Monday, September 3, 2012

Crazy Summer, it's "Back to School" with savings

Hello All,
    It's been a while since I've made time to write a post, for those who have sent words of encouragement for me to write, THANK YOU! It's always nice to receive a word of encouragement. So, I pondered on what I should write about next and I figured since it was back to school, I should share a few steps that help to save you the parents, student, consumer money, and will support your school system and community.

My daughter came home with a school fund raiser packet a few weeks ago, and it's for those "Smart Savings Cards", I usually buy those every year regardless if my kid is selling them or not, just because I love, love, love the saving they bring. I have bought three of them this year, one from different children in my neighborhood and one from my own daughter, of course they are different cards....usually won't buy multiples of the same card. Just on the card that I bought from my daughter it will usually pay for itself by the money saved within the first month of owning it....just remember to look at your card to see where to shop before you get into the car to purchase or dine. For instance, I usually make it to the local Lowe's once a month for this or that, and I usually spend an average of $35-$40 per trip, this smart savings card had a savings where if I go to Ace Hardware instead of Lowe's I can save $5 off of a $25 that gets used right away. I will usually go to Best Buy for a larger purchase at least once per year, and I will receive an gift card with a certain value depending on how much I spend...minimum gift card amount being $10 with $50 purchase.The next one I will usually use within the first month is $5 off a $25 purchase at Advance if you add those up, I have saved myself a minimum of $20 just on 3 local stores. not to mention the 15-20 restaurants who offer decent savings that Ashley and I can use either on date night or when we take the family out. If nothing else consider this, even if you don't think you will use it that much, you are not only supporting the community/schools/children when you buy those cards, but you are supporting the local businesses when you buy them as well. When someone has a savings card, they are more apt to go and eat at the restaurant who has supported the local school buy putting the savings deal on the card you bought. When you spend money at the local restaurants/businesses you are supporting your local economy.

These are events that most schools will do to try and provide a "fun" environment for kids that attend their school to spend with their parents...usually large turn outs in my experience. If you've never been to one you are thinking..."how is this going to save me money?"...keep reading, it gets exciting even for those who do not have kids in the local elementary schools you can still save a boat load of money just by going and supporting your local elementary schools. Here's how, find out if they are having a silent or regular auction...or even sometimes BOTH!!! If they are having a silent auction, they are going to have "baskets" that have all sorts of goodies.. For instance, I went to my wife's school's Fall Festival they were having and I found this basket that was labeled "Girls night our" it was full of little girls pajamas, toys, a gift card, and popcorn. I noticed that it wasn't getting many bids, so I bid on it, knowing that I can make some money on this basket regardless if I want it or the stuff in it or not. I won the basket, and got made fun of quite a wife even poked a little fun at me...all the while I knew I had just put money in my pocket. Here is how, you can pick out the stuff in these baskets that you like...such as popcorn and the gift card in my case with this basket. The rest of the stuff I stuffed in a plastic bag and went to Wal-Mart and asked if I could return the stuff I did not want that I had just bought from this silent auction basket....this is important DO NOT LIE when you are going to return this stuff, your integrity is NOT worth the $$$ that you will get on a Wal-Mart or Kohls gift card. Wal-Mart/Kohls does not care where you got it, so DO NOT lie. The stuff that Wal-Mart does not sell or carry they will give back to you and you can take it to one more place that allows you to return stuff even if you didn't get it there...Kohls. For those of you who may be getting up on a pedestal to judge, stop now, these two stores advertise that they want you to bring stuff to them to return even if you didn't buy it there. You may be thinking, "why in the world would they do that?", here is why and how I know this....I used to work in retail management for many years before I went to work at the Fire Department, here is why they would do this, studies have found that when a person gets a gift card or merchandise card at a certain store, they are more likely to spend another 50% more than face value of that gift/merchandise card at their store just because they are using this gift card, we were pushed really hard to sell gift cards for this reason. So, when Wal-Mart/Kohls returns this merchandise not only will they put this said merchandise back on the shelf for sale and sell it, but on average, they will also get you the consumer to spend another half of what ever they just gave you on that card. So, not only are you getting a GREAT deal, and making your money back plus some on this basket that nobody wanted, but you are supporting your school and local economy!!! Now to the real auctions at the fall festivals at your school, be smart and don't get caught up in the hype of bidding, or you could loose money. They will auction off baskets here too, but you can get stuff you need at a great deal at the schools auction...even if you don't end up winning the item getting auctioned you are helping the school just by bidding because you are getting them more money by driving up the bids. Be smart, if you can take time to take a look at the items before they get put up for bid, google/amazon them on your smart phone, see what they retail for, don't pay above retail unless you just want to. Just think, if you buy this item that you may need from the schools auction, not only are you getting what you were going to get at some point anyway, but you are supporting your local school as well.

Thanks for reading, as always, feel free to comment or send me a message if you want a certain subject blogged about, if I am unfamiliar with it, I will become familiar with it and post on it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Here is a great tax write off, that provides clean drinking water to those who are in need!

Hello All,
    Coming up this June, I and two other men from church are running a "Tough Mudder" Race in Attica, IN in efforts to raise money to help fund a mission trip to Bangladesh. Our mission is to install water filtration systems to the local villages who's government has neglected them. While we are installing these systems we will be ministering to the locals and sharing God's love for them.

Please consider donating to this worthy cause. We are not asking our church for ANY assistance with this, we will be paying for this mission, including supplies for the filtration systems, from of our own pockets and through the generous donations from those who would like to assist.

Please note, this mission is being hosted by a Non-profit ministry organization called Agape Service Foundation Ministries and your donation is a GREAT tax write off as well as gift.

Thank you for your time, and help!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Selling/Buying your home & saving a BOAT load of Dollars!

Hello All,

   first off, I would like to say "thank you" to all the loyal "Small Steps 2 Saving Big Dollars" blog followers that have not given up on me since it has been a while since my last post. Thank you!

It's spring, and this time of year brings around flowering trees, baby animals, allergies, spring cleaning, and believe it or not, the increased activity of buying and selling homes. Since it's that time of year I figured I'd share a little insight on how to save Big dollars when you are buying OR selling your home.

