Category: Saving

Guide to End-of-Summer Sales

The end of summer is marked by mixed feelings. Come the end of summer, vacations may be coming to an end as children ready themselves for a new school year. But shoppers know the end of summer is an ideal time to find great deals on an array of items.

Although back-to-school sales flood the marketplace this time of year, plenty of other sales take place in the final weeks of summer – and consumers can save substantial amounts of money if they know where to look.

Outdoor furniture

As stores clear out their seasonal items, shoppers can score big deals on patio sets and other outdoor furniture. Retailers need to make room for snowblowers, rakes, shovels, and holiday merchandise, so shoppers are bound to find discounted tables, chairs, fire pits, umbrellas, and chaise lounges. Individuals can use this opportunity to update worn-out patio furniture and other seasonal items they can store over the winter.

Camping/hiking equipment

Only the most devoted campers camp out when the temperatures begin to dip, so consumers can use this opportunity to grab camping equipment before it’s gone for another season. Tents, flashlights, cooking gear, backpacks, outdoor recreational items, such as kayaks or fishing tackle, water bladders, and heaters may be available at steep discounts.

Grills

Backyard barbecues are a staple of summer. If your barbecue or outdoor cooking equipment experienced heavy use throughout the summer, now is a great time to shop sales on grills and outdoor cooking gear.

Travel

Consumer Reports says that prices tend to drop on airfare, hotels and theme parks after Labor Day. Deals on luggage also can be had once summer travel season ends. Tuesdays are a great day to book airline tickets because they tend to be cheaper on Tuesday than other days of the week. Travelers can use this information to their advantage, booking trips to destinations that have super weather throughout the fall, such as Hawaii or the Mediterranean. Caribbean destinations also are good choices, though travelers should consider travel insurance to protect against hurricane-related cancellations.

Vehicles

Many dealerships tend to begin discounting cars when new models begin to debut in August and September. The longer a dealership holds on to a vehicle, the more money it tends to lose. Prospective car buyers may be able to negotiate a good deal this time of year, ultimately walking away with a brand new vehicle with a solid warranty. It’s not unheard of to receive a discount of 15 percent or more on previous year models.

Spa treatments

Many spas have begun discounting massages and facials at the end of summer, according to the International Spa Association. Shoppers can use this opportunity to try out new spas and save some money in the process.

In addition to these discounts, bathing suits, summer clothing, lawn and garden equipment, and pool/spa items may be discounted come the fall.

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5 Simple Ways to Increase Energy Efficiency & Savings

Fall and winter can be tough on your home and your wallet. As temperatures drop, chances are your furnace will be working overtime. This results in two things – greater energy consumption and higher heating bills. In fact, costs associated with heating and cooling a home year-round typically comprise two-thirds of the average energy bill.

Try these easy DIY projects to help cut down on energy loss and expenses:

1. Replace worn weather-stripping around doors and windows. Worn weather-stripping can create drafts and let heated air out, stressing your furnace and compromising your comfort. Replacing it takes little time and is a low-cost, high-impact solution.

2. Top up or replace old insulation in your attic. A poorly insulated attic is a primary source of energy loss. Also, over time, some types of insulation can settle and compact, allowing heat to escape through gaps. Experts recommend topping up or replacing attic insulation with a dimensionally stable batt insulation like Roxul Comfortbatt. Aim for an R-value of at least R-50 or a depth of roughly 16 inches.

3. Insulate basement headers and walls. Uninsulated basement headers are common, especially in older homes. They can act as a gateway for heated air to escape. Fixing the problem is fast and easy. Simply cut Comfortbatt mineral wool insulation to fit the cavity and compress into place. Doing this throughout your basement will prevent heat loss and can potentially save hundreds of dollars each year.

4. Caulk around windows. Cracks and crevices are a source of heat loss. They can also be an entry point for water/moisture, as well as for unwelcome insects. Preventative maintenance, such as caulking, can improve energy efficiency and prevent costly repairs.

5. Change your furnace filter. Make it a point to check your furnace filter monthly, always changing it when it’s dirty. This will improve the performance and efficiency of your furnace, saving you money.

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How Families Can Make Staycations More Unique

As a result of the economic downturn that began in 2008, many families found themselves forgoing traditional vacations in favor of “staycations.” In such instances, families spent time away from work and school together but did not travel far, if at all.
While the economy has bounced back since the dawn of the staycation, many families are still choosing to stay at home in an effort to save money. Staycations might not seem as glamorous as traveling abroad or as relaxing as spending a week in an oceanfront resort or condominium, but there are ways for families to make staycations more fun and seem like a true departure from everyday life.

