Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday . . . Is It Worth It?

Sorry I didn't post over the weekend like I normally do, things have been crazy busy for me.  Today's post is going to be a little different than normal.  Usually I post about ways to save money but keep in mind it's EASY ways to save money.  This post we're going to think about Black Friday . . . probably the most savings you can get on any item for one day only.  But I don't advocate it, at all.

Why I wanted to write a little something about it is because over the weekend, I heard on the news that people were already starting to camp out in front of stores like Best Buy for Black Friday deals.  I'm sorry, what?!!!  A week before people are lining up?!  That's just crazy.
Black Friday camping

Why I don't like this?  Well first of all, it is not an EASY way to save money.  You have to camp out in the freezing cold and brave getting trampled to death to really get the good deals.  Not worth it in my opinion.
Black Friday crowd

Second, and most importantly, this takes away from Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is supposed to all be about relaxing and being with family.  We as a culture have become so materialistic, we are doing away with a tradition about GIVING THANKS for what we have instead to get more for cheap, cheap, cheap!
Save Thanksgiving

So that's my rant about Black Friday.  I don't do it.  In fact, once Christmas shopping season starts, you will hardly ever see me near big stores and don't even think about the mall!  I try to do all my shopping online so that way I don't have to deal with trying to find parking, dealing with the pushing and shoving, waiting in line forever.  Plus, you can usually find something more customized for each person.

Well, I don't want to leave you all with no tips on how to save money.  So here's the "Black Friday" that I take part in: Shop Amazon - Black Friday Deals Week - Big Savings, No Waiting

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bridal Fairs

So today I just got back from my first bridal fair outing.  Now I'm totally exhausted and a little on overload of wedding stuff BUT the good thing about bridal fairs: the discounts and the giveaways.  Getting tickets for the fairs are usually cheap, $5 - $10, but regardless, it's easy to find coupon codes to get free tickets which is exactly what I did.

Now even though I haven't picked anything out yet for my wedding, I didn't really go to shop.  I went to get discounts and to be entered into drawings.  Almost all vendors have giveaways for a wide variety of services, many that are worth quite a bit, also there are generally some overall large giveaways like a honeymoon.  But even if you don't win any prizes, there are a lot of discounts. 

Another plus: the fashion shows.  But not exactly for the reason you'd expect.  I realized that the real plus was seeing what dresses were difficult to walk in.  Obviously you don't want to be worried about tripping on your gown walking down the aisle.  Yikes!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Amazon Prime: A Great Deal!

This week I am going to be talking about one of my favorite deals, Amazon Prime.  Why is it one of my favorites?  It's because it combines two things I love: online shopping and movie/TV watching into one great deal!

What is Amazon Prime?  Simply put, it's an instant streaming service like Netflix and it also gives you free two day shipping on Amazon products.

How much does it cost?  It's a yearly membership fee of $79.  That's only $6.50/mo.

Why I like it so much:
  • I do a lot of online shopping.  It's so much easier -- you can do it anytime you want, at the convenience of your own home, search through thousands of products to find the thing that exactly suits your needs, and it gets delivered right to your front door.  Amazon is one of my favorite online retailers because they have such a large selection at amazing prices.  The only drawback of online shopping is having to pay for shipping but Amazon Prime eliminates that problem.
  • I love watching TV and movies and I really love doing it without commercials.  Amazon Prime is a great instant streaming source with plenty of options.  As with any streaming service, it excels in some areas and doesn't in others.  It definitely has more newer selections in TV than in movies and doesn't have quite the selection as some other streaming services but it does offer some that other major competitors don't.  Plus it's cheaper per month and you get the free shipping.  
Like what you're hearing?  Click here for a free 30 day trial!   Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Getting Engaged? Try an Antique Ring!

So I have some fabulous news . . . I got engaged last weekend!  So you can expect a few blogs on saving money on weddings, though I don't want to post too much of that because this isn't a wedding blog.

