Infographic: 6 Tips for Successful Money Management

September 25, 2017 by Kyle
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(Sponsored Post: Those of you who read my blog from time to time already know I don’t do sponsored posts, like ever. But this money management infographic came along recently from the folks at PSECU, a Pennsylvania credit union, and I thought it was really useful info for those trying to save money or get out of debt. I especially like the idea of Step 4, finding “money leaks” in your life.

I’d definitely add the tip of negotiating lower bills with companies like Verizon, AT&T, DirecTV, and Comcast. You’re probably overspending on these bills and “leaking” a bunch of money. Anyways, on to the post, hope you get something out of it like I did.)

Are you tired of living paycheck to paycheck? Managing your money effectively doesn’t have to be complicated. With a few easy steps, you can get your finances under control and begin intentionally using your money to build wealth instead of just hoping you have enough each month to balance out.

PSECU, a Pennsylvania credit union, created this six-step formula for successful money management infographic that breaks down how to get your finances in order.

Creating a Budget to Help Manage Your Money

A good budget breakdown consists of three categories: Savings or paying off debt (20%), needs (50%) and wants (30%). Yes, there is room for shopping in the budget.

First, get a good grasp on where your money is currently going. This is easy to do with apps like Mint or you can do it the old fashion way with pen and paper.

If you’re spending is over in one of the three main categories mentioned above, figure out which items might not be necessary for that area. Maybe you have a music subscription you never use or perhaps you’re overpaying for your insurance. Try to cut it down to fit within the percentages allotted.

If you have a lot of credit card or student debt, consider putting a little extra money towards that section of your budget so you can pay it off faster.

If you prefer a more detailed budget, breakdown your categories further as shown on the pie chart in the below infographic. You can even put the dollar amount next to it so you know exactly how much is going out each month.

Have extra money? Consider putting towards retirement or save up for a fun vacation or that dream car.

Here is the handy infographic that PSECU provided on money management:

Money Management Infographic

Ask the Reader: What’s your best money management tip?

By Kyle James

The DSW Return Policy: Insider Tips to Make It Rock Your Shoe Closet

September 22, 2017 by Kyle
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The DSW return policy is turning lots of heads these days. Not only do they give you a bunch of days before you have to return your shoes, but they even let you basically order online and “try them on” at home completely risk-free. Here’s everything you need to know about the current Designer Shoe Warehouse return policy before you buy your next pair of shoes, boots, or sandals.

DSW Return Policy: Everything You Need to Know

The DSW Return Policy Nitty Gritty:

How Many Days Do I Have to Return Stuff?

60 days…NO questions asked.

Just bring your “unworn” shoes (more on this below) back to a DSW location with your receipt and original box and they’ll take care of you.

For an online orders, just use the FedEx return shipping label that comes with your purchase.

They’ll either give you an exchange, or refund your money back to your original form of payment (including PayPal).

What Happens After 60 Days?

Not a problem.

Just bring your shoes back in and they’ll simply give you store credit that can be used online or in-store.

The same goes for online purchases. Just mail back your order with the return shipping label (included in your package) and they’ll give you merchandise credit.

See Also: 17 Stores That Let You Return Used Items for a Full Refund

What If I Lost My DSW Receipt?

Fortunately, you still have an option.

You can bring your item into the store and get a merchandise credit to be used on your next purchase.

Be aware that since DSW does NOT have evidence of the amount you paid, you’ll have to settle for the current price of the shoes, boots, or sandals.

As is the case with most retailers these days, DSW tracks your returns in order to prevent fraud.  They track your returns via a single valid ID which includes your driver’s license, passport, military ID, or state issued photo ID card.

What About Returning or Exchanging Shoes I Bought on

OK, now this is where the DSW return policy gets AWESOME.

You can basically buy as many pairs of shoes as you want from their website, and as long as your order total is over $35, you can return or exchange them all for FREE if you like. Just make sure you do it within 60 days.

If your order total is under $35, you’ll have to pay a return shipping fee via FedEx of $8.50 plus tax.

An exchange works just like a return but with a new order being produced and mailed to you automatically.

Just follow the instructions on the FedEx return shipping label that comes with your original order to make it all happen.

This policy is outstanding as it allows you to order multiple sizes and styles completely RISK FREE and try them out in the comfort of your own home.

This policy seemed too good to be true so I started a chat session with DSW to verify this info….and YES, it’s ALL true.

Can I Wear the Shoes (Test Them Out) Before Returning Them?

I also asked the DSW rep this question and was surprised by the answer as their policy states that shoes must be “unworn”.

The rep told me the following, “We will take them back if you have worn them lightly (as far as testing them out.) We just won’t accept a worn pair if that makes sense. As far as a defective pair, we would certainly make that right for you!”

