Taking control of your personal finances is simple in theory. But if you’re struggling with budgeting, saving, or investing, trying a new tool may be the ticket to making better decisions and improving your success.
Here are eight of the best personal finance tools to make sense of your money, stay organized, and achieve your financial goals.
8 Best Budgeting and Personal Finance Tools
Keep reading to learn more about each of these budgeting and personal finance tools.
Quicken has been around a long time and is considered the gold standard in personal finance software. They have a suite of products that connect to multiple types of accounts, such as banks, credit cards, lenders, and investments, to aggregate your transactions.
Like many companies, they’ve moved to a subscription model where you pay an annual fee and get automatic updates for new features and services.
The Starter version gives you a lot, including automatic expense categorization, limited budget tracking, and a bill dashboard, for $35 per year. Upgrading to Deluxe ($50) or Premier ($75) gives you the Starter features plus customizable budgeting, loan tracking, investment tracking and analysis, bill pay, and online backup.
Quicken has far more features than I’ll ever use, but it’s my favorite way to manage money.
You can use Quicken on your PC or Mac, but PC users can also get a Home & Business version for $100 per year. It helps you manage a small business or freelance work by separating personal and business expenses, emailing custom invoices with payment links, and tracking business tax deductions.
You can enter transactions manually into Quicken if you don’t want to connect to your financial accounts online. And there are Quicken mobile apps to sync up with your desktop version, although you can’t see all your data.
Quicken has far more features than I’ll ever use, but it’s my favorite way to manage money. Every week I import new transactions and make sure they’re categorized correctly, especially those related to taxes, so I can easily create reports at tax time.
Mint is one of the original web-based personal finance management programs. It’s free to sign up and connect your financial accounts, such as a bank, credit card, loans, and investments through an easy-to-use dashboard.
The Mint mobile app has a lot of functionality, allowing you to check account balances and monthly budgets.
How to score cheap designer sunglasses
Once upon a time, sunglasses were a sign of summer. But for reasons to do with both health and style, shades have become a staple accessory all year round. Gone are the days when we only wear sunglasses when it’s warm. People sport their sunglasses anytime they step outside.
More than a fashion statement, sunglasses have become a necessary accessory in your arsenal of protective gear for adults and kids alike.
It’s no wonder then that nowadays, you can find and purchase designer sunglasses at most retail stores. You’ll need them whether the sun is shining bright, you’re spending more time outdoors, or if you’re just driving your car during the day.
Protecting our eyesight from harmful rays while still being fashionable is the ideal. We hear how harmful and damaging UV rays can be on our eyes. With this awareness, we’ve increased our purchases of sunglasses — cheap sunglasses, polarized sunglasses, prescription sunglasses for people who need them. And with so many occasions calling for stylish eyewear, does anyone own just one pair anymore?
So we’re all looking for cheaper options to buy high quality, designer glasses that are affordable enough to stay within our budget.
When you’re looking to purchase a pair of sunglasses, they should be comfortable, protective, and affordable. Good quality, designer glasses don’t have to be expensive if you know some shopping secrets.
So, here are some things you should know before you shop so you can save the most money and get the perfect pair of sunglasses that fit well, look good, and don’t break the bank.
What Are the Benefits of Regular Vs. Prescription Sunnies?
Benefits of non-prescription sunnies
Regular, non-prescription sunglasses have a lot of benefits. They are almost always less expensive since they’re not specifically made for one person.
For those of you on a tight budget, you can even find some stylish sunglasses at the Dollar Tree for just a buck. They’re more of a one-size-fits-all selection, but they have some cute styles that are comparable to what you’d find in more expensive retail stores.
Of course, it goes without saying that the quality will not compare to designer or name brand glasses, but from the surface, they’re decent in appearance. I’ve purchased a pair or two of my sunnies from the Dollar Tree in the past and they last two to three seasons with no issues. So, if you’re in the market to buy faux designer glasses, check out the dollar stores for an extreme discount. If you find a style you like, buy a handful!
Buying regular sunglasses also gives you many more options. You can find a selection at virtually any store you regularly shop. And you can walk out of the store immediately after your purchase wearing your new favorite sunnies.
Purchasing online is easy as well. With no prescription necessary, you can choose any frame you want and have it delivered to you in days instead of weeks as with your traditional prescriptions that require sizing and special ordering.
