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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 3/31/2017

The App Store is saturated with tools for helping you keep track of your budget, spending, income, credit score, and more. However, each app is different, offering varying levels of user-friendliness, security, and helpful features. We've built a list of the most useful apps for keeping track of your finances--from budgeting and paying bills, to learning about investing and credit, these apps have you covered.

Mint

Mint is the juggernaut of budgeting apps. You can securely sync all of your bank accounts, loan accounts (credit card, student loans, etc.) and even income accounts like PayPal. Once you've logged in, Mint does most of the work for you. In fact, just yesterday I got a notification from Mint that I was charged extra for my gym membership. In the app or from the website you can design your own personalized budget that includes things like food, shopping, groceries, gas, etc. When you make a purchase with one of your linked cards, Mint automatically sorts the purchase into the correct category. Aside from budgets, Mint also helps you set up a timeline for paying your debts. It shows you how long it will take at your current monthly payment amount and tells you how much you would save in interest by paying it off faster.

PocketGuard

PocketGuard is like a sleek, minimal version of Mint. However, its main strength, as the name suggests, is security. It boasts several barriers to identity theft and complicated and technical security measures that we won't get into here (we're talking 128-BIT SSL encryption). PocketGuard is also simpler than Mint, both in terms of content and display. Plus, you won't see as many advertisements for credit cards that Mint so slyly sneaks into just about every screen you view.

Home Budget with Sync

The name's a little awkward, we know. But they added that "with Sync" in there for a reason. Home Budget's most redeeming feature is that it allows you to sync up with other budgets in your household (your spouse, roommate, etc.). This makes it much easier for couples who are splitting bills to keep track of their expenses and savings. One piece of advice is to choose what you share wisely. Not everyone wants to share all of their personal finance information with others.

You Need a Budget

You Need a budget, or as its many happy customers call it, YNAB, is a whole lot more than just a way to keep track of your money. It boasts several learning resources that empowers you with financial knowledge. Where other apps just let you plug in numbers, YNAB teaches you what all of those numbers mean and helps you make more informed decisions with your money. YNAB is created with the intention of reducing your financial stress. It has simple videos, instructables, and more to help you learn the ins and outs of budgeting. Then it helps you build your own budget and stick to it with many of the same features as Mint or PocketGuard.

Personal Capital

If you're ready for the big leagues of finance and want to start investing and tracking your assets, Personal Capital will help you get there. This app is designed for managing and analyzing assets. The app's main features are broken into categories: cashflow, retirement, investing, and net worth. The outstanding feature here is investing. It simplifies investing, checks up on your investments, and gives you useful tips that will help you get your toes wet in the investment world.




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 9/23/2016

 in a supermarketIf you are looking for ways save money, cutting back on grocery expenses is often an easy way to reduce your spending. Here are ten tips to master frugal grocery shopping. A little planning can save you some big bucks over the long term. 1. Make a list. Before you head out to the store, prepare a list of everything you need, making sure you have everything needed for your weekly menu. Before you leave, check to make sure you don't have it in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Stick to that list and don't buy anything else. 2. Plan a menu. Plan a weekly menu for each week. This way you will know exactly what to buy. Be sure to plan a leftovers night. 3. Don't shop hungry. When you're hungry, everything looks good. When you shop hungry you'll end up spending a lot more. Eat first and then you will be able to stick to your list. 4. Set a budget. When you go to the store, know exactly how much you can spend. Then try your best to stick within that limit. Keep a running tally as you shop to ensure that you're within your budget. 5. Create a grocery spreadsheet. Keep your grocery receipts, then enter into a spreadsheet. This will be your price and comparison list. Use it so you know when bulk or sale items are a good deal. 6. Cook and freeze. Plan to cook a big amount of food and freeze it for multiple dinners. A great idea is to use one Sunday and cook a week's (or even a month's) worth of dinners. Plan 5-6 freezable dinners and cook them all at once. 7. Shop for specials. Every store has specials. Be sure to look for them in the newspaper, or when you get to the store. Don't buy things you don't use just because they are on sale; make sure you will use the items. 8. Buy store brands. Brand names are often no better than generic, and you're paying for all the advertising they do to have a brand name. Give the store brand a try, and often you won't notice a difference. 9. No "one-item" trips. They waste gas, and almost inevitably, you buy more than that one item. If you plan ahead, make a weekly menu, and shop with a list, this should drastically reduce the number of trips you make for a small number of items. 10. Stock up. Sale items can be a great deal. If it's an item you normally use, buy a bunch of them.




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 8/26/2016

Many people are averse to shopping at the dollar store because they assume that the quality of the items there are inferior to those at other stores. Others simply assume that since many of the products aren't recognized name brands that they aren't good products. However, there are some dollar store deals that are always worth the dollar. One issue that many people have in a dollar store is that they walk down the aisle filling their carts with impulse buys thinking, "It's just a dollar." But those dollars add up and you'll find yourself buying things that you don't really need or items you could find cheaper by buying in bulk elsewhere. In this article, we'll cover some of the most useful items that you can find at your local dollar store.

