Have You Started Saving or Shopping For Christmas Yet?

AH! Christmas is less than two months away!

I know it is only Halloween, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Christmas is so soon after Halloween every year.

Unfortunately, people always seem to be surprised by how quickly Christmas sneaks up on them.

The worst surprise, however, is how much money gets drained from your paychecks (or hopefully your holiday targeted savings account) in the next two months.

Start Saving Now

If you don’t have any cash set aside for the holidays yet, you had better get started saving now!

Depending on your family, I wouldn’t be surprised if you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars above and beyond normal expenses in the next couple months.

If you’re already running your household on a tight budget, you need to start planning now.

The best way to save for an event like this is in advance, so take a portion of each paycheck and put it into a separate holiday fund.

Figure out how much you want to, or more likely will end up, spending and then divide that by the number of paychecks until you’ll spend the money.

It’s that simple to figure out how much you need to save!

How To Find The Money To Save

Even if you don’t think it is possible to find any money to save, I think you’d be surprised at what you can cut back on. The first step is to see what you can cut out of your normal expenses for a couple short months.

It won’t be forever, just until you can save enough money for the holidays. After all, you don’t want to charge up credit card debt or have to skip any other debt payments.

A common area that many people can save money on in the short term is food and dining out. Use up the food that has been sitting in the back of your pantry or freezer and give your grocery bill a break for a couple weeks or, if you’re a food hoarder, months.

If you normally go to fancier sit down restaurants, try to downgrade to a less expensive restaurant for a couple months.

Better yet, if you want to save even more money cut out half of the meals that you would normally eat out at restaurants. You could even go as far as quit dining out at all if you need to cover a large holiday budget in a short period of time.

Start Over Again In January

If it was tough to save enough money for Christmas in just a couple of short months, then January offers the best opportunity to make things easier on yourself next year.

After you total up how much money you spent on the holidays this year, simply divide that by the number of paychecks you’ll receive before the next holiday season.

Why is it easier to start in January? The amount you have to save per paycheck is much, much less when you have 12 months of paychecks to spread the cost out over, rather than just two months.

Do you save up for the holidays throughout the year, or at least a couple of months ahead of time? If not, are you going to start now, or at least start in January for next year?

9 Ways To Cut $100 From Your Monthly Budget

Need to spend less money? Budget cutting is the answer, but budget cuts can be painful. Luckily, I've compiled 9 easy budgeting tips to cut $100 a month from your budget on MoneyManifesto.com. These money saving tips could get your budget back in the black and help you live on less!Let’s face it. Sometimes we realize we’re spending more money than we should be.

At other times we’re forced to cut our budget due to factors outside of our control.

Rather than not cutting back and racking up credit card debt, I thought I’d share these 9 ways you can cut $100 from your monthly budget should you ever have to make that decision.

Quit Saving For Vacation

If you’re like me, you put aside a set amount of money out of every paycheck to pay for your next vacation.

Unfortunately, when money is tight, this is often one of the first things to get cut from our budget.

After all, if I can’t afford my bills, what business do I have taking a vacation?!

Cut Back on Dining Out

Cutting back on dining out is an easy way to save money in the short term.

Cooking food at home can be much, much cheaper than paying someone else to cook food for you, serve it to you and clean up after you. If you need to find $100 a month quickly, reduce your dining out budget to save some money fast.

Use Up Your Pantry

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of food sitting in my pantry that has been in there for a while, but is still good. Take all of that food that you never eat and make a meal plan out of it. By doing this, you can reduce your grocery spending that month while you use up all of the groceries you already have but forgot about.

Downgrade Groceries For A Month

If you don’t have a fully stocked pantry to raid, you can still save money on your grocery bill. Simply downgrade from some of the more luxurious items you normally buy and get staples like rice and beans instead.

You might be surprised at how much money you can save by eating a more simple diet for a month. Of course, you need to make sure you still buy healthy food and not junk food or else you’ll hurt your health which will cost you more in the long run.

