After reading the good and bad situations from other PF bloggers I tried out one of those Lending Club offers (aff.) that gives you $25 to lend to someone if you sign up. If I added money to the account ($500), they would give me more ($50). But I am a Nervous Nelly and decided to take the free $25, and not add any more, and see what would come of it.

I didn't have huge criteria for who I would lend to. My main concern was to make around 10% and I didn't want to loan to anyone who had a request larger than 5 thousand. I found a borrower who wanted 3 thousand and the score was a B - or just under a 10% return.

So far after 4 months of payments they are doing fine in their repayments and I'm slowing making a few more free cents off of the free $25 I started with. These loans are for 36 months though and this return on my free money is slow going.

The one thing I have to remind myself, which I didn't do when I was collecting comics, is that these investments take time. There will be ups and downs, payments might get behind, they might pay off the note early and I don't get the full effect and so on. No matter what, I need to remember it is not what I think I might have in my hand but what I already put into the investment. In this case, I only signed up and the rest was free money.

Would you try one of these peer to peer lending sites - to either borrow or to lend?

One of the more common ideas behind frugal living is to keep something as long as possible and the depreciating value of a car is near the top of that list.

There are how-to sites all over the web to maintain your car and keep it in optimum condition but we don't always have access to the internet and having a book handy that binds it all together can be very useful.

Motorbooks Workshop has a new book in their series by Tom Torbjornsen, who is host of the radio show "America's Car Show" and wrote How to Make Your Car Last Forever.

This book has 17 chapters but broken down into 3 sections - I'll just go over those sections since the chapters are self explanitory.

First, there are handy maintenance tips, Q and A sections and DIY projects throughout the book that help not only to save money, but build confidence for those of us who are toolkit unready.

Section one - Vehicular Systems (chapters 2-9)

What can this section tell you that your car manual can't? As someone who is not mechanically inclined, I would say that the color photos and the limited black and white drawings already put me at ease.  And if the mechanic calls me and tells me that my connecting rod needs replaced, I can visually see what he is talking about and going to show me.
Section two - Rules to Follow to Make the Car Last Forever (chapters 10-14)

By this section you are over half of the way through the book.  The DIY projects range from 1-3 skill level sets. And one project is replacing the serpentine belt (skill level 3). Author Tom also has a section on what to do and not do in hot summers and freezing winters. 

Section three - Straight Talk (chapters 15-17)

These chapters are about understanding your warranties, when to buy a replacement car instead of replacement parts, what kind of parts are best for a car (manufacturer parts or after-market) and a chapter is dedicated to killing your car off as quickly as possible, which we don't want.

I loved the question: The other day when I "launched" off the starting line with my Honda Accord, from neutral, I heard what sounded like nuts and bolts in a blender.... What did I do to my car?

Is this book worth reading? I would say so for the newbie car DIYer or handy for a student going off in their $700 car to college. We all have starting points and this books takes condenses a lot of the information online and in the car manuals into something quick to read, easy to understand and with descriptive pictures to go along.

Contest Time - Win the Book!

  • Enter a comment below with an email or some way I can get a hold of the winner to get your mailing address. US Address only please
  • Contest ends Thursday at 7am MST when comments will be closed.
  • Thank you for all your comments - the drawing will be done with a random number generator after each comment is "numbered".

I was playing Family Feud one night and this question popped up, "While vacationing, what might a cheapskate buy as souvenirs for her friends?"

So being the type of person that I am, I over analyzed the question and wasted one strike against me for not answering in 20 seconds. I realize, it is JUST A GAME, but still.

For instance, are cheapskates only females? Why not says "what might a cheapskate buy as a souvenir for FRIENDS" and leave it at that? Why am I getting all defensive about the word cheapskate? And my final thought, a cheap skate wouldn't buy a souvenir while on vacation, they either would buy nothing, bring back whatever they got free or buy their souvenirs before or after the vacation since the price of souvenirs are expensive (Hello, Disneyland!)

