How to Save Money Furnishing Your Home

How to Save Money Furnishing Your Home

You’ve purchased a house and want to turn it into a home with new furnishings. But you have few leftover funds after closing costs and an inflated housing market. Here are some tips to feather your nest without breaking the bank.

1. Shop closeout sales. This may seem like obvious advice but look for better-quality furniture at end-of-season or discontinued prices — as opposed to pieces that are designed to be offered at lower price points. This allows you to purchase better, more durable items at a lower cost.

2. Consider secondhand. Explore your local thrift and antique stores for older furniture that may be even better than what you can find new. However, focus on case goods (furniture made from wood) as opposed to upholstered items — you never know if there might be a lingering smell or other problem. Also, stay away from used items for babies and children, which might not adhere to current safety standards.

3. Go multifunction. These days, there’s a lot of cleverly designed furniture that can pull off more than just one function. You can find coffee tables that raise up to dining height and ottomans that conceal hidden storage. And sometimes, well-planned furniture placement can help you do less with more. For example, a small desk can double as a nightstand. 

4. Model good behavior. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a model home clearance center near you that resells pieces designers selected to stage builder homes for sale. This can be a great way to get stylish furniture at a fraction of the retail price.

5. Repurpose existing pieces. Your current bedside tables might work well as end tables in your new living room. Likewise, your old sideboard could be a terrific TV stand in the guest room. Look for new uses for existing pieces to save money.

6. Use color to your advantage. Sometimes, you can get away with less when the “bones,” or background, of the room is great. Use a bold paint color to “furnish” your space or to create an accent wall. It’s amazing how different your old pieces can look against a new paint color.

7. Makeover existing pieces. Give existing furnishings a facelift with a fresh coat of paint or stain. Paint wood pieces white or a fun jewel tone. And it’s often more cost effective to reupholster an existing sofa (as long as the frame is in good shape) than purchase a new one.

8. Get personal with accessories. There’s no need to shop the big box décor stores for accessories when you can use your own travel souvenirs and personal memorabilia to add finishing touches to your space. A bowl of shells from a beach vacation and other natural elements can bring the outdoors in while stretching your dollars — and conjuring up fond memories.

Whatever you do, avoid raiding your retirement savings or running up a huge credit card bill to furnish your new abode. With a few smart strategies, a budget in hand and a little patience, you can make your home sweet indeed and still have enough money left for a housewarming party.

WellCents 4 Kids - Where Does Money Come From?

WellCents 4 Kids - Where Does Money Come From?

Penny, nickel, quarter, dime . . . you use money all the time. But did you ever wonder where it came from? Who decided that little pieces of metal and paper are worth something? You give someone a piece of paper and they give you a candy bar. Give them lots of paper, and maybe you get an Xbox. Yet, it can’t be just any paper — it has to be money. But what makes money so special? 

In prehistoric times, people didn’t have money – it hadn’t been invented yet! If you needed something, you swapped your stuff for someone else’s stuff. You have a cow that gives you milk. Your friend has an apple tree. You trade some of your milk for some of their apples. That’s called barter when you trade one thing for another.

Over time, certain things that were bartered became more valuable than other things — like cows — that could also make milk, or give you a calf (so then you’d have two cows!). Cows were one of the best things to barter — they were like iPads, everyone wanted one. In a way, cows were the first type of money!

But imagine trying to carry around a bunch of cows? You might need 10 cows just to go to the grocery store. Instead of bringing all those cows, people needed something smaller to take with them. A long time ago, special shells were used. You can fit a lot more shells in your pocket than cows. Each shell had value and could be used to buy things instead of barter.

Eventually, shells were replaced with something that didn’t break so easily — metal coins. The first coins were made in China in 10,000 B.C. — at first, they had little holes so they could be strung together. By 500 B.C. other countries like Turkey and Persia began to make coins using bronze, silver and gold. They were round and flat just like the ones we use today. Almost 2,000 years ago, China made paper money. And that idea eventually spread to other countries, including the United States.

