Category: saving money

5 Home Improvement Services That’ll Save You Money in the Long Run

home improvement servicesSpend money to save money? That’s a tough pill to swallow. But in the long run, going green will keep some of that green in your wallet.

For as little as $1.25, an energy-efficient light bulb can use up to 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb. Seems worth it, right?

Let’s take a look at a couple home improvement services that will bring you one step closer to that ocean front hotel room in Hawaii.

Weatherstrip Your Home

Take a look at this gorgeous dual pane corner window. What a wonderful way to let in that early morning light.

Making sure all your windows and doors are not only stunning, but sealed, is one of the most valuable home improvement services you’ll invest in.

Weatherstripping your windows and doors can save you up to 15% in energy costs. The next time you pay your electric bill, you’ll be glad to know that none of your cool air escaped out into the humidity.

Install a Low Flow Shower Head

Just like the wasted cold air, there’s a way to make sure every bit of hot water in your shower is being used. Did you know that water heating accounts for 18% of your utility bill?

A low flow shower head comes in at $10-$20, saving you upwards of 25% on your utility bill.

Update Your Appliances to High-Energy

You’ve probably seen that little Energy Star sticker on appliances before. Did you know you can receive a tax credit for installing them?

Imagine slicing your utility bill as much as 30% and receiving a tax credit.

Use Energy Efficient Lighting Where Possible

This can be as simple as purchasing LED or CFL light bulbs. LED light bulbs are the most expensive option. But they also pack the biggest punch in energy savings. This makes them a smart investment in the end.

CFLs are a little bit behind the LED technology, but will absolutely save you money in the long run.

Consumer Reports has broken it all down for us, room by room, price tag by price tag.

Consider a Programmable Thermostat

This one requires a licensed HVAC technician. But again, it affords you the luxury of a cool and comfortable house – no matter the time of day or season – without wasting a drop of air.

They also tend to be more accurate than regular thermostats, keeping an extra eye on your savings.

Other Home Improvement Services

This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

Have you thought about ceiling fans? For as little as $50, you’re looking at added savings and cooler rooms.

Bigger ticket items like tankless water heaters go a long way, too. (They also offer a federal tax rebate.) But, if you start with these five home improvement services, you’re well on your way.

We hope you’ll stop by our blog as often as you can. Thrifty Momma is always finding new ways to pinch those pennies, and we love to share. If you ever want to chat about cutting costs without cutting corners, we’re only a click away.

5 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Band Before You Book

wedding band 1Live music at a wedding reception can turn a celebration into a party! It — along with photography — is a part of wedding planning most people agree is worth spending money on.

But that doesn’t mean it has to break the budget. When shopping for a wedding band, do your homework to get the best value for your money.

It’s not like last-minute travel that can give you a major financial break by waiting. You need to start early to get the band that going to make you happy and help boost the celebration on the big day.

Here are 5 questions to ask every wedding band you interview:

1. What’s Your Style and Repertoire?

It’s a no-brainer to not hire a rock band if you and your beloved are fans of country music.

But asking a wedding band about their style of music goes beyond genre. It’s also about the way they play. Are they ultra-serious or playful? Is their energy mellow or ecstatic?

You also want to hear how they describe the way they interact with wedding guests. Do they talk to them between songs and make jokes? How do they respond to requests?

Find out the range of songs they know how to play. If people make requests, is the band going to know how to play the songs? Pay extra attention to this if you’ll have many older people at the reception.

Ask to see videos of the wedding band’s previous gigs. Better still, see if it would be okay for you to stop by an upcoming reception where they’d be playing. Clear it with the bride and groom first and then only stay for 15-20 minutes.

2. What’s Included?

Wedding bands either charge by the hour or a flat fee. But the real wedding band cost isn’t measured in dollars. It’s measured by value.

Either way, know what’s included to avoid surprise costs or worse, a disappointing experience for you and your guests.

Find out how they expect to be involved in setup and packing up. Most venues have rules and guidelines about that.

Will the band provide all sound equipment? If not, what equipment will you or the venue have to arrange?

Will the band leader also act as emcee for the evening?

Make sure you know if their travel and equipment transport costs are included the fee or hourly rate. Also, get the details on their liability insurance and terms of cancellation.

Bands will sometimes reduce the fee in exchange for having CDs available for sale.

3. Do They Have Recent References?

Hearing from other couples about their experience with the wedding band you’re interviewing can help you make a good decision.

Ask about the quality of the band’s performance during cocktails and dinner when their music should be in the background. When they played dance music, how did they encourage guests to get on the dance floor?

If you’re unable to speak to previous clients, ask for 2-3 short videos of the band’s performance at recent weddings.

