Back to School Shopping Tips to Save You Money!

It’s almost that time of year for school to start back. Summer is quickly coming to an end and football season is just around the corner. A great article found at lists 6 Pro Shopping Tips for back to school shopping. I would like to share those tips with you in this week’s blog post.

Tip #1: Take inventory of what you currently have – I was actually looking for a binder at my house the other day so I looked in the cabinet where we keep school and office supplies. I could hardly believe how many supplies we already had on hand! We shouldn’t have to buy note cards again until 2025! I had apparently found quite a few sales last year on school supplies and decided to stock up. We had packs of paper, erasers, folders, etc.

Before you go shopping, make a list of items needed for school then check off what you already have on hand. You may be surprised to find out how much you can save because you have purchased the items beforehand.

Tip #2: Label everything with your child’s name – It pretty much happens to everyone so don’t be upset when your child loses his pencil or new set of markers. These items will be less likely to come up missing if there is a name on them.

Tip #3: Save even more by shopping on tax-free weekends – Tax free shopping days are scheduled in my neighborhood for the first week of August which is a great time to shop for school supplies. The tax savings can be used to purchase other items or to simply save you money. My local sales tax is 10% so by purchasing on the tax-free weekend I have automatically saved 10% on my purchases. Not bad to start with so add those savings to the discounts and sales you find and you can save more money than you might have thought possible.

Tip #4: Buy only the essential items now – If you are having a difficult time coming up with all the money you need to buy school supplies, buy only the items that are necessary at this time and save up to buy the other items later. I promise that it won’t hurt your child to use an old binder or pair of scissors for a few months. Let your child help you with the budget and he will better understand what you mean when you say that you don’t have the money to buy it now. Use the envelope system for school supplies and tell your child he can only spend the money in the envelope. Once the money is gone, it’s simply gone. It is a great visual representation of “we don’t have anymore money for this purchase.”

Tip #5: Find the best deal on everything – Do your research and find the best deals on items, especially big ticket items. My family is going to need to purchase a new laptop within the next 6 months so I will look for the best deal I can find. I am an educator, so many companies give educator discounts. Some companies price match so do your research beforehand and make sure you have found the best deal.

Tip #6: Classroom wish lists are simply wish lists and are not required – Money and supplies can be tight in school systems, so teachers will often ask for supplies they will need for the classroom throughout the year. Don’t feel obligated to buy all the supplies if you cannot afford them. I know it would be nice to have 30 rolls of paper towels and 30 boxes of Kleenex if you are a teacher, but only buy something if it doesn’t take money away from your other school supplies. Families that can afford to buy wish list items usually will buy them and sometimes will even buy extra.

Do your homework before you shop for school supplies this year. It’s worth the time and effort to be prepared ahead of time!


Speed Up the Mortgage Payoff Process

A mortgage is often the largest debt for individuals. If you looked at the exact cost of the house you are living in taking into consideration the principal and interest payments over the life of the loan you would probably be shocked! It seems normal for most of us to just look at how much the monthly payments are without considering the total cost of the home.

Instead of being weighed down with the mortgage, you could opt to speed up the payoff process. Consider the following ways to pay the mortgage off quickly.

1) Refinance your existing mortgage to a shorter term – Most mortgages are for 30 years which makes the monthly payments lower. Contact your mortgage company or research current interest rates to see if refinancing is a better option for you. To illustrate, if a person has a 30-year mortgage with an interest rate of 7.5%, it might be in your best interest to refinance to a 20-year mortgage at 4.25% interest. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • $225,000 home purchased with 20% down for 30 years at 7.5% interest.

                 Home Value: $ 225,000

                 Loan amount: $ 180,000

                 Interest rate:  7.5%

                 Monthly payment for 360 months: $1,258.59

  • Refinance same amount at 4.25% interest rate for 20 years

                 Home Value: $225,000

                 Loan amount: $180,000

                 Interest rate:   4.25%

                 Monthly payments for 360 months: $ 1,114.62



2) Making extra monthly principal payments – For a $180,000 30-year 7.5% mortgage, by paying an additional $50 per month you could save $40,288 in interest and pay the mortgage off 3.7 years quicker than the original loan. For a 20-year mortgage at 4.25%, paying an additional $50 per month will save you $15,959 in interest and will shave 3.02 years off your mortgage. While you may not be able to pay an additional $50 each month, any additional amount that you can pay will help chip away at the debt.

