Checkout51

Do you put aside a little time here and there to clip coupons or look for deals online before making a purchase? I try to do it, but I know that for many people working full-time and raising a family it can be tough to find the time. There never seem to be enough hours in the day! This is why I like certain smartphone apps that I don’t have to spend more than five minutes using to be rewarded.

Checkout51
This app awards you money in exchange for showing proof via scanning your receipt that you purchased items they are offering cash back on. I don’t ever look at the app until I’ve returned from a shopping trip, then I pull it up to see if I happened to buy anything they are featuring. If so, I scan my receipt, check off the offers that are included and I’m done. I’ve already built up $4 of credit in just over a month. The only drawback is you need to have amassed $20 before they will transfer the money to your PayPal account.

Groupon
Did you know the smartphone app has coupons that can be used when you’re out shopping? It’s under the Coupons heading and you can pull up the coupon on your phone while in the store and have them scan it. I’ve done this at Michael’s to get a quick 20% off. There are a bunch of stores in there so it pays to pull it up and do a quick search before heading to the checkout.

Shopkick
This app awards you points for checking into stores and scanning products. The points can then be used to get gift cards. I typically get 35 points (and on some special days more) just for pulling up the app when I walk into my SuperTarget (where I shop weekly) and more points if I feel like scanning stuff (which often I don’t). There are other stores in the app like Walmart, Macys, etc. Right now I’ve got enough points to get $10 worth of Target gift cards for spending very little of my time using the app. I will say, though, that it is very particular with certain stores and it’s best to temporarily turn on bluetooth so it can pick up your location. I have to be at a certain point within the store before it realizes I’m there (so there’s no cheating trying to check in as you drive by).

Obviously none of these things are going to make your rich, but these little amounts DO add up over time and why spend more than you have to on everyday items and groceries when you can use those savings on something fun?

Other Ways to Save

If you have more time on your hands, I recommend checking out the following sites as well:

Free Stuff Finder
Not every deal posted here is free, but I follow the new posts via my feed reader to see what’s on sale and if it’s something I need or have been wanting to buy anyway, I consider that a win-win!

Totally Target
If you’re a Target addict like myself, this site is a must visit! I’m always learning about different deals and match-ups that has me getting the stuff I need at a discount, or sometimes even free!

Walmart Savings Catcher
I have to give props to my blogging friend, Kay, over at A Pair of Bartlett’s for making me aware of this one. Basically you enter your Walmart receipt (it has to be less than seven days old) at the site and within 72 hours you will find out whether anything you purchased at Walmart was cheaper elsewhere. If so, they give you back the difference on a gift card. I can’t comment on how beneficial this one is yet since I haven’t heard back from the receipt I entered yesterday, nor do I shop at Walmart a ton, but it definitely has potential especially if you’re buying groceries there.

Feel free to share your favorite apps and sites that help you save money! I’m always looking for more ways to save.

State_Farm

I don’t know why, but life insurance is a hot topic with some folks. Some strong opinions about what kind of life insurance is best, how much you should have, and what it’s intended use is.

There are two main types of insurance:

  • Term
  • Universal/Variable/Whole Life

Universal/Variable/Whole Life Insurance

Let’s talk about the universal/variable/whole life first. These combine an investment with insurance and they build cash value. I’ll be honest, I cringe when I hear someone mention they have one of these policies. If you want an investment vehicle, there are many other (much better) ways to do so. Investments should be kept separate from your life insurance needs.

Here are some of my thoughts around why I don’t care for whole life type policies. First, the benefit amount (when you die) is generally low and not enough to cover the amount you should have. Another reason is the fees involved. There’s a reason why insurance agents push this type of policy, they get some sweet commissions off of sales and the annual fees associated with administering the policy are high. When you run through and figure all the fees involved, your rate of return (which is low to begin with) is reduced even further.

In my opinion, you’re better off putting your money into a term policy for your life insurance needs. For investments, put your money in an investment account. With a little research you have a shot at better annual returns than that universal life policy. Remember, the stock market has a historical rate of return around 8% over the long term. Go ahead and try to find a policy that will give you that.

