Spring and Summer Savings!

Spring is in full swing and summer will be here next month. As the world becomes greener and the temperature becomes warmer, it’s a great time to get out outside. Furthermore, it’s also a great time to reflect on your financial situation because once June is here, we will be at the halfway point of this year. Many businesses even end their financial year in June. So, I thought this post would be a great time to discuss spring-summer savings ideas.

Adjust insurance policies

This tip comes directly from my mother.  Now is a great time, to step back and think about your current financial situation. Take some time to look at your insurance policies (homeowners, renters, and auto) and determine whether or not you want to look for better deals with new providers or consider changing premiums and deductible amounts. Personally, my car insurance is coming up in June so I will see if I want to continue (which is pretty likely, I have had a great experience with Geico).

Plant a garden

You can still plant a garden right now. A garden is an excellent way to save money and spend some time outside. Additionally, if you don’t have a yard, it’s still possible to grow plants inside your home and in small spaces.  This blog does an excellent job of showing innovative indoor gardens.  Gardens don’t have much setup cost and cultivating one can be fun and rewarding.

Side Note: Deanna at Recovering Women Wealth has an excellent blog post about using your stimulus money. She mentions that planting a garden is also a good way to support local businesses who are in need of cash.

DIY yard work

Photo Credit: andreas160578 from Pixabay

If you have a yard, then taking care of it yourself can save you a lot of money. Hiring someone to do this can be expensive and can add up quickly, according to HomeAdvisor, weekly lawn care maintenance can range between $50-$200.   Even if you find a cheaper service at say $30 a week, that would add up to $120 a month. I say, play Small Ball, save some money, and do this work yourself! Also, maintaining a yard is great exercise  and gives you chance to get outside.

Hang your clothes outside

Hanging your clothes outside to dry is an excellent way to save money.

Photo Credit: Markéta Machová from Pixabay

Dryers use a lot of energy and make your electric bill higher.  My mother has been hanging her clothes outside all of her life. In some countries, like Japan, hanging clothes outside is actually what most people do.   I really need to do this more myself and I plan to now that the weather is warmer.

Exercise Outside

I wrote a previous blog post about staying fit on the cheap. There are a lot of ways to exercise outside without a gym. You can walk, run, do plyometrics and bodyweight exercises.  This time of the year is also great because you don’t have to combat the cold weather (however, when it gets hotter, you may want to exercise in the morning).   Additionally, I think it’s important to go outside and stay engaged with nature even more than usual because COVID-19 has kept most of us cooped up inside for sometime.

Thank you for taking time to read this. I appreciate it! Please leave a comment. Do you have any Spring-Summer Savings tips? @alexismh_8

Meditation, the ultimate free activity!

I feel like I need to include at least one blog post on meditation.

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Photo Credit: Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

Meditation is a practice that’s used to cultivate awareness. It is closely related to mindfulness, or the process of staying aware of the present moment. Meditation helps cultivate mindfulness. I include mindfulness in this blog’s title because I feel that having increased awareness is critical to achieving both personal and financial goals.

As a side note, both mindfulness and mediation are not exclusive to a single religion. People of all faiths (and those without religious beliefs) can engage in both activities. One of the greatest benefits of mediation is that it’s really cost effective! You can do it for free!

Focus on your breath

The essence of increasing your awareness is to focus on your breath. Your breath will guide your mediation practice and will allow you to refocus yourself during and outside of meditation. When the world feels like it’s moving too fast or if you are becoming overwhelmed, just breathe. Once you notice your breath, try taking 2-3 deep breaths. Notice how your belly moves when your chest increases in size when you breathe breathe deeply. Then become aware of how your body reacts when you breathe normally. Congratulations, you just meditated!

Use Insight Timer

Meditation can be done without an app but guided meditations are helpful when you are learning to meditate. Insight Timer is a mobile phone app available to both iOS and Android users. This app can be used for free and is filled with all kinds of free meditation exercises. I recommend starting out with smaller meditations like 5-10 minutes first and building your way up to longer ones gradually. There are also a variety of meditations. Personally, I enjoy “body scan” meditations because they help you cultivate awareness on specific parts of your body and even realize bodily sensations you may not have been aware of.

