Are you Frugal or Cheap? Find Out With This Test

frugal or cheapFrugal and cheap.  Those are two words that people interchange in daily conversations.  Speaking from a general sense, frugal is more respectable than being cheap.  When I think of a cheap person I think about someone who takes towels home from hotels. On the other hand, I envision a frugal person buying name brand clothes at discounted retailers.

But what does the Dictionary say about these two types of people?

Frugal-  economical  in  use  or  expenditure;  prudently  saving  or sparing;  not  wasteful

Cheap-  embarrassingly stingy

I’ll be honest folks, I’ve been called both.  And let me tell you, it’s never fun to be considered the “cheap guy.”  Thankfully I’ve changed from my cheap ways and I’m much more value focused and not just on the price.

So, how would you know if you are frugal or cheap?  Moolanomy came out with a frugal vs. cheap test a while back which inspired this post.  Take out a sheet of paper and a pencil and answer these 12 short questions:


1- When you fill up for gas, what do you do?

1. I go to the most expensive gas station.  Must be better quality right?

2. I shoot for the name  brands  but look around for the best prices

3. I fill up at the cheapest gas station regardless of brand

4. Why fill up, I can run on fumes for another two days


2- What car do you drive?

1. Why buy when you can lease?

2. I’m always on the lookout for next year’s model

3. Used is the only way to go, I never buy brand new

4. I take the bus, it’s better for the environment


3- When Christmas rolls around, what do you do for gifts?

1. I want to impress everyone so you get the latest tech toys recommended by MSN

2. I buy reasonably priced gifts from their lists

3. I buy gift cards for everyone

4. I don’t buy anyone anything and hope no one notices


4- When you want to update your wardrobe, what do you do?

1. Time to hit good ole’ Nordstroms

2. I buy off-brands and maybe one brand name item

3. I space out the purchasing over a couple months and shop at Ross and TJ MAXX

4. I never shop for new clothes.  That’s what Goodwill is for


5- When you grocery shop, what do you do?

1. I head to Whole Foods and buy whatever I want.  Grass fed beef anyone?

2. I go to one grocery store and bring my coupon book

3. In one trip, I go to multiple discounted grocery stores

4. I take food from work for my meals


6- While walking you see a quarter on the ground.  What’s your next move?

1. You snicker and keep on walking

2. I pick it up and then toss it because it’s dirty

3. I pick it up and put it in my wallet for later

4. I pick it up and start looking for other coins on the ground


7- What do you use for showers?

1. I have designer shampoo and conditioner

2. I buy high quality products but always look for the sale

3. I buy whatever is on sale

4. Who needs product?  I use water and a bar of soap


8- Where do you invest your money?

1. Uhhh what does the word “invest” mean…

2. I invest in the latest hot stock or mutual fund

3. I invest through a wide range of mutual funds and ETFs

4. I can’t afford to eat because I invest so much


9- What do you usually do with your tax refund?

1. I hot the closest casino and lose it all

2.  Get the latest and greatest TV of course!

3. I invest it

4. I let is sit in cash gaining zero interest


10- What do you usually tip at restaurants?

1. 20% plus, waitresses rely on the tips for income!

2. I tip based on performance

3. Average service gets no more than 15%

4. I don’t tip, that’s just ridiculous


11- When it’s time to change your oil, what do you do?

1. Take my car to the nearest dealer

2. I get my oil changed at an independent mechanic shop

3. I change my own oil with the cheapest oil out there

4. I skip oil changes and hope my car keeps running


12- A friend asks you to borrow some money.  What’s your response?

1. I whip out your wallet and ask your friend how much he/she needs

2. I ask what the money is for and then agree on a payment plan

3. I write down how much I’m lending and make my friend sign a contract

4. I tell my friend to hit the road


Drum-roll please!  How did you score?

The point system is simple.  All you gotta do is give yourself 1 point for a #1 answer, 2 points for a #2 answer, 3 points for a #3 answer and 4 points for a #4 answer.

And here’s a breakdown of your score:

48= You’re cheap and you should be ashamed of yourself!

36-47= Congrats, you’re frugal and should give yourself a pat on the back 🙂

24-35= You’ve got some work to do.  Time to get back to the basics

12-23= Boy oh boy, you’re not doing too hot.  You should shred your credit cards and follow a budget again


What did I score?

