The Average Cost of a Divorce

The Average Cost of a Divorce – SmartAsset

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Even the most amicable of divorces generally involve some kind of expense. The average cost of a divorce varies greatly based on how complicated the case is and on the kind of divorce you seek. At the very least you’ll have to pay court costs and filing fees for divorce paperwork. But if lawyers are involved, costs can balloon from a few hundred dollars to several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars. The cost of getting a divorce can exceed the average cost of a wedding. 

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The Average Cost of a Pro Se Divorce

A pro se litigant is someone who represents himself or herself. While you can do this in a divorce case, legal professionals advise against it. However, in the case of a collaborative, uncontested divorce both parties may work together for a pro se divorce. This could mean using a “divorce kit” and working together to get the divorce filed and granted. In this scenario, the average cost of a pro se divorce could be as low as $300.

Working through the divorce paperwork on your own and filing the papers with the courts yourself (as opposed to hiring a lawyer to help you with both steps) can save you thousands. However, this simplest form of divorce only works in simple cases. If there are children involved or complicated assets to split, cheap and easy is probably not an option.

Related Article: 4 Things to Know About Splitting Up a 401(k) in a Divorce

The Average Cost of Divorce Mediation

Another way to save on the costs of a divorce is to turn to a mediator instead of enlisting the services of lawyers. Particularly if you’re embarking on an uncontested divorce, a mediated divorce can be a much less costly option that a litigated divorce. Again, this option works best when matters are relatively uncomplicated and both parties are willing to cooperate.

You can employ a mediator who works with each party one-on-one and aids in communication between the two parties. Alternatively, both parties can sit down with the mediator and hammer out the details collaboratively. Private mediation can be billed using a flat fee or an hourly rate. Mediators generally charge lower hourly rates than lawyers, but the cost can still add up if the process drags on. The hourly rate for private divorce mediators is generally between $100 and $200.

Even if a divorce goes to trial the judge may order both parties to go to mediation. Court-ordered mediation is free to both parties and is non-binding. However, if you retain the services of a lawyer in a contested divorce and are then ordered to go to mediation, you will still run up legal bills for the work your attorney does to advise you and monitor the mediation process. Your lawyer will also bill you for the time spent revising the settlement reached in mediation.

Related Article: 5 Ways Getting Married Affects Your Tax Bill

The Average Cost of a Contested Divorce

A contested, litigated divorce is the most expensive route. Costs can go as high as $50,000, or higher if wealthy parties and expensive lawyers are involved. Typically, divorce lawyers will charge an hourly rate of $250, but this can vary based on the firm and the city (rates are higher in expensive cities).

Parties in a divorce can decide whether they want full representation, or if they want a more limited service such as an initial consultation or an attorney review of a settlement reached in mediation. The average cost of a litigated divorce is around $15,000. Attorney fees (which are generally not tax-deductible) aren’t the only costs. You may need to hire an accountant to assess the assets that are being divided, or hire an appraiser to value the family home. Counseling for both parties (and any children involved) may also be necessary. There are court fees to pay as well.

Many divorces settle, curtailing the costly trial process. Naturally, cases that settle out of court tend to carry a lower average price tag than divorces with a protracted trial. Regardless, you’ll have some up-front costs. Clients pay a retainer when they first find a lawyer to help them through the divorce process.

Bottom Line

For many who divorce, the process carries high emotional and financial costs. The emotional stakes and the amount of money on the line – both in assets and attorney fees – are good reasons to seek skilled help, whether from a mediator or a lawyer. Do your research before committing to either.

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Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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Black Friday Shopping During Coronavirus: Tips for Success

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Many people choose to do their shopping on Black Friday to get great deals for the holiday season. It’s one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and consumers make Black Friday purchases both in-store and online. According to research compiled by Adobe Analytics, shoppers spent $7.4 billion on online purchases alone on Black Friday in 2019.

But many people might be wondering if Black Friday will happen in 2020. Read on to find out how COVID-19 might affect this holiday shopping day.

Black Friday Shopping Is Not Canceled: Great Deals Will Be Available Online

You might be wondering if Black Friday will be happening as usual this year. Though it’s not canceled, expect some changes to your typical Black Friday shopping experience.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers’ shopping and spending habits are changing. For 2020, it’s recommended that consumers take advantage of online Black Friday deals to avoid visiting crowded stores for safety and health reasons.

The CDC recently issued guidance for Thanksgiving-related holidays. It notes that shopping in-person around the holidays is a higher-risk activity. But don’t worry–it’s pretty likely that your favorite stores are making online accommodations for Black Friday shoppers.

Yahoo! Finance notes that the more traditional Black Friday shopping experience won’t likely happen in 2020. Consumers can expect online sales to begin weeks before Black Friday to be more spread out over time.

As Black Friday approaches, you can also start thinking about how to save and spend when planning your Black Friday shopping. This year, Black Friday weekend will happen on November 27 and will be followed by Cyber Monday on November 30. You’ll be able to take advantage of a number of Black Friday deals both days.

Tips for Smart Black Friday Spending

Even if money is tight because of coronavirus budget cuts and layoffs, you probably still hope to do some shopping during the holidays. Planning carefully can help you save even more money and keep your holiday spending within your means, even during the excitement of Black Friday. Follow some of the following tips for smart Black Friday shopping.

Set a Budget

Having a budget in place helps ensure you spend only what you can afford. Look at your finances and savings to determine how much you can afford to spend on Black Friday deals.

Not sure where to begin? These budgeting tips can help you set and stick to a realistic budget.

Make a Shopping List

When you don’t work from a list when shopping, it can be easy to make mistakes and forget to buy what you need. Take some time to outline a list of your must-have Black Friday shopping items.

Don’t forget to include gifts for the holidays and essentials you’ve wanted to buy, such as kitchen appliances and electronics. That way, you get everything you need and you maximize your spending.

Don’t Stray From Your List

You made a shopping list for a reason. Be sure to stick to it while you shop. It’s also a smart idea to tally up the purchase amounts of your list to make sure the total fits your budget. Refer to your list while you shop.

Compare Sales

Some retailers might offer better deals on products than others, so do your research before Black Friday. This makes it easier to shop at the stores with the best deals and maximize your Black Friday savings. Check your favorite stores to see what Black Friday discounts they’re offering. You can even view Black Friday sales for major retailers on their websites or on sites such as Slickdeals and TechRadar.

If you plan to do your shopping online because of COVID-19, don’t forget to take a look at each retailer’s shipping costs. Ensure the total purchase price, including taxes and shipping costs, fits within your budget.

Use Your Rewards Card Responsibly and Strategically

It’s never a good idea to go into debt over shopping habits. This is true during Black Friday shopping too. When using credit cards to shop, use them responsibly. Don’t spend more than you can afford, and stay within your credit limit.

