Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Save Money By Living in a Mall Parking Garage for Four Years

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

he has one of these signs on his side of the bed too

Perhaps the biggest sign yet that housing prices are a tad too high: people setting up permanent residences in mall parking garages. As the story indicates, a guy named Michael Townsend led a group of Rhode Islanders who set up living quarters behind a wall of concrete in a Providence shopping mall garage.

Apparently the Mallpartment™ (patent and trademark pending) had electricity, furniture, and… lots of parking. No running water though, but residents could just use the mall restrooms or stand under the parking garage gutters for a nice cold shower.

Michael Townsend was arrested and charged with trespassing, but he was only sentenced to probation. I know a lot of people paying hefty mortgages would have liked to see Michael Townsend go to jail for scamming his way into a rent-free apartment.

Video of Michael Townsend’s secret mall apartment [NBC10]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How to Contribute to Your Family Financially Without Earning a Dime: 7 Tips For Stay-at-Home Moms (and Dads)

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , , , , ,

saving money is all in the family

By Robin Shreeves

Before I was a mom, I had a job. You know, the kind of job most people actually consider a job. One that contributes financially. Then I became a mom and my financial contributions stopped while our expenses increased because of diapers, formula, baby food, etc. Our family income went down; our family expenses went up. Sound familiar?

I saw my husband working so hard to bring in money, and I decided that I could show him how much I appreciated his hard work by spending the money he brought in as wisely as possible. I made it a project to figure out how I could contribute to my family financially.

I knew that buying things on sale, using coupons, eating most of our meals in, shopping around for the best long distance plan, and trading babysitting services with a friend would save my family some money. They were all no-brainers. But I looked for ways I could further save some money. Here are a few things I did–and you can do, too.

  1. Donate to charity (and keep track of it!). It’s easy to keep track of donations to organizations that send you an end-of-the-year statement, but there are other donations that you need to keep track of yourself. Sure, it’s a pain in the neck to tally up donations of clothing, keep receipts where you can find them at the end of the year, and be on top of it all. Go ahead and whine about it and then get over it. If you are diligent, when tax time comes, you will have helped your family earn a nice tax deduction. You won’t be whining then.

    Donations of clothing and items to non-profit organizations are deductible if you have a receipt. Make a list of all the items donated (clothing can just be a tallied list of number of pants, shirts, coats, etc.). Estimate the value of the donation, and staple the list onto the receipt.

    Other things that I personally keep track of are food items bought to donate to my church pantry, the items bought for our town’s Christmas Wish Tree, Thanksgiving basket donations, etc. I simply keep my register receipts and circle the items that were donated on them.

    Oh, and this is important–put all your receipts in a designated spot immediately.

  2. Use coupon codes when shopping online. I hate, hate, hate paying shipping and handling charges. I know it’s the price I’m supposed to have to pay for the convenience of shopping in my PJs, but I still hate it. I’ve found a way of getting around those charges at some online retailers. Here’s my secret.

    Online stores including J.C. Penney, Chadwicks, One Hanes Place, LL Bean and many, many others often send their preferred customers coupon codes for percent-off discounts or free shipping. There are websites that keep track of these coupon codes and anyone can use them when checking out.

    Sometimes the coupons are for free shipping (yippee!) and sometimes they are for a percentage off one item or your entire order. Now, if I can get a percentage off that equals or exceeds the shipping and handling charges, I’m a happy camper.

    Two good sites are onlycoupons.com and getcouponcodes.com. If neither of these websites have what you are looking for, Google the name of the store and the words “coupon code” and you may come up with something.

  3. Join Upromise (Upromise.com). Upromise works with hundreds of merchants and when you spend money at those merchants a small percentage of what you spend gets donated back to you to use for college savings. You can even earn money back on your weekly groceries by registering your supermarket savings cards with the site.

    The savings add up slowly, but let me tell you, when you’re forking out the money for baby food week after week, it takes the sting out of it just a little to know that 3% off all you spend will go into a college savings account for the kid.

  4. Take your couponing up a notch. Hate clipping coupons? Let someone else do it for you!

    Use a clipping service such as Coupon Clippers. The Coupon Clippers has thousands of coupons from the weekly circulars and other sources that you can get for a small handling fee. Instead of just getting one coupon in your Sunday circular for those granola bars that your kids go through like crazy, you can order five or more coupons for them, taking real advantage when they go on sale.

