Step 10 Of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Make It Automatic

Young black woman manages her finances and checks her credit card balances on a laptopNow that you’re maximizing your payments toward the debt you’ve prioritized, make sure it happens by automating your payments. Set up an automatic transfer in your designated amount from your checking account or your savings account to that debt each month, and it will be well on its way to disappearing!

Your Turn: How much time can you save each month by making all of your payments automatic? Brag about it in the comments!

6 Ways To Keep Your Finances Intact This Holiday Season

Middle aged black woman holiday shops online from the comfort of her cozy living room‘Tis the season to shop until you drop-or until you go broke. But you don’t have to overspend. There’s no need to rack up a huge credit card bill or go into debt just to cover your holiday expenses. Enjoy a stress-free season by keeping your spending in check with these six tips:

  1. Create a detailed list of all your expenses
    Don’t leap into your holiday shopping armed with nothing but a credit card. Before you hit the mall or start browsing, sit down and draw up a complete list of every holiday expense you can anticipate. Include all gifts, holiday décor, travel expenses, charitable donations and food costs. Try to keep this list as trim as possible by cutting out any non-essentials and using stuff you may already have in storage from previous years. Bonus points for any homemade gifts!
  2. Determine how much money you can spend
    Once you have all of your expenses written out, work on finding a magic number that will cover everything on your list and that you can realistically afford. Ideally, this money should come from funds you’ve set aside just for this purpose.
  3. Divide and conquer
    Next, assign specific amounts of money in your budget for each expense category and for every person on your gift list. For example, you can decide to spend $300 on your preteen daughter’s gifts and to donate $100 to charity this season. Again, make sure your numbers will work from both a financial and practical perspective.
  4. Track as you shop
    You’re ready to hit the mall! As you shop, keep a careful account of exactly how much money you’ve spent for each person and in each expense category. It’s best to use cash or a debit card when shopping, and to review your budget often to make sure you’re staying on track. This way, you’ll know how much you’re spending and you won’t be hit by awful “Santa shock” come January when you need to pay those credit card bills.

    To make this job easier, use an app designed for this purpose. A common favorite is one called Santa’s Bag. The app allows you to set a budget for each person on your list and then makes tracking the amount you spend super simple. It will even warn you when you’re nearing your preset spending limit or when you’ve gone over budget.

  5. Shop smartly and spend less
    Keep your spending to a minimum by following these hacks:

    1. Use shopping apps
      Use the Coupons App and Shopular, to get your favorite retailers’ best deals and coupons delivered right to your phone.
    2. Follow the 24-hour rule
      Before purchasing anything on the expensive side, wait 24 hours. Sometimes, after sleeping on it, you’ll find that you don’t need to buy that pricey gift after all. Or, you might find the same item somewhere else at a lower price.
    3. Shop online on Tuesday morning
      Research shows this time of week is when you’ll find the hottest online deals.
      Shop with a friend. Take advantage of BOGO sales by splitting the cost of a single item with a friend and each of you taking one item home.
      Shop late. Everyone likes to get an early start on holiday shopping, but prices actually drop in the weeks leading up to Christmas as retailers seek to clear out their holiday inventory.
  6. Let Advantage One Credit Union help
    If you’re having trouble covering your holiday expenses, or you want to get a head start on next year’s costs, let Advantage One Credit Union help! Here are three ways we can take the financial stress out of the holiday season:

    1. Skip-a-Payment
      We get it. The holidays are crazy expensive. That’s why we allow qualifying members to skip a payment on a qualifying loan this time of year without hurting their credit or defaulting on their loan. It’s extra breathing room, just when you need it most!
    2. Personal Loan
      If you can’t come up with the funds you need for the holidays, consider taking out a Winter Loan. Our fantastic terms and affordable rates make it a no-brainer!
    3. Christmas Club Account
      Spread the cost of the holidays across the year with an account created just for that purpose. You’ll set aside a little bit of money each month into your Christmas Club Account, and next year, when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have all the funds you need on hand.

Don’t let financial stress ruin your holiday cheer this year. Follow our tips to keep your spending down, and stop by Advantage One Credit Union to see how we can help!

