Category: budgeting

5 Tips to Better Organize Your Holiday Storage

holiday storageThe holidays are an exciting time to decorate the house and fill it with a little extra joy.

But, a poor organization can sometimes turn this into a stressful task.

Thankfully, there are few simple holiday storage tips every mom can master. These include the best-kept secrets for anything from messy wires to tricky trees.

Check out the top five ways to keep all your holiday decor in order.

1. Separate Your Storage

As you’re pulling things out, or packing them up, try to think about where to store them in your home.

Group all the big, outdoor decorations together. Do the same for tree decorations versus tabletop details. Lastly, make a separate group for stockings and trimmings you may have hanging around the house.

This takes a little extra time as you’re setting up or breaking down.

But, once you have everything separated, you’ll be saving plenty of effort in the years to come!

2. Cut Down on Packaging

There’s no reason to keep using the bulky packaging everything comes in when there are closet organizers and simple holiday hacks available.

This is as simple as wrapping lights around pieces of cardboard so they don’t tangle. It also means taking the time to wrap fragile ornaments in tissue paper, which is less bulky than bubble wrap.

Don’t forget to keep all the hooks in one place, either. Consider putting them in a small pencil case or makeup bag.

3. Get Rid of What Is Old and Broken

If an ornament is cracked or a set of lights isn’t working anymore, you won’t have a use for it next year.

Make a little trash pile as you take everything out at the start of the holidays, and when you’re going through it all again at the end.

This makes a significant difference in the amount of space decorations take up.

4. Go Green

Trade the old fake tree you have to pull out every year for a family outing to get a fresh tree.

Or, consider getting festive holiday flower arrangements instead of putting little reusable decorations everywhere. This is a bit pricier, but nothing is worth more than your time.

Getting fresh, natural decorations each year means there are fewer things to store.

5. Wrap with Care

The less you worry about holiday storage, the more you can focus on buying gifts and wrapping them! Unless your festive packaging materials aren’t organized.

Don’t leave this out of your cleaning process. Go through all the old wrapping paper you have, as well as tape, ribbons, and tissue paper.

Designate one drawer or bin to keep everything together – big families might need a little more space.

But, the point is to only keep wrapping materials you will actually use, and to keep them tidy in one place.

Holiday Storage, Hosting, and More: How to Relax This Holiday Season

Storage is just one thing to worry about when the holidays roll around.

Between cleaning the house to have guests over and preparing big, fancy meals, it can be hard to take everything in.

We know you want to create special memories for your family, but you should be able to enjoy them too!

Click here to discover how to relax during this year’s holidays.

Why it is Important to Have a Budget Set When Planning a Move

budget setDo you have a budget set for moving to your new home?

Most people only allocate money for mortgage payments.

But, when you buy a home the list price isn’t your only expense.

This article breaks down extra costs you must include in your budget.

Have a Budget Set to Cover Closing Costs

Closing costs are the catchall term used to describe fees charged by the lender.

These costs will vary based on your:

  • Lender
  • Loan Type
  • Location
  • Professional Services

Lender Fees

Regulations require lenders be clear about all fees. Examine your documents. You should understand any extra costs related to your mortgage.

Many lenders have the new homeowner pay property and mortgage taxes upfront. You may pay several months or a year’s worth of taxes at closing.

Mortgage companies, banks, and brokers charge an origination fee for processing the loan application. Origination fees are also added to refinanced mortgages. The fee is usually 1% of the loan value.

The lender fees aren’t the only added expenses.

Loan Types

A conventional loan with less than a 20% down needs private mortgage insurance to protect the lender. That costs more.

A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan with a low down payment needs an upfront insurance premium. This premium is often 1.75% of the loan value.

If you get a Veteran Affairs (VA) mortgage loans you may not need mortgage insurance or a down payment, but you will need to pay a funding fee. It’s usually 1.25 to 3.30% of the loan value.

Location

Every year Bankrate does a survey of closing costs in the United States. The analysis includes 10 lenders in every state.

The 2017 results show the average closing costs for a $200,000 home with a 20% down payment ranged from $1,700 to over $2,500.

You can see the state-by-state closing costs results here.

Other location-related expenses are taxes and association fees. If the home seller pre-paid taxes or association fees, you’ll have to reimburse them.

Professional Services

Home Inspection
Don’t skip a house inspection. There’s thrifty, and then there’s foolish.

A home inspection costs a few hundred dollars. It can reveal an expensive problem such as termite or flood damage, or faulty wiring.

Many lenders require an inspection. Some don’t. Regardless, have a thorough home inspection done so you know the true condition of the house.

If the home inspection finds a major problem, you can negotiate the cost of repairing it or walk away from the sale.

