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How To Earn Money With Cashback Shopping Portals

roth 401(k) cashback shopping portals

roth 401(k) cashback shopping portals

Who doesn’t want to save money and get cash back on internet purchases? Everybody knows about discount codes that can be entered to get free shipping or a lower subtotal amount. With cashback shopping portals, you can receive these discounts and receive an additional cash back rebate when you shop through a third-party website.

How Do Cashback Shopping Portals Work?

Cashback shopping portals are the 21st-Century version of mail-in rebates, except shoppers must take the additional step before making a purchase instead of after to get cash back. Portals are also similar to rewards credit cards. Cardholders earn additional cash or travel rewards when they make a purchases with certain merchants.

The one main difference is that cashback shopping portals are a “middle man” between the shopper and the merchant. Shoppers need to use a portal to earn additional money. Otherwise, they only receive the discount that retailers are offering to the general public (assuming they have a discount). Portal users might pay the same price for an item at checkout as a non-portal user, but they will see the additional savings later.

How To Use A Cashback Shopping Portal

Cashback shopping portals make agreements with online retailers to pay customers with cash rewards when they make a purchase using the portal. To receive the reward, an online shopper must first visit the website of the portal (i.e. Ebates, Swagbucks, etc.) and choose the online store they want to shop at. The portal will open a shopping session and redirect the shopper to the store’s website.

Any purchases made during this session will be awarded the advertised cash reward that the store has agreed to pay.

Reward Payouts

Regarding reward payouts, every portal is different. There are several cashback shopping portals that you can choose to shop with. Some portals offer higher payout rates for a particular store than another portal. For instance, Portal A rewards 5% @ JC Penney, but Portal B only rewards 3%. It’s not uncommon for avid cashback shopping portal users to “reward shop” to use the portal that will give them the most cashback for a purchase.

When it comes time to actually getting the rewards into your bank account, portals also pay on different schedules. The one downside to portals is that most do not offer immediate access to cash rewards. It can take up to a month for some merchants to reimburse the reward to the portal.

Portal payouts are typically on a quarterly basis (i.e. rewards earned January-March are paid on May 15th). Also, portals usually require a minimum reward balance of at least $5. Some portals will pay rewards via PayPal on a more frequent basis (i.e. weekly or monthly) once you earn the minimum balance amount. Shoppers preferring check payments have to wait for the next quarterly disbursement.

Real-Life Example

Let’s use a real-life scenario to help make the cashback shopping portal process easier to understand:

  1. Jane wants to buy a new outfit from JC Penney.
  2. She visits her favorite cashback shopping portal and sees they are offering a 5% cashback reward on all items purchased.
  3. Jane clicks the “Shop Now” button and the portal takes her to the JC Penney homepage.
  4. After adding the new outfit, Jane completes the checkout process.
  5. Within 24-48 hours (for most merchants), Jane receives an e-mail from the cashback shopping portal saying she was rewarded $3 from the shopping session!

“Fine Print” About Earning Rewards

There are some tips that portal shoppers need to know about to make sure their purchases qualify for rewards.  It can be easy to make a mistake and not get credit.

1. Must Checkout Through the Portal Session

If Jane had gone directly to JC Penney’s website or a brick-and-mortar store instead of visiting the portal first, she would not have earned the 5% reward. By shopping through the portal, she still had to pay the same upfront price for the outfit as any other internet shopper, but will receive additional savings that retailers do not advertise to the average shopper.

2. Open New Session If You Do Not Checkout On Original Session

Also if Jane started the shopping session with a portal and added an item to her cart but doesn’t complete the checkout process with that same browser window, she may not earn reward credit. To earn credit, she will have to visit the retailer using the portal and check out with a new session.

If she checks out by going directly to the JC Penney website, she will not earn the reward, even though she put the item in her cart during a portal shopping session. It can be easy to forget to open a new session if you wanted to wait a day or two just to make sure you didn’t want to purchase any additional items.

3. Retailers Do Not Remember Previous Portal Cashback Purchases

Just because you made an online purchase with a cashback shopping portal at a store before doesn’t mean you will automatically receive rewards for future purchases. Retailers provide rewards as an incentive to attract shoppers, but will only reward those who go the extra mile. If you want to save money on each purchase, you need to use the portal every time.

4. Portal Shopping Sessions Have A Different Web Address

The reason why portal shopping sessions have a different web address is because of an affiliate code. This lets the merchant know that you are shopping with a portal and qualify for additional cashback.
Here is how to tell if you are in a portal shopping session by looking at your web address if you shop at JC Penney:

Web Address Without Portal

The above image is what your browser’s web address bar looks when you visit JC Penney without using a portal.  The below image is visit JC Penney with a portal.

Web Address With PortalNotice how one address is shorter than the other? The additional characters are what tell the merchant that any purchase made while this browser session is open is eligible for cashback rewards. This is an easy way to remember if you activated a shopping session or accidentally went directly to the store.

What Stores Award Portal Rewards?

The largest cashback shopping portals offer rewards at over 2,000 online stores. Most major retailers participate in the program. You can earn rewards in just about every category including gift cards, home improvement stores, clothing, and travel.

Certain stores have exclusions or tiered reward payouts. Most major retailers will not offer rewards on gift cards, although you can earn rewards by buying the same cards through gift card merchants.

Cashback Shopping Portals To Consider

If you are new to the cashback shopping portal scene, below is a list of four of the most popular portals.  There are plenty more available on the internet. Some stores like Walmart even have a cashback shopping portal of their own.