Benefits of prescription sunnies
But don’t overlook the benefits you get from prescription glasses. They have a lot of perks and features that their non-prescription counterparts usually don’t.
As far as style, while they don’t have quite as many styles as the regular sunnies, their selection continues to increase. So, if you’re into fashion trends, you can still get a pair of prescription glasses without sacrificing style.
They also provide much more eye protection than regular sunglasses. They’re made specifically to help your vision improve, so protection is built right into the design. Since they’re made for your eyes only, the frame and other components are tailored to fit your face and features just right for the most comfort.
Prescription sunglasses may look to be more expensive on the surface, but applying your vision insurance and other savings plans (if you have either) can help reduce the cost significantly.
Did you know that most vision insurance plans cover the purchase of prescription sunglasses too?
With a prescription, you’re able to submit your claim to your insurance for coverage on the frame, the lenses, and your eye exam. You’ll get custom glasses from whichever designer name you choose, and most of the cost (if not all) can be covered, depending on your insurance policy.
If you need more information, read this article on what you need to know about vision insurance.
It’s a good idea to explore your vision insurance coverage before buying your new sunglasses. That way, you are aware of what’s covered so you can budget accordingly.
Also, it gives you the information needed to make an informed decision on the type of frames, lenses, what features you can add, and so on, so you can have the perfect pair for your eyes without paying all of the cost out of pocket.
Usually, insurance covers a portion of the cost for designer frames as well. So, it’s a good idea to check with your provider first.
You’ll be able to get features that help you see better and provide greater comfort. You may be able to get these features without a prescription, but with a prescription, your cost may be covered by you HSA or your insurance.
Protection features that may be covered by your insurance:
Polarized lenses provide a filter that blocks glare and intense light that reflects off of surfaces like cars, water, glass, etc.
UV Ray protection
If you’re looking for great UV protection, make sure your sunglasses are at least rated UV400 protection, which blocks 99.9% of UV rays, according to LensCrafters.
What Are Other Discounts if You Don’t Have Vision Insurance?
If you don’t have vision insurance, you may qualify to put this expense on your HSA, if your employer offers it.
HSA stands for Health Saving Account and it’s a benefit that some employers offer to their employees. The way it works is you determine how much per month is deducted from your paycheck to be transferred to this account, before taxes.
Then, as you get medical expenses (like purchasing prescription glasses), you submit your receipts and you get reimbursed from that savings account.
It’s a great way to lower your income tax bracket and have an account that covers the cost of things like your prescription lenses or glasses.
What if I Decide to Buy my Frames Separately, Will it Save Money on My Prescription Sunglasses?
Yes, you can save money if you choose to purchase your frames and lenses separately. It’s a good idea to get your frames from a place that accepts your vision insurance, that way all or most of the cost is covered depending on your policy.
For designer frames, there are several options you can choose from to get the best price. Discount retailers like Ross, Marshalls, or TJ Maxx carry designer sunglasses at a fraction of the true retail cost.
Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club also carry a great selection of designer and name brand frames for less because they’re able to buy in bulk.
The Best Places to Find Designer Sunglasses for a Cheaper Price
If you just want a pair of good quality designer glasses without a prescription, there are several stores that offer great options for a cheap price.
As we mentioned, discount retail stores like Ross or Marshalls have a great selection of name brand glasses. Nordstrom Rack is another place to find designer sunnies at a discount price.
Retail outlets are also a great option. You may have to take a longer drive, but their prices are usually 50-75% off the retail price.
The difference between retail outlets and discount retailers like Ross or TJ Maxx is that you can choose the specific name brand you want to buy and you don’t have to sort through a selection of brands you’re not interested in.
If you want to buy your glasses online, there are several good options as well.
Sunglass Hut offers significant discounts for their online shoppers.
Lenscrafters also has good deals and sometimes offers discounted packages for multiple purchases.
Eyebuydirect.com offers its frames starting at $6, which is less than a fast-food meal. Talk about a bargain.
What Apps are Available for Finding Coupons on Sunglasses?
Rakuten is a great website to get cashback on all your purchases, including sunglasses. They offer cashback on thousands of retailers.
This is in addition to any savings you get from the retailer sales, which makes your purchase an even better deal.
All you have to do is log in to their site and let them redirect you to the retailer of your choice. You buy your glasses and it’s automatically tracked for cashback. Then, you get a “big fat check” in the mail at the end of every quarter. It’s that simple.
