Affordable Tips for Doing ALL Your Holiday Shopping Online

As soon as the Halloween decorations come down — BAM! — it’s Christmas shopping time. Radio stations are playing Christmas music, stores add to the displays they’ve had up since September and next thing you know, the holiday season is in full swing. Thanksgiving gets squeezed tighter and tighter every year. It’s hard to see the turkeys through the Christmas decorations. But the truth is, Christmas is next month, so it’s not a bad idea to get started on your shopping.

If you like the hustle and bustle of the mall or the crowds and long lines of Black Friday, then by all means, go out and enjoy it. For those of you who want to avoid the crowds and the hassle, you might want to walk to your computer in your pajamas and quietly select your gifts. There are still ways to get the savings of Black Friday and the big mall sales. You just have to plan ahead and shop efficiently.

Make a List

Be like Santa: Make a list of the people you want to buy presents for and any ideas of what they might like. Don’t start buying until you have spent some time planning. Lack of planning can cause over-expenditure and forgetfulness. One kid or parent gets shorted, you spend a bunch more money equalizing them with another — and so on. Last-minute purchases end up being more expensive. You end up paying for guaranteed arrival times or buying the last item at a noncompetitive price.

Check Prices

Use your list to research prices online. You may find big discrepancies in cost from one site to another. You can download price-checking apps to do the same thing, but it all comes down to how thorough you want to be. In some cases, you’ll find a difference of a couple of dollars, and then the deciding factor becomes how convenient it is to order from each site. You might spend a few dollars more on one item to be able to purchase all your items at once.

Connect With Stores

Connect online with your favorite stores by “liking” them on Facebook or joining company email lists and newsletters. You may be notified of sales in advance or be treated to “members-only” sales and special offers. You have nothing to lose, especially if it’s a store you like. Yes, you’ll start getting a lot more email from them, but one of those could end up saving you money.

Opt for Food

Rather than buying someone a scarf or a boring tie they don’t want, get them something you know they will like. Everyone likes snacks. Why not get your special someone a delicious candied nuts gift tray? Who doesn’t like toffee mixed nuts, honey-roasted cashews, cinnamon almonds and sugar-toasted peanuts? For the person on your list who already has everything, food could be the solution every year. You’ll save money by buying something everyone likes — and maybe, if you’re really lucky, your recipient will share the treat with you.

Double Dip

Use coupons on top of sales. Purchase with a specific credit card if you get airline miles, cash back or other rewards at the end of the year. Redeem any reward points you have on your store credit card. If you still subscribe to a newspaper, look through all the ads. Many stores offer what look like cardboard credit cards, which typically offer a large percentage off your total bill. Most are redeemable online, as well.

Gather Gift Cards

Gather up all your gift cards from over the past year and find a way to make them work for you. Many gift cards expire, so be sure to use them before they turn into worthless bits of plastic. There are services that let you redeem your gift cards at a discounted rate, but it’s better to get their full value, even if you are re-gifting it. If you’re stumped and just can’t figure out a gift for someone, cash in your gift cards to produce a different one as a gift.

Get Free Shipping

Be careful of shipping charges. When you see them pop up at the end of your transaction, it can ruin the good feeling you had when you thought you were saving money. Try to get free shipping whenever you shop online. Some sites offer free shipping as long as you spend a minimum amount of money.

Other online shops offer free shipping on specific days, so pay attention to the details. Many large retailers also offer the option to shop online, but pick up your products at the store. You still have to leave your house, but you won’t be putting yourself through the full-day mall experience. Shipping charges can make a big difference in how much you spend and how likely you are to shop online.

The holidays are supposed to be fun, but they can also be extremely stressful. There are some situations where you just have to grin and bear it, like family obligations, kids’ school plays and events and the increased traffic and crowds. Forgetting to decorate your home before the snow comes can also be a major source of stress. But you do have options to help you control the shopping and financial burden of the holiday season. Planning ahead and being a smart shopper can keep more money in your wallet and make certain your season is bright.

Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.

The Best Ways to Save Money During College

When people talk about things that cost the most money, college is one of the first examples on their mind. Universities are expensive, and even community colleges rack up costs eventually. College is so well-known for being way too expensive that it’s become a running joke that college kids are broke and surviving off noodle packets.

