How to Save Money by ’Paying Yourself First’

If even these types of steps seem overwhelming, there are a lot of other actions finance newbies can take to reconfigure their finances to fit any lifestyle—without necessarily going to extremes. For United Kingdom–based freelance marketer and editor Chiara Bullen, living in a lower-cost area and taking a hard look at where she can cut costs has helped tremendously. “I live in Glasgow, Scotland, which generally has a lower cost of living than other U.K. cities,” she explains. “It means the competition for freelance work here is pretty tough—and I often look for remote positions [which are], again, competitive—but the low rent really pays off and makes it worthwhile.”

Ann Gynn, a principal at G Force Communication, says one of the biggest errors she made when she first started working for herself was not factoring in extra expenses—like her computer, software, and printer ink—into her budget. Now she makes sure to calculate those as well as retirement and health savings account (HSA) money into her expenses. “I also have two savings accounts, one for my business and one for my personal expenses,” she says. “The business savings account has two purposes: [to pay for] tools, third-party invoices, [and similar expenses] that will eventually be paid for by my clients, and [to] cover my ‘paycheck’ in times when existing work isn’t sufficient or cash flow has a hiccup.”

And for people who work for themselves or bring in additional income, there are other considerations to make. Stephanie Genkin, a Brooklyn-based certified financial planner and founder of My Financial Planner, LLC, who has worked with many different clients including freelancers, independent contractors, and small-business owners, says she sees the same mistakes from self-employed workers time and again. She recommends first setting aside money for immediate expenses, debt, and bills as well as taxes before you do anything else with your money. “Set up a separate bank account for [tax purposes],” she says. “It helps you detach from the money. You are just holding it for the IRS. Some banks let you give your account a nickname. Be specific. It’s not yours to spend.” While salaried staff employees don’t necessarily need to juggle multiple savings accounts like Ann Gynn does, however, Genkin says they can be helpful for people who are freelancing or self-employed and want to separate items like tax money from vacation money.

If you have money left over, Genkin encourages women to put at least 10 percent of those funds into a retirement account like a 401(k) or an IRA, or a savings account to build up emergency funds. But be careful: Genkin says savers want to keep that money at arm’s length so as not to be tempted to dip into it whenever they want. “Typically, an emergency account is for job loss, medical and dental emergencies, family emergencies, car repairs when you need it to commute to work, forced move on short notice,” she says, “not cheap tickets to the Caribbean for spring break with friends.”

For Jillian, having such an aggressive savings plan came in handy when she had a month between jobs with no source of income and had saved up a year’s worth of money. “To me, the emergency fund is there as a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” she explains. “It’s a sign that my entire life could crumble and I would buy myself time to get myself on track. I will have the luxury to be able to endure almost anything. It’s freedom and security.”

For Sage Daugherty, saving up is about comfort. “My main motivation for saving right now is to just be able to go out and have a nice dinner or go shopping and treat myself a little, and not feel guilty about spending $100 or something like that,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like I am too frugal, and my parents sometimes remind me to ‘put a crowbar in my wallet’ and go have fun! I definitely try and balance it out.”

What to do with your savings, according to a financial planner

Most people would like to be saving more money.

Whether it’s to pad an emergency savings account, to eventually buy a house or to some day be able to take that dream vacation to Europe, it’s the general consensus that the more you can save, the better.

If saving equals good stuff, then why is it so hard for us, in general, to save more? These days things like student loan debt and an overall high cost of living can stop people from reaching their ultimate savings goals.

Plus, it can be hard to get started, since you’ll need to have a good understanding of your overall financials before you can actually plan to save more.

To that end, Molly Stanifer, CFP®, financial advisor with Old Peak Finance, suggests tracking your spending, then mapping out a budget to including your additional savings.

The most effective way to track your budget is to write down every expense as you incur it, said Stanifer.

“Just like if you are bringing attention to your diet, it forces awareness,” she said. “There are also apps — or perhaps your credit card company or bank already does this — for tracking your spending after the fact. That type of tracking software is good for spotting trends.”

Once you’ve tracked your spending and are starting to create a budget, Stanifer suggests using the following hierarchy of goals:

  1. Pay down high interest rate debt.
  2. Top up your emergency fund to a comfortable amount. Keep in mind that while the general guideline is still three to six months’ worth of your essential expenses, the actual idea behind this goal is considering how long it would take for you to find a new job should you lose your current source of income. “If you are in a dual-income household or a high-demand industry, perhaps you would feel comfortable on the lesser side of three to six months,” said Stanifer.
  3. Take advantage of all tax beneficial accounts, like a 401k, IRA and 529s.
  4. Invest in a non-retirement brokerage account to further your savings.

