Readers' Tips

Is Warehouse Club Membership Worth the Cost for a Small Family?

It depends on what you buy. I am not brand loyal and sometimes my family prefers the store brand. It was not worth $50 to get the yearly membership to save a few bucks for my family. However, if I was brand loyal and shopped certain name brands, I would certainly save money. Is it worth the membership cost? This depends on the savings. I would see if they offer a day pass and thoroughly check out their prices.

I found a great app called Price Cruncher that has really helped me compare prices. I was surprised how much I could save and one store I thought was a bargain store really wasn't. Know your prices!

As for a small family, if you are going to use the product and you have the room for storage, by all means, stock up on the sale price, but don't stock up just for the sake of stocking up.

editor's note: Visit here for more on warehouse club memberships.

Low Cost Entertainment

College/university towns can be great places for low- or no-cost entertainment and information. While living in a college town, I attended a silent movie festival, foreign movie festivals, Gilbert and Sullivan performances, many theatrical plays, a "tacky food party," various "extracurricular" lectures, art exhibits, fashion shows, independent movies, and more. I volunteered as an usher and saw a magic show and a number of plays. There were more things to see and do if I had the time. Most of these things occurred in the evenings, so students could attend. They were advertised in free student newspapers although they are probably online nowadays.

I Wish I Knew Then...

What financial advice would I give my 18-year-old self? I wish I'd known about Index funds MUCH earlier! I would have had a lot more money invested due to fees and salaries paid to others who were just using what I could have been using and making money off of my ignorance!
Lauren via Facebook

Additional TDS Resource: Stock market basics for beginners

Bill Time Reminder

Before I buy anything that's not a necessity, I wait until I pay my monthly bills. If I don't have money left after the bills, I have to really want something to put it on my credit card. I find that many of the purchases that I delay never happen.

Additional TDS Resource: Do I have a debt problem?

Surviving Tough Times

When we were going through a few tough financial months, I went through our home and sold stuff we had not used for a long time. I then took the money and stocked up on really inexpensive food essentials (no snacks or beverages) or paid a bill. They weren't the best meals we ever ate, but it got us through. If you are realistic and honest with yourself and truly cut your budget of non-essentials and see where you can make a few extra bucks, you can cut get by and survive until your situation improves.
Terri via Facebook

Additional TDS Resource: Subscribe to our free Surviving Tough Times newsletter

Insurance Bills

I got tired of always having to put our insurance bills onto my credit card and then paying them off with interest. Therefore, I totaled all the money I spent on insurance last year (auto, home, life, medical) and decided to add 1/12th to our monthly budget. I probably will still be short since the premiums keep increasing. I think I'll take the yearly total and add 10% before I divide it into monthly pieces next year.

Additional TDS Resource: Do you have the right amount of auto insurance?

Save on Auto Maintenance

I don't know much about cars, but I've learned two tricks that save me money. First, I follow the instructions in the owner's manual when it comes to oil changes. They specify 5,000 miles so that's when I do it, not at 4k or 6k. I figure they know best. I also watched a video on how to clean battery terminals, and I do it every fall before the cold weather strikes. A small stiff bristle brush and a paste made of water and baking soda does the trick. It's a 15-minute job and it keeps me from calling (and paying) for a jump on a cold winter morning!

Additional TDS Resource: Saving on auto maintenance

Rooms to Go!

No, I'm not talking about the furniture place. It's a game that I created. With three grade-schoolers in the house, things can get out of hand quickly, so I created a game for my kids to play. Whenever one of us goes from one room to another, we try to find something that should be in the room that we're going to and take it with us. It doesn't seem like much, but it's made a big difference in clean-up time on Saturday mornings. Once the kids realized that it meant more Saturday play time, they started helping out.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on "Eliminating Clutter"

Savings for One

I like to cook, but it's not easy cooking for one. Most meats are packaged for a family of four. Even if I split a package and freeze half, I'm cooking twice as much as I want. One day I was explaining this to a friend when we came up with a solution. She lived alone, too. Now we both cook enough for two meals. We cook one to eat and one for our friend to eat. We usually cook the friend portion partially through. We bring it into work and can easily cook it to completion at home in no time. Now we don't waste nearly so much food or get tired of eating the same thing night after night. If you're single and like to cook, look for a friend where you work!

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on "Frugal Cooking for One or Two"

Love to Feed Birds, But Hate the Mess?

I love to feed birds, but I only do this in the winter months as I believe there are plenty of insects for them to feast on during the warmer weather. When you purchase your birdseed, empty it into a large, deep baking pan. Set your oven for 200 degrees. Bake the seeds for 30 minutes. Baking seeds stops them from germinating when they hit the ground, so you will not have weeds and whatever growing beneath your bird feeders.

Pension Buy-Outs

I can't believe how many of my husband's co-workers took a buyout of their pension. Please talk about this. I had to really work to convince my husband not to do this. The financial planner that we use explained how he is guaranteed 8% annual growth on this pension. Where else are you going to find a guaranteed 8%? For that matter, where do you find a pension anymore? Of course, they want to buy them out. They have to keep adding money to this fund. They didn't offer a buyout to be nice. I bet that 90% of his co-workers took the buyout. Just because someone sounds like they know what they are talking about doesn't mean they do. I swear if one jumped off a cliff, they all would.

editor's response: Michelle makes a good point. Before making an important decision like accepting a pension buyout, it's wise to get good advice. And, not just from someone chosen by your HR department.

But, I wouldn't agree that the decision is as clear as she says. First, she's right that you can't get a guaranteed 8% return now. but the historical long-term stock market returns are in the 8% range. Therefore, if you're investing for 20 or 30 years, that's not an unreasonable goal.

Second, the 8% guaranteed return is fine if inflation stays less than that. Unfortunately, that's not guaranteed. In the late 70,s we had inflation higher than 8% for quite awhile. Some investors are choosing to include something that will appreciate if we have serious inflation like gold, silver, real estate, etc.

What's best? In large part, it depends on what other assets you've saved for retirement and where those assets are invested. A good financial adviser should be able to help you make an informed decision.

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