You might also want to use your credit cards strategically. Choosing to use the right credit cards when buying can help you rack up more rewards points and miles or earn more cash back. Be sure to take a look at the cards in your wallet well before Black Friday, and check each card’s terms and policies before you shop.

Look Into Store Credit Card Options

Another option is to take out a store credit card. Many retailers offer this option, sometimes with a special 0% interest promotion. That means you can make credit purchases on Black Friday without paying interest on them as long as you pay off the total within the introductory period.

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Review Your Purchases Before You Check Out

Before you check out, it’s smart to review your purchases. Ensure you know exactly how much you’re spending and that you’re staying within your budget. This can help you avoid last-minute and unnecessary purchases. Remember not to ignore shipping costs when you’re buying online.

Pay Off Your Credit Card Statements in Full

Carrying a balance results in interest charges if you don’t have a 0% APR offer. Credit card interest can be very costly, especially over long periods of time. It can also add up, making it easy for you to find yourself in a difficult financial situation.

Instead, consider paying your credit card statements in full every month. After you do your Black Friday shopping, pay off the cards you use. This helps keep your finances on track and set you up for continued success. If you struggle with carrying a credit card balance, other tips can help you use your credit cards more responsibly.

Be Smart When Shopping Black Friday Deals

If you’re ready to get some major deals this Black Friday, get ready to do a ton of online shopping. Following the above tips can help you reduce overspending risks and save money on Black Friday shopping. Familiarize yourself with your current financial situation and credit score before making purchases.

You can monitor your credit scores and keep track of your credit history by using’s free Credit Report Card tool. If COVID-19 has affected your finances, there are financial resources available. If you plan to apply for a new rewards credit card, can help you choose the right one.

Sign up now.


Here’s What You Need To Know About Becoming A Cosigner

Are you thinking about becoming a cosigner for someone? Have you ever been asked to cosign on a loan before? 

becoming a cosigner

becoming a cosignerMany people have been asked to cosign loans for family members and even friends. However, many people do not understand the full cosigner meaning, and becoming a cosigner is never something you should do unless you completely understand what it means.

If someone asks you to cosign a loan for them, you might be hesitant to say yes at first. You also might not want to offend the person or make them mad.

Whatever you may be thinking, I want you to fully understand what you are getting yourself into.

Becoming a cosigner can actually turn into a big financial mistake if you do it without really thinking it through.

Okay, now some of you may think that I’m a mean person for saying that, but I’ve heard many stories from people who’ve had their credit wrecked, have been stuck paying a loan for someone else, and even had their relationships ruined.

All of that from cosigning a loan.

Perhaps you have cosigned before and it went fine, or you know a friend of a friend who has done it. Perhaps you think that things won’t go bad for you or that you are hurting the person by not cosigning for them.

But, I want you to be careful before becoming a cosigner. I’m saying this to help you!

No matter how well you think you know someone, mixing money and relationships can change things. What you may have thought was a wonderful friendship or family relationship can turn into a nightmare.

It may seem very innocent – you’re just helping a good friend or relative get a loan. 

Really, if it was that simple, I’d tell everyone to do it. But, becoming a cosigner is a major financial decision that you need to seriously think about before agreeing to.

Before you cosign a mortgage or another type of loan for someone, it is always wise to be 100% positive of what cosigning a loan actually means and how it may affect your relationship with the person getting the loan.

Surprisingly, many people don’t know exactly what happens when they agree to being a cosigner. Many people just think that all you’re doing is helping a person get approved, but that’s not just it.

Sorry to break it to you, but the bank, landlord, etc., does not care if the applicant has a friend with a good credit history. 

There’s more that comes with being a cosigner.

As the cosigner, what’s actually happening is that you are taking on the full responsibility of the debt if the original applicant is unable to pay.

And, that happens more often than you might think.

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According to a survey I found on, 38% of cosigners had to pay some or all of a loan that they cosigned for because the primary borrower failed to pay. This is a HUGE percentage of cosigners, so please keep that in mind.

Other statistics I found about becoming a cosigner include:

  • 28% of cosigners saw a drop in their credit score because the person that they cosigned on a loan for paid their loan late or skipped a payment.
  • 26% of cosigners said that cosigning damaged the relationship with the person that they cosigned a loan for.
  • 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied for cosigner release were rejected. So, if you think that you are going to cosign for a loan and then remove yourself from the loan later, that is much more difficult than you probably think. Stat from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

So, who is finding cosigners for loans?

According to the survey mentioned above, 45% of cosigners are cosigning for their child or stepchild. And 21% of cosigners are cosigning for a friend.

The rest is a mixture of cosigning for spouses/partners and parents.

Today, I am going to answer common questions about becoming a cosigner for a loan.

What to know about becoming a cosigner.


What is a cosigner?

If you’ve been asked to become a cosigner on a loan, you may not know what that fully entails.

A cosigner is someone who agrees to be on a loan with another person so that they are more likely to be approved. 

A cosigner may be needed for different things such as a:

  • Car loan
  • Student loan
  • Mortgage
  • Apartment or other type of rental home

And more.

Here’s an example of when someone may want a cosigner: if your child wants to buy a car but doesn’t have a long enough credit history to be approved for the car loan. Your child may ask you to cosign their loan so the lender takes your credit score and financial information into account. This improves your child’s chances of being approved.

Other reasons you might be asked to be a cosigner is if the borrower doesn’t have a high enough credit score or doesn’t make enough money to pay the loan (that is a red flag right there).

However, as a cosigner, you are agreeing to pay off the debt if the original borrower is unable to pay it in the future. So, even if the original borrower doesn’t pay a penny, the cosigner would have to make all of the payments or risk being sued, having credit report damage, and more.

In that example I gave, the parent would be responsible for the car loan if their child could no longer make their payments. Not only that, if the child for some reason refused to make payments (I’ve heard of situations like this), the parent would be responsible.

Remember, like I stated above, 38% of cosigners had to pay some or all of a loan that they cosigned for because the primary borrower failed to pay. 

And in some circumstances, even if the borrower files bankruptcy, while their other loans might be discharged, the cosigner may still be responsible for paying the cosigned loan.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Your Credit Score


How does a co signer work?

Here’s what happens when you agree to become a cosigner for a friend or family member. 

You will start by giving your personal information to the bank or lender. This is information like bank statements, tax returns, paycheck stubs, and so on.

You will also have to complete the loan application, and once you agree with all of the loan terms, then you sign it.

But, becoming a cosigner doesn’t mean that you will own or have partial ownership of the vehicle, house, or whatever else you are cosigning for. It does mean that you are taking full financial responsibility and promising to pay the loan yourself if the borrower does not pay.

