Saving Money in the Spring

Spring cleaning will soon be upon us, but it’s also a perfect time to start saving money in the spring. From shopping within your own home to cooking what’s in season, Spring offers plenty of opportunities to save money for the rest of your year.

Shop in Your Own Home

While most people will take this as looking through their closets (which you should definitely do as well), shopping in your own home isn’t limited to clothing. When you start cleaning, really look at everything you have. Do you have a lot of kitchen gadgets? How about tools like hammers and screwdrivers? Shopping around your home allows you to see exactly what you have and narrow down what you actually need. You’ll be shocked by how many duplicates you have floating around the house, and Spring is the perfect time to clear everything out and find those hidden treasures you forgot you owned.

Make Your Cleaners

Cleaning supplies and organizers are expensive, but you don’t need to spend all your hard-earned money on them! You’d be shocked how far baking soda and white vinegar can get you, and most of the time these homemade cleaners are much cheaper than what you would find at the store. There are an assortment of recipes for cleaners online, and the best part is most of them are completely non-toxic, which means kids and pets won’t be taking a trip to the doctor if they get in your cleaning basket. As far as organizers, check out your local dollar store or get creative with old cereal and shipping boxes to create an organized home you’ll love.

Plan and Plant Your Garden

Gardening can be an extremely rewarding hobby. You’re not only getting your daily sunlight needs, but you’re nurturing, growing and harvesting your family’s food. The first thing to do if you decide to garden this year is to take a look at what you actually want to plant. Are you a tomato fiend? Want to have plenty of zucchini to last you the year? Think about what you and your family will actually eat before you start digging in the ground. If you have limited space, you can garden as well by using container gardening or aqua systems that allow you to garden indoors. Finally, if gardening outside, look at local planting guides to ensure your vegetables come in on time.

Stock Up for Winter Months

Stores carry an assortment of winter staples well into the spring, and many will get severely marked down in the Spring months as summer stock arrives. This is the perfect time for you to purchase jackets, gloves and boots for the following winter as well as snow gear like shovels and blowers. Finally, don’t forget holidays like Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. Most decorations for these holidays will be severely marked down, and it’s the perfect time to get ready for next year by stocking up on décor and goodies now.

Make a Budget

With all your wonderful spring-cleaning finds, it’s important to start budgeting for the year by narrowing down what you actually need and looking for ways to fit it in. If you plan on gardening more this year, look at ways you can save on groceries over the coming months once your produce starts to come in. Also look to trim the fat on other areas of your life as well, such as entertainment costs or cell phone bills. You’ll find you’ll be spending less in no time.

Enjoy the Outdoors

Spring brings plenty of warmer weather, and it’s integral for you to enjoy the outdoors as things start to warm up. Many towns and cities will offer outdoor festivals, parades, fairs and other activities that allow you to spend the day outdoors for free or very cheaply. Not looking for social gatherings? No problem. Spring is the perfect time for family-based outdoor activities as well, such as hiking, to allow you to have fun in the sun without spending a dime.

Eat From Your Pantry

During the winter, you likely stocked up your pantry and slowly worked your way through your food stash. However, we’re willing to bet there are still plenty of canned and jarred goods hanging out in there. Spring is the perfect time to get through the last of your winter foods as you prepare space for what you’re going to can and buy for next winter over the coming months.

Open Some Windows

One of the best things about spring is the warming weather, and now is the perfect time to open up some windows and turn off your heating system. Not only will you be enjoying the weather and what it has to offer, but you’ll also get to air out your house which can remove odors that built up during the winter. Finally, further lower your electric bill by relying on natural lighting over turning on lightbulbs all the time.

Cook in Season

While many people think of spring as being for planting, it also welcomes a host of produce coming into season. Eating in-season foods is a great way to start saving money in the spring. Some food items you can expect to see coming into season include:

  • Apricots
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Collard Greens
  • Garlic
  • Lemons
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Pineapples
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Turnips

By shopping in season for your produce, you’ll be able to severely reduce your grocery bill each month. In-season produce will typically need to make a shorter journey to get to you; therefore, grocers won’t need to mark it up. Finally, you can save even more by visiting your local farmer’s market.

Spring is an excellent time to get your finances in order and start saving for the rest of the year. From cleaning out your home to find items you forgot you had to cooking with in-season produce, Spring offers a multitude of ways to lower your budget so you can save more money. Take the time to plan and star saving money in the spring!

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Shopping for Valentine’s Day on a Budget

Valentine’s Day is dedicated to romance, and one of the main ways people celebrate is by purchasing gifts for one another. However, if budgets are tight this year, it can feel difficult to find a gift that’s perfect for both your partner and your budget. Luckily, we’re here to help. Read on to learn how to shop for Valentine’s Day this year while staying within your budget.

Plan Your Valentine’s Day on a Budget Ahead of Time

Look for ways to cut down on expenses by writing down your income and listing your expenses. Certain things like rent and utilities obviously need to be paid, but what can you cut down on? For example, if you get a coffee every day, consider making your caffeine fix at home for the month or get a basic weekly car wash rather than the deluxe. Small changes like this can save you a couple hundred dollars a month, which is perfect for your Valentine’s Day on a budget.

Set Your Budget and Stick to It

You’ve carefully crafted your budget and are ready to go shopping. As you look around, you find the one item you know will blow your loved one’s socks off. The only problem? It’s a several hundred dollars over your price range. It can be tempting to go over your budget this one time to get the present; however, depending on your finances, you might be in a financial limbo for several weeks or months if you do. When you create your budget, attempt to stick to it as closely as possible rather than stretching yourself thin. You’ll find another perfect gift in your price range in no time.

Shop for Great Deals

Just because it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you only need to shop at expensive stores. Plenty of cheaper brands stock great gifts your loved one will cherish. For example, your local dollar store likely has an assortment of items just waiting to get placed in the perfect gift basket. Take the time to look at what cheaper stores have to offer and save some serious money while you’re shopping for the right gift for your loved one.

