Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping (From a Fellow Mom)

Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

It’s hard to believe, but Back-to-School season is already here. The evenings are slowly starting to get shorter again, vacation time is just about all used up, and planning for school is in motion at full-speed ahead. Whether your student is preparing for college or kindergarten, back-to-school shoppers will spend roughly $688 per household this year, with 64% spent on electronics and apparel, the National Retail Federation (NRF) states. In fact, results show in the NRF’s annual survey that the combined 2017 spending for college and primary education will be $83.6 billion, a 10% increase from last year. While overwhelming, there are actually plenty of ways to save on back-to-school shopping. Below are just a few from a fellow mom:

Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

Tips from a Fellow Mom:

I spoke with my good friend Krista, who currently lives in Philadelphia, to find out how she saves on back-to-school shopping. She and her husband just bought a new house, so I know she is definitely not trying to spend $600 on supplies.

“[Even before the house], when it comes to saving money, I’m all about it. It’s my passion,” she joked. “Back to school shopping is more than just pencils and a new lunch box – it spans to include shoes, jackets, a new haircut, and more. Add that to activity and sports fees, field trips, etc. and sending your child back to school became a bigger cost than budgeted.”

So, going beyond the coupons and sales, here are some ways she saves that you can try as well: 

1. “Know where you will shop and buy a gift card,” she advises. “Do you always shop at a particular store for clothing? Perhaps you love Kohls or TJ Maxx for back to school clothing. If you are going to a particular place to shop, you can save up to 20% off by purchasing a gift card ahead of time. Check out Raise.com for discounted gift cards that have a money-back guarantee. You have the peace of mind knowing the gift card is authentic and the savings in your wallet. Combine these savings with a coupon code or cashback site if you’re shopping online, and you can save up to 35-40%.”

Now, that’s a deal.

2. Another simple way that Krista saves money? Signing up for loyalty programs and email lists. This especially comes in handy when your child needs a back-to-school eye exam, haircut, or even a physical. 

In the last week, I have received 4 offers for free back to school kid haircuts and an offer for a free eye exam. This saves us extra money and exposes us to a new business that we will likely go back to in the future.”

3. Ask yourself, does it need to be new? Krista raises the point that kids grow out of clothing, shoes, sports equipment, and so on so fast that sometimes they don’t even wear what we bought.

“You can save upwards of 75% retail by shopping children’s consignment sales,” she said. “There may be many in your area coming up for the fall. A quick Google search can put you in touch with savings opportunities around the corner.”


Some General Tips:

In general, there are other ways to save on back-to-school shopping, especially for those headed to college. Here are a few:

  • Make a List: Make a list of what you need, then, before you even think about shopping, do an inventory check of what you already have. By cross-checking your lists of needs and haves, you’ll avoid spending money you did not need to spend.
  • Determine a Budget (And Stick With It): Once your list is made, create a budget for your back-to-school shopping and stick with it. Don’t allow trends or unnecessary product features affect you spending goals.
  • Go online: Regardless of age, there are many savings to be had by shopping online. A great site to find textbooks cheaper is textbooks.com. You can purchase hard copies or electronic versions as well as sell books to other people.
  • Save By Waiting: If you’re a procrastinator when it comes to shopping, you’ll actually be able to benefit by this trait in some ways. Pencils, notebooks, and even fall clothes will all be cheaper at the end of August and beginning of September. The cost of clothes can certainly add up, so waiting for deals before you splurge will be a great money-saving tactic for which your bank account will thank you.
  • Buy in Bulk: While buying in bulk is not always great for grocery shopping, it is when it comes to school supplies such as those notebooks and binders. These are items your student will likely need next year, too, so save money by stocking up ahead of time.

When you put your mind to it, you’ll find some really creative ways to save on back-to-school shopping. What tips would you add to the list that have worked for you?

How to Give Your Home Curb Appeal On a Budget

how to give your home curb appeal on a budget

While the housing market is still not fully out of the red, there has been some positives in 2016. For one, millennials are finally starting to enter the market, which is a generation that some experts were concerned would never purchase homes, according to this Forbes article by real estate writer, Samantha Sharf. Sharf also noted that mortgage rates remained historically low in 2016. And although cities are still facing affordability issues, despite the increase of wages, homes are appreciating in value due to the decrease in demand to build new homes. In short, things seem to be looking up, even if it is at a slow pace.