Some may ask, "what makes you an expert on the buying or selling of home" my answer would be that "I am a licenced REALTOR" as well as fireman (I do real estate on the side when I am not at the fire department). Other Realtors reading this may want to hunt me down and beat me for telling everyone some of the insights, truths and tips for saving big money that I am about to share, but it's extremely hard times right now and with home prices and values being A LOT lower than they have been in the past, most people cannot afford to pay their Realtors like they did when they actually made a profit selling their home.


The first thing I would tell you to do is to get your realtor's license, this is an expense of around $2,000 to get you started. Don't stop reading just yet....remember I am trying to help you SAVE money, not spend it. Here is why, lets say you are selling a home that is valued at $150,000 and lets say that you have hired a realtor to list your house at a rate of 6% commission (3% listing & 3% selling)...this means that you will be paying out $9,000 in commission! More than likely even if you have your realtor's license you will still pay out 3% to another realtor for bringing buyers to you (this is considered the "selling side" of the commission). Now the total you will pay out for having your own realtor's license will only cost you $4,500 in commission and if you add the $2,000 it cost you to get your real estate license you still have a savings of $2,500!  Not only does you having your own realtor's license save you $2,500 on the sale of your home, but when you go and buy your new (well, new to you) house YOU will get paid by the listing agent the 3% that they offer to other agents for selling their clients just so happens that the buyers are YOU! So, let's say you sold your home, and after you factor the cost of getting your real estate license you saved $2,500, and now you are buying a new home that costs you $180,000 you will now make 3% or $5,400 in commission (before your split with the office) for buying your own house...this is a $7,900 savings!!! All this just for getting your real estate license and representing yourself just for these two transactions!!! Not to mention that if you wanted to represent friends, family or others you would get paid for helping them buy and sell houses as well...and you don't even have to quite your full time job, just do real estate as you have time! As a realtor you work when you want to, and you don't have to turn it into a full time job unless you want to. These figures were base on a 6% (3% listing + 3% Selling) commission rate that I applied to these numbers.

PLEASE NOTE: getting paid to buy your own house when you are a realtor is completely legal and is not in anyway considered to be "cheating the system", it's like a lawyer representing themselves in court...they are not charging themselves yet they are still reaping the benefits of being their own lawyer.

Tips when Selling:

Usually the first thing someone will or should do when they are ready to buy a house is to sell the one they are living in currently FIRST (unless of course you are a first time home owner, or are going from renting to owning). The LAST thing most people should do is try and buy a house before selling the one they are currently obligated other word doing a "bridge loan" or some sort of creative financing in order to be able to buy the house that they want. This is just my opinion, but in most cases in is NEVER a good idea to be liable for two mortgages if you can't afford to continue to pay both mortgages for an extended period of time (example: 2 years). A lot of people think they will just sell their house...its not that easy anymore. The average days on market in the area where I live is 155 days, and that's with a realtor representing them! This is a lot shorter than most places in the U.S.
Go to a local sign shop and get yourself a nice sign NOT use one of those wal-mart signs! Make sure your home is de-cluttered and the curb appeal is excellent! Do those things you've been meaning to do for a long time....just get it done! I'm telling you, it make a HUGE difference if you don't fix the little stuff, buyers are VERY picky and ofter won't look past the little stuff! If you are tech savvy create a website for your house, it'll cost you very little for the period of time you will be using it....for example if your address is 1234 pleasant way then have your web address be and have it be on the sign that you have made. Make some nice fliers, go to Kinkos and have some nice color fliers printed off that you designed and put them in a flyer box on your new sign in the yard!

So you want to sell your house, "what do I do first?", this is the question I get a lot from friends. I tell them that if you are not in a hurry to sell, try "FOR SALE BY OWNER" first. Then they ask, "what should I list if for?"....if you are not sure what to list your house for, or if you've had your house "for sale by owner" for a while and you are unsure if you have it over priced, call a Realtor and ask them to discuss selling your house with you and make sure they bring a this presentation they will/should have an average days on market sheet, along with "SOLD" comparables for houses in your area with similar features of the house you are wanting to sell...if they don't bring this stuff, then you know for sure that if you ever do want to list it that you better think twice....if they aren't going to show up to a presentation prepared, then you've got an idea of what kind of job they will do for you. Not always the case...but it's like a job interview and YOU are the boss! So now you know what price you should be asking for your house and you've got someone interested in buying your house, you are going to need an "purchase contract" which you can get from most mortgage brokers, so call your bank and get a purchase contract. Just know, it is lengthy and can be very confusing, if you are unsure on how to fill out this contract I would ask your mortgage broker. If they are unsure then call your local real estate attorney and have them help you fill it out and pay the one hour to them instead of paying a percentage of your house price to a Realtor...the attorney will be a lot less expensive.

So you've tried the FOR SALE BY OWNER thing, and it just hasn't worked for you, or you don't even want to bother with it, or you are in a hurry to sell. If you don't know someone or have a family member that is a realtor, do a little research on your local Realtors by asking your friends, co-workers, or neighbors about their experience with their realtor and/or if they recommend anybody. If you have a friend or family member who is a realtor, hire them (if you are going to pay someone to help you sell your house you might as well bless a friend or family member than hiring someone you don't know). THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!....the commission is ALWAYS negotiable!!!! It is against the law for a realtor to tell you otherwise! When you are discussing the commission rate with your prospective realtor ask them "is that is the best you can do?", and if they say yes then tell them "sorry, but that is NOT good enough"....and if they still refuse to negotiate the commission rate with you then tell them the interview is over and you will be in contact with how fast they will lower their's amazing!" When your prospective realtor is going over the "listing contract" with you know, pay attention to all parts of the contract and have him/her explain everything! the term of the contract is also negotiable, now the office policy may set a minimum length, but know there is not set standard on minimum contract length. Ask your realtor if they would consider dropping the "selling side" of the commission if YOU, the home owner, brings in the buying clients. Most Realtors will do this for you....since it saves them a lot of work. Also, ask your prospective realtor how much he/she is going to charge if there is only ONE agent involved (in other words, if he/she brings the buyers)....the reason you should ask this question is because most agents will still charge you the full 6% (or whatever the commission rate agreed upon is), which all goes into their pocket if they bring the buyers, usually that is percentage is split between the two Realtors involved. Ask him/her to reduce that figure to, lets say 4% or 4.5% if they are the only agent involved, most Realtors will/should do this for you. The reason you should get a discount if they are the only realtor involved is because they are no longer representing just you, now, they are also representing the buyers....this means he/she cannot look out just for your interests alone!!! Doesn't mean they will not do a good job representing you, it just means that they are legally bound to look out for they buyers interests as well....think about it.....your SHOULD get a discount if that is the case, right?!

