Friday, May 29, 2009
Congrats to t.kittye, winner of the finance book giveaway, who will receive Beth Kobliner's NY Times bestseller . If you're our lovely winner, contact me (via email or Twitter DM) with your mailing address so I can send it your way.
Our next giveaway begins right now. The rules for entering are exactly the same, but this time the winner will receive over $200 worth of coupons (grocery, beauty, and personal care items) in their mailbox, courtesy of TiredofBeingPoor.net and TAiMH!
Best of luck!
Winner of the Book Giveaway!: Beth Kobliner's NY Times Bestseller, Get a Financial Life
Posted by Wren Caulfield at 1:08 PM
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Sorry for the delay in posting, but MDT and I have been out of town for the long holiday weekend. We'll be back soon will more frugal fantastic-ness.
Good news! The book contest has been extended until this Friday, the 29th
TAiMH is giving away $200 worth of grocery coupons. Yep, just like that. The coupon giveaway entry period will begin after the book giveaway ends, on Saturday the 30th, and we'll announce the winner on or before June 15th. Same entry rules apply.
The Long Absence
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Here it is, the promised book giveaway! I've got a brand spanking new copy of Beth Kobliner's new book (NY Times Bestseller) . I'll be selecting a random winner this Friday (5/19), so get your entries in soon. Increase your chances of winning with multiple entries; see below!
- Friend/Follow us on MySpace, Facebook, and/or Twitter (see links on the left side of the blog). (1 entry each) If you're already our friend, leave a comment on this post and let me know.
- Subscribe to the feed. (1 entry)
- Vote in the poll at the top of the blog. (1 entry)
- Leave a comment on any post other than this one. (1 entry per comment)
- RT this giveaway by copying and pasting this message into Twitter: "RT @TiredoBeingPoor Enter TAiMH's book giveaway: Beth Kobliner's NY Times Bestseller, Get a Financial Life http://tinyurl.com/pj5egp #TAiMH" (2 entries)
Book Giveaway!: Beth Kobliner's NY Times Bestseller, Get a Financial Life
Monday, May 18, 2009
Image via WikipediaThanks to Shai at Converting a Spendthrift for the following frugal travel tips:
I travel a lot for work. You would think a humble researcher like myself would just live in her musty cubicle, but I don’t. Fortunately and unfortunately, I attend conferences, conduct site visits, make and attend presentations, moderate and facilitate at roundtables, and more. I receive a per diem to cover my expenses while I am on the road and have learned to stretch these dollars as far as possible. I know most people don’t get paid to travel, but the same principles apply.
Do Your Research
Research activities to do in your destination. Do a web search for “cheap and easy things to do in [fill in your destination].” Finding cheaper alternatives to the popular attractions will trim money from your budget.
Packing your bags
Before you even leave the house, the first thing you should do is pack light. You do not want to check multiple bags especially as the price often climbs exponentially after the first bag.
Second, if you know you will be purchasing souvenirs (more on this later) then leave room from the beginning. The thing you want to avoid the most is having to pay overweight bag fees (sometimes up to $300 a bag!). Weigh your bags before you leave home, adding a few pounds for souvenirs, to make sure your bags won’t incur overweight fees.
Airports: Prepare for Delays
If you are in the airport and become delayed (weather, mechanical, personnel – this happened to me once; my flight didn’t have a flight crew and we had to wait for a crew to come from three hours away) for any reason, you are frankly screwed. You could even be kept waiting all night, and we all know how much airport food costs. Here are some types of snacks you might want to keep with you when traveling:
- Salty – any type of nut falls in this category
- Sweet – snack cakes, fresh or dried fruit, applesauce
- Crunchy – crackers, chips (banana chips travel really well), pretzels
- Sour – pickles
- Savory – what is your personal flavor?
- Meaty – jerky, anyone?
- Healthier – energy bars and cereal bars work well here. Besides they travel the best of anything.
- Peanut butter (the best travel food ever, great on apples or crackers)
All liquids must be purchased in the airport.
