4 Financial Goals You Can Actually Achieve in 2018

19 Dec

Did you know that January 17th is known as “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day?” Most people start the new year with big, lofty goals and they quickly come to realize they bit off more than they can chew. According to the University of Scranton, around 40% of Americans usually make new year’s resolutions. Of that 40%, only 8% say they actually meet their goals.

The key to having successful resolutions is to make sure they are simple and achievable. Rather than setting a goal, such as “lose 10 pounds”, try to set a smaller resolution that you can control like, “go to the gym at least 3 days a week”.

In 2016, over 30% of Americans had a resolution to save more and spend less. In order to move closer to that goal, it’s important to set simple, achievable resolutions that will improve your finances. If you’re unsure where to start, try making any of these attainable goals your resolutions for 2017.

Saving Your Coffee Money
Coffee is a morning staple for so many people. However, those daily visits to your favorite shop can add up quickly. An average transaction at Starbucks this past year was nearly $9, that adds up to a whopping $2,340 a year! In 2018, set a goal to make your coffee at home. A new automatic coffee maker can be a great investment to ensure you get your coffee without having to spend the extra time and money every morning. Coffee isn’t usually what busts most people’s budgets, but it’s an easy place to start if you want to watch your spending.

Cut One Service You Don’t Use
That $20 charge for a music-streaming service may not seem that expensive, but if you’re not using it, then you’re just wasting money you could actually be saving. Try laying out all of the expenses you have for services like these, in order of most used to least. For next year, cancel the service you least used this past year. Even if it’s only $20, it can lead up to $240 per year in savings! With technology improving more and more for streaming TV shows and movies, it may be time to finally cancel that cable subscription.

Understand Your Debt
Nearly every American will deal with debt at some point in their lives. From student loan debt to mortgages, it’s important to understand not only how much debt you have, but where it is and how it’s affecting your life. With the rising student loan debt each year, it’s important for graduates to understand each loan and how much their payments will be. To get ready for 2017, make a spreadsheet with all of the loan payments you have (education, car, home, etc.) and how much you can contribute each month to pay them off as quickly as possible. The sooner you pay them off, the more money you will save over the life of the loan. Also, the faster those loans are paid off, the quicker you can spend that money on something like retirement or that vacation you’ve always wanted. There are now even more services for graduates that allow to you refinance your loans, for a lower rate and even the ability to adjust or skip your monthly payment.

Brown Bag It
Grabbing that delicious salad from your favorite cafe may seem like a great idea in the moment, but doing that throughout the week can lead to a big chunk taken out of your bank account. The average lunch in the United States is around $10, so if you eat out every day of the week, excluding weekends, you will be spending around $2,600 a year just on lunch. For 2017, start bringing your lunch to work or school, rather than eating out, and watch just how much you save. Also, by making your lunch at home, you have the ability to control the portions and health benefits of your food.

Ultimately, whatever goals you hope to meet in 2017, just be sure that you make simple resolutions that you can actually achieve. Just like the fable The Tortoise and the Hare says, “slow and steady wins the race!”

Congratulations Graduates!

15 Dec

Congratulations and well wishes to all those graduating this weekend! 

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The Cost of Having a Pet In College

12 Dec

I have always had pets in my life. And I didn’t realize how much having a pet in the house meant to me until I moved out and didn’t have a pet of my own. Two weeks into living away from my parents and all of their pets (none of them could be separated to come with me) I started craving a furry companion.

I started thinking I wanted a dog, but then after considering (some) of the financial costs, I opted for a cat. Now, my cat turned to be an expensive little guy because of unexpected health issues (just my luck!) and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t financially savvy when picking out a pet.

But, I’m going to share with you expenses you should take into consideration before impulsively getting a pet that will hopefully help you make the wisest financial choice.

dog laying on pink quilt

Initial Start-up Costs

Chances are you don’t have a spare kennel, litter box, litter, food, food bowls, toys, nail clippers, etc. just lying around. But, good for you if you do! Depending on what type of pet you get and what its living conditions will be (can it just roam freely or does it need to be kenneled/in a cage because it’s a rat or amphibian), your immediate expenses will vary drastically.

