The Pros & Cons of Automating Bill Pay

Managing your bills can be overwhelming. You’ve gotta keep track of each bill, when it’s due and how much must be paid. And if you have a lot of bills, that can be very stressful. But if you struggle to stay on top of your bills, automating bill pay is one possible solution.

One of the great benefits of online banking is auto bill paying. With auto bill payment, your bills are paid automatically on a preset date each month and your checking account, debit or credit card can be used as the payment source.

I get it, it’s definitely comforting to know your bills will be handled each month with a minimal amount of effort on your part. And while that seems great, there are some disadvantages to automating bill payment that you should be aware of too. Knowing the pros and cons of auto bill pay, can help you decide whether it’s the right tool for you and your money.

First up, the pros:

1. You’ll save money. Paying your bills on time means few late charges and when it comes to debt, if you’re paying more than the minimum amount due or making multiple payments in a month, it means you’ll pay less interest too!

2. Automating bill pay saves time. Though it’s not an excuse to put your bills out of your mind completely or set it and forget it, you’ll spend less time and energy worrying about paying your bills and whether they were paid on time. You won’t need to sit down and spend a lot of time on bill paying activities.

3. Your credit score might get a boost. Many people find that their credit scores improve after a few months of paying bills automatically and that’s because late payments are a primary cause of lowered credit scores. However, with auto bill pay, late payments should be a thing of the past. Just be sure that you keep your checking account funded adequately.

4. There’s a lower risk of identity theft. Identity theft continues to be a significant issue everywhere and in case you missed it, my social security number was recently found on the Dark Web. While there probably aren’t a lot of people who send payments through the mail, some people still do. However, sending snail mail with your account numbers and credit card numbers available to credit thieves is always a risk. While taking care of business online isn’t foolproof, there is far more effort made to keep your financial information safe.

5. It benefits the environment. Signing up for automatic bill payment often means you start to receive bills electronically or via paperless billing. Which means the company billing you doesn’t have to spend the money or chop down trees to mail you a bill. Which means there’s less impact on the environment. Not to mention the mail carrier will burn less gas delivering those bills to you or payments for you.

Now the cons:

1. A lack of awareness. There’s a reason this is my number 1 con for automating bill pay. Do you know how much your bills are each month? How would you know if there was an increase in your bills or a billing error? Can you be certain that you’ll have enough money in your account to cover the bill? When your bills are paid automatically, there is the potential to lose awareness and this can come at a steep cost to you in overdraft fees.

1. It can be challenging to stop payments. Automatic payments set up with your bank are usually easy to stop. However, automatic payments set up with a credit card or with the merchant can be very challenging to stop. Be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure you understand the process for stopping payments. In some cases, written notification is required.

2. Excessive credit card debt. If you’re using a credit card as your auto payment source, it’s possible to rack up a lot of debt quickly, especially if you are not budgeting for those payments. Be sure to keep your eye on your balance and pay it in full each month to avoid going deeper into debt and accruing interest.

3. The costs can be higher. Most auto bill pay services are free or very inexpensive. However, some do charge a fee. Some merchants also charge fees if you want to pay your bills automatically. Be sure the costs, if any, are reasonable.

As you can see there are advantages and disadvantages with automating bill pay. If you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you owe, to who, and are in control of your money, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. The time and money savings are a significant advantage over paying your bills manually.

Regardless of whether you choose to automate your bill payments are not, it’s important that you maintain awareness of your bills and the balance of your payment source. So be sure to review your bills and bank account balance(s) regularly.

Consider the pros and cons I mentioned above before deciding to add (or remove) this tool from your financial tool belt.

More on the blog:

7 Common Money Beliefs You Should Stop Believing

6 Signs Your Finances Are in Trouble

6 Tips to Protect Your Personal Info & Your Money

Technology has come a long way but with all of these advancements, there’s the downside of vulnerability. And that vulnerability is exactly what people who are up to no good are counting on to take advantage. So we must do what we can to protect ourselves and our money.

Most credit card companies offer some sort of credit score and basic identity theft service. This service provides you with an updated credit score, usually once a month, and will alert you to any suspicious activity related to your social security number and other personal information like your phone number or address.

Well I recently received an alert saying that my social security number and some other info of mine had been compromised. Specifically, that it had been discovered on the Dark Web.

This image is a screenshot of the alert I received from Capital One CreditWise. The alert states that my social security number has been compromised and found on the Dark Web.

If you’ve never heard of the Dark Web, it’s a hidden part of the internet that you can’t find with a regular internet browser like you and I have. Privacy? Sounds great right? No! All kinds of illegal activity happens there like the sale of guns, illegal drugs, and even social security numbers.

Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to my email and password combos being compromised as a result of a data breach and by now, you probably aren’t either! Some well known data breaches were Target, Experian, Yahoo!, Linkedin, basically all social media platforms, and even the U.S. Government!

But this is different. I’ve been working hard to pay off my debt and raise my credit score. I don’t want someone to take my identity and benefit from my hard work and I’m sure you don’t either!

So at this point we all need to keep an eye out and make sure we’re doing what we can to safeguard our information and our money. Because hackers don’t want us to live our best lives or better yet they do, and want to benefit from it.

If you received a similar alert, here’s what you should do:

  1. Check and monitor your credit report and report any fraudulent activity.
  2. Monitor your bank accounts and credit card accounts. Place a lock on any debit and credit cards you aren’t actively using.
  3. Change your passwords on email and other accounts that have been compromised. Set up two-factor authentication where possible.
  4. Request a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit profile with all 3 major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). Placing a fraud alert requires companies to to verify your identity (usually by calling you) before granting new credit in your name. You only need to contact one of the major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your account and they will notify the others and a fraud alert lasts for a year. A credit freeze on the other hand, limits access to your credit report altogether. This makes it even harder for someone to open a new account in your name and that includes you, and remains in place until you lift it. So keep that in mind before applying for new credit card or loan. Both of these are free to do.
  5. If you haven’t already, create a mySocialSecurity account with the Social Security Administration. By doing this you claim your social security number and benefits before someone else gets an opportunity to.
  6. If you believe someone has used your social security number to file a tax return in your name, report it to the IRS here or by calling 1-800-908-4490.

Here are some additional steps you can take to help protect your personal information and your money:

  1. Avoid using public WiFi
  2. Use a password manager to keep your strong passwords secure
  3. Stay alert by monitoring your credit reports and bank accounts
  4. Shred sensitive documents before throwing them out
  5. Remove your personal information from Google, Facebook, and other sites 

Stay safe out there in these internet streets!

More Resources:

Experian www.experian.com

Equifax www.equifax.com

TransUnion www.transunion.com

Official FTC Identity Theft Website: https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/

7 Common Money Beliefs You Should Stop Believing

This post contains affiliate links.

No matter where you are on your financial journey, by now I’m sure you know that there’s a lot to learn about money. And when it comes to your money, it’s not necessarily the things you don’t know (though this is important too) but rather the incorrect things you believe, that cause many of the real challenges in life. 

I’m talking about money beliefs. What we believe about money as a result of what we’ve been told or even how we were raised. Unfortunately, a lot of what we’ve believed about money isn’t true and all it takes is a few errors in your thinking to ruin your finances and your financial future. Improving your understanding of money and personal finances is the most effective way to get on the right track and on the path to prosperity.

Here are a few common money beliefs you should stop believing:

Income equals wealth. 

Actually, people that make more have a tendency to spend more. Think about lottery winners. They are notorious for losing everything and fast. Many of the families that earn over $1 million per year manage to outspend their income. You can earn a very high income and still live paycheck to paycheck. Trust me, I know. Wealth is what’s left over after you’re done spending. The more money you’re able to invest in appreciating and income-producing assets like investment real estate and index funds, the more you can expect your wealth to grow. A high income provides opportunity but it doesn’t provide a guarantee.

Find out where you stand with Personal Capital’s Net Worth Calculator!

Money has nothing to do with happiness. 

Studies have consistently shown that more income results in greater levels of happiness, especially if it helps us to meet our basic needs. For years, the break-even mark appeared to be $75,000 per year. Meaning if you’re earning less than $75,000, you could expect your feelings of happiness to increase with a greater income. But if you’re already earning that much or more, more money wouldn’t make you feel any better. However, a recent survey by the Wharton School showed a rise in people’s well-being and sense of control as they earned more, above $75,000! Seriously, how good would YOU feel if you had enough money to take care of what matters to you?!

Wills are for rich people. 

Let me tell you, I’m not rich (yet) and I have a will! To be honest, it was one of the most empowering money moves I’ve made and it gave me a different kind of peace of mind. Listen, everyone with children or assets needs a will. I’ve heard how taxing and messy things can get, especially amongst relatives, about the belongings of someone who has passed away. So unless you want the courts to decide who will raise your children and/or receive your assets, you need a will.  A simple will is only a few hundred dollars. You might even be able to do it yourself for less. A couple of sites you can check out are: Trust & Will and US Legal Wills.

Owning is better than renting. 

