6 Small Ways to Trim Your Out of Pocket

With my work year coming to an end, I need to trim my budget. It looks like my monthly income is about to be cut in half. I applied for a summer school job, but I haven’t heard back one way or another, so I’m guessing I didn’t get the job and I need to prepare for that.

There are fun activities that the kids want to do this summer, and they all cost money, so I need to trim a bit more so we have the opportunity to have some fun.

Here are a few ways that you (and I) can save some money and free up room in our budget this summer.

Start by looking over your family budget. Is there anything you can dump? Streaming services you no longer use, monthly subscriptions that no longer serve you? For us, we are dumping Netflix next month. We no longer use it enough to justify the $20/month. Feel like you are overpaying for your cellphone or other services, look into switching carriers or plans. If you don’t have a family budget, here is an easy way to put one together.

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without. This is an oldie, but a goodie. And by this statement, I mean that use what you have on hand. Eat the food in your kitchen (meal planning can help with that), wear the clothes you’ve got, and repair them as needed. Don’t forget that there are groups like Buy Nothing, where you can share and receive goods and services from those in your neighborhood. It’s hard to not want to keep up with the Joneses, especially in our society where it seems like everything is based on presentation and showing off what you’ve got on social media.

Take advantage of programs in your community. There are so many free and low-cost programs meant to help families during this time of unprecedented inflation, low wages, and other social issues that contribute to financial instability. Here in San Diego County, there are resources for free food and free clothing. 

If you have someone in your family who requires electricity for their medical devices or if you are low income, check out your local power companies website to learn about discounts you may be eligible for. This post has details and more tips.

If you are looking for some free summer fun for the kids, there are events like Kids night out, and summer reading programs.  And in California, there will be free breakfasts and lunches for kids under 18 throughout the summer through schools and local parks and rec. As soon as I have more details on those, it will be a separate post.

My final tip- Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. There are so many programs and resources out there to help. Even if you feel like there are people and families out there who “have it worse”, you deserve help. This isn’t a “who has it worse” situation. Everyone deserves to live a good life. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

Talk Back- If you have tips or tricks to help with lowering your Out of Pocket, I’d love to hear it!

 

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.

Tips to Reign In and Out Of Control Family Budget: Taking Advantage of Discounts

959b176d7a237c76fc19ff89cdfc6904.jpgPreviously we talked about shopping your Cell Phone service, Internet service, even your Auto/Home/Health insurance.

Sometimes switching companies doesn’t yield you any savings. At that point, turn to your current providers and see if there are any additional discounts or perks that you could be taking advantage of and are not currently receiving?

Example: Some cell phone providers (Like T-Mobile) offer perks or freebies weekly. Free tacos, backpacks, free Netflix subscriptions, and other swag are some of the other cool things that they have offered in the past. AT&T has a program called AT&T Thanks where customers can score varying freebies and deals depending on what type(s) of service they have with AT&T.

Some Auto Insurance companies offer discounts for good students (High school and/or college), safe driving/accident-free, defensive driving courses, and low mileage discounts. It’s worth a call in to see if you can score any extra discounts!

What about services that you can’t shop around?

Utilities are a big one- We can’t shop utilities here in San Diego. SDG&E is the only name in the game here.

BUT- there are ways you can save and even earn money!

Did you know that most local utilities (in San Diego county that means SDG&E) will come out and inspect your AC/furnace for free at the beginning of each season? They can let you know if your furnace or AC is running in tiptop condition, and they can also check to see if your pilot light is lit and safe to run your furnace.

If you are in a lower income or you have a medical condition that requires continue with usage of electricity, SDG&E and other utilities frequently have a medical baseline or low-income program that you can apply for to save money on your utilities.

Other ways that you can save money on your utilities include signing up for services like Ohmconnect, which help you conserve electricity during peak demand hours, which not only helps you save money, but you’ll be saving extra electricity as well.

We’ve been members of them connect for upwards of five years, and we earn about $100 a year cashback from home connect, in addition to the money that we save on our SDG&E bill. You can learn more about Ohm Connect Here.

 

 

 

Tips to Reign In and Out Of Control Family Budget: Shopping Around to Save!

683459ee810703fe032903d2443bf58d.jpgToday I’ll be sharing some ways to save money that takes a little more work but can definitely pay off in the end.

For some of us, this may seem like too much work, and that’s ok. Just because it’s something that my family does, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Insurance: Most companies offer a discount if you have more than one kind of policy. Example: State Farm offers a Multi-line discount. If you have your cars and another type of insurance (homeowners/renters/condo insurance, or a life insurance policy).

Some insurance companies serve a specific audience- for example, USAA is an insurance company for active duty or retired military. Because they serve a specific audience, they offer very competitive rates.

When you shop for insurance, have copies of all of the policies that you want to compare. That will help you see apples to apples. You can’t compare and try to save money if you don’t know what you’ve got. This is also a great time to go over all of your coverages and see if you need to increase or decrease coverages.

