12 Tips for Saving Money at Fancy Restaurants

Here's a solid rewards card made for people who love food.

An expertly prepared meal at a restaurant is one of life’s great pleasures. When it’s delivered in a great atmosphere with attentive service, the experience is elevated even further. But fine dining establishments can be prohibitively expensive.

If you love fancy restaurants but hate getting the check, here are twelve tips to help you save on your next meal out.

1. Research Restaurant Weeks

Many cities host an annual Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants offer deals, prix fixe (fixed price) meals, and other incentives to get customers in the door. Find out when the next Restaurant Week is happening near you, as it could be the perfect time to visit that new restaurant you’ve been dying to try.

2. Attend Soft Opens

New restaurants often launch with a soft open, a dry run in which the kitchen and wait staff practice food prep and service before they officially open for business. Friends and family who snag an invite can often dine at these events for free. If you’ve got your nose to the local culinary scene, you can try to secure invites to the next hot restaurant’s soft open.

3. Ask for Gift Cards

Expecting some birthday or holiday gifts soon? Now might be the time to start dropping hints about gift cards to your favorite eatery. They may not seem very personal, but gift cards are a great way to get exactly what you want. Keep in mind that gift cards are not as secure as credit cards, so make sure you take steps to protect your gift cards if you do receive some.

4. Visit Deal Websites

Deal websites like Groupon and Restaurant.com hunt down dining discounts for you. Just go to the website and search for deals in your area, or sign up for a newsletter to get offers delivered right to your inbox. Even fancy restaurants offer deals through these sites sometimes, so keep an eye out for your favorites.

5. Go for Lunch

At many fine dining restaurants, lunch menus are more affordable than the dinner menu. While you may not get access to everything on the dinner menu, you will be able to score a quality meal at a lower price.

6. Skip the Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages can drastically add to the cost of your meal. Skipping the alcohol means you can focus on the unique food that the restaurant offers instead—and your stomach and your wallet will thank you.

7. Ask the Sommelier for Deals

If you plan on having wine, you can ask the sommelier for a deal. “If you want to get a better value on wine, ask them for the ‘bin end list,’” says Jamie Logie, owner of Regainedwellness.com. “These are wines with ripped labels or damaged tops, and past-their-prime vintages. . . . You can end up getting a wine that’s double the value or more.”

8. Avoid Specials

Specials offer meals that aren’t on the everyday menu, but they may not be a good value. “Specials are used a lot of the time as a way to make the most money on a plate of simple ingredients or . . . items that need to be cleared out,” said Logie. Choosing from a restaurant’s regular menu can help you save money while still providing you with a quality dining experience.

9. Split Meals

Restaurants often overload plates with more food than you need for a full meal. If the restaurant’s portions are big enough, you can split your appetizers, entrées, and dessert with a companion. And if you split the bill as well, you’ll automatically cut the check in half. Some restaurants do charge an extra fee for splitting menu items, so keep that in mind.

10. Skip Apps and Dessert

Appetizers and dessert don’t come cheap at fine dining establishments. If you eat a light snack before going out and have a dessert waiting at home, you’ll only have to spring for an entrée. While you may feel a little deprived, remember that entrées are the star of the show at restaurants. Focusing on those dishes will give you the most bang for your buck.

11. Make It a Business Expense

If you’re a business owner, the IRS will let you deduct meals purchased during work travel or meals conducted for business purposes. Next time you want to visit a nice restaurant, consider taking an employee or client out with you. You can deduct 50% of meals purchased on business trips or to entertain clients and 100% of some meals purchased for employees. This can help you save big when you file your taxes.

There are limitations, so check IRS guidelines to make sure your meal is covered.

12. Get a Rewards Credit Card

Many credit cards earn cash back or points rewards on your purchases, with some cards specifically designed to reward dining purchases. These cards will add value every time you dine out. If eating out is a priority for you, look for a credit card that rewards those purchases.

Next time you’re in the mood for a fancy night out, implement some of these tips to save some cash. And if you need more tips for saving money, check out our Personal Finance Learning Center.

Image: gilaxia

The post 12 Tips for Saving Money at Fancy Restaurants appeared first on Credit.com.

What to Buy in October

Save Money with Good Grades

Ah, October. The kids are finally getting settled into their school routines and weekends are devoted to leaf peeping and apple picking. If your busy schedule allows time for some shopping, October is also a great time to replace those ratty gym shoes, book your holiday travel, refresh your cookware in advance of all those holiday parties you’ll be throwing, and, of course, purchase Halloween costumes for the family.

According to the deal experts at Slickdeals.net, here are the four categories you should focus on—plus a few known deals to help you get the most for your money.

1. Footwear

If you’ve worn your sneakers into the ground, or if someone on your holiday list is in need of a pair, now is the time to start looking. According to Slickdeals.net, retailers like Puma, Macy’s, Nike, and Adidas had footwear for 30% off in 2016, on average.

Current Deals:

Kohl’s: 20% off select items already on sale with code WHATADEAL from 10/2 to 10/4.

Under Armour: 10% off for students, military personnel, and first responders through 12/31.

FitFlop: 20% off men’s styles plus free shipping through 10/4.

Superga: 5%-75% off select styles through 10/5.

Skechers: Free socks with orders over $50 and free shipping if you join at Skechers through 10/5.

Adidas: Up to 50% off apparel and footwear.

Puma: Up to 50% off women’s sale items, plus free shipping. 

2. Travel

If you’re contemplating a trip home for the holidays, start looking at prices now. Last year saw sales on travel from Southwest ($44 one-way), WOW Air ($99 one-way to Iceland and $99 one-way to Europe), and JetBlue (30% off). Royal Caribbean also offered buy two, get two free deals for select cruises in November and December. 

