Welcome to Best Money Saving Blog. Here we like to write articles about all ways in which normal people like me and you can save or make money. Covering a range of subjects from discounts and voucher codes, how to make money, general saving ideas and the occasional rant from myself. If you're a blogger out there with something to say or a company with a money saving product you'd like to write about - please get in touch with us. We're happy to help out and offer guest posts for anyone who's interested.

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Unless You’re Made of Money, Use These Tips to Save Money on Tech

Published on July 15, 2015, by in Personal Finance.

If you are one of the rare people on this earth for whom money is no object, feel free to skip this article. Far from saving money, I actually want you to spend as much of it as you can. The local economy thanks you. Everyone else might want to pay attention. There is some awesome tech out there that you are having a tough time affording. Unpurchased, cool tech is a tragedy that can be avoided with a little effort.

Of course, the real solution to this first-world problem is that you grow a little self control. Stop thinking that you have to buy every single gadget that leaks onto a fan site. Honestly, your life will be remarkably unchanged if you just don’t buy it, whatever “it” happens to be. Well… enough silliness. Obviously, you have to have it. And you’re going to buy it. Pretending otherwise is just denial. Since we have establish that, let’s look at some ways to save a little money along the way:

Bundle and Save

A store would rather sell you two things rather than one thing, and three things rather than two things. The more they can sell you at one time, the less they have to make on each individual sale. To discourage you from buying only the one thing you wanted, and picking up other things some place else, companies offer bundle deals with substantial savings.

Satellite TV is a case in point. You may be tempted by the large selection of HD channels and fancy DVRs. But, before you make the jump, check for discounts and bundles being offered. For example, Satellite TV at Satellitetv-Deals.com can save you money but not just with coupons. The same provider of TV service will most likely offer telephone and Internet service. If there are no particular offers during the time you check, give them a call and ask. They will most likely have a bundle that can save you more than just purchasing services independently.

Shop Last Year’s Model

You know the difference between Sony’s top of the line TV this year over last year? Neither do I. Neither does anyone, likely, including Sony. Actually, I can tell you about one major difference: Last year’s model is a lot less expensive. And it is a lot better than the one you have. You just have to know where to buy it.

That’s where warehouse stores like Sam’s and Costco come in. One of the reasons their electronics are such good deals is that they almost always carry last year’s model. You can even save money on the current model at such places. If you are savvy, you can save even more than you thought by using warehouse stores to their full potential.

Resell It Like a Ferengi

If you are a fan of the Star Trek Universe (and who isn’t?) you know who the Ferengi are. They represent the logical conclusion to unfettered capitalism and consumerism. They are all about the acquisition of goods and services. As they tell it, the five stages of acquisition are:

  • Infatuation
  • Justification
  • Appropriation
  • Obsession
  • Resale

From the perspective of a tech consumer who is not made of money, this seems like a pretty reasonable list, especially the last one. If you are going to play the expensive game of early adopting the latest and greatest, you have to have a strong resale plan. Gazelle.com pays top dollar for used, Apple devices. They even pay for broken ones. An iPhone doesn’t have to work to be worth good money towards your next one.

Your carrier likely offers some sort of pay as you go plan so that you can upgrade your smartphone every year. T-Mobile has the most aggressive of these plans, having pioneered the concept in the U.S. All these plans are a form of resale. From this moment, on, you don’t have a junk drawer. You have a resale drawer.

Bundle and save, shop last year’s model, and resell like a Ferengi. If you can’t actually curb your habit, these are a few ways to finance it.

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Shopping at a Warehouse Store? Follow these 5 Rules to Save Even More

Published on May 9, 2015, by in Saving Money.

The old axiom in business is that, if you want to make money, you have to spend. If you shop at warehouse stores however, you actually have to spend money in order to save money.

That’s the premise behind belonging to warehouse clubs like Costco Wholesale, Sam’s Club or BJ’s Wholesale Club, warehouse stores that are member wholly and charge the in order to allow members to save a lot of money on bulk purchases. These huge warehouse stores rationalize that their customers won’t mind spending a little extra money on an annual fee if they’re getting deeply discounted products and, according to First Research, a market analysis firm, that rationalization is paying off as warehouse clubs are today a nearly $400 billion industry.

