Gives Kids Financial Freedom with Greenlight!

I love Greenlight! I recently learned about this company and I can’t wait to try it with the Big Kid.

Greenlight is all about financial education for kids. They help them learn about money management through a safe, secure app where parents manage every dollar and see every transaction.

  • The debit card for kids, managed by parents.
  • With the tap of a button, send money to your kids — anytime, anywhere. No trips to the ATM, no cash, no hassle. For our family- This is key! I hate going to the bank to get the big kids allowance each week.
  • Set flexible parental controls that are right for your family and get real-time notifications every time your kids spend money.
  • After your 30-day Trial consumers are charged a $4.99 monthly fee for the service.
  • You can upgrade to a custom debit card later and have a selfie on the card.

April is Financial Literacy Month! Budgeting and Savings Tips

Today I learned that April is Financial Literacy Month. Which is just in time for tax day (which has been extended this year, but it traditionally April 15th).

One of my favorite topics for this blog is how to save money. So I thought I’d put together a post with links to some of my best ways to save money and throw out some tips and tricks that work for me.

Last year I wrote a three-part series about making a practical budget that a family can adhere to and how to get some extra help if you need it. This was written during the pandemic, so there is a lot of information and resources especially for those feeling the financial panic that many felt during the height of the pandemic last year.

If you already have a budget or feel that your spending is out of control and you aren’t to the point yet where you feel that you need a budget, I did a series of posts in late 2019 about how to reign in the out-of-control spending.

  • Part One- Start in the Kitchen
  • Part Two- Entertainment Some of these tips may not be applicable right now, as so many public places are still closed or have limited services (Like gyms and libraries).
  • Part Three- Shopping Around to Save. Internet, cell phones, health insurance (and that’s just three examples), a lot of times you can save money with a few clicks or a phone call.

Keeping an eye on your Credit Score is another great way to be financially literate. I wrote this morning about Credit Sesame, which I personally have used for at least 9 years.

And finally, if you feel like you need a little more help than the posts above to get a handle on your finances, check out Simplifi by Quicken. To celebrate Financial Literacy Month, Simplifi is offering a 30-day FREE Trial of Simplifi by Quicken.

  • Simplifi by Quicken was named the Best Budgeting App & Tool by the New York Times’ Wirecutter!
  • The app helps you stay on top of your money in less than 5 minutes per week.
  • After your free 30-day trial save 38% off the regular price. That’s $29.99 billed annually for the first year. For the cost of one lunch date, you can have a year of budgeting at your fingertips.

Talkback: What are your tips and tricks to saving money and staying on budget?

Piñata: Make Rent Rewarding

I discovered this app the other day and I decided to share with you.

I was a renter for years, and each month it pained me to write a rent check and wave the money goodbye. Enter Piñata! Piñata is the world’s first and only rent rewards platform that gives you rewards for paying rent and is free.

Every rent day, get Piñata Cash, redeemable for gift cards and free goodies from top brands.

Even when it’s not rent day, Piñata gives renters exclusive deals and discounts to help you save on everyday expenses from CVS and Costco to Best Buy and Sprint to Papa John’s and Disney World. You get an average of $4,000 in yearly savings. You can also get cash back on special deals from your favorite brands.

You’ll get a $30 gift card just for creating your account.

Get Pinata Cash for referring friends & family and helping them earn as well!

Talk Back: If you sign up for Pinata, please let me know what you think!

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part Three)

The first two parts (Part One, Part Two) of this series talked about the essentials of how to budget. This third part is for those of you who are having a difficult time making the ends meet to get your needs met.

I’m talking about when cutting cable and going cash only for groceries isn’t enough. When you need help. When there isn’t much (or anything) to eat. When the power might be shut off. When there isn’t money to put gas in your car to get to work or job interviews.

This is the most important thing to remember: It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to seek out services and take advantage of programs. Do not worry about what others will think- This pandemic and all of the fallout that has happened has affected so many of us. So many hardworking families and individuals need a hand up right now. 

A lot of the services and programs listed below are specifically for San Diego County. If you live outside San Diego County, I recommend that you call 211 anywhere in the US. They can help you find resources- all judgment free!

So when I talk about needs being met, I mean:

  • Shelter (Rent/mortgage assistance/utilities)
  • Food (Healthy food for you/your family and pets)
  • Comfort (Clothing, healthcare, medication)

Shelter:

  • If you have a mortgage, contact your lender for a forbearance. You may have to provide them with proof that you are unable to pay.
  • If you are a renter in San Diego, here is the County Rental Assistance site.
  • If you require assistance with your utilities, SDG&E has many programs and assistance available.
  • For your water/sewer bills, you will need to contact them directly. There are so many water municipalities in San Diego County.