Current Deals:

Avis: Up to 25% off car rentals with promo code S951601, and a free car upgrade with promo code UUGA037.

Expedia: 10% off select hotels when you join Expedia+, plus up to 40% off select trips through 1/31/2019.

Hertz: 15% off car rentals through 10/31.

Travelocity: Sliding scale discount based on spend, starting at $10 off $100 through 10/2.

Orbitz: 15% off select hotels through 10/1.

AccorHotels: 30% off and a free breakfast for bookings made on AccorHotels.com for bookings 10/16 through 10/20.

3. Cookware and Small Appliances

Whether you’re gearing up for your annual holiday hosting or your cookware is looking worn, you’ll find solid deals this month. Last year, Slickdeals saw deep discounts on brands like OXO, Lodge, Crock-Pot, and Pyrex and deals from retailers like Target and Bloomingdale’s.

Current Deals:

Bloomingdale’s: 20% off almost all small electrics, gadgets, and cookware at Bloomingdales.com during the Friends & Family Sale through 10/9. Look for promo code FRIENDS as you shop online.

Best Buy: 20% off select small appliances with promo code SAVEONSMALLSNOW.

BJ’s: $20 to $30 off select appliances (including FoodSaver, Keurig, and Farberware) at BJ’s and BJs.com through 10/18.

Kohl’s:  $10 off your home purchase of $50 or more with code HOME10 from 10/12 to 10/22.

Sur La Table: 20% off clearance items with promo code EXTRA20.

Home Depot: Sliding scale discounts starting at 15% off $75 or more with promo code BUYMOREDECOR; up to 20% off seasonal essentials like slow cookersrice cookerspopcorn makers, and specialty cookware through 10/20.

4. Halloween Costumes

With Halloween around the corner, now is a good time to grab this year’s costumes. The longer you can wait before the big day, however, the lower the prices will be at stores like Buy Costumes and Kohl’s—but the pickings will get slimmer the closer you get to Halloween. If you like to think ahead, shop the clearance sales in early November to get your costume for next year.

Current Deals:

Halloween Express: 20% off by providing your email.

Spirit Halloween: $5 off $30 purchases, $10 off $50, and $25 off $100 with code LEAVES15 through 10/6.

Halloween Mall: 25% off select costumes and accessories through 10/7.

Halloween City: $10 to $24 off select costumes through 11/5.

Kmart: 10% off posable spiders with code KBOO.

What Not to Buy in October

iPhone 8

If you’re an “Apple person,” you’re probably eager to get your hands on the iPhone 8, but you should wait to buy if you’re looking for savings: Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer better chances to get a deal. With the iPhone X coming out in November, that could mean even more favorable pricing on the 8 next month.

Electronics

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best days to buy electronics, so if you can hold off on purchasing laptops, TVs, smart watches, tablets, and Amazon devices, you should.

Smart shopping means smart saving. Visit our Personal Finance Learning Center to learn more strategies for taking control of your finances and saving for the future.

Image: istock

The post What to Buy in October appeared first on Credit.com.

Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years

A great way to reduce your grocery spend is by planning meals ahead.

Everyone who goes grocery shopping knows that buying food weekly can become fairly expensive—especially when you add in how much money we waste on food. Luckily, there are many foods that’ll last for years and save you money in the long run if you buy them in bulk and store them properly.

Check out these 12 ingredients that can help you save money on your groceries for years to come.

1. White Rice

It’s hard to find a food that’s more versatile than rice: you can eat it on its own, with vegetables or beans, in soup, with meat, in sushi, and so much more. You can even use it to help save your electronics from water damage. Plus, rice is super cheap and often comes in bulk. Even better, white rice can last more than 30 years if stored properly—in the pantry, in the fridge, or in the freezer—so don’t throw it out unless it has spoiled through improper storage. (Brown rice has a higher oil content, so it’ll actually spoil after six months, unfortunately.)

2. Honey

Scientists have found perfectly preserved honey in the Egyptian pyramids—even at over three thousand years old, that honey is still edible and safe to eat. Honey’s high acidity and lack of water help it last indefinitely. It may crystallize over time, but don’t worry; it is still safe to eat. You can warm it up to soften and de-crystallize it for easier consumption. Honey can be used as a sweetener, in salad dressings, in desserts, as a home remedy, and even for facials.

3. Oats

If you love breakfast foods and baking, buy bulk portions of oats to store in your pantry. Rolled and instant oats can last several years when kept in airtight containers—some estimate that oats can be safely eaten for 30 years if stored properly! Keep oats on hand and make your own flour, granola bars, or cereal whenever you want.

4. Hot Sauce

From eggs to salads to pizza, anything can benefit from some added spice. Whether you’re a Tabasco or Tapatío fan, your favorite hot sauce can last for three to five years thanks to its high vinegar content and the capsaicin found in chili peppers. Just make sure you follow proper storage directions, and keep in mind that the taste will change as time passes. The sauce may even get hotter as the peppers age! Buy a large bottle on sale and keep it for years—or until you run out.

5. Dried Beans

You can find a great source of protein in beans, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Flavored and canned beans will last you a while, but dried beans can last for up to 30 years. They do begin to lose their moisture after a few years, so cooking times may vary depending on how long you have been storing them. If you love black beans in homemade burritos or homemade barbecue chili, keep bags of dried beans in your pantry—they’re super affordable and go with pretty much anything.

6. Quinoa

Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is a seed not a grain, so it actually keeps two to three years past the expiration date. Though it lasts several years, you do need to keep quinoa in a cool, dry area or it could grow mold—and you should never eat quinoa that has grown mold. Quinoa is super filling and can be used in tons of dishes in place of less-healthy carbs. Make soups, salads, or protein bowls with this superfood.