Here's a picture of my beautiful ring:
antique ring

 It was his great-grandmother's ring.  I love it so much and couldn't have asked for something more me!

So, if you are planning on getting engaged I highly advise thinking about an antique ring, even if you don't have an heirloom ring to give away (obviously that saves you a lot of money!).

Why an antique ring?  Well first of all, they're a lot cheaper and I only list that first because this is a blog about saving money.  There are a few other (and more important) reasons though.
  • They are unique.  In my ring, the flowers in the band were hand crafted.  You're not going to find that today.
  • They can be worth a lot more.  You can usually find nicer quality stones and metals since they were easier to find a long time ago!  And this is done at a fraction of the price of a normal ring.
Need I say more?  Why get a ring that looks like everyone else's cookie-cutter rings, when you can have a unique piece of history?  But maybe that's just me.

Now that you're engaged, check out my posts on how to save money while planning your wedding starting with: Setting a Wedding Budget

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Make Money by Selling Your Old Stuff

Lately my dad and I have been cleaning the house and finding tons of old things that we don't use anymore or never really needed in the first place.  Some of them are even still in the original packaging!  And I know we aren't the only people that have things lying around that we don't need anymore.  But instead of throwing it away, sell it!  And I'm talking about every little thing.  Somebody out there wants it.  You should see the types of things that sell on ebay, even used gift cards with no balance left (I guess people collect them, but that's weird to me).

But how should you sell your things?  Well there are several options and that all depends on what you are trying to sell, how many things you are trying to sell, how much you want to get for it, and what your own selling preferences are.  Here's a list of some of the ways to sell things, what it's best for, and the pros and cons.

Garage Sale
Garage SaleNow this is not one that I have experience with but obviously most people now what a garage sale is and how it works.  You have to be willing to part with items for very cheap, but if you have a lot of things to sell, it can be worth it.  Make sure you set up early because that's when the real shoppers come out.  And also it pays to advertise (yes that means you might have to invest some money into advertising but it will attract a lot more people and get you more money in the end).

What it's best for: Selling large volumes of things.  
Pros: You can sell a lot of your things quickly
Cons: You have to give up your Saturday or Sunday.  You have to pay for advertising.

Sell on EbayEbay
This is what I use most often.  Take a look at all the things I'm selling: http://www.ebay.com/usr/dancecarmenh.  Now ebay's not for everyone.  It takes a lot of practice learning how to get your items noticed, learning how much to charge for everything, etc.  But I've been doing it for many years and like it because it just takes a little time to set up and then I just have to wait.  Do all those things sell right away?  Certainly not.  I've had to relist things many times but eventually it sells (like I said, somebody out there wants it).  You get 50 free listings a month.  I only sell small items on here because I'm nervous about pricing the shipping for large items.  If there are a lot of similar items for sale, I make sure mine is the lowest price at least by a few cents.  This gets it more noticed since most people put them in order by price and usually that will start a bidding war that will drive up the price by the end of the selling period.  I may do a more in-depth look at how to sell on ebay later but this is just an overview.

What it's best for: Selling small items
Pros: Once you get the hang of it, it's really simple.  You're in control of prices.
Cons: You can lose money if you don't plan correctly.  Sometimes you have to deal with annoying people.

Amazon Listing
sell on AmazonI listed my first things on Amazon a couple months ago and still haven't sold them so it's a learning process.  Take a look: My Amazon Listings.  Why I chose to list these on Amazon?  Apparently they're worth a lot of money and they're my guinea pigs.  So far, I'm not liking it because it's taking so long to sell.  But it might be worth the more money I will get than the price I would have listed it on ebay.  There are a lot of restrictions and rules on Amazon as to what you can and cannot sell as an individual and it has to sell for quite a few dollars to be worth it, unlike ebay which you can make money by selling things cheaply.

What it's best for: Selling things that are worth a lot.
Pros: Amazon gives you the price for shipping which should definitely cover it.  Large base of customers that trust this site more than one like ebay.
Cons: Can take a long time to sell.  Fees are more expensive than on ebay.