Turn to Staples

With the holiday upon us, many stores will happily put their wares on sale to become your loved one’s present. Jewelers, florists and candy makers consider February a big month for sales, and they’re all competing to get you through their doors. Take the time to see which brands are offering deep discounts for the holiday. You might find that perfect gift for much less than it would normally be.

Consider Personalization

Does your loved one drink coffee on a regular basis? Do they love to get the latest bestseller from their favorite bookstore? More and more companies are now offering personalization on their products, allowing you to create something that’s truly unique for the person you care about. From mugs to bookbags to wine bottles, your loved one can receive something that has themselves written all over it.

Get Creative

Many times, people are looking for a gift that’s from the heart rather than something you spent thousands of dollars on. This is where crafting comes in handy. Scroll through Pinterest or Instagram to get great ideas on something you can make for your loved one using tools and supplies you already have around the house. Think about what your recipient likes and will use as well. There’s little sense in giving someone something they’ll rarely use. Finally, remember that you don’t need to make something that’s big or elaborate either. Small things like a photo album or cookies are much appreciated as well.

Make a Date Night

Many people focus on gifts for Valentine’s Day, but a great date night can mean more to people than anything you purchase. Is your partner a devoted concertgoer? Do they spend hours on end looking at vintage cars? Think about things your partner likes doing and plan your Valentine’s Day date night around their favorite activity. Want to up the awe factor? Consider taking them to the first place you met for dinner or take them shopping to that antique store you know they love. They’ll get a fun night they’ll never forget while you’ll have created the perfect experience to show them how much you love them.

Buy Some Favorites

What’s your significant other’s favorite candy? Their t-shirt brand? Their wine brand? Oftentimes, it can be tempting to give someone something that’s new, exciting and expensive for Valentine’s Day, but favorites are much more likely to win over your lover. Take some time to think about what you know they love and go shopping for a few of these favorites to make a Valentine’s Day present that means more to your loved one than anything else you could purchase. By selecting things you know mean a lot to them, you’re showing that you notice the small details that keep your loved one going.

Look for Valentine’s Day-Themed Gifts

Just like other holidays, Valentine’s Day offers plenty of holiday-themed gifts. As the day creeps nearer and nearer, store owners start to worry about their themed stock selling and will commonly mark it down. While you probably won’t find that exact thing you were eying a couple weeks ago, you can find some low clearance prices that will fit into nearly anyone’s budget. Of course, the cheapest prices are after Valentine’s Day, so consider doing some after-holiday shopping as well.

Shopping for Valentine’s Day on a budget doesn’t have to be hard. From creating a budget and shopping for great deals to creating a new, cherished possession and taking them to their favorite restaurant on date night, Valentine’s Day can become your loved one’s favorite holiday without you needing to spend a lot. Take the time to think about what your significant other loves, and shop for or make a gift you know they’ll love. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day and remember that it’s the thought that counts rather than how much you spend.

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Which Bank to Choose: Best Banks in the USA

Not sure which bank to choose from? With a seemingly endless number of banks looking to add you to their roster, it can feel overwhelming when deciding who to bank with.

Some banks offer great benefits, like numerous locations, but charge high overdraft fees while others require large minimum deposits if you want to get the most benefits from your account. In short, discovering which bank to choose is tough. Luckily, the online landscape has changed drastically over the years, with online-only banks causing brick-and-mortar locations to change their banking style to meet customer expectations.

Keep reading to learn more about the five friendliest banks so you can bank with the right company sooner rather than later.

Bank of America

Let’s start with the negative: Bank of America is not in every state, interest rates on checking and savings accounts are minimal and $35 overdraft fees can be charged up to 4 times a day.

However, with a comprehensive and easy-to-use online banking system, Bank of America makes self-banking easier than ever before. You won’t need to worry about where your financial information is, nor will you wonder what all that complicated banking legalese actually means. With an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau website, you know you’re getting a quality banking experience (in comparison, Wells Fargo currently holds an F rating). You also will have access to over 16,000 ATMs and 4,200 branch locations. When you sign up, you’ll receive a $100 sign up bonus as well, giving your bank account a much-needed boost. Finally, you can avoid overdraft fees in a couple of ways (besides not over-drafting your account).

First, their overdraft protection is $12 per transaction. While this can add up quickly, it’s still significantly less than the $140 you can expect to spend if they charge you four times in a day. Second, depending on which account you choose, you can avoid overdraft fees completely. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it is significantly better than most brick-and-mortar banks. Many Americans select Bank of America when deciding which bank to choose.

Ally

Ally truly is your ally in banking, providing some of the most comprehensive and rewarding banking on our list. As an online bank, you’re not going to have access to brick-and-mortar locations; however, you will have access to over 40,000 ATMs across the country via the Allpoint network.

Their high-yield savings accounts make your money grow quickly, while their interest checking accounts give you a little extra every month as well. One of the best reasons to bank with Ally? Their 24/7 customer service. Customers love that they can talk to a real person at any time versus needing to wait for someone in the morning at other banking locations.

Another benefit to Ally is that anyone can open an account with no minimum deposit for the account, and deposits can be made via popular methods like direct deposit, mobile check deposit or through their ATM network if you have cash. The main drawback to Ally is that their checking accounts offer lower interest rates that some of their competitors.

Discover

Discover isn’t just for credit cards; they also offer one of the best checking accounts on our list, with customers earning 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in qualifying purchases every month. With Discover, you can cover all of your financial needs in one institution, ranging from borrowing to investing to banking. With over 60,000 ATMs via Allpoint and MoneyPass, you’ll be able to access your account anywhere you go in the U.S., Canada or Carribean; however, you cannot use your debit card anyplace else in the world (sorry frequent travelers). Another drawback for some people is the single brick-and-mortar location.

