Showing posts with label Money Saving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Money Saving. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Your Complete Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment

Choosing your own health plan can be an intimidating and often confusing process, particularly for those who are already enrolled in Medicare but are interested in how other plans on the market compare with Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D.

With Open Enrollment season ending December 7th, time is running out to select the plan that fits your needs along with your budget. Fortunately, our friends at My Medicare Matters have developed a guide to help you through it.

The Complete Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment gives you an overview of the essential facts of the Open Enrollment period, including when it starts and ends, which parts of your Medicare plan you can change, and when your new coverage will begin. It also lets you know who should consider changing their coverage during this period; for example, certain people may find plans that offer better prescription drug coverage than their current plan, while others may need to switch in order to keep their doctor in-network. You can also sign up for reminders by email to learn more about when Open Enrollment starts and ends.

Not sure how your current Medicare plan stacks up? Use My Medicare Matters’ short Medicare Questionnaire. By answering a few simple questions, you will be provided with an online price comparison tool that will allow you to do your own research and find the plan that is right for you.

We’ve partnered with My Medicare Matters because like us, they are dedicated to offering free, easy ways to help people save money on their health. Together with our free Prescription Savings Card, which saved an average of 42% off the retail cost of prescription medication in 2014, there are more options than ever to help people, insured or uninsured, save on the rising cost of proper healthcare.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to School Savings

clothing budget
Back to school shopping should be fun & not stressful.
If you have kids, you will be in the same boat as me this month; feeling like you have a hole in your pocket and wondering where all your money went after completing your back to school shopping.  According to The National Retail Federation back to school shopping is considered the second-largest spending event of the year behind Christmas.  They are expecting $83.3 billion to be spent this season.  That is just CRAZY!

However having two teenage girls that love clothes and school supplies, I know exactly how they get that figure.  Our youngest daughter Emily is big into organizing, which means school supplies that keep her on task.  She has OCD and if it isn't just right, we go back to the store. (This is called picking my battles because when she feels organized - life is a whole lot easier.)  Our oldest daughter Morgan likes fashion, but isn't into the name brands, which is nice.  Bottom line though - school shopping means bargain shopping for us.  We try and find the best in school savings by doing the following.

Ready, Set, Organize

  1. First things first in saving money...go through their closets and dressers to find out what clothes still fit and what they will still wear.  Hidden clothes in the back of the closet can sometimes find new life. 
  2. Next we do the oh so familiar hand me down drill.  My girls have different tastes so this doesn't always work out, but there are a few things Emily likes and will actually wear for the new school year.  
  3. Lastly, we go through all their old notebooks from last school year and see what we can salvage, including pens, pencils, erasers, etc....  Most of the time we can come up with a lot of the school supplies by having them look through their rooms.  I usually only have to buy paper and maybe a binder or two.

Clothing Budget Helps Save Money

Thinking Ahead - In our household we also give a clothing budget over the next three months for clothes.  Since we live in California it is still pretty warm when school starts so our kids are still wearing their summer clothes the first few months of school.  So, we give each girl a dollar limit at the beginning of each month to purchase clothes.  For example we give them $100.00 in August to buy whatever clothing they want - usually new shirts and shoes.  The next month they get another $100.00 for jeans and maybe more shirts.  Then another $100 the last month. This is when they buy some sweaters and maybe more pants.  This works well because 1) they always have new clothes and 2) we aren't buying things that they can't wear until the cooler weather hits.  It also prepares them for real life by learning to save and how to budget their money.

Best Places to Shop

Whether your child is going back to school this Fall for Kindergarten, 12th grade, or going off to college, you will need a list of supplies -- typically on the school's website or at the school.  If you are an online shopper, you can go to Staples and shop by the grade your child is entering.  There are always back to school savings with their back to school sales and it's convenient.  I found I get the biggest bang for my buck here!

If you are a Target shopper, another great place to shop for school supplies and finding back to school specials, not only can you buy supplies, you can also do school clothes shopping.  They even have a coupon page that has extra savings to print out.   Last year Emily bought her backpack for 50% off - a great deal for a very stylish backpack.

Another great place to save without all the hustle and bustle is CVS.  We go here quite often.  They always have sales, it isn't too big, and there is less to choose from.  This helps because too many choices can be frustrating and overwhelming.  Also, their Extra Care CVS Card provides extra savings.  Last month alone I saved over $360 and earned $24 in extra bucks, which I will use to buy school supplies this year.

back to school savings
New school clothes
always puts a smile on their faces.
The most expensive part about back to school is the clothes shopping.  It can be less painful if you know where to shop.  For example, outlet stores are a great choice if going for their deals. However, you may go in for one deal, but then end up buying other things that aren't on sale thus leaving with no real savings.

To be a bargain shopper for school clothing you need to go to more than just one store.  Research first.  Find out what sales are going on and don't impulse shop.  The local mall is always a great place around the new school year.  They all want you to buy their clothes so they are constantly competing with each other to have the better sale.

Here are a few stores that often have great deals on school clothes and shoes online or at the actual store:

  • Famous Footwear
  • Kohls (Great prices from shoes, to bags, to clothes - teenagers LOVE this store.)
  • JC Penney (The whole family will enjoy their styles and everyday is a sale.)
  • Aeropostale (Great fashion that teenagers love at low prices.)
  • Old Navy ( Teens aren't big shoppers here, but great for younger kids.)
  • Burlington Coat Factory (Great for name brands with half the price and a little more organized than Ross or Marshalls.)
  • PacSun (Great for teen name brands and jeans are usually buy one get one free.)
Even if your children wear uniforms, I wish I had that problem, there are good deals on cheap school uniforms.  Old Navy has great prices from $5.00 to $20.00 for shirts to pants.  JC Penney has a lot of the same as Old Navy just a little more variety on the style.  A little more in cost, but really cute skirts and other styles to spruce up the uniform a little.

