Saving money and cutting expenses are never the favorite dinner table topic, but they are vitally important for individuals and families to discuss. And while there are quite a few drastic ways to save money on your monthly bills, there are actually quite a few small but simple ways to save that you can start TODAY. These seemingly easy adjustments probably won’t have that big of an impact on your day-to-day, but could result in some substantial savings.
Here are five very simple budget cuts that you can make today:
Change Your Thermostat
Did you know that adjusting your thermostat by just one degree can result in up to 10% energy savings? Keeping our homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter is expensive, and takes a lot of energy. And, the amount of energy that you save by adjusting the temperature is substantial. Depending on where you live, the results could be even more staggering.
Part of the reason the energy savings are so high is because most electric companies charge in a tiered rating system, which means that higher users get charged substantially more. This is why even cutting back a little bit can have a dramatic effect, because it can move you out of a higher tier and into a lower one.
Start by seeing if you can handle a temperature of 68 degrees in the winter and 74 degrees in the summer. Throw on a sweater in the winter if it feels a little cool, and make use of a few box fans in the summer if it’s still a bit hot.
Continue pushing until you find a temperature that you are comfortable with, even if it isn’t perfect. If you want to take it a step further, try adding insulation to your attic, and making sure that all your doors and windows are sealed tight.
Make Coffee at Home
Grabbing coffee on the go is convenient, but it’s also extremely expensive. Cut this habit out and you’ll see immediate savings. And, it isn’t very hard to do.
Figure out how to make the equivalent of what you buy at home. If you drink regular drip coffee, this should be pretty simple. Get a cheap coffeemaker, and make sure it has a timer. Set it up the night before, so that your coffee is ready when you get up to leave. One of the biggest reasons people pick up coffee on the go is because they ran out of time to make it in the morning.
If you tend to prefer a fancier drink, like a latte, look into purchasing a used espresso machine. This will add time to your daily routine, as making a latte can take 5 minutes. But, you’ll save yourself quite a bit of money. You can also try purchasing a machine that makes the drink for you, like a Nespresso.
If possible, try cutting back on the expensive coffee drinks. Perhaps only grab one on a special occasion, or once a week.
Turn your Hot Water Heater Down
Similar to point #1, keeping your hot water heater warm takes a lot of energy. Your hot water heater has to keep an entire drum of water hot all the time, so that you have hot water when you want it. Depending on what temperature you have it set to, this ongoing process can take a lot of energy.
You would be surprised how hot you actually need the temperature set to. You might have the temperature set much higher than needed. Test different temperature settings to see how low you can go.
Cut Out On Subscription
Chances are, you have at least one monthly subscription you don’t utilize to the fullest of it’s extent. Perhaps this is a daily newspaper delivery, or the more obvious one: your cable TV subscription. Either way, try finding one subscription that you aren’t making use of, and get rid of it.
If you have an expensive gym membership, perhaps try making a portable home made gym out of a spare bedroom and picking up a few used dumbbells and kettlebells. Or make exercising a family event and workout with your kids!
The list goes on, but for most families, you’ll be able to find at least one subscription to cut out.
Stop Drying with the Dishwasher
Another easy one to put into place right now, stop using the dry setting on your dishwasher. While dishwashers have become a lot more efficient in their water usage, their energy usage for drying has not gotten a lot better. Dishwashers use a tremendous amount of energy when drying dishes, and you don’t really need to use them for this task.
Just wash, and then open the dishwasher up and let the dishes air dry. It doesn’t take any extra work out of you, except to just wait a few hours for the dishes to try.
Saving money is not necessarily a fun topic, but there are simple things you can do right away to start saving. Once you see how easy it can be to save money, you’ll have the motivation to tackle the bigger and more challenging money saving tactics.
Allen Michael is the founder and editor of The Stick Vacuums (https://thestickvacuums.com/), a website focused on helping others keep a clean home as efficiently as possible. Allen stumbled onto stick vacuums while trying to help his family keep their home clean with less work, and has since become an expert on saving money and time in your home.
