What is Chrome Cast?

Google Chromecast Review

 

This little device paid for itself three times over in the first month. For months my wife and I were trying to find a way to eliminate our over $100 a month DirecTV bill, but still be able to watch our favorite shows. One Saturday at Best Buy we came across the Google Chrome Cast for $35. We usually don’t impulse buy like that but we immediately saw the saving potential of this product.  Now I will answer “What is Chrome Cast” and help you see if its right for you. 

My Chrome Cast Review

What Chrome Cast is

Google Chrome Cast is a small device, slightly larger than a thumb drive, that plugs into the HDMI port of your TV. It is controlled by your smart phone, tablet, or computer to cast apps or other entertainment to your TV.  Now that we know what Chromecast is, let’s see if this is something you want to buy.  

 

Chrome Cast Apps

The chrome cast device works with numerous apps like Netflix, Hulu, Google Chrome, YouTube, Google play, Pandora, watch ESPN, and HBO go. There are many more apps that work with it, but these are the main ones.  If you use Google Chrome for your web browser you can cast any website to the TV. So anything you can watch on Google Chrome, you can also watching on your TV.

 

Google Chrome Cast Setup

Everything from set up, installation, app download, and streaming are all very simple and easy. The directions are easy enough for anybody to follow. 

 

Pros

1. Instant Savings. As I’ve already stated, this device paid for itself three times over the first month we bought it. Every month after that has been the full $100 or more that we were paying.

2. Cost. $35 is cheap considering how much you will save.

3. Simplicity. The setup was easy and only took a few minutes. Using it since then has been even easier.

4. Low-profile. The only cord is the USB cord the plugs in the back of the device. Most TVs have a USB port so this means that you won’t need a lot of cords running around in the back of your TV or entertainment system.

5. No Remote. You can control everything from your phone as long as the input on your TV is set to the chrome cast device. Your remote then becomes either your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

6. No More Fighting. Like most families there was always a battle of wills on whether we would watch the basketball game or if I needed to go find a place to hide while “The Real Housewives of Someplace” was on.  We haven’t had one of those quarrels since we bought the Google Chromecast.

7. No Upsales or Upgrades.  All you need to make the device work is included in the box or free for download.  You won’t need to upgrade or buy anything else.

8. Practical Joke Potential. My son hasn’t figured out that once you cast, you can override that show by casting from another device. So what I’ve been doing is casting random YouTube videos from upstairs when he’s watching TV. I know this is immature on my part but it is kind of funny to see a six-year-old try to figure out why his show keeps changing in the middle of it.

 

Cons

1. Need for Other Subscription Service. For most of the shows and movies that you want to watch you will need to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. While this does cost money it is a fraction of what you pay for the typical cable or satellite bill.

2. Limited Live TV. There are ways to watch your shows live, however it is more complicated than with your typical cable service.

3. Reliance on Internet Connection. You need both an Internet connection and a wireless router to use the chrome cast. If you don’t have these two things than this device is useless to for you. If you don’t have a wireless router then this would be a good time to invest in one because your savings will more than pay for it.

4. Reliance on Google Chrome. If there is a way to use chrome cast with other browsers like Firefox  or Internet explorer, I haven’t figured out how.  

 

Where to Buy Chrome Cast

You can buy Chromecast from just about any online or brick-and-mortar retailer that sells electronic products.  I wouldn’t spend a lot of time shopping around since most retailers sell it for the standard $35 (factor in shipping) unless you want to try to find a used one. Click on one of the retailers below to go directly to their product page. 

Amazon

Best Buy

Walmart

 

Final Thoughts

We haven’t had one second of buyer’s remorse since we bought the Google Chrome Cast.  You will find a lot of other people with similar experiences by reading other Chrome Cast reviews all over the web.  If you are looking for a quick and easy way to cut your cable/satellite bill then this device is well worth the $35 cost.

Click on the Chromecast image to go to the Amazon page or one of these retailers to go directly to their Google Chrome Cast listing. 

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Back to School Saving

Back School IdeasThere’s no reason to bust your budget on your back-to-school needs.  Follow these 10 tips for saving on back to school shopping. 

10 Back to School Saving Tips

1. Inventory: Before you go to the store take a quick inventory of everything you have. You may find that many of the things you thought you needed to buy were already in your house.

2. Clothing and School Supply Swaps: New school clothes are perhaps one of the most expensive back-to-school costs. Chances are you that many of your friends could use your old clothes just as much as you could use theirs. Rather than all of you going out to buy new school clothes, consider having a clothing and school supply swap.

3. Buy in Bulk: Your kids will always need things like pencils, pens, notebooks and other school supplies. When you find a good sale, buy these things in bulk. Consider buying a few years supply at one time to save on the hassle of going through this process next year. Just make sure you have an adequate area to store them.

4. Focus on Big-Ticket Items: Your time is probably the most limited resource you have. Rather than trying to find a deal that will only save you a few cents on a box of pencils, focus your saving potential on the expensive things like backpacks, clothes, and shoes. Focusing your limited time on the expensive things will offer a bigger payout than the things you can buy at a dollar store.

5. Follow Store Sales:  When the school year ends you will already  know what you need to buy before it starts back up in the fall. Take that summer to look for sales in some of your favorite stores. This way you can spread out your spending over the entire summer rather than all at once right before school starts.

6. Hold Off on Trendy Items: You may end up spending top dollar for the items your kids think are the coolest thing. Hold out on buying these items until a couple weeks after school starts. The first benefit of this is that you will find the sales that don’t start until after school starts. The second benefit is that you won’t end up buying something for your kids only to find out that it’s not the trendy thing anymore.

7. Create a List: Before you look go to the store, create a checklist of everything that you need. If you go to the store without a list then you will likely fall victim to many of the products’ marketing schemes and spend more than you need to.

