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money saving tips

4 Easy Ways to Save Money on Black Friday (And The Rest of the Season)

Written on November 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm , by

Prabhaker’s here to save you $$$ this season. (Photo courtesy of Silja Magg)

Written by Chloe Metzger, editorial intern

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us, marking a major increase in family gatherings, festive parties and, of course, shopping. But between Black Friday sales and dinner party planning, our wallets take a beating as soon as the weather changes. According to Mint.com, a personal money management service, the average American spent a whopping $384 on shopping last December alone, almost 33 percent more than what they spent in September. So how can you stay in the holiday spirit without going over budget? We chatted with Hitha Prabhakar, retail expert and Mint.com Financial Advocate, to get the scoop on how to cut costs on the four most common—and unexpected—money drainers. Read on to start saving!

Buying presents

Spending limits can seem impossible to stick to when the holidays come around, leading to some pretty unhealthy buying habits. Luckily, you can actually stay within your budget without becoming scrooge-tastic, says Prabhakar. When it comes to gift-giving, repeat after us: It’s the thought that counts. “If you’re in a tight financial spot, focus on presentation,” recommends Prabhakar. “DIY gifts like frames, knitted socks or baked goods are always a hit, especially when you spend time wrapping them in pretty paper, containers or recycled bags.”

Grocery shopping

At the beginning of each month, set specific budgets for yourself for food expenditures, including week-to-week groceries and special occasions. Of course, when it comes to shopping for an upcoming dinner party, cutting corners can seem tricky. “According to the 2012 Intuit Consumer Index, Americans spent an average of $322.29 per month on groceries,” says Prabhakar. “That can really add up over the year. Don’t be afraid to purchase items that are store brand, especially when you’re entertaining for a large group. They tend to be much cheaper and taste the same.”

Going to the gym

We’ve all been there: The temperature drops below freezing, and suddenly your favorite morning run seems way less appealing than the weight room. If you decide to switch to the gym-life when the winter weather peaks, make sure you’re not wasting cash by sitting in the house. “On average, people spent $83.73 per month on gym memberships in 2012, so get your money’s worth by going frequently,” says Prabhakar. “You can also think about taking your budgeted gym funds and purchasing blocks of classes at smaller studios. To get new students in the door, these smaller studios often offer discounted classes or trial periods at a tenth of the cost of regular classes.” (We love Groupon and Living Social for finding awesome discounts on fun classes and personal training sessions!)

Dining out

“Last year, the average American spent $2,654.69 on dining out,” says Prabhakar, “And I used to be that person who went to restaurants 15 times a week and used my oven as storage for my shoes!” To cut down on her eating-out expenses, Prabhakar created a “restaurant only” budget in Mint.com and signed up to be alerted when she was low on balances. (We tested the Mint.com app, and totally agree that  it’s extremely helpful for staying on track with easy-to-forget entertainment expenses). If you’ve almost reached your budget and have to dine out, try pre-gaming (meal-style!) beforehand. “Have a quick and healthy appetizer at home prior to dinner, so you feel fuller and order less from the menu,” suggests Prabhakar.


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5 Ways to Get Financially Fit

Written on January 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm , by

Make this the year to save your pennies! (Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto)

If there’s one area you don’t want to get any slimmer this year, it’s your wallet. Now that the presents are unwrapped and your shopping list has vanished, keep these tips handy to stay financially fit from FOX Business Network’s Sandra Smith, a reporter on the economy and all things greens (i.e. money!).

1.  Set goals. Just as you are laying out your fitness goals for the year, so should you lay out your financial goals. What debts do you want to pay off, how much money do you want to save, what investments should you make. Be specific! As you reach your goals, you will feel inspired to set new ones.

2. Maximize your benefits. Many employers offer benefits in addition to your regular paycheck. From 401K’s to flex spending accounts and health plans. Get the most out of your benefits and discounts at work– you’ve earned them! Contact your human resources department to get the most out of what is being offered to you.

3. Get out of debt.  From school loans to credit card bills, keep chipping away. Contact a financial professional if you have multiple debts and want to find the best and least expensive way to pay them off. Carrying debts costs money, so the sooner you can pay these debts, the closer you are to financial freedom.

Read on for more money saving tips from Smith.

Read more

Try This to Save $1,235 This Year!

Written on November 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm , by

You can control the quality of ingredients when you brown bag! (Photo by Andy Lyons)

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well consumer savings expert Jeanette Pavini says this is reality with one simple trick: Packing your lunch.

Pavini, a Coupons.com pro, did the leg work by shopping at her local stores and using available discounts (don’t worry, she didn’t spend hours scouring the circulars like the extreme couponers…meaning you can do it to!). She compared the prices for homemade to the average deli price for three popular sandwiches, and found that you can save $23.75 per week—or $1,235 over the course of a year—by doing just a little shopping and taking five minutes each day to prep your lunch.