Your Turn:
How do you get through the holidays with your finances intact? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
thebalance.com
investopedia.com
mentalfloss.com

The Ultimate Smart Shoppers Cheat Sheet

Middle-aged woman in business attire shopping for a new stove in a big-box appliance store.You’ve already perfected your monthly shopping schedule to get the best possible prices throughout the year: linens in January; luggage in March; household appliances in May; patio furniture in September and wedding dresses in December.

But, did you know you should be timing your shopping throughout the week as well? That’s because each weekday brings its own deals and specials. There are some items you can get the cheapest on Wednesdays, others that are best bought on Fridays and still others that will see their biggest markdowns on Sundays.

Here’s the ultimate cheat sheet for your weekly shopping.

Sunday: Large household appliances
Does your refrigerator need replacing? Looking to swap out your oven for a newer model? Home improvement stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, tend to mark down their large appliances on Sundays.

Monday: Deals on wheels and electronics
If you’re in the market for a new car, hit the dealer’s lot on Monday. Car dealerships are busiest over the weekend, and the comparative quiet of a Monday will put you in a favorable position to negotiate a great price on a new car. [Don’t forget to stop by Advantage One Credit Union to ask about our auto loans before you start shopping!]

You’ll also want to check out the large chain stores for discounted electronics on the first business day of the week. Stores like Best Buy offer exclusive manufacturer rebates on Mondays, which can significantly lower the price of an expensive product.

Tuesdays: Houses, airline travel and more
Tuesdays are the recommended weekday for making an offer on a house, particularly the first Tuesday of the month. This is when most sellers will review the activity surrounding their home from the last month and be more open to accepting an offer that’s considerably lower than their original asking price.

If you’re looking to fly in the near future, book your flight on a Tuesday morning. According to data analyses performed by travel-planning company Skyscanner, airlines mark down flight prices by 15-25 percent late each Monday evening. By Tuesday morning, competing airlines will offer matching or lower prices, giving you the best selection of affordable flights.

Tuesdays are also great for purchasing computers online from major retailers, like HP or Dell. Don’t look for discounted MacBooks, though, as Apple rarely marks down its products.

For a terrific way to end your Tuesday, go see a movie. Tickets to the latest blockbusters are usually discounted during the mid-week slump.

Wednesdays: Groceries, discounted apparel and fuel
Forget the weekend grocery run; the best time to restock your pantry and fridge is on Wednesday. Most supermarkets roll out their new sale events on this day, rearrange their aisle end-caps and slap discounts onto perishable products that are left over from the beginning of the week, such as meat, poultry and cheese. If you can swing it, shop early to take full advantage of the sales. Feel free to load up on the marked-down perishables, which will still be days away from their sell-by date. Stick them in the freezer if you won’t use them before they go stale. You’ll also get the biggest bang for your buck in the produce aisle on Wednesdays, when most groceries set out a fresh display of fruits and vegetables.

If you’re a fan of discounted quality clothing, you’ll want to hit TJ Maxx and Marshalls on Wednesdays, as this is when these stores post their new markdowns. Old Navy also features new discounts on Wednesdays.

Unless gas prices are on a downward spiral, fill ‘er up on Wednesday! Weekly gas hikes will take effect over the weekend, often as early as Thursday morning.

Thursday: Clothing, shoes and handbags
Get first dibs on weekend clothing sales at the big-name stores by hitting the mall late on Thursday. Shop for matching footwear with in-store coupons, which also debut on Thursday. Then, complete your new look with a new handbag, which see steep online discounts each Thursday.

Friday: Accessories
Pick up your costume jewelry, belts and scarves on Fridays to score the best prices. According to Lifehacker, online accessories see an average discount of 42 percent on the last workday of the week.

Saturday: Books and yard sale treasures
Amazon offers discounts on books and e-books on most Saturdays, so you’ll want to check out the e-tailer giant at the beginning of the weekend for the best selection at the best prices.

Saturdays are also prime time to pick up treasures at neighborhood yard sales and thrift stores. You’ll get the best picks in the early morning hours, but you’ll score the hottest deals later on in the day when the owners are itching to get rid of all their wares and close up shop.

