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Five easy ways to save more money when shopping online

piggybank_360.pngLet’s face it. Shopping online offers the ultimate in convenience — no crowds, no lines, no high-pressure sales tactics — and makes it easy to compare prices within seconds. Whether you’re shopping for new furniture or updating your closet for the season, make sure you really are getting the best deals on that purchase with some strategic buys. Here are five simple ways to save even more money when loading up that virtual cart:

#1: Keep up with flash sales. Many retailers host flash sales throughout the week and these can be a great way to secure some deep discounts on popular items. Scope out the latest deals on sites like Myhabit (Amazon’s fashion site) and eBay daily deals for rock bottom prices on high-end goods and everyday items.

#2: Seek out online coupons. Many retailers accept online discount and offer codes that aren’t always published on the site. For example, Best Buy, Banana Republic, and Target stores run ongoing specials and deals both in-store and online. However, you could get a deeper discount just by catching one of the latest free shipping or coupons available at third-party sites like RetailMeNot. One of the great things about RetailMeNot is you can get a personalized list of offers from your favorite stores when registering on the site. The site does a great job of updating current coupons at hundreds of major retailers and users post feedback about their success rates and experiences.

#3: Use a shopping app. We’ve talked about some of our favorite shopping apps in a previous post and there are dozens of other apps that can help you keep track of the latest deals and offers. When you’re in need of some serious retail therapy, use Amazon’s mobile app to find the best price on those coveted items.

#4: Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk can save you in shipping costs and is a great way to pare down the cost of frequent online purchases. Consolidate your purchases whenever possible and take advantage of free shipping offers when making those larger purchases. Stocking up on household items, groceries, personal care items, or even crafting supplies by buying in bulk can save you money on the purchase and save you money on gas from frequent trips to the store. Check out sites like Stockn’ Go where you can buy cases of items and cash in on bulk savings deals.

#5: Get social. Many brands and retailers post online-only or exclusive coupons on their social media sites. Start following your favorite brands and stores on Twitter and Facebook to cash in on some of those web sales. Giveaways, instant coupons, and online promos could help you save a little extra on that next purchase. Just make sure you’re following verified accounts to avoid shopping at a fraudulent site.

What are some of your best tips for saving money when shopping online?

 

Five credit cards with the best perks

piggybank_360.pngWhile it’s wise to pay cash for most of your purchases and avoid feeding a credit card habit, there are some situations where paying with a credit card makes sense. Case in point: Going plastic to earn cash back rewards or frequent flier miles on those purchases.

Booking travel, buying a new refrigerator or even taking care of that grocery bill with a rewards card could pay off in more ways than one. With so many different types of credit cards out there, it’s often hard to decide which is the best for you.

We did some digging and found several credit card rewards programs that offer some excellent perks. Here are five rewards cards that might interest you:

Best Grocery Rewards Credit Card: BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card

Earn rewards on those grocery and gas purchases with the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card. You earn 2% on grocery store purchases and 3% on gas for the first $1,500 charged to the card. You can also earn 1% cash back on other purchases and if you’re already a Bank of America Customer, you’ll be working up to a bonus that’s deposited directly to your checking or savings account.

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Frequent travelers don’t want to miss out on this travel rewards card that offers unlimited earning potential and no expiration date on miles you’ve worked so hard to earn. Unlike many travel rewards cards out there, you’re not limited to a certain airline or hotel chain with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. And, there are no blackout dates when you want to cash in those miles so you can trot the globe at your leisure.

Best VIP Travel Rewards Credit Card: Visa Black Card™

If you’re a jetsetter at heart and want the VIP experience on your next adventure, use your Visa Black Card™ and enjoy privileges like unlimited VIP airport lounge visits, a subscription to a members-only magazine and 24-hour concierge service. This one does have an annual fee of $495 but you earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days and can earn rewards for luxury travel experiences and gifts.

Best Cash Back Rewards Credit Card: Chase Freedom Card

This is a good card for those in need of some instant gratification — you’ll earn a $100 bonus after spending just $500 within the first three months of opening the card and 5% cash back on up to $1,500 on qualifying purchases with the Chase Freedom card. After the introductory period, you’ll continue earning 1% cash back on all other purchases and don’t have to pay an annual fee the entire time.

Best New Car Rewards Credit Card: BuyPower Card from Capital One 

Saving up for a new car? If you have your eye on a new Chevy, Buick, GMC or Cadillac, start making purchases with the BuyPower Card from Capital One to earn rewards towards a new vehicle. The card offers 5% earnings on your first $5,000 in purchases each year and unlimited 2% earnings on every purchase after that.

Six simple ways to save money on your next grocery trip

piggybank_360.pngThe cost of groceries may be one of your biggest household expenses and sometimes it can be difficult to pare down the grocery bill. If you’re trying to save more money and want to get your grocery costs under control, think beyond coupon clipping and scouring weekly ads for deals.  You can save a significant amount of money on groceries with a little planning and strategic buys.

