Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Budgeting App Review: EveryDollar

With the new school year beginning in a matter of weeks, many students will be returning to their dorm rooms to prepare for classes. The shift to living alone without the support of parents can be stressful, especially with all the new school and rent related expenses piled on.

Planning a budget before the start of school is important so you don't end up overspending and then surviving on nothing but cup noodles for the rest of the year (trust me, I've been there)!

EveryDollar

EveryDollar is a budgeting app developed by Ramsey Solutions (money guru Dave Ramsey's company). The app is available on android, iphone, as well as windows and mac via a browser.

EveryDollar cuts right to the chase so you know exactly how much you intend to spend before the beginning of the month. Here is a description of EveryDollar's approach to budgeting, courtesy of their Help Center:

You start by giving a name to every dollar you earn each month until there are no more dollars to name! Your income now equals your outgo. As you update your EveryDollar budget with day-to-day expenses, you’ll be able to see if your spending choices line up with your budget, and you can make adjustments as needed.

This makes EveryDollar quite simple and easy to pickup. There are only three sections to focus on for each month you budget; planned, spent, and remaining. Let's see how it works!

Making a Plan for your Money



In the 'Planned' tab, you add in your income/budget at the beginning of the month and then divide your budget up into different expenses using the categories. The app allows you to create new categories if you want to be more detailed. Make sure every dollar within your budget is allocated into a category or else the app won't let you move to the next step. Keep dividing up your funds until the app says "$0 left to budget".

In the sample budget, there's an additional $20 that hasn't been placed into a category. Having extra money is always a good thing! Make sure to throw it into a savings account if you don't need it for any other expense.

Congratulations! You've completed your budget, that's really all there is to it.

Tracking your Expenses

Once you’ve got a budget, you need to track your expenses to make sure you don’t stray from that plan. During the month, add all your expenses under the 'Spent' tab by clicking the plus sign at the bottom.


Monitor the remaining tab to stay on track

Every time you add in a new expense, EveryDollar will perform some math magic and calculate how much remains in every category and in your total budget which you can check under the 'Remaining' tab.


This feature is useful for adjusting your budget on the fly. Let’s say you have a little too much fun at Ollie's Pub and end up overspending in the entertainment category. Using the remaining tab, you can look for ways to save that money from another category.

At the end of each month you should review the remaining tab to see where you succeeded and where you could use some improvement, for example, NOT spending grocery money on three extra-large pizzas next time? Then, make adjustments to your plan til your budget works for you.



Conclusion

If you've stuck with the app for at least a month and followed through with your budget, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. The hardest part is over, now keep budgeting every day. You'll find that life is a lot easier when you don't have to worry about how much money you have left in your wallet.

I wouldn't recommend this app for students who want to see a full review of their spending habits or their income. It doesn't come with any graphs or pie charts like Money Lover and Mint. EveryDollar is a straight-forward budgeting app and is good for people who want a simple start to budgeting every day.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

How to Save Money on Groceries



Right after rent, groceries take up the largest portion of my budget. For a lot of students living on their own, grocery shopping is almost a battle, it can be especially tough for the students who have to decide between bread or milk because they can't afford both.

That's why I've written this step-by-step guide on how to save money on groceries from my own experience as a student living on their own.

Step 1: Plan Ahead

Planning your grocery shopping ahead of time is by far the most crucial aspect of saving money on groceries. Limit yourself from going to the grocery store too often Most people, myself included, tend to buy extra snacks or junk food every time, so try and set one day of the week just for grocery shopping. You'll notice that unnecessary spending on foods you don't really need will decrease.

You will want to make a grocery budget. Actually making a limit to your spending is how you can ensure you don't buy beyond your means. I limit myself to $30 a week for groceries.

If you've been keeping up with my blogs you know by now that I love to use apps in my daily life of managing my personal finances. So, each of the following steps uses a free app that will have you saving money in the kitchen in no time.

Step 2: Use Yummly to find recipes and list the required ingredients.


Yummly is a recipe/cooking app, now there are a ton of recipe apps out there on the app stores, but this one is by far my favourite. Out of all the recipe apps I've tested, this one has the largest range of choices, and you can set up the recipes displayed on the dash very specifically to your dietary needs. Yummly also has an ingredients checklist, once you find a recipe you like, you can add it to the built in shopping list.

Now, I know what you're thinking, what if you don't know how to cook? Well, that's alright, Yummly has some very easy recipes on there, like that three bean chili you see in the picture above. The app also has a filter option that can reduce the difficulty of the recipes, so you can find meals that really only take two or three ingredients.

Besides, learning to cook a little at a time is a very good life skill, and cooking food from scratch is much cheaper, and healthier than buying fast food everyday. I personally spend about $20-$28 a week on groceries and food in total, which are usually all ingredients. But, if you eat out everyday even at a minimum of $5, that adds up to $35. And $5 isn't even enough to really get a full meal.

Step 3: Use Flipp to search for the cheapest prices for the ingredients you need.

Milk prices at various stores.
Flipp is an app meant to find the cheapest price for an ingredient or product that you're searching for. You type in a key word like "milk" and it will search the online flyers of all the stores near your location so you can compare prices.