Axos

Axos is a highly rated online bank that’s quickly picking up steam amongst those looking for a flexible banking solution. You won’t be able to access a physical location; however, you will have access to roughly 91,000 ATMs in addition to out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement. The main thing that makes Axos stand out from other companies is that they offer the following five different checking accounts:

  • First Checking (13-17)
  • Golden Checking (55+)
  • CashBack Checking (Earn up to 1% cash back on qualifying purchases)
  • Rewards Checking (High APY at 1%)
  • Essential Checking (Get paid 2 days early)

Axos also offers savings accounts in addition to never charging a monthly maintenance fee. All these benefits are great; but Axos does have a rather lengthy list of requirements for certain accounts, including a minimum of $250 to open a high-yield savings account, with a Rewards Checking account requires at least $1,500 in direct deposits, a minimum of 10 debit card transactions per month and investment requirements to get the full 1%.

Learning which bank to choose can feel like a difficult task, but more and more people are finding they can receive a great banking experience if they explore their options. From staple brick-and-mortar banks like Bank of America to online companies like Axos and Ally, you can easily find the right bank for your needs in no time. Look at the pros and cons of the banks you’re considering to find the right account for your needs, and remember that banking should be friendly and easy rather than scary or hard!

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Planning for Lower Tax Returns and Child Tax Credits

Planning for lower tax returns and child tax credits will help you with your budget for this fiscal year.

As part of the American Rescue Plan, the government started sending out some much-needed relief for those with children. However, unlike the stimulus checks, these monthly payments that lasted from July-December 2021 weren’t money people wouldn’t already receive. Instead, they were advanced tax return payments.

So, what exactly does this mean for you? A lower tax return. With the payments ending in January, many people are worried about not having that extra boost to their finances as well as how to budget for a tax return that’s possibly significantly less than what they’ve received in previous years. Read on to learn about planning for lower tax returns and child tax credits.

Reconfigure Your Budget for Lower Tax Returns and Child Tax Credits

A lot of people found the child tax credit payments kept them out of debt, and it can be terrifying to think what can happen when you’re not receiving those payments anymore. The first thing to do is reconfigure your budget. Has your family been making more frivolous purchases since receiving the payments? Are you a little looser with your money in general, such as buying name brands instead of generic? Take the time to see where you can trim the fat on your budget to save some extra money. Many people find they can save money in little ways throughout the day that quickly adds up.

Look at Social Programs

We understand that many people needed these payments to survive, and removing them is causing a severe dent in their finances and adding unparalleled stress to their lives. Luckily, those in need can qualify for an assortment of social welfare programs to give them a hand up. From local food banks to EBT, you and your children won’t need to go hungry until you receive your tax refund. Help doesn’t end at food either. Depending on your state, you may be able to receive reductions or assistance on your utility bills, help on rent or welfare payments. Now is the time to take full advantage of these programs and receive aid.

Increase Work Hours

Have you reduced your work hours to spend more time with your kids? Now is the time to look to returning to your previous work schedule. If you worry about daycare costs, consider trading off babysitting on days off with co-workers so you can both work more than you have over the past few months. If your job simply isn’t cutting it anymore, or if you can’t increase your work hours, look at applying to other jobs that will pay you the salary you deserve.

Prepare for a Smaller Refund or Paying It Back

As tax refunds are filed, many Americans will find they will receive a smaller refund or even need to pay back their payments. This can be devastating for families that rely upon a certain refund amount each year. Take a deep breath and look to file your taxes early so you know exactly how much you’ll receive as well as whether or not you’ll need to pay anything back. By preparing your finances, you’ll be able to budget smarter and know exactly what to expect.

Pay Off Debts

Your refund amount will depend on a variety of factors, but now is the perfect time to work towards paying off debts. Lower those credit card balances and catch up on past-due bills so they aren’t hanging over your head in 2022. Oftentimes, we’re able to catch up more than we may think. By lowering your debts, you’ll have more money going forward being you won’t be spending your hard-earned cash on interest or late payment fees.

Place Funds in a Savings Account

When you receive your tax refund, place it in an interest-bearing savings account, even if you think you’ll spend it quickly. This will allow your money to grow, even if it’s just a few extra dollars a month. Try to keep your money in your account as long as possible to earn as much interest as you can on your refund.

Invest (If You Can)

Don’t worry; we’re not telling you to go buy a ton of Tesla stock. However, investing your money can reap financial benefits for you and your family for years to come. With an assortment of investment apps now available, you’ll find you’re able to invest quickly and easily in companies ranging from tech conglomerates to small startups. Remember though that the stock market is not guaranteed to make you a return on your investment, so take the time to research which companies financial experts recommend and save some of your refund in a savings account for emergencies.

Hold Off on Shopping

Many people will go shopping the moment they get their refund, and retailers count on this. During the spring, most companies won’t have their best prices, counting on people to make impulse purchases with the excuse that they have their tax refund to help them out. Instead of spending your money on big purchases right now (like televisions, appliances, etc.), look to make bigger purchases in the summer months, when companies will be more likely to give you a better deal.

Space Out Your Refund

You’re receiving a tax refund? Great news! Now comes the time to save and space out your purchases. If you can, look to create your own child tax credit payment system by allocating yourself the same amount of money (or lower, if doable) so you can have a steady stream of income over the coming months. If you must make a big purchase or pay off a large debt, look to save your remaining money for as long as possible.

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Planning for lower tax returns and child tax credits can feel like an uphill battle; however, with proper planning, you can soften the financial blow. By looking for ways to prolong your money, like reconfiguring your budget, putting funds in a savings account, paying off debts, spacing out your refund money to last you for several months or taking out a small dollar installment loan, you can build a healthier financial system for you and your family.

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Winter Family Vacations on a Budget

Winter family vacations on a budget are a great way to kick off the new year. Many people wrote “Travel More” as part of their New Year’s resolutions. Luckily, the new year brings new savings for those looking to travel on a budget during the winter months. Winter traveling offers a host of benefits for those looking to take a vacation on a budget, ranging from cheaper airfare to great hotel deals due to many destinations considering the winter months their off season. However, savvy travelers can still score great deals for nearly any locale they wish to visit. Read on to learn more about the places to travel for winter family vacations on a budget.

