Banking 
4
comments

Finances in 55 Seconds: Juice Up Your Savings

Take a look at your savings accounts. What kind of interest yield are you receiving? Chances are that you could do better — especially if your money is sitting in a traditional savings account at your brick and mortar bank. Indeed, most “regular” savings accounts offered by banks and credit unions feature miniscule returns. That’s really not right when you consider how much money the financial institution is making by lending the money you have on deposit out to others at much higher rates.

It’s true that most people don’t expect to get much yield from a savings account. However, just because you don’t expect much doesn’t mean that you have to settle for rock bottom. Thanks to the Internet, you have access to savings account and CD rates from all over the country. You can even access credit union options from institutions that have very broad field of membership requirements.

There’s no reason to settle for an interest rate of 0.5% on your savings account. Best of all, it doesn’t take much time at all to juice up your savings interest. You can do it in 55 seconds or less:
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 Frugal Living 
10
comments

How to Dine Out on a Budget

We all enjoy a night out with a fancy, or not, meal in a restaurant. There’s something fun about going out, being served food you didn’t have to cook yourself on plates you won’t have to clean up later. That said, the economy has been rough and everyone is looking for ways to save a little money here or there, perhaps to bolster up their emergency fund, while still enjoying some of the finer things in life.

We tend to go out once or twice a week to some local restaurants we love and it’s a treat for us. A few years ago we would go far more often and it became less of a treat and more of a regular occurrence, which takes a bit of the fun out of it (and gets expensive). So now, we limit it to a few times a week and cook more at home. We’ve discovered that cooking at home can be a lot of fun, offers a bit of variety and adventure, and the dishes aren’t that much of a pain to clean.

For those who do go out more often and are looking to trim the restaurant bill, here are a few ideas:

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 Personal Finance 
6
comments

Finances in 55 Seconds: Create a Short-Term Savings Plan

StopwatchWe are often intimidated by financial projects. It seems like we should need hours to plan savings, or organize our finances. However, you might be surprised at what you can accomplish if you set aside some time to tackle one task. Too often we make things harder than they need to be. Creating a short-term savings plan is one of those projects that can quickly seem daunting.

Short-term savings, though, are important. It’s a good idea to have some small savings in a relatively liquid account. Short-term emergency savings can be used for items like unexpected car repairs, appliance repairs and other unexpected expenses that crop up. It’s not exactly the same thing as planning for months of unemployment, but it is way to give you a little extra padding that is accessible — and doesn’t require you to raid your long-term savings. This fund is usually between $1,000 and $3,000.

The best part: You can create your short-term savings plan in 55 seconds or less.

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 Frugal Living 
14
comments

How to Avoid Frugal Fatigue

The recent recession has encouraged many of us to improve our financial habits — including cutting back on spending. Frugality has allowed many to regain financial footing. However, for some of us, it can become wearing to always be watching costs and pinching pennies.

Indeed, after right around three years of increased budget consciousness, many are feeling what is being dubbed “frugal fatigue.” Instead of closely watching your money, you might be tempted to return to former ways, bending your budget a little and perhaps carrying a balance on your credit card for a couple of months. Frugal fatigue sets in when you begin to feel deprived by your good financial habits. Here’s how to avoid frugal fatigue:

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 Frugal Living 
17
comments

Get Ready for More Food Prices Inflation

One of the trends we saw through the end of 2010 — and one that is continuing in 2011 — is food prices inflation. Food prices have been rising. From floods in Pakistan to drought in Russia to rising demand for food in emerging market countries, it seems as though higher food prices are inevitable. The USDA reports that food prices increased 0.8% in 2010, and that they could rise 3% to 4% in 2011. That means you had better be ready for what’s coming.

Among the foods expected to see an increase in 2011 are grains like wheat and corn. Wheat is used a great deal in cereal and other staples. Corn (or corn syrup) is used in a number of food items as well. On top of that, corn is used in livestock feed, and that means the cost of raising different animals for consumption is on the rise. Retail prices for beef rose 10% between February 2010 and February 2011, and pork prices are up as well. While meat prices rose in 2010, they are expected to increase at a faster rate this year. Because of the increased cost of feed, and the fact that a rising middle class in China and India are looking to add more beef, pork and poultry to their meals, meat prices are expected to rise at a fairly rapid pace.

Dairy prices are creeping up as well. CNBC recently reported on month over month inflation, finding that butter, coffee, potatoes and bread are also on the rise. Commodities in general are seeing an increase in price, and recent events can’t be helping, especially in terms of global supply chains. Even produce is starting to catch up. According to some news outlets, lettuce has doubled in the past few weeks, and other produce is rising as well.

What can you do?

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 Frugal Living 
11
comments

Seven Tips for Saving Money on Pet Costs

Cute Dogs!Americans spend more than $41 billion each year on pets. From routine care to pet spa appointments, the pets industry is big business. Increasingly, people consider their pets to be part of the family, and spend accordingly. This can include everything from specially made pet clothes to expensive medical procedures.

Even those most in love with their pets, though, occasionally wonder how they can reduce the costs associated with pet ownership. The economy may be showing signs of recovery, but, for many, the recession is still a reality. And that means that costs need to be cut somewhere. If you are looking for ways to cut back on pet expenses, here are seven ideas:

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 Frugal Living 
30
comments

Are Social Deal Sites (Groupon) Worth It?

“Social shopping” is gaining in popularity right now. Through web sites like Living Social and Groupon, it is possible to get discounts on different products and services in your local area. Social deal web sites send you tips about which deals are available, and then you can go spend money, getting up to half off — or more — on different items.

One of the questions you have to ask yourself as you sign up for Living Social, Groupon or any other social deal site is this: Am I really saving money? Or are you just looking for a reason to spend it?

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 Travel 
8
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3 Cheap Ideas for Spring Break

Spring break is coming up. Whether you are a college student getting ready to head out for a little party fun, or a family trying to figure out what you can do while the kids are out of school, there are plenty of possibilities for spring break.

Unfortunately, some spring break ideas tend to be rather expensive. Do you really want to spend $1,000 on your spring break? Plus, air travel is expensive during spring break season, and sometimes hotels charge more, too. If you take a few minutes to find your creativity and your inner frugality, though, you might find that spring break doesn’t have to be that expensive after all.

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