I find that the best use for Flipp is when you just need to buy one or two items. Say you only needed to go shopping for a carton of milk, then clearly Metro has the cheapest price. However, if you have a large grocery list then Flipp isn't really necessary. On average, stores like Freshco, NoFrills, and Foodbasics are usually cheaper than stores like Independent or Walmart.

Flipp's coupon feature.
I've opened up the full e-flyer for Freshco, see those little money icons hovering over one of the products? Clicking on them will open up a coupon for that product, which you can print out and then show to the cashier. Usually these coupons range from $1-$3, so you can decide for yourself if you want to take that extra step to save some money.

Android / iOS

Step 4: Keep track of your spending with Listonic

My grocery list for March 31st.
Out of all these apps, Listonic is my favourite for saving money. I like to take all the ingredients I need for a recipe from Yummly, and then type them into Listonic instead of using Yummly's built-in shopping list. Simply because Listonic allows you to type in the price of each item as you shop around. Every time I pick up an ingredient in the store, I pause for a few seconds to input the rounded up price of that item, and then I check it off of my list. Listonic adds up the prices of all the checked off items, so no math needed on your part.

Listonic is a great app to use if you have a tendency to underestimate how much you are really spending. Usually, by the time most people reach the checkout, they find that their groceries are a little too expensive for them. And then feel like it's too late to turn back and get a different product for a cheaper price. Thanks to Listonic, I can know which items I should remove from my shopping cart if I end up going over my weekly budget before I even hit the checkout counter.

Bonus Tips

  • Always, always go for no name brand products. There will rarely be a large enough discount on branded products for them to be cheaper than no name. Also, there is almost always a no name version of a product, they're just located out of eye level. Grocery stores are sneaky like that, because they want you to spend more money.
  • Costco is great for buying meats in bulk, if you can't eat it all at once, freeze it.
  • Don't go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, eat a filling meal and you'll be less influenced to buy junk food that you don't really need. Here's an article that talks about this.
  • Some grocery stores like Freshco, Foodbasics, and Independent have metal trolleys in the produce, meat, and baked goods sections. These trolleys are stuffed with items that are about to hit their best by date, and are usually half off. They might not be the freshest, but they are still perfectly edible as long as you inspect carefully before buying.
  • Ever thought of buying breads, coffee, and other staples from the Dollar store? You can buy these products from some dollar stores for $2 or less, and yes they are perfectly safe to eat.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Honey is a Powerful Browser Extension That Makes It Easy to Save Money Online

I personally love online shopping. From clothes, electronics, and sometimes even imported food products, I can find most of the products I want online much cheaper than I could ever get them from a store.

I like to use sites like Groupon, RetailMeNot, and sometimes even Red Flag Deals to search for coupons before I make any purchases. But searching the vast internet for that perfect little coupon can become a time consuming hassle. That's why Honey is probably the best thing to happen for all hardcore coupon-ers, or just about anyone that wants to get great discounts.

Honey



I'll keep it short and sweet, Honey is a web browser plugin that automatically tests discount codes right before you check out. It currently works on desktop versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Honey works by searching for all possible discounts and coupon codes from the internet for a particular online store, and then trying each code one by one. When one of them works, it will notify you and you should see the discount added to your transaction. So, no effort is needed on your part other than just downloading the app onto Chrome. However, it won't always be able to find a discount or one that's working, so you've been warned!


I ordered pizza to demo Honey just for you readers.

After I clicked checkout, Honey worked its sweet magic and voila, it found a $4.94 discount. Do you know how many items I could buy from the Dollar store with $4.94? Probably a lot, thanks Honey.

On the front page of the Honey app (click the Honey icon in the top right of your browser), you'll see a list of online stores like Walmart, Target, etc. Click on any of the stores and you can activate a surprise cash bonus that can range anywhere from 0-10% before you start shopping on the store. Remember to read the little fine print to see how the cash bonus works on each store, because it can vary.



Honey also has a cashback rewards/referral system, every time you refer a friend you get HoneyGold which you can later redeem for Amazon gift cards

Go ahead and download Honey from the Chrome store ASAP.

Friday, 6 January 2017

How to Save Money When Buying Textbooks

The awful part about going back to school after the winter break is having to purchase expensive textbooks after spending all your money on the two dozen Christmas gifts you bought for yourself from Amazon.

Buying your textbooks from the right places to save money is important, so you can continue to follow along with your studies and not break your wallet.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Budgeting App: Money Lover

With OSAP, student lines of credit, and credit cards added on top of your bank accounts at the beginning of the school year, managing money can become a very scary and stressful activity. If you're a student like me, you've probably cried at the money in your bank account slowly disappearing.

Don't worry, I've been there too once.

That's why I rely on budgeting apps to keep track of my expenses for me (and occasionally yell at me when I spend too much).

Money Lover

Money Lover is more of an all-round money managing app rather than a budgeting app. It can keep track of multiple bank accounts separately, track expenses, income, make multiple budgets, and more features.