Friday, July 4, 2008

Web Barterers' Tricks of the Trade


Cash-strapped consumers and businesses are coming up with creative ways to fight higher costs. One practice gaining popularity: the ancient custom of bartering.

Teia Henderson, a self-employed accountant in Cary, N.C., says there has been less demand for her services lately amid a sputtering economy. So rather than plunk down cash for new bunk beds for her children, she posted an online ad offering to exchange accounting services for a set.

"It's not about charging clients money," says the 35-year-old Ms. Henderson. "It's about the end product -- getting the bunk beds." This method of doing business also helps her add to her client list. She now does the books for a contractor, for example, who in exchange installed a patio in her backyard.

The rise of bartering for goods and services means consumers are now trading for such things as wedding services, tombstones, breast augmentation and Botox treatments. The cash-free transactions are often facilitated through the Internet and barter exchanges, which are third-party record keepers that coordinate trades between business owners.

A number of online bartering Web sites -- including U-Exchange, and Barter Bucks -- are seeing significant growth. Online classified-ad site Craigslist also has seen its monthly "barter" postings across all cities double to 121,173 in April, up from 63,624 in April 2007.

Depending on the site or barter exchange, consumers can choose whether to trade directly with someone who has something they want or to "bank" their credits -- some of which are worth thousands of dollars -- and use them at another time.

But before signing up, individuals need to assess the potential costs. Some barter businesses have no fees, but others charge an introductory or annual rate, often a few hundred dollars. They also may charge a monthly fee of about $10 to $15 and a percentage of the value of the trade, often 10% to 15%.

Traders need to scrutinize the fairness of the trades, consider the tax implications and exercise the same due diligence they would with a cash purchase. This typically means checking references and inspecting products. "The drawback is that it's not as easy to trade as it is to use cash," says Tom McDowell, executive director of the National Association of Trade Exchanges, an industry association for barter-exchange companies in Mentor, Ohio. "There's a little bit of an inconvenience because you have to be flexible about where you're doing business."

Traders also need to consider the potential tax liabilities. The Internal Revenue Service says income from bartering is taxable and needs to be reported. Some barter companies keep track of the credits consumers earn with their trades and send them the necessary tax documents.

"There's no tax advantage to bartering and no tax disadvantage," Mr. McDowell says. "It's treated exactly the same as cash."

In the past two years, membership in trade-exchange businesses has climbed 10% to 15% annually compared with 5% to 8% annual growth prior to that, says Mr. McDowell. He estimates his members do $3.8 billion to $4.3 billion in trades a year.

Debbie DeSousa, chief executive and president of Barter Bucks, says trading also provides businesses with more potential clients and revenue, even if it isn't in cash. Barter Bucks works like a bank, but it stores "barter bucks" rather than dollars. Participants use cash for shipping, tax and to leave a tip for, say, a restaurant or hair stylist.

"You can't go shopping until you put money in your account," says Ms. DeSousa, who personally has bartered for everything from dental work and eyeglasses to auto repairs and part of the cost of a manufactured home.

Richard Harris, president of the National Commercial Exchange, a St. Louis-based barter-exchange business, says: "We had one person find his birth parents by hiring a detective with his [trade] credits." Mr. Harris says he has also had clients avoid bankruptcy by paying off their debts with credits.

Home of the Free Stuff

Free attractions abound in Washington, D.C. Here, a few attractions off the well-trod path.
Most visitors to Washington, D.C. know there's a bevy of free cultural and historical attractions, from the Smithsonian museums to the Lincoln Memorial or Washington monuments. There are so many free things to explore in D.C. that it's easy to burn out long before your wallet does.

If you've hit the major freebie attractions like the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum and are seeking something a little different, here are five ideas for free things to do, slightly off the well-trod path:

A dancer performs Latino dance during a performance at the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall. The yearly event, which started in 1967, presents contemporary culture and encourages visitors to learn through participation in song, dance, conversation and eating.

Music outdoors. During the warm months, there are free concerts in Washington nearly every day of the week, but a few venues have shows that stand out, such as the National Zoo's free Sunset Serenades on Thursday evenings. The concerts, which start around 6:30, draw a mostly family crowd for picnics on Lion/Tiger Hill, which slopes down to the stage. Acts, mostly local bands, play a variety of easygoing styles from jazz to zydeco. To reach the zoo, take the Red Line of the Metro to Woodley Park.
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW. Tel: 202-633-4800. Web site

In the heart of downtown Washington, the U.S. Navy Band plays "Concerts on the Avenue" at the Navy Memorial Plaza every Tuesday at 8 from now until Labor Day. The Navy Memorial is at the Archives-Navy Memorial Metro stop on the Green and Yellow lines.
701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. Tel: 202-737-2300. Web site

And one of the biggest free concert programs is this week's Smithsonian's Folklife Festival. This year's festival features artists from Bhutan, Texas and elsewhere; concerts are held in tents set up throughout the National Mall. The festival has dozens of concerts, dances, and demonstrations daily from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with evening events beginning at 6 p.m. (July 2-6)
National Mall, between 7th and 14th streets, NW. Tel: 202-633-6440. Web site
[Visitors look at an altar depicting Frida Kahlo for the Day of the Dead at The Mexican Cultural Institute on Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, in Washington, D.C. . Mexicans and the Mexican community living in the United States celebrate the Day of the Dead, in which families remember their dead and celebrate the continuity of life]
Associated Press
Visitors look at an altar depicting Frida Kahlo for the Day of the Dead at The Mexican Cultural Institute.

Check out some international offerings. As the home to foreign embassies, Washington also offers places to get a glimpse into cultures beyond our own. The Mexican Cultural Institute, located at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 2829 16th Street, has several art galleries open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2829 16th Street, NW, Tel: 202-728-1675. Web site

More free cultural displays – photos, maps, and costumes from opera performances -- can be found at the Inter-American Development Bank's Cultural Center, currently celebrating the 100th anniversary and restoration of Buenos Aires' Teatro Colon.
1300 New York Ave., NW. Tel: 202-623-1213. Web site

And the Japan Information and Culture Center, located at 1155 21st Street, NW, four blocks from the Farragut North Metro station on the Red Line, presents "Four Seasons of Kyoto," an exhibit of artistically displayed kimonos, through July 10, open weekdays 9-5.
1155 21st St., NW. Tel: 202-238-6949. Web site

Visit a few religious centers. One of the most beautiful spots in D.C. is the interior of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the stunning church that honors the patron saint of civil servants, and the site of President John F. Kennedy's funeral mass in 1963. Each fall, this cathedral celebrates the "Red Mass," a special service honoring the Supreme Court justices. The interior of the church is based on the mosaic décor of the churches of Ravenna, Italy. The cathedral holds weekday masses at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., noon and 5:30 p.m., but visitors can peak into the cathedral during the hours in between.
1725 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Tel: 202-347-3215.
The west front of the Washington National Cathedral at dusk.

The Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center is more of a gathering place than a place of worship, but the center's art gallery hosts an exhibit of "Hebraica Mirrors" of prints designed with Hebrew calligraphy, starting July 1.
1529 16th St., NW. Tel: 202-518-9400. Web site

Another free wonder, the National Cathedral, (officially called Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul) situated at one of the highest points in the city, is a gorgeous structure with exquisite stained glass and a beautiful garden for spiritual contemplation. Count the 110 gargoyles and 215 stained glass windows.
Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues, NW. Tel: 202-537-6200. Web site

Take a break in the city's gardens and green areas. Inside the greenhouse and surrounding grounds, the U.S. Botanic Gardens are a natural respite from the hustle of the Capitol and the Mall. The National Garden, part of the Botanic Gardens, features plants from all over the nation. Just across Independence Avenue is Bartholdi Park, with its centerpiece, the Bartholdi Fountain, the stunning work depicting three sea nymphs holding a large basin and adorned with fish, turtles and shells (you almost have to see it to take it in) first exhibited in Philadelphia at the International Exposition of 1876, and created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the same sculptor responsible for the Statue of Liberty. The Botanic Garden's restored conservatory – which soars to a height of 80 feet -- contains rare orchids from the Himalayas, medicinal plants such as Aristolochia littoralis from Central America, and blooming cacti from the Mojave Desert.
245 First St., NW. Tel: 202-225-8333.
A pond reflects the U.S. Capitol in the National Garden at the U.S. Botanic Gardens. The National Garden was founded to educate visitors about American plants and their role in the environment.

A bit further afield, the nature center inside Rock Creek Park is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9-5, offering daily guided nature walks, planetarium shows and "creature features," kids' programs about the animals that inhabit the park.
5200 Glover Road, NW. Tel: 202-895-6070. Web site

Enjoy some pomp and circumstance. On the Virginia side of the Potomac, the memorial to Iwo Jima, more formally known as the United States Marine Corps War Memorial, is the site of a sunset parade each Tuesday, with music from the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and a precision drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. No reservations are necessary, and visitors sit on the grass surrounding the memorial. Until July 28, the parade will start at 7 p.m. Aug. 5 and 12, the parade will start at 6:30.
Arlington Boulevard and Meade Street, Arlington, VA. No phone. Web site

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Appliance Repair

Problem: You want to save money by fixing your broken electronics and small appliances yourself instead of buying new ones.

Solution: Post the problem related to your item on FixYa (, a Web site designed to help consumers conduct do-it-yourself repairs through tips from an online community of technical experts. You can search the site by manufacturer or type of item, ranging from dehumidifiers to answering machines. Or try the Wilson Electronics Forum (, where you can post concerns, such as "Help, my TV is dead," upload photos of your dysfunctional television picture or appliance, and read repair suggestions from site members. You could check the troubleshooting guide in your product manual, but if you don't have it, search the product-manual database at Manage My Home (, by clicking on "Home" and then on "Products and Manuals" in the drop-down menu. If you've lost hope in trying to fix an appliance, you can try to sell irreparable items at a nominal price for parts on Craigslist or eBay.

Caveat: Don't throw away a newer broken item before ruling out that it's no longer under warranty. Call or email the company's customer-service or repair department, which can usually tell you from the item's serial number.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fill 'er Up: Gas Is Cheap in Tijuana, So Californians Buy Big Fuel Tanks

Pickups Make Lots of Runs Over the Border;
How Mr. Robinson Pays for His Vacation
June 24, 2008

SANTEE, Calif. -- As gasoline prices rise ever higher, some drivers have discovered an alternative to runaway fuel inflation in the U.S.: subsidized gas just minutes away in Mexico.

Gasoline is selling for six pesos per liter across the border in Tijuana, which works out to about $2.50 a gallon, way cheaper than gas prices approaching $5 a gallon in San Diego County. Diesel fuel is cheaper still -- $2.19 a gallon.
[James Blue]

All of this is a boon for James Blue's auto shop, located in a strip mall in the arid hills east of downtown San Diego. His business, Express Performance Center, installs extra-large fuel tanks in pickups and other work vehicles used for runs to fill up with cheap gas in Mexico.

Already this month, Mr. Blue's shop has installed 12 tanks, more than he sold in all of last year. He expects demand to grow throughout the summer. Bulk fuel users, including farmers and construction contractors, are his best customers, he says. Many drive to Mexico several times a week, often looking to bring enough fuel back to sell to neighbors and co-workers.

"It's a daily thing for some: run across the border and fill up," explains Mr. Blue, an easygoing 36-year-old. His garage charges plenty to install either a 75-gallon or 98-gallon tank; the tanks fit snugly across the back of a pickup truck bed, against the cab. Special "t" switches let a driver alternate between gasoline sources. Big tanks cost $1,700 installed, while the smaller models go for $1,300.

Either is a bargain, says Gustavo Robinson, a plumber who works for the public school district of Chula Vista, Calif., a nearby border community. The 75-gallon tank he installed this week and the original 28-gallon tank he'll keep using will allow him to save at least $200 when he fills up in Mexico. With vacation trips planned for Las Vegas and San Francisco, he expects to do that a lot this summer.

The gas rush is also good for Mr. Blue's principal supplier, Transfer Flow Inc. of Chico, Calif. Marketing director Warren Johnson says the company is enjoying one of its best seasons in 25 years. In May, Transfer Flow moved more than half a million dollars worth of larger replacement and refueling tanks to wholesale and retail customers. Mr. Johnson says hundreds of tanks are on order to dealers in border states.

Crossing the Border

Crossing the border, of course, can be a hassle, with long gas lines that can take hours. Many of Mr. Blue's customers go at dawn to avoid the traffic. Others prefer an early evening run, particularly to the sleepy town of Tecate, where the wait to cross back into the U.S. is shorter, often less than 20 minutes, compared with an hour or more at busier spots like Tijuana and Otay Mesa.

Mexicans aren't happy about the gringo invasion and the long lines at filling stations near the border. Over the past week, a diesel shortage developed in Tijuana, where many big Mexican trucks and Americans hoping to save money converge on Pemex filling stations run by Petróleos Mexicanos, the state oil monopoly.
A sign at a gas station in Tijuana shows the price of premium gasoline at 7.53 pesos a liter, or about $2.71 a gallon, while indicating that across the border in the U.S. gas costs 16.00 pesos a liter, or about $5.76 a gallon.

This week, only a handful of filling stations are offering diesel in Tijuana, compared with the 35 that normally offer the fuel, according to Joaquin Aviña, a spokesman for an association of 157 Pemex station owners in Tijuana.

