• Digg This Story

How to Throw a Kickass Frugal Bar Mitzvah

At age 13, a Jewish boy reaches a milestone with his Bar Mitzvah ceremony. This is the traditional transition to manhood, when the boy becomes a full member of the congregation and when he can take part in religious functions as a “son of the commandment.” He has spent many years practicing to become a man and his practiced readings from the Torah emphasize this heritage.

The party after the Bar Mitzvah also is rich in tradition, but these celebrations seem to have morphed into a rite of passage that revolves more around American Idol and scantily clad dancers. In light of this metamorphosis, your son might want the same. But, you might remind him that this celebration is more about throwing a kickass party with friends than it is about spending money. The only problem is that parties, much like any traditional event in America, still cost an arm and a leg (in other words, they’ll max out a credit card or two). So here are some tips for that Bar Mitzvah, only on the very frugal side.

  • It’s never too late to plan: Sure, many people might admonish you if you didn’t begin planning this celebration when your son was age ten, but what do they know? It’s never too late to get this celebration rolling, especially since you don’t need to hold the party on the same day as the ceremony.
  • Avoid the Party Planner: Why do you need a party planner, when your congregation is filled with contacts? Your boy isn’t the first one to enter Bar Mitzvah, so ask around about caterers, musicians, and entertainers to find the best deals. Better yet, ask your son what he wants, as it may not be much.
  • Eliminate pre-Bar Mitzvah events: You can opt out of the Friday evening Shabbat dinner and any Sunday brunches. You’re not breaking any laws by avoiding what could be an expensive affair. Instead, you might invite your son and his friends over for the Friday Shabbat dinner so that they can bond for your son’s special event. Leave the adults out and make the boys feel special.
  • Keep it Simple: It’s not necessary to hold a celebration immediately after the ceremony, so if you can find a place to celebrate during the weekday that’s less expensive than during the weekend, then arrange for a weekday or weeknight celebration. The celebration is sometimes delayed for reasons such as availability of a Shabbat during which no other celebration has been scheduled, or the desire to permit family to travel to the event anyway.
  • Limit the Guest List: With the above said, it might be best to limit the guest list. This way, you don’t need to worry about renting large rooms or paying out the nose for a caterer. But, it is your son’s day, so make sure all his friends have been invited.
  • Don’t worry about flowers: It’s a Bar Mitzvah, not a Bat Mitzvah…do you really think your boy will worry about the lack of flowers on the tables?
  • Make it Potluck: It’s the father’s duty to create a feast for his son on the day his son reaches the age of Bar Mitzvah. In fact, the celebration is no less important than the day his son goes under the marriage canopy. Why celebrate any less? But the cost! It’s enough to make you scream in terror, especially when all the relatives show up even without invitations. So make it a potluck, where every family brings a favorite dish.
  • Make it Casual: The advantage to the Bar Mitzvah is that it doesn’t matter how you dress, whether you light candles, or have a cake. These are matters of personal preference and aren’t governed by any rules or customs. So, make the festivities casual, but be careful – if you decide on a theme, the party favors and decorations might become expensive. Instead, keep it simple and that way you can focus on each other and the man of the hour.
  • Build Up to the Speech: It’s tradition for the Bar Mitzvah boy to give a speech. But, not every candidate wants to make a speech. The custom, therefore, is to interrupt by singing loud songs until the boy is forced to sit down. So you can build up to this point for free by generating excitement for this moment. By then, it’s time for…
  • The Karaoke Machine: You don’t need to hire entertainment when the real performers are already in the room. This is about the least expensive music around, and probably more fun. Plus, your son doesn’t need to worry about asking anyone to dance.
  • Be sure to send thank you notes: Even if a person can’t stand your son, the least that person can do is offer $18 as a gift or a token gift certificate to a record store or some such triviality. Still, you want your son to be better and rise above this small gift, so thank you cards and stamps will be your most expensive item in this whole, frugal affair. Make sure your son signs the cards, and send them out to everyone who offers a gift.
  • Do it again, much later: Among religious Jews, it is customary for a man who has reached the age of 83 to celebrate a second Bar Mitzvah. Under this logic, a ‘normal’ lifespan equals seventy years, so an 83-year-old man can be considered a thirteen-year-old in a second lifetime. Although you, as parents, might not be around for this second kickass party, at least you don’t have to foot the bill.

Remember – the Bar Mitzvah is not your party. This event belongs to your son and a thirteen-year-old has privileges because he’s considered old enough to act responsibly. So, it might be a good time to teach him the responsibility of a credit card. Co-sign with him for a card and teach him how to use that card responsibly (especially before he enters college!).

Expensive parties aren’t responsible, but maintaining close family and friendship ties is an adult act that deserves a celebration. Mazel Tov!

Posted:February 28th, 2008 in Family No Comments

  • Digg This Story

50 Ways to Waste Time When You’re Broke and Bored

Is it hard to cure boredom when you have no money to catch a movie or go out for a nice dinner? Not at all, we say! Why blow money when you can make your own fun for next to nothing? Below are 50 ways to waste time when you’re broke and bored.

Outdoors

  1. Go people watching. No, not in a creepy way. Sit on a park bench and watch all the interesting people walk by.
  2. Mow your yard or do some gardening. The fresh air and exercise will do you some good.
  3. Grab a tent, some flashlights and have a camp-out in your backyard.
  4. Go for a swim at the community pool or local lake.
  5. Take a walk around the neighborhood.
  6. Go to a park and play on the swings.
  7. Play some sports. Even if you are by yourself, you can still hit some baseballs in the yard or kick around a soccer ball.
  8. Go outside and make a sketch of what you see.

Indoors

  1. Take some time to catch up on current events
  2. Clip coupons. It is a great way to kill time and save money.
  3. If you are broke and bored, look for a second job. This will cure both of your problems.
  4. Make some helpful lists, such as all the things you would like to do once you aren’t broke anymore.
  5. Cook something creative with the things you already have in the kitchen.
  6. Pick up the dictionary and learn some new words.
  7. Turn on some music and dance.
  8. Go window shopping at the mall. As long as you leave your credit card at home, you won’t get into too much trouble.
  9. Play Sudoku. If you have never played before, it is very addictive and simple to learn. Sudoku puzzles can be found for free online.
  10. Hang out at a friend’s house.
  11. Invite some friends over to your house. You may want to warn them that you will be a broke host, however.
  12. Go visit your parents. You know they will want to see you and it is always a good place to score free food.
  13. Experiment with your make-up while no one is looking.
  14. Make some phone calls to your chattiest friends. Make sure they are local, though! You can’t afford long distance charges right now.
  15. Exercise. You know you need to.
  16. Write a short story and post it online for some feedback.
  17. Go on a free tour of a local plant, such as a brewery.
  18. Snuggle with your partner.
  19. Sing your heart out, even if you are tone deaf.
  20. Make some paper airplanes.
  21. After you’ve mastered the art of the paper airplane, step it up to origami.
  22. Write some complaint letters. Someone has assuredly mistreated you recently, even if it was some snot-nosed kid in the drive-thru.
  23. Volunteer for some local charity work.
  24. Organize your closet. While you are at it, try on some of your more ridiculous clothes from years ago.
  25. Clean the house. It will make you feel better about life once it is done.
  26. Do the laundry before it gets away from you.
  27. Take a long, relaxing bath.
  28. Try to renegotiate your credit card interest rates.
  29. Go to the local library. Enjoy the ambiance and pick up some classic literature.
  30. Take a nap.
  31. Play some classic board games, such as Monopoly or Clue.
  32. Play with your pets.
  33. Make a collage out of old magazines.

Online

  1. Kill time by surfing YouTube. The hours will pass before you know it.
  2. Watch some classic films or recent television programs online. Yes, there are free, legal sources.
  3. Have some fun with Google – look for a perfect Googlewhack. According to Wikipedia, “a Googlewhack is a Google search query consisting of two words, that returns a single result.”
  4. Socialize through your own MySpace or Facebook profile.
  5. Read some Craigslist ads. The personal ads, in particular, can be equal parts funny, sad and disturbing.
  6. Find a message board devoted to your favorite topic and engage in some discussions.
  7. If message boards are too slow for you, find a live chatroom.
  8. Play some free, online games.
  9. Catch up on some celebrity gossip. Yes, you will want to scrub your dirty soul clean after you peruse Perez Hilton, but a part of you secretly loves it.

Most of the above activities are completely free. You don’t have to max out your MasterCard or Visa to have a little fun. Boredom is, thankfully, usually a passing mood and easily remedied by a little mental or physical stimulation. So, get up and move around or use that noggin of yours! As for being broke, Frugal Panda has plenty of helpful advice for remedying that, too.

Posted:February 6th, 2008 in General No Comments

  • Digg This Story

17 Ways to Get Free Books

You can never have too many books, so we are delighted to share with you some ways to get them for free. From children’s books to technical books, there are numerous resources that offer literature for free. Some of the following sites offer actual printed books, while others feature electronic books (aka “ebooks”). Please bear in mind that the list is alphabetized, not ordered by importance.

  1. Bibliomania – Bibliomania is a simple and fast-loading site that offers over 2000 classic books, short stories, plays and poems online. From Mark Twain to William Shakespeare, some of the world’s greatest writers are included on the site. All you have to do is browse the site’s genre sections or search for a specific text, then you are presented with it directly on the site’s page. Users can seamlessly stroll through each page with this site, as it isn’t bogged down with flashy graphics.
  2. Bibliomania is an invaluable tool for book lovers, as well as students and teachers. Teachers for the classroom could print off excerpts from classic texts. Also, study guides are available on the site, should you need to cram for a big test. Should you wish to purchase a physical copy of a featured text, you can be directed to a store where you will can order the text online with a credit card.

  3. BookCrossing – Touted as “the world’s biggest free book club,” BookCrossing is a free book resource, as well as a human experiment. Through this site, people are encouraged to start a free account and begin “releasing books into the wild.” You can release books by registering them on the site and then leaving them in a public place where they can be picked up for free by others and enjoyed. Also, you can send books to other site members.
  4. Members of BookCrossing can also “catch” books by requesting registered books as gifts or by finding registered books “in the wild.” The purpose of BookCrossing is to track books across the world and to share great literature with strangers. It is a fun project to be a part of and the site, in just a short time, has grown tremendously in popularity.

