Category Archives: Stretching Dollars

Top 8 Ideas To Stay On Top Of Personal Finances In 2017

The following was contributed by Amy Nickson:

Many people ignore their personal financial health because they know fixing the problem is not an easy task. However, many people don’t even know where to start. Most of them ignore the idea of staying top of their personal finances, but instead of ignoring, you must take care of your personal finances to see good results in the coming year.

If you’re not sure where to start, this article may help you. Read carefully:

1. Keep Your Household Budget in Order

Once you create a budget system according to your financial ability, you can manage emergencies, save money for the future, and make some additional expenditures. A budget also teaches you how to overcome bad financial habits as well. Once you start following a suitable budget, you’ll be able to know the amount you spend and the amount you save. Thus, you can seek to save more after meeting your daily necessities.

Be Sure to Balance Your Budget
Be sure to balance your budget

2. Take Advantage of Free Budgeting Tools and Apps to Create Your Budget

Budgeting is not as scary as many people think. Many budgeting tools and apps are available online. If budgeting sounds dull, then install a free budgeting app on your smartphone and start using it. Soon you can see the positive results in your personal financial health.

3. Save More Money Than the Previous Year

Saving money is the only way to stay top of your finances throughout the year. If you have saved 15% of your income as of now, then try to increase your savings percentage in this year. Set aside 20% of your monthly income to save more than before. Don’t use the savings account for day to day purchases. Allow the money to grow and keep saving for a longer time. Thus, you will be able to build up a solid financial cushion.

4. Manage Your Debts to Stay on Top of Your Personal Finances

If you are carrying high-interest credit card debts, then you can consider a balance transfer to a credit card that offers low-interest rates. Try to find out a credit card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. Don’t miss any monthly payment to avoid charges.

You may not be able to pay off all of your personal debts (credit cards debts, student loan debts) within few months, but you should start making extra payments towards your debts to pay them off as early as you can. Save money every month to make some extra payments toward your highest-interest debts.

For example,

If you’re planning a splurge of $100 this weekend, then use the money to make extra debt payments instead of splurging on something you don’t need.

This way strategy will be more beneficial in the long run by allowing you to be a debt-free person.

5. Start Funding a Retirement Account

If you don’t have a retirement fund yet, then open an account and start funding. If your workplace has a 401 (k) plan or an IRA, then take advantage of them to get the tax benefit as well. Remember, there is no particular time or age to invest money for your retirement years. The earlier you think about your retirement, the sooner you secure your financial future. Try to put money into a retirement account as soon as possible to take advantage of compounding.

6. Ask for a Raise

If you’re working hard and performing well in your workplace, then this is the right time to ask for a raise. Approach to your employer to attempt to get paid according to your capability. You can also consider a side hustle to boost your income. Go online to get a sample of ideas.

7. Financial Trouble? Seek Professional Help

Knowing the exact solution for each personal financial problem is not possible for most people. To get proper guidance and solutions, seek professional help. A financial advisor can help suggest the right option that helps you make the right decision.

For example:

Consider professional help before investing money, making a will, and taking out a loan.

8. Utilize the Internet and Subscribe to Coupons

Couponing is one of the most effective ways to save money in your daily life. It helps to save money on groceries and other household expenses. If you have a smartphone and an Internet connection, then you can sign up with many manufacturers’ websites to find branded coupons. Many companies offer coupons on a regular basis on the Internet so you must keep eyes open to grab some great deals on regular purchases.

Finally, setting financial goals is important, but set realistic and achievable goals. Don’t imagine yourself as a multimillionaire at the beginning of your personal financial career. There is no such shortcut to becoming rich. You must earn money and save money with determination. Research well and read more to invest your money for the best return. Thus, you can ensure your personal financial health in future.

Author’s Bio: Amy Nickson is a web enthusiast. She works for Oak View Law Group, a leading consumer and bankruptcy law firm based in CA and operational across US. She loves social media, as it gives her endless opportunities to reach out to a larger audience in a more unbiased way.

Image Credit: stevepb via pixabay

How to Save Money on Amusement Parks

Summer is the time of year when most kids are out of school and the weather is pretty warm throughout the country. Many families take vacations during the summer so as to avoid conflicts with school, and one of the more common stops on family vacations is the amusement park.

Growing up, I went to King’s Island near Cincinnati, Ohio, nearly on an annual basis. I first visited the park probably around 1978. I lived only about four hours away, so it was a visit that I could turn into a day trip as I got old enough to drive. I bet I’ve been to the park about 20 times in my life. I’ve been to other parks, but this is the park I’ve visited the most.

Replica of the Eiffel Tower at King's Island in Mason, OH
Replica of the Eiffel Tower and fireworks at King’s Island in Mason, OH–Photo by Author

While visiting with some friends in the area, I decided to take my family of four to King’s Island. I looked up the ticket prices. Buying a ticket at the gate was a whopping $64. I think I paid around $40 on my last trip about 12 years ago. This seemed pretty high for a non-Disney visit.

Buy Online

One of the easiest ways to save money on many park tickets is to buy this ticket online. Purchasing the tickets before your visit costs anywhere between $42.99 and $46.99 for an all-day ticket. That’s a pretty big discount over the $64 that you’d pay by driving up and buying admission at one of the park’s ticket booths. Multiply it by four (or whatever the number of people in your family is), and suddenly, we’re talking real money.  I was also able to purchase online tickets for Disneyland Paris at a discount earlier this year. These tickets today are starting at $53 for specific days.

Go On Off-peak Dates

I noted the $53 Disneyland Paris tickets in the paragraph above. These only work on specific days. Disney parks in the USA are also charging different prices based upon when a person wants to visit. Those going at peak times are going to have to pay for the privilege. Going back to King’s Island, I was able to get in at a big discount back in the early 2000s (if memory serves correct, the admission cost was $19.99). The catch was the fact that the visit came in late October, which was right around the time that the park was closing for the season.

Buy a Late Admission Ticket

I noted earlier that I found online tickets as low as $42.99 for my recent visit to King’s Island. This was not the lowest price available however. Those who are willing to wait until 4pm to visit and purchase their tickets online can get in for as little as $30.99. This is a cost savings of more than half. I remember that most of my trips to King’s Island saw me getting to the park around opening at 10am, and with the exception of exactly one trip with a couple of friends, I never closed the park down. Most of the time, I left around 5pm so that I could get a quick meal and drive home at a decent hour. That meant about 7, maybe 8 hours in the park. I decided it would be a good idea to wait until right at 4 to get to the park. Sure enough, I saw more people leaving than going in at this time. They got 6 hours of fun for anywhere between $43 and $64, while I got 6 hours of fun in a less-crowded park for $31. Who got the better deal?

Another example I have is from a visit to the Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. We visited this park three years ago, as the Twin Cities was the closest major city for us at the time. We had visited and let the kids ride a couple of the rides by buying tickets. We’d spend quite a bit for just a handful of rides, as we were more interested in shopping on previous visits. We then found that you could buy a ticket to ride all day for about $35. Wait until 5pm, and we found that you could ride as much as you can ride  until closing for only $19.99. While Nickelodeon Universe is far from the most impressive amusement park in the world, $19.99 is not a bad price for a few hours of fun.

SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at the Mall of America, via Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GmbH at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0de

Looking into these three tips can help you maximize your money when going to an amusement park. While this is not earning money in pajamas, it is a step that can help you make the dollars you make go a bit further, and who can be against that?