Browsing Category: Saving Tips

Save Money This Summer: Adopt These Habits Around the House

summer savings

summer savingsFrom summer camps to family vacations and soaring cooling costs, summer is full of expenses. Do your wallet a favor and adopt these six habits to save money around the house:

Close Closet Doors

Leaving the closet doors open isn’t just a bad habit that makes your home look disheveled; it costs you more, too. By simply shutting closet doors after you get what you need, you’re decreasing the square footage of your home that is actively air conditioned. This is especially important to do for closets along the exterior walls of your home, as they act as extra insulation.

Skip Artificial Lighting

Make the most of the longer days of summer and use the natural lighting that comes with them instead of flicking on the light switch. Open all of the blinds upon rising and avoid turning on lights until after the sun goes down. Be sure to close the curtains or blinds before leaving for work to minimize cooling costs while you’re out. To continue saving after dark, switch all light bulbs in your home to a lower wattage. You can also use less energy by installing dimmers throughout the house to avoid using the lights on full power.

Turn Down the Water Heater

Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees, recommends the Department of Energy. While 120 degrees is plenty hot to take a steamy shower, most manufacturers set the thermostat to 140 degrees by default, which costs you much more to heat over time. Going on a trip? Turn it down to 80 degrees to save even more while you’re away.

The same goes for the water heater in your pool or spa. You can save 20 percent in energy costs just by turning the temperature down 10 degrees, according to HotTubWorks.com.

Plug into a Power Strip

Use power strips instead of standard outlets in high-powered areas of the home such as your office or media room. Get a surge-protected power strip with a switch ($9.97 at NewEgg.com) so you can easily switch off the power at the press of a button when your gadgets aren’t in use. Powered items like the TV, DVD player, printer and computer suck up energy when plugged in, even if they aren’t in use, so it pays to turn them off.

Replace Air Filters Regularly

Help your AC do a little less work this summer by replacing the air filters every other month. Not doing so causes your air conditioner to work harder and use more power to cool your home to the same temperature. Over time this causes premature wear and tear on your unit, reducing its lifespan and leading to costly repairs.

Get a Time-of-use Energy Plan

Many electricity providers offer time-of-use plans that offer lower energy rates for electricity consumed at off-peak times during the day and night. Contact your local providers to shop around for the best plan that suits your needs. In addition to saving money, this also helps lessen the load on the power grid.

Home Office Set Up For Couples

A couple working at home, together, need not be an idle dream.

One or the other of you may have already been established in a home office, but then maybe a change in employment conditions means that you are both now in need of some sort of home office. If the existing space isn’t large enough for the both of you, then having two separate offices may be the best solution. In my home we have two and a half offices and there’s only two of us!

Inevitably both of you will use a home office to varying degrees. What’s important is having a home office set up which works, so that you can both flourish and prosper in your endeavors, be they work, pleasure or both.home office for couples

Budgeting For Expenses

Do you have enough money in the joint checking account for a few pieces of home office equipment and furniture? See how much extra you can squeeze from it, then sit down and write out exactly what ‘s needed for the supplies and equipment. Together, you can always cut down on the expenses such as eating out a lot or that extra large cappuccino in the morning, or a few visits to the outlet stores or golf course.

If you use the dry cleaners then reduce that cost by wearing washable clothing. Once you’ve determined what your budget is for a home office upgrade, you can then set the priorities for purchase.

What Are The Priorities?

Are you setting up two offices or just one? If one, then that alone will cut down on the expenses. The top priority is an office desk big enough for the two of you as well as two comfortable office chairs. An office chair simply cannot be shared as the settings and seat and height etc. are so individualized.

If you get a simple rectangular home office desk and put shelving up on the wall, then you can sit on either side of the desk and save money on this crucial piece of office furniture. Alternately, if your home office is long and narrow, then place a desk along one wall where two of you can sit (with lots of elbow room).

