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Cell phones can eat up a huge amount of your monthly budget. To be fair, cell phones are almost a complete necessity these days—many people have dropped their landlines completely, and love being able to have instant access to contact friends, family, and 911. However, contracts, fees, taxes, minutes, and data can eat up money like no one’s business. If you look at your cell phone bill and wonder why you pay for unlimited minutes when you only use 500 a month, or unlimited gigs of data when you rarely use your phone to go online, you may want to look at no-contract cell phones. These plans have some advantages over traditional cell phone contracts:
Pay-as-you-go options: This is a great option for people who want a cell phone, but want to limit its use or do not use one often. You put a certain amount of money in an account, for example, $25, and that money is drained only when you use the phone. If you talk on the phone for 10 minutes, you are only charged for those 10 minutes. When your account is empty, you put more money in. This is a good budget option for those who rarely use cell phones.
No contract: Traditional phone companies have you sign a 2-year contract with severe termination fees if you decide to drop the carrier before the end of your contract. No contract plans are just that—there’s no contract! If you have poor or nonexistent credit that might affect your ability to get a contract phone, or if you’re not sure you want to have a phone long term, or even if you just want the option to be able to drop your cell phone completely for any reason in the future, a no-contract plan may be for you.
Flexibility: Since you aren’t tied to a contract, you can swap phones without having to pay upgrade costs or remaining phone balances, or switch carriers with few financial effects.
Most of us will end up taking a prescription medication at one point or another during our lives. For many, many reasons, none of which we will get into here, medication prices can be through the roof. It’s enough to make it difficult for some people to afford medications they need to treat a constant condition. Regardless of whether you need to take a medication long term or just for a couple of weeks for a short illness, there are a few ways you can avoid paying the absolute top dollar for your medication.
- Ask for samples. Doctors often get samples from medical companies to specifically give out to patients. If your doctor prescribes a new medication, ask if they happen to have a week or two’s worth of samples you can try.
- Shop around pharmacies. It may be convenient to get your prescriptions at your clinic’s pharmacy immediately after your appointment is over, but it may not be the cheapest option. Even if your insurance covers, say, 80% of prescription medications, one pharmacy may sell that medicine for $100 and another down the street will sell it for $90. The savings might seem small in the short term, but especially if this is a medication you need to take for months or years, the savings will absolutely add up over time.
- Use generics. My doctors generally have the habit of adding “generic substitution OK” to any prescriptions they write for me (assuming one is available), and my pharmacy has no problems doing this. However, this is not the case at every clinic. If your doctor says he or she is putting you on a new medication, immediately ask if there is a generic available that is okay to use. The active ingredients in generics are exactly the same as name-brand meds, just at a lower cost.
- Get more at a time. You know how 10lbs of onions at Costco are like $3, but at the grocery store they’re $0.69 a pound, making them more expensive? Medicine often works the same way. I was surprised to find that, after paying $10 a month for a 30 day supply of a medication for a few months, my doctor increased the prescription to a 90 day supply—which was only $15 total, for all 3 months. If you need to be on a medication for a long time, see if a multiple-month supply will cost less.
Mason jars are still pretty trendy to use around the home right now. And even if you think going to your neighborhood beer shop and sipping a local craft microbrew from a mason jar is the most pretentious thing in the world (certainly I have never done such a thing, especially not every Friday around noon with friends, nope), the truth is, you probably have a few hanging around your home; leftover gifts or an inheritance from grandparents. Are your mason jars sitting around, sad and unused? Let’s fix that! What can we use them for?
Canning. Mason jars were designed for, and thus are perfect for, home canning of fruits and vegetables. If you’ve never canned before, you’re in luck, as we live in an era where learning how to can is as simple as getting a starter kit for under $15 and using books, the internet, or friends as a learning tool. You don’t have to store a whole winter’s worth of food, either—a couple of jars of homemade jam is a wonderful treat or gift.
Drinking glasses. If you have a bunch of jars sitting around but you’re short on drinking glasses, why not just drink out of a jar? This idea is so trendy that stores even sell plastic “mason jars” complete with handles and straws, often in their summer-items sections. But if you already have some jars sitting around, no need to buy a cheap imitation—use what you have!
Flower vases. I never really use flowers to decorate, so I don’t actually own any flower vases. However, when my preschooler comes home with a fistful of dandelions or wildflowers for me, I feel obliged to stick them in water and display them for a few days. Mason jars fill this role nicely!
“Stuff” holders. Need a quick holder to shove all your pens and pencils into? Found a ton of buttons you use for crafts that need a home? Mason jars are clear and perfect for being able to see what’s stored inside. The glass is also fairly thick so they are less breakable than they seem!
How else do you use mason jars around your home?
Stains happen. They happen if you have kids. They happen if you have pets. They definitely happen when you’re wearing your whitest shirt and your co-worker happens to trip next to you while holding a takeout tray full of uncovered, brim-full coffee cups.
There are many ways to get stains out of clothes. Soak them in cold water overnight. Use a small washboard in the sink to hand scrub the fabric that’s stained. Wash them a million times in the washing machine. Eventually, a stubborn stain will resist all attempts to clean it up, and we will find ourselves reaching for the stain remover. Oh, you don’t have any? (I actually didn’t until my second kid was 14 months old…no idea how we managed that!) Well, pause before you head to the store to buy some and try making your own with just two ingredients I bet you already have sitting in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets.
