How to Enjoy Date Night on a Budget

Posted on Tuesday 25 October 2011

Everyone is looking for ways to save extra dollars these days – even those in the dating game. While no one wants to necessarily look cheap during a date, no one should have to break the bank to afford a nice five-course dinner.

Dating can often be expensive. There are new clothes to buy to keep looking sharp, exciting, but high priced date ideas such as tickets to the symphony, and even nice gifts, such as amethyst rings, which can leave anyone pretty broke. Many married or monogamous couples are also at a point where they enjoy spending time together but don’t want to spend their paychecks to do so. However, there are a few ways to enjoy date night without having to worry about overspending:

Visit a Drive-In

Going to the movies seems to be an all time favorite for date night; however, the price of going to a movie has only gone up and up. Not only does a ticket cost somewhere in the ballpark of $10-$12 per person, but then when you factor in the price of popcorn and soda, you have a date that will most likely cost you around $40 for 2 hours of entertainment.

Instead of wasting all that cash, consider going to a drive-in movie theater. The cost is generally $5 to $7 a car, there are no restrictions for bringing your own snacks, and cuddling under the stars while watching a great movie is so much more appropriate.

Cook Together

While there is nothing like being wined and dined at a fabulous restaurant, there is also nothing like cooking together. There is something fun and romantic about cooking together that no restaurant experience can emulate. The experience will provide you with some great alone time, a new dish to try, and will cost about a quarter of what you would have paid had you gone out.

Get Outdoorsy

Getting outdoorsy doesn’t have to mean dragging your significant other or someone you are simply dating on a 5 hour hike, it simply means go outdoors. The outdoors provides hundred of opportunities for free or inexpensive dates that can really offer some quality alone time. Whether you decide to go for a picnic or bike around a local lake or take a stroll to look at the changing leaves, you will still have a great time and won’t have to break the bank.

While the occasional fine night out is needed and appreciated, doing so all the time can definitely drain your resources and make doing so not so special. Instead of putting on the black tie or fine cocktail dress every weekend, consider trying a few inexpensive alternatives. Not only will your wallet thank you, but so will your date for providing a new experience and quality time together.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
How to Finance a Private School Education

Posted on Friday 21 October 2011

If you plan to send your child to a private school in order to prepare them for college, you may need to begin saving money immediately. A private school education can cost as much as tuition does at a college or university. Unless you’re financially well off or independently wealthy, the cost of sending your child to a private school could be beyond your means, and finding grant or scholarship money could be nearly impossible. That doesn’t mean you should give up. Following are a few tips on how to finance a private school education.

Financial Aid

Although money for financially aiding a private school student isn’t plentiful, it is available in limited quantities. Need-based financial aid is received by about 20% of private school students, and a mere 5% receive merit-based assistance. In order to qualify for financial aid, you should contact the school you’re planning on having your child attend. The reason for contacting the school directly is that unlike financial aid for higher education, private school financial aid is primarily handled by the individual school. That means that competition for the limited financial aid is fierce. The first step in obtaining financial aid is to a get a copy of the Parents’ Financial Statement. You can get the form through the School and Student Service for Financial Aid. For further information visit the Internet website; www.nais.org.

Tuition Aid Plans

Many private schools have tuition aid plans available. By contacting the school of your choice, you can inquire about the possibility of a tuition aid plan that may allow you to make regular payments which will stretch out the tuition costs over the course of the year instead of paying it all at once. Plans of this type may include the option of receiving a discount if you pay the bill off in full before the due date. Some schools may even offer educational loans whereby the tuition can be paid over a longer period of time. Some schools may offer discounts if you enroll two or more children at the same time. The school’s financial aid office should be able to answer your questions concerning tuition aid plans.

Scholarship and Grant Funds

In most cases, the money for scholarships and grants that are allocated for private school students come from private benefactors and benevolent organizations, or the school itself. Since the amount of financial aid is limited, you should look into the possibility of receiving help before you enroll your child in a private school. Each school should have a financial aid office with employees that can answer your questions concerning the likelihood of receiving aid. Find out what the qualifications are for receiving help with tuition and associated costs. You may be eligible based on income or minority status. If you’re a single parent, you may also be given special consideration for receiving financial aid.