So you just can't sell your home...and you absolutely need to do something about it...RENT IT OUT! the rental market is really booming right now. Take your time to screen your applicants or hire a property management company to do all this for you.

Tips when Buying:

Try and buy a home that is "for sale by owner" if you cannot find one you like that is for sale by owner or if there is a house you really like that is listed with an agent get your own agent, don't just call the one on the sign, call your friend or family member that is a realtor and ask them to represent you.....YOU NEED SOMEONE LOOKING OUT FOR YOUR INTERESTS ALONE, not one that is also looking out for the sellers interests! Generally it doesn't cost buyers anything to have their own realtor, the listing agent of the home that you buy pays them...not you! Ask your realtor if they pay or give closing gifts (if may not be allowed where you live, check the local laws on "closing gifts") when you buy a house with them.

ALWAYS GET A HOME INSPECTION!!! I cannot stress this enough!! If your realtor says you don't need one, I would fire him/her on the spot! At that point it's obvious he/she is not looking out for you and are looking out for themselves, they would rather you buy a problem than to have to wait or risk the sale not going through. Even new construction homes should get a home inspection, I cannot tell you how many times I've seen new construction home come back with a long list of stuff to be fixed because the contractors cut corners to save money! GET A HOME INSPECTION!!!

Like always, thank you for reading, please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions! I hope you found this info to be helpful!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A few "Tid Bits" on saving some Big Dollars!

Hello All,

I hope everyone has survived this string of tornados and severe weather that came thru the mid west & south, I know things were crazy here in Bowling Green, KY last week. Please say a prayer for those whom have been affected by this severe weather.

 I have had a few tips for saving money that I would like to share with you. These tips came from the blog readers! So I have to give all the credit for today’s "tid bits" of tips to them...thank you!

 Take control of your cell bill don't let those cell companies give you a two year sentence anymore!

Straight talk from Verizon is a pre-paid cell phone plan that will allow you to go month to month without being stuck in a contract. I, personally previously thought the only way to get affordable cell phone plans were by signing a contract...and I used to work for AT&T part time on the side! Geez, I was fooled! One of you that follow the blog informed me of this prepaid plan that is way more affordable than what I am currently stuck paying! $45/month will get you unlimited talk/text/and web browsing, and for $30/month you can get 1000 minutes talk, 1000 texts, and a limited amount of web browsing! This is awesome! If I wasn't under a contract at this point I would be switching and trying out this plan....AND SAVING BIG DOLLARS!!!! The other cool thing is, you are not obligated to them, no contract and you still get to use the Verizon network! I'm pretty sure there are more pre-paid services out there that would compare...just check them out! Straight Talk can be purchased at Wal-Mart.

The credit for this "tid bit" of tips was given to me by an anonymous reader...thank you!

 More is terms of dollars with insurance!

Auto insurance is a funny thing; I was told by one of my readers that she had been taking some of my advice on this saving money stuff and called her insurance company to inform them she was getting more quotes from other companies. She did, and the rates she was paying at her current company were comparable to what she got elsewhere...because she had only been with her current insurance company for a short time. Here is the where it gets good, they took it upon themselves to see if there was anyway she could save money, so they started to ask her questions, she was asked if she owned or rented...which she was renting. They added renters insurance and combined that with her auto insurance to "bundle" and her monthly premiums WENT DOWN by $6/month!!! All because she added renter's we are not mistaken her total premium for both auto and renters insurance was cheaper than what she was paying just for auto!!! This is amazing, and something that everyone should at lease ask about if they don't already bundle their types of insurance, or if there are renters out there who do not have renter's insurance because they are afraid of paying more money for it per could save you money!

The credit for this "tid bit" of tips goes to Elaine Smith....thank you!

Like always, please feel to email me, leave a comment or feed back, it's always welcome and could possible help someone. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting help in your time of need....

This weeks post will be over benefits that rarely get used though they can be soooo beneficial! EAP or Employee Assistance Program is something that most employers provide though they hardly ever get used. It is completely FREE for the employee. The reason I am discussing this topic this week is because I recently decided to see what it was all about.

A while back I was talking with a co-worker buddy about his marriage and how he was getting counselling because his (our) pastor referred him to this professional christian counsellor. I asked him about it, and if he though it helped...he said "oh yes!, in a big way", and that he was skeptical at first about going to counselling. Side note....isn't if funny how we, as humans, seem to reject the thought of seeking counsel, though the bible states over and over again how seeking counsel is wise, and that it is something that the wise will do. Ok, back to the topic at, I asked my buddy, "do you think you will continue counselling after you've resolved the issues at hand?" he said "yes, most definitely...I see this as something that we will continue throughout our marriage". This got me to thinking, why do we, as a people, seek counsel only after we are find ourselves in need of rescuing?, and would be beneficial for both Ashley & I to seek counseling now, even though we are not in any marital trouble or even having any issues? This questions weighed on my mind for a while, then I saw a poster at work regarding EAP and how it is a benefit, available to us at anytime and included self help, addiction, marital, depression, financial, and more types of professional help for us as employees at no cost...AND it is completely anonymous and confidential, all you need to do to access this benefit is to call the toll free number that is on your human resource website, or you can get the number by contacting your HR rep, and they cannot ask you why you need the fact you don't even have to give your HR rep your name. Once you get the number you call and talk to an individual with EAP who will get all your information like your name, where you work, and more. They will look you up in their system to verify you are in fact an employee for the organization or company who provides the benefits. Once verified you tell them what type of help or counselling you need and they will give you a list of different professionals in your area who are "in-network" and you choose who you want to see. They will give you all the contact info for that professional and then tell you to call them to set up the appointment. Go to your appointment and you don't have any co-pays and they don't need  your insurance card. This is all completely confidential and they cannot tell your employer that you are seeking help. They just bill the employer for the session directly without any indication of who is seeking help. Usually employers will limit the amount of help you can receive in a 1 year period, for instance, I will be able to receive 6 marital counselling sessions at no charge to me. Ashley has this EAP as well, and can get 6 sessions per year, so between the two of us we can go to a marriage counseling session once per month for as long as we want at no charge to either of us. Some people may think that their employer would frown upon them if they knew they were seeking treatment or help....this is a LIE, and a bad one at that. Your employer has the benefit for a reason....they want healthy, happy employees! If you are both happy and healthy, the cost of doing business goes down because turn over will go down, and so will the health insurance costs. If your employer didn't want their people taking advantage of this benefit they wouldn't provide it. I'm not saying you need to go and tell everyone your personal business, but you shouldn't be scared of using this benefit either....that is why they set it up to be completely confidential and people wouldn't be scared to use it.