  5. Bookins – Every “green” book lover should be keen on reducing, reusing and recycling their literature. Bookins offers a very simple system through which to swap your books and their mailing system is the best. You will only have to pay for shipping on the books you receive, never on the books to donate. For donated books, Bookins offers free postage kits. The site is free to join and is growing each day.
  6. BookMooch – BookMooch is a free community for exchanging books. By donating books to BookMooch, you will earn points that can be exchanged for other people’s books. This community is free to join and the only price you will pay is shipping when you mail your books.
  7. There is more to BookMooch, however. The points you earn and the books you donate can also be given away to charity, such as African literacy programs or children’s hospitals.This site is one of the largest book-swapping communities online and the interface is very simple. If you would like a specific book that isn’t listed yet on BookMooch, a “wish list” can be made, which will put you first in line to receive your wanted books once they are available.

  8. Childrens Books Online – Children’s Books Online is an impressive collection of illustrated children’s books from around the globe. All of these books, scanned and digitized for the site, are free to the public. From classic, well-known children’s books to rare, foreign books, you can find a large assortment. A group of volunteers help to translate and upload new books onto the site and it has grown tremendously since its creation in 1996. Both parents and teachers should find this family-friendly site to be very useful.
  9. Google Book Search – Google is continuing its campaign for world domination with this awesome project. By scanning each page of entire texts, Google has digitized at least one million books for users to read online. Still in a beta stage, the site has raised some questions about intellectual property and copyright laws. However, many of the books you will find on Google Book Search are public domain. You can easily get lost in this site and, hopefully, it will only continue to grow for years to come.
  10. Memoware – Memoware offers free ebooks and documents that are specifically designed for handheld devices. Memoware downloads are compatible with Palm OS, Pocket PC, Windows CE, EPOC and Symbian software. Available documents include maps and technical references that can be useful on the road or at work. Almost all of the ebooks and documents found on Memoware are “freeware,” though a few are “shareware” products and should be registered if used.
  11. PaperBackSwap – PaperBackSwap is one of the largest book trading clubs online. The simple system allows you to donate books for credits and use those credits to get free books. As with all swapping clubs, you will have to pay for shipping. However, shipping multiple books at once will be cost-efficient and, if you are an avid reader, you will save a lot of money by swapping for free books.PaperBackSwap is a very popular site that currently has over 1 million books available. Registration with the site is free and the program has recently branched out to include CDs and DVDs.
  12. Project Gutenberg – Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest and largest sources of free ebooks. The site is a wiki, meaning any user can edit it. In fact, Project Gutenberg has grown to greatness due to the hard work of many volunteers. To date, the site has a database of over 20,000 books.
  13. Many of the books on the site are public domain, which means you can print and redistribute them.Public domain ebooks are especially helpful to teachers who wish to print off excerpts for the classroom. Also, those who wish to adapt books or short stories to a stage play will be able to use public domain books without paying a fee. Project Gutenberg has so many texts, you may be wish to start browsing their Top 100 list first.

  14. SF-Books – SF-Books is the first and only online paperback swap to specialize in science fiction and fantasy books. If you devour books from these genres, then you will save a lot of money by swapping your books for other used paperbacks. With the books you receive, you can choose to keep them forever or swap them for something new.
  15. SF-Books is free to join and very simple to use. Created in 2001, it is one of the oldest book-swapping clubs online. Currently, there are over 8000 books available to interested readers. With nearly 5000 successful trades under the site’s belt, this is also one of the most trusted swapping clubs.

  16. socialbib – If you are a poor college student (is there any other kind?), then you should jump at the chance to get your textbooks for free. socialbib is a wonderful site that is free to join if you are a currently enrolled student. The purpose of the site is to recycle textbooks amongst students. At the end of each semester, you will turn in your books to socialbib and, in turn, can search for free textbooks for your next courses. Why sell $800 worth of books for $30 on campus? It is an insult.
  17. socialbib will allow you to accomplish several things. You can save your much-needed cash and get some free textbooks, you can connect with other students in a positive way and you can stick it to “the man.” Really, why should a math book cost you $100 anyway? Use your student credit cards on something a little more fun.

  18. SwapThing – A free account with this site will allow you to swap anything of yours for an item that belongs to another user. Of course, you and this other user must agree on the swap. It is a revolutionary concept and can apply to more than just books.
  19. If books are all you are after, however, there are plenty to be found. Don’t assume that you have to offer books to get them. For all you know, an old garden rake may be an agreeable swap for some classic literature from another user.For exchanges that may not be an “equal” swap, users can barter an extra amount of cash to make the trade equal. Users can also just offer money and not an object for trade, though people who are looking to do that should probably just check out eBay. Remember, when using any kind of swap site, you will still have to cough up a little dough for shipping.

  20. Title Trader – Title Trader is another media swapping site, allowing members to trade paperback books, CDs, DVDs and more. Free to join, Title Trader is one of the larger sites to offer such a service. The site works through a point system, as you will earn points for donating items. These points can then be redeemed for merchandise that has been donated by other users. So far, the site has facilitate over 145,000 successful trades.
  21. Wikibooks – Wikibooks is an interesting project that started in 2003. Created by the makers of Wikipedia, Wikibooks offers over 27,000 open-content textbooks. A team of volunteers writes these online textbooks, just like Wikipedia. Don’t be too concerned about the validity of the information found here, however, as the site is diligently edited and moderated by a team of experts. From cookbooks to natural sciences, you can find texts on just about any subject.
  22. World Public Library – The World Public Library is the largest online source of ebooks. Currently offering over 500,000 PDF books and documents, you can find anything from textbooks to classic literature on this site. Best of all, membership is free. It truly is an online public library and, assuming you are comfortable with the ebook format, this site could very well replace your regular visits to the local library.
  23. Both students and teachers will find the World Public Library very useful, as encyclopedias, dictionaries and other research materials are readily available through the site. The World Public Library has been in operation since 1996 and it has been a global effort to build it out to such magnitude. The site is only going to grow from here, as the world really is going digital.

  24. WOWIO – WOWIO is a very hip source of public domain ebooks and contemporary titles, including graphic novels. You must register with the site before downloading the material, but this is also free of charge. Created in 2006, WOWIO is quickly gaining attention as one of the few legal sources of high-quality, copyrighted online books.
  25. Great care is taken with the scanning and digitizing of the material found on WOWIO and the site’s interface is very simple. Students will find much-needed textbooks here and frugal comic book lovers will see some of their favorite titles. By simply browsing the material and adding each book to a queue, users can create their “must read” list. A fairly new site, WOWIO is growing exponentially and adding new titles every day.

  26. Zunafish – Everyone has been talking about Zunafish this year, including TIME magazine and Oprah Winfrey. It is a paperback swapping site, yet so much more. Not only will you be able to trade for free books, you can also find video games, audiobooks, CDs, video games, DVDs and more.Zunafish is free to join and there is no limit to how many trades you can make. However, the site only allows “like item trading.” In other words, you can only trade a book for a book and a CD for a CD. Still, this is an exciting concept that may eventually lure eBay addicts over to Zunefish.

Whether you are interested in ebooks or printed books, the above sites are only the tip of the iceberg. Paperback swapping and digitized literature are increasing in popularity each day, spawning even more sources of free books. From comic books to encyclopedias, both frugal book lovers and academic researchers should take advantage of the sites above, as well as any other resources that offer free books.

Posted:November 7th, 2007 in Education No Comments

  • Digg This Story

10 Home Improvement Projects That Actually Pay Off

Some home improvement projects are pure indulgences and have little to do with getting a return on an investment. Many homeowners would prefer to live out a personal dream or a desire to have a home “our way.” Despite this urge, many of those same homeowners know that they would never shell out extra for those marble dolphin sculptures in the bathroom – so, why should anyone else?

There are, however, some improvements you can make to your home that you may enjoy and that may also increase the value of your home when you’re ready to sell. Here are a few home improvement investments that can actually pay off in the long run.