• Experiment with new cuisine.

One of the joys of travel is the opportunity to dine out and experience cuisine native to particular locales. But families don’t need to travel abroad to enjoy this particular benefit of traveling. The internet is home to a wealth of recipes from countries far and wide. Parents and their kids can choose recipes online and prepare meals from a different country each night, or pick a “country or region of the week” and prepare a different dish native to that area each night. This provides a great departure from ordinary family dinners and can make for a fun activity for the whole family.

• Camp out.

Straying from the norm, even when staying at home, can make staycations seem more like a vacation than merely a week away from school or the office. Parents who want to add a dash of adventure to their families’ staycations can set up tents in the backyard and sleep under the stars or seek out local campsites that are free or relatively inexpensive. Tell stories around a backyard firepit when staying at home to provide a more authentic camping experience for everyone.

• Take in local culture.

Rather than spending the week lounging around the house or the backyard pool, families can explore the cultural opportunities in their towns or cities. Busy families tend to take such opportunities for granted when they get caught up in the daily grind, and exploring local history and artistic opportunities in the same way you would when traveling can provide a sense of excitement similar to that experienced during more traditional vacations. Visit a local zoo, take in a performance at a local theater company or take a guided historical tour of an area of your hometown or a nearby city.

• Indulge in an extraordinary activity.

While families typically choose staycations to save money, forgetting the budget to enjoy one extraordinary activity can make a staycation more fun and memorable. Spend one day during the staycation doing something the family would not ordinarily do, be it visiting an all-day amusement park, taking a helicopter tour of a nearby city or going to a ballgame. Such a break from the norm, even if it’s only for a single night, can make staycations feel more like vacations.
Staycations have become an economic necessity for many families, and there are many ways for parents to make such times as enjoyable and unique as more traditional vacations.

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How to Avoid Unhealthy Habits at the Office

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, working professionals spend an average of 8.5 hours per day at work. Many professionals spend much of their time at work sitting down in front of a computer, which can be detrimental to long-term health.

Staying sedentary for long periods of time can contribute to a host of health ailments, including being overweight and obese. But professionals who work in offices can take various steps to ensure all that time at work is not having an adverse affect on their overall health.

· Get out of your seat. Modern workplaces are built around sitting, so workers must find some time to stand up and stretch. Sitting too long can compromise posture and lead to craning of the neck for looking at the computer screen. Get out of your chair, walk around the office and get the blood moving in your body.

· Pack your lunch. Bringing lunch to work puts you in greater control over the foods you are eating. You can pack a healthy and diverse selection of foods. Don’t forget to also bring some snacks that offer a healthy mix of protein and carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up. Otherwise, you may succumb to the temptation of the lunchroom snack machine.

· Take frequent breaks. Stale air inside an office environment can make you feel fatigued and less productive. Also, spending too much time behind your desk may contribute to feelings of stress and tension. Use every opportunity possible to get up and leave your office. Instead of sending an instant message or making a phone call to a coworker, visit him or her in person. Use your lunch hour to get outside instead of eating at your desk. Plan a brief, mid-afternoon walk outside of your office to clear your mind and get some fresh air.

· Disinfect surfaces often. Oftentimes, when one person at the office gets sick, many others soon follow. Colds and the flu can spread rapidly in close quarters. Keep your desk drawer stocked with some alcohol swabs or disinfecting spray and routinely clean your keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, and desk surfaces. You also can wipe off door handles and knobs around the office if you want to be proactive.

· Rest your eyes. Close your eyes and look away from the computer monitor every 20 minutes. Focusing on objects of varying distances can help keep the eyes strong and reduce fatigue.

It’s not difficult to remain healthy at work. Breaks, exercise and watching what you eat can help.

How to Save Money on Vacation

“Travel can be expensive, but savings are possible when travelers know where to look.”

Going on vacation often means throwing a little caution to the wind and indulging here and there on purchases or experiences a person wouldn’t normally make at home. According to a 2015 CBS News poll, the average American is entitled to 16 days of paid leave each year, and the average Canadian worker 19 days. Such time off is an opportunity to fit lots of fun into a relatively short period of time. Frugal travelers may want to be sure they’re spending their hard-earned money in the smartest ways. Traveling without breaking the bank enables the average person to take more vacations and continue to make invaluable memories. Here are some suggestions on making a getaway, whether it involves lots of traveling or staying close to home, more affordable.