  • Ebates – This is the original and the largest cashback shopping portal. For additional rewards, you can also sign-up for the Ebates Cashback Credit Card that rewards an additional 3% on all purchases made through Ebates.
  • Giving Assistant – Giving Assistant is a portal with a social mission. For every purchase made using GA, they will donate a meal to the charity Feeding America. As of this post, they have donated 600,000+ meals.
  • Ibotta – If you like to save money at the supermarket, this is the portal for you. While most portals are online only, you earn rewards with Ibotta by sending a receipt of your purchase at one of the 189 participating stores to earn rewards. Despite making a purchases in-person, you need to “unlock rewards” on the Ibotta website prior to making a purchase.
  • Swagbucks – With Swagbucks, you earn gift cards instead of cash. Rewards can also be earned by taking surveys, playing games, and surfing the web. Swagbucks is popular because you can earn shopping portal rewards, but can also earn rewards without having to spend money.
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How To Get a Cheaper Monthly Payment On Your Cable Bill

One of the biggest annual expenses we pay for on a regular basis is on entertainment. From movies to TV shows and everything in between, we as consumers shell out hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year on just television alone. While cable is one of the easiest ways to make television available to us, it is also costly. But it doesn’t have to be.

lower cable bill

Here are a few ways you can have a cheaper and more affordable cable bill each and every month while still being able to soak up all of your favorite shows and programming.

Why is cable so costly?

Before we dive in, it’s important to have a basic understanding of why your bill is the way that it is – one large fee for a lump service. Cable providers are –more than anything– middlemen for the television studios that produce the content that is available on your screens. The studios produce content then sell that content to the providers of your cable service. The cable services then sell that content to those who subscribe to them.

The reason cable bills are so high is due to cable companies are paying high studio costs while also trying to make a profit. Every television studio and content producer has varying costs that they charge to cable companies, with ESPN and other sports channels being at the highest cost to cable providers.

These individual cable channel cost differences are what lead to the different packages that are available to you as the cable subscriber. From packages that are basic with just regular programming channels, to the deluxe packages that include movie channels and/or sports channels, the prices you will be looking at are widespread.

The package that includes sports channels like ESPN and other official team sports channels (such as dedicated channels for the Lakers or Dodgers) cost more than a basic cable package because of the original cost to the cable provider. They need to buy the channels and sell them to you while also making a profit.

How do I get a cheaper cable bill?

And now we cut back to the matter at hand: how to reduce your standing cable bill. There are several ways in which you can make this happen, but you should know now that it will take patience, a calm temperament, and an eye on the prize of a reduced monthly bill.

Here are some tips to get that cost down:

  • Research their competition.

Before you get on the phone with your provider, do your research on pricing elsewhere. Hunt around for deals that are being offered by competitors, and have those numbers ready for when you are on the phone with them. Explain that you’d like similar or better prices.

You will build more credibility with the research you present. Their job is to keep you as a client, so they will hopefully try to be helpful in making you satisfied.

  • Know that they want to keep you.

The principle that “it is cheaper to keep a customer than to sign on a new one” is held fast in the realm of cable. Knowing that cable companies want to retain your business is a mindset that you can take advantage of.

NOTE: This maneuvering will require you to speak to a live person. If speaking on the phone makes you nervous, be sure to do a bit of a pep talk before you dial. You will need to put your negotiating hat on. 

  • Making the Call.

Call your cable provider. When the automated service asks why you’re calling, select the “cancelation” option. There is a high chance that you will be connected with a live operator whose purpose is to convince you to stay with them. This is the person you will be negotiating with.

Once connected, tell them that your bill is just too high. You may ask them to consider your history with them (hopefully one of on-time payments and longevity). Explain that you want a lower monthly rate or you will take your business elsewhere.

They may try to throw some “deals” at you like 6 months of free movie channels or a new cable box. But keep your eyes on the long-term prize: you want a lowered monthly rate.

If the person is not willing to help you and won’t budge, all is not lost. Call again until you get on the phone with somebody who is willing to hear you out. Be cordial on the phone. You will be surprised as to how much the tide can turn in your favor.

  • Consider replacing cable altogether.

If all else fails after speaking to a representative, maybe it’s time to go all in and cancel. Canceling does not mean that you will be missing out on your favorite shows and programming. With streaming services being mostly up to date, you would be hard-pressed to miss an episode.

Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are in popular demand for a good reason: they are affordable and entertaining. As for the sports channels, you can find your favorite teams playing online through streaming apps. This may be a viable option for seasonal sports fans.

Taking your viewing habits into consideration may also help when determining what services you need. Many programs are now offered on streaming services and may be more convenient for you. A little research may save you time and money.

 

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This is how to cut your monthly food bill in half…according to the internet.

There are tons of articles out there about how you can save tons of money on your food budget. For some reason, when the question is presented, critics and advice givers come crawling out of the woodwork and all over the place to throw in their two cents on the subject.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really great thing when the world gathers around a particular subject to offer help. The problem is, a lot of the advice is great in theory but lacking in execution. On top of that, there are so many “tips” out there! So which ones are worth actually trying?

To try and find what the best methods of what would really save you the most money on groceries for the average month, I took the liberty of implementing some of the most popular suggestions from the internet and lived by them for a month.

Below is how to cut your monthly food budget in half…according to the internet.

 

Cut back on the “extra” beverages.

Difficulty to stick to: 2 / 5

Alcohol and liquor can really add up on the tab if you are not careful, even during happy hour. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I enjoy a beer or two when I go out with my lady every now and then. However, one area that I always put out on is fancy coffees at a restaurant. I don’t know why, but if a waiter or waitress offers me a cappuccino, I’m going to say yes.

According to the internet, the coffee sipping and boozing must cease and desist. As painful as it was, we implemented this drought of “beverage extras” into our budget and stopped ordering alcohol and fancy coffees for the month. We filled the void by getting our fill of coffee at home (Folgers all the way, baby), and stuck to drinking the bottles of whiskey and vodka that people gave to us for our birthdays and housewarming that we never finished. Cheaper to hit the sauce at home? Absolutely.

Bottom Line: Cutting out alcohol from our monthly purchases saved about 40 bucks total from what we usually spend when we go out. That’s pretty close to a whole extra dinner bill!

 

Eat at home.

Difficulty to stick to: 1 / 5

This was by far the most common method of saving money when it comes to groceries. Article after article started with this “tip” at the top of the list. It sounds practical, but before you switch on that stove or oven, you also have to know how to cook to make it worth your while. No one likes burnt food, and who wants to pay the medical bills if a loved one gets food poisoning?