  1. Update Kitchens and Bathrooms: Updating a kitchen or bathroom can be one of the most valuable investments you can make in your home. Kitchen and bathroom styles change over time, so if you own an older home chances are you’re due for an update (if you own avocado appliances, that’s one clue that your kitchen is outdated…). Of course the reason these updates come with a hefty payoff is because they often involve a substantial up-front investment. Total overhauls can easily run into thousands of dollars. If you can’t afford to do it all at once, even small changes can make a big difference. New cabinet fronts, drawer pulls, paint, floor coverings, and fixtures are all inexpensive ways to update your kitchen or bathroom. Potential buyers will be attracted to the fresh look and you’ll get to enjoy more attractive and updated surroundings at the same time.
  2. Remove Clutter: While your overflowing disaster zone of a closet may not cause you much of a second thought, potential buyers will be turned off by this scenario. When you take time to clean and organize your home storage, you’ll make these spaces seem newer and more spacious. If you can measure, cut, and use a screwdriver, you can install wire shelving systems. Other organizational supplies are available at local hardware or home stores, where you can purchase neat looking baskets and containers that won’t break that budget and that will add dollars to your home’s value. If you have too much clutter, rent a storage space to store that overflow until you’ve moved into a new home.
  3. Painting: A new coat of paint can give your home a whole new look and feel. Painting the interior or exterior [audio included] is one of the more inexpensive updates you can make to your home, and it can create a huge impact on your home’s curb appeal. While neutral colors represent a classic selling choice, don’t be afraid to highlight your home’s nicest features with some well placed splashes of color. You might also consider brightening up a dark room by painting it white or another light color. Light colors will make a room appear larger and brighter, but darker colors can hide imperfections. Finally, if you don’t want to paint or replace that siding, clean it so that it appears fresh.
  4. Expand on that Curb Appeal: You only have one chance to make a great first impression, so make sure your home puts its best face forward. While extremely labor intensive and expensive landscaping projects probably won’t garner a huge return on your investment (they’re more for your personal enjoyment), small changes can create a classier environment. Plant some inexpensive flowers around your mailbox or entranceway, and keep bushes and yard well manicured. Take care of those glaring bare spots in your lawn and remove dead plants.
  5. Repair Damages: It’s a fact of life – material items wear out and break. You may delay these projects because they are expensive or annoying to repair. If you’re trying to sell your home or if you want to improve your lifestyle, repairs should become a priority. Fill in cracks in your foundation, or make sure that they’re not something that makes your home structurally unsound. Replace discolored wood flooring or carpet, and fix any loose railings or fixtures around the house. Repairs to small details can seal a deal when selling, and you may discover other problems that represent health or safety problems in the process. While larger problems usually cost more to repair, the payoff to your well-being is as important as the value it will add to your home.
  6. Upgrade Flooring: Your floors receive more wear and tear than any other part of your home. You have several options to choose from when you replace or update your floors. Perhaps you have a gorgeous wood floor hidden under that ratty carpet. Remove the carpet and enjoy the wood. Many potential buyers also fall for good-looking hardwood floors. You can also replace carpeting that is threadbare or irreparably stained by a pet, and replace bathroom or kitchen tiles with a more updated look. One of the parts of your home that gets the most wear and tear is the floor, and you can often improve the look of your home drastically by updating or replacing your flooring. If you have carpet that is looking threadbare or is irreparably stained by a pet, look into replacing it with new carpet or a hardwood floor. New flooring can be a considerable investment, but it can make your home look much better, eliminate some allergens, and make your home look more attractive.
  7. Build a Deck or Patio: Adding an outdoor living space to your home can add value and enjoyment. Decks and patios get a great return on your initial investment, plus you get to enjoy them while you’re living in the home. You can have your deck or patio professionally installed or you can learn to do it yourself with classes at a local hardware store. A private place to relax is a great pull for potential buyers who don’t want to do the work.
  8. New Windows: While windows don’t always add dramatically to the value of your home, they can save you and future homeowners a bundle on utility bills. This alone is a great selling point. As long as you keep it simple (custom windows are very expensive) new windows for your home can be a great investment, not to mention making your home more comfortable in the more extreme months of summer and winter.
  9. Finish Your Basement or Attic: There are few instances when adding more living space to your home is actually a bad investment. If you can turn your basement or attic [audio included] into some additional living or work space you’ll increase the value of your home. Adding an addition to your home can be a good investment as well, but is usually more costly than working within already constructed living space. You can add some extra bedrooms, a playroom, or an office in these spaces so that buyers can picture the potential. Dormers and skylights can help with an attic room to help it feel more spacious and well lit. Basements make ideal places for home theaters or a hide-away for the man of the house or even for the kids. However you choose to go, you would be hard pressed to lose out on improving those empty spaces in your home.
  10. Add a Bathroom: Providing that your home isn’t already chock-full of bathrooms, another full bathroom is usually an added investment. Those extra bathrooms serve both large families and guests, so the heads of household don’t need to share. Hire professionals to take care of this job, as botched plumbing or tiling is something that will cost you more in the long run.

Not every improvement you’ll want to make to your home is going to earn you a huge return, but with a little planning you can make the most of the money you put into your house. Not only will these improvements add buyer appeal, you’ll enjoy the changes as well. While some improvements can be costly, others take little time and energy to accomplish. Tackle one project at a time, and before you know it you’ll have a dream home that you may not want to sell.

Finally, use a credit card that offers cash back for home improvements, like the Chase Home Improvement Rewards Card or the Discover More Card. If you can manage to pay the balance each month, these cards will help you save even more!

Posted:November 1st, 2007 in Home Improvement No Comments

  • Digg This Story

How to Be a Frugal Gardener

Gardening can be a very relaxing hobby, but not if you’re maxing out your credit card every time you visit the store for supplies. From tools to fertilizer, there are many things on a gardener’s checklist. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune on lawn and garden maintenance if you consider the following advice. Below, we have compiled 33 tips on how to become a frugal gardener.

  1. Harvest Rain Water – Using containers to collect rainwater is a great way to quench a lawn’s thirst without driving up your water bill. Rainwater is also chemical-free, which is an added bonus.
  2. Water at Night – Watering your lawn and garden during the coolest hours will ensure that the soil absorbs most of the water before it evaporates. Essentially, that will stretch your water further and reduce your monthly water bill.
  3. Grow Plants From Cuttings – Many plants can be spliced and multiplied. Conduct some research to see if any of your plants can produce cuttings for new plants rather than spending money on new plants.
  4. Invest in PerennialsPerennials may cost more than annuals, but they will reappear the following year. Think of it as a good investment.
  5. Collect Seeds From Your Garden – Rather than purchasing seeds, you can harvest them from the plants already growing in your garden.
  6. Research Before Planting – Research can save you a lot of money. For example, planting something during the wrong time of year or in the wrong area can result in quickly dying plants. Prepare correctly and you will avoid these mistakes.
  7. Join a “Plant Swap” – If you know other gardening enthusiasts, you should begin trading plants, seeds and cuttings. It is a cheap way to experiment with new plants.
  8. Use Free, Unorthodox Planters – Look around you, as almost any container can be a planter. Some people use old tires and boots, but you may have something a little more glamorous in mind. The possibilities are endless.
  9. Buy Off-Season – Just like clothes, plants are easier on your credit card account at the end of the season. If you purchase perennials, don’t worry about the season ending, as you will just get a head start on the next season that the plant returns.
  10. Invest in Good Tools – When you are in a frugal state of mind, it may be hard to spend a lot of money on anything. However, you shouldn’t skimp on the gardening tools, as a good set of tools will last you a lifetime. In the long run, you will have saved an exorbitant amount of money.
  11. Reuse Your Grass Clippings – Don’t be tempted to bag up those grass clippings, as leaving them on the lawn is good fertilizer. Not only does it contain vital nutrients that reabsorb into the soil, grass is 70% water.
  12. Utilize Vinegar – Vinegar is a cheap solution for many household dilemmas and the garden is no exception. From killing weeds to keeping cats away, vinegar is a natural alternative with multiple uses.
  13. Grow From Seeds – Rather than purchasing plants that are ready to be put in the ground, start with a seed. It is much cheaper and will give you more satisfaction when you see that first sprout.
  14. Grow Useful Plants – Try growing plants that “give back”. For example, fruits and vegetables can be eaten, which reduces your grocery bill. Also, certain plants and flowers can attract the right kind of insects to your garden.
  15. Start a Compost Pile – By recycling your yard’s waste, you will have a free, endless source of nutrients for your soil.
  16. Seek Free Manure For Fertilizing – Many farmers would be happy to let you take some manure off their hands. Should you live near the country, ask around for places to obtain this fertilizer at no cost.
  17. Utilize Your Leftovers – Yard waste isn’t the only material you should be putting in your compost heap. Leftover scraps from the table, such as vegetables, are great for fertilizing. Avoid using meat, however, as that will attract stray animals that may dig up your garden.
  18. Use Natural Pest Control – There are many natural, free alternatives to commercial pesticides. Vinegar, dishwashing soap, and ground eggshells are just a few options.
  19. Save Rocks For Later Use – Rocks and concrete can always be used for landscaping purposes, so keep any that you come across.
  20. Ask Friends For Root Cuttings – If you find yourself admiring a friend’s plant, politely ask if you can have a cutting. Most gardeners will be flattered by the request.
  21. Seek an Expert’s Advice – Don’t hesitate in asking someone questions if they are an experienced gardener. Most hobbyists love the chance to talk about their passion and it’s a free source of information for you.
  22. Plant Marigolds – Marigolds are not only beautiful, they attract predators which kill aphids. Aphids, also known as plant lice, are deadly for your garden.
  23. Grow Vertically to Save Space – The use of fences and trellises to grow plants vertically will make more room for your garden. Maximizing your garden space is a frugal endeavor.
  24. Do Everything Yourself – Mowing your yard and trimming your hedges may be a pain, but you should avoid paying anyone else to do it.
  25. Kill Weeds With Boiling Water – If you have weeds growing up through the cracks of your sidewalk and driveway, forget about buying weed killer. Boiling water poured over those cracks will do the trick for free. Also, it is better for the environment than chemicals.
  26. Buy Used Tools at Auctions – It is essential that you purchase quality tools for your gardening. However, you avoid retail prices on eBay or at local auctions.
  27. Peruse Garage Sales in Established Communities – Established communities often have older residents who enjoy gardening. Look to these neighborhoods for garage sales that offer gardening equipment.
  28. Rent, Don’t Buy, Large Equipment – Unless you are living on a farm, you won’t need large equipment to maintain a garden. Renting a power tool is much cheaper than buying one, particularly if you only use said item once a season.
  29. Be Patient – You won’t grow the landscape of your dreams overnight, so don’t get ahead of yourself. Ready-to-plant flowers and trees are tempting, but far from frugal.
  30. Utilize Salt For Landscaping – Like vinegar and boiling water, salt is a natural weed killer. In fact, salting the ground will ensure that nothing grows in that place, so use it wisely!
  31. Grow Native Plants – Plants that are native to your area will be able to handle your soil and climate. The longevity of your plants is important, as replacing them will cost more money and time.
  32. Recycle Coffee Grounds – Never throw your coffee grounds in the trash, as they can be sprinkled onto your lawn as fertilizer. Also, you can put the grinds in your compost heap to increase its nitrogen levels.
  33. Plant Fake Flowers – Purists may scoff at this idea, but there are many fake flowers that appear quite genuine. They never have to be replaced and don’t require sunshine and water.

Gardening is one of the most popular American hobbies, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. If you look at the pastime in a simplistic way, you merely need tools, seeds and water. Any other supplies, such as fertilizer and weed killer, can be obtained naturally for free. Also, you should conduct research online and at the local library so you know what to plant and when. With a little knowledge and a conservative attitude, gardening can be a relaxing, inexpensive way to spend an afternoon, rather than an expensive way to spend your money.

Posted:October 17th, 2007 in Gardening No Comments

  • Digg This Story

The Ten Best “Green Cars” for the Price

If you actually heed John Edwards’ suggestion to give up your SUV, you probably won’t look for the least expensive green car on the market. SUV prices range anywhere from $16,005 for the 2007 Chevrolet HHR to $107,500 for the 2007 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. If you have the budget to afford any car in that range, then you won’t flinch when faced with the $19,692 – $23,220 price tag for the world’s number one selling hybrid car, the Toyota Prius. Nor will you hesitate to dig until you find the price of the fastest green car to date, the Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster that runs on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Unfortunately, prices remain high across the board for any environmentally friendly car. The least expensive green car currently on the American market is the 2007 Hyundai Accent GLS 4-Door with a price tag that carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $12,925. But, according to Yahoo’s “Top 100 Cars by Green Rating,” the Hyundai comes in at number 22 with a green rating of 75. This car is gasoline-powered, as are all the cars listed below (which means your gas reward cards will still earn points). This screening shows that a frugalist may have to bite the bullet and spend more than $18,000 for a hybrid.