So, the next time you look at a quarter or a dollar bill, you can think about the history of money and be really grateful you don’t have to carry a bunch of cows around!

Keep Car Costs Out of the Fast Lane

Keep Car Costs Out of the Fast Lane

Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions are impacting consumers across the globe. Buyers are seeing price increases in many classes of goods — particularly automobiles. Both new and used car costs have risen considerably. According to Kelley Blue Book, the U.S. standard for car pricing, the average cost for a new car rose to more than $40,000 in 2021, peaking at more than $45,000 in September, a 12.1% increase over the previous year. That means the same make and model of a new car might cost you as much as $4,800 more. And the average cost of a used car has risen to nearly $30,000, so there’s not much relief there. It’s a challenging time to be in the market to replace your ride. But there are a number of things you can do to keep the costs for your new — or used — vehicle out of the fast lane.

Shop nationally, not locally. Tempting as it might be to simply head to the dealership down the road and drive off the lot with a new SUV, resist the urge for immediate gratification. Use the reach of the internet to find the best available prices in your region or even the nation. Dealers will compete for business, and many will transfer cars to your area for a fee. There are even some completely virtual dealerships that can offer competitive pricing and delivery right to your door.

Shop early. If at all possible, don’t wait until your current car is on its last legs. Put time on your side to increase your chance of finding the best pricing on the make, model and mileage you want. The longer your time horizon, the more opportunities you’ll have to find a better price on the vehicle you’re looking for.

Be flexible. Does your new ride really need to be cherry red with aluminum alloy wheels and an upgraded sound system? If you can be happy with a few different colors and accessory packages that are readily available, you may save a few dollars.

Check insurance rates. Certain car models cost significantly more to insure. And you’ll be paying those premiums for as long as you drive the vehicle. Sportier cars, even used ones, can cost more than sedans when it comes to insurance coverage. Higher car costs can also mean higher replacement value in case of a collision — and higher insurance rates.

Research loan options. A longer-term loan may give you lower monthly payments, but the total interest you’ll pay will make that new car more expensive over the long term. According to Experian, more than 30% of new vehicle loans in the second quarter of 2021 fell into the 73- to 84-month range. Exceedingly long loans can carry higher interest rates and increase your risk of eventually becoming “upside down” in your loan. Bottom line: Find a payment plan that fits your budget within the shortest time frame you can manage. And don’t just take the loan the dealer offers — shop around. Consider prequalifying for a loan at your bank or credit union, or shop nationally for the most favorable terms.

Drive Your Car Budget in the Right Direction

Inflated automobile prices won’t last forever, so if you can wait a while before you make a purchase, being patient could work to your advantage. Talk with your financial professional to help determine your buying power in this market, and find out how much car you can afford while keeping your financial goals on track down the road.


The Hidden Costs of Taxes

The Hidden Costs of Taxes

We’ve all heard that one of life’s certainties is taxes, but have you ever stopped to consider the real impact of taxes on your everyday finances? Some taxes are more straightforward and obvious — we can look at the bottom of any sales receipt, for example, and see the amount of sales tax added. While state and local sales taxes vary, they often add up to only a few dollars on typical purchases: The average sales tax in the U.S. is 5.75%, or $5.75 on a $100 purchase. That may be relatively small potatoes in terms of your bottom-line budgeting, but taxes can be a hidden expense if you’re not aware of them and can have a much bigger impact than you anticipated. Keep a watchful eye on these tax-related budget-busters.

Buying a new car. This might be your first experience with a big tax bill on a major purchase — and it could run into the thousands. The sales tax on new cars varies by state, ranging from under 3% to more than 8%. This means that for a $30,000 car, you could pay up to around $2,000 in taxes. And the extra burden doesn’t just apply to a new car purchase — a used ride would be subject to the same tax rate. Even if someone gifts you a car, you may still need to pay taxes on the value of the vehicle.

