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Posts Tagged with “Saving Money”

 

The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.

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October 26th, 2017

20 Ways To Save Money As A Broke Entrepreneur

1. Take a day job for a couple of months until your startup makes enough to pay the bills. By keep going at a traditional job until your startup really takes off you’ll avoid additional stress and maybe even save money that you can invest in your business. Very few entrepreneurs rely on their business as a main source of income during the first one or two years. Some find it necessary to hold full-time or part-time jobs until their business reaches a safe financial threshold.

2. Find a cheap or free place to work if you need an office. In many cities, there are co-working spaces where you can either pay a monthly fee for a desk and your daily intake of coffee, or you can get a free spot in exchange for small services. Coffee shops are great places to go to when you need to get some work done, especially if they have a high-speed WiFi connection. Depending on where you live, your city might even have a free municipal wireless network available to residents and visitors.

3. Get a cheap place to stay. Most entrepreneurs prefer to live in cities known as powerful startup hubs but ironically, these cities are very costly in terms of rent. While some entrepreneurs who are not afraid to go too far might even choose to live in their car to save money, there are other less extreme alternatives. A great option, for example, is moving into a hostel, where you can still have a good night’s sleep at a very low cost, with some small sacrifices in comfort.

4. Get roommates. Saving on housing costs allows you to put more money into your venture. If you are single or if your partner is supportive of your idea, you can rent your spare rooms.

5. Make the most of the tax deductions. You can deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage interest and even utilities as a business expense. It is also possible to deduct a portion of the maintenance expenses and costs of services such as house cleaning.

6. If you value your comfort and your business requires your presence in the city, you can consider moving to an area where living costs are lower. In some cities, just moving to the next neighborhood can cut your monthly expenses significantly.

7. Choose to live and work remotely. The digital nomad movement has become a true trend among savvy entrepreneurs. Since Internet access is no longer an issue in many parts of the world, many entrepreneurs decide to relocate to cheaper places. It is easier than ever to work remotely.

8. When traveling for conferences or business events, you can save on your travel expenses by arriving a day earlier or extending your trip by a day. Since many people come to the city for the conference, this affects the flight and hotel costs. By avoiding the peak travel times, you will be able to find a cheaper flight and maybe even negotiate a better rate at a hotel.

9. Never pay cash for business expenses. When you buy things related to your business you should charge it to your business card, and include it with your tax documents when sending them to your accountant. By writing off expenses, you can save money on taxes, and instead, use that money to develop your business.

10. Sign up for free rewards programs when possible. Many credit card companies, banks, airline companies, and shops have rewards programs that you can sign up for free of charge. Some programs are great not just for your business expenses, but also for your personal needs. Over time, all the rewards and discounts add up, saving you a good chunk of money in a year or more of frequent use.

11. Barter products or services. A great business tool for centuries, barter has been regularized and taken under the control of the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA), which matches up companies willing to exchange goods or trade services. Bartering is a great way to keep your business going and save some money when the cash flow is weak.

12. Find employees willing to work for equity or deferred payments rather than a salary. This is a great way to keep costs low in the early stages of your business.

13. Partner with customers during your business launch. You can offer your key customers attractive deals they cannot ignore such as discounted pricing, special delivery, or other creative incentives. In exchange, ask them to pay before you deliver the product or service. If pre-payments are not possible, you can ask them for a long-term commitment to your product or service.

14. Outsourcing your work will save you a big chunk of money. Instead of paying fix costs you can pay a variable cost since you only use the service when you need it. Plus, you can negotiate, which can lead to great rates.

15. Work online from your home if there is no urgent need to establish an office. Depending on your business, both you and your employees can work online from any place where there is a high-speed Internet connection. This can also work as a long-term solution.

16. Whenever possible, borrow instead of renting or rent instead of buying. Whatever resources you need, it is possible to find great value for money if you accept used instead of new. You can score great deals by going to auctions or bankruptcy sales.

17. Use free or inexpensive software available online. You need programs to design your projects, track your expenses, and keep a database of your customers and fortunately, many business software programs offer free trial periods.

18. Promote your business online by researching your market on search engines and find potential clients on the Internet by checking specific groups, forums, or websites. The Internet is also a great way to communicate with your clients and to build a strong brand.

19. Visit a public library to educate yourselves on aspects of your business by gaining free access to massive amount of educational resources. Instead of paying for business books or courses, you can learn by yourself with just a bit of motivation.

20. Find a reliable partner. Having a co-founder contribute with his own skills and money is a great way to make your business take off when you struggle financially. By choosing a partner with a different set of skills than yours, you maximize their contribution and save money in the long run because you won’t have to pay for someone to do the things that yourself and your partner can do.

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August 26th, 2017

22 Interesting Ways Celebrities Stay Rich By Being Cheap

  1. Lebron James never turns on data roaming on his phone, he never buys apps, and he always gets the cheapest subscriptions. If he can save as little as $5, he will gladly do it. Sources suggest James gives minuscule tips. Surprising, coming from someone who signed a lifetime contract with Nike for approximately $1 billion.
  1. As someone who grew up in a family that struggled financially, Sarah Jessica Parker has some strict saving habits, such as collecting hand-me-downs from her older nephews to dress her children. Ironically, she is famous for her exquisite taste in fashion.
  1. With an incredible $200 million fortune, Leonardo DiCaprio stills owns a single car. It is not even a fancy sports car but a Toyota Prius. He also saves money by flying commercially instead of hiring private jets. Apparently, cheap and environmentally-friendly transportation is DiCaprio’s way of being frugal.
  1. To cut down on the costs of her lavish lifestyle, Madonna doesn’t give holiday bonuses to her staff, considering that working for her is a great luck in itself.
  1. Paul McCartney refused to pay for his daughter post-secondary school from his $800 million fortune. However, the most astonishing example of his frugality is asking his guests to pay for their own drinks at a party that McCartney hosted for his wife’s birthday.
  1. Besides publicly fighting with his ex-wife and stepchildren over money, Mick Jagger has had other episodes of stinginess. He was accused of trying to bargain with prostitutes, in the hopes of getting a better price.
  1. One of Lady Gaga’s unusual saving habits is collecting coupons, which she uses to pay for her groceries. She also confessed on Twitter that she always likes to bargain when shopping for clothes.
  1. Mark Zuckerberg likes to know exactly where each of his dollars is going and he has fought hotels even for insignificant charges on the bills. More than once, he declined to tip at restaurants. He is not generous but he is also not pretentious as he lives in a modest house and had his wedding in his own backyard.
  1. In stark contrast to his character from the “Fast and Furious” movies, Ludacris is very financially savvy and does not seem eager to spend his money on expensive sports cars. Actually, he drives an Acura that he bought in 1993.
  1. Usher cuts down on his expenses in rather embarrassing ways, according to multiple accounts from his fans. Notoriously a bad tipper, he once left his autograph to make up for not leaving an actual tip.
  1. In a world where weddings are a great opportunity for lavish spending and flaunting one’s money, Kristen Bell and her husband had an incredibly modest wedding that cost them $142, including the gas to get to the courthouse. This is not the sole example of Bell’s frugality. She admitted going in a $45 dress to a Hollywood gala. She also exclusively shops with discount flyers and coupons, for which she might go as far as to steal them out of her neighbors’ mailboxes.
  1. Despite her growing fortune and her dazzling public appearances, Zooey Deschanel does not like to spend her money on designer clothes, like most celebrities. She does not consider expensive things a measure of one’s style and is happy hunting good deals at thrift shops, where she is a frequent client.
  1. When not busy shooting “Game of Thrones”, Peter Dinklage takes personal care of his property in New York, even if it involves physical work. Instead of hiring a gardener, he bought a chainsaw to learn how to cut down branches by himself.
  1. Eric Clapton saves money in strange ways considering his $250 million net worth. He does this own laundry at laundromats and he always wears modest clothes such as old jeans, tennis shoes, and worn out jackets. Fancy or extravagant is not something he aims for.
  1. Despite earning $50 million from his NFL contracts, Marshawn Lynch lives like he is broke, according to his friends. His secret to staying rich is choosing the cheapest alternative to anything. Even when eating out with friends, Lynch sticks to the cheapest things on the menu.
  1. Although he is the third-richest man on the planet, Warren Buffet thinks that his most extravagant expense is enjoying a less than $4 daily breakfast at McDonald’s, where he pays with exact change. With a fortune of $74 billion, Buffet could spoil himself more, yet he has lived in the same modest house for decades, driving the same old car.
  1. While on a movie date with his younger wife, the frugal multi-millionaire Harrison Ford ordered one adult and one senior citizen tickets to save a mere $6.
  1. Kate Middleton has been seen repeatedly doing her own grocery shopping. She also refused the services of a personal dresser, preferring to choose her own clothes at department stores. Although she will become Queen of England one day, Middleton does not like to be waited on. Even more astonishing for fashion aficionados is to discover that she wears the same outfit multiple times to public events.
  1. Reese Witherspoon has been spotted many times in vintage shops and she also trades clothes with her good friends of similar-size. Recycling outfits and vintage shopping do not make her less fashionable but it saves her a good deal of money.
  1. When the shooting for “Desperate Housewives” ended, Teri Hatcher wrapped up all the furniture from her trailer and took it away to sell it.
  1. The former model Tyra Banks takes shampoo and lotion from hotels to use at home. She also ran her own renovation projects in her offices instead of spending tons of money for professional work. More surprisingly, she does not like fancy restaurants, and she admitted that Cheesecake Factory is her most fancy option when eating out.
  1. To save money but also to show support for British people who struggle financially, Queen Elizabeth committed herself to turning off the lights at Buckingham Palace, as many sources report.

 

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April 16th, 2017

How To Save Money As A Stay At Home Mom

According to the Pew Research Center, more than one in four mothers are currently stay at home moms. This is a trend that has increased in recent years after decades of women returning to the workplace in droves. Perhaps more and more moms have realized that the notion of the working mom who has it all and can do it all is more myth than reality. Or maybe it’s the innate desire that moms have to be home with their babies and make the most of those precious years. Whatever it is, more and more women are putting their careers on hold and trading the briefcase for a diaper bag.

The problem is that in today’s world, it can be a real struggle to raise a family on just one income. It’s often worth it to the more than five million stay at home moms, who get to bond with their babies and treasure all of those sweet childhood moments, but it can also be a challenge to make the money stretch far enough. If you’re a stay at home mom, you know that you have to save where you can. Here are some ideas for trimming your budget and keeping more money in your pocket.

Become a One-Car Family

While it takes some schedule juggling and a bit of getting used to, you can save a whole lot of money by having just one car. This might mean that your working partner has to take public transportation to work, and it might mean that there are days when you’re just at home with the kids or are limited to whatever’s within walking distance, but it will definitely reduce your costs. Even if both of your cars are paid off, you’ll still save at least a few hundred a year in car insurance costs; there’s also fuel and maintenance costs that you won’t have to incur as well. Becoming a one-car family isn’t for every family, but if you can make it work, you’ll certainly save some cash.

Trim Your Monthly Bills

Heat, air conditioning, electricity, water — they all add up, and the bills come every month. While you can’t eliminate them completely from your life, there are a lot of little things you can do that will add up to significant savings in how much your family pays per month in utilities and other costs. If you rent your home or apartment, finding a place where heat and even electricity and water are included in your monthly payment can save you from worrying about some of these concerns. If you’re responsible for paying your utilities on your own, though, there are some cost-saving measures you can try.

To keep your heating bills down, try lowering your thermostat. Even one degree can make a difference over the course of a month. Bring it down even more substantially when you leave the house and at night; using warm blankets and wearing cozy pajamas will keep you comfortable even if your home is a bit chillier than usual. To keep electric bills to a minimum, maximize your use of natural light and keep lights off. Also, unplug and turn off appliances and electrical equipment to prevent slow drains that add to your bills; these include things like computers and printers, microwaves, and even charging cables with nothing plugged into them. Finally, water bills can be lowered by taking shorter showers, bathing kids every other day (especially in the winter), and having small children bathe together. If you’re not already keeping the faucet off while you brush your teeth, now is a good time to start.

After monthly utilities, you probably have other bills that come every few weeks. If you’re paying for cable or satellite TV service, consider reducing the number of channels you get or dropping it altogether. If you’ve got internet service in your home, see if there’s a slower option for a lower monthly charge; it probably won’t affect your online time all that much, and you can save ten or twenty bucks per month. As for cell phone service, shop around to find the best plan, keeping in mind that pre-paid plans (along with some conservation and diligence on your part) may be your best option.

If you are having another baby on your way and are thinking of throwing a pre baby party, sites like BumpReveal can be of help when it comes to saving some extra cash.

Eat for Less

CrockPot

The first rule of eating when you’re trying to save money is that you don’t eat at restaurants — at all. In fact, to keep your food costs as low as you can, it’s a wise idea to avoid any pre-made foods completely, as you will pay a premium for the convenience. This includes grabbing pre-made lunches at the grocery store, hitting the drive-thru for a taco, and especially grabbing coffee on your way to work. You can make all of those things at home for less than you’d spend at a to-go place: brew your own coffee, pack your own lunch, and save some cash.

This also goes for lunches with the kids: when you’re a stay at home mom, it can be tempting to get out of the house for lunch. However, eating in is always best for saving money. If you need a change a scenery, pack a picnic with your little ones, grab a blanket, and head to the local park for lunch al fresco. Or, if it’s cold outside, have a pretend summer picnic on the floor.

When you go grocery shopping, your cart should be full of staples. Dried beans, big bags of frozen vegetables, apples and oranges, cartons of eggs, cylinders of oatmeal, and potatoes — these are all filling, healthy, and relatively affordable foods. What’s more, you don’t even have to join a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club to buy fairly large quantities; many large supermarkets carry warehouse-sized containers at warehouse prices. Also, do your best to get out of the mindset that you need to have meat at every meal. Read up on the Meatless Mondays initiative for ideas of meat-free eats, and remember that there are great and inexpensive non-meat sources of protein like beans and eggs.

Next, get cooking! Even if you’re not a master chef, you still have the ability to prepare tasty and nutritious meals that are simple and inexpensive. In fact, even if your busy schedule leaves you no time to cook, invest $15 or $20 in a crock pot and come home to a hot dinner. There are lots of websites like this one that can give you great ideas for inexpensive and delicious crock pot meals.

Finally, be mindful of how much food you waste. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, about one third of the food that’s produced for human consumption on our planet is wasted — just thrown away or somehow lost. How much money would you save if you didn’t waste any food? Make that your goal — eat or use everything you purchase. It does take a bit of creativity, but once you’re in the mindset that food does not go in the trash, you find a use for everything. Stale bread crusts become tasty breadcrumbs for a salad, apples with brown spots get cooked down into applesauce, brown bananas and fruit that’s overripe get buzzed into perfect smoothies, and milk that’s about to turn sour gets made into a quick pudding with a bit of sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla extract. Use up everything, make less trash, and keep more money in your pocket.

Coupons While You Shop

In addition to shopping smarter, shop with coupons and coupon apps to save even more. You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to save $10, $15, or even $20 every time you head to the grocery store. Check to see if your local grocery store has a frequent shopper or rewards program that you can join. They’re usually free, and they can save you a lot. For example, Wegmans has their Shoppers Club, Meijer has mPerks, and many other large supermarkets have their own cards and programs to save you money.

Clipping actual coupons can also go a long way toward saving you money, though you do want to make sure that you clip coupons for things you actually buy. In other words, don’t buy a product you wouldn’t ordinarily purchase simply beause you have a coupon. You can check your Sunday newspaper for coupon circulars, or check out Coupons.com for hundreds of free printable coupons. Simply click the ones you want, print them out, and go shopping. Or, use Cellfire to print coupons or link your store’s rewards program card for added savings.

If you’ve got a smartphone, use it to your advantage when shopping by using a free money-saving app. Ibotta is one that gives you money back on select purchases. To use it, simply select the items you’re going to buy, go shopping, and scan your receipt. Within a day, the rebates will appear in your account. When you’ve got at least $10 in there (which can easily happen in just one or two shopping trips), you can use it for gift cards or cash out to your PayPal account. Get friends to join for bonus cash and for team bonuses too. The SavingStar app works in a similar way. Or, to keep close tabs on the lowest prices on items you use every day, download Favado to start tracking prices. All three of these apps are available for both iOS and Android.

Great Deals on Clothes for the Kids
Mess At HomeKids clothes are generally affordable, but there’s one problem: they always need new ones! They grow quickly, they play rough, and they wear things out faster than you’d ever think was possible. While sales at stores like Target and Carter’s do help, there are even cheaper ways to get your kids dressed for less. Instead of buying new, look into quality used clothes as consignment shops, ebay, and at yard sales (which are notoriously great for finding affordable kids clothes).

For free clothes, consider organizing an annual or semi-annual clothing swap with other stay at home moms near you. Everyone brings a bag or two of clothes that their kids have outgrown but are still in reasonably good shape, and you can all trade for the sizes you need. Of course, if you have multiple kids, saving your older child’s clothes for your younger children can also be a great way to stretch a dollar. Plus, when kids are young, they don’t look at hand-me-downs as a bad thing; they’re usually happy to be able to wear their big brother’s or sister’s clothes.

Entertain Them for Free

You can buy books, spend money to rent movies, and sign up for expensive Mommy and Me classes, but all of those things are a big drain on your budget. Instead, look for free entertainment options, starting with your local library. More than just a place to borrow books (although that’s good too), most libraries offer a great selection of DVDs for patrons to borrow plus all sorts of free programs like storytime sessions, arts and crafts events, lego building parties, and much more.

After the library, be resourceful about checking out local parks and museums for free opportunities. Playgrounds and other outdoor spaces are usually open to the public and can entertain kids for hours. Museums often hold free admission days once in a while, and they’ll often hold additional programs for families on those days. During the summer months, check your area’s calendar for things like outdoor festivals, movies in the park, and other fun and free activities for the kids.

Remember Why You’re Doing This

It’s important to keep your family’s life in pespective, especially on those days when you start to feel deprived of luxuries that all of your working friends might have. Remember, your kids will be little for only a few years. They’ll be in school all day before you know it, and when they are, you can go back to work. You’ll bring in lots more income, have the money to afford more, and will be able to lay off on the scrimping and saving. For now, remember that you have the gift of your children’s formative years, and nothing that money can buy can replace how wonderful that gift is.

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February 1st, 2017

How To Save Money As A Hardcore Gamer

Video game culture has come a long way since the loud and flashy arcades full of coin-ops in the 1980s. Now, gaming at home is an enormous industry, with over $20 billion (that’s billion with a B) spent on video games in the United States alone. Gamers are part of a huge international community of people who love to zone out and escape by immersing themselves in an alternate world where they can control their own destiny with a simple controller.

With so many billions being spent on gaming consoles, accessories, subscriptions, and the games themselves, it might seem like saving money is the furthest thing from hardcore gamers’ minds. However, that’s not the case at all: gamers know that they’ve got an expensive hobby. They’d love to be able to save a few bucks to put toward more gaming gear, the hottest new release, or just general day to day expenses. If you’re a gamer on a budget, take heart: you’re not alone. Here are some ways to save money on your favorite hobby.

Learn to Be Patient

You know all the release dates of the newest consoles and the latest games, you know when the hot new game-changing accessory will be available, and you’ve got them all marked on your calendar. Maybe you’ve even stood in line all night just to be the first to get your hands on a new game as soon as it’s on sale. It’s exciting, and we know the rush of getting to be the first to play a new game on a new system. However, you pay a price for that privilege. If you’re looking to save money, you might need to rethink your game obtaining strategy.

Namely, don’t buy things as soon as they’re released. We know it makes your soul hurt a little bit to wait, but think of the money you’ll save (not to mention the hours of sleep by not standing in line all night, which is an antiquated thing to do anyway). Retailers know that the demand for new stuff is pent up, and they know that they can make a few extra bucks on gamers who must have the newest things right now. If you can wait out the initial rush, you can usually save 10% or more.

For example, new games typically cost in the $60 range. If you can wait two or three months, you can often find them for more like $50. Wait six months, and you’ll increase your likelihood of saving even more. Plus, the used games market will then have some copies of that game from people who have already grown tired of it, giving you the chance to get it for even less.

Buy When Prices Are Low

The big seasons for new video game and console releases are fall and winter. Big names will usually drop just before the holiday shopping season, and game manufacturers know that more people are indoors playing games during the fall and winter because the weather isn’t usually conducive to outdoor activities. However, fall and winter are typically when video game prices are highest. If you want to get the best price on new games and consoles, summer is when prices tend to dip or products tend to go on sale.

That said, there are deals to be had in early January, after the holiday season when no one is buying much. Also, if you’re in the US, you can often score some amazing deals on Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving. Of course, to get those prices, you might have to brave some crowds or stay up all night to wait in line. However, your reward will be great games and other gaming merch for the lowest prices of the year.

Rent Before You Own

How many times have you purchased a new game, only to realize that you didn’t really love it as much as you thought you would? You probably felt disappointed, not only in the game, but in the fact that you just wasted fifty bucks. To make sure you really like a game before investing in your own copy, rent a copy for a few days and take it for a test drive. There are a few ways to do this. Gamefly is an online game rental company that works a lot like Netflix: you choose the game you want, and a few days later it’s in your mailbox. Gamefly pays the shipping. Play as long as you want; rental starts at just 53¢ per day. Return it when you’re done, or keep it if you love it and pay a discounted price.

Want to rent a game right now? If you can’t wait a few days for it to come through the mail, you can rent video games from RedBox for $3 a day. To find a pick-up box near you, simply enter your location on the website, and you’ll be given a list of nearby RedBoxes. Or, if you’d prefer to shop locally, check out your local gamer shop for games to rent.

