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October 2011 - Posts - Dollar Stretcher Guest Blogger
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Dollar Stretcher Guest Blogger

October 2011 - Posts

  • Choosing the Right Personal Finance Software

    by Jack Middlebrook

    When you are on a tight budget, finding the right tools to help you manage your money can be a huge step toward saving more. Personal finance software is a great tool for anyone who wants to take control of their finances and start budgeting smarter.

    Everybody may have his or her own reasons for needing to adopt a money management strategy, but some common reasons for using personal finance software includes:

    1. Increase awareness about what you are spending on. You may think you keep a good mental day-to-day track of where your money is going, but inevitably some purchases are going to be lost in the shuffle. When every little bit counts, a continuous analysis on how your spending is allocated can illuminate areas where unnecessary purchases are being made.

    2. Pay your bills on time. Nobody wants to have to pay late fees when you send in your bill a day late. Personal Software tools can help you keep track of when bills need to be paid, leaving no excuse for another late fee. With so many different things to keep track of, it helps to have a system that does this for you and eliminates the stress of having to remember each deadline.

    3. Make a habit of saving. Money management programs can help get you into a regimented program where you can save more. Just as if you are trying to lose weight, working out on and off doesn’t deliver the results you want. Your personal finances are no different. Choosing the right software tools can help you stick to a plan of consistently saving. Additionally, using a program that has all your finances in one place and constantly checking your savings can motivate you to save more.

    How to choose the right software?

    Like many products online, you are presented with so many choices that it can be daunting finding the one that fits your needs. For personal finance software, there are hundreds of different products available to help you keep a budget.

    A natural place to start is deciding what you will use the personal finance software for. One way to narrow down your choices is deciding on the features that will be most important for you. These features can range from basic ones like balance updates and bill notifications to more advanced ones like loan rates and tax reports. Just because certain software offers more features doesn’t mean it will help you more. If you don’t think you will need to use many of the features, then they could end up just confusing you later on down the road.

    Another good tip to keep in mind is that most software programs offer free trials. Before you commit yourself to a certain product, try out a couple that look appealing to see which fits you best.

    Jack Middlebrook is a student at the University of California Santa Barbara and works for FindTheBest, a powerful tool for making quick informed decisions on anything from personal finance software to investment advisors.

  • Prepare for Doctor Visits

    by Joyce McKnight

    How many out there in cyberspace know that it’s a new day when you visit your doctor in today’s world? Doctors just don’t have the time for a lot of idol chit chat and blank stares. Doctors are under time pressure to see many patients per day. It helps to adopt the mindset that a doctor’s office first and foremost is a business. They have to see so many patients to make a profit and meet their expenditures to keep their doors open.

    With this concept in mind, you are at a doctor’s office to purchase a service like you would from any other service provider. On top of your limited time to see the doctor, you might have had a long wait to get this opportunity to come in. Not only is it a good idea but a necessity to prepare. Something simple like a note you write to yourself to remind you of the things you want to bring to his or her attention during your appointment will probably suffice. If you don’t write yourself a written note as a reminder, you might forget to tell your physician of a pertinent detail that could result in you having to come in and pay for another visit.

    When you go in to visit your physician, you often have a lot of things on your mind, and not feeling well, it’s not difficult to forget. Taking in a brief note as a reminder makes sense to me. It’s been my experience that whether you have insurance or not, a frugal note saves. If you take into consideration the price of an office visit these days, it saves to come prepared.

    Joyce McKnight is a Home Economist. You'll find more of her thoughts on her blog at FrugalToolBox.blogspot.com.

  • A Toothbrush Is a Gigantic Budget Stretcher!

    by Joyce McKnight

    You can save yourself a lot of money just by being proactive with your teeth. You probably already know that a toothache demands attention. It will not wait. Daily cleansing as well as good nutrition will go a long way in providing you and your family good dental checkups.  

    I make my own special toothpaste that has saved me a lot of money and has served me well over many years. Basically my recipe consist of my toothbrush and baking soda. I brush twice a day. I try to remember to brush at night, especially when I have had a sweet treat. I floss once a day, too. My baking soda over time has kept my teeth nice and white. Baking soda tends to whiten somewhat slow, but it is a good tool to maintain a tooth-whitening system that has been used by a lot of my friends with excellent results.

    Today, I usually ace my dental checkups. But, it hasn't always been that way. I used to have some serious dental problems where my teeth were moving around in the sockets. I have had some extractions and loss a precious tooth in the front. I have had some expensive dental care that I will always respect. I preserve that dental work that took me 18 months to pay off. I decided to spend some time on my teeth, and clean them properly.

    Teeth work very hard for us, and deserve our utmost interest in keeping them healthy and intact. Dental insurance very seldom will not pay the entire bill. Plans will vary widely. I had a great deal to pay for out of pocket over and above what the insurance covered. Dental work is just so expensive, in my opinion. So it makes cents to me to work that toothbrush, jump on, and ride the savings train to better checkups.

    Joyce McKnight is a Home Economist. You'll find more of her thoughts on her blog at FrugalToolBox.blogspot.com

  • Thrift Shopping Hoopla?

    by Joyce McKnight

    Have you ever wondered what all the hoopla is about concerning thrift shopping? In three words, it makes cents. A case in point is when my child was little and I was in the market for another coat, I thought about checking out a thrift store to browse. To my surprise, I came upon a very dirty cute little coat for $1. You heard me right $1. This coat if new would probably retail for about $200. I know my labels. A lot of high-end merchandise passes through thrift stores.

    You had to have vision to see this diamond in the rough. After careful inspection and I do mean careful, because most sales are final, I saw that the coat was in excellent condition having next to no wear. I also noted that it had a good label and would probably take a good washing well. So I decided to take a chance and purchase the coat. After only one wash the coat came out great. I always use a colorfast detergent to preserve the color.

    Let me say that it’s been my experience that thrift stores do not sell dirty items from wear. However, this coat appeared to have gotten dirty after falling from the rack and walked on. A lot of thrift stores will mark these items down for a quick sale versus throwing them in the trash. Thrift stores appear to hate waste almost as much as I do. I guess they figure some amount is better than nothing. And I agree 100%.

    I am not above purchasing "dirty floor walked on" items. I am, however, above trying on any dirty items and will eyeball whether the garment will fit or not. I figure that if it doesn’t fit, the material could be added to my quilt pile if nothing else. Or perhaps some other child in need of a coat could benefit after it’s been washed. So far as I’m concerned this was a good buy. If you make three good buys per year, you could realize $300 or more in savings. Now that, in my opinion, is worth some hoopla.

    Joyce McKnight is a Home Economist. You'll find more of her thoughts on her blog at FrugalToolBox.blogspot.com

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