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May 29, 2011

Stay Cool Without The A/C

GotTheOrangeJuice redditor gives his advice on staying cool without air conditioning:

  • As a college student who has lived without AC every year, I did a few things to help keep cool.
  • Buy a box fan. You can get them at Walmart for $10. I would buy 2; one would face outwards in one window to suck out the stagnant air, and one would face in to blow in the air.
  • Prop open your doors. Opening your windows is not enough. To get air circulation, open your doors in your house to allow for air flow.
  • Keep your blinds down or curtains closed. While you window is open, you need to try to keep the sunlight from heating your house. That can be done by keeping the sun out. You can also look into getting curtains designed to block UV light. That would be an expensive initial investment, but would help in the long run.
  • Additionally, planting trees where you would want to block the sun in the summer would be another expensive investment, but would be useful for many years to come.
  • Check to make sure your house is properly insulated. It keeps the cold air in during the summer as well as the hot air during the winter.
  • Get used to wearing only your underwear. Sometimes, it's just hot. Be comfortable just walking around in only your underwear, or nothing at all.
May 25, 2011

Use Buckets To Hold Rainwater for Garden Watering Purposes

Quick Tip: This can be used in conjunction with another frugal activity, keeping and tending to a garden. A great idea to save money on water and be easier on the environment is to use buckets or other large containers to collect rain water during rainstorms or thunderstorms.  Rather than using water from your home, you can simply pour the water from the buckets on your garden to give it the water they need. Both floral and food gardens can benefit from rainwater collection and rainwater harvesting.

Do You Have A Phone With Wi-Fi Capability? Use it.

Quick Tip: WiFi is ever increasing in public and even private areas. If you find yourself home a lot in a WiFi environment or in public with WiFi, turn your WiFi capable phone to WiFi mode. This will reduce the amount of data you use per month and will allow you to choose a lesser data plan, saving you money.
May 24, 2011

Don't Pay For Expensive Software - Get Free Alternatives


Many software companies out there have different priorities than others. The top priority should be to provide a great product while remaining honest to the customers and humbling with their pricing. Some companies don't feel the need to follow this and exploit those who have a lesser knowledge of technology. The thing is, for most of your lighter computing needs, you should be able to find a free and perfectly good software to meet those needs. The main culprit I find of this is Norton technology. I've never seen such a waste of money in my life. No body should pay the prices they set for computer protection. There are free analogues available that do the job just as well or even better. Not to mention these free programs are typically lighter (take up less harddrive space) and less of a resource hog (will not cripple your processor or take up too much space in RAM).

Free Anti-Virus/Spyware Software

Many name brand computers will come with installations of Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee. Eventually you have to pay for these services. Norton requires a yearly fee for having the software. This is ridiculous. There are plenty of great programs out there that do the job for free.

Free Picture/Image Editing Software

Need more power than Paint by can't afford Photoshop? There are free image editors even available as an applet online to get the job done.

 Free DVD/CD Burning Software

Microsoft Office Alternatives

Microsoft Office is expensive, and I know that. Try using OpenOffice as an alternative for Excel, Powerpoint and Word.

Replacement for Microsoft Office or Eudora

Does anyone use other free software that should be recognized or added to the list of essential free software?
May 22, 2011

Make Your Own Natural Homemade Shampoo

Most shampoos on the market are overpriced and contain harsh chemicals, detergents, surfactants, etc. The most well known unwanted ingredient being Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate (sodium lauryl sulfate). There are many ways to make your own (sulfate-free) shampoo and the following recipe is the most simple and that can be done. This can save a lot of money especially if you have a large family to bathe.

Simple Organic Homemade Shampoo:

The recipe is simple. In a bottle you will mix
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 liquid Castile soap
  • 1/2 teaspoon of oil (tea-tree, jojoba, olive oil, grapeseed, etc)
  • Desired amount of scented oils.
- Other ingredients may be added for different effects. Add 1/4 cup of Aloe Vera and 1 teaspoon of glycerin to the mix for a hydrating hair solution. 

Try adding 3 tbsp of apple juice, 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, and 6 ground cloves for a dandruff solution.

Remember to shake well before each use!
May 21, 2011

Make Your Own Homemade Deodorant

There are plenty of recipes for making your own concoction of deodorant out there on the internet. Doing things yourself is fun, saves money, and you can make it any scent you'd like! The best recipe that worked for me was using:

  • Cornstarch (1/4 of a cup)

  • Baking Soda (1/4 of a cup)

  • A half teaspoon of your favorite scented oil. It could be any scented oil you wish. This is where the fun comes. I love having Cinnamon scented deodorant myself.  Tea-Tree oil works the best in this case however, because it is the best antibacterial.