Of course just like shopping at a regular supermarket, it pays to shop at a warehouse store with a little bit of forethought and planning. If you don’t, you might find that you just spent $150 on things that you really don’t need or that will “go bad” before you can actually use them. With that in mind, below are some basic rules from veteran warehouse club shoppers that should help you to not just save money but save a lot of money. Enjoy.

Rule 1: Always bring a list. Just like shopping in a regular supermarket, having a list when you shop at a warehouse club will keep you focused on what you need and help you avoid overspending. The fact is, with warehouse clubs you’re buying a large volume but paying a smaller price per unit, meaning that you’re still spending a significant amount of money up front. If you waste your money on things that you don’t usually buy you will certainly save money per product but spend a lot more than you would have at a regular store.

Rule 2: Try to avoid perishable items. Unless you have a very large family, buying 5 gallons of milk probably isn’t a good idea. The same thing can be said for meat, cheese, produce and anything else that can spoil. If you have a large freezer and are well equipped to freeze, can and/or bottle all your fresh produce, you should be okay. Besides that however, purchasing perishable items in bulk is very risky.

Rule 3: If something you use all the time goes on sale, stock up. Warehouse clubs have coupons and markdown items just like regular supermarkets. If you keep an eye on warehouse club flyers and also have a keen eye when you are actually in the warehouse club shopping, you will undoubtedly find products that are marked down significantly. If these are products that you actually like a lot and use all the time, take advantage of those savings by purchasing as many as you can, as long as you are sure to use them in the future.

Rule 4: Have a good idea about which products are cheaper when purchased in bulk. Marvin Williams, a Costco super shopper from San Jose, California, says that “generally, electronics, wine and food staples offer the best value.” Williams also said that, when buying blue all, make sure it’s staple foods that won’t spoil like cereal, pasta and other dry foods.

Rule 5: Don’t be afraid to ask for a price reduction. Like many supermarkets and other retailers, if you purchase something and then see it go on sale in the next week you should probably go back and ask for an adjustment or reduction on your price.

These 5 excellent Rules will help you to save even more the next time you go to your favorite warehouse club. As for us, we’re quite fond of those big cheese balls but always have to throw away a lot because it dries out before we can eat it all.

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The New Single Majority and the Financial Challenges they Face

Published on May 2, 2015, by in Personal Finance.

The United States, surprisingly, has a new majority, and it’s single people. For the first time since 1976, when statistics were first kept and 37% of adults were single, there are more single than married people living in the US.

While this might not sound like a bad thing, the actual implications are enormous. The fact is, while being single definitely has its perks, there are more expenses and things can be a bit harder to plan for and plan around. For example, there is less financial flexibility, a bigger need for an emergency fund and the right insurance is necessary as well.

Let’s take a look at some of the financial challenges that singles in the States have these days, and some of the biggest financial risks they face. Enjoy.

1) Not saving enough money. As many young people are waiting to get married and then have kids, many end up in their 30s and 40s facing retirement planning, saving for a house and saving for college all at once. Since many people in their 20s don’t save a lot, if at all, it can become financially difficult, especially if they are trying to maintain a new household while paying off student at the same time.

2) Trying to figure out long-term care. Long-term care in the United States, for example a private room in a nursing home, can cost over $100,000 a year. Young people generally don’t look at long-term care insurance but waiting until they are in their 40s or 50s is a bad idea because more will be declined long-term care insurance. Women especially, who tend to live longer, should consider getting long-term care insurance when they are younger.

3) The financial risks of divorce. The divorce rate for people 50 years of age and older has doubled since 1990, with more women than men initiating divorces later in life according to the AARP. The biggest problem is that these divorces, in many cases, destroy their finances because they are so costly and they are forced to split their assets before retiring. In fact, financial planners are under the opinion that women who do their best to keep the family house after a divorce are actually taking on a long-term burden rather than getting a benefit.

