Investing on a Small Budget: Fractional Shares with Stockpile

In exchange for my honest and unbiased review, I received a $25 gift card to try out Stockpile. This post contains a referral link. I am not a market professional and not responsible for gains or losses that you may experience. I am not affiliated with or own an investment in any company or brand mentioned, and have no plans to do so. Securities products are not FDIC insured. Not bank guaranteed. May lose value.

 

First of all let me just say I am NOT a stock expert. I always wanted to learn more about stocks and start investing. It was intimidating to me.  No guarantees I’ll make money, seemed like it took a lot of money to start, all the stock jargon I didn’t understand. Now let me tell you what I am.  I’m 30 something, frugal mom of 4 on a budget. I have a desire to invest. I have future goals. There were companies I  did some research on that I really wanted to invest in. But some of them were $300+ a share.  I didn’t have the budget to buy even 1 share. Then I learned about Stockpile.com.

Stockpile allows you to buy fractional shares of stock.  So for instance, let’s say a stock you are interested in is $300 but you only have about $30 to start investing. You can invest $30 and own 1/10 of a share of that companies stock. Let’s say next pay day you want to invest another $30 in the same company. You do, and now you own 2/10 of a share of that stock. You keep doing that each pay day until you own a whole share of that companies stock.

Not only does Stockpile make it easier for those on a tight budget to invest but it’s very user friendly. You can even create wishlists of stock you want to invest in and create sub accounts for kids or anyone else you like.

Looking at other big name investing sites, some charge upwards of $10  every time you buy, sell, or trade a stock.  Stockpile only charges 99 cents!

You can also buy Stockpile gift cards.  I love this idea. This would be a cool gift for the high school or college graduate, a great way to allow kids to invest, or even a nice wedding gift for the happy couple to start their life together.

You can see the particular Stockpile gift card I received says “Disney stock”.  I wondered if since it said Disney stock it meant that’s all it was and I didn’t have options to invest. Well, I redeemed it on Stockpile.com.  It did come up as Disney stock HOWEVER, it gives the option to choose a different stock instead. You click that option and choose the stock you want to invest in.  I chose DOW Chemical instead. So if you can’t choose which stock to gift, no worries, your recipient will still have an option.

Education is important to know how to invest and what you should be investing in. Among other resources, stockpile has a non-intimidating learning center to help you get started. I found the information easy to understand and helpful. Check it out the Stockpile learning center for yourself

Signing up for a Stockpile account is free.  Use this link to get $5 in your account just for registering!

 


Looking for a Mattress? Best Mattress under $1000 and Here’s Why

There are a LOT of mattress companies out there both local and online. It’s hard to find the right one, especially if you’re on a budget. There is one mattress company that offers mattresses under $1000, has a 365 night sleep trial, free shipping, free returns, and a warranty forever!  As if that’s not enough, it’s has consistently positive reviews on comparison sites and customers reviews. That company is Nectar.
The Most Comfortable Mattress

I have to admit, I was skeptical.  I thought, yea under $1000 just for the twin right and then super high for a queen or king. Since I have a king size bed I wanted to check it out before I posted about this on my little frugal blog.  Guys, a twin mattress is only $500.  A KING mattress is only $900. They go all the way up to California King which is STILL only $900. PLUS they have a $100 off coupon available on the site right now!!  They also have payment plan options to make it even more budget friendly

Nectar Sleep also uses hypoallergenic materials and took 3 years of development to create. And as for the positive reviews, you can see on the site. Lots of Nectar sleep customer reviews. Average rating 4.8/5.  That’s pretty darn good!

With the free shipping, returns, 365 night trial, and budget friendly price Nectar Sleep will be my next mattress!
Tell me more about NECTAR mattress

 

This post does contain affiliate links. I will be compensated for any purchases made through my links. Regardless I only post legitimate offers from trusted sites. 


Saving Money When Heating Your Home

It’s January. Here in Pennsylvania it’s almost a given that we’ll have some single digit nights and below freezing point temps during the day.  It’s not my favorite time of the year.  I’m someone who is cold more often than not.  But the cost of heating can make me hesitant to turn up the thermostat.  Well that and my hubby and boys always complain it’s too hot if I turn it up.  So I resort to thick socks two layers of shirts and warm comfy pants.

Direct Energy Linqia Header

There are a lot of ways to save money on heating your home. Here are just a few:

One of the best things we did for our oil furnace was to get a programmable thermostat. We set it so the temperature goes down a little while we’re sleeping but kicks on right before everyone starts to get up and get moving for work.  When I worked full time and the 3 boys were in school we’d also have it drop a few degrees during the day and kick back on just before I got home from work.  It’s nice because you don’t have to forget about turning it down or come home to a colder than usual house.  If you’re going on vacation, you can have it set to a lower temp, say 60 degrees while you’re away so you don’t have to worry about pipes freezing but you also don’t have to use as much heating fuel.

Insulated curtains are another easy way to warm a room up a degree or two.  We have nice 2 nice size windows in our small living room. We also have hard wood floors. I kept telling my husband how that room always felt colder. We only had sheers on our windows.  Putting up insulated curtains for the winter did help take some of the chill off the room.

