Reviews

Best Books on Saving Money

If you are someone who loves reading something about money-saving matters, you have come to the right place. For many readers, it is beneficial to read about the ways other people save their pennies. Below, you will see the top books that you can add to your book list to gain some money saving inspiration. Here are some of the seven best books on saving money.

The money $aving mom's budget
THE MONEY SAVING MOM’S BUDGET

by CRYSTAL PAINE

This book gives the readers several tips on how to save money in a lively, humble and engaging way. There are many great tips spread across 9 chapters. The topics in this book are proper use of coupons, saving with the help of coupons and having fun without being lavish. The proceeds from the sales of Paine’s book goes to the Compassion International, a charity supported by Piane.

BE CENTSABLE: HOW TO CUT YOUR HOUSEHOLD BUDGET IN HALF
BE CENTSABLE: HOW TO CUT YOUR HOUSEHOLD BUDGET IN HALF

by KRISTIN MCKEE AND CHRISSY PAT

The authors of this book are moms, they wrote this book because they wanted to substantially cut their bills and share with others how they did it. They have teamed up to discover different ways on how to save their money with the use of stockpiling, price matching and of course –couponing. These two moms are making big waves when it comes to saving up money and reducing bills for moms everywhere.

INSTANT BARGAINS: 600+ WAYS TO SHRINK YOUR GROCERY BILLS AND EAT WELL FOR LESS
INSTANT BARGAINS: 600+ WAYS TO SHRINK YOUR GROCERY BILLS AND EAT WELL FOR LESS

by KIMBERLY DANGER

The author of this book is also the founder of mommysavers.com. This book focuses on saving money from groceries and food. This book emphasizes many money-saving ideas that will suit your way of life, so if you do not have time to cut some coupons from magazines or stockpile some products, there are still ways for you to make the most out of your money.

THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR
THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR

by STANLEY AND DANKO

The authors of this book have interviewed and surveyed several wealthy people so that they could find trends in data. This book discusses how these millionaires live, budget and spend their money.
This book also brings in concepts on how to save up money just like millionaires.

NOT BUYING IT
NOT BUYING IT

by JUDITH LAVINE

The author of this book and her partner promised that they would stop buying anything but their necessities. Because of this, they struggled to understand the meaning of necessity. This book also tackles what is necessary for living and some common items that are viewed as necessity but really are not.

MONEY CAN BUY HAPPINESS
MONEY CAN BUY HAPPINESS

by MP DUNLEAVEY

The authors of this book will show you how to use the money you already have to make you the happiest person in the world. This book is the nicest read if you think that you do not have sufficient money to survive. Everyone has hidden cash that they can utilize to live a happier life.

THE FRUGAL FAMILY’S KITCHEN BOOK
THE FRUGAL FAMILY’S KITCHEN BOOK

by MARY WEBER

This book is stuffed with practical information on how you can save cash and time. The book has a buying guide and several great and delicious recipes that are inexpensive when it comes to the ingredients (these recipes are not only delicious, they are also nutritious).

TurboTax Review

With tax season upon us confusion and questions reign about what to do and how to do it. What does e-filing mean? What is a W4? When do I need to do this by and when is my refund showing up? As well if you are like me it is time to stop asking dad or the family accountant to do it for you. It really is that sad last stage of knowing you are a grown up. But it doesn’t really have to be sad since with taxes come tax refunds and you may be owed back a substantial chunk of change. The question becomes which tax software or tool is best for me. The most popular and used choice is TurboTax, with its easy to use interface and low price point it is an obvious choice for many people.

turbotaxreviewlogo

To use TurboTax simply go to Turbotax.com. TurboTax is made by Intuit the same company which also owns Mint.com so they are known for easy to ease and solid finance products.

You can start your tax return on TurboTax for free. But if you want added features and options it will cost you. Due to a glitch in their system there is no way to “downgrade from an option” once it has been selected so we recommend starting with the cheapest “Free Edition” to begin with. They also have a Deluxe edition for $29.99 a Premier edition for $49.99 and a Home & Business edition for $74.99.

turbotaxoptions

That one penny off really makes all of the options are bargain but we would say that the Deluxe option is really all that most of you will need.

After you hit start the interface is very straightforward simply copy over the information from your prior received W4’s and 1099’s and you are good to go. The software as you go pretends to do some voodoo and magically eek you out the biggest return possible but it is all rather normal math functions to determine your actual return. Heck if you wanted to you could do this all yourself just the e-filing features that TurboTax offer allows for it to really save you time and convenience.

