7 Apps That Will Save You Money

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1. Gas Buddy

Shows you the cheapest gas near you. Super easy to use. You just hit one button and it uses your location info. I regularly manage to save around 20c a gallon using this app. I’ve discovered some gas stations that I drive past but have never paid any attention to or where the price wasn’t clearly visible from the road.

2. Red Laser

This app allows you to scan the barcode of any item and the app will look for the lowest prices for that item online. I tend to keep the boxes of things like sneakers so I can easily scan the barcode and reorder an item I like. This allows me to later reorder the old model that I know I already like and can usually get at a huge discount.

3. Google Maps Navigation

You save $ instead of buying a GPS and you save gas when you avoid unnecessary driving around in circles. The app will reroute you based on traffic levels so you also save gas and time you would’ve spent sitting in traffic.

You might find that it suggests some short cuts on routes you often take but have never considered.

4. Viber

The Viber app allows you to make free calls to other Viber users anywhere you have a data connection. Unlike Facetime, there are versions for non-iphone users. The call quality is usually better than Skype. This app is excellent for when you’re taking overseas trips and want to stay in touch with family at home, or whoever is watering your plants.

5. Hotwire.

They currently have an offer where the first time you use the app you get a $25 discount on any booking of at least $100 (can be a 2 night booking a lower rate).

6. Amazon Price Checker.

A quick way to see if something is a good deal is to see if you can get it cheaper on Amazon. The Amazon Price Checker app makes that easy,

7. Parking.me.

Put in the address or zip code and this app will show you the cheapest parking options. Not only that but it shows them on a map so you can see which is going to be in the sweet spot between cheapest and most convenient.

Getting some extra money for your travel fund.

1. Apply for refunds.

Before you leave overseas on longer term travel make sure you get any refunds you’re entitled to when you cancel services. This includes:

– from your car insurance if you prepaid in advance,
– deposits you’ve paid when you started your utilities at your house or apartment.
– TV license fee in the UK.
– Car registration fees.

If you’ve got time left to run on any contracts like the your phone or the gym, then do some research about the best ways to disentangle yourself from those situations. Don’t listen to what the sales guy tells you! There are often ways and means! Go through your last few months bank statements and minimize, to the greatest extent possible, any payments that will still be coming out while you’re travelling. Make sure you understand the implications of canceing things e.g., you probably don’t want to cancel your health insurance to save a few hundred dollars, if there is a risk you could develop a long term problem while you’re away and then not be covered for it if you re-apply for health insurance later. An alternative to canceling is sometimes trading down e.g., keeping third party insurance for a vehicle you’re going to be storing.

2. Get the best prices when you sell your stuff.

There are several things you can do to get the best prices for items you’re selling online. Taking good photos and writing good descriptions is important. It’s also important how you price your items – not too high and not too low. You can never really be sure of this, unless you can look up past sales prices of virtually identical items. One option is to ask friends or co-workers who use the sites you’re selling on, what they think the prices should be. Otherwise you’re likely to fall into the trap of overvaluing your own stuff.

3. Do some extra work.

Overtime at your job is one option. Other options include things like babysitting or odd jobs. Be upfront with people that you’re trying to put a few extra dollars in your travel kitty, so if there is anything they want to outsource to you, you’re open to it. There are plenty of jobs e.g., cleaning someone’s pool that don’t take rocket science, and that many homeowners will be happy to take a break from. Doing this type of thing will build your confidence if it’s not something you usually do.

4. Submit a tax return.

If you’re an employee who has taxes deducted from your pay, and you’ve only worked part of the year, chances are you’ll be eligible for a tax refund. This is because the tax calculations generally assume you’ll be working for the full year. Some countries don’t require their citizens to file taxes if tax has been deducted at the correct rate, so you might not usually file a return. If you want to get the refund, you will usually have to file. Check out whether you can do this yourself. It might not be as daunting as you think.

Image by Moyan Brenn under Creative Commons License.

7 Tips for Saving on Your Regular Purchases Without Couponing.

1. Use a cash back credit card.

Many people sign up for credit cards to get frequent flyer points as sign up bonuses. For your regular purchases, you should be using a credit card that gives you cash back. There are some that hover around 2% with no annual fee. If you put $20,000 on the card in a year, you’ll get $400 cash back – a very nice saving!