Until you’re ready for that financial trauma, you can assuage your environmental guilt with the following ten gasoline-powered yet “green” vehicles that are all priced under $19,000. The following list is offered in order from least to most expensive based upon Yahoo’s MSRP. Information about engines, horsepower, torque, mph in city and on the highway, and fuel tank capacity and range are all included with each vehicle.

1. 2007 Kia Rio SX (MSRP $13,495)

2007 Kia Rio SXAlthough the Rio shares its platform with the Hyundai Accent, it feels sportier, thanks to subtle chassis tweaks. Other additions include a new alloy wheels design, new shift knobs for the manual and automatic transmissions, and an illuminated ignition surround. The Kia Rio SX (Manual) was last redesigned in 2006; no information is currently available on upcoming changes. For a bare-bones car with a low price, it’s surprisingly roomy, refined, and good-looking front-engine, front-drive, 4-door, 5-passenger sedan. The Kia Rio SX ranks at twenty-one on the Yahoo 100 list, with a green rating of 75.

  • Engine: Standard 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 110 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 107 @ 4500 RPM
  • City (mpg): 32
  • Hwy (mgp): 35
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 11.9 gal/381 mi

2. 2007 Toyota Yaris S (MSRP $13,525)

2007 Toyota Yaris SAll new to the U.S. in 2007, the front-engine, front-drive; 4-door, 5-passenger sedan Yaris is Toyota’s cheapest machine in Toyota’s green lineup. The gasoline-powered Yaris S sedan, unlike the three-door Yaris hatchback and the four-door Yaris sedan, gets extra body cladding, bigger 15-inch wheels and a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack. The 5-speed manual overdrive is standard, with an optional 4-speed automatic overdrive. This car ranks at seven out of 100 at Yahoo with a green rating of 77.

  • Engine: Standard 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4 (Toyota’s latest VVT-i technology)
  • Horsepower: 106 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 103 @ 4200 RPM
  • City (mpg): 27
  • Hwy (mgp): 34 – 37
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 11.1 gal/377 mi

3. 2007 Kia Rio5 SX (MSRP $13,750)

2007 Kia Rio5 SXThis Hyundai Accent clone is the smallest of Kias offered on the market this year. You’ll find hatchback utility in this front-engine, front-drive, 5-door, 5-passenger sedan. The Rio5
is among the lowest priced vehicles sold in the U.S., but Kia strives to offer a full-feature vehicle with a stylish appearance. The Kia Rio5 SX ranks fifteenth out of 100 on the Yahoo list, with a green rating of 75.

  • Engine: Standard 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 110 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 107 @ 4500 RPM
  • City (mpg): 32
  • Hwy (mgp): 35
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 11.9 gal/381 mi

4. 2007 Honda Fit Sport 5-Spd MT (MSRP $15,170)

2007 Honda Fit Sport MTNew to the U.S. market, the front-engine, front-drive; 5-door, 5-passenger Fit wagon leads a growing platoon of new subcompacts intended to keep soaring fuel prices at bay. The gasoline-powered Fit blends agility with a roomy, upscale interior and clever cargo versatility. The Fit is a popular model in Japan and Europe, where it is sold as the Honda Jazz. The 5-speed manual overdrive is standard, with the 5-speed automatic overdrive as an option. The Honda Fit Sport 5-Spd MT ranks fourteenth out of 100 on the Yahoo list, with a green rating of 76.

  • Engine: Standard 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 109 @ 5800 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 105 @ 4800 RPM
  • City (mpg): 33
  • Hwy (mgp): 38
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 10.8 gal/356 mi

5. 2007 Toyota Corolla LE (MSRP $15,515)

2007 Toyota Corolla LEToyota has successfully and consistently sold the Corolla in the U.S. since 1969, and this car remains one of the most popular Toyota vehicles. Although not fast or extremely exciting to drive, it is very predictable. Expect a redesign for 2008. This 2007 front-engine, front-drive, 4-door, 5-passenger sedan comes with a 5-speed manual overdrive with optional 4-speed automatic overdrive. The gasoline-powered Toyota Corolla LE ranks thirteenth on the Yahoo 100 list, with a green rating of 76.

  • Engine: Standard 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 126 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 122 @ 4200 RPM
  • City (mpg): 32
  • Hwy (mgp): 41
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 13.2 gal/422 mi

6. 2007 Honda Civic Sedan DX 5-Spd AT (MSRP $15,810)

2007 Honda Civic Sedan DX ATThe eighth generation of this perennial bestseller was introduced last year, but the cost-cutting that was apparent in the most recent Civics is nowhere to be seen in the new offerings. The Honda Civic DX AT is a gasoline-powered, front-engine, front-drive; 4-door, 5-passenger sedan. The 5-speed automatic overdrive is standard in the AT sedan, but no manual overdrive is available. The Honda Civic Sedan DX 5-Spd AT rates sixteenth out of 100 on the Yahoo list, with a green rating of 75.

  • Engine: Standard 1.8-liter SOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 140 @ 6300 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 128 @ 4300 RPM
  • City (mpg): 30
  • Hwy (mgp): 40
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 13.2 gal/396 mi

7. 2007 Kia Spectra SX (MSRP $15,995)

2007 Kia Spectra SXLoaded with features, the gasoline-powered Kia Spectra SX received new front fascia styling with integrated front spoiler this year, including a revised grille, headlights, bumper and new standard 16-inch alloy wheels. Additionally, the Spectra doesn’t feel like a compact economy car. The SX comes with 5-speed manual overdrive, but now has a new 4-speed automatic transmission available as an option. The SX is roomy with great road manners for a front-engine, front-drive, 4-door, 5-passenger sedan. The Kia Spectra SX ranks twentieth out of 100 on the Yahoo 100 list, with a green rating of 75.

  • Engine: Standard 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 138 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 136 @ 4500 RPM
  • City (mpg): 25
  • Hwy (mgp): 33
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 14.0 gal/350 mi

8. 2007 Ford Focus 5-Door Hatchback SES (MSRP $16,775)

2007 Ford Focus Hatchback SESFord offers a combination of a formal station wagon and a five-door hatchback with this front-engine, front-drive, 5-passenger sedan. The 2007 gasoline-powered Ford Focus 5-door hatchback is a carryover from 2006. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. This car ranks five out of 100 at Yahoo with a green rating of 77.

  • Engine: Standard 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 136 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 136 @ 4250 RPM
  • City (mpg): 27
  • Hwy (mgp): 37
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 14.0 gal/378 mi

9. 2007 Hyundai Elantra Limited (MSRP $16,895)

2007 Hyundai Elantra LimitedThe fourth-generation gasoline-powered Elantra follows Hyundai’s success formula in its all-new 2007 version. Even base models come with standard ABS, power mirrors, power windows, and six airbags. The latest front-engine, front-drive; 4-door, 5-passenger sedan Elantra Limited is bigger than the previous edition, and it seats four adults comfortably. The Hyundai Elantra Limited ranks eleventh on the Yahoo 100 list, with a green rating of 76.

  • Engine: Standard 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4
  • Horsepower: 138 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 136 @ 4600 RPM
  • City (mpg): 28
  • Hwy (mgp): 36
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 14.0 gal/392 mi

10. 2007 MINI Cooper HT (MSRP $18,050)

2007 MINI Cooper HTThe new gasoline-powered MINI for 2007 is remarkably similar to the previous model. The major differences in the 2007 model are the new 2.36” longer body that was changed to meet European Union pedestrian impact standards, a steering system that is now electrically assisted, and a sports suspension with up-rated springs, dampers and anti-roll bars available for any model. You’ll also see new sheet metal, chassis, and safety equipment. Interior space is increased everywhere except for rear seat passengers. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The MINI Cooper HT ranks tenth out of 100 on the Yahoo list, with a green rating of 76.

  • Engine: Standard 1.6L 118 hp I4 (utilizes technology from parent BMW)
  • Horsepower: 118 @ 6000 RPM
  • Torque (lb-ft): 114 @ 4250 RPM
  • City (mpg): 32
  • Hwy (mgp): 40
  • Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 13.2 gal/356 mi

Conclusion

Yahoo doesn’t carry the last word on green vehicles, as other ratings exist that will show that the Prius is, by far, the best environmentally-friendly car for the price. This vehicle combines an electric motor with a powerful engine to create a car that runs like any other conventional vehicle. Yet, you can see returns down the road with its exceptional fuel efficiency.

Other vehicles, like the Volkswagen Touran, provide green efficiency to European countries, but not to U.S. citizens. Many Volkswagen Tourans have a fuel cell drive system that do not create exhaust emissions. While a bit pricier than the cars shown in the list above, the price tag for this car may be just a bit more than the Prius if it were sold in America. As with any supply-demand economic situation, the best green cars cost more because there are fewer in existence. As demand rises, the price may come down, but don’t expect that situation to occur within the next year or two.

Posted:October 10th, 2007 in Green Transportation No Comments

  • Digg This Story

57 Creative Ideas to Save Money As a Pet Owner

Whether you are an extravagant pet owner or not, responsibly raising an animal involves years of expenses. Granted, your child’s goldfish may only involve weeks of expenses, but you have to cough up some dough to care for any kind of animal. Many people don’t consider these costs before they commit to pet ownership. From food to regular veterinarian visits, most domestic animals require constant maintenance. Rather than put you off owning a pet altogether, we would like to offer you 57 creative ways to save money as a pet owner.

