Tag: advice

How to Easily Maximize Coupon Savings

Many items, including food and clothing, can strain a budget. As a result, many shoppers make it their mission to save money on their purchases, and coupons can be a great way to do just that.

According to a 2014 survey from the discount coupon site RetailMeNot, 96 percent of respondents regularly use coupons. In fact, Hawk Incentives, another deal resource, found that 40 percent of coupon users feel smarter when taking advantage of a deal. While there are some people who use coupons periodically, an entirely different type of shopper has mastered the art of maximizing coupon savings.

Learning how to follow such shoppers’ lead can save consumers substantial sums of money.

• Look for deals in your local newspaper. Begin by perusing newspaper inserts from local papers and match up the circulars to the stores you frequently visit. Pick the best deals you can find for products you actually use. You will not be saving money if you clip and utilize coupons but end up buying items that you don’t need and/or won’t use.

• See if you can stack coupons. Some stores will enable you to use both a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon at the same time. This is called stacking. Shop at stores that allow stacking to get better deals, particularly on food.

• Use discount code sites. Regularly check sites and apps like RetailMeNot for codes for favorite retailers. This is easily done before you head to the check-out line. Popular stores frequently run deals, and you may not realize there is a discount even if you’re in the store already. Oftentimes codes can be scanned directly from your phone. Other apps and resources enable you to load offers directly to a store rewards card. Investigate these possibilities for more savings.

• Automatically update your shopping cart. When making purchases online, utilize a plug-in site like Honey, which automatically scans its database of usable discount codes for the retailer you’re using. See if there are any applicable codes that can earn you a discount on the spot. If not, Honey will tell you that you have the best price.

• Sign up for mailing lists. While you may not want to inundate your inbox with spam, retailer newsletters and mailing lists will inform you about discounts and sales others may not know about. If you’re concerned about your email program getting flooded, designate a filter that will group these promotions into a separate folder.

• Keep coupons close. Coupons are only good if they’re available for use. Have a holder for print coupons or store digital coupons in a folder on your phone that can be easily accessed.

With these strategies in mind, consumers can increase their coupon savings considerably.

How to Find a Car That Fits Your Budget

Drivers in the market for a new or pre-owned vehicle over the last couple of years likely discovered that the process of buying a car or truck is as difficult as ever. Prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, factory closures, supply chain issues, semiconductor chip shortages, and a bevy of other complications led to fewer vehicles on lots and much higher sticker prices on cars that were on the lot. That has caused people who are on strict budgets to reevaluate priorities and timelines.

According to Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ senior manager of insights, consumers can’t expect to walk into the dealership thinking they’re going to find incentives or bargains right now. Plus, they may not even be able to see or test drive a vehicle they want. That reality makes now a great time for car shoppers to rethink their buying strategies.

Choose a different vehicle class

Tyson Jominy, Vice President of Data and Analytics at J.D. Power, says vehicle inventory in November 2021 reached record lows. Although there has been some improvement in 2022, consumers may still have to make some concessions if they need a vehicle promptly. SUVs and pick-up trucks have been some of the hardest inventory to find. Considering a sedan or even a compact car may be the only way to get a new car quickly.

Wait it out

Those with the luxury of time may continue to wait for inventory to increase and prices to decrease. Tech experts, including Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, expect chip shortages to persist into 2024. If a person’s vehicle is in good condition, it may be more economical to hold on to it a little longer and do the maintenance required.

Seek out no-markup dealerships

It may take some investigation, but there are certain dealerships that are not adding astronomical markups, also called “market adjustments,” to the costs of their vehicles. These dealers may advertise online, and car buyers can always call ahead to ask about markups.

Take what you can get

Lots filled with a variety of makes, models, colors, and features are no longer the norm. Shoppers will be afforded more flexibility in price if they’re willing to take what’s available.

Check with different lenders

The Federal Reserve increased interest rates in the middle of 2022 and it initially planned to increase rates a few more times throughout the year. People, particularly those who do not have the best credit, can do themselves a favor and shop around at different banks for the best loan rates – the loan may be less costly than what’s offered through the dealership. Also, certified pre-owned vehicles tend to come with promotional interest rates that are lower than the average APR, which makes them a viable alternative.

