Find Extra Money By Spending Smarter – It Helped Us Pay Off $80,000 Of Debt

When my wife graduated from college, she had over $80,000 of student loan debt.

The massive $80,000 debt scared us immensely. After all, the average college graduate with student loans only had $26,600 in student loan debt the year my wife graduated.

My wife owed over three times that amount.  Looking back, that debt is one of the best things that happened to us.

The debt scared us so much we decided to pay it off as fast as possible. In order to do that, we were forced to learn how to spend smarter early in our lives.

Spending smarter allowed us to spend on the things we valued while cutting expenses on things we didn’t value.

The spending smarter concept freed up a massive amount of money we used to help pay off the $80,000 in less than three years.

You can use the same spending smarter concept to find extra money to put toward your financial goals. Here’s how it works.

The Basics Of Spending Smarter

The first part of spending smarter requires you to come up with two lists then compare your results.

First, you must know your values. What is most important to you and your family? What doesn’t matter at all? Take a minute and write a list of your values. Then, order that list from most important to least important.

The other list is tracking your spending. Before you get upset, tracking your spending is not the same as budgeting. Rather, it is simply tallying up where you money is spent each and every month.

Tracking your spending isn’t always easy. If you don’t have a system in place, it can be extremely frustrating. Thankfully, technology has made tracking your spending much easier.

Rather than trying to manually calculate your spending every month, you can sign up for a service like Personal Capital that will track your spending for you.

All you have to do is link your financial accounts to their software. The only thing Personal Capital can’t track is your cash spending, which you’ll have to input manually.

Once you’ve tracked your spending for a least a month, compare your spending to your values.

Does your highest value match your highest spending category? Similarly, does the thing you value least match the category you spent the least amount of money in?

Chances are they don’t. Take this time to realize where you’re overspending according to your values and adjust your spending accordingly.

Mastering The Second Part Of Spending Smarter

The second part of spending smarter is mastering the art of spending less while getting more value for each dollar spent. The lower your expenses are each month means more money for paying off debt, saving or investing for the future.

When reviewing your spending each month, look for transactions where you spent more money than the value you received from the purchase.

For instance, you may have a $50 per month gym membership but only go to the gym once or twice per month. Instead of paying the monthly membership fee, see if you can purchase a one time pass for less. If you can’t, look for a gym that will let you.

Another way to spend less and get more value is comparison shopping. Before you make a purchase, make sure you are getting the best price on the item you’re buying. A quick Google search will generally give you the answer you’re looking for.

You’ll also want to do a quick search for coupon codes to make sure you aren’t missing a discount.

An easy way to do this is installing the Honey browser extension which automatically applies the best coupon to your order when you’re checking out on one of their supported retailers.

Spending Smarter In Action

My wife and I value having phone service. That said, we don’t care if we have the absolute best cell phone service. Two Verizon phones would easily cost us at least $110 per month because they have the best network.

Instead, we opted to use Republic Wireless, which uses the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. Republic Wireless keeps our combined phone bill at $40 per month plus taxes and fees saving us at least $840 per year or more.

Living In A House We Love

While we prefer to save money on our cell phone plans, we decided to spend more on our housing. My wife and I are homebodies and I work at home. For those reasons, it was important to have a house that fit our needs and wants.

Instead of staying in our last house which was smaller and cheaper, we decided to build our dream house.

We could do this because we cut our spending in other areas to spend smarter in the areas we cared about most. We also paid off all of our other debt, freeing up a large portion of our income.

Purchasing A Vehicle The Smart Way

Another area we apply the spending smarter concept is our cars. When my wife and I buy a vehicle, we prefer to purchase a car we will drive for at least 10 years.

Driving cars for longer periods of time will save you a significant amount of money than buying a new to you car every three to five years when you pay off your car loan.

Thanks to the savings of driving our cars for ten years or more, we now essentially buy our cars with cash.

In fact, we’re in the process of researching a new to us car right now. We’ve come to the conclusion that it is cheaper to buy a new Honda Odyssey than a used Honda Odyssey when you consider the fact we’ll own the car for 10 to 15 years.

However, we really want the brand new version that just came out. Unfortunately, car dealers aren’t willing to discount a brand new car.

So, instead of paying full price, we’re going to wait six to 12 months for the newness to wear off. By then, discounts should begin appearing that should save us thousands of dollars.