  • A tablespoon or more of coconut oil.

Begin by mixing the cornstarch and baking soda together with the oil(s) that you have chosen. After it is well mixed, add the coconut oil in increments until that is at a consistency you feel fit for yourself. Once it is a consistency that you prefer, you can shape your deodorant which ever way you prefer as well. It will have an odd feeling at first because the cornstarch needs a chance to harden before it can feel normal. Put it in the heat or dehydrate the deodorant to your liking. Use your better judgement to tell when it is done. You have homemade deodorant!
May 20, 2011

Stay On Top of Money with Google Advisor

Google has just recently released a new free service called Google Advisor. Google calls Google Advisor:
"Google Advisor makes it easy to find financial offers from multiple providers, compare them side by side, and apply online."
You can compare mortgage rates of different companies, apply for a credit card that best fits you (be careful of applying for any at all unless you know you're responsible), find the right CD, Checking, or Savings bank accounts, find the accounts with the highest interest rates, and more.

A similar business is Bank Rate.

Make Your Own Homemade Laundry Detergent

Laundry Detergent/Powder is an item that can suck money from our wallets whether we have many loads or few loads per week. There is an quick and easy fix for this. Making your own natural and environmentally friendly laundry detergent that will not only cost less, but last much longer. This method is also safer by being phosphate free.

All you need for ingredients are

  • Washing Soda (4 cups)
  • Borax (4 cups)
  • Bar of Soap
  • Grater/Shredder (could use a simple cheese grater)
These items can be found at most grocery stores in the laundry sections. 

Place the 4 cups of washing soda and borax into a container as well as the finely shredded remains of the bar of soap. Stir these ingredients together until visibly mixed. At this point it should be ready for use. A few tablespoons per load should suffice. This is an insanely cheap and easy way to save a good deal of money while doing laundry. It's also fun! Who doesn't love making things themselves?
May 18, 2011

Summer Frugal Goals

For those of us in the western northern hemisphere summer is quickly approaching. Not only does that mean I finally get to come out of hibernation and come outside to enjoy the wonderful weather, but it also means it's the season for many frugal tricks tips and ideas. Summer opens up many more opportunities than the cooler and colder months of the year. I am setting up goals for myself this summer, my first summer of being frugal. Everyone should make their own goals or list of things to be extra frugal with this summer or follow mine if you wish.

  1. Run the in-window air conditioner only when it is absolutely dreadful to bear the heat or in the beginning stages of going to bed. I love being warm, so I'm sure I'll survive. Once the AC is needed, I won't be setting the thermostat to 66 like I have during previous years. I'm going to set the thermostat to a comfortable 75 degrees. Also, most AC units have a timer on them that can turn off or turn on at a specified time. This can definitely increase efficiency of its use.
  2. Use ceiling fans to circulate warm stagnant air. Make sure your fans are blowing air and not sucking air. The movement of air will create a very cool and breezy effect, lessening the need for the air conditioner to be running.
  3. Dry clothes outside rather than in the clothes dryer to save on electricity (or gas depending on your dryer).
  4. Grow fruits and vegetables in a garden. Not only is it frugal, but you have the enjoyment, fun, and pride of keeping your own garden and growing your own foods.
  5. Have picnics, walk outside, enjoy free outdoor events, visit the river or lake, etc. There are plenty of free and fun activities to do during the summer that won't decrease the size of your wallet. 
  6. Run the pool filter at certain times of the day and only when it's needed. Shut off the filter at night. 
  7. Use water sparingly. If you do tend to keep a garden, leave buckets outside to catch water during rainstorms. You can use this water for gardening purposes rather than using your own water from the house. 
  8. Drive less and walk and bike more often. It's less stressful, less costly, increases exercise, and is more fun. 
  9. Check for insulation errors and keep doors closed at all times when the AC is running. It may be tempting to have the door open during the summer with such beautiful weather, but it can only be one or the other and not both. 
  10. Close curtains and blinds during the day, especially when not around in the house. This will dampen the effect of radiational heating and keep the inside of you home cooler, lessening the need for AC.
How does everyone plan to save this summer?

    Protips from a Grocery Store Cashier

    Redditor lenniebaby offers tips on how to work you local grocery store.

    If the sandwich meat is prepackaged (in that vacuum sealed plastic thing), don't buy it. Its cheaper, but thats because unsanitary things happens in the back deli. Buy from those people that cut slices off a big hunk of meat.

    Don't put mixed-priced things in one bag. The main offenders are sweet peppers - if green peppers are $0.99/lb, orange peppers are $1.99/lb and you put them in the same bag, I'm charging you $1.99/lb for the whole thing.


