Sunday, December 29, 2013

Returning and Regifting: A Guide to Making the Most Out of Your Gifts


It's a few days after Christmas and you've opened up all your gifts.  Most likely there are quite a few that you really like, but there are going to be a couple that you don't really care for, you already have, or they just aren't for you.  Now I'm going to approach a subject that gets much controversy . . . returning and regifting.  There are some people, like my fiance, who believe that no gift should be done away with, no matter how awful.  He feels it's rude because they put time and effort into choosing that gift and he also worries that they will ask about it in the future.  My thoughts are, that everybody wants their giftees to enjoy their gifts to the fullest, sometimes that means getting something else in its place.  What good is a gift if it just sits in the closet collecting dust?  I'd much rather do SOMETHING with it.  So here are some ideas:





Return
This is simple.  If you know where the gift is from, simply return it.  You won't be able to get cash back for it because you don't have the original receipt but you can get store credit and just get something else for the same value.  If the gift doesn't expressly say on it what store it is from, you have to play the guessing game.  Look up the bar-code number online and see what stores sell it and if there aren't too many, give them a try.  You might get lucky.



Regift
If you can't figure out where the item came from or it doesn't have a very high value, consider giving it as a gift to somebody else.  For some reason, this area has even more of a negative view on it but I see it as the same.  Why not give it to somebody who will actually get use out of it?  (And it's a bonus that you don't have to spend money on that person.  Is that terribly rude?  idk)  Or, if the gift is particularly hideous, it could make a good gag or white elephant gift.  The perfect regifting item to me are those scented sets of lotions, gels, etc.  I'm not into those things that much but they do make great gifts for people you don't know all that well.



Sell
If you can't do either of those and you are determined to get rid of the gift, you can consider selling it.  Check out my post on selling your items here.



Selling Gift Cards
Now this is an unusual section.  Gift cards are great and they're usually something for people that don't know what to get you to be able for you to get something you really want.  But sometimes the gift cards you get are for stores you don't frequent or can't really get something you really need or want.  There are sites that buy gift cards from you for cash.  You can't get full face value, but if you really can't get anything at that store, that may still be worth more to you.  You don't want to buy something you don't want just to use up a gift card.  You can usually get 90% more of the value on the card.  Check out cardpool.



I hope this list helps and I also hope it didn't offend anybody.  The way I see it, for the gifts I give people, I don't mind them returning it because I want them to be able to enjoy something.  You wouldn't want to give somebody money and then have them just keep that money in the closet would you?  What are your thoughts on returning gifts?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wrapping Gifts and Throwing Money Away

As Christmas in in a couple days, most of us will be wrapping gifts.  Unfortunately, gift wrap can add on quite a few dollars to the cost of a gift.  So here's a couple suggestions to save money to be able to spend it on what's more important . . .  the gift!



The Dollar Store
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The dollar store is a great place to buy all your present wrapping needs!  It's ridiculous the cost of wrapping paper at regular stores . . . it's paper for goodness sake, how much can it cost to make?!  And don't even get me started on the Hallmark store.  That place is like walking into an overpriced nightmare.  Why spend a lot of money on something that will just be ripped up and thrown away?  What else do I need to say?

Reuse
Now I'm not going to tell you to reuse wrapping paper.  Nobody likes the person that carefully opens their gift and folds the paper neatly -- tear it up!  (It should be dollar paper so it doesn't matter!)

Gift bags on the other hand, now those can definitely be reused!  They're a double-edged sword because they're the easy way out and I don't think they look as cool, but sometimes it's necessary and I also love the fact that they can be reused for many years.

Tissue paper is something that most people don't think about reusing.  But in gift bags, there are often many pieces of tissue paper that go unharmed.  I just make sure there are no tears in them and then fold them up nicely.  You can even keep them with the bag they came in since they probably are a nice color match and then you already have it all ready to go!

You can usually get a clothing box with your purchase from the store for free, just add some ribbons to it.  These can also be reused if you receive some with your gifts!

Bows and ribbons can also be reused.  Fabric ribbons are great because they can be reused for many years.  But even the paper stick on bows can be used more than once.  If it isn't sticky anymore, just roll up a piece of scotch tape to stick it on!

Other Materials
Now I don't normally do this because I do like wrapping paper and gift bags, but especially if you have some eco-friendly people that you need to wrap gifts for, think about using other materials that you would normally be throwing out like newspaper and magazines.  I've also seen paper and plastic bags cleverly used.  If you quilt or do other sewing projects and have leftover pieces of fabric, this can be used to wrap gifts in.  Also, instead of using a gift bag, think about using something that can be used for other purposes afterwards like a jar or basket.  Get creative!  Let me know of any other neat ideas!

   




Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bing Rewards

This week I'm going to be talking about something I just learned about a few days ago: Bing Rewards.  I'm sure a lot of you have heard of Bing, it's a search engine that has really been advertising and trying to compete with Google.  They have a test, Bing It On, where you try 5 searches and choose between two screens (Google and Bing) of which results you like better.  Honestly, I chose Google more times, 3 out of 5.  I don't know if I've been using Google so long that I'm just trained to like it or what but regardless, I have switched my search engine to Bing because of the rewards program they have.  (Want to try the Bing It On Test?  Click here)


Bing Rewards is simple -- they reward you for searching through Bing.  You get a reward point for every two searches made (up to 30 a day) and reward points can be redeemed for a number of options, primarily gift cards.  Now if you're like me, you use the computer a lot and search for things multiple times a day.  Why not get rewarded for something you already do all the time?  As I said before, I actually prefer Google's results for the most part, but generally I can find what I'm looking for on Bing and if not,  just go back to Google for that one search.

On the Bing Rewards dashboard, they also have really easy tasks to get more rewards points.  Simple!

Some of the redemptions offered are entries into sweepstakes drawings.  Don't be tempted to throw away your reward points!  I always think it's funny that with many rewards programs some of the things offered to be redeemed are entries into sweepstakes, what a waste!  There are plenty of ways to enter sweepstakes that are free, just do those.  You might as well get something useful out of the rewards.  I'm aiming towards the $5 Amazon Gift Card, because that's what I use the most.