I suggest you buy Crystal Light On the Go packs or similar products that can be added to a bottle of water. Reusing your water bottle or bringing your own reusable bottle that can be filled from fountains or at the food court will keep you from making multiple drink purchases.
Other costly things to avoid in the airport:
- Paying for internet access: Go to Travel Post to find out which airports offer free Wi-Fi access.
- Purchasing single-use movies: Don’t fall in this trap. If traveling with kids pack a deck of cards and a movie. If you have Netflix or other subscription movie services this is the perfect time to watch one.
- Books & magazines: Purchase books from the dollar store or take library books (I always fear leaving these behind, so I am extra careful.)
- Car rentals vs. Hotel Shuttles: If you plan on renting a car, don’t just yet. Instead, call the hotel ahead of time to find out if they offer shuttle service! Knowing this would have saved me at least $75 or more in cab fees in the past. Now this is one of the first things I ask of a hotel: “How extensive are your shuttle services?” Some shuttles will only go between the hotel and airport, but I have tipped a driver who has taken me on several detours to a supermarket, a museum, and elsewhere. Other drivers, however, will only make a pre-determined loop through the city.
If you must rent a car, your hotel might be able to get you a discount. Several of the hotels I have stayed in offer a discount if you rent a car through them. Ask ahead of time if the hotel can shave a few dollars off your car rental in a package deal.
- Taxis: Find out the meter rate for taxis in the city you are visiting, plus what they charge for extra passengers and baggage and wait times. Never trust the cab driver to have the quickest route, some (NOT all) are unethical and will try to take you the long way. I was once taken on a $27 dollar cab ride; the return ride was $12.
- Buses and Trains: Find out the scope and breadth of public transportation in the city where you are going and use it. Get a map, and don’t be afraid to ask the bus driver to let you know when your stop is coming up.
The biggest travel expense, besides airfare and accommodations, is usually food. To save money, you’ll need to modify the way you eat. My peers on these trips (whether they are federal employees, contractors, consultants, trainees and co-workers) love to eat heavy meals all day. They want to go out for a sit-down breakfast when the hotel we are staying in has a perfectly decent continental breakfast. Why waste ten to twelve dollars when you can eat for free and save time too?
When you book your hotel, ask whether breakfast in included. If so, take advantage of it. Eat before you leave and grab an extra yogurt, muffin, or piece of fruit to stash for a midday snack. Have a heavy late, late lunch or eat lunch in your room using your handy dandy peanut butter and a bagel you grabbed from the hotel breakfast. Then have a light dinner or eat off the appetizer menu or make a sandwich using the food stuffs you brought with you or purchased at a market along the way.
If you are going to eat out, search for coupons for local restaurants. Go to Restaurant.com and purchase discount gift certificates that you can use for yourself—but only do this if you know for sure that you want to go to that specific restaurant. My advice, however, is it avoid restaurants all together by purchasing your meals from a nearby supermarket or farmer’s market. Before you leave home, go to YellowPages.com enter the zip code of where you will be staying and search for markets and food vendors and plot them on your map, so you’ll be prepared when you’re out and about.
Everyone always recommends places for you to shop when you go on vacation. But remember, shopping is not entertainment! You shop to buy things you need. This is not to say you can’t go shopping on vacation; just be aware of what you’re buying. If you like having souvenirs, have a pre set amount of money that you will spend on them. I ask my children to pick one item they would like (t-shirt, baseball cap, poster, etc.) If you’re buying gifts, assign a monetary value for each person or a total of what you will spend. Think of your purchases beforehand. I bought my in-laws food produced in the local area. This is more thoughtful than just another item stamped with a city name, I believe.
If you have never watched your money while traveling or always end up spending more than you expected, the tips in this post are a great starter tool for travel budgeting. Happy trails!
Guest Post: Stretching Your Travel Dollars
Friday, May 15, 2009
List of things I got free this morning at Bay State Bike Week's Bike Breakfast:
- 2 bakery-fresh whole wheat rolls
- 1 bakery-fresh everything bagel
- 2 bakery-fresh corn muffins
- 1 bottle of purple PowerAde
- 2 huge oranges
- some sample Clif bars that I will pass on to MDT since they're banana bread flavored. Yuck.
