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Link Love 12/19/14

Happy Friday.

I hope you had a good week! Are you finishing your Christmas shopping this weekend? I (thankfully) got all of mine done last week so no more braving the crowds.

In case you’re in need of some weekend reading here are some of my favorite posts from the blogosphere:

Have an Amazing Weekend!

5 Unusual Ways to Save Money

Looking for some unusual ways to save money? I've found find weird, yet effective ways you can make your money go further. Will you be giving them a try?I’m going to be honest. When I get busy with work and my personal life by budget starts lagging behind and I have to play catch up.

With Christmas, plus my oldest daughter’s birthday, it’s already been a high spending month. To bring my budget back down I’ve been looking at some unusual ways to save money.

I scoured the internet, looking for some weird ideas. Here are a list of five unusual ways to save money, although I’m not sure I can do #2!

Live in a Tiny House

I have a 900 sq ft trailer. It’s small but not tiny but it’s also completely paid off so it’s not like I need to downsize!

But if housing is one of your biggest expenses then living in a smaller house could dramatically reduce your costs. You’d not only pay less in mortgage/rent but you’d also have to downsize your belongings and shop with intention.

Want to read more about tiny houses? Here’s how one couple lives in a 175 square foot sailboat house!

Stop Buying Paper Towels

Paper towels can be a huge money suck. You use them once and then throw them in the trash! It’s literally like throwing your money away.

Instead of using paper towels use regular hand towels. If you don’t want to spend any money stocking up on those, then cut up old t-shirts and use those instead.

If you want to take it really far you can do the same for toilet paper. I remember seeing this on an episode of Extreme Cheapskates. While I personally couldn’t go that far to save a few bucks, I’m not judging!

Stop Washing Your Hair

How much money do you spend a year on shampoo? Well, if you stopped washing your hair or cut back to once or twice a week you could probably save a couple hundred dollars.

I have to be upfront, this is something that I could never do. My hair type would not cooperate at all! However, quitting shampoo is not only cost efficient but it’s also supposed to help you have more beautiful hair!

If you’re interested in learning more here’s the story of one woman who completely quit washing her hair!

Displace Water in Your Toilet

If you don’t have a low flush toilet you can save water and money by displacing the water in your toilet tank with a brick or full water bottle.

Here’s what you need to do.

Ask for Household Supplies as Gifts!

Do you have friends and family that still buy you gifts?

Even though I’ve repeatedly asked my parents to stop buying me gifts for Christmas they still insist. So instead of asking for something extravagant I go the practical route.

My Dad gets me a Kroger gift card every year and my Mom makes a gift basket full of shampoo, laundry detergent, and other miscellaneous items.

There are tons of unusual ways to save money and there’s absolutely no one size fits all approach.

I’m curious, what’s the weirdest way you’ve saved money?!

How to Start Investing in 2015

Do you want to start investing in 2015? Getting started is easier than you think! Here are some steps you can take to get off on a smooth start.Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to start investing in 2015?

Investing was one of my major goals in 2014. Even though I got off on a little bit of a rough start I learned what not to do. I also learned that investing is pretty easy, as long as you let it be.

So if you’re in the market to start investing in 2015 here’s how to get started.

Determine Your Investing Goal

Before you get started you first need to know what you’re investing for. This will help you determine your overall investing strategy and where to open up an account.

For example, when I first started investing this year I decided I wanted to buy individual stocks. I set up a personal investing account with Capital One 360 and began putting my extra money toward stocks. After a couple months I decided I wanted to invest in dividend stocks and started funneling extra money toward that.

Then later in the year I opened up a Traditional IRA with Betterment and just had my money invested in ETF’s that were chosen by Betterment. (And in case you’re wondering Betterment does a much better job of investing my money than I did!)

Choose an Online Brokerage

I personally love the online brokerages and virtual financial advisors. If you’re starting with a small amount of money setting up an online account is a good solution.

I use Betterment for my Traditional IRA. I had tried other virtual financial advisors and even have my personal investing account with Capital One 360 but as far as a retirement account I love the ease of Betterment.

When you set up an account they will give you a quiz that determines your risk tolerance and select ETFs (exchange trade funds, which are a basket of assets) to invest in for you. They also reinvest all of your dividends.

There are tons of options when it comes to online brokerages and virtual financial advisors. Check around until you find something that you like.

Set Up Automatic Contributions

Once you have your account set up you can have money automatically deposited every month. I highly suggest you do this, especially with a retirement account.

And remember, your investments don’t have to be huge! I opened my retirement account with only $50 and have $100 per month deposited. (Which I plan on upping this year!)

You can change your automatic deposit at any time (with most brokerages.) No amount is too small!

Just Get Started!

The most important thing is that you get started. If you’re feeling daring and want to choose your own investments, give a try. (Just err on the side of caution. And don’t buy penny stocks!) If you want to leave the investments to the pros sign up with a virtual financial advisor.

You can always change the amount you invest or which company you go with down the road. Getting started is the most important thing you can do!

Link Love 12/12/14

Happy Friday!

I hope you had a great week. I know everyone is gearing down to make their Christmas plans and finish up their shopping so I thought I’d do a post round-up this week dedicated to all things Christmas!

Have a fantastic weekend!

A Sneaky Way to Stick to Your Christmas Budget…..

Are you worried about spending too much money this Christmas? See if this sneaky trick can help you stick to your Christmas budget!Sticking to your Christmas budget can be tough, especially if you have kids!

Before kids my Christmas budget was never too out of hand. I didn’t have anyone who I felt the need to lavish with gifts. Sure, I still liked giving meaningful gifts, but I found that those didn’t have to cost a lot of money.

My first daughter was born in December of 2008. I was too exhausted to worry about Christmas, so that year I hardly spent anything. The next year, I spent a little more. The year after that I had a second baby who was seven months old when Christmas came around.

When my girls were that small I didn’t have to worry about going overboard. The truth was they didn’t need anything. Plus, it’s not like they would’ve remembered that Mom only spent $30 on them for Christmas anyway.

Now that they’ve gotten older (four and six years old) it’s a whole new ball game. Their personalities have come to life. They each have their own set of interests, favorite TV shows, favorite books, and unique (okay, a bit crazy) sense of style. They love clothes.

And when I see their faces light up after opening gifts on Christmas morning it becomes sooooo easy to want to spend even more the next year.

On the other side of the equation I don’t want my kids to place too emphasis much on materialistic stuff. I want them to know that life is about so much more.

To keep myself from going into the consumerism mindset I’ve got to, in a sense, trick myself and I think I’ve found a pretty good way to do it.

Stick to Your Christmas Budget With……

Gift cards!

By buying a predetermined amount of gift cards and allowing yourself to only use those for Christmas you can definitely stick to your budget.

There are other benefits too. Like these:

  • You’re forcing yourself to be creative in your gift giving.
  • You can gift some of the gift cards if you don’t want to be creative.
  • If you purchase through Kroger you can get double or more the fuel points which can add up to some significant gas savings.
  • You can buy gift cards at lower than face value using a site like Gift Card Granny.
  • You can buy a gift card every month all year long to spread out the cost.

If you only used gift cards for Christmas, how much less would you spend? Probably a lot. If you’re like me and tempted to spend more than you should on gifts for your kids, I think sticking to a predetermined gift card budget could be a great help.

What do you think? Have you ever used a gift card budget for Christmas shopping?