Dollar Stretcher: Summer road trips
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When we were first married, I wanted to impress my in-laws with Thanksgiving dinner. Being young and broke, we didn't have fancy table settings. Therefore, about three months before Thanksgiving, I started
watching for estate sales. I found a great deal on china and silver that no online deal could match it.
I have found that by boiling several potatoes with their skins on at one time and keeping them in the refrigerator for a few days, I am able to quickly make potato salad, fried potatoes, potatoes to mash with gravy, etc. It saves money on cooking energy and saves a lot of time. They are also much easier and faster to peel.
Our special souvenirs
Everyone in our family now has a phone that takes pictures. Therefore, when we get home from a vacation, we create a digital trip souvenir book. My son likes to write, so he does a daily written commentary. We add pictures of things that we saw and did along with pictures of tickets and menus. It's a fun project, and the whole family gets to participate.
The home repair scam test
My husband and I cannot do some of the home repair chores any longer, so we need to rely on contractors. A friend who works for the police department gave us some advice on how to avoid scam artists. First, we always ask for their license number. All home repair contractors in our county are
required to have one. Next, I ask them if they'll give me a discount for cash. It's a trick question. If they agree, I immediately drop them from consideration. Finally, I ask where they buy the materials they'll need. If they say they have a really good cheap source, I ask about the company name and location. If they won't give it to me or when I check out their source they seem shady, I drop the contractor. It takes a little more time to find a quality contractor, but it takes less time than chasing after a bad one.
Before I tackle a DIY job, I estimate how much I will save by doing it myself. Sometimes the savings aren't enough to take on the project. If I do it myself, I take the money I save and add it to my IRA account. I figure this is money that I wouldn't have otherwise, so I won't miss it if it goes into my IRA. I've already covered about half my allowable contributions. By the time I retire, my DIY savings will be multiplied to two or three times what I have saved today!
Easy indoor container garden
Here's a container garden that you can have even if you live in an apartment. Buy a 6' section of 6" PVC pipe and a cap for one end. You'll find them at Lowe's in the plumbing department. Spray paint it whatever color you want. Drill holes at various spaces big enough for a plant's stem to go through. Then fill with soil. You can plant carrots, strawberries, herbs, etc. in it. Hang it lengthwise from the ceiling, stand it in a corner, or place it in a Christmas tree stand. Water it from the top. It takes almost no space and can provide some nice veggies and herbs for you.
Summer road trips
To make summer road trips easier, I get on the road around daybreak. There's light enough to see well, but the sun isn't beating down on me. My favorite part is that very few other vehicles are on the road at this time. If I see I'll be entering or driving close to a city at rush hour, I get as near as possible without going past city limits. I pull into a rest stop or filling station. I can refuel, clean the windshield, move around to ease stiff joints, have coffee, etc. My favorite place to stop is a shopping mall.
Many are near interstates and open early for walking. I get a pleasant walk in the climate-controlled, safe environment of a mall. There's usually a dollar store or discount store if I happen to need (not "want") anything, and most stores open around rush hour. I spend about an hour this way until rush hour passes. Once back on the road, I stop the day's travel between 3p.m. and 5p.m. Motel rooms are more plentiful that early. I can choose a place for an early evening meal and then get to bed before resuming travel at the crack of dawn the next day.
After my divorce, I needed to make some radical money changes. Between the alimony and child support, I was strapped. I met another divorced father, and we decided to share a house. Between us, we can afford three bedrooms. Even if both of us have our kids visiting on the same weekend, we have
plenty of room. The spare room has bunk beds and the kids also use air mattresses. They get along fine, so it's like a big sleepover for them. If I had rented a two-bedroom apartment, every month would have been a struggle. Also, my roommate and I take turns cooking, which saves on the food bill, too.
Before you cancel your credit card
I wanted to reduce the amount of available credit showing before applying for a mortgage. My wife and I had opened those accounts that offer you a discount if you open a credit card account, but since we weren't using them, we wanted them off our credit file. A friend who works in a bank said that I should make sure they didn't show any open balance or that we had any recurring bills (like Netflix) that would charge to them. He said to be especially careful about things that charge annually. Therefore, before I
closed the accounts, I looked each one up online to make sure there wouldn't be any problems later.
The check-in question
We all like to get the best deal on motels. I love the services that compare prices. Even when I use them to get the lowest price, I always ask at check-in if there are any discounts that I've forgotten or missed. I've had them ask if I was a vet, AAA member, union member, and a few other things that surprised me. Most of the time, it doesn't turn up anything, but being nice to the clerk and spending a minute or two talking with them costs me nothing.
We were about to get a CD for our long-term emergency fund. We'd get a higher rate if we committed to a longer CD, but I was afraid that rates would go up and we'd be stuck. Then I was reminded that you can break a CD if you pay a penalty. Typically, the penalty is about six months' worth of interest, so I went for the longer CD. If the rate goes up a lot, I can always break my CD, pay the penalty, and reinvest at the higher rate. I'll make up the penalty in no time.
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