Category Archive: Basics

A Day For Organizing

It had to be done.

Yesterday, I spent several hours organizing paperwork, responding to emails, paying bills, cleaning out my desk, and filing documents.

It was boring, headache-educing, and, as my youngest would say, “none fun”.

Normally, I’m a pretty organized person.  I have several systems in place for managing bills, paperwork, etc.  However, the past two months were filled with much activity – tons of fun stuff with family and encouraging progress at work.

So, yesterday, I sat down with a huge stack of paperwork, a large cup of coffee, and started digging.

I will not bore you with too many details (I filed some paperwork, paid a few bills, sorted through email, updated passwords, etc.)  It was tedious, but necessary work.  And it reminded me –

Life is better, organized.

What took me almost an entire day (minus a couple of hours spent interacting with actual, live humans, in conversation), should have been dealt with in a few minutes, once or twice a week.

Side note – A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Washington D.C. with my son and other family members.  I highly recommend a visit, if you have never been.  The D.C. Metro is clean and efficient, the various Smithsonian Museums were amazing, and the views from Arlington were breathtaking.

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Getting Out Of Debt

I love this time of year.  I love giving gifts, hanging out with family, and enjoying time off from work.

What I don’t love about this time of year – and what many families struggle with after this time of year – is credit card debt.

So, let’s put together a plan of action, so that when those bills arrive in January, we’re ready to pay off that credit card debt – and be in a position to pay cash for gifts, next year.

Make a list of all creditors – with balances and interest rates.

Pick a plan of attack – smallest balance first or highest interest rate.

There are pluses and minuses for each approach.  I prefer to attack the smaller balance first, because I am super-motivated when I eliminate an entire debt, super-fast.  However, if you prefer, attack the highest interest rate – which makes lots of sense, especially for you math-nerds.

Make minimum payments to all accounts.

It is important to get and stay current with all accounts.  Credit scores can be dramatically affected by late payments, missed payments, or less-than-minimum payments.

Build a small cash-reserve.

This may slow down your debt reduction, just a bit, but having a cash-reserve will prevent the use of credit cards for minor unexpected expenses.  For me, even when I was getting out of debt, I always kept between $1000 to $2000 in my super-convenient Orange Savings Account from ING DIRECT.  Enjoy no fees, no minimums, and 24/7 mobile access.

Make extra, principal-only payment to the first creditor on list.

Continue to make minimum payments and extra, principal-only payments – until the first debt is entirely eliminated – and a creditor can be removed from the list.

Celebrate!

Seriously.  Call a friend.  Shoot me a tweet @NCN.  Do something.  It’s an awesome feeling to let someone know that you have eliminated an entire debt.

Get back to work.

Take the amount that you were sending to the first creditor – and apply that amount to the next creditor on the list.

This is called “debt snowballing” and is a very popular method for debt reduction.  Why is it popular?  It works.  The momentum gained from eliminating one debt is transferred to the elimination of the second debt.

Continue this process, of making minimum payments, eliminating creditors, and snowballing payments – until you are debt free!

Throughout the process, consider the following optional steps -

Take on another job – even temporarily – to increase the amount available for debt reduction.

Sell some stuff – on eBay or at a yard sale – to increase the amount available for debt reduction.

Transfer a credit card balance – to take advantage of a lower interest rate.

Cancel unnecessary services – even temporarily – to increase the amount available for debt reduction.  Think television, monthly subscriptions, etc.

As we head towards the New Year – resolutions time for many – this post may come in handy.  Be sure to bookmark it – and use the handy links below to share via social media.  Be blessed.

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How To Save Money On Groceries

I’ll admit it.  I actually enjoy shopping for groceries.  I usually shop on Tuesdays and I try to go to the store when there are fewer customers shopping.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to save money (and a little time) while shopping for groceries.  Here’s what works for me –

1.  Use a grocery store price book to track the prices of regularly purchased items.  (I’ve created a free printable version of the price book that I use.  Feel free to click the link and print out a copy for yourself.)

  • The price book will help you figure out the rock-bottom prices from your favorite store or stores.
  • The price book will help you know when to stock up – and when to buy just the minimum.

2.  Familiarize yourself with the layout and selection from your favorite store.

3.  Take advantage of a store’s price-match policy.

  • This is especially important if you want to avoid driving all around town, just to save money on one or two items.  Take the weekly circular with you to your store of choice, find the sale items listed in the circular that you want to purchase, and then have your store price-match those items.
  • If you are going to price-match more than one or two items, try to go to the store when there are fewer customers.  You’ll feel more comfortable asking for the price-match if there aren’t 10 people waiting in line behind you to check out.

4.  If an item that you want is on sale but out-of-stock, ask for a rain check.

5.  Use coupons, but only for items that you were already planning to buy.

  • Coupons are very popular.  I get mine from the Sunday paper and I print them online.

6.  Sample generic versions of various products.

  • I have found that the quality of most generics is equal to the quality of most name brands.  Most reputable stores will give you a refund if you try their generic or store brand and you are not satisfied.