Food: Food insecurity is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I have all kinds of resources to share!

Many food banks give out pet food as well- don’t forget to mention your furry friends when you complete your intake paperwork (which is oftentimes to find out demographic information to obtain additional funding from the government or private grants). Some do not require any paperwork at all.

Comfort: Being housed and fed is important, in addition to this I’ve added the comfort category. This includes clean, well fitting clothes, access to health care, and prescription medicines.

  • There are many resources for no and low cost clothing (besides thrift stores, which have become increasingly higher in cost in the past year). Naomi’s Closet, Closet on 54th, Charity’s Closet at Sonrise Church, Sharia’s Closet are all San Diego resources. I’ve been told that some Salvation Army churches offer free clothing vouchers to be redeemed at their thrift shops. Don’t forget your local Buy Nothing Group too! So many of your local neighbors are cleaning out their clothes and purging while they are stuck at home, you’d be surprised what your neighbors are will to share with you.
  • If you are in need of healthcare, there are several options. Medicaid/Medi-cal may be available for some. If you have had a “life event” (job separation, birth of a child, death of a spouse, marriage, etc.) you can look for health insurance in your state’s Health Insurance Exchange. Here is a link to California’s Exchange. There are frequently lower rates or discounts for those with certain income limits.
  • If you or family members take prescription medicines, look into discount programs like Singlecare (which you can access via the Fetch Rewards App and earn cashback/points), or GoodRX. Some pharmacies have their own discount programs too. Make sure to ask the pharmacy staff. Another option is to ask your doctor for medication samples when you are visiting them. Many doctors have medication samples in their offices, and most doctors are willing to help you when you tell them you need assistance with medication costs.

 

 

 

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part Two)

In our last post, I talked about the basics of starting a budget (you can read it here).

We ended with… What happens if you spend more money than you bring home? Don’t feel bad, It happens more than you would think. Living in a credit-based world, it’s easy to swipe, swipe, swipe your card and have it seem like it’s not real money.

How do you stop spending willy nilly and start saving money?

First of all, I went through our family budget line by line looking for ways to cut down on costs. This will take a little work, but it’s worth the savings. Here are a few ways that you may be able to save.

  • Cell Phones- I called and negotiated a new contract, and they were able to give us a small discount ($15/month).
  • Auto/Home Insurance- Called our insurance carrier (it’s the same for both). We went through both policies, and were able to adjust our annual mileage to lower mileage, and adjust a few things with our homeowner’s insurance to save some money too. (About $50/year)
  • Gas & Electric (power company)-Because of the big kids’ diagnosis, we were able to qualify for a discount. SDG&E (Our utility provider) offers several discounts. You can learn more about our experience and how we saved money here.  We also take part in OhmConnect, and that saves us money and gives us cashback. You can learn more about OhmConnect here. We save about a thousand dollars a year between the programs SDG&E offers and using Ohmconnect.
  • Internet- We ended up changing internet providers to save money. I know that not everyone has this ability, but it’s worth a call to see if you can get a better deal. We don’t have cable or a home phone, so there are no bundling deals that can save our family money. ($5/month)
  • Cable- We don’t have it, but if you are thinking of cutting the cable, it’s not all static and bunny ears like in the old days. Between Apple TV (ours is really old and it works great), Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and over the air TV, we aren’t suffering. (No savings for us, but maybe some for you?)

Secondly, I take cash out for Groceries ($100/week), gas ($60/week), and fun money (funds for the kids and I to do something fun during the week- usually a snack or treat at the zoo, admission to a museum, or renting a Redbox movie. $40/week). When the money’s gone, it’s gone. For our budget/spending- this has been the game-changer. Due to quarantine/lockdown the only fun we could have was ordering take out or expensive trips to the craft supply store/Amazon to keep us entertained. Now that we have parameters for spending money, I am taking a harder look at groceries and meal planning and low-cost to no-cost ways to have fun with the kiddos.

In addition to that, I didn’t set up Apple Pay on my phone. I don’t have a credit card attached to the app store on my phone. I don’t have any credit cards set up on my Amazon Account, or my Target App, or any of the purchasing apps on my phone. If I want to buy something I have to either go to a store or sit down at my computer and enter my credit card/debit card information. Taking that extra step to purchase stuff really helps me think about what I am buying and how much I am spending.

And I’m always looking for ways to make a little extra money. Side Hustles are a real way to make money. You can invest as little or as much time as you want.

You can still have fun and live on a budget. Don’t feel like having takeout? Spend some of your fun money on a couple steaks and have a BBQ at home one week. Rent a movie on Amazon Prime, and add some dollar movie candy to your grocery list (or hit up Dollar Tree). Close the curtains/ blinds and throw some pillows and blankets on the living room floor. We call that “Movie theatre night” and the kids love it.

