One of my favorite strategies for getting the most out of life or any experience, and definitely getting the most for my money, is loyalty stacking. It’s possible to use credit card rewards for frugal travel, and you can get even more when you stack your loyalty points and rewards. This works in areas other than travel as well.

Using Rewards Credit Cards to Buy Through Rebate Websites

If you want to start stacking the savings, sign up for rebate websites and use your rewards credit card to make purchases. You can do this with sites like Ebates. I also use this strategy for Swagbucks. When shopping through these sites, you receive points or cash back when you make regular purchases. This can be one way to get a little extra money back on things you would buy anyway.

However, you take it another level when you pay with a rewards credit card. You’ll get the rebate, but you’ll also build more points with your rewards card. Those rewards will translate into more cash back or free travel down the road. When I know that I’m going to make a big purchase, I look to see if I get an advantage by shopping via one of these sites. A good example was a recent travel booking through Orbitz. I shopped using Swagbucks, which meant that I received extra SBs for each dollar spent. My purchase also resulted in Orbitz rewards for that separate loyalty program, and I made the booking with a rewards card.

In the end, I wound up with three different rewards for one purchase that I would have made anyway.

This strategy can also work well if you plan to buy clothing online, or make other major purchases. There’s no reason to enjoy the benefits of only one rewards program when it’s possible for you to take advantage of two or more programs with the same purchase.

A similar strategy can be used with partnership programs. My airline miles card comes with special discounts when I use particular partners. In fact, I was able to directly connect my airline miles program from my credit card with my rental car loyalty program and my hotel loyalty program. Even Amtrak was a partner. By connecting all of these accounts, I end up with special discounts and even extra points in all the programs just by making a regular purchase. While I don’t get as many loyalty points as for a direct purchase, the partnership bonus is still well worth it.

Being able to connect and stack loyalty programs has been a great way for me to accelerate my rewards accumulation and come out ahead overall. It’s a good way to save money on a variety of things. As long as you have a strategy, save up for big purchases, stick to your plan, and pay off any credit card bills before you end up with high interest payments, you should be able to save a little extra money without getting into debt.

Do you ever feel like your money controls you, rather than the other way around?

We all have times when we feel like we aren’t in control of our money. If you want to feel like you are in control of your finances, here are three tips that can help you get started:

1. Track Your Spending

The first step to gaining control of your finances is to know where that money is going. Many of us make financial choices and purchases without really thinking about whether these items are important to us. Unless you track your spending, you might not even be fully aware of where  your money is going.

Use some method of tracking your spending. I use personal finances software. You can use a spreadsheet or pen and paper. The important thing is to record everything you spend money on. Then, you can look at your habits and find patterns. You might even discover that you spend more money than  you should on things that aren’t that important to you.

Once you understand your situation, you will be in a better position to take control and change your habits.

2. Institute a Waiting Period

One of the best ways to regain control of your finances is to institute a waiting period before you make purchases. A spending diet can help you get in the habit of exercising control over your spending. Choose a waiting period that works for you. Before you buy something, wait 14, 30, or 45 days before you complete the purchase. If you have forgotten about the purchase in that time period, or don’t find yourself needing to use it, you can decide not to buy it.

Just instituting a waiting period of a few days can make a big difference. I like to pause before I buy something and ask myself if I will really use it, or if I truly need it. It’s not a huge waiting period, but it’s one that forces me to think through the options. More often than not, I end up putting the item back. Conscious spending is one of the best ways to remain in control of your money.

3. Clear Out the Clutter

You might be surprised at how helpful getting rid of the clutter can be when it comes to regaining control of your finances.

First of all, cleaning out your clutter can help you rethink your spending habits. It’s a good reminder of how often you make unnecessary purchases and it can help you rethink your priorities, which is always a positive stepping when it comes to money choices.

You can also benefit when you sell or donate the items. Selling the clutter allows you to boost how much money you have. Use that money to shore up your financial situation by paying down debt or building an emergency fund. It’s a good way to get back on track.

Once you have cleared out the clutter, make conscious spending your next step. Before adding again to the clutter, really think about what an item will add to your home or your life. If it doesn’t help, you can take back the power and say no to it.

You might be surprised at how effective credit cards can be when it comes to frugal living. Too often, we think of credit cards as a tool of debt. However, the reality is that with savvy use, credit cards can actually contribute to your frugal lifestyle. This is because many credit cards offer rewards programs. These rewards programs can provide you with cash back and other perks, just for spending money as you normally would.