Cut the Cable Cord

While this would be one of the last things to get cut from our budget, cutting the cable cord is a fast and effective way to save up to $100 a month when the budget is tight. Just make sure you won’t be spending more money paying to entertain yourself in other ways because the cable is no longer an entertainment option.

Of course, a lot of the cable TV content can be seen online these days and a cheap Netflix subscription should be able to hold you over until you can activate your cable again.

Switch Your Cell Phone Provider

Switching cell phone providers is one of the most effective ways to consistently save $100 a month. If you have more than one cell phone line in your household, consider switching to a company like Republic Wireless that gives you unlimited calls, texts and data for just $25 a month. Alternatively, you could switch to Ting that only charges you for the minutes, text and data you actually use.

Keep Your Car Longer

After you pay off your car loan, you can easily save well over $100 a month by continuing to drive your car rather than going out and buying a new car as soon as you pay off your loan. In fact, check out this post that describes exactly how you can use this tip to never have a car payment again.

Earn More Money

While cutting money from your budget is one option, earning more money will provide the same effect. Just remember when you earn more money you actually need to earn more than $100 to account for the taxes you will have to pay on the additional earnings.

Picking up an extra shift or a part time job could easily earn you the money you would need to add $100 a month to your budget.

Sell Things

Selling things around your house that you no longer need or use is another great way to make a quick $100. A couple of big items or many small items could easily add up to $100. Better yet, have a garage sale and clear out a ton of space and earn money at the same time.

Hopefully you found at least one or two things on this list that will help you cut $100 from your budget when you need a quick fix. However, I’m always curious to hear what you would do to cut $100 from your budget. Let me know in the comments below!

Photo by: 401(k) 2013 Text added by: Lance Cothern

Bartering Goods and Services Can Save You Money

bartering to save moneyMy wife’s motorcycle has been sitting in our garage for the last two years. Her motorcycle no longer runs and we have no intention of ever using it again.

The motorcycle is in good shape other than the fact that it doesn’t run, so rather than just sell it in its current state, we wanted to fix the motorcycle in order to sell it for the most we can get for it.

The problem is, we have no clue how to fix her motorcycle and we didn’t want to be swindled by mechanics.

Luckily, we’ve finally found a way to get her motorcycle fixed and it will only cost us the cost of the parts to get the motorcycle running.

How did we manage that? We bartered services to get her motorcycle fixed.

How We Bartered Services To Save Money

Tori, my wife, has been working on a photography side hustle to earn some extra money while doing something she loves.

Luckily, she happened to know a family that wanted some family photos taken and at the same time someone in that family knew how to fix motorcycles.

Rather than have them pay Tori for a family photo session, we decided to swap services. We agreed that if Tori took pictures for the family that they would fix her motorcycle.

Now, we will have to pay for any parts to fix the motorcycle, but they will provide all of the labor for free. Similarly, if they want to purchase any prints of the photos Tori took, they’ll have to pay for those themselves.

Overall, I think we both got a great deal. Both groups got what we wanted and we were both able to save money by bartering services in the process.

You Can Barter With Your Own Goods And Services

You, too, can barter with services that you can perform and goods you can make or no longer want. Think of all of the different types of services you are good at that other people would need.

Maybe you can prepare tax returns, take professional quality pictures, clean houses like a pro or tutor students in difficult topics from school. Whatever you’re good at, chances are someone else is looking for the service you can provide.

Next, try to find people who need your service. While finding these people, keep in mind that they’ll need to provide a service that you need in order to barter. Once you find a good match, exchange services so that both people benefit without exchanging money. How awesome is that?

Of course, you can do the same thing with goods rather than services if that’s what you have to offer. If you have a garden, you could easily barter vegetables from your garden. If you make jewelry for an Etsy shop, you can barter those goods, too.

Trading goods can sometimes work out better than services due to the fact that they’re easier to value.

