Category Archives: Frugal Tips

Packing Lunch For Work Just Got Easier

Over the past two years of reading personal finance blogs, I’ve seen plenty of articles on packing lunches to save money. As much as I love the idea, I just couldn’t make it work. I absolutely HATED packing my lunch. Every time lunch rolled around, my sandwich was the soggiest thing I ever touched. It was disgusting.

It was so disgusting, I often found myself heading out to Subway or the local pizza shop for lunch (even with a soggy sandwich in the fridge). I was averaging about $7 a day and that added up to about $140 a month. Talk about a budget buster! Peer pressure also played a role but that’s no excuse.

Well, I am here to say that I found a solution. I started taking everything for my lunch in separate pieces. In other words, I assemble my sandwich at work and not at home. Wow, does that make a huge difference! I love packing now. I’m not sure how much my colleagues like the mayo, cheese and ham in the fridge, but they will have to live with it (and hopefully not eat it).

All I know is, we will now be saving about $140 a month on me not eating out for lunch. Also, I will be able to take leftovers to work once I start working in DC. You always need some variety!

Have any tips on motivation for packing your lunch? Sometimes it’s not as easy as you think….

Online Coupons: How to Track and Organize Them

This guest post is by Ann Smarty, a search blogger and social media enthusiast. Ann has just started a community of guest bloggers, so if you are interested in guest posting, join it as a beta tester!

Many people wonder if couponing ever makes sense: you never remember to apply the coupon in time even if you have it. Besides, having a coupon sometimes makes you feel like you want (or need) to but that thing – and in this sense couponing can even make you consume and spend more instead of helping you save.

Well, to me, the only way to make this work is to create a solid couponing strategy that would fit my needs – this means, to select the best tools that would allow to effectively track and organize coupons for me to only use them (exactly) when I need them.

This post shares some useful free web-based tools that could make it possible to take advantage of online tools you come across daily:

Coupon Tracking

There are plenty of tools aggregating online coupons and streaming them to you in your preferred way. Which one you choose is really up to you. Below I am listing only some examples rather than recommendations and I’d love to hear your thoughts:


Almost any site has an RSS subscription option and I am sure you already have some preferred RSS readers you tend to use. I prefer some browser based ones like NewsFox or Wizz RSS (which is currently having some security problems, so I am not linking to it).

Handy tip: there are also RSS to IM tools that deliver feed updates directly to your IM (example: iNezha for Gtalk). This is a good way to be alerted instantly (if time is an issue).



Like RSS, an email subscription option is really wide-spread. Even if a site does not offer one, you can always create it myself with tools like FeedMyInbox (that deliver any RSS feed updates to your inbox) and Google Alerts (that tracks new mentions of a keyword you need. If you want to restrict the alerts to one site only, use command, for example: [ coupons] and use it for tracking).

Handy tip: to prevent your inbox from being stuffed with automated updates, consider creating a customized money-saving alerts. Buxr is one possible option: with it you can create a coupon alert for a selected merchant, deal type or a product name. The alert will be delivered to your inbox once a deal corresponding to your parameters is shared on the site:

Buxr deal alert


Twitter makes it easier to follow anyone: almost any site is on Twitter now streaming its updates to its followers. So if you use Twitter and want to get real-time updates, just follow the coupon aggregator on Twitter.

Handy tip: consider using some alternative tools to track Twitter. For example, this app delivers any new search results (based on your settings) right to your email box:


Browser Addons

If you are an avid FireFox user (like myself), you have a couple of more tracking options to choose from. My favorite one is RetailMeNot which works the following way: (with the tool installed) navigate to your online store where you plan to buy anything and if the store currently has a coupon code to offer, the addon will notify you of it:

Retailmenot addon

Getting Organized

Now that you are aware of all the tools to collect the coupons around the web, let’s try to learn how we can organize them:

To-do Lists

Online to-do lists are normally used for productivity but they can help you in shopping as well. The options are quite a few; my personal favorites are RememberTheMilk (because it integrates with Google Calendar) and ToDoist (because I love its syntax).