Given the above, perhaps you’ve been considering selling your house to relocate or simply have a change of scenery. Or, conversely, maybe you’re simply interested in increasing your property’s value now so that, if or when the time comes, you’ll be ready. This could easily be a costly project, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to give your home curb appeal on a budget:

How to Give Your Home Curb Appeal On a Budget:

Sidewalks and Shutters

You may not realize it, but the simplest of tweaks can add a world of difference. It is often advised to pull out any weeds from between the sidewalk path leading to your home, tighten screws on any shutters to make sure they aren’t crooked or appear as though they may fall over, and the like. These fine details may be an effective (and simple) starting place.

Landscaping

Before planting anything new, make sure you have healthy soil or see where your current shrubbery could use improvements. Trim up overgrown bushes, clean up dead leaves, get rid of weeds in the grass and along the house, and so on. Quora user and real estate agent Andrey Sokurec recommends getting a spray tank and bottle of weed killer (available for roughly $42 total) and treating your yard with granulated fertilizer to make it greener longer.

Other landscaping tips to consider are to purchase colorful flowers for a nice pop if your exterior lacks color. You can incorporate shadow boxes below windows or on your porch railings, which will save money on mulch to line your house with flowers. Additionally, if you have space, you can look into planting trees on each side to frame your entry way. But, planter beware: Make sure to look into how large the trees will get first to avoid your home, particularly your front door, becoming hidden by them. Alternatively, you can use large potted plants to use at your doorway.

Paint

It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do, and this holds true for adding curb appeal. Painting your entire exterior will be costly, but you can simply paint your door, the trim, or shutters to provide the house with an updated look without breaking the bank.

Clean Up House

Keep your house looking nice on the outside by making sure toys are kept out of the yard, patio furniture isn’t damaged or looking decrepit, and the sidewalk and porch are swept. You should also try to power wash the outside of your home, especially if it is built with siding, to help give it a fresh face. Other than the cost of time, this will be essentially free to do.

Other ways to “clean up house” include but are not limited to:

  • Repainting or replacing your mailbox
  • Upgrading the numbers on your house
  • Replacing exterior lighting

But, before you start:

Even if you have no plans to sell your house anytime in the near future, you can still make these upgrades that will make you happy to come home to each time. But, before you start, you should determine what will look best with your home instead of trying to fit in an aspect that doesn’t work. Consider the following:

  • Take pictures. Interior designer Adrienne Kushner advises taking pictures of the exterior, including the sides and back of the house. This can help you see things you might otherwise miss. These photos can also assist in choosing shrubbery and colors that are right for your home.
  • Pick the right flowers and plants. Don’t plant anything without doing a little research on the type of plant and whether it will be a good fit for your environment and location. For example, flowers often need a lot of sunlight, and if your home is shadowed by surrounding trees, your flowers of choice may not be able to survive. It may also be more cost-effective to choose flowers that bloom annually rather than only live one season.
  • Choose colors that complement not take away from your home. With the pictures you take of your home, you may want to bring those with you to a local paint shop or home improvement store to see if they have any input on color choices for you. Let them know what style you’re going for, and they will likely provide you with some really helpful information, especially since they want you to buy paint from them.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard with shrubs and plants; simple is best to avoid a cluttered look. Need some inspiration? HelpMeBuild.com has some great suggestions here.
  • Have a budget in mind. Before you start any project, create a budget so that you do not go overboard and unnecessarily waste or spend money. If applicable, talk with your spouse first so that you are on the same page with spending.

What tips would you add on how to give your home curb appeal on a budget?

The Effects of Financial Stress on Marriage: Psychological and Physiological Impacts

effects of financial stress on marriage

Marriage is a sacred bond between two people that love one another. It takes time, hard work, and dedication to really make it work. Unfortunately, outside elements sometimes take a toll on a marriage, causing couples who once vowed to make it through sickness and health to drift apart. Often times, money plays a large role as one of those elements. So, what are the effects of financial stress on marriage? How does it impact us psychologically and physiologically?

