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Category — Frugal Living Tip

Maintain Your Car and Save

Tackling your own auto maintenance may sound like a daunting prospect, but with a little research, some basic tools and determination, you can save a lot of cash. The average consumer has no idea how tremendous the markup is on easy-to-perform automotive services. By investing some time in learning basic car maintenance, you can gain both savings and the personal satisfaction of knowing that you did the job yourself. Three money-saving services that you can perform yourself are changing your oil, monitoring your tire pressure and detailing your car.

Change Your Oil Yourself
Keeping your car’s oil changed protects its engine life. The owner’s manual contains the recommended service schedule. Most auto manufacturers recommend oil changes every 3,000 miles, but check the owner’s manual to be sure. According to Edmunds, car owners save around $100 yearly by changing their oil themselves. Combined with other frugal living tips, this really adds up. Edmunds lists on its site step-by-step instructions for changing your car’s oil.

Maintain the Correct Tire Pressure
Maintaining your car’s tire pressure is key to fuel efficiency and savings. Under-inflated tires are not only dangerous but cause your car to use more gas. The owner’s manual lists the optimum tire pressure for safety and fuel efficiency. An inexpensive tire pressure gauge helps you determine whether the tires need inflating. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that gas mileage improves 3.3% with properly inflated tires. If gas is $3 per gallon, that translates to savings of ten cents per gallon. This saves $78 yearly for a car with a 15-gallon tank filled once weekly.

Detail Your Car Yourself
Contrary to what many believe, car detailing is a frugal do-it-yourself project. Keeping your car looking good maintains the car’s value. If you decide later to sell it or trade it in, you receive more money for it. According to Cost Helper, the average cost for car detailing in the United States is $58 for a basic detail job. In some areas, the cost is as high as $300 for a premium detail job. Invest in a few basic supplies and reap the savings. Popular Mechanics describes the detailing process on its site.

Do you have tried and true money-saving auto maintenance tips? Share them.

May 20, 2010   No Comments

Budgeting

Many people feel like there is never enough money. After paying bills and necessary expenses, there is often times no money for education, savings or an emergency fund. A budget is a way of tracking what you spend, deciding what needs to be paid and figuring out where you can cut back. As soon as you begin your budget, you will soon be able to find out if your money is being spent on things you truly need or just on things that you want. There are many areas included within a budget that you can but back.

Housing If you are living in a home that is beyond your means, it is time for a change. Options may include refinancing, finding a less expensive place, or finding a roommate.

Utilities Utilities such as gas, electric and water are all necessary, but can be better managed. Other utilities that are elective such as cable, internet and phone can either be disconnected to switched to a less expensive service.

Transportation Make sure you are driving a vehicle you can afford, including the payment, insurance and gas. If the car is too expensive trade it in or sell it for something you can afford. Carpooling is even an often for many people

Food Eating out is not a necessity, but nice sometimes. Eating out less will cut a budget drastically. If you work, take your lunch. Shop grocery stores that offer specials and cut coupons to save money.

Clothing Everyone needs clothing but this does not mean you need the most expensive. There are many second-hand and thrift stores that provide clothing at marked down prices. Clothing can also be passed on from one child to the next.

Healthcare Costs of healthcare continue to rise, but can also be managed. When you are filling prescriptions, ask for generic drugs. Ask a doctor for a discount when you are paying in cash. Always review doctor and hospital bills for accuracy.

Insurance Whether buying car or health insurance, it is important to shop around to get the best possible rates. Ask the agent for all the discounts that you qualify for, including low mileage, multiple car and good driver.

Saving money can be achieved by creating and sticking to a budget. You are able to decide what money needs to be spent and where you can cut back.

May 13, 2010   No Comments

Save Money on Clothes

While you may always be on the lookout to save money, there are times when you simply have to buy something. Clothing is one example of an item that will at some point have to be replaced. Here are some tips to help you save money the next time you find yourself in need of new clothes.

Be Proactive: Take Care with Laundering
The agitating action of the washing machine is what cleans your clothes, not the water temperature. While hot water is fine for items you want to sterilize, most of your clothes can be safely washed in cold water. The color on your clothes will last longer, and your utility bills will thank you, as well.