So I read that to mean that you can wear the shoes in your home all day long to test them out, and still return them for free.

Wear them outside for an extended period of time and scuff the soles and they might not take them back.

What If I’m Returning a Gift?

When returning a gift, be aware that you’ll have to settle for merchandise credit to be used toward a future purchase.

Also, when returning something bought with a DSW Rewards certificate you’ll be refunded only the final purchase price.

What About Canadian Orders?

You cannot return orders made at a DSW Canada store or website to a U.S. store or website.

You must visit or contact a DSW Canada store to make an exchange or return happen.

Ask the Reader: What’s been your experience with the DSW return policy?

By Kyle James

Photo by Mike Mozart.

TJ Maxx Return Policy: Tips and Tricks to Make It Work For You

September 20, 2017 by Kyle
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The TJ Maxx return policy is both loved and hated at the same time. It’s loved because they’ll take back most items even after the return window has closed. It’s hated because they can be a bit stingy on taking back items that have been washed, even when there is nothing malicious going on. Let’s break down their return policy fully, along with some hacks to make it really work for you in the future.

TJ Maxx Return Policy: Tips and Tricks to Make It Work For You

How Many Return Days Does TJ Maxx Give Me?

30 days. You have 30 days from the date of purchase to bring back any items to a TJ Maxx location for a return or exchange.

After 30 days, returns with a receipt (and often without a receipt too) will be given store credit for the item’s current price.

Is a Receipt Required for a Return?

The TJ Maxx official line is this, “To make your returns quicker and easier please keep your receipt.”

But having a receipt in hand is NOT a requirement for a return. In most cases, they’ll happily give you store credit when you don’t have your receipt.

To make a return happen without a receipt you’ll need to provide a government issued photo ID, name, signature, and address.

They collect this information to track your returns and make sure you don’t abuse their return policy.

See Also: 9 Killer Ways to Shop Smart and Save Money at TJ Maxx

Can I Return Something That I Washed?

This one gets a bit tricky.

Their official policy is NOT to accept returns on items that have been worn or washed.

But if you plead your case, the manager will often agree to the return. This is especially true for items that shrunk badly in the wash or lost most of their color.

You might need to be the squeaky wheel to make this happen.

A word of warning: Know exactly what you’re buying and wash it in accordance to the label instructions so you don’t have to deal with this issue.

How Do I Return an Online Order?

You have 2 options. You can either return items in-store or via UPS.

  • In-Store Returns: Completely free to return online orders in-store. Just bring items back to your local TJ Maxx with your receipt, packing slip, or shipping confirmation email.
  • Return via Mail: This is gonna cost you a $9.99 shipping and handling fee. Be sure the item gets back to TJ Maxx via UPS before 30 days. Otherwise you’ll have to settle for merchandise credit. Your original package comes with a return shipping label.
  • Note: An exact exchange is NOT available when returning online orders via the mail. This is due to an ever-changing online inventory.

If you have a TJ Maxx in your area, you’re obviously much better off returning items in-store to avoid the return shipping fee. The only way they’ll waive the $9.99 fee is if the item is defective.

Any Items Not Eligible for a Return?

Yes, glad you asked.

  • Gift Cards: You can’t return them for cash, nice try though.
  • In-Store Purchases Can’t be Returned Online: Only online purchases can be returned via the mail.
  • Items over $1,000 Can’t Be Returned In-Store
  • Handbags priced over $499.99 Can’t Be Returned In-Store

I’ll add new items that are non-returnable as I discover them.

What About Returning Items with a Gift Receipt?

When returning items with a gift receipt, be aware that you’ll only get store credit or an exact exchange.

You won’t be given cash.

Do this after 30 days of purchase and you’ll be stuck with the current price of the item. Hopefully it won’t be on clearance as you’ll be stuck with the clearance price.

What is TJ Maxx’s Holiday Return Policy?

TJ Maxx has a very helpful holiday season return policy.

All purchases made between October 16th – December 24th can be returned through January 23rd of the following year.

TJ Maxx Return Policy Hacks:

Keep Tags on Items

Don’t take the tag off the item until you’re absolutely sure you want to keep it. This is because many stores will give you the price on the tag when making a return, no matter how long ago you made the purchase.

Swimwear & Lingerie Returns

The price tag must be “properly attached” to all swimwear and lingerie if you want to return it.

Not exactly sure what “properly attached” means. In any case, this is a health issue and this policy attempts to keep worn items off the rack.

Jewelry Returns

You’ll need to return jewelry items directly to the TJ Maxx jewelry counter. Because of this, you must return jewelry only to a location that actually carries jewelry.

Purchases Made with a Gift Card

When returning these purchases you’ll have to settle for store credit which can be used for both online and in-store purchases.