The Effects of Financial Stress on Marriage:

No matter what your social status is or your demographic, none of us are safe from the grips of the pressures that weigh on our relationships. Marriage, in particular, is arguably one of the hardest relationships to maintain in our lives.  Not only does compromise come into play but money does as well. From budgeting to spending, these decisions can make or break your relationship. But, what are the actual effects of financial stress on marriage?

Psychological Impact:

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), financial distress can have destructive effects on not only the married couple but their children as well. Money issues can cause feelings of failure, tension in the household, and overall negative behaviors that trickle throughout the family. Common psychological effects, the AAMFT states, includes but is not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Overwhelming levels of stress
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Confusion
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Generally, this financial stress feeds into feelings of feeling incapable and developing unrealistic expectations of ourselves. If left alone, these effects can escalate and turn what was once a healthy and empowering environment into a dark and desolate place.

Physiological Impact:

Financial stress also hurts us physically. In a 2003 Ohio State University research paper by Theodore F. Robles and Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser titled, “‘The physiology of marriage: pathway to health,” studies show that social relationships have an impact on our long-term health, especially in terms of marriage. When in a loving, positive relationship, mortality rates and illness have been shown to decrease, while these numbers increased for those in stressful marriages. Marital stress, brought on often by economic hardship, can affect the body in three main ways, the research finds: cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems. Therefore, physiological issues that may arise from such may include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Compromised immune system
  • Higher levels of stress
  • Irregular production of hormones
  • Over or under eating

When this happens, we may not understand why our body is reacting to stress this way, and we may try to play the blame game. However, it’s important to remember that instead of allowing ourselves to adapt to this way of living, we need to fight it. What can we do?

How to Fight the Negativity Financial Stress Causes on a Marriage:

When you first get married, you likely have an excellent perception of your spouse, Benjamin R. Karney of the American Psychological Association wrote in this 2010 article. Over time, however, that perception can dwindle, depending on how positive you are able to stay about your relationship. This, Karney writes, is what happy couples do; they are able to turn their spouse’s shortcomings into explanations of a bigger picture. He uses the example of defining your significant other’s distance one evening as a result of a bad day at work rather than a lack of interest in you.

Unfortunately, long periods of stress can still tear apart even the strongest couples. To combat this, keeping financial stress as low as possible will help to eliminate one more element that can be harmful to your marriage. A few ways to do this are:

  • Recognize your own faults/contribution to the financial issues. Instead of placing blame, take a look outside of yourself and see how you might also be contributing to any monetary problems happening in the household.
  • Talk to your partner. Although conversation about money (budgeting, the what-ifs, etc.) should ideally happen prior to walking down the aisle, it is sometimes still not enough to keep the strain away. Have recurring conversations with your spouse about the budget and managing the money, and see what you can do (together) to make positive changes.
  • Get it down on paper. Karney recommends what he calls a Financial Performance Improvement Plan, where you identify two to three specific setbacks with money and create a solution for each. Be as specific as possible and create a deadline to ensure follow-through. Repeat as much as necessary until you have a potential solution for each money problem.
  • Don’t forget to nourish the relationship. Just because you have financial stress does not mean you need to neglect the emotional aspects of your marriage. As you try to improve your situation, consider cheap date nights or weekend getaways that fit your budget.
  • Talk to a therapist. You should consider talking to a therapist, either together or separately, to overcome any of the psychological and physiological impacts that may have already begun to take place from the effects of financial stress on marriage. This is especially true if you are having suicidal or hopeless thoughts and have a hard time feeling motivated to work and so on. Being healthy and taking care of yourself is extremely important in maintaining wholesome relationships both within and outside of your marriage.

Anyone can be a target to a marriage dealing with economic issues. Financial stress does not have to mean a lack of funds; it can also mean not agreeing on how to spend the combined income. It’s OK to ask for outside help from friends and family members to see how they may be able to relate or what input they can provide as an outsider. Sometimes, the simplest solution is taking a look outside of ourselves so that we can help ourselves.

What is your take on the topic? What advice would you add?