Free Gift Cards for the Holidays: Join Swagbucks

From the Everyday Cheapskate Archives: This is a guest post by Abigail Perry, a freelance writer whose work has appeared on MSN Money, Wise Bread, Insurance.com and CitiBank’s Women & Co. blog. In her spare time she blogs at I Pick Up Pennies. Originally published in 2014, this is one of our most popular posts.

Some of the presents I’m giving this Christmas won’t cost me a cent: Amazon will deliver them and Swagbucks is buying.

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This online rewards program gives users points (“Swag Bucks,” or SBs) for various tasks, from online searches to watching movie trailers. Those points can be traded in for e-gift cards.

Amazon, Target, Starbucks and Walmart are the most popular rewards, but more than 150 popular merchants are available.

Don’t want gift cards? Redeem your points for cold, hard cash via PayPal.

Incidentally, those gift cards aren’t necessarily just for giving. My husband and I cash in for Amazon cards that we use for everyday needs like toiletries, paper products and pet food.

You can win anywhere from six to as many as 59 points at a clip just by using the Swagbucks search engine instead of Google’s. Since joining the program there’s never been a day when I didn’t win at least one search. Even getting the lowest award once a day would earn you 180 SBs in a month, or 2,160 per year. That’s enough for almost $25 worth of Amazon credit.

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It’s Only Too Late to Save for Retirement if You Don’t Start Now!

Does the dreaded question, “How much money will I need in retirement” tie your stomach in knots? Millions of your peers are in the same boat having saved precious little, if anything at all, to supplement their Social Security benefits during retirement.

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Waiting until age 50 or 60 to start saving for retirement is not ideal. It’s late but not too late. Anything you do now can improve your future.

DIVE IN. You don’t have the luxury to gently ease into retirement savings waters. Forget about the mistakes you’ve made in the past and dive in. Focus your full attention on the years ahead that you have to save.

KEEP WORKING. Every situation is unique but generally as long as you are healthy, you need to keep working. You may be tempted to hang it up on the first day you can draw Social Security benefits, but do you really want to join the 10 million American retires who are currently struggling to live on Social Security alone? Enough said.

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The Five Legal Documents Every Adult Needs

It’s been at least 30 years since my husband and I sat for hours with an attorney who specializes in estate planning. It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done. We were young and the idea of being old and planning for our respective deaths seemed ludicrous. That meeting together with nearly $2,500 made us the proud owners of a Family Trust and Estate Plan, which included the important legal documents that every adult needs.

Recently, a letter from Jenny reminded me that we need to update the documents in our Estate Plan because they may now be out of date. For sure they are “out of state,” due to our relocation to Colorado.

Thankfully, we now have an option to do this ourselves—legally and properly—for a whole lot less than it cost decades ago.

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Dear Mary: I’m 50, married and have two adult children. Our financial life is not complicated. I do not have a will and know that I should. Can I put faith in a simple Will done by one of the large online companies or is it in my family’s best interest that I hire a lawyer? I have read your work for many years and appreciate your advice. Thank you. Jenny

Dear Jenny: Thank you for the trust you put in me, something I value highly. My quick answer is that absolutely you need a Will plus four other documents as well, and I have an online source to recommend to you which will help you do this yourself—a reputable legal help organization you can trust and without reservation.

Will this preclude the need to hire an attorney? It could, but I cannot advise you on that because every situation is different. What I can tell you is that you can do this yourself and be well protected now with all of your information and desires written down in proper legal order—and have that to take to an attorney if or when you find that necessary.

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Florida’s Mold and Mildew No Match for Magic Tub and Shower Potion

The only thing better than figuring out for myself how to do things cheaper, better and faster is when I get to teach these tips and tricks to my readers. Teaching this one to Mike was the best ever! His response just made my day.

Dear Mary: I can’t thank you enough for telling us about your magic shower and tub cleaner. I live in moldy ol’ Florida and I have a tile shower in my older home. I used to bleach it every 10 to 14 days days and by 14th day it would be pretty bad—I’m talking mold and mildew. Since using your magic formal, I’ve bleached only one time this whole summer. I squirt it down two to three times a week and OMG! It’s so easy and well worth it. Love your articles. Please continue to keep us informed. Thanks again. You saved my life. Sincerely, Mike.

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Dear Mike: I am laughing because I’m tickled by your excitement. The stuff really is like magic, isn’t it! I know that so many readers are chafing at the bit to know more about this secret concoction that has saved your life (it saved mine too, so I know how you feel). I call it my Magic Tub and Tile Soap and Scum Remover but maybe we need to add Mold and Mildew to that label as well. Whatever, it is truly magical.