Your Turn:
Is there a weekday shopping hack that has worked for you? Tell us your secret shopping strategy in the comments.

Learn More:
thekrazycouponlady.com
aol.com
dcrstrategies.com
thekrazycouponlady.com/cheatsheet
rather-be-shopping.com

Can I Buy A House When I’m Paying Off A Student Loan?

A young couple sits on the lawn of their modest home watching their two young children play in the yardQ: I graduated college with a huge student loan debt. Since then, I’ve landed a decent job and I’ve been making steady payments toward paying down my loan. Is it possible for me to buy a house while I’m still paying off this debt?
A: Student loan debt that is managed responsibly should not hold you back from purchasing a house. There are several important factors to consider before making this choice and steps you’ll want to take before you start house-hunting.
Are you really ready to buy a house?
Before you take a look at your finances to determine if you can pull off this purchase, make sure this goal is in your best interest.
For starters, do you really know which city or neighborhood you’d like to live in at this point in your life? You are likely just starting out in your career and you might be better off with the flexibility that comes with renting. This way, if an excellent employment opportunity requiring a move arises, you’ll be free to accept it. You also may or may not have settled down in terms of a life partner. It generally does not pay to buy a home you’ll only live in for a few years before selling.
Next, think about the financial ramifications of this purchase. Are you really comfortable taking on another huge loan right now? Also, you will likely have to live with a bare-bones budget to meet your mortgage payments without neglecting your student loan debt. Do you really want to live with a no-frills spending plan in the foreseeable future?
Consider these questions carefully before making your decision.
Getting started: Boost your credit
Once you’ve determined if it would be beneficial for you to purchase a home right now, you’ll want to start improving your credit. Your credit wellness is the primary factor that home lenders consider when deciding if you’re eligible for a mortgage. It also figures into the rate they will offer you.
Here are some ways you can boost your credit score in the months leading up to your mortgage application:
  • Pay all your bills on time. Set up automatic payments to make it effortless.
  • Keep your credit utilization at less than 30 percent.
  • Pay your credit card bills in full, and before they’re due.
  • Don’t close old accounts or open new cards. You want your credit history to be lengthy, and both of these steps can significantly bring down your average.
How high is your DTI?
Lots of young college graduates think it’s impossible, or difficult, to obtain a mortgage when carrying student loan debt. In fact, a 2018 Student Loan Hero survey found that 43% of college-educated Americans with student loans postponed buying a home because of their student debt.
Lucky for you, there is very little truth to this concern. As mentioned above, a student loan that is handled well should not be a deterrent to getting a mortgage. To make sure you’re managing your student debt responsibly, set up automatic monthly payments on your loan so you never miss a payment or a due date.
In addition, make an effort to pay your student loan back as quickly as possible so it doesn’t reflect badly on your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Since taking out a mortgage means accepting more debt, lenders are careful to check that you aren’t carrying too much other debt. Ideally, your total debt payments, including your mortgage, should account for less than 36 percent of your income.
If your DTI is on the high side, you may not be eligible for a mortgage just yet. Consider refinancing your student loan to a loan with lower interest rates so you can pay it off sooner and then apply for a mortgage when your DTI improves. You can also look for ways to increase your income to tilt your debt ratio in your favor.
If you’re carrying any other debt, such as credit card debt, you’ll want to pay it down as quickly as possible as well.
Determine how much house you can afford
Before you start shopping for a home, find out how much house you can actually afford. The best way to obtain this information is by applying for a preapproval from a home lender. This will tell you exactly how high you can go while showing sellers that you’re serious about buying.
If you won’t need your pre-approval just yet, but you’d like an idea of how much you’ll need to save for a down payment, you can use an online mortgage calculator to get your magic number.
Start saving for a down payment
Once you have your numbers worked out, you’ll need to save up for a down payment. Trim your budget in any way you can and look for side hustles to boost your income and make saving simple. Then, set up an automatic monthly transfer to your Advantage One Credit Union Savings Account so your money can grow while you sleep.
At this point, you may want to look into a local down-payment assistance program or a federal loan program, such as an FHA loan, which only requires a down payment of 3.5 percent. If you live in a rural area, you might qualify for a USDA loan, and if you’ve served in the military, you’re likely eligible for a VA loan.
[When you’re ready to take this step forward, call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to find out about our home loans. Our rates and hassle-free pre-approval process make a Advantage One Credit Union home loan an excellent choice!]
Your Turn: Do you think it’s a good idea for college graduates to buy a house while they’re paying off a student loan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Learn More:

