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How to Throw the Best Kid’s Birthday Party on a Budget

I love throwing awesome, over-the-top birthday parties for my kids. Every year, I go all out. I create a beautiful cake with fondant and set up games and decorate. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have that when I was a kid.

But the problem is, parties are expensive. But not MY parties. I throw awesome parties with very low cost by using a few secret tricks that I’m going to share. The same tricks can work for any kind of party including a baby shower, bridal shower, and more.

9 Frugal Party Planning Tricks

Here is the 9 step plan to an amazing party without breaking your budget.

1. Plan

The first step for any party is the plan. I use my own party planning checklist to stay on track. I start by asking my child what theme they would like and go from there. I always have their parties at home to save money. Venues are just not worth the money.

Then I plan the decor, food, games, and activities. I set a budget and split it up into categories so I know how much I can spend on each thing. Download your free Party Planner and Budget here.

2. Theme

birthday party on a budget

Homemade Pirate Cake using free printables

Not everyone likes a theme, but my kids usually pick out a theme each year and I try to go with it. To save money, I go on Etsy and look at the designs out there for invites and party decor.  

There are also tons of free printables on Pinterest. So I usually get an idea for what I want based on the other examples out there. Then I print out free invites, cupcake toppers, signs and other items that I can find.

You don’t have to plan around a theme. If you like simplicity, there are lots of free printables online that just incorporate balloons and typical birthday images. But since I love themes so much, I have a few websites that I recommend if you are looking for free themed party printables. continue reading

Enter to Win a Pocket Full of Cash Inside the Spend Well Budgeting System

giveaway

Signup to win a FREE pocketful of cash inside the Spend Well Budgeting System Book!

Hi, Friends!  Welcome to Momma Money Sense where you can get FREE advice from a professional Julieaccountant. I’m Julie Tronsen, founder of this blog, and my goal in life is to help as many people as possible to achieve their financial dreams!

I am so excited to announce our next big giveaway!  Our last two winners were Autumn G. of Ortonville, MI ($125 Amazon Gift Card) and Jenna W. of Inwood, WV ($150 Amazon Gift Card). Who will be the next winner of a pocket full of cash inside the Spend Well Budgeting System book? This budgeting book is basically like the cash envelope system, but it is bound into a book. Really useful and handy and keeps you on track with your budget.

pocket full of cash giveaway

Photo courtesy of Carrie Elle

The reason we are doing these giveaways is to get more people to subscribe to Momma Money Sense. The purpose of this blog is to help people achieve financial freedom! I want to help as many people as possible to get their finances under control, get out of debt, and build wealth. As a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor, I have the answers to your money questions! And it’s all FREE. You can Ask the Accountant or get help with a variety of money management topics by reading the blog posts.

What is the Spend Well Budgeting System?

The book that we are giving away is the Spend Well Budgeting System. It was created by Carrie Elle. She has a shop where she sells super cute planners. But I really love her Spend Well Budgeting System because it helps you set aside the money for each of your budget categories. That way you don’t end up overspending. Carrie is so sweet that she offered my readers a 10% discount on any purchases you make. Just use the code MOMMA$ at checkout and you will get 10% off.

Sign up below for your chance to win.

There will be 2 winners selected. One will received the Spending Well Budgeting System Book and the other will receive the book with a pocketful of cash inside.  The giveaway is open to U.S. residents, age 18 and over. There is no purchase necessary to win. There are multiple ways to increase your likelihood of winning. The contest is being hosted by Gleam. The winner will be randomly selected by Gleam at the end of the contest. You must enter by October 6th to be eligible. The entries require tasks to be done in order to be valid. If selected, your task will be verified. Make sure to tell your friends. Each time you refer someone to the contest that signs up, you get another chance to win. Scroll down to enter.

