Strategic Shopping by Store

In the months since the new FitFin app launched, I’ve had fun leveraging the data on my receipts to spot-check how much items cost at different stores. And I’ve been surprised in several instances. For example, I buy a 3-liter bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice every week, and that bottle costs $5.28 at Walmart. What was surprising is that the exact same product costs $4.19 at Target! Even more surprising is that the exact same product costs $6.39 at our local Kroger grocery store! If I consistently bought that item at Target each week, I would save $56.58 in a year on that one product versus what I spend at Walmart. And I’d save $114.40 buying it at Target versus buying it at Kroger. And that’s just on one product!

Other items were just as surprising. For example, we buy a lot of Dial antibacterial hand soap, and we’ve found that it costs $1.69 at Target, $1.47 at Walmart, and $1.29 at our Kroger grocery store. However, it’s often 10 for $10 at Kroger. Since we usually buy about eight at a time, by intentionally purchasing it at the Kroger store, we save $3.76 when buying it there vs. Walmart, and $5.52 vs. Target. And Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon costs $2.98 at Walmart and $3.29 at Target. Since we buy three at a time, we’re saving $0.93 just by buying it at Walmart.

Now I’m not saying that it’s always practical to drive all over town each week to buy different products at different places, but I am now conscious that if I’m at a certain store, to buy some of those products that have been highlighted as cheaper by FitFin.

To compare prices within the app, just click on the My Items icon in the footer menu, then go to Item Search and search for that item name. Note that in order to maximize this tool’s effectiveness, it’s best to rename item names since they’ll most likely have odd/different names on each store’s receipt. For example, that bottle of cranberry juice is named “Ocean Spray” on the Target receipt, and “100 CRANBRY” on Walmart’s. For consistency, I rename them the same (it literally takes two seconds to rename them once I’ve done it once because it pulls up names from memory).

As you can see by the three examples I’ve shown, by being strategic with where I buy products, I can save a pretty decent chunk of change. And that’s just three items!

Check out how this and other cool features work by going to http://www.fitfin.com, and download either the iOS or Android app and start strategically saving!

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New year, new way to manage your spending

I know that using the new year as a metaphor for a new beginning is a bit cliché, but there may not be a better time to start to get a handle on your finances. If you’re like most of us, you probably overspent during the holidays, so financial stress may be on the brain. That’s probably reason enough for you to at least think twice about spending, but it’s also a perfect time because the new year is the start of a new taxing period. It’s also the time when health insurance deductibles start over, so you might be spending more on doctors visits and other health-related situations at the start of the year.  All these things can lead to the need for having more day-to-day cash at hand.

FitFin can help you with that because we help you put your money into three buckets: Your take home pay after taxes, your fixed costs (mortgage, rent, etc.), and your variable spending (groceries, going out to eat, etc.). By identifying the first two, it helps you calculate your “allowance” so that you know what you can spend on your day-to-day variable expenses. FitFin also uses the 50/30/20 budgeting rule, and as you’re calculating your buckets of money, FitFin automatically checks your percentages against the 50/30/20 model. Quick refresher of 50/30/20: 50% of your take home pay should go towards fixed costs, 30% towards your variable spending, and 20% towards saving and/or paying down debt.

Once you set up your budget, you then simply start tracking your spending by manually creating expenses (which takes about 10 seconds) or by taking pictures of your receipts. FitFin breaks down your receipt data to not only tell you what you spent at the macro level (i.e. $100.00 at Walmart), but it also tracks what you spent at the individual item level so that if you ever need to cut back on spending, you can see exactly where your money goes! You can also compare prices for the things you buy at different stores!

And since you’ll now know what you spend for a box of Cap’n Crunch at Target, you can actually take that information to build a spend-predictive shopping list.  So, for example, if that box of cereal costs $3.99 at Target, you can put the item name and it’s price right into your shopping list, so that each item you put on your list has a price that will tally up an expected spend total. Then you can check that against your budget in real-time, before you even go to the store.  This is proactive budgeting!

Check out our How It Works page on our site for more detail. Now is a great time to give FitFin a try!

Do you know what you’re spending?

According to a recent study by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, almost half of Americans spend more than or equal to what they make each month. That leaves very little wiggle room for emergency savings, let alone long-term financial planning.

