Ways to Save on Your Last Minute Summer Vacation

We’re in the midst of August and that means the start of the school year is around the corner. But the summer heat is lingering and there’s still time to take a last-minute vacation before fall arrives. Here are four ways to save on your final summer trip of the year.

Stay close.

You can still get away while not venturing too far from home. Check out places to visit that are within driving distance. That way you can see something new and different without paying the hefty price of air travel.

Visit friends and family.

Check into areas where you have connections and a free place to rest your head. Accommodations are a budget-killer so forget the pricey hotels and ask a friend or family member if you can pay them a visit before the busy school and work year gets revved up.

Research airline discounts.

Many flights are a fraction of the cost at the end of the summer season. Start by following your airline of choice on social media and track their last-minute summer travel deals. Also, because you’re planning quickly, consider traveling during the week or at flexible times when airlines will reduce rates to fill flights.

Hold off on the hotel.

Instead of dropping hundreds on a pricey hotel room, consider booking your accommodations through Airbnb. Although you may not receive turndown and concierge services offered at hotels, Airbnb will offer lodging that is charming and unique. Also, consider checking out Roomer.com, a service where travelers who’ve cancelled their plans (and had a non-refundable room) the opportunity to sell them back to those on a budget. Many rooms available are offered at up to 85% off the original booking price.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

4 Easy Ways to Start Building Your Emergency Fund

Things happen. And then we have to spend money. Hopefully you’ve got some money put away to help out with life’s curve balls. If you don’t, it’s time to start that emergency fund. Here are some easy, pain-free ways you can build up some extra cash.

Start with your tax return: If you’re getting money back at the beginning of next year, a great destination for that cash would be your emergency fund. Start putting a little away now, and when that refund check comes, you can be on your way to having 3 to 6 months’ living expenses saved away.

Start a small direct deposit: Hardly anyone gets a paper check anymore, so you’re probably familiar with direct deposit. Another easy way to start that emergency fund is to open up a savings account and put a small amount into your account every week. If money’s tight, and you don’t feel like you can afford to take too much out of your check each pay period, then it’s okay to start small. $10 a week won’t hurt your wallet too much, but will still help you put away almost $1,000 a year. Add that to your tax return and you’re off to a good start.

Start with coins: You probably have loose change piled up in multiple areas right now. Throw all of that change into a jar and count it up. That loose change might not seem like much, but if all your change goes into your new emergency fund, you’ll be surprised at how fast it adds up.

Start clearing out that checking account: If you’ve budgeted well you may not have much “free” money left in your checking account after the bills have been paid, the groceries have been bought, and the 401k has been stocked. If there’s a good bit still floating around, move a little into your emergency fund. In fact, any time extra money finds its way into your pocket, put it away for emergencies.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Weekend Money Traps to Avoid – Round 2

When Friday arrives after a busy week and we gear up for free time over the weekend, it’s easy to fall hard into money traps. Here are some more money traps to consider this weekend and ways to avoid them.

The road trip: Doesn’t hitting the open road with a group of friends sound like a fun idea? While this is often a popular way to take a quick trip over the weekend, consider how much you will actually spend. First off, there’s the cost of driving. It can cost you up to $5 an hour on the gas alone, along with the eventual expenditures resulting from wear and tear on your vehicle. Then, there’s the food. Chances are while on the road, you’ll be eating fast food, which is not the best use of your money. Additionally, you will more than likely stay in a hotel along the way that can cost at least $75. So, if you do decide to take off on a weekend road trip, make smart choices. Decide how much you want to spend on gas and only travel as far as that will take you. Pack your food to save money (and the extra pounds the junk food will add to your waistline). Also, cut out the hotel cost and consider traveling to places where you have family and friends so you have a free place to crash.

The big event: Are you a sports fan? Do you love catching the hottest concert? These things are a lot of fun, but they will certainly cost you. Not only are the tickets expensive, but the refreshments and food at most venues are priced ridiculously high. Also, unless you live in a bigger city, chances are these big-ticket events aren’t actually taking place in your hometown. Therefore, not only will you have to buy the ticket, you’ll also spend money on travel and possibly hotel accommodations. Before you purchase your ticket, consider looking into local music shows or sporting events. While they may not be the hottest things out there, you can still have a very similar experience while supporting local artists or athletes.

The mall: We all know shopping can get expensive – but consider the mall the absolute worst place for weekend money traps. Not only is there an endless amount of stores where you can waste your money, there is also a food court and often a movie theater. The mall can literally be a one-stop shop for blowing your money and breaking your budget. While it can be fun to hit the mall where there’s something for everyone – before you do, think about what you actually need. Does your child need a new pair of shoes? If so, go directly to that store and nowhere else. If you’re just looking for a shopping experience, then hit the grocery store instead and get what you really need for the coming week.

