Archive for July 2014

How to Save on Back to School Shopping

Back to school shopping

Back to school shoppingBelieve it or not, school is just around the corner. I know you probably don?t want to think about summer nearing its end (whether you?re a parent or child), but now is the time to start thinking about back to school shopping. The crazy thing is that the list of what a child needs can seem endless.

With that in mind, now is the time to determine what your child will need for this upcoming school year. Since kids grow like weeds you will most likely need to buy them new clothes. The back to school list doesn?t end there as you will also need school supplies like pens, pencils, erasers, books, and more. It sounds like a lot, but I bet you can get many of these items for pennies on the dollar. You just have to know when and where to look. As an aside, the ?average? family spent at least $635 in 2013 on back to school shopping. Seeing as you?re reading Wise Dollar, I know you?re not average and thus plan on saving money. 🙂

Find New Clothes for the Kids

As we established earlier, your kids will likely need some new clothes, so where can you go to find some reasonable prices on clothes that they will actually wear? My first instinct would be to send you to Goodwill, though that can be hit or miss on occasion. They do get new shipments in from Target once in a while, but they leave the racks quickly, so it might not be a bad idea to make friends with an employee or manager to get a feel for when the next batch of clothes are coming in.

Beyond Goodwill (or other thrift stores), you could also consider trying other upscale consignment stores as know they have grown in popularity here in Omaha. Your kids can get the name-brand clothes they want for less than half the price. This could be a huge savings on your wallet if you typically want to dish out big bucks for a pair of jeans. The other option is to do a clothing swap with other families who have kids of the same gender but a year or two older. That way you get to help each other out and both save money on back to school clothing.

Find Cheap Office Supplies

Office supply stores all fight for your business during the back to school shopping season. Between Office Depot, Staples, and Office Max, you can find some amazing deals on spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, and erasers. If you aren?t a big fan of the crazy madness brought on by other deal seeking parents, you can also check out grocery stores or the Dollar Store as they commonly both have deals.

The other option to consider, and one I tend to go with is by shopping on Amazon. You may not always find the best deals, but you can often find very competitive prices and can do it from the comfort of your own home.


Related: Check out the?[easyazon_link cloaking=”default” keywords=”back-to-school store” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”wisedollar-20″]Amazon back to school section[/easyazon_link],?today for savings on all your back to school needs.


Back to School Shopping and Electronics

If your children need a new computer for school, I would advise you to save up some money early and take your time looking for a deal. Laptops, and calculators for that matter, always seem to make their way onto Craigslist around this time, but you must be quick to act, which means you need to have the cash in hand.

If you find a used item that functions just as it would if it were new (likely for half the price), then you should be ready and willing to buy that item, knowing full well that your child will be needing it in the near future. Going back to the Amazon option given above, they are a great option again for electronics that you can buy through them or a third party vendor. They even have laptops, like the [easyazon_link asin=”B00FNPD1VW” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”wisedollar-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”yes”]Acer Chromebook[/easyazon_link], for under $200 at times.

I have always found the key with saving money?on back to school shopping is to plan ahead and realize that because you spend more doesn?t mean that it?s going to necessarily going to be better. Look for the more frugal options and don?t be afraid to buy used. At the very least, this can be a great opportunity to begin to involve your children and build into them some wise financial decision making.


What are your tips to save on back to school shopping? When do your children start back to school? At what age do you think a laptop is appropriate for a student?



Photo courtesy of: Flight Centre


10 Ways to Save Money at Home

save money at home

ID-100250603After nearly two years of working to detect the budget leaks?in our house, one thing we’ve found is that there are many ways to save money at home.