7. Pure Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla extract will last you a while if you’re in a pinch (about two to four years), but we highly recommend finding a big bottle of pure vanilla extract. The high alcohol content of the extract makes it stay good indefinitely—just keep it away from heat and light and keep the cap tightly closed when not in use—so it’ll always be ready to use when you’re baking or cooking.

8. Soy Sauce

If you’re a fan of Asian food, don’t throw out your open bottles of soy sauce. Due to the large amounts of sodium, soy sauce can last over three years when stored properly. It keeps its flavor and freshness better when stored in the refrigerator, but it is safe to keep in the pantry as well. Save money on takeout by making your own stir-fry, Chinese chicken salad, or noodle dishes with your long-lasting soy sauce.

9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Due to its high acidity, apple cider vinegar can last for up to five years when stored in a cool, dry place (in the pantry or in the fridge) with the lid tightly closed. If you see a dark, cloudy substance in the bottom of your bottle, don’t worry—that’s just the “mother,” formed by naturally occurring pectin. The mother is actually the most nutritious part of the cider, so feel free to consume it! Add apple cider vinegar to soups and salad dressings for an acidic finish.

10. Dried Ramen

It might seem obvious, but dried ramen noodles will last for many years in your pantry, though the taste is best if consumed within a few years. The noodles are extremely dehydrated, so they don’t usually spoil. Use this cheap staple to make soup or cold noodle bowls.

11. Pure Maple Syrup

Unopened, pure maple syrup will last indefinitely if stored in the freezer (it won’t freeze solid) and up to several years if kept in the refrigerator. Syrup lacks water and is relatively acidic, which contributes to its long shelf life—though it can develop mold, in which case you should not consume it.

12. Baking Soda

One of the most versatile ingredients you can buy in bulk is baking soda. While not super exciting, this extremely cheap ingredient is perfect for making homemade toothpaste, freshening up your fridge, leavening anything you bake, washing your counters, and removing stains from your clothes. Stock up on baking soda and don’t throw it away because it will last you multiple years without going bad. You can test your baking soda to determine whether it’s still good: just add a few drops of vinegar to your baking soda and see if it bubbles.

Whether you’re a cash-strapped college student or just a conscious spender, every little bit helps. Buy these ingredients in bulk and enjoy them for years.

As with all food, check to make sure these ingredients haven’t spoiled before you eat them, and never eat food that has not been stored properly.

Image: RoBeDeRo

The post Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years appeared first on Credit.com.

Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money

College is even better with the right credit cards. Don't miss out on deals and cash back!

Whether you’re spending your Freshman year in off-campus housing or you just left a dorm—and meal plan—behind, one big change is on the horizon this school year: you need to make food for yourself with your own kitchen, two hands, and brain. And that means besides making time in your busy schedule to cook, you’ll also have to budget for the shopping as well, which can be tough on a college student income.

While it might seem overwhelming to feed and shop for yourself, you’ve totally got this. Let us help you put your money worries to rest with these grocery shopping tips. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to go somewhere else for help with calculus.)

1. Check Student-Friendly Stores

The easiest way to save money while shopping is to frequent local markets that offer student discounts. Usually, stores close to campus know they’ll get more customers if they offer a 5%–10% discount for those with university ID cards. Buying your weekly groceries from these shops at a discounted price is perfect for sticking to your budget.

2. Buy Generic or Store Brand Products

Most supermarket chains offer generic packaged products. These store brand products are usually cheaper than brand name products, even though they’re virtually the same. To save some cash, switch to store brand whenever possible.

3. Shop (Mostly) Vegetarian

Besides being bad for the environment, meat is pretty expensive. So whether you plan for Meatless Mondays or go completely vegetarian, you’ll definitely save money. And if you do buy a little meat, avoid steak and expensive seafood entirely, as those purchases will take up a lot of your budget.

4. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Perusing the produce section might be fun, but buying frozen vegetables is often the best way to go. Bags of frozen veggies are cheap, and as a busy student, you’ll save time by not having to chop and prep anything. Frozen vegetables still have lots of nutrients, so you can easily eat healthy with minimal effort.

5. Plan Your Meals (and Stick to That Plan)

One of the most important things you should do before grocery shopping is plan out your meals for the week. A meal plan will help you stay on track and (hopefully) under budget when shopping because you’ll know exactly what you need. You can save a lot of money—and start to drop that Freshman 15—by skipping over those impulse buys like Cheez-Its and Oreos.

6. Use Coupons—Seriously

While it might seem silly to pick up a newspaper or coupon booklet, you should make the effort to clip coupons before shopping. You can plan your meals around items that are on sale, and you might even end up trying a new food or recipe. The cents and dollars you save will really add up. Plus, even if you’re against wasting paper or money on newspapers, you can still find plenty of coupons online.

7. Save Money on Bags

Some states have implemented bag taxes to reduce waste, meaning plastic bags at the grocery store cost money. Bring your own bag (any free bag from a college club will do) to both save the environment and save money. Those few cents would make a dent in your wallet after a few weeks.

8. Eat Before You Shop

Studies indicate that being hungry while looking at food only leads to greater perceived hunger—which could lead to more impulsive thoughts about food. Make sure to grab a snack at home or have a friend grab you something from the dining hall before you head to the store. That way, you can avoid spending more on things that excite your hungry stomach.

9. Use Technology to Your Advantage

These days, there’s an app for everything. Grocery shopping is no different. As a tech-savvy college student, you can easily download several apps that help you keep track of your pantry’s inventory, budget effectively, or eat healthier. There are quite a few different apps out there, so give several a try to find out which ones make your shopping experience easier.