Finally, I answered and got 2 of the 7 answers (t-shirt and pen) correct, those seemed to be the best value to me and you can't have too many t-shirts or pens. Above are the other 5 answers. But I'm curious - Would you buy souvenirs while on vacation and if so, what would you buy?


Recycle Stuff Links:

Perform a trash-can autopsy to save money and resources  (Jeff Yeager)

30 uses for duct tape - Duct tape. Ubiquitous. Handy and with links  (wikihow)

18 alternative uses for CDs or DVDs  (Walletpop)

Making Money Links:

Is it worth my time to pick up coins? - I say, yes. (On & True)

Make money by selling your bones - Great title and click worthy (The Buck List)

Pandhandle: Strange ways to make money (Personal Finance Advice)

The Debt World Links:

Secrets of the debt-collection biz uncovered by a reporter - Kind of what I expected, but still interesting to read (Walletpop)

You're More Likely To Go Bankrupt From Winning A Lottery Than To Win One - Info-graphic heaven. (Consumerist)

Why do we want everything this instant? The battle against impulse and ... blood sugar? (Smartspending)

Battle the Clutter Links:

Living a Simpler Life - 9 Places to Start (Satifying Retirement)

Hoarding: Too much stuff (part 1) - A personal story behind the mess (Thriftyfun)

Coupon - a ticket or document that can be exchanged for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product.

This would include cents off, money back rebates, buy one get one, online promo codes and others. Most everyone reading this uses coupons in some capacity. This means that most everyone can say, "Yes, I use coupons." But still there remains some myths about coupons that continue through years.

flickr/cc - bradleygee
#1 Coupons are for processed or junk food only
Yes, these coupons do exist, but some of the non-processed food you will find will be for frozen vegetables, canned fruit and vegetables, yogurt, bagged salad and occasionally fresh fruit (pineapples) and poultry (holidays). And if you look over the coupons that show up in a Sunday paper you will find a great quantity of coupons for cleaning supplies, air fresheners, cosmetics and health aids.

#2 Money saved isn't worth the time
The money you save is going to depend on how you use the coupon. Does the store double coupons? More money saved. Is the item on sale already? More money saved. Do you have a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon? More money saved. Are you buying a smaller size, thus a smaller price? Item closer to free.

Typically, just walking into a store and picking up what you need can save you up to 25%, but with coupons, sales, size bought and doubling you can push that savings up to 50- 80% or more. On a $50 grocery bill that is an extra 12.50-40.00 in savings. Now is it worth the time?

#3 Coupons are hard to use
When you read articles about women who bought $219 worth of food for 14.38, it can seem like too much effort or overwhelming. That is why every coupon shopper starts with just printing out the coupons they know they will use. If they already buy that brand of yogurt, then the coupon gets cut and set aside. 2 seconds of time for 40 cents saved.

The other part is just getting into a habit of having the coupons around to use. Well, consider them as cash, would you leave your wallet at home? Keep your coupons near your purse or wallet and toss in the car as you go to work on Monday. Coupons are the jelly to your peanut butter wallet.

#4 Stores don't accept my coupons
First, make sure they are legit coupons as many items that are for free (packs of soda pop, bags of chips) are not. But most all stores allow you to speak to the manager on duty about the coupon. If in doubt, check the store's website for their coupon policy before you head out.

#5 Generic is cheaper than coupons any day
Brand name items are quite expensive, however, when you add a manufacturer coupon and if you have a store coupon for that brand name item, it can be much less than the generic or store brand. Occasionally, the generic item will be cheaper when you include the sales and coupons for the brand name item, but only by pennies. This is where personal taste and value come in.

#6 Coupons save very little money
True, you won't become a millionaire on 35 cent coupons. But it can be worth your while to look for rebates to computer software ($20-$50), discounts on travel expenses (over $50) and online promo codes can drop the price of a winter coat from $115 to $55 with free shipping. That's money you can bank.

