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Guest Post: Remodeling in a Recession: Why You Shouldn’t Wait

June 29, 2010 · Filed Under Frugality · 4 Comments 
Today’s guest post was contributed by Jennifer Kardish.  Jennifer is a communications coordinator at Kitchen Cabinets. You can check out their free design tips for your kitchen and home.

With the economy still in a decided downturn and foreclosures reaching all-time highs, now might seem like the worst time in recent history to think about remodeling your home. It certainly won’t be easy to get a loan or a line of equity on your house with the real estate market slow to rebound and banks pulling the purse-strings tighter and tighter. However, if you can find a way to scrape together a little cash, or if you’ve been saving, now is a great time for the frugal shopper to do some home upgrades.

For starters, a little can go a long way in this economy. Retail spending is, simply put, not what it was. Vendors that were thriving a few years ago are now being forced to slash prices and even close their doors. The point is, they want your business! And you can use it to your advantage. Shop around to find the products you want and you will be amazed at the discounts you discover (shopping online may be even more fruitful). Then go to several stores and find out if they are willing to price match or give you a better deal to stop you from going to the competition. You can often get an outrageous bargain just by asking for it. Also, if you’re on a tight budget, consider a merchant that sells reclaimed items (like flooring, cabinets, hardware, etc.). Although it may not be the newest product on the market, and it might have a little wear and tear, you can often find merchandise that has a higher value (in terms of construction, quality, materials, etc.) than you could get for the same price if you bought something new.

And that’s just the parts. You can also save on labor. Of course, there is always the do it yourself method, which is great for handy people. For the rest of us, a contractor is necessary to get the job done. And while contract work has a bad reputation for getting very pricey, very quick, we are currently in a buyer’s market. Building of new structures has slowed significantly and as a result, the market is flooded with contractors looking for work. If you seek several bids (make sure to get recommendations) you stand to save a lot of money on labor. That said, don’t be afraid to do some of the work yourself. Almost anyone can learn to install a backsplash, replace a lighting fixture, or swap out a faucet, so get yourself a home improvement guide to save even more.

Why wait to build your dream home? Even if you plan to upgrade as a way to get more value out of your house, you don’t have to wait until you’re ready to sell. Remodel now, while you can get the best price, and you stand to appreciate an even better return on your investment in a few years when the housing market rebounds. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a custom-made interior in the mean time.

Guest Post: Reduce Your Energy Bills Effortlessly

February 24, 2010 · Filed Under Frugality · 4 Comments 

Winter is a time of increased power consumption, and therefore a good time to mobilize and begin saving energy to make bills as painless as possible. Easy to say, but is it difficult to do?  It doesn’t have to be. Here are some simple changes that you can introduce to your daily routine to save some cash with little effort.

  1. When cooking, use as little water as possible and cover the pot with a lid. This simple rule can save up to 15% on energy, and your meal will be ready faster!
  2. If you have a pressure cooker, use it when possible. It can save you up to 40% on energy.
  3. Don’t keep refrigerators and freezers colder than necessary. The correct temperature for refrigerator compartments is 38° F, and 5° F for a freezer. If possible, don’t keep the fridge close to heaters and don’t leave the doors open longer than needed. It will use more energy to cool back down.
  4. Defrost food in the refrigerator. It will give away the cold, resulting in consuming less energy. On the other end, don’t put hot products inside the fridge, as the appliance will have to work harder to keep the temperature low.
  5. Remember that electronic devices left on standby are still considerable power eaters. Fortunately, they can be stopped without incurring any additional spending. Simply shut them off completely when going to work or to bed. TVs, radios, DVD and CD players, electric toothbrushes, printers, scanners, copiers, you name it. Stop them from eating your money!
  6. Most computers have power management features, so use them! Set up your PC so that the monitor enters sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity and turns off after 30 minutes.
  7. Surprising as it may be, a charger left in the socket still consumes energy. Unplug it once your mobile phone or MP3 player is fully charged.
  8. Run your washing machine only when fully loaded. In many cases, pre-washing or high temperatures are not necessary and require more energy. If possible, let your clothes air-dry.
  9. Use 100% of your dishwasher’s capacity, and check for eco-friendly options.
  10. Avoid excessive heating or air conditioning. If you feel cold, try putting on a sweater before turning the thermostat up. Turn the heat off when leaving doors or windows open.

As you can see, it’s easy to start saving on utility bills today. You just need a little patience and practice to make use of these simple tips in your everyday life. Of course once you put aside a little bit, I encourage you to invest in energy-saving solutions. Always look for the Energy Star logo when choosing appliances, lightning, heating and cooling systems, home electronics, or office equipment.

Today’s guest post was contributed by PennySaverUSA.com.  Visit them online to find energy-saving appliances for sale.