10. Don’t Waste Anything

Along similar lines, you should use Supercook.com to turn whatever’s left in your fridge and pantry into a meal. All you have to do is plug in what you have, and then your edible odds and ends can be used instead of thrown away. It’s easier than you’d expect to make food—even older food—taste good.

11. Check Out the Dollar Store

Surprisingly enough, you can actually find plenty of affordable groceries at the dollar store. If there’s one near campus, make sure to frequent it to get great deals on basic necessities like bread, milk, and peanut butter. If there isn’t a dollar store nearby, make a trip every once in a while to stock up on shelf-stable food items like pasta or canned goods.

12. Shop Alone

Going shopping with friends can be fun, but shopping on a budget is not a social activity. If you’re serious about saving some cash, hang out with your friends another time. Shopping with others will increase the number of unplanned purchases you make, whether that’s desserts, extra snacks, or weird produce they want you to try on a dare.

13. Buy What’s in Season

Produce that’s out of season can be unreasonably expensive, so you might not want to buy strawberries year-round. Instead, check out the USDA’s website to see when your favorite produce buys are in season.

14. Freeze Anything and Everything

Yogurt, bread, vegetables, tomato sauce, you name it—almost everything lasts longer when you throw it in the freezer. Freezing leftovers from meals works great, too. Put some individual servings in the freezer to eat when you have to cram instead of cook.

15. Be Alert at the Cash Register

Make sure all the sale items you purchase are sold to you at the correct price. Be attentive when you’re checking out, and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. After all, everyone knows college students work with slim budgets. If a can of beans or a bag of frozen chicken rings up incorrectly, simply ask the cashier to double check the price.

16. Avoid Perishable Bulk Item Deals

While some deals might seem really tempting, it’s not worth it for a college student with limited space and money to buy four gallons of milk, 10 pineapples, or seven cucumbers just to get a cheaper price per unit. The food will definitely go bad before you use it up, and then you didn’t really save money at all. If you want to buy in bulk, opt for nonperishable items like oats or rice.

If you’ve used all these steps and are still worried about your food budget each month, a credit card—used responsibly—could be the answer. Many cards offer rewards for groceries, which could help you earn a bit of cash back on purchases you’d make anyway. Read our guide on Credit Cards for Students, and don’t forget to check your credit report for free at Credit.com before applying.

Image: Mixmike

The post Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money appeared first on Credit.com.

Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money

College is even better with the right credit cards. Don't miss out on deals and cash back!

Whether you’re spending your Freshman year in off-campus housing or you just left a dorm—and meal plan—behind, one big change is on the horizon this school year: you need to make food for yourself with your own kitchen, two hands, and brain. And that means besides making time in your busy schedule to cook, you’ll also have to budget for the shopping as well, which can be tough on a college student income.

While it might seem overwhelming to feed and shop for yourself, you’ve totally got this. Let us help you put your money worries to rest with these grocery shopping tips. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to go somewhere else for help with calculus.)

1. Check Student-Friendly Stores

The easiest way to save money while shopping is to frequent local markets that offer student discounts. Usually, stores close to campus know they’ll get more customers if they offer a 5%–10% discount for those with university ID cards. Buying your weekly groceries from these shops at a discounted price is perfect for sticking to your budget.

2. Buy Generic or Store Brand Products

Most supermarket chains offer generic packaged products. These store brand products are usually cheaper than brand name products, even though they’re virtually the same. To save some cash, switch to store brand whenever possible.

3. Shop (Mostly) Vegetarian

Besides being bad for the environment, meat is pretty expensive. So whether you plan for Meatless Mondays or go completely vegetarian, you’ll definitely save money. And if you do buy a little meat, avoid steak and expensive seafood entirely, as those purchases will take up a lot of your budget.

4. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Perusing the produce section might be fun, but buying frozen vegetables is often the best way to go. Bags of frozen veggies are cheap, and as a busy student, you’ll save time by not having to chop and prep anything. Frozen vegetables still have lots of nutrients, so you can easily eat healthy with minimal effort.

5. Plan Your Meals (and Stick to That Plan)

One of the most important things you should do before grocery shopping is plan out your meals for the week. A meal plan will help you stay on track and (hopefully) under budget when shopping because you’ll know exactly what you need. You can save a lot of money—and start to drop that Freshman 15—by skipping over those impulse buys like Cheez-Its and Oreos.

6. Use Coupons—Seriously

While it might seem silly to pick up a newspaper or coupon booklet, you should make the effort to clip coupons before shopping. You can plan your meals around items that are on sale, and you might even end up trying a new food or recipe. The cents and dollars you save will really add up. Plus, even if you’re against wasting paper or money on newspapers, you can still find plenty of coupons online.

7. Save Money on Bags

Some states have implemented bag taxes to reduce waste, meaning plastic bags at the grocery store cost money. Bring your own bag (any free bag from a college club will do) to both save the environment and save money. Those few cents would make a dent in your wallet after a few weeks.

8. Eat Before You Shop

Studies indicate that being hungry while looking at food only leads to greater perceived hunger—which could lead to more impulsive thoughts about food. Make sure to grab a snack at home or have a friend grab you something from the dining hall before you head to the store. That way, you can avoid spending more on things that excite your hungry stomach.

9. Use Technology to Your Advantage

These days, there’s an app for everything. Grocery shopping is no different. As a tech-savvy college student, you can easily download several apps that help you keep track of your pantry’s inventory, budget effectively, or eat healthier. There are quite a few different apps out there, so give several a try to find out which ones make your shopping experience easier.

10. Don’t Waste Anything

Along similar lines, you should use Supercook.com to turn whatever’s left in your fridge and pantry into a meal. All you have to do is plug in what you have, and then your edible odds and ends can be used instead of thrown away. It’s easier than you’d expect to make food—even older food—taste good.