Here’s the scoop:

Turkey and cheese on wheat with lettuce, tomato and mustard

  • Average deli price: $7.13
  • Homemade price: $2.68
  • Homemade price with sales and coupons: $1.93

Tuna and cheese on mulitgrain

  • Average deli price: $7.63
  • Homemade price: $2.60
  • Homemade price with sales and coupons: $1.66

Veggie sandwich on multigrain (lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, red onion and cucumber)

  • Average deli price: $6.72
  • Homemade price: $2.00
  • Homemade price with sales and coupons: $1.30

Pavini says that you can save big by watching for coupons and being open to trying different brands and products on special at your local store. More good news: You can rest assured knowing that there won’t be any unwanted “secret sauce” on meals you make yourself!

More from FITNESS:

Now tell us: What is your favorite brown bag lunch? And how often do you pack or eat out for your midday meal?

10 Ways to Save Money While Staying Healthy

Written on September 29, 2011 at 10:59 am , by

Stuff that sandwich with seasonal produce to save dough. (Photo by Reggie Casagrande)

Fancy home gym equipment, organic food and a wardrobe of the latest fitness apparel can be pricey, but consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch says that doesn’t have to be the case. “As a young girl, I tagged along with my mom on shopping trips and learned that you don’t have to spend a lot to look good,” she explains.

Woroch herself ranks health as one of her top priorities (besides helping others save money), and loves bike riding, hiking, running, swimming and skiing—”anything and everything that gets me moving.”

So we asked Woroch to share her insider intel about how we all can keep our wallets happy while staying fit and looking and feeling great.

1. Subscribe. Group coupon emails offer deals for more than clothes shopping and restaurant meals! “Sites like LivingSocial and Dealery often offer discounts for health clubs, fitness studios and outdoor activities at up to 70 percent off,” Woroch says. Another plus? There’s no long-term commitment, so if you like, you can just continue trying new things based on what is offering a coupon!

2. Take advantage of free trials. “Request free or deeply discounted trial memberships from various gyms and fitness studios you’re thinking about joining,” Woroch suggests. This way you can find your favorite before getting locked in with a location that may not be your favorite.

3. Use technology. Online coupon sites like RetailMeNot and SmartSource offer a wide variety of discounts for online or in-store shopping at grocery, fitness specialty stores and more. Combine coupons you find online for stores like Whole Foods with what’s on special when you get to the store to score even bigger savings.

Check out these Coupon Sherpa sites for printable coupons at common retailers:

For seven more cost-cutting tricks,  Read more

Slash Your Grocery Bills: Brilliant Tips from Food Bloggers

Written on August 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm , by

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

A self-described foodie, Ashley goes weak in the knees for pricey items like avocados, coconut oil, fresh mozzarella, raw nuts, and Nutella. “We love to eat. What can I say?” admits Ashley, who blogs at (Never Home)maker with her husband, Stephen. But grocery bills in the $75 to $110 range forced the couple to re-evaluate their spending habits. By sticking to a budget, baking their own bread, and planning meals, they were able to save more than $120 in a month.

As Ashley, Stephen, and the following food bloggers demonstrate, it’s possible to spend less on groceries without sacrificing taste or quality. All that’s required is a little planning, knowledge, and creativity. Sink your teeth into these great tips:

Enjoy Meatless Meals: “I buy a lot of canned beans and use them as my main protein because they are cheap, healthy, and delicious! You can use cannellini beans to bulk up a pasta dish; top your salads with kidney or black beans to add flavor and texture; and mix beans in with brown rice and veggies and top with marinara sauce for an economical and delicious meal. You can even make a spread for a sandwich by mashing chickpeas and adding a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice!” (Anne from fANNEtastic Food)

Avoid Temptation by Having Your Groceries Delivered: “I make weekly meal plans, so I know exactly what food I need for the week. However, my money downfall is picking up all the ‘special offers’ and sweet treats I see on the shelves around me. So, I looked into getting what I need delivered. There is a small delivery charge, but I save more than that by avoiding the store.” (Rachel from Suburban Yogini)

Scour the Discount Produce Bins: “Shop the reduced produce area to find deals of fresh produce. I buy almost-brown bananas and freeze them. They work great in smoothies!” (Tina from Carrots ‘N Cake)

Buy Seeds: “Grow your own herbs! A plant that lasts all summer (or year) costs the same as a single herb package.” (Matt from No Meat Athlete)

$ocial Media: “Follow your favorite companies on Twitter and Facebook – you’ll be alerted to sales and giveaways! This past week, So Delicious let me know where So Delicious Kefir was on sale!” (Molly from Fuel Her Up)

Continued: Seven more money-saving tips…

More from SparkPeople:

3 Steps That Boost Your Bottom Line

Grocery Store Steals and Tips

America’s Hottest Weight-Loss Club