Like the idea?  Sign up for it here: http://www.bing.com/explore/rewards  (Guess what?  You get rewards for referrals too!)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Decorating with a Budget

Most of my posts during the holiday season so far have been about shopping, and understandably so.  But today I want to talk about decorating, another fun aspect of the holidays.  This is relevant to most people because even if you aren't someone who decorates for every holiday, most people decorate at least some for the winter holidays.  A lot of times, the whole house gets transformed -- inside and out.  But that can be expensive.  Here's a few tips on where to find cheaper holiday decorations:

1. The Dollar Store
I've talked about it before and I'll say it again.  This is one of the best places to get holiday decorations because they're so cheap!  I know a lot of you think that because it's so cheap, the quality of the products are cheap too.  That's not true!  I understand not getting your lights from there, though I still trust it (they even have LED lights!), but there are many other decorations that are not electronic that are just as good of quality.  Especially paper products that you are going to throw out every year.  Take a look at what the Dollar Tree has to offer: Dollar Tree Holiday Decorations
holiday decorations



2. Thrift Stores
You may be thinking I'm crazy, but people do donate decorations to thrift stores.  Go take a look!  I've bought a huge box full of ornaments for super cheap -- it was for a project which I'm going to talk about next:

3. Make Your Own
There are all kinds of fun ideas to make your own decorations which would also make a fun family project!  Here's one of my favorites (they also make great gifts!).  Just go to the dollar store or thrift store (or after Christmas when they're on sale) to get a bunch of ornaments and and then head to your local craft store for a few other supplies:
http://www.livelovediy.com/2013/11/how-to-make-christmas-ornament-wreath.html

There are all kinds of color combinations you can do:



Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber Monday

So after my rant about disliking Black Friday, I want to say how much I LOVE Cyber Monday.  As stated before, I love online shopping, and I even love it more during the holidays because it saves a lot of time and hassle.  What is Cyber Monday you ask?  It's the online equivalent to Black Friday.  The biggest proponent of this is Amazon. (Again, I talk about Amazon a lot but it's for a reason).

So check out your favorite online stores and see what kind of sales they have.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday . . . Is It Worth It?

Sorry I didn't post over the weekend like I normally do, things have been crazy busy for me.  Today's post is going to be a little different than normal.  Usually I post about ways to save money but keep in mind it's EASY ways to save money.  This post we're going to think about Black Friday . . . probably the most savings you can get on any item for one day only.  But I don't advocate it, at all.

Why I wanted to write a little something about it is because over the weekend, I heard on the news that people were already starting to camp out in front of stores like Best Buy for Black Friday deals.  I'm sorry, what?!!!  A week before people are lining up?!  That's just crazy.
Black Friday camping

Why I don't like this?  Well first of all, it is not an EASY way to save money.  You have to camp out in the freezing cold and brave getting trampled to death to really get the good deals.  Not worth it in my opinion.
Black Friday crowd

Second, and most importantly, this takes away from Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is supposed to all be about relaxing and being with family.  We as a culture have become so materialistic, we are doing away with a tradition about GIVING THANKS for what we have instead to get more for cheap, cheap, cheap!
Save Thanksgiving

So that's my rant about Black Friday.  I don't do it.  In fact, once Christmas shopping season starts, you will hardly ever see me near big stores and don't even think about the mall!  I try to do all my shopping online so that way I don't have to deal with trying to find parking, dealing with the pushing and shoving, waiting in line forever.  Plus, you can usually find something more customized for each person.

Well, I don't want to leave you all with no tips on how to save money.  So here's the "Black Friday" that I take part in: Shop Amazon - Black Friday Deals Week - Big Savings, No Waiting

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bridal Fairs

So today I just got back from my first bridal fair outing.  Now I'm totally exhausted and a little on overload of wedding stuff BUT the good thing about bridal fairs: the discounts and the giveaways.  Getting tickets for the fairs are usually cheap, $5 - $10, but regardless, it's easy to find coupon codes to get free tickets which is exactly what I did.

Now even though I haven't picked anything out yet for my wedding, I didn't really go to shop.  I went to get discounts and to be entered into drawings.  Almost all vendors have giveaways for a wide variety of services, many that are worth quite a bit, also there are generally some overall large giveaways like a honeymoon.  But even if you don't win any prizes, there are a lot of discounts. 

Another plus: the fashion shows.  But not exactly for the reason you'd expect.  I realized that the real plus was seeing what dresses were difficult to walk in.  Obviously you don't want to be worried about tripping on your gown walking down the aisle.  Yikes!



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Amazon Prime: A Great Deal!

This week I am going to be talking about one of my favorite deals, Amazon Prime.  Why is it one of my favorites?  It's because it combines two things I love: online shopping and movie/TV watching into one great deal!


What is Amazon Prime?  Simply put, it's an instant streaming service like Netflix and it also gives you free two day shipping on Amazon products.

How much does it cost?  It's a yearly membership fee of $79.  That's only $6.50/mo.


Why I like it so much:
  • I do a lot of online shopping.  It's so much easier -- you can do it anytime you want, at the convenience of your own home, search through thousands of products to find the thing that exactly suits your needs, and it gets delivered right to your front door.  Amazon is one of my favorite online retailers because they have such a large selection at amazing prices.  The only drawback of online shopping is having to pay for shipping but Amazon Prime eliminates that problem.
  • I love watching TV and movies and I really love doing it without commercials.  Amazon Prime is a great instant streaming source with plenty of options.  As with any streaming service, it excels in some areas and doesn't in others.  It definitely has more newer selections in TV than in movies and doesn't have quite the selection as some other streaming services but it does offer some that other major competitors don't.  Plus it's cheaper per month and you get the free shipping.  
Like what you're hearing?  Click here for a free 30 day trial!   Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Getting Engaged? Try an Antique Ring!

So I have some fabulous news . . . I got engaged last weekend!  So you can expect a few blogs on saving money on weddings, though I don't want to post too much of that because this isn't a wedding blog.

Here's a picture of my beautiful ring:
antique ring

 It was his great-grandmother's ring.  I love it so much and couldn't have asked for something more me!


So, if you are planning on getting engaged I highly advise thinking about an antique ring, even if you don't have an heirloom ring to give away (obviously that saves you a lot of money!).

Why an antique ring?  Well first of all, they're a lot cheaper and I only list that first because this is a blog about saving money.  There are a few other (and more important) reasons though.
  • They are unique.  In my ring, the flowers in the band were hand crafted.  You're not going to find that today.
  • They can be worth a lot more.  You can usually find nicer quality stones and metals since they were easier to find a long time ago!  And this is done at a fraction of the price of a normal ring.
Need I say more?  Why get a ring that looks like everyone else's cookie-cutter rings, when you can have a unique piece of history?  But maybe that's just me.