Term Life Insurance

Term is pretty straight forward, it’s just what the name implies. It’s in effect for a set period of time and only pays out in the event of death. It’s the simplest and cheapest form of life insurance you can buy. And the type of policy I would say everyone who should have life insurance should have. No, not everyone needs life insurance. We’ll get into that later.

How much?

As far as how much is a good amount of life insurance to carry there are several things to consider. Are you younger, older? Is your home paid for? Do you have a lot of financial obligations? For me it comes down to how much of an impact your missing income will be to the household. Generally, the younger and more obligations you have, your replacement should be higher. I shoot to be covered for 7-10 times my annual income. If my income were to disappear today, I want to ensure Nicole and the kids have enough to cover what my income would have been needed for. But maybe you’re retired, your home is paid for, your kids are financially independent and you have regular monthly income which would pass along survivor benefits. Probably not a big deal for those in that type of situation to even have life insurance.

Where to buy?

All of my coverage as well as Nicole’s comes through my employer. They have really good term rates for myself and spouse coverage. I price it out at open enrollment time every year and it’s a better deal than I can find elsewhere. That may not be the case for everyone so do your homework.

But there are plenty of places out there to shop including; State Farm, Progressive, AIG, USAA, Met Life and many many others. Personally, my first stop would be State Farm. I’ve had State Farm for insurance since I started driving and have the same agent to this day. We’ve priced it out a few times over the years. Sure, there are a few places who are a little cheaper. But to me State Farm is worth the few extra bucks. The times we’ve had to deal with them, it’s been really effortless on our part. Their help and follow-up has been great and they work to not make things an inconvenience to you. You’re damn right, I’ll pay the little extra for better customer service no matter what the industry.

Conclusion

You’ve heard me say it many times in other posts, do your homework. Check into the different types of coverage, ask a lot of questions and research a good insurance provider.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with State Farm, nor am I employed by them or compensated by them to publish content found on this site.

get-organized

Getting, and staying, organized matters because it makes your life so much easier and reduces stress.

In Your Job

Being organized is the reason why I can work three days a week at a job that was meant to be full-time. I keep everything in order so I spend a minimal amount of time just trying to refresh my memory about an issue or locating where an invoice might be (I work in finance). My best friends, besides Outlook’s calendar and tasks, is Excel and Word.

When starting my most recent job I started putting together all the notes I was taking into a Word document. This is now my main reference document for all the tasks I perform on an on-going basis. I also have a reference document in Excel that I use daily which contains vendor #s, GLs, etc. so I don’t have to be constantly looking up the information in our finance system. This cuts down on a lot of wasted time.

Even if you don’t work in finance, I think you’d find Excel and Word can help you with your job. You could use Excel to track clients and their contact information, track a project’s progress, or track time spent on tasks if that’s something you need (or want) to do. For processes and procedures, Word works well as you can organize your document into sections and have Word build an automatic table of contents which makes it easy to skip to the section you need no matter how long the document is (mine is currently 59 pages and continues to grow as I add to it frequently).

The best part is that not only does documenting what you do, and how you do it, help you be more efficient, it also keeps you consistent. This helps your coworkers in case they need to cover for you temporarily when you’re out of the office. It also helps your boss understand what you do (since they can’t possibly know everything when managing a group of people). In addition, when you decide to move on, your document can be passed along to your replacement which makes it easier to train them, whether that be you, if they are in place before you leave, or your boss/coworkers. It’s truly a win-win!

At Home

Staying organized at home allows you to spend your precious free-time with family, friends, pets, or even by yourself relaxing instead of wasting it looking for paperwork, your wallet, keys, etc. I’ve talked before about the different apps I use like Evernote, Dropbox, and Alarmed to keep myself on track.

Items in your home should have a home of their own, even your wallet and keys. There’s a bin by the door where we both put our keys when we get home. As a result, we never have to run around the house looking for our keys when we leave the house. I also keep my coupons in one spot so I can grab them on the way out. Pretty much everything in the kitchen is kept in the same spot all the time so there’s no wasted time trying to find something. Even my so-called junk drawer is organized!

Our laundry is organized in the respect that we have three laundry baskets – one for darks, one for lights, and one for dress clothes. On the darks bin I’ve clipped a laundry bag where I put booties and socks. That way they don’t get lost when they are washed and dried together. I’ve yet to misplace a sock mate doing this!

