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My husband and I bought a 5-year-old vehicle 7 years ago, a particular make and model with high ratings for both reliability and owner satisfaction that holds its value well. The car has been incredibly dependable — even through a cross-country move a few years back. Recently, however, we’ve noticed an uptick in our vehicle maintenance and repair costs so we have started thinking about selling or trading it in before the transport eats up more money than it’s worth.

With the aim of matching a newer vehicle price as close to the sale price of this one as possible (Who wants a car loan? We’ve been car payment-free for over three years and loving it!), I’ve been looking for any bit of advice for squeezing every cent-worth of value out of it. Here’s what I found.

Selling a Used Car Privately

Direct-sale prices are as much as 20% higher than trade-in values based on Kelly Blue Book, but there are trade-offs — chiefly time, effort, and patience. Here’s what the experts recommend doing to get the highest private sale price out of your vehicle.

  1. Fix small faults and maintenance items that impact perceived value.

Yellowed head lamps, burned-out blinkers, and broken key fobs might not seem like a big deal when compared to more valuable components, but these things can leave a bad impression with a potential buyer.

Things like worn-out tires and brake pads can also be a deal-breaker. Even if these items aren’t that expensive or serious, a buyer may hesitate when they discover they’ll need to replace these things right away. Some say you’ll likely recoup doublethe cost of simple fixes because they improve your vehicle’s desirability.

  1. Get an inspection and keep records of maintenance and repairs.

Hopefully you’ve already been keeping good records. Providing the paperwork for routine maintenance such as oil changes shows that the vehicle has been conscientiously cared for. And, if you’re not certain of your vehicle’s condition, now is the time to find out — before a potential buyer requests a pre-purchase inspection. It’s also a good idea to request a CARFAX report that proves it’s never been in a collision. All of this will add more credibility to your listing.

  1. Have the vehicle professionally detailed.

Stained, dirty carpet, scratches, and dings immediately stand out when you look closely at a vehicle. A professional detailing — which may include shampooing, engine de-greasing, buffing, and fixing paint imperfections — only costs a couple hundred dollars, yet adds as much as $500 to your vehicle’s resale value.

If you know what you’re doing, save yourself some more by detailing it yourself.

  1. Be accurate. Make it interesting. And take good pictures.

Detail is also important in vehicle descriptions and photographs, especially if you’re advertising your car on Craigslist and other online resale markets. Vague, unimpressive descriptions and dark or distant photos aren’t going to help sell your vehicle. You don’t need to be dishonest about its condition, but you do want to play up its best features and make your vehicle stand out.

  1. Do pricing research. Don’t take the first offer. Choose the right time to sell.

Sites like Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, and Autotrader will give you a ballpark figure for the private sale value of your vehicle and a chance to see what similar vehicles are selling for on smaller sites or used dealerships in your area. Use them as a starting point and try to get as much out of your vehicle as you can.

Even if you’re trying to sell fast, don’t take the first offer you get. This is where patience comes in! Be strategic about pricing: if you set the initial price 5 to 10% higher than its value, your buyer will think they’re getting a steal when you accept a lower offer (this is known as anchor price comparison).

And, although you can’t always wait for ideal market conditions to sell a vehicle, consider the season you are in. It makes sense that SUVs and four-wheel drive vehicles sell better in fall and winter, while sports cars and rear-wheel drive vehicles have a better chance of catching someone’s eye in spring and summer.

Trading in a Used Car

Dealerships are notorious for paying as little as possible for a trade-in, then jacking up the retail price once they’ve spiffed it up. But, if you don’t have time to wait through the private-sale process, trading in a vehicle can be the easiest and fastest way to go. Here are a few tricks to ensure you get the most — even from a car salesman.

  1. Know the value and negotiate for more, but don’t settle for less.

Walk in with a solid understanding of what your vehicle is worth, and you’ll get a different reaction from the dealership than if you don’t have a clue. Always try to get the most out of your vehicle, but have a rock-bottom price in the back of your head, and don’t let them pressure you in to settling for anything lower than this.

  1. Compare offers from at least 3 dealers.

Some say you’re likely to get the best offer from the dealership that services your vehicle, since they have its records and know they can get top dollar when they re-sell it. Regardless of where you go, get at least three offers to compare before making a decision. Some dealerships will have a higher demand for certain vehicle types and will be willing to pay more, while others will view purchasing your vehicle simply as a way of getting you to finance a new one.

  1. Move fast.

Most dealership offers are good for a week or less, so if you choose this route, you’ll need to move quickly before the dealership changes its mind.