7.  Find out if stores in your area offer double (or even triple) coupons.

  • My favorite local store will double coupons up to 50 cents.  So, if I have a coupon for 50 cents, they’ll take 1 dollar off of the purchase price.  I find that I can really save money when using doubled coupons and purchasing canned fruits and vegetables.

8.  Skip the grocery store and try the local farmer’s market or vegetable stand if you are looking for fresh produce.

  • If you have the time, you can really save a ton of money by buying from local farmers or from local produce stands.

9.  Bring your calculator to the store – and use it!

  • If you ignore all of the above, don’t ignore suggestion number 9.  I use the calculator on my cell phone.  You need to be able to figure our price per ounce or price per gallon or price per unit.  The little information stickers below most products are often wrong.  A quick calculation or two, and you’ll soon know whether to buy the 24 ounce or the 44 ounce ketchup.

10.  Pay attention to price – period.

  • A lot of research goes into separating your money from you.  Ignore end caps.  Ignore where an item is on the shelf.  Ignore those bright yellow or orange “sale” signs.  Compare prices – per unit, per ounce, per pound, etc.

11.  Understand how “2 for the price of x” works at your store.

  • In some cases, stores require that you actually buy 2 qualifying items in order to get the discounted price.  Other stores, while using the “2 for the price of x” signage, will actually sell you 1 item for half of x.  Know your stores’ policies.

12.  Shop with a list.

  • Use your list in conjunction with your grocery price book.  List items in two columns. 1.) Items we have to have, right now.  2.) Items we need to stock up on, if they are on sale or have hit a rock-bottom price in our price book.

13.  Leave the kids at home (most of the time).

  • It’s usually much easier to shop, compare prices, and get done quickly if you can leave the kids at home.  There are times, however, when it’s important to let the kids in on the process.  I’ve actually taken all three of my kids, by myself, to the grocery store, and while I’m not really able to fiddle with the price book or worry too much about using the calculator, I have managed to still save money and maintain my sanity.  The key is to stick to the list – and let the kids help whenever they can.

14.  Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

  • Let’s be real.  Time is money.  It doesn’t make sense, unless you simply have loads and loads of free time, to kill ourselves to save 3 bucks at the grocery store.  There is something to be said for convenience.  From time to time, pay the extra few pennies, get home a few minutes earlier, and enjoy the evening with your family.

15.  Learn to cook from scratch – or not.

  • This one is last for a reason.  There are times – many times – when it makes a ton of sense (and cents) to cook from scratch.  There are other times when it just pays to buy pre-made or pre-mixed items.  You’ll have to decide for yourself, based on your cooking skills and eating habits, which will work for you.

This is a subject about which I’d love to hear from you.  How do you save money at the grocery store?  Leave a comment and let us know.  Rock on!

I encourage you to subscribe to No Credit Needed via RSS or Email.  Also, if you liked this article, please consider promoting it via the social network buttons below.  Comments are always appreciated – and don’t forget to follow me over at Twitter.com/NCN.

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How To Stay Out Of Debt

1.  Live on a budget and plan for future purchases.

  • If you are going to live without borrowing money, you will need to save for future purchases.  Saving for automobiles, furniture, and appliances requires a lot of discipline and a lot of planning.  The debt free life is awesome, but it does require that you spend some time mapping out your financial future.  We use the You Need A Budget software to manage our finances and I’m proud to have them as a long-time sponsor of this site.

2.  Maintain adequate cash reserves.

  • Rainy day fund, emergency fund, freedom account – It goes by many names, but no matter what you call it, you’ll be glad you have it when life throws you a financial-curve ball.  How much you’ll want to keep in savings will be determined by your particular situation.  I keep enough money in my emergency fund to replace my income for six months.

3.  Avoid lifestyle inflation.

  • Take this from someone who knows what he’s talking about – Once you get out of debt, you are going to feel very, very rich.  You won’t be, but you’ll feel like it.  For the first month or so, you’ll pay your bills, see just how much you still have in your checking account, and a big smile will come across you face.  Enjoy it, because getting out of debt does, indeed, rock!  Then, take a second – and realize that if you go crazy and spend all of that freed up cash, you’ll quickly find yourself right back in debt.  Continue to follow your budget and live below your means.

4.  Plan for your financial future.

  • Retirement.  College.  Yep.  Now is a great time to really focus on saving for retirement and paying for kids’ college.  This is not to say that we should wait until we are debt free to save for either, but being debt free does allow us to really amp up our contributions.  Do some research and analyze your various options.  Do you have a 401(k) through work?  Do you have a Roth IRA?  Have you considered an ESA or a 529 Plan?  Take the time, educate yourself, and prepare for tomorrow.

5.  Be smart with your credit cards.

  • If you use them – use them wisely.  Pay your balance off each month and avoid carrying balances.  Rock on.

This week I will be writing a series of Back to the Basics articles.  I encourage you to subscribe to No Credit Needed via RSS or Email.  Also, if you liked this article, please consider promoting it via the social network buttons below.  Comments are always appreciated – and don’t forget to follow me over at Twitter.com/NCN.

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