Handy tip: the latter is a bit geekier and will probably be more fun for tech-savier shoppers. It allows to set the date and time for the reminder (as well as for recurring events):

Todoist syntax

So when you have a coupon and you want to remember to use it on a set date you will need to create an even with the following settings: [10/1/2010 @2 pm Dell laptop coupon].

Shopping Lists

Generally, shopping lists are used to organize your planned purchases and estimate the budget but they can also be used for couponing as well. GifTag, for example, allows to create a product page screenshot and stores it for the later reference. Thus it can easily be used for storing coupon pages: just make a screenshot of it.

Handy tip: if you use FireFox, consider installing their addon that makes a page screenshot with one click of a mouse:

Online wish lists

Incoming Mail Filtering

If you use email subscription as a major coupon tracking method, get inventive when it comes to storing and organizing your automated updates. I use Outlook (Express) that allows to create folders to sort the incoming mail. You can organize the email messages by the merchant name, date and / or a product type:

Handy tipGmail filters may do basically the same but automatically: for example store incoming messages by keyword in separate folder.

Email: organize coupons

Do you have a couponing strategy? Please share it in the comments!

10 Ways to Go Green and Save More Than $500 Per Year

I typically get very random emails throughout the day. I really have no idea where they come from or how they got my email address. However, every once in a while one comes along that has some good blogging material in it. Today I received an email from Humana (a health insurance company) about 10 ways to go green and save more than $500 per year. Ironically, only one of the tips have anything to do with health insurance. In order to save you some clicking, I will list the 10 ways here.

1. Clean Up Your Indoor Air

This is another health savings tip, because indoor air pollution can affect you physically. Learn about where that pollution comes from and how to treat it, including mold, natural gas, and pesticides that you can track into the house.

2. Change Heating and Cooling Filters When You Pay Your Electric Bill

It may sound pretty extreme, but if you have it makes sense. It also saves money – your heating and air units will act more efficiently, and you can save more money by buying filters in bulk. Changing your furnace filters on a monthly basis can save as much as 5 percent on your heating bills – as much as $100 a year.

Our apartment complex automatically changes our filter every 3 months or so. I have seen the old one after a change and believe me, you might want to change yours too!

3. Switch the Light Off

Many people use light during the day. Many times, it’s needed. But instead of leaving the light on when you’re not in the room, just switch it off. Even better, use a energy-saving bulbs: for every five you change, you can save an average of $27 a year. Common sense can go a long way and pay off over time.

We are working on changing all of our light bulbs to compact florescent. We are kind of bad about switching off lights though!

4. Drive More Efficiently

Take simple and safe precautions . Make sure your tires are inflated properly. Take off your roof rack to cut down on drag. Boost mileage by getting regular tune-ups . Try walking or biking for short trips to help the environment – and yourself.

I have always been very cautious about the way I drive. That means I use my brakes infrequently and start slow. It’s hard to keep up with these habits in Maryland with all of the bad drivers! One way to make sure you drive better is join a program like Progressive’s MyRate. It tracks your driving in order to help reduce your rates (or increase them if you drive bad). It keeps me in line in the car knowing that it’s there!

5. Reuse What You Can

Get reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water: if you consumed the suggested daily amount of water – eight 8-ounce glasses – the cost would be 5 cents per day. The annual cost would be only $18.25. With the cost of a 12-ounce bottle of water at $1, the daily cost would be $5.33 and the annual cost would total $1945.45. While this number is extreme, it’s easy to spend more than $500 annually on bottled drinks including water, juice, tea, and soda.

This is a hard one for me to break. I am completely addicted to soda and I buy a 20oz bottle every few days. I know it’s bad for me and the environment but I just cannot break the habit! Anyone have some tips?

6. Wash Clothes Only When You Have a Full Load

Two socks or a full load require the same amount of energy to wash. ‘Youll save money on your water bill when you wash clothes less often. Front-loading washers also can save you money: anywhere between $28 and $137 annually. To be safe, we’ll say you save $50.