One of the areas where credit card rewards can be especially helpful is when it comes to frugal travel.

Use Credit Card Rewards for Frugal Travel

Last Christmas, my son and I traveled back east to spend time with family. Because I used credit card rewards to help pay for my airfare our total cost was about $250 to fly. When you consider that round trip plane tickets between my hometown and my destination were about $600 apiece, you can see that we saved $950 on our airfare.

These savings came because I use my airline card for all of my regular spending. I even use it to pay my rent. As a result I build up rewards quickly and can use them to travel. As long as I keep with my regular spending patterns, and I pay off my credit card each month, I don’t have to worry about getting into debt and paying high interest rates.

I combined my credit card rewards with the loyalty reward from my preferred hotel chain, and manage to save another few hundred dollars on lodging.

My parents using branded rewards credit card for their hotels. As a result, they were able to stay for free when they traveled to England a few years ago. Being able to save money on travel is one way to live a frugal lifestyle. The reward you choose

The rewards you choose should match with your preferences. Make it a point to use your rewards credit card on everyday purchases so that you can save up your rewards to use and make your frugal travel dreams come true. Just make sure you actually have the money in the bank so that you can pay off credit card at the end of each billing cycle.

Other Strategies for Frugal Travel

For best results, combine your credit card rewards program with other strategies for frugal travel. Look for ways to save money using promo codes and special deals. I have a loyalty points for hotel chains, the train, and even at the travel aggregator Expedia. Using these points along with my credit cards, It means that I almost never pay full price for any trip.

You can also use a frugal travel strategies like going in the off-season, and being willing to fly red-eye. Is also a good idea to plan for food by shopping at a local groceries instead of going to restaurants or bringing your own food on a road trip. My family used to save a lot of money growing up because my parents planned ahead for food, rather than always buying it at expensive restaurants.

With the right planning, travel doesn’t have to break the bank. Combine credit card rewards and loyalty rewards with other frugal travel strategies, and you might be surprised at how far you can go.

One of the growing trends when it comes to making money is the so-called gig economy. The gig economy is the result of a rising technology that allows people to use the Internet and their computers to make money on their own terms to some degree. The gig economy is characterized by independent contractors and small jobs done one after another.

As a freelance writer, I am a major part of the gig economy. I take jobs as they come and get paid for that as I complete them. I work from home, set my own hours, and even set my own rates.

A new report from Thumbtack digs into the gig economy and what it means. The report breaks down different types of gigs and looks at the job satisfaction associated with different types objects in this growing segment of the job economy.

Skilled Professionals vs. Low-Skilled Professionals in the Gig Economy

According to the thumbtacks study, there are different marketplaces and platformsBased on whether or not someone is offering something skilled or something that requires less skill. Some of the skills-based platforms that Thumbtack looked at includes those that involve writing, graphic design, web development, and software development.

On the other hand, low skilled gigs include the kinds of things that you would find on commoditized platforms like Uber, Lyft, Taskrabbit, and Grubhub.

With both of these types of gigs, it is possible to use technology like computers and phones to find people willing to pay you for various tasks. However, when are you taking gigs on a commoditized platform, you are more likely to have someone else set your rate for you. When you develop the skills that allow you to do more advanced work, you are more likely to be able to set your own rate and make a little more money.

Another item that Thumbtack addressed in its report is the fact that jobs done by skilled professionals are a lot more likely to resist automation and outsourcing. On the other hand, on-demand gigs that require fewer skills might be subject to automation. Thumbtack cites the possibility of self-driving cars taking away the gigs currently available to ridesharing drivers for Uber and Lyft.

On top of that, the report found that skilled professionals are more likely to report higher job satisfaction. The study indicates that 84% of skilled professionals love what they do. On the other hand in the general working population, only 29% of Americans say they are engaged at work.

Skilled professionals also have better job opportunities overall, according to the survey. They are more likely to be able to do work independently and remotely. Many freelancers can take advantage of work done for those who live across the country or even on the other side of the world. If you are driving for a rideshare company, you are limited to your local area.

As you consider how you might fit into the gig economy, think about what skills and attributes you have. You might be surprised to discover that you can make a little extra money on the side by getting involved in the gig economy.