Now that you're engaged, check out my posts on how to save money while planning your wedding starting with: Setting a Wedding Budget












Saturday, October 26, 2013

Make Money by Selling Your Old Stuff

Lately my dad and I have been cleaning the house and finding tons of old things that we don't use anymore or never really needed in the first place.  Some of them are even still in the original packaging!  And I know we aren't the only people that have things lying around that we don't need anymore.  But instead of throwing it away, sell it!  And I'm talking about every little thing.  Somebody out there wants it.  You should see the types of things that sell on ebay, even used gift cards with no balance left (I guess people collect them, but that's weird to me).

But how should you sell your things?  Well there are several options and that all depends on what you are trying to sell, how many things you are trying to sell, how much you want to get for it, and what your own selling preferences are.  Here's a list of some of the ways to sell things, what it's best for, and the pros and cons.

Garage Sale
Garage SaleNow this is not one that I have experience with but obviously most people now what a garage sale is and how it works.  You have to be willing to part with items for very cheap, but if you have a lot of things to sell, it can be worth it.  Make sure you set up early because that's when the real shoppers come out.  And also it pays to advertise (yes that means you might have to invest some money into advertising but it will attract a lot more people and get you more money in the end).

What it's best for: Selling large volumes of things.  
Pros: You can sell a lot of your things quickly
Cons: You have to give up your Saturday or Sunday.  You have to pay for advertising.


Sell on EbayEbay
This is what I use most often.  Take a look at all the things I'm selling: http://www.ebay.com/usr/dancecarmenh.  Now ebay's not for everyone.  It takes a lot of practice learning how to get your items noticed, learning how much to charge for everything, etc.  But I've been doing it for many years and like it because it just takes a little time to set up and then I just have to wait.  Do all those things sell right away?  Certainly not.  I've had to relist things many times but eventually it sells (like I said, somebody out there wants it).  You get 50 free listings a month.  I only sell small items on here because I'm nervous about pricing the shipping for large items.  If there are a lot of similar items for sale, I make sure mine is the lowest price at least by a few cents.  This gets it more noticed since most people put them in order by price and usually that will start a bidding war that will drive up the price by the end of the selling period.  I may do a more in-depth look at how to sell on ebay later but this is just an overview.

What it's best for: Selling small items
Pros: Once you get the hang of it, it's really simple.  You're in control of prices.
Cons: You can lose money if you don't plan correctly.  Sometimes you have to deal with annoying people.


Amazon Listing
sell on AmazonI listed my first things on Amazon a couple months ago and still haven't sold them so it's a learning process.  Take a look: My Amazon Listings.  Why I chose to list these on Amazon?  Apparently they're worth a lot of money and they're my guinea pigs.  So far, I'm not liking it because it's taking so long to sell.  But it might be worth the more money I will get than the price I would have listed it on ebay.  There are a lot of restrictions and rules on Amazon as to what you can and cannot sell as an individual and it has to sell for quite a few dollars to be worth it, unlike ebay which you can make money by selling things cheaply.

What it's best for: Selling things that are worth a lot.
Pros: Amazon gives you the price for shipping which should definitely cover it.  Large base of customers that trust this site more than one like ebay.
Cons: Can take a long time to sell.  Fees are more expensive than on ebay.


Sell to Amazon
Ever look at an item on Amazon and it said, "Sell Us Your Item"?  For certain items (I've generally seen it for electronics), Amazon wants to buy them from you to resell.  You only get Amazon credit not cash but it is quick and easy and they pay for shipping.  Generally you can get more money by selling it yourself, but it is easier.
What it's best for: Selling things quickly.
Pros: Quick and easy and hassle-free.  Don't have to deal with buyers.
Cons: They give you far less than it's worth.


Other places to sell things:
  • Used movie, CD, book, and game stores often buy your old media.  Only worth it if you have a lot of items because they just give you around $1 or less per item (Check out Rasputin in the Bay Area)
  • For books, especially textbooks, check out book buyback sites.  It's instantaneous and they pay for shipping.  Bookscouter.com compiles a list of places for you.
  • For furniture, try antique stores and used furniture stores.  They buy items too.
  • For jewelery, if the piece is unique then go to antique stores.  If it's generic, you're probably better off selling it to places that buy for the gold or silver and gemstones.  Make sure you shop around though.
  • For large items, Craigslist.  Good old craigslist.  Be cautious on this site, but it's great for things like large furniture, bikes, cars, etc. that have to be sold locally.

 Taking the time to clean stuff out and sell it can make you quite a few extra dollars.  Let me know of any other ways you like to sell your old stuff or any areas you might like me to explore further.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sign Up For Those Reward Programs . . . It Can't Hurt!

A couple days ago I stopped off at CVS Pharmacy quickly for one item.  At the checkout, the clerk asked if I had a CVS card.  I do have one and usually have it ready to go but I was in a hurry and only had one item that I knew didn't have a reduced price and I would have to dig through my purse to find it.  I did get it out, though frustratingly, and low and behold under my receipt printed out 6 coupons. (A couple of which I plan on using.  But be wise of using coupons.  See my post Coupons: Use Wisely)

So my tip for the day is, sign up for any of these programs.  Most stores offer them and it doesn't just mean coupons, it usually means extra savings right off the normal price.  Why people don't bother with these things is beyond me . . . IT'S FREE SAVINGS.  All you have to do is fill out a simple form.  And if you don't like carrying cards around, they have little versions for your key-chain which is handy, but if even that annoys you, most places can just type in your phone number associated with the account.  (Oh and by free I mean you should never be paying anything to sign up for a rewards program.  Those are not worth it.)

Some of My Favorites:
1. Safeway - Tons of savings right off the price.  No card, you type in your phone number on the key pad.  Look up their coupons online before shopping (or on your smartphone while in the store) and digitally add them to your card.

2. CVS - Tons and tons of coupons.  They have a coupon booth where you scan your card and it prints out coupons.  Savings on prices.  More coupons at checkout, as mentioned above.

3. Petco - Both Petco and Petsmart have these programs but why I like Petco's better is you get a free $5 coupon after $100 spent there.  With no buying restrictions, meaning you can buy a $5 bag of cat food, or dog food for those of you, and get it for free -- you don't have to spend a certain amount.
*Tip: I don't usually buy pet food at an actual pet store because they hike up the prices more than a regular grocery store and it's easier to just get it at the grocery store anyway.  But when I get my $5 coupon, that's what I usually get because it's generally right around that price and I can basically get a free bag of food.

rewards cards

What are your favorites?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Learning About Your Credit Score and Ways to Make it Better (Or Establish It!)

So today's post isn't really about saving or making money per se, but it is an important topic when talking about finances that I think many people have misconceptions about and that's your credit score.

