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Should you Repair or Replace your Broken Appliances?

You’re worried the washing machine may be on its last spin cycle. It makes a horrible screeching sound and needs a lot of coaxing to make it all the way through a full cycle. Should you spend $319 to fix this inefficient appliance or replace it with a $999 new model that will use less electricity and water?

Deciding whether to repair or replace your broken appliance—especially when trying to discover which option will save money in the long run—can be challenging.

A microwave oven sitting on top of a wooden table

Consider these basic guidelines and suggestions to help you decide, based on costs for replacement and repairs and the advantages of new models.

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Frugal Food and Grocery Shopping 101

As food costs continue to soar, it’s a good time to revisit the basics of frugal food shopping. Grocery bills and eating out can wreck a budget. Follow these tips and you will rein in those costs. Start discovering your own ways to eat on less.

Now more than ever it’s time to slash expenses in order to preserve cash.

Grocery store

Stop the take out, delivery

I get it. It feels as though we are in some kind of temporary, horrific season when it’s our right to do whatever it takes to just get through one more day until we never have to think about this again. At least you can get no-contact delivery of the food you’re used to. Right?

Please, stop those thoughts. We don’t know. Life is never certain, but more uncertain now than ever. The decisions you are making right now—such as paying for all these meals, delivery fees plus overly generous gratuities with credit—are going to come back to bite you hard. You cannot continue to opt for that feeling of entitlement even if you know for certain your job is coming back and things will be back to normal soon. You can’t know any of that. Life is uncertain.

Paying $20, $35 or more to take-out or to have your favorite restaurant bring it out to you, so you can get you through one more meal is about as unwise a decision as you can make right now.

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Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do!

 

Discouragement plagues all of us from time to time. If you’re discouraged about your situation—be it financial, family, job, or just basic uncertainty about the future—there are some things you can do to counter those feelings and attitudes. The most important is to know this will not last forever.

A couple of people that are sitting on a table

Let’s say your neighbor just got a fabulous, brand new vehicle. You are overwhelmed by feelings of desire and envy.

There was a time that you would begin immediately to find a way to get a new car, too. But things are different now. You have a new set of values. You no longer make financial decisions impulsively.

The car you have already is paid for and meets your family’s current needs. But still, those feelings are bubbling up. Just as soon as you recognize them, start erasing!

Replace those destructive attitudes with thoughts of paying for your next vehicle with cash; of not making huge monthly payments, not paying triple insurance premiums, not paying $400 for the annual registration fee, not forking over $600 for that 50,000-mile tune-up.

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11 Ways to Get the Best Online Deals and Discounts

Just about everyone who shops online knows to look for a discount, promotional code, or coupon of some kind before hitting checkout. According to Statista, in 2016 126.8 million U.S. adults redeemed online coupons, a number that’s projected to grow to 145.3 million users by 2021. But digital coupons are only one of 11 ways to get the biggest discounts and best deals this holiday season.

A person using a laptop

Coupon codes

Making it a personal commitment that you won’t buy anything online without a coupon code is something you’ll be able to carry out, almost flawlessly. Coupons and codes are out there if you know where to look. A simple Google search is one way. Another is to visit sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Totally stumped? Contact customer service or the online chat feature and kindly ask for a code. A simple “Is there anything you can do for me?” has been known to work very well.

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An Awesome Way to Get Cash Back When Shopping Online

I could teach you how to be an extreme couponer. I’ve had a lot of experience including the time I demonstrated how to do it, on location, live on TV from a large supermarket. It’s a great way to save money but it’s a lot of work and limited mostly to grocery and drug stores.

Imagine a world where you had the equivalent of a big stack of coupons for all the other places you spend money—like Target, Amazon and Kohl’s, Groupon, Old Navy, even LifeLock.

You do and it’s called Rakuten.

James Z-Computer Guy sitting at a table

What is it?

At Rakuten, instead of presenting a coupon, you have a digital account that earns you cash. Think of it as the grocery store clerk handing you that 25 cents when you bought the can of soup with a $.25 coupon and you putting that quarter straight into a savings account.

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Savvy Shopper Tricks and Treats

You think shopping is what you do when you buy things. That’s true, but it’s more than that. Shopping is a competition with you on one side and retailers on the other. And whenever the store gets more of your money than you planned to leave behind, they’ve executed a brilliant shopping trick. They win.