8. Create a budget: Before you spend a cent, a set limit on how much you can afford to spend on back-to-school needs. This will help you prioritize what you need to buy now and what you can hold off on.

9. Inform Your Kids: If you are taking your kids shopping with you, explain to them what you are going to buy and things that you won’t. Even after you have this talk they will still try to persuade you to buy things that are not on your list. However, having this talk beforehand will make these “battles” easier once you are at the store.

10. Hold off on Major Purchases: Some of the more expensive items like computers, calculators, backpacks, etc. will be cheaper if you wait till the end of August or Labor Day weekend when summer and clearance sales happen.

 

Am I missing anything?  Add your own money saving tips in the comments section?


Ammo Deals

 

Ammo Deals
Ammo Deals

4 Ways to Get Cheap Ammo

 

Remember the days when you could buy $2.39/box 7.62×39 ammo or swing by Walmart on your way to the range with confidence that they will have your caliber in stock?  Well those days are gone but that doesn’t mean that you have to give up, or even cut back on your time at the range.

 

Here are some tips that I use to get the best deals on ammunition. 

 

1.  Use Ammo Finder Apps

 

There are a number of apps to help you find the best online deals. 

 

Ammo Finder (1.99)

 

Ammo Buddy (0.99)

 

Ammo Bot (Free)

 

Apps like these are very helpful by providing near real-time information and send push notifications.  The downside to these apps is that there are so many users receiving the same notifications.  Unless you are quick you will lose out on the deals.   

 

If you want to go this route then I suggest that you follow these steps so you are ready to place your order on a moments notice:

 

- Pre-register for an account with the site and remember your login information.

- Pre-register your credit card, billing, and shipping information (only if this is a trusted site and you are comfortable with this).

- Ensure you know how much funds are available on your bank/credit card.

- Know site and state requirements to buy ammo online.  Have a copy of your ID preloaded with the site or on your computer/phone so you can send it with the order.  Some states also require a firearm ownership identification card so have these ready to go as well. 

 

 

2.  Ammo Search Engines and Websites:

 

Here is a list of websites that sell ammo.  Some of them are search engines that allow you to scan through multiple websites for the best deals.  I have not used all of these sites so if you have had good or bad experiences with any of them please let us know in the comments section.  

 

Ammo-can.net

Ableammo.com

Aimsurplus.com

Ammobank.com

Alamoammo.com

Gun-deals.com

Ammoman.com

Ammonow.com

Ammoseek.com

Ammunitiontogo.com

Bulkammo.com

Cabelas.com

Cheaperthandirt.com

Extreme-Impact-Ammo.com

FreedomMunitions.com

JGsales.com

LuckyGunner.com

Midwayusa.com

Natchezss.com

Palmettostatearmory.com

SGammo.com

Southernammo.com

Sportsmansguide.com

Surplusammo.com

Wideners.com

Wikiarms.com

 

 

3.  Gun Shows:

 

Getting good deals at gun shows is hit or miss.  I have found some amazing deals but I have also had a good laugh about the price they are trying to charge.  Here are some tips that I have used to get some good deals.

 

Use an App:  Download an App like Ammo Cost (free) to quickly calculate price per bullet prices.  There are a lot of vendors in a tight space and this app allows you to calculate the best cost-per-bullet.

- Don’t Rush to Buy:  Before I buy anything I walk to entire floor to see who has the best prices for the caliber that I am looking for.  I then start with the sellers with the best prices and negotiate from there.

- Use Cash:  When negotiating, stress that you can pay cash, most sellers will rather receive cash than pay credit card commissions so you can leverage this to your advantage.  This technique can easily knock off 10% or more from the selling price.

- Factor in Taxes:  When negotiating offer an “out the door” price so that the seller has to cover sales taxes. 

- Timing:  I have found that the best deals at a gun show are either early on the opening day or at the end of the last day.  Some sellers under-price their ammunition and are quickly sold out.  Other sellers are more willing to drop prices within the last 2 hours of the closing day to sell off inventory. 

 

 

4.  Reloading

 

Reloading your own ammo requires a large upfront investment but if you shoot a lot it can pay off in the long run.  The supplies that you will need are a press, dies, case tumbler, case trimmer, powder measure, calipers, and other case preparation supplies.  These are all things that you need in addition to the casings, bullets, primers, and powder. 

 

I’m not a hard core reloader so I haven’t saved a ton doing this but it is still a fun hobby.  Just don’t be one of those people on the range who poaches other people’s brass while they are still hot.  If you’re considering getting started reloading I suggest you start with something like a Lee Single Stage Kit to see if its right for you. 

 

These are my tricks to save money on ammunition.  Please share your own tips and websites in the comments below. 


10 Almost FREE Summer Activities for Kids

Free Summer ActivitiesSummer is finally upon us!  The kids are out of school; it’s the first day of not waking up to an alarm and already your kids are muttering those two words, I’M BORED.  

 

What’s a parent to do?  If you are like me, you want to make the summer a fun and memorable one without breaking the bank (especially of you are a big family with multiple kids.)  Here are a few tips to stay busy, have fun and to make memories all while saving money.

 

1. Reading Programs: Almost every city and town has a local library and or books store.  Find one near you and sign up.  The kids will enjoy listening to story time.  Give them the freedom to choose whatever they want to read as a part of the program.  They will find satisfaction in receiving prizes for meeting their weekly goals.  Also, swing by a coffee shop and let them pick out a drink to sip on while they get lost in their new books!

 

2. Sprinklers or Splash Pads:  If you live in a neighborhood like mine, then there is no pool to swim in.  All kids love to get wet!  Search your town for a local splash pad or water fountain for city approval that allows kids to get wet in.  Put on the sun screen, pack a lunch and let them frolic around for an hr our two.  Some may even want to bring a few toys or water guns to play with.  If your city doesn’t allow it, them go pick up a $10 sprinkler and set it up in the yard.  Now your grass can get watered while the kids are having a blast!

 

3. Screen on the Green:  Most major cities have free movie nights in your local park. Grab a blanket and movie treats and enjoy a family friendly movie under the stars.  Don’t live near a major city? No problem; charge up your lap top or portable DVD player, grab blanket and watch a movie in your local park or in your own back yard.  The kids will enjoy picking out the movie and snuggling under the stars.

 

4. Camping:  Many camp sites are around $10-$15 per night.  That’s a whole lot cheaper than a hotel price.  Search for camp sites near you so that you can also save on gas.  Once the kids get into the woods, then it will feel like they are on a far away adventure.  Not a camper? Don’t have the equipment?  That’s okay too.  Camp in the living room.  Use several blankets to built tent or fort.  Make foil dinners in the oven.  or S’mores in the microwave.  They will enjoy that just as much!

Nature Walk 

5. Get Moving: Go on a nature walk.  Several parks offer nature trails for walking.  Let the kids enjoy discovering new wildlife and greenery while getting some exercise and stretching their legs.  Early mornings or evenings may be a good way to beat the heat.  If you don’t live near a park then walk your neighborhood or street.  and look for small animals like squirrels or birds.

 

Ice Cream6. I Scream for Ice Cream:  Who doesn’t enjoy a cool treat to beat the heat?  Look for weekly sales at  near by ice cream shop or frozen yogurt store.  Many places also have rewards points that will earn you savings for your frequent visiting (be sure to ask).  If that is too pricey, then run to your local McDonald’s for a $1 cone.  If that’s still too much then run to the dollar store for a tub of cream or Popsicle’s (let the kids pick it out).  When you get home, enjoy sitting outside together on the porch chatting and eating.

 

7. Movie Time: Check your local movie theater for their summer movie programs.  Most places have free or cheap movies that they will show for kids once a week.  Our city has two!  The theater will show a movie before opening hours in the morning.  Usually both the movie and the concessions are sold at a discounted price.  The movies are typically older and not new releases but the kids don’t mind, they are happy to get out and about.

 

8. Cook Together:  Go to your local new or used book store, let your kids pick out a new cook book and enjoy making one recipe together a week.  They will enjoy doing things with you, making new foods and eating their accomplishments.  Not to mention, that they are also practicing math and reading skills!!

 

9. Experiment Together:  Check out Pinterest for tons of fun kid friendly experiments and try something new together.  If you don’t have an account then once again, visit your local new or used book store.  Just remember to let the kids pick out the book.

 

10. Local Hotel:  Now, I know I mentioned camping as an alternative to hotel stay but, find a local hotel and stay for one or two nights.  You will save on gas from traveling out of town.  You can pack your own food rather then eating out.  Also, your kids will love the feeling of being on vacation.  Let them stay up late watching TV or swim in the hotel pool.  It’s nice to spend $100 rather than $1,000.00.

 

I hope that these tips are helpful to you and your wallet. Make a routine out of the activities and do one activity a day per week or mix them up.  There are ways to have fun while saving money are making summer memories.  What are some of yours? Feel free to leave comments!


Vacation Saving Tips

Vacation Saving TipsFollowing these 16 Vacation Saving Tips will help you have memorable vacations without going deep into your pocketbook.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  Travel on the Cheapest Days:  Search for flights through skyscanner.com to find the cheapest airfare in a given week, month, or year.  This is a great tool to plan your vacation.  Take a look at the screenshots I took to show you how to search for these time periods.  

Search by Time Period

2.  Travel in off seasons:  Off seasons vary for different destinations but generally speaking you can find the best deals from mid January to mid March and mid October to mid December.  Vacationing at these times is also much less stressful because you are not constantly battling the crowds. 

 

3.  Search for the Cheapest Destination:  Skyscanner.com also has a great tool to allow you to search for the cheapest destinations from any airport.  The button took me a while to find at first so I included a screenshot to show you exactly where it is and what the search results look like.  The prices are in pounds but it is still useful for knowing where your cheapest destinations are.  

Destination Results

4.  Use Regional Airports:  Before you look to the major airports and airlines, search for flights from regional airports.  Discount airlines typically fly more out of small regional airports so you may find some cheaper flights.  You may have to drive farther to get to these airports but parking rates are cheaper and you can get from your car to the gate much quicker. 

 

5.  Avoid Traveling on the Weekends:  Whether you are flying or driving; you will save money by traveling during the week instead of the weekends.  Both flights and gas are typically more expensive on the weekends.  If you decide to take a road trip be sure to check out our article on Gas Saving Tips.

 

6.  Make Lunch Your “Eat Out” Meal:  While on vacation there is nothing wrong with eating out at a nice restaurant.  Choose lunch as your “sit-down, nice meal” instead of dinner.  Restaurants often offer lunch specials or cheaper prices at lunchtime rather than dinner.

 

7.  Seek Hotel Alternatives:  Rather than going the traditional route of staying at a hotel; consider a hostel, house swap, or rent from a local resident. 

 

Hostels:  Hostels are great for young adults.  I was able to travel throughout Europe and some major US cities at around $20 a night.  The social aspect of a hostel also beats a hotel every time.  Sites like hostels.com and hostelworld.com can help find hostels for your destination. 

House Swaps:  Check out swapmycitypad.com for help finding a house to swap with.

Rent from local resident:  Sites like couchsurfing.org, airbnb.com, campinmygarden.com, and bedandbreakfast.com link travelers with locals who are renting everything from a part of their yard to camp on to entire apartments. 

 

8.  Factor in Currency Rates:  When deciding on a destination overseas, factor in currency exchange rates.  Some destinations may cost more to get there but you will spend less money once you arrive.  Other destinations like many countries in western Europe will be more expensive once you arrive because of the exchange rate. 

 

9.  Exchange Currency Only Once:  Find the place with the best exchange rate then exchange as much as you need all at once.  Exchanges with no conversion fees often offer worse rates.  Sometimes it is better to pay the conversion fee if you are getting a better exchange rate.  You can maximize your savings if you exchange your money all at once rather than every couple days.  Also look at your credit card to see what their foreign transaction and exchange rates are.  You may be better paying with your credit card instead of cash.  This is not always the case so be sure to check with your credit card company first.  Airports usually offer the worst rates so plan ahead and exchange somewhere else.

 

10.  Maximize Public Transportation:  Public transportation is usually the cheapest way to get around.  Use public transportation as much as possible so that you can avoid needing a rental car all together.  If there is something that you want to see that requires you to drive, only rent a car for that day instead of the entire time.  

 

11.  Be Smart with Taxis:  In a foreign country, never let someone approach you and offer to take you to a taxi.  This usually happens right outside customs at the airport.  If these people see you looking at a map or asking directions they know you may be an easy target to rip off.  They will tell you how much it will cost to get to your destination and offer to pay the taxi driver for you.  They will then pay the driver a fraction of the money that you gave him and pocket the rest.  If you need a taxi, go directly to the driver.  It is also best to find out local rates beforehand to prevent you from being overcharged.  

 

12.  Bring Your Own Food:  If you are driving then you can bring a cooler and pack food for your trip.  This may not be possible if you are flying but you can at least bring food for actual travel days to avoid paying overpriced airport prices. 

 

13.  Buy Local Food:  When you arrive at your destination shop at a local grocery store for food to eat while you are on the go instead of eating at a restaurant for every meal. 

 

14.  Buy Event Tickets in Advance:  Whether you are going to a sporting event, museum, festival or show; buy tickets in advance to save on admission fees.  Search for promotion codes to get more savings.  Printing your tickets beforehand will also save a lot of time waiting in line.  Grocery stores and Walmart will also sometimes sell discounted tickets for water and amusement parks. 

 

15.  Weigh Your Luggage:  Make sure you weigh your luggage before you fly to ensure you are under the weight limit.  If needed, you can cross load between other people traveling with you to avoid having to pay extra fees.  If you are underweight, try to consolidate as much as you can to reduce the pieces of luggage that you will need to check in. 

 

16.  Turn Off Utilities at Home:  Before you leave make sure you’re not wasting money on utilities back home.  Unplug everything but your security alarm and refrigerator/freezer.  Also consider turning off the water to your entire house.  In the summer turn off the A/C and water heater.  In the winter turn the water heater and house temperature down to a level that will prevent the pipes from freezing, but won’t waste money maintaining a room temperature.  

 

 

If you have your own money saving tips for vacation please include them in the comments section.  


Save Money on Clothes

Save Money ClothesYou can be one of the best dressed people around without spending a lot of money.  Follow these money saving tips on clothes shopping to improve your wardrobe without draining your savings account.  

 

 

 

15 Clothes Saving Tips

1.  Try It On At The Store; Then Buy Online.  When clothes shopping, go ahead and try on clothing to make sure you get exactly what you want at the right fit.  Then instead of going to the register, go home and find it online.  There are many online discount stores where you can find amazing deals.  Better yet, if you have a smart phone you can find online deals right there in the store.  Just make sure you factor in shipping costs before you make the purchase.

 

2.  Buy Clothes in the Off Season.  I have saved a lot of money by planning a season in advance. Stores want to clear their shelves to make room for new inventory.  I buy all my winter clothing in the spring time and all my summer clothing in the fall.  Don’t wait too long in the off season because the stores want that shelf space for the upcoming season, not the past one.  Wait until the store marks the clothing down at least 2 times before making the purchase.

 

3.  Repair First.  Don’t just throw clothes away if they can be repaired.  If you cannot repair them yourself then maybe you have a friend that can.  If you have this skill set then get the word out and people will be willing to give you their clothes instead of throwing them away.

 

4.  Choose Discount Stores.  Discount stores like Ross, TJ Maxx, and Burlington always have discounted name brand clothes so shop there first.  Combine shopping at these stores with tip #2 and you stand to save a lot of money on clothes.

 

5.  Thrift Stores and Yard Sales.  If you shop around at yard sales and thrift stores you will often find name brand clothing for just a few dollars.  If you are into novelty t-shirts or clothing this is also a great option. 

 

6.  Make a List and Stick to It.  The layout of these stores is designed to do one thing… take your money.  This goes for online stores as well.  You can go into a store with the intent of buying a purse but walkout with some jewelry, pants, or any number of other things.  Before you go into a store, make sure you have a list and commit to sticking to it.  Don’t become a victim of a company’s marketing strategy.

 

7.  Only Buy What You Can Wear Today.  Don’t buy something that doesn’t fit today, but will two months from now when you lose 10 lbs.  If you can’t wear it today then don’t buy it until you lose those 10 lbs… they’ll still be selling clothes after you lose the weight.

 

8.  Shop in the Perimeters.  Most major retailers have items with the biggest markup in the center of the store or along the aisles.  The discounts and good deals are usually found in the perimeter of the store along the walls or in areas of the store less frequented.

 

9.  Consider Clothing Swap.  You may be ready for a new wardrobe or bored with the clothes that you have.  Your friends may be feeling the same way so before you all go spend money consider swapping clothes, even if it is just temporary. 

 

10.  Keep Current Wardrobe in Mind.  Before you buy an article of clothing, be sure that it goes with at least three other pieces that you currently have.  There’s no sense buying something that doesn’t go with anything you have, which will force you to buy even more. 

 

11.  Go Straight to the Clearance Rack.  As you walk into the store, put your blinders on and head straight for the clearance rack first.  If you find what you are looking for then don’t bother visiting any other parts of the store.  Don’t buy the clothing after the first mark down, wait until they reduce the price two or three times before you make the purchase.

 

12.  Join Email Lists.  Retailers will often email deals and coupons to promote their products.  Don’t buy an item just because you have a coupon or it is on sale but that doesn’t mean they won’t promote something that you need.

 

13.  Be Wary of Sales.  Never buy something just because it is on sale.  Remember that the retailer isn’t trying to save you money, but to separate you from it.  Sometimes shopping for sales will result in you spending more money than if you bought it at full price.  The listed sale price may not really be a discount, or they will slightly lower the cost to get you into the store where they tempt you to buy more “sale” items. 

 

14.  Buy Quality.  When you buy cheap clothing you usually end up spending more in the long run on repairs or replacing it.  Look for deals on quality products that will last you a long time.  The goal is to look good without spending a lot of money.

 

15.  Have Different Sets of Clothes for Different Functions.  To extend the life of your clothes ensure that you have different clothes that you use for different functions.  This is particularly true with kids and people who like to do DIY projects.  Have dedicated play clothes for your kids where they can get dirty and play rough and dedicated clothes for school, church, and formal gatherings.  Also, have dedicated clothes that you wear when you paint, yard work, do chores, etc.

 

 

Please share your own strategies for saving money on clothes. 


Garage Sale Tips

Having a yard or garage sale is a great way to earn some extra money and get rid of some of the clutter around your house.  Here are some simple things that you can do to maximize the profits of your garage sale.  
14 Killer Yard Sale Tips

 

Garage Sale Tips

1.  Get the Word Out:  The more customers that you have the higher, the chances of sales.  The more advertising methods you use, the more people will come to your yard sale.  Here are some methods to consider: craigslist, facebook yard sale groups, signs, and bulletins.  Each one of these methods will be discussed in greater detail.

Craigslist:  On the Thursday or Friday before the yard sale, post some of the specific items that you will sell in the appropriate category within Craigslist.  Mention that the item is part of a yard sale and briefly list a few of the other items that you will also be selling.  Before you set a price, take a look at other listings to ensure that you are competitively priced.  Here’s also a trick that works out very well: select a few items that you know will be in high demand.  Make sure you list these items cheaper than any similar items on Craigslist.  Be sure to state in the ad that it is part of a yard sale with the words “First Come First Serve.”  You will get people coming to your yard sale looking for those “super cheap” items even after they have been sold.  While they are there they won’t waste the trip so they will look at other items that you have.

Facebook Yard Sale GroupFacebook Yard Sale Groups:  Most cities have facebook yard sale groups where people will post the items they have for sale and provide their yard sale details.  In addition, join the yard sale groups for neighboring cities to get more customers.  In these facebook groups, only post a few of the major items, not every single item.  Use the same strategy discussed for Craigslist where you post a few items with low prices to get people to your yard sale.  Once they are there, they will browse the rest of your inventory and possibly buy more than they originally planned.  People will try to negotiate a price online to pick it up early, so make sure you state “First Come First Serve” and do not negotiate until someone is at your sale.  You priced these items to sell because they are in high demand so don’t worry about not being able to sell them.  If by later in the afternoon they aren’t sold, then you can start replying to messages. 

Signs:  Make sure every sign looks the same, identical if possible.  Make the signs simple with all the information they need:  yard sale, directional arrow (turn right or left), address, and time of sale.  Remember that people will be seeing your signs as they speed by so don’t put a lot of clutter on it.  Make sure your signs will be able to withstand the wind.  Also, try to make your signs stand out from other signs by using things like balloons.  Spread your signs out and make sure to guide traffic to your sale at every turn.  Get your signs out as early as possible to get the first pick of the best spots.Advertise Garage Sale

Bulletins:  Churches, community buildings, and stores will have often have bulletins that you can post your yard sale details.  I also recommend listing some of the items that you will sell to catch people’s interest.

 

2.  Yard Sale Layout:  Place some of your larger items like furniture or electronics closer to the curb to catch the interest of people driving by.  Put the rest of your eye catching items toward the back so people have to walk past your other stuff to get to what they want to see.

 

3.  Know What a Yard Sale Is:  This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you price the items understand why people shop at yard sales:  to get usable stuff at cheap prices.  If your prices are high then people won’t bother seeing what else you have and you will lose out on a lot of sales.  Price items based on what people may be willing to pay, not what the value of the item is to you.  If you insist on high prices then market those items on Craigslist or ebay. 

 

Yard Sale Pricing Guide

4.  Have All Prices Marked:  Make it easy for people browsing by having all the prices marked.  Some people find it annoying to have to keep asking what the prices are.  

 

5.  Expect to Barter:  Negotiating prices is part of the yard sale experience.  Many people will give a “low ball” offer to try to get a good deal.  Expect to go back and forth until you both agree on an acceptable price.  If you are firm on all your prices then you will turn a lot of people off. 

 

6.  Don’t Give in to the Early Birds:  You will find people out early trying to find good deals before anyone else has the chance to get there.  They usually don’t stay for long and will try to get you to cut prices for a quick sale.  Don’t feel rushed to sell everything in the first hour unless it is a price that you feel comfortable with. 

 

7.  Don’t Make Assumptions:  Don’t assume that what you consider a worthless piece of junk won’t appeal to others.  Don’t make decisions for what other people will want to buy, put it out there and see if anyone will take it.  We’ve had stuff that we were ready to throw away only for someone to pay full price for.  

 

8.  Be Organized:  Have all “like” items on display together.  For example, have all baby clothes together, have all electronics together, etc.  This will give your garage sale a better flow and be more organized.

Dollars

 

9.  Have Change and Small Bills:  Don’t lose out on a sale because you didn’t have the right amount of change to give someone.  Go to the bank the day before the sale to stock up on quarters and one dollar bills.

 

10.  Have a Kid’s Stand:  On our last yard sale we decided to involve our 5-year old to give him the experience of making money.  We had him sell cookies for $0.25 each and lemonade for $0.50, and he made a killing.  He was completely sold out before noon and made over $18 even though he consumed a good amount of his own inventory.  We had him make his own signs and set up his little table off to the side.  He got to keep the money he made and afterward we gave a little lesson on money management. 

 

11.  Have Everything Assembled:  People will want to see that something is fully useable before they buy it.  Make sure everything is assembled as if it were ready for immediate use

 

12.  Have an Extension Cord Handy:  If you are selling any type of electronics people will want to test it before they buy it.  Have an extension cord already setup to make this process easier. 

 

13.  Donate What You Don’t Sell:  Take whatever you don’t sell to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or charity based thrift store.  They will give you a receipt that you can use for a deduction when tax time comes. 

 

14.  Create a Warm Environment:  The more comfortable and fun your yard sale is; the more likely people are to stay longer.  Believe it or not, some people yard sale hop for the social aspect more than for the shopping.  Once they are there they will be more likely to buy something if they like you.  Have some catchy tunes playing, don’t hover over anyone, and be friendly.  There’s no reason why you can’t have fun while doing this activity. 

 

If you have your own tips that you would like to share please leave them in the comments below. 


Make Extra Money

 

Earn Extra Money Home

There are opportunities to make extra money all around, we just sometimes need a little help finding them.  This page will give you possible ways to earn additional income.  

 

 

 

 

Make Extra Money

 

1.  Find Work on Care.com:  The website care.com links people looking for caregivers with job seekers.  The areas where you can find potential work is in babysitting/nanny, childcare, errands &house sitting, special needs provider, senior care provider, pet care provider, tutoring, housekeeping, and nursing.  There is a membership fee but you can set up an account and browse the site before payment to see if it is right for you. 

 

2.  Help Companies Solve Their Problems:  Innocentive.com is an impressive website where organizations post their challenges and key problems.  Individuals or organizations then submit proposed solutions to the problems with a cash reward being given to the best solution(s). 

 

3.  Buy Bulk From Overseas and Resell:  I am just getting into this and it looks promising if done right.  You can sell the products through an eStore, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or at local flee markets.   Alibaba.com sells bulk items from China at major discount prices.  For some products they let you buy a single item before a major bulk purchase to make sure it is good quality.

 

4.  Find Unclaimed Money:  You may have unclaimed money from old paychecks, matured savings bonds, pensions, mortgage refunds, lease deposits or other sources.  Go to unclaimed.org or missingmoney.com to do a search for every state you have lived in.  I did this several years ago and was able to claim several hundred dollars of money that already belonged to me.  Click here for the usa.gov webpage on unclaimed money.

 

5.  eStore:  Rather than a traditional brick-and-mortar store, sell your products online with your own eStore.  Really successful stores can be a full-time or side job depending on how successful it is.  Websites like shopify.com help business and individuals set up online stores.

 

6.  Notary:  When we refinanced our house the bank sent a public notary to bring us the contract and notarize our signatures.  During the hour visit she told us how she got into being a public notary and the hours she works.  She went on to tell us how she makes $30K+ a year working part time.  While one person’s experiences may not be reflective of all public notaries, it is worth looking into if you are looking for a good side job.  This is also a good idea for housewives who can get away from the home for a couple hours at a time.  Requirements for being a public notary vary by state.   Nationalnotary.org is a useful website to give information on the requirements of your state. 

 

7.  Be a Mystery Shopper: Mystery shoppers or mystery customer are hired by companies to visit an establishment then provide feedback or reports about their experiences.  Most mystery shoppers are hired to report on the quality of service in retail stores.  While this is a legitimate business opportunity, it is also important to note that there are scams out there.  As a general rule, do not join an agency that requires upfront fees.  Visit mysteryshop.org for more information. 

 

8.  Direct Selling:  Some of the largest direct selling companies include Amway, Avon, Tupperware, and Herbalife.  This income opportunity involves selling products directly to customers instead of at a traditional retail store.  Many direct sellers also use multilevel marketing techniques.  

 

9.  Put Advertisements on Your Car:  If you are willing to allow companies to put advertisements on your vehicle then you can make up to $400 a month.  One site that you can use to do this is freecarmedia.com.

 

10.  Be a Tutor:  Some parents are willing to hire private tutors for their children.  Care.com has a section where you can find people looking for tutors.  You can also post ads or browse other websites. 

 

11.  Donate Plasma:  You can donate plasma up to two times a week for around $15 to $20 for each donation.  This is great for college students who can bring their school work in and study for an hour while getting paid

 

12.  Find Odd Jobs:  People will post odd jobs on Craigslist or other sites.  Check these postings for anything that interests you.

 

13.  Resale Used Items:  Pickup underpriced used items then resale them on Craigslist, thrift stores, facebook yard sale pages, ebay, or flea markets.  Craigslist will often list “Curb Alerts” where people give away free stuff they want out of their houses.  Also on craigslist look for people selling items as a result of divorce, moving, or losing their jobs.  People in these circumstances will sometimes be more willing to sell their used goods for cheaper.  Look for some of these free or cheap items to resell for a profit. 

 

14.  Yard Sale:  If you have things in your house that you haven’t used in years then it is time to free your home of some clutter.  Don’t assume that someone won’t want your old junk.  You’ll be surprised how excited others will get about buying things that you don’t need anymore.  Whatever you don’t sell you can donate to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or a charity based thrift store for a tax deduction.  Click the link below for garage/yard sale tips.

Garage Sale Tips

 

15.  Sell Items on ebay:  Sell some of your old stuff on ebay.  I am also always on the lookout for things that I can quickly resell on ebay for large profit margins.  I have an ebay app on my phone that lets me scan the bar code for products so when I want to check the price for something I can quickly look it up. 

 

16.  Babysit:  Working families may be looking for an alternative to putting their kids into day care.  Some of these families would rather have their kids watched by a stay-at-home mom.  Websites like sittercity.com or care.com help link sitters with those seeking this service.

 

17.  Sell Crafts on Etsy:  If you have a skill for handmade or vintage products, you can turn your hobby into a profit on etsy.com.

 

18.  Amazon’s Mechanical Turk:  On this website companies post  Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs), which are tasks that you can work on and get paid for.  Not all of the tasks pay enough to be worth the time to put into it but some of them pay around $50.

 

19.  Animal Care:  You can either post an ad or browse craigslist, care.com or another site to find people are willing to pay you to provide pet care.  Services can include dog walking, feeding, bathing, or watching them. 

 

20.  Host an Exchange Student:  It is possible to earn money for hosting a foreign exchange student.  Homestaybooking.com is one site that you can use to host an exchange student. 

 

21.  Create a Website:  Start your own website or blog with affiliate links or click through advertising.

 

22.  Drop Shipping:  This is a technique where the retailer (possibly you) transfers customer orders to the manufacturer or wholesaler, who then delivers the goods to the shopper.  You will not need an inventory as you will act as a “middle-man” between the supplier and customer.

 

23.  Photography:  If you have a nice camera and some photography skills there are several ways to turn this hobby into income.  One way is to be hired for special occasions like graduations, weddings, newborn baby photos, or any other event.  The other way to earn money from photography is to sell images to websites that allow visitors to download pictures for a fee. 

 

24.  Freelance:  If you have skills in areas like IT, Data service, marketing, writing, graphic design, translators, legal, financial management, project management, administrative, or customer service you can supplement your income by being a freelancer.  Websites like odesk.com, peopleperhour.com, elance.com allow companies to post work for freelancers to bid on.

 

I hope one or more of these ideas can help you make extra money.  Please also share your success stories in the comments section. 


Fun Teen Activities

 

Getting your teenage kids to unplug from the digital world can be near impossible unless you can help them find fun (and often free) activities.  I have listed some fun teen activities that are both cheap and exciting.  

 

 

Fun Teen Activities

 

Geocaching1.  Geo Caching:  People have hidden little caches all over the world for others to find.  The websites opencaching.com, geocaching.com, and gpsgames.org all have geocaching and other GPS games.  Teens can download a free GPS app on their smart phone to help find the points. 

 

 

2.  Digital Scavenger Hunt:  Come up with a list of objects then split up into teams to see who can find the most items.  This also works for actions as like “Wash a stranger’s windshield” or “Reenact a Harry Potter scene in public.” 

 

 

3.  Ice Blocking:  Buy one block of ice for each person to ride down any hill.  Click here for a YouTube video of some kids ice blocking. 

 

 

4.  Couch Sledding:  If done safely, this can be a very fun activity.  To do this get an old couch and put it on some sleds or old skis.  If you use skis you will need to screw them to the bottom of the couch it hold it in place.  Make sure your teens take all safety precautions before doing this one.  If you do not have an old couch then keep browsing Craigslist for a curb alert.  People are throwing away old couches all the time. Click here for a YouTube video of Couch Sledding. 

 

 

Fun Games Teens
Fun Games Teens

5.  Frisbee Golf:  In this game players throw a frisbee at a series of targets, like holes in a round of golf.  Record the number of throws it takes each player to hit all the targets.  The player with the least amount of throws wins.  There are designated courses where you can play frisbee golf but it is just as easy to make your own by picking specific trees, posts, or signs as targets.

 

 

Fun Games Teenagers
Fun Games Teenagers

6.  Truth-or-Dare Jenga:  Lay out all the Jenga blocks and split them in half.  On one half of the blocks write “truth.”  On the other half write specific dares.  Then play Jenga as normal, except when a player draws a block they must answer the truth or do the dare. 

 

 

7.  Service Project:  Don’t be surprised if your teens resist this one at first but it will be worth it for the both parents and children when they get the satisfying feeling from helping others.  Try to pick service projects where they get to interact with those you are helping instead of manual labor like yard work. 

 

 

8.  Have a Water War:  What is the difference between a water fight and a water war?  A water fight is a onetime event where two sides have at it, however a water war can last days or weeks.  The concept is to gather a group of your teen’s friends and split them into teams.  Each team then tries to eliminate the other players by getting them wet.  When he/she gets wet, they are eliminated from the war and cannot participate.  Set a specific time to start the war.  The teams then formulate plans on when to attack the other players when they least expect it.  It is best to establish rules about when you can and cannot get someone wet like at work, school, church, or inside certain buildings.  The team wins by eliminating all the other players one-by-one.  We did this in high school and my team all carried high-powered water-guns everywhere we went so we could fight back against any enemy ambushes.  If your teens do this, be ready for the opposing team to try to enlist you and other family members as spies. 

 

I know others who used this concept for “Marshmallow Wars” where they try to hit the other players with marshmallows but that doesn’t seem to have the same excitement as soaking someone. 