Tip: When I was first learning to meditate, sometimes, I would try to start over if I felt like “I wasn’t being present enough.” I told this to my mindful leadership professor and she recommended that I see a mediation from beginning to end. I agree with her because there is no correct way to meditate and seeing the activity through is similar to how we live life. Not every moment is perfect, nor is every moment filled with joy. Instead, it’s filled a mixture of happiness, sadness, and everything in-between.

Read Jon Kabat-Zinn

I really like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s approach to mindfulness and meditation. I own his book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. He explains both mindfulness and mediation in easy to understand terms. Additionally, he is considered a pioneer in promoting mediation and mindfulness to Americans. He has a lot to offer and his books are available in public libraries ( I hope we can access libraries soon).

Practice, Practice, Practice

Meditation is just like exercising or learning how to type. The more you do it, the more engaged in the moment you will become.

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Photo Credit: Renata Hille from Pixabay

Meditation requires consistency in order for it to improve your awareness of the present moment. Personally, I need to adhere to this tip! I haven’t meditated consistently in awhile. Time to redirect myself and get back to my original goal of making meditation a part of my life! Also, the price is right for me.

Thank you for taking time to read this blog. Please leave a comment. I would like to hear from you. Do you meditate or practice mindfulness? @alexismh_8

Manage Credit Card Debt

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Photo Credit: Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

A credit card can be a great friend or it can be a tough enemy that interferes with your financial goals. Managing your credit card debt can save you money and reduce some financial worry. Do not run away from your debt  The key is to remember that you are in charge of your financial destiny!

Pay it off

This is simple but I think it needs to be mentioned. Try making payments as soon as possible and focus on credit cards with high interest debt first. If you have extra money after reaching your balance goal, then you can put it towards paying off credit card debt.  Furthermore, you can apply the small ball approach towards paying off debt. Instead of making large payments over time, try making frequent payments in smaller chunks. I did that last Fall and reduced a credit card balance to 0.

Talk to a credit card representative

Ah, the human connection!  Today, it’s possible to use a credit card without ever directly dealing with a person, but, where is the fun in that?  Talking to a human at your credit card’s customer service can pay off. You can ask if your credit card has any deals on interest rates, balance transfers, or can help you with a specific issue like an incorrect charge or late payment.

Pro Tip: This is slightly unrelated but I think it can help you in the immediate future. Ask if a 0% interest rate on new purchases is available for a year. Having a 0% interest rate is a great tool to have; remember that it will increase back to your normal interest rate in a year so purchase mindfully!

Initiate a balance transfer

Sometimes, a credit card will have a very large interest rate…or you could have spoken with a customer service representative and they had nothing to offer you to help reduce your debt. Then, your next step is to initiate a balance transfer with another credit card company. I don’t recommend this tip too often but if you can be disciplined with paying off your debt then transfer your debt to a company with a 0% interest rate for 12-18.

Pro Tip: Some credit card companies offer balance transfers without fees. These situations are glorious! NerdWallet keeps an active list of these offers.

Thank you for reading this post. I appreciate your time. Please leave a comment. I would like to hear from you. Do you have any tips for reducing credit card debt? alexismh_8

Paying for Higher Education (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Kristine A from Pixabay

Yesterday my previous post focused on tips to help pay for higher education that I learned from my money mentor and mother, Martha. Today I will discuss some tips I picked up along my higher education journey (still, with a little help from my mother).

Apply for as many scholarships as possible

During my senior year of high school, I was lucky that my math teacher happened to be in charge of helping students find scholarships.  One day she recommended I apply for a scholarship and I didn’t think I had a chance but then I thought to myself why not? I filled out the application, wrote a letter, and then mailed it. Weeks later, I received a letter that said I would receive the scholarship and was awarded another. I was shocked. Had I not taken the chance, I would have missed out on a great opportunity.

I wasn’t so lucky on other scholarship applications but I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. Apply for as many scholarships as possible. I almost let an opportunity slip away but thankfully had a change of heart. Applying for scholarships can take time but it’s a worthwhile process and is like applying to a job. The more you do it, the better you will become at presenting yourself.

Some schools offer a general scholarship application that goes to several donors and scholarship committees. Fill this out as soon as possible! This is the greatest form of them all. Also, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you may qualify for grants to help offset costs. Finally, if you do get a scholarship, send a thank you letter to your donor. They really do appreciate it! I used to work in fund development for a nonprofit; my donors were thrilled to receive thank you letters and cards of appreciation.

