3 Ways to Save Money Starting Immediately

Ways to save money

Ways to save money seems like something everyone is looking for, and while it seems the economy has started to take a bit of a turn around. Have you noticed gas prices lately? It still doesn’t make sense that people would stop wanting to save money. If your house is like mine any penny you can save is cause for celebration. So it would make sense that finding ways to save a dollar is on everyone’s mind. Here are 3 ways you can start saving today.

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Solutions to Banking Problems Caused by the Bank!

Banking Problems

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I’m having problems with my bank – primarily with the bill pay system.  I’m not sure what’s going on, but since we moved a year-and-a-half ago, we’ve had at least six issues with on-line banking.

The first two issues were with the sewer department in our podunk little town.  The sewer department isn’t automated so the bill pay system has to mail the checks.  Unfortunately, one time the sewer department never received the check and the next time they got it late.  They refused to waive the penalties (the bank reimbursed us) and then marked us late.

The next two incidents were with the water department in our podunk little town, also not automated (one currently in process).  Both times they received the payment one day late even though I set it up to be delivered a day before the due date.  They also refused to waive the penalty (again reimbursed by the bank – at least the first time) and marked us late.

The fourth incident was totally unbelievable.  I scheduled a payment for the bank that holds our home equity loan.  According to on-line banking, the payment was made.  Then I got an email from our home equity banker saying they hadn’t received our payment and were going to withdraw the payment from another account we had there so we wouldn’t be charged a late fee.  I was confused since my on-line banking statement showed it had been paid 15 days ago!  Then I noticed a new entry on my on-line banking statement – the payment couldn’t be delivered and had been returned to my account.  What????  What do you mean it couldn’t be delivered????  I checked all the information on the account to be sure it was correct and it was.  The banker for our home equity line had no clue why the payment wouldn’t have been delivered. And we weren’t notified!  It just showed up in the account.

This morning we had another incident – this time it was with one of our business accounts – a paint account.  I scheduled the payment for March 20th and received an email from the company today notifying us that they hadn’t received our March payment.  Our account shows the payment has been made but they didn’t get it.  I sent the company documentation to show that I made the payment, when it  cleared my account and a copy of the claim I filed with the bank.  I’m waiting to hear from the paint company and the bank.

So something obviously has to change.  The bank’s inability to do what it’s supposed to do is beginning to affect our credit rating and that’s not okay.  Of course, our initial reaction is to

change banks

But that’s easier said than done for several reasons.

  1. We have our business accounts and personal accounts linked so it’s easy to transfer money from one account to another. All the banks I talked to before opening the business account couldn’t do this.  That meant that transferring money would require a paper check and a trip to the bank.  I don’t have time for that.
  2. Our bank is a large bank and has locations EVERYWHERE which is extremely convenient.
  3. We have pre-authorized withdrawals set up that will be a pain to change.
  4. We have a long history with this bank and multiple accounts.
  5. This bank allows us to make deposits using our iPhones. Most of our customers pay with checks and it’s a pain to go to the bank to deposit them. Being able to deposit them using our iPhones is a huge benefit.

After thinking this through, we decided to stay with the bank for now and pay bills a bit differently.  Here’s the plan:

  1. With bills that aren’t automated, we will mail payments the old-fashioned way using the United States Post Office.
  2. With bills that have their own payment systems, we’ll pay there instead of through our bank.
  3. For the water and sewer bills, we might just drop them off in person since they’re close by.

Making these changes is a little more work, but the peace of mind will be worth every extra minute that it takes.

LESSONS:

  1. Don’t act on a knee jerk reaction that comes as a result of a problem. Wait until you have time to think it through.
  2. Analyze the data. In this case, changing banks seemed like the logical solution but we would be giving up more than we wanted to.
  3. Consider alternatives that will solve your problem without having to make big changes.
  4. Try to figure out what the problem is. I’ll be contacting the bank to see if they can figure out what’s going on.  Perhaps there’s an easy solution or something small that needs changed.
  5. Don’t assume that switching companies will solve your problems. The truth is, no company is perfect and sometimes you’re just trading one problem for another.  We discovered that recently when we switched from one internet provider to another.  We were hoping our internet would be better but it isn’t.  Switching doesn’t automatically mean better.

Have you had a problem like this before?  What did you do?

Save $ With Wal-mart Savings Catcher

Walmart

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Thank you to blog reader, Teresa, who told me about the Walmart Savings Catcher program.  I had heard it mentioned but never took the time to find out what it was. Teresa noticed a Wal-mart receipt in one of my posts and told me about the program.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Teresa!  I would never have checked it out if you hadn’t told me about it.

And in case any of you other Walmart shoppers haven’t heard about it either, I want to tell you about it now.  For the record, I’m not receiving any compensation from Wal-mart.   This is simply to help any other Wal-mart shoppers save as much money as they can.

Here’s a simple explanation from Walmart.  “If a local competitor offers a lower advertised price on an eligible item you purchased at Walmart or Walmart.com, we have a program called Savings Catcher that allows you to get back the difference on a Walmart Rewards eGift Card or a Bluebird by American Express Card.  Amounts credited to these Cards can be used to make purchases exclusively in Walmart stores or online at Walmart.com.”

So here goes.

  1. Download the Wal-mart app on your phone.
  2. Create an account.
  3. After you’re all set up, choose “Savings Catcher”.
  4. There’s an orange bar towards the middle that says “Scan a Receipt”.
  5. Scan your receipt with your phone.  FYI:  Receipts cannot be more than 7 days old.
  6. Within 3 days, Wal-mart will notify you of any savings & add it to your balance.
  7. You can redeem your savings immediately by printing a Walmart Rewards eGift Card on your computer or you can let it add up and use it all at once.
  8. You can earn up to $599.99 reward dollars per calendar year.