Hawaii

Hawaii offers several destinations, with O’ahu, Maui and Hawai’i (the Big Island) leading the pack, and all have their own unique vibes. Most people will travel to Honolulu, O’ahu this winter, the state’s capital, to visit mainstays like Waikiki and the Polynesian Cultural Center. While Honolulu definitely offers a lot of different activities for travelers, those who want a different atmosphere that’s not saturated with tourists may want to visit a different island. Hawai’i gives a more laidback atmosphere, allowing plenty of time to explore the island’s natural wonders (including volcanoes!). Maui offers a more luxurious vacation experience, with an assortment of large resorts and boutique hotels dotting the island. Those looking to save a little bit will likely want to visit Oahu or Hawai’i, with both offering affordable hotel and airfare rates.

Puerto Rico

An island paradise without a passport? You’ll find it in Puerto Rico. With a plethora of beaches, ranging from Las Salinas’ pink sand to the glow-in-the-dark Mosquito Bay, restaurants and historical San Juan, Puerto Rico has a little something for everyone. Roundtrip air travel can be as low as $150/person to San Juan, making this a much more affordable tropical destination than other places on our list. Because Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar, travelers don’t need to worry about currency exchange rates and plush, luxurious resorts cost much less than you probably expect.

Spain

Europe on a budget? It’s easier than you may think if you want to visit Spain. Barcelona, Madrid, Costa del Sol, and Seville offer unique experiences travelers will love. Temperatures during the winter months hover between the 40s-60s in most areas, making it a cool but comfortable destination for nearly anyone. Flights can easily be obtained for under $1,000/person while hotel rooms and food are some of the lowest on the continent. With an assortment of museums, restaurants, festivals and local charm anywhere you visit, Spain will quickly become both you and your family’s favorite winter season travel destination.

Lucerne

Not everyone wants to visit the tropics during their winter getaway, and that’s what makes Lucerne the perfect destination for those who want a cooler holiday. This Swiss town will get anyone in the holiday spirit, offering plenty of cheer thanks to numerous ski resorts and markets as well as plenty of spots for snow-centric activities like snowshoeing and sledding. The variety of hotels in the area means lower prices for those wanting to visit, with many offering rooms for a little over $100/night. Save even more by booking red-eye flights which will also give you the benefit of cutting down on your jet lag.

Quebec City

Don’t want to travel all the way to Switzerland? Quebec City lets you get your snow-covered vacation right here in North America. With chilly temperatures and plenty of the white stuff, Quebec City will quickly become one of your favorite travel destinations. Historical Old Quebec features plenty of shopping and restaurants decked out in holiday décor to put you in the festive spirit while those wanting a more activity-based vacation can go ice skating at Place D’Youville or skiing at Station Touristique Stoneham. While Quebec City is famous for its Christmas décor, the city hosts an assortment of attractions during the winter months, including the Carnaval de Quebec in February. Save some money on your visit by driving or booking a mid-week flight to get the best deal.

Lake Tahoe

Once a hotspot for gangsters and celebrities, Lake Tahoe still has plenty to offer anyone looking for a relaxing winter vacation. With plenty of snow for skiers and snowboarders but moderate mid-day temperatures hovering in the 40s, this picturesque town on the California-Nevada will take your breath away. The casinos offer those who don’t want to go out in the snow plenty of gambling options while the numerous lodges in the area are perfect for cozying up next to a roaring fire. While winter months are the busiest in the area, budget travelers can find plenty of deals for 3- and 4-star hotels at under $200/night, especially if they don’t mind staying on the Nevada side (called Stateline).

Boracay Island, Philippines

Still a hidden gem for those looking for a tropical getaway, the Boracay Islands offer plenty of amenities and scenic views. The affordable prices allow travelers to take their vacation to the next level, getting an experience that would cost tens of thousands for pennies on the dollar. Smaller crowds from January to February means you won’t need to worry about fighting crowds while you snorkel, scuba dive or sunbathe on the beach. Mid-range hotels can be found for about $70/night; however, your food, drinks and activities are (usually) much lower in price than other locales on our list.

Winter family vacations on a budget don’t break the bank. Whether you’re looking for a tropical location like Boracay Island or O’ahu or want something a little cooler like Quebec City or Lucerne, you can plan a luxurious vacation on a budget this winter. The main thing to remember when looking for the best deals is to have some flexibility on your dates, so don’t be afraid to shop around. Finally, planning your vacation in advance allows you to create a budget you can stick to. Where are you going this winter? What’s your favorite winter destination? Let us know below!

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The Most Common and Do-Able New Year’s Resolutions

As you write out your New Year’s resolutions, you know you’re going to complete every single item on this year’s list. Unfortunately, most people tend to write the same things every single year, hoping that this year will be the one. Luckily, we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn how to complete people’s most common New Year’s resolutions and make 2022 your year.

What Do You Want to Do This Year?

Before we begin, let’s take a look at the ten most common New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Lose Weight/Get Fit/Diet
  2. Quit Smoking/Drinking
  3. Eliminate Debt
  4. Get Organized
  5. Learn a New Language/Skill/Hobby
  6. Spend Time with Family
  7. Travel
  8. Read More
  9. Reduce Stress
  10. Volunteer

Most likely, you’re looking to accomplish at least one thing on this list. Take the time to narrow what you want to do into a couple of goals. For example, a lot of people will create ungodly long lists in the hopes of living up to the “New Year, New Me” motto. When they do this, they’re setting themselves up for failure, creating a list of goals they’ll quickly feel overwhelmed by. By selecting 2-3, you’re more likely to accomplish what you want and won’t feel like you’ve “failed” within a few weeks.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

If you work in the business world, you’ve probably heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and occur within a specific timeframe. So, what does this look like in action? Let’s say your goal is to “lose weight.” This is vague and can mean 100 different things to 100 different people. When we set a S.M.A.R.T. weight loss goal, it becomes something like, “I want to lose 50 pounds over the next year by working out three times a week, making healthier eating decisions and aiming to lose 5 pounds a month.”