I originally wrote the post 25 ways I save money a few years ago as a way to remind myself that I'm not doing too bad. I thought I would see how those 25 ways are implemented today, if at all, and add a few.

1. Change light bulbs to CFL bulbs to save money

2. Use Heat and Air Conditioning sparingly - it is easier to use less heat, because there are blankets and layers that can be added. So I'm better at this than with the air conditioning. However with the AC challenge this year, it was a success and saved $98 over summer months.

3. Using sunlight instead of lights in the house as much as possible

4. Unplug items that aren't in use, especially the tv set at night - this continues to be an ongoing fight to make into a habit and one I haven't been winning.

5. Keep razorblades dry and clean so that they last longer - most blades last almost 3 months. Not a lot of money saved, but I don't like the electric ones.

6. Write checks for over the amount instead of using an ATM with fees - I don't remember the last time I wrote a check at a store.

7. Use containers to store left over food for eating later
8. Turn off all lights when not in a room

9. Leave the car at home at least one day out of the week - This didn't work for the last 6 months due to job scheduling, but with the lay off next month, it will be easier to do

10. Borrow books/videos from the library instead of buying them

11. Use coupons and check grocery circulars to get the best deals - This continues but I rarely by a paper or use coupons in general and when I need coupons I print them out.

12. Cook meals at home, cutting back on eating out - Using the slow cooker more to cut down on electricity and clean up.

13. Take lunch to work

14. Watch movies at home instead of in the theater

15. Wash clothes every at most once a week.

16. Wash clothes in cold water to save on heat - This is an ongoing issue in the house, when I catch it I will switch the temperature control, but I don't always catch it.

17. Every 6-12 months, verify I am getting the best deal on insurance and credit card rates

18. Stopped all subscriptions to magazines

19. Buy foods in bulk or when items are on clearance and save in pantry and freezer- We have been building up the pantry and freezer for the upcoming winter and future layoff.

20. Pick up money from the ground and from vending machines, save in a coin jar - I have been taking most of this money to work with me to buy silver coins that I come across, well worth the 3 seconds to grab the money!

21. Round up in check book and place excess in savings at end of the month

22. Go to free events around town - Zoo, art museum, etc. - With my heavy work schedule the last 6 months, this has drastically been cut down, but will be doing more of this in the future.

23. Put raises or bonuses in savings or apply towards debt

24. Do research online for best value for money on medium to large priced items - looking for promo codes or % back deals

25. When I go out to eat, make sure I bring half of the food home for a nice lunch for work the next day and only drink water while dining.

flickr/cc - Jesslee Cuizon
The other ways I save money now:
  • I eat a large breakfast (cheaper) to eat less throughout the day.
  • Use work place discounts on phone service, car insurance and others
  • Used plastic over windows in the winter and door draft guards
  • Buy generic medicines, foods and cleaners when possible
  • Buy clothes from 2nd hand stores
  • Shopped around for a better (and cheaper) car repair person to keep the car in good condition
  • Paying off debt with high interest rates
  • Negotiate with the Cable company at the end of promotions
  • Pay insurance up front instead of monthly
  • Try to stay home as much as possible
  • Pay bills online or over the phone, rarely using stamps
  • Cut our own hair at home (with good and bad results)
  • Check the clearance/dented food area at the grocery store
  • Use for gift cards when enough points are saved
  • Enjoy those things in life that are all around us and free.

Sadly, I don't have a self-cleaning oven, but the hard work won't kill me. Being a person who likes to do as little as possible, and not having any oven-cleaner spray, I went with the ammonia.

I pulled out a large, deep bake pan and filled half way with ammonia. It was at that point I about keeled over and realized I didn't have any windows or doors open. I quickly pushed, with minor amount of mess, the pan into the oven and closed the door. Then I ran to the doors and windows to open them.