Be flexible.

Travelers who are flexible in their departure dates and times can usually find great rates because they have the ability to shop price instead of date. Various airline websites and travel discount services show the average flight prices across several days. Frugal fliers can select the lowest price. The same can be true when booking hotels and other vacation components.

Pack light.

Many airlines now charge extra for baggage fees — especially for suitcases that exceed the weight limit — so don’t bring along unnecessary items. Hotels typically provide toiletries for free, so save space and money by removing such items from your luggage. Chances are if you didn’t pack an item, you can still find an affordable alternative at your destination.

Use coupons.

Coupons aren’t only for getting cents off your favorite brand of tissue at the supermarket. Coupons and discount codes are available for just about any purchase — even vacations. Check all travel websites to see if there are any deals to be had. Don’t overlook discounts related to your membership in clubs such as AAA or AARP or those linked to your alumni or military organization. According to RetailMeNot, having a social media account can help, too. Travel deal sites and airlines may post about flash sales.

Plan meals.

Look into economical restaurants before departing. Know where you’ll be eating and when, including packing a lunch or enjoying a hotel-provided breakfast. Enjoying a big lunch can be more frugal than indulging on dinner.

Rent small.

If renting a car, choose the smallest model that will fit your needs. In addition, there’s no need to pay for a large room that you don’t plan to spend much time in, so resist the temptation to book large hotel rooms.

Consider public transportation.

Investigate the public transportation options at your destination. Such options may not be as convenient as taxis, but they may be more economical.

Book based on currency.

Stay abreast of currency exchange rates. Such rates can make a big difference in choosing a destination, particularly if your money will be worth more internationally. Also, try booking a vacation through the local country’s version of the same travel site.

Skip tourist hotspots.

Talk to the locals to find out where to get the best deals. Try local foods, brews and more for a cost savings. Travel can be expensive, but savings are possible when travelers know where to look.

How to Save Money on Everyday Expenses

Saving money on everyday expenses is a goal for many adults. Certain expenses, such as loan payments, may be more difficult to pare down than others. But there are ways adults can save on everyday expenses without drastically overhauling their daily routines.

Transportation

Transportation is a significant expense for many adults. The Federal Highway Administration notes that the average American family devotes 19 percent of its monthly budget to transportation costs, while Statistics Canada points out that Canadian families spent slightly less than $12,000 on average on transportation in 2014. A 2011 report from the American Public Transportation Association found individuals who ride public transportation can save more than $10,000 annually. That figure is closely tied to fuel costs, but even when fuel costs are low, adults can still save substantial amounts of money by utilizing pubic transportation instead of driving themselves to work every day.

Even adults who live in auto dependent exurbs, where families devote 25 percent of their monthly budgets to transportation costs, can save by carpooling to work, which allows commuters to split fuel and toll costs while also reducing wear and tear on their vehicles. That reduced wear and tear will add years to a vehicle’s life, saving auto owners money as a result.

Food

Food is another daily expense where many adults can likely save some money. A 2013 survey from Visa found that the average person goes out for lunch twice per week, spending $10 each time. That adds up to more than $1,000 annually. By bringing their own lunches to work, working professionals can save hundreds of dollars per year. In addition to the financial benefits of brown-bagging lunches, adults can reap nutritional rewards by packing healthy meals for themselves. Men and women who eat out for lunch each day will have to eat whatever the eateries near their offices have to offer, whether those offerings are healthy or not. Individuals also can save more money by bringing their own coffee to work each day rather than relying on coffee shops to satisfy their morning java fix.

Entertainment

Entertainment is another area where many adults can likely save money. NBC News reported in 2015 that the average cable bill was $99 per month, and that was before 2016 rate increases were announced by a host of providers, including DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable. Streaming services such as Netflix ($9.99 per month), Amazon Prime ($99 per year) and Hulu Plus ($7.99) combine to cost a fraction of that figure, and such services continue to increase their offerings. Adults interested in trimming their daily expenses can access all three services for less than $320 per year, or a little more than three months’ worth of cable bills.

Reducing everyday expenses is a goal for many adults, and doing so is simpler than men and women may know.