Savings Plans

You may want to check into a savings plan, such as a Coverdell Education Savings Account, which is designed specifically for a child’s education, and permits a tax-free contribution of $2,000.00 per year, per child. Because an account of this type has tax-exempt status the rules and regulations are dictated by the IRS and must be strictly adhered to. Another option is to simply open a regular savings account and designate the money specifically for your child’s education. This type of account won’t offer tax savings, but if it’s the only option you have, it’s better than nothing.

Fund Raisers

If you want your child to have the benefit of a private school education and can’t afford it, and you’ve exhausted all other options, you may want to approach a charitable organization and ask about the possibility of holding a fund raiser to pay for tuition. If your child is especially talented and the private school offers specialized courses, the organization may be willing to help.

Take Out a Loan

Another option you may want to consider is to simply approach a lending institution and ask for a loan in order to send your child to a private school. Of course, you will have to repay the loan, with interest, but if you’re a good risk the lender may be willing to provide good terms due to the nature of the loan.

Guest post from Pat Singer. Pat writes about online colleges for AccreditedOnlineColleges.com.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
How to Save Money On Your Cell Phone

Posted on Monday 17 October 2011

Next to car payments and monthly mortgages, cell phone bills can be the most costly that a household pays monthly. Cell phones have definitely become a necessity, but there is no reason why anyone should have to pay a huge fee each month simply to keep their service up and running. While refusing to pay a high cell phone bill may not be an option, there are a few tricks every family can use to save one their monthly cell phone bill:

Consider Downgrading

Smart phone users are bad about jumping on the band wagon when it comes to trends. When the latest and greatest cell phone or service is released, they just have to have it. While this habit does keep cell phone users with great pieces of technology, it tends to affect their wallets negatively. If you are currently signed up for a 4G service plan, there is a good chance that you may be overpaying for the service received.

Most people don’t necessarily need 4G service. 4G speed is for those who simultaneously check their email while scrolling through Facebook and streaming Netflix video. If you don’t need to do all of these things at once, consider downgrading to a 3G plan. You’ll still receive the same great service, and save money at the same time.

Pick a Prepaid Plan

Prepaid Phone Plans, especially for families, can save a household hundreds of dollars annually. Kids tend to not understand how much each text, call, or bit of data used costs, and can sometimes run up a high bill because of it. To keep your family from going over on their monthly allowance and to keep your cell phone bill affordable, switch to a prepaid phone plan. This will not only allow you to teach your kids a thing or two about responsibility, but it will also allow you to enjoy quality service without breaking the bank.

Limit App Use

While apps only cost a couple of bucks, downloading multiple apps throughout a month can quickly add a large amount to your cell phone bill. To prevent your cell phone bill from being high, set an amount that you are willing to allow yourself and your family members to spend on apps each month, and then stick to it. If you find that your kids are still spending more than their allotted amount, take their phones away or make them pay for the apps themselves.

Owning a cell phone may be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be a expense that puts you in the red each month. Instead of just paying your cell phone bill simply because you half to, consider reviewing your plan to see where you can save monthly. Simply by cutting back on your usage, you and your family can save hundreds annually and find other beneficial uses for the money saved.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
How to Get Cheaper Internet Service

Posted on Wednesday 12 October 2011

In today’s world, the internet is a necessity for many people and it is easy to see why. Almost anything can be done online, from researching countless subjects to shopping to paying bills. The problem for some folks is the price of internet service. Depending on the type of service you have and which provider you use, the internet can get pretty expensive. Luckily there are some simple things you can do to get cheaper internet service.

Shop Around

If you think you’re paying too much for internet service, it is definitely a good idea to shop around and check out some other options. Call around to all the internet service providers in your area to get price quotes. Also ask about any specials or promotions that are taking place at the time. You can shop around online as well, which is sometimes the easier way to go since the information is displayed right in front of you. There are many websites that use your location to pull up a list of local providers. From there you can usually get all the details on plans and pricing. You can also visit the websites of any specific providers you may be interested in. If you take just a little time to shop around, you will most likely be able to get cheaper internet service.