(Please don’t enter the giveaway unless you are planning on remaining a subscriber after entering. Becoming a subscriber means you will receive weekly email updates from the blog with new blog articles, links for coupons and deals, and the latest news from the blog. The purpose of the giveaway is to get more subscribers to Momma Money Sense so that I can provide useful financial advice to people who need it. If you don’t need or want money management and wealth building advice, please don’t subscribe or enter. Thanks.)

Here’s Where You Enter to Win:

The Spend Well Budget Giveaway by MommaMoneySense.com

Lots of Freebies

If you like freebies, sign up below for a free printable budget workbook. Also, check out my FREE Printables page for many more items that can help organize your life and save you money. I will be adding more freebies each month. Plus, I will send out weekly newsletters to subscribers with lots of useful money management tips, deals, coupons, and freebies!

Topics Covered on Momma Money Sense:

  1. Money making ideas
  2. Tips on reducing your expenses
  3. Budgeting help
  4. Ways to get out of debt quickly
  5. Online deals and coupons
  6. Meal planning on a budget
  7. Frugal family activity ideas and tips
  8. Tax advice
  9. Home business advice
  10. Do-it-yourself ideas
  11. Tips to increase your income
  12. Ways to build wealth

giveawayPosts you might be interested in:

Come back soon for more money tips and don’t forget to enter above for your chance to win a pocket full of cash inside the Spending Well Budget System book!

The Spend Well Budget Giveaway by MommaMoneySense.com

Which Hurricane Relief Fund is Legit?

hurricane

I’m sure we all want to donate to the hurricane relief efforts for both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, but which one will use your money properly? There are so many ways to donate, but some of the hurricane relief money is actually going straight into people’s pockets instead of to the victims. What if you donate to the wrong relief effort?

Which Relief Funds Have Wasted Donations in the Past

I have relatives that live in Houston and were affected by the recent hurricane. And after seeing some of the terrible images of the flooding, I desperately wanted to help.

hurricane harvey

Picture from abcnews.go.com

I donated through my church, but I also looked into some other hurricane relief funds to see what was out there. What I found out will completely blow your mind. Did you know that many of the relief efforts are basically stealing your money? They aren’t giving your donations to the victims at all. In fact, they are just pocketing the money.

How’s this possible? Some charities spend up to half of the donations on internal costs, overhead, and HUGE manager salaries and benefits. Your donations cover these costs in addition to the relief services they provide. So charities with the lowest overhead costs are the best.

Another way to help is to provide food to local foods banks near the disaster site. That way, your whole donation is sure to help.

Steer Clear of These Charities:

  1. The Red Cross – What? Yes, it’s true. The Red Cross has been accused in several cases recently of mismanaging the money they receive in donations. See NPR notes that Red Cross wasted $125 million in Haiti donations on internal costs,
  2. Charities Named After the hurricane – Be careful of new charities that pop up with the name of the disaster. After Hurricane Sandy, a couple opened up a fake charity, raised $600,000 and spent the money on themselves.
  3. Phishing Email Scams – You might receive emails asking for donations after the disaster, but DON’T CLICK! These are usually just ways to steal your private info or infect your computer with malware. Also, be careful of similar text messages.

Which Relief Funds That Help

These relief funds are among the most efficient at providing the biggest portion of your money directly to the victims of the hurricanes. (All these suggestions are based on my research. I’m not being paid at all to suggest these.)

  1. United Methodist Committee on Relief – This charity received an A+ rating from Charity Watch. Overhead costs are only 6% of donations. Pretty amazing!
  2. The LDS Church – This is the only charitable organization in the country where every single penny donated goes to the relief effort. There are no paid employees. Every person involved is a volunteer, and so there is no way to waste money on paying people. The overhead costs are paid from the LDS church and not from the donations. So that means 100% of the money is used to help people. They usually bring semi truck loads of food, water, and hygiene kits to the scene within the first day after every natural disaster that the country experiences.
  3. Catholic Relief Services – They received an A+ rating from Charity Watch, and most of the donations go directly to relief. Only about 8% of the funds are needed to cover overhead costs.
  4. Partners in Health – This organization also received an A+ and likewise on use 8% for overhead costs.
  5. Disaster Philanthropy – Facebook ditched The Red Cross in support of Disaster Philanthropy. Find out why in this article.