Finally, talk to your school’s financial aid advisor(s), they can help point you in the right direction for finding scholarships. Also, fastweb.com has a massive database filled with active scholarships.

Get an on-campus job

Photo Credit: Nicholas Jackson from Pixabay

This tip is more from my mother than from myself. She had an on-campus job during her undergraduate studies. An on-campus job is ideal, since you are already spending time at the school, having your work at the same place will help reduce costs and save time. I was a writing tutor at my university for a one semester and I enjoyed it. I felt less stress as and saved money on transportation costs.  On a similar note, if you are a graduate student, you may want to apply to be a graduate assistant. A graduate assistant helps out professors and on-campus programs. Usually you receive reduced tuition and a stipend.

Check out books from the library or archive.org

Photo Credit: ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay

In order to reduce costs for my MBA, I look for books from both my university’s library and the public library. Usually books from classes in leadership and literature can be easily found in the public library. This semester, I also started using archive.org and found a required text for my personal branding class. Additionally, check to see if your department offers a “textbook library,” some departments will have textbooks that students share and lend to one another. And if you find that you really need a textbook, Amazon’s textbook rental service offers fair prices and a generous lending period.

Utilize Campus Resources

I said this briefly yesterday but would like to elaborate further. As a student you pay either directly or indirectly for additional resources outside of the classroom.   Some of these services can be gym memberships, access to health services, or career development/counseling. Maximize the value of your dollar by utilizing these resources!  As an undergraduate, I couldn’t afford a computer so I used the school’s computer labs. Also, if you need help with necessities, see if your campus offers a student pantry that provides food or personal care products. Don’t be afraid ask. These services are there for you.

Put your heart into it

A fair amount of people don’t complete their educations. This is understandable. Life throws things at us from all directions. The first time I went to a university, I knew that I wanted a bachelor’s degree. Had I not had this goal in mind from the beginning, I would have probably not have finished. However, my heart was set on getting this degree.

Photo Credit: congerdesign from Pixabay

 

I admire my mother’s approach to going back to school. She did it at a difficult time in her life after having divorced my father and having to rebuild her finances from scratch. Yet through her creativity and determination, she was able to work, spend time with her family, and get straight A’s in her classes. I believe a huge reason she was able to do this was because she put her heart into it. If you put your heart into it, you will find a way to finish school and manage your expenses. The moment you want something, the more focused you will become towards getting it.

“If it is important to you, you will find a way.” –unknown

Thank you for reading part 2! Please comment. Do you have any additional tips? @alexismh_8.

 

 

Paying for Higher Education (Part 1)

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Photo Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Higher education is powerful, it can increase your knowledge and broaden how you see the world. Additionally, getting a degree or certificate can increase your salary. My love of learning is directly attributed to my mother, Martha. She grew up in poverty but through grit and determination, she was able to finance her education herself and graduate college. After my parents divorced, circumstances changed, she had to provide for both my sister and me so she went back to school at age 50. For this blog post, I would like discuss the tips she gave to pay and pursue higher education. Part 2 will focus on the tips I mainly created myself (still with a little bit of help from my mom)!

View student loans as an investment in yourself

Student loans can be intimidating but they don’t have to be. Perception plays a big part. As my mother tells me, education has a value far different from other big purchases. Once you learn, the knowledge stays with you forever and can be applied again and again. Spending $25,000 on student loans is actually a wise investment when compared to $25,000 on a loan for a new car. A new car immediately drops in value the moment you drive it off the lot. This isn’t true about education. The more knowledge you obtain then the more valuable and more marketable you can make yourself.  Deferring gratification can be tough but will pay off in the long run.

Education has the unique power to not just help yourself but to help those around you.  Poverty tends to be cyclical and families can be stuck in it for generations. Education empowers people to get out of poverty. When my mother went back to school to get her Master’s degree in Education, she was able to find a job she liked and provide for herself and her family.  She took out student loans again but wasn’t afraid to because she viewed education as investment towards a better future.