4. Is the Wedding Band Familiar with the Venue?

When a wedding band has played at a venue before, it reduces the risks of something going wrong. They know the layout and acoustics. And they’ll often have business relationships with the venue staff.

If the band has no previous experience with your chosen venue, ask them to check it out before you sign a contract. This benefits them too. They can identify and resolve any logistic or equipment issues ahead of time.

5. What Are Their Contingency Plans?

The best planning can’t eliminate the risk of a musician getting sick or equipment malfunctioning just before your big day.

But good planning includes backup plans for critical issues. Asking reasonable “what if” questions can help the band put together a plan B, if they don’t already have one.

More, More, More

Do you have other questions you asked a wedding band? Share your story on our Facebook page. And if there are other wedding plan tips you’d like to see, contact us with your ideas.

Get a Brighter Smile on a Budget With These Whitening Products

whitening productsEver look in the mirror while you’re wearing a white shirt and realize your teeth are not as white as you thought? Note to self: time to buy some Crest whitening strips.

But aren’t whitening products expensive? Luckily, they’re really not. And whitening products aren’t only for celebrities and the wealthy.

Look Like a Celeb

Even those who won’t admit it would love the broad, white smile of a Hollywood hero. Is a large vanity budget all that sets them apart, or do they know something you don’t?

Before thinking too much about removing the stains, consider what’s causing the stains in the first place–because once you DO erase the stains, you’ll be back to square one pretty fast if you don’t tackle the source.

Coffee, black tea, and red wine leave dramatic stains. Unfortunately, those are pretty hard to give up. Instead, consider diluting your coffee and tea with milk, and either brushing immediately after drinking any of these beverages or at least rinsing with water.

Also, avoid carbonated drinks–they will erode your teeth, creating tiny craters where stains will become unreachable.

Whitening Products for Everyone

Whitening products are for anyone who cares about their appearance. Better yet, they’re for every budget.

In fact, for very little, you can buy Crest 3D whitening toothpaste and Crest 3D whitening rinse and see results in as little as 14 days. Now, if the stains are severe, this isn’t the answer–but it is a place to start.

Higher-priced kits are also available in most places that sell tooth care products. These are great and can be used every three to six months after you do the initial de-staining.

Seeing a Professional

Of course, if you have the resources, having a professional whitening treatment is also simple and effective. Is that how celebrities manage? Probably.

A dentist registered with the General Dental Council can perform professional-grade laser treatments to eliminate stains. Note: this should only be performed by a dentist–whitening salons without a real dentist are illegal and dangerous.

Laser treatments are done over several visits, so don’t expect to pop in before a big date and leave with perfect teeth.

Another great though costly tool a dentist can provide is dental trays that are created from a model of your own teeth. Once you have the trays, you use a special gel to whiten on a prescribed schedule.

Do What You’re Able

Pearly white teeth don’t have to come at a high price. Remember the basics before you stress about pricey treatments:

  • Brush at least twice a day. Be gentle! Use a toothpaste with hydrogen peroxide in it.
  • Either avoid coffee, tea, and wine or rinse and brush after you drink them.
  • Try the products you can afford, like whitening strips, whitening toothpaste, and whitening rinses.
  • Whatever treatment you choose, do it before bed to maximum effectiveness–you won’t be eating or drinking for hours.
  • Even if you don’t plan to have your dentist whiten your teeth, still inquire about the proper (and less costly way) method to use at home.

That next look at your teeth when you’re wearing white will soon not be as startling if you start following these steps today!

5 Money Saving Tips All Pet Owners Need to Know

petPet ownership can be pricey. One study found that a dog can cost over $40,000 over its lifetime.

But having a pet doesn’t have to break the bank. You can still give your four-legged friend the care they need while keeping costs down. We’ve got five money-saving tips that will keep both your pet and your wallet happy.

1. Buy Food in (Realistic) Bulk

It’s no surprise that buying pet food in bulk can lower the costs. You’ll pay less per pound by buying a bigger bag, especially with some online retailers.

But these savings are no good if the food goes bad!

Before getting sucked into the idea of bulk savings, think realistically about how much your pet eats. The amount a husky eats will be drastically different than a pug.

Measure out your pet’s daily intake and compare that to the food’s best before date. This way, you can get the best bulk discounts without wasting food (any money).

2. Make Your Own Pet Toys

Have you shelled out for store-bought toys only to see that your cat is more fascinated by a crumpled up tin foil ball?

While you may prefer the look of toys from the pet store, your pets aren’t so picky. There are tons of online tutorials that let you get crafty with household materials.

Plus, you can make it a family event and keep both your kids and pets entertained with the same craft!

