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Blog Archive December 2019



Creative Strategies to Achieve Your Money Saving Goals in 2020

Silver "2020" balloons with a jar of money spilling out. Save money in 2020.

If you are like most people, you are probably thinking of ways to ring in the new decade with positive improvements. While there are many aspects of our lives that we might like to better, finances are typically on everyone's list. This is one of the more challenging goals that take diligence to accomplish, but also one of the most rewarding if achieved. Even with the best intentions, it is sometimes difficult to achieve the goals we set for ourselves without a plan. Being in a better financial position by the end of the next year or having a nest egg of savings are great goals to set for oneself. Rather than strategize an elaborate unrealistic plan, starting with simple changes that can be easily incorporated into your lifestyle will have the best chance of success. Here are several creative and fun ideas that can be integrated into the busiest of schedules without much thought or effort.

  1. Make it a Competition – Challenge your spouse, roommate, friend, sibling, or even children to a savings competition. Declare an amount and compete to see who can save enough to reach the total first or set a date and see who can reach the most money saved by that time.

  2. Pantry Challenge – Establish a time period in which you will not purchase any groceries and will subsist entirely from the contents of your pantry. It can be a week, two weeks or even a month!

  3. $5 Challenge – Save every $5 bill you come across for the entire year, and you'll be surprised how much it adds up. This can also be scaled lower to $1 bills or higher o $10 bills. A combination of any of the three can also be saved and if you're up the ante, it will be to your advantage.

  4. Penny-A-Day Challenge – The idea of this challenge is that pennies seem so insignificant, you won't miss them from your budget, but they'll still add up to a nice chunk of savings if you save them consistently. For this challenge, you save a penny beginning the first day of the year, adding a penny every day all year long. Therefore every day, you add one penny more than the day before. If you complete the challenge every day, by the end of the year, you will have saved an easy $667.95 without much effort.

  5. Pack-A-Lunch Challenge – Replacing eating out with a packed lunch at least a few days a week adds up to significant savings. Considering a purchased lunch is approximately $10, if one were to replace even ten lunches a month with a bagged lunch, that would be $1,200 in savings per year.

  6. Declutter & Cash In – Inevitably, there will be items or furniture in our homes that are no longer needed and or used that can be sold. There are several methods to easily rid your home of unwanted items and plump up your savings account.

  7. Avoid the Coffee Shop – Considering the cost of a latte nowadays, having it be a daily treat can be a hit to our savings goals. Try choosing to enjoy coffee at home, even half the time you would have generally gone to a coffee shop. Make it a point to put the money you would have spent into your savings to give your account a boost.

  8. No Spend Days – When planning your schedule, consider having one day a week as a no-spend day. By choosing to avoid any spending for an entire day, you will realize several items that are truly not necessary. Over time the days of not spending will add up to savings for your nest egg.

  9. Apps – Several apps function well to help you save without having to give it a second thought once it is set up. Some will automatically round up any purchase you make to the nearest dollar and deposit the change from your checking into a savings account. Others will ask the amount you would like to save and in what time frame and periodically pull various small amounts from your checking account to reach that result. Several options can be used to implement worry-free strategies of saving money.

End of The Year Car Buying Advantages

Close up of business man holding new car keys.

If you’ve been on the fence about buying a new car or were thinking of putting up with your current car’s problems a little longer, here is some interesting information that may change your perspective. The end of the year is a great time to buy a new car. Purchasing a car during this period will have a huge impact on your negotiating power. Throughout the year, the cost of a car will alter based on sales and promotions, availability, demand and when it was initially released. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of timing your car purchase perfectly, your savings can amount to thousands of dollars. Now is the time, if you need to buy your next car.

Generally, the last months of the year offer the highest savings for buyers. Those that can time their car purchases during October, November and December will most likely negotiate better deals. Here are some detailed guidelines of how to be a savvy car buyer.

Shop Mondays!

If possible, visit car dealerships on days that are not busy. Later in the week and weekends are generally the most chaotic which means you will receive less one-on-one service and attention. If your sales representative feels as though another customer is waiting to make a purchase, he will be less inclined to offer you a good deal. On days that are slow such as Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, sales representatives will be less busy and more willing to work with you. Mondays are the ideal day to shop for a car, as they are the slowest day at a dealership. Wanting to make the most of their time, sales representatives will be more likely to negotiate with you to close a sale that will be in your favor, rather than not close a deal at all.

Shop Late!

The last three months of the year are the best times to shop for a vehicle. Car dealerships and salespeople have quotas they would like to achieve that are periodical by month, quarter and year. All of these goals culminate towards the end of the year so the pressure is on for as many deals to close as possible. Every person that walks through the door of the dealership is another possibility for the salesperson to meet their quota so they are ultra motivated to meet their needs. Keep this in mind when you sit down to negotiate a final price.

Shop Holidays!

Keep track of sales being offered on holidays. Typically the discounts being offered on these days are lower than at any other time of the year.

The best holidays sale days for vehicles are usually:

Memorial Day: Sales are usually on models from the year before to make room for newer inventory. Don’t be disappointed if the latest model of the vehicle you want to purchase isn’t included in the promotion.

Black Friday: Great pricing is always offered on this day but be prepared for crowds and craziness.

New Year’s Eve: Since this is the last day of the year for dealerships to meet quotas, along with end of the year markdown sales and promotions, there are several advantages in the buyer’s favor.