Getting top dollar for selling your car can be a hassle, but you’ll definitely get more money if you take the time during the whole process. If you think about it, the effort you put in is like having a part time job that pays really well. Do your research, make your preparations and profit.

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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Let’s say you’re craving a brand new car. Even though you just paid off Old Reliable and should be enjoying payment free months for the first time in what feels like forever.

Yet, seeing all the shiny new SUVs in your neighborhood is enough to keep you up at night dreaming of the day you’ll own one, too. Soon enough you find yourself sitting on the opposite side of a salesman’s desk, ready to sign on the dotted line for another deal with the devil.

Halt! Hasty Decisions Lead to Financial Losses

Living in the electronic age, we’ve grown used to, and now demand, instant gratification. This overindulgence is murdering our wallets. We want what we want and we want it now. And thanks to credit cards and life at the speed of text, we’ve forgotten how to be patient, or to hold out for what we need, rather than surrendering to our fleeting wants.

But buying just to buy will always dig you deeper into a hole you never want to be in. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you have responsibilities that you simply cannot ignore – your rent or mortgage, car payment, education, food, gas, shelter – all are essential to modern life, and none are free.

Often, the two nickels you have left over aren’t enough to rub together, let alone pay for the movie you want to see at the theater, or buy on DVD four months later.

But that doesn’t stop you, not when your credit cards make the purchase as simple as signing your name or pushing a button.

Rushing Headlong into Instant Gratification

When you rush into purchases, large or small, you’re throwing money to the breeze. The movie that you put on your card was awesome! And you LOVED it. But that was $15, including the snack, and that’s if you went alone.

And what did you get out of it?

Two hours of entertainment, if you’re lucky.

Sure, you satisfied your impulse to see a film, and did what you wanted to do. But you lost money to your impulsive need for instant gratification.

The same thing applies to buying a new car you didn’t need. Your old car worked fine. It just wasn’t as fashionable as Mrs. Jones’. It’s pride and vanity that sends you to the dealership, not necessity.

You rushed forward, and were temporarily satisfied. But now you’ve lost. Now you will have to worry about where the money will come from to pay the babysitter next week, and maybe every month after that.

Isn’t constant peace of mind better than temporary gratification?

Pausing Brings Financial Peace

Slowing down long enough to put perspective on where your money is going and what you’re really going to get from your purchases will let you stop floundering with your finances.

Stopping to think will give you time to let the embers cool to gray; time to think about what you’re truly getting from purchasing that SUV, or going out for another expensive movie or dinner.

We buy things because they make us feel great in the moment. But the half-life of that joy is short, and diminishes with every purchase. Sure, you will be happy for a week or even two, but the footprint of those purchases will leave you feeling guilty and resentful.

Stop long enough to question your motives and you can eliminate the cycle of guilt, and earn the peace of mind that comes with being in control, rather than being at the mercy of your emotions.

Ask yourself these 5 simple questions before making your next purchase and you will end the financial floundering and the guilt that follows.

5 Questions to Ask Before Making Financial Decisions

These questions will help you understand the whys behind your buys:

  • What will you gain from this purchase?
  • How long can you expect your happiness to last?
  • Are there lower cost alternatives that will accomplish a similar feeling?
  • What else can you do that will bring you as much joy as what you’re wanting to buy?
  • How much will this purchase really cost, in terms of more money, time, or loss of funds from another area of your budget?

Use these questions to help you see the true cost of impulsive spending and bring you financial peace of mind, one smart decision at a time.

Here are some ways to delay gratification, but what trick do you use to stop you from making impulse buys?

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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Have you ever had the “more” mindset? You know, where it doesn’t matter what you’re doing or what you have — you always want more? Maybe you want to earn more money, have a nicer house, or buy a better car.

I used to be the same way.

I’d set financial goals, hit them, and then immediately set other, bigger goals. I was never satisfied. I felt like I deserved better. I wanted more.

After a year of struggling to keep my head above water, I had a mental shift. Things were tough for my two kids and me; we were on our own, living on a poverty wage. But I avoided debt, built up some savings, and made it work.

It was a year full of hard work and sacrifices. And during that year, I started practicing gratitude. It was the only way I could stay positive.

Being thankful for what I have started to become a daily routine, one which has stuck with me. And since then, my entire relationship with money has changed.

Here’s how being grateful has made me a better manager of money:

1. I Want Less

Every night, before I go to bed, I count my blessings. I recognize how truly lucky I am compared to millions of other people in the world who have no homes, no food, and poor health.