The Downsides Of Bartering

Bartering has its downsides, too. When bartering for anything, you need to trust the other party to hold up their end of the deal. This is especially true for services if both services aren’t performed at the same time. If one person gets their end of the deal first, the other person could technically end up empty handed.

Another common problem of bartering is determining a fair value for all of the services and goods in the transaction. If you have a car to trade and you want 2 motorcycles, the values may not be equal. One side would have to add goods or services until the values were equal if a true bartering situation were to take place.

Luckily, money has been invented so that we can make transactions easier. Instead of true bartering, you can trade services or goods and use money to come up with difference.

Bartering can work out awesome for everyone in most cases. We’re happy that we’re getting our motorcycle fixed and eventually sold and Tori’s friends are happy they’re getting family photos. I can’t imagine a better situation in this case.

What do you think about bartering? Have you ever done it before? Let me know about your history with bartering in the comments below.

Photo by: North Charleston Text added by: Lance Cothern

Sometimes Paying More Up Front Saves You Money

pay more save moneyI hate printers. I hate them with a passion. Why?

For as long as I can remember, I have always had an ink jet printer.

I rarely ever used the printer, but whenever I did, it seemed like the printer would have to clean the printer cartridge or perform some task to waste a major amount of the oh so expensive ink.

Often the ink would have completely dried up right when I needed it most.

I’d then take a trip to Wal-Mart or my nearest office supply store to drop anywhere from $20 to $60 on new ink cartridges that would end up performing the same exact way.

Typically, I might get less than 100 pages out of an ink cartridge, which was an outrageous idea to me.

Why are we paying so much for ink? There had to be a better solution.

We Spent Money Up Front To Save Money In The Long Run

Recently my wife and I decided it was time to have a reliable printer in our home again. We were sick of having to wait to print our documents at work the next day or dig out our awful inkjet printer and buy yet another inkjet cartridge.

So what did we do? We spent some money up front on a printer that would fit our printing needs. We bought a laser printer.

For comparison, the printer we bought cost $120 up front. That is four times more expensive than some of the cheap inkjet printers out there. It’s well worth it to us, though.

Why We Bought A Laser Printer

Laser printers work differently than inkjet printers. The ink can’t dry out. The print heads can’t clog with ink. Instead, we can leave our laser printer for months without printing a page and it should work right away when we decide to print something in the future. Laser printers use a powder toner that doesn’t dry out or clog.

On top of the awesome fact that we won’t have to go out and buy new ink every time we leave our printer dormant for a few months, the toner cartridges print many more pages than an inkjet ink cartridge does.

The toner we’ll need for our new printer will print 1,200 pages on a normal cartridge or up to 2,600 pages for a high yield cartridge. This should save us a ton of money over the long haul. While toner cartridges are more expense than most inkjet cartridges, they’re much cheaper on a per page printed basis.

Of course, our new laser printer only prints in black and white and it doesn’t do an awesome job printing pictures, but we’re okay with that. I can’t remember the last time we needed to print something in color and color laser printers would have easily cost of hundreds of dollars more.

Instead, we’ll just pay $0.59 a page at our local Office Max to solve any color printing needs we may have in the future. I’m sure we can even find a coupon to get a better deal.

How Does This Have To Do With Your Finances?

How does a laser printer vs an inkjet printer have anything to do with your finances? The laser printer was the optimal choice for us and will save us money over the long run. While we don’t spend a ton of money printing, we do spend a lot of money in other areas of our lives.

Think about your car, for example. How much thought did you put into your car purchase? You could have examined every aspect of the purchase to figure out if spending more on a car up front would save you thousands of dollars over the long run.

Related: Never Make A Car Payment Again After Using This Easy Trick

You would need to look at gas mileage, average maintenance costs and many more items to come to the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the car. Compare that to the other cars you are considering buying and you might find out that the more expensive car up front could save you money over the long run.

The difference could easily be thousands of dollars and most people never give it a second thought.

The same exercise can be run on many other purchases you will make during your lifetime. Think about how huge of a purchase a home is.