I have talked about this before in my post on saving money and energy on your laundry.

7. Use Cold Water Whenever Possible

Home laundering can account for as much as 36 percent of your total household hot water use. You can save 90 percent of the energy you use to wash clothes when you switch to a cold wash. A switch to a cold-water detergent may cost a little more per load, but it evens out with larger loads. Also, reduce your water heater temperature to 120° F. It makes no sense to cool water that’s too hot to use. To put in perspective, washing your clothes in hot instead of cold for a year, uses more electricity than leaving the refrigerator door open for a year.

Personally, we wash all of our laundry in cold water expect for whites where we use warm water.

8. Bundle Up

In cold conditions, evaporation can quickly suck away warmth, especially if you’ve been active and then are stationary, leaving your skin exposed. Make sure to wrap yourself in insulating layers. Wear dark colors to absorb outside light and heat energy.

9. Strip Down

Heat-loss through evaporation is needed to regulate your body temperature in hot weather. Wear more clothes in fabrics like cotton and linen that allow your body to release evaporation. Wear white or light colors to reflect light and heat energy.

10. Camp Out Inside

You can dramatically decrease heating costs when you turn down your thermostat at night in the winter. Some people even turn off the thermostat, because they’ve learned how to sleep with several blankets and wear a cap. Even if you don’t go to those extremes, you can save $45 a year by adjusting your thermostat two degrees down in the winter and two degrees up during the summer.

We turn our heat down about 10 degrees each night. When my fiancee gets up in the morning, she turns up the heat. It’s an easy habit to learn and it will save you a bunch of money.

5 Tips For Saving Money and Energy on Your Laundry

Believe it or not, I like to do the laundry in our household. My fiance does the cooking and I do the wash. It’s kind of a compromise. Some people would call that weird but I just call it helpful. I will admit though, that I am kind of weird about my laundry. I have a set way of doing things and I do not trust anyone else to do it. Anyway, now that we are living in our own place, we have to think about saving money and energy. Here are some tips that we use in order to cut down on those two items:

1. Brrrrrr….That’s Cold!

Yep, you know what I mean. Washing in cold water saves quite a bit of money and energy. You don’t have to waste energy and money heating up the water. We wash all of our laundry in cold water. Use a pretreatment product for your tough stains instead of hot water.

2. Less is More

I’ve heard that using less detergent still gets your clothes clean. I have been going off of that philosophy for a few years now and my clothes are always clean. So, my advice to you is to use half of the recommended amount of detergent when washing. There is such a thing as over washing your clothes! This will help save you plenty of money. Just think, you will only have to buy detergent half as much now!

3. Concentrate on the Next Tip

Buying highly concentrated detergent can save you a bundle. While it costs a little more up front, it can help you make less trips to the store. We use All Small and Mighty concentrated detergent. It is 3x more concentrated than regular detergent and comes in a small bottle. If you but it at Amazon, you can get 8 bottles for a lot less than buying 8 bottles at the store. Combine this tip with the previous one and save some money!

4. Fill It to the Brim

This is probably one that most people know and follow. Don’t do a load of laundry until you can do a full load. This one is probably the hardest one for me to keep up with. I guess it’s because I don’t have that many clothes (or ones I still wear) and I need them washed more frequently. This can also be a problem for people who need a certain outfit for work. When I used to work at Sears in high school, I needed to wear a black shirt and tan pants. I did not have that many items that worked and instead of buying more clothes, I did the wash more frequently.

5. Get it While it’s Hot!

I am very weird about getting the laundry out of the dryer the second that it is done. I even set an alarm on my phone! The reason? I hate ironing! Taking the clothes out of the drying as soon as it’s done makes sure that wrinkles do not have time to form. My fiance thinks that I am weird for doing this, but I feel great not having to iron. That means less electricity for the iron!

These are just a few tips that we use. I know that there are many other ways to cut costs, but living in an apartment complex, they are just not available to us. Anyone have anymore unique cost cutting ideas?