5 Ways to Keep Clean and Save Money

When looking for ways to reduce your budget and save money, the first things to cut are the luxury items like entertainment and other non-necessities. There are also ways to save money on the “must haves” in your budget.

Good hygiene is a definite must have, not only for social reasons but also for general health and well being. Even though soap and toothpaste can’t be eliminated from your budget, there are simple ways to save money and still stay clean and healthy.

Reduce Water Consumption

It’s easy to get some relief on your water bill (and help the planet) just by using less water. Anyone can do it.

Turn the water off. The faucet doesn’t need to run while you’re brushing your teeth. In the shower, turn off the water while you’re lathering and only turn it on to rinse. I turn it off while I shave my legs and just use a cup of warm water to rinse off the razor.

Install a low flow shower head. The average shower head uses 2.2 gallons of water per minute. Low flow shower heads and faucets reduce the amount of water used, saving money on water and the energy to heat it.

Don’t Take Baths. As luxurious and relaxing as they can be, opt for a shower whenever you can. The average bathtub holds 24 gallons of water. That can add up very quickly.

Shower With a Buddy. Showering with your significant other isn’t only fun, it saves water as well. One person can lather while the other person rinses and cut the time the shower runs in half. (And if things get a little frisky, make sure to turn the water off.)

(Check out 25 Ways to Save Water in the Home and Yard.)

Free Samples

You know those free samples I post every week. A lot of them are shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc. Each of those samples can last anywhere from a couple days to over a week, depending on their size. Though you probably can’t collect enough to last you the entire year, you’re saving money by using those freebies.

If you travel a lot and stay at hotels, feel free to take along with you the little soaps and shampoos they offer there, especially if you’ve used part of them. Housekeeping is going to throw them away anyway, so you might as well take them with you.

Play the Drugstore Game

I haven’t paid for toothpaste at all this year and that’s because I play the drugstore game. By matching coupons with sales and cash back opportunities, I stock up on toothpaste when I can get it for free. I’m no expert when it comes to saving at the drugstore, so I recommend reading Money Saving Mom’s post on the drugstore game.

Use Less Product

My boyfriend has short hair (less than an inch). He fills almost his entire palm with shampoo. My hair is thick and below my shoulders, but I only use a dollop of shampoo a little bigger than a quarter, which is enough to get my hair clean. One of us is probably using way more shampoo than we need to.

I recommend reducing the amount of product you use, whether it be shampoo or toothpaste (or even other household products like laundry detergent) and experimenting to find what’s the smallest amount you can use to get the job done. A pea sized blob of toothpaste works as well as an inch long strip and will help your tube of paste last at least twice as long.

Make use of what you paid for. Make sure you squeeze every last drop out of that tube and fill your shampoo bottle up with a little bit of water to get the last bits of soap.

Try Baking Soda Instead of Toothpaste or Shampoo

A box of baking soda costs under 50 cents, and that white powder is amazing. Besides being used in recipes and to clean around the house, it can also be a replacement for toothpaste and shampoo.

I’ve never tried it, but other bloggers have dared to try it as a toothpaste and shampoo alternative. Or you can just try no shampoo at all.

These are just a few tips for how you can save money while staying clean. What ways do you save money in your daily hygiene routine?

How I Saved Money on College Textbooks and Materials

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Summer is coming to a close, and that means heading back to school for many 20-somethings. Whether that fills you with excitement or dread, there’s plenty of things to do to gear up for the new semester, including buying textbooks.

I’ve always felt like there is no bigger rip off than buying textbooks from the college bookstore, especially when the price of a single book is in the triple digits. During my four years of college, I had to buy a lot of books on a limited budget (my income during college was a varying mix of part-time jobs, survey money, and student loans). Here’s some of the ways I saved money.

Find Out The Assigned Textbooks Early

I was lucky because my school bookstore had a website which listed the required textbooks for my classes several weeks before the new semester started. That way I could start looking for deals on the books I needed long before anyone else.

If your college bookstore doesn’t have a website, try visiting the store or emailing your professors about what texts you’ll need for the class. Extra time gives more leeway to shop around and score a really good deal before demand for the books goes up as the semester starts.

