Beat The Heat: Energy Conservation Tips to Help Save Money on Electricity

Electricity is vital in today’s society, but it definitely doesn’t come for free.  As we enter into the later part of summer, it’s very common to see our electric bills go up, up, up.  So how do you stay cool this summer and still keep your costs down? It’s all about conserving energy.  Here are a few tips to save energy and money during the dog days of summer.

Hands Off

Running your air conditioning unit is probably the source of most of your electric bill woes.  Summers in the south are no joke, and your A/C unit has to work overtime to compensate for the stifling heat outside.  If you have family members who like varying degrees of coolness, it’s best to come to an agreement on what number you want to set your thermostat at and leave it there.  The more you turn your thermostat up and down, the more electricity your unit uses to accommodate your requests. If you leave it at one temperature consistently, you are reducing the amount of energy it takes to run your A/C, which will lead to lower amounts on your bill at the end of the month.

Close The Curtains

As nice as it is to let the natural sunlight in your home, if you are trying to reduce cooling costs, it is in your best interest to keep your curtains closed during the hot days of summer.  The sun will naturally cause your home to rise in temperature, making your A/C kick on when it might not normally. If you keep your curtains closed, your home will remain cooler and your A/C can get a little break–giving your wallet a break in the meantime.

Turn off the Lights

Another easy way to save a little money on your electric bill is to simply turn off all of the lights in your home that you are not using.  If you know you are leaving a room and won’t be back for at least 15 minutes, just turn off the light. Not only do you save energy from not using the lightbulbs as much, but darker rooms are also a bit cooler than rooms with lots of light.  Kill two birds with one stone and just keep unnecessary lights off to save energy and keep cool.

Be Cool in the Kitchen

During the summer months, try to keep cooking with your oven to a minimum to save money.  It should come as no surprise that when your oven is heated, it will leak heat out into the rest of your house.  The more you use your oven on really hot days, the more your A/C has to work overtime to keep you cool. And as we all know, this results in higher costs on your monthly electric bill.  So make summer meals that will keep not only you cool, but your home cool as well, and leave the oven for the cooler months.

All of these tips are really just basic, simple ways to reduce your energy consumption over the hotter months.  None of these on their own will make ridiculous dents in your electric bill, but done together and consistently, you will see changes in the amounts you are charged.  Every little bit of energy conservation adds up over time, and you will reap the benefits if you stick to these habits.

Four Ways College Students Can Be Smart With Money

It’s almost time for colleges and universities to begin classes again!  If you are a college student, you probably have a limited budget as you study for your future profession.  Money can be tight, so that it why it is extremely important that you learn the basics of personal finance so you can be money savvy while you are on your own.  Here are a few ways you can be smart with money while you are studying in school.

Buy It Used

Most people like to buy everything they own new, but there are many things that are just as good when you buy them used.  For college students, a big example of this is textbooks. Instead of buying all of your textbooks new, try to buy them used.  Most of the time, they look like you bought them new anyway for half the price. When you are done at the end of the semester, sell them back to make a little money.

Other items that can be great when bought used are clothing and items for your dorm room/apartment.  Thrift stores have come back “on trend” recently with people finding some really unique and fun items to outfit themselves and their homes.  It can also be fun and somewhat like a treasure hunt to go to different thrift stores to look for items.

Find Cheap Entertainment

We all know that college isn’t all books and studying.  You have to have fun too! If you are tight on a budget, find ways to spend less on entertainment.  Many cities have free community events you can partake in like movies in the park, free concerts and other events.  If staying in is more your speed, instead of buying cable, keep it simple with an antenna and a good cheap streaming service like Netflix or Hulu.  For music, use the free versions of Pandora or Spotify, or check out their reduced student rates for their premium versions. Also, don’t forget about the campus amenities your school might offer.  From the library to the fitness center, you are sure to find something to entertain you.