Have a goal in mind

Photo Credit: Maura Barbulescu from Pixabay

Going to school can be overwhelming. When I first went to college, I didn’t know what I was going to major in but I knew I would finish and get degree no matter what. Having a clear goal is a great way to focus yourself and ensure you are making progress towards it. Additionally, when you are self-financing your education, a strong dose of reality sets it. Your success depends on your ability to successfully complete course work and ensure you are getting closer to your goal. Partying until 3 am on a Wednesday might sound great but really won’t help towards the long term goal of getting a degree.  A goal brings intentionality to your behavior and will make you more mindful of you how to want to live and invest in yourself.

Be an active participant

Finally, if you do pursue higher education, be an active participant in the learning process. I truly believe you get what you put into it. Whatever you decide to pursue, do it with passion. After all, you are paying for it, you might as well get money’s worth and learn as much as you can.  Don’t worry, higher education is meant to be a learning environment where you can take risks and ask questions.

Additionally, employers like to hire people who can bring value. A degree will help get you in the door but you will have to persuade the interviewer as why you are the best candidate.  Being an active participant in your education will enrich your learning experience and maximize the value of your own personal knowledge.

Pro Tip: Some schools require you pay gym fees, entertainment fees, medical fees, and computer lab fees. If your school requires these kinds of fees, I recommend using the facilities. You are paying for them so you might as well get your money’s worth!

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Have you pursued higher education? It’s never too late. Please leave a comment. I’d like to hear from you. @alexismh_8

Playing PC Games on a Budget

Playing PC Games on a Budget

Playing video games used to be a hobby of mine. I still play some on occasion but I am usually too busy.  Back in the 1990s, playing high quality video games on a personal computer (PC) was an expensive habit.  A good gaming PC could easily cost over $2000 in 1999.  Now, even cheap computers can play a ton of games and digital store fronts like Steam, Humble Bundle, and GOG.com make buying games easy and very affordable.  This post will focus on how to play PC games on a budget.

Play games on a Windows PC

In order to get the best deals and ensure compatibility with the most games possible, I recommend playing games on a Windows PC.

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Photo Credit: Tomasz Mikołajczyk from Pixabay

Video games do come out for Apple and Linux operating systems but there just aren’t as many games available. As a side note, Apple Arcade is an intriguing offer for Mac users, it offers access to over 100 games at $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year. On the other hand, a Mac user can always install Windows on a Mac but that still seems strange to me.

An expensive machine is not required

Some in the PC gaming world think that you need the latest and greatest computers to play games.  This is true for some games but there are thousands of PC games that can be played on humble machines. If you lower your expectations, it’s even possible to get technically demanding games to run on low-end computers. My personal laptop cost $250 and can play a decent amount of modern games. I did install 4 GB of additional ram for $20 so it could perform better.

Photo Credit: FreeCliparts from Pixabay

Desktop PCs aren’t as common anymore but they are very valuable investments for both gaming and regular computing. Desktops tend to last longer than laptops and can be upgraded! Through a simple ram upgrade, I was able to get my mother’s old Dell computer to run for 9 years. The computer gave out but that’s 7 years beyond the normal lifespan of a Windows computer.

Some people will say that you need a dedicated graphics card to play games. I don’t believe it’s necessary and have never owned a computer with a graphics card.  Dedicated graphics cards are superior to integrated graphics (the graphics most computers have). If you are serious about great graphics then I recommend buying a  graphics card.

Pro Tip: Ryzen processors are amazing! Even the laptop versions of the processor have decent gaming capabilities and are excellent for everyday use.

Humble Bundle

This is easily my favorite website to purchase computer games from. The website has several video game, book, and software bundles. Bundles are frequently updated. Most bundles will cost at least $1. The more you spend, the more games you will get in your bundle. I typically only spend $1 on bundles and don’t purchase them unless I like the games. As a semi-retired game player, this appeals to my cheap sensibilities and my intention to not invest a lot of money in games.

Another reason I am compelled to buy game bundles from them is that a part of your purchase goes to charity and you can even specify how much you want it to be (it can even be 100%) Additionally, the website will occasionally give out free games about once a month. I also recommend Humble Bundle  to people who have no interest in games too because the book bundles are also fantastic purchases.

Steam and GOG.com Sales

Steam and GOG.com are both digital gaming storefronts. Steam has the biggest selection of games to choose from. GOG.com offers video games that are free of digital rights management restrictions. This is known as DRM-free software. I prefer buying DRM-free software but am open to Steam games when the price is right. Both Steam and GOG have game sales and when they do, this is the time to buy games! During these glorious events, most games go on sale and some are even discounted by 90%. Steam usually as two semi-annual sales: once in the winter and again in the summer.