I scored a 38.  What does this mean?  I guess this makes me frugal!  I probably didn’t need a quiz to tell me that but I always need some affirmation.

Take some time and take this test.  When you’re done please comment below and share if you;re frugal or just plain cheap!

25 Christmas Gifts Under $25 That Don’t Suck

christmas giftsThis is a frugal blog, so of course I have to write an article about top frugal Christmas gift ideas!  This post will be a little different though.  Instead of giving you general ideas, I have handpicked 25 totally awesome gift ideas that don’t suck.  Inspiration for this post comes from Phil over at PT Money.  Check out his list of 30 gift ideas, he’s got some good ones 🙂

Many of these gifts are things that could be extremely useful and handy to have around the house.  I found myself writing down many of these gifts for my own list this year!  I think you’ll like these ideas.  Many of these could even be stocking-stuffers depending on your family’s price range for Christmas.

1. Coffee Mug Warmer- At my work, I’m always battling the temperature of my coffee.  Working in the construction industry, our trailers are cold during the winter so coffee doesn’t stay warm for long.  A coffee mug warmer solves this issue!  If you know someone who works at a desk, this mug warmer will keep coffee or any other liquid warm for hours on end.  (Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer for $7.99)


2. Electric Kettle- This is the fastest way to boiling water these days.  Who really wants to wait forever for the stove to get hot.  Not only is it fast, but extremely portable and safe to place on sensitive surfaces. (Proctor Silex Electric Kettle for $14.36)


3. 1 Year Magazine Subscription- When’s the last time you sat down and read a magazine?  It’s probably been a while huh?  Well, chances are that someone would love this gift!  You can get a vast array of 1 year magazine subscriptions and can choose a topic depending on the person’s likes. (1 Year Subscription of Popular Science for $12.00)


4. LED Book Light- This is the perfect gift for an avid reader in the family.  No more dim lights, no more squinting of the eyes.  An LED book light solves all these issues!  It creates a cool background drop as if the actual pages are glowing! (LightWedge LED Book Light for $22.99)


5. USB Car Charger- Never go without power.  I’m a huge fan of USB car chargers myself.  They are a great tool to ensure you are not tapped out of cell phone battery life or other personal devices.  A loved one would love this gift and most likely use it on a regular basis. (Kensington USB Charger for $9.99)


6. Brimmed Beanie- Traditional beanies are out, brimmed beanies are in!  A brimmed beanie is a stylish look for the girls and is sure to attract some welcomed attention. These are especially popular on the ski slopes!  (Dakine Brimmed Beanie for $22.00)


7. Chocolate Gift Set- Who doesn’t like a chocolate gift set?  With a various assortment of chocolates, a chocolate gift set will make anyone very happy.  It’s also a great gift during the holidays, as you can get themed boxes.  (Desk Caddy Chocolate Gift Set for $24.99)


8. Scarf Wrap- I’ve been seeing these around here in San Diego.  I know that San Diego is considered a pretty trendy city, so that must mean something right?  Any woman in your life will love this accessory to be added to a growing closet.  This wrap comes in many different colors so you can be sure to get one that will make someone very happy. (Pashmina Scarf Wrap for $8.99)


9. Moleskine Journal- A quality moleskin journal will last you a very long time for all of your  journalism  needs.  Renown artists and thinkers have used moleskin journals, and for good reason!  With a sturdy frame and only the highest materials used, this is a great gift for the writer in the family.  (Moleskine Notebook for $12.21)


10. Micro Fleece Blanket- A fleece blanket is one that everyone loves.  Whether it’s used to snuggle next to the fire place or to warm you while reading a book, you can’t go wrong with a new fleece blanket.  So comfortable and so affordable, it’s a clear winner.  (All Seasons Micro Fleece for $22.94)


11. Yoga Mat- Invest in someone’s health for 2012!  A yoga mat is great for yoga if the person does that but they are also useful for doing lifting exercises and stretching.  You can’t go wrong with a yoga mat that will last you years to come.  (Wai Lana Yogi Mat for $23.56)


12. Thinker Book Ends- I gotta say, these are the coolest book ends I have ever seen!  Not only are they classy, but they are sturdy!  These can be a great addition to an office where a touch of “elegance” is required.  Once you own these, you will never buy another set of book ends again.  (The Thinker Bookends for $15.97)


