Cleaning Your House On a Budget

You might be spring cleaning, but it’s a good time to develop some money saving habits to last you throughout the year. Don’t only declutter your closets, but declutter your cleaning cabinets, too. You should be using only a select few inexpensive cleaning products rather than an expensive arsenal. According to expert, Jan Dougherty, who owns a cleaning business, you should only be using these THREE products. Jan recently did an interview with Today and we jumped on the bandwagon. Here are the top spending mistakes and what to do about them:

 

 

Mistake #1: Using Paper towels

Have you noticed that Paper towels are really expensive? If you’re like me and you buy them in bulk, they are still really expensive! The good stuff will run you $20 or more at BJs for ten or so rolls. Households with children can easily spend $20-$40 per month on paper towels! Use soft rags. We recommend “Zwipes,” found on Amazon. Shirt rags are great, but tend to be less absorbent. Thick, soft dusting towels work best. Microfiber works, but sometimes doesn’t cooperate with cleaning fluid. An array of soft, thick towelettes will last you quite a bit longer and cost you quite a bit less than paper towels.

Mistake #2 Using Windex

You know the bottles that say, “With Vinegar!”? Here’s a thought: Just use vinegar. You’ll have less streaks and it works just as well. And it’s cheaper. Another great product? Krud Kutter. This stuff is relatively cheap and will last you forever. Don’t bother with expensive products like, “Perfect Glass.” Mix with KK with water, according to directions and clean windows, grout, bathtubs, toilets, clothes and even your car. it requires different concentrations for different items, but it’s a miracle product. Best part? It’s non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

Mistake #3 Using specialized products for stainless steel

These are expensive and rarely work well. Instead, try Old English Lemon Oil. Your fridge will be clean, shiny, and streak free. Old English Lemon Oil cleans and shines wood furniture, cabinets and floors. It’s cheap and will last you years. 

Mistake #4 Getting rid of odor using disinfecting spray or other spray on odors

Vinegar disinfects all germs and removes odor. Use it to spray carpets, beds, couches, curtains, sinks, bathtubs, and pretty much any other surface. Your house shouldn’t smell like an ocean breeze. It shouldn’t smell of anything, in fact. Deodorizers contain chemicals that you don’t need in your home.

To recap: Vinegar, Krud Kutter and Old English Lemon Oil should take care of all of your household needs. Get rid of expensive specialty cleaners and jump on the money saving bandwagon. We love Amazon for our cleaning needs. They have lots of size options and good prices.

 

 

How Smart Travelers Stay Safe

smart traveler

Vacation season is right around the corner!  Getting away is always a fantastic thing, whether you’re backpacking through Europe, making for a romantic getaway to a crystal clear beach, or planning a trip for the entire family to enjoy.  While it’s an exciting thing to plan, there are some steps you should take to secure your safety while you’re on vacation.  They’ll help you make sure you have a good time without coming home with the headache of identity theft.

 

Think Twice Before Purchasing Online

It can seem convenient to purchase tickets and reservations online.  In many cases, it’s perfectly safe, too.  But in order to protect yourself, you want to make 100% sure you’re using a secure website.  On a trip to Mexico, we thought we’d save time and cab fare by purchasing some bus tickets online.  Luckily, we didn’t, as it turns out that the website is known to be insecure, and that there was no guarantee that our tickets would be there waiting for us, nonetheless our identities.  If you have a question about the reputation of a website or business, hold off until you can exchange goods in person, preferably by paying cash.

 

Lockdown Your Wallet

Canadians and Europeans have been using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology on their credit cards for a while, but it’s a relatively new phenomenon in the US.  Instead of swiping the way we are used to, they have a chip that scans quickly and easily.  If you check your wallet, you may already have some of these chipped cards whether you’re aware of it or not.  These cards make check out a breeze, but they also make it really easy for someone with basic technology to scan your information, even through your wallet, and especially in crowded places.  They can swipe passport information the same way: just by standing close to you.  You can protect against this type of theft by carrying your cards in an RFID-blocking wallet.  Some of our favorite styles come from TravelSmith.

 

Carry-On

Traveling with only carry-on luggage isn’t just a budget-cutting measure; it can also protect you against theft.  I’ve had airport employees attempt to steal items out of my carry-ons as they were going through an x-ray machine while I was watching, so you can only imagine what goes on behind-the-scenes when no one is looking.  Packing light and efficiently allows you to keep an eye on your belongings at all times.  If you’re having trouble fitting everything, try rolling your clothes instead of folding them, “packing” eBooks on your device as opposed to lugging around physical tomes, and paring down the number of shoes you’ll need for a one week vacation.

If you must bring additional luggage that needs to be checked, make sure it does not contain anything valuable or irreplaceable.  Important documents are one example, but you should also be wary of checking laptops or other valuable electronics, expensive jewelry, or prescription drugs that are either expensive or essential to your health.