Love Your Gaming Store

PS4

Whether your local game shop is a GameStop franchise or an independently-owned store, going there first can help to save you a lot of cash on your gaming addiction. First, when you’re in the market to buy a used game, your local store should be your first stop. Most serious gaming stores will test games to make sure they’re working properly. The store wants to be a reputable game reseller, so you can be confident that you won’t buy a dud. And, if something should go wrong, you have a place to go to register your complaint — that’s often much easier than dealing with an online seller.

Next, your local shop will often offer good deals if you want to trade in your old games or consoles for store credit. This is often a much more valuable option than simply selling your old stuff for cash. For example, your local store might offer you $25 cash for a trade in or $40 store credit. Since you’re probably just going to buy more gaming stuff anyway, you come out ahead when you take the trade in. Plus, stores often run trade in specials where you can get even more store credit, so pay attention to deals and promotions to get the most bang for your buck. If you’re really looking to save money, you might make it a personal rule to not trade in anything unless there’s a promotion going on.

Finally, stores typically offer a frequent customer rewards program, which means that being a regular customer can get you more for your money. GameStop offers PowerUp Rewards, Best Buy offers the My Best Buy Gamers Club, and your independently owned shop may offer its own promotion. And, if it doesn’t, you could suggest starting one to the owner, helping you and all of the store’s customers save money and earning the store lots of repeat business.

Use Discounts for Online Purchases

As always, when you’re making a purchase online, don’t click the “buy” button until you’ve searched for good deals. Check out discount code aggregator sites like CouponLawn to look for percentage off coupons, free shipping codes, and other deals. Also, if you’re in the market for a new game, console, or peripherals like gaming headsets, advanced controllers, and specialized gaming chairs, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking the “Today’s Deals” section on Amazon. These are typically customized especially for you, so sign in and take a look at what’s being offered. You may luck out and find what you want at 30% or more off the regular price.

There are a few good gamer community blogs and boards that you should look at on a regular basis, not only to stay involved in the current gaming conversation, but to check for good deals. Cheap Ass Gamer tracks all gaming-related deals, and there are forums where you can interact with other gamers to find out about current pricing. Is There Any Deal is a site that simply tracks pricing and discount opportunities by the hour, and this site is a must-check before making any gaming-related purchase.

Try a Subscription, Try Steam

Lots of software companies are moving away from a single purchase model and toward a subscription model, and the gaming industry is following closely behind. Rather than buying games and having them take up space in your home, you can use a subscription service to play hundreds of games for a monthly price. Just like with magazine subscriptions, a longer gaming subscription costs less per month than a short subscription. You can also cancel any time.

Here are some examples. Let’s say you’ve got an Xbox one. EA Access is a gaming subscription for EA’s “Vault,” a huge selection of titles including FIFA, Madden, and other sports games, Plants vs. Zombies, Battlefield 4, and loads more. This costs $4.99 per month, but if you buy a subscription for a year, it’s just $29.99 — 50% less than paying per month and about half the cost of purchasing a hard copy of a single game. PlayStation Plus is a similar service for PS4 gamers. They’ll give you a two-week trial for free, and then you have to decide if you want to pay: $9.99 for a month, $17.99 for three months, for $49.99 for the whole year. Again, pay for a full year, save substantially, and still pay less than the price of a hard copy of a single game.

Or, for free games, check out Steam. In addition to offering lots of news on the gaming industry and one of the best gaming communities on the web, it also has a substantial catalog of games that you can play for free. You may not see all the games you want, but again: it’s free. You can’t beat the price, especially if you’re on a budget.

Break in as a Beta Tester

Video Games

The dream job of every hardcore gamer: a beta tester! Play games all day and get paid to do it! It’s not only a good way to save money — it’s a job! Unfortunately, as you might imagine, there’s not a ton of availability for beta testers, and it’s a job that’s in big demand. However, if you’re persistent about trying to get a position doing this, you might luck out and land a spot. Game Testers can match you with a gaming study on a new game; there’s no guarantee that you’ll be asked to participate, but you can fill out their form and hope for the best. Or, if you live near Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, you can sign up to be part of Playtest and try out their latest titles.

Be aware that companies do take beta testing very seriously. This isn’t just a chance for you to play some games for free or for a paycheck. You’ll be asked to play in a particular way, give pointed feedback, and maybe play some games that you might not ordinarily choose. However, as long as you are willing to keep an open mind and be honest about your endeavors and opinions, you might really enjoy being a beta tester and saving some gaming cash while doing it.

Unplug!

If you’re a hardcore gamer, you know that the scariest day of the month is the day the electricity bill lands in your mailbox. If you play games, there’s really no escaping a spike in your electricity usage. However, you can keep your bill down somewhat by not leaving your consoles in idle mode. They’re a quiet power drain, and not turning them off can cost you. Better yet, unplug your consoles when you’re not using them. Depending on how long you leave them off and what your local utility charges, you can potentially save over $100 each year.

Step Away From the Games

We get it: you love video games. However, it’s important to remember that there’s more to life than sitting in a darkened room immersed in a screen-based world. Keep your life in perspective, and remember that you don’t always need to be playing games in order to live a good life. Go outside and see the sun. Take a walk. Smile at other people. There’s a whole world out there, and much of it is free to enjoy.

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October 20th, 2016

101 Ways To Save Money On A Car

After your home, a car is probably the most expensive thing you’ll buy in your lifetime. There’s really no getting around the fact that if you want your own set of wheels, you have to shell out a lot of money. But from your actual car purchase to insuring your ride to keeping your gas budget in check, there are lots of little things you can do to save money on your car, and they can all add up to significant savings. Read on for 101 ways to save some cash on your automotive budget.

Finding The Right Ride:

1. Consider the smallest car you can get away with. Obviously if you have three kids, a compact won’t work for you. But if it’s just you and perhaps a partner, a smaller car may make more sense because they’re less expensive, cost less to maintain, and get better mileage, saving you thousands over the life of the car.

2. Need space? Vans tend to cost less and get better mileage than full-size SUVs.

3. Look into a hybrid or electric car. They may cost a bit more upfront, but their great fuel economy makes them inexpensive to operate.

4. Do your reasearch. Use sites like Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) to find out what you should be spending.

5. Find out which cars tend to last the longest and need the least amount of maintenance. Pay attention to the older cars you see on the road, as those are the ones that will be with you for a while.

6. Consider repair costs of different models. Some cars cost more to repair than others. For example, repairs on domestic and Japanese models tend to run less than the same repairs on European cars. Even if nothing goes really wrong with your car, you’ll still need to replace worn out parts from time to time, and you don’t want to spend a fortune doing so.

7. Shop around to find the best price. Don’t just take the first car you see.

8. Get quotes from several dealers in your region on the same car or very comparable cars. See if any of them will match or beat the lowest quote you receive.

Making The Purchase:

9. A car loses a significant portion of its value the moment it’s driven off the lot. Let someone else take that depreciation. A used car will always cost less than a new one. Want something newer? Buy a used late model vehicle.

10. Buy your used car directly from another driver instead of the dealership. It’s often easier to negotiate a lower price, and many car buyers find doing it this way less intimidating as well.

11. Check out a public auction for an inexpensive used car.

12. Repossessed cars (from people who have not paid their loan payments) can often be had at a good price. Ask local banks and credit unions if they have a repo lot. If you’re lucky, you can get a relatively new car for a great deal.

13. Whether you’re buying from an individual or a dealer, ask if they’ll lower the price if you pay with cash. (Not a check — actual cash.)

14. If you’re buying a new car, or even if you’re buying a used car from a dealership, buy at the end of the month. That’s when salespeople are more eager to give you the price you want so they can meet their sales quota.

15. If you’re buying a new car, wait until August, when the following year’s models come out. You may be able to score a good deal on a car from the previous year that’s still on the lot.

16. Check the manufacturer’s website so you’re aware of any potential rebates.

17. Consider a less popular color. If purple sedans didn’t sell as well as a dealer had hoped, you may be able to get a better price on purple than on, say, white.

18. Don’t pay for upgrades on a new car. Aftermarket items will typically be a lot less than what a dealer will charge.

19. Learn to drive a stick. Manual transmissions cost a bit less upfront than automatic ones.

20. Skip the extended warranty.

21. Also skip the weather proofing on the outside and upholstery proofing on the inside. The former is necessary only if you live in an extreme winter climate, and the latter is something you can do yourself for much less money.

22. It may sound awful, but if you’re female, try to do your haggling online. Time and time again, women report unsatisfactory experiences at car dealerships. By avoiding an in-person negotiation, you may find you have more leverage.

Paying For It:

23. Know where you stand with your credit before you fall in love with a car on the lot. Good credit means you’ll pay less interest on a loan. Poor credit means the opposite.

24. Look at your financials, determine what you can reasonably afford, and then stick to it. If you’re pulling down six figures and have minimal expenses, you can drive whatever you want. If you’re making $40,000 a year and have a family to support, you probably can’t afford a new Lexus.

25. Try to save up and pay cash for your car. Not taking out a loan can save you thousands on interest.

26. If you must have a loan, look for one with a very low APR.

27. Shop around for a loan. Don’t just take one with the terms that a dealer offers you.

28. Beware of 0% financing. It’s a great deal on the surface, but if you don’t make your payments on time, that 0% can become a much larger percentage very quickly.

29. Make your loan terms as short as you can realistically afford. You’ll pay much less interest on a 24 month loan as compared to a 48 month loan.

30. Pay off your car loan as soon as you can.

Buying Insurance:

31. Shop around for the best rates

32. Compare rates every six months or so, or every year at most. Rates change, so make sure you’re on top of the best ones.

33. Pay your insurance yearly in one lump sum. If you can’t do that, try for twice a year, or quarterly at most. If you pay monthly, there’s usually a service charge. It may not be much, usually around five bucks, but over the year, that adds up.

34. Raise your deductibles on comprehensive and collision to lower your premiums.

35. Or, if you drive an old beater that isn’t worth much more than $1000, consider dropping comprehensive and collision entirely.

36. Another good reason to buy a smaller and/or older car: they’re a lot cheaper to insure. Think about what insurance will cost before you make your purchase.

37. Take advantage of any discounts, like your good driving record, your excellent credit, and so on.

38. Ask about discounts for any safety features your car might have, like a security alarm, antilock breaks, and high quality airbags.

39. If you’re a student, a good GPA can earn you a discount on your insurance.

40. Take a defensive driver course. Successful completion of one will often get you a savings on your insurance.

41. Find out if any groups you belong to offer bundled rates, which can save you a bundle. Employers, alumni associations, unions, and more are all examples of groups that may offer this.

42. Take care of all of your insurance needs with one carrier. If you have homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance with one company, getting your car insurance through that company can get you a noticeable discount.

43. Similarly, if you have more than one car in your household, insure them on the same policy for more savings.

44. If possible, don’t use your car for commuting. By taking mass transit to and from work, you’ll not only save on gas and wear and tear on your car, but you’ll also have lower insurance premiums.

45. If it’s possible, try to buy your insurance (or change your insurance) in December. Industry numbers indicate that rates tend to go down during the holiday season.

Gas And Mileage:

46. Use the lowest octane that will get your engine running. High octane gasoline may sound great, but you pay a premium for it, and your car may run just fine on the regular stuff.

47. Find a gas station that offers a lower price per gallon to drivers who use their credit card. Get the card, then pay it off each month to avoid finance charges.

48. Do what you can to avoid gas stations at highway rest areas. Their prices tend to be jacked up because they know you have no choice but to fill up there.

49. If you live near a state line, and the next state over has lower gas prices due to lower taxes, make a point to fill up there. For example, New Jersey has some of the lowest gas prices in the country, while surrounding states (especially New York) have some of the highest.

50. Pay attention to when gas stations raise and lower their prices. Many find that prices are lowest mid-week, all other things being equal. Try to gas up when it’s the lowest.

51. Fill up early in the morning or late at night, especially in the summer, to avoid evaporation. This helps you get the most gas for your money.

52. Fill your tank all the way. Getting $10 here and $10 there actually costs you more because of all the extra trips you have to take to get more gas.

53. Whenever possible, buy regular gas instead of gas that has ethanol in it. Many stations now sell gas with 10% ethanol, which will get you worse mileage than regular gas.

54. Carpool to work to reduce your fuel expenses.

55. Use a site (or app) like gasbuddy.com to find the lowest price on gas in your area.

56. Drive at or below the speed limit to improve your fuel economy.

57. Similarly, avoid jack rabbit starts and braking at the last second to keep your MPG high.

58. If you have a habit of driving with your foot on the brakes, break it. You’ll see your mileage improve.

59. Try to avoid traffic. Not only is it frustrating to just sit there, but you burn a lot of gas. This may mean adjusting your commute around your local rush hour.

60. Keep your windows down and sun roof closed when you’re driving on the highway to reduce drag and improve mileage.

61. When you’re not on the highway, turn off the AC and open windows.

62. Empty the junk in your trunk! Extra weight means lower mileage.

63. Take off the roof rack, storage box, or anything external storage device that you’re not currently using to reduce drag.

64. Check your tires regularly to make sure they are at the right pressure.

65. Change your air filter. Keeping it fresh means better mileage.

66. Don’t allow your car’s engine to idle for too long.

67. Avoid the drive thru, which is basically just one long idle.

68. You also don’t need to warm up your car. It should run just fine, even in cold weather, as soon as you start it up. If you want to be warm in the car, keep your coat on.

69. Have your tires aligned regularly to keep you fuel economy high.

70. Always keep a safe following distance to avoid lots of unnecessary braking.

71. Use cruise control on the highway to avoid unnecessary acceleration (and using more gas).

72. The caveat to the above, however, is if the highway is very hilly. In that case, don’t use the cruise control, since the cruise control’s attempt to keep a constant speed will make it accelerate too late to hit an incline, which will use more gas.

73. If your gas cap is missing, get it replace to prevent gas fumes from evaporating.

74. On a hot day, park in the shade. Some say this will keep gas from evaporating from your tank, though your tank should be air tight. It will, however, keep your car from getting too hot, which will limit how high you’ll need to blast the AC when you get back in it. Lots of AC usage lowers your MPG.

75. Turn off your engine when you’re stopped at a railroad crossing and there’s a long train passing.

76. Ultimately, use the air conditioning as little as possible. It brings down your MPG a lot.

77. Another reason to drive a stick: manual transmissons tend to get better mileage than automatic transmissions.

78. If you’re driving a manual, put it in neutral when you’re stopped at a red light.

79. Combine errands and trips so you’re taking the car out less. Driving less means using less gas.

80. Consider a car with a diesel engine, which will typically get better mileage than a comparable car with a gasoline engine.

Automotive Maintenance:

81. Find a trustworthy, affordable mechanic, and call on him (or her) for your maintenance needs. Repeat business may bring you a discount, and it may also ensure that you get the best service possible, saving you money in the long run.

82. If your engine light comes on or something sounds amiss, get it looked at. Small issues can lead to bigger, more expensive problems if they’re left unchecked.

83. Get your oil changed regularly and have regular maintenance done. This may seem like an added expense, but it helps to avoid bigger problems down the road.

84. However, don’t do unnecessary maintenance. Your car may not need an oil change every 3000 miles, which used to be the standard recommendation. Consult your car’s manual to see if you can go longer.

85. Learn to change your oil yourself.

86. Change your own windshield wipers and replace your own wiper fluid.

87. Keep your transmission fluid topped off. If it gets too low, it can do damage, and a transmission is expensive to replace.

88. Learn to change your own headlights, tail lights, and breaklights. Have a handy friend show you, or check out online video tutorials. With many cars, it’s not much more complicated than changing a household lightbulb.

89. Learn to do more involved maintenance. Remember, anything you can successfully do is something you don’t have to pay someone else to do.

90. Get your own car error code reader so you know exactly what’s wrong when something isn’t right.

91. Wash your car yourself to save on commercial washes.

92. Or, if you have your oil changed at the dealer where you got the car (for free, if you follow Tip 95), ask them to run your car through their carwash when they’re done working under the hood.

93. Get your tires rotated regularly so you don’t have to replace them as often.

94. Don’t be overly vain about scratches, small dings, and other cosmetic mishaps. As long as your car runs well, a few scratches on the door can be overlooked.

Other Tips

95. Buy instead of lease. When you buy, you own a car when it’s paid off. When you lease, you essentially pay for an expensive rental.

96. If you do buy from a dealer, ask if they’ll throw in a service incentive, like a year or two of free oil changes.

97. Know the value of your trade-in to avoid getting ripped off at a dealership.

98. Drive your car for a long time. Aim for ten years. If you can get past the desire to always be riding around in something new, you can save quite a bit.

99. Follow the rules of the road! A speeding ticket or other traffic violation means you get stuck with a big bill to pay and get an increase in your insurance rates.

100. If you know you have a heavy foot and you drive on the highway a lot, look into getting a radar detector. It may save you an expensive ticket in the long run.

101. Pay attention to parking signs. Parking where you’re not supposed to park can incur some hefty fines as well.

By:

August 15th, 2016

101 Ways To Save Money On Groceries

With the cost of food continually going up, many consumers are looking for ways to save money on groceries. Cutting out restaurant visits and fast food runs are easy ways to reduce how much you spend on food. Beyond those, there are lots of little things you can do when buying groceries that will stretch your food dollars. Read on for 101 ways to fill your pantry, fridge, and stomach for less.

Where to Shop:

1. Not all grocery stores are created equal, so scope out the ones near you and shop at the the store that’s the least expensive. A quick pass through will give you some telling clues. Do you see lobster tanks, olive bars, sushi counter, and other premium services like those? They’re nice, but you’ll pay more for everything at stores with those perks.

2. If you have a big family to feed, join a warehouse stores like Costo or Sam’s Club. The small membership fee usually pays for itself very quickly.

3. Find a store that has a rewards club program, then sign up and use it. Depending on the type of offerings, you’ll get exclusive coupons, bonuses, and other ways to save.

4. Don’t purchase items like toiletries and paper goods at the grocery store, where they’re often priced higher than they are at stores like Target.

5. Check out the ethnic grocers near you. You may not normally think to shop at them, but be open-minded. You can sometimes get staples, especially fresh produce, at great prices.

6. Check your local dollar store! It may sound crazy to buy food at deep discount outlets, but shelf-stable items can often be found at great bargains. Just be sure to note the expiration dates.

7. Visit a bakery outlet store for great prices and lots of buy one-get one offers on breads, higher-end packaged cookies and cakes, and other types of baked goods.

8. Lots of grocery stores do price matching. Find out if one by you will honor lower advertised prices at other stores, then watch the sales and ask for lower prices to be matched.

9. Keep an eye on grocery prices at your local big box drug store. Their sales on pantry items like pasta and canned goods can rival any grocery store’s.

10. Avoid shopping for groceries at convenience stores and gas stations, where everything costs more money.

Planning Your Shopping Trip:

11. Make a habit of reading the weekend circulars or checking your favorite store’s website. Find out what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those items.

12. Find out when your local store gets its deliveries of perishable items. The fresher they are when you buy them, the longer they’ll last when you get them home, and the less likely they are to go bad before you can use them.

13. Be flexible so that you can take advantage of unadvertised sales.

14. Get out your scissors and clip coupons. Store them in a convenient place, and grab them before you go shopping.

15. Combine coupons plus store sales for truly amazing savings.

16. Join a coupon swapping group to load up on the coupons that you can really use and help others get the ones they need. Saving money can be a group effort!

17. Find out if any of your local grocery stores have double coupon days, and take advantage of them.

18. Ask if your store accepts expired coupons.

19. Some grocery stores offer discounts for seniors, students, and military. If any of these apply to you, find out when they’re are available (typically it’s one day per week), and take advantage of them.

20. Before you shop, take stock of what you already have at home. There’s no sense in buying a jar of pasta sauce if you bought four when they were on sale last week.

21. Make a budget and stick to it. Bring a calculator to the store if it helps.

22. If you know that you have trouble sticking to a budget, leave your credit cards at home and bring only cash to the store. That way, you’ll really have a limit!

23. Make a shopping list and buy only what is on the list. This takes some discipline, but it can be done.

Putting Technology to Use:

24. Use the Ibotta app to get rebates on specific items.

25. Check out grocerysmarts.com for lots of printable coupons.

26. For more printable coupons and discounts, visit coolsavings.com.

27. Use inboxdollars.com, a website that pays you to use their coupons. So, you not only get the discount offered on the coupon, but you also get a small amount of money just for using them.

28. If a sale item is out of stock, ask for a raincheck to get the sale price at a later date.

29. Consider using a meal planning site. Many of them have meal ideas tailored to families on a budget, and they’ve already done all the math for you.

30. Invest $5 a month for emeals.com, a meal planning site that incorporates supermarket sale items in their menus. The cost often pays for itself within the first few days, helping you make the most of mealtime on a shoestring.

31. If you live in an area that offers a local grocery delivery service, see if there are discounts for first time users.

32. The same goes for online grocers: take advantage of first time buyer discounts. For example, vinemarket.com offers 20% off your first order.

What to Buy, What Not to Buy:

33. Learn how to cook. By buying ingredients rather than packaged food and preparing meals yourself, you save a lot. Plus, you eat healthier to boot.

34. Buy ingredients that you can use in more than one meal. For example, buy a whole chicken and roast it for one meal, then use the leftover chicken for chicken salad or chicken soup.

35. If a product comes in different sizes, check the unit price. If it’s a product you use a lot and the unit price goes down for the bigger size, it’s worth it to buy the bigger one.