  5. Sign up for your local Freecycle. You’ve got lots of stuff lying around that is no longer useful to you. So do lots of other people. Freecycle allows people to post items they want to give away to other people who live in the same county. It’s a great way to find things you need for free and find new homes for things you don’t need. And it keeps those things out of landfills which is a really great thing for the future of those kids you’re staying home for in the first place.
  6. Make your own birthday cards for kids, recycle gift bags, and use the Sunday comics to wrap presents. Once your kids get past the age of, say, two months, they will suddenly be invited to at least one birthday party a month. Once they get in preschool that number goes up exponentially.

    I have set a general limit for $10 a gift for friend’s birthdays. But when you add in a card (about $3.00), and gift wrap or bag (another $1.50-$2.00) you’re suddenly increasing the price by 50% and that 50% will end up in the trash within a day or two of the party. It’s ridiculous and wasteful.

    Think about it. A minimum of 12 birthday gifts a year–that’s $60 you’ll save. If you’ve got two kids–that $120. When I see a savings of $120, I see a potential massage.

    There are several places online to print out birthday cards that your kids can color. They don’t even need an envelope. Just tape the card right onto the package. And that package–use the Sunday comics to wrap it or a gift bag that you saved from your kid’s birthday.

  7. Give older kids an allowance. “How can giving money to your kids save me money?” you ask. By giving them their own spending money, you have the perfect retort when they want to have something they see in the store–“Sure, you can have it if you can pay for it.” They may not like it, and you may get accused of being the meanest parent in the universe in front of the Target check-out line, but it will save you money.
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Robin Shreeves is a work-at-home mom who has been published extensively online. Visit her website at robin.shreeves.net.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Moving Towards Minimalism

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

really, do you still need that blacksmith anvil you keep around for emergencies?

By Rachel Eagle Reiter

Things wear out. They get old. They get used. In the end, they are no good any more. Why would you want to collect things that you don’t really need–just to have clutter that you can trip on? Clutter clogs up your mind and your creative ability. It’s frustrating and it can even be overwhelming. Give it up! I’m serious. If you don’t need it, then I’m giving you three options:

  • You can toss.
  • You can give.
  • You can sell.

Now, some of you may be wondering, why I didn’t mention storage. Well, my frugal friends, storage is simply the act of moving a thing from one area to a different area. Please explain to me what you have accomplished. Never mind. Please don’t. Storage is not a choice–not for junk, at least. Storage does have its purpose, and we will touch upon what that is in just a bit.

Have you decided what you are going toss? What you are going to give away? What you are going to sell? Once you do, follow through. Don’t let your unwanted items sit around, because if you let a week go by… or longer… you are going to develop attachment issues. Then all of your hard work–sorting, bagging and boxing–will have been in vain. In other words, no backsies. Go with your gut instinct. Ask yourself: Is this really necessary? How much does this item mean to me? Who can I bless with this item? How much can I sell this item for? Will I miss this item once it is gone?

Next, you need to know what the keepers are. Whatever has so much sentimental value that you regard it as priceless is a sure keeper. Whatever is irreplaceable is a keeper. Whatever is a necessity is a keeper. Whatever you have inherited is a keeper. Whatever you are saving for the next generation is a keeper. Once you know what’s for keeps, it’s time to start organizing. You have all of this space that you didn’t have before if you successfully completed the toss, give, sell process.

Be sure to dust this space. Make sure it is clean and ready to be used to store and display what you truly treasure. You should experience a growing feeling of appreciation for what matters most in your life and in your home. By getting rid of dead leaves on a plant, you draw more attention to the blossoms and all that is lovely. Your home is like a plant: the only way to accent its loveliness is to prune your life’s collection of stuff.

So, what are you supposed to store? Simply, whatever remains that is not for tossing, giving, selling, or using. For instance, holiday gifts that you have bought three months ahead of time. And please don’t tell me that you are a last minute shopper. That is a sure way to pay up the creek, get trapped in traffic and stuck in lines, and grow to the realization of how short people’s tempers are when they don’t get what they want when they want it. Not quite your holiday spirit.