Share Service

There are other ways to get cheaper internet service, too. If you have a neighbor that you know well, sharing internet service is always a possibility. This would cut your cost of service in half, as well as your neighbors. Wireless internet makes it easy to share service, since it uses a strong signal that could reach both of your homes. Just remember to set up the proper security features on your wireless network, so no one else can use your shared signal. If you are thinking of sharing service that is not wireless, you will have to decide whose house will hold the internet connection.

Look for Free or Low-Cost Internet Service Providers

You can also look around for providers that offer free or low-cost internet service. NetZero is a provider that offers both free and low-cost internet service options. The free service is dial-up internet, which is best for people who only use the internet for simple tasks. Your service is limited to 10 hours a month with the free option. If that is not enough time for your needs, check into some of the other options NetZero offers.

Another provider that offers free internet is Google TiSP. This service uses the power of your toilet to bring you high-speed internet service for free. When you sign up, Google TiSP will send you a self-installation kit that includes everything you need to get online. A router that sits on top of your toilet tank attaches to a fiber optic cable, which is then flushed down your toilet. The cable continues into your local sewer system until it reaches an access node. When it does, a Google TiSP worker is dispatched to the location, where the cable is plugged into the access node. This connects you to Google’s global networking system, which gives you internet service. Sounds crazy, but it is true.

Use Your Smart Phone

Another easy way to get cheaper internet service is to use your cellular device for a wireless hotspot. If you do not need an actual computer for your internet needs, this can be a great way to save money. All you have to do is make sure your phone’s data capabilities and plan will be enough to sufficiently support your needs.

All of these options are great, easy ways to get cheaper internet service. With the internet being as important as it is these days, no one should have to go without it. If you find yourself stressing about your internet bill, give one of these options a try today.

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer. Karen also suggests doing a search for “internet service providers in my area” to find other free and low-cost internet options.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
4th Annual Protect Your Identity Week

Posted on Monday 10 October 2011

National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) has teamed up with the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Association of Triads to host the 4th Annual Protect Your Identity Week, October 16-22.

Although it’s important for all of us to protect ourselves from identity theft, a special emphasis is being placed on child identity theft protection this October. It’s scary that studies have shown children are 51 times more likely to have their Social Security numbers stolen than adults. As an adult, we must set an example by arming ourselves with the resources and information needed to keep our family’s identities safe.

Here are a few of the many ways to get involved with PYIW this year:

  • NFCC Member Agencies and supporting Coalition Members will offer free identity theft education and protection events in communities across the country this month, including workshops, cell phone recycling, and paper shredding powered by Cintas, a leader in document destruction. AllClear ID, a recognized expert in identity theft protection, will provide materials on ID theft education in general as well as tips specific to child identity theft.. To find an event near you, check out this event map!
  • Easy to follow tips, resources and a self-assessment ID Quiz to determine your own personal risk of identity theft are all available for your reference on the Protect Your ID Now website.
  • Be sure to also read and share the First Steps For Victims section so that you will be prepared in case you’re the next victim.
  • Finally, get involved with PYIW on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the blog at www.ProtectYourIDNow.org where tips and PYIW articles will be provided all throughout October.
savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
Introducing Kids to Saving

Posted on Friday 7 October 2011

Introducing kids to saving is important for three reasons –

1 – It will help them develop smart money habits.

2 – It will help them develop a saving and asset building “mentality-mindset”.

3 – Kids are underexposed to the language of saving (as opposed to the language of consumption).

Consciously or unconsciously, the vast majority of language both kids and adults are exposed to as it relates to money is overwhelming about spending-consumption. This includes school books, that when they do include dialogue or problems about money, normally it is about “buying” or “purchasing” items.