Purchases Made using PayPal

When using PayPal for an online order, you’ll be refunded via PayPal. For an in-store purchase, you’ll be refunded via a merchandise credit.

Ask the Reader: What’s been your experience with the TJ Maxx return policy?

By Kyle James

The 15 Best Things College Students Should Buy from Amazon

September 18, 2017 by Kyle
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Amazon is a great place for college students to shop. Great selection, competitive pricing, and a liberal 6-month free trial to Prime Student which scores you free 2-day shipping and other cool perks. So when I decided to find the best products on Amazon for college students, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Here are the fantastic (and affordable) products that I discovered. I’ll add more items to my list as I discover them.

14 Things All College Students Should Buy from Amazon

1. DecoBros Desk Supplies Organizer Caddy

DecoBros Desk Supplies Organizer Caddy

Keep your college dorm desk WAY organized with this cool organizer.

This sucker comes with 5 deep compartments and 2 shallow ones plus a cool little drawer that slides out.

For the price, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Price: $11.87

2. Prep Solutions Microwave S’mores Maker

Prep Solutions by Progressive Microwave S'mores Maker

Throw this bad boy in your dorm microwave and in 30 seconds you’re dining on the campfire favorite.

No parents + S’mores maker = A Great Life

Avoid the red colored one as it’s way more expensive than the brown one for some reason.

Price: $10.32

3. LED Desk Lamp Fugetek with 5V/1A USB Charging Port

LED Desk Lamp Fugetek with 5V/1A USB Charging Port<

This sleek lamp will not only light up your desk, but also give you a handy USB port for smartphone charging.

Plus, it folds down for handy storage and easy moving.

Price: $22.69

4. BottleLoft Magnetic Bottle Hanger, 2 Strip Pack (holds 6 bottles)

BottleLoft Magnetic Bottle Hanger

Yes, it’s kinda expensive, but this magnetic bottle holder will undoubtedly make your dorm room the talk of the hallway.

Plus it’s super handy and will free up a ton of space in your fridge for your other yummy goodies.

Price: $29.99

5. Dell Latitude E6430 14″ Notebook PC (Certified Refurbished)

Dell Latitude E6430 14

We bought this great little Windows 10 Dell laptop for our son last Christmas and have been VERY happy with it.

Yes, it’s refurbished, hence the lower price, but we have NOT had any problems with it. Plus it comes with a 1-year warranty if problems arise.

With 8GB of RAM and a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor this thing is a real speed demon.

It’s small and very portable with the 14″ inch HD (1366×768) Anti‐Glare LED‐backlit screen and great for taking to class or stowing in a backback to take to the coffee shop.

Price: $239.99

6. iMounTEK Home Security Steel Dictionary Book Safe

iMounTEK Home Security Steel Dictionary Book Safe

This very affordable book safe will come in very handy in your dorm room.

It’s key-locked and made of sturdy stainless steel. It also won’t lock automatically which will keep you from accidentally locking the keys inside.

The weight of the safe is very similar to that of an actual dictionary. Pretty cool.

Price: $11.99

7. Nice Goldie Cablekeep

Nice Goldie Cablekeep

How often have you lost your charging cable or charging block? If you’re like me, you’ve lost one of them at least 5 times in the past 3 years.

This cool  “cable keep” will keep your block and cord together plus add a little bit of personality to your phone as it comes in 6 different colors.

Price: $13

8. Royal 1.7L Cordless Hot Water Tea Kettle

Royal 1.7L Cordless Hot Water Tea Kettle

This kettle will look WAY sharp in your dorm room as it comes in a stainless steel design that lights up with a blue LED light when it’s on.

It boils water really quickly or heats it for coffee or tea. The reviews on Amazon are pretty stellar with an average ratings of 4 out of 5 stars with over 250 reviews.

Price: $33.70

9. Tihoo Mini Table Dust Vacuum Cleaner

Tihoo Mini Table Dust Vacuum Cleaner

This cool portable desk vacuum is wireless and will keep your desk free of crumbs, dust, and other junk like cigarette ash and eraser residue.

For under $10, it’ll keep your work space clean so you can focus on your studies.

Price: $9.99

10. Sofia + Sam Lap Desk/Cushion with USB Light

Sofia + Sam Lap Desk with USB Light

Before you ask, it also comes in black.

This cool laptop cushion supports laptops up to 17″ and makes for a comfortable way to work when sitting on your bed or floor.

The LED light is also super handy for poor lighting situations.

Price: $39.99

11. Cookin Caddy “Over the Fridge” Storage Organizer

Cookin Caddy - Over the Fridge Storage Organizer

Every dorm room needs extra space and this fridge caddy does exactly that.

Use it for plates, silverware, snacks, condiments, beer, whatever you want. It’ll help free up space for sure, especially if you plan on using the top of your refrigerator as shelf space.