Hit Department Store Clearance Racks
There is a natural inclination to buy clothes at discount stores when you are trying to save some cash. They have the best prices on paper products and cleaning goods; why wouldn’t they have the best prices on shirts and slacks, too? While the prices may be the lowest around, the quality will also be low. Clothes from your local discount stores will be made from lower quality fabric and threads, meaning that you will have more seams opening up. They will quickly lose their shape, and before long you will find yourself dissatisfied with the items.

However, when you visit your local department store and hit the clearance racks you will be able to purchase high quality, name brand clothing at discount prices. It is not uncommon to find clothes marked down seventy and eighty percent at the department stores. You will spend the same amount of money as you would have at the discount store, but you will be thrilled with the higher quality. Not only will the clothes last longer, but your pleasure with them will also stick around.

Local Thrift Stores
Thrift stores are a great alternative; especially when you are shopping for growing children or kids who are particularly hard on their clothes. It is not uncommon to find name brand outerwear that has barely been worn selling at ninety percent off its’ retail price. These are also great places to find children’s clothes that have barely been worn as people will donate those clothes that are outgrown too quickly.

Ebay for Professional Business Attire
There is a growing trend among professional women to sell off their business suits on Ebay and other online auction sites. Business attire is extremely expensive, rarely gets dirty and winds up on Ebay (or in thrift stores) when people get tired of it. For seventy to eighty percent off from the retail price you can pick up a stylish professional suit.

Dye Faded Jeans
Black and dark blue clothes, especially jeans, tend to fade over time. If you are required to have these items for work and find yourself constantly fighting the fade, consider dying them. This can save you substantial amounts of money compared to constantly replacing your dark colored uniforms.

Saving money when you’re buying clothes isn’t difficult. It may take a little more time. However the result of saving your hard earned money will make it well worth the extra effort.

April 23, 2010   No Comments

Saving Money by Buying Pre-Owned Merchandise

Are you looking for ways to save money on everything from clothes to household items? One way to do this is to reuse and recycle what you already own, and to buy used for things you don’t own. There are quite a few places to help you buy used items, and some places where you can get things you need at no cost.

If you have children you know how fast they grow and how they can quickly wear out clothes. Instead of buying new clothes for them, try saving some money and buying your clothes at garage sales. Most of the times you can find great clothes that look brand new. The same applies for household items. If you have the choice of a blender that costs $25.00 at a store or a blender that costs $1.00 at a garage sale, the obvious choice is the garage sale. If you are unsure of things from garage sales, ask the owners if you can test out the item to make sure it works well. Most people are happy to comply with this request.

Freecyle is a great resource for used merchandise. This website has local chapters where people can request something they need and offer things they do not need. Before you buy landscaping materials or plants, check out Freecycle. You may be able to find what you need for free while helping something avoid the landfills. Freecycle is free to join and a great resource for someone trying to save money. I have gotten many great things from this site, including a rug, plants, clothes, and decorations for my home.

Another great resource for saving money is used paint. Most cities have a disposal site for used paint and varnishes. What some people don’t know is that any resident can visit this site to take paint as well. This is a good resource if you have a small area you need to paint and don’t need full gallons or maybe the children want a little bit of paint for an outdoor project. To find the hazardous waste drop off site in your area, check your counties website for the location.

If you are looking for something specific and can’t find it at a garage sale or on freecyle, check out used stores. A few good ones are Savers or Goodwill. The merchandise at these stores are in good condition and less expensive than a regular retail store. Also, these stores donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. If you have to spend money at least you are helping a good cause.

Do you have any other frugal tips on how to save money by recycling and reusing? Share your tips in the comments.

April 17, 2010   No Comments

House Cleaning for Less

People today are of the mindset that if you don’t have a store bought bottle of all-purpose spray cleaner, furniture polish, or glass cleaner, you just can’t clean. If you’re trying to live the frugal life and save money in every way possible, your cleaning products are a great way to get started. Almost everything you buy at the store for cleaning can be easily made at home out of ingredients you most likely already have in your cupboard. An added bonus is that not only do these homemade products clean well, they are also chemical-free. If you look up the ingredients of your nearest bottle of Pledge or 409, there is a good chance you won’t be able to pronounce most of them. These expensive chemical cleaners are full of harmful chemicals.

