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Living Frugal: The Art and Science

Introduction

As I sit here and look back at my childhood, I realize how poor we were, but we never felt poor then. We always had three meals a day, a roof over our heads and clothing on our back. Granted, we weren't eating steak or lobster, living in a mansion or wearing the latest Guess jeans, but we weren't being sent to school in rags either.

This article is my attempt to pass on to you the knowledge imparted to me over the years because I'm sure there are people out there struggling to get by who can use it. If I can help just one person, then writing this article was worth it to me. In addition to the knowledge my mom passed on to me, I've learned a trick or two of my own over the years. I'm going to pass that on to you too.

Well, enough about me. Let's get to what you opened this article for—saving money.

Why You Need a Savings Account

Life happens. Just when it seems things are going smoothly for the first time in forever, the ball drops. Someone gets sick, something breaks or Uncle Henry gets arrested again and Aunt Edna asks you to help with bail.

Since you aren't able to predict the curve-balls life throws your way, you need to hedge your bets financially. The best way to do this is by starting a savings account.

Savings accounts are easy to open. You can open one at pretty much any bank or credit union in the world. In this day and age, you don't even need to leave the comfort of your home. You can open a savings account online in a matter of minutes.

If you have a checking account, there's a good chance you already have a savings account tied into it. If not, your bank should be willing to give you one for free. The minimum balance is usually pretty small, especially if you use the bank for checking. Some banks charge a small fee for savings accounts, so it pays to shop around a bit.

If you're the type of person who socks money away under the mattress or in a shoebox on the top shelf in your closet, you're putting yourself at risk, especially if you're saving a decent amount of money this way. If someone breaks into your home, you could possibly lose your entire life savings. Don't be the person who thought it wouldn't happen to them. It happens, and it happens in the nicest of neighborhoods to people who think that kind of stuff only happens to other people.

Money placed in a savings account is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250K. If you have more than $250K, you're probably not reading this article. If you're reading it just for kicks, spread your money out to different accounts to ensure it's protected.

A savings account allows you to put cash away for major emergencies—and no, the new iPhone that just came out doesn't qualify as an emergency. Start socking away every last penny you can afford to put away now to ensure you're financially stable enough to weather the storm in the event of an emergency. Most financial experts recommend you have enough in savings to cover six months worth of your expenses. While that may not be realistic for most of us, try to shoot for three months savings.

The tips in this article are going to show you how to save money. Instead of blowing the money you save on stuff you really don't need, put that money into a savings account and keep it there until you need it. Before you know it, you'll have enough to put a down-payment on that house you've always wanted or to help pay for your kids to go to college.

Treat your savings account like a black hole into which money goes in and doesn't come out. Once you've moved money into savings it should stay there unless you absolutely have to have it. Unless there are bills that absolutely have to be paid or your kids are going to starve, leave the money in savings alone.

Let me tell you a story of a friend I have who I tried for years to talk into getting a savings account. I finally got through to her and walked her through the steps needed to set up her account. I was like a proud father when she told me she'd gone through with it and was going to start saving cash.

Fast forward six months. We were chatting one day and I asked how the whole savings account thing was going. She looked down at her feet and sheepishly told me she'd been trying, but hadn't been able to save any money. I knew she didn't have a great job, but she made good enough money to where she should have been able to squirrel some of it away.

I started asking probing questions to try to get to the bottom of things. It turns out she was putting money in savings, but had started treating her savings account like an additional checking account. She had a debit card for the savings account and used it whenever she felt her regular checking account was getting low. Instead of saving money, she was simply putting money in two accounts and spending all of it.

This is a perfect example of the wrong way to use a savings account. Savings is just that, savings. You're supposed to save money in it. If you're not saving money, it's time to start, even if it's just a few bucks here and there. While it might not seem like it in the short term, a few bucks here and there really adds up over time.

Just to put it in perspective, if you save a hundred bucks a month in an account that pays 2 percent interest, after 5 years, you'll have $6300 in savings. In ten years, that amount will more than double to well over $13K. While it might not seem like it, if you're anything like the average person, you're wasting more than a hundred dollars a month you could be adding to a savings account.

The Thirty-Day Rule

People tend to be spontaneous spenders. We see something we want and we decide to buy it on a whim, regardless of cost. The higher-ticket the item, the more spontaneous we tend to be. In order to combat impulse buys, enact a strict 30-Day Rule policy.

Whenever you find yourself wanting something expensive, wait thirty days before making the purchase. After the thirty days are up, ask yourself if you really need to buy the item or if you really want it.

More often than not, you'll find you really don't care about the item anymore. The urge to buy on impulse will have passed and the item won't hold the same appeal as it did thirty days ago.

Keep the list in your head. More often than not, you'll have forgotten about the item by the time you reach thirty days. This will allow you to filter out most unimportant items, while keeping the important stuff in mind.

Anything that makes it through the 30-Day time period as an item you still want to buy can be considered for purchase. Take another week and weigh the pros and cons. Is it something you really need or just something you want? How much will the item cost? How much will it cost you to maintain the item? Is there a similar items that's cheaper? Are you buying the item for you or is it because you want to look good to others? That's a lot of stuff to take into consideration. If you find you still have to have the item, it's probably OK to buy it, as long as you'll still be able to put food on the table and pay your bills.

Using this technique will filter out a lot of unnecessary purchases you may have otherwise made.

Be Thrifty: Buy Secondhand Stuff

Don't be afraid to shop at thrift stores, consignment stores, yard sales and flea markets. People with money tend to turn their noses up at thrift stores, acting as though they're too good to buy and use someone's second-hand goods. Unless you're rich enough not to need to save money, thrift stores are a great place to find a number of gently-used items for pennies on the dollar.

If the idea of shopping at a thrift store really bugs you, you don't have to use this tip. That just means more deals for me and the rest of the people in the know. Just be aware you may be passing up the chance to get rare books, jewelry, antiques and designer clothing for a fraction of what they'd cost you elsewhere.

Here are just a few of the smoking deals I've found at local thrift stores in the past year:

  • Books for 5 for a $1.00. This deal was a one-day only deal that included every book in the store. This included children's books and hardcover books.
  • An antique tea set for $25. When I got home and priced it on Ebay, I found the same set selling for $300.
  • Brand-name designer clothes for between $1 and $3.
  • Ink cartridges for my printer for $2 each. I normally pay $25 per cartridge.
  • A clock radio for $1.25.
  • A solid oak kitchen table and chairs for $45.

Watch for sales at your favorite thrift stores to get the best deals. The thrift stores in my area have discount days where they discount all of the items of a certain type. One day books will be half off. The next day all shirts will be a buck. The day after that all pants are two bucks. They have something different on sale every day and you can get great deals if you catch it on the right day.

Know the best times to shop your favorite places. Thrift stores replenish their stock throughout the day. I like to check my favorite stores at least once a week for new stuff. When it comes to shopping flea markets and yard sales, the early bird gets the worm. Try to be there as early as possible to score the best deals.

Don't be afraid to bicker. While you're probably not going to get the prices reduced at thrift stores, all bets are off at consignment stores, flea markets and yard sales. Start off with a low-ball price and work your way up slowly. You might be surprised by just how much people are willing to come off their asking price.

