Posts filed under ‘Be Frugal’

You Can Print Your Own Passport Photo (in the US)

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you’ve ever had a really embarrassing driver’s license photo, you have to live with it. But, Americans have the luxury of shooting and printing their own passport photo.

Drugstores charge about $10 for passport photos while professionals charge as much as $50. There is some skill involved since there are strict rules around the shadows, head size, facial expression, dimensions, etc. But, if you get all that right then you can have a great photo that costs as little as 19 cents to print. (more…)

June 26, 2012 at 2:00 am 5 comments

Mason Jars Can Be Used as Mini Blender Jars

By Chad Upton | Editor

Perhaps this is why they call them “Blender Jars” — the thread on the bottom of the jar is the same as a mason jar. That means you can remove the blade assembly from your large blender jar and attach it to a mason jar for small recipes, quick smoothies, baby food, etc.

If you’ve already got a blender, that’s just a few dollars in mason jars. Otherwise, you could shell out $50 for a magic bullet:

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February 28, 2012 at 6:00 am 15 comments

Baby Proofing Your Home on a Budget

By Kaye Nemec

For those of you with babies approaching the age of movement, it is time to start opening up your eyes to all of the dangers hidden within your once perfectly safe home.

Stores like Babies ‘R Us, Buy Buy Baby and Target have shelves full of products designed to help protect your baby from sharp edges, hot surfaces, poisonous cleaners, toilet bowls etc. Buying all these products can be expensive. There are ways to help keep your budget in check by baby proofing with products you probably already have at home.

  1. Sharp Corners – Once you start looking for sharp corners in your house you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of foam corner cushions you need to buy. To protect fire place corners, coffee and end table corners, counter top corners, kitchen table corners, vanity corners etc. etc. use tennis balls.  Make a cut into them with a saw or very sharp knife and wedge them onto the corners.
  2. Cupboards – Your kitchen and bathrooms are full of cupboards that your little one will be curious about. The problem is, you need to keep him out while still being able to get in yourself. Store bought cupboard locks can be expensive and difficult to use (although you should still use them on cupboards with cleaning materials and medications).  To baby proof on your own use rubber coated hairbands. Just wrap one band around both handles of the cupboard. Bungee cords or the thick rubber bands often found around produce like lettuce and broccoli also work well.
  3. Doors – Trying to keep your little one from opening doors and getting into our out of rooms on his own? As you close the door, place a washcloth between the door and the door frame. Place it high enough so little baby arms can’t reach it. Even if your baby is able to turn the door knob, she won’t be able to pull open the door due to the washcloth wedged between it and the frame.
  4. Power Outlets – For a quick and easy way to cover up outlets use Duct tape or masking tape. Tape is easy for you to move if you need to access the outlet but difficult for your baby to figure out. This is also a great way to cover outlets when you are traveling and didn’t bring outlet plugs with you.
  5. Miscellaneous – Velcro certainly won’t work once your baby really starts using their muscles, but it can help at early movement stages to help keep some knick knacks and small objects in place. Try using Velcro to hold down remotes, telephones, household decorations etc.

Of course you should also move sharp and dangerous objects out of reach and use baby gates or barriers to shield off-limits areas. To make sure everything is completely baby proof, take a tour of your house on your hands and knees so you can see your home from your baby’s view. Look for objects that are easy to grab, easy to run into etc.

These DIY solutions are also great for friends and family who don’t have babies, but have occasional baby visitors.

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Special thanks to Daniella for suggesting this post!

Sources: Essortment.comFreeShipping.org

March 18, 2011 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Bakery Twist Tie Colors Indicate Freshness

By Kaye Nemec

You may not have noticed before, but if you look closely at the loaves of bread on your grocery store shelves you’ll see that they are sealed with twist ties in a variety of colors. The colors vary not only by brand, but also within the same brand of bread.

Most bread companies use varying colors of twist ties to track the freshness of bread. For example, bread that was baked on Monday may be sealed with a blue tie; Tuesday may be green, Wednesday orange… etc. The color coding makes it much easier for employees to remove stale loaves and replace them with fresh ones. It is faster to look at the color of the twist tie than it is to read the date code on each bag.