This tip applies if you travel coach and would rather have flexibility about your airline and hotel choices, rather than be locked into one brand. By all means, still sign up for other cards to get the initial sign up bonuses. For your regular purchases, I favor cold hard cash back (lol).

2. Move your regular purchases to your credit card.

If you have a card that gives cash back, you’re now saving money for every charge you put on your credit card. Go through any bills you have that you pay from your checking account and see if you can move them to your credit card. Take a look at your check book to see any checks you’ve written in the last 6 months that could have been paid on your card.

3. Are there any regular purchases where you can purchase through an “online mall” for additional cashback or points?

For example, whenever I order my phone refill card from Wal-mart, I going through the American Airlines shopping portal. This earns one frequent flyer point per $1 spent.

You can also use sites like ebates.com where you’ll get at least 1% cash back on virtually any online purchase.

If you shop a lot at Amazon and have an existing card that gives you a high % of rewards for purchases at supermarkets, another trick is to buy Amazon giftcards at your supermarket and then use those cards to shop on Amazon.

These may seem like small savings but if you spend say $30,000 a year on shopping for your family’s expenses, then averaging 3% cashback is a $900 saving. It’s worth putting up to 10 or so hours into developing systems for HOW you make your purchases so that you can save on autopilot.

4. Get smart about extended warranties.

Buying the extended warranty from the store where you buy the item is rarely the best deal. Shop around online for other extended warranty options. And, consider whether you need the extended warranty at all. Amex cards can be used to get extended warranty protection in many cases. Just make sure you use the Amex for the purchase and not a gift card.

5. Check for duplicate benefits.

Check for services you are paying for twice. For example, my car insurance already provides roadside assistance benefits so I don’t need a AAA membership.

My credit card covers collision damage on rental car hires.

I have an audiobook subscription but I’m thinking about giving it up because so many of the audiobooks I want are available from my public library. They also have lots of titles for your kindle too. If you have a library card, you may not need to duplicate with purchases. Whenever I need to place a hold on an item, I typically only need to wait a few days till I get an email saying the item is now ready for download.

7. Limit the time you spend on these strategies.

It would be easy to obsess of getting the absolute top amount of cash back for every purchase. However that is rarely a smart use of time. Basically making sure you are getting something back EVERY time you make an online purchase is the best strategy, EXCEPT where you are making more than several thousand dollars a year of purchases through a channel. When it gets to that level, you want to make sure you’re getting the best % back.

photo credit: Unhindered by Talent via photopin CC

5 Suggestions for a Calmer Home

1. Everything should have a place.

If everything in you own has a designated ‘home’ within your home, it’s a lot easier to keep things tidy.

What’s important is that all items each have an uncluttered place you put them after use. This should be as close as possible to where you use the item. In other words, you shouldn’t need to walk to the other end of the house to put something away.

2. Turn the TV and radio off when not using them.

Eliminate excess noise as much as possible. The sound of silence is incredibly calming. You can’t always control the noise level at your home e.g., neighbors mowing their lawns. However, when you have complete silence at home, take a mindful moment to enjoy it.

3. Fix broken stuff.

Broken items give a home bad energy and are annoying. For example, if a door has become sticky. Get yourself a good handyperson who can take care of little jobs for you. Have them come in as soon as two or more things need doing. I use a guy my Mum found. He’s amazing and can fix virtually anything. And, he only charges $25 an hour! Keep a running list somewhere of what you’ve noticed needs fixing. Throw out items that no longer work and all their attachments e.g., old chargers. Take to electronics recycling.

Things that might need doing include
– leaking faucets
– a lawnmower that’s become difficult to start
– repainting where paint has cracked from the sun
– chairs or tables that have developed wobbles
– remotes that have dead batteries
– door handles that have become loose

4. Assign a weekly time for taking care of little issues around your home.

Some issues that occur around your home, you’ll be able to fix yourself. For example, lightbulbs or batteries that need changing. Assign a weekly time when you can either fix issues yourself or arrange for your handyperson to come.

Identify items that you can order online and create “wishlists” for these items so you can easily reorder them as necessary. Ordering online means you can just order the items when sitting at your desk at work or whenever the needs crop up. You won’t need to remember to get the item from the store. The simplest solution is to join Amazon Prime. That way you don’t have to deal with minimum order requirements and can get free 2 day shipping.

