I taught English in China to pay off my student loans

Hello! Here’s a guest post from a reader, Nick. Nick was feeling stuck a few years ago and wasn’t making progress on his student loans. He ended up researching a lot about salaries and the cost of living for English teachers in China and realized that he would be able to save far more money […]

The post I taught English in China to pay off my student loans appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Five Smart and Easy Ways to Save Your Family Money

Setting financial goals for your family can be exciting and overwhelming. It’s empowering to work towards saving for your family’s dream vacation or eliminating debt such as a car payment, but when your family budget is already tight, finding ways to improve your finances can seem daunting.

Good news! There are everyday ways that you can implement into your family’s lifestyle that can help you save money. Here are a few easy strategies that will prove fruitful for both your home and your bank account.

1. Clean out your fridge and freezer each week

Before you roll your eyes at this suggestion, let me explain. Research shows that people in US households toss out a staggering 150,000 tons of food each day! The average American family of four spending $ $10,995 per year on food. A considerable amount of waste could be prevented if we commited to monitoring foods like produce, dairy, and meat and using them before they go bad.

Schedule a day once a week (the day before or day you plan to grocery shop is ideal) and take inventory of what groceries you still have available to prepare family meals. This allows you to take advantage of a slightly bruised zucchini and end-of-package cheese slices that you can turn into a delicious quiche for dinner rather than spending a small chunk-of-change on takeout pizza. Don’t forget the freezer. Those frozen drumsticks can be thawed and marinated for tomorrow’s Sunday dinner along with that bag of red bliss potatoes that have been sitting on your counter for weeks now.

A considerable amount of waste could be prevented if we commited to monitoring foods and using them before they go bad.

Make this a weekly habit and not only will you be able to serve your family tasty dishes, you can put the money you save toward something meaningful for your family.

2. Review your family’s monthly subscriptions

It’s the little things in life that can truly make a difference! That goes for those small, innocent payments you make each month for our family’s entertainment—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, gym memberships, music streaming services, Dollar Shave Club, and so many more.

List all your family’s subscriptions and see what your monthly total is. Decide which ones really make a difference for your family and then look at trimming the rest. You might be surprised to find out how much money you're spending on subscriptions you rarely (if ever) use!

3. Commit to decluttering your surroundings

A home filled with paper piled on countertops, loose laundry, a gaggle of knickknacks and tchotchkes, and drawers stuffed with gadgets and items that have no real purpose can be one of the biggest money drains of all. 

When your living space is organized and functional, it sets the tone for everything else in your family’s life.

Look around your entryway, kitchen, family room, and even your garage. Are things neat and orderly, or do you have to dig every time you need to find your tennis shoes, the dog’s leash, and your car keys?

Clutter robs you of:

  • Time. How much time do you waste constantly searching for everyday items?
  • Space. Clutter can hog valuable counter and drawer space that should belong to items you use all the time. (What happens when you can't find your car keys or—say it ain't so!—reach the coffeepot?)
  • Money. Just when you give up and buy a new duster, that's when the old one shows up. Am I right? And if you misplace your bills, that could result in late fees.
  • Peace of mind. When your family lives amid chaos, you're constantly stressed about finding items, or you feel guilty that your home isn't in better order. 

When your living space is organized and functional, it sets the tone for everything else in your family’s life. This doesn’t have to be an awful project. Get excited about how amazing you and your family will feel when everything has a place. When you eliminate the mess throughout your entire home (garage and shed included!), you’ll have a new lease on life. Disposing if things you bought and rarely used will also may you more mindful of what you purchase in the future.

There are dozens of recommended decluttering methods available, but my favorite is inspired by organizing guru, Marie Kondo. The way she goes about getting her clients organized involves a multi-step process that involves sorting by item category rather than by room. The KonMari method mandates that you only keep the items that bring you joy. (But remember, throwing out your bills because they don't bring you joy is a bad idea.)

