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One of the things I like to do at the start of each year is to make a plan for myself and my family because I feel if I begin my year correctly, my budget goals for the year will be plain sailing.

Starting off the New Year 2014 with a budget in mind and a plan in place could be your start to a debt-free calendar year. What is most important is having your focus on finances, leaving distractions in the background and keeping your goal in mind. Turning off the television is where it all starts. Television instills ideas of grandeur in our heads, with guilt-inducing and money-motivating ads. Find another hobby that will motivate you better – try reading. Next, join every Free Rewards Card Program that you can. I know what you’re picturing – a huge key ring with hundreds of rewards cards dangling; you can avoid that chaos today with a digital version of almost every rewards card. Take this step to join and track your spending at your favorite shopping locales. To simplify this process, create an e-mail address specifically for your rewards cards and promotions. Only access this account when it is time for you to shop for an item or items you are looking for. As far as credit cards, I know you have those “emergency” credit cards available for use in your wallet. Hide them. Take a bit of cash instead, you will be far less motivated to swipe away in a dire situation. Don’t allow yourself to have a plastic safety net until you feel like you have the strength to not use it simply based on how easy it is to swipe.

Before you embark on that shopping trip, make a list before you leave. This will help to maximize efficiency and cut down on additional unnecessary spending. Don’t place anything in your cart that is not on your list, no matter how tough that may be and you will end up saving surprisingly more money than you envisaged. During this shopping trip, stock up on items you can use for multiple meals. Cut down on fast food and eating out, spend a weekend afternoon for a few hours and prepare meals for the week. This way you will save time and money, and you will also benefit by having healthy meals if you stick to it. Simple ingredients leave options for a lot of different meals to enjoy throughout the week and variety is key in sticking to this program. Spend time creating a casserole of sorts and make multiples. Freezing food is just as easy as purchasing a prepaid meal and it’s something you can eat healthily and cheaply. Instead of planning those meals around a cookbook you have, or a Pinterest recipe you found, base it on your local grocery stores flyer. Base it on the bigger items that are on sale and you will maximize the store savings discounts and you will get more bang for your buck. Don’t be afraid to do a comparison by taking a couple of extra minutes to compare the items on your list to those at another local store. Heck, the grocery stores do it all the time! Eventually you will come to find that one of the stores you choose will consistently have better deals and the more you frequent that location, the more you save.

All of these ideas are just the beginning of a new lifestyle for yourself in 2014, and when you make a plan, you prepare the ground going forward. Simple changes can really affect your pocket book in a positive light, and you may even find yourself having fun in the process.

Promo Codes and Gift CardsDid you get a bunch of gift cards for the holidays? If so, here’s the best way to extend that money so you can maximize your shopping spend.

Here are three insider tips:

1) Shop online and get a promo code

There are great sites around the internet that specialize in providing coupon codes and promo codes for many of the same places that you have a gift card for. Just surfing around, I found Lands End promo codes, JCPenney promo codes, and many others at My Coupons.. The site is simple to navigate and offers multiple codes for each store. That’s what I like – is the ability to utilize different codes depending on what I am buying. I’ve used them many times with great success – stretching my money!

2) Want cash for those gift cards instead? Sell them back.

Now for years people have sold gift cards for cash on places like Ebay. If you have a $100 gift card to JC Penney, for example, you can actually sell it on Ebay and probably fetch around 85-90% of it’s value. It’s good for you converting the gift card to cash, and good for the buyer who immediately saved 10-15% on his purchases.

There are also services online that do the same thing and I’ve found them to be even simpler. Here is one example on GiftCards.com. These guys have been around for many years and are trusted.

3) Sign up for a credit card in store

Now I am not someone that pushes folks to sign up for credit cards. In fact, this should be one of your last resorts, but if you want to save money, signing up for the in store credit card can knock an additional 15% off your purchases, taking that gift card money even further.

I hope these quick tips will help you spend that gift card money even better ! Happy New Year!

 

Promo Codes are fast becoming one of the most utilized forces on the Web to generate savings with online purchases. They come in all different shapes and sizes and we’ll take a brief look today at some of the most popular and how to use them properly.