Here are six super simple ways to save money on that next grocery run:

    1. Get planning. Meal planning will make it easier to refine that list so you aren’t loading up your cart with whatever tickles your fancy. Get in the habit of planning the meals for the week and drafting up recipe lists. Make your list of ingredients from that and do a quick fridge and pantry inventory check to see what you already have on hand. This will prevent overbuying and also help you narrow down your grocery pickup list to just the essentials.
    2. Don’t fear generic. Generic brands of staple items like flour, rice, oatmeal, and even some household supplies have lower price points and you won’t be missing out on much except fancy packaging. Save the splurges for gourmet foods and other specialty items and stick with generic for the basics.
    3. Reconsider buying in bulk. Buying in bulk only pays off under two conditions: 1) you will use up the item before the expiration date and 2) you actually enjoy the brand or product. Don’t buy in bulk just because the time is available in a multi-pack. If you’re not familiar with the product and don’t go through large quantities each and every week, you could be wasting your money. Buy dry staples in bulk and consider the cost per item before loading up the cart.
    4. Shop online. If you always end up coming home with more than planned on each trip to the grocery store, consider shifting gears to the world wide web. Shopping online can save you time and money, and you might be able to set up subscriptions for items you buy regularly. AmazonFresh is now available in select cities and Amazon.com’s Grocery & Gourmet Food section is set up with subscribe and save options where you can save on everything from breakfast items to meal essentials. Netgrocer delivers groceries for a flat-rate shipping fee and offers a wide selection of products.
    5. Consider the cost of convenience. Do you buy pre-washed salads and pre-cut vegetables to save time? Buying fresh and taking some time to cut and store produce on your own could save you a significant amount of money each week — especially if you’re on a health kick and are loading up on fruits and veggies. Remember that frozen fruits and veggies have the same nutritional value as fresh foods and generic brands could be a smarter choice.
    6. Don’t forget e-coupons. More grocery stores are accepting online coupons that you can download from the store’s own website or print from a third-party website. Take a few minutes to search for e-coupons before you head out. Or, use a smartphone app like Grocery iQ to make your grocery list, sort your list by aisle, and capture coupons with a screen tap.

 

What are some of your tried-and-true methods for saving on groceries?

Three budgeting apps to make money management less stressful

When even the idea of putting together a budget makes you cringe and you just don’t want to buckle down and draft that spreadsheet, don’t worry — there’s an app for that. We talked about the basics of budgeting these past few weeks and recommended a few great apps that can help you track your spending. If you’re ready to take control of your finances and get that budget in order, using an app every day is a great way to get started.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best budgeting apps that can make managing your financial life that much easier:


mintss1Mint

If you’re a newbie to the budgeting scene and want to dive right in and start tracking your spending and analyzing your spending habits, Mint is the way to go. Available for free on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, Mint displays your finances using colorful pie charts and graphs and a streamlined categorization system.

The app does a great job of organizing your purchases by category and helping you set savings goals. Planning a winter getaway? Need to save for a new car? Just plug in your goals and savings start date, and watch those savings grow. If you have a hard time keeping track of bill due dates, make use of the built-in bill reminders system that will text or email you of upcoming payments.

 

Who it’s great for: Budget-fearing folks; visual learners looking for a simple way to view expenditures; beginners that want to set up their first budget; anyone needing a nudge to pay bills on time.


Budget Ease

It’s described as the ‘true’ envelope system where you can set up spending categories in a snap and have better control of your money. One of the great things about this app is that it breaks down expenses by a ‘budgeted’ amount and a ‘spent’ amount, giving you a more accurate idea of how much you intend to spend versus how much you actually spend.

The app lets you create envelopes for bills so you don’t end up spending money on times you haven’t planned for — a great feature for anyone who tends to go over budget regularly. If you’ve always had a hard time figuring out how to organize your cash outflow each month, use this digitized envelope system to categorize everything to a tee.

 

Who it’s great for: (Real) paper envelope budget aficionados ready to go paperless in the digital age; Type A personalities who prefer rigidly-organized systems; budgeting gurus looking for a no-frills smartphone app.


LearnVest

Need that extra push to keep your budget on track? LearnVest app users not only track their spending and set up savings goals on a smartphone, but can also take advantage of the free phone call with a LearnVest Expert to make some progress in the financial department. The LearnVest Action Program will help you create a comprehensive money management plan that includes budgeting and investments.

You can link the app to accounts for real-time data updating and see the progress you’ve made with your financial goals at a glance. While there’s currently only an iOS app, keep an eye out for an Android version coming in the near future!

 

Who it’s great for: Goal setters who want to make and chart progress on multiple financial goals; budgeting newbies who need expert advice; anyone who fears budget spreadsheets and prefers an on-the-go approach instead.


What other budgeting apps do you swear by? Let us know in the comments below!

Five apps that help you shop smarter

Having a hard time deciding what printer to buy? Holding off on that cat condo until you find a great deal? When you’re in the market for a big-ticket item or just putting together the weekly grocery list, don’t forget to use a shopping app to scour the web for the best deals. Some of the best shopping apps make it easy to compare prices and take advantage of online sales and specials you might miss in-store.