Step 9 of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Put All Windfalls In Your Snowball

Young man and woman look at one another happily over fanned 1 dollar bills in their hands.Let your debt snowball grow by packing it with all your unexpected windfalls. Seasonal bonus at work? Add all or most of it to your snowball. Unexpected refund? Let it go toward paying down your debt. Birthday gift money from Great Aunt Sally? You know where it’s going!

It isn’t easy to say goodbye to an unexpected windfall, but all that extra money will help you reach your goal that much sooner.

Your Turn:
Which windfalls did you pack into your debt snowball this month?

Understanding The Credit Card Trap

Young couple uses credit card to pay for their stay at a pricey hotelDid you know the average American household carries $6,358 in credit card debt?

If that doesn’t sound too alarming, consider this: A debt of $5,000 with an interest rate of 24.99% (which is the current rate of a typical Capital One or Citibank card), where only the minimum payment is made each month and no additional charges are made to the card, accumulates $4,823 in interest over five years. That means the cardholder would be paying nearly double the amount that was originally spent!

Why do most Americans carry so much credit card debt and find themselves stuck in the debt trap? Let’s take a deeper look at credit card usage, debt and interest rates so we can understand this phenomenon and ensure credit cards are used responsibly.

The minimum payment mindset
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research website, a third of credit card holders make just the minimum payment each month.

Here’s how it usually happens: You use your card for a purchase you can’t really afford, or you want to defer paying for it from your savings. When your credit card bill arrives, you either choose to make just the minimum payment or it is all you can afford to pay at the time. You figure you’ll pay off the rest when your finances improve. Soon, you’re in the trap of pulling out your card whenever you want to purchase something beyond your budget. Since you’re only making the minimum payment, it seems like it doesn’t matter all that much if your credit card debt grows a little larger. From there, the cycle continues as debt climbs and you continue using your card for purchases you’d be better off not making.

This is a quick illustration to show how your “small balance” of just a few thousand dollars can really mean paying more than double that amount over the years because of interest.

Also, when you’re trapped in this mindset, your balance barely budges. With a debt of $5,000 and a minimum monthly payment of $150 (at 3% of the total balance), you’ll only be paying $47.30 each month toward your principal. The rest goes toward your interest accrued.

Take a moment to think about this the next time you decide to use your credit card to pay for something you can’t afford. Is it worth paying $5,000 over the next five years for a $2,500 vacation?

Credit scores and prolonged debt
Another important aspect of prolonged credit card debt is the detrimental effect it can have on your credit score. Your credit score gives potential lenders and employers an idea of how financially responsible you are.

One of the crucial factors used in determining your credit score is your debt ratio, or the percentage of available credit that you’ve already spent. In most credit score formulas, the more credit you’ve used, the lower your score. If you’ve fallen into the habit of using your credit card whenever you’re short on cash, and are only making the minimum payment each month, you likely use a high percentage of your available credit.

Even worse is when your credit card company sees that you’re running low on available credit, and may offer to increase your line — or even do it automatically. If you agree to the upgrade, there’s nothing stopping you from racking up another huge bill, further decreasing your score.

Another important component of your credit score is the trajectory of your debt. If you’re barely making progress on your balance, you won’t score high in this area either.

A low credit score can prevent you from qualifying for a mortgage, auto loan or even an employment opportunity. If you do get approved for such loans with your less than stellar credit score, you’ll likely be saddled with a hefty interest rate, which significantly increases your monthly payments and the overall interest you’ll pay.

Is it really worth racking up that credit card bill?

