Personal Finance Addict

Personal Finance Addict: March 2015

Mar 21, 2015

How Spending Less Money Can Make Your Life More Enjoyable

Most people (whether they admit it or not) spend money on needless things  It’s just become habit to buy the things you are used to buying, whether it’s food, beverages, or household items that you don’t realize there are other less expensive options for.  I had a habit for many years of stopping at a local fast food restaurant for a bagel and cream cheese every morning on my way to work.  When I first started this habit, it only cost $1.25 a day.  At the time of this writing, that same bagel and cream cheese costs $2.79.  This may not seem like much, but back in the day that $1.25 bagel cost me about $25/month.  At the current price, it would cost me $55.80/month.  If I buy my own bagels and cream cheese from the store and make my own, it would cost me roughly $26/month.  That is more than half the cost of what I would be spending at the drive thru. 

And that is just one example.  Just changing this one habit alone would save me $29.80/month.  Some of you might be thinking “that’s only $30.  What’s the big deal?”  Well first of all, that is just one item.  We have saved a lot more by making other changes.  We have dropped our cable altogether and use Hulu and Netflix instead.  We don’t even miss our cable.  We have cut out nearly all eating out and enjoy more time together at home being creative in the kitchen and saving money while we are at it.  We don’t buy many disposable items and instead use reusable replacements, such as cloth napkins or washcloths instead of napkins, rags instead of paper towels, real plates and silverware instead of paper and plastic.  We do still purchase toilet paper.  We draw the line at that one, but I won’t say I haven’t thought about it.  All of these changes add up to a lot of money saved.

Now let’s take this a step further and add up all of the savings we have made and see how much we could make in interest by investing this money we have saved.  Let’s use the $29.80/month I am saving by not buying that bagel and cream cheese every morning.  If I invest that into my 401k averaging a modest 6% interest rate, we would invest $16,272 in 20 years and earn $15,452.47 in interest for a total savings of $31,724.47.  That’s pretty incredible if you ask me!  I certainly don’t want to lose out on almost $32,000 just for a bagel.  If we manage to cut out $100/month in spending and invest that into a 401k averaging the same modest 6% interest rate, we would have invested $33,120 in 20 years and would have racked up $31,451.94 in interest for a total of $64,571.94. 

Here is a table of more examples: 

Monthly Savings
20 Years @ 6% Interest
25 Years @ 6% Interest
30 Years @ 6% Interest

The more and longer you can save, the more you can invest into your future.  Ask yourself these questions every time you are about to spend any money:

1. Is this a necessary purchase or do I have alternative options?

2. Is this a purchase that can wait?

3. Can I find a better price (either through another retailer, coupons, thrift shop, garage sale, or Craigslist)? 

Most of the time, I don’t make it past that first question. The grocery store is no exception. There are too many overpriced premade or individually packaged foods sold at grocery stores that you can easily spend a fortune on.  I am not a creative person at all and I have surprised myself how many times I have gotten creative and found other uses for things I already have to avoid buying something else.  My husband recently forgot to buy tartar sauce for the fish he made for dinner one night.  Instead of going back out to get some, he made his own using mayonnaise and horse radish.  This saved us the cost of the tartar sauce and the gas used to get to the store. Plus it was quicker to make it than to go back to the store anyway.  I have also been known to make my own laundry detergent, glass cleaner, and dish detergent.  Sometimes making your own cleaners does cost more up front, but saves you money in the long run.  Sometimes the cheaper option isn't always the best option either.  For instance, I will buy Dawn dish detergent before buying the cheaper stuff because I can use much less of it to get the job done so it lasts longer. 