Groupon is another good place to find discounts on designer sunglasses. You can purchase with their discounts directly from their site.
RetailMeNot provides promo codes for your favorite stores, whether online or in-store. Be sure to choose the promo codes based on your shopping method so you can get the discount applied.
Here’s a Bonus Tip to Save Money on Your Sunglasses This Year.
During the spring and summer months, everyone is shopping for summer accessories. The high demand means higher prices on things like shades.
But, if you wait until fall and winter, most of those summertime items will have closeout prices, since the retailer wants to make room for next year’s styles and fashion. This is the perfect opportunity for you to grab shades and glasses at heavily discounted prices. It’s the best time to save the most money.
It is Possible to Find Designer Sunglasses at an Affordable Price
You can have designer sunglasses without spending a fortune. There are online discount retailers, cashback opportunities, and promo codes at every corner of the web. All of these tools can help you shave down the total price that you pay for your sunnies.
You can also shop at discount retail chains and warehouse retail stores. They specialize in cutting costs to transfer those savings on to their customer. They have a sizable collection and you’ll be able to save money on your frames during their sales and other promotions.
There’s no need to pay full price for your sunglasses. Do your research and find stores near you or online that are offering sales on eyeglasses and use the couponing and cashback apps to make the deal even sweeter.
Even if you’re in need of prescription sunglasses, check with your vision insurance carrier and find out how much of your cost can be covered. To save even more money, check with your employer to find out if there are other benefits like an HSA (Health Savings Account) that can reimburse some or all of your costs.
With so many affordable budget-friendly options for good quality sunglasses, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect pair of sunnies to fit your style and your budget.
–By Gina Zakaria
How We Deal With Picky Eaters
When I talk about cutting your grocery bill, I often will hear from people who will ask, “What do you do about picky eaters?”
As you probably have gathered from our sometimes non-conventional menu plans, we don’t base our menu plans upon picky eating palates. Instead, we based them upon what’s on sale at the store and what we have on hand.
Our kids have learned from a young age that I don’t cater to their whims and wishes when it comes to food. We stick with a budget and we shop the sales and markdowns.
Much of the time, that means I find at least a few great deals each week on some of their favorite foods (and I try to stock up as much as I can when I do!). However, sticking with a budget means that I’ve at least somewhat regularly served things for meals that the kids didn’t think they would like.
When it comes to encouraging our kids to eat foods they either don’t really like (or just haven’t tried and think they won’t like), here’s how we approach it at our house:
1. You have to eat three bites.
I know it might almost sound a little juvenile, but for some reason, limiting it to three bites seems to be very doable for our picky eater(s) and they rarely complain because they know that three bites is all that is required.
Note: The adults need to set the example here. If Mom and Dad are picky, there’s a good chance that it’s going to trickle down to some of your kids, too. Set a good example of gratefully eating food set in front of you and not complaining about food… your kids are watching and picking up on your example more than you know!
2. If you complain, you have to eat three more bites.
It is such a gift to have food to eat and I never want my kids to forget that. Even if you don’t like something, you don’t have to complain about it.
So we’ve instituted the rule that if you complain about something, you have to eat three more bites. This cuts down significantly on any complaining! 🙂
3. Once you’ve eaten three bites, you can make something else for your dinner.
We’ve found that oftentimes, the kids will think they won’t like something at all, but then they’ll change their mind once they’ve eaten three bites and they’ll end up eating a full serving. If they still decide that they don’t like something after three bites, they can eat the sides fixed for dinner and fix something else, as well.
The kids know that they can fix themselves yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, scrambled or fried eggs, oatmeal, or mac and cheese to go along with dinner at any time — so long as they’ve eaten their required three bites.
That’s right, I let them fix it themselves (and they are expected to clean up after themselves, too). This keeps it simple for me, but it still makes sure that they are eating enough at dinner time.
As our kids have gotten older, we’ve found that they’ve become more accustomed to different foods because of this simple system. In fact, these days, it’s rare that they fix something extra for dinner — because the three bites rule really helped them to slowly expand their palate.
They’ve now become quite adventuresome in their eating and will often choose to eat something that they don’t think they’ll like just because they want to try it! I can’t guarantee that what has worked at our house will work at yours, but hey, if you’re struggling with picky eaters, let me know if you give it a try!