Useful Tips: Check system requirements on games before purchasing them. Or if you want to see how a game runs on your machine then go to YouTube and search for computers running the game you want to purchase with the same specifications. Also, both Steam and GOG.com allow you to return games.

Check Reddit

The two subreddits I check for learning about PC games are GameDeals and Low End Gaming. GameDeals is a great place to look for PC gaming deals and cheap bundles. Additionally, GameDeals will mention free games from a variety of storefronts: Steam, GOG.com, Epic, and Uplay.  The free games alone are a good reason to check out this subreddit.  Low End Gaming offers a lot of information on how to run games on humble computers. A great deal of how I learned to run games on low-end computers comes from this subreddit.

Pro Tip: Low-end gaming is a game itself! Sometimes, I get joy just from the running games on my computer that “supposedly” exceed  my system’s capabilities. This can be challenging but will teach you a lot about computers.

Get a USB Gamepad

Photo Credit: ClarissaBell from Pixabay

This isn’t a requirement but I grew up playing console video games and prefer using a gamepad over keyboard. Reliable USB Gamepads can be found on Amazon between $8-$30. Or if you have a spare PlayStation 1 or 2 controller lying around then you can get a USB connector for about $10.

 

Have Fun

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience. PC Games can be bought for cheap and gamepads don’t cost much. If you have a low-end to average computer like me then it’s important to be realistic and understand that some modern games will not run well.  I buy computers with the intent to use them for web browsing and productivity. I view gaming as a luxury. I could spend money and build a “gaming rig,” but I am at a point in my life where it’s not important enough for me to justify the cost. As long, it’s fun, I say, play on!

Thank you for reading this article! Please leave a comment. I would like to hear what you have to say. Do you have any cheap gaming tips or experience purchasing online bundles? @alexismh8

Additionally, you may want to read my post on buying computers to learn more about how to determine the right computer for you.

 

Mindful Purchases

Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us. A part of me just wants to get up and drive to a different place but it’s the same all over the U.S. (and most parts of the world). We are all under a cloud of uncertainty. Earlier, I talked with my money mentor, and mother, Martha.  We discussed how the pandemic is influencing purchasing decisions. Making mindful purchases can be tough right now but is important for saving money in the long-run. For this post, I will discuss some insights and ideas she shared with me.

We may buy because we are bored

The internet makes it so easy to purchase items. With not much else going on during this pandemic, it’s so easy to just start shopping whenever you like. Shopping and finding a good deal is fun but buying items to cope with boredom can be costly and turn into an unhealthy habit. COVID-19 is difficult, but this recent blog post from Jackie Beck has great ideas for dealing with boredom.

We might buy when we are stressed

Stress can be tough to deal with at any time. At the moment, we are all facing extra stress because of the pandemic.  Acknowledge the stress and step back for a little bit. Ask yourself, if you are purchasing something simply because you are stressed out. Instead, try to relax even for just 10 minutes and reconsider the purchase. Then you will know if you are purchasing simply because you are stressed out or if you really want it.

Are we buying because we are lonely?

Loneliness is a strong sadness due to a lack of authentic personal connections. Social distancing and required isolation has made many people feel lonely. We may be tempted to buy items in order to cope with loneliness but purchases cannot be a substitute for personal connections. Discovering that we are making purchases because we are lonely can be a tough realization.

Try to step back and reflect. If you even have a small feeling you are buying because you are lonely then try to get in contact with someone you enjoy talking to. Even talking for 15 minutes can improve your spirits. This time may be especially hard on single people living by themselves. Deanna Broaddus recently published an excellent blog post for single people living alone right now during COVID-19. Remember you are not alone!

Avoid buying out of fear

Photo Credit: Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

As mentioned in my earlier post about managing money and worry and seen across the news (and probably at your local stores), toilet paper continues to be purchased in high quantities. Fear is a powerful motivator and can lead us to purchase and stockpile goods when we don’t need them. Roughly 3-4 weeks ago, I went through a phase of fear-based purchases. I wanted to buy toilet paper, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol. Once I purchased these items then I had thoughts of purchasing more. Then it occurred to me that no amount would make me feel secure. I was buying out of fear. This is not easy but just acknowledging this habit can make you stronger and better able to save money.