What follow are the tricks that retailers don’t want you to know. Learn them well and you’ll you’ll turn the tables on them. You’ll start winning at the shopping game!

A woman standing in front of a statue

TRICK: Buy only the loss-leaders and get out of there

A loss leader is something retailers sell so cheap, they’re losing money on the deal. Buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) is a great example. It’s like bait to get you into the store because they know if they can do that, you’ll buy other stuff at full price. The trick is to take just enough cash so you can buy up all of the loss leaders you will use and then get out of there.

Why stores hate this trick. Retailers hold sales to increase their cash flow—not to save you money. They do anything they can to get you through the door. Statistics tell them that once you’re in the door, there is a high statistical likelihood that you will pick up enough full-priced items to more than make up for that loss leader. It’s a risk on their part and when you don’t follow their plan, they lose. You win.

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Shopping With Cash is Still the Best Way to Save Money

Cash in hand

When did you last hold a $50 bill in your hand? The new ones look strange … faintly colored, graphically random.

A close up of a newspaper

You should pick one up some time to reacquaint yourself with something called U.S. currency. Look closely. It still reads: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.

Here’s my question: Does pumping my own gasoline at Costco constitute a debt, either public or private?

Between the moment my gas tank is full and the moment I actually pay for the gas, I owe Costco some money. I have incurred a momentary debt, and it seems to me I should be able to pay it with my U.S. currency.

Just try. In fact, at Costco filling stations my only choice is to pay with plastic—even though there are plenty of human attendants readily available.

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How to Take the Pain Out of Saving Loose Change

I am not one to spend coins. I prefer to save my pocket change. In fact, I go out of my way to make sure I get plenty of change so I have more to save! But I hate to carry loose change, and so does my husband.

Coin and Jar

We routinely dump the day’s accumulation into a container to save for a trip or to buy something special. One year we saved $1,100 in coins, but I have to admit the logistics can be a royal pain.

Banks and credit unions have strict rules about loose coins. Some require it to be rolled, wrapped and labeled before deposited. Others won’t accept wrapped coins. Either way, most these days charge a fee.

I don’t know what happened to me last weekend. I guess I was suffering from a severe case of TMC (too many coins). In a fit of frustration, I dumped the jars into a big bag and drove to the supermarket. I knew it would cost me 11.9% but at the time, it seemed reasonable. 

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With My Sincere Apologies to Pawn Shops Everywhere

In the wake of America’s big economic wake-up call back in 2008, dollar stores and thrift stores saw, and continue to see, a big resurgence. And now another kind of retail quasi-lender is commanding all kinds of attention from sellers and buyers, too—pawn shops.

I admit to having grown up with a weird bias against pawn shops. To me, pawn shops were just one level above Vinny the Loan Shark operating illegally in some dark alley in the bad part of town just waiting to break some knees.

A fish swimming under water

Where did that come from? I have no idea really, but let me quickly follow by saying it is a most faulty stereotype.

Pawn shops are respectable businesses that offer a viable service in many communities. And these days, thanks in part to Rick Harrison, whose family owns the Gold and Silver Pawnshop in Las Vegas and stars in the History Channel’s Pawn Stars—one of my personal favorites— business is booming.

What it is?

A pawn shop, owned and operated by a licensed pawnbroker, makes secured loans on personal property left in the broker’s possession to be held as collateral. The property can be redeemed by the customer when the loan plus a finance charge (think: interest plus per-month service charge) is repaid.

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Best Way to Sell Gift Cards for Cash

According to a survey by the folks over at WalletHub, gift cards were one of the most highly desirable gifts this holiday season. If you were the recipient of your most desired gift—a gift card to your favorite retailer or service, that’s fantastic!  

Gift card

But sometimes a gift card doesn’t quite hit the mark, making its way to the back of a wallet, the bottom of a drawer or—gasp!—hopelessly lost in all the spent gift wrap and ribbon that was hauled to the trash.

Consumers spend more than $130 billion on gift cards per year—and roughly $1 billion goes unspent. Every year! Believe it. It’s as absolutely true as it is mind-boggling.

If you got a gift card from a store you’ve never heard of or one you’ll most likely never use—you may be wondering if there’s a way you can exchange it for cash. 

Good news. There is. And not only that new gift card. You may be able to get cash for other gift cards you’ve been collecting—even the ones that you’ve used but still have a decent balance remaining. Read more