Shop Around and Buy Used

This may be a no brainer, but most of my college friends just went to the bookstore and bought the used books there, thinking it was a good deal. Sure, that was cheaper than buying new, but it wasn’t a good deal. I did check the price at the bookstore, but then I also went to Half.com, eBay, and Amazon.com to compare prices, and bought from the place with the best deal. I’m sure there are more sites than this that have great deals, but these were the 3 I used the most.

(Don’t forget to sign up for a free Amazon prime membership to get free shipping on those textbooks. Also, shop through Upromise to earn money to pay tuition or student loans.)

Buy The Previous Edition

A lot of professors are empathetic about the financial situation of most college students and fully aware of how textbook publishers try to rip off students by releasing unnecessary new editions of textbooks. I would discuss it with your professor to make sure, but sometimes there are so few changes between editions that the previous version of the book will do just fine.

I actually had a teacher tell us not to buy the newest edition of a psychology textbook because it was nearly identical to the last version. I was able to buy it for $20 instead of the $100 the new edition was going for.

Borrow (or Buy) from Roommates, Friends, Classmates, etc

Chances are you’re not the first person to take the class, so it’s possible someone you know already made an investment for the course materials and would be glad to lend them to you. I was able to borrow books, a graphing calculator, and art supplies from roommates and friends who’d taken courses before me, and I didn’t spend a dime. In return, I lent friends anything of mine they needed.

Even if you don’t know anyone who would lend you the materials, you may be able to barter for the books you need or buy them pretty cheaply (I find cold hard cash to be very enticing to college students who need beer money).

Borrow the Books from the Library

I found this worked particularly well for my writing classes (which were the bulk of my schedule) where I had to read several novels over the course of the semester or summer classes that only lasted 10 weeks. You may be able to swing it for an entire semester, depending on what the libraries in your area have available.

At my school, teachers could actually put holds on books in the library so no one could check them out, but students could go to the library to use them. I knew students who got by with this every semester, but I liked having the freedom to procrastinate my homework to the last minute.

Sell Your Books at the End of the Semester–but Not to the Bookstore

The second reason I hate college bookstores is because they rip you off big time when you sell your textbook back at the end of the semester. Something that cost you $50 is suddenly only worth $10? I don’t think so.

If you’re never going to use that book again, sell it! Look for friends and acquaintances to cut a quick deal. I’ve sold a few books through Facebook Market Place. Selling online through Amazon, eBay, etc isn’t a bad way to go either, though they’ll want a piece of it. Another option is to shop around and sell your books to different websites or stores who will give you cash for them. I’ve lucked out a couple times and got back that same amount I spent on the book, but that doesn’t always happen.

There you have it, my tips on saving money on those pesky textbooks.

Reader Jeff sent in a link to Your Complete Guide to Cheap College Textbooks which includes 14 tips to cut textbook costs. Feel free to share any of your own suggestions in the comments.

Happy Earth Day! Save Money Being Green!

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It’s Earth Day today, which is a great day to remind us to try and live greener lives. This is good because being green and eco-friendly can actually save you money!

A lot of people think you have to spend a lot of money being green, which may be the case for things like installing solar panels or replacing appliances with energy efficient counterparts, but there are many simple things you can do that save money and are good for the planet.

Ready to do your part? Here are just a few easy tips:

Shop At Thrift Stores & Resale Shops
Shopping at resale shops is a great way to help other people recycle their stuff and get new to you clothes, accessories, books, and more for a steal! Plus, it’s fun to dig around at a Thrift shop and see what interesting things you discover. Make sure to donate your unwanted items as well (and get a receipt for the tax write off!). This cycle keeps perfectly good items out of the landfill and puts them to good use again.

Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Drinking lots of water is good for you. Buying bottled water is not. And most bottled water is just tap water anyway. Cut out the middle man, save the petroleum used to transport and bottle the water and just carry your own reusable water bottle. Get a snazzy stainless steel or BPA-Free Plastic Water Bottle. I carry one with me everywhere, so I always have water on hand when I’m thirsty.