36. Look at expiration dates. This is especially important with dairy. If a product that will usually last you a week expires in two days, don’t buy it. You’ll just be throwing away your money.

37. If you can, buy in bulk. Things like flour, sugar, oats, rice, and other simple grains are often cheaper in bulk because you’re not paying for packaging.

38. If you have a large family, large packages of meat often cost less per pound than smaller packages. Divide a big tray of chicken parts or pork chops into single-meal packs, then freeze until you’re ready to use them.

39. Don’t buy individual portions of things like chips or candy — you’re mostly paying for packaging. Instead, buy larger bags, then make smaller portions at home.

40. Buy big tubs of yogurt rather than small cups. You pay much less per ounce, and you’re not wasting as much plastic.

41. Staples that come in five or ten pound bags are almost always a good deal. This goes for things like potatoes, rice, apples, and more.

42. Consider buying less expensive cuts of meat. For example, chicken breasts are lean and delicious, but they’re also the most expensive individual part of the chicken. For half the price, you can buy chicken thighs, which can be prepared the exact same way as breasts and, according to many people, have a superior taste.

43. Buy fruits and vegetables in season for the lowest price and the best taste. A pound of peaches in the summer costs a fraction of a pound of peaches in February. If you really love something in season, buy an extra five pounds and freeze it.

44. If the produce you love isn’t in season, buy it frozen. It’s much cheaper than fresh, and when frozen veggies and fruits are cooked or used in recipes, you can almost never tell the difference.

45. The checkout line is full of potential impulse buys like candy, soda, and gum. Don’t give into temptation.

46. Avoid buying convenience foods at the grocery store. You pay a premium for them.

47. Pre-washed and pre-cut fruits and vegetables are convenient, but they’re also substantially more expensive than whole fruits and vegetables. Buy the whole ones and wash and cut them yourself.

48. The same goes with bags of shredded cheese. Convenient? Yes. More expensive? Much more. Buy a block of your favorite cheese and take two minutes to shred it yourself. You’ll save money, plus freshly shredded cheese melts better.

49. Supermarket delis are full of prepared foods, but they’re often expensive. Unless something is on sale for half price, it’s usually cheaper to make your own.

50. Canned beans are cheap, right? Sort of, but they’ve got nothing on dried beans, which cook in just water and cost literally pennies per serving.

51. It may be tempting to buy an expensive spice mix for your next cookout, but you’d be paying a lot for what is essentially a shaker of salt. Instead, buy herbs and spices that you like and use those.

52. Love popcorn? Real kernels popped on a stove top (or in a microwave) are much less expensive than bags of microwave popcorn.

53. Tap water is very cheap. Bottled water is not. Don’t buy bottled water. If you want it filtered, it’s still cheaper to buy a filter and do it yourself.

54. Limit how much juice and soda you buy. Water relieves your thirst better, costs less, and is much better for you.

55. If you must have fizz in your water, skip the soda altogether and invest in a Soda Stream to make your own.

56. if you must have juice, buy one bottle. When you drink a glass, dilute it with water. You’ll buy half as much juice this way, and after a few glasses, you won’t even notice the difference.

57. Beer, wine, and liquor are expensive. Try cutting back your alcohol consumption or giving it up during the week.

58. Go for store brands or generics rather than name brands.

59. The priciest items in the grocery store tend to be at eye level. For less expensive items, look on the higher and lower shelves.

60. Breeze by the produce shelf with items reduced for quick sale. It usually contains things like very ripe fruit and slightly dinged vegetables. If you are going to eat them in the next day or two (or use them in recipes), you can often get a lot for your money.

61. If you rely on deli meats and cheeses for lunches, try shopping later in the evening. Many stores will close their deli counters at around 9:00pm, bag up any sliced items that didn’t sell that day, and sell them for half price. Hit the store at the right time, and you could score a pound of freshly sliced turkey for about three bucks..

62. The same goes for bakery items: the box of donuts that cost $3 at 5:00pm may be 99¢ at 9:00pm. Ask your local store when they mark down fresh items.

63. Meat can be expensive, so consider proteins that cost less. Things like beans, eggs, peanut butter, and tofu can make great protein-rich meals without meat.

64. Brand new products are often introduced on sale or at a discount. If you see something new, and if it’s something you can use, take advantage of the low introductory price.

65. However, if it’s not a product that you know you’ll use, skip it and stick to your list.

66. If a product you love goes on sale for an amazingly low price, stockpile! Try to get enough to last you until it goes on sale again.

67. When you buy highly perishable items like produce or dairy, have a plan for using them. Otherwise, they’ll usually end up in the trash.

68. Consider cheaper alternatives. For example, many people love a bowl of cereal in the morning, but cereal tends to cost a lot. Try switching to oatmeal: it’s usually healthier than cold cereal, fills you up better, and is significantly cheaper too.

69. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store for food that is the freshest, healthiest, and least expensive when in season.

70. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. If it’s not something you’ll use, you’re really not saving any money.

71. Pay close attention to sales. A two-for-$4 may be a great deal for an item that’s usually $2.99, but check to see if you have to buy two to get the deal.

72. Products on aisle end caps often look like they’re a good deal. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they’re not, so be sure to compare prices.

Beyond the Grocery Store:

73. Try shopping at your local farmer’s market. Items in season are often priced low, and if you buy larger quantities, there’s often room for price negotiation.

74. If you have the means, go hunting. If you’re successful, you won’t have to buy meat at the grocery store for a while. One deer can yield well over 50 pounds of meat!

75. If you live near a safe body of water, go fishing. Not only is it relaxing, but you can reel in a variety of tasty fish.

76. Grow a garden. Even if it’s just herbs or a few tomatoes, those are things you can enjoy without having to buy them at the store

77. If your garden has a great year, can and freeze your bumper crop. You’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors all year long.

78. If you’re constantly running out of room in your freezer, invest in a stand-along freezer. These keep meat and anything else fresh for a long time, and they don’t cost much to buy and operate.

79. If you have a friend or neighbor who grows or raises food, try bartering.

80. Join a CSA. Short for Community Supported Agriculture, a CSA keeps you and your family in fresh foods for an entire season (or more, depending on the CSA) for a reasonable up-front fee.

81. Try a bit of foraging. This takes some know-how and patience, but things like wild greens, berries, mushrooms, and more can all be found in accessible public place. (Just make sure you know something is safe before you eat it.)

Other Tips:

82. Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. You’ll be more likely to buy things you don’t need.

83. Pay attention to what you buy each week and what you have left over. Take note of any food that you throw out as well. Based on this, see where you can cut back.

84. Try to go grocery shopping just once a week. The more trips you make to the grocery store, the more you’re likely to spend.

85. Eat leftovers!

86. Encourage leftovers by cooking big meals like soups and stews. You can even freeze some for a meal in a few weeks.

87. Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are running at the proper temperatures to avoid early spoilage or freezer burn.

88. Watch the scanner as your groceries are being scanned, and be sure to point out any errors.

89. Check your receipt before you leave the store, and point out discrepancies at the customer service counter to get the difference back. Additionally, some states require that stores pay the customer a small fee (like $5) for any wrongly marked or scanned item in addition to the refund.

90. Don’t shop with your kids. They tend to ask for lots of items you didn’t plan on buying and don’t really need. If you give in (which you’re likely to do in order to avoid any tantrums), the cost of your grocery trip goes up.

91. Get what you need and leave. Lingering leads to spending.

92. Use your own bags. It’s better for the environment, plus some stores will give you a few cents off your order for each bag you bring. It’s not a lot, but every little bit adds up.

93. If you pay for groceries with a credit card, use one that will give you either cash back or useful rewards.

94. Try not to throw anything in your refrigerator away. If you’ve got a little of this and a little of that, be creative about turning them into a meal. Keep in mind that eggs and pasta cook well with lots of different ingredients — they’re like leftover glue.

95. Bake your own bread. It costs next to nothing, and your house will smell amazing.

96. If there’s a baby in your household, making your own baby food from fresh, in-season produce (and freezing it in small portions) is almost always cheaper than buying individual jars or pouches.

97. Become a discerning label reader. Packaged goods make all sorts of claims: high in this, low in that, and so on. But check to see what’s really inside your food. Many times, there’s a cheaper equivalent with less fancy packaging.

98. Plan your meals so you don’t make extra trips to the store. Every trip adds up.

99. Know your weaknesses and don’t linger near them. Love chips? Walk quickly past them, or avoid that aisle altogether

100. Don’t shop during busy times, like Fridays and weekend afternoons. You’ll feel less rushed, which gives you more time to comparison shop.

101. Have reasonable expectations about what you’ll eat. It’s great to decide you’re going to buy only healthy foods, but if you fill your fridge with greens and don’t eat them, you’ve wasted a lot of money.

 

By:

April 22nd, 2016

How To Save Money On Skin Care & Cosmetics

How much do you spend on your cosmetics and skin care products? A recent study by financial management company Mint estimates that on average, a woman will spend about $15,000 on make-up, lotions, and other beauty products over the course of her life. Men aren’t exempt from this figure either! Although men usually spend substantially less than women on these types of products, there are still a robust men’s personal care and grooming market, complete with high-end retailers and expensive offerings in small tubes. Perhaps we have the metrosexual movement to thank for this, perhaps its the glam rock or emo music eras that empowered men to wear a bit of makeup, or maybe men are just realizing that it’s nice to take care of themselves, but whatever the reason, the bottom line is this: we spend a lot to make ourselves look good.

Do we need to spend so much? Probably not. There are so many ways to cut back on what you spend on makeup, skin care products, and other personal products. And, if you think spending less will force you to compromise on how good you look, how nice you smell, and how smooth your skin feels, think again: by making a few easy changes to your buying habits and lifestyle, you can get the same exact beauty and grooming results at a fraction of what you used to pay. Read on: here are some helpful ideas for saving money on cosmetics and skin care.

Limit Your Purchases To Only What You Need
It can be so much fun and such a great sensory overload to go into a store like Sephora or Ulta and do a little retail therapy: buy a few cool new colors, a new product or two, and maybe a flowery fragrance. However, if you’re on a budget, this type of behavior doesn’t fit with your need to save money. So, you’ve got to curb your spending and start looking carefully at your skin and assessing your make-up needs. What products must you really have in order to achieve the look you’re after?

Chances are, you don’t need nearly as much as you think you might. A good moisturizer is always important. The right shade of lip color can do a lot for brightening up your face, as can some tastefully applied eye make-up. However, you can probably do without a lot of things, such as a heavy foundation, a pricey toner, and an eye cream of questionable effectiveness. This useful article from Real Simple Magazine goes over five of the least essential beauty items and explains who should use them and who can skip them.

Then, once you’ve got the products you need, use only the amount you need to get the look you want. Remember, a small amount of any make-up or skin care product can go a long way.Not only will using a little bit at a time stretch your budget, but it will also give you a cleaner, more natural look. Make-up should enhance and bring out your natural beauty, not cover it up under layers of powder.

Try Before You Buy — For Free!

save money on cosmetics and skincareOne of the best things about the cosmetics and personal care industry is its willingness to allow people to sample their products. Walk into just about any department store, specialty beauty store, or even high end drug store, and you’ll see tester products out for you to try. Many cosmetics manufacturers take this one step further and create small free samples in an effort to get customers. If you’re pinching pennies, these free samples are definitely something you will want to take advantage of.

What products can you sample? Perfume is the classic example; tiny tube-like bottles of perfume samples have been the norm forever. However, small envelopes of make-up, lotion and cream, specialty shampoos and conditioners, and other products can be yours for the asking. Even if you’re shopping online, many retailers like Sephora will allow you to select a few free samples with your order. They allow you to make sure you truly love a product before purchasing a whole bottle or tube. And if you don’t like a product enough to buy it, you at least get a few days’ worth of it for free.

Frequent Discount Stores
When you think of places to buy cosmetics and skin care products, you probably think of department stores, places like Sephora and Ulta, and maybe the drug store. But what about discount retailers? Places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and even department store outlets like Saks Off 5th and Nordstrom Rack have luxury and high end cosmetics at surprisingly low prices. If you’re going to shop like this, you’ll need to have a keen eye to spot the best deals, and you’ll also need to be flexible, as you may not be able to find your favorite product. However, if you’re willing to look around, you might get lucky and score a great product for a fraction of its retail price.

One thing you’ll want to be aware of if you shop discount stores for these products is that you may be buying something that’s been on the shelf for a while. It will still be good, but you will want to use it relatively quickly, as it probably won’t last as long as products for which you pay full price. This brings us to our next money saving idea…

Cap It And Stick It In The Fridge
Cosmetics and skin care products can dry out easily when they’re left exposed to the air. Fortunately, they all come with tight-fitting caps and lids. The trick is to use them! Cap your products tightly to keep them hydrated. Need another good reason? Putting the lid on your make-up and lotions helps to reduce their spoilage due to bacteria exposure.

It’s also important to keep in mind that these products can go rancid if they’re not used within six months and they are left at room temperature. If you have a special product that you don’t use every day, stick it in the fridge to keep the oils in them from turning bad. Just like the keeping your food cold extends its life, keeping cosmetics cold can prevent you from having a tube or compact of off-smelling product.

Use Every Last Bit
When you’ve got a brand new tube of a new product that you’re dying to try, it can be tempting to crack it right open and not finish the tube you’ve already got open. However, doing this is wasteful. We all inherently know this, but think about it from a financial perspective: unused product is just wasted money. If you’re looking to stick to your budget, be vigilant about finishing up an old container before opening a new one.

If you’ve got lotion, mascara, or another product that’s somewhat congealed and hard to use, don’t throw it away! Instead, put the tube in a container of warm water. That should loosen it up so that you can apply it easily.

Look for Discounts
As with any online shopping activity, it’s always a smart idea to look for discount codes and e-coupons before you finalize your purchase. There are a few ways to find them. First, check Retail Me Not for any and all available codes that have been collected. With discounts from over 50,000 stores, it is highly likely that you’ll be able to find a code that you can use.

The next thing you can do is to sign up for individual retailers’ email lists. If you’re willing to put up with a bit more inbox clutter, you’ll be rewarded with savings. Many online retailers offer a big discount when you sign up, kind of as a thank you for receiving their messages, so be sure to try this approach before placing a stock-up order. Also, many sites offer discount codes right on their front page; the catch is that you actually have to enter the code when you check out. It’s easy to forget that! Go slowly when you order.

Finally, if you’re shopping in person at a drug store, sign up for the rewards program. Just about every drug store chain has one. Link it to your email account, use your savings card, and you’ll be eligible for members-only discounts, a few bucks off here and there, and rebates. You’ll want to use your rewards card every time you shop at the drug store, not just when you’re buying cosmetics and skin care, to reap the most savings.

Recycle Old Compacts and Tubes In Exchange For Free Stuff

save on skincareWe all know that recycling is the earth-friendly thing to do. However, with some cosmetics companies, it’s also the budget-friendly thing to do! Many companies offer free products and great discounts in exchange for your empty containers. For example, MAC Cosmetics will give you a free lipstick (a $16 value!) when you return six empty packages to them. Kiehl’s has a similar offer: return ten empty bottles from their store and be rewarded with a free 2.5 ounce product of your choice.

If your store or cosmetics manufacturer of choice does not advertise such a program, ask about one! There may be one that they’re not announcing widely. If they don’t have one at all, you might inspire them to think about the planet and start one.

Use Brands That Are More Affordable
We’ve all seen the high priced luxury cosmetics and skin care products in their proprietary stores — places like Kiehl’s and L’Occitane — and they look so appealing. Surely their price means that they’re better, right? Actually, this is not necessarily true; with cosmetics, as with anything, high price is not necessarily an indicator of superior quality. In fact, you can find some amazing products at affordable prices at the drug store!

For exmaple, L’Occitane makes a wonderful hand cream that costs $28 for a 5 ounce tube. However, Aveeno makes a similar product that is just as effective, but a 3.5 ounce tube costs just $7. This is almost always the case: your drug store can sell you a roughly equivalent product for a fraction of the price. As another example, you can buy an expensive face cleanser like Murdock London Daily Cleansing Facial Wash, but it will run you $24 for a 5.2 ounce bottle. Cetaphil, however, which can be found at any drug store, costs around ten bucks for a 16 ounce bottle. That’s quite a difference!

Your local drug store will probably also have mid-range products that are a good compromise between the luxury brands and the less expensive ones. For example, brands like Burt’s Bees have lotions, soaps, and other all-natural personal care products that may be expensive by drug store standards but are relatively affordable by luxury standards.

Love Your Shade? Find It For Less
Continuing the previous tip, if there’s a particular color or shade that you just love, but it’s made by a luxury manufacturer that charges a lot for their products, see if you can find something comparable in a less expensive brand. If you do this, the great news is that a list of color equivalents has already been created. Called a make-up “dupe” list, they can be found with a simple Google search. This lipstick dupe list is from Money Can Buy Lipstick, and this one is from a Reddit thread. Be aware, however, that making a “dupe” of your favorite shade may involve the blending of two shades. Still, two inexpensive colors will save you over a single very expensive one.

Make Your Own!
If you’re interested in both saving money on cosmetics and skincare products and using products that are all natural and free of potentially toxic ingredients, then you’ll be glad to know that it’s quite easy to make a lot of different types of makeup. The food blog Live Simply is a surprisingly great resource for make-up recipes and formulas: here is one for foundation powder, and here is one for a great hand and body lotion. A web search can turn up lots of others, like this one for a natural shampoo.

Finally, sometimes you don’t even have to make your own cosmetics and skin care items, as there are inexpensive products already on the market that can work as a moisturizer and make-up base. These include things like coconut oil, shea butter, and baby oil, and using them can save you both money and exposure to synthetic chemicals.

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March 3rd, 2016

How To Save Money On Wireless Plans & Devices

Smart phones are ubiquitous in today’s world, and for good reason. You’re always on the go! Having a mobile device that can do everything from get you the information you need to connect you with the people in your life to keep you entertained is more than a luxury — it’s practically a necessity.

Of course, having a smart phone and access to the wireless service that’s needed to make it work are not necessarily easy on your budget. With some of the higher end phablets (that’s phone plus tablet — a smart phone with an extra-large screen) running upwards of $500, and with monthly plans running at least $25 per month (and often much more), it can cost a lot to own and use a mobile device.

Does this mean that you’ve got to break the bank to be a smart phone user? Absolutely not! There are loads of viable ways to save on both your wireless plan and your mobile device. While few of them will save you huge amounts of money upfront, using a just two or three of these tips can easily save you a few hundred bucks per year. Here are some approaches to saving money on your phone and plan.

Pay For What You Use
If you’ve got a contract, it’s always a good idea to take a look at your wireless plan from time time and review what you’re getting versus what you’re using. Chances are good that you’re not using everything you’re paying for. If that’s the case, it’s time to cut down on your plan. This will save you a little bit each month.

If you’re confused, or if you’d like a bit of help in analyzing your wireless bill, services like Bill Monitor can help. You can enter your billing information into the website, and Bill Monitor will give you all sorts of helpful money-saving information, like if there’s a more economical plan for you, when your contract is up, and more.

Prepay
If you’re on a super strict budget, or if you’re a relatively light user of cellular voice and data services, then a prepaid plan might be right for you. What many people like about these is that you’re paying for exactly what you use, not for what you might use. There’s no contract to lock into, and there are no overage charges (since you simply prepay for another block of minutes and data). Plus, with a prepaid plan, there are no credit checks, making them ideal for individuals whose credit is less than perfect.

Prepaid plans can also be quite affordable, especially if you rely on wifi for most of your mobile web surfing; the lowest priced plans on all of the major carriers run under $50 a month. You get quite a lot for that, though you will still want to shop around to get the best deal. For example, with T-Mobile, $40 per month buys you 4GB of data with unlimited talk and text — a pretty solid plan. On Verizon, though, it’s $45 per month for just 1GB of data, Sprint and Boost Mobile both charge $35 for 1GB, and with AT&T, $40 per month buys you only 500MB of data (with the same unlimited talk and text on both plans). Clearly, it pays to take some time to grab the best price you can.

Pay Attention to Plan Discounts
Did you know that all of the major wireless carriers offer a variety of discounts to all types of people, simply based on their line of work? It’s true: active military, government employees, individuals who work for certain companies, and even teachers may all be eligible for a percentage off of part or all of their monthly wireless bill. For example, AT&T offers 17% off per month for anyone who works in education. It’s not a ton, but when you’re on a budget, every little bit helps. When you sign up for a contract, ask about available discounts — you may be pleasantly surprised at what you qualify for.

Or, to see if you qualify, there are pages on the major carriers’ websites that will let you know if you qualify. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile all have pages specifically dedicated to helping their customers get the discounts for which they’re eligible.

Limit Data And Rely on Wifi
It’s amazing how quickly you can run through a monthly data plan. Even if your plan includes a gigabyte or more of data per month, you can easily tear through that in a few days with heavy browsing. Having cellular data is certainly convenient, but with the prevalence of wifi, using cellular data seems so wasteful.

The big thing you can do is cut way back on your monthly data plan. It will take some planning and diligence on your part, but you can get most of your mobile browsing done over wifi and save the small amount of data you do have for emergencies only. You just want to pay very careful attention to your data usage to make sure you don’t go over your limit and incur overage charges.

If you’re getting close to your limit, or if you want to make absolutely sure you’re not using cellular data unless you absolutely have to, you can simply turn it off in your phone’s settings. This way, you won’t be able to automatically surf the web on your device if you don’t have access to a wifi signal. And if you really do need to access something when there’s no wifi around, it’s easy enough to turn cellular data back on.