Vacationing At Off Peak Times Saves Us Money

Cruising is our favorite form of vacationing. We strongly believe it provides us some of the best value for our vacation dollar. Even though we think cruising is a great value, we found a way to save even more money while cruising.

Typically, people like to go on cruises when their family can all go together. This means cruises are in high demand when kids are out of school.

Rather than pay sky high peak season cruise prices in the spring break, summer break or winter holiday seasons, we opt to cruise during the low seasons such as February or early December.

Simply investigating when a vacation is cheaper could easily save you hundreds or thousands of dollars each year.

Earn Rewards For Money You’d Spend Anyway

My wife and I have paid off all of our consumer debt. Now that we’ve proudly put our debt behind us, we’ve moved on to taking advantage of credit card rewards.

Since we’d be spending money anyway, we figure we might as well earn some money from it. In fact, we earn points or cash back on almost all of our purchases.

We often earn bonuses for $500 or more for signing up for a new credit card. When we’re not earning a bonus, we simply earn two percent cash back on our favorite cash back card.

These rewards easily add up to a couple thousand dollars or more per year which is pretty sweet for spending money we’d spend anyway.

Recently, I’ve also started using the Honey browser extension. This extension automatically applies the best coupon code available and potentially gives you cash back for shopping, as well.

It’s important to note, these types of spending smarter only make sense if you have your spending under tight control. If you are tempted to carry a credit card balance or make purchases just to earn rewards, you shouldn’t worry about rewards and cash back at all.

Spending Smarter Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult

Spending smarter doesn’t have to be difficult. Unfortunately, the typical image of spending smarter is cutting your spending on things you love. Others envision making a painful budget that leaves no money for fun.

If you figure out your values, figure out your spending then align your values and spending, you can start spending smarter in no time. You don’t even have to start by building a budget, although it would help.

Follow up the first exercise with mastering the art of getting the most value for every dollar spent and you’ll find plenty of extra money to put toward other financial goals.

You could pay off your debt faster just like we did when we paid off $80,000 of student loan debt in less than three years. You could put that money into savings or invest it for retirement.

No matter what you do, make sure the money you find from spending smarter has a purpose that will enhance your finances.

Take Action Now!

  1. Make a list of your values.
  2. Track your spending. Sign up for Personal Capital if you’d rather automate the process.
  3. Compare the two lists and decide where to increase or cut back spending.
  4. Start spending smarter by optimizing your spending.
  5. Make sure you look for deals on purchases you’ll make anyway. Use the Honey browser extension for added discounts when shopping online.
  6. Continue applying spending smarter concepts as your life changes.

What is your favorite way to spend smarter? Feel free to share in the comments below so everyone can learn.

5 Stupid Things People Always Complain About When Buying A House

Let’s start out with a confession.

I’ve turned into a bit of an HGTV junkie.

If there isn’t anything else on and I want a TV fix, I end up watching one of a million real estate shows that seem to be on TV today.

Based on my HGTV watching experience, I have a good idea of many of the stupid complaints people have when home shopping.

I wanted to share how ridiculous some of these are so you won’t make the same mistakes others did.

In total, there are five things people should overlook when looking to buy a home because they’re easily fixed in most cases.

Getting the perfect home will likely cost you more than it costs to fix these five things yourself.

Paint Colors Are Easy To Change

I can’t stand it when someone walks into a house and complains about paint colors. I admit, the seller would have been smart to paint their home a neutral color for an easier sale.

However, almost nothing is easier to change in a house than a paint color.

Even the most inexperienced do it yourselfers can paint a room or an entire home! To top it off, painting isn’t outrageously expensive by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re so broke you can’t pay to paint a home after you buy it, you shouldn’t be buying a house anyway.

Light Fixtures and Fans

One of the easiest ways to update a dated home is to simply update the light fixtures and fans. The best part is that fans and light fixtures can be relatively inexpensive if you have simple tastes.

When we bought our first townhouse, we replaced every light fixture and fan in the house and it cost us less than $1,000. It brought our space forward from the 80’s into the present. Additionally, it really helped light up our home.

For the most part, these changes are easy to make, too. Simply turn off the power to the fixture and follow the instructions.

