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May 15, 2013

Gifts for Grads: 5 Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

  • Gifts for Grads: 5 Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

Looking for an affordable grad gift your grad will love come Commencement Day? Laptops and cell phones make a  great grad gift, but they’re extremely expensive. Plus, most grads already have these items. So what can you buy that will be memorable and affordable? Check out these grad gift ideas below:

Make Your Own Gift Basket: Create your own (inexpensive) gift basket will all the items the grad in your life will need. For instance, if they’re going off to college, pack a basket full of hot chocolate or coffee, towels,  paper cups and plates, cleaners, shampoo and conditioner, notebooks, and other dorm essentials. You’ll help them out without shelling out a ton of cash.

 

Tech-Worthy Gifts:  Buying everything they need for college or their new adult life can be overwhelming. Help them out by buying extension cords, cord organizers, car chargers, or energy (and money) saving light bulbs. Or, find out if they need any small appliances like a toaster or blender.

 

Music Lovers: Invest in funky headphones, speakers for iphones or ipods, or keep it simple with an itunes giftcard. If they’re into vinyl, buy them vinyl record frames so that they can display their favorite albums in style in their new dorm room or apartment.

 

Fuel for Thought: Keep them going strong in their new job or college classes with a few months’ supply of k-cups or coffee grounds. If java isn’t their thing, create a gift box full on non-perishables like macaroni and cheese, pasta, sauces, rice, and soups. Throw in a recipe book to complete the gift.

 

Practical Help: If your grad is headed to a new city, buy them a city map, gas cards, or subway token. You can also compile a list of the top places you think they should visit in that city and a travel book or two. Adding a check or cash never hurts either!

We hope you’ve learned that you can still get creative and give an awesome gift without going broke. What do you plan on buying your grad this year? Share below!

May 2, 2013

Getting Down with Pet Care: The Top 10 Pet Care FAQ

  • Getting Down with Pet Care: The Top 10 Pet Care FAQ

They’re furry, they’re adorable and they love you just as much as you love them. They’re your pets, and here at LiveBetterCheaper, we know that there are a lot of you out there who may be pet owners. That’s why in our quest to help you to, well, live better cheaper, we’re spending today focusing on the joys (or tribulations) of pet ownership and how you can provide the best care on a budget.

Pets are like companions (without the time and space adventures), and like anyone who gets to put the title “parent” in their name, you want to be able to provide for them th best pet care possible, but in this day and age – and with the economy the way it is – pets can seem like a luxury. However, taking care of one doesn’t have to involve breaking the bank and only buying the fanciest toys and services.

So how can you do so? Consider these 10 steps:

Make Sure You Can Keep A Pet: Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. If you’re someone that’s living paycheck to paycheck, then maybe it’s not such a good idea to get one. Because let’s face it, one of the worst feelings is not being able to provide.
The other part of this – and this mostly applies to those who rent – is clear it with the landlord. Make sure keeping a pet is something you can do without violating any terms (hey, their land, their rules), and if it is, how much more will it cost you to do so. Which again, if it’s too pricey, you might have to skip it.
But if you can get a pet, then you can always…

Adopt: Generally speaking, adopting from a shelter is a cheaper option than to buy from a breeder*. It’s a win/win situation: an animal gets a new home and you save a life.
*DISCLAIMER*if you decide to adopt, be sure to get one from a shelter that offers a guarantee. While many animals provide a wealth of potential, some may have serious medical problems. A guarantee allows you to bring it back, and while this can be a very difficult thing to do, it all comes down to being able to afford it, and as we all know, vets aren’t cheap.

Shop Within Your Means: Much like you do in your life, find what how to live within your means. This means figuring out what’s a necessity and what’s a luxury. Food is necessary. Housing? Maybe not so much. Clothing? They’re already covered in fur. Definitely not a necessity.

Find a Vet: Ah, medical expenses. There is no way around this. People will spend on average about $356 a year on dogs and $190 on cats. Of course, you don’t want to skimp on healthcare. Ask your local humane society about trying to find a place that will give you quality care, but also won’t charge a lot. Keep in mind, the larger the animal, the more expensive it will be.
Also, if you know someone, that could work.

Easy On The Toys: On average, owners will spend around $107 a year on toys and treats for dogs, and $66 for cats. While getting a few is okay, don’t go overboard. There are plenty of ways to create your own toys for them. Maybe the dog can carry or chase a stick around the yard, find a sturdy piece of rope or some old cloth for them to tug on, and have you see what happens when you mix cats and laser pointers?
Of course, there is the option of…

Thrift Shop-it: Is it wise for you to pop some tags? Maybe so if you’ve only got $20 in your pocket (sorry, had to go there). The message still remains. You don’t have to buy all of your toys new. Check out thrift shops or hit up Craigslist. Also mentioned above, make your own.

Grooming: Yes, there are grooming services out there, and yes you can always choose which one will give you the most bang for your buck, but this is also something you can teach yourself how to do. Buy the supplies yourself, Google instructions or check out tutorials on YouTube (what an age we live in!).

