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Mind Hacks to Help You Save

Mind Hacks to Help You Save

Even with the best of intentions, many of us find ourselves swiping our debit card or clicking “buy now,” then wishing we had that money back later. When you’re trying to increase your savings, some of the biggest obstacles to progress can be found within yourself. Fortunately, a few simple mind hacks can turn the tables on unhelpful financial habits.

Make It Harder to Spend

Every day, we encounter many opportunities — and lots of encouragement — to spend money. Advertisements urge us to purchase, online shopping makes it instant and delivery services make it convenient. One of the keys to saving, for many, is removing temptation, which means knowing your triggers. If you thirst for thrift, stay out of your usual bargain-hunting grounds and avoid the discount aisle at all costs. Also steer clear websites with deal countdowns and other pressures to “buy now.” Shop with a list, and stick to it.

You also may need to explore your feelings around spending. Studies show that we often spend more when we’re stressed. So if you engage in too much retail therapy, set yourself up for success by choosing a relaxing, free activity like reading a book, meditating or taking a walk instead. Shopping with cash rather than credit can also help put the brakes on instant gratification — plus, you’re forced to stop when your wallet is empty. And even waiting 24 hours after first spotting something temping can help you figure out if you really want or need it — or if it was merely the urge to splurge.

Make It Easier to Save

Simplifying your savings routine and minimizing obstacles can also be helpful. A lot of the time, the way we save money is through an active process — we go over our accounts and set aside a certain amount each cycle. Try making saving automatic instead. Start by setting up auto-deposits into your savings account and have contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into your employer-sponsored retirement account.

Make Saving More Rewarding Than Spending

If you’re the competitive type, sometimes a little challenge can be just what you need to get into a money-saving mindset. Setting savings goals and visualizing them with a vision board, spreadsheet or chart can help keep you motivated. Or turn savings into a game. One study by the financial assistance nonprofit Commonwealth showed that people who used a gamified savings app that lets them complete challenges and earn badges saved 25% more than others.

Hack Your Habits

Saving money is a gradual and lifelong process — and it takes commitment and consistency. No matter what strategies and hacks you choose to help you save, the best thing you can do to increase your savings is whatever you’ll stick to. Find the methods that work for you, and over time you’ll be able to hack your mindset, build good financial habits and reboot your savings.



How to fight Shrinkflation

How to fight Shrinkflation

Consumers across the nation are looking in their pantry and wondering,Where did all the Munchy-Os go?! Why is there a divot in the bottom of the peanut butter jar? And wait, there definitely used to be more chips in this bag!Welcome to “shrinkflation” a practice where companies make smaller products, downsize the packaging or put smaller amounts in the box so consumers spend the same for less. These are subtle changes that most people wont even notice but will have you questioning your sanity while you wonder where all the cookies went. 

You can’t stop shrinkflation, but you can outsmart it! Here are five strategies savvy shoppers can use to shrink the effect shrinkflation has on their wallets.  

Pick Your Prices Like Peter Piper 

Remember the nursery rhyme about Peter Piper picking a peck of pickled peppers? Looking at the price per pepper rather than per package helps reveal the real cost of your purchase. Next to the item price on the grocery shelf, youll see a unit price in smaller print. Unit pricing tells you how much youll pay per pound, ounce, piece or whatever unit of measure applies. And it lets you compare costs across different brands or product sizes. If Peter Pipers Pickled Peppers are $1 per pound and Mary Mary Quite Contrarys Sour Pickles are $2 per pound, you get a better deal per pound buying from Peter, even if the price of Marys pickles is less for a smaller jar. 

Go Big Before You Go Home 

If you compare unit prices and product size, there is often a premium on smaller sizes you spend more per ounce on the smaller bottle of ketchup than the larger one, even if its the same brand. If you go through ketchup like youre running a summer camp, then double down and stock up on those supersized products. But also be mindful about waste bulk shopping can end up costing you more in the end if you stock up on perishable items that go bad before you use them.  

Dial in on Deals 

Whether you like to peruse the paper old-school with scissors in hand or use the latest shopping apps or digital coupons, deal hunting can get you better prices on products you use all the time. And dont forget to seek out BOGO deals to double your purchasing power (just calculate your unit price to make sure its as good a deal as it seems). 