Pemex historically set gas prices along the border to be within a few cents per gallon of U.S. prices. That deterred motorists from the two countries from comparison shopping in a binational market where U.S. citizens enjoy a distinct advantage: They are free to travel both ways across the border, while Mexicans require visas to enter the U.S.

$20 Billion Subsidy

But as the price of gas has skyrocketed in the U.S. in the past few years, Mexico has kept its prices in the border area from rising as quickly in order to keep fuel affordable for the poor. In May, Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced an additional $20 billion subsidy this year as an emergency measure intended to keep inflationary forces in check.

Pemex chief Jesús Reyes Heroles was questioned last week by reporters in Mexico City, asking whether U.S. demand is behind the border shortages. Mr. Reyes said he did not anticipate big supply problems in the months ahead, but added that Pemex is considering "extraordinary measures" to address the imbalance between U.S. and Mexican prices.

There is another reason Mexicans do not like the American invasion of their filling stations. Even though Mexico is an oil exporter, it doesn't have the refinery capacity to turn enough of the oil into gasoline, and therefore imports much of its gas from the U.S. By subsidizing the fuel and reselling it to Americans at cut rates, the Mexican government loses twice.

For the first four months of the year, Pemex sold gasoline for about $89 a barrel, but paid on average more than $110 a barrel for imports, according to data from the Mexican Energy Ministry. In April, Mexico's gasoline-import bill ballooned to more than $120 a barrel. The government's calculation of the first quarter subsidy bill: $1.8 billion.

The shortage of diesel in Tijuana is bad enough that some filling stations are now refusing to serve Americans. Ken Sullivan, a San Diego swimming-pool contractor, was turned away at a Pemex station near the Otay Mesa crossing east of San Diego. The 49-year-old American driver tried to join a line of 18-wheel trucks at a Pemex station he usually patronizes, and was told he wouldn't be served. A Pemex attendant who gave his name as Sergio confirmed to a reporter that only "corporate" buyers would be allowed to fill their tanks until more supply comes from Pemex.


A backlash against U.S. buyers could ultimately cause Americans to decide that it isn't worth the hassle of crossing the border. But so far, the allure of cheap gas appears too strong to resist. Mr. Blue, the vendor of extra gas tanks, says he's even getting calls from motorists who want to add a second fuel tank in their trunks' spare-tire wells. Others are looking to rig spots where a 40-gallon portable tank can be secured.

Crossing the border with fuel in a container that isn't attached to a vehicle's engine is illegal. California motorists routinely are sent back to Mexico and forced to empty unattached tanks spotted by U.S. border inspectors.

"It happened to someone who lives near me," says Mr. Robinson, the Chula Vista plumber, who explains U.S. Customs agents at the border detained a neighbor of his when they spotted a 100-gallon container of diesel in the bed of his truck, then sent both driver and truck back to Mexico.

In the end, the California motorist found a line of trucks waiting to fill up at a Pemex station and was able to sell them his cargo. "He said he charged $4 a gallon," Mr. Robinson says.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Consumers Turn On To Tap Water to Trim Costs

Tap water is making a comeback.

With a day's worth of bottled water -- the recommended 64 ounces -- costing hundreds to thousands of dollars a year depending on the brand, more people are opting to slurp water that comes straight from the sink. The lousy economy may be accomplishing what environmentalists have been trying to do for years -- wean people off the disposable plastic bottles of water sold as stylish, portable, healthier and safer than water from the tap.

Measured in 700-milliliter bottles of Poland Spring, a daily intake of water would cost $4.41, based on prices at a CVS drugstore in New York. Or $6.36 in 20-ounce bottles of Dasani. By half-liters of Evian, that will be $6.76, please. That adds up to thousands of dollars a year. Even a 24-pack of half-liter bottles at Costco Wholesale Corp., a bargain at $6.97, would be consumed by one person in six days. That is more than $400 a year.

But water from the tap? A little more than 0.001 cent for a day's worth of water, based on averages from an American Water Works Association survey -- about 51 cents a year.

U.S. consumers spent $16.8 billion on bottled water in 2007, according to trade publication Beverage Digest. That is up 12% from the year before, but it is still the slowest growth rate since the early 1990s, said editor John Sicher.

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., the biggest bottler of Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani, recently cut its outlook for the quarter, saying the weak North American economy is hurting sales of bottled water and soda, particularly 20-ounce single-serve sizes consumers had been buying at gas stations.

"They're not walking in and spending a dollar plus for a 20-ounce bottle of water," said beverage analyst William Pecoriello at Morgan Stanley. Flavored and "enhanced" waters like vitamin drinks also are eating into plain bottled water's market share.

Mr. Pecoriello said Americans' concern about the environment also is a factor, driven by campaigns against the use of oil in making and transporting the bottles, the waste they create and the notion of paying for what is essentially free.

The Tappening Project, which promotes tap water in the U.S. as clean, safe and more eco-friendly than bottled water, launched an ad campaign in May. The company has sold more than 200,000 reusable hard plastic and stainless-steel bottles since November.

Linda Schiffman, 56 years old, a recent retiree from Lexington, Mass., bought two metal bottles at $14.50 apiece for herself and her daughter from Corporate Accountability, a consumer-advocate group, after she swore off buying cases of bottled water from Costco. "I've been doing a lot of cost cutting since I retired," said Ms. Schiffman, a former middle-school guidance counselor. "Additionally, I started feeling like this was a big waste environmentally."

Aware of those concerns, some bottled water makers are trying to address the issue. Nestlé SA says all its half-liter bottles now come in an "eco-shape" that contains 30% less plastic than the average bottle, and it has pared back other packaging. PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola also have cut down on the amount of plastic used in their bottles.

While it is difficult to track rates of tap-water use, sales of faucet accessories are booming.

Brita tap-water-purification products made by Clorox Co. reported double-digit volume and sales growth in May and have seen three straight quarters of strong growth.

Robin Jaeger of Needham, Mass., fills her kids' reusable bottles with water from the house's faucet. But she doesn't use water straight from the tap.

"My kids have come to the conclusion that any water that's not filtered doesn't taste good," she said.

Her reverse-osmosis filter system costs about $200 every 18 months for maintenance -- still cheaper than buying by the bottle. While Brita is the dominant player in water filtration, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Schmitz, sales of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pur water-filtration systems also are growing. Sales from the Pur line have increased almost every month since mid-2007, said Bruce Letz, its brand manager. He declined to give sales figures but said "the water-filtration category is expanding very rapidly."

