populated with tourists. These popular vacation spots are generally overpriced, and you will end up spending more money than you think.

Consider a staycation to save money. Visit local attractions you have never seen by researching reviews on local restaurants, spas, and museums. Also research to find out if there will be any events going on in your city.

If you are going to be staying at a hotel, try and upgrade to get a room with a kitchen. The room cost may be a little more, but you will save a lot of money by cooking your own meals instead of eating out at restaurants.

These are just a few tips to help trim some costs during your summer vacation. What do you do to try and save money during vacation?

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    Budgeting

    Your Wedding Budget

    Budgeting for your Wedding

    With the Royal Wedding happening tomorrow, wedding buzz has been in the air. What does the dress look like, how many people are they inviting, and how much is this wedding going to cost?! Although we all cannot fork out the reported $65 million, which is about 2,000 times as costly as the average British upper-middle class wedding, according to Christian Science Monitor, we can try to have our own royal wedding on a budget.

    Wedding Invitations

    It would be nice to have our wedding invitations adorn the words “commanded by the Queen” but let’s not get carried away. If you are on a tight budget and do not want to spend a fortune on your wedding invitation, research ways to print your own wedding invitations online. There are so many options nowadays, why spend more money? Ann’s Bridal Bargain is a great example.

    The Bridal Bouquet

    This can be one of the most expensive costs of a wedding, so make sure to choose wisely. Choose flowers that will be in season, and easily accessible to you. Be honest with your florist about your budget so you are not shocked when you get the bill. You can also plan your wedding at a park or garden so you already have a beautifully decorated venue.

    The Wedding Gown

    One of the most important, stressful, exciting decisions a woman will ever make…picking out the wedding dress. We may not have every designer wanting to design out gown like Kate Middleton, but we can get what we want, at the price we want. Many high-end designers are now selling wedding gowns at affordable price. Check out Vera Wang’s collection at David’s Bridal.

    The Wedding Location

    Like mentioned before, you can save money on flowers by having your wedding at a park or garden. These are great inexpensive options along with a local church or college, historical building, or the beach.

    There is an endless list of costs when it comes to weddings, but these four are probably the biggest. Research as much as you can, because you deserve the wedding of your dreams!

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      Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Money Management

      Financial Literacy: Money Lessons

      Financial Literacy Month

      We are back! I hope you had a Happy Easter with family and friends. And even though April is coming to an end, it is still Financial Literacy Month. Gregory Karp of the Chicago Tribune has put together a money quiz to help contribute to your understanding of money topics. Here is a chance to test your knowledge and hopefully learn a thing or two that will ultimately help you with your finances.

        • Do your credit scores rise when you get a higher paying job?

      Simply put, no. Your income in not shown on your credit report, so that isn’t a factor when determining your credit score. Using credit, and using it well, is what really matters.

        • Is a household budget meant to restrict your spending?

      Restrict is the wrong word. Budgeting allows you to tell your money what to do instead of wondering where it disappeared to. If you keep track of your spending and budget wisely you can set aside money to spend on fun things. Indulging once in a while will keep you on track so you don’t feel so restricted.

        • Should I pay off highest interest-rate debt first?

      Mathematically, using extra money to pay off high-rate debt, such as credit cards, makes sense. But if you have many different debts, you might get a psychological boost by wiping out smaller debts first.

        • What is the only official site for getting your credit report?

      You can request a free credit report annually from the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. For the most part, they have the same information, so you could request one every four months to keep track of your score throughout the year.

        • If a thief steals your credit card and charges $1,000, you’re responsible for how much?

      Federal law says you’re responsible for $50, but most major credit-card issuers absolve you of all liability if it’s a clear case of a stolen card or number.

        • What is likely to provide the highest returns over time: stocks, bonds or CDs?

      Most financial advisers suggest a mix of stocks and relatively safer bonds, with the mix getting more bond-heavy as you approach the time you’ll need the money. Stocks have provided the highest returns over long periods, especially if you’re talking about decades.

