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10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day & Save Money

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Earth Day SavingsEarth Day serves as our annual reminder to be more conscious of the environmental impacts of our everyday habits. While some may resist going green because of the cost, others know being eco-minded actually saves a lot of green, too.

Switching to CFLs, line-drying our laundry and switching to reusable grocery bags are common tips this time of year. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, consider these 10 unique ideas for saving money and the environment.

1. Make Your Own Cooking Spray
Commercial cooking sprays are not only bad for your health — they contain additives and genetically-modified ingredients — they’re also bad for the environment. Many sprays contain nitrous oxide, the largest ozone-depleting substance emitted through human activity according to ScienceDaily.com. Create your own cooking spray using a refillable pump-spray bottle containing your preferred cooking oil. Not only will this save our planet and your health, but it will keep some extra dollars in your pocket as well.

2. Buy Refurbished Ink
On average, 375 million ink cartridges are tossed into landfills each year. This statistic is especially bothersome when 97 percent of materials contained in an ink cartridge can be reused or recycled. Instead of buying new printer ink, reduce your waste and find the best price on refurbished or remanufactured cartridges by using InkjetWilly.com.

3. Swap Plastic Bags for Reusable
The U.S. alone adds 20 million plastic baggies to landfills every single day. SnackTaxi is among several companies trying to combat this waste by offering reusable snack sacks and sandwich sacks. So far, their mission has helped keep over seven million plastic baggies out of water streams, which equates to about 430,000 pounds. In addition to keeping our waterways clean, these bags are dishwasher safe and can be used again and again.

4. Use Vinegar and Baking Soda to Clean Toilets
The toilet is one of the dirtiest surfaces in our homes, and killing bacteria with bleach and other harsh chemicals is typically the go-to solution. However, flushing these toxic substances into our waterways has grave environmental impacts. Consider swapping manufactured cleaner for natural household items to get the job done just as well. Pour a cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl and let sit for one hour. Dip the toilet brush into the bowl, sprinkle with one-half cup baking soda and scrub until clean.

5. Consider Alternative Uses for Lemons
Among the basic cooking ingredients, lemons are one of the most commonly used flavoring agents after salt and pepper. Additionally, lemons are a natural cleanser, helping to cut grease on dirty dishes and clean countertops when mixed with water. You can even use lemon juice to keep creepy crawlers from invading your house! Check out this complete list of green uses for yellow lemons, and stock up on one of nature’s most useful creations.

6. Repurpose Greeting Cards
From birthdays to holidays to other special occasions, Americans buy roughly 6.5 billion greeting cards annually. At between $2 and $4 a pop, this represents an enormous expenditure by consumers. In addition to sending evites and other digital well-wishes, you can reuse the paper greeting cards you receive during the year. Simply remove the personal message and retain the decorative part to be used as a postcard greeting.

7. Close Those Blinds
Warm weather has already arrived in some parts of the country, and is just around the corner for the rest. Since heating and cooling take up most of the energy use detailed on our utility bills, finding alternative ways to keep your home comfortable is paramount. Simply closing your blinds can help mitigate the warming effects of the sun, since 40 percent of unwanted heat comes through windows.

8. Try Cloth Instead of Paper
According to an article in Living Green Magazine, it takes 51,000 trees to produce the number of paper towels used in a 24-hour period. Since paper towels cannot be recycled or composted, they contribute heavily to the 40-percent ratio of paper products in our landfills. At an average of $1 per roll, you can save money and the environment by switching to cloth napkins, sponges and other reusable methods of cleanup.

9. Make Your Garden Native
It’s only April and yet several parts of the country are already putting restrictions on residential water use in anticipation of a record-setting drought. Instead of watching your plants wither in the hot sun, take this opportunity to revitalize your garden with native plants. Check with your local nursery about the best plants for your region and watch your garden thrive as your water bill plummets.

10. Recycle Your Cell Phone
On average, cell phone users upgrade their devices every 18 months. An estimated 140 million phones ended up in the landfill in 2012, and currently only 10 percent of all cell phones are recycled. This information is especially troubling since cell phones contain such toxic chemicals as lead, lithium and cadmium. Don’t toss your old device; instead, donate it to a charity like Cell Phones for Soldiers, which receives proceeds in exchange for recycling it.

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This has been a guest post from Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoneyand many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

How To Build A Stockpile

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How to Build a StockpileHow to Build a Stockpile

Have you ever wanted to know How to Build a Stockpile?  Follow along with me as I attempt to fill these shelves one week at a time.

*NOTE: THis is a repost from last year.

I have been waiting for this day to arrive for almost TWO YEARS now! I have the space and the shelves to restart my stockpile.

