Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Free Movies and Free Products

Trying to save a little money when it comes to entertainment or merchandise? Perhaps you are a coupon clipper and search for the best deals. Discounts and freebies are not always easy to come by, but they do exist if you look in the right places. For some it may be required to put in a little effort to 'earn' the reward, but it can easily be done with very little effort.

Movie Night

I am a very big fan of movies, both in the theater and in the comfort of my own home. Although my movie library is small, I make it a point to see a new movie every week or two. For those of you who love the big screen, it can still be done while saving money. According to NATO, average ticket prices are almost $7 a piece. Luxury theaters may cost up to $20 a person for that special occasion and private seating. It's OK not to see a movie on opening night...really. Wait a few weeks until the same movie is in the discount theater and watch it for a fraction of the price with all the visual and auditory magic the big screen provides. Many of these will have a Monday or Tuesday special for only a dollar per ticket which means more movies for less.

With the advent of the DVD, movie rentals have never been easier. First, there was Netflix and then a few copycat organizations attempted to run them out. They have some great deals for unlimited movies in one month delivered right to your mailbox. Second, and this is my personal favorite as of late, Redbox. If you don't already know about it, you must not have done too much shopping at your local grocery store or McDonald's. With a click, you can have the FREE promotional codes each week. It doesn't get better than that, FREE MOVIES!

New Products

We've all seen them, the ads that promote secret shoppers or prize give-aways. Well, when was the last time that you actually received the product you were hoping to obtain? I am a member of a program that provides actual products to test for FREE. All they ask in return is that you fill out a report sheet every time you share the product or talk about it with others. Believe me, it is easy to do, requires very little time, and costs nothing. There is no referral bonus for me to even share this. The company is called BzzAgent. They use word of mouth marketing to share the latest product which you get to have as part of the campaign. I have been a member for almost two years and initially joined to obtain a Sonicare electric toothbrush. When it happened I was surprised to learn that the brush was valued at $180! New products are promoted regularly, so give it a whirl.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Out of Sight, Out of Mind - Direct Deposit

Everything is becoming automated as computers take over the world. Thankfully, the human species is not yet to this point. Although it may not be such a bad thing if it had some financial automation.

Payday comes and we are handed a check. We go to the bank, cash it, maybe put a little away for safe keeping, and find ourselves spending most of the money before the weekend is over. Hence the reason cash is also known as "liquid." We just can't seem to hold on to it very long before it is spent on the latest movie or a new piece of furniture. Even as a child I had a hard time finding my money jar quick enough to drop the coins in before losing them.

Today most companies offer direct deposit paychecks. If you're not already taking advantage of this, you should be! A simple one-time set up puts your paycheck directly into your bank account. Depending on your employer, you may be able to set up a deposit to multiple accounts.

I no longer do the math. I simply modify the percentage I want deposited into my individual accounts and it happens. The most important part is that I don't initially see this money unless I look at my pay-stub, and by then it's usually already deposited.

The key is to take at least 10% of that which you earn and put it in some sort of investment. This could include a mutual fund, 401k plan, or even a savings account. Start by putting 10% away, out of sight, and it will be out of mind. Of course high yield accounts such as mutual funds and 401k plans will produce more money in the long run, but if all you are in the mood for is your low earning savings account, that will make do. At least it will make more interest than money stuffed in a drawer. Later posts are sure to have more on high yield accounts.

Using direct deposit allows you to start a small savings without really thinking too hard about it. Imagine all the money that the government calls tax. It is commonly withdrawn from your account before you even touch it. This translates into less spending because you are receiving less in your paycheck.

Homework for next time:
1. Set up a direct deposit account
2. Directly deposit 10% of your net income before you see it
3. Repeat number 2 every payday

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Notice Your Wallet Getting Too Thin?

So you didn't buy that fancy leather wallet to show off the threads either? Sometimes I find myself wondering how I'm ever going to make it financially. I have days when I feel like a super saver and others when my gut tells me I'm a super spender. The best news is that there is an equilibrium.

This blog is dedicated to providing ideas for investing money, saving that hard earned paycheck and finding discounts that make a difference. They are not always obvious, but when you know where to look it is definitely worth your time.

From a very young age, I started the way most kids do, cutting a slot in a glass jar and adding my precious coins one by one. Over time it became a hobby to see how many I could add in an effort to one day purchase that big item I always wanted. Well, I never decided what that big item was and just kept on saving the coins. When I had enough, I opened a bank account and soon the coins became cash and paychecks.

From my net payments I would make a goal to set aside at least 50% for savings and the other 50% went to expenses. As my responsibilities have changed, so have my percentages. I now invest 10% and save only 30% as I have more bills to pay.

When I recently gained acceptance to medical school, all my financial antennae became extremely sensitive. I will be posting those things that I have found useful, including links to other resources. If you have ideas or comments, please leave them to share and together we can all see our wallets begin to take shape.