Readers' Tips

Affordable Alternatives to Expensive School Photos

Two things occur to me. First, ask around among your friends and family to see if you can find a good amateur photographer who would do pictures for free or cheap (or who would barter something you can do).

Second, if you don't come up with anything, ask for recommendations for a local professional photographer. I found out through Facebook that we have at least six really good amateurs and as many professionals just in our social circle!

editor's note: Visit here for more affordable alternatives to expensive school photos.

Attic Vents

Do you have vents in your attic to get rid of some of the hot summer air? We have a fan in one gable that pushes the hot air out of the attic. It's great in the summer for our A/C bills, but in the winter, it can let in a lot of cold air that we don't want. Therefore, I cut a piece of insulation that's bigger than the fan. Each fall I tack it up to the studs, so it blocks the fan from the inside. No winter wind can come into the attic. I like saving on the A/C bill, but I also like saving on the heating bill!

Bacon for Two

My husband and I like bacon. We don't overdo it, but we like bacon on sandwiches and salads. Cooking a full pound is too much for us, so here's what I do. When I get home from the store, I cut the pound in half. I put each half into a baggie. One or both go into the freezer. I've found that half a pound is just about right for one or two meals for us, depending on what I make. The rest is good for months in the freezer until I need it.

It's the Refills

If you're watching your spending, you probably shopped around before buying a printer. Comparing prices was important, but did you consider the cost of ink cartridges? Some brands or models are more expensive than others. The same thing is true of other things you buy. This is true for everything from razors to coffee makers. You can usually get cheaper supplies online, but it still pays to consider the cost of refills when you make your purchase decision. In some cases, the cost of those refills might keep you from making the purchase in the first place.

Additional TDS Resource: Why you need a spending plan instead of a budget

My Raise

For the first time in years, I got a raise at work. It was only about $50 a month, but I was glad to get it. I decided to split it up. I set aside about 25% for income taxes (I live in NY) and another 25% goes into my IRA. For the last few years, I haven't had anything to add to my IRA. Now I do. The rest of the raise goes to my regular monthly expenses and an occasional goodie. It was tempting to spend the entire raise, but I knew that I'd regret it later if I did.

Additional TDS Resource: Easy ways to build an emergency fund and 8 reasons why you don't have an emergency fund

Your IRA

We just updated our wills. We learned something important that we didn't know before. A will doesn't control where everything goes when you die. For instance, if you have any beneficiaries you have listed on your IRA account, they would get the money regardless of what your will said. The lawyer told us that in some states if you have minor children, the home (or its value) would be used for the children instead of going to others named in the will. We thought that we could write out a simple will and that would be the end of it. It turns out that we really did need to get some professional advice.

Additional TDS Resource: Common estate planning mistakes and how to avoid them

Not a Happy Consumer

I was unhappy with a coffeemaker I just purchased. When I went to the company website, there was literally no way to contact them to let them know I had a complaint. I found their Facebook page and posted my complaint. Instead of replying, they deleted it! That made me mad! I then found that they had a Twitter account. I tweeted to my account with the company name as a hashtag. It wasn't long before I heard from them. It wasn't easy, but they finally replaced it!

Additional TDS Resource: How to make a consumer complaint

Business Casual

Our office is business casual every day. Ladies dress slacks can be expensive and often require dry cleaning. They also wear out quickly. Therefore, I started buying and modifying jeans. I buy them in either white or black and carefully remove the belt loops and back pockets. They cost less, are easier to care for, and last forever! Plus, I don't think that anyone at work has ever noticed!

Online Purchase Protection

With all the big ID thefts happening, I wanted to protect myself. Even with a protection service, it's still a big pain if ID is stolen. I decided to take something from the cop shows I watch. They always have trouble finding the bad guys who use multiple shell corporations. I decided to set up a separate email and PayPal account just for online purchases. To transfer money to the PayPal account, I take it from a low limit credit card. Now, even if a store or PayPal is compromised, I have very limited risk.

Additional TDS Resource: How to prevent online identity theft

Uncertain Income

If you live on commissions, you know how hard it can be to predict income and expenses. I created a "slush" account. Any month where my income is above average, I put the extra into the account. Then when I have a month that's below average, I know where money for the electric bill, groceries, and mortgage will be. It's made life a lot less stressful for my wife and me.

Additional TDS Resource: Spending plans for unpredictable income

Motivated to Save

Seeing the people who have survived the hurricanes reminded me that a lot of what we buy really isn't necessary. Therefore, I decided that for the next month, I would only buy the essentials, and I'm going to give a portion of what I save to hurricane relief. It seems only right that I give up a few wants and do something to help those who have so little right now.

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