Make Sure Your New Year’s Resolutions Motivate

Another problem we frequently see with New Year’s resolutions are goals that really don’t motivate. Non-motivational goals fall into two camps: too hard and too easy. If your goal is to travel more, you’re probably not going to hit all seven continents in seven weeks (if you can, seriously, please take us with you).

On the flip side, you’re likely not going to find a lot of satisfaction traveling to the same vacation spot you’ve had for seven years. Look for something in-between. So, if your goal is to travel to a foreign country, look to include a couple of different cities/states/countries while you’re there. For example, if you want to go to Spain, why not include a few days in Portugal or France as well? By including a few bonus stops that won’t break the bank, you’ve created a more motivating goal.

Break Down Goals

Your New Year’s resolutions are likely pretty big goals, and this can quickly overwhelm just about anyone. Instead of putting something monumental and getting lost in the process of completing it, break your goal down into measurable steps. How does this work in action? Let’s say you want to quit smoking, and right now you smoke a pack a day. In the first month, aim to get your smoking down to about 10-15 cigarettes a day by the end of the month. You’re already halfway there! The following month, look to cut your smoking down by a third to a half again. By the end of the year, you’ll have quit smoking entirely, and you’ll have been able to do it by slowly weaning yourself off through small stepping stone goals.

Write Goals Down

Writing down your goals may seem passe, but there are plenty of reasons to bring out the pen and paper, including:

  • You’re more likely to remember things you write versus typing them out.
  • Your goals will be clearer and more concise.
  • You can easily post them anywhere. A lot of people find putting their goals someplace they see every day, whether on their bathroom mirror or on the fridge, keeps them on track and make better decisions every day.
  • If you regularly review them, they can become a great motivating tool to see how far you’ve come on your journey.

While it’s perfectly fine to put your goals on your phone, most people find writing them down gives them regular motivation; however, typing them out and making them your lock screen or wallpaper is also perfectly fine as well.

Tell Your Friends Your Resolutions

Your friends likely have a lot of the same goals as you, so now is the perfect time to connect with them. When you tell others your goals, you’re more likely to complete them due to the instant accountability telling someone about the goal establishes. If you find someone who has the same goal, look to partner up with them. For example, if you want to read more, the two (or more) of you can start a book club, meeting once a month to discuss your latest book.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

 Look, making a major life change is difficult, and you will slip up. Whether it’s a piece of cake on your diet or splurging on something for yourself, you’re going to have hiccups as you work to meet your goal. If an oopsie happens, make sure you:

  • Take a breath. There’s nothing stopping you from working towards your goal for the rest of the day.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Far too often, people put themselves through a guilt trip that actually dissuades them from pursuing their goal.
  • Reevaluate your goals. Sometimes we set ourselves for failure by making huge goals no one can complete. Look to see if your goals are achievable and make adjustments as needed.

Setting New Year’s resolutions can be fun, and reaching your goals will feel rewarding once you’re done. Take the time to create S.M.A.R.T. resolutions, regularly reevaluate as necessary, enlist a friend and don’t beat yourself up when you have a setback. By following the above tips, you’ll reach your goals in no time.

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How to Save Money in 2022

Want to know how to save money in 2022? Saving can feel like a monumental task, with bills and life seemingly hitting us at all times; however, saving is possible for anyone—you just need to look for ways to cut costs where possible (we promise, this isn’t another avocado toast and millennials article).  Read on to learn our top money-saving tips for 2022 and watch your bank account grow nice and full this year.

Shop with Apps

From ibotta to influenster, there are plenty of apps with the sole purpose of saving you money or giving you free product. Some of these apps, like influenster, will send you products in exchange for reviews. Others, like ibotta, will reimburse you for your purchases at certain stores. The main thing to remember here is that you’ll need to be flexible around brands to get the best deals.

Create Meals Around Deals

So, this is going to take some planning on your part; however, by planning around what you can coupon, you can save hundreds of dollars on your food bills. Look at what deals you can get through your local grocer on Sunday and plan your meals for the week. Bonus points if you food prep to save on lunches at work or school.

Make a Budget

You’ll need to rip off the band-aid for this one to see where you can cut corners and save. Are you utilizing every streaming service you pay for? Get rid of the ones you’re only viewing every once in a while. If you’re paying a lot for insurance or cell phone bills, don’t be afraid to negotiate to lower your bill or get on a better plan.

Start Saving

Life happens, and expenses for emergencies can rack up quickly. The best way to avoid these expenses wiping out your bank account is to have a savings account. Putting in 5-10% of your income into a savings account every month adds up quickly, giving you money for something unexpected or a trip you’ve always wanted to take.

Switch to Generic

Elle Woods wouldn’t love this one, but you will when you see how much you’re saving. By switching to store brands for things like garbage bags and medication, you’ll save hundreds of dollars throughout 2022. Remember, most of these generic products are actually made by a lot of the big brands, meaning you’re getting the exact same product for less.

Change Your Appliances

Okay, this one will cost you initially, but it saves money in the long run. If your appliances or fixtures are a decade old, look to replace them with newer models. From energy-efficient lightbulbs to appliances, your new items will pay for themselves in a short amount of time.

Fix Your Plumbing

Leaking toilets and faucets can add up quickly, causing your bills to skyrocket. For example, a leaky faucet adds $20 to your water bill every month. If you have three leaking faucets, that’s $60 you’re spending every single month! Call a plumber or (to save more) look up YouTube videos to get your leaky plumbing fixed.

Cut the Cable

Cable TV is quickly becoming obsolete, so why keep paying for it? Cut the cord for good and start utilizing streaming services for your entertainment needs. Want local channels? Most areas will give you basic channels for free with a receiver.

Lower Student Loans

Student loans add up quickly, and repayment can feel like an uphill battle. Look to see if your bills qualify for income-driven repayment plans. These plans will help you repay your loans at a rate you can actually afford being they’re based on your income.

