14 Ways to Waste Money Without Even Trying

What would it feel like to check your bank balance and find a pile of money you didn’t know you had? That could happen and it doesn’t have to involve getting a second job or convincing the family how much fun it would be to fast two days a week.

Stop wasting money on goods and services that don’t matter in the long run. You just might see the equivalent of working a second job in your wallet.

1. BUYING FROM A TV AD

Face it: Infomercial products are overpriced   and hardly ever turn out to be as wonderful as depicted. And those risk-free trial periods? Don’t believe it. You’ll have to pay the return shipping costs plus a restocking fee, if you ever get around to it.

Plug the leak: Whenever tempted by an infomercial product, take a second to look up the item on eBay. You’ll be shocked to find dozens at a fraction of the price because that’s where they unload all the “as seen on TV” products that get returned. Ask yourself, why so many returns? By then the infomercial should be over and you can get on with your day.

How much you can save: How about two easy payments of $49.95? Plus shipping and handling. And the shipping charges to return it during the “free” trial period.

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Achieving Your Freezer’s Full Potential

Is your freezer a money-guzzling storage facility for mystery meats? An oversized ice maker? It’s time to learn how to turn that box of wasted cold space into the money-stretching, time-saving household appliance it was meant to be.

TIPS

Temperature. Set it to the coldest setting so you maintain a constant temperature of 0 degrees or lower to ensure food will be safe to eat.

Efficient. A full freezer uses less electricity. When food inventory is low, pack it full by adding containers of water to fit the empty spaces.

Right wrap. Wrap food tightly to prevent moisture loss that causes food to become dry and discolored. Then, wrap it again in a thicker layer of foil, plastic or freezer bags. The second wrap keeps out odors.

No burn. Trapped air causes freezer burn. To prevent it, select a container small enough so your contents fill it. And skip the fancy sealing machine. Using a freezer bag, seal all but enough space to slip in a drinking straw. Inhale on the straw to pull out all the air, quickly seal the bag, and pop it into the freezer.

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Best Inexpensive Stick Vacuum—Finally!

Over the past several months, I’ve received more requests for the best inexpensive stick vacuum than all other such requests combined. And I get it. I’ve been looking for my ideal stick vacuum for so long, I’d just about come to the conclusion that my expectations are completely unreasonable—my perfect stick vacuum doesn’t exist.

For me, a stick vacuum is not a substitute for a good, powerful household vacuum that can pull dirt, dust and debris from deep within the pile of a carpet. Just so you know, I am not looking to get rid of my beloved Sharky. Never! A stick vacuum has a different purpose altogether.

It’s a simple tool designed for quick pick-ups; to clean up spills in the kitchen, tracked in sand, dirt, pet hair, cat litter, dust, and loose debris when you don’t have the time or inclination to haul out a full size vacuum cleaner for such a small task.

A good way to think of a stick vacuum is that it’s an electric broom and dustpan in one. It “sweeps” up and then vacuums away debris in a single pass without the need for the user to bend over or get down on the floor.

My dream stick vacuum would be cordless with a run time of at least 20 minutes and able to stand alone. In my dreams this stick vacuum is so lightweight I can easily carry it up and down stairs in one hand while carrying a load in the other. It must have an on/off switch so that I don’t have to continuously hold down a trigger during operation.

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Dumb Things to Do with a Tax Refund

Tax time: That interesting time of year when ordinarily smart people begin to make really dumb financial decisions. Isn’t it amazing to watch what a little extra cash (well for some, maybe a lot of extra cash) lining the pockets can do? The average tax refund so far this year may be $3,539 and I suspect there are at least that many dumb ways to spend it. Here are my top five:

ACT LIKE IT’S “FREE” MONEY

The operative word in the term “tax refund” is REFUND! Common synonyms for refund are “repayment,” “reimbursement,” and “return of over payment.” This means that tax refunds are not free money. The government is not giving you a bonus every year just to thank you for being an American. This is money that you’ve allowed them to “borrow” from you all year long. And now, unlike most of your friends or family members, they are actually paying you back.

Never mind the fact that you made the loan with NO interest even though you pay them back with interest on your student loans or installment payments.

Smart Move: If you routinely get a big tax refund, change your withholding (use this calculator to determine the amount you should be having withheld along with instructions on how to change it). Your goal is to neither owe or to be owed at the end of the year. If you can come within $100 of that goal, you’re good.

