Back to School Shopping Tips and Tricks

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Back to School Shopping Tips and Tricks

I swear, I somehow blinked and missed this whole summer.  How in the heck is it back to school time already?  I am starting to see ads for school supplies and lunch boxes are making their way up to the front of the stores, so I guess it’s time to start thinking about it whether we are ready or not.

Here are a couple of tips to keep you sane as you navigate the back to school frenzy:

  1. Make a list.  Know exactly what your kiddo needs for back to school.  Add school supplies, clothing and shoes to the list.
  2. Shop at home.  Since you have a list, now go through and start shopping at home.  Kids don’t need a new backpack if they already have one.  They don’t need new tennis shoes just because it’s the first day of school if theirs aren’t worn out.  Pencils that still have life in them, go into the school supply box.
  3. Watch the ads and look for coupons.  With a little pre-planning, you can get pencils, erasers, etc. for a penny.  The stores hope you will stay and do all of your shopping at once, but if you are willing to buy it slowly over a couple of weeks, you come out waaaay ahead.
  4. Go through what the kids have grown out of or don’t wear and take the usable stuff to a consignment store.  Either get the cold hard cash or take a credit and do some school shopping right there.
  5. Arrange a swap with friends and neighbors.  This is a great way to get clothes and fall sporting equipment.  If you can get enough families in the swap, everyone wins.
  6. If you don’t have time to run all over town to hit the sales, focus on your biggest ticket item.  Find the best price for that item and do your shopping there.
  7. Some states have “tax free” shopping dates.  You get a couple of days to shop for back to school without paying sales tax.  To see if your state participates, click HERE.
  8. Sign up for emails from your favorite back to school stores.  Place like Old Navy will compete for you business this time of year by offering some pretty deeply discounted email exclusives.
  9. Don’t get too hung up on name brands for things like socks, underwear, and undershirts.  They pretty much all wear the same–save a little money by buying these items at discount stores.
  10. Go in with other families and shop in bulk.  School supplies in bulk are usually at significant savings, if you have someone to split the costs–otherwise, you just pay $10 for 18,000 pencils and then you have to find a place to store them for the next 5-7 years.

What creative way have you found to save money on back-to-school?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



Does Shopping at an Outlet Store Really Save You Money?

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Does Shopping at an Outlet Store Really Save You Money

Do you think shopping at outlet stores really save you money?  Back in the day, outlet stores were a chance to snag slightly defective items at a pretty hefty discount.  Now, though, they have new items {made at a lower quality than the store’s originals} and a lot of times, they are still expensive.

Sure you can get the occasional off-season item or defective item at a discount, but wading through the racks to find them is sometimes just kind of exhausting.  Since school shopping is right around the corner, I was kind of curious what you peeps thought–outlet shopping or no?

I still prefer online shopping, but if I do decide to try my luck at the Outlet Malls, here are couple of things I’ve learned:

  1. Not everything is a deal.  In fact, very little of it is actually a deal.  Sometimes, I will throw the item in a search on my smartphone and see what they are selling for at the actual store.  A lot of times, the price is the same, but the quality is different.  If it isn’t a great deal, pass on it.
  2. A lot of retailers have started making brand new products specifically for their outlet stores–so you might think you are scoring 50% off a pair of boots, but really, they are just a lower quality designed specifically for the outlet.  So, check for quality–what is the item made of {i.e. synthetics vs. leather}, does the stitching seem good?  It may turn out that the “knock-off” is totally worth it, just make sure to inspect it.
  3. Don’t fall for the price-tag trick.  Outlet stores love, love, love to pretend that the clothes have their “original” price-tags and then they slash through them and write a new price on them.  That is a marketing ploy–yes, a shirt might be 80% off retail, but if it still is $50, it might not be a good deal.
  4. Join email lists.  A lot of times, outlet stores offer coupons through their email lists.  The coupons, combined with lowered prices can actually result in a pretty decent deal.
  5. Don’t feel obligated to buy.  Outlet malls are usually located right on the edge of the earth, so you feel like you have to pack a lunch just to get to them.  With that commute, comes the feeling that you have to make your trip worth it by buying.  Not true.  Resist the urge to buy unless you find a fantastic deal–which may mean you leave empty handed.