Since being at home doesn’t seem like it could be a budget buster (after all, you’re not going out and purposely spending cash), people often don’t see the many ways we waste money at home. ?Of course, doing so will sort of defeat the purpose of trying to save money?in the first place. 🙂


Different Ways to Save Money at Home

If you’re looking to trim your budget and wanting to save money at home, try some of these tips to keep more money in your pocket each month:

1. Make Your Own.? Laundry detergent, window cleaner, dishwasher soap: many of the things we automatically buy at the store can be made at home for huge money savings.? The homemade laundry detergent we use costs us about $5 for a 9 month supply, as opposed to the store bought price of roughly $7 a month that we used to spend.? Search online for handmade recipes to replace your spendy store-bought stuff.

2.? Cut Down on Food Waste.? The average family wastes at least?25% of the food they bring into their home.? If you’re an “average” grocery spender?this means you are throwing between $1800 and $3600 of food (and money) in the garbage.? Learn to minimize food waste and maximize savings by making only what you need, re-purposing leftovers and simply by buying less.

3. Learn to Do it Yourself.? When our garage heater broke down last year, we were certain we’d be dealing with a repair bill to the tune of several hundred dollars.? However, a quick Internet search by the hubby on the symptoms our heater was experiencing led to a diagnosis of the issue, and after another search for a company in the area that carried the repair parts, he had fixed the issue himself for about $50.? Last year, I gave our son (with the help of a Youtube video) speech therapy lessons on my own, curing him of his incorrect way of saying his R’s.? Everything that needs to be done in our house, with our cars, etc., we do a thorough search to see if we can make it a DIY project before calling out a professional.? I have no doubt that, over the years, we’ve saved in the tens of thousands of dollars range by learning to simply do things ourselves.

4.? Adopt a Minimalist View.? Not only will this save you money by selling things you no longer need, it will also save money at home because you’ll be more choosy about what you replace.? When something breaks, ask yourself: “Do I really need to replace this item?”? For instance, if you have six serving spoons, and one breaks, do you really need to go out and replace it, or will five serving spoons suffice?

5.? Look for Hidden Ways to Reduce Electricity Usage.? Line dry your clothes.? Unplug appliances that are not in use.? Keep your computer in sleep mode if you’re not using it.? Turn off the lights.? Set your air conditioning a few degrees higher and? your heat a few degrees lower.? Choose to run the TV for an hour less each day, and go for a walk, play games or read. Cook your pizza in a toaster oven instead of a traditional oven.

6.? Use Less.? There are countless ways to save money at home by using less.? Use less shampoo, a bit less toothpaste, and less soap for dishes and clothes washing.? Eat a little bit less with each meal, and save the rest for lunch tomorrow at work.? Wear your clothes twice so you won’t have to wash them as often.? Use less milk, oil or butter in recipes, adding water to make up for any dryness. Learn to look at everything you do and use and think “Is there a way I can use less?”

7.? Do Homemade.? Make breads, biscuits, pancakes and baked goods from scratch.? Instead of buying the box of cheddar garlic biscuit mix, make homemade biscuits and add fresh pressed garlic and shredded cheddar cheese to them.? Avoid pre-made seasoning mixes such as taco seasoning and make your own.? Make homemade soups?instead of buying canned.? Make homemade pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and mac ‘n cheese.? The money savings are astronomical, not to mention likely going to be healthier to eat?as they won’t be filled with preservatives.

8. Never Pay Full Price.? Do your best to anticipate long-term needs for food and other household items and stock up when there’s a sale.? Buy used, barter or look for freebies on Craigslist or at neighborhood businesses.? When we wanted pallets to stack our wood on for our wood-burning stove, we simply made a visit to a local construction business, who often has wood pallets out in front of their office building with a big sign that says “free”.? My brother, a garbage collector, often gets everything from electronics, to car parts, to household items on his route that people set aside next to their garbage cans, not knowing how or not wanting to fix them, or simply not wanting them anymore.? Many, many personal finance bloggers brag of free or cheap vacations taken with the advantage of travel rewards.? There’s no reason these days to pay full price for much of anything.