Thankfully, cooking at home is not something that I had to work hard at doing. When I first got out of high school and into college I worked in restaurant kitchens, so I am no stranger to working and prepping food myself. That being said, I had a leg up on this “tip” because I know what to do with ingredients to make them versatile instead of just for one individual purpose.

To make this tip work, I substituted a two date nights where we usually just go out to a bar or fancy dinner with a meal that I prepared myself. Typically, when the two of us go out, it’s about 50 or so dollars because we both get whatever we want. Appetizers, entrees, desserts, and whatever drink we want (she’s a mojito gal and I’m a lover of cappuccinos, remember?). We spend freely like this because we don’t get out much.

Hitting the supermarket to prep for dinner, I spend about 25 bucks on the two of us total, and that was for a three course dinner. Still seems pretty steep, but the ingredients I bought were versatile enough to make more meals later that week than just for date night. Things like flour can be used for more than a cake, chances are that you are not cooking up an entire sack of potatoes for just two people, and the giant tri-tip you just bought can make some pretty awesome leftovers throughout the rest of the week.

Bottom Line: Two dates nights that would have rounded out to about 50 bucks each if we went out, I substituted for meals cooked at home. I saved about 60 bucks on this one (I’m also an automatic big tipper, so we saved a ton by not having to tip anyone at a restaurant. Yay!)

 

Stick to store brand products.

Difficulty to stick to: 3 / 5

supermarket-949912_960_720

This was a fun one to try. When we hit the supermarkets, we usually B-line to the aisle that contain our trusted brands, but what if we all just took a step to the left or right whenever we were about to reach for our favorite brand products?

For the month I tested this out on, I tried to stick to non-brand items. This was pretty hilarious when it came to my favorite purchases –breakfast cereals. Alternative names like “Oat-Ohs” (Cheerios), “Froot Hoops” (Fruit Loops), and “Sweetened Flakes of Corn” (They didn’t even try with this one, but I assumed it was Frosted Flakes).

Overall the month was pretty unnoticeably different. Everything in my house ran about the same: the tissues (not Kleenex, just “Facial Tissues”) still got the job done, the cereal was close to the same –albeit a little off–, and medicines from the pharmacy aisle kept us all alive just the same (I got a cold halfway through the month).

Bottom Line: This was actually a pretty fun one to try to implement into my spending habits. I saved about 2 dollars on each thing that I normally would buy. In a single month, that may not be huge, but I imagine that if I stuck with this store-brands-only trend for a whole year, I think a pretty huge sum could be saved.

 

Extreme Couponing.

Difficulty to stick to: 5 / 5

I’m not going to lie on this one –I gave up pretty early on. I rifled through the newspaper (yes, I still get a REAL newspaper, not just digital) and found the Penny Saver section and broke out the scissors. Halfway through cutting through the first waxy page I stopped. My brain was saying “Why is saving 6 cents on a can of tuna worth this effort?”

Thus ended the couponing experiment. Sorry guys.

Bottom line: If you want to save a whopping ten cents on a package of plastic spoons, then couponing is all you. Beware paper cuts.

 

Grow it yourself (Caution: your thumbs may turn green).

Difficulty to stick to: 6 / 5

I actually really tried on this endeavor, but failed pretty horribly. My girlfriend and I thought starting small with a garden would be the best thing, which really was the best decision we could have made.

We bought a small basil plant and brought it home and after reading the directions (yup, plants come with instructions) we watered it and gave it sunlight and even talked to it. Seems pretty easy, it’s just a plant right? NOPE.

This little devil weed was the neediest thing I have ever had to work with. We picked at its leaves every time we cooked something, which was pretty often, but due to how many leaves this little guy had we could never reach the end and pick him clean. On top of that, he would grow and grow and replace the leaves we took off. More so, the bigger he got (I am assuming it’s a “he”) the more water he needed and more sunlight he craved.  It was too much to keep giving him a dose of water every two hours before he would start to wilt, or that he got TOO MUCH sunlight and had to be removed from the windowsill.

Already long story shorter, we pulled the plug on the basil and picked his leaves clean all at once and let him go.

Bottom line: Unless you know how to garden and actually care for plants properly, gardening is a lot more of a burden than it is a money saver. We did however save on the cost of basil for the month. He cost 2 bucks to take home and gave us an entire month worth of basil. In the end we saved 6 bucks because of that little green terror. Woot!

 

So which tip was the best?

The winner of all of these “tips” that we gathered from the internet was the suggestion to cook at home.

If you don’t know how, getting a cook book off of Amazon or a trip to Williams – Sonoma could be a great investment. If you know what you are doing and can plan for your grocery list to fulfill more than just one meal with the bought ingredients, you can end up saving a ton in the long run.

 

How was or is your experience with cutting back on your grocery budget? Any tips you would suggest to others? Share them with us in the comments below!

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8 Purchases and Whether to Buy them New or Used

 

Let’s face it, we all want NICE things. From a nice car to a nice house to dinner at a really nice restaurant where you don’t have the option of coloring the menus. Problem is, the nicer things in life tend to be a lot more expensive than the not-so-nice things.

What’s great now is that because we live smack in the middle of the digital age, everything we could ever hope or want to buy for ourselves can be researched, purchased, and sent to your house in a matter of hours, or minutes with the help of those instant food-dash services.

There is so much selection out there, and all of it is available for us to purchase and call or own, but what about the purchases that we can make that tend to be more extravagantly priced? How can we possibly hope to afford some of these purchases without breaking the bank?

You probably knew this already, but thanks to the internet you can pick up pretty much anything in the condition of either “new” or “used”, but how do you know what purchases can be bought “used” instead of “new” and own them without buyer’s remorse?

Below is a roundup of the top products and commodities available to be purchased and whether or not you should buy “new” or “used”.

 

Laptop – New

A laptop computer is something that needs to be guaranteed as reliable, because chances are that you are using it outside of the home, and out there in the field is when you need your equipment to be reliable.