- a bag of surprisingly good caramel corn
- a vegetarian breakfast burrito
- a yogurt and granola fruit parfait made with Bare Naked granola and Stonyfield Farms yogurt. Awesome.
- randomly, 2 brand spanking new copies of FridayBeth Kobliner's new book (NY Times Bestseller) Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties--which I will selflessly pass on to our beloved readers--look out for a giveaway in the next day or two.
- a new water bottle
- 2 reflectors
- 1 blinky safety light
- 1 tire gauge
- 1 mini-tire gauge on a keychain
So Thursday night, Jane and I had a fabulous time being fabulous lushes at StyleFixx Boston's Girls' Night Out. For obvious reasons (cough-we're broke-cough), we usually don't attend these sort of soirees, but we got a mad deal from Groupon--$10 for a ticket that includes 5 free drinks. Now that's about a third of what you'd normally spend for 5 drinks at a Boston bar (not including tips!), and even if we didn't get 5 drinks, we usually spend way more than $10 on a night out. Why not, right? Besides, we were looking for an excuse to get dolled up.
List of free schwag from StyleFixx:
- Red vinyl tote bag from Lola.
- sparkly pink lip gloss
- purple liquid eyeliner
- 4 cans of Bustelo Cool (delicious espresso beverage)
- a bunch of Lindt chocolates
- a huge can of salon moisturizing hairspray
- a big tub of vitamin C hair and scalp mud mask
- some high-heel scuff protectors
- weird stick-on nightime wrinkle remover patches
- various coffee, cake, and brownie samples from Finale (the highlight of the evening, as far as I'm concerned)
- a dumb magazine and a bunch of coupons for high-end salons that are still too expensive for me to ever visit
Take notes, kids.
I am the Queen of Free
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Last week, I wrote about how to make bike baskets. This week, I'm going to give you some options for making your own panniers (on the cheap).
There are a variety of items that can be transformed fairly easily into bike panniers. A fellow Bostonian made some out of 5 gallon water jugs (the kind that are used in water coolers) and was nice enough to share an instructable about it.
Brian Huntley, of crazyguyonabike.com, wrote a great tutorial about how he made some slightly heavier and sturdier ones out of kitty litter buckets.
You could recycle some old messenger bags or backpacks into removable panniers; this instructable shows you how to do it for under $10.
Or you could pick up a couple of old army bags from your local Army Surplus store to make backpack panniers. These can also be made with regular non-army backpacks.
Backpack panniers are by far my favorite because not only are they removable, but you can still use them as backpacks, thereby eliminating the need to switch the items you're carrying from bag to bag when you get off the bike.
If you have any more ideas for homemade bike panniers, let us know by leaving a comment. Feel free to send pictures; we'd love to see your work.
Update: Thanks to Suburban Dollar for including this post in the 179th Festival of Frugality.
DIY Project: Bike Panniers
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being poor. There are two ways to fix that, the one we spend most of our time on here at TAiMH is how to save, find deals, and just generally spend less money. The other side of that coin is making more money. If you, like me, have found yourself in a situation where a new, better-paying job is not on the horizon and the chances of a raise are almost nonexistent, increasing your income seems impossible.
Second jobs can be a life saver; they can also be a life sucker. Minimum wage for ten to twenty hours a week can ruin your social life even as it barely helps you squeak by. What’s a nearly broke person to do? This one decided to start a small business.
The second step after deciding that I was up for the small business challenge was determining what goods or services I could provide to my community, be it actual or virtual. The most important aspect of this decision was whether or not I felt I could make a profit. If I’m not going to make a profit, it’s just another hobby. So I looked at my life, what kinds of things did I do for free that other people get paid for? In my case it was baking. I make cakes and bring them to my office or to parties; just about anywhere I go I take a cake, or cupcakes, or brownies, or cheesecakes. . . . Other people get paid to bake, why shouldn’t I? This wasn’t too much of a stretch for me--my mother baked cakes out of our home for my entire childhood. And yes, it was a wonderland.