Next Priority

Computers for both of you are next, and if they are hooked up to a LAN (local area network) you can save money on an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier by both using it at will. Make sure it’s wireless and you won’t end up strangling each other with cords as you rush to answer that call from a new client. Always discuss purchases with each other, by the way, so you won’t duplicate them, and one of you may think of a cheaper store to buy that case of paper from, for instance.

Phones & Communication

Buy a two-phone (at least) portable system. Each of you can place your handset close by you and the base unit may remain in the center of your desk area, thereby giving you each enough space to grab that file from your desk drawer while still holding into the phone. Even if you have one Internet account, always have at least two separate email addresses.

Having one server saves you money but everyone needs an email account so that clients may communicate with them directly. Gmail is a good choice for this because you can set up accounts for free and the capacity is virtually unlimited. If you need a website and your spouse has a completely opposite product or service to sell or offer, then think about two sites unless you simply cannot afford it.

Aim For A Calm Atmosphere in Your Home Office

If you are sharing your office it’s great to have low-volume music playing if you both like that sort of thing, as well as the same genre of music to create a nice ambiance. Lighting is also important, this also sets the tone. But be sure to think practical here and make sure there’s lots of light in the office where needed. Just enough will make for a creative and productive atmosphere. My own personal choice is for a good desk lamp and then either wall lights or a central ceiling light. Remember to save money on electricity by using eco-friendly light bulbs in your lamps. There are many kinds now and you may have your pick.

Be polite and encouraging to your spouse working alongside of you in the home office. Don’t underestimate the tensions that can be caused by living and working together. You might think sharing a home office will save you money but if having separate offices saves your marriage…….set up multiple home offices like me!

Lloyd Burrell enjoys writing reviews on home office desk furniture.  Lloyd lives on the West Coast of France with his wife and two children.

Photo Credit: Nathan Searles

Trying Out BJ’s Warehouse Club for Free

money refinance

I recently went through the mail and noticed a trial membership offer from BJ’s for 60 days. For people debating whether or not a warehouse club membership is a good deal, using a trial membership can be a great test run.

With the trial period open now, I wanted to share some highlights of a BJ’s Wholesale Club membership. Hopefully, it’ll help decide if it’s the right move for you.

Membership Costs and Benefits

Like other warehouse clubs, there are different tiers of membership, each with their own benefits.

Inner Circle ($45/year)

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Household and 1st Supplemental Card — No Additional Charge
  • Up to 3 Supplemental Cards ($20 each)

Business ($45/year)

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Household and 1st Supplemental Card — No Additional Charge
  • Up to 8 Supplemental Cards ($20 each)
  • Resale Privileges

BJ’s Rewards ($90/year)

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Household and 1st Supplemental Card — No Additional Charge
  • Up to 3 Supplemental Cards ($20 each)
  • 2% Payback (up to $500/12 mo.)
  • Dedicated Member Care Representatives
  • $20 off a complete pair of eyeglasses from BJ’s Optical

All memberships also include online shopping options and a 100% money back guarantee. BJ’s also lets you use manufacturer coupons for additional savings, something that I can’t do at Costco. I also notice that they take all major credit cards, which makes it more convenient for many shoppers.

Please check their site for details on all their benefits.

Additional Benefits

Besides the in-store savings, BJ’s has some deals on various services that many people use.

  • Auto & Home Insurance
  • Car Rentals
  • Cell Phone Deals with Verizon Wireless
  • Extended Warranties
  • Flights
  • Health Insurance
  • Optical
  • Tire Center

Depending on your needs, this can be a fantastic deal for a family.

Trial Membership Details

The membership gives you an Inner Circle membership privileges (with the exception of online shopping). you’ll need a photo ID to sign up. Check your receipts to see the expiration date of your trial. Only one membership per household is allowed.

Thoughts on BJ Wholesale Club

Don’t just assume that a warehouse club membership can save you money. Double check and use a trial to see for yourself if membership is a good idea for you.

I’d like to get some firsthand reviews of current and former members of BJ’s. How would you rate the saving you get on average? What’s the best feature of your membership? What’s the worst?

Photo Credit: MattHurst

What Do I Need to Start Homebrewing?