How to Decide if a Charity is Right For You

1. Check their website.
Always check the charity’s website to see what kind of projects they focus on. Make sure that you agree with the way they are doing things.

2. Check their grade on charity watch sites.
Charity watch sites grade charities based on how well they are using your funds. They can also tell you if the charity is legitimate. Here are three options: GuideStarCharityNavigator, Better Business Business Wise Giving Alliance, and CharityWatch.

Most charities spend about 15% of funds on admin costs and 10% on fundraising efforts. This means that 25% of your donation doesn’t go to help the victims. So if you want your donation to be used only for the victims, try to find charities with lower costs.

3. Check the news

See if there are any recent news stories on Google about your selected charity. Sometimes you will find useful info about a breaking story that steers you away from one charity or another.

Final Thought

hurricaneDon’t let this discourage you from charitable giving. There are many wonderful organizations out there that are currently helping recent hurricane victims. If you don’t have enough money to donate, you can keep in your thoughts and prayers. Setting up a budget and learning to manage your money better can help you be able to donate in the future.

If you know of a good charity for disaster relief, share its name in the comments below for other readers. Thanks! We love comments!

If You Are New To This Site:

If you are looking for help to set up a budget, learn to budget in just 5 easy steps. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. I can teach you to prepare your own taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more! Sign up below for your free copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting.

Sign up for a chance to win our latest giveaway of the Spend Well Budgeting System with a Pocket Full of Cash! Don’t forget to Ask the Accountant if you have specific money questions.  Get free advice from an accountant just by asking. Free to all subscribers.

What To Do If Your Info Was Hacked at Equifax

Equifax hacked

Equifax Hacked

On September 7th, Equifax announced that they had been hacked and about half the population of the U.S. had their private info stolen. The hackers stole names, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, credit card numbers, and in some cases driver’s license numbers.

In case you don’t know who Equifax is, they are one of the 3 credit reporting bureaus that provide your credit score when you apply for loans. So they basically have info on every person who has credit.

equifax hackedGet Free Credit Monitoring if You’re a Victim

You can go to Equifax’s site and find out if you were one of the victims and if so, they will send you over to a credit monitoring service that will watch your credit for free. This service is usually pretty pricey, but they will cover the cost for you. This is a good idea because they will alert you if someone tries to commit fraud with your info.

However, according to the fine print of the free credit monitoring, if you sign up for the free service you will be giving up your right to be part of any class action lawsuit that may arise.  There is a pretty low likelihood that you could get much money in any class action lawsuit because half of the population in the United States will be eligible to be part of the class.

If you decide to hold out for the suit, then you really should get a paid credit monitoring service somewhere else. The sad truth is that credit card fraud happens all the time and so you really have to review your statements regularly to make sure your cards aren’t compromised.

My 13-year-old daughter had her debit card stolen just the other day, only a month after opening her first bank account. They wiped out everything she had in there. She was completely distraught and in tears.

Luckily, we were able to get the money back after disputing the transactions.  But many people don’t even check their statements to see if anything like this has happened. Don’t be the person who doesn’t notice.

Again, the website for checking to see if you were a victim of the hack is: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/.

If You Are New To This Site:

If you are looking for help to set up a budget, learn to budget in just 5 easy steps. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. Learn to prepare your own taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more! Sign up below for your free copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting.

Sign up for a chance to win our latest giveaway of the Spend Well Budgeting System with a Pocket Full of Cash! Don’t forget to Ask the Accountant if you have specific money questions.  Get free advice from an accountant just by asking. Free to all subscribers.

Save Hundreds Per Week at Grocery Budget Makeover

Grocery Makeover

Do you struggle to keep your grocery spending in check? Do you wish you could cut back your food spending and save hundreds per week?