When it comes to frugal living, one the best thing you can do is look for some of the small things that are draining away your wealth. You might just be surprised at how much money you are spending on simple things like your checking account.

A few years ago, outrage over checking account fees forced the banks to slow down in their effort to raise rates. Now it looks like banks are ready to start raising rates again. A recent analysis by MoneyRates finds that the typical American household pays $159 per year in checking account fees. Interestingly, this analysis finds that this is the cost of maintaining the checking account, and doesn’t include overdraft fees or ATM fees.

While it might not seem like a lot to pay on a yearly basis, to someone committed to living a frugal lifestyle, it is clear that that money could be used for other purposes. It could be a car payment, or a week’s worth of groceries, or the fees for your child to participate in an extracurricular activity.

It’s More Difficult to Avoid Checking Account Fees

One of the reasons that these fees are on the rise is due to the fact that is becoming more difficult to avoid checking account fees. Many consumers avoid checking account fees by maintaining a minimum balance. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to reach that minimum threshold. According to MoneyRates, in the last six months alone the amount needed to get a fee waiver rose by almost $800. Four years ago the average balance requirements to avoid a fee was $3,590.83. Today the average amount required in a checking account to avoid the fee is almost double that at $6,847.49.

When you look at the requirements, it is clear why some households are having trouble meeting the requirements and avoiding the checking account fees. MoneyRates reports that the average monthly maintenance fee free checking account is $13.29. Over time that adds up and can eat into your wealth and hamper your budget. This is especially true if you are on a tight budget and trying to meet goals like paying down debt.

Other Checking Account Fees that Will Cost You

While monthly maintenance fees can add up, other fees might be even more costly if you are careful. If you use an ATM that is out of the network you might pay almost $3 on average to get your money. If you regularly get money out of an ATM that is not your bank’s, those fees can add up fast. There are some banks that refund your fees, and they can be helpful.

You should also watch out for overdraft fees. Overdraft fees are some of the most expensive fees to consumers, and a major way that make money. Overdraft fees can cost as much as $45 per transaction, and that will really put you in the hole. It’s important to be careful to avoid spending more money than you have in your account so that you can avoid the fees that come with overdrafts, as well as returned charges.

If your bank is charging fees that are starting to add up and cut into your budget, it’s time to shop around for another bank. According to MoneyRates, almost 25% of checking accounts have no monthly service fee. These accounts are a good place to start.

This year, I have a massive tax bill. Well, technically my ex has a massive tax bill, but because of the situation, we’re pretty much combining our tax bills and splitting it down the middle.

While we can technically handle the taxes, it’s not pretty, and neither of us wants to have to deplete our savings to make it happen. So we are looking into other options.

You might be in a similar situation — or one that’s even worse. If you can’t pay your taxes, the good news is that there are options. Here’s what you need to know if you aren’t ready for your tax bill:

Don’t Ignore the Problem

It’s tempting to avoid filing your tax return when you are in this situation. However, this is one of the worst things you can do. There are penalties when you don’t pay your taxes, and penalties when you don’t file your return. Ignoring the problem only makes it worse as the penalties and interest pile up.

Instead, make sure you understand your options and move forward in a way that allows you to maintain your financial situation.

IRS Installment Plan

One of your best options is to turn to the IRS installment plan. My ex-husband is actually using this option to help pay our joint tax bill. As long as you owe less than $50,000 in combined taxes, penalties, and interests, you might be eligible to apply online. You let the IRS know how much you can pay each month, and as long as you can pay off your bill within six years, there is a good chance that you will be approved.

There are fees associated with this plan, but they are usually smaller than what you would see if you got a bank loan to pay your taxes, and certainly smaller than what you would see if you put your taxes on a credit card.

It’s true that you can borrow to pay your taxes, but this can only compound your problem. Making regular payments to the IRS can help you avoid high interest debt, while still allowing you to make manageable payments. As long as you don’t put it off too long, and as long as you file your return as required by law, the IRS is usually reasonably accommodating when you act in good faith.

Get Professional Help

While it’s possible for you to make these arrangements on your own, it can be a good idea to get professional help. Our taxes were complicated by the fact that we divorced last year, but we had a business together that had to be dissolved, and I had to register a new business.