Grow Your Own Veggie’s and Herbs
Gardening is a fun active hobby. It can save you money in the long run by reducing the amount of produce and fresh/dried herbs you buy at the grocery store. That in turn helps the planet by reducing the carbon footprint of transporting those foods from the farm to your store. Even if you don’t have a yard to garden in, patio and container gardening are a great option for apartment and city dwellers. (Learn more about gardening at Better Gardener’s Guide.)
Save Leftovers
Unless there was a cooking fiasco, save your leftovers! Then make sure to eat them! By doing this you make sure no food goes to waste. This can save you time and energy since you won’t have to cook a future meal from scratch. Take the leftovers for lunch the next day: you’ll save money eating in instead of going out to eat.

Pay Bills Online
Almost every bill you have–credit card, electricity, cell phone, cable, even those pesky student loans–can be paid online. This saves you the cost of the stamp, which can really add up over the years. Elect to receive your bills via email and help the planet even more by getting rid of the paper version of your bills.

Use Reusable Cleaning Products
Makes rags or buy reusable cloths for Swiffer sweepers and mops. This saves you money that would be spent on sponges or paper towels.

While You’re At It, Get Rid of the Paper Towels
Even if you’re not ready to take the plunge and get rid of paper towels completely, you can seriously decrease your consumption by using cloth napkins and rags. This saves you money and saves trees.

Make Money Recycling Your Gadgets or Books
I’m going to guess that most 20 somethings have old cell phones, mp3 players, digital cameras, and other electronic gadgets lying around. You know, things you iPhone replaced. Well instead of tossing them out or leaving them to gather dust in a drawer somewhere, you can these items and even get cash for them. And those best sellers you read years ago or your Mom bought you for your birthday even though you hate the genre: sell those too, and give them a second chance. Those textbooks from college that you know you’ll never read again are great candidates for this.

Have any other tips on how to save money and be eco-friendly? Share them in the comments!

Looking for Earth Day freebies or deals? Check out the posts at The Thrifty Mama and Common Sense With Money.

How To Save Money While Working

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This post is for the new graduates, entering the working world for the first time, and those of us who’ve been toiling in our day jobs for awhile now.

Working is hard and (depending on your job) sometimes not the most fun the in the world. Most people only work because they need money to live.

Unfortunately, working a regular job usually comes with it’s own set of expenses.

If you’re lucky enough to have a job right now, here are some tips on how to save some of the money you’re working so hard for.

Transportation

If you want to save money on transportation, you’ll probably have to think a little outside the box. Sure, your car is great: it gets you where you need to go and you can blast the radio and rock out during your commute. It just may not be the cheapest way to go to work.

Look for other options. Is there a co-worker or two who lives near you that you can carpool with? Splitting the cost saves you money and is better for the environment.

What about public transportation? If it’s available in your area, even if you have to drive a little bit to get to the station or stop, it can save you big money. Look for frequent rider passes to save you even more.

Depending on how far you live from your workplace, maybe walking or biking is an option. Even if you only do it when the weather is favorable, or just once or twice a week, those savings add up. Plus it’s good exercise.
walking, biking, car pooling, public transportation, work from home if you can.

Talk to your boss about working from home. This is obviously dependent on what kind of job you have, but if possible telecommuting can be a big money and time saver.

Food & Drink

Let’s get straight to it: bring your lunch to work. You will save so much more money than running out to a restaurant or buying junk from the vending machine. Plus, it’s most likely healthier. This doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Bring leftovers, a sandwich, whatever strikes your fancy. Make it the night before so you’re not scrambling to put something together in the morning.

Get a water bottle, whether it’s one of those fancy stainless steal ones or just something you have collecting dust in a cupboard at home. Fill it with water, juice, tea, coffee, whatever you want. Just bring it from home.

If you insist on having snacks or sodas throughout the day that you’d usually be buying from the vending machine, think ahead. Buy those same snacks and drinks in bulk from the grocery store, and store a few in your desk or the break room at work. It’ll be cheaper than paying $1+ each from the vending machine.

Tax Deductions

Some job-related expenses may be deductible from your income tax. If you itemize your deductions, some job search expenses are deductible, like job placement services, travel, etc.

Once you have a job, some expense that you have (which aren’t reimbursed by your employer) can be deducted. This includes things like travel, entertainment, Union dues, work uniforms, and work-related education. To deduct these things, make sure you keep thorough records and receipts for every expense!