After figuring out what I wanted to do, I needed to come up with the numbers to prove to myself that it could really work. Lucky for me I already have quite a few of the supplies that I need, so that helps reduce my initial costs. The less it takes to start making money, the lower your risk.
Check back soon for more Adventures in Cake and we’ll see how far down the road to business ownership I've traveled.
Update: Thanks to Financial Highway for including this post in The Carnival of Twenty-Something Finance.
Adventures in Cake, Installment One
Last month I wrote about getting paid to use Twitter. I found a site today that will calculate how much your tweets are worth per month. Find out here and then sign up for TwittAd and start getting paid for doing practically nothing. Not a bad deal.
I'd love to hear about your experience with TwittAd or other paying Twitter ad service. Leave a comment below!
What's Your Tweet Worth?
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Thanks to Man vs Debt for choosing us as an editor's pick for this week's Carnival of Twenty Something's Finance Blogs. Check it out.
It's been a busy few days, but we'll be back with more superstar content asap. Until then!
TAiMH: Editor's Pick!
Friday, May 8, 2009
So, if you've been following my recent posts, we've got a little themed section going on about bike commuting, and I thought I'd provide a series of tutorials on how to accessorize your bike on the cheap. Today, the ubiquitous bike basket.
First of all, determine where you want the basket: front, back, or both. If your decide to go with a front basket, make sure to leave enough room so that your brake cords aren't cramped--this can lead to trouble. It's also best to only carry light items in front baskets, as heavy things can make it difficult to steer.
Front baskets: The best baskets for your handlebars are lightweight ones: wire or the traditional woven sort. You don't need to buy an expensive one made especially for bikes; anything with at least one fairly flat side will do. I've even seen repurposed (wicker) bathroom trashcans. You can attach the basket easily by tying the handles or the top edge to your handlebars with a sturdy ribbon, but for more stability, I recommend zip ties. The more you add, the more sturdy your basket will be, and the less pressure each holding point will be supporting. Again, be sure to position your basket so that pressure is not exerted on the brake cables.
Rear baskets: For these, you'll first need to acquire a rear carrier. Check Craigslist for cheap used ones, but make sure they come with all the hardware you'll need to attach it. You have more choices here as far as what kind of baskets you can use. You can still go with woven or wire, but you can also use less traditional bike baskets. I use a plastic milk crate, but you can use pretty much any container that's not solid (so you have holes through which to thread your zip ties). Take a look around the house; you're bound to have some sort of plastic organizer or something that you could use.
Keep in mind that you don't want the basket to be terribly wide because then your mobility will be impaired (i.e. you won't be able to fit between parked cars or through other tight spaces. Also, if you mount and dismount your bike by swinging your leg over the seat (like most people do), you'll need to make sure your basket isn't going to be too high for you to be able to do that comfortably.
To attach the basket, zip ties are your best bet; they hold really well, they're weather proof, and they're lighter than metal hardware. Make sure you used enough ties in various places that your basket can't move at all. Even a little play can be dangerous as it causes repeated stress to the ties.
Holding it all in
If you have an overflowing basket and you're worried about your stuff falling out, bungee cords are a quick, easy way to secure your stuff. Just stretch a cord or two from your handlebars or rear carrier, up and over your basket. If you're carrying smaller items, use your jacket or an old piece of cloth/plastic, etc. to drape across the top and then pull the bungee cords over that.