Set the Thermostat

The old adage of 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter is great, but those temps won’t be comfortable for everyone. Set your thermostat to a higher temperature than you might normally but still allows you to live in comfort.

Sell Your Stuff

Are you really going to revisit those old college textbooks? Do you have clothes in the closet you’ve never worn or only wore a couple times? All of these items are basically money sitting in your home, taking up space. Take the time to list these items on sites like eBay to get some quick cash.

Get a Side Hustle

From freelance writing to crafting, you probably have a skill or hobby you can expand upon. Get a side hustle to get a few extra dollars every month.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

Did you know vinegar works wonders around the house? Take the time to look around online for some homemade cleaning product instructions and say goodbye to purchasing cleaning products in-store.

Turn Off Electronics

Your television, gaming console and computer all use power, even when they’re not being used. Instead of letting your tech devices increase your power bills, unplug these items when not in use.

Carpool

This isn’t going to work for everyone, but if you have a co-worker who lives near you, look to see about carpooling with one another. You’ll both save money by only taking your cars roughly half of the time.

Have a No-Spend Time

Whether you decide not to spend for a week, month or even year (it does happen!), no-spend times allow you to really cut the fat out of your life and see where you’re spending needlessly.

Shop Clearance Sales

Clearance racks are great because you’re getting quality products you love for steep discounts. The next time you go shopping, head straight for the clearance section to see if that perfect item is just waiting for you to buy it.

Pay Your Bills on Time

Late and overdraft fees add up quickly, so take the time to pay your bills on time every single month. While this isn’t the most fun item on your list, paying your bills on time will save you hundreds in 2022.

Saving money in 2022 is the perfect New Years resolution. By utilizing the above tips, you can expect your bank account to grow all year long. Which tip are you going to use this year? What’s your ultimate money-saving tip? Sound off below and let us know!

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Where to Shop for Holiday Gifts on a Budget

One of the best things about the holidays is giving gifts that make others happy and feel special. Trying to shop for holiday gifts on a budget may seem hard, but it’s not impossible. There are plenty of stores and places online to find affordable holiday gifts these days. This year, with cost inflation, that is incredibly beneficial. You also have the supply issue to consider when shopping, so creativity will be necessary.

Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods is an online retailer and offers gifts you won’t find on other websites, and many of them are at an affordable price. Find unique items such as Famous Artists Ornaments for $22.00, Kids-for-Kids winter socks for $15.00, and Aromatherapy Balm stocking stuffer and ornament for $25.00. Uncommon Goods is a popular way to shop for holiday gifts on a budget.

Target

Target always has a decent selection of affordable holiday gifts. This year they have Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote for 19.99, a 15 pack of Men’s Marvel Advent Calendar socks for $15.00, or a Vitamasques Festive Face Mask Gift Set – Limited Edition – 6ct for $10.00. Close to 2,000 locations are throughout all 50 U.S. states, and you can shop online.

Walmart

When you think of Walmart, uncommon gifts may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but they have plenty of options for fabulous gifts at affordable prices. They have an Atomi Bluetooth 5W 3.25-Inch circle shower speaker for $14.96 and a Big Lebowski Movie 500-piece puzzle in plastic retro blockbuster VHS video case for $9.97. Or, in Walmart’s photo section, you can personalize a 50×60 plush fleece blanket with your photos for $39.99 or two for $60.00! You can find this big retailer almost everywhere and shop their deals online.

Amazon

Amazon is an online retailer and the go-to for many these days, and the holiday season is no exception. Find plenty of Cheap and quirky gifts for all of your favorites. Things like a 12 pack of Vincent Van Gogh Guitar Picks gift set for $14.95, an Ecolution Original Microwave Micro-Pop popcorn popper for $12.99, a holiday crave box full of delicious snacks for $24.95, or a Prodyne Fruit Infusion Flavor Pitcher for $19.99.

Kohl’s

Kohl’s has long been the place to go for affordable holiday gifts. This year they have a Toastmaster personal blender for 14.99, an Amazon Fire TV Stick Streaming Media Player with Dolby Atmos Audio and Alexa Voice Remote for $19.99, or adorable St. Nicholas Square ornaments for $4.99. There are Kohl’s locations in every U.S. state except for Hawaii. You can also take advantage of their fabulous deals online.

Dollar General

Dollar General carries a wide variety of items at a low price. You can find anything from clothes to cleaning supplies or home goods to toys and electronics. They always have a selection of items on sale for the holidays. Things such as a Sylvania speaker, set of two for $10.00, SpaScriptions four-piece spa day set for $5.00, or if you are shopping for kids, they have a National Geographic deluxe STEM science activity kit for $20.00. There are 17,000 store locations throughout the U.S. You can also shop online.

Etsy

Etsy is a neat online marketplace that allows artists and crafters to create accounts and sell items, including artwork and other goods. Many of the items are at low and affordable prices. You can find unique gifts such as a personalized family recipe book for $29.00, personalized birthstone bracelets for $17.20, and personalized wall art starting at $22.00.

Five Below

Five Below is a discount retail store that sells items that cost up to $5.00. You can find small gifts and stocking stuffers such as fidget and sensory toys popular among kids these days. They also have board games, small electronics, holiday home decor, toys, clothing items, make-up, and candy. There are 900 Five Below locations in 36 U.S. states, and you can enjoy their discount pricing online.

JCPenney

James Cash and Penny opened the first JCPenny store in 1902. The retailer closed many JCPenny department store locations in the last few years, but you can still take advantage of their superb holiday deals online. They have fabulous gifts, including a Clean Reserve perfume discovery kit for $24.00 or a Harry & David Tower Of Sweet Treats for $29.69.