RELATED: Clean, Organize, and Declutter with Marie Kondo's Magic: Part 1

4. Buy secondhand

A savvy way to save serious money is to shop secondhand stores. Not only can you find designerclothing at half the price of the original sales tag, you can score amazing finds for your home. There needn’t be a stigma about shopping thrift stores. Many have a boutique-like feel with knowledgeable, professional sales staff who are eager to help you and your home look better for less. In addition, you’re helping the environment by recycling!

Shopping secondhand is one of 2020’s hot parenting trends. Besides local thrift shops and consignment stores, there are plenty of opportunities to shop online. E-Bay, Swap.com, and ThredUp, and Facebook are a few of many online choices that offer a variety of top-notch styles for less.

5. Create an energy-smart home

Be mindful of turning the lights off when you leave a room or keeping your thermostat set at 68 degrees during the winter. To some, those types of things are already habit. But for many others, conserving energy isn't necessarily top-of-mind. The average electricity spent in a household per year is $1,368.36 and studies show that 35 percent of the power used is actually wasted.

Fortunately, this waste can be corrected. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the typical household can save 25 percent on utility bills by implementing energy-efficient measures. (Put that towards your family’s vacay!) These tips include replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient alternatives and properly insulating your home.

You can perform a do-it-yourself energy audit, and many local energy companies will also assist with a professional energy audit. Moneycrashers also offers some helpful tips in 10 Ways for How to Save Energy at Home Now – Save $2,500 Per Year.

With a money-saving mindset you’ll soon find other creative ways you can spend less and save more resulting in valuable time with your loved ones.

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Cities With the Best Public Transportation in the U.S.

No car? No problem. Plenty of U.S. cities with good public transportation make it possible to live comfortably without owning a vehicle. Living without a car has some serious perks, like fewer responsibilities (goodbye, routine oil changes) and serious cash savings (hello, luxury apartment!). Plus, when you live in a city with good public transit, […]

The post Cities With the Best Public Transportation in the U.S. appeared first on Apartment Life.

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Buying a Home in 2021? 11 Tips to Get It Done!

If you’ve yet to enter the housing market, but are thinking of buying a home in 2021, there’s a lot you need to know. As I once pointed out, this isn’t your older sibling’s housing market. Not just anyone can get a mortgage these days. You actually have to qualify. But we’ll get to that [&hellip

The post Buying a Home in 2021? 11 Tips to Get It Done! first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

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7 Ways to Make Frugality a Joyful Choice, Not a Burden

Frugality is quite popular these days, but it’s hardly a novel concept. Frugality kept many families going during wartime and the Great Depression, and it has the power to improve our homes and lives today.

While circumstances can force us into frugality, and that’s not much fun, you can also enjoy life while being frugal. Here are some great ways to make a thrifty lifestyle a joyful choice and not a burden.

First, clarify your why

Why do you want to be a frugal person? What benefits will a frugal lifestyle bring that you can’t find any other way? To make your frugality a joyful choice, you need to have a solid reason for it.

Most of us don’t live frugally for the sheer fun of it—at least not at first. You probably have a reason to be frugal. Perhaps you’re saving for a downpayment on a home, paying off student loan debt, or reducing your budget to enjoy greater career freedom.

You must have a reason for being frugal that is greater than your desire to spend money.

Clarify why you're planning to be more frugal. (You might have several reasons). Every time you struggle with forgoing a purchase to save money, remind yourself of the purpose behind it. You must have a reason for being frugal that is greater than your desire to spend money.

Your reasons are likely things that will add to your happiness one day. Buying a home, becoming debt-free, or cutting back on work hours may significantly improve your life, so those goals are worth the effort to be frugal.

7 strategies to make frugal living more enjoyable

1. Try a frugality challenge

Join a no-spend challenge where you only spend money on essentials for a month to see how much money you might save. This kind of thing isn’t meant to be a long-term change in habits, although some people might continue after the challenge is over.

The point of a frugality challenge or no-spend month (or year) is to reset your baseline. Change the default of how much money you spend each month. You may struggle at first, but it gets easier the longer you avoid spending.

When the month of extreme frugality is over, don’t automatically resume spending at your former levels.

When the month of extreme frugality is over, don’t automatically resume spending at your former levels. Take some time to evaluate how you felt, what triggers tempted you, and what things you discovered you don’t really need or want anymore.