If you’re considering saving for a vacation or some other non-essential before you’ve established an emergency fund, paid down debt, or maxed out your retirement accounts, Stanifer suggests thinking twice.

“Sometimes we get focused on desires right in front of us and justify immediate gratification for sacrificing something that may be more beneficial to you in the long term,” she said. “Take a step back and project what impact each financial decision would have,” and consider shifting priorities, if need be.

As far as short-term savings goals go, Stanifer says a bank savings account or CD should work fine. If you do plan to work with an advisor for long-term investments, though, Stanifer says to proceed with caution and “make sure they are putting your interests ahead of their own. NAPFA advisors are all CFP professionals and are fee-only, held to a fiduciary standard.”

Need a better place to keep your savings? Consider these offers from our partners:

Can the FIRE Movement Really Help You Retire Early?

In the world of finance, everyone is looking for a surefire solution to getting out of debt, building wealth, and eventually achieving financial independence. You could spend years of your life learning and practicing the fundamentals, or you could learn a basic system that could feasibly produce the same results.

10 myths about online savings accounts


Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

New digital banks are launching left and right, and there’s no shortage of online savings accounts to choose from.

But data shows that many savers aren’t taking advantage of what direct banks have to offer. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans (58 percent) say they either don’t have or have never had a money market or savings account with an online bank, according to a Bankrate Financial Security Index survey. from July 2018.

Though online banking has been around for years, there are misconceptions keeping some consumers from wanting to manage their savings through a digital-only channel.

Here are 10 common myths about online accounts that could be keeping you from boosting your savings.

1. Online savings accounts are only for millennials

Millennials and their parents (and grandparents) may have different ideas when it comes to managing and even talking about money. It’s assumed that younger Americans are more comfortable using digital banking channels. But that doesn’t mean online savings accounts are only a good fit for young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Bankrate found that Gen Xers (ages 38 to 53) are most likely to say they have or have had an online savings or money market account, according to the Financial Security Index survey. That’s a trend some banks even acknowledge.

“Our customer demographic does skew more to Gen X,” says Nicole Lorch, executive vice president and chief operating officer at First Internet Bank.

An online savings account could be worth having regardless of your age. Even brick-and-mortar banks are pushing customers toward their online platforms, says Michael Gerstman, CEO of the Dallas-based retirement planning firm Gerstman Financial Group.

2. Online savings accounts are for the tech-savvy

You don’t need to be a technological whiz to know how to open and maintain an online savings account. In fact, we’ve reached a point where banking and opening accounts online has become common.

“If there is a level of discomfort, that is going away real quickly as we pay our bills online and we do more and more things directly from our bank’s website,” Gerstman says.

Banks have put effort into making their websites easy to use. Depending on the institution you choose, it’s possible to open an online savings account in a matter of minutes. Chime, a neobank, boasts on its website that signing up for an account takes just two minutes.

3. There are no humans to talk to

For financial institutions, technical glitches and outages aren’t uncommon. Every now and then, bank customers find that they’re having problems with their online accounts.

While you may not be able to visit a physical branch, that doesn’t mean you’ll be forced to talk to a robot in order to get your concerns addressed.

“While a human face with a smile is awesome, the fact is that you can still get great customer service from many online-only banking companies. And if you need that smile, many will do a video chat,” says Catherine New, editor-in-chief at Varo Money, a company that offers mobile banking.

If you’re in the process of comparing savings accounts and you value relationship banking and quality customer service, find out how you’ll be able to get in touch with a representative if there’s an issue. Do your due diligence and look for a bank that’s accessible throughout the weekend as well as during the week. Start your research with Bankrate’s bank reviews and ranking of the best online banks.

4. Online savings accounts are less secure

Data breaches have affected millions of Americans, and bank executives like Jamie Dimon say it may be the “biggest threat” to the country’s financial services system.

Different banks have different security protocols in place, and online savings accounts aren’t automatically any less safe than an account you would open at a traditional bank.

“Online savings accounts — and mobile banking — is as safe, if not more, than old-school branch banking. (We say even more safe because there is less potential for human error, like leaving account documents on an open desk for example),” New says. “Many of the online savings accounts are offered by newer tech-based companies, which are built with the most modern security technology. That means security patches and updates can be deployed more quickly.”

