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DailyFinance.com
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    Tips to Make Your Swimsuit Last Longer
    A well-designed swimsuit can easily set you back $100 or more. With that kind of money being spent, how can you make sure it'll last you through the season? Here are a few easy ways to minimize wear and tear so you can keep swimming in style.

    When you hit the beach, sit on a towel -- rough surfaces can snag the material. Next, proper rinsing is also important for a swimsuit's longevity. Run your suit under fresh water as soon as possible so that bacteria has less time to set in. Over time, sunblock and your body's oils can weaken the fibers in your suit, so rinsing will help a lot.

    Avoid machine washing too, which can decrease your swimsuit's lifespan and cause pilling. When you do need to clean it, skip the laundry detergent and use a gentle cleanser, like castile soap or baby shampoo.

    When it comes to drying, don't wring it, don't hang it, and don't press it. Lay the suit out on a towel, roll the towel up and squeeze gently, then lay your swimsuit out to dry. Just remember to avoid drying in direct sunlight, which fades the color.

    Lastly, avoid flimsier fabrics like the polyester blends you might see. While they may be cheaper, they won't keep their shape as well as nylon and spandex, which can last much longer. But even these materials take about 24 hours to bounce back, so have a backup handy if possible.

    Now go out and enjoy the swim season, and keep that perfect suit in shape for many more years to come.

    Related: 15 cheap tricks for keeping cool in the summer

     

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    Easy and Cheap Ways to Make Your Home More Secure
    Did you know: Home security doesn't always need to come with a hefty price tag?

    To make sure your home isn't a target for burglars, use inexpensive plug-in timers to operate your lights and appliances while you're away. Leaving a small desk radio on for 6 hours a day only costs about 22 cents per month.

    Also look into motion-detecting floodlights, which cost as little as $12. Just remember to put them in a high enough place so they can't be broken or dismantled easily.

    Lastly, remember the most common entry points for thieves -- the front, side and back doors, the first floor window, and the garage. Always keep these points locked and secure, and while you're at it, put up home security stickers in these spots too. You can find these for as low as $10 on eBay. Having a few displayed will make anyone think twice before breaking in.

    So remember, even if you don't have a big budget, there are some low-cost ways you can protect your home.

     

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    Super Saver Food: Rotisserie Chicken
    Looking to save time and money with your home-cooked meals? If so, rotisserie chicken just might be your greatest ally in the grocery store. Here are a few great ways this little bird can help you stretch your dollar.

    To start, rotisserie chicken is pre-cooked and seasoned, so the hard stuff is already taken care of. When you bring it home, all you have to do is separate the meat from the bones. Then, simply shred it or cube it, and mix it into your meals throughout the week.

    From tacos to stew, pasta salad to chopped salad, you can incorporate rotisserie chicken into just about anything. This not only saves you money, but after a long day, it also makes cooking your dinners much easier.

    Best of all, you can find cheap rotisserie chickens just about anywhere. A typical one can cost anywhere between $5 and $10, but if you shop at night, around the time when the deli section of your supermarket closes, you can find prices slashed by up to 50 percent. This is because if they don't sell it, they have to toss it.

    So when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, think chicken - this little bird can help you save big.

    Related: Staples all frugal cooks should have in their pantry

     

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    Vintage white 'HOTEL' sign leaning against dark wooden wall in lobby of ACE Hotel in Portland, Oregon.
    If you're facing sticker shock from your travel this summer, earning points and miles is a great way to save on next year's vacation. And while you might think airline miles are the best place to start, there are several ways hotel points can save you more with less hassle. They're worth a look if you've given up on airline miles, or of you're just getting started thinking about travel rewards.

    1. Finding rooms with points is easier than flights with miles.

    Hotels aren't as aggressive with blocking rooms from awards as airlines are. While there are some restrictions, most of the big programs let you book just about any standard room with points. If there's a room for sale with cash, you can book it with points, and don't have to pay double the points on popular days. It's a lot easier to score one hotel room in a good location for your family than 4 award seats on the same flight at a reasonable time.

    2. They're more flexible.

    Hotel rewards don't have change fees, and you can often cancel them right up until a day or so before you arrive, so you have lots of flexibility. Adding or deleting a night is just a quick phone call.

    And if you decide you're just not interested in hotel rewards, most hotel points can be transferred into real airline miles, though they'll get diluted some in the process.

    3. You can earn them more quickly.

    Many hotel credit cards let you earn bonuses in categories like dining and gas spending, while the big airline credit cards tend to only give you one mile per dollar spent on anything but tickets with the airline. So with the right card, you can earn miles a lot faster.

    If you want to compare the best hotel credit cards, this calculator at MileCards.com lets you see what the hotel points you earn from various cards mean in dollar rewards, so you can compare more easily.