Purchasing a home. Property taxes are an ongoing expense, assessed annually and paid above and beyond your mortgage. They continue even when a home is owned outright. Property taxes are usually assessed by the county you reside in, and the rates may vary if you move. They will also be reevaluated by the county tax assessor regularly, and your tax bill may get bigger if your property value goes up — especially as you make renovations or improvements.

Traveling. Both airlines and hotels charge taxes and — depending on your destination — they can really add up. If you fly domestically, the U.S. government imposes a 7.5% tax on all airfare. Internationally, it’s usually more expensive, and taxes imposed by other countries vary widely. In some locales you’ll need to pay occupancy tax on your hotel room, and international destinations can even impose nonresident tourist fees on top of that.

Income Taxes. Filing your income taxes can be complex and somewhat difficult to navigate on your own. You can owe taxes if you didn’t withhold enough or had earnings from a second job. These tax obligations continue as long as you receive income — even from Social Security! Income taxes can cost you a lot of money over time. This is why it can be so advantageous to get professional support in tax planning, income tax preparation and investment decision-making that impacts your taxes, and there’s another strategy that can help you outsmart the taxman …

Tax-smart Saving

 A 401(k) retirement account is a powerful tool to help minimize taxes throughout your working years. With a 401(k), you lower your tax liability by contributing pretax dollars. Those dollars then grow tax-deferred until, eventually, you must take required minimum distributions from your account — hopefully, at a time when you’re in a lower tax bracket. Consult with your financial professional to learn how you can benefit from 401(k) participation in your tax planning.




Big-Ticket Budgeting

Big-Ticket Budgeting

There’s an old adage that asks,How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: “One bite at a time!”

Saving for a big purchase can be a big challenge, whether it’s a brand-new car, a hot tub or even a 1959 Gibson Les Paul. But you can tackle your elephant-sized purchase with a similar strategy: Just take it one step at a time. Here are a few big-ticket budgeting tips that you won’t need a memory like an elephant to remember to use.

1. Set a reasonable budget then pad it. It’s always wise to allow extra room in your budget for contingencies. There can be unexpected surprises, especially with larger purchases. And unfortunately, things often have a way of costing more than you expected. Consider allowing a minimum 10% overrun on your big-ticket budget.

2. Find discounts and take advantage of them. If you’re traveling, for example, consider AAA or AARP discounts. Off-season travel can score you some savings, too. Many items and experiences cost more depending on when you buy or book them. Always look for coupons and other saving options when paying for routine purchases such as oil changes for your car, grocery shopping, dining out and ordering pizza.

3. Comparison shop. Scour the web and Google Shopping for other retailers who offer the product or service you’re interested in. If you’re looking for a car, for example, don’t assume that the price at your local dealer is “the” price., and other online resources can provide options in your area that you can filter based on your needs and preferences. And be sure to check national franchises that can ship inventory from across the country to find the best deal.

4. Ask a “friend.” Crowdsourcing consumer opinions has never been easier. Most products and services are reviewed, rated and compared and the results can be easily searched for online. Search the comments for keywords like discount, savings or cost less to see how others saved on their purchases.

4. Set up a dedicated account. A great way to help organize your savings for a large purchase is to earmark the money intended for it by keeping the funds in a separate account. That way, you can more easily track your progress and you won’t be tempted to spend the money on anything else.

5. Boost your savings with offsets. Take a look in your garage, the back of your closets and the attic. See if there are things of value that you no longer use or want. Sell them on eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp or at a yard sale. On the flip side, a penny saved is a penny earned. Can you decrease nonessential spending until you reach your savings goal?

6. Put time on your side. Start saving as early as possible. If you wait until the last minute, you may be faced with having to do some pretty extreme saving. The sooner you start, the less you’ll feel the impact on your day-to-day budget.

Seek out Advice — and Save

Family members, friends and co-workers might have their own experiences with the purchase you’re about to make and can share how they saved money on it. Ask for their advice but also consider bringing in an expert by speaking with a financial professional who can help you make a realistic, feasible plan for your purchase.

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