Step 10 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Plan for Retirement

[Now that you’ve learned how to indulge responsibly and are mindful of your credit score, it’s time to start planning for retirement. This is true no matter your stage of life.]

It’s never too early – or too late – to start planning for your retirement. However, like all long-term savings goals, retirement should ideally be planned for as much in advance as possible. That’s because the more time you allow for your savings to grow, the bigger the nest egg you’ll be rewarded with when it’s time to cash in on your funds. 

Here’s how to get started on planning your retirement.

Set a target number

Before you start squirreling away money for the future, determine how much you’ll need to have saved for living comfortably and independently throughout retirement. Experts recommend taking your current living expenses and multiplying that number by 400 to reach the amount you’ll need for sustaining yourself based on a 4% return.

Choose your retirement accounts

Next, you’ll need to select a place to keep your retirement savings. There are many options to consider, some of which you may already have if you are employed. Here’s a quick review of the two most common retirement accounts:

  1. 401(k)

If you’re currently or previously employed, you may already have a 401(k) that’s collecting money for your retirement, and investing it so it can have an opportunity to grow. Take advantage of this retirement tool by maximizing your contributions. Additionally, many employers will match a portion of, or all, your contributions, which is literally free money that will help your investments grow, tax-deferred.

  1. IRA

An Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) is a retirement fund that allows your money to grow, tax-deferred. Like with a 401(k), some employers will match a portion of, or all, contributions. However, there are federal limits on how much you can add to your IRA annually. You can choose between a conventional IRA or a Roth IRA. A conventional IRA lets your money grow tax-deferred, but withdrawals are taxable. A Roth IRA does not feature tax-deferred growth, but qualified withdrawals are not taxed.

Presented in the table below is a brief summary of the pros and cons of each retirement vehicle for easy comparison. 

Features401(k)IRARoth IRA
Allows Matching FundsYesNoNo
Tax-DeductibleYesDepends on income, tax-filing status and other factorsNo
Tax-Deferred GrowthYesYesNo
Taxable WithdrawalsYesYesNo
Maximum Yearly Contribution (2022)$20,500$6,000 $6,000
Maximum Yearly Contribution Age 50+ (2022)$27,000$7,000$7,000

After you’ve identified the retirement fund strategy that best works for your goals, you’ll also need to choose somewhere to invest the money. Low-risk investment vehicles, such as federal bonds or trust funds, are usually the best choice.

Select a target date fund

If you are saving for retirement through the use of a 401(k), be sure to check if your employer offers a target date fund. This refers to your planned retirement date. You’ll know your employer offers a target date fund if there’s a calendar year in the name of the fund, such as “B.K. Holdings Retirement 2055 Fund”. Simply determine an estimated guess of the year you intend to retire, and then pick the fund with the date closest to your anticipated retirement date. 

A target date fund is a smart choice because it spreads the money in your 401(k) across many asset classes, such as large company stocks, small-company stocks, bonds and emerging-markets stocks. Then, as you near the target date, the fund becomes more conservative, owning less stocks and more bonds, automatically reducing your risks as you near the date of your retirement.

With a bit of work and a lot of planning, you’ll have your future secured in the best way possible.

Your Turn: What’s your retirement vehicle of choice? Share it with us in the comments!

6 Ways to Pay Less at the Pump

Just when you think they can’t possibly jump any higher, gas prices start rising again. They’ve long passed the $5 mark in much of the country, and in some areas they’ve even gone beyond $6 a gallon. This means it’ll cost the average American close to $100 just to fill a 16-gallon tank. With prices peaking on so many other goods, the pain at the pump is real.

There isn’t much you can do about the cost of gas, but there are ways you can pay less at the pump. Here are six ways to save on the cost of gasoline.

  1. Use cash

Lots of gas stations offer a discount for cash payments, sometimes up to $0.20 per gallon. This can quickly add up when pumping a full tank. Just be careful to have the cash handy when you need it, as you don’t want to lose all those savings to ATM fees when using machines that are not connected to your credit union.