        • Which is more expensive for a family of four: food or financing a new car?

      Food costs more, unless you’re talking about an especially pricey car. The American family of four spends about $8,700 on food in a year, or $725 per month, according to the most recent government Consumer Expenditure Survey. That’s far more than most monthly car payments. People will research for months to get a good deal on a car, but many won’t look at a sales flier or clip a few coupons.

        • How large should your emergency fund be?

      Three to six months of bare-bones living expenses, most money experts advise. But with the current state of the economy, six months should be the minimum.

       

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        Budgeting, Holiday Tips, Saving

        Your Mardi Gras Budget

        With tomorrow being Fat Tuesday, I thought it would be beneficial for you to know how to celebrate Mardi Gras on a budget. Check your local newspapers for free events and parades that are in your area. If you plan to celebrate at home with family and friends, here are a few tips to having a fun night on a budget.

        If you are having a party at your house, don’t feel like you have to provide all of the food and beverages. Make it a pot-luck, and have everyone contribute. It will be less stressful for you, and you will save time and money. Don’t feel weird about asking people to help out, most of the time people want to bring something to a party anyways, so it is a win-win!

        Don’t fret on having tons of decorations. Places like Party City have inexpensive decorations, but don’t go crazy and think because it’s cheap, you can buy more. Make sure you go in knowing how much you want to spend, so you don’t go over budget. Get some colorful beads, masks, and Mardi Gras color streamers and balloons and you will be good to go.

        If costumes are going to be a part of your event, don’t go spending an outrageous amount of money on an outfit you probably won’t wear again. Go to a thrift store to find funky colorful clothes at great prices. Just because you don’t have a lot of money to spend on creating a Mardi Gras themed costume, doesn’t mean you can’t find great items to wear for your party.

        If you are not celebrating Mardi Gras, then you are saving the most by not spending any money on another “holiday.” But if you do want to celebrate, I hope these few suggestions will help you to have a memorable celebration, without breaking the bank.

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        Budgeting, Money Management, Saving

        Save Money at the Gas Pump

        Rising Gas Prices

        We have all noticed in the past week how much gas prices have gone up. It hasn’t been this high since 2008, and frankly, we are not liking it. With the everyday stress of trying to save money and pay off bills, while staying out of debt, an increase in gas prices isn’t good for our wallets. Unfortunately, we cannot change the prices, but we can alleviate some of the burden by a few simple adjustments to our lifestyle.

        Driving Alternatives

        If you are fortunate enough to live in the city, you can get anywhere by foot, taxi, bus, subway, etc. Take advantage of these options when you need to get somewhere. Even in more rural areas, public transportation is still available. If you don’t want to resort to these, then try carpooling. You won’t only save on gas and money, but you’ll get a chance to catch up with friends/colleagues/family.

        Don’t make unnecessary trips

        Instead of going to the grocery store after work every day, simply go once a week and stock up. You can also make dinner at home instead of going out to eat. You won’t only save on gas, but you will save on money from the added expense of fancy dining.

        Opt for a car that is good on gas mileage

        If you are in the market for a new car, consider buying a hybrid or one that has good MPG (miles per gallon). There are SUV’s out there now that offer decent MPG if you need the extra room that a sedan or compact car can’t offer.

        Do your research

        It is so easy to go online or download an app that will provide you with the cheapest gas prices in your area. Instead of going to the same gas station all the time, shop around for the best deal out there. A few cents here and there might not sound worth it, but over time those pennies will accumulate and you will be glad you put in the extra effort.

        Ride your bike whenever possible

        This is not only a great alternative to driving your own car or using public transportation, but you will be doing something good for the environment. You will also get some exercise and maybe even reduce some stress! Who knew going green could be so easy?