When you think about the hand you’ve been dealt in life, you start to realize how incredibly fortunate you are. And since I can now recognize this, I want less. Material items and status symbols have become a thing of the past, because I’m more interested in nurturing my relationships and giving back than I am in having the latest smart phone or car. Not only has this been good for my soul, it’s been good for my bank account.

2. I Treat My Dollars as Employees

When I was first out on my own, I had to make my money work. I only earned around $20,000 a year, so I had no choice but to stretch every dollar as far as possible.

Debt wasn’t an option. In fact, I was determined to take care of my family and build an emergency fund on my salary. I got creative, slashed my expenses in any way I could, found some side work, and started saving.

I was grateful for every single dollar I could add to my emergency fund, and I learned to use my money as a tool. Frivolous spending was out of the question; my dollars were now my employees, and I was going to tell them what to do.

Now that I have some breathing room in my budget, I do allow myself to spend money on the little things that bring happiness to my family and me — but I don’t take my money for granted.

3. I Feel Compelled to Give Back

Just a few years ago, I would’ve had a hard time giving my money away to good causes. I felt entitled to my money: I deserved it.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I understand how incredibly lucky I am to be living the life I’m living, and I feel compelled to help others who aren’t as fortunate. Ten dollars is far more valuable to someone who’s starving than it is to me. I truly want to help other people improve their lives in any way possible — whether that means giving my time or my money.

Your Turn

The next time you feel jealous when your coworker gets a promotion, your friend buys a new BMW, or your neighbor seems to be effortlessly remodeling every room in his house, count your blessings. Focus on what you have, instead of what you don’t have.

Practicing gratitude isn’t going to transform you overnight, but I promise: if you stick with it, your relationship with money will change for the better.

How do you practice gratitude? Do you think it’s helped you manage your money?

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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Just Google the term “get rich” and you’ll see a ton of results for ways to get ahead as easily as possible. And it’s not just get-rich-quick schemes too. There are now a growing number of legitimate money-making opportunities on and offline. Still, there’s a gap between the number of people obsessed with getting rich and those who achieve this elusive benchmark. After all, the road to wealth is filled with hurdles — whether circumstantial, mental, or emotional.

Circumstances can be hard to overcome, but I think our biggest problem sits between our ears. You can be in the right place at the right time, with everything going for you, and still not get ahead. If desire and even circumstances aren’t enough, how do you know you’re prepared to get rich?

I think these seven signs can be good indicators.

1. You Can Clearly Define What “Rich” Will Look Like for You.

A common hang-up is the inability to define what rich means for you, personally. Most of us aren’t shooting for Bill Gates-level wealth, yet we haven’t defined what we are aiming for. The more clarity you give to the vague idea of wealth, the more tangible it will become to you, and the more it will drive you to do the work it takes to get there. It will also be much easier to tell when you’ve achieved it.

2. You’re Ready to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone.

The process of getting wealthy is rarely comfortable. Even if you manage to get rich doing something you love, it will require some level of discomfort. This could mean pushing yourself to learn new skills, practicing to perfect your art, dealing with annoying people, or stepping into social circles and settings you’re not used to. If you’re ready for discomfort, you’re not ready to get rich.

3. You’re Ready for Risk­, and Loss.

The greatest achievements are often preceded by the greatest risks, the greatest failures, and the greatest losses. Just read the stories of some of the most successful people on the planet, and you’ll see plenty of proof for this. Gaining financial freedom means taking calculated risks and staying determined despite challenges and initial failure. We’re often most afraid of the unknown and what we can’t control — so take control. Being ready for risk requires spelling out exactly what could go wrong and having a game plan in case it does.

4. You’re Willing to Live Like No One Else.

If you want to get rich, you’re going to have to live as if you’re not. We often envision wealth as the freedom to live lavishly, but the wealthiest people are usually the most frugal with their spending. Saving and wisely investing money rather than spending it is what truly makes — and keeps — people rich.

And it goes beyond spending habits. The wealthiest people read more (and not just novels), watch less than one hour of television each day, and use most of their Internet time for work-related tasks. This isn’t to say that wealthy people don’t enjoy themselves. They just waste less of their time than most of us do.

5. You’re Unafraid of What People Might Think.

Socially, strange things can happen when your income level changes. People might start acting jealous, assume you’ve changed, stereotype you, or find it awkward to relate to you. Wealth will often reveal who your true friends are and can even hurt genuine relationships.

The fear of how wealth will change your social position or others’ perception of you can unconsciously hold you back from pursuing a better financial position. Until you get past this, it will be difficult to whole-heartedly pursue financial freedom.