  1. Use a rewards program or credit card

If you don’t like the idea of carrying around a lot of cash, but you still want to save at the pump, consider signing up for a rewards program or credit card. Tread carefully, though; not all of these programs actually benefit the consumer. Ask these questions about any rewards program or credit card you’re considering before signing up:

  • Is there an annual fee? An annual fee can easily offset any savings you might incur from rewards.  
  • Is there a cap on rewards? Some programs limit the amount of rewards that can be accrued per quarter or year. If the cap is not sufficient for your needs, the program might not be for you.
  • What is the redemption value for each reward point? Actual rewards can vary tremendously by program. Be sure to find out exactly how much a rewards point is worth  to see if it’s actually a good deal.
  • Is this card only good for purchasing gas? Some rewards cards allow you to rack up points with any purchase at a gas station, while others are strictly for fuel only.
  • What are the membership requirements for this rewards card? Make sure the requirements aren’t so rigid or restrictive that you can’t earn enough points to make it worthwhile.

In addition, consider your personal track record with credit cards before signing up for a gas rewards credit card. If you already find it challenging to pay off your balance in full each month, it may not be the best idea to open another credit card. 

3. Check your tire pressure

According to the US Department of Energy, a  well-inflated tire can save you $0.15/gallon by boosting your gas mileage by 3%. Check your tires regularly to ensure they’re always inflated. To make this easier, consider springing for a tire pressure gauge that will automatically monitor the health of your tires.

  1. Use a gas-tracking app

In 2022, there’s no need to search for the gas station offering the best-priced gas. There’s an app for that! Popular gas-tracking apps include GasBuddy, Upside and Waze. Using the gas station conveniently located right near your home or workplace might be easier, but taking the extra time to find one that sells fuel for less can save you a bundle.

  1. Purchase a club membership

If you don’t already have one, this may be the time to buy a club membership. Costo, Sam’s Club and Walmart Plus all offer discounted gas exclusively to members. Of the three, Costco tends to feature gas for the lowest price, up to $0.34 less per gallon than a typical gas station. In today’s gas-crazy climate, that’s a huge difference. Of course, you’ll want to find out how much a club membership will cost you before signing up to join any of these or other club stores to ensure it’s worth the price. Also, be prepared for long lines at the club store’s gas station, especially with spiking gas prices. 

  1. Buy gas at the right time of day

Did you know there’s an ideal time of day to fill your tank? And no, we’re not talking about shorter lines, or even the time of day before prices will change yet again. You can get more bang for your buck if you buy your gas in the early morning or late evening hours, when it’s generally cooler out. If you pump gas during the midday hours, after the sun has been beating down on the gas reservoir all day, the gas has likely expanded. This means you’ll be paying the same price for a less-dense gasoline, which will not last as long. Pump when it’s cooler outside for the densest gas.

It’s sticker shock at the pump these days, but there are still some ways you can save on gas costs. Use these tips to get started.

Your Turn: How do you save at the gas pump? Share your best tips and hacks in the comments.

Step 8 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Know When and How to Indulge

[Now that you know how to spend mindfully, pay it forward, and regularly set aside money for savings, you’re ready to learn how to indulge in the occasional expensive treat–responsibly.]

Many people equate financial health with a life of deprivation, but this is far from the truth. In fact, living a life of true financial wellness means being happy with a lifestyle that is within your means, but does not leave you feeling like you are lacking. Like an overly restrictive diet, an overly tight budget is more likely to become broken.

On the flip side, financial wellness means spending your money wisely and learning how to treat yourself for less – or for free. It means money choices are governed by discipline, and not by emotion. And sometimes, it means telling yourself no.

How, then, do you strike a balance between the two?

Here’s how to indulge responsibly. 

Live with a budget

The first step to financial wellness is knowing where your money is going and how much you actually have to spend. The best way to always have this information is to create and stick to a budget. 

[If you’ve been following all the steps to financial wellness until this point, you’ve already developed and live with a budget. So you know how to stick to it. Let’s take a quick review of this crucial money management tool.]