4) Being a single senior. While the idea of dying alone can certainly be terrifying for many people, recent studies suggest that seniors who are also single are actually just as happy and even more social than their married peers. The problem however is that many don’t have their documentation, including healthcare proxies and power of attorney, in place. In order to avoid spending copious amounts of time and money in the courtroom if you become sick or disabled, having those documents filled out is vital.

As you can see, there are a number of risks that single people have over their married peers, especially as they get older. There are perks yes, but there are also risks. That isn’t to say that being married is any less risky, but just that there are a number of other factors that need to be kept in mind. If you’re single and approaching retirement, seeking out a financial planner to help you is probably a good idea.

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Simple steps to prioritize your debts

Published on April 25, 2015, by in Personal Finance.

All forms of debt are not equal, so it’s important to prioritize your obligations before you pay them down. It actually pays to have some forms of debt. Home mortgage interest, for example, on acquisition loans of up to $1 million are fully tax deductible. Mortgage interest on a second home can also be deducted in many cases. Meanwhile, $2500 of your student loan interest can be deducted if you’re a single taxpayer with a modified adjusted gross annual income of $50,000 or less, or a married couple filing jointly earning $100,000 or less.

In addition to serving good purposes, these loans also happen to charge relatively favorable interest rates. Anyone who purchased a new home recently or refinanced their existing mortgage is paying only around 5 or 6 percent interest. In 2003, student loans were being consolidated at 4 percent rates or lower. By comparison, the average credit card was charging nearly 15 percent, and many were charging 21 percent or more. It seems obvious, then, that you should pay off your cards first. Not only do cards charge the highest rates, the interest isn’t deductible. And by paying off your cards first, you’re also likely to improve your credit profile faster. A person’s credit score—used by lenders to set interest rates on loans—factors in that person’s mix of Debt, and unsecured revolving debt is looked upon less favorably than mortgage debt.

After you’re done paying off your cards, attack other forms of high-rate nondeductible debt, such as car loans. Then work your way down the food chain. If you have a home-equity loan outstanding, consider paying that off next. Home equity loan interest is deductible provided the loan itself does not exceed $100,000. Home-equity loan rates also tend to be relatively low. And the money can be used for any reason, such as paying off credit cards or going on vacation.

Home equity loans aren’t always desirable, however. Despite rising home values, many Americans own less of their houses today than 20 years ago. That’s largely because of the record amount of equity we pulled out of our homes through “cash-out refinancing,” where a homeowner refinances a mortgage for more than is currently owed on the property, in order to pocket the difference. To whatever extent you can restore that equity, great. Despite the attention we pay to our stock portfolios, our homes are by far our most valuable assets. Among middle- and upper-middle- class families, home values represent more than 40 percent of total wealth (versus just 17 percent for retirement accounts). It’s in our best interest, then, to own a larger percentage of this appreciating asset.

Next, pay off the student loans, particularly if they charge higher rates. Finally, that leaves you with the mortgage, which offers the most flexibility of all debt. And thanks to record–low-interest rates at the start of this decade, it’s also probably your lowest-rate loan. The amount you save each month and the amount you set aside to pay down debt ought to be based on what you make and what you need to live on. That’s a simple budgeting exercise.

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Advice on Identifying Fake Scholarships

Published on April 14, 2015, by in Personal Finance.

Every year, thousands of students and their parents lose millions of dollars through fraudulent scholarships. The reason why so many people fall victims of these scams is that, they are advertised in such a manner that they imitate the wording and structure used in legitimate scholarships. These include the use of terms like Federal, Administration, Foundation or National. But however well written and entrancing they may be, there always will be those tell-tale signs that are hard to hide. These Include:

1. Application Fees:

One thing you ought to know understand about scholarships is that their intent is to give money, not take it. Thus, if you ever come across a scholarship that asks you to pay a given amount of money to help with the processing of your application, then, that’s definitely a scam. So don’t be tempted, no matter how small the fee may be.

2. No Contact Details:

If a scholarship doesn’t give any or enough contact information, such as website, phone contacts and physical address, then, it should be questioned. So don’t be fooled by an email address as these are easy to forge and hard to trace. In addition to this, be wary of ones with residential P.O. Box addresses. Credible ones are located within business premises and have physical addresses.