Vehicles are still expensive and in short supply, necessitating changes to how people buy their cars or trucks.

Distractions That Can Affect Efficiency At Work

Busy workdays are the norm for many professionals. Though most workers undoubtedly would prefer to feel busy rather than bored, it’s easy for professionals to succumb to burnout if they don’t get periodic breaks from the demands of their careers.

Burnout is a significant issue for working professionals. A recent survey of 1,500 working professionals from various sectors and backgrounds by the job aggregator site Indeed found that 52 percent of respondents were experiencing burnout in 2021. That marks a nearly 10 percent increase from a similar survey Indeed conducted prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various factors, some of which are beyond individuals’ control, can contribute to burnout. Professionals who want to avoid burnout without taking a step back from their careers can look for ways to be more efficient during the day. Overcoming these common distractions can improve efficiency, which should help professionals free up time and reduce their risk of burnout.

Smartphones

A 2015 CareerBuilder survey of hiring and human resources managers from various industries found that employers cited smartphones and texting as the biggest productivity killers in the workplace. Professionals no doubt recognize how distracting their phones can be during the workday, and they may feel powerless to avoid them. But they’re not. Alter notification settings so the phone only delivers the most important notifications (i.e., children’s schools, meeting reminders, etc.) during the day. Turn off notifications from news, sports, and entertainment apps.

The Internet

The CareerBuilder survey found that employers believed the internet is the second biggest productivity killer. Professionals with a lot on their plates should do everything they can to avoid surfing the internet during the workday. The internet can be a rabbit hole, and even individuals who only intend to take a brief break from work to check the news or clear their head may soon find themselves moving from website to website while their work piles up. If it’s a mental break you need, get up and take a brief walk around the office instead of surfing the internet.

Emails

Emails are another significant distraction during a typical workday. To overcome the seemingly endless flood of emails coming from coworkers, friends, and family during the day, professionals can work in offline mode for a predetermined period of time each day. This affords the opportunity to work on specific tasks or projects without being interrupted by emails. Emails will still accumulate while the computer is in offline mode, but professionals won’t be notified as each message is delivered and will be able to work distraction-free until they turn offline mode off.

Meetings

Meetings may be well-intentioned, but they often compromise productivity and distract professionals from their jobs. A recent study titled “Meetings in America” commissioned by Verizon Conferencing found that 90 percent of professionals admitted to daydreaming during meetings, while 39 percent admitted they had fallen asleep during meetings in the past. Managers can help employees get more done and limit distractions by scheduling fewer meetings or reconsidering just who needs to attend meetings more carefully.

A distraction-free workday might seem unlikely, but professionals can take various steps to overcome the most common distractions in an effort to be more efficient.

How Much Should a Backpack Weigh?

Backpacks are handy tools that carry an array of gear. Students rely on them to hold books, while hikers and campers utilize backpacks to carry items such as food and beverages that keep them safe on trails. Even office workers may turn to backpacks to carry laptops or other tools of the trade.

Backpacks are handy resources, but overstuffed backpacks may cause injury. Backpacks should only carry the weight that people can handle, and there are guidelines that can help people safely utilize backpacks.

The weight of a backpack depends on the age of the person using it. Generally speaking, adults should not exceed 20 percent of total body mass when loading backpacks. That means a healthy person weighing 200 pounds should not carry more than 40 pounds in his or her backpack.

In regard to children, researchers indicate that a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of what the student weighs. Those findings are based on a Spanish study involving 49 primary school-aged children. Therefore, if a child weighs 70 pounds, he or she should only carry up to 7 pounds in the backpack.

Individuals also should follow a few other backpack recommendations to alleviate injuries. It’s not a good idea to wear a backpack hanging from only one shoulder. A backpack should be worn on both shoulders, and ideally with a lumbar strap. This will help to prevent muscular pains by providing well-rounded support.

A backpack with wide, padded straps can minimize pressure on the shoulders, back, and collarbone. Backpacks made of lightweight material will not add much additional weight to what’s being carried. Another tip is for children and adults to pack the heaviest item carried in the backpack closest to the center of the back to minimize strain.