Appliances

You can find good deals on appliances, just look for signs of abuse or misuse. A beat-up appliance is probably at the end of its useful life. Look for chips and cracks, frayed cords and rust.

Always ask to plug in an appliance and test it. If the sales clerk won't let you test it, don't buy it - it's that simple. If they won't let you test it, you may be buying an overpriced paperweight. Reputable second-hand stores are always willing to let you plug an item in to see if it works. They've usually tried it before they put it on the shelves and are willing to let you try it too.

Books

You can get books for less than 10 percent of their cover price. I regularly find hardcover books that normally sell for 30 bucks on sale at my local thrift store for a couple bucks.

My daughter reads a lot and I would go broke buying her books if I spent full retail. I don't mind buying her books for a buck or two, especially when I can sell them at a garage sale for the same price.

If you know what you're doing, you can make money by seeking out rare or expensive books at thrift stores, then selling them for a premium on Ebay or online. I know of a handful of people who make a living going from thrift store to thrift store seeking out rare books they can turn a decent profit on. It's not uncommon for them to buy a book for a buck, then turn around and sell it for fifty bucks or more.

Clothing

Some of the best deals can be found on clothing at thrift stores. It's not uncommon to see shirts for a buck apiece, sweaters for $3, pants for $3 to $4 and coats for between $5 and $10. When it comes time to go clothes shopping, be it for myself or for the kids, we start a month or two in advance and make a few rounds of all the thrift stores in the area.

When it comes to stuff like school shopping or shopping for seasonal clothing, start early before everyone else is out making the same circuit. This allows you to get a jump of the competition and to find the best deals. It's not uncommon to find clothes with tags on them or clothes that look like they've only been worn once or twice.

There's a few things to look for that'll make your clothes shopping experience a better one. Check all zippers and buttons to make sure they work before you purchase the article of clothing. Be sure to give the clothing a good once - over for stains, rips and tears.

Be sure to check what the return policy is for any clothing you buy. You may not be able to return that Christmas cardigan if you get home and it doesn't fit. Most thrift stores have fitting rooms so try on anything you're not sure will fit.

All the money you save on clothing adds up quick. I've managed to cut my families yearly clothing budget by a few hundred bucks by doing most of our shopping at thrift stores.

Furniture

When it comes to buying furniture, you may get more than you bargained for. I avoid buying items with fabric or cloth that could be carrying bed-bugs or fleas. I steer clear of mattresses, recliners and couches that could be crawling with insects.

If you do decide to buy fabric furniture or a mattress, closely examine it before handing over the cash. Look for sign of infestation like eggs or the bugs themselves tucked away between seams and cushions. Getting rid of bugs once you've brought them into your house can quickly eliminate any savings you gained from buying a used mattress.

I have no qualms about purchasing wood furniture from a thrift store and have been able to find some pretty good deals. In addition to the solid oak table I mentioned earlier, I recently purchased a couple bookcases and an entertainment center for less what one of the bookcases would have cost me new.

Toys

If you have young children, you can find tons of toys at thrift stores. Kids don't care whether a toy's been used or not and neither should you. Other than a gift or two for birthdays and Christmas, I buy almost all of my kids' toys at the thrift store.

Clean the toys before you give them to your kids and disinfect them with white vinegar. All you have to do is spray the vinegar on them and let the toy air-dry.

Items You Shouldn't Buy

There are some things you shouldn't buy at a thrift store. I personally won't buy underwear. Not because it's unsanitary, I just don't like the idea of wearing underwear someone I don't know has worn. You actually don't run much risk as long as you can get past the ick factor.

Safety equipment like hard hats and helmets should probably bought new as well. Once a hard hat or helmet has taken a good, solid impact, its structure may be compromised. This means you aren't as safe as you should be when wearing the safety gear. Always buy your safety gear new.

Always buy mattresses and bedding new to avoid the risk of bringing bed bugs or fleas into your home. Bed bugs can live for months in a mattress in a thrift store. It can cost thousands of dollars to get rid of an infestation, so you want to do everything within your power to keep them out of your home.

Never buy makeup at a thrift store, even if the container appears to be new. Makeup can expire and the packages don't have use-by dates on them. You don't know where the make-up's been or what it's been through, so it's better to spend a little extra and get stuff that's new.

While it's OK to buy toys, steer clear of stuffed animals, even if they appear clean. Stuffed animals may have been drooled on, peed on or pooped on and are tough to sanitize. Spend the extra money and buy new stuffed animals. If you do decide to buy a pre-owned stuffed animal, wash it before letting you kids play with it.

I know I recommended buying appliances as long as you've tested it first, but there's one appliance you should steer clear of. Blenders are tough to clean and you're buying an appliance full of old food remnants. When you consider the fact you can buy a new blender for less than a twenty dollar bill, it just isn't worth the risk.

Shoes are another item I'd avoid unless they're new in the box. Shoes that are broken in to someone else's feet aren't going to be comfortable. It's best to buy your shoes new and break them in yourself.

How to Get Stuff For Free

Yes, you can sometimes get the stuff you need for absolutely nothing. There are a couple places to check. Freecycle.org is a site where people post stuff they no longer want and are trying to give away. It isn't uncommon to see stuff on there that's in pretty good shape. Sign up using your Yahoo account and choose the metro area closest to where you live to start browsing the free stuff. You can find everything from clothes to furniture on there, so keep an eye peeled for items you can use.

Another place to check is Craigslist. Go to the metro area closest to you and click on “free” in the for sale listings. If you don't find what you're looking for, try expanding out to nearby areas. A quick check of the area I live in revealed the following items for free:

  • River rock
  • A kitten
  • Children's DVDs
  • A walker
  • A 56-inch TV
  • A decorative palm tree
  • Two boats
  • Moving boxes
  • Treadmill
  • A Fushigi ball
  • A brown leather couch (in good condition)
  • Wood garage door

This is just a small sample of the type of stuff you can find for free on Craigslist. Keep your eyes peeled for stuff you can use.

Free Samples

There are a number of place you can get free samples of your favorite products. Thefreesite.com is a directory that lists a ton of free stuff you can get from manufacturers. There's enough on the site to keep you busy for hours.

Another place to check is your favorite retailers website. Sites like Krogers and Walmart have free samples sections that offer free samples of groceries and household items.

If you have a product you particularly like or want to try, contact the manufacturer directly. My husband recently wrote a popular weight lifting supplement company to find out what they recommended he take to help lose weight and put on muscle. They responded by asking for his address and they sent out over a hundred dollars worth of free supplements. I was shocked when we opened the large box to find four full-size containers of supplements.

Free or Cheaper Long Distance Calls

If you make a lot of long-distance calls and have huge phone bills, there are a couple options you can use to really cut down the bill.

The first is Skype. Sign up at skype.com and have the people you call long-distance a lot sign up too. As long as the two of you are using Skype via the Internet, the calls are completely free. You can make free video calls or regular calls. If you want to call people who aren't on Skype, the fees are much cheaper than normal long-distance providers.

Another option is to get an Xbox 360 and sign up for Xbox Live. This allows you to chat with your long-distance friends via Live. While this service is intended to allow gamers to chat with one another while they play video games online, there's nothing stopping you from logging on and talking without playing games. It costs $50 a year to sign up for Xbox Live and you can talk to anyone in the world that has a high-speed connection and an Xbox.