11. Check Out the Dollar Store

Surprisingly enough, you can actually find plenty of affordable groceries at the dollar store. If there’s one near campus, make sure to frequent it to get great deals on basic necessities like bread, milk, and peanut butter. If there isn’t a dollar store nearby, make a trip every once in a while to stock up on shelf-stable food items like pasta or canned goods.

12. Shop Alone

Going shopping with friends can be fun, but shopping on a budget is not a social activity. If you’re serious about saving some cash, hang out with your friends another time. Shopping with others will increase the number of unplanned purchases you make, whether that’s desserts, extra snacks, or weird produce they want you to try on a dare.

13. Buy What’s in Season

Produce that’s out of season can be unreasonably expensive, so you might not want to buy strawberries year-round. Instead, check out the USDA’s website to see when your favorite produce buys are in season.

14. Freeze Anything and Everything

Yogurt, bread, vegetables, tomato sauce, you name it—almost everything lasts longer when you throw it in the freezer. Freezing leftovers from meals works great, too. Put some individual servings in the freezer to eat when you have to cram instead of cook.

15. Be Alert at the Cash Register

Make sure all the sale items you purchase are sold to you at the correct price. Be attentive when you’re checking out, and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. After all, everyone knows college students work with slim budgets. If a can of beans or a bag of frozen chicken rings up incorrectly, simply ask the cashier to double check the price.

16. Avoid Perishable Bulk Item Deals

While some deals might seem really tempting, it’s not worth it for a college student with limited space and money to buy four gallons of milk, 10 pineapples, or seven cucumbers just to get a cheaper price per unit. The food will definitely go bad before you use it up, and then you didn’t really save money at all. If you want to buy in bulk, opt for nonperishable items like oats or rice.

If you’ve used all these steps and are still worried about your food budget each month, a credit card—used responsibly—could be the answer. Many cards offer rewards for groceries, which could help you earn a bit of cash back on purchases you’d make anyway. Read our guide on Credit Cards for Students, and don’t forget to check your credit report for free at Credit.com before applying.

Image: Mixmike

The post Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money appeared first on Credit.com.

How Living Like Lord Voldemort Can Save You Money

No need to be a wizard or famous villain to save some serious cash. Just be inspired by one.

Let’s start with a disclaimer — I’m not telling you to murder anyone or become a villainous snake wizard. I’m going to help you save some money while taking inspiration from the most infamous villain of our youth and (no shame) adulthood. If Lord Voldemort was real and, you know, not busy trying to destroy Harry Potter, he would’ve probably been great at managing money.

A lot of Lord Voldemort’s core characteristics and common practices deserve a second look and, if they’re applied properly to your financial habits, they could make you more successful than he ever was. Here’s how living like Lord Voldemort can save you money.

Be Resourceful

Between crafting plans and tricking others, Lord Voldemort is one of the most resourceful characters in the “Harry Potter” series. Being resourceful helped him move closer to his goals and it can help you do the same. This is especially seen when he creates potions using items around him like unicorn blood, human flesh and snake venom. One of the potions he created literally helped him regenerate a body. If that’s not resourcefulness I don’t know what is. Resourcefulness can seriously pay off, whether it be fixing your sink without paying for a plumber or testing new ways to save at grocery stores.

Have Dedication

Lord Voldemort didn’t build an army in a day and your savings account won’t be magically filled in a day either. Lord Voldemort had persistent, unfaltering dedication to his goal to find and destroy Harry Potter. He stayed dedicated to his mission for eight movies and seven books until he died. If you divert a fraction of that amount of dedication to saving money, you’re sure to find money success.

Be Ruthless With Yourself

Remember when Voldemort killed Harry Potter’s mom in front of him and then tried to murder infant Harry Potter? You’ve got to be pretty ruthless to do that. While Lord Voldemort was ruthless towards others, one money saving strategy is to be a little bit ruthless to yourself. Saving money can require a lot of self-control to wage the internal battle between spending temptations and your desire to save. Being harsh to your inner spender can pay off.

While you should never be too harsh on yourself, if you’re stuck in a spending rut be open to trying stricter money saving methods like going a week without spending or even making it your mission to stop ordering lunch every day. It’s possible to save without feeling deprived but it takes a bit of self-control. 

Wear a Uniform

The whole idea of not wearing the same outfit twice is very Hollywood, but not so much Hogwarts. Our pal Voldemort essentially wore the same black cloak every day. While wearing a black cloak on the daily isn’t necessary, creating a go-to outfit formula or even downsizing your wardrobe saves money and time. 

Share Your Mission

It’s safe to say the entire world knew Lord Voldemort wanted to find and kill Harry Potter. Like Voldemort, be vocal with your goals. Tell your friends and family about your mission to save. When those around you know about your money saving mission, they have the opportunity to be more accommodating and understanding. This is especially handy when you suggest a tighter budget for holiday gift giving or opt for more affordable restaurants when eating out with friends.

You might also want to create a blog or Twitter account where you can share your money-related fails and triumphs. Sharing can certainly increase accountability. When others know your goal they might hold you to it and you may feel more motivated to stick to it.

Focus on Actually Understanding

Voldemort’s ultimate demise resulted from his lack of understanding about a certain curse — I won’t spoil too much. Learn from his mistake and make a point to actually understand your finances. Make sure you know your credit score (you can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com). It can help you understand your financial situation and improve it. It’s also important to read up about your student loans and other debt instead of pretending they don’t exist and learn about all of the benefits and rewards your credit cards and employers offer that you might not be taking advantage of.

