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Money Coach

March 2012 - Posts

  • Gas prices to skyrocket this summer – get the app to help you find cheap gas

    Gas prices in 2011 were touted as the most expensive, on average, ever. The average cost per gallon, nationwide, was around $3.51 for the year.


    Typically, gas prices peak in the summer months, or around Memorial Day. This year's national average is expected to be $3.86 to $4.13 by Memorial Day. Some experts have predicted prices will rise to well over $4.25 a gallon by mid-summer.


    With prices like that looming, consumers everywhere will be clamoring for the cheapest gas prices in town. If you are looking to squeeze every penny you can out of each fill-up, they you will want to know which smartphone apps are the best for finding the cheapest gas. Here are some of the best apps currently available. 


    • GasBuddy – Based on your GPS location, GasBuddy operates by the user pressing a green gas pump button on the screen labeled, "Find Gas Near Me." The app then shows you prices in your area so you can compare. The app is free.


    • Fuel Finder – This app isn't free, but comes with more than just the "find me gas" feature. There's a feature, "On Fumes" that shows you the closest stations to you if you are running out of gas. The app can also tell you whether the price listed is worth the drive to fill-up; it tells you how many dollars per tank you'll save, so you'll be able to decide if you should make the effort.


    • GasHog is only 99 cents, and will allow you to enter your odometer reading and the amount of fuel each time you fill up, and it calculates your fuel economy. It doesn't point out the cheapest gas, but it does help you spend more wisely.


    • GasBook – This free app shows you cheap gas and cheap lodging near you, wherever you are, based on your GPS location.


    • Gas Stations – This Android app allows you to input your location and how far you're willing to drive to get cheap gas. You can also save gas stations you like as a Favorite for your return trips.


    The only glitch with these apps is that they don't account for cash vs. credit. Some stations offer a discount when you use cash, or they'll charge more if you use a credit card. Some of the apps, like GasBuddy, are adding to the application the flexibility to see both prices. 


    Posted Mar 29 2012, 11:55 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Plant a garden this spring, pick veggies and fruits this summer, and count your savings in the fall

    Back in the 1940s, they had victory gardens. In the 1970s, there was the back to the land movement. And these days, it's edible landscaping.


    Whatever you call it, growing your own food is a great way to save money, whether you grow food in containers on your deck, are part of a community garden effort, or even if you grow your plants right out front where everyone can see them, alongside your roses.


    Eating more fruits and veggies is a great way to stay healthy – they're loaded with vitamins and minerals our bodies need. The best way to make sure you get a good range of fruits and veggies in your diet is to eat a "rainbow" – it's also a great way to plan your edible landscaping.


    Red veggies and fruits include strawberries, tomatoes, watermelons, raspberries, apples, radishes, beets and red peppers. These contain lycopene and anthocyanins, which strengthen collagen proteins in the body, improve memory, and prevent lung, prostate and stomach cancer.


    Orange veggies and fruits include carrots, squash, pumpkins, melons and sweet potatoes. These healthy nuggets contain beta carotene and liminoids, which protect against chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. They can also help reduce the risk of cataracts and lung cancer, and decrease cholesterol levels.


    Yellow fruits and veggies like yellow peppers, corn, beans and yellow squash contain liminoids, beta carotene and zeaxanthin, which helps protect against chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. They are also good for the eyes and can decrease high cholesterol and help prevent tumors in the colon, *** and prostate glands.


    Green fruits and veggies contain lutein, saponins and glucosinolates, which help preserve your eyesight, and maintain heart and skin health, as well as help prevent prostate cancer and lower lipid levels. Get your green by eating spinach, collard greens, broccoli, kale, tomatillos, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage and bak choy. 


    Blueberries, grapes and plums fall into the blue group, and contain anthocyanins. These helpful fruits can help strengthen your collagen protein, lower you blood pressure, and prevent colon, cervical and prostate cancer. 


    Last in the rainbow are the purple veggies like purple cabbage, purple onion and eggplant. These all contain anthocyanins and flavonoids, which can strengthen your collagen proteins and prevent cancer, as well as provide anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits. 


    You may spend a few dollars on seeds, plants and supplies each spring, but the fruits and vegetables you produce will save you hundreds of dollars each year on your grocery bill. 

    Posted Mar 22 2012, 11:49 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Make a rain barrel, catch some spring rain – And watch your savings climb

    It's spring – and for many homeowners, that means it's time to plant flowers in their yards, and vegetables in the garden. If you have a garden, whether it's just ornamental or you use it to feed your family, you know that watering, particularly during the summer months, can get expensive. Here's one way to help defray some of that cost.


    If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain in the spring, as well as afternoon showers in the summer, consider setting up a rain barrel. It's an inexpensive way to capture water for your lawn and garden, and you can even use the water to wash your car. 


    And here's an added bonus: By capturing the rainwater coming off your roof, you'll reduce storm water runoff, and that helps to prevent erosion and flooding on your property. 


    You can pick up a rain barrel at any lawn and garden store for about $80 to $150 – you'll get the money back in savings on your water bill. But it's even better to build your own barrel, and pocket the savings. 


    Just get a 55 gallon drum or trash can. Drill a hole for the faucet down low, but not so low that you can't attach a hose or place a watering can under it. Carefully screw the faucet into the drum to create the threads needed to hold it in place. Unscrew it, and apply a thin line of caulk around the edge of the hole. Place a reducing washer over the hole, with the caulk acting as the adhesive. Be sure to place the raised portion of the washer against the barrel. Once the washer is in place and the caulk has hardened, screw your faucet back into place.


