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Why You Need an Emergency Fund

Most financial experts agree that you need enough in emergency savings to cover 3-6 months of expenses. But according to a 2013 survey by Bankrate.com, 76% of Americans don’t have enough savings to last 6 months, 50% have less than 3 months in savings, and 27% don’t have any savings whatsoever.

The fact that one fourth of Americans are literally living paycheck to paycheck should be a sobering fact. That’s because without an emergency fund, any type of emergency—getting laid off, medical bills, car repairs, etc.—could send you deep into debt.

Fortunately, no matter what your current situation, you can prepare yourself now for these types of emergencies.

Why do I need an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is set aside to help cover unexpected expenses that are guaranteed to pop up in life. It’s not a matter of if these expenses will come around—it’s a matter of when.

How much should I put in my emergency fund?

Things break around the house, and cars need to be maintained and repaired from time to time. However, it’s the unexpected things like medical bills and losing a job that can really have negative effects on your finances for the long term.

The reason financial experts recommend you keep 3-6 months of expenses in savings is to provide a cushion for a job loss. That way you can maintain your lifestyle long enough to find another job. And when the other unexpected expenses come around, you’ll have enough money in savings to cover those, too.

How do I get started?

If the average family/person pays out about $2,000 in rent, food, gas, and other bills each month, then they should aim to have $6,000 to $12,000 in a savings account.

That amount can be daunting for a lot of people, but you don’t have to achieve it right away. If you can only set aside $20 a week, it will add up; and after only a year, you’ve saved over one thousand dollars.
Have patience as you build up your savings. Remember that having something in your savings account is better than nothing. You will be well on your way to financial independence, which brings great peace of mind.

Sticking with it

Make sure you don’t tap into your emergency fund unless it’s an absolute emergency. Don’t let yourself be tempted to use the money to take a vacation or buy something impulsively—you’ll lose months of progress if you do.

Saving money for a rainy day is a life-long endeavor. Once an emergency does come along—and believe me, it will—then you’ll need to build up your savings again to prepare for the next emergency.
Ultimately, financial independence is worth all the hard work. You won’t have to fall back into debt every time an unexpected bill pops up—instead, you can tap into your emergency fund when it truly is an emergency.

So don’t be afraid to start your emergency fund today, even if you can only start small. You’ll be happy you did.

If you do find yourself in a financial emergency, and you don’t have enough saved up, you can always apply for a cash advance or payday loan from Check City.

Grocery IQ, The Best Grocery Shopping App on the Market?

thursday
Saving money at the grocery store is an art form for many people.

How much you save is directly related to how much time you spend writing a list and searching for deals. You can bet that the people who waste the most money shopping for food are the ones who go to the store without a plan and browse the aisles aimlessly.

But not everyone who wants to save money on groceries also wants to spend hours clipping coupons each week. Thankfully, there’s an grocery app for that: Grocery IQ.

Technology Meets Extreme Couponing

Thanks to TLC’s reality TV show Extreme Couponing, hoarding coupons has experienced a surge in popularity. The biggest takeaway from this show is that some people go way overboard, but they also save a lot of money.

Not all coupons are found in the Sunday edition of the newspaper anymore. The website Coupons.com provides you with thousands of coupon options—all you need is a computer.

Now you can take all those deals to the store with you, with the Coupons.com mobile app, Grocery iQ. While you’re browsing the isles for a good deal on ketchup, simply look for coupons on your phone.

The Best Features in the Grocery Shopping App: Grocery iQ

Grocery iQ is more than a grocery app. It’s also a tool to build your grocery list and help you shop smart.
For example, you can create custom grocery lists and revisit them anytime, so you never forget an item again. All past items you’ve checked out are compiled in your history, and you can create favorites so making a list is extremely quick.

Another handy feature is Aisles, which allows you to group favorite products by category into “aisles.” When you’re crafting your list, just browse through items in your aisles.

Adding a new item to your aisles and lists is as easy as pointing your camera a taking a picture of its barcode. This way you can actually keep tabs on prices for the stores you frequently visit.

Access to Coupons

The main benefit of Grocery iQ is its access to thousands of coupons through Coupons.com. When you’re at the grocery store, it’s easy to look up a coupon for a specific item using this app. You can have the coupon added to your store loyalty card, or have the checkout line attendant scan a code directly from your phone. The Grocery iQ grocery app also sends you recommended coupons based on your purchase history.

Perhaps the best part is you have access to coupons, lists, and price comparisons, all in one place.