6. You’re Fed Up With The Status Quo.

Sometimes, we just aren’t ready to do what it takes to get wealthy because we haven’t had it bad enough yet. Despite its problems, the status quo can feel safe and even comforting if it’s all you’ve ever known. When you’re fed up with mediocre finances, it’s a powerful source of motivation to do what it takes to build wealth.

7. You Spend Time Absorbing Positive Thinking.

Negativity and pessimism will throw water on any sparks of motivation to get rich. Do you have friends who complain about their money problems but never do anything about them or always shoot down your ideas? Getting wealthy will require spending a little less time with them and more time with people who will encourage you to pursue your goals.

People that build wealth believe in themselves, believe in the real possibilities of where they can be financially, and surround themselves with people and influences (role models, blogs, books, podcasts) that foster a can-do attitude.

So, how do you measure up? Are you ready to get wealthy, or do you need to start working on one of these areas first?

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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Summer is a great time to get intentional about teaching your kids the value of a dollar. A good summer job can help fend off some of the laziness that June, July, and August tends to bring.

Not only do small summer jobs keep kids busy during the summer months, but they provide them with some of their own pocket cash. There’s no better way to learn about personal finance than to experience making money firsthand.

Alas, there are many jobs available to kids that don’t involve a lemonade stand. Here are 20 of our favorites:

1. Making and selling paracord bracelets, keychains, and belts

Sometimes called survival bracelets, paracord crafts are popular and easy to make. Kids as young as eight can learn to make paracord crafts, and instructions are easily found on the Internet. Boys and girls alike often enjoy making paracord projects, especially when the prospect of selling them for extra income is mentioned.

2. Weeding

Weeding during the summer months is a constant chore, and for adults who can’t tolerate heat, weeding must be done early in the morning or near dusk. Hiring neighborhood kids (or your own) to keep up with the weeds is often a welcome opportunity for all involved.

3. Washing windows

Window-washing services are always in demand. When armed with a squeegee, a dish soap and water mixture, and a few clean towels, washing windows can be easy even for kids.

4. Washing dogs

During summer months, anything involving water can be a fun chore. Keeping the dog clean can seem like a never ending task, especially when they seek out the coolness of mud and dirt during the summertime heat. Enlist your little ones to regularly wash the dog for pay, or hand out flyers to friends and family to earn more doggie clients.

5. Washing cars

Car washes are a regular part of summertime, and car wash events to raise money are seen often in populated areas. Kids can make a sign for their own “fundraiser” for college money, a trip to the zoo, or whatever products or services they choose to save up for. Members of your community will pitch in to support your kids, if only to encourage their hard work.

6. Yard sale organization

Your kids may have a wealth of goods collecting dust in their bedrooms or playrooms. Have them go through their belongings (and yours) to determine what can be sold at a yard sale. You’ll have to pitch in to help with the organizing, promoting, and supervision, but yard sales during the summer often bring in extra cash for families.

7. Blog set-up

If you have a tech-savvy teen, consider helping them hire themselves out for blog set-up services for businesses and individuals.

8. Social media services

Have a teenager who always seems to be on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest? Why not send them for training to put their love of social media to work? Many business owners are too busy or confused to handle social media management, and are happy to pay someone to post regularly (in a professional and appropriate manner) on the business’ behalf.

9. Newspaper delivery

The tried and true newspaper delivery route has funded many a teenager’s purchase dreams for decades.

10. Recycling

Recycling scrap metal and aluminum cans can help kids earn some extra cash.

11. Auto detailing

If your child is a neat freak, auto detailing may be a profitable summer career choice. Attention to details makes all the difference in a well-done detail job.

12. Basic auto maintenance

If your kids are grease monkeys in training, basic auto maintenance tasks can help them stay busy this summer. Filling windshield washer fluid, changing wiper blades, and checking the engine oil and tire pressure for a fee is a viable summer job option.

13. Birthday party entertainment

If your child is a born entertainer, encourage their natural skills with a summer entertainment job. Performing magic tricks, making balloon animals, playing an instrument, or telling jokes for parties are all tasks a young entertainer might enjoy.

14. Photo editing and organization

You know that shoebox of old photos? Why not pay a tech-savvy child with time on their hands to scan and organize all of your old photos for scrapbooking, printing, or archiving?

15. Loose change sorting

Our family keeps a loose change bucket. All pocket change goes in the bucket, and every summer the kids are tasked with counting, sorting, and rolling the change to take to the bank. The majority of the change goes toward a family vacation, but each child also receives a percentage of the profits for the work they perform.

16. eBay listings

Selling extra items on eBay is a great way to introduce your older kids to making money on auction sites.