3. Be Pro-active

Think of ways that you can avoid future problems and expenses by preparing now. For example, if you drive with your dog in the back seat, get a seat cover.

The seat cover itself isn’t that expensive, but it can save you a ton down the road. If your dog has an unfortunate accident, the cover will ensure you don’t have to pay for a full upholstery cleaning.

This also means preventative care for possible medical problems. Getting dental treats — or better, brushing their teeth — keeps your pets healthy and helps avoid expensive medical bills. Flea and tick medication for dogs who go outdoors can help prevent insect-borne diseases.

4. Don’t Pay for a Kennel

Do you have neighbors or friends with pets? Instead of paying for costly care for your furry friend every time you go out of town, consider making a pet-care agreement.

You agree to take care of your friends’ pets when they’re on vacation, and they’ll do the same for you. Just make sure to keep expectations fair and reasonable for both sides.

5. Brush Up on Grooming

Grooming your pet is definitely something you can do at home. Invest in a good brush and clippers and find some breed-specific grooming tutorials online.

If you’re not comfortable doing all the grooming, you can at least do some maintenance at home to lengthen the time between trips to the pet store.

Wrapping Up

Your pets should always be a source of love and joy, not financial stress. With these easy tips, you can save a ton on pet care without sacrificing their care.

How do you save money on your pet care? Let us know what tips we missed in the replies!

5 Ways to Lower Your Move out Cleaning Costs

move out cleaning costsMoving is an overwhelming experience that can be hard on your budget.

Besides deposits, rents and moving companies, you should also think about buying moving insurance, cleaning your old home before you leave and many trips to the store for packing supplies.

And while all this seems like a big headache, there are ways you can save money on cleaning when you move out.

For instance, if you leave your home in a good, clean condition, you’ll get your deposit back. This can help you redirect the money towards your new place.

So keep reading to see how to balance out your move out cleaning costs and how to save even more in the process.

5 Effective Ways to Save on Move Out Cleaning Costs

1. Clean the Place Before You Leave

One of the best ways to cut on moving costs is to get your deposit back from your landlord. But this is only possible if you leave the place in a good condition. This means no damages done to the property and furniture, but also cleaning it before you leave.

If you can, try to clean the unit yourself. This shouldn’t take up much of your time if you maintained the cleanliness throughout your stay.

If you can’t clean it yourself, hire a move out cleaning company. This does cost money, but it’ll increase your chances of getting your deposit back.

2. Sell Your Stuff

Another way to cut on move out cleaning costs is to get rid of the stuff you don’t need. You can either throw it away, donate it or organize a yard sale to sell things in good condition.

As a bonus, if you’re using a moving company, you’ll get a lower final price. This is because movers calculate their rates based on the number of things you need to be moved. So the less you have, the less you’ll pay and the less you’ll have to clean.

3. Pick the Right Time to Move

Summer is the peak season for moving. Thus, moving companies are in high demand, which can drastically increase their rates.

So if you can, organize your move in the spring or fall, when the movers are more available and their prices go back to normal. Use the summer to clean the home and throw away any junk you have accumulated.

4. Pack Your Kitchen Last

Packing an entire house is tedious, but don’t make the mistake of packing your kitchen along with everything else.

You can save money on move out cleaning costs by eating at home as long as you can before your move. This way, you’ll be able to pack everything yourself and leave the appliances in a freshly cleaned condition.

Also, if you pack your kitchen beforehand, you’ll have to eat out and that’s not a budget-friendly option.

5. Strike a Good Deal With the Movers

If you have a limited budget for your move, talk to your moving company about it.

Many times, you’ll be able to negotiate a good deal because they’ll want to keep you as a customer. The move out cleaning costs will be lower, and you won’t have to worry about damaged items or leaving stuff behind.

Conclusion

Moving to a new home comes with inevitable expenses. So if you want to keep your cleaning costs low, either try to hire a reputable cleaning company or do it yourself.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Steps to Getting Rid of Student Loan Debt

student loan debtWe are facing a crisis.

Today, Americans owe over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. That staggering number is often credited with keeping millennials from achieving financial success.

If you’re burdened with student loan debt, don’t give up hope. There is a way out.

In this article, we’ll look at how you can get rid of student loan debt in five steps.

1. Find the right repayment plan

Not every repayment plan is created equally.

When it comes to student loans, most repayment plans are either based on the repayer’s income or on a flat monthly rate. Depending on your financial situation, you may have a preference over one or the other.

Many people chose the plan with the lowest monthly payment. But over the lifetime of the loan, this can accrue much more interest. If you can afford to make larger payments, you should do so.

