Book Giveaway – Be Thrifty: How To Live Better With Less

A few months ago, I received a copy of the book Be Thrifty: How to Live Better with Less by Pia Catton and Califia Suntree to review. Because of the move and my own disorganization, I am just got around to reading through it. It’s so easy to lose things when you pack up your entire life! At first glance, I thought this was going to be yet another book about not buying a daily latte at Starbucks or washing your clothes only in cold water, but after digging a little deeper I found that it is actually a lot more than that. At 367 pages, it is a solid book packed with tips for being thrifty in your house, at the grocery store, with your family, on your body, and in your wallet. By concentrating on good old fashioned know-how, rather than just about how to be a cheap bastard, the book provides solid advice on how to make do with what you have, how to entertain yourself for little cost, how to fix broken items in your house, and how to shop wisely and avoid waste. There is a huge difference between being cheap and being frugal, as I have discussed before, and this book totally falls on the frugal/being smart side of things. In fact, right up front in the introduction, the authors ask a few questions I think that everyone should ask themselves before they buy any single product:

  1. Do I need it?
  2. Does it do what I need it to do?
  3. Can I fix it myself?
  4. Can I wash it in household machines?
  5. Does it take up a lot of space or can it be folded? Does it do double-duty?
  6. It is safe for my family and my neighbors?
  7. Does making it use up a lot of endangered materials?
  8. Does it improve with age? Or will it need to be tossed after a short life span?
  9. After its useful life, can it be repurposed or reconstituted into something else?
  10. Does it make me happy for reasons I can or can’t describe?

They also talk about the life lessons of thrifty millionaires, bartering with your friends to save money, buying clothes on Ebay, keeping yourself healthy at home rather than at the doctor’s office, and how napping can act as a free vacation. (And, truth be told, they are right. I nap all the time.) It really is a good book for those looking to be a little more thrifty while still enjoying life, and does it all without judgement or huge sacrifices. I recommend you check it out sometime if you have a chance, but I also have a copy to give away to a lucky reader!

All you have to do is leave a comment here on this post, with a working email address, with your own thrifty/frugal tip that everyone else can learn from.

Here are the rules:

  • To enter, please leave a comment (with a valid email address, so we can contact you) with your tip
  • Only one entry per person. Period. Please don’t try to use different email addresses, etc, as the IP numbers will be checked.
  • Entries must be from residents from the U.S.
  • 1 winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries received
  • Book will be shipped via Media Mail via the USPS
  • Giveaway closes on Tuesday, October 26 11:59 pm EST

Good luck everyone!


How to Get Government Rebates Just For Buying Energy Efficient Appliances

As most of you know, since I have beat it to death as of late, I just moved back to California. I was away for 2 years, and it feels really good to be back in a place that feels way more like home than New Mexico or Colorado. I rented myself a great little house, but there are a few things missing that are kind of necessary – a refrigerator and a washing machine. The dryer I can do without, as A. I live in Los Angeles and it’s always warm and B. I have a private backyard where no one will complain about a clothesline, but the washing machine is a necessity. I refuse to go back to spending the entire day at the laundromat! So during this first week I have lived in the house I have been out shopping for these 2 major appliances, and along with some great sale prices (and free delivery!) I was also told about energy efficiency rebates that both Los Angeles County and my city has available. The city provides a downloadable PDF you can take with you of qualifying appliances and the dollar amount of the rebates you can get for each, and right now it looks like I will be getting the following amounts back from the county and the city for my washing machine purchase:

County – $100 rebate
City – $85 rebate

That’s $185 back in rebates just from doing something I would have had to do anyway! Sure, I could buy a used, non-energy/water efficient model, but with that much coming back to me as a rebate it was kind of a no-brainer to buy something new. That way I get the full warranty and the latest in energy efficiency (which you guys all know means a lot to me), and because the washer I am interested in is on sale, I won’t really be paying too much money for a brand new unit. Talk about a score!

As for the fridge, well, you have to turn in an old unit in order to get any rebate for buying a new one. Oh well – you can’t win them all. I don’t have an old fridge, so I cannot collect that rebate. I still got a great deal on a new one, and it is an Energy Star rated product, so I feel ok about the money I spent. Hopefully this will be my last fridge purchase for quite some time.

My point in writing this post is to let you know that tons of communities are offering these type of rebates for water and energy efficient appliances. From dishwashers to refrigerators to washing machines to air conditioners, there are lots of rebates available. Usually, the information is readily available on your local water/power/utility website, as mine was, but a good salesperson will also be able to offer advice on any rebates available for different purchases. The woman that helped me at the store knew everything! By spending a few minutes researching the availabilities in your area, your next appliance purchase could end up costing you a lot less than you initially thought. Add in the savings from buying a more efficient unit, and you could drastically cut your monthly utility bills.

Photo by kevindooley


How To Save Money Using Twitter

Most of you probably know about Twitter already, but in case you don’t, it’s basically “a social networking and microblogging service which enables its users to send and read other users’ messages called tweets.” (Wiki) Sounds kinda useless when put like that, but the truth is that it is kind of addicting, with some people staying on and using it all day long.

