Dollar Stretcher: Ways to save on A/C
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A cooler kitchen
I don't like a hot kitchen or high A/C bills. Therefore, during the summer, I try to use my oven and stovetop as seldom as possible. I use my microwave, slow cooker, toaster oven, and outdoor grill almost every day. I figure there's no sense in adding heat to the kitchen that I have to pay to remove.
Empty-nester air conditioning
If you're an empty nester or live alone, you can cut your air conditioning bills by installing a room air conditioner in your bedroom. At night, turn off your central air, close your bedroom door, and use the room unit. You can find units for less than $150 that should pay for themselves before the summer is over.
No chemical weed killer
If you're looking for a kid- and pet-safe weed killer, here it is. Take a gallon of plain white vinegar. Add one cup of salt and ten drops of any dish soap. Spray it on any vegetation you want to kill. Usually one spray will do it, but sometimes it is necessary to follow up with a second spritz.
Buy a bike
Before you buy a bike, call your local police department and find out if they have a police auction. Many towns do. They auction off things that have been recovered from robberies, including bicycles. Often, it is possible to get a like new bike for a fraction of what you'd pay at the store.
Don't throw out moldy cheese. Instead, prevent it by adding a few drops of white vinegar to the baggie or container that you store the cheese in. It won't change the flavor of the cheese, and it prevents mold from forming. I had some cheese in the fridge for months without a bit of mold.
Selling your home?
Everyone knows to do some basic maintenance before putting a home up for sale. Things like touch-up painting and repairs are important. However, you might want to also have a professional home inspection done. Let potential buys see the report. That way, they'll know that you're not hiding anything from them.
Like most moms, I hate it when my kids say that they have nothing to do, and I don't want them sitting in front of a screen all summer. Therefore, we created something we call "$5 Fun." We come up with an activity that we all can do that costs less than $5. So far, we've had a water balloon fight, took a nature walk in nearby woods, and bought a board game at a thrift store that was in our budget. The kids are happy, and they're learning how to have fun without spending a lot of money.
Back in high school, my chemistry teacher taught us that laundry detergent just makes it easier for the water to dissolve dirt on your clothes. It doesn't actually do the cleaning. The agitation of the water does it. She suggested that we should use as little detergent as possible. I've found that my clothes come out clean, and they last longer, too. It is important to follow the washer's manufacturer recommendation for loading. If you put in too many clothes, the washer cannot agitate the clothes properly.
Credit limit caution
We're about to apply for a mortgage and wanted to raise our credit score. We thought that reducing the amount of our credit limit would be a good idea until we spoke with a financial planner. He told us that only worked if we didn't carry a balance on our credit card account. If we owe a balance, reducing our credit limit will increase the percent of our available credit that we're using. That will actually lower our credit score. Therefore, if we want to maximize our credit score, we shouldn't reduce our available credit if we owe a balance on the account.
Finding a job
Many professions and trades have an organization to represent them. If you're unemployed, they can be very helpful. Begin by finding out if they have discounted memberships for those who are unemployed. Once you're a member, make sure you take advantage of networking opportunities. That might mean volunteering for a committee or project. They might also offer discounts on training classes.
Summer is a good time to make some extra cash. People taking vacations can provide you with a real opportunity. Some will need to have their pets watched. Others will want their grass cut or their mail retrieved. Some will want to have their gardens managed. It's as simple as putting an ad in Craigslist and listing the things you're willing to do and how to contact you. Many things can be done in the evening if you have a full-time job.
Teens can also make some cash. Either way, it's a real opportunity to make some quick cash.
Why buy gift cards?
So many people seem to love gift cards. They buy them for others and they want to receive them as gifts. I don't buy them because I know that gift cards are much less useful than just plain cash! A gift card often has an expiration date. Buying one often involves paying a fee in addition to the cost of the card itself. Yet the company selling the card is very eager. They know that about 25 percent of gift cards are never redeemed, so for the company, it's free money! It's a real rip-off for the buyer, and for the recipient, it often just means they have a new errand on their to-do list. Instead, take the cash and wrap it in a short note, expressing your wish that your friend or relative use it for something they would really enjoy. Clark Howard, the consumer advisor, even has a "no-gift card gift certificate" that you can print out and wrap around your cash gift. There's no expiration date on the gift and no rules, and it's good everywhere. You save money (no fees) and get the best use out of your money.
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