Keep a Diary

When he was still Tom Riddle, Voldemort had a diary used for manipulation. He really made the most of the diary by also using it as a Horcrux. While your diary won’t be quite as nefarious, it will help you paint a clear picture of how and where you’re spending your money. Create a spending diary where you keep track of purchases. Seeing all of your expenses can help you visualize which types of spending you want to cut back on and exactly where your money is going.

Know Your History

Voldemort had a slight obsession with his heritage. He spent a lot of time tracking down his own history while he was still at Hogwarts and through his history he learned a lot of important details about himself. Including the fact that he was half-blood, which served as a catalyst to his becoming Lord Voldemort in the first place. Knowing your own credit history is crucial when it comes to building credit. Your credit report can give you an insight into how long you’ve had your accounts and help identify any factors dragging your finances down.

Start Young

Voldemort created his first Horcruxes at the age of 17. As he built Horcruxes, you can build your credit. Even 17 isn’t too young to start thinking about your financial future. You can start building credit as a teen.

Find Motivation That Works For You

Voldemort’s actions were motivated by a true hatred and hunger to rid the world of muggles. While that probably isn’t your goal, one of the keys to saving money is to find your motivation. Perhaps you’re paying off student loans, saving for a summer trip or trying to start an emergency fund. When you pin down your money saving motivation, unlike Voldemort, you’ll be unstoppable.

Image: izusek

The post How Living Like Lord Voldemort Can Save You Money appeared first on Credit.com.

15 Restaurant Mobile Apps That Can Save You Money

Going out to eat can be rewarding in more ways than one.

Food is best served with a side of savings and restaurants with apps (that’s applications, not appetizers) that make it even easier to spend less. If you’re planning to order in, eat out or grab a quick bite, you might as well be rewarded for it.

Even if you’re on a budget, there are a lot of ways to save at restaurants, but one of the most convenient is by using an app. Below are 15 you can get for popular restaurants. All these apps are free to download on both iOS and Android and are full of coupons, loyalty programs and rewards.

1. Buffalo Wild Wings

The Blazin’ Rewards app makes it easy to earn points. Earn 100 points for signing up and filling out a profile. For every $10 spent earn 100 more. Check in five times during lunch time and earn 300 more points. Also earn points by checking in at the restaurant and having friends check in. Like in many college classes, earn points just for showing up. The rewards include bottles of sauce, beverages, appetizers, desserts and entrees.

2. Chili’s

With the Chili’s app, you can rack up Plenti Points by dining at the restaurant. These can be redeemed at Chili’s for appetizers, desserts and more. As a member, you’ll also receive a free dessert on your birthday (here are 10 other places with birthday freebies). These Plenti points can also be earned or spent at other Plenti partners like Macy’s, Mobil and Rite Aid. The app also has bonus perks, like allowing you to add your name to a wait list or order to go.

3. Steak ‘n Shake

Earn a free milkshake with your first purchase using the Steak ‘n Shake Rewards app. The app requires setting up a payment method to redeem the milkshake. If you don’t want to add a credit or debit card, earn rewards by adding a gift card. For every $50 spent you earn $5 back to be spent on food of your choice at any Steak ‘n Shake location.

4. Moe’s Southwest Grill

The Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards app has plenty of perks. Receive a free cup of queso when you sign up and a free burrito on your birthday every year. Log in through Facebook to earn an additional 50 points. Earn 10 reward points per $1 spent and for every 1,000 points receive $10 credit to spend at any Moe’s location.

5. Chick-fil-A

The Chick-fil-A One app allows you to earn treats the more you spend. To earn treats, you must place your order using the mobile device or scan your personalized QR code within the app during each visit. This app also allows you to skip the line by ordering on your phone.

6. Burger King

While there is no point system, the BK app offers mobile-only coupons that are in constant rotation. This app is worth checking for deals before placing your order.

7. Cici’s

The MyCici’s app has a loyalty based rewards program. The app requires you to scan your receipts. After five visits with $7 (before tax) or more spent, you earn a free adult buffet or a free one topping pizza to go.

8. Whataburger

The Whataburger app encourages you to load a mobile payment like a debit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, or a Whataburger gift card. This isn’t required, however. All that’s required is for rewards is having the app. To track your visits, have the cashier scan the bar code on your phone. Every five visits are rewarded with free food and for a visit to count you only need to spend one cent.

9. Outback Steakhouse

The Outback app allows you to earn rewards and keep track of all Outback coupons in one place. It also gives 50% off of your fourth visit (up to $20). The app has additional perks, like allowing you to check in as soon as you’re close to the restaurant so you’re seated faster. You can also pay with your phone to avoid waiting for the bill and, for big groups, the app allows you to split the bill.

10. Duffy’s MVP Sports Grill

The Duffy’s MVP app allows those who use it to earn 20% to 50% off of their bill when they eat between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tuesdays are double point days. Members also earn free birthday rewards. MVP app users earn one point per $1 spent and 100 points automatically becomes a $10 reward credit to be spent at any Duffy’s MVP Sports Grill location.

11. fresh&co

This app requires you to link a credit card to it, so unless you frequent fresh&co it may not be worth it. (You might want to check your credit score for free with Credit.com before doing so to see where your credit stands). You earn $3 for creating an account. By paying with your mobile app and the card connected to it, you earn $9 for every $100 spent with $1 is donated to a charity dedicated to ending childhood hunger. Plus, you earn a free meal on your birthday.

12. Schnippers

The Schnippers app allows you to earn $8 in rewards for every 10 visits. Scan your QR code and spend at least $8 at each visit for it to count toward your reward.

13. Hale & Hearty

The Hale & Hearty app gives you a $2 credit for downloading and $2 per friend you refer. You’ll also earn $5 for every $50 spent.

