Browsing Category: Saving Tips

Open Source Office and Design Programs

I got started with free software for more practical reasons – I was a poor college student who couldn’t afford a full office suite, even with the student discount. I believe my first download was OpenOffice. While it didn’t have everything that I wanted, it did have what I needed. It allowed me to write my papers and complete my assignments.

From there I looked at more open source options including using Linux as an operating system for personal and some work use. I love the operating system, but there were certain programs that would not work with Linux so I started exploring alternatives. Through the software center with Ubuntu and searching online, I found some great options for both casual and professional use.

While many people refer to these as free software, it is more directed towards the usage rather than the price (though all of  the programs I list below are free to download). With free software you are have the ability to use and modify your copy as you see fit. You have control over how you use it which gives it an additional appeal to certain users.

No matter what your reasons are for trying them out, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite programs.open source gimp

LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a free office suite with a solid community behind it, keeping it updated, adding features. I’ve used LibreOffice for years (and even before it forked off from Open Office) and I’ve found it to be incredibly useful for most of my word pressing needs. When I first used Calc, I found it lacking the ease of use and features of Excel, but over the last few years, the gap has closed considerably.

That said, I’m not a big of fan of Impress, the presentation program that is meant to replace Powerpoint. It just seems behind, but I think if you get some templates, you should be good to go for most of your needs. I haven’t used Draw or Math, so I can’t give you a review on them. I highly recommend LibreOffice as a solution if you’re looking for a handy office suite for standard use.

GIMP

Gimp is a popular image editing program and has approached professional quality in certain respects. While Adobe is still the standard for many in the graphic design industry, the notoriously high prices for licenses has discouraged some users. (Adobe addressed this somewhat with their Creative Cloud subscription options, but not everyone likes the idea of ‘renting’ their software. )

Gimp offer most of the major features of Photoshop and it is free to download. I have both and I will say that GIMP is able to take care of most of my photo retouching needs. There is a learning curve, but once you get familiar with the interface, it is comparable alternative for some designers.

Inkscape

This is an open source vector graphics editor that can serve as an alternative to Illustrator. I have recently discovered this as I’m relying more and more on Linux as my regular operating system. I had browsed through some reviews and saw that Inkscape was given praise and then I spoke with a graphic designer and he highly recommended me trying it.

I’m still running through some of the tutorials so there still a lot I have to learn, but it really is a full featured package.

Thoughts on Open Source and Free Software

Even though all of the programs I listed are free, that doesn’t mean you can contribute to them. The money you give helps the community grow and in turn can assist them with building better software.

How many of you use open software in your daily activities? Is it for casual, home use or do you rely on it professionally? How did you get started with free and open source software?

How to Save $1,000 without Living Like a Pauper

I’m sure the headline seems far-fetched – how can someone cut their expenses that drastically and not be subsisting on rice and beans?  I’m not going to lie, it does take some work, but you may be surprised at how you can leverage your time wisely and maximize your savings.

I highly recommend Brian’s book to anyone looking for practical ways to slash their bills. While not everyone has room in their budget to trim it by $1,000, Brian’s tips can still help you cut your expenses.

How to Cut Your Monthly Expenses By $1,000

Are you looking to cut your bills? Here are some of my favorite tips from O’Connor’s book:1000 challenge brian j oconnor

  • It’s more motivating to go for the big wins. Most of use don’t have a ton off free time to give to clipping coupons or saving a dollar or two here and there. That means that when you are deciding where to start with your savings, it pays to look for places where you can knock out $100 off and even better when you focus on recurring bills.
  • Pick a number and a deadline.  Choose a specific goal and have it done by a certain date. Don’t say ’save more’, but instead choose ‘save $50’ one on bill by Friday. O’Connor’s plan involved knocking off $100 each week. That kept him focused and motivated.
  • Negotiate your cable, phone, and internet bills. While we have been quite happy not having cable anymore (it was hardly used), I know that for many couples it’s an expense that they don’t want to eliminate. The good news is if you’re willing to spend a few minutes on the phone, you can save money. I’ve written about how we have cut the bundle and built our own entertainment plan that works for us while saving a bunch of money.
  • Cancel subscriptions you don’t use. That sounds obvious,but as O’Connor discovered several recurring charges on things he sign up for years earlier. Some of them were beneficial at one time, but most of them he didn’t use. One particular charge was on his cell phone bills tucked away, so you may want to review your bills to see if there are any fees for services you don’t use. You may be surprised with how much you can save.

 

Thoughts on $1,000 Challenge

Right now, people are looking for practical ways with improving their finances and books like the $1,000 Challenge show someone can make a huge impact on their finances with some focused effort. Pick up a copy at the library or buy it at the store. He takes a realistic approach that can help many people get a better handle on their finances without taking drastic measures. I’d love to hear from you – do you have any tips on how to reduce your monthly bills?

