How To Budget for a Staycation

The post How To Budget for a Staycation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

budget for a staycation

Whether you’re dreaming of an hour-long massage or lazy days lounging under the summer sun, you’ll want to budget wisely for your staycation. After all, you’ve worked hard for this well-deserved treat, and the last thing you want is for your savings account to plummet just when you’ve begun to relax. (Overspending can also tank your credit if you can’t pay those credit card bills. You can see how your spending is impacting your credit by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

To avoid a staggering credit card bill, here’s how to budget for your staycation, no matter what you’ve got in mind.

Be Realistic 

A whimsical tour through New York City, with stops on Broadway, in SoHo and at Bloomingdale’s, probably isn’t in the cards on a waiter’s budget. Be realistic and do your research so you have a solid idea of what you can afford.

 

Draft a Budget

Just because you’re staying home doesn’t mean you won’t spend money. So it’s a good idea to figure out how much you can comfortably set aside after you’ve covered your monthly expenses. Is it $500? $1,000? More? Whatever it is, remember monthly payments like rent and utilities are a necessity, while your staycation budget isn’t.

Read more:  How to Create a Workable Budget

 

Make a Plan 

More than anything, the secret to drafting a great budget is knowing what it will cover. If you’re planning to play tourist, checking out concerts and staying nearby, research those individual costs and factor them into your budget. Go online, see what’s exciting and make a list of what you’d like to do. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can decide what makes the most sense based on your budget.

 

Set a Daily Cash Allowance 

Once you’ve narrowed down how much money you can spend, it can be helpful to set a daily allowance for meals, snacks and planned-out activities. Experts recommend inflating the number just a bit to account for unforeseen costs like impulse purchases and emergencies. As your staycation draws closer and your plans change, rework your budget accordingly.

Read More:  How to Make a Cash Budget Work For You

 

Get Creative 

Sometimes, meeting your vacation goals takes a bit of creativity. To that end, find ways to cut back your regular spending, even if you haven’t given it much thought before. Holding off on those lattes or 3 p.m. snacks may just be the thing that allows you to visit the fancy restaurant you’ve been dying to try.

 

More from Credit.com

  • Tips for Improving Your Credit: Your Amount of Debt

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

More by Jill Krasny

The post How To Budget for a Staycation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

Cut Your Clothing Clutter

If you have a favorite navy shirt, chances are, you rarely wear your second-favorite navy shirt, and never wear your third favorite! If you tend to buy a lot of items that are similar to each other, try organizing your closet by color, so when you pause by that navy polo shirt at the store, you’ll remember just how many navy shirts you already own.

Shop in the Off-Season

For the best deals on clothes, shop in the off-season. Buy spring and summer clothing in July and August, and fall and winter clothing in January and February. (You can often find the best sales right after the holiday season.) It’s sometimes a bummer to buy something you’re not going to be able to wear for six months, but when the time comes to switch seasons, you’ll be happy you already have some new clothes to wear—all of which were purchased on sale!

Befriend Those in the Know

If you have a favorite shop you find yourself spending a lot of time in, make sure to get friendly with the sales staff! Clothing stores often have unannounced sales, or they regularly begin sales on certain days of the week. If you’re down with the people who work there, they’ll often you tip you off. And if they really like you, they may let you put an item on layaway until it goes on sale a few days later.

Keep It Simple

When you’re buying clothes, always go for classic looks rather than modern, trendy ones. A blue V-neck T-shirt will be fashionable year after year, while something with more exotic colors or patterns will go out of style quickly. By choosing the basics, you won't have to buy as many new articles of clothing each season.

Take It to the Tailor

Going to a tailor may seem like an expensive proposition, but it’s often worth it if you unearth a good deal on a suit or other item of clothing that doesn’t quite fit. Found some jeans for ten bucks that look great but are an inch too long? A jacket that’s a steal, but a bit too baggy in the arms? For a small price, you can get these items custom-fitted at a tailor. And you’ll still be saving a bundle from what the normal retail price would be.

Revamp Shoes and Purses Yourself

Not happy with the color of a handbag or pair of fancy shoes? Instead of buying new accessories, turn that unbecoming chartreuse into an elegant black with a can of shoe color spray. You can pick up an inexpensive can of shoe color from a repair shop, then revamp those heels yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

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“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

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If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

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“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Earn Extra Money by Joining Online Focus Groups

Wanted: your opinion. Share your thoughts on products and services as part of a focus group, and get paid. If that sounds interesting, here’s how to get started — and which focus group companies to contact.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Use a Grocery Price Book to Get the Best Deals

The post How to Use a Grocery Price Book to Get the Best Deals appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to find out when those items you need will be on sale?  Believe it or not, stores usually cycle sales on schedules.  By learning how your store does this, you can always get the best deals and know when to stock up, and when to pass on those deals.  The secret is learning how to use a pricebook.