    End of the College Semester | Check the Street For Free Items

    Now that the end of the semester is rolling in for most college students, it's time to start checking the streets and the roads around your college campus. Most college students live in dorms or apartments away from their original home and town. Quite often, rather than lugging furniture or ANYTHING really back to their house, they will simply put their dorm/apartment items out on the street or similar areas outside to be taken. This is where you come in. Search college towns at the end of semester for this kind of behavior. You can easily grab furniture, clothing, dishware, and even higher end items such as video game systems, TVs, computers, all in pretty good condition have been reported by college town scavengers.

    Even if you aren't looking to keep these items, you can always put them on Craigslist, eBay, or sell them to pawn shops or other people that you may know that might want or need them.
    May 17, 2011

    Plato's Closet | How to Wear Designer Clothing and Not Feel Guilty

    I witnessed a recent opening of a new kind of store in my local area. It opened in a shopping complex where everything else was dying so I figured it was worth at least checking out, however I didn't have time that day to do so. Considering this, I went home and searched the company to see what the hubbub was all about. Plato's Closet was the name of the store in question.

    From the Plato's Closet website, they define themselves by saying this:
    "At Plato's Closet® you'll find a huge selection of trendy, designer styles as well as those every day basics you can't live without - all at up to 70% off mall retail prices!
    Most of our stores buy and sell girls sizes 0/1 to 15/16 and guys size 28 to 40 waist.  However, please check with your local store as sizes may vary.
    We're not your typical secondhand clothing store. The gently used clothing and accessories that we buy are: top-name brands, cool, hip, trendy, clean and in good condition. Typically we buy items that have been in the retail stores within the past 12 to 18 months and are current styles still seen in the mall."
    It seems like a very interesting idea. Bring in your own designer label clothing and get money back for it if you have no interest in keeping it in your college, but also find designer clothing much cheaper than in retail. Like they say, it is much different than just a thrift store. Staying frugal means staying away from designer clothing labels but Plato's Closet seems like a viable option to buy a few items. I noticed there were a lot of Hollister and American Eagle items once I finally got down to looking at the store.  Use the website above to check if there are any Plato's Closets in your area.

    Update: I spent a while in the store and it's quite interesting. I watched the process of handing clothes into the store and actually saw more than person go home with no money. I listened in, and reasons for not taking the clothes were things such as light wear, old labels (which I assumed to mean an out of style piece of clothing), as well as having child sizes. Apparently for certain clothing their is a length requirement as well. I d50id see a woman go home with $27.50 for a medium sized American Eagle bag full of clothing.

    Would you shop or send your clothes into here? It still seems rather interesting.

    Use Google To Your Advantage When Buying Online

    Before making any online purchases be aware that coupon codes exist for commerce websites. You may be able to save even further by using this coupon codes with the final price. Generally the coupon codes can get you 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, etc off your purchase price, free or discounted shipping, and other things they decide to use the coupon for. Many companies offer coupon codes for holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine's Day, etc. These offers are generally not advertised very well or at all. That's why searching for these coupon codes can help.

    Use Google to look help look and search for coupon codes. Get creative with search terms to aid in finding the best and relevant coupon codes towards your purchase.

    Say you are looking for coupon codes for your imminent purchase. You can search into Google "Amazon coupon codes" "Amazon coupons" "Amazon coupons 2011" and any other terms that you can think of. 

    Don't think that what you're buying is exempt from coupon codes. You can get coupon codes for Paypal, Amazon, NewEgg, eBay, GoDaddy and other domain name registering services, online pharmacy purchases, among 90,000 other ideas.

    There is also a great website available to us e-commerce buyers that allows users to input company's coupon codes into their database for others to find and use. They include a rating system that is based on whether the coupon code is still available for use. The website is called RetailMeNot and has coupon codes and discounts for over 90,000 different stores.
    May 11, 2011

    Buying Headphones or Earphones: Know The Quality

    Headphones and earphones have quite a large market. Everyone seems to have an iPod or other type of MP3 player these days and what are they without a listening peripheral? This is where headphones and earphones come into play. Unfortunately, the market is incredibly saturated with headphones and earphones that it could be hard to choose which headphones sound good, last long, have the most amount of comfort, have the greatest value, etc. Many don't realize that they bought awful headphones or earphones until they test them out for themselves back home. Head-Fi forums did a very in-depth look at the different headphones and earphones collectively called IEM's or In Ear Monitors. Look in the section for the cheapest headphones or earphones that are still very high quality, sound good, and suit you the best. The article can be found here.

    Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) rather than Incandescent

    The Environmental Defense Fund said it best when they spoke about CFL's and incandescent lighting:
    "Though we call them light bulbs, traditional incandescent bulbs are actually small heaters that give off a little bit of light--something you know if you've ever touched a bulb that's been on for a while.  These bulbs were technological wonders when they were patented in 1880, but today they are inefficient dinosaurs.  They waste energy and money, and they are responsible for millions of tons of global warming pollution."
    Although slightly more costly than incandescent lightbulbs, CFL's will very quickly pay for themselves. They are exactly what their name implies, a compact fluorescent bulb. They can emit nearly the same amount of light that an incandescent bulb could, but uses much less energy doing so.

    A CFL bulb rated for 15 watts uses the nearly the same amount of energy of an incandescent bulb using nearly 60 watts of energy. You can see, just by that comparison, what the difference in energy use really is.

    Example: Say you have 10 75 Watt incandescent bulbs at use in your home at a given time and are generally on for an average of 8 hours per day. The incandescent lights will cost you $329 to run per year. Switching the 10 bulbs to CFL's will cost you around $79. A drastic difference in price.

    Pros of CFL bulbs:
    - Incredible reduction in energy costs.
    - Less heat emitted from the bulb (less wasted energy).
    - They last much longer than incandescent bulbs.
    - Less of a fire hazard.

    Cons of CFL bulbs:
    - Contains levels of Mercury and cannot be disposed of in a normal way. (Mercury levels should not deter one from purchasing CFL bulbs. The level is Mercury is far from exceedingly dangerous. The only way one would come in contact with the Mercury is if the bulb were to shatter.)
    - Doesn't immediately have full powered lighting. Takes a few seconds/minutes for the bulb to warm up/ reach its full brightness.
    - Not all CFL bulbs are capable of being dimmed with a dimmer switch. This is unfortunate because even more energy can be saved if the luminescence were to be changed.

    Neutral specs of CFL Bulbs
    - Emits a different color temperature than that of an incandescent bulb.
    May 10, 2011

    Dry Clothes Outside Rather Than In A Machine

    For those of us who have colder climates during the winter, our spring and summer seasons are ahead of us yet again. With the season comes the reintroduction of warmer weather into our lives. This is a blessing for us frugal people who love to use the outdoor warmth to our advantage.

    A wonderful money saving tip is to forgo the 'Machine Dry' experience during the warmer months of the year. If you're lucky to live in a warmer climate, this is always. "How do I dry clothes outside?" Hang your clothes outdoors on a clothesline, place them on the railings and banisters of your deck, build your own drying rack, or buy a drying rack at a last resort. As long as the laundry is outside in the warmth and sun and not able to fall to the ground, all should be well.

    Amazon has a good selection of drying racks that will pay for themselves. 

    "Does air drying clothes outside save money?" Yes. it absolutely does. Think of the amount of energy it takes for a 40-60 minutes drying cycle in your dryer. Both gas and electric dryers waste a good amount of energy. A gas dryer still requires electricity to spin the drum of the dryer.

    Example: Say you put 5 loads of laundry a week in the dryer for 50 minutes. This will cost around $143 a year with an electric dryer and $80 with a gas dryer.  Imagine if you stopped using your dryer for the spring and summer. Imagine if you stopped using it at all and simply made or bought drying racks for inside during the colder months of the year?

    I find that my laundry smells much  fresher, happier, and better when it's dried outside in the fresh air and sun too.

    Some may complain that their laundry, specifically their towels, get too crisp and stiff when dried outside. This was addressed in a previous blog post and can be found here.
    May 8, 2011

    10 Frugal Don'ts - How NOT to Save Money

    Making attempts to be frugal in life is certainly a exciting, fun, and rewarding decision. However, there are some people who take it too far and endanger their life, integrity, jobs, or even become unintentionally unfrugal. This is a list of things NOT to do to stay frugal.