Rethink Your Retail Relationships  

It might be time to give up on manufacturers that have done you wrong. Maybe you buy the same brand of freezer pops your mother did, but if the amount in the box is shrinking it may be time to cut loose your brand loyalty and switch to one that gets you more pops per pack. And while you’re at it, if youve traversed the aisles of the same supermarket for years, now may be the time to try out a discount grocery store, a big-box retailer or even your local farmers market to see if you can find better prices on products you buy.  

Shrinkflation Support 

If youre struggling with the stress of shrinkflation, consider talking to a financial professional about your situation. They can provide budgeting help and smart saving strategies to help take the sting out of shrinkflation.  


Budgeting for an Engagement Ring

Budgeting for an Engagement Ring

You’ve found a quiet, secluded beach to pop the question, and picked out the perfect bottle of champagne for a celebratory toast. Most importantly, you’ve found that special someone who’s captured your heart — the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. Now all that’s left is to find the right ring, a token of your eternal love, to seal the deal. 

While you want something beautiful that encapsulates your special love story, you also want to stay true to your financial aspirations as a couple as you begin the next chapter of your lives together. Here are tips to help you find the right ring for you and your partner, and for your budget, as you seek a symbol of your connection while honoring your commitment to a secure financial future together.  

Design Decisions Can Drive Cost 

The average cost of a diamond engagement ring is between $3,500 and $5,000. Opting for a different size or diamond cut can alter the price substantially, but so can the setting and the material for the ring itself. Using a vintage ring or a family heirloom, which can often be re-set into a new band, can be a great sentimental and cost-saving option.  

Think Outside the Rock 

Though many people think diamonds are synonymous with engagement rings, a mined diamond isn’t the only option available. Lab-created diamonds typically cost 50% to 70% less than mined diamonds. Other stones, such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds, can reduce your cost while giving a unique look that may even stand out more than a traditional diamond. And if you like the look of diamonds but not the cost, moissanite is a beautiful, clear, sparkling stone that mimics the look of diamonds at a fraction of the price typically around 1/10th the cost of a similar size diamond. 

Budget for the Ring You Want 

 Whether you plan to be frugal or more extravagant with your ring purchase, it’s important to budget in a way that supports your goals. Once you have the right ring picked out, spending-tracker apps and automatic savings deductions can help you set money aside. A ring that’s out of your immediate price range might be eligible for a payment plan, but be sure to check the financing terms carefully look over the interest rate, how often it’s compounded and any late payment penalties or other fees. Think realistically about your price range it’s best not to put a ring on a high-interest credit card, which will increase your cost even further. 

Your Journey Begins Here 

When you’re budgeting for a ring, put this significant purchase into perspective. Remember that you’ll need to balance the expense with the other costs you’ll incur as you begin your lives together, like buying a house or starting a family. And unless you plan on a low-key ceremony, small reception or a frugal honeymoon, when you budget for a ring, you’ll have to make sure it doesn’t cut into your wedding budget too much. Consider consulting a financial professional to help you plan for this expense, and remember that regardless of which engagement ring you choose or what it costs, what matters most is the one who’ll be wearing it.  


Does Your Budget Need an Update?

Does Your Budget Need an Update?

Having a budget is a great way to take charge of your financial health. In fact, people who track their spending are more likely to owe under $5,000 in debt than those who dont. A budget can help you stay on track toward achieving goals like a secure retirement, but as your life changes, your budget may require updating from time to time. So, whether youre planning for your dream home, a vacation or a debt-free future, its important to make sure your budget reflects your current financial reality. Here are some common reasons you might need to reassess your budget. 

Changes in Income (Up or Down) 

If your income changes, adjust your budget accordingly. With a raise, you might want to allocate more money to savings or retirement accounts or pay down debt more rapidly. On the other hand, if you lose a job or face a pay cut, you may need to reduce a few discretionary expenses, such as eating out, until you’re able to recoup the lost income. 

Major (and Minor) Life Changes 

Major life changes, such as moving or purchasing a home, a serious illness, starting a family or getting married tend to significantly impact household budgets across several spending categories. But even less drastic changes, such as a costly home repair bill or a car purchase, will often require budgetary adjustments. In the event a complete overhaul is needed, it may be wise to seek out assistance from a qualified financial professional.  

Inflation (and Other Changing Economic Realities) 

In early 2023, the average price of eggs was 70% higher than in 2022. While eggs have become the poster child for inflation run amok, many other household expenses have also increased significantly. And taken together, these changes have stressed the financial health of American households and likely contributed toward soaring consumer debt. But by reworking your budget numbers, you may be able to avoid burdensome credit card bills in the future.  