The “American Dream” isn’t what it used to be. No shade to homeowners. I’m a homeowner but knowing what I know now about homeownership, I would still be renting. From a financial standpoint, whether one is better than the other just depends. Mortgage interest is deductible, but that’s a lot of debt (and risk) to take on for such a little deductible when you compare the two. Plus, the additional costs of homeownership like increasing property taxes and repairs, aren’t talked about enough. There’s no calling maintenance when something is broken. As a homeowner, everything is on you and if you’re not prepared for the home-related “what ifs”, you are setting yourself up for a financial catastrophe. Crunch the numbers and decide for yourself.

Quality and price go hand-in-hand.

Or as I heard recently, “You get what you pay for”. There are many examples of this statement being false. For example, generic drugs are identical to the brand name version and cost much less. The truth is companies price goods and services in order to maximize profit. So that means the perceived value affects pricing, not the actual value. Many items are priced to accommodate expensive marketing campaigns. The Beats headphones are considered by experts to be only worth half the common retail price. In this case, you’re not paying extra for higher quality.

Index funds never win. 

Who said that?! Over time, index funds outperform the majority of managed funds. More often than not, the lower expenses and turnover rate of an index fund are more important than a professional stock-picker. By buying index funds, you get to take advantage of the ability to match market returns for very little expense.

If you’re new to investing, haven’t started yet, or have investments but want to make sure you’re investing in the right thing, check out Delyanne the Money Coach’s Slay the Stock Market course!

You should never have a credit card. 

I almost laughed out loud at this one. Credit cards can be another useful tool if used properly. Credit cards can help you build and maintain an excellent credit profile and you’ll need that if you ever want a job, insurance, to rent or apply for a mortgage. However, credit cards also provide a means to spend money you don’t actually have. This can be a challenge or a godsend, depending on your individual circumstances. It was a challenge for me, as I ended up in $50,000 credit card debt!

Do any of these erroneous money beliefs sound familiar? Can you tell what money beliefs are actually limiting your financial growth? Consider all of your money beliefs and question if they might be incorrect, too. Having accurate beliefs enhances your money decision-making skills and results so do your best to avoid buying into the myths.

More on the Blog:

6 Signs Your Finances Are in Trouble

8 Ways to Curb Your Overspending

6 Signs Your Finances Are in Trouble

Most financial challenges aren’t solely due to unfortunate events. They usually have a foundation of poor, consistent financial habits. With effective habits, most financial challenges can be handled. However, with improper financial habits, even the smallest unexpected expense can be devastating.

While there are many negative financial habits one could be guilty of committing, there are a few that are especially damaging, and the key is to recognize them and do something about it before it’s too late.

Here are 6 signs your finances are in trouble (and some ways you can fix it):

1. You can’t save consistently

People that are consistently free of financial challenges have a consistent saving habit. There’s always money available to handle the inevitable financial emergencies if you save part of your paycheck each time you get paid.

Make a promise to yourself that you’ll save a certain percentage of each paycheck. Getting on a written budget that prioritizes saving can help. If you’re on a tight budget, look at cutting back or eliminating things you don’t really need.

2. You spend excessively

The more you spend, the less you have to save. It’s that simple. Spending too much money makes you vulnerable and more likely to have financial challenges. Very excessive spending leads to accumulating debt, which is the ultimate financial curse…trust me…I know!

Look for other ways to amuse yourself other than spending money you don’t really have on things you don’t really need. I provide 30 things to do instead of spending money in this Instagram post.

3. You excessively use credit cards or other forms of debt

Debt is a major obstacle to financial health and stability. Debt can be such a burden and most debt comes with expensive terms that makes debt a costly way to spend money and that can make getting out of debt nearly impossible.

Beware of debt. Budget for essential items and save for emergencies and big purchases. If you have to use debt to purchase something, especially something non-essential, it’s a good bet that you can’t afford it.

4. You ignore bills when you get them

No one likes to pay bills. However, bills have a way of piling up and eventually have to be paid. During that time, you’re still spending money that should be going toward your bills. This is a huge mistake.

Make looking a your bills a ritual you perform one day a week. Spending just a few minutes at the beginning of each week looking at what bills are coming due can help you make sure your money is being allocated to what you need.

5. You’re constantly paying penalties, fees, and excessive interest

Did you know that credit card companies earn more money from late fees than they do from interest? ATM penalties are steep and those interest-free loans have huge interest penalties if you don’t pay them off on time.

Paying your bills on time can help you avoid late fees. If you know you need to pay a bill late, call or go online to make a payment arrangement, if possible. Use ATMs that don’t require a fee and/or budget for the cash you need for the week and take it out all at once. This will lessen the chances that you’ll run to an ATM for cash without a plan.