However, as much as I enjoy using it to promote my posts (my handle names are @mytwodollars for this site and @thegoodhuman for my other site) and talk to my friends, I have discovered much more useful ways to use Twitter – for resolving customer service issues and to save money. A year ago I wrote about using Twitter to resolve an issue I had with my Comcast service and a problem I encountered when renting a moving van from U-Haul. Both were readily tended to once their Twitter reps got back in touch with me, and I have heard many stories from other friends that they have had customer service complaints handled quickly because of Twitter. But last week I turned to the online world for help setting up service with a new cable and internet provider – and I was blown away at just how responsive they were and how much money it saved me!

To use my latest experience as an example, if you are like most people, when you want new cable TV service, you head to the company website and sign up online. You may even call the customer service phone number to get service; these are the common ways that the majority of customers sign up. However, because I have had good luck with service through Twitter, I took to the online airwaves and found the Twitter handle for Charter Cable. Any company worth their salt are now using Twitter to communicate with customers, so the names should be readily available on their website. I put out a call to their rep that I was interested in cable TV and internet service, but that I wasn’t thrilled with a few things in their offers on their site. Within 20 minutes, someone got back to me, and we began to communicate through Twitter and then finally on the phone. I said I wasn’t happy that most of their “special offers” were only for 6 months – so I got an even better offer than they publicly offered for a full 12 months. I also said I wasn’t too happy with the installation charge, so I got that waived. I even got free DVR service! Within 1 hour of putting out the call, I had an installation date, a better cable/internet package than one I could have gotten signing up on my own, and a much lower monthly rate as well. Score!

Once I am settled in my new house next week, I plan on using Twitter to contact my mom’s cable company to get her ridiculously high monthly rate cut down to something a little more reasonable. She has been a long time customer of theirs and has never bothered to call them to ask for a discount, and now that there are alternatives in her neighborhood I am willing to bet that they will give her some money off her rate if I can ask the right people. Maybe you should do the same?

Twitter, while a fun social-networking site, has also become a valuable customer service tool. Smart companies are starting to use it as a contact point with their customers, and as I always say, it never hurts to ask for a discount, especially if you can find the right people and/or method to ask!


Get Out of Debt – It Doesn’t Have to Be Like Prison

I know, I know – every financial website and magazine out there makes it seem like carrying debt is a prison sentence. They make it sound like it’s the end of the world, like a deep dark hole you can never climb out of, and like you can never accomplish anything unless you rid yourself of any and all debt. I am here to tell you that they are all wrong – debt is not the end, not a death sentence, and not something that should stop you from achieving your dreams. Carrying debt, and trying to climb your way out of it, is like any other adverse condition we face in life. If you were going hungry, you would find a way to eat. If you lost your job, you would work incredibly hard to find another employment opportunity. Having debt is no different – you must find a way to “solve” the problem, work hard at it, start seeing the end result, and continue to move towards it. It is not a horrible, scary, life-threatening disease – it’s debt… and you can get rid of it if you are willing to try and not be scared off by punditry.

The way out of debt varies depending on who you ask for advice. For instance:

  • Some people will tell you to pay off high-balance credit cards first.
  • Some people will tell you to pay off high interest rate credit cards first.
  • Some people will tell you to use the snowball method.
  • Some people will tell you to consolidate to a low interest rate card.
  • Some people will tell you to stop buying lattes.

I could go on and on; everyone has their own opinion and method as to what works best. But one thing they all have in common is that getting out of debt takes effort and patience. It will not happen next week, and you will have to make some sacrifices. However, any amount of work you put towards getting out of debt will be paid back in spades once that debt is gone. The harder you work, and the more money you put towards debt, and the more you sacrifice today, the sooner you will be debt free. I am 38 years old, and I was in debt in some form or another up until last year. Whether it was car payments or credit card payments, I always had money “due” to someone else each and every month. And now, I am 100% debt free – no car payment (I paid cash), no credit card balances, no student loans – I don’t owe a dime to anyone. It took a long time and a lot of work, including seeing my bank account balances down to nearly $0, but after years of struggling with my debt and juggling payments, it all paid off – no more debt.

So I guess what I am trying to tell you is that your debt is NOT the end of the world. Sure, it’s up to you to decide to do something about it, do the work necessary to get rid of it, and then stick to a plan to say out of debt, but all in all, debt is not as scary as some try to make it out to be. Don’t feel hopeless or stressed beyond your breaking point – methodically go to work to eliminate your debt and eventually you will succeed. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy!

If you happen to be in financial trouble, you can make the necessary changes to improve your situation – trust me. I did it. It’s going to take work, patience, planning, and sacrifice, but you can get out of debt. I know you can.


My Two Dollars Interview Over At Thrift Culture Now

An article containing an interview I did a few weeks ago is now published for your enjoyment over at Thrift Culture Now. The article is titled “Learn How to Get Rid of the Debt & Get Back to a More Sensible Way of Living” and is available here. A teaser:

When David totalled up his credit card bills and realized that he owed $20,000, he knew it was time to seriously re-evaluate his lifestyle.

“I had nothing to show for all that debt! It was years of just living high on the hog and spending money as if I were wealthy, when I was anything but.”

Go check it out if you have a few minutes!

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