Frugality

shopping

3yt at Reddit created a Google spreadsheet that produces a shopping list. This free tool includes a link to search for recipes.

If you want to try this tool, go to the “File” menu and choose “Make a copy…” for your own version.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/

Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/Frugal/comments/2u9cae/shopping_list_generator/

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irs

IRS has a free online tool to help you in determining the simplest tax form(s) to file your taxes.

http://www.irs.gov/uac/What-is-the-simplest-form-to-use-to-file-my-taxes%3F

Source:
http://www.reddit.com/r/Frugal/comments/2tvnwk/for_all_of_the_people_who_are_confused_about/

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10 Simple, Frugal Tips to Save Energy in Summer

Depending on where you live, you may spend more money on energy to cool off in summer than to warm up in winter. Here are ten simple ways to save energy in summer.

1. The number one way to conserve energy in the summer is to raise your thermostat to 26 ºC or 78 ºF when you are away from your home for more than eight hours. By doing so, you could save up to three per cent on cooling costs for each Fahrenheit degree of increase. (1)

2. If you have central air conditioning, close off vents in and doors to unused rooms. For occupied rooms, use ceiling and other fans to provide additional cooling. (2)

3. Before you turn on the air conditioner, turn on the fan first to keep your house cool. A ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about four Fahrenheit degrees. (3)

4. Another strategy is to turn off heat-generated items, such as lights or a spare fridge. Replace any incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or LED lights. Incandescent light bulbs give off more heat than light, so you are heating the air in the warm summer. With respect to the extra fridge, by not using it, you could save 10 to 25 per cent on your electric bill. (4)

5. In the kitchen, there are two ways that reduce energy consumption and save you time. The first method is to use your microwave more, as it uses two-thirds less energy than your stove. The second method is to use your dishwasher to wash your dishes. Handwashing uses more water. Be sure to let the dishes air-dry to save even more energy. (5)

6. Plant deciduous trees and shrubs against the south and west sides of your house. In summer, the leafy foliage shades against the heat, and in winter, bare branches let sunlight stream into your house. Three big shade trees could save up to $250 off you annual energy bill. (6)

7. If you have a pool, consider reducing pool filtration time by 30 minute increments daily. Install a timer to control the length of time that the pool pump cycles. (7)

8. The simplest and most fun tip is just to spend more time outside of your home. From swimming in the community pools to exercising outdoors, spending less time in your house will help your energy bill. (8)

9. If you are renting, Apartment Therapy has ten tips to conserve energy for renters, even though you do not own the building or property. Some of the tips include caulking and sealing around windows and doors to combat air leaks, and using power strips to stop electronics from drawing phantom electricity.

10. Pinterest has many interesting ideas submitted by members on save energy in summer.

Photo credit: Gavin St. Ours

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How to save money on Apple products

Apple products tend to sell at similar prices no matter where you shop. Aside from looking at weekly flyers, here are other ways to find deals on your next iPod, MacBook and other Apple products.

1. Begin by finding the regular price at the online Apple store.

2. Visit other sites, such as Amazon.com, BestBuy, and Staples, to compare if they offer better prices.

3. If you are a college student, parent buying for a college student, faculty member, teacher, homeschool teacher, educational administrator or staff, visit the online Apple education store to see if you qualify for education pricing.

4. If you work for the government, visit the online Apple store for government agencies and employees (including military personnel).

5. If you work in a major corporation, your employer may offer an employee purchase program (EPP) with Apple. The EPP offers reduced prices on some Apple products. Contact your human resources department for details.

6. If you not part of the any aforementioned groups, you may have to consider whether getting a refurbished Apple products will suit you. I recently bought a refurbished iPod Touch from Apple.ca, and when it arrived, the device looked as if it were new. I could not tell that it was refurbished.

7. When you are ready to shop, be sure to visit eBates or other cash back sites first to get rebates for your purchase.

If you know any other ways to save on Apple products, share them in the comments below.

Photo credit: Tatsuo Yamashita

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Costco Price Label

If you shop at Costco Wholesale, you know that you are buying in bulk at low prices to save money. In fact, Costco refuses to mark up the price of any product by more than 15%.(1) This fact gives me the confidence that I always get great prices at Costco, even though that I know other stores sometimes sell products at even lower pricesas loss leaders. However, when taken as an entire shopping trip, I would save enough money and time by sticking to shopping at one place without driving all of the town to get the lowest prices.

To help you save even more money at Costco, know the secrets of Costco price stickers. Once you know, you would be able to decide whether to buy a product now or wait until it goes on clearance. The price tags at Costco tell more than just prices, the labels indicate when products are being discontinued or on clearance.

  • Prices that end in $0.97, such as $14.97, means that they have been marked down from regular prices, which end in $0.99. If there are a lot of stock left, the clearance prices may drop even more if you are willing to wait.

