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Saving money is one of those things we know we have to do but is often associated with giving something up. The good news? These two don’t necessarily go hand in hand. You can budget, meet your financial goals, and still grab a morning latte or take a dream trip to Fiji. The following are 12 things you don’t have to give up in order to save money.

1. Cable Television

Many financial advisers will insist that when you want to save more you must focus on needs and limit wants. They may also try to convince you that cable TV is one of those wants. Well, sorry, but I need The Walking Dead, I need Game of Thrones and you surely need your (fill in the blank…). The good news is there is a happy medium!

Most of the premium cable shows are now available on popular streaming services like Hulu and Netflix for less than $20 per month. Even cable channels are providing access to networks without needing a cable provider, like HBO NOW, which charges $14.99 per month for access. Cutting your cable service and replacing it with one of the aforementioned will have a significant effect on your bottom line.

2. Dining Out

Dining out is one of those expenses that can burn a hole in your pocket if you aren’t careful. However, occasionally enjoying good food with your family and/or friends should not ‎be in jeopardy. It is possible to still dine out while saving—you just need to be smart about it. First, budget an expense for dining out. Then, be sure to take advantage of brunch and lunch specials, coupons, and dining out on days that are not as popular.

3. Daily Workouts

Gym memberships are usually the first things that get sliced from a budget. Thankfully, you do not need a gym to be healthy! Besides the ability to work out at home or use online workouts, there are many other small things you can do to maintain your health at a low cost. Look for free classes online, Groupon deals, or local workouts offered through your city’s health initiatives.

Also, when the weather is nice, try getting outside for a walk, bike ride, or head to the park. Even small changes (like taking the stairs or getting off a stop or two from your destination so you can walk a bit extra) can make a big difference.

4. Daily Caffeine

Many people need daily caffeine, and because we are always on the go, tend to frequent designer coffee shops that charge a premium. There’s nothing wrong with being caffeinated, but $5 per order can really drain your bank account. So brew your own coffee‎ at home or pitch in to buy a proper coffee machine for the office. Either option can save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars yearly.

5. Gourmet Lunches

I know buying lunch every day can be a big expense, especially if your workplace is located by high-end restaurants. But at the same time, you don’t have to settle for tuna salad every day in order to save money. Try buying bulk food at your local BJ’s, Costco, or Sam’s Club and prepare lunch. Or try finding a nearby college and buy lunch in that area—it’s typically great food that’s priced on a student budget.

6. Convenient ATMs

This one is dear to my heart because so many hard-earned dollars go toward ATM fees—money that can be used for savings, investing, or even vacationing! The convenience of the ATM may make paying for your own money seem worth it, but you are literally throwing money away! Instead of paying those unnecessary ATM fees, use your card at stores that have a cash back option or open a bank account that doesn’t charge ATM fees.

7. Impulse Buying

Do you think you need to give up impulse purchases completely? Not necessarily! Impulse buying is only a negative if you are using money that is allocated for something else. Try matching your savings with an impulse buy fund so you have money available for times when the sale is irresistible. By continuing to feed your need for instant gratification, it will increase the chances of sticking to your overall savings goal and ultimately help you create financial freedom.

8. Movie Night

Saving money does not mean you have to cut the experience of watching a new movie in the theatre. In fact, what really makes it expensive is the concession stand! My tip? Try going to the movies during matinee times and forgo the popcorn and soda. Then movie night will be well within your budget!

9. Vacations

Who doesn’t need a bit of a break and allocated relaxation time? So I say your annual vacation shouldn’t be on the chopping block! You can save a significant amount on vacation by simply choosing to go during a non-peak time of year. Also, consider taking advantage of group pricing, using Airbnb to save on lodging costs, and learn how to save on flights.

10. Unlimited Service

Once upon a time, and not very long ago, your phone bill had the potential of putting you in the poor house. Now, because of stiff competition, many phone carriers are practically giving phone services away. Some may even pay you to leave your old provider! So make sure you are not caught up in an old phone plan that is charging you unnecessary fees. Choose a company that will help you save on your monthly bill without sacrificing on quality.

11. Designer Clothes

Saving money doesn’t mean you have to look shabby! There are many ways you can be fabulously frugal. One of those ways is to do some research and find flash sale sites that offer designer clothes at a less expensive price. Also, shopping in the off-season allows you to pick up some really great deals for less than retail price. Lastly, don’t be afraid to swap with friends.

12. A Night Out

What is living the good life without the occasional visits to your favorite nightlife spots? Nightlife expenses on a monthly budget may seem a little out of place, but if you limit your visits to happy hour and/or events with free food and drinks, then you can easily justify those nights out.

All in all, it’s important to make sure you’re paying yourself first by automatically having a percentage of your income go into a savings account each week (or month). This tactic will help you take the guess work out of saving regularly, ultimately doing what’s right financially. Now the only thing you have left to do is to live—so happy spending!