    Several cards also throw in a free night each year, without having to use points.

    4. You can share them easily.

    Some of the big hotel programs let you share points with family for free or a small charge. So if your spouse has just enough points to top off your account to get a free night, you can combine your points. Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest let you do this free, while Marriott Rewards charges a small fee.

    Airlines charge you for this privilege, often hundreds of dollars, so the cost of combining miles is often more than buying a ticket in cash without miles.

    The downside to hotel points is they can be harder to compare than airline miles. A mile gets you pretty much the same thing at each of the big airlines. But with hotel programs, what a point means varies a lot more.

    If you're trying to pick a hotel points program, this tool lets you see a map of what hotels are available in a city, and exactly how many points they cost. It's a good way to get a sense of which hotel program has the most convenient hotels in places you want to visit.

    RELATED: 13 tips to get the best hotel rates

     

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    Man calculating his bills while his family are on the sofaWhen it comes to your finances, positive affirmations, a willingness to learn, and a good attitude are a plus. However, none of these attributes will help you grow your bank account unless you back them up with some action.

    To add to that, far too many people are plagued with bad financial habits as well. Whether it boils down to overspending, not being realistic, or not setting goals, it's much easier to bury your head in the sand than to make an uncomfortable change.

    6 Reasons You're Not Saving Money

    If you're not saving money, the first question to answer is "why?" If you're drawing a blank, here are six possible scenarios that might apply in your situation:

    You're wasting money haphazardly.

    If you're spending all you make or more each month, you should do your best to locate your "budget drains," says Peter Huminski, President and Wealth Advisor at Thorium Wealth Management.

    Wasteful spending can come in many different forms, and it's not the same for each person. For someone, weekly stops at the local mall might be a problem. For another, it might be an addiction to pricey electronics and gadgets.

    For a large percentage of people, however, it's food spending that's to blame for their money troubles. If you're heading out to a restaurant for lunch each day, for example, you could literally be eating your savings away.

    "Stop going to out to lunch at work and bring your own lunch," says Huminski. "If you have a job that is conducive to bringing your own lunch, you can save over $50 per week. That is $2,600 per year. If you do it for 10 years you would have saved over $26,000 and you will be healthier as well."

    You don't have any goals.

    According to financial planner Joseph Carbone, Jr. of Focus Planning Group, not having goals hurts more than people realize. When it comes to retirement planning, for example, people often contribute enough to get their company's 401(k) match to feel good, yet don't have a clue if their retirement savings will be enough. And the same can be true for any of their other savings goals, whether it's saving up the down payment for a house, saving for a new car, or simply building an emergency fund.

    If you're going to save towards a goal - and you should, Carbone suggests starting with the end in mind then working backwards. For example, after fiddling around with a retirement calculator and speaking with your financial advisor, you might figure you need $2 million dollars to retire. If you have thirty years left until you reach retirement age, you should determine how much you need to invest each month - and how much your investments need to earn along the way.

    "If you don't go through this simple task, you need not even bother to start working toward this kind of goal because you're setting yourself up to fail," says Carbone.

    You're not taking action.

    Often times, people honestly believe they are doing the best they can with their money. They think they're stashing plenty of money away. They think their savings account is growing. They think they're keeping up with their bills and avoiding debt.

    But at the end of the month, the situation doesn't look anything like they perceived it would. Despite having good intentions, too many otherwise capable people find themselves out of cash, behind on bills, or worse, spiraling into debt.

    Just like anything else in life, good intentions only get you so far when it comes to your money. If you feel positive about your situation but constantly fall behind, a lack of action is probably the culprit.

    "One way to manage this debilitating syndrome is to automate," says Ronn Yaish, New Jersey Wealth Advisor at Yaish Financial Services. If taking action is not your strong suit, you should set up and automate withdrawals to your savings accounts, contributions to your brokerage accounts, credit card payments, and all other monthly financial tasks. You should also sit down with your HR representative to hash out which financial moves can be automated through payroll, says Yaish.

    By taking action just one time, you can get the bulk of your finances humming along indefinitely.

    You can't tell yourself "no."

    The advertising industry exists to separate us from our money, and far too many of us fall for the pitch - hook, line, and sinker. We stand in line for days to get a new iPhone, often paying a week's salary or more to do so. We buy overpriced clothing, new cars with outrageous monthly payments, and pricey gadgets. And if we can't afford to pay in cash, we charge it.

    "Most people are not willing to postpone the instant gratification of spending now," says Charles C. Scott, founder of Pelleton Capital Management in Scottsdale, AZ. And far, far too many of us just don't know how to tell ourselves "no" to the things we want.

    "The enemy is Madison Avenue marketing which has won the war on being financially smart about your future and instead hammers home the pleasure of spending it all," says Scott.