The reality of this isn’t very funny. College students need to save money just like everyone else, but it’s more of a struggle. There are costs and fees for everything now. It can lead students to feel like surrendering to the massive amounts of debt they’re going to accrue. The truth is that it is possible to put away some cash for the future even in college, if you analyze what you’re spending and how you spend it.

Be Smart About Your Textbooks

Every semester when classes start, you’re going to get a list of books required by each professor for their class. Depending on what classes you take, this list could be really pricey. Courses focused on reading may assign one book of short stories, while a science or math course could ask you to buy a textbook that requires an expensive online code to access the necessary website.

When it comes to those textbook codes, there’s not much you can do but pay the full price. They’re not reusable, so you’re not going to get one from a student who took the class last year. However, you can find cheaper versions of textbooks online. There are some great websites you can check to find discounts on your books. You should also consider buying the e-book version for a cheaper price and an easier return process.

Keep an Eye on Deadlines

Any institution, whether you go to a state school or community school, will have an office ready and waiting to help connect you with scholarships and other financial aid. The expense of college is no secret, so there are resources available to help you breathe a little easier next time you check your bank account. Contact your financial aid office and let them know you need help and you’re not sure how to get it. They’ll walk you through the necessary steps.

Only Buy Necessities

Outside of paying for classes and books, you’re going to have living expenses. That means food and gas, if you drive a vehicle. Another running joke with college students is that when you start school, you’re going to gain the “freshman 15.” You’ll want to pig out on pizza and beer, which only leads to quick weight gain and less money in your pocket.

Think about what you’re going to need to eat at school before it starts up again, or look at what you’re currently eating if you’re already enrolled. Focus on spending money on the necessities. Sandwich supplies, fruits and vegetables are a great and inexpensive place to start. Then make a list of what you don’t need to get all the time. Yes, that means booze.

Of the 17 million students in college, 8.5 million of them struggle with binge drinking. This can be because they’re peer pressured, or they like it and want to have fun. It’s not as fun for their wallets, though. Instead of spending your money on booze every weekend, pick a couple of nights out of the month to relax and have fun without drinking. You’ll still get to enjoy some off time without worrying about running out of food money for the month.

Look for Good Housing

Another area where college students pay a lot of cash is with their on-campus housing. Depending on what school you go to, you may end up paying more for housing than for tuition and books combined. To figure out which kind of housing is right for you, think through some easy steps to get a better idea of how much it’d cost to live off campus.

Think about things like combing rent, utilities and Wi-Fi, on top of any costs of public transportation or gas for your car. Then, add in the cost of a parking pass, if applicable. Is it cheaper than living on campus and walking to class? That all depends on what city you’re in. Take some time to go through this process for yourself to relieve a little more financial stress.

Don’t Buy Food on the Go

The college lifestyle is busy, stressful and constantly on the go. It’s tempting to eat convenient grab-and-go foods you can scarf down between classes, but that habit can really make a dent in your budget. Even something as simple as buying coffee every day can cost you $14 a week, which adds up to just over a grand a year.

Tomorrow, skip going to the coffee shop and get yourself a coffee machine, a toaster or a frozen box of egg muffins. Whatever you’re typically grabbing from a drive-through window on the way to class is what you should attempt to make for yourself. You’ll end up with more money to put in savings, and most likely a healthier version of whatever you would have bought before.

Saving money in college is hard. Like, really hard. Universities will charge you an arm and a leg for just about everything. Depending on which school you go to, you could be overcharged for simple things, but everyone can relate to feeling ripped off when buying your textbook at the campus bookstore or leaving that coffee shop feeling like your homework stress forced your hand.

When it comes to putting cash away for future use, you have to start by thinking small. Analyze where your money is going right now, and decide what expenses are absolute necessities. On required expenses, see if you can cut down how much you spend, and on those that aren’t, try to stop spending that money altogether. You’ll find your savings will begin to grow slowly, giving you more peace of mind about your current situation and any future ones you might end up in.

Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.

Image by Andrei Krauchuk via 123RF Copyright: <a href=’’>rastudio / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

7 Actionable Tips to Stay Marketable in a Tough Job Market

It’s no secret that the job market is becoming increasingly competitive and difficult to navigate. Creating a name for yourself in your industry and becoming successful is no easy task. Professional development is a skill you’ll have to continuously work on, even outside of work, in order to get the job you want in the industry you are passionate about. To help you get started with this tricky task, here are some tips to stay marketable.