Guest Post: How to Search for Money-Saving Opportunities on Google and Twitter

August 25, 2009 · Filed Under Frugality · 3 Comments 
Today’s guest post is provided by Ann Smarty. Ann Smarty (http://annsmarty.com/) is a search marketer, Internet entrepreneur and social media enthusiast.  Please have a read, leave a comment, and check out her site…

Saving money is not only about counting each penny: it’s about being informed. To be able to find useful timely information, you should be aware of smart Google and Twitter search tips:

1. Search Google

Google has recently tweaked its search interface in a way that it became more shopping-friendly: now you can search for reviews, forums as well as see most recent updates. The options are available in the left sidebar after you click “Show options“. Let’s see how these innovations can help you in practice:

Reviews: that’s easy: just search for anything you plan to buy, then just choose “reviews” in the sidebar and the search will be refined:

Google search: reviews

Forums: this handy option allows to see relevant discussions related to your shopping plans. Use it if you need to know what others say about the thing you are going to buy.

Google: forum search

Time Frame: this option allows to sort search results by time to find updates published past 24 hours, a week or a year. The best thing about the option is that it can be used in conjunction with the above ones – thus you can find most recent reviews or forum discussions:

Google search: time frame

Search any site: with site: Google command you no more need to look for the site search option. With it, you can search your favorite site and enjoy the above mentioned tmeframe sorting.

Example: say, I want to find all recent deals and coupons for laptops on my favorite budgeting community Buxr.com. All I need is to search Google for [site:buxr.com laptops] plus using “Past 24 hours” option in the left sidebar:

Google site search

2. Twitter Search

Twitter search is another great tool budget shoppers can take advantage of. It may turn especially useful if you are aware of some less known but useful tips:

Negative reviews: Twitter search allows you to find what people are saying about the product right now and moreover, what dissatisified people are saying. Just use 🙁 sign when searching and you will be shown Tweets with some emotional coloring:

Example: [Godaddy 🙁]

Twitter search: negative reviews

Questions: Knowing what questions people ask when discussing something may clear up some things you would be unaware of otherwise.

Example: [ipod touch ?]

Twitter search: questions

Money Saving Tip: Check out your Auto Insurance for Roadside Assistance

January 30, 2009 · Filed Under Frugality · 17 Comments 

Hopefully you have not, but I’m sure we have all experienced the dreaded breakdown on the side of the road.  It could be from your battery dying or something more sinister (and pricey), but there occasionally comes a time when your trusted (or maybe your not-so-trustworthy) automobile leaves you stranded and you need some help.  At times like that, it is certainly a relief to be able to pick up your cell phone and get someone routed out to come give you a hand (or a lift).

For years we’ve been members of AAA and have used the service quite a few times (unfortunately).  Luckily, it has not been happening as much lately since we’ve been able to afford, shall we say, more "contemporary" cars!  Even so, I have had the batteries die on both of my cars within the past few years and have called them up for a jump-start.

So, a few weeks back when I got a letter from AAA informing me the credit card they used to renew my yearly membership had expired,  I almost immediately picked up the phone to call and pay up for another year.  As I started to dial the phone, however, a thought crossed my mind of a vague memory from a long time ago…"Didn’t my auto insurance provide roadside assistance?"

I remember declining the roadside assistance when I first got my insurance coverage a few years back.  I didn’t need it, of course, since I had a AAA membership.  I thought to myself, maybe, just for fun, I should call up my insurance agent and ask him about their coverage (doesn’t everyone think calling insurance agents is jolly good fun?). Besides, my AAA membership costs $99.25 a year and I was secretly hoping that I could save a few bucks.

Well, I did call and asked about the coverage.  He told me I didn’t need it if I had AAA because it’s basically the same thing.  "But what if I didn’t have AAA?" I asked.  Well, he informed me that they basically provided the same roadside services as AAA.  In fact, the coverage is slightly better because there is no mileage limit to how much they will tow you if you go to an "approved" location (whatever that is).  Even if you go to an "non-approved" location, there is no towing limit and the maximum they will charge for the tow is $50.  Plus, like AAA, the coverage goes with you even if you are not in your own car.

This all sounded pretty good, so I waited breathlessly while he went and checked the price…."It will be $5 per car."  Just to confirm, "so, you’re saying it’s $10 per year?"  It seemed to take him a  lot longer to figure this out than I thought it should take an adult to multiple 5 times 2, but after a brief pause came the affirmative response (just to be fair, maybe he had to look up how many cars I had covered or something).   "Ok, yeah, let’s do that!" I shot back.

Sure, you don’t get AAA maps or travel agency services (do they still do that? I haven’t used a travel agent in at least a decade), free passport photos, or AAA discounts. But with Google maps and Mapquest (and probably most of you reading this have GPS systems anyway) and digital cameras and such, I think I’ll pocket the $90 savings!

Of course, the wisdom of this decision will not be determined until I have a break down and see if I have any problems with my insurance’s roadside assistance.  Depending on how that works out, I may have to rethink the plan. For now, however, I definitely think it’s worth a try.

Photo Credits: freeparking and peasap

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