Aside, from gifts, you can store out-of-season clothes. You can store household goods that you know you are going to need at some point. You should never have to run out for soap, paper towels, or toothpaste. Hello people! Is there ever going to be a time when you won’t need to wash anymore, brush your teeth, or wipe up a spill? Bottom line is, if you know you are going to need it, and if you wouldn’t want to go more than a day without, then you should always have it in abundance.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What to Do When You Only Have $1.27 in Your Pocket: Think Shelter!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

na-na na-na na-na na-na, BOX MAN

By Anita Cheek Moon

So you’re in a bad spot? No money and a week to go before you will have any? Gives the phrase “You never know what you got till it’s gone” a new meaning doesn’t it? The first thing you need to ask yourself is why are you in this situation? Poor planning? Unexpected cash needs? When you figure that out you will have the insight needed to assure you don’t let it happen again. For now though you need to figure out what to do to just get by for a week. It can be done and it can be done regardless of the specifics of your situation. This article will address one of the first concerns many of us would have in this situation–shelter.

Having only $1.27 cash is the least of your concerns if you don’t have a roof over your head and you’re exposed to the elements. More than likely you do and you should thank the Creator for that. If you don’t then you need to immediately figure out if you actually need one. Is it summer or winter? Are you going to freeze to death in a gutter somewhere or fry on the sidewalk? Not if you keep your head about you!

The importance of shelter is primarily relative to the weather. In our modern lifestyles we have come to consider it a necessity. We must have a “box” to live in or we feel that we are in danger. That is only true if you need protection from the elements and, fortunately, the box doesn’t have to be a three thousand square foot home with two baths and central heat and air. If you have that, in fact, you could be at a disadvantage when you are facing tough times. The more expensive our “box,” the more expensive it is to maintain. That might be the answer to why you are currently in this predicament. One man’s blessing can indeed be another man’s curse.

a house you can eatWhatever your situation, you need to figure out one thing: how you are going to maintain your core body temperature at a level that will sustain life. That may seem an odd thing to be thinking about at this time but believe me it is important. How many news accounts have you seen about homeless people freezing to death in their sleep or the elderly dying from heat exhaustion when their power is shut off? I’ve seen too many.

If you have a “box” you need to figure out how to live in it without either of the above occurring. If you don’t have a “box” you might need to get one. You can pick up a sufficient one behind any department store. Even the shade of a tree will temporarily suffice in the summer months. Just figure out a way to get yourself out of the elements. Don’t sit on the side of the road and bake thinking that someone will feel sorry for you and fix all of your problems. You got yourself into this mess and you need to get yourself out!

Perhaps your “box” is indeed that three thousand square foot home. If so then you need to take immediate measures to reduce the money it takes to heat and cool that home. That is true whether you have power or whether it has been shut off. If your power is still on then that means a bill is coming or it is already in hand. If the power has already been shut off then you probably will want to consider how you can afford getting it turned back on sometime in the immediate future. Either way, you need to prepare for the future so that next week you will have less outlay and more retainable money.

It is amazing to me that some complain of power bills they can’t pay while their AC or heating unit is working its heart out maintaining an “ideal” temperature in rooms that aren’t even used. Close off some of your rooms! Block the vents so that the central heat and air only goes into the rooms you absolutely need to survive. Turn off the television, lights, and other appliances when not in use. Unplug them as well. Many appliances draw power even when on standby waiting to be turned on!

snow place like homeIt is equally amazing how many people don’t realize that even a tiny hole around a window or your home’s foundation can represent a huge energy loss. Chink those holes with whatever you have at hand. Use plastic grocery bags and a butter knife to push them into the cracks if you have to. Caulking and expandable foam would be nice but it costs more than $1.27. Hang a blanket over the window to insulate it. You might even need to tape around the electrical outlets in an older home to block the draft that is coming through your walls.

According to just how bad of financial shape you are in, you might need to live in your bathroom or kitchen and make sure the utilities are only being used there. Pull your mattress from your bed into whatever room you choose, or put a pallet on the floor and make do. Use a fan instead of the AC or maybe keep an ice chest handy with a wash cloth soaking in the cold water to wipe off and cool down. Keep a cool tub of water to soak in. Line the window with aluminum foil turning the shiny side out to reflect the sun. Take positive steps to address your needs and you will find yourself living rather than your death being tomorrow’s headline.

If it is winter when you find yourself in dire straits then wear warm clothes even while inside. Turn off the central heat if you can and use a small space heater to heat just the small room that you have chosen to live in. No power? Then pile on more blankets and clothing and pay more attention to chinking out the elements. Make sure you stuff a blanket or something under the door to the room because that is where one of the biggest sources of cold air will enter. Sound drastic? Maybe, but it is a doable plan for a seemingly undoable situation. It can be done. Believe me, there are people with a lot bigger problems!

