Safety Tips for Using Your Credit Card Online

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Safety Tips for Using Your Credit Card Online

You probably already know that I am a HUGE fan of online shopping.  I like that I don’t have to battle the crowds, the parking lots, the lines.  Best of all, I don’t drive all the way to the store only to find that they don’t have the size, color, or even item I am looking for.  No thank you.  So, with the holidays fast approaching, I thought I would share a couple of tips for keeping your identity safe and still enjoying all of the perks of online shopping.

  1. Don’t use debit, only credit cards.  Credit cards usually have better consumer protection plans, and even if your debit card does have one, remember, if someone gets into your account, your money isn’t returned right away.  There has to be an investigation by the company–which could mean you have ZERO cash while you are waiting for it to all get sorted out.  If you don’t prescribe to the notion of credit cards, buy yourself a visa gift card to use for online purchases.
  2. When possible, use Paypal.  Paypal is designed to protect you from fraudulent charges and you can pay using your debit card if you want.  Plus, if something does happen, you get your money back almost immediately.
  3. Don’t make online purchases on public computers or public WiFi.  Period.  Do it from the comfort of your home {preferably in fuzzy pajamas and with bed head}.  Public computers are a breeding ground for identity theft.
  4. Make sure you have anti-virus software installed and up-to-date.  It will save you a lot of hassle.
  5. Shop only at reputable sites.  This is a big one.  I try to stick to websites of stores and online retailers like Amazon, otherwise, you just can’t be sure that the product will be guaranteed and that your personal information is safe-guarded.
  6. You can tell if a site is secure via your mobile device if the website has https in the address.
  7. Create a folder for all receipts on your email account and save EVERYTHING there.  You can also print it, but I don’t like the paper clutter.  That way, you will have a spending trail to show your financial institution should someone get a hold of  your information.
  8. Be smart about passwords and make a different one for every site.  It’s also smart to change them up a couple times of year.
  9. Log onto your credit card account DAILY during the shopping season.  That way, you will know RIGHT AWAY if something is awry.  {As an added bonus, it will help you track your personal spending.}
  10. Check with your credit card company, a lot of times, they will allow you to create a disposable one-time credit card number that is linked to your account.  You can use that number to make a single purchase.  Should anyone get a hold of your information from that transaction, it won’t do them any good.

How do YOU keep yourself safe when shopping online?

~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 Money Saving Tips for Hosting a Thanksgiving Day Feast

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10 Money Saving Tips for Hosting a Thanksgiving Day Feast

Have you ever offered to host something, because you thought the whole tradition of it would be awesome, and then, after you had committed, realized that it was going to require you to take an advance on your retirement in order to afford it?  Thanksgiving can totally be one of those times.  Over the years, though, I have learned quite a few ways to put on a generous spread and still keep the budget in mind.

If you are hosting this year, here are a couple of ideas to keep money in your pocket and food on the table:

  1. Right off the bat, the easiest way to have a nice spread is to go potluck, or at the very least, take people up on it when they offer to bring something.  It totally eases your load in the kitchen too.
  2. It’s never too early to stock up on non-perishables.  If you notice that chicken broth is on sale {and be still your beating heart, there is a coupon too!} in September, swipe it up and store it for the big day.
  3. Make up for upfront costs with creative uses of left-overs.  Make turkey pot pies with leftovers that you can freeze for later, when you aren’t sick to death of the sight of turkey.  Supplementing later meals will help to balance out your budget.
  4. Know common ingredient substitutions.  No need to buy buttermilk if you can make it with the ingredients you already have at home.  It could save you a lot of time and money to just use what you already have.
  5. Keep the meal simple.  Yes, it would be awesome to make every single recipe you pinned on your appetizer board on Pinterest, but that gets time consuming and costly.  Be realistic about how much food you actually need.
  6. Use what you already have for your centerpiece.  Cut some boughs off of your tree, sprinkle in a couple of candles, put fall leaves in mason jars, etc. and you have an instant centerpiece that cost nothing.
  7. If you serve alcohol, keep it simple.  Provide beer and wine.  Anything more gets super expensive.
  8. If you only use sage and thyme {or whatever the spice may be} once a year, consider buying it in the bulk section of your store.  I know the word “bulk” implies that you have to buy a ton, but that’s the beauty, you can literally just get the tablespoon worth you need.  It will save you big bucks–and valuable kitchen storage space.
  9. Hit Farmer’s Markets.  You can usually find a much better deal on produce around this time of year if you have access to a farmer’s market.
  10. Cut out the convenience foods altogether.  For example, a jar of gravy costs waaay more than homemade gravy, which literally cost pennies and extra time.

Do you have any money saving tips for hosting the Big Feast?

~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 Find Free {or Cheap} Firewood

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How to Find Free {or Cheap} Firewood

With winter right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about stock piling wood for all of those long cold days ahead.  While I love the sound of a crackling fire on a cold night, I am not a huge fan of paying for a cord of wood.  I know lots of people head to the mountains, permit in hand, to cut their yearly firewood, but if that’s not for you, there are a couple of ways to score free {or cheap} wood.