Sell to Amazon
Ever look at an item on Amazon and it said, "Sell Us Your Item"?  For certain items (I've generally seen it for electronics), Amazon wants to buy them from you to resell.  You only get Amazon credit not cash but it is quick and easy and they pay for shipping.  Generally you can get more money by selling it yourself, but it is easier.
What it's best for: Selling things quickly.
Pros: Quick and easy and hassle-free.  Don't have to deal with buyers.
Cons: They give you far less than it's worth.

Other places to sell things:
  • Used movie, CD, book, and game stores often buy your old media.  Only worth it if you have a lot of items because they just give you around $1 or less per item (Check out Rasputin in the Bay Area)
  • For books, especially textbooks, check out book buyback sites.  It's instantaneous and they pay for shipping.  Bookscouter.com compiles a list of places for you.
  • For furniture, try antique stores and used furniture stores.  They buy items too.
  • For jewelery, if the piece is unique then go to antique stores.  If it's generic, you're probably better off selling it to places that buy for the gold or silver and gemstones.  Make sure you shop around though.
  • For large items, Craigslist.  Good old craigslist.  Be cautious on this site, but it's great for things like large furniture, bikes, cars, etc. that have to be sold locally.

 Taking the time to clean stuff out and sell it can make you quite a few extra dollars.  Let me know of any other ways you like to sell your old stuff or any areas you might like me to explore further.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sign Up For Those Reward Programs . . . It Can't Hurt!

A couple days ago I stopped off at CVS Pharmacy quickly for one item.  At the checkout, the clerk asked if I had a CVS card.  I do have one and usually have it ready to go but I was in a hurry and only had one item that I knew didn't have a reduced price and I would have to dig through my purse to find it.  I did get it out, though frustratingly, and low and behold under my receipt printed out 6 coupons. (A couple of which I plan on using.  But be wise of using coupons.  See my post Coupons: Use Wisely)

So my tip for the day is, sign up for any of these programs.  Most stores offer them and it doesn't just mean coupons, it usually means extra savings right off the normal price.  Why people don't bother with these things is beyond me . . . IT'S FREE SAVINGS.  All you have to do is fill out a simple form.  And if you don't like carrying cards around, they have little versions for your key-chain which is handy, but if even that annoys you, most places can just type in your phone number associated with the account.  (Oh and by free I mean you should never be paying anything to sign up for a rewards program.  Those are not worth it.)

Some of My Favorites:
1. Safeway - Tons of savings right off the price.  No card, you type in your phone number on the key pad.  Look up their coupons online before shopping (or on your smartphone while in the store) and digitally add them to your card.

2. CVS - Tons and tons of coupons.  They have a coupon booth where you scan your card and it prints out coupons.  Savings on prices.  More coupons at checkout, as mentioned above.

3. Petco - Both Petco and Petsmart have these programs but why I like Petco's better is you get a free $5 coupon after $100 spent there.  With no buying restrictions, meaning you can buy a $5 bag of cat food, or dog food for those of you, and get it for free -- you don't have to spend a certain amount.
*Tip: I don't usually buy pet food at an actual pet store because they hike up the prices more than a regular grocery store and it's easier to just get it at the grocery store anyway.  But when I get my $5 coupon, that's what I usually get because it's generally right around that price and I can basically get a free bag of food.

rewards cards

What are your favorites?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Learning About Your Credit Score and Ways to Make it Better (Or Establish It!)

So today's post isn't really about saving or making money per se, but it is an important topic when talking about finances that I think many people have misconceptions about and that's your credit score.

What is your credit score?  Put simply, it shows how worthy you are of borrowing money.  Meaning, the higher your credit score, the more people are willing to lend you because you have a good history of paying back money you borrowed.