Rather than take the time to sort out the snarl on our own, we hired a great accountant to help us out. He talked us through the process, helped us rectify mistakes made by a former accountant, and helped us understand and apply for the IRS installment program. Even though it cost some money, our time and peace of mind were worth it, and I’m glad we got the help we needed.

Most of us agree that we would like to earn more money. However, it’s not always easy to walk in and ask for a raise. After all, you have your career to think about.

If you think you are ready for a raise, and you want to ask your boss for one, here are 5 tips that can help you be more effective:

1. Do Your Homework

The first step is to research. What is normal for someone in your position, with your education and experience, to make? Compare your salary with similar salaries in your area. Locale matters as well as what you’re doing. Be realistic about what you should be making, and know the facts before you go in and ask for a raise.

2. Show Your Value

Now that you know, realistically, what you should be making, it’s time to show your value. You can’t go in and talk about how much you need a raise because you have a family, or you have some other goal. Instead, you need to show your value to the company.

Have you been given extra responsibilities? Did you spearhead a project that did particularly well? Have you increased sales or saved the company money? You need to show that you have done a good job and that you are an asset to the company. Prove why you deserve the raise, and back it up with what you know about other salaries in your area.

3. Make an Appointment

Don’t just spring this discussion on your boss. Instead, make an appointment to talk to your boss. There are theories about when a good time might be. Usually, it’s a bad idea to start first thing Monday, or to have this meeting on Friday. Also, be sensitive to whether or not your boss is in the middle of something major. He or she doesn’t want to be stressed by a meeting with you when there are other work priorities.

Make your appointment, and then come in prepared.

4. Try to Avoid Ultimatums

It’s one thing to walk into your boss’s office with another offer and ask for a raise or you’ll change companies. It’s quite another to threaten to leave when you actually can’t afford to and have nothing lined up. Try to avoid ultimatums since they can foster hard feelings later — especially if you can’t follow through. There’s nothing wrong with doing your research, gathering information about your value to the company and then making an appointment with your boss to say, “I’ve got an offer from someplace else. I’d really like to stay here, and continue this great work I’ve been doing. What can we do?”

5. Consider Alternatives Like Benefits and Perks

Sometimes money isn’t everything. In fact, there are benefits that are just as valuable as a raise. If you can get a more flexible schedule or an extra few vacation days a year, that might be just as valuable as a raise. Consider some of the perks that you might be willing to accept instead of a higher salary. Job satisfaction isn’t always just about the money.

One of the best ways to save money is to do something yourself. You can spend a lot of money paying others to do something that you might be able to handle on your own. However, there are some things that you shouldn’t do on your own. In some cases, it’s better to pay someone else, depending on your situation and your expectations.

Here’s how to decide if you should DIY:

Do You Like the Result When You DIY?

Yes, there are a lot of things you can do yourself at home, like dying your hair. Every time I’ve tried to dye my hair at home, it’s ended badly, no matter how much I prepare or how expensive the dye is. Because I am always dissatisfied with the result, I go to a salon. It costs more money, but I am happier with the way things turn out.

This can be the case for a number of DIY projects, whether you are making gifts for others or making cosmetic changes to your home. Consider the results, and if your time would be better spent do something that gives you more satisfaction. In some cases, practice can make perfect and eventually give you the DIY results you want. But if you keep trying and it doesn’t work out, it might not be the right approach for you.

Do You Really Have the Time to DIY?

How much is your time worth? Yes, I can save some money by changing my own oil. However, the money I save isn’t worth the time I’d spend to do it. I can make enough money just sitting on my laptop at the oil change place to cover the cost of the oil change and then some. If I did it myself, I’d spend all that time and actually be behind in terms of finances. If it’s something you enjoy, it can be worth it to spend the time.

However, if you don’t like doing it, and you can afford to pay someone else to take care of it, isn’t your life richer if you spend time doing things that matter to you? Factor that in before you spend your time (which you can’t get back) on DIY projects.

Do You REALLY Have the Skills for DIY?

Finally, be realistic about your skills and abilities. There are some projects that are best undertaken by a trained specialist. Plumbing, electrical, and some car repair items are prime examples of highly skilled labor. I can change a plug, but I’m not going to rewire a large portion of my home. Likewise, there’s a difference between swapping out a toilet and doing something major with your pipes. If you mess up on a major project, you could wind up paying even more later when it deals damage to your house. If you don’t have the skills for something, hire someone who does. You’ll be in much better financial shape in the long run.