You could probably save tens of thousands of dollars by buying the right home that will end up saving you money through energy efficiency and the proximity to the places you spend the most time driving to.

Related: The Definitive Way To Know If You Should Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

What If You Don’t Have Enough Money To Pay Higher Up Front Cost?

If you don’t have enough money to pay the higher up front cost, you have a few options available to you. You may want to consider delaying the purchase until you can take advantage of the most cost advantageous option.

If that isn’t an option, you can buy the cheaper up front option and sell it later to recoup some of your costs and upgrade to the most advantageous option later.

Finally, you could take out a loan if you would still end up ahead after paying for interest. I only recommend this for very well thought out purchases that are needs, not wants, so almost nothing should fit into this category.

A little bit of up front effort can clearly save you a ton of money and frustration over the long run. The bigger the purchase is, the more you should consider the long run in your decision.

What purchases have you made that might cost more up front but save you money over the long run? How did you come to your decision and how much did you save? Let me know in the comments below!

Photo by: Stephen_Clarky Text added by: Lance Cothern

Is Being Brand Loyal A Good Idea? You Might Be Surprised!

brand loyaltyAre you so brand loyal that you’ll only use one company’s version of a specific product? If so, you could be wasting a ton of money.

I’ll admit it. I’m brand loyal when it comes to certain purchases. However, I could not care less about which brand I buy for other products.

Being loyal to a particular brand may make sense in certain cases even though it could cost you more money.

So when should you and when shouldn’t you be brand loyal? Let’s explore the subject to see where you can save money!

Why Companies Love Brand Loyal Customers

Companies work extremely hard to gain brand loyalty.

In fact, companies spend crazy amounts of money advertising their products so you’ll remain loyal to their brand or convert your loyalty to their brand.

Brands love the die hard consumers that will never use anything other than their preferred brand because these customers are gold mines.

How Brand Loyalty Costs You Money

Brand loyalty results in missing out on deals on similar products that fulfill the same purpose. For instance, if you’re brand loyal when it comes to your Heinz ketchup, you could miss out on a buy one get one free deal on Hunt’s ketchup.

Of course, the above is just a small example. Brand loyalty could cost you a huge amount of money when it comes to buying a car. If you will only buy a Honda despite the fact that Toyota is having a huge blowout sale on similar models, you could easily lose thousands of dollars on one purchase.

Some Generic Brand Products Are Made By Big Brands

Generic products often have a bad image from the occasional bad generic product that someone tried once and told everyone about. However, some generic products are the exact same products as brand name products. In fact, some are made in the very same factory with different labels.

Give generic brands a shot to see if you like them or not. You may surprise yourself! If generics aren’t for you, you could consider an alternative cheaper brand name. If that doesn’t work out, maybe being brand loyal for that particular product is the right decision for you and your family.

Money isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing whether to be brand loyal or not. Sometimes other factors require or suggest that brand loyalty is the better choice.

When It Makes Sense To Be Brand Loyal

There are certain cases when brand loyalty is the right move. When choosing a brand over a generic or a different brand could affect your health, as it easily could with medication, it makes sense to spend the money and be brand loyal.

Another case when it makes sense to be brand loyal is when the brand makes it worth your while to stay brand loyal. Some brands will offer every 5th or 10th item free and that extra effort will make a brand worth more to you.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with being brand loyal if you truly enjoy a particular brand more than other brands. Spending more money to buy something you enjoy more is a perfectly acceptable option if you have the money to make that choice.

When You Should Avoid Being Brand Loyal

Sadly, being brand loyal often is not the best choice for your finances. As mentioned above, you’ll miss out on deals on other brands or by saving money by choosing generics. When you don’t have a particular preference, it makes sense to go for the cheaper brands in most cases.

Why waste money on a more expensive brand you don’t care about? Save money on the brands you don’t care about to spend on the brands you do care about.

What brands are you loyal to? What items do not care about and buy the cheapest brand available? Do you buy generic brands? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

Photo by: Krossbow Text added by: Lance Cothern