So what if you don’t have that three thousand square foot box to worry about? What if you really are living on the streets? The same concerns apply. You don’t want to freeze to death and you don’t want to fry. Use some common sense. Is there an emergency shelter you could gain access to? If not then look for that box or shade tree. Stop feeling sorry for yourself!

If it is winter the more in terms of wall thickness you can put around you the better. This may only be clothing. It may indeed be cardboard boxes. Try to get several that will fit inside one another and still give you room to crawl inside. Stuff the space between the boxes with leaves, paper, plastic, or whatever dry material you can find laying around. If possible put some plastic sheeting over the whole thing to fend off the rain. Fortunately, in this case at least, we all live in a disposable world and there will likely be tons of stuff at your disposal.

a house in the sticksWhat do you do if you don’t even have a cardboard box to seek shelter in? What if there is no garbage to sort through? Think like a squirrel! Take branches and leaves or whatever you can round up and make yourself some sort of shelter. Dig a hole into the side of a hill or into a snow bank or just huddle behind a big rock to knock off the wind. It is certainly a better option than literally freezing to death! If it is summer you are actually at an advantage if you are outside the big city and its hot asphalt. Find the coolest place you can find to set up your temporary home. This is, after all, only temporary.

By taking charge of your situation you have made it somewhat more manageable. You have, in fact, addressed your first need. You have found shelter. You still have your $1.27 and you also have time to think out your problems. I’ll help you do that in the next articles. You will find out how to find not just shelter but also water and food. What more could you ask for? Well, it would be nice if we could figure out just how to keep you out of this situation in the future. Perhaps we will be able to do that too. Just stay calm and keep reading.

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Anita Cheek Moon has devoted much of her life to the environment and the instillation of sustainable living skills, spending her time in the envelope of tough times and managing to claw her way to the other side. She has written in a number of venues including professional biology journals, local news sources, and web content. Check out her website at PrimitivePursuits.org.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How Much Living Space Do You Really Need?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

Lorne St Apartment - Before We Moved In - My Room by NZ Alex

Photo by NZ Alex

The answer: probably not half as much as you have, but we’ll come back to that.

First, this emergency news flash: Los Angeles is out of space, and people are going to fall off the edge of California and drown in the Pacific Ocean any day now. Fortunately some developers have a solution: start building 250-square-foot apartments.

To give you an idea of how big (or perhaps, how small) 250 square feet is, grab two friends and have the three of you lay on the floor head-to-toe in one long straight line. That’s about the length of one side of a 250-square-foot apartment.

Can you fit the basic amenities of life into 250 square feet of space? Well, let’s consider how much space your typical home furnishings take and see if we can cram them into these tiny apartments.

Item Space
(sq. ft.)
Queen-size bed 40
Dresser 10
Chest of drawers 10
Closet space 10
Bookshelf 10
Desk and chair 15
Couch/loveseat 30
End table 10
Shower/tub 25
Toilet 10
Bathroom sink 10
Oven/stove 25
Kitchen sink 10
Refrigerator 10
Cabinets/countertops 25
Total square footage 250

Hey, how about that! 250 square feet right on the button. Looks like those L.A. developers aren’t crazy after all.

Oh, you wanted walking space? Somewhere to stand while you cook? A bathroom where you don’t trip over the toilet as soon as you walk inside? Not gonna happen. Sorry.

Looks like the moral of this story is that living in a 250-square-foot apartment likely means giving up some of the amenities to which you’re typically accustomed. Such small apartments aren’t unheard of either; the typical Japanese one-bedroom apartment is around that size. Of course, the typical Japanese apartment doesn’t have most of the kitchen appliances listed above, a couch, or even a standard bed.

Another lesson to take away from this: if you’re a single businessperson who spends most of his or her time at work or otherwise out of the apartment, you don’t need 1,000+ square feet all to yourself. Especially if you’re renting, you may be throwing money away on extra space you’re not even using.

Before you move in to your next apartment, sit down and figure out how much space your stuff really needs. (No, you don’t need that life-sized neon-lit flamingo statue.) Once you have a square footage number, multiply it by two to account for walking-around space. That’s how big your next apartment should be to make maximum use out of your minimal space.