Virtual Coupon Clipping

The holidays are coming up, which means you can expect another season of frenzied shoppers trying to find the best deals, both in person and online.  You’re familiar with the concept of coupons, but you just can’t be bothered to browse through those coupon magazines, finding and clipping the ones that apply to you.  Maybe you’ll take advantage of a Black Friday sale, but that doesn’t require any extra effort (besides physically getting your hands on the product on that busy day).

For these reasons, I prefer to do a lot of my holiday shopping online.  Today I’d like to share a tip with you that is easy to implement and will save you plenty of money on online purchases and shipping.  Use RetailMeNot!

http://www.retailmenot.com/

Whatever website you are about to purchase something from, you should search on this website first.  It is a catalog of coupon codes that you can enter during “checkout” to get discounts and often free shipping.  No leafing through pages and pages of advertisements, and no storing them in your wallet until it is about to burst.  Just simple strings of letters and numbers that you can copy and paste to keep some savings on each and every online purchase.  After you do this for the first time, you’ll wonder how much money you could have saved if you knew about this before.

So take advantage of it!  Happy bargain hunting, as you think of creative and thoughtful gifts to give your loved ones for the holidays!

Dividend round-up

A little less than a year ago, in November 2012, I had just paid off all of my student and car loans and had accumulated just enough money to begin investing seriously.  I researched different types of accounts and brokerage services before opening a Roth IRA with E*Trade.  I contributed the maximum allowed amount ($5k) in 2012 and 2013.  Most of this I chose to invest in VTSMX, a Vanguard mutual fund, but I also invested smaller amounts in other dividend-producing stocks.  Today, after reviewing a dividend notification on E*Trade, I thought “Wouldn’t it be fun to see just how much money I’ve made over the past year from dividends alone?” which inspired me to create this post.

For investing newbies out there (20-somethings like me):  A dividend is a payment made by a company to its shareholders, as a way to distribute its profits.  Many people reinvest these dividend amounts, and others use the cash elsewhere.  Money made from dividends is to be thought of separately from money made by a stock price going up.  For example:  If you buy 100 shares of FakeCo Inc at $50 a share, that will cost you $5000.  Let’s say that they pay a dividend of 25 cents per share per quarter.  Three years later the stock price is exactly the same ($50/share) so you sell your stock and get your $5000 back.  So what was the point?  Well, over those three years you would have made (25 cents) * (100 shares) * (12 quarters of a year) = $300.  Hopefully the market value of your investments goes up also, but dividends are a nice bonus.  I heard somebody once compare trading stocks without dividends to trading baseball cards.

Anyway, after thinking to myself how interesting it would be to know exactly how much money I’ve made from dividends over the past year, I looked it up:  $287.94

This is wonderful!  To borrow an analogy from MMM, every dollar I have invested is one of my little employees, and these dividends are the bacon that they bring home.  This essentially free money that I spent no effort earning through my own labor represents an additional gain of roughly 2% of my Roth IRA savings.

And that is the power of dividends, produced by stocks and/or mutual funds that you plan on owning long-term.  As I invest more and more in the coming years I look forward to seeing this number grow.  Just because you’re young, don’t be daunted by beginning and investing your retirement savings; see what can be accomplished in just a year!

EOM September 2013

Howdy Pilgrims!

My savings rate for September was 59%.  This is a little disappointing to me as my current goal for 2013 is to have a higher savings rate than 2012 (which was 67%) and right now I’m hovering around 65% for YTD.  From another perspective, saving 59% is way above the American average, but if I don’t hold myself to a higher standard than nobody else is going to.

This month I’d like to share some ways that I saved money in September.

  • My fiance’s dentist offers a promotion where if you refer a new patient, you (and the new patient) each get a $50 gift card to be used at local restaurants/spas.  For the month of September they doubled the promotion, and since I had been wanting to switch dentists anyway, we took advantage of it.  Just yesterday we got two gift cards in the mail for $100 each.  That is a total value of $200 that we get to enjoy for free!  Who still believes that you have to live austerely to realize extreme savings?
  • I did not buy GTAV (although I was sorely tempted).  For the uninitiated, this is a popular video game with a gigantic production budget.  Buying this game on its September 17 release date would have set me back $60.  I hope to own and play it eventually, but I can wait for it to go down in price.  Imagine consuming something that cost $266 million dollars to make, for the low price of $15 (the current price of an earlier but not yet obsolete game in the series).  The mind boggles.  In the meantime, I’ve been taking advantage of Microsoft’s “Games with Gold” XBOXLIVE promotion, which makes a game available for free download every 15 days.  Many of them are quite good, and I may not have known about them otherwise.
  • I applied for this Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card a few months ago, knowing that if I cancel it in less than a year I will avoid the annual fee.  One of the benefits of this card are the frequent flier miles they give you.  This month, I used those miles to purchase my plane ticket home for the winter holidays.  Expedia estimates the current price of the round-trip ticket I bought to be $422.  My fiance did the same, for total family savings of $844.  The total cost to us was $0!  Incredible.
  • I saved some money on groceries and other day-to-day living expenses by eating and living at an all-inclusive Jamaican resort for a week.  My special lady and I planned and paid for this trip back in March (my savings rate that month was about 50%).  On the way there and back we avoided hotel costs by staying a total of three nights with different friends of ours in Chicago, and avoided gas and tolls to/from Chicago by buying Megabus tickets way in advance (they were $6 each, round trip).  I get that Caribbean vacations aren’t exactly a great way to save money, but I mainly just wanted to include this picture.

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My tip for you this month is to take advantage of promotional deals, and try to make the most of your paid vacation (a little planning goes a long way).

Happy Saving!