5. Develop systems and procedures.

For anything you do regularly, you should have an efficient system and set of procedures. For example, where you hang your keys when you walk in the door or how you pack lunches for your family. Help your children and husband to develop systems. For example, your child might have a system for how they get their school bag ready, or a system for what they do when they get home from school, like where they put their bag and changing their clothes.

For younger children, you can make a series of photos of each stage of a system and put them in a flip book. This means they can have visual reminders of what comes next in a process. For example, they might have a flip book containing the photos of everything they need if they’re doing to do painting e.g., put on their apron, put an old sheet on the floor so they don’t make a mess of the carpet etc.

photo credit: Take Back Your Health Conference, Los Angeles 2015 under Creative Commons license.

How to Prepare for a Road Trip

Here are 10 tips for how to prepare for a stress free road trip.

1. Top up the fluids in your car

e.g., water for your window wipers.

2. Make sure your tires are at the correct pressure.

This helps with fuel efficiency.

3. Familiarize yourself with the Google Maps app for turn by turn navigation with voice prompts. Sometimes the voice prompts can require a bit of fiddling to get working. I think my issue was that I normally use headphones with my phone. The phone defaults to not playing sound if headphones have been recently pulled out while something is playing and I think this was causing the voice prompts not to work at first. Make sure you have the latest version of the app i.e., check there aren’t any updates of the app (click the app store icon on your phone to check).

4. Get a stand to mount your phone to your dashboard.

Using your phone for navigation is cheaper, and typically just as good, as dropping $100 on a dedicated GPS. If you think you will be going places that don’t help cell reception then you might look at an app that where you download the maps in advance for offline use. There are some free ones.

5. Get a car charger for your phone.

If your car doesn’t have a USB port, get a charge that plugs into your cigarette lighter. You can get these with double slots so you can charge both your iphone and ipad.

6. Familiarize yourself with the routes your going to take.

I like to do this on my laptop and then check to make sure those same routes are showing up on the phone. Sometimes Google maps for desktop shows different route options vs. Google maps for phones. Usually the desktop version gives you the most logical routings. The phone excels at adjusting your route based on live traffic data.

7. Practice driving using the Maps app.

It can take a few runs to get accustomed to using the Google maps app if normally you don’t use a GPS or navigation app when driving in your home town or city.

Use the maps app for a week or so at home, before your trip. You might be surprised and discover some more efficient routes around your own neighborhood.

8. Gas Buddy

Get the Gas Buddy app if you are doing a road trip in the US. This will show you the cheapest gas prices in your current vicinity. It is brilliant and has saved me a lot of money.

9. Parking

Check out parking options if you think you’ll be driving anywhere where parking will be difficult or expensive. The http://www.parkme.com/ site can be quite useful, although it doesn’t typically show the free street parking options or store/mall parking lots you can park in for free.

Try and find a supermarket or mall near where you going for parking purposes.

10. Plan to keep hydrated.

Make sure you have a water bottle and/or coffee cup that will sit nicely in your cup holder. You might also want to pack a small cooler (one that will fit inside the car rather than the trunk) so that you can keep drinks and snacks cold.

How to Recover from a Bad Day

1. Give yourself permission to take time to recover.

After a bad day, give yourself permission to take an evening or a day or two to bounce back. Sometimes we just push through emotional pain without taking the time to have a period of emotional recovery. I’m not talking about months, I’m taking about a few days.

2. Spend some time in silence.

Decompress by reducing noise and other excess stimulation. Take a few minutes without the TV on.

3. Take a long bath or shower.

Use the heat of the water to soothe your adrenalin soaked muscles. Use a peppermint soap or any other mild, natural scented soap that helps you feel calmer and refreshed.

4. Do something routine but not unpleasant.

Sometimes it’s nice to come home and cook after a bad day. Other people might choose to do laundry or weed their garden. Anything that requires “singletasking” is often a good way to feel like you’re moving forward after a bad day but also like you’re moving forward emotionally.

5. Don’t make any snap decisions.

Sometimes it feels like the issue needs to be sorted out right now. Usually it doesn’t. Tolerate the uncertainty and it not being all worked out and finalized yet vs. run the risk of making an impulsive decision you might regret later.

6. Call a friend, but not for a marathon chat.

Talking to a friend after you’ve had a bad day can be a great thing to do. However, don’t spend an hour talking about what has happened. You can briefly mention what’s going on but then move on to other topics. A positive distraction is usually a better idea than wearing out your welcome mat with your friend. Other people usually have things going on in their lives too.