13. Gourmet Tea Set- As much as a coffee nut that I am, I would also love a gourmet tea set as a gift for Christmas.  With an assortment of flavors, a gourmet tea set will keep any tea drinker busy for months to come.  (Ceylon Tea Chest for $19.99)


14. Learn to Knit Kit- I guess this is all the rage these days  among  celebrities.  If the celebrities are doing it, this will be a hit as a Christmas present.  Plus, who doesn’t want to learn how to knit and make their own clothes? (Lion Learn to Knit Kit for $22.71)


15. Bear Grylls Knife- If you’re a guy, how could you not want this gift? This knife screams “cool.”  Well it does if you know who Bear Grylls is!  It’s a high quality product and sure to impress any guy in the family.  (Bear Grylls Knife Set for $20.33)


16. Rhinestone Watch- Be super frugal this Christmas and get someone you love a watch that is flashy yet doesn’t put a dent into your wallet.  A rhinestone watch is a great gift for the “diva” in your life. (XOXO Accent Watch for $19.99)


17. Key Rack- Have you ever wanted a place to put your keys that wasn’t on top of a fancy table?  And how many times have you lost your keys because you placed them in a new location.  Well, a key rack next to the front door would solve these problems.  This gift is both useful and trendy depending on the brand that you buy.  You can even try to match the existing decorations of the person’s house. (4 Hook Key Rack for $6.44)


18. A Book- Yes, you know those things that have physical pages?  Books!  Books are great gifts as almost everyone enjoys sitting down and reading.  Instead of getting a person a book you know they’d enjoy, think outside the box and get something that might be totally new to them! (Freakonomics for $10.87)


19. Balance Ball- A balance ball is a gift that keeps on giving once it’s received.  Balance balls are awesome for sit-ups, stretching and comfortable sitting.  It would be a great gift for someone active in the family.  With a variety of colors you can make sure you make the person happy. (TKO Balance Ball for $16.63)


20. Flashlight Grille Tongs- Grilling in the dark is no fun.  Thankfully someone solved this problem!  These tongs have mini flashlights on the end of the tongs so you don’t have to worry about cooking in the dark anymore.  For the grill master in the family, these would make someone’s day. (Ultimate Flashlight Tongs for $19.99)


21. Holiday Coffee Beans- Holiday coffee warms my heart.  Special beans are grown just for the Christmas occasion.  The beauty of this gift is that it’s a consumable and sure to please someone you know.  You can buy big bags or a bunch of little bags in various flavors. (Bean Coffee Company Holiday Pack for $24.46)


22. Toiletry Bag- A fully loaded toiletry bag is a gift that I personally would just love!  I’m always running out of toiletries, so a new toiletry set would be a great gift.  For the traveler in your life, this gift is a must have this Christmas. (Leather Toiletry Kit for $21.95)


23. Expensive Golf Balls- Back when I used to play golf, I loved receiving golf balls during Christmas.  The best part was that people typically bought fancy golf balls.  Looking back they  probably  were no different than average golf balls, but who really cares!  A golfer in the family will really appreciate this gift. (36 pack of Intech Beta Ti Golf Balls for $23.77)


24. Oil Mister- Would you like to mist instead of pour?  With an il mister you can create your own unique concoction of oils and smells.  Also, a mister prevents too much oil coming out on your fresh salad.  A great gift for the aspiring cook in the family. (Prepara Oil Mister for $17.14)


25. Gardening Set- This is something that my Mom would just love!  With basic gardening tools, a set will provide a gardener with brand new tools to work away at those stubborn weeds in the yard. (4 Piece gardening Set for $14.76)


Did I miss something?  If you have a creative Christmas gift idea that would actually be useful, please share with us below!



Ditch Your Bank and Join a Credit Union

join a credit unionBanks are ripping us off. They give us loans designed to cause us to default. They send our economy into a deep recession, make us lose our jobs, and then ask us for a bailout. A month ago, they even tried to charge us a $5 monthly fee just to use a debit card.

It’s no wonder that people are mad at banks! Some patriots are even mailing credit card offers back to banks, or even mailing back wood in business reply mails, so that banks have to pay the business reply mailing fee. Hard-hit cities and universities are considering divesting their money from banks and moving it to credit unions.