    Learning to delay gratification, save for a goal, and prioritize your spending are hallmarks of real adulthood, yet it's not that common for American families to have these attributes.

    You're not making your finances a priority.

    As a financial advisor, I've seen this tragedy play out time and time again. Too many good people don't put their finances first and simply let the chips fall where they may. Sadly, letting your finances "happen naturally" is the worst way to get ahead, mostly because life happens, bills happen, and it's easy to get off track.

    To Clint Haynes, a Kansas City Financial Planner and founder of NextGen Wealth, this line of reasoning is on par with saying you don't have enough time. "Time can always be found, but rather what we are saying is that it's not a priority for us," says Haynes. "This is the exact same excuse as saying you can't afford to save any more. Extra savings can definitely be found in the budget, but it's just not a priority for most people."

    When you don't make your finances a priority, it's inevitable that your situation won't change much. If you really want to get ahead, you have to put your money first and take actionable steps to save, pay down debt, and invest.

    You're not using a budget or tracking your spending.

    Even high earners can benefit from keeping a watchful eye on their spending and keeping a monthly budget, but too many people feel they are above these tried and true methods for getting ahead.

    According to financial advisor Kenneth Feyers, this issue is commonplace among workers from all income groups.

    "Many high income earners are terrible savers," says Feyers. "They maximize their 401(k) but they don't put additional funds away."

    Since Feyers steers clear of the word "budget," he focuses on helping them create a spending and savings guide. "It's a guide because it helps people to make better spending decisions tied to their long term-goals," he says.

    And if you're not tracking your spending, chances are good you're wasting all sorts of cash each month. Josh Brein of Brein Wealth Management says he suggests his clients track their spending religiously for this reason.

    "I always recommend that my clients and friends track their spending just as much as they track their earnings," says Brein. "This way, you will always know exactly where you can cut a little bit of the fat out of your budget when you need to stash some cash away for a rainy day."

    Final Thoughts

    If you wish you were saving more money but fail to do so month after month, it's likely there is some disconnect between your thoughts and your actions. Meanwhile, it's possible there are some roadblocks standing in between you and your financial dreams - whether those hurdles are mental, physical, or spiritual.

    Want to get ahead but can't? Figuring out your "why" might be the only thing that can save you. Chances are, the power to change rests in your hands.

    RELATED: Secret ways to save money on Amazon

    Secret Ways to Save Money at Amazon

     

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    The Meal Planning Schedule That Will Save You Hundreds
    Meal planning -- we all have a general ideal of how it works, though a lot of us never bother to do it. But if you're looking to eat healthier and save money, it's one of the easiest things you can do.

    The most intimidating part of starting a meal plan can be planning it all out. So to keep things simple, plan just one meal a day in the beginning, like dinner.

    Next, look at your calendar for the week and take note of any events that may affect your mealtimes, like friends coming to town on Monday or a trip to the beach on Saturday. Put it all down in your schedule, because this will help determine how many meals you need and how much time you'll have for prep.

    The next step is to create a master recipe list with all ingredients listed. Be sure to note the serving sizes so you'll know how many meals to expect. Once you have a few ideas down, take a look at what ingredients you already have in your kitchen and cross those off the list. Whatever's left, you go shopping for.

    The final step is grocery shopping and meal prep. Since you'll be preparing your meals in batch, pick a day where you'll have the most time. Have all your containers ready to go and once you're done cooking, fill them up and put them in the fridge.

    Give these basic tips a try, and you'll see that the more meals you plan, the more money you'll save.

    Related: 9 ways to cut back on food waste

     

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    How To Take Advantage of Shoulder Seasons
    Did you know: Booking your vacation in between high and low seasons can help you rake in the biggest savings?

    This timeframe is called the shoulder season, and it typically falls right before, or immediately after, the primetime vacation frenzy.

    According to travel analysts at Expedia, booking a U.S. beach vacation in September or October may reveal oceanside deals for up to 38 percent off peak travel rates.

    Looking to go someplace else? Luckily, it's always shoulder season somewhere. Europe and the Mediterranean can be hundreds of dollars cheaper in the fall, while skiing in the spring can slash resort prices by up to 50 percent.

    Timing is everything, so do your homework - but be careful not to book off-season. It's called "off" for a reason. No matter how low the price, bad weather and closed attractions don't equal a good time.

    So plan ahead, and find that sweet spot for your next destination. You might find that shoulder season can be the best time to save.

     

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    Quick Tricks That Will Rescue Your Ruined Clothing
    The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually. With that kind of money going out the door, you want your apparel to last. Luckily, with just a few common household items, you can save your threads for another season.

