DIY to Save Money: Make a Rain Barrel for Garden Irrigation

Photo via Younghouselove.com

Photo via Younghouselove.com

For those who have a garden, it can get expensive trying to pull out the hose and water everything a few times a week. To help save money and be a bit more environmentally friendly, a lot of people have resorted to making their own rain barrel.

This barrel will be able to catch rain for you to store it later, and then provide a way for you to be able to water your garden with the rain, thus leaving your hose, and your water bill, intact. A rain barrel is pretty simple to make, you can have one completely set up in just an hour or two. Continue reading

Saving Money on Vegan and Vegetarian Food

Fruits and vegetablesIf you’ve decided to switch to a plant-based diet, or even just cut down on your consumption of animal products, you may be in for some sticker shock.  While there is no reason that a vegetarian or vegan diet should cost more than diets that include meat, the process of swapping out familiar staples for vegan alternatives can get pricy.

Here are some tips for keeping your costs down while you transition to your new diet: Continue reading

Fitness on a Budget: Get in Shape and Save Money

Diet and exerciseAlong with warmer weather, the approach of Summer also brings out a desire to get into better shape. If you are looking to improve your health and fitness, but are concerned about the cost of exercise equipment or gym memberships, don’t despair. With some research and advance planning, you’ll be able to develop an fitness regimen that suits your pocketbook.

Here are some tips for getting fit on a budget:

1. Free and Low-Cost Exercise Options

While prices for fancy fitness clubs and Pilates lessons may make you blanch, they aren’t your only options for keeping in shape:

  •             Walking, running and jogging don’t cost anything, though it is a good idea to invest in proper footwear. Check your park district’s website for a list of trails and tracks that you can use.
  •             Basic bicycles cost between $80 – $150, though you might be able to pick up a used bike for half that amount. Get yourself a good bike lock and helmet and you are ready for some serious exercise.
  •             Scour eBay and Amazon for pre-owned home exercise DVDs: You can save big by buying these used. YouTube offers free exercise videos as well. If you have an on-demand video service with your cable or satellite dish company, check to see if it includes exercise programming.
  •             Moving sales can be a great source of basic exercise equipment, such as floor mats or hand weights. Be careful, though, about buying more sophisticated exercise equipment used: If these pieces malfunction, you risk serious injury.
  •             If you need companionship and accountability when you exercise, join or start a walking/running club in your area.

2. Fitness Benefits at Work or School

Many employers, colleges and universities offer fitness-related benefits or incentives through health insurance or stand-alone programs. Contact the benefits office at work, or the student life department at school to find out what they offer:

  • Many schools have their own fitness facilities that are available for free, or at low cost, to students, faculty and staff. If your school doesn’t have its own fitness center, ask the student life office if students can get a discount at fitness centers in town.
  • Some employers participate in discount health club programs. These programs can save you a lot of money by eliminating health club initiation fees and offering members discounts off monthly gym dues.
  • Health insurance companies sometimes partner with health club discount programs or fitness chains and pass along the savings to policy holders. Call your health insurance company’s customer service line to ask if they offer any fitness benefits.
  • Some health insurance companies offer wellness incentive programs. These programs offer incentives in the form of gift cards (or other types of compensation) for healthy living behaviors, such as joining a gym.

3. Comparing Fitness Clubs

If you live in a medium-to-large town, chances are that you’ll have access to more than one fitness club. Here are some tips for choosing the most cost-effective option:

  • Check locations and hours. A “cheap” fitness club isn’t cheap if you never use it. Choose a gym that’s convenient to where you live or work. Hours are also important: If you can only exercise early in the morning, or on weekends, make sure the club can accommodate you.
  • Ask about chain privileges. If your health club is part of a chain or network of clubs, find out whether you can work out at more than one location. Some chains allow you to work out at any club in their chain at any time, while others require you to get a special visitor’s pass for working out at a chain or in-network gym. This is important if you travel a lot.
  • Look into 24/7 gyms. These gyms are usually small and offer limited classes and facilities. Staff members are available for assistance during specified hours during the week, but otherwise the club is unattended and members let themselves in and out with a key card. While this option isn’t for everyone, the fees at these gyms are typically low and you can’t beat the convenience of being able to work out whenever you want.
  • Find out what’s included in your membership. Some gyms offer an all-inclusive plan that includes participation in group exercise classes or sessions with a personal trainer. Others may charge for classes, personal training, or access to the swimming pool.
  • Decide what’s important to you. There is no point in paying a high membership fee if you don’t plan to use fancy facilities such as hot tubs or swimming pools. Similarly, if you aren’t into group exercise classes, why pay more for a gym membership that includes them? A more basic facility, with lower dues, may work just fine for you.
  • Look into park district and YMCA exercise facilities. These organizations often have excellent facilities and cost significantly less than for-profit clubs.
  • Keep your eye out for new membership specials. Some clubs run promotions that let you waive initiation fees or get a free month or two. Keep your eye out in local media for these specials.
  • Ask about contracts. Many clubs operate on a contract basis and you may have to sign up for a long-term membership to get the best monthly price. Ask about a trial membership before signing a contract. Also, ask about a club’s cancellation policies: Some gyms let you cancel your contract for a small fee if you move out of town, but it’s up to you to learn whether a club offers this option.

How do you keep in shape while sticking to a budget?

Meal Sharing: Helping a Neighbor or Friend in Need

Illness, loss, new babies, new move-in, and just because.

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to bring a neighbor a meal. I am getting all emotional writing this, because I have been on the receiving end of sympathy meals about as often as I have been on the giving end. It can be such a simple gesture, but a homemade dinner (or even a meal that you didn’t need to worry about) can be just what you need to soothe a troubled and tired soul. Continue reading

Learn to Shop a Thrift Store: Get A Thrifting Buddy

My mom is my thrifting buddy. She taught me the dainty and fine art of dumpster diving from a very early age. Actually I hid in the car and cowered, quite sure that a friend or, worse still, an enemy might see my mom and then see me… The psycho-social ramifications would be unbearable. So I hid.

I felt the same way whenever my mom would bring me to the thrift store. I would look with contempt at the items she would present to me. I would live in utter fear of being discovered in this musty place of cast-offs. I would cringe even more when I would reluctantly ((gulp)) LIKE something I saw at the thrift store.

Perhaps it was my desire to own more clothes in high school and still keep more of my hard-earned babysitting money. It may have had something to do with the fact that I embraced the grunge look of the mid 1990’s. Ever since then my mom and I have been thrifting pals, sharing our finds and rejoicing with one another at the steals and deals.

I think everyone needs a thrifting buddy or two. After all, two bargain-hunters are better than one!

Today my mom brought home the most lovely oilcloth picnic tablecloth for a crazy $3. You’d pay about $40 for this double reversible padded blanket on Etsy. It’s pretty much right out of a lovely little Technicolor dream.

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She also found me a great little pile of yarn and a pair of beautiful wooden knitting needles for just $5.

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And look at this loot of beautiful colorful buttons! My dear bargain-hunting buddy found them, over $50 worth of buttons, for just about $3! Oh, how I love buttons!thrifty-1

Do you have a thrifting buddy or mentor? When did you get interested in bargain-hunting? Any recent finds you want to gush about?