We’re moving!

Posted August 22, 2012 by Amy Grothaus
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Ok, so we’re not moving, but the blog is! If you’re a CommunityAmerica member, you know we’re updating our website and will be launching soon. Moving forward, I will be sharing my money-saving tips and great stories through our company website instead of this WordPress site.

This site won’t actually redirect to the new one, so please update your bookmarks now to go to https://www.cacu.com/financial-momentum-blog. I’ll leave this page up for a while, but won’t be updating the content here. You’ll have to go to the link above for that :)!

Thanks so much for all your support of this blog – I can’t wait for you to see the new site…and the new blog!

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Let the Tax-Free Shopping Begin

Posted August 2, 2012 by Amy Grothaus
Categories: Personal finance

Tags: , , ,

If you live in Missouri, get your shopping shoes ready because this weekend is Tax-Free Weekend! If you’re not familiar, this is a great weekend to pick up school clothes, supplies, electronics, etc., without paying the sales tax.

We typically use this weekend to pick up a few new school clothes, but this year I’m also planning to stock up on athletic “stuff.” For example, Cael (who has played baseball all summer), is getting ready for fall ball. Who would have thought he would already need a new pair of cleats? I’ve been scouring the circulars for coupons to help add to the tax-free savings.  We also have some weddings coming up, so I’m hoping to pick up a few “nice, fancy outfits” (as Cael calls them) for the kids so we’re set for a while.

Before you head out for your tax-free shopping, it’s important to have a plan. Make a list of the things you need (leave off the things you want) and outline your shopping strategy, which will ultimately save you time and gas money! The other thing I recommend is leaving the kiddos at home. Sure it’s fun to let them pick out their own goodies, but it can really slow you down and add to your overall bill as they grab various things off the shelves when you walk by.

And if the thought of Christmas shopping now doesn’t totally freak you out, start tackling that list this weekend, too. Let’s say you’re looking to have Santa bring an iPad for the family; make sure to check out those deals this weekend and reap the extra savings of not paying sales tax. Better yet, you can cross one item off your shopping list! Does it get any better?

FREE Friday Night Flicks

Posted July 26, 2012 by Amy Grothaus
Categories: Fun

Tags: , , , ,

If you’ve been to a movie theater lately, you’re familiar with the high prices of tickets, concessions, etc. It’s getting out of hand. However, Crown Center here in Kansas City offers a great and FREE alternative to movie night. Tomorrow night (July 27) is this summer’s final Free Friday Night Flick…and they’re showing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Does it get any better? Free and a classic 80s movie? Count me in!

Bring your blanket, snacks, cool drinks, etc., and enjoy this free movie under the stars. Sure the high on Friday is supposed to be like 108, but once the sun goes down it will be incredible, so don’t miss this opportunity to get out and enjoy something free, and create a unique lifetime memory for the little ones.

Save Energy, Save Money

Posted July 23, 2012 by Amy Grothaus
Categories: Personal finance, Tips

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If you recently opened your energy bill and your jaw hit the floor, I’ve got some great tips for you! My Savin’ Maven colleague Rachelle Jackson was on KCTV-5 recently to share helpful tips for keeping your budget (and house temperature) intact. Check them out:  

  • Arrange Regular A/C Maintenance: Experts say the “average” suburban home with 2-3 residents requires an air filter change every three months. And for those of you who have pets who shed, you should change your air filter every two months, as animal hair can clog it quickly. It’s also important to arrange an HVAC inspection prior to the hot season to make sure there are no leaking ducts or other costly problems. By investing in regular maintenance, you can head off any major repairs that may happen down the road, avoiding major expenses. Also, KC Power & Light offers a great online tool called the Home Energy Analyzer that lets you see exactly how much energy is being spent and on which appliances, giving you a good idea of where you can save.  
  • Reduce Indoor Greenhouse Effect: This tip is inexpensive yet powerful. Remember to close drapes and blinds on windows that are in direct sunlight. If you go to work in the morning and the house is empty the whole day, make sure you close the drapes on the south and west sides of your house before you leave. This way, it will be nice and cool when you arrive home that afternoon. Another effective option is to tint your large windows. And tinting preserves colors in your furniture’s fabric, making them last longer too!
  • Manage Fans and Air Ducts: What if I said you could save a few bucks by lowering the temperature and not lose any of the cool comfort? All you have to do is make smart use of your ceiling fans and control your air duct vents. A great tip is to make sure your ceiling fans are spinning in the direction that blows air down, pushing the warm air away from your body. If you find a fan that is spinning the wrong way, look for a small switch between the fan blades and the light fixture. Next, close the air ducts in rooms that aren’t used very often, like guest bedrooms, and shut the door.
  • Shade the Outdoor A/C Unit: Check on your A/C unit to see about the shading situation. If it sits out in the sun all day every day, it will likely have to work harder, resulting in higher energy bills. Instead, do some landscaping around it so as to keep it shaded during the hottest part of the day. But landscape with caution – crowding the unit doesn’t allow it to vent out the hot air properly.

