saving money

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.

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Many folks set their resolution to save money, but that's easier said than done. Learn lifestyle changes that will help you save substantial money over time.

Trying to save money can be overwhelming.

It's difficult to navigate which expenses of your daily routine can be eliminated for financial gain and which are necessities. Many people believe that in order to accumulate savings, sacrifices must be made. And while simple sacrifices such as minimizing your takeout purchases and online shopping habits may be necessary, there are ways to save that still allow you to live a comfortable lifestyle. Consider the following lifestyle changes that will help you save money so you can start striving toward your financial goals.

Establish a Budget

Just like anything else you hope to succeed at, saving money requires active effort. Create a budget based on your monthly income. Evaluate your typical expenses and set minor goals to help you stick to an intended budget.

If you're looking for budget guidance, try the 50-20-30 rule. This rule segments your income by percentages: 50 percent of income toward essentials like groceries and rent, 20 percent toward savings, and 30 percent toward fun, lifestyle expenses.

Know Your Tax Breaks

You don't have to be a tax savant to score a better tax deduction. Filing your taxes meticulously can save you trouble down the line and ensure you're getting the best outcome. Get familiar with the standard deductions and whether you're eligible for a larger one.

If you plan on donating this year, be sure to keep track. It turns out, giving back might be the first step to getting back! You can score a greater tax break with sizable donations and adequate documentation. Creating a charitable giving plan will help you manage your budget and your donation endeavors.

Adopt the 30-Day Rule

Looking to make a large purchase? Give yourself 30 days to reflect on whether you truly need the costly item. Construct a list of pros and cons to determine its necessity. Once 30 days have passed, consider again if you're ready to make the steep purchase. If you still feel it's necessary, then go for it!

Maintain Your Home and Car

Some lifestyle changes that will help you save money in the long run require initial minor investments. Proper home and car care can add up, but ultimately, they'll prevent you from having to make hefty damage fees in the future. A few things you can do to ensure the longevity of your home and vehicle include:

  • Enlist arborists to verify the sturdiness of tress surrounding your home.
  • Upgrade your home's siding, as necessary. Check your home's exterior for signs of excessive weathering.
  • Clean out gutters to prevent roof damage.
  • Perform auto-detailing tasks on your car frequently, providing a new coat of paint when needed.
  • Change tires and auto liquids as recommended by professionals and in the vehicle's manual.

With another stimulus check in your pocket, spending the money on anything you want may seem tempting.

However, it's important to consider your responsibilities and to think about how to make the most of your stimulus check rather than spending it recklessly. Take your budget, your monthly expenses, your family, and your future into consideration and spend the money wisely.

Don't Buy Things with Recurring Costs

Just because you have extra spending money now doesn't necessarily mean you can afford new items with monthly payments, such as a new car. Unless the stimulus check helps you put a down payment on something to lower your monthly payments enough to fit into your normal budget, don't spend money on it. If you can't afford the monthly payments after using the stimulus money, you may put yourself in more debt than the item is worth.

Purchase and Pay Off the Necessities First

You may not get enough money in your stimulus check to pay back all the costs you've accrued during the course of the pandemic, but you should at least try to put a small dent in them. Put aside some money for things such as rent and utilities, but make sure to keep some for living essentials, such as groceries.

Unfortunately, the stimulus check probably doesn't offer enough money to allow you to change a low-budget living situation; for now, continue living as you have been until your financial situation changes permanently.

Consider Your Student Loans

Currently, federal student loans are on an administrative forbearance. However, as the new year begins, the lifting of the forbearance nears and your usual student loan payments may resume.

If you can afford it, consider setting aside the stimulus check for student loan repayments. Keep an eye on what your student loan lender decides to do with their loans, whether it's the government or a private lender. The news may inform you of whether your student loans can accept your stimulus check or not.

Even if the student loan administrative forbearance continues, it's wise to set aside money to pay off some of the debt while the interest rate is 0%. If you can afford to pay off your outstanding interest or student debt and still afford your living expenses, there's no better time than the present to tackle a small portion of your student debt.

Put the Money into Savings

Sometimes the wisest thing you can do with money is nothing at all. As long as you can afford your daily expenses, making the most of your stimulus check may involve saving it for a future emergency. You can take the check back out of your savings and use it on whatever you want after the looming threat of disaster has passed—once you're in a more stable situation, you'll be able to make a wiser financial decision.

If you own a home and are interested in decreasing your seemingly endless monthly expenses, check out these effective ways homeowners can save money.

Everyone likes saving money—especially homeowners.

People who own homes juggle a lot of payments, from utility bills and homeowner's insurance to mortgages and maintenance costs. At times, these constant expenses can become a bit overwhelming, so a homeowner may want to ease the financial burden of owning a home in any way they can.

If you're interested in decreasing your monthly expenses, consider these three effective ways homeowners can save money.

Choose an HVAC System With a High SEER Rating

One of the largest consumers of energy in a household is the HVAC system—especially if the system isn't efficient. As such, homeowners may be able to significantly cut down on their energy bills by investing in a more energy-efficient system.

An easy way to determine if an HVAC system is efficient is by looking at its SEER rating. SEER stands for "seasonal energy efficiency ratio" and represents the HVAC system's average heating or cooling output divided by the average energy that the unit consumes in watts per hour. Most units have a SEER rating that ranges between 13 and 23. By opting for an HVAC system with a higher SEER rating, you can ultimately save a significant chunk of change on your monthly electric bill.

Make an Effort to Maintain Appliances

Another way that homeowners can save money is by taking the time to maintain their appliances. When a large appliance gives out or wears out prematurely, homeowners often end up with a bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the system. Instead of having to drop a huge chunk of cash at a moment's notice, it's better to practice regular maintenance on the appliances in one's home.

Examples of maintenance tasks that all homeowners should do to keep their appliances in good working condition include:

  • Changing AC and heating system filters
  • Cleaning fridge coils and rubber gaskets
  • Cleaning the dryer vent
  • Tightening washing machine lines
  • Flushing and cleaning the hot water heater
  • Changing the water filter

Seal Up Your Home

As previously stated, heating and cooling one's home consumes a lot of energy. However, if your home has a lot of cracks and gaps in it, the hot or cool air from your HVAC system will just slip right out. As a result, your HVAC system will need to work even harder, and your energy bill will climb even higher.

To decrease your monthly energy bill, try sealing up your home as much as possible. Examples of ways to prevent airflow into and out of your home include improving its insulation, sealing any cracks or holes, adding weather stripping to doors, and caulking gaps around windows.