6. You’re raiding your savings, investments, and retirement accounts

There may be times that dipping into your savings or other accounts might be justified but it should be for a good reason. Cashing out part of your 401(k) for a trip to Disney World doesn’t qualify as a good reason. Wiping out your savings because you spent more money than you had to spend at Target probably isn’t a great idea either.

Savings accounts are for saving. Investment and retirement accounts are for saving and building wealth for your future self. Don’t rob your future self.

Check out this related post:

8 Ways to Curb Overspending

8 Ways to Curb Overspending

Overspending is a big challenge for many of us. Our eyes get a little big for our wallets, and we give in to impulse. It’s actually like overeating. It’s the result of short-term thinking without giving the consequences full consideration before making the decision to do it. And if you think about it, spending money is kinda like a drug…a quick way to feel better.

I know firsthand how challenging getting in control of your overspending can be, so I’ve rounded up 8 ways to help you keep your unnecessary spending in check:

1. Spend According to Your Budget

You do have a budget right? Right?! Make a budget and set a limit for the amount of money you can spend. If you get the urge to purchase something, whip out your budget and make a responsible decision based on the what your budget is telling you.

2. Remember Short-Term Pleasure Leads to Long-Term Pain

If it’s pleasurable in the short-term, you’re going to suffer in the long-term. The opposite is also true. Working out every day isn’t always fun fun in the moment, but the rewards are great and can be long lasting. A $300 Ivy Park outfit might be satisfying today, but what about three months from now when it’s too hot to wear it?

3. Give Yourself Space Before Making a Decision

Like other habits, overspending lacks thought. It’s automatic. You’ve learned to receive pleasure by giving in to the impulse to spend. Stop for a moment, breathe and disengage your mind from the path that it’s on. Try spending 30 minutes doing something else and see if you still want to buy it.

4. Consider What Your Overspending is Actually Costing You

Too much debt can make it impossible to get a mortgage or a car loan. You might not get to take that vacation and if you do, coming back to a mountain of debt will quickly wipe away all the relaxing vacation feels. There may even come a time where you can’t purchase the things you need to live. Not to mention, you might also get stuck working well beyond the age you desire because you spent the money on unnecessary things.

5. Avoid Opportunities to Overspend

When are you most likely to overspend? Is it while visiting your favorite store or website? Just stay away. Avoid the temptation altogether. Make a list of your favorite places to spend money and remind yourself of the consequences.

6. Note How You Feel Before and After You Purchase

Do you spend when you’re not having a good day? What emotions trigger the urge to buy something? How do you feel afterwards? Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you need the item or if you’re just making yourself feel better. If you’re just making yourself feel better, don’t buy it, and if you can, find another…more beneficial way to feel better.

7. Feel and Express Gratitude

Ask yourself what you’re grateful for before overspending. Studies have shown that feelings of gratitude increase willpower leading to reduced spending. Gratitude can increase resistance to instant gratification because you end up feeling content with the things you already have. Give it a try. Also keep in mind that stress and anxiety lower willpower, significantly.

8. Track Every Penny You Spend

When all else fails, review how much you’ve spent. Keep a running total and sure to include everything, no matter how small. You’ve spent a fortune on small items over your lifetime. Track it all and see how you feel once you’ve totaled it up.

Avoid spending money on things you don’t need. Overspending is a dangerous financial habit. Replacing your savings always takes longer than you think it will. Relying on debt is even worse. If you currently overspend, give this issue the time and effort it deserves because overspending is the fastest way to destroy your finances.

5 Money-Saving Gift Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is an occasion to show others that you care by giving gifts from the heart. I mean who wouldn’t want to give their loved one everything their heart desires? However, that’s just not feasible or necessary, and many store-bought gifts costs way too much, especially if you’re on a tight budget. The good news is you can have a great Valentine’s Day without spending a lot of money! Here are 5 money-saving gift ideas for Valentine’s Day:

1. Celebrate Early

There’s no rule that says you can’t celebrate early. Valentine’s Day might officially fall on February 14th, but why not consider celebrating in the days before or after. Restaurants, flowers, and cards are all significantly less expensive. But if you still want to celebrate on the 14th and want to get out of the house, consider a breakfast date. It’s the most important meal of the day and the least expensive. Lunch is another less expensive option.

2. Plan an Experience at Home

It’s a pandemic! Rather than taking your significant other out for a night on the town, consider a quiet day or evening at home. Plan an indoor picnic on the living room floor, cook a delicious meal for your loved one or chef it up in the kitchen together, queue up something to watch on Netflix, give each other a massage, listen to music and just be with your partner. Good conversation and company are free.