We could still smell the ammonia pretty bad, so we covered the little pipe vent, which comes up to the top of the stove, with plastic wrap. Though, you would be able to use an oven mitt if you wanted to.

After about 4 hours of it sitting in there, we took it out and I started cleaning. I would say that 70% of the gunk came off with a wet cloth. The rest was elbow grease, soap and water. I got the oven cleaned up in about 30 minutes after taking out the ammonia. I'm sure it wouldn't take that long if you left the ammonia in over night.

I only used the dish rag to cover my face for the first few minutes, as the ammonia smell dissipated quickly.

If you are like me and are forbidden from hanging your clothes outside, on the patio of your apartment, then the next best way to save money from the clothes dryer is to keep the vents clean.

Clogged up vents cause your dryer to work harder to dry the clothes you have tossed in it, sometimes you have to run the dryer twice to get a load of clothes dried enough to hang up. Just taking the time to clean out these vents cuts down on the electricity costs of running a dryer twice to dry a load of laundry, but also keep the dryer from wearing out earlier. And let's not forget the peace of mind that the dryer won't cause a house fire. (news video)

Start with taking out the dryer vent and cleaning off the lint. Then wash of  the filter under cold water with a brush or rag. The reason you want to wash the filter is to remove the film on the wire mesh that builds up from dryer sheets. The cleaner the filter, the dryer your clothes.

flickr/cc - joanna8555
Some dryers have a moisture sensor, keeping the sensor screen clean from buildup will also help to make the dryer work more efficiently.

Next, pull the dryer away from the wall and unhook the longer vent on the back. Using the wand from a vacuum, suck out any lint built up within the vent tubing and also from the vent that flows to the outside. If necessary, check the venting on the outside of your home and clean away any lint that has built up as it flowed to the outside.

So, keeping the lint filter clean is one simple way to increase the efficiency and lifespan (and decrease the operating costs) of your dryer. Just removing the lint from the filter isn't always enough & the fine mesh of most dryer filters can be clogged in ways that aren't obvious at a casual glance.

While you're at it, don't toss out the dryer lint, there are other uses for dryer lint, per Jeff Yeager (video) and remember, that lint you see is money out the vent, as much as $70,000!

I was always curious if handmade soap lasted as long as commercially made bar soap. Well, my unofficial results are in and handmade bar soap lasted twice as long, but there is a down side.

Here are the stats on the fight:
Length of Use
Handmade - May 6th to August 6th
Commercial - August 7th to September 2nd
Winner - Handmade bar soap

Size of Bar Soap
Handmade - Hand cut, but at least 5oz
Commercial - box stated, 4oz
Winner - Handmade bar soap

Cost of Soap
Handmade - Given as a gift, but otherwise 2.50 a bar
Commercial - Pack of 8 (3.98), otherwise 49.75¢ a bar
Winner - Commercially made bar soap

Cost per year
Handmade - $15 for 6 bars of soap for the year
Commercial - 5.97 for 12 bars of soap
Winner - Commercially made bar soap

I love the idea of buying handmade bar soap from a small business as opposed to buying soap from a large manufacturing company. I love the natural ingredients I can read. And it does take some getting used to a bar of soap that doesn't suds up.

Overall, buying handmade soap (not including shipping or taxes) is almost 3x as expensive as buying the commercially made bar soap. However I have to weigh the cost against the value of buying locally, handmade and natural against that. What has more value to me.

Are you all about the cost or would spending more be worth it to you?

Everything seemed to come together while on vacation in regards to decisions that had to be made before the end of the month.

Decision 1: After lay off, go back to school or get a full time job in same industry?
Since I have a part-time job that pays well and has decent hours for school, I will be going back to school and working that job. I'm burnt out on the industry I'm currently in full-time and I don't want to be an ineffective co-worker as well.