Scratch and Dent Stores

If your area has stores where scratched or dented goods are sold, you can save a lot of money by shopping these places.

I'm lucky to have a dented canned goods store right down the street from me. When I need canned foods like soups and vegetables, I always check there first. I'm rarely disappointed and usually get the food I need for around half what it costs at the supermarket. These stores typically stock more than just canned goods—they also sell overstock items from other stores and other food items with damaged packages.

When buying canned goods from a scratch and dent store, it's important to examine the cans you're buying closely. Look for leaks or for the top or bottom to be puffed out - this indicates the food inside has gone bad. Be sure to check the expiration date. I've purchased canned goods and took them home, only to find they were well past the expiration date.

Check these stores frequently in order to get the best deals. Stock is constantly rotating and you never know what you're going to find. They buy truck loads of stuff and are constantly putting new stuff out.

If you're in the market for new furniture or appliances, check around to see if there's a scratch and dent store that sells appliances or furniture near you. Sears has a number of scratch and dent stores spread across the U.S. There are also specialty stores that buy scratched and dented items for cheap and resell them.

As long as you don't mind a minor flaw or two, you can sometimes get hundreds of dollars off the retail price. These items usually come with a full warranty, so it's just like buying a brand new item.

Drink More, Save More

Now that I've got your attention, let me tell you what I'm talking about. I'm talking about water. Drink more water to save more money.

Here's how. It's recommended you drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. That's 8 to 10 less glasses of juice, milk, soda and beer you'll be drinking. This will allow you to save the money you'd normally spend on those items. I've managed to completely cut soda out of my daily diet and rarely drink juices and beer. I still drink a couple glasses of milk a day, but that's a lot healthier than the other options.

If you don't like water, try sprucing it up a bit with a wedge of lemon, orange or lime or a slice of cucumber. I usually ask for lemon water when I'm at a restaurant. They're more than willing to accommodate this request and you save the money drinks would have cost.

If you drink a big glass of water before you eat a meal, you're going to suppress your appetite and help with digestion. You'll save money on your food bill because you'll eat less and you'll feel healthier because you'll be properly hydrated.

Make Your Own Laundry Soap

Well, it's not quite free, but it is a lot cheaper than the stuff you buy at the store.

People tend to laugh and dismiss this item, but it's one that can realize you a decent amount of money saved, especially if you live in a household where a lot of laundry is done. Compare the amount you're paying for laundry soap or detergent to what it costs to make your own to decide whether this money saving item is for you.

This soap is inexpensive and easy to make—and it works every bit as good as the stuff you can buy from the store, if not better. All you need are the following three ingredients:

  • A bar of soap. Ivory works well, as does Fels Naptha.
  • Borax. Used to whiten and deodorize. The brand I use is 20 Mule Team.
  • Arm and Hammer Washing Soda. Not to be confused with baking soda, washing soda is a different product and can be found online at Amazon.com or in the laundry section of your local grocery store.

Take a third of the bar of soap and grate it into fine pieces. Add 6 cups of water to a sauce pans, add the soap and heat until the soap is completely melted. Add a half cup each of washing soda and Borax and stir until dissolved. Pour the contents of the saucepan into a bucket and add a gallon of water. Let sit overnight and you should have a thin gel-like substance. When it's time to do laundry use a fourth to a half cup, depending on how big the load is.

If you want your soap to be scented, add essential oils or fragrance oils to the mix at the same time you add the Borax and washing soda. Experiment with the amount you add to see what you like best.

When you use this soap, you aren't going to get much by way of suds. This is OK, as it isn't the suds that clean your clothes. The foaming agent added to commercial agents is solely added for aesthetic purposes and contributes to your risk of developing cancer.

Wondering how much money you just saved? You'll get 50+ loads of laundry done with the amount of detergent you just made. The ingredients used to make the batch cost you less than a buck for all three.

Laundry detergent costs at least $10 for fifty loads, and that's only if you find a great deal.

This soap can be used in HE machines. I've been using it in mine for years and haven't had a problem. HE detergent is designed to have lower sudsing. This detergent doesn't bubble up, so it's good to go.

Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

You can make your own dishwasher detergent that will cut grease and is environmentally friendly.

Mix 1 cup Borax, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup Kosher salt and a half cup of citric acid together and store in an airtight container. Use a couple tablespoons with each load.

This is a great way to save a lot of money on dishwasher detergent. If you notice a film on your dishes, add a bit of vinegar to the rinse receptacle.

Make Your Own Play Dough and Silly Putty

Got kids? You can use a few household items to make play dough for them and provide them with hours of entertainment. If they make a mess with it, grab some apple cider vinegar and clean it right up.

Here's the ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • Your choice of food coloring.

Here's the directions:

Mix everything in a pot and heat it on low. Continue stirring until the mixture is the correct consistency. Let it cool and hand it over to the kids.

I know what you're thinking. Real PlayDough isn't all that expensive. You're right, but using this method still saves you money and with a little creativity, you can make all sorts of colors for your kids. All it takes is a few drops of food coloring, so don't be afraid to experiment to see what colors you can mix up. You can also make a lot of it instead of the little chunks you get when you buy it from the store.

Silly putty is easy to make too. All you need is equal parts Elmer's glue and liquid starch. Mix it together and slowly work the putty until it's the right consistency. Add starch if it's too sticky and more glue if it's too stringy.

50 Uses For Baking Soda

Baking soda is inexpensive and can be used to replace all kinds of costly household items. You can get a 13.5 pound bag of baking soda from Amazon.com for less than twenty bucks. If you shop around, you may even be able to find it cheaper.

Here are 50 items you can replace with good ol' baking soda:

  1. Antacid.
  2. Face scrub.
  3. Body scrub.
  4. Deodorant.
  5. Skin conditioner.
  6. Toothpaste (mix with peroxide paste).
  7. Mouthwash (mix with a half-glass of water).
  8. Relieve sunburn pain.
  9. Relieve itching from bug bites.
  10. Relieve diaper rash by putting it in bathwater.
  11. Oven cleaner.
  12. Battery terminal cleaner.
  13. Microwave cleaner.
  14. Scrub cast-iron.
  15. Scrub stainless steel.
  16. Denture cleaner.
  17. Shower cleaner.
  18. Drain cleaner.
  19. Counter-top cleaner.
  20. Barbecue grill cleaner.
  21. Clean burnt food from pans.
  22. Scatter on carpet to eliminate odors.
  23. Coffee-maker cleaner.
  24. Fridge cleaner.
  25. Shoe cleaner.
  26. Polish chrome and steel.
  27. Degreaser.
  28. Carpet and upholstery cleaner.
  29. Toilet cleaner.
  30. Sports drink (mix with water, salt and Kool-Aid).
  31. Helps make feathers easier to remove from birds.
  32. Pet deodorizer.
  33. Litter box deodorizer.
  34. Keep animals out of your garden by sprinkling it around the perimeter.
  35. Bug repellant.
  36. Mouse repellant.
  37. Air freshener (combine with bath salts).
  38. Wipe it onto your windshield to repel water.
  39. Add an open container to your fridge to get rid of odors.
  40. Use it to put out fires.
  41. Bee sting relief.
  42. Windburn relief.
  43. Sunburn relief.
  44. Canker sore relief.
  45. Apply to rashes.
  46. Removing cradle cap.
  47. Jewelry cleaner.
  48. Shampoo.
  49. Removes the smell of skunk.
  50. Teeth whitener.