Cut your grocery store costs

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How to Make a Hard Cover for a Paperback Book

Perhaps you have a juicy paperback that you don't want others to know that you are reading,or you want to protect your paperback's covers from damage, or you just don't like the look of the cover artwork? Here's a way to turn that paperback into a "hardcover" using materials that you probably already have around the house.


1. Choose the softcover book that you want to change to a hardback.
Heavy old manila Folder
Heavy old manila Folder
Obtain sufficient pressed cardboard to cover the book twice. Cereal boxes, stiff "manila" file folders and pressed cardboard mailing "envelopes" will work well.
Trace around your book.
Trace around your book.
Trace the size of your cover onto one of the pieces of cardboard.
4. Add 1/8th of an inch (2mm) to each of the narrow ends.
5. Cut out the rectangle and use it to trace three others (four total) just like it.
6. Lay two pieces on each other. If using a cereal box or similar packaging, it is best to lay the printed sides together and leave the plain sides to the outside.
7. Cut a strip of contact paper that is twice the size of the book cover with an extra inch all around.
Place, Trace and cut the contact paper
Place, Trace and cut the contact paper
Place the cardboard rectangles side by side on the backing side of the contact paper.
9. Trace the rectangles.
Corners mitered and flaps cut.
Corners mitered and flaps cut.
Miter cut the corners of the contact paper.
Peel the backing and place the contact paper sticky side up.
Peel the backing and place the contact paper sticky side up.
Peel off the backing of the contact paper.
Carefully position the cardboard.
Carefully position the cardboard.
Place the cardboard rectangle(s) on the sticky side of the contact paper and fold over the top and bottom end flaps..
Fold in two of the side flaps.
Fold in two of the side flaps.
Fold the flaps on one end over the cardboard.
Taco fold in half.
Taco fold in half.
Fold the "covered" end over the "uncovered" end.
Pull the remaining flaps over and stick them to the cover.
Pull the remaining flaps over and stick them to the cover.
Fold the remaining two flaps over the resulting cardboard "sandwich".
One down, one to go...
One down, one to go...
Repeat the process to make a second cover.
Cut a strip that is as wide as your book is tall...
Cut a strip that is as wide as your book is tall...
For the connecting strip or "back" of your book, cut a strip of contact paper that is as wide as your book is tall, and is as long as at least twice the width of your book plus 2 or 3 inches.
18. Peel off the backing from the contact paper.
Fold onto itself, leaving at least 2 inches of sticky exposed.
Fold onto itself, leaving at least 2 inches of sticky exposed.
Fold the contact paper over onto itself, leaving 2 inches uncovered at one end.
20. Trim the (sticky) sides away but leave the end flap attached.
Slide inside your cover "envelope" and press to adhere.
Slide inside your cover "envelope" and press to adhere.
Slide the sticky flap into one of your covers and adhere it to the inside.
Assemble the cover.
Assemble the cover.
Finished Cover
Finished Cover
Tuck the above flap end into the second "cover".
Back cover...
Back cover...
Front Cover...
Front Cover...
Place one cover of your book inside one side of the finished cover and the other cover inside the other finished cover.
Tuck in the back...
Tuck in the back...
Tuck the "back" flap into the remaining side cover and you're done!
Book with completed "hardcover" ready to read.
Book with completed "hardcover" ready to read.
Enjoy your newly hard covered book!


* The flexible center spine allows you to re-use the cover for another book of the same size, even if the book is slightly thicker (or thinner) than your original.
* You may also customize the cover and then apply clear contact paper over your original design(s). Try flowers.


* Scissors are edged tools. Handle with appropriate care.
* The sticky contact paper can stick to things and get stuck. Handle carefully.l

Things You'll Need

* Contact Paper, or just glue fancy papers like scrapbook paper or wrapping paper to cardboard and let dry before you start.
* Pressed cardboard (not corrugated.) such as cereal box board, an unused binder, the backing of a pad of art paper such as drawing paper or watercolor paper or the like.
* Scissors, Pen & Ruler.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Crazy Sale!: Free Coupons: Clothing

I just want to pass along this crazy sale that's going on at Geoffry Beene, Bass, Van Huesen .You can use these coupons and be aware that from June 5-June 8 everything will be 40% OFF. Izod stores will have selections with 60% with a 30% OFF coupon below you can recieve even more savings. You can use these coupons and be aware that from 5-8 everything will be 40% OFF. Use these coupons for additional savings.Enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tired of Paying for Oil: Drill in Your Backyard: Video

Oil, it's being referred to as the "black gold" and it can make you rich if you can find it. It could even be residing in your very own backyard as this man in Indiana has found:



Don't forget to check out Fee Slurpee Day at your local 7-11.

Here are the details:

When: Friday, July 11 at 12:00am
Where: Everywhere

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Learn to Make your own watercolors

Here's a recipe to make your own watercolor paints. These vivid, non-toxic paints can be used wet or allowed to dry and used like regular watercolor paints. We had great fun making and using them!


3 Tbs. baking soda
3 Tbs. corn starch
3 Tbs. white vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
food coloring


1. Mix vinegar, baking soda, corn starch and corn syrup together in a small bowl.

2. Divide the mixture into several small plastic tubs or jar lids.

3. Add six to eight drops of food coloring to each tub or lid then mix.

4. Use Wacky Watercolors as they are or let them dry into hard cakes of paint. If you use them while they're dry, be sure to wet the paintbrush before painting.
(Original author unknown)


Use paste food coloring if you want especially vivid colors and lots of color choices. Some oil based food coloring will not stir in well, but it will blend perfectly by the time it's dry.

Take the opportunity to teach little ones about color mixing. We made purple, green and orange and then went a step further to make mixtures like red-violet and blue-green by adding one part of one primary color to two parts of another. Mix all three primary colors to make brown.

You can make a larger batch and make the paints in an old ice cube tray. Other possible containers are empty watercolor kits and pill boxes (the kind with a compartment for each day of the week).

The more food coloring you add, the more vivid the paints will be.

These take a long time to dry! Ours were in small lids and took about 24 hours.

If you make them in bottlecaps, you can store the dry paints in a plastic baggie or even tie a few of them in a small cloth with a ribbon as a sweet gift.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why absolute real estate auctions are big deals

On the way home from town this past weekend, we passed a farm that was going to be sold at auction. My wife saw that the sale was an absolute auction. She asked me what was so great about an absolute auction. When she said that, my ears perked up.

An absolute auction implies that a sale will occur as long as at least one person bids any amount on the item for sale. So if I were the only person to show up for that auction and I bid a dollar, I’d get the whole farm for a dollar. Neither the seller nor the auctioneer could rescind their offer.

Auctions, unless otherwise specified, may have a reserve price, meaning that the auctioneer can refuse to sell an item if the bid price isn’t high enough. Sometimes the auctioneer will state that a particular item has a reserve, but they don’t have to do this.