Ashley and I set up our appointment and we attended our first of many to come sessions with a marriage counsellor who has a christian foundation. Let me tell you how refreshing it was just to sit down with someone who is focused on helping us attain any goals we had in our marriage. He even said that he wished more married couples would seek counseling even if there is nothing wrong, that way little issues can be talked through and resolved before things could get bad, and to avoid rough times and/or traumatic events in a marriage. We had no issues we wanted to discuss when we showed up, but he got us to talking about little issues we have or had in the past and we were able to find things that were never addressed that could cause problems in the future. I am serious when I say that I am soooo glad we tried it out and I am truly looking forward to our next session. We has set it up to where we will make a "date night" out of the counselling session and have dinner afterwards.

Getting counselling from your pastor is another good route. Though if you have the EAP benefit I would use that if you can find someone who has their practice foundation based on your beliefs. Here is why, a pastor is usually the first line of help for someone when they are finding themselves in trouble or having problems....this is NOT a bad thing, this is a GREAT thing! Though continually using your pastor as a counsellor can be over using that benefit...just think, they have an entire congregation they are responsible for and probably counselling the majority of them. They're job is to be your mentor and spiritual leader...not counsellor, though that is one of their many roles. If you can alleviate their load by seeking help from someone who does this as their job, such as a professional counsellor, you will be lifting some of that burden off of your pastors back. If your employer or business does not provide this EAP benefit, then by all means see your pastor as much as you need, this was directed towards those who have the benefit though may choose not to use it and just use their pastor instead.

Women reading this, I know most men are usually the ones who do not want to go to counselling especially if there is nothing wrong. Tell them you read about this firefighter who did this and had completely found it to be worth while and beneficial and is even looking forward to the time spent with his wife making their marriage even better.

Like always, THANK YOU for reading, I hope this helps you. I know I am better for doing it.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or would like to post a helpful comment as well, please do so everyone can enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Possibly the BEST way for you to save your dollars!

The six letter word that nobody wants to hear is B-U-D-G-E-T, this can be daunting. Do not let it scare you I will link a web site that will change your life if you let it (in a GREAT way). As I stated on an earlier post, I had the privilege of attending a training by Joseph Sangl on how to coach individuals on their finances. Years ago, I also attended a Dave Ramsey "Financial Peace University" class that lasted for eight weeks. I feel that the stuff that Joe has to offer is more applicable to me, the tools he offers are free!, and Joe seems to make it more "doable" for me, and those whom I have the privilege to coach. Don't get me wrong, both Dave and Joe are GREAT to learn from!

Enough talking about it here it is....

When you enter this website you have the "tool bar" at the top of the page, if you click on "tools" it will take you to a page where he has all kinds of budgets, and financial planning tools, and debt freedom calculators, ect. The first place to start is on the "monthly budget" this will allow you to input your estimated monthly income and place your estimated spendings into categories and you will see the calculations automatically take place right before your eyes. In my opinion the best budgeting tool he has the weekly/bi-weekly is AWESOME!!!! I absolutely love it! Once you get your estimated income for the five weeks that he has spread out, you can go thru and put in your expenses over the month and see exactly where each and every dollar is going.

This is important....if you get all your expenses put in and you have a "yellow bar" still, then you need to put that money somewhere. The VERY best place to put extra money that you don't have a place to spend it is in the savings column. You should already be saving a certain amount per paycheck already, if you are so lucky as to have extra money once things are allocated, then add the remainder to your savings, or giving’s column.

Once you know exactly where EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR is going BEFORE you even get it, this will help you in ways that you wont even know until you experience it. The goal of doing the budget is to bring the dollar amount that is not spent to EXACTLY ZERO and Joe says. Becuase they you are have accounted for every dollar.

Try this out, if you need help, email me.

Like I always say, if you have any comments, suggestions, or would like to add some tips feel free to contact me or post a comment on this blog.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Saving BIG Dollars on Insurance (Auto, Home, Life, & Health)

Spring is around the corner and during this time of year most people get motivated to do a little "spring cleaning" the same should apply to most of your insurance. Some of your insurance you can not get different rates or even change but once per year...such as Life & Health. However, it doesn't mean that you still can't save boat loads of money with what you already have, we will discuss this towards the end of the post.