3. Open to All:

All legit scholarships are designed to cater for the needs of a specific category of students. This may be in terms of their academic performance, heritage, location, institution or field of study. But if a scholarship alleges that it’s open to all, then, it’s highly probable that it’s fake.

4. No Information Regarding Past Scholarship Winners:

Although organizations are always coming up with new scholarships, hence impossible for them to have had past winners, in most cases, scholarships whose past winners can’t be traced are likely to be fraudulent. So how do you know if a scholarship is just new or that it’s fraudulent? If a scholarship it’s new, this bit of information will be mentioned in the scholarship details. If it’s fraudulent, then, there’ll be no mention of this or a way to trace its past winners.

5. Request to Share your Financial Information:

Going by the fact that scholarships are meant to help those in need, no information regarding your bank account, social security number or credit card information should be asked. Therefore, as soon as someone asks you to provide this information, blacklist them.

6. Being Awarded a Scholarship you Never Applied For:

If you ever get a phone call or email declaring you a winner of a scholarship you never applied for in the first place, then, that’s certainly a fake scholarship. Although you may get scholarship offers – more so if your academic performance is exceptional or have a very promising athletic career, whenever this is the case, the individuals running the scholarship will contact you in person and probably, within their institution.

Other additional signs to look out for include a scholarship that demand that you first attend a paid scholarship seminar, ones that promise to apply for the scholarship on your behalf, ones whose advertisements are written in poor grammar or ones emphasizing that lots of millions or billions of dollars went unclaimed in the past year.

The website http://easyscholarshipsnow.com offers lists of legitimate programs like no essay scholarships that generally follow the guidelines offered in this article that’ll help avoid fraud.

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Save more by Freezing Your Spending

Published on April 12, 2015, by in Saving Money.

The first step toward paying down card balances is to stop adding to them. There are a couple of easy ways to start this process. First and foremost, stop using your cards to make basic purchases. Wherever possible, use cash for day-to-day transactions, such as paying for groceries or buying clothes. There is a tendency among consumers to differentiate their money sources. The cash in our wallets is ours, but money pulled from a credit card feels like someone else’s. All things being equal, we have an easier time spending other people’s money than our own.

Two professors at MIT documented this fact in an experiment a few years ago. They set up two different auctions for a pair of Boston Celtics tickets. In the first auction, would-be bidders were allowed to pay by credit card. In the other auction, bidders could only use cash. You might assume that the average bid from both auctions would be roughly the same, since both sets of bidders had equal knowledge of what they were purchasing: basketball tickets. As it turned out, the average credit card bidder was willing to spend twice as much as the average cash bidder.

A more recent study, of the behavior of fast-food customers, sheds some additional light on this phenomenon. Visa International analyzed more than 100,000 transactions at fast food restaurants, which are increasingly accepting plastic as a form of payment. It found that the average purchase made by a person paying with a card was 20 to 30 percent higher than purchases made by cash-paying customers. This puts a modern-day spin on that famous phrase that Wimpy used to utter in those Popeye cartoons: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” The implication is clear.

When posed with the classic question, “Would you like fries with that?” consumers paying with cash are far more likely to say no than those paying with plastic. It’s important to recognize this all-too human foible. Obviously, some things are hard to purchase with cash. Hotel rooms, for instance, require a credit card for insurance and security. Some customers can pay with cash, but they would have to call the hotel weeks in advance and jump through several hoops. It’s also hard to rent a car with cash. And you’re actually better off renting with plastic due to the insurance coverage many cards provide. Nevertheless, given our propensity to spend more on credit, it’s in our best interest to avoid plastic when possible.

Another way to freeze your spending is to freeze your plastic. Literally. This is an idea that a financial planner, mentioned to me, and I think it’s inspired. Put your credit cards in a sealable plastic bag, and immerse the bag in a tin of water. Then put the tin in your freezer, creating a block of ice. The purpose of this exercise is to force you to wait to make purchases.