Since we started last year, home brewing has become one of our favorite hobbies to do as a couple. Not only have we made some delicious brews, we’ve also connected with friends and found a way to save money and have a good time.

One question that I’ve been asked is whether home brewing can save money or if it’s an expensive hobby. As with everything, it depends on the person, but I wanted to go over some of the basics, so you can decided if this is a hobby, you’d like to try out.whisky pumpkin ale

What Do I Need to Brew Beer?

At its most basic, the ingredients you need to brew a beer (gluten free or otherwise) are:

  • Malted Grain/Adjuncts: With traditional beers, malted barley, wheat, and rye are commonly used, which are not options when brewing gluten-free.  For GF brewers options like sorghum syrup, pure maple syrup, buckwheat,  molasses, honey, and millet can be used when making a batch.
  • Hops: Hops add both flavor and stability to your brews, providing a measure of bitterness and aroma. There are dozens of varieties available, give plenty of room to craft a brew to your personal taste.
  • Water: You can use your tap water when home brewing, provided you like it. Beer takes on the characteristics of its ingredients, so if your local water has a nasty after taste, then I wouldn’t use it.
  • Yeast: The last main ingredient when it comes to brewing is yeast. You need it to take the wort that you have prepare and transform it into a delicious alcoholic beverage.  Yeast ‘eats’ the sugar in the mixture you prepared (called wort) and breaks it down into carbon dioxide and alcohol. You can purchase either dry yeast or liquid, but if you’re brewing gluten-free, then you’d want to go with dry yeast. Liquid yeasts are typically prepped with mixtures that contain some barely.

As you can see, making beer is essentially boiling  your malt, hops, and water to create a  wonderfully smelling wort. You then add yeast and let it do its thing for about two weeks (if you’re brewing ale). Once that is complete, you can bottle it up and let it carbonate for 7-10 days or you can keg it and serve it immediately.

What Equipment Do I Need to Brew Beer?

The short answer is comes down to how much you want to brew at a time and if you want to do all grain or extract. There are differences between the two, but a big difference for a new home brewer is that extract brewing 5 gallons is much easier and requires less equipment than going all grain. The extract saves you a step at the cost of not having as much control over brewing. If you’re new, though, that may not be a huge deal. You can still brew some wonderful beers and you don’t need to purchase as much equipment compared to all grain brewing.

Typically a 5 gallon homebrewing start kit will include:

  • 6.5 gallon heavy duty fermenter with drilled and gasketed lid.
  • Bottling spigot
  • 3 feet of bottling tubing
  • Three piece fermentation (air) lock
  • #2 drilled stopper
  • Deluxe double lever bottle capper
  • Bottle cleaning brush
  • Automatic bottle filler.
  • Triple scale hydrometer

Prices will vary, but you’re generally looking at $70-$80. If you get a recipe box with the kit, it’ll usually bring the price to about $90-$100. Brewing 5 gallons will give you around 50 bottles of beer.

Is Homebrewing Cost Effective?

That depends on what you’re brewing. When we started brewing, I tracked a few of the recipe kits that we used – both the 1 gallon batches and the 5 gallon batches and here is what we got:

Receipe Kit Cost Bottles Brewed (12oz) Cost Per Bottle/6pk
Honey IPA $15 9 $1.67/$10.02
Dry Stout $34.50 50 $0.69/$4.14
American Amber Ale $33.50 50 $0.67/$4.02
Chocolate Maple Porter $15 10 $1.50/$9.00

You can see how cost effective 5 gallon brewing is compared to 1 gallon. That’s because some ingredients like yeast and hops have to be bought as a whole packet. you can not go to a typical brew shop and ask for 1/3 oz of hops, you have to buy it by the oz. Now you can buy some hops and divide it among several small brews (provided they are stored properly) which can bring the 1 gallon costs down further. Still, if you’re into craft beers, home brewing some of your favorites can be a rewarding hobby and money saver.

Thoughts on Home Brewing

How many of you are home brewers? How many of you are thinking of trying it out soon?

Photo Credit: Ryan Hyde