17. Growing fresh herbs and veggies

For kids with a green thumb, growing fresh herbs and veggies to sell is an enjoyable summertime job.

18. Baking

Baked goods like cookies, cupcakes, and pies are always favorite sellers.

19. Reflexology

If your child thinks chiropractic, massage therapy, or naturopathic healing might be a worthwhile career, why not let them get a taste of their future career by trying out foot reflexology for hire?

20. Digitizing media

Turn all those cassette tapes, records, CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes into digitized media by hiring a tech-savvy teen to do the conversion for you. Conversion equipment is readily available, but performing conversions and cataloging your files can be time consuming. Outsourcing these tasks to your kids (or the neighbors’) can get the task done without tying up your schedule for hours.

What jobs are your kids doing this summer? Share your thoughts to help others find the perfect job for their kids.

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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Used furniture can be a practical way to add to your home’s decor without breaking the bank. While the phrase may conjure up some idea of a couch found next to a dumpster or an ugly dresser handed down just in time for your first apartment, the fact is that it’s possible to find high quality used furniture that has little more wear and tear on it than the floor model at the brand name furniture store.

But many used furniture sellers know exactly what they have on their hands, leading to prices that are not so far off from what a brand new sofa or dining room table might cost you. That means finding the right deal can take a little work. These 10 tips can make it easier:

1. Plan your purchase.

Shopping for new furniture can include plenty of staring at catalogs, making sure patterns match and all that. Shopping for used furniture is a very different animal. You can, and should, have a general idea of the style and colors you want for your home, but be prepared to be flexible. The more flexible you can afford to be, in terms of how well your furniture needs to match an ideal, the better you can do in finding the right pieces. Make a list ahead of time and determine where you’re willing to be flexible – that list can help you stick to your budget when you see an end table or something else that matches your new purchase better than what’s already in that space.

2. Examine furniture carefully.

One of the biggest problems you can face when purchasing furniture second-hand is determining just why the seller is getting rid of that furniture. If you’re working with a middle-man, such as a consignment shop, it’s still important to take a good look at the piece — check for cracks, signs of repair and anything else that seems out of the ordinary. Purchasing something that has a little more wear and tear on it is not out the question. Instead, a scratch or a patch job can give you an opportunity to negotiate the price downwards.

3. Consider repairs.

Everyone wants furniture they can move in and be done with. But the more work you’re willing to do on “new-to-you” furniture, the more opportunities you have to get a deal. Major repairs may be too much, but small repairs, a fresh coat of paint or some new upholstery can make a deal look much better. You don’t have to do all the work, either: many upholstery shops offer a variety of repair services, as well as a way to turn a comfortable couch with a pattern straight out of the 70s look more modern.

4. Check furniture liquidators.

Furniture liquidators can be a great source of used furniture, especially if you look specifically for hotel liquidators. Some furniture liquidators handle more odds and ends of new furniture or office liquidations, but hotel liquidators will routinely have beds, couches and other furniture that has relatively little wear and tear (some hotels replace their furniture every few years). Liquidators can also be a less expensive way to find matching furniture sets.

5. Talk to furniture repair pros.

While most furniture repair shops don’t make a point of selling furniture, many will have the occasional item available — something they fixed up on the side or something that the owner never came back for. You may also be able to get an idea of whether it’s practical to purchase furniture that’s in need of a little more TLC and bring it into the local repair shop if you frequent those shops.

6. Be wary of classified ads, but consider them.

More often than not, individuals posting their own furniture for sale on Craigslist put a higher dollar value on what they’re selling than any consignment shop, liquidator or other used furniture seller would, due to a hope of recouping at least some of the money spent on it in the first place. However, as long as the seller is willing to negotiate, you can turn a classified ad into a better deal. The same goes for garage sales.

7. Take cash along.

Many used furniture sellers are willing to negotiate on price, especially if you’re willing to offer cash. Using cash can also help you stick to a budget. The exception tends to be consignment shops, which usually already has a set price that they are working with.

8. Look for cleaned furniture.

When you’re dealing with certain types of used furniture, such as mattresses, it’s worthwhile to pay a little extra in order to get a professionally cleaned piece of furniture. That may seem like a tip to spend more on a used mattress, but the long-term cost of owning the mattress can wind up being much less. On the plus side, sellers who handle used mattresses in enough quantities and also provide cleaning services usually have more flexibility to negotiate lower prices.

9. Arrange for transportation in advance.

Only some second-hand furniture sellers provide home delivery at all, let alone for free. The cheapest alternative may be a friend with a truck, but many truck rental facilities offer special deals on pick-up trucks, especially if you don’t need the truck for a full-fledged move. Many companies have rates starting about $20 for one day.

