Save money this Christmas {and still give great gifts!}


I love everything about the holiday season.  The smell of the fir trees, sweater weather, warm cider and especially giving gifts.  Which gets expensive.  Fast.  If your like me then you try to buy for everyone in your family.. and not just one gift but a few.  And not just a few gifts.. but the perfect gifts.  It adds up and in the end I wonder if it was even worth the cost.  This year Im saving money on Christmas gifts, but Im still going to give great gifts.  Here are a few ways that you can too!

Draw names
Instead of buying for every person, draw names and devote your gift giving to them.  This way everyone gets a gift (including you) while saving time, money and the stress of shopping for the entire family.  Make sure everyone agrees on the spending limit and no one is left out of the drawing.  
Make gifts
Homemade gifts tend to be cheaper then store bought ones.  You can whip them up in multiples, personalize them and homemade gifts are always more special.  (Need some thrifty gifty ideas?  Here are some great ideas)
Shop early
Black Friday is not always the best time to buy.  Plus you are not guaranteed the gift you are after.  Great sales have already started and will continue through Christmas.  The best way to save is to know how much the gift costs and when you see it for a good price.. grab it.

Seems pretty simple, right?  I hope these tips help.. Ill share 3 more next week so check back for more ways to save.  Now time to link up your money saving ideas!  Its a linky party y’all!

Here are a few ‘rules’…
1. Please follow The Grant Life so that you can keep updated with our newest ramblings (not required but I like followers.. a lot!)
2. Link back to our site so others can add their tips and tricks
3. Please link to a specific post and not a store, giveaway or anything not financial related.  
4. Comment on other links.. share the love folks!  

How to cut your expenses (part five) and link party!

This is the final part of our how to cut your monthly expenses series. (Click here for all previous entries). We talked about classifying our expenses into two categories and discussed how to reduce our fixed costs. The second category is variable expenses. Remember the question to determine if it was a variable?

” ‘Will this expense change if I ______ more?’  The blank can be things such as cook more, travel more, or watch more TV.  If the answer is no, then it is a fixed cost and a yes means its variable. “

The only way to lower your variable bills is to do less and more at the same time.  Confusing right?  Let me explain.  If we are trying to lower our electric bill then we need to use less power in our home but we may need to do more of something to substitute for the decrease.  Open our windows for more light or use more blankets for heat.  Or if we want to eat out less then we need to cook more.  Its an odd concept but once you understand its easy to reduce your bills that are vary each month.

Now, we know what category our bills fall into, we know how to reduce fixed expenses with substitutes and our variable expenses are reduced by doing less (and more).  Look at your monthly expenses and see where you can make some cuts.  Maybe refinancing your home isnt an option, but things like lowering your electric or water bill will help your budget.  Pick a few bills to focus on reducing (or eliminating) and make changes that will help not hinder your family.  

How to cut your expenses (part four) and link party!

Ok, so the past few weeks we have been talking about cutting our personal expenses.  We first split them into two categories, fixed and variable expenses.  We have had two examples of large bills (car payments and mortgages) and some practical ways of lowering them each month.  Our last fixed expense example is TV.

Did you know that you can live without cable TV?  I know, I know.  I didn’t think so either but it was one of the bills we choose to cut so that I could stay home.  We haven’t had it for months now and we are actually love not having it.  We still have TV but we use other ways to watch shows.

Most TV networks allow you to watch shows the next day online.  Hulu is amazing, and free!  When I get a free minute I catch up on some of my favorite comedies.  It also has less commercials then the original show that aired on prime time.  Plus, I can pause it and chase kids around and come back later.  The same thing a DVR does, but free!  

We also use our DVD player almost daily.  We bought a bunch of Nick Jr. DVD’s at our local used bookstore for a third of the price.  Netflix is a great way to score cheap entertain and cut your TV expense.  Plans start at $7.99 a month and you can watch movies on your TV, computer or iPad device.  They also have tons of great kids titles.  Also, check out redbox and rent DVD’s for $1 a night.  And if there is something that we have to watch (Rangers in the World Series!) we head over to my parents, a friends house or a restaurant that has the game on.

To recap, the key to lowering fixed expenses is to find alternatives and shop around for the best deal.  Just because they are considered fixed doesn’t mean they can’t be changed.

Ok ya’ll.. its Financial Friday Linky Party!

I want you to share your money saving tips and tricks with me (and everyone else).  

Here are a few ‘rules’…
1. Please follow The Grant Life so that you can keep updated with our newest ramblings (not required but I like followers.. a lot!)
2. Link back to our site so others can add their tips and tricks
3. Please link to a specific post and not a store, giveaway or anything not financial related.  
4. Comment on other links.. share the love folks!  