Becoming a cosigner is nothing to take lightly.

Does cosigning hurt your credit? Is it bad to be a cosigner?

Becoming a cosigner can hurt your credit score and prevent you from future loans in some circumstances.

Here’s why:

  • If the person doesn’t pay the monthly payments on time, then you may be rejected for a loan in the future. Missed payments can damage your credit score and your credit report.
  • As a cosigner, you are increasing your debt-to-income ratio. So, even if your friend/family member pays every single bill on time, a lender will still see this as YOUR debt. Unfortunately, this may prevent them from approving your loan because they will think you have too much debt on your plate.

If you might be buying something soon that will need financing (house, car, etc.), you should think long and hard before you decide to be a cosigner on someone else’s loan.

Can cosigning a loan hurt a relationship?

Unfortunately, many cosigning relationships go sour. 

I have heard many stories where someone cosigned a loan for someone else and then didn’t talk to them for years or even decades because of a falling out of some sort.

I have always been a firm believer that money and relationships do not mix well. 

If you are going to cosign or lend money to someone, then you should consider it a gift because there is a chance that you will never see that money again.


Can you remove yourself from a loan as a cosigner?

Remember the statistic above – 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied for cosigner release were rejected. 

There’s not much you can do to remove yourself from a loan that you cosigned on. If the person isn’t making payments, you are stuck with it for the most part.

The loan would have to be refinanced to take yourself off the loan, and there are many horror stories out there where the original borrower refused to refinance because then they wouldn’t be able to force the cosigner to continue to pay the monthly bill.

Plus, there are instances in which refinancing is impossible because of the value decreasing, the economy changing, a person’s financial situation getting worse, and so on. 

So, while the original borrower may be okay with getting you off of the loan and refinancing, it’s still up to the lender whether or not they will refinance the loan.

How do I protect myself as a cosigner?

There is no guarantee that becoming a cosigner is going to work out, but if you’re determined to do it, you will want to know both of these two things for sure:

  1. That you can trust the person you are cosigning for.
  2. That YOU can make the payment.

Many people who are thinking about becoming a cosigner may not think about that last one, but it is just as important as the first one. Being stuck with the loan payment would be awful, but not being able to make the payment could cause you to go into serious debt and destroy your credit.

You may be certain you won’t be stuck making the payment, but you don’t want to be stuck in a bad financial situation.

Should I cosign a loan?

Even though those cosigning horror stories are real cautionary tales, most people don’t believe they would ever happen to them. 

However, don’t you think most (if not all) cosigners felt the same way in the beginning?

It’s up to each person to decide if they will cosign, and you should never feel forced to do it. However, I want you to remember that if you cosign, then you should make sure that you can afford to make the monthly payment.

You never know, one day those payments are being made and everything is going well. The original borrower may be a great person, but then they may lose their job, have an unexpected expense come up, or something else that prevents them from paying their bills.

Then, what if something happens to you and you can’t make those payments either? Unfortunately, being unprepared and not really knowing what you are getting into can turn into a disastrous situation.

Cosigning a loan may not always be bad. However, I believe it’s better to realize what the consequences are before going into something that can negatively impact your life. It’s always better to be prepared!


Is it a bad idea to cosign for someone?

Cosigning a loan doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

However, I want you to remember that there is a chance that you will be on the hook for the loan.

So, if you cosign, whether that be for a car, mortgage, apartment, student loan, or something else, you should make sure that you can afford the payment as well. Because, there is a chance that you may have to pay it one day.

Everyone has a different situation, and ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you. 

What do you think of becoming a cosigner for a mortgage or other type of loan? Would you ever do it?

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Everything you Need to Know to Buy Discounted Gift Cards & Save Money

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

Buying discounted gift cards is one of my favorite ways to save money and stay on budget. You can hack your way into saving hundreds of dollars a year by buying cheap gift cards. 

Discounted gift cards are gift cards that are sold for less than whatever the value on the card is. 

Most people have gift cards they’ll never use sitting around their house just collecting dust. I mean, we all have that grandparent who thinks we love Applebees or an out of state friend who assumes every city has a Publix, right? 

This means billions of dollars worth of gift cards go unused every single year!  

Their loss can be your gain. Instead of collecting dust, these people choose to sell their unwanted and unused gift cards for cash online. 

They sell you their $50 Applebees card for $30. They get cash for a gift card that would go to waste otherwise and you get a gift card to your favorite restaurant at a great discount. It’s a win-win for everyone. 

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How to Use Discounted Gift Cards

Discounted gift cards can be used just like a regular gift card you purchase at the store. 

Ways to use discounted gift cards: 

  • Birthday gifts
  • Date nights
  • Shopping at your favorite stores
  • Baby shower gifts
  • Wedding gifts
  • Big-ticket items
  • Groceries
  • Gas

How to Buy Discounted Gift Cards 

The best place to buy discounted gift cards is online through a gift card deal site.  These sites are 3rd party sites like that connect the buyer and seller. You purchase the gift card through the gift card deal site and the buyer will send you the gift card. 

Physical cards are mailed directly to you. 

E-gift cards are emailed to you. 

5 of the Best Sites to Purchase Cheap Gift Cards

You can buy discounted gift cards on a number of reselling sites but you run the risk of buying an empty card or getting scammed in some other way. When you go through reputable gift card resellers you may pay a little more but you’ll have the piece of mind that your card will work. And if for some reason it doesn’t, you’re protected.


Raise has a great selection of gift cards on their site. You can save an average of 12-15% on gift cards purchased through their site. You can even set up alerts to your favorite stores and restaurants. They will email you when a gift card you requested becomes available. 

Raise offers a 1-year money-back guarantee to protect you from buying a gift card for less than the value stated at the time of the purchase. 

Click here to get $5 when you make a purchase within 30 days of signing up. After you sign up, you can earn $5 for every friend you refer when they make a purchase within 30 days too. This is great savings hack to save even more money on gift cards. 


While it doesn’t always have the biggest discounts, Cardpool does have the largest selection. I find cards here that I can’t always find on Raise. They have a wishlist feature that will email you when the card you want becomes available. 

Cardpool also has a 100-day purchase guarantee if your gift card is less than the stated value at the time of purchase. is the most well-known gift card deal site and also has a huge selection. Be sure to navigate to the discount portion of its site because they mostly sell regular gift cards now (meaning at full face value without a discount). also has a rewards program known as G-Money Rewards. You can earn 8 points per dollar and redeem the points on future gift card purchases. Every 100 points are equivalent to $1 off your purchase. This is a great hack to save even more at your favorite restaurants and stores. 


CardCash has the most sales and discount codes to use on its site. If you sign up for their email list you’ll get notified of deals every week. They also have a 45-day purchase guarantee if the gift card you purchase doesn’t add up to the value. 