Make Mindful Purchases

Photo Credit: Marta Kulesza from Pixabay

The external environment is always changing and COVID-19 reminds me how much is out of our control but also how adaptable we are.  Even with all this uncertainty, each and every one of us still makes the final decision for sliding our credit cards at a cash register, for clicking the purchase button on Amazon, and for ordering takeout over the phone. We still have the power to make or not make a purchase.  Stay purposeful, and make your purchases matter to you and your long-term goals.  This pandemic feels as though it will last forever, however, as my mother often tells me, “This too shall pass.”  Now, is not the time to throw in the towel. Think, reflect, and act. Make mindful purchases.

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment. I would like to hear about your experiences with making purchases during this strange time.  @alexismh_8

 

eBay Guide

eBay can be a great place to find deals and bargains on both new and used items. You can buy everything from cars to catalogs from the 1920s.

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Simon Steinberger from Pixabay

There really is something for everyone. This post will focus on how to use eBay and help you are get the most bang for your buck!

 

 

1.)   Make an account

This may seem like a no brainer for some, however, eBay requires that you have an account. Registering is fairly straightforward and you can even register with either a Google account or Facebook account. I recommend choosing a nickname that you are willing to share with sellers or buyers…Or if you are comfortable using a name like Lustyman99 then go ahead!

2.)   Learn and understand the product

The more you know about the product you are purchasing the better you will be at figuring out if you are getting a good deal or not.

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Screen Capture: ebay.com 4/16/20

eBay is built for easy comparison shopping.  Comparison shopping is how you find deals. Just searching a single product will give you all the listings available.  One of my favorite strategies is to go to the left side bar and check the “Sold Items” box (the “Completed items” box will automatically be checked). This filter will show you the most recent sales prices for the product you are searching for. This information by itself will give you a great idea as to what a reasonable price should be.

 

3.)   Check Seller Background

My experience with eBay has been positive for the most part but I still recommend checking a seller’s most recent feedback. Feedback will let you know if a seller values customers and is worth your time. Additionally, checking a seller can allow you to see if there are other products she/he is selling that may interest you. If you really like a seller, then you can save them to your feed and receive updates on their products.

4.)   Use the “Make Offer” feature

Some sellers will allow you to make offers.

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Screen Capture: ebay.com 4/16/20

I prefer this method over traditional bidding. Making an offer can get you access to better deals. Each seller is different but I recommend not “low-balling” their listed price.  From my experience, some sellers will ignore low offers. I say if you stay between 60%-75% of the initial price this will be a good starting point to work from. Then be prepared to haggle! Some sellers will offer you a counter offer. You can take it or present a counter offer of your own.

Pro Tip:  When you make an offer, write a message and say what you are basing your offer from. Whenever you negotiate, solid evidence will make your offer more credible.

5.)   Bid with Confidence or Bid without Worry

Bidding on an item can be a stressful process. If you bid low then there is a good chance someone will bid higher or maybe someone else might “snipe” or outbid you within the last seconds of a sale. Some sellers on eBay say “Bid with Confidence.”  This statement is so true. If you really want an item then bid with confidence and make a bid you believe will win the auction or make it the highest amount you are willing to pay. As a reminder, the highest amount you are willing to pay will not show up on the auction unless you are outbid by someone else.

Now, the second thing I recommend is to bid without worry. If a product is common, chances are you will find another auction you can try again to win. Take your time and focus on the long term game of saving money getting the product at a price you are willing to pay. It’s a lot like fishing but can save you money. If you consistently can’t get the product from the price you bidding with then it’s possible that the market price is just too high. Making an offer to a seller may be a better option.

Super Pro Tip: My secret strategy is to look through “completed listings” and see if sellers were unable to sell their items. Once I find something, I send a message to a seller and ask if the item is still available and offer them an amount I am willing to pay. This strategy has given me some great products at low prices I likely I wouldn’t win an auction with.

6.)   Save a Search

Saving a search will save you time. If you really have your heart set on an item but want it at a cheap price then saving a search will let you know when new listings appear.  This way you can see new listings in real-time and not miss out on potential deals. As a side note, you may want to vary the language you use in a search too.  For example, for searching “Marvel vs Capcom PS1” will generate more results than “Marvel vs Capcom PlayStation 1.” Just by changing your word choice slightly can give you different results.