3) Dropping PMI – If you paid less than 20% down on your home, your mortgage company probably required PMI on the loan. PMI stands for Private Mortgage Insurance which is the insurance paid to the lender in case the borrower is unable to make the mortgage payments and goes into foreclosure. The insurance helps lower the risk for the lender.

Once you pay the loan down below 80% of the original mortgage, you can contact your lender to have the monthly PMI payments removed from your mortgage payment. The cost varies but you could save from $50 to $200 or more per month by removing the PMI.

I would advise you to take a close look at your mortgage this week to consider the ideas listed above. Even making a $10 extra payment per month could make a noticeable difference in the term of the mortgage and the amount of interest you pay.

Staying on Budget Even on Vacation

Summer time is vacation time for many people. It’s the time to relax and enjoy each other’s company together away from all the hustle and bustle that we call life. But can you go on vacation and stay on budget? Absolutely. It just takes some planning and preparation before the trip. Here are a few tips to help you stay on budget even on vacation.

Tip #1: Save up ahead of time and don’t blow the budget. Most people know they plan to take a vacation, so one good thing to do is begin saving today for the next vacation. If you budget a specific amount each week to be saved for a vacation, you will have the money to pay cash when the time comes.   Then use the cash you have saved and don’t be tempted to use a credit card.

Tip #2: Look for activities that don’t cost quite a bit of money. Look online for tips on activities for the destination you choose. Many times over the years, my family has just so happened to be in the right place at the right time to obtain free access to activities that would have cost money. Once we were visiting an aquarium and someone noticed we were taking our time and making photographs. The person asked if we would be interested in a behind the scenes tour. Of course we accepted the offer and had a great time that most people will never get to experience. The best part is that it didn’t cost us anything!

Tip #3: Plan your meals so they don’t break the bank. My family will often purchase breakfast items for our trips such as breakfast bars and granola bars. This can save you money that can be used elsewhere on the vacation. Another idea is to share meals when dining out. Today’s meal portions seem to be more than enough for one person. Instead of wasting food, choose entries that can be easily shared.

When heading out to theme parks, pack a lunch and snack items to carry with you. Sometimes this can be tricky if the park does not allow outside food items so check before you go.

Tip #4: Leave the credit cards at home. Don’t be tempted to charge your vacation to your credit card because you didn’t have enough money saved. Only take the vacations you can afford, not the ones you have to charge. It isn’t worth the interest that it will cost you over the long run. Pay cash if at all possible.

Tip #5: Take a stay-cation instead of a vacation – Instead of taking a week long vacation out of town, consider taking day trips to areas within driving distant. This will save you the cost of a hotel which can often be the largest cost of a vacation. Make a Google search of attractions and activities within a two or three hour drive of your home. Pack a lunch and some snacks to save even more. You might be amazed at all of the activities available close to home.

Vacations don’t have to break the bank.  Plan ahead and budget the amount you will need and avoid using those credit cards!


Ways to Get a Discount for Online Purchases

I don’t know about you, but to me time is money. No longer are most of our days free to do the things we want to do. With today’s busy schedules, time is at a premium. One way to save time is by making online purchases. Online shopping has made the task of shopping much easier than it used to be in the past. But how can you save when making online purchases. Generally the price listed is the price, right? Well, not necessarily.  Below are a few ideas that might make your online shopping more advantageous.

Idea #1: Chat online with a customer service representative and ask for a discount just like you would ask a sales person in a store. If the company doesn’t offer online chat services, call them up and ask for a discount. Explain that you are going to make the purchase but will need a discount. If they won’t give a discount, ask for free shipping.

Idea #2: Many times if you put purchases in the shopping cart and leave them without completing the purchase you will receive an email saying they noticed you did not complete your purchase and have left items in your shopping cart. The email will usually offer a discount or a discount code to make sure the transaction is completed.

Idea #3: Search online for coupon codes. Sites such as,,,,, etc., are good places to begin your search. A basic Google search will pull up additional sites for coupon codes. Sometimes the codes work and sometimes they don’t but it is worth the time if you find a working code.

Idea #4: Another great tip is to buy discounted gift cards and then use those gift cards to make purchases. I have used this option a few times without any issues, but make sure your do your research before you make a purchase. Many sites are legit, but others may not be reputable. One site I recently researched is They have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Idea #5: Sign up for store email accounts and receive coupons via email. Stores often send emails with discounts or coupons for you to use for online and even in store purchases. If you don’t mind having a few extra emails each month, it might be a good option for you.

Idea #6: Use a cash back rebate site that offers 2% or more if you make the purchase through their website. We will discuss rebate sites more in depth in a later blog, so stay tuned for more information on this topic.