Buying a new car at the best price takes patience, strategy and research. If you play your cards right by knowing which dealership is offering the best pricing and have the patience to purchase your vehicle at the right time, you’ll be feeling even more content with your purchase knowing you did not overpay.


Holiday Shopping Hacks to Stay on Budget

Top view of a woman hands with a Christmas gift on wooden background.

Are you motivated to keep a holiday budget but worry about how to keep it on track? Here are the pitfalls that can leave your wallet empty and your credit cards overused along with some tips to avoid the everyday situations that lead so many to the same fateful end.


The most precious of commodities, time is the ultimate stressor when in limited quantities. For this reason, it will cause many to overspend on items that can be had for much less if allowed to be searched for at other retailers or not at the last minute. Lack of time can lead to paying extravagant shipping charges to claim the last of the season’s most sought after item from across the country. 


Not having a predetermined budget can lead to overspending. It is easy to be disciplined, especially when shopping online, as shoppers can use filters to sort through items by price. Selection can then only be by items within the price range you can afford, avoiding the temptation of higher-priced gifts that are out of budget.

Don’t Procrastinate

The earlier you start shopping, the more likely you’ll be able to find gifts you truly want to give, plenty of selection, and the opportunity to shop around for the best deal. Waiting until the last minute means you’ll have to settle for items that may not be ideal in a higher price range than you budgeted for.

Shop Smart

Have you ever walked into a store “just to browse” knowing there wasn’t anything you could or should buy in the store, only to find that an item caught your eye and was on your mind? Don’t be an emotional shopper. Obsessing on purses, watches, or jewelry that you cannot afford for yourself or others can turn into a dangerous habit. Many times in an emotionally weak or spontaneous moment, that obsessive thought realize into an actual purchase. While it may feel worthwhile and beautiful at the moment, the debt and financial setback it may cause will haunt you for much longer than the moment is worth.

Be Savvy

Take the time to inform yourself of the many ways you can save using promotions and technology. Aside from coupons and store sales, there are websites, links, apps, promo codes, and many more ways to secure additional discounts and lower pricing. Having more buying power is an excellent advantage for your budget.

Plan Ahead

The cost of the holiday season is high. It encompasses not only the cost of gifts but also the many miscellaneous expenses related to family gatherings. Travel, dining, added groceries and baking supplies, holiday meals, clothing, holiday outings and entertainment, New Year’s celebrations, decorations, holiday cards, shipping packages, gift wrapping, etc. add up to a great deal. For many, this is a gradual expense when they realized too late can affect their finances.

Most approach the holiday season without much planning or thought, only to find themselves with a credit card in hand and dismal plans of paying it off in the new year. No one should start the year off in debt because of the holiday season.


Avoiding Gift Card Scams

Businessman in cafe using credit card for online shopping.

Gift cards have become a popular gift choice for last minute gifts or for those that would rather pick their own gift. In fact, gift cards are so widely used that according to the National Retail Federation Gift Card Spending Survey, the percentage of people in the United States that will purchase or receive a gift card is as high as 93%. On average a person in the U.S. receives about 7 gift cards per year. The gift card industry is estimated to reach about $160 Billion in 2019.

Unfortunately, where there is profit there are those looking to take advantage. Gift cards are the on the rise as the form of payment requested by scammers. One third of the people who have reported fraud to the Federal Trade Commission this year claim they were asked to pay by gift card or reloadable card. That amounts to a 300% increase in a three-year time span for the same type of scam. The increase is so significant that gift cards and reloadable cards have become the number one payment method of choice for scammers.

The scamming scenario using a gift card is usually very basic. The scammer will call or e-mail a person they have targeted, explaining a situation for which they need immediate funds and require payment by gift card. The most requested cards are iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. Since gift cards are like cash and cannot be traced, scammers can be anonymous in their spending as long as they have received the gift card number and pin info from their fraud victim.

Gift cards offer less protection for consumers that do not have as many rights and cannot fight as fiercely for refunds or protection from fraud as they could on a credit card. Just in the past year over $74 million in fraudulent charges has been reported on gift card scams. Financial scams have become so sophisticated they can be played on anyone. Even those that have knowledge of the scams and are proficient in technology have fallen victim. However, those most likely to be scammed are seniors age sixty-five and over.

The manner by which scammers are most successful is by duplicating or recreating emails and phone calls to be as similar to an authentic version as possible. To avoid being scammed, consumers should use verification steps to confirm authenticity before ever sending money. Place calls to be sure that the people mentioned in the phone call or email are legitimately in need and do your research to fact check details. Do not be pressured by time constraints, as is often the ruse used by scammers. Carefully ascertain e-mail addresses and phone numbers used to contact you. Many times this information will be close to what it should be for people you know but off by one or two digits or letters.

In the end, the ultimate method by which you can avoid being scammed is to never pay for anything via e-mail or phone unless you initiated the call. Know that businesses, government officials and law enforcement would never request payment by gift card. That is a guaranteed red flag that the call or e-mail is a scam.

In the event that a scam has already taken place with funds deducted from a gift card, your best recourse is to contact the company that issued the gift card an alert them of the fact that it was used for scamming purposes. If this is done prior to the funds being spent, there is a chance that the funds may be refundable. The fraud should also be reported to the FTC at
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