Land Survey
Some states ask for a survey to verify the lot size. This is an added expense.

Attorney Fees
If a lawyer prepares or reviews the sale documents, that’s an extra cost.

Professional Movers
The price of transporting belongings depends on how far you’re moving, and how much stuff you have. Moving out of state or across the country will cost more than across town.

If you hire professional movers, estimate your cost based on hourly rates. For example, a two-bedroom apartment moved across town will take 3 people about 6 hours.

Read this article on more service expenses so you have your budget set for closing.

Plan Ahead for Closing Costs

All the closing fees are due at the time of sale. Plan ahead with an online closing costs calculator to figure out how much money you need.

Want more ideas for ways to save money when you move? We’ve got what you need to make your move a success.

How To Save Money On Health Care When You’re Uninsured

Have you recently found yourself without health insurance? You’re not alone: 11.7% of Americans are currently without health care insurance.

And that number is growing, up from a low of 10.9% in 2016.

Why?

Rising premiums can make health insurance out of reach for many, and some people prefer to take the penalty rather than pay for expensive insurance they rarely use.

Even those with insurance sometimes go without health care. 25% of Americans say that either they or someone in their home has gone without medical care because it’s too expensive.

But health care is so important. What can you do if you’re insured but find yourself in need of care? Read on for four money-saving tips.

1. Find a Direct Primary Care Provider

Even without insurance, you don’t have to go without basic health care! Direct primary care providers (also sometimes cash-only providers) are a great option. They provide both primary and preventative care for cash–some don’t even accept insurance!

Some cash-only clinics are run like urgent care clinics, where you pay a set fee per visit. Others offer a sort of subscription plan, where you pay a monthly fee (usually less than $50) and can receive an unlimited amount of primary/preventative care.

2. Use Urgent Care Clinics

If you need to be seen immediately (assuming it’s not an emergency), and you can’t get in with a primary care provider, look for urgent care clinics in your area. There are likely several to choose from.

An urgent care clinic is most certainly going to be cheaper and faster than an emergency room, but they have a lot of the same equipment available for screening and testing.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Price Shop

This tip may seem strange or intimidating if you are used to having insurance. With health insurance, you rarely ask about costs since you know what your out-of-pocket payments are.

When you’re uninsured, however, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask about costs ahead of time. Call around and ask for prices from multiple providers.

And don’t beat around the bush: Let them know you are insured. For example, if you’re looking to get a vasectomy, call several clinics and simply ask “How much does a vasectomy cost without insurance?”

4. Negotiate Your Bills

If you do end up in the emergency room or hospital, and you weren’t able to use the above tips, don’t despair. You can negotiate your medical bills after you receive them. Insurance companies do it all the time!

Many hospitals and doctors will provide a discount to patients who pay in cash. And even if they don’t, or if the total is too high for you to pay all at once, you can often still negotiate your bill down and set up a reasonable payment plan.

Saving Money on Health Care Is Not the Only Way

Now that you’ve got the scoop on how to save money on care while uninsured, you may be wondering what else you can do to keep dollars in your pocket while protecting your health.

One of the absolute best ways to maintain your health (along with your wealth) is to be proactive about it! That means having a healthy lifestyle, which includes maintaining a good diet and getting plenty of exercise.

If you’d like more information on staying healthy and wealthy, check out our health and fitness blog for more tips and ideas.

How a Travel Budget App Works and Saves You Money

Dying to get away, but afraid your wallet can’t handle it?

There’s an app for that!

Vacations can be expensive, but with careful planning, you can make the trip of your dreams a reality. Of course, stressing about money won’t make for a very relaxing trip. Hopefully, our list will provide you with the perfect travel budget app to help you plan ahead and avoid having to think about expenses come vacation time.

Buy This, Not That

It’s easy to get carried away when everything you see is new and exciting. But when you get home with an astronomically expensive handmade Turkish rug or an authentic Scottish kilt, you might realize you’ve put yourself in the red.

Try one of these apps to help you create and stick to a budget.

Trip Wallet

This is the perfect travel budget app. Whether you are spending the weekend in a log cabin or exploring Rome, this travel expense tracker app has your back.

Log your receipts on the app’s “Quick Add” screen to keep track of your daily spendings. At the end of each day, you’ll get a detailed spending report along with a comparison to your budget to help you stick to the plan. The app costs $4.99, but there is a free version that allows you to track up to 25 items.

Trabee Pocket

Trabee is particularly helpful if you are traveling out of the country and switching between currencies. It allows you to categorize your spendings as cash or credit, so you can keep track of exactly how much you are putting on your card.

