Frugal Living

Saving in the home

by Chris on March 13, 2012

in Frugal Living,Home

The desire to reduce spending is a common one. Some people want to free up extra cash in their budget to pay down other debts more quickly. Some want to use extra cash to boost savings and retirement account balances. Others simply want to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a little bit of extra cash left over at the end of each month. If you have been looking for ways to save, the good news is that you may be able to find savings right in your very own home.

Insurance Savings 
Many people today carry multiple insurance policies. If you are like others, you may have a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, life insurance, auto insurance, and health insurance. Finding cheap life insurance as well as cheaper coverage for all of your insurance policies can help you to save a considerable amount of money. You can compare rates with a price comparison site to find savings. You can also consider other options for savings such as increasing your deductible or lowering coverage slightly.

Energy Savings 
There are numerous ways homeowners or renters alike can save money around the home. Simply adjusting the thermostat a few degrees cooler in the winter or warmer in the summer can provide you with considerable savings. Installing and programming a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature daily when you are out of the house can also save you money. You can consider getting your heating and cooling system serviced annually, as this has been shown to improve how efficiently these systems operate. Further, consider getting a home energy audit to identify do-it-yourself projects that can yield savings. For instance, an energy audit may indicate you could save money by installing new weather stripping on doors and windows.

Grocery Savings 
Many people who have the desire to cut down on expenses have already made the decision to avoid pricey meals at restaurants. In the process of eating at home more frequently, the home grocery bills also increases. Through meal planning efforts and improved shopping strategies, you can save money on your grocery bill. For instance, consider not just the price of ingredients that are used to prepare a meal, but also consider if that meal will provide leftovers that can be eaten for lunch or dinner. Some meals are considerably more expensive to prepare, and these can be prepared on special occasions rather than on a regular basis. Also consider preparing meals based on seasonal ingredients as well as items that are on sale in your grocery store on a given week. This requires flexibility while in the grocery store. It is often best to shop for food during non-peak hours so you can have increased freedom to compare prices and find great deals on your food purchases.

Through the above steps, you may be able to further reduce your monthly expenses. These strategies and steps can help you to save money each and every month, and this money can be used to pay off debts, add to your savings, or provide you with added peace of mind each month.

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A college degree is a must have for anyone wishing to succeed in today’s job market, but being able to afford one isn’t always easy. Today, many former college students have horror stories of graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and struggling to find entry level jobs that will allow them to afford repayment. However, going to get your degree, whether you are a non-traditional or traditional student, doesn’t mean you have to be prepared to leverage your financial future. It simply means that in order to make college tuition more affordable, you need to be prepared to do some of the following:

Go to Community College

A four year degree is required by many employers, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend all four years at one university. By taking community college classes during your first two years, you can get all your basic requirements out of the way and will only pay a fraction of the cost to do so. If you have high grades, transferring to a four year school will be a breeze and you will be more likely to attain scholarships.

Fill Out the FAFSA

Many students, both traditional and non-traditional, don’t fill out the FAFSA because they believe that they or their parents make too much money for them to qualify for any federal assistance. Regardless of how much money you make, you should always fill out the FAFSA. Even if you are on the higher end of the national salary average, you may still be eligible for additional grants and scholarships that will make tuition more affordable.

Apply for Scholarships

You don’t have to be just out of high school, sporting a 4.0 GPA, or be an all-state sports star in order to obtain scholarships. Anymore there are thousands of scholarships available to all sorts of candidates, and sites like Fastweb and Scholarships.com make it easy to locate them. For many, all you have to do is complete a 500 word essay or complete a quick survey to be eligible for scholarships that can be as high as $5,000.

While Discover law school loans may be a must if you get in to Harvard Law, knowing that you education will pay for itself upon graduation makes that investment worth it. However, if you are going to school simply to get a degree, taking on thousands of dollars in loans may cause future financial burdens that will keep you from attaining your professional goals.