Do you know where you fall into this mix?  Many people don’t know because they don’t track their spending. CNBC estimates that only one in three people do this.

Spend tracking isn’t difficult.  All it takes is a little discipline and a few seconds.  Spend tracking with FitFin can be done in two ways: 1. By entering a manual expense, which takes about 10 seconds, and 2. By taking pictures of your receipts, which takes about 20-30 seconds. Entering manual expenses will allow you to track things at a macro level (i.e. I spent $153.80 at Walmart), while taking pictures of your receipts will allow you to track at both a macro and a micro level (i.e. I spent $153.80 at Walmart and $19.96 of it was on k-cups, $14.98 on a new basketball, etc.).

When tracking at the micro/product level, you’ll be able to see exactly where your money goes.  This comes in handy when you need to cut $150.00 from your monthly spending. You can simply go to your FitFin app and look at your Spend By Product report to determine where to make cuts.

To learn more about what FitFin can do, check out our “How It Works” page here.

Americans still aren’t budgeting

According to a 2017 study done by U.S. Bank, only 41% of Americans use a budget.  That means that almost 60% of us don’t have a spending plan. And for those 41% who do budget, I often wonder how much they actually review it.

FitFin’s budgeting feature is unique because your budget naturally becomes a part of your daily routine since it’s integrated into your shopping routine. You’ll see it several times a week because each time you use your shopping list or access your receipts, the first thing you’ll see is your budget.

FitFin also uses the 50/30/20 rule of budgeting, and it’s automatically built into the tool! What’s 50/30/20, you ask? There are different variations of the rule, and FitFin’s philosophy is that 50% of your take home pay (after taxes) should go towards your fixed costs (mortgage, rent, car payments, etc.), 30% towards your variable expenses (grocery, dining out, entertainment, etc.), and 20% towards savings and/or paying down debt.

New users to FitFin can set up their comprehensive budget in 5-10 minutes, and FitFin automatically calculates your percentages of fixed costs to your take home pay, then does the same for your variable expenses to give you an idea of how you stack up against the 50/30/20 rule.  This video shows you the process.

And remember that FitFin is a unique budgeting tool because it’s PROACTIVE. FitFin’s shopping lists actually predict what you’re going to spend and allow you to check that prediction against your budget in real time, before you shop.

Check us out at fitfin.com.  From here, you can learn more about how the app works, download our Android and iOS apps, watch our how-to videos, and much more!

Don’t throw away that receipt!

Okay, I admit it . . .  receipts are annoying. They clutter up our tables, fall onto the floors of our cars, and are generally a pain.  But think about all of the great information that’s on a receipt! Receipts can tell us when and where we shop, but with FitFin, they can also tell us EXACTLY what we buy.  Over time, that can give you a deeper level of insight into your spending. All this is done by simply snapping pictures of your receipts.  How easy is that?

FitFin has special technology that allows for receipts to be broken down to the product level so you know what you bought and how much it cost, which you can then track against your overall budget. But it does much more than just track the total amount spent.  It also helps you track how many times you purchase individual products, how much your aggregate spend is for those products over time, and it also lets you know where products are cheapest! Want to know if the coffee you’re buying at Walmart is really cheaper than Target? FitFin can help with that!

FitFin also stores receipts, so that you no longer have a George Constanza wallet or a desk that looks like Dunder Mifflin exploded on top of it. Once a digital image of a receipt is stored inside the FitFin app, you can easily retrieve it by store name, date, receipt amount, or even by a keyword on the receipt! So let’s say you always buy groceries at Walmart, but one time you bought a new smart TV.  You can tag that receipt so that if you need to find that one Walmart receipt with the TV purchase on it, it’s as simple as searching it by word.  And you have the power to rename the keyword so that if the smart TV you bought actually reads SMRTTV or something funky on a receipt (as is sometimes the case), you can call it whatever you want so it’s easy to find.  How cool is that?

And it’s all as simple as snapping a picture of your receipt! Check out this video that shows the process in detail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFcXeZLuaW4&t=42s

Download FitFin on Android or on  iOS.

Happy snapping!

Got paper receipts? Manage them with FitFin!