    To get rid of underarm stains on your white shirts, just take equal parts of hydrogen peroxide, water and baking soda and blend them in a cup. Apply this mix generously to the stain and let it sit overnight. The next day, just rinse off and throw it in the wash.

    Loose sunglasses aren't a good look when they're sitting crooked on your face. If you don't have a tiny screwdriver handy, an easy temporary fix is to put some clear nail polish on the hinge. Let it dry, and you can get back to looking cool again.

    Finally, a caught zipper doesn't always mean you're stuck with a problem. Grab a little lip balm, run it along the track on both sides, and watch it open right up.

    Give these simple tips a shot, and you can potentially save your favorite clothes -- and a few dollars in the process.

     

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    If someone is going to make the biggest, most consequential retirement mistake possible, it's usually going to be this: neglecting to create a vision of what they want from their retirement.

    Not having a plan for retirement is like launching an interplanetary space shuttle without having any regard for its destination. You'll likely run out of fuel before you reach a reasonable destination.

    Have you ever taken a summer road trip? Sure you have. You pack meals (or bring enough money to eat out), get that oil change, bring enough clothes, and check off a bunch of to-dos before you actually hit the road. That's smart. You plan for vacations, why not plan for what could be your longest vacation of all: retirement!

    Who knows, your retirement could last 30 years or longer. You're going to need a lot of money saved to last you that long. Well, either that, or discover a missing inheritance just in time or have a money-making business or two.

    Don't be like so many people who reach retirement age to discover that Social Security benefits won't cut it and they have to dramatically reduce their lifestyle. That's a bummer.

    Instead, ask yourself two questions . . . .

    When Would You Like to Retire?

    The first question is probably the easiest to answer: "When would you like to retire?"

    It's commonly expected that people will want to retire in their 60s, but perhaps you should dig a little deeper and discover when you'd like to retire.

    You don't have to go with the flow. Instead, consider retiring early, perhaps in your 50s or 40s. Alternatively, you may never want to fully retire, and would just like enough supplemental income to help you live with only a small, part-time job.

    Truly, the choice is yours.

    Remember, however, that certain retirement accounts require you wait until a minimum age to withdraw funds. Additionally, there are penalties for taking Social Security benefits early. If you're going to retire early, remember that you may not have access to funds if you are depending on certain types of accounts. Talk with a well-qualified financial advisor to understand the limitations of retiring early.

    How Much Money Would You Like to Have?

    The second question is difficult to answer: "How much money would you like to have?"

    You might think the question is easy, but remember, your lifestyle and the cost of goods and services will probably be different in retirement.

    Choosing an arbitrarily high number might put significant strain on your lifestyle in your younger years. Choosing an arbitrarily low number might not get you all the way through your desired retirement years.

    You're going to need to do some homework to figure out how much money you'll need in retirement. Is it $1 million? $2 million? More? Less? Talk with a financial planner to consider all of the variables at play in figuring out how much money you'll need for retirement.

    One approach is to work backwards. Ask yourself: How much money would I like to have every year in retirement? $40,000? $50,000? Your financial advisor can work the numbers to figure out how much you'll need to save in order to raise your chances of being able to take your desired withdrawals in retirement.

    If you find yourself having difficulty answering these two questions, and you can't see that far down the road, you're certainly not alone. Instead, try asking yourself what your three-year goals are. What would you like to achieve financially in three years? Perhaps it's obtaining a new job, paying off all your debt, or selling a home with space you no longer need.

    If you can't envision your retirement right now, you have to start where you're at. Don't give up on creating a financial plan just because you don't know what you want your retirement to look like.

    It's best to start now. Be thinking about what you want your future to look like, even if you don't yet know what you want your retirement to look like. Over time, as you get closer to retirement, you'll discover what's important to you and will be able to more clearly envision your retirement.

    Don't make the mistake of never envisioning it, however. Too many people do that, and then their retirement is determined by chance instead of a plan. And oftentimes, when that happens, retirement doesn't look so pretty.

    I encourage you to sit down with a good financial planner to work out the details of your retirement. At the least, have them prepare a financial plan for you. It will be worth the effort. Believe me, once you have a plan in place, you'll be able to breathe easier knowing that you're on the right path toward a better future.

    RELATED: The 3 retirement mistakes made by baby boomers.

    3 Worst Investing Mistakes Boomers Can Make

     

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    A68PNE Passengers on board holiday jet in flight seated three each side of gangway aisle
    Travel rewards have become about much more than just earning airline miles, and if you've been carrying the same card for years, you might be missing out on better rewards for the same or lower fee as banks and airlines fight for your business.

    If you don't want to think much, and just want one card with a good offer, a comparison site like MileCards.com will let you enter your spending habits and tell you which cards earn you the most miles, or you can browse a list of the best travel credit cards.

