5 Easy Ways to Significantly Reduce Your Monthly Budget



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When most people think about reducing their spending, they generally think about their variable expenses such as their groceries, clothing or Starbucks addiction instead of their regular monthly bills such as their mortgage, electric bill or student loans. While your grocery and clothing costs are often the easiest to reduce quickly, if you really need to reduce your budget, you may need additional ways to save big. Here are five easy ways to significantly reduce the rest of your monthly budget that you may not have considered yet.

1. Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Is your older home wasting you countless dollars due to poor energy efficiency? If so, there are plenty of ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and save your hard-earned money. Seal any cracks around your doors and windows, add extra insulation in the attic, switch to CFLs, reduce the temperature on your hot water heater, and purchase energy efficient appliances when your old ones give out. These changes may seem small, but they can really add up to big savings.

2. Get Rid of Subscriptions and Memberships

Whether or not you use the subscriptions and memberships you have, you can probably get the same items for free or significantly cheaper elsewhere. Cancel your gym membership and go running outside instead. Cancel your magazine subscription and check out your favorite magazines from the library. Cancel cable and use Netflix or Hulu. Get rid of your home phone and just use your cell phone instead. You can still enjoy all of the benefits you had without the added expense.

3. Call Your Credit Card Company

While having no credit card debt would be preferable, at least take steps to reduce your interest rate while you work to get your card balance paid off. If your card has a super high rate, call your company and ask them to lower it. Many will just because you asked! If your company won’t, shop around for a new card with a lower rate. A card with a 0% introductory rate might be just what you need to finally get your balance paid off once and for all. And always, always, always make sure you pay your bill on time to avoid interest rate hikes and fees!

4. Consolidate Your Student Loans

While student loan interest rates are generally lower than credit card interest rates, that doesn’t mean that paying them every month is enjoyable. If your loans are higher than they should be, see if you can consolidate them for a better rate. Alternately, see if you can get a discount for paying on time every month or for signing up for monthly auto-debits. Even a savings of 0.25% can really add up if your balances are high.

5. Refinance Your Home

For many people, their mortgage is their biggest expense. If yours is too big, see if you can refinance for less. If interest rates have gone down, if your credit has improved or if you have passed the 20% equity mark, you probably can. Some companies will even allow you to include your closing expenses in the cost of your new mortgage so refinancing doesn’t have to be expensive, and this one-time process can really save you big over the life of your loan.

Do you need to reduce your monthly budget or have you already? Which of these tips do you think will work best for you? Do you have other tips to add? Share them below!

Five Great Ways to Earn Some Quick Cash



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Whether you have back to school supplies, birthday presents or unexpected medical expenses to pay for, chances are you will need some quick, easy cash at some point in your life. Don’t rack up your credit card and don’t mess with an unscrupulous pay day loan company. Use one of these five great way to earn some quick cash instead. They won’t provide you with an extra, sustainable income, but they will get you the cash you need fast.

1. Check Your State’s Unclaimed Property Division
When companies or the government owe you money, but they can’t find you to pay you, the money gets turned over to your state treasurer instead. It is then up to you to check and see if you have anything in their database. Visit the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrator’s website and search by the state you live in currently or any you have lived in previously to see what you might find.

I didn’t think I would have any money waiting for me, and it turns out I had two claims equaling almost $150! One was a small final paycheck I never got, and the other was a partial refund from a medical bill adjustment I never knew about. Go check right now! It only takes a minute, and it’s completely free.

2. Sell Your Unused Belongings
Do you have extra furniture, clothes, toys, collectibles or other home items lying around your home that you don’t want or need anymore? Sell them in a garage sale, to a consignment shop, or on a site like Ebay or Craigslist. Not only will you declutter your home and help someone who needs those items, but you’ll make some quick, easy money too!

3. Donate Plasma
Are you a relatively healthy individual? If so, you could make big bucks by selling your plasma. Depending on where you live, reputable companies may pay you as much as $20-$50 per visit, and you can usually go twice per week. Your body replenishes itself quickly so you aren’t out anything except an hour or so of your time. And for $50, I’d say that’s an hour well spent!

4. Babysit, Pet Sit or House Sit
Babysitting, pet sitting and house sitting are all great ways to make some quick, easy money without too much work. Depending on the arrangement, you could work from your home or theirs, full time or part time, once in a while or on a consistent schedule. This option is especially great for stay-at-home moms who are home all day anyway.

