Note: this is a guest post by Becky W.
How much do you spend on your groceries each month? You probably have a budget set up for them, but do you pay attention to what, exactly, it is that you toss into your basket every week? The thing is, groceries are the living expense that is most likely to get away from you.
This is true for a few reasons:
- Eating well tends to cost more, so you usually feel like you’re choosing between your budget and your health. In that scenario, it’s easy to blow off the budget–and feel ok about it.
- You don’t want to waste money—you tend to buy the same brands and items every week because you know that you will like what you get. You don’t want, for example, to spend money on a new box of cereal only to find out a few bites in that you hate it.
- Branding works—it’s easy to see through branding when it comes to electronics or “fun stuff” but when it comes to food (and personal care products, frankly), the branding on the box is usually the deciding factor in choosing one item over another.
If you don’t mind spending some time searching, though, you can save money on your groceries.
Enter: The Coupon
Coupons can be a lifesaver at the grocery store, if you know how to use them properly. Unfortunately many people get caught up in the saving of ten cents here, a dollar there that they end up spending more than they save. Here are the best ways to use coupons:
- Search out coupons for things that you are already going to buy anyway (for example: searching out coupons for Shari’s Berries because they’re your favorite).
- Use a good coupon to test out a brand that you have been tempted to try (for example, trying out a new type of salad dressing, butter, cereal, etc).
- Don’t fall for the “buy 2 get one 1 free” trap unless you know that you will actually want three of the thing being offered (your favorite brand of toothpaste, for example).
- Track prices: lots of times stores will mark up the price of a product by ten or twenty cents and then try to cover themselves by offering shoppers a coupon for ten to twenty cents off of their next purchase of that product. A good example of this is toilet paper.
It’s also important to note that if you really want to save a lot of money on your groceries, you can learn to make more foods yourself. Food items like tortillas, pastas, bread, etc are extraordinarily easy to make yourself and you can make them for pennies on the dollar for what you’d pay to have them pre-made. It takes some time to do it this way but would you rather pay $0.53 for a loaf of bread or $4?
Another good reason to go this route is that it eliminates the whole “my health or my budget” conundrum. Making your own food gives you complete control over what goes into your body and with coupons (you can often find them for produce as well as branded items) you could save hundreds of dollars a year at the grocery store.
Note: this is a guest post from Becky W.
Saving for retirement is something that most of us put off for “later.” It’s hard to take seriously the idea for saving for the future when the bills and debt are so worrisome now. It is important, though, that you start taking steps now—even if those steps are small. If you don’t, you’ll increase your chances of getting permanently stuck in your current cycle.
When you first look into saving for the future and creating a retirement fund for yourself, it’s easy to get caught up in just how complicated everything seems. Here are some things to help you simplify the process.
1. Start Saving Today
You don’t have to start out with a complex investment portfolio and savings plan. What’s important, for now, is that you simply start tucking money away. Set up a savings account and link it to your checking account. Every week put $5-$10 into that account. If you can do more, great but if you can’t that’s okay. Every little bit helps. If you wait until you have some grand plan, you’ll have lost precious time your money could be growing on its own. Don’t let a big hurdle get in the way of small incremental improvements.
TIP: If you can, choose a savings account that is set up for compound growth. This way the money you save will make even more money over time.
2. Jump Start Your Account
A lot of younger people get caught up in the idea of needing a huge chunk of change to “jump start” their retirement accounts or give it a head start. It’s unnecessary. Much like the first tip, you just need to get things going. Whether you pick an Roth IRA or Traditional IRA, or take advantage of your employer’s 401k plan, just contribute and get things going. If you move jobs, don’t worry, that’s not an issue. One of the most commonly asked questions financial planners and personal bankers hear is “Can I rollover my 401k into a Roth IRA?” and the answer is always yes. (401Ks have been popular in part because they’ve been available forever, but the Roth IRA provides you with tax free growth)
According to the IRS, you do not have to choose between your 401k, a regular IRA and a Roth IRA. There are annual contribution limits, of course, but you can have all three accounts if you want.
3. Start with Simple Investing
Investing is something that every person should do if they want to have the most financially stable future possible. The key, especially if you have never invested in anything before, is to start small and with something you understand. Yes, it’s tempting to jump into the deep end of the stock market or a mutual fund but go slowly to get your footing.
For example, roll some of your savings account over into a CD (Certificate of Deposit). These are high yield interest accounts that are offered by banks and other financial institutions.
A good rule of thumb, when you’re ready to start investing in other things, is to never put more into your investment portfolio than you can afford to lose.
Saving for the future is frustrating because, especially when you’re just starting out, the process seems so slow going. Looking at a savings account with only $30 in it can be discouraging. What’s important is that you keep plugging away at it. Save a little bit every week. Learn about investing. Talk to your employer about retirement benefits, 401Ks, etc. Work with a financial planner to set up IRAs and investments when you’re ready to do so.
Note: this is a guest post
There are varying schools of thought on when purchasing a life insurance policy is a safety-buy and when it is a necessity-buy; ultimately, it’s up to you on when you want to purchase, how much you want to purchase, and if it’s currently an affordable purchase.
However, there are a great many factors that are going to weigh-in on this decision that you should definitely thoroughly research, consider, and apply to your own unique financial circumstance. You can learn more about Suncorp Life Insurance Cover & other policies offered on their website.
WHEN LIFE INSURANCE IS AN AFFORDABLE SAFETY-BUY
Purchasing life insurance is really only ever considered a not-yet-needed, but good-idea-anyway purchase when you’re young; specifically, when you’re in your 20’s. At this point, if you’re financially able to take on an affordable payment of $350 to $450 per year for a $500,000 term policy—this is on the high-end—then, why not? A policy like this will cover you for the next 30 years, since it’s a term policy your rate will never increase, and you’ll be good to go until your 50’s.
In fact, if you were to wave this policy around in front of someone who purchased a policy in their 30’s or 40’s, you’d get to watch them turn green with envy! Purchasing when you’re that young, and unencumbered with any kind of health issues, ensures that you’ll get the most affordable policy that is available. This is, of course, dependent on you not having any major prior medical conditions.
If your plan is to get married and have kids within the next 5-10 years—statistics show that the vast majority of people in their 20’s have this plan—then you can enter into that stage of your life knowing that they will be taken care of if something should happen to you; it’s already in the bag.
WHEN LIFE INSURANCE IS A NECESSITY-BUY
Generally, any financially planner will advise you that life insurance is necessary as soon as you have children; if something tragic should happen to you, they need to be taken care of.
Of course, if you wait until this time and you’ve already entered into your 30’s, or even your 40’s, the rates for term policies are going to have significantly increased and you’re going to be taking this on during a time when starting a family is costing you quite a bit, as well.
Unfortunately, all of these expenses are a big part of the reason why so many families are completely uninsured. In 2012, a study was conducted by LIMRA—a research outfit dedicated to the insurance industry—that determined a whopping 64% of U.S. families didn’t have life insurance; 11-million of which had children who were under the age of 18. These figures represent a drastic 26% drop from when the same study was issued in 2010.
MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION
With these ideals and statistics in mind, be smart and make a sound decision for both your financial future and the financial future of your future, or even current, family. The costs of left-behind debt, funerals, college tuitions, loss-of-income, and standing mortgages is a hefty weight to leave for a grieving family.