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7 Cheap Gadgets That Make Life Easy—Fun, Too

I am nothing if not a gadget lover. Ingenious items that make my life easier are great, but when I find something that’s cool and also has the potential to save money? Well, that’s cause for celebration. Here are my latest fun finds.

Happy girl just discovered time and money saving gadgets

Sugru

I don’t know where this stuff has been hiding (maybe I’m the one who’s been missing?), but my recent discovery has me giddy with joy. It’s called Sugru, or perhaps a better name would be Miracle in a Package. Think: silly putty without the silly part.

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Simple 15-Minute Projects to Slash Your Utility Bills

Here’s some good news: At least 120 utility companies have lowered electric, gas, or water rates due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut the corporate rate from 35% to 21%. Utility companies are passing on the tax savings in the form of lower rates for customers.

I hope your utility companies are among that 120 and by now have let you know that your rates have gone down, or that they will be very soon. But don’t assume there’s nothing else you can do to stop spending so much of your hard-earned money on utility bills!

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So exactly how can you lower your utility bills? Check out these six projects each of which can be completed in 15-minutes or less, requiring no advanced skills or special equipment. Soon you’ll be keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket—not your utility providers’.

Ready? … Set … Go!

Hot water-saving showerhead

If you multi-task while waiting for your shower to warm up—making the bed or pot of coffee—the hot water could have been running for minutes, wasting water and adding unnecessary dollars to your utility bills.

The Ladybug Showerhead adapter saves the hot water. Ladybug is so smart, it senses the moment the water is warm and stops the flow to a tiny trickle. When you’re ready, just flip a switch to restart the normal flow.

This adapter saves $75 in hot water costs plus 2,700 gallons of water each year, based on a family of three showering daily and saving one minute of hot water per shower.

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6 Simple Ways to Develop a Saver’s Attitude

Cutting expenses is the way to spend less so you have money to save. But unless you are actually putting that money into a safe place to be held for some future use, you’re not really saving at all. You’re just spending less.

Even if you cannot save a great deal of money right now, that’s okay. It’s not the amount you save that matters as much as the fact that you make saving money a regular habit.

Stacks of $5 bills showing the result of a saver's attitude

Grab all the discounts

Many mortgage lenders and student loan companies offer incentives for their customers who set up automatic payments for their monthly payments. It’s worth knowing you’ll never be late, and if you can get even 1/4-point reduction in the interest rate, over time that will really add up to be something significant. Automobile insurers give discounts to good drivers, non-smokers, good students, cars with particular safety-equipment and any number of other situations. But you have to ask. Make the call. Then save the difference.

Get fanatic about coupons, coupon codes and getting cash back when it’s available. But don’t stop there. Once you have that discount, be disciplined enough to actually save that $.50 or $5.00 or whatever it is. Stash that cash. Rakuten, formerly Ebates, is the best way I know to keep all those small cash-back amounts in a safe place. If you don’t have an account and are not adding even the smallest amounts to it every time you shop, you’re really missing out. Open a Rakuten (Ebates) account here, then remember to use it.

MORE: Ebates—an Awesome Way to Build a Cash Stash

Set dollar limits

Okay, so this sounds curiously like “budgeting.” It is. Deciding ahead of time the amount you are willing to spend for anything is to impose important limitations on yourself. Maybe it’s time to let your inner parent out—that part of you that knows how to demand discipline and good behavior.

MORE: How to Create a Household Budget

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Forget the Dry Cleaner: How to Wash a Down Comforter

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter instead of taking it to the dry cleaner, the answer is yes. You can absolutely wash a down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live, and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally.

You need a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls); a few hours to spend at a laundromat, and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.

A row of industrial washing machines in a public laundromat.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work as well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1

Big machine

Load your down comforter into the largest extra large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

Step 2

Detergent

Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a superb  thermal insulator.

Step 3

Warm and gentle

You want to wash a down comforter using these settings on the washer: Warm wash, cold rinse; gentle (delicate) agitation and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent be rinsed out.

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11 Money Savers That Will Pay for Themselves Over and Again

I have to admit to being a bit of a gadget freak. I’m drawn to tools and devices that do cool things. And when I discover “cool” includes being a money saver, for me that turns a purchase into an investment with a guaranteed rate of return.

 hand with a calculator. money saving concept.

Here’s a list of eleven gadgets, tools and items I’ve found that can save a lot of money and generally recoup the cost in less than a year. That time frame will vary depending on your specific situation. Your mileage may vary.

You can count on this: Once you’ve recouped the purchase price, these items will continue to save you money—for free!

 

PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT

If you have a central heat and air conditioning system, you need  a programmable thermostat. There are less expensive options available, but a high quality programmable thermostat like the Nest Programmable Thermostat will result in very precise temperature control. You can program it (easy) to automatically lower your air conditioning and/or heat use while you’re not home. Just set it and then forget about it; Nest will automatically adjust things for you so that you aren’t wasting expensive electricity—without any noticeable changes for you and your family.

With just a few manual adjustments, the Nest Thermostat can learn your habits and immediately start saving you money by automatically adjusting the temperature. Nest works with Alexa, which means you have voice control capability as well as the ability to control Nest from your smartphone. Used well, Nest can easily return its cost to you in the first year—making the annual savings free from then on. About $215.
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