The worst thing is to arrive home with a wet basket full of soaked stuff, so if it rains much in your area and you're concerned about getting caught in it, rain proof your basket. You could just drape an old poncho over everything and tuck it in, but for a more stable and permanent solution, you might consider an attached cover. You could fashion a hard lid with some small hinges, but for something lighter weight, I made a flexible cover with a couple old shoelaces and plastic grocery bags. Use some wax paper and an iron to fuse several layers of grocery bag plastic (tutorials here and here) into a sheet large enough to cover the top of your basket, fold the side edges over about an inch and fuse again (for durability), and cut small slits through which to string the shoelaces. Then tie one side of the cover to the side of your basket (tight knots--you won't be untying them), and you're set. Drape the plastic over the basket to find a good fit, and fold over and sew the hinge-side corners so they lay nicely. Secure closed by tying the other shoestrings (loose knots or a bow tie) to the handle area on the other side.
Alternatives to the shoestrings include snaps or buckles (recycled from an old woven belt or the straps of a backpack. These you'll have to sew on, so they'll require a bit more time, but they're more durable than the shoestrings and make for quicker attaching and detaching. For the side that remains attached to the basket, you could use keychain O rings in place of the shoestrings for more durability and ease of movement. Note that woven/wicker baskets themselves aren't very weather proof. They could even mold eventually.
Here's mine. It uses shoestring on the hinge side and a piece of an old belt on the closing side. If I had it to do over, I'd use O rings instead of shoestrings.
DIY Project: Bike Baskets
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Image by WOBBLYMOL (a bit better and stopped sulking) via FlickrI have some old friends from back home visiting this week, and in an attempt to make my house less of a train wreck (not that they would really care either way), went on a mad cleaning spree Friday morning. So, in honor of spring and Earth Day (every day!), I'm going to share some cheap, green cleaning methods and recipes.
Don't think you need to use organic cleaners? Read the "Why Clean Green?" section after the recipes.
- Fabric softener (makes enough for 8 loads):
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Slowly and carefully mix baking soda and vinegar over a sink. Add water and mix well. Pour into a jar or bottle with a lid. Use 1/4 cup per load.
- Stain remover
1/8 cup baking soda
2 teaspoons water
Mix into a thin paste and apply directly to the stain. Let sit a minute or two and then scrub with an old toothbrush. Add a dash of lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide for extra whitening power; these work especially well on sweat stains (white clothing only).
- Spray window cleaner (makes 64 oz.)
1/2 gallon of water
1/8 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of organic liquid dish soap (optional)
Combine and pour into spray bottles.
For general nonporous surfaces:
- Disinfectant surface cleaner
2 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
Mix in a spray bottle. Wipe on with a cloth or scrubby sponge. No rinsing necessary.
- Powdered abrasive cleaner (use in place of Comet, etc.):
1 cup baking soda
1 cup salt (optional, gives extra scouring power)
Stir or shake to mix well. Sprinkle on sponge or directly onto surface. Store in a jar or shaker.
- Liquid/paste abrasive cleaner (use in place of Soft Scrub, etc.):
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup water
Mix into a paste. Apply to surface. Let sit a few minutes for tough stains. Wipe and rinse. Store in an old Soft Scrub or dish soap bottle.
- Homemade Carpet Deodorizer
1 cup baking soda
a drop or two of your favorite essential oil (optional)
Mix well and sprinkle onto carpet or rug. Let set for 30-60 minutes. Vacuum.
For the air: (OK, so air fresheners aren't exactly cleaners. Whatever.)
- Spray Air Freshener
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 cups of hot water
a drop or two of your favorite essential oil (optional)
Pour into a spritzer (old hairspray bottles are good) and begin banishing odors. Even though it won't hurt you, I'd still advise not to inhaling it. It'll taste really unpleasant. Not that I'd know, of course....
For walls and other painted surfaces:
- Crayon, pencil, marker, and scuff remover
Sprinkle onto a damp cloth, scrub, and rinse.
For bathroom sink/tub:
- Rust stain remover:
cream of tarter
Mix into a thick paste and spread onto rusty surface. Let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse.
- Toilet bowl cleaner and disinfectant:
3 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons baking soda
Pour into bowl and let sit overnight (or at least a couple of hours). Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda on a toilet brush, scrub any remaining spots, and flush.
- Furniture/wood polish:
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white vinegar or lemon juice
Wipe on with a clean, soft rag. combining three parts olive oil with one part vinegar or lemon juice. Just wipe on with a soft cloth.