Text Smarter
When it comes to texting, you’ve got a few options: pay per text, get an unlimited texting plan, or utilize free texting apps and not pay for the service at all. Obviously, if you’re looking to save money, the free option is the way to go. This will work only if you’ve got wifi access, however, and you’ll need a free texting app like Heywire or Textfree to do it. There’s a very slight learning curve, but once you’ve got one of these apps figured out, free texting is all yours.

Or, if you prefer to text using your wireless provider’s service, unlimited texting really is worth it. It actually does not cost all that much, and with individual texts priced as much as 10¢ each (both to send and receive), a texting habit can add up quickly; you may very well end up paying more than if you had just paid for unlimited texting in the first place.

Limit Your Minutes
With all of the things that smart phones can do, talking on the phone seems like an afterthought. As a way to trim your monthly bill, consider cutting back on your minutes; chances are, you’re not really using them anyway. Besides, texting plans are cheap, email is free, and wifi is everywhere.

Just about all monthly plans come with some talk minutes, but as part of your bill assessment (mentioned above), take a look at how much you’re actually using on an average basis, and then trim the excess. It’s also good to remember that there are several ways to talk on your smart phone for free, such as Skype Mobile and Viber. Plus, if you’ve still got reliable access to a landline, use that for your voice calls, especially if they are local or toll-free. (Of course, if you’ve got unlimited minutes, you probably don’t have to pay attention to your talk time.)

Go In With The Family!
As a general rule of thumb, family plans cost much less per person than individual plans. With most carriers, the more lines on a single plan, the less you’ll pay per line. Aside from the small discount you’ll get for bringing in more paying customers, you’ll save on lots of little billing costs. Also, because you’ll be sharing minutes and data, you compensate for uneven usage habits among family members (like talkers versus texters) and actually use everything you’re paying for.

This helpful web tool from My Rate Plan allows you to compare the cost of family plans on all of the major and some of the smaller wireless carriers. Simply enter your parameters, such as desired data and number of lines, and you’ll be given the monthly cost of dozens of plans.

How can you take advantage of the savings on a family plan if you’re single? Recruit a few responsible friends to go in on your wireless bill with you. The key phrase in that previous sentence, by the way, is “responsible friends” — remember, you want people who you know will pay their share of the bill every month. If they can’t come up with the cash, then you’re stuck paying their portion. Family plans are also a good way for roommates to save money on their wireless plan, but only if everyone will reliably pay their portion each month.

Haggle On Price
Any savvy saver will tell you that everything is negotiable. Those monthly fees? They’re just a starting point to hanggle for a lower price. Remember, there’s lots of competition out there in the wireless world, and in the eyes of the providers, your business is the most valuable thing you can give them. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask your provider to match a lower price, and let the customer service representative know that if they won’t you will go to a different provider that charges less. This can often get you the lower price, but if it doesn’t, don’t hesitate to jump ship to another provider. You have the most leverage to do this when your contract is almost up. See what your provider is willing to do in order to keep you as a customer.

Go For The Cheap (Or Free!) Device
The latest smart phone models can certainly be alluring. They’re fast, they have all the latest technology, and there’s always such a wow factor when you pull one out in public. However, they are also quite expensive, and if you’re trying to save money, a brand new phone probably doesn’t fit in your budget. If you need a new mobile device and don’t want to pay a lot, go for one that’s about a year old. It will still be fast, cool, and brand new, but you won’t suffer the price hit that early adapters take by being the first to own a particular device.

Your other, more wallet-friendly option is to get a device for free. No, not a flip phone — a genuine smart phone with all of the mobile and interactive capabilities you want. The catch is that the technology in free smart phones is generally about a year to two years old, and the storage capacity on free phones is usually under 10GB. Yes, that’s a long time in the evolution of mobile tech, and it’s not a lot of space, but the price is definitely right.

For example, if you want an iPhone but just don’t have room in your budget to justify the cost of an iPhone 6 (which starts at $199 for the smallest capacity and goes up to $399 for the biggest), consider an iPhone 5c. Yes, it has a capacity of just 8GB, but if you get it with a two-year contract, the phone is free. Or, if you want something a big spiffier, a 16GB iPhone 5s is just $99 with a contract.

Get The Contract With Your Brand New Device
If you’re set on getting the absolute latest smart phone model and you don’t have a lot of cash on hand, then it’s probably best to get it with a contract. Locking yourself into a year or two with one company may seem uncomfortable, but it can save you a lot on the price of your shiny new phone. For example, if you get an iPhone 6 with a two-year contract, you’ll pay $199 for the 16GB model. However, that same phone without a contract costs $649. Of course, over the course of two years (contract versus no contract), the price is roughly the same. However, your upfront device cost with the contract is less than a third of the no-contract price.

Skip The Device Insurance
When you buy a new device, most carriers will try to sell you device insurance to replace it if it’s ever broken or stolen. Say no. It can be tempting to get insurance when you’ve got a brand new glimmering smart phone in your hand, but still: say no. Instead of preparing for replacing, take it upon yourself to be extra careful with your phone. Remember how delicately you protected your very first smart phone? Continue that ethic: get a protective case, don’t drop it, pay attention to where it is at all times, and don’t use it anywhere near water. All of those precautions can all go a long way in making sure your phone is always safe and sound.

Still worried about protecting your phone? Then self-insure. Instead of giving that money to the provider that sold you the phone, save it. Within a year, you should have enough money to replace your device if it’s broken. If your phone is still going strong, that money stays in your pocket.

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January 30th, 2016

The Ultimate Guide To Help You Save Money On Pets

Whether you’re the proud owner of a dog, a cat, a bird, a rodent, a reptile, or a tank full of fish, you know all too well that the pet industry is big business. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent over $58 billion on their pets in 2014 alone. Clearly, when it comes to four legged, two-winged, or scaly friends, the pet industry has the general public by the purse strings.

Just like it’s hard to say no to your children, it’s hard for pet owners to deny their loyal companions anything. In fact, many people who own pets think of their animal friends as another member of the family. They want to pamper their pooches, spoil their kitties, and keep their pets as happy as can be. And of course, manufacturers of pet products as well as individuals who sell animals know that when it comes to pet spending, many people simply have no limit.

However, there are still lots of ways to be a loyal, caring, and compassionate pet owner without spending your entire paycheck on your animal. If you’re willing to do a bit of work and a little bit of research, it’s actually quite easy to save a lot of money on everything related to your pet. Here are some ideas for you to consider.

Get Your Friend For Free
Purebred animals are absolutely beautiful, and for an animal lover, it doesn’t get any better than a pristine example of your favorite breed. However, purebreds are expensive. A recent Forbes article cited the price of a purebred Golden Retriever puppy running as high as $3,000. At half that price, it’s still an exorbitant amount of money to pay for a pet. Even paying a few hundred dollars for an exotic bird or a rare and beautiful snake is unnecessary. Why? Because there are lots of ways to get a loving pet for free.

The first option is adoption. Visit your local animal shelter, and you’ll be overwhelmed at the cuteness of the puppies, kittens, and adult animals just waiting for someone to come in and love them. You might also watch your local newspaper and social media pages for pet adoption events near you. Some shelters and adoption organizations do charge a small adoption fee, but it will be substantially less than purchasing an animal from a breeder. No, you probably won’t get a purebred animal when you adopt, but you will get a pet that’s just as wonderful (and often much less maintenance).

Another option for getting a pet for free is to watch the local classifieds, listings on Craigslist, and social media postings for people who are giving animals away. You might find someone whose cat or dog just had a litter, or there might be individuals who can no longer care for their animal but want very much for it to go to a loving home. When you go this route, there are usually no costs involved, and you may even get a trunkload of pet food and gear at no cost from the animal’s previous owner.

Have Your Pet Fixed For Less
When your pet is old enough, it’s highly advisable to have it spayed or neutered. Not only can this prevent costly damage to your home from an animal marking its territory or being destructive because it’s in heat, but it will keep more pets from taking over your home (and your budget). Yes, there is a cost to have this minor procedure done. However, there is financial help available.

The ASPCA, the Humane Society, and other animal care organizations feel so strongly about getting pets spayed or neutered that they are willing to help out with vouchers and access to low-cost programs. The ASPCA has a web page that will help you find low-cost spay and neuter programs, and the Humane Society does as well. If you can’t find a low-cost way to do this near where you live, contact your local chapter of either organization, or contact your local animal shelter. They will almost surely be able to put you in touch with a qualified professional who will do the procedure for an affordable price.

Basic Preventive Care
It’s true: taking your pet to the veterinarian isn’t cheap. However, think of the cost as a hedge against bigger, more expensive health issues cropping up in the future. An annual visit to the vet can help you catch any small problems before they become larger ones, and regular vaccines and shots can prevent major illnesses from coming on as well. The particular needs of your pet will depend on what type of animal it is and its lifestyle. It’s a good idea to talk to your vet when you first bring your animal in; let him or her know that you are on a budget, and it is likely that you will be able to work something out that is best for your pet and best for your wallet.

save on pet food

Save On Pet Food
Just like you, your pet’s gotta eat. Also just like you, your pet can be quite healthy and eat quite well without spending a ton of money on food. Surely you’ve seen evidence of the gourmet pet food craze: doggie bakeries and freshly-prepared kitty treats. They’re lovely business ideas, and their purveyors seem to do very well, but if you’re looking to cut back on your pet spending, they’re just not for you. Fortunately, you’ve got some other choices.

It may seem like the best thing to do to feed your animal without spending lots of money would be to buy the cheapest pet food you can find. While this will offer you some initial savings, cheap pet food is typically made with loads of fillers and by-products, all of which can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive system and cause potentially expensive health issues. Your best bet to save now and save later is to buy a good brand of doctor-recommended food — not the bargain stuff, but not the top of the line stuff either.

Definitely buy your pet food in large quantities to get the best price per pound. For example, at the popular pet retailer Pet Smart, a six pound bag of Purina ProPlan dog food costs $12.99, or approximately $2.17 per pound. However, that same exact food in a 35 pound bag is $38.99 — just $1.11 per pound! That price is before any additional coupons or discounts that you may find. Clearly, buying the largest bag you can afford can cut your pet food costs almost in half.

Ordering your pet’s food online can also save you big. First, sites like wag.com often offer 15% or 20% off a customer’s first order. Make that discount go a long way by ordering several bags of food! Next, wag.com, chewy.com, and other pet websites offer auto-ship programs, which are essentially a pet food subscription. You sign up to get your pet’s food delivered to you every few weeks (you choose the interval), and you pay a lower price per bag than people who order at will. For example, wag.com offers a 5% discount on all autoship orders. Finally, many sites have loyalty programs for customers. For example, Petco offers Pals Rewards, which gives members a 5% bonus as well as other exclusive offers.

Check For Used Supplies, Skip the Fancy Toys And Clothes
Buying a kennel, cage, food bowls, storage bins, scratching posts, and pet accessories brand new probably is not necessary. You can often find these things used at garage sales or for sale in classifieds or online, and doing so can save you half off or more of the original prices. The same goes for fancy pet toys and clothes. Yes, it’s important to keep your pet happy, but your pet doesn’t know the difference between a $40 toy and a stick. Keep toys simple, like tennis balls or socks full of catnip. Ultimately, your pet’s favorite toy is you, and the best thing you can spend on it is your attention. Bringing your dog to the park or snuggling with your cat is better than anything from the pet toy aisle.

As for pet clothes, you can certainly dress your pet up like a fashionista if you’ve got the funds. However, that’s not at all necessary, and that money is almost always better spent on more important things. And really, big dogs don’t need clothes. If you’ve got a small pup that needs to be kept warm, a sweater or two is fine, but save your money and don’t overdo it. Cats generally hate anything on their bodies, so dressing them up can be skipped completely.

Do Your Own Grooming
Pet grooming business are easy to find, and most large pet retailers offer grooming services as well. While it’s definitely easy to let a professional else handle the cleaning and grooming of your pet, it usually costs a minimum of $30 per session. More services and bigger animals cost more, and even if you get it done just a few times a year, you’ll still end up spending at least a hundred bucks or so on something that you really can do yourself.

If you’re a cat owner, you can relax: cats don’t need much. Some need their long hair trimmed, and an occasional bath isn’t a bad idea either, but on the whole, cats typically prefer to groom themselves. Dogs, however, are another story. On a regular basis (usually about every other week), take an hour on a weekend morning to give your pooch a good bath. If it’s warm outside, an inexpensive plastic tub is a great place to do it; otherwise, your bathtub is the best option. While you’re at it, brush your dog’s coat, trim the nails, and clean the teeth. Not only will doing all this yourself save you a fair amount of money, but it’s a great bonding experience between you and your four legged buddy.

Low Cost Pet Care When You’re Out Of Town
If you’re leaving on a getaway, whether it’s for a few days or a few weeks, you’ve got to make arrangements for your pet. Of course, kennels and pet boarding houses are lovely: they lavish all sorts of attention on your animal. However, they cost quite a bit, and there are less expensive options for pet care when you’re away from home. Care.com estimates that pet boarding starts at $20 per day, with more expensive kennels and hotels running as high as $90 per day.

One option is to find a local enterprising teenager who is good with animals. He or she can come over to your home every day to feed and play with your pet. What you pay will be a fraction of what pet hotels cost and it’s a win-win-win situation: your pet is happy, you’re glad that your pet is happy, and the teenager is happy to be making some cash.

Another idea, which won’t cost a thing, is to create a pet care co-op situation with some other pet owners in your area. With no money exchanging hands, you all take turns taking care of one another’s animals when it’s necessary. Another pet owner can come to your home to provide care, or your animal can spend your away days at someone else’s home. As long as you can return the favor when another pet owner is out of town, everyone gets what they need for their pets, and everyone saves money.

save on pet insurance

The Insurance Quandary
Should you get health insurance for your pet? It depends on your budget, your pet, and how attached you are to keeping him or her in your life. Obviously, insurance isn’t free, and if you are truly looking to save money on your pet expenses, then you may decide to go without it. However, there are some good reasons to have pet health insurance.

Most pet owners think of their animals as their children, and the thought of losing their pet is excruciating. If their pet needs an expensive medical procedure to keep it alive and they don’t have insurance, they’re faced with a horribly difficult decision: spend a huge sum, or put their baby down. Additionally, some breeds of dogs and cats are more prone to certain health issues; if this is the type of animal you own, it may be less expensive for you in the long run to have insurance. If you can afford the cost of insurance, you may find that it’s worth it. But again, if you are watching every penny, getting pet health insurance can probably be skipped.

Consider A Less Expensive Pet
We’ve mostly been talking about dogs and cats as pets, but there are other animals that make great companions. Consider hamsters and gerbils, which are small, inexpensive, and don’t require much; you can also find a cage and supplies used, which will save you even more. And don’t forget about fish, which are a perfect first pet for children. Goldfish are especially inexpensive. They need little more than a large bowl of water and some flake fish food, and they are fun and relaxing to watch and care for. If you do choose to go for a dog or a cat, though, there are still a lot of ways for you to have a loving, faithful companion and not break your budget.

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January 15th, 2016

The No Non-Sense Guide To Saving Money On Web Hosting

When most people think about the work that goes into a website, they think about what they immediately see: the site design, the graphics and photographs, perhaps some multimedia aspects, and the written content. If you’ve ever had a hand in helping to create a web site, these parts of the site have undoubtedly been at the top of your to-do list. However, there are some less visible but still very important aspects of having a website, and one of these is web hosting: an absolutely crucial piece of the web site puzzle.

Simply put, if you’ve got a web site that you want people to see, then you need a web host. Web hosting is the service that stores all of your website’s data — the written parts, the visual parts, and the coding behind it all — and makes it available to all internet users. You could have the most beautifully designed site, the most well-composed images, the most compelling videos, and the most gorgeously written content, but if you don’t have a reliable web host, no one will ever know.

What’s so interesting about web hosting is that it’s not a one size fits all proposition. There are loads of different options! As a result, pricing for web hosting varies wildly, depending on what services you want and what company you choose to host your site. How can you get a good web host for your well-put-together website and get a good price for it? Read on for some helpful tips to save you money on web hosting.

Know Your Server Types, Know What You Need
All web host servers are not created equal. When you’re looking for hosting, you’ll have your choice from a few different types: dedicated servers, shared servers, VPS’s (or Virtual Private Servers), cloud servers, and more. A dedicated server will typically get you the most space and the most security, as your site will be the only data on it, but you’ll also pay the most for that level of hosting. Small businesses typically opt for shared servers or VPS’s, as they cost less, still offer a great deal of space and security, and are highly reliable. If you’re unsure as to which type of web hosting will be best for your site as well as for your budget, this About.Com Money page does a good job of explaining, in plain language, the seven types of web hosting.

Also, web host servers are either Linux based or Windows based. Linux almost always cost less, and they are more common as well, although opting for a Windows server does offer a few advantages, such as programming in ASP. However, if money is a factor, a Linux server is the way to go, as it’s much more economical while still allowing you to create a high quality website.

Finally, if you’re looking to pay less for a web host, you’ll definitely want to look at off-shore hosting options. These tend to cost a bit less than domestic hosts. A concern with off-shore hosts, however, is customer service, so before you commit to one, check to make sure that a customer service representative will be available when you need one and not just during business hours in the host country (which could be the middle of the night for you). You’ll also want to look at customer reviews to make sure that you’re not paying for an overseas dud.

If you’re confused or unsure which option is best for you, talk with a sales representative at the web hosting provider that you are considering and ask questions. Make sure he or she can explain the difference between all of the choices available and make an informed recommendation for you. And it should go without saying, but if your sales rep does nothing but push the most expensive web hosting plan, then you definitely want to keep shopping around.

web hosting

Get it for Free!
Yes, it’s true: there are companies that will host your site for free. These include weebly.com, awardspace.com, webhostia.com, and several others. Even the popular blogging site wordpress.com offers free hosting services for non-blogging sites.

There is a catch, of course. The free plans offered by these sites are, on the whole, fairly limited. You can’t do much modification on the different templates’ designs, and you won’t be able to do more sophisticated web development. It’s like not being able to get under the hood of a really nice car: you can do the basics, but you can’t make it run differently. However, if you have a small business and just need a small, simple site, a free web host may do the trick for you. The price is certainly right.

You’ll also want to be aware that some free web hosts pay their bills by selling ads, and some of these ads are, shall we say, not exactly PG. The ads are also a bit invasive; they’re large banner ads that distract visitors from your content, or they’re pop-up windows selling stuff you’d rather not be associated with. Before you sign on with a free web host, remember to read the customer reviews and the fine print. Yes, you can always cancel your free account without penalty, but then you’ll have to start over with a new host. Remember, your time is worth something too.

Another option for free web hosting is with your ISP, or internet service provider. Some ISP’s offer their customers free web hosting space — and it’s included in what you already pay for internet service. You may have this option available to you and not even know it. To find out if your ISP has this quiet option, call and ask, send an inquisitive email, or just go for a visit

Pick Up The Discounts
If you’re paying for web hosting using an internet based company, there are a few ways to save big. The first is using coupon codes to save a percentage off of the cost of hosting. Just like purchasing anything else on the web, a quick Google search for coupon savings codes can often save you half or more on hosting services.

Web hosts typically often keep your money in your pocket if you refer a new customer. Know some friends who need web hosting? If they sign up with your current host and mention that you sent them, you’ll often be rewarded with a free month (or more!) of hosting services for yourself.

Go For The Long Haul
If you’ve got free web hosting that you’re happy with, then you’re tether-free in terms of a contract. But if you’re paying for web hosting, you want to think about how long you can commit to a particular provider. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, signing up for a longer contract usually means that you’ll pay less per month. For example, a shared hosting plan at dreamhost.com costs $10.95 per month if you’re paying on a month to month basis. However, if you’re willing to sign up for a year, the price drops to $9.95 per month, saving you 12 bucks. Furthermore, if you can commit to two years with DreamHost, the monthly price goes down to $8.95 per month, which is $24 less over the course of two years than a monthly plan.

The second reason why signing up for a longer contract can save you is that many of the coupon and discount codes you’ll find online are not good for monthly billing plans; they’ll apply a discount only if you sign up for a year or two at a time. Of course, promotions vary, so you’ll want to read the fine print carefully, but in some instances, signing up for two years plus applying a significant discount can mean that you actually pay less for two years than you would have paid for one without the discount.

This isn’t to say that a month-by-month plan doesn’t have a place in the world of web hosting. If you want to give a particular host a test drive, for example, to see if you’re truly happy with what they have to offer, then a monthly plan is fine for a few months. It saves you the frustration of being locked into a contract, and you can always jump ship and try another host if you’re not pleased. However, once you know that you’re happy with a particular host, it’s probably time to lock in a lower price by going with a longer-term contract. If you don’t see that your web host has any long term plans in place, don’t hesitate to ask — sometimes better deals just aren’t very well advertised.

After Six Months, Reassess

save on serversEven if you have experience in running a website and working with hosting companies, it’s still a good idea to review things every six months or so. Take a look at what your paying for in terms of type of server, amount of space, number of email addresses, included web apps, customer support, and more, and then compare that to what you’re actually using. You’ll often find that there are parts of your plan that you’re just not taking advantage of.

If that’s the case, you’ve got two options. First, you can start to take advantage of them, which can possibly save you money if you’re paying for a redundant service from another provider. Or, you can talk to your provider about a less expensive plan that will still get you what you need without the costly excess.

Be Ready to Move When Your Contract Is Up
The reality is that there are dozens of good web hosting companies, and they’re all competing with one another for your business. When your contract with a particular host is about to expire, it’s time to look around at what’s out there. You can expect your current web host to aggressively offer you renewal options that are appealing, so don’t immediately ignore those. Sometimes, you’ll save the most money by staying right where you are. Companies know that they’re better off retaining a current customer than finding a new one, so they will do everything they can to keep your business.

