$ Saving Tips
Click the budgeting page to see just how far savings can take you. Without a budget, savings don't mean as much, but with both budgeting and saving well, the same income can go much farther in accomplishing your goals. It's best to combine savings methods whenever possible to maximize. My top savings tip is a home purchase for most families, as it can result in the greatest savings. At the same time, I love to share other tips on how to save money, including about credit cards, price matching, rewards clubs, discounted gift cards, coupons & more.
Top Savings Tip:
If the numbers work out, consider a home purchase. Renting is usually more expensive than buying on a per month basis for those purchasing or renting the same homes worth between $70,000 & $400,000 in Hampton Roads. If you might move in the next 5 years, buy with renting in mind in your purchase decision. Buy a home that you are confident would be a very profitable rental in the future, where the monthly rent would be at least 10-20% more than the monthly mortgage. Also, consider a conventional loan, especially if you have good credit, which allows you to count 75% of your rental income towards the next home that you purchase. Unlike an FHA loan which requires 25% equity prior to counting rental income towards your next purchase, a conventional loan does not have an equity requirement, and the cash reserve requirement is only a few months mortgage payment.
As long as there is no fee for credit card usage or the fee is less than the bonuses & you are able to manage cards responsibly, use credit cards with no annual fees that earning you at least a few cents on every dollar that you spend (whether through points that are valuable or direct cashback), preferably at least 2 cents. It's an easy way to set up a system that requires minimal time and effort.
I suggest multiple credit cards, such as a base card of 2% cash back in addition to other cards with higher rates of 5-10% for specific categories like gas. For my credit card suggestions, see my page for it here. It includes my own reviews here as well as a more professional looking comparitive here. Keep in mind that most reviews you'll find on Google, including the top 5 when you search "Credit Card Reviews" have cards suggested by web owners who are being paid for by the cards that are being suggested, as you can see in the "advertiser disclaimers" on those sites. One way to stretch out rotating bonus categories is by purchasing gift cards at locations that you know you will use, however I recommend first checking the gift card sites below prior to a purchase like that. I generally like to test a card out at least once to see the bonus for gift card purchases prior to continuing to use it for more bonus category gift card purchases, especially large ones.
Keep in mind that some lenders will let you use your credit card with your mortgage payments. Ask prior to getting a loan to factor it in to the cost of home ownership, as it could easily save you hundreds or thousands in the long run. See this old (2014 so it doesn't include cards like the Citi Double) but good article on possibilities that include lenders that won't allow credit card usage. Here's another option for Chase Mortgages, that is one of multiple options of lenders for cash. Evolve money can be used for many mortgage lenders with rotating bonus category cards from Visa gift cards purchased at gas stations, grocery stores, etc. Here are some good tips on the gift card purchases. If you'd prefer no activation fees, such as if you don't care about the bonus categories, click here.
I use a Discover Bank cashback checking account where I get 10 cents for every debit card purchase, which is better than most credit cards for most purchases under $3.34, & useful when I can't use a credit card but still want a little something back. Kasasa Cashback checking, when it is at least 3%, such as that at ABNB, is a great option for purchases between $3.34 and $50 or $75 (with an emphasis on the lower amount purchases since only the first $300 receives the high yield cashback) if you have at least 12 of those purchases per month (in the case of ABNB at least - this amount can vary by the bank) for a total of just under $300 for 3% cashback. For an even better option for those whose spending and travel would overcompensate for the annual fee, see the Chase Sapphire Reserve, especially when paired with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, where the standard value of cashback of purchases on the Freedom Unlimited when transferred over to the Sapphire and then used in high value travel partners, can be over 3% per dollar with no 12 purchase monthly requirement and no cap. To see more tips on banks, click here.
Be familiar with price matching guidelines from places like Walmart and the Farm Fresh Pharmacy. Best Buy, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, and more even match prices with Amazon.com. Prior to price matching, it's best to confirm info from 3rd party sites with the store's website.
Coupons can go far sometimes.