Also, some apartment complexes and landlords have you put down an extra pet deposit (typically anywhere from $150-$300) and add additional charges to your rent each month per pet in your house. And you do have to report any pets you have since not doing so would be a violation of your lease and could potentially get you evicted.

Getting Your Pet

If you decide to a purebred Pomeranian, you’re going to be spending a LOT of money. It may be your dream doggie, but is that really how you should be spending your money during college? There are a few local shelters in our area and they have adorable, adoptable dogs. Other shelters have both cats and dogs that are available for adoption.

There are many benefits to adopting a pet rather than buying a pet, but for the sake of this article we are going to talk about expense. Adopting a dog from Natalie’s Second Chance costs $125 for adult dogs and $150 for puppies, this fee includes spaying/neutering, up-to-date vaccines (except rabies), and a microchip.

Getting all of these things done on your own (like I did) can cost upwards of $200 and that’s not even including an adoption fee! Almost Home Humane Society did not have prices for their adoptions listed on their website, but they also have an “adoption package” that provides things like spaying/neutering and up-to-date vaccines.

cat hiding under chair

Medical Expenses

Kittens and puppies are baby animals; and like baby humans they require vaccines. All pets need to be vaccinated young and then have yearly booster shots, this is essential to them staying healthy.

Sometimes pets get sick, and unfortunately that comes with expenses as well. Emergency trips to the vet aren’t cheap, and you should remember that when deciding if you’re really going to be able to care for that adorable kitten at Pet Smart. And don’t forget treating them for fleas!

It may seem expensive to buy their flea treatment every month, but flea prevention is much less expensive than flea extermination.

Time

No matter what type of pet you choose, taking care of that pet will require a lot of time and patience. Dogs need to be walked, potty trained, bathed, taken to the vet, crate trained, fed, and played with. Cats need trips to the vet, cleaned, litter boxes cleaned, and lots of attention.

You can’t simply get an animal and expect it to take care of itself. And in college, do you really have the time you need to take care of a pet? To cover the expenses of a pet, you may need to pick up additional hours at work, but then when will you walk Fido? Getting a pet means you will have to work your schedule to include both your needs and theirs, while also having the funds to take care of both.

Maybe you have a roommate or significant other who would be willing to lend a hand in more stressful or urgent situations; but, the pet will become your responsibility, so you should make sure you have the proper time to care for it. (And if you’re going in with a friend or significant other for the pet, make sure you understand what’s expected from each of you before you bring your new friend home.)

2 cats sitting on stairs

These are just a few tips to get you thinking about your choice in getting a pet. Having a pet is great and it teaches responsibility… But, it also costs money and you have to think about if you’ll be able to afford giving this pet the home it really deserves.

If you’ve decided you really can’t afford a pet while you’re in college, one thing you can do is volunteer at either of the shelters listed above. This is a really good way to get the furry friend experience and you’ll be giving back to the community. Be sure and visit their websites for more information!

Decking the Dorm for the Holidays

7 Dec

Homesickness really does get the best of us sometimes. And as we get closer and closer to the holidays, sometimes it can feel a little, well, lonely. Even if we aren’t getting home sick, sometimes we just want more holiday cheer!

Decorating your dorm room can be a great way to feel more festive and lift your spirits. It can also help relieve some of that homesickness. Decorations don’t need to leave you broke though, there are several ideas out there to decorate cheaply.

The residence halls don’t allow candles. But, scented things without a heating element like wall plug-ins are okay. Sometimes you can get really nice ones at places like Bath and Body Works, and then all you would need is refills. They last a really long time as well. Walking into a room that smells like fresh cinnamon apples in the fall or a sweet tropical smell near spring break really makes a person feel at home.

snowman door decoration

You, or maybe your roommate, might have a mini fridge that could be decorated. Magnets are a fun and colorful way to create a cheerful environment. Magnets are just about everywhere! They go on sale in the bookstores, sometimes they are in the dollar section at Target, so just be on the lookout. You could be surprised with all the locations you can find magnets.