Overwhelmed by health insurance options? For Americans, few things conjure the financial dread of an unexpected hospital or doctor’s visit because let’s be real – even with insurance it can be painfully expensive.
Getting your financial life in order does not mean that you should ignore your health, something that could be far more costly in the long run. That said, with the future of healthcare and insurance so up in the air right now, the fear regarding this facet of American life has probably never been more heightened, but don’t fret!
This list, while only a mere starting point, can help you identify some of your options when it comes to healthcare and ideally keep you from over/underpaying to keep yourself (and your family) protected.
Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare – What’s the difference?
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. If you don’t earn much money, you can qualify for one or more of these programs. They’re designed to assist the most vulnerable members of our society; Medicaid and CHIP for lower income families and families with children respectively, and Medicare for seniors.
Medicaid is a state-run program and the rules that govern the program can vary a bit state-to-state. The criteria for qualification is established by your state legislature, so you can check your state government website to find out more about income criteria. For most, it’s being under ~115% of the poverty level.
Here in Illinois that’s about $1,337 a month, but the Affordable Care Act expanded those mandates – people ages 19-64 who have income less than 138% of the federal poverty level are eligible. Again, that’s about $1,350 as an individual or $1,845 as a couple.
The coverage also differs, with various co-insurances, copays, deductibles, and premiums based on your income level, but it prevents you from going bankrupt from medical expenses. Many people won’t pay much of anything, so it’s a very good option when you’re getting back on your feet, financially.
CHIP is the same as Medicaid in terms of criteria being based on income, but it expands coverage significantly for people with children (Children’s Health Insurance Program).
Medicare is a program open to Americans aged 65 years or older, people with certain disabilities under the age of 65, and everyone who has end-stage renal failure or ALS. Like Medicaid, this program covers certain things more or less, depending on the level of coverage you want. Premiums and deductibles also change.
The enrollment for all of these programs has been simplified (to an extent) with the introduction of www.healthcare.gov, following the introduction of the ACA. You can go to that site and look up your specific state, determining if you qualify for any of the above programs. They’re not completely on-par with many private insurers, but can be better in some cases, depending on your income level.
Free Clinics & Teaching Hospitals
Many cities – particularly larger ones – have teaching hospitals with free clinics. These are a great place to get checked out without spending much or any money. Most don’t even check income levels – you simply sign in and wait to be seen.
The problems that arise from these clinics is that they are often understaffed or inundated with patients. If you yourself have the patience to wait, however, you can be seen essentially for free, but you may not be seen as thoroughly as you need to be. So be mindful that a free clinic may seem great, but it’s not necessarily a great choice unless it’s the only choice.
Thought not exactly medical, some cities also have teaching clinics for dentistry, where you can get very low cost cleanings, fillings, etc done. Again, it’s a waiting game, but it may be better than paying all your savings for a cavity, or worse, not getting the care you need.
Many hospitals – particularly religiously affiliated ones – offer a program called “Charity Care” or something similar. Essentially, you need to prove financial burden or sufficiently low income, and they will pay off some or all of your bills.
Quick story here – When my husband and I first started dating (like maybe four dates in), he sent me a text at 3am saying “You probably won’t want to date me anymore…”
Yeah, anyone else thinking he cheated? Because I did. And I lost it. Like what the hey, we JUST started dating and you’re already cheating??!
Oh. But no…
He had a blood pressure issue and passed out at a friend’s house, concussing himself on the way down. Unfortunately, his insurance had lapsed, because he’d just graduated college two days prior. The ER bill total was around $3,500 – a bill that was pretty insurmountable for a guy working at a sandwich shop with no insurance. He spoke to the financial services department and got the bill reduced substantially, and fortunately was able to pay the rest of it off with no problems.
Along the lines of #3, many hospitals are very willing to work with you on your bills, provided you contact them as soon as possible after the services. Solutions include bill reduction, payment plans (some will take anything over $10/month, no matter the size of the bill), or temporary forbearance of the bill for a period of time. Failing everything else, this is almost always going to work in some way to alleviate the burden of a huge bill all at once, so don’t hesitate out of fear. The longer you put off talking to them, the harder it’ll be to reach a deal that benefits you both.
