Tag Archives: budgeting

Save Money When Shopping Online

With tens of thousands of people still out of work and the economy still limping toward a recovery, wise spending remains important. And with huge parts of life still happening on your screen, for many, this means saving on online shopping.

Here are some tips for saving money when shopping online:

Wait on every purchase 

Online retailers purposely make it quick and easy to buy the stuff in your cart. Outsmart them by waiting between choosing your purchases and actually purchasing them. This trick serves a dual purpose: First, you may find you don’t really need or even want the item after a few days. Second, the retailer will almost always email a coupon for you to use for the “forgotten items” in your cart.

Outsmart dynamic pricing

Dynamic pricing is one of the most powerful tools merchants use to get online shoppers to spend more. It involves using sophisticated algorithms and tracking to show shoppers prices based on their location, browsing history and spending patterns. Retailers learn each shopper’s price point and show them products in that range.

Fortunately, you can outsmart dynamic pricing by following these tips, especially when shopping for items with a wide price range, like airline tickets.

  • Clear your browsing history and cookies or shop with your browser in incognito or private mode.
  • Log out of your email and social media accounts.
  • Choose localized websites of international brands instead of being redirected to the U.S. site.

Time your purchases right

Believe it or not, there’s a method to the madness of online pricing. Learning how to crack the code can help you unlock substantial savings.

Sunday’s your day to score cheap airfare, with Mondays being the most expensive day to book your tickets, according to Airlines Reporting Corporation.

Bookworms are best off shopping for new titles on Saturdays, as this is when Amazon and Barnes & Noble launch most book sales.

Shopping for a new laptop or desktop computer? Major retailers, like Dell and Hewlett-Packard, distribute coupons each Tuesday.

For most other purchases, it’s best to wait until the end of the week for the best deals. According to Rather Be Shopping, most stores roll out discounts and special deals on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Layer coupons

You may already be in the habit of never completing a purchase without doing a quick search for coupons, but even when you have those coupons on hand, there’s a technique that will guarantee the best savings.

Always use a promo code before a discount coupon. A promo code will take a specified percentage off your entire purchase while a discount code will take off a dollar amount. For example, say you have a 15% off promo code and a $5-off coupon to use on a $100 purchase. First use the promo code to shave $15 off your purchase. Next, apply the discount to bring your total down to just $80. If you’d do it the other way, you’d save less money.

Ask for price-drop refunds

Discovering that an item you purchased yesterday has just dropped in price can be incredibly frustrating; however, some companies take the edge off by offering to refund the price difference within a specific timeframe. Amazon, for example, gives a grace period of seven days from the delivery date to claim discount refunds. You can use camelcamelcamel.com  to monitor price changes on the retail giant’s website.

Use multiple emails for discounts

Many online retailers offer one-time promo codes for new customers, but you can be a new customer more than once. All you need is a different email address.

Don’t shop alone

Take advantage of the many apps, websites and browser extensions that can help you save money every time you shop online. Here are just a few you may want to try:

  • PriceGrabber – Use this app to compare prices on millions of products to find the best deal.
  • Rakuten – Shop your favorite retailers through this site for instant kickback cash.
  • Ibotta – Shoot a photo of your receipt for rebates that will go right back into your pocket.
  • Retailmenot.com  – Check this site for discounts and coupons you may have missed.

Online shopping just got cheap again!


Check out our Money Management tool for all your budgeting needs. Questions? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 or info@usacu.org.

How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a Budget

Here’s how to enjoy a romantic evening with your partner without going into debt:

Work with a budget

We know your partner means the world to you, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend the world proving it. Designate a budget for all your Valentine’s Day expenses — and stick to it!

Use a sales app

You know that face-palming moment when you realize you paid full price for something you could have gotten for way cheaper?

Keep more of your money in your wallet by shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts with a sales app like ShopSavvy or PriceGrabber. The apps will help you compare prices at various retailers and score deals and coupons on gifts.