Food: This is where it gets a little bit tricky. As we all know, the best way to cut medical expenses is the take care of yourself, which is something that translates to how you should take care of your pets. Discount foods are as cheap as they are for a reason: because they usually lack the essential nutrients needed. Find something that is of a good quality, but don’t go crazy on how much you feed them. Also like how you would treat yourself, be portion-conscious.

Insurance: Why do we buy insurance? So we can protect ourselves if something goes wrong. So if your pet has a history of health problems, insurance might be a wise investment.

Make Your Own Treats: You don’t always have to go out and buy boxes of treats for your animals. As places like Three Dog Bakery have taught us, you can make your own high quality products for cheap. Just find a few ingredients and a working oven. It’ll be like baking cookies, but for your furry companions.

Do you have any tips you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.

*SOURCES:

Opperman, Melinda. “5 Tips to Make Pet Ownership More Affordable.” Credit.org http://credit.org/blog/5-tips-to-making-pet-ownership-more-affordable/ July 19, 2011

Chatzky, Jean. “The Dog Ate Your Wallet? How to Cut the Costs of Pet Ownership.” DailyFinance. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/09/24/the-dog-ate-your-wallet-how-to-cut-the-costs-of-pet-ownership/ September 24, 2012

April 24, 2013

5 Tech Myths that are Costing You Money

  • 5 Tech Myths that are Costing You Money

Technology is everywhere, but it’s expensive to buy and maintain. We pour hundreds into technology each year, so it’s important to make sure you aren’t throwing your money away. To help, we’ve made a list of the top 5 tech myths that you really don’t need to buy into.

Extended Warranties are a Must Have  - Whether you’re buying a Gameboy, iPod, or computer, every store will try to persuade you to buy an extended warranty. They’ll tell you it’s for your own protection, but for most items, you’re just putting money into their pockets. If you crack your phone screen, it generally costs less to fix it yourself or bring it to a tech repair shop than to pay for a warranty. More expensive items, however, may warrant the price.

Refurbished Products Should be Avoided – There’s a certain stigma that comes along with the word “refurbished” that seems to steer people away from these products. Yet, there is really nothing wrong with refurbished products. They are either demo or display products or products that were returned (sometimes unused) and restored to their factory settings. In other words, they’re as good as new for a fraction of the price.

Cable is a Necessity to Watch All Your Favorite Shows – More and more people are leaving cable and investing in Netflix, Redbox, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or YouTube to watch their favorite shows. With a simple HDMI cable, Xbox, or Wifi Bluray player, users can watch their favorite programs for as low as a tenth of the price of cable. Best of all, most networks offer online viewing for free. Plus, HD antennas will score you basic channels for free.

DIY Results in Lack of Quality – There are definitely some things you should pay to have installed; particularly if it requires wiring or anything else you’re completely unfamiliar with. But there are simple DIY installs that are easy, cheap, and will produce the same overall quality. For instance, swapping out a car radio for a cd/mp3 player is a fairly easy task that can be accomplished inexpensively with the necessary parts and a helpful YouTube video.

Top Shelf Cables or Bust – There are dozens of different brand cables at a broad range of prices. If you’re not familiar with cables, you might lean towards buying the most expensive cable in order to produce the best sound/picture/quality. The truth is, buying cheaper chargers, video and computer cables, or USB cords generally won’t affect the quality of the cord’s output (the exception is for analog cables – though most people still won’t notice the difference).           

Be sure to keep these common myths in mind the next time you’re shopping for a new gadget or accessory. Don’t let companies trick you into overpaying out of fear. Let us know what you think of these tips, and add your own, below!

February 27, 2013

Fashion with a Conscience: Eco Fashion Extraordinaire

  • Fashion with a Conscience: Eco Fashion Extraordinaire

It can be hard to indulge your fashion craving and be eco-conscious at the same time, but it can be done. Here are some great ways to save money and the environment when shopping for that next great outfit:

  1.  Thrift stores: They’re not just for teenagers. Everyone knows the slogan, Reduce, reuse, recycle. Thrift stores allow you to do all three. You can find a lot of great deals on both vintage clothing and more contemporary items you couldn’t afford the first time around along with supplementing your record/book/electronics collection at the same time.
  2. Learn to sew: Think Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. If you can sew, you can re-purpose a lot of your old clothing that would have been thrown out. In addition, you have control over what fabrics you use and the knowledge that your clothing is made fairly.
  3. Eco-friendly fabrics: There are a number of fabrics that are better for the environment. Try alternative fabric sources such as bamboo, hemp, or organic cotton created without pesticides as well as more traditional fabrics such as linen or wool.
  4. Clothingswap.com: It’s kind of like what you might do with your friends, but on a larger scale and with food and drink. Simply go to their site, look up events happening nearby and join the party. Hey, you might even make a few new friends.
  5. Dry Cleaning: Avoid it. Opt for clothing that you can wash yourself. You’ll save money and reduce the use of hazardous chemicals that pollute the environment. If you can’t avoid it altogether, look up sustainable dry cleaners.
  6. Shop Local: Shopping locally is smart whether it comes to food or clothing. Local businesses tend to reduce urban sprawl and you get to spend your money at places that can re-invest in your community. Local businesses are often more interested in you as a customer as well.
  7. Fair Trade: If you are interested in buying new items, look for those certified “Fair Trade.” This ensures that your clothing was made in an ecologically sound and ethical manner.