2015 012

Infrared quartz heaters.  We just moved into a new house in October so we’re still learning the best ways to heat our home.  We found out the family room above the garage did not have heat set up for it.  The baseboard heating elements are there but it hadn’t been finished by the people that lived here before us.  We moved out Infrared Quartz heater from our old house and decided to give that a try in the mean time.  Our family room is a large room The infrared quartz heater works well to warm the room up.  They’re safer than space heaters and don’t get very hot to the touch. You can get some with a fireplace look or just a standard box shape.  There are also different BTUs depending on the size of the area you’re trying to heat. We’ve had ours for about 7 years now. It’s been a good investment.

Check weather stripping on doors and windows.  Old, cracked, or peeling weather stripping will allow cold are to sneak into the house.

Another simple thing, if you have a door that goes into your garage from your house, make sure the door is closed.  We have to go through the garage to get to the family room. The kids leave the door in the laundry room open all the time.  I can always tell when they left the door open because the cooler temp from the garage creeps into the kitchen.

If you’re not sure where or why your home isn’t holding heat you can have an energy audit done.  An energy audit is done by a professional. They can find why your home isn’t holding heat and make recommendation for heating efficiency.  You might need insulation or more insulation, windows could be the culprit, or a draft from your chimney could let old man winter into your home.

If you have electric heat, another thing to consider is comparing electric companies.  You might be able to lock in a better rate with a different electric company. If you live in Pennsylvania, like me, Direct Energy PA can Save up to 16%* over MetEd’s electricity rate, and up to 12%* over Penn Power’s electricity rate. There’s more! Save up to 10%* over Penelec’s electricity rate!

*All savings refers to the current difference between Direct Energy’s fixed rate offer and the Utility’s current Fixed Rate for Basic Service as of January 8, 2016, and does not include any other component of the electricity bill. Utility rates are subject to change and there may be no savings following the respective official utility rate change date. Direct Energy’s fixed rates include electricity supply charges only and excludes delivery/transmission charges, taxes, and all other utility-related charges. Offer is limited and valid for new residential customers only.

As a money saver, I also noticed Direct Energy PA participates in the Plenti program so on top of electric savings you could be earning Plenti points too.  Just thought I’d point that out.

What recommendations do you have for saving money on your heating costs?

 


Free Things to do in Ocean City, MD

My family and I will be heading to Ocean City, MD soon and we can’t wait.  Did you know that Ocean City, MD is #5 in the top 10 US vacation spots as published by Trip Advisor?  It’s true. It’s been years since we’ve gone to Ocean City, MD so for months I’ve been planning, figuring out a budget, making a list of things we’ll want or need to take with us, etc.  (I’m a planner, I can’t help it).  Ocean City is also known as one of the best family beach vacation spots for the North East area.

Ocean City Maryland sign

Anywho, in my research I found that there are actually tons of low cost and even free things to do in Ocean City, MD.  I mean stuff you’d actually want to see and do!  Once thing at the top of our list is movies on the beach.  For 2014, there seem to be three different locations up and down Ocean City that are hosting these movies on the beach.  The Carousel, Princess Royale, and movies on he beach at 27th street.  They’re free!  Just bring your chairs, blankets, or towels and sit on the beach and watch a movie. Check the days because each one does it on a different day. You could actually do this a few times depending on how long you’re staying there.  Honestly I’ve heard of this being done other places too.  They did similar thing when we went to Myrtle Beach.  This would truly be a unique a memorable experience. Tips from veteran OC tourists tell you to take a flashlight too so you can find your things once the movies over. (They can’t just turn the lights on right?)

There are free concerts at the beach on the boardwalk.  Just bring chairs or blankets and enjoy the sound while catching a summer ocean breeze.

Don’t be afraid to search for events too. My oldest son is a real outdoorsman. He was excited to find out that the White Marlin Open will be going on while we’re in OC.  By doing just a little research we found out that spectators can go to the marina between 4-9 pm each day of the event to see the anglers bringing in White Marlin to be weighed.  My son is so dead set on going to this.  It’s free.  We even found out that you can catch a shuttle over from the convention center which will be nice for me to avoid some traffic.

There seem to be a few parks and playgrounds in the area too.  Even a dog playground!

There are beach fireworks displays and even a light show.  I would have loved to see that but unfortunately the dates don’t align with our time in OC.  Definitely check it out though if you happen to be there for one of the displays.

Of course there is the beach for lots of free fun: swimming, playing in the sand, collecting shells, beach volleyball, etc.

I found these sites to be great resources for our trip and will hopefully help you too:

ococean.com

ocean-city.com

ocisfree.com

You can also check out my guest post on Reedmantoll.com’s blog I wrote about saving money on car trips too: http://www.reedmantolllincoln.com/Road-Trip-Tips-Staying-on-a-Budget-With-Kids/

Have you been to Ocean City, MD?  What did you like to do while you were there?  Did you have a favorite place to eat?