We were honestly curious if the return was different between the same person filing with the Basic Free version and the Deluxe edition. We actually had mixed results. On one of our tests the results were the same but on the case where the individual had moved to NYC and had only lived there for half the year the Deluxe option actually gave them a giant return.

In the case above the Basic edition had pegged the individual for owing an additional $500 in city taxes but in reality the user hadn’t lived in the city for the full year so they were actually owed a $500 a refund. This led to a NET $1,000 difference in tax outcome for this user when testing out the two products. The Deluxe version with it’s more thorough questioning was able to pick up on this while the basic version had overlooked it. For this reason we do recommend the Deluxe edition.

After completing all the form inputting it should only take about 10 minutes. The software does one last check and you are ready to e-file. You will most likely be charged a fee for filing your state return some where in the $20 to $30 range, but your federal taxes will be filed for free. The total cost for you will be in the realm of $50 and total time from start to finish should only be about 30 minutes, you can even finish it in 10 minutes or less. Doing your taxes has never been easier. Also be sure to save your TurboTax account so you can just use it again for next year and save even more time.

Rewarding to Shop

As a college student, I am always looking for ways to save money when buying the necessities.  After some major research and personal experience, I have compiled a list of stores that offer some awesome rewards programs. It pays to shop my friends, especially if you shop smart.  Take a look into these programs and give ‘em a try.

  • Target Red Card

This is, essentially, a credit card and if you are like me credit cards are a scary, scary thing.  But Target does have 2 options for their Red Card.  You can use it as is, a credit card, or connect it to your debit card, using it as your debit card when you shop their stores.  Either way you will receive 5% off your total every time you shop. Basically, just a pretty sweet deal all around.

  • Panera Bread

One of the most delicious soup, bread, and pastry restaurants I have ever gone to with an equally delicious rewards program. Just by scanning your card every time you come in, you receive free drinks and food! Free anything is fantastic, don’t ya think?

  • Hy-Vee Fuel Savers

If you are in the Midwest and anywhere near a Hy-Vee grocery store, you must be living under a rock if you have not heard of the Fuel Saver program.  Hy-Vee advertises that through purchasing certain items you can earn discounts towards gas that you can save for up to 30 days from the purchase date.  Costco and other large chain grocery stores participate in gas discount programs similar to this and are definitely worth checking out!

  • Student Advantage Card

This is a student credit card that gives you discounts on a ton of things; flights, hotels, textbooks, and clothing stores being amongst those things.  I have not used this program, but of the friends of mine who have, it has been a great success.

shopping discounts
Many stores offer shopping discount cards

These are just a few examples of programs that can help you save when you shop with them.  Do you know any store, restaurant, or company that offers a rewards program? Are they better than the ones I just listed? Oh yeah? Well, let me here ‘em! Email the store name and website to me including your name and home state to megan@investinged.com with the subject heading of Financial Ed!, and share the discounts!

CouchSurfing Review

Having nailed the interview and received the job offer, I thought I’d make the best of the two weeks I had before my start date at the beginning of the second quarter – it was time for that road trip I had always wanted to take. There was only one problem: I had no cash flow. Having quit my day job two weeks prior, I had slowly but surely whittled away my checking account. The thought of dipping into my savings to finance such a spontaneous venture left me sour, a feeling that would certainly taint the entire experience. But then my buddy Joe reminded me of CouchSurfing.com, an online community network of people who generously welcome travelers into their homes – for free!
CouchSurfing Review

We had both independently heard of the service before, mentioned in passing by a handful of our more adventurous extroverted friends. Discussing their experiences, we found not a single negative report. Everyone we knew had come back with exciting stories they were eager to tell. We thought we’d give it a try.

Signing up was easy. Facebook has a direct tie-in, so we didn’t even have to fill out any forms to get our names on the network. To ensure the authenticity of its members there is an optional verification process via credit card (they recommend a $25 donation), however, in our experience, simply having a single positive reference in the network is often enough for members to open up their home. In the spirit of the community, you’re asked to post a little blurb about yourself and some general interests, which actually end up being quite helpful for finding a suitable host. After all, most people involved in the network are in it to meet new people and broaden their horizons.

Within the week, we had been offered couches by three people from Cincinnati, OH and two from Madison, WI, with requests still pending for Chicago, IL. To think, a few days earlier we were worried about not having enough money or having a place to stay, and now we had to choose who we would most like to stay with. A day later, we were on our way West out of New York.

Of course at first, it was a little odd finding yourself about to fall asleep in a random person’s guest room, the thought of possibly getting robbed or something creeping up in the back of your mind. But the more and more people we met through the network, the more positive experiences we heard of – and in the unlikeliest of places. One of our hosts had first heard of CouchSurfing after finding herself stranded without money for a night in South Africa. She was in a park lamenting about her situation and a stranger mentioned the site. She was able to find a safe, honest host on a day’s notice, and was hooked ever since.