Successfully Switch Auto Insurance Providers

Once drivers purchase an auto insurance policy, many simply let the policy renew each year. But with a little digging, drivers may be able to reduce their insurance costs considerably. According to the Insurance Information Institute in New York, consumers should ask themselves if they’re happy with the cost, service and coverage of their existing policies whenever it’s time to renew. If they are, they should stick with their existing policies. However, if customers feel things can be better, then it’s a perfect time to see what’s available. Many driver advocates advise shopping for a new policy every two or three years. When it comes time to switch car insurance companies, follow these steps and remember to avoid gaps in the coverage.

• Compare apples to apples. When shopping for new policies, consumers should compare the same features offered by various providers, including coverage types, deductibles and any limits. Keep a copy of your existing policy’s declarations page so that all quotes can be accurately compared to the existing policy.

• Research any cancellation fees. Before switching over, find out if there are any cancellation fees associated with an existing policy.

• Eliminate coverage gaps. Eliminate gaps in coverage by ensuring a new policy begins the moment the existing one ends. This prevents potential financial ruin should a driver get into an accident without any insurance during a gap period.

• Take note of any lifestyle changes. Be sure to list anything that can affect the cost of coverage, such as anti-theft devices on the vehicle, window etching or updated driving habits.

• Explore union or group affiliations. Drivers who are members of particular clubs, professional organizations or something similar may be eligible for special policies with certain providers. Make a list of any affiliations and contact the organizers to see if they have relationships with auto insurance providers. Law enforcement personnel or veterans may be eligible for certain discounts as well. Some insurance carriers only cover police officers or former military. It pays to look into these discounts.

• Consider small companies. Just because they don’t advertise as much as some of the more well-known providers does not mean small insurance companies are not capable of providing sufficient, affordable coverage. There are plenty of reputable small companies that offer excellent rates to drivers willing to exercise their due diligence.

• Check with the existing provider, too. Drivers can discuss their current rates and coverage with their existing insurance company, who may offer suggestions on reducing coverage or even offer lower prices in an effort to hang on to customers. Consider these possibilities before switching. Shopping around for a new automotive insurance policy may help customers cut rates and increase coverage.

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3 Money-Saving Travel Tips for Retirees

Though a transient lifestyle is something few people aspire to during much of their lives, come retirement, the idea of staying in a place for only a short time has more appeal.

According to a 2014 study from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 36 percent of baby boomers want to spend their retirements traveling. Many are succeeding in doing just that, as a study from the luxury travel network Virtuoso found that today’s seniors spent an average of just over $11,000 per year on travel. That was more than any other generation, highlighting just how much older adults like to get out and explore the world.

Retirees who fear they cannot afford to travel can explore the various ways for seniors to cut costs and still satisfy their wanderlust during retirement.

1. Take advantage of age-related discounts.

Some adults prefer to hide their ages, but when it comes time to travel during retirement, honesty is the best policy. Many businesses that cater to travelers offer discounts to seniors. Car rental agencies, hotels, travel agencies, and cruise lines may offer direct discounts to customers 65 and older, while membership in organizations such as AAA and AARP may make seniors eligible for additional discounts. Discounts on lodging and airfare might net the biggest savings, but even discounts on various smaller expenses can add up to big savings.

2. Don’t overlook travel agencies.

While many prospective travelers’ first instincts are now to visit various travel websites in an effort to find the most affordable trips, it’s important that travelers not overlook travel agencies when planning trips. Travel websites, though a valuable resource, only list the hotels and airlines that agree to be included on their sites. While many participate, some do not, and those that do not may instead work independent of travel websites or partner with travel agencies. Travel agencies have access to the latest information, and many specialize in certain countries, knowing all the attractions visitors to their countries want to see. Travel agencies may offer packages that include admissions to popular attractions, which can be more affordable than planning a trip a la carte.

3. Travel as part of a group.

Group travel may not appeal to everyone, but it should appeal to older, budget-conscious travelers. Retirees who are uncomfortable driving at home will likely be even less comfortable driving in foreign countries where the rules of the road are not the same. Traveling in groups, whether it’s with a retirement community, religious organization or another program, can save travelers substantial amounts of money. Many hotels and tourist attractions offer steep discounts for group tours, which can even be arranged through travel agencies. A hidden benefit of signing up for a group tour is the chance to meet new people and develop new relationships with fellow globetrotters.