Yes, there are those places that can refurbish the defective computers and then resell them, but many people still don’t trust the idea of a “used” computer, even if it’s been refurbished by the manufacturer. Truth is, I don’t blame them –the stigma of “this thing was totally broken and unusable at some point” is hard to break away from.

Unless you really are strapped for cash, pick up a laptop in brand new condition. The most updated and current bells-and-whistles coming preloaded will also be worth the purchase. Chances are that you’re going to be using this thing every day, so might as well splurge a little and get a workhorse that is reliable and fully up to your desired specifications.

 

Television – New

This one might get some flack. I say that buying a television “new” is the way to go, but like all of the other placements on this roundup –it’s subjective and up to you.

A brand new television is recommended because like many households around the world, the TV is often the focal point of the room. The trend with living room televisions is Bigger, Brighter, and Smarter, and if those marks are not hit completely, it is deemed a bad TV. If you buy a TV for the living room and it is an older model with scuffs and scratches and other details that your mom would describe as “character”, it’s probably the last thing you want to serve as the focal point of the living room. For rooms that have the big screen as the center of attention, it is recommended to get a new one because the way they make ‘em now, they look amazing even then they aren’t even turned on yet.

However, if you are purchasing a TV for the sake of just having one and you really don’t care how it looks, but still want a reliable brand name, but are also not trying to impress people, then “used” is for you. Didn’t see that flip-flop coming did ya?

So really, it depends on what you want – a real looker (buy new), or just another screen (buy used/refurbished).

 

Car – Used

There is nothing wrong by any means with buying a used car, contrary to what your high school self may be telling you.

Used cars can be great because they take the added stress of getting a knick or a scratch on a door every time you pull into the supermarket (the trick is telling yourself that the scratch got there before you bought it). On top of that, any problem you may encounter can be fixed with a trip into the mechanics. Of course, you always want to get the prospective vehicle inspected before you buy first.

If you can afford to drop a bundle of the car of your dreams brand new, then by all means treat yo’self. If you need a new set of wheels but don’t want to break the bank as well as several other banks, then buy it used.

 

External Hard Drive – New

For those of us who have not fully accepted cloud storage and everything digital like that, we still love having our data stored in one place that we physically can see, and that physical storage unit is a device known as an external hard drive.

You want to pick this purchase up in “new” condition because why risk your precious, precious data to a device that may be faulty in some way? All it takes is one malfunction to cause an error that could potentially corrupt your data content on the device. Risk it? No thank you.

 

House – Used

This really is a question of whether or not you want to be the first person to call the place “home” versus being the eighth family to move in. Truth is, it doesn’t matter, because that previous family is not going to still be living there when you move in…most likely.

If you can afford the cost of being the first to move into a brand new and freshly built house, great! But chances are that you want to save some money on your purchase (which is the point of this article btw). Buying an older place that has been standing for a while in an older neighborhood and has seen a few families come and go will more than likely save you some cash on your move-in cost as compared to one freshly built.

Be warned –older homes may require repairs due to wear and tear, which will cost you a bit, so be advised, friends.

 

Cookware – New

Can you buy used cookware? Yes. Should you go out and buy used cookware? Maybe not as a go-to.

Disclaimer, this one is a little biased. Nothing against all the cookware I inherited from my grandmother, but I’m a sucker for going into Williams–Sonoma and picking out my own cookware. Pots, pans, ladles and big forks –I love handpicking my gear that is soon to be used in the kitchen.

That being said, buying new pots and utensils can be expensive. Like, I can’t afford ingredients because I spent all my money on this pot expensive.

Although it is costly to own all new cookware, the feeling of not knowing who-cooked-what off of this thing last still bugs me (yes I KNOW that that is how exactly restaurants work, thank you). Although I did inherit a good portion of my cookware from family, I still prefer to be the first and primary user of my own cookware. Call it fussy, I like to know the history of my pots and pans and prefer to christen them myself.

 

Books – Used

New books are great, but used books are far cheaper, which means that you can pick up more at the local book store than just one —we’re talking six used books for the price of one new book, people. That’s a big difference.

 

Tablet – Used

A tablet is a great tool typically for activities you would rather not squint into your cell phone screen for. Things like streaming video (Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and your friends HBO GO account), games (Is Angry Birds still a thing?), and of course those ever so helpful social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tinder…you get it). The tablet is a much needed relief to your eyeballs due to the larger screen, but due to everything streaming all the time and not really creating and saving much new data, you really just need something to work as a terminal for retrieving your online profiles and viewable content –which is why you shouldn’t pay for a brand new tablet.

Of course everybody wants to say that they bought a brand new iPad, but for the people who don’t want to drop 800 bucks on a giant touchable screen that you can take with you into the bathroom, you can pay closer to $200 for devices that do the exact same thing, but also had a previous owner.

When buying devices that are pre-owned, always opt for “refurbished” over used. The outcome is guaranteed to be nicer, but used is not so bad either, as long as you are buying it from a reliable vendor.

 

Have any other purchase ideas on what should be bought either new or used? Share some of your thoughts below!

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This is Why Being Cheap can end up Costing you Big Time

I was doing my scan of the most recent PF blogs out there and came across one that I certainly thought was about one of the most relatable things I have read in a long time – our natural instinct to be cheap.

Call it being frugal, call it being thrifty… dress it up all you want but what it is no matter how we sugar coat it –we’re being cheap. I do it, and I’m pretty sure you do it too. The thing is, all that penny pinching may actually be costing us a lot more money in the grand scheme of things.

The blog post that I am talking about is the latest article (at least at the time that I am writing this) by Forbes.com contributor Maya Kachroo-Levine. In her post “12 Money-Saving Moves That Are Actually More Expensive in The Long Run”, she writes about how our so called “money saving moves” are actually set ups for some big money losses in the future.

Below, we take a look at why our alleged thriftiness is actually costing us quite a bit in the long run.

 

Unignorable and eye catching super sales.

Who doesn’t love a sweet deal? Seriously, find me a person who doesn’t love deals and specials. You probably can’t.