5. Sign Up for Fiverr
Do you have a hidden, under-appreciated talent? Sign up on a site like Fiverr and get paid for it! Pay is $5 a gig, and you can do anything from drawing a picture to singing a song to holding a sign. Even if you don’t think you are particularly talented, there is definitely something you can do. If it’s legal, you can get paid to do it. Be creative–the sky is the limit!

You could even take online surveys for cash and rewards. I like using my rewards from surveys for birthday and Christmas presents. Vindale Research is a great survey rewards program to get started with!

All of these ideas are super easy to do, and there is no wait time to find a job or get paid.

Could you use a little extra cash in your pocket? Which one of these are you going to try first?

6 Ways to Save Big on Back to School Supplies



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Paper, pencils, backpacks, calculators, highlighters, crayons, hand sanitizer… the list goes on and on, and it can add up quick! Don’t just make a trip to your local Walmart and stock up on everything you see. Use these top seven ways to save big on back to school supplies and get all the great gear your kids need for less! How you spend the money you save is up to you. (Shopping spree for mom, anyone??)

1. Figure out What You Need

Before you hit the stores, take a minute to make a list of the supplies you’ll actually need. Many schools publish back to school supply lists. Get one for your school and cross off all the items you have lying around the house already. (For example, you may have glue sticks, hand sanitizer or last year’s backpack on hand already). Once you’ve made your list–stick to it. This way, you won’t waste your money on things you don’t need, and you won’t forget anything, causing you to pay more for it later.

2. Take Advantage of Doorbuster Deals

Back to school time is the perfect time to score some amazing deals on school supplies. All the major stores have sales where they drastically mark down select items. Many stores even sell specific items at a loss just to get you into the store. Instead of getting all of your supplies at once (when some will be cheap and others will be expensive), take a few weeks and get a couple doorbusters each week. Then you can get everything–or at least almost everything–you need at rock bottom prices.

3. Stock Up on Bargain Prices

If you find a truly amazing deal, don’t be afraid to stock up, especially if it is on something that you know your kids will need lots of or that they will need again next year. While you don’t want to be greedy and clear the shelves, don’t be afraid to buy more than you need. For example, one year I saw pencils for 1 cent a box! Now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t buy plenty.

4. Shop During Your State’s Sales Tax Holiday

While sales tax is a small percentage of your purchase, it can really add up when you are buying tons of back to school supplies. Many states offer sales tax holidays, when you can get school supplies without paying tax. If your state does this, be sure to shop during those dates to save even more. Click here for a list of states that offer sales tax holidays.

5. Know When to Buy Cheap and When to Buy Quality

Buying generic can save you a bundle, but sometimes name brand is the way to go. It all depends on what you are purchasing and how long you need it to last. Feel free to go cheap on: crayons, paper, pencil sharpeners, basic calculators, colored pencils, book covers and erasers. Plan to spend more on: backpacks, graphic calculators, insulated lunchboxes and pencils (Some of the cheaper brands won’t sharpen in old fashioned pencil sharpeners. They just grind into stubs).

6. Avoid Characters

Your child may absolutely adore that cute character backpack or lunch box now, but for how long? It is not uncommon for kids to change interest as soon as only a month or two into the school year. Stick to basic, character-free designs so they can be used year after year.

School supplies may be a necessary expense, but that doesn’t mean that you should spend more for them than you have to. Use these six tips for saving big on school supplies and get the supplies you need for less. Any other tips use and love? Share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Top 10 Things to Buy for Back-to-School



Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was compensated for publishing this post on behalf of DollarTree.com.

back to school purchases No, summer’s not over yet, but it’s not too early to start planning your back-to-school budget. Your child’s school probably has the official school supplies list available, so you can make sure that you have the right kind for each class. Most of the items should be available for less at the discount store. Here’s a look at the top 10 things you’ll need to pick up before your kids go back to school.

1. Binders and Folders – Every class requires something to keep loose papers organized. Binders and folders keep them from getting torn and lost in the daily trek to and from class. Your child can also put notebooks, extra paper, a pencil pouch and monthly planners inside their binders so they don’t get lost.

2. Desktop Accessories – From binder clips and pen cups to pencil cases and battery-operated fans, it’s time to stock up for your child’s desk at home and at school. Don’t forget tape, a stapler, pencil sharpeners, erasers and a calendar.

3. Crayons and Markers – Check on the school supplies list to find out what types of crayons and markers are needed. They’ll probably specify crayons by color, or markers by broad tips, felt markers, highlighters or dry erase.

4. Pens and Pencils – Mechanical pens and pencils, lead and standard pencils are always high on the list of required items. Make sure that you have at least some regular #2 pencils, since they’re the standard used for computer-graded tests. Blue, black and red ink pens are common for older kids. Unless your child is perfect, you’ll need ink erasers and correction tape or fluid are needed to fix small mistakes.