Decision 2: Go to school here in state or move out of state and wait a year for residency?
Since I'm already a residence I would be able to start school sooner and keep my part-time job. If I moved, I would be out even the part-time job, even if the standard of living would have been cheaper. I REALLY want to go back to school and don't want to delay what has already been 19 years.

Job and money are always large stressors in life, compounding that with a possible move and the hair on my head would decrease in proportion to the increase of lines on my face. After the decisions are made, I'm at peace with them and whatever troubles may result. I'm ready to start a new chapter.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Want vs. Need - I liked this chart of one person figuring out their wants vs. their needs. Very true.

Yard Sales Tips - WalletPop has two videos, one on tips for getting great bargains and another on how to bargain at yard sales. I liked the bargaining video the best.

Farmer’s Markets: Pricey or Budget-Friendly? - "The study is in its fourth year now and the findings have been consistent. “If you thought the farmers market was cheaper, it’s not,” said Jones. “If you thought it was more expensive, it’s not.”

Need some extra artwork around the house and you don't like the $2 piece you bought at the flea market? Update your thrifty artwork find or whatever variation you want

Finally, I saw this posted over at Not Always Right and thought immediately of my readers, They would be the "next customer":

Supermarket | Brisbane, Australia
(I am scanning a customer’s order when I notice she is buying a $30 lip-gloss that is also being given away with a magazine).

Me: "Miss, if you’d like to buy [magazine] for $7.20, you get this exact lip-gloss free inside."

Customer: "But I don’t want the magazine. I just want the lip-gloss."

Me: "I understand, but even if you give the magazine away, you still get the lip-gloss for $7.20 and save $22.80."

Customer: "Do I look like a charity? I’m not going to give away a $7 magazine. Haven’t you heard of saving money?"

Me: "Well yes, what I’m saying is you can save money by buying the magazine–"

Customer: "Stop trying to rip me off and scan my lip-gloss!"

(I ring up her lip-gloss for $30 and she storms off. The next customer puts the same magazine on the counter.)

Next Customer: "I don’t want it either, but I have half a brain."

All great cities are not created equal, at least when economics are the key factor. Cities known for low cost rental units and best bargain real estate deals are often competitive with the overall cost of living. With so many choices across the country, there's no need to settle for a high cost of living area unless you are bound by employment or family. For those who wish to pack it all in and cut a new pathway for life in the cheap lane, here's a head start with seven value cities to get more bang for your buck.

1. Las Vegas NV.

Las Vegas has more to offer than one-armed bandits and pulling an all-nighter at the Craps table. The casinos are actually an asset to this once sleepy desert town, generating enough revenue to lower the tax burden on the Nevada residents. In addition to lower taxes, living in Las Vegas affords a lot of house for your money, well above the national average of price per square foot. Dining and entertainment are at your fingertips, with plenty of options for a cheap meal and access to some of the best discount mall outlets in the country. If you wish to live large on very little, Las Vegas is the place to be.
flickr/cc - deneyterrio

2. Austin, TX.

Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in America, and it is for good reason that the masses are flocking to the Old South West. Word has caught on that the great city of Austin offers affordable real estate prices, moderate rents and a wide and diverse selection of job opportunities to include corporate careers with some of the nation's top executive companies. The University of Texas at Austin graduates thousands of technical and engineering students every year who may find local and lucrative employment with Dell, Ebay, Google, Samsung and Apple Inc., just to name a few. Life is good in Austin, with the city's five star amenities and a growing economy offering the best of upscale living on a budget.

3. Hemet, CA.

If Southern California living is your lifestyle, but you don't want to pay a fortune for housing, the Riverside County city of Hemet is the ticket. Located in the beautiful San Jacinto Valley, Hemet is freeway close to the major metropolis regions of Orange and San Diego counties, while maintaining a secluded and low cost of living environment. Employment within the Hemet city limits favors medical careers, various government jobs, education, manufacturing, and finance opportunities. Hemet has a small town look and feel, making it a great escape from the bustle of big city living. The Hemet real estate price tags are cut down to size and there is plenty of acreage available to buy a plot and build your dream home in Southern California.