The thing is, as awesome as sales and deals and Groupons are, they can be a serious trap if you aren’t careful. Deals and other hugely slashed price options can be very alluring, but that’s the point –they are designed to lure people in who otherwise wouldn’t even consider spending money.

Unless you have been looking to make a particular purchase no matter what the cost, giving attention to the subjects of suddenly slashed pricing can be a big no-no to your finances. Think of it this way: if you’ve been planning on skydiving for several years, but the cost of the jump has just been out of your price range, and suddenly you find a Groupon that makes your jump super affordable –then great! You were going to jump anyway, and now you can and also save money. But for the person who never even fantasized about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane before they came across an ad for slashed pricing, the discount should be something you and your wallet should ignore.

Just because you are saving money on an experience –even if it’s a lot of money being saved– doesn’t make the random and surprise purchase okay. You are still paying something, even after the discount, and that money could best be used elsewhere.

 

Pulling back on insurance plans.

There are places that you can pull back on as far as your budget is concerned, and there are places that you really should not scrimp on, and one of those places that should be scrimp free is your insurance policies.

Insurance is put into place for a reason, and that reason is to protect you from dolling out giant sums of money in the case of an unforeseen event. Even if you don’t get into car accidents all day every day, you still have auto insurance, because guess what –all it takes is one accident to ruin your entire year (I remember my first car accident took over a year to clear up, and it was because I decided to not use the insurance I was paying for…I regret it).

Yes, you could downsize your insurance plan to a smaller and less inclusive setup, but by doing that you are making yourself vulnerable to risks that you otherwise would be covered for.

Don’t be cheap with your insurance plans –they will end up saving you a lot more than the money you are putting down when the times comes you actually need it.

 

Ignoring that clanking sound in your car.

Now this is one that I am seriously guilty of, and one that Kachroo-Levine totally hit right on the head of.

My car for the longest time always made a rattling sound whenever I maneuvered in a particular manner. This sound was something I attributed to a long list of things, but decided to not look into because more than anything, I did not want something to be wrong with my car. Not because I hate my car and wanted it to suffer, but because the last thing I wanted was to take it in to the shop and to wait for several hours to be told that a very expensive procedure needed to be done to heal my car. No thanks.

I ignored that occasional clinking sound, and after a couple weeks that occasional sound became a constant sound, and then the sound started to get louder, and after a while I became so used to the sound coming from my car that I just tuned it out and became used to it. Anyone who entered my passenger seat would always question me about what that tiny screaming sound (yes, the clinking sound escalated into tiny screaming) I had coming from my engine was. I told them not to mind it.

An already long story shorter, my car had enough of my neglect and straight up killed itself while I was at a red light on my way home from a class. It shook and then clicked itself off, and refused to start up again. I killed my car.

I got towed to a shop and was told what the problem was, and that if I took it in sooner the problem could have been fixed for 30-some-odd dollars, but now, to bring my car back to life it would cost a few grand.

So don’t ignore your car’s cries for help. It’ll just start racking up your mechanic’s bill the longer you neglect your problems.

 

Avoid cheap clothes and furniture.

It never feels like we are making a bad decision by buying cheaper household items and wearables, but if that is all we do, then it can actually be a huge waste of our hard earned money –in the long run that is.

We all want the nicer things in life. Fancy clothes, fancy furniture, fancy accessories –all that good stuff. The thing is, if we really want those finer things, why not save up and buy the real things instead of cheap knock offs and look-a-likes?

I don’t mean the look-a-likes that are “good enough” but still cheaply made, but the real deal items with premium and high quality handiwork. The purchases that are really worth the money will save you a lot in the end, because for the cheaper stuff, they will all eventually fall apart and break and tear and then what? You’ll have to replace them and keep buying new ones.

For the price of three knock off leather jackets, you could buy one real leather jacket and have that high quality garment last you a very long time, as compared to the cheaply made ones that will tear in half every time you flex your muscles or something. It’s cheaper to take your real leather jacket in for a small mend and general upkeep than it is for you to keep buying new fake jackets.

The same thing goes for furniture (for those who are living in a place that they want to stay longer than just a year or so). A quality piece of furniture is built to last, not just to last until the end of the year. Notice that there are no family heirlooms that say “Thanks for shopping at Ikea!” on the bottom.

Short term buys are totally fine, but it’s the high quality pieces that you want to get your hands on that will actually save you money in the end.

 

Have a “money saving” ploy that you have used for years but are beginning to rethink? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Can I Buy a Car with a Credit Card?

You’ve probably had that thought cross your mind before. You get a letter in the mail from your credit card service provider and they are more than happy to inform you that “Your credit limit has just been raised by another 1,000 bucks! Congratulations and thank you for using our card.” Now that your limit is that much higher, you start thinking about what exactly could you use your ridiculously high credit limit on. One option that is thought of a lot but rarely explored: buying a card using your credit card.

Purchasing a car with your credit card actually is not totally unheard of. There are differing situations and exceptions where using a credit card is actually permissible, but its rarely simple process or an easy sell to buy your desired car with the swipe of a plastic rectangle.

Here is what you need to know if you are looking to buy a car with a credit card.

 

You can, but probably shouldn’t.

The first thing that needs to be said about trying to put your vehicle purchase on the card is that you shouldn’t make the buy if you genuinely cannot afford the asking price outright. It’s very tempting to want to use that mile high credit limit for either a down payment or a monthly payment set up, but if you don’t have the money for it currently available, you are actually doing yourself a bigger disservice by buying the car on the credit card because if you make a mistake, your credit score could very well begin to plummet.

There is a large and unignorable risk if things go south, but if done correctly, it actually could provide you with the opportunity to boost your credit score with on time payments and rewards points, and not to mention the car you just bought.

Just be sure to really think the situation through before you make a move.

 

Don’t ignore the pre-established deals.