So back to my original question:  will you be hitting the outlet malls for back to school?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Save on Prescription Drugs

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How to Save on Prescription Drugs

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness that is going to require a lifetime of daily medication.  As if that weren’t bad enough, when she went to fill the prescriptions, she found out it would cost her $350 per month.  Holy buckets, people, that is crazy talk.  I can’t imagine that a lot of households can bear that kind of load–especially when it takes you by surprise.

The silver lining, though, is that there are ways to save.  I thought I would share a few, in case any of you are in the same boat.

  1. Be honest with your doctor.  They are people too, and if you can’t afford the scripts they’ve written you, they may have a solution.  It’s at least worth a try as a starting point.
  2. Make sure you know which brands your personal insurance covers more.  Yes, they actually have preferred brands of the same general drug, and I am not talking generics here.  Whether they are cholesterol pills or allergy pills, check to see which pill your insurance prefers, and then check with your doctor to see if s/he will write that specific drug.
  3. Ask for samples.  Doctors get tons of samples from drug reps–if you are in a bind, they may be willing to help you supplement a little at first with samples.
  4. Generics.  This one is kind of a no-brainer, but make sure to ask both your doctor and pharmacist.
  5. Double the dose.  Sometimes a higher dose pill is the same price as a lower dose.  If the pill is scorable down the middle, you might be able to get the double dose and only take half a pill.  It basically doubles the life of one bottle of medication.
  6. Go straight to the source and check with the pharmaceutical company.  There is a HUGE mark-up on pills.  Sometimes the pharmaceutical companies have “assistance programs” where they will offer you their product for a lower price.  All it means, really, is that they are willing to lower the price rather than lose your business completely.
  7. Check to see if big box retailers like Target and Walmart offer your drug in generic form at a significant discount.  These kind of stores offer a wide range of generics for $4-$10 a month, in hopes that you will also do some shopping while you are picking up your prescription.  It’s worth a try to see if your prescription is available through their discounted program.
  8. Check for coupons.  Yes, even prescriptions can come with coupons.  Look online or ask your doctor.  A lot of times, you can get anywhere from $50-$100 off coupons {which, again, totally shows you their mark-up}.
  9. When all else fails, order your prescriptions from Canada.  First, beware of online pharmacies–sometimes, they are selling subpar products and are largely unregulated.  BUT, I do know some people who have found reputable Canadian pharmacies who are willing to ship their prescriptions at a FRACTION of the cost that it is to buy them here in the U.S.

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve when it comes to saving on prescription drugs?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Make Your Own Vitamin Water

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Make Your Own Vitamin Water

The Girl Who Things She’s a Bird has turned into sort of a vitamin water freak lately.  She’s whipped up so many different concoctions, I can’t even keep track.  Apparently, vitamin water is all the rage right now.  And, you know me, I’m cutting edge {ha!}, so I figured, I better get on board and ride the vitamin water train.  Who knows, maybe this is the key to drinking more water?

I know you can buy vitamin water at the store, but they don’t look nearly as sophisticated as The Girl’s versions, and I am sure if you got right down to it, they probably aren’t nearly as healthy.

Make Your Own Vitamin Water

Basically, all you need is:

  • A Picther or Mason Jar
  • Water {filtered, Evian, or my personal favorite:  tap}
  • Fruit
  • Ice
  • A wooden spoon

This stuff is basically like lemon water on crack.  It turns it up a notch.  Get together some fruit {no bananas} and slice ‘em up.  Think berries, pineapple, watermelon, citrus anything.  You can add herbs, which is supposed to be a flavor sensation {I’m thinking mint would be awesome}.

Place the fruit/herbs in the bottom of the pitcher/jar, and using a wooden spoon, mash up the fruit.  No need to abuse the fruit, just mash it enough to get the flavors out.  Then, top the fruit mixture with ice, and finish with water.  Now pop that thing in the fridge and let all of the flavors marinate.

