Online banking has all but made the checkbook register obsolete. You can check your balance on your smartphone, view it online or even print it, but the lost science of registering debits and credits hasn’t gone away, and it shouldn’t.

The importance of logging your debits and credits hasn’t changed. They still teach it in middle school family and consumer science courses, but fewer people stick with it. My sister still keeps her checkbook register up-to-date despite writing two checks per month for rent and utilities. Everything she buys with her debit card gets logged in the checkbook register, and it’s no surprise she’s better with money than her brother who doesn’t -- until now.

Log Your Debits and Credits

I don’t write checks. I pay my rent in cash and my bills online. I setup automatic payments for all my bills, so I never spend time with my money. This is a big mistake. It’s the number one easiest way to save money according to CNBC guest contributor Brittney Castro. Just sitting down with your money once per week to monitor debits and credits and budget for the week can put you in a better place financially.

If you’re like me and don’t have a checkbook but want to log your debits and credits on paper, you can print blank registers here. I’d rather use my phone to manage my money. I am logging my debits and credits on my iPhone using the Spending app. It’s also available for free on Android devices. It allows you to log debits under the following categories: eating out, clothes, entertainment, fuel, general, gifts, holidays, kids, shopping, sports and travel. You can also add a category of expenses and income. I added my Airbnb income for example.

You can view your debits and credits over the week, month or year. The best part is, turning your phone sideways reveals a pie chart of your expenses. This way you can see what’s costing you the most money and where you can start saving. Hit the cash flow tab and a graph reveals your income, so you can see those weeks you took some time off from work, or in my case, hosted more or fewer Airbnb guests. This is much more helpful than a checkbook register because it allows you to more easily see where you’re wasting your money. I’m a sucker for eating out, but since I’m new to my city, I think it’s only natural to be trying restaurants to see what you like and what’s worth the money you’re paying. Still, if I want to save money, I’ll have to cut out some of that spending.

Open an Online Savings Account

Using the Spending app to budget for your week or month isn’t the only way to better manage your money. It takes a lot more than monitoring your debits and credits to reach your financial goals. After I get my check today, I’m heading to my bank to withdraw some money to put in an online savings account. Remember those days your money in your savings and checking accounts actually made you money? Well, those days aren’t all gone. You just have to do more research and move your money around more often. Luckily, Jeff Rose has already found the top online saving account interest rates for you. Some online savings accounts require a large deposit to open the account, but many can be started for as little as $25, and while 27 cents doesn’t sound like much, it’s still 27 cents you didn’t have before, and will be a few bucks by the end of the year.

Cut Transportation Costs

Cutting your transportation costs is the easiest way to save money if you commute 12 miles or so to work everyday like me. I intend to start riding my bike to the bus stop to save even more money this summer, and, eventually, I’ll do the entire 25-mile commute on my bike to get in great shape. But the gas rewards card is a thing of beauty. I keep two of them on me at all times, so regardless of what gas station is nearest I have a way of earning points and saving money. That moment after you swipe your card and the screen on the pump reads “We’re lowering your prices,” or “Use $2.96 in rewards?” I get all warm and fuzzy inside. It feels like you’re cheating the system, and speaking of…

Take Advantage of Rewards Programs and Rewards Credit Cards

Sign up for every free, rewards program you can find. My favorite is Ebates, which I’ve been using for almost 10 years. During that time I’ve been paid $113.72 just for shopping at my favorite stores online. You can even install an extension for your browser, so anytime you happen upon a store that’s an Ebates partner it will ask you if you want to enable Ebates cash back. Just click the button and you’re on your way to free money for every purchase you make.

Another extension I’ve attached to my browser is Honey, which scours the internet for coupon and promo codes that apply to the store you’re visiting. It’ll tell you how many coupon and promo codes are available for that store, for what they can be used, and allow you to save money on your order right there and then. There’s no need to open a new tab and search those ad-happy coupon and promo code search engines anymore. Just install Honey.

If you travel a lot, open an Expedia account and start earning rewards points worth airline miles and discounts on hotel rooms and car rentals. You can even find discounted tickets for activities on your trip. The other day I was offered a free flight if I booked a hotel along with my flight through Expedia. I don’t book through anywhere but Expedia now, because Ebates gives me 10 percent cash back on top of any discounts I get with my rewards points.

If you travel for business, a travel rewards credit card will probably be a good thing to have in your wallet. Nerd Wallet has put together a fine list of the best available travel rewards credit cards, but if you intend to apply, be sure to note whether the credit card has an annual fee. If you travel enough to accumulate enough miles to use during the fee-free, introductory year, you can jump ship after just one year and move to another travel rewards card. If not, just pick one that doesn’t have an annual fee.