The easiest type of insurance to save money with guessed it....Auto Insurance. So, we will be discussing this first. The best way to save is to get quote from multiple insurance companies. DO NOT TELL THEM HOW MUCH YOU ARE PAYING!!! They may be able to beat what you are already paying by a lot more than they will quote, but if you tell they what you are paying already they may just beat your current rates by a little vs. a lot! If the insurance agent asks for a copy of your existing policy tell them you will give them the specifics such as deductible, limits, coverages, ect. However DO NOT give them or fax them the original copy because it has the rates on it....let them know that you are shopping for the best rates....tell them that. When you are asking these other companies for quotes tell them you want a copy of the quote emailed to you and get a couple different quotes from the same company with different deductibles. When you get these quote and are comparing them, look to see the difference between the $500 deductible and $1000 deductible. If there is a huge difference between the premiums for these different deductibles it may behoove you to take the higher deductible. If it's just a couple dollars difference you may want to take the lower deductible....still not sure which policy to take?, try this, divide the difference in deductible by the difference in premium. For example:

Quote#1:      6 month premium with $500 deductible =  $600
                    6 month premium with $1000 deductible = $380....a difference of $220 every six months!*

*In order for the $500 deductible policy to pay for itself you MUST have at least 1 wreck every 15 months!!! If you driving record is better than that, then you would be overpaying for your insurance. You could take the $36.66 per month that you save with the higher deductible policy and directly put it into a savings account AND earn interest on that money vs. giving it to the insurance company, and YOU would only have to do that for 15 months and you have saved yourself the $500 difference in deductible! And if you went another 15 months without a wreck while saving the difference it would be as if YOU HAD A $0 deductible!!!  Plus YOU are earning interest on your money that you saved in case of a car wreck! It's a no brainer to take the $1000 deductible should also check the other deductible policies to see what the difference in premiums are.

Here is an example of a deductible would NOT be a good risk to take just to save a few dollars:

Quote#2:    6 month premium with $500 deductible = $600
                  6 month premium with $1000 deductible = $545....only a difference of $55 every six months.*

*In order for the $500 deductible to pay for itself you must have at least 1 wreck every 54 months (that is over a 9 year period without a wreck!) There is a good chance that even great drivers WILL have at least one wreck within that time frame. I would definitely take the lower deductible's worth it.

Now, if you have a long time relationship with your agent, I understand people like being loyal, I am not telling you to leave you agent, however, don't blindly let your insurance company overcharge you just because you don't think they would do that to you...they are a "FOR PROFIT" business, they aren't personally robbing you, they are doing their job and they will tell you it's "just business", and that is exactly what you are doing when you get other quotes. You are just being smart with your money, and it's "just business" nothing can tell them that as well. So, we have shopped around and got a couple different quotes, now it's time to compare what they gave you with what you are currently paying. If you find that your insurance agent is charging you too much, call your agent and ask them to beat the quotes you've received...if they match it, then at least you've got your rates lowered and you get to stay with your agent that you want to be loyal to. However, if you don't have that relationship with your agent, ask them to beat the quotes you've received, and if they don't...LEAVE! That simple! I would STRONGLY suggest getting the policy signed and in place before you cancel your current policy, that way there is no lap in coverage and if you get in a accident on your way to the new insurance agents office to sign your new policy, at least you are covered. I would definitely suggest calling around at least every 2 years and get at least 3 quotes. Let your agent know that you plan to do this...that way they keep your premiums competitive while they have you as a customer.

Home Owner / Renter's Insurance:
This type of insurance is VERY similar to auto insurance, in fact you may want to keep your auto and home insurance together....generally you will get a way better rate if you bundle them. Make sure you do your homework and at least could save you BIG DOLLARS!!! When you are shopping for the coverages I would go with "full replacement cost" along with contents. The premiums for homeowners insurance is usually an annual premium and you need to take the difference in annual premiums for the different deductibles and see how long you would have to go without a fire or earthquake in order to have the higher deductible be worth the choice.

There are all kinds of coverages you can have with homeowners insurance, such as earthquake, flood, and fire. FIRE IS A MUST, earthquake in my opinion is a must as well, however flood is is VERY expensive and in some states required if you live in a flood zone. If you do not live in a flood zone then it's your choice to take or not to take the flood insurance. Personally I do not want the flood insurance for my home. That's all I'm going to say on that.

Along with home owners insurance there is renters insurance..same with this type of insurance as well (if you rent).

Life Insurance:
A lot of these insurance companies that offer auto and home insurance will also offer life. If you do not have life insurance YOU NEED TO GET IT!!! Term life if usually very cheap and covers your family if you die. The standard you should shoot for is 10 times your annual salary is what you should get for term life insurance. So, if you make $50,000/year then you need to take out a $500,000 term life insurance policy on yourself. This is very inexpensive, try and get the longest term you can while keeping the rate low. There are 10, 15, 20, 30 year term policies out there...the most common is 20 year.

This type of insurance is something you can shop around for as well. Get quotes, and don't tell the other companies what your quotes are....let them tell you.

Health Insurance:
This type of insurance is usually something you cannot shop around for if you are employed somewhere where your employer gives you health insurance plan options. Even with this, people will pay way too much by selecting a plan with a low deductible. You NEED to know your plans, ask your HR person to sit down with you and explain them if you are having trouble understanding them. For instance, the health insurance that we get where I work has three different plans, one with a $200 deductible ($400 family), $450 deductible ($900 family) , and then one with a $750 deductible ($1500 family) with an HRA account. Most of the guys that I work with take the $450 plan, since they don't want to pay the high monthly costs, yet they don't want the high deductible....they are paying WAY TOO MUCH!!! These guys do not know what an HRA account is, and they just look at the high deductible. If you have a plan available with a high deductible yet it has an HRA with it...take that one! An HRA is a "Health Reimbursement Account", this is an account that your employer funds with a predetermined $ amount for you to spend towards any health care costs...SUCH AS THE DEDUCTIBLE!!! For instance, I obviously have the $750 plan with my family, so my deductible is $1500 annually...normally this would scare me, however it has this HRA account attached to it and it is funded up to $1500 ($2500 family) for me to get reimbursed for my costs of health care. Last year I spent about $1600 in health care costs for me and my family, I was reimbursed a total of $1550 from my HRA, and never had to pay for ANY of the health care costs up front because I was "on top" of getting the reimbursement forms filled out and submitted, and would usually get the check from my HRA before the bill was due!!! So, my deductible that I paid out of pocket all year for the $1600 worth of health care costs was only $50!! That is almost a $0 deductible for the $750 plan, and this plan is WAY cheaper than the other two plans!!! My suggestion would be to KNOW your health insurance plans, and KNOW your options! Did I mention that the amount that is funded to the HRA account rolls over every year up to a maximum of $7500 ($12,500 family) of what you do not use...that is a truly AWESOME plan that is the least expensive...according to our HR rep, she said it is the least popular plan chosen because everyone sees the high deductible and it scares them away. I have made it my mission to tell the guys I work with about it and have already got a bunch of them to switch during the last open enrollment.

