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Posted by Julie Shanks on 7/15/2018

Stopping by local garage sales in search of bargains and treasures is a lot like panning for gold. Some days you'll be sifting through a lot of rubble before you discover the hidden gems. Other days, you'll hit the mother lode, right away! Whether you're looking for cheap books, antique furniture, unique jewelry, retro clothing, statues, gardening tools, or gently used toys, you can expect to stumble upon some very interesting and worthwhile items -- usually at extremely low prices. Keys to Bargain Hunting Success Many people who attend garage sales on a regular basis seem to have developed a system to ferret out what they're looking for, spot bargains, and negotiate the lowest possible prices. They often don't even get out of their cars if the items displayed fail to catch their interest. Yard sales attract a wide variety of people, but the ones who find the best stuff at the lowest prices know the value of persistence, getting an early start, and advance planning. Many are quite adept at surfing the Web, clippings ads, and using social media to find promising yard sales to check out. The Seasoned Garage Sale Hunter In addition to a natural curiosity about the unexpected treasures they might find in their travels, they recognize the following underlying truths about garage sales.

  • There are two main reasons that people hold garage sales: to make extra money and to get rid of things they no longer need or want. In most cases, they're highly motivated to make sales and do not expect to rake in boatloads of money. If they happen to be in the process of selling their house and getting ready to move, they should be especially motivated to clear out all their garage sale inventory. The last thing they want to see is an interested customer with a wad of cash in their hands walk away because the price wasn't right. If you make a reasonable offer, chances are they'll either accept it or make a counteroffer. By cultivating some basic negotiating skills and learning to have fun with it, you can pick up some amazing deals in your neighborhood.
  • At first, going to garage sales may seem like a hit-or-miss proposition. However, persistence pays off. Good timing, a little bit of luck, and being in the right place at the right time will eventually work in your favor. It's sort of a "numbers game," so if you plan to visit a few different yard sales in one morning, you're bound to find all kinds of worthwhile treasures and bargains.
  • If you know what you're looking for and have a pretty good idea of what its worth, you'll be in a good position to make reasonable offers and walk away with exceptional deals.
Whether you're looking for a used guitar, an inexpensive desk for a college student, or some hard-to-find first-edition books, you never know what you're going to discover when you dedicate a Saturday or Sunday morning to some serious garage sale shopping!





Posted by Julie Shanks on 4/2/2017

If you're at a loss to explain why your money seems to disappear so quickly, every month, your utility bills may be partly to blame. The solution to lowering your energy-related expenses involves a combination of high-tech approaches and old-fashioned methods. On the high-tech side, it pays to program your thermostat so that you're automatically adjusting your energy usage when your family is sleeping, at work, or at school. There's no need to make the house perfectly comfortable when no one's at home! If the idea of programming electronic devices causes you to break out in a cold sweat, then maybe you can ask your HVAC technician to set it up for you the next time he stops by for a service call or furnace tuneup. (Hey, you never know unless you ask!) Another way to save money on your energy bill is to use your clothes dryer less. This strategy is simple, but effective. Buy an old-fashioned clothes line, hang it up securely in your back yard, and use it to air-dry some of your laundry. I'm not saying it should replace your clothes dryer -- especially in the cold winter months. However, it can be an effective, low-tech method to reduce the energy demands you place on your dryer. There's also the option of drying some of your clothes on a drying rack. Fixing Leaks, Lighting, and Insulation Two common plumbing problems that many homeowners endure are toilets that run 24/7 and faucets that leak. While it may not seem that these relatively minor issues are going to impact your water bill, those leaks can and do add up over an extended period of time. Not only that, but the continual sound of your toilet tank running and your faucet dripping can be quite annoying! If you have the phone number of a reasonably priced plumber who can fix those problems, it'll pay to have him stop over. From an electricity standpoint, you can save money by replacing your incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star certified bulbs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these energy-efficient bulbs use 70-90% less energy than standard bulbs, they last 10 to 25 times longer, and produce substantially less heat. The fact that they generate up to 90% less heat makes them safer and more energy efficient, too -- particularly during the summer. As a side note, you can also save energy during the holidays by using Energy Star certified decorative light strings! Yet another way to make sure your home is energy efficient and cost effective is to check the insulation in the attic and other areas. If you're considering purchasing a home that is inadequately insulated, you could consider asking the seller to correct that problem, as a condition of the sale. An alternative approach would be to use that deficiency (and/or others) as a negotiating chip to get the price lowered. Whether you're buying or selling a house, an experienced real estate agent can help you negotiate mutually agreeable terms and successfully guide you through the twists and turns of real estate transactions!