This goes back to #1, because the same website – www.healthcare.gov – that you use to qualify for Medicaid will also bring you to the exchanges if you make over the Medicaid limit. The exchanges are set up to offer a premium discount on the insurance you end up buying.
The amount is, once again, dependent on your income. The issue here, however, is the exchanges appear to have a rather sizeable blind spot; for a single person without children, income amounts between around $18,000/year and $29,000 a year don’t get any assistance. Under that amount, and you probably qualify for Medicaid. Over it, you get the premium assistance. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s another tool to ensure that you’re insured, and the premium assistance is actually pretty significant – typically at least half.
Because of the ACA, most colleges – particularly state colleges – have started mandating that their students are covered by some level of insurance. Because of this, those same colleges usually offer student insurance at a significantly reduced rate.
For instance, a local University’s plan looks like this:
Blue Cross Blue Shield
~ $110/month premium
They pay 80% after your deductible is met and they only require copay on prescriptions
This is incredible coverage, even if the price were doubled. The only caveat is you need to be taking at least 1 credit hour of on-campus classes, but one credit + the cost of insurance would still only be about $210/month.
Enrollment is automatic, and even with class fees and tuition, you’re still possibly looking at less total cost than healthcare on the exchanges, depending on your situation. In addition, if you’re already going to college, it’s totally worth it in most cases to be enrolled in the student insurance (unless you’re still under your parent’s plan).
Along the lines of charity cares specific to a hospital, local charities often help pay difficult medical bills for families in need. Check with local churches, and often food banks or crisis/domestic violence care centers will have contact information. Again, this is more of an “emergency” sort of situation, but it’s worth asking if you need the help.
Health shares are newer programs that are typically structured around faith communities. In it, people share the cost of medical procedures across a very large group. This creates a scenario where someone will be covered for anything because everyone pays into the pool, and everyone benefits. These are typically tied to Christian communities, but if you’ve got the option, they may be great for you.
Living frugal means living healthy!
Medicine is about helping people, not bankrupting them. Without going into a broader, more convoluted conversation, let me just say that health insurance shouldn’t be as intimidating as it is. We all deserve the opportunity to make healthy choices and see a doctor when needed. And as I said, I know this list is just a small dip into the world of health insurance, but hopefully it’ll help you get started on making better choices today.
Do you find making health insurance choices overwhelming?
Sound off in the comments below and let me know what you think!
Financial freedom sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? The thought of never again having to set up autopayments or worry about what bill is due when…Ahhh-mazing.
That said, have you ever thought about the benefits of financial freedom BEYOND just freedom with your finances?
Well today we’ve got Jacob from Dollar Diligence to introduce us to the non-financial benefits of financial freedom —
Being $25,000 in student debt, I knew I was feeling the strain and the anxiety. I hadn’t experienced a good night’s sleep in months and felt drained of energy on most days. I wasn’t completely hopeless, but I felt constrained by the enormity of the problem.
The damage my debt was doing to my finances and credit was clear, because I monitored it almost daily. But, what wasn’t so clear was the damage it was doing to me and those around me. The stress, coupled with my inability to concentrate on much of anything else, led to a deterioration of my health, my relationships and my career.
Getting free of debt not only gave me my financial freedom, it saved my career, and it probably saved my life.
Financially I’m not yet where I want to be, but I now have a clear path to achieving my most important goals. It’s a feeling like no other. While the financial benefits of becoming debt-free are clear, less clear, but much more important, are the non-financial benefits. When you understand how debt impacts every corner of your life, it becomes your most powerful motivation to eliminate it completely.
The Physical Reality of Debt
You feel it first in your emotional makeup. It’s hard to ignore the feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, but you feel as if you can cope with it. What you don’t realize is the physical toll it takes. Studies show that stress is a leading cause of heart disease and researchers have found a positive correlation between debt-induced stress and heart attacks.
When I was at the peak of my distress, my family forced me to get a physical. I found out I was a hypertensive time bomb that needed immediate disarming. I long ignored the migraines, the weight gain and the new age lines – all stress-induced. When I got rid of my debt, I got my health back.