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With January already half over with, many of us are second-guessing our New Year’s resolutions in favor of easier lifestyles. While it’s certainly not inspiring to give up on any resolution, those who made it their mission to live healthier lives ought not to give up now. Yes, your health is of the absolute importance and thus is the primary reason why a commitment to diet and exercise in the year 2012 should be maintained. But in addition to this fundamental incentive, there are immediate financial advantages to maintaining a healthy weight as well as long term reasons to do so as well. For those in need of a boost of motivation to continue on the path to diet and exercise, consider the following ways doing so will surely save you serious sums of money:

Less spent on food costs: Any dietitian will tell you that the primary cause of overeating is the acceptance of enormous portions at mealtimes. When you make an effort to eat less in order to lose weight, you’re certain to save money by not spending so much on food. In addition to smaller portions, you’ll also be avoiding expensive midday snacks, further increasing the amount of available income you have on a daily basis.

Less spent on travel costs: 30 to 50 lbs can make a big difference in a vehicle’s fuel economy over time. If you lose that much weight, you’re certain to spend less on gas in the long run. But fuel costs can also be curbed by preferring to walk and bike more often through a dedicated workout regimen. New Yorkers – walk instead of ride the subway. Midwesterners – dig that bike out of Kansas City self storage and ride it to work.

Less spent on insurance: The healthier life you lead, the less life and health insurance is going to cost. The simple way to guarantee a cheaper rate is by losing weight, as the body-mass index is one part of your health that insurance companies take very seriously. While quitting smoking and reducing drinking greatly will drive insurance costs down more, getting yourself to a healthy weight will reduce your costs.

Less spent in your free time: In addition to the savings accrued from eating less in your spare time, leading a more active lifestyle is sure to be cheaper than preferring pay-per-view and trips to the mall on the weekend. Forget about the gym, which is admittedly not very cost-effective; public parks varying from urban gardens to nature preserves provide you with the venues necessary to enjoy an active day without spending a dime.

If you’re thinking about giving up on those December 31st aspirations to get into shape, don’t quit just yet! The personal finance benefits of such dedication are simply too good to pass up, in addition to the improvement to your health.

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I was on vacation in Mexico last week.  On the way there and back we had somewhat long layovers in Dallas…. and what’s a good trip to the airport without a stroll through the bookstore to load up on reading materials? The things is I love books but am not crazy about bookstore prices. It seems I’m inspired to buy a book at exactly the most expensive moment. I can’t stand the idea of paying full price for a hard cover book, particularly when I could have prepared by checking out a book from the library or buying from Amazon.

For some reason or another — perhaps the same reason that I write this blog — I became consumed with identifying the cheapest reading materials. I delved into the world of media statistics to help to uncover whether newspapers, magazines, or books stretch your budget the farthest.

Approaching the problem

The first way I looked at the problem was by researching the average number of words and price of each type of media and computed the subsequent cost per 1000 words.  It turns out that a newspaper is by far the cheapest thing to read per word, whereas hardback books are the most expensive.  But who reads every single word in a newspaper? That would take 5 hours, assuming you read at 250 words per minute.

Pages Words per Page Avg. Price $ per 1000  words Minutes to Read
Hardback 308 400 $26.43 0.21 493
Magazine 47 800 $4.86 0.13 151
Paperback 300 350 $8.30 0.08 420
Newspaper 39 2000 $0.99 0.01 312

A more sensible approach

I estimated how long it would truly take to read each option.  The only data point I could verify was that magazines take 43 minutes to read on average, according to a trade organization. If you look at the problem this way, a paperback is the cheapest, followed closely by hardbacks and newspapers.  Magazines are still the outlier and expensive compared to the rest.

Minutes Price Cost per Minute
Magazine 43 $4.86 $0.11
Hardback 1,200 $26.43 0.02
Paperback 900 $8.30 0.01
Newspaper 30 $0.99 0.03

The takeaway

As I suspected, we’re throwing our money away by buying magazines at airport news stands.  They are a lot more fun to read but you’re paying for all those glossy pages and full color pictures.  If you’re taking a short flight, buy a couple newspapers; if you’ve got a longer flight, perhaps buy a paperback as well.

A business idea

I have a business idea (or non-profit) that would be a real value add for travelers.  Imagine there were airport kiosks where you could exchange books and magazines that you’re finished reading.  Say you’re coming off your flight, you could swing by and drop off your reading material.  Got a connection — trade out your book for new ones.  Showed up at the airport without anything to read?  Donate $1 to get something to read.  The kiosks could also offer bottled water at distinctly non-airport prices. The operation would be mostly supported by voluntary donations.  Hopefully the donations would be enough to cover rent and one employee.  What do you think?

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