An Important Note: I know that some kids genuinely have severe sensory issues when it comes to certain textures of foods or certain other issues that are very legitimate reasons for them having a “picky palate”. I’m not saying you need to or should force a child to eat three bites of something — especially in this case. You know your child and their unique needs and I think each parent should decide what would be best for each child.
How do you deal with picky eaters at your house? I’d love to hear! Tell us in the comments!
Here Are 6 Ways to Have a Blast at a Drive-In Movie Theater
Summer is on its way. Wahoo!
That also means it’s time to start planning affordable family nights, now that the kiddos are home and don’t have homework to worry about. But that seems to be getting harder and harder these days, especially in a way that’s safe for everyone.
That’s why you should consider the closest drive-in movie theater.
Drive-ins aren’t merely a relic of the past — you might even have one in your backyard. A family of four can see a movie with snacks and drinks for around $25, at most.
Check out this database from DriveInMovie.com to see if there is a drive-in in your county. Next, here are some hacks to make sure you get the most out of your drive-in theater experience.
Tips to Help You Have a Blast At Your Local Drive-In Movie Theater
I know what you’re thinking: “What could be so difficult about putting a car in park and watching a dang screen?”
Well, it’s not difficult. But if you want to be comfortable and have as much fun as possible, here are eight tips for your first drive-in experience, courtesy of patrons and staff at the Lakeland, Florida-based Silver Moon Drive-In Theater.
And because it seems like everything can change on a weekly — or daily — basis, we’ve included Pro Tips to help you prepare for social distancing restrictions. But check with your drive-in before you go for location-specific updates.
1. Get There Early and Grab a Spot Near the Exit
As the only option for big-screen movies in some areas, the drive-in is becoming a lot more popular. The Silver Moon’s website specifically asks you to try to get there early.
Many drive-ins currently require you to pre-purchase tickets online and restrict capacity to allow a full space between each car.
One, you won’t have to sit in a long line of cars and burn that precious gas. And two, you can snag a parking space close to the exit so you avoid the slow-moving caravan after the double feature.
2. Bring Your Own Radio and Extra Batteries
Here’s the scene: You’re out with the guy of your dreams, who is totally impressed with your choice of a classic date night. But when the movie’s over, you turn the key to start your car and hear that dreaded clicking noise. Your battery is dead.
Don’t let this happen to you; bring a portable radio with extra batteries. You have to stream the movie’s audio through a radio, and using your car radio will drain the battery.
Some drive-ins will not allow you to leave your car — even for the restroom. Plan accordingly.
Also, if you plan to set up chairs in your pickup bed or behind your vehicle, you’ll need a portable radio to hear the movie anyway.
Alternatively, you can recharge your car battery by turning on your car every half hour or so and letting it run for a few minutes.
3. Bring Bug Spray
Bugs are an annoying part of life in the summertime.
You’ll be outside for a few hours — whether you’re allowed to sit outside on your lawn chairs or even if it’s just with the windows rolled down — so pack that bug spray so you don’t feel like you’re actually in the jungle while watching “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
6/4/20 @ 11:17 PM
5/21/20 @ 8:47 AM
5/22/20 @ 10:19 AM
5/18/20 @ 10:14 AM
4. Pack Dinner, Snacks and Drinks
One of the best parts of the drive-in is that you can bring your own food. Why spend $12 on movie-theater nachos when you can bring some chips and dip for less than half that?
Some drive-ins have had to close concession stands due to social distancing restrictions — and relaxed their rules on outside food. Call before you go to ask if you can bring your own snacks.
Not all drive-ins allow outside food, so check the rules before you arrive. Silver Moon does allow you to bring in food, but its patrons rave about the food. (I recommend glass-bottle Cokes, some popcorn and a Silver Moon pizza.)
5. Wear Comfy Clothes
Here’s another drive-in advantage: Nobody will judge what you’re wearing.
Break out your pajamas for an extra comfy drive-in experience. Or dress up like one of the Avengers.
6. Bring Cash, Just in Case
Remember when people actually paid for stuff with those green paper thingies?
Drive-ins dredge up feelings of nostalgia for much simpler times. That might mean simpler times for your wallet as well. Bring some cash just in case.
Now that you’re a drive-in expert, all you need is a cherry red 1950s convertible and you’re ready to hit the theater. Just kidding.
Alex Mahadevan is a former data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
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