14. Krispy Kreme

Earn a free doughnut for signing up and downloading the Krispy Kreme app. Scan the bar code with every purchase to rack up points toward free drinks and doughnuts. Plus, earn a free gift on your birthday. Bonus perk? Be notified when doughnuts are hot and fresh out of the oven at nearby locations. Yes, please!

15. Panera Bread

While the app itself isn’t necessary for rewards, it works well with the MyPanera rewards system. Create a MyPanera account or log in using an existing one and use the app to easily keep track of rewards. You can also turn on push notifications to tell you when you have rewards expiring soon so you’ll never miss out on freebies.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

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8 Common Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

Credit cards are a super convenient financial tool, but they can often be confusing.

Do you have a credit card in your wallet? Chances are, you do. And if you’re one of these plastic carriers, you probably want to be using that card the best possible way, right? Well, you may be making some mistakes without even realizing it. To help, we’ve rounded up eight common mistakes to help you discover if you have one of these habits and ultimately correct it.

1. Paying Your Bills Late

“What can do you the most harm is paying late, or not paying at all,” credit score expert Barry Paperno said.

Late payments affect your credit score, plus the late fees and interest quickly add up. Besides all of the effects that hit you right away, Paperno said it can take years to recover from numerous late payments. And if you let it go too long, you could be hit with a charge-off (the point, usually after six months without payment, at which the lender writes your account off as a loss), which stays on your credit report for seven years.

2. Closing a Card You Don’t Really Use

Despite the fact that you never use a particular credit card, closing that card isn’t necessarily the answer. When you close cards, you affect your credit history, usually negatively.

“Don’t make the mistake of closing cards,” Paperno said. “Especially if you think it will help your score, because that will never raise your score.”

When you decrease the amount of credit available to you, you end up increasing your credit utilization ratio, which can hurt your credit. Instead of closing a card, consider simply using it every so often and keep the account active. There are times when closing the card may make sense, like if it carries an annual fee that is hurting your budget, but you’ll want to think about it carefully before making a decision.

3. Not Requesting Changes to Your Terms

While card issuers might seem intimidating, you could be making a mistake by not attempting to change your terms. You could potentially negotiate a lower interest rate or annual fee, helping out your budget in the process. If you’re trying to rid yourself of a balance quickly, call your credit card company. They may help you get a lower interest rate if you just ask.

4. Spending Money Just to Get Rewards

If you find yourself using your credit card unnecessarily to earn rewards, it could be costing you. Rewards are fantastic, but altering your spending habits just to get free stuff isn’t going to be as beneficial as it may sound. If you overspend and carry a balance, you’ll likely lose all those rewards to interest charges.

5. Not Knowing Your Credit Score

If you don’t check your credit score regularly, you’re not educating yourself as much as you could be. Your credit is considered in a lot of situations, from when you apply for a mortgage or car loan to a version of your credit reports being reviewed by a potential employer as part of the application process. Haven’t checked yours in a while? You can see your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.

6. Only Paying the Minimum Balance

If you only pay your minimum balance each month, you’ll likely end up having to pay more interest down the line. While it might seem like a quick fix to save your money and pay the minimum, in reality you’re dragging out how long it’ll take to pay your entire balance. Keep avoiding those late fees, but if you can, you’ll want to pay more than the minimum.

7. Applying for Out-of-Reach Credit Cards

“Another common credit card mistake is probably applying for too many cards, the wrong cards, or both,” Paperno said.

By applying for a card you aren’t qualified for, you end up without a card and with a “hard inquiry on your report for the next two years,” he added.

While your credit score isn’t directly affected by being denied credit, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the more dings you’ll see to your scores. Make sure you are a good candidate before applying for any type of credit card.

8. Spending More Money Than You Actually Have

Having a credit card often allows people to make the mistake of overspending. It’s a mistake to charge your credit cards close to their limit, Paperno said. Just as closing a card will raise your credit utilization, so will coming close to your credit limit. Either move can hurt your credit score.

Making Positive Credit Choices

To avoid these eight mistakes from the start, make sure you educate yourself. You don’t have to know everything, but you should be aware of how to be responsible with your credit cards. When a car, house or student loan is on the line, you should be knowledgeable and ready, not hurting from your previous credit card mistakes.

“If you pay on time, keep your balances low and apply for new credit only when you need it,” you’ll be in good shape, Paperno said.

Image: Peopleimages

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8 Tips for Saving Money on Chinese Takeout

Chinese food may be cheap, but there are still ways to save on your General Tso's habit.

Chinese takeout is even more reliable than the mail: Neither rain nor sleet nor heat nor gloom of night … nor even Christmas stops most Chinese restaurants from delivering the goods. I’ve callously put delivery drivers at risk by ordering Chinese food during terrible weather many times, and it always comes through.

That’s why Chinese takeout has become a staple for anyone pressed for time or cash. It can be consumed without owning utensils or furniture and is available almost anywhere.

But all that convenience doesn’t mean you can’t save even more on your General Tso’s chicken. Here are a few ways to cut the price of your Chinese takeout.

1. Order for Lunch

As with most restaurants, Chinese takeout prices will usually be lower at lunchtime. Take advantage and …

2. … Save Your Leftovers

Chinese restaurants usually don’t skimp, which is a bonus since the food is so heavy (hooray for all that breading and frying). Chinese food also holds up well in the fridge and is nearly as good the second time around, whether cold or hot.

Add it up and your one takeout order could last two or three meals.

3. Get a Combo

Just like McDonald’s, a lot of Chinese restaurants allow you to make your meal a combo. Most restaurants offer a dozen or so dishes as combination platters, allowing customers to couple their food with their choice of rice, an egg roll or a soda at a bargain price.

These deals are usually cheaper at lunch and cover most popular dishes, from chicken and broccoli to lo mein.