Living during a global pandemic you have to think outside of the box.

My next (and last) post about setting a practical budget will be ready tomorrow and it’s going to be a little more serious. What to do/where to turn when you need help with the basics: Food, Shelter, and Comfort. And what you should cut out if you are struggling. For those who are struggling right now, this is written with you in my mind and heart.

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part One)

I’ve written about budgeting before, but now more than ever so many of us need to set up a budget that works. One that is easy to stick to. There are so many ways of doing a budget, so many styles- cash envelopes, bucket/different accounts, multiple debit cards for various budget items… It can be tricky. I’m going to be breaking down the household budget, and how it can be done, how to shave money off your household expenses, and save money without suffering or feeling like you are doomed to a life of instant ramen and tap water.

Recently I re-did the household budget after noticing that spending was…Outta Control. Here are a few things that helped me:

Track all of your outgoing expenses for three months. I made a list of all the bills, expenditures, etc., and went through the banking transactions online. Then I averaged them. Using the average for each, I plugged each one into a Google Sheets page.

Some of the categories I had are:

  • Mortgage (This includes impounds for our Homeowners insurance and property taxes)
  • Gas/Electric*
  • Gift Fund
  • Transfer to Savings
  • Life Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Hulu
  • Car payment
  • Kids 529
  • Netflix
  • YMCA
  • Internet
  • Credit Card Balances
  • Student Loan Payments
  • Water Bill*
  • Groceries*
  • Fun Money (stuff to do with kiddos/girls nights in/date nights)*
  • Gasoline*

Of all of these categories, the only ones that have any difference per month are the ones I indicated with an asterisk (*). For Gas/Electric and the water bill, I averaged the cost over three months and used that amount for the budget.

The categories I included above are what is in my budget, you may have other items that my family does not. Some of the expenses such as Health Insurance and retirement savings come out of paychecks, so for our family, they are not included in our budget. You may wish to add them to your budget if you pay them directly.

Cash for some Budget Line Items: For items such as groceries, fun money, and gasoline I visit the ATM each week and take out cash. I paperclip the money for each budget line item together, and keep them separate in my wallet. When the money is gone, no more spending.

Doing cash for those line items really helps me take a hard look at shopping for groceries (this is when cash back apps, couponing, and price per unit knowledge all come in handy), and making sure that I am getting the best deal on gas (I have the gasbuddy app, it’s very useful). Any unspent money gets rolled over to the next week.

Making the ends meet: It’s important when you are adding up all expenses that once you add them up, subtract that amount from the money you bring in (wages, side hustles, selling plasma, whatever). If you are spending more than you  and you should be left with some money leftover. If you come to a negative number… Bruh, we gotta talk.

For example (and this is just an example):

  • Total income (including side hustles): $5000
  • Total household budget per month: $4500
  • Total amount leftover: $500 This leftover amount can be kept in your main account for unforeseen expenses, or move it to savings, or pay down extra on reoccurring debts (like car payment, student loans, or credit cards).

Uh, so if your number comes back negative, like this example:

  • Total income (including side hustles): $4500
  • Total household budget per month: $4600
  • Total amount leftover: -$100

Yeah. Bad times, my friends. That means you need to cut $100 from your budget. My next post about budgeting will go over what and how you can cut from your budget without feeling like you are suffering or living hand to mouth. I promise nothing crazy or nothing that I would not do myself if needed. And you can expect that post tomorrow.

Not all all related to setting a budget, but when I was searching for Budget stock photos, this photo of fruit salad was tagged “budget”. And I love fruit salad, so I had to include it. 

Tips to Reign In An Out Of Control Family Budget: Let’s Start in the Kitchen!

707538835876fc5c438018d57701bc2f.jpgUntil the end of the year, I’ll be posting some articles with realistic tips and methods to save money and reign in spending. None of these are going to the same old “Clip coupons, grow your own garden, etc.” that’s all over the internet- and honestly, here in Southern California, the old, standby advice isn’t going to help you. Grow a garden to save money? Water is so expensive here!

Clipping coupons and shopping grocery store sales/circulars will save you a fraction of the amount that it used to. In years past, I was saving 60-80% with coupons and store sales. Now, I’m lucky to save 50%.  With all of the restrictions on coupons (example: limit one like coupon per day- LAME), stockpiling to save money isn’t always possible without a lot of work/trips to different stores (and that’s not saving time). We’re moving past that, and delving into other ways to save money and take advantage of opportunities that are out there.