Debt Can Hollow Out Your Life
While your mental and physical health deteriorate under the weight of debt, everything else that is important in your life seems to fade into the background – your family, your relationships, your career and your future.
When you can’t concentrate on anything other than your finances, nothing is prioritized. It doesn’t happen deliberately; it just happens.
You grow distant from the people close to you and there is no urgency in your relationships at home or at work. Some people become resentful of others – their spouse for not understanding or being able to help, their employer for not paying enough and anyone who is enjoying a debt-free life.
Debt threatened my relationships, my career and my future. When I became debt-free, I got my life back.
Finding the True Meaning of Wealth
At the risk of drawing any comparisons between eliminating debt and surviving some real life and death situation, I did gain a similar sense of appreciation of everything around me.
There are so many moments of wealth that occur in our lives that, when we’re lost in a fog of despair, we miss entirely. Wealth is as much about accumulating these moments of love and happiness as it is accumulating vast sums of money.
It’s also about being able to choose how you want to live your life – free to pursue your passion with peace-of-mind and no encumbrances. All of that is lost when you can’t see past a stack of bills. When I became debt-free, I became a very wealthy man.
It may seem hopeless at times, but there are great rewards awaiting you for taking a stand against your debt, the least of which is your financial freedom. When you understand how much is taken from you when debt controls your life, there is no greater feeling than making that last payment.
What would you life look like if you were financially free?
Tell us in the comments below!
This post courtesy of Jacob @DollarDiligence Follow him for daily personal finance tips! Jacob is a high school math teacher who hustled his way out of student loan debt. Frugality is Jacob’s middle name (okay…maybe not…or is it…)
Being a stay-at-home-mom is a rewarding job, but the pay is garbage!
So what do you do when you want to remain at home with your children, but…
the money is tight…
the budget is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to the limit…
couponing is getting you nowhere fast…
and you just don’t have enough to go around…?
You start a business.
Today’s post is brought to you by Tiffany A. Ingle of Taingled Web –
I know what you’re thinking: “Me, start a business? I don’t have a degree! My kids need too much attention! I’ve been out of the workforce too long. I don’t have time!”
Listen, Mama – I understand how you feel. I’ve been there! But excuses don’t pay the bills. And I can assure you that, yes, even you can start a business.
To be clear – when I say business, I’m definitely not talking about joining some slimy MLM and selling to your warm market (a.k.a. harassing your family and close friends to spend their hard earned cash on overpriced makeup, oils, wraps, and shakes). Those businesses are founded upon an unsustainable model that is designed to enrich a tiny percentage of folks at the top while everyone else loses money more often than not.
What if I were to tell you there’s a skill you already possess that could earn your family an additional 4 or 5 figures every single month? Not only that, you already do it every day…for free.
If you guessed writing, you deserve a gold star.
The time you currently spend keeping boredom at bay at social media watering holes could be used to begin a satisfying and profitable business as a freelance writer.
Best of all, this is a business you can start with very little money. All it requires is the ability to string a decent sentence together, perseverance, the ability to research, and creativity.
The following is a basic guide to getting your freelance writing business up and running. If you put these steps into practice, you will be headed on the right path toward a brighter financial future.
1) Set your mind to it
Attitude is everything. Treat your business seriously from the get-go. You’ve got to make some mental adjustments in order to step into your new reality as a work from home mom.
First, audit your schedule! Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. While it is true there are some who can afford to buy more time in the form of hired help, even a mompreneur (that’s you!) can carve out time by trading non-essential activities for business building habits.
That reality show you use to escape the realities of never-ending housework? Out the window. Your favorite, addictive social media game? Kiss it goodbye.
Remember why you’re doing this. How would it change your life if you had an extra $1,000-5,000 or more each month? With hard work, this is how much you could be making with freelance writing.
2) Pick a specialty (niche)
Writers who are very knowledgeable about certain topics or writing styles make more money and find more work than general writers. The best specialties are those which pay high rates, draw upon skills you have, that you would be interested in learning about.
