Easy budgeting for your bills

Bills

If you spend time each month “paying bills” like they show on TV, you may be doing it wrong. We’ve set up a system so getting the mail is actually fun again.

What did we do? We automated it and here’s how you can do it too.

Find all the bills that you pay monthly that stay the same amount or can be put on a budget to make them the same each month. Some examples include cell phone, cable, internet, natural gas, electricity, mortgage, car insurance, and life insurance.

Take the monthly amount for these bills and add them together. You then multiply it by 12 to get the yearly total of the bills. After you’ve woke up from the shock, divide that total by the number of paychecks you get in year. Check out this example.

Cell phone – $50
Internet – $35
Natural Gas – $70
Monthly Total – $50 + $35 + $70 = $155
Yearly Total – $155 * 12 = $1860
Paycheck Amount (bi-weekly) – $1860 / 26 = $72 (rounded up)

You now know how much you need to hold out of each paycheck to pay the bills you’ve selected. Now, what do you do with that money?

I’ve talked before about being a fan of online banks. The reason I’m such a fan is because of the flexibility. I can start a new account in a matter of minutes without having to go into the bank. On top of that, they’ll mail me a debit card. That being said, the next step is to start a separate account to use to pay these monthly bills.

You’ll need to fund the account with one month’s worth of money so you aren’t overdrawn. In the example above, that would be $155 that you would put in on the first of the month. If you don’t have that much extra, you can always start with fewer bills and add more later as you get the funds.

After funding your account for the month, you’ll need to set up automatic transfers (online banks also make this very easy) to occur the day after you get paid for the Paycheck Amount you calculated. This will make sure that the money for your bills is not spent on other things when it shouldn’t be.

Finally, you need to set up bill pay for each of the places that need to be paid. You can either do that through their website using the debit card or routing and account number for your account, or you can use the bill pay service provided by your bank.

That’s it! While it may sound like a complicated process, it’s actually very easy to do and definitely worth the trouble. When we’re away on vacation, I don’t worry if the bills will be paid on time. If a bill amount ever changes, we rerun the math and update the amount that gets transferred each month to our bills account. (Hint: Using spreadsheet software makes calculating the Paycheck Amount very easy when it needs to change.)

What do you think? Are you ready to automate a bit of your life? Leave your comments below to let me know what you think. If you have any questions, you can leave those there as well.

Bonus: If you’d like to get started using this method and need a little help, send me a note through the contact page and I’ll help you get started!

Featured Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stocard: All your rewards cards in one handy app

Stocard

Do you have a ton of rewards cards for different stores? Do you forget what stores you have rewards cards too? Do you feel guilty every time you’re holding up the line trying to find the right rewards card?

Of course, the answer is yes. Sometimes reward cards are great, but when you can’t keep them all straight and have more than one for a store, they become useless.

That’s where the Stocard app comes in. It’s a pretty simple app that provides a lot of value. You add your cards to the app by choosing the store and scanning the barcode. Then the next time you’re in a store, you just pull up the app, select the store and the barcode appears for them to scan.

The app has a tons of stores built in, but if they don’t have one you’re looking for, you can create a custom card and add a logo.

For those of us who are forgetful about which stores we have reward cards to, the app can show you your cards based on where you are. That means the next time you’re in a store you’ve got a rewards card for, you can find it easily. The Android version has a widget for displaying them this way. I’m not sure how the iOS version does it.

I’ve been trying it out for a week now and I haven’t had a ton of opportunities to use it, but I plan on keeping it installed for a while to give it a thorough try. So far, I’ve had one custom card that didn’t scan when I tried to use it. Honestly, I’m not surprised since it wasn’t for a store. The other card I tried was one that I changed after scanning it in, so that might be why it didn’t work. I’m hoping for better results the next time and I’m not going to give up on it that easily.

Have you tried the Stocard app? If you have tried it or do, let me know how it works for you in the comments below. If you have any other apps that help you to save money or keep your life organized, let me know in the comments below as well.

(Survey) What are you struggling with financially?

Feedback

I want to keep the content on Planning to Save relevant to you the readers. In order to do that, I need your anonymous feedback.

What are you struggling with financially? What do you wish you knew more about? Now is your opportunity to make a direct impact on the topics covered on this blog. Please take a minute (and hopefully it doesn’t take longer than that), to fill out the two question survey.

If it doesn’t load up correctly, you can open the survey by clicking here.

