Student Loan Grace Period Over? 5 Things You Should Do Next

Your student loan grace period is like spring break for your loans. There’s nothing you need to worry about during this time, and barring other concerns, your financial life should be fairly stress-free. But once the period ends, reality sets in.

The end of your grace period means that it’s time for you to begin repaying all of that money you borrowed. Though no one looks forward to paying off loans, planning the repayment of your student loans now can make your life easier later.

With the grace period set to expire this month for 2015 college graduates, it’s time for student loan bills to start rolling in.

Before you curse the end of your grace period, here are a few tips to make the transition easier and less stressful.

1. Check whether you can further postpone payments

Typically the student loan grace period ends six months after the student’s attendance at college dropped below half-time. For grads, this period begins six months after completing their degree.

Yet, some grace periods don’t end after six months. In certain situations, you can put off payments longer.

Generally, if you return to school at least half-time before your grace period ends, then your loan clock is reset. You won’t need to make payments while you’re taking classes, and you’ll get a new six-month grace period once you graduate or drop below half-time attendance.

If you’re on active military duty, then you also get a break. If you’re called to duty to serve more than 30 days, then you’ll get another six-month student loan grace period once you return.

If neither of these situations applies, then you might still have other options. Your best bet may be to request deferment or forbearance on your loans.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you are allowed to put off payments, you might not want to or simply shouldn’t. No option makes student loans disappear, and some even add to the balance you’ll ultimately owe.

2. Set up your repayment system

Paying back student loans can be confusing, especially if you have statements flying in from all over the place. Believe me: I hate trying to keep track of bills as much as you do. Why not make it easier on yourself?

One way to do that is to track all of your student loans from one place. I’m biased, of course, but you can do that for free with a Student Loan Hero account.

It’s easy to set up, and it can spare you the frustration of handling all of your loans individually. Student Loan Hero even explains how you can save money on your loans, which will help you to pay them off more quickly.

Once you’ve organized your loans, figure out the best strategy for repaying them. Should you sign up, the Student Loan Hero dashboard can even guide you through options for actually paying off your loans.

One popular strategy is to make automatic payments. Instead of manually paying each bill each month, it’s easier to set them up on autopilot. Plus, some federal student loan services will reduce your interest rate by 0.25%. Though it’s not much, it’s free money. Why not take it?

3. Think carefully about consolidation

By now, you’ve probably heard about federal loan consolidation. Though it can be a good strategy, you should know a few things before opting to consolidate.

Consolidation takes all of your loans and groups them together. Interest rates are averaged based on the balances of each loan, meaning that you’ll ultimately pay the same interest whether you consolidate or not. The chief advantage of loan consolidation is paying only one bill instead of many.

So, when shouldn’t you consolidate? Specifically, if you 1) have loans with different interest rates and 2) plan to pay more than the minimum payment each billing cycle, then consolidation may cost you. Since you won’t be able to pay off loans with the highest interest rates first, you won’t save any money on interest.

Keep in mind: once you consolidate, it can’t be undone. Choose wisely.

4. Take a look at your interest rates

There are only three ways to save money while repaying student loans:

  1. Reducing interest rates
  2. Increasing payments
  3. Having loans forgiven

The popular option for reducing interest rates is to refinance with a private lender. Current rates are as low as 2.63% APR, but you must qualify. Want to learn more? Check out the questions to ask before refinancing student loans.

Increasing payments without refinancing or consolidating can be a great option for paying off loans faster while saving money. As mentioned above, your best bet is to pay off student loans with the highest interest rates first.

For example, let’s say you have three loans:

Loan 1: $8,000 balance at 11% interest

Loan 2: $6,000 balance at 3.5% interest

Loan 3: $5,000 balance at 6.8% interest

Since every month you’re charged the most interest on Loan 1, you should pay that loan off as soon as possible.

To do this, make the minimum payments on Loans 2 and 3 each month, and put everything else toward Loan 1.

Once Loan 1 is paid off, pay the minimum on Loan 2 and put everything else toward Loan 3.

By following this strategy, you’ll save the most interest possible on each subsequent payment. Just make sure that your servicer knows to apply extra payments to the principal balance and not to future payments.

5. Don’t skip payments

If you have a loan, one of the worst choices you can make is to skip a payment. It’s a bad decision for a variety of reasons including:

  • You can end up defaulting on your loan, which can mean that your loan becomes a case for collection agencies.
  • Charges can be added to your balance. Not small ones, either. Think up to 40%.
  • You can ruin your credit score. Late payments and loans in default will cripple your credit score. Trust me: Future you will not be happy when he or she gets turned down for an auto loan or mortgage.