Save Money on Food

Food can get expensive, so if you are looking to save money it is best to set a grocery budget and stick to it.  To get the most out of your budget, shop the sale papers from your local grocery store, and stick to the discounted items.  If you have a meal plan at your school, take full advantage of what you are paying for and use it. Eating out at restaurants can get expensive pretty fast, so it’s best to limit it to special occasions.  

Easy Transportation

If you live on campus at your school, consider walking or riding a bike to get to where you need to go so you can save money on gas and car usage.  If you live in a city, check the prices of a public transportation pass to see if it would be cheaper than owning or operating a car. If you do have a car, try carpooling with a friend to split the costs of transportation.

As you can see, there are simple ways to reduce costs in your everyday life, especially if you attend a college.  Great personal finance habits start while you are young, so be sure to practice them before you get out into the real world.  Future you will be grateful.

 

How a Cash Envelope System Can Help You

If you have been around the budgeting scene long, you probably have heard of the “cash envelope system”.  Proudly touted by Dave Ramsey, the cash envelope system was introduced to help you quit overspending and pay cash for everything.  It’s designed to keep you out of debt. Most people have a better chance of sticking to their budget if they can visually see exactly how much money they are working with.  So how do you set up and use your cash envelopes? Keep on reading to find out.

Budget Beginnings

To create a cash envelope system, you must start with a budget.  If you don’t have a budget, the plan simply will not work. You have to know how much money you have coming in and going out.  Write down any category in which you think you might spend money on during the month, and add it up. The total should be less than or equal to your monthly income.  This will help you see which categories need to become envelopes.

Categorizing Your Cash

After your budget is established, it’s time to figure out how to categorize your envelopes.  Most people have envelopes in the areas they tend to overspend like groceries, entertainment, eating out, car repairs, “fun” money, clothes, household items, etc.  You decide on how much money you want to put in each envelope per month, and divide that number by the number of paydays you have. So say you want to put $500 a month in your grocery budget.  If you get paid bi-weekly, you would put $250 in that envelope each payday. When you have all of your envelopes categorized and fully stocked, you will be holding all of your spending money for the month in your hands.

Tracking Time

It’s always a good idea to track your purchases within each envelope category.  So, for our grocery example, every time you use money out of the grocery envelope, you would write down on the envelope the date and how much you took out.  If you add money into the envelope, you write that down too. This will help you know if you ever need to increase the amount that goes into the envelope or even reduce it to fit your needs.  Once the money is gone out of the envelope, it is gone. There is no more money to spend in that category–so spend it wisely! If you have any money left over in a certain category for the month, roll it over into the next month and you will have extra to spend if you need it.  

Using cash envelopes is really easy once you get the hang of it.  Sure it may feel weird the first few times to pull out a wad of cash to pay for something instead of swiping a card, but the benefits of paying cash for everything far outweigh any awkwardness you may feel.  So give cash envelopes a try–you may find that it works for you.

How To Save Money and Sanity When Buying School Supplies

It’s hard to believe that it is that time of year again–the time of year where summer fun starts to fade into a shopping frenzy for back-to-school.  School supply shopping can be frustrating if you wait until the last minute but depressing if you start too early. So what’s a mom to do? Here are some ways to not only save money, but also save your sanity while shopping for school supplies.

Tip #1 – Beware of Discount Stores

Buying all of your school supplies at the dollar store sounds like the ultimate bargain, right?  I mean, everything is only $1–you can’t beat that! Actually, you can. After Independence Day, all the “big box” stores start putting out their lovely back-to-school displays, and that means that they start running weekly sales on all of their school supplies.  At the dollar store you can buy a 24 pack of crayons for $1. At Target, during their school supply sales, you can pick up a 24 pack of Crayola crayons for around 50 cents. Sometimes, during peak buying season, you can see them for 25 cents. Folders during these sales can be bought for 15-20 cents a piece.  So, buying everything for a dollar isn’t always the best deal. If you play your cards right and shop all of the sales, you will drastically save more money than buying at the dollar store.