3. Make it Yourself

At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts. There’s no need to spend $4.99+ on a greeting card that will get thrown in the trash, so opt to make a card this year that they’ll remember forever. You could also write a poem or love letter and frame it, make a scrapbook, make a list of everything you love about your partner, or grab a gift basket and fill it with small items your partner would enjoy and use.

4. Knock Out Something on Their To-Do List

My to-do list is constantly growing and a little assist would go a long way. If your significant other has a lot on his or her plate, consider creating coupons for tasks they mention they have to do (or complain about) often or just jump in to help lift the load. I promise this act of service will go a long way.

5. Skip the Day Altogether

You don’t need the calendar to tell you when to express your love for someone plus some of us just got finished celebrating Christmas. Consider skipping the day altogether especially if you give gifts throughout the year, just make sure your partner is okay with it first. And if you’re at this stage in your relationship, make a plan together for how you’ll spend the money you saved by skipping the holiday.

Bonus

Roses cost a small fortune on Valentine’s Day so find another flower your significant other loves. Also, florists are more expensive than the grocery store or the farmer’s market. Grab a bouquet and deliver them yourself!

No matter what you decide to do this Valentine’s Day just remember that love doesn’t require money. A fun and memorable Valentine’s Day can be enjoyed on a budget.

My Review of How Money Works: Stop Being a SUCKER

This post contains affiliate links.

The How Money Works team reached out to me a couple of months ago about checking out their book How Money Works: Stop Being a SUCKER. I had never heard of this book before and was looking for a new personal finance book to read but what can I say, it was the title for me. The title definitely sold it.

I started reading it shortly after it arrived and the first thing I noticed was the community of characters introduced at the beginning. I found these characters to be like you and me or people we know which helped to set a relatable tone that’s carried throughout the book, which is important because when teaching a topic like financial literacy, books can be really stuffy and can lose a reader’s interest when it’s too formal and technical.

The authors waste no time in giving us the (needed) reality check that financial literacy is a global economic crisis and that most of us are suckers because we really don’t know how money works. Now some people may find that offensive but you know that I am all about telling the truth so I didn’t mind it at all. Unfortunately, the truth is many of us are suckers. We’re suckers because we haven’t taken the time to learn how money works yet somehow we’re just supposed to miraculously become wealthy. We’re also suckers because we’ve relied on these big banks and credit card companies to have our best interest in mind, *spoiler alert* they don’t. Without basic financial literacy we really are, as I like to call it, hustling backwards and the consequences can be severe.

I love the amount of time and attention the authors give to explaining the concepts of compound interest, time value of money, and the Rule of 72. They also provide examples to help you understand how these concepts can be applied. But the rule of 72 is a GAME CHANGER. It’s a rule that helps you determine how long it takes for your money to double given a fixed interest rate and it’s not always talked about. But once your eyes have been opened to the Rule of 72, you cannot close them. Get it? It’s an eye opener. For example, many of us have money saved in High-Yield Savings Accounts (HYSAs). Pre-pandemic, let’s say the interest rate was at 1%. Using the Rule of 72, it would take 72 years for our money to double…SEVENTY TWO YEARS!

Oh the Rule of 72 doesn’t just apply to how your money grows in savings. You can use the Rule of 72 to determine how long it takes for your money to double for someone else. Yep…like credit card companies. Say you have a credit card with an interest rate of 15% well based on the Rule of 72, it will take 4.8 years for your money to double for them. Do you know what they do with the income they make from charging you interest? They invest it to make even more money. They also pay out bonuses and also take company vacations with YOUR money.

I told you…eye opener! This is also why getting out of debt should be a priority so that you have more of your money and can put it to work for YOU.

Now that our eyes are open to how money really works, the book takes us through 7 Money Milestones or steps we need to take in order to achieve financial security and independence. You’ll find #4 a no-brainer!

Also in between lessons there are short knowledge checks and exercises to help you know where you are and what you need to do to get to where you want to be financially. There are also “Sucker Mindset vs Wealthy Mindset” examples through the book that I really appreciated because having the right mindset is so important to achieving success on any journey.

How Money Works: Stop Being a SUCKER was an informative yet easy read; about 110 pages of text with a 2-page worksheet to help get you started on your path to no longer being a sucker. I definitely know more about money after reading it and I highly recommend that you and everyone you know give this a read…you won’t be disappointed. You can grab How Money Works on Amazon and anywhere else books are sold.