Remember that there are nearly always options. Though I’ve explained popular ways to begin paying off your loans, don’t forget that forbearance and deferment are alternative options. When in doubt, call your servicer to see what help is available.

What will be (or was) your first step when your student loan grace period ended?


“This article, Student Loan Grace Period Over? 5 Things You Should Do Next, was originally published on”

How to Spruce up Your House on a Budget

Everyone wants their house to look like a home: cozy, comforting, and, well, nice. However, sometimes getting it that way can cost a penny or two. What do you do when you want to make improvements but can’t afford to demolish from the ground up? You do what you can when you are able.

Check out these ideas for sprucing up your house on a budget:

Use Paint to Your Advantage

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to update your home is with paint. Whether you use it on your front door, cabinets or walls, choose a paint that has a primer included to ensure the best coverage.

As an extra money-saver, wait to paint around holiday sales, or call your local home improvement store to see when the next one will be. Often, online or in-store rebates are offered to help cut costs.

Clean up the Yard and Flower Beds

Even if you don’t have a lot of money to invest in top-notch landscaping, there’s nothing like a nicely trimmed yard to give your home a little extra pizzazz. Caring for your lawn and flowerbeds gives curb appeal, so put a little time into keeping it mowed and weeded to the best of your ability. Add flower pots near the front door to welcome guests.

Don’t have a green thumb? Invest in hardy, no-fail shrubs like boxwoods or other evergreen shrubs. They are easy to grow, stay green all year and provide a lot of bang for your buck.

Shop at Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Habitat for Humanity is an organization that has been around for nearly 40 years. Its mission is to help build and restore homes for those who are in need. As part of its work, it’s opened up a chain of nonprofit home improvement stores called Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Each store is full of donated and gently used household and home improvement items including appliances, furniture and more. Look for chandeliers, lamps, sinks, etc. at a great cost savings, and donate what you’ll be replacing.

Swap Out Cabinet Hardware

Do your kitchen or bathroom cabinets need a facelift? Instead of spending money on new cabinetry, use the existing ones, but spice them up a little. It’s the hardware that often speaks to the time the cabinets were installed, so if you find yourself in a home that’s been through a couple of centuries, it may be time to make a change.

Add a fresh coat of paint, new drawer pulls and modern cabinet hardware to make your kitchen or bathroom look brand new.

Repurpose Yard Sale Items

One man’s trash is another one’s treasure, right? Scour yard sales for the items you think can help transform your space. If you’re looking for an organizational system in the entryway to help with coats, keep your eye out for a bench at a yard sale. With a paint job and some baskets, you’ve got yourself a way to manage your outdoor attire and minimize clutter. Mirrors are great finds, as they help brighten and broaden a space, and tend to be a little pricier when purchased new.

Always remember that a little cleaning and paint can turn any piece into something noteworthy.

Make Your Own Artwork

Art pieces can make a big difference in your home’s décor, and good artwork doesn’t have to be expensive. Try a few of these ideas to cover your walls with meaningful pieces:

  • Paint on an inspirational quote using stencils and a brush or try a premade adhesive quote
  • Feature a favorite collection, like monochromatic dishes, feathers or portraits, and display them in interesting patterns
  • Reframe garage sale finds
  • Blow up sheet music of a song that is meaningful to you
  • Display your personal library with floating shelves
  • Use a bold paint color on one wall to create a focal point


A lot of homes can be improved by simply getting rid of things and organizing what’s left. We tend to accumulate items as time goes on, but how much of it really gets used? Give away your excess and find a home for the items you use most regularly.

A great way to get everything organized on a budget is to make up a list of each area that needs help and head to your local dollar store for materials. For the price of a tank of gas, you’ll be able to put a dent in organizing your home.

Do the Work Yourself

One of the biggest cost-savings you can do is to perform a lot of the work yourself. Through the use of tutorials, both online and in print, a lot of home improvement projects can be done with your own two hands. For tasks that involve heavy electrical or plumbing work, of course, call a professional for expert advice, but to install new house numbers on your front porch? You’ve got that.

Improvements to your home don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Small adjustments here and there can make a big impact overall.


This article came from our friends at Phroogal and can be found on their website here.

The Rebirth of YOLO to Live The Best Life in This Lifetime

After spending 30 days on the road and participating in 37 events, there was one message I shared that resonated with people all across the country. It might be surprising to most because it’s an acronym we used years ago but is finding new meaning today. That acronym is YOLO for You Only Live Once.

YOLO in the height of its pop culture usage was used to mean a carefree attitude and decision-making with no consequences. It highlighted the impulsive behavior that emphasized the moment without thought to the future.