A price book is also called a grocery price book.  And, it is just what it sounds like – a book which tracks the prices of the items you need at the stores where you shop.

A Price Book is a list of the products you purchase and the prices you pay
to watch for sales trends and cycles.

It will take time to create yours, but once you have it set up, it is easy to maintain and will help you know when those prices are at their lowest, allowing you to stock up and save as much as possible.

 

How Do I Make a Grocery Pricebook?

You want to make sure that what you use is simple enough that you can maintain it.  If you are a techy person, you might want to use something on your smartphone.  If you are a paper list maker, then you might want to go with an easier method like a spiral notebook or binder with inserts.  You can even create a spreadsheet on your computer.   The way you track does not matter.  What matters is that you just do it.

You will want to keep the list organized, however, by breaking it down by the department or possibly even product.  For instance, you will want one sheet for your dairy items, one for meat, one for produce, one for breakfast foods, etc.  That way, when you need to find the prices (and update it), you can easily find it.

 

What Do You Include in the Book?

No matter which method used to create your book, you will want to make sure to keep track of the products you purchase.  These will include:

  • Date
  • Store
  • Product/Brand
  • Size (oz, product count, etc)
  • Price
  • Per unit price

You can create your own form, can print one out below.  Just click the image to learn how you can get one that you can use.

How Do I Create My Price Book?

The simplest thing to do is to start keeping your receipts.  Once you shop, write down the information based on what you purchased.  It takes a little work up front to get started, but eventually, the book will be easy to maintain and you’ll get the hang of it.

To calculate your per unit prices, you will need to make sure you know the product size.  That might mean extra notes when you shop or updating the price book as you put your groceries away.  To determine a per unit price, take the price and divide that by the size.  For example, if you are looking at diapers you would calculate the price per diaper as follows:

$17.49 / 84  = $0.20 per diaper

You can simplify this even more by updating a price book while you shop.  Most stores have the per unit price listed right on the shelf for you.  That makes it simpler for you as you can just write down the price in your book.

Do I Ever Change the Price?

Yes!  That is the reason a Price Book works!  As you shop, you might have a price for an item listed in your booklet, but you find it on sale for less.  You will want to update that price in your book as that means there was a sale.

When you see it on sale again the next time, you might start to learn the sales cycle, such as every six weeks or every 12 weeks.  Doing this is how you learn when to shop for the items you need.

How Do I Make the This Work for Me?

Before you shop, you will want to consult your pricebook to see if the items on sale are the lowest price or if you know you can get a better deal.  If your Price Book shows a lower price, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy that product.  It just means only purchase whatever amount you need to get by until the item goes on sale again at the lower price.

On the flip side of this, if you find that the price in the weekly ad is lower than what you show in your price book, it might mean that you not only need to update your price book pricing, but it also will let you know that it is a good time to stock up at this low price!

Does the Book Do More Than Share Sales Cycles?

It sure does!  If you find a great coupon, you will know in advance about what you will pay at the store.  Your price book helps you determine which store you want to shop at so you can use the coupon for the best deal.

A price book can also help with your budget.  If you find that you’ve got “too much month and not enough money” left until your next payday, you can make your list and know ahead of time what you can expect to pay at checkout.  This way, there are no surprises, and you can adjust your shopping list before you shop!

grocery pricebook

The post How to Use a Grocery Price Book to Get the Best Deals appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Math Tips for Smart Shopping

Calculator in a Shopping CartI recently ran across a 2012 article from The Atlantic called The 11 Ways That Consumers Are Hopeless at Math. The title of this article hooked me, and as I began reading I found that there are indeed a few ways in which consumers misunderstand math – and pay the price as a result.

But I also found that most of the so-called “math tricks" that people get caught up in are really better described as number-based psychological hacks, which marketers use to extract every last penny from us that they can.

So it's not so much that consumers are hopeless at math as they are susceptible to being tricked. Which is precisely what a savvy shopper knows how to avoid.

What are some of these mathematical misunderstandings that you should be aware of? And what are some of the most common number-based psychological hacks? Those are exactly the questions we’ll be looking at today, as we finish up the year with a resolution to become even smarter shoppers in the new year.

Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by NatureBox. Discover smarter snacking with a new NatureBox each month. Get your first box FREE when you go to naturebox.com/qdt.

