Tag: savings

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.

Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.

How to Save on School Supplies

Back to school season can be as expensive for parents as it is exciting for students. Once the initial letdown of the end of summer vacation wears off, many kids are excited to return to school, where they can see their friends, study their favorite subjects and participate in extracurricular activities.

Parents of school-aged youngsters may share in that excitement while also knowing that back to school season can stretch their budgets. One of the ways to salvage those budgets is to save on school supplies. Fortunately, there are several ways parents can do just that.

· Be patient. Shopping early can save shoppers money in many instances, but parents may benefit by exercising patience when it comes to buying school supplies for their children. Teachers often give students lists of supplies they will need for each class, and parents who wait to receive such lists can avoid spending money on items their kids won’t need. Even if you wait it out, you may be able to get a head start, as some teachers may post supply lists on school websites, while others might email lists to parents before back to school season hits full swing.

· Take inventory. If you have more than one child, chances are you already have lots of school supplies around the house. Dust off kids’ backpacks and study areas from last school year to determine which supplies you need to buy and which you already have. Going forward, encourage kids to store their supplies in a predetermined area once the school year ends, as this will make next year’s inventory that much easier to examine and assess.

· Spend more now to save later. While inexpensive supplies can be hard to resist, such items likely won’t withstand the test of time, forcing you to spend time and money each year buying replacement supplies. Paying more now for certain items, including stronger backpacks and more highly rated calculators, may end up saving you money in the long run, even if the initial pill is somewhat tough to swallow.

· Use technology to your advantage. Department stores and businesses that sell school supplies, such as pharmacies and office stores, may or may not discount too many items once back to school season hits full swing. But savvy parents can still find deals by using technology to their advantage when shopping for school supplies. Download apps like RetailMeNot to your smartphone and enable its updates so your phone essentially notifies you of any discounts the moment you walk into a given store. If you don’t receive any updates, search for discounts via the app or the Internet as you shop. Chances are strong that there are deals to be had, even if you don’t learn of the deals until you arrive at the store.

School supplies can be expensive, but parents can employ several strategies to save on school supplies now and in the future.

BS157285

Clever Graduation Gifts

Graduation celebrations typically involve commencement ceremonies, family dinners and/or parties and plenty of gifts for newly minted grads.

According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 3.5 million students are expected to be awarded high school diplomas at the end of the 2016-17 school year. That makes graduation season a season for shopping as well.

Graduation gifts can be as varied as the personalities of the graduates themselves. Here are some less typical gift ideas for shoppers who want to give the new grads in their lives something unique.

· Time capsule: Let the graduate pull together a series of items that exemplify some of the best days of their lives. These items can then be tucked away in the capsule and opened years from now.

· Monogrammed items: College students may arrive on campus with items that look very similar to their new classmates’ belongings. Set your favorite grad’s items apart with monogrammed pieces that are unique and easy to recognize.

· Individual coffee machine: If it’s allowed in the dorm, a single-serve coffee machine can help students make it through finals week. A coffee machine also will help students save money on takeout coffee.

· Macro phone camera lens: Graduates can capture all of their memories from parties, vacations and more with a macro lens to fit their phones.

· Survival kit: If the graduate is going to college or leaving college, customize a basket full of items he or she may need to make their transitions that much easier. Food can always serve as the centerpiece of such baskets, but don’t hesitate to include decorative items to outfit that first apartment or dorm room.

· Commemorative coins: Purchase coins for the year the graduate was born or the year he or she is graduating. These coins can be saved or later turned into useable currency.

· Tailgating kit: Set up your graduate with a portable grill and the grilling accoutrements needed to throw a great tailgating party with friends.

· Restaurant gift cards: Grads need to eat but are often short on money. Research local eateries around the college campus and stock up on gift cards.

· Family vacation: For college graduates, a voucher for a fun, old-fashioned vacation can bring the family together one last time before jobs and mismatched schedules get in the way.

Graduations offer a chance to celebrate students who are moving on to the next chapter in their lives. Fun and thoughtful gifts can make the transition that much easier.

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.

Coupon Tips for Deal-Seekers

Although many people will not go to extremes when using coupons, when used wisely, such discounts can help save a good deal of money.