9.? Buy in Bulk.? We save a good 50% on our groceries by buying in bulk.? My favorite buy?? Beef straight from the farm.? We pay roughly $3.50 a pound for grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free beef, because we buy a quarter to a half a cow at a time and store it in a [easyazon_link asin=”B003LU90G6″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”wisedollar-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”yes”]deep freezer[/easyazon_link].? That’s $3.50 a pound for steaks, burger, roasts and ribs, and high-quality beef at that!? Spices are also a tremendous money savings when purchased in bulk.

10.? Look for Cheap Substitutes.? Try generic brands of your favorite foods.? Buy knock off brands of clothes and accessories.? Buy whole milk and mix it with water to produce a cheaper 1 or 2 percent milk.? Use the little plastic bags from Target or Walmart as trash bags for your smaller trash cans.? Buy pop in 2-liter bottles instead of cans.? Look at everything you consume and ask yourself “Is there a cheaper option?”

With a little forethought and ingenuity, saving money at home by using the tips above can add up to big cash over the long term, so start today!


What are your hidden tips for saving money at home?? What’s your biggest financial payoff in this area? Have you found that it’s difficult to save money at home, or do you easily get tempted to spend on things you may not need?



Photo courtesy of: ?Free Digital Photos



*This post was featured on Momma Makes Cents and Aspiring Blogger.

5 Cheap Landscaping Ideas You Should Do This Summer

Landscaping Ideas

Landscaping IdeasHave you been looking for some different landscaping ideas lately? I know we have in our home since summer is here in full force, but we generally like to find some things that are a bit different or outside the box.

Of course, everyone is planting bushes and trees and filling landscaped areas in with bark ? wouldn?t you like to do something a little different? If you?re looking for some new or unique landscaping ideas then hopefully this list will get your creative juices flowing as to what you can do to fix up your yard this summer while also staying on a budget.

Chair Swing

Take a look at the picture below. It?s a chair swing and it could really jazz up your back yard and for less than $20. That?s not too bad in my book!

The chair could easily be found at a yard sale for $5 (or less if you?re good at negotiating), and then all you would need is a single long board and some rope. First you remove the legs off from the chair, then cut your board in two and create a frame underneath. Finally, drill some holes and attach the rope to a tree branch above. Presto! You?ve got your chair swing for $10 or $15.

Plant Some Ornamental Kochia Scoparia Grass

I just recently stumbled upon this lately, but it can really bring your landscaping alive. In the summer time, the plants are typically green, but in the fall the bright colors will come out and turn your yard all sorts of different colors! If you?re looking for some colorful landscaping ideas this could potentially be the plant for you.

Create Your Own Wind Chime

Believe it or not, wind chimes are making a comeback, especially the creative DIY kind. If you have some old keys in the drawer that no longer fit into any of your key holes (we all end up with these keys somehow?), then why not create your very own wind chime?

Find yourself a nice stick from the back yard and get some yarn from the basement and you have everything you need to make the wind chime pictured below. If you have young children, this can also be a great way to involve them in a fun project around the house.

Make Tiki Torches Out of Old Wine Bottles

Many people buy tiki torches from the store at $15 or $20 a piece, but why spend the money when you can make your own for a fraction of the price? Plus, your DIY torches will likely jazz up your back yard much better than the store-bought variety.

All you have to do is find some torch rope (you can find these from your local outdoor store (such as Lowes or Home Depot), lantern fuel (likely kerosene), and an old empty (washed out of course) wine bottle, and you can create your very own tiki torch! Each torch should cost somewhere around $5 or less.

Glow in the Dark Planters Pots

Take a look at the photo below. I don?t know about you, but they look pretty darn creative to me. The great news is that they?re super simple. If you already have a yard like the one below, all you have to do is buy some glow in the dark paint, apply it to your pots, and you will have your very own glow in the dark pots every night! The nice thing is, they produce light at night so you don?t have to worry about lighting your yard if you are out in the yard with friends.



What are some landscaping ideas you?ve come up with? Have you ever DIY on landscaping, or do you prefer to go store bought? What?s your favorite way to spruce up your yard for the summer?