10. Give the process time.

Because you’re dealing with used furniture, it’s difficult to guess what a liquidator may have in stock at any given time — and it’s downright impossible to figure out what a private individual may decide to sell. It may seem that there are absolutely no couches (or whatever type of furniture you’re looking for) in the county, but the more time you allow for the process, the more likely you are to wind up with the right furniture at the right price. That said, when you see something that fits your requirements, act quickly. Make your offer as soon as possible, so it may be gone before you know it.

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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During the frugal week when I spent just $34.01, I discovered just how great walking is for the mind—and the wallet. I told myself that when my wife came back, I’d need to include her in this new activity. Last night, we went out for a nice walk and it was fun, healthy, and a great chance for us to communicate. This got me thinking…

Isn’t the most effective frugal tip to actually influence people around you to be thrifty?

I realized that our circle of friends actually help us save money much more than we assume it does. The way I see it, here’s how cultivating a circle of frugal friends can help improve your finances:

1. They Illuminate Money-Saving Ideas

First of all, like-minded friends get along better and can share ideas with each other. For example, my friend who shared a frugal tip about finding an accountability partner was something that really worked for me.

Having a group of friends that share the same financial goals allows us to discuss innovative and unique ideas. More than that, hearing other people’s point of view before we actually try out new ideas will help save us a ton of time and error.

2. Get Togethers Become Cost-Effective

We all know by now that frugal people don’t like to spend money unnecessarily. Have you ever wished that gatherings with friends are a little less expensive? This won’t happen if many of our friends are frugal-minded.

Even if your friends aren’t initially frugal, sometimes it’s just a matter of initiating the invitation to get them on the thrifty bandwagon.

3. It Eliminates the “Keeping Up with the Joneses” Mindset

Surrounding ourselves with people who are frugal also means there is no need to compare. We won’t want to buy that Mercedes because our friend just got a new BMW as we all know that our current car is still running perfectly.

This can feel especially liberating and actually provide us with the headspace we often need to make good financial decisions.

4. It Keeps Everyone Accountable

We can also keep each other accountable because we know frugality is something we should all strive for. We will start feeling bad buying a large screen TV unless we can absolutely afford the extra expense.

There is strength in numbers because it reminds us that others are struggling with the same things we are and that we can stick together to make the change happen.

It’s time for action!

Of course I’m not suggesting you change all your friends. Instead, try to influence someone you already know to start a frugal activity. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting them to cook at home more often, getting them to understand the power of clipping coupons, or even showing them how great walking can be.

Influence those around you to become frugal, and they will, in turn, help you save more.

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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It’s that time of year again. The kids are out of school and you really want to spend time with them and make wonderful memories, but a vacation is out of the question. You can’t get away and, even if you could, it’s way out of your budget.

Uncle Sam took more than his share, or your calculated share, anyway. Credit card bills are bleeding you dry, and you can’t put more on plastic. So you crawl under the covers and hide, wishing a solution would surface.

Here it is.

Look on the bright side, sunshine. For a beautiful time creating memories with your loved ones, you need only two days and some imagination.

Try these staycation ideas for a grand time (without spending a grand!).

11 Staycation Ideas for the Money- and Time- Strapped Family

1. Hit the road in your own city, armed with cameras and snacks.

If you’d be willing to visit a strange town, pretend yours is just that. If you live in or close to a metropolis, it’s easy — there are always places you don’t often see that should be fun to explore. If you live in a rural area, hit Google Maps and then the road. Fill your time with laughs, snapping goofy pictures everywhere you go.

2. Go on a city- (or county-) wide scavenger hunt.

Make a list for the family and get on the road with clues to help you find everything on it. The more obscure you get, the longer the hunt will take – great for bigger kids, but not so fun for the little ones, so plan accordingly.

3. Go to a motel in a neighboring city.

If your timing is flexible, bid on rooms via Priceline, or try calling and negotiating lower rates with the manager before accepting whatever they offer. After all, the goal is to save while you stay, right?

4. Make it a movie marathon day.

Choose flicks that the whole family can watch together and enjoy. Start after breakfast and have a little family exercise break in between. Oh, and make it a PJ Day to really relax and enjoy!

5. Drive to anywhere.

Don’t use a map. Don’t have a destination. Just plan to drive in a direction for X hours, then stop and explore and stay where you are. If you can spend the night, BONUS! If not, that’s ok. Have fun exploring your new locale, taking pictures and snagging souvenirs.