You know that loft bed that some of us in the dorms have? It’s pretty easy to hang decorations from under the bed. Ask your parents if they have a couple of extra ornaments they wouldn’t mind sparing and start hanging! Cut out some paper hearts and hang them under the bed for Valentine’s Day, or four leaf clovers for St. Patrick’s Day, really whatever you would like.

As a general rule, most dorms (and other places) won’t let you hang things from the ceiling as it can be a fire hazard, but if you don’t have a loft bed don’t fret. Command Strips to the rescue! Hanging things on the wall is also a great way to add visual appeal. Cut out any design you want and put it on display. Hanging items on the wall also means less clutter on your desk and more space to do other things. A pack of construction paper is not too expensive either so let your creativity show.

paper snowflakes on window

Lights are always a plus! Nothing is quite as magical as those twinkling lights. If you have a roommate, it would be a good idea to ask their opinion, but who doesn’t like lights? Just get some of the indoor, or tree decorating kind, and use command strips to safely hang them on your walls. Sometimes people have extra lights in the house, so feel free to ask around before you buy. Even if you have to end up buying them, decorative/strand lighting is pretty inexpensive. For those of you who are really savvy, you can actually change out the bulbs on some the strands for different holidays and occasions. Most strands require just a pair of pliers to switch the bulbs.

When decorating for the holidays, it doesn’t need to break the bank. There are lots of options out there. Decorating for the holidays is fun, easy, and can be a great way to help with homesickness. And, what’s nice is that as the seasons and holidays change, so can the decorations. Besides, a change of pace can help you feel refreshed and spread the holiday cheer!

Renewing Trustees or Presidential Scholarships at Purdue

5 Dec

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If you’re one of the lucky Purdue students to receive a Trustees or Presidential Scholarship, the thought of what you need to do to keep your scholarship may have come up. While these awards do renew automatically, there are some criteria you should know to keep your eligibility.

For starters, you need to complete at least one full academic year in the program (major) that you were originally admitted to. If you decide that you want to change majors, you will have to wait until after the spring semester of your first year or your scholarship will be lost

In addition, you need to maintain continuous full-time enrollment each semester (excluding the summer) with 12 or more credits or you will lose your eligibility. If you are taking 12 credits and drop a class to go below, this will put your scholarship in jeopardy.

While taking 12 credits keeps you full time, there is another credit completion mark you must hit. You must have completed a total of 30 credits at the end of your first year, 60 by the end of your second year and 90 by the end of your third year. Important to note is that transfer and AP credits both apply to this 30/60/90 goal as well as the courses you take at Purdue. This can give you a bit of a cushion, especially in your first year, to hit your 30/60/90 benchmarks. If you started at Purdue before Fall 2014, the 30/60/90 rule does not apply to you.

Along with maintaining full-time enrollment, you need to maintain a cumulative3.0 GPA. These grades are checked at the end of each spring semester and if your cumulative GPA is below 3.0 at that time, you will lose it. However, if you have lost it for one year you can regain it at the end of the next spring semester if your cumulative GPA rises above 3.0 again (assuming you meet all the other renewal criteria).

If you made it through your freshman year without transferring and you’re hitting your 30/60/90 goal while keeping your 3.0 cumulative GPA you’re probably well on your way to graduating in four years. Which is good, because the scholarships are good for up to four years (8 semesters) of eligibility. If you take an extra year or semester past that, you won’t have the scholarship to help out.

If you are participating in a Purdue approved co-op or internship that takes you away from Purdue, that semester will not count against your semester usage, credit hour completion totals, or 12+ credit rules. Due to your different pattern of enrollment, you may appeal to use a semester of your award during the summer. Summer appeals should only be used when you will not be on campus a total of eight fall and spring semesters.

Now, if you have been doing your best but fell short of one or more of these requirements, there is the option to appeal if you have extenuating circumstances. Keep in mind that high school was easy and college wasn’t so you got really into Netflix and sleeping instead is not considered an extenuating circumstance.