Notice I didn't even mention baking, which is the intended use. This is one of the few products I'd classify as something you absolutely have to have in the house. It works for pretty much anything you might think it would work for. If you use it to replace even a handful of expensive household items, you're going to save a pretty penny.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Every Bit As Useful As Baking Soda

Whatever baking soda can't do, apple cider vinegar probably can. At less than ten bucks a gallon, it's cheap too. Using it for the following things can help you save money on the expensive household products and cleaners you'd normally use:

  1. Use it to add acid to soil for plants that like acidic soil.
  2. Kills grass and weeds. Spray undiluted apple cider vinegar on grass and weeds and they'll be dead and gone in a couple days.
  3. Add a couple tablespoons to water to help fresh-cut flowers last longer. Add a couple tablespoons of sugar at the same time for best results.
  4. Use to neutralize lime on your hands after working with it in the garden.
  5. Add to your pet's water to keep fleas away.
  6. Spray on areas where you want to keep garden pests away from.
  7. Removes skunk smell.
  8. Works as ant and bug repellent.
  9. Cleans hard water deposits.
  10. Cleans urine stains from carpet and fabric.
  11. Chrome polish.
  12. Keep windows free of frost by spraying on windows the night before.
  13. Rust remover. Do not dilute.
  14. Soothes bee stings.
  15. Soothes itching from mosquito bites.
  16. Appetite suppressant. Sprinkle on food or on salad before you eat.
  17. Sunburn relief.
  18. Dandruff relief.
  19. Sore throat relief.
  20. Stain remover.
  21. Cures upset stomach.
  22. Denture cleaner.
  23. Mix with laundry soap to make it last longer.
  24. Keeps lint off of clothes when you add a cup to the load.
  25. Brightens the colors on fabric.
  26. Brightens colored hair.
  27. Degreaser.
  28. Fabric softener.
  29. Deodorizer.
  30. Unclog iron or shower head.
  31. Removes coffee and tea stains.
  32. Hair rinse.
  33. Relieves dry and itchy skin when added to bath water.
  34. Disinfectant.
  35. Mildew remover.
  36. Toilet cleaner.
  37. Mix with linseed oil and use to clean wood or leather.
  38. Smoke smell remover.
  39. Sticker and decal remover.
  40. Brings wilted veggies back to life. Add 2 tablespoons to 2 cups of water and soak the veggies.
  41. Brass and pewter cleaner.
  42. Drain de-clogger.
  43. Disinfectant.
  44. Tarnish remover.
  45. Glass cleaner.
  46. Refrigerator cleaner.
  47. China and glassware cleaner.
  48. Microwave cleaner.
  49. Soap scum remover.
  50. Over cleaner.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another inexpensive item to keep around the house that has multiple uses. It costs a bit more than apple cider vinegar, but you can still get a gallon for less than twenty bucks.

Here are some of the uses for hydrogen peroxide:

  1. Mouthwash. Don't swallow and don't use for an extended period of time.
  2. Tooth whitener. Don't swallow.
  3. Helps heal canker sores.
  4. Disinfectant.
  5. Gargle.
  6. Kill bacteria on fruits and vegetables.
  7. Insecticide.
  8. Weed killer.
  9. Mold remover.
  10. Counter and tabletop cleaner.
  11. Kill bacteria on wood cutting board.
  12. Antiseptic. Kills bacteria and germs in cuts and burns.
  13. Comb through hair to create natural looking highlights.
  14. Use instead of bleach to whiten whites.
  15. Can be used to clean bright colored clothing as well.
  16. Remove bloodstains.
  17. Clean mirrors and glass without streaking. Dry with newspaper for best results.
  18. Foot fungicide.
  19. Douche.
  20. Dilute 50/50 with water and spray into nostrils to break up mucus when you have a cold or sinus infection.
  21. Toothache relief.
  22. Add to the water you use to water your plants to enhance root development.
  23. Earache relief.

Electricity: Tips to Help Decrease Your Electric Bill

If you're anything like the average American, you're leaving a lot of money on the table when it comes to your electric bill. These simple tips can help you save quite a bit of cash.

Turn Out the Lights

Lights are something most people take for granted, so it's easy to forget to turn off the lights when we leave for the day or on a long trip. Let's look at what it costs to leave on the lights.

Most bulbs burn somewhere in the range of 10 watts to 100 watts of electricity. This is the electricity used by a single bulb, not an entire fixture or bank of lights. A quick walk around my house reveals only a few places with a single light. Most switches turn on at least four lights. The switch in my kitchen turns on 8.

Let's say the lights in my house average 60 watts an hour and I leave the house for 12 hours. If I leave 12 lights on, I've wasted 10,800 watts of electricity. 12 lights may sound like a lot, but that's just two or three switches being left on in my house.

Electric companies charge by the kilowatt-hour. 10,800 watts is 10.8 kilowatts. My electric company charges $0.15 cents per hour, on average. That means every single time I leave my house for work and leave the lights on, I'm losing $1.62.

This doesn't factor in other electrical devices. My daughter is notorious for leaving her radio on and my husband is pretty bad about leaving the TV on. This adds another $.50 or so to the unnecessary costs we're racking up for the day. When you consider the fact that it takes a couple minutes at most to make a pass through the house to turn everything off, there's no reason not to do it. Your wallet will thank you for it.

Turn Electronics Off At the Switch

While turning off lights and devices before you leave can save you a bundle, you're still using more electricity than you need to.

Most homes have at least one switch in each room that turn off power to a light socket or two. If you're lucky, you have a couple switches per room that turn off outlets. Place the lights in the room on one switch and the rest of the electrical devices on another.

One of the biggest power drains in the house are the electronics in your entertainment center. You have your DVD player, TV, a game system or three, a Blu-Ray player, your cable box and a receiver all plugged in. When you're in the room and using the entertainment center, you're going to use power.

There's no way around it.

What most people fail to take into consideration is the power they're consuming when they're not in the room. Turn everything off and look at your entertainment center. See all of the clocks and lights. That's power being wasted right there. Even if the device doesn't have a light or clock, it's probably draining power because it's keeping itself ready to be turned on.

Let's look around the house for other power drains. Kitchen appliances are another big one. Your microwave, blender, toaster and smoothie maker don't need to be on all the time. There's probably items plugged in that don't need to be in your bathroom and bedrooms as well.

So, just how much electricity are you wasting? Individually, the devices don't use much. As a whole, the electricity used adds up. Just your entertainment center alone may be costing you upwards of $15 a month to power when you're not using it. Your game room may be costing you the same. Your kitchen? Add in another $5. Your bedrooms and bathroom are probably costing you a 5-spot too.

That's forty dollars a month you're paying to provide power to devices you're not using.

Here's what I suggest. If you have multiple switches in your rooms that provide power to outlets, set one up to power your lights and one to power the other electrical devices in the room. When you leave the room, get in the habit of turning both switches off.