Using BeerSmith for Our Homebrewing

beersmoth brewing software

I mentioned last month that we’ve started a homebrewing as a couple, both for fun and to see if we can save a bit of money. Like many of our friends, we enjoy trying out craft beer at both locally and when we pick up groceries at the store. Now that we’re homebrewing we having fun trying out different recipes and kits, finding styles that we love and discovering ones we’re not so fond of.

As of this week, here is a list of what we brewed so far.

  • Chestnut Brown Ale
  • Everyday IPA
  • American Amber Ale
  • Chocolate Maple Porter
  • Gluten Free Orange Spiced Belgian Ale
  • Traditional Dry Stout
  • Smoked Wheat
  • Summer Saison

While we’ve had some fun using recipe kits, we’ve started to look at modifying recipes and at some point this summer make our own brew from scratch. One tool that I’ve purchased to help us with our next stage is the beer software BeerSmith.

Why Use Beer Brewing Software beersmoth brewing software

You may wonder why we paid money for software. Can we just grab a free app or program to convert recipes into different batch sizes or even do it by hand? The short answer is that we’re looking to do more than just play around with conversions. The long answer boils down to:

  • Stay organized and consistent: My husband is using a spreadsheet to track all of our brews, but he’s mainly focused on the process part of it as we’ve been mainly used recipe kits which has documentation for the ingredients. With creating our own recipe I want to document the effects of tweaking the ingredients and process.  BeerSmith allows me to keep track of both.
  • Makes shopping easier: The software allows me to create a shopping list for our trips to the brew shop by pulling the data  from the recipes we want to try out. Ins addition, if the brew shop wants to it can create files of their inventory, allowing you to get an estimate of your costs ahead of time.
  • Design better beer: It sucks to brew a batch of beer and not have it come out the way you want. While some mistakes are due to your process, you can minimize mistakes with ingredients, by getting an idea of how the brew could possibly come out based on your ingredients. If you’re looking for a balanced I.P.A. you can tweak your malts and hops until you find something you like without spending money on several batches.

When I was looking at options, I discovered BeerSmith and tried them out.  I loved it as it provided exactly what I needed and then some. It’s easy for me to document recipes, tweak them, pick up some new ones from the community and when I’m ready, share our brews online with others. It’s only $25 (there are discounts at some brew shops, so ask your local store).

They have a 3 week trial, so if you’re looking for a robust program, try out BeerSmith.

Are You Saving As Much As You Can Online?

money saving tips

The internet has certainly had some far-reaching effects on many people’s lives. It has provided us with the ability to learn about just about anything and everything simply by searching for the information we seek. It has allowed us to be more efficient with shopping and with many work activities, too. Further, it has provided many people with the opportunity to save money in a variety of ways, too. You may be wondering today if you are using the internet as much as you could be to save money on your expenses. Here are some of the top ways to save money online that you may not be putting to use today:money saving tips

Price Comparison Websites

There are several price comparison websites that allow you to shop for everything from cheap personal loans to insurance rates and credit cards. These comparison sites are designed to save you a considerable amount of time in your effort to shop around. Whether shopping for cheap personal loans, a new car loan, or something else, these sites can save you a considerable amount of money.

Coupon Websites

There are numerous coupon sites that are designed to save consumers money, too. Some of these sites provide you with discount codes for online shopping, and some provide you with the ability to view coupons on items you may purchase at a drug store or grocery store and then print out the coupons you need for your next outing. Still other sites provide you with group savings by organizing a bulk order purchase of an item or service and passing the savings on to you.

Social Networking Savings

If you are not friends with, fans of, or followers of your favorite stores and restaurants, you could be missing out on the opportunity to enjoy great savings. Many stores and restaurants offer special savings offers to those who have chosen to follow or friend them on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others. Often, there are promotional offers available for initially choosing to be a fan or follower, and then additional promotions and savings are provided regularly, too.

Savings With Apps

There are dozens of apps for your iPhone, Android phone, and other devices that are designed to save you a considerable amount of money. Some provide you with an easy way to compare prices while you are shopping. A few feature a bar code scanning feature that allow you scan an item with your phone, and then learn if the item is available close to you or online at a more affordable price. Other apps can guide you to savings while you are on the road, such as apps that help you find the lowest gas prices close to you or affordable dining options nearby.

You can see that there are dozens of ways you could be saving money online. If you are not currently putting all of these methods to use today, consider implementing a few of these ideas today so you can start enjoying the savings immediately!

Photo Credit: sunshinecity