I’m sure getting your stuff organized can seem daunting to many people, but the end result is so worth it! The sense of satisfaction you feel when everything is put away neatly and easily found later is amazing. The trick is to make it easy to put stuff back where it belongs so you keep doing it.

rothIRA

I heard it mentioned somewhere on a show we were watching about someone looking into opening a Roth IRA for their (minor) child. This piqued my interest. Knowing the value of compounding interest and market performance over the long term could be huge, I decided to start doing a little research and thought I would share what I’ve found.

Keep in mind, as we’ve mentioned here on our about page, we’re not finance experts by any means; we’ve had no formal training or any certifications. Our writings are all based off of personal experiences. And don’t listen to me! Go do some research yourself. Google is a wonderful tool. Google-ize it! **I really should trademark that phrase**.

Like the Stones said, “time is on my side”!

Benefits
First, let us cover the benefits of opening a Roth IRA for your child and you!

Let’s assume a single $1,000 contribution is made when your child is 10 and nothing more is invested. Assuming a 5% rate of return, your child would have nearly $11,500 after 50 years. Yes, that many years! Remember, this is for retirement. Add a $50/month contribution starting after that initial $1,000 and your kid could have over $130k after 50 years. Talk about a little going a long way!

There’s a nice side benefit if you include your child on what you’re doing as well – you’re teaching them the importance of investing and saving for retirement. And being able to hand this off to them as they get older and can take over contributions for their future? Priceless!

And remember – With a Roth IRA, contributions can be withdrawn at any time without penalty.

Rules
Of course there are rules. The maximum limit applies to the child just as it does to an adult: $5,500 for 2014. Your child can contribute all income up to the $5,500 annual limit. For example, if your child earns $2,000, they can contribute just up to the $2,000. Likewise, if they earn $12,000, they are limited to the annual amount of $5,500.

Of course, there’s a stipulation and it’s this – the money put in the account has to qualify as income. It’s easier when one has a W2. However, income from mowing lawns or babysitting also qualifies. If there’s no W2, do yourself a favor and document it really well. How much was paid, who for (if you’re adding to more than one child’s Roth IRA), how long, what type of work, etc. And it should be realistic; you wouldn’t pay your kid $200 to mow the lawn for an hour.

The custodial account will have to be opened by you since they are a minor. Not a big deal, just be aware you’ll need to provide info on yourself as well.

What’s next?
In my opinion, it’s a great opportunity to get your child on the road to having a financially secure retirement. We all have examples of could haves and should haves. This is a good opportunity if you have children too young to start contributing on their own. And if you have young adult children now is a good time to encourage them to start putting money aside for retirement. Roth IRAs are quick to set up online with any of the major financial institutions. Many can be started with as little as $100. Putting a little away each month will add up because time is on their side!

Work Perks

If your company is like many others, including mine, they offer a host of benefits aside from the typical medical, dental, and vision. I didn’t realize how many of them we have taken advantage of over the years until I was perusing the list.

Does your place of employment offer anything good? Have you checked? It’s a great way to save some $$$.

For example, here are the ones we’ve taken advantage of, which in some cases have literally saved us thousands of dollars.

Biometric Screening – Each year by taking a survey, as well as a blood test, we receive a credit of $150 for Nicole and another $150 for myself. They reduced this recently and it’s now down to $100 each but it couldn’t be easier and doesn’t take much time at all.

Mortgage Closing Costs – This was a big one; our closing costs when we refinanced were just a few hundred dollars.

New Vehicle Purchase Program Discount – We used this to purchase our last vehicle and saved about $2,500 off the sticker price.

Bike Helmets – My wellness program reimbursed us for new bike helmets we purchased. Bam! Another $50 saved.

Wireless Services – We get a 15% discount each month on our AT&T bill thanks to this one. We’ve had this one going for years.

It all adds up!

There are a host of others we haven’t taken advantage of too, including electronic purchases, theme park discounts, travel discounts, and financial services. With my wellness program we’d also be reimbursed a portion of our yearly health club fees. That would be handy if we used a health club, but many people do, so it’s worth checking into!

It pays to take a look to see what offerings are available, so why not take advantage?