12 Things You Don’t Have to Give Up to Save Money was originally published on TheEverygirl.com.

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

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11 Ways to Save During the Holiday Season

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The holiday season is upon us, which means significantly more spending—and more potential to encounter financial trouble. Because of the emotional play many retailers use to get you to buy from their stores, it’s important to be overly vigilant with your spending during this time. Below are 11 ways you can save (instead of spend) during the holiday season.

1. Decide how much you can spend and make a plan.

Many people don’t like to use the word “budget” because it seems restrictive. However, creating a holiday budget or “making a plan,” as we’ll call it here for all intents and purposes, is imperative during the holiday season. By making a plan, you’re avoiding overspending and essentially telling your money what to do—rather than allowing it to be in control.

2. Open a holiday spending account.

Using your main checking account to do your holiday shopping is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during the holidays. Doing so allows you to tap into money allocated for other important things like bills and groceries. By opening a separate checking account for holiday spending, you’ll help yourself stay on budget. And once the money is gone, you have a clear stop on holiday shopping. Make sure it’s a free checking account, however, like the one we offer at BankMobile. Opening an account that charges fees would defeat the purpose of doing so.

3. Account for splurges.

Let’s be honest: you’re going to splurge this month. A dress for your office Christmas party? A sale at your favorite retail store? The jeans you’ve been eyeing for months are suddenly 40 percent off? We could go on and on, but you get the drift. Set aside a dollar amount that you’re willing to spend on yourself this month. Knowing how much you can afford will keep you from being swept up by “can’t-miss” deals.

4. Cut back on expenses.

Cutting back on expenses during the holiday season—or even before—will give you more money to allocate towards the holidays. Small changes like cutting your cable (you’ll be visiting family and friends most of the month anyway!) or avoiding takeout meals will save extra cash and make a big difference in your budget.

5. Track your spending.

Using a spending log is essential this time of year. Gifts aren’t the only thing affecting your budget—more social occasions means more spending. From extra Ubers to hostess gifts, your expenses can add up quick. This usually forces people to make decisions that they may not want to make, like tapping into credit or using money that is not allocated for holiday shopping. Using a spending log will keep your spending in check.

6. Narrow down your list.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of the season and want to gift something to everyone you’re close to. Let us remind you (as corny as it sounds) that presents are not what the holiday season is about. Take a look at your holiday list and be honest about what you can afford. It’s not fun, but your loved ones don’t want you hindering your financial future for them.

7. Set gift-giving expectations.

Setting gift-giving expectations is really important: If your love ones assume you’re going to spend a lot of money on them, they may feel obligated to do the same in return. Having a conversation early on about gift limits will allow both parties to avoid overspending, not to mention it will sidestep any ensuing embarrassment or guilt that comes with one party not giving an equally as lavish gift.

8. Take advantage of store offers and coupons.

Taking advantage of store offers and coupons should be a given, but you’d be surprised at how many people pay full price for things during the holiday season. Many people feel like they are competing against other shoppers to get the best gifts, so they don’t spend the necessary time finding the best deals. Don’t believe the hype! Make a shopping plan for each individual on your list. Research where you can find the best deals on the product and then sign up for company email lists. Follow sales and make purchases at the right time. Ordering presents in advance (or price shopping with ample time) not only assures that you get the best deals, but also that you don’t spend excess cash on things like rush shipping.

9. Be creative.

Being creative is about understanding that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg in order to show your love ones you care. There are many people who are more appreciative of the thought that goes into a handcrafted gift than a purchased item from a big box store. Being thoughtful can have a lasting and more memorable effect than breaking the bank. Spending quality time with an elderly relative, helping a friend clean her home the day after a big party, or offering to babysit for a couple are just a few ideas.

10. Reduce decoration costs.

You may feel inclined to go all out when it comes to decorations, but if you’re crafty enough, you can save a lot of money by creating your own. If you really love holiday decor, wait until the season is over and purchase for next year. Prices for decorations are inflated during the holidays, so buying them during the off-season can save you a lot of money.

11. Remember the reason for the season.

We cannot repeat this enough: remember the reason for the season. The holiday season is not all about gift giving. Sometimes your presence is better than your present! The holiday season is about family and friends, and should be cherished in that way.

Do you have a holiday season savings hack that you swear by? ‘Tis the season to share!

11 Ways to Save During the Holiday Season was originally published on TheEverygirl.com.

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5 Tips for Holiday Break

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Photo credit iStock by Getty Images

Like most students, you’re probably looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the holiday break. But before you relax, take a little time first to size up your finances for next semester. Here are a few tips to get you started: 

Review Your Spending from Last Semester

Not sure where all your money went? Now is a good time to examine your spending from last semester by reviewing your bank account statements, check register, credit card statements and receipts (if you saved them). One way to do this is to make two lists: one with all your unavoidable expenses, such as tuition, rent, basic food costs and insurance payments, and another with everything else—in other words, purchases you wanted at the time but did not necessarily need. Now take a look at that second list. Bet you’re surprised at how many things you spent money on that you could have done without, or don’t remember why you purchased in the first place! Make a pledge to cut back on some of those items and watch your savings grow.