Create your budget by tracking your spending for three months. Make a list of all your expenses, including fixed, non-fixed and discretionary expenses, and list your income in a parallel column. Tally up your totals and assign a realistic dollar amount to each expense. Going forward, be sure to only spend within the allocated amount for each expense category each month. 

Leave room in your budget for “just for fun” purchases

As you work on building and sticking to a budget, be sure to leave room in your spending plan for the occasional treat. The exact amount will vary by income level, lifestyle and personal choice. However, choose an amount you can easily afford without feeling deprived. 

To ensure you don’t overspend in this area, you can borrow an idea from the money-envelope system and withdraw the designated amount from your checking account at the beginning of the month. Place this cash in an envelope, and use it as necessary. When the money is gone, so is your “allowance” for pricey treats this month.

It’s important to note that the indulgences referenced here are spontaneous buys, or small purchases that aren’t part of your normal budget. Large purchases you have planned for and saved toward for months, or even years, are in an entirely different category. 

Review your savings

Before giving yourself permission to indulge, make sure you are setting aside a percentage of your monthly income to savings. Savings should be an item line on your budget, with short-term savings like an emergency fund in a savings account, holding enough to keep you afloat for 3-6 months if you have no source of income. Long-term savings should be sufficient to support your retirement and any long-term savings goal you may have, like saving for a house or a luxury vacation. 

Choose your “treats”

Everyone’s got their personal vices and their guilty indulgences. Take a look at where your non-discretionary money went during the last month or two. Highlight the more expensive impulse buys and hold them up to these questions:

  • Did this purchase bring me happiness or positive energy the day I bought it? Did that feeling last until the next day? The next week?
  • Did this impulse buy blow my budget?
  • Does thinking about this purchase now fill me with joy, guilt or something else?
  • If I found myself in the same circumstances today, would I make that purchase again?

Here, too, the answers to these questions will depend on your personal set of circumstances and lifestyle. Use the insight you’ve learned about your indulgences to help you make better money choices in the future. 

Lose the guilt

Once you’ve decided how much you want to spend each month on indulgences you can afford, it’s time to let go of the guilt. If you’re spending responsibly and you’ve already fed your savings as well as your future, there’s no need to eat yourself up over an impulse buy you could have done without. As long as you’re keeping these just-for-fun purchases within your budget, and your choices fill you with happiness or positive energy, you can still maintain your financial wellness.

Your Turn: How do you indulge responsibly? Share your best tips in the comments.

What to Buy and What to Skip in July

The days are still long and filled with sunshine. And though retailers would have you think otherwise, school is still a long way off. If you’re looking to save on some purchases this month, you can find lots of bargains around Independence Day weekend and beyond. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in July. 

Buy: Patriotic items

Pledge allegiance along with your favorite retailers by purchasing almost anything under the sun in red, white and blue. You can pick up bargain-priced clothing, home goods, toys, party goods and so much more in the days and weeks after Independence Day. Of course, you’ll also find discounted fireworks and July 4th-themed decor, which you can store for next year’s Independence Day festivities. 

Skip: Sunglasses

If you need a new pair of shades, you’re best off waiting a bit before springing for a new pair. Sunglasses are still retailing at full price this month, and they won’t start seeing discounts until September. For even steeper savings, pick up a new pair of shades in October. 

Buy: School and office supplies

The start of the school year may be close to two months off, but retailers are already deep into back-to-school season by the time the calendar hits July. Check out big-box stores, like Walmart, Target and Staples, for specials on supplies, like pens and pencils, paper, crayons, scissors and more. If you keep an eye out for sales through the rest of the summer, you can enjoy significant savings on all of your school and office supplies this year. 

Skip: Grills and patio furniture

School might be on the retail calendar, but that doesn’t mean summer is already gone. Grills, patio furniture and other outdoor gear will still be retailing at full price through July. If you can wait a bit, until mid or late August, you’ll save a bundle on all you need to upgrade your outdoor living.

Buy: Summer apparel 

Fashion is always one step ahead of the rest of the world, and summertime is no exception. July means fashion brands and apparel stores are already clearing out their summer goods to make way for the incoming autumn line. Look out for discounts on tank tops, white sneakers, shorts and other summer wear you can still enjoy this season or save for next year’s hot-weather season.