Featured Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Disney World on a Budget: Resorts and Travel

Hotel

To close out this series, let’s look at the resorts and the least expensive way to get there.

Let’s start with getting to the resort. Some people prefer flying, while others would prefer to drive. If you can’t drive there in 2 days, it’s probably best to fly when you factor in days off of work and the time you’ll spend in the car. However, if you can get there in 2 days or less, then driving is probably going to be the cheapest option. In addition to being cheaper, it has several other benefits. If you’ve got kids, you can pack all the extras in a vehicle that you wouldn’t be able to put on an airplane. Think stroller. In addition to that, having a vehicle gives you flexibility when you’re down there. Run out of diapers? Just run to the store and get some more.

Once you’re down there, should you stay on Disney property or not? If you’re looking for the cheapest option, staying off property is probably your best option. If you want to get the dining plan, staying on property is your only option. One added benefits to staying on property is the transportation system. If you fly into Orlando, the Disney Magical Express can transport you directly to your resort. Once you’re at your Disney resort, you can use the Disney buses, monorail, and boat system to get around all at no cost. If you prefer to drive your vehicle to the parks, you can park for free if you’re staying at Disney resorts. Otherwise, you should expect to shell out some big money to park each day.

Disney has resorts for all price ranges. They are divided into 4 different categories from least to most expensive: Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa.

As you go up in price, you get certain benefits and better amenities. For example, more expensive resorts are usually closer to certain theme parks like the Magic Kingdom. The resorts that are the least expensive usually have the most people staying at them, which means that the buses are usually filled more than the ones going to the moderate resorts and above. You also have extra transportation options at the more expensive resorts, such as boats and the monorail. We’ve stayed at one value resort and 2 moderate resorts in the times we’ve been there. The moderate resort rooms are a bit bigger and you can tell that there is more attention given to them. I’m sure the deluxe and deluxe villa rooms are even better. If you’re looking for a great room at a lower price, check out http://www.dvcrequest.com where you can buy points from Disney Vacation Club members when they can’t use them. This could get you a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa room at a Value or Moderate price. Definitely worth checking out and something I will certainly be looking into the next time we stay.

I haven’t stayed off property, but I know some of them offer transportation to the theme parks. However, they are usually on the outskirts of the Disney property so you will likely spend more time waiting for buses and more time on them once they arrive.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on planning a Disney World trip, making the most of it, and saving some money in the process. I’ve pulled from my personal experience when writing this. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that I get way to into this stuff.

If you’ve made a trip to Disney World, let me know about your experience in the comments below. If you have any questions related to planning your Disney trip, leave those as well and I’ll point you in the right direction. Most importantly, have fun!

Disney World on a Budget: Tickets

Spaceship Earth

Whether you’re buying your tickets as part of a package or separately, there are several ticket options that can make it difficult to determine if you’re making the right choice. Let’s cover some of those options below and I’ll give you my take.

  • Park Hopper – The Park Hopper option allows you to jump around to multiple parks in one day. If you plan on going for 4 days or more, you don’t really need the park hopper option. I’ve found that it’s better to focus on one park each day. When you try to jump from park to park, you end up spending more time getting from one place to another than you do actually enjoying the parks and attractions. If you’re only going to be there for 3 days or less, it might make sense if you just want to hit the major attractions at each park.
  • Water Park Fun and More – This option gets you access to the water parks, the DisneyQuest arcade, ESPN Wild World of Sports, and the Oak Trail Golf Course. If you plan on getting this option, you will probably want to devote at least an entire day to these places and skip a theme park. However, depending on the time of year you go, do you really want to spend a day at the water parks? We usually go in February, when usually only one of the water parks is open. We might get great water park weather, and we might not. It hasn’t been worth the extra cost for us. Perhaps if we were planning on stay two weeks, we might want to have the extra options. However, we don’t golf either and my daughters wouldn’t be into the sports stuff very much.

That pretty much breaks down all the ticket options. If you want to get the best value for your money, I would stick with the base ticket without the options. All of the resorts have pools you can use and many of them have a small slide for kids and other theming for the resort. It’s hard to justify the extra cost for the options when you may or may not use them.

One last thing to mention – If you look at the price of a one-day ticket, the price seems astronomical. However, the price drops considerably as you add more days on to the tickets. When you add 5 days or more, the price to add a day is less than $10. The longer you the stay, the better the value per day.

How many days do you plan on staying at Disney World or how many have you stayed in the past? Let me know in the comments below.