Financial Cleanse

Posted July 20, 2012 by Amy Grothaus
Categories: Personal finance

Tags: , , , , ,

As you know, I work for CommunityAmerica and spend a lot of time helping our members get on the right path to financial freedom. It’s great to see the successes they have when they have a plan, outline a budget and stick to it. Seeing successes on a daily basis makes it so easy to look forward to work! It also leads to regular reflection about my own personal situation, because nobody’s perfect.

With my husband and three kids, I feel like I (and my wallet) get pulled in all different directions. And although I try to always practice what I preach, sometimes I stray. But this month we’re officially starting a financial cleanse and I couldn’t be more excited and ready for the challenge!!

We recently met with our financial advisor to outline our plan, set goals, etc. It was a great experience and we came out of it with three key takeaways to tackle immediately:

1)     Have a “date night” every week: And no we’re not talking about hitting the town and spending a lot of money; this is more about finding some quiet time for the two of us to re-establish us as a team. We may hit up a morning movie matinee (with no popcorn) and trade a baby-sitting day with the neighbors.  Then once a month, this date night will include a financial discussion to determine how we’re doing, are we following our plan, etc.  

2)     Track all receipts: We’ve been doing this in July and I must say at first it was somewhat overwhelming, but has been eye opening. I’ve always balanced my checkbook and had a good idea of where my money was going, but this exercise has been intense. Not only are we tracking every receipt in a receipt ledger, I’m categorizing the expenses from each receipt. So let’s say I get groceries, personal items and diapers at Target. Yep, those expenses would go in three different categories to help us know exactly how much we’re spending on everything. Now I actually think it’s kind of therapeutic…  

3)     Set up a will and trust: This is one of those things we all say we’re going to do, but keep putting it off. The truth of the matter, thinking about what would happen to the kids should something happen to us isn’t the most pleasant experience, but it’s become a motivator, and  extremely important step to do NOW to ensure everything is taken care of before the unthinkable happens. Yeah, there will be an expense associated with this, but it’s an expense that could end up saving lots of heartache and worry down the road.  

I’ll definitely keep you posted on my progress throughout this cleanse. Lance and I are going to make this a competition to see whose better at staying on track. Hey, a little friendly competition in this instance can only help, right?

National Grilling Month

Posted July 18, 2012 by Amy Grothaus
Categories: Recipes

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sure the temps outside are soaring to triple digits and you break a sweat just from walking to the mailbox. But did you know it’s National Grilling Month? And with only a few weeks left in the month, I encourage you to fire up the grill, brave the heat and celebrate with some tasty grilled goodies. (And again, I know it’s hot, so wait and grill later in the evening…if you can hold the kids off from dinner that long.) While it may seem unfathomable, grilling instead of using your oven is a smart way to keep electricity bills down, and get more flavorful dinners.

We actually do the majority of our cooking on the grill in the summer. Sometimes it’s meat for our weekly meals or other times it’s veggies for our daily snacks. Either way, the grill proves to be a great option when cooking healthy and affordable meals.

I was actually on the hunt for a couple of new “grill meals” and found the following on Kraft’s website. You’ll see the ingredient list is not exhaustive and you may already have the majority of these ingredients in your pantry. And if you don’t have these items at home, check out the great fresh produce at great prices at the farmers’ market or local stands for in-season steals and deals! I’m hoping to try these recipes soon, but let me know what you think if you try them before me!

And if you’re totally against grilling in the heat – which we’ve all been there – save your favorite grilling recipes until things cool down and then fire up the grill! Just make sure to take advantage of the good grilling weather while it lasts!

Back to school already?

Posted July 6, 2012 by Amy Grothaus
Categories: Personal finance

Tags: , , ,

Whether we can believe it or not, the start of school is just over a month away. Of course the kids are still in full-on summer mode, but now’s the time to start preparing for the money-spending flurry of back-to-school shopping.

If you don’t already have your child’s school list, contact their school and get that first. Not only will this keep you on track, you can use it to see what items you already have on hand at home or what you can swap for with family and friends. This is a helpful tip not only for binders and backpacks, but it’s great to do with clothes, too. You’ll ultimately save money and your kids will still get their “new” clothes.

After you’ve taken inventory on what you have, now’s the time to check out the weekly circulars to find the best deals. If you’re choosy about your shopping, you’ll save big time. Now I’m not telling you to drive all over town to save a few bucks on a pack of pencils; I’m just recommending you educate yourself and plan your attack to help save you time and money.

And my last back to school tip…surprise your kids sometime in July by taking a day off so you can have a fun day together. Whether you hit up the local water park or just stay home, spend time doing what they want to do. They’ll be overjoyed and have a great memory that will last a lifetime!


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