Skip: Lawn mowers

Your mower may be old and creaky, but this isn’t the best time to spring for a replacement. Lawn mowers are still in high demand in July, so they are still retailing at full price. As always, patience can be the key to significant savings: The longer you wait into the season, the better price you can find on a lawn mower and other gardening tools and supplies. 

Buy: Amazon devices

Amazon has announced it will be hosting its Prime Day sales event in July this year. Look out for the exact dates to pick up some fantastic savings on all Amazon devices, including Echo speakers, Echo Show smart displays, Fire tablets, Kindle eBook readers and more. 

Skip: Sandals and flip-flops

Put warm-weather footwear on the skip list this month. Sandals and flip-flops won’t be discounted until August, when the end of the summer is in sight and retailers need to move merchandise to make room for the next season’s inventory. 

Buy: A/C Units

A/C units will begin to drop toward the end of the month as the season passes its midpoint. If your A/C needs to be replaced, you can find a new unit at a discounted price in July. 

July can bring great deals on all kinds of products for the savvy shopper. Use the tips here to know what to buy and what to skip this July. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great bargains in July? Tell us about them in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in June

Summer is here and it’s time to work on your tan–and on finding big bargains! Though there are no major shopping holidays in June, you can still find fantastic deals on all kinds of products. There are some purchases you should skip this month, though, and we know what they are. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in June.

Buy: Swimwear and lingerie

Get ready to hit the beach in style! Retailers offer steep discounts on swimwear as summer gets underway, and you can pick up a sweet deal on the swimsuit of your choice. Also, Victoria’s Secret famously hosts one of its semi-annual sale events in June, so also add lingerie to your “to buy” list!

Skip: Grills

Grills are in high demand this month, so they are retailing at full-price. If you’re looking to upgrade your grill, wait until mid- or late summer for a better deal. As with most timely products, the longer into the season you wait, the more you’ll save.  

Buy: Dinner for Dad

It’s Dad’s time! Restaurants know you’ll be taking him out to eat, and they offer great deals on meals to lure prospective diners inside. Some of these discounts might only be available through gift card purchases, so be sure to check it out in advance. 

Skip: Mattresses

If you need new mattresses, you’re out of luck. The Memorial Day sale events, which happened last month, will typically offer the best discounts on mattresses. If you’ve missed out, you’ll want to wait until Labor Day to score a deal.

Buy: Workout wear and gear

Consumers are building their beach bodies this month, and retailers want in on the action. Check out your favorite brands for steep discounts on workout wear and gear throughout the month of June. Getting fit is always easier – OK … a little more fun – when you’re outfitted in style!

Skip: Brand-name clothing

Don’t go all out on designer clothing this month, unless you love paying full price. In just a month from now, you can save hundreds of dollars on brand-name clothing, handbags and shoes from most major department stores, partially due to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Put the designer wardrobe on hold, and save a bundle.

Buy: In-season produce

The fresh fruits and vegetables are especially abundant this month. You can enjoy great prices and full flavor on in-season produce all June. Pick up some refreshing watermelon, stock up on all kinds of berries and load up the crisper with stone fruit of all kinds. You can also bring your barbecue dinners up a notch by grilling fresh and in-season corn on the cob, summer squash and even tomatoes. 

Skip: Electronics

School’s out, and so are the deals on laptops and other electronic devices. Older tech has been cleared out, so you won’t find discounts on last year’s models in June. If you need to upgrade your electronics, wait it out a bit until the back-to-school sales start in July and August. 

Buy: Tools and paint

The best deals on tools and paint won’t hit stores until November, but you can still pick up a sweet bargain on these home-improvement essentials in June. Discounts are generally offered around Father’s Day. Look for sales on these items at major home improvement stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, to stock up on all you need for your DIY summer project. 