But as we’ve matured into adulthood we’re finding new meaning for the phrase to live the life we’ve dreamed without the financial stress associated with mindless consumption.

If this is truly the only life we have to live let’s make sure it’s one where time and money was spent consciously on building and living the life you love. You can continue to exchange your time for money but time isn’t a renewable resource. Once time is spent it’s gone.

So how do you create a life that’s worthy of just one lifetime?

The answer is having a clear lifestyle goal not just financial goals. A lifestyle goal is how you live while financial goals are specific to things that revolve around money. The lifestyle goal is the big “why” and the top-level reason you’ve decided to exchange your time for work.

In other words, the lifestyle goal is what you hope to achieve and create unlike financial goals that are things specifically purchased for consumption.

It may be easier to identify financial goals such as owning a home, living debt-free, driving a luxury car or traveling the world. However without a clear lifestyle goal, you may find yourself making purchases or setting financial goals that take you further away from the life you actually want to live.


Phroogal YOLO Money Mindset


To illustrate, buying a home is a financial goal that can add to a lifestyle you plan to create however if travel experiences are the memories you hope to make then buying a home may derail you from living that lifestyle.

Many people have a hard time figuring out the lifestyle they want to live. This could be due to a number of factors not limited to financial issues.

It might be a challenge figuring out the lifestyle you want to live but I’ve found people have an easier time discussing their interests. If you aren’t able to define the lifestyle you want to live at this moment, focus on your interests and make decisions based on creating an interesting life. A life you could proudly describe as YOLO.


This article came from our friends at Phroogal and can be found on their website here.

8 Car Insurance Myths Uncovered

Like many urban legends, the stories behind how car insurance myths got started may never be known. Still, like rumors in high school, they’ve spread like wildfire. Some people may actually believe whatever they’re told, and that can cost them in the long run.

Don’t fall for the traps that people have set over the years. Know the facts so you can save some cash. Here’s eight common car insurance myths, debunked for your safety.

Red Cars Cost More to Insure

As soon as you tell your insurance company you have a red car, they jack your rates up, right? Of course not!

The color of your car has absolutely nothing to do with your rates. What does matter, however, is the following: the make, model, body type, age and engine size of your car, as well as your age, driving record and credit history.

It’s Cheaper to Insure an Older Car

Your old car may have carried you through the best and worst of times. Unfortunately, one thing it won’t necessarily save you from is cheap insurance.

So many things about you and your car are taken into consideration when assessing rates that it doesn’t really matter how old your car is. You can, however, choose to carry liability coverage, which covers damage to other people and property, but not you. This is cheaper than having a full package.

If Someone Else Crashed My Car, I’m Not Responsible

Your buddy got a little tipsy last night and decided it would be a great idea to test-drive your prized sports car. Next thing he knew, he was wrapped around a pole. Should he be responsible for the accident?

Nope – it doesn’t matter who the driver is. Car insurance companies only track the car. That makes you responsible for any damages that happen.

You may be thinking, “But what if I have a no-fault policy?” This only means that each person involved in the accident’s insurance company pays for injury-related bills, regardless of whose fault it is.

If My Car Is Vandalized or Damaged by Weather, I’m Still Covered

Unless you request additional coverage – protection from elements like this is usually included in comprehensive and collision coverage – you won’t be protected from these incidents. Comprehensive and collision coverage is optional in an insurance policy.

That means if your car is keyed or a tree falls through your windshield, you don’t automatically receive coverage. If you’re financing or leasing a car, however, this type of coverage comes in the form of riders.

When I Turn 25, My Rates Drop

It’s not just your age that insurance companies consider when determining your rates. The only way this myth could be possible is if all your information about you and your car stays the same when you turn 25.

Changes in all the information the company has collected about you, however, influence rates. These factors include age, vehicle information, claims experience of similar customers to you, and your claim history.

Car insurance can go down, though – but due to different causes.

My Personal Property Inside My Car Is Covered

If your prized guitar gets snapped in two during an accident, it’s probably best to get over it quickly. Car insurance does not cover anything inside your car, just the car itself. Your homeowner’s insurance, however, can cover damaged or stolen items.

My Credit Score Doesn’t Affect My Rates

You may think that insurance companies can’t see your credit, or that it’s not used as a factor in determining premiums.

Sadly, in most states companies can view your credit history and assign a credit-based insurance score to you, which indicates the likeliness of you paying a loan on time. Some companies even believe that your score indicates your accident risk. Sorry, people with low scores – you might as well be daredevils in their eyes.