Obviously these suggestions are my own, and they do not always a good fit for everyone, please talk with your insurance agents, HR reps, and most importantly your spouse before making any decisions or changes to your insurance.

Thanks for reading, feel free to post any comments, suggestions, or tips so we can help all those who read this blog!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ways to Save at the Pump!

Hello All,

Not sure what happened here, I was reviewing my posts yesterday and decided that I didn't like the title of my post so I changed it....didn't realize that if would totally erase my post! I just noticed that is was blank. Sorry about that.

With the rising cost of fuel so goes the cost of just about everything else. Saving a few dollars here and there at the pump while we fuel up our vehicles can turn into a large fortune before long. One of the easiest ways to save on fuel is with these rewards programs that a lot of the big chain grocery stores will offer when you buy your groceries with them. Here in Kentucky we have a large chain called "Krogers" and they have an excellent program to save big money on fuel. For every $100 in groceries you spend at their store you will receive a reward of .10 cents off per gallon of fuel you pump up to a maximum of 35 gallons. You can stack these rewards all the way up to a maximum of an entire $1.00 off per gallon! This program gives you credit by the month. So, if it's January 31st, and you are trying to decide to go to the grocery either today or tomorrow...before you decide, look at your last grocery receipt, if have spent a total of $320 in groceries for the month, and you plan to spend at least another $80...go now, before the month is over to get to that $400 mark this will give a .40 cent off total reward for the month of January that you can use anytime during the month of February. Sometimes Kroger will run a promotion on their gift cards that they sell. If you frequent a local restaurant or store and plan to spend the money at a store where Kroger carries their gift card, buy the gift card for what you are planning to spend anyway and you will receive a handsome fuel point boost just for buying the gift card that you will turn around and use at the restaurant or store anyway. Usually they will reward you with 2 times the fuel points of the dollar amount of the gift card purchased, so if you bought a $50 gift card to Best Buy since you plan to go buy a camera there anyway, you will receive a .10cent off reward just for picking up the gift card there at Kroger. During Christmas holiday season they run promotions for 4 times the fuel points!!! That is wife and I will plan out which stores we are going to be spending our money, and then go to Kroger and purchase gift cards for those stores, then go and buy the gifts with the gift cards! NOTE: Your Kroger Plus Card (not a credit card), will automatically give you .03 cents off per gallon...this is NOT combined with your rewards.

Another rewards program that is great, is Speedway's Speedy Rewards (also known as Super America in other parts of the United States), they are similar to the Kroger rewards, however, they accumulate differently. You get points for the little items you buy in the store, such as soda, gum, snacks, ect. However, the best way to really rack up the points is when they run bonus point promotions on their gift cards. When this happens, buy the gift card in the amount to qualify for the bonus points and then turn around and pay for your fuel with your gift were going to spend the money on the fuel anyway, it's just one more step and you will get rewarded for it. These points can buy you gift cards to local restaurants, the gas station, ect. or you can choose to spend your points on savings per gallon...though the maximum you can pump is 25 gallons with Speedway. NOTE: Your Speedy Rewards Card (not a credit card), will automatically give you .03 cents off per gallon...this is NOT combined with your rewards.

Another GREAT way to buy the cheapest fuel in town is with the mobile app "Gas Buddy" this app will let you know where in your area you can purchase the cheapest fuel...this does not account for additional savings for being a "Kroger Plus Member" or a "Speedy Rewards Member", the prices on Gas Buddy is what someone off the street who does not belong to a discount program would pay. The way this program works is it relies on it's users to update the fuel prices...and trust me, they get updated frequently. This program will reward it's users with a drawing once per month for $100, the more you help update the fuel prices the more you get entered into this drawing.

If you are planning a road trip this summer like I am, then you should consider your vehicles fuel economy and your distance being travelled. Our family is taking a road trip to Wyoming this summer to see family, and the round trip mileage will be in the range of 3,400 miles! So, I checked into renting a Toyota Prius Hybrid, it's fuel economy is a whopping 50 miles per gallon!!! I did the math, with my car averaging 28-30 miles per gallon, I will break even on the trip cost for transportation which includes the rental cost. So, it's a no brainer, I am going to save putting the miles on my car and go with the rental. This may not be feasible for everyone, just check into it before you take off on your trip.

Thanks for reading!

Like always, your feedback, tips, or comments are ALWAYS welcome!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Years Resolution to cut the fat...

This time of the year, people tend to create a new years resolution. Some have the resolve to work out more, some it's eating better, and some their resolution is to create a budget and "trim the fat", in other words cut out those expenses that just aren't we will be discussing ways to save money on your cable/satelite tv, phone, and internet monthly costs.

Back when Ashley was finishing up her bachelors degree in elementary education at good ole WKU, we had to go thru a period of time were she would be required to do what is called "student teaching", I called it the time of FAMINE!!! She had to resign her full-time job as manager of Bath and Body Works making $45k per year...AHHHH! Going from two salaried jobs where she was the bread winner making about $10k per year more than I made as a firefighter...needless to say, we had to trim the fat. Some of the actions we took we are still implemting today because is seemed just smart.

Cable/Satelite TV & Home Phone:
Here is what I did, I went out and bought a High Definition TV antenna ($90 purchase), and got a Roku box ($50 purchase), this is not nessisary if you have a blue ray or x-box 360 that can be connected to the internet. I ordered a Channel master DVR ($300 purchase, however I own it and it can be used with your local cable company and save the monthly cost of thiers) to replace the cable companies DVR box that my wife absolutly loved. Once I got all those items I cancelled my cable TV. I was paying approximately $145/month for my cable tv, internet & home phone. I kept my cable internet, this lowered the bill from $145/month to $40/month, I hooked up the Roku to my entertainment system and was able to get instant netflix (for my kids to watch thier cartoons) for $8/month along with Hulu (to watch our regular programs such as Discovery Channel, TNT, Ect)...I think that was around $6-$10/month. The only thing left that I had with the cable company that I don't have here is the home telephone. If you have cell phones you really don't need one, however our cell service at the house was not the greatest so we went ahead and transfered our number to Vonage, for as much as we used it, we went with the limited use plan at $15/month. All this combined we now are paying $73/monthly....that is a $72/month savings!!! I did have to fork out some money at the begining to do this, but if you take the amount I save per month and divide that by the initial investment made it would just over six months to pay for the equipment that you just purchased and YOU OWN IT!