Many working professionals hope to spend the bulk of their retirement traveling the globe. While such a goal is potentially costly, there are various ways to save and still see the world.

Cut Prom Costs Without Cutting Fun

Many people fondly remember their high school proms. But while proms make great memories, they also can break the bank.

Prom can be an expensive rite of passage. A 2015 survey from Visa indicated the average American family planned to spend about $900 on the prom, with parents contributing as much as 75 percent of those costs. Similarly, Visa Canada’s survey showed households with teens were prepared to spend an average of $500 on prom in 2015. And spending on the prom isn’t all that’s contributing to the event’s final price tag. There’s the “promposal” to factor in as well. In Canada, many teens spend about $150 just to ask out a potential prom date, and Americans can spend more than double that amount on their promposals.

Tickets, transportation, attire, grooming treatments, meals, and several other factors can add up to make prom very costly. However, those feeling the potential stress of the prom bill can explore various ways to cut those costs.

· Search for deals. Subscribe to mailing lists and download deal-finder apps like the My Franklin Shopper App & don’t forget about searching our online site or picking up a copy of the Franklin Shopper locally! If there’s a particular manufacturer or store that you prefer, subscribe to their mailing list, which might make you eligible for “insider” deals.

· Shop early. Get a jump on prom shopping and possibly save some money by shopping early for prom wardrobes. Girls can shop when party dresses are on discount after New Year’s Eve galas. Waiting until prom season to shop for prom night attire can be a costly mistake, as dresses and formalwear tends to be expensive come prom season. Guys can shop sales as well if they want to make a splash in a custom suit. Otherwise, guys can rent tuxedos to save money.

· Go supermarket floral. Supermarkets and warehouse clubs may offer discounted prices on flowers, which promgoers can fashion into boutonnieres and corsages. Also, nothing says you cannot pull a beautiful bloom out of your home garden as well.

· Be your own paparazzi. Smartphone cameras now have excellent capabilities, and certain apps can apply filters and fix minor flaws easily. Pair with a coupon for discount photo prints, and soon you’ll have a frugal photo memory book or wall portrait.

· Savings in numbers. See if a particular vendor will cut costs if you book services with a group of friends. Retailers will be guaranteed the sales, and promgoers can save some money.

Prom is meant for making memories, not getting into debt. Save money with smart shopping.

How to Replace Energy Hungry Appliances

According to the Energy Star program, a refrigerator that is at least 15 years old may be consuming twice as much energy as a newer Energy Star-rated refrigerator.

Even though purchasing new appliances will require a financial commitment, such items may help save money while benefitting the environment at the same time.

Home improvement projects often involve remodeling. But homeowners can improve their homes without ever picking up a hammer. Upgrading a home’s appliances with products that are more eco-friendly can add value to a home and make the home more attractive to buyers who want their homes to look good and pay dividends for the environment.

The United States Department of Energy says the average American family spends about $2,200 each year for energy costs, and large, inefficient appliances no doubt contribute heavily to those expenditures. Appliances that are several years old, including refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, and even ovens, may no longer meet the stringent energy-saving specifications required of new items. That means such appliances are negatively affecting the environment and their owners’ bottom lines.

According to the Energy Star program, a refrigerator that is at least 15 years old may be consuming twice as much energy as a newer Energy Star-rated refrigerator. Even though purchasing new appliances will require a financial commitment, such items may help save money while benefitting the environment at the same time.

Read the label

Familiarize yourself with the “EnergyGuide” label that appears on most appliances. This label gives consumers an idea as to how much it will cost to run the appliance, as well as how much energy the unit uses on average. Use this label to compare the different models you are considering.

Choose appliances that are part of the Energy Star program, which helps consumers find products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Downgrade to a small model

Large appliances tend to consume more energy than small appliances. Scaling down the size of the appliance can reduce energy consumption. Empty nesters may no longer need a refrigerator capable of holding food for a family of four, while those who routinely dine out may find they don’t get much use out of their larger refrigerator.

Look for rebate programs

Rebate and recycling programs can help reduce the initial cost of purchasing new appliances. The government may offer tax incentives to those people who purchase a new, energy-efficient models.

Think about future salability

Homeowners who do not intend to stay in their homes much longer may find energy efficient appliances make their homes more attractive to prospective buyers.

Energy efficient appliances can reduce homeowners’ carbon footprints while also saving them considerable amounts of money over the life of the products.

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