Beyond Your Home: Shopping, Financing, & Vacation Planning Tips

July 2019 Newsletter

Your Home – Early School Shopping Tips

For those of us who still have the little ones (or bigger ones) still in school, it’s never too early to start on your “back to school shopping.” Usually, back-to-school promotions begin the instant July 4th’s fireworks cease to glow! So, fear not, and hang on to your wallets! With the rise of “back to school” promotions as a two-month marketing exercise for retailers, coupled with cash-strapped school districts, we’ve got you covered, because it can definitely be a tough job to get the kids outfitted without breaking the bank.

Try these school shopping tips to save money, time and your sanity when shopping for back to school needs.

Get “in the know” before you go

Before checking so much as a single back-to-school sales flyers, you need to know two things:

1. What you need.
2. What you already have on hand.

What’s on the list? No need to scrabble through cluttered drawers for last year’s handouts! Local discount and office supply stores now feature checklist kiosks for nearby schools; school websites are another good source for supply lists. Download or grab each kid’s checklists, then scour the house for items already on hand.

Shop at home first – and set up Supply Central

Any item already on hand is a bonus freebie, so check the house for rulers and protractors, pencils and binder paper.

Set aside a supply stash. One way to conquer the “where is it?” chaos: designate a box, shelf or covered records box as School Supply Central. This tip will serve you well throughout the year. Find that stash of 9-cent boxes of crayons or a few packs of binder paper from last summer’s shopping spree? Tuck them into the box, and the kids will know where to find new crayons when they need them in November.

Stick to your list – and your budget

School supply aisles look like toy departments these days, and kids have big “gimme” eyes for school-day flash and bling. Shop from your list to keep back-to-school spending within budget.

Better, use a list as an exercise in financial education. Children, as natural consumers, are easy prey to “buy-me, buy-me” pressures, so smart parents set limits during this time of year.

Once you have an idea of your child’s true needs, establish a budget amount, and create a learning experience.

Shop early!

Back-to-school “loss leaders” (products offered at prices below their actual cost to entice you into the store) begin to pop up in discount stores and office supply stores mid-July. If you can pick up loss leaders for items you know you’ll need – like lined notebook paper, pencils, crayons and report folders – you’ll spare the budget for big-ticket buys.

Shop around!

While shopping, keep your eyes open. These days, just about every retailer wants a piece of the back-to-school action. School supplies pop up in the oddest places, like crafts stores, dollar stores, and supermarkets. Shop off the beaten path for good prices! You may even want to try a website like Amazon.

If time isn’t as free as you’d want it to be…shop late!

While nobody wants to be caught dead dragging multiple children into the crowded school supply aisles the weekend before school opens, a short week later will see the same merchandise marked down to clearance prices – and no crowds. That’s the time to stock up on the basics that will be needed all year: binder paper, composition books, spiral notebooks, pencils, erasers, crayons, and markers.

Finances – Keeping Spending Costs Low

We all know that as human beings we enjoy a bit of indulgence every now and then, especially when our ‘shiny’ hard-earned paychecks find their way into our possession. However, spending carelessly or somewhat randomly does not aid in keeping your finances under control! There are tips below to help get you started. Take them into consideration if you want to achieve your dreams of being ‘wealthy!’

  • Get rid of stuff you don’t use. Take a trip through your home and look around for things that you simply don’t use and do something about it. Bring together in one place the things you rarely use and will probably never use again, then sell them or give them away and just get rid of the clutter.
  • Do some basic energy efficiency around your living quarters. Replace your light bulbs with CFLs and LEDs, each bulb replaced adds up to at least $15-20 in energy savings over the lifetime of the bulb. Install a programmable thermostat to replace your current one, then program it to have heating and cooling shut off when you’re not at home, saving you the cost of running it.
  • Buy in bulk the staples you use all the time. Quite often, people march through the store, buying things without careful consideration. They’ll either buy everything at the size that’s the cheapest per unit even if they rarely use it and then much of that item will go to waste; or they just grab the most reasonable size of each item.
  • Figure out your most cost-effective grocery store and shop there. This takes a little bit of up-front work, but the rewards over the long run are really worthwhile. To put it simply, all you need to do is figure out which grocery store available to you has the best prices on the staples you normally buy all the time, things like milk, fruit, eggs, vegetables, your favorite cereal, and so on.

This article is for information, illustrative and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to show actual results. It is not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular investment action.

Personal Interest – Planning a Memorable Vacation

It has finally reached the middle of the summer months, and sadly for some of us, not all of us have had the time to get out on vacation. Whether you’re planning this year’s vacation for the upcoming month, or you’re planning next year’s vacation, following these five simple steps, you too can plan a very memorable vacation!

1. Choose the top places you’d like to go.
On the surface, this may seem the easiest (and most fun) step of all. But it does bring with it some extra questions. Does the budget limit where you can go? Does your destination affect whether you plan it yourself or hire a travel agent? Do you drive or fly? Make sure to be clear on this one because the more you know, the better you can plan, and the more expenses you can anticipate.

2. Set a budget.
The vacation is the finish line. Here you mark out the steps it takes to get there. Determine how much you want to spend on everything from hotels to gasoline to souvenirs and meals. If you decide something is too expensive, scale it back or cross it off the list. Get your plan in place so you know your plan of attack.

3. Look for deals.
You can find websites all over the internet that can help you score deals on hotels, amusement park tickets, airline travel and so on. Make sure you look for bargains after you set the budget for two reasons. First, once you know what you want to spend, you have a better idea of where you can save. Second, it’s a great morale booster to see that you are coming in under budget (once you have one) when you find a deal.

4. Work and save.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. By working hard and saving up the money now, you won’t have to deal with payments or credit card interest rates after you come home; always keep that in mind if you are pulling a double shift or taking freelance work. Find ways to creatively motivate yourself. A good way to do this is to print an image that is associated with your destination (such as a palm tree for the beach or a mountain for a ski trip) and divide it into sections. As you hit new savings totals, color in more of the picture.

5. Go and enjoy!
You have taken the proper steps and planned (and paid) for the trip before you get to this part. So once you have done the work, live it up! The work is done and the fun is just starting. The trip is not going to follow you home, so you can leave the beach at the beach. Few things stink more than paying for a vacation for months after it is over.

Does all that sound pretty simple? Absolutely. The reason more people don’t plan this way is because they want instant gratification. They want to enjoy now and worry about how to pay later. That leads to overspending, and it creates headaches. Instead, make a budget and have a plan. Vacations are meant to be enjoyed, not fussed over. With a plan, you can do plenty of the former and none of the latter.

Thank you and have a great month!

Posted in

Paul Stella

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