Household Swaps That Are Good for Your Pockets & the Environment

This post contains affiliate links.

Lately, I’ve been concerned (and frankly disappointed) with the amount of waste I’ve been generating. Specifically, my paper towel use during this time of increased hand washing and sanitizing pretty much everything. I use paper towels to dry my hands and sanitize surfaces in the house, but I also use them when eating, to wipe up spills, to rest things on instead of the bare counter, etc. One day I thought, well if I was using that many paper towels and subsequently generating that much waste, how much waste was actually being disposed of in my neighborhood, or the country.

So I started to look for ways to minimize my overall waste and took inventory of some of the swaps I had already. You know what I realized? Not only was I saving money by purchasing things I could reuse but I was also, in my own small but impactful way, helping the environment.

Here are a few household swaps I’ve made that have saved money and happen to be better for the environment:

Reusable Coffee Filter

We all know that eliminating Starbucks completely won’t make us rich, but making coffee at home does have its benefits. Actually, I’ve found brewing my own coffee to be a pleasant part of my morning routine. But while I was saving some money by cutting back on my trips to Starbucks, I would be inconvenienced when I would forget to grab coffee filters at the store and would run out. Not to mention I was throwing away coffee filters after each pot. So I looked for a reusable option and found this reusable coffee filter and I haven’t looked back since! Just fill it with your favorite ground coffee to brew and dump the leftover grounds when you’re done or save them for a DIY body scrub!

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soap

Where do I even begin with this magical liquid? Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap is hands down the most versatile soap and now I know why they call it an 18-in-1 soap. With just a few drops and a dilution of water, this soap can be used as an all-body cleanser, dish and laundry detergent, an multi-purpose cleaner, shave cream, floor cleaner, fruit and vegetable washer, and bug deterrent for houseplants or the garden, and so much more! My favorite scent is lavender, but it also comes in almond, peppermint, unscented, citrus, eucalyptus, rose, and tea tree! Plus one 32 ounce bottle goes a loooooong way!

Cloth Napkins

Switching to these cloth napkins was the inspiration for this post and really lit the fire in me to be more conscious and want to do better when it comes to reducing my waste. I started small with the paper towels I use to clean my hands and wipe my mouth when eating. I found these cloth napkins on Amazon and so far I’ve enjoyed using them and the pop of color! I’m already noticing a difference and how long it’s taking for my trash can to get full with paper towels.

Washable Sponges

I don’t know how late I am to this party but sponges that you can use around the house, for various things, that you can just throw in the laundry then reuse?! OMG! I love not having to add sponges to my shopping list, worrying about properly disposing of them or the plastic they come in. These washable sponges are made of terry cloth, have a rough side for tough spots, and come in super cute and fun colors/patterns. When they get too dirty, just throw them in the wash with the rest of your stuff. I even bought some for my boyfriend and he’s hooked!

Reusable Grocery Bags

Seriously everything on this list is a game changer, but these grocery bags change the grocery bag game for sure! They are sturdy and are basically a box with handles. So I can place them in the car without having to worry about the bags rolling around and items falling out. They also easily fit inside of shopping carts to keep your items organized and visible, AND they collapse for easy storage. Boom!

Glass Meal Prep/Food Containers

If you’ve browsed my Meal Prep highlight on Instagram for me, you’ve seen these before. I’ve been using these glass containers by Prep Naturals to portion out my meals for a few years now. Although more expensive than plastic, these glass containers are more environmentally-friendly, eliminate plastic leaching into your food and body, and maybe it’s just me but they make food look and taste better!

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list. These are just some of my favorites but there are so many swaps you can make to lower your household costs and have a better impact on the environment.

What are some household swaps you’ve made that have really paid off for you and made the environment a little better?

My Grocery Shopping Budget Hack

This post contains affiliate links.

Whether you’re a household of 1 or 5, one can easily get carried away when shopping in the grocery store, which can make sticking to your grocery budget a challenge.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend an average of $7,700 on groceries every year, and an average of 41 minutes in the grocery store each visit.

There are many ways to save time and money when it comes to grocery shopping, like shopping your pantry first, being on a cash budget, and ultimately sticking to a list of things you actually need. However, we’re human and it can take grabbing just one extra thing to put you over your grocery budget.

Allow me to introduce you to the gadget that changed the game for my grocery shopping budget:

It’s a tally counter!

A tally counter is a handheld device used to count things like people and animals, or to keep track of things that are coming and going like people at an event.

Here’s how I use a tally counter to stay within my grocery budget while shopping:

How It Works

  • To begin, turn the dial to set the tracker to “OOOO”. Then, for every dollar an item costs that I add to my basket/cart, I add one click to the tally counter by pressing the lever.