However, if you’re not finding any tempting renewal offers, there are plenty of other web hosts who will be happy to have your site hosted with their servers. You can often find new customer discounts, as well as discounts for moving your site from another host. However, if you do choose to move your site to a new host, you’ll want to ensure that there are no data migration fees. The majority of web hosts don’t charge for migration, but some do; if you choose one that has these fees, you run the risk of negating your hosting savings.

If you’re happy with your current host and don’t want to go through the hassle of moving your site, but you aren’t offered any discounts or deals for staying with them, try talking to customer service. Ask if they will match the better price you’ve found elsewhere, and see if they are willing to do anything to keep you as a customer. Lots of web hosting companies like networksolutions.com, certifiedhosting.com, and superb.net all offer a price match guarantee, so chances are good that your current host will be able to work with you on costs.

Know What You’re Doing? Host Your Own!
Most website owners aren’t tech savvy enough or, frankly, comfortable enough to provide their own web hosting and IT services. However, if you’ve got the tech know-how, the motivation, a reliable computer or server, and a fast, reliable internet connection, you can be your own web host and pay nothing more over the cost of what you’re already using.

The thought of not incurring any hosting costs can be enough to tempt a lot of people into going it alone for their web hosting. If you plan to give this a try, you would be incredibly wise to invest in a back-up method: an extra hard drive, cloud storage, or another way to save a back-up of your site’s data. If you don’t, and your hard drive crashes or your computer is stolen, then your site is gone. A data back-up method is an additional cost, so you will want to compare it with the cost of web hosting services (in addition to the amount of time and potential hassle it will take on your part) to see if being your own host is truly cost effective.

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January 4th, 2016

How To Save Money When Starting Your Own Blog

Blogging can be a fun hobby for those who love to write and share opinions, but it can also be the foundation of a viable home business. A recent report on glassdoor.com shows that bloggers who truly hustle can make anywhere from $20k per year to over $70k. With those numbers representing a small but noticeable number of people, it’s no wonder why so many people are looking to start new blogs or build their current blogs up to generate some income.

As with any other business venture, however, starting up or stepping up your blogging game can begin to get expensive with all of the associated costs. There’s domain and hosting fees, plus the cost of generating content and designing the site, along with spending on promotion and marketing. If you don’t have a budget and you’re not paying careful attention to where your money’s going, you can easily spend upwards of $1000 per month and barely generate that amount back in revenue.

Fortunately, there are ways to be a successful full-time or part-time blogger spend without spending a lot of money do so. From setting up your site to building traffic, are some ways to save money as a blogger.

Save on Hosting
The first thing you’ll need as a blogger is a webhost, and there are a few ways to approach hosting services. If you’re looking to get a blog started while spending as little as possible, there are a few blog sites that are absolutely free. Sites like Tumblr, WordPress, and Google’s Blogger all offer quite a lot of features at no cost, including free templates so that your blog looks good.

While free accounts are perfect for getting your feet wet, upgrading your blog account on WordPress gives you substantially more options. Their Pro blogger package costs $99 per year, and gives users an extra 10GB of storage (so, 13GB as compared to 3GB for the free account), more customization capabilities, better support, more templates, no ads, and best of all, a custom domain name. That last part is key if you want your blog to have a more professional URL; myblog.com is a lot more professional looking than myblog.wordpress.com. For a free-versus-pro comparison of WordPress’s plans, there’s a helpful chart at https://store.wordpress.com/plans/.

Save on Your Domain Name
Speaking of custom domain names, if you want to buy one independent of a blogging plan, you’ll definitely want to do some shopping around. For a simple and standardized web product, the price of registering a domain name can vary widely. A dot-com domain name at namecheap.com will run you $10.29 per year, while over at name.com, it will run $10.99.

Those aren’t bad prices, but if you are willing to pay for a few years upfront, you can save a few bucks. From godaddy.com, you can get the same dot-com registered for only $2.99, but with a catch: you have to register for at least two years, and each subsequent year is $14.99. The site 1and1.com offers a similar deal, but with a first year price of just 99¢.

You also want to look at what you get for your money. Some registers of domains do that and only that, while others include modest hosting packages (with some storage and an email address) with your new website domain. If your blog takes off, you’ll probably need to upgrade your hosting (either with the same company or another), but to get started, the free hosting packages that come with domain registration on some sites should be enough.

And of course, if you’re truly looking to start a blog for as little upfront cost as possible, you can skip the custom domain name and use a Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogger page.

save with wordpress design
Site Building Options
Once you’ve got your domain, the next task is actually building your site. If you’re going the free route with Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogger, the job is pretty simple, and you can get a simple site with a clean design in minutes with just a little bit of typing.

There are also sites like wix.com and moonfruit.com that will allow you to build a basic HTML5-based site for free. With some creativity and ingenuity, you can certainly use these tools to create a blog. However, be warned that you get what you pay for: the free site building plans on these sites are fairly limited, and you’ll be stuck with Wix or Moonfruit ads (often termed “branding”). Want more functionality and no ads? That will cost you at least $6 a month.

There is robust website-building software available from giants like Adobe Systems (adobe.com), but these programs are fairly expensive; Muse will cost you $14.99 per month, and Dreamweaver is $19.99 per month. Both programs are available as a free 30-day trial so you can try before you buy, but if you decide you want to stick with it, you’ll be adding that monthly expense to your blogging enterprise — unless, of course, your local library has extensive multimedia resources for patrons. Check to see if their computers have these programs available for users; if they do, you’ll save some money on software as long as you’re willing to update your site from the library’s computer center.

Cutting Content Costs
Great content is the foundation of any blog. If you’re publishing poorly written articles that offer little insight, you won’t build up a visitor base because no one will want to read what you’re offering. Not only is great content necessary to keep readers coming back for more, but it’s essential for ranking in Google’s search results, which won’t rank sites with shoddy content. Bottom line? Make your content great!

There are a few ways to get great content for your site. The first one will cost you nothing, and it’s this: write it yourself. Besides the money saving aspect, there are several benefits to writing your own content. First, it’s why you started a blog in the first place, isn’t it? You have things to share, and it’s your creative outlet. Aside from that, you won’t have to rely on someone else to meet your deadlines, which can save you a lot of frustration. Finally, when you write all of your own content, you know that your blog will have a consistent and real voice from one post to the next.

If you’re looking to hire a ghost writer (or several ghost writers) for your blog, you’ll start to incur costs. In fact, professional ghost writers can charge quite a lot for quality content — $50 for a 500-word post is not unheard of. There are content mills online, like iWriter.com and HireWriters.com, where you can have blog posts written for just a few bucks. While you may not get the quality you’re hoping for by hiring out the job to writers on these sites, you’re also not obligated to accept a post if you’re not pleased with its quality.

Ultimately, though, the cost of hiring out blog posts, even at a few bucks a pop, can add up quickly. Your best bet for saving money when you’re starting up a blog is to take the time to write your own content.

Inexpensive Images
If you want your blog to gain lots of followers, you’ll need more than great written content. After all, the web isn’t merely text-based — it’s a visual medium. That means you’ll need images, and lots of them. As with written content, your most cost-effective plan is to take your own photos. While this means that you’ll need a camera to do so, chances are that you’ve got a smart phone with a decent enough camera to get you started. If you’re not confident about your photography skills, take some time to read and watch online tutorials about photographic composition.

If you aren’t able to take some or all of your own photos, you may still be able to use free images you find online. Now, this isn’t as simple as doing a Google image search and grabbing the first photo you like, as that’s a surefire way to find yourself in violation of someone’s copyright. Instead, what you want to look for are photos that are labeled for reuse under a Creative Commons License. You can filter images with this licensing in Google’s image search by clicking on Search Tools, then clicking on Usage Rights, and selecting Labeled for reuse. You can also look on photo sharing site flickr.com for photos with a Creative Commons License; simply search for the term you want and then filter by license.

If you do have a budget to pay for photos, there are stock photo websites that will be happy to sell you any image you need. While some charge a hefty amount for certain images, many sites like foap.com and dollarphotoclub.com charge more reasonable prices. You’ll also find that many stock photo websites offer royalty-free images that are yours for the taking.

Don’t Pay for Image and Video Hosting
Most web hosting sites will offer you a limited amount of storage when you sign up for a free or a lower-cost account. If you stick to uploading text, you probably won’t run out of space any time soon. However, photos and videos can eat up your free storage in the blink of an eye. To conserve your space and save money, take advantage of free image and video hosting sites, then embed your media on your blog.

For photos, it’s tough to beat Flickr. Sign up for a free account, and you’ll be given a terabyte of storage. That’s 1,000 GB! Unless you’re uploading 500 photos a day, you shouldn’t run out of space any time soon. For video, either YouTube or Vimeo will host your videos for free. Vimeo is often considered a more professional choice, though with YouTube, you’ll have the ability to monetize your content and earn a little bit of money for each click.

save on blog promotion

Get a Logo for Less
If your blogging dreams extend beyond blog to brand, then having a well-designed logo for your site is important. Even if your logo design budget is exactly zero, you still have some good options. There are sites like LogoGarden.com and designmantic.com that can walk you through the steps to create a logo for free. The logos you’ll create on sites like these can be generic looking, as you’re just choosing from a series of vector graphics and fonts rather than getting something from scratch, but you can come up with something fairly decent. And of course, the price is right.

Want something more original on a shoestring? If you’ve got design skills and any proficiency in Photoshop or Illustrator, you can create your own. Even if you’re not familiar with these programs, Adobe Systems offers loads of free tutorials for their software on tv.adobe.com and free, 30-day, fully functional trials of everything they make. If you’ve got the time and the inclination, you can learn the software for free, download the trial for free, and make your own unique logo using professional software without racking up any costs.

If you’re not pleased with a generated logo and don’t have the ability to create your own, consider hiring a college student majoring in art and design to create a logo for your blog. Students are often eager to do work for hire, and they will typically charge significantly less for their work than a professional will. While it’s not a given that their work will be outstanding, you’re likely to get good results if you hire a competent student and can successfully communicate your ideas to him or her.

Promote for Nothing (Or Just a Little)
If you’re willing to invest a little of your own time to promote your blog on social media channels, you can be rewarded with many more visitors. Linking to new blog posts as you publish them on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and even Pinterest gives you new exposure with friends and the general public who may not know about your blog or think to visit it. It’s a lot of sites to keep track of, but you can use a social media account management dashboard like Hootsuite to post the same link to multiple types of accounts.

If you want more traffic, you might consider placing ads in a few choice spots. Both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads are good ways to advertise your blog on heavily trafficked sites for not a lot of money. In fact, with both advertising platforms, you can set a daily budget for ads — as little as a dollar a day. Even a little bit of money spent daily for a fixed amount of time can drive lots of new visitors to your blog. Plus, with the per-day spending cap, you won’t have any surprises when you see your advertising bill. You certainly don’t have to advertise, but if you’re not seeing the traffic that you’re hoping for even after promoting your blog on social media, you might consider spending a little bit of money to bring your numbers up.

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December 21st, 2015

101 Ways To Save Money On Travel

Travel is a great luxury. Who doesn’t love visiting new destinations, experiencing new cultures, and getting in plenty of fun, relaxing downtime? There is one distinct disadvantage to travel, though: it can be wildly expensive. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save money on travel costs while maintaining the quality of your . Read on for over 100 ways to trim your travel expenses and get the most vacation for your bucks.

Choosing a Destination:

1. Rather than picking a specific place to visit, pick the type of vacation you want to have, and then look for a low-priced option. For example, if you want an island beach getaway, you could spend a lot and visit Hawaii, or you could spend a lot less and check out Puerto Rico.

2. Flying standby is often a cheaper alternative to flying to a specific destination. If you can be flexible and open to adventure, this is a fun way to save on airfare.

3. Cruises can often be a good deal for a week away. The key to paying the lowest prices is to book them far in advance (like, more than six months) or at the very last minute.

4. Save on the cost of getting there by not going very far. Pick the nearest city or interesting destination and go exploring near home.

5. Travel off-season for lower rates (and smaller crowds). For example, a visit to Florida in June costs significantly less than January.

6. Choose destinations that are somewhat less famous or popular than nearby hotspots. For example, New York City is great, but it’s not cheap. Try nearby destinations in New Jersey, like Atlantic City or the smaller towns along the shore, to save a few bucks.

7. If you’re going overseas, make sure the exchange rate at your destination is in your favor to avoid overpaying for just about everything.

Packing Up:

8. Be sure to carefully consider what you might need, as forgetting something can cost you. Forget toothpaste, and it’s probably not a big deal, but forget a warm jacket, and you may find yourself with an unexpected charge to stay warm.

9. Most airlines charge for checked backs, with extra charges for bags that weigh more than 50 pounds. Pack light to avoid extra fees, and wear your heaviest clothes rather than stuffing them in your already heavy suitcase.

10. Invest in lightweight luggage. There are full-sized suitcases that weigh as little as three or four pounds! This helps ensure that you pay for your stuff and not your baggage.

11. Most airlines allow passengers to carry on two bags for free, so take advantage of this. If you’re traveling for just a few days (or even a week to a warm destination), you may be able to get all your stuff in a carry-on and avoid checked bag fees altogether.

12. Reading on vacation is great, but lighten your load by using e-books instead of paperbacks or heavy hardcovers. Plus, most e-readers double as a tablet for internet surfing when wi-fi is available.

Getting There:

13. If you can, start tracking flights a few months before you’re ready to book. Then, pounce on low fares when you find them.

14. Be flexible when it comes to airports. If you’re departing from or arriving in a city with multiple airports, try all your options, including coming and going from different airports.

15. Many travel discount sites offer great deals if you book your hotel and flight together. Check the math to see if you can save some money by doing this.

16. If you’re buying just a plane ticket, check the airline’s site, as many guarantee the lowest fares for their tickets.

17. Use a website like Priceline.com to indicate exactly what you’re willing to pay. You might have to put up with a connecting flight or an odd flight time, but you can save a lot of money this way.

18. Connecting flights can often be cheaper than direct flights. If you have the luxury of time, adding an extra take-off and landing can add up to big savings.

19. Airfares are often lowest when booked mid-week. Check Tuesday afternoons or Wednesday mornings for flights rather than Fridays or Saturdays.

20. Fly a red eye! Not only are overnight flights often less expensive than daylight ones, but the airports are less crowded, and you won’t have to pay for a hotel room for that night.

21. Fly the first flight of the day. It may be early, but pre-dawn flights can be harder for airlines to fill, so they cost less. You also decrease your odds of a flight delay because of backed-up air traffic.

22. Fly in the middle of the week instead of Friday through Monday.

23. You’re going to get hungry when you travel. Bring your own food for snacks en route instead of paying high prices for buying them on site.

24. It may be tempting, but don’t pay for drinks on a plane. You’ll pay a hefty premium for that.

25. Look into getting an airline-backed credit card. You can often get a lot of frequent flyer miles just for signing up — sometimes enough to cover your entire ticket

26. Consider taking the train. If you have the time, it’s almost always cheaper.

27. Have lots of time and not a lot of money? Try taking a bus.

28. If your car is reliable and efficient, and if it’s possible to do with your destination, driving yourself may be your cheapest and most convenient option

Staying There:

29. Instead of a hotel, look into a VRBO, or Vacation Rental By Owner, home or apartment. These are often the same price as hotels, but with more room and better amenities.

30. Consider an Airbnb accommodation. These are rooms and dwellings rented out by local people, often for much less than a hotel room.

31. For free lodging, consider Couchsurfing, a hospitality exchange community of members who offer travelers a free place to crash.

32. For hotels, stay a block off the main drag, or even in the next town, and pay much less for your room.

33. Go bare bones with hotel services. If all you need is a clean bed and a shower, try to avoid places that offer enormous pools, spas, and other services that you probably won’t use.

34. Look into smaller, independently owned motels instead of large national chains. They often cost less.

35. If you have the option, you can save money on accommodations by agreeing to use a shared bathroom down the hall rather than a private one.

36. Bed & Breakfasts are warm, cozy, and can be a great deal. They are often the same price as a hotel room, but with a great breakfast included. Plus, many include coffee and tea throughout the day and leave snacks out for guests, which can save you a lot in meal costs.

37. Try staying at a hostel. They’re low-frills and cheap, but you get a clean bed and a place to wash up. Once an option only for the young, some hostels now don’t have age limits, so they’re open to everyone.

38. Book a hotel room at the very last minute. Apps like Hotel Tonight offer amazing deals if you book the morning of your stay.
39. Book an inexpensive room, and then when you check in, ask if you qualify for a free upgrade. It never hurts to ask, and the worst they can tell you is no.

40. Go camping! For a nominal site fee, you can stretch out and sleep in the fresh air under the stars.

41. If you plan on driving to your destination, look into renting an RV. You’ll always have your bed just a few steps away.

Eating There:

42. Coffee shops are great, but a few bucks a day for a cuppa joe can really add up. Make your own coffee in your room or rental to save money.

43. Eat your big meal at lunch time. Restaurants often jack up prices during the dinner hour, but lunch portions can be just as hearty and cost significantly less.

44. Instead of eating three meals a day, try just two: brunch and an early dinner. Not only will you save by not paying for a third meal, but lots of restaurants offer discounts for dining on the early side at dinner time.

45. Try ethnic cuisine: it’s often cheaper than more high-end places.

46. Wherever you eat, order the daily special. It’s often a lot of food for less money than menu entrees.

47. If you’re in a non-English speaking country, avoid restaurants that cater to English-speaking tourists. Instead, try the local cuisine made by folks who many not speak English, and consider the language barrier a delicious challenge.

48. Scope out the cheaper options near you, including the unconventional ones. An upscale Mexican restaurant may look like a tasty option, but the taco shack around the corner might have similar food for much less.

49. Eat street meat! Street food is enjoying a Renaissance in many parts of the world, and for good reason: it’s amazing regional food that usually doesn’t cost much.

50. Make up a picnic. Twenty bucks at a nearby grocery store can typically get you enough food for a great meal on the go.

51. If you have lodging with a kitchen, eat in at least one meal per day. Even if it’s just simple sandwiches for lunch or bowls of oatmeal for breakfast, this can save you a lot.

52. Try to find a hotel that offers free breakfast for guests, and take advantage of the spread.

53. Don’t eat breakfast at the hotel if it’s not included in the price of the room. These restaurants are often overpriced and not very exceptional.

54. If you’re in a hotel, try to get a room with a refrigerator, or bring a cooler. This gives you a place to stash restaurant leftovers, which you can use for another meal.

55. Buy snacks, bottles of water, and small items at a local grocery store rather than at more expensive hotel shops or tourist destinations.

56. Instead of drinking at bars or restaurants, buy a bottle of wine, a six pack of local beer, or some liquor and a mixer at the grocery store, and enjoy them in your room.

57. Visit a local farmer’s market for good food at fair prices. As an added bonus, you’ll be supporting the farmers and local economy where you’re staying.

58. If you’re on a cruise, skip the added-charge restaurants on board. Instead, stick to the food that’s included with your fare, which is often fantastic and plentiful.

59. Also on cruises, if you plan to drink, consider buying a package that lets you drink a certain amount (or an unlimited amount) at a discount, rather than paying for each drink individually.

Getting Around There:

60. Walk! It’s easy and free.

61. Rent a bike, or, if you can, bring your own.

62. Avoid taking a taxi if you can. It’s the most expensive way to get around any city.

63. If you absolutely need to take a taxi, find another traveler or group headed in the same direction, then split the fare.

64. If you’ll be renting a car, look for discounts and coupons a few weeks ahead of time.

65. Rent the smallest car that will suit your needs. Not only will the rental fee be lower, but you’ll almost always use less gas too.

66. When you’re renting a car, use a credit card that will cover your insurance. You will want to look into this before your trip, but it’s good to know that many credit cards include insurance on rental cars. Chances are high that there’s one in your wallet.

67. Return rental cars full of gas. Companies charge a premium for filling up any tanks that aren’t topped off.

68. Avoid renting a car, and instead, look into public transportation. Get maps, figure out your routes, and save a lot of money on simply getting around.

69. If you’re taking the train on a multiple-city trip, check to see if a rail pass is cheaper than single destination tickets.

70. Don’t go first class on the train. Sure, the lower class cars are a bit less cushy, but you’ll get to your destination just the same for a lot less money.

71. If you’re on a cruise, pay attention to the cost of off-boat excursions. Leaving the ship to explore a port city is often free, but prime excursions to more high-end destinations can run up your bill quickly.

72. Use guidebook-type websites and borrow guidebooks from your local library to scope out great deals at your destination.

73. Skip the tourist traps, like overpriced wax museums and large expensive theme parks.

74. Natural attractions are often inexpensive, and many or free. Check out local beaches and lakes, go hiking in the mountains, or walk along trails.

75. Visit National Parks. A National Park pass is only $20 per year (or $10 for one week), and it gives you access to tons of great things to do and explore.

76. Sporting events are fun, but going to see a professional one is expensive. Instead, go see minor league games for inexpensive, family-friendly fun.

77. Look for and take advantage of free tours in big cities.

78. If you’ve got the kids in tow, playgrounds are fun and almost always free.

79. Many big cities have museum passes that allow you to visit multiple places for a single fee that’s less than buying an individual admission to each place.

80. Look for free hours (or days) at places like museums, amusement parks, zoos, and other attractions. Many are free and open to the public for a few hours one night per week; make that your time to visit.