Should I throw out all of my credit cards?
Hold onto your cards. You need to have some open and active cards for maintaining a healthy credit score; however, it’s important you use your cards responsibly.

First, be careful not to fall prey to the minimum payment mindset. Live within your means and learn to find happiness in what you have instead of chasing the elusive and transient thrill of material possessions. Before using your card for something you can’t afford, imagine this purchase haunting you for years to come. Is it worth paying double the amount it costs in interest payments? Is it worth harming your financial health?

Second, if you’re already carrying a large credit card balance, stop using that card and work on increasing the amount you pay off each month. Even a relatively small monthly increase can make a big difference in the total amount you ultimately pay toward your balance.

Third, to use your cards responsibly and keep your score high, it’s best to use your credit card for non-discretionary payments, like your monthly utility bills. This way, you’ll be keeping your accounts active without running the risk of overspending. Remember to pay your credit card bill on time to avoid paying interest.

Finally, take a long look at your current cards. What’s the interest rate on your cards? As mentioned above, the current interest rate on a typical Capital One card is 24.99%, which can nearly double a balance of a few thousand dollars over the course of five years. Look at alternatives, like an Advantage One Platinum Rewards Visa® credit card that may offer you a substantially lower rate. If the new card rate is substantially lower, you could literally save yourself thousands of dollars over the coming years.

Your Turn:
Have you gotten yourself out of the minimum payment trap? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
nytimes.com
creditkarma.com
genxfinance.com

Do My Child’s Activities Really Need To Make Me Go Broke?

man standing with three young kids on a soccer field sidelineIt’s back-to-school season and you’re just about ready to zip that backpack closed before tossing that supply list into the trash. You’ve been shopping for weeks to get the right pencils and pens, binders and the dozens of other must-haves. This, of course, is in addition to the perfect school shoes and autumn wardrobe. But now you’re done, done, done! Your sanity and your budget are ready for a breather – at least until the holiday shopping season starts.

But then your darling daughter comes home breathless from school telling you she’s made it onto the school’s soccer team. She’s thrilled and can’t wait to start attending practices and games! Oh, and did she mention she’ll need some money for her uniform and equipment?

Before you can finish digesting this piece of news, your son barrels through the door and announces he’s decided to take drum lessons. It’ll only be, say, $600 for the drum set, plus the price of lessons. But that’s not a big deal for you, is it?

Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development. They allow students to shine in ways that may not be possible for them in the classroom. Plus, it helps kids step out of their social circles to forge new and lasting friendships. They serve as a creative outlet and can improve your child’s physical and cognitive health. If you have a real prodigy in your family, they may even be your child’s gateway to a college scholarship, and possibly a lucrative career.

But there’s no getting around the truth: Extracurricular activities are expensive. If you’ve got several school-aged children at home and each one wants to participate in two activities, you can be looking at an investment as high as $10,000 or more because of fees, equipment, uniforms, instruments and supplies.

No worries, though; you don’t have to choose between your budget and your children’s happiness. Here are some ways you can save on your kids’ extracurricular activities this year:

1. Limit the number of after-school activities you allow for each child
If you’ve got several over-ambitious young ones at home, consider limiting extracurricular activities to just one per child. You’ll actually be doing your children a favor by forcing them to pick one activity of focus where they’ll be channeling all their energy in one direction.

They’ll also be more dedicated to perfecting their game or hobby when they own their choice. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to keep track of just one practice and performance schedule – and a lot easier on your carpool calendar, too! Finally, you’ll help your children avoid taking on too much so they are less likely to wind up neglecting their schoolwork or not having any time to spare for family and friends.

2. Register early
Lots of children’s’ sports programs offer discounts of up to 30 percent just for signing up early. Speak to your children about after-school programs and sports teams months before the official season launch so you can register early and snag those early-bird specials. You might also be able to net a discount by pre-paying for the entire season instead of paying on a monthly basis.

3. Purchase used equipment
Save big on sports gear by purchasing gently used equipment from sites like PlayItAgainSports and SidelineSwap. Some of these sites also allow you to sell your own used equipment.