    But travel pros who have racked up millions of miles diversify their loyalty to reap the most rewards.

    Gary Leff, an air travel expert who writes the View From the Wing blog, suggests three reasons to get a card. The first reason is the sign on bonus, which can offer significant value. The second is to take advantage of perks offered by the card, including free bags and priority boarding. And third, you should use a card that lets you rack up miles most quickly based on your spending pattern.

    Very few cards offer do all three of these things well, so experts often hold more than one credit card to get the most out of things.

    For example, many of the airline branded cards offer a first free checked bag. If you tend to use the same airline a couple times a year and check a bag, you can save the annual fee in bag fees, plus get perks like priority boarding. But these cards rarely offer you the most miles for every dollar you spend.

    Instead, consider putting your spending on a card that earns transferable points, while keeping the airline card for the perks.

    Transferable points are a favorite of Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy blog. They let you book travel two ways. First, you can transfer them into real airline miles with several airlines. Second, you can choose to use them like cash to book flights on any airline.

    That makes them really flexible - you can add to the miles you've earned by flying, or you can use them like cash if you don't want to deal with the rules of airline miles for a trip. Chase, American Express, and Citibank each have cards that offer transferable points. Many offer special bonuses on spending categories like dining and gas, so they can earn points more quickly than a single airline card.

    Regardless of what card you choose - get to know the benefits. Many travel credit cards offer coverage that's similar to the travel insurance airlines and travel agencies will try to sell you. You could be reimbursed if you need to cancel a trip because you get very ill, or get covered for a hotel if your flight gets delayed. There's no extra charge - just book your flight with the card to activate the coverage. These benefits aren't widely advertised, so read the benefits booklet that gets mailed with your card to see what you can use.

    Best Travel Reward Credit Card Offers of 2016

     

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    When it comes to the qualities it takes to become "financially sexy," several personal finance bloggers have already weighed in.

    One example is a blog post written by Shannon of Financially Blonde. According to Shannon, a good credit score and a savings rate of at least 15 percent are the biggest indicators of a financially sexy person.

    J. Money from Budgets are Sexy wrote a post on the topic as well, citing good credit, a solid savings rate above 15 percent, an emergency fund, and very little debt as the top qualities of a super sexy, fiscally responsible person.

    But I wanted to take things a few steps further. Being financially sexy is great and all, but why not become financially sexier?

    10 Ways to Become Financially Sexier

    In my eyes, financially sexier individuals are the ones who shoot for the stars when it comes to their finances. Not only do they take care of their credit and financial well-being, but they aim to retire early, fund exciting financial goals like paying for college or building a business, and even become filthy rich.

    Financially sexier people don't just have a solid job in an in-demand industry; they actually own the company. And instead of saving just 15 percent of their income, they might save 30 percent, 40 percent, or even 50 percent, and live on the rest.

    Since financially sexier people come in all shapes and sizes, I reached out to several money bloggers and financial planners to get their take on the best ways to boost your appearance when it comes to looks and money.

    Want to become financially sexier? Here are some ways to make it happen:

    #1 Don't Skimp On Life Insurance

    "Sexy is purchasing life insurance to make sure your loved ones are taken care of in case you pass away," says Joseph Carbone of Focus Planning Group. "Sexier, however, is purchasing 10 to 15 times your salary to protect them."

    According to a recent survey from Bankrate, 42 percent of families don't have life insurance at all. Plus, nearly half of respondents who did carry life insurance reported having $100,000 or less in coverage. For most people, that is not nearly enough.

    By buying enough life insurance to take care of your family in the event of your death, you're covering your bases and helping your family sleep better at night. Can you think of anything sexier than that?

    #2 Use Credit Wisely...and Earn Credit Card Rewards

    "Sexy is paying off all your high-interest credit card debt and making sure your bills are paid in full every month," says Andrew McFadden, CFP and Founder of Panoramic Financial Advice. After all, it's never sexy to carry a balance on your credit card, and it's not sexy at all to pay interest on your purchases.

    "Even sexier, though, is paying your balance every month and maximizing the rewards of the credit card to furnish one of life's pleasures," says McFadden.

    Using credit wisely and responsibly is a must if you hope to be financially sexy. And obviously, a debt-free lifestyle is crucial, too. However, earning awesome rewards can take you to the next level. After all, is there anything sexier than earning free stuff?

    #3 Have a Plan for Your Estate

    The sexiest among us financially would never leave their loved ones in the lurch in the event of their death. Still, you can become even sexier by creating a comprehensive plan for your estate.

    "Sexy is having a will in place in case anything happens to you," says Portland financial planner Grant Bledsoe. "Sexier is combining your will with beneficiary designations, advanced medical directives, trust documents, and powers of attorney to create an estate plan."