Looking for renewal information about other Purdue scholarships including the Emerging Leaders, Marquis, Purdue Achievement, Purdue Hispanic, or Purdue Merit Scholarships? Check out this link with details on maintaining those scholarships. You can also find more information on the Trustees and Presidential Scholarships as well as other Freshman Scholarships here.

Loan Repayment Tips In The News

30 Nov

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Whether you’re a recent graduate whose loans are just entering repayment or you have been making payments for several years, there is a very real chance that educational loan payments may be causing you a financial hardship. For recent graduates, there is a lot of info covered in federal exit counseling and it would be easy to have missed some of it.

Loan Servicer Navient has put together a list of their Top 10 Things to do Before You Make Your 1st Loan Payment. The key to successfully repaying your loans with any Loan Servicer is understanding your responsibilities as a borrower and the wide range of tools available to help you throughout repayment. Your Loan Servicer doesn’t want you to default and you definitely don’t want to default on your loans either!

While there isn’t much that can be done about the amount you owe since you’ve already borrowed it, you can still choose from several different options for repayment.  The Institute for College Access and Success created a Top 10 Tips for recent graduates, a handy reference for borrowers.

Unless you chose otherwise, you’re probably enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan which spreads your payments evenly over 10 years. This is both the default plan as well as the most aggressive repayment option available. However, there are several other options a borrower can choose which can limit the repayment per month to 10% of  discretionary income and reduce payments to as little as zero dollars per month (depending on income). For more information, check out Acacia Squire’s piece in NPR about her experiences and what options may be available to you.

 

Choosing the Right Loan Repayment Plan For You

28 Nov

All information on repayment plans is from this article by David Evans, Ph.D.
Additional info added by Casey Doten, Purdue Financial Aid Administrator

There are two main types of repayment plans you can choose from: traditional and income-driven. For borrowers that will qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), income-driven plans may be the better option. Income-driven plans will require an annual verification of income. This fact sheet describes each of the repayment plans as well as pros and cons of each. For more information about each of the repayment plans visit the Federal Student Aidwebsite.

Traditional Plansstudent-loan-repayment-plans

Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment plan consist of equal monthly payments over a 10-year period of time. This repayment plan is good for those who can handle making their monthly payments and make enough money to afford them. This payment plan is best for those who have minimal other debts and start working right out of school.

The Pros: You’ll pay off your loan faster compared to other plans, and pay less interest as a result.

The Cons: Your monthly payments will be higher than those made through other plans.

Graduated Repayment Plan

The Graduated and Extended Repayment plans could be an option for you if your income is low when you graduate but will increase quickly. Under a graduated plan, payments start out low and increase during the repayment period, usually every two years. This is a good plan if you can’t afford your current payments but know you will make more money in the years to come.

The Pros: Your loan is still paid off within 10 years.

The Cons: You’ll pay more interest over the lifetime of your loan compared to the Standard Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

An Extended Repayment Plan is an option if your loan amount is more than $30,000 and you want to stretch your repayment to 25 years.

The Pros: Smaller monthly payments (since they’re spread out over as many as 25 years) and more time to pay off your loan.

The Cons: You’ll be saddled with payments for a longer period of time as well as pay more interest.

Income-Driven Plans

If you qualify for an Income-Driven plan, these are often the most attractive options if you’re willing to recertify your payment each year (it’s not very difficult). However, some of these are contingent on when you took out loans! If you’re interested in student loan forgiveness*, you’ll need to be enrolled in any one of these plans.

Income Based Repayment Plan

If you’re not making enough money to cover all of your monthly expenses the Income Based Repayment (IBR) Plan would be a good option. There are two separate calculations for IBR which are dependent upon when you took out your student loans.

The Pros: The IBR plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income** if you were a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. Otherwise it will be 15%. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF (this is true for all loan forgiveness).

Income Contingent Repayment Plan

If you have a federal Direct Loan (other than a PLUS loan), you could opt for the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan. Your payments could be as low $5 or even $0.

The Pros: Your monthly payment will be the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years. You can have your remaining loan balance forgiven after 25 years of regular payments.