What is your credit score?  Put simply, it shows how worthy you are of borrowing money.  Meaning, the higher your credit score, the more people are willing to lend you because you have a good history of paying back money you borrowed.

Credit ScoreI think the biggest mistake made when concerning credit, is not establishing any.  Many people are afraid of credit cards or taking out loans because they are afraid they will go into debt.  It's smart not to try and buy things that you cannot afford, but it is not smart to be afraid of using credit as long as you use it wisely.  It's important to establish credit as soon as you can so you can build a long history of good credit.  Why is this important?  Because when the time comes in your life to be making a big purchase that you have to have a loan for, like a house, you have to have credit established to not only get a loan but to get a good one with better rates.

So how do you establish credit?  There are two big ways to establish credit: through credit cards and through loans.

Credit Cards
I have already talked about using credit cards to your advantage to make money, see Make Money With Credit Cards, and I briefly talked how to manage credit cards so they don't lower your credit score -- that is . . . . paying off your bill every month!  As I said in that blog, don't be afraid of credit cards.  As long as you spend with it just like you would a debit card, only buy what you actually have money to pay for, you shouldn't run into any problems paying your bill.  And paying your bill in full on time means paying no interest or fees.

Paying your bill also means helping your credit score.  As long as you keep paying your bill, your credit score will go up.  This also increases the amount of money you are able to "borrow" each day from the credit card company.  Like I said, the more you pay off, the more you can borrow on credit.

An important thing to note, if you have multiple credit cards open that's fine!  DON'T EVER CLOSE A CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT!  This affects your score negatively.  Many people after going into debt and then eventually paying it off, want to close their accounts so their not tempted to use it anymore.  DON'T.  Cut up your card and don't use it, but keep the account open.  Why?  Because an open account, even if the bill is $0, you pay $0, you are paying off your bill.  That helps your credit score.  Closing an account even if you always paid your bills on time will negatively affect your credit score because banks and such see that as a cry for help, that you do not have money to pay things off.  So even if you want to open a credit card account and not use it, it could still help your credit score, though very slightly.

Loans
The other way to establish credit is through loans.  I remember my economics teacher in high school saying, never get a loan to buy a car, you should have enough money to pay it off right away.  That always stuck with me but now I see that getting loans is important to establishing credit, though there is still truth in what he said.  It's important to understand when you should be getting a loan to help your credit and when you should be getting a loan just because it's a big purchase and you have to have a loan.

What do I mean by this?  Well take the car example he used.  The idea that you should have enough money to pay for the car is still true.  It does not make sense to purchase a car that you cannot afford even though you can get a loan which makes it easier to buy.  Why?  Well first of all, in the scheme of all things in life, purchasing a car is a relatively small purchase compared to other things like education, houses, property, etc.  Second of all (and something more people will take to heart), cars depreciate in value where as most other things you need loans for increase in value -- houses and property if well taken care of and improved over time increase in value and even investing in an education means that you will be able to make more money in the future.

So why do I believe now that you should possibly still get a loan?  Well, just like credit cards, you can get a loan just to establish credit even if you have all the money to pay it off (as you should).  You can pay off the loan in full and not have to deal with interest.  It's just like paying for it with cash or a check, but you help your credit score while you're at it.  This can also be done with smaller large purchases (that sounds strange) like an engagement ring or other vehicles.

Really the only types of loans that you shouldn't be able to pay off right away or shortly after are: education, housing, and property loans.  Obviously these are are in the tens and hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars and most people cannot afford to pay for that right away, and rightfully so!  But to be able to get a loan for these things, you need to already have credit!

Important tips about loans:
1. If you can pay more than your monthly payment, do it.  Just because you have a loan for 30 years doesn't mean you have to take that long to pay it off.  The sooner you pay it off, the less interest you have to pay!
2. Don't get behind on payments, not only does that hurt your credit score, but the interest and fees that accumulate become insanely hard to pay off.  That's how people go into extreme debt.  If your financial situation changes, talk to the bank or company that has your loan and discuss different options.  Especially with long-term loans, there is generally a solution that both parties can agree upon that doesn't hurt you as much.


If you feel there's anything I forgot or if there's still something you don't understand, feel free to comment below!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

For Halloween Save Money: Make Your Own Costume

Since this is the first post in October, I thought I would do a special one about Halloween costumes.  I love dressing up for Halloween, and one of my favorite parts is coming up with a unique costume.  I NEVER buy pre-made Halloween costumes.  They are terrible.  Here's why.

Halloween Costumes

Reasons to Not Buy Pre-made Halloween Costumes:
1. They are too expensive.  Not only is it ridiculous to spend $60+ on a costume for one day, they aren't even close to being worth that.  They are cheaply made and look cheaply made.  Continuing on that thought:
2. The fabric used is horrible.  As stated before, they are cheaply made.  Not only is the fabric they use horrible looking (often it's that shiny material like little girls' nightgowns) but it is so thin, it can easily rip.  It just looks bad.
3. You may have the same exact costume as somebody else.  Making your own costume means nobody else will have your costume.  You may be the same character as somebody else, but chances are, yours will be more unique because you made it.  People generally think it looks cooler too, even if it isn't the best looking.
Sexy Halloween Costumes4. For women, they are overtly sexualized which is not necessary.  If you want to dress up slutty on Halloween, fine that's your choice but at least look nicer doing it and still make your own costume.  And guess what?  Most guys thing it's cooler if you make a costume that looks like the actual character.  Cause most guys are nerds and appreciate that kind of thing.  Just saying.


Of course, there are exceptions.  Some REALLY expensive costumes are very nicely made.  This can be worth it if you plan to wear it multiple times.  Also, if you want to wear one of those joke costumes, I guess the quality of the look doesn't really matter but it still seems bad to pay so much for that.  I would suggest in that case to look online for cheaper options for whatever costume you want.


As I said, I really like making my own costumes.  If you don't think that they can look good, here are some examples of my own costumes in the past few years:
So how do you go about finding the pieces of your costume?  Well, I like to start at the thrift store.  You can find some great pieces for costumes, sometimes you can even find wonderful already made costumes.  Sometimes I go in knowing who I want to be and have specific things in mind, sometimes I go and see what there is and get inspiration from what I see.  And as big of an online shopper as I am, it can be hard to tell online exactly what you will be getting.

That being said, if there is a specific piece that I know will be difficult to find, I look online and I start looking early.  My biggest and best friend for these kinds of things is ebay.  You can find really unique items at great deals.