The next time you get an impulse to buy something with plastic, you’ll have to wait for the cards to thaw out—which could take hours—before you can use them. Hopefully by then your urge to splurge will have subsided. Of course, you may decide to use cash to make the purchase. But since, as the MIT experiment showed, consumers aren’t willing to spend as much using cash as plastic, I’m guessing this will end up saving you some money in the long run. Or you could get your credit card number off of your latest statement. But that’s only good for Internet and catalog purchases. To buy something in a store, you’d have to thaw out the card. If you really want to spend that badly, you’ll find a way to break through the ice. For instance, you might try to microwave the card, but then, that would destroy the magnetic strip on the back.

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Where to Store Your Emergency Funds

Published on April 5, 2015, by in Saving Money.

Where should you put the money? Keep in mind that this is your emergency savings, not your emergency investments. Not a single drop of this money belongs in the stock market, not even in the most well-diversified, dividend-paying blue chip stock fund you can find. During the bull market, many of us were literally using our stock fund accounts as de facto banks. When stocks were consistently returning 20-percent-plus returns a year, cash accounts, with their single-digit yields, looked paltry by comparison. But anyone who “saved” money in Enron stock or even in a broadly diversified S&P 500 fund learned how risky it can be to bank in the market. It’s imperative to match your money with your needs.

The less time you have to work with—that is, the less time there is to make up for losses, should they occur—the more conservative you need to be with your money. Money that you’ll need to tap in a year or two, or sooner, should be put into the most conservative and accessible asset: cash. Money that you won’t need for, say, two to five years, should be allowed to grow. But it should be held in moderately safe securities such as short- and intermediate-term bonds, so there’s little chance that its value will diminish during that period of time.

Money that you won’t need for five years or more should be invested more aggressively, in a combination of stocks, bonds, and perhaps other assets, in order to meet your long-term financial goals and outpace the long-term effects of inflation. Because an emergency could arise tomorrow, an emergency fund, by definition, must be held in an ultrasafe and ultra-short-term account. Though fixed-income investments, or bonds, are inherently safer than stocks, they still aren’t safe enough for emergencies.

Even Treasury bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government, should be considered investments, not savings. Held in a mutual fund, for instance, government and corporate bonds can easily lose value in the short term. It typically happens when market interest rates spike, as they did in 1994 (see “Mistake 4: Overlooking Risks”). Over time, this risk subsides. But if you need to tap your emergency fund tomorrow, you’ll require an account that offers total principal protection. One option is a bank certificate of deposit, or CD. The problem is, most CDs, which are federally insured, hit you with penalty fees for withdrawing money before the term of the contract expires. And who knows if an emergency might arise before a one- or twoyear CD comes due? (As an alternative, there are so-called penaltyfree CDs that allow customers to withdraw money early, but, as you would expect, they return less than traditional CDs.) Earlywithdrawal fees on traditional CDs vary, depending on the financial institution and the term of the CD. But an early withdrawal would typically cost you three months’ worth of interest income on a one-year CD and up to six months’ interest on a two-year CD.

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Online Short Term Loans

Published on April 1, 2015, by in Personal Finance.

The financial world, along with the rest of the world, is moving more and more online. In fact, you can now obtain and repay a short term loan entirely online. Applying for a short term loan online might seem like a risky proposition since you are not dealing with a banker face to face. However, if you are working with a reputable loaner, then obtaining a short term loan online is perfectly legitimate. Doing the transaction online cuts down on the overhead of a bank, or other bricks and mortar operation, and saves money for everyone involved.

In the UK, one example of a successful company that specializes in online short term loans is https://www.cashfloat.co.uk. Through their website, individuals with acceptable credit can obtain loans from £200 to £1100. The loan is generally repaid within 4 months. Applicants enter a variety of personal information including their work status, current expenses, etc. The applicant specifies the amount of money they hope to borrow and when they plan to repay. Decisions are made very quickly and the applicant can have money in his or her bank account that same day.

While Cashfloat is an online business, actual humans review the loan application. It’s not a case of a computer making all the decisions. Also, customer service from an actual person is available over the telephone.