Using credit can be a great option when traveling thanks to all the bonus points, but without a tracker, it is easy to get carried away. Trust Trabee Pocket to keep you in check.

Of course, if you’re already working to repair your credit, sticking to cash might be the better option. Need help getting your credit back up to speed? Check out this review of CreditRepair.com.

Cheap Flights

You don’t want to spend all your money before you even get there!

Flight prices can vary drastically based on lots of factors. Here are a few apps to help you determine the best time to buy.

Hopper

A travel budget app for planning and booking flights, Hopper is easy to navigate and free to use. You can compare airline prices on just about all the airlines (Southwest and JetBlue are two exceptions), and the app makes recommendations on the best time to buy. You can even set up alerts to keep track of how the prices are changing while you’re waiting for the perfect time to purchase.

Kayak

Probably the best known budget travel app, Kayak compares the prices of most major airlines, and if your dates are flexible, helps you pick the cheapest time to fly. Though its alerts aren’t quite as easy to use as Hopper’s, Kayak earns extra points for its abilities to search for rental car and lodging deals as well.

Affordable Places to Stay

Finding a clean and comfortable hotel can be difficult, especially on a budget. With these apps, however, you can find a great place to stay without breaking the bank.

Hotel Tonight

If you don’t get anxiety waiting until the last minute, this app could be your saving grace! Hotel Tonight provides great last-minute-only deals for booking hotels. It’s easy to navigate, and you can book your room directly through the app.

Airbnb

Airbnb is a great option if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, especially if you book a room with a kitchen. It’s easy to throw away your money on meals, but cooking at home won’t leave quite the same dent in your pocket. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the true experience of wherever it is you’re visiting if you stay in an actual authentic home.

DIY Travel Planning

A travel agent? No, thanks. With all these resources at your fingertips, your phone can do the work.

Travelzoo

This fantastic travel budget app searches for the best deals on meals, activities, and ways to get pampered. If you are looking for an all-in-one app, Travelzoo also finds good deals on flights and lodging.

PackPoint

This app is designed to make sure you never forget a thing. Based on the length of your trip, the weather at your destination and the activities you have planned, PackPoint creates a personalized list of what – and how much – you need. It’s like a free personal packing assistant.

Making Road Trips Fun

Road tripping can be a great way to save money on airfare and rental car fees. Here are some apps to make the most of your time on the road.

GasBuddy

GasBuddy lets you search for nearby gas prices – as well as gas prices up ahead. Gas prices vary largely by state, so if you know where to fill up, you can protect your wallet. Plan your gas stops, and you’ll never find yourself stuck getting the expensive stuff.

Audio Books by Audiobooks

Need a good pass time for the long haul? If you don’t want to pay for a fancy audiobook subscription, the vast free books section on this audiobook app should keep you occupied for miles.

Keeping the Memories

If you’re going to make the plunge and plan your dream vacation, you are definitely going to want to have something to show for it. After all, isn’t part of the fun coming home and sharing your incredible new experiences with your loved ones?

ProCamera

Want the best photos but can’t afford that fancy DSLR camera? ProCamera is a pretty cool way to go, and at $6.99, it’s the best option for your wallet. The app helps you make the most of your phone’s camera and has capabilities beyond what’s already in the built-in camera.

A Travel Budget App for Everything

When you’re working multiple jobs to pay off that debt, a break isn’t just nice; it’s necessary. These apps are at your disposal (often for free) and help make traveling on a budget possible.

Planning to cook from your AirBnB or do laundry to avoid those checked baggage fees? Check out these coupons to keep the savings coming.

How to Find a Tasty Seafood Restaurant on a Budget

seafood restaurantFamilies trying to save money often reserve going out to eat for special occasions. Elegant steakhouses and fresh seafood restaurants are often ruled out for fear that they will be too expensive.

The good news is that following a few simple tips makes it easy to find a tasty seafood restaurant that won’t blow up the family budget.

Are you ready to enjoy your next night out? Read on to learn more.

Do Your Research

Ask friends and family for recommendations and check out online reviews on sites like Yelp. Visit the restaurant’s website and Facebook page to get a feel for the atmosphere. Review the menu online before leaving will help ensure that the options fit within the set budget and the food choices are acceptable.

Choose Local Favorites

Avoid over-priced tourist traps by dining at restaurants off the beaten path. Find out where the locals go and you’re likely to find the best deals in town. If your city has a local fish market that also serves food, this is often the best bet for a fresh and affordable meal.

Look for Coupons and Deals

Visit sites like Groupon and Living Social to look for discounts and deals. Peruse the daily newspaper for printed coupons, and keep an eye out for complimentary coupon books. To entice new visitors, popular restaurants often publish coupons in local tourism guides.