Skip: Patio furniture

You might be spending hours of each day outside this month, but that doesn’t make it an ideal time to furnish your patio in style. Outdoor furniture retails at full-price this month, and won’t start to see discounts until deep into the season, in another month or two. Wait it out a bit to save a ton.

Use the tips here to know what to buy and what to skip this June. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great deals in June? Tell us about it in the comments. 

15 Fun Gifts for Dad that Don’t Break the Budget

It’s Dad’s time, and you want to go all out to make your all-time favorite hero happy. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you need to drain your wallet. You can make Dad’s day, and keep your budget, too. Here are 15 fun and low-cost gifts that’ll make Dad smile this Father’s Day.

  1. IPhone, Apple Watch and AirPod charging dock

This awesome charging dock can give some juice to an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods all at the same time. With a sleek design and sturdy structure, the dock is compatible with Apple Watches and iWatches of all sizes and styles, and with all iPhone models as well. Get Dad’s 3-in-1 charging station for just $19 on Amazon

  1. BenShot pint glass with real golf ball

Does Dad love to golf? Surprise him with this unique pint glass that has a real golf ball embedded in it. Make him smile every time he fills up a frothy glass. Just $26 on Amazon.

  1. KingCamp foldable fire pit

This awesome travel fire pit is like a campfire on the go. The rollable stainless steel net and folding legs are collapsible and compact enough to take anywhere. No assembly needed—just unroll and light up! Get yours here.

  1.  Classic charades

You don’t have to spend much to make Dad happy. The classic game of Charades, just $12 at Chroniclebooks.com, will help create warm family memories well beyond Father’s Day.

  1. Open bottle wine rest

This adorable mountain-shaped wine bottle rest is the perfect gift for the outdoorsy dad who loves to enjoy a good glass of wine and save the rest for later.

  1. 6. Rainbow socks pizza socks box

Everyone knows you can never have enough novelty socks. The pizza-box packaging of these socks makes them a super-fun Father’s Day gift. Just $26 on Amazon

  1.  Baby Yoda device holder

Let the Force be with Dad when you give him this device-holder that’s shaped like a baby Yoda. Prop up phones, video game controllers, and more. $25 on UrbanOutfitters.

  1. Bluetooth speaker beanie

With its built-in Bluetooth speakers and a super-warm design, Dad won’t want to take this beanie off all winter! Just $28 on Amazon.

  1. Mosiyeef pop-up wallet with money clip

Dad can finally toss that overstuffed and worn-out wallet when you gift him this minimalist, ultra-modern one! Crafted from aluminum and stainless steel, this pop-up wallet is lightweight, yet functional, holding up to six cards at a time, all of which can pop up at the push of a button. Available in 16 colors for only $19 on Amazon.  

  1.  Fitness dice

At-home workouts are fun again with this innovative fitness dice set. Every roll gives you one out of 45,000 possible routines, all with no equipment required. Only $19 at uncommongoods.com.

  1. Bean Box coffee subscription

If Dad loves his morning cup of Joe, he’ll love getting a regular delivery of fresh bags of whole bean coffee from artisanal brand Bean Box. Subscriptions are highly customizable and start at just $16.50.

  1. Chillsner

Dad will never have to wait for his drink to chill again when he has this nifty little gadget. Keep the Chillsner in the freezer and pop it into any drink for an instantly chilled beverage. $10 at uncommongoods.com.

13.  Marvel’s greatest comics

Let Dad dive into an anthology of the greatest Marvel comics of all times, including all-time favorites like Iron Man, Captain America and more. Get the collection here.

  1. Harry’s Truman shave set

Dad will look dapper when he uses this luxury shave set, complete with a signature handle, textured rubber grip, three German-engineered blade cartridges, foaming shave gel and more. $15 from Harry’s

  1. Zippo FireFast torch

It’s a blazing flame whenever Dad wants it. Ultra-hot and precise, the torch will help Dad get his outdoor fire pit going, add some char to his entree or dessert or light up a dark campsite. $15 on Amazon.

It doesn’t cost much to make Dad happy. Use this guide to find the perfect gift for Dad that doesn’t break the budget.

Your Turn: What’s your gift to Dad this Father’s Day? Tell us about it in the comments. 

4 Ways to Stay Financially Fit this Summer

Ahh…summer! The season of flip-flops and sunscreen, of lemonade and baseball games. What’s not to love about summer?

Unfortunately, though, summer is also the season of overspending for many. When the sun is blazing across a cloudless sky and the day stretches on with endless possibilities, purse strings are looser and cards are swiped with abandon. But nothing kills summer fun like a busted budget and a mountain of debt. So, how can you stay financially fit this summer?

Keeping your finances intact throughout the summer is well within reach if you’re ready to plan ahead and make responsible choices. Here are four hacks for a summer of financial fitness. 

  1. Prepare for a possible change in income

If you’re a freelancer, business owner or you get paid per diem, you can expect to see a drop in income during the summer months. Business is notoriously slower across a wide range of industries during the summer, so it’s best to be prepared for this reality. To avoid dipping into savings or going into debt, you can trim your discretionary spending and use the extra funds to cover non-discretionary expenses. You can also choose to find a side hustle for the summer to cover the gap in your income. 

  1. Get your budget ready for summer

Your budget will see some changes in the summertime, and it’s a good idea to prepare in advance instead of being caught unaware. Here are some changes you can anticipate:

  • Higher utility bills. With the AC blasting, your energy costs will likely be higher. Water costs can rise, too, especially if you water your lawn and any outdoor plants and flowers on a regular basis. 
  • Increase in fuel prices. Just when you thought it couldn’t go any higher, the price of fuel is likely to jump again in the summer. 
  • Travel expenses. Of course, if you’ll be traveling this summer, it’s going to cost you. If you haven’t yet budgeted for your getaway, start saving up and/or trimming costs from other categories in your budget now.
  • Social events. It’s wedding season, and they don’t come cheap, even if you’re not the one in the white gown. You may also receive invites or host other events during the summer months, such as family reunions, block parties, anniversary celebrations and more. It’s best to budget for gifts, the travel costs of attending these events and of course, for the expense of hosting, if applicable.
  • Activities for kids. School’s out, and the kids need to be kept busy. Aim for free activities whenever possible, but you may want to set aside some funds in your budget for occasional activities that have a price tag attached. 
  1. Create a vacation budget 

Aside from adjusting your monthly spending plan, you’ll want to build a workable budget for your summer getaway to avoid overspending. Money choices are nearly always better made in advance, so plan for every conceivable expense during your vacation. Attach a dollar amount for your hotel stay, car rental, food costs, transportation expenses, entertainment and outings, gifts, and any other cost you might have. Leave a bit of wiggle room for miscalculations, but try to keep your budget as close to the actual cost as possible. While on vacation, be careful not to go over budget and be open to a last-minute change of plans if some expenses end up being substantially higher than expected. 

  1. Review and adjust as necessary

Like going off a diet, blowing a budget is never an excuse to go all out and overspend without sparing a thought to the consequences. To avoid falling into this trap, resolve to review your budget and your overall spending on a regular basis throughout the summer. You can choose to do this weekly, or bi-weekly, but be sure to take a careful account of every dollar in and every dollar out. Being aware of the state of your finances in real-time instead of waking up after the damage has been done will make it easier to make responsible choices going forward. 

The temptation to overspend is especially strong during the summer. Follow these tips to keep your finances intact throughout the summer. 

Your Turn: How do you plan to stay financially fit this summer? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Step 5 of 12 to Financial Wellness: Practice Mindful Spending

Creating a budget and deciding to stick to it is easy; it’s actually carrying through on your plan that’s the hard part. For too many people, financial responsibility ends at having good intentions and real life gets in the way of all well-laid plans. A large part of the discrepancy between what they want to do and what they actually do is caused by their failure to spend mindfully. When every indulgence and impulse buy is just a swipe away, it can be super-challenging to rein in that spending instinct – but it is possible. Here’s how to learn the art of mindful spending. 