Many times the deal you can get through direct financing from the dealer will be better than the deal you think you might be getting by buying the car using a credit card. Yes, it may appear that you will have more legroom to make those monthly payments without having to pay them in full every month, but the interest fees usually attached to the deals made directly through the dealer is lower than the interest fee attached to a credit card. In the long run, you could potentially be paying more for the car if you put it all on the plastic. If you are looking for a deal, then stick to the financing options made available by the car dealership, you’ll save a considerable amount more.

 

Many dealers don’t offer credit card purchases.

If you attempt to buy the car you see on the lot and pull out the credit card come time to sign, you will more than likely be shut down pretty quick. It’s no secret that car dealers and vendors alike hate credit card services. While they may be super convenient for us as the consumer, for the people on the other side of the deal, not very much so.

When businesses agree to accept credit cards, they must pay what is called a “transaction fee”, and that occurs in the shape of a percentage (sometimes a single percent) being taken out every time you swipe. Sometimes the fee is payed by us, the customer, and when that happens we become quickly annoyed –even if it is just 10 cents. Imagine that 1% transaction fee on a purchase of $50,000 (that’s 500 bucks for those keeping score at home). That money comes right out of the dealer’s profits, so don’t expect to see a smile spread across the dealer’s face anytime a credit card shows up.

In a car dealing situation, the transaction fee falls to them, so that fee will be coming straight out of their pockets. Due to this, they will more than likely decline your offer pretty quick if you reach for the credit card come time to settle up on payment.

 

Exceptions to the dealers saying “No”.

Before you write us off as trying to tell you to shred all of your credit cards because you’re super high credit limit is pretty much worthless because you can’t even buy a car with it, you should know that you still can. Think high and low when it comes to buying a car using a credit card: you can by a really inexpensive one or a very pricey luxury one.

Depending on the car you have your eye on at a used car dealer (privately owned), you just might be able to drive home on a purchase made through the plastic after all. If you come across a $5000 car, and it is well within your credit limit and the dealer happens to be a nice guy, you just might be able to call that vehicle your own as soon as he dusts off his credit card swiper.

When it comes to high, you might be surprised by the fact that you can purchase a high end sports card using credit cards. This isn’t always true, so be ready to be told that the answer is no to your question of “do you take MasterCard?” by the floor man. They just maybe-might-possibly say yes to your question because the amount of profit they will make on the purchase is so much more astronomically higher than the transaction fee.

So if your credit limit is high enough to purchase a brand new Lambo or Porsche, kudos to you for figuring out how to get it that high, and don’t be afraid to ask the dealer if it’s an option (although we think you should spend your money elsewhere).

 

Could lead to a lot of rewards if you can genuinely afford it.

The perk of being able to buy a car on the credit card is that if you do it right, you can rally up your credit score with very little effort, as well as scoop up those rewards points for miles that you otherwise would very slowly accumulate.

Buying a car with a credit card isn’t necessarily the safest option to be considered, but if it is done correctly, it can be a pretty huge help to your credit standing. Just be sure you are not walking yourself into a situation that is over your head and that you really can afford the car before you pull out the plastic.

 

 

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Can I afford a Boat, or Jet Skis?

Who doesn’t love and cherish the moments on vacation where you drive or take the passenger seat on a sea-faring motor vehicle? It’s typically on our vacations and holidays where we deem it acceptable enough to whip out the money to endorse an otherwise too expensive activity such as taking out a set of jet skis for a few hours, or an entire boat for an afternoon.

The danger of taking these water crafts out on the high seas or open lakes is not collisions, or capsizing, or reckless driving/floating, –but falling in love with the idea of floating and water cruising long after vacation is over. It’s harmless thought, but it’s all fun and games until you start looking up boat and Jet Ski store locations for when you get back home.

Here is a breakdown of some of the criteria you need to know before you let your daydream of owning your own water cruiser drift too far out to sea.

 

We know from experience…

I had a friend who had the exact same dilemma: He and his family went on vacation and met up with a friend who had their own boat that they used for fishing and on the lake sun-bath sessions, and along with their own boat, they had a pair of jet skis docked in front of their lakeside home. My friend ate up the idea that this was the way to live, and the only way he could continue living was to procure his own boat, and eventually buy his own set of jet skis for him and his own family to enjoy.

When my friend got back home from that luxurious and posh holiday, he looked into it further and bought his own seafaring vessel from a marina-adjacent resident who was more than eager to sell. The dream was coming together, and at first it really was a great idea, but after the first three months, my friend received a phone call while he was at work that went something along the lines of “Are you the owner of the big blue and green fishing boat on dock 18? Well we must inform you that it is currently floating sideways due to what looks like a leak filling the interior cabin, and it will continue to capsize unless you get down here right away.”

Needless to say he rushed over to the marina, but arrived only in time to witness the final roll of his newly purchased but barely used boat, and watched as it began to sink lower, taking all of his and his family’s belongings left inside with it. On the drive home was when it dawned on him: Buying my own boat probably wasn’t such a great idea after all.

 

The floating cash pit.

My friend’s story is not that far off from what many other larger boat owners can own up to. An idea that seems innocent enough, but in reality was the cause of a much bigger headache than earlier anticipated. Although my friend’s boat was the victim of an unattended to leak, other boat owners all confess that a boat is a lot of work, a lot of attention, and a lot of money to keep and maintain.

Besides just maintenance of the boat itself, its motor, hull, and general interiors and exteriors, you also need to transport and house it if you intend to own it for yourself. Trailers for boats and jet skis can equal a pretty large fraction of the vehicle itself depending on where you look, and the fees to keep your boat can be very expensive depending on where you wish to leave it while it is not in use. You can pay to keep it at the marina and in the water, or you can keep it at your house tucked away in your driveway or backyard so that it can gather dust and dirt in the months that you are not using it.

While it sits unattended to in the driveway or backyard or street, the feeling of buyers-remorse tends to sink in and become unignorable whenever you pass by a window that overlooks your supposed-to-be water bound investment.

 

Think of it as a floating car.

Besides paying for maintenance for your water craft, as well as housing and payments for the vehicle itself, you also have to pay for registration and insurance on your vessel. Despite what you may have first thought, a boat and a jet ski still are high powered motor vehicles, and are treated very similarly to that of land faring vehicles.

