Frugal Living 
15
comments

Convert Purchases from Dollars into Time

PaycheckOne strategy that seems to work well for people looking to conquer bad spending habits is to convert purchases into hours of work. A $4 latte, the classic enemy of frugalists everywhere, doesn’t seem too expensive because it’s only four dollars. If you only earn minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, that’s nearly half an hour of work before you take taxes into consideration. Is a cup of coffee worth half an hour of your life?

This is why the strategy works and here’s how you can start using it.

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 Personal Finance 
22
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How to Donate Old Cell Phones

Treo 755pIf you have a really old cell phone, it has no value on the secondary market. That doesn’t mean it’s worthless. There are ways you can put a smile on someone’s face even though cell phone resellers won’t take your junk back.

I recently started having some minor problems with my Palm Treo 755p, mostly dust particles being trapped behind the screen. I’ve had the phone for several years and while reading the screen wasn’t difficult, it did start to get annoying. Fortunately a friend sent me his Palm Centro (yes, also an old phone) that I’ve been happily using ever since. The dilemma now was finding a new home for my old phone.

I knew the phone wasn’t worth anything on the market, a gently used (OK, slightly more than gently) Treo in an age of iPhones and Droids? You could probably weld two iPhones together and still be lighter than my Zach Morris cellphone-wannable. While it wasn’t worth anything to someone with an eye towards an iPhone, I knew that by donating it I could help someone in need while clearing my house of a little bit of junk.

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 Frugal Living 
25
comments

New Lighting Facts Label

Compact Fluorescent Light BulbI’m a big proponent of compact flourescent light bulbs because they use less energy, last longer, and are better for the environment when disposed of properly. They aren’t without downsides though but I believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

While I’m not going to run out to buy those 17-year LED lightbulbs GE is releasing later this year, I am glad to see that there is more news about lighting technology. Prime on that list of “good things” is the new FTC labeling requirement. Lighting manufacturers will soon be required to place a “Lighting Facts” label on the back of bulb packages, similar to Nutrition Facts on food. Additional, and almost more importantly, bulbs containing mercury will be labeled as such on that label.

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 Your Take 
38
comments

Your Take: Would You Raise Your Own Food?

AppetizerAfter reading a New York Times story about raising your own rabbits and then listening to an NPR show on raising your own chickens in your backyard for food, I jokingly told my lovely wife that I’d be setting up an area in our backyard for our new petting zoo. We’ve been trying to eat more local produce (we like supporting local businesses, we automatically eat only what is in season, and it’s often tastier than buying it from the store) but we’ve never made that leap for meat.

She seemed puzzled at why I’d want an actual petting zoo in our backyard until I mentioned we’d only have rabbits and chickens. She remembered that on our honeymoon to Hawaii, we ate a lot of fresh eggs at the bed and breakfasts we stayed in. Fresh as in they just popped out of the chickens and were still warm (we washed them before we used them). They were delicious and I always joked I’d like to get chickens so we could eat hour old eggs.

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 Frugal Living 
22
comments

Share Expenses with Neighbors

SharingWe live in a townhouse with about 30 square feet of lawn. Seriously, it’s like a little patch in front of our house and about four square feet is taken up by this unidentifiable tree (it’s not unidentifiable by anyone, just me). So when our lawnmower kicked the bucket and one of my neighbors left his up at a cottage several hundred miles away, we chipped in to buy one from Amazon.com. It was a serviceable plug-in electric lawnmower for two hundred bucks.

Instead of both of us owning a lawnmower and having it take up space we didn’t have, we bought only one that we could both use and could swap storage of. It’s really the best solution – we save space, we save money, and we save the environment a bit by not having Amazon ship out two mowers.

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 Frugal Living 
9
comments

Witch Hazel Winterbloom Uses & Home Remedies

Witch HazelAs you might remember, I love buying tires from Costco. I was in there the other day waiting for service and reading Reader’s Digest’s Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things: 2,317 Ways to Save Money and Time when I stumbled upon the section on witch hazel.

Witch hazel is a type of flowering plant in the Hamamelidaceae family with three varities in North America – Hamamelidaceae ovalis, Hamamelidaceae virginiana and Hamamelidaceae vernalis. They’re absolutely amazing, or creepy, to look at and apparently they have both ornamental and medicinal value.

The bark and leaves are astringent because of their tannins and can shrink or constrict body tissue, which leads people to use them to shrink mucous membranes to reduce mucous secretions. It’s used by acne sufferers and can be used to heal stretch marks. I was especially interested in its affect on mucous membranes because I have some vicious spring and fall allergies.

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 Your Take 
37
comments

Your Take: What Would You Never Buy Used?

Used Mattresses on the curbWhat’s the easiest way to save money on your purchases? Buy it used. I picked up golf this year and when it came time to buy new (to me) equipment, I relied on Craigslist and the used section of the local Golf Galaxy. Golf is a difficult enough sport, the last thing I needed to do was make it both difficult and expensive. So I purchased my irons used and my hybrids used. My driver and putter I purchased brand new because they were running a ridiculous “wholesale price” sale from a website online, but a driver at $130 (TaylorMade Burner) and a putter at $55 (Odyssey) made for great deals.

Then you have the classic “used vs new” battle over cars. That’s a debate that has raged on for eons and predates the car itself! (should buy a used or new horse? OK just kidding mostly) Some argue that buying used means you are buying the abuses of the previous owner. Some argue that buying used means you save a lot of money, enough to pay for the abuses of the previous owner.

But there are some things you should never buy used. These are things that 99% of the population would agree on. That’s not to say people won’t buy these things used, sometimes you don’t a choice, you do what you need to in order to survive. Top on my list? Mattresses. Used mattresses, for a variety of reasons, are often terrible purchases. Mattresses, like shoes, mold to the body of the people who use them so you won’t be able to get a good night’s rest. If you want to save money, buy the frame used and the mattress new. :)

What would you never buy used?

(Photo: soundfromwayout)


 Shopping 
26
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How to Save Money by Buying Gift Cards Online

Starbucks Gift CardWhenever I buy something online, I look to try to reduce the price of the item as much as possible. As a consumer, there are a variety of tools you can use to be a savvier shopper. Most consumers know to use a credit card with at least 1% cash back to reduce the price a small bit. Others shop online to avoid sales tax.

However, one trick I’ve used lately is buying store gift cards on the second hand market. If you’ve seen gift card industry statistics, they’re astonishing. There are billions of dollars lost each year in gift card value and several startups have stepped into the space because they sense an opportunity. The online buying and selling of gift cards is growing and that means opportunity not only for these startups, but savvy consumers.

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