If I Get a Speeding Ticket, My Rates Go Up

There are more factors that companies take into consideration besides a ticket. Your driving history, the amount of time you’ve been with your company and how fast you were speeding can all affect your rate.

Remember kids, don’t always believe everything you’re told. If you like money – and there’s a good chance you do – it’s best not to take these facts lightly.


This article came from our friends at Phroogal and can be found on their website here.

This Is How You Never Deplete Your Emergency Fund

According to a recent survey, “approximately 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and 21% don’t even have a savings account.” The reasons vary. Some people feel they can’t afford to save, whereas others downplay the importance of saving or put it off until later.

But while some households lack a sizable savings account, you might have an emergency fund for life’s unexpected surprises. It might not be a six or eight-month fund, but it’s more than the average person’s account.

Building an emergency fund from nothing takes time and effort. In fact, this might be your hardest financial challenge. But the challenge of growing a cash reserve may not compare with the willpower it takes to keep money in this account.

After sacrificing extras and luxuries to build your account, it’s tempting to dip into your emergency savings. The occasionally teeny-tiny dip may not have a huge impact in the long run, but you can run into problems if you’re unable to keep your paws off the account. It doesn’t matter if it’s been years since a “real emergency,” the worse thing you can do is deplete (or nearly deplete) your funds. The more cash you have, the easier it’ll be to survive rough times. Fortunately, there are several tricks and strategies to ensure you always have enough in the account.

1. Understand the Definition of an Emergency

It’s important to understand what an emergency is, and what it’s not. An emergency is when you need immediate funds to take care of an urgent matter. This is a situation that you can’t put off until a week or later. You need cash, and you need it now. Maybe you lost your job or can’t delay a home or car repair due to the risk of complications. Or maybe you need to pay off a creditor immediately to avoid a collection account. An emergency fund, on the other hand, is not a backup plan for when you want to have a good time with your friends or an extension of your income.

At the end of the day, it’s your money and you can do what you want. But if you start taking money from this account for non-emergencies, you may not have enough cash for a real emergency, at which point you might have to rely on credit cards.

2. Get a Separate Account for Other Expenses

Money in an emergency fund should only be used for an emergency—period. If you have other plans that require a large sum of cash, such as buying a house, a vacation, or home improvement projects, set up a separate savings account for these goals.

Understandably, your money only goes so far. What you can do is deposit half or a third of your disposable income into your emergency fund and the remaining funds into a separate savings account. This way, you can continue to grow your emergency fund while planning for other goals.

3. Don’t Make It Easy to Access the Funds

Keeping you emergency savings account in the same bank as your checking account is asking for trouble. The accounts are probably linked, which makes it easier to take money from your savings. You should keep your emergency fund as inaccessible as possible, preferably with a bank not directly tied to your checking account.

Consider opening an online-only savings account for emergency funds. You can link these accounts to a brick and mortar bank, but since it takes a couple business days to complete a transfer, having an online savings helps curtail impulse buys and needless withdrawals. This also means that you won’t have access to same-day cash in the event of an emergency, so take this into consideration before opening an online savings. However, if you’re more concerned with minimizing impulse withdrawals than same-day cash, an online savings might be the way to go. Plus, these accounts usually earn a higher yield than other types of savings accounts, helping you get a higher return on your money.

4. Don’t Stop Adding Funds to the Account

Hitting your goal of a three to six-month cash reserve doesn’t mean you should stop building your emergency fund. You don’t need to add as much to the account every month, but you’ll want to continue growing this account. You don’t want a single emergency to completely wipe out your funds. By continuing to add money to the account, you increase the likelihood of having a surplus once you take a big withdrawal.

5. Tap Your Account as a Last Resort

If you need a car repair, your first impulse might be to take money from your emergency fund. But while your vehicle needs attention, does it require immediate attention? If not, could you possibly hold off a week or longer until you receive a few more paychecks? If you save up, you might avoid tapping your emergency fund altogether.

Of course, you can always borrow from your savings and pay yourself back. But even if you have good intentions, those funds might never make it back into your account. Therefore, tap your rainy day fund as a last resort.

6. Don’t Use Your Funds to Solve Other People’s Problems

Your emergency fund is your personal financial backup plan, and not a solution to everyone else’s financial problems. It’s loving and kind to help a friend or relative going through hard times, but you have to consider the impact on your personal finances. Will helping this individual put a serious dent in your emergency fund? Do you doubt this person’s ability to pay back the funds? This is your choice, just make sure your decision isn’t entirely based on emotions. As a rule of thumb, only lend what you can afford to lose.