Photo courtesy of: Green Forest Landscaping

Buying Life Insurance: 8 Tips to Help Make Your Decision

Buying Life Insurance

Buying Life Insurance

Prior to working in the life insurance industry I had no clue what to look for when it came to buying life insurance. Truth be told, I was fairly newly married with no kids and had adequate coverage through my employer. As I progressed in my life insurance career, I moved into a back office support role and was amazed at how much goes into a decision to buy life insurance.

Over that time I got to see sales representatives who did things the ?right? way and those that were solely driven by commissions. Buying life insurance is difficult enough not to have to deal with greed on top of it, but it?s the nature of the beast and sadly, isn?t relegated solely to this industry. That said, while purchasing life insurance is going to be different for each individual, there are some basic tips you want to follow when you?re looking to buy life insurance.

Tips to Buying Life Insurance

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but merely a good starting point that should help you as you?re in the middle of buying life insurance.

Know your situation – I covered this to a certain extent in my discussion on when is the right time to buy life insurance. Simply put, each of our situations are going to be different and that is what should guide you. I?m a husband with a young and growing family. Thus my coverage needs are going to be different from someone who is older and retired or someone who is young and single. There are also different calculations as to how much life insurance you could buy. Generally, they vary anywhere from 5 to 10 times your annual earnings. These can be relatively good guides, but when it comes to buying life insurance you need to do what?s best for you and your given situation and not some formula. This also means the possibility that you may not even need to buy life insurance. If that?s the decision you make, follow it if it meets your needs.

Go independent ? as in buy from an independent broker. When you?re buying life insurance, you want to deal with someone who is not going to be incented to push you towards one product or another. You want to be able to have access to multiple products and companies in order to get the best value as well as best fit. While not perfect, this also helps you make sure you?re more inclined to get a sales representative who?s not solely driven by commissions.

There is more than one policy type – As I covered in What is the difference between term?life and whole life insurance, there is some variety when you?re purchasing life insurance. That variety includes term life insurance which covers a specific term, usually somewhere between 10 to 30 years and is generally cheaper. There is also permanent coverage which comes in the form of whole life or universal life insurance. For the overwhelming majority, term life insurance is generally going to meet your needs adequately. That said, it?s going to be based largely off your given situation and needs. You may also find that you have no need to buy life insurance, and are adequately covered through group life you can secure through your employer?or nothing at all.

Don?t confuse investing with insuring ? This is really meant to go with the prior point, but when you?re buying life insurance you want to make sure not to think of it as investing. This is not to say that having adequate life insurance coverage is not important, just different. Far too often, some sales representatives will use numbers to argue that you need whole life or even universal life insurance coverage because of the investment component they carry. Don?t fall for it. Instead, buy life insurance for its intended purpose ? protection. Leave investing to the stock market, real estate, etc. and leave protection to life insurance. Unless you?re a high net worth individual who needs the coverage for estate planning, then cheaper term life insurance should adequately meet your needs.

Know your rights ? Buying life insurance comes with a lot of ins and outs and it can get confusing to know what rights you have. Many don?t know that life insurance comes with a ?free? 30 day look period as it?s called. What that means is that you get 30 days after buying the policy to cancel it if you don?t like it and get your premiums back. If you find yourself in a situation where the policy doesn’t provide what you want, then by all means use your rights. You will also want to ask such things as ?if and when the policy renews, how long are premiums guaranteed for?? and ?what exclusions are there??

How does the sales representative get paid? ? When you?re in the middle of buying life insurance that means one thing for the representative?they?re going to get paid. Shocking, I know. 😉 You want to ask how they get paid. Are they paid by commission, fee plus commission or fee only? This is not fool proof, but if they?re paid by commission then there is the potential for a conflict of interest.

Buy quality ? There are many life insurance companies out there to choose from. This can make it difficult to know whom to choose when buying life insurance coverage. As you?re making your decision, make sure you?re buying from a stable company that will be around in the event of your passing. There are several ratings agencies, though I tend to like?A.M. Best?the most. Generally speaking, you want to look for a rating of at least B+ when purchasing life insurance coverage.