I purchase two Entertainment Books each year, and use coupons worth 5-15x what I paid for the books. The standard price is $35 +$5 shipping but they are on sale almost the whole year and sometimes you can get 2 for less than $35. One way to use them is to purchase one, then another later in the year when the prices go down for any stores that you'd prefer to go back to in order to use those same coupons again. In August of 2015, you can already get books good through Dec 2016. Another way to save is by $5 off for annual renewal, and another way to save is by purchasing through Ebates, which saves you 17.5% at Entertainment.com .
The Entertainment Book app is very helpful in showing you the closest places to you where you can save. I almost exclusively use it for buy one get one free coupons with high max savings for the restaurant & no drink purchase requirement. One that I've used multiple times saves me around $55-75 every time I use it (Spirit of Norfolk cruises). Another that I've enjoyed multiple times is a buy one get one free entree (up to $12) at the Vineyards, in Kiln Creek, "voted best Italian Restaurant 2 years in a row by Daily Press Choice Awards." I recommend a reservation for both.
Groupon, while not as great as Entertainment Book for restaurants, is another great resource that I use, often finding discounts of 50% or more. What I don't find in Entertainment Book, I sometimes find in Groupon.
Black Friday might be a little hectic, but could be worth it for the best values all year. I save in advance for black Friday spending. You can buy gifts that you can be giving out for years, especially if it doesn't involve constantly advancing technology like SD cards. If you don't like the hectic side of it, remember the online shopping option. I find my best Black Friday deals at Wal Mart & Best Buy.
Panera, Starbucks, Shell, Kroger, and a host of other locations offer free rewards clubs. Target offers a 5% savings debit card that links to a checking account. A Kroger account or Shell account can save you 3 cents a gallon, and more if you shop at Kroger. A Starbucks and Panera card acquires free stuff as it's used, and free birthday items.
For discounted gift cards, I find Raise, Cardpool, & Cardcash to be great resources. I often find gift cards discounted at over 5%, and love getting ones at 20%, which makes ones like that much better at times than rotating bonus category credit cards when you purchase gift cards with them. With Raise, you can also earn 1% in Smarterbucks or Swagbucks. By combining a gift card that gets 25% off and a buy 1 get 1 free coupon, rather than paying $30 on a meal for two without tip, you could pay $11.25 for the same meal. Keep in mind that these values fluctuate constantly.
Some restaurants, especially smaller chains and restuarants that aren't chains, won't appear on those websites. It can still be possible at times to get discounted gift cards, like a $50 gift card I recently purchased 20% off from the Tucanos Brazillian steakhouse chain or the gift card for Cafe Moka that I used my Chase Freedom card to purchase for 5 points per dollar while restaurants were the 5 point bonus category of the quarter (worth at least 7.5 cents per dollar when converted to Chase Sapphire Reserve & used for travel). While I don't usually check their email newsletter after I signed up to be a rewards member, I recently did after scheduling a dinner at Tucanos with a Brazillian client.
Here is a small sampling from the section page of the restaurants section of Sep 3rd 2015, where you could save up to 35% on restaurants at the time:
Exclusively Online Savings
At certain locations, you can save more online than in store. Here is an example of how much you can save at a number of places as an example of what I put together from multiple sources.
Buy what you need and minimize purchases of what you want. When buying what you need, I personally focus on a blend of cost effectiveness, quality, and in the case of food, nutrition. Bigger isn't always cheaper, so check the per ounce, per item, etc. cost of items if it's easy to do. Different stores have different prices, so go to the stores with the best bang for your buck. I prefer Costco (not that it's any better than BJ's or Sam's), Walmart, Best Buy, Kroger, and a place some folks would prefer to not be caught in, the Dollar Tree. I would shop more at Target due to the ability to combine price matching with the 5% off free Target debit card I have with them, although time is money, and I don't price match very often. When going in a store with an in store flyer for sales or coupons, such as Kroger, I like to use it to help determine what I'll be getting. I often purchase in mass quantity based on the current deals, ensuring that I won't get too many prior to expiration.
For a wide range of other ways to save, visit my Facebook page here, where at the time of this writing, I have posted more $ saving tips than any of my other kinds of posts. Feel free to like it and follow it for more tips.
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