How Much Bang For Your Buck?

The article I mentioned from The Atlantic begins with an anecdote that nicely points out one of the biggest flaws in the way the average consumer shops. Namely, that when it comes to pricing and deals, most people go with their gut instead of taking a few seconds to think things through.

Here's the story: Imagine you walk into a coffee shop, take a look at the day’s specials, and see a sign that says, “Today only, your choice—get 33% more coffee for the regular price, or pay 33% less for the regular amount of coffee!” If you were presented with these two options, which would you choose?

In truth, choosing the best deal isn't always just a question of numbers. For example, if you really wanted more than your regular amount of coffee that day, then the extra coffee option would be a fine choice. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here, so let’s rephrase the question a bit to focus on the math.

The real question is this: Which option is the better deal in terms of dollars spent per ounce of coffee? After all, that’s what we’re really talking about when we speak of being a savvy shopper—getting the most bang for your buck.

Most people's gut instinct is that the two deals are about equally as good.

Most people’s gut instinct is that the two deals—33% more coffee for the same price or the same amount of coffee for 33% less money—are equally as good. After all, they both have the same 33% in them. But let’s do the math to see if this assumption is really true.

Imagine your usual 8 oz. cup of coffee costs $2. In this case, the first option gives you about 1.33 x 8 oz. = 10.6 oz. of coffee for $2, while the second option gives you your usual 8 oz. of coffee for a price of 0.67 x $2 = $1.34. That means you pay $2 / 10.6 oz. = 18.9 cents/oz. with the first option, but only $1.34 / 8 oz. = 16.8 cents/oz. with the second.

So, clearly, the second option is a better deal. While it's tempting to get something "free" for the same amount you usually pay (the first option), in this case, getting the amount you actually want for less money is a better deal—especially if you don't really need that extra coffee anyway. And, as always, the math is there to back you up.


What’s the Best Deal?

People prefer to make choices between similar and easily-comparable options.

As I mentioned at the outset, most savvy shopping skills are really less about math and more about avoiding the number-based psychological hacks that marketers (would love to) play on you. While perusing the news this week, I found an article discussing a perfect example of this kind of sneaky hackery.

This example was originally described in Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational, in which he talks about running across an advertisement to subscribe to the magazine The Economist. The advertisement lists 3 possible deals:

  1. Web-only subscription for $59/year
  2. Print-only subscription for $125/year
  3. Print + web subscription for $125/year

If confronted with these options, which would you choose? If you’re anything like the 100 MIT students that Dan Ariely posed this question to, you’d pick the print + web subscription for $125/year; 84% of the MIT students chose that offer, while 16% chose the cheaper web-only subscription.

Not surprisingly, nobody chose the middle print-only option. After all, it’s a pretty bad deal compared to the third option, which gives you the same thing plus something extra, all for the same price. But if that middle option is such a bad deal, why did the marketers even bother to include it?

To answer this question, Dan Ariely removed the second option from the list and presented the two remaining options to another group of 100 MIT students. This time, with just the $59 web-only and $125 print + web subscriptions to choose from, 68% chose the cheaper web-only subscription and 32% chose the print + web subscription. Remember, when all three options were available, 84% of students chose the more expensive option and only 16% chose the cheaper subscription.

So why did the marketers include that strange print-only subscription option? Because they also figured out that more people would choose the more expensive subscription if the print-only option was there.

What’s the math behind this? There isn’t any—this one is purely psychological. Sure, there are numbers involved, but all they’re really doing here is pointing out that people prefer to make choices between similar and easily-comparable options – so when they’re given the opportunity to do so, they will.

It may not be rational, but it is very real. And knowing how to spot this kind of trick is a big part of learning how to use math—or at least numbers—to be a more savvy shopper.

Wrap Up

Okay, that’s all the math we have time for today.

For more fun with math, please check out my book, The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Algebra. And remember to become a fan of The Math Dude on Facebook, where you’ll find lots of great math posted throughout the week. If you’re on Twitter, please follow me there, too.

Until next time, this is Jason Marshall with The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Make Math Easier. Thanks for reading, math fans!

Calculator-in-a-shopping cart image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

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Value of Reducing or Foregoing Expenses. Small changes in your daily routine can add up to big budget savings. Find out how much.

How Much Does Inflation Impact my Standard of Living? How much will you need in 5, 10 or 30 years to maintain your standard of living?

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The post Budgeting Help appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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Stop Saving for retirement. Start Investing for Retirement Instead.

Here’s why saving money will never get you to retirement — and here’s what you should be doing instead.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com