Posted by Julie Shanks on 10/2/2016

Money experts recommend having an emergency fund, however, that is easier said than done. You will want to have at least three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Here are some tips on how to get there: Determine how much you need                                                                                               Calculate how much you spend each month. Add up your rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance, food and utilities. This will give you an idea of how much you will need to save. Start small If you find it hard to save, start by saving small amounts. Even if you only saved $20 per week for one year, you would increase your savings account by $1040.00 Have achievable goals                                                                                                                     Start with a small goal and gradually work towards a larger one. Set your initial goal of one month's savings and build upon that. If you start small and make savings a habit it will be easier to save. Make it automatic                                                                                                                           Set up automatic contributions to your savings account. Move a specified amount of money to your savings account through direct deposit. If you do this you may not even miss the money. Watch where your money goes                                                                                                 Keep track of how much money you spend. Calculate your spending average and try to spend less. Another great way to save is to find areas where you can cut back. What are some of your best tips for saving money?  




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Julie Shanks on 6/26/2016

If money is tight right now, or if you're just trying to live frugally, there are a number of ways to save money without having to drastically change your lifestyle. One of the best way to save money is by going through all of your recurring bills to see where you can eliminate or reduce spending. In our age of user-friendly, advanced technology, there are more services available to us than ever before. You can call an Uber with one tap on your phone or order more laundry detergent by clicking the Amazon Dash button in your cabinet. With services this readily available to us, it's hard not to sign up. Read on to learn how to save some money on your monthly services without having to sacrifice too many of life's comforts.

Utilities

There are countless ways to save on water, heat, and electricity. Yes, you can turn down the heat in the winter time and take shorter showers, but there are less commonly known ways to save as well. For example:
  • Keep multiple electric-powered items plugged into one power-strip and power off the strip overnight. This will stop those items from consuming electricity in standby mode
  • Insulate your windows in the winter time by using caulking, weather stripping, and shrink wrap your windows with heat shrink film to keep the heat in
  • Some Saturday afternoon make a checklist of all of your home's lightbulbs. Then go out and replace them with energy efficient CFLs and LED bulbs
  • Hang clothes on the line in fair weather and wash your clothes in cold water; much of the energy consumed by washing clothes goes to heating the water up first

Monthly services

Remember when there were only a few good shows on TV and paying for cable was the only way to watch them? Now any given household can have Netflix, Amazon Streaming, HBO Go, and countless other monthly services for watching TV. To save on watching your favorite movies and television, try these tips:
  • Ditch Netflix DVD services or expensive premium cable channels and rent from your local library system. Through inter-library loans you can get the newest movies and TV shows shipped to your library for free
  • Cancel your cable bill and try a cheap service like Hulu. If you're worried about missing the news, use websites or news apps on your smart TV to keep up to date on the issues
  • Negotiate rates with your provider. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to learn about better options. Since many people are taking the internet-only approach, cable companies are desperate to maintain customers
Saving on telephone bills:
  • First, ditch the landline. You probably only get telemarketers calling there anyway; what do you have to lose?
  • Use a family plan and calculate your data usage. Make sure your family is on wifi whenever possible. You can save up to $30/month just by having a lower data plan
  • Negotiate with your provider. Reminding your provider that you have other options when it comes to cell phones can get you a better rate.
General tips and tricks:
  • If you have a student email address (.edu) this can be used to gain discounts from a number of monthly services
  • Ask your providers to apply promotions to your account. If you see that something you pay for is running a deal, call and ask if you can have the rate as well. You're a loyal customer after all
  • If you've built up good credit, look for lower interest rates online. There are apps and websites dedicated to finding you better deals





Posted by Julie Shanks on 4/24/2016

Imagine if you could make your student loan disappear. According to American Student Assistance, a non-profit that aims to educate young people about money say it is possible. Both the federal and state government, as well as some non-profit organizations offer loan "forgiveness" programs. Do the right paperwork and you could be loan free. While there is no single comprehensive listing of loan forgiveness programs, there are programs for some specific professions. Here are a few of those: Law school graduates who become a district attorney or a public defender are eligible to apply for the John R. Justice student loan repayment program. This program pays up to $4,000 a year towards an eligible applicant's debt up to the maximum of $60,000 per graduate. The National Health Service Corps offers an even more generous program for health professionals. This program repays up to $60,000 in debt in just two years for students working in medicine, dentistry or mental health in underserved communities. Graduates who are willing to work part-time on medical research could eliminate up to $35,000 in debt per year with a program funded by The National Institutes of Health. If you are willing to trade a few years of service for loan forgiveness you are in luck. There are various federally funded loan repayment programs for fire fighters, teachers, nurses, librarians, speech pathologists and employees of non-profits.  The programs don't typically ask graduates to work for free but they might receive less pay in order to repay the loan. The value of the loan repayment is likely to more than compensate for the lost wages. Because there is no comprehensive list of forgiveness programs it pays to do your research. There are many organization's websites that can help students find the right fit.