2. Look into unconventional options

There are more ways to pay off a student loan than merely making payments on the balance.

Debt consolidation

If you have a large number of different loans with varying interest rates, it might be in your best interest to look into debt consolidation.

A third party purchases all of your loans from the loan owners and afterward, you make a single payment to the new company.

Often, the interest rates are lower, and monthly payments are more manageable than with several separate payments.

Debt forgiveness

Many companies offer student loan forgiveness programs. For instance, Navient student loan forgiveness offered debt forgiveness based on income, public service, or disability.

Contact your student loan company to see if there are any debt forgiveness options you can use to your advantage.

Ask your employer to pay your loan

If you’re feeling bold, you can negotiate with your employer to pay you a lower salary in exchange for a payment toward your loan.

This might seem like a longshot, but in an economy where companies are struggling to provide proper compensation to qualified talent, it’s a deal your boss might just take.

3. Pay extra when you can

When you come into some extra cash, it can be tempting to spend it on a nice dinner or an item from your Amazon wishlist. Resist that urge.

Putting that money toward extra loan payments can go a long way towards getting rid of student loan debt.

But don’t pay extra aimlessly. It pays to be strategic…

4. Attack variable- or high-interest loans first

Not every loan is the same. Take a look at the interest rates of all of your loans.

Focus all of your extra payments on the loans with the highest interest. If any loans have variable interest rates, that includes these.

Once you pay off your highest-interest loans…

5. Snowball that debt!

Once you’ve paid off your first student loan, you’ll find yourself with a significant chunk of change freed from your monthly budget.

Don’t waste it.

Take the old monthly payment and apply it to your next highest-interest loan until that is paid off. After that’s paid off, take both amounts and pay it towards the third highest loan. And so on, and so on.

You’ll be shocked to see how fast your loans disappear!

Say goodbye to student loan debt!

Think about what your life would look like without student loan debt. Following these tips, you can make that dream a reality.

What’s your favorite tip? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

Is a Safe Harbor 401K a Good Option For You?

best 401k plansAnyone working hard for a paycheck wants to spend their money wisely.

From trying to find extra opportunities to make a buck, to tracking awesome ways to stay on a budget – most people want to make the best possible financial decisions for themselves and their families.

So, it’s no surprise that many people want to get a head start on planning for life after retirement.

However, when most people think about planning for a future after retirement, those thoughts usually include just the fun stuff:

  • Where to live?
  • What to do with all the extra time not spent working?
  • Where to travel?

In order to plan for the perfect post-retirement life, there’s a bit of ground work that needs to be completed.

Investing is that groundwork.

The idea of figuring out all the different types of investment opportunities, though, can seem wildly overwhelming and can pose a perplexing question:

Which plan is best?

That’s definitely a loaded question as many investment plans have their share of positives and negatives, but more and more small companies are choosing safe harbor 401K plans to meet the needs of their employees.

Why?

Let’s Chat Safe Harbor 401K Plans

What are they?

Safe harbor 401K plans are when everyone gets the same company-funded contribution percentage of their salary regardless of their earning status or position within the company.

For example, if a company decides to contribute 5% towards the plan, each contribution made by the employee would receive 5% of their salary paid by the company towards their plan.

It’s the you-give-we-give plan.

A company’s rationale for offering this type of plan to their employees is to either pass the nondiscrimination test or completely avoid it altogether.

Why choose a Safe Harbor 401K?

Some of the best 401k plans are sometimes the most simple options.

There are a handful of reasons why small companies, as well as employees, would want to choose a safe harbor 401k plan.

The benefits on the employee side would be that everyone receives the same type of retirement plan contribution regardless of title or earning amount. Further, there are two valid options that employees could potentially choose: the opportunity to receive a matching contribution, or the opportunity to receive a nonelective contribution.

The benefits on the employer side would be the option to avoid IRS headaches by making contributions on behalf of employees. Also, this type of plan is a relative win/win for small companies and employees, as it provides a great way to reduce liability and avoid failing the nondiscrimination test

What’s it Worth?

Fewer headaches. Peace of mind. Fair contributions that benefit both employers and employees.

Those are just a handful of the benefits that a safe harbor 401K plan can provide.

Both options – matching contributions and nonelective contributions – provide safe and financially viable options for a lot of people to consider, especially those wary of investing their money.

A Safe Investment

Investing personal finances towards retirement is a large commitment.

However, a safe harbor 401k plan can provide a less stressful, quality opportunity for employees and employers to plan and prepare for their futures with ease and convenience.

So, for anyone on the hunt for a 401k plan that could be a perfect fit for individual and family future needs – a safe harbor 401k plan is a great consideration.