Sunday, November 27, 2016

Coupons...

I'm not a crazy couponer. I don't have time, energy, nor storage space for insane couponing. So here's my take on it:

Yes, I use coupons. But I only use the ones I know I will use. I went thorough a stage of buying stuff because I had a coupon. Now I buy what I know I'll use and coupon as an accessory.

I use Southern Savers as a couponing source.  It breaks down with. Links to stores and their best deals. Many printable  coupons are linked from there.

I also use my Kroger Card for coupons. I have a Kroger credit card. It helps with saving extra money at the gas pumps as well as it gives you a small rebate check monthly. And then there's he digital coupons. Kroger has some pretty good ones. I load everything I might use since it's pretty effortless, and then if I check out and they come off, fabulous!

I shop at Publix as well. Nothing beats their bogos, especially if you have coupons--one per item and so, take Mueller's pasta. If it's bogo, it's about 89 cents a box. If you have a 15 cent coupon for each box, that makes it 74 cents each, or $1.48 for two. State laws vary for bogo deals, but here we can buy one for half price. Sales tend to rotate about every 6 weeks at Public, so keep an eye out.

And then there's the "I'm too busy to run a lot of places, so let me go to Walmart" trips. I don't usually coupon but I do use the app and Savings Catcher.  I am building my funds there. There is a warning that to get the money out takes several hours so don't think you can request them while in the checkout line.

As a single mom to 3, I am mindful of time and energy. I wish I could coupon like crazy, but I just don't have it in me.

Friday, November 25, 2016

'Tis the Season...


This is the time of year that we all tend to make financial mistakes. Please be careful.

I did some impulse shopping on Black Friday deals. I'm seriously considering taking one large purchase back. I'll decide over the next week.

It was my birthday week, so I took advantage of Kohl's online deals on Monday and bought a few deals for me. Total=$60. Not too bad.

I bought my kids some clothes from The Children's Place. Total=$75.

I did go to Walmart to shop for Santa Thursday afternoon.  Total=240. However, $65 was for my sister and $50 will be returned, I think, so remove those and total=$135. That's much better.

3 Kindles ($33.33 each on Amazon), cases, and 64gb micro sd cards=$155.

Prior purchases (I've been getting a few small things since September) total=75.

That finishes Santa and all gifts from me to the kids as well as gifts to the other family members I need to buy for. So, Christmas total=$500. It's not awesome but it's not bad at all. I have many friends who spend a bunch more than that on each child.

So where is the money coming from?  That's the real question. I have been putting aside $50 a month for my Christmas Fund. It goes into savings and is just there. I allow myself to pull out $600 if I need to for Christmas. This year I won't have to touch it all because I didn't spend it all and I am replacing some that I did spend by working two Saturdays between now and Christmas.

The biggest thing is to think of what you really want to do for Christmas. Prioritize and find a way. I'm not into the trendy gifts (no Hatchanimals here). I think in terms of what the kids would like, what's important to me, and the display impact (Santa doesn't wrap here, so it's about the wow factor when they walk into the room Christmas  morning.

So with just a tiny bit of effort, you can still do a great Christmas for everyone. I'll post pictures when the holiday comes so you can see it all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The bargain hunt

I don't always find the perfect bargain nor do I have time for the perfect bargain hunt. But Friday night I scored a pair of jeans for $4.

I went to Kohl's as my one pair of jeans were in sad shape and my sneakers had holes in the top. It was time. I went to the jeans first. I grabbed 3 pair of Lees in my usual size. Some were on sale but not all the SKUs seemed to match, so I went to the price check machine. I scanned one, posted sale price. Pair 2, posted sale price. Pair 3, $4. Woah...  so I head to the dressing room. Pair one fit. Not a spectacular price but I was in need. Pair 2. It fit but I didn't like the fit. Pair 3.  Silent prayer to please fit for only $4. I put them on. The button was 4 inches from the button hole with no chance of meeting. I WILL NOT be deterred, so I headed back to the display and started digging. I marched style and SKU number. I swallowed my ego and tried on a pair 2 sizes larger than I usually wear. They fit perfectly. For $4, I can cut the size out. I don't care. If they fit, it's good for me.

