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Being Frugal Isn’t So Bad

 Posted by on March 16, 2015 at 10:44
Mar 162015
 
Evy

Evy

If you think your spirit would be broken without your cup of a certain coffee bar cappuccino, forget about it. Frugality doesn’t have to mean a fun-free existence. Sure, you may have to shuffle some things around, but there are lots of easy ways to save money without sacrificing fun.

Save money while shopping

  • Use the commissary. The commissary can be your best friend when it comes to saving money. With everything sold at cost (plus 5 percent) and tax free, you might even be able to splurge a little on those fresh ground Brazilian coffee beans.
  • Use coupons. You don’t have to spend all day clipping to get a good deal using coupons. You can grab a few coupons at the commissary entrance and be on your way to saving money. For example, if you get $2 off toilet paper, buy a few. It won’t spoil and you’re getting a great deal, so you can divert those dollars to other places in your budget.
  • Take a list to the commissary and eat before you go. Ok, we all know how easy it is to grab a few “extras” when we go shopping while we’re hungry. But did you know that it can also wreak havoc on your budget? To avoid temptation, eat before shopping and stick to your list.
  • Look at the price-per-unit cost, not the total cost, to comparison shop for the best value. Grocery stores can be sneaky. They’d love it if you bought a high-priced brand instead of the generic version. They stealthily distract you with the seemingly lower total price, while they bury the price-per-unit in small print. Check both and decide for yourself which is the better buy.
  • Buy in bulk. You don’t have to fill a chest freezer every time you buy in bulk. Just look for items on sale that you can easily freeze and use later. You’ll save loads this way rather than having to pay full price each time you need it.
  • If you have TRICARE, use a military treatment facility, if possible. Save that $12 copay at civilian medical facilities if you live close enough to use your local military treatment facility.
  • Use the exchange store. No one likes to pay sales tax so save yourself some money by shopping at your installation’s exchange store, tax free.

Less expensive recreation ideas

  • Go to the theater on post. You shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage to take the kids to see the newest release. The kids can sing along with their favorite character and you can sing a happy tune about saving a bunch of money at your local installation theater.
  • Work out using the installation gym. Start using your installation’s gym and build muscle to carry all that extra cash you’ll save on gym membership fees.
  • Use the bowling center on post. Bowl a strike at the bowling alley on post for much less than paying for a gutter ball off post.
  • Visit your Information, Tickets and Tours office. You don’t have to win the lottery to have fun. Visit your ITT office for discounted tickets on all kinds of activities. Your kids will enjoy the family time and you can de-frizz your stuck-in-the-house-with-the-kids-all-winter hair.
  • Secure military lodging for leisure travel and accommodations. Get out there and have some fun. Make more memories by taking advantage of low-cost military lodging. See Military OneSource for more information.
  • Use Armed Forces Recreation Centers. Don’t break the bank visiting such exotic places as Hawaii, Germany and Korea. Check out the Armed Forces Recreation Centers for a cost-effective alternative.
  • Check out Space-A. Save your hard-earned money and get from point A to point B using Space-A, for little or no cost. Visit Military OneSource’s Space-A travel information or the Air Mobility Command for more information.

There are plenty of other recreation activities on your military installation available for no cost or next to nothing. See Military OneSource’s Installation Locator for your installation’s website.

Saving money in general

The kids need this. You want that. How is it even possible to save money nowadays? Well, being frugal is a good place to start. For instance, if you start conserving energy in different ways, you’re going to save money on your electric bill throughout the year. Check out these tips for spreading out your paycheck so it’ll reach further:

  • Make a budget of all your expenses and bills and stick to it. It’s easy to draw up a budget; it’s a lot harder to stick to it. If you run short something has to give, like eating out. Stay on budget and live within your means so you won’t ever have to live paycheck to paycheck.
  • Ask for military discounts. The next time you’re in a store, see if they give military discounts. Many retailers don’t advertise the fact; you just have to ask.
  • Conserve electricity, on and off post. So you think leaving a light on here and there and setting your thermostat to 80 while having the windows open for some fresh air is no big deal, right? Even if you live in installation housing, this is a bad habit. Start conserving electricity since you won’t always have the military paying your electric bill. Simple things like shutting off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use can add up to some big annual savings.
  • Don’t buy the book. Borrow it from the library instead and pocket the savings.

Use these military-specific tips on ways to live frugally and see how much fun you can actually have. Share your own money-savings ideas for everyone to use. We all like to save money where we can.

 

 

 

Jan 212015
 
Evy

Evy

Ben Franklin said, “Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Why can’t it be,“Nothing can be said to be certain except vacations and chocolate?” Oh well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Preparing for tax time is something you can do little by little, throughout the year so you’re not completely frazzled by April 15. The easiest time to get ready for tax time is way before it arrives. Here are some tips to help you prepare well before tax day is here.

  • Start now to collect everything you’ll need. Keep everything tax related — such as your W-2 forms, medical and dental expenses, moving expenses, mortgage interest payments, child care costs and more — in a safe, convenient place. The more organized you are now, the less stressful April will be.
  • Everything will be easier if you create a system that works for you. Create a checklist and put it on the front of a file folder. Check them off as you collect them so you will know what you have left to gather and won’t miss anything.
  • You don’t have to be a tax expert. There are tax professionals available to you. Be sure take advantage of the no-cost tax preparation and filing services available to you and your family through Military OneSource.
  • Remember that service members may qualify for special tax benefits, including a filing extension and military pay exclusions.

Tax time doesn’t have to be difficult. Getting organized can help you have the easiest tax-filing experience yet. By the way, you’re welcome.