I had never changed a light fixture or fan before and, with the help of my dad, I was able to change them out by myself after the first one.

Don’t let dated light fixtures, fans or chandeliers keep you from buying a home. They’re an easy fix.

Flooring Isn’t What You Prefer

I bet you’ve seen a couple walk in a home and instantly complain that it doesn’t have wood floors running throughout it. Who cares?! Simply budget the cost of having someone install wood floors before you move in and you’ll be set.

It’s super easy to change flooring before you move into the home, so make sure you get this done as soon as you close on the house.

That way you’ll enjoy the brand new wood floors the entire time you live there and you won’t have to rearrange your life and furniture to get it replaced later.

Yes, flooring can be one of the more expensive renovations. Chances are you’re already getting a better price on the home because it doesn’t have these higher end finishes.

Decorations/Staging Of The Home

It drives me insane to hear people walk into a home and start complaining about how the current owner has their furniture arranged. I get similarly irritated when people complain about how cluttered a space is.

You’re buying the house, not all of the junk the current owner currently has in the home.

Imagine the space completely empty, or better yet, imagine it with your furnishings and decorations set up. It’ll make a world of difference.

You might even be able to get a deal because no one else can look past the awful decor the current owner didn’t think to get rid of before selling their home.

These Appliances Suck

News flash! Most appliances are easily removed and new appliances can be put in their place. You should check to make sure your desired appliances can fit in the current dedicated spaces that exist, but other than that, simply factor the cost into your offer price.

One big thing to look out for is whether or not the home has access to natural gas, if you’re a gas stove snob. That’s one aspect of the home you can’t change if there isn’t local access.

If you’re smart, you can even put these purchases on a sign up bonus credit card and get a nice chunk of your money back in the form of a cash back sign up bonus.

All of these five things I mentioned above are rather easy to change before you move into a home. If you could get a great deal that only needed some minor changes, why immediately throw the house out of contention?

It doesn’t make any sense to me, but then again I guess I’m not quite as picky as many of the crazy people that show up on HGTV.

What are your thoughts about the small changes I mentioned above? Do you look past these things when looking at houses and factor them into your offers? Or do you only look at houses that exactly fit your wishlist and pay a premium for them? Let me know your thoughts!

Want More Time? A Secret Alternative To The Full Time Job

Money is extremely important in our society.

Money is a necessity if you want to live a comfortable life.

So how do we get money?

Everyone knows the answer to that question.

People generally earn money by trading their time for money.

Most people do this at a job. They trade hours of their lives for money to live life more comfortably.

People Don’t Question The Typical Time For Money Trade

Some people never question this trade of time for money. They simply work for their whole lives.

They work hard to get ahead to get more money so they can continue to live more luxuriously. They get addicted to earning more money and spending it to get bigger and better things.

But why? It doesn’t have to be that way.

Not Everyone Wants To Trade Time For Money Forever

There is a small group of people that are different. They start asking questions about how to quit trading time for money.

They don’t blindly follow what society has outlined. They want freedom to do what they want with their time.

They figured out that they need to find a way to have money without trading their time for it.

Why Time Is More Important Than Money – But Only To A Point

Time is more important than money in the sense that you have a finite amount of time. You don’t want to be the person that never lived life because you were always slaving away at work to chase more money and buy more things.

Sadly, everyone we know, ourselves included, will all die one day.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as quitting your job and doing whatever you want for the rest of your life. You still need money to live a comfortable life.

So how can you quit trading time for money but still have enough money to do what you want?

Living Off Your Investments

The most common way being able to still have money, while not having to trade your time for it, is to live off of investment income. In order to do this, you’ll have to have a large amount of investments.

The best way to accumulate the amount of money to make this possible isn’t easy to obtain. However, it’s an extremely easy concept.

All you have to do is spend significantly less than you earn while you’re working and invest the difference.

Once your investments generate enough income to allow you to live a comfortable life, you can quit trading your time for money. Of course, it is a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the general idea.

There are other ways to trade less time for money if you’re flexible. You won’t be completely free of work though.

The Secret Alternative – Trading Less Time For Less Money

An option I see very few people take advantage of is trading less of their time for money and earning less. Most people assume you have to work a full time job or not work at all. There is a middle ground and it can be accomplished in many ways.