Find alternative ways to de-stress

Too often, people claim they need “retail therapy” and use it as an excuse to practice mindless spending. But choosing to turn to shopping for alleviating stress, dealing with a challenging situation or just to escape real life for a bit makes it very difficult to make smart, responsible choices. In addition, the bills, or debt that will likely accumulate as a result will increase stress levels considerably. Instead, it’s best to find another way to lift a heavy mood. Find someone to talk to, take a long, hot bath, go for a jog while listening to your favorite pick-me-up playlist or take up a forgotten hobby again. 

Consider disabling the one-click feature for online shopping

If you’re big into online shopping and often end up buying more than you’d planned, you may want to disable the one-click feature on sites like Amazon. You can also choose not to have your device “remember” your payment information so you have to input it whenever you shop. The more resistance or friction required to complete a purchase, the greater the chances of that purchase being a mindful choice and not a decision you’ll soon regret. 

Leave your cards and cash at home

When you don’t plan on spending any money, don’t take any with you. For safety reasons, you may choose to carry a card with you, but it’s a good idea to keep it as out-of-reach as possible. If you make all your payments with your phone, keep it tucked away, too. Similarly, if you’re hitting the shops to pick up a specific item, bring just the amount you’ll need for the purchase and nothing more. 

Put large purchases on hold

One of the best ways to avoid buyer’s remorse is to put all large purchases on hold. Set your own dollar amount for what you consider to be a large purchase and resolve to wait a while before completing any purchase in that amount or more. For example, you can decide to wait two weeks for every purchase of $50 or more. Delaying a large purchase will give you time to think it over and consider whether you really want to spend this money now. Of course, if you’ve been saving up for a large purchase for a while, you’ve already thought about the purchase and decided it’s worthwhile. 

Avoid temptation

It’s hard to keep telling yourself no when temptation is constantly flashing across your screen. Opt out of social media accounts that get you to spend more than you should, and unsubscribe from email lists. Avoid browsing on brand sites that often trigger overspending and only visit when you need to make a purchase. You can do this in real life as well, being careful to avoid shops that provoke mindless spending. Similarly, when shopping for groceries, keep away from aisles and checkout counters that cause you to overspend and purchase more than you have on your list. 

Mindless spending can be the undoing of the most carefully-crafted budget. Follow these tips to learn how to spend mindfully. 

Your Turn: How do you practice mindful spending? Share your best tips and tricks in the comments. 

How to Save Big Bucks by Brown-Bagging Your Lunch

Did you know that choosing to bring your own lunch to work each day can save up to $3,000 a year? Each takeout lunch can easily cost $12 more than a homemade meal. If you’d put that money into an index fund and contribute to it for 25 years, you can save $500,000! 

Unfortunately, too many people end up buying out each workday because they don’t realize how much it costs them, or they simply fail to plan ahead. Others may think it would be too much of a hassle to shop for, prep and bring along lunch from home.

You can use this handy calculator to determine how much you can personally save each year just by brown-bagging it to work each day. And, if you find the idea of prepping lunch five days a week a bit overwhelming, you can choose to bring lunch from home on specific days of the week. 

Here are some hacks for brown-bagging it to work with all the savings and none of the hassle. 

Plan your menu and shop for it early

Don’t get stuck staring at the contents of your fridge and wondering what to take to work seven minutes before you need to leave in the morning.  Plan your lunch menu early in the week and add whatever you’ll need to your grocery list. To save even more, shop the sales and the seasons, and then base your lunch menu around those items. 

Marathon-prep at the beginning of the week

The thought of prepping lunch at the end of a long workday when all you want to do is veg out on the couch can be daunting. Instead, hold a marathon session at the beginning of the week to do as much labor-intensive lunch prep as you can. Slice and dice all your veggies for the week, split dressing into small containers, cook your pastas, wash fruit and tackle any other prep that can be done in advance. This way, you’ll only need to grab what you need each day from the fridge instead of facing an entire meal to prep and package. 

Partner up

It’s never easy to be the odd one out, and if you set yourself up to be the only one pulling out a homemade lunch while the rest of the office packs out to pick up lunch or orders in, you can end up giving up and joining the crowd. Try to find a like-minded partner to brown-bag it with you on the days you choose to bring lunch from home. Eat your lunches together; the companionship will make it easier for both of you to stick to your convictions.