For example, this year I want to be Carmen Sandiego.  Funny right?  Cause my name is Carmen.  (I used to hear the theme song a lot as a kid when the show was really popular.  I hated it, but now it's a bit nostalgic).  I'm going to reuse the coat you see that I used for Cruella de Vil (Which I found at a thrift store for under $10.  I just tacked down the dalmatian fur so I could remove it later).  Most of the rest of the costume is really simple, but her standout piece is her hat.  That needs to be perfect and it's also hard to find, so I've been searching ebay regularly to find something.

What are you going to be for Halloween this year?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Most Underrated Source for Free Entertainment: THE LIBRARY


Today I am going to talk about how to save money while keeping yourself entertained . . . . for free . . . the library.  People seem to have forgotten about this gem, they think a library only has books.  Wrong.  Libraries are stocked with all kinds of cool and fun things other than books: movies (yes, they are up to date and have current DVD's for you to rent), CD's, and many libraries have digital versions of books for you to download for those who like to read electronically.

Why more people don't take advantage of these free things, I'll never know.  Go and check your library out and see what they have.  And if you live in a well populated area, most libraries are linked in a certain area (by county, generally) and you can borrow items from any of these libraries, and even have them sent to a certain one for you to pick up.  Usually you can do all your searching online on their website, and then choose what library you want to pick it up at, and you will get an email when it is ready to be picked up.  Pretty cool huh?


Now I know most of you are thinking, CD's?  Why would I want CD's?  Now I'm not going to go and tell you to do anything specific, but let's just say I haven't purchased music in a long time but I have thousands of songs on my iTunes and even all the latest hits.  Cough cough.

Another plus to renting from the library (other than it being free): Usually you get to keep the item for longer than any other rental store (like those even exist anymore).

Really the only downside, sometimes you get pretty damaged discs, so damaged that they are unwatchable (or unlistenable).  It sucks, but let your librarian know when you return it.  Usually there's another copy you can get or they'll replace the bad one.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Coupons: Use Wisely


This week's post is about coupons.  Now this is NOT going to tell you how to save $30,000 a year with extreme couponing, I do not have the patience to do that though it can be done.  There are plenty of websites that will teach you how to do that if you are interested and have the time (Key phrase: If you have the time.  It's basically a full time job if you want to save thousands).  This is just a few pointers to remember when using coupons.
Coupons are great, it's free savings.  I always hated as a kid that my mom never looked through all the coupons that came with the Sunday paper just to see if there was one for something we use.  Why not right?  Many people just don't want to take the time, and I don't blame them.  Good news is, it's a little easier today with electronic versions of things.  You can search for coupons for specific goods or companies online or you can sign up for electronic coupons for specific stores that are loaded onto a card.  But again, I'm not going to go into detail on that.




THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE PEOPLE MAKE WITH COUPONS IS . . . BUYING THINGS THEY DON'T NEED.  The PROBLEM with coupons are, when you see them, you feel like you have to take advantage of the sale.  You don't usually buy that item but you should get it because it's a $1.00 off.  Then it ends up sitting in your pantry unopened until you feel you HAVE to use it.

Similarly, people also sometimes just end up spending MORE than they would without the coupon.  You get a coupon in the mail from Macy's that say's you get $10 off (when you spend $50 or more).  That's great if you were needing some new clothes or something for the kitchen, but make sure you don't end up spending more than you normally would without the coupon, just to get a deal.  That just doesn't make sense.

Other things to watch out for:
  • Expiration date
  • Size limits
  • Certain stores have different policies, they may not accept some coupons and that's their right
  • Any other restrictions

Any tips you have?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Traveling Cheaply, Part 2: Hostels


In my second post about traveling cheaply, prompted by my trip to New York last weekend I'm going to give you a little hint about saving money in your lodging.  It's a hidden secret to many Americans . . . hostels.



Now don't turn up your nose and say, "Eww hostels" and leave this page.  That is part of the problem.  I'm going to debunk a lot of the myths involved with this touchy subject.  Hostels are a great way to save money in a big city where hotel prices can be out the roof!  (Obviously, this is only meant for large cities that have hostels, most smaller areas won't have the option.)

Yest hostels usually mean a much smaller room and sometimes a shared bathroom, but it's worth it with the money you save.  Besides, if you're visiting a big city, generally you are going to be sightseeing and not there for relaxation so you should really only be in your hotel to sleep and all you need for that is a bed!

Myths About Hostels Debunked

1. You have to sleep in a dorm with lots of other people you don't know.  This is probably the biggest myth about hostels.  At one point, they may have only come in dorm style rooms and they certainly still have the option for super cheap, but hostels now also understand that most people want some privacy and do offer private rooms and sometimes even private bathrooms as well.

Hostel NYC2. Hostels are dirty.  Not true for all places.  Just like hotels and motels, there are going to be a few places that aren't up to par, but that's what doing your online research is for and reading reviews.  Let me tell you that there are a lot of hostels that are clean and not only that, but they have been fully modernized and look totally chic.  Here's a place that my mom and I have stayed at before in NY.
Hostel NYC









 3. Only foreigners stay in hostels.  While incredibly rude, also not true.  Lots of Americans stay in American hostels.  It's just for those looking for a cheaper alternative to hotels so they can spend their money on activities and such in the place they are visiting!

4. Hostels aren't safe.  Many hostels either you have to have a key to enter or they have private security.  Most are just as safe as any hotel.  Just make sure you do your research and look at reviews.


Perks About Hostels

1. You're right near the action!  Many hostels are downtown or near the hotspots of a particular city.  To find a cheaper option in a hotel, you generally have to look on the outskirts of cities.  Not only does this mean it takes longer to get to wherever you want to go, it may mean added costs like a rental car or taxi.  That's not necessary with most hostels.

2. Fun events.  Because of the community feel in hostels, a lot offer fun activities within their walls like games and movies but many also offer fun things to do in the city.  These can be anything from museum trips to pub crawls.  Going in a group like this makes it cheaper and easier since you don't have to do the planning!  I've really wanted to take a trip down to San Diego to stay at this one hostel, USA Hostels San Diego, just because they offer a trip to Tijuana.  For just $18 you get: dinner, a guided tour of all the shopping and action that has made Tijuana world famous, a tequila tasting and, of course, hit a few of the best bars on the Avenida de la RevoluciĆ³n.  While being an American and traveling between the U.S. and Mexico should be simple, this just eliminates any troubles crossing the border and being with a group makes it much safer.