Being creative and weighing all of your options is key to making the best financial decisions.  Remember too that everyone’s priorities are different.  Keep what is most important to you in mind when making decisions regarding your time and money.  Saving money doesn't have to make you miserable.  If you cut out spending in areas that truly aren't that important to you, this leaves you more money to spend on the things that are important to you.  I love to travel so I would be willing to live a very simplistic lifestyle at home to have the money to travel and see the world.  Not everyone has the time to apply all money saving tactics out there either.  I know the power of couponing, but to save the most can be a full time job.  I did have fun during my couponing phase and learned a lot from it, but I choose now not to spend that much time on couponing because that was pretty much all I did outside of work and I didn't have time to enjoy with my family and relax.

photo credit: shopping via photopin (license)


Mar 1, 2015

Warning: You're Losing Money by Not Entering Sweepstakes

A lot of people think sweepstakes are scams or no one ever wins them.  I can assure you this is not true at all!  Companies run sweepstakes to gain more customers and advertise their brands and I have been fortunate enough to win many prizes through sweepstakes.  Those of us who enter sweepstakes regularly call ourselves "sweepers" and we talk to each other a lot on social media and forums.  There is an occasional prize that does not get received, but it is very rare.  Companies do not want to disappoint and create negative attention to themselves.

I am not a dedicated sweeper, but I have won over $10,000 in prizes just in the last 5 months, including a trip to the Super Bowl!  I go through periods of very heavy workloads at my full time job and will sometimes not enter a sweepstakes for several weeks or even a few months.  When I do enter, I typically spend about 2 hours a day and maybe 4-6 hours a day on weekends.  Entering sweepstakes can be very addicting.  Once you start entering you will start seeing them everywhere and you will never run out of sweeps to enter.  The picture above was taken in downtown Phoenix during Super Bowl XLIX.  They were giving away 32 GMC SUV's, one for every NFL team!

TLC had a television show called High Stakes Sweepers and there was one gentleman on that show that enters sweepstakes for his full time job.  He spends hours a day entering sweepstakes and sells a lot of the prizes on eBay or Craigslist.  This is not uncommon. I have many friends online that are stay at home moms, retirees, and others who just make it a full time job.  There are many others that have full time jobs and enter sweepstakes in their spare time like me.  Lots of sweepers win so much throughout the year that they don't have to buy a single Christmas gift!

Now if you are thinking to yourself "I don't want to spend all that time filling out form after form", no need to worry.  If you use Chrome, it remembers your info so you don't have to type it over and over again.  Or you can use Roboform (my personal favorite) because with just a click of a button, it fills it all in for you.  You always have to double check what it fills in because it sometimes gets confused, but you can usually just quickly skim over to make sure everything is in the correct fields.

So where do you find sweepstakes to enter?  There are many sites out there that list sweepstakes and many have them in specific categories by prizes.  My favorite site to use is Sweeties Sweeps.  I also subscribe to her Secret Sweeps for $25/year.  This is not necessary, but my biggest wins have come from this subscription because she lists local sweepstakes and less known sweepstakes there where you have better odds of winning.  My Super Bowl win came from her Secret Sweeps site.  If you choose to join, please know that you cannot share the sweepstakes found there.

I also recommend finding sweepstakes friends on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  There are many sweepstakes that can only be entered on these sites so I highly recommend getting an account if you do not already have one.  Sweeper friends help each other out and share their wins, which motivates everyone to keep trying if they are having a dry spell.

Now before you run off and start entering there are a few other things you need to know.  Most importantly, always check the rules.  If you use a site like Sweeties she puts all of the important info on there so you don't have to read through pages of rules.  The biggest thing to look for is the entry limits.  Some sweepstakes are one time only entries, some can be entered monthly, weekly, or daily. The most common are daily and one time entries.  Another thing you may want to look for in the rules is if the trip must be taken on specific dates.  I always check that on trip sweepstakes in case I have other commitments that can't be broken.  I would hate to get a call that I won a trip that I can't take!

So how do you keep it all straight?  I just use Google bookmarks on Chrome.  I have a folder for dailies, monthlies, weeklies, and one timers.  I bookmark the one time only sweeps in case I come across it again and can't remember if I already entered.  Chrome shows a yellow star when you get to the entry page if it is already saved in my bookmarks and that tells me I have already entered and should not enter again.  Each day I go through my daily bookmarks.  I even have a few sub-folders in my daily folder for things on my wishlist and higher priority in case I can't get through all of my dailies in one day. I always start with those wishlist and higher priority ones for that reason.

So even if you don't have time to dedicate every single day, at least try it out in your spare time while watching television and you never know what you will win!