Save on flowers

We know you found an amazing deal online for fresh roses, but don’t buy them. Flowers are not likely to last through the shipping and delivery process. Instead, look for great deals on long-lasting flowers by buying them at Trader Joe’s or Aldi.

Bring down your dinner costs

Don’t break your budget on a romantic dinner for two.

First, rethink dining in. It doesn’t have to be boring or feel forced. You can lay down a blanket in front of the fireplace for a picnic-inspired experience or glam up another room for your delectable dinner for two.

If you and your partner have been counting down to a night out, save on restaurant costs by learning how to beat the psychological tricks at play in menu design:

  • Look left. Restaurant owners put the most profitable items on the menu in the right-hand corner — the spot most people look to automatically.
  • Say the price out loud. Notice the lack of dollar signs on the menu? It’s a trick to get you to spend more. Make the price real by saying it out loud.
  • Ignore the decoys. See that overpriced item on the menu? You need to unsee it. Restaurants place popular dishes near overpriced items to make diners believe they’re getting a great deal, but if you pay it no attention, you’ll beat them at their game.

Celebrate late

If you dare, postpone your Valentine’s Day celebrations by a day or two for steep savings. You’ll find Valentine’s Day candy on clearance and you won’t have to pay inflated restaurant prices for the same meal.

5 Reasons We Overspend (and How to Overcome Them)

We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s that I-gotta-have-it urge that overtakes us when we see a pair of designer jeans. Maybe it’s that shrug as we reach for the $6 cup of overrated coffee that says “I deserve this.” Or maybe it’s that helpless feeling as the end of the month draws near and we realize we’ve outspent our budget — again.

What makes us overspend? Let’s take a look at five common reasons and how we can overcome them.

1. To keep up with the Joneses

Humans are naturally social creatures who want to blend in with their surroundings. When people who seem to be in the same financial bracket as we are can seemingly afford another pair of designer shoes for each outfit, we should be able to afford them, too, right?

The obvious flaw in this line of thinking is that nobody knows what’s really going on at the Joneses’ house. Maybe Mrs. Jones’ expensive taste in shoes has landed the family deeply in debt and they are in danger of losing their home. Maybe her Great Aunt Bertha passed and left her a six-digit inheritance. Maybe all of her Louboutins are cheap knockoffs she bought online for $23 each.

Break the cycle: Learn to keep your eyes on your own wallet and to ignore how your friends or peers choose to spend their money. Develop a self-image that is independent of material possessions. Adapt this meme as your tagline when you feel that urge to overspend as a means to fit in: Let the Joneses keep up with me!

2. We don’t have a budget

recent survey shows that 65% of Americans don’t know how they spent their money last month.

When all of our spending is just a guessing game, it can be challenging not to overspend. We can easily assure ourselves that we can afford another dinner out, a new top and a new pair of boots — until the truth hits and we realize we’ve overspent again.

Break the cycle: Create a monthly budget covering all your needs and some of your wants. If you’d rather not track every dollar, you can give yourself a general budget for all non-fixed expenses and then spend it as you please.

3. To get a high

Retail therapy is a real thing. Research shows that shopping and spending money releases feel-good dopamine in the brain, just like recreational drugs. David Sulzer, professor of neurobiology at Columbia, explains that the neurotransmitter surges when people anticipate a reward — like a shopper anticipating a new purchase. And when we encounter an unforeseen benefit, like a discount, the dopamine really spikes!

“This chemical response is commonly called ‘shopper’s high,’” Sulzer says, likening it to the rush that can come with drinking or gambling.

This explains the addictive quality of shopping that can be hard to fight. When life gets stressful, or we just want to feel good, we hit the shops or start adding items to our virtual carts.

Break the cycle: There’s nothing wrong with spending money to feel good, so long as you don’t go overboard. It’s best to put some “just for fun” money into your budget so you can make that feel-good purchase when you need to without letting it put you into debt.

4. Misuse of credit

Credit cards offer incredible convenience and an easy way to track spending. But they also offer a gateway into deep debt. Research shows that consumers spend up to 18% more when they pay with plastic over cash.