A Word of Caution

While all of this sounds great, some might say that this grocery apps makes saving money a little too easy. As with all sales, discounts, and coupons, there is a temptation to make purchases for things you don’t actually need. You’re not really saving money if you buy unnecessary stuff, just because you have a coupon.

A good rule of thumb is to only use coupons for things you would have bought anyway. Using a grocery shopping app at the grocery store can be extremely effective, mostly because we all have to buy food. So start with the food you already love, and find coupons for those items.

Where Technology Saves You Money!

The internet is a great place to make money as well as organize your money. Learn more about how technology can save you money by checking back with our weekly installment, Tech Thursday, only on the Check City blog.

What I Learned About Saving From Extreme Cheapskates

Today’s post is from Adam, one of the members of the web team. He recently got sucked into the hit “reality series” called Extreme Cheapskates on TLC, here are some of the things he’s learned from the show.

The reality TV show on TLC, “Extreme Cheapskates,” is meant to be entertainment. Most of the antics of the people portrayed on the show inspire revulsion rather than a desire to become more frugal.

For example, one woman picks a cake out of the trash and serves it to her guests. Another woman cooks up road kill for dinner.

These examples are why this show is first and foremost entertainment. Basically like all of reality TV. However, once I got past the icky stuff, I was able to pick out a few valuable lessons on saving money.

Save Through Adventurous Eating

Jeff Yeager is a self-proclaimed extreme cheapskate who appears regularly on the show, and he provides much of the most helpful advice. In one episode he serves up boiled fish heads to his guests—it’s pretty funny to see the looks of disgust on a teenager’s face at Jeff eats the fish’s eyeballs.

So this is an “extreme” example of adventurous eating. However, considering all the bizarre things people eat all over the world, opening your mind to new flavors and textures could be a fun way to save money.

If you’re constantly on the lookout for deals at the grocery store, it’s a good idea to broaden your horizons to food you might not have tried before. It doesn’t have to be fish heads, but it might be chopped liver, or an item from the international isle.

Save by Conserving Water

California is currently going through an extreme drought, and so for residents of that state water conservation may soon become a necessity. When it comes down to it, it’s possible to drastically reduce your household’s water use, and the people on “Extreme Cheapskates” prove it.

One simple way of saving water, as portrayed in the show, is to take a “navy shower.” This is when you only leave the water on to rinse yourself. While you lather your hair with shampoo and clean yourself with soap, the water stays off until it’s time to wash yourself down.

In “Extreme Cheapskates,” a woman forces her boyfriend to take these “navy showers” in a pretty demeaning way—she puts a baby monitor in the bathroom so she can bark at him if she thinks he’s using too much water. It’s hard to imagine a grown man putting up with that, but it appears he does.

Despite the brash personalities of the characters in the show, taking a “navy shower” is a pretty reasonable and effective way to conserve water. It might take some getting used to, but if it’s good enough for the navy, then it’s probably good enough for the rest of us.

My conclusion after watching a few episodes was that while I probably don’t fit the description of an “Extreme Cheapskate,” there are a few good ideas for saving money. These people have obviously taken it to the next level, sometimes to the point of lunacy. But if I really wanted to, I could follow their lead and find some great ways to cut my own spending.

Teaching Kids Good Money Habits

Tax season is here and while it’s easy to find yourself in “survival mode” around this time of year, just trying to get the taxes done with, it can be a great time to teach your kids about the basics of taxes as well as other good money habits. It’s never too early to start teaching your kids how to handle money. The first attitudes your kids have about money could be the one that influences their spending habits as adults. Make sure your kids learn to spend money wisely and avoid unnecessary financial crisis later on in life.

Start with Pocket Change

First, help them understand the importance of money. Start small, working with loose change. Young kids won’t understand the true meaning of credit cards and bank accounts, so use cash to teach them how to handle money. Try keeping a clear bowl of loose change and show them visually how money can add up over time.

Take Your Kids Shopping

A good technique is to take your kids shopping with you. This will probably be a hassle and it may be embarrassing if your kids are screamers, but it will pay off in the end. Teach them that just because you have money to buy groceries, it doesn’t mean you can spend extra for unnecessary candy bars. When they ask for this stick of gum or that doughnut, tell them no. Save those kinds of treats for special occasions. (You can teach two lessons at once that way. Buying them spontaneous treats in the grocery store can be rewards for good behavior, service, or doing chores.)

Also, when shopping, let them see you looking for sales, using coupons and shopping smart. Then when you get home, throw some money in the change bowl at home to show them how much money you just saved. Once the jar starts getting full, you can use that money to take them out to an arcade, carnival, or theme park. They will learn that saving money on a daily basis leads to great rewards.