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          Budgeting, Holiday Tips, Money Management, Saving

          Loving on a Budget for Valentine’s Day

          You and Your Valentine’s Budget

          The day is quickly approaching. If you have been procrastinating on getting your sweetheart a gift, totally forgot, or feel like you don’t have the money to spoil your loved one, you still have some time before the big day. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, so as long as you put a little bit of time and effort into it, you should have your loved one feeling like the luckiest person in the world.

          A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

          With the ease of taking your photos on your computer and saving them to a memory card, you have no excuse to say you don’t have time for this. Pick some funny/romantic/memorable photos of the times you have shared together, save to your memory card, and head to the nearest photo kiosk at Walmart, Target or CVS. You can upload your photos to create a personalized card or a photo book. Most places can do this in an hour or less, and you will have a one-of-a-kind gift to give.

          Chocolate….need I say more?

          Who doesn’t love chocolate? Unless you are allergic–then I understand, but if you’re not, then…well…I’ve got nothing. Chocolate releases endorphins that make you happy, and who doesn’t want to make their partner happy? There are so many different chocolates out there to choose from, try to go for something a little unique. If it’s a little pricey, maybe opt for the smaller package, or just get a few pieces for your loved one to try. It isn’t everyday they get to indulge on fine chocolates, so it will be sweetly memorable.

          See’s Candies, Ghiradelli and Godiva,

          “Love” Coupon Book

          Pamper your loved one. A great idea is to create a personalized coupon book. You can have coupons such as: good for one half-hour massage, breakfast in bed, movie night or dinner of your choice, a big smooch, etc. Tailor the coupons to what you know your partner will actually enjoy. This is probably one of my favorite ideas out there, because not only are you showing how much you care, but it allows you to spend more quality time with your loved one, not just on Valentine’s Day.

          Here are some pre-made coupons that you can print out: Free Love Coupons

          Romantic Dinner

          You don’t have to go out to a fancy restaurant to have a romantic evening. Cook your partner their favorite meal, and have a nice quiet evening at home. You can set the mood with candles and music, and avoid the hustle and bustle of finding parking. You can also buy their favorite wine, make dessert, and serve your special someone as if they were in a fancy restaurant. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so ladies; this might be the perfect way to celebrate this year.

          The Food Network Valentine’s Day: Cooking for Two

          There are many way to show someone you love them without breaking the bank. Just remember that as long as it is special and coming from your heart, your valentine will appreciate the time and effort you put into it. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Valentine’s Day! Go out there and spread the love!

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            Budgeting

            Debt and the Help You Need

            Dealing with Debt Reality

            Are you struggling with your bills? Everyone has problems paying bills from time to time. And most everyone will be late paying a bill at least once in their lives. When this happens it is not always the end of the world. However, for some people being late is an every month occurrence due to their finances. And regardless of whether it is because they simply do not have the extra income anymore or because they have over extended themselves, they will find that a good consumer credit counseling service can help them get their lives back on track.

            Are you a newly single parent or young adult out on your own for the first time and having trouble juggling your debt? You will find that while unsecured debt is quite easy to obtain, it can be a lot harder to pay back. From credit card debt to old medical bills, these are the ones that make your finances scream. But do not let them get you down as there is help out there for you. When you go and get consumer credit counseling you will learn that not only can they help you create a great budget and plan for your finances, but they can also help you get all your debt consolidated into one easy to pay bill. In fact, while most people think of these counseling companies as a way to fix their problem, they forget that they are also there to teach you how to not get into trouble in the first place.

            Consumer Credit Counseling

            A really good consumer credit counseling service will make sure that you know how to budget your finances in the future so that you do not get in debt again. This is the number one way to stay out of debt. If you have a fixed budget and financial plan that you always adhere to then you should not have to worry about many of the unsecured debts. But as mentioned above, these counseling services are also there to help get you out of your current debt.

            The way that these companies are able to help besides setting up a budget is they are able to work with your lenders to come to certain agreements. For some this may mean a consolidation of your bills with one lower monthly payment and most often even a much lower interest rate. Or it may just mean that they work with the lender to lower your interest rates and your principal balance. It really is that simple when you find the right consumer credit counseling to help you out.