An emergency fund can help you get through the roughest financial patches in your life. But along with growing a fund, you need to preserve it. If you haven’t begun saving, now’s the time to get serious. Commit to paying yourself first and save every windfall you receive. And if you already have an emergency fund, never stop funding to this account.


This article came from our friends at Phroogal and can be found on their website here.

13 Tips for Saving Money At Home This Winter

Saving money isn’t just about clipping coupons or cutting back on spending. How well your home or apartment is winterized can have a major impact on your budget, too! If you’re looking for some tips to get your humble abode ready for the upcoming winter months, we’ve got you covered with these 13 winterizing hacks. From getting heavier drapes to covering your water heater to adjusting the thermostat, you can take some minor (or major) steps to save some cold-weather cash. After all, not all of us can use feathers to stay warm…(ahem, Knowl).


To read “13 Hacks to Winterize Your Home – And Trim Your Heating Bill” by Teresa Mears, click here.

The Couponing Guide for Shoppers Who Don’t Want to Look Cheap

If the eye-rolling and heavy sighs of impatient customers waiting for the cashier to process your stack of coupons leave you utterly mortified, extreme couponing might not be for you. But, that doesn’t mean you should avoid couponing altogether. After all, more people than not use coupons.

Coupons in the News reports only 11 percent of people surveyed in 2014 for the 2015 Promotion Industry Analysis said they never use coupons. And, the most prodigious users of coupons (22 percent) are actually shoppers with six-figure incomes, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute.

Even so, some shoppers feel too embarrassed to present coupons at the register. “People are fine with saving on their J. Crew sweater, but they’re embarrassed saving on a box of cereal,” said Joanie Demer, co-founder of “It’s inexplicable.”

But thanks to technology, there are numerous ways shoppers can use their coupons without the fear of embarrassment. Load-to-card rewards, rebate apps and other types of electronic coupons — sometimes called e-coupons — allow shoppers to save money  before or after the checkout lane. “There’s lots of new ways to coupon without taking any action at the store and keeping everything on the down low,” said Demer.

Time-Saving Electronic Coupons and Coupon Apps

The beauty of electronic coupons is how quick and easy they are to use. By using electronic coupons or coupon apps, shoppers are more likely to perceive you as a savvy insider than a deals-hungry discount digger. In fact, using a smartphone during checkout has become routine — it’s predicted that more than 74 million Americans will use smartphone mobile coupons this year.

Paper coupons are still big business, but easier, high-tech alternatives help shoppers save without all the clipping and organizing. These new types of coupons and savings tools help you save in all the same ways you remember from traditional paper coupons and sales: discounts, free shipping offers, buy-one-get-one deals, first-time customer incentives and more.

1. Electronic Coupons

Electronic coupons can refer not only to digital coupons you store and show on your smartphone, but also a handful of other digital savings tools as well:

  • Printable coupons you find online: Print these coupons out and carry them along to present at the register.
  • Coupon codes, typically used for online shopping: Plug in these alphanumeric codes to the discount or coupon field when you’re placing an online order to get an instant discount.
  • Store loyalty cards: Sign up for these promotional programs advertised in your favorite stores or on their websites to receive your loyalty card. Show or scan your store card at the register to receive credit for your purchase or any special discounts or coupons. If your wallet fills up with too many cards, digitize them on your smartphone with an app like Key Ring, which can also digitize your loyalty cards.
  • Card-linked offers: These are digital coupons or discounts loaded directly onto your store loyalty card, debit card or credit card. At checkout, the deals and savings are applied to your card.

Watch: How to Save Money Without Being a Crazy Coupon Lady

2. Smartphone Coupon Apps

Many smartphone coupon apps help you track down and manage digital and printable coupons. These apps all work a little differently, though, so research each one before you start downloading.

For example, Cellfire lets you view all of your saved coupons and allows you to save grocery coupons to your store loyalty card. You can even receive email notifications so that you know about existing offers when you walk into the store. With Grocery IQ, you can print out coupons or add coupons to you savings card as well.

When you download the SavingStar app, you can select the offers you want and link them to your grocery or drugstore loyalty card. After checkout, or after you take a picture of your receipt, you will receive your savings in your SavingStar account. Once you’ve earned $5, you can cash out to your bank or PayPal.

There are also apps affiliated with specific stores and retailers. Demer calls Target’s Cartwheel app the best all-around savings tool she uses today. In the app, choose up to 10 offers you want. Then at checkout, have the cashier scan the barcode on your smartphone to receive the discounts. “It’s one barcode, no matter how many offers, so you’re not going to be holding up the checkout lane,” said Demer.

