Tools to Help You Budget in 2013

New year, new budget!  For many, the new year brings a fresh start to managing your finances.  Budgeting is one of the most popular resolutions made.

There are many tools available to help you meet your financial goals, so many that it can be overwhelming. 

I’d like to share a couple of tools with you that I personally use (and have used for quite some time).

1.  Credit Sesame:  This service provides you with an instant view of your credit report and score.  It also sends you email notifications if the score changes so that you can stay on top of things.

This free service was developed at Stanford University and even includes tools to help lower your debt. 

2.  ManillaManilla is a free service that allows you to manage everything in one place.  You can track all of your accounts, utilities, loyalty cards, subscriptions, rewards cards, and more. 

You can elect to receive text and/or email reminders when a bill is due, subscription is expiring, and other financial changes.

3.  Budget and Bills Printable Planner:  As techie as I am, I still prefer writing important things down on paper.  It helps me remember easier, I can see the whole picture, and it’s always accessible.  This printable set is my favorite!

Both of these have made my hectic life MUCH easier!  They are both secure and extremely safe to use.

Save Like Me | Savings Account, Credit Scores, and Fireworks

Fireworks 19

Welcome to the first edition of ‘Save Like Me’.  I want to talk today about two things that have made a major impact on our financial lives, along with something fun.  You might notice that some of these tips seem familiar, but these tips are what encouraged me to start this series.  I cannot emphasize enough the impact they can make on your finances.

Start a savings account with automatic transfers. 

I can hear you starting to make excuses now.  “But we don’t have any extra money!”  Do you know why you don’t have extra money?  There’s a good chance that it’s because you don’t have a savings account.

When you put money into a savings account, it doesn’t disappear forever.  You can take it back out when you need it.  It’s not like handing it to Taco Bell, Walmart, or Starbucks.  It’s still YOURS.

Even if you don’t have any money, ING Direct is offering $17.76 in FREE money for each kids’ savings account you open with NO initial deposit.  You can withdraw the bonus in 30 days- just in time for back to school shopping.  Anyone can sign up, and it’s one of the most trusted banks in the country. (We have used this bank for a few years and it helped us save effortlessly to move from a paid off trailer to a house (paying half down), pay cash for our cars, and take an annual vacation.)

How to get this bonus:

1.  Set up an ING Direct account via this link:  KIDS Savings Account Bonus

2.  Select ‘Open a Kids’ Savings Account’.

3.  That’s IT!

4.  I do recommend you set up a regular deposit of at least $1- it will definitely add up to help pay for those unexpected expenses. (Tip:  If you start adding $10 per week when your child is a baby, you’ll have $10,000 saved when they turn 18).

They are offering several other cash bonus promotions- totaling $625.  What are you waiting for? Set up an ING Direct account NOW!

Check your credit score regularly

We have very little credit, because we’ve always paid cash for everything (see above).  I didn’t think there was any reason to run our credit reports or check our scores regularly.  WRONG.

Junk mail started showing up at our house with the name ‘Aliclh’ on it.  My name is Alicia.  Somewhere along the lines, some dummy made a typo on my credit information.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to do anything when your social security number doesn’t match the name on your credit report?  We had problems with our car insurance and even job interviews! 

After 8 years, I’m still trying to get this straightened out. 

I signed up for Credit Sesame about a year ago and am so happy with their free service.  Not only do they let you view your score for free, they work with the ‘Big Three’ reporting agencies and send you updates when your score raises or lowers.  About 6 months ago, I got notice that my husband’s score had taken a hit.  A credit card company had reported a $160 charge from 1998.  He would have been 17. The address on the card was definitely not his, and the company reversed the charges immediately.  Had we not been notified of this, it might have hurt us greatly when buying our home.


The Cheapest Place to Buy Fireworks

After years of searching, I’ve finally found a great fireworks store!  It’s a bit of a drive, but everyone I’ve sent over there has been more than thrilled. 

It’s called Kovak’s Fireworks, and they have locations in Warsaw, Laurie, and St. Joe.  Their prices run around 70% less than our local stands.  The kids went last week and bought 3 grocery bags full for $58.  The week before, they spent $38 on a paper lunch sack full at the local stand. 

View their ad and information here: Kovak’s Fireworks

Budgeting Question: How do you handle unexpected medical expenses?


Medical bills are one of the main reasons that many families are in financial turmoil.  We’ve had our fair share of medical bills (helicopters aren’t cheap!), and I’m blessed to have a husband that works his tail off for our insurance.

It seems that we can sometimes go a long time between doctor’s appointments, but if one of us goes, it’s like opening the flood gates.  My husband had to go Monday afternoon for a couple of spider bites.  Tuesday, both kids had dentist appointments, and Katie had to see her pediatrician for some stomach issues.  We headed straight to Ethan’s baseball game, where he took a wild pitch off of his wrist. 

My husband definitely needed to go, I can’t buy those meds at Dollar General. I consider dental cleanings an investment.  Katie received a prescription for Zantac- an OTC medication.  Ethan’s wrist was not broken, thank goodness.  We were already in town and urgent care was the same co-pay as the pediatrician. 

Two of these trips could have been avoided- but sometimes it’s better safe than sorry.  However, it makes me sick to have to spend $100 on copays within 24 hours.  I am setting up a copay savings account in my ING Direct account today!

I highly recommend setting up a savings account with ING Direct. ING Direct is one of the largest online banks in the country. One of their perks is that they allow you to set up unlimited FREE, interest-bearing savings accounts. You can name each account whatever you’d like and set up automatic transfers to each one. ING will then transfer the amount of money you chose on the date or cycle specified. After a couple of weeks, you won’t even notice this transaction!

The more effortless you make saving, the easier it is to put money away. There’s a pretty good chance that if you have to go to the bank, call them, or even log in to your online banking each week to make a deposit into savings, you will never get around to putting the money into that account.

But I already have a savings account at my local bank. Why do I need this?

· By keeping your savings separate, you are less likely to dip into them.

· ING accounts draw a higher interest rate than most banks.

· Your bank may not offer automatic deposits into your savings account.

· You may transfer your ING funds back to your bank at any time, but it takes 2-3 days for the transaction to process. This will prevent you from making impulse purchases with these funds. Studies show that up to 90% of all purchases would not be made if the customer was to go home and ‘sleep on it’ before making a purchase.

Still leery about having your money ‘two days away’? You can apply for a debit card. NOTE: This is only for the strongest willed shoppers. If you are dead-set on getting a debit card with them, lock the pin number and the card up immediately so that you don’t have instant access to it. By leaving it behind while shopping, you will curb impulse purchases and still retain instant access to your account.

To sign up for an ING Direct account, visit this secure address:

Do you add room in your budget for copays and unexpected prescriptions?  Is this a common expense for you?  Let us know how you handle it in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your responses and ideas on how to cut copay costs!

Looking for a great budgeting system?  Check out our Budget and Bills printable set on Etsy.  Get a copy of my personal budgeting set for just $4 this week!

UPS MyChoice is Open Again | This Saved My Christmas Sanity

UPS My Choice is now taking registrations again.  This is an amazing free service that allows you to electronically authorize packages for drop-of, re-route to other locations and many other options.

You may remember that we moved just before Christmas.  I had ordered several packages with slow shipping speeds before we closed on our house.  I didn’t want them left in the elements at the old house, so I was able to re-route them directly to us!

They only accept registrations occasionally, so I’d register now in case you ever need it!


*This is a sponsored post.  All views stated are my own personal views and are no way influenced by UPS.