Due to state and federal regulations, you usually can’t shop for health insurance unless it’s open enrollment or you’ve had a qualifying life event (married, divorced, had a baby, retired, lost your job, etc.). Luckily, Tis the Season for open enrollment! We purchased insurance through the state exchange a few years back, before we had employer-sponsored insurance. It was not too difficult to navigate, and there are discounts available for a lot of people!

Cell Phones: This is my least favorite activity, but it can a money saver. Once again- have a copy of your contract or a copy of a recent bill that outlines everything your plan covers before you get started. If you are looking for a pre-paid plan, Tello has some great money-saving plans!

Internet: I hate dealing with our internet service provider. I always feel like they are trying to upsell me, no matter why I am calling in. We’re looking at changing our plan soon. The big kids school recently sent home information regarding a program that Cox offers called Connect2Compete. For those families that have qualifying social service(s), Cox can provide internet service for $9.95/month! That’s a great deal.

 

Talk Back: I’d love to hear your success story! Share how much you’ve saved by shopping around for your insurance, cell phone service, or internet service.

Scam alert and how to really make money at home…

MONEY CASE 8
One of the things I get emails and messages about frequently is, “Have you heard about (Fill in name of scam program here) program? I got an email about it and it says I can make tons of money for only $50!” Or something that sounds equally as fishy.

With the economy being so depressed for an extended period of time, the rise in work at home and get rich quick scams is shocking.  Those who have a hard time finding a new job are perfect pickings for scammers.

I know that this is a savings blog, but I want to share with you some tips, hints, and information about what to look for if you want to work at home and make money online.  I don’t want to see any of you get scammed.

  • One of the most popular scams is the Nigerian Scam.  Basically an important person in an African country is in jail, if you send them money via wire transfer to help them, once they are out of jail, they will reimburse you plus a handsome fee.  Anytime you are emailed by someone who is asking for help and money, run run run.  Especially if they ask you to wire them your hard earned money (it can’t be tracked) or if they send you a check, ask you to cash it and either wire them the money or send them a money order.  That is a SCAM.
  • Work at home scams: If a company asks you to pay them for a list of work at home companies or secret shopper programs, that is most likely a scam. Google the name of the company and the word scam to double check.
  • For that matter, if a company promises an insane amount of money in a short amount of time, It’s a scam.
  •  If a “legit looking” work at home company requests a credit card number or any money at all, It’s a scam.

If you are looking to get rich quick, it’s damn near impossible!

I earn money online doing surveys, clicking links in emails and doing tasks.  If you are looking to make money online, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Earn Cash with Paid View Point. Surveys are short (less than 5 minutes).  Earn cash with each Survey.   You get $1.00 when you sign up! The pay out is $15.00, and it takes about a month to earn $15.00. So far in 2015, I’ve earned about $60.00.
  • Earn Gift cards with Mypoints. I take surveys, click links in emails, and do all of my online shopping through Mypoints. So far in 2015, I’ve earned about $30.00.
  • I also use Swagbucks. I use their search engine toolbar, take a daily poll, watch a video and click a few links each day! So far in 2015, I’ve earned about $60.00. Swagbucks has tons of rewards, you can receive cash via paypal too!
  • I do surveys with Pinecone Research. They aren’t always looking for new participants, but check out their website and see if you fit their open demographics. I make about $20/Month doing short surveys (10 minutes or less).

With all of these survey companies, these are surveys I am pre-qualified for. No spending 10-30 minutes only to learn that you aren’t getting paid and they don’t want your opinions (that’s the #1 reason I do not do Swagbucks surveys and I don’t recommend you waste your time doing them either).

I work on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to make extra money that I transfer to my Amazon.com account.  I am trying to earn enough to pay for holiday gifts. You sign up and do tasks for small amounts of money, but the money adds up fast.  The tasks are quick and simple (transcription, surveys, flagging inappropriate photos).  I’ve earned over $50 since February.  If you want cold hard cash instead of Amazon.com credit there is an option to have money transferred to a bank account.  Mechanical Turk does ask for your SSN when you sign up- you will receive a 1099- MISC at the end of the year., regardless of which option you select.

Volition has a great list of mystery shopper programs that are free. I do a few of these programs, and I have earned money!

I will by no means become a millionaire, but the extra money each month helps out and allows me to save for holiday gifts, and take the Kiddo to do fun stuff that we normally couldn’t afford.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.38.26 PMHere are a few insights that can help you determine if somethings a scam:

  • Does it seem too good to be true?
  • Is there no phone number or address to contact the company?
  • Does the website look “off” or give you a weird feeling (trust your spidery senses)?
  • Google the company name- What comes up?  If it’s not good, run run run!!
  • If a website has photos like the one below- it’s probably a SCAM!