Failure to follow guidelines may result in pain and injuries and have negative effects on balance, which may increase the risk of falls or other injuries.

Whenever possible, individuals may want to use trolley backpacks, which are on wheels. They can be dragged, alleviating the need to carry heavy loads.

How to Be a Smart Credit Consumer

Financial planning encompasses a host of strategies designed to help people enjoy the fruits of their labors. Financial planning is often associated with saving for retirement. However, smart credit management is an integral component of financial planning that can begin paying dividends long before adults are ready to retire.

Capital One notes that the benefits of a good credit score include lower credit card and mortgage interest rates, which can save individuals tens of thousands of dollars over the life of their home loans. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission reports that the better an individual’s credit history, the easier it is for that person to establish utility services, including electricity and internet service.

With so much to gain, individuals should do everything they can to be smart credit consumers. These strategies can help consumers use credit to their advantage as they look to gain from this vital component of financial planning.

Recognize the factors that affect your score. A credit score is generated using a formula that takes various factors into consideration. These factors include payment history, credit utilization rate, length of credit history, and credit inquiries, among others. Each variable is important, but paying balances in full and on time each month is a great way to build a strong financial reputation in the eyes of creditors. In addition, avoid overutilization of credit, especially if you can’t pay balances in full each month.

Check credit before looking for a job. One easily overlooked benefit of being a smart credit consumer is its impact on individuals’ ability to find a good job. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urges individuals to check their credit reports before they begin looking for a job so they can correct any mistakes that may be on their reports. That’s because some employers look at applicants’ credit reports as part of their background checks. Smart credit consumers recognize that monitoring their credit is just as important as utilizing it wisely. Consumers can access reports from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for free once every 12 months.

Don’t wing it. Much like successful retirement planning is often the culmination of decades of hard work, strategizing and saving, becoming a smart credit consumer involves commitment to a well-developed plan to utilize credit. Impulsive use of credit can quickly compromise individuals’ credit histories and financial reputations, so develop a plan to use credit wisely and stick to that plan. A successful credit utilization strategy should be rooted in paying bills on time, and ideally in full, each month to avoid potentially costly interest charges. Identify any bad credit utilization habits and do your best to eliminate them. If necessary, work with a financial planner to develop your credit utilization strategy.

Various strategies can help individuals become smart credit consumers and reap the rewards that a strong financial reputation has to offer.

Strategies That Can Improve Reading Comprehension

Strong reading comprehension skills are one of the foundations of a successful academic career. According to the Institute of Reading Development, students with strong reading comprehension skills get a big boost in all subjects, including math and science.

Though the benefits of reading comprehension are well documented, many students are struggling in this area of their academics. Officials with the National Center for Education Statistics note that, over the last decade, students have made no progress in reading performance. That likely comes as no surprise to seasoned educators, as data indicates students are reading less outside of school than they have in years past. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates the percentage of public school students who said they read 30 minutes or more a day declined by 4 percent between 2017 and 2019, dipping below 50 percent overall in the latter year.

There’s likely a multitude of reasons why students now read less than they used to. Parents concerned about their children’s reading comprehension can try these strategies to bolster this highly valuable skill.

Let kids read what they like

The tutoring professionals at Oxford Learning® report that 73 percent of students indicate they would read more if they found books they liked. Parents can address this issue by taking children to their local libraries and letting them choose which books to check out. The more practice kids get with reading, the more their comprehension skills develop.

Read aloud to children

Various studies have found that reading aloud to children significantly benefits literacy development. One study from the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that listening to others read helps children develop key understanding and skills, including how stories are written. In addition, the Reading Rockets project, which aspires to bring reading research to life in the hopes of helping young children develop into strong, confident readers, notes that children can listen on a higher language level than they can read. That makes complex ideas more accessible.

Ask questions when reading to children

When reading to children, parents can compound the benefits of this activity by asking youngsters questions about the book. Asking what, when, where, why, and how can encourage children to look for answers to these questions while they’re being read to. As students advance and then read more on their own, parents can encourage them to ask these questions of themselves (if they’re not already doing so on their own). Asking and answering these questions is a great way to strengthen reading comprehension skills.

