Frugality

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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