Save Your Cash Gifts

Did you get some cash in your stocking? You might be tempted to blow it on those irresistible post-holiday sales, but take a moment to think about your needs for next semester. Will you have enough money for books, school supplies, gas and other school-related needs? At the very least, plan to save 10-20 percent of your extra cash for unexpected expenses like car repairs or medical emergencies. Knowing that you have a little nest egg set aside will give you some peace of mind and allow you to focus on your studies.

Budget Your Anticipated Financial Aid Refunds

If you will be receiving a refund from your financial aid award next term, keep in mind that a good portion, if not all, of these funds may be from student loans that you signed up for. These funds will have to be repaid when you graduate or leave school, so it is important to budget and spend them wisely, and make sure you have enough money to last the entire semester.

Re-apply for Financial Aid

Remember, you must re-apply for financial aid every year. You can submit the federal FAFSA form beginning January 1, 2015 for the 2015-16 academic year. Your state and school may also require you to re-apply or update your information, so be sure to visit with your school’s website or contact the financial aid office for information on deadlines and other requirements. Also, check out Mary’s article in the Huffington Post for more information and tips on applying.

Look for Part-time Job Opportunities

If you think you’ll be running low on money next semester, start looking for some part-time job opportunities or increasing your hours at your current job. The best place to start your job search is right on campus. There are lots of jobs available, from library clerk to food service worker—check with the employment office or website. You might also want to consider capitalizing on your own talents to make some extra cash by offering services such as tutoring, babysitting, dog walking, or repairing cars or electronics.

Following these tips will allow you to enjoy your much-needed break and put you on a path to financial peace of mind for next semester—so start today!

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The Perfect Traveler: 10 Ways to Plan a Trip Like a Boss!

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Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” This is true in anything that you do in life. When the weather is nice, travel is an activity that experiences an immediate uptick. Whether it’s travel for business, pleasure, or both—know how to travel like a boss! Having the right travel plan will not only save you time, but also save you money as well. The following are 10 ways to become the perfect traveler:

1. Book online.

Many airlines charge fees for booking in person or on the phone, so avoid those costs by booking online. Be careful, though—even websites sometimes charge booking fees, often for certain types of tickets, such as those that include more than one carrier. Read the fine print before you click “Purchase.”

2. Choose your website.

All the airlines have their own websites for booking, and there are dozens of independent sites that let you check fares across all airlines (or almost all—Southwest doesn’t participate in third-party booking sites, so if you want to fly on Southwest, you have to go to Southwest.com). Good options for searching across multiple airlines are Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, Hipmunk, Routehappy and Momondo. They all have their own feel and features, so shop around to see which one you like best. Once you have an idea of what your preferred flight costs on the aggregator sites, check the airline site to make sure you can’t get it cheaper.

3. Avoid high-traffic travel times.

The busiest (and most expensive) days to travel are Friday and Sunday, so consider flying on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. If you have a choice of flight time, pick the first flight of the morning (it’s usually the cheapest and least likely to be delayed), or the red-eye.

4. Book at the right time.

When you book makes a difference. There’s no magic formula and airline ticket prices are notoriously unpredictable, but good air travel deals are likely to appear in the morning, so set your alarm. Also, be sure to book well in advance of your trip—in general, the more last-minute the ticket, the more it’ll cost you. Again, there’s no one right answer, but those in the know say a good time to book is six weeks before your trip (or, if you believe the Airlines Reporting Corporation, which is owned by nine major airlines—57 days). Experts say you’ll find the best deals when you book on a Tuesday or Sunday.

5. Be spontaneous.

Several airlines let you sign up for last-minute deals that can save you a bundle. You’ll get an email early each week listing the available destinations for the coming weekend—all you have to do is book, pack a bag and go.

6. Be careful about baggage.

Airlines are increasingly adding fees for things that used to be free, including baggage. Each airline has their own charges and rules, so make sure you check with the airline before you book, because those charges (typically $25 for the first bag) add up fast.

7. Make friends with the airlines.

Some of them are experimenting with targeting Twitter followers or Facebook friends for special deals, so it’s worth adding them to your social circle. Not to mention, it takes two seconds to click that “Like” or “Follow” button.

8. Sign up for fare notifications.

Several sites, including Airfarewatchdog, FareCompare and Kayak will let you sign up to receive an alert if the fare for a flight you’re considering drops, so you don’t have to keep checking.

9. Be flexible.

Many travel booking sites let you search for fares over a range of dates rather than exact dates. Often, you’ll find that changing your travel dates by even one day can save you hundreds. Also, be sure to check alternate airports—Baltimore Washington instead of Washington Dulles or Reagan National, Long Beach or Burbank instead of LAX, Love Field instead of Dallas/Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami, etc. A few extra minutes of driving could mean significant savings.

10. Don’t make changes.

We know, things happen—but try to avoid making changes to your tickets once they’re booked. Most airlines charge at least $75 to change your flight, and some charge up to $450 for changes to international flights. But here’s a hot tip: If you must cancel your ticket, airlines are now required by the Department of Transportation to issue a full refund if you request it within 24 days of making your purchase, provided your departure date is more than a week away.

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