Coupons can help people, and parents in particular, save substantial amounts of money. While television shows have documented the efforts of people who take coupon usage to the extreme, many shoppers simply want to earn modest savings on their grocery bills, recognizing that saving a few dollars here or there can add up to significant savings over time.

But even if you have no desire to spend hours on end hunting down the best deals, there are some ways to make the best use of coupons without taking up much of your time.

Understand stores’ coupon policies
Begin by researching if stores you frequent have restrictions on coupon usage. Some stores will double the value of coupons and others will not. Stores may set limits on the number of coupons one register can process or how many coupons a particular shopper can use at one time. It may be possible to use two different coupons for the same item, provided one is a manufacturer’s coupon and the other is store-based. The more you know about the coupon policies at your favorite stores, the more likely you are to use those policies to your advantage.

Get Organized
Using coupons effectively requires some organization. Develop a system for categorizing coupons by type or expiration date, which should ensure you don’t miss out on discounts because you lost coupons of they have expired.

Subscribe to several newspapers and coupon websites
Newspapers and store circulars are still great resources for coupons, so subscribe to your local newspaper, which likely still includes inserts advertising the latest sales and coupons. You also can subscribe to coupon websites, many of which are free and deliver coupons to subscribers’ email inboxes on a daily or weekly basis.

Consider a coupon-clipping service
A coupon service will clip coupons for you and send them to you for a fee. This enables you to collect coupons from various regions where coupon values may be higher than where you live.

Join a store loyalty program
Those cards supermarkets and other stores scan at checkout do more than just track your purchases. They typically entitle members to discounts that other shoppers are not privy to. These discounts come off the bill automatically, saving you time and money. Furthermore, being part of a store loyalty program may entitle you to emails or other advertisements on special sales not open to the general public.

Learn how to stack coupons with store sales
Many blogs tell you which stores are running sales and how they compare to coupons in recent newspapers and circulars. This enables you to not only get the sale price on a particular item but also earn the coupon discount. This is a good way to save even more money.

Get to know the standard prices of products
The only way to know if a coupon is a good deal is to be familiar with the going rate of the products you buy on a regular basis. When visiting the grocery store, make a note of how much your favorite items cost at full price. This way you will know when a sale is truly a sale.

Be prepared to stock up
Some of the best deals to be had involve buy one get one free, deals which are often referred to as “BOGO” or “B1G1.” When such deals can be combined with a coupon, the savings are substantial. Set aside a rack or area of the home for stockpiling your BOGO purchases.

Don’t forget about paperless coupons.
Paperless coupons, or ecoupons, are often linked to store loyalty programs. Many ecoupon services require shoppers to sign up online and provide some basic information about themselves. When you go to check out at the store, you will swipe your customer card and any available ecoupons will automatically be deducted from your purchase. Ecoupons are usually redeemed at face value and cannot be doubled or shared.

Try competitors’ coupons, too
Some stores will honor coupons from their competition. If one supermarket is offering a particular BOGO deal, clip the coupon and bring it to your local store to see if they will match the discount.

This article sponsored by:

Understanding Health Savings Accounts

Navigating health insurance plans can be confusing. One health insurance product that’s relatively easy to understand is a health savings account, or HSA. This type of account can help account holders save money on the costs associated with their healthcare.

What is an HSA?

HSAs are like any other savings account, except they can be used for medical, vision and dental expenses. HSAs are tax-advantaged, meaning that income can be deposited into an HSA before it is taxed. HSAs can only be opened and used in conjunction with a high-deductible health insurance plan, or those with a deductible of at least $1,300 for an individual or $2,600 for a family.

HSA details and eligibility requirements

Although HSAs have contribution limits, they’re advantageous in that the savings accumulated can be used to pay for noncovered, qualified medical expenses, such as copays, vision and dental care and even deductibles.

HSAs may be established through an employer-sponsored insurance plan or through a bank or other financial institution. To qualify, a person must be under the age of 65 and have a high-deducible health insurance plan.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of HSAs?

There are advantages and disadvantages to HSAs. HSA account holders can control how their saved money is spent, and there’s no risk of losing the money at the end of the year because it rolls over. Taxes are not paid on money going into the HSA. In addition, employers can contribute to HSAs, and account holders do not lose their balances when they change jobs.