 At any income level, but particularly lower levels, where the allocation of every penny, nickel, and dime are critical, “Saving” and “Asset Building” need to be beginning thoughts (or priorities, if you will) as opposed to after thoughts. As the author’s father and mother reminded him habitually, which is why he feels so passionately about early financial education, if we have money for sodas and slurpees than we have money for saving and education. Son, if you want to exchange your future for a soda, you will have that opportunity at 18.

The Language of Saving is a 32 page booklet that introduces and explains 34 key saving and money words like: saving, habit, plan, earn, deposit, want, need, prepared, grow, compound, etc.

It does it in a manner that makes it easy for parents, teachers, adult trainers and caregivers to explain to kids and for them to understand. The booklet targets children ages 4 to 7 (pre K to 1st grade) as well as new language learners of all ages. 

The book can be used on its own or combined with Sammy’s coloring book (Saving is a Great Habit) and Sticker Set – as all the vocabulary comes from those two items.  Using these items in combination will provide additional context and reinforcement for kids to grasp the meaning of words.

For questions, or to order, you can contact Sammy at www.itsahabit.com

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
Dealing With Personal Finance As A Couple

Posted on Wednesday 5 October 2011

Money can be a sticky area for a lot of couples. Most people don’t want to discuss money because they think it will lead to arguments. If you are about to get married, it is important that you have serious discussions about money before tying the knot. There’s a reason they say that money troubles are one of the biggest reasons couples get divorced. If you and your partner are on the same page, you have a much higher likelihood of having a successful marriage.

Get It All Out There

Getting married means becoming a united partnership. If there are secrets or suspicions or feelings untold it can lead to problems down the road. It is important to get everything out in the open so, at the very least, you know what you’re dealing with. Be honest and open and that includes how much debt you will or might have and how you feel about money. You can even start by discussing how your parents were with money and what they taught you about it.

You should refrain from being judgemental and critical as this does not help any situation.

Joining Your Money

If you are becoming one in body and spirit, the same should be expected with your money. It is important to combine your accounts. If you keep one area separate, this can lead to separating other areas of your life as well. Once you combine everything and work together, there is a sense of being unified.

Start Your Combined Budget

Combining accounts is a nice thing because it means you have more money you are working with. You should then put all of your income and expenses in one place and determine what you’re working with – a budget. In fact, you do not have to wait to work on your budget when you’re married. You can start while you are still engaged. If you do that then you can make adjustments as you need. After you are married, it is a good idea to look over your budget each month and adjust the necessary areas as you see fit.

Plan Together

You will discover as you work together that sometimes one partner is working ahead in one area than the other. For instance, if you come to the partnership with a lot of savings and the other is saddled with a lot of debt, work together. The savings can be re-distributed to pay off the debt or put immediately into an emergency fund. If you decide together how you will deal with the funds AND the debt, you will be surprised how ‘together’ it can make you feel and the closer you can become.

Men and Women ARE Different

I think even the staunchest of feminists out there would agree that there are fundamental differences between men and woman. Once you understand that some of these differences exist (with exceptions, of course), you will be able to better navigate the waters of communication with your spouse.

Men tend to be bigger risk takers than women. This can translate to not saving very much for emergencies. Men also look at money as part of their identity so if there are money troubles they tend to internalise them and may even struggle with their self-esteem.

Women, however, tend to look at money as security. They will save more than men, generally, because they understand that there are sometimes unforeseen circumstances that occur that will require the use of those saved funds. Women also tend to have a fear about money.

Oftentimes, opposites are attracted to each other. For instance, a saver might be attracted to a risk taker. This can be a great thing because we all have things we need to learn from each other! The problem may develop if there is no real communication between the two parties and no respect for the other view point.

If there is mutual respect and a desire to learn from and even assimilate characteristics from your partner, you will be able to learn together and grow together.

You Are Partners

Many couples will say, “But she just won’t listen to me!” You are a partnership. Marriage isn’t easy and it takes compromise, mutual respect and understanding from both partners. If you are the ‘good’ one with money in the relationship, have patience and try to explain to your spouse how you have learned to manage money so well through the years. The last thing you want to do is keep your money separate and let the other do as they will with ‘his’ or ‘her’ money. This will only lead to problems down the road.