Costco Price Ending in $0.97

  • An asterisk * on the upper right corner of the price sign means that this product is being discontinued. Please note that there is a chance that Costco may stop selling this particular product, brand or model. In other words, there could be a newer model of the same product coming soon.
  • If you see a Costco price label that ends in $0.97 and has an asterisk, it is one of the best time to buy a product you need because you are getting a limited-time deal. Once the product sells out at a discounted price, it could be gone from Costco. For example, an office lamp was selling for $19.99. Then, the price dropped down to $12.97 a month ago and has an asterisk. About a week ago, I saw the price dropped even further to $9.97 with an asterisk.
  • Instant rebate items are a form of limited time discounts that you can see when the rebate period is . I notice that some rebates appear on a regular cycle. For example, the KitchenAid electric mixer has a $80 rebate every few months or so.

Costco Price with Instant Rebate

What if you bought an item at the regular price, and then the item goes on clearance? Many Costco warehouses offer a price protection guarantee. At my local Costco, I have been advised that:

  • If the price of an item drops within 45 days of my purchase, I could just bring the receipt back for a price adjustment.
  • If the item has an instant rebate within 14 days of my purchase, I could also bring the receipt back for the price adjustment.

I know that other warehouses have different guarantees, such as different time limits, so talk to warehouse associates at the membership counter to confirm. Here are the strategies I learned over time from shopping at Costco. For even more tips and strategies, visit Len Rapoport’s Personal Finance site.

Source: (1) Bary, Andrew. “Kings of the Jungle.” Barron’s. N.p., 23 Mar. 2009. Web. 11 June 2014. <http://online.barrons.com/news/articles/SB123758900419300089?mod=googlenews_barrons>.

Photos credit: Brian Chow

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plane

Whenever I shop for low airfares, I use a short five step process to give me confidence that I will be getting low prices, while ensuring the flight times and duration are comfortable.

I have five steps because I live in a small town, with a population of 60,000. If you live in a bigger city, there are more airlines and frequent schedules to provide you with even better prices. For me, I have to work harder to find cheap flights.

Here are the easy five steps:

1. If I do not mind where my destination is, I start by using Google Flight Search because it shows me flight prices at various cities. The interactive map, which I could zoom in and out, gives me a sense of which routes offer lower prices.

Google Flight Search

2. Once I have narrowed down specific destinations, my next step is to decide which dates will give me the best prices, as different dates will have prices that could vary in hundreds of dollars. To do this, I use ITA Software’s Matrix Airfare Search. ITA Software was purchased by Google, and ITA Software is the search engine for many of other travel sites that you may be using.

Here are some tips to use this free tool:
– Select “See calendar of lowest fares”;
– Pick the departure day;
– Enter a range of stay in days; for example “10-14″ means 10 to 14 nights; and
– Click on “Learn more” for more information on what to type for “Sales city.”

This is a screenshot of a sample round-trip from Comox to San Francisco, departing on July 1, 2014 or later. The range of stays is 10 to 14 nights.

ITA Software

Next, hover your mouse on each calendar day, and you will see different prices depending on the range of stays. For example, if I hover my mouse over July 4, 2014, I would see that to get the lowest airfare of $515, the number of stays is 13 nights.

ITA Software

Click on the specific prices that you like, and you will get a list of flight schedules. Please note that you cannot book your flights through ITA Software, as it is just a search engine. I would copy the flight details and then book my flights using another site.

3. Sometimes, the lowest airfares may not be ideal because of long layovers or inconvenient departure and arrival times. For me, it may be worthwhile to spend a little more, so that I can arrive to a destination with energy to start exploring. There may be occasions in which a red eye flight will save me a night of hotel stay.

Therefore, to be sure that the lowest price is still comfortable to me, I would use Hipmunk. Hipmunk uses a simple, graphical timetable to show departure and arrival times. Plus, they have a feature to sort by “agony,” which is an optimal combination of price, duration and number of stops.

Hipmunk

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10 Frugal, Fun Summer Activities for You and Your Kids

With school almost ending soon for the summer, you may have to think of many ideas to spend time with kids. There are many great ideas around the web to inspire you to have a fun, memorable expeirence with your children without spending a lot of money. After all, you and your kids may remember experiences more than than the toys and stuff they have. I know that I enjoyed gardening with my mom and playing in the sand with my dad when I was young.

Here are 10 frugal summer activities for you and your children:

1. We will start off the list with a big list of “175 summer buciket list ideas” that you can print and check off from Money Saving Mom. You could print this out and post it on the fridge. You and your kids can decide what to do each and every day.

2. A more manageable list comes from Calgary’s Child, which has 26 ideas for family fun without breaking your budget. The list is organized by the letters of ABC’s.

3. Reading and learning should not stop in the summer. In fact, there are programs that reward kids for reading books. TheFrugalGirls.com has a list of reading programs that encourage your kids to read with rewards such as free books, gift cards and money.

4. Along the line with learning, some stores offer regular workshops that involve building things. You may have already seen some of these free activities posted on Free Stuff Page, such as Lowe’s Build and Grow, Weekly Workshops at The Home Depot, and regular builds at LEGO stores.

5. If you are planning to take your children to camping, but if it is getting too costly, consider setting up a backyard camp. Bankrate has ideas for you (and with other families) to set up a backyard camp.