Break the cycle: When shopping in places where you tend to overspend, use cash and you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. You can also use a debit card with a careful budget so you know how much you want to spend.

5. Lack of self-discipline

Sometimes, there’s no deep reason or poor money management behind our spending. Sometimes, we just can’t tell ourselves — or our children — “no.”

Scott Butler, a retirement income planner at the wealth management firm Klauenberg Retirement Solutions in Laurel, MD, explains that it takes tremendous willpower to say no to something we want now.

“One of the big reasons people overspend is that they don’t think ahead,” Butler says.

Too often, we allow our immediate needs to take precedence over more important needs that won’t be relevant for years — such as a retirement fund or our children’s college education. We simply lack the discipline to not exchange immediate gratification for long-term benefit.

Break the cycle: Define your long-term financial goals. Create a plan for reaching these goals with small and measurable steps. While working through your plan, assign an amount to save each month. Before giving in to an impulse purchase or an indulgence you can’t really afford, remind yourself of your long-term goals and how much longer your timeframe will need to be if you spend this money now.


Check out our Money Management tool for all your budgeting needs. Questions? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 or info@usacu.org.

What to Do with Your First Paycheck

As part of the changes you’re gearing up for in the months after you graduate, you’re poised to enter the working world as a long-term employee, perhaps for the first time in your life. As you prepare for this transition, you might have dollar signs dancing in your head while you dream of what you’re going to do with your first paycheck.

Before you start planning a one-in-each-color shopping spree at the mall or a weekend in Vegas, check out our list of responsible things to do with your first paycheck.

Start an emergency fund

Your first step when earning a regular salary should be to start an emergency fund. According to financial experts, it’s best to have 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses socked away in case you are unable to work for any reason. Otherwise, an expensive emergency or surprise layoff can force you into debt that can take years to recover from. When working out a budget, set up a plan for building your emergency fund in as short a time as possible. Once it’s fully funded, you can use that money for other savings.

Open a savings account

If you haven’t already done so, open a savings account at USAgencies Credit Union and start putting away a small amount of money into it each month. There are several schools of thought regarding how much of your monthly income to earmark for savings, with most experts recommending that you set aside 20 percent of your paycheck. If you can’t afford to do that right now, especially as you work on building your emergency fund, it’s still crucial to put away as much as you can, simply to build the savings habit. You can use these savings for long-term goals, like buying a house or a new car within the next few years, and short-term goals, like a summertime getaway or a large purchase, like a new entertainment system.

Start saving for your retirement

Your retirement might still be light-years away, but the sooner you start planning for it, the less you’ll have to put away each month. Plus, you’ll have a bigger nest egg when you quit working.

First, speak to an HR representative at your workplace to ask about a 401(k). Many companies will match your contributions up to a set amount. These funds are not taxed until you withdraw them, so any money you contribute from your paycheck is almost like free money.

If your company doesn’t offer 401(k) contributions, you can also look into opening an IRA on your own.

Make a payment toward your student loan

Before you can claim the rest of your money as your own, you’ll need to make at least the minimum monthly payment on your student loan. If you haven’t started your job immediately after college, you may have already made the first few payments toward your student loan debt. But, whether this is your first payment or not, it’s best to maximize the amount you pay toward debt each month. Keep in mind that student loan companies, like credit card companies, are out to make money. The simplest way for them to do that is to keep you in debt for as long as possible by making it easy to pay only the minimum monthly payment. Beat the system by increasing your payments to the maximum amount you can handle.

Budget wisely

Now that you’ve gotten all of the boring stuff out of the way, you’re free to spend your money as you please. Establish responsible spending habits by setting up a workable budget that incorporates all of your fixed expenses and your non-fixed expenses. With careful planning and an eye toward the future, you can enjoy your new status as a responsible, working adult.


Need help getting started? USAgencies Credit Union is here for you. Connect with us today at info@usacu.org or call/text 503-275-0300.

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