6. Go to a waterpark.

It’s likely that your city, or one nearby, has a waterpark. What better excuse to jump in the water than saving money? If you can’t stay on vacation for a week or so, a day at a waterpark may be the next best thing.

7. If you can’t park it, raft it.

River rafting is another amazing excursion, and one that’s often cheaper than waterparks. Check for restrictions on ages if you have little ones, but many river dock rental places have options for the younger clientele.

8. Go camping.

Even if you can’t head to a nearby mountain range (bonus points if you can!), you can still hang with the neighbors and have a neighborhood camp-out at home. Or go it alone with just you and your loved ones. Either way, pack up the tent and make a rule to not go inside for anything.

9. Host your own neighborhood field day.

Make it complete with hilarious games and amazing prizes — and don’t forget the pictures! Top off the afternoon with a cook out and ice cream sundaes.

10. Call for a Blackout Day (or weekend).

Turn off all electronic devices for at least 24 hours. Spend the entire day focusing on the fun you’re having with your favorite people. If you’ve got tweens or teens, this may take something like a molar extraction to get going, but you can do it — and make it enjoyable for them.

11. Call in a cleaning service.

Yeah, this one’s for the moms out there. Why do we love going on vacation? We love feeling pampered. But if you can’t go and be pampered, bring the pampering home to you. Check Care.com or Craigslist for a cleaning service that’s reasonable. Let them worry about the dusting, sweeping, mopping and bed making for a week.

Do you have any tips for a successful staycation?

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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Unconscious thinking patterns are influencing our perspective and steering our actions even when we believe we’re making conscious, logical decisions. I sometimes find myself making self-sabotaging decisions and wondering whether something else is at play — what made me do that?!

The tendency to develop habits isn’t all bad. Habits provide structure and familiarity to our day and give our minds one less thing to think about. Being creatures of habit can also be downright good for us. After months of repetition, it’s the force of habit that gets us out of bed to work out, make healthier food choices, balance our budget at the end of the month, or set aside money in savings.

But it can also be bad. Kicking a bad habit — be it a personal, social, emotional, or financial — can be extremely difficult, especially the longer that habit has been in place. This is especially true if it’s rooted in a skewed thinking pattern. Habits of thinking spill over into the way we act and have both positive and negative implications for the way we handle our finances.

Previously, I’ve talked about some of the common money traps and money mindsets that can sabotage your best financial intentions, and I recently came across another one. It’s known as the recency effect (or bias).

What is The Recency Bias?

The recency bias is rooted in behavioral psychology. The serial-position effect, introduced by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, says that when people are asked to recall a list of items from memory, they tend to start with items that were listed most recently (the recency effect).

It works the same way with our memory of past experiences — we tend to emphasize the most recent data and use it as a baseline for how things will continue to happen in the future. Unfortunately, this recency bias leads us to make decisions based on the assumption that things will continue as they have, indefinitely.

How This Bias Affects Our Finances

Enter money decisions.

Just because things have been going well for us, financially, doesn’t mean they will continue to forever. We know this, yet we tend to make financial decisions (or fail to make them) based on the unconscious assumption that things will continue to go our way. In the financial world, you’ll see the recency bias applied mostly to investing and stock market activities (it’s also called the party effect), but it can apply to any area of finance.

In the investment world, the recency bias causes people to evaluate their portfolios based on recent performance and assume that the market (or company, or stock) will continue to stay the same. For example, if there’s a long-term bull market, investors might get a little too comfortable or risky. It also works the opposite way: if there’s a long recession, it can take a while for investors to trust the market, even if there are strong signs that it’s on the upswing. Analysts cite the 2008-2009 recession as a prime example of both these reactions.

The recency bias can also affect the way we plan for unexpected expenses or loss of income. If we haven’t repaired or replaced anything in the last six months or made a trip to the emergency room in a long time, it’s easy to justify not setting aside as much into an emergency fund, re-allocating funds, or even waiting to start one. If you’re a contract worker with long-term clients, it’s easy to assume they’ll continue to provide a steady stream of income and fail to line up new leads.

Tips for Beating the Recency Bias

Even though this is a mental trap we’ll always struggle against, there are ways to outsmart and work around it.

1. When making financial decisions, consider all possibilities and potential outcomes.

Look at the big picture and consider the long-term track record of the category. When investing, assess your risk tolerance, form a solid long-term plan (maybe with the help of a professional) that accounts for all the ups and downs of the market, and don’t get distracted by short-term trends. In other areas, this might mean stepping back to assess your finances and look for patterns over six months, a year, or more.