Disadvantages include the challenge of setting aside money to put into the HSA, especially if finances are tight. One who has certain medical situations that are urgent may find that budgeting for an HSA is impractical.

A retirement saving vehicle

In addition to the other benefits mentioned, HSAs can be used as a way to invest in retirement. The resource NerdWallet, which offers financial tools and objective advice to help people understand their options and make the best possible decisions, says an HSA is a good retirement savings option, especially for high-income earners who can’t make deductible contributions to a traditional IRA or any contributions to a Roth IRA. HSAs can help offset healthcare costs and even help with long-term financial planning.

This article sponsored by:

Recycle Yard Waste Into Valuable Compost

Composting may be a person’s first foray into an eco-friendly lifestyle. Compost is a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer that some people refer to as “black gold.” It can be made from most types of lawn and garden waste as well as some discarded items from the kitchen.

Many people have renewed interest in composting because they understand the environmental ramifications of over-reliance on chemical fertilizers. Ground water may become contaminated and certain fertilizers may have adverse effects on wildlife. Compost, a living organism of sorts, comprised of beneficial bacteria, insect life and nutrients for plants, is on the other side of the plant food spectrum. Because it can be generated for little to no cost, compost is not only environmentally responsible but economical as well.

A home landscape can provide a wealth of material to use in a compost heap or bin. Rather than putting fallen leaves or lawn clippings to the curb or in the trash, they can be turned into beneficial material to help keep your garden self-sustained.

To begin, you will first need to determine the composting method that will work for you. Compost can be generated from a pile of material placed in an out-of-the-way corner of the yard or be created in a specially designed, expensive compost bin. Many homeowners fall in between these two methods with their compost systems. Most create their own bins from wood and chicken wire or even use a trash container to contain the compost.

Once the container or pile location is established, it is time to start the compost recipe. In order to function optimally, compost should have an abundance of aerobic bacteria, which will compost the waste quickly. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen and a certain amount of moisture to survive. Therefore, it is important to include materials in the compost that will achieve these conditions. Composters frequently refer to “greens” and “browns” in a compost mix. Greens are fresh leaves and grass clippings and kitchen scraps. These materials will have an abundance of moisture as well as nitrogen. Browns are older, dried out plant material and wood. The browns help create air cushions in the compost that facilitate aeration and also contain carbon. Without aeration, the compost will compact down too quickly, which could slow down the decomposition process. This may result in a foul odor.

Avoid the use of bones, meat or cheese in a compost bin. This will only attract scavengers and may rot faster than it can be decomposed by the bacteria. Also, avoid pet waste or any lawn trimmings that have been treated with pesticides.

Turning the compost will help keep it aerated and will also distribute the bacteria. This can help speed along the composting process. Avoid adding weeds to juvenile compost because it may not be hot enough to kill the seeds and then you’ll be stuck with weeds in the compost — and wherever you place that compost.

Moisture is essential to the compost. Each time you add new material to the compost bin, dampen it. It should be moist but not dripping. Adding a balance between greens and browns should help regulate the moisture level as well. Remember, during warmer months, the compost may dry out more, so you will need to be on top of the moisture levels.

The composting process works best at temperatures between 120 and 150 F. The compost will generate its own heat as matter is broken down. However, the heat of warm months can speed up the process. Novice composters may want to begin their composting in the summer as a first attempt.

Hot composting piles can be turned into soil fertilizer in as little as 8 to 10 weeks. Therefore, plan your composting start date accordingly. Soon after you may have a naturally sustainable garden that produces material enough to continually feed your existing compost pile.


TF132875

How to Spur Kids’ Interest in the Arts

Art can enrich the lives of people young and old, male and female. The arts can introduce adults and children to different cultures and traditions, while also helping them to develop more fully as human beings.

While some may feel the benefits of the arts cannot be measured, the nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts notes that kids who are involved in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement than kids who are not involved in the arts. And though mathematics and science may not be the first thing people associate with the arts, kids involved in the arts are four times more likely to participate in math and science fairs than kids who are not involved in the arts.