Strong reading comprehension skills can help students reach their academic potential. Parents can employ various strategies to help children bolster those skills.

Explore These Budget-Friendly Destinations

Many people equate travel with high prices and some overindulgence. After all, for a lot of people, vacations come but once or twice per year. While it’s true the “go big or go home” mantra is never far from the mind while on vacation, ensuring a fun trip does not require emptying one’s wallet. The world has plenty of affordable destinations for those willing to do their research and think outside of the box. Plus, even locales billed as expensive can be made more affordable with some smart travel tips.

North American national parks

National parks across North America are budget-friendly destinations. These parks boast incredibly scenic vistas and plenty of activities for outdoors enthusiasts. Most feature modest entrance fees and affordable adjacent lodging. The trip can be even more frugal by camping on park lands.

Chattanooga, TN

The draw of Nashville may be strong, but nearby Chattanooga also can be an entertaining place to enjoy some southern hospitality. Chattanooga is centrally located to many areas in the United States. Chattanooga hosts the Tennessee Aquarium, which has a large freshwater aquarium and an opportunity to touch sturgeon, which is an ancient fish species.

South America

When seeking warmer climates and sandy beaches, many travelers immediately think of the Caribbean islands. But for the budget-conscious, countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica may be more affordable. These countries are home to rich jungles and ancient ruins as well.

St. Augustine, Florida

Theme parks may be a big part of Florida’s tourist draw, but such parks can be expensive for families. Looking elsewhere in Florida for dream destinations that are easier on the pocketbook doesn’t take a lot of work. St. Augustine in Northern Florida is America’s oldest city and is packed with historical monuments, quaint shops and great dining. The city also sits a mere five miles northwest of St. Augustine Beach, which offers miles of shoreline to explore.

Portugal

Plenty of people flock to the relaxing shores of Spain or enjoy the culture and nightlife of France. Nestled nearby, Portugal has its own beautiful beaches, delicious food, historic cities, and locally produced wines without the inflated prices of nearby countries.

Quebec City

Quebec City’s rich history makes it a must-see Canadian destination. It is particularly vibrant in winter when the snowy landscape creates picture-perfect memories. Accommodations also are very affordable.

Traveling doesn’t have to cost much when budget-friendly destinations are on the map.

Free Up Your Summer With Simple Time-Saving Tips

Summertime is all about enjoyment, whether that means taking a vacation, spending time on the beach or enjoying the company of family and friends at parties and on patios.

With so many fun things to do, who wants to stay cooped up indoors with housework and a to-do list? Make sure you’re able to take advantage of everything the season has to offer with these tips that can help you spend more time under the sun.

Avoid shopping on weekends. If you work a typical nine-to-five schedule, you probably do your grocery shopping and home renovation store visits on the weekend because it’s when you have more time on your hands. Since that’s true for most people, you’ll face longer trips and more crowded spaces. Try to carve out some time on a weekday evening, especially Monday or Tuesday, and you’ll free up precious weekend time and avoid long lines.

Simplify meal prep. Don’t sacrifice eating healthy, nutritious food when you’re pressed for time. Instead, look for low- or no-prep meal options like Mann’s Nourish Bowls at the grocery store. These ready-to-eat single-serve meals feature superfood veggies like sweet potato, kohlrabi and kale. Developed by chefs, the bowls are ready in just a couple of minutes in your microwave. Serve as a standalone meal or as a base with your favorite protein.

Clean as you go. When it comes to keeping your home clean and organized, it pays to do a little bit at a time rather than spend a whole day or weekend on chores. Wipe down your shower after each use to avoid the build-up of mold and mildew. Dust surfaces in your closet regularly to keep items and clothes clean longer, and wipe kitchen surfaces while cooking. Regular maintenance goes a long way towards keeping your home tidy and ready for spur-of-the-moment summer gatherings.

How to Cut Costs on Your Summer Road Trip

The most memorable road trips are often the byproduct of ample planning. Careful examinations of maps months before a trip begins can help vacationers find the best sights to see and uncover must-visit restaurants. In fact, many people find pre-trip planning nearly as enjoyable as the trip itself.