Besides that, you also need to have a Personal Watercraft License to operate your purchase on open and public waters. So unless you have your own private lake or other body of water that is closed off to other public passersby, you need to treat your purchase as if you are buying a car: be insured, have it registered, and qualify to receive your own license to operate it.

 

Depreciation, boredom, and you.

The truth of the matter is that the purchase of a boat is more than likely a purchase that you will not enjoy in the long haul, unless of course you intend to monetize your purchase by renting it out to other boat licensed enthusiasts, or for your jet skis to be rented out by the hour to water sports fans.

A water craft, despite how fun, innocent, and honest intentioned they may have earlier seemed will eventually leave the buyer with the feeling of boredom. This does not happen to everybody, but a majority of boat owners who thought they would be on the water more than just a few times a year originally thought that if they had a boat of their own, they would be on the waves that much more often. For one reason or another, the boat always remains dry-docked a good portion of the year.

 

Buy versus rent.

The best days a boat owner can have is the day they buy it, and the day they sell it” is a line known and repeated by veteran boat and water craft buyers, and a line that is shared to any incoming boat buyers. Buying a boat is a very large investment into a novelty that will not yield much of any return. As boat prices depreciate the longer it is owned and used, your thought process of “I’ll just have my fun with it and then sell it after” is more than likely not going to have you coming out on top.

It’s much easier to continue renting than buying your experiences with boats, jet skis, and any other watercraft vehicles for this summer. You’ll save a ton of cash and trouble as a result, and also avoid many sleepless and regret filled nights.

 

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What are the Cheapest Ways to Move Long Distances?

Although we may always have one point on the planet that we truly label as “home”, our lives are never constant enough to keep us there forever. As a result, we are constantly relocating and going to new places and trying new things. Not all of these changes require a full blown relocation, but every now and then, an opportunity comes that is located pretty far away that requires you to pack up the family and move.

In those times that we have to move over long distances, whether it be just out of state or flat out on the other side of the country, how do you prepare for such a change of scenery, and more importantly, how can you make that move as cheap and inexpensive as possible? Here are some factors and suggestions to keep in mind to make your big move that much easier and affordable.

 

Organize everything from point A to B.

Before you even think about looking up rental rates on that U-Haul you think you’ll need, you should spend a good amount of time taking serious inventory of your possessions. What you need to do, although you certainly will not want to, is to divide your belongings into two sections: things that will come along, and things that will stay.

This decision is not one that is easily made, so give yourself plenty of time to sort and let your spouse or partner successfully convince you that a lot of your possessions are better off being let go of. You can’t take it all with you, so setting up an actual inventory of the things you will attempt to take with you on your move is a necessary factor in finding what method will work best for your specific move.

Make a list of everything and keep it as to the point as possible and if achievable, bring a friend in to act as a detached decider on items in question: only necessities and absolutely irreplaceable items should be considered as candidates to make the journey.

 

Sell what doesn’t make the cut.

For all things that did not make the cut as items that will continue their journey with you on your move, fear not, for you can sell it. All of it.

With avenues such as Craigslist and EBay, along with many other lesser known but still viable websites that make selling off your possessions as easy as taking a picture and uploading it online, you can sell virtually anything you want to get rid of. From that big sofa to that creepy rocking horse your mom gave you as a house warming gift 9 years ago (don’t ask…), there is a buyer out there for anything.

Anything you don’t sell, just donate it to friends, a local church in need, the Goodwill or a Salvation Army Center. Just because you don’t have a need for it anymore, doesn’t mean others won’t find a use for it.

 

So how do I get my stuff there?

Once you were able to sort through the clutter while also picking up a little profit from thinning the herd, it’s time to look into how you are going to get what is left from point “A”, your current residence to point “B”, your future residence.

Considering you honestly tried to cut down on everything and are now traveling as light as possible, this will dictate what kind of shipping and traveling method is best for you. Consider the following if you have:

 

  • Just the clothes on your back (and a few bags worth of travel luggage)-

Congratulations, you have done what is almost impossible and sorted your way all the way down to just what was absolutely needed. Your reward for being so frugal (albeit curiously detached from heirlooms and other sentimental objects) is that you can travel however you would like with very little expenses other than normal travel costs.

You can make the drive to your new location and pay only for gas, or you can fly while paying for bag check fees and carry-on, or you can even take the train or bus if so inclined. Kudos for getting your total amount of items down to just a few pieces of luggage.

  • Clothes and few boxes of books and misc. –

Widdling down your possessions into nothing more than a few bags of clothes, maybe some small heirlooms, and a box or two of irreplaceable computer items or photo albums is no easy feat, but you still did it. When it comes to options on how to send your possessions over to your new home, you have a few.

Depending on the sizes of the few boxes that you have, you can either send them on ahead via mail, or you could take them with you with little trouble other than small fees. If you have a car that can fit them your items, then you are good to go. Another option for your items is that you can mail them to your new residence for a pretty low fee.

If the contents of one or a few of your boxes qualifies, you can send your box of goodies through the USPS mail as something called “Media Mail”. This means that if your box contains materials educational materials such as books and other materials of the like, you can send the entire box for a few dollars. Check in with your post office to see if your parcel qualifies for such a deal. If not, consider mailing your stuff anyway through the USPS or other delivery services of the like due to how astronomically cheaper it is than renting an entire truck or trailer.

  • Clothes, boxes of misc., and some furniture-

We get it, it’s tough to separate yourself from your treasure trove of goodies. We still think you could have tossed out more things, but what’s done is done. Based on what you have left, you may consider placing a call to a rental service such as the all too familiar U-Haul or POD service and get a quote as to what your journey will cost with rental fees and gas and mileage. It’ll be a hard drive, but cheaper than flying a desk and piano across the country on a cargo airline.

  • You didn’t throw anything away at all –

Again, we still think you could have tossed out more for your move and sold what could be replaced on the other end of the trip, but when you have kids who want to have very particular items come along, it gets harder and harder to thin out what gets left behind. The best option to move an entire families worth of possessions, or even a 1 to 2 bedroom apartment’s worth of belongings is to contact professional movers and get quotes from them for their services.