  1. Take Classes and Get Certifications

There are endless opportunities to take classes online to learn a new skill or get certified in something relevant to your industry. Find online classes that pique your interest and will be helpful in your field, and sign up. Carve out time in your schedule each week to dedicate to learning. Becoming a lifelong learner is an incredibly useful and smart quality to have.

  1. Join a Professional Association

Almost every industry has a professional association connected to it that allows members to join and receive benefits, such as networking events, professional conferences and mentoring programs. You may have to pay dues each year in order to join, but it will be well worth it. Being part of a professional association looks great on a resume or business card, opens you up to multiple opportunities to get involved and get ahead, and will introduce you to the top dogs in your industry.

  1. Network

Even if you don’t join a professional association, networking is probably the best thing you can do for yourself while trying to make yourself more marketable. Attending conferences, reaching out to people on LinkedIn and expanding your network through friends of friends can make or break you when it comes to a job search. Knowing the right people can expose you to the perfect opportunities and give you a leg up on the competition at just the right time.

  1. Discover and Create Content

Blogs, professional journals and social media open up the world to anybody who wants to get their thoughts out there. As a professional in your industry, you most likely have some insights that other people would love to get their hands on. Submit articles to professional journals, write guest posts for blogs or even start your own blog. Getting published is a big benefit to your professional development and will help you build a portfolio you can show to potential employers in the future.

  1. Clean up Your Social Media

Social media is often one of the first things potential employers look at, so make sure all your channels are updated, accurate and reflect your best self. Keep all your pages professional, showing off your love for your industry and the best side of yourself. You can also use social media to make connections. This works especially well on LinkedIn, but can be done on other networks as well.

  1. Take on a Challenge

Don’t be afraid to step up and take on a new project at work that is outside of your comfort zone. You may find something you’re really interested in or discover a skill you never knew you had. Plus, this will make you stand out to your supervisor and maybe help you get a promotion if that’s what you’re looking for.

  1. Find a Mentor

Finding a mentor who started where you are and got to where you want to be can be extremely beneficial as you climb the corporate ladder. To successfully build a mentor relationship, find just one or two people who you really look up to and can trust and ask them to be your professional mentor. The two of you can decide exactly what that relationship will look like based on your industry and personalities, but make sure you meet regularly to discuss what you’re doing and get advice and feedback.

Using these tips, you can stay marketable and begin your climb to the top of your industry. Remember to stay professional, keep making contacts and stay focused on your ultimate career objective. With just a little bit of work and dedication, you can reach even your biggest goals.

Anum Yoon is a personal finance blogger who runs Current on Currency. She strives to share practical money tips to college students and recent grads. Sign up for her weekly money newsletter here.

7 Jobs for People Who Want to Have Fun at Work

Confucius famously said, “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” This formula for a happy life seems so simple, and yet so many of us dread Monday mornings and race out of the office at 5 p.m. on the dot.

So what are some jobs that could convert you from a stressed-out, tired and frustrated employee to a happy, fun worker bee? And no, the answer isn’t “not having a job at all!” Work is important and necessary, so these jobs aren’t for slackers, but for people who want to enjoy their career so much that it doesn’t feel like work. Here are seven jobs that are perfect for people who want to have fun at work.

  1. Video Game Designer

Do you rush home to play Call of Duty or Minecraft? If so, then video game design may be a job that doesn’t seem like work. Training in graphic design, computer programming, sound engineering or computer animation, among other fields, may put you on the path to this fun career. Given the popularity of video games, this is a growth industry, which means that job prospects are good. Yet another reason to consider video game design.

  1. Realtor

Do you enjoy working with different people every day? Are you a good communicator and negotiator? Does the idea of sitting behind a desk or computer all day bore you? If so, your strengths may be suited to a career in real estate.

Career website CareerBliss ranked the happiest jobs in America in 2014, and realtors came in third. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales and home prices are both expected to rise in 2016, making this a great time to enter the field. But don’t forget the commercial real estate market as well – it can be just as awarding.

  1. Marketing Manager

“Mad Men” has made advertising look glamorous and easy. In today’s workplace, it is marketing managers who set strategy and policies that eventually result in those famous ads. Marketing managers strategize not only about TV and print ads, but also about social media campaigns that play out on Facebook and Twitter. Marketing managers are needed in every field — in corporate offices and startups — plus the job pays well, all reasons why marking management is a fun and rewarding career choice.