If you don't have multiple switches, don't worry, all isn't lost. It's going to take a bit more work, but you can still power down the devices in a room. Put the devices on a power strip or two and flip the strip off when you leave the room. Problem solved.

This is a simple way to save money on your electric bill and the savings add up quick.

Learn to Coupon

Couponing is one of the best ways to save money. If done right, you can take a significant bite out of your monthly grocery and personal item expenses.

The tips I'm going to give you in this section aren't going to net you thousands of dollars worth of groceries for $35.99 like you see on TV. They will, however, allow you to knock the money you spend on food and household items down quite a bit. It's not uncommon for a family of four to be able to cut their expenses by hundreds of dollars using these tips.

People have the misconception that couponing takes too much time. It does if you meticulously plan out your entire trip to get carts full of groceries for pennies on the dollar - that's dang near a full time job. What we're shooting for is a happy medium. All you need to spend is a half hour or so a week clipping and organizing your coupons. When you consider that half hour could save you $50 to $100, you're looking at a pretty good return on the time invested. What else can you do that's worth a hundred bucks an hour or more?

You have to be careful when you start couponing because you're going to feel the urge to buy everything you find a good coupon for. It helps to keep in mind that you're trying to save money on the stuff you normally buy, not buy stuff just because you're getting a buck or two off. When you buy unnecessary stuff, you're not saving money, you're wasting it.

Get Organized

The first thing you're going to want to do is get organized.

My favorite way to do this is to collect all of the inserts I get in the mail and all of the coupons that come in the Sunday newspaper and sort out the items I know I will want to buy. These are the only coupons I clip. The rest get filed into a file folder by the date they were issued.

The coupons I actually clip get sorted out into a binder full of baseball card holders. I fold them in half so I can see the product and the date and sort them by the type of item they are. This allows me easy access to them when I need them.

When I plan a shopping trip, I take out the coupons I plan on using and put them in an envelope. This allows me to go shopping for just the items I need. I take the coupon book with me just in case I find a deal on something that's too good to pass up.

If I need something out of the ordinary, I go to the coupons I've filed away to see if I have a coupon for the item. This system allows me to keep the coupons I use the most handy, while saving myself the hassle of clipping coupons I probably won't use—but still keeping them around just in case.

Finding Coupons

While I still get quite a few coupons from my Sunday paper and the weekly mail there are a number of other places you can get coupons from. Here's a list of the places I've found coupons:

  • Sunday paper
  • Coupons.com
  • SmartSource
  • RedPlum
  • Valpak
  • Websites for my favorite stores (Target.com, Walmart.com, etc.)
  • Stores like Safeway allow you to load coupons directly onto your store cart
  • Manufacturer's websites
  • Blinkies. These are the machines you've been passing by and ignoring in the grocery store. They have some of the best coupons.
  • Catalinas. These are the strips of coupons you get with your receipt.

If you find yourself in need of more coupons, ask friends and family who don't coupon to save their inserts for you.

How To Maximize Coupon Savings

There are a number of tips and techniques you can use to maximize your coupon savings. The first is a simple one and that's to wait for great sales at your local stores. An example of this would be if you have a coupon for $.50 off Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, wait until they're on sale for $0.85 and only pay $0.35 cents each for them. Groceries typically follow a 6 to 8 week cycle. Wait for the rock-bottom price to get the biggest savings.

Watch for store coupons you can stack on top of manufacturer coupons. It's not uncommon for stores to offer a coupon a short while after the manufacturer does, or vice versa. If you save the first coupon, you can stack it on top of the second at most stores. It's important to note most stores will allow to stack a manufacturer's coupon on top of a store coupon. They won't typically let you stack more than one coupon of the same type.

Check around your area to see if any stores have double coupon days. Stores that do double coupons will double the face value of coupons you bring in. This means that $0.50 off coupon you have will now net you $1.00 off. I live in a state where most stores don't do doubles and I still manage to save hundreds every month, so if you can double coupons, you can really up your savings.

The last trick you can use to maximize savings is to get the Rewards cards offered at your favorite stores. I like the cards that give store cash back that can be spent at a later date. Places like Walgreens and Longs Drugs have a number of items each week that earn you rewards dollars toward future purchases. If you play your cards right, you can use the rewards you've built up to buy items which offer more rewards and get the items you're buying for next to nothing. Soap, deodorant, razors and other personal grooming supplies can be purchased for pennies on the dollar using this technique along with a coupon or two. Just be aware the rewards expire after a certain period of time and make sure you use them before they expire.

Save Money on Laundry

Try these simple tips to save hundreds per year:

  • Wash your clothes in cold water saves you cash. Your clothes get just as clean and you save the money it takes to run your water heater.
  • Get a High Efficiency (HE) front-loading machine.
  • Instead of using your dryer, hang your clothes out to dry. This tip alone will save you almost a hundred dollars a year in gas and electricity costs. It also extends the life of your clothes.
  • Fill up your machine. Running full loads instead of small ones saves you a load or two each time.
  • Don't overfill your machine by cramming stuff into it.
  • Save your dryer sheets and use them to remove fingernail polish. They work great and will save you from having to use cotton balls.
  • If your dryer has a moisture sensor, use it.
  • Be sure to remove the lint from the filters before each load.
  • If you have an electric dryer, buy a converter you can use to select whether your dryer vents inside or outside the house. During the winter, vent inside the house to save on heating costs. Cover the cover with fine mesh to prevent the lint from blowing in. DO NOT DO THIS WITH A GAS DRYER!
  • Make your own laundry products. Recipes abound on the Internet. There's even a couple of them in earlier sections of this article.
  • If you don't want to or don't have time to make your own products, buy stores brands and go with powdered products over liquid.
  • Cut the quantities in half. Use a half cup instead of a full cup. Cut dryer sheets in half.
  • Use the shortest cycle when possible.
  • Time your washing and drying so you can move the next load into the dryer as soon as the previous load is done. This allows you to take advantage of the heat from the previous load.
  • Throw a dry towel in the dryer with your wet clothes. It will help soak up the moisture and will dry faster.
  • Stop washing stuff that doesn't need to be washed. Shirts may be able to be worn a couple of times. So can pants. Use towels for a few days before washing them.
  • Instead of using fabric softener, use a half cup of white vinegar.
  • If you use a laundromat, shop around. Laundromats don't all charge the same price. Look around and find the best value.

Try Bundling Your Bills

Bundled bill packages are offered by companies like Comcast that provide a number of different services. Cable companies often allow you to bundle cable, Internet and phone services into a single package to rack up some serious savings.

Insurance companies are another area where you can bundle your bill to save money. If you have more than one type of insurance and you're using different companies for each type, shop around and see what kind of deal you can get if you bundle your insurance.

One thing to keep in mind is that bundles often start at a seriously low price to lure you in, but then go up after the introductory period. You can still save money with bundles, just make sure you know how much the actual cost is going to be once the initial price expires and the cost goes up. This usually happens after the first year of service.

One trick I've used is to switch from company to company. I have a number of companies that offer phone, TV and Internet service in my area. I'll get the introductory price at one company, then switch to another after the introductory price goes up. Once that company raises the price, I switch again. By the time I switch back to the previous company, they're usually willing to give me the introductory price again.