 

 

9.  Use Student Discounts:  Amusement parks, sporting events, and other local attractions will usually give a student discount or have promotions that drastically reduce their price.  Sometimes some of these places will have deals with your teen’s middle or high school.  Find out when these deals are and take advantage of the savings.

 

 

10.  Visit Colleges:  Take your teens to some of the colleges or universities in the area.  Most of them give free tours and have events for prospective students.  Even if you’re not part of an actual tour it is still enjoyable to walk around campus so your teens can get a better idea what college life is like.

 

 

11.  Hiking/Camping:  If your kids don’t learn to enjoy nature by their teenage years then when will they?  Most children will love to go camping and hiking, the problem is that we do not take them often enough. 

 

 

12.  Create Videos to Upload to YouTube:  The only limit on this one is their imagination.  Your teens can make anything like music videos, movie parodies,funny skits,wholesome practical jokes, or whatever they can think up.  They can upload these videos to YouTube to see what kind of following they can get.

 

 

If you have any other suggestions for fun teen activities please email me or add it to the comments section.


How to Make a Budget

 

Budget Your Money
Budget Your Money

This post will teach you a simple but very effective way to establish a household budget.  These simple 9 steps on how to make a budget can get you on track to achieving your financial goals.  

 

 

How to Make a Budget

 

1.  Set Goals:  “A goal is just a dream with a deadline.”  –Marjorie Blanchard.  Why is setting a goal the first step?  We need to start with a “dream” to give us focus and something to strive toward.  It is best to be specific and set a date to accomplish your goals.  Here are some examples:

  • Eliminate all debt (excluding mortgage) by March 1, 2015
  • Have $2,000 in reserve cash within 3 months (set specific date)
  • Have 3 months worth of income (be specific with the amount) by June 15, 2015
  • Pay off mortgage within 10 years (set specific date)

Notice how these goals give a specific amount with a timetable.  Simply stating “get out of debt” or “build savings” as goals are not specific enough.  Your goals need to be realistic but you should also aim high.  “Reach for the stars – You might not always get a star, but at least you won’t end up with a handful of dirt.” –Leo Burnette.

 

 2.  Identify Monthly Waypoints to Achieve Goals:  Navigators will often use waypoints along a journey Waypointto ensure they stay on course on a planned route.  We will use financial waypoints to make sure we stay on track to hit our goals. Step #1 gave us our goals, now we need to identify how we are going to achieve them.  If you set a goal to increase your savings from zero to $10,000 in 12 months then you will need to save about $833.33 a month.  So your monthly waypoint is to add $833.33 to your savings.  If your goal is to eliminate debt by a specific date, this will be a little harder to calculate because interest will be accumulating.  Debt calculators can help you determine how much principal you need to pay off each month to reach your goal.  Your monthly waypoints will be the additional amount applied to your debts.  Write down your monthly target because we will need it for step #4.

 

3.  Calculate your monthly net income:  Now it’s time to compute your “take home” income.  Add all sources of income to include wages, tips, supplementary income, investment income, etc. 

Household Budget Template
Household Budget Template

 

4.  Calculate Estimated Monthly Expenses:  List ALL your monthly expenses, no matter how small.  Look at bank/credit card statements, receipts, bills, and anything else you can find to calculate your spending habits.  Categorize your expenses in two categories: fixed and variable.  As a general rule I put everything that I cannot change in the fixed category and anything I can easily change in my variable category (with a few exceptions for things like insurances).   Now it’s time to take the number from step #2 to include with your expenses (labeled “Contribution to Goal” in the table below).  I recommend putting this amount in your fixed category.  Though saving deposits/additional debt payments/investments are things that you control, it helps to mentally see it as something you can’t (or won’t) change to keep you on track for your goals. 

Here is an example of a household’s monthly expenses:

Family Budget Template
Family Budget Template

 

 5.  Compare Net Income With Estimated Monthly Expenses:  The following table shows that expenses exceed income by $590. 

Income vs Expenses

 

 We can now either find a way to increase our income or cut expenses to get that number to zero.  The following table shows the expense cuts to balance the budget with the changes in red. 

Home Budget Template
Home Budget Template

 

If needed, this is also a good time to access the feasibility of your goals.  You may find that the monthly amount you plan to save/invest/pay off debts is either too high or too low.  Ensure that your goals are both realistic and challenging.  If the goals are not realistic then adjust them.  If your goals seem easy then you can increase the amount or shorten the timeline.   “Do not lower your goals to the level of your abilities.  Instead, raise your abilities to the height of your goals.” –Swami Vivekananda.

 

6.  Record Monthly Expenses:  Keep detailed records of expenses to track your progress throughout the month.  In some months you will catch breaks and have money to spare.  Other months you will have unexpected expenses and have to make additional cuts to balance your budget.  During these tough times it is important to keep focused on your goal and the progress that you have made.

 

7.  Reassess and Make Necessary Adjustments:  Toward the end of each month, compare your “Actual” expenses with your “Estimated” to help you make adjustments to your monthly budget.  After a few months you can begin to track averages or trends in each category to make your “Estimated” expenses more accurate. 

 

8.  Reward Yourself:  I have to constantly remind myself is that my ultimate desire in life is for my family to be happy and safe.  Financial freedom is a means to that end, not the ultimate goal in life.  If you budget $100 for entertainment then spend  that money doing something you enjoy.  If you budget for $450 a month for food then get the best food that you can with that money.  If you try to live on ramen or half-price expired food for 6 months, you’re not going to be happy and you’ll eventually trash the budget. 

 

9.  Set New Goals and Move Forward:  Once you reach your goals (and you will), take another look at your financial situation and make new ones.  Always remain a student of money management because you can never learn all there is to know.  Set new goals to stretch yourself, increase your net worth, and achieve financial independence.

 

Please share your own success stories in the comments section below.  We look forward to hearing from you.