  1. Wedding Planner

Try to think beyond the J-Lo romcom when picturing your career as a wedding planner. You’d get to be a part of the happiest day of someone’s life and would thrive on connections and contacts in your community, because if the bride wants white horses or exotic flowers, you’ll have to find them! But at the end of each project, there is a giant party. What is more fun than that?

If you are well organized, creative and a good communicator, wedding planning may be the fun career for you.

  1. Research/Teaching Assistant

As referenced above, CareerBliss surveyed over 57,000 reviews on their website to find the happiest across several categories, including work-life balance, work environment, compensation and more. The happiest career they found? The research/teaching assistant. Why?

While not the highest paying career, it does present workers with new challenges and projectsregularly, typically in an academic or health care environment. The hours are reliable and the work is rewarding, making research and teaching assistantships sought-after jobs

  1. IT Consultant

Another well-paying job that often clocks in high on the happiness scale is information technology (IT) consultant. IT consultants work with a variety of clients both on site and remotely, so no two days are the same. While client meetings are held during work hours, IT work can often be completed remotely at any time of the day or night, giving this profession lots of flexibility and personal control.

  1. Writer/Blogger

Getting paid to have others read your thoughts? Some people manage it through writing and blogging. This career is fun because you can be totally creative and be yourself, with no corporate boss telling you what to wear or when to take your lunch break. On the flip side, writer’s block is real, and if the deadlines aren’t met, the bills won’t get paid. But Carrie Bradshaw’s life looked fun, right? Need we say more?

So whether you are looking to start your career or make a switch to a new one, consider these fun careers. Chances are you won’t even realize you’re working.


This article comes from our friends at Phroogal. It was originally published on January 28, 2016, and can be found on their website here.

8 Things That Sabotage Your Budget

It can be difficult to live on a budget if you feel like you’re constantly running out of money: you pay the bills, buy groceries and other necessities, and before you know it, you don’t have much left in your bank account.

This is a constant struggle amongst college students that can be avoided. Sure, money is tight, but if you cut out the things you don’t need, then you just might be surprised with how much cash is left in your wallet at the end of the month.

Here are eight things that can sabotage your budget if you’re not looking for the best bargain:

  1. Textbooks

There’s nothing quite like that dreaded trip to the bookstore during the first week of classes, right?

Here’s a piece of advice that will save you money and spare you from waiting an hour in line once you’re there: Don’t go to the bookstore!

If you are still paying full price for your textbooks, then stop immediately. There are plenty of websites that sell the same books for a much cheaper price, and some of these sites give you an even better deal if you return them at the end of the semester. Amazon, for example, has a great rental program you could be using for all of your books.

  1. New Technology

Yes, it’s a little bigger than the previous version. Sure, the camera is slightly better. But you do not need the new iPhone!

There’s a social pressure to always have the latest gadget. But guess what? The last iPhone works just as well as the new one. Maybe it’s a split-second slower, but you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have on the new one just because it’s new.

Take care of the technology you currently have and it will serve you well. Hold on to it until it dies and you absolutely need to upgrade it.

  1. Expensive Coffee

Coffee is an everyday necessity for most people, but don’t empty your wallet for your morning cup of joe.

Brand name coffee shops (you know the ones) have great coffee, but they also have high prices. You can downgrade to more affordable coffee until you earn more money or, better yet, make your own coffee. After all, any kind of caffeine will get the job done.

  1. Full-Price Items

You know that coupon book you always get in the mail and then immediately throw in the garbage? Don’t toss it. Start using it!

Retailers are constantly having sales on certain items, and a quick Google search will show you the cheapest option for whatever you’re looking for. There are also some cash back websites that give you exclusive deals, as well as rewards when you use their service. Do yourself a favor and never pay full price again.

  1. Restaurants or Take-Out

How many times are you eating out or ordering food every week? And how much are you spending on restaurants versus the grocery store? If your restaurant spending outweighs your grocery bill, a good goal is to flip those numbers around.

An occasional trip to your favorite restaurant is acceptable. But keep in mind that one night at a fancy restaurant can equal a week or two of homemade meals.

  1. Credit Card Mistakes

Make sure you sign up for the right credit card that matches your needs, if you really need one at all.