It should be noted that this type of short term loan is not something to be taken out casually. Short term loans are designed for people in special circumstances to obtain money quickly that they know they will be able to pay back soon. Short term loans are not the answer for people already in debt. If a short term loan is not repaid when it is supposed to, then the associated financial penalties pile up quickly putting the customer in an even worse position.

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Claiming Social Security Benefits

Published on March 27, 2015, by in Retirement.

One of the most important decisions that an American consumer will make as they near or reach retirement age is deciding when to actually start collecting their Social Security benefits. One of the biggest questions is going to be whether to start collecting them at the age of 62, when it’s possible, or at the “full” retirement age of 66.

Below are three important factors that you should know if you’re a retiree, or will be one soon, before you make the decision to start receiving your Social Security benefits. Enjoy.

The first is that the amount you receive monthly will depend on how much income you earned during your working life that was eligible for Social Security benefits, and also when you decide to start receiving those benefits.

Social Security has chosen 66 as the year for full retirement and, if you wait until that age, you’ll get the full benefit you’re due. If you decide to start receiving them early however, for every month early your benefits will be reduced. For example, if you choose to start getting them at age 62 instead of 66, your benefits will be 25% less. On the other hand, if you wait until you’re 70 years old you’ll increase your benefits by 8% per year, or 32%.

This next factor might be somewhat confusing because, let’s face it, Social Security was designed by the federal government. It’s the fact that, for the average consumer, it really doesn’t matter when you apply and start receiving your benefits because the Social Security Administration designed their program to average the lifetime payments out so that, no matter when you start receiving them, you still get the same amount of money in the end.

What that means is that, for most American consumers, getting smaller checks if you start receiving benefits early won’t last for the rest of your life.

Lastly there’s the simply the fact that, if your quality of life demands that you have extra money and need your social security payments, you should start taking them. On the other hand, if you don’t, then you should defer them as long as possible. For many American consumers, 62 is the age for starting to claim benefits simply because they need them in order to either get by or stay at their current standard of living. If that’s not you then by all means wait.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re considering the decision to start receiving your Social Security payments and that retirement is all about you. Retirement should be a time of comfort, reflection and hopefully even a bit of leisure and, when deciding whether or not to start receiving your Social Security benefits early, sometimes crunching the numbers isn’t exactly useful.

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Want Your Tax Refund in Cash? Visit Wal-Mart

Published on March 21, 2015, by in Taxes.

As an extra benefit to customers, and an excellent marketing gimmick, consumers this year can go to their local Walmart store to collect their tax refund in cash. For those consumers who don’t have a bank account, it’s a convenient and cheaper alternative to getting their check cashed.

Even better, Walmart won’t charge any fees for the service, although they have said that some tax preparers will be charging for making the arrangements, up to $7.

It’s definitely an added convenience for many taxpayers and, for Walmart itself, a great way to not only get customers into their stores but also give them the cash they need to stay there and make purchases.

The fact is, Walmart didn’t become the biggest retailer in the world for nothing, and they know a good idea when they see one. Their senior vice president for services, Daniel Eckert, recently commented that “It’s always a good thing to have customers in our stores web jingles in their wallets and their pockets.” While we’re not sure exactly what “jingles” are, but we assume that Mister Eckert was referring to good old American dollars.

The service is directed at those customers who, for one reason or another, don’t have bank accounts. Frankly, getting cash at your local Walmart won’t exactly be cheaper or quicker then having it deposited directly into your bank account but, if you don’t actually have a bank account, it definitely is a cheaper alternative.

The reason being is that, for consumers who don’t have a traditional bank account, it can cost upwards of $70 in fees to cash their tax refund check cashed. That’s quite a bit of money wasted just to cash a check, you have to admit, and consumers can actually get both their federal and state refund checks cashed at any of the retail giant’s locations.

One caveat however is that taxpayers who prepare their taxes themselves, using online tax preparation services, won’t be able to use any of the 25,000 tax preparers that Walmart has in their stores.

As an added bonus, 3000 Walmart stores across the country will have Jackson Hewitt tax preparers in-store and, when eligible clients use their services, they’ll get a $50 Walmart gift card for e-filing through them.

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