Do it Yourself All-Purpose Cleaner
To make a bottle of basic all-purpose cleaner to use in your kitchen and bathroom, all you need is distilled white vinegar, lemon juice, water, and an empty spray bottle. Mix together one part vinegar, three parts water, and one tablespoon of lemon juice. Shake it up, and you’re ready to clean. This little mixture will clean just as well as the chemical filled stuff you’ve been using, and it probably didn’t cost you anything. The acidity of the lemon juice kills germs and bacteria, and it helps to negate the unpleasant vinegar odor. Any lingering vinegar odor will disappear as soon as the mixture dries.

Do it Yourself Furniture Polish
To make your very own all-natural furniture polish, you only need olive oil and lemon juice. If you don’t have olive oil, vegetable and canola oil are acceptable substitutes. Mix two parts oil and one part lemon juice together in a bowl, dip your cleaning cloth into it, and go over all areas of the wood. Use a dry cloth to go over the wood again. Your furniture should gleam and shine just as well as it does when you use store bought furniture polish. This mixture can also be poured into a spray bottle for easier application.

Do it Yourself Window Cleaner
Making window cleaner is pretty much the same recipe as the all-purpose cleaner, but the lemon juice can be left out unless you just want to use it to help with the smell. Essential oils are also fine to use in place of lemon juice for fragrance. To make the cleaner, put one part distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle and fill the rest up with water. It’s best to use old newspapers to wipe the windows clean rather than paper towels. Newspapers are better at preventing streaking, and it will save you money on buying paper towels.

In addition to the above items, you can also make your own laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, and soap. However, the ones listed above are the easiest to mix. Do you have any homemade products you use for cleaning, and if so, how do you make it?

April 9, 2010   No Comments

Finding Money In Your Home and Car Insurance

Insurance premiums are not all alike. The truth is, premiums vary widely between companies and even on similar policies within a company. Here are some tips for finding hidden money in your insurance policies:

First, check out the competition. As Progressive and Geico note in their ads, it pays to shop around. Coverage levels and payouts for claims differ and prices for the same coverage vary depending on factors like your age, where you live, the distance of your commute and even your credit score. It can be tough to compare apples to apples with insurance and it pays to get quotes from a number of insurance companies.

Bankrate.com is an independent company providing comparisons of rates on insurance policies and other financial services. You enter information about your home and car(s) and get insurance quotes for either or both together. Remember that many companies offer discounts if you have both insurance policies with them. Bankrate also has informative articles to help you make wise financial decisions and save money.

Next, the biggest insurance saving tip of all: raise your deductibles. You always save money by raising your risk and reducing the risk to the insurance company. Take a hard look at how much you could afford to pay in case of an accident and adjust accordingly.

Finally, check your coverage levels. You may save money by scrutinizing the coverage for your home and car. Many people carry more insurance than they need and are paying more than they should.

For your home:

  • Check replacement coverage. If property values in your area have declined dramatically, the cost to replace your home in case of fire, for instance, may be lower than it once was. This certainly is not true everywhere, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
  • If you have added deadbolt locks or a home security system, installed smoke detectors, installed a locked fence, improved drainage on your property, or if the city/county has located a fire department closer to your home, you may qualify for discounts. Be sure to keep your agent informed about improvements to the safety of your property. Check out more tips at MSN Money.

For your car:

  • Check the coverage levels for accidents. With a safe driving record and few accidents, you may not need as much coverage as you have. If your car has no lien against it, you can probably drop collision. Do you want to extra pay in case someone hits your eight-year-old minivan? Weigh what you would do if the vehicle were totaled to see if collision makes sense. Check more tips at Forbes’ Investopedia.
  • Keep your agent informed of job changes. If you have been laid off, changed jobs, stopped driving for work or started working from home, your premiums could be reduced based on your reduced commute. Less time driving means less exposure to risk.

Have you lowered your insurance costs? Share your insurance saving tips in the Comments.

April 2, 2010   No Comments

How to Save Money on Fashions While Having Fun Doing it

For some reason, many of us tend to overspend on clothing. Perhaps it’s because we tend to associate our clothes with status, confidence, even luxury.