Anger at banks and desire to save money online has lead Americans across the country to ditch their banks and put their money into credit unions, which are non-profit organizations that store money like banks and offer lower interest rates and better credit cards. They also invest in local economies instead of gambling in derivative swaps, so in some ways they’re more like actual banks than modern banks.

However, you need to prepare for the switch before you join a credit union and do your homework just like if you were switching to a bank. That is why I am sharing three things you need to do before you switch.

Get a credit report

Getting a credit report before you join a credit union is not as important as it is before you sign up for a bank. This is because banks will try to give people with bad credit subprime mortgages, credit cards with bad interest rates, and other schemes to ensnare people into long-term debt.


Save money by joining a credit union

On the other hand, credit unions have no interest in getting people to owe them money in perpetuity since that would be akin to scamming themselves (notice how I use the word join❠for a credit union, and sign up❠for a bank). Furthermore, they are not getting bailed out by government money, so they have to be more careful who they lend money to, and thus they do credit checks at least as thoroughly as banks. However, they also know that since they make loans with lower interest rates and don’t jack up rates after five years that people who normally couldn’t pay off a bank loan are able to pay off their loans. Getting a credit report can help you know what to expect when you walk into the office to join.


Research multiple credit unions

Most credit unions are restricted to local areas. Some are further restricted to people in a certain profession in that area, such as firefighters, carpenters, and police officers. This means that there might not be many people in the union, so it might not have many branches open.


Withdrawing cash

That could mean that you have to pay a buck or two each time you withdraw cash for an ATM since your credit union might not have very many of its own. To solve this, some unions offer to pay withdraw fees for you. However, you will still probably save money joining a credit union even with these fees taken into account since they give you better returns on savings accounts and lower interest rates on loans than banks.


Set up the new account before transferring your money

This should be pretty obvious, but you don’t have to walk into a credit union with a wad of cash when you create an account. Some of them even let you create an account for as little as $25 so that you can slowly transfer the money at your own leisure. Many now let you create an account online so that you can almost immediately transfer your money electronically from your old bank account to your new credit union account before you close your bank account.


Safety first

Whichever process you choose is up to you, but it’s important to remember why you are putting your money into a bank or a credit union in the first place: You want to keep it safe. The interest on savings is a nice bonus, but the main reason is so that you do not have to keep your money in a trunk underneath your bed. The same concept applies when transferring money: If possible, do not use cash that you carry on your person to create the new account. Transfer the money online using an electronic check, give yourself a wire transfer, or write a paper check from your old account to your new account.

This is a guest post by Murray Newlands. Murray and his company, Influence People, do blogger relations and online marketing consulting for a variety of clients.

Can “Doin’ it Yourself” Save you Money?

save you moneyIt seems fair to say that times are tough right now. Many people are struggling and lots more are looking for ways to cut back on expenditure. One method that is often touted as a good way to save cash is doing it yourself. But is a DIY approach all it’s cracked up to be? As with everything, there are two sides to the story. For instance, while doing your own decorating might be a big tick in the â˜yes’ box, doing your own car repairs (unless you’re actually a mechanic) is probably not going to help you â“ and it’ll probably reflect badly in your car insurance quotes.

So then, it seems that while doing things yourself does have potential, there is something of a tricky path to steer to get the best results from it. Let’s take food and drink as an example – this is one area of big spending where, for many of us, a little bit of DIY probably wouldn’t go amiss.

For instance, many people who go out to work every day by their lunch while they’re out. Whether this is a sandwich from the lunch cart, something from the company canteen or something upmarket from a local restaurant, it involves spending dollars you don’t really need to spend. Making your own lunch before work might not be that exciting, but if you’re looking to cut back, it makes a difference.

Say you currently spend $5 a day on lunch and other snacks while you’re at work. That’s around $100 a month just on lunch alone. It’s not much of a stretch to say you could save upwards of half of that by switching to homemade meals. After all, it isn’t much of a stretch to spend $5 on a single cup of fancy coffee when you could be making your own for a fraction of the cost, so food is clearly an area where DIY can help us save money.

As mentioned above, household activities such as decorating can also be benefitted by DIY. Maybe you already do all your decorating yourself, which is great, but many of us still hire someone in to take care of these things on our behalf â“ and labor is costly, especially if you want a really good job. Instead, buying the supplies yourself and setting aside a weekend to decorate a room costs a small percentage of hiring someone to do the job for you â“ and if you’re spending all weekend painting, you won’t be spending money elsewhere, either.