Were you a programmer before leaving the workforce? You could make a killing as a tech writer. Spent 5 years as a financial advisor? Ka-ching! That’s the sound of you cashing in as a freelance finance writer.
There are various writing niches you could explore, but I am focusing on business blogging in this post. Learn how to write in more technical styles and you can really cash in!
3) Develop your craft
You do not have to have a degree in English or Communications (or a degree at all) to be a successful freelance writer, but you do need to know how to write reasonably well.
Select a few top blogs in your niche to read daily so you will become familiar with the type of style you should use. Studying good copy will make you a stronger writer.
4) Re-purpose social media
Social media can be very powerful tools for business. Make sure you have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and anywhere else your potential customers are likely to hang out.
Most importantly, set up a Linkedin profile. A Linkedin account is a must-have for freelance writers to connect with bloggers and business owners who will pay for your services. You could even find a mentor in the form of a more experienced writer who has been in your shoes.
5) Create samples
Once you have picked your specialty (or niche), it’s time to brainstorm various topics that relate to your field. Try to come up with at least 30 ideas for possible posts.
If you get stuck, try doing a Google search for blogs in the same field. Pay attention to the types of posts and other content being shared most frequently.
Whatever you do, don’t plagiarize! Take notes about what appears to work and try to incorporate those elements into your own writing.
Produce three samples that are 750-1000 words in length (the longer, the better). Does that number make you pause? I’m willing to bet you write more than that on social media or via text on a daily basis.
A word on how to format your samples:
Research how to write for the web. Make your pieces easy to scan. Use lots of white space, bullet points, section headers, and ellipses. Stick with simpler language and short paragraphs with no more than 2-4 sentences each.
Use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to check the spelling, grammar, and readability of your pieces.
After you’ve written your sample, take a break from it for 24 hours. Re-read it out loud and listen to how the words flow. If anything sounds awkward while you’re saying it, it’ll be awkward for others to read it.
Get a second pair of eyes on your copy to catch anything you may have missed (your spouse is a good candidate).
6) Create your website
You’ve got to market your services in order to begin making money. Your own website is the best way to introduce the world to your amazing skills.
This is where you will end up having to spend some cash on your business. You can get away with a free option in the beginning but plan to save some money to have a proper website built for you or to purchase the tools you need to do it yourself (no coding required, unless you like that sort of thing). A professional website is not that expensive and it can go a long way towards getting you high paying writing jobs.
To start, a free portfolio on Contently or on WordPress.com will work. If you have a little money to spend each month, you may want to look into Squarespace.
7) Guest Post
Remember that list you made of blogs in your industry (see step 3)? Get it out again and check to see whether they are accepting guest posters. You are going to use your samples to showcase your abilities and land the writing opportunities you need to beef up your portfolio.
Aim for 3-5 solid guest posts on established blogs. When the posts are live, be sure to share your work on social media.
Now that you’ve got a nice portfolio with live, bylined posts, it’s time to pitch for paid opportunities. Set a goal to send 5-10 cold pitches daily during nap time. Make sure to include links to your best pieces and propose a piece you think would be great for the blog for which you’d like to write.
Important-make sure you’ve researched whether someone has already written about your proposed topic. Do a search on google for “[proposed topic]” site:[website.com]to find out. If someone has covered your topic, think of something else to write.
Keep track of where you are pitching and remember to follow up. Editors and business owners are busy people. Remember, today’s “no” could be tomorrow’s “yes”. Check in periodically with blogs that have turned you down in the past to see if there are current opportunities that are a better fit.
9) Improve Continuously
Good writers keep improving their abilities. You don’t need a degree, but you do need to develop yourself with ongoing training.
Get a library card and check out books on writing.Use that same library card to get a free account on lynda.com to learn skills you need to run a business.
Udemy has regular sales of courses for as low as $10. Subscribe to their mailing list so you can catch the next one. Try to pick up some (or all) of Shani Raja’s courses when they are discounted. Thank me later.
Some of the best writing courses for first-time freelancers also have pretty affordable payment plan options:
Take a deep breath. The journey to build a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time and do it the right way.
Every business requires hard work and investment to grow. Ultimately, you will get out of this experience what you put into it.
The ball’s in your court! What changes are you going to make in your schedule to make financial freedom a reality? I want to hear from you in the comments!
Tiffany A Ingle is a content marketing strategist and B2B blogger for hire running the one woman show known as Taingled Web. She’s also a wife and homeschooling mother of two. She’d love it if you would say hi on Twitter@taingledweb.
Ultimate Bundles is one that more and more bloggers are becoming familiar with – and for good reason! If you’ve read my post on affiliate marketing, you’re well aware that there are a number of options and routes to take when it comes to making money with affiliate marketing; that said, let me stop you right now and let you in on the one affiliate program you should join TODAY —
Ultimate Bundles Review
Now obviously I do want to throw a disclaimer in there that I am in fact an affiliate for them so should you sign up, I’ll earn commission, but this post was meant to be either way. They’re just that good.
Ultimate Bundles is a company that puts together HUGE bundles of e-books, courses, product discounts, and more – and they put them together in such a way that saves their customers literally THOUSANDS of dollars.
Now I first heard of Ultimate Bundles when the Genius Bloggers’ Toolkit was launched last year. This toolkit was a game changer for me and I absolutely fell in love with Ultimate Bundles. I knew I had to become an affiliate! And by the end of this post, I’m confident you’ll know you need to do the same. Why? Well…
Ultimate Bundles Payout
Affiliates for Ultimate Bundles typically earn 40% of each sale they make, with contributors earning 70%. That means that if you contribute one of your products to a bundle selling for $97, you stand to earn nearly $700 for every 10 people who purchase the bundle through your link! And that’s just ONE bundle! And even if you don’t have anything to contribute, you still stand to earn an average of about $40 per bundle you sell.
This is only an example of potential earnings and should not be taken as typical results.
Ultimate Bundles Discounts
One of the downsides to most affiliate programs is that you can’t earn a commission on your own purchases (lookin’ at you, Amazon…) Well, I’m happy to announce this is NOT the case with Ultimate Bundles. Not only do you get an automatic 40% discount on a bundle because you’re an affiliate, but if you sell 5 of those bundles, they will refund your purchase and you get the bundle FOR FREE. Pretty nifty, eh?
Since learning of Ultimate Bundles, I’ve purchased three bundles: Genius Blogger’s Toolkit, The Ultimate Work at Home Bundle, and A Very Merry Gift Certificate Bundle. And I can promise you that each one of them was worth WELL beyond what I actually paid for them. The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit contained programs and courses I’d been wanting to buy for months – programs and courses worth well over $3,000!! – and I got it all for $97. Then there was the Holiday Bundle – $180 worth of gift certificates for only $15 – which led to my buying all sorts of gifts (for both myself and friends/family) while only having to spend a few extra dollars on shipping. It was AMAZING.
No matter who your target market is, chances are Ultimate Bundles has a bundle for them. And if they haven’t yet, they probably will. They’re even open to suggestions!
Ultimate Bundles doesn’t just toss an affiliate link at you and send you on your merry way, oooh no. Instead they offer up HOURS of free education for all of their affiliates.
Don’t know what sort of blog post to write to promote a bundle? They’ll walk you through it.
Don’t know how to go about e-mail marketing? They’ll walk you through it.
Don’t even know where to start with it all? Yep, that’s right…they’ll walk you through it!
And this information they give to you isn’t just applicable to Ultimate Bundle sales, but to your blog strategies overall! And again – it’s FREE!!
Look at you, readin’ all the way through and still not sold. 😉 Okay, okay so there is a catch…sorta. The bundles are only available at certain times throughout the year – meaning if you don’t take the time to plan out an action plan for these sales, you’ll be left scrambling and won’t make nearly as many sales as you’re capable of during the sale window. That said – see above. Ultimate Bundles is always there to help and they even have a Facebook community available should you have questions or need additional support!
So what are you waiting for?
Sign up for be an Ultimate Bundles Affiliate today! Save