    No matter what, there is nothing more attractive than having a plan in place to protect your family - and your assets - for future generations.

    #4 Take Control of Your Income

    "Sexy is asking for a raise at your job to increase your income," says financial planner Aaron Hatch of Woven Capital. "Sexier is creating additional streams of income by participating in the sharing economy or starting a side hustle."

    Almost nothing is sexier than an entrepreneur who is able to set their own hours, work at their own pace, and earn unlimited income. And if you have a full-time job already, don't let that hold you back. After all, side hustles are sexy, too. The more money you can earn through hard work, the sexier you become.

    #5 Know Your Bills and Expenses, and Track Them Carefully

    This piece of criteria to become financially sexier comes from Lance at Money Manifesto:

    "Sexy is paying all of your bills on time and in full every month. Even sexier, however, is having a spreadsheet that lists all of your bills and due dates so you never miss a payment even if your significant other needs to pay the bills for a month."

    Lots of people manage to stay on top of their bills somehow, but the sexiest among us are much more organized than most. Not only do they pay their bills in full and on time, but they keep track of them, track them, and make sure their spouse or partner is in the loop.

    #6 Have Monthly Financial Meetings

    Having an annual family meeting to discuss your finances is an extremely smart move. But, do you know what's sexier? Here's what Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks has to say:

    "Sexier is having that meeting on a monthly basis so you're never more than four weeks away from being able to talk and think about big picture financial issues."

    If an annual meeting can help your finances, a monthly meeting should produce even better results. Of course, the financially sexiest among us are already having monthly meetings and using them to reach all of their short-term and long-term goals.

    #7 Actually Pay Off Your House

    "Sexy is having a 20% down payment when you buy your new house to avoid PMI, says John Schmoll, the blogger behind Frugal Rules. "Sexier is putting down more, and paying more aggressively so you can be mortgage debt free in less than half the term of the mortgage."

    A fifteen-year mortgage is definitely sexier than a thirty-year loan since you'll own you home outright in half the time. To take things a step further, paying down your mortgage faster is even better if you're already investing heavily and meeting other financial goals.

    Can you think of anything sexier than owning our home outright before the age of 40? I can't.

    #8 Use a Budget No Matter How Rich You Become

    Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents says it's sexy to create a budget and live by it. What's even sexier, though?

    "Even sexier is, no matter how much money you make, still living by that budget," she says.

    It's normal to improve your lifestyle as you earn more money, but keeping lifestyle inflation in check is a smart way to grow your wealth. It's not only okay to stick to your budget when you're already rich; it's also sexy.

    #9 Take Control of Your Life

    "Sexy is getting on a monthly budget and controlling your money," says money blogger Greg Johnson of Club Thrifty.

    What's even sexier though, says Greg, is getting out of debt and using the extra money to seize control of your life!

    "Being in debt consumes big chunks of your paycheck each month," says Johnson. "Living without debt is like giving yourself a raise, creating more options for living life on your own terms."

    Ask anyone you know, and they'll say there is nothing sexier than someone in control of their own destiny. Want to be financially sexier? Take control of your life, and don't let anyone stand in the way of your dreams.

    #10 Make Charitable Giving a Priority

    While giving to charity is undoubtedly sexy, San Diego Financial Planner Taylor Schulte offers a suggestion on how to take that sexiness up a notch.

    "Sexy is being charitably inclined and giving back to the organizations you love and support," says Schulte. "Sexier, however, is using a donor-advised fund to maximize the tax benefits of your annual donations and develop a more strategic giving strategy."

    Giving to charities you believe in is the right thing to do and a goal all of us should strive for, but there is something inherently sexy about someone who knows how to maximize their donations as much as possible. So, don't just give blindly; create a plan that helps you maximize the tax advantages of charitable giving as well. It's not just smart; it's sexy, too.

    Final Thoughts

    They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but almost everyone will agree that, the better you are with money, the sexier you become.

    If you want to take your financial sexiness to the next level, look for ways to make more money, make smarter decisions with the money you have, or leave your family better off. Not only will doing so make you more attractive in the eyes of everyone you meet, but it will leave you richer in the long run.

    What do you think makes someone financially sexier? What would you add to this list?

     

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    Save Loads with Homemade Laundry Detergent
    Did you know: You can make a year's worth of laundry detergent for you and your family for under $20?

    An average family can spend over $70 on store-bought detergent per year. Making your own isn't only better for the environment, it can save you over 80 percent -- and it only takes three ingredients.

    First, take one bar of natural soap (like castile or a gentle glycerin soap) and finely grate it with a cheese grater. Then, take the soap flakes and sprinkle in one cup of washing soda and one cup of borax, sealing your new cleaning concoction in an airtight container.