Instead of working full time, you can just work part time at a job. You’d have to earn a decent wage and not care about living a lavish lifestyle, but it can be done.

If you’d rather work in spurts, you can try finding contract or temporary jobs and work for a few months or years then take a few months or years off. Contract work can be very profitable if you find the right contract opportunities.

Finally, you can try your hand at starting a freelance business and just work when you need more money. Do amazing work and you should have plenty of opportunities to sell your services to others.

Have you ever traded less time for less money? What are some other secret alternatives to full time work other than traditional retirement?

Why You Should Ask Everyone For A Discount

Recently my wife and I went shopping for clothes.

The trip was long over due and we were about to head on vacation, so we needed to make purchases that day.

Unfortunately, we had no clue what stores would have what we were looking for before we left.

That meant we couldn’t search for coupons in advance of our trip.

However, we were still able to land a discount.

I didn’t think we had a chance, but it was easier than I thought.

All we had to do was one simple thing.

Always Ask For A Discount

Asking for a discount is easy. All you have to do is utter a few words. The thing is, no one actually does it.

When we were shopping, my wife found a couple pairs of shorts she liked at the absolute last store we stopped at, Old Navy. We never shop at Old Navy, but for whatever reason they had the shorts my wife needed.

I didn’t have any coupons, but I figured the store had to have promotions on a regular basis. So, instead of simply paying full price, I did something I never really do. I asked the cashier if they had any discounts they could apply.

I had heard of the technique of asking everyone for a discount prior to purchase. I thought it was stupid and not likely to work. I was so wrong.

The cashier first offered the option of signing up for an Old Navy credit card to save 35% of our purchase, or about $16. Since I regularly earn credit card sign up bonuses of $400 or more, I kindly turned down the offer.

Instead, I asked if she had any coupons we could use. She said she didn’t. Then she said the magic words. Let me try this code for you real quick.

She entered a few numbers into her cash register and 20 percent, or $9, magically disappeared from the total. The cashier said people usually get that coupon in emails, so she thought she’d give it a shot. We were glad she did.

All it took was asking a simple question to get $9 off our purchase. So, why don’t more people do this?

Why People Are Afraid To Ask For Discounts

People don’t ask cashiers and other businesses for discounts because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of rejection. No one likes to hear no, but in this case you have nothing to lose.

Some people are afraid of looking stupid when they’re rejected. If saving money makes you look stupid, sign me up. Worst case the cashier says no. All you have to do is say thank you, pay for your purchase and leave.

Chances are you’ll be told no more than you’ll be told yes. However, over the long haul you can save a lot of money by asking a simple question while the cashier rings up your purchase.

Do you have any additional discounts you can apply?

More Examples Of Discounts We Received By Simply Asking

While I have never asked for discounts at the cash register before, I have asked for plenty of other discounts over the years. Many times I have been shot down, but I’ve saved a lot of money the times when people said yes.

Recently I had gutters installed on my home. The installer initially quoted me $1,320 for the job. However, after asking if there were any discounts he could apply, he said he’d do the job for $1,200 if I paid cash.

$120 saved in just a few seconds.

Negotiating my cable bill is a never ending adventure. The cable company raises prices then I have to call and ask for a discount. I almost always get a reduced rate. All I have to do is ask.

I’ve easily saved over $1,000 doing this over the last few years.

We leased an apartment for a few months while we were having our dream home built. When we went to sign a lease for the apartment, I asked if there were any discounts available. The leasing agent asked a few questions.

The most important question was if we were going to be buying or building a home. We were.

She stated then I could get a home purchase addendum that reduced the lease breaking fee by $1,130 and allow us to sign a 13 month lease instead of a more expensive 7 month lease.

Asking saved me at least $1,500 in reduced rent and the reduced lease break fee.

From Now On, Ask For Discounts

I asked in the above cases because they were major or recurring purchases. However, if I now start asking for discounts almost everywhere, I could save even more.

You’ll quickly learn where you can and can’t get discounts. I doubt I’ll be able to get a discount at the gas station, but I can probably get discounts at clothing stores.

Once you figure out if a store you frequent doesn’t give discounts you can stop asking.

However, make sure you ask for discounts again after a few months or so. Sometimes stores change their policies or a new employee may be more willing to hand out coupon codes.