3. Amazon Subscriptions and Coupons

Amazon has a “Subscribe & Save Coupons” page where you can see all available coupons. You can redeem a coupon you find on Amazon by clicking on it, selecting “Subscribe Now” and setting a delivery quantity and frequency.

Demer is a huge fan of this service, even though she’s not affiliated with Amazon in any way. “Their prices are really competitive,” she said. “I really feel like I want to hitch my bandwagon to Amazon.”

The trick to earning the 15 percent discount on your entire order for Amazon’s subscription items is to make sure you’re receiving at least five subscription items on your monthly delivery day. Since you can set subscription intervals from one to six months, be sure you have five items in each monthly delivery in order to earn the discount.

Many products on Amazon, such as snacks, personal care items and household basics, come with coupon orders. Just “clip” the coupon to receive the discount at checkout.

“You can add a coupon and subscribe to the item, so it’s sort of like extreme couponing online,” Demer said. “You’re stacking multiple ways to save.”

4. Rebate Apps

Rebate apps give you cash back based on what you actually buy at the store. Because rebate apps do their work once you’ve come home from the store, they might be one of the most discreet coupon and savings tools out there.

With rebate apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon, all the work happens before or after you shop. There’s absolutely no action required at the checkout — in fact, you can leave your smartphone at home with some rebate apps.

To use a rebate app, browse and add any offers you’re interested in before you go shopping. Once you’re home again after shopping, take a picture of your receipt and upload it to the app to receive cash back for the items you purchased.

A final word of advice if you’re using any type of electronic coupon or deal: Store employees aren’t always comfortable with e-coupon technology. Should you run into technical difficulties during checkout, discreet couponers will probably prefer to try it again at another time rather than attempting to troubleshoot at the register.

Read: 5 Stores Where You Can Stack Coupons for Ridiculous Savings

Where to Find Electronic Coupons

A savvy coupon shopper will use different methods to find coupons, including coupon websites, brand websites, retailer websites, search engines and social media. Try or to get started. You can also find online coupons and discounts on sites like CouponSherpa and RetailMeNot. And don’t forget about coupons for smartphones and apps, like Cellfire and Grocery IQ.

Here’s a neat trick for nudging online retailers into sending you email coupons and coupon codes: Abandon the items you want in your online shopping cart without purchasing them. In an attempt to close the sale, some retailers will email you a coupon code for whatever you’ve left in the cart.

You can often score coupons by being a supportive follower on social media, too. Some stores and brands will share coupon codes and deals with their social media fans. Or, they might use newsletters and brand clubs.

Finally, don’t neglect the power of an internet search to find the coupons you want. Hit your favorite search engine with the name of the store or brand plus the word “coupon.”

Top Brands and Stores That Offer Coupons

With electronic coupons and rebates, it’s easy and convenient to keep your couponing profile low key while still enjoying coupons for popular and high-end stores and brands, like Lacoste, J. Crew Factory, Banana Republic, Athleta and Aero. You can link these brands’ offers right to your debit or credit card through

The best card-loaded deals and electronic grocery coupons, according to Demer, come from Safeway, Vons and its affiliates. Stores known for their great deals, like Kohl’s, also tend to offer coupons.

The Best Coupon Savings Strategy

The tools that ultimately save coupon expert Demer the most money just happen to be the most discreet, a real bonus for users who prefer not to advertise their affinity for coupons. Surprisingly, as easy and convenient as they are, card-loaded offers and other electronic coupons don’t form the backbone of her ongoing savings.

“I am able to save more — a great deal more — with rebate apps, for example,” she said.

The other big gun in Demer’s arsenal is the double whammy of Amazon subscriptions and clickable coupons. “I’m seeing pretty significant price savings — that’s how I’m beating Costco prices,” she said.

But, it’s good old-fashioned sales that save Demer the most money, even more than couponing.

“It’s still for me all about the combination,” she said. “But the No. 1 driver that’s going to reduce your budget is the mental shift that says, ‘Instead of shopping around what I ran out of or the recipes I just found on Pinterest, I’m going to look at my sale circular. I’m going to visit, and I’m going to make my purchase decisions based on what’s on sale.'”

Read More From GOBankingRates:


This article was originally posted on July 1, 2015 and can also be found on the original website here.

#TBT: Friends With Money

In recognition of Throwback Thursday, we’re bringing back an all-time 90’s favorite. This award-winning television series, Friends, still plays in syndication – in fact, all ten seasons are ready to binge-watch on Netflix, right now. Whether you watch to laugh at the group’s everyday shenanigans, or as a cure for your 90’s nostalgia, most of us can relate to their antics at some point throughout the series. Isn’t that why we find it so funny?