Gift Card Granny

Gift Card Granny is a website that allows you to buy gift cards for varying amounts. So some of the current value of the gift cards are less than face value. 

Ex: $25 gift card with $19.29 left on the card. 

They have a unique feature on their website that allows you to test the value of the gift card which limits the risks to you. Gift Card Granny offers you a referral credit of $5 for every friend who signs-up using your referral link.

Make Sure It’s Worth It

Using discounted gift cards isn’t for everyone. It’s a saving method that’s nice when you can use it but it shouldn’t be a primary part of your money saving strategy.

Before purchasing the gift card, make sure it’s worth your time and money. It may not be worth your time to get a gift card that’s only a 10% discount on a $20 card. You’re only saving $2. 

Calculate the amount you’re saving before purchasing the gift card to make sure it’s a good deal for you. 

Ex: You want to buy a laptop from Best Buy. You buy a $200 gift card from a gift card deal site. The savings is 25%. You will save $50 by purchasing the $200 gift card. So it’s worth the time and money to save $50. 

You can expect to save an average of 10-35% on gift cards from these deal sites. 

7 Ways to Maximize Your Savings

There are a 7 ways to maximize your savings without spending a ton of time. This isn’t a magic bullet for savings. I never spend more than 15 minutes a month looking for discounted gift cards, they’re just a nice “cherry on top” for savings. 

You can still save a ton of money using discount gift cards as a savings hack to save even more money – especially on big-ticket items. 

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1. Look at the top discounts first

Always sort your view by the largest discount. This will help you not get distracted by the smaller discounts and save you a ton of time. After you figure out which gift cards you want to purchase, then plan out your date nights, grocery runs, etc. based on the best deals.

2. Look up coupons 

See if they have any coupons you can stack to save even more money. Honey is a free Chrome browser extension that will figure out the applicable coupons for you. No more searching high and low to find a coupon that “might” work. 

It automatically cycles through the coupons and figures out which one will save you the most money. Since it’s free, it’s definitely a no brainer!

3. Sign up for email alerts on gift cards

Most discount gift card sites have alerts set up for your account. You can go in and choose the parameters for your gift cards, like the dollar amount and store/restaurant names, and they will email you when a gift card with those parameters becomes available. 

This can also save you a ton of time. For example, if you always grocery shop at Target, you can just have an alert set for Target. When you get the email, you can just go in and buy it without going in and searching for minutes on end for your gift card. 

You just click the link in the email and it sends you right to the card you’re looking for. 

4. Buy the gift cards through a cashback site called Rakuten

You can also get cashback from Rakuten so if you haven’t gotten your $10 bonus for spending $25, here’s your chance! Rakuten is simple and easy to use. 

You just sign-up for your free account. When you’re ready to shop, you log into your Rakuten account and search for Raise (or the other gift card site you’re using), and click on the shop button. 

Rakuten does the rest for you. They will calculate your rebate automatically and add it to your account. You will get paid when they do their next payout cycle. It doesn’t cost you any additional money and the best part, it’s totally free to use. 

<img data-attachment-id="5096" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="1080,1080" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="How to get Cheap Gift Cards" data-image-description="

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” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ loading=”lazy” width=”600″ height=”600″ data-pin-title=”How to get Cheap Gift Cards” data-pin-description=”Do you want to get gift cards at less than the value? You can get discounted gift cards to help save you money on your favorite things!! #moneysavingshacks #moneysavingstips #discountedgiftcards #moneyhacks #howtosavemoremoney #shoppinghacks #frugalshopping” src=”” alt class=”wp-image-5096″ srcset=” 600w, 300w, 150w, 768w, 1080w” sizes=”(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

5. Stack the gift cards with in-store savings

Some stores have in-store coupons and customer loyalty programs. You can stack the savings from the in-store coupons, customer loyalty programs, in-store sales, and gift cards to really rack up on the savings. 


You can use your Old Navy Cash and a gift card at the same time. 

You can use your Target My Circle coupons with a Target gift card at the same time. 

Use your phone number at Ulta (to get points), an in-store coupon, and a discounted gift card for maximum savings. 

6. Search for your favorites on each website

All of the deal sites all have different cards at any given time and it doesn’t take long to search for your favorite stores/restaurants on the site. These are stores/restaurants you visit frequently and know you’ll visit to use the gift card. 

7. Buy gift cards each month to save

You can buy gift cards each month to save for a big-ticket item. If you want to buy a $500 TV from Best Buy, you can buy a gift card every month to use towards the TV purchase. 

This will also help you save a little bit of money too because you’re buying the gift cards for less than the value. You could buy a $100 gift card to Best Buy for 5 months and then pay with the gift card for your TV. 

NOTE: Just make sure to verify the amount of your gift card as soon as you get it because you only have a window of time with each deal site to file a claim if for some reason the card doesn’t equal the value that the buyer stated in the description at the time of purchase. 

What Not to Do When Buying Discounted Gift Cards

There are also a few things you shouldn’t do, or at least be aware of, before using discounted gift cards.

Make sure the store doesn’t have any exclusions on the maximum number of gift cards per single transaction

One time when I was purchasing airfare to Bali I bought ten $100 gift cards to save a little extra. I get to the website to buy my tickets and there’s a max of THREE slots for gift cards.

I was mortified.

I had to call the airline and thankfully I was able to use all the gift cards but I spent over an hour on the phone reading every 16 and 10 digit code for every card.

The moral of the story is, check gift card policies before you buy the gift cards. All the companies I mentioned offer guarantees on their cards for a period of time but it’s still your responsibility to check policies.

<img data-attachment-id="5095" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="1080,1080" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="How to get Cheap Gift Cards" data-image-description="

Do you want to get gift cards at less than the value? You can get discounted gift cards to help save you money on your favorite things!! #moneysavingshacks #moneysavingstips #discountedgiftcards #moneyhacks #howtosavemoremoney #shoppinghacks #frugalshopping

” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ loading=”lazy” data-pin-title=”How to get Cheap Gift Cards” data-pin-description=”Do you want to get gift cards at less than the value? You can get discounted gift cards to help save you money on your favorite things!! #moneysavingshacks #moneysavingstips #discountedgiftcards #moneyhacks #howtosavemoremoney #shoppinghacks #frugalshopping” src=”” alt class=”wp-image-5095″ width=”413″ height=”413″ srcset=” 600w, 300w, 150w, 768w, 1080w” sizes=”(max-width: 413px) 100vw, 413px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

Don’t search discounted gift card sites on Google without doing your research

The gift card sites in this post are tried and trusted by me. I can’t speak for the other sites on Google. There are other sites I haven’t mentioned here that have tons of complaints against them from anything from customer service issues to not receiving their cards. 