Thankfully, there are ways to look good and be comfortable without breaking the bank. There’s nothing like finding a skirt, a pair of slacks or a designer T-shirt for much less than their original full retail prices. It’s even better when you can find these items in places that make a day out shopping lots of fun!

If you’d like to have fun finding fashions for less, there are many options to choose from. Here are some suggestions that can help you find great clothes for much less than what department stores charge.

Check out your local thrift store.
Thrift stores are experiencing a cultural re-awaking because people are starting to notice that they can find lots of great deals on clothes and other things. As a result, many thrift stores around the country are re-inventing their images to make them more friendly and inviting places to visit.

This is good news for fashion-conscious consumers because they can find great deals on clothes from the Gap, and other top brands while also having fun browsing through merchandise in a fun atmosphere. In fact, many consumers have found such great deals on fashions at thrift stores that they have stopped shopping at department stores for clothes!

However, you can still shop at department stores and save big.
It’s lots of fun to shop at department stores to find deals on fashions because if you plan ahead, you can almost find great deals on clothes that you can actually use.

The best way to plan ahead is to wait to buy fashions until there is weaker demand for them. This can help you save a lot of money on fashions because retailers need to make room for new inventory that’s in higher demand.

A great example of doing this is waiting to purchase swimwear until wintertime. Many fashion-conscious consumers do this because they can usually purchase top name-brand swimsuits for 1/2 or even 1/3 of their original retail prices.

Finally, don’t forget to also check your local clothing stores for great deals on fashions.
Local clothing stores are lots of fun to visit because they each have a unique personality that makes it easy to spend the day looking over their stuff. They can also offer consumers lower prices on fashions because they often have lower overhead costs than national retailers. This makes them a great place to find hard-to-find fashions for much less than what a department or specialty store would charge.

As a result, it’s possible to find great deals on fashions while also supporting their local economies! What more could a shopper want?

March 26, 2010   No Comments

Planning a Frugal Summer Getaway

summer-getawayFor most of us, summer is the perfect time to get away from it all. As we all work to tighten our belts, vacation doesn’t have to be on the chopping block, at least not entirely. Vacations can be expensive, but remember that hypertension and burn-out are even more so. You don’t have to cut out your vacation entirely, but you can vacation a little smarter and save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

*First, plan ahead. Winter is the best time to start thinking about your summer getaway. This allows for the best budget decisions and helps ensure that your expectations are realistic. Not only is it wise to be prepared, it can really liven your mood in the mid-winter doldrums to make concrete plans for fun in the sun in the months ahead.

*Take advantage of off-peak times. If you’re planning to fly or stay in a hotel, you’ll find that it can be well worth it to stay away from the holiday weekends and weekends in general. The early weekdays of Monday and Tuesday are great days to fly or book a hotel at the best price.

*Do your homework.The Internet is a great resource for low rates on everything from dining to accommodations, complete with user reviews and precise map locations. Don’t be afraid, however, to get away from the computer. Your family and friends can be excellent resources on good places to go, the best deals, and ways to vacation for less. All you’ve got to do is ask.

*Be fearless in asking for discounts. There are a whole variety of ways to get travel deals for less on every basis imaginable. AAA, AARP, and a whole host of organizations offer a variety of travel discounts. Be sure to ask about any discounts, coupons, or other deals that might apply when you do your booking. Overcoming your pride could save you plenty. After all, the worst thing they can say is “no”.

*Budget for everything, even little things, and stick to it like glue. A great way to do this is to leave the debit card and credit cards at home and bring cash instead. It’s wise to wear a money pouch to evade pickpockets, but having cash helps you keep better track of how much you spend, and on what. Paying cash is so much more fun than using credit because you’re free of worry over the size of your statement the following month, allowing you to fully enjoy yourself.

*Start buying things now. You know you’ll need things like camera batteries, sunscreen, maybe even a new swimsuit. When you plan ahead you can defray the costs over time and be well-prepared when the time comes.

*Avoid the crowds. Try something different than your usual, popular destinations. These are often cheaper options and add an element of adventure to your vacation.

What have you done to save money on your vacation?

March 19, 2010   No Comments

5 Steps To Meeting Any Financial Goal

money bagsWhether you want to get rich quick, get rich slow, or something else entirely, there’s a simple process that applies to successfully reaching any financial goal. Saving money is great, but that saving should have a purpose.