    1. Do not leave your (gas) oven open after using it to heat your house. It is possible that there are amounts of Carbon Monoxide in it which could kill you if the levels accumulate enough. 
    2.  Don't draft other vehicles on the road. Drafting is incredibly dangerous, and despite what you may have heard, not very efficient. MythBusters once showed that you would have to be dangerously close to a moving truck to see any appreciable increase in gas mileage
    3. Don't steal - This should seem obvious, but there are some people who steal in the name of being frugal. It simply isn't frugal, it's criminal. Whether it's stealing from school, work, or from stores, it's not a good idea to stay frugal. Think about it. Steal or lose your job? Which one brings in more money?
    4. Don't drop Health and Car Insurance - These are things that can really benefit you. If times are tough, try and seek the lowest coverage available to pay less. 
    5. Don't hire people to fix easy items - Is your computer acting funny, or not working at all? Have a leak in the house? Need to install a home theater system? Don't pay for a service you can learn to do by yourself. Google is your friend and you can use it to look up the necessary information to do the job. DIY is almost always cheaper in this regard. 
    6. Don't use coupons just because you found them. Use coupons for things you regularly buy and need.
    7. Don't starve or deprive yourself of anything. Buy what you need. Buy your food. Buy your necessities. There are certain things you should not cut back on. 
    8. Don't buy cheaply made items - There are certain items that shouldn't be bought for cheap. Quality should be considered over price sometimes. It simply isn't worth it if a cheap item is going to break down and degrade over time. 
    9. Don't buy cheap drugs on 'internet pharmacies'. These types of sites can rarely if ever trusted. Also, never skip doses to relieve the time it takes to empty a bottle. That should be common sense to most people. 
    10. Don't waste your time - If you are doing something to save money or make money that is time inefficient, then don't do it. You shouldn't have to have convoluted processes to do common things. You could be doing something more worthwhile with your time.
    May 7, 2011

    Buy Generic Over-The-Counter and Prescription Drugs

    Generic Store Brand Ibuprofen
    It should be a well known notion that when buying foods and other items, buying generic and store-brand items are usually always the better route when trying to save money and be frugal. Some people seem to not carry that notion over to when buying their over-the-counter and prescription drugs and medications, however. The thing is, all of thess drugs are the same thing. It doesn't matter whether you buy Tylenol which is brand name Acetaminophen, Prilosec which is brand name Omeprazole, Claritin which is brand name Loratadine, I think you get the point. Brand names always have and probably always will be more expensive than their generic counterparts, and this certainly carries over for drugs and medications. It's almost as if people don't trust generic drugs because there isn't a familiar name to them, however this isn't necessary. A drug is a drug. Just as previously mentioned, Tylenol and Acetaminophen are the same thing. One is brand name, one is generic. One has a higher price, one has a lower price. Why pay the higher price when you don't have to? All major drugs like such still need to be in code and regulation with FDA standards therefore the differences are null.

    Claritin D - 30 tablets ~ $20-$25  --- Rite Aid Loratadine 60 Tablets - $3-$8
    Motrin IB  - 100 tablets ~ $9 --- Rite Aid Ibuprofen 100 Tablets $5-$6

    Prescription costs depend on other factors, but are proven to be lower with using the generic option. Always choose the generic option for drugs.

    Save Money on Your Printing Jobs

    We all know the common joke that once you run out of ink, you might as well buy a new printer. Sometimes, this might as well be the case if you bought a printer cheap enough. Ink is a very expensive commodity when sold by large manufacturers such as HP. However, there is no real reason for the inflated high prices of ink. There are ways to decrease the amount you pay in ink costs.

    May 5, 2011

    Is Fast Food Really Cheaper?

    For one, the quality of a homemade hamburger is going to be much higher than that of a Whopper Jr usually is. It is most usually healthier as well, at the very least it can be healthier if you do it correctly. The nutritional value and overall healthiness of the foods and drinks you consume will end up saving (or costing) you a lot of money in the long run.

    Drying Clothes Outside - How to Make Towels Less Stiff

    Many of the more experienced "frugalites" know that drying your clothes outside or on an indoor rack can help save money immensely by forgoing the route of drying laundry in the typical electric or gas dryer. It obviously uses electricity, so why bother when you dry clothes outside or on a rack for free? It will save you heaps of money.

    Many have noted, however, that drying their laundry outside may harden up the fabric and be very uncomfortable to the touch. My own bath towels are so crispy and dry sometimes that I can barely use them when coming out of the shower. There are tips out there to get rid of rough towels and stiff towels and help keep towels soft as well as other clothes that may see this issue.
    • Use less washing powder when you wash it. Most people use way to much and will cause the laundry to being overly dry during a natural dry. This is because it does not completely rinse out during a normal load of laundry.

    • Use a Calgon tablet - Sometimes our water is far too hard, even if we have water softener, and the Limescale and Calcium will harden and stiffen the laundry when air drying outdoors. Using a Calgon tablet could possibly help in softening towels for your enjoyment.

    • Mix in some white distilled vinegar into your laundry load. Not only will the vinegar make your laundry smell better and fresher as well as adding a great stain remover, the vinegar also acts as a fabric softener an will make your clothes softer when drying them outside.

    • Dry the majority of the time outside, and run the towels in the dryer for 5-10 minutes (although this somewhat defeats the purpose of drying them outside for frugal reasons)