Keeping grocery costs down can be tough. I used to waste so much money on grocery shopping. I tried everything, even extreme couponing, but it never worked. Then, I discovered the secret to saving money on groceries. 

Save Hundreds a Week on Groceries

Everything changed when I discovered The Grocery Budget Makeover. It’s an online class that completely changes the way you approach grocery shopping. The class was fantastic. Not only did it change the way I managed my grocery shopping experience, but it cut our grocery bill in half. 

The class is $49, but I made up for that quickly by reducing my grocery spending by hundreds of dollars each week. There are also payment plans available.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to help you with your money situation. I know this class will make a huge difference in your life. 

What You Get With the Class

This class is very thorough. The classic edition has 10 video lessons, 10 lesson worksheets, and access to a Facebook support group. The extreme edition includes all of that plus 3 Accountability & Group Coaching Calls with Erin, Bonus Video & Worksheet: Store Hopping, and Bonus Video & Worksheet: Deep Dive Couponing. It’s worth it! you will never shop the same again.

How to Register

The Grocery Budget Makeover is taught by Erin Chase.  First, you can take her free introductory workshop here.  Registration for the actual class is only open for a week starting September 6th. If you click over to her site right now and register for her waiting list, then you will be the first to get in when it’s time. If you are reading this post between Sept. 6th to Sept. 11th then you can register here, but if you go before or after those dates then the link won’t work. Be sure to sign up for the waiting list until the link goes live.

It’s worth every penny, plus she has a payment plan if you need it. I’m so grateful that I took her class and cut my grocery bill in half!

Save Hundreds per week with grocery budget makeover

If you are looking for help to set up a budget, click here. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. I can teach you to prepare your taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small referral credit at no cost to you while still providing you the best offer I’m aware of.  Please read my disclosure page for more information.

How to Save $1,000 Emergency Money

Are You Prepared For a Financial Emergency?

Do you feel like you have enough set aside for an emergency? If your car breaks down or you have unexpected medical expenses, what will you do?

Everyone should have an emergency savings account. The first step down the road to financial freedom is living within a budget. The 2nd step is to prepare for financial emergencies. 

So Easy to Start

It is so easy to start a savings account. Usually, all you need to open one is $5. Capital One offers completely free online checking and savings accounts. I have a bank account with Capital One, and I love how it lets me deposit checks just by taking a picture of the check.

How Much Should I Save?

Set a goal to save $1,000. If you can tuck away a little each month until you have $1,000, then you will have the peace of mind you need.

You could save $1,000 in 10 months if you put $100 aside every month. But if possible, you should try to do it sooner by saving more per month. What if your money is tight and you can’t spare $100 per month? Get started on a budget so you can find ways to cut back your expenses. For 87 ideas on how to reduce costs, click here.

Ways to Save

There are lots of strategies to make it easier to save.

  1. You can have the money transferred directly from one account to the other on a monthly basis.
  2. Many employers have the option to deposit part of your paycheck directly into your savings account.
  3. Us a savings app like Acorn that takes a little out of your account here and there and invests it in the stock market to earn interest. If you sign up for Acorns using this link, you can get $5 free to start your account.
  4. Do a Cash Savings Challenge. Learn more below.

Cash Savings Challenge

Another method to save is to do a cash saving challenge. There is a cash savings worksheet in The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting, and it is completely FREE! The Cash Savings Challenge is where you put aside a little cash each day until you reach your goal of $1,000. You could keep the cash in a safe place at home and then when you reach your goal, you might want to deposit it into your emergency account.

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to get that emergency fund started ASAP. It will provide you with peace of mind and the freedom to pay for an emergency if it happens.

Get your FREE copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting. The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and easy-to-follow instructions. Download below!