I shared how I had depleted our stockpile and why I am restarting the $50 Weekly Grocery Challenge. Now that I am actively working to build a stockpile, I thought I would share some simple tips on how to build a Stockpile.

A large part of being successful with such a small budget is stockpiling.

Stockpiling is a way of life for many like me who try to live as frugally as possible.  It is not the same as hoarding!

When Extreme Couponing Becomes Hoarding

How this will look for your family is not how it will look for mine.  The reason is because we all are unique and live with a unique set of circumstances.  So while I do share my own personal experiences here, it is not to make you feel guilt if your life looks differently.

I just hope to encourage you to do as much as possible :)

Before we moved to our new house, I lived in a 1200 sq ft home with no basement.  Storage was always a challenge!  I dreamed of the day that I would have a space with more than a couple shelves that I could devote to my stockpiling efforts. Although my space was small, I learned exactly how much I needed to keep on hand to avoid ever paying full price.

Ethics of Selling Your Stockpile & Extreme Couponing Integrity

What is stockpiling?

When non perishable food, household products, pet supplies, or hygiene needs go on sale or I have a coupon for them I would always try to pick up at least two.  This way I never pay full price for anything.  I buy one to use that week and one to add to my stockpile. Because my space was small and I really didn’t want to clutter my home, I kept a modest amount of the things we always needed.

Printable Pantry ChecklistFREE Printable Stockpile Grocery List

Some items you can expect to find in my stockpile:

  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Noodles
  • Cereal
  • Tuna
  • Soups
  • Feminine Hygiene products
  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towel
  • Dishsoap
  • Laundry Soap
  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking Products

I know I always need these items for my home to run smoothly, so when I can get them for pennies on the dollar I make sure to grab a couple extra.  Then I know I am covered for the times when these are not on sale.

How much is enough?

Only buy what you will use!  I  know it can be so tempting to continue to buy when you aren’t paying for the item.  But it is wasteful to buy what you can or will not use in a reasonable amount of time.  If you just must get another tube of free toothpaste, why not consider donating some of what you have to shelters, churches, or abused women’s centers?

Where to store your stock?

When I was living in my much smaller home, I stored my health & beauty items in the linen closet.  I stored extra food in the three cupboard I could use just for food. That’s it, if all of those spaces were filled I knew we had too much and I would have to donate some or take a week or two off from shopping.

Here’s a neat little secret – Once you get the hang of this and have a decent amount of stock you won’t need to shop all the time because you will find you actually have too much stuff! There were weeks that I spent my entire $50 Grocery Budget on meats to last us almost about a month!

The first step

I want to leave you with one last thought. Stockpiling will not happen over night, it happens a little each week.  Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is a way of life – I like to think of it as part of my frugal journey!

Won’t you take the first step with me?

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Ways To Save On High Gas Prices!

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ways to save on gas

The summer travel season is finally in full swing. While gas prices remain high, many major retailers are taking steps to cut costs for disgruntled drivers.

Wal-Mart is leading the charge, reducing their fuel prices by 10 cents per gallon for the summer months. The retail giant will offer discounted prices at gas stations in 18 states until September 30. Many other stores have followed suit with their own deals.

Here’s a list of other major merchants helping Americans save at the pump this summer.

BP 
The BP Driver Rewards Program lets you earn rewards on your quality fuel purchases at BP. Simply request your complimentary card online or pick one up at your local BP station. Once you activate it online, swipe it at the pump to earn and redeem.




CVS
The drug store chain is offering a free $10 gas gift card to ExtraCare Rewards members when they purchase $30 worth of select products. The promotion runs through August 28, so there’s still plenty of time to cash in.

Kroger and Shell
The grocery chain has been offering discounted gas for quite awhile now, but their partnership with Shell has really turned up the savings. With 100 points on your rewards card, you’ll get 10 cents off per gallon on a fill up at both Kroger and Shell stations. If you’re not satisfied with that discount, Kroger also offers $1 off per gallon when you earn 1,000 points on your rewards card.

Warehouse Clubs
Big warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club keep popping up all over the place. While they typically have some of the lowest gas prices around, a fill-up still requires a membership. Joining the club can be done for around $50, so if your car guzzles gas, the long-term savings are worth it.

Gas discounts aren’t the only way to save, though. Here are a few more general savings tips to help you travel for less this summer.

Gift Cards
Gift cards are becoming a currency all of their own. Cards for popular fuel stops like Shell can be bought and sold at sites like GiftCardGranny.com. Also, with merchants like Wal-Mart reducing gas prices for the summer, a discount Wal-Mart gift card can really compound the savings.