All of this shows that if you want to save money, it pays to take matters into your own hands. Of course, there are some things where DIY is resolutely not advisable, such as anything to do with electrics or other tasks that require a professional touch. However, there is a surprising number of ways where we can save money simply by putting a bit more of an effort in. From getting your own insurance quotes instead of sticking with the same supplier to getting busy in the kitchen, we could all make some changes in order to save some cash.

Tips for Buying Furniture Online

furniture onlineSince buying furniture can quickly translate into a large outlay of cash, consumers like to know that they are getting their money’s worth.   And since purchasing furniture also means that said furniture will need to be delivered anyway, why not purchase it online, at a discount, and take advantage of the savings?   While this sounds like the best of both worlds, convenience and savings, there are still some tips for buying furniture online that could potentially save you even more money.

-When you begin your search, look past the snazzy website and the read customer reviews. With this age of instant technology also comes customer opinions.   Consumers love to share the good, and the bad, experiences of dealing with retailers.  Take advantage of their experiences.

-Once you find a company you are interested in, take some time to read about them.   This means checking out all about who they are, how long they have been in business, if they have multiple locations, etc.   All this information tells you if they plan to continue growing or if they are barely surviving.

-Can the company be contacted easily if you have a question before or a concern after the purchase? If the only route of communication with them is email this could be a sign that they like to avoid confrontation.   And why would a reputable company ever avoid their customers? A reputable company wouldn’t.

-The right company will also provide detailed shipping information.   Some companies will even offer free shipping.   But is it really free?   If they ship for free, but are consistently higher than all of your other options then they are probably just adding the shipping cost into the price of the furniture.   Get all shipping charges in writing before you pay.

-Make sure that the company has more than one of what you are interested in.   Is it a closeout? Has it been returned?   A reputable company will have more than one of their designs to accommodate multiple buyers.   If the set you are interested in is the last oneâ, ask when they will be getting in more.

-Does your choice have a physical location?   Many online companies also have store locations where consumers can browse, pick out what they like and order it from the online service. This eliminates the store from having to carry fifty of the same couch on-site.   Some will even ship your purchase to their physical location for free as a way of showing their appreciation for choosing them.

-What is the return policy?   Check for hidden charges such as re-stocking fees, handling fees, additional shipping charges, etc.   The return policy should be clearly posted on the website and should not require an engineering degree to decipher.

-Above all else, make sure that the website is secure.   Anyone can throw up a website, post pictures and fake customer reviews.   Research them in directories like the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce.   Check out the URL.   Spend the time and do some research to avoid possible identity theft.

Save Big with an Entertainment Book!

entertainment bookSince everyone loves convenience and saving money, it only makes sense to put the two together.   This is what you get in an entertainment book.   It gives you easy access to a multitude of valuable coupons that you don’t have to tear the house apart looking for every time you want to go out.   But in order to know how to save thousands with an entertainment book, you have to plan ahead.


Rule #1:

The first rule to saving: keep the book in your car.   That way, if you decide at the last minute to go somewhere, you’ll always have it with you.


Rule #2:

Books are available each year as of November 1st.   But if you can hold out for a month or so you can get one at a reduced price.   Saving money before you begin saving.


Rule #3:

Take some time to plan your trips.   If you don’t plan ahead of time you won’t realize that you have a coupon for somewhere until after you leave.   If you have a trip planned somewhere, take the time to scan the book before you leave.


Rule #4:

The travel savings are unbelievable.   Taking advantage of these deals can easily allow you to pocket some serious cash.   The retailers who advertise these deals in the entertainment book are able to offer such savings for one reason: they are counting on the likelihood that most people aren’t going to utilize these coupons.   Prove them wrong!


Rule #5:

Read the coupons carefully.   Each coupon has specific rules attached to it’s use.   Read them to make sure that you meet the guidelines before you leave.   This avoids the embarrassment and disappointment of finding out you don’t qualify when it’s time to pay.


Rule #6:

Categorize the coupons.   Put all of the meal coupons together.   That goes the same for clothing, sporting events, etc.     This eliminates the possibility of overlooking the one coupon that you need out of the entire book.


