Archive for the 'Useless Crap' Category

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Frugal Fail: Can You Put The Bags I Bought In a Free Bag?

 

Because we don’t measure ourselves by the quality of our trash bags

Not only are we into spending wisely and saving money, but we are also into saving the environment.  Unfortunately, I don’t see how fancy biodegradable bags do either.  For those of you that live in areas with community composting or yard/food waste pickup, you need some sort of of biodegradable bag to put your food scraps in.

You can buy 125 of these for $12.99 + tax from Costco.  This works out to about $0.11 a bag.  Or you could buy them from Amazon at about $0.15 a bag.  Either way this is a whole lot more expensive than the free brown paper bags you get at the grocery store.

Spare yourself remembering the “environmentally sustainable” canvas or recycled plastic bags (which you should wash frequently, by the way) and use the free paper bags for biodegradable compost and paper recycling.

Rental Car Thumbnail - Image by Stock.Xchng

13 Ways You Waste Money on Your Car

CBS Money Watch has a fun article on 10 ways to waste money on your car.  This article has all the usual tips, for example: “Don’t buy higher octane fuel than your car needs” and “There is no need to change your oil every 3,000 miles.  Most of these tips are good and if you are new to being frugal, you should definitely check them out.  However, I personally don’t agree with all the tips.  For example:

9. Buying expensive performance tires.

For the average driver, this is probably true, but it really depends on the type of car you drive and how you drive it.  It also depends on what you mean by “performance”.  For example, many modern cars require run flat tires.  Some cars require “performance” tires to maintain stability at highway speeds and in cornering.  So, I would say this tip is fine, as long as you get tires that are at least as good as the OEM or factory recommended specifications.

The second tip I disagree with is Tip #10:

10. Paying for built-in navigation.

Yes, the average built-in navigation system will set you back and additional $1500 to $4000.  However, what the author forgets is that in many cars the “navigation options” is actually the “computer controlled everything option”.  Many cars now integrate the radio, alarm, climate control, system monitoring, Bluetooth phone support, reverse camera / sensor and much more into their “navigation system”.  So it is important that you compare apples-to-apples when following this tip.  The $200 TomTom VIA 1505TM 5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator with Lifetime Traffic & Maps will give you great navigation, but it won’t tell you what song you are listening to or if something is behind you when you are backing up.

Finally, while probably good advice, Tip #3 in the article is pretty inaccurate:

3. Failing to change your air filter. “If you have not changed your air filter by about 40,000 miles, it is probably clogged and hurting your gas mileage,” says George Sadowski. That MPG penalty could be as much as 10% to 15%, he estimates. So if your mechanic recommends a fresh filter after about 25,000 miles, say yes.

The EPA released a study back in 2009 saying that in modern cars, with computer controlled fuel injection, the air filter only benefits acceleration and has no benefit on MPG.  However, for older cars with carburetors, there is a benefit as noted:

Tests suggest that replacing a clogged air filter on an older car with a carbureted engine may improve fuel economy 2 to 6 percent under normal replacement conditions or up to 14 percent if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects drivability.

 

To replace these two tips, I will give you few quick tips of my own on how to stop wasting money on your car:

  • Make sure your tire pressure is correct – This is probably one the simplest and cheapest ways to save gas and increase tire longevity.
  • Skip the vanity plate – The extra $50+ is probably better in a savings account or paying off debt.
  • Don’t over insure your vehicle – Make sure you are not paying for more insurance than you need.  If you have an emergency fund, raise your auto insurance deductible and get rid of the rental car reimbursement insurance.  These quick changes could save you a few hundred a year.