Make Them Work for Money

Second, teach them the importance of earning money. Avoid just giving your kids an allowance. Instead, have them do chores around the house to earn it. If they want extra money, they can take on larger projects. This will teach them the importance of work and the value of money.

Set Up a Savings Account

Third, as they get older, have them set up a savings account. Allow them to spend some of their allowance right away, but have them put most of it to their savings account. Let them take trips to the bank and see their savings account grow.
As your kids get even older, let them manage their own money. It’s ok to let them make some mistakes on their own so they will learn for themselves how to handle money.

Always be there to make suggestions or guide them, but let them know that you trust them to use their money wisely. It’s better to let them learn their lesson in high school, blowing their small savings on something stupid and realizing that they can’t afford to go to junior prom, than as an independent college student who has to drop out because they wasted all their money on a Mercedes.

Teach your kids to manage money now and watch them grow into responsible, money-smart adults!

Saving Big on the Small Stuff

When it comes to saving money, it may seem like the only surefire way is to put huge amounts of money in the bank in the hopes of great interest and great rewards. While this is certainly an effective method, it is not the only way, and consistent small additions to your savings account can also help you along your way.

If you have a goal to save towards, saving becomes a lot easier, and you can keep that goal in mind as you make your daily decisions. If for example, your family is saving for a big trip, you can think of the expenses for that trip and then start making smarter financial decisions to help you work towards your new and clear goal.

Stop Eating Out

One great first step in this money saving technique is to eat out one less time a week than you usually would. Then, calculate how much you would have spent on your meal out, and put that money in to your trip savings account. This is a simple saving method, and you won’t miss the money because you would have been spending it otherwise.

Make it Automatic

Another great way to save money simply is to set up automatic savings with your bank, this means setting up a dollar amount that you want automatically transferred from your checking account to your savings each month. This will save you the hassle of transferring the money yourself each month, and will prevent you from spending that money before you have a chance to spend it.

Save Your Change

A third great tip is to count your pennies, literally. Make an effort to pay for certain purchases with cash, then take the extra change and put that into savings, this method will help you to save small amounts of money that will quickly add up to bigger savings.

Fight Impulsive Spending

Another useful tip is to make and keep a savings goal to save the same amount that you spend on small impulsive purchases. This means that each time you buy a drink at the gas station, a movie ticket, or a trip to the zoo; you should put the same amount of money into your savings account. This method will help you to think more carefully about your small purchases, and will also ensure that your savings account balance continues to grow.

Make and Keep Short Term Goals

By making small and attainable short term goals to lead up to your long term goals, you will find yourself more able to succeed, and your progress will be much easier to track. As you meet these smaller goals, you will be able to see yourself approaching the long term goals you have set for yourself.

Strive for efficiency, buy what you need and the occasional well thought out splurge; don’t make small daily splurges without accounting for them and saving money accordingly.

With all of these small saving strategies, you will be able to meet your saving goals much more simply, and after you build a habit, you won’t even need to think about it anymore. Start today, and you will be on your way to your next financial goal.

Teaching Your Kids to Save Money in 2014

In several posts so far this year we’ve covered several ways that you can improve your financial situation this New Year. In today’s post we’ll cover several ways that you can “pay it forward” to the next generation by teaching your kids how to be financially responsible. Parents are responsible for teaching their children countless things about life and how they should be living it. While certain lessons, like being nice to others and treating people with respect, might be more intuitive, the concept of teaching children how to have the right attitude about money can often be a bit intimidating. Below we cover several simple ways that you can start teaching your kids to save more money.

Good Example

Although this should be common sense, it bears mentioning that the best thing you can do to teach your children the right way to deal with money is to be a good example. While exactly what this example should be depends on your financial situation along with a number of other circumstances, it is extremely important that you display the right attitude regarding money in front of your children.

Too many parents assume that their children simply don’t understand enough about money for their behavior to be affected, but children are often more intuitive than we give them credit for. So make sure that you follow good money principles as a first step to instructing your children. Most children will see their parents swipe their credit cards at the store or take out loans but they won’t understand the consequences of those things unless you teach them. Be a good example by keeping your credit cards paid off and paying off your long term and short term loans as quickly as possible.

Piggy Banks

Feel free to use one of the most timeless ways of instructing young children about money: the piggy bank. In addition to providing your child with a piggy bank, make sure you take the time to explain the concept behind it; that sometimes they will have to save for things that they want. Often it is a good idea to introduce a piggy bank into your child’s life when he or she wants an expensive toy or item. That way, you can teach your child how saving money can help them buy what they want. Additionally, your child will begin learning self-discipline as he or she learns to save money they receive instead of spending it immediately.