- For cloths to apply cleaners, rip up an old towel or t-shirt.
- Save the bottles (especially spray bottles) of your old store-bought cleaners to reuse. Just remember to re-label them. Paper covered with clear packing tape works well.
- Save empty powdered Parmesan cheese or cornstarch containers to use as shakers.
- Use old newspaper instead of paper towels or rags on windows and other glass. It sounds weird, I know, but it works and doesn't leave streaks. Plus, you're recycling and not wasting resources/money by using up paper towels.
- Since many of these recipes call for white vinegar and baking soda, buy them in bulk to save even more money.
- Use a halved lemon as a scrubber. The citric acid works to help remove stains and cut grease, especially on aluminum and porcelain.
- To help unclog a slow drain, pour in a fizzy combo of baking soda and vinegar and let sit for 1 hour. Pour 4 cups very hot water down drain to rinse.
- To get rid of winter salt stains on boots or shoes, dampen a rag with vinegar and wipe clean.
- To remove coffee or tea stains from your favorite mug or teakettle, pour a little vinegar into it, swish it around and wipe with a damp cloth. Wash as usual.
- Similarly, to clean a coffeemaker, combine 2 cups of vinegar and 2 cups of water in the pot, swirl, and pour into the coffeemaker and run it. Repeat with plain water for 3 or 4 brews/cycles.
Why clean green?
Because the alternative is downright dangerous. Most store-bought cleaning products and air fresheners contain toxic chemicals which can cause respiratory and other health problems (e.g. dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, eye or skin irritations, birth defects, psychological disorders, cancer) over the long run, especially in children or the elderly. Many of these chemical toxins stay in our bodies for years, stored in fat cells.1 Exposure to airborne toxins from household cleaners is also thought to be responsible for a large percentage of asthma cases, especially in women and children, those who traditionally spend more time in the house. In one decade, asthma cases have increased 29% in men and 82% in women; the higher rate for women is believed to be due to women's longer exposure times to household chemicals.2 And according to an Environmental Protection Agency report from 1985, the toxic chemicals in household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than air pollution. And that was more than twenty years ago. Think of how many new chemical compounds have been introduced into the market and our homes since then.
 1997-2002 Health & Environment Resource Center
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Vital and Health Statistics, Current Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, 1994 (US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Center for Health Statistics); DHHS Publication No. PHS 96-1521; December 1995.
For more information about the safety of chemicals in household products, see:
What's In This Stuff?: The Hidden Toxins in Everyday Products - and What You Can Do About Them by Patricia Thomas
How Everyday Products Make People Sick: Toxins at Home and in the Workplace by Paul D. Blanc, M.D.
Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power by Mark Schapiro
Update: Thanks to Focus Organic for including this post in the All Things Eco Blog Carnival. It's also included in the Festival of Frugality and the Money Hacks Carnival.
Spring Cleaning: Do It Cheap, Do It Green
Monday, May 4, 2009
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. Short post today--just announcing the May E-book Giveaway. Three lucky winners will receive a copy of Dave Capra's Your Guide To Perfect Credit, courtesy of TiredofBeingPoor.net and True Adventures in Money Hacking. To enter, vote in the new poll (even if you voted in the old one) and leave a comment on any post from now until the end of May. We'll also give you an extra entry each for doing the following:
- Follow us on Twitter. If you already follow us, let us know that instead, and we'll still give you an extra entry.
- Retweet this giveaway (include #ToBP).
- Friend us on MySpace and/or Facebook (1 extra entry for each).
Best of luck!
Posted by Wren Caulfield at 10:28 AM
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Congratulations to Emilie, Lucy P., and TwoCrows, the winners of the April e-book giveaway. You will all receive a copy of The Complete Newbies' Guide to Online Forex Trading. Thanks for your great comments! Contact me by e-mail or Twitter for your books.
I'll be announcing the May giveaway on Monday, so stay tuned.
Giveaway Winners: April
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