Let me know what you think about this.  If you have any places you've stayed and want to recommend go ahead.  As with anything, the internet is your best friend.  Do your research.  Read reviews (but take them with a grain of salt because some people are way too picky).  Find the place that suits you best.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Traveling Cheaply, Part 1: Flights

As I sit in the airport, waiting to board my overnight flight to New York, I thought it only appropriate to do a post on traveling cheaply.  I love to travel and I wish I could do it all the time but it takes a lot of money!  Hopefully these few tips will possibly help you in going to that place you've always wanted to go to!



All About Buying Your Plane Tickets

So this first part about traveling cheaply is about finding the best deal on plane tickets.  After all, that is where the bulk of the amount needed for a trip is going to go.

1.  Search around.  Start looking early, if possible, but don't necessarily buy right away.  Pay attention to the fluctuations in prices.  Prices for plane tickets change daily, even hourly, and I'm not expert on that (you can find all kinds of websites that make predictions on when prices are at their lowest) but just try and be aware.  And make sure you compare different websites.

2. If flying round trip, try buying each flight separately.  This is what I did for this trip.  I got a much better deal by buying two separate one way flights because I had more flexibility in times and different companies.

3. If there are multiple airports in your destination, search for all of them.  This can be more difficult from the airport you are leaving from, depending on how you get there and if you are leaving a car, but it can be done at your arrival destination.  I'm going to New York, which obviously has many options for airports.  I fly into LGA and leave from JFK.

4. Take a red-eye.  This may be only for the younger and more sprightly travelers but it is a great way to save money.  First, it is just cheaper because less people like to fly at that time, they know it's miserable so they give you a discount.  The other way it helps cut costs is by saving you the price of another night at a hotel.  How, you ask?  Well take me for example.  I am leaving late Saturday night from SF to go to NY where I will arrive around 10:00 in the morning their time.  This is a perfect time to be able to spend the whole day in the city and not have time wasted from traveling and I didn't have to pay for a hotel stay for Saturday night because I was in the air!

5. Sign up for the free mileage rewards programs.  Why wouldn't you want to get rewarded for free for things you do?  I'm all about signing up for rewards programs that don't cost you anything, but make sure it stays that way -- IT SHOULDN'T COST YOU ANYTHING.  Meaning, the temptation is if you're signed up for one rewards program that you'll always want to fly from that company to build up the rewards.  But be smart about it.  If it cost you $100 extra to fly with that company sometime, skip it.  I don't think those miles are worth that much.  It's okay to be signed up with multiple companies.  You'll slowly build up the rewards but you should still take the best deal dollar-wise.  Usually you end up flying with the same one or two companies anyway depending on what's available in your area.

6. All the added fees.  Nowadays airline companies are looking for any way to make money off you.  You have to pay to check a bag, pay for extra leg room or exit row, pay a huge amount for a snack.  DON'T BE TEMPTED.  The only one I really understand paying for is the checked baggage.  Sometimes it's just too hard to put everything into a carry on size or the liquid thing is a problem.  But if you can, try and put everything in the carry-on size.  You'd be surprised how big it can be.  It's generally the medium sized bag in a suitcase set.  Plus, a little secret.  You can usually check your bag at the gate for free.  But with everything else, it can easily be foregone.  Try and get an aisle seat if you're worried about leg room.  Really any food at an airport is over-priced.  Pack your own food (just be careful of the liquid restrictions).

I think that's about it.  If anybody else has any other simple tips, feel free to leave a comment!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stop Using Lotion Too Much. The Answer? Grapeseed Oil


This is going to be a short and simple post.  If you're like me, your skin gets pretty dry.  I used to put lotion on all over my body after I showered, as I'm sure many of you do.  Now that makes you go through lotion pretty quickly.  STOP!  Use grapeseed oil instead.


I'm not kidding.  Grapeseed oi is great for your skin, it does not leave it oily, and you only need a few drops to cover a good amount of area.  I saw this trick and went out and bought some (it can be found at your local grocery store) and I haven't even used half of the bottle yet and that was over 6 months ago!  It's actually been so long since I started using it that I have no idea how long it's been, it could be almost a year!

You will save so much by not having to constantly buy more lotion.  I still use lotion for my hands and feet, but that's not very much.

*A word of caution about using oil.  Though it does not leave your skin oily, it still is oil and can leave oil stains on your clothing.  Be careful when applying it near clothing, let your skin fully absorb it before putting clothing on that area, and if you accidentally put too much oil on and it is kind of oily then just take some toilet paper and wipe off the excess.


****UPDATE 11/9/15**** I have reached the halfway mark on my bottle of grapeseed oil.  Yes, my first bottle that I posted about in this article!  So by my calculations, if you use the oil on your legs about every other day (as I do), 1L should last you about 5 years!  I still love it and my skin feels great after putting it on!  Get some at the link right below:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cut Cell Phone Bill in Half: Switch to Ting

Let me start off by saying, I do not work for Ting, I just really love what they are doing and want you all to know about it too!

When I was about to switch to paying for my own cell service and not be under my family's plan anymore, I spent a lot of time researching different companies.  I wanted to finally have a smart phone, but not have to pay the ridiculous monthly charges that comes with the territory if I knew I wasn't going to be using data all that much.  My goal was to find something where I would be paying under $50/mo, preferably less than $40/mo.  What I found was much better.

I found the problem for me was that my needs went completely against what most packages were: I wasn't going to use data all that much, I send texts but not too many, and I still wanted a lot of minutes.  A lot of packages are great for one or two of those areas but really skimpy on the other and it never seemed to work in my favor.

Now on to Ting.  Let me explain why they work so well for basically any needs.  Here's the genius plan: you pay for what you use.  That's it.  You don't have a limit, there are just different scales of prices in each category: minutes, texts, and data.  If you don't use on area, you don't pay for it.  There's a $6/mo device usage fee and some other small fees, and that's it!


Not quite making sense?  I'll give an example: Let's say you don't really talk, you just text, and your on the internet all the time.  It's $3 for the smallest amount of minutes (100), $8 for 1000 texts, and $24 for 1000 MB of data.  With the other fees, that's only $41/mo!  If you happen to not talk one month, you don't pay for any minutes.  And guess what, if you have multiple people on your plan, the savings are even greater! You can check out all their rates here: https://ting.com/rates.  You can also compare your current bill to what you would pay at Ting here: https://ting.com/calculator.   Or here's a video if it's still not clicking:



Other pluses:
  • great customer service
  • easy to understand bills
  • no contracts
  • fun and cool company!


What's the downside?  Well the only slight downside is that the prices for phones are pretty steep.  Because they offer you such discounted monthly rates, they can't give you the great prices on brand new phones.  But you can easily make up what extra you spend very quickly because of how much you will save per month on your bill.  Plus there's no contracts!  (Or if you already have a Sprint phone, you can use that one if it's on the accepted list!)