I suggest readers read the original column to get the specific details. But for those who can’t wait, here’s a quick reminder of the recipe. Into a 32 oz. spray bottle, pour 1 cup blue Dawn dishwashing liquid; add enough white vinegar to fill the bottle to within an inch of the top. Done. Shake to mix and spray away. Spray the walls, the floor; fixtures, glass doors, shampoo caddy and every surface inside the tub and or shower. If the soap, scum, mold and mildew are shall we say, “well developed,” leave it overnight. 

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Best Inexpensive Kitchen Knife Set

If your kitchen is typical, it is likely furnished with a few pots and lids that don’t necessary match; a stack of baking and roasting pans that may or may not be the right size for the task at hand and a drawer crammed with utensils in a variety of conditions and configurations (some of which you don’t know how to use but some day you might) and several knives none of which are sharp enough to be of much good.

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I believe the ideal kitchen should be furnished minimally. By that I mean it should contain an adequate supply of excellent quality, highly useful pieces of cookware and utensils.

If that doesn’t describe your kitchen, it’s time to take inventory and dejunk your cupboards and drawers so that each piece of equipment you decide to retain is used often, performs adequately and has its own place. That’s the kind of simplicity that has a beauty all its own.

With that in mind, today I want to offer a little knife advice together with some points to follow when you’re ready to purchase for yourself or as a gift. 

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An Apple a Day Is Not Enough

In the modern day supermarket, an apple is something that never disappears. No matter what time of year it is there will be apples. But does that mean there is still a season for apples? You bet there is and that would be from about August until the start of spring.

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Apple season isn’t that difficult to spot. I mean have you been to the market lately? Apples happen to be a great bargain right now. And variety? For snacking you’ve got your Gala, Fuji and Pink Lady, your Red and Green Delicious to name a few. And don’t forget the more tart Rome and Granny Smith, which are ideal for baking.

When you load up on apples starting now but especially come October, which is National Apple Month, you are going to save some dough, and you’re going to save something else, too. Calories! Researchers have compelling proof that three apples a day will get rid of fat. It’s so simple, they say: Three apples, one 30-minutes before each meal. That’s it. Sound too good to be true? There is a medical explanation for why the most common of all fruits can make such a big impact.

For starters, three apples will add 15 grams of dietary fiber to your diet. Researchers at Tufts University say that alone will reduce your calorie consumption by ten percent. But wait! There’s more. 

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This Halloween Go Cheap

I have no one to blame but myself that our boys grew up favoring Halloween over all other holidays—with the possible exception of Christmas.

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From the time they could walk, I poured my heart and soul into making sure they had the best costumes. One year we had Popeyes-a-Pair (two tiny boys dressed identically as the Sailor Man). Over the years we did the traditional magician, ninja, hobo and gangster and of course an entire array of super heroes.

The boys are both adults now and while I assumed this costume thing would have wound down by now, not that long ago I found myself creating Luigi of Mario Brothers fame and he looked fantastic, let me tell you.

Just this week, I was reminded how far we’ve come in this costume thing and I don’t mean that in a good way, necessarily. I’m talking about at least $200 to become Kylo Ren and not any old Kylo Ren but Authentic Kylo Ren. I understand from a friend whose husband is contemplating this seriously, that might be a low estimate by the time you figure authentic hooded cape, authentic robe, authentic belt and gloves, authentic voice-changing mask, authentic electronic lightsaber and boots. And don’t forget everything must be authentic. When I heard about this I had only one thing to say. Ack! Even that got stuck in my throat. 

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Should You Re-Sell or Donate Your Used Stuff?

A very strange phenomenon exists in the average American household wherein no longer needed clothes, shoes, boots, coats, pants, shirts, toys, games, seasonal decor, sports equipment, electronics, appliances, computers, kitchen utensils, dishes and other useful items seem to reproduce in the dark of night filling cupboards, closets, attics and basements to the brim and beyond.

I call it Stuffitis—a condition for which there is an easy, and surprisingly profitable, treatment. Should your home have contracted this maladythere are two effective ways to treat it: a) Sell the stuff or b) Donate the stuff.

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SELL THE STUFF. There are several ways to do this, none of which guarantee success. I hosted my final Garage Sale several years ago, to great disappointment. Having carefully cleaned, priced and displayed every item of which there were many—and being met with way too many offers of, “Would you take five bucks for everything?” at the end of a very long, hot and disappointing day—we hauled all that was left to a donation bin, which was most of it.

But don’t let my experiences dissuade you should you elect to re-sell your stuff. Depending on what your stuff is, you may find success with CraigsList, eBay or local buy and sell groups. 

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