If the auctioneer has advertised the sale as an absolute auction, though, his hands are tied. He cannot refuse any bids. Now the flip side is that an absolute auction is likely to draw more bidders than an auction that isn’t absolute (that is, one that can have a reserve price), because the bidders know that they won’t be wasting their time by going to an absolute auction. (Basically, I’m not going to be able to get the farm for a dollar. Someone else will outbid me.)

I don’t know what the reason for the sale of the farm is, but the seller is taking a risk by selling it at absolute auction. The farm could go for peanuts. But the seller may not have a choice. There are some reports of foreclosure auctions failing to get any bids because the minimum bid, or else the reserve, is too high. The fact that the seller is giving up the right to refuse low bids is a really big deal.

I suspect that as this housing crisis wears on there will be more absolute auctions: sellers getting whatever they can.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Fully working, manual record player made entirely of paper. To play the record the
handle needs to be turned in a clockwise direction at a steady 331/3rpm. The paper cone
then acts as a pickup, amplifying the sound enough to make it audible. (Record shown,
'The Sound of Music' 1965).

Monday, May 19, 2008

How to Make Your Own Toothpaste

Whether you don't like the flavor of commercial toothpaste or are looking for little ways to cut expenses, making toothpaste can be a fun project for anyone who's into making their own stuff. Plus, you can avoid many of the artificial ingredients contained in commercial toothpaste, such as sweeteners (usually saccharin), emulsifiers, preservatives, and artificial flavors.[1]This can be an especially enjoyable activity for children, who are at risk for developing fluorosis and symptoms of toxicity if they swallow fluoride toothpaste on a regular basis.[2][3] Your homemade toothpaste will be fluoride-free, and children might be more enthusiastic about brushing their teeth with toothpaste that they made themselves. Pour a half of a cup of baking soda into the mixing bowl . Baking soda has a natural cleansing ability and can even be found in some commercial toothpaste. It's non-toxic and will help polish your teeth. Some recipes call for table salt, in which case you should mix three parts of baking soda with one part of table salt. Add three teaspoons of glycerine for every 1/4 cup of dry mixture. This is optional; it acts as a sweetener. An alternative is stevia. Add 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide and one drop of peppermint oil. Hydrogen peroxide naturally disinfects your mouth and will also help whiten your teeth. If you don't have it around, use water. The drop of peppermint oil will leave your mouth feeling fresh. If you're not into the peppermint flavor, some alternatives are ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, fennel, ginger, lemon or lime juice (see Warnings), and almond extract. Whatever it is, make sure it doesn't have sugar added. Mix the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda until it is a paste . If you need to, mix in more hydrogen peroxide until you get the right consistency. Store the toothpaste in a small plastic container where it won't dry out. You can also purchase a small, empty lotion bottle so that you can squeeze out the toothpaste onto the toothbrush more easily, rather than dip it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Atlanta's Crissy Thompson is the queen of coupon-clipping

Atlanta's Crissy Thompson is the queen of coupon-clipping -- she's so skilled at it that she's cut her weekly grocery bill to $10 for a family of five:

She buys two copies of the AJC's daily double Sunday paper, getting four papers, four sets of coupons, for $5. She also goes to her favorite coupon websites (see links).

On the day we're with Crissy, we tell her we just want a sampling of what she does. She tells us we're going to CVS and Publix, two of her favorite stores.

I do coupons every week myself so I was very curious to see how she did it.

At the Publix, Crissy got her best deals with the buy 1, get 1 free items.

Most local grocery stores will let you buy only one item and get it 50% off. If you pair a coupon with that (most grocery stores double coupons up to 50 cents) you can sometimes get the item for free or next to nothing.

What I learned from Crissy is that you can use one coupon per item.

All this time I had misunderstood what it says on each coupon, only one coupon per purchase. I took "purchase" to mean "transaction." It's not.

For example, Crissy grabbed two boxes of cereal that were buy 1, get 1 free. The cereal was $3.79 a box. Crissy had a three dollar coupon for each box of cereal. She made over $2.00 when she pulled those boxes off the shelves. I thought I could only use one coupon, no matter how many boxes or cans or whatever I'd bought. So that's good for me to know.

She didn't buy any produce or meat when we were with her. The best deals that week were elsewhere and she told us she often gets her produce from local farmers at a nearby market where prices are very inexpensive. When we got to checkout her bill was $15.38 and she saved $36.22. Basically she saved two thirds of the bill.

Friday, May 2, 2008

How To Stop Paying for Gas and Run on Free Vegetable Oil in 8 Easy Steps

Converting your vehicle to run on veggie oil is a good move economically and environmentally. And here’s what BP and Exxon don’t want you to know: it’s not hard to do.

Wouldn’t it be great to pack-up the car or the SUV for a weekend excursion without fretting over the cost of fuel? Or take that road trip you and your friends keep talking about? All with no concern about pumping all of your hard-earned cash into the gas tank. Heck, it would be great just to drive around town without that concern. Here’s how you can do it.

1. Commitment

This will not happen overnight. Nor will it work if you just want something for nothing. There are some up-front costs, but more importantly, it’s the dedication of your time and energy that puts the money back in your pocket. You’re going to give up the quick convenience of the express station, so you have to truly believe in the value of what you’re doing. But once you make this determination, the hardest part is already done.

2. The technology

The technology has existed for almost 100 years. Rudolf Diesel designed his engine to run on corn oil that he had collected on his Iowa farm. He wanted a more efficient way to run his farm machinery because gasoline had reached a staggering $0.05 per gallon! Look it up yourself - the diesel engine was intentionally designed to operate on vegetable oil, not toxic petroleum byproducts. And that’s all you’re going to do.

3. Sourcing your vegetable oil.
Every restaurant and probably most bars in your community are currently paying somebody else to come and haul away their waste vegetable oil from the fry-o-laters.

In your local supermarket, vegetable oil retails for about $10/gallon, almost three times as expensive as regular unleaded gasoline these days. You want free vegetable oil. Well, every restaurant and probably most bars in your community are currently paying somebody else to come and haul away their waste vegetable oil from the fry-o-laters.

That’s your source. Develop a relationship with the manager or owner of local establishments. Tell him or her that you’re interested in collecting their waste vegetable oil. Offer to do it for free.

Make sure they use NON-HYDROGENATED oil. You do not want that creamy based oil. You may have to supply them with a collection barrel, and you want to make sure the manager can depend on you to collect at regular intervals so he doesn’t have to worry about it.

4. Processing the oil.

The oil that you collect is not ready to burn. It must be heated and filtered. You will need a couple of barrels’ worth of space in a garage or basement where you can set-up your little processing station. If you don’t have the space, consider getting a co-op going with friends or other people in your community who do.