You should definitely check them out.  And if you are interested in switching over, here's a referral link: https://zh58t2kbb.ting.com/.  If you use this referral, not only do I get $25 credit, but you get $25 off your device purchase or credit too!



****UPDATE 10/28/15**** While I love Ting and still recommend it for people who don't use much data and don't need the newest phone, I have discovered a better plan for most people.  Read this article.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reached the 1,000 Mark!

There have been 1,000 views!

Cheap Ways to Go to the Movies

I just got back from seeing a screening of Singin in the Rain in Union Square in San Francisco.  I'm tired and wanted to do a quick blog and I've had the idea of posting about cheap ways to see all the movies you want during the summer since they are expensive and there are so many that come out during this time, but I thought since it's nearing the end of summer that maybe it's better to wait to post about this until next year BEFORE summer starts.  But this is too perfect an opportunity not to post.  Maybe I will repeat myself next year.

popcornAnyway, there are several options for seeing movies more cheaply.

FREE
Yes you heard me.  Free!  During the summer months, many cities offer free movies in the park or other outdoor settings.  Many are family friendly so they are generally animated films and usually this aren't going to be current releases but if you're just looking for something fun to do, check out what your area has to offer.

If you're in the bay area, here's a website for seeing what movies are being shown in different locations: http://www.filmnight.org/


Drive In
Did you know these still exist?  It's true.  Depending on where you live they may be kind of a rarity but here in Northern California we have the West Wind Drive Ins located in Concord, Sacramento, and San Jose.  They also have a location in Santa Barbara and some in Arizona and Nevada.  Check it out: http://www.westwinddriveins.com/

Why drive ins?  They are usually cheaper and most still offer a double feature.  This means you get two for the price of one.  The quality is not quite as good so I generally don't go see action or sci-fi movies that I want to see the detail but it's great for comedies.  Plus it just has a fun vibe.


Second Run/Classic Movie Houses
Obviously these are not current movies, but they give you something fun to do for much cheaper.  I am a big fan of classic films and it is very thrilling to see them on the big screen.  So look up what may be in your area.  My favorite in the bay area is http://www.stanfordtheatre.org/


Military
If you or someone you know is affiliated with the military and you are near a base with a theatre, take advantage of that.  The prices are super cheap, $5.50 at Travis AFB, and they are current releases.  They also have regular free advanced screenings.  Here's where you check for Army and Air Force: http://www.shopmyexchange.com/reeltimetheatres/reeltime-landing.htm

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Enter Sweepstakes . . . Why Not?

Sometimes it seems like sweepstakes can be a waste of time.  I mean the likelihood that you will be chosen out of the hundreds, sometimes thousands, that enter are very slim . . . but why not?  SOMEBODY has to win and maybe it will be your lucky day.  Usually all it takes is a few minutes.

I mean my friends and I won a video contest to see Spamalot when it came to SF, a backstage tour and meet and greet, dinner, and part of our video got to be played on a local spot during the Tony Awards.  (Yes I like theatre).  You can see our winning video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPFsm8BSP-M

So why not?

And while I'm on the topic of sweepstakes, vote for my boyfriend and myself as the Bay's Most Adorable Couple so we can win a Disney cruise :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Make Money With Credit Cards

(Read Part 2 of the series right here: Part 2: My Favorite Cards)

Up till now I've written posts about just saving money and I haven't written any about making money.  Well there's two reasons for that, there aren't as many easy ways to make money plus I feel that saving money is making money anyway.  But here's one that you actually gain money.  This is not for the faint of heart though.

The key for a really easy way to make money is . . . credit cards.  Don't gasp like I just said Voldemort or something.  Credit cards get a bad rap because of all the stories of people going into debt because of misuse.  It is not the credit card's fault that they are in debt, it is their own fault.  All it requires is self control.  If you don't think you can handle that, then by all means do not open up a credit card.

How to Not Go Into Debt with Credit:

Visa Mastercard1.)  As I said, the key to not going into debt is self control.  Do not think of it as being able to buy anything you want on credit, think of it just the same as your debit card, i.e. you have to have the money to buy it.  Generally I like to keep the rule that it already has to be in my account, like I could pay for it with cash right now, but if you know you will have enough money in your account by the time you have to pay your bill then that's okay too.  But I don't recommend living paycheck to paycheck like that if you can help it.

2.)  The second reason people go into debt over credit cards is because they don't pay their bill IN FULL each month.  If you've followed the rule above, you will have enough money in your account to pay the full amount.  DO THAT.  If you do not, the interest charged on what you have not paid will end up being way more than you should ever pay for the stuff you bought.  Just don't do it.  If you happened to have an emergency or something that prevented you from paying your bill in full one month, that's understandable, pay as much as you can, not just the minimum.  And then make sure you pay it off as soon as possible.  Oh and make sure you pay on time.


And that's it!  If you keep your spending limit within your means, that means only buying what you can actually pay for, and if you pay your bill in full on time, you will never pay credit cards any extra money (as long as you get a card with no annual fee but more on that next) and you won't go into debt.


Things to Look For When Choosing a Card:

1.)  NO ANNUAL FEE!!!!!!  This is super important.  Really the only fine print you have to look for as long as you follow the above two rules, is no annual fee.  Why should you have to pay a fee to pay for thins?  You shouldn't and that's why you won't.  There are plenty of cards out there to choose from that fit your style that don't have one.

2.)  Rewards.  Here comes the fun part and a little bit of the money making.  The reason why credit cards are so nice (not because of the credit because we don't use it based on credit we used it based on the knowledge that we have the money for it) is because you get rewarded for your purchases.

The way you get rewarded varies greatly per card.  Most are either based on points or a percentage.  Generally points give you less value per dollar spent, but that's not always the case.  It's also just easier with a percentage to know how much you are gaining back.

What you are rewarded for.  Here's where choosing a card that is tailored to your specific buying habits is key to getting the most out of your rewards.  I'm not going to go into great detail because there are hundreds of sites devoted to devouring every bit of every credit card offered out there.  Just do your research to find one that benefits you most.

Redeeming rewards is probably the most fun.  Generally the rewards options come in the forms of actual objects, gift cards, statement credit, or cash.  While it may be fun to build up the rewards to get that fancy TV on the list, you usually get more value out of getting either statement credit or cash (don't worry it usually comes in a check or direct deposit not actual cash).  Why, you ask?  Because the amount you get back in cash is usually more than what you would actually spend on whatever item you are looking at.  Say you've saved up 100,000 points.  That TV you were looking at is valued at 100,000 points.  But 100,000 points equals $500 cash back.  Look up the value of the TV (they're not gonna let you know it's not worth all those points) and you'll see that it would only cost you $350 to buy.  The value of that TV is $150 less than you would get in cash.  So get the cash, then ask yourself if you really need that TV or if the cash can go to something more useful.


