“Keep The Change”

All great things are only a number of small things that have carefully been collected together.

I am a BIG believer in the philosophy that: every little bit counts. This guiding principle can be relevant to a potpourri of life topics, but today I will be discussing its relationship to the humble coin. I think it can sometimes be easy to overlook the significance of spare change, but those nickels and dimes can really add up. The average U.S. household has about $90 in loose coins lying around the house, according to Coinstar, a prominent company in the coin-counting kiosk business.

If you pooled together your coins instead of tossing them into wishing wells -or perhaps losing them between the sofa seat cushions- it might be possible to eat an extra meal out at a restaurant, or even add cash to your bank account. Here are some tips to consider if you want to make every coin count:

  1. Use a Coin Jar. If your spare change is banished to the bottom of your purse and various locations around your home dwelling, you’re hardly doing yourself any favors. To be able to use your money, you need to know where it is. {Seems simple enough} Set aside a designated “coin jar” or other convenient holding area in your home to collect the steady accumulation of nickels, dimes, pennies, and quarters.
  2. Collect. Make sure to amass the coins that are already hiding in the various recesses of your home. Start with the most obvious spots, such as purses and dresser drawers, and then move on to scavenging the laundry room, junk drawer, inside the automobile, and underneath the sofa seat cushions. Leave no stone unturned.
  3. Exchange Your Coins. You have two main choices when it comes to exchanging your coins: bringing them to the bank, or to a local coin-counting kiosk. The largest difference between the two options is how much of your own money you get to pocket.
    • Bank- Coin exchange policies will vary depending on the bank you do business with. However, most banks will give you a 100% return rate if you relinquish the coins to them pre-sorted and wrapped. You should be able to get coin wrappers of all coin denominations for free from your bank- just ask. Some banks will tally account-holders’ coins for free using various methods. Call or reference your banks’ website to figure out their policies in advance.
    • Coin Kiosk- Coinstar is the nations biggest coin exchanger, with thousands of kiosks at retail locations throughout the United States. Simply locate the Coinstar kiosk nearest you, and dump your coins into the machine. You’ll pay for the convenience (an average of 10.9 percent service fee is applied), however there is no service charge for converting your coins to gift cards, PayPal funds, or charitable donations, as of current.

Even the mighty oak tree was once a small acorn. So remember, keep the change.

 

Up-Cycling Plant Containers

I received some “Hens & Chicks” succulent plants from my Grandmother the other day, to add to my growing container garden on our balcony. They are beautiful, easy-to-care-for succulents, that live through the harsh Michigan winters with little fuss. & Their unique, antique colander “pot” only cost me .25 cents at a garage sale! I simply lined the inside of the metal colander with loose moss (to adjust the amount of drainage), added a bit of dirt, and planted my succulents in their new home. Instantup-cycled plant vessel!

Instead of purchasing store-bought containers this Spring, consider giving new life to a jar, pot, or some other hollowed out curiosity. Repurposed containers are not only good for the environment, but they add character and style to your home or garden, while saving you money in the process.

Here is a list of just a few clever DIY planter ideas to get you started:

  •  Tea Pots
  •  Watering Cans
  •  Old Shoes (think rain boots, high heels, or other footgear)
  •  Buckets
  •  Vases
  •  Tin Cans & Other Tin Containers
  •  Children’s Toys (some toys will be better suited to this than others; use your judgement)
  •  Tea Cups
  •  Automobile Tires
  •  Tackle Boxes
  •  Various Antiques

For no-frills finds, consider digging through your own -or a neighbors- recycling bin; just about any milk jug, coffee can, or glass jar will do. Simply drill a few drainage holes in your container of choice, and Voila! You are well on your way to a chic and budget-friendly container garden.

What other ideas for repurposed planter containers have you seen or created yourself? Post pictures, or leave me a comment!

Creating a Clothing Inventory

Monstrosities of 1818, extravagant clothing st...

extravagant clothing styles of men’s and women’s fashions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got this neat little tip from a fantastic book titled, “Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life“. I hope to do a book review of EcoThrifty in a future blog post, but for now, I would like to bring you this juicy morsel of information appropriated from the pages of the book.

A clothing inventory is a tool to help assist you in thinking critically about what you need, compared to how much you own. Aside from the monetary benefits of purchasing and owning less clothing, other perks include:

  • Decreased stress deciding what to wear in the mornings.
  • Well-organized (or at least better organized) closets, with reduced clutter.
  • Packing for vacation is a breeze.
  • & Laundry day becomes less complicated.

I have constructed a basic, printable, Clothing Inventory template OR you can create and customize your own inventory print-out. I tried to anticipate what the average wardrobe might contain, however I included handy fill-in-the-blanks for anything I may have overlooked.

Start by considering each applicable article of clothing on the inventory list, and writing down how many of each item you need. Be honest. Leaving room for “a little extra” is fine, but anything more than that defeats the purpose of helping reign in your excess clothing acquiring habits.