Rule #7:

Don’t throw any coupons away.   Many people will go through their book and pull out coupons that they think they won’t need as a way of thinning the herd.   They believe that this makes it easier to locate what they really do use.   As soon as you throw away a coupon you’ll inevitably find yourself in need of that very one.


Rule #8:

Online coupons.   This book allows you access to additional online coupons that will save you even more money.   These are coupons that you otherwise wouldn’t have.


Rule #9:

Let the book make the decisions.   Instead of dreading through the same monotonous evening over and over again, let the book decide something new and refreshing.   It introduces you to things in your area that you might not have considered before.


Rule #10:

Each book comes with a coupon for a discount on next year’s addition, including free shipping.


Rule #11:

Buy two books.   Sounds crazy, but you’ll find that the extra coupons that you can utilize in the second book more than pays for it’s cost.


Take these tips and go use your Coupon book efficiently and start saving.  The way most people use them is a waste of money.  The more you use them, the more you will be saving!  One word of caution though.  If owning an entertainment book is something that will tempt you to go out more and spend money you don’t have, you should avoid buying one of these coupon books.  For the rest of us, these books are a common sense way of saving hundreds each month on things we typically spend money on anyways!

photo by camkage

6 Tips on Achieving Financial Security Through Frugality

frugal tipsPersonal finance is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives and an area that is left relatively untouched by the educational system. Finance is involved in a wide variety of everyday living. Transactions such as retirmenet savings, investing, loans, credit cards and student loans. All of these aspects of personal finance  significantly effect the lives of most everyone, and therefore this is something that should be taken very seriously.

In too many cases, people have financial problems. These problems include being in debt, making a low income, etc. Despite these problems, there are ways to solve these problems and be financially secure and stable. One of the key fundamental tactics in being financially stable and avoiding financial problems is frugality. Frugality is a process in which a person limits their spending and uses their leftover money to save and invest.


1.  Decrease Your Spending

The first tip in frugality is to cut down and decrease spending. Since many people get into debt and financial problems due to overspending, it is very important to not spend too much money. Instead of buying things impulsively it is s good idea to refrain from certain purchases. By not spending too much you will be able to be frugal and have more money to work with over time.


2.  Take Advantage Of Sales

Taking advantage of sales and using coupons is another way to be frugal. Waiting for items to go on sale such as clothing, furniture, and electronics allows you to spend less and not put too much money into these items. Coupons will allow you to reduce your food and grocery expenses and therefore allow you to avoid a high food and grocery expenditure each week.


3.  Avoid Unnecessary Purchases

Another frugality tip is to avoid consuming too much. In this situation there will be times when there are the newest and most fashionable products on the market. You may be tempted to buy these things, but if they are expensive and are not necessary for you then you should not buy them. This will save you a lot of money both in the short term and in the long run.

4.  Reduce Living Expenses

A good way to be frugal is to lower and cut living expenses. There are times when people spend a lot on television programming or rent a high price apartment. When being frugal, it is a good idea to cut any luxury expenses that aren’t necessary like cable TV. You should also get a smaller apartment or a smaller house that isn’t as expensive to pay for and maintain.


5.  Save For The Big Ticket Items

There are other ways to take advantage of the frugal approach to finances. Frugality will allow you to have lots of surplus funds. These surplus funds will allow you to accomplish things such as buying a house. You will be able to come up with down payment on a house and therefore get something that will provide you with long term benefits. A house can give you tax breaks and other perks such as added value or equity. So saving for a house is another tip for frugality.


6.  Invest Your Surplus

Being frugal also allows you to invest money. By investing money you will be able to put money into mutual funds, stocks, bonds and annuities. Over time these will add value and provide you with both a growth in funds and a steady income. This will be instrumental in a person’s retirement.

Frugality is one of the most beneficial approaches to personal finance. By being frugal you will be able to save money, invest money, pay off debt and establish financial security in the long run. With these tips, you will be able to use frugality to your advantage.

(This has been a guest post by Emily Willis enjoys writing about frugality and organizing your personal finances using Promotion Deals.)

Common Sense Ways to Save on Electricity

save on electricity Electric costs can put a damper on any household’s budget.   Current energy costs aren’t helping in the difficulties of the recession, which makes the financial end of saving energy even more pressing.   Luckily, there are plenty of simple ways to cut down the electric bill, which the following will just begin to cover.