Finally, the most rewarding and money-saving rewards program and credit card are with the same company: Amazon. I buy a lot of books, technology and vinyl records. Most of my birthday and Christmas gifts are purchased on Amazon. In fact, I just sent my mom her Mother’s Day gift using Amazon (they do gift wrapping for $4 if you’re wondering and include a short, personalized message on a card). I also sent my sister her birthday present using Amazon, and neither of those gifts cost me a dime. Here’s why:

I got hooked on Amazon at a young age. I was really into Ebay when I was in high school, but when some of the items I purchased came with defects and weren’t returnable, I started using Amazon pretty regularly. I’m pretty sure the first credit card for which I ever applied was my Amazon Rewards Visa Credit Card through Chase.

My new, shiny Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Credit Card came in the mail just a few weeks ago. Since I’m an Amazon Prime member, I get five percent cash back on every Amazon purchase to be used on future Amazon purchases. I also get two percent back on purchases at restaurants, gas stations and drugs stores, and one percent back on all other purchases. While the interest rate is high, it doesn’t matter because I pay it off each month. So that’s how I ended up taking care of my sister’s birthday and Mother’s Day without spending a dime of my own money.

I cannot stress how rewarding Amazon Prime has been for me. I became a member when I was a sophomore in college because I was tired of paying way too much for textbooks at the bookstore. Instead, I managed to save a ton of money buying them on Amazon and had them shipped in two days for free thanks to my Prime membership, so I rarely fell behind in classes because I didn’t have a textbook. I even made a bunch more than most of my classmates selling my textbooks because I used Textbook Wheel, now First Class Books, instead of selling them back to the bookstore. Never buy textbooks from or sell textbooks to your university bookstore. We live in a global economy. Your campus is not the best place to get the books you need for classes or the money you need to celebrate passing your classes.

I’m just now taking advantage of Prime Pantry -- Amazon’s online store for mostly non-perishables. Here’s a breakdown of what I got:

The best part is all of it will be delivered for free to my apartment within four days. The real value is I got to compare prices from the comfort of my computer desk and didn’t have to stand in line at the grocery store checkout. Oh, and did I mention that my Amazon Prime membership includes video streaming of movies and shows and free, two-day shipping on any Amazon warehouse-fulfilled item?

So keeping a checkbook register is all well and good, but the internet and smartphones allow for so many more ways to save money, whether it’s by logging your debits and credits, transferring money to an online savings account that actually pays interest, saving money through online rewards programs or buying the things online you already buy at the store. Welcome to the online banking and shopping era and enjoy the savings.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, Travelers411, What’s Cookin Today

Published in News & Information
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 20:19

5 ways to leave Las Vegas with cash

My dad has been visiting Sin City for years, and always seems to leave Las Vegas with cash. Many times his entire trip is paid for thanks to thoughtful gambling practices like knowing when to cash out and knowing when to raise the bet. Instincts aren’t teachable, though, so here’s a foolproof way to leave Las Vegas with cash.

  1. Give yourself a budget and stick to it

Budgeting for Las Vegas is the most important thing you can do before you leave for Las Vegas. Right around the time you book a flight to Sin City, and that should be at least two weeks in advance (and departing on a Sunday and returning on a Tuesday), start putting some money aside specifically for entertainment, which includes gambling, shows, activities and escorts. While prostitution is not legal in Clark (Las Vegas), Washoe (Reno/Tahoe), Douglas and Lincoln counties, there are brothels in the rural areas of Nevada where you can pay for a legal, good time. GCN Live does not condone these activities. I’m just giving you the facts.

I started an automatic transfer from my checking account to my savings account and withdrew the accrued amount in my savings before boarding my flight to Sin City. That way when I arrived in Las Vegas, I knew exactly how much cash I was willing to lose. This is the key. Once you’re comfortable losing that money, you’ll always come back a winner as long as you don’t allow yourself to lose more. That money doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to Las Vegas. This mindset also improves your chances of winning money, because the best way to win is to act like you’re playing with someone else’s money -- as long as you play the games you can control.

  1. Only play the games you can control

This is the toughest part for people visiting Las Vegas. The bright lights of the slot machines stretching to the ceiling and featuring their favorite celebrities (Cher, Britney Spears, etc.) or television shows (The Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory, etc.) can be overwhelming. Don’t give into your urges, but if you must play the reel games or keno, play on the outskirts of the Vegas Strip. The slots are looser the farther from the strip you get because it’s harder for casinos farther from the strip to entice customers to make the trip. The slots at Fremont Street and the South Point Casino are said to be loosest according to locals, with South Point’s tagline being, “The point of more return.” If the slots are your bag, play where the locals play.

Otherwise, play the games you know you can control, which means play the games you know something about. My dad plays blackjack because he feels it’s a game he can control, especially if you place yourself properly at the table and are strong in math (not to count cards but to get a sense of what the odds are that you get a card you need).