All-in-all, the CouchSurfing experience was nothing short of incredible. Each of the homes were clean and tidy, we always had at least a futon to sleep on. Our hosts were more often than not eager to spend time hanging out and getting to know us, treat us to meals and drinks – we were their guests after all, they would say – and share their favorite local spots with us. They were happy to hear about the places we had traveled, what life was like back home, and to hear about our aspirations and life goals. What turned out to be simply an economical decision delivered a uniquely human experience that not even the most luxurious hotel-resort could compete with.

If you are particularly strapped for cash, I would also recommend pairing CouchSurfing with the MegaBus service, which offers the first open seat on any given bus for $1. Plan your trip early enough in advance and you can literally travel the U.S. for a month with just a few hundred dollars. With services like this, what are you waiting for? Traveling has never been so easy – or economical!

How I made -$7 selling my iPad on Amazon

There is nothing worse than mourning the loss of your beloved Mac Book Pro. When my 5-year-old laptop finally died, I eventually decided it was time to purchase a new one. Because this can be quite an expensive endeavor, I chose to sell my iPad and contribute the money I made off of it to my new Mac Book. I stumbled upon Amazon’s trade-in service, which seemed to be the ideal route to go. I could trade my 32 GB iPad 2 with WiFi in for $440 if it was deemed in perfect condition (and it was in perfect condition: no scratches, no sign of use, all buttons operated perfectly), but if it was deemed not quite up to par, I could select to be offered a lesser amount in return. I decided to go for this option, rather than to have my iPad returned to me if it was rejected for the $440, because I needed whatever I could get to put towards my new computer. I’d most likely be offered a little less than $400 if it was determined to be in “good condition” rather than “perfect condition”, so I felt that was still worth it. On top of that, Amazon offers a great price for Mac Books –$100 less than the Apple store — so it seemed like a no-brainer.

All I had to do was submit my iPad to Amazon and fill in a few blanks to describe the condition it was in. Amazon then sent me a shipping label, allowing for free shipping minus the cost of the box I had to buy to send it in. I went to UPS, bought a $7 box, and sent my iPad on its way.

I waited in anticipation for about five days before hearing anything from them. When it arrived at headquarters a few days after sending it, Amazon said the order was “processing” for three more days after that. Finally, my impatience got the best of me and I decided to contact them myself. I spoke to someone via their chat system, and he assured me I’d be informed of my iPad payment by the end of the week. Keeping in mind this was on a Monday that seemed like a long time to wait. But I digress. Finally, later that day, I got an e-mail from Amazon letting me know my order had been processed, and that it had been deemed “unacceptable”. It said its value was “$0.00” and its status was “returned”. On top of my outrage at not being paid a SINGLE dollar for my iPad which was in perfect condition, Amazon went against the option I had checked off to be offered a lesser amount for the gadget, instead of it being returned to me. I was furious. I went back onto Amazon’s chat service, and at first the man I spoke to had nothing of substance to tell me. All he could say was my item had not been accepted, and that was that. His lack of knowledge only added fuel to the fire, so I asked to speak with his supervisor. After a few minutes, another representative joined my chat. I explained my situation to him, and waited a while for his response. Finally, he said, “I am really sorry for this. Your chat has been transferred incorrectly to MP3 digital team. Please hold on while I connect you with our retail team.”

Absolutely dumbfounded, I awaited the FOURTH Amazon representative I would speak to that day. I had never seen such incompetence from such a reputable company in my entire life. I gave the new person I was chatting with my information once again, and she actually had some information to offer me. Apparently, Amazon sends the trade-ins to random merchants, and if that merchant rejects the item, that’s the end of that. Amazon has no record of which merchant processed my item, and thus have no specific reason to give me as to why my iPad was rejected. The woman I was speaking to suggested once I receive the item that was being returned to me, I should send it in again and hope for the best. There was no way I was going to go through this experience again. When I asked her when I’d receive my iPad, she said one to two weeks. Trying my best not to let my frustration get the best of me, I finally let it go and thanked her for her help.

Needless to say, Amazon’s trade-in service is an absolute waste of time and money. Not only did I not make the $440 I expected, but I actually lost seven dollars during the process. iPad sellers: if you want to lose money on your iPad and deal with the most atrocious customer service in the history of e-commerce, absolutely go for it and use Amazon’s trade-in service! My sarcasm aside, I will be 100% skeptical going forward when using Amazon for anything it offers at all.