7.)   Buy parts!

Finally, I have had a great experience finding parts for cars, appliances, and computers on eBay. My favorite part purchase was a $10 washing machine clutch that normally sells at appliance stores for $50. eBay is filled with lots of parts sellers and inexpensive parts. The savings are fantastic! Low-priced parts will decrease repair costs and some can be shipped in a timely manner.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Do you have any eBay success stories, tips, or horror stories? Please comment. I would like to hear from you! @alexismh8

MVNO Guide

What is a MVNO?

A MVNO is a mobile virtual network operator. More specifically, a MVNO is a cell phone provider who leases cell towers from big companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.  MVNOs  offer cheap plans and use the same cell towers and technology as the big players. Call quality and data coverage are very reliable.  Data speeds are usually slower but fast enough for most usage. MVNOs are a great way to save money and can be added to your Small Ball strategy.  Today, there are so many MVNOs to choose from so I will focus this post on how to pick the best company for you.

1.) Look at the network coverage map

Reliability is very important for a cell phone. Having reliable service means that your cell phone is functional and useful. I highly recommend checking the coverage map to see if the cell phone company you are in interested provides service where you live and work. When looking at the coverage map, make sure to see if the MVNO provides both data and voice coverage. Most MVNO’s don’t have roaming abilities so checking the coverage map is critical.

2.) Compare monthly costs

This is where having an MVNO pays off. Monthly costs from these cell phone companies are usually a lot cheaper than having a smart phone plan from a main provider like AT&T. When you compare costs, check to see if taxes are included in the final monthly fee.  I recommend using this website to help compare costs as it has a ton of information and is up-to-date: https://bestmvno.com/mvnos/

Pro Tip: If you have a credit card that gives you cash back or have a store credit/debit card that gives you a discount like Target’s RedCard then you can save money on monthly fees. I buy Cricket Wireless refill cards from Target every month and get a 5% discount so my monthly fee is 5% less than what I would normally pay if I paid directly on Cricket’s website.

3.) Find the right amount of data for you or use Wi-Fi

Each person will vary in their data needs.  Streaming videos will require lots of data and some apps like Instagram can be data hungry.

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Photo Credit: Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

I typically only use 1-2 GB of network data a month.  The main reason for this is because I mainly use Wi-Fi from my home’s network. I recommend using Wi-Fi has much as possible, this will allow you to buy a cheaper plan as data is usually the most costly aspect of a cell phone plan. Wi-Fi is also available for free in several places like McDonald’s and local libraries.

Pro Tip: Cricket Wireless “Throttles” or lowers internet speed after 2GB. The download speed is usually about 128-140 kbps. This speed is too slow for video (may work on 144p content) but can be usable for small apps like Facebook Lite or a light web browser.  I’ve heard that Boost Mobile offers similar throttled speed. This data speed is slow but can work in a pinch or if you want to save money like me, you will make it work!

4.) Can you BYOP?

A lot MVNOs allow you to bring your own phone (BYOP). You can save money by doing this and some companies will offer compatibility tools on their websites.

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Photo Credit : edar from Pixabay

Additionally, check to see which cell phone network the MVNO you are checking out belongs to. If you have an AT&T phone, it will likely work on Consumer Cellular or Cricket Wireless because both companies use the AT&T network. If you BYOP, you will have to buy a Sim Card but these are usually around $10.

5.) Embrace the Android platform.

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Photo Credit: gfk DSGN from Pixabay

I am a big fan of Android phones and have used them exclusively since I purchased my first smartphone in 2012. This is kind of surprising because I once I worked at an Apple Store. iPhones are fine devices but I don’t like how much they cost. Most familiar apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter are on Android. Android phones are typically cheaper; I am still rocking a $20 Kyocera Hydro phone I purchased over two years ago.  My biggest complaints about Android phones are that less expensive phones tend to have poor cameras and storage space may be limited.

Pro Tip: Android phones can expand their storage space through Micro SD cards. Also, the Android platform has more apps to choose from than iOS.

6.) Buy a phone from a discount retailer.

I dislike additional fees. If you buy a cell phone directly from a Boost Mobile or Cricket store then you will get charged an activation fee. I recommend buying a phone from a discount retailer like Target, Amazon, or Wal-Mart. These phones do not have activation fees and may even cost less than buying directly from an MVNO store.