Wal Mart’s recent I’m saving for ad campaign points this out well. As consumers, we tend to mindlessly chase bargains for the sake of it, not considering why we’re putting ourselves through it. Sure, some of us just love the thrill of the hunt and landing a great deal, but most of us are just trying to be wiser with our resources.

What are you “saving” for?

Declaring your goal is key. Good goals govern your daily choices, all of which add up to big differences in your financial situation and lifestyle over time. Making little choices day by day can get tiring and test your persistence. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried going on a diet. But if you follow a few tried-and-true problem solving principles, reaching for your financial goals can be a rewarding and succesful challenge.

1. Declare a specific goal within a precise time frame. Goals like “get out of debt” aren’t nearly specific enough and may even be counter-productive. A better example might be “cut household expenses 20% by January 1st next year”. You need a goal as specific as possible with a time frame you could practically set your watch by.

2. Observe your current circumstances. Pay attention to what ever might get in the way of meeting your goal: current spending habits, lifestyle, employment , debts, etc.

3. Make a plan. Take into account all the obstacles you can foresee, and try to anticipate things that may come up. Suppose you’re saving to buy a car with cash. What will you do if your current vehicle dies before you have the chance to replace it? Being as prepared as possible will keep frustration and discouragement at bay.

4. Check your progress. Your goal should be specific enough that you can set intermediate goals and check your progress. If you’re not going according to plan, correct yourself. If your plan doesn’t seem to be working, go right to step 5.

5. Observe again. Make a new plan if you must. Did your plan work? If so, great! If not, now is not the time to get down in the dumps. Now is the time to use 20/20 hindsight to your advantage, figuring out just what went wrong and how. Using what you’ve learned, make a new plan. Try again.

One final, unofficial step: have fun! There’s nothing like the feeling of taking charge of your own destiny.

Repeat this process as many times as you have to, but always remember that you are in charge of your financial destiny. What keeps you inspired, moving forward persistently towards your goals?

March 12, 2010   No Comments

Kill Your Television?

Your television could be a huge source of wasteful spending in your budget, but it really depends on what you value. This is where making a budget can become a soul-searching experience.
Think about your television. Sure, it provides hours of entertainment, and great content. But did you know that the average American spends about 28 hours a week in front of the TV according to AC Nielson? That adds up to almost 10 years in a lifetime of non-stop TV watching.

If you work full time that’s at least 40 hours a week; enough time to earn your entire year’s salary. Consider how much you could accomplish if you shaved off even 4 or 5 television hours each week. You’d at least get a few of those years of your life back and maybe even increase your income.

On the other hand, it can be a good deal depending on your values. In 2005 the average American cable bill was about $40. That comes to about $0.36 per hour of entertainment. Compare this with movies that cost about $3.20 per hour.

Of course, more and more of those television hours are taken up not with content, but with commercials. Ask yourself if, on the balance, it’s really the way you want to spend your time and, more importantly, your money.

Before you decide, consider all the options. Maybe you could catch up on the yard work or home repairs. You could finally write that novel you’ve been procrastinating or finally fix up that old hotrod.

Recent developments in Internet technology are changing the landscape of home entertainment and those looking to live more simply would do well to sit up and take notice.

For instance, Wii just signed a deal with Netflix to provide streaming Netflix content to your television through the Wii game console. Streaming online content is now cheaper and easier than ever. Sites like Hulu and viewmy.tv allow you view all the same content online with far less commercial time.

Getting this streaming content to appear on your tv screen instead of your computer monitor is a simple matter of buying an adapter from an electronics supply store.

Consider trading in your ever-rising cable bill for a much cheaper Netflix membership. At only $8 a month, it’s a much better value.

Mind you, these solution have their drawbacks. Sports fans have far fewer choices, but ESPN does offer streaming sports content for a reasonable monthly fee. Also, the whole household has to carefully plan what they want to watch and when, setting up a queue that’s fair to everyone’s taste.

This process, however, means there’s much less tendency to just plop down on the sofa by default and flip on the TV. There’s nothing wrong with watching TV or movies, but be fair to yourself about how much time you’re giving to it.

February 26, 2010   No Comments