As a consumer you can use this information to get the freshest loaf. However, the color coding system is not consistent between brands, but some people claim the most common system is the following:

  • Monday: Blue twisty
  • Tuesday: Green twisty
  • Wednesday: (No bread delivered)
  • Thursday: Red twisty
  • Friday: White twisty
  • Saturday: Yellow twisty
  • Sunday: (No bread delivered)

Without positively knowing which colors represent which days, you’ll have no way of knowing which loaf to pick. You’ll have to pay attention to the color system used by your bread maker. Try calling the customer service number and asking them what their color coding system is. Chances are good they’ll share this info.

Most bread companies deliver fresh loaves to grocery stores several times per week. If you happen to be in the store, pay attention when the deliveries are made and even ask the delivery man.

With each delivery old loaves should be replaced with fresh, new loaves. Because of the frequent deliveries, odds are that you wouldn’t see more than two to three colors for any one brand on the shelf at one time. If you do happen upon a plethora of colors you’ll know the inside scoop and may want to steer clear of that brand unless you know their specific codes.

Some brands also use tab clips that have the date on them, these should help you learn the system fairly quickly.

This secret was also suggested by Heather, thanks for the tip. I should also mention that Shannon suggested hanging on to bread tabs for scraping food off dirty plates.

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Sources: Snopes, Thriftyfun.com

August 25, 2010 at 5:00 am 9 comments

How to Get Less Meat on a Deli Sandwich

By Chad Upton | Editor

Some delis put way too much meat on their sandwiches.

Some people will say, “there’s no such thing as too much meat.” For me, I at least want to fit my mouth around it.

When you order your sandwich, you can ask for it “lite”, which is deli-speak for less meat. Some delis also use the term “half sandwich”, where they give you a full sandwich but only half the meat, other delis will just give you half the sandwich.

There are health benefits to a lite sandwich. Deli meats usually contain a lot of sodium, saturated fat and nitrates. The other benefit of lite sandwiches is the price. Because the meat is the most expensive part, you typically get a break when you order lite.

If you’re buying your own deli meats, look for labels like “healthy” which means the meat contains less fat and less sodium or “lean” meaning it contains less than 10% fat.

PS – I’m still looking for more contributors to help write content. Please contact me here if interested.

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Sources: Xomba, Find Articles, All Menus, Yelp (1, 2)

Photo: onefish2 (cc)

August 17, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

Lights Use More Energy While Turning On

By Chad Upton | Editor

There is a belief that it takes more energy to turn a light bulb on than it does to leave it running. That is true.

But, in some cases it’s still more energy efficient to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

That’s because the spike of additional electricity that is used to turn on a light bulb, is very short lived. That extra energy varies depending on the type of light bulb.

For most bulb types, the extra energy is equivalent to less than one second of energy that is consumed while the light is on. That means, you’d have to leave the room and return within one second to save energy by leaving the light turned on.

The one exception is fluorescent tubes (not compact fluorescents), they require a lot more energy to turn on than they consume while running normally.

Depending on the source of the information, fluorescents use energy equivalent to 5 to 24 seconds of regular use, just to power up. Therefore, if you use fluorescent tubes, there would be times when it would be more efficient to leave them on than turn them off.

If you have a large room that is lit with fluorescent tubes and you were going to leave the room for a few minutes or less, it would be more efficient to leave them on instead of turning them off and then back on when you return. But, if you’re leaving for more than that, you should shut them off.

That said, turning lights on and off does cause wear and tear on the bulbs. LED “bulbs”, which are now available at most hardware stores, are most resilient to this type of wear and tear.

Incandescent bulbs are extremely cheap, so the cost of replacing these bulbs isn’t an important consideration, although the environmental impact may be. But, it is important to consider this wear and tear for more expensive bulbs such as compact fluorescents. It is for this reason that the EPA recommends that compact fluorescent lights are used in areas where they will usually be turned on for at least 15 minutes at a time. This will contribute to bulb lifespan.

Although I used a couple other sources for this post, Mythbusters did some great experiments on this subject and I’ve embedded the video if you’d like to watch it.