Many people make mistakes with their credit card that leads to financial trouble. For instance, credit card companies may try to hit you with an annual fee. To get around it, however, you can contact their customer service to request that they waive the fee. There are plenty of cards without an annual fee as well, so be sure to take a look at those options.

In addition, be sure to pay your balance each month. This will help you avoid paying astronomically high interest fees.

  1. Brand Name Products

Sometimes certain things are expensive solely because of their brand name, when a cheaper version of the same product works just as well. And here’s another tip: if you do a little research to see where a product was manufactured, you may find that the store brand is the same as the name brand, just with a different label (like ketchup). So make sure you check out the cheaper brand before you make your purchase.

  1. Entertainment

It’s time to get rid of that cable bill.

The entertainment industry is starting to cater to instant streaming, which means you can watch any show you want at any time. It also turns out that signing up for major streaming services with a standard TV plan is a lot cheaper than a 200-channel cable plan.

Be Smart!

Practice being intentional about your spending. Take a moment and think about each purchase before you make it, and you may find that there’s a good chance you can save your money for something you find more important.

Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.

Why You Should Consider Real Estate Investing As Early As Your 20s

There’s this old saying that says the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now. That especially applies to investing. It’s never too late to begin investing and planning for the future, but the sooner the better. This is true in real estate, as buying a house, an apartment or whatever other type of property you’re looking for can pay off big time if you invest wisely in your 20s.

Owning a house rather than renting is often a good way to save money and set yourself up with a valuable asset in the future. However, renting it out can be even better as it’s a guaranteed source of income that can pay off your mortgage while also earning you some extra money on top.

Getting an Early Start

Many extremely successful people saw the value of investing in real estate at a young age and are now enjoying the fruits of their labor. One of my favorite stories is the 24-year-old college dropout who bought a 5-bedroom condo for $60,000.

By renting out four rooms to friends for $300, he was able to live for free while working. Mike Henkel scraped together enough money to buy two more properties in the town. Now, after 42 units, Henkel’s properties are worth $4 million.

His story is an extreme one, as he was maxing out his credit cards for each “leap of faith,” as he called. The stress and pressure was enormous, yet it paid off.

You don’t have to be nearly as ambitious as Henkel was in order to successfully invest in real estate. For some, such as Rob Mericle, it was commercial real estate that paid off. For others, such as Henkel, it was purely residential real estate that helped solidify their financial future.

The Loan

Whether you’re looking for that dream home to live in or a good property to rent out, you’ll likely have to work with a bank to get a mortgage unless you’re blessed with heaps of cash. Regardless of which type of loan you want, the bank will take a look at your credit history, which probably isn’t the strongest when you’re only in your 20s.

Your score will impact the interest rate of your loan. Fortunately, interest rates have been low for the past few years, with 30-year fixed loans typically at around 4 percent. Low interest rates make buying an even sounder investment, as it means you’ll be able to spend more on the principal of the loan rather than the added interest.

An obstacle to all potential property buyers is the down payment. This is typically 20 percent of a home that needs to be paid upfront. A smaller down payment is possible, but this likely means higher interest rates or paying private mortgage insurance.

However, as a younger person, you may qualify for first-time home buyer loans. Other loans allow you to put as little as 5 percent down if you plan to live in the home, which is a great way to make money on a property.

Renting Out Your Property

To make money off your real estate, which you want to do when you consider it an investment, you’ll likely be renting out your properties. Here are a few things to keep in mind as a young property owner:

  • You can do without a property manager, which requires you to pay them, if you live close by and can handle any issues that may come up with the property yourself. This is a nice cost savings.
  • That being said, you should protect your investment property by having a real estate attorney you can trust.  They can assist at any stage in the transaction, including negotiating lease terms, drafting documents, handling closing, etc. Make sure to include legal fees in your budget when underwriting your investment.
  • Make sure to add up your cash flow correctly. You need to account for things that aren’t immediately obvious, such as downtime between rentals and upkeep on the property.
  • Vet your renters carefully. You want responsible people who will pay their bills and won’t require any effort from you to oversee.

Making the Right Financial Moves

Buying makes financial sense. In addition to making money, you’re also learning fiscal responsibility at a young age. You’ll be far ahead of your peers, who probably don’t know an accelerated amortization from an all-in-one mortgage.

