Personal Finance 
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Money Leaks: Buying Groupons You Don’t Need

Here’s a classic deal hunter’s dilemma – you see something on big discount and you’re very tempted to buy it because it’s such a good deal. There’s just one problem… you don’t need it now. It’s like seeing all those barbecue grill deals outside Home Depot at the end of the season. Those grills are fantastic deals, but you already have a grill!

Groupons, and discount voucher dealers like them, rely on this very mentality. You see a deal for a dozen cupcakes, or perhaps a massage; but how many of those deals are to places you already go to? How about Restaurant.com vouchers? Those 80% off discounts are pretty incredible, until you realize that you haven’t heard of 99% of the restaurants they sell vouchers to.

The reality is that most of the businesses that use Groupons and Restaurant.com are usually either very new or fairly low demand. What you end up doing is buying a voucher on deep discount for something you probably wouldn’t have purchased at full price anyway. In other words, you aren’t really saving anything. You’re spending when you otherwise wouldn’t have.


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 Frugal Living 
13
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Money Leaks: Spoiling Food

Here’s a scary statistic from 2008 – we waste about a pound of food per person per day. Certainly not all of that is traced back to a person actually tossing out a pound of food, much of it is attributed to grocery stores and restaurants, but we all know the feeling of discovering moldy food in the back corner of our refrigerators. It’s a classic case of a money leak… fortunately we discovered one solution that has worked for us.

This is the latest edition of our new series called Money Leaks.

The best thing we’ve done to combat spoiling food is using a leftover calendar. We write down what we put into our fridge on the calendar, then we use it to help us decide what we’re going to eat. As items are consumed, we cross them off the calendar. This leaves us with essentially a list of all the leftovers in our fridge, which means we don’t need to waste electricity rooting around in the back looking for something that might not even be there.

When we implemented the calendar, it drastically cut down how much food we were throwing out. While we do discover the occasional “bag of cheese” we forgot about (things like that don’t make the calendar), we haven’t discarded anything substantial in terms of food in a long time.


 Frugal Living 
10
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Money Leaks: Unused Magazine Subscriptions

MagazinesThe trouble with magazines is that they aren’t expensive. If you are patient, you can usually find someone selling a subscription for just a few dollars. Even if you buy it direct, it often comes out to much less than a dollar an issue. Magazine publishers are struggling to get their readership numbers up and so many even offer them for free, in the hopes that you subscribe on the renewal date.

This is the latest edition of our new series called Money Leaks.

That said, spending $10 on something you don’t use is $10 not put towards an emergency fund, debt, savings, or something much more useful. So take a few moments to look around your house and check out the magazines you have. When was the last time you read it?

If it goes directly into the recycling bin, consider calling up the magazine and canceling your subscription. You will usually get a pro-rated refund. You can spend that on some coffee. :)

(Photo: i-rocksteady)


 Frugal Living 
18
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Money Leaks: Buying vs. Brewing Coffee

Coffee CupIt’s most commonly referred to as the Latte factor – it’s that morning cup of coffee that many of us rely on to jump start our mornings. For many, that cup comes from a machine at home. For others, it calls for a stop by your local Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks (or wherever). Whether you brew at home or you buy it in a store can make a big difference financially and is the subject of this week’s Money Leaks.

This image, from Consumer Reports, says it all:
Comparing Coffee Prices


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 Personal Finance 
13
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Money Leaks: Batteries

Rechargeable BatteriesDespite all the advances in technology in the last fifty years (your phone has more technology than the first computers that filled entire rooms), one area that we haven’t had quantum leaps in is battery technology. While it’s less of a torrential leak as it is a slow drip drip, we spend a lot of money on these little things.

So, this week, the target of our Money Leaks spotlight will fall squarely on batteries.

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 Cars 
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Money Leaks: Driving Like A Maniac

When I first started driving, I was like any other early driver – I wanted to get where I was going as quickly as I could. If that meant sacrificing a few MPG to do it, I didn’t think twice. Back then, gasoline was much cheaper, I had far more disposable income, and my fuel efficiency wasn’t something I spent too much time thinking about it. Now that I use the car more often, see the pain at the pump each time, I’m more cognizant of how my driving habits affect my fuel use.

Nowadays, I drive more casually. I tend to drive at slower speeds, I’m almost never in a rush, and it’s done wonders for both my fuel mileage and my general disposition. At first, it was tough. It didn’t bother me that trips took a few minutes longer (I hardly noticed), but driving felt a little longer because I wasn’t going as fast. Then I learned to enjoy what was on the radio, enjoy the sights (even if it’s just some trees whizzing by on the highway), and I felt zero anxiety about seeing police cars stopped at the side of the highway (when you’re going at the speed limit or just a few miles over it, instead of ten, you will never get pulled over for speeding). I think it has translated to better fuel efficiency but more importantly, I think I’m calmer. :)
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 Personal Finance 
13
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Money Leaks: Too Much Cash in Checking Accounts

How much money do you currently have sitting in you checking account? Is it too little? Or is it too much? If you’re fortunate enough to be in the second camp, this week’s money leak is for you. If you aren’t one to be diligent about saving each month and simply let your checking account accumulate, you could be leaving too much cash in your checking account when it could be better off stored elsewhere.

This could be a problem because you’re leaving a little (especially these days!) cash on the table in terms of interest. The vast majority of checking accounts don’t pay interest so when you keep too much in there, it’s money that could be earning a little bit more in a savings account.

There are two solutions to this dilemma:

  • Open an interest bearing checking account, or,
  • Optimize your checking account balance.


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 Personal Finance 
10
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Money Leaks: Vending Machine Snacks

Vending MachinesDoes your workplace have a vending machine? Perhaps it’s one that sells soda or chips? Maybe there’s a canteen area where a fellow employee or the administrative staff has kindly kept well-stocked with lots of goodies? When I worked in an office, we typically had a canteen area that one of our co-workers kept stocked with goodies. There was a price list and you paid into a little jar. It was done completely on the honors system and, since it existed for years, I assume it worked out (I once talked to the person running it and he said that sometimes it would be short, sometimes it would be over – sometimes people didn’t have the right change but the key was that it all worked out). The profits were used to pay for some gas and the rest went to charity.

If you don’t have an awesome canteen and instead rely on vending machines run by an outside company, you are definitely leaking some money on snacks each and every time you buy one. The markup on vending machine products is enormous and you’re paying for convenience. If you’re visiting one every single day, or even once every couple of days, consider plugging this leak.

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