Don’t use these sites. Use the ones I’m telling you that I’ve tried. I have had great luck with them and will continue to use them month after month. 

Buying cheap and discounted gift cards are a great money savings hack to save even more money each month. You can save hundreds over the course of a year using discounted gift cards. 

Just buy the ones you know you’ll use. You won’t be saving any money if you buy a gift card that just sits around and collects dust. 

If you want to save even more money, check out my free spending detox challenge. You can learn to save a ton of money and break bad money habits for good. 

The spending challenge can also help you break the paycheck to paycheck cycle and gain control of your money. It’s a free 7-day money saving challenge. Go on and sign-up here. 

<img data-attachment-id="4221" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="1000,1500" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Discounted-Gift-Cards" data-image-description="

Do you want to get gift cards at less than the value? You can get discounted gift cards to help save you money on your favorite things!! #moneysavingshacks #moneysavingstips #discountedgiftcards #moneyhacks #howtosavemoremoney #shoppinghacks #frugalshopping

” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”” loading=”lazy” data-pin-description=”Do you want to get gift cards at less than the value? You can get discounted gift cards to help save you money on your favorite things!! #moneysavingshacks #moneysavingstips #discountedgiftcards #moneyhacks #howtosavemoremoney #shoppinghacks #frugalshopping” data-pin-title=”How to get Cheap Gift Cards” src=”” alt class=”wp-image-4221″ width=”301″ height=”452″ srcset=” 1000w, 200w, 400w, 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 301px) 100vw, 301px”>

<img data-attachment-id="4398" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="700,1350" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="How to Save Money on Christmas Shopping with Gift Cards" data-image-description="

Do you want to save money on Christmas shopping? You can buy your Christmas gifts with discounted gift cards to save even more money on Christmas. #moneysavingtipsforchristmas #christmasshopping #christmashacks #moneysavingshacks #howtosavemoneyonchristmaspresents #christmasgiftsonabudget

” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ loading=”lazy” width=”311″ height=”600″ data-pin-title=”How to Save Money on Christmas Shopping with Gift Cards” data-pin-description=”Do you want to save money on Christmas shopping? You can buy your Christmas gifts with discounted gift cards to save even more money on Christmas. #moneysavingtipsforchristmas #christmasshopping #christmashacks #moneysavingshacks #howtosavemoneyonchristmaspresents #christmasgiftsonabudget” src=”” alt class=”wp-image-4398″ srcset=” 311w, 156w, 700w” sizes=”(max-width: 311px) 100vw, 311px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.


9 Simple Ways To Get Free Diapers

9 Ways Get Free Diapers

9 Ways Get Free Diapers

Looking for free diapers and low-cost baby products?

Diapers are expensive and a pain in the budget. Babies need roughly 8000 diapers before they’re potty trained, costing parents $2000 or more.

So we’ve put together some simple and legitimate options to help you save money. When you combine these methods together, you can literally save hundreds of dollars.

Try these easy tactics to get free diapers. It only takes a few minutes to fill out a form or sign up for a program, and the savings you’ll enjoy is truly worth it.

Table of Contents



Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit – free stuff from Target.

Target Baby Registry – Set up a baby registry at Target and you’ll get free diapers and wipes from The Honest Company and plenty more.

You’ll also receive a cool gift bag stuffed with free samples and a $50 coupon book with savings at major outlets like Starbucks and Liz Lange.

Here’s just some of what you get:

  • Munchkin Latch 4 oz. baby bottle
  • Baby Aquaphor diaper rash cream
  • MAM newborn pacifier
  • Johnson & Johnson Head-to-Toe lotion
  • A 10-piece sample pack of baby wipes from The Honest Company.
  • Pampers samples of diapers and wipes.
  • Lanisinoh disposable nursing pads and breastmilk storage bags
  • Johnsons’s “Baby’s Firsts” guide to first-year milestones
  • Babyganics Moisturizing Daily Lotion sample tube
  • Mustela Hydra Bebe body lotion sample
  • Zarbee’s Naturals baby immune support vitamins
  • 10% off any nursing bra and/or camisole.

Two:  Sign Up for Amazon Family

Amazon Mom Family

Amazon Mom Family

Amazon Family (formerly Amazon Mom) comes with a free 30-day trial, or you can access it for free if you’re already a Prime member.  Just create a child profile to begin and save up to 20% on diaper and baby food subscriptions.   You’ll also get additional discounts on other family products.

Amazon Family is part of Prime so all shipping is free.

Refer your friends and get an additional $10 in Amazon credit to use for free diapers.

Three:  Get Free Amazon Cards for Diapers



Wouldn’t it be great to get free Amazon cards and then use them for diapers and other baby products?

Good news – Swagbucks and InboxDollars give you that opportunity.  Here’s how it works.

Swagbucks gives you rewards points for various online actions, such as using their search engine, taking surveys, watching videos and playing games.  Then just redeem your rewards for Amazon gift cards (or cards from other stores) or as cash through PayPal.

Signing up is free and you’ll even get a $5 sign up bonus.

TIP:  Download the app and perform many of the tasks on the go.  You can easily earn $25 each month in Amazon cards with minimal effort.

InboxDollars is another loyalty company offering rewards for shopping online, taking surveys and watching videos. Redeem your points for an Amazon card to use on anything you want.

Four:  Get Free Diapers by Signing Up with Diaper Companies

Huggies Rewards Program

Huggies Rewards Program

Diaper companies know that most parents find one diaper brand they like and use them exclusively as long as their child needs diapers.

Naturally, these companies want you to be loyal to their brand, and not to their competitors.  So they’ll happily give you free diaper samples to earn your loyalty.

Huggies Rewards program offers free diapers and wipes when you redeem Huggies points.  You can get 500 free points just for signing up here.

When you make a purchase of Huggies diapers or baby products, upload your receipt to their site to get more points added to your account.

Huggies recently lowered the number of points needed to acquire coupons for free diapers and baby products so saving money is easier than ever.

In addition to Huggies, check out the rewards programs at the other major brands:




More Free Samples

Honest Company – Jessica Alba’s environmentally safe company will send you 7 premium diapers and 10 baby wipes. The diapers contain no chemical bleaches.

Dollar Diaper Club – Get a free trial and they’ll send you 6 organic diapers and 10 wipes.

Everyday Happy – Receive a free trial box of premium diapers and a package of bamboo wipes.

Simply Right – Sign up on their website and this Sam’s Club brand will send you free diapers and wipes.

Five:  Smart Couponing for Free Diapers

Clipping Coupons

Clipping Coupons

Check your local paper and online for diaper coupons and look for diaper sales at your local stores.  By timing your coupons with diaper sales, you can really save on diapers, or even get them for free.