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Are You Overspending on School Supplies?

school supplies

6 Essentials That Are Surprisingly Cheaper On Amazon

Did you know the average K12 parent spend $100 on school supplies? That’s not counting new school clothes and backpacks… That’s just the basics like pens and paper! So how can you make sure you don’t overspend on supplies this school year? I’ve researched and compared prices for many basic essentials and have compiled a list of which items are cheaper on Amazon.

Now, keep in mind, some items actually are not cheaper on Amazon, such as erasers and crayons. But there are still many items which you can save some money on by getting them online. Here they are:

Spiral-Bound Notebook

Walmart: $5.57
Target: $2.99
Amazon: $1.76 (for a 6-pack)


Or, you can get notebooks for just $1.25 each if you buy this nifty 4-pack.

A notebook is something all your kids will need at some point, which is why I recommend getting a 4-pack or 6-pack to save money in the long run.

1″ 3-ring binder

Walmart: $7.49
Target: $10.99
Amazon: $5.06

3″ Zipper Binder

Walmart: $14.42
Target: $16.99
Amazon: $13.89

 

Pencils

Walmart: $2.89 for 1 dozen ($0.24/pencil)
Target: $2.57 for 1 dozen ($0.21/pencil)
Amazon: $9.98 for 144 ($0.07 per pencil)

Or you can get a 96-pack for $7.99, which is about $0.08 per pencil:

Ball-Point Pens

Walmart: $5.23 for 36 pens ($0.14/pen)
Target: $4.34 for 12 pens ($0.36/pen)
Amazon: $3.79 for 36 pens ($0.11/pen)

Glue Sticks

Walmart: $1.97 for 4-pack ($0.49/gluestick)
Target: $0.99 for 2-pack ($0.49/gluestick)
Amazon: $8.39 for 30-pack ($0.28/gluestick)

This same 30-pack is available for almost $1 more at Target and Walmart.

Markers

Walmart: $10.76 for 12-pack
Target: $6.99 for 12-pack
Amazon: $5.40 for 50-pack!

Those are just some basics, but there are many other cheap school supply products on Amazon. You can shop them all by grade here.

You can also find other cheap back-to-school items on Amazon like Back to School Clothes and cute, affordable lunchboxes.  Here are some examples of some fun back-to-school stuff I found:

 


Where is your favorite place to shop for school supplies? Share your own money saving tips in the comments below to help the other readers save.

Take the Debt Free School Year Challenge or find ways to save even more money on school supplies with this post. Only buy what you can afford. If you are looking for help to set up a budget, click here. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. I can teach you to prepare your own taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more! If you have specific questions, Ask the Accountant.

school supplies

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small referral credit at no cost to you while still providing you the best offer I’m aware of. This small referral fee helps cover the cost of running this site so that I can continue to offer you free money management advice. Please read my disclosure page for more information.

 

Is Your House TOO EXPENSIVE For You?

Is your house too expensive

Is Your House Too Expensive For You?

Here’s a crazy fact: I once worked for Washington Mutual Bank as a mortgage underwriter. Washington Mutual Washington Mutualwas the country’s largest savings and loan bank, until 2008 when it completely went out of business in just one day. (Just like in the Great Depression.)

But one thing I learned about mortgages while I worked there was that most borrowers were buying too much house for their budget. They were buying impressive houses, but they really couldn’t afford them.

Back then, lenders had lax requirements on income qualification and debt-to-income ratios. In fact, most of the mortgage files I saw had buyers that shouldn’t be buying a house. As a result, when the financial crisis hit, many people lost their homes.

huge houseNow, banks are more strict, but people are still buying houses out of their price range.  Financial experts agree that your total housing cost should only be about 25%-35% of your income. This includes your mortgage, property taxes, home insurance, mortgage insurance, and any association dues.

Why It Matters

If you are paying too much for housing, then the rest of your budget will suffer. You won’t have enough for the remaining categories.