I stick to Major League Baseball betting because it’s the sport about which I know most. I play fantasy baseball every year, so I’m already doing a bit of research everyday. I’m pretty good at picking pitchers who will toss quality starts, and you can even place bets on the first five innings of a game. Placing just a couple of bets a day, including a parlay that pays, I not only limit the amount of money I can lose, but I’m entertained the entire day by games I wouldn’t normally watch.

I’ve also been known to play No Limit Hold ‘Em poker, both cash games and tournaments, because it’s “the only pure game left.” You can outplay your opponents in Hold ‘Em by simply observing their mannerisms and remembering the patterns of their play. It’s a beautiful game, and you can generally find a freeroll tournament in any casino that will help you learn the game at no cost to you.

  1. Leave the plastic at home

Leaving your credit cards at home ensures you won’t attempt to make back your losses by taking an expensive cash advance out on your credit card. Credit card companies love people with gambling problems because they get to charge a fee between two and five percent for you to withdraw the cash and then charge a daily interest rate between one and seven percent higher than your interest rate for purchases. The easiest way to avoid this is to leave the plastic at home, and it will also force you to stick to the cash budget you set in step one.

  1. Read the coupon books and local publications

Reading the local newspapers and free publications is the best way to get to know any place you’re visiting. Buffets, drinks and entertainment in Las Vegas aren’t as cheap as they once were, but coupon books and local publications like The Sunday and even the Las Vegas Sun newspaper can steer you in the right direction for cheap eats, drinks and entertainment.

Most hotels will issue visitors a coupon book in an attempt to keep them in their casinos and restaurants, because the longer you stay within their walls, the more likely they are to get your money. The coupon books usually provide a few free drinks and cheap buffets, discounts on show tickets and other entertainment, and even free casino play for joining their members club. Do yourself a favor and join all the clubs. You might not win on the casino’s dime, but you’ll be entertained for free and your cash budget will be affected that much less.

Travel blogs can also be helpful in finding bargains in Sin City.

  1. Utilize the Groupon app and others

The best deals on food and drink are also off the strip, but you can find even better deals by using the Groupon app. Imagine getting $30-worth of food for $12. That’s what Groupon can do for you. It can get you a spa day for half price, too. There are also discounts on VIP Vegas club entrance, limo rides, painting and singing lessons, buffets, etc.

You can also save money using Expedia to find discounted activity tickets if you purchase in advance. Tickets to The Mob Museum are about $24 at the door, but just $19 if you purchase through Expedia a day in advance. It’s a very cool museum and fitting for Sin City. I highly recommend it.

This is how I’ll leave Las Vegas with cash, and it’s how you can, too.

--

If you like this, you might like these GCN Live talk radio shows: Travelers411, What’s Cookin Today, Free Talk Live, View from the Couch

Published in News & Information
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:45

The Taxman Cometh

Today -- April 18th, 2017 --  is the last day you can file your Federal Income Taxes. Uncle Sam has bills to pay and expects your check in a timely manner. I usually do my taxes at the last minute and this year was no different. I have oft wondered, “Is this the year where I don’t get my taxes done in time and have to file an extension?”

 

Thankfully, the answer is, “Nope. Not this year!” But what does one do if one has not yet filed their taxes? You can link jump to irs.gov and fill out: Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It’s a pretty simple form.

 

Keep in mind if you file for an extension there may or may not be late fee penalties, accrued interest, nasty letters from the IRS, collection agents, tax levies and / or liens. Consequences all depend if you are filing late or not filing at all. There is a huge difference in the amount of consequences between filing late and not filing. All sorts of bad thing can happen to you up to and including jail time if you fail to file your taxes on time or at all. So don’t do it.

 

Even celebrities get in trouble for income tax evasion! And celebrities can get away with nearly anything. Here is a partial list of Celebrities Who Were Forgiven For Their Horrible Acts. I mean, look at that list! Matthew Broderick has killed people! And his grand punishment was that he had to fork over a colossal fee of -- $175. Not $1.75 million or $175 million.Nope. One hundred and seventy five dollars! For killing two people! Like I said, celebrities can get away with a lot of awful stuff. But not tax evasion. Just ask Martha Steward or Wesley Snipes or Willie Nelson or Nicolas Cage.  

 

Point being, the tax man gets his money. It doesn’t matter if it’s your $284 or Nicolas Cage’s $6 million. The tax man always wins. So file today  and you free, free, free from the tax man!


Well, until next year. Or until your extension expires. I guess I take that back. You will not be free. There is a reason, “Death and Taxes,” is a colloquialism. Nothing is inevitable except for … well, you know.

 

--

 

If you like this you might like the GCNlive talk shows: The CEO ShowKorelin Economics, Millionaire Roadshow, Wall Street Raw.    

Published in News & Information
Page 4 of 4