First, craigslist is the Mecca for firewood.  You have to be right on top of it, though, and willing to scavenge all year long.  It’s usually someone looking to get rid of a tree that a storm took out, or something like that.  Look under “free” in the listings.  You’ll probably have to do some chopping, but even “free” comes at a price.  On that same token, sites like freecycle also have wood from time to time.  Again, the key is to check it daily.

firewoodCall around to your local tree services.  A lot of times, they have a wood chipper and just send the wood through anyway.  You may be able to negotiate a deal where you pick up the wood and haul it off.

Keep an eye out for new construction sites.  A lot of times, the crew will come in and clear the lot, including trees, before building.  With a little smile and a plate of cupcakes, you might be able to talk them into letting  you haul off the wood.

If you are brave enough, dumpster diving {with permission} at construction sites can yield quite a bit of burnable wood.  Just make sure to watch out for nails and other scraps of metal that could be a potential diving hazard.  Also, don’t burn treated wood–unless your interested in gassing yourself in the months to come.

Contact local sawmills, cabinet makers, etc.  You might be able to arrange to come pick up their end cuts–especially if you are saving them disposal fees.

Word of mouth is pretty powerful too.  Make sure to let friends and family know you are willing to come do a little manual labor to haul off unwanted wood.  People will call when they see or hear of fallen trees.

How do you get your firewood?

~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 Tips for Maintaining Your Front Load Washing Machine

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10 Tips for Maintaining Your Front Load Washing Machine

Front loaders are becoming pretty standard these days.  In fact, if you are in the market for a new washer, chances are, you will end up with a front loader.  Top loaders are harder and harder to come by, the choices are few, and the general trend is to steer everyone toward front loaders for their lowered water usage and efficiency ratings.  If you are new to the front-loader game, maintaining them is a bit different than a top-loader {which required almost no maintenance}.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Leave the door open when not in use.  Smelly machines is the biggest complaint when it comes to front load washers.  The key is to allow the drum and the door to dry out completely between washes.  Giving the rubber door seal a quick wipe down aids the process significantly.  Don’t give mold the slightest chance to grow.
  2. Use High Efficiency detergent.  Seriously, these are not just guidelines–regular detergent will have too many suds and confuse the heck out of your machine.  Remember that your front loader is basically a computer–if it senses something is amiss, it goes haywire.  The HE soap is more expensive, no doubt, but it goes a long way. {If you want to save to moolah, consider making your own detergent.}
  3. Rinse the detergent/fabric softener dispenser regularly, and then leave it out to dry.  Mold can build up in your dispenser and then end up swirling around with your clothes.  Rinsing out residue and trapped liquids pretty much stops it from growing altogether.
  4. Inspect the rubber seal on the door regularly.  Socks like to hide in them.  Wet socks left long enough can cause, drumroll please…mold!
  5. If you use bleach, remember to cut waaaaay down on the amount.  Front load washers use so much less water that you can potentially ruin your clothes with too much bleach.
  6. Clean your front loader at least once a month.
  7. Use a hot water wash every so often.  Most detergents can now do the job with cold water–which is awesome, it save money and energy, but residue builds up in your front loader and it can benefit from a regular hot water rinse.
  8. Plan for extra time.  There is no such thing as a “quick load of laundry” when it comes to your front load washer.  They flat out take significantly longer–one of the downsides of them using less water.  For some, this fact requires a shift in how they manage their laundry.  On the plus side, though, drying time will be significantly less.
  9. Make sure the machine is perfectly level.  Again, your machine has a computer on board, so it functions best when it is level.  Take the time during set-up to make sure it is level, and check it regularly to make sure it stays level.  If it gets off, it can throw off the cycle, because the washer will try to recalibrate.
  10. Clean out the drain pump filter regularly.  Your machine {in a different location in every machine, check your manual} can get clogged by bits of lint, hair, etc.  Make sure to clear it so that your machine can drain properly.

Front load washers are definitely a little more work than top-loaders, but the maintenance {once you wrap your mind around the fact that they have to be maintained} is really pretty quick and painless.

~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 Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

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How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

It seems like everyone has a front loader these days.  I’ve heard total horror stores of them stinking and then ruining your clothes. While front loaders are more efficient, they definitely are a little higher maintenance than their top loading parents.  They need regular maintenance to avoid the dreaded smell–and by regular, I mean at least once a month, if not every two weeks.

heinz vinegarYou’ll need:

  • Vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Rags/Cloths

How to Clean a Front Load Washing MachineDirections:

Start by running an empty load on the hottest setting with vinegar instead of detergent.  After the load is complete, repeat the process using bleach.  Then, open the doors {it’s really best to always keep the doors open when the machine isn’t in use anyway} and using the rag or cloth, wipe the rubber door seal down with vinegar and warm water. Dry completely.  Pull out the detergent drawer and rinse it under hot water.  Allow it to soak in vinegar for a bit if it still has detergent build-up.

Overall, the whole process is pretty quick and painless.

How do you clean your front loader?