To the uninitiated, Online Promo Codes are simple ways to save money on purchases of online merchandise that are on sale. They resemble the old garden-variety paper coupons that we’ve all taken to the store over the years except these are numerical codes. When you buy a product or service, there is usually a box in the checkout form that will ask the purchaser for the Code in order to calculate the discount into the final sales amount. The codes can be found on easily located websites where they are offered in bulk.

There are two product areas that seem to attract the most Promo Codes. One is department store websites such as Target, Home Depot etc etc. The codes are usually of short expiration but can be plentiful so these represent a huge savings opportunity. I’ve always tried NEVER to buy anything from a Big-Box store without some kind of Online Promo Code. Doesn’t always work out that way but more often than not I can usually squeeze a few bucks off my bill.

The second area is that of online phones, Internet service and mobile calling plans. Most of the manufacturers and vendors deeply involve themselves in this market place. One of the most lucrative currently offered are the “Verizon Promo Codes” which are very simple to obtain and can realize some deep discounts. They are wide-ranging and offer savings on many of their services.

If you are a smart “couponer”, these offers will definitely become a big part of your savings “arsenal” going forward, and given that we’re at the time of year when we’re looking to save every dollar we can, there is not time like the present!

We’re well into the busiest time of the year for department stores and gift buying and unless you exhibit some serious purchasing skills, there’s a chance that you won’t just miss out on some large, available discounts, but that you’ll get a chance to “pay through the nose” for some items. Here’s a few tips on how to save money on Christmas shopping.

Firstly – make a list. Write down everyone who you intend to buy a gift for this year. No matter how small, or even if you’re not quite sure what to by whom. It’s this list that will now set your budget. Obviously, closer relatives get the bigger budget than say distant relatives and workplace associates and friends. If you choose not to set this budget, you might as well open up that checkbook and start spending like crazy because that is exactly what will happen.

Next, organize your gifts in some kind of value order with the expensive ones up top. These you want to concentrate on first as there are more discounted dollars available here than with the cheaper gifts. Particularly with online purchases of electronic goods, you want to get those bought in a timely fashion or Hubby is going to be ticked off with his IOU parked under the tree on Christmas morning! With the gifts in order, you now want to spend some time online researching where your target areas are. Make sure with clothing purchases that you have relevant sizes available as returns will add to the gross cost of your items in terms of freight charges etc etc. I’d expect, based on what I did last year, that at least 50% of your buys can be made online – a huge benefit.

Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to put shoe leather on the concrete and get to your shopping. Again, start off with the larger items. Remember that part of what we can do here is to watch for discounts as we’re strolling through the stores. For instance, you may have planned on buying that new cell phone from BestBuy but whilst walking by the Electrical counter at Wal-Mart, you see the same phone offered at a cheaper price. This is where discounts really mount up as they are of the “unplanned” variety.

It’s very easy to lose your sense of discipline when shopping at this time of the year. The stores are jammed, and if you live in a Northern climate like myself, the weather is nasty. Traffic is horrendous and there is a ton of stuff to do. However, this is similar to what I’ve tried to emphasize in previous articles – you must stay disciplined. Don’t overpay for an item just to “cross it off your list”. That’s the road to disaster. It’s because of this that we must start shopping early. I typically begin just after Thanksgiving although I try to avoid Black Friday and Cyber Monday which I’ll elaborate on at a later date. If you are the procrastinating type and leave all your gift giving until the last minute, you are doomed to fail.

Providing that you follow my tips listed above and stay true to the cause, you’ll spend less than you thought and still have a wonderful and fun Holiday period. Try to remember – this is supposed to be fun!

happy cute young woman shopping

Upstate Coupon Pros

Welcome to Upstate Couponers! You like saving money? Then this is the place for you! We write about our shopping adventures, but more importantly, ways we've discovered to save a little cash along the way. Fulfill more of your shopping addiction by doing it on the cheap! We're beautiful because we are practical, and you can be too. Welcome!
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