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Reader Responses to Recent Posts

Every time I hit the send button on a new post I get that momentary sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing.  And when your responses come pouring in, it’s like a welcomed pat on the back.

Not all responses are, shall we say, raving reviews but mostly you encourage me. And now and then you offer a different viewpoint or an anecdote from your own life that confirms or refutes what you’ve just read. Regardless, I value every message, every response and even the occasional ones that really let me have it.

Enjoy this handful of responses to recent posts:

LIFE IN A CROWDED NEST

When my kids moved back home we signed a contract. One clause was the Work Incentive clause. I charged them $100 rent if they had a job, any kind of job. If they were not working the rent was $200.

‘How can I pay MORE rent without a job?!!’ he howled. ‘I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘That’s your problem. But if you sign the contract, I will hold you to it. If you don’t want to sign the contract, go find somewhere else to live with a better deal.’

He had to do his own laundry, but he was welcome at the dinner table as long as I knew it ahead of time. He lived here about 6 months, then got an apartment. He learned real fast to manage money.

Ditto for my daughter when she finished grad  school and moved back briefly. I believe in helping kids for awhile so they can save their money, get on their feet and get back out there. But to hole up with mom and dad forever? Nope. There is no sense of personal pride and accomplishment in that. Jacqueline

 

My husband and I unexpectedly found ourselves in a boomerang position when our prodigal son returned home with his pregnant girlfriend. He thought we were so mean, at the time, but we charged them rent approximately equal to what a one bedroom apartment cost in our town. We covered food, as long as they were eating the meals we planned with us. They covered their own snacks, and if they ate out. They drove our extra car, but paid insurance on it. They had chores and household rules just like the children who haven’t moved out yet. Rather than make it a “one-time thing,” my husband and I tried to make it a thing that if it lasted forever we could live with it; and if it happens again, everyone would already know the ground rules.

They moved out about 10 months later. They did not know it at the time, but we had put their rent in a savings account, and when they were ready to move out with a budget in hand, they had $5000 in their Contingency Fund (that they had paid in rent), in addition to the first month’s rent and security deposit that they had saved up in preparation to move out. They’ve fallen on hard times a couple of times, but they’ve pulled through in part, I think, because it is worth the extra work (to them) to have the freedom to “adult” in their own place. They still come to do laundry at our house once in awhile, and when they come to family dinners on Sunday they arrive with our grandchildren and containers to bring home leftovers for the week. Stephanie

 

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A Very Bad Hair Day

Apparently, my hair is my life. Believe me, I am as surprised by this fact of vanity as anyone. Had you checked with me about my philosophy of life a mere ten days prior, I can assure you that my hair would not have made the cut for my Top Ten Important Things.

Sure, I’ve had the typical number of issues with my hair over the years, but since I’ve always had plenty of it, I had options. That is until that day when I got a bad haircut.

I could go into long and agonizing detail, but suffice it to say I went in with a full head of hair and came out five pounds lighter. Let’s just say that Mr. Salon Owner (not exactly your Edward Scissorhands) thinned me out—a technique only fitness trainers should attempt.

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How to Make Your Own Dirt

There is no doubt that this whole “cheapskate” thing can be taken too far. There are matters of time, if not personal dignity, that dictate for each of us to what extent we are willing to go to maximize our resources.

That can change from time to time given the personal challenges that we face. Take dumpster diving, for example. I draw the line at any activity that requires me to climb into and root around containers filled with trash that is destined for the landfill. I just don’t go there. However, if my children were starving, I have no doubt that I would experience a miraculous change of heart. All that to say that, generally, I am not one who could easily be convinced to make dirt. The earth seems to be well endowed.

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Life in a Crowded Nest

It used to be that kids reaching adulthood could not wait to leave home and be on their own. That worked out well because their parents longed for an empty nest and quieter lives. But these days, young people are spoiling these plans.

Currently some 85 percent of U.S. college graduates move back home with their parents after graduation. One can only assume the other 15 percent never moved out.

Photo credit: CountryLife.co

Many American homes have become very crowded nests. While parents are asking themselves what went wrong, the “boomerang” kids seem to be adjusting quite nicely. Any why not? For lots of boomerangs, they get a boarding house without the rent, a laundromat with no slots for coins and a mini-storage facility, otherwise known as your garage.

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