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 16 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

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