But most of all, investing in real estate while you are young gives you an education. The money is great, of course. Yet real estate investment teaches you to think in new ways. It requires problem solving and grit and determination to wait for the best deals. You will learn to assess things differently and understand money isn’t always the most important factor in an investment. Sometimes good investments require time, too.

Investing in real estate while you’re young will carry benefits that can last a lifetime. Do your homework, be aggressive and open your eyes. This will be a fun and rewarding path.


This article comes from our friends at Phroogal. It was originally published on January 20, 2016, and can be found on their website here.

Don’t Make These Credit Card Mistakes

About 63 percent of those under 30 years of age don’t have a credit card. That’s compared with just 35 percent of those over 30 who’ve chosen to opt out of the credit game.

Those who do have credit cards run into trouble paying their bills.  Many millennials are cutting up their credit cards, and others are choosing not to apply for credit at all. However, this may not be the best long-term strategy.

Although avoiding credit may seem like the best answer in the short term, it may not be your wisest move in the long term. Managing credit cards appropriately is one of the best ways to build strong credit scores. A strong credit score will open doors in the future — like when you apply for car loans, personal loans or mortgages.

Here are some tips to help you manage your credit card activities:

  • Be strategic

Use your credit card for purchases so you can protect yourself against fraud. If you use a debit card, you’re basically giving thieves and hackers direct access to your bank accounts. Instead, pay via credit card whenever there may be a risk. Also, be aware that credit card companies offer better security against fraudulent purchases made on your card.

  • Keep payments up-to-date

If you’re paying your credit card late, you will face high late fees and drooping credit scores. Paying a bill late will also affect interest rates and any loan applications you may file in the future.

  • Use credit cards sparingly

You need to know your money pitfalls. By knowing your weaknesses, you can guard against maxing out your card. Even if you pay the balance in full later, it can still affect your credit score. It’s recommended to not use more than 30 percent of your credit card’s limit. For even better credit scores, experts recommend using less than 10 percent.

  • Don’t carry a balance

If you carry a balance on your card each month, you may be losing more than you realize. Interest payments tap into your wallet and cut away at your financial freedom. Simply sit down with a few recent credit card bills and tally it up. Credit scores are also at risk if you continuously carry a balance on your card.

  • Make more than the minimum payment

By paying just the minimum amount listed on your bill, you may be paying twice or three times more for the item you bought. Is it worth it? Interest fees, late fees and over-the-limit fees will cut into your cash flow.

  • Review your statement

Be aware of your spending habits. Once you know where you are spending your money, it will be easier to see where you need to cut back. It will also help you catch mistakes so you can let your credit card company know right away.

  • Don’t use cash advances

Cash advances will cost you big in interest rates. Such fees are usually higher than the regular rates you pay on your credit card.

  • Be prudent

Despite any reward program the credit card company may offer, don’t charge more than you can pay off in a month. Also, be careful when making a credit card application. Apply for a card you are most likely to qualify for. A failed application still leaves an inquiry on your credit report.

If you’ve been afraid of wading into the world of credit, take heart. Don’t forget that there arefinancial advisors and other professionals who you can consult about your money management decisions. By monitoring spending and using some solid financial advice, it’s possible to avoid debt and build up your credit rating.


This article comes from our friends at Phroogal. It was originally published on January 14, 2016, and can be found on their website here.

How to Save Money on Your Next Car Insurance Policy

What would you do with a few hundred dollars in your pocket? Pay off a credit card bill? Take a weekend trip? Save for a new car? Those are all great ideas and they can become a reality simply by saving on your next car insurance policy.

But what do you have to do to find those kinds of savings, and is it worth your time and effort? Well, think about it this way: you could pay upwards of $1,500 for annual car insurance if you don’t look for any savings on your policy. So keep your mind on that extra money in your wallet! Here are some suggestions to help you determine if you’re getting the best deal and savings on that policy:

New Driver Safety Course

Are you a good driver? Can you prove that? If so, then you might be entitled to a discount. Several insurance companies have set up an online safety course for those they consider to be new drivers: anyone who has been behind the wheel for less than nine years. This test takes an hour to complete but could net you some serious savings. You’ve probably already taken something like this to get your license. Time to break out that driver’s handbook and cram for a new test!

GPA Discount

Full-time students who carry a 3.0 GPA or better could be eligible for a “good student” discount. Look for the companies that offer this type of discount because, hey, you’re already working hard to maintain those grades – why not get a financial break for it? In some cases that discount could be up to 25 percent less than what you’re currently paying in premiums.