I’m willing to ask a simple question for the potential of saving money. Are you?

Have you ever asked for a discount at a store you wouldn’t think would give discounts? Did you receive a discount or did you get rejected? Let me know in the comments!

How Walmart Savings Catcher Put $80.32 Back In My Bank Account

Just this week I redeemed $80.32 of Walmart Savings Catcher rewards.

Yes, Walmart paid me to shop at Walmart.

Here’s how it works and how you can get Walmart to pay you to shop there, too.

What Is Walmart Savings Catcher

Walmart Savings Catcher is a part of the Walmart app. Basically, Walmart is willing to compare its prices to local competitors and pay you the difference. The app does have to find a lower price for the same exact item at a competitor for this to work.

For instance, if you usually buy 12 packs of Coke Zero for $3.88 at Walmart but the Publix down the street is selling them for $2.50 each, Walmart will give you $1.38 in Savings Catcher rewards.

How Walmart Savings Catcher Works

Walmart Savings Catcher is really easy to use. Simply open the Walmart app and click the Savings Catcher button.

Next, click the Add a Walmart Receipt button. You will then have the option to scan the QR code (the funny looking pixelated square) at the bottom of the receipt or type on the receipt number and date manually.

Walmart then pulls the data for everything you bought on that receipt into their system. Over the next couple days, the app processes what you bought versus ads for local competitors.

If the app finds an exact match for an item you bought that has a lower price at a competitor, you’ll earn Savings Catcher rewards.

The app keeps track of your Savings Catcher rewards. When you’re ready, you can transfer the rewards to a Walmart egift card to use in the store or use Walmart Pay to use your Savings Catcher rewards.

If you do choose an egift card, be aware that it may take up to 24 hours to process and send you an email with your card information.

Downfalls of the Savings Catcher App

Of course, the app isn’t perfect. Savings Catcher won’t always catch lower prices at competitors. Often, an item may be on sale at a competitor but is being sold in different packaging that technically makes it a different product. Think different sizes or different branding for each store.

Another downside of the Savings Catcher app is many of the items we buy aren’t eligible. We end up buying many store brand items because they’re good enough for us. Unfortunately, no one else sells Great Value and other Walmart private label items, so there is nothing to compare and possible savings.

Some users may not feel comfortable using the Savings Catcher app because it essentially collects data on you as a shopper. Every time you scan a receipt, it adds it to a receipt vault. Your receipts are associated with the email address you use with the app.

That means Walmart is learning your shopping habits, much like other grocery stores do with rewards or discount cards.

Finally, if you usually use ads to shop around for the best prices, Walmart Savings Catcher probably won’t save you money. My wife and I don’t look at ads and plan our meals based on sales, although we’re considering starting.

If you do this, you’ll probably save more money than simply relying on Savings Catcher to get us deals like my wife and I do. That said, if you’re going to shop at Walmart anyway, it doesn’t hurt to simply scan your receipt to double check you’re getting the best deal.

Why I Use Savings Catcher

My wife and I use Savings Catcher every time we shop at Walmart. We don’t care that they learn our shopping habits. I figure if they really wanted to, they could do that based on the credit card we use, too.

What we do care about is saving money in a simple way. We almost solely shop at Walmart and Sam’s Club because they usually have the best prices in our area. We don’t want to take the time to shop all of the local grocery store ads and travel to multiple stores to save a few dollars.

Savings Catcher allows us to capture some of the savings from the local grocery store sales while saving us time, too. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

How To Use Savings Catcher And Actually Save

Savings Catcher can be tricky if you actually want to save money. My definition of saving money is putting money in the bank. Sadly, many people’s definitions of saving money is spending less than the “retail” price.

Putting money in the bank with Savings Catcher is totally possible. First, you need to make sure you don’t change your shopping habits to chase after increased Savings Catcher rewards. If your usually purchase is cheaper after any rewards you’d earn, switching to earn rewards is counterproductive.

Next, when you cash out your Savings Catcher rewards, you need to use them to buy stuff you were going to buy anyway. If you do, then you can take the money you were going to spend on those items and put it in the bank.

Actually saving money with Savings Catcher rewards is totally possible. It just takes a bit of awareness and self-discipline. Now go get the app and start saving today.

If you shop at Walmart, do you use the Savings Catcher app? How much have you saved?