Start Simple: Lighting

Lighting is one of the easiest ways to undermine the electric bill.   By switching a light bulb or replacing a fixture, you can realize immediate savings.

Remember this term: compact fluorescent light bulbs.   Well, to be precise, you only need to know the acronym CFLs❠when you take one of the simplest steps to improving the lighting in your home.   These light bulbs are high-quality and high-efficient alternatives to standard (incandescent) bulbs.

CFLs will last 6 to 12 times longer than your average light bulbs.   Additionally, and according to Energy Savers (from the U.S. Department of Energy), they will save you at least $30 over the lifetime of each bulb.   They have a 10-year lifespan, approximately.

LED’s (light emitting diodes) are even more energy-efficient: they last 25 times as long as ordinary light bulbs and use less energy than CFLs.

What does this mean?  Certainly you can begin to integrate CFLs in your home, but that isn’t all.   You could consider changing light fixtures â“ inside and outside of your home â“ that use CFL and LED light sources.   They can have a profound effect on the electric bill.   Combine them with timers, dimmers, and motion-activated controls and you will be on your way to greater savings!

Unplug It!

According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, standby power for appliances that aren’t in use accounts for 5% to 10% of residential electricity use.   What do you have plugged into your outlets at this very moment?

A perfect example of this is found in computers.   Many desktops use standby power, and you are probably aware of that green (well, maybe it’s green) light on your laptop’s adaptor that is on regardless of whether it’s charging your device.   Also applicable to many other electronics and appliances, you are paying for the electricity.

While turning these items off is a good start, you can consider smart power strips.   These outlets will automate the process for you, so that you aren’t paying for the DVD player that is using standby power.   After all, you surely don’t want to unplug everything by hand that uses this â“ that would take quite some time in many households.

The Golden Rule

Quick: what should you look for when you buy appliances, electronics, and a number of other items?

If you aren’t aware of the Energy Star label, you should be.   These confirmed products are labeled when they are energy efficient, which means that you’ll save over the long term.   For instance, some office equipment â“ like desktops and notebooks â“ can offer at much as 90% savings in relationship to energy consumption.   Commonly, they use half the energy of standard equipment, which can translate to big things for your electric bill. It is true that replacing all your old appliances with new ones is very expensive but if you start a renewal program bit by bit in some years’ time you will eventually have modern, energy saving equipment.

The U.S. Department of Energy has compiled a booklet, with advice on saving energy. In addition, the DOE offers support for low-income persons to make green home improvements through weatherization, which can reduce your electric bill.

Have you weatherized your home? In what way do you try to save money on your electricity bill? Share them with us!

(This has been a guest post by Lisa at Home Insurance Comparison, an Australian personal finance blog that provides money-saving health insurance options and ways to optimize your spending habits.)

How I Got Screwed by my Lack of Patience

lack of patiencePatience has never been one of my strengths.  I can think back all the way back when I was a kid and even the long road trips for family vacations irritated me.  I’ve always been someone who wants things to get done quickly with very little waiting around.  I could excuse myself by saying that I need that type of mentality because I work in the construction industry where schedule is EVERYTHING.

However, that would just be a poor excuse.  I’m a sinner like everyone else.  I mess up and let my lack of patience get the better of me.  It’s never a good ending when you are impatient. Thankfully God has stuck by me and helped me grow in this area.  Without the grace of God, I would be a lot worse off!

I was thinking about this article and how I would relate patience back to personal finance.  I even thought about writing something that made me look good.  But, I’ve decided to do something else. I’m going to share with you a story of how my lack of patience slapped me in the face and lost money.

It starts with a “want.”  This want was a desire to buy a luxury desk chair.  With the increase of hours managing this website, I thought investing in a new desk chair would make sense.  This is a great premise but it goes downhill from here…


The beginnings

I go to a small church just north of downtown San Diego.  Near my church there is an  industrial  district with outlet stores.  I’ve always seen signs advertising discounted prices and “one day only” sales.  Many of these stores are  furniture  outlets and others are carpet liquidators. When I started thinking about my desk chair purchase, I began to notice a certain office chair outlet store.  Imagine an entire store dedicated to office chairs!  It really got me excited.



