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.  


Getting Ready to Transition to Medicare? Then It’s Time to Re-Visit Your ABCs … and LMNs

Getting Ready to Transition to Medicare? Then It’s Time to Re-Visit Your ABCs … and LMNs

Transitioning from an employer-provided plan to Medicare, the federal health insurance program for those 65 and older and certain younger people with disabilities, can provide a tremendous sense of security though it can also feel a little daunting. But demystifying this vital benefit doesn’t have to be an impossible task. In fact, it can be as easy as (re)learning your ABCs. Here’s a quick rundown on the basics of Medicare and its various parts if you’re about to become eligible. 

The ABCs and Ds of Medicare 

Unlike the private insurance you may be accustomed to, Medicare coverage is composed of four main parts, each labeled with a letter 

  • Part A (Hospital Insurance): Covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care and some limited home health care services. Most individuals premiums are covered by the Medicare taxes either they or their spouse have paid. 

  • Part B (Medical Insurance): Covers medically necessary services, such as doctor visits, outpatient care, medical supplies and many preventive services. Part B requires a monthly premium, which is usually deducted from Social Security benefits. 

  • Part C (Medicare Advantage): Offered by private Medicare-approved insurers, these plans combine Part A and Part B benefits and can include additional services like vision, dental and prescription drug coverage. They often have lower out-of-pocket costs but can come with network restrictions and requirements regarding your health care. 

  • Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage): Covers prescription medications and is available as a stand-alone plan or as part of Medicare Advantage. The monthly premiums and drugs covered can vary by plan, so it's crucial to choose a plan that suits your needs. 

Don’t Fall into the Gap (plus a few more letters to consider) 

Just as your private insurance may have had limitations, restrictions or exclusions, it’s important to get the lay of the land regarding what is — and isn’t covered by Medicare. Luckily, though, you have some flexibility when it comes to dealing with any coverage shortfalls. Medigap policies, also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance, are offered by private insurance companies and can help cover costs that Original Medicare does not, including copayments, coinsurance and deductibles (filling coverage “gaps”). There are 10 standardized Medigap plans available, each named with a letter (A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M and N) and offering different levels of coverage. Not all plans, however, are offered in every state, and they’re not compatible with Medicare Advantage. Carefully compare Medigap plans and choose the one that best aligns with your health care needs and budget. 

Important Enrollment Periods  

When you’re getting ready to change from private health insurance over to Medicare, there are specific periods for enrollment that you need to observe to avoid costly penalties and coverage gaps: 

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): A seven-month enrollment window begins three months before you turn 65, includes your birth month and ends three months afterward.  

  • General Enrollment Period (GEP): If you miss your IEP, you can still sign up for Part A and/or Part B between January 1 and March 31, with coverage starting on July 1. However, you want to avoid this as you may face lifetime late-enrollment penalties. 

  • Open Enrollment Period (OEP): Between October 15 and December 7 each year, you can make changes to your Medicare coverage, such as switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. 

Maximize Medicare Benefits by Choosing Wisely 

Selecting the right Medicare coverage is essential to maximize benefits and minimize your out-of-pocket costs. Carefully evaluate your health care needs, budget and lifestyle as well as any program costs, covered services and restrictions when making your decision. How you handle your initial enrollment can have long-term consequences, so consider consulting a qualified Medicare consultant if you’re unsure what to do. They can help guide you through the important decisions you’ll face during the enrollment process and answer additional questions you may have as you make this important transition in your health care coverage. 





Big Benefits of Downsizing

Big Benefits of Downsizing

The old sayingless is moremay also hold true when it comes to the size of your home. It may be tempting to think that the best home is cavernous, with lots of extra square footage you can fill with possessions over time but thats not always the case. There are many potential short- and long-term benefits to downsizing. Here are just a few ways going small can help ensure your home remains a haven and not a hindrance to your financial goals. 

Lower PITI 

Downsizing has the potential to reduce your mortgage payments as well as many other costs associated with your home including taxes. For example, if you pay $6,100 a year in property taxes, moving to a home that costs 25% less could save you $127 a month. Your insurance premium may be lower for a smaller home as well due to reduced costs of labor and materials needed to affect repairs in the event of a claim.  

Small Space Efficiency 

A cozier home can reduce your environmental footprint and also help save on resources, particularly if youre downsizing your lawn as well. Youll have less area to maintain, making it easier to handle yard maintenance or other chores yourself instead of hiring someone to do it for you. Heating and cooling less square footage is typically less expensive, leading to lower utility bills and a potentially less costly HVAC system. Moreover, a smaller home can promote a more minimalist lifestyle, encouraging you to prioritize quality over quantity and cultivate a greater sense of contentment with fewer material possessions. 

Fortify Your Financial Future 

The economic benefits of downsizing are long lasting. A more affordable home can lead to valuable home equity, which could help fund retirement savings or other financial goals. A smaller home may also help you pay off your mortgage sooner, freeing up extra money each month to fund a dream vacation or an earlier or more comfortable retirement. And the savings youll accrue by downsizing mean youll be better equipped for a financial emergency. 

Good Things Can Come in Small Packages 

While many homebuyers may automatically aim for a bigger place each time they move, bigger isnt always better when it comes to your bottom line. If you assess your lifestyle honestly, you may find that your square footage exceeds your needs and is creating an unnecessary strain on your budget. Think carefully about your actual requirements, calculate what that unused space is really costing you and consider the many potential benefits of downsizing.  



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