It saves a lot of cash, you just have to be ready for the inconvenience of not having service for the day or two it takes to set things up.

There is a downside to bundles. Because they're cheaper, people tend to get larger packages than they actually need. Look for packages that only offer the services you need and will use. What good is a home phone if you're never home to use it? Eliminate the land-line if you have a cell phone you always use and save a little more cash.

Your Life Insurance May Be Costing You Too Much

For most adults with families, a life insurance policy is a necessity to ensure your family will be able to carry on in the event there's a catastrophic injury or illness that results in your death. A good policy will get your family through tough times when they need it most.

You can never get life insurance too young. The younger (and healthier) you are when you get your policy, the cheaper the premiums will be. Locking in the premiums for the term of the policy allows you to pay the same low amount for many years to come.

Make sure you shop around before buying a policy. Premiums can vary widely from company to company on the same type of policy. Find one that suits your needs and has a premium you can live with.

If you can afford it, it's best to pay your premiums yearly. This lets you avoid the installment fees life insurance companies charge for the convenience of making monthly or quarterly payments. Try to improve your health before shopping around. If you're overweight and have high blood pressure and cholesterol, you're going to pay a lot more than you would if you were of normal weight and completely healthy. If you have a health condition you can cure or treat, take care of it before you shop around for a policy. This will allow you to lock in lower prices.

If you were patently unhealthy at the time you started your policy and your health has changed for the better since then, you can sometimes request a reassessment. If not, you can always switch providers and get assessed by them. Just be careful with this one. If you really aren't healthier and you've gotten significantly older, the cost of your policy can go up.

Save Money on Your Car

Other than your home, your car is probably your biggest expense. If you have one car, your payment is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $400. Two cars puts you close to a hundred. This is an expense you can really knock down, as long as you're willing to make a few concessions.

Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Do you really need that shiny, new car or can you get by with something used that costs a heck of a lot less. People who buy brand new cars instantly lose thousands as soon as they drive them off the lot. If you want a new car, look for cars that have a couple thousand miles on them. You'll save a bundle and still get a car that's covered under the manufacturer's warranty for year to come.

Never Buy New

When it comes to buying used vs. buying new, the most common argument I hear from people is the fact that they don't like having to pay for their own repairs when something goes wrong with their car.

They'd rather buy new and get the manufacturer's warranty for the life of the car. The math here just doesn't add up. Let's take a quick look at the cost of repair vs. the cost of interest.

Say you buy a new car, fresh off the line. It's not a top of the line car, but it's not too shabby either. It costs you $25K. You don't have a down-payment so you decide to finance the loan over 60 months at an interest rate of 7.5 percent. If you have good credit, it might be a little less. Bad credit can net you more than twice as high of an interest rate.

Your monthly payments are approximately 500 dollars. Over the course of the loan, you're going to pay $5K worth of interest, which bumps the total cost of your vehicle up to right around $30K.

Now let's look at what a used vehicle would cost you. You can get a decent used vehicle for right around $5K, give or take a thousand depending on where in the United States you live. You're not going to get a BMW, but you'll get something you can safely drive around without the constant worry of it imploding. Let's assume you've enacted all of the money saving tips laid out in this article and have saved up enough to pay for this car in cash.

There's instantly a $25K difference in price between what you paid for the used car and what you paid for the brand new car. That's a hell of a lot of repairs. I know car repairs are expensive, but you can replace your motor, drive-train, electrical system and transmission and not come close to this much.

Here's what I propose you do. Save up the cash to buy the used car you want. Now, instead of making a big monthly payment that's front-loaded with interest, make monthly payments to your savings account in the amount of the payment you would have been making for the new car you were looking.

You'll save a bunch of money and will have plenty for repairs if your used car breaks down. Another option when you're looking to save cash is to buy from a repo auction. You can get cars that are close to new for a lot less than you'd pay for them on a lot somewhere. Check around for auctions and check with any local lenders to see if they sell repos directly to the public. They just want to get the vehicles off their books and will sell them for up to 40 percent off what the going rate is. They sell the repo cars to the highest bidder and send a bill for the difference between what the person the car was taken from owes and what was paid to the original owner.

When you go to buy a car, never pay the asking price. At most dealerships, everything is negotiable – I've talked dealerships down on the cost of the car, the interest rate on the loan and the cost of the extended warranty. I've even talked them into giving me the “undercarriage treatment” for free. Sure, this treatment is largely a scam perpetuated to make dealerships extra cash, but it can't hurt and it was free, so why not?

Save Money on Repairs

Your payment isn't the only place you can save money. While most major repairs are beyond the abilities of the average person, you can learn a bit about basic maintenance and repair and save yourself hundreds of dollars annually.

Oil changes and radiator flushes are two maintenance items that can really add up over the course of the life of your vehicle. An oil change costs $40 or more, depending on the type of oil you use and the amount of oil your vehicle takes. A radiator flush is even more expensive. Both of these maintenance items can be done at home with little heartache. They're both easy enough to where anyone should be able to do them. Look online for a tutorial or ask the guy at your local garage if you can watch while he does your oil change next time.

Don't fall victim to a “service” I recently fell victim to. I was in a rush and didn't have time to do my own oil change and took the car to the garage. The mechanic pulled out a couple of air filters that were caked in dirt and grime. When he showed them to me, I was disgusted and told him yes, I wanted those replaced. It cost almost 90 dollars. When I got home I checked the cost of the filters online—less than ten bucks apiece. They're easy to replace too. They're usually found behind a lid that screws or snaps in place.

Battery replacement is another quick and easy task. Instead of taking your car to the garage (or having it towed there), go buy the battery and replace it yourself. All it usually takes is unbolting a couple bolts, removing the old battery and replacing it with the new one. Don't spend hundreds on a repair that should only run you the cost of a battery. Some stores offer free installation - if that's the case, then by all means take advantage of it.

Brake pads and rotors are marginally more difficult, but aren't that tough if you're mechanically inclined. While you might assume the braking system is as complex as the rest of the vehicle, that's not really the case. Brakes are one area that hasn't changed much in the past twenty years. Block out a couple hours and learn to do them yourself.

Spark plugs are another easy one, but they're a little time-consuming. Take pictures when you're taking them out to make sure you put the wires back in the right place. They have to stay connected in the same pattern to function correctly.

Even if you don't want to do your own repairs, you can save some cash by finding your own replacement parts. Look for the parts you need at junkyards or scrappers. While you probably don't want an engine from a place like this, that power window regulator and motor can be bought for less than half what it would normally cost you. If that fails, source your parts on the Internet. There are a number of sites which sell discount parts online. Check Ebay and Craigslist too.

If you're having electrical problems or problems that could be related to the electrical system, don't forget to check your fuse box. Mechanics a notorious for charging customers for expensive repairs when a fuse is the culprit. They replace the fuse in 30 seconds and bank a couple hundred bucks for the repair. Fuses are the problem more often than you might think-always check them first.

Tips to Cut Medical Costs

If you don't have insurance, medical costs can add up quick. If you do have insurance that isn't paid for by your place of employment, you're probably struggling to pay the bill every month. Medical costs are one of the biggest expenses most families have outside of their house and car notes.