Walmart Savings Catcher

Walmart Savings Catcher

Walmart Savings Catcher

Walmart Savings Catcher

Seriously, if you haven’t signed up for this program, DO IT NOW!  I started in January and have already “earned” $25.00.

Do you shop at Walmart?  Have you heard about this program?  Have you signed up yet?

An Easy Way to Gather Tax Information

Taxes

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It’s tax time!  Unfortunately that means a lot of work for most of us as we gather our tax information and actually do our taxes.

But it doesn’t have to be a chore.  Years ago I discovered a method for gathering tax information that has worked really, really well for me.  It’s simple and effective – almost effortless.

All you need is a file folder.  Label the tab with the tax year.  On the front of the file, start listing all the information you need in order to do your taxes.  You can write it on there any way you want to – there’s no right or wrong way.

Tax Folder

Then put the file folder in a visible location.  I put mine on my desk next to my computer.

Tax Folder

As the information starts rolling in, I record it on the file folder and put the supporting documents in the file.  A checkmark next to the item means the supporting document is in the file (some of the supporting documents are on-line).

A week or so before I’m ready to do the taxes, I check the folder and track down any information I haven’t received or completed (like our business accounting – no one sends that to me – I have to do it myself!).

When I’m ready to actually sit down and do the taxes, everything is there!

The biggest benefit to this system is that next year I pull out the previous year’s folder and copy the information onto the new folder.  The only way it could be any easier would be if someone else did it all for me!

How do you gather your tax information?

6 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

grocery receipts

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Groceries are expensive!  Really expensive!!!  So anything we can do to save money is a good thing.

Besides the normal techniques of shopping sales, using coupons, buying generics – there are a few other things that can make a big difference, too.

  1. Shop alone. We all know we spend more money when we take kids or spouses.
  1. Shop with someone. I know this is in direct contradiction to what I just said, but sometimes having someone with you DOES make you spend less.  When I go alone, I tend to add things to the cart that aren’t necessary or aren’t good for me.  When my husband is with me, he questions those types of purchases.  And I hate to admit this, but there are some things I don’t want to buy if he’s with me – like corn dogs.  So I don’t.
  1. Don’t shop when hungry. I’ve heard this one forever and it really is true.  When I’m hungry, I add all kinds of ridiculous things to my cart that I wouldn’t normally.  On the flip side, if I shop when I’m FULL, sometimes I don’t buy enough.
  1. Don’t dawdle. The longer you spend in the store, the more money you’ll spend.  Get in, get it and get out!!!
  1. Use cash and only take the amount you budgeted. You can’t overspend if you don’t have it.
  1. Have a detailed list and stick to it. My normal routine is to make my list, in detail, put prices by the items (rounding up to account for tax) and then add it up to be sure it matches my budget.  If it’s too low (which is never is!), good!  Then I have extra to use for something else.  If it’s too high, I have to figure out what I can do without.

I’ll confess that I don’t use coupons or shop sales.  I do stock up if there’s a really good sale but I don’t have the time or desire to spend a lot of time trying to save money at the store.  So for me, the six strategies above are my go-to’s for saving money on groceries.

Do you do any of these things?  How do you save money on groceries?

Credit Card Expiration Dates Affect Automatic Bill Payments

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Most of us have at least one or two bills that are paid automatically using a debit card or credit card.  I have two.  And I always forget that the expiration date matters.

Fortunately one of the bills I pay, my health insurance, is very good about sending me a reminder when my card is about to expire.  The letter even has a form for me to complete with the new information.  But the other bill I pay doesn’t do that.  So it’s up to me to remember to notify them.  And I wouldn’t remember if it wasn’t for my health insurance provider’s reminder.

So what’s the lesson here?  If you pay any bills using your debit card or credit card, be sure and make a note somewhere (mine will be in my planner) when the card expires and who you need to contact with the new expiration date.  If you forget, your bill(s) might not be paid.

How do you remember to update the expiration date on your cards when you use them to pay bills?

6 Tips to Make Product Returns Easier

Receipts

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Have you ever purchased something only to find that it didn’t work out? Maybe it was too big, too small, broken or just the wrong item.  Returning the item can be easy or a nightmare.

I’ve returned a lot of things over the years and I’ve learned how to do it so it’s fairly painless.  Here are my best tips:

1.      Keep the receipt.  Some places don’t require that you have a receipt, but it’s always easier if you do.  I have a folder in my filing cabinet for “special” receipts – higher dollar items or items that could be returned if need be.  Other receipts go in the folder for that month.  Either way, they’re easy to retrieve.

2.       Keep the packaging.  Again, some places don’t require that you have the packaging, but most do.  So keep every piece of paper, cardboard, packing and whatever else was in the box until you can no longer return it.  Put everything back in the box and stash it somewhere.  Then make a note on your calendar when you can throw it away and where it is!

3.       Pay attention to how it’s packaged.  Some products have really complicated packaging.  If I have to return it, I want to be able to put it back as close to the original packaging as possible.  So I either pay close attention to how it’s packaged or I take a couple of photos with my iPhone.  Then if I have to put it back, it’s much easier.

4.       Be careful when you open the package.  If you tear it up, it’s harder to return the item.  If you keep it nice, it’s much easier.

5.       If you know you’re going to return something, return it as quickly as possible.  If you wait until the last minute, something could happen to prevent you from getting to the store.  Or you could be off a day or two on the date and miss the cutoff. Or you could just forget!

6.       If you can, return the item at a time when the store isn’t as busy.  Returns typically take a while so if you go when the store isn’t busy you might not have to wait as long.

Of course, it’s always better to buy the right product from the start but it doesn’t always work that way.  So if you have to return something, following these tips should make it much easier.

What do you do to make returns easier?