Acquiring a Pet

  1. Avoid “Puppy Mills” – Unless you want a show dog, buying a dog based on its exclusive pedigree is needlessly expensive. Animal activists even argue that breeding dogs is unethical. Besides, mutts often are the most lovable dogs.
  2. “Free To Good Home” – Many people find themselves with too many puppies or kittens after their pet has a litter. Ask friends or family in this situation for an animal and they will often give it to you for free. Also, you may happen upon a “free to good home” sign or classified ad in your travels.
  3. Take In a Stray – This is a good way to acquire a free animal, provided you are sure he/she is a stray and not someone’s lost pet.
  4. Contact a Rescue Group – There are many animal rescue groups that are looking for good homes to place animals with. If you are keen on having a specific breed, this is the more humane way of acquiring a pedigreed cat or dog.
  5. Work at a Pet Store – Working at a pet store will not only get you a company discount on pet products, you may be able to get a free or inexpensive pet through your connections.
  6. Limit Yourself – Can you really afford a pack of dogs or aquarium full of fish? Limit yourself on how many animals you acquire, as the costs will mount very quickly.
  7. Check the Local Paper – Free and inexpensive pets are often listed in the classified section of your local paper.
  8. Use Craigslist – Craigslist.org is a classified Web site that is free to the public. You can find almost anything on Craigslist, including pet advertisements. Also, you could post your own ad, expressing your desire for a free or inexpensive pet.
  9. Go to the Shelter – There are many animals at your local animal shelter who need good homes. The prices are fair and, if you are going to a shelter that euthanizes animals, you will be saving a life.
  10. Call Dibs On an Unborn Animal – If you know someone who has a pregnant animal or an animal that may become pregnant in the future, call dibs on one of its offspring. This may not yield you immediate results, but may secure you a free or inexpensive pet in the future.
  11. Don’t Tempt Thieves – Like cars, there are certain types of animals that are popular among thieves. Certain dog breeds, in particular, can fetch a high price for dognappers. Try not to obtain animals that people are looking to steal. If you already have one that is highly coveted, keep it out of public view.
  12. Buy a Low-Maintenance Pet – You don’t always have to get a dog or a cat for companionship. Rodents, for example, are easy pets to care for and relatively inexpensive in the long run.
  13. Get a Pet That Will Work For You – Whether it’s a backyard guard dog or a grass-munching goat, you can save money by acquiring a pet that offers something in addition to companionship.
  14. Avoid Rare Animals – Not only are exotic pets expensive to purchase and sometimes illegal to own, they are often very costly to care for. From birds to dogs, it is always cheaper to own a common, domestic animal.

Food

  1. Use a Rewards Card – There are credit cards and grocery store cards that will help you save money when buying food for your pets. When applying for a credit card, make sure it is one with a low interest rate.
  2. Compare Store Prices – You may find that a pet superstore offers better prices than your supermarket, or vice versa. Don’t assume you are getting the best deal on food prices. Call around for price comparisons and keep your eye open for sales.
  3. Skip the Trendy, Expensive Foods – While you want to give your pet healthy foods and the occasional treat, he/she probably doesn’t need anything from the frozen section of your local pet store.
  4. Don’t Feed Your Pet Junk – On the flip side, the cheapest brand of food in the store could be the least healthy, leading to higher health care costs. Consult your veterinarian on what kind of frugal food is safe to purchase.
  5. Feed Your Pet Less – Is your pet eating more than the recommended amount? Only distribute as much as the packaging suggests. You will be saving in food costs and health care costs if your animal maintains a healthy weight.
  6. Use Coupons – Manufacturer and store coupons can save you a lot of money in the long run, particularly if you use them during double or triple coupon events.
  7. Buy In Bulk – You will always need food for your pet, so buying in bulk will not be a wasted investment. This could be a way to save a considerable amount of money. Check your local price club, such as Sam’s Club or Costco.
  8. Don’t Let Wet Food Spoil – If you are feeding your animal canned, wet food, feed them a little at a time and store the rest where it won’t spoil.
  9. Don’t Share Your Pet’s Food – With other critters and insects, that is. Leaving your animal’s food bowl where it can be picked at by strays or swarmed by ants is a surefire way to waste money.
  10. Keep Food Out Of the Rain – If your pet’s food bowl is always outside, be sure to protect it from the rain.
  11. Grow Your Own Pet Food – While this will only work for certain animals, a vegetable garden can be cost-effective for the whole family (including your pet rabbit).

Grooming

  1. Brush Your Pet’s Teeth – This is a service provided by your veterinarian and/or groomer that you can do on your own for a fraction of the price. A toothbrush can be found at your local pet store.
  2. Clean Your Pet’s Ears – Doing this on your own will save in grooming fees and in health care costs, as your animal will get fewer earaches.
  3. Trim Your Pet’s Hair – If you have a long-haired pet that requires frequent haircuts, you can do this at home with a grooming kit that costs less than $100. Usually, this kit will pay for itself with one haircut. However, take your time and be careful, as you don’t want to nick your pet’s skin.
  4. Trim Your Pet’s Nails – Rather than paying someone to do this, trim your animal’s nails with a special tool from your local pet store. This may also save money in reducing household destruction by your pet’s unruly claws.
  5. Wash Your Own Pet – Sure, it’s a pain to do sometimes, but why would you pay someone else to do it? If you are the owner of a large dog, even investing in an outside dog bath will save money.
  6. Regularly Brush Your Pet’s Coat – This is especially important for long-haired dogs. Regular brushing will help to maintain your animal’s appearance without sending him/her to a groomer. This also cuts back on loose hair on your clothes and furniture, reducing the need for dry cleaning.
  7. Trim the Hair Short – Just like your lawn, you will have to trim your animal’s hair less if it is cut short.
  8. Dilute Your Pet’s Shampoo – To make your pet shampoo stretch further, pour half of one bottle into an empty bottle and top both of them off with water.

Healthcare

  1. Attend All Well Visits – Don’t postpone your animal’s regular visits to the veterinarian. Even if he/she is healthy and thriving, their check-ups will keep them that way.
  2. Don’t Get Unnecessary Shots – Ask your veterinarian what your animal absolutely has to have shots for this year. Recommendations change all the time, so stay on top of it and make sure you aren’t spending needless money.
  3. Make Sure Your Pet Exercises – You’re not the only one who needs to get more cardio. A sedentary animal will experience more health problems, costing you more money (and heartbreak).
  4. Think About Medical Insurance – While your hermit crab won’t benefit from it, some animals will be cheaper to maintain if they have an insurance policy. Some affordable plans will cover all routine visits and shots.
  5. Spay/Neuter Your Pet – Doing this will reduce your animal’s chances of developing certain reproductive cancers. Also, he/she will be less likely to stray from home and get hurt.
  6. Find an Affordable Veterinarian – Some animal clinics will see your pet on a sliding scale, should you be under financial strain. Also, local universities with a veterinarian program may see patients for less money than a regular office.
  7. Find Inexpensive Shot Clinics – When it the time comes for your pet to get his/her shots, look for low-cost clinics to save money. Your veterinarian’s office may host shot clinics a few times a year. Also, you can check with the Humane Society for information on shot clinics.
  8. Ask Your Veterinarian For Samples – Like any other doctor, your veterinarian receives samples from drug companies. Request free samples if your animal needs any kind of medication.
  9. Compare Pharmacy Prices – Don’t assume that your pet’s medication is going to be the same price at every pharmacy. If you are about to buy something expensive or if your pet is put on chronic medication, call around town and get the best deal.
  10. Don’t Use Over-the-Counter Flea Products – Many inexpensive flea treatments for dogs and cats are actually quite toxic. Consult your veterinarian about your pet’s flea problem, not your groomer or your local pet store. Though you may think you are saving money with such products, you are actually risking high medical bills or even your pet’s life.
  11. Research Common Household Dangers – Do you know which household plants are toxic to your pet or which foods you should absolutely not feed your dog from the table? A little online research on a credible animal care site can save you a bundle in medical bills.
  12. Keep Your Pet Indoors – Outdoor animals tend to get into more accidents and contract more illnesses.
  13. Mail Order Medications – Monthly prescriptions, such as your dog’s heartworm medication, can be purchased with a credit card through various mail order services. Research this service beforehand, however, and make sure the company you use is reputable.

Toys & Supplies

  1. Give Your Cat Something to Scratch – Doing this is cheaper than reupholstering your furniture. A few scratching posts will suffice, which you should place near the cat’s food and next to the cat’s bed.
  2. Recycle Your Children’s Toys – Did your baby grow out of his/her teething rings (great for a puppy who is teething) or stuffed animals? There may be something in the collection that can be passed down to your playful pet.
  3. Use Household Items as Toys – Not just a cliche image, a ball of yarn is something that cats really do enjoy. That is one of many inexpensive things around the house that your pet can play with.
  4. Skip the Wardrobe – Does your pet really need to wear little sweaters and costumes? You may think the outfits look cute, but they are really a waste of money.
  5. Use Alternative Cat Litter – Refilling your cat’s litter box can really add up, so try an alternative. From sand to wood pellets, some people have made the switch without kitty ever noticing. Do make sure that whatever you use is safe for your cat, however. If you’re really ambitious, you could always toilet train your cat.
  6. Buy a Durable Leash – A leash endures a lot of wear and tear, so buy a heavy-duty one that is appropriate to your animal’s size.
  7. Choose a Practical Collar – Your pet doesn’t need a designer collar, rather one that is safe and long-lasting.
  8. Forgo the Fancy Tags – You will be issued a tag for your dog or cat when you get him/her licensed, so don’t waste your money with some fancy, personalized tag service that is often advertised at the pet store.
  9. Make a Dog Bed – Buying a dog bed is unnecessary, as most indoor dogs are easily trained to sleep on the floor. However, a dog that prefers something soft can be given an old quilt or folded sheet to sleep on.
  10. Assemble Your Own Doghouse – If you are handy with wood projects, then assembling a pet shelter from scrap should be no problem and is much less expensive than commercial doghouses.
  11. Attend Garage Sales – You can find many pet accessories, particularly children’s toys that your pet will love, at garage sales for cheap.

Owning a pet can be costly, though animals offer many emotional benefits. While we aren’t suggesting that you deprive your pet of any comfort, there are many expenses you can forgo as a pet owner. By following some of the above advice, you can save money in areas you never knew possible.

Posted:October 2nd, 2007 in Family No Comments

  • Digg This Story

Fly or Drive: Which is Cheaper? (A Definitive Answer, Once and For All)

As gas prices soared this past year, several writers tried to determine if it was less expensive to fly rather than to drive to a given location. Gas prices still hover around the $2.80 per gallon mark for regular grade nationwide, but prices for airline tickets are hard to nail down. The cost of that latter mode of transportation will depend on how early you purchase your tickets, how many individuals you plan to take with you, and your point of departure and destination. Since some of you might be pondering how to travel over upcoming holidays, this guide might help you to make a decision on whether to fly or drive.