In any case, the system is not complicated, it just requires a little bit of money to set-up and then a regular bit of attention to generate usable oil. There are many different methods for this process, but they all essentially involve heating the oil in one tank, then pumping it through some filtration device to a second tank.

The whole point is to remove any water and particles that have collected in the oil during use. Lots of people have posted their processing plants on YouTube or other veggie forums such as Fryer to Fuel. There is not ONE way to do it, and you will have to devise the best way for you to do it with regard to your space, time, and budget.

5. Lining up your vehicle.

Now you need the vehicle to utilize all of this wonderful, free oil. Hopefully you aren’t terribly attached to whatever it is that you’re driving now. The decision to run on veggie oil limits the type of vehicle you can drive because only certain models are produced with a diesel engine.
Maybe you’ll decide that, since you’re going to be driving for free anyway, you might as well drive the biggest, baddest rig you can find.

The good news is that these models are quite nice. Volkswagen has offered diesel versions of the Golf and the Jetta for years, and the list now includes the Passat. And Mercedes has several sedan models and even a wagon with the available diesel. And fortunately for the checkbook, you don’t want a new one anyway. The older models make better conversion candidates because the engine is less complicated. A little bit of research (check greasecar)will turn-up a car you like that fits your budget.

Maybe you’ll decide that, since you’re going to be driving for free anyway, you might as well drive the biggest, baddest rig you can find. The Big 3 American auto manufacturers produce diesel powered trucks and SUVs that also make excellent conversion candidates. Again, the slightly older models offer a little more ease of conversion. The bottom line is, you should be able to find a ride that makes you happy.

6. Conversion
Conversion kit. Photo by Cody Simms.

Now you have to tweak the fuel system to accommodate your veggie oil. The major issue is temperature. There are all kinds of conversion kits for sale from different companies on the internet. They can cost as much as $4000.00. And they all insist that if you can read instructions you can install the kit yourself.

Or you can go to one of their authorized installers and drop another G for them to do it for you. The money saves you the hassle of doing it yourself and buys you peace of mind and presumably customer service, should a problem arise.

The truth is that most of these kits are just a compilation of parts and pieces - hoses, gauges, valves - that you can buy cheaper from a direct source. And if you or someone you know has any degree of comfort around an engine, then yes, you can convert your car yourself. Just research. Again, there are lots of community forums about converting to veggie oil, and even a bunch of videos on uTube. It’s the commitment issue again. Understanding how the process works will give you the ability to address it.

7. Notes on cost

Nothing is truly free. Assuming that you trade your current vehicle for one of equal value, the start-up cost for your alternative fuel program, including your processing plant and the conversion, will likely top $3000.00 even if you do it all yourself.

Again, a co-op is a good idea: you can gather people you trust to help curb the initial cost of the plant and to share collection duties and split time actually processing the oil.
If you spend $50/week on fuel, it will take one year and two months for your program to pay for itself.

If you spend $50/week on fuel, it will take one year and two months for your program to pay for itself. And of course there’s your time to collect and process the oil, plus the bit of energy needed to operate the plant. Be sure to find out if your state has an alternative fuel road tax provision on the books too, so you can jump that hurdle.

And thereafter you’re driving for free! And in the meantime that’s 50 bucks each week to take your girl out to dinner or contribute to your IRA or whatever. Plus it’s better for the environment, recycling oil and no carbon emissions. And when you want to take that trip, the WVO Network, a nationwide community of veg-heads, will propel you around the country.

8. Drive!

This might all seem like too big a deal. Well, putting several thousand dollars a year back in your pocket is a big deal. Forgetting the major cost of road travel is a big deal. Conserving resources and protecting the environment is a big deal.

Converting to veg allows you to contribute to softening a global crisis and improves your personal bottom line significantly over the long term. The first time you flip that switch and you’re running on straight veg, the headaches and expense of converting blow right out the tailpipe!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Scream, You Scream… I’m Lovin’ FREE Ice Cream!

It has just reached spring temps here in Nebraska, and the ice cream junkie in me has emerged from winter slumber. What better way to feed the beast than with free ice cream promotions from all my favorite companies? Read on for the full “scoop!”

Ben and Jerry’s Free Scoop Day – It’s that time of year again! Free Cone Day is on April 29th this year, and I’m all in! Check the Ben and Jerry’s website for the list of participating shops in your area.

Haagen-Dazs Free Scoop Day - To celebrate their new flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee, they are offering a free scoop of the stuff at participating locations on May 13th! Mark your calendars!

Cold Stone Creamery’s Birthday Club – This Caloric treat is one of my faves. Sign up for their Birthday Club to get free ice cream on your birthday. You can start planning how you’ll make your Cold Stone Creation now, and be ready for that special day!

Baskin-Robbins 31 Cent Promotion – OK. So it’s not free. But 31 pennies for a small scoop ain’t bad, and the proceeds go to a really good cause. Check the website to see how this deal on April 30th can help America’s firefighters and to find a location near you. (Baskin-Robbins also has a Birthday Club, so sign up if you want to double-dip on deals.)

Blue Bunny iScream Team – Sign up to get the iScream Team Newsletter, and be the first to hear about promotions, contests, and stellar coupons. I have been a member for over a year, and I have enjoyed the occasional free product with much enjoyment. You also get the chance to provide feedback on Blue Bunny’s tasty treats. (Sampling opportunities are available in many parts of the country.)

Edy’s Slow-Churned Neighborhood Salute – This freebie is actually a contest, but the prizes are plentiful, and the goods are to die for! From now until May 30th, just tell Edy’s why your neighborhood deserves a party, and you’re in the running to win one of 1,500 prize packs that include 12 cartons of ice cream delivered to your door and enough party supplies for 100 people (includes bowls, spoons, napkins, and tons of other promotional stuff!) See a sneak peak at the prizes HERE. I’ve known folks who have won in past years, and it is an awesome way to share your love of ice cream with your friends and family!

However you decide to fulfill your ice cream desires -- do it slowly. You don’t want to get a headache!

Monday, April 14, 2008

DVDs Freer than Free--No, Really, Really Free

I noticed Paul's interesting article (NEVER Pay for a Redbox DVD Rental Again ) about using Redbox codes to rent movies for free, and in theory, I am all for it. But we don't have Redbox nearby, and I would never manage to return a movie in 24 hours with my crazy life. Fortunately, I have a diabolical method of getting movies for free. Even free-er than Redbox free! Nowadays, I laugh as I drive by Hollywood video. Why did I ever pay $4 to rent a movie? Why, God, why?