4. Birmingham, AL.

Birmingham, Alabama has enjoyed a steady growth rate, with over one million people calling this sparkling city home. Known for it's easy tax rate, the state of Alabama collects only 2 to 5 percent personal income tax from its residents and boasts of the lowest property taxes in the country. Corporate taxation currently does not exceed 7 percent, drawing big business to settle and operate from the major Alabama cities. Birmingham has found its place as a magnet for jobs while offering a carefree lifestyle with low cost real estate and rentals. Medical, financial, sales and banking job opportunities lead the way with some of the best and brightest corporate employers in the world making Birmingham their home.

5. Provo, UT.

If snowcapped mountains and crispy clean air are your standards for life, you may opt for a home in Utah's third largest city. Provo has moved with the times, and exceeded the technology market as one of the largest headquarters for software development in the country. Employment opportunities abound for the technically trained job applicant who seeks outdoor excitement, beautiful landscapes, top wages, and a low cost of living with their housing. Homes in Provo are not only new and spacious, but many come with a generous cut of land to call your own. Centrally located about 40 miles outside of Salt Lake City, the quiet enclave of Provo makes for an easy commute to big city life while maintaining it's integrity for small town living.

6. Raleigh, NC.

There's no law against living on the cheap and being a pretty place, and Raleigh delivers on low rent and beautiful, tranquil surroundings. Life is good in this capital city, with it's more than a quarter of a million population faring well on less than $50,000 a year. Home to three leading universities, Raleigh is the place to learn and live in this most hospitable town. Raleigh is rich in culture, entertainment and the arts and is also a draw for job applicants holding a PhD degree. Leisure time is at it's best with Raleigh's excellent golf courses, biking trails and over 7000 acres of rolling green parks. This North Carolina gem has enjoyed a steady growth rate of nearly five percent a year, offering a first class lifestyle on a shoestring budget.
flickr/cc - kencf0618

7. Boise, ID.

The city of Boise has long been known for its roomy and comfortable housing picked up at a fraction of the cost of most of American cities. In addition, Boise residents enjoy low utility rates, an amenity that really counts in the winter months with a heating bill can cripple a household budget. Boise motorists save time and money with this capitol city's excellent public transportation system from the Valley Regional Transit, serving Boise and it's environs. Trolley car service is soon to arrive making the scoot about town process faster and more economical while adding personality and punch to this lovely Northwestern town.

Special thanks to those filling in while I was on vacation - Article courtesy of Miles Walker, a freelance writer and blogger who compares car insurance deals over at CarinsuranceComparison.Org

In the past few years there has been a noticeable shift away from excessive consumerism toward a more frugal lifestyle.  For some this change is the result of the struggling economy, while others realize the many benefits of living a simple and sustainable lifestyle.  Regardless of the cause, more people are paying attention not only to their spending but also their savings.

Flickr/cc - kodomut
 With this increased interest in being fiscally responsible, more people are reducing their expenses which results in more money back in their pocket.  Making and saving money today is no easy feat, therefore knowing where to go with extra cash is important to ensure financial security.  Here we look at popular savings strategies that may work for you.