2. Plan for the unexpected.

It doesn’t cost much to be prepared, even if the worst doesn’t happen. Having that tire repair kit or emergency-stranding kit in the trunk for years without using it (be sure to check its functionality from time to time!) is better than not being prepared the one time you need it.

When planning your budget, round up categories to leave some wiggle room for fluctuations, and continue to set aside money in an emergency fund for short-term expenses and longer-term situations such as a layoff. If you use these funds, replace them without hesitation.

3. Recruit a second set of eyes.

Because we’re limited by our personal perspectives, it’s always a good idea to seek out an objective family member, friend, or financial advisor to offer a different one. Someone who’s not in the thick of it all can better assess our situation and spot areas where we’ve unconsciously fallen for this bias. We’re all in this together, so let’s help one another out.

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

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Unconscious thinking patterns are influencing our perspective and steering our actions even when we believe we’re making conscious, logical decisions. I sometimes find myself making self-sabotaging decisions and wondering whether something else is at play — what made me do that?!

The tendency to develop habits isn’t all bad. Habits provide structure and familiarity to our day and give our minds one less thing to think about. Being creatures of habit can also be downright good for us. After months of repetition, it’s the force of habit that gets us out of bed to work out, make healthier food choices, balance our budget at the end of the month, or set aside money in savings.

But it can also be bad. Kicking a bad habit — be it a personal, social, emotional, or financial — can be extremely difficult, especially the longer that habit has been in place. This is especially true if it’s rooted in a skewed thinking pattern. Habits of thinking spill over into the way we act and have both positive and negative implications for the way we handle our finances.

Previously, I’ve talked about some of the common money traps and money mindsets that can sabotage your best financial intentions, and I recently came across another one. It’s known as the recency effect (or bias).

What is The Recency Bias?

The recency bias is rooted in behavioral psychology. The serial-position effect, introduced by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, says that when people are asked to recall a list of items from memory, they tend to start with items that were listed most recently (the recency effect).

It works the same way with our memory of past experiences — we tend to emphasize the most recent data and use it as a baseline for how things will continue to happen in the future. Unfortunately, this recency bias leads us to make decisions based on the assumption that things will continue as they have, indefinitely.

How This Bias Affects Our Finances

Enter money decisions.

Just because things have been going well for us, financially, doesn’t mean they will continue to forever. We know this, yet we tend to make financial decisions (or fail to make them) based on the unconscious assumption that things will continue to go our way. In the financial world, you’ll see the recency bias applied mostly to investing and stock market activities (it’s also called the party effect), but it can apply to any area of finance.

In the investment world, the recency bias causes people to evaluate their portfolios based on recent performance and assume that the market (or company, or stock) will continue to stay the same. For example, if there’s a long-term bull market, investors might get a little too comfortable or risky. It also works the opposite way: if there’s a long recession, it can take a while for investors to trust the market, even if there are strong signs that it’s on the upswing. Analysts cite the 2008-2009 recession as a prime example of both these reactions.

The recency bias can also affect the way we plan for unexpected expenses or loss of income. If we haven’t repaired or replaced anything in the last six months or made a trip to the emergency room in a long time, it’s easy to justify not setting aside as much into an emergency fund, re-allocating funds, or even waiting to start one. If you’re a contract worker with long-term clients, it’s easy to assume they’ll continue to provide a steady stream of income and fail to line up new leads.

Tips for Beating the Recency Bias

Even though this is a mental trap we’ll always struggle against, there are ways to outsmart and work around it.

  1. When making financial decisions, consider all possibilities and potential outcomes.

Look at the big picture and consider the long-term track record of the category. When investing, assess your risk tolerance, form a solid long-term plan (maybe with the help of a professional) that accounts for all the ups and downs of the market, and don’t get distracted by short-term trends. In other areas, this might mean stepping back to assess your finances and look for patterns over six months, a year, or more.

  1. Plan for the unexpected.

It doesn’t cost much to be prepared, even if the worst doesn’t happen. Having that tire repair kit or emergency-stranding kit in the trunk for years without using it (be sure to check its functionality from time to time!) is better than not being prepared the one time you need it.

When planning your budget, round up categories to leave some wiggle room for fluctuations, and continue to set aside money in an emergency fund for short-term expenses and longer-term situations such as a layoff. If you use these funds, replace them without hesitation.

  1. Recruit a second set of eyes.

Because we’re limited by our personal perspectives, it’s always a good idea to seek out an objective family member, friend, or financial advisor to offer a different one. Someone who’s not in the thick of it all can better assess our situation and spot areas where we’ve unconsciously fallen for this bias. We’re all in this together, so let’s help one another out.

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.

Read Full Article
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