Once you have taken a truthful and reflective assessment of what you need, create a pile of clothing you do not (& will not) wear, articles of clothing that do not fit, or clothing that is problematic for one reason or another. There are businesses, such as: Clothes Mentor and Buffalo Exchange, that will purchase used women’s and men’s fashions to resell. There are similar stores for children’s, junior’s, vintage, & maternity clothing as well, so be sure to check around. For clothing you cannot sell, consider hosting a clothing swap party with friends. It can be an excuse to get together, relax, and drink wine, while picking up some new fashion finds. You may not think anyone desires that sweater the secondhand store snubbed redeeming for cash, or the one your Aunt Tillie knit you for Christmas, but you might just be pleasantly surprised. & of course, there is always the standard option of good old fashion donation!

Last, begin the process of taking inventory of the clothing you own. Some of the numbers you record may shock you. Purchase items of clothing you need & resist purchasing anything you don’t. It is best to take a clothing inventory annually -or seasonally- whichever suits your personal lifestyle. Doing a “clothing inventory” of your closets can bring awareness to your wardrobe, and cash to your pockets!

How To Cut Cable & Satellite TV Costs

Family watching television, c. 1958

Family watching television, c. 1958 (Wikipedia)

The average basic pay and premium-channel TV subscription cost $86 a month last year, according to the NPD Group, a market researching firm (Pay TV costing a pretty penny, and rising); amounting to a total of $1,032 dollars in a calendar year! The NPD Group predicts that consumers will be paying an average of $123 a month in 2015, and $200 a month by 2020, an annual loss of $1,476 and $2,400 respectively.

Now that you are aware of how much money you’re potentially spending, lets talk about how to accomplish some savings.

1.) Go Back to Basics. If you are not already subscribed to basic cable or satellite programing, consider making the switch. With more content available for free or low fee online, cable has become much less of the “necessity” it once was. Another option: consider dropping a few premium channels or extra features paid for in addition to the TV package.

2.) Consider the Competition. As with any purchase, compare prices and options amongst competing brands in the local area. If you do not want to deal with the hassle of switching providers, try calling your current cable company and letting them know you have found prices for a similar product cheaper elsewhere. You can fib a little if you did not find a better deal. The point is to simply lead them to believe the competition is vying for your business, & that you might migrate if they don’t act fast. See if your current television provider can’t be persuaded to drop their price to compete for your continued patronage.

3.) Cancel Your SubscriptionMost basic public television channels -ABC, PBS, CBS, NBC, Fox- can be accessed for free online on the broadcast channel’s website, or for the one-time low price of rabbit ears and a digital converter box. Other options include, the video streaming website Hulu, which offers many TV shows and movies for free! & while Netflix is a paid service (7.99 a month), it offers unlimited streaming of television shows and movies, straight to your computer or gaming console. Netflix is a considerable savings when compared to the cost of cable or satellite, and Netflix offers a months’ free trial to test drive their selection and services. If you prefer not to watch content from your computer, you can purchase an HDMI cable to connect your laptop to your television screen. Other products to look into: Apple TV and Roku- both streaming devices to bring media to your television through the magic of wifi internet.

4.) Throw Out the Television. This may be an adjustment for some, but think of all the money and time you will save with less multimedia consumption. When there is no TV to watch, it forces you to make other choices. You might find you spend more time with family, cultivating a hobby, reading, learning a new skill, or a numerous list of productive possibilities. You cannot put a price on a life well lived or time well spent. Plus, there is the added benefit of not needing to point all of your living room furniture towards an unsightly electronic appliance.

Consider your options above, and mix and match a savings solution for your particular needs and personal situation. & as always, Happy Savings!

Freebies!

All of us love freebies. Who does not love something that is free? Today I want to talk about the resource Hunt4Freebies.com. Hunt4Freebies is a website that scours the internet for free offers, and amasses them in one convenient location. The site has other money saving features such as “coupons/deals”, “sweepstakes”, “hot deals”, and “mailed coupons”, but their primary focus is on freebies.

Simply head to Hunt4Freebies.com, and scroll through the offers until something interests you. Then click the available link & follow the provided directions. Most freebies are offered through a business’ Facebook page, Twitter account, or company website. All offers will ask for information such as e-mail and snail mail address. Some offers will inquire for a few more bits of information, typically pertaining to their marketed product. The entire process usually takes no more than a mere minutes to complete.

FREE Sign

(Photo credit: Alan O’Rourke)

Personally, I have scored: a free roll of toilet paper, enough shampoo and hair care to last a year, disposable diapers and baby formula, toothpaste, a whole tube of superglue, vitamins, children’s cold medicine, a box of cereal, smoothie mix, multiple magazine subscriptions, makeup, and more!

Some samples are small, but others rival a travel size item or larger. & I must admit, it is quite exciting opening your mailbox to find freebies inside. It adds a little adventure and mystery to the routine task of mail retrieval.