Today we are going to start with my pet project: Saving in the kitchen! If you feel like you’re spending too much money on food and groceries, here are my recommendations for getting the grocery spending under control:

  1. Go through your refrigerator/freezer and pantry. Make a note of the food that you have on hand. I like using the kitchen inventories here. This will also give you an opportunity to clean out food from the kitchen that has expired or that you won’t eat. Unexpired food that you won’t eat, can be donated to a local charity.
  2. Now that you have a handle on what you have in your kitchen, take a look at the list and come up with some recipes or meals that can be created with what you have on hand. You’d be surprised by how many meals you have in your kitchen! Make a list of the meals that you can make with what you have. And plan on having one or two of those per week. This will help keep grocery spending down. Make a list of meals that you can make but require one or two ingredients (like fresh vegetables), and add those ingredients to your next few shopping lists. By relying on what you already have in your home, you will be keeping your out of pocket down.
  3. Before you head to the store, take a look at the sale flyer which is available online, and see what is on sale. Plan meals around food that is in season and on sale. Continue to use coupons, but don’t go out of your way to subscribe to multiple newspapers per week to get a hold of lots of the same coupons.  Don’t forget rebate apps! Use of these apps gets us $10-$20/month cashback, sometimes double that, depending on what bonus offers are available- Fetch Rewards and Ibotta often have Bonus offers.
  4. Track your spending over a few weeks to see how much you are spending, and what you are buying. If you still find that you’re spending a lot of money on food, I would try shopping at a different store. I find that even with club card sales, and rebate apps like Fetch Rewards, some grocery stores (like Vons) are just too expensive to do my weekly shopping. I love starting my shopping at $.99 only. I am able to get a lot of snacks, name-brand treats, and fresh fruits and veggies there, and I am still able to stay on budget. Another fun place where I save money is Grocery Outlet. They have great prices on cheese, fruit juice, coffee, and frozen meat. They also have an interesting selection that changes weekly: snack food, protein bars/cookies, and cereal. If you are in the military, a military family, or a veteran, consider shopping at the commissary. Here is my article about saving money at the commissary. 
  5. Consider cooking more from scratch. It is healthier, and pantry stables are generally pretty cheap (the ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip cookies runs about $3.00 and yields 4-5 dozen cookies, while a package of chocolate chip cookies from the grocery store is about $4.00+ and is usually 3 dozen or so).  I buy fruits and veggies whole and break them down and pack them into serving size bags. You can learn more about that and Batch Cooking here.

If you are still having a hard time keeping your grocery budget in check, or if you are finding that the ends don’t meet, consider the San Diego Food Bank Neighborhood Distribution Program. No documentation is needed to receive food assistance from a
Neighborhood Distribution site where people can receive fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread, based on availability. Families are encouraged to bring reusable bags or
a cart with them to carry the food items.

There are programs out there to help those struggling to feed their families here in San Diego County. Here is my list of San Diego County Food Resources.

I work very hard to keep my family on a budget, I work very hard to make sure that we are saving money and taking advantage of as many deals and opportunities that present themself. I know that this is not something that everyone wants to do or something that everyone can do. There are so many programs and discounts out there available for various groups of individuals.

Tomorrow, we’re tackling saving money on the entertainment budget.

Earn Cash Back with Groupon+!

Screen Shot 2019-08-31 at 4.44.48 PM.png The other day I wrote about Mogl, which is an appt that helps you earn cash back at restaurants. Today I’m going to tell you about another Awesome way to earn cash back when you eat out: Groupon+!

It’s as easy as 1, 2,3!

  1. Sign up for free to get cash back at participating restaurants.
  2. Nothing to print our or bring in!
  3. Get automatic cash back on your credit card statement. (You can also use debit cards too, and the money will be credited to the account)

Cash back amounts vary from 5% all the way to 30%! And here in San Diego, there are some pretty awesome choices:

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And these are just two of the great deals. There are tons of choices in various cuisines and locations!

And you can load multiple cards to Groupon+! I loaded all of our debit and credit cards, so regardless of what method we may with, we’ll be covered! And I know my data is secure because it’s Groupon and I’ve used their site to buy all kinds of deals in the past.

Earn Money When You Eat Out with Mogl!


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Mogl is an awesome App/website that I have forgotten about until recently. In 3 easy steps, you could be earning rewards at restaurants without having to clip coupons or carry loyalty cards. 

  1. Sign up for an account and link your cards. Sign up for free I have all of our credit cards and debit cards linked.
  2. Explore and add offers– their app shows you real-time offers for restaurants near you.
  3. Enjoy your meal- Pay with a linked card and you’ll instantly earn rewards. The amount varies by restaurant, but it’s usually between 3-10%.

Once you reach $10 in your Mogl account. I have the money credited to my debit card, so the money goes into my checking account.

My favorite part of Mogl is that most Jack in the Box’s are part of the program and when I am jonesing for their tacos (Don’t Judge!!) or a large ice tea, I get rewarded!