I am currently looking into canceling my internet from the cable company and making my cell phone a mobile hot spot, this would allow me to get on the computer and surf the web from my cell phone. This option would only cost me $15 extra per month than I am already paying on my cell it would in turn save me $25/month if I cancel my internet from the cable company...haven't done it yet, but seriously considering it.

Cell Phone:
It's kinda hard to save money on cell phones becuase if you go too cheap you could go over your minutes and that would cost you way more than if you just kept the plan that works for you. Though you should check with your Human Resource department where you work, and see if they have a "Foundation Account Number" with a cell phone company, this is a discount program that a lot of cell phone companies will offer businesses/employers hoping that it will draw business to them...the discount is usually a percentage off of your cell bill per month. A lot of guys here at work did not know about this program, I told them to check it out, they got with HR, got hooked up, and they are now saving 15% every month on thier cell bill without obligating themselves any further with the cell phone company. In order to get the service you have to have your service with that particullar cell company that offers the savings...obviously. NOTE: if your HR department doesn't know what you are talking about, you should check with your cell phone company and they can look it up as well.

If you have any other suggestions or ideas please feel free to comment so everyone can enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Coupons; Organization, Use, and Getting Paid!

Today's tips concern Coupons! I know some of you read that 7 letter word and think "OH NO!, I don't do coupons, that takes too much time, I don't have that kind of time", OR, you read that glorious word and your heart races with pure joy! This post will benefit BOTH of you! So I don't lose my readers who despise coupons I will address what they may find interesting first....

Coupons and how to get PAID for them regardless if you use them or not:

A lot of people get the paper, either the daily paper, or just weekend papers, or they will go and pick up the Sunday paper. If you ever get coupons in your paper regardless if you plan to use them or not, you can make money off of them without even cutting them. SELL THEM! If you are coupon King, or Queen, there are always coupons that you don't use....keep them! I am the coupon guru in my house, and I would throw the ones that I knew I would never use away....then one day I had an epiphany, I thought "why not sell the ones that I do not use?", I mean I've purchased bundles of coupons before on eBay for a particular product that we use all the time to combine with a sale just to get multiples of that item almost FREE, so why not do the same and sell the ones that I don't use? Guys, I tried this, and it worked better than I had hoped! I spread out the coupons on the table took a quick picture with my phone, and then listed my bundle of coupons that I was not going to use on eBay! I did not even take time to list each one on the listing page...I just put "Lot of 43 Coupons" and asked $0.75 for them on a 1 day auction. To my surprise they sold for $2.31 including shipping ($0.44 stamp). Listing them is easy and FREE, you just pay eBay a small commission (percentage of sales price I think) when they sell, I think I paid like $0.10 to eBay, and another $0.10 to PayPal to get my money. Overall I profited around $1.70 cash back to me just to get rid of the coupons that I don't even use, this paid for the Sunday paper that I bought just to get the coupons.

If you are going to sell your coupons, here are a few DO NOTS:


  • This is important, YOU CANNOT SELL COUPONS, YOU ARE GETTING PAID FOR YOUR TIME GATHERING AND CLIPPING THEM (if you take time to clip them). The reason you cannot sell coupons is because it says right on the coupon that you cannot sell them...not sure what will happen if you do, however I play it safe, and in the listing I specify that they are getting the coupons for FREE, they are just paying me for my time of gathering them and clipping them. 

Organization of Coupons, and how they can SAVE you big dollars!:

So as you may have figured out, I gave up my "Man Card" to save my family big money....that's perfectly fine by me, I'll get it back when I pay cash for that Ski Boat in the near future. Coupons have saved my family HUGE DOLLARS over the last 2 years that we've been using them! I wouldn't consider us "Hard Core" coupon users either. When I first started using them I would stuff them in different envelopes with categories names. That was a mess and headache, sometimes I would miss a coupon we could have used...frustrating! So I bought a 3 ring binder, "trading card" pages, and dividers (all of which you can buy at an office supply store for less than $20). This allowed me to organize the trading card pages into categories such as "Dairy", "Frozen Food", "Canned Goods", Ect. I would place each coupon into one of the trading card slots on the pages into the different categories. This allowed me to view each coupon individually as I was shopping for the items that fit the category. This saved me BIG time and headaches while shopping in the grocery store.

The best time to use your coupons:

If you go to the grocery to buy your certain items that you need and are on your list, if you've got a coupon for it...then USE IT! However, the very best time to use your coupons is when you can combine them with items that are already on sale. If you are shopping and see an item that you use, however you don't need it right now, but it's on sale, PLUS you have a good coupon to use on top of the sale...if your budget will allow, buy it (if it is non-perishable). I will stock up on things like deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, ect when I can get them for really cheap, even if I don't need them at that time...I will need them at some point.

Also, check your store's coupons policy. My store doubles coupons $0.50 or less, so if I have an item where I've got two different coupons, one for $0.75 and the other for $0.50, if I don't need two of that item then I will use the $0.50 coupon since I will actually get a full $1.00 off since it doubles!

Electronic Coupons are NOT as good as the paper ones, here is why, they DO NOT DOUBLE, and sometimes they do not work.  However, I use them if I do not have a paper one, or if the electronic one is better face value than the paper one that I've got....just pay attention while you are checking out to ensure they get applied to your purchase.

The first thing you should do before giving the attendant your coupons, is to have them scan your shoppers card (example: Kroger Plus Card....NOT A CREDIT CARD) or enter your alternate ID number. If you do this after you give them your coupons you will NOT get your coupons doubled, nor will your electronic coupons work.