- 1 part blue Dawn dishwashing soap
- 2 parts hydrogen peroxide
Pour into a spray bottle, shake it up, and that’s that! Why does this work so well? Blue Dawn brand soap is well known for cutting straight through grease and other stubborn substances in a way that other soaps just can’t do. Often, environmental agencies even use pure Dawn to gently clean up animals affected by oil spills. Hydrogen peroxide’s bubbly action helps loosen up stains as well—oxygen bleaches are basically a form of hydrogen peroxide.
You can use this homemade cleaner straight, or mixed with water if you want to dilute it or soak some fabric for a while. As always, be sure to test a little spot first to make sure it doesn’t change the color of or eat holes through the fabric you are using it on, though overall this is a pretty safe concoction. It’s also fairly safe to use around kids and pets as long as they’re not chugging it or licking the carpet directly after you apply it or anything. Happy stain lifting!
Baby food can add up really quickly. I mean, really quickly! If you have chosen to feed your baby purees (as opposed to, say, doing the baby-led weaning approach), and you have a hungry kind of fellow, you will discover that you will go through baby food incredibly quickly. If you are willing to put in a little extra time in order to save a few bucks, you can make your own pureed baby food for much cheaper than you can buy in the stores!
For instance, I can find organic bananas in my city for about $0.79 a pound. There are about 3 bananas in a pound, making them about 5.3 oz each. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say after peeling them, each banana weighs a little over 4oz—the same size as a typical jar of baby food. This means once you’ve mashed the bananas, you end up with about 3 jar’s worth of baby food, for a whopping $0.79 total!
In contrast, a 4oz jar of organic banana baby puree at the same store I bought the organic bananas at costs $1.29! So for $0.79 and maybe ten minutes of work at home, you get the same amount of baby food that would cost $3.87 at the store! You might point out that if you make your own baby food, you also need to have containers to store the food in, and utensils to mash or blend the food with, all of which cost money—though if you already have a blender, this cost goes down. Small mason jars or even ice cube trays, which many people already have on hand, can be used to store freshly prepared baby food in as well. You also have the freedom to make up combinations of baby food that don’t even exist in stores! Is your child like mine and likes to mash his beef into his applesauce? Now you make a beef-and-applesauce puree that your child will love, even if you want to barf while making it! Homemade baby food is a little time consuming, but can end up saving quite a bit of money versus buying jarred baby food in the long run.
Maybe you’re a teacher who uses whiteboards at school. Maybe you’re a parent who keeps a grocery list or to-do list whiteboard up in your kitchen. Maybe your kids have whiteboards to play with in their art area. At any rate, you might find out that you’re blowing through your stash of dry erase markers much faster than you’d care to replace them. Before you head to the store to buy more, try one or more of these tips below! You may end up getting a few more weeks or months out of your markers than you thought possible!
- Store them differently. Do you store them vertically, tip-up? Gravity drains the ink down to the bottom, away from the tip, so when you go to use markers stored this way, they may seem dry, when really the ink is just all at the bottom! Store them tip-down until they work again, and then store them on their sides, horizontally, from then on.
- Dip tip in alcohol. If your marker isn’t water-based (it will say this on the packaging), dip the tip in rubbing alcohol or acetone nail polish remover. The ink might have dried into a crust on the pen tip, and alcohol will dissolve this gunk and allow the ink to flow freely again. Make sure you test an alcohol-dipped pen on a small section on your whiteboard to ensure it won’t damage it. If this doesn’t work:
- Snip off the tip. But not too much! Use scissors to snip off just the part covered in crusty ink.
- Clean your whiteboard. Do you only use your eraser on your board, but have never really wiped it clean with anything else? Leftover dried ink and dust can make it hard for new things to be written on your whiteboard. Use a whiteboard cleaner and clean rag to scrub your whiteboard clean! Get off all the old streaks and marks that you can. Let it dry, and try writing on it again.
Hopefully these tips help you extend the life of your dry erase markers for a while longer!
So you want to get on the couponing bandwagon? I don’t blame you, once I got about ten cans of air freshener for about ten cents total after applying tons of coupons (with multiple children and pets, air freshener is always appreciated). But you might be wondering where on earth people get all these coupons. After all, you only get coupons once or twice a week in the mail, but people march into stores with files stuffed full of coupons. Where do they come from?
The Mail—As you probably know, coupons are sent a couple of times of week in the mail. Most come in the Sunday newspaper, but oftentimes some arrive along with weekly ads in the middle of the week. Notice your neighbors immediately tossing their ads in the recycling bin without even looking at them? If they’re approachable, try asking them if you can have their extra ads!
In Stores—Stores often have plenty of coupons scattered about their aisles. Current ads are often displayed in the front of the store with coupons attached. Coupons can be found attached to little displays throughout the aisles, either on tear-away pads or little dispensers. Some stores have seasonal booklets of coupons in the pharmacy or at the customer service desk—take a peek next time you walk past one of those departments!
Online—In this day and age, many stores put coupons online. It saves them money and is eco-friendly. These coupons can either be printed at home for you to cut out and bring into the store, or are digital. Some digital coupons download to your specific store rewards card you show for fuel points, etc., when you check out. Some digital coupons can be scanned directly from an app on your phone or tablet—make sure that screen is bright and your battery is charged!
eBay—Yes, some people actually auction off and buy coupons on eBay. You can buy entire inserts or just a few of a certain coupon you really want. Just be careful to not spend so much on buying the physical coupons that you completely negate any savings you are trying to make.
Where else do you get your coupons?