4. Swap equipment
If you have friends with kids who are (or were) also into sports and music, see if you can swap equipment and instruments from year to year. Maybe your friend’s son was into guitar last year and baseball this year, while your daughter’s interests ran in the opposite direction. Swapping with friends allows you to save on expensive equipment while putting your own unused gear to good use.

5. Rent musical instruments
If you’ve got budding musicians at home, consider renting the instrument they’ve taken up this year. There’s no way to tell if that burst of passion they’re currently nursing for the oboe is just a passing phase or the beginning of a hobby that will last a lifetime. Why blow hundreds of dollars on an instrument only to see it lying forgotten in the attic in a few months time? Some instruments, like the French horn, can cost as much as $1,000 but can be rented for as little as $50 a month.

If your child is convinced they’ve found their instrument of choice or you’ve already been renting one for a while, you can purchase gently used musical instruments from resale sites like Craigslist and eBay or through Reverb, a site devoted entirely to selling musical instruments.

6. Volunteer your time
If you’ve got the time to coach or manage a team, or even just to walk around selling refreshments during games, you might be able to nab a discount on the program’s fees and equipment.

Don’t let a tight budget stand in the way of your child’s creative and physical development. By making smart, frugal choices, you can turn your children’s dreams into reality without draining your wallet.

Your Turn:
How do you save on your children’s extracurricular activities? Share your own tips and tricks with us in the comments.

Learn More:
goodhousekeeping.com

moneycrashers.com

parents.com

PlayitAgain sports

Sideline

Book Review: The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Live Rich

The Latte Factor cover - white cup on saucer full of coffee with a dollar sign drawn in the cremeIf personal finance books make your eyes glaze over, but you can never say no to a page-turning novel, this book was written for you.

In The Latte Factor, best-selling author David Bach and co-writer, John David Mann, present a personal finance book that reads like a novel. It tells the story of Zoey, a young woman in her 20s who is perpetually struggling to make ends meet. Like many of her contemporaries, Zoey is weighed down by staggering student loan and credit card debt.

Though she’s working in New York City at her dream job, she can never seem to get ahead of her expenses. When Zoey’s boss suggests she get acquainted with Henry, the barista at the coffee shop Zoey loves, she has no idea how significantly this connection will change her life.

Henry is an elderly gentleman who is working at a relatively low-level job, but has built himself a comfortable cushion of savings. He shares his three primary principles of financial freedom with Zoey, which she immediately dismisses as nonsense. Soon, though, she comes to appreciate that small but significant changes in her daily routine can make a huge difference in her finances. She learns to adapt Henry’s principles: Pay yourself first, make savings automatic and live the life you want today. Slowly, she makes the changes she needs in her life to achieve financial freedom.

Bach draws on his decades of experience counseling clients through debt and toward a life of responsible money management to build a realistic story that is both engaging and enlightening. You have to believe he’s helped many “Zoeys” along the way.

Some readers are uncomfortable with the fact that Zoey is portrayed as a caricatured female who does not know how to handle her money and that the book is essentially badly disguised “mansplaining” in a way that talks down to women. Others, though, have found The Latte Factor to be a fun book that leaves readers with lots to think about.

Do you have to be rich to live rich? Read The Latte Factor and find out today!

Your Turn:
Have you read The Latte Factor? What did you think about this book? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Learn More:
goodreads.com
policygenius.com
amazon.com

Tw

Step 8 Of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Boost Your Income

Increase your income this month to help you pay down debt.

Young woman checking job posts on a bulleing boardThere are a handful of practical ways to accomplish this. For instance, consider asking for a raise or promotion at your current workplace or seeking employment elsewhere if you feel you’ve reached your maximum earning potential at the company. You can also freelance for hire, take on a side job on weekends or a seasonal job for just a few weeks a year. You might also consider offering consulting services in your particular field.

Remember:
any extra money earned goes straight towards your debt snowball!

Your Turn:
How did you boost your income this month? Share your success story with us in the comments!

11 Ways To Save On Back-to-School Shopping

Mom and young boy shopping for school clothes at a department storeAh, summer! It’s the season of fireworks and fireflies, road trips and rocky road ice cream, baseball and beach balls, flip-flops and ice pops.