7.)  Get a Family Plan

Check to see if the MVNO you like offers a family plan. This can save you a lot of money by bundling family members into one single plan. I don’t have a family plan but some of my friends do and it works well for them. Just be mindful that your family members don’t overuse the shared data.

Side Note:

If you have a low income, you may qualify for a free cell phone. There are specific criteria you have to meet but can save you a lot of money.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! Who is your cell phone provider and what do you like or dislike about them? Please comment, I’d like to hear from your alexismh_8

Saving Even More Money on Groceries!

About two weeks ago, I wrote  a post about saving money on groceries. Today, I just came back from grocery shopping and realized two things. First, I am out of shopping shape! Just a month ago, I was faster at comparing deals and locating the items at the supermarket. Second, I realized there is a lot more to the grocery shopping experience that I could have discussed in my previous post. This blog will provide more insights and strategies for saving money on groceries.

Use coupons

Photo Credit: Pixaline from Pixabay

I’ve mentioned this before but I forgot how valuable they truly are. Coupons can save you lots of money in the long run if you use them frequently.  Those of you who have read my Small Ball post understand how consistently saving small amounts of money can can have a large impact.  Additionally, groceries are a necessary expense. We all need them! So you might as well try to save some money on them.

Today, you can find coupons on websites such as coupons.com, lozo.com, pgeveryday.com, valpak.com and thekrazycouponlady.com. If there is a product you really like then check the manufacturer’s website to see if they offer coupons. Depending on where you  live, you may receive store ads and coupons via mail. Also, check to see if the grocery stores you shop at offer coupons through the mail or have a store app with coupons.

Get a store ‘membership’ or ‘value card’

Often grocery stores and supermarkets have a ‘membership,’ ‘club card,’ or ‘value card.’ They are all very similar. Getting a card is usually necessary to get the ‘reduced’ price when checking out.  Sometimes the ‘reduced’ price really isn’t  a discount but other times it is. Regardless, I recommend getting the store’s ‘value card’ so you can have access to the lowest price possible. Some grocery stores like Smith’s will mail you coupons, offer discount gas discounts, and send weekly ads directly to you.

Understand the game and adapt!

Grocery and discount retailers have to put items on sale weekly.  For example, Pepsi soda may be on sale one week then Coca-Cola products will be on sale the next week. If you aren’t attached to a specific brand then adapt and take advantage of the deal. It’s good to brush up on store’s weekly ad before going shop, that way you can understand the current weekly game, adapt,  then take advantage of the current sales.  Follow this tip and money will be saved!

Generic products

Generic products, house brands, and private label goods offer good value and are almost always cheaper than name brands. Again, if you aren’t attached to a certain brand then buying a generic item is a good way to save money.  Generic brands may not have the most flashy advertising  or graphics but their savings potential cannot be denied!

However, if you really like a certain brand, I say get it.  In my view, it’s important to buy a product you really like instead of spending money on multiple cheap items you will dislike or may never use.  Also, buying a product you really like is spending money mindfully because you recognize its meaning and value to yourself.

Know a store really well

Photo Credit: Clker-Free-Vector-Images

I once had a professor who used a store map and created a route for the most efficient way to buy his weekly groceries.  You don’t have to go this far but knowing where items are located will help you save time and money. This knowledge can also make it easier to compare item prices.   Going into a grocery store can catch anyone off guard because most stores have a “wall of values” and tempting end caps that can entice you to spend more.  Sometimes, buying from end caps is worthwhile and other times it feels like a trap.

Slow down if possible

Photo Credit: gingerbreadca from Pixabay

Comparison shopping or reviewing the prices of similar products can be exhausting. I experienced some of that today! Furthermore, some people just don’t have the time to comparison shop. However, if you can, you will instantly save money. The power of slowing down and seeing what other products are available can help you find better deals. If you don’t have much time to comparison shop then I recommend having a list. A list will point you in the right direction and allow you to focus on what you want to buy. Knowing your store will also help because being in a familiar environment makes your trips faster and comparison shopping becomes easier.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Do you have any tips for saving money at grocery stores? Or, is there a grocery store you really like shopping at? Please comment. I would like to hear from you!  @alexismh_8