The downside is that this service is going to run you a pretty high dollar amount. The upside is everything else. You get peace of mind that your belongings are being handled by polished professionals, and you no longer have to worry about being forced to drive across the country because you can now travel to your new home any way you want. Take the scenic route by train, plain, or even boat (there are still islands that belong to the United States, guys) and enjoy the experience. You certainly paid enough for it.

When getting prices from various companies, don’t be afraid to haggle and negotiate. Being willing to talk down prices could be the difference from paying over 3 grand to below 2. Give it a shot.

 

Packing up for cheap.

You can save a good amount of cash by packing up your possessions yourself with materials you cheaply procured. Cardboard boxes, for reasons I still cannot understand, are very expensive if you buy them from moving companies, but you should know right now that there are plenty of other places to get your hands on cardboard boxes for free.

Hit up your local grocery store and ask for any boxes that they are planning on tossing out from the back. Besides that, try your local liquor store too, and anywhere else that uses boxes to ship in their products for. For bigger boxes, like refrigerator sized boxes, try appliance stores. If you can get one of these giant boxes, be sure to keep it away from the kids because they will certainly try to make forts out of it. Let them know they can have it after the move… or just whenever you might be done playing with it. Boxes are fun, what else can we say?

For packing materials inside the box, grab and crumple up magazines, newspapers, junk mail, or even old pieces of clothing to keep your items from rattling around and cracking.

 

There are plenty of ways to save cash when it’s time to make the big move across the state or country. The best way to save cash is to cut down on what you are taking with. There really is no getting around that, so try to make the distinction between what can easily be replaced and what can’t be. This will lighten the tow load very quickly.

Best of luck to you on your move, and happy packing!

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Are Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses a Scam?

Are Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses a Scam?

Credit card sign up bonuses may sound like a scam sometimes, but they aren’t if you’re smart about managing your credit card spending and bill payment.

Sign up and get $350 cash back! Sign up and get 5000 points! Sign up and pay 0% interest! You’ve seen these claims on everything from the billboard to your junk mail. Every credit card advertisement seems to be selling a card and a deal that’s too good to be true. How can they give away points and money just for registering for the card? Everyone knows that first lesson in economics: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So, with credit card sign up bonuses, who’s paying?

 

credit card close up-600

It’s a Contract: Follow it and You’ll be Fine

Each of the sign up bonuses comes along with a contract between you and the credit card company. The sign up bonus is an offer that is available to you under specific conditions. The condition may be that you are required to put a certain amount of money on the card within a certain period of time. Or, the great terms may be limited to a certain length of time. These conditions are usually clearly listed and they must be meticulously followed.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a sign-up bonus where you can earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account. Those points are the equivalent to $625 in travel when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, and it certainly is – if you’re planning on charging $4,000 to your credit card the next three months. And, most importantly, it’s a sweet deal if you’re also able to pay off $4,000 from your card by the payment due dates.

What is a credit card?

When considering all the sign up bonuses, it’s important to remember what kind of product you’re signing up for. Credit cards allow you to borrow money from your bank to make purchases that you then pay back later. It’s a convenient tool for purchasing anything from a latte to airfare to Rio. You have a certain period of time to pay back the money, but if you don’t do so in that grace period, you’ll need to pay back the money and a percentage of interest on the amount owed. Banks don’t loan money for free and this interest is big businesses.

In the example above, the sign up bonus is provided if you spend $4,000 in three months. For some people, this amount of money is a normal amount that they charge and pay off in three months. For other people, they need to spend more to meet the $4,000 bonus sign up. If this is more than they usually put on a credit card, it’s also more than they usually pay off of a credit card. Even if they pay off part of the balance, but $1,000 is left and is charged interest. Depending on how long balance remains and therefore how much interest is charged, the interest payment can eliminate any bonus that came with the sign up points. Alternatively, they find out they can’t afford to put $4,000 on the credit card in three months. In this scenario, they avoid paying interest, but they also lose the sign up bonus.

Another potential pitfall is in the zero interest sign-up bonus. The Discover it® credit card charges 0% interest for the first 12 months. This is a sweet deal if you want to make a large purchase, like a laptop or minor home renovation supplies, and pay it off over a few months. You can borrow that money for no interest at all over that first year. However, after that first, glorious year, you will have to pay interest on any remaining balance. Carrying a balance on your card went to being worry-free to whoa-expensive. Also, once the interest kicks in, it’s as a variable annual percent rate (APR), which is connected to your credit score. You can get a great rate if you have great credit. If your credit score isn’t so hot, you could end up on the high end of the APR scale. Any balance left on in Month 13 will be costly.

Sign Up Bonuses are a Scam Only as Much as Credit Cards are a Scam

The sign up bonus is no more a scam than credit cards themselves are a scam. Credit cards are an extremely expensive way to borrow money. They are very useful when used wisely and with prudence. However, as soon as a credit card has a late payment or a balance that collects interest, they are a big money maker for the banks. There is nothing unclear or evil with a credit card or a sign up bonus. They are simply financial agreements between you and the company. So long as the contract is followed, there is no issue. However, the sign up bonuses can require balances that some consumers cannot pay off, and so will accrue interest. However, it’s the responsibility of each consumer to decide if they can meet with conditions to receive the perks without any downside. The contract is clear, but it’s up to you the consumer to keep up their end. The credit card company stands to make a lot of money if you don’t.

Conclusion

Credit card sign up bonuses are not a scam. They are a marketing tool with clear terms and conditions. Some may be built on setting people up to hold a balance on their card, but the decision to sign up and accept the financial conditions is up to the consumer. Companies provide clear statements about the bonus conditions and timelines. If you can use a credit card with clever caution, you can save money and even make money with these bonuses. However, you have to remember that there’s no such thing as free lunch. If you’re not careful about paying off your credit card and remembering the changes in your card conditions, you will pay for your free lunch with your card balance interest.