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 awesome...my 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 card....you 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 nessisary....today 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 phone...so 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 Groupon.com, 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 Restaurant.com 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!!