4. Share Your Meal

Big servings make for easy sharing. Chinese food makes a great companion during movie night or game night. Dishes like fried rice and steamed dumplings are made for sharing.

Most Chinese restaurants sell dishes a la carte in pints or quarts. If you didn’t know (I had to look it up), a quart equals two pints, and many restaurants sell the bigger serving at a slight discount. Load up on quarts and you’ve got yourself a feast.

5. Load Up On Coupons

Chinese menus often come with coupons you can clip for discounts. Common throw-ins include a free can of soda or soup if you spend above a certain amount.

You probably won’t have to go far to get coupons. If you live in apartment building where even one person gets Chinese delivered, that restaurant’s menu and its coupons will end up under your door whether you like it or not.

You can also check coupon websites like Restaurant.com to see if your local Chinese place has any offers.

6. Pick It Up

Yes, putting food on the table without leaving your house is basically the American Dream and the delivery drivers who bring it are saints. But those tips add up. Save yourself some bucks and make the trip yourself.

7. Make Your Own

You know how all that breading and frying and oil makes American Chinese food so filling and delicious? Well, it also makes it pretty unhealthy.

If you want to make things easier on your wallet — and your health — while still enjoying Chinese cuisine, you may want to start preparing your own versions of your favorite takeout dishes. Plenty of recipe websites feature at-home versions of your favorite, minus all the oil. Check Pinterest or your favorite food blog for options.

8. Use a Restaurant Rewards Card

Some rewards credit cards award cash back for restaurant purchases. Here are a few cards that offer points, miles or cash back for your takeout spending.

Before you apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. Many rewards cards require good or excellent credit. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.

Image: sturti

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14 Ways to Save at Wayfair

While it could be easy to spend a ton at Wayfair, there are many ways to save.

Online shoppers delight in Wayfair, the online home goods store with everything from furniture and decor to kitchen goods and everything your backyard needs to become a stress-free sanctuary. While it could be easy to spend a ton at Wayfair, there are many ways to save. Here are a few.

1. Wait for an Annual Event

A few times a year, Wayfair offers annual events with discounts on a particular type of home good. If you check back on the site regularly you might be lucky enough to catch sales of up to 70% off.

2. Provide Your Email Address

Scroll to the bottom of Wayfair.com and enter your email address for access to special discounts and up-to-the-minute information on the latest sales and promos via email newsletter.

3. Create a Wayfair Business Account

If you’ll be purchasing goods from Wayfair for your home office, create an account with the Wayfair Business program to receive a business discount. You’ll also have access to an assigned business account specialist to help you with any of your questions, and you’ll save $50 off your first order of $150.

4. Refer a Business Friend

Wayfair business members who refer a friend to join the business program get $50 in rewards points once they do so.

5. Refer a Regular Friend

Business members aren’t the only ones who earn rewards for referring friends. Regular customers earn $10 in Rewards Dollars when a friend they refer makes their first order of at least $50. The friend gets $10 off their first purchase, as well.

6. Leave a Review

Wayfair often offers a cash bonus on each item you review on the site. Check under the “My Account” tab to see if this offer is available to you. You are also entered to win up to $500 in Rewards Dollars or a gift card every time you leave a review.

7. Shop the Daily Sales Section

Wayfair loads new deals on the site every day. Check under the Sales tab for limited-time offers. If you provided your email to sign up for a Wayfair account you can also learn about these sales through email.

8. Check out Clearance Items

Browse hundreds of overstock and open-box items at bargain prices by searching the clearance section of the site.

9. Learn About Upcoming Sales

Wayfair makes it easy for you to plan your next purchase by loading their monthly sales under the Upcoming Sales tab of the site. Check it out frequently and mark your calendar for upcoming sales on goods you’re interested in purchasing. You can also click the “notify me” tab to get an email reminder.

10. Apply for the Wayfair Credit Card

Consumers who apply for the Wayfair card have access to more savings, like no interest on orders of more than $500 when they’re paid within 12 months, rewards dollars on every order and points on every order to redeem for rewards dollars. Often the card comes with another additional benefit that changes. For example as I write this, members who apply for the card are eligible for a 48-month finance option on all Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster and Sealy mattress purchases more than $2,498. Plan to pay this card off in full after every use, as the 27.49% annual percentage rate is hefty. Check the card terms for more details.

Wayfair shoppers may also want to use a credit card that rewards their purchases. Many cards allow frequent shoppers to earn points or cash back for their retail habit. (Be sure to check your credit score before applying for a new card to see if you’ll qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com)

11. Use Your Card at Sister Stores to Earn More Rewards

Your Wayfair card can be used at Wayfair, Joss & Main, AllModern, Birch Lane, DwellStudio and Wayfair Supply, as well. Use it at all of these places to really rack up points. Points and rewards can be cashed in at any of these stores, as well.

12. Find Online Coupons

Although they might be harder to come by than other sites, it’s always worth doing a quick search to try to find additional Wayfair coupon codes. Try all the staples (like RetailMeNot, Coupon Cabin, Groupon and Coupons.com), then try a random Google search for “Wayfair coupons” to see what you come up with.

13. Get Social

Use social media media to your advantage by following Wayfair on Facebook and Twitter. This way you’ll be sure to catch all their sales. Using social media is especially important for flash sales that end the same day or in a couple of days.

14. Get Cash Back Bonuses

Join a cash back site like ebates and you’ll earn a $10 welcome bonus to purchase goods at stores like Wayfair. Check back regularly for additional coupon codes and ways to earn more cash back on your purchases.

Want more brand hacks? You can find 17 ways to save at Michaels here and 13 ways to save at Shutterfly here.

Image: SelectStock

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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