 

The Fine Art of Couponing

Maybe you’re interesting in the sport of extreme couponing, or maybe you’re just interested in saving some money. Either way, we’ve compiled some great money-saving couponing tips to get your started.

1. Get organized. Buy a mini folder with dividers that fits in your purse. You can divide by category (home, food, baby) or by expiration date by month or week. But, you need to have your clipped coupons accessible at all times.

2. Download the app. Many stores have apps that offer exclusive coupon deals. Or, better yet, download the AnyCodes app from PromoPro. If you turn your location on, it reads your location to let you know what coupons are available in your area, or do a quick search for what you need. The store can just scan your coupon right on your phone.

3. Get weekend subscriptions to several papers. The inserts will prove worth it. Always ask friends and family to save their inserts and start your collection. For some people, the clipping is actually relaxing. It provides a sense of routine and and low stimulation activity that keeps you focused on something non-stressful.

4. Self checkouts sometimes allow more than one coupon. For example, if you use the self checkout at BJs (who offers huge coupons, plus manufacturer coupons), you can use two of the SAME coupon before it cuts you off. It used to allow more, but got wise.

Top Couponing Mistakes (by ABC News)

1. Not reading the fine print. It’s true that some stores restrict coupons, but know the store coupon policies and the fine print on the coupon itself. You can sometime argue a store into accepting your coupon, but only i f you know the policy and can make a case for your coupon.

2. Not taking advantage of “stacking.” Don’t assume one coupon is enough! Manufacturers and stores often offer coupons at the same time. More than one discount can be really satisfying!

3. Thinking the sale is the lowest price. Not so. You can still use a coupon. Think of the sale price as a first step in negotiations with the consumer. Little known fact: sale items are more likely to have a coupon because manufacturers are looking to get aggressive to get the item off the shelf.

4. Buying more doesn’t mean saving more. Many coupons say you must buy 2-4 of the item. If you are to use more than one coupon, you’ll have to double it. Suddenly, you find yourself with six bottles of dish detergent. It’s probably not worth it.

5. Using coupons for products you don’t need. If you don’t eat Dorritos, don’t clip the coupon. Coupons on healthy food are rarer than on junk food. You don’t want to inadvertently create an unhealthy lifestyle just because you have coupons.

 

College Students: Don’t Pay Sticker Price for Textbooks

textbooks

Whether you’re going to school for the first time straight out of high school, or coming back as a non-traditional student for your graduate degree, you’re going to need books.  The price of college has skyrocketed in recent years, and book prices are no exception.  They can easily make or break your collegiate budget, and they’re an added cost on top of what your school bills you for tuition and fees.

The prices are likely going to be worst at your school bookstore, which is of course the first place you look and experience sticker shock.  There are multiple ways to save money, but most of them require that you get a head start on the book-buying process.  The first step, then, is to contact your professor before the semester starts to see if they truly require or use the textbook in class.  Nothing is worse than paying hundreds of dollars for text  you won’t use.  Even if they say yes, they may be compelled to do so by the school, so try to get in touch with students who have recently taken the same course from the same professor for a better picture.

If the answer is yes, implement one of these money-saving options to get your hands on your books for less.

 

Shop Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are probably the most common place to pick up those textbooks at a discount.  Generally they will be gently- to well-used, but the savings is worth the dog-eared pages.  Out of a long list of online marketplaces, we recommend buying on Amazon because of their superior return policy should a seller attempt to scam you, or if they mistakenly list the wrong edition of the same book.

 

Go Electronic

Etextbooks are a relatively new thing.  While generally electronic books are cheaper than their paper counterparts, the price difference hasn’t spread as dramatically to etextbooks.  However, if you are able to find a good sale or use promo codes when you purchase you can save a bundle.  Another thing to consider when purchasing electronically is that not all professors have accepted them as a viable text option.  If you have an open book test, you may run into issues as your professor may not allow you to use your iPad, Kindle, or other handheld device because it also provides you access to the internet.

 

Check Bulletin Boards

Bulletin boards at your school may just be your best friend.  There are students there that have recently taken the same courses as you, and now that they’re done they’re looking to unload their books at a discounted price.  They can usually get more back by selling to other students directly than they would by selling back to the bookstore, and their prices are usually better for you than buying used from the bookstore, as well.  Make sure you have the right edition, but buying off of a physical bulletin board, or one that your school hosts online is a great way to save some cash.

 

When All Else Fails, Head to the Bookstore

Sometimes your school or professor can put you in a tight situation.  Some schools publish their own editions of textbooks, making them impossible to find on online marketplaces.  You may still be able to purchase them off of other students, but the supply and demand is going to be much higher since everyone else will be trying to go the same route.  For some courses you may be able to use another edition if it varies only slightly.  But for courses like math where slight differences will make a big impact on the outcome of your homework, you may have to buckle down and buy from the bookstore.  Prices will be inflated, but if you buy early you should be able to get your hands on one of their used copies for a lower price.