Here's the secret. I use the library. I know that's not really a secret. It was even mentioned in the comments to Paul's post, but then quickly dismissed and/or ignored. I think the idea deserves to be revisited. See, most people assumed that you can't get the videos you want at the library, especially new releases. But I've been getting just about any DVD I could ask for from the library using the computerized request system. I combine this with my reading wish list, enter my requests, and a few days later, I get an email saying my DVDs are waiting for me. I even put in electronic requests for materials that are not on loan, because I am too darn lazy to go to the shelf and look them up alphabetically. I just walk up to the hold shelf, grab the materials with my name on it, zap them through the self checkout, and walk out without paying a dime.

The library has a full selection of new releases, and also popular television shows. We do maintain a netflix subscription, because there are some things we haven't found in the library. However, lately I have been experimenting with interlibrary loan for books. If the book is not found in the library catalog, you get the option to "search other libraries" and the system will look for your selection in the interlibrary lending system. I wasn't sure if this option existed for DVD's, so just now I went to my local library web page and searched for a DVD I was pretty sure they didn't have. Sure enough, I found it in a library in a neighboring town, and was offered the opportunity to request it.

Since I've been using the library pretty heavily, I've noticed something interesting. A lot of other people are, too! I have one book on request in which I started out as the 135th request. It may seem like, with a month-long loan period, I would never get the book, but when I looked at the record, my library owned 45 copies, and was in the process of acquiring dozens more. That means that the library is not as much of a free ride as we thought. They are a major purchaser of books, DVDs, CDs, and other media, using taxpayer dollars, and there's no need to feel guilty about using it. They seem to keep enough books in stock so that the hold queue is about three deep. So for a book with 140 holds, they owned 50 copies. That seems completely reasonable to me.

As it turns out, the hot books, movies, and cds are perpetually loaned out, and your only chance of getting them is to use the request system. (I always figured that mostly if I couldn't find it on the shelf, I couldn't get it from the library.) Waiting for things really hasn't been a problem, since new requests are coming up for me every few days. My biggest challenge has been keeping up with all the material I have requested. In fact, my Netflix queue has gone rather stale since we got a big batch of DVDs from the library. There is no limit on the number of items you can take out. You can keep DVDs for a week, and if no one has requested them, you can renew them nearly indefinitely. My library sends me an email a few days before materials are due, and I have made it part of my daily routine to pop in to the library web page and check my list of checked out items (up to 35 items right now!). If something is due that day, I try to renew it, or put it on the shelf next to the door to drop off on my daily errands. Often, at the same time, I swipe my holds from the hold shelf. (You do need a good home organization system for library materials if you are going to have a lot of them. I try to keep the DVDs near the TV, or on a shelf by the door.)

I don't know if I've talked you into using your public library more. I may have talked myself in to canceling my Netflix subscription! We already canceled our cable subscription and are frankly not missing it between DVD rentals and the odd iTunes purchase for very new TV shows. To ease the transition, at first we bought some current TV shows on iTunes for our son, but very quickly we weaned him onto older stuff we could get from the library. He is enjoying Looney Tunes now every bit as much as I did in my childhood, and we get them FREE from the library.

But if you're still with me after all of this, here is an extra bonus for Michigan residents. Libraries in Southeast Michigan are loaning out free tickets to area museums now through October. Tickets are available in twos or fours for a long list of museums both big and small, including the DIA and other major attractions.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

“Reusable” 10% Off Best Buy Coupon

Note: This is really for United States residents only.

It’s not often that I buy stuff in stores because I can normally find the same item for much less online. I do, however, find myself turning to Best Buy on the rare occasion that I can’t fulfill my gadget addiction over the Internet.

Just a few months ago we moved from Iowa to Illinois, and when notifying the United States Postal Service (USPS) we received some coupons online. Among them was a Best Buy coupon that was 10% off of a single item from the categories I’ve listed below. Huh, I thought it was a pretty good deal since the coupon didn’t expire for about two-months.

Then I noticed that this particular coupon, like most others, was merely an image. The URL of the coupon is:

The first thing that popped into my head was that part of the filename for the image is just the year followed by the month. In this case the 200804 represents April, 2008. As it turns out the URL of the image changes from month-to-month almost like clockwork. So the next time you’re looking to buy something from Best Buy check to see whether this coupon applies to you, and adjust the URL to represent the current month. USPS might be changing the URL as more people start to catch on, but by modifying the URL I can see that they’ve been using this structure for nearly a year.

For those of you who have a hard time reading the fine print here is a nice structured list of the things the coupon is valid for:

* Home Theater:
o TV’s $399 & up
o DVD players and recorders
o Blu-ray Disc & HD DVD Players
o Home Audio
o Audio and video accessories
o Furniture $99 & up
o Home Theater installation
o Also valid at Magnolia Home Theater
* Computer Accessories:
o DVD-RW drives
o Flash and external hard drives
o Printers $149 & up
o Scanners $99 & up
o Networking
o Speakers, mice, and keyboards
o PC cameras and gaming controllers
o Digital recorders $99 & up
o Surge protectors
o Flash memory
o Cables
o Graphic and sound cards
o Software
o Blank media
o Ink cartridges
o Printer Docks
o Paper
* Digital Cameras & Camcorders:
o Digital cameras $249 & up
o Camcorders $279 & up
o Digital camera accessories
o Camcorder accessories
o Blank media
o Camcorder batteries
o Premium photo services
o Digital photo frames
o Photo gifts
o Prepaid Best Buy Photo Center Gift Cards
o Batteries
* MP3 Players & Car Electronics:
o MP3 accessories
o GPS hardware
o Car audio
o Satellite radio hardware
o Musical instruments
o CD/DVD storage
o Toys
* Phones & Accessories:
o Pay-as-you-go phones
o Cordless phones
o Answering machines
o Landline and cellular phone accessories
o Phone cards
o Two-way radios
* Major and Small Appliances & More:
o Vacuums
o Microwaves

Friday, March 21, 2008

NEVER pay for a RedBox DVD rental again

Why go to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video? Why pay between $4-$5 for a DVD movie rental? Why pay anything for a DVD rental ever again? For the last month, I haven't paid for one new release movie at RedBox, and sometimes I've rented two or three in one day. It's legit, it's easy and if you ever pay even one cent for a DVD rental again, well, you're paying too much.

I have to thank Peter for first bringing my attention to this back in January, when I posted a free coupon for Hollywood Video. What a fool I was, in hindsight. I was looking for these free rental coupons, scouring the web and clipping magazines and newspapers. All I had to do was pop along to the RedBox which is on my way home from work, punch in a code and grab my free rental.

Code sharing for RedBox

This is not like illegal downloading (which I hate - cheap, not frugal) or borrowing a copy from a friend. RedBox actually distributes these codes weekly if you sign up for SMS or email messaging, here . You get a free rental code each Monday which you can use for one night's free rental.