Low Octane Gas
Unless you’re driving a top of the line sports car, premium gas probably isn’t necessary. Most cars on the road will perform just fine with lower octane gasoline and it’ll save you a couple of bucks on a fill.

Slow & Steady
If you want to save some extra money, let up on that lead-foot for just a little while. Driving at high speeds and starting and stopping quickly burns more fuel.

Research
Instead of waiting to hit the pump until you’re down to the last drop, plan your purchase in advance. Websites like GasBuddy.com will help you find the lowest local gas prices. They even have a mobile app to help you save on the go.

Ride Sharing
A combination of frugality and going green has led to a resurgence of carpools. If you’re trying to track one down, websites like eRideShare.com andCarpoolConnect.com are useful resources for both drivers and riders.

Public Transportation
As long as you’re not still in high school, riding the bus probably isn’t as torturous as you remember. If public transport isn’t an option, you can always dust off the old bicycle. It costs next to nothing to maintain and it’ll get your blood pumping better than a cup of coffee in the morning.

Shop Online
The easiest way to save on gas is to just stay at home. Most shopping needs, including groceries, can be satisfied online which keeps you from burning gas outside in the blazing heat.

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This has been a guest post from Consumer Savings Expert, Andrea Woroch.  Andrea has been featured as a media expert source on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, FOX & Friends, ABC News NOW, MSNBC, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Smart Money and many more. Watch Andrea’s recent interview with BetterTV about ways travelers can cut fuel costs.

100 Easter Basket Stuffer Ideas (No Candy)

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100 easter basket stuffers

Easter is just around the corner and I know many of us are beginning to think about Easter Baskets.

I always like to include small gifts in my kids Easter Baskets. This way they are getting things that are useful and not just a bunch of candy, although I do include some candy too ;)

I’ve gathered a list of 100 Easter Basket Stuffer Ideas that do not include candy.

  1. Bubbles
  2. Sidewalk Chalk
  3. Movies
  4. Seed packets
  5. Sand toys
  6. Lego sets
  7. Basketball
  8. Coloring Books
  9. Crayons
  10. Markers
  11. Flash Cards
  12. Jump Ropes
  13. Craft Kits
  14. Knitting/Crochet stuff
  15. Earbuds
  16. Batteries
  17. Soccer Ball
  18. Trading Cards
  19. Water Balloons
  20. Frisbees
  21. Nerf Toys
  22. Water Guns
  23. Books
  24. Puzzles
  25. Hair Accessories
  26. Makeup
  27. Temporary Tattoos
  28. Football
  29. Instruments
  30. Gift Cards
  31. Video Games
  32. Travel Board Games
  33. Beach Toys
  34. Bathing Suits
  35. Beach Towels
  36. Rainbow Bands
  37. Card Games
  38. Chapter Books
  39. Playdough
  40. Bug Net
  41. Flash Light
  42. Board Books
  43. Bath Toys
  44. Socks
  45. Stuffed Animals
  46. Watercolors
  47. Art Pad
  48. Flip Flops
  49. Magazines
  50. Nail Polish
  51. Stickers
  52. Raisins
  53. Sunglasses
  54. Kites
  55. Wooden Airplanes
  56. Glow Sticks
  57. Personal Hygiene Products
  58. Bubble Bath
  59. Bouncy Balls
  60. Pinwheels
  61. Activity Books
  62. Popcorn
  63. Comic Books
  64. Slippers
  65. Money
  66. Lotions
  67. Jewelry
  68. Tonka Trucks
  69. Hats
  70. Fruit Snacks
  71. Science Kits
  72. Silly Straws
  73. Matchbox Cars
  74. Movie Theater Tickets
  75. Goldfish Crackers
  76. Silly String
  77. Sunblock
  78. Fun Toothbrush
  79. Jerky
  80. Barbies
  81. Silly Putty
  82. Hula Hoops
  83. Sippy Cups
  84. Dress Up Sets
  85. Pretzels
  86. Watering Can
  87. Gardening Kits
  88. Binoculars
  89. Baseball Mitt
  90. Beach Ball
  91. Play School Set
  92. Character Band Aids
  93. Action Figures
  94. Slinky
  95. Blocks
  96. Trail Mix
  97. Finger Paints
  98. Pajamas
  99. Magnetic Letters/Numbers
  100. Wiffle Ball & Bat

7 Last Minute Savings Tips For Prom

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prom

It is prom season, if you have someone in your family heading to prom be sure to check out these 7 Last Minute Savings Tips For Prom!

According to the annual prom survey conducted by Visa, parents making less than $50,000 per year intend to spend nearly 10-percent more on prom than those in higher income brackets. Prom costs an average of $1,139, with families in the northeastern U.S. planning to spend the most on the one-night event.