For example, this cashew yogurt costs $1.69.

  • So I add 2 clicks to tally counter.

There’s no tax on this item so 2 clicks sufficed but if there was applicable tax, I’d add one more click.

I continue to add clicks to the tally counter as I move through the store, grabbing the items on my grocery list.

At the end of my shopping, the tally counter read “85” which meant my grocery bill would come to an estimated $85 at the register, so I was still under my $100 budget.

Are you dying to know what my actual today at the register was?

That’s right…$79.54!

I told you…GAME CHANGER!

Why It Works

Each click added to the counter represents a whole dollar so it’s rounding up for you. So as long as you remember to add the right number of clicks as you shop, your actual total when you get to the register will always be less than your tally counter total…helping to keep you well within your grocery budget.

You can also keep an eye on your total as you move throughout the grocery store, without the risk of accidentally erasing it like many of us have done when using the calculator app on our phones.

Which means there’s also no toggling back and forth a grocery list and app on your phone shaving time off the average grocery store visit

My tally counter along with my Becta Design Cash Envelopes, help to keep me under my grocery budget EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Try it out! You can grab your tally counter here! I promise, it’ll be a game changer for you too!

Related: My Review of Becta Design Cash Envelopes

Mercari vs Facebook Marketplace

Updated July 18, 2020

Selling items you no longer need can be a great way to make extra money to help you reach your financial goals. Last year, I started selling some of my unwanted items on Facebook Marketplace for extra money to throw towards my debt. However, when COVID-19 became a global pandemic and caused us to shelter-in-place in order to avoid unnecessary human contact, my online selling behavior changed.

I remembered someone on Instagram recommending the Mercari selling app and with more time at home and a pile of unwanted items growing, I decided to give it a try!

Mercari and Facebook Marketplace have some similarities and some key differences, and here I compare them head-to-head!

Listing Your Items

Mercari: Listing your items on Mercari is easy. Mercari provides prompts for entering details about your item such as the item category, brand, condition, and color. These prompts are predictive and can auto-populate information based on the photos uploaded and what you begin to type. There is also a free text box to provide additional information that can help buyers understand exactly what the are getting. You can add up to 12 photos per listing and 3 hashtags.

Facebook Marketplace: Listing items on Marketplace is also easy, but without the bells and whistles. Prompts are provided to tell buyers what you’re selling, the price, category, and location. There’s also a free text box to describe your item and you can add up to 10 photos.

Listing and Seller Fees

Mercari: There is no fee to list items. However, Mecari charges a 10% selling fee which includes the cost of processing the payment from the buyer. So your net earnings would be the listing prices minus the selling and any shipping fees (see below). This fee is charged when the sale has been completed. Additionally, if you cannot fulfill the order, a cancellation fee of 5% of the item price (maximum of $25) may be imposed when an order is cancelled to cover the cost of the transaction fees and/or shipping labels.

Facebook Marketplace: There is no fee to list items. However, for each item sold and shipped using Facebook Shipping (see below), Facebook charges a 5% selling fee to cover the cost of payment processing, customer support, and purchase protection.

Pricing Your Items

Mercari: On Mercari, you set your own price but you cannot sell items for less than $5 and for no more than $2000. The app also has a cool pricing feature that can help take the guesswork out of setting a price. This feature uses the information provided in the listing to compare the price of similar items that have recently sold. It also has a Smart Pricing feature, which boosts or promotes your item. All you have to do is choose the listing price and floor (lowest) price, then Mercari adjusts the price within that range based on demand, but never lower than the floor price. Mercari will even promote the price drop to people who have shown interest in your item.

Facebook Marketplace: There doesn’t appear to be a limit to pricing your items on Marketplace. You are responsible for setting your own price and you can even list items for free.

Promotions/Negotiations

Mercari: Interested buyers can make offers on your items. Offers expire after 24 hours. You can either decline, accept, or counter the offer. You can also promote your listings to those that have liked your item or to the public on Mercari. When you promote to those who have liked your item, the price is reduced by 10% or more for 24 hours. When you promote to the public, the price is reduced by 5%. Price drops can occur every 24 hours when promoting to the public, but only every 3 days when promoting to likers of your item.

Facebook Marketplace: Marketplace isn’t as structured when it comes to negotiating prices, so it could feel a bit like haggling. At this time, Facebook doesn’t offer a boost in listings unless you are operating a business page, but you pay for this like you would an ad.