But this is 2008, and the Internet creates a vast number of people all getting codes. Enter the code sharing websites. I've listed a few of my favorites below, but what they basically create is a community of people sharing codes for the RedBox rentals.

Each code is good for one use per credit/debit card (you need to swipe it, you will be charged for each additional day you may have the movie out). If you have more than one card, you get more than one free rental off that code. I have swiped three cards, entered that same code each time, and got three brand new releases for a whole day of movie heaven. OK, so I'm a movie addict.

All you need to do is visit these sites and print out the latest list of codes before your trip to the local RedBox. I like insideredbox the best, it gives a percentage rating for the codes, much like Anyway, choose your movie, punch in a code (hit the Add Promo Code button), swipe your card and take home your free rental. As long as you return it before 9pm the following day, you never pay for that movie. I do believe they put a $1 hold on your card for each rental, but that is of course returned to you very quickly.

So, there you have it. I can't really believe Blockbuster and Hollywood Video can compete with completely free rentals. And to be honest, with the late fees I've paid in the past, I'm no fan of either.

[Update - the Monday email I received from RedBox today with my code was followed with the phrase - Forward To Friends. I think that settles the ongoing debate about whether RedBox approves of code sharing]

Here are sites you can try for codes, which are constantly updated. At the time of writing this article, both DVDONME and BREAKROOM are working codes that will get you a free rental.




Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Filler strategies for Amazon’s Free Super Saver Shipping

How many times have you been shopping on Amazon, added the items you want to your cart and have then been told “Wait! Add just $2.97 to qualify for Free Super Saver Shipping.” Maybe not that exact amount, but you get the idea. What happens next is hours of searching to find something to plug the hole. Well, not any more.

After a frustrating weekend of looking around on Amazon for items that only qualified for Super Saver Shipping (SSS), I discovered a few interesting facts: one, Amazon have not made it easy for you to find these items; two, the items you do find are often way above the price you need to fill the gap.

So, I did some hunting around. I left messages at various boards on Google Groups, and I waited for the answers. I was not disappointed.

Here are my top three ways to find filler items on Amazon to get you to that magical $25 total.
1: The code addendum

This is my favorite because it focuses the search one exactly what you want to find. Simply do a search as normal, say for a piggy bank, and then add the following code &emi=ATVPDKIKX0DER at the end of address box and hit “enter.”

add code

Now all of your results should qualify for SSS. A sprinkling don’t, maybe a flaw in Amazon’s labeling system, but you’ll have tons of choice. (By the way, my favorite was this one. It’s like our Wisebread piggy has caught measles or something.)

piggy measles

Elegant Baby Pink Ceramic Polka Dot Piggy Bank
2: The search engine

This one from FillerItem couldn’t be simpler, although you don’t get quite the focus of the first. Simple put the amount you need to spend to get to $25 in the box, and then check the boxes for the areas you’d like to search. You’ll get a huge list of items, based on the boxes you checked, that hit the magical number you put in the box.

3: The handy filler list

A site called FreebieVille has a pre-populated list of things you can use to plug the holes and reach the $25 mark. With items in the pennies, this can be invaluable.

I’d much rather order something for 52 cents and give it away, to someone who could use it, than pay $7 on shipping. I think we all would.

So there you have it. Hours of endless searching have just vanished. Instead, you are now armed with three foolproof strategies to get you to that $25 free shipping figure every single time you shop.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Simple (And Easy) Money Saving Tips For Frugal Living

1. Make your lunch

It’s so easy I’m surprised more people don’t do it. If an average sandwich is $5 a pop and you buy one each day you’re at work, then over a year it’s going to cost you about $1,200 (assuming you have 28 days holiday which is more than most people will get). Get into the habit of rustling up your own food and you can easily pocket half of that cash, using the other half to bulk buy your groceries at the supermarket.
2. Downgrade your brand purchases

Going for the cheapest beans in the store is a bit over the top (especially since they probably taste horrible). Drop a brand level on everything you can and the overall price drops by roughly 30%. Often you’re only paying for the branded packaging anyway.
3. Align your eyes to belly ratio

Americans actually waste about 40% of food produced for consumption. According to Wasted Food, that amounts to an annual cost of over $100 billion. Buy only what you need for the week and avoid stocking up with food which could spoil quickly. If you run out of food mid-week it’s no big deal to make a second trip to the supermarket.
4. Reduce your heating bill

By turning the temperature down in your house by just one degree you can save almost 10% on your heating bill. Also, you’ll prevent about 240kg of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. Cheaper, and greener too.
5. Enjoy happy hour

If you like a beer with your buddies in the evening, consider going at less popular times of the day. Many bars offer happy hour deals when it’s quiet which can often see you save up to 50% of the cost. You can’t complain at getting more beer for less.
6. Be a late adopter

I know it’s tough to wait until the buzz surrounding the new mobile phone or games console has died down - especially if you’re a techno-geek - but if you can hold back from buying until at least six months after the new technology is launched you could save up to 50%. Let other obsessed geeks drive the price down for you.
7. Give alternative gifts

People always say “it’s the thought that counts” when you’re giving and receiving gifts. You can put this to the test by offering alternative gifts. You could offer your dad a weekend of gardening to save him mowing the lawn and cleaning out the fish pond or give your girlfriend a booklet of massage vouchers to redeem whenever she likes. They’ll love your thoughtfulness and you get to pocket the cash you would have otherwise spent.
8. Have a house-swap holiday

Instead of shelling out on an all-inclusive deal to Jamaica this year, you could have a house swap holiday instead. Who knows, maybe you’ll bump into Cameron Diaz and she’ll take a shine to you. Give it a go at HomeLink.
9. Drive better

The Energy Saving Trust reckon you can save almost $200 a year by ‘eco-driving’. Obviously this is applicable to manual cars and it involves changing gear before your engine hits 2,500 rpm, driving smoothly and eliminating the use of your air-con while driving at an efficient speed of around 45-50mph.
10. Shop smarter

You can save up to 60% on clothes prices by visiting designer outlet stores, as they sell nothing but excess stock, special buys and end of season merchandise from some of the biggest names in fashion. I got some Diesel jeans for $30. Bargain!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Buy Only from Stores with Free Shipping with Free Shipping On [Shopping]

Easily find items sold online with free shipping on sites like Amazon, eBay, and more than 500 other online stores with website Free Shipping On. The website sports easy navigation: two tabs that allow you to perform searches for items available on Amazon and eBay with free shipping, and then a third tab takes you to a page that offers free shipping coupons for over five hundred stores, from Apple to Walmart and organized by category as well. If shipping costs usually cause you to scratch your head and decide to wait for a better deal on retail, you may now want to reconsider.
Free Shipping On