Here are a few places online where you can clip baby diaper coupons.

Huggies coupons

Luvs coupons

Pampers coupons

Six:  Use Referral Programs for Diaper Money

baby diapers

baby diapers

A couple of companies offer lucrative referral programs that could add up to a lot of free diapers and wipes. gives you $5 in diaper credit for each person you refer to their site.  Sign up for their referral program here.

If you have an active Facebook or Instagram account, ePantry has a referral program.  Post to your accounts and earn $8 for every mom you sign up.

Occasionally ePantry runs promotions offering up to $20 per referral.

Seven:  Charities and Government Programs Helping with Diapers and More.

Free baby diapers

Free baby diapers

The National Diaper Bank Network helps low-income families with free diapers.  The non-profit network has chapters nationwide so those in need can pick up diapers locally.

This is a great complement to food stamps and WIC, which do not provide diapers. aims to assist the needy with a variety of needs.   Here is their free baby diapers resource list of organizations everywhere that are ready to help.

Eight: – Save by using cloth diapers

Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diapers

Washable cloth diapers are an environmentally friendly option for your child.

They can also help you save money, especially if you have, or plan on having, more than one child in diapers.

Nine:  Call Pediatrician or Hospital for Freebies

Pediatrician and hospitals give diapers

Pediatrician and hospitals give diapers

Hospitals often give you stuff you need for your newborn, such as a free diaper bag or car seat.  Check with your hospital before your due date to see what is available to you.

Your OB/Gyn doctor and pediatrician are also great resources to consider for free baby diapers, bottles, and formula samples.  They can steer you in the right direction and they usually have baby samples right there in their office.

Like It?  Share It!

If this post was helpful, please share it with others who might like it too.  Thanks!

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Pros and Cons of 0% Interest Balance Transfer Credit Cards

sWoman credit card

Woman credit card

Transferring your debt to 0% interest balance transfer credit cards seems like a no-brainer right?

You’ll pay no interest for a promotional period of time so 100% of your payment will go to the principal.

Sounds like a win to me.  And quite often it is a win.

But not always.

When you know all the pros and cons, you can accurately determine if transferring your debt to a balance transfer card makes sense for you.

With that in mind, I’ve put together this complete list of pros and cons to help you decide if you should transfer your balance.

Do your due diligence and weigh all the pros and cons of a balance transfer credit card to make sure it will really help you save money while paying off your debt faster.

Table of Contents

how you transfer your debt to a balance transfer credit card the right way.

A 0% balance transfer card can save you money

Clearly paying less interest on your credit card debt will save you money.

Just remember to run the numbers, taking into account the balance transfer fee and the promotional and standard interest rates.  I recommend using a good credit card payoff calculator.

Here’s an example of good balance transfer numbers:

Say you have $5000 in credit card debt which requires you to pay 30% interest.

If you pay $300 a month, you will pay off that card in 22 months.  It’ll cost you $1,549 in interest for a total of $6,549.

On the other hand, if you transfer that balance to an 18-month, 0% interest credit card your numbers would look like this:

You would pay the same $300 a month for only 17 months, paying $0 in interest for a total cost of $5,000.

Most credit card companies charge a 3% balance transfer fee, which in this example works out to $150.

That means you would save $1,549 dollars minus the $150 balance transfer fee for a total savings of 1,399 with the added benefit of paying off your debt 5 months sooner.

In the interest of balance, we’ll run the numbers on a balance transfer that doesn’t add up to such an obvious benefit once we take a look at the cons.

You can enjoy better terms and even get rewards

The credit card landscape is extremely competitive, and companies are trying harder than ever to capture your business.

Why does this matter?

If you have lousy terms with your current credit card, such as high fees or a short grace period, you can dump that credit card and enjoy better terms with someone else.

Shop for not only the best introductory interest rate but also for a better interest rate once the promotion period ends.  Also look for credit card rewards on new purchases.

Here’s the thing:

If you’re going to go through with a balance transfer, make sure the new company treats you better than your current one.

Consolidate your credit card debt to make your finances simpler

Consolidating your credit card debt makes budgeting a little easier and more convenient.  Just having all your debt in one place makes it easier to manage and pay down your debt. What’s more, transferring your balance to a 0% card can create space in your budget, which is ideal if you’re trying to stop living paycheck to paycheck.

The Cons of Balance Transfer Credit Cards You Need To Know

The APR is only temporary

Never forget, the banks are making a bet on you.

They are willing to give you an attractive promotional rate and they are counting on you not paying off your balance on time.

If you don’t pay off your debt before the promotional rate expires, you’ll be hit with the considerably higher revert rate.  Don’t be surprised if this rate is in the 25%-30% range.

But you don’t have to get stuck with this rate.  Instead, do your homework ahead of time and make sure the revert rate is not excessive.

Even better, only get a balance transfer rate if you know you can pay off the balance during the promotional period.

Balance transfer accounts can be very expensive

Typically banks charge a balance transfer fee of 1% to 3% as well as the annual service fee.

In the “Pros” section above, we showed you an example of a balance transfer credit card which saved you money.

Now let’s take a look at a balance transfer that’s not quite a slam dunk like before.

Let’s say you have a credit card with a $3,000 balance in which you are paying 20% interest.

If you are paying $140 per month, you will pay off the debt in 27 months, including $742 in interest.  In total, you will pay $3,780 in this scenario.

But what if you found a balance transfer credit card offering a 12-month promotional period with 0% interest and a standard 3% balance transfer fee.

You could transfer your balance for $90 and pay down $1,680 of your debt in the first 12 months.

Your balance (initial $3,000 plus the $90 transfer fee) of $3090 would be $1,320.

Now the bad news:

The promotional period ends and the bank pumps the interest up to 30%.

If you continued paying $140 per month, you would pay off the debt in a total of 23 months.  Your total out-of-pocket expenses would be $3,320, including only $204 in interest fees.

To recap this scenario:

Current credit card: You would pay a total of $3,780 over 27 months with your current credit card at 20% interest.

Balance transfer credit card:  Including the balance transfer fee, you would pay $3,320 over 23 months.  You would save 4 months payments and save $460 dollars.

Don’t get me wrong, $460 is a nice sum and at first glance, and it may seem worth it to do the transfer.

But when you consider all the potential cons we’ve mentioned, $460 may not be enough of a benefit to outweigh the other factors.

The point is, run the numbers and make sure the risk/reward ratio works in your favor.

Balance transfers are not always included.

Don’t assume every 0% APR offer is good for balance transfers.  Nearly all of these offers are good for new purchases made on the card.  But the same is not always true for balance transfers.

In other words, sometimes the 0% APR offer applies to balance transfers, sometimes it doesn’t.