 

 

 


Cutting Expenses When It Comes to Kids’ Sports

I felt inspired to write this post after my boys stuck a stack of spring sports sign ups on my desk.  Looking at sign up fees, fundraiser/buyout fees, fees if you can’t volunteer, then thinking about what gear they will need to be able to play.  The expenses can add up fast.  I realize different districts, towns, and states will run things a little differently but here are some ideas to help curb expenses.

sporst equipment

Limiting the number:

This is the hardest one for me.  I like seeing my kids involved in sports.  It keeps them active, teaches them to work as a team, makes them feel good about themselves, and also teaches them they won’t always win all the time but that’s ok.  I have 4 kids, 3 of which are involved in sports now.  (the other is just a baby).  If you have kids like mine that want to sign up for everything they bring hom,e maybe you can give them choices or limits.  My parents told us growing up only  2 activities  a year per kid.  For my kids I give them an option: you either do winter basketball or wrestling, you can’t do both.  I think this option is good, not just financially but, for them to focus on one sport at a time and be able to attend all practices and games.

You don’t have to buy NEW gear:

There are lots of options out there for pre-owned gear.  Of course certain things like jock straps or mouth guards you’ll want to get new. Many things can be found used, but in good condition.  Our AYSO league allows parents to donate soccer cleats in good shape.  On sign up day they have a box of soccer cleats that families can go through from donations.  They are  free to take them and use them.  If you have a friend, family member, or neighbor whose  kids are involved in the same sports, perhaps you can do equipment exchanges when kids grow of things or decide not to play that particular sport anymore.  We have a cousin who gave us a pair of men’s baseball cleats for my oldest son to borrow.

Consignment shops are another option, especially those that are specifically for kids.  We have a consignment store near us called EcoKids and I’ve frequently seen gently used soccer cleats, ballet tutus, leotards, and slippers, and tap shoes.

Consider buying out of season when you can.  When it comes time for football season or baseball season you’ll be paying regular price unless you happen to see a sale or coupon.  You can get football pants, soccer balls, volleyballs, etc cheaper and sometimes even on clearance after the season.

Check the clearance racks.  It might be last year’s style or not the main colors but you can find some on the clearance rack at times.

Check your discount stores.  One of my fave places to buy my boys’ shin guards is at Ross Dress for Less.  They seem to always have some in stock.  They have name brands like Nike and Adidas for a fraction of the price of the sports equipment stores.  I normally pay only $5 for shin guards when I need to buy new ones.  Also check out sites like Ebay if you have the time to order and have it shipped.  I got my son some headgear for wrestling for about half the price I would have paid buying it from a sports equipment store.

Talk to the coaches or equipment managers.  If some of the equipment just doesn’t fit into your budget they may have a couple extras they can allow you to borrow or loan to you until you can get the equipment or until the season’s over.

Get what you NEED

Certain things are necessary for safety and performance in sports. Things like football helmets, mouth guards, shin guards, and uniforms are necessities in the sports world.  Does your kids have to have Nike wrist sweat bands, or 10 pairs of practice pants?  Most likely not.

Also find out what they are allowed to have before buying.  Our AYSO league has a hand book that spells out everything they need from the appropriate size ball for their division to what kind of cleats they are allowed to have.  Most of the sports in our area do not allow metal spikes for safety reasons.  Also the league or school may provide certain pieces of equipment. Our youth football league, the kids are issued helmets, pants, jersey (included in sign up free), and pads.  We just have to buy football cleats and mouth guards.  We also ended up getting our one son a pair of football gloves.

Blog 004

 

Comparing costs versus alternative options

When my son brought home his baseball signs ups it read something like this:

-$30 for pre-registration $40 after specificied date

-$30 for fundraiser buyout if you’d prefer not to participate in fundrasier

–$40 fee if you do not volunteer in the concession stand as a parent helper

Ok let me tell you what works for me.  The sign ups, obviously, get them register in the preregistration time frame.  The fundraiser.  For me, this is an easy decision.  I pay the fundraiser buyout . Why?  Well there is usually a quota for how much they have to see whether it be number of items they have to sell or a dollar amount sold.  If my kids do not sell the specified amount, guess who has to make up the difference?  Yep mom.  A lot of times the fundraisers just aren’t that good.  We had to sell coupon booklets for football for both boys last year.  Each kid had to sell 12 coupon books at $5 a piece.  They didn’t have a very wide appeal.  Only local coupons that weren’t that good.  I was able to sell 3 my ex husband sold about the same so mom and dad now have to write out checks for the rest which is WAY over the buyout price. So for me, buyout almost every time because we do not know what the fundraiser will be ahead of time.    The volunteer fee.  This one’s tricky.  $40 is a lot of money in my book.  But my husband works 2nd shift, I have 3 kids to run to sports at the same time and have a hard time finding sitters for whoever might not be practicing or playing that night.  So essentially I already have to be 3 different places at any given time and sometimes it’s stressful.  I hate to commit to something and then not be able to do it.  I don’t have my kids practice or game schedules at sign up to even pretend to line up a day that might work.  To me it would almost be worth it to me to just go ahead and pay the $40.  Luckily though my ex said he’d take the volunteer spot so we didn’t have to pay that.

What ways have you found to save money in this area?