Here are five apps that can help you shop smarter:

creportslogo Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper

When you’re getting ready to buy new home furnishings, electronics, and other investment items, you might already turn to Consumer Reports and other reviews sites to learn about the best brands and products. The Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper app takes things one step further with a comprehensive buying guide and unbiased reviews. It could be just what you need to choose the right car seat for a fussy toddler or cordless drill for the growing tool collection.

Grocery-IQ-logo  Grocery iQ

Not a fan of clipping coupons? Put the scissors down and download the Grocery iQ app for Android or iPhone to use digital coupons and put together your grocery list within minutes. The app helps you build a list of favorite items by scanning the barcode, organizes your grocery list by category, and gives you the option to print or email available coupons instantly. You can even email your grocery list to your significant other — and they’ll never have an excuse to forget the milk again.

groupon Groupon

If you haven’t taken advantage of the latest Groupon deal, you could be missing out on some great discounts at your favorite pizzeria, hair salon, or local gym. When you’re in the market for a last-minute vacation, jewelry, watches, or electronics, use the Groupon app for Android or iPhone to find deep discounts on popular products and travel packages. Groupon’s deal lineup changes frequently and you might just be able to pick up some great rates on that Miami weekend getaway or sushi making classes.

Amazon-App-fro-iphoneAmazon

Frequent Amazon shoppers take note — there’s a miniature version of the entire site condensed into a mobile-friendly format where you can tap and fill up that shopping cart within seconds. Available for Android and iPhone, the Amazon app gives you direct access to the latest product information and customer reviews. You can also use it to scan barcodes and check prices when you are shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. If you were first in line to pick up Amazon Fire TV, you can take advantage of two-day shipping and other deals exclusively for Amazon Prime members.

RedLaser-App-Logo RedLaser

Do you carry around a stack of loyalty cards in your wallet or purse? Leave them at home and download the RedLaser app for Android, iPhone or Windows Phone to store all of your loyalty card information in one place. The app lets you find current deals at nearby stores, scan your loyalty card barcode when you’re making the purchase, and compare prices at both online and offline retailers. It’s the perfect app for bargain hunters and will also keep track of products you have your eye on during a deal-hunting spree.

What are your go-to shopping apps? Share the wealth in the comments below!

 

Five spending habits that will save you more money

piggybank_360.pngDo you always seem to be strapped for cash? Even if you don’t indulge in spending sprees and are a bargain hunter by nature, there may be some spending leaks in your budget. Putting together a monthly budget can be challenging — we know, it’s probably low on the priority list. But, once you have a plan in place, adopting some simple spending habits will keep you on a healthy financial track.

Here are five spending habits that can save you more money:

1: Pay with cash. Every time. Whether you need to leave your credit cards at home or cut them up and throw them away, nix the credit card habit so that you only buy things with cash you have. Learning to manage your money without relying on credit cards is not only good for your financial health but can also help you save money because you will be more mindful about the dollars you spend. Just try it for a week.  Carrying dollar bills around and taking the step to count out your cash for purchases will increase your awareness of the money being spent — and could make you more conscientious about those purchases. If you don’t feel comfortable keeping cash on hand, a prepaid debit card is another option. This way, you can load your card with only the cash you can afford to spend.

2: Spend on savings. Paying yourself first is always a good idea and if you’re trying to save more money for an upcoming vacation or a larger purchase, start ‘spending’ on larger savings contributions. We’ve talked about the importance of creating a savings column as an expense in our budgeting series. Making a sincere effort to spend more on savings can help you build up your savings account that much faster, and will get you in the habit of saving in no time.

3: Don’t shop on a bad day. If you tend to splurge when you’re anxious, stressed or having a bad day, resist the urge to go out and buy something. Even though it might be a few dollars spent on something that will cheer you up, you’ll be spending money to feed a habit that may get worse over time. Deal with the bad day without spending away your cares and save your hard-earned money for more important matters. Like the motorcycle fund. Or that dream vacation to Tahiti.

4: Comparison shop for 48 hours. When you’re in the market for a new television, smartphone, or other big-ticket items and are tempted by offers from your favorite retailer, give yourself 48 hours to shop around for the best deal. Zeroing in on just that item and exploring auction sites, local classifieds, and current sales can ward off a costly impulse buy. Take the time to shop around so that you are getting the best deal on the market. And, keep your eyes peeled for free shipping offers, rebates and cash back deals to save even more on the total cost of your purchase.

5: Plan your purchases. Yes, it sounds tedious and boring, but taking some time to list your purchases could make you re-think how much you actually need to buy. Whether you’re shopping for groceries or heading out on a clothing roundup, create a list of items you want to buy and estimate the cost before you head out the door. An app like Shopper, for example, helps you find recipes, create grocery lists, estimate costs, find coupons and more! Planning most of your purchases can curb overspending. It can also give you a chance to comparison shop and pare down the list with ease.

What are some of your favorite savings strategies? Let us know in the comments below!