It is important that you are patient and kind to each other as you travel down this marital road together. No marriage is perfect. And, no individual is perfect. There will inevitably be difficulties but if you are committed to remain united, you will be able to weather any storm, financial or otherwise.

Your Relationship Is Priority #1

Money can be very stressful but after all, it is just money. Your relationship should take priority over everything, including money. Just be sure that you are both in agreement about money and about how to manage it. This is where people get into trouble so if you are able to head that off in the beginning, you will be much better off.

If you decide to work together in all aspects, you will have a stronger marital life and a brighter future for yourselves and your family. It would be nice to be able to set the stage now for yourself and for your posterity. Your future children will thank you for getting your ‘financial house’ in place before they are even there.

Successful marriages are built on these principles and these marriages tend to be the ones that are happier and they also have more wealth. Wouldn’t it be nice to have both?

This article was written by Timothy Ng. You can read more of his work at http://www.creditcardfinder.com.au/ where he has a number of comprehensive guides to all types of credit cards.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
How to Get a Good Deal on a New Computer

Posted on Monday 3 October 2011

The popularity of computers has skyrocketed in the past few years, and it seems like just about everyone has one. If you do not, perhaps you are in the market for one. Fortunately, computers are much more reasonably priced than in the past. To ensure you are getting a good deal on a new computer, there are some simple things you can do.

Determine Your Needs

Before you begin shopping for a new computer, you should figure out what your computer needs are. Are you going to use your new computer for basic tasks like surfing the internet? You can probably get away with a simple model with minimal features and memory. If you are going to be using your computer for advanced tasks or for your job, you will probably need a model that has more features and memory. You should familiarize yourself with the many different makes, models, and features so you know what to look for when you start shopping for your new computer. That way you will not pay for features you won’t use, and vice versa. You certainly do not want to buy a computer without the features you do need.

Shop Around

Once you determine what your computer needs are, you can begin on your quest for the right one. Since computers can vary greatly in price from one merchant to the next, it is always in your best interests to shop around before purchasing one. Shopping around will allow you to compare prices, which is a great way to get a good deal. You would be surprised to see how much the same computer model’s price can change from store to store. To shop around, you can either physically go to a number of stores that sell computers, or you can look online. Many times it is much easier to shop around online because you do not have to leave your house. Online shopping can make it easier to compare makes, models, and features as well.

Rebates

Another way to get a good deal on a new computer is to watch for and use rebates. Many stores offer rebates that can save you a decent amount of money on your purchase. Rebates can come in various forms, from mail-in to instant. Ask retailers if they are currently offering rebates on any computer models and if they are, check to see if the model(s) are what you are in the market for.

Store Credit/Financing

Although store credit cards usually come with hefty interest rates, they can be a great way to get a good deal on a new computer. They are especially helpful for folks who do not have a large sum of money to spend. Store credit cards allow you to finance your computer purchase over a certain period of time, usually 1-3 years. Although you may end up paying more in the long run, monthly payments can make new computers a reality for people who may not otherwise be able to afford them. Be sure to watch for special financing promotions that computer retailers often offer. Sometimes you can get a deal such as “No Payments, No Interest for 6 Months,” or something of the sort.

Refurbished Products

If you are looking for another way to get a good deal on a new computer, refurbished products may be just the trick. Refurbished computers are basically older computers that have been restored to brand-new condition. Since they are in fact older models, refurbished computers are usually much cheaper than brand new. Many folks believe that they will not work as well, but the truth is refurbished models have undergone a lot of work to ensure they are just as good as new. If you do purchase a refurbished computer, be sure it comes with a warranty. That way you will be covered if anything were to go wrong.

These are all great ways to get a good deal on a new computer. Since it is almost impossible to live without one these days, at least you know you can get one without breaking the bank. Although it may seem like these ideas are time consuming, a good deal will definitely be worth every second.

This is a guest post from Adam who writes about Best Buy Promotional Codes for FrugalDad.com.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances