August Financial Goals

On April 13, 2011, I gave my SMC readers an update to my Spending Diet from the month before. For an entire month, I wrote down everything I spent my money on and doing so revealed so much about my spending habits. I now have to confess that my April Spending Diet was the last time I took part in tracking every expense. Since August 1st is right around the corner, I have decided to get back on the financial hot tamale train, and take back control of my finances. First, I will make a budget for the month and then I will keep up with my version of Catey Hill’s Spending Chart.

For the month of August I plan to:

Cut Back on Eating Out

(except birthday celebrations, of course)

Consolidate Trips

Stick to my Grocery List

Eat Before Leaving the House

Lock Up the Credit Card for the Entire Month

Review My Finances Daily

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SMC Answers Email Question: How to Get the Most Out of Coupons

Today, I will be providing information to answer an email question that was submitted to She Makes Cents via my About.Me page, which by the way you should totally check out!

I’m trying the coupon bit, can you please show me how to use them, I guess coupon 101, and how to get the most out of my coupons, I often see where folks buy $600.00- 1100.00 in value , but pay $50.00 or less, can you teach me how to do that?

First off, congratulations on making the decision to start reevaluating ways to make your money work for you and not the other way around. To be honest, I do not coupon to this degree where I buy “$600.00-$1100.00 in value, but pay [around] $50.00 or less”, but I have seen it done. If this is the level of couponing that you aspire to, then there are a few things that you must consider:

  • Keep an ongoing grocery list. This helpful because it I find it easier to jot down an item I’m running low on or completely out of when I’m thinking about it. That way, it ensures that it makes it on my list. If I start a grocery list right before I go to the store, I risk forgetting something I actually need or spending money on products that I didn’t know I already had.


  • You must be extremely organized. Keeping up with coupons to multiple stores can easily become overwhelming if you do not have a system in place. Reuse a folder or an old note book where you store your coupons. Find a way of filing that works for you. For example, you can store coupons by type of product (groceries, health and beauty, fashion, restaurants, etc) or by store.


  • Don’t get tricked into buying things you don’t need. Stick to your list. Review your ongoing list before you actually go shopping. Then compare the list of items (including specific brands) on your list to your library of coupons you have compiled and filed away oh so neatly in your folder or notebook. Just because the coupons mentions that you have to buy three of the same products to get .75 off, doesn’t mean it is a good deal. Who really needs three containers of mayonnaise any ways?  Remember the tour of Amanda’s stockpile from TLC’s Extreme Couponing?


  • Know the stores’ policy about couponing. Some stores allow manufactures coupons and some don’t. In addition, some stores allow the practice of double couponing and some don’t.


  • Read the small print. So this one is self explanatory, yet few people actually take the time to read the tiny print. Think about it for a second, they make it small for a reason. It’s better to know the limitations of the deal before your get to the cash register.






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The Benefits of Teaching Children About Money


“I now realize that the greatest power in the world is the power of knowledge” (insert lol here if you already know where I’m going with this). The quote, was something that every student from my elementary school and I had to say at the start of every day. Nevertheless, the quote holds true– there is much power in knowledge and the sooner one understands a concept the better. Yesterday, in The First Piggy Bank, I posed the question: how do you introduce the concept of saving to children?  To take that question a step further, when is the best time to introduce the concept of saving to children? The earlier the better. According to Y!Finance, “the benefits of teaching your children about money early on are both immediate and long-term.” It helps in the development of smart saving habits earlier in life and also teaches discipline and self control. Understanding that just because you want something right now doesn’t mean that you can afford it, will save children and parents in the end. I’m glad I shared the tidbit of my first one hundred pennies because it allowed me to dig deeper into my memory bank of children and saving money. One memory definitely comes to mind. I was in high school and my best friend at the time had a little sister in elementary school. Instead of spending her money on snacks and little kid things, she decided one day that she was going to save her money for a limo. I thought it was extremely funny at the time, but admittedly, I didn’t realize how financially mature she was. The little sister, maybe around 5 years old at the time, decided on a goal and chose to cut her spending to save so she could one day afford her dream car, even if it was a limo. Some adults still haven’t mastered this concept in their endeavor to keep up with the Joneses, but that’s for another post.

While tweeting, I came across a link that directed me back to a site that is becoming a quick favorite of mine and a financial must: Mint and the Scholastic have teamed up to teach kids the basics of money management. Mint education has figured out a way to make learning about personal finance fun with how to articles to interactive games that guides kids to adults through the ends and outs of money management. Personally, I can’t wait to read More Education, More Problems? The Myth of Grad School.. Teaching kids about saving early will help them to respect your hard-earned money earlier in life. Just remember, adults, it is never too late to learn about personal finance and money management. See The 5 Golden Rings to Your Child’s Financial Success to start the conversation with your child/teen or a child/teen that you care for.


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The 5 Golden Rules to Your Child’s Financial Success

  1. Children learn what they see. How can you teach children about the horrors of impulse spending when you are guilty of it yourself? Clean up your act, first. In school, kids are taught the basics: reading, writing, mathematics, and science, rarely are they taught money management. Therefore, as an influential presence in a child’s life, you have the opportunity to shape their thoughts and views regarding personal finance.
  2. Make it fun! If it starts to feel like a school lesson, then you will start to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Several online resources available can make learning more enjoyable. For example, the FREE online video game I played yesterday on Mint’s Education page is both fun and illustrates how smart money decisions equals #winning
  3. Break it down so it is understandable. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why my mom told me we couldn’t afford a monkey (a pet I was totally obsessed with having), when I saw her simply put her ATM card in the machine and magically receive money back for the things she wanted. Explaining where money comes from is a good place to start in the conversation about money.
  4. Stop reinforcing bad behaviors. Merchants put all the goodies closest to the register for a reason. Not only are all of the goodies close to checkout, they are often strategically placed at a child’s eye level. This sets up the stage for several scenarios that counter-act the concept of smart money management. I worked in retail while in college and I saw kids and parents alike get suckered into buying items they had no intention of buying. I also witnessed, more often than not, the adults who bribed children into good behavior with the promise of a purchase. One way to stop reinforcing bad behavior is to explain that we are going into this store for “xyz” and if a tantrum for an impulse buy comes up, explain that if you want the item, you must save “blank” amount of money…also known as establishing financial goals #5.
  5. Make Financial Goals Together. Want a new bike? Video game? Nail Polish Set? Bracelet? Start saving. Adults if you want a new TV, that cute handbag from the other day, or that iPad 2….start saving. If you save and enjoy it, then they will too. In addition, there is much gratification to be found in accomplishing a goal.


    Mint Education


    PBS Parents

    Y! Finance


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How to Spend Less on Gas

Gasoline and oil prices are at their highest levels in the past two years; which is causing people to freak out and/or speculate just how bad this situation is about to get. $4.00 per gallon for regular unleaded is what we should expect as the norm in the coming days. I’ve even heard that we will see $5.00 per gallon in 2011. I don’t know about you all but these gas prices are killing me, especially since my car requires premium fuel. So what can we do? For one, I’m seriously considering riding my bike from the 5th grade with streamers, glitter, and basket- it’s economical and will definitely help me in my endeavor to achieve my awesome bikini body. But before I get to that point, I will remind you of some basic tips & tricks that you may have forgotten:

1. Speeding and braking wastes gas, so slow down. According to Fuel Economy, aggressive driving can “lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town”. Driving sensibly can save you between $.17-$1.12 per gallon.

2. Clean out your car. Simply said, excess weight = wasted gas. For every 100 pounds you remove from your car, you get 2% more gas mileage.

3. Plan and combine trips

4. Car Pool/ Telecommute (if you have that option)

5. Keep Tires Inflated Properly

6. Use Cruise Control on the Highway

7. Use A/C on the Highway (rolling your windows down causes air drag which forces the car to work a little harder and decreased fuel economy)

8. Use your GPS!! It helps you not waste gas from getting lost and often has a “shortest route” option in your device settings.



Gas BuddyGas Price WatchFuel Economy


Atlanta MiamiChicagoDC • Nashville


City and State AveragesPrices by Counties


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How I Saved My Dad $1600

Sorry Dad for putting you out like this one the internet, but this could help someone else save on their monthly utility bills.

Have you ever opened a utility bill and thought to yourself or aloud, “this has to be a joke! Am I getting punked?” Well after you finish looking for Ashton Kutcher hiding in your bedroom closet, what do you do? Do you call the service provider (this is what I usually do)? Put the bill back on the mail table? Out of site out of mind, right (this is what my mom usually does)? Or, do you just pay it (Dad…)? A similar scenario took place last week with my dad. He opened up a bill for a bundled package of home phone and internet and was immediately puzzled. To be honest, he probably spent like five minutes looking at the balance due at the top of bill trying to figure out how his bill was so expensive when the balance is cleared every month. Can you guess what he did next? He started to pay it. If this sounds like you or someone you know don’t freak out. First, review your bill for any possible errors. If it appears as if everything is correct, then you should reevaluate the services you do not need. This is when I stepped in for my dad. After reviewing his bill, I noticed that he was paying for long distance, caller id, call blocking, and random features; services that no one in my parent’s house use. Think about it, with the cell phone plans most people have now, when was the last time you made a long distance call from a landline? That equaled out to about $35 per month, so about $420 per year for a service that has not been used in years. Next was the issue of caller id. I can honestly say that my parents are probably the only people in the world who don’t scan incoming calls. That is because they have not upgraded their home phones since I was in the third grade, so they don’t have the equipment capable of even showing them who is calling. Another waste of money. Then there is call blocking. This one is funny to me because it was a necessity during my high school years….lol… so embarrassing. Again, another waste because high school was almost ten years ago. Okay. So you have reviewed your bill and you can recognize places where you can slim down. What’s next? Don’t call the service provider yet. Instead, research your other options. When I was moving into my home, I was researching service providers and came across a truly awesome site: All Connect is a free site that helps you manage your household expenses and identify savings opportunities in your home services. All you have to do is enter your address and All Connect provides you with information for bundled and individual services. They will ask you questions about your current provider and your average expenses per month and then show you options from your current provider and their competitors. I will recommend that you review your savings for bundled services in comparison to individual services. One is never promised to be a better savings opportunity over the other so it will be beneficial to review both. Now you are educated and you have all the cards in your hands. This is the time to contact your service provider to inform them that you are aware of better deals. They will upgrade your current package for your current price, offer you a discount, or try to match the better deal of their competitors. Why? Because after all is said and done, they do not want to lose your business.  It worked for my Dad with a calculated savings of about $1600 per year. Good Luck!!

If you decided to try All Connect, please let us know about your experience in the comment section below.