The Cons: You’ll pay more over the lifetime of your loan than you would with a 10-year plan, your payment could be lower than the monthly accrued interest and your loan principal will grow. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan

The Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan is only available for those with Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Payments are based on your annual income, family size, and total loan amount. You would pay the loan off in fifteen years.

The Pros: Each lender has their own calculation, but generally it is between 4% and 25% of your monthly gross income, although your payment must be greater than or equal to the interest that accrues.

The Cons: It’s only available for up to five years. After that time, you must switch to another repayment plan. You must reapply annually, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have continued enrollment in the plan.

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Pay as You Earn Repayment (PAYE) Plan is another option for those not able to afford their current monthly payments.

The Pros: The PAYE plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 years.

The Cons: PAYE is only eligible to those who were new borrowers on or after October 1, 2007 and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after October 1, 2011. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE) Plan is very similar to PAYE. This plan was created to allow more borrowers the opportunity to have their payments lowered to 10% of discretionary income.

The Pros: Not dependent upon when you took out your student loan, the payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: If you are married, your spouse’s income will be considered whether taxes are filed jointly or separately. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Summary

Federal student loans offer various ways for repayment. If you are in a situation (like so many others who have taken out student loans) that is not ideal for standard repayment of your loan, consider these options. There is a lot to consider when you are trying to decide which repayment plan to choose. Using the Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator can help you make your decision by showing you what your payments would be under each of the plans described above.

*A note about loan forgiveness: There are two different kinds of loan forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and loan forgiveness from your income-driven repayment plan ending. While both plans require you to be enrolled in an income-driven plan to reap the benefits there are some key differences:
-PSLF requires being employed at a qualifying employer in public service (non-profits, government, etc.) for 10 years/ 120 qualifying payments before forgiveness takes place. Standard forgiveness is after 20 or 25 years depending on your repayment plan.

-Any loan amounts forgiven under PSLF are tax-free, but not under standard forgiveness! So if you still have a balance on your loans after 20 (or 25) years, you will owe taxes on it as if it is income. While it’s still better than paying the amount back, it’s important to know it will have ramifications.

**Discretionary income = Your income – 150% of the poverty level in your state for your family size

Happy Thanksgiving!

23 Nov

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Administrator

Happy Thanksgiving! In addition to celebrating a cultural tradition here in the states, Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on everything you’re thankful for in life.

Whether you’re flying high on life or currently going through the doldrums, it’s good to give thanks for even the little things. Research from Harvard Health finds that giving thanks can actually make you happier.

So if the end of the semester and the holidays cause more stress than happiness, now is the perfect time to reflect on the things that bring you joy – no matter how big or small they are.

Throwing a Great Friendsgiving

21 Nov

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Thanksgiving may be one of the few times of the year that you and your friends are going to be somewhat near each other. This makes it an opportune time to get a ‘Friendsgiving’ together and enjoy each other’s company for possibly the only time during the year. If your friends don’t already have this tradition, you’ll probably have to host the first one to get the ball rolling. But don’t fear, done correctly Friendsgiving can be a fun and low-stress opportunity to get together with your best friends.

The best way to optimize the fun-factor while keeping your actual work level low? Make it a pot-luck where everyone has to bring something. Whether it’s a side of green beans, a box of wine, or someone wants to volunteer to make the main course, everything is welcome! Be sure to coordinate who brings what though, so that four people don’t all bring those canned cranberries. This could be done with a Facebook event, or just keeping a spreadsheet of what people tell you. Typically there is far more than enough food to go around, so if one person shows up empty handed for some reason try not to lay into them too much.

If it’s your first rodeo (or even if it’s not), avoiding turkey is probably a good plan. Most people are getting their annual fill on the day of Thanksgiving and don’t desire any more. Plus, the amount of people who aren’t that crazy for turkey is pretty high considering we have a day that’s reserved for feasting on it.Friendsgiving1.jpg

Something you do not want to forget is dishes and glasses. If you don’t have enough plates for people to eat off of, you’re going to have issues. An easy workaround? Paper plates! You don’t have to buy extra plates just for this one event and, more importantly, there are less dishes for you to do. Just be sure that you have enough drinking glasses for people as they might use more than one if they switch up their drinks.