Restaurant Coupons/Gift Cards:

Every city that has any size to it will have these little circulars that go out that are a book of coupons for local vendors, restaurants, and businesses. These books are a good source for savings when you are going out to dinner or a quick bite. Another GREAT way to save, your local public schools will sell these little wallet cards that have lists of local restaurants and businesses on them that give you automatic savings when you show the establishment the card. Not only are you saving money, but you are also supporting your local schools! That's a WIN/WIN if I've ever heard of one!

Ashley and I will go on a "Date Night" every other week or so, and we will usually be using a Groupon certificate that we picked up from, this website sells everything from vacations, electronics, massages, to restaurant certificates. We will usually pick up 2-4 certificates they've got a restaurant featured that we like. You pay for the certificate on Groupon and when you go to use it it's like spending cash and you usually will save 50% or more on your bill. Another fantastic way to save BIG bucks on fine dining! I've hear of people say that is pretty good, however, there seems to be so many catches when using their certificates it's almost a headache....that's just me personally. Coupon apps for your iPhone are another good way to save a buck or two when dining out.

During the holiday season, a lot of restaurants will have gift card promotions where you buy $X.xx in gift cards and you will receive $X.xx in gift cards back for FREE! This is a GREAT deal as well. For instance, I took my family, my mom, and my mother-in-law to dinner at Outback Steakhouse one holiday season, and when I got the bill it was right at $100.00, they were running a promotion where if you bought $100.00 in gift cards you received a $25 gift card back in return. So, BEFORE I paid for the dinner bill, I went and bought a $100 gift card, got my $25 dollar gift card on top of that and paid for the dinner bill with my $100 gift card and left the restaurant with a $25 gift card and it cost me NOTHING!!!, it was FREE! I like free! Now, you don't have to spend that kind of money in order to get gift cards back, I have done the same thing at different restaurants in town for every $25 in gift cards bought, you got back a $5 gift card in return. These are great if it's just two for dinner or ten, they will pay out the $5 promo gift cards for every $25 bought! I will buy the gift cards and then turn around and pay for the lunch or dinner ticket with them and come out ahead with the bonus gift cards!

If you have any ideas or tips to add please feel free to post your comments to this page so everyone can enjoy!

Thanks for reading!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Savings...(safety net)

So recently I attended a Financial Coaching Experience taught by Joseph Sangl, it was in this class that I learned of these FREE online savings accounts that are very user friendly and COMPLETELY FREE! The account the I opened is with ING Orange savings. There is no minimum balance required, just a balance of some sort (if it be $1 or $10,000). The annual interest rate on this account you earn is 0.8%!, this is about 4x's the amount earned at any local bank. Also, you can get $25 deposited when you open your new savings account just by being referred by someone. AND, if you refer someone you will get $10! This is not too shabby! There are a lot of banks out there that will deposit money into your account if you open a checking, this is NOT a checking, this is a savings, a savings that earns a decent interest. There is NO monthly maintenance fee, and NO fee for withdrawing your money. You can directly link your checking account to your new ING savings so you can directly transfer money to your checking if needed, and you can set up auto transfers from your checking to your savings if you want to set up a forced savings plan (recommended). I personally opened multiple savings accounts, here are a few examples of what I labeled "Vacation Fund", "Christmas Fund", "Know Upcoming Expenses". I budget a predetermined amount every month for these accounts so when these big ticket items come due I am not scrambling to come up with money. (example: $1200 for Christmas divided by 26 pay checks = $46.15 per pay goes into this savings account...remember you are also earning INTEREST!)

For example, if you open a savings account with ING, and say that you use your tax return to fully fund your emergency fund $2500, lets say your are referred. You automatically have a balance of $2525.00 with the added bonus...If you don't touch it for 1 year, your new balance at the end of that year will be $2545.20...that's $45.20 for just having a safety net! after two years your balance will be $2565.56...that's $65.56! all paid to you from ING, FREE MONEY!, just for having your safety net with them!

Just so you are know, I had three savings accounts at a local bank, and they told me there was no minimum balance, no fees, just a free savings....well, I found out this was not true. I was charged $5 fees here and there for not maintaining a minimum balance of  at least $50, this occured when I would withdraw the money I saved for certain events such as Christmas. Another $5 fee when I would transfer money back and forth from account to account....this was CRAZY, I was paying them to save my money there! Not to mention the interest on this savings account was 0.05%, that is 1/16th the amount I am earning at ING.

Note: I personally missed out on the $25 bonus for opening this ING savings account because I was not referred, however I wanted to let everyone know so they didn't miss out. I found out about these bonuses by doing my research on this ING savings account to ensure they truly had NO fees. If you are interested in opening an ING savings account, and would like a bonus of $25 just for opening, email me and I will refer you...a win-win for both of us (you get $25, and I get $10).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tax Time Tips...

So, I figured I'd go ahead and post a tip and not just a welcome message.

Since tax season is here, I thought I'd go ahead and create a post on it....

If you are fortunate enough to get a tax return from Uncle Sam, a lot of people who have debt will usually jump right in to paying off debt such as credit cards, loans, ect. This is not bad, however if you do not have a savings account with more than just a few dollars in it,you need to try and fully fund yourself an emergency fund.

Dave Ramsey says you should have $1,000, Joseph Sangl says $2,500 I would say if you can do $2,500 do it!, if all you can do is somewhere between those two figures then do that. Here is the reasoning for that. So many times people rush to pay off debt with their tax return, like I stated earlier this isn't bad, but what happens if you have an emergency that you are not prepared for?, such as a car breaking down, or a water line freezing and you have to hire a plumber, or your refrigerator goes out...these things usually put right back into financing the emergency and we are back where we started. If you fund yourself an safety net such as an emergency fund, and then when this happens not only can you negotiate the cost of the emergency because you can pay cash (sometimes, depending on the emergency), but you don't have to worry about getting approved to finance the emergency. You can live a little easier when you know you've got that safety net....just be disciplined and DON'T spend it!

Also, generally when you just pay off the debt, you will free up X-amount of dollars per month. This is nice however we tend to just spend it anyway vs. saving those extra dollars.

Thanks for reading!!