We’ve provided a few comparisons, along with some tips on how to save money along the way. Our figures, which were current at the time this article was written (shortly after Labor Day 2007), were derived from the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator for gas, and from Priceline for airline comparisons. We want to note the date, as gas and airline costs usually escalate around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Roundtrip Chicago to San Francisco

We chose a Chicago to San Francisco round trip for the first example, as both cities contain major airports with regular flights between both destinations. As for the automobile mode, we chose a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid for the trip. There are two city-dwelling (Chicagoan) adults on this trip, which is scheduled for a non-holiday week during late September.

Driving

According to AAA, the distance round trip between Chicago and San Francisco equals 4212 miles, and gas price equals $332.04. The driver would use 110.84 gallons in this particular Toyota. Time to drive this distance would equal about seventy hours, or thirty-five hours one way (one and one-half days) if the driver maintained a consistent sixty mph speed with no stops for food, gas, rest stops, or hotels.

Flying

American Airlines and United Airlines coach tickets were the least expensive from Chicago’s O’Hare airport (ORD) to San Francisco’s International airport (SFO). The cost of the flight, with two stops at Omaha, NE (OMA) and Denver, CO (DEN), departing 22 September and returning on 29 September (Saturdays), came to $272 per person, or $544 total (including all taxes and fees), at Priceline. Trip duration averaged at eight and one-half hours.

Tips

Although flying to San Francisco from Chicago cost $211.96 more than driving, the advantage comes with time saved. Unless you and your companion are willing to trade off on driving and sleeping in the car, you would need to add hotel room costs into the driving total. If you drove a little over ten hours per day, that trip would extend to three days, with two hotel rooms at an average of $70 per night, or $140 total. Remember that you’ll be crossing the Rocky Mountains on your trip, and few roads in that area are conducive to exceeding the speed limit. These roads will slow you down, although you could make up that time across Nebraska and in Utah if you’re willing to risk a speeding ticket.

If you choose to take your time, the addition of hotel rooms and food costs to the driving total could easily exceed the difference in price between driving and flying. Of course, you might need to add parking fees to the flight total and food costs as well. But, if you take the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Blue Line to O’Hare, that ticket would cost a mere $1.75 one way with $.25 transfers. This cost is based upon getting to a Blue Line station by walking (feasible for many inner-city dwellers) or with a ride from a friend. The taxi ride or rental car that you might need upon arrival in San Francisco isn’t figured into this equation.

Finally, if you spend three days driving one way, you’ll spend six out of seven days on the road with only one day in San Francisco. Flying, however, will give you five full days out of seven to enjoy your destination. We also checked a few other dates to see if flying on a Friday or Wednesday on or near the 22 September date would make a difference in the flight cost. The Wednesday date did make a difference. A roundtrip flight booked on 26 September with a return on 3 October was $229 per ticket. So, if you could travel mid-week, that ticket would save $43 per ticket for a total of $86, bringing the difference between flying and driving down to $125.96 (without hotel rooms and food configured into that driving cost). In this case, it would be cheaper and less taxing physically to fly.

Roundtrip Portland, Maine to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This time a family of four – two adults and two children under age ten – will decide how to travel from Portland, Maine to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to see grandma during Thanksgiving. They own a 1999 Ford Taurus wagon. Thanksgiving 2007 falls on Thursday, 22 November, so this family plans to depart Portland two days prior on Tuesday, 20 November (yes, they took the kids out of school one day early) and depart Pittsburgh on Saturday, 24 November, so they can use Sunday to rest and gather their wits for the upcoming work/school week.

Driving

This time, the mileage equals 1348 round trip, the gas will cost $143.24, and they’ll use 51.84 gallons of gas total. Total driving time equals almost twenty-three hours, or eleven hours one way averaging 60 mph. If the driver is up to driving eleven hours, not including pit stops for bathrooms or for eating, the trip could be concluded in one day. However, many parents might opt for a hotel room with two double beds to take a break at the halfway point. If so, this would add at least $70 to the final cost.

Flying

Unfortunately, the lowest priced roundtrip tickets ($426 per person including taxes and fees for a total of $1,704) between Portland (PWM) and Pittsburgh (PIT) included two stops in Newark, NJ (EWR) and Cincinnati, OH (CVG). Some parents who are traveling with two children won’t want this option unless they’re unwilling to drive and are willing to pay more for the plane tickets. Children might get fussy with all the stops, take-offs, and landings. But, the only other option also includes a stop in Washington, DC (DCA). This roundtrip ticket costs $468 per person. The total for a family of four, with the one stop instead of two, would equal $1,872.

Although some might argue that the time spent flying is better than time spent driving with two kids, in this case that argument doesn’t hold much water. The total time for the flight with just one stop is approximately 5 hours. With two stops, the total time for the flight would be approximately seven hours. Either flight, even with short layover times, comes to only half the time or less than it would take to drive. The least expensive tickets were offered in both cases by Delta in coach.

Tips

Although it might be more fun for the kids to fly than sit in the back seat of a Taurus for eleven hours, the time and money factors are working against the flight option. If this family chose the least expensive airline tickets for a total of $1,704, they would pay $1,560.76 more for those tickets than they would for gas, and they would save only four hours’ drive time. That equates to about $390 per hour for each hour saved on the road. As a parent, I would think about the really nice hotel that our family could stay in along the way for a fraction of that cost. Plus, the family wouldn’t need to rely on a rental car or on a family member to cart the family around in Pittsburgh if they flew.

So, grandma might not be able to spend as much time with her grandchildren as she’d like if the parents spread the trip out over two days both ways, but the family might be much more relaxed than if they took three flights both ways or if they spent more than eleven hours on the road in one day. One way to save money on traveling from Portland to Pittsburgh is to move grandma closer to Portland. Being cut out of the will for an unwillingness to travel over the holidays isn’t an option.

As an alternative mid-price option, this family could choose to rent a newer model car that might prove more comfortable. If they lived in Portland, they might pick up a MiniVan at the airport on the night of 19 November after work, and return that car on the day following their return. At Priceline, a MiniVan goes for $384/week for a total of $464 at National (including taxes and fees). In other words, if that family decides to keep the car for the full week, that $464 would drop to $384. For gas, if they ended up with a 2007 Chrysler Voyager/Town and Country, their fuel costs would equal $148.96. Total cost for the full-week rental would come to $532.96. Add a hotel room for one night and some food, and the total may come to about $700 (hotel room at $70, dinner at $15 per person average, and breakfast at about $10 per person average). This option is still $1,004 less than the least expensive airline ticket.

Roundtrip Atlanta to Pensacola, Florida

A single college student who lives in a dorm in Atlanta is heading home to Pensacola, Florida for Christmas break. The dates of this break are from 20 December 2007 to 6 January 2008. The student doesn’t have an option about when he can travel, as the dorms shut down during the vacation holiday. This student owns a 2000 Volkswagen Jetta.

Driving

AAA states that this student will drive a total of 648 miles round trip, will use 24.92 gallons of gas, and the cost will total $67.20, or $33.60 one way. The trip will take approximately 6 hours if that student drives an average of 60 mph without stops for the bathroom, food, or gas. This is a fairly easy trip on flat land, so the student could leave early in the morning at about 7:00 a.m. and arrive in Pensacola in time for a late lunch if he needs to make two stops.

Flying

According to Priceline, the least expensive ticket for these dates totaled $278 per person, including taxes and fees. But, the flight takes only fifteen minutes, and it’s nonstop (hard to do fifteen minutes with a stop!). Once again, the lowest price was a coach ticket on Delta.

Tips

For a student who doesn’t rely on parental wallets, driving would be the only option. If the student managed to find a person to take along on the trip and who was willing to pay for half the gas, the gas price would drop to $33.60 for the round trip for that student. The flight, on the other hand, comes to about $18.50 per minute in the air, and that cost cannot be shared with another person.

Conclusion

If you followed along using the AAA calculator and Priceline to check the costs for your trip, you might realize that there are many factors that can contribute to costs. Though you might complain about gas prices, there are only a few situations in which flying would be more economically feasible than driving. Most of those factors depend upon unknowns that pertain to any given individual situation.

For instance, if you don’t live near a major airport, you also need to calculate the cost of arriving to and from that airport. Additionally, you may need to travel to your final destination from the arrival airport. Add the time as well as the cost that it takes to travel to and from airports, as those factors may contribute to your final decision on whether to drive or fly.

Some other tips that could help you save money:

  • Rental cars vary in price for the car size, but prices also vary depending upon when you book the car. Online booking is often less expensive than renting the car directly at an airport, and weekly rentals often cost far less than rental times that are less than a week and that are based upon that weekly price.
  • If you travel alone, you can arrange to have family and/or friend meet you and offer access to a vehicle at least part of the time. If you’re traveling alone on a long trip, the flight might cost the same or slightly more (sometimes less for off-season or airline specials) than driving. Driving alone for long periods of time is far less safe than flying as well, as long stretches of highway can lull even the safest driver to sleep.
  • If you plan to travel to multiple destinations, figure time as well as cost into the equation. Sometimes air travel is more advantageous than driving long distances, as you’ll save time flying. If time equals money for you, then flying may be the only alternative.
  • No matter what type of travel you choose, planning ahead can save money, even on holidays. Rental cars and airline tickets are usually less expensive when you can purchase them in advance.
  • If you’re traveling with an infant, you can hold that child for the trip if it isn’t a long one. This will save money on a full price ticket on certain airlines. Be sure to check policies, as they vary from airline to airline. Southwest, for instance, allows one child over fourteen days and under two years of age, to travel for free if that child doesn’t occupy a seat and if that child is traveling with an adult over age twelve. A two-year-old child may be difficult to hold and to entertain on long trips, however.
  • Planning ahead also applies to gas prices. If you plan to drive, you can find less expensive gas stations along the way through GasBuddy.com or through GasPriceWatch.com.
  • Use a credit card for gas, rental cars, and airline tickets that will earn travel bonuses, gas rewards, airline miles, hotel points, or even cash back when you travel. Also, if you’re crossing state lines, stop at the nearest welcome center to pick up a hotel coupon book. The coupons usually are good only if you haven’t booked in advance, although some hotels will take them regardless. Between the rewards cards and coupons, you could save enough money to treat the whole family to a nice dinner on the road.

The differences in price don’t make a difference to someone who would prefer to fly than drive. Plus, if you plan to travel long distances – especially when your time is limited – flying may be your only choice. Finally, New York to London by car isn’t an option. Otherwise, plan to spend money on gas, as driving – in most instances – remains the least expensive way to travel.