Coupons, coupons, coupons...whenever I buy online or get ready to hit the mall I go on the web first to make sure I have every coupon available.  I use online sites like: Retail Me Not,  Printable Coupons, or Deal Catcher  for coupon savings! Just print and take them to the store.

One last tip for back to school savings with teens.  Instead of taking them shopping and letting them buy whatever they want, I would suggest giving them the money and making them manage it.  Negotiate on a set amount before you go and give it to them.  This will make them think about what they are buying and do the math on how much money they have left after each purchase.  They will be more prone to doing a little bargain shopping.  If they know they only have $200 to spend, they might think twice about buying those $100 jeans.  It gives them a sense of control, but also a sense of how much everything costs and that money doesn't grow on trees.

Proactive School Savings

All of these savings and back to school talks bring up a big topic...saving for college.  There are a lot of people out there that are unaware of how to save NOW for college costs in the FUTURE.   Getting an educational savings account is the first place to start. is a great site to learn about a 529 Plan or Coverdell college savings account plan.  These education savings plans help families set aside funds for future collegcosts.  Planning is an easier and less painful method for saving for school, than trying to come up with it at college time.  Plus these accounts provide special tax benefits.  Upromise  is another great college savings plan that allows you to build up a college savings account while you shop for those items your children need now!

Contributing Writer
Training Wheels Preschool Owner

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thrifty Shopping- Clothes for a Cause

cheap clothes thrift shops
One of the many outfits I've worn to the office,
courtesy of the thrift store!
All of my friends know that if they want to find me on a Saturday morning, I will be at one of two places: my house or my second home-- the thrift store.

For all of you who are thinking to yourself, "Really, Krysta?  Why on earth would you spend your Saturday mornings there?"  Well, my question to you is "Why not!?"

When I was a kid, all I knew about thrift shops is that when something didn't fit anymore or if I no longer wanted something, that's where it went.

For the past couple of years, I have been doing the opposite- going to second hand clothing stores to purchase stylish yet cheap clothes.  Who would have thought!  Not only do I come home with all kinds of goodies, but my girl instinct to shop benefits many people in the process.

My love affair with thrift stores began when I was in college.  I was given the opportunity to intern at a newspaper.  In order to do that, I needed clothing: dress pants, dress shirts--the works.  I didn't want to spend a ton of money because I would only be needing the clothes for the semester and my taste in clothes changed like the weather anyway.  Getting discount clothes gave me a wardrobe to meet my needs -- affordably.

I knew that second hand stores existed, but I was too proud to step foot in one.  A building full of people's old stuff didn't really appeal to me and might not appeal to you either.  But have you ever borrowed a girlfriend's dress or a buddy's suit?  If you're guilty like me, you wore someone else's clothes.  The way I looked at it, thrift store clothing gave me a huge selection that I can borrow permanently!

Here Are Some Reasons You Should Shop Thrift Stores:


You're Benefiting Your Community - Thrift stores like The Salvation Army and Goodwill have all of the proceeds go right back to helping those in need.  For example, The Salvation Army's Older Adult Rehabilitation Centers are 100% funded by the proceeds of their family thrift stores.  Shopping at Goodwill helps to support job placement and training programs for people with disabilities.  Whether you buy donated goods at Salvation Army or Goodwill, you're helping your wardrobe and others in the process!  You can visit their websites for store locations and for more details how both organizations help your community.

You Won't Buy Children's Clothes Ever Again! -  Attention parents!  Thrift shops are jackpots for children's clothing.  Kids grow like weeds and before you know it, shirts are too tight and pants look more like shorts.  Whenever I go shopping at second hand clothes stores, the biggest section of the store is almost always the children's section.  There is a huge selection from onesies to winter jackets for all ages. Whether you are preparing for a new baby or need a one-time Easter dress for your little girl, savers should visit second hand clothes shops for clothing your kids will only wear a handful of times.

second hand store
Over 20 pairs of dress pants--all from the
thrift store!
Inexpensive Work Clothing - College graduates and bargain hunters alike can have their money go a lot further by staying away from pricey department stores.  After I graduated from college, I needed professional clothing to go on job interviews and then clothes to wear to work when I eventually got a job.  I scored a dresser full of work pants and paid a fraction of the price new pants would have cost.  Here's a tip:  If you find a pair of dress pants or jeans that fit like a glove but are too long or too short, no problem!  Most of the pants I've brought home were that way.  For pants that are too long, take them to your local dry cleaner so that they can be hemmed for around ten dollars per pant.  Or I discovered a great invention called hemming tape (its about three dollars for a roll) that can provide a temporary fix preventing your pants from dragging on the floor.  If the pants are too short, turn them into capris or walking shorts and wear them to the office during the summer.

$ales! - Just like department stores have sales, so do thrift stores!  (And they're way better!)  The thrift store I go to has specials every day.  One day of the week you can fill a whole basket of clothing for six dollars.  Other days they offer a percentage off of the ticketed price.  Keep an eye out for specials to save even more money on top of the already discounted clothing.

New Clothes - If you can't shake the thought of buying other people's clothes, there is usually a section of clothing with tags still on them.  Discount fashion clothing with tags are usually sold at 50% or more off the retail price on the tag.  Last year, I found an awesome blazer with the tags still on it.  I get tons of compliments and people look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I got it at the thrift store!

The next time you want to go shopping, skip the mall.  Venture into a second hand store and you will be amazed at what people donate.  One person's old clothes can be another person's treasure.  And your thrift store finds help many people who really need it.

Thrift stores are a great place to add to a wardrobe, but there is more to them than just clothes.  Keep an eye out for another blog filled with tips to furnish your house with the help of thrift shops!

Krysta W.