Your budgeted income should be spread like this:

  • Charity 10%large house
  • Savings 10%
  • Housing 25%
  • Utilities 5%
  • Food 10 %
  • Transportation 5%
  • Clothing 5%
  • Medical Costs 10%
  • Insurance 10%
  • Recreation 5%
  • Personal 5%
  • Total 100% (of Take-Home Pay)

Notice that there is no room for consumer debt payments in this formula. That is because no one should have consumer debt. If you are dying to get out of debt, see this post to learn how to get out of debt quickly. Click here to set up a budget for free.

What to Do About Your Expensive Mortgage

There are a few options you can try to reduce your housing costs. If you rent, you could shop around for a new place once your lease is up. If you own your house, try one of these options:

  1. Refinance. If the mortgage rates are currently lower than your mortgage interest rate, you might benefit from refinancing. Lowering your interest rate can reduce your payment and make it easier to afford your house. 
  2. Downsize. If you are open to the idea of downsizing, now might be a good time. The price of houses are risinghouse and you might be able to make a nice profit on the sale of your home. You could use this money to put a down payment on another home that is more affordable. 
  3. Rent Out a Portion. If you have a spare room, rent to a relative or friend. This would reduce the burden of your housing cost.
  4. Use Airbnb. If you are planning to take a trip, rent out your home while you are gone. You can earn quite a bit per night through online home rental sites like Airbnb and Home Away. This can help bring in more income to pay for your mortgage.
  5. Get a Modification. This option is very difficult. You have to contact your mortgage company and ask for an application to get a modification. They will require lots of paperwork to be submitted to apply. Then they still might decline your application. Some homeowners have been able to get approved, but it is an uphill battle. It’s worth it if it helps you reduce your costs. It doesn’t negatively affect your credit.
  6. Earn More Income. Getting a second job or doing things from home to help earn money will really help get your financial situation under control. Starting a side business is often very rewarding. 
  7. Get Rid of Your PMI. Some mortgages have what is called Mortgage Insurance. This is required by the lender. Only some borrowers have to get this insurance. But usually, you can get rid of it after a certain amount of time. If you have this, contact your mortgage company to see if you can get rid of it soon. It will save you a nice chunk of cash.

is your house too expensive

Other Options

If you can’t do any of the above strategies to reduce your housing cost, another option is to just reduce your other living expenses. For 87 ideas on how to reduce your expenses, click here.

If you are looking for help to set up a budget, click here. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. I can teach you to prepare your own taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more!

How to Get Rid of Your Debt Forever

How to Get Rid of Your Debt Forever (Using the Snowball Method)

Let’s face it. Debt sucks! If you carry high balances on credit cards, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Paying out all that money every month to high payments that are mostly covering interest just makes you feel like you will never get out of debt. But you CAN get out of debt! I once used the snowball method to pay off over $60,000 in debt. You can too!

The Snowball Method

The Snowball Method helps you get out of debt much faster than if you just paid the minimum each month. The way it works is you accelerate your payments by putting extra money toward your debt with the smallest balance first. Once you pay off that debt, you start working on the next smallest debt.

The kind of debt this works for is credit card debt, car loans, consumer loans, etc. But for paying off your mortgage early, you would use a different method which I will cover in a later post on MommaMoneySense.com. For now, let’s try to get your credit cards and loans paid off quickly.

There are 4 easy steps to the Snowball Method

  1. List out all your debts on the Debt Snapshot Worksheet. List all your debts from smallest to largest balance.
  2. Determine how much extra you can put towards your debt. If you have a lot of debt, like $20,000 or more, then you should try to pay an extra $500 per month if possible. But if this isn’t in your budget, then do what you can. (If you are living paycheck to paycheck then you will need to make some changes before you can pay down your debt. Start with the basics of making a budget and cutting back expenses before tackling your debt.)
  3. Fill out the Debt Snowball Worksheet. Put your extra payment amount in and calculate how soon you will pay off your first debt. Then continue with each one after that.
  4. Start making payments for quick progress. Pay just the minimum payment on all the debts except the smallest. Pay the extra amount on the smallest debt. When that one is paid off, you take all the money you were paying on it and put it towards the next smallest debt. Once you pay off the first debt, you will be so excited about your progress that you will easily continue to stick with the Snowball Method.