While it’s on the banks to ensure that certain protections are in place, consumers must also play an active role in avoiding phishing attacks and scams. Be careful about where you are when you’re logging into your account, and set up two-factor authentication so that the bank can verify your identity and protect you from hackers and thieves. Whether you’re banking online, at a brick-and-mortar bank or just “looking at grandkids on Facebook, they should probably be mindful of their digital footprint,” says Lorch.

5. Accessing your money takes longer

From a mental standpoint, having an online savings account could be helpful. If you have a tendency to overspend, opening an account online (and being unable to visit a branch in person) may provide enough of a physical barrier to prevent you from making careless mistakes with your money.

But having a savings account online doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be harder to get access to your money. It all depends on your bank.

“With many of the newer online savings accounts, you can instantly tap your app to move money in and out of savings into a bank account so you can use it,” says New from Varo Money. “There is no waiting in line or completing a form.”

At Synchrony Bank, customers with high-yield savings accounts can quickly and easily withdraw funds using an ATM card. If this isn’t an option at your bank, there will be a bit of a wait before you can access your money after transferring it electronically to an external checking account or initiating a wire transfer.

6. Online savings accounts are offered by unstable banks

It’s natural to be skeptical about a new online savings account from a bank you’ve never heard of. That makes sense. It’s not smart to open a financial product without doing some background research. In many cases, you might be surprised to find that a digital bank is actually an extension of a traditional institution that’s been around for decades.

As long as your deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, you should be in the clear. In the event that a bank closes shop, you’ll be able to get most (if not all) of your money back.

“Look for FDIC insurance,” Lorch says. That’s the gold standard of knowing that their money is going to be safe.”

7. Rates aren’t much higher than what traditional banks offer

Few Americans pay close attention to the interest rate tied to their savings accounts. In a recent survey published by PurePoint Financial, more than half of the participants admitted that they didn’t know what their annual percentage yield, or APY was.

Many people bank with brick-and-mortar institutions paying less than 1 percent APY. If you don’t think you’ll be earning a significant amount of interest by moving your savings account over to an online bank, you could be leaving money on the table.

The best online savings accounts pay around 2.5 percent APY. That’s nearly 25 times higher than the national average, according to Bankrate data.

8. Online savings accounts only benefit serious savers

In order to have an adequate savings cushion set aside for emergencies, experts recommend having enough funds to cover at least six months of living expenses. But most Americans don’t have that much money saved.

If the amount of money in your savings account is small, you may assume that it doesn’t matter where you store your funds. But even a small amount of savings has the potential to grow with the power of compound interest.

Even if you have just $200 to set aside, there’s a difference between earning 0.01 percent APY and 2.5 percent APY. Do the math and find out how much interest you can potentially earn within a year.

9. Online savings accounts don’t have much to offer

All banks aren’t created equal. Some online savings accounts are truly bare-bones accounts. You can store your savings, but other than that, there’s not much to look forward to. But that’s not the case for every account offered by a digital-only bank.

New savings customers at banks like Discover Bank have an opportunity to earn a cash bonus for opening a savings account. CIT Bank offers a Savings Builder account that rewards account holders for consistently saving money or maintaining a high savings balance. Synchrony Bank reimburses ATM fees and offers rewards like travel and leisure discounts, as well as identity theft resolution services.

10. All online savings accounts offer a high yield

If you’re sick of earning less than 1 percent APY on your savings, there’s a good chance there’s an online bank offering a much more competitive yield. But even with online savings accounts, rates fall somewhere on a spectrum. To earn the top rate, you’ll have to shop around.

For example, USAA is an internet bank. The most you can earn from its most basic savings account is 0.15 percent APY. To earn more than 1 percent APY through its Performance First Savings account, you would need to deposit at least $100,000.

In contrast, Vio Bank’s online savings account pays 2.46 percent APY. You can earn that yield with a minimum deposit of just $100.

Bottom line: If you’re trying to grow your savings as quickly as possible, you’re better off going with an account that pays more interest and that has interest that’s compounded on a daily basis.

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Expert Travelers Share Their Best Money-Saving Travel Hacks

If you’re someone who loves to travel, then you know it can be expensive. From the cost of food to accommodation expenses, it adds up quickly. If you’re wondering how to make the most out of your next adventure, here are some of the best money-saving travel hacks straight from the mouths of seasoned travel experts.

