Sunday, July 25, 2010

Redbook's List of Websites That Save You Money

Like many smart shoppers, the folks at Redbook magazine are big fans of comparison shopping.  As they say, "You can't even begin to negotiate on an item until you know its lowest possible going rate. "  And so they've put together a list of useful websites that offer ways to compare prices across the web.  Read up on what these sites offer by clicking here, and then put your new found knowledge to work!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Drugstore Deals

Even beauty magazines like Marie Claire consistently recommend drugstore products as money-saving ways for looking good on a budget (no need to spend more at a department store or salon when the low-cost version is just as good!).  Here are some of their latest picks:
  • Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Cleanser and Dove Beauty Bar, two cleansers that are gentle and do a bang-up job removing dirt and makeup.
  • Nivea Creme - consistently one of the best moisturizers on the market.
  • A pair of $5 Bath Secrets Exfoliating Gloves - more effective than many other products.
  • Neutrogena Summer Glow SPF 15 (many "designer" sunscreens are too greasy and their fragrance attracts insects).
  • Almost any drugstore shampoo and conditioner has a bigger R&D budget than little boutique brands - and so they often do what they say they will as well -- as better than their pricier counterparts from the salon.
One of my favorite drugstore beauty deals is Vaseline -- not only is it inexpensive (especially if you buy the no-name brand petroleum jelly), but it serves a multitude of purposes: use it as a lip balm; moisturizer - especially for the dry skin on elbows and heels; and make-up remover.  It will also sooth the chapped skin around your nose when you are suffering from a severe cold or allergy attack; make just-shaved legs smooth and shiny; provide a subtle gleam to fngernails; and pinch-hit for cuticle lotion.  You can even use a tiny dab to provide shine over your eye shadow (or on your bare lids), to moiturize your eyelashes and eyebrows at night.  And if you save money by coloring your hair at home, follow the practice used by most salons and protect the skin around your hairline by dabbing Vaseline along that area.

For even more beauty-related tightwad tips, click here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Top Ten Budget Web Sites

Creating a budget that is reasonable for your income, lifestyle, and financial goals is not always easy.  Thankfully, there is lots of help online.  Here are ten of our favorite web sites to help you develop a budget you can stick to:
  1. CNNMoney.com - a straightforward approach to budgeting
  2. Mint.com - recommends their own software as a budget tool, but even if you don't use that, their tips are helpful
  3. About.com's Financial Planning section - lots of good advice
  4. FreeFinancialAdvice.net - includes a useful budget template
  5. PBS Kids - great advice for teaching your kids to manage money
  6. Budget for recent grads - good review of possible categories to help you consider all expenses
  7. Redbook magazine - the basics delivered in a friendly format
  8. Ehow - standard advice in video format
  9. Sample Excel spreadsheet
  10. Kiplinger's worksheet - a useful tool for comparing projections to actual figures

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tightwad Tips for Keeping Cool

A blast of heat has hit a good number of us -- summer has really blazed in this week!  With temps in the high 90s (or above!), many of us frugal folk are struggling to find ways to stay cool without resorting to turning up our own air conditioners, or enjoying someone else's air conditioning by escaping to a costly movie theatre, or a shopping mall where there is no end to the expensive temptations.  So here are some ideas that won't cost as much:
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of cold water to keep your cool.  And spray yourself with a spritz of refridgerated water for an extra cool boost.
  • Eat icies.  Make ice pops from fruit juice and eat them often to keep your temperature down.  (It's been proven that melting ice makes the mercury fall faster than just freezing something - that's why the old-fashioned ice cream makers required salt for the freezing process.)  Freeze fruits like seedless grapes, watermelon, and bananas, too, for more frugally frigid treats.
  • Turn off the lights. Not only do lightbulbs increase a room's temperature, but a darker room will just feel cooler.
  • Take a tepid (not cold) shower, since the shock of cold water will only make your body conserve heat.  Follow up with lotions that you've cooled in the fridge for a bit.
  • Check out more online tips for keeping cool at The Boston Insider.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tips For Making a Budget

Lots of folks want to develop and stick to a budget, but they don't know how to get started.  So here are some suggestions of what to do to first figure out how much you have and how much you need, and then to plan how you'll spend what's leftover.

1. Make a list of all your sources of income: what comes in (after taxes and automatic deductions for healthcare, etc.) on a monthly basis.

2. Track what goes out (separate essentials – like the rent or mortgage – from the non-essentials (like your afternoon trip to the coffee shop or vending machine for a pick-me-up), writing down ALL expenses for at least a month.  If you are having trouble keeping track of your spending, you might consider using one of the. web sites like Wesabe.com and Geezeo.com that allow you to securely upload bills and credit card and savings accounts; slot them into categories; and view everything in colorful, easy-to-read graphics.

3. Consider your goals – are you saving for college? For retirement? For a special vacation? To pay off credit card debt? Separate goals into short-term goals (replace the water heater this year) and longer term goals (retire when you’re 65).  Note: if you don't already have an emergency savings fund (at least six months of loving expenses in an easy-to-access account in case you get sick or lose your job), that should be your top priority.  If you don't already have and contribute to an IRA or 401(k) account, that should be your second priority.

4. Consider how much you want to save and find a way to do this. Perhaps you have 5% of your take home pay directly deposited into a special savings account at your bank to fund your long-term goals, and then put all your spare change into a jar at home to spend on monthly splurges like a special dinner out.

5. Take a look at what you spend money on and cut back on the little things that will help fund your goals. First, cut out any expenses that are essentially throwing money away - like paying bills late so that you also have to pay late fees or interest.  Then consider small lifestyle changes: perhaps carry a water bottle you fill from the tap rather than buying bottled water. But there is no need to make yourself feel deprived – if you typically eat take-out twice a week, cut back to just once a week at first.

Continue to monitor your expenses, so that you are actually putting money toward reaching your life goals, rather than letting other things interfere with what you really want.