            Getting Debt Help

            In the end what it is important to remember is that you are not alone and that there is no shame in getting help. All too often people that have been on their own paying bills for years will either feel that such services are for younger people or that it is just too embarrassing to ask for help. Don’t fall into this line of thinking when it comes to your financial future. Get your consumer credit report today and get back to life.

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              Budgeting

              Finances and Your Options

              Payday Loan Facts

              You have probably seen the ads on the radio, television and the internet. You may have even received ads in the mail. They refer to payday loans, which can come at a high price.

              If you are not sure that you are ready to take a payday loan, there are other options for you to think about in regards to handling your finances. Payday loans are great given specific circumstances, but taking them out frivolously can be dangerous. If you are having problems with your finances in general, a payday loan will not help you there.

              Check cashers, finance companies, and others are making small, short-term, high-rate loans that go by a variety of names: payday loan, cash advance loans, check advance loans, post-dated check loans or deferred deposit check loans.

              Typically this loan involves a borrower writing a personal, post-dated, check to the lender for the amount he/she wishes to borrow. The company gives the borrower the money minus the fee.

              Fees that are charged for payday loans are usually a percentage of the face value of the check or a fee per amount borrowed, for instance for every $50 or $100 loaned. If you happen to extend or rollover the loan, you will pay extra fees for each extension.

              Under the Truth in Lending Act, the cost of payday loans – like other types of credit – must be disclosed. Among other information, you must receive, in writing, the finance charge (a dollar amount) and the annual percentage rate or APR (the cost of credit on a yearly basis).

              These loans are great for specific circumstances. This would include emergency bills that are otherwise going to be charged late fees or to prevent certain services from being turned off.

              Perhaps you are going to be charged huge late fees to a creditor if you don’t make your next payment. But this next payment falls in-between your paychecks. If this is your situation, then it is wise to know that you can pay the loan back when you get your next payday.

              Otherwise, if you are too broke to pay your bills, then you need more financial help that a payday loan can give you. Auto repairs are another situation when a payday loan can help. But unlike traditional lenders, payday lenders don’t need to know why you are borrowing the money.

              Alternatives to Payday loan

              There are other options. Consider the possibilities before choosing a payday loan:

              When you need credit, shop carefully. Compare offers. Look for the credit offer with the lowest APR – consider a small loan from your credit union or small loan company, an advance on pay from your employer, or a loan from family or friends.

              A cash advance on a credit card also may be a possibility, but it may have a higher interest rate than your other sources of funds: find out the terms before you decide. Also, a local community-based organization may make small business loans to individuals.

              Compare the APR and the finance charge (which includes loan fees, interest and other types of credit costs) of credit offers to get the lowest cost.

              Ask your creditors for more time to pay your bills. Find out what they will charge for that service – as a late charge, an additional finance charge, or a higher interest rate.

              Setting a Budget

              Make a realistic budget, and figure your monthly and daily expenditures. Avoid unnecessary purchases – even small daily items. Their costs add up.

              Also, build some savings – even small deposits can help – to avoid borrowing for emergencies, unexpected expenses or other items. For example, by putting the amount of the fee that would be paid on a typical $300 payday loan in a savings account for six months, you would have extra dollars available. This can give you a buffer against financial emergencies.

              Find out if you have, or can get, overdraft protection on your checking account. If you are regularly using most or all of the funds in your account and if you make a mistake in your checking (or savings) account ledger or records, overdraft protection can help protect you from further credit problems. Find out the terms of overdraft protection.

              If you need help working out a debt repayment plan with creditors or developing a budget, contact your local consumer credit counseling service. There are non-profit groups in every state that offer credit guidance to consumers.

              These services are available at little or no cost. Also, check with your employer, credit union or housing authority for no- or low-cost credit counseling programs.

              If you decide you must use a payday loan, borrow only as much as you can afford to pay with your next paycheck and still have enough to make it to the next payday.

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