Completing the Sale

Mercari: All transactions take place in the app. Unless a buyer makes an offer, the sale is immediately completed when the buyer presses the ‘Buy Now’ button.

Facebook Marketplace: Facebook encourages the buyer to contact the seller to purchase items. Buyers and sellers have to agree on the price, then coordinate when and how the buyer will get the item.

Delivering the Goods

Mercari: Shipping is the only way to deliver items on Mercari and at this time, you can only ship within the U.S. Mercari offers multiple shipping options and ways to pay for shipping. As the seller, you can choose to have the buyer pay for shipping or you can offer free shipping, which will certainly entice potential buyers. If you do decide to offer free shipping, I recommend getting an estimated cost for shipping and supplies first, so you know how that factors into your profit. Mercari offers shipping via: FedEx, USPS, and UPS. Items should ship within 3 business days using a valid tracking number from the date of the sale.

Facebook Marketplace: Marketplace sales are typically local and require coordination between the buyer and seller for when and where to pick up the item. When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, this was one of the reasons I switched to Mercari. However, Facebook now has a local delivery service through one of its partners, but it’s only available in certain cities and for select items. Facebook also implemented a direct-to-buyer shipping option. Like Mercari, discounted prepaid shipping labels can be purchased but in this case, the cost is passed onto the buyer. You’re encouraged to ship your items within 3 business days from the date of the sale. Customers can cancel orders within 30 minutes of purchase if the order isn’t marked as shipped yet. Facebook will also cancel any orders that fail to ship within 30 days.

Seller Protections and Refunds

Mercari: Mercari offers sellers payment guarantee and shipping protection up to $200, when using its prepaid shipping labels. Buyers can cancel a sale if the item doesn’t ship on time. Buyers can request a refund within 3 days of confirmed delivery if the item received isn’t as described, potentially counterfeit, damaged, defective, or the wrong item was received.

Facebook: Facebook doesn’t offer seller protections and all sales are typically final. Under Purchase Protection, buyers can request refunds on certain orders, if they didn’t receive the item, the item arrived damaged, defective, or wasn’t as described. Purchases must be made using Facebook Buy to be eligible.

Getting Paid

Mercari: Your payment is guaranteed when the item gets delivered (unless the buyer requests a refund). Once the buyer rates you as the seller, you then rate the buyer and then funds are added to your Mercari balance. You can use those funds to purchase items on Mercari or transfer them to your bank account. Direct deposit into your bank account is free and usually takes 2-5 business days. You can also get paid in 30 minutes or less with Instant Pay however, there is a $2 charge for this.

Facebook: Since most people shopping on Marketplace are interested in local pickup/drop off, you can determine how you want to get paid. Most people use person-to-person payment methods like PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, and even cash to get paid. If you decide to use Facebook Buy, your money will be deposited into your bank account within 15-30 days of marking the item shipped and entering a valid tracking number.

Goal Tracking

Mercari: Mercari has a new feature! You can now set and track your selling goal within the app! It’s super easy to create too! All you do is set the type of goal it is (i.e., declutter, vacation, gift, treat yourself) then set how much you want to earn. This feature will provide selling tips and will keep track of your progress and tell you how much more you have to earn to reach your goal…right on your dashboard!

Facebook: …I’ll wait.

And the Winner is…

Mercari! Even with its slightly higher selling fee and shipping requirements, Mercari offers more functionality and choices than Facebook Marketplace. Not to mention, listing on Mercari puts your items in front of more people, which increases the likelihood of actually selling your items. Mercari wins when it comes to safety as well, eliminating the need to meet up with complete strangers, since all transactions are done in the app.

If you’d like to give Mercari a try, you’re welcome to use my referral link to sign up! You’ll get $10 off your first order and another $20 when you make your first $100 selling on Mercari! Plus, when you refer your friends, you’ll get $10 when they make their first purchase and another $40 when they make their first $100!

Well there it is folks! I’ve laid out some important features for both Mercari and Facebook Marketplace. But no matter which platform you choose, here are a few tips and resources that can help you be a successful seller:

  • Communication is the key to great customer service. Be proactive and upfront when communicating with buyers, especially if you may experience a delay in shipping and delivery.
  • The US Postal Service provides free shipping boxes. Just stop by your local post office or go online at USPS.com to order the boxes you need.
  • Check out the Mercari Help Center for additional information on how to sell on Mercari.
  • Check out the Facebook Marketplace Help Center for additional information on how to sell on Facebook.
  • For more pro tips for selling on Facebook Marketplace check out my 5 Tips for Selling on Facebook Marketplace!

If you have additional selling tips, comments, or questions…drop them below!