81. If the weather’s agreeable, and your hotel offers a good pool, don’t underestimate the relaxation and cost-saving value of a few hours lounging poolside with a good book.

82. If you’re in a casino-filled destination, figure out ahead of time how much you can safely gamble, and then stick to it. Casinos can drain your wallet before you even know what hit you.

Souvenirs and Such:

83. If you’re out of the country, hit the duty free shop for low prices on all types of goods.

84. Avoid shopping in places that cater to tourists, as their prices are often marked up.

85. If you’re shopping in another country, you can often apply to get some or all of your sales tax back.

86. Outlet malls are everywhere, and they can be a fun destination in and of themselves. See if there are any nearby, and take advantage of their lower prices on all kinds of items.

87. When shopping at outdoor markets with local artisans, don’t be afraid to bargain and negotiate.

88. Buy things that are small and practical; remember that you have to bring it back with you. That three-foot, locally-made glass sculpture may be beautiful, but the cost to get it home may not be worth it.

A Few Other Tips:

89. Make a budget. Stick to it.

90. Keep a running list of what you spend each day and review it each night, thinking of ways to spend smarter the next day.

91. If you need to withdraw money from an ATM, avoid paying as few fees as possible by taking out large amounts rather than many small amounts.

92. Take advantage of free wi-fi where you can! Many hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants allow you to get online without paying for it.

93. Watch the school calendar, and if you can, travel when classes are in session. All aspects of travel are almost always more expensive during school vacation weeks.

94. Always ask if you qualify for any discounts. You might save money by being a student, senior, AAA member, or military personnel.

95. Take advantage of frequent flyer and frequent traveler programs, especially if you travel for work. Your time on the road for work can potentially equal free or discounted flights and hotel rooms on vacation.

96. If you use a credit card that offers a points or rewards program, see if you can use it toward your travel expenses.

97. Look into travel deals available via sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

98. Sign up for email lists from your favorite hotels, airlines, and more. You’ll be the first to know about upcoming sales, discounts, and anything else that can save you money.

99. Work or volunteer in exchange for free accommodations, travel costs, and more. Options include house sitting, working on a farm or ranch, and more.

100. Remember that cash is king. Many times, if you have cash in hand, you can negotiate a lower price on most things.

101. Keep in mind that it never hurts to ask for a lower price on anything.

By:

December 1st, 2015

101 Ways To Save On Dating

There’s no way around it: dating can be expensive. Dating websites charge a premium, clothes and grooming to enhance your physical attractiveness can add up, and then there’s the date itself. Restaurants, entertainment, tickets, and drinks: none of it comes cheap. Date a lot, and it can really break your budget if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are lots of less expensive options and ways to show someone special a good time without spending a big chunk of your paycheck. And, you can do it without looking like a total cheapskate. Here are 101 ideas to get you started.

Finding a Date:

1. You don’t have to spend money to meet people. If you’re single, chances are good that you have friends and family who are always talking about introducing you to another friend, colleague, or acquaintance. Take them up on their offers.

2. If your friends aren’t asking if they can introduce you to someone, ask them if they have any single friends who might be compatible with you.

3. Dating websites can be pricey, but many have free introductory periods or even free trial weeks (often around Valentine’s Day). Find out when you can use these sites for free, and then use them.

4. Get out and meet people! Go to mixers, parties, or any place where you’re likely to meet other singles. Wear your best smile, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to others.

Having Drinks:

5. If you’re looking for a good drink and don’t want to spend a lot, the two best words in the English language are “happy hour.” Almost every bar and restaurant has one every day, usually right as the work day ends, which is a great time to meet a date for a drink.

6. Bars and restaurants often mark up alcohol at least 100%. Save money on cocktails by inviting a date over for a drink.

7. If you’re out and you know that you and your date will drink several glasses of wine, it’s cheaper to order a whole bottle than to order one glass at a time.

8. Check out your preferred establishment’s drink specials of the day. These are often lower priced than their regular offerings.

9. Go to a cozy neighborhood pub rather than a flashy club or high priced restaurants. Drinks at a local bar are almost always lower priced than at more centrally located places.

10. Breweries and brew pubs have great beer and lots of it, often at fairly reasonable prices.

11. If you live near a wine producing area, check out a few wineries. Some may charge a small price to taste their wines, but many let you taste for free without any obligation to buy.

12. Limit your own alcohol consumption when you’re on a date. Often, your date will notice that you’re not knocking them back and will keep to your slow pace. As an added bonus, you won’t become drunk and sloppy.

13. Who says alcohol is necessary for a fun date? Coffee is the perfect alternative. Plus, many coffee houses have free entertainment, like live music, board games, and more.

14. Consider other drink possibilities. Milkshakes and smoothies are tasty, and fresh juice joints are trendy and offer a healthy product to boot.

Sharing a Meal or a Snack:

15. Expensive dinners at a fancy restaurant are perfect for a special occasion, but they’re also pricey. If you’re trying to save money, they’re not a good option for a first, second, or even third date.

16. Show off your culinary skills and cook for your date.

17. Or, cook with your date. Things like rolling your own sushi, making your own pasta, or any other hands-on dish is a good choice.

18. Pick up several different types of a single food at the market and have a tasting. Things like cheese, chocolate, tomatoes, or any other food that comes in many varieties will work.

19. Make some sandwiches, grab a bottle of wine (and a wine opener!), take a blanket, and have a low-key picnic

20. If you go out to eat at a restaurant, consider sharing a few appetizers rather than ordering two entrees.

21. Ethnic food is often very tasty and very inexpensive. Consider an authentic Chinese, Thai, Italian, Indian, or any other ethnic restaurant instead of a pricey high-end place.

22. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, eat on the street. Street food and food trucks often have unusual and delicious offerings for minimal prices.

23. Everyone loves pizza! Whether out at a red checked tablecloth pizzaria or bringing one in to eat while you watch the game, it’s hard to go wrong with this favorite.

24. Fondue restaurants may be cool, but they often have jacked-up prices. Skip them in favor of a regular restaurant.

25. Or, make your own fondue instead. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and it’s fun to eat with a special someone.

26. Instead of going out for dinner, try going out for lunch or even breakfast instead, when restaurant prices tend to be lower.

27. Instead of a meal, go out for ice cream.

28. Not really ice cream weather? Go out for just dessert.

29. Many cities have a restaurant week, where the area’s best eateries offer their best food at fixed, reasonable prices. It’s a great week to go out on a date.

30. If you’re comfortable using a Groupon deal on a date, look for a good one and take advantage of it.

Going Out and Having Fun:

31. Movies are a popular date activity, but to save a few bucks, hit a matinee instead of an evening screening.

32. Snag free sneak preview tickets and see the latest flick at no cost. Check your local newspaper for free ticket opportunities, or sign up to receive notification about free sneak previews in your area at http://www.screenit.com/sneak_previews.html.

33. Try not to overdo it with snacks at the movies. You can easily drop $20 on little more than popcorn and sugar water.

34. When the weather’s nice, lots of cities and parks offer free outdoor movies at sundown. Check to see if this is a possibility in your area.

35. Visit the drive in for inexpensive, nostalgic movie fun. Plus, many offer double features, meaning you get two movies for the price of one.

36. Love the theatre? Check out smaller theatre companies rather than big name productions. The tickets are usually much cheaper, but the performances can be just as electric.

37. Or, check out a local high school performance, where the talent is unknown but production values can be very high. Many schools perform fall dramas and spring musicals, and tickets are often under $10.

38. Wait until the day of your date and see if you can score rush tickets to a bigger show.

39. Find a local production of Shakespeare in the Park; these are often free and open to the public. Be sure to get there early for a good view of the stage.

40. You can also find free concerts at parks in good weather, with all kinds of music from classical to jazz to country to rock.

41. If you and your date love music, check out a local band. You can usually get into the performance venue for just a small cover charge.

42. Big museums often charge big admission fees, but smaller, out of the way museums are often just a few bucks or free. They’re often less crowded too, giving you and your date a bit more freedom to chat as you peruse.

43. Or, find out when the big museums near you offer free admission days or evenings, and plan your dates around their schedules.

44. Laugh with your date at an amateur stand up comedy show. If it’s funny, you’ll smile a lot. If it’s not, you can laugh at how bad it was.

45. Along the same lines, improve troupes can also inject a good dose of laughter into any date night.

46. Excite the kid in you and your date with a round or two of mini golf.

47. Or, swing for the fences at the batting cages. A few stacks of quarters will get you lots of pitches — and maybe giggles.

48. Visit an old school arcade and go head to head in a few games of Donkey Kong or Pac Man.

49. Love animals? Visit a local zoo, where you can see wildlife and have access to acres of great walking areas for a small admission charge.

50. Go bowling for a relaxed, low key, and inexpensive evening. As an added bonus, most bowling alleys have cheap beer and snacks.

51. Lace up your skates and go ice skating. Outdoor rinks are ideal in the winter, but indoor rinks are usually open year round. If your date is having a hard time balancing, you can always hold hands.

52. Another fun winter date idea to bring out the kid in you: sledding. Buy an inexpensive sled at your local big box retailer, bundle up, and hit the hills.

53. Ice not your thing? Try roller skating for a good dose of romantic 1980s nostalgia.

54. Shoot pool at a local bar or billiards hall.

55. Not good at pool? Try your aim and throw some darts.

56. Find a local bingo hall, buy a few cards, and try to win the jackpot. Not only is this an inexpensive date option, but if you’re lucky, you’ll walk out with more money in your pocket than you walked in with.

57. Show off your smarts at a local pub’s trivia night.

58. Dancing is often a great date activity, but flashy clubs can charge a hefty cover. Find a bar or club that charges a lot less (or one that has free admission) and get your groove on.

59. Love watching sports? Instead of the big leagues, check out a minor league game. You get the same excitement as the professional teams, but with much cheaper tickets and considerably lower prices on concessions.

60. If you’re near a lake or river, rent a kayak or canoe and paddle as you and your date chat.

61. Think seasonally. Activities like apple picking and hay rides through a pumpkin patch are perfect, inexpensive daytime date ideas.

62. Show off your literary side by taking your date to a poetry reading.

63. Belt out classic tunes (or try to) with your date at a karaoke night.

64. Gas up your car and go for a scenic drive. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find great roads for cruising all year long, though autumn is always a prime time for fall color drives.

More Ideas That Are Practically Free:

65. Build a fire, either outdoors in a fire pit or indoors in the fireplace. Roast marshmallows, make s’mores, and have an amazing conversation.

66. Watch the sunset in a scenic spot. Or, if you and your date are super early risers, watch the sun rise.

67. Go for a walk on a beach, along a river, or near any large body of water.

68. Check out a local playground in the evening when most of the kids are gone. Go down the slides, have fun on the swings, and reminisce about your younger days with your date.

69. Be awed by the magnitude of the universe! Find a secluded spot, lie on a blanket, and stargaze.

70. Pack a backpack full of tasty provisions, strap on your boots, and go for a hike.

71. Or, if you and your date are urban dwellers, go for a walk downtown or in an interesting neighborhood.

72. Visit an art opening. It’s a free yet high class thing to do, it’s often free, and there’s usually free food and (sometimes) wine.

73. Play cards. To keep things interesting, make the game strip poker.

74. Give each other a back rub.

75. Get sporty! Shoot some hoops together, play tennis, or even throw a baseball around.

76. Have a game night at home. You can learn a lot about your date’s morals and personal philosophies by observing how they play chess, checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly, and more.

77. Or, plug in and play some video games.

78. Get artsy with your date. Paint together, take photos together, or draw together.

79. Bake cookies. Fun, inexpensive, hands-on, and fresh warm cookies when you’re done. Don’t forget the milk.

80. In the summer time, walk around a local farmer’s market. Many even have vendors selling ready to eat food for breakfast or lunch. Whatever money you do spend will support local growers and help the local economy.

81. Stroll through an outdoor art fair.

82. In the early spring, get out in the wind and fly a kite.

83. Or, go for a bike ride and watch the flowers come up. You can laugh at how silly you look in your helmets.

84. If it’s the first snowfall, get your woolies on and build a snowman.

85. If it’s the holiday season, walk around and check out the lights.

86. Ski resorts can be expensive, but if you and your date have cross country skis, you can ski any open terrain for free.

Other Tips:

87. When dating, pay with cash to keep track of what you spend.

88. Don’t spend money you don’t have to impress a date, especially one you’re not sure you like.

89. Clothes may make the man, but keep your wardrobe reasonable, and make sure it’s a good reflection of what you normally wear.

90. Shop for “date clothes” on sale, at outlet stores, or at discount stores, where you can usually get great-looking stuff for a fraction of the retail price.

91. You can buy flowers for your date, or you can pick wildflowers for your date instead. Both are appreciated, but the latter is free.

92. You can’t control what your date orders, but you can control what you order. Avoid ordering the most expensive drinks or entree. If your date follows suit, great. If not, at least you saved a little bit.

93. Dating someone who lives far away is always more expensive than dating someone in town, since your transportation costs to see the person are always higher. Date local as much as you can.

94. Show off your skills. If you are a musician, teach your date to play an instrument. If you are a pilot, take your date flying.

95. In general, more intimate dates involve talking and sharing stories more than spending money. Keep that in mind.

96. Don’t go out with people you don’t really like just for the sake of going out.

97. This may sound cruel, but if you are trying to save money on dating, try to avoid dating anyone who is unemployed. You’ll always have to pay.

98. Don’t agree to or pursue a second date with someone who subtly (or not so subtly) spends a lot of your money on the first date.

99. If your date conveniently forgets his or her wallet when you go out, that’s also a deal breaker.

100. Keep searching for new ideas for dates on a shoestring. Keep a Pinterest board if that’s your thing.

101. If all else fails, suggest “going Dutch.” That often means you have little chance at a second date, but at least you’ll be responsible only for yourself.

 

By:

November 7th, 2015

101 Ways To Save On College

College is such an exiting time in a young person’s life. Unfortunately, it can be an incredibly expensive time as well. Tuition is expensive, the price of books is astronomical, and there’s so much temptation to spend money on fun things, all while learning to handle finances and make smart decisions with money. The good news is that college doesn’t have to mean going broke. Here are 101 tips for saving money on all things college-related.

Application Fees:

1. If you visit a college in person, ask your tour guide about application fee waivers for prospective students. You may get one as a thank you for taking the time and effort to check out the campus.

2. See if you can save money on your application fee (or have it waived entirely) by applying early or online.

3. If you don’t have the money to spend on college applications, you can apply to the College Board (the organization that administers the SATs and ACTs) for a College Application Fee Waiver. This gets submitted with your applications.

4. If you’re applying to a school that a family member attended, ask if being related to an alum is grounds for having your fee waived. Sometimes it is.

5. If you’re a graduating high school senior, ask your guidance counselor for free application opportunities. They may have some good information to share with you.

6. In general, it never hurts to ask about having an application fee dropped. The worst they can say is no! Call the admissions office, explain your situation, and ask if there’s anything they can do for you.

7. If you can’t get fee waivers, don’t apply to too many schools. Narrow your list down to a few top choices and maybe one safety school so you’re not spending too much.

8. Use the free Common Application (www.commonapp.org) to apply to schools that accept it.

Tuition

9. When choosing a four-year institution, seriously consider in-state schools, which offer a high quality education at a fraction of the price of private colleges.

10. Fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can to see what kind of financial aid opportunities you qualify for.

11. If you excel in academics or even a particular subject, seek out and apply for academic merit scholarships.

12. Playing sports can earn you a free college education if you’re good enough. If you’re a talented athlete, look into athletic scholarships.

13. There are lots of other scholarship opportunities available, so take the time to research the ones you may qualify for. Things like art, excellence in a particular discipline, and even being a particular gender or raised in a certain neighborhood can qualify you for a scholarship.

14. Look for work study opportunities on campus to reduce your tuition bill.

15. Go to school part time so that you don’t have huge tuition statements. Take just one or two classes a semester. This prolongs your graduation date, but it makes paying for school a bit more manageable.

16. If your school charges a flat full-time student tuition rate, take the maximum number of credits you’re allowed.

17. Use your summer to take general education classes at a local community college, where tuition is often much less than four year schools. (Make sure the credits will transfer, of course.)

18. Try not to transfer from one four-year school to another. Many times, there are credits that won’t transfer, and you have to pay to take those classes again at the new school.

19. See if you can test out of classes. That way, you get the credit but you don’t have to pay to take them.

20. If your relatives are always asking what you want for your birthday, Christmas, and other occasions, you have an answer: money to help pay your tuition.

Classes and Learning:

21. Go to class! You’re paying for the priviledge of being a student, so use that money wisely.

22. Don’t pay other people to do your work for you, and don’t buy your term papers. Not only are they expensive, but they are highly unethical. Get the education you are paying for.

23. Tutor subjects you’re good at to make some extra money.

24. If you can print papers for free on campus, do so. You have to pay for what you print at home.

25. Pay attention to due dates on library materials to avoid paying late fines.

Books

26. See if you can borrow books from friends or pay them a small fee to use them.

27. Buy used textbooks at bookstore rather than new textbooks.

28. If you have an e-reader, e-books are often less expensive than printed books, since there are no printing costs.

29. Check Amazon and other online retailers, which often have lower prices on textbooks than the campus bookstore will.

30. Buy used textbooks at half.com, where you will often pay a fraction of the cover price.

31. Borrow textbooks from the library. Do this early, though, or other students may get the books you need.

32. Rent your textbooks from Chegg (chegg.com).

33. Team up with classmates with whom you can share nicely and buy one copy of the textbook to share.

34. At the end of each semester, sell your books to get money for the next semester’s books. Bookstore, half.com, ebay, Amazon, and other places will all buy your gently used textbooks.

Food:

35. Buying a meal plan is certainly convenient, but you can eat on your own for a lot less. Unless your college requires you to eat their food, skip the meal plan and cook for yourself.

36. Get a job in the cafeteria. Not only will you get paid, but it’s extremely likely that you’ll be able to eat for free.

37. Find a group of friends to cook and eat with, and take turns preparing meals. You can often feed four or five people for slightly more than you can feed just yourself.

38. Cook big, inexpensive meals (think soups and stews), and eat the leftovers until they’re gone.

39. Wake up ten minutes earlier and pack your lunch. Yes, it’s easier to grab something on campus, but bringing your own sandwich and an apple, for example, will save you hundreds over the course of the semester.

40. When you go grocery shopping, have a list of what you need and stick to it.

41. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

42. Before you start school, or between semesters, learn how to cook inexpensive foods like beans, pasta, and cheaper cuts of meat. You’ll eat well on your limited budget.

43. Limit your meat consumption. Meat is usually one of the more expensive items you can buy.

44. Drink water rather than soda or energy drinks, which aren’t much better for you than soda anyway.

45. Gotta have your cup of joe in the morning? Make your own. Buying a cup at the campus coffee shop once in a while may be OK, but spending a few bucks every day on java can quickly deplete your wallet.

46. There will be many nights when you feel the urge to order a pizza when you’re studying. Resist that urge, or at the very least, give in infrequently.

47. Try not to do fast food runs when you’re inebriated. You won’t even realize how much your’e spending.

48. Buy in bulk when it makes sense to do so, since the cost per unit is often reduced. Five gallons of ice cream may not be a good idea, but buying a case of 12 boxes of pasta is.

49. Get some friends together and go in on a Costco or Sam’s Club membership so you can take advantage of their lower prices. Or, if your parents have a membership, see if you can use theirs.

50. Clip coupons, use coupon sites and apps, and do what you can to save a little bit here and there on your grocery bill.

51. Find out when there are events on campus that offer free food for students, and attend them. Things like welcome picnics and cookouts, pizza parties thrown by student clubs, and more are all fantastic and totally legitimate ways to score a free meal.

52. If you’re dying to go out to eat, find out when local restaurants offer deals for students. Depending on where you go, your ID can get you a buy one get one deal, half off, and more.

Living Expenses:

53. Living in the dorms can be convenient, but it costs a lot, and you don’t get much space. You can often live off campus for considerably less per month.

54. Or, work as a resident advisor (RA) in the dorms. A free room is often part of the job.

55. If your college is close to your parents’ house, live there.

56. Got relatives or close friends in your college town? Ask if they have room for you for the semester. They will often let you stay for free or for much less per month than a landlord will charge.

57. Live with roommates. Living alone may give you the solitude you crave, but it’s expensive.

58. Find a less expensive area of town in which to live. You don’t want to sacrifice safety, but definitely avoid paying a premium to live in the best or coolest areas.

59. Rent an apartment or house that has a washer and dryer. You’ll save money by not using coin ops at the laundromat, plus it’s a lot more convenient.

60. Be vigilant about your use of electricity, especially if it’s not included in the price of your rent. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room, keep the tv off unless you’re watching it, and so on.

61. Keep your heat turned down (or your AC turned up) when you’re not at home. This will go a long way in keeping your bill down.

62. If your heating bills are still really high, try insulating windows with caulk and plastic and using draft dodgers under doors to keep the heat from escaping.

63. Don’t linger in the shower or fill the bathtub on a regular basis, since doing so can make your water bill sky high.

64. You’re in college to study and learn, not to watch tv. This means that you really don’t need to pay for cable or satellite. Instead, use free or lower priced entertainment options, like watching episodes online.

65. Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees, which can add up.

66. For all of your living expenses, make a budget and stick to it. Know how much you have to spend so you avoid going into debt.

67. Decorate as inexpensively as possible. Think DIY crafts, inexpensive Christmas lights, posters, and work by friends who are art majors.

68. Before you start the semester, make a list of things you need, like a couch, desk, microwave, and so on. Then, see if you can get them free (or very cheap) from students who are graduating and don’t need or want them anymore.