Between laughs, you probably haven’t thought too deeply about their comical misfortune. But what if you could actually learn from their fictitious mistakes? Here at Inceptia we focus on helping you stay out of trouble financially, and even more than a decade later, we believe the lessons learned from Friends are still valuable today. Behold, the financial wisdom we can all learn with a little help from our Friends.


The One About Working
On the very first episode, we learn quite a bit about Rachel that we should take into serious consideration when it comes time to pay for college.


Rachel: So, like, you guys all have jobs?


Monica: Yeah, we all have jobs. See, that’s how we buy stuff.


This is something that seems like common sense, right? Well, sometimes that common sense falls by the wayside, especially after financial aid is disbursed. Many college students receiving federal aid, instead of accepting only the amount of money they absolutely need, end up over borrowing and receive a large refund check. For some students, this may seem like the best solution for their extra expenses such as school supplies, food, or housing. However, Monica is right: getting a job is a smarter option to help you pay for those added expenses. The benefit of following Monica’s example – rather than accepting an overblown refund check – is that earned money doesn’t get charged interest like borrowed money does. As we see next, Rachel has a lot to learn about working.


Rachel: Guess what!


Ross: You got a job?


Rachel: Are you kidding? I’m trained for nothing!


Take Rachel’s dilemma into consideration when you’re making decisions about a field of study. With a little research into job growth and high-demand skills, you can make an informed choice of major and eagerly begin the job hunt without worrying whether your studies have prepared you for available careers. Take a look at the projected level of growth your desired career will have in the next several years. Study the demand for positions you wish to hold someday, and be sure they’re located where you want to live. Most importantly, pick a career you will enjoy while staying financially stable. The last thing you want is to graduate with high levels of college debt and low levels of income; after all, the goal is to pay those loans back and strengthen your credit history, not wreck your credit by going into default.


The One About Where Your Money Goes

Another important lesson: don’t forget to figure in the chunk you’ll have to pay Uncle Sam.


Rachel: Isn’t this exciting! I earned this! I wiped tables for it, I steamed milk for it, and it was totally… not worth it. Who’s FICA? Why’s he getting all my money?


Once Rachel finally scores a job, she quickly realizes you don’t get to keep all of your earnings, as many students discover once they start their jobs. FICA is the government, and “he” takes this money out for government funded programs. It’s important to be knowledgeable about the taxes you will have to pay so you aren’t surprised when your earnings don’t come back as bulky as you initially expected. When you create a budget, plan it around the money you earn after taxes are taken out, otherwise you may find yourself buried under a pile of debt.


Chandler: Okay, here’s the electric bill.


Joey: This is how much we pay for electric?


Chandler: So we’ll do the rest of the bills later then?


Clearly, the women of the show aren’t the only ones who struggle to understand their finances. Joey is guilty of the same mistake many first-timers out of the nest find themselves guilty of – a nonexistent budget. Bills add up quickly, and it is critical to be aware of how much you spend on utilities and other reoccurring expenses so you can figure them into your budget. When you get your paycheck, determine how much will go to taxes. Then, pay yourself by putting a bit of the money into savings and your emergency fund. Follow that with normal monthly payments (including quarterly, semiannual, and annual payments). Once you have a budget, you will know how much excess spending money you have, but be sure to keep a tight grip on those extra bucks and avoid the temptation to impulse buy.


The One About “What’s In It for Me?”

Mark: …and the style number, and the invoice number, and the shipping date. Good. Any questions so far?


Rachel: Yeah. What kind of discount do we get?


Rachel is actually being a really smart shopper here. Do not be afraid to ask about discounts! Many businesses offer student discounts, especially in college towns. You can get discounts on food or larger purchases such as printers, personal computers, and computer software. In addition to discounts, think about the benefits offered by your employer (or potential employer). Don’t underestimate the benefits of medical insurance, retirement plans, disability insurance, paid time off and more. All of these perks can add up to a substantial part of your overall compensation, and your benefits package may make or break your workplace decision.


So next time you settle in for a night of 90’s nostalgia, pay attention to the details. These are only a few of the notable financial tips that can be dissected from our favorite gang of six, but there is plenty more we can learn from the mistakes from our group of “friends.” Nothing like a night of channel surfing to help us pick up on some solid personal finance advice – #TBT style.


This article was originally published on August 13, 2015.

Why Katy Perry and Jay-Z Might Never Be Friends

If we are being honest, we can all admit that we have followed a celebrity trend at one point or another (remember trucker hats? Ed Hardy shirts? *shudder*). Hopefully, most of these trends are pretty harmless, save for a few embarrassing photos that may resurface from time to time. But as I was driving and humming along to the radio the other day, I realized there is one area in which we should be particularly mindful of what celebrities are telling us to do: how to spend our money. So naturally, because I’m an intern in the financial literacy field, I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to explore both the negative and positive money messages that we hear on a daily basis.