5. Tape and Glue – Glue sticks are the most popular options for in-school projects, but glue bottles and dots are also available. Transparent tape comes in clear and translucent styles. Make sure there’s a dispenser in the package, unless you have one at home.

6. Scissors – Children’s scissors are usually five inches long, and they have either pointed or blunt tips. Older kids can use longer scissors.

7. Paper and Notebooks – Depending on your child’s age, you may need wide rule or college rule spiral or loose-leaf paper. Graph paper is an important item for math and geometry in higher grades.

8. Electronics – Once your child reaches sixth grade, items like scientific calculators start popping up on the list. You might also want to pick up some earphones, chargers and extra batteries while you’re shopping – even if they’re not mentioned.

9. Digital Covers and Cases – Keep your child’s phone, digital devices and electronics in good shape with covers and cases. As much as you hate to think about it, they’re going to get dropped and hit. Look for soft plastic phone bumpers and scratch-resistant sleeves. They typically come in an assortment of colors.

10. Hygiene and Sanitizers – Hand sanitizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Washing their hands is always important, but keeping a bottle of sanitizer or some wipes in their desk, locker or backpack can prevent your kids from picking up germs and getting sick as often. Some schools also request that kids bring in a box of tissues, a roll of paper towels or a bottle of liquid soap for all students to use in the classroom.

Nikki is an independent writer for DollarTree.com. Dollar Tree offers great deals on office supplies, party supplies and more.

7 Ways to Save on Back to School Clothes



back to school clothes While summer may still be in full swing, the new school year is going to be here before we know it. As the mother of a little girl who is going to be starting kindergarten for the first time this year, this is a huge deal in our house! We’re all really excited, but we’re all a little nervous too.

One thing I’m not too nervous about, however, is buying new back to school clothes. Sure she’s going to need a ton of them (How girls go through clothes so fast–I’ll never know!), but that’s okay. I won’t be paying full price for them, and you don’t have to either. Just use these seven ways to save on back to school clothes. I plan to save a bundle, and you can too.

1. Shop the Sales

One of the easiest ways to save big on your kids’ school clothes is ridiculously simple: shop the sales and clearance racks! You can often get the exact same brand new name brand clothing for a fraction of the cost just by waiting a couple of weeks until it goes on sale. Find out when your favorite store marks everything down, and go in ready to stock up and save big!

2. Shop Secondhand

If you don’t mind used clothes, there are tons of places you can find them. Search thrift stores, consignment shops and secondhand kids’ clothing stores. Hit up the garage sales and search on Craigslist and Ebay. How many times have your kids grown out of clothes before they’ve had a chance to wear them more than a couple of times? This happens to other moms too, and you can use it to your advantage.

3. Trade with Friends

If you really want to save big and you have friends with kids who are slightly older than yours, see if you can trade or get free hand-me-downs. I’ve gotten tons of clothes from friends who were willing to let me borrow as well as from friends who just wanted someone to take the clothes off of their hands for free!

4. Buy All Throughout the Year

If you have adequate storage space and are good at planning ahead, buying all throughout the year is a fantastic way to save big on kids’ clothes. For example, if I see a shirt on clearance that is two sizes too big for my daughter but a great deal, I’ll go ahead and grab it now. Then, when the time comes, I don’t have to buy clothes at full price–she already has a whole box full of clothes I’ve picked up for cheap! This does require excellent organizational skills, but it can be done. I monitor the deals at Zulily often to score some great clothes for back to school!

5. Go for Quality

When you see the price tag on a new pair of jeans, it can be really tempting to just purchase the cheapest pair you can find, but resist the temptation! Often times you get what you pay for, and it ends up being much cheaper and easier to buy quality pieces in the first place.

6. Sign Up for Store Deals

If there is a store you shop frequently, make sure you sign up for their sale alerts, newsletter or coupons–whatever they offer. Some stores send out free $10 coupons or $10 off of a $25 purchase coupons to their mailing list subscribers. Get a coupon like this, and you can get clothes for F.R.E.E!

7. Save Your Receipt

How frustrating is it to buy clothes, only to have them go on sale immediately after? Fight back by saving your receipt. Then, if something goes on sale two weeks later, you can just take the receipt back and get the difference.

Honestly, if you are clever and resourceful enough, you really don’t have to pay more for kids’ clothes than you want to. These seven tips will get you off to a great start.

What other tips do you have?