One weekend I decided to visit this office chair store.  I had looked them up online and found out that they had a massive selection of office chairs.  So, why not, right?  The moment I walked in I was attacked by two salesmen.  No one was in the store so I think they were desperate for some commission.  They toured me around and asked me what I was looking for.  I told them I didn’t know and I perused the store until I stumbled onto the most comfortable chair of my life.  You can check out the chair here.  Not only was it a cool looking chair but it was super comfortable.


Price tags lie

The next thing I noticed was the price.  It was retail for $400 with a discount down to $200.  I thought it was such a steal!  Since I was at an outlet store, this had to be the lowest price anywhere!  I was confident in my purchase and happy with the price point.

I got home and cut the tags off.  I was excited to sit in my new chair!  I was curious about the company that made the chair and did a quick Google search.  The first thing that popped up was a link to Amazon for $150.  My stomach sunk.  I had just been had.


No excuses

At first, I felt anger towards the outlet store.  But then common sense took over and realized what had just happened.  I broke my own policy when buying expensive products.  Always do your research before you buy something!  I willingly  purchased  the chair at an outlet store at the more expensive price.  No excuses, I made a mistake.  Times like these are good reminders about taking your time when buying products.  Don’t be like me and let lack of patience slap you around.


Lessons learned?

So, what can you take away from this experience?  Well, I came up with a short list.  Use my poor choice to your advantage and don’t make the same mistake I made!

-Research prices before you go out to stores.  Often times, online retailers will have the cheaper price.

-Don’t buy a product just because it’s “on sale.”  It might not be that good of a price.

-Have patience when it comes to buying expensive items, it will pay off in the end.

-Walk away and take some time before buying something.


I hope my honesty helps you in some way.  Take this experience and don’t make the same mistake! Man, the things I could have done with $50.  Here in San Diego that’s a whole tank of gas!

Is Your Local Retailer Out to get You?

retailerDoes your local retailer deserve your business?   For many consumers, local retailers are certainly a good aspect of the local economy, and for good reason.   However, you might want to be careful if you see some of the following signs present at a local business.


Customer Service

Some people strongly associate customer service with local business.   After all, local retailers will generally take the extra step to connect with their customers.

The contrast can be strong with regard to larger businesses.   In fact, the same general group will often look down upon these businesses, preferring the quality service and experience that can be obtained with a local retailer.   Offering the image of the small town feel❠that local businesses bring, whether or not it’s a small town or city, is generally a selling point for the consumer.

We have all had negative experiences with a local retailer.   It is often the single easiest item to recognize â“ the retailer that doesn’t have your best interest in mind.

A local retailer should take that extra step to ensure your experience is of the highest quality.   A great local retailer will ask the right questions and get a sense of your needs â“ and perhaps give you that small town feel with a genuine conversation (that isn’t all about business).


The Local❠in Local Business

What makes a great local business?   How about the local❠part?

Local businesses that don’t strive to be a valuable part of the community â“ likely aren’t.   Let’s face it: many local businesses will thrive due to their interactions within the community, as we just saw in one dimension.   Yet, if the business and ownership doesn’t care about the needs of the community, it might give you some insight about the business itself.

Selfish businesses can exist in any town or large city.   Top-level local businesses will want to be a part of the community, help where they can, and do what it takes.   Does your local retailer have these altruistic qualities?


Can They Compete?

Let’s face it: if your local retailer can’t offer decent prices, will you become a regular customer?

There is a certain harsh reality to local businesses, so to speak.   Imagine a local computer store that simply can’t compete.   In other words, they might have a decent selection of computers, and even newer ones at that, but if they are continually outperformed by the bigger businesses â“ what’s the point?   You would do much better to save decent money from the larger business in your area, or get what is perhaps the best price anywhere, online.

While we would like to have a little sympathy for the local retailer, businesses must be able to compete with prices elsewhere.   A promising local retailer will do just that, along with discounts and other items to allow the business to thrive.   A good retailer understands that the everyday Joe survives on a tight budget. Mix that with local interaction and top-of-the-line customer service, and there you have it.   Many would give the local retailer the benefit of the doubt if the prices are near the competition â“ but everything else is there.

(This has been  a guest post by Lisa at Health Insurance Comparison, an Australian personal finance blog that provides money-saving health insurance options and ways to optimize your spending habits.)