Be Flexible with Your Travel Plans

The more flexible you are with your travel plans, the easier it will be to find discounts and deals.

“Rather than selecting the destination and figuring out what it will cost, look for a bargain. I traveled to India when I found an outrageous special on Jetsetter.com,” says Janice S. Lintz, a consumer education and travel writer and a non-practicing attorney.

If you don’t have your heart set on a destination, sites like Skyscanner allow you to type in “everywhere” to your flight search and find the best rates by destination. Using this search option will give you an idea of the travel cost associated with each location.

Do Your Research

When traveling, it’s important to research not only transportation and accommodations, but also visa entry requirements, cultural norms, number of pages you need in your passport, travel warnings, local embassy contact information and more. You can find a lot of this information on the Travel page at the U.S. Department of State‘s website.

Even the savviest travelers can forget to read up on the countries they’re visiting. Having minimal knowledge of the place you’re visiting could leave you in a sticky situation and cost you a lot more than your budget allows.

Set Up Price Alerts

Setting up price alerts can help you monitor price fluctuations affecting your bookings. Sites like Kayak and Travelocity allow you to set up price alerts to keep an eye on the flights you’re interested in booking.

“If flying, start with Google Flights. It’s a wonderful tool to find the best flights at the lowest price. Flexibility is the key to finding the best fares,” says Jen Hayes, founder of Smarty Pants Finance.

Having an open mind about travel dates, airlines and airports can cut fares by hundreds of dollars. Many booking sites allow you to search one-way flights so you can get a low one-way fare, too.

For example, if you’re traveling to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, you might want to research the airports available in the surrounding area, like LaGuardia Airport. LaGuardia might offer cheaper one-way fares, so you don’t have to buy a more expensive round-trip ticket out of JFK. Purchasing one-way tickets could end up saving you money.

Develop a Credit Card Reward Strategy to Maximize Your Miles

Sean Messier, credit industry analyst at Credit Card Insider, advises, “If you’re a frequent traveler with no brand preference when it comes to airlines or hotels, seek out a general travel credit card that provides a variety of perks.”

Try to find a travel rewards credit card that offers benefits like complimentary delay reimbursement, rental car insurance, lost luggage protection and maybe even airport lounge access. Some credit cards even let you transfer earned points to different airlines or hotels. This can be helpful when you’re always on the go.

If you’re loyal to one airline or hotel brand, try to find a co-branded credit card. You generally will receive a higher reward rate for purchasing with these specific brands.

Catch the Local Transit Everywhere You Go

Chizoba Anyaoha is the founder of TravSolo, a travel app that helps you create your itinerary on-the-go and update your travel blog easily.

“Using public transportation is by far the best way to really save. It may not always be the most reliable but at least you will have more money to spend for food, drinks and activities,” recommends Anyaoha.

This is a great opportunity to relax, enjoy the scenery and even make new friends. However, you will need to factor in the additional time it will take to get from point A to point B. If you find yourself feeling unsafe, it may be wise to spend a few extra bucks on a cab.

Carefully Select Your Accommodations

Similar to buying a house or renting an apartment, travel accommodation options come with their own sets of pros and cons. You can choose from hotels, hostels and apartment rentals, or you can opt for couch surfing and house sitting. While hotels may be more expensive, they offer privacy and quiet. Hostels are more economical, and they can provide a social environment and the opportunity to meet other travelers.

“Another option to strongly consider is an Airbnb rental, where you get the privacy you need combined with the option to hang out with the local who rented you a room, if they are free to do so,” Anyaoha adds.

Every traveler is searching for a unique experience. You must determine what accommodation requirements are most important to you when jaunting around the world. If you’re up for an adventure you may want to try to split your time between multiple accommodation options to add variety to your trip’s dynamic.

Travel Light

Jennifer Fontaine is the managing editor of Outdoor Families Magazine and she’s a family adventure travel expert.

“Invest in a regulation carry-on and pack light. This will save precious time, both at check-in and when you arrive at your destination, and eliminates any chance of lost luggage, so you have less to stress about,” suggests Fontaine.

Packing light can also save you a lot of money. Some airlines offer free carry-on accommodations. Check your airline’s luggage policy before you book your flight to ensure you can bring your carry-on free of charge.

Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance

While you’re busy planning your itinerary, you could overlook the possibility of illness. This might not be a big deal if you’re traveling domestically, but if you’re venturing abroad you may want to have a plan in place just in case you contract something.

“Prior to traveling, I suggest travelers do their homework on their destination, read up on any recent health outbreaks, and make an appointment with their nearest travel medicine location to get appropriate shots or medications,” recommends Suzanne Garber, Health-Tech co-founder.

To protect yourself against additional costs, you can consider purchasing travel insurance as well. Not only does travel insurance help pay for medical costs, it also offers trip coverage for interruptions, lost or delayed baggage, theft, service provider failures and much more. Before purchasing a policy, make sure your credit card company doesn’t offer complimentary travel insurance. This will save you some money and stress.

“I recommend evaluating the risks of the travel destination, the planned activities and your personal health situation. Travel insurance is not always a necessity and, in many cases, you’ll get quality care that’s much more affordable than what you’d pay with co-pays back home,” adds Garber.

You may find that the cost of care outside the U.S. is less expensive – even without insurance. However, taking preventive measures may be one of the most cost-effective methods if you want to avoid extra medical costs.

The Bottom Line

Take it from these seasoned travel experts: Saving money when traveling is simple with a little research and flexibility.

What are some of your money-saving hacks? We want to hear from you! Please leave your answers in the comments below.

The Ridiculous Retirement Solution Nearly 60% of Millennials Are Banking On

If saving consistently for retirement were an easy thing to do, perhaps more of us would have larger nest eggs. But we all know very well that when life’s many expenses pile up against us, setting aside funds for an IRA or 401(k) can be challenging, to say the least. And to an extent, this especially holds true for millennials, who are most likely to not only be grappling with entry-level wages, but have nagging student loans eating away at their earnings.

But rather than work around these limitations and develop long-term savings plans that allow them to build wealth for retirement, millennials have come up with what they think is a better idea: winning the lottery and using that cash to fund their golden years. In fact, nearly 60% of millennials think that playing the lottery is a reasonable plan when it comes to producing retirement savings, according to investing app STASH.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

The irony, of course, is that while 31% of Americans across the board (millennials included) don’t invest their money for the future because they feel it’s too risky, 59% of millennials think it makes sense to regard lottery jackpots as a solid means of retirement income. And the sooner they realize just how insane that notion is, the sooner they can take steps to implement savings plans that actually have a shot at working.

Don’t bank on a windfall

You’ve probably heard that you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than actually come up with a winning lottery ticket. Incidentally, you’re also more likely to be born with extra fingers or toes, or have quintuplets naturally. The point, therefore, is that while playing the lottery is something you can feel free to do for fun (assuming you don’t waste too much money on it), it should by no means serve as your retirement safety net. For that, you’ll actually need to make an effort to save on your own, and then invest that money wisely.

Unfortunately, millennials in particular are struggling in this regard, with 76% living paycheck to paycheck. If you’re not sure how you might begin to manage to save for retirement, start by creating a budget. Doing so will give you better insight as to where your money goes month after month so that you can examine your spending and find ways to cut back, whether it’s downsizing to a smaller living space or curbing leisure.

At the same time, it pays to consider a side hustle if your regular paycheck doesn’t allow for the level of savings you’d like. Of the millions of Americans who currently hold down a second job, 14% do so for the purpose of being able to build a nest egg.

Once you are able to eke out some monthly savings, be sure to invest it in stocks. You can do so by buying individual stocks in an IRA, or by loading up on index funds in your 401(k).

How much savings might you amass by going this route? The stock market has historically delivered about a 9% average annual return. Since you probably won’t (or shouldn’t) invest your entire nest egg in stocks, let’s assume that you’re able to score an average annual 7% return over time. If that’s the case, here’s what your IRA or 401(k) balance might look like after 40 years, depending on how much money you’re able to set aside each month:

Data source: AUTHOR.

It’s OK to dream about winning the lottery. Just don’t bank on a massive payout to fund your golden years, because chances are, it isn’t going to happen. Instead, take savings matters into your own hands, and give yourself the longest possible window to accumulate wealth.

Should You Use Your IRA to Pay for College?

IRAs, or individual retirement accounts, are a valuable long-term savings tool, particularly for workers who don’t have access to a 401(k) through their jobs. If you’re saving in a traditional IRA, you’re probably aware that the money in that account is meant for retirement, and there are penalties associated with withdrawing funds prior to age 59 and 1/2. However, there are a few exceptions to that rule.