Tip #2 – Check Out The Grocery Store

If you buy your groceries at Walmart, this probably won’t apply to you as much, but if you use a traditional grocery store, check out their school supply section.  Sure, they won’t have as big of a selection as the other stores, but they still run great school supply sales just like Walmart or Target. People often overlook regular grocery stores for school items, but you can often find their sales to be better than the bigger stores.  It’s just a bonus that you can pick up your school supplies while you do grocery shopping–so it’s a one-stop shop!

Tip #3 – Don’t Shop At Peak Times

Here in Alabama, we all know that late summer tradition of “Tax Free Weekend”.  You know, the three days that send chills down the spines of retail workers all over the state.  Yes, for one weekend only, all school supplies, clothing and select electronics are free of tax! That means that everyone is shopping for the same items on the same weekend resulting in chaos of Black Friday proportions.  If you get stressed out easily by the thought of getting your kids ready for going back to school, DO NOT shop on this weekend. It’s totally worth paying the extra 9 cents on the dollar to keep your blood pressure at a normal level.  Instead, shop at abnormal times like early in the morning, later in the evening or during the week. There won’t be as many people, and you will have your pick of the merchandise.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be stressful.  Just stick to these three tips and you will get everything you need without breaking the bank or you sanity.

Four Personal Finance Books to Read in 2018

Whether you are at the top of the personal finance game and have everything in order, or you are at the bottom of the money barrel, it’s never a bad idea to learn more.  Keeping your brain focused on money matters is part of winning with your finances. What better way to do that than to read books on the subject? Here are some personal finance books that everyone should read this year:

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

An oldie but a goodie.  This book is described as, “the simplest, most straightforward game plan for completely making over your money habits. And it’s based on results, not pie-in-the-sky fantasies. With The Total Money Makeover  you’ll be able to: design a sure-fire plan for paying off all debt—meaning cars, houses, everything; recognize the 10 most dangerous money myths (these will kill you); and secure a big, fat nest egg for emergencies and retirement!”

Dave Ramsey is famous for his stance on debt.  So this book is perfect for those of you who are in debt and itching to get out quickly.

Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? by Cary Siegel

Originally written by the author to pass on money advice to his five children, this book includes, “eight important lessons focusing on 99 principles that will quickly and memorably enhance any individual’s money management acumen. Unlike many of the personal money management books out there, this book is a quick, easily digested read that focuses more on the qualitative side than the quantitative side of personal money management. The principles are not from a textbook. Rather, they are practical principles learned by the author as he navigated through his financial life. Many are unorthodox in order to be memorable and provoke deeper thought by the reader.”

If you are fresh out of college or a 20-something just starting out on your own, this book would be a perfect introduction into personal finance.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D.

Not every millionaire lives in a world of glamour and excess.  In fact, you probably know more millionaires than you would think–and they live just like you.  This book explores the personal finance habits of the truly wealthy and how their different behaviors with money contribute to their vast wealth.

This book is great if you want some advice on money habits that will help you build wealth in the long run.

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin

Updated for 2018 this book is described as, “a book that covers modern topics like investing in index funds, managing revenue streams like side hustles and freelancing, tracking your finances online, and having difficult conversations about money. Whether you’re just beginning your financial life or heading towards retirement, this book will show you how to: get out of debt and develop savings, save money through mindfulness and good habits rather than strict budgeting, declutter your life and live well for less, invest your savings and begin creating wealth, and save the planet while saving money.”

This book is great for anyone looking to learn more about how to manage your finances–whether you want to retire early, get out of debt or just learn about better money management.

So there you have it–four books that will put you in the right money mindset.  Reading about personal finance will not only teach you things you may not have known, but it will give you a renewed motivation to keep going in the right direction with your finances.

 

*All book descriptions were taken from amazon.com.