Evolving Long- (and Short-) Term Financial Goals 

As your financial goals change, so too should your budget. If you once thought youd retire in Akron but have now decided you want to spend your golden years in Malibu, you might need to sock more away to make that retirement dream a reality. Rapidly increasing mortgage rates are changing the calculus for would-be home buyers; a budget can help you make adjustments based on shifting economic conditions. Consider your near-, mid- and long-term financial goals as you reassess your resources and needs. 

Changes in Credit Card (and Mortgage, Car Loan) Debt 

If you take on increased debt, whether its a new car payment, mortgage or medical bill, your budget will need to adjust to incorporate those payments. On the other hand, when you pay off a debt, it presents an opportunity to put more money toward paying down other obligations or putting more funds aside toward your retirement or other financial goals. What once was spent chipping away at a credit card balance could now be put toward your vacation fund or building up emergency savings for a rainy day. 

A Budget Is a Living Document 

Establishing a budget that works for you is an important step toward building a healthy financial future and securing your retirement readiness. But it will likely require several updates along the way. A midyear budget check is a great way to make sure your plans stay in step with all your life circumstances. If you need assistance, a financial professional can help you. 



Beat These 5 Budget Busters

Beat These 5 Budget Busters

It happened again. You started the month determined to keep spending within your budget, only to come up short on contributions to your retirement and other savings.  

How can this be? 

Many factors can steer you off course on monthly spending, but a few particularly common culprits are often to blame. Here are five budget busters and some smart strategies to beat them.  

1. Subscription Services 

Premium sports and movie channels are great fun, but subscription creep is common as more channels join your viewing rotation, monthly charges increase over time and free trial periods quietly end.  

Smart savings strategy. Cut back channels to just your favorites. Avoid in-app purchases and only watch shows included in your programming package. When possible, replace premium services with free or lower cost, ad-supported plans.  

2. Unexpected Repairs 

Things break thats life. Computers crash, TVs stop working, appliances wear out, cars break down and phones get dropped. And it can be hard to stay on budget when they do unless you take steps to prepare. 

Smart savings strategy. You cant expect things to never go wrong, but you can establish an emergency fund of at least three-to-six months of expenses for when they do. Good maintenance habits can also help minimize repairs. And be sure to take advantage of any purchase protection that might be available for items bought with your credit card. 

3. The Urge to Splurge 

Weve all walked out of the grocery withextraswe didnt plan on buying or come home from the mall with a new sweater that was too good a deal to pass up or given into the desire for a pricey mochaccino at the coffee shop. While occasional indulgences are rarely problematic, frequent ones can add up. 

Smart savings strategy. Bring a list to the store and avoid recreational shopping. And dont grocery shop when youre hungry — going to the supermarket with an empty stomach increases the chances that you’ll leave with a loaded cart. Spend cash to help keep credit card balances under control and set limits for online shopping (its just too easy toclick to buy). If a purchase is beckoning you, consider layaway or wait to see if the urge passes. 

4. Dining out 

Eating at restaurants is a treat, but it can be easy to spend more than you intended. If your monthly restaurant tab is starting to look more like a car payment, there are things you can do to prevent your favorite eatery from taking too big a bite out of your budget. 

Smart savings strategy. Limit eating out to once or twice a week or month, depending on your budget. Instead of fine dining, try informal, less expensive bistro meals. Alcohol adds a lot to the check, so limit consumption when dining out. Split a meal or have an appetizer instead of an entree. Look for early bird or happy hour specials and swap out a steak splurge for a less expensive pasta dish. 

5. Delivery Fees 

You can get almost anything delivered today, from cat food to a new car. But convenience can come at a hefty price. Whether for meals, clothing or other online purchases, delivery services can make everything you buy more expensive.  

Smart savings strategy. Drive to the store instead of paying delivery fees and forgo rush shipping. Dont fork over hard-earned cash for meal delivery services, which often dont even include tipping the driver. Eat in more or use convenient curbside pickup instead. 

And Most Importantly … 

Whatever you do, theres one way to prevent budget busters from derailing your retirement or other savings plans and thats to pay yourself first. Having retirement plan contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck is an effortless way to accomplish that. Put your financial future at the top of your budget each month to help ensure you can always afford what matters most. 

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