The IRS will allow you to take an early withdrawal from your IRA of up to $10,000 to purchase a first-time home. It will also allow you to withdraw funds prematurely from your IRA to pay for college — either for yourself, your spouse, your child, or even a grandchild. Whether or not it makes sense to tap into your IRA for college purposes, though, is a different story.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

What’s that money for?

If you open an IRA for the express purpose of socking money away for college, then there’s nothing wrong with taking withdrawals to cover higher education, provided you have another account somewhere earmarked for retirement. But if taking IRA withdrawals for college means depleting some of the cash reserves you’ve been setting aside for your golden years, then doing so is a pretty bad idea.

The less money you have in your IRA by the time your career wraps up, the less income you’ll have access to in retirement. It’s that simple. Therefore, if you withdraw a chunk of your savings to pay tuition bills, you’ll be without that money at a time in your life when you need it the most.

Furthermore, remember that any time you take an IRA withdrawal, you don’t just lose out on the principal amount you remove; you also lose out on gains that sum could’ve produced. Let’s say you take a $20,000 IRA withdrawal to pay for a child’s college 15 years before your targeted retirement date, and let’s also assume that your investments generally deliver a 7% average annual return. In that case, that $20,000 withdrawal will actually cost you $55,000 in lost retirement income.

An alternate solution

There’s nothing wrong with opening an IRA for the purpose of saving for college. The benefit of doing so is that your contributions will go in tax-free, thereby saving you money in the process of making them. The problem, though, is that with an IRA, your contributions are limited to whatever the annual maximum is. That number can change from year to year, but for 2019, it’s $6,000 if you’re under 50, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.

If you only have one child whose education you start saving for early on, an IRA might allow you to achieve your savings goals. But if you have multiple children and don’t start saving for college until they’re in their teens, you might come up short by only being allowed to set aside $6,000 or $7,000 a year. Furthermore, while you do get a tax break for funding a traditional IRA, withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income, so the amount you take out to pay for college won’t be yours to keep in full.

A better solution, therefore, might be a 529 plan. With a 529, you’re not limited in what you can contribute annually, and while the money you put in doesn’t give you an immediate tax break at the federal level (there are some incentives at the state level, depending on where you live), once you fund a 529, your money gets to grow tax-free. Withdrawals are then yours to take free and clear of taxes, provided they’re used for educational purposes.

Of course, the main drawback of 529s is that you’re restricted in how you can use your money. With an IRA, you can take withdrawals for college, or reserve money you don’t use for retirement. But if you do a good job of estimating your college savings needs, you might avoid a scenario where you overfund your 529 and run into that problem.

Tapping an IRA to pay for college is a move that can really hurt you if that money is supposed to be reserved for retirement. On the other hand, if you have separate funds for your golden years, a dedicated IRA might serve as a reasonable college savings solution.

Workshop teaches to save money & energy during summer months

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- Local power providers are shining a light on how to save.

Columbus Light and Water along with TVA joined together this week to host free educational workshops.

Workshops include energy saving tips to save money on utility bills.

Presenters also demonstrate how to use less energy on household items.

General Manager of Columbus Light Water says these tricks could help you save money during the Magnolia State’s hottest months.

“It just gives you ideas on how to take care of your equipment such as your HVAC, how to stop leaks and air gaps around your house. You know, simple things to keep your bill down,” said Todd Gale.

The first 25 participants will go home with a free Home Energy Starter Kit.

The last workshop will be Thursday at The Hyatt Place from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Family-friendly vacation ideas – WLS

CHICAGO (WLS) — It’s a popular time for spring break and many moms and dads are starting to plan their summer travel.

Lifestyle and parenting expert Donna Bozzo stopped by ABC7 with some ideas for family-friendly destinations.

LOS CABOS

Los Cabos! Doesn’t it sound like paradise with snow in Chicago two days ago? I just love everything about Los Cabo – beautiful beaches, fantastic excursions, lots of downtown fun, world class restaurants. There are so many kid-friendly places to stay in Los Cabo, but if you are lucky enough to get away without the kids this year – travel experts say they are seeing a big trend in ‘adult spring’ break (I like that, mom and dad need some R R too). The new Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos is my favorite spot, it’s just heavenly with great pools, a beautiful beach and fantastic food. It’s where the stars go. Also if you go to Cabo, look for great excursions offered at places like Pelagic Safari Tours – I just recently tried their whale watching tour and was lucky enough to catch a whale breeching out of water and get this – free dive with sharks – no cage – during their Shark Safari tour.