If you want company, consider asking a friend to come over to watch a movie or something else low stress.

7. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, but believe those feelings will pass.

Whatever you’re feeling, whether it be angry, anxious, guilty or depressed, allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. However you should also expect that those feelings will naturally pass.

8. Eat what you like, but don’t binge.

If you’re craving carbs due to stress, go for it. However don’t binge or overeat. Make popcorn, eat a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, or munch throw a whole tub of hummus. I often crave salty carbs if I’ve had a really bad day and no harm ever comes of it.

9. Do what’s right for you in terms of alcohol.

Some people I know swear by a glass of wine to help them calm down and relax after stress. A few of my closest friends use this as a coping strategy but only very occasionally. For me, a glass of wine wouldn’t improve the situation. Know what’s right for you.

10. Take it easy for a few days after your bad day.

You don’t want to grind to a halt in terms of productivity after a bad day. However, you do want to let yourself naturally recover. Find a balance between staying active / productive and allowing time for recovery. Long walks can be good vs. other types of strenuous activity – again know what works for you. Are you a long walk person or do you prefer to get your mojo back with a hard out zumba class? For me, I will for for a long walk or swim but there would be no way I’d have the willpower to energy to get myself to an exercise class or the gym.

photo credit: rafiq s via photopin CC.

5 Things You Probably Have But Don’t Need

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1. Cable.

If you still have cable, it’s time to make the change. Cable is mostly endless channels of “junk food.” We’re bombarded with advertisements everywhere in life. Giving up conventional TV is one area in which we can control how much excess advertising we’re exposed to. You’ll also be able to be to rid yourself of the 24/7 doses of bad news dished out on cable.

Making the change away from cable is almost painless due to all the online options.

2. A second car.

Some families genuinely need a second car. However if you can survive without a second car you might be surprised by how much money you save and how planning around only having access to one vehicle isn’t too hard.

3. Almost any monthly subscription where you could pay A la Carte.

Monthly subscriptions may seem like good value but they hardly ever are. How many times have you bought a gym membership and not used it? Gyms would be so crowded you couldn’t move if everyone who is a member actually went! They bank on only a small proportion of members attending regularly.

I challenge you to get rid of any subscription where you have the option to pay as you go instead.

You can also put a subscription on hold. I have one subscription where I do this 3 months a year.

4. Any kitchen appliance that does only one thing.

9 out of 10 times if you buy a single use kitchen appliance, you probably won’t use it nearly as much as you think. For example, ice-cream maker, donut maker, panini press, fondue pot.

Instead of buying these things, you may just be able to borrow them or “swap” with friends e.g. lend out your ice-cream maker in exchange for using a friend or relative’s panini press.

5. Magazine subscriptions.

Magazine subscriptions suck you into with super low rates, to the extent they almost seem free. However, magazines are mostly just vehicles for advertising and poor body esteem! The main barrier to canceling is usually the time it takes to do that. Instead of waiting until your renewal try cutting the cord now.

3 Apps That Will Simplify Your Life

1. Dropbox

There are lots of cloud storage options out there, but Dropbox is clean, simple and requires virtually no effort to use.

– There are a ton of uses.  For example, it will allow you to just plug your phone into your computer and have all your precious photos automatically uploaded to the cloud, plus you can choose whether a local copy to kept on your computer.

– If you want to share a photo with someone, like grandparents, you can just share the dropbox link to the photo rather than messing around the email attachments.

– You can also put documents in “shared folders” when you need people like your accountant to have access to some of your documents.

2. Your Bank’s App

Your bank’s app will allow you to take photos of checks you’ve received and submit them to your account, rather than needing to go to the bank. This saves both time and money. Bonus!

3. Price Check by Amazon

The Price Check by Amazon app allows you to scan any barcode and check the Amazon price. Combined with Amazon Prime (Moms can get a free 3 month trial), you’ll be able save both time and money. If you have to rush to the store to get something last minute, scan the barcode of the item you’re buying. If it’s cheaper and/or easier on Amazon, order a backup so you won’t need to run to the store next time.

You could also just can the barcode of any purchases you make to see if those items would be cheaper on Amazon.