Encourage Responsibility

As your child gets older, it is generally a good idea to begin to allow them to make their own money decisions. While parents will generally choose to prevent their kids from spending money on something they will probably regret, this is actually one of the better opportunities for teaching the value of good money management. So within reason, allow your child to make a mistake with their money. As much as they value your advice, a child will remember the consequences of their personal decisions much more vividly.

There is no perfect way to teach your kids how to properly deal with their money. Chances are that at some point you will probably witness your child displaying an attitude towards money that you do not necessarily approve of. Above all, just remember to be patient and understand that good money management skills come with time. As long as you remain willing and able to set a good example and advise your child appropriately, they will learn how to be smarter with the money they receive.

Resolving to Save More in 2014

We’re seventeen days into the New Year and while some people have already broken their New Year’s resolution, some people are still trying to figure out how they want to improve themselves in 2014. Whether you want to be smarter, more active, of more compassionate, you can set goals at this time to improve yourself, and come to appreciate your capacities even more than you otherwise do. One of the best resolutions you can make this winter is a resolution to save more money.

Having a buffer of savings is extremely helpful for everyone. This can come in handy when emergency strikes, you find something you just have to have, or to build interest and increase your funds for the future. By saving money regularly, you will be able to count on having something to fall back on if you ever find yourself out of work.

Saving More in 2014

As you begin saving this year, you may feel like there isn’t much you can do about it. But, in reality, there are many ways to save money each year, and by taking advantage of opportunities to save, you will find yourself much more financially secure, and more able to care for yourself, and anyone who is depending on you.

One of the best things you can do to help yourself save more effectively is to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account. This will allow you to make deposits into your savings account without having to lift a finger. And, by doing this, you will be able to maximize your savings, while minimizing the possibility to forget to save.

Loose Change Adds Up

Another important saving option is as simple as merely saving the change from purchases you make. By saving these small amounts, you will find yourself adding money to your savings account quickly without noticing a lack in your other account. Change will start small, but as you consistently save, you will see it adding up to what can be significant amount.

Invest For the Future

Another great saving tool is investment. Whether you take out a CD, which has low risk but low rewards, or invest in a more substantial and risky endeavor, by investing, you will be able to make your savings work for you. Especially in riskier investments, you should make sure to only put out an amount you feel relatively comfortable losing.

Also, as you look to invest, it is a good idea to consult with a financial professional so you can put your money to the best possible use. By consulting carefully, you will be able to make informed financial decisions that will affect your financial health positively and help you to become even more successful, by expanding your portfolio and increasing your buffer.

So, this New Year, think about making your financial security your resolution. Through this simple step, you will be able to increase your security and provide yourself with a buffer of protection for both emergencies and any time you want to splurge. Take this step this year, and you will find your financial state much more secure.

When Spending More Makes Sense

Some people have developed the habit of pinching pennies when they should be investing them. Investing in this context doesn’t exactly mean putting your money in stocks and bonds. It is referring to long-term and short-term goals that you may have and ways that spending money on things could actually leave you better off in the short-run and long-run.

Entertainment

When it comes to entertainment, you may think that you are saving a lot of money by buying things on an individual bases. This may be true if you don’t do much outside of watching TV or playing video games but if you do there might be some better options. Many cities offer passes to several centers or you can sometimes get movie tickets in advance for cheap. It becomes a hard choice because you may have to put down a certain amount up front. You really don’t know if you will go and do as many movies or go out to the museums enough to make it worth it since it is the future. The fact is that if you plan things out and do the math, you will find that it can be well worth your up front investment.

Hobbies

When you have a hobby like rock climbing, skiing, or camping, you may be renting the gear to find out if you like it initially. As time goes on though, you should really consider buying your own gear because the expenses will eventually start adding up. Give yourself a break by getting yourself out there with the right gear that you bought. There are always places to get things at a discount especially when they are used. When you think about it, all of the stuff that you will be renting will be used anyway and you won’t be able to claim it as yours at the end of the day.

Food in Bulk

Many people decide to go to Costco or other stores that sell things in bulk because they end up being much cheaper per individual unit. For instance, you may be getting burritos at the local gas station when you go for your lunch break. If you do a little planning in advance and get your food in bulk you may have to drop an extra $20 or so dollars, but in the end you will be saving a lot more at the end of the month.

Quality of Quantity

Another thing to look at investing in is quality. While getting brand name products on everything may not be necessary, you could easily get stuff that you need and invest a percentage more just to get better quality. This ensures that the product lasts longer and is more convenient, comfortable, and better all around. Quality is not one of those things that you should forego just because you want to pinch a few more pennies.