Crate and Barrel

Crate and Barrel is a home decor store that offers trendy and modern essentials for every room in your home. You can find hip gifts such as a Dash Mini Gingerbread Man Waffle Maker for $12.95, a mini pie maker for $17.95, and a 2021 Silver Pearl frame Christmas ornament for $8.95. Crate and Barrel have 89 stores and eight outlets around the United States and Canada, and you can shop online.

Burlington

Burlington has plenty of holiday gift items to choose from at low prices. Things such as men’s box spa sets for $16.99, adorable handbags are starting at $24.99, and plenty of toys, holiday apparel, and home essentials all start at low and affordable prices. There are currently 740 Burlington locations around the country, and you can also take advantage of their prices online.

If you’re trying to shop for holiday gifts on a budget, you are in luck. You can save plenty of time, effort, and money by shopping for holiday gifts for all of your favorite people at the stores and retailers you know will have the best deals. Use this handy list to finish your holiday shopping without breaking the bank in no time!

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Staying Warm in the Winter on a Budget

Staying warm in the winter on a budget may seem difficult this year. Rising energy prices mean US heating bills could soar by 30% over the coming months compared to last year! Add that to the expensive nature of the holiday season and many families around the country may feel the pinch.

Ready for the good news?

There are plenty of ways to stay warm in winter without blowing the budget! Keep reading to discover 12 of the very best.

1. Seal Any Holes You Have

With a chill in the air and the wind roaring outside, the last thing you want is to have dozens of gaps around your windows and doors. Those pesky holes let the warm air right out and welcome the cold on in!

Scout around your house for any gaps of this nature and use caulking to fill them in. Alternatively, you’ll find affordable draft stoppers online that are purpose-built to solve this problem.

2. Leverage Layers

We see it all the time. Someone complains about feeling cold and so, understandably, decides to turn the heating up in the house. Yet they’re also wearing nothing but a thin t-shirt and a pair of shorts!

Don’t be that person this winter.

If you’re on a budget, then one of the best ways to stay warm is by layering up. With multiple t-shirts, sweaters, and coats on, you’re guaranteed to stay nice and snug. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the local thrift store if you want extra cold-weather clothing at bargain prices.

3. Protect Your Head and Feet

Of all the parts of your body to wrap up warm this winter, pay special attention to your head and feet! Why? Because you lose warmth from both body parts quicker than almost any other.

To tackle the issue “head-on”, we highly suggest investing in a quality pair of woolly socks, some slippers, and a beanie hat to wear around the house. You might feel silly having a hat on indoors, but you’ll be grateful for it when the utility bill comes!

4. Redecorate

Did you know that the location of your furniture impacts how warm/cold you feel in each room? For instance, maybe your sofa’s pressed against the wall, your desk’s beneath a window, and your bed’s in front of an air vent. Each of these locations could be making you and the room colder than necessary.

After all, walls and windows are notoriously chilly because they’re the closest to the outdoors! Covering an air vent stops warm air from circulating properly. So, do yourself a favor this winter by moving your furnishings into the center of each room and away from your vents/heaters!

5. Insulate Your Windows

Poorly-insulated windows are a primary culprit for letting the cold in during winter. Unfortunately, replacing your current ones with double or triple-glazed alternatives isn’t cheap!

Thankfully, though, you don’t have to. For a budget-friendly option that serves a similar purpose, try purchasing some insulating clear film to apply to your windows. Part of a window insulation kit, this clever film keeps the heat in and blocks the cold out, while still letting in the light.

6. Fit Drapes, Curtains, or Blinds

Want another window-related solution for staying warm in winter?

Never leave them bare!

Installing heavy curtains, drapes, or blinds will provide a barrier that prevents heat inside your home from escaping as easily. The only downside is that drawing them during the day will block out the light as well.

7. Switch Off Bathroom Vents

Remember how gaps in your property let the cold air in quicker than you can say “brrr”? Well, your bathroom exhaust vent can cause trouble for similar reasons.

It’s literally a hole in your wall that leads to the outside world! Having it turned on will suck the heat out of the room along with the steam. Save energy by only turning it on when necessary (open the door instead!) and always flicking it off when you’re done.

Top tip: Timer switches will make your life much simpler here. Installing them in your bathroom to control your vent will make sure it’s never left running by accident.

8. Close Your Chimney

Open fireplaces are amazing additions to any home in winter. You can snuggle around a fire on cold, dark evenings, watching the flames flicker and snuggling down in front of the warmth!

Alas, they can backfire during the daytime, letting heat escape up the chimney. Whenever you aren’t using it, then, remember to close its flue and draft. You could even block the entire chimney with a special fireplace insert insulation if you don’t plan on using it at all.

9. Leave the Oven Open

Kitchens are often the warmest part of the house in winter. After all, with all the delicious baking and cooking going on throughout the holiday season, heat from the oven fills the room, combatting the cold to great effect. Want our advice?

Don’t waste that incredible warmth! Leaving the oven door open slightly after you’ve finished baking or roasting turns it into a makeshift radiator.

10. Buy Lots of Blankets

Warm blankets are an absolute godsend in the winter- particularly when you can’t afford to go overboard with the central heating. Get your hands on as many of them as possible! On long winter afternoons and evenings, you’ll be able to snuggle up beneath one (or two, or three…) and stay warm despite the cold outside.

Don’t forget to put one on top of your duvet at night to add another layer of warmth when you’re in bed too! This may make it possible to keep the heating turned off at night, significantly reducing your energy bills in the process.

11. Improve Your Attic’s Insulation

Because heat rises, your attic can make or break your ability to heat the house efficiently. Making sure it’s well-insulated this winter will help prevent the heat from escaping and keep your utility payments down as a result.

Of course, purchasing attic insulation (and possibly paying someone to install it) costs money upfront. Yet you can definitely treat it as an investment. Trust us, you’ll soon get your money back from the ensuing energy savings.

12. Insulate Your Floors

Anybody with bare floorboards knows all too well how the cold can radiate up into the house from the frigid earth below! This is another issue that applies to almost every home, though, regardless of specific flooring (unless they have underfloor heating!). It’s especially bad in older properties and those without a basement.