    But don't forget about the inside of the hole. You have to create a seal there as well.  Run a line of caulk around the hole on the inside of the barrel, and add another reducing washer. Once the washer is in place, screw on a lock nut to secure the faucet. 


    Plan for overflow with your barrel. Some people install a spout at the top as well, while others just let the spillover do just that – spill over. 


    The last step to create the barrel is to add tight mesh mosquito screen under the lid of the barrel to let the water in, but keep the bugs and other critters out. 


    Set your barrel up so that your downspout flows directly into it. You may need to shorten the downspout to do so. Make sure your barrel is on level ground: this is very important. A full barrel can weigh up to 450 pounds; you don't want it tipping over on you. 


    Once you start getting some rain, you'll start to see the savings. And that savings will add up while the rain falls down...

    Posted Mar 15 2012, 11:55 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Save money by doing your spring cleaning with a do-it-yourself green cleaning kit

    It's spring time, and for most people, that means spring cleaning. But with pollen and other allergens in the air, why add to your list of irritants by using chemical-ridden cleaners in your home? Instead, opt this year for green products you can make yourself. The added bonus is that since you make them yourself, you'll save a ton of money.


    Most cleaning products you see in the stores today use toxic chemicals that can damage your home and the things in it over time, as well as cause harm to your skin and your lungs – and as an added bonus, by making your own products, you'll wind up paying about one-tenth of what you'd pay for the commercial brands.


    What you'll need to have on hand to make your own green cleaning kit is baking soda, washing soda, white distilled vinegar, a good liquid soap or detergent, tea tree oil, six clean spray bottles and 2 glass jars. 


    For a soft scrubber to clean your tub and bathroom surfaces, mix about 1/2 cup of baking soda in a bowl with enough liquid detergent to make it look like frosting. Use a sponge to scoop and apply it to your shower walls, sink and tub to wash these surfaces. It rinses easily and doesn't leave grit. You can add a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store it in a sealed glass jar to keep the product moist for next time.


    To clean your windows, mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of liquid detergent with 3 tablespoons of vinegar, and 2 cups of water, then pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Shake it up and use it to clean your windows, and glass and mirrored surfaces.


    To clean your oven, sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, and then cover the grime with enough baking soda to make the surface completely white. Sprinkle some water over the top and let it sit overnight. You can wipe away the grime easily the next morning. Once the bulk of the grime has been removed, you can use a little liquid detergent to wash the rest of the oven.


    You can make your own all-purpose spray cleaner by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of washing soda with a dab of liquid soap and 2 cups of hot tap water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. 


    To make your own furniture polish, mix 1/2 teaspoon olive or jojoba oil, and 1/4 vinegar or fresh lemon juice in a glass jar, and shake well. Apply them to wood surfaces using a soft rag. This mixture can be stored and used indefinitely.


    If you keep a clean spray bottle filled with 95 percent water, 5 percent vinegar, you can use it as a natural deodorizer. You can clean your cutting board with it, as well as the toilet bowl rim.


    At one time or another, everyone has to deal with mold. But most of the cures are hard to take and hard to use. Nothing works as well as this natural spray. Mix 2 teaspoons tea tree oil with 2 cups water in a spray bottle and shake. Spray it on problem areas, but do not rinse. 


    You can also pour distilled white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray it onto moldy areas and leave it. The smell will dissipate in a few hours. 


    All of these cleaning mixtures are safe for you and your family, as well as your pets. And while you are taking care of your home and Mother Earth, you'll save some money as well. It's a win-win.

    Posted Mar 08 2012, 11:00 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Learn how to squeeze your medical costs down to size

    The cost of medical care is often overwhelming. For many people, the current economy has forced them to drop their health insurance, and therefore medical care is out of reach or limited, at best. But there are some ways you can save some money on your health care costs.


    If you do have insurance, make sure you understand what you've got. Many health care plans cover extras like therapy, alternative care, gym visits or phone consults with a nurse practitioner. It also pays to know which doctors and hospitals accept your insurance as well.


    For children, your best best may be the State Children's Health Insurance Program. You can find out if you qualify by going online at cms.hhs.gov/home/chip.asp.


    Haggling over cost can save you some serious cash also. You haggle over a car or the cost of a home, right? Why not see if there is some wiggle room on the price tag of your health care? Compare the cost of a test or procedure before you go in, and ask for the billing code, so you're getting an accurate cost. You can compare what doctors are billing at ama.assn.org. You should also offer to pay in cash, in total. This can save you from 20 to 50 percent.


    Drugs are another huge expense. If you can, go generic. You can check to see if what you are currently taking is available in generic form at Rxaminer.com. You can also ask your doctor for higher dosage pills, then split them in half, which will give you twice the medication for the price. Check to see if you can get your drugs by mail order – this can save you up to 40 percent on costs.


    Keep abreast of community events, and if there's a health fair being held locally, take advantage of the free tests that are offered. You can get blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings, as well as eye exams and bone density tests.


    Last of all, when you do receive treatment, ask for an itemized bill and go over it carefully. Errors on medical care bills are more common than you think, so you should double check your statement.

    Posted Mar 01 2012, 11:48 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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