~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 Tips For Selling Your House Fast

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20 Tips For Selling Your House FastIs it just me or does it seem like the economy is finally starting to turn around a bit?  I am seeing more and more for sale signs in the yards of houses–which to be honest, I haven’t seen in awhile.  It’s like people are recovering and starting to move on.  {Or, at least, I hope that’s what it means.}

If you are hoping to sell your house this year, and want to get it done fast, here are a couple of tips:

  1. Clean out closets.  Buyers want to see LOTS of storage space.  Clear our the clutter and keep your closets half-empty.  Buyers are going to open up the closets anyway, might as well let them know that they will have ample space to store their own belongings.dog food dish
  2. Keep the critters hidden.  You might love your dog, cat, and hamster, but buyers want to believe that the space is clean–and whether or not you are or not, animals don’t scream:  CLEAN.  It’s better to hide the dog bowls, litter box and cages.  That way, all they will see is a clean house.
  3. De-personalize.  You love your Aunt Gladys, buyers don’t.  Take her picture down, and everything else that is exclusive to who you are as a family.  Then, buyers will be able to imagine their own stuff and their own lives it the house.
  4. Keep it clean.  Be ready for impromptu showings.  The more restrictions you put on showings, the less traffic you will have.  The less you traffic you have, the fewer potential buyers.  If you are diligent about keeping the house clean, impromptu showings will be a non-issue.  {If you have little ones, all I can say is to remember:  the sooner you have a buyer the sooner you can get on with real life.}magnum glass greenhouse
  5. If you really want out fast, consider leaving behind higher ticket items.  Leave appliances, a pool table, a greenhouse or a flat screen t.v.  Those higher ticket items really entice buyers.
  6. Upgrade, but not too much.  If carpet needs replaced, replace it {or offer an allowance in the terms of the sale}, but don’t get the top of the line.  It just won’t pay out dollar for dollar.
  7. Remember to tell your own friends the house is for sale.  Word of mouth is a powerful selling tool.  Use Facebook to get the word out–you never know, a friend of a friend of a friend might find out about the house and be in the market.mavis butterfield
  8. Don’t forget the exterior.  First impressions are key.  Plant flowers, keep the front porch swept, and lay out a welcome mat.
  9. Be honest with yourself about the worth of your house.  You may have put a ton of money into it, or may “need” a certain amount out of it in order to move to the next house, but none of that matters, really.  The only thing that matters to potential buyers is that it is priced fairly for the square footage, neighborhood, and finishes.
  10. Know your competition.  If the house down the street is for sale, know its list price, square footages, etc.  It can help you to draw in some of their potential buyer traffic by staying competitive with price and finishes.crap
  11. De-clutter.  De-cluttering isn’t just for closets.  Consider putting knickknacks in boxes an storing them.  Clear off kitchen counters–even if it is full of kitchen-y things, like a toaster, blender, etc.  Remember, you want buyers to see how much space they will have.  They can figure out their own acceptable amount of clutter when they have purchased your house.
  12. Find an agent you TRUST and  then LISTEN to their suggestions.  It might be hard to hear that your house isn’t worth what you thought or that your bathroom is in need of an update before it is sellable, but it is their job to sell your house, they won’t steer you astray {in most cases}.painting
  13.  Try to make sure colors are as neutral as possible.  If that means a fresh coat of paint or a cheap-o bedspread, consider it a worthy investment.  Colors can be very off-putting to potential buyers.How to Organize Your Bathroom
  14. Hide personal items in the bathroom.  Yes, everyone wears deodorant {or I hope so}, but not everyone wants to see it.  Put all toiletries away neatly in drawers and under the sink each day.  It’s a giant pain in the behind, but hopefully it won’t last long.
  15. Make the most of awkward spaces with staging.  If you have a weird little room under the stairs or a nook that really does nothing, consider staging it to give the illusion of more space.  Turn it into a little office space with a simple desk and chair, a reading nook,  or storage closet with organized shelving.  The investment will be minimal either way.lucy the puggle dog
  16. Make a habit of opening up all of the blinds every day.  The better the lighting, the better people feel about the space.  In dark rooms, don’t be afraid to leave the lights on.
  17. Keep on top of your agents marketing activities.  You are paying your agent big bucks to sell the house.  If you don’t feel like they are doing everything they can to sell the house, make sure to have concrete reasons why and tell them.potting bench pictures ornamental cabbage
  18. Season permitting, stage outdoor spaces.  If you have a beautiful deck or patio, help bring focus to it by setting the patio table to look Sunday brunch-like.  I know it feels ridiculous, but buyers will feel like they will have a backyard retreat that they may not have imagined otherwise.
  19. Make sure the kitchen is up-to-snuff.  Kitchens are the heart of the home, consider painting old cabinets, installing a new, updated back splash, etc.  Buyers usually offer considerably less than asking price when the kitchen is dated, even if the rest of the house is awesome.
  20. If you are brave enough, find out what your house is worth, and then consider shaving 10-15% off the price of the house right up front.  Odds are, you will be priced low enough that people will flock to your house and a bidding war will ensue.  Some realtors swear you typically get more than you would have with a standard asking price.  {I have to admit, I don’t know if I would be brave enough to take the gamble on this one.}

How about you, have you learned any tips from selling houses in the past?

~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.

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.

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