Love your leftovers

Save even more money, and make lunch prep easier, by bringing dinner leftovers with you for lunch. You can repurpose a leftover protein to serve as a salad-topper or sandwich-stuffer, bring along a container of soup to warm up in the office microwave, or beef up your work lunch with some leftover rice, quinoa or another side dish. 

Brown-bagging it to work when everyone else is ordering takeout isn’t easy, but by using the tips outlined here, you can save a boatload of money on work lunch without the hassle. 

Your Turn: Do you bring lunch to work each day? Share your tips with us in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in April

The days are getting longer and warmer, and that means summer is just around the corner! Though April is a mid-season month without any major shopping holidays, you can still score some great deals. There are also many items you’ll want to put on your waitlist until prices drop in another month or so. We’ve got all the info for you so you can shop smart! Here’s what to buy and what to skip in April. 

Buy: Cruise tickets

If you’re looking to get away from it all, April is a great time to book that springtime or summer cruise. You can find deals on cruise tickets to Bermuda, Europe and other exotic locations this month. Take action and score the vacation of a lifetime at a discounted price.

Skip: Mattresses

Unless your mattress is giving you unbearable back pain, you’re best off waiting until Memorial Day when deep discounts make purchasing a new mattress easier on your wallet.

Buy: Car parts and accessories

If you need new wipers, tires, brakes or another car part or accessory, this is the month to pick them up! April is National Car Care Month, so auto parts stores and service centers will be running promotions. If your car needs servicing, or even just a tune-up, you can get this done for less this month, too. 

Skip: Grills and patio furniture

Spring is just getting underway, and all things outdoors are still retailing at full price. If you can wait until Memorial Day sale events happen, you can upgrade your grill and deck out your patio in the finest gear for a lot less money. If you wait even longer, until July or August, you’ll potentially find even steeper discounts. 

Buy: Secondhand treasures

Spring-cleaning season means crowds of people are clearing out the clutter in their closets and around their homes. Many of these treasures may end up in secondhand stores or get sold at garage sales around the neighborhood. If you’re looking for already-loved clothing to spruce up your wardrobe, or gently-used furniture to replace your outdated pieces, April can be a great time to pick up priceless pre-owned treasures. Hit the secondhand stores early in the week for the best pickings, as they tend to get the most donations over the weekend when people do their cleaning.

Skip: Vacuums 

April might be time for deep-cleaning, but that doesn’t mean cleaning gear is discounted this month. Unless you’re desperate for a new machine, you’re better off waiting until vacuums go on sale during Black Friday sale events. 

Buy: Tax day giveaways

Filing taxes can be a headache at best, and downright painful at worst. Retailers want to make April 15th a little easier on the wallet for consumers, so many of them will run special promotions and events on this day. Look for giveaways, freebies, deep discounts on goods and more when tax day rolls around.

Skip: Refrigerators

If your fridge seems to be on its way out and you’re in the market for a new one, it’s best to hold off a bit on this purchase if you can. Retailers will soon be rolling out new models, and if you can wait until Memorial Day, you can find a new fridge in last year’s model at a fantastic price. 

Buy: Mother’s Day gifts

It’s never too early to think about making mom happy! And if you buy your Mother’s Day gifts in April, including jewelry and chocolate, you can save a bundle, too. 

Skip: Baby gear

Like all products that are upgraded annually, baby gear sees its biggest discounts when new models are rolled out, in January and February. This includes cribs, strollers, car seats, highchairs and more. 

Buy: Cookware

April is the unofficial kickoff of wedding season, when cookware becomes a popular gift. In a bid to attract customers, retailers offer steep discounts on pots and other cookware this month. Round out your own collection of cookware, or start stocking up on wedding gifts for less.

Tax day notwithstanding, April can be a time of fantastic finds and springtime memory making. Have a wonderful, bargain-filled month!  

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great deals this month? Tell us about it in the comments.