  • The emergency fund-  Before you start thinking about growth opportunities from your savings, you must first make sure you have a well padded emergency fund in place.  It is imperative you do not overlook this step or you could find yourself in need of quick cash with all of your savings tied up in long term investments.  In the current economy it is recommended you have at least six month's worth of income in your emergency fund.  
  • High yield savings accounts-  If you are able to meet the eligibility requirements in place for a high yield savings account, this is the best type of account for both your emergency fund as well as other short to mid term savings goals.  In order to offer customers a higher interest rate on savings, this type of account will require a certain minimum balance and restrict the amount of money you can take out of the account each month.  The bank offering this account will have fewer expenses maintaining the account, therefore they can offer a more attractive interest rate. 
  • CD ladder-  A long standing savings strategy includes placing your money in a certificate of deposit.  Unlike a savings account, where your money is easily available, CDs have a maturity date which allows for a higher interest rate to be paid on this type of account.  Unfortunately not all savers can afford to have their assets tied up for a year or longer.  To gain the benefits of a CD without losing the liquidity of your investment, consider a CD ladder.  A CD ladder will start with CDs that mature in a short period of time and build up to CDs that mature several years out.  By doing this you are always within one year of the shortest CD while benefiting from the higher interest rates of long term CDs. 
  • Stock bonds and mutual funds-  If you are willing to give up access to your money for a  longer period of time, you may benefit from investing in stock bonds and mutual funds.  There is a higher risk associated with this type of investment compared to savings accounts and CDs, however the return on your investment could be much higher.  Before investing in stocks or mutual funds, it is important to assess your risk tolerance and long term financial goals. 
There are numerous options available to those who want to grow their savings, each with its own pros and cons. To find the savings strategy that is right for you, consider your short and long term goals, risk tolerance and accessibility to cash.

Special thanks to those filling in while I am on vacation - Article courtesy of Trisha Wagner, a freelance writer for, where you can compare rates of savings accounts from dozens of banks in one place.

There are many simple ways that you and your family can conserve water at home. You’ll see your water bills decrease the more you conserve. The amount of money you can save from conserving water at home depends upon how many people live in your home and the number of water saving techniques you implement. Get started today and see how small changes can make a big difference in your bills.

Before you attempt to improve your water usage habits, set realistic goals for your family. Call a family meeting to discuss the importance of water conservation and highlight the plan you and your family will take to improve your habits. Meet together once a week to review how each person did. Use charts for younger children to track their improvements. Older kids may need some reminders. In fact, at first, I needed to remind myself to implement the changes. But after a few weeks, it all became second nature.

Flickr/cc - bradleygee

The most water used in a home is in the bathroom. There are two things you can do to limit your bathroom water usage. The first, installing water-saving devices, involves just you. The second, improving your habits, involves you and your family.

Install Water-Saving Devices
Installing water-saving devices is simple and quick. There are a few devices which can help reduce your water usage in the bathroom.

1) Low-flow faucet aerators, which can be installed for just a few dollars, can be purchased at any home improvement or plumbing supply store. Low-flow aerators help decrease the amount of water flowing from your faucets.

2) Low-flow shower-heads also decrease the amount of water used by delivering only 1.6 gallons of water per minute (instead of conventional shower heads that deliver 4-5 gallons per minute).

3) Convert your toilet into a dual-flush toilet with an inexpensive flush adapter kit. These kits can be purchased for under $100 and will provide you with a full-flush or half-flush option. If you are in the market for a new toilet, choose a high efficiency toilet with a dual-flush option.

Better Habits
There are several ways to improve your bathroom water usage habits. First, keep a stopwatch in the bathroom and have your kids record the amount of time they use water to brush teeth and take a shower. Offer a reward system for decreased times.

. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can save up to 8 gallons of water per day by doing so.
. Teach your kids to choose showers over baths. My kids started taking showers at age 5 (with assistance). Showers use much less water than baths, as baths typically use 5 times the amount of water that showers do. Toddlers should be encouraged to take baths with limited water. If you teach your children while they are young to use limited bath water, it will become second nature. For teenagers and adults, decrease the time you are in the shower and turn off the water while soaping up and shaving.
. Don’t use the toilet as trash.

. Dish-washing – Turn the faucet off while scrubbing dishes. Turn the faucet back on to rinse them.
. Dishwasher – Use the dishwasher for full loads only. Manually rinse dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. This is a great chore for kids, as you don’t need to worry about the dishes getting washed properly. A manual pre-rinse will help avoid the need to run the pre-wash cycle.
. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge to avoid your kids running the tap while waiting for the water to get cold.