Stretch Your Dining Budget

Even a high-end seafood restaurant can be budget-friendly for patrons who make smart menu choices. Restaurant portions are typically much larger than a single serving, so plan to take half of the meal home. Here are a few more tips to help stretch your dining budget:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Share an appetizer
  • Consider splitting your meal
  • Stick to one alcoholic beverage
  • Skip dessert, or wait until you get home

Turn Your Home into a Seafood Restaurant

When you factor in extra costs like gas money, gratuity, and babysitting fees, dining out is still too expensive for some families. The good news is that with just a little bit of effort, it’s easy to create a delicious seafood restaurant experience right in the comfort of your own home. This is typically a far less expensive option and comes with the advantage of knowing exactly how the meal was prepared.

The good news is that with just a little bit of effort, it’s easy to create a delicious seafood restaurant experience right in the comfort of your own home. This is typically a far less expensive option and comes with the advantage of knowing exactly how the meal was prepared.

Home delivery services like Crab Dynasty, ship fresh quality seafood right to your door. There are a variety of seafood options offered including softshell Maryland crab, lobster, shellfish, and a variety of fresh fish fillets. Pair your main entree with your favorite local foods and a nice bottle of wine for an exquisite dining experience that doesn’t break the bank.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re planning a date night away from the kids, a girl’s night out, or a family outing, it’s important to let yourself relax and have some fun once in a while. Choosing the right restaurant can mean the difference between an excellent experience and a veritable disaster. Following the steps above will help ensure a delicious, guilt-free dining experience.

Did you enjoy this article? Follow the Thrifty Momma Ramblings Facebook page for more great tips and information.

5 Expert Tips for Moving on a Budget

moving on a budgetDid you know the average American household spends over $12,000 on a professional move?

Of course, the cost of moving varies greatly depending on several factors. The distance between locations and the weight of your belongings both play a role. However, the fact still remains that a move isn’t exactly cheap.

Fortunately, moving on a budget is a lot easier when you have the right plan in place. There are many steps you can take to ensure you’re not spending too much money.

Here are 5 pieces of advice you need to know before relocating. Read on to learn how to save big on your moving expenses!

1. Leave the Cheap Furniture Behind

It can be tough to sell your old home since it holds so many cherished memories. Similarly, your furniture can have a lot of sentimental value as well. However, moving on a budget requires making some tough decisions.

In most case, it’s not wise to drag along your cheap or old furniture. If the furniture is cheap, it won’t cost you much to replace, and if it’s old, you’ll have to replace it soon either way. All in all, you’ll save money by leaving the heavier pieces behind.

2. Don’t Skimp on the Truck

Most of us are always looking for the best new deals. As a result, small moving trucks seem like such an enticing choice. After all, they’re a lot cheaper, and you’ll somehow find a way to make everything fit anyway, right?

In reality, skimping on the truck can actually cost you more money. If you end up making multiple trips, you’ll have to cover the gas. Therefore, make an informed decision rather than simply choosing the least expensive truck.

3. Research All Your Options

One of the biggest mistakes many movers make is that they don’t research all of their options. They see one appealing price and get tunnel vision.

Before you make your final decision, look at multiple moving companies. To make sure you’re getting a good value, read online reviews as well. Also, make sure the companies have good standings with the Better Business Bureau.

4. Never Buy Boxes

One thing is for certain: you’re going to need a lot of boxes when you move. That said, there’s no reason to spend your money on boxes. Ask your friends if they have any to give you, or check the back alleys of clothing stores.

Additionally, look for creative ways to save space when packing everything. For example, see if you can fit some smaller items inside your washing machine.

5. Try Moving During Winter

Not everyone can control when they move. Sometimes, you have to get to your new job immediately. Other times, you want to get situated in your new home before the kids start school.

However, if you can help it, try to move during the winter. Professional movers offer the biggest discounts from December through February. Conversely, moving during the summer will hit your wallet the hardest.

Final Thoughts on Moving on a Budget

The tips outlined above can help you put together a plan for your next move.

When moving, make sure you do your best to avoid rush hour traffic so you can save you a bit of money on gas. Also, consider using USPS to ship your books in bulk.

Do you have any other useful tips for moving on a budget? What are some mistakes you made with moving in the past? Feel free to share with the rest of us by leaving a comment below!

IRS Delaying Tax Refunds!! Find Out More!

tax_refund-cropped-copy

Tax time is slowly creeping up on us! This might affect you!
Do you claim the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit.
“The IRS is delaying tax refunds for more than 40 million low-income families this year as the agency steps up efforts to fight identity theft and fraud. Read more about it here!

The delays will affect families claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. These tax breaks are geared to benefit the working poor, and many families claim both.”