DIY can be a good way to save money and feel satisfied by what you do. However, you need to be realistic about the situation and make sure your project really calls for it.

Insurance is one of those things that you just need to purchase. In many cases, insurance is designed to help you protect your assets. In the case of car insurance, you are expected to purchase it. It’s the law in each of the 50 states.

As you move forward, though, your insurance needs might change. You don’t have to keep the same car insurance coverage year after year. Here are some signs that it might be time to change your car insurance coverage:

Your Car is Old Enough that Liability is all You Need

One of the biggest reasons that people change their car insurance coverage is due to the car’s declining value. In some cases, it might no longer make sense to keep comprehensive coverage on your car, especially as the replacement value drops dramatically. You still need to maintain collision coverage, which helps you manage your liability if you cause an accident, but you might be able to drop some of your other coverage.

If you decide to drop the comprehensive coverage, you can save money on your premiums, but you need to make sure you’re ready for other costs. You might have to be able to replace the car if you total it. Do you have enough money to buy a new or used car or to put a down payment on a car? If you don’t have the money, and you need a vehicle, it can make sense to keep the comprehensive a little longer so you get some sort of help getting a different car if you need one. Building a savings account can help you self-insure to some degree.

You Make Changes that Increase the Value of Your Car or Its Contents

On the flip side is the fact that you might make modifications to your car that make it more valuable. If you add a new stereo and speaker system, you need to change your coverage because you will want the cost of the stereo covered in the event that it is damaged or stolen.

Don’t forget to evaluate your coverage if you have a vintage car or some other vehicle that is worth more money. If you fix up a classic car, you will need to make sure buy the right coverage, and get the right amount since some of these vehicles can be quite valuable.

Your Family Circumstance Changes

Did you add another driver to your family? When your child is old enough to drive, you might need to change your coverage. You might also need to change your coverage if you get divorced or married or make another major change to your life. You want to make sure that the proper drivers are covered on your policy, and that the coverage reflects the risk profiles of the various drivers.

Even if you end up paying more for coverage, it might be worth it in the long run. You’ll have more peace of mind, and you can ensure that you don’t have to break the bank to replace a car or its contents.

Money is a topic that comes up regularly in almost any relationship. No matter your situation, there is a good chance that you have been talking about money with your life partner.

Unfortunately, money is often a sore spot. Many of us don’t talk about money unless there’s a problem. According to a survey from GOBankingRates.com, the biggest financial deal breaker in a relationship is overspending (37.6% of respondents mentioned this). The next biggest issues include:

  • Secretive about finances (35.9%)
  • Too much debt (32.6%)

As you can see, the next most important money issues in a relationship are also related to overspending in some way. If you are hiding your spending, or in debt, that can cause relationship problems, and these are items likely related to the fact that you probably overspend.

Why Overspending is a Problem

Overspending is a big problem because it can cause stress in your life and in your relationship. When you spend more than you make, you start to feel anxiety because you can’t meet your bill obligations. You worry about how you will buy groceries or if money will be in the account when your insurance company automatically deducts your premium. These situations cause a great deal of stress, and that can strain your relationship since you are likely to argue about money problems — and whose fault they are.

Everything about spending too much can cause relationship problems. You’re tired, stressed, and in no condition to speak rationally to each other. It’s no surprise that many people cite money as a reason for divorce.

How to Keep Overspending from Ruining Your Relationship

If you want to keep overspending from ruining your relationship, it’s important that you take a step back and get honest about the situation. Try to have a conversation about money that doesn’t involve blaming each other. Take a look at your past spending as a couple and identify problem areas.

You should also talk about your priorities as a family. In many cases, overspending comes because you aren’t tracking your spending, and you aren’t spending according to your values. Pay attention to where the money is going, and determine whether or not it is helping you reach your shared goals. If you can have a conversation about shared goals, and put together a plan to help you reach them, you will be more likely to come together as a couple, and stop spending more than you should.

Create a plan that allows you both to spend a little bit on what you want while emphasizing your shared objectives. If you can have a conversation about what matters to you both, and you can begin working on the habits you both have that are making it harder to reach your shared goals, you’ll have less stress in your relationship, and you’ll both be less prone to overspending.

The key is creating a safe environment to have this conversation, and ensuring that you are both committed to changing your spending habits and working toward a common goal together.