If you missed the first article on weekend money traps, click here.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

Stay Cool this Summer and Save Money

The summer sun is hot. You come inside to escape the heat, but more than likely you’re also spending a ton on those energy bills. Below are a few ways you can stay cool this summer while also staying on top of your budget.

Adjust your air conditioning accordingly.

Of course, you want to take full advantage of your air conditioner, but do so with some forethought. Before you leave for work or even to run a few errands, crank the air up a couple degrees. That way when you’re gone, the house isn’t being cooled down when there’s no one home.

Also, turn the air up at night and on cooler days to avoid unnecessary costs. Many HVAC units also have programmable features that allow you to customize how your system runs, which can really help when your bill arrives. Another great idea is to close vents in any rooms that are unused to avoid wasting that cool air. Always change out air filters when needed, to avoid any clogging that may make your unit less efficient.

Fans are your friend.

Another great idea for keeping your home cool is to periodically run ceiling and other fans to keep the cool air flowing. This can also help spread the cool air when you return home after having your air conditioning unit cranked up while you were away.

Unplug unused items.

During the summer, it’s natural to want to get inside and flee the heat, but be mindful of how much more energy you are using while running those devices. Computers, televisions, and other gadgets are a great way to stay entertained – but they also can use a lot of power and put a dent in your wallet. So, when not in use, get unplugged to cut costs and save electricity.

Wait to run appliances.

If you are able, hold off on running the dishwasher until the evening when the sun is low and it’s not as warm. That way any heat emitted will be less noticeable in your home. The oven can also make your house hot, so consider cooking on the grill to keep the heat outdoors. Additionally, save your showers for the evening so your bathroom isn’t unnecessarily warm while you’re getting ready in the morning and rushing out the door.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

6 Ways to Save on Groceries

Budget and stick to it.

Filet mignon is delicious, but buying too many pricy items could break the bank. There’s nothing wrong with buying what you want, but you have to make it work within a budget that’s comfortable to you. Have the filet one night, and a simple salad the next to enjoy luxuries and a healthy relationship with your money.

Shop sales wisely.

Stocking up on items is a great plan. However, stocking up on items you won’t or can’t use is a waste of money. Also, even if the sale is fabulous, it’s not to your advantage if buying that item now means you break your budget. 15 cans of creamed spinach for $2 is only a steal if you’ll actually eat it.

Switch to store brands.

The quality of store brands varies, but if you’re able to find a product that works for your family for less, you’ll save on every trip to the store. This simple trick will leave more room in your budget for splurges.

Digital coupons.

Many stores now offer savings apps or text coupons. Use them to save on your bill, but use with some caution. Sign up only for those you can regularly use or you’ll be swamped!

Store discount cards.

Discount cards mean savings on everything you buy. For example, Target’s Redcard. Cardholders save 5% on every purchase on everything from grills to electronics to toilet paper. Don’t forget about store savings cards as well – for example, your shopper’s club discount at Shoprite. Those who shop without one of these cards often can’t take advantage of the sales.

Never shop hungry.

We’ve all done it and we’ve seen the consequences to our wallet (and sometimes our waistlines). Even sardines and kale look good when you’re hungry. So instead, eat a snack before you walk down the snack aisle and buy what your brain wants, not your belly!

Check out other money saving grocery shopping tips here.

Article Source: Jennifer Reynolds for CUInsight.com

 

4 Budget Friendly Summer Date Night Ideas

Summertime is upon us and that means the kids are out of school. We find ourselves spending a lot of time (and often, money) making sure they are happy and entertained during the summer months. It’s important that we don’t forget about ourselves in the process. Even if you’re not a parent, finding time for your relationship with your significant other is essential to a healthy partnership. Below are four ideas for fun summer date nights that won’t put a hole in your wallet.

Catch a baseball game.

Even if you’re not in a big city that boasts a professional baseball team, check out MiLB.com to discover a minor league team near you – like the Lakewood BlueClaws. Tickets to minor league games are less expensive and the snacks and drinks are typically more budget-friendly as well.

Check out the night sky.

How often do you and your partner take time to gaze at the night stars? Summer is the perfect time to grab a blanket and get outdoors. You don’t need a pricey telescope to find those constellations in the sky. Check out this free Star Tracker app and explore the universe from your own backyard.

Enjoy some ice cream.

There is nothing like a cold treat when it’s hot outside. Instead of a date night at an expensive restaurant, opt for a dessert date instead. That way you’re still out together enjoying something delicious, but for a $10 price tag instead of $100.

Have a game night indoors.

Get inside and away from the heat and be a kid again. Have a game night with all your favorite board games. The games and snacks won’t cost much and the winner’s bragging rights are priceless.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com