How easy is that?  Plus, everytime you pour yourself a glass, it feels like you are at an upscale spa—well, it does if you close your eyes tight enough to push the pile of laundry in the corner that needs folding out of your mind.  {Side note:  if you don’t like the bits of fruit in your glass, you can always pour the mixture over a strainer into your glass, leaving just the flavored water.  I kind of like the fruit bits, though.}

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Save Money Using the Library

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How to Save Money Using the Library

Now that the kids are out of school, you might be looking for some inexpensive forms of entertainment to keep everyone occupied.  When my kids were little, we used to hit the library once a week.  It seriously saved of TONS of money over the years and it kept them reading throughout the summer, so come the new school year, their brains weren’t mush.

summer reading books

Lot’s of people think that the library just has books, but it has totally evolved into a free multi-media entertainment shop–only instead of shopping, everything is FREE.  Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of your library:

  1. Use the “hold” service if your library has one.  This is probably my favorite thing about the library.  You can get an online account, search for whatever, put it on hold, then they notify you when it has come in.  You go pick it up, where it is ready and waiting just for you.  It helps you get exactly what you want without having to take the gamble that it might already be checked out.
  2. Instead of having magazine subscriptions, check them out from the library.  While you can’t check out the current month’s issues, you can check out all of the back issues.
  3. Borrow movies.  The library has pretty much every movie you can possibly want {unless you live in a super small town}–and it’s free.
  4. Borrow video games.  Did you know that most libraries now have video games.  You can even put them on hold {suggestion #1}, so your kiddos can totally try out the latest game before you buy it.  Or even better, maybe you’ll never have to buy it at all.
  5. Books.  I know this is a no-brainer, but seriously, read them at the library first.  If you know you will reference them or reread them over and over, then buy.
  6. Digital books.  Most libraries have digital books that don’t even require you ever getting in the car.  So, if you have a laptop, kindle, iPad or some other device, chances are you can get some free reads by just logging onto your library’s website.
  7. Take advantage of educational computer games and the internet.   The children’s part of the library usually has computers loaded with fun educational games.  For older kids, Wi-Fi offers a little bit of surfing with some pretty strict restrictions that will keep them fairly safe.
  8. Music.  Want to check out a CD?  The library has those too.  I can’t tell you how much this has saved me over the years–sometimes I end up finding out that owning the whole album just isn’t worth it.
  9. Newspapers.  Take advantage of your local newspaper or even the Wall Street Journal while your kiddos peruse for books.
  10. Take advantage of programs.  Most libraries have tons of free programs and classes.  Younger kids can go to story time, older kids can do book clubs.  My library even has a Lego club {where kids get to build massive creations} and a knitting club {for all skill levels}.

I’m telling you, the library has really diversified, and it’s totally worth your time this summer.  Do  you use the library?  What’s your favorite part about it?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

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DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

With two teenagers in sports, sometimes I feel like I should take out stock in Febreze, or at the very least, at the rate we go through it around here, a loan.  Luckily, making your own is super easy and costs literally pennies.

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

You’ll Need:

Spray bottle {a cheap-o dollar store one will do}
2 Tbsp. fabric softener {any scent that makes your sniffer happy or make your own}
Warm water
2 Tbsp. baking soda
A funnel

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

Directions:

Place the funnel in the spray bottle.  Add baking soda and fabric softener.  Fill up the remaining space in the spray bottle with warm water.  Screw back on the sprayer and shake, shake, shake.

Now get out there and freshen the crap out of everything you own {that statement might be an oxymoron, but whatever, you get the drift}. ;)

~Mavis

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

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DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

I’m still really digging my DIY Laundry Detergent that I shared with you awhile back, but I have to admit, the new tablet craze is winning me over–I love the ease of throwing a pre-measured tablet into the washer, plus I know exactly how many loads I am going to get out of each batch.  {This recipe is safe for front-loaders}

DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

You’ll need:

1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
1 cup grated bar soap {I used Fels Naptha, but you could also use Zote, Ivory, etc.}
1/2 cup vinegar
15-20 drops essential oil {optional}
Ice cube tray {this is my favorite one}

DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs Fels Naptha soap

Directions:

Start by grating your soap.  I grated mine on the smallest setting so that I could get it into a fine powder–otherwise, I feel like the soap doesn’t always dissolve completely in the wash.

DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

Mix the grated bar with the Borax and Washing Soda.  Pour 1/2 cup vinegar over the mixture and stir to combine.  The mixture shouldn’t be too wet, just wet enough to pack into your ice cube tray. I use  1″ square ice cube trays to make the tablets uniform.  {Just don’t fill the ice cube trays up to the top, or the detergent door might not close on your washer.}  I have found that a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop is just the perfect amount to use. After packing the mixture into the tray, leave out to dry–usually about 12 hours.

DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

When the tabs are dry, pop them out of the tray and put them into a storage container.  Use one tab for front loaders and two for top loaders. Makes 45 detergent tabs.

~Mavis

DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

Here are a few more of my DIY Recipes:

DIY Window and Glass Cleaner
How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent
DIY Fabric Softener
Homemade Soft Scrub
DIY Dishwasher Tablets
DIY Daily Shower Spray

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How Long Should You Keep Your Financial Paperwork?

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How Long Should You Keep Your Financial PaperworkIn my effort to purge my house of unwanted clutter a few months ago, I came across A LOT of paperwork.  Some of it, I know I have to keep, but some of it, I’ve stashed away just in case.  The thing is, “just in case” is starting to get a little overwhelming, so I decided to find out exactly how long I need to keep it all.

After a little digging, here’s the 411 on paperwork:

  1. Receipts.  These really pile up, especially after Christmas.  If they are for standard goods, keep them only until the warranty expires or until the exchange/return policy runs out.  If they are for tax purposes, keep them for 3 years.
  2. ATM receipts.  If you bank online, you can toss these {shred them} as soon as you’ve verified the amount recorded on your account is the same as the receipt.  If you still go with paper statements, balance them to the statement each month and then toss them.
  3. Paycheck stubs.  Keep them for one year.  Make sure to double check them to your W-2′s and social security statements, then shred them.
  4. Utility bills.   If  you take a home office deduction, you need to keep these for 3 years, otherwise, you can get rid of them after a year.
  5. Bank statements.  Again, unless you need them for tax purposes {3 years}, you can get rid of them after one year.
  6. Credit card statements.  Keep until reconciled, or 3 years if needed for tax purposes.
  7. Income Tax Returns.  Hold onto these for 3 years.
  8. Medical bills.  Keep these for 3 years.
  9. Records of selling a house.  3 years.
  10. Annual investment statements.  Hold onto these for 3 years AFTER you sell your investment.
  11. Records of paid-off loans {other than home mortgages}.  Keep for 7 years.
  12. Keep the following forever:  marriage licenses, birth certificates, wills, adoption papers, death certificates, records of paid mortgages.

Now that I know how long to keep everything, I can sort through the little piles that build up over the year–and really give my shredder a workout.

~Mavis

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

20 Moving Tips

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20 Moving Tips

Plan on moving this year?  Moving can be ultra stressful–on everyone, but I swear, organization is the KEY to surviving a move.

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind if you are making a move this year:

  1. Have each member of the family pack a suitcase of essentials and comfort items.  That way, the first night in the new house is a positive one.  You may not get to unpacking every bit of every room, but at least little Suzy will have her blanket and teddy bear to ease the transition.  Plus, how nice will it be when you hop in the shower after a long move to easily grab clean jammies and a toothbrush?
  2. Save money on bubble wrap.  Pack the dishes with the linen closet.  Wrap breakables using pillowcases and towels.  You’ll save money and kill two birds with one stone.
  3. Label boxes.  Don’t just label what’s in them, but also, what room you want them taken to.  Movers or friends/family will be so much more helpful when they don’t have to stop and ask you where you want “this box.”
  4. Show up pre-move and clean the house to your standards.  It’s soooooo much easier to clean and empty house.  Get in there ahead of time and give it a scrub.  Have the carpets cleaned now too.  That way, it will be “move in ready.”
  5. Place toiletries in plastic ziploc bags OR open the lids and put a piece of plastic wrap on the top, then screw the lid back on.  It will minimize spills and messes.
  6. Don’t pack up all of your drawers.  Just slide the drawer out and use it as a box, then when you place the dresser back in your new home, all you have to do is slide the already unpacked drawer back into place.
  7. Put ALL screws, curtain mounts, electronic cords in LABELED plastic ziplock bags.  You may think you will remember what they go to, but in the chaos, it might just become a mystery screw or cord.
  8. Take a picture of the back of your television so that you can remember how to put it back together in the new house.  Remembering where all those cords go is just a hassle otherwise.
  9. Make use of suitcases, laundry baskets, etc.  You can really cut down on boxes by using the containers you already have.  Just make sure to tie a label onto each of them.
  10. Pack a lunch the night before.  Unless you are ordering pizza or something, having to stop to make a meal in a kitchen that is probably chaos, is a big fat pain in the behind.  Pack sandwiches and snacks–that will keep the kiddos in a better mood anyway.
  11. To pack your hanging clothes, just grab a garbage bag.  Keep the clothes on the hangers, and bag them from the bottom up.  Pull the drawstring around the top of the hangers, and off you go.
  12. Number your boxes.  That way, you’ll know if you are missing a box right away.
  13. Minimize your grocery shopping one to two weeks prior to the move.  If you can, use up what you have in the freezer.
  14. Unplug and clean your fridge {if you are taking it with you in the move} the day before you move.
  15. Contact utility companies and let them know your move-out date and your move-in date.
  16. Keep valuable items, like pictures and passports in YOUR car on the day of the move.  That way, they don’t potentially get lost in the shuffle.
  17. Remember to keep a roll of toilet paper out, so that you can immediately put it in place in the new house.  Friends and family that are helping you will thank you.
  18. If you won’t have beds set up in time, remember to keep sleeping bags, air mattresses, etc. handy.
  19. Throw a shower curtain in your overnight bag.  You will want to take a shower after a day of moving, and digging through the bathroom boxes may not be too appealing.
  20. Bottled waters.  Remember cups will be packed away, so remember to get a case of bottled waters for the day.  Make sure to get enough for the people that are helping you move {the ones you like, anyway, ha!}.