Simple ways to save

“No, sir, I have no experience but I’m a big fan of money. I like it, I use it, I have a little. I keep it in a jar on top of my refrigerator. I’d like to put more in that jar. That’s where you come in.” – The Wedding Singer

Money.  Its what make the world go around.  Its why people work 60 hour work weeks.  Its what we hope to leave our kids one day.  And it sure is nice to have a little extra lying around somewhere.  But how do you get that little extra?  Here are my top 3 simple ways to save..

1. Pay yourself first
This is a theory from Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  He states that before you pay your bills, before you pay your employees, before you do anything with your paycheck, pay yourself first.  What he means is take a portion of your check and save first!  Its easy to get caught up in what needs to be paid now without thinking about the future.  Trust me, the bills will always be there but if you dont save money today it wont be there for tomorrow.  

2. Never splurge a windfall
A windfall is described “an unexpected, unearned, or sudden gain or advantage” (in the Merriam-Webster dictionary) and can be any amount of money that you were not expecting.  Naturally, the thing to do with money we didn’t know we had coming is to spend it right?  Not exactly.  If you didn’t plan on receiving the money in the first act like you don’t have it.  Save it!  Most of the time you will regret frivolously splurging when you know there are bigger and better things that windfall cash can be doing for you.  (Like earning more cash, also known as our friend compound interest!) 

3. Create a separate account
So we are paying ourselves first and we are saving our windfalls, but if we can see how much money is building up we are that much more likely to use it.  I suggest opening a new account at a bank that you have no ties to (and the best interest rates!) and forgetting you stashed it away (until you need to add more to it).  Its the old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ trick and I can guarantee it will help build up your savings.  

Pretty simple, right?  It sounds easy but when you’re living on the bare minimal its tough to try to stash some money away.  (Trust me, I know!)  Its like trying to lose weight, if you lose just one pound it seems easier to lose the second.  Plus you stay more motivated when you know that what your doing is actually working.  So start small, but think BIG.  You’ll get there, you just have to save that first dollar.

Financial Friday

Welcome to our second Financial Friday!  Last week we talked about the golden rule of personal finances, know your credit score.  Today we are going to go over a few simple tricks that will help you improve your credit score.

First here is how your credit score is determined.

Payment history: 35%, Amounts owed: 30%, Length of credit history: 15%, New credit: 10%, Types of credit used: 10%
A major part of your score is determined by your payment history and the amount of debt you owe.  The length of your credit history, credit mix and new credit make up the rest of your score.  For more in depth information on each of these topics click here.
So how can you improve your score?  By following these 4 credit tips.
1. Obtain your credit report and make sure the information is correct.  
In order to improve you score its good to have an idea on where you stand.  Your credit report will list out all your debt, your payment history, your negative records (collections) and who has requested to see your report.  If there are discrepancies on the report you must get them corrected in order to raise your score.  The Federal Trade Commission has a great letter that can be used as a template to send to creditors requesting more information on the discrepancy and how to resolve the issue.   Keep in mind that although paying a collection does not remove it from your record, it does show as paid.
2. Pay your bills on time
The biggest factor in determining your score is your payment history and it makes sense that the more on time payments you have the more likely your credit score is to increase.  Creditors are looking to see if you are able to meet the financial responsibility of borrowing and your payment history is a huge contributor of their decision.  If you have trouble paying your bills, set up reminders or have them automatically withdrawn from your account.  In this case its better to have an overdraft fee because your bill was paid then to have it hit your credit report.   (Note that once your payment is more then 30 days late it is added to your credit report and will stay there for 7 years.)  
3. Keep unused accounts open 
So you haven’t used that Discover card in years?  Might as well close the account, right?  Wrong!  The longer you have had credit the more positive it reflects on your credit score.  When you get your credit report it will tell you how long (in months) your oldest debt has been open.  Make sure to never close that account because it will adversely affect your score.  
4. Keep credit card balances low 
If your credit card balances are more then 35% of your limit then it can hurt your score.  For example, if you have a credit card with a $1000 limit, anything over $350 can harm you.  I would suggest paying down your card with the highest balance in order to boost your score, even if you have to transfer to a card with a lower balance.  
Do you feel your score getting higher?  Follow these four tips and I bet you see a change the next time you check your score.  See you next week when you discuss simple ways to save!  
Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with the websites in this post.  I am also not a licensed professional, 
any information here is based on my knowledge and research and is subject to change.  
Any question I can not answer will be directed to the appropriate authority.