Speaking of drinks, make sure you have plenty of ice! What’s in your two ice trays isn’t going to cut it. Whether people are drinking water, lemonade, or even a mixed drink, having ice is important. So go to the gas station, spend $5.00 for a couple bags of ice and call this one good. Have someone coming who is a terrible cook? Let them be in charge of bringing the ice.

Another important, and possibly awkward part, is figuring out who your invite list will include. Depending on the size of Friendsgiving you are having, there might just be your core group of friends or it might get larger. Either way, be sure to include people’s significant others. If you don’t, you’re putting them in a spot where they have to ask you if they can come or your friend will just skip so they aren’t ditching their boy/girlfriend. If your invite list is getting larger, just make sure there aren’t any obvious interpersonal conflicts you’re creating or that there is anyone you are totally missing from the invite list. You can’t have everyone over, but there might be some people upset they didn’t get the chance to join.

Another important group to keep happy is other people’s parents. How might you fail to do this? Not letting your friends know of Friendsgiving ahead of time. If you spring this idea up last minute and a friend comes over when one of their parents had planned for super special bonding time, it doesn’t matter if there was a lack of communication. Parental wrath will ensue in some fashion. So avoid this, and other potential conflicts, by planning it out ahead of time.

The most important thing? Have fun! Friendsgiving is supposed to be a time to see your pals and catch up while reminiscing on that embarrassing thing that happened 3 years ago. The more stress you can avoid while putting this all together, the better. As host your job is to provide a location and some planning but don’t feel like everything is on your shoulders. Just remember that you don’t need to be replicating a massive family-style event to have a successful time with your best friends.

Making Black Friday Work For You

20 Nov

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Black Friday is one of the strangest times of the year. Steep discounts on electronics and other items have people lining up and camping out for these “doorbuster” deals for hours before opening. So, how do you take fullest advantage of the Black Friday savings without regretting the missed hours of sleep? Depending on what you’re looking for, you may be able to save money without all the hassle.

If after scouring the various Black Friday ads, you have found a doorbuster deal that you can’t miss out on you’ll want to be prepared. Find out what time the stores you’re interested in open and plan to be in line well before that depending on the location. At places like Target or Wal-Mart expect people to be setting up shop well ahead of time. Some stores are also open on Thanksgiving for those of you who are willing to forsake their second helping of turkey. In the event you’re going to be part of a (hopefully civilized) mob storming a store, knowing where your desired item is beforehand will probably be the difference in getting it or not.

Remember to keep your receipts from your Black Friday deals that you buy for yourself and to get gift receipts if you’re getting a gift for someone else. It’s an easy details that you can lose in the chaos, but extremely important in the event you need to return it.

The doorbuster deals and people lining up for hours may get all of the attention but there are much easier ways to get those great deals without wasting your Thanksgiving evening or sleep. Aside from a few deals, almost everything will be available online for the same prices. A nice kicker? Many places offer free shipping with their deals as well. You can do this all from the comfort of your own home without waiting in the cold for hours. Additionally, you can wait a few days to check out the Cyber Monday deals as well as comparing with other stores online to see who has the best offers! Overall, you are likely going to get just as great of a deal by shopping online and comparing prices as you are with joining the crazies.

An often overlooked, yet easy, method to get great discounts is by giving into the store’s attempts to connect with you. Follow them on social media, download their apps, register an account on their website, etc. These are all great ways to get exclusive coupons that can add up quickly helping you save big without wading through the crowds.

The experience of joining the pack for the crazy openings may appeal to some, but to many others it is a hassle not even worth contemplating. If you’ve tried it and never want to see that craziness again, or just don’t even want to see it, don’t feel like you can’t get great deals too. Just like any time you are shopping for big-ticket items you just need to compare prices, amass coupons and other discounts and you can come out hundreds of dollars ahead. The work you put in to shop intelligently is well worth the minimal effort it takes.

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