Posted:September 25th, 2007 in Transportation No Comments

  • Digg This Story

Top 100 Blogs to Help You Find Free Stuff

Searching the Internet for freebies can be tricky. While there is an infinite amount of free stuff out there to be claimed, there are also quite a few scams and dead-ends. Many sites that claim to offer free things are only after your personal information, as they wish to spam you with unwanted solicitations. Don’t be discouraged, for we are about to save you a lot of legwork. Below, we have compiled the top 100 blogs to help you find free stuff, starting with what we feel are the crème de la crème. Beyond our “Top 20″ section, however, all blogs are organized by topic rather than importance.

Jump to section: Top 20 | Children | Clothes | Cosmetics | Digital Scrapbooking | Games | International | Job Leads | Music | Pet Products | Recipes | Web Development

Top 20

The following blogs are, in our opinion, the best resources for getting free stuff. Most of these sites are general, offering anything from clothes to pet food.

  1. That Freebie Site features links to free sample giveaways and current contests for great prizes, such as high-end electronics.
  2. The Free Site is a massive project, featuring almost everything that is offered for free over the Internet. It is updated daily, well-researched and should be bookmarked by anyone who enjoys free stuff, no matter how trivial at times.
  3. The Frugal Duchess is an authority on frugal living and loves to share advice on how to score free stuff.
  4. About Freebies offers leads on current giveaways, plus helpful tips on how to get refunds, rebates, etc.
  5. Fat Wallet is a blog that announces various online shopping deals, coupons and free offers.
  6. The Best Freebies and Bargains on the Net boasts a long, descriptive title that pretty much sums it all up. It is a regularly updated source of freebies and deals that can be found on the Web.
  7. The Freebies Blog is an Australian site that features an array of free offers. Although some of the free stuff is only available to Aussies, the blog is worth a gander by all.
  8. Freebie Fanatics is truly designed for those who are addicted to free stuff. There is a little something for everyone here, from books to cosmetics samples.
  9. Free Stuff Finder is a friendly, polished blog with features such as “free game of the week”. Look for a wide variety of online freebies on this site.
  10. FreeBitz offers links to freebies, as well as surveys that can earn you free samples and coupons.
  11. Deal Catcher has a list of current online coupon codes for major retailers like Amazon, Dell, Best Buy and Overstock.
  12. Totally Free Crap offers an assortment of links to free samples, as well as tips on how to find free things online.
  13. Frugal Upstate often posts great deals, free giveaways and free downloads. If you would like to save money in all areas of your life, this is a great resource.
  14. Moneysponsor.com posts free offers on a daily basis, including samples, downloads and eBooks.
  15. Freebie O’ the Day delivers what its title promises, a link to one free offer a day. Although there are other sites that post a list of things each day, this site showcases very noteworthy freebies.
  16. Wise Bread is a frugal living blog with a section devoted to online deals and free coupons.
  17. Frugal For Life is about all aspects of saving money, but there are plenty of tips here about getting stuff for free.
  18. A Frugal Living Blog By a Frugal Guy will give you tips on how to manage a household budget, which includes getting some things for free.
  19. Fitness and Freebies offers health tips, along with fitness-related freebie offers. Includes health snacks, drinks and supplements.
  20. Knockster focuses mainly on sale items rather than freebies. However, there are many free coupon codes posted to the blog, which could save you a bundle.

Children

Sometimes the smallest things in your life are the most expensive. Namely, electronics and children. Since you are more likely to find free baby wipe samples online than DVD players, we have compiled some family-friendly blogs below.

  1. Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder is updated daily, offering links to major free giveaways. This is a good resource for baby product samples and children’s items.
  2. Candlelight Stories is a well-made blog featuring free videos, games and crafts for children.
  3. Creative Kids at Home Blog features free activities for homeschooled children, as well as resources for parents and teachers.
  4. Curiosoft Kids Games is a blog that regularly posts free offers and games for children.
  5. Free Kids Coloring posts printable pages for your children to color. There are also activity pages to be found here, which is helpful for both parents and teachers.
  6. Free Stuff 4 Kids is a site is dedicated to finding free activities, applications and games for children. Both parents and teachers should utilize this blog.
  7. Jokes By Kids is a resource for free, clean jokes for and by children. This blog will keep your kids busy for a while.
  8. Life in Student Ministry posts a freebie each Friday, which is usually a free eBook or pamphlet on youth ministry.
  9. My CYC is a place for teens to create a free blog. It is intended to be a safer domain than other popular online hangouts, such as MySpace and Xanga.

Clothes

While you won’t be able to complete your wardrobe for free, promotional t-shirt giveaways are plentiful if you know where to look. Also, designer clothing and handbags are often given away in contests. The following blogs will help connect you with some free duds.

  1. #1 My Freebies is updated regularly, with an area devoted to clothing giveaways.
  2. Freaky Freddies has a current list of clothing freebies, contests and coupons.
  3. Freebies 4 Ya has a lot of free clothing offers, as well as links to contests that will win you clothes.
  4. Free Stuff Hot Deals features many giveaways and contests. T-shirts are a common freebie found on this site, as are household items like laundry detergent samples. Hey, you need to wash that t-shirt, don’t you?
  5. Linden Lifestyles is a fashion blog with a section about freebies, including cosmetics, clothes and accessories.
  6. Shop 4 Freebies has a list of clothing freebies. Although not extensive, the site does offer photos of each giveaway, something most blogs don’t bother with.
  7. Two Moms in a Blog often list freebies, particularly clothing and accessories. This is a family-oriented blog, so there may be free things for the kids posted on occasion.

Cosmetics

You can obtain almost all of your cosmetics for free through surveys and manufacturer Web sites. Granted, these will most likely be in the form of samples, but diligent freebie hunting will soon fill your bathroom with goodies. Rather than wasting time with search engines, find out which companies participate with giveaways on the blogs listed below.

  1. Bargain Hunting is devoted to deals of any kind, although the blog commonly posts about free make-up offers.
  2. Bon Bons in the Bath is all about pampering yourself, which includes taking advantage of cosmetics giveaways.
  3. Boston Gal’s Open Wallet is a personal finance blog that regularly features links to free samples, including cosmetics.
  4. Cheap Chica announces great fashion bargains, as well as links to free cosmetics samples.
  5. iVillage Beauty has a working list of make-up freebies and other cosmetics deals.
  6. Jack & Hill is a beauty blog that features free tips on make-up, as well as any freebie offers that catch their eye.
  7. Sassy Sue has a growing list of makeup freebies found online. These include brand names like L’Oreal, Cover Girl and Maybelline.
  8. Today’s Web-Freebies Blog is written by an experienced “freebie hunter”. Many of the freebies listed here are cosmetics samples.

Digital Scrapbooking

Digital scrapbooking has become a very popular hobby in recent years. Scrapbooking templates for photo editing programs can cost quite a bit, so freebies are highly sought. Below, we have compiled the best blogs for quality “digiscrapping” freebies.

  1. Digital Freebies is operated by a generous Web designer who frequently posts free clipart and templates.
  2. Doris’ Scraps of Life offers scrapbooking kits at a reduced rate, as well as freebies from time to time.
  3. Lindsey Jane Designs offers daily free downloads for digital scrapbooking. All designs found here are original and not links to other sites.
  4. Scrapping SAHM will direct you to some free templates and kits. This is a labor of love by a stay-at-home mother who is passionate about the hobby.

  5. Scrapping With IkeaGodess is one of the most popular blogs about scrapbooking. With tips, tutorials, news and freebies, it serves as a great resource for newbies and pros alike.
  6. Scrappy Pony Designs Blog posts daily freebies for digital scrapbooking.
  7. Welcome to Our Little Scrap World offers free digital scrapbooking kits, in addition to tutorials.
  8. Younique Photos is a digital scrapbooking blog that occasionally offers free kits in addition to tips and tutorials.

Games

The Internet is brimming with free games, so where does one start looking? Try the blogs below for all your gaming needs.

  1. Free Gamer is a popular blog that discusses free online games and open source software. Reviews and screenshots accompany each entry, which is handy for the more discriminating gamer.
  2. Good Experience Games recommends addictive online games, both complex and simple in strategy. There is a little something for every gamer here.
  3. Jay is Games provides reviews and walkthroughs of simple, online point and click games.
  4. Lazylaces offers original games, as well as links to classics. These games are for your own pleasure, although some will have an embed code for blog entries and Web sites.
  5. NicoSite is a great resource for free point and click games. Although the text is in French, the simple games won’t require a translator.
  6. Random Good Stuff is a funny blog, featuring anything from viral videos to weird auctions on eBay. There are also some great free games posted on occasion.
  7. Tyme Tech is a technology news blog. Among other items of interest, this site often announces free games and downloads.
  8. The Vintage Gaming Network offers over 100 free games without the need to download, although they also feature free emulators for download if you wish to play old console games on your PC.

International

Most English-language sites boasting free stuff are meant for American readers only. Here are some great resources for freebie hunters in other countries.

  1. Freebie Town links to various online giveaways, although some of these offers are only available in the UK.
  2. London Freebies posts free offers, coupon codes and other great deals for UK readers.
  3. Magic Freebies UK is a great resource for samples, competitions and other free stuff in the UK. Updates are made daily and there are also a lot of tips here for bargain hunters.
  4. Manchester Freebies is a guide to getting free stuff in and around Manchester, England. There are also plenty of online freebies for international readers.
  5. Smart Canucks features online deals and free giveaways for Canadians. People living outside of Canada may be eligible for some of the free stuff listed here, however.

Job Leads

When it comes to posting job leads, most people are fed up with paid boards. Likewise, job seekers don’t want to subscribe to any services. Below, we have listed the most popular blogs for job leads.

  1. Blogger Jobs provides leads on professional blogging positions. Although not updated daily, the leads found here are for desirable positions.
  2. Career and Job-Hunting Blog gives free advice on where to find a job and how to start a new career. Regularly updated, it also contains news about growing industries.
  3. Freelance Writing Jobs is the work of professional blogger, Deb Ng. Here, freelance writers are provided with job leads on a daily basis, free of charge.

Music

There are so many sites out there claiming to offer free music, only to request your credit card information as soon as you try to download something. As an alternative, you could try a free peer-to-peer network… and possibly download a trojan virus. No, it is best to stick with sites like the following blogs in your quest for free music.