Holiday and party supplies

Let's face it, the kids don't read their cards or observe their wrapping paper. They're more concerned with what's inside. When it comes to party prep, you can save a huge amount by buying everything at the dollar store. With the exception of paper products like napkins and paper towels, you'll get more for your buck at the dollar store. Some items to look out for:
  • balloons
  • plastic cutlery
  • large tin food containers
  • cards
  • wrapping paper

Tool kit supplies

If you don't feel like going outside to your shed every time you need to tighten a screw, or if you live in a small space and don't want bulky tools laying around, making a small toolkit is the way to go. And the dollar store is the place to start. Buy a small, empty toolbox and fill it with items from the dollar store. Some useful items to include:
  • nails and screws
  • hooks and hangers
  • screwdrivers
  • pliers
  • adjustable wrench
  • tape measure
  • super glue
  • tape
  • a pair of work gloves

First aid items

Every home and every vehicle should have a first aid kit. However, good kits can be expensive and the items within them have expiration dates. Rather than spending a lot on a kit you (hopefully) never have to use, fill a small box or bag with first aid items from the dollar store. Some first aid essentials to put inside:
  • assorted band-aids
  • burn cream
  • medical tape
  • antibiotic ointment
  • support bandages
  • small scissors
  • gauze
  • antibacterial wet wipes
  • aspirin
  • hot or cold compress

Cleaning products

Not every cleaning product will be cheaper at the dollar store. And for products you use often it might make more sense to buy in bulk online or from a wholesale club. However, there are some cleaning items that you will almost always save on at the dollar store. The key to saving on cleaning supplies from the dollar store is to buy generic brands. They often contain the same ingredients and are sometimes even made by the same manufacturer. Sometimes the only difference is that dollar store products may be diluted more.

Kitchen Utensils

Most dollar stores have a large kitchen section that includes useful items like various sized spoons and spatulas. You can also find other kitchen essentials like sponges, dish scrubbers, sink stoppers and strainers, measuring cups and much more.  




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 12/25/2015

Is there really a secret to saving money? It may seem as though it is mystery how your bank account ends up empty every month but there is no mystery to it. While it may be no secret there are three important tips you can follow to help you put more money in your pocket. The challenge is to follow the tips in order to be successful at saving money. The rest is up to you.

1. Create a Budget

You need to know where your money is going. Once you have established where you spend your money you will be able to find places to make cuts. The first thing to do is figure out how much is being spent on housing, utilities, groceries, debt, and entertainment. Once you know where the money is going you will be able to set limits for problem areas. This is the money that you will apply to secret #2.

2. Pay Yourself First

This is a huge secret, pay yourself first. Yes, before you dole out money for bills as soon as your paycheck hits your account; deposit a specified amount into savings. It doesn't matter how small the amount is, at least you are saving. Even better , create an automatic savings plan that will automatically deposit money into your savings account before you even have a chance to spend it. This can be done right through your employer’s direct deposit or with a recurring transfer with your bank.

3. Spend Less Than You Earn

If you don't learn to obey this rule you will never be able to save money. You simply have to spend less money than you earn and there’s no way around that. If you are spending more than you earn you are borrowing money and thus putting yourself into debt.  




Categories: Money Saving Tips  


Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 4/17/2015

The first step in home buying is getting a mortgage. Many home owners also find themselves in a maze when they start the refinance process. Navigating the mortgage process can be confusing. There is so much to know between rates, types of mortgages and payment schedules. Avoiding making a mistake in the mortgage process can save you a lot of money and headaches. Here is a list of the biggest mortgage mistakes that potential borrowers make. 1. No or Low Down Payment Buying a home with no or a low down payment is not a good idea. A large down payment increases the amount of equity the borrower has in the home. It also reduces the bank’s liability on the home. Research has shown that borrowers that place down a large down payment are much more likely to make their mortgage payments. If they do not they will also lose money. Borrowers who put little to nothing down on their homes find themselves upside down on their mortgage and end up just walking away. They owe more money than the home is worth. The more a borrower owes, the more likely they are to walk away and be subject to credit damaging foreclosure. 2. Adjustable Rate Mortgages or ARMs Adjustable rate mortgages or ARMs sound too good to be true and they can be. The loan starts off with a low interest rate for the first two to five years. This allows the borrower to buy a larger house than they can normally qualify for. After two to five years the low adjustable rate expires and the interest rate resets to a higher market rate. Now the borrowers can no longer make the higher payment not can they refinance to a lower rate because they often do not have the equity in the home to qualify for a refinance. Many borrowers end up with high mortgage payments that are two to three times their original payments. 3. No Documentation Loans No documentation loans or sometimes called “liar loans” were very popular prior to the subprime meltdown. These loans requires little to no documentation. They do not require verification of the borrower's income, assets and/or expenses. Unfortunately borrowers have a tendency to inflate their income so that they can buy a larger house. The problems start once the mortgage payment is due. Because the borrower does not have the income they are unable to make mortgage payments and often end up face bankruptcy and foreclosure. 4. Reverse Mortgages You have seen the commercials and even infomercials devoted to advocating reverse mortgages. A reverse mortgage is a loan available to borrowers age 62 and up. It uses the equity from the borrower’s home. The available equity is paid out in a steady stream of payments or in a lump sum like an annuity. Reverse mortgage have can be dangerous and have many drawbacks. There are many fees associated with reverse mortgages. These includes origination fees, mortgage insurance, title insurance, appraisal fees, attorney fees and many other miscellaneous fees that can quickly eat at the home’s equity. Another drawback; the borrower loses full ownership of their home and the bank now owns the home Avoiding the pitfalls of the mortgage maze will hopefully help you keep in good financial health as a home can be your best investment. .