Summer Savings Tip: Turn off the lights!

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household dedicates about 5% of its energy budget to lighting.Summer Savings Tip: Turn the lights off

It’s an easy budget to start trimming, and here are tips to get you started:

Make the switch
Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills, and you have lots of choices, including halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Energy-efficient bulbs may cost more than ones you’re used to, but you’ll save over their lifetime.

Visit Energy Star to find the right light bulbs for your fixtures.

Off vs On
Think twice about that old electricity myth that says it uses more electricity to turn a light back on than it does to keep it on. Today’s basic wisdom suggests that, depending on the type of light, you’re apt to save by turning it off, no matter how short the duration before you’ll be turning it on again.

Time out
Use timers and motion sensors to automatically control the amount of electricity you use. Dimmers also provide savings.

Natural light
Take advantage of daylight by keeping your curtains, blinds or shades open, or using curtains that allow daylight in. When you’re decorating, remember that lighter colors reflect daylight and enhance available natural light in a room.

Crunch the numbers
Curious how much you might save — in terms of dollars or energy — by turning off the lights when you leave the house? It could add up. Check out this breakdown at The Simple Dollar.

Find more tips!
Looking to save even more? Visit websites for your local utilities, including the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), for more energy saving tips on everything from appliances to heating and cooling.

Is your family good about turning off the lights?

How to set (and stick to) a budget

How much do you spend? How much do you earn? If one equals the other, you’re in trouble. And, if you spend more than you earn, you’re in really big trouble.

The solution? Set a budget, and stick to it!

The goal? Live within your means, avoid falling off a cliff and into debt, and start saving https://www.cbtc.com/personal/savingsTypes.aspx?id=14 – for emergencies, special occasions, and for your future.

Easier said than done? No. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a little commitment. And, taking that first step.

Getting started
Check these 8 easy tips for creating a personal budget http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/10/18/8-steps-to-creating-a-personal-budget. Pay particular attention to Step #8: “Don’t set yourself up for failure. Making sacrifices is part of managing expenses, but if you set restrictions too high and too soon, you will be less likely to follow your budget over the long term.”

The first step to successful budgeting is knowing, and tracking, where your money goes. You can do it with pencil and paper, or consider one of the personal finance software programs http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/01/03/budgeting-software-options/ such as Quicken or Mint.

Setting priorities
The second step is to set priorities. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index4.htm Try to cut back your spending to about 90% of your income.

Stretching that dollar
If you think it’s impossible to save anything, or to save more than you’re saving now, you might be surprised that it is possible and, maybe, painless. Here are 10 tips for saving on a tight budget. http://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/saving-on-a-tight-budget

And, if you simply can’t image how to spend less than you’re spending now, start thinking about new ways to reduce your monthly bills. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index5.htm

Sticking to it
Don’t get discouraged. If Plan A doesn’t work, come up with a Plan B to focus on your finances http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/budget/stick-to-a-budget .
Budgeting will be easier once you find the path that works the best for you.

Savings tip: Prevent overspending on in-app purchases

If you visit Apple’s iTunes store you may notice games categorized three ways – top free, top paid and top grossing. Now here is the really interesting thing – the top grossing games are, in general, free to download.

So how are the games earning enough to be considered “top grossing?” The answer is simple – In-app purchases. Continue reading

Savings Tip – Rent a movie!

Is “movie night” fast becoming a thing of the past in your household? Is the cost of driving to the theater, buying tickets and refreshments, and maybe paying a babysitter, too much of a splurge for your budget?

If that’s the case, you’re not alone. TIME.com reports that people’s interest in going to the movies is fading (although not necessarily because of the economy; it’s more about the ticket cost itself), and that 61% of adults in a recent poll said they rarely or never go out to the movies. Continue reading

Savings Tip: Avoid late fees

You work hard for your money; you should keep as much of it as you can! One way to do that is by avoiding late fees, which can take a big bite out of your budget if you’re not careful.

Late fees come in all shapes and sizes, attached to most of the payments you make, from your credit cards to your mortgage. Here are a few words of late payment caution: Continue reading

Holiday Shopping Savings Tips

With a mere two weeks until Christmas, it may feel like it’s too late to save money AND finish your holiday shopping. But fear not! While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are long gone, there are still ways you can get your gift shopping done without breaking the bank.

Many online merchants push the deals right up to the last minute, so you can continue to shop from the comfort of your couch. For the latest discounts make sure you check out those e-mails from retailers you usually ignore. Plus, look for free shipping and save a few more dollars. Concerned gifts won’t make it on time? Most online stores will tell you when to expect packages and what the final order date is for delivery in time for Christmas. Continue reading

Savings Tip: Make an extra mortgage payment, or not?

It’s a split decision. Some experts advise making an extra annual mortgage payment. Others say there are better ways to use your money in today’s tight economy.

Perhaps you’d agree with the advisor who says that chopping time and money off your mortgage debt is an emotional thing, not a financial one. You can picture yourself burning your mortgage at your retirement party — or, better still, years before you retire! Continue reading