I did buy pair 1 and the undisclosed size of pair 3. I had a few other things to the order. In the end, one pair of name brand sneakers, 2 pair women's jeans, and 4 girls shirts for $100.74 plus tax (after a $10 coupon and a 10% discount), and I earned $20 in Kohl's cash.  It wasn't the best bargain ever, but I am very proud of my $4 jeans. I wore them today. They feel as good as a $40 pair.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Saving Money by Doing It Yourself

So the car remote died. I have a second one, but it usually stays tucked away with extra keys attached to it. My daily go to remote is jus the car key and the house key. And suddenly it died. Granted, the van is a 2009 and I've never changed the remote battery, so I'm not surprised it died. And so, I did some price checking and found a new remote was about $80. Not happening. A new battery for it was about $1. That sounds better. I don't know what the dealership should charge me to change it. I didn't bother. Logically, the battery has to be changeable. So I went to my favorite "how to" site, YouTube.

A quick search of make and year brought me to several videos on how to change the battery. I'm cautious, so I watched several. They all said the same thing. However, they weren't for my exact van, but I tried following them anyway. And guess what?  It worked. I have a new battery in my remote for $1.

I've also changed my watch battery (it's a Timex) myself. The part that made me nervous there was stepping in my watch to reclose the back, but it worked. And it cost $1 instead of $6 at the watch store. And an interesting fact: the 3 jewelers I've asked won't change Timex batteries. The only place I've had to do it was the clock store. They did it twice, and I've done it twice.

Saving $5-10 doing little things like this is how you save money. Neither task was hard and will be easier the next time.

I had a woman in her 40s say to me that she could never do anything like this herself. That's why she has a man. I'm all about men who can do but at the same time, I don't thjnk women should be unable to look after themselves. In fact, I found I knew much more about keeping a home running through DIY than my ex did. It's smart, saves money, and doesn't take that much longer than having to sit by while a repairman does it for you.

So if you aren't handy with basic tools, learn to be. My favorite tool store is Harbor Freight since they're cheap. You can stick a tool box for under $100 there and have everything you need for most home repair jobs. Last night I needed 2 flat head screwdrivers. There they were in my toolbox. A cheap battery, 10 minutes, and 2 screwdrivers saved up to $80. Done.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Who are the Joneses anyway?

I've always heard you can't keep up with the Joneses. And well, I'm clearly not.

It's hard sometimes having to make adult choices. I'm looking at Christmas in a mere 7 weeks. I have some ideas of what I'm doing for everyone. But it's not finalized. I've even started picking up some bargain deals for the kids. I don't ask what they want. That way I don't feel bad that I can't afford it. And then there's my want list.

Wants versus needs. Sometimes I miss getting to fill the want list.  When I was single in my first life, I made good money and had enough for all my needs and most of my wants. This year it's about fulfilling my needs, not my wants. And so, I'll keep wearing my old Nikes (the hole isn't too big) and I'll deal with the out of style clothes. I pretend no one really notices what I wear anyway. Black pants and basic shirts are my wardrobe of choice. I own 3 pairs of black pants and 2 black skirts as my basic bottoms. I have one pair of jeans for jeans day. They are next on my list as I really need a second pair. The current pair is looking really faded and I'm afraid it will get a hole soon. And so I am to the point of needing, not wanting, a new pair of jeans.

It's tough when you want what you see others having.  But then I think of days gone by and how past generations of women owned 1-2 dresses and that was their wardrobe. I have no room for complaint.

It's all a temporary cash flow issue. Of course it would be rectified if my ex chose to do the right thing and support his children, but our 6th court visit is looming and he's still not, so I will continue to do the best I can on my own salary. Once several debts get checked off, I'll make it. Somehow.

This post is more or less just to say it sucks not having all that you want and sometimes not even what you need. But despite the tight situation right now, I'll make it. Someway, somehow, this period will pass. Because I know it's somewhat temporary, I'm not cashing in my retirement. I'm still contributing extra. I will need it more then than now. I'm not running up my credit cards. I'm paying them in full each month. I'll be ok. I'm just cash poor right now.

This isn't the tone of my usual posts, but perhaps this will resonate with some of you out there.  We will get through this together.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Retirement planning part 1

I don't care who you are, how old you are, or how little  money you have. You NEED to get a ROTH IRA going if you have a job. And the younger you start the better it is for you. . If you have a job (16 year olds with a summer job need to do this), you can put money in. It comes out after taxes so it doesn't have to be payroll deduction. You can open one just about anywhere--banks have them; investment firms have them.