These deductions will help you save money on your taxes so you’ll owe the IRS less and possibly get a tax refund.

These are just my suggestions on how to save money while working. What do you do to save money week to week?

How I Finally Cured My Eczema the Natural Way

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Developing Eczema was like going through nine months of absolute torture, a cycle that I thought was never going to end and would plague me for the rest of my life.

When I was 21, I was finishing my senior year of college and working part time at a pet store. Though my life was going very well, I was extremely stressed out and going non-stop between school, work, friends, and my boyfriend. I loved my job and enjoyed spending time with the animals and customers, but along with that came a lot of work, including cleaning cages and aquariums.

In November, I developed an itchy bump on the ring finger of my left hand. I thought maybe it was just some sort of bug bite, so I didn’t think much of it. A few weeks passed and instead of going away, it developed into a few more itchy bumps. A little concerned and annoyed by the constant irritation, I went to the health center at school.

The doctor who saw me asked some questions, proclaimed it was eczema (atopic dermatitis) and wrote me a prescription for steroids, then sent me on my way. I was shocked, I’d never had any skin problems. Although my sister had eczema as a baby, I never expected to have the condition myself and I didn’t know people could develop it as adults.

I started using the steroid cream, but the eczema only increased exponentially with red swelling and blisters. I knew this was a reaction to the steroids, so I made an appointment with a dermatologist. She prescribed me oral steroids, more steroid creams, allergy medications, and eventually even an anti-fungal cream. None of these seemed to be the cure or itch relief I was looking for.

At the worst point, my entire left hand was covered in oozing blisters, plus I had bumps and itching on my right hand and both of my feet. It was not only extremely embarrassing (customers often stared and were afraid to be near me, even when I explained it to them and assured them it was not contagious), but painful and frankly really gross. This just increased the stress in my life. The itching was unbearable at night, which kept me from sleeping. It seemed like absolute torture.

I had to quit my job after about a month and a half, which was a devastating blow, but the constant exposure to water and harsh chemicals was too much, even if I wore gloves constantly at work. I continued with the steroid treatments, and though things seemed to improve, the eczema would not entirely heal on my left hand.

Graduation neared and I lost health insurance coverage under my parents. I could not afford the prescriptions (which I’d already spent over $100 on) or the doctors visits. Things weren’t getting better and I felt hopeless.

So I made choice. I quit the steroid ointments and started reading about natural treatments and home remedies for eczema. I decided to start treating the problem inside and out. I bought supplements like Fish Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Flax Seed, and Borage to take orally each day. These include Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA), which are essential fatty acids that are recommended for skin health.

To treat the itchiness and help heal my inflamed skin, I bought Vitamin E oil and Bag Balm. I applied the Vitamin E oil as much as possible, usually when my skin was itching or dry. I was amazed at how well it eased the itching. I used the Bag Balm after showering and before I went to bed each night, wearing a cotton glove to lock in the moisture.

After I went off the steroids, my skin flared up horribly. My hand was red and inflamed, basically going through a withdrawal from the steroid creams, which it was addicted to. Once I started using the natural products, my skin started to heal. It took two or three months, but eventually and miraculously I was eczema free.

The Vitamin E Oil cost me about $5 and the Bag Balm was about $7. In total, I spent about $12 on topical treatments. I am still using the original bottle and tin I bought, and it’s been a year and a half. The amount of money I saved with this treatment compared to the failed steroids treatment I used for a few months is easily $100. This treatment worked for me and keeps my eczema at bay. What I thought would be a lifetime of torture is easily maintained and prevented.

Whenever I sense a relapse coming on, whether it be a red bump or itchiness, I immediately start in with the Vitamin E oil and Bag Balm. That usually prevents or ends the outbreak quickly. No doctors, no prescriptions, no sleepless itchy nights. I couldn’t ask for a better treatment.

Every person’s body and skin is different. This may not work for everyone, but it worked for me, so I am sharing it hoping that it will help someone else. I am not a medical professional. As always, you should consult with your doctor about any type of treatment you’re using and stop immediately if you have any adverse reactions.


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