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Sources: Mythbusters, EPA, EnergyStar (PDF)

July 30, 2010 at 5:00 am 1 comment

How to Save 25% on Medical Bills

By Kaye Nemec | Contributor

If you’ve recently undergone some sort of medical procedure and are nervous about the number of digits when the bill arrives, relax. Medical bills aren’t necessarily black and white; some frugal patients have discovered a secret.

According to a recent New York Times article, most hospitals and doctor’s offices are willing to negotiate price if it means at least part of their bill actually gets paid. In a time when the economy isn’t exactly booming and some people can’t afford health care, more and more medical bills are left untouched. If you’re looking to steer clear of collection agencies and maintain your credit, you may be able to benefit from other people’s “dine & ditch” version of medical procedures.

So what’s the trick? Haggle.

Call your doctor, hospital, dentist etc. and ask them to give you a discount if you pay your entire bill immediately over the phone. Angie’s List recently performed a consumer survey about this topic and found that 74% of people received a discount on medical bills simply by asking for it.

If you’re the planning ahead type, check out the website HealthCareBlueBook.com before scheduling a medical procedure. They’ll give you an estimate of what some of the most common procedures should cost, that way you can shop around and see how much various providers are charging. Once you find the best deal, schedule the appointment, then call afterward to haggle your discount. Check out their section on How to Negotiate Healthcare Prices for even more tips on lowering your bill.

Even if you’ve never used the salesperson of the month parking spot, it’s easy to ask for a discount. The worst that can happen is: they say, “no”

Your request can be as simple as, “Hello. I have a labor and delivery bill from your hospital for $1,700.00 and I heard that if I pay it in full over the phone I can get a 25% discount. I’d like to go ahead and do that today.”

I’m wondering, could this also work at the vet? If you thought medical bills for humans were outrageous, try having a puppy and you’ll soon learn what astronomical looks like.

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Sources: NYT, CBSNews.com, Angie’s List, HealthCareBlueBook.com

Photo: Maxios (cc)

July 29, 2010 at 5:00 am 12 comments

Stock Market Analysis Began with Rice in 18th Century Japan

The past few years have proven that the world economy lives and dies on the success of major financial markets around the world.

Traders use sophisticated software to analyze trends, make predictions and purchases. There is one legendary trader, who made billions of dollars analyzing market trends.

His name was Munehisa Homma and the only thing he traded was rice. His billions in earnings are in today’s dollars and he may have known more about market analysis in the 1700s than our smartest people do now.

He began trading rice in Osaka, where the rice market was very sophisticated, it even traded rice futures. Coupons were sold that promised the delivery of rice at a specific price in the future. Homma was believed to have created a personal network of 100 men located about 6km apart from each other to move market information between Osaka and Sakata.

He wrote the first book on market psychology in 1755, The fountain of Gold – The Three Monkey Record of Money. I have no idea what the title means, hopefully somebody is working on a movie adaptation and we can see it in 3D. Maybe it could be a prequel to 12 Monkeys?

Seriously though, Homma was a genius. He invented the candlestick chart, which is still used by traders today.

This handy chart combines four pieces of data into each plot point on a date axis. For example, you can look at a single day of trading of a specific stock and see the open and close price of the stock on that day (the candle body), along with a low and high range of prices at which it traded throughout the day (the candle wick). The candle body is solid when the open price is represented by the top line and the close price is the bottom line. It is hollow when it’s the opposite, indicating whether the price increased or decreased that day.

For a single date, this gives the reader a lot of information. But, it becomes a fountain of gold when you put multiple days together — that’s when patterns can be spotted. The great master could read the chart and predict how the market would behave in the future. Understanding these patterns is how he made his billions.

Charles Dow recognized the value of candlestick charts around 1900 and included them in his studies. You may have heard of him, he’s the guy who co-founded Dow Jones & Company, The Dow Jones Industrial Average and The Wall Street Journal.

He was obviously a brilliant man, but it was the research of Steve Nison in the early 1990s that popularized candlestick charts in North America. If you want to know more about these charts, you should look at his work.