Why is a Roth so cool?  Well, all the interest you earn is completely tax free. That means if you invest $1000 at 16, and if you never put any more in, if it averages a 7% yield (not likely right now, but we can dream). Anyway, based on that 7%  return, in just over 10 years, your investment has doubled into $2000. In 10 more years, it's turned to $4000. At 66, that $1000 investment at 16 has tuened into $32,000. And what's even cooler?  There's no tax on that money. None. That original $1000 was already taxed and the entire $31,000 of profit is tax free.

Isn't a pretax IRA better? Well, let's consider the same $1000 of investment. Sure it came out pretax, so at 16, with a summer job, you only paid $980 of post tax dollars. At 66, that $1000 investment is also worth $32,000. But now when you start to withdraw it, you are taxed at your tax rate at that point, which even at a very conservative 25% rate, your 32,000 in your IRA only nets you $24,000. The missing $8,000 is taxes. Sorry.

Ok, so which Roth is right for me? The real secret is looking at fees and commissions. Some are made for the larger investor and others for the smaller investor. Ask questions. Research. Find out what risks are involved in the investment. Find a place you feel comfortable. If you feel they rest you as irrelevant Bacardi  you don't have a huge investment sum, keep looking. You need a place to take your investments who will help you grow from nothing to a tidy nest egg.

Also take note of the other perks of Roth: First time home purchase and educational expenses can be withdrawn without penalty. Otherwise you are 59 1/2 before you are eligible to withdraw.

And that's part one of retirement thoughts. Many more installments will follow. I don't want to overwhelm you yet.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Kids and savings

Like many parents, I opened savings accounts for my kids. My credit union requires a five dollar minimum balance and so I donated $5 to each child. Accounts opened. We then took their stash of cash they had from Christmas and birthdays and selected some for savings. They each kept about $20 in cash and decided to deposit the rest.

Because their balances are so small and interest is so low, none is currently accruing. I decided to help them out a tiny bit and I have one dollar a month transferred to each account. It's a whopping $3 a month from my account to theirs. If I go broke from that, I do have financial woes.

Here's how I've chosen to handle their accounts. Yes, they are for saving money. But why are they saving it? In reality, adults  save for the next purchase or event. And so, my theory is they can get money out when they want it. When we head to the beach, they can pull some of it out and take it with them. If they don't spend it, we can put it back. If they go to their MeMe and PawPaw's house, they can take some. Not that they NEED money there, but they have some.

My kids are 7. I try for them to have no more than $20 in cash at home. We don't have an allowance yet. Nor do I pay the kids for chores. We use the bell system.  They get cash from grandparents for minor holidays and other things. They occasionally get a random dollar from me that they can keep or use for ice cream at school. And their biggest money maker right now is the tooth fairy and her $1 gold coins.

Usually they are good at saving their money, but they have permission to spend it at will. D2 went through $20 buying ice cream every day at school for a month. She was upset it was all gone, but it was her choice. I didn't know until it was done. And even with her tears, I didn't replace it. Now she thinks twice before she spends.

When we went to Daytona last summer, we went to the flea market.  I allocated each of the $15 of my money to spend as they wanted. Anything else they wanted had to be their money. D1 spent all mine and 12 of hers. When she saw something she liked, she HAD to have it.  I thought some of her purchases were wasteful, but sadly kids have to learn about quality on their own. D2 spent mine plus $2. She didn't buy anything until the end when she had seen everything and then asked to go back to the purse booth and get a purse and a wallet (I'm a bit jealous of the wallet-it's really nice). And then there was my son. He wanted "boy toys."  He was very price conscious. He chose pretty well as we went. He skipped one big purchase but then went back for it at the end. I think he spent mine plus $1.

It's hard to watch them make mistakes with money, but I think it's important for them to know they can control their money. As things tru bought at the flea market tore up, we discussed the purchase choice. D1 who bought everything in sight has been more cautious since then and asks me if I think it's a good purchase.  I don't always give an opinion as I think it's important for her to make up her own mind, but I will talk about how it is made and ask her how she plans to use it.

And so, kids save. And spend. It's about both. Their savings accounts have more in them today than when they opened them a year ago, but that's thanks to my dollar a month. Even so, they know they have money there and it's theirs. That's important. Kids need to learn to manage their own money and control it.