We interrupt your usual broadcast...

Over the course of this year, I've thrown alot of information at you. I hope that some of it has sunk in, but in the event that it hasn't, here is the whole year in one blog post.

Save money, by not spending:
Budgeting, best tool to help you understand your spending habits. Once you can track your spending, you can make adjustments to cut out spending and start saving. My What's in your wallet post, has excellent budget creating tips.

Factor out your Latter:
My latte factor is smoking. I've really cut back this year... on paper. I smoke just as much today as I did at the start of the year, the only difference is I don't pay the same amount. I buy cigarettes when they're on sale (2 packs for a discount) or when its buy one get one. I save pennies and hand those over for my cigarettes so I don't have to worry about pulling money from my checking account to feed my latte factor. While I wish I could cut it out completely, I'm not in a position in my life to make that change. But I adjust my latte factor so as to get the most out of my guilty pleasure as possible. If you're struggling with your latte factor, figure out how to make it impact your budget on a minimal level.

Shop during sales events:
Sales events are easy to spot. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Labour day, Independence day and other major holidays are excellent times to make big purchases. If you intend to purchase a big ticket item like furniture or plasma TV, wait for a long weekend and you will see prices being slashed at the stores that carry them. You can also apply for a store card and save more. Many stores will offer you a 10% off your first purchase or offer you an interest free card for the first year. And for the love of watermelons, look for coupons before hand. Get the most out of your sale!

Split the difference:
I know that many financial experts recommend paying of debts - especially high interest credit card debt first, before saving. Conventional wisdom suggests that paying off high interest debt garners an immediate 13%, 18%, 21% (or whatever) rate of return on your money. Makes sense. Here's the problem. If you take all of your available cash and pay down debt, then what will you do in case of an emergency? I find it a bit more psychologically comforting to save some money for emergencies, even if you are paying off debt. To my mind, it works the same way as the debt snowball. The debt snowball, class, is a method of repayment where you pay off the smallest debt first, regardless of interest rate. Once you have success in eliminating the first debt, you get a psychological boost and roll the former debt payments into paying off the next debt on the list. Psychologically, a good idea. Financially, not so much. But sometimes the process is not as crucial as the end result.

Fast Food, not Frugal:
First understand that the numbered combo meals are designed to get us to spend maximum dollars per visit. Menus are designed to capitalize on the fact that the average person either doesn't read the full menu or is unwilling to take the time to piece together a meal from the value menu. My local McDonald's charges $6.29 for a twenty piece chicken nugget box. A four piece box costs a dollar. By reading the menu and ordering 5 of the 4 piece boxes, a person can save $1.29. Granted, most people do not order a 20 piece, but I don't think the pricing difference is an oversight. The kids menu portions are closer to the recommended portion size for adults than anything else on the menu. So eat smaller and spend smaller! Look at it like this a combo meal ranges anywhere from $4.50 to $6.50 or more! Factor in a supersized fries and a supersized drink for only fifty cents more and you have a meal fit for a small family. Do you really need that much food? Absolutely not. Look elsewhere on the menu. Value menus are popping up all over the fastfood world. These value items are typically smaller and definitely a better bang for your buck.

Its Electricity my dear:
Large appliances like your refrigerator, stove, and microwave are other big consumers of electricity. Your fridge can account for 20% of household electricity use. Replacing old appliances with newer energy efficient models may seem like a big expense, but it can pay for itself in a few years. Set your fridge and freezer to lower (warmer) settings and make sure that the doors seal properly. You can do this by taking a piece of paper, your GECU bank statement would work nicely ;), and closing it in your fridge/freezer door. If you're able to move the paper up, down or pull it out, your doors are not sealing properly.

Noxious Gas of financial doom:
Check the web for deals. With the ever increasing gas prices, use the Internet to find the cheapest gas near you. Some of these sites even offer text messaging capabilities, where they will send you the a text message with the location of the cheapest gas in your area. Here are 3 sites that enable you to search for lower price in your town: MapQuest, GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com. GasPricesRelief.com now supplies a free gas card valid at most gas stations. But don't drive miles out of your way or wait in excessively long lines (your car gets 0 MPG while stopped and idling.) just for a cheaper station, or you will defeat the purpose.

Of course this is a loose overview of posts, and boy are they all over the grid. I hope to have some time to put my blog in ebook format so that you may all enjoy the lessons I've learned over the year. :)


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