Driving Record Discounts

Everyone knows that when you get into an accident and file a claim there is a good chance your insurance premiums will go up. The reverse happens to be true as well. You might earn a discount for driving without an accident for a certain period of time. Your driving experience is based on the amount of time you’ve had your license, beginning with your first learner’s permit. Every year that you are a licensed driver, even if you’re not actually driving, contributes to your safe driving record. If you’ve been doing a good job behind the wheel, it’s time to benefit from being a good driver.

Multiple Policies

There was a time when auto insurance companies just sold auto insurance. Now most major auto insurance companies sell all kinds of insurance policies, from homeowners to renters and even life insurance. Generating a new auto insurance policy might be the time to seek out discounts for your other policies. When you can bundle those policies together, you might earn savings across the board on all of them.

Mileage Discount

It’s no secret that auto insurance companies would like nothing better than if you stopped driving: there’s less risk for an accident to occur. That doesn’t mean you should give up your car altogether, but if you find that your annual mileage is pretty low then you could be entitled to a discount.

This discount in particular can help high school and college students score a big deal. You could go for days without getting into your car or at least only drive a few miles each week. Make sure your insurance company is aware of your mileage. They should also be aware of your correct zip code — where your car is “garaged” and not a P.O. Box. These details can all factor into your overall rate and potentially lower your monthly premiums.

This list of discounts is a great place to start looking for auto insurance deals, but don’t stop there! Check out group rates offered through clubs, organizations, or employers, and remember that fluctuating rates may make it worth your while to shop for a new policy on an annual basis. Yes, it does take some time and effort, but you owe it to your wallet to avoid paying more than you should for auto insurance.

Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.

The 10 Most Expensive Habits of Americans

Did you know you could be wasting thousands of dollars a year without even realizing it? That number is drawn from the habits many of us have — most of which aren’t even good for our health or well-being.

Some of those habits are presented below to help you realize how much money you’re really wasting.

    1.  Getting Coffee

A specialty coffee at Starbucks can cost about five dollars. If you have one every weekday, you’re spending $25 a week. In a month, you’ve spent $100 and in a year, $1,200. Think about all of the things you could have bought with that money!

An alternative is making those tasty beverages at home. Purchase an inexpensive espresso machine and learn how to make lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos. You can have these treats whenever you want and they’ll cost substantially less.

  1. Eating Out

Eating out is easy, but can be much more expensive than cooking at home. Not only that, eating out usually leads to eating more than you need along with foods that are not as healthy as a home-cooked meal.

Let’s do some math: Say you get spaghetti and meatballs at an Italian eatery. The dish will cost you at least $13. When you add a drink and the tip, you’re close to $20. If you do this three times a week with similar costing meals, you’ll be out $60 a week. That’s $240 a month for a grand total of $2,880 a year.

You can have a similar meal at home for much less. A box of spaghetti is about one dollar and the sauce could cost you around three dollars. The meat for meatballs can run about four more dollars. The total is just eight dollars — much less than the meal you’ll get at a restaurant.

  1. Paying for Unused Services

Most people have a service automatically debited from their checking, saving or credit card account. It may only be five or 10 dollars, but that adds up. You can always use the money to buy more groceries or save for a rainy day.

  1. Rolling Debt Over

Whenever you have debt and roll it over, you end up paying interest. Interest is money you don’t have to spend, as long as you can pay off your credit cards or other loans each month.

If you have the cash, pay off your debt. You will save on interest.

  1. Smoking

Approximately 40 million adults smoke cigarettes in the United States. Cigarettes can get expensive if you smoke heavily. Some people can go through a pack a day, and the average cost is five dollars for one. That’s just like getting that Starbucks coffee.

Just think — if you have one coffee a day and a pack of cigarettes a day, that’s $50 for each work week, adding up to $200 a month.

  1. Drinking Alcohol

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on people’s expenses. In one year, they found thatAmericans spent about $435 on alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, hard liquor and mixed drinks. This amount is much more than what is spent on non-alcoholic beverages.

  1. Throwing Food Away

Americans throw away 222 million tons of food. This is about 20 pounds per person each month. That’s a lot of money wasted.