You Could Be Debt Free

The average household in America owes over $16,000 in credit card debt. This can be paralyzing. Debt keeps you from having the flexibility to do the things you want and to enjoy your life. If you have a debt problem and you lose a job or have unexpected medical bills, things could quickly spiral out of control. If you have credit card debt, I challenge you to use the Snowball Method and get your financial freedom back. Download the Snowball Method sheets below.

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This Easy Investment Can Give You Returns Up to 200% Per Year

Does an investment that returns up to 200% per year seems too good to be true? Well, it is true, but it’s not what you expect. It’s not some mutual fund or high-risk scheme. It’s an investment in a couple upgrades in your home that can more than double your money in energy savings.

You can literally make low-cost improvements that will reduce your utilities by hundreds of dollars each year. I bet this is a better return on your money spent than any other investment you might have. Plus, you don’t have to pay taxes on your the profit since it’s in the form of cost savings.

Top 5 Money Saving Improvements

1. Improvement: Install Programmable Thermostat
This helps you by automatically changing the temperature during certain hours to be more efficient and save you money on your electricity.
Time Involved: 30 minutes
Cost Range: $30 to $60
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $180 per year Consumer Reports
Return on Investment: Up to 300% return the first year

2. Improvement: Insulate Your Water Heater
Time Involved: 1 Hour
Cost Range: $28 at Home Depot
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: saves $20 to $45 annually
Return on Investment: 67% to 225% the first year

3. Improvement: Replace all light bulbs with LED bulb.
Don’t switch to CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) because they are less efficient and are hazardous to people if they break. So stick with LEDs. They are safer and they last for about 10 years.
Time Involved: How long does it take a person to change a light bulb?
Cost Range: You can usually get 1 box free (15 bulbs) from your electric company. For the rest of the bulbs you need, they only cost $2 per bulb at the Home Depot.
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: About $1.30 electricity savings per bulb per year. 25 bulbs in your house could save you $32.50 per year.
Return on Investment: If you get 15 free and purchase 10, ROA is 160% the first year.

4. Improvement: Insulate Your Attic. Upgrading your attic insulation is easy enough to do on your own for half the cost of a professional. You can get information at your local home store on how to do this, or go to YouTube for video instruction.
Time Involved: 1 day
Cost Range: About $750
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $600 per year
Return on Investment:  80% return in the first year. The remaining 20% during the 2nd year.

5. Improvement: Seal the Leaks Go around your house and check door frames, windows, and points of entry for pipes and cables. Then seal the holes with caulking and peel-and-paste insulating strips.
Time Involved: a few hours
Cost Range:  Between $100 to $150 for the average home depending on how many leaks you have.
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Energy Star claims it will reduce energy cost by 12% to 20% per year or $240 to $480 per year.
Return on Investment: Up to 320% return the first year.

The years following all these fixes will continue to yield cost savings without any spending. You can’t get returns like this in the stock market!

All the above numbers are based on a scenario where you do all the home improvements yourself. It will usually cost at least double the amount if you hire someone else to do it. You might not know how to do all these improvements yourself, but there are free videos on YouTube that can teach you how.

How You Use Your Energy

The average energy consumer spends over $2000 per year on their electricity bill, using between 700 to 1000 kWh of energy per month. So cutting back costs are essential to managing your money properly. Knowing where you are spending the money can help you identify where to cut back. In a typical home, these are the things that use the energy you are paying for:

  • Heating and Cooling 58%
  • Water Heating 19%
  • Refrigeration 12%
  • Appliances and Lights 11%

For other ideas to reduce your living expenses, see this post. Or download The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting. You can download it below. The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting: 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions.