Nevermind the Real Issues, Just Play with Your…Facebook

So…this article is a bit off the beaten track of finance, as far as this blog is concerned. Being a bit absent the last few months (apologies!) I’ve discovered an additional interest in a few social issues beyond just finance and – if anyone will bear with me – wanted to share just to see what happens. In a way I suppose you could related the same to finance in that we are (especially here in America) a consumer culture that is similarly and constantly distracted by advertising that attempts to convince us the only thing we need to focus on is the fact that we always need ‘MORE!!’ But if anyone enjoys these different types of articles, maybe I might start another section so anyone who wants to can check out some un-finance-related/sometimes random/political/or otherwise stuff sometimes as well as the regular stuff. So without further ado…here is a special rant(!) on technology and some curious speculation on exactly what is up with all of it…hope you enjoy and please feel free to comment/message and more! Cheers and best wishes 🙂 – Megan

Nevermind the Real Issues, Just Play with Your…Facebook
Mushroom treatment anyone?

Is our culture getting dumbed down? Are we thinking less and less about what information we share and give away for the sake of entertainment and connecting with our friends? It seems that all a company has to do today to garner any amount of personal information is to wave the ever-shiny carrot of ‘social interaction’ in everyone’s face. Even my phone, which used to be incredibly quick with email and text messages, is now lumbering along in the business efficiency department in order to cater to a better Facebook experience. Bigger screen! Prettier pictures! Constant connection! We use Facebook to share every moment of our waking lives, Waze to navigate the city streets and Instagram to photo-document ourselves. But how is what we share being used by the organizations to which we grant all this access? Just the other day when I began to download Waze, it informed me that in order to use it services (yes, I admit, I’d like to know where the police traps are) I was required to grant the app access to my photos – not only on my device, but also in any remote location or in the cloud – as well as control over my camera, video camera and microphone whenever it pleased, and the ability to add, modify or delete my contacts. The only part of the agreement that made any sense was that it needed to know my location – sure, it’s a mapping app. But what’s with the rest of it? And how many people are just clicking accept without reading the terms – or, worse yet – how many people read the terms and click accept anyway?

We’re so used to sharing our information. It’s become second nature to simply hand over every aspect of our private lives, so much so that when a company asks to control our phone, we simply figure, “Why not?” We slough off concerns about what our Facebook accounts are doing with our information because, “Seriously, the government already knows everything we do anyway.” …Ok. First of all – apathy aside – how did we become okay with that? Have our everyday lives become so hard that we can no longer afford to care about the bigger issues beyond simply putting food on the table? Are we just lazy? Or are we desensitized? The world is becoming a bigger and bigger place, with an ever-increasing level of connection, created by those with far more knowledge of how to use that connection and what it is capable of than we are – and, while I’m really not into the drama of conspiracy theory, I just think it pays to use a little discretion. For instance, if our information is so worthless, why are companies willing to give us all kinds of free services in order to get it? Corporations don’t want to know about you so that they can get you the right gift for your birthday or Kwanzaa. They want something worth selling – which again begs the question – why is it so valuable? We figure it’s “just” personal information, and besides, everybody else is doing it – and if I do it, I can connect with everyone else. If I don’t, I’m just left out. I’m the loser with a Blackberry still using Google Maps instead of Waze and checking Facebook on my computer. Plus, if everyone’s doing it, it must be okay. Right? I mean if no one’s really talking about the doubts or concerns, they’re forgettable. And in the meantime, I’ve noticed companies growing bolder and bolder in the information they ‘require’ me to provide – information that, whether I have anything to hide or not, is absolutely none of their f&*%ing business.

Waze has more than 50 million users, Facebook over a billion and a half, and who knows how many new cars on the road with built-in navigation that – as of yet – there isn’t an option to turn off, plus questions about what kind of data the cars can send without the owner’s knowledge that haven’t even truly been breached due to the fact that most people don’t even know about it. Everybody has been talking to me about how great Waze is, and it turns out it’s crazy creepy. I’m just saying we should have a discussion about it. Our world has become tailored towards our entertainment rather than our awareness, and I can’t help but wonder because really, it doesn’t make any sense.

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Blog Hop: Why I Am A Frugalista

I like this definition: “Frugalista: one who makes saving money cool.”

For starters, I’ve spent just as much (well, maybe not JUST as much, as I still find myself gawking at some of my friends’ purchases) but almost as much money as the next person trying to look cool or like whatever it is we’re supposed to look like.  I spent quite a few years doing that, and albeit I didn’t go into debt or anything to do it, I still felt the pressure of the image whenever I’d unfortunately find something I loved or that looked a certain way in a store but I knew I shouldn’t spend on it.  “How will this look out on Friday night?  Does it make me look more sophisticated?  More like that woman I want to be?” (And, admittedly, “what will that guy that I like think?”  This has on occasion been a big one, which is embarrassing, though I’m seriously hoping we all do this at least sometimes…right?)

Anyway – the point is, I’ve always ended up seriously stressing over spending on stuff that at the end of the day really didn’t get noticed by anyone but me and didn’t really change my image at all.  I’m not against image, by the way.  I think it’s a part of who we are – our style, our preferences, what colors and whatnot we like – it’s a part of our personality and our image is an outward expression of that.  What I am against is the feeling I used to have that those were the things that made me strong and adultlike.  Not that money makes a person this either, but bear with me.

People can’t see your financial accomplishments, so if you’re not rocking the Louboutins* it’s harder to convince the world that you’ve got anything else going on besides your look (because this is Los Angeles, and it is a thing) but when you’ve worked really hard to put some cash away, been as smart as you can with your money, and feel like you have something to show for it, it really does make you feel pretty damn sexy.  Sure, you still can’t see it on the outside, and it’s not like you’d go around telling people – “hey there – I know my car is super old, but my savings account looks pretty good…wink wink…”

Yeah.  It wouldn’t be sexy anyway even if you tried.

I’ve seen a lot of people here spend a lot more than they can afford to make it look like they have a healthy bank account.  The point is, in a city like LA, it can be really easy to forget that there are actually other things that can make you cool than just how you appear.  For me, having money in the bank is one of them.  I feel proud, strong, smart and – yes, sexy – knowing that I’ve tried as hard as I can and it’s put me in a position where I can start to think about buying a home (LA translation: small condo), which has been a lifelong dream for me.  It is also something that is relatively difficult in a big city.  So now anytime I’m tempted to use those [incredibly expensive] outward things to seem up to snuff – when I see someone carrying the next designer bag, driving that new car, sporting that perfect manipedi (I know, the horror!), etc etc etc etc etc – I think about the fact that I have that money saved for something that matters waaaaay more to me…and I feel pretty cool.  As one blog is aptly already named somewhere on the blogosphere – saving is sexy, and frugalistas live this every day.

*[or let’s be honest, even the knockoff Louboutins…or the ones you just painted red on the bottom.  I’ve never tried this, but I might.  Regardless this is just an expression in this case as I’ve never even legitimately thought about buying these very expensive shoes, but I have drooled over them plenty of times.]

Many thanks to Serina of Ms. Frugal Ears for starting this blog hop!  The next edition will be on its way from Gail from A Bike For All Seasons, and Christine from Capable of Anything.

Here’s to all the frugalistas(and frugalistos)!

Savings Sitting Around? Move It and Get More For It

So…we all know that the current interest rates stink.  Remember when we used to be able to get 6% on a CD?  And that’s as far back as I remember but I’ve heard it used to be even higher, in a time returns were so good (though at the time it was considered ‘normal’) it seems like a dream world to me.  What do you do with the funds that you have sitting around – those funds you have for an emergency or an upcoming/eventual purchase etc – money that you don’t want to put at risk in the stock market or lose access to for years in a long term CD?  Well, even though it isn’t as high as the old normal, there IS a better option that that ridiculous .1 or .25% interest your brick-and-mortar bank is probably offering.  They’re called online or high-yield savings accounts, and I can’t recommend them enough.  I myself use American Express because that was the highest rate at the time when I opened my account, and can personally vouch for their amazing customer service and peace of mind.  However today there are several even higher-yield (I mean, don’t get too excited as we’re still talking tenths of percents, but at least its something more) options available that also have a few basic requirements for me to recommend taking a look at them, which are:

-They have no restrictions on access to your money

You can withdraw up to the federal allowance of six times per month(this is with all savings accounts) and deposit as much as you like.  There are also no fees or restrictions on ACH(online) transfers out of the account, so you don’t have to worry about being hit with a fee to get to it when you need it.  I simply linked my AmEx online savings with my regular savings account, so whenever I need to withdraw or deposit I just use the ACH transfer and the money is moved wherever I want it to go within a few days.

-There are essentially NO FEES, period.

I say ‘essentially’ because Synchrony requires you to keep at least $30 in your savings account to waive the $5 monthly fee, which seems kind of like a formality.  For Ally, Barclays and American Express, there are no minimum requirements and no monthly fees.  No strings attached and no stress – in other words, set it and forget it!

Currently these are the rates and account info links to each of these savings options – since Synchrony is the highest, I would probably recommend parking your money there, however, in the event you prefer another bank (like I like AmEx for customer service) I’ve also linked the others as well.  My savings sits there just like it normally does but earns about ten times more just because I changed the spot where it sits.

Synchrony High Yield Savings Account – 1.05% APY

Barclays Online Savings Account – 1.00% APY

Ally Online Savings Account – .99% APY

American Express High Yield Savings Account – .90% APY

Happy Saving!

Reblog: The 1%…Challenge! An Easy Way to Finally Surpass the Savings Hurdle

A lot of us (or maybe just me) have trouble saving – that is to say, I do really awesome some months and put away a pretty substantial chunk, and then not so great other months when I forget entirely(or a trip, repair, etc eats away at it).  Part of this is because my income is inconsistent as a freelancer, though I’d say more often than not it really just boils down to focus and discipline. That said, this challenge is a really awesome way to lock it down to something more consistent.  And if you find you just can’t increase it EVERY month, or get stuck on one, just keep going until you can increase it – you’ll still be doing better than you were before!  I also really love the suggestion of and/or earning an extra 1%, because at the end of the day, our earnings contribute to our savings that much more!

Originally posted on affordanything.com:

Pledge the One Percent Challenge

Start the One Percent Challenge

Calculate one percent of your income by chopping two zero’s from your monthly earnings. If you make $2,000 per month, one percent is $20. If you make $8,000 per month, one percent is $80.

This month, save one percent more than normal. If you save zero percent, save one percent. If you save 10 percent, save 11 percent.

Next month, boost it by one percent more. The following month, one more. After a year, you’ll save 12 percent more than you currently do.

If you’re starting at zero, this means that within a year, you’re saving 12 percent of your income. That’s 2-3x better than the average American.

(Fun fact: The personal savings rate for the average American has hovered between 4 to 5 percent during the past few years. But it wasn’t always this way. In May 1975, the average American savings rate stood at 17 percent. By July 2005, it dropped to only 1.9 percent. Now you can win Trivial Pursuit.)

Okay, where were we? Ah, right … you’ve stuck with the Challenge for one year.If you started at zero, you’re now saving 12 percent of your income.

If you stick with the Challenge for a second year, you’ll hit a 20 percent savings rate in less than two years – even if you’re starting at zero.

By the way, you can also modify this into earning an extra one percent every month. If you earn $5,000 per month, could you make an extra $50 this month?

Reblog: Saving By Fives

I don’t normally shop in cash, but for those of you that do, this is a great way to easily sock away savings!  This was originally posted by savemoneyfastwithfives on Lenpenzo.com’s money blog.

How I Saved $36,000 in 12 Years by Doing This Simple Trick

five dollar billPull up a chair and get comfortable because I’m about to tell you a story that may seem hard to believe — but it is the absolute truth. Around 12 years ago, I made a decision that forever changed my relationship to money: instead of spending every $5 bill that passed through my hands, I started saving them.

At the time, I had two daughters in private colleges and, to put it mildly, my husband and I were financially stressed. But I found that socking away each and every $5 bill I received as change in a cash transaction was one way I could stay in control of what little extra money I had at the time — and the strategy has paid off. The girls are out of college and both are married now. And I’ve saved almost $36,000, all in $5 bills. Wowza!

The best part about my plan is that you can do it too. All it takes to get started is a commitment to save and one $5 bill.

The number one reason most people don’t save is that they don’t have a savings plan. Not me. From the moment I wake in the morning, I’m thinking of ways to get back a $5 bill. That’s one reason I do most of my day to day living by spending cash, because let’s be honest, you can’t get a $5 back if you pay with a debit or credit card.

And once you commit to saving your fives, you’ll never look at a $5 bill the same way again. Once you see them accumulate, you won’t be tempted to spend them. It becomes an addictive habit, a fun game to see how fast you can grow your stash.

One of Warren Buffett’s ideas about investing that I really like is that we should invest in ourselves before anything else. What better way to invest in ourselves than committing to a personal savings plan?

The way I see it, people everywhere are yearning for a simple way to put aside some extra money, to pay for a wedding or a vacation, a new car or a house; to pay off school loans or help put a child through school; or maybe the ultimate savings goal — retirement. Some people throw loose change in a jar, while others are way more ambitious and disciplined, setting aside 10% of their monthly income as savings before paying their bills.

But loose change never amounts to any significant money and most people can’t save at all, much less 10% of their salary. So I started a blog to help people get started on the saving their fives idea, and hope you will become a faithful reader and a follower. For more information on my nest egg saving method, please visit Save Money Fast With Fives.

Marie C. Franklin is a former member of the Boston Globe staff and today a journalism professor at Lasell College in Auburndale, MA. She publishes a personal finance blog at www.savemoneyfastwithfives.wordpress.com

I Can’t Believe I’m Saying This But…Please Tell Me You’re Shopping Online

I really feel certain that anyone who’s following a money-type blog probably has the online shopping thing down.  Because, as we all know, this is one of the simplest, easiest, biggest ways to save TONS of money.  That said, I had a girlfriend of mine say to me the other day, “I just haven’t gotten into the online shopping thing.”

… … …what?

First of all – she is awesome, plus incredibly intelligent, which leads me to the second question of all – how can she not know that shopping online can literally save her hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars??(because god knows I’VE told her)  Lastly, if one know this, how can one NOT get into it?!?

I guess to that I can only say I suppose that is a question for each person to answer individually.  However, for me it’s a darn easy one.  Maybe it’s a case of not really believing that shopping online is really more financially expedient, in which case I’ll try to elaborate.  I don’t have a total of the amount of money I’ve saved since I started shopping online a couple of years ago, but I’m sure it’s probably into the thousands by now.  Here’s a small effort to exemplify.

I buy everything online.  Literally EVERYTHING.  Ok, not groceries.  Not everything.  ALMOST EVERYTHING.  Some things once in a super great while will be cheaper in the store (madness!) or the same, in which case feel free to pick it off the shelf.  However, with the induction of Ebates into my life I’ve started buying even store stuff online because I get a better percentage back if I buy it online.  My lipstick?  It’s $11.98 at CVS and I get it on eBay for $6.49 (plus eBay Bucks rewards (~2%) plus Ebates cash back).  Moisturizer? I happened to find my normally $32(I know this is cheap in the world of moisturizers!…but it works, I swear) Juice Beauty cream on eBay for $12.50.  All of these items are unopened, brand new in the box by the way(otherwise that would be gross).  Teeth whitening gel?  I spent $50 at the dentist last time for it.  I found the exact same item (not a knockoff or fake) for $17.  Now after listing these items I realize I sound incredibly superficial.  But I also buy supplements(this is better, right?), automotive items (wipes, steering wheel cover, in fact even car parts that we then took the mechanic to put in rather than him getting the super expensive ones – though this requires a boyfriend or some other person that can help you know what to get), shoes (gym and otherwise – they were technically used because they were literally tried on once but otherwise my Pumas that are my workout’s best friend I got basically new for a grand total of $23), and on and on and on.  Even right now, I’m actually looking up mint extract on eBay since we ran out…and lo and behold there it is for half price.  Sweet.  All of this and I don’t even have to leave my house to go shopping.  It just magically appears at the door, saving me time and gas to boot.  A lot of things online are free shipping, or are still less than in-store even with shipping included.  Just make sure you know your total.  The “Sort By: Price+Shipping – Lowest First” filter is the best tool to use to know right off the bat what price you’re looking at, if you’re on eBay.  Most sites have similar filters.

I could go on and on about the millions of ways I’ve saved lovely cash through eBay, Amazon and Groupon/AmazonLocal(great for traveling as well), but it would take forever and I’m pretty sure everyone gets the point.

What are things you save on online and/or how much have you saved online?  What online retailers do you use?  Please feel free to share – it’s always exciting knowing we’re all getting to keep more of our cash!  😀

A Little Bit About Credit Cards – Making Your Everyday Purchases Work for You

There are about a bajillion credit cards out there.  I myself never carried more than one credit card until about two years ago when I opened my first after my first with my AmEx.  Now I am up to a grand total of FIVE.  And while I have heard about people having more, this is about as many as I want to keep up with(though if you have a bank that lets you add external accounts, its pretty easy).  That said, one I will be changing out soon and another I never really use, so we’ll boil it down to four.  But still, why in the world do I have FOUR credit cards???  Because this is what I use them each for, and among their categories, I have found them through all my research so far to be the best.  All of them are cash back cards(my preference since cash is good for everything) with no annual fee(which equals no headache or stress if you don’t use it very often) with the exception of the IHG card as noted.

American Express Blue Cash Every Day: 3% cash back at grocery stores.  It is also handy for gas stations (2%) whenever my 5% from Chase is not active at the time (more on this below).

Chase Freedom: 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter.  This especially comes in handy when the quarters include gas stations, Starbucks(which is the time to load your Starbucks card for The Starbucks Trick, by the way!!), Amazon.com or restaurants.

Capital One Quicksilver: 1.5% cash back on everything else.  This is the only card out of these four I may eventually be switching out for the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, which is 2% points on everything – essentially equaling 2% cash back whenever you use it for anything travel related – which I will always use eventually.  The Venture carries a $59 annual fee but for me, the extra half a percent back ultimately makes my yearly rewards greater even after the fee.  Therefore, it depends how much you spend in the ‘everything else’ category to decide whether or not the Venture is worth it for you – otherwise, the Quicksilver is super easy and still earns a better cash back rate than most others.  They also both have no foreign transaction fee, which is a must have if you are ever abroad.

IHG Rewards Card: Annual free hotel night.  This card is a points card and carries a $49 annual fee but is totally worth it for the annual reward(Favorites: Day 3).  It is also 2% points at restaurants, and since I will be always be booking a hotel eventually, I tend to go ahead and use it for restaurants whenever it’s not a 5% at restaurants quarter for Chase since I carry the card anyway.

Usually all of these cards come with pretty awesome sign-up bonuses as well.  Chase seems to depend on the time of year as to the size of the cash bonus they offer and occasionally IHG will do a higher-than-normal signup bonus, but for the most part you can get great bonuses on these cards anytime.

Enjoy a smarter time spending knowing you’re actually spending less because you’re getting back more!

Favorites: DAY 3 – The $50 Hotel Escape

This is the second ‘luxury’ post in a row, so I guess I totally like finding the joy in these little things.  I am a big believer in making the most of – as I’ve said a few times – things we were all going to do anyway, like using credit cards to pay for things.  So in my research and travels into finding out which cards would maximize my returns on my anyway-spending, I happened to come across a little known gem for people who love to travel – or even just to get away for one night, which in fact – who doesn’t?  This is where the IHG Credit Card comes in.  Not only is there a nice hefty signup bonus of 60K points after spending $1000 in the first three months (which conservatively equals about $300, or about 1/2 cent per point – though it varies depending on what hotel you choose as points go further at more inexpensive hotels and not as far at the super high-end ones.  For example, my points for a decent hotel here in LA (i.e. a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express with well over 4 out of 5 star reviews) actually have a value of about .7 cents each, whereas if I want to stay where I would actually want to ESCAPE (meaning Santa Barbara) then they are worth about .5 cents each.)  However, this is NOT the cool part.

The cool part is this: every year that you have the card, you will receive an annual FREE NIGHT at ANY of the hotels in the IHG family.  This means no points to redeem, no point-conversions to try to figure out, just a FREE NIGHT, ANYWHERE(yes, anywhere).  So then why does the title to this post say the $50 hotel escape?  Because the card carries a $49 annual fee after the first year.  However, for me – I will gladly take a $50, pretty much anytime(there are no actual blackout dates, but they can restrict the number of rooms available for awards nights so I don’t know that I’d recommend depending on it for Labor Day weekend), anywhere one-night escape for $50.  Because nice escape-type hotels here run about $235+ easily, and I don’t currently have a $235+ getting away section in my budget… The last question you may have is one I also had when I first check it out – which is the very smart question of a free night in ‘any of the hotels in the IHG family’ – as in, are there actually any hotels included at which I would WANT to stay to get away(not just a Holiday Inn)?  And here my answer is this – ‘IHG Family’ includes hotels such as Intercontinental and Crowne Plaza in addition to seven other brands – and what you can (and should) do beforehand is go to the IHG Rewards Club site and search for cities you are close to and/or interested in to see what comes up.  For me, I found several luxury hotels within easy driving distance in order to utilize a great one-day escape.  (If you want to go somewhere further, you can use the free night in conjunction with a paid night to make a longer trip easier on the wallet – this type of trip would just of course require more planning.) And as a fun side note, the $900/night hotels abroad are subject to the free night same as $140/night hotels here in the US.  I personally just love having the freedom to be able to take a day off and a night away any random time I need a break without having to worry about what it costs.  A really awesome perk for very little cash or headache!

The card comes with other benefits(i.e. platinum elite status as long as you hold the card, extra points on money spent at their hotels, no foreign transaction fee etc etc) but the reason to have this card is for the annual free night (or technically $49 night).  Just remember to use it within 12 months of earning it, as they don’t stack up.  A lot of others have blogged about it as well, if you want to find out what they’re also saying about this card.

*In the interest of fun money-saving sidenotes, my Ebates toolbar also popped up when I was on the IHG website, alerting me that there was an extra 4.5% cash back available for Intercontinental Hotels. 😀

Favorites: DAY 2 – The Starbucks Trick

Okay, I know, Starbucks is a luxury.  And for those of you who are super frugal – and I applaud you – you may have kicked your Starbucks habit years ago, which is definitely a huge cash saver.  I, however, must admit that I will probably always go to Starbucks.  Living in Los Angeles, it is somewhat of a part of my life.  Meetings, taking the pc to get some work done, swinging by because I have a craving once in a GREAT while (it happens) – Starbucks will always be there, and while I am into frugality I also don’t believe (probably like most of you) in deprivation or misery to get there.  The cutbacks we tend to do as frugal people really in the end make us feel good because we feel more in control of our finances and our money and hopefully somewhat more of our lives.  Now, that said – soapbox off – I HAVE cut my spending hugely at Starbucks, and instead just started being smarter about my Starbucks trips.  This means the basics first of course – no $6+ sandwiches, no $3+ lattes, but here is the actual trick: because I still go and go at least 30 times a year (not too terrible) this qualifies me for a Starbucks Gold Card (this is not a credit card, just a regular reloadable store card).  You can get one by loading some cash on a gift card of your choosing and as you use it you’ll be upgraded through the ranks from a regular ho-hum welcome level to green level (still not too exciting – free refills..) and then to gold.  Here is where it saves you money: as a gold card holder, you get a free item of your choice (any food or beverage) every ten purchases.  So, for me, this means the first ten times I go in, I get an iced tea or something that tends to only cost me around $2.  After the tenth purchase when the free item is loaded on my card by Starbucks I splurge – and indulge my penchant for the venti, toffee nut soy latte with an extra shot, aka the one that costs about $6.  This basically means every time I spend $20, I get $6 back, or 30%.  And true, if you can kick the Starbucks habit entirely, sure, that’s better – but for those of us who either just can’t seem to kick the habit or just enjoy our little luxuries, you may as well get some free coffee out of it while you’re at it and this is the way to do it.  Just remember if you want to maximize it, to spend on the inexpensive stuff when you’re working up to your reward and wait until the reward to get the expensive treat or sandwich.  (And don’t fall into the trap of purchasing more than you normally would to get rewards – that’s Starbucks’ trick!)  Not to mention, at any Starbucks card level, you also get a birthday reward (another free food or drink item), and if you purchase coffee to make at home, you will also earn points – or “Stars” – towards your next reward with those too(just remember to peel off the sticker on the bag and apply the code online to your account).  Ta da – free money/free coffee for something you were going to buy anyway!

Favorites: DAY 1 – Online Shopping & Rebates

I feel like I have used a lot of things to find/save money over the last couple to few years.  Every day I’m finding more, and also many other great blogs as well that have common goals of saving cash (hard-earned cash, I should say!).  But to begin, I’ll just start with a few of my favorites and/or most recent finds, one day at a time…

DAY 1

ebates

Rebates: Chances are, if you are reading a money blog, you already know about things like eBay, Amazon, etc – places that can save you a bundle of money just by buying online, which is probably first and foremost the way I have saved the most cash (literally thousands).  You probably also know at least a little about what credit cards to use to get you the most cash back on those purchases.  If so, you value each percentage of cash you get back, because hey – again, free money, right?  So then there is Ebates.  If you aren’t familiar with it, Ebates gives you an EXTRA 1%-8% or more (depending on where you shop), all just for simply clicking through to your shopping website through Ebates first.  You do have to create an account(simple, and free), but from there after you click through to your store (eBay(1% to 3% cash back, depending on the department) and Amazon(0-5% depending on department) included!) you shop normally on the site, and can even use all your handy promo codes (more on this later if you don’t already know about it) or shop sales just like you normally would.  Ebates will even alert you to any flash or current sales going on for your site, and if you wish to have it(I did) they even have an awesome little toolbar you can install on your browser that will remind you to use Ebates lest you ever venture upon a shopping site without getting your maximum cash back.  The second best part of the toolbar is that you just click on the popup to activate your cash back, and you don’t even have to log in.  After a few days, your shopping trip will show up in your Ebates account and when your balance reaches $5 – guess what – you end up with a deposit in your PayPal account(or check, if you prefer).  Free money!  Just for doing and buying exactly what you were already going to be doing and buying.  If you’re like me and shop online a lot, this cash back can add up to a pretty penny.  Though if you even spent just $2000 total online each year and earned an average extra cash back of let’s say 3% – that’s still an extra $60 for the year for doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and/or WHAT YOU WERE ALREADY GOING TO DO ANYWAY.  A free $60? Free coffee for a couple months?  Or that $60 bag you’ve been wanting – no, it’s not frugal but you have to have balance, right? – for free?  Or maybe that even just goes into your savings to grow.  Either way – yes please.

Oh – and no, I’m definitely not getting any endorsements or money to suggest any of the things on this blog. These are all just things I have found and use in my own personal every day life!