  1. Aurgasm seeks to introduce you to great music that you’ve never heard before. Complete with free downloads, music fans will appreciate this eclectic blog.
  2. Between Thought and Expression posts free videos and music downloads. Updates come only a few times a month, but they are often worth the wait.
  3. Discobelle is a Swedish blog for music fans. Offering single tracks and remixes for download, fans of house music will want to check out this ambitious blog.
  4. Knobtweakers is a music news blog that offers free MP3 downloads. Independent music is intertwined with more mainstream fare, ensuring that you never get bored.
  5. Mage Records is an independent label that produces Irish and Celtic music. Their blog offers free downloads and samples of Mage Records originals.
  6. Much Music offers free downloads from any genre, from new age to rap.
  7. Spinner is an incredible music blog that will introduce you to music not in rotation on Top 40 radio. Their “MP3 of the Day” section is popular for a reason- these are completely free, legal downloads that will bring new bands to your attention.

Pet Products

Although not as expensive as real babies, furry babies (i.e., pets) can cost quite a bit each year. There are ways to obtain free food, grooming supplies and toys for your pets. The blogs below will tell you where to find said freebies.

  1. All About Labradors carries a self-explanatory title. Periodically, this site announces freebie offers related to pet dogs.
  2. Cool Freebie Links features pet product giveaways, including grooming supplies, food and toys.
  3. Dog Blog announces new pet products and offers free pet advice. Links to dog freebies are posted on occasion, also.
  4. Free Stuff Channel is regularly updated, providing links to various freebies. Their pet products section is most impressive.
  5. MotherLoad: The Mom Advice Blog features a list of freebies every Friday, which includes pet products.
  6. Pet Portrait Pop Art is a unique site for pet lovers. Their freebies include screensavers, wallpapers and games related to pets.
  7. Polka Dot Pup is all about dogs. From dog breeds to dog news, it can be found here. For great deals and freebies for your pet dog, look to this site.

Recipes

If your idea of cooking is giving the pizza place your AMEX number, then the following blogs aren’t for you. However, if you delight in trying new dishes, then forget about buying any cookbooks. These blogs give you all the recipes and tips you will ever need, for free.

  1. Simply Recipes offers delicious recipes, cooking tips and more. Each recipe that is posted has a beautiful photograph to accompany it.
  2. The Secret Recipe is a great resource for free recipes. The blog is written by a chef who attempts to recreate famous foods from your favorite restaurants.
  3. The Recipe Blog is written by and for foodies. If you have a sophisticated love of food, these are the recipes for you.
  4. Shiok provides free recipes for far-Eastern cuisine.
  5. What We’re Eating contains reviews and high-resolution photographs of recipes that the authors experiment with. It is an entertaining read, as well as a great cooking resource.
  6. Vegan Lunch Box offers creative ways to pack a vegan child’s lunch box. These colorful, delicious and all-natural organic foods will attract even the most discriminating child.
  7. Recipe Source Online contains more than just free recipes. There is also cooking advice, wine reviews and other information to interest foodies.

Web Development

Without a compass, you will easily get lost looking for freeware programs or Ubuntu applications. Try the following sites to guide you toward Web development freebies.

  1. BittBox is a great resource for free graphic design downloads and tutorials.
  2. Flatline Web Design offers tips and free downloads to those whose Web sites have “flatlined”.
  3. Fontleech posts the newest and most interesting fonts to hit the Net, most of which are available for free download.
  4. Pogue’s Posts is a popular technology blog that intermittently features free Web tools and applications.
  5. Scott Kuhl’s geek blog features all the latest tech news, as well as the best free downloads for Web site developers.
  6. Siberian.Ws offers open source Web templates and encourages other users to share their own designs.
  7. Smashing Magazine informs its readers about software, applications and other online tools that can be downloaded for free.
  8. Software Developer points Web designers on a budget in the right direction. There are plenty of free downloads and tips to be found here.
  9. Ubuntu Blog offers free tips and downloads for users. Whether you are an Ubuntu newbie or a pro, you should find this blog helpful.
  10. Vitaly Friedman’s Notebook is written by a Web designer who enjoys sharing freebies with readers. From blog icons to fonts, it is all here.
  11. Work Boxers is a blog about professional Web development, so there are plenty of free downloads featured.

While there are many “no strings attached” offers online, we would be remiss not to give you a few safety tips. You should never have to give your credit card information for anything free. Also, it would be wise not to use your main email address for any free offers. Open an email account with Yahoo! or Gmail and make that your “junk” address, as freebies will garner a lot of spam. Keeping those tips in mind, the above 100 blogs should keep you very busy in your hunt for free stuff.

Posted:September 18th, 2007 in Frugal Resources 2 Comments

  • Digg This Story

How to Beat the Heat Without Breaking Your Budget

The hottest time of the year is upon us and, unfortunately, rising temperatures lead to rising energy costs. The solution to your outrageous electric bills isn’t as simple as nixing the air conditioner, however. Most of us can’t stand to go without air conditioning in the summer and, in parts of the country, this lack of cooling could be downright dangerous. Don’t spend this summer maxing out your AMEX card on rising energy bills. There are some frugal adjustments you can make to your life that will chill you out, both figuratively and literally.

Cool Down Your Body

Drink Water – Are you drinking your 8-10 glasses a day? If you are like most people, then probably not. When you’re sweating a lot during the summer months, you should drink even more. Regular hydration helps to regulate your body regulate more efficiently. Even if you are just slightly dehydrated, your body will heat up.

A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water every hour or two. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, your body needs it. Some people think they can quench their thirst by consuming ice tea or a similar drink, but that isn’t true. Any kind of sugar or caffeine will only dehydrate you more. If you really want to cool down, plain water is the key.

Eat Smart - You can help your body stay cooler with the things you eat. Large, heavy meals can increase your body temperature. Try to eat more meals throughout the day that are smaller in portion. This is also a good weight loss technique, especially when combined with extra water intake. Cool snacks, such as Popsicles and fruits are always good to have on hand in the summer.

Wet Yourself – With water, that is. When you aren’t drinking it, you can submerge in it. Even a little bit of water can help. Whether it is a cool rag on the back of the neck or a splash to the face, ‘agua’ is your friend throughout the summer months. Here’s an interesting fact: applying water to pressure points on your body, such as your temple or wrists, will cool you down faster.

Swimming is also a great way to stay cool and is one of the best ways to get into shape, which is an added bonus. You may not have a pool, but there could be a community pool in the area. The most frugal option, however, is going for a dip in a natural body of water, be it a lake, river or ocean. Baths will also do the trick, but excessive bathing to stay cool will only drive up your water bill.

Dress Appropriately – Just because The Fonz wore a leather jacket year-round doesn’t mean you will get away with it, too. In the hottest part of the year, dress appropriately to keep yourself cool. Even a dark t-shirt can overheat you. If you are out and about, stick to light colors and thin materials. Also, keep in mind that natural fibers will breathe easier than synthetic materials.

Much of your body heat escapes through your feet and head, which is why you need to cover both areas in the winter and leave them bare in the summer. In situations where you can’t go without footwear, opt for something open-toed. As for hats, they will insulate your head and drive up your body temperature. Hats are only necessary in the summer if you are going to be in direct sunlight for extended periods and need protection from UV rays. If you need to wear a hat, choose a light weave straw or natural fiber hat to allow ventilation.

Stay Out of the Sun – Yes, there are some activities you will want to partake in outside, but try to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, about mid-afternoon. Early morning and early evening are the most bearable daylight hours, though you may want to invest in some mosquito repellent. If you are outside when it is scorching, take some water with you and try to stay in the shade.

Cool Down Your House

Close the Blinds/Curtains – You need to keep your house as insulated as possible in the summer. Heat comes in through windows very easily if they aren’t covered. Sure, it’s pretty outside, but your air conditioner will work overtime if you draw your curtains/blinds. Make sure that everyone in the house knows to keep the windows covered. This simple rule will save you more money than you realize.

Keep the Doors Shut – “Close the door, we can’t afford to air condition the whole neighborhood!” Many of us heard that or something similar from our parents at one time, and they weren’t just being old grouches. They were struggling to pay their high electric bill every month, just like you are now. Don’t let anyone in the house leave the door open for extended periods. If you are speaking with someone at the front door, step out and close the door or let that person in. Leaving the door open just a minute or two can really heat up the house.

Some people think that opening doors or windows will let a breeze in, thus cooling off the house. You won’t be letting the breeze in – you will be letting your cooler air out. For as long as your air conditioner is operating, it will always be cooler inside than it is outside.

Use Ceiling Fans – Using your ceiling fans is a great way to stay cool and save money. By circulating cool air, the fans will allow you to keep your thermostat at a reasonable level. Your air conditioner running at a moderate rate, combined with the use of ceiling fans, should make you feel quite comfortable during the summer. On that note, reversing the blades on your fans will assist your heater during the winter. Used wisely, ceiling fans can help you save money throughout the year.

Invest in Solar Screens - Although you are searching for ways to stay cool while saving money, this purchase will actually do both in the long run. Solar screens, affixed to the outside of your windows, will block the heat of the sun better than blinds and curtains combined. This is one of the cheapest ways to make your house more “green“, costing several hundred dollars for a modest-sized home.

If you live in a warm climate, these screens will probably pay for themselves with money saved in just one summer by reducing your energy costs. Still concerned about the initial price? Charging the screens to a low-interest rewards card should reduce the sticker shock. Also, you will be able to deduct the cost of the screens from your taxes the following year, so save that receipt!

Weatherstrip Your Doors and Windows – Weatherstripping your doors and windows will allow for even more insulation, which is helpful in both summer and winter. You may not even realize that cool air is seeping out of your house during the summer through tiny gaps around the doors and windows. Likewise, the cool air seeps back into your house during the winter. Weatherstripping is a simple DIY project that will cost a nominal fee when compared to the money you will save each month. Combining weatherstripping with solar screens is optimum and you will be able to see the difference in your energy bill as soon as the first month.

If you are having a rough time sweating it out in the hot sun this summer, then your rising energy costs probably don’t make you any happier. However, there are simple ways to make both your body and your home more relaxed. The above tactics will not only improve your personal comfort and reduce your monthly bills, they will help you protect the planet by conserving energy. It is a winning combination for everyone.

Posted:September 12th, 2007 in Energy Savings Green No Comments