Now that's all cool, you get free rewards for spending money.  But that's not the only way, and certainly not the most prosperous way, to make money off credit cards.  Here's a way to make a lot of money, quickly, without going over your budget.


BONUS REWARDS

Bonus rewards are offers for when you first open up a credit card.  As long as you spend a certain amount in a certain time period (generally 3 months) you get the bonus reward.  These rewards start at $100 and can go up to $500!  Or if you're into travel, enough miles for a plane ticket anywhere in the world.

Now be careful.  Remember to still check to make sure there's no annual fee.  Also make sure the amount you need to spend to get the reward is doable, within your normal spending amount.  The ones that offer the larger amounts, usually either have an annual fee or it's a really high amount you have to spend to get the reward.


And those are the keys to making money off credit cards while not spending any extra yourself.

Sometimes I open a credit card just to get the bonus reward.  That's fine.  Just make sure you don't start using too many different cards at the same time.  Find one that really suits your style: rewards you the most for your normal spending habits and has rewards you like, and use only that one.  Obviously you need to switch to the new one for those three months or however long it takes you to get the bonus reward.  Then when you are done with getting the reward, switch back to the old one.

If you build up a pile of cards, you can even just cut up the cards you don't use anymore and throw those away.  But don't close the account, that will kill your credit score.  Even though you may have accounts you don't use at all, it still builds up positive credit because you are "paying it off" every month.  It's strange, but it's true.  So actually having multiple accounts helps your credit score as long as you are paying everything off.

Also make sure you don't open too many new cards within a short amount of time.  This can also kill your credit score.  It looks like you're in a desperate need to borrow money.  I like to only open 2 or 3 new cards a year.

It think that covers all the essentials.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


*A note about travel cards, i.e. cards that give you miles towards plane tickets.  I didn't really cover these kinds of cards in my post because I don't have experience with them.  I've looked into them, but found that just like the product in catalogs for rewards, the miles you have to build up to get a good plane ticket are more than you would get back in cash.  BUT there may be some really good ones out there that I'm missing out on.  Let me know if there's one you really like.

 
Read Part 2 of the series right here: Part 2: My Favorite Cards

Friday, August 9, 2013

Turn Off the AC

Even though we're having unusually cold weather in Northern California for one of the hottest months of the year, I know some of you out there are still experiencing extreme heat.  This is an article on how to save a little on your PG&E bill by using some techniques to naturally cool down your house.  For some places, this may be enough for you to not have to us the AC, for others it's just to keep it a little cooler.  Use your judgment.

I grew up without air conditioning, so these tips seem second nature to me but I realized that a lot of people don't really understand when it's best to open your window, keep it shut, use a fan, etc.


Step 1: Use Your Blinds

The first step is all about keeping the hot sun out.  Of course this leaves your house a little dark so some people might not like it.  But if you are not home during the day, you don't mind the darkness, then this will be fine or you can just open the blinds near the window you are at.

shadesThe trick is to follow the sun throughout the day.  I would hope that by now everyone understands that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  If you are directionally challenged, like me, you may not really know all the time which direction is east and which is west but you should be able to realize which windows face the sun as it's rising, which face it during midday, and which face it when it's setting.

So since the sun rises in the east, those are the windows you want covered first.  And, unless you're a really early riser, you should do that at night before you go to bed.  If you'll be gone all day, cover your south facing windows as well.  The western windows you can usually do yourself when you get home later but it might be a good idea to keep all windows covered while you're gone since it really doesn't matter and can really keep it cool.

Follow the sun around.  You can put the blinds up once there isn't direct sunlight there.  If you really want to reflect the light, you can put up a bunch of those car windshield reflectors to reflect the sun.  Or, if you don't care about looks as much, you can make your own by cutting cardboard to fit your window and wrapping it in foil.


Step 2: When to Use a Fan

Lots of people think that a fan works like an air conditioner, if you have it on it makes it cooler.  Unless it is drawing air from a cooler source, that is not true.  Generally, a fan will be in a place where there isn't much difference in temperature.  This means that you should only have it on when you are in that room, otherwise you're just wasting energy.  A fan cools you just by circulating and blowing air on you, it doesn't actually cool the room.

Two exceptions that I can think of where it would be drawing cooler air from another place.  1.) A window fan.  I will get more to when you should have your window open next.  2.) If you have a long hallway and the rooms at one end of the hallway are hotter than the rooms at the other end.  This happens in our house.  The living room is well shaded and stays fairly cool, but the large room at the end of the long hallway doesn't have much shade and gets pretty warm which heats up the other rooms nearby.  For this, it gets annoyingly loud, but you want a large industrial grade fan to put in the cooler room and shoot it down the hallway.  It's taking the cooler air from the cooler room and shooting it down and circulating in the hotter areas.  It doesn't do much but it does help.


Step 3: When to Open a Window

bird in windowThis is another thing that people often get wrong.  They think that opening a window will get air circulating which makes a room cooler.  WRONG!  The air outside MUST be cooler than inside for that to be effective, otherwise you're letting hot air in, even if there is a breeze.  Hopefully your house by now has newer double or triple paned windows.  These aren't just made to keep out noise, they are made for better insulation too.  That means keeping hot air out in the summer and keeping cool air out in the winter.  Let them do their job!

If you live in a place, like me, where it cools off at night, it can be a great idea to eventually open your windows.  I'm often surprised when people in the bay area keep their air conditioners on all day and don't even realize that it's cooled off so much outside that they could just open all their windows and it would be fine.  That is key.  If it's cool outside, and especially if there is a good breeze, OPEN ALL YOUR WINDOWS!  This is when circulation is important.  For example, if you have a room that has windows on two opposite walls, but you only open the windows on one wall, it will let in some cool air.  If you open windows on both walls, the air will flow freely between them.  Not only will it let in cool air, but there will be a constant circulation of cool air.

Going back to fans.  There are some great fans that you stick in your window.  Again, only do it if the air outside is cooler, otherwise you will just be blowing hot air in your room.  But if the air is cooler outside, it draws the cool air from outside and blows it more directly into your room.


In summary:
  • Keep out direct sunlight
  • Only use fans when in room or drawing cooler air from another place
  • Keep windows shut, unless it's cooler outside then open them!