Compare, compare, compare ? When you?re buying life insurance, you generally don?t want to go with the first policy you find. There are a number of reasons for this, but thanks to the internet you can compare life insurance quotes online as well as policies. Do yourself a favor and do a little homework to see what kind of rates you can reasonably get to help you see what you can expect when it comes time to purchase.

There can be a lot of work that goes into buying life insurance, but hopefully by following some of these tips you can find a better policy that meets your needs.


What do you look for when you?re buying life insurance? Do you prefer to buy a policy online or go through a specific broker?




Photo courtesy of: Insurance in Bradenton



*This post was featured on Disease Called Debt.

6 Simple Ways to Save Money on Utility Bills This Summer

Utility Bills

Utility Bills

If I remember right, we had an unbelievably hot summer last year and utility bills were at their highest. This year has not been quite as warm, yet, but that doesn’t mean you can?t save some money on your utility bills this summer. Utility bills can be somewhat relative depending on where you live, but there are still some common things you can do to keep some money in your pocket as opposed to sending it to the utility company each month.

#1 Use Those Windows, Not the Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is a fairly common luxury for most of us and one that I love to use. However, this does not mean that you need or should run it all the time as they only increase your utility bills. I was recently outside near my neighbor?s house on a 65 degree day and the air conditioning unit was running constantly. This is simply a waste. The outside air was plenty cool and they could have just opened the windows and saved themselves some money.

With that being said, I know we all have our own comfort levels in relation to air conditioning. Just make sure you realize there is a balance to be had. If it?s going to be an unseasonably cool week then give your air conditioner a break. Your wallet will thank you.

#2 Use a Programmable Thermostat to Cut Your Utility Bills

[easyazon_link asin=”B007BHLUWM” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”wisedollar-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”yes”]Programmable thermostats[/easyazon_link]?can cost as little as $20, or more if you want a fancy one, and they can pay for themselves in just a few short months. If your family is outside of the house during the day, then why are you cooling your house for nobody? It just doesn?t make any sense.

Instead, program your thermostat to let the temperature rise in your house during the day and then begin cooling it off an hour before you get home. This is a simple way you can save money on utility bills this summer, not to mention during the winter.

#3 Enjoy Your Porch or Deck in the Evenings

Instead of cranking your air conditioner when you get home from work, why not enjoy your porch or deck instead? This is assuming you have one of course. 🙂 The breeze and the shade will likely keep these areas cool enough to eat your meals and hang out. Open your windows once it begins to cool off and then enjoy your home for the rest of the night. No air conditioner needed.

#4 Do Not Use Your Stove or Oven as Often

Heating up meals in your house will only make things hotter and cause your air conditioner to run more often. There are many other options outside of simply using the stove that can help relieve some of the stress on your utility bills. As opposed to warming up the stove, you can do things like preparing a salad from your garden to grilling. Not only will that cause your air conditioner to work less, but it can also open up more options if you?re trying to eat healthy.

#5 Water the Grass Early

Many people water the grass in the middle of the day or early in the evening. While this does help the grass grow somewhat, it?s not the optimal time to give your lawn a drink. To save on water, turn your sprinklers on in the morning. The water will properly soak the roots and keep your lawn and plants nourished throughout the entire day.

By watering early, you won?t have to expend as much H2O, and your grass will look more green and luscious.

#6 Relocate Your Bedroom

This might sound like a strange one, but I have heard of many people relocating their bedroom when summer time rolls around. If your bedroom is upstairs where it is hottest, instead of blasting the air conditioning to bring the temperature down, consider picking up your mattress and moving it to the basement for a few weeks (during those really hot stretches). You will be more comfortable and will save a bunch of money on your utility bills.


What are you doing to save money on utility bills this summer? Is there a certain temperature that you avoid going outside in? Have you ever moved your bedroom temporarily to save money?



Photo courtesy of: Tax