Credit ScoreI think the biggest mistake made when concerning credit, is not establishing any.  Many people are afraid of credit cards or taking out loans because they are afraid they will go into debt.  It's smart not to try and buy things that you cannot afford, but it is not smart to be afraid of using credit as long as you use it wisely.  It's important to establish credit as soon as you can so you can build a long history of good credit.  Why is this important?  Because when the time comes in your life to be making a big purchase that you have to have a loan for, like a house, you have to have credit established to not only get a loan but to get a good one with better rates.

So how do you establish credit?  There are two big ways to establish credit: through credit cards and through loans.

Credit Cards
I have already talked about using credit cards to your advantage to make money, see Make Money With Credit Cards, and I briefly talked how to manage credit cards so they don't lower your credit score -- that is . . . . paying off your bill every month!  As I said in that blog, don't be afraid of credit cards.  As long as you spend with it just like you would a debit card, only buy what you actually have money to pay for, you shouldn't run into any problems paying your bill.  And paying your bill in full on time means paying no interest or fees.

Paying your bill also means helping your credit score.  As long as you keep paying your bill, your credit score will go up.  This also increases the amount of money you are able to "borrow" each day from the credit card company.  Like I said, the more you pay off, the more you can borrow on credit.

An important thing to note, if you have multiple credit cards open that's fine!  DON'T EVER CLOSE A CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT!  This affects your score negatively.  Many people after going into debt and then eventually paying it off, want to close their accounts so their not tempted to use it anymore.  DON'T.  Cut up your card and don't use it, but keep the account open.  Why?  Because an open account, even if the bill is $0, you pay $0, you are paying off your bill.  That helps your credit score.  Closing an account even if you always paid your bills on time will negatively affect your credit score because banks and such see that as a cry for help, that you do not have money to pay things off.  So even if you want to open a credit card account and not use it, it could still help your credit score, though very slightly.

The other way to establish credit is through loans.  I remember my economics teacher in high school saying, never get a loan to buy a car, you should have enough money to pay it off right away.  That always stuck with me but now I see that getting loans is important to establishing credit, though there is still truth in what he said.  It's important to understand when you should be getting a loan to help your credit and when you should be getting a loan just because it's a big purchase and you have to have a loan.

What do I mean by this?  Well take the car example he used.  The idea that you should have enough money to pay for the car is still true.  It does not make sense to purchase a car that you cannot afford even though you can get a loan which makes it easier to buy.  Why?  Well first of all, in the scheme of all things in life, purchasing a car is a relatively small purchase compared to other things like education, houses, property, etc.  Second of all (and something more people will take to heart), cars depreciate in value where as most other things you need loans for increase in value -- houses and property if well taken care of and improved over time increase in value and even investing in an education means that you will be able to make more money in the future.

So why do I believe now that you should possibly still get a loan?  Well, just like credit cards, you can get a loan just to establish credit even if you have all the money to pay it off (as you should).  You can pay off the loan in full and not have to deal with interest.  It's just like paying for it with cash or a check, but you help your credit score while you're at it.  This can also be done with smaller large purchases (that sounds strange) like an engagement ring or other vehicles.

Really the only types of loans that you shouldn't be able to pay off right away or shortly after are: education, housing, and property loans.  Obviously these are are in the tens and hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars and most people cannot afford to pay for that right away, and rightfully so!  But to be able to get a loan for these things, you need to already have credit!

Important tips about loans:
1. If you can pay more than your monthly payment, do it.  Just because you have a loan for 30 years doesn't mean you have to take that long to pay it off.  The sooner you pay it off, the less interest you have to pay!
2. Don't get behind on payments, not only does that hurt your credit score, but the interest and fees that accumulate become insanely hard to pay off.  That's how people go into extreme debt.  If your financial situation changes, talk to the bank or company that has your loan and discuss different options.  Especially with long-term loans, there is generally a solution that both parties can agree upon that doesn't hurt you as much.

If you feel there's anything I forgot or if there's still something you don't understand, feel free to comment below!