BEAVER CREEK

Spring skiing is my kind of skiing – think snow plus sun, and not all that freezing weather. You ski a little lighter without all the bulky cold weather gear. I love just about everything about the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, right in the heart of the cutest little village- fire pit and hot tub right outside and steps away from the slopes. Chocolate chip cookies abound – almost as good as Mom’s every day as the slopes close. If you go, try to book a sleigh ride up to the top of the mountain for dinner at Beano’s Cabin. And here is my Mom tip for saving money when flying west, take advantage of the cheaper flights to Denver, leaving early morning can save you a bundle, but no one wants to drive down the mountain at like 3 in the morning. A final night stay at the airport, yep – I said, airport helps you do this. At the Westin Denver International Airport hotel you stay right off the runway. No parking or Uber hassles – you simply walk from your room down the hall to the terminal for a no stress early departure.

BIMINI, BAHAMAS

Lots of Chicago area folks head down to Florida for spring break – every year to visit grandparents. if you are looking to shake up the trip a bit, you can now catch a ferry to Bimini in the Bahamas – it’s where both Hemingway and Jimmy Buffet found their creative inspiration. Resorts World Bimini is a great place to stay with the kids for a couple days. Cruising through the Atlantic is half the fun. Consider it a mini cruise. If you go, pack a bag of snacks for the room, there’s a lot less options for shopping on this incredible but not too bustle-y island.

LAST MINUTE STAY-CATION

Not everyone has the whole week off, or a ton of time to plan a trip. So I say what about a last minute mini stay in downtown Chicago or a close by enough town? Hotel Tonight makes it a cinch to book a last minute stay on your phone – and they say they can save you money. Here is my tip, start looking a couple days before and put a watch on your date and location of choice. They feature a deal of the day too so you could save money that way, too.

WHAT TO PACK
And what to pack and how to pack it. This spring break, I have to say I love everything by Bum Bum SOL Janerio- lots of great skin protection which you need these days and the fab Oliver Thomas bags are this mom’s current go-to bags. I love their patented hidden compartments for hiding passports and cash.

Reality bites at Little Rock City Hall; spending must be cut

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  • POTENTIAL SAVINGS: In an end to ‘Uber for Cops.’

A followup to Rebekah Hall’s earlier report on Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s announcement that cuts will be necessary in the city budget in part to pay for “priorities,” such as his desire to expand the police force, but also to deal with the reality often mentioned here of stagnant to declining city sales tax revenue. Some quick ideas on that:

* What Scott wants voters to hear: Here’s his statement on last night’s meeting.

* This should have been no surprise: During last year’s race for mayor, Baker Kurrus said repeatedly that expansion of city services was unlikely on account of budget constraints.  Remember this quote from Kurrus, defeated in the runoff with Scott?

“We’ve got about $210 million in operating money, and it’s all spoken for,” Kurrus said. Programs such as the city’s day center, Jericho Way, does great things, he said, but “I don’t have a big bag of money and Santa Claus is not on the way. The city has to grow its funding so we all get more. That’s the key. So don’t look at the current budget and say ’Where do we pinch off a little bit and have some money to do some of the things we need?’”

* And if we are to pinch: Scott has promised a strict review, using both outside analysis and department head input, to see where savings can be made. He still talks of a police force expansion. Here are some quick money-saving ideas.

Stop paying the salaries of executives of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. That would save $300,000 a year. They got along before that dole began as an unconstitutional subsidy. They can do so now.

Stop new commitments of cash to dubious projects. Case in point: Pull back the promise to provide $3 million in city money for the Interstate 30 Gulch project when we don’t yet know what part of it the state will be able to deliver, given that it is a half-billion dollars short of what it said the project it promised will cost.

No more Uber for Cops. That is, end the free car service for as many as 188 cops to commute to residences in cities other than Little Rock. Free cars, free gas, free oil, free maintenance, no tax liability.  Let’s give cop cars to cops who live in Little Rock. Their heightened presence on city streets would be welcome. Why provide a richly valuable subsidy to those who live elsewhere (and increasingly spend their city paychecks at businesses where the sales tax goes to Benton, Bryant, Maumelle, Conway, Cabot, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, etc., but not Little Rock.)

There’s more, lots more, particularly in some ward-heeling practices in the name of community outreach.