Save Money When You're Insured

For those who can afford it, medical insurance is an absolute must. It helps you hedge your bets against costly illnesses later on down the road. While insurance won't completely eliminate medical bills if you get injured or get sick, they'll help make them manageable. Without insurance, you're on the hook for all costs. This can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event of a serious injury or illness.

When shopping for insurance, shop around for the best bargain. Take note of the number of visits the members of your family make to the doctor and the costs of any prescriptions they currently need.

Compare the prices for these items across a variety of health plans to find the best deal. Make sure you look closely at deductibles and monthly premiums.

If you have money in savings and your family is generally healthy, a high-deductible (HD) health plan may be a good option. With HD plans, you're on the hook for expenses up to a certain amount, usually over a thousand dollars. The upside is the deductibles are significantly less than what you have with normal plans. HD plans are available that offer a handful of preventative check-up visits yearly, so shop around and make sure you find the best deal.

Here's a tip most people don't know about. Your state's farm bureau or farmer's association may offer discounted insurance. While you'd assume you have to be a farmer to sign up, that isn't the case. All you have to do is pay the $50 or less yearly membership fee and you're in. The discounts you can get on insurance more than make up for this small fee.

If your company has a flex-spending account, use it. These accounts are tax-sheltered account which can be used to save money that'll be spent on health care each year. The catch? Flex-spending accounts expire at the end of each year. The money in the account disappears at the end of the year. If you have expenses you know you'll have from year to year, put that money in a flex account so you don't have to pay taxes on it.

If you get denied on an insurance claim for medical care, don't give up just yet. Appeal the decision.

If you're denied again, contact the insurance commission in your state. They may be willing to mediate the dispute between you and your insurer. If they make a decision in your favor, you're off the hook for your medical costs. It's worth a shot.

When you need prescription medicines, go over the list of prescription medications your insurance covers with your doctor. There are usually pricing tiers for medications. Ask your doctor to look at lower tiers to see if there's anything available at a lower cost that'll work.

Save Money When You Don't Have Insurance

Medical bills for the uninsured add up quick. An unexpected illness can drain your bank accounts and leave you on the verge of financial ruin.

The following tips can help you keep uninsured medical costs to a minimum:

  • Eat right. A healthy diet leads to a healthy person.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Drink in moderation.
  • Don't go to the doctor for trivial issues. If you have a common cold or the flu, you're probably going to get better whether or not you visit the doctor. If you have symptoms of a serious medical condition, by all means go. If you just have a runny nose and a headache, stay home and give your body time to heal on its own.

Ask your doctor for a discount. Explain your financial situation with your primary physician and see if he or she is willing to cut you a deal. You'll get more mileage out of this tactic if you're dealing with a private practice.

Always ask for generic prescriptions. They cost a lot less than brand-name prescriptions and have the same active ingredients.

If you have a teaching hospital or medical school nearby, call and see if they offer low-cost or free care. They're usually willing to provide care at a deep discount to give students the opportunity to work with people with real problems.

Take a close look at your bill. Up to half of medical care bills have mistakes or added expenses. Argue anything you don't think should be on the bill.

Steer clear of the ER. You don't want to go there unless it's absolutely necessary. Clinics and regular doctor's offices will cost you a lot less—and you'll probably get a higher level of care. ER doctors and nurses are rushed and won't give you the same level of care you'll get elsewhere, especially if you go in with a trivial injury or illness.

Cell Phone Savings

Do you go into shock at the mere sight of your cell phone bill arriving in the mail? Things don't have to be this way. Most people are paying way too much for their phones. Keep track of the amount of time you're talking every month. If you're consistently going over your minutes every month, it would cost you a lot less to up your plan to one with more minutes. Overage minutes are expensive and can add up quickly.

On the other hand, if you're consistently well under your minute limit, it might benefit you to lower your plan to one with less minutes. You'll save money on the cheaper plan and probably still won't come close to using your minutes. Don't cut it too close, but try to avoid paying for a bunch of extra minutes you'll never use.

A buddy of mine has 3 kids and is married. He uses AT&T, his wife uses Sprint and his kids all use T-Mobile. He constantly complains about the bills, which total well over $400 a month. Combining the plans to one carrier would save him a bunch of money.

Friends and family deals net you significant savings, so make the switch as soon as possible. Don't use early cancellation fees as your excuse. Sit down and figure out the savings you'd get if you pay the early cancellation fee and make the switch now. You might be surprised to find you'll save money, even with the fee factored in. If you're switching because you're unhappy with the level of service you're receiving, call and politely complain and ask them to release you from the contract. They may be willing to waive the cancellation fees. You can also transfer your contract to someone else. If you have a friend or family member who wants it, you may be off the hook.

Here's a big one—monitor your usage and your kids usage. In this day and age, there's no excuse for an $800 dollar phone bill because of overages. Log in every couple of days to see what your family is up to. Put an end to any bad behavior by the kids. The added benefit is you can see who your children are calling and texting and the times they're texting them. I recently caught my daughter texting a boy at 3AM while spending the night at a friend's house. If I wasn't monitoring her cell phone usage, I never would have known what she was up to.

People use 411 like it's going out of style - at a cost of a buck a pop. This really adds up, especially when you have 4 or 5 people on your plan who all use it. Instead, use the free 411 service offered by Google by calling:

1-800-GOOG-411

Another way to save cash on your bill is to look at the extras you're paying for. Do you really need roadside service attached to your cell phone bill? Are you paying for a GPS navigation program when there are free ones with the same features? Look closely at your phone insurance plan. For the iPhone, the cost of replacement with insurance is a couple hundred bucks. You can get a new or gently-used phone off Craigslist or Ebay for less than that.

You're wasting your money on the insurance when you can buy a new phone for less elsewhere. If you're carrying a cell phone just for emergencies where you may need assistance, you can skip your cell phone bill altogether. As long as cellular 911 service is available in your area, you can dial 911 from any cell phone, whether it's connected to a service plan or not.

If you feel like you're overpaying for your cell phone service, call your carrier and ask for a better deal. Let them know you're fed up and ready to leave and ask if they're willing to do anything to help you out. Be polite, but be firm. They might surprise you by lowering your bill or adding services to your package for free.

Cramming

Check your bill for changes to your contract/fees. Sometimes carriers will change their policy and add fees without notifying you. Look for small charges with names that don't really explain what they are. Something like “service fee” that costs $1.35 should pop up a red flag. This adding of meaningless fees and charges is so wide-spread, it's been given a name - cramming.

The act of cramming is estimated to cost the general public upwards of a couple billion dollars a year – yes, I meant to say billion. When you consider only 5 percent of people catch attempts at cramming, that adds up to a lot of extra money lining the pockets of the already-rich cell phone carriers.

Check for subscriptions you didn't ask for when you signed up. Unscrupulous salespeople sometimes add subscription services you didn't request to up their commissions. Sometimes these added services can cost as much as $20 a month. Most people don't notice this when the bill shows up. Don't be like most people.

If they do make unauthorized changes that you don't agree with, call them and try to negotiate your bill back to where it was. If they don't agree to lower your bill, they're legally obligated to let you out of the contract. This will allow you to find a better deal somewhere else.

Watch for third parties attempting to add charges to your bill. Companies who have your phone number can essentially treat it like a credit card, billing your phone account for services they may or may not have rendered. Look for services you didn't agree to pay for and services you didn't ask for or want.