There is also another app called Red Laser that will check prices beyond Amazon. It works the same – you just scan the barcode of any item. Sometimes it’s easier to just deal with Amazon, and the goal here is simplicity.

The Amazon price check app also makes it super easy to add the exact product you want to your Amazon cart.

photo credit: ilamont.com via photopin CC

How to Deal with a Child Who Doesn’t Want to Go to Pre-school

It can be very stressful when you have a child who doesn’t want to go to preschool and you feel like you really need the break.

These are tips for helping understand and overcome the issue as quickly as possible.

1. Identify the root cause.

Try to find the root cause of the issue. For example, if your child is toilet training, they may be worried that they’re going to have an accident at school. Other potential causes include that your child may be coming down with a bug.

2. Ask yourself – Has something changed?

Have you been arguing more at home? Did you recently move? Are you expecting another baby? Changes at home may mean that your child is having the instinct that they want to stick close to you.

3. Chat with their teacher.

Ask your child’s teacher open-ended questions like
– “How does my child spend their time when they’re at preschool?
– “How does my child cope when they need help from an adult at school?”

Don’t ask closed ended questions like “Have you noticed anything different?”

4. Is your child getting enough rest?

Is your child reluctant to go to school because they’re tired?

5. If your child is normally happy to go to preschool, listen when they’re telling you that they need a day off.

Even if you don’t know the exact cause of why your child doesn’t want to go to preschool, it’s probably better to give them that message that you will respond to them when they’re freaking out, rather than insist that they go. If it’s becoming an ongoing issue, you’re likely going to to need to try other strategies.

6. Invite kids from preschool to your house.

Arrange some playdates with kids from preschool. This will help you assess if there are any social issues that are causing your child to not want to go to school.

7. Reward going to school with attention.

Give your child one on one attention when you pick them up from preschool. For example, take them to lunch one on one, whether this be sandwiches in the park or out to a cafe. Make sure your child is getting enough one on one time with you. If you have other children, try to arrange for someone else to take care of them so you can spend some special time with the child who is having a hard time. Make sure you reward the wanted behavior of going to preschool.

photo credit: Biscarotte via photopin CC

The Top Electronics to Have in Your Car

With the fast-changing world of communication technology available today, gone are the days of travelling with a map book (if you are doing holiday or long-distance travel) and communicating from a phone booth at a roadside restaurant or hotel. Today, we navigate, communicate, and entertain ourselves electronically from the comfort of our seats and with direct efficiency and results. Here is a list of the most important electronic tools to have with you on the road:

– Mobile phone communication is virtually standard in South Africa, and you will not be travelling without your mobile phone. For safety and in compliance with road traffic ordinances, as a driver, your mobile communication must be hands-free, so you should look into installing a hands-free system in your car.

– Navigation today is electronically aided, and you should have a navigational system in your vehicle. Today, these are not just used for directional indication. Live traffic update systems allow you to be directed to your destination by avoiding areas of traffic congestion and accident warning, as well as road policing points, getting you to your destination in the shortest possible time.

– In-car entertainment is now a given when traveling on holiday or with the children for a weekend away. Mobile DVD players are popular, and a range of movies can be viewed on board. Alternatively, you can buy a touchscreen LCD with VGA for in-car entertainment too.

– Digital and portable music systems are always good to have. You can look at a 2-in-1 Bluetooth stereo audio receiver and transmitter for your speakers, on-board TV, mobile phone, and MP3 player.

– Buy an FM transmitter if you don’t have an AUX input into your car radio. This will deliver your iPod’s tunes over an FM frequency to your car stereo for on-demand tunes over a good audio system.

– You might also want to get a mobile digital TV receiver that connects to your car’s existing DVD player and can decode MPEG-2 and 4. Choose one with an HDMI output, a port for PVR, and duel tuner.

– For those times when you are unsure if you are safe to drive, you can have a digital alcohol tester in your car for peace of mind.

– You will need to charge these devices so why not have a power inverter in your car that turns 12v DC current into 220V AC current? You can charge and run your tablets and other devices while driving.

– Alternatively, you can buy a cigarette lighter-driven USB charger that will allow you to charge any of your electronic devices.

– For motoring safety, you can take a portable emergency jump starter in case your battery runs dead during the night.

If you live in or are travelling to South Africa any time soon, you can find any of these electronics on a website like Gumtree.

Image by mroach under Creative Commons license.