To cut back on spending so much money, use up all of the food you have on hand. You can do this by cooking only as much as you eat or by storing the leftovers. Don’t purchase as much food as you usually do at the grocery store. Cut back so you don’t end up with spoiled vegetables and fruit.

Try to plan your meals, so you don’t have as much wasted throughout the week. This habit is a great way to stay within a budget, too.

  1. Driving Everywhere

Most people will consider driving somewhere before they think of walking or taking some other form of transportation. Driving not only pollutes the Earth, it also spends gas. Gas is expensive, and you can save money by walking or choosing other ways to get places.

You may just tell yourself, “Oh … it’s only a few dollars saved.” Those few dollars turn into hundreds over time, so why waste the money when you don’t need to?

  1. Opting for Low Quality

Low quality items or services can seem like the best choice when you’re budgeting because they cost less. However, you need to think long term when it comes to investing in these decisions: If you will need to replace a cheap version of whatever you’re buying, or if the service you paid for was subpar and you’ll need to get it serviced again in the next year or two, you can justify spending a little more for better quality. You can usually save money by spending more for better quality than by buying low quality replacements over and over again.

  1. Not Shopping Around

Yes, shopping around takes time and effort. The process can save you a lot of money, though. Whether you need to look into a retirement community, a pet sitting service, or a new microwave, whenever you need to purchase a product or service, call a few different places to find the best price. The couple of dollars you save will end up accumulating in your bank account, making you very happy down the road.

Start changing your habits today to save some money! Your new habits may take some time to get used to, but the extra money will definitely make it easier.


This article comes from our friends at Phroogal. It was originally published on December 30, 2015, and can be found on their website here.

7 Ways to Be Energy Conscious – And Save on Utilities

We all know how important it is to be conscious of our energy consumption and minimize our carbon footprint. Not only is it good for the planet, but it can benefit our wallets, too, as energy bills sky-rocket with heat waves, droughts, record-breaking snowfall and artic temperatures. Fortunately, it’s easy to find little ways to save money and reduce your energy consumption. And if you’re currently living in dorms or apartments and don’t have to worry as much about bills or home maintenance, it still helps to develop energy-saving habits early on – and practice lowering your energy consumption!  So let’s look at a few simple steps you can take:

1. Unplug It

Unplugging your electronics when not in use can save a surprising amount of energy. Even plugs that aren’t plugged into anything besides the wall are creating a steady drain. Take out phone chargers, laptop cords and lamp plugs when you aren’t using them — especially before going on vacation!


2. Good Seals

Proper seals around windows and doors (especially garage doors) can help prevent cool air from escaping and will keep your home cooler (or warmer). Poor seals make your HVAC system work much harder and drain energy into keeping the outside temperate, which is pretty pointless. It’s also a good idea to use insulating paint as a primer on your ceilings and walls to reduce the amount of heat that transfers down through the ceiling from the attic (and vice versa during winter).


3. Switch Light Bulbs

Changing over to CFL or LED bulbs is slightly more expensive for the initial investment, but you won’t have to buy new bulbs for years. That’s in addition to lowering your energy bills without even having to think about it.


4. Energy-Saver Appliances

Appliances that have the energy-saver logo will decrease your home’s energy use simply because of how they’re designed. They’ve been independently certified to meet government standards and are much less expensive than they were a few years ago. Toilets, light bulbs, stoves and washing machine sets are all great options to cut energy use with more efficient appliances.


5. Adjust the Thermostat

Keeping your thermostat a tiny bit higher in the summer and a little lower in the winter will save you energy and money all year long. A digital thermostat can help. Set it to a comfortable temperature for the morning and evening, while letting it get warmer or cooler while you’re at school or work. Don’t turn it completely off, however, as this will cause the system to work harder once it’s turned on — negating the energy savings you had while it was off.


6. Cut Heat Use

In the summer, you don’t have much use for heat. Instead of using the dryer, hang dry your clothes outside. Avoid using the oven or stove during the hot part of the day, and try washing your clothes with cold water instead of warm.


7. Work With Renewables

Solar, wind and geothermal technology is quickly advancing, and more of it is becoming available to consumers. Solar, of course, is the most widely available and least expensive option. Work with professionals who are committed to helping the environment when looking into this option. If it’s possible to install solar panels on your home, they can provide a dramatic drop in your energy use. If you can do enough of them, you may even be able to sell energy back to the electric companies!


Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.