I can’t emphasize this enough;

Before you consolidate your debt on a new card, check the terms and conditions carefully to ensure balance transfers are also eligible for the promotional rate.

Balance transfers can potentially hurt your credit score

Your credit score can take a hit when you open a new card.  Your score will drop if the balance of the new card is over 30% of the card’s limit.  Not to worry, making your payments on time will negate this penalty soon enough.

Here is another credit score consideration:

In order to minimize the risk of running up debt, many people close their old account after the balance transfer is completed.

This is wise and it is what we usually recommend.

But there is one exception:

If you’re going to be applying for a home loan in the near future, it’s probably smarter to keep the old account open because closing accounts usually hurt your credit score.

Final credit score consideration:

Closing accounts with zero balance will actually raise your credit utilization percentage, the amount of balance you carry versus the amount of credit you have available to you.

The truth is, the lower your credit utilization – the better your credit score will be.  So, closing your old card could hurt your credit score.

That’s not all.

Closing an old account may hurt your length of credit history, which can also negatively affect your score.

In other words, closing your first credit card account may hurt the length of credit history and, consequently, your score.  Conversely, closing a more recent account would not affect your score in this way.

Bottom line?

If you’re not getting a mortgage anytime soon, you probably shouldn’t worry about the credit hit too much.

Paying off debt, and staying out of debt, are the bigger, more important goals here.

Late payments can kill your APR

Sadly, that enticing 0% promotional interest rate can be lost in the blink of an eye.  All it takes is one late payment.

Read the disclosures carefully to make sure you understand the terms of a credit card offer.  The card issuers often have the sright, to not only end the introductory period but also to hit you with a hefty penalty APR, usually in the staggering neighborhood of 30%.

You are exposing yourself to potentially more debt

As I mentioned before, the banks are betting that you won’t be able to resist making more purchases and racking up more debt.

So if you’re going to do a balance transfer, vow to yourself that you are doing so strictly to help you pay off your debt.

Cut up your cards, or hide them in a safe place, so you won’t be tempted to use them for impulse buys.

Should you get a balance transfer credit card?

Transferring your debt to a 0% interest credit card only makes sense if the purpose is to pay down debt.

Even then, there are pros and cons to consider when deciding if you should or should not get a balance transfer credit card.

The Bottom Line About Balance Transfer Pros and Cons

The truth is, if you’re considering transferring a credit card balance for any other reasons besides saving money and getting out of debt faster, you probably should not do it.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the balance transfer is all that needs to be done to get your finances back on track.  If you don’t have a plan to pay down debt and stay out of debt, a balance transfer card will probably be counter-productive and lead to more debt.

But the bottom line is this:

When it’s done the right way as part of a debt reduction plan, and only after you have run the numbers and read the terms and disclosures, a balance transfer credit card can be a very effective tool to save money and pay off debt faster.

Like it?  Share it!

Was this article helpful?  If so, please consider sharing it so that others can benefit from it too.  Thanks!

Related: Busted! The Myths of Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Pay Off Credit Cards Sooner With Bi-Weekly Payments (Saves $1000’s)

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5 Printable Budget Planners That Can Save Your Finances (and Your Sanity)!

5 printable budget planners that make budgeting a breeze
the #1 tool to simplify your monthly budget
the secret shortcut to making the perfect budget
how to make a rock solid budget
5 printable budget planners to save your finances

The top 5 budgeting methods turned into simple and easy printable budget planners. Just print & go!

I find that so many times, I read about a good idea, something I want to try, and I end up making it a lot harder than it needs to be! I see a recipe for the best bread to make with kiddos, and I go out and try to figure out how to get the grain to grind into flour to make the bread!

Drastic? Yes! Just plain silly? Yes! I make things a lot harder than I need to. Just buy the dang flour! We will get great results from using regular flour.

Do you ever make things harder than they need to be?

The same example could be used for budgeting, and specifically the actual budget planner. People grab spiral notebooks, scratch paper, napkins, or whatever to write it all down. They think it’s great and tell themselves budgeting is easy. Then they realize through the month that their budget is missing a bunch of things, and the layout doesn’t make sense, and before you know it…

“I hate budgeting! It doesn’t work for me!”  

When in all actuality, you just had to go a bit deeper and find a printable budget planner (aka just buy the flour). These are already tried and tested forms from money nerds who might be slight perfectionists when it comes to their nerdom. Now that you found the budget templates, you need to find the best budget planner to get started on today!

5 printable budget planners to save your sanity

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

Why are there different budgeting methods?

Just as someone likes to read a book, others like to read magazines or in their kindle app. Some people like strict guidelines, and others like some wiggle room. It’s all personal preference and what works for your personal situation.

As a budgeting beginner, you may want to try a few different budgeting methods and see what you find to be the best.

The information you put on the form will be the same dollar amounts. Yet, it will be in a different layout with different budget planners, with importance placed on different elements.

For example, some budgets place saving money as a priority, and some don’t. With some, you spend your money in cash, and with others, you can use whatever you want.

Having options ensures that you will find the best fit for you!

What makes a monthly budgeting planner the “best”?

Some key things make a method the “best” for you. But remember, it may not be the best for your friend. So don’t try to force something that isn’t working for you!

Your budget planner should…

  • Be on one page so you can see everything at once (don’t overcomplicate it).
  • Have you come out to $0 at the end of the month or a positive number. Constantly overspending your budget isn’t good.
  • Be tweaked! Nothing is a perfect fit on the first try. It may take you a few months to get all the kinks smoothed out.
  • Not confuse you or be too complicated. If it takes you half a day to plan your budget, then something isn’t right.
  • Reflect your financial goals! If your goal is to save to buy a house, then why is your clothing budget $200 a month?

When should you switch budgeting methods?

It’s time to try a different method when…

  • You are hating your money life
  • You have no idea what’s going on with your money
  • You are constantly overspending

That will be the key with all of the budgets! That you come out at the end of the month with a $0 or a positive number! If you are continually overspending, it may not be a “budget problem,” but an “I want everything” issue that you’d need to dig in to.

Heck, it would be great to afford everything that we wanted, but that’s probably not possible for 99.9999998% of us!  (dang it!)

Remember, almost every budget will need to be tweaked and adjusted. Nothing comes out perfect the first time! By month 3, you should have it down (if it’s a good method for you).

Sometimes you don’t need to switch budgeting methods, you just need to switch out your tools. A great tool can be a physical budget planner, like the mini books, or folios. These planners help guide down a path, and can be a great resource to help broaden your financial perspective!

Simple monthly printable budget planner

The simple monthly budget planner is as simple & easy as it gets in regards to a printable budget planner. You take income minus savings, minus debt repayments, minus the items you must spend, and then you have your discretionary spending.