Vacationers who planned road trips months ago likely did not think they would be forced to contend with extraordinarily high gas prices, but that’s precisely the position drivers find themselves in this summer. The average gas price in many parts of North America exceeded $5 U.S. dollars per gallon by early June, and economic forecasters predicted prices could climb even higher as June gives way to the summer travel season.

High gas prices likely won’t compel most vacationers to cancel their travel plans this summer. And those who are staying the course can rest easy knowing there are plenty of ways for them to cut costs and still enjoy a memorable summer road trip in the months ahead.

Book a vehicle maintenance appointment

Prior to heading for parts unknown, visit your local auto body shop and have your car or truck serviced. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that regular engine tune-ups to ensure a vehicle is running efficiently increases fuel economy by an average of 4 percent. Schedule an oil change and tune-up shortly before your departure date so your car won’t be forced to work extra hard, and thus consume extra fuel, during your trip.

Reconsider your ride

Vacationers with more than one car to choose from may want to reconsider which car they drive on their road trip this summer. For example, families with one SUV and one sedan may save money by driving the sedan instead of the SUV, which is likely less fuel-efficient than the smaller vehicle. In addition, consider the type of fuel each of your cars requires and let that inform your decision. For instance, certain vehicles require more expensive high-octane fuel. If you own a car that requires the more budget-friendly regular 87 octane fuel, take that one on the road with you this summer.

Look to save on lodging

Roadside motels have undergone something of a rebirth in recent years. Many motels have been given full makeovers but remain budget-friendly lodging options for road trippers. Motels won’t offer all the amenities of five-star hotels, but they’re affordable places for vacationers to lay their heads for a night before traveling on to the next adventure the following morning.

Take your foot off the gas

Another way to conserve fuel during a summer road trip is to resist the temptation to drive too fast. Avoiding excessive speeds isn’t just safer; it’s also more fuel-efficient. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy reports that fuel economy for a light-duty vehicle traveling at 80 miles per hour is about 27 percent lower than when traveling at 60 miles per hour.

Vacationers may be worried that high fuel costs will bust their budgets during road trips this summer. But there are various ways to cut costs and still enjoy memorable trips, even when fuel prices are especially high.

How to Conserve Energy While Keeping the AC On

Air conditioning is a welcome luxury come the dog days of summer. Few people can imagine getting through a hot summer afternoon without turning their AC on, which can make July and August some of the more costly months on the calendar regarding energy consumption.

Though the months of July and August may not seem well-suited to cutting energy consumption, there are ways to conserve that doesn’t require turning off the AC.

Reconsider the location of your thermostat

The Performance Building Institute, Inc. notes that thermostats are sensitive to heat. Thermostats located near heat-generating appliances like lamps, televisions, and computers may be fooled into thinking a home’s interior is warmer than it actually is. That will keep a temperature-controlled AC running longer and more frequently than is necessary. If necessary, move the thermostat to a part of the home where there are no electronics and appliances.

Emphasize maintenance of the AC unit

Even the most energy-efficient AC unit will be forced to work harder, and consume extra energy if it’s not well-maintained. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy notes that ENERGY STAR-certified HVAC equipment can yield annual energy savings of 10 to 30 percent. But such products must be maintained. Annual maintenance appointments with an HVAC technician can ensure the unit is clean and refrigerant levels are correct, helping it run as efficiently as possible.

Embrace natural ways to keep a home’s interior cool

Cranking the AC is not the only way to maintain a comfortable temperature inside a home during the months of July and August. Closing curtains on hot days keep the sun out and makes it easier to maintain comfortable temperatures inside without lowering the temperature on the thermostat. Avoiding the stove on hot nights and preparing cold meals or firing up the grill outside is another way to keep the house cool.

Address insulation issues

Cracks around windows and doors affect the temperature inside the home, making it colder in winter and warmer in the summertime. Seal cracks around doors and windows to keep the cool air in during the summer. Keeping that air in should allow you to raise the temperature on your thermostat without compromising comfort.

Come the dog days of summer, conserving energy needn’t come at the cost of comfort. Various strategies can help people reduce their energy consumption and keep their air conditioners on.