Parents can do a lot to make art a bigger part of their kids’ lives. The following are some simple ways parents can bring more art into their kids’ lives, courtesy of Americans for the Arts.

· Join in the fun. Parents can make art more fun for kids by playing music around the house and singing and dancing alongside their youngsters. In addition, read a book to or with your children and join in when they pursue other artistic endeavors, such as drawing or painting.

· Find local events. Many school districts have slashed their arts budgets in recent years, but parents can still find local arts events for kids in their communities. Peruse the local newspaper and other community-based periodicals for cultural events for kids. Support local theater groups by attending performances with your children and explaining to them that the performers live in the community just like they do.

· Pitch in with local arts organizations. Local arts organizations typically rely on donations and volunteers to support their programs. Parents who want to instill a love of the arts in their children can help local organizations’ fundraising efforts and even volunteer their time if the opportunity presents itself. If possible, take kids along when volunteering so they can get some firsthand experience with the arts.

· Encourage kids’ artistic pursuits. Some kids may decide to pursue artistic endeavors on their own, and parents can encourage such pursuits. Celebrate kids’ participation in arts-based activities in school and in the community, recognizing their hard work in the same way you would acknowledge their successes in the classroom and in sports.

The arts can benefit youngsters in various ways, but it’s often up to parents to instill a love of the arts in their children.


TF167242

Home Improvement Projects for Your Fall To-Do List

Homeowners know that maintaining a home can be a year-round job. No home is immune to wear and tear, and homeowners who want to protect their real estate investments should try to stay two steps ahead to ensure their homes do not succumb to the elements or become outdated and unappealing to prospective buyers.

Fall has become a season that’s synonymous with home improvement, but homeowners need not wait until the leaves begin changing colors to start planning their next projects. The following are a few items homeowners can add to their fall home improvement to-do lists.

Roof inspection

Less precipitation tends to fall during the warmer months than during the late fall and winter. As a result, homeowners may not be aware of leaky roofs until autumn has come and gone. But waiting until winter to inspect the roof can prove disastrous, as weather conditions will not be conducive to inspection and increased precipitation may result in potentially costly damage. Leaky roofs can be easily identified by looking for water stains on interior ceilings. Once you see a stain, you can climb onto the roof to identify the location of the leak and fix it before winter rains and snowfall turn the problem into something much larger. Inspect your ceilings for signs of leaking after a strong rainfall, and then address any leaks immediately.

Gutter cleaning

While some homeowners prefer to delay their gutter cleaning projects until late fall, those whose homes are surrounded by trees may need to schedule two such projects. Gutters clogged with leaves and other debris can cause serious roof damage, and that damage can extend all the way inside a home. In addition, clogged gutters make great nesting areas for insects or critters. Always stand on a ladder when cleaning gutters, wearing gloves to remove items by hand and dropping leaves and debris into a trash can below. Standing on the roof and leaning over gutters greatly increases your risk of injury. If the gutters are clear when you first examine them in early fall, you can wait until later in the season to give them a complete and thorough cleaning. Once you have finished clearing the gutters, you can use a hose to run water through them and the downspouts to confirm everything is functioning properly.

Window and doorway inspection

Before temperatures start dropping once again, homeowners will want to inspect their windows and doorways for leaks. Over time, cracks can develop around windows and doorways, and while such cracks are rarely noticeable when the weather outside is warm, they can be quite obvious and very costly if they remain unsealed come the start of winter. Cold air can enter a home through cracks around windows and doorways, and many homeowners who don’t suspect leaks may respond by turning up the thermostats in their homes. That can prove quite expensive over a full winter. Choose a windy autumn day to place a hand by windows and external doorways in your home to see if you can feel drafts. If you can, seal these cracks as soon as possible.

Patio cleanup

Patios are popular hangouts during spring and summer, and that can result in a lot of wear and tear. Once you store patio furniture for the winter, inspect your entire patio to determine if it needs any refurbishing. While certain patio projects may be best left for spring, you can still clean any stained areas around the grill and look for cracks in the sidewalk that need to be addressed.

Preparing for fall home improvement projects ahead of time can help homeowners complete projects in a timely manner and ensures they won’t be forced to brave the winter elements when refurbishing their homes.


TF167264