Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What to Do When You Only Have $1.27 in Your Pocket: Think Shelter!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

na-na na-na na-na na-na, BOX MAN

By Anita Cheek Moon

So you’re in a bad spot? No money and a week to go before you will have any? Gives the phrase “You never know what you got till it’s gone” a new meaning doesn’t it? The first thing you need to ask yourself is why are you in this situation? Poor planning? Unexpected cash needs? When you figure that out you will have the insight needed to assure you don’t let it happen again. For now though you need to figure out what to do to just get by for a week. It can be done and it can be done regardless of the specifics of your situation. This article will address one of the first concerns many of us would have in this situation–shelter.

Having only $1.27 cash is the least of your concerns if you don’t have a roof over your head and you’re exposed to the elements. More than likely you do and you should thank the Creator for that. If you don’t then you need to immediately figure out if you actually need one. Is it summer or winter? Are you going to freeze to death in a gutter somewhere or fry on the sidewalk? Not if you keep your head about you!

The importance of shelter is primarily relative to the weather. In our modern lifestyles we have come to consider it a necessity. We must have a “box” to live in or we feel that we are in danger. That is only true if you need protection from the elements and, fortunately, the box doesn’t have to be a three thousand square foot home with two baths and central heat and air. If you have that, in fact, you could be at a disadvantage when you are facing tough times. The more expensive our “box,” the more expensive it is to maintain. That might be the answer to why you are currently in this predicament. One man’s blessing can indeed be another man’s curse.

a house you can eatWhatever your situation, you need to figure out one thing: how you are going to maintain your core body temperature at a level that will sustain life. That may seem an odd thing to be thinking about at this time but believe me it is important. How many news accounts have you seen about homeless people freezing to death in their sleep or the elderly dying from heat exhaustion when their power is shut off? I’ve seen too many.

If you have a “box” you need to figure out how to live in it without either of the above occurring. If you don’t have a “box” you might need to get one. You can pick up a sufficient one behind any department store. Even the shade of a tree will temporarily suffice in the summer months. Just figure out a way to get yourself out of the elements. Don’t sit on the side of the road and bake thinking that someone will feel sorry for you and fix all of your problems. You got yourself into this mess and you need to get yourself out!

Perhaps your “box” is indeed that three thousand square foot home. If so then you need to take immediate measures to reduce the money it takes to heat and cool that home. That is true whether you have power or whether it has been shut off. If your power is still on then that means a bill is coming or it is already in hand. If the power has already been shut off then you probably will want to consider how you can afford getting it turned back on sometime in the immediate future. Either way, you need to prepare for the future so that next week you will have less outlay and more retainable money.

It is amazing to me that some complain of power bills they can’t pay while their AC or heating unit is working its heart out maintaining an “ideal” temperature in rooms that aren’t even used. Close off some of your rooms! Block the vents so that the central heat and air only goes into the rooms you absolutely need to survive. Turn off the television, lights, and other appliances when not in use. Unplug them as well. Many appliances draw power even when on standby waiting to be turned on!

snow place like homeIt is equally amazing how many people don’t realize that even a tiny hole around a window or your home’s foundation can represent a huge energy loss. Chink those holes with whatever you have at hand. Use plastic grocery bags and a butter knife to push them into the cracks if you have to. Caulking and expandable foam would be nice but it costs more than $1.27. Hang a blanket over the window to insulate it. You might even need to tape around the electrical outlets in an older home to block the draft that is coming through your walls.

According to just how bad of financial shape you are in, you might need to live in your bathroom or kitchen and make sure the utilities are only being used there. Pull your mattress from your bed into whatever room you choose, or put a pallet on the floor and make do. Use a fan instead of the AC or maybe keep an ice chest handy with a wash cloth soaking in the cold water to wipe off and cool down. Keep a cool tub of water to soak in. Line the window with aluminum foil turning the shiny side out to reflect the sun. Take positive steps to address your needs and you will find yourself living rather than your death being tomorrow’s headline.

If it is winter when you find yourself in dire straits then wear warm clothes even while inside. Turn off the central heat if you can and use a small space heater to heat just the small room that you have chosen to live in. No power? Then pile on more blankets and clothing and pay more attention to chinking out the elements. Make sure you stuff a blanket or something under the door to the room because that is where one of the biggest sources of cold air will enter. Sound drastic? Maybe, but it is a doable plan for a seemingly undoable situation. It can be done. Believe me, there are people with a lot bigger problems!

So what if you don’t have that three thousand square foot box to worry about? What if you really are living on the streets? The same concerns apply. You don’t want to freeze to death and you don’t want to fry. Use some common sense. Is there an emergency shelter you could gain access to? If not then look for that box or shade tree. Stop feeling sorry for yourself!

If it is winter the more in terms of wall thickness you can put around you the better. This may only be clothing. It may indeed be cardboard boxes. Try to get several that will fit inside one another and still give you room to crawl inside. Stuff the space between the boxes with leaves, paper, plastic, or whatever dry material you can find laying around. If possible put some plastic sheeting over the whole thing to fend off the rain. Fortunately, in this case at least, we all live in a disposable world and there will likely be tons of stuff at your disposal.

a house in the sticksWhat do you do if you don’t even have a cardboard box to seek shelter in? What if there is no garbage to sort through? Think like a squirrel! Take branches and leaves or whatever you can round up and make yourself some sort of shelter. Dig a hole into the side of a hill or into a snow bank or just huddle behind a big rock to knock off the wind. It is certainly a better option than literally freezing to death! If it is summer you are actually at an advantage if you are outside the big city and its hot asphalt. Find the coolest place you can find to set up your temporary home. This is, after all, only temporary.

By taking charge of your situation you have made it somewhat more manageable. You have, in fact, addressed your first need. You have found shelter. You still have your $1.27 and you also have time to think out your problems. I’ll help you do that in the next articles. You will find out how to find not just shelter but also water and food. What more could you ask for? Well, it would be nice if we could figure out just how to keep you out of this situation in the future. Perhaps we will be able to do that too. Just stay calm and keep reading.

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Anita Cheek Moon has devoted much of her life to the environment and the instillation of sustainable living skills, spending her time in the envelope of tough times and managing to claw her way to the other side. She has written in a number of venues including professional biology journals, local news sources, and web content. Check out her website at PrimitivePursuits.org.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Never Pay for Shampoo Again

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

rubber duckies, 10 for a dollar

By Jon, the Master Tightwad

I am a lean, mean tightwad machine. My boss and I have a Monday morning ritual of comparing who got the best weekend deal, and usually I win. I once bought 38 cans of organic soup for $4.17. Since then, my boss has pretty much given up. My goal in life is to pay as little as possible to live as comfortably as I can.

I haven’t paid for toothpaste since 2005. Last week I had to give away 4 tubes of it to some strangers near a homeless shelter because the tubes were about to expire. Shampoo? I have 23 bottles. Seriously. And they were all free.

Scoring free hygiene products is easy, and anyone can do it.

  • Step 1: Always buy the Sunday newspaper.
    Most weeks I actually make money on shampoo, toothbrushes and various sundries. You’ll need to save ALL coupons until they expire. Tip: Write the publication date on the first page. I’ll explain why below.
  • Step 2: Using said Sunday paper, set aside the advertisements for every pharmacy.
    Where I live, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid are the major drugstores. I save each ad. In them, you’ll discover lots of “FAR” (free after rebate) deals.
  • Step 3: Find a reliable deal compilation site, like bargainshare.com.
    Rather than find the deals yourself, start at a site where other users post their finds. At bargainshare, for example, I can quickly peruse the drugstores in the discussion forum to find products that are “FAR” or, even better, those products where I actually make money. Every Sunday, I scour my ads for freebies. Trust me, you will find them every single week. But then I cross check the coupons I have (Bargainshare will tell you which week the coupon was published. This will prevent you from paging through your archive of coupons). I have been most successful with CVS. I signed up to receive emails from their ExtraCare program, and almost weekly they will send me a “Save $4 off your next $20 purchase” offer. I print the email and bring it in. Combine that with other savings, and I often receive more than $20 worth of products at no cost to me.
  • Step 4: Managing inventory isn’t easy.
    The biggest challenge I have is using everything I’ve got. I’m a single guy, so the feminine hygiene products don’t have much use. They go to my best friend’s fiancé. I also find creative ways to use products. Conditioner, for example, works as well as any shaving gel. Finally, the philanthropist in me loves to distribute excess products to others. Be sure to keep tabs on what you give away: Uncle Sam will pay you back when you file your taxes.
  • Combining these tips should get you started on the road to savings. And if they don’t, at least you’ll have some stories (or, like me, a few cans of split pea soup) to share with your boss. That, and really clean hair.

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    Jon, the Master Tightwad works in the non-profit software industry by day, and hunts for bargains by night. He’s a single guy living in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ten Internet Startups Making Money By Saving You Money

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

By Trevor Conroy

It seems everyone is trying to figure out the next big Web 2.0 “killer app” that’ll fetch multi-million dollar offers from Google and the like. Often these internet startups are inexpensive to put together. All you need is a great idea and a programmer or two to bring it to life. With a new internet startup popping up every hour (if you don’t believe me, check out KillerStartups.com which is, ironically, an internet startup itself), it’s hard to weed out the garbage and identify the truly useful internet applications. But for those looking to transform the power of Web 2.0 into financial savings, here are ten internet startups your wallet will thank you for using.

  • hireahelper.comHire a Helper Gone are the days where you have to pull into a day laborer lot and load the back of your truck with workers to get your gardening done. Now you can just visit this site, enter your zip code, and get a list of people or companies willing to help you with your lawn mowing, moving, and other chores. Laborers list their rates right on the site, so you don’t have to call around to find the lowest price.
  • eversave.comEversave Find all the coupons, free samples, and special discounts you could ever want on household products and groceries at Eversave. Sign up for free and you’ll gain access to all sorts of crazy e-coupons that’ll save you money on the stuff you by everyday.
  • 3luxe.com3LUXE You know you need a new outboard engine for your boat, but you don’t want to spend hours reading reviews to find the best one. 3LUXE saves you the trouble and tells you the three best-reviewed items in hundreds of diverse categories, from bakeware to baseball bats.
  • retailmenot.comRetailMeNot.com The next time you order something–anything–online, be sure to stop by RetailMeNot.com before you hit that “Order” button. Simply put in the address for any online retailer and you’ll get a list of potential money-saving coupon codes you can use on your shopping cart. You’d normally have to sift through dozens of bargain forums or subscribe to spam-a-day mailing lists to get these codes, but RetailMeNot.com puts them all in one convenient place.
  • farecompare.comFareCompare There are lots of websites out there that say they’ll find you the cheapest airfare, but few of them make it as easy as FareCompare. Just enter where you are, where you want to fly, and (optionally) when you want to do it. FareCompare comes back with the cheapest available fares across multiple airlines. I’ve been using FareCompare since it launched and have saved hundreds on flights so far.
  • dealighted.comDealighted Hot deal forums have been around for years; but with more of them popping up every day, it’s hard to visit all of them and find out the hottest deals on crap you probably don’t need. Dealighted solves that problem by picking out the hottest of the hot deals from many hot deal sites. So now instead of visiting 27 different places to find refurbished condoms at a great price, you just have to visit one.
  • payscale.comPayScale Is your employer paying you what you deserve? Answer a series of detailed questions to find out what people like you in your area are making in your profession. Then storm into your boss’s office and demand more money! Or less if you’re already making too much. Wait, don’t do that.
  • SwarmBuy Imagine if you could get great deals on items by grabbing 30 of your friends, crowding into a store, and saying to the manager, “We’ll all by this item if you knock 20% off the price.” That’s exactly how SwarmBuy works–swarms of customers interested in an item can attract offers for discounts on the merchandise they’re seeking. Vendors benefit too by quickly spotting a large group of customers willing to buy their wares.
  • rentometer.comRentometer Us poorer folks still living in apartments and paying rent monthly will find Rentometer to be a great resource. Just tell Rentometer where you live and it’ll let you know if you’re paying too much compared to other nearby apartments. I actually used Rentometer a few months ago when my lease came up for renewal. I showed the landlord the website and that there were better deals to be had within a few blocks. He agreed to keep my rent steady for the next year.
  • budgetpulse.comBudgetPulse Even dumb people who don’t know how to count will find BudgetPulse useful for keeping track of their nickels and dimes. BudgetPulse’s gorgeous interface and stylish graphs will tell you in a minute just how broke or wasteful you really are.

Of course, who knows how long some of these startups will be around, so I’d be careful about getting too addicted to some of these.

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Trevor Conroy is a technology and finance writer from Seattle, WA. He enjoys scuba diving, cooking, and making fun of people who stood in line for 37 hours to buy an iPhone.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How Much Living Space Do You Really Need?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

Lorne St Apartment - Before We Moved In - My Room by NZ Alex

Photo by NZ Alex

The answer: probably not half as much as you have, but we’ll come back to that.

First, this emergency news flash: Los Angeles is out of space, and people are going to fall off the edge of California and drown in the Pacific Ocean any day now. Fortunately some developers have a solution: start building 250-square-foot apartments.

To give you an idea of how big (or perhaps, how small) 250 square feet is, grab two friends and have the three of you lay on the floor head-to-toe in one long straight line. That’s about the length of one side of a 250-square-foot apartment.

Can you fit the basic amenities of life into 250 square feet of space? Well, let’s consider how much space your typical home furnishings take and see if we can cram them into these tiny apartments.

Item Space
(sq. ft.)
Queen-size bed 40
Dresser 10
Chest of drawers 10
Closet space 10
Bookshelf 10
Desk and chair 15
Couch/loveseat 30
End table 10
Shower/tub 25
Toilet 10
Bathroom sink 10
Oven/stove 25
Kitchen sink 10
Refrigerator 10
Cabinets/countertops 25
Total square footage 250

Hey, how about that! 250 square feet right on the button. Looks like those L.A. developers aren’t crazy after all.

Oh, you wanted walking space? Somewhere to stand while you cook? A bathroom where you don’t trip over the toilet as soon as you walk inside? Not gonna happen. Sorry.

Looks like the moral of this story is that living in a 250-square-foot apartment likely means giving up some of the amenities to which you’re typically accustomed. Such small apartments aren’t unheard of either; the typical Japanese one-bedroom apartment is around that size. Of course, the typical Japanese apartment doesn’t have most of the kitchen appliances listed above, a couch, or even a standard bed.

Another lesson to take away from this: if you’re a single businessperson who spends most of his or her time at work or otherwise out of the apartment, you don’t need 1,000+ square feet all to yourself. Especially if you’re renting, you may be throwing money away on extra space you’re not even using.

Before you move in to your next apartment, sit down and figure out how much space your stuff really needs. (No, you don’t need that life-sized neon-lit flamingo statue.) Once you have a square footage number, multiply it by two to account for walking-around space. That’s how big your next apartment should be to make maximum use out of your minimal space.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

If You Don’t Buy Your Teenage Daughter $800 In New Clothes RIGHT NOW, You’re A Bad Parent

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , , ,

seriously, you are going to buy her all of this stuff, and it is going to cost you a lot of money, and she will not even thank you for it

It’s late July, and we all know what that means: back-to-school time is right around the corner… down the street about half a block… make two lefts. Here, let me draw you a map…

Today, Yahoo! Shopping tried to explain how to make back-to-school clothes shopping time less painful for you and your pocket book. Unfortunately for you, everything in the article is wrong. To start, the article uses the term “kid” when it is fairly obvious they mean “girl.” (How to shop for a boy: buy five t-shirts and two pairs of jeans. Let him wear them until the smell causes them to disintegrate. Cost: under $100.) Let’s look at the flaws in each piece of girl-shopping advice offered:

  • Yahoo! says to sort through existing clothes and throw out what is “outgrown.” Outgrown is simply a synonym for small or tight, which is exactly the size your daughter wants her clothes to be to accentuate the womanly parts she thinks she has. If you try to throw out that four-sizes-too-small skirt, your daughter will be highly unattractive to boys and could end up sexually conservative or even (gasp) educated.
  • Yahoo! says to identify your child’s favorite items to help avoid wasted purchases in the future. This won’t work because, as it has been scientifically proven, any clothes you buy today will be uncool and outdated three weeks later. Your child’s favorite pieces of clothes are, invariably, the ones you haven’t bought her yet.
  • Yahoo! says to talk to your kids about the latest clothing trends. You can try, but they will likely have changed before you finish your sentence. Nice job forcing your daughter to buy uncool clothes; she’ll be sure to return the favor by sticking you in an uncool nursing home. The same point also recommends telling your daughter that showing her belly button is not a good idea. Sorry, we’re way past belly buttons. You’ll be lucky if your daughter keeps her butt crack half covered.
  • Yahoo! says to explain the difference between wanting something and being able to afford it. Considering more than half of adults don’t understand this difference, you better get a second job before having this conversation.
  • Yahoo! says to have your child wear comfortable clothes while shopping. No no no! This makes it that much easier for her to try on 30 different outfits in each shop. Pile on the layers so she’s passed out by the second store.
  • Yahoo! says to let your kids window shop, then do the buying with you. Better idea: give them pre-paid credit or gift cards, let them loose in the mall, and when the money’s gone, they’re done shopping. Maybe they bought 10 outfits with the money, maybe they bought one iPod and will be stuck with last year’s wardrobe. This way, there’s no “Mommy, just $20 more.”
  • Yahoo! says save some of the shopping for later in the school year, particularly so you can buy winter clothes. This is no longer relevant since, according to your daughter, “winter clothes” means eight inch skirts instead of six.

In summary, home school, and don’t let your children out of the house before they’re 35 (cost: $30 every other year for pajamas).