Katy Perry is a prime example of an artist that conveys negative messages in her songs, as two crucial negative messages appear in “Last Friday Night” and “This is How We Do.” In the first, “Last Friday Night,” she sings about maxing out her credit card and getting kicked out of the bar, while she just continues on with her Friday night like it was no big deal. After all, “this is how we do.” Don’t be fooled! Maxing out your credit card can be extremely detrimental to your financial stability and future, resulting in:


  1. Lowering your credit score;
  2. Increasing your risk of exceeding your credit limit, which incurs hefty fees;
  3. And difficulty in obtaining future credit, loans, apartments, and even jobs due to your low credit score. If you have poor credit, it’s nearly impossible to obtain a home loan, or any other large loan for that matter, but if you do the interest rate will be much higher than if you have good credit.


But Katy Perry is not alone in this. Both she and Nicki Minaj allude to the idea that not paying your rent and using that money for something else (something fun) is the way to go. And while I like to have fun just as much as the next college intern, I know it must be done in moderation… and after all your other bills have been paid. You know, like rent. So when Katy Perry commends kids for buying bottle service with their rent money, it makes me cringe. And Nicki Minaj also seems to make rent payments optional in her song “Starships” where she sings, “And I ain’t paying my rent this month, I owe that.” Yikes! There are numerous consequences for neglecting to pay your rent on time, or even at all:


  1. Late fees are the obvious consequence of not paying your rent on time, although the amount that you’re charged varies by landlord or how long you have neglected to pay.
  2. Neglecting to pay your rent can also inhibit your ability to rent in the future, since landlords can report this information to Equifax and TransUnion (and there goes your credit score).
  3. Getting evicted. Enough said.


So maybe the Perry/Minaj rent payment plan is something to think twice about before adopting. I know, all these irresponsible messages have you ready to delete all your iTunes, cancel your Spotify account, and swear off Pandora, right? Well, not so fast! Despite the poor advice shared by Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj, there are several artists that advocate being financially savvy, such as Macklemore, The Lonely Island and Jay-Z.


Macklemore’s hit “Thrift Shop” topped the charts for over a month, but the financial message contained within can stick with you forever. Macklemore explained the meaning behind the song was that you don’t need to buy expensive things to be cool or look good, but by budgeting your money and shopping smart you can “look as fresh as possible” with minimal financial burden. Macklemore has gone against the norm of today’s hit songs to make frugal look cool.


And although The Lonely Island is a comedy group well known for their role in Saturday Night Live, their song “YOLO,” featuring Kendrick Lamar and Adam Levine, contains some surprisingly critical financial messages. Lamar provides financial advice for few verses, starting with, “Invest in your future, don’t dilute your finances, 401k, make sure it’s low risk,” as well as, “And if you can’t afford it, don’t forge it on your last bill.” These are both solid pieces of financial advice! Maxing out your low-risk 401k may mean lower reward, but your investments are less volatile; trust me, you will thank yourself for this once you reach retirement . The second line is simplistic, but speaks volumes. Many people today want to buy the newest things, the most expensive things, and things that other people have, but not everyone can afford these things. Don’t buy things you can’t afford, and don’t purchase things you can’t afford with a credit card. There’s nothing worse than going in debt due to something you truly don’t need. Living within your means, and not keeping up with the Joneses are two simple, yet essential financial mantras, for a financially sound life.


Finally, let’s not forget the music moguls that have used their music careers to spread financial education to others. Take Jay-Z, for example; it’s no mistake that he and Warren Buffett are BFF’s, appearing on the cover of Forbes together as two of the richest people in America. Jay-Z regularly speaks about what it takes to build wealth and how to be a successful entrepreneur, as well as giving back to others through his scholarship foundation. In the song “Versus,” he even scolds his fellow rappers for lying about their money: “The truth in my verses, versus, your metaphors about what your net worth is.” Lesson learned? Live your life by your own measure, not by the material things that will only leave you bankrupt.


The real takeaway for this little musical journey of mine is that it’s always going to be up to me to make the best financial decisions I can, but that means paying close attention to what messages I allow to sneak in. It’s easy to think that spending unwisely is the norm, especially if that’s the song I hear every time I turn around. But that just means I need to analyze a little more, dig a little deeper, and decide for myself if my choices are lining up with what I want for my financial future – now THAT’S music to my ears!


This article was originally published on December 10, 2014.