Be aware that any “free” trial services you sign up for are going to carry hefty charges once the trial period is up. Companies offer free trials because they're banking on the fact you'll forget to cancel the service before the trial is up and end up paying monthly fees. Check your bill for services you signed up for and forgot about and services you signed up for and no longer use.

Get Dental Care For Free (Or Cheap)

Nobody likes going to the dentist, but it's a service we all need from time to time. It's unpleasant and can be painful while you're sitting in the chair, and it can hurt even more when it's time to get out your wallet. We tend to assume these costs are unavoidable, but there are ways you can save money on your dental bills.

The first way to prevent expensive bills is preventative care. Regular cleanings cost less than a hundred bucks and can save you a bunch of money later on down the road. Between cleanings, be sure to brush your teeth twice a day, floss and use mouthwash. Use a toothpaste with baking soda and fluoride in it.

Dental costs are high no matter where you go, but do a little shopping around before settling on a dentist. Get recommendations from friends and family and get a second opinion before paying for expensive treatments. I recently had a dentist tell me I needed to spend thousands on spacers for some of my daughter's teeth. Another dentist looked in her mouth and immediately dismissed the notion, stating her teeth would grow in straight without the spacer. Guess what? They grew in straight and it saved me a couple thousand bucks—and it saved my daughter the pain and hassle of having the spacers.

Dental insurance can help defray the costs of dental care, but make sure you know what you're getting.

It isn't uncommon for people with dental care to still get hit with huge bills for stuff that isn't covered or is only partially covered by their dental plan. Good dental plans are expensive and most don't cover preexisting conditions.

If you don't have insurance and find yourself in need of expensive dental procedures, a dental school may be willing to perform the work for free or at a low cost. The downside to this is the work will be done by students who may be performing the procedure for the first time. There are teachers overseeing the procedures, so the chances of something really bad happening are slim.

The reality is you might get better care at a dental school than at a private practice. Dentists who are already licensed may be in a rush to get all of their appointments done. Students are eager to do a good job and will take the extra time to get everything perfect.

If you find yourself having to pay full price for a procedure, check with your dentist to see if there's a discount for paying cash. A good number of dentists offer discounts of up to 10% for cash payments.

10 Ways to Save Money on Pet Food and Care

Pets are like family members. When times are tough, we can't just give them up, even though food, shots and medical bills for your pet can add up in a hurry. Luckily, you can keep your pet fed and healthy for a lot less than what you're probably spending now.

Here are ten tips to help you save money on pet food and care:

  1. Don't feed your pets too much. While the recommended amount may not seem like enough, it is. Stop overfeeding your pets and save money on food and health care costs. Overweight pets tend to have more health care problems.
  2. Stop buying top-shelf pet food. You don't need to feed your pets $70-a-bag food to keep them healthy. Don't buy the cheapest stuff because it's full of filler. Instead, go with stuff that costs 30 bucks a bag and save money while still keeping your pet healthy. Pet's are picky and may be resistant to the switch. Start off by switching 1/4 of the food in your pet's bowl. Do that for a couple days, then up it to half. A couple days later, up it to 3/4 of the bowl, then completely switch it out.
  3. Get your pets trained at pet store chains instead of hiring expensive private trainers. Your dog will learn to sit just as well at a $40 training class as it will at a $200 training class.
  4. Stop paying membership fees at exclusive dog parks. Find free parks or set up “play dates” with friends who have dogs.
  5. Buy your pet supplies used. Why pay full price for a dog house when you can get an almost new one for half that on Craigslist?
  6. Did you know you can get health insurance for your pets? Look into it and see if it can help defray the cost of medical care for your pet. At the very least, start putting money away for medical care for your pet.
  7. Learn to groom your pet yourself. It will help you get closer to your pet and will save you hundreds of dollars yearly.
  8. Coupon. Find coupons for pet care and food and save cash.
  9. Look for clinics in your area. You can usually get free check-ups and discounted shots and services at clinics.
  10. Don't wait until it's an emergency. If your pet is injured or sick and isn't healing, get them in to see the vet. It might save you a lot of money in the long run.

Natural Flea and Tick Prevention

Keeping your pet free of fleas and ticks naturally is going to take a bit more work, but it's a cheaper and safer alternative to the harsh chemicals most people use.

First of all, determine where you pet is picking up the bugs. If it's at a local dog park, there isn't much you can do about it. If it's in your back yard, you can introduce predatory worms to your yard that prey on fleas and ticks. They die once the food supply dries up, so you don't have to worry about them taking over. At less than $30 a treatment, you're paying half what it costs to treat your pet for fleas and ticks and you're not using chemicals that can make you, your kids and your pet sick.

Treat the inside of your home with Borax and salt. Sprinkle it on your carpets to kills fleas. It gets into their exoskeletons and kills them from the inside out. Let it sit for a day, then vacuum it up. Be sure to get rid of your vacuum bags and empty your vacuum cleaner outside to prevent any fleas that may have survived from getting back into your carpet.

If your pet is full of fleas, it's time to break out the dish soap. Lather your pet up real good and let him or her sit like that for ten minutes. This will suffocate any living creatures on your pet. Now, comb out any eggs you see with a flea comb. Add a couple drops of peppermint oil to your pet's bath water when you bathe them to keep bugs away.

You can add garlic cloves to your pet's food to naturally repel fleas. It takes about a month for this treatment to start working. Brewer's yeast can also be added to repel bugs.

Make Your Own Pet Food and Save a Bundle

Store-bought pet foods are a convenient way to feed your pet. They're also expensive and tend to be full of additives. In light of recent recalls, you may be putting your pets at risk by feeding them store-bought food.

Dogs and cats eat pretty much the same things people do - that is, they eat the same things healthy people do. A diet of Twinkies and soda pop is every bit as bad for your pet as it is for you. Pets need some sort of meat, like chicken, beef, lamb or turkey. They also require veggies like peas and carrots and some food with calcium in it like milk, cheese or sardines.

Add a cup or two of oatmeal to the mix to bulk it up a bit.

Here's a quick and easy dog food recipe:

  • 5 lbs raw ground beef
  • 5 lbs raw ground turkey
  • 10 eggs, shells included
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 3 cups boiled oatmeal
  • Vitamin supplement (ask your vet for recommendations)

This recipe will make approximate 25 cups of dog food.

Here are the directions:

  1. Blend eggs and shells in blender.
  2. Add all ingredients to large bowls and thoroughly mix.
  3. Make 5 large loafs.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Cook for up to an hour. Don't leave any pink.
  6. Refrigerate until needed.

Here's a quick and easy cat food recipe:

  • 3 cups corn meal
  • 2 cups boiled oats
  • 10 eggs
  • 10 tablespoon butter
  • 10 pounds ground meat (mix and match chicken, beef, fish)
  • 1 teaspoon fish oils
  • A handful of fresh veggies, mixed into the meat
  • Any supplements recommended by your vet

Directions:

  1. Grind meats and veggies, if necessary.
  2. If you want to cook them, create large balls and cook in preheated oven until done.
  3. If you want to preserve all of the nutrients, form into balls serve food raw.
  4. Refrigerate until serving.

Categories: Lifestyle


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