10 Ways You Waste Money on Your Car | CBS Money Watch

 

Photo Credit: Stig Nygaard

By Stock.Xchng #1223567

Coupons, with a Side of Obsession and Fraud

Coupon Crazy

Extreme Couponing is on the rise. TLC even has a TV show about it:

For those in the mood for a great review and entertaining rant about TLC’s Extreme Couponing, I recommend this post over at Scratchbomb.com: Extreme Couponing Induces Extreme Vomiting.  Matthew makes excellent points and I agree almost everything he has to say.  I particularly agree with the following:

  1. There is virtually no such thing as a coupon for decent food. There are no coupons for “bananas” or “organic chicken” or “fresh vegetables”. These extreme couponers are stocking up almost exclusively on packaged or frozen food, loaded with preservatives, salt, hormones, and a billion other horrible things. It’s all Franken-food, the absolute worst shit imaginable. Not a lot of salad in these people’s shopping carts, but a whole lot of things stuffed with cheese and/or skewered on sticks.
  2. The goal for most of these people appears to be not feeding/supplying their families, but accumulating the most stuff for as little money as possible, then shoving those things into every corner of their house, then building more corners in their house into which things can be stuffed. The line between “extreme couponer” and “hoarder” is extremely thin–if such a line exists.

Unfortunately, like many fast growing national obsessions, Extreme Couponing has its cases of scams and frauds.  Frugal Confessions has a interesting article on how relatively widespread coupon fraud has become.

Once I began researching, I was very surprised to find the problem is more widespread and costly than just a few consumers getting away with free products. Just in the month of May 2011 there were 25 counterfeit coupons posted on the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) website with various rewards being offered from the manufacturing companies for the successful prosecution of individuals responsible for producing the counterfeit coupon.

For those that are new to being frugal at the grocery store, consider reading: 5 Sneaky Price Tricks Your Grocer Doesn’t Want You To Know.

Before you start going crazy with the coupons, you might want to consider Extreme Couponing? 5 Reasons Why I’ll Pass.  Here Paul, explains 5 big issues with the practice.  Of his five reasons, 3 out of the 5 have to do with time:

1. It’s a Full-Time Commitment

3. You Become a Slave to Coupons

4. You Spend Hours at the Grocery Store

I use coupons all the time, but I take a basic time/value equation into account when I do.  For example, if I spend 2 minutes finding a coupon that can save me $3 off something I was going to buy anyway, this is effectively like earning $90 an hour.  Or perhaps I spend 20 minutes digging for a 10% off coupon for a on a major purchase — if this saves me $150 off a $1000 purchase, my effective hourly rate is now $450 an hour.  It works for small purchases too.  For example, Redbox always has codes available at sites like Inside Redbox; here it will literally take less than 60 seconds to find a coupon that could save you a $1.  This works out to $60 an hour, which is definitely worth the time.

So please, go find those discounts, but don’t make it your full time job or obsession and be sure you make a time/value calculation when you do it.  Perhaps your time is better spend learning something new or working to get a promotion or better career or maybe even spending more time with your family.

 

Photo Credit: Dmdonahoo

 

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Beware of Work-At-Home Scams

One way to make living below your means easier is to increase your means (aka make more money).  Unfortunately, far too many people believe there is an easy way to do this and are all too willing to fork over cash for the “privilege” to do so.

While looking through a bunch of cool Info Graphics, I stumbled upon this one.  It is a pretty cool graphic explaining the pitfalls of the various “work at home” scams out there on the Internet.  The basic tips for these things always apply:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is
  • If you have to pay up front or pay to work, it’s probably a scam
  • Starting a business and making money is hard work, don’t think otherwise
  • If you see a pop-up ad, or a sign on the side of the road that is basically saying “you can make more money than you are now, for less effort” its a scam.  If these deals were so great, nobody would be telling you about them and they certainly wouldn’t need to spend their money advertising how great they are.

Enjoy!

 

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Frugal Fail: You put that on your face?

It seems to be a pretty common Internet myth that inkjet printer toner is “the most expensive liquid known to man” or very close to it.  While it is indeed expensive, with HP Black # selling for $20.48 per 19ML or $1.05 per ML, there are definitely more expensive liquids out there.  This site, for example, has a great list of liquids ranging from almost free to incredibly expensive.

Fortunately, it would seem that things we need to sustain life are relatively inexpensive when compared to things we want for enjoyment and vanity.  Liquids that can save and prolong our lives range widely from very affordable (Penicillin) to amazingly expensive (Interferon).  This aligns nicely with the basic laws of supply and demand.  It also sometimes correlates well to the amount of effort, cost and energy it takes to produce the items.