Make sure that you aren’t saving when you should be spending. It is all about understanding the long-term and short-term benefits of your decisions.

How to Keep Financial Resolutions to this New Year

Many people are throwing down New Year’s resolutions that are honestly, not going to stick. Why is that? Well the major reason is that they are far too vague and oftentimes overwhelming. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions that doesn’t stick is to save money. While this may be a very vague and daunting task, you can make it happen by following these simple tips.

Budget

Budgeting is essential if you want to track your money and it makes doing your taxes at the end of the year much more doable. Make sure you are doing your best to keep an accurate record of all your debits and credits this year and you will have a better idea on where your money is going. The fact is that you can’t know where to save if you don’t know where your money is going. That is why tracking everything is so important. There are several budgeting apps for IOS and Android that can help you track your budget this year.

Avoid Late Fees

While it may seem simple enough, there are hundreds of people out there who are paying late fees for the silliest things. Late fees on library books, credit card payments, rent, and a hundred other things can be avoided through proper planning and scheduling. With all of the modern conveniences available at our finger tips it is absurd to think that people are losing so much money just by not getting things done by deadline. Make it a habit to put things in your schedule as soon as they come up so you don’t forget. Also, know how much you’re getting charged for late fee’s as well as overdraft fees, oftentimes it can be cheaper to get a cash advance for a short period of time to avoid costly overdraft fees.

Small and Simple

You have to start somewhere and if you are looking to save, you probably should start with the simple things like going out to eat or watching movies every Saturday night. There are a lot of ways that you can save money on simple things like groceries as well. It just takes a little ingenuity and initiative to get everything started.

Get Debt Out of the Way

While it may seem like a good idea to save up for your next trip to Europe, you should probably start looking at ways to get out of debt while you are saving up. Every little bit helps and pretty soon you will see the debt slowly easing off of your shoulders.

Simplify

When it comes to saving money, the best way is to simplify your life. There are a lot of things that you don’t need and there are even more things that you don’t use. Ultimately if you keep track of all these things and try and eliminate as many of them as possible from your life, you will find that you are saving much more than you thought possible in the beginning.

Make sure that you are taking care of your finances by following these simple tasks. It may seem like a lot of work but when you take it one step at a time, you will find that you are much more capable of reaching your financial goals in the end.

Save More Money in 2014

Most of the time when people hear the words “saving more money” they will typically think of tightening down the budget and missing out on fun times or pleasing amenities, but the truth is that there are several ways for a person to save even more money in 2014 without having to make drastic budget cuts or forfeiting all of their fun. The only real sacrifice that those who wish to save more money every month will need to make is their time and effort in planning and preparing for their new money saving techniques.

Small Expenses Ad Up

One of the first and best ways to save money in the new year is to map out an expenditure report so that you will know exactly where money is being spent. Upon completion of this task, most people will discover that it is the little monthly expenses and random small expenditures that are really draining their checking accounts, and not major routine expenses such as rent or a mortgage.

While these larger and regular costs certainly take a chunk out of your budget, saving more of your money will come from reigning in other small expenses. One of the first places to start saving more money every month is in gym memberships.

Fitness Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

Staying active and getting regular exercise is important for your health, but the regular small fees siphoned from your bank account by a local gym is not doing your finances any good. Instead of forking over the ten to thirty bucks a month on a gym membership, you can consider instead alternative and free options for exercise such as community centers or in home routines.

Get Control of That Phone Bill

Another area of regular expense that a person can save on is their monthly phone bill. You can take the time investigate alternative plans and options to your current phone plan that will be able to save you more on your monthly phone bills.
One such option is to make the switch to an all-inclusive plan. Providers of all-inclusive plans offer cellphone plans that start at up to 60% off what you would be paying for your current phone plan and offer unlimited talk, text and internet.

Cut The Cable Bill

Closely related to the monthly phone bill is the monthly cable bill. With all of the current options of internet based entertainment and television, a monthly cable bill that runs a person over $50 a month on average is not only a drain on the bank account but likewise a near waste of money.

Along with cutting superfluous monthly expenditures such as the gym, phone, and cable bills, a person can save more money this year by remembering a few tips and tricks to help them be smart with the smaller expenses. For example, making use of the cash back option at the grocery store or retailer outlet when using a debit card can help a person completely eliminate those nasty ATM fees.

Other areas as well can be altered to help save money. Entertainment costs can especially run high so a night in with friends, home cooked meals, and free outdoor activities can replace the increasing costs of entertainment.
By remembering to be smart with money and by saving on the small expenditures, a person will be able to save even more of their money in the coming year.

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