6. When it rains, one idea for indoor fun is to make a simple, homemade “Play-Doh” putty. The putty recipe is available at Credit.com, and the recipe only involves seven ingredients, which are already in your cupboards and pantry.

7. If you plan to spend part of the summer on vacation, the BudgetandTheBeach.com blog has a timely article on whether you should have a staycation or vacation. If you decide to have a staycation, you could save enough money for a future vacation.

8. If you decide to go on a road trip, learn five ways to reduce your gas budget from ThriftyNWMom, as every bit you save could be spent on the memorable experience.

9. For frugal meal ideas with summer BBQs, TheDollarStretcher.com lists seven ways to save on your BBQ. While many ideas are ones that you may already know or practise, the list provides a handy reminder for you when you plan for a BBQ dinner with friends and family.

10. If you have exhausted all of these ideas or want to explore more frugal summer activities to spend with your children, check out Pinterest for numerous, updated ideas contributed by Pinterest users from around the world.

Have a spectacular, sensational summer!

Photo credit: Doug Butchy

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Easy, frugal Father's Day DIY Gifts and Projects

Here are ten fun Father’s Day arts and crafts for your dad.

- Create a memorable Happy Father’s Day Handprint Plaque

- If you are handy, create a customized, personalized tie rack

- Have fun with Dad Libs, by asking your kids to fill in the blanks to see how much they know and love their dad

- HGTV has a handy DIY project to make a monogrammed men’s leather valet tray

- If your dad is into technology, here is a simple Father’s Day iDad card that is inspired by iPhone

- Into Scrabble or Words with Friends? Create words and phrases using Scrabble tiles (find them in garage sales or second hand stores) and add them to photo frames and scrap books

- If you like to learn by watching YouTube videos, here is a video by eHow on simple Father’s Day crafts for kids

- Create a nostalgic vintage record clock with a vinyl LP. Or follow similar steps for a CD, DVD, Blu-ray clock.

- If your dad is into drinks, print out old-timey labels for bottles, coasters and mugs

- If you are printing a Father’s Day card, you will find many quotes, sayings and humorous jokes on the Pinterest’s Fathers Day Quotes board.

Photo credits: Gentleman’s Essentials – Card for Man

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Fun, Memorable and Frugal Mother's Day Activities and Gifts

Mother’s Day provides a great, interesting opportunity for you to be creative in thanking  your mother, mother in law and grandmother. Here are several frugal ideas to show your appreciation of  your mom.

  • A popular choice has always been breakfast in bed. Add a nice touch with a small vase of fresh flowers from the garden.
  • Treat her with a manicure and pedicure. It is a relaxing, pampered experience for her and you.
  • Purchase a canvas bag and ask your kids to finger print and imprint hand prints all over the bag using fabric-safe paint. Then, write “mom’s hand bag” on one side.
  • Create a homemade brag book by creating a small notebook or buying a notebook. Then, fill each page with a drawing, collage or photo. The theme could be, “what I love about my mom.”
  • Decorate flower pots, since Mother’s Day happens around the  beginning of gardening and planting season. You could paint or decoupage the pots.
  • Celebrate with a brunch or a meal by making special dishes that everyone could participate.
  • Surprise your mother with a “While You were Out” event. Ask someone, like your dad, to take your mom away for a day. Fix anything that is broken, paint walls and decorate within a fixed time limit. When your mom returns, be sure to videotape her reactions.
  • If budget is  tight, write a heart-felt note. The amount of time and effort you put into a thoughtful note has big impacts. You could include special moments, appreciation of her love,  help and sacrifice.
  • Give her the luxury of time. Give her a day off and help out with chores. The gift of time could be offered by everybody.
  • Lastly, here are two simple home made recipes that you could make for your mother:

Easy Body Sugar Scrub

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • enough olive oil to dampen the mixture

Place sugar in a bowl and then gradually add oil. Stir to distribute the mixture evenly.

 

Easy Relaxing Bath Salts

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • optional 1/3 cup of sea salt
  • dried lavender buds or dried chamomile flowers (they can be substituted by lavender or chamomile essential oils)

Mix all ingredients until well combined. Place mixture in a seal-tight jar.

Image Sources:

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How to Find Free Coupons and Deals for Pet Products: Pet Food and Pet Health

If you are a pet owner, you may need a different set of skills and strategies in order to find deals and savings for pet products, such as dog food, cat toys and pet health products. Here are various ways to find money saving coupons and savings to stretch your budget.

Pet product company websites
Many pet product companies have web sites that you could find coupons and mail in rebates. Use a search engine to find the corporate web site. Once you are on the corporate web site, look for links such as coupons or promotions. In addition, these companies often have their brand Facebook Fan Pages that you can “like” for more promotions including contests and deals. Lastly, join their mailing lists to be notified of the latest products and contests. Plus, they would often email you coupons directly into your inbox.

Here are some pet product companies:

Pet store online sites
In addition to pet product companies, there are pet store websites that you should visit. These sites often have promotions and deals section for the latest printable coupons. Plus, be sure to sign up for their frequent shopper loyalty cards to earn points redeemable for more savings and rewards.

Here are some pet store stores:

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