. Encourage everyone in the family to wear un-soiled clothes more than once. This will help contribute to less frequent loads piling up awaiting your washing. This, in turn, will reduce your water usage.
. Always select the proper water level for your loads.
. If you are in the market for a new washing machine, choose an Energy Star approved washer for highest efficiency standards.

Flickr/cc - Dr. Keats

. Limit the amount of time you water your lawn. Water your lawn only in the early morning to avoid quick evaporation from the hot sun.
. Consider harvesting rainwater. It involves collecting and storing rainwater in a barrel and then using it for your lawn and garden. Get your kids involved by creating a rainwater collection system together, including decorating the barrel together. The Web is full of great ideas for doing so.
. Create a low-water landscape: Plant only native and drought-resistant plants, reduce the amount of turf in your yard by placing mulch or planting ground covers and use a drip irrigation system instead of a sprinkler system.

Your kids will learn an invaluable lesson from applying water conservation techniques at home. The lesson will teach them respect for you, for money and for the environment.

Special thanks to those filling in while I am on vacation - Written by Marcy Tate. Marcy is a home improvement blogger at Networx. She works with plumbers on practical ways homeowners can save water.

flickr/cc - mijori
 An expensive part of almost every woman's budget is beauty and personal hygiene. Hair coloring, manicures, and makeup can cost quite the pretty penny each month. But below I've outlined some of my favorite cost saving beauty tricks to keep myself feeling great and the budget in check.

At Home Hair Care

An easy way to save money in the beauty budget is to color your own hair at home. While this sounds daunting, it's not as hard as you think. When choosing a hair color, pick a highlighting cap for soft highlights that blend well with the rest of your hair. These caps have self seals around their perimeter and a rounded rod to pull hair through small pinholes, which allows you to control the amount of hair you want highlighted. Also, root touch-up kits, sold with a small applicator brush, can keep you well colored in between salon appointments. Averaging under $10, these kits are an excellent buy.

Beauty Products

If you're like me, you hate having several semi-full shampoo and conditioner bottles in your shower. More than likely we get close to the bottom and throw the entire bottle away out of sheer inconvenience. Before this happens and we waste several ounces of perfectly good products, try combining all your shampoos to fill one larger bottle, and the same with the conditioners. This simple trick can save you more money than you think. Also, if you're looking to save even dough, try using your shampoo or conditioner while shaving. Products that are thick and creamy, or lather easily could work just as well as traditional shaving gels, lotions, and creams. When it comes to make-up, consider purchasing multi-use products that can serve double duty. For example, a pencil that serves as blush, eye shadow and lip stick simultaneously. Not only will this handy tool save money, it will also save you time.

Nail Care

Getting a manicure regularly can put a burden on your beauty budget. Instead, purchase an at home nail care kit and do the grunt work yourself, like trimming your nails and pushing the cuticles back. These kits can generally run around $10 at any grocery store or pharmacy. After that, head to the salon for a simple polish change. At under $10, this could save you big bucks and still give you the professional "just-manicured" look you love.

Unexpected Remedies

Some of the best kept beauty secrets come from the most unbelievable products. Olive oil and Vaseline, for example, can calm hair frizz, take off makeup, and moisturize dry skin. Also, paper napkins and toilette seat covers are great skin blotters to remove excess oil midday. To rid stinky smells from your favorite pair of shoes, try sprinkling in some baking soda, letting it sit and then vacuuming it out. And to combat cellulite, combine coffee grounds with body lotion and apply it to skin for thirty minutes. This increases circulation and tightens skin.

Armed with these helpful tips and tricks, I hope you can use them to keep your monthly budget and beauty regime in harmony and on track.

Special thanks to those filling in while I am on vacation - This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who writes on the topics of online colleges