69. Hit up local thrift stores, garage sales, and Goodwill to get whatever else you need.

70. It may seem extreme, but using the computer lab instead of buying your own can save you about a thousand dollars.

71. If you really need your own computer, though, take advantage of student pricing to save a bit on the cost. Your school’s bookstore should be able to help you out, or you can visit Apple’s education store website (http://store.apple.com/us-hed) for lower prices on Mac desktops, laptops, and software.

72. Use free software instead of buying it. Google’s vast array of web tools, for example, can save you hundreds of dollars alone.

Entertainment:

73. Your student ID can get you significant discounts around town on things like movies, plays, concerts, and more. Always ask if there’s student prices when you buy tickets.

74. Make an effort to not go out out at least once night per weekend. Instead, stay in and watch a movie.

75. Take advantage of free movies, concerts, and other free entertainment on campus. As a bonus, there’s sometimes free food too.

76. Listen to free internet radio and music streaming sites instead of buying music.

77. End your magazine subscriptions, and read them online or at the library instead.

78. Limit how much alcohol you consume. Drinking is expensive, and alcoholic beverages really doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition.

79. If you must drink, don’t go top shelf. When you have a high-paying job, spending $15 on a single glass of wine is OK, but until then, you drink cheap beer and no-name liquor.

80. A fun way to get some extra cash for entertainment: at the end of every day, take any change in your pockets and toss it in a jar. Then, every few months, count that money and bring it to the bank (or visit a local store with a Coinstar machine) to get an extra $20 or so for something fun.

Getting Around:

81. If you live off campus, try to carpool to school with a friend or roommate. Not only will you save money on gas and car expenses, but you can usually get away with buying just one parking pass and sharing it.

82. If you drive to campus, see if you can park off campus for free rather than paying for a parking pass.

83. See if your college town’s public transport system allows students to ride for free or reduced cost. You’ll have to leave extra time to wait for a bus or a subway, but doing so will lower your transportation costs.

84. Walk or bike if you can.

85. Try to live close to campus to keep your commute short and your gas prices low.

86. When you get ready to go home for school breaks, look for free or inexpensive options. Consider ride sharing, taking the bus, or using Amtrak’s student pricing.

Money Matters:

87. Get a student checking account at a local bank or credit union. Student accounts often have very low fees as long as you don’t overdraw them, so make sure you don’t.

88. Your campus probably offers a lot of free services that you’d pay for off campus. Things like gym memberships, tutoring services, intramural sports, tickets to athletic events, and more are often free for students.

89. Don’t think of student loans as free money. After you graduate, you have to pay them back — with interest. If an amount seems too high to borrow, it probably is.

90. Pay for things with cash. Withdraw a set amount per week, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

91. Try to avoid having a credit card so you’re not tempted to spend more than you have. Credit card companies will try to lure you into getting one, but don’t fall for their slick marketing lines.

92. If you must have a credit card, make sure you get one with the lowest interest rate you can find. This might mean no cards aimed directly at students (which tend to have high APRs).

Other Tips for Saving Money

93. Pets are great for companionship, but they’re also expensive. Food, vet bills, and other costs can break your budget. College might not be the best time to have a pet.

94. A part time job will help with your income, but make sure the hours won’t interfere with your studies. Remember your main purpose for being in college.

95. Use free means of communication, like email, Skype, and social media, rather than racking up a huge cell phone bill.

96. Share a cell phone plan with friends or roommates, or ask your parents if you can get on theirs. Sharing a plan is often cheaper than buying a single one.

97. If you smoke, do everything you can to quit. The cost of cigarettes is an unnecessary expense.

98. Spring break can be really expensive! Instead of spending the week in Cancun with your friends, see if you can visit family or friends who live in a warmer climate. Better yet, spend the week working or volunteering.

99. We all feel generous around the holidays, but being a poor college student means not buying expensive Christmas gifts for others. Spoil your friends and family after you graduate and get a good job.

100. Wear your hair longer. Longer hair means fewer haircuts, which means less money spent at the salon or barber shop.

101. If you’re not using something, sell it or bring it to a consignment shop. This will make you some money, reduce your clutter, and help someone else save a few bucks on something they want or need.

 

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October 28th, 2015

How To Cut Expenses When Moving Out

Moving out of your parents’ house and into your first apartment can be really exciting. This means independence, freedom, and the pride that comes from having your very own place. You can do what you want, when you want, and there’s no mom or dad around to tell you to clean your room, take your feet off the coffee table, or eat more veggies.

However, moving out for the first time can mean lots of new expenses: rent, of course, but also utility bills, food, home furnishings, entertainment, and more. How can you live on your own without going broke? Here are five ways to save some money on your first place.

1. Choose your neighborhood wisely. Before you settle on a place, get a feel for how much monthly rent will run you from one neighborhood to another. The swankiest neighborhood will of course seem like the nicest place to live, but you’ll pay more in rent to live there. Figure out where you can afford to live, and don’t rent in a more expensive part of town that you’ll have a hard time affording.

2. Live with a roommate. Or two. While you’ll have to sacrifice a bit of privacy and independence, splitting the rent and bills two or three ways will save you a lot of money. Before choosing someone to live with, though, make sure that your living styles and cleanliness tolerances are similar; this will help avoid conflicts and headaches later on.

3. Don’t buy new furniture. Ask friends and family members if they have older furniture hanging out in their basements or attics that you might be able to take off their hands. Or, check garage sales, thrift stores, and Craigslist for inexpensive, gently used furniture. It’s also wise to look at your local Freecycle group for free items. A lot of used furniture just needs a quick clean-up, but if you’re concerned about making your place look stylish, there are loads of online tutorials for upcycling home furnishings.

4. Use energy and water wisely. Remember all those times your mom or dad told you to turn off lights, lower the air conditioning, or quit taking long showers? They were trying not to be wasteful, but they were also trying to save money. When you move out for the first time, keep their voices in the back of your head! Turn off lights that aren’t being used, don’t blast the heat or AC, lower the heat or AC when no one is home, and so on. Doing these things can make a big difference in your monthly bills.

5. Be frugal about home entertainment options. It’s tempting to get a full cable or satellite package, but you may not need it. In fact, you may not need cable or satellite at all, especially with all the new streaming options available. For example, you can get a Netflix streaming subscription for under $10 per month. If you want content on your TV, a $30 Google Chromecast will do it. Compared to a cable or satellite bill of $50 per month or more, you can save a bundle.

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October 17th, 2015

How To Save Money As A Real Fashionista

If you love fashion, you know that you’re never done buying new clothes. Your wardrobe is never complete, and the next piece of ready-to-wear that you must have probably hasn’t even been designed yet. Your friends know that you have a great sense of personal style, and they often come to you for fashion advice. You’ve helped pick out wedding dresses and prom dresses, and you’ve dressed many of your friends for various first dates and job interviews. You have new styles and trends to keep up on and new designer collections to peruse. You are, indeed, a true fashionista.

The problem is that it costs a pretty penny to look so fashion forward. High fashion is notoriously expensive, and to make matters worse, clothing by high-end fashion designers rarely goes on sale. Chanel dresses cost several thousand dollars, and garments from Vera Wang, Alexander Wang, Alexander McQueen, and so many other well-known fashion designers can cost as much as a full month’s grocery budget. Even if you stick to more consumer-oriented brands like Burberry, Prada, and Ralph Lauren, you’re still looking at substantial sums for your couture collection.

How can you be a fashionista without spending your entire salary on your wardrobe? Read on for some helpful tips.

Pick and Choose
Unless you’re a millionaire, you simply can’t own a full wardrobe of expensive designer clothes. Therefore, you’ve got to prioritize your purchases and seriously consider what you want to add to your collection. Versatile items, like a simple and elegant black jacket, are typically much better purchases than overly embellished pieces that you’ll be able to coordinate with only a few things. Also, it’s wise to look for pieces that offer a classic and understated look. Wearing all the latest trends is certainly fun, but the problem with trends is that they can look very outdated very quickly. Choose pieces that will last you at least a year or two.

Hit the Outlets and Discount Stores
Outlet stores are well known for their low prices on last season’s styles, factory seconds, and assorted odds and ends. If you’re serious about saving big money on new clothes, outlet stores are where you want to shop. Many luxury brands like Coach, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbanna, and others have their own stores at big outlet malls. You may not find exactly the piece of clothing or pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on, but you will find low prices and a fairly decent selection.

Also, remember that many high end department stores have outlets where you can score great deals on top designers’ clothes. Two great examples are Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off 5th. Plus, may department outlet stores have websites where you can also get great discounts. For example, if you hit saksoff5th.com on the right day, you could find a Stella McCartney cotton-silk print dress with an MSRP of $1630 for $629 — a full $1000 off. Add a coupon code, and you could save even more.

Smart shoppers also know that Marshall’s and TJ Maxx are great places to look for big name fashion for small prices. You need a bit of patience when shopping at these stores, as you never know what you’ll find. However, frequent visits could pay off in amazing designer clothes at a serious discount.

Check Out Sample Sales
If you don’t live in or near New York or another major city, you may have never heard of sample sales. These are sales that designers and sometimes stores have in order to liquidate extra merchandise. These are really a win-win for everyone involved: stores get to clear out everything that hasn’t sold and make some money while doing it, and consumers can get otherwise expensive clothing and accessories for a lot less than retail. Bridal shops and wedding gown designers typically have one or two sample sales a year, so if you’re in the market for a high fashion wedding gown, sample sales are where you want to shop.

The difficult thing about sample sales is finding them. They’re not always advertised very well, so you’ll want to follow your favorite designers on social media, check your local newspaper for ads, and watch for pop-up sample sales in your town. Or, if you live in or near New York City, blogs like Sample Sally keep a running list of what sample sales are happening where and what you can buy at them.

Like discount retailers and outlets, sample sales require a great deal of patience and flexibility on your part. You truly never know what you’ll find and what sizes will be available. However, if you go in with an open mind, you may come out with a bag full of great deals.

Buy Pre-Owned Pieces
Like used cars and second hand furniture, buying pre-owned clothes and accessories can save you a bundle. If you decide to go this route, there are a few things you can try. First is visiting thrift and resale shops. You have to be in the mood for a good hunt, but if you find treasure in the form of a brand name garment or handbag for an absurdly low price, it will all be worth it. Luxury consignment services are also great for finding previously owned pieces. They’ll often be in pristine condition, and you will save some money off the new price, but you definitely won’t get a bargain.

Finally, the old standby of used everything: ebay! This is probably where you’ll find the best selection of high end fashion. As with luxury consignment shops, it’s not likely that you’ll get a tremendous bargain, but you can certainly save some money. Plus, many luxury consignment resellers have listings on ebay. For example, Crave Luxury Consignment has an ebay storefront with loads of big name fashion items. As with other sellers, their prices are definitely higher than what a thrift store might charge, but they are considerably lower than the MSRPs on new pieces.

Rent Your Fashion
If you’ve ever gone with your boyfriend or husband to rent a tuxedo and found yourself wishing that you could rent the fashionable clothes (and shoes, and purses) that you love, there’s great news: you can! While some big-city stores have been running fashion rental services for a while, there are now a number of websites through which you can rent the item you’d like and return it when you’re done. It’s a great way to keep yourself fresh and fashionable without spending your entire paycheck on clothes or filling your closet with tired trends.

There are a few sites you can visit to fulfill your fashion rental desires. Rent the Runway has dresses and gowns by top designers like Nicole Miller, Badgley Mischka, Vera Want, Lilly Pulitzer, and more. Lending Luxury also has great dresses for rent for just about any occasion, from fun and casual parties to elegant black tie affairs. If you’re looking for just a designer handbag, perhaps from Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Prada, or Gucci, Bag Borrow or Steal has you covered. In the UK, Girl Meets Dress has designer clothing for rent, and they even let you try on up to three to decide which one you like best.

save money on clothing

Use Coupons Online
It’s no secret that there are thousands of discount coupons for online shopping circulated and aggregated. Before you click the purchase button for any online retailer, check to see if you can find and apply any discount codes. These can be found on RetailMeNot, GoodSearch and here at CouponLawn. Sometimes, though, you don’t have to even look for coupon codes — they’re right there on the website’s landing page. The catch with those is that you actually have to enter them when you check out. It’s easy to forget, so see if you can enter codes before you shop.

Download the Apps
Want to be alerted when a top fashion item you’re coveting goes on sale? As the tagline goes, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are a lot of apps for that! TikTakTo shows users a live feed of the day’s best deals, while Tophatter lets you bid on ebay-style auctions for fashion and accessories. ShopSavvy shows you the lowest price of an item in your area, and anecdotal evidence suggests that if you show a retailer a lower price on your phone with the ShopSavvy app, the lower price will be honored.

Shopular is an app that sends you deals and discounts when you’re near a store that will honor them. It works by proximity, so it won’t send you a great coupon for a store that’s 50 miles away. To use a Shopular deal, just show your phone at checkout. Finally, the ShopStyle app lets you search over 1,000 retailers to compare prices on either a specific item or a given style. So, you could shop for “black flats,” or you could shop for “Tory Burch black flats.” Either way, you’ll find out what they’re selling for at a number of stores and online retailers.

Discount Lines by Top Designers
Vera Wang dresses are beautiful, but they also cost quite a bit; a single dress can set you back $1200 or more. What can you do if you love Vera Wang but don’t have that kind of money to spend on one garment? Go to Kohl’s! That’s right — Kohl’s. You’ll find their Simply Vera line, designed by Wang herself but costing considerably less than her original line. A colorful spring dress, for example, costs just over $50. Similarly, top designer Marc Jacobs has a more affordable Marc by Marc Jacobs line, and the clothes in the discount line cost about 80% less than those in the top line.

save money as a fashionista

Give Knockoffs a Second Look
We know: you’re a fashionista. You buy fashion, not imitation fashion. That’s all well and good if you’ve got al the money in the world, but when you’re on a budget and looking to save some money, sometimes corners need to be cut. We’re not saying that you should buy only knockoffs. However, picking and choosing a few well-made and authentic looking imitation pieces can save you some money without causing you to lose face. Whether it’s a lesser brand jacket that looks exactly like one made by a top designer or an imitation Louis Vuitton purse, some knockoffs do look really good.

Sure, you’ll know that you’re not wearing or carrying an expensive name-brand piece. Will your friends? Probably not. Remember, being a fashionista is all about looking good. As long as you look the part, it’s highly unlikely that someone will go looking at your actual labels. Wear knockoffs with an air of confidence, and no one will give them a second thought.

Protect Your Investment
Once you spend big money on high end fashion, you want it to last you for years to come. With that in mind, there are a few things you can do to keep your clothes looking great. First, clean them properly. The majority of couture pieces require dry cleaning, so make sure you keep up on it. Yes, it can cost a lot, but think of it as an investment in the longevity of your wardrobe. Besides, $!5 to dry clean a dress that cost $1,200 is not all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Beyond that, make sure you can do minor repairs yourself or have a reliable tailor who can take care of such issues for you. This includes things like sewing buttons, repairing seams that have opened up, and making other minor adjustments as needed.

Swap Old For New
If you’re a true fashionista, chances are you’ve got some fashionista friends who also have great taste and great style. It’s also likely that you get tired of your wardrove from time to time, and so do your friends. Instead of spending a ton of money on new items, set up a clothing swap with your fashionable friends. To do this, you’ll need to round up a few folks who you trust and who are preferrably the sane size as you are. Then, bring the clothes you’re tired of to the designated place and time, open up the bag, and let your friends choose something new. In return, you can choose from their stash. At the end of the swap, everyone walks out with a few new outfits!

Photo Credit: Bob Slur

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October 2nd, 2015

How To Save On Workout Supplements

For many people, simply eating well and exercising regularly is enough for them to stay in shape. But if you’re serious about creating a better body and building as much muscle as you possibly can, then you’re probably using workout shakes and nutritional supplements to help the process along. Shakes and supplements are a great way to boost your nutritional intake and hasten the body building process. Their only weakness is that they can start to break your budget. If you’re looking to save some money on your workout shakes and supplements, here are five helpful tips.

1. Buy only what you really need. There are so many shakes and supplements out there, and it’s easy to go from occasionally drinking a shake after a workout or taking one supplement per day to having an entire shelf full of products that claim to build a better body. Do you really need all of those products? Probably not. Take some time to think about what your goals are, then figure out what nutrition you’ll need to meet those goals and buy only the products that contain what you need.

2. Don’t buy pre-made shakes. Yes, they’re totally convenient, but they’re also expensive (not to mention wasteful, with all of those single use containers). Instead, buy powdered mix in the biggest quantity you can afford (as bigger containers typically cost less per ounce) and make your own shakes. If you need one to go, put it in a reusable cup or mug.

3. Comparison shop for the best deals. You’ll often find the best prices on shakes and supplements online, but be sure that you factor the cost of shipping into the price. Also, watch for good deals on these products; they typically happen in January, when people resolve to get in shape, and in the springtime, when people are thinking about how they’ll look on the beach.

4. Consider buying generic brands. They definitely cost less, and while they’re not always the same as name brands, many generics are more or less equivalent to the pricer brands. Read the labels to make sure that the generic you’re looking at contains a comparable nutritional profile to the name brand; if it’s equivalent, go for the generic.

5. Eat well to avoid having to spend a lot of money to supplement your nutrition. This involves taking some time to learn about nutrients and what foods are rich in them. The good news is that there are lots of inexpensive whole foods that are perfect for anyone who is serious about sculpting a better body. Eggs, vegetables, lean meats, and nuts can all be found for nominal costs at your local grocery store. If you eat wisely and well, you’ll have to supplement less.

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September 24th, 2015

101 Ways To Save Money On A Wedding

The average American wedding costs in excess of $25,000. That’s an enormous amount of money to spend on a celebration that lasts only a few hours — indeed, it’s more than many people earn in a year. But your dream wedding doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many ways to save a little here and scale back a little there when planning your big day. From feeding your guests to staging the perfect ceremony, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a wedding that’s fun, memorable, and full of love. Here are 101 tips and tricks to get you saving.

Her Dress, His Tux:

1. A brand new gown might be nice, but so is a heritage gown that has special meaning for you and your family members. Wear your mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown if they’re available, well-preserved, and the correct size.

2. Ask married friends if you can borrow their gown. Chances are pretty good that they won’t be wearing it again anytime soon (or ever).

3. There are great deals to be had at bridal consignment shops. Most gowns have been worn just once, and some haven’t been worn at all. As a bonus, ask about selling back your gown after you’ve worn it to get some cash back.

4. Hit up trunk sales and sample sales for a great deal on a brand new wedding gown.

5. With more and more bridal outfitters realizing that brides may not want to keep and store their wedding dress, gown rentals have been gaining popularity. Look into renting a dress.

6. Vera Wang, Isaac Mizrahi, and all of the other big name designers have a line of wedding gowns. They’re beautiful, of course, but they’re also ridiculously expensive. An off-brand dress can be just as lovely, and you’ll spend a fraction of the cost of a designer dress.

7. If it’s an option, buy your wedding dress in a state that does not charge sale tax on clothing.

8. If you’re having a more casual wedding, consider buying a white dress that isn’t technically a wedding dress. They’re often priced much lower than wedding gowns.

9. Make your own veil. It’s a simple sewing project that even the most novice tailor will be able to do.

10. Don’t spend a fortune on expensive jewelry for your big day. If you want something especially flash but also expensive, ask friends and family members if they can loan you a piece of their jewelry as your “something borrowed.”

11. Wear high quality costume jewelry. Who will know that you’re wearing fake pearls instead of real ones?

12. Buy shoes that you can wear with other dresses, and don’t spend too much on them. If your smile’s big enough, no one will be looking at your feet anyway.

13. Ask a friend who is good at doing hair and make-up to do yours on the day of your wedding. (It can even be their wedding gift to you.)

14. If the groom and his groomsmen are renting tuxedos, rent basic ones. Designer brands are often available, but they cost considerably more per rental, and they look almost exactly the same as the off-brand tuxedos.

15. Some tuxedo rental shops will give the groom a free rental if his family and groomsmen rent their tuxedos there as well. Look into these possibilities before deciding on a rental shop.

The Invitations:

16. Keep your guest list manageable. Even cutting ten people from your list will save you a good chunk of change.

17. Save the date cards are not really necessary, especially if you send out your invitations early. They’re an extra expense to print and mail.

18. If you do use a save the date notice, consider sending them as postcards. They’re cheaper to print and cheaper to mail

19. Or, send your save the date cards as an email.

20. Keep your invitations simple. Things like full color, embellishments like ribbon and foil, and thick lined envelopes will all drive up your printing cost.

21. Print one invitation that invites guests to both the ceremony and reception. Printing a separate invitation card for each costs more.

22. Buy invitations that can be mailed in regular size envelopes rather than square envelopes. The latter will cost a little bit more to mail, which may seem trivial, but if you have a sizable guest list, that little bit will add up quickly.

23. If you want custom thank you cards, order then when you order your invitations. You’ll often get a discount.

24. If you’re the crafty DIY type, look up some invitation tutorials online, fire up your ink-jet printer, and make your own.

25. There are services that will assemble and stamp your invitations for you, but to avoid the fee that they charge, set aside a few hours with your betrothed and do them yourselves.

26. Having a calligrapher personally address envelopes may be a nice touch, but at a few bucks per envelope, it’s an unnecessary expense. Instead, learn how to write calligraphy, or type addresses in an ornate font on your computer and run the envelopes through your printer.

27. Keep the number of pieces of paper in your invitation envelope to a minimum to reduce postage costs. For example, rather than including printed directions, you could simply direct guests to a website or give brief GPS instructions.