However, if we take the Interferon and scorpion venom off the list, perfume and skin/eye/face creams are at the top, costing significantly more than things like blood, medicine, milk, oil and pretty much every other liquid you might buy on a daily basis.

We here at BYM don’t pretend to understand the qualities of such fragrances and creams.  What we do know is that they cost a heck of a lot and unless these creams are actually made from the virgin tears of baby pandas and clinically are proven to actually make you younger, we can’t see spending $1000 for 1.7oz or $20 per ML of magic elixir.  In defense of this cream, it does have the words “platinum” and “rare” in its name… so that does imply it has a great deal of value.  We would also like to call out that during our research we found that if the product has the word “serum” in it, it costs even more.  This gem alone is $21.50 per ML. 

The simple fact of the matter is that time stops for nobody and these creams and fragrances will not let you live another day longer.  Our recommendation is to stop caring how good you smell or how wrinkly you look and save your money.  Better yet, if you are rich enough to truly afford a $1000 an ounce of cream, perhaps you should consider giving a little more to charity or perhaps spend your money and the time you have left on unbelievable once in a lifetime experiences.   Even if you aren’t ultra-wealthy, if you want to live below your means, be very careful of “aspirational purchases.”  Sure you can pay for the $120 cream or perfume, but can you afford it? And if you can, do you want to?  Maybe you should get the $18 cream and put the $100 or so you save into memorable experiences or savings. 

Here is a more detailed chart of expensive liquids:

Just for fun, if you actually want to buy some pure scorpion venom you can go here and get it for $3500 for 100/mg.  For more information on the scorpion venom dosage I used, go here.

It costs a lot to be lazy…

We just got back from a trip to wonderful Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, HI. It was a lot of fun all around and I would definitely recommend the trip. Of course, I took maximum advantage of Visa’s 25% off Hilton stay promotion, discount coupon + bonus miles at the off site airport parking, as well as saver fares and free upgrades on Alaska Airlines. I used the money I “saved” on a nice dinner, a trip to the spa (20% off course), surfing lessons, snorkeling, SCUBA diving (10% off) and overpriced drinks by the pool.

One thing I did NOT spend my money on was room service. Here’s the story – It was about 9PM and I had a craving for something sweet. I flip open my room service catalog and turned to the dessert section. There I found an array of highly priced items such as ice cream, cookies and pie… all ranging from $9 to $18 in price. Deciding I could “splurge” on the $10 bowl of ice cream, I proceeded to read the fine print. There I found that “all room service orders are subject to a 18% service charge and a $6 delivery charge”. WOW!

This means my $10 bowl of ice cream was actually going to cost me $10 + 18% + $6 or $17.80. Who on earth pays these prices? Let’s break it down:

  • The “raw” ice cream probably costs about $1 (Being generous here)
  • The service, cart, bowl and staff to deliver this probably costs $4 (Being generous here)
  • Let’s say that by default the hotel wants to make $5 profit (!)
  • Now slap on $1.80 in “service charges” – which if it is like the Spa is split between the house and the staff.
  • Now slap on $6 in “delivery charges” – This is the killer to me, room service by definition is delivered and is why the ice cream costs $10 instead of $5. Adding on this additional fee is just plan greedy IMO.

Anyway, I decided to take the elevator down and walk about 4 minutes to the local ice cream parlor where I had a waffle cone and two scoops for $7.

Virtually below your means…

One of my pet peeves in marketing is the word “virtually”. It is used more often than you might think and it is designed fool people into thinking they are getting a better deal, savings, plan, whatever than they actually are. You hear it in commercials all the time:

  • “Virtually no claim forms”
  • “Virtually no down payment”
  • “Virtually no risk to you”
  • “Virtually cost free”

Dictionary.com defines “virtually” as:

vir⋅tu⋅al⋅ly   [vur-choo-uh-lee] –adverb
for the most part; almost wholly; just about: He is virtually unknown.

So now let me translate those offers that seemed to good to be true for you.

  • “Virtually no claim forms” – There ARE claim forms
  • “Virtually no down payment” – There IS a down payment
  • “Virtually no risk to you” – There IS risk to you
  • “Virtually cost free” – There IS a cost

Cheers,