The remedy? Insulating your floors! Laying down thick rugs and warm carpets will help to keep the cold down where it belongs.

Staying Warm in this Winter on a Budget

Winter might be around the corner, but that doesn’t mean you have to blow the budget just to stay warm! As we’ve seen, there are plenty of clever ways to keep your home feeling toasty without spending all of your hard-earned money on heating.

Why not give them a go today? Whether you try a handful of them or every last one on the list, you’re guaranteed to reap the rewards.

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Thanksgiving on a Budget: Tips and Recipes

Thanksgiving can be such a refreshing holiday; time spent with loved ones without the pressure of gifts, no events, or mandatory activities. It’s a break from all of that: a reprieve before the true chaos begins. But for a Thanksgiving host, well it’s a different story entirely. Hosting Thanksgiving can be very overwhelming and extremely costly. Feeding so many people so many different dishes—it’s a big ask. But we’ve compiled a few tips and easy recipes that will help you host thanksgiving on a budget. After all, you deserve to enjoy Thanksgiving just as much as Uncle Frank who’s usually taking his post-meal snooze before you’ve even made your plate!

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Saving Tips

Here’s our no-stress, low-cost guide to hosting a classic Thanksgiving.

Easy Does It

The beauty of a Thanksgiving meal is in its simplicity. These dishes are tried and true. They work for a reason. Stick to the basics. Don’t feel pressure to impress or outshine. The stuffing that’s been passed down throughout generations is more than good enough. Don’t try to fancy it up with new recipes or new ingredients. Your guests came for nostalgia, this makes it easy to do thanksgiving on a budget.

Bulk Buying

Shopping at big box stores will save you time and money. Everything is cheaper in bulk and there’s no better time to take advantage of that fact than Thanksgiving. For many of your recipes, you’ll need the same things: eggs, flour, sugar, butter. Even potatoes and herbs can be purchased in bulk! You can freeze leftover herbs in olive oil (see this fancy little trick here!) and as for the other items, plan ahead of time to split your purchases with a friend who is also hosting their own Thanksgiving. You’ll both save money and have more than enough ingredients.

Shop Generic

For those items that can’t be purchased in bulk, opt for generic brands. Generic or store brands are way less expensive in the long run and honestly, no one will know the difference. Add enough herbs and spices and nothing on your Thanksgiving table will taste generic, guaranteed.

Plan Ahead

Don’t wait until the last minute to do your grocery shopping. You’ll be surprised how quickly stores will run out of the cheaper items, leaving you to spend more than you initially planned. Additionally, most stores run specials or discounts on Thanksgiving items a week or two before the holiday. These sales are great opportunities to grab all your canned items or frozen foods.

Frozen Foods

Speaking of frozen foods…frozen ingredients cost a lot less than fresh ones, especially when you have to buy a lot. Considering most Thanksgiving dishes are some variant of a casserole, it’s unlikely that your guests will notice what was fresh and what was frozen. Save yourself some money (and time since most frozen veggies come pre-chopped!) and buy frozen.

Make a List

Make a list well before you head to the store. Going in without a list will only make it a more stressful experience. You’re likely to buy too much or too little of something, eventually costing yourself more money. Once you have a list, stick to it! Impulse purchases can add up. Trust that the list you prepared ahead of time covers everything.

Share the Burden

No rule says the host must provide every single dish at Thanksgiving. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! If you know there are a few dishes that are just completely out of your purview, ask a few people to pitch in and bring a dish. Most people will be happy to help. Ask around; some folks may already have a dish in mind that they consider their specialty! They’ll probably be thrilled to prepare it for Thanksgiving.

Easy Thanksgiving Recipes

Here are some yummy, expensive dishes you can make for your thanksgiving on a budget!

Old Fashioned Stuffing

The main ingredient in this recipe is an entire loaf of bread. But once again, no need to go fresh! Start saving stale bread, or the end pieces that no one ever eats. Freeze them until you are ready to make the stuffing. Then they just need a quick thaw. Chop them into cubes and use them just as you would fresh bread! Although, this does require you to plan ahead!

Most folks have their own tried and true recipe for stuffing, but just in case, you can find a reliable one here.  You’ll need butter, onion, celery, chicken broth, and sage. Hopefully, those are all items you already bought when you shopped EARLY with your fully prepared list.

Candied Yams

This is one circumstance where you might want to go fresh. Fresh yams are relatively cheap this time of year and tend to be less expensive than canned yams. This casserole calls for (more) butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows. You can also substitute yams for sweet potatoes.

Find the specifics here.

Mac & Cheese

Not much can beat classic mac & cheese. This is another one of those dishes that doesn’t need anything fancy. Making mac & cheese from scratch couldn’t be simpler, and when cooking for a crowd, it ends up being cheaper than boxed options.

You just need the basics: pasta, milk, cheese, butter, and flour.

Mashed Potatoes

If you have the ingredients for mac & cheese, then chances are you can make mashed potatoes. Even without gravy, mashed potatoes are perfect alongside turkey and stuffing. It’s what comfort food is all about!

For easy mashed potatoes you just need potatoes, milk, and lots of butter! If you want to make them extra creamy, consider adding sour cream. Estimate approximately one potato per person.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake

Instead of several pumpkin pies, consider making one giant pumpkin sheet cake! You’ll save yourself so much tedium and you’ll satisfy all the pumpkin cravings. Sheet cakes are so much more convenient for large crowds, not just in the preparation but also in the serving. Cut up a few squares, add a dollop of whipped cream to each, and dessert is served! It’s a delicious win-win.

Find an easy-to-follow recipe here.

Unfortunately, the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By following these tips and recipes, you can host an incredible thanksgiving on a budget. Remember to stick to the classics and you’ll be fine. Yes, Thanksgiving is about food. But it’s also about friends, family, and gratitude. Your guests will be grateful to you for hosting and won’t care whether the turkey was fresh or store-bought. (By the way—buying from a store brand is another way to save!)

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