Homma is still recognized as the greatest trader of all time. It is believed that he made more than $100 billion (today’s dollars). He once said, when all are bearish, there is cause for prices to rise.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Trader’s Log, Candlestick Forum, Wikipedia (Candlestick, Charles Dow, Homma Muneshisa)

Images:  Wikipedia (Candlestick Chart, Candlestick Definition)

June 23, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Coupons You Get at Grocery Stores are Based on Your Purchases

In the United States it is very common for supermarkets to offer discounts to shoppers who present their loyalty card at the checkout. Price tags in the aisles often quote two prices, with and without the discount card.

The loyalty cards are usually provided by the retailer at no charge. However, they’re not free.

Although you don’t pay any money for these cards, you do handover your entire purchase history at that store. Your information is often used immediately at your time of purchase to determine which coupons should be printed out for your next visit.

Marketers frequently target consumers who buy their competitors products. For example, if you frequently buy Uncle Ben’s Rice, you may get a coupon from Rice-A-Roni. The manufacturer is trying to entice you to buy their brand the next time you shop.

Purchase history may also be used to determine the dollar value of the coupons you receive. For example, if you normally buy Dannon yogurt, then Yoplait may offer you $0.50 off your next Yoplait purchase. If you’re already a Yoplait customer, you may only get a $0.10 coupon or none at all.

Obviously, you don’t need a loyalty card for the store to recognize that you’re buying Uncle Ben’s today, but it is important if they want to know if you have bought that brand before or if you typically buy another brand.

When you sign up for a loyalty card, you often fill out a short survey of personal information, including your home address. They say they want your address so they can mail other offers to you, which they may. More importantly, your address allows them to understand a lot about you, including the average income of your neighborhood and even how much you paid for your house. In some cases, these programs are run by outside companies. Your address will help them combine your shopping information from multiple stores, assuming you always use the same name and address.

By comparing your personal information with information about other people’s shopping habits, average income and other demographic information, they can predict which products you’ll most likely try if they provide a coupon a for it.

Many stores will give you their loyalty card and let you use it right away, then they send you home with a survey to fill out and mail in to register for the card. I can tell you from experience that you can use your loyalty card for years without ever mailing the survey in. Although they’re collecting your shopping history, they don’t know much else about you.

There are also studies that show stores with loyalty cards don’t always have the best price, even when you use your frequent shopper card. In fact, one study even showed that sale prices went up after the introduction of a loyalty shopping card. It’s a good idea to keep track of the prices of a few items you commonly purchase to see if the regular price is better at other nearby stores.

I usually shop at a co-op, which does not use a loyalty card but has better prices than any other store around. They even have better prices than Target on items that they both carry, although that is one of the few places I cannot use my credit card to get cash back — they only accept cash or debit, one way they try to keep their costs down.

It’s not just grocery stores that provide you with sponsored coupons. I stopped at target yesterday to pick up some envelopes, on my way to the cash I spotted a new iced coffee drink. From other posts, you know I am addicted to coffee, so I couldn’t resist. At the register I was given a $7 off coupon for Crest Whitening strips. I doubt the envelopes triggered that.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Seattle Press, No Cards, an Industry Insider

June 22, 2010 at 8:16 am 3 comments

License Plates and Headlights Increase Visibility to Traffic Radar

I did a previous post about how speed enforcement radar works.

There are two primary types, laser and tradition (Doppler) radar. Even if you have a radar detector, laser is the most difficult type of radar to avoid getting caught by. Laser radar gives officers a near instant reading on your speed, so you don’t have time to slow down before they get a reading on you.

Your best defense is reducing or even preventing the laser beam from bouncing back to the radar gun. The front license plate and your headlights are the most reflective thing on the front of most vehicles. If you’re not required to have a front plate in your area, get rid of it.

The next best thing is laser jamming, although it’s not legal in all places. But, if it is allowed in your area then you can buy laser jamming or scrambling units which prevent the radar gun from receiving a usable laser reading.

If laser jammers are not allowed, you have some other options. You can get plate covers and headlight treatments to help reduce the amount of laser light that is reflected back to the radar gun.

Reflectors on the back of your car are also an ideal reflector for Laser radar guns. For safety and legal requirements in some areas, you should probably keep these reflectors on your car.

I hope that some these tips will help you avoid some speeding tickets.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Source: Wikipedia Laser Lidar

June 15, 2010 at 1:37 am 5 comments

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