It’s OK if you start spending a bit more again, but be mindful about what you purchase. It’s like the Konmari method of decluttering your house, except with your finances: Let go of what is no longer serving you, and joyfully spend on the things that matter.

2. Focus on gratitude

Gratitude can make you a happier person. When you think about what you’re grateful for, it’s pretty hard to dwell on what you don’t have. Research has shown people who regularly express gratitude often feel more positive emotions, savor good experiences, and improve their health.

It’s much easier to save your money when you focus on your blessings. Writing a list of things you’re grateful for daily can help you feel more content and less likely to crave the temporary high of buying something new.

You can still have so much without spending a lot.

Frugality doesn’t take away things you enjoy. Yes, it often means shopping around to get a lower price or doing without something you didn’t need. But you can still have so much without spending a lot.

Examples of things that might be on your gratitude list:

  • Running water
  • Internet service
  • Virtual connectivity to friends and family across the globe
  • Food and drink
  • Modern conveniences (electricity, dishwashers, lawnmowers, etc.)
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Nature

3. Notice the benefits of frugality

The longer you follow a frugal lifestyle, the more benefits you’ll observe. As you forgo spending on things that perhaps were luxuries, pay attention to the benefits you experience, whether expected or unexpected. Some of the common benefits you might see include:

  • Feelings of joy for the small things
  • Preferring homemade meals to dining out
  • Appreciation for what you have
  • No more temptation to buy to impress people
  • Learning a new skill
  • Adopting other, healthier habits

The more you appreciate the benefits of your frugality, the easier it will become to keep following frugal principles.

4. Make bargain-hunting a game

When you need or want something, look for low- or no-cost ways to get it. Buy Nothing groups, Facebook Marketplace, local garage sales, or thrift stores may have the item you’re seeking for much less (or even free).

Frugality often means spending a little more time researching the item you need before rushing out and buying it. But you usually don’t need something instantly and can afford to wait a few days, weeks, or months. That time can save you a great deal of money. Plus, you get to enjoy the satisfaction of snagging a great deal.

5. Enjoy learning to DIY

If you’re just starting with frugal living, you may find yourself trying to fix something you usually would have replaced. Do-it-yourself tasks are an opportunity to learn.

Look at frugality as a part of your identity rather than a difficult phase.

When you choose to repair or reuse something rather than replacing it with a new one, think about how cool it is to learn something new. My husband loves YouTube for teaching him a ton of valuable skills, such as how to replace car brakes. Yes, this takes more of his time in a hands-on way, but he enjoys the challenge, saves money, and guess what? Now he knows how to do the same job in the future, saving us money for years to come.6. Make frugality your identity, not a phase

Look at frugality as a part of your identity rather than a difficult phase. Habits expert James Clear writes about this in his bestselling book Atomic Habits: “To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.”

For instance, rather than stating your goal as “I want to save $200 this month,” try identifying yourself as someone who is joyfully frugal. Reframing your identity by saying, “I’m a frugal person” can be more effective than thinking, “I can’t wait until I can start spending money again.” All those little spending decisions are more manageable when you view everything as a means of honoring your values rather than temporarily denying yourself something.

7. Cultivate an abundance mindset

Consider how you talk about money in your day-to-day life. Try to pay attention to what you think and say about money throughout a typical week.

You’re making an intentional choice to prioritize what matters.

If you often say things like “I can’t afford that,” you’re negatively framing your frugality. But if you say something like “I choose not to spend money on that,” you put the power in your hands. You’re making an intentional choice to prioritize what matters.

There’s a subtle yet essential difference in these perspectives. If you have a scarcity mindset where you don’t have enough and you always want more, it won’t get you anywhere. But if you cultivate an abundance mindset, you’ll see opportunities for the future and believe in your ability to realize those opportunities.

Frugality is fun … for real!

Honestly, frugality is a fantastic lifestyle that brings me endless joy every day. It’s exciting to look for ways to save money without sacrificing any of the things you love to do. I hope you’ll start finding the joy in frugality too.

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