Price: $14.88

12. AmazonBasics 5-Piece Bed-In-A-Bag – Twin/Twin Extra-Long

AmazonBasics 5-Piece Bed-In-A-Bag - Twin/Twin Extra-Long

For less than $40 you get a comforter, flat sheet, fitted sheet, sham, and pillowcase.

Oh, and it’s really high quality for the money with an average Amazon customer rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

They have a bunch of different colors and designs as well.

Price: $38.99

13. Igloo FR100 Fridge, 1.7 cu. ft.

Igloo FR100 Fridge, 1.7 cu. ft

Every dorm room can use a fridge and this one from Igloo is the best value on Amazon.

You’ll be hard pressed to find one with more cubic feet of storage for under $75…anywhere.

Price: $74

14. AmazonBasics Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Large)

AmazonBasics Large Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Why spend over $150 for a similar speaker from Bose or Beats when you can get this one at this price.

And…according to the Amazon reviews, this speaker sounds just as good.

AmazonBasics are really producing quality tech products in recent months and this speaker is a great example.

Price: $55.99

15. Protege C100M Classical Guitar with Gig Bag and Tuner

Protege by Cordoba C100M Full Size Classical Guitar

And lastly, I strongly recommend you grab this quality guitar and learn a few cool songs.

This Protege guitar is an Amazon exclusive and a fantastic value for the money.

Girls love a guy who can strum a few tunes plus playing a guitar is a great stress reducer on those days when you gotta study all night long.

Price: $131

Important Note for Students: Be sure to sign-up for your free 6-month Amazon Prime Student membership. You’ll get FREE 2-day shipping for 6 months and then get Prime for 50% off after that.

By Kyle James

All image credits to

Disclaimer: While all opinions are my own, I get a small kickback from Amazon if you go through the links on this page and make a purchase. Also, be aware that Amazon prices fluctuate often so the prices I have posted may be a little different than current pricing.

Walmart Forcing You to Use Your Savings Catcher Balance

September 15, 2017 by Kyle
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I’m a big fan of Walmart’s Savings Catcher app which allows you to scan your Wally World receipts and get money back if they find a lower price from local competitors. I was actually working on building my balance to $100 so I could buy a new Bluetooth speaker.

So I was a bit surprised yesterday when I got an email from Walmart telling me that my Savings Catcher balance was going to be forced […] Continue Reading…

This Is How I Score Free Starbucks 3 Days Per Week (Oh, and It’s WAY Easy)

September 14, 2017 by Kyle
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Ever since I discovered Toluna, I don’t pay a cent for my Starbucks addiction. I stop by S’Bucks at least 3 times per week for a Venti caramel iced coffee and use my free gift card every time. By the way, if coffee isn’t your thing Toluna has a bunch of other gift cards available. Here’s how Toluna works so you can do it too.

How Exactly Does Toluna Work?
It’s pretty simple really. You take […] Continue Reading…

The College Student’s Guide to Ibotta (8 Ways the App Helps You Save Money)

September 11, 2017 by Kyle

Couponing and instant rebate apps like Ibotta are no longer just for soccer moms and grandparents living on a fixed income. New features on the Ibotta app actually make it a great money-saving tool for any college student. From saving on food, travel, entertainment, and clothing, the app has you covered and can easily save a student hundreds of dollars per year.

The best part is that Ibotta is currently offering a $10 Welcome Bonus […] Continue Reading…

Amazon Credit Card Review: Prime Rewards Visa Card (Use It To Get Prime for Free)

September 5, 2017 by Kyle
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When the new Amazon credit card, via Chase Bank, was recently announced I knew it was something I’d want to apply for. This was especially true after I checked out all of the cards benefits and figured out that the card would basically pay for my annual $99 Prime membership every year. The credit card is officially called the Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and here’s what you need to know.

Amazon Credit Card Review:
Here are some of […] Continue Reading…

How Amazon Buying Whole Foods is Reducing Your Grocery Bill

August 31, 2017 by Lauren
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[Hey guys! Today I’m proud to bring on Lauren Keys from to give us the scoop on what Amazon buying Whole Foods means for your pocketbook, especially if you’re a Prime member. Thanks Lauren!]

The news about Whole Foods Market joining the Amazon family of brands had every media outlet on edge to see what this purchase could mean for consumers and the state of retail.

We took a look at several examples of the reported […] Continue Reading…

Staples Return Policy: How It Actually Works + Hacks for Success

August 29, 2017 by Kyle
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The Staples return policy seems fairly straight-forward at first glance, but in actuality it has a bunch of nuisances based on the item you’re buying and what form of payment you use. In this article, I break it all down so you’ll never have a problem returning something to Staples in the future. I also came up with some insider hacks for success that you’d need a magnifying glass to find on their return […] Continue Reading…