But, just as you’re settling into the laid-back summer routine, retailers start rolling out their back-to-school displays, which may open that pit of dread into your stomach. Supply lists. New clothing. Backpacks, jeans, laptops and school shoes: It’s endless. And it’s so expensive!

In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, the average American parent will spend upward of $700 per child this shopping season.

If that’s enough to put a damper on your summer plans, take a deep breath and relax. You don’t need to spend yourself into debt just because everyone else seems to be doing it. Instead, take a proactive, mindful approach when shopping for the new school year and spend hundreds less than the national average. Let Advantage One Credit Union show you how!

Here are 11 creative ways to save on back-to-school shopping costs.

1. Go crazy for coupons
Why pay full price when you can get it for less? Use coupon sites like RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com and Coupons.com for percentage-off or money-off coupons that will help you save big.

2. Shop the dollar store
Before hitting the big-box stores and their big-box prices, scour your local dollar store for school supply treasures that will only cost a buck.

3. Get backpacks at Hollar.com, eBags.com or 6PM.com
Don’t spend a fortune on your child’s bookbag without checking out these sites. If your child is set on having a character backpack this year, check out Hollar.com for a great selection at crazy-low prices. Does your little one have designer taste? Try eBags.com or 6PM.com for brand-name bags at a fraction of their regular price.

4. Shop tax-free
Many states offer tax-free holidays on clothing, footwear, and/or school supplies during the back-to-school shopping season to ease the financial burden of cash-strapped parents. Take full advantage by shopping during these days.
Here are the tax-free dates for back-to-school season, 2019:

Alabama: July 19-21
Arkansas: August 3-4
Connecticut: August 18-24
Florida: August 2-4
Iowa: August 2-3
Maryland: August 11-17
Mississippi: July 26-27
Missouri: August 2-4
New Mexico: August 2-4
Ohio: August 2-4
Oklahoma: August 2-4
South Carolina: August 2-4
Tennessee: July 26-28
Texas: August 9-11
Virginia: August 2-4

5. Shop on Sunday and Monday
Weekly sales on school supplies will go live at the beginning of the week – and the hottest items will be grabbed up first. Shop early in the week to score the best deals.

6. Utilize in-store price matching
Many stores you may be visiting this season offer in-store price matching or will even match/beat a competitor’s lower price.
Read through this list so you know when to ask for a better price:

  • Staples will match a lower price on an identical item and throw in an additional 10 percent discount.
  • Kohl’s will offer you the same price as a competitor as long as you bring in the competition’s ad.
  • JCPenney will give you back 5 percent of your purchase price if you find an identical item with a lower price elsewhere.

7. Use discounted gift cards
Don’t start your shopping until you check out Raise.com or GiftCardGranny.com for gift cards that give you more monetary value than you paid for them. It’s a super-easy way to save!

8. Coordinate with friends
If you’ve got a bunch of friends who are also slogging through an endless list of school supplies, see if you can work together to save more. You can divide and conquer, letting each friend shop a different store for their best offerings and picking up enough supplies for the entire group, or even offer to swap supplies you already have at home. This way, you’ll be making fewer trips and keeping more money in your wallet.

9. Follow stores on Twitter and Facebook
Your smartphone is going to be your BFF this season. Use it to follow your favorite stores on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll be gifted with notices about sale events, plus coupon links to help you save more.

10. Compare prices
When shopping for big-ticket items, like laptops, don’t buy until you’ve done a thorough comparison-shop. You can use an app or a website like ShopSavvy, Price.com or PriceGrabber to help you compare prices with just a quick barcode scan.

11. Time your shopping
For the best budget mileage, learn the markdown cycle of your favorite stores, especially clothing shops. For example, Target offers discounts on children’s clothing every Monday, TJ Maxx posts new markdowns on Wednesdays, and you’ll want to hit Kohl’s between 3 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday to take advantage of their “Power Hour” super-deals.

Your Turn:
What’s your secret back-to-school shopping hack? Share it with us in the comments.

Learn More:
businessoffashion.com

thekrazycouponlady.com

goodhousekeeping

moneycrashers