money management essentials: four simple tips

Map out a practical plan to meet your regular financial needs so there’s enough money when you need it. Follow these four tips:

smart shopping tips

Make the most of the money you have by paying attention to how the little stuff adds up. Before spending, ask yourself: Do I really need it? Do I need it today? What if I don’t buy it now? Can I do – or buy – this at a lower cost?

At the store

  • Resist impulse buying
  • Shop from a list
  • Limit the cash you carry
  • Shop with your spending plan in mind
  • Avoid ATM fees by using your bank’s ATMs
  • Watch for sales, wait for the right price, and look for coupons and rebates
  • Take advantage of grocery and drug store savings cards for customers

Food shopping

  • Save money by eating at home
  • Make a shopping list
  • Watch for sales and coupons
  • Buy products you use frequently in large sizes or bulk quantities
  • Don’t go food shopping when hungry
  • Consider buying generic instead of name brands

Credit card tips

  • Limit the number of credit cards you have
  • Aim to pay your balance in full every month
  • Pay your bill on time and in full

There are other important tips, like being creative to save money and avoiding high cost loans and fees that you also want to keep in mind.

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Be creative

Think about ways you might be able to obtain something you want at a lower cost or even for free. For example, you might be able to see a play or hear a concert by volunteering to usher. Or you might get some friends together in order to qualify for a volume or group discount.

Consider skipping a few low-cost purchases you could do without in order to save for one item you really value. For example, trade-off your next few purchases of jeans and t-shirts to save for one nice outfit, or skip your visits to fast food restaurants in order to afford one dinner at a top restaurant.

Some stores and businesses offer their employees a special discount on merchandise. You might consider getting a seasonal job at a store where you plan to do your holiday shopping, for example.

Avoid high-cost, short-term loans

Paycheck (payday loans), car title (car title loans), or income tax refund anticipation loans are examples of high-cost, short-term loans that you should try to avoid. These loans typically have high interest rates and fees. Some payday loans may have automatic rollovers, which increases their costs and disguises the fact you are paying more interest on these loans over time.
Two strategies can help you avoid these services. First, put a portion of every paycheck into a savings account by using direct deposit or automatic transfer. If you consistently build savings over time, you will have a ready resource for unexpected expenses. Second, talk to your banker about short-term loan or line of credit options that may offer lower-cost alternatives to payday and car title loans.

yellow piggy bank

Consider your needs
Is this item something you want or truly need? Ask yourself what needs you’re trying to fill by making this purchase.

Check your budget
Decide how much you can spend on this purchase and still cover your other expenses. Watch for sales and special offers. Depending on the item and the store, you may be able to negotiate the price.

Research first
Inspect and try before you buy. Research product claims. Ask others for advice. Determine when, how, and where to buy the item to get the most for your money. Check warranties carefully.

Shop for value
Remember: your goal is best overall value, not just the lowest price. Look for the features and quality you want, good customer service, a fair price, and a flexible return policy.

Making major purchases

Remember the Rule of 3 and comparison shop. Call three stores to compare prices, models, warranties, and return policies. Shopping around using ads, newspapers, and the internet helps save you time, effort, and money. Check product claims and inspect – or even try – it before you buy. Ask family and friends for recommendations. Confirm the full price and consider negotiating. Watch for sales, coupons and rebates for the store and product. Be sure to save your receipt and the box in case you have a problem. Also, be sure to speak to the manager if you have a problem.

Take advantage of membership discounts
You may be eligible for discounts if you have a valid student, military, or insurance ID, or other organization memberships. Research the benefits and ask stores what cards they honor for discounts. Some grocery and drug stores offer savings cards for customers.

Ask about employee discounts
Some stores and businesses offer their employees a special discount on merchandise. You might consider getting a seasonal job at a store where you plan to do your holiday shopping, for example.

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