Going green doesn’t have to mean covering yourself with a burlap sack. With these eco-conscious ideas, your new wardrobe will be fashion-forward and fair.

February 18, 2013

Beyond Valentine’s Day: Ways to Celebrate After

  • Beyond Valentine’s Day: Ways to Celebrate After

Who wouldn’t like to make use of the sales on Black Friday and post Valentine’s Day? Yes, your excitement doesn’t have to go away as Lover’s day gets over because of these amazing deals post Valentine’s Day.

The best part is that you’d also have a great variety of categories to pick from as well.

Valentine's Day

Amethyst Duo Jewel Necklace

Do you like jewelry? Well, there is up to 70% off sale items at 1928! This could be a good opportunity to buy that precious splendor that you would have bought earlier had it not seemed to be that expensive. There is also no reason for you to think that you can’t create a balance of charm and class just because you couldn’t afford that beautiful golden necklace since now you potentially could.

How about Macy’s? Who doesn’t like shopping at that store! You can practically buy amazing stuff for yourself and your family from just one place and for cheap. There is an extra 25% off clearance and an extra $10 off men’s and women’s jeans. You could also save up to 65% off select items that are on sale. That’s amazing because there is some great stuff on sale at Macy’s and this is your chance to go through their formal wear collection under the sale section and buy that blazer you always thought was a little overpriced because well, now it’s maybe not. You’d have too much of variety under just this one section to even feel the need to venture someplace else. Apart from the clothes, you’d also be able to look at some kitchen appliances and things such as bed sheets for your bedroom. It’s that convenient!

Also, what’s the need to go to a separate place when you can also buy your baby’s clothes from the same store? You can now make your life easier by shopping for your kids by age and for much cheaper.

Valentine's Day

Take a Orbitz vacation!

What’s incredible is that you can now not only buy things for cheaper but also holiday without spending heaps of money. Orbitz offers 50% off Las Vegas Hotels. Yes, that does mean that you could go to Vegas and spend all that saved money on gambling and on partying instead. There is 50% off Beach Hotels as well.

Wow, these deals and sales are just never ending. Go check them out and make the most of them post Valentine’s Day because even though Lover’s day is over, you could still enjoy the rest of the week with your significant other buying lovely things and going beautiful places while saving tons of money along with.

Happy intelligent shopping!

February 11, 2013

Diamond Candles – Gifts for Valentine’s Day & More

  • Diamond Candles – Gifts for Valentine’s Day & More

What if I told you that you could be lucky enough to buy a $5,000 diamond ring for your lady for only $24.95? With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, every guy needs to start scoping out the best deals for their significant other. Diamond Candles, unique high quality soy candles, are a fantastic gift idea, because they’re not just awesome candles; they actually contain diamond rings!

Wait…Diamonds…in a Candle?

diamond candles rings

You read this correctly! I was really excited to stumble upon this unique find. Diamond Candles each contain a ring inside of their jar. In order to reach the ring, simply light the candle and wait for the wax to burn down. Rings can be hidden in different locations, so keep an eye out for the wax to melt around the ring. Once the wax is melted enough, scoop out the ring to examine it.

What’s the Catch?

diamond candles ring reveal

Okay, each candle doesn’t actually contain a diamond ring. But, some do! Each Diamond Candles contains a ring with a value between $10 and $5,000. So, there’s a chance that the Diamond Candle you buy for her can contain a valuable ring. Either way, it’s definitely a fun experience for her to burn the candle and reveal the hidden gift! Even the less expensive rings are original and fun to admire. To tell how much your ring is worth, look on the inside of the band. Rings that have “14k” etched in them are worth more than $100 and should be taken to a jeweler to examine. Rings under $100 will read “Made in Taiwan”.

The Wax in Diamond Candles

diamond candles soy wax

Aside from the fun surprise of potentially scoring expensive jewelry, Diamond Candles are a great present for candle lovers, too. These candles are made from all natural soy wax which allows them to last up to two times longer than traditional candles. Once melted, the jars can also be used again with easy to remove labels that allow for better reuse.

Where to Find Diamond Candles

diamond candles buy

Diamond Candles can be bought easily online here for $24.95 a candle. Each candle is 21 oz (compare that to Yankee Candle’s 22oz jars for $27) and lasts for a long time. You can also find great deals on Diamond Candles at discount sites online such as Amazon, Groupon, and Sneakpeeq.

I’m absolutely going to be purchasing a few Diamond Candles for myself, as well as for gifts for others. What do you think of Diamond Candles? Have you ever purchased one? We’d love to hear your thoughts!