 

Taxes? I Think I’ll Pass

 Posted by on January 15, 2015 at 15:49
Jan 152015
 

The biggest epiphany I ever had about taxes was in the third grade when I realized that “taxes” and “Texas” were basically the same word — the vowels were just switched. Yeah, it doesn’t seem that cool to me now either, but that’s pretty much where my tax knowledge peaked.

Kristi

Kristi

Unfortunately there’s much more to understand about taxes than how to spell the word, but there’s only so much my brain can hold between animated movie soundtrack lyrics that I just can’t let go, next Thursday’s to-do list and my wonderfully geeky knowledge of grammar. So, I’ve accepted that there are aspects of my life I can’t fully control — some things just have to be delegated out to people who are more qualified.

And during tax season, that person is my husband — he’s in charge of our income taxes. How wildly old fashioned of us, right? I usually sing the tune of, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” but this is not one of those situations. He’s better. He has the patience to read, research and crunch numbers. I like to pretend that he actually kind of likes doing the taxes, but I might have just made that up to relieve my annual tax-filing guilt.

I lend my strengths where I can. I can organize W-2s, statements and anything else that looks tax-ish, but when filing day arrives, I make myself scarce and only emerge in the form of that scrappy guy that boxers always have in their corners in the movies — I offer refreshing beverages, dab sweat, give pep talks, apply butterfly bandages to (paper)cuts, etc.

Every once in a while our household tax superstar gets stumped, and like a walking, talking Military OneSource commercial, I always point him to the tax resources on the site for two reasons:

  1. I have absolutely no helpful tips of my own — seriously, not one.
  2. Military OneSource has tax tips, professional tax counselors, filing services and the answers to military-specific questions, like “Where do I actually live?” and they understand why that can be confusing.

If you don’t have a tax superstar at your house or you are the superstar, but you hate to admit that you don’t actually know all the ins and outs of forms and filing, you have Military OneSource tax support in your corner (scrappy boxing coach not included). So, from the free filing services to the year-round access to tax consultants who can answer questions and maximize your refund, I encourage you to use the tax services available to you just as I gently suggest to my frustrated husband hours into the filing process.

Do Daily Deals Really Save Money?

 Posted by on October 17, 2014 at 09:30
Oct 172014
 
Kristi

Kristi

Each morning I wake up before anyone else in the house. I sneak into the kitchen in the dark and make a cup of coffee and a healthy breakfast with nothing but muscle memory and the light from the refrigerator.

Nourishment and caffeine in hand, I tiptoe to my office and start my morning by checking my email. Without fail, I have nothing short of 20 emails. Nothing pressing usually happens overnight with work, and no one I know ever emails me between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

My inbox is overflowing with bargains.

Flash sales, holiday and end of season sales, clearance markdowns, coupon codes and even the occasional valued customer private sale invitation – they’re all there to tempt me before the coffee has awakened the part of my brain dedicated to math and dividing wants from needs.

I delete these emails without even opening them 90 percent of the time, but I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a good deal. I’m the type to focus on the amount I saved versus how much I actually spent. In fact, anytime a website or store clerk alerts me to how much I saved at checkout, I feel like throwing my fists in the air and taking a victory lap like I just won an Olympic gold.

Ah, if only bargain shopping was an Olympic sport.

It’s no secret, though, that if I never bothered to click on those sale emails or open that junk mail with the 20 percent off coupon that’s only good until Friday, I probably wouldn’t even bother browsing a website or battling the crowd at the mall.

So this begs the question: if we didn’t know we needed an item before realizing it was on sale, did the sale really save us any money?

Yes and no. If there is an item that you’ve been eyeing and you’ve been waiting for the price to drop, it’s worth taking advantage of the sale. If you know that you will be in the market for an item in the future, it might be worth clicking on that flashing sale banner. If you aren’t sure whether or not you should add it to your virtual or tangible shopping cart, here are some things to consider from one compulsive shopper to another:

  1. Do you need it now or later? If you can honestly say you’ll benefit from it now or in the near future, it might be worth shelling out the cash. Use caution with sales on groceries. Quick sales might be because of quick expiration dates. If you can’t use it before it goes bad, opt out.
  2. Did you want or need it before you saw the sale? If a new appliance, a piece of furniture, new shoes, etc. was on your wish list before the sale, then this might be the time to make the move.
  3. Can you afford it? If your weekly or monthly budget doesn’t afford you enough wiggle room for an unplanned purchase, the sale isn’t worth it (no matter how fantastic it is).
  4. Do you already have something comparable? Unless you need a new and improved version of something – as in, you can see your toes through the bottom of your running shoes – you need to really think about whether you already own the item you’re considering. I refuse to admit how many navy-striped tops or black dresses I have because I have an embarrassing amount. Instead of thinking, “Do I already have a black dress?” I think, “You can never have too many black dresses; they’re classic and versatile.” That’s only true to a point that I’ve lapped several times.
  5. Is the sale really a “deal?” Before you hand over the cash (or your card), compare prices. What is the difference between the sale price and the usual price – a dollar or less or 80 percent off? The difference makes a difference. You can also easily compare one store’s sale price to current prices at other retailers. If shopping online, search the product name and compare prices on other websites. If shopping in store, you can shop around or use smartphone applications to search for the same item from another retailer.

After you’ve run through these questions, channel Jiminy Cricket and “Let your conscience be your guide.” If you can justify spending the money, but you’re going to feel guilty afterward, then that’s a good indication that you should pass. Think about the big picture – would that $20 you’re about to spend benefit you more as a new shirt or as money in the bank?

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.