Unfortunately, spam can accumulate fast in your e-mail inbox from filling out all the online freebie forms. I solve this problem, by simply creating an alternate e-mail address dedicated to freebies and other junk mail; checking auto-insurance quotes online for example, or any other internet activity that might solicit your e-mail address before rendering services. You could also “unsubscribe” to each e-mail, or block every company that solicits you, but I find having a separate e-mail address seems to do the trick.

Make sure to add Hunt4Freebies to your bookmark bar, so that it is easy to check daily and see what is new. The savings will really start adding up, especially once you begin receiving multiple samples of personal care items, and other products.

Happy savings everyone!

Compare Car Insurance Rates

“I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico!”

$800 to be precise. & I didn’t have to change coverage to do so. That’s hardly a number to sneeze at by any stretch of the imagination.

I know the prospect of shopping around for car insurance can sound daunting and even intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. I felt silly after I found out how much money I could have been putting back in my pocket each year. I am positive you will find the same to be true, if you take a few minutes to compare rates.

English: A gold dust day gecko. Français : Un ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If comparing multiple car insurance company rates sounds overwhelming, start small and get one or two different auto-insurance quotes. Most insurance companies have an online website in which you can request a quote by filling out a form and answering a few simple questions. If you prefer to speak with a person, you may also call the company directly to get a quote.

In my experience, getting a quote from Geico’s online website was easy and only took a few minutes of my time. After comparing the rates of three other auto-insurance companies and finding Geico’s to be the lowest, I gave them a call. The rate quoted to me online was the rate I was given over the phone- this is good as many companies will change the rate as they go over more information.

I was really impressed with Geico’s customer service overall, they made the process straight forward for me and held my hand through each step. I was even sent a “break-up” letter to send to my old auto-insurance company; it was convenient having the letter ready for me to drop in the mail, and a relief not having to bring about the cancellation conversation with my prior insurance provider.

So give it a try! Set a goal to check the rates of one or two other auto-insurance companies online or by phone. In the future, make a point to check the rates of other car insurance brands annually -or even once every couple years- to ensure your current rate is still the best deal in town. The process is not as scary or time consuming as it might seem, and you may very well be one of those happy customers who gets to exclaim about the amount of money they saved by making the switch.

7 Ways to Save Money on Printer Ink Cartridges & Reduce Printing Costs

Printer ink cartridges are expensive. However, there are several things you can do to help put some green back in your wallet (or purse) when it comes to printer ink cartridge costs:

1. Purchase the Right Printer
If the moment has not already passed, compare ink cartridge prices for the various printer brands before purchasing your new electronic hardware. The cost of printer ink may not be on the top of your priority list, but it’s a factor worth considering. Some printer models may cost a tad more upfront, but make sure to do the math, as the ink cartridge costs may make the printer a more economical option (and better investment) in the long-run.

2. Compatible Ink Cartridges
Many retailers, such as Staples and Office Max, and numerous online companies sell “compatible” printer ink cartridges (a.k.a third-party, or generic brand printer ink cartridges). These compatible cartridges are designed for your printer but usually cost significantly less due to not being manufactured by a brand name company.

3. Ink Cartridge Refills
Businesses like Walgreens, Costco and Cartridge World refill used printer ink cartridges for a fraction of the cost of a new cartridge. These retailers only refill certain types of printer ink cartridge models though, so do your homework and check ahead of time on the internet or by phone.

4. Shop Around
Always shop around and compare prices online when making any purchase. That being said, I have discovered that Ebay.com is a treasure trove for deeply discounted brand name printer ink cartridges. To give you an example: A package (a “package” in this instance includes all five ink cartridges my printer requires to operate) of brand name printer ink cartridges costs $42.71 on Amazon.com. The compatible printer ink cartridges for my printer cost $22.15 for two packages on Amazon.com. However -on Ebay- I can purchase four packages of brand name printer ink cartridges for just $23.96, including free shipping!

5. Remanufactured Ink Cartridges
Remanufactured printer ink cartridges are recycled, refilled and resold. They can be 30-60 percent cheaper than the name-brand cartridges. Typically these are sold online rather than at retail outlets. Some websites to check if you are interested include:

Amazon.com
CarrotInk.com
InkGuides.com

6. Printer Settings
Set your printer quality setting to “draft” when you don’t need a perfect copy; this setting will consume less ink. Print in “grayscale” when color is not necessary. If your printer’s ink is manufactured into separate cartridges, the grayscale setting will allow you to purchase color ink cartridges less often, thereby saving you money.

7. Print Only What You Need

This is an obvious one, but it is worth repeating. Print only what you need. Make sure you specify which pages to print, and only print the pages that contain the content you want printed.

In closing, always recycle your printer ink cartridges. Places like Staples, Office Depot and Office Max have rewards programs for printer ink cartridges. Turn in your cartridges and get $3 in store credit or coupons. And Target stores have receptacles for recycling printer ink cartridges located at the interior entrance and/or exit of the building. However, if you are still unsure where to recycle your printer ink cartridges, Earth911.com allows you to search for recycling solutions near your location for just about any product.

Happy savings!