28. Have your invitation weighed at the post office, and then buy postage in the exact amount you’ll need.

29. Instead of paying return postage on RSVP cards, create a free website for guests to use for RSVPs.

The Ceremony:

30. Clergy and professional officiants typically charge a fee to perform a wedding ceremony. However, the Universal Life Church will ordain anyone to perform a wedding ceremony for free. If you’re not interested in a religious ceremony, this is a good way to save some money.

31. Choose a reception venue that also has space for your ceremony. You’ll save on the second site charge.

32. Save on printing costs by skipping a program. People generally know what to expect from a wedding ceremony, so they’re not entirely necessary.

33. Keep the ceremony to the allotted time to avoid overtime charges from your officiant and any musicians who perform.

34. Do the ceremony privately earlier in the day or the day before, then invite your friends and family to the reception.

The Venue:

35. Think outside the box when it comes to choosing a venue. Places like museums, libraries, parks, and spaces on college campuses will often cost less than more traditional wedding venues.

36. Look into venues you may be able to get inexpensively or for free. For example, if a close family member is a military veteran, you may be able to use the local VFW hall for a nominal charge.

37. Get married in your backyard. It’s totally free!

38. Choose a venue that already has tables, chairs, table linens, dishes and silverware, and all the other little things you’ll need for your big day. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay extra to rent them.

39. Hold your reception in a restaurant. They’ll have everything you’ll need, and you probably won’t be charged a site fee. Offer a limited menu to ensure that Uncle Bob doesn’t order the $60 cowboy ribeye.

40. Many venues will offer to “wrap” or “drape” guest chairs for a small charge each. Two dollars per chair may not sound like much, but if you have 200 guests, that’s $400 — which you really don’t need to spend.

41. Choose a rather plain venue, like a large hotel dining room or a black box type theatre, then decorate it yourself using paper, fabric, and lots of creative lighting.

42. Find out if your venue has a list of preferred vendors. Using them can get you a deal, which can save you lots.

43. Seek out a venue away from a big city, where the rental fees (and just about all of the other wedding costs) tend to be lower.

44. Find a resort in a beach town and have a tropical yet casual destination wedding. As an added savings, your guest list will be considerably smaller than it would have been if your wedding had been held in town.

45. Make your own small favors to be placed at each table.

46. Or, skip wedding favors altogether. They’re usually forgettable to attendees, and it’s an expense that can easily be cut from any wedding budget.

Food And Drinks:

47. Think carefully about what meal you offer your guests, since some entrees cost a lot more than others. Chicken and pasta, for example, cost a lot less than filet mignon.

48. Have your reception at lunch (or brunch) time, which is usually less expensive than dinner

49. Buffet or “strolling” dinners are often less than sit-down dinners.

50. So is having your meal family style, where there are big platters of food to pass on each table.

51. For outdoor weddings, do a hog roast or a barbeque. It’s comfort food that everyone will love, plus it’s a lot cheaper.

52. If you’re having a cocktail hour as part of your reception, limit the amount of hors d’oeuvres you put out. People generally want just a snack before their meal anyway.

53. Or, offer only finger foods at your reception rather than meal-type items

54. Have a local ethnic restaurant cater your reception. It will cost much less than standard caterer, plus it will make your wedding one to remember.

55. Have a cake and dessert reception instead of a full meal.

56. Want a big traditional wedding cake? Instead of a bakery, which will charge a premium on wedding cakes, find a skilled home baker or culinary student and order your cake from him or her.

57. Keep cake flavorings simple and easy. Chocolate and vanilla are usually more affordable than, say, almond and passion fruit.

58. Buy a sheet cake instead of a traditional tiered wedding cake. Sheet cakes are easier to construct and easier to decorate, which means they’re easier on your wallet.

59. Don’t offer guests an additional dessert. Cake is plenty.

60. Get cupcakes instead of a full cake. It’s cheaper, plus you’ll avoid the cake cutting fee that many venues charge.

61. Instead of unlimited open bar, consider having just beer and wine, or just wine. If you and some of your guests prefer liquor, offer one or two “signature wedding cocktails” rather then a full open bar.

62. Limit bar time. You often pay by the hour, so consider having open bar for just the first hour or two of your reception.

63. Hold your reception at a place where you can bring your own alcohol for your guests. Venues and caterers often mark up alcohol by quite a bit, so you can save a lot by buying your own keg of beer or cases of wine.

64. Don’t buy the pricey champagne. Guests will generally just take one quick sip after the toast anyway.

65. Or, instead of buying champagne for the toast, toast with whatever you’re drinking.

Music:

66. Hire talented students to do things like perform classical music at your ceremony, take wedding photos, and more. Students will usually do these services for about half of what a professional might charge, but will almost always deliver comparable quality.

67. Rather than a “wedding” band, find a talented local band and hire them to play at your reception. You may not get all the songs you want, but you get great live music for a lot less money.

68. A DJ is almost always less expensive than a band.

69. Or, skip the DJ, create a playlist of songs you want to hear, and play it through the venue’s sound system. Ask a friend who loves music to be in charge of starting and stopping the music at key times during the reception.

Photos And Video:

70. Instead of ordering an expensive wedding album from your photographer, find a photographer who will give you all of the photos as part of your wedding package, then put the ones you like in a self-published book from any photo website. You’ll have a bound album for a lot less than a traditional wedding album. Plus, if parents or other relatives want a copy, it’s easy and inexpensive enough to order more copies.

71. Put disposable cameras on each table with a note for guests to take photos for you. You’ll be surprised at how good some of them turn out!

72. Or, skip the cost of disposable cameras altogether, and put notes on tables asking guests to email you the photos they take at your wedding (don’t forget to include your email address) or post them to social media and tag you.

73. If you want video as well as photos, ask your photographer if he or she can provide video services as well. Usually, getting both from the same provider will save you some money.

Flowers:

74. Use flowers that are in season for the lowest prices

75. Larger flowers means you have to buy fewer of them, which helps to keep your cost down.

76. Carry a small bouquet, and have your bridesmaids do the same.

77. Bigger tables means fewer tables, which means fewer centerpieces to buy.

78. Create your own centerpieces by using inexpensive glass bottles (which can be found at any craft store) and redistributing flowers from large, inexpensive grocery store bouquets or wholesale markets.

79. Use small centerpieces instead of large ones.

80. Or, to save even more money, use large votive candles surrounded by rose petals on each table. Your only expenses will be a box of petals and a case of candles.

81. Make paper flowers instead of buying real ones. They’re a lot less money, and you’ll never have to worry about them wilting.

82. Get married in a botanical garden, park, or other place with lots of greenery. The natural surroundings come free with the venue, and then you won’t have to spend much on additional flowers.

Other Tips:

83. Make a budget and stick to it to avoid spending too much.

84. Prioritize. If one thing is really important to you — say, a harpist playing music at your ceremony — then you need to be willing to compromise financially on other aspects of your wedding.

85. Ask if you can negotiate a lower price. Remember, everything is negotiable. Many times, for example, a wedding service provider will lower his or her rates if you offer to pay with cash.

86. Hiring a wedding planner may seem like an unnecessary expense, but one who is experienced can help you negotiate lower prices on everything, saving you in the long run.

87. DIY as much as you can. Find fun ideas on Pinterest to inspire you.

88. Avoid getting married in June, when fees for everything tend to be at their highest.

89. For the most leverage when it comes to negotiating, consider picking a date in the winter, late fall, or early spring.

90. New Year’s Eve tends to be an expensive date, as does Valentine’s Day, when prices for flowers, champagne, jewelry, and other items get jacked up.

91. Saturday evening weddings tend to be expensive. You’ll typically get better prices from wedding vendors if you get married on a Friday night, or even during the week.

92. Many receptions last four or five hours. By making yours just two or three, you can save a substantial amount on both food and beverage costs and venue fees.

93. Skip the limousine if you need transportation from the ceremony to the reception. It’s a lot of money for a short car ride. Instead, ask a friend who owns an especially nice car if he or she would be willing to drive you that distance.

94. Involve your creative friends in your wedding for invitation design, flower arranging, photography, and more. Friends will often offer their services for a greatly reduced rate or even for free in lieu of a wedding gift.

95. If you’re having place cards for your guests, write or print them yourself.

96. Or skip place cards entirely and let people sit where they want to sit

97. If you’re buying plain gold bands for your wedding rings and you know your sizes, order them from a discount website. They’ll look exactly the same as the ones you’d get at a jeweler, but they’ll cost about half.

98. Keep the bridal party to a minimum, even down to just a maid of honor and a best man.

99. Keep attendant gifts simple.

100. Don’t say the W word! Vendors know that people are emotional about their wedding and mark up prices as a result. By not mentioning that something is for a wedding, you may be able to save a significant amount.

101. Don’t get too hung up on paying to make sure everything is perfect on your wedding day. Ultimately, you want to focus on the marriage and not just the wedding.

By:

September 11th, 2015

101 Ways To Save Money On Your Kids

If you believe the number put forth by the USDA last August, the cost of raising a child born now through age 17 will exceed $240,000. Have two or three kids, and your costs really skyrocket! While it’s no great secret that kids are expensive, many parents struggle with ways to keep their costs down while still keeping their kids happy, healthy, comfortably dressed, and well fed. If you feel like your spending on your own kids could be reeled in a little bit, check out these 101 tips to save money on kids, from birth to high school graduation.

Baby Stuff:

1. Breastfeed instead of using formula. Once those free formula samples run out, it costs a small fortune to buy the stuff. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is free.

2. Check to see if your health insurance plan covers the cost of a breast pump. If you don’t have to go out of pocket to buy this essential device for working moms, you can save a few hundred bucks.

3. Buy a set of cloth diapers and use them as much as you can to cover your baby’s bottom.

4. Or, if you use disposables, buy large boxes to cut down on the cost per diaper. The best time to do this is when your baby goes up to a new size so that you’re not stuck with a bunch of diapers that are too small.

5. Try store-brand or generic brand disposable diapers rather than name brand. They offer the same protection, but they usually cost much less money.

6. If you don’t use cloth diapers, try to potty train early. The sooner you can get your child out of diapers, the less you’ll have to spend on them.

7. Make your own baby food. Those little jars and pouches can add up quickly.

8. There are $10 strollers and $1000 strollers. The $10 might not be best for an infant, but you can get a decent stroller for much less that $1000. Shop around.

9. If you have a crib and a portable Pack and Play, you probably don’t need a bassinet too.

10. Before buying any expensive piece of baby gear, see if a friend has one that you can try out first.

11. Don’t buy a crib bumper. They are a SIDs risk and an unnecessary expense.

12. If you pllan on having more than one baby, buy your big baby gear (like a stroller, car seat, high chair, and so on) in gender neutral colors and use it again in a few years.

13. Carefully consider all the baby gear you buy. Some items may look and seem cool, but they’re ultimately not necessary. For example, a wipes warmer may seem like a good idea, but you can certainly do without one.

14. People who are handy with yarn and a needle will frequently ask if they can knit you a blanket, hat, or something for your baby. Say yes! You can never have too many blankets or knit baby items.

15. Check out a mom-to-mom sale for good prices on gently used baby gear

16. If you have your baby in a hospital, you’ll likely get offered all kinds of freebies, like diaper bags, diapers, and even onesies and sleep wear. Take anything that is offered to you.

17. Keep your diaper bag stocked with everything you need when you’re out. The goal is to avoid buying something that you already have at home.

Child Care Expenses:

18. A day care center is almost always less expensive than hiring a nanny or in-home babysitter.

19. If you do hire a nanny, hire a well-qualified student instead of someone who considers themselves a professional nanny.

20. Share a nanny with one or two other families. The nanny can watch two or three kids at once, and you can share the cost.

21. To eliminate some or all child care costs, adjust your work schedules. If one parent works during regular business hours, see if the other parent can work in the evenings. Even if there’s some overlap, paying for a few hours of care every day is certainly less expensive than paying for full days.

22. Ask a grandparent or other relative if they are willing to watch your child one day (or more) per week.

23. if your workplace offers on-site child care, their costs may be lower than an off-site daycare center.

24. Set up a child care co-op with a few other families. You watch all the kids once per cycle (depending on how many families are involved), and the other families watch them on the other days.

25. Take advantage of the child care tax credit for a tax break.

Keeping Them Clothed:

26. Designer labels have started putting out their own lines of baby and kids clothes. They are lovely, but they are also incredibly expensive, especially when you realize that your child will outgrow them in a few months.

27. Try to have some restraint when buying kids clothes. Yes, your child will look adorable in all of the little outfits. No, you do not need to buy all of them.

28. Think in terms of what you’ll actually need and use. That ladybug raincoat might be the cutest thing ever, but if you live in an area where there’s not a lot of rain, it’s probably not a smart thing to buy, no matter how cute it is.

29. Baby clothing manufacturers have been marketing going home outfits for your baby to wear home from the hospital. They are often expensive. Skip the gimmick — anything your baby wears home from the hospital is a “going home outfit.”

30. Newborns do not need shoes. Soft foot coverings are perfectly fine. Yes, the shoes are cute, but they are an unnecessary expense.

31. Check out consignment shops, thrift stores, and garage sales for gently used clothing.

32. Take advantage of all offerings of hand me downs from friends. Save your first child’s clothes for your second (and third?) children to wear.

33. If an item of clothing gets a stain on it, sew a fun patch over the area. Your kids can keep wearing that shirt or pair of pants, and it will seem new to them because of the embellishment.

34. Hit up end-of-season clearance sales to buy a size or two up for the following year.

35. Also check out pre-season sales for early discounts and a better selection. Buy your kids’ summer clothes in April, winter clothes in September, and so on.

36. If you can, make clothing for your children.

37. New pajamas can be prices. However, old, soft clothes, even items with stains, can be used as pajamas.

38. if you have multiple kids of different genders, buy big items like boots, coats, and hoodies in neutral colors so they can be passed down.

39. Don’t buy anything that just fits your child — they’ll outgrow it in a week. Always buy a size up.

40. For dress-up occasions like a wedding, don’t buy a dress or suit that your child will wear only once. Instead, ask around to see if you can borrow one from a friend, or look into renting what you need.

41. When footie pajamas get too short, take a pair of scissors and cut the feet off.

42. If your kids take a bath before putting on pajamas, those pajamas can be worn more than once before they need to be washed.

43. Wash kids’ clothes only when you have a full load. If you have several children, combine their dirty laundry piles.

44. Older kids will want the latest fads and fashions. Limit what you spend on these things. If they really want them, encourage them to get a job, save their money, and buy what they want.

Keeping Them Fed:

45. Clip coupons, use coupon apps, and pay attention to sales to pay lower prices on everyday essentials.

46. Grow your own vegetables and, if you can, keep chickens for lots of eggs. Get your kids involved in gardening and caring for the birds — it teaches them vital skills, and you won’t be stuck doing all the work yourself.

47. Don’t take small kids grocery shopping. They often ask for things you don’t need, and while you say no to their pleasing more often than not, you’ll still end up giving in to one or two of their requests and spending more than you planned to.

48. Don’t buy “kids” food: chicken nuggets, frozen french fries, and heat and serve items. Encourage your kids to eat the meals you prepare for the whole family.

49. Buy whole foods rather than convenience foods.

50. Do your best to use all the food you buy. Throwing away food is like throwing away money.

51. Cook big, relatively inexpensive meals like chicken noodle soup and lasagna. These are crowd pleasers that can be made for a modest amount and can feed a huge family.

52. Allow your kids a limited amount of juice. Water is better for them anyway, and if it’s from the tap, the cost is almost nothing.

53. Kids will often shout for you to stop the car when you drive by a fast food joint. Don’t stop!

54. If you do eat at restaurants, eat at places where kids eat free, eat what they weigh, or eat for some other significant discount.

55. Or, when eating out with small children, order one entree for you and your child to share. Restaurant entrees are often too big for one person anyway, and the adult entrees are usually tastier and more healthy than anything on a so-called “kids” menu.

56. Get a membership to Costco, Sam’s Club, or other warehouse store so you can buy items you use a lot of in bulk.

57. Try to avoid buying kids’ snacks in single serving bags or containers, where the price per ounce is considerably higher than buying a big bag. Instead, buy big and portion out individual snack sized bags or containers at home.

Toys and Playthings:

58. Buy gently used toys at garage sales, on ebay.com, and on Craigslist. Big items like play kitchens, bikes, and trampolines can be found for a fraction of their original cost.

59. Or, to reduce your costs, clutter, and boredom, rent toys through one of several toy rental websites.

60. Try to limit how many toys you buy. Encourage your kids to donate or sell the items they no longer play with.

61. Ask friends who have kids a few years older than yours; chances are their kids are sick of their old toys and will gladly give them to you for free.

62. Encourage unstructured play to develop kids’ imaginations and also to keep your spending down. For example, a box of matchbox cars and no instructions can be a lot more interesting than an elaborate racing track that sends the cars in only one direction.

63. Give your kids a box of plain wooden blocks. They’ll have hours of fun making thousands of different creations, and plain blocks cost a lot less than other, more elaborate toys.

64. Save the big boxes that appliances come in. Your kids will turn them into a fort, a fire truck, a boat, and more.

65. Instead of toys, temporarily repurpose household items. For example, a few wooden spoons and some pots become an awesome drum kit.

66. Use all the crayons before buying new ones. The small pieces color just as well as the fresh ones.

67. Coloring books are fun, but blank paper is even more fun. Plus, it’s cheaper and it encourages kids to artistically express themselves more fully.

68. Save your old clothes, put them in a box, and let your kids play dress up. They’ll love pretending to be you.

69. Give kids your old, expired credit cards, mobile phones, old purses and wallets, and other items to play with. These things may seem useless to you, but to a five year old, they are oddly entertaining.

70. Check freecycle.com for people who are looking to give away things they no longer want, including toys that their kids have outgrown.

71. Get together with some friends and have a toy swap. Your kids can trade the toys they’ve lost interest in for a friend’s toy that’s no longer seeing lots of use.

72. Limit toys that use batteries. You’ll always be buying batteries.

Keeping Them Entertained:

73. Check with your local movie multiplex to see if they offer free kids movies. Many theatres will do mid-morning free screenings of last year’s kids features in the summer, on school vacations, and on the weekends.

74. Take the kids to a matinee, where tickets cost less than evenings shows.

75. Check your local park’s summer schedule for free family concerts.

76. On holidays, head to your local main street for a parade. Kids will love seeing all the floats, performers, and attractions pass by.

77. Look into free or reduced cost days at zoos, museums, and other attractions.

78. Seek out all the free playgrounds in your area, and visit them on a rotating basis to keep them all new and exciting.

79. See what your local library has to offer. In addition to a big collection of children’s books, many libraries have an extensive list of kids programs and activities, all of which are free to residents.

80. Cut out your cable or satellite television bills. Instead, watch free videos and shows aimed at kids on YouTube, Hulu, and other websites.

81. Keep your kids’ after-school activities to a set number, maybe two per week. This not only saves some money, but teaches kids to prioritize.

82. Summer camps can be expensive. Limit the number of weeks your child can attend camps, and allow them to choose what they’d like to do.

83. If you plan to visit an amusement park, buy tickets in advance to save a significant portion off the face charge.

84. Research less expensive vacation options, especially ones within driving distance.

85. Doing a family trip to a Disney park? Resourceful visitors before you have discovered hundreds of ways to save money on the trip, from admission fees to lodging to food costs. Check out books from the library and visit websites for Disney saving tips.

86. Swim at free public beaches rather than paying to use a private one

87. If you allow your children to play with your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, download free apps rather than paid apps for them. If they want a paid app, see if there’s a free, lite version of it and make sure your child really loves it before buying the full version. It’s also a good idea to limit how much you’ll spend on apps for your kids or how many you’re willing to download per month.

88. Make sure you switch off all in-app purchases! We’ve all heard the stories about kids inadvertently spending $500 or more in a single app. Don’t let it happen to you.

Other Tips:

89. Create a family budget and stick to it.

90. Keep birthday parties reasonable. A blow-out party at a giant bounce house establishment might be a blast for your child and his or her friends, but so might swinging a bat at a piñata in the backyard. The latter is substantially cheaper.

91. Start saving for college early! It’s not unheard of to start right after they’re born. A little bit here and there will really add up.

92. If your health care plan won’t cover required immunizations, call your local health department. They can often get your kids the vaccines they need for a nominal fee per shot.

93. Send your kids to public school instead of private.

94. Limit how much commercial television your kids watch. They’ll see fewer ads, which means they’ll ask for fewer things.

95. If you smoke, quit. You’ll save money on cigarettess, plus you’ll save on healthcare, since secondhand smoke causes all sorts of ailments in small children.

96. Teach kids to turn off lights when they’re not in a room, not to let the water run, not to leave the door open when it’s cold outside, and to do other things to keep utility bills down.

97. Bathe small children together. You’ll have to fill the tub only once, which helps to keep the water bill lower.

98. Pets cost money. If you’re willing to let your child take care of a pet, the smaller the better. Goldfish are perfect, as are animals that don’t need a lot of stuff. If you can borrow or get an aquarium or a hamster cage for free, though, tropical fish or small rodents are good too.

99. Learn how to cut your kids’ hair. It may save only a little bit, but over the course of their childhood, those small amounts will really add up.

100. Swap and barter skills with friends. If you become good at cutting hair, trade with your friends: one haircut by you in exchange for something from them.

101. Rather than giving in to every whim your child has, give them an allowance so that they can spend their own money on what they want. They’ll learn how to make decisions, and you won’t always look like the bad guy every time you have to say no to them.