Though prom is an important milestone in your teen’s life, there’s no need to spend an exorbitant amount of money to make it memorable. Consider these tips for keeping your budget grounded while helping your teen achieve his or her dream night.

1. Rent a Designer Dress
If you are considering purchasing a designer gown for your teen, you aren’t alone. These days, high-end brands sweep highschool hallways as students become evermore obsessed with Hollywood fashion. You don’t have to give up on your daughter’s designer dress dream nor drop $300 for a fashionable frock, however. Instead, check out RenttheRunway.com where you can rent a luxury brand dress for the night starting at just $50. This way, she feels like a princess without emptying your pocketbook.

2. Share the Expense
Though prom costs more than ever, teens are increasingly sharing in the cost of the event. The same Visa survey reports 41 percent of prom costs are covered by teens thanks to savings accrued from after-school jobs. Make sure your teen pays for some of the costs, especially “extras” that you didn’t budget for or don’t feel are priorities.

3. Skip the Limo
Limo rentals can cost anywhere from $60 to up to $150 per hour depending on the type and region. Like most industries, limousine companies increase rental costs during peak periods like prom and weddings. Skip the inflated prices and have your teen use his or her own car. Alternatively, fancy transportation can be part of your child’s budget.

4. Print Photos at Home
Photo packages range from $30 to $125, according to PromGirl. Skip this unnecessary expense by taking your own photos before the dance or get the teens to share smartphone photos taken during the event and then print from home. Since photos require a lot of ink, be sure you stock up on cheap cartridges from InkjetWilly.com, where you can compare prices of OEM, compatible and remanufactured ink.

5. Department Store Beauty
Make an appointment for a free cosmetic consultant at department stores like Macy’s at one of their many beauty counters. Though the beauty artist will urge you to buy the makeup applied, it isn’t required. You may consider purchasing the lipstick for touchups later on, but don’t fall into the trap of buying everything since it can be really pricey. This is way your daughter will feel pampered without the high cost. Then do hair and nails at home.

6. Cut Corsage Costs
Corsages can cost anywhere from $10 to $30 depending on design and flower type. While corsages and boutonnieres represent some of the smallest costs associated with prom, there’s no need to request orchids when carnations will do. Even a corsage made of baby’s breath is a simple and stylish way to stay in budget.

7. Buy Budget Accessories
Dresses and shoes eat up a big chunk of girls’ prom budgets, which is why accessories should be purchased on the cheap. Stores like Claire’s or Charming Charlie offer beautiful baubles for less than $10. You can also hit up thrift shops or antique stores for more unique pieces.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Living Wage Calculator

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Living Wage Calculator

I was really surprised to check out the Living Wage Calculator for my area.

I think it is a really great tool for seeing how much the average household needs to live based on their specific areas.

One thing I thought it was especially helpful for, was seeing where you could try to cut back in your budgets or if a different occupation might help you to raise the income you need to stay out of poverty.

The Living Wage Calculator breaks down how much money you need for the basics of living such as food, healthcare, childcare, housing, transportation, etc.

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I will say that the one thing I thought was a little high was food, at least in my personal experience and in my area.

The amount is supposed to be only the groceries you buy.  No fast food or restaurant foods are considered in this budget and yet for my family they allotted over $700 a month for food!

If I were struggling financially, this is the one area I could work on to reduce the amount we spent each month.

It also takes into account how many adults and children are in the home.  Unfortunately the calculator only works for 1 – 3 children, but you can still get a good idea of what is needed.

For my state or Michigan, it is showing that I need to make $18.03 between my husband and I per hour to care for our family of 2 adults and 2 children.

living wage

The poverty level is $10.60 for my family.

The minimum wage here is $7.40.

All of that was a bit to take in, but I think the most shocking information the site offered me was the list of typical hourly wages based on occupation.  I wanted to share a few with you below.

*NOTE: The Living Wage Calculator is based on data collected from 2010.  There may be some slight differences in the accuracy of the numbers today, although it still serves as a good tool to get an idea of where things are in your area.

Capture

I have recently begun my Grocery Challenge again to save money for my family, and would love for you to join me!!

Each week I will use all of the resources available to me to keep my weekly budget at $50.

I am making it a challenge, and telling all of you about it because it is really the only way I will follow through.

You are my accountability partners in this thing!

If you want to take the challenge with me, I would love some company.  I will share a photo each week of what I was able to buy as well as share my grocery shopping plan, which will include all of the drugstores, Meijer, Kroger, Walmart, Target, and more!

Feel free to read more about how I do this here:

Stay tuned for more information on how you can participate in the Saving Dollars and Sense $50 Grocery Challenge with me!