Any more tips you’d like to add?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

10 Simple Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

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10 Simple Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

I don’t know how it is where you live, but here I am starting to see houses for sale like crazy.  I wonder if that means that people are starting to see relief from some of the economic craziness of the past few years?  Whatever the reason, if you are thinking about putting your house up for sale too, here are a few tips on increasing the value of your home, and hopefully putting more money in your pocket:

  1. Paint.  A fresh coat of NEUTRAL colored paint can make the house appear cleaner.  Staying neutral gives you a better chance to appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers.  Plus, paint is relatively cheap–so you get a lot of bang for your buck.
  2. Remove personal items and put them in storage.  Yes, the pictures of your kids are endearing, but when people see personal items, they focus on them, rather than picturing themselves in the home.  And, as much as you love your life-size paper mache zebra in the living room, it might not be someone else’s cup of tea {they may prefer giraffes}–it’s best to keep it a blank slate so people can imagine their own stuff in the house.
  3. Clean.  Seriously, clean like your mother-in-law is coming to visit.  The place should pass the white glove test.  Don’t forget the insides of drawers, etc.  Potential buyers will open and search through everything.
  4. Deodorize.  Everyone has a unique smell, unfortunately, that is not always a good thing.  If you have pets, you may not even notice the smell of your house, but potential buyers definitely will.  Light a candle or bake a cake before your house shows.  If you go with the candle, go with classic food smells {apple pie, etc.} over perfume-type smells.
  5. Create an inviting entrance.  If you don’t have curb appeal, it’s pretty hard to convince the average buyer that the house is worth their time.  Put a potted plant at the entrance {flowers in the summer/spring/fall and maybe a topiary in the winter}.  Set out a welcome mat.  Make sure the yard is tidy.
  6. If you have to replace floors before you can sell, opt for eco choices {like bamboo}.  They are a selling feature for the home.
  7. Up the wattage in your light bulbs for the showings.  The brighter the space, the more inviting it is to potential buyers.
  8. Kitchen cabinets.  If the kitchen cabinets have taken a beating over the years, painting them can give new life to the kitchen for minimal cost.  I don’t know about you, but nothing is more depressing than walking into an outdated and drab kitchen.
  9. Staging.  If the weather is nice, make sure to stage outdoor selling features too.  Make sure to set up the table on the patio.  Put the umbrella up.  Turn on the outdoor fountain if there is one.  You want to draw their eye to features they may miss otherwise.  Make ‘em believe that entertaining outdoors is just a quick escrow away.
  10. Window coverings.  Fresh curtains/blinds can add a lot to a room for pretty inexpensive.  Old faded drapes can make a space feel dated and dark.   Head over to Target and grab a couple of new panels–you’ll be shocked at what they do for the room.

Did you recently sell your house?  Did you do any of these?  Did they work for you?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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