There aren’t any preset spending categories to confuse you or add fluff. The main point being you lead the way with specific expenditures and savings buckets!

All you need to do is make sure that the bottom left-hand section, the Monthly Budget Snapshop, has a positive number (or $0) as the last number in the actual column.  

simple budget printable budget planner pages

Cash envelope printable budget planner

Earlier, I mentioned financial goals, and if you those, you most likely will need to be saving money. My very favorite way to save money is through sinking funds!  One of the easiest ways to do this is through cash envelopes!

In a nutshell, you say, “I want to go on vacation.” So each payday, you portion out a set amount of money directly into your vacation fund (a separate bank account ideally). Then in a few months or a year, depending on where you want to go, you will have the money saved! Sinking Funds use a Pay Yourself First model, as you pay your sinking funds before paying any discretionary bills. Here, your goals are your most important financial obligation!

The cash envelope printable budget planner for sinking funds considers this. The very first section, after your income, are your SF’s! This is important, as you want your must spends at the top of the list (while there’s money left), and then the least important expenses are down at the bottom of the list.

I know this goes against traditional budgeting methods, where you pay your bills first. But honestly, if that were working so well, then 37% of Americans wouldn’t be in credit card debt (source).

If you want a different result, you need to try a new way of doing things!

cash envelope printable budget planner pages

The zero-based budget planner

The zero-based budget method is the method that I personally use for my family. I have combined a bunch of different practices into this one method, and it absolutely works! I have detailed the process out more in Part 4 of your Ultimate Guide on How to Budget – it’s a Better Budget.

**If you want the full step by step guide, the Better Budget is what you’ll want. But if you’re looking for just a zero-based budget form (with no step by step guide) then this works great!

With a zero-based budget, as the money guru, Dave Ramsey says, “You give every dollar a job!” Because each and every dollar could be earning you money or putting you closer to your goals! No sense in leaving money out there to do nothing!

This printable budget planner lays out the most common spending categories, which is great as then you don’t forget any of your bills (either regular or one-off bills, like an Amazon subscription or your gym annual fee).  

You start with income and then work your way down the line until you have everything filled out. This form has the spending categories and line items set up in a very specific order. The items at the top are things you must spend money on. As you go down the list and get to the bottom, the items are more non-necessity expenses (aka things to cut if you don’t have enough money).

Then at the very bottom of the sheet, your total should be $0. If it’s negative, then check your math; if it’s not positive or zero a second time, then it’s time to trim the budget! If it’s a positive number, then putting extra in your savings is always a good idea! Especially if you don’t have a fully-funded emergency account.

zero based budget printable budget planner

Again, if you’re looking for the full meal deal of budgets (with all the bells & whistles) then go here to check out the Better Budget!

The 50/30/20 printable budget planner

The 50/30/20 Budget Planner is a great method to start with, especially if you’re just getting started with budgeting and want a general picture of where your money “should” be going. I say should because this is a framework that multiple experts agree upon.

Yes, it’s your money, you earned it, so you should be able to do what you want with it. Yet, you came here for guidance, so I’m going to give you the generally accepted norms for budgeting percentages.

With the 50/30/20 budget, you like a framework but still want flexibility.  

You input your monthly take-home income at the top (not gross) and then dole out…

50% for needs 

  • housing
  • utilities
  • insurance
  • debt minimum payments
  • food

30% for wants

  • subscriptions
  • gym
  • eating out
  • clothes

20% for savings

  • 401(k)
  • IRA
  • emergency fund
50/30/20 budget printable budget planner pages

The budget by paycheck printable budget planner

The budget by paycheck planner method is simply dividing your month (the income, bills & expenses) in two. Instead of a full one month budget, you have two mini month budgets (approx 2 weeks).

Unlike the others, this method may mean that you call some of your credit cards and bill companies and ask them to move your bill “due by date.” Which is totally common! Don’t think that you are stuck with the exact date they gave you!  

With this method, you would ideally take your total bill amount for the entire month and have 1/2 of them (by dollar amount, not by the number of bills) due at the beginning of the month and then half at the end of the month. This way, you always have money left over from paying bills, and you never have too much month left and not enough money.  

I know it can sound confusing, but having a monthly calendar and writing in your bills can make it much easier to understand. Remember, we all learn in different ways! Be it auditory (reading this blog out loud so you can hear it), simply reading it, by watching someone else do it, or by actively doing it (kinesthetic learning).  

Sometimes, if a concept is confusing at first, I will read it a few times. Then do something else for a few hours (or a few days) and let it marinate in my brain a bit. In the background of doing other things, my brain continues to process this info, and eventually (hopefully), when I come back to it, it makes more sense. OR, I think of a different way to ask my question, which pops up a new and different answer!

budget by paycheck printable budget planner pages

My best advice on which is the best budget planner

If you’re brand new to budgeting and don’t have an immediate need (aka bank collectors are at your door), then try the 50/30/20. It’s a great place to start because it gives good common-sense guidelines on spending amounts by a percentage of your income.

Yet, if you’ve tried budgeting before, and ended up frustrated and annoyed, then maybe it wasn’t a “you” problem. Maybe it was just the budgeting method you tried. Remember, even those that find the “right” way for them have to do it still do a decent amount of tweaking in the first three months, and then they find a rhythm and pattern.

An easy way to find the best budget planner is to try them all! Seriously, just grab the printable Budget Planner Sampler Pack, grab your financial numbers, fill out the printable budget planners, and see which form…

  • Makes the most sense to you
  • One that you will be likely to stick to in the long run
  • Isn’t too complicated for your lifestyle
  • Keeps your financial goals up in front

The printable Beginning Budgeter’s Planner Sampler Pack has each of these budget templates in there so you can try them out. I’ve made this pack so it would be super easy for you to experiment with budgeting and finally find the right fit. I fully believe in the corny saying…

“If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.”   (ya, super corny, but it fits!)

beginning budgeter's budget sample pack printable budget pages

For the DIY budgeters

I get it, I totally do. Sometimes you just need to put pen to paper and scratch it out on your own. Yet, you can still grab my free budgeting templates, which has 13 pages of free printable worksheets for you to get started!

At the end of the day

Budgeting can be hard initially, especially when you feel like you don’t “get it.” But I am living proof that anyone can learn about and master their money! (I used to buy shoes like they were tic tacs!) I found some ways that worked for me, Googled a bunch of stuff, I used available resources, and I practiced and practiced some more!

Again, there’s no need to make things harder than they need to be. Be smart and use things that others have already worked the kinks out of! Using a printable budget planner could mean that you get the hang of things 6 months sooner, and you reach your financial goals that much sooner! So do it! Buy the dang flour! 

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It doesn’t matter which printable monthly budget planner you try, just start! Start right now!