Shopping receipts suck. They’re nasty little pieces of paper that fall between the consul and seat of your car, or get stuck to the bottom of your sweaty water bottle.  They get washed in your jeans, turning into pocket paper mache. Or they bulge your wallet to the thickness of a Stephen King novel. They overtake your purse, becoming paper cut hazards when you search for your keys. Receipts pile up everywhere: on counters and desks . . . wadded up reminders of your spending habits. While they overtake your space, it seems like once you actually need a specific receipt, it’s nowhere to be found. Misplaced receipts probably end up in the same hidden vortex as lost socks and long-gone remote controls.

I’ve misplaced my fair share of receipts, or kept them stuffed in a drawer. But thanks to FitFin (www.fitfin.com), I can now find them in just a few seconds.

FitFin allows me to take a picture of my receipt with my smartphone and save it for later retrieval.  A couple days ago I took a pair of shoes back to Famous Footwear using my receipt that was saved in FitFin. The shoes were purchased a couple months ago and before FitFin, I never would have kept the receipt.  Or if I had kept it, I would have had to comb through a shoebox of receipts, probably losing interest and deciding to forget it before it was ever found. But because of FitFin, I was able to find the receipt in a few seconds.  I handed my phone to the salesperson and she replaced the shoes with no questions asked. I have also accessed receipts to take items back to other places.

Emailed receipts are also becoming more common. Now when I get a receipt emailed to me, I take a screenshot of it and add it into FitFin. This is done in just a matter of seconds when adding an expense. By doing this, I get the receipt out of my email inbox and it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of the dozens of emails I get each day. And since receipt capture is part of the expense process, not only can I keep the receipt, but I can track my spending at the same time.  Win-win!

It’s really easy to track/expense and save a receipt. I usually do it right when I get into my car so I don’t have to worry about it later. And since I have my budget set up in FitFin, the expense tracks against my budget automatically and I now have a permanent place for the receipt. All in just seconds!

If you don’t currently have a good way to keep and access receipts, give FitFin a try. It’s free and only takes a few seconds to sign up at www.fitfin.com.

Now the only thing you have to worry about is what to do with all that extra counter space.

Beating boredom this summer (without breaking your wallet)

Ah, Summer.  That time of year where the days are long, the nights are warm, and life is carefree.  That is until boredom sets in . . .

There are only so many days one can lounge around the house before the thirst for more sets in.  That’s when things can get expensive.  This is especially true if you have kids.  So what to do?  Here are five ideas on how to beat summer boredom without beating your budget to death.

1. Visit your local library.  Did you know that just over half of Americans have visited a library in the past year?  Libraries certainly aren’t as sexy as other places, but there’s no better value around!  In addition to thousands of books, most libraries lend movies (even popular ones), music, and other media.  If you haven’t been to the library in a while, just go one time, and see if it appeals to you and your kids.  If it does, consider making it a weekly trip.  Also let your kids get their own library card.  This will teach them about responsibility.

2. Volunteer.  Volunteering is great for adults and kids for many reasons.  Volunteering helps us learn new skills, build new friendships, develop compassion, learn about business, etc.  It may also ignite an interest in kids that will carry into adulthood.   Places where both adults and kids can volunteer include nursing homes, animal shelters, soup kitchens, children’s hospitals, and much more.  This will help us all appreciate what we have, while making us feel good about ourselves.  A simple Google search can get you on your way!

3. Create a play date circle.  If your kids have neighborhood friends who have families that you know and trust, consider starting a play date circle.  For example, if there are four kids, each week one family hosts the kids at their house, then it rotates the next week.  It’s a great way for kids to have new experiences, to see how other families operate, and to share their house/family with their friends.

4. Start your own sports/game league.  If you have a lot of kids in your neighborhood who like sports, have them get together once a week at the local park to just play.  Football, dodgeball, basketball, it doesn’t matter.  Just get them running.  Even better, let them come up with the games and the rules on their own.  It will teach them about organization and self-governance.  Don’t forget the water and sunscreen!

5. Experience nature.  I’m fortunate enough to live in Colorado, with mountains-a-plenty.  But no matter where you live, there’s surely interesting terrain.  Ask around town some good spots to explore (a local Facebook group is another great resource, as is Google).  There are probably dozens of great places for you and your kids to explore and learn about!

Need more ideas?  A simple Google search of “free or cheap things to do this summer with kids” will probably give you enough to do to keep you busy!  Of course, a little ice cream here and there can’t hurt either.