    When it's laundry time, mix in about 1-2 tablespoons per load. It doesn't take much with this concentrated material -- one batch of super-soap can get you through 40-50 loads.

    Make more as needed, and you can even add powdered fabric softener and essential oils for a fresh scent. And yes, it'll even work in your high-efficiency washing machine too.

    Spend a few minutes making your own laundry detergent, and you and your family can see savings all year long.

     

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    THE DO'S AND DON'TS OF SAVING WITH BULK BINS
    When we hear the phrase, "buy in bulk", a lot of us think of warehouse clubs, where buying higher quantities gets you a lower bulk rate. But today, we're going to talk about the bulk bin section of your grocery store - you know, that aisle with the clear bins filled with beans, nuts and grains? With bulk bins, buying only what you need is what's going to help you bag the most savings!

    Let's start with spices. Things like cinnamon can be ridiculously overpriced in the bottle. If you look at how much you're getting versus how much you pay, this stuff prices-out at around $60 a pound! But, head over to the bulk bins and you'll only pay about $8 a pound! That's a savings of over 80%! And this doesn't only apply to spices! Grains, beans, dried fruit, coffee and tea can also be super-low cost in the bins.

    Now before you start hoarding pounds of cinnamon in your basement, remember that all these ingredients have a shelf life, and the key to saving is to buy only what you need. Nuts and seeds can only hold for a few months unrefrigerated, and spices can go stale and lose flavor after about 6 months so it's important to know how long your items will last and store them in a cool, dark and dry place.

    Lastly, remember that just because some items are cheaper in the bulk bin section, it doesn't mean that all items will be cheaper by default! Like with most groceries, make sure to compare the per-ounce or per-pound prices to make sure where the best deal lies.

    So don't let the lack of flashy packaging and marketing fool you! Check out the bulk bins, and you can save a lot of money, and keep your ingredients fresh as well.

     

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    Save On Back-To-School Lunches
    Did you know...Back-to-school lunches don't always have to set your budget back as well?

    Let's start with the big money-drainers...the pre-packaged snacks. Sure, they're convenient, but those chips, pretzels and nuts can be marked up by as much as 50%! Instead, buy snacks in bulk or family size, and split the goodies into your own re-usable snack and sandwich baggies for each meal.

    Next, we have the little juice boxes, notorious for their big mark-ups. Bottled drinks can cost up to $2 a pop. So to keep your kids hydrated without squeezing your budget dry, ditch the drink packs and invest in a re-suable bottle. Not only will you recoup your initial cost in the first week, you can use low-cost drink mixes and even start introducing healthier alternatives to soda.

    Finally, a good time to find other re-suable containers is during back-to-school sales in early September. Make sure they're dishwasher safe and are durable enough to last through the year. And don't forget to have your kids test them out to make sure they can open and close easily too!

    So when it comes to your little scholar, try out these tips, and you'll see that you don't have to spend big to pack a smart lunch.

     

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    We all know that planning a wedding can be expensive, but as a guest, things can get a little pricey too! Here are a few key expenses you should look out for:

    First things first...jump on that registry. While you may love the bride and groom, you don't want to procrastinate too long and get stuck with nothing but the $400 blender to buy.

    Next, consider the bridal shower. Whether you're in charge of throwing one or just chipping in, you can do it without breaking the bank. Skip the caterer and keep the food simple, or even make it yourself. And use a friend or family member's location instead of renting out space at a restaurant or venue.

    Lastly, for you bridesmaids, don't alter your dress at the dress shop. The average in-shop alteration can cost anywhere between $20 and $80...sometimes more! Remember, you're probably only going to wear this dress for one night, so try going to a local tailor to adjust those hemlines - it can cut your costs by up to 50%!

    Keep these tips in mind during this next wedding season, and you'll find that an invite to the big day doesn't have to mean big spending!

     

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    Meet Samantha and Eric! These New Yorkers are looking to save big. Their long-term spending goal is to save up for a 10% down payment for their first home.

    These newlyweds both work in the food service industry, working long hours with long commutes. Their busy schedules make it difficult to plan out meals for themselves during the week, resulting in a lot of impulse spending on take-out and food delivery. When they do go grocery shopping, they find that without planning ahead, they overspend on things they don't really need.

    Kelsey Nixon, our Savings Experiment Food & Grocery Expert, is here to help! Kelsey's pro tip: batch cooking! A great solution for busy homes looking to watch their budget. By meal planning and batch prepping for the week ahead, you'll save time and money.

    Kelsey's first tip for batch cooking, is to use a steam bag. Steam bags are a bargain at $3 for a pack of ten, and can allow you to store up to two weeks of meals in your freezer. Steaming is a healthy way to cook, by retaining more nutrients and moisture than standard plastic-ware. It also saves more space in the freezer! Just fill your bags with your grains, meat or other protein, veggies, and a marinade or sauce and you're good to go! Two weeks of meals should cost you about $31 total, or $3 a meal.

    Kelsey's second pro tip is to do your research - there are several great food and recipe websites that offer delicious batch-cooking and freezer-meal recipes! Planning ahead and prepping once a week will really help instill those good habits.

    After a few weeks of implementing batch cooking and meal prep into their weekly routine, Samantha and Eric are saving about $275 a month, meaning they could save up to $3,300 within the next year! They are continuing to work towards that down payment on their first home - and eating well and saving big along the way!

     

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    Did you know...

    Making your own salad dressing can also save you up to 70% off buying at the store? And it's easy too!

    For a classic vinaigrette, start with one part ​vinegar (or citrus juice) to three parts ​oil. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper, and with a few whisks, you're done!

    This mixture can be served as is, but if you're feeling creative, break out the blender and it can also be used as a base to make an endless variety of dressings! To add some zing, add ingredients like mustard, garlic, olives or ginger (to name a few). For a sweeter palate, mix in some honey, jam or even fruit!

    And if you want to get creamy with it, try adding a few spoonfuls of yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, or even mayo. Don't want the dairy? Blend in ripe avocado, nut butter or tahini paste for a richer texture, without the lactose.

    Aside from being super low­cost, you're also making a fresher, higher quality dressing ­ store bought dressings can be watered down, at your expense!

    So open up the fridge and pantry and whip up your own salad dressing! Your savings are only a few whisks away.

     

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    A lot of us use dryer sheets in our laundry...and a lot of us just toss them in the trash afterward. But, once you see all the nifty ways you can use these things - and save money to boot - you'll look at them in a whole new way.

    First, let's talk cleaning. Dryer sheets reduce static cling, making them perfect for dusting your TV, computer screens, countertops, window blinds and everything in between. Don't want to buy pricey refills for your dust mop? You don't need to. Just stick a few sheets at the end of your handle, and you can still sweep up without the extra cost!

    Next, open your gym bag...do you smell something? You don't need to, thanks to dryer sheets, which work great as deodorizers too! Put them in your shoes, luggage, even at the bottom of your trash bin, to minimize any unwanted fragrance.

    Lastly, know what else these will help you get rid of? Mosquitos! Before you venture into bug-land, take a couple of sheets and wipe them over your skin, and tuck one in a pocket for good measure. This will help minimize your scent and keep you out of their dinner plans.

    Doing laundry never seemed so appealing, right? Give these tips a shot and you'll see that a few dryer sheets can go a long way to help you save.

     

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    Believe it or not, sometimes saving money on your cable, cell phone or car insurance bill can be as easy as picking up the phone. But once you call, you'll need to know how to negotiate to cash in!

    Let's start with your cable and phone bill. One way to get on the fast track to discounts is to mention that you are looking to cancel your service. According to Consumer Reports, it costs companies five times as much to get new customers than it does to retain old ones.

    You'll have a little leverage at this point, so start fishing for deals. Use their marketing to your advantage ­ maybe you saw (or didn't see) an ad about some new promos they're offering. It's a surefire way to get some good deals!

    But what if you want to take a less aggressive approach? Sometimes, establishing your loyalty to the company or brand can actually be a more powerful negotiating tactic. If you like the service but it's become too expensive, most people are willing to work with you. For example, when it comes to car insurance, asking for the bill to be moved to later in the month could give you a few free weeks of service.

    Finally, if for some reason it's not looking like a deal is going to happen, try asking for free trials, upgrades, or even advice on seasonal specials. Remember, promotions constantly change, as do the customer service reps, so if you get rejected once, don't be afraid to try again.

    What are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and start saving money! Sometimes, all you have to do...is ask!

     

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    Did you know...

    There are some easy things you can do to get more money for your used car, with a little less stress!

    First, spruce up your vehicle - and not just the interior. A good wash on the outside and a thorough detailing on the inside can help let nervous buyers know that your little roadster has seen a lot of love.

    If you need some help, look into hiring a professional detailer. For between $100-$200, they'll rejuvenate your ride by removing minor paint imperfections, buffing the finish, and cleaning the carpets....it's like a spa-day for your car. Just doing this can potentially get you over $500 more on your sale - so depending on your vehicle, it may be worth it!

    Next, inspect your tires. Seasoned buyers always check the tire tread to get a sense of overall wear and tear. If your treads are worn out or